Newspaper Clippings for
07 August 1956
Store Marks 100th Year
OWNERS PLAN FOR FIVE-DAY CELEBRATION
Centennial Observance Starts Tomorrow;
Landmark Is Monument to Pioneer Robert Strang.
By GEORGE RINEHART
MILLBURN - The 100th anniversary of the construction of
Foster's store at Millburn will be observed in a celebration
starting tomorrow and ending Sunday.
The landmark, at the intersection of Rte. 45 and Loon Lake
Road, is a monument to its original owner, the pioneer Robert
Strang, a canny Scotsman who with his brother, George, came to
Millburn in 1838.
Born August 8, 1815, in Perthshire, Scotland, Strang had lived
in Illinois but seven years when he decided to return to Scotland.
The reason for his return became known a year later when he
married Jessie Monteath and returned to Millburn.
Their home on the site of the present store was a log cabin,
which later served as a school and on Sundays as a meeting house.
The log house was replaced by a frame building to the west, and
then in 1856 came construction of the brick building which stands
today. The only change from then is the removal of a porch and the
construction of a stone embankment and steps leading from a
greatly lowered street level.
The building was constructed from handmade brick from the kiln
of the Sherwood yards six miles away near what is now Lake Villa.
The sand used was brought from Lake Michigan beach.
The bricks were purchased at $4.50 per 1,000 and the lime for
the mortar at 50 cents a barrel.
Red brick was used for block walls and cream colored brick for
the corner columns. The walls are of double brick construction and
all beams and uprights were hand hewn and cut at a saw mill near
The nails were made at the blacksmith shop at Millburn and
have square heads and irregular shanks.
Carpenters from Scotland erected timbers and finished the
interior for a standard pay of 25 cents an hour.
The 2-story building was the skyscraper of the day and
attracted attention for miles around.
The general store was a place of barter where farmers brought
in their butter and eggs in exchange for other food, or traded
their corn and oats on clothing and more valuable merchandise. A
post Civil War account book records the fact that credit was often
given on crops yet to be harvested. From this record a list of
names of scores of early residents of the Millburn community is
The period in which this building was erected was the day of
the antislavery movement in which the Rev. Mr. Dodge, Minister of
the Congregational Church of Millburn, was active. Millburn was
known as the station on the "underground railroad" in which slaves
made their way from the South to Canada.
This activity was spoken of in whispers at the Strang store.
Strang was postmaster from 1848 to 1856, the public calling at
his frame residence for mail. After the Civil War, the frame
building was removed, half of it being moved across the street to
form part of a barn and the other being sold as lumber for
In its place a brick residence that harmonized with the store
building it adjoined was built. There the marriage of the son,
John M. Strang, took place and legend has it that the store was a
silver wedding anniversary present to the son.
John Strang operated the store until after the turn of the
century and the place was operated by his family up until the time
of depression when Carl Chope purchased it.
Nearly 20 years later, in 1949, the Fosters who had been
residents of Lake Forest and Wadsworth, purchased the store and
they are conducting the celebration this week.
There are many stories in connection with the store. For
instance, the late Mrs. Peter A. Duncan of Waukegan, recorded the
fact that she worked for Robert Strang Sr. and his son, John,
partner from 1894 to 1899. She lived in a room on the second floor.
"During the years 1894 to 1899 while I worked there my room faced
the east upstairs. Upstairs on the south was a room decorated and
carpeted for me to do art work. The pictures I painted with brush
were used for table decorations fastened from the center of the
table to each plate with ribbon.
"When the son of Robert Strang Sr. (J. M. Strang) and his wife
celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary I also played the
accordion for the guests, the parlor being upstairs on the wing to the
left in which they marched around."
The upstairs is now used by the Fosters as their apartment. The
adjoining building is used by tenants.
During the five-day celebration the Fosters will give
interested persons an opportunity to see the various parts of
their store and the upstairs.
They plan to give balloons and ice cream cones to the children
and ashtrays and lucky penny souvenirs to adults.
The front of the two public rooms is used as a grocery and the
rear one used as a lunchroom.
The store serves the community equally well as well as it did
back in the days when it was operated by the Strangs.
Mr. Foster, the proprietor, was born in England.
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