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Newspaper Clippings for
August, 1956

from Waukegan News-Sun07 August 1956

Store Marks 100th Year
Centennial Observance Starts Tomorrow;
Landmark Is Monument to Pioneer Robert Strang.

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 Millburn.
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 obtainable.
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 building elsewhere.
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. She wrote:
"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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