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Newspaper Clippings for
January, 1987

from the pages of the News-Sun 13 January 1987
Millburn stands - undivided
by Bea McLean, Staff Writer
Nine years after the Historic Millburn Community Association was formed "to preserve, protect and enhance the community," the group says it has a fight on its hands.
A proposed municipality, the Village of Liberty Lakes, "would destroy our historic village by dividing it in half" contends Dorothy Fettinger, chairman of the group. The Liberty Lakes proposal includes 24 square miles in Lake Villa and Antioch townships.
Members of the Millburn Association say they will fight to stop that from happening.
Although Millburn is unincorporated, the tiny group of structures centered at Millburn and Grass Lake roads and Rte. 45 gained recognition as a historic district in 1979. More than a third of Millburn's homes and buildings - 17 out of 47 - are on the National Register of Historic Places. An 18th structure, the John "Jake" Strang house, is on the Illinois Register of Historic Places.
If the incorporation proposal is successful, the part of Millburn west of Rte. 45 would become Liberty Lakes while the land east of Rte. 45 would not, according to Fettinger.
If the proposal is put to voters, Millburn residents - only 8 to 10 percent of those affected - "would surely lose" because of their small numbers, Fettinger said.
Members of the association are circulating petitions against the proposal as it is currently devised.
Millburn's uniqueness lies largely in its tiny size. At one time - during the peak years of the second half of the 19th century - the town boasted a library, a creamery, a blacksmith shop, two doctors, three schools and a mortuary. The Millburn Congregational Church was the center of life. But growth and industry never came to Millburn, which was first settled in 1830s by Scottish families. The community was named Millburn because water from the creek - a burn - was used to turn the town's two gristmills.
"The old Scotsmen didn't want the train to come through," said White, secretary of the association. "So one of the rail lines (was laid) five miles east and the other five miles west, and the town up and died.
Millburn has been described as "a germ of a town that never happened." An application nominating 37 acres in Millburn as a national historic district, stated: "There are a few towns in which the original settlement has not yet progressed much beyond the scale of a small town. Millburn, however, is one of the very, very few in which the...town was arrested in its first stage and preserved until the present...The character of the town has remained almost inviolate since the beginning."
Fettinger said residents - "Millburnites" as she calls them - did not want to see the town grow. "They were the larger land owners, and they liked it that way," she said, smiling.
Millburn's tiny size preempts complexity. White said "the town consists of 40 to 60 people and ends where the buildings stop."
Property owners in Millburn remain "very independent" today, said Fettinger, a Millburn area realtor. The association has made no attempt to secure funding for restoration of the historic homes largely because "property owners prefer not to be obligated to the government," according to Fettinger. That practice may change if restoration funds become more available, she added.
Currently, the association's main goal is to "maintain the records - past, present and future - of the people who live in Millburn, period," Fettinger said.
About a year and a half ago, a former Millburn resident, Dr. Richard P. Martin bequeathed the longest-operating general store in the county to the association along with a $25,000 endowment to run or maintain it, according to Fettinger. The structure, on the east side of Rte. 45, currently operates as "Our Towne Shoppe," an antique store.
Fettinger said the association has tentative plans to restore it as a vintage general store in 1988 when the current lease expires.
The association has received donations of objects that could be used to furnish the store, including the store's original coffee grinder and scale, and a single postmark from a town post office that once was housed in the store.
White said she is hopeful that the association's collection will expand. The group has a few old photographs, for example; most photos of the historic structures are no older than 12 years.
In its earlier years, the association sponsored a "Light Up Millburn" Christmas decorations campaign to foster a sense of community spirit.
The association's board of eight "selectmen" - a term associated with boards of officers in New England towns elected to manage municipal affairs - meets at 7 p.m. on the second Tuesday monthly at Fettinger's real estate office. Residents chose the term to conjure up the sense of past they want to protect.
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