Newspaper Clippings for
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
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
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
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.