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We are dedicated to the history and heritage of Downers Grove, Illinois

The Downers Grove Historical Society is an independent, non-profit volunteer organization which was incorporated in 1968. We are dedicated to keeping history alive for future generations by preserving and promoting the heritage of Downers Grove. We seek to foster an understanding, awareness, and appreciation of our town's history and architecture through education, community programs, publications, and acknowledgement of historic sites. We rely solely on public support to continue these efforts.

We are dedicated to the history and heritage of Downers Grove, Illinois



Letters from a Shoebox by Jim Dohren

Letters from a ShoeboxLetters from a Shoebox (Sunbury Press 2013) a recently published book by Jim Dohren,  an historical society board member, is based on a collection of original Civil War letters passed on to him from family members. The book is unusual among similar collections because it balances the letters from soldiers in the field with those of four young women, kin and neighbors, showing the concerns of all for each other’s welfare and most especially for news in the form of another letter. The author has made highly accurate transcriptions of all 22 letters leaving in the vagaries of grammar and spelling prevalent at the time.

John and David Huffman are school teacher brothers who enlist in the 85th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, William Bowman a young hired hand who enlists in the storied 126,th Ohio. The 85th Indiana eventually joins the Army of the Cumberland and Sherman’s March-to-the-Sea. Letters are from various places along the march including Atlanta. William Bowman is a young orphan farm boy who becomes part of The Army of The Potomac. He is captured in the Battle of the Wilderness and spends many months in Confederate prisons at Libby and Florence, S.C. He sends a letter from Andersonville, letting his friends know that he is a prisoner there. He manages through luck and courage to survive that terrible place and later writes of his experience.

The home front letters are written by the Huffman brothers’ sisters Anne and C.J., sister-in-law Matilda and 14-year old neighbor Ruth. They are filled with concern for the soldiers, plus the fascinating news of sickness and death, births, community prayer meetings and sings, joys and sorrows, romance and poignant activities that make up their everyday lives.  There are even hints of a family scandal.
The author has also included the results of his research and personal reflections on the letter writers and the times.
The book is illustrated.

Letters from a Shoebox is available on-line from Sunbury Press Book Store, Amazon and Ingraham Book Sellers. It is also available as an e-book to download to electronic reading devices.

Help make history matter. Become a member today!

When you become a member of the Downers Grove Historical Society, you join those who are supporting the efforts to preserve, protect and share our rich heritage. Your membership supports a vital cultural resource and preserves our town's history - now, and for future generations.