Subject: Oral History of
Interviewer: Betty Myers
an oral history interview with Florence McCoy Schumacher on
I was born in
and then we, my family, moved here. But, this was the home of my grandparents,
so I spent many hours up here as a child and have many memories of preschool years up here in the same house.
Q: Well, in other words, you have lived in the area all your life, right?
Okay, so from your earliest memories can you describe the area on which
A: Well, you know, Sauk Trail at that time used to be a lovely road to go from, oh, Chicago Heights to the Crete area to Richton Park and on over to Joliet. It was a very quiet street; not bustling like it is today.
We’d go, preliminary to getting to Sauk -- to
when they first came in 1834. And, they were the second white family to
settle on Sauk Trail or in this area.
The old cabin was replaced by a wooden home, kind of a long, low home
with a huge orchard around it and big barns and what not. And we passed that and then we’d get to
It used to be a huge pond, slough if you want to call it that, that was always, in the spring, filled with ducks, wild ducks, or in the fall seemed to be a stopping place. It was always very interesting driving past that particular section. In fact, my father, Milton H. McCoy, always thought that that should be turned into a bird sanctuary. He was a civil engineer
for the City of
Q: Who was that that owned this place, do you know?
A: The what place?
Q: Who owned the place where the slough was?
A: Who owned it? I have no idea. [Ed note: Weishaar’s]
Q: Someone said something about Grandpa Somebody, I think. That’s all right.
A: I just don’t know, it’s too bad my Aunt Martha McCoy isn’t alive today. She could really tell you much about the area.
Then going on to
Q: A brick home, is it?
A: You know I can’t remember what, but I think it has the brick front.
Is it near where Garafalo’s is? [Ed.
Note: This seems to be the house at the
corner of Sauk Trail and
A: Well, it’s very close by, but on the north side of the street.
Q: All right! Okay, people have asked me about that house.
That used to be there and of course, in later years, it has been changed
from what it was then. I mean modernized
somewhat, but that home was there for many, many years. And then of course, going on, after you got
under the viaduct in
take the IC train. One could
really make time on
Q: That’s the golf course you are talking about?
A: Yes. Where the golf course was. The Indian Wood golf course and those trees, I have seen them grow and seen a lot of them disappear because of the elm disease. But, as I say, in those days it was very easy getting to the Flossmoor parking lot and not much trouble finding a place to park your car when you got there.
This Indian Wood Golf Course, it was in what is now
A: Indian Wood. Yes.
Q: Were people upset about losing their golf course for a new town?
A: I don’t really know, I didn’t hear, I’ve never heard much about that particular aspect of it. I suppose some people were.
Q: Your ancestors now, where was this home of theirs that you used to pass as you went down Sauk Trail?
From Western Avenue and Sauk Trail, going east on Sauk Trail, after you
go around the bend there’s quite a bend in
the Sauk Trail road going east.
And you cross a bridge and just after you cross the bridge, which has
been known for many years as the
farmers and pioneers
usually built their homes up on a little elevation. Not like some of the subdivisions today where
they’re down in the low spots (laughs).
But, there was a little elevation there and the old farmhouse and barns
and what not, stood there. I’d say it’s
about a quarter of a mile east of
of the street, it
was part of the farm, old farm, too, and that was the pasture land, and it was
over there that the Indians had a campground and they would stop at the old
McCoy farm. They’d winter in-- Pottawatomie Indians would winter in Iowa and
then they’d come through in the spring on their way to Michigan, usually
Detroit or around in that area, because the Indians had a special Indian burial
ground for chiefs and high, important
Indians and they’d take the bodies, the bones up there to bury them. Then they’d stay up there in
Q: The Indians that your grandmother befriended, the hobo that your grandfather buried, they would have all crossed Sauk Trail through Park Forest, wouldn’t they?
A: Yes, umhm.
Q: I don’t think you told me your grandparents’ names.
They were John and Sabra McCoy. They came from
westward, the territory was then safe for settlers to come in.
Q: Did you ever find any Indian artifacts?
A: I found, I’ve found several Indian arrowheads. My father found many; he was a civil engineer and out on surveys he’d quite often pick up an Indian arrowhead or some Indian artifact. [He] had a nice collection of them. During the Civil War times the McCoy farm was also an Underground Railway station. Slaves were hidden there and smuggled out under hay loads and taken to the next station.
I understand that the Batchelder family was
one of the first settlers in the area of
A: No, I’ve heard the family mentioned by this aunt of mine, Aunt Martha.
Q: This aunt, Aunt Martha, what was her occupation?
She was a high school history teacher, in
Q: What did she tell you about the…?
A: Well, just mentioning that the Batchelder family and the McC…McClashion was it? McClashions? [Ed. Note: On the original parcels bought in 1946 were names like McClure, Madsen and Marthaler.
There are no indications from the Plan of Town whether the parcels were under “pioneer” ownership.]
A: Well Merker’s I heard her mention also, but I don’t remember anything in particular about them. But I do remember her telling about the Sauk Trail being such a widely used…Besides the Indians coming through; they often saw sheep being herded to the west. And they would go right by the house, the old farmhouse. And then, of course, this history has mentioned the 49ers going west used Sauk Trail also. So it was a well-traveled thoroughfare.
Q: It sure was.
The trails that these Indians made were always chosen on the high spots
throughout the territory where they were traveling because those were the ones
that stayed clear of snow and the leaves and what not. And it was easier traveling for them. Before horses became so prevalent in the area
they would, they had one or two horses, they would have a, oh a trailer, it was
made of long poles that they would attach somehow to the horse, and they’d lay
all their paraphernalia that they wanted to carry across these poles and drag
it up. Now on the camp ground that was
on my great-grandparent’s property, they erected the framework of the teepees
and they would leave the framework there, but they’d take their skins off when
they left, and went back to either Iowa or went on to Michigan. They would put the skins on when they came
and then they’d take them with them when they left. And they would bring this great-grandmother
of mine, if they were coming from
Q: That is a big difference. Do you know anything about this Merker family?
A: No, except just the name was mentioned.
I understand he was a first settler in
A: Well, I’ve forgotten just the year, when was that?
Q: Well it started about…
A: In the 1940’s?
Q: Yes, after World War II, about 1947.
Because my father was acquainted with the developers of
Of course with the coming of
Q: Did you have doubts that this planned community was going to work? When it was first started?
A: Yes, I think some people didn’t expect it to last too long [tape shut off briefly].
Q: Why were people skeptical about it?
A: Well, this was a new undertaking. I don’t know whether this was the first town or village that was built from scratch and
planned to every detail. Seems like there was one other in the east that…
A: That had been a planned community, but people had seen plans come and go and not materialize so they were watching it
closely to see what was going to happen.
Q: What did you think of the houses that they were building?
A: Well, I don’t remember hearing very much of a comment on houses. They were nice little homes and, of course, they have improved greatly with the landscaping having grown from little twigs to trees and what have you. But it would... seems that they were… had a lot of foresight in planning that by building apartments first and then homes. And, in fact, at one time the Crete-Monee
School Dist6rict was using at least two of the homes near one of the schools over there as classrooms. In fact, I did some substituting in the little homes over there.
Q: In Park Forest?
A: And then when the school district got their building built, I guess it was Talala, before they had Talala built, they turned them back to
the developers and then they remodeled them and sold them, but they served very well as school rooms. For temporary schools.
Part of Park Forest is in Will County.
I live in Will County. And of
course our children go to the
Did that cause any problems with the schools?
Yes, it did, in fact there was almost a settlement at one time whereby
all the children that lived in Park Forest would go to the Park Forest – Rich
[East] High School. It had gone so far
as to how they were going to divide up the assets and make it equitable. The Will County School Board had okayed it. But then
at the last minute
and I think maybe
Q: Right! It’s a wonderful school.
A: But there was a problem and because our district, 201-U, is a spread out district, it would have been much easier if we had a smaller area to superintend and to provide for. But I think most of that has been alleviated, hopefully.
Q: You’re on the school board now?
A: No, I was.
Q: You were? When were you?
A: Oh, it was in the 1960’s, but I can’t give you the exact dates now [1966-1970]. I was the first woman to be elected to the School Board since back in the twenties (I think).
Q: Where all have you taught school?
Where have I taught? Well, I’ve
sampled a little bit of everything.
I’ve, I’m really a high school English teacher, but when I started
teaching Crete-Monee wasn’t Crete-Monee, it was
later on I took
charge of the glee club, put on seven operettas, and finally when the school
grew large enough, I got into just my English, field of English and
history. I also started the school paper
and yearbook. So I spent, oh almost 12
years or so, 12 to 13 years teaching here in
and I taught at Bloom with EMH students and the…taught high
school English there. One year I taught
English in the
at that time. Kindergarten
down in Steger one year and sixth grade in
can’t stay after school to get help. You never see your students; if you need him or her because your free period doesn’t coincide with his free period, so you can’t get together for conferences because they can’t get there any earlier than when the bus brings them, and they have to leave when the bus goes in the evening, and it’s a lot different teaching. Changed things considerably.
Q: When you taught at Bloom, did you have any Park Forest children there?
A: I don’t believe so.
Q: I understand at least for a while, 1948 to 1954 are the dates I have that Park Forest children went there.
A: I don’t believe I had any Park Forest students. I think by then that they had a high school of their own.
Q: Did you ever go to Park Forest Plaza to do any shopping? In the early days in particular?
A: Well, I have shopped over at Park Forest Plaza for many years. And I really prefer shopping there to going to Washington Mall…or Lincoln Mall…What is it?
Q: Lincoln Mall.
A: Washington Mall is north. I detest having to go to Lincoln Mall to shop.
Q: So do I.
I like to go to
keep the cold
out. You get into these malls and you’re
just dying of the heat because you’ve no place to put your coat except to carry
it on your back or over your arm.
if you do have to go out for a little bit? It’s not very far to walk and you get a breath of fresh air again.
A: So I prefer shopping at Park Forest when I can. And I would like to see the shopping area come back to the potential it had then.
Q: Yes. What were some of the first stores there? Do you remember?
A: Not exactly, but I’ve always liked Field’s, of course, and Sears. And Lyttons, ah…I’ve shopped there considerably.
Do you know if the competition of the
I don’t think in
Q: Well, what about the grocery stores? Jewel store, wasn’t that an early store?
Well, I think these stores still do draw customers away from our Crete
store here, but I think for the most part
if you’re…especially today, if you’re going to have to spend gasoline to
save two or three cents, it doesn’t make sense to go traipsing around just to
get a bargain in one store (laugh). So I
don't think the merchants or stores here in
Q: As a neighbor, what do you think of Park Forest today?
A: Well, I think it’s a very stable community and I have a son-in-law that teaches at Rich East. In fact, he’s taught in all three schools, Rich Central, and he’s done some teaching at Rich South. His main school is Rich East, however. He likes the students there. It seems like the community has become integrated quite successfully. At least you don’t hear of any
more problems over there than over the rest of the territory, with vandalism and what not.
Q: Do you have any friends or relatives that live in Park Forest, then?
I have a number of friends. I
don’t believe I have any relatives that live there. None…not any that are very,
very close. Some in
Q: Are your friends happy in Park Forest?
A: They seem to be. Yes.
Q: What changes do you see now from when the village was a new community?
A: Changes from when…what?
Q: When it was first started.
A: What changes?
Q: Do you see differences now [both talking at one time] from when it was first developed?
Well, as I mentioned before, the homes look a little more lived in. The vegetation has grown up and enhanced the
appearance of the property, the…streets are well cared
for. I don’t like to try to find a new
place that I don’t know just exactly where it is when I go to
Q: I agree.
A: But I would say having grown from the days of the mud and the wooden sidewalks over there, it has developed very nicely.
Q: It’s a very neat looking village, I think.
[Tape shut off briefly]. I
understand you’ve given some programs in
Oh, it’s been a few years ago.
Well, last year, I think, I talked to the high school,
Indian artifacts, things of that type to show the children.
Q: That’s very interesting.
End of Interview.