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The Old Shaw Home

Photographs by Jared L. Olar

29 Aug. 1998 and 13 July 2011

Published June-July 2011

Updated June 2014

It was in 1868 that my great-great-great-grandfather MANLY SHERMAN SHAW, one of the pioneer settlers of Lee County, Illinois, bought a fine stone house in Lee Center from its owner, Garrett M. La Forge, who built it in 1862 but had decided to leave Lee Center. The house is located at 1125 Inlet Road (Lot 48, People's Addition). Hoping to publish a history of Lee Center, my mother's Aunt Eleanor (Shaw) Baylor (1909-1974) researched and recorded the histories of the homes in Lee Center, including the stone house where Manly Sherman Shaw and his family had lived. Aunt Eleanor's family has generously shared some of the pages of her unfinished and unpublished book, which provide the following account of the house that Garrett M. La Forge built:

"The abstract of this property shows it was owned by Garrett La Forge from 1862 to 1868. He had paid $2000.00 for it. He sold it in 1868 to Manly S. Shaw for $8800.00. The increase in value, plus the fact that Mr. LaForge was French and the architecture of the dwelling is French, leads me to believe Mr. LaForge erected the house during his ownership of the lot. The house is built of native limestone, with thick walls and wide window sills.
"Great grandmother Malinda DeWolf Shaw was a wizard with plants. Formal flower beds were laid out in the yard, and on the back of the house she had a narrow glass room, a sort of conservatory.
"My father, with his mother, two brothers and sister, lived here with his grandparents until he was married in the 1890s, they moving in here after his father died in 1876 or soon thereafter.
"The house was sold in 1893 or 1894 to Samuel Ullrich, who occupied it until his death in 1924, Mrs. Ullrich (he always called her "Madam") continuing to live there until she died in 1939.
"The house was occupied variously by the John Miles family; by Maude Ford, who had Maggie Ullrich living with her; and was sold to Thomas Sheehan. He and Mrs. Sheehan restored it to much of its earlier beauty, landscaping the lawns and making it a very pretty place indeed. They upheaved an old flat stone that had done duty as a stepping stone at the bottom of the back steps for as far back as Chris Ullrich could remember. It proved to be a tombstone for Alphonso C. Linn, a Civil War veteran, a brother of Mrs. Mary Rebecca Linn Shaw. Since it was broken in two, and since there is one in Woodside Cemetery for Capt. Linn, it is presumed that the original stone broke, was replaced, and the thrifty New Englanders used the broken one for another purpose! When the Sheehans had their sale, the stone was put up for sale and O. S. Baylor paid $7.00 for it for me!
"The Sheehans sold the property to John Nally, who moved in with his wife and nine children, and No. 10 arrived soon after they moved here."

Along with Aunt Eleanor's notes on the house's history, she included three old photographs of the house. The photographs follow next. Compare them with the more recent color images further below:

This vintage photograph shows the house's front facade, along with two of its owner/occupants. Almost certainly the man and woman are Manly Sherman Shaw and his wife Malinda, though they might rather be Samuel Ullrich and his wife. Although this is an early photograph of the old stone house, it is apparently not the earliest one -- in her notes, Aunt Eleanor comments, "A tintype of this house shows a picket fence instead of the iron one shown in this picture." An 1872 engraving of the house and property, shown below, depicts the iron fence, however, so the tintype must be older than the engraving.

This shows the east side of the house. The identities of the two women in the photograph are unknown.

This shows the west side of the house. The edge of this photograph indicates that it was developed in January 1973, but the photo itself may have been taken many years earlier.

The old stone home has had a few more owners since Aunt Eleanor's death. On 29 Aug. 1998, my mother and I had the opportunity to tour and photograph this house while those who then owned the house were at work on maintenance and renovations as they prepared to move in. I had a second opportunity to visit the house on 11 July 2011, at which time I took additional photographs of the exterior, and the current owners, Jane Biddle and Teresa Geiger, allowed me to see and photograph the interior. The home, along with a smaller historic stone house at 1125A Inlet Road (formerly the residence and office of Dr. Richard Adams and built in 1848), is in excellent condition and upkeep, and is now the base of Stone Home Farm, the agricultural venture of Ms. Biddle and Ms. Geiger. They have even named their cat "Sherman" after Manly Sherman Shaw.

Here I present my photographs along with an old engraving of that house and the oldest photograph of the Old Shaw Home in our possession.

An 1872 engraving of the old Shaw home in Lee Center, from a greeting card that was printed a few decades ago which had belonged to my grandmother. The yard to the left is "laid out in formal flower beds," as mentioned by my great-aunt Eleanor (Shaw) Baylor. I believe this depiction comes from an old gazeteer of Lee County.

Sherman and Malinda lived in that house for the rest of their lives, as related in Aunt Eleanor's mimeographed family history:

Manly Sherman engaged in the livestock business and was the owner of quite a little farm land. He moved eventually to Lee Center, where he purchased (for $8800.00) the stone house on Lot 48, People's Addition, from Garrett LaForge, and lived there until his death. Malinda had a "green thumb" (inherited by her daughter Delia and by her granddaughter Adeline Thornton Pomeroy) and the yard at the Lee Center home was laid out in formal flower beds. A conservatory was built at the back of the house where her house plants were kept.

Aunt Eleanor's mimeographed history also relates that after the untimely death of Sherman Shaw's son James Monroe on the day after Christmas 1876, James' "widow and her children moved in with Manly Sherman and remained with them until the death of the latter and his wife." It was Sherman Linn Shaw, Manly Sherman's grandson, who sold the house in 1893 or 1894, following the death in 1892 of his grandmother Malinda (DeWolf) Shaw.

This is the oldest photograph of the old Shaw home in Lee Center that my grandparents had in their possession. Aunt Eleanor had several other vintage photographs. I think that is Mary Rebecca (Linn) Shaw standing on the porch of the house, or perhaps her daughter Grace. This is a view of the eastern exposure. The front of the house, facing the street, is the house's right side in this picture.

Here are two 1998 views of the facade of the Old Shaw Home, which faces due north toward Inlet Road (County Highway 5), the main road through Lee Center.

Here are two 1998 views of the front of the house, with the new owners at work with their house plans in the front yard. They later made an addition to the back of the house, extending its length by about a third (see below).

The photograph on the left shows the stone marker in 1998 at the northwest corner of the property, with an inscription of the name of the house's builder and original owner ("LA FORGE") with the year he built the house ("1862"). On the right is the fireplace in the kitchen area, with a view toward the open front door.

On the left, a 1998 photograph of the kitchen area under the staircase. On the right, one of the ground floor windows.

Here are two 1998 views of the attic. On the left, a shot facing east -- note the flower window, which may be seen in the old photograph above. On the right, a shot facing west.

At left is a 2011 photograph of the front and western exposure of the house. On the right is a front view, showing the current location of the 1862 property marker, which was repositioned after my 1998 visit by the previous owner.

These are two views of the rear addition: the western exposure at left, and the eastern exposure at right.

At left is a 2011 view of the eastern exposure of the house. Shown at right in a photograph of the fireplace, which was resurfaced a few years ago by the previous owner. Compare this picture to the 1998 photograph of the fireplace with its brick facade.

Here is a 2011 view of the front of the house. The previous owner sealed off the front door, which is now merely decorative. Entry is now obtained through the old door on the eastern exposure.

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