McLeod featured in a major magazine

Congrats to Western Illinois University Assistant Professor of English professor Charles McLeod, who was recently featured in Poets & Writers magazine in an article about the somewhat unconventional path to publication of his novel, American Weather. The book is available from Amazon.co.UK, and was released earlier this month.

McLeod is also a popular professor at Western. Best of luck to Professor McLeod up on the release of this exciting new work of fiction!

 

 

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President Bayliss and President Lincoln (and body-stealing?!?)

For those of you who live in Bayliss Hall—or did back when you were a student—have you ever thought about where the name of the residence hall comes Bayliss Hallfrom?

If I told you it was a past president of WIU, Alfred E. Bayliss, who took office in 1906, maybe you would take note and …move on.

But what if you were to hear that past-president Bayliss shares a connection to Abraham Lincoln—and to bodysnatchers?

(Now, don’t worry, WIU hasn’t jumped on the vampire bandwagon."Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" book)

But this story did arise because of an intriguing-sounding book.

Recently, WIU Campus Recreation employee Julie Terstriep (who also happens to be an alumna) started wondering about Western’s presidential past when she found herself engrossed in a good book, a true story that focused on the time period after President Lincoln’s assassination.

As she was reading, she came across a name that jumped off the page: the same name that marks the residence hall just east of where she works on campus.

“It mentioned that Clara Bayliss was at Lincoln’s reburial on behalf of her husband [Alfred], as he was a member of the National Lincoln Monument Association,” Terstriep explained.

Excuse me, but did you just say “re-burial”?

Terstriep was reading the 2007 book written by Thomas Craughwell called Stealing Lincoln’s Body. According to its description on Amazon.com, the book

“provides an intriguing glimpse at a macabre but interesting footnote to the story of Abraham Lincoln: the tale of how, on election night of 1876, several Chicago counterfeiters attempted to abduct and hold for ransom the 16th president’s corpse. …”

Terstriep was curious about whether the Bayliss mentioned at the reburial  could possibly be the same Bayliss who once led WIU. So she contacted Western "Stealing Lincoln's Body" book coverIllinois University Archives, and did some more digging. She even contacted the author himself.

And it turned out her hunch was right. Here’s what she learned:

Born in Gloucester, England in 1847, Bayliss came to the U.S. at age six. By the time he was 12 he was supporting himself and working his way through the Hillsdale Academy in Michigan. At 16, Bayliss enlisted in the 11th Michigan Cavalry. He was present at the capture of Jefferson Davis.

He later became a principal at LaGrange High School in Indiana. Four years later, he moved to the position of superintendent of public schools in Sterling, IL. It was from this position that Bayliss came to WIU. During his years as president of Western, he was known for hand-picking faculty, believing that good teachers were “called” to the profession.

And, Terstriep learned, his wife represented him (as a member of the National Lincoln Monument Association) as Lincoln’s reburial in 1901 in Springfield.

“I just thought it was a really cool story,” she said.

But there’s still one question remaining: why wasn’t Alfred Bayliss at the reburial himself? There’s no clear answer.

But even if she doesn’t find one, she at least knows more about the history of her university now. And, she says, she’s prepared to win the next round of trivia!

History of Hero Street lives on (and has a descendant at WIU)!

Hero Street USA

Hero Street USA

Marc Wilson, author of the new book “Hero Street, U.S.A.: The Story of Little Mexico’s Fallen Soldiers,” spoke on campus Wed., Oct. 7—and brought with him an interesting companion.

Wilson, a former reporter and Associated Press executive now living in the Quad Cities area, researched the dramatic story of the “Little Mexico” neighborhood in Silvis, IL, which contributed 78 soldiers to the U.S. military during World War II and Korea, giving it the highest per-capita casualty rate of any street in the entire country. The neighborhood, established by immigrants from Guanajauto, Mexico,  was officially renamed “Hero Street” in 1971.

But Wilson’s companion for the day could also be considered an expert on the topic: Tanilo “Tony” Sandoval, surviving younger brother of two of the eight soldiers from the block who were killed in action. As Wilson detailed his research, Sandoval provided his childhood memories about each of the eight soldiers killed in action.

Wilson, former owner of a newspaper in Montana, became interested in the story after hearing about it from a newspaper publisher in the Quad Cities.

“Many people in the Quad Cities still know nothing, or very little, about Hero Street,” he said.

Chronicling the prejudice, poverty, and other adversity the residents of Little Mexico had to deal with, especially during the Depression, Wilson pointed out that many of the veterans who gave their life for their country were never recognized as United States citizens, even being blackballed from the local VFW.

Their first-generation parents, unable to speak English, weren’t eligible to receive federal aid during the Depression due to their status as “aliens.” In fact, the street later recognized with the official “Hero Street” name was one of the last in the city to be paved, he said.

“These were ‘invisible’ people in many ways,” Wilson said.

At the end of the presentation, Sandoval shared with the audience the fact that, despite the poverty and prejudice he and his brothers experienced growing up, many from the younger generations of the Hero Street neighborhood, and in his family, have gone on to successful professional positions after earning an education.

Johnathon Sandoval, WIU sophomore

Johnathon Sandoval, WIU sophomore

And what could have been a better note to end on than this?:

Before the author and his guest speaker greeted audience members, Wilson explained they’d need to leave a bit early.

“We’re going to go try to catch the rest of the soccer game,” Wilson said.  Sandoval’s grandson, Johnathan Sandoval, is a sophomore and Leatherneck soccer player at WIU.

Read more about the book and the story behind Hero Street in the University Relations news release and on the University Archives blog.