Kane County History: Family Secrets — Historian Finds 1866 ‘I Love … ‘ Message Scratched in Tanner House Window
- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was contributed by Aurora Historical Society‘s Mary Clark Ormond. Unless otherwise credited, all images are courtesy of the Aurora Historical Society.
The Tanner House Museum is more than a lovely showcase of Victorian style. It was the home of a real family, a very model of America during the Great Westward Expansion and one of Aurora’s finest gems. And home to a secret or two. Here is one.
We’d like to guess that Aug. 15, 1866, was a rainy day.
We’d like to guess that for some reason two sisters, the oldest of the Tanner daughters, were in the bedroom at the top of the staircase in the Tanner’s elegant house on Oak Avenue. Like to think that that was the bedroom they shared, maybe with the next oldest girl, Imogene.
Like to think that there was the rustle of light summer skirts and girlish giggling as they gossiped about the young men they knew, perhaps even admired. Like to imagine that Florence, the oldest at age 21, already had her sights on James Pattison , a plumber and gas fitter whom she would marry in two short years.
If that were really the scenario, then maybe Amy, 19 years old at the time and considered the artistic one of the family, might have been the one to come up with the idea of scratching their names and the date into the window glass. In a few years Amy would marry a DuPage County farmer, John Johnson, and leave that bedroom behind.
We’ll almost certainly never know.
Most likely the girls didn’t tell their parents, William and Anna Tanner, what they had done. After all, why look for trouble — the scratchings were so faint perhaps no one else ever noticed.
Perhaps 16-year-old Imogene, who never married and lived in the house until her death in 1934, might have noticed or even been there. Maybe a sharp-eyed grandchild once spotted the writing on a visit. We simply have no record — no letter, no reminiscence, no family story.
Certainly no one at the Aurora Historical Society ever noticed the writing until it was recently discovered by Karen Blee Nickels, the house historian. That was 75 years after the house was donated to the society by two of the other Tanner sisters, the twins Martha and Mary.
What do the scratchings convey? Hard to say. There are the names Florence and Amy, the date Aug. 15, 1866, some hard-to-read miscellaneous words, and the start of a sentence: “I love”.
It’s that “I love” that makes us think maybe it really was a rainy day, and the girls were being girls, and perhaps one of them truly did have a secret love to teasingly memorialize on a bedroom window.
Read The Kane County History Series!
- 1850-1925 Geneva — When Penmanship Was Mightier Than The Sword
- St. Charles Museum Site — From Serving Gas To Preserving History
- Elgin Puts 3,500 Priceless Photos Online
- Batavia-Inspired Miniatures Thrilled a Nation
- Aurora’s Maud Powell, World Famous Violinist
- Waxing Nostalgic on Geneva’s WGSB, WFXW
- American Doughboys of WWI — in St. Charles, IL
- Experience High-Tech History at April 21 ‘Open Elgin’ Event
- Batavia, IL — ‘Windmill Capital of The World’
- Meet Andy Aurora, Man About Town
- Celebrating The 50th Anniversary of 9-1-1 in Geneva
- Blue Goose And Evergreen Pub — ‘Shop Local’ 90 Years In The Making
- Elgin Is The Apple of Illinois Bicentennial’s Eye
- Nordens Soner And Batavia’s Swedish Society
- Aurora’s Melting Pot ‘Yearning To Breathe Free’
- Candles, Timing Devices, Phonographs And The ‘Life Cup’ — All Things Made in Geneva
- Hotel Baker, The ‘Masterpiece’ of The Fox Valley
- Elgin Celebrates Our Once-Burgeoning Dairy Business
- Reflections of Batavia’s Quarry Beach Pool
- Aurora’s Mabel O’Donnell, Author of “Alice And Jerry’ Books
- As Alice (Davis) Says, ‘Schools Out For Summer!’
- Elgin Watches, ‘The World’s Standard’
- Aurora Silverplate a Symbol of Good Taste
- Women Leaders Played Huge Roles in Geneva
- Nationally Renowned Summer Camp in St. Charles
- The Harrowing Story of William Lynch, Elgin’s Civil War Brigadier General
- Batavia Powered The Aurora, Elgin & Chicago Railway
- Corsets Doing Big Business in Aurora? Scandalous!
- One Block of Geneva Tells 1,001 Fantastic Stories
- St. Charles’ Evergreen Pub — The ‘Before’ Photos
- 1917-18 — When Elgin Artists Went to War
- Thomas Cleveland — Batavia’s Presidential Connection
- Do Your Wurst — Aurora Meat Markets Are ‘In’ Again
- Geneva Is The Place For Graveyards And Ghosts
- Visit Amelia Anderson At St. Charles’ North Side Cemetery
- Calling All Artists! … For a Cobblestone Reflection in Elgin
- Batavia’s 108-Year-Old Gazebo Still Lights The Way
- The Compelling, Tragic Story of Aurora’s Black WWI Hero Frank Boger
- Geneva History Museum Invites Artists To Celebrate Cultural Heritage
- Elgin’s Anson Clark Soared in The Great War … And Life
- What It Meant To Be a Patrol Boy and Louise White School
- ‘Men’s Night’ Christmas Shopping Was a 1950’s Aurora Phenomenon
- St. Charles Remembers Colson’s Christmas-Day Fire of ’33
- The Art of Elgin’s Cobblestone Reflections
- When Suffrage Met Prohibition in Batavia
- Geneva Presents The Art of The Fox River
- Blansford Astronomical Clock Is Aurora’s Treasure
- St. Charles Returns Family Heirlooms From WWII
- Museum Lands Painting By Elgin Artist Albert Kenney
- Cars Still Fixed at Historic Location in Downtown Batavia
- A Bird’s-Eye View of 19th Century Geneva
- Sheldon Peck: Kane County’s Connection To The Underground Railroad
- Elgin High School Celebrates 150 Years of ‘Education For All’
- Batavia’s Incredible Roller Skating History
- The Fabled History of Jewelry Stores in Geneva
- Astonishing Buried Treasure Discovered in Aurora Outhouse
- Lincoln Elementary School in St. Charles Celebrates 90 Years of Education
- Remembering Elgin High Grad, Renowned Composer Daniel Brewbaker, 1951 – 2017
- Meet Batavia’s Sharron Moran, LPGA Star, ‘Most Beautiful Golfer’ of 1966
- The Many Iterations of Geneva’s National Food Store
- The Burlington Zephyr — A ‘Silver Streak’ Through Aurora
- What IS That Thing in Downtown St. Charles?
- 18 Events, Limited-Edition Poster For Preservation Month in Elgin!
- Julius Amandus Anderson’s WWI Memorial Trapunto Banner
- Geneva’s Swedish Days Celebrates Its 70th Anniversary
- The Historic Drive To Save Aurora’s GAR Hall
- The Story of St. Charles’ Paddlewheel Riverboats
- Meet Elgin’s Legendary Marshal — Andrew Barclay Spurling
- Jackie DeShannon ‘Put A Little Love’ In Batavia
- Aurora’s William S. Hart, Cowboy Movie Star
- St. Charles’ First Settlers, One Lost, Found Again
- Discover The Elgin Stories All Around You
- Batavia’s WWI French Connection
- Amazing Stories Behind Geneva’s Extraordinary Parks
- Roots Aurora Seeks 2019 Nominations For Aurora Cultural Champions
- Newly Renovated Thompson Middle School Retains Memories of St. Charles High
- Elgin’s Bluff City Cemetery Memorializes City’s Past
- Batavia Connection to 1969 Moon Landing
- Geneva Company Made Huge Contribution to Art Deco
- East Vs. West 1914 — Aurora’s Greatest Football Game
- North, Union Cemeteries Are St. Charles’ Hallowed Grounds
- Elgin Temperance Crusaders Take Hatchet To Beer Fans
- Ever Heard of Clybourneville? (Hint: It’s Now in Batavia)
- Geneva Ghost Stories Rise From Former Hospital Site
- Aurora Tells The Cows To Shut Up
- Baby Face Nelson And 100 Years of St. Charles Boys School ‘Good, Bad And Ugly’
- Behold The Telegraph, Elgin’s First Digital Communication!
- Mary Bailey, Batavia’s Trailblazing Woman Lawyer
- Holiday Traditions, Historic Creche at Geneva History Museum
- Welcome To Thanksgiving Dinner at Aurora’s Tanner House
- St. Charles’ Whiskey Bend Signaled Boom Time For Taverns
- From Elgin Watch Cases To 4.2 Mortar Shells
- Lorraine James’ Art Leaves Lasting Impression on Batavia
- Geneva Remembers The Tornado of 1967
- New Year’s Calling in Aurora
- Newly Digitized Footage Documents Construction of St. Charles Municipal Building
- ‘New Year’s Calling’ in Aurora Was The Online Dating of Late 1800s
- A Woman’s Right To Vote — In Elgin
- How The Household Journal Came To Batavia
- Geneva’s East Side — From Dodson To Dog ‘N’ Suds
- On Leap Year, ‘She-Wolves of Aurora’ Have ‘Gender-Swapping Fun’
- Mary Todd Lincoln, Batavia Resident
- The Women Who Broke Codes at Riverbank Labs in Geneva
- Turn Around in Aurora And You’ll Bump Into a Luxembourger
- Geneva History Museum Offers COVID-19 Journal
- Aurora’s Amazing Family Portrait Exhibit ‘A Brilliant Idea’
- How St. Charles Survived The Spanish Flu in 1918
- Elgin Epidemics — COVID-19 Is Not The First To Bring Suffering, Sorrow
- Geneva Museum Passes Milestone
- Aurora’s African-American Police Officers
- Garner Family Is St. Charles’ Juneteenth Celebration Story
- Notable Black Americans From Elgin, IL
- Black Batavians Played Key Roles in History
- Geneva History Museum Reveals Archive Redesign
Sign Up To KCC E-Newsletter