Resident’s website documents village history

By on September 30, 2011

by Keith Beebe

SUGAR GROVE—Sugar Grove resident Tim Wilson created the website four years ago as a way to inform residents about the village’s downtown redevelopment plan.

After the redevelopment plan fell through, Wilson morphed the website into a guide and database detailing the history of Sugar Grove.

“I didn’t think the village was publicizing (the redevelopment) very well, and when that plan fell through with the bad economy, I decided to turn the site into something that covered history and information about the village,” he said.

Wilson, who serves as administrator of the website, said features vintage photographs, memorabilia and oth- er nostalgia items in addition to loads of historical information about the village.

“I’ve got some old yearbooks from the high school and things like that for people who can’t get to the Sugar Grove Historical Society, which has some great information, too, but their hours are kind of limited,” Wilson said. “The website allows people to look up some village historical information in the meantime.”

In terms of historical memorabilia, Wilson has found several items on the Internet, and especially on eBay.

“One of the items that I’ve found is an actual original letter that a young man sent to his family back East in the 1840s to try and get them to come to Sugar Grove,” Wilson said. “It said the women, if they came out here, would have to stay, which I thought was kind of funny. I’ve also found old land records, envelopes, things like that. I even took some photos when I first moved here in the early ’90s, so some of those photos are now going on almost 20 years, and there have been a lot of changes since then.”

Wilson, 45, is an outside plant technician for AT&T. He moved to Sugar Grove from Detroit, Mich., 18 years ago, and said it was quite the adjustment to go from a major city to what was a small farm town at the time. These days, his job allows him to interact with people all over the village.

“Since I work for AT&T, I am all over town and I speak to a lot of people. Often, I’ll have someone tell me they found this website about Sugar Grove,” he said. “And sometimes when people move in around here, they’ll ask for more information about the village, so I’ll direct them to the website.”

In addition to collecting old items, Wilson has also superimposed photos of Sugar Grove from the 1930s over current photos of the village, and said you can literally see the cornfields become houses. Wilson currently has a Youtube channel dedicated just to videos of Sugar Grove.

Soon after Wilson changed the theme of his website, he got the urge to research his 110-year-old home, which is located on Main Street. He still hasn’t located any vintage photographs of his home, but has come across photographs of Main Street and early 1900s postcards that feature pictures likely taken right in his front yard.

“The high school and community house are directly across the street, so a lot of people came to my property to take pictures of those two buildings,” Wilson said. “It’s just kind of disappoint- ing that I haven’t found any vintage photos of my own home.”

There’s more to Wilson’s site than just items representing the long history of Sugar Grove, as local businesses can advertise on for free. Wilson said he’d like to see more businesses get involved and take advantage of the opportunity.

“A lot of things I put on (the forum) now are basically to promote businesses in the area. Any businesses within the township or the village can advertise for free on my website and get information about their business out there.”

Wilson also started a forum on the website as a way to share information. He said the amount of traffic on the forum is typically mild. According to Wilson, Village Trustee Mari Johnson visits the forum and has been pretty supportive of the site. He said Johnson is always great about responding to things that people put on there when they have questions about the village. And even when the questions are critical, she’s good at setting the record straight.

A few small upgrades are in store for the web- site, as well.

“I want to keep adding historical items as I find them. I don’t really plan to evolve the website, but I’d like to upgrade it so it’s more visually appealing; Wilson said. And I am hoping more businesses will start advertising there to promote themselves. I would like to give back to the community by giving businesses an extra way to promote themselves and reach out to the community.”