On the afternoon of March 10, 2012 I sat down at my Mac Mini and set up my own page on the WordPress blogging site. I’d been retired as the editor of the Ledger-Sentinel here in Oswego for a few years and had largely finished my project to transcribe the “Oswego” news columns from each week’s Kendall County Record from the 1860s to the 1970s. So I was looking for another history project to occupy my time—when I wasn’t volunteering down at the Little White School Museum.
My good friend John Etheredge, who took over the editorship of the Ledger-Sentinel when I left, asked me shortly before I retired whether I’d ever considered blogging. I had, from time to time, but not seriously. But by March 2012—four years after I had hung up my editor’s blue pencil—I was apparently ready to start making more local history accessible to a wider audience.
So with my blogging home established, I wrote my very first post here at History on the Fox. It was a short piece on the coming change to Daylight Savings Time, the point being people had been grousing about time changes for a long, long time, bolstered with a couple of 1930s quotes from the Kendall County Record. I posted that entry at 4:28 p.m.
Then, I apparently figured maybe I ought to explain what I hoped to accomplish here, and so just before 8 p.m., I posted another piece titled “Blogging in the 21st Century with a 19th Century mind…” to do just that.
I started blogging in my upstairs office across the street from where I’m writing this post in the house my great-grandparents built for their retirement from farming.
That office was the descendant of the original History Central that I’d set up when we were working on county histories for the Kendall County Bicentennial Commission back in 1974. The first History Central was located out on an enclosed porch at the first house we ever owned, which was a true relic. My great-great-grandparents moved there shortly after the Civil War. My great-great-grandmother wove rag rugs on her giant loom there as well as renting out sleeping rooms to railroad and ice harvesting company workers. Her son built the porch onto the house in the 1920s so his tubercular daughter could sleep in the fresh air. We remodeled it into office space a few years before we moved next door to my great-grandparents house. Then in 2018 we moved across the street to the house my sister built on the east bank of the Fox River. So three moves since 1968, all in a radius of about 1,500 feet.
It’s now been nine years—that’s a long time in blogging years, by the way—and I’m still plugging away on my Mac Mini here at the newest History Central, trying to post at least once a week, mostly on the history of the Fox Valley and topics related to it.
Since March 10, 2012, I’ve written 284 unique posts, some of which I’ve re-posted from time to time. My weekly posting schedule has gotten corrupted from time to time as real life intruded, including a heart valve replacement and most recently an emergency pacemaker install.
During the past nine years, nearly 34,000 visitors have clicked into History on the Fox to read about local, Illinois, and Midwestern history, not to mention the occasional off-topic posts that go up from time to time.
Things started pretty slowly. For the entire year of 2012, I had a total of 58 individual visitors. Even then, the places those visitors lived was sort of mind-boggling and included not just the U.S., but also the United Kingdom, Canada, Macau, Mexico, Japan, and France.
Since then, however, the blog—and its number visitors—has continued to grow. In 2020, a total of 11,230 folks stopped by History on the Fox from a mind-blowing 84 countries around the world. Not surprisingly (since they’re our close neighbors to the north and French Canadians were some of the first non-Native American residents in our area), most of my foreign visitors last year—610—came from Canada, followed by 363 from the United Kingdom, 177 from Australia, and 115 from France, none of which seem too odd. But I always wonder what the 22 visitors from Thailand, 18 from South Korea, and 8 from Ghana got out of “History on the Fox’s” content.
When it comes to the all-time popularity of individual blog posts, “Those marvelous Ojibwa birch bark canoes” is the clear winner, with 1,529 individual readers since I posted it Nov. 4, 2013. Seldom a day goes by that the post doesn’t get at least one hit.
The canoe post is followed in all-time popularity by “The days when the Rawleigh man came to call” with 1,325 readers since I posted it in September 2013, and “The week they killed the Illinois River” with 1,305 readers since October 2015.
Writing about local history is a satisfying endeavor, one that occasionally pays dividends when other on-line folks use History on the Fox posts in their own blogs and for other research purposes.
Back in 1977 when I started writing a weekly column for the old Fox Valley Sentinel, the editor and publisher, my grade school buddy Dave Dreier, wondered whether there would be enough local history available to fill a weekly column. I assured him there was. And 44 years later, here we are, with the descendant of that column, today’s Reflections column, appearing twice monthly in Shaw Media papers, and more takes on the topic here at History on the Fox.
So, as long as I can keep digging up new stories about the people and events that made the Fox Valley what it is today, I’ll keep typing away here at the newest History Central.