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updated: 12/15/2010 10:48 AM

History has a funny way of repeating itself

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It was like a memory out of Arlington Heights' past, but it was happening right now in Sandwich, Ill.

I saw the newspaper picture of a small frame church tipping off one side of a moving platform carrying it down what was identified as Arnold Road to a new location in the town.

The story told that the diminutive historic church, built by Presbyterians in Sandwich in 1858, had been bought by St. Paul Catholic Church in 1910 and used regularly for worship ever since. Now it was being moved next to the parish center about a mile away.

The church, called "much beloved" by the pastor, is the oldest church in DeKalb County still used for worship, and the first in the Rockford Diocese to be physically relocated.

Small, frame, tippy on its base, St. Paul's in Sandwich could have been that first little church in Arlington, St. Mary's, which was taken for a ride in 1882.

There is a picture of it at the Arlington Heights Historical Society. A contractor called Shaughnessy of Chicago built it on an acre of land south of the tracks donated by a Mr. Kennedy. Priests came once a month to say Mass.

Support for the church must have lessened because in the historical society picture it is propped on two flatbed cars ready for its first, and last, train ride. Down the tracks it would travel to Des Plaines, where it would be established as St. Mary's.

Soon it would be riding the same tracks back to Arlington, well, metaphorically, at least, in the person of the pastor, Father John Linden, who came to Arlington from Des Plaines regularly to say Mass.

I've always enjoyed the mental picture (I don't think a real one exists) of Father Linden vigorously pumping his way up the North Western tracks in a handcar to his "mission" church. Always amazed at the fortitude of early settlers, I wondered how he managed to stay warm in winter.

With the usual what-else-do-you-expect expression that was the usual response to my "How did you do it in the old days" questions, my informant said. "He threw a blanket over his back and pumped away." I suppose such exercise does keep a person warm, even when exposed to winter's vicissitudes.

Her answer was on a par with others I received over the years to questions like, "Did people really walk from Buffalo Grove to commute to Chicago from the Arlington train station?"

Or, famously the answer to, "How could Miss Shepard get herself from Dunton and Eastman to the school on Palatine Road where she taught before there were snowplows?" I still remember the shrug at my lack of understanding of how people lived a hundred years ago.

"She pulled her shawl over her head and plunged into the drifts." Of course. What else?