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updated: 2/27/2012 12:24 PM

Elgin mother, daughter shared leap year birthday in 1912

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  • Emma Heideman and her daughter, Elsie Heideman, of Elgin shared a birthday few families could claim. They were both born Feb. 29 in a leap year.

    Emma Heideman and her daughter, Elsie Heideman, of Elgin shared a birthday few families could claim. They were both born Feb. 29 in a leap year.
    Courtesy of Gail Borden Public Library microfilm c


A mother and daughter from Elgin celebrated a special birthday in 1912 in Elgin that few families could boast.

The shoreline across from the current Gail Borden Public Library was anything but quiet a century ago, while plans to build a west side Catholic church led to complications few probably imagined.

Here's a look at these and other stories that made Elgin area headlines in February 1912.

Leap Year birthdays: It's one thing to be born on Feb. 29 during a leap year, but when a mother and her daughter share the same birth dates, the oddity becomes even greater. This was certainly the case for Emma Heideman, age 56, and her daughter, Elsie Heideman, 13, of Elgin, who were both born Feb. 29.

The women joined five other Elgin people who were also born on this extra day of February during a leap year.

How old these people who only have a birthday every four years consider themselves to be, and in what manner they celebrate their special day, is a question to answer by someone from this unique segment of the population.

West side story: Elgin had two Catholic churches in 1912 -- both on the east side of town -- and the seemingly routine matter of establishing a church on the west side turned out to be anything but simple.

To move the formation of a new church forward, a group calling themselves the "West Side Association of Catholics" was established and elected officers.

After the pastor of the city's largest east side congregation heard of their plans, he appointed a different committee and group of officers to oversee the effort.

"We will proceed with plans to secure a west side church just the same as if the Father had never appointed officers and a committee," said a member of the original west side group.

The situation became even more intense when the pastor said he was appointing himself to lead the new congregation and would assume his duties as soon as a temporary location was established.

Representatives of the original west side group planned to ask the bishop to intervene in the matter.

Downtown debauchery: As the "City Beautiful Movement," advocated by the Elgin Commercial Club -- now the Elgin Area Chamber of Commerce -- gained momentum, Elgin set its sights on eradicating a row of boathouses on the west side of the river across from the current Gail Borden Public Library.

The small structures located just north of the Kimball Street dam were built "some years ago" and were being used by clubs of "questionable morals," opponents said.

"Wild scenes of debauchery and all night revels are occurring there," added the neighbors. The area would be cleaned up at once, city officials said.

High school stabbing: Elgin school officials promised a "rigid investigation" following the stabbing of a student at Elgin High School.

The alleged attacker claimed that the injured youth fell against his knife while the two were "fooling around" in a classroom. This was not the case, according to the injured young man, who said the student with the knife was following him around the room and "maliciously stabbed" him.

The principal later ruled that the incident was an "accident."

Creative wedding: Who said people in the good old days didn't plan creative weddings?

One Elgin groom who worked for a public relations firm in Chicago arranged his wedding to begin by having the Elgin police pick him up on a "fake warrant." After being transported to the station, he met up with his wife and guests for the wedding -- a ceremony that ended with the judge ordering him "to have and to hold" his bride for life.

As the festivities concluded, the clicking of the police call boxes prompted the groom to comment, "Let the ticking be my wedding chimes."

Sobering thoughts: Finally, the Elgin Police Department released its annual report for 1911 showing that there were fewer arrests than the previous year, although one persistent problem remained -- drunkenness.

While the number of intoxicated subjects arrested accounted for nearly half of the city's 500 arrests, police officials said the number was significantly less than the previous year because of the steeper fines handed to repeat offenders.

About half of all arrestees during the year were described as "Americans," while "Germans" made up the largest group of immigrants. These were followed in order by "Swedes," "Irish," and "Hungarians."

The department offered shelter to 1,800 "paupers" and made 125 ambulance calls. Police also said they arrested seven women, while laborers accounted for the largest "class" of people taken into custody.

• Jerry Turnquist writes about Elgin area history. Email him at IbeMrT@aol.comm.

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