Scan Day Friday at Allerton Public Library

Now that the new Allerton Public Library building has been open for a full year, Library Director Lisa Winters has been able to start rummaging through boxes of historical material that have been donated to the library through the years.

She’s having the time of her life.

“This is the most fun I’ve had in 10 years,” said Winters, noting that research material from “The Good Life in Piatt County” author Jessie Borror Morgan has been especially noteworthy.

“I don’t know how she got that book written. There would be little pieces like a gum wrapper and she’d write a note on it,” said Winters of the research that led to the 1968 book.

The Morgan file also had a noteworthy gem, a letter to Morgan from Max Hency, who later donated nearly $3 million to help pay for the new library that opened in August of 2016.

The contents of the letter revolve around travel tips Hency gives Morgan if she should ever visit Hawaii. It is of note because information on the library benefactor has always been scarce.

“I was sitting here (at my desk) and there was an envelope that just said ‘Allerton Hawaii information.’ I opened it up and said ‘you have got to be kidding me,’” said Winters when she saw who the author was.

The typewritten letter, dated Sept. 22, 1979, invites Morgan to stay in a one-bedroom condominium Hency owned in Waikiki which was used specifically for guests.

“Research doesn’t have to be unpleasant,” he said upon hearing Morgan was researching a book on the Allerton family, who constructed their mansion in Monticello prior to moving to Hawaii and building another. “The apartment is an easy bus ride from the Honolulu Academy of the Arts, which is indebted to the Allertons for most of its best pieces, both paintings and furniture.

Hency also said a friend of a friend had talked recently to John Allerton, who told her the gardens and estate of the Hawaii grounds were open to the public on Tuesdays, but that “he said he couldn’t show them the house – a mansion but not a monstrosity – because he had given it over exclusively to his cats.”

Morgan’s material is also gold because photos in it are identified – something that is not always the case with donated material.

Winters is also leafing through scrapbooks from Sam Roane, who took photos from the 1920s into the 1960s and compiled volumes of scrapbooks with newspaper clippings after retiring as a rural letter carrier.

Of particular interest to Winters are photographs of the Piatt County Fairgrounds, which used to be located in Monticello where the Forest Preserve Park now sits.

“If he hadn’t taken those photos we wouldn’t have hardly anything” on the former fairgrounds, said the local librarian.

Scan day
Winters is scanning the material in an effort to make the library an online repository for historical information. When entered into History Pin – which is accessible through the library website – the material is open to all.

Others wanting to net electronic versions of their historical material are invited to bring up to 20 items to the first Community Scan Day between 2 and 4:30 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 15 at the library. Scanned pieces will be uploaded and the owner will also receive a flash drive with the material along with getting their originals back.

“I think it’s a good way to build up a collection of historical photographs, getting them in one place,” said Winters. “For people who aren’t tech savvy it’s easier for them to come here.”

More info
Community Scan Days are planned for the third Friday of each month. Additional information is available at or by calling the Allerton Public Library at 217-762-4676.



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