Celebrating 19 Years as Barrington’s Signature Magazine


The Tales They Told

Story by Barbara L. Benson

The “Tales of Old Barrington” cover features John C. Plagge’s general store on South Cook Street at Park Avenue in 1890.
There was a millinery shop and a dentist upstairs.

Already, with the 250th Birthday of the United States of America only three years away in 2026, the Signal Hill Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is researching how such significant anniversaries have been celebrated in the past. In the months ahead, members of the DAR will be working with Barrington’s Cultural Commission and History Work Group to help plan a unique commemoration for our nation’s 250th Birthday.

Across the nation in 1976, besides the ubiquitous parades and fireworks, many communities found unique ways of commemorating the nation’s 200 eventful and challenging years, and Barrington was no exception with the publication of “Tales of Old Barrington.”

Published by the Barrington Bicentennial Commission and the Barrington Press, written and edited by Cynthia Baker Sharpe, in the words of her introduction, this volume “is not a history book, but just what the title says—a group of tales about life in the prairie village of Barrington, Illinois, from 1834 when the first two white men settled in the area, until 1920.”

What Life Was Like

The intent of the book is to let the reader see and sense what life was like in those years, through the voices of those who lived then. Reading the reminiscences of many whose names are legendary in Barrington’s collected historical memory, you will find yourself transported to those dusty, tree-lined streets of old Barrington.

The chapter titles encompass pioneer life. Captivating stories were told with poignancy, humor, and pride for what was accomplished. “It Was Planned, and Not Just a Widening of the Road” covers the birth of Barrington. “The Sound of the Saw Was Constantly Heard,” speaks of building cabins and furniture. “We Stayed There, by God, ‘Til We Did Know It—Schooling in Early Barrington,” was personally told to Cynthia Baker Sharpe by William Klingenberg, Jr. “A House for Seven Dollars and a Cow for Seven Dollars” is about the Lageschulte family arriving from Germany before the railroad came here.

Learn about the early churches of Barrington in “Members Had Deeds for Their Pews,” and “Snake Oil for Every Ache and Pain,” about the medicine show and other good times. All the chapters have stories and memories that carry the initials of the writer or oral history recorder. Their full names appear on the final page, including that of Barrington’s all-time greatest historian, Arnett C. Lines.

The photographs, some now 150 years old, visualize the stories for you. Many of them have been used in historical features in Quintessential Barrington. This writer knows the book by heart. Copies are rare now. It is online at the Barrington Area Library. A Barrington Cultural Commissioner, Jack Schaefer, has found a few copies online. So, should you happen to spot a copy while perusing for books on bibliophile websites, please grab it. If you are not familiar with it, you will enjoy a historical treat.

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Barbara L. Benson grew up in Kent, England, and later moved to New York. She settled in Barrington and has walked with our history ever since she first arrived here in 1980.

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