The following excerpt is from Stephen J. Bigolin’s publication, A Journey Through Dekalb County Vol. II
“A few blocks north along Sycamore Street, one finds a one-time farmhouse that pre-dates Hinckley by 22 years. Located on the northeast corner of Sycamore and Miller streets is the home of Samuel Miller. He settled in Squaw Grove in the fall of 1835, coming to DeKalb County from Floyd County, Ind., on the recommendation of a friend, John Sebree. The 1876 “Voters and Tax-Payers of DeKalb County, Illinois” mentioned the fact that Mr. Miller’s first wife, who died sometime between 1846 and 1850, had been Gelly M. Sebree. Her relation, if any, to John Sebree was not given, nor is she mentioned in John’s biography or in the three historical sketches of his son, W.M. Sebree Samuel and Gelly M. (Sebree) Miller were married around 1835 and brought six children into the world, according to the 1850 U.S. Census, which listed four of them as being born in Illinois. Mr. Miller remarried in the early 1850s, and fathered two more sons with his new wife, Jane Cone Miller.
The striking two-story frame Italianate-style house, with its elaborately detailed rooftop cupola, was constructed in two phases. The basically square-front portion dates from 1850, at which time the census set a value of $2,000 on the 270-acre farm. The rear addition was done in 1870 and contains the kitchen. The low-pitch hip roof has a heavily bracketed cornice below its wide overhanging eaves. A similarly wide frieze band is ornamented with dentil blocks between the brackets. Tall, vertical corner boards help frame each facade. A one-story bracketed bay projects from the south wall. The front porch tells the tale of the only change of any real consequence in the structure’s appearance. The slender, Classical Revival-style Ionic columns most likely replaced original ones of scrollwork design around the turn of the 20th century. Late in the 20th century, another change for the better also took place.”
“For about as long as anyone in the Hinckley area could recall, the Samuel Miller house, at North Sycamore and Miller streets, was painted plain white, with black shutters. This is how I first saw it in 1976. Driving by the structure one day about 11 years ago, I had to do a double take. The house was not white anymore! Ever sice then its body color has been blue, the shutters red and the cupola and other trim white. For those of us familiar with the house, the transformation was a little less than stunning. I had always thought painting it in a decorative multiple color scheme would improve its looks, and was pleased by the results. The overall impact would be even more positive if two or, better yet, three additional colors were employed. The architectural detail on the structure is extensive enough to support such treatment.
A few other tidbits concerning the Samuel Miller house and farm also are in order. The 270 acres of land appreciated over the years, from $2,000 in 1850 to $16,000 in 1876. The “Voters and Tax-Payers of DeKalb County, Illinois” went on to state that Mr. Miller enjoyed $4,000 in personal property. (Items of luxury and personal property, back in those days, included carriages and wagons, watches and clocks, sewing and knitting machines, pianos, melodeons and organs, steam engines, safes and billiard tables.)
One other fact of some not that was recorded in the old Dekalb County Histories has to do with Samuel Miller’s 1837 tax bill. It came to a grand total of 62.5c.
I first drove to Hinckley to photograph the Samuel Miller house in 1979. By coincidence, on the day I chose to visit, one of the owners happened to be out doing some yard work. When he saw me at the endge of the property with camera in hand, he walked over and we struck up a conversation. Next thing I knew, he invited me in to see the inside. To this day, the highlight was ascending the original, steep, narrow stairway from the second floor hall up into the cupola for the panoramic view afforded from that historic vantage point. What an extra-special treat that provided me – much more than I bargained for at the start of the day.”
Stephen J. Bigolin
“When one thinks of barbed wire and DeKalb County history, one name usually comes to mind: Steve Bigolin. Not only is he a collector of historical items and documents, but he’s a collector of facts, as well: just one question about local history can have him rattling off dates and anecdotes without hesitation.”