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Durham Home in Momence to be 100 Years Old in 1951

1951 Kankakee Journal

Durham home in 1951

When 1951 rolls around it will mark the 100th birthday anniversary of a residence in Momence known as the “Durham home” which has been in the same family since it was constructed.

The home, located at 124 East Third Street, is currently occupied by Mrs. Bertha Durham and her two daughters, Mrs. Marguerite Keil and Miss Bertha Durham.

The home was built by one of the wealthiest men in Momence history, William H. Patterson who moved to Momence in 1850 from West Creek, Lake County, Ind. Mr. Patterson was born in Lebanon, Warren County, Ohio on Dec. 7, 1829 and four years later moved with his parents to Walnut Grove, Ill. They moved to West Creek 11 years later.

Wm. H. Patterson

Mr. Patterson, one of 11 children, moved to Momence with little more than the clothes on his back-but his keen business sense soon established him as one of the top businessmen in the community. He began working in a flour mill but three years later he went into business for himself and in a short time was owner of a huge general merchandise store. He steadily increased his operations until he had interests in a cheese factory, lumber business, grain business, flour mill and dairy farm. He was postmaster of Momence at one time and in 1870 was a delegate to the constitutional convention at Springfield.

Arrives In 1851

Miss Charlotte Wilber arrived in Momence in 1851 from White Creek, Washington County, N.Y. She sailed by boat alone the Erie Canal from Troy, N.Y., to Buffalo and then on a sailing ship through the Great Lakes to Chicago. She completed her trip to Momence by team. A fire occurred on the ship enroute and the New Yorker lost much of the furniture she was taking to her new home.

On Sept. 1, 1852 Miss Wilber and Mr. Patterson were married and the latter had the home at 124 East Third Street ready for them. The present home includes five rooms of the original home. These rooms are referred to as the east wing of the present house. Mrs. Durham recalls that her father had so many relatives coming to visit him that he had to expand the house. Thus in 1853 the west portion of the home was torn down and the house was established just as it is today.

Included downstairs are a living room, a dining room, kitchen and two bedrooms. Upstairs are more bedrooms, two immense closets and a long hallway.

The Patterson’s had four children. Other than Mrs. Durham were Merritt, Albert and William. Mr. Patterson died in 1870 and his wife in 1874. Mrs. Durham was the lone member of the family left when between 1875 and 1880 all three of her brothers died.

Enrolls At Northwestern

In 1875 she enrolled in the women’s college of Northwestern University when Frances Willard was dean. The latter recommended a select private girl’s school, the Logan Square seminary at Philadelphia, and she enrolled there in 1876. Her roommate there was Emma Taft Hatfield, a cousin of President Taft. One of Mrs. Durham’s prize collections is an autograph book and picture album featuring some of her school mates and teachers.

She was married in 1877 to Welton M. Durham and they made their home in the Patterson house. Welton’s brother Jerome founded the Durham bank in Momence in 1871 and Welton joined him. When Jerome retired in 1881 Welton continued the established until 1896 when he retired. He died Feb. 28, 1928.

Five children were born to the Durham’s in the historic home. Irene and Charlotte are deceased, Bertha and Marguerite live with their mother and William is an auditor at the Stevens hotel in Chicago.

Begins Collecting Data

Twelve years ago, Mrs. Keil began collecting historical data on the family and through the help of relatives began an effort to restore some of the Patterson articles at the home. One prize is a solid silver water set presented to Mr. Patterson in 1869 by the clerks at his store. Engraved on the set are such names as Washington and William P. Watson, Elon Curtis, Hilton B. Hall, William Astle, Harvey Mosely and Farmon Scramlin. Other priceless articles include a chair which Mrs. Patterson brought with her to Momence in 1851; five mahogany and rosewood chairs used by the Patterson; a birchwood bed used by them; three quilts made by Mrs. Patterson-the three being at least 90 years of age; a combination writing desk and library, all-walnut with pineapple hand carved handles; a 100-year-old sofa; silver tea and coffee pots used by the Patterson's; silverware of the Patterson's, and numerous dishes used by the pioneer family. Some of the collection is on loan to the Chicago Historical Society.

Anyone knowing the Durham home in the late 1800’s will find few changes on the exterior. The clapboard siding is still there although it is now painted yellow instead of white. Gone is the fence that was around the property and gone is a portion of the front porch.

Wrapped up in the house is truly a portion of the history of Momence.

Durham home

Ninety-nine years of Momence history are tucked away in this historic Momence home that was built back in 1851 by William H. Patterson, wealthy merchant. The house is much as it was when built, still has its same floors, its big bay window in the living room, its low ceilings that range from eight to nine feet and its thick walls that measure more than a foot.

Durham house bedroom

Owners of the home began 12 years ago a movement to restore five rooms of the house which are considered the original home. One of these rooms is a downstairs bedroom shown here. The old-fashion bed is one used by the Patterson’s as are the other pieces of furniture in the room. Note the quilt on the bed. It was made by hand by Mrs. Patterson more than 90 years ago.

Durham house living room

Mrs. Bertha Durham (left) is the only living child of the Patterson’s and has spent her entire life in the house. She and a daughter, Mrs. Marguerite Keil, one of two daughters who live with her in the historic home, look over a silver coffee pot that belonged to Mrs. Durham’s mother and bears her initials. On the table in front of them are some of the dishes used by the Patterson’s. Mrs. Durham is sitting on a sofa that is more than 100 years old and the chair being used by Mrs. Keil approximates that age. The two sit in the original living room of the house.

Article from the 1951 Kankakee Journal / Photos Courtesy of Lois Ware

In 1977 the City Council approved to raze the Patterson / Durham House in order to move the house that stood south of the Eastern Illinois Trust to make room for a parking lot.

In the photo below you can see the house south of the Baptist church on Dixie Highway before it was moved to 309 N. Locust Street.

First Baptist Church