MACOMB — Local historian John Hallwas delivered a program on Macomb residents with a deep sense of belonging at the Western Illinois Museum last Sunday.
His presentation, “The Company We Keep: Past Residents and Personal Belonging,” raised awareness on the importance of social cohesion by engaging with people of the past. He spoke at length about several Macomb residents who contributed to social cohesion and who had a deep sense of personal belonging in the community.
H. W. Hainline was one of the “most notable people” who engaged the public with the people of the past, Hallwas said, “but not by writing history books.”
Hainline, a devoted Lincoln supporter during the 1860 presidential campaign, joined the Union Army when the Civil War began. He served from 1861 until the war ended in 1865; was captured and spent months in the infamous Andersonville Prison, and towards the end of the war lost his beloved older brother George at the Battle of Bentonville.
Through his experiences during war, Hainline became what Hallwas described as “the most dedicated leader of Macomb’s Decoration Day commemorations” and published hundreds of articles about the Civil War by various authors, including some of his own in the Macomb Journal, with which he became associated, Hallwas said.
Macomb became "a town of perpetual remembrance of the Civil War with the largest annual Decoration Day, even in the region” because of his efforts, Hallwas said.
Resident Lida Crabb was “very sensitive to the rise of disconnection and loneliness, especially in older folks,” Hallwas said. Her perspective on belonging came from early traumatic childhood experiences, he said, such as her father's death when she was only three and the departure of her impoverished teenage mother, Nellie Backus, who left Crabb and two siblings with their grandmother to travel to the West.
Crabb was eventually taken in by foster parents who never formally adopted her, and never kept in touch with her siblings who lived in the next town over.
Her sense of belonging stems from a similar feeling of loss, Hallwas said, as Crabb found belonging and purpose by forming social connections with older folks who may have been forgotten themselves.
 “Crabb visited older folks in nursing, like The Elms (then located in Bushnell) and the Westfall Nursing Home in Prairie city,” Hallwas said. “She encouraged people to stay in touch with friends and neighbors, and she promoted community gatherings, as well as gathering places, like old churches on the countryside.”
“In my view,” Hallwas said, “we need to open ourselves to those earlier lives – an effort to which also deepens our own experience, both as residents who belong in this distinctive place and as human beings who are, more than we realize, spiritually shaped by our awareness of others.”

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