Since I discovered the box of my family’s belongings that was left in an attic for 60 years, I’ve been obsessed with treasure hunting. The treasure I’m looking for is anything from the past pertaining to my family history or the Morris, Illinois area. I’ve gone rifling through family member’s basements and photo albums, knocked on stranger’s doors to look through attics and scoured eBay to find more trinkets to add to my collection. I have found a few things in my search, but nothing compares (or likely will ever compare) to my original find.
Still, my search continues. When I saw that someone posted about a box full of miscellaneous papers and pictures in Morris on Facebook Marketplace, I contacted them immediately. We arranged to meet and I soon learned that the seller was the owner of the store, Clutter, located at 115 W. Washington St in downtown Morris. Clutter is a new addition to downtown and opened just this past June.
Melissa and her family moved from Pennsylvania after her husband’s job was transferred to the area. She has been dealing with euphrema and other vintage finds by hunting through estate sales, flea markets and abandoned buildings for the past 13 years.
She’s got a passion for treasure hunting and has been impressed with the response to the new store in Morris. Not only does the store sell all things vintage, but they also stock an impressive comic book collection and will be opening a new arcade area in their back room on February 1st. There’s seems to be just about something for everyone contained within the store somewhere.
It’s location is currently nestled between the Strawberry Plant Boutique and Attorney Charles Schmidt’s office, but I wondered what 115 W Washington had housed before Clutter had moved in. I started by going to the Grundy County Historical Museum. Curator Debbie Steffes can usually answer any question about Morris history, but the address didn’t stand out to her. We sifted through some of the books she and Ken Sereno had written together and it wasn’t one of the places featured in their research. This meant I had my work cut out for me. Fortunately, the museum stocks several old telephone and city directories, but finding one address among hundreds of entries wasn’t going to be easy. I started scanning each book and eventually came across a listing for an L Erlbacher. There was no business listed with it, so this really wasn’t much help. My search continued and after about 20 minutes of scanning I finally found the address listed under tailors in 1942. I started going backwards through each directory looking under “Tailors” and it consistently listed 115 W Washington all the way back to 1911! Here’s what I learned...
In the 1900 census, Leonard and his two children Frederick and Harriet were living with a family on West Washington Street. Leonard’s occupation was a tailor so we can safely assume the tailor shop at least dates back to this time. Leonard was a German immigrant born in 1848. He was a widow at this time and sole provider for his two children, Frederick age 14 and Harriet age 11.
Moving forward, Leonard continued to operate his tailor shop; probably until around the time of his death in 1920. In the 1920’s, the shop was known as Kausch and Olson and continued to operate as a tailoring business. William Kausch and Thor Olson appear to be the proprietors of this business after working for Mr. Erlbacher. Kausch likely began as an apprentice as the 1900 census shows him working at a tailor shop at just age 14. Olson, a Norwegian immigrant, shows up in the 1910 census with occupation as tailor. By 1930, Thor’s son Raymond works as a clerk with his father in the shop.
While there isn’t a lot of of direct information about this location during the 1930’s, it’s safe to assume it remained a tailor and cleaners through this decade and into the next. By 1942, it was listed as Olson Bros Tailors and Cleaners.
In more recent history, The Black family owned it for an extended period of time operating a law office out of the location from the late 1960’s into the mid 1980’s. Dorothy Black also ran her real estate business from this location. Theresa Lamb, daughter of Dorothy Black recently provided me this photo of her Grandfather's Saloon that was reportedly on W. Washington St. The Tailor shop could have been next door to the left given the pictures of the men in clothing and the letters "ssing" (maybe Pressing?) in the window.
While 115 W Washington at first glance doesn’t appear to be a memorable place in Morris downtown history, it holds generations worth of importance and livelihood to at at least four families throughout the years. Each family left a legacy of history that took a little digging to uncover so it could be remembered again. Do you own a Morris business or are curious about your house history? Contact Modern Ancestry to learn how you can discover the forgotten history.