Elgin Fire Department

The Elgin Fire Department celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2017. Review their history here.


The Elgin Fire Barn No. 5 Museum is located in old fire station 5 at 533 Saint Charles Street in Elgin. Fire station 5 was designed in 1903 by Elgin architect Smith Hoag in the ornate Classical Revival style of architecture. This was the last fire station in Elgin built to house horse-drawn apparatus; horse-drawn equipment was used here until November 1916 when the city started purchasing motorized vehicles. Even though 95 years have passed since horses were kept here, feed continues to trickle out of the wall where the feed chute was once located, adding to the building's historic character




Watch Elgin


Even in 1921, Elgin was known as a City to Watch. This early marketing brochure touted Elgin as a city known for manufacturing, a reliable labor force, and as a desirable location to raise a family.

View this on Illinois Digital Archives.

See it at Gail Borden Public Library.




Big Timber Chips


Local troops of the Boy Scouts of America have a long history in Elgin and surrounding areas.  Founded in 1910 in the United States, several troops have long had a home in Elgin. Camp Big Timber, located the northwest side of Elgin, was a favorite spot for scouting activities. 

View this 1938 publication online, and see additional issues at
Gail Borden Public Library.




Church of the Brethren Headquarters

The Church of the Brethren Publishing House has had a long history in Elgin, IL. The publishing house operated in Mt. Morris, IL through 1897, when it became owned by the church. Looking for improved railroad and mailing facilities, operations were transferred to Elgin in 1899.


The original location in Elgin, IL
More... Located on South State Street near West Chicago St, the original 3 story brick building built in 1899, was expanded and enlarged in 1903, 1904, and 1906, eventually growing to 4 stories in height. More...


After several decades in the downtown Elgin location,

the facility could no longer meet the needs of the expanding publishing business. The Brethren Church denominational offices had also expanded through the years.  A building committee, operating under the direction of the General Brotherhood Board, was first convened in 1954 to explore the need for additional space. The Elgin Daily Courier-News announced the Board's decision on January 6, 1956 with the headline "Brethren Relocate in Elgin". 

The Church of the Brethren purchased a 57 acre parcel of land , formerly the Daybreak Farm, on the far north side of the city. This site was bordered by Dundee Avenue, and the not yet built North-Illinois Toll Road, now known as I-90. Grounbreaking ceremonies were held in March of 1958, with an anticipated completion date in May of 1959.


Church officials, visiting dignitaries, and the general public were all invited
to an Open House celebration
in May of 1959.


Step back in time to see the workmanship of this beautiful facility.

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Photos can be viewed and downloaded in a higher resolution at the Illinois Digital Archives.

Additional information about the Church of the Brethren can be found here.


Asian-Pacific American Heritage Celebration

Asian-Pacific American Heritage Celebration

Gail Borden Library celebrates the many diverse cultures that make up our community.
Several organizations joined with us
to celebrate Asian-Pacific cultures in May 2015.

News of Yesteryear

Gail Borden Library holds a large collection of historic microfilmed newspapers, dating from as early as 1850.

Shown below are those issues that are currently available in a digital format. Follow the links to view or download these editions.


Newspapers of Elgin, Illinois

The Elgin Advocate

  1873 - February 22, September 6
  1875 - May 8

  1876 - entire year
 1878 - entire year
  1879 - entire year
  1880 - entire year
  1881 - entire year
  1882 - entire year
  1883 - entire year
  1884 - entire year
  1885 - entire year
  1886 - entire year
  1887 - entire year
  1888 - entire year
  1889 - entire year     


The Elgin Business Mirror

  1865 - May 12


The Elgin Daily Courier

  1884 - March 18 through December 31;
  1885 - entire year
  1886 - entire year
 1887 - entire year
 1888 - entire year
  1889 - entire year


The (Elgin) Daily News

  1877 -  entire year
  1878 -  entire year
  1879 -  January 23, May 3, July - December
  1880 -  3 issues
 1882 - partial year
 1883 - entire year
 1884 - entire year


The Elgin Daily Frank

  1882 - February 1 through March 31
  1882 - April 1 through May 31
  1882 - June 1 through July 6


(Elgin) Every Saturday

  1884 - April through December
  1885 - entire year
  1886 - April 3
  1887 - entire year
  1888 - entire year
  1889 - entire year
  1899 - December 30 - (final issue)


The Elgin Gazette

  1850 - August 10, October 19, December 28
  1851 - January 18 and 25, April 19, May 17,
             June 21

  1856 - June 18, October 22
  1857 - January 21, February 4
  1858 - February 27, December 31
  1860 - partial year
  1861 - partial year
  1869 - February 4, February 11, February 25
  1872 - April 6
  1873 - February 22


Elgin Weekly Frank

  1882 - entire year



The Fox River Courier

  1851 - August 16, November 1 and 12, 
            September 20
  1852 - April 7


The Illinois Weekly Palladium

  1853 - October 27
  1854 - February 2, September 14
  1855 - April 19, November 1


Second District Democrat

  1863 - September 16 and 23, October 7 and 14
  1864 - March 16, 23, 30 and July 27


Valley Chronicle

  1884 - November 28



The Weekly Gazette

  1861 - May 16 through December 25
  1862 - entire year
  1863 - entire year
  1864 - January 6 through November 30
  1865 - February and May 24

                     The digitization process is ongoing, so please check back frequently for new additions.

Hispanic Heritage Month 2014 / English and En EspaƱol



The theme of 2014's Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration was the Dreams and Stories that we all share.

El tema de la celebración del Mes de la Hispanidad en el 2014 fue Sueños y Stories.



Members of the community were invited to talk about their dreams for themselves, their families, and their community. Their inspiring stories were captured on film in a video which was screened at the celebration. Watch it here.
Se invitó a miembros de la comunidad a que compartieran sus sueños para si, para sus famnilias y para sus comunidades.  Las historias inspiradoras quedaron grabadas en un video que se mostró en la celebración. Puedes verlo


More... Pita Betancourt came to the United States after a childhhood in Mexico.
She brought along a love of theater and the arts. After many years, she was able to
put that love of theater to work by directing a play.

Pita Betancourt vino a los Estados Unidos después de su infancia en México. 
Ella se trajo un amor por el teatro y las artes. Después de muchos años puso
ese amor para el teatro a trabajar dirigiendo una obra de teatro.

Rich Rodriguez is a 7th generation Mexican-American. After many years working for others
in financial services, he was able to fulfill his dream of starting his own company, RXR Capital.

Rich Rodriguez es de la séptima generación Mexicana - Estadounidense. 
Después de muchos años trabajando bajo otros en los servicios financieros, 
fue capaz de cumplir su sueño de iniciar su propia empresa, RXR Capital.

Elisa Lara studied at Elgin Community College, and Northern Illinois University,
while maintaining a grueling work schedule. After receiving her degree in nursing,
she is able to give back to the community through her work with VNA Health Care.

Elisa Lara estudió en Elgin Community College y Northern Illinois University,  
mientras que mantenía un horario de trabajo agotador. 
Después de recibir su licenciatura en enfermería, 
ella es capaz de devolver a la comunidad a través de su trabajo con la clínica VNA. 

Paloma Greer is an artist, an activist, and covers events in the Latino community
for Reflejos newspaper. She feels that if you face whatever scares you, you are a
little closer to your dream.

Paloma Greer es una artista, activista, y cubre los eventos 
de la comunidad Latina para el periódico Reflejos. 
Ella siente que cuando enfrentas lo que te mas asusta, 
estarás un poco más cerca a tu sueño.

Kevin Echevarria used his knowledge of hard work to realize his dream
of working for and owning his own company, PK Enterprises.

Kevin Echevarria  utilizó su conocimiento del trabajo 
duro para hacer realidad su sueño de trabajar y 
ser dueño de su propia empresa, PK Enterprises. 

Margarita Mendoza shows the positive aspects of the community through
her work for Panamericano Hoy. Another dream she has realized was
finding the right man to be with to face the challenges of family life.

Margarita Mendoza enseña los aspectos positivos de la 
comunidad atreves de su trabajo para Panamericano Hoy. 
Otro sueño que ella ha realizado es haber encontrado 
un hombre con el que juntos pueden enfrentar los desafíos de la vida.


Other members of the community became “Books that Live. ”  Their unique and compelling life stories were shared in intimate 20-minute appointments with ‘readers’ young and old at the celebration. Check out the books here.

Otros miembros de la comunidad fueron “Libros que Viven.” Compartieron sus historias únicas y conmovedoras con ‘lectores’ de todas las edades en citas íntimas de 20 minutos.





Elgin Death Records

Genealogists have long used records from Gail Borden Public Library to trace their family tree. 

One favorite reference source, Death records in Elgin, Illinois with burials at Bluff City Cemetery and elsewhere ... as recorded in the cemetery sextons' ledgers has been available on microfilm since 1995.


New technology, funding support from the Elgin Genealogical Society, and permission from the Elgin Heritage Commission has allowed this valuable resource, commonly referred to as the Elgin Death Records, to be digitized. The digitization process allows for easier access to this resource for users unable to physically visit the library and protects the film reels from excessive wear and tear.

Follow the links to view the death records on Illinois Digital Archives.

Volume 1 contains death records from 1837 - 1924.

Select volume 1,  part 1 for last names beginning with the letters A - G.

Select volume 1, part 2 for last names beginning with the letters H - O.

Select volume 1, part 3 for last names beginning with the letters P - Z.

Volume 2 contains death records from 1925 - 1949.

Select volume 2, part 1 for last names beginning with the letters A - H.

Select volume 2, part 2 for last names beginning with the letters H - R.

Select volume 2, part 3 for last names beginning with the letters S - Z.

Elgin Academy

Elgin Academy, a private, co-educational, college preparatory school, was founded in 1839, only four years after the founding of the city of Elgin.

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The Academy has been a vibrant part of the community since that time. In February 2014, Elgin Academy celebrated their 175th anniversary.

The commemorative video below showcases their story.

The Elgin Better Gardens Club


More... The Elgin Better Gardens Club began in 1925 with seven members. Over many years the group expanded, both in numbers, and in good works accomplished in the city of Elgin. The Club has supported beautification projects at Gail Borden Library, the Hemmens Plaza, and Fountain Square. Their collection of membership directories and activity reports was donated to Gail Borden Public Library. Items can be viewed at the Special Collections Room at GBPL, or online at Illinois Digital Archives. More...