Shermerville, Illinois

While researching the ancestry of my daughter-in-law’s family, one name kept popping up in the historical records: Shermerville, Illinois. Apparently, it was in this area that her German ancestors decided to settle when coming to America.

Shermerville was so named after Frederick Schermer who first donated the land to be used for the area’s first railroad station. By the 1870s, it was a thriving farming community with established brick yards that were in much demand during the rebuilding of Chicago after the Great Fire of 1871.

The town was incorporated in 1901 as the Village of Shermerville. It had 60 homes, 311 residents, and a whopping total of five saloons. With those numbers, it is not too surprising that Shermerville was labeled with a negative reputation in its early years for its raucous gatherings held at its various taverns. By 1921, the residents believed that the very name of Shermerville had developed a bad connotation and they set out to do something about it.

In 1923, a petition circulated among the residents asking them to select a new name for the village. The winner, Northbrook, was a name submitted by Edward Landwehr, the US Postmaster and the brother-in-law of my daughter-in-law’s first cousin (four times removed). Later, Landwehr’s contribution was recognized by having a street named after him.

It is hard to measure how much impact the name change had on its public image but as of 2021, Northbrook, a suburb of Chicago, consists of 32,654 people and is widely recognized as a safe, family-friendly area. Filmmaker John Hughes, a son of Northbrook, often used locations of the village in his films including Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Weird Science.

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