The Champaign County Historical Society will present two educational lectures this summer about local history. The programs are free.
This article was written by Urbana Junior High students Elaei Brown, Grady Lantz, Ethan Rose, Janaya Scott, Gavin Stacy and Michael Upchurch as part of a Project Based Learning unit called “Lost Voices,” which helps preserve and share the history of African-Americans in Urbana. The junior high’s Social Studies Department (which includes 6th-8th graders) is working with the Champaign County and Delaware historical societies to present and preserve the story of Dr. EWB Curry. The information below, as well as other information about Curry, is to be presented at the Champaign County Historical Museum in February 2021. (EVENT POSTPONED)
The students of Urbana Junior High School have selected Dr. Elmer Curry for their 2020 Project Based Learning assignment. They used primary and secondary resources to research his family history, educational background, and his different learning institutions. Dr. Curry was a pioneer in educational reform for African-Americans in the early twentieth century and many of his progressive schools were located throughout Champaign County.
Elmer Curry was born on March 23, 1871 in Delaware, Ohio. He lived in a log house on South Street with his mother Julia and his father George. His dad worked as a minister at The Second Baptist Church on Ross Street, which had a great impact on his future career in education. African-Americans that were freed from slavery were not permitted to an equal education that would have helped them to live a better life. Elmer was interested in helping solve that situation through education.
While attending Delaware City Schools at the age of 17 years old, Elmer rented a kitchen shed for 50 cents per month to start his own school for African-Americans. His school was called The Place of Knowledge for Old and Young. It was located at 19 Davis Street in Delaware, Ohio. The tuition was 25 cents per week and his first student was a 50-year-old man who was a day laborer. After attending Michael College and graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University, he went on to become the first African-American teacher at the desegregated Delaware City Schools.
In 1889 he moved to Urbana, Ohio and founded the Curry Normal and Industrial Institute. His school had a traditional education, which focused on reading, writing, and math. It also taught trade school skills, such as nursing, caretaking, farming, printing, and clothes making. The building still stands today and is located at 325 East Water Street.
Dr. Curry passed away June 19, 1930, in Springfield and was buried at Oakdale Cemetery in Urbana, Ohio. There were over 2,000 students who attended the various Curry Schools. Dr. Elmer Curry’s story illustrates activist African-Americans from Ohio utilizing the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments in an attempt to better the lives of African-Americans.
Since the death of their daughter Alicia, the Tituses have organized, presented and been a part of hundreds of events in their daughter’s name to bring about a more just and peaceful world.
The Tituses raised their family in Champaign County until their move to Michigan in 1997. After their retirement in 2009, they returned to Champaign County and now divide their time with their home in Michigan on Half Moon Lake.
Titus’s career began in the mental health field, working as a youth counselor before moving to the field of higher education.
While working for Schoolcraft College in Livonia, Michigan, tragedy struck. On Sept. 11, 2001, their oldest daughter, Alicia, was murdered while working on United Flight 175 by terrorists who hijacked her plane. In his book, “Losing Alicia: A Father’s Journey After 9/11,” he describes intimate details of this tragedy, their grief journey that followed and their decision to fight for peace rather than war, and justice for those involved rather than more killing.
Shortly after 9/11, after speaking publicly against “civilian casualties” resulting from war, the Tituses joined September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, an organization of 9/11 family members. Titus served on the steering committee for this organization for several years.
His presentation at the Historical Museum will include these issues and his decision to promote peace and justice over war and destruction.
Space will be limited for this free program due to social distancing. Masks are required.
Champaign County native Russell Arnold, Staff Sergeant, who was stationed in Japan at this time, interacted with Gen. Eichelberger on multiple occasions. Arnold still lives in Champaign County and will be on hand during the presentation to elaborate on these interactions with the general as well as answer questions on what it was like to be in Japan during this transformative time in history.
Due to social distancing requirements, capacity for this program will be limited to 30 attendees. Because the event is expected to be well attended, current Champaign County Historical Society members will be given seating priority; specifically, no non-member will be seated until 15 minutes before the start of the program if it appears capacity will be reached by members.
Persons attending together may sit side-by-side while single attendees will be seated six feet apart. A temperature check will be performed at the door. Masks will be required.
The Champaign County Historical Museum, a not-for-profit organization that depends upon donations and dues to preserve, protect, archive and display the artifacts that tell the Champaign County story. The free public museum, 809 East Lawn Ave., Urbana, is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturdays.
The Champaign County Historical Museum received “new” benches just in time for last weekend’s Oktoberfest thanks to the Urbana Parks and Recreation Department’s desire to recycle, and Urbana High Vo-Ag teachers Mallory Zachrich and Steve Wilhelm’s desire for a community service project for their students.
When the city donated 12 aging benches to the museum, Historical Society board member Candy Gilliam suggested contacting the school to see whether repairing and painting the benches would qualify as a school project. The teachers responded that it certainly would qualify.
The Historical Society provided the paint and now has 12 refurbished benches for museum visitors.
Read about what's happening at the Champaign County Historical Museum this summer in the latest edition of the Champaign Chronicles!
Shipley has been a passionate collector of early Americana and Native American artifacts over 50 years. Early Americana items include relics from the Colonial and Federal eras (1620-1820). Native American artifacts include stone and flint arrowheads and cutting implements, trade goods, tomahawks, beads and wampum. Shipley is an avid amateur archaeologist whose favorite part of collecting is hunting for artifacts in the field. He looks forward to the Appraisal Fair and helping people learn the approximate value of their prized possession.
About the event
The price of admission is $20 in advance, $25 at the door and includes one appraisal and a wine and cheese “bistro” provided by Freshwater Farms so that folks can socialize during the event and tour the museum rather than simply wait in line. Regarding the “show” component, an appraiser will be announced at five times throughout the evening; he will then present a special item to those gathered in the main meeting room.
Tickets may be purchased at the museum (Mondays and Tuesdays), at local banks – Civista, First Central National, Peoples, Perpetual, all county Security locations – and online until 11am on April 25th. In addition to benefiting the museum and preserving its artifacts, this will be a fun event for people of all ages to enjoy and hopefully one that will build from year to year. This is an excellent opportunity to have a family heirloom, an item from the attic, or perhaps something found when spring cleaning to be evaluated.
Champaign County Historical Society Board President