Sunday, January 16, 2022

Unearthing "new" Jacob Haish items locally

This article was originally published in the winter 2021 edition of Cornsilk magazine.

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I've been getting to know my uncle, two days a week, almost 100 years after his death.


Last fall, Rob Glover, Director of the Joiner History Room, invited me to explore the Joiner History Room archives for any Jacob Haish related items. I've been blogging about Haish, my fourth-great uncle, for almost six years now, and it was just assumed that I had seen most of the local archival items. After all, how much can really remain on a man who had no heirs and his house no longer stands?


I had so much to learn.


Starting the process was simple enough. Rob did a very generic search for "Haish" in the Past Perfect collection database and printed out a list that was 36 pages long. We've been working through the list for weeks now; I notate a few interesting items for each visit and Rob pulls boxes from the archives. Then I dig through files and folders like a child opening presents on Christmas morning.


Some items are surprising; I couldn't believe that the last few monetary checks from the Jacob Haish Estate were saved! Others are things I'd seen before, like a photocopy of that photo of Jacob Haish, the one everyone recognizes and is immortalized in a painting at Northern Illinois University. I've also seen items that I never even knew existed. I have audibly gasped, laughed, and said "wow!" as something "new," well, new to me, is unearthed.

As we continue to pull countless items related to Haish and his many ventures, such as barbed wire, farm implements, banking and more, I am truly stunned at how much wonderful history has remained local, and right in my "backyard" at the DeKalb County History Center. Better yet, these were items saved by someone who found them important, and they made sure they found their way to the Joiner History Room. For that, we are so lucky.


These are just a few unique items that have been "rediscovered." As I continue to research and learn more about items, they will be posted on my blog at


"Haish" pins

Two pins that simply say "Haish," with no more archival documentation other than their color and dimensions, these baffle me. Which Haish had them made? Was it Jacob? Did a relative run for political office? Perhaps a school spirit pin for the former Haish School in DeKalb? Much to my disappointment, my research and pleas for help on Facebook have continually come up short. 


Jacob Haish's signature

In my time researching Haish, there has been this odd, almost urban legend story surrounding him: that he was illiterate. Multiple sources have relayed to me that because of his immigrant status, arriving in the United States from Germany when he was 9 years old, that he could not read, write, or even sign his own name. That myth seems to be debunked, as multiple documents in the Joiner archives show Haish's signature. Two of the most legible and interesting instances are when he signed his name in pencil on lined sheets of paper; they were petitions encouraging school board ventures. He was a staunch supporter of schools and libraries in DeKalb and beyond.



Sophia Haish calling cards

In a stack of calling cards from various but prominent DeKalb ladies, I saw one for "Mrs. Jacob Haish, DeKalb, Ills." Sophia's was the best quality of the bunch, printed on a thicker paper with intricate scalloped edging. 


Calling cards, or visiting cards, as they are sometimes called, were used to announce someone's arrival, or left as a message for those who were not at home. I imagined Sophia Haish appearing at a fellow DeKalbian's doorstep and presenting her card. I wondered about the conversations she would have had regarding both pleasure and business. I think she may have done quite a bit of business talk, as Jacob often included her in his ventures and she was even co-president of their Barb City Bank.



Whether you're exploring the history of your home, school, or in my case, a very distant relative, the Joiner History Room at the DeKalb County History Center is a great resource. And just when you start to think you've seen it'll realize you've only cracked the tip of the iceberg. Call or stop by to start your research journey.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Haishes recognized by First Methodist Church

Cover of First Methodist Church's 90th anniversary booklet | Courtesy of DeKalb County History Center Archives
'The builders' of First Methodist Church | Courtesy of DeKalb County History Center Archives
Highlights of Methodism in DeKalb | Courtesy of DeKalb County History Center Archives

This informational program was printed by the First Methodist Church in DeKalb to celebrate its 90th anniversary in 1944.

Jacob and Sophia Haish's images make an appearance on a page titled "A Few of 'The Builders,'" which includes other DeKalb figures that helped create and maintain the historical church throughout its history.

The section "Highlights of 90 years of Methodism in DeKalb," tells the story of its start and mentions Haish's influence:

"It is well that we pause here and mention the men behind this fast growing organization. On July 16, 1866, a new Board of Trustees was elected consisting of Joel Simmonds, Albert Schryver, Silas Tappan, Andrew Bradt, and Washington Lenox. In 1879 Morris Wiley, George Shrimpton, Calvin Shurtleff, Jacob Haish, Thomas Dodge, Abner Wood and D.B. Lattin were added, all well-known figures in DeKalb History."

Monday, December 13, 2021

Merry Christmas from Haish School

Haish School class in 1960 | Courtesy of the DeKalb County History Center Archives

A Haish School class from 1960 holding cards that read "Merry Christmas."

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Unidentified Haish pins

I've been working my way through the Haish-related archives at the Joiner History Room, and have come across two unidentified pins that simply read "Haish." 

With no additional documentation, one can only make educated guesses about the history of these pins. Perhaps a Haish family member ran for public office? Who knows.

Below are photos of the pins, along with the only identifying information.

"1 inch triangle, red on one side and white on the other. Gold bar down center with 'Haish.'"

"1/2 inch button: red & white 'Haish'"

Monday, November 15, 2021

EVENT: Haish New Research Roundtable at Glidden Homestead

Jessi Haish LaRue Hosts Jacob Haish New Research Roundtable at Glidden Homestead

DEKALB, IL – New research and artifacts on Jacob Haish’s barbed wire and other business ventures are turning up in local archival research.

At Glidden Homestead at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 21, 2021, Jessi Haish LaRue will host an interactive, hands-on experience looking at and talking about new research on Jacob and Sophia Haish found locally. Attendees will be able to handle and closely examine copies of recent important historical items.

Also, noon-4, visit and tour the home where Joseph Glidden and his family lived when he created his most famous invention, see a working onsite blacksmith shop, and walk where Glidden walked. Programs at Glidden Homestead are made possible in part by the Mary E. Stevens Concert and Lecture Fund.

LaRue, a Haish family descendant, is a writer who blogs regularly about Jacob Haish at The blog shares photos, interviews and news articles which relate to Haish's life. LaRue has been documenting her 4th great uncle's story since early 2016 in an attempt to spread the story of the "underdog of barbed wire."

“Jessi, with her deep understanding of Haish, has recently turned her attention to locally archived documents and records,” says Rob Glover, executive director of Glidden Homestead. “Even though she’s only in the earliest stages of this line of her research, what she’s already uncovered here is truly remarkable and is something to be seen.”

Haish is renowned for his “S barb” patented in 1875. Jacob Haish was born March 9, 1827, in Germany and came to America in 1835 when he was nine years old. In his youth, he learned the carpentry trade from his father and “possessed natural mechanical ingenuity and displayed ready aptitude in the use of tools.” At 19, he moved to Illinois and then to DeKalb in 1853 where he entered the lumber business. He built many of the city’s most notable buildings, past and present, including the Glidden Homestead.

Haish’s first barbed wire patent is dated January 20, 1874. His “S barb” was patented August 31, 1875. He followed these with many later designs for wire and other innovative devices.

This year’s theme at Glidden Homestead is “A Treasure at 160.” 2021 marks the 160th anniversary of Joseph Glidden’s 1861 home. A National Register of Historic Place site, it is the home where Glidden lived when he invented barbed wire. The home was extensively remodeled in 1910 by a prominent architect and continued as a Glidden Family residence until it became a museum in 1998.

A full season of programs highlighting “A Treasure at 160” wraps in December at the Glidden Homestead in 2021. A program listing can be found at The Glidden Homestead, located at 921 W Lincoln Hwy, is now taking reservations for tours. Admission is $4 per adult and free for children younger than 14. For more information, visit or e-mail or call (815) 756-7904.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Image of young Sophia Haish

Local historian Steve Bigolin provided this image of a young Sophia Haish, Jacob's wife. Steve recalls that it was printed as part of a publication by the First United Methodist Church of DeKalb. Sophia's age or the date of the image is unknown.

A young Sophia Haish | Image provided by Stephen Bigolin

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Obituary for Jacob's father

Below is the obituary for Christian Haish, Jacob's father, as printed in the Feb. 13, 1891, edition of the Bucyrus Journal.

Christian Haish lived much of his life in the Bucyrus, Ohio area. Clearly displayed in this document was Christian's generosity, a trait that he surely passed on to his son Jacob.

I have researched the "Haishtown" that is mentioned below and have even worked with the Bucyrus Historical Society, but no information has been uncovered regarding this area.

Click the photo to enlarge or read the text below the image.

Christian Haish obituary
"Christian Haish died at his home on Cemetery Street, Monday, Feb. 9 at 3 p.m. of infirmities incident to old age, in his eighty-eighth year. The funeral [taking] place Wednesday at 2 p.m. provided the friends from a distance who may desire to be present shall have arrived at that time.

Mr. Haish was born in Baden [Germany] and spent his early life there. He emigrated with his family to this country about sixty years ago, and has been a resident of this place most of the time since, though in the interval having lived a few years in Illinois. He was twice married and twice widowed. Seventeen children were born to him, ten of whom, so far as is known, are living. His only children here at present are his son John and daughter Mrs. A. Holm. A number of them are living in the Western States, one of whom, at least, is a prominent and wealthy manufacturer, holding some of the most valuable patents on barbed fencing wire. Besides these some of the grand-children are prominent in their respective professions.

Mr. Haish has accumulated considerable property here, which, however, because of the old gentleman's compassionate nature, has not been very remunerative. He was the proprietor of that part of Cemetery Street known as Haishtown, where he owned a number of houses; and when a family became too poor or too indolent to pay rent they naturally drifted in that direction, and his houses were always filled up, but in some cases he did not receive a dollar in the way of rent on a house for years. When expostulated by members of the family for enduring this condition of things his reply always was 'Well, they must live, even if they can't pay in rent.' Aside from the immediate relatives, the loss of this class of people will be most severely felt.

During his last illness, of a week's duration, he has been tenderly ministered to by Mrs. Holm, while sympathizing neighbors have assisted his son John in looking after the comfort of the kind hearted old man, in such ways as they could."