MONTICELLO, Ill., (WCIA) — One woman in Monticello considers herself a self-made historian. She grew up there her entire life and is now discovering the stories of the people who helped shape her hometown.
Susan Chumbley was gifted a collection of newspapers during the pandemic. She started reading through them and connecting the dots between many different people and places in Monticello. In the last few years, she has uncovered hundreds of stories.
Last week, she was walking through the Old Monticello Cemetery near the town’s aquatic center. A name on one of the tombstones in the gated section caught her eye. She knew nothing about John Kousho at the time, but now she can tell you much of his story.
He was a cobbler in Monticello in the 1800s. He later married Marie Saupe Kousho. She had seven children and many of them died after only a few months.
“She didn’t get to have birthday parties with these children. Her oldest child was two years old. I can’t imagine her heartache,” Chumbley said.
In front of John’s stone, she noticed a small corner of a grave. She gained permission to dig around this area. That’s when she found seven gravestones.
Six of them belong to Marie’s children, one belongs to her mother. Chumbley believes two of the children were twins and are buried together in one of the graves.
After cleaning off the stones with a variety of different brushes, Chumbley wanted to bring some light to her new findings. That’s when she put yellow wildflowers on them.
“It was kind of like a closing. I was never so happy that the sun came out and was beautifully shining on the babies’ graves,” she said.
She doesn’t know the names of all the babies yet and is not sure why they died so young. She’s hopeful to gain more answers as she reads more of her newspaper collection.
You can read about more of her historic finds on this Facebook page.