Friday, January 23, 2009

Bonaparte, A Lost Town

My guide explains that we are still fighting the Revolution.
Men travel the Geneva Road prospecting new territory.
A scale model of the Glen Ellyn Hotel shows what it looked like
before the fire that started the volunteer fire department,
still of Glen Ellyn.
The era is closing in this room. Railroad cars display on the shelves.
Mrs. Stacy fetched her water once from outdoors,
now next to the kitchen.
They tossed broken dishes down the well when it was no longer
being used.

I view the portraits of Mr. and Mrs. Churchill
at Stacy's Tavern Museum. They were sixty years old
when they began their journey from New York.
They each sit with a book, a symbol of their ability to read.
A forest preserve is named after the Churchills. I wonder
what the archives might hold in store for me on the way next door
to the Glen Ellyn Historical Society.

Milo's grandfather owned a tavern in Fort Chicago.
Milo is listed in the census. Milo lived close to what is now
the west suburb of my residence.  He knew Lyman Butterfield,
an early settler who sold his land by the latter half
of the nineteenth century, but whose namesake lives on
through Butterfield Road, the busy street I ride my bicycle on
to get to points yonder.  I want to travel back in time
to when the road I live near was a dirt path not much wider
than the ample shoulder that serves as my bike lane. 

"You know how there's a hill and a valley in south Glen Ellyn,"
I say to the footman of my research. He points out the valley
as a possible location of early Butterfield land.
The lady who works at this detective agency has other facts.
I shift hypothetical Lyman to west of yonder.

"Are you looking for a relative," she asks.

Sitting here, I'm trying to pinpoint what my goal is.
The other lady in the office wears a yellow sweater. I speed read,
trying to gather facts for the next step. Next to me,
she reads as if the leaves that are falling all around us have been
promptly plated and imprinted in the press of the book.
I show her a picture of later school kids by the side
of the bus that goes to Bonaparte school. She shows me
the early schoolhouse, a house I would be proud to teach in.
We are in Bonaparte. It is a lost town named after the postman,
known to the settlers as a taskmaster and general of sorts.
The next closest schoolhouse identified on the map
is at Roosevelt Road where a replica lighthouse once existed
across the street. The footman now has an earlier map of the town
I live in, divided into rectangular subplots available for sale.
I address Lyman Butterfield, Milo, and the discovery of Bonaparte
through his gruff shout.

Bonaparte School is now the Village Theatre.
The one room schoolhouse has become an intimate little theatre
putting on five productions a year. I ride by it daily.
Right now I am immensely satisfied to have met the postman
whose route follows my neighborhood, an area of Glen Ellyn
that used to be called Bonaparte named after the postman
who made his deliveries two centuries ago upon the land
which I daily traverse. 

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