Your Roscoe Township Board has been in negotiations to purchase the Homestead of Robert J. Cross and have a signed a letter of intent.
The property consists of approximately 17 acres. Our plan is for a Historical Park that will provide many community uses for all ages of Roscoe’s residents.
Below is the speech given by Trustee Elizabeth Lindquist (at the dedication of Robert J. Cross Memorial Park) discussing our plan for the Cross Homestead:
I want to thank all of you for coming out today to share this moment with us. Thank you to the many descendants of Mr. Cross who have joined us this afternoon. I’d like to offer my most heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Scott McAffee. Scott was a Cross descendant and area resident who planned on attending today, but passed unexpectedly last Sunday. To those family and friends, I hope this gathering can, in some small way, help ease your pain. Thank you to Bernie for enlightening us regarding who Robert J. Cross was -- a solid citizen and true pioneer. And a very, very special thank you to Jim and Mavis Benkovich and Dawn Cassady for discovering Robert J. Cross, who, as it turns out, was hiding in plain sight all along.
Cross’ remains lie in the southeast section of Roscoe Cemetery. They’ve been there since his death in 1873. The land he tilled lies beneath our feet. The house he built sits across the street.
But all of that was hidden to us, hidden by our lack of knowledge. We could not see what we did not know. If no one records what went on in the past, it is lost. And this most significant physical manifestation of Roscoe’s history, the Cross house, came very close to disappearing for good.
Last year, Mavis and Dawn and Jim began researching who Roscoe’s original settlers were. We wanted to name this park for one of them. We were shocked to discover that this exact piece of land was farmed by our first settler. Talk about an amazing coincidence! Later we found out that his house still stands and is for sale! To folks like us who are striving to make Roscoe Township the best place it can be, this news was truly extraordinary!
Bernie just said that Robert J. Cross’ actions and the legacy they created are reaching across these nearly 200 years to help and inform our lives. I believe that could not be more true.
To me It feels like the spirit of Robert J. Cross reached out through time to three people, three people who value history and who value this township -- to alert them that it is not too late -- we can save the house from demolition, we can use this most historic building, on it’s perfectly situated piece of land, to create a renewed sense of community, community grounded in our common history.
Robert J. Cross built schools, he helped form Winnebago County, he became a state Representative, he helped write the Illinois constitution – in 1841 he helped found the Winnebago County Agricultural Society, and they held the very first cattle show in all of Northern Illinois on this day, October 13th, in 1841.
We can carry on the legacy of Robert J. Cross by doing what I’m sure he’d do if he were in our situation -- preserve the homestead and build community.
As Jim just announced, he has signed a letter of intent for the township to purchase the Cross homestead, the home and 17 acres, for just over half the original asking price. It has available sewer and water. It is accessible from Hononegah Road, Adele Street, and Prairie Rose Drive. It’s ideally situated and there is plenty of room to expand amenities to the extent that our budget allows.
In 2008 the Village of Roscoe surveyed its residents and found that 63% supported the building of a community center. Indeed, in Roscoe Township there are few community spaces that are open to all residents and almost no spaces for large gatherings.
Sixteen years ago, my family and I moved here from the Chicago suburbs. I’ve lived in several towns in this state, but I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t have at least one designated historic home, and a community center. I guess I took those things for granted, because I didn’t think I’d miss them when I moved to a town without them, but I do.
Roscoe has great schools, scouting, youth sports, and churches, but we need more opportunities for folks of all ages to get involved. Twenty-five percent of us are on social security. Buying the Cross homestead will provide us with those opportunities.
Our plan is to buy the homestead as a historic park and create a separate, non-profit Roscoe Township Historical Society. The historical society will raise private money for the restoration of the home.
We are researching the least expensive way to build a simple, functional community center. The community center can be used for a variety of purposes, but chief among them will be to serve as a base from which the community and the historical society can restore the homestead.
We’re going to involve everyone in this process. It’s not going to be one of those projects where we just raise a bunch of money and spend it. This is going to be a community effort -- and a community building effort. Girl scouts, boy scouts, church youth groups, high school groups, seniors, business groups -- whoever wants to help, we’ll find a way for them to help. And in the process, we will connect and grow as a community.
This township has never carried any debt and we never will. We are going to practice the good old-fashioned rural frugality that our area is known for. The county, the state, the federal government -- we'll leave the debt thing to them, they're good at it. There will be no debt for us. We have the resources to do this without raising taxes. We worked long and hard to negotiate almost half off of the asking price on the property. As a board, we are committed to working just as hard to build only within our means, and, if we are not able to build at a price we can afford, we will delay. The Roscoe Township Historical Society will still operate and work to fundraise for the homestead restoration, something that will only be possible because we seized this opportunity to save the house before potential destruction by developers.
There are more Robert J. Cross’ to discover. There are Hannah Benedict Cross’ to discover and Abigail Richardsons to discover. There are Winnebago and Pottawatomi native Americans to discover. We have a unique opportunity to help paint a complete picture of the history of Roscoe Township. This will be a story to be told and retold for generations to come.
We are asking for your support. Robert J. Cross was not simply a pioneer. He had a higher calling. He had a higher calling to civic duty. Right now, many of us feel like we are a nation divided. Individually none of us can change what occurs on the national political stage, but we can come together locally, right here at home, to connect with our past and each other to create a brighter future. We can be just a little bit like Robert J. Cross. Honestly, I find that I like my neighbors much better when I talk to them instead of about them. If you’ve never gotten involved in a project like this before, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how much you’ll enjoy it.
We welcome your feedback on this project. Contact info for all township board members and our meeting schedule can be found on our website. Please contact any of us, anytime. We will all be around for a bit after this event and would love to hear your thoughts today.
We have sign-up sheets to get on the Roscoe Township Historical Society mailing list. Please, sign up. There’s no commitment, you’ll just get notified of our meetings and activities. The website is https://roscoetownshiphistoricalsociety.org
We came very close to losing this important piece of our history -- to missing out on this opportunity to build a renewed sense of community around our shared heritage. I hope you’ll support us, and join us, in following the outstanding example set by our founder Robert J. Cross.
Thank you for attending and sharing your afternoon with us.