Shimer is in Illinois. So, why write about Illinois and New York? Is it because we have alumnae and alumni in both places? (Yes, we do. But no, this is not the reason.) Is it because as the "third coast" Chicago-ans (as Shimer is now) always defer to the real coast, aka the east coast, which includes New York? Or the "real" city, aka New York City? (No. We are proud Chicago-ans and proud mid-country advocates.) Is it simply because our current president came from New York to Illinois and so has a fondness for the former? (While true, this is, again, not the reason.) Nor is the reason for connecting the two the oddity that today's mayor of Mount Carroll, Illinois (where Shimer once was located) spent early years in Canandaigua, NY.
Enough already. Why, then, look at both states? The main reason today is because of the intwined histories of New York and Illinois, of Shimer and upstate New York, carried by Frances Wood and Cinderella Gregory, whether intentionally or not, to Mount Carroll.
Our beginnings connect mid-19th century New York to mid-19th century Illinois when both were, in some sense, frontiers. Of course, this is a familiar story, of young people who journeyed from upstate New York to find lives elsewhere, in this case two young women who found themselves in Mount Carroll. As they made their journey, though, they were not alone -- others made like journeys -- and they brought aspects of their homes to Mount Carroll. I have remarked on the similarity of the landscapes of the Finger Lakes region to the area around Mount Carroll -- both the product of glacial retreat -- and of the architecture, as home building styles moved across the country with those who moved from coast to the midwest. Indeed, I have noted that around Mount Carroll (and across Illinois) we see repeated some of the same names for towns as appear scattered across upstate NY.
The 1840s and 1850s saw substantial change in the area of upstate New York from which our founders came -- a place sometimes called the "burned over district." When you think upstate NY, think the abolition movement, the rise of women's rights (including the Married Womans Property Act), new religions (e.g., the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints), prophecies of the end times, and immigration-related transformations. When we think Illinois, we think about (or at least I do) debates between Lincoln and others, the rise of Chicago (later than mid-century, of course) as a major transportation hub, the ways slavery and then the civil war shaped lives.
When we think of Shimer -- we ought to think of Illinois and New York. And much much more.