Rochelle man displaying Native American artifact collection at library

Currently on display at the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library is a Native American artifact collection owned by Steve O’Connor of Rochelle.

‘There's always stuff about our local history that I really enjoy’

ROCHELLE — Currently on display at the Flagg-Rochelle Public Library is a Native American artifact collection owned by Steve O’Connor of Rochelle.

The display will be up at the library for the rest of November, which is National Native American Heritage Month. It features artifacts found around the region including in Wisconsin and the suburbs of Illinois. 

O’Connor came to own the collection after his late father owned it. His father was a member of the Fox Valley Rocks & Minerals Society and received the artifacts from lifelong collector August Mier. 

"My son and I frequent the library and representatives from the library mentioned that it was Native American Heritage Month,” O’Connor said. “I told them about what I had. I'm also on the board of the Flagg Township Museum and they have a display of their own there. Most people are not aware of August Mier and how rare this stuff is."

O’Connor believes it’s important for residents, especially students, to see historical artifacts like his. Most of the areas they originated from have been developed and are now cities like Naperville, Batavia and St. Charles. 

"Here's a chance to see something,” O’Connor said. “These are from areas that are long gone. Almost all of the farmland that a lot of this came from is gone.”

A lot can be learned from viewing and learning information about the artifacts, O’Connor said. He thinks the collection speaks to the intelligence of the earlier civilization.

“They found out which plants were medicinally good and which were dangerous,” O’Connor said. “It must've been centuries of trial and error and they handed that information down. They were trading a lot. Things from the upper peninsula have been found throughout the Midwest. They understood safety and survival. They'd stay on the east side of rivers and bodies of water. That was because of prairie fires. They wanted to get a natural barrier between them and the fire. They followed the buffalo. They'd stay where there was a solid river bed where the buffalo would cross. There was some of that in the Rockford area."

In the future, O’Connor would like to find someone to take the collection that will take care of it. He’s getting older and doesn’t want to risk it getting broken up and spread out. He was also handed down Mier’s rare field notes. 

“This stuff should not be in my house,” O’Connor said. “It should be in a museum.”

O’Connor’s preservation of the collection is an attempt to honor not only his father, but Mier as well. 

“It’s about their foresight to realize this stuff is irreplaceable and has value,” O’Connor said. “My dad saw value in history and the knowledge that goes with it. These have probably no value to anybody other than a person that appreciates it. There's always stuff about our local history that I really enjoy. It's just hard to get the kids interested. You don't know where you're going if you don't know where you've been.”

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