On the first page of The Sun Rides High, Orrin Burright describes how, in 1845, the Burright family left Ohio and headed west. He notes that families traveled together for protection, before mentioning that when they arrived in Illinois, two of the young children in the group became sick and died at Husking Peg Schoolhouse.

Orrin and Marilla’s Death at Husking Peg Schoolhouse

“In those days whole families or clans traveled together for mutual protection against indians, wild pestilences and disease. This movement of the Burright family was no exception. On the way to Illinois, two of the small children, Orrin and Marilla, four and three years of age, respectively, sickened and died of a digestional disturbance at the Husking Peg Schoolhouse, where the family had stopped to camp, two days apart.”

Orrin Burright, The Sun Rides High

At first glance the passage doesn’t give us much to go in terms of who Orrin and Marilla were but we can make some assumptions while looking for documentary evidence, such as:

  • Orrin was born in 1841
  • Marilla was born in 1842
  • They were both likely born in Ohio
  • They died in Chana, Illinois
  • Orrin isn’t clear about how the children were related to the family although his focus is on his grandfather, also called Orrin, so they could well be his grandfather’s children.

Locating Husking Peg Schoolhouse

The only other evidence we have for this story is the name of a school, Husking Peg Schoolhouse. A google search reveals a few clues. Real estate sites help identify the location of Husking Peg Lane but not the school specifically. Deeper research on Google Books reveals an obscure surveyors reference from 1914 – The Bulletin – United States Geological Survey, Issue 551. This is an interesting book that lists survey reference points sited throughout the US. It was used by local surveyors to orient their surveys to a national framework.

Book or survey references used to locate Husking Peg School, Illinois

As coincidence has it, one of these reference points was next to Husking Peg Schoolhouse. Searching google maps using latitude and longitude from the bulletin reveals the precise location of where Husking Peg Schoolhouse was in Chana, Illinois.

Snippet from Google Maps of location of Husking Peg School, Illinois

This ties neatly in with historic land maps of Pine Rock Township. In this clip of an 1875 map, you can see the school at the bottom left corner of L.W. Page’s land. To the east of the school, there’s further evidence of the Burright’s presence in the area. Milton Burright, T.S. Burright, and M. Burright all owned land in the area. Stepping through land ownership maps of the area at Historic Map Works the school continues to appear until at least the 1930s. At one point I remember finding a promotional piece for the school online from the 1940s. Sometime after that the school closed. The location now appears to be a private residence.

1875 Map of land parcel containing Husking Peg School, Illinois

Orrin Burright Purchases Husking Peg Schoolhouse Land

One last discovery at the Bureau of Land Management ties the end of Orrin and Marilla’s journey, to the School, and to the Burright family. On the 1st March 1847, fifteen months after the children’s death, Orrin Burright purchased the land on which Husking Peg Schoolhouse stood.

Orrin Burright land purchase in Illinios 1847

the south west quarter of the south west quarter of section 28

bureau of land management, 1847

According to the account in The Sun Rides High, Orrin and his family moved on to Iowa in 1857, which explains why this ownership of this parcel of land had changed by the time this 1875 map had been compiled.