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Lombard history icon makes digital return to village

LOMBARD — In February, someone new joined Facebook. He walked the streets of Babcock's Grove, Lombard's original name, years before computers, Internet or even electricity.

Since Col. William Rattle Plum made his triumphant return to modern-day Lombard, he's peppered his page with historic facts and photos, along with commentary about the modern things he's discovered in recent weeks.

"I'd say the historical society is really applauding and enjoying the Facebook page," said Leslie Sulla, president of the Lombard Historical Society's Board of Management.

Sulla said she's enjoyed Plum's take on modern things, such as coffee pots and indoor plumbing, along with the historical elements he's incorporated onto his page.

It's a mystery who is actually managing the account, though. Sulla said it's not an effort of the historical society, and no one she's talked to knows who's behind it. Despite the anonymity, the facts on the page are accurate, and when they're not, Plum's followers are quick to speak up and correct him, she said.

"I don't want to know (who it is)," Sulla said. "I'm really enjoying it. It's making us laugh."

Last week, "Plum" took a moment to answer some of the Lombard Spectator's questions:

When did you make your return to Lombard and why did you choose to use Facebook as the means to do it?

In February of this year, I decided the time was right for history to come alive and to bring Babcock's Grove back to the true collective community that it had always been back in my day. And when I heard rumblings about this Facebook being able to reach friends far and wide I thought, 'Why not partake in this so-called digital age?'

What are some of the biggest changes you've seen since you've been back? What things have stayed the same?

It just amazes me to see how much things have changed and yet so many things have indeed stayed the same. It is so nice to walk around town and see so many of the old family homes and of course the church from my day still looking so nice. ... What really touched my heart was when I discovered that descendants of many of the families that I knew as friends are still choosing to live here. I often heard since I have been back that the people of Lombard are like a family, but in the literal sense, the town is a family. I’ve met many second- and third-generation Lombardians whose parents, siblings and children are currently living here. I think that in itself is a testament to what we have all built here in the village.

What is your favorite place in town?

Lilacia Park and the library named after my beloved Helen, of course, but in general I enjoy being in the very heart of the community, which to me is from the cemetery to Windsor Avenue and the Peck home to Sacred Heart Church.

Is there anything else you'd like to add?

I have much more to share and much to learn on my short return to our home. What really has me excited is that I will be with all of you for Lilac Time, which is my first. I will be walking the neighborhoods and attending most of the activities that precede the big day and I am tickled purple at the idea of walking among the thousands the day of the parade.

About Col. William Rattle Plum

Plum was born in 1845 and moved to Lombard, formerly called Babcock's Grove, in 1867. He and his wife, Helen, are credited for bringing Lombard's first two lilac bushes to the village after a visit to France, and spent their later years traveling the world collecting lilacs for their home. When Plum died in 1927, he donated his estate to the village, with the stipulation that his home become the village's first public library and his grounds be the village's first public park. Today, the Helen M. Plum Memorial Library and Lilacia Park stand on his former estate. The Plums never had children and William's title as colonel was a formal one. He never served in the military.

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