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Frank Sadorus, Illinois Photographer
Sadorus, Illinois
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ISM System :The Sadorus Family

The Sadorus Family

Henry Sadorus

Henry Sadorus (1783 - 1878)
The history of the Sadorus family echoes the development of Champaign County, Illinois. In 1817 Henry "Grandpap" Sadorus, who was born in Connecticut before the adoption of the federal constitution, traveled west to central Illinois by flatboat with his wife, Mary Titus and family. In 1824 he built a cabin at the head of the O'Kaw river, an area that became known as Sadorus Grove. Henry was the first permanent European settler in Champaign County.

William Sadorus and Sons

William Sadorus (1812 - 1899)
The family lived on public domain until 1834, when Henry's twenty-two year old son William entered the land on public record. William was an active member of the community who was respected for his church work and his "handsome competency" for farming. He also owned one of the town's first stores. The town of Sadorus was named for him.

GWB SadorusG. W. B. Sadorus (1838 - 1911)
His son, George William Bacon, "G.W.B." was one of five children born to William Sadorus and Mary Ann Moore. After the civil War, G.W.B., a captain of the 125th Illinois Volunteers, returned to settle on a 104-acre farm east of town. He married Phoebe Brown and they had six children, five of whom lived to adulthood. Enos and Warren each married and had one child; Mary, Elmer, and Frank remained to help their parents run the farm.

Frank Sadorus

Frank Sadorus (1880 - 1934)
Frank Sadorus was a self-taught amateur photographer. His photographic equipment and supplies, as well as newspapers, books, and magazines, were mail-ordered from St. Louis. They were delivered by the Wabash rail line that served the town of Sadorus. Frank photographed life on the farm, leaving a body of work that included 150 mounted prints and 700 glass plate and nitrate negatives.

During his brief, but intense, period of experimenting with photography, Frank used a view camera to photograph the family working and harvesting the fields, relaxing, reading, playing cards, or playfully posing for one of his experimental double exposures. He made family portraits, self-portraits, and still lifes of favorite objects, as well as landscapes of Sadorus Grove. He meticulously recorded exposures, time of day, weather conditions, and often, personal comments on the backs of prints that he signed by hand or with hand-made stamps. He called himself an artist, a photographer of nature's majesty, and an artistic pictorialist.

Frank pursued photography from 1907 to 1912, when his life changed drastically and he gave up photography. His father. G.W.B., died in 1911. When the estate was settled, the family decided to move into town and sell the farm. Frank moved to a small house on the outskirts of town. This was the first time in his life that Frank lived alone. Three months after the sale of the farm, the family had Frank commited to the Kankakee Mental Asylum in 1917. Frank had been suffering for one week from "delusions and hallucinations with pronounced tendency to worry — primarily concerned that someone was trying to harm him."

Frank lived at the asylum for seventeen years, occasionally visited by family members. In a sketch book, he made simplified drawings that referred to life on the farm, created lists of polysyllabic words, and wrote ambiguous, poetic statements. On Christmas Day of 1934, he died of tuberculosis at the age of fifty-four.

Frank's mother, Phoebe, died three months after Frank. Elmer and Mary continued living in the house in town until they entered a nursing home in 1954. Elmer died several months later, and Mary lived there until her death in 1969 at the age of 82.

Related Activity:
Family Tree (html) (pdf)
Coming of Age (html) (pdf)

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