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Civil War strong box reveals details of Geneva attorney’s life

GENEVA – The Geneva History Museum will host a presentation of the letters of Col. Joseph H. Mayborne, Civil War paymaster, a local attorney and state senator, from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday at the museum, at 113 S. Third St., Geneva.

Mayborne’s letters and other documents were found in a strong box in his former homestead in the 200 block of North Second Street, museum executive director Terry Emma said. 

Emma said Jack Burgess, who owns the house now, found the box behind a closet while remodeling and called the museum to donate it.

“We had to go pick it up – it weighs 200 pounds,” Emma said. “This is a pretty awesome donation, a real coup for us.”

Curator Jessica Strube said the box contained “a ton of documents” both from the Civil War and Mayborne’s letters to his wife, Etta, as well as lawsuits and filings from his court cases.

“It’s a genealogy goldmine,” Strube said.

The presentation will focus on Mayborne’s letters home to Etta and his background and his family’s background in Geneva.

“His letters were from all over, some noting significant places, and a lot of battles such as the Battles of Corinth, Miss.,” Strube said.

Mayborne served as a member of the board of supervisors – now called the county board – and was a state senator from 1876-80. He also helped to organize the Republican Party in Kane County, Strube said.

“The research showed how prominent he was in Geneva,” she said. 

Mayborne originally came from the East Coast in the Jamestown area and first went to Chicago, and then to Geneva in 1848. He built his house on Second Street in 1855. He married Teresa Johnson and had four daughters but had no grandchildren. Strube said his lineage died when his last daughter died in 1936.

Admission is $5 each or $3 for members. Registrations may be made at or by calling 630-232-4951.

The program is part of the museum’s Brown Bag Lunch Series, so attendees are encouraged to bring a sandwich. Soup is provided by Inglenook Pantry, and the museum offers cookies, water and coffee.

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