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Look back: happy troops, missing hearts and donkey requests

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for 175th anniversary (2012) Aurora. | AurorHistorical Society

New poster designed by Neal Ormond IV for the 175th anniversary (2012) of Aurora. | Aurora Historical Society

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Updated: January 18, 2013 6:01AM

Aurora is celebrating its 175th birthday this year. More information is available at To commemorate the anniversary, The Beacon-News is revisiting stories from 50, 100 and 150 years ago. Here’s what Aurorans were talking about this week ...

…in 1862.

Writing from Mill Creek, Tenn., a soldier in the 36th Regiment of Illinois volunteers provided Beacon readers with an account of their service. The regiment had left Camp Hammond, Aurora, on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 1861, with 1,183 men. Over the next 15 months, the regiment covered 2,800 miles: 520 by steamboat, 1,019 by railroad, and 1,261 on foot. They had served in Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.

The regiment had been in four severe battles, including Pea Ridge and Chaplin Hill. Thirty men were killed in battle. Another 38 men died in the hospital and another three died at home while on furlough. Eighty-one soldiers were dismissed from the regiment due to injury. Thirty one men had deserted, “and should be shot,” the soldier reported.

“I am happy to add that there never was a time since the organization of the regiment when the men were any more healthy or happy than today,” he wrote. “They are a noble set of fellows, and determined to the last man to enforce Lincoln’s proclamation and restore the Union. We are happy notwithstanding we are soldiers and in the woods.”

… in 1912.

Doctors marvelled when a man lived for 35 minutes after he had apparently shot himself straight through the heart.

After an unsuccessful attempt to murder his wife, Stanley Tarasiewicz fired a bullet into his left breast. Tarasiewicz was rushed to the hospital and doctors were amazed that he was still alive, breathing, and talking in his native Polish. Believing there was a chance they could save his life, doctors began probing for the bullet. The case became even more curious when doctors could not find Tarasiewicz’s heart with their probing instruments.

After Tarasiewicz died, doctors conducted an autopsy. When they opened his left side, doctors still could not find Tarasiewicz’s heart. Doctors eventually determined that Tarasiewicz’s heart was on his right side — the first such case in Aurora.

… in 1962.

A group of children at Redeemer Lutheran Church were in somewhat of a dilemma as they tried to stage a Nativity play. They had found young people to play all the key roles. They had arranged to pantomime while the story was narrated over loudspeakers. They had even scheduled three performances of the 25-minute play.

However, they had not been able to find a donkey to appear in the production depicting the birth of Jesus. Since Mary is traditionally seen riding a donkey to the manger, this animal was deemed crucial to the play’s authenticity. The group asked for a donkey that was “live, tame, gentle and cooperative”.

One week after the request was issued, kids had received offers to use 12 different donkeys — though they went with just one.

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