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Thursday, February 7, 2019

Lake County's Dr. King

Dr. Eugene P. King, M.D. (1893-1961), or "Ole Rex" as he was affectionately known, dedicated himself to the communities of Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion through his medical practice, and sponsorship of community gardens and the Rexes and Rexettes athletic teams.

Dr. Eugene P. King with a patient at St. Therese Hospital in Waukegan, circa 1950.
From the archives of the Convent of the Holy Spirit, Northfield, Illinois.

King was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1893 and raised by his grandmother, Winnie C. Koons (1833 - 1916). At a young age he was adopted by the King family for whom he took his surname.

King attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and taught vocational classes at the Lincoln Institute in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky.

In early 1917, after the United States officially entered World War I, Eugene P. King was accepted for officers' training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. As part of an elite group of African American men, he went through technical and physical training and graduated as a lieutenant. The success of King and his comrades laid the groundwork for change, ultimately leading to President Harry Truman's executive order of July 1948 abolishing racial discrimination and segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Detail of "5th Provisional Company officers reserve training Camp Ft. Des Moines, Ia." Library of Congress. 
Eugene P. King graduated from this military camp in 1917.

King served with the American expeditionary forces (AEF) in France under General John J. Pershing (1860-1948). He worked in army intelligence, led units of African Senegalese (French troops), and was wounded while fighting on the Western Front.

Following the war's end in November 1918, it took months for the millions of American soldiers to return home due to arranging ship transport and concerns about the 1918 influenza pandemic that ultimately infected one-third of the world's population and killed an estimated 50 million people. Sadly, while King was still in France his adopted father, W. Nolan King (1865-1919), died of double pneumonia from "Spanish Influenza."

After his honorable discharge in September 1919, King traveled the globe on a tramp steamer. On his return to the United States he attended Rush Medical College in Chicago.

King graduated at the top of his class in 1924, completing the five-year course in three years. Because of his outstanding record, Dr. Frank Billings (1854-1932) personally presented King's certificate of graduation. Dr. Billings had served as Dean of Rush Medical College and president of the American Medical Association. By 1928, King opened a medical practice in Waukegan and wed Vyvien Porres.

His affinity for sports and commitment to community betterment led him to begin a tradition of sports excellence by sponsoring youth teams. All were welcome to play on Dr. King's Rex Athletic teams, and in particular young adults who were barred from playing at local schools because of their race or background.
Y Rex Athletic Club motto:
To make better men and women out of boys and girls
through clean wholesome athletic sports.

'Y' Rexettes basketball team, 1951.
First (bottom) row: Jean Anderson, Inez Davis, Dr. King "Rex Himself." Francis Thomas, Vivian White
Second row: Genevieve Pearson, Subrette Dupuy, Ardell Pearson, Barbara White, Ann Payne, Christine Springer, Marion Maxwell, Mrs. Florence W
Third row: Della Steele, Bertha Robinson, Barbara Belcher, Geraldine Evans, Lillie Vaughan.

Emblem from Rex Athletic Club girls' youth baseball jacket, circa 1950.
2019.1 Dunn Museum Collections

Dr. King purchased distinctive orange and black uniforms for his teams, and wore a jacket emblazoned with "Rex Himself." His teams played throughout the Chicago area and won 50 championships.

His own athletic ability brought him awards and even national recognition. In 1929, he was given a Daily News trophy for "Most Popular" area basketball player, in part for his impressive "one-handed set shots."  In 1954, Sports Illustrated noted him as one of the "oldest active" athletes in the nation. He was 61.
The Rexes had a "reputation of being one of the speediest teams of the north shore." 
December 22, 1939, Daily Herald.

King's philanthropic efforts were not limited to the African American community, but anyone in need, including children of Armenian and Italian immigrants. He worked through Barwell Goodfellowship Settlement in Waukegan (founded in 1915 to help the poor and sick), and was known to provide free medical service, clothing and college funds to those in need.

In addition to sponsoring athletic teams and serving as physical education program director at the S. Genesee Street YMCA, King developed community gardens to teach youth about cultivation and hard work. King planted 10,000 tulip bulbs in his personal flower garden at his home on S. Genesee Street, making for spectacular spring blossoms for everyone to enjoy.

In 1971, the Waukegan Park District created the Dr. Eugene P. King Park to honor King's legacy as a "constructive force" in the community.

The 2.7 acre Eugene P. King Park on South Avenue includes a softball diamond, 
playground, and flower bed/green house--all tributes to Dr. King's legacy. Waukegan Park District.

As an anonymous admirer said, Dr. Eugene P. King's "life was one of dedication to humanity, to his community, to his people, and to his profession. Everything he did -- he did for others."

"Wheeling Aces Downed 78-58 by Waukegan Rexes," December 22, 1939, Daily Herald.
"Doctor's Spare Time Labor Pays in Beauty," May 1, 1957, Waukegan News Sun.
"Dr. King... Symbol of Brotherhood," Jack Hagler, February 22, 1961, Waukegan News Sun.
"Lighting the Way for Many: Barwell Goodfellowship Settlement," Bernice Just, June 26, 1965, Waukegan News Sun.
"Tribute in name," July 15, 1971, Waukegan News Sun.
"Dr. E.P. King candidate for Waukegan Hall of Fame," Vincent Bulter, August 10, 1976, Waukegan News Sun.
"Lake County had its own Dr. King," Diana Dretske, August 20, 2000, Daily Herald.
"King for a day... every day," Jim Berklan, unknown date, Waukegan News Sun.
"W. Nolan King," Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1965, 
"Eugene P. King," Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917–1918,
"Black Officers at Fort Des Moines in World War I," Iowa Pathways blog 
"Frank Billings, 1854-1932," Chicago Area Medical 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Century of Wolf Hunts

The American frontier of northeastern Illinois posed many challenges for settlers leaving behind established communities in the eastern United States and Europe. Here they faced the task of forging a new life in a land they perceived as "wilderness."

One of the greatest threats in that "wilderness" were wolves and coyotes, who preyed on their livestock.
"Hunting Prairie Wolves in an Early Day." Published by Wm. LeBaron & Co., Chicago, 1877.

The first county bounties (cash payments) for wolves' scalps were issued in 1838. By 1874, the Lake County board offered "twenty dollars for the scalp of a wolf slain." ($440 in today's currency). The bounties were to encourage the extermination of wolves, coyotes and even crowswhich were all felt to impact a farmer's livelihood.

Predators were hunted year round, but mainly in the winter months when they were easy to spot on the snowy landscape, and their pelts were thicker and more valuable. Hunters presented scalps for the bounty and retained the pelts to use or sell.

In 1854, farmer John Herrick (1806 - 1890) of Half Day (now Lincolnshire), announced he was offering a bounty of $8 for each "old" wolf and $1 for each "young one." Much of Herrick's farm was within the heavily forested Des Plaines River valley, which at the time was "much infested with wolves" that had committed "many depredations."

By the 1860s, sheep farming had increased to the point that Lake County was ranked third in the State of Illinois in number of sheep. In 1865, the county boasted 82,382 sheep. The more sheep, the more enticement for predators.

Nelson Landon's farm, Benton Township, 1885.
Illustrated Atlas of Lake County, Illinois. H.R. Page & Co., Chicago.

In Benton Township, to curb the wolves being "very destructive among the sheep," a "great wolf drive" was held on March 14, 1868. Hunts typically involved hundreds of men, in this instance 350, walking in a line "with guns." The day-long hunt ended at the sprawling sheep farm of Nelson Landon (1807-1884). In all, only three wolves were killed, but a "large number" broke through the lines and escaped.

While most hunts were undertaken by men, women settlers also did their part to protect family and livestock. Maria Randolph Sibley (1821-1901), who had come to Lake County from Massachusetts with her husband and young children in the 1850s, tracked a wolf that was getting their cattle. The incident may have occurred while her husband was enlisted in the 64th Illinois during the Civil War. Sibley went into the family's grain field with her gun, and a wolf came "bounding over the shocks" of cut grain-stalks, frightening her so much that she was unable to shoot. The wolf saw her, "turned and trotted away."

The last known large-scale wolf hunt took place on January 27, 1930.

The Lewis A. Mills "wolf" hunt with plane hired from Palwaukee Airport, January 27, 1930.
Gordon Ray Collection, Dunn Museum (95.28.42)

Modern times called for modern measures, and sheep farmer, Lewis A. Mills (1894-1986), hired a plane from Palwaukee Municipal Airport (today's Chicago Executive Airport) in Wheeling to search for wolves from the air. For two years wolves had "ravaged sheep and poultry flocks of the county without check." Mills's flocks and that of business magnate, Samuel Insull (1859-1938), whose estate (today's Cuneo Museum) was adjacent to Mills had been "among those suffering heaviest from the wolves."
Hunters and bystanders posing with the kill. Left to right: Bill Poulton, Leroy Kane, Donald Poulton, 
Bob Rouse, Gordon Ray, Lewis Mills, Clayton Tiffany (police chief of Mundelein), and Gordon K. Ray. 
Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1930.

Assisting in the hunt from the ground were Gordon Ray (1893-1987) and Bob Rouse (1892-1963). Rouse shot and killed one of the wolves. When the plane landed to pick up the wolf, it overturned in the snow making it necessary to get another plane from Palwaukee. In the second round, the plane "chased" a wolf to a fence line, and Gordon Ray and Lee Kane shot it.

The hunters described their prey as "wolves," but in actuality were coyotes.
January 27, 1930. Gordon Ray Collection, Dunn Museum (95.28.44)

According to Gordon Ray, whose wife Marie Schanck Ray is seen at right, 
the hunt "caused considerable excitement, even making the Chicago papers." 
Gordon Ray Collection, Dunn Museum (95.28.45)

Though these farmers identified their prey as "wolves" they were actually coyotes. This is one example of how accounts can be misleading. In researching historic wolf hunts unless details were given such as "large," "big," or "gray," it's unclear whether the animal was a wolf or coyote. To add to the historical confusion, pioneers commonly used the term "prairie wolf" for coyote.

While wolf sightings have been rare in Lake County for a century, coyotes have successfully adapted to development and changes in their environment.

The Lake County Forest Preserves encourages everyone to learn more about coyotes and the important role they play in the ecosystem. Check out frequently asked questions about coyotes. Homeowner groups and other Lake County organizations can book a free informational presentation about coyotes by contacting Allison Frederick at

Past and Present of Lake County, Illinois, Elijah M. Haines, 1877.
History of Lake County, Illinois, John A. Halsey, 1912.
"Wolves in Chicago Now," E. Hough, January 27, 1901, Chicago Tribune. 
"Farmers of Two Counties Unite to Kill Wolves," January 2, 1928, Chicago Tribune. 
"Farmer in Plane Trails Wolves; Two Are Killed," February 4, 1930, Chicago Tribune. 
"Gordon Ray recalls the wolf hunt back in '28 on the Lewis Mills farm," Kathy Rosemann, February  2, 1984, Mundelein Review. [Ray, who was nearly 90 years old when he gave this interview, mistakenly noted the hunt taking place in 1928.]
Gordon Ray His Life and Times (1893-1987): An Autobiography, edited by Gordon K. Ray.
Dickertown School and Benton Township History, 1918. School History Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

Rags, Hero Dog of the First Division

On July 14, 1918, a homeless terrier on the streets of Paris, France was rescued by two American soldiers of the First Infantry Division. Named Rags, the dog became a war hero and mascot, and spent two years living at Fort Sheridan.

First Division Rags at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York, circa 1930. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Late on that Bastille Day eveningone hundred years agosoldiers Jimmy Donovan and George Hickman bumped into a stray dog on their way out of a cafe. The men gave the little dog a scrap of food and pat on the head, and the smart little terrier took a chance and followed Donovan down the street and into history.

Moments later, Donovan was picked up by Military Police for staying out past curfew. On the spot, he scooped up the dog and named him "Rags," claiming he had been sent to find the division's mascot. Rags charmed the MPs and was allowed to return to camp with Donovan.

Rags loved soldiers and was trained by Donovan to salute them on parade. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Just four days later, the French terriernow officially the First Division's mascotwas on his way to the war front with his new companion. Animals were key in the war effort for transportation, to convey messages and to track the enemy. Donovan taught Rags to salute soldiers on parade and utilized him for carrying messages. On his own, Rags learned how to find damaged communications wire that Donovan, as a member of the Signal Corps, repaired.

At the Battle of Soissons, July 18 - 22, 1918, Rags and Donovan along with 42 infantrymen were surrounded by Germans. Donovan attached a message to Rags's collar and sent him off to military command, which resulted in an artillery barrage and reinforcements who rescued them. News that Rags had saved the day spread through the division.

At Soissons, France, Rags began to make a name for himself as a "war dog." Soissons in ruins by William L. King, 1919. Library of Congress.

Rags and Donovan participated in the final American campaign of the war, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which began on September 26, 1918. This was the largest American-run offensive and the bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force.

On October 2, Rags carried a message across the battlefield amid falling bombs and poison gas. The swift delivery resulted in an artillery bombardment leading to the capture of the Very-Epinonville Road, and saved the lives of American soldiers.

Days later, on October 9, Rags and Donovan were caught in heavy enemy shellfire. Rags was injured on his right front paw, right ear and right eye from shell splinters and he suffered effects of gassing. Donovan was also seriously wounded and the two were taken to a field hospital together. Rags's health improved quickly, though he lost sight in his right eye. While Donovan convalesced, Rags was allowed to stay under his cot and was occasionally placed next to Donovan on the cot.

Donovan suffered from a severe case of mustard gas poisoning, which damaged his lungs. The best care for him would be at the U.S. Army post at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where the hospital staff specialized in the treatment of gas and shell-shocked patients.
Fort Sheridan's tower overlooking parade grounds covered in temporary wards for Hospital No. 28, circa 1919. BBDM 95.32.1

During the journey from France to Fort Sheridan, Donovan and Rags were separated due to military procedures, but many compassionate individuals ensured the two would be reunited, including Col. Halstead Dorey. Colonel Dorey had recognized Rags as the "little hero of the Argonne campaign," and smuggled Rags onto the hospital ship in one of his bags. Animals were not allowed for fear of contagion, and were euthanized if found.

Jimmy Donovan and Rags arrived at Fort Sheridan in late 1918. Donovan settled into one of the wards at Hospital No. 28, later re-designated Lovell General Hospital. Rags was allowed into the hospital once medical staff realized he was no ordinary dog, but a war hero. Rags visited Donovan daily, which did wonders for both their morale.

(For more on poison gas treatment at Fort Sheridan see my Chemical Warfare post).

Postcard view of a ward at the Fort Sheridan hospital, similar to the one where Rags visited Donovan. BBDM 92.24.236

When Rags was not at Donovan's side he was exploring the fort. He soon sniffed out the best mess halls where cooks would feed him. He also found lodging at the post's fire station.

Fort Sheridan's fire station where Rags lived, shown here circa 1919. BBDM 92.24.361
The building (with an addition) is now a private residence.

Despite the care of the hospital's highly skilled staff, Donovan died, leaving Rags without his closest companion.

Donovan had been concerned about who would look after Rags. Thankfully, Rags had become a celebrity at the fort. His brave deeds had followed him from the battlefront and many took pride in having such a unique war hero in their midst.

Rags had spent so much time charming new acquaintances that he had become the "post dog." He also became attached to Major Raymond W. Hardenbergh, his wife Helen, and their daughters, Helen and Susan. Rags moved into the Major's bungalow at Fort Sheridan, which became his first true home.

The family quickly learned that Rags loved sweets, playing with the major's daughters and wandering the fort, but hated loud noises. Apparently, he was shell-shocked like so many of the veterans at the fort's hospital.

When Major Hardenbergh received orders for his new post, his wife and daughters gained the support of the fort community for bringing Rags with them. After all, they had given Rags his first home and, "It wasn't fair to make him homeless again."

Rags sledding with Susan Hardenbergh at Governors Island, New York, circa 1926. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

First Division Rags lived out his remaining years as a member of the Hardenbergh family. His war scars and fame followed him wherever he went.

Though Rags was one of millions of dogs, horses and other animals utilized during World War I as "military mascots," Rags had endeared himself to a generation of soldiers.

Rags's gravemarker at Aspin Hill Memorial Park, Maryland, placed by Lt. Col. Raymond Hardebergh. 
Epitaph: "Rags War Hero 1st Division Mascot WW I, 1916 - 1936." Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Rags saved the lives of innumerable American soldiers, and was a companion to Jimmy Donovan and the men of the First Division. Because of his bravery and the respect soldiers had for him, Rags was smuggled to the United States where he would live for eighteen years to the delight of the Hardenbergh family and thousands of men and women stationed at Fort Sheridan and army posts throughout the U.S.
Rags at Governors Island, circa 1929. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

For the full story of this remarkable war hero, read From Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division, by Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Captain Minskey's Patent Log

In the mid-1800s, Great Lakes shipping was key to the economic boom of the newly settled Midwest. Port cities big and small, such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Waukegan and Kenosha thrived from abundant commerce and growing populations. Farmers shipped produce to market via the lakes, and settlers and businesses benefited from shipments of lumber and goods.

A ship's patent log in the Dunn Museum's collections embodies Lake County's connection to Great Lakes shipping. Patent logs are mechanical logs that measure a vessel's speed/distance through water. The log belonged to Captain Hanson Minskey, and became my starting point for researching four generations of Minskey family sailors and ship captains.

Ship's patent log used by Captain Hanson Minskey on the Great Lakes, circa 1855. (BBDM 70.80.1)

In 1835, brothers, Hanson, Robert and John Minskey headed west from Baltimore, Maryland on horseback to Lake County, Illinois. They were part of the westward migration into the Midwest, following the opening of the Erie Canal and treaties with Native American tribes. (see my post on the Treaty of Chicago).

The brothers were the sons of Samuel Minskey (1778 - 1819) and Ann Merriken (1776 - 1828). Samuel Minskey (or Dominski) was a cabinetmaker in partnership with Edward Priestly (1778 - 1837). From 1801 to 1807, Minskey and Priestley produced bookcases, secretaries, card tables and dining tables.

The Minskey brothers grew up in Baltimore near shipyards and amid a vibrant trade culture, and understood the economic potential of the Great Lakes. Hanson Minskey (1809 - 1881), who had been in the U.S. Navy, wanted to pursue a career as a ship's captain.
Captain Hanson Minskey (1809 - 1881).

By summer 1835, the Minskey brothers had settled in Benton Township, Lake County, Illinois along Sheridan Road. Three years later, Hanson married Charlotte E. Porter (1822 - 1881), the daughter of Jeremiah and Atossa Porter of New York. 

Hanson and Charlotte purchased 90 acres on the northwest corner of today's Sheridan Road and Route 173 in Zion. Though Hanson's occupation was as a sailor, the family had additional income from farming the land.

Hanson and Charlotte Minskey farm (underlined in red). Benton Township, 1861.
Located northwest of today's Route 173 and Sheridan Road in Zion.

Beginning in the early 1840s, Hanson Minskey became a ship builder in Waukegan, and a ship's captain. While Hanson pursued a career on the lakes, brother Robert settled down to farming, and brother John returned to Baltimore. The family's history notes Robert also being a sailor, but no supporting information could be found. Robert's son, George J. Minskey (1846 - 1930) was a sailor and ship's captain. 

View of Little Fort (Waukegan), showing piers, schooners and sidewheel steamer, 1848. 
("Little Fort" R.N. White, Chicago)

In 1848, Minskey became the captain of the newly built two-masted schooner, the James McKay. The ship's home port was Waukegan, where there was a considerable business in ship building. The ship was named in honor of one of its owners, Scottish-immigrant James McKay, who was a businessman and county sheriff. (see my post on James McKay).

Two-masted schooner representative of ships Minskey captained on the Great Lakes. 
In the 19th century, schooners were the workhorse of Great Lakes commercial shipping. 

Hanson Minskey was captain of the schooners: James McKay (1848), Liverpool (1855), Two Charlies (circa 1866), Two Sisters, Gazelle (1870), and Eclipse (1875). These were the ships and dates found with an association to Minskey.

Early in his career, Minskey introduced his sons to sailing. Jeremiah "Jed" (1843 - 1925) and Samuel (1855 - 1932) both began sailing with their father at a young age and became ship's captains.
Captain Samuel N. Minskey (1855 - 1932)

In 1867, at twelve-years old, Samuel began sailing the Great Lakes. Initially, he accompanied his father on voyages to Manitowoc and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, transporting goods.

Samuel Minskey was captain of the schooners: Gazelle (1879), Delos DeWolf (1892), and Magnetic (1905). These were the ships and dates found with an association to Samuel Minskey.

Captain Samuel N. Minskey sailed the schooner Delos DeWolf in 1892. 
This rare sailor's folk art of the Delos DeWolf (found online) was used for the cover of 
"The American Cruisers Own Book." Kahn Fine Antiques and Works of Art website.

In 1892, Samuel's ship brought the first load of paving bricks to upgrade Genesee Street in Waukegan from a dirt road to a paved road.

In 1902, while captaining a ship in the Gulf of Mexico, Samuel's wife Emma and their eight-year old son Lauren joined him. The family nearly lost their lives when the ship went down, presumably due to an accident. They were saved by a "hair's breath," but the ship and its' contents were lost. After this experience, it is not surprising that son Lauren, did not follow his father or grandfather into a life of sailing.

Jeremiah "Jed" Minskey was captain of the schooners: Two Charlies (1868), and Barbarian (1885); and the steamers: C.W. Elphicke, R.R. Hayes (1893), City of Genoa (1898), R.L. Ireland (1905-1909). These were the ships and dates found with an association to Jed Minskey.

Captain Jed Minskey transitioned from sailing schooners to steamers. 
Shown here is the steamer R.L. Ireland (right, covered in ice) which transported coal on Lake Superior. 
Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Sailing on the Great Lakes in the 19th century was dangerous work. Each captain and his crew had to know the location of every island, barrier, and lighthouse. When storms approached they had very little time to find safe harbor before being bombarded by powerful winds and the quick succession of waves.

Navigating a schooner took years of experience to master. The epitaph of "master mariner" on Samuel Minskey's gravemarker was a testament to his accomplishment.

Captain Samuel N. Minksey's gravermarker. 
Timber Ridge Cemetery, Catoosa, Oklahoma.

Life on the open watersaway from home for months at a timewith cold, wind, rain and ice battering the ship and its crew, took its toll on sailors.

After four decades on the lakes, Captain Hanson Minskey's health had deteriorated. He retired in 1878, and he and his wife sold their farm and moved to Waukegan. In an effort to regain his health, in 1880, Hanson removed to Wharton County, Texas. Texas had become known for health resorts that attracted "lungers," people with weak lungs or tuberculosis.

The following spring, Hanson sent for his wife and sister to join him in Texas. Charlotte was suffering from "paralysis of the brain," a 19th century term often used for cerebral palsy.

Sadly, the new climate was not enough to restore their health. Charlotte died on September 19, 1881, followed by a grief-stricken Hanson on September 21. Two days later, Hanson's sister Harriet died. Their remains were brought back to Waukegan for burial at Oakwood Cemetery.

Four generations of Minskeys were found to have sailed the Great Lakes from the 1840s to 1930s: Hanson Minskey, sons Jed and Samuel, nephew George, and great grandson Jeremiah J. Minskey.

Ad from News Sun June 26, 1935. Three generations of "transportation history."

Captain Minskey's patent log was donated to the Dunn Museum by Samuel's son Lauren, who survived the sinking of his father's ship in 1902. The patent log is on exhibit in the Museum's "An American Frontier" gallery.

Partridge, Charles A. History of Lake County, Illinois. Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company,  Publishers, 1902.
Lodesky, James D. Polish Pioneers in Illinois 1818 - 1850. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris Corporation, 2010.
Westerman, Al. An Early History of Benton Township, Lake County, Illinois. 2010.
Kirtley, Alexandra Alevizatos, "A New Suspect: Baltimore Cabinetmaker Edward Priestley.",
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Burns, Chester R., "Health and Medicine," Texas State Historical Association.
U.S. Census records, 
Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, Donor Files. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1861 Map of Lake County, Illinois

Map of Lake County, Illinois 1861. 

The Lake County, Illinois map of 1861 was the county's second official map. An earlier map was commissioned by the County in about 1845, but no copies are known to exist. 

Lithographers Leopold Gast and Brother of St. Louis, Missouri were hired to publish the Lake County map. By 1861, the American map making industry was in full swing. The lithographic process was more cost effective than copperplate engraving, allowing lithographic map publishers to make good maps at a low cost, even in small publishing runs. 

Detail from map of Lake County, Illinois 1861.

To ensure the map's accuracy, the surveys of County Surveyor, George Hale, were used along with the records of the Clerk of the Circuit Court/Recorder of Deeds, Josiah M. Truesdell. The map was a useful resource for farmers, businessmen and government officials.
Libertyville Township (partial) from 1861 Map of Lake County, Illinois.

As an historical record, the map is a snapshot of Lake County’s agricultural heritage, and settlement and immigration patterns prior to the start of the Civil War (1861 - 1865). In 1860, Lake County's population was 18,257. 

An original 1861 map in the collections of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum was in need of conservation. A grant from the Signal Hill Daughters of the American Revolution funded the map's conservation by the Book Restoration Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Detail of the 1861 Lake County map before conservation. 

The paper map had significant cracks, flaking, and the shellac coating had aged to a dark color. Its conservation treatment included, but was not limited to soaking the map in milk alkaline solution to relax flat, de-acidification, removal of shellac varnish, and mounting map pieces onto okawara paper and then onto Irish linen.

After conservation, the map is now stable and able to be exhibited for short periods of time.

Full view of 1861 Lake County map after conservation. (BBDM)

The map contains information on landowners and farms, locations of churches, dwelling houses, schools, businesses, roads and natural features. It also includes census data, a view of the public square in Waukegan, and business districts for Waukegan, Antioch, Half Day, Wauconda, Long Grove, Lake Zurich, Deerfield, Forksville (Volo), O’Plain Bridge (Gurnee), Diamond Lake and Barrington. 

Public Square in Waukegan showing Recorders office (left) and courthouse.

Similar to county atlases that included artist's renderings of farms, and county histories with biographical sketches of prominent citizens, the 1861 wall map promoted the county's civic pride and was a useful source for finding ownership of parcels of land. 

Today, the 1861 Lake County map is considered an invaluable genealogical and historical record. 

To view the map online (and other county maps) visit Lake County, Illinois Maps Online

Special thanks to the Signal Hill Daughters of the American Revolution for funding the conservation of the Dunn Museum's 1861 Map of Lake County. 

Thursday, June 15, 2017

George Shatswell, 15th Illinois Infantry

Caught up in patriotic fervor to preserve the Union, George P. Shatswell enlisted with the 15th Illinois Infantry in May 1861. When Shatswell left Waukegan, he was a strong young farmer, but on his return he could barely do a day's work.
George P. Shatswell (1842 - 1904), circa 1864.
George Shatswell was born in Avon Township, Lake County, Illinois on March 23, 1842. His parents, Richard Shatswell and Margaret Sluman, had migrated from Massachusetts in 1840, and were among Avon Township's earliest settlers. In 1846, the family re-settled in Waukegan Township.

In the summer of 1859, a seventeen-year old George Shatswell went to work on Allen Spaulding's 140-acre farm. The farm was located on the east side of Greenbay Road just south of Blanchard Road in Waukegan, Illinois.

The relationship Shatswell and Spaulding forged would create a lifelong bond.

Allen Spaulding (1807 - 1901), circa 1880 LCDM 2011.0.124

Allen Spaulding and his wife, Hannah Hinkston, were among the first settlers to Waukegan Township. They came from Oneida County, New York in 1839. (Hannah's sisterFanny Hinkston Baconwas featured in a previous post). Allen and Hannah had three daughters living at home: Sarah Jane (born 1839), Mary (born 1842) and Julia Ann (born 1845).

In 1860, Shatswell again worked for Spaulding during the summer. He probably would have spent a third summer working there if not for the world-changing events of the spring of 1861. News of the fall of Fort Sumter and the start of the Civil War ignited a fierce patriotism in George. He became one of the first young men in Lake County to respond to President Lincoln's call for troops

George enlisted with the 15th Illinois Infantry, and mustered in at Freeport, Illinois on May 29, 1861.

Heading to war with dreams of crushing the Rebellion were soon dashed when Shatswell contracted typhoid pneumonia in October 1861.

Shatswell was sent to the Sister of Charity's Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. After two months, he was ordered to Benton Barracks, a Union Army military encampment. There, Shatswell "became so disgusted with treatment and quarters" that he rejoined his regiment without having fully recovered.

Benton Barracks, St. Louis, 1862. A. McLean Lithograph

George fought at the Battle of Shiloh April 6 - 7, 1862, until his "strength failed." Captain John S. Pratt ordered him to the hospital boat, and gave him his presentation sword for safekeeping.

Captain John S. Pratt (1837 - 1920), Company I, 15th Illinois Infantry

Instead of reporting to the hospital, Shatswell traded Pratt's sword to an Iowa soldier for a gun and accoutrements. Shatswell then "hunted up" his company, and "did all I could to thin the rebel ranks till the end of the battle."

After the battle, Shatswell's health declined and he was sent to hospital. Like so many soldiers who contracted camp disease and other ailments, Shatswell's health issues would cast a long shadow on the remainder of his life. (Disease caused more deaths in the Civil War than battles).

In June 1862, Shatswell was given 20 days furlough to go home to recover. When he arrived back in Lake County, his father and siblings did not recognize him because he had lost so much weight.

In Waukegan, a doctor recommended extending his leave, but George insisted on returning to his regiment. The following year, he fought in the Siege of Vicksburg, May 18 - July 4, 1863.

George P. Shatswell in his 15th Illinois uniform, circa 1864.

In January 1864, George was joined in the 15th Illinois by his father Richard and brother William. The men remained with the regiment until they were captured at Ackworth, Georgia on October 4, 1864. They were sent to Andersonville Prison.

Confederate Canteen used by Richard Shatswell, his sons William,George and John, 
and comrade George W. Noble while prisoners at Andersonville (Fort Sumter).

In George's words, they "starved for six months and fifteen days." Fortunately, the Shatswell men survived and were paroled at war's end.

Ever industrious, before George mustered out on May 30, 1865, he secured a position at the grocery store of J.H. Porter in Waukegan. He worked there until June 1866 when he left for Washington, D.C. to "settle with the Gov't" where E.B. French, Auditor of the U.S. Treasury, "made mine a special claim."

Shatswell then made his way to California where the dry, warm climate did his health good. He settled in Yuba County, California (north of Sacramento) and worked as a shipping clerk for Walker Moore and Company.

In May 1867, he received a letter from Allen Spaulding, reviving the connection they had formed years before.

To George's delight, Spaulding asked him to return to Waukegan to "take charge of his farm." And offered to "give [George] his daughter to help manage" the farm.

Portrait in charcoal of Julia Ann Spaulding Shatswell (1845 - 1893), circa 1867. LCDM 57.2.5

The daughter in question was Julia Ann, known as "Ann," who had been sixteen the last summer George worked on the Spaulding farm. Apparently, Ann was amenable to this arrangement or it is doubtful her father would have suggested it.

George later recalled: "I accepted the invitation (who wouldn't)."

George Shatswell's description of events, in his own hand, leading to his return to Waukegan in 1867. 
(Original filed at Lake County Clerk's office, Waukegan)

With the death of his son in the war, Allen Spaulding faced a dilemma. He was 60-years old, and had no son to take over the family farm. Clearly, his impression and rapport with George Shatswell led him to the decision to create a stronger bond by having George marry his daughter Ann and take over the farm operations.

George Shatswell arrived home on June 10, 1867, and he and Ann were married on June 18.

Unfortunately, George's war-related health issues returned. "The strain proved too severe for my constitution. My lungs began to trouble me again worse than before... I was completely prostrated and put under the treatment of Dr. John Row Bullock of Waukegan. I was not able to perform any manual labor for about a year."

George and Ann's first child was born in July 1869. The joy of the birth of their son Fredrick was overshadowed by George's continued ailments. In the fall of 1869, Dr. Bullock advised George to "go west and get away from the Lake region."

George headed to Grand Island, Nebraska and settled on a Homestead Act claim. It is assumed that he brought Ann and their baby boy with him.

Homestead certificate of eligibility for veteran George Shatswell, Grand Island, Nebraska, 1874. 

George's health improved enough for him to labor on his farm in the summer months. He could "not endure outdoor work in winter" and found a position teaching school. By the summer of 1873, he had given up on his farm and rented it. In the spring of 1876, he went back to work on his farm, telling Ann: "I would stick to it till she planted my bones on the hill."

George and Ann continued their lives on the Nebraska farm until Ann's mother, Hannah Hinkston Spaulding, died in fall 1878. With Allen Spaulding alone on the Waukegan farm, George and Ann were called back to Illinois to "superintend" the farm.

The couple and their young family lived with Allen Spaulding on the farm. In 1879, Allen Spaulding married his wife's older sister, Onor Hinkston.

Shatswell was only able to work on the Waukegan farm in the summer "about half the time" and "in the winter keeping pretty close to the house."

In 1884, he applied for a veteran's disability pension from the U.S. Government, stating that: "I did not apply for a pension before... because I did not wish to embarrass the Government until it was abundantly able to pay me what I consider I am justly entitled to. The time has now arrived."

George's forthright statement made under oath before the county clerk in Waukegan was sent to the Pension Office in Washington, D.C.. In his summation George wrote: "If you think I am not entitled to a pension after this statement of what I endured to save this grand Nation from ruin and destruction, please give me a situation in your department and I will be satisfied."

Indeed, he did become a "pension claim agent," advocating for veterans, and a Justice of the Peace. He was also active in the Grand Army of the Republic, Waukegan Post No. 374, including serving as its commander.

George and Ann had three children: Frederick (b. 1866), Nellie (b.1875), and Hattie (b.1877).

Ann passed away on February 17, 1893. On October 6, 1904, George died suddenly while in Burnett, Wisconsin.


  • George Shatswell's Civil War veteran's pension statement of December 8, 1884, provided most of the detail for this post. (Copy of handwritten statement LCDM files). 
  • "Past and Present of Lake County, Illinois," Elijah M. Haines, 1877. 
  • "A History of Waukegan Township Lake County Illinois 1835-1850," Al Westerman, 2013.
  • (census records, city directories)
  • (pension files)

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Bain Wagon

For museums, an object's story is essential to preserving and telling a community's history. And sometimes an object has more than one story to tell.

Take for instance, "The Bain" wagon donated to the museum in 2011. The wagon's story encompasses that of an immigrant farmer, local dairy industry, and Libertyville and Kenosha businesses.

Simon Roppelt's "The Bain" wagon, 1910. (2011.18.1)

Simon Roppelt (1876 - 1931) was born in Bavaria, Germany to Christian and Margaret Roppelt. In 1893, at the age of 16, Roppelt set sail for a new life in America on the SS Darmstadt. Shortly after his arrival, he settled in Lake County, Illinois.

On October 5, 1900, Roppelt became a naturalized U.S. citizen at the county courthouse in Waukegan. John Hertzing and John Bauer (husband of Margaret Herzing) were his witnesses. Both witnesses were also German immigrants and probably related to Roppelt.

On February 17, 1906, Simon Ropplet married Elizabelth "Lizzie" Herzing (1878 - 1946). The couple settled on acreage in Sections 11 and 12 of Fremont Township to farm the land and raise a family.

In 1910, Roppelt decided to make the important purchase of a new farm wagon. For many American farmers, the choice was clear: "The Bain" produced by the Bain Wagon Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Bain Wagon advertisement, 1916.

The Bain Wagon Company was one of the most recognized and respected wagon makers in the United States. It began in the late 1830s as Mitchell & Quarles. Edward Bain and George Yule worked for the company. In 1852, Bain took over the Kenosha factory and established the Bain Wagon Company, and promoted Yule to superintendent. 

George Yule, had worked his way up from wagon maker in 1842 to president and owner of the Bain Wagon Company in 1911. Yule had emigrated from Aberdeenshire, Scotland to Somers, Wisconsin with his father and siblings in 1840. A number of family members settled in Millburn, Lake County, Illinois, including George's brother James Yule.

For Simon Roppelt, the closest Bain dealer was the Schanck Hardware Co. on Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville.

The Schanck Bros. store is at the far right in this circa 1907
photo postcard view of Milwaukee Avenue in Libertyville. The Schanck building 
can still be seen today on the northeast corner of Cook and Milwaukee. (M-86.1.649)

Mundelein native, George Schanck (1837-1915), established his hardware store in 1870. The original building burned in Libertyville's fire of 1895. Schanck rebuilt in brick on the same site.

"The Bain" wagon purchased by Simon Roppelt has 
advertising for Schanck Hardware painted on the seat.

Like all Bain wagons, Roppelt's came with the company's name stenciled on the side.
The Bain Wagon Company painted its logo
on the side of  "The Bain" wagons.

Simon Roppelt used "The Bain" wagon to haul milk cans to the Soo Line Railroad "milk stop" at Harris Road in Grayslake (today's Prairie Crossing depot) for shipment to Chicago. Milk production was a big industry in Lake County and supplied a growing need for milk in Chicago. Daily "milk trains" took dairy farmers' filled milk cans to Chicago in the morning and returned the emptied cans in the evening. Each farmer had a number that was painted onto the milk can for identification.

Simon Roppelt with his team of horses and John Deere sickle mower, circa 1910.
The mower was also donated to the museum (2011.18.11).

Roppelt's "The Bain" wagon was used from 1910 - 1928. The wagon was never repainted and retains its original color and advertising.

Simon Roppelt, 1893, New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,
Simon Roppelt, 1900, U.S. Naturalization,
"Prairie Farmer's Directory of Lake County," 1917. 
"Portrait and Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens in Racine and Kenosha Counties," 1892 (Chicago: Lake City Publishing Co.)
Lewis Miller's Mitchell Collection blog
"George Yule and the Bain Wagon Company" by David Sneed