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Friday, May 27, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day, a time set aside to honor the nation’s Civil War dead by decorating their graves.


"Fort Sheridan Decoration Day, May 30, 1916." (above) View looking south toward barracks row. (LCDM 92.24.2622)

It’s difficult to pinpoint the origins of the day, but it seems likely that it had many separate beginnings, including women’s groups in the South who decorated graves before the end of the Civil War.

The first widely observed Decoration Day was on May 30, 1868, commemorating the sacrifices of Civil War soldiers by proclamation of General John Logan (1826-1886), national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic. Logan who was from southern Illinois and pro-Southern before the Civil War, decided to join the Northern cause to preserve the Union, and eventually became a general. After the war he served as an Illinois senator from 1871-77 and 1879-1886, and in 1893 was honored with a National Guard weapons training camp named for him—Camp Logan in Zion.

During the 1868 celebration, General James Garfield (1831-1881), later the 20th President of the United States, made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery after which 5,000 participants decorated the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried there.


The letter above is addressed to Frank Peats, formerly of the 17th Illinois Regiment (Civil War), April 9, 1880. It reads:

Dear Comrade, at our regular meeting last night it was the unanimous wish of the 'Boys' that you be invited to orate for us on Memorial Day and your humble servant was instructed to write you in regard to it - not a long talk you know but one of your usual patriotic efforts will please them. How is it Frank. Can you come? I wish you would. Yours Hastily, Y.R. Swieley.

When the Civil War broke out in April 1861, Peats wrote his fiancee saying that he had to engage in the "struggle between the sons of freedom and traitors to every principle of right and justice." (LCDM Frank Peats Collection 94.5.211)

By 1890, Decoration Day was recognized by all of the northern states. The South continued to honor their dead on different days until after World War I when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.


"German War Veterans' Memorial Day Service, May 29, 1972, Fort Sheridan." (LCDM 92.24.1821) In 1944, Fort Sheridan assumed control of prisoner of war camps in Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin—a total of 15,000 prisoners of war. German POWs were housed in newly constructed barracks at the south end of the Fort. Nine German POWs are buried at the Post Cemetery. However, none of these men died at Fort Sheridan.


"Memorial Day Services held at the Post Cemetery and flagpole at Fort Sheridan, May 27, 1974." (LCDM 92.24.1785)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Robert Douglas Horticultural Heritage


For years, I have wondered about "G.D. Clarke," the person attributed to creating 32 glass lantern slides in the museum's collection. They are beautiful slides of plants and flowers, hand-colored in spectacular tints. But who was G.D. Clarke and why did he take photos of rare plants and beautiful garden flowers? (right) Clarke's slide taken in Waukegan, circa 1910, titled, "Sherwin Wright-Edge of the Wild-Aurea-Flavescens." LCDM 93.32.381

When I looked at the slides last week, wanting to share them as springtime inspiration in this blog, I remembered that the pesky mystery of G.D. Clarke was still unsolved. So, I set to work with my research, and was surprised that the answer was easier to find than anticipated, and led to a very interesting discovery.

I started by researching the donor of the slides—Mrs. Elam Lewis Clarke. Since the slides were made circa 1910, I looked in early Waukegan city directories. The 1919-1920 directory listed Elam L. Clarke (lawyer) and his wife, Georgia D, living at 740 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan. This answered my initial question—"G.D. Clarke" was Georgia D. Clarke (1871 - 1952). Elam Clarke, by the way, was the son of Lt. Colonel Isaac Clarke (1824-1863), hero of the 96th Illinois Regiment.

Next, I looked up Elam Clarke in the census, using Ancestry.com and Family Search. Within minutes I made another remarkable discovery—Georgia's maiden name was Douglas. I didn't want to get ahead of myself, but wondered if she could be related to the nationally known nurseryman, Robert Douglas of Waukegan. Considering that some of the subject matter of her slides were pine trees planted by Robert Douglas, it seemed likely. Sure enough, more census research confirmed that Georgia D. Clarke was in fact Robert Douglas's granddaughter.


Georgia Douglas Clarke photographed these White Pines on the Dead River, Zion, circa 1910 (above). They were planted by her grandfather, Robert Douglas, in the late 1800s, in what is today's Illinois Beach State Park. LCDM 93.32.361

Robert Douglas (1813 - 1897) started his nursery business in Waukegan in 1848, and within thirty years became the largest grower of pines and spruces in the United States. Douglas began the Lake County Fair as an arbor and floral exhibit at the courthouse around 1849. This project turned into the Lake County Agricultural Society, and then into the Lake County Fair Association, which held the first county fair in 1852.

Douglas bought sapling pines from Europe and planted them in the sandy soil north of Waukegan along Lake Michigan (today's Illinois State Beach Park). The land was cheap, and Douglas thought the soil would be good for growing. Some of the saplings were from the Black Forest of Germany, and their descendants can still be seen near the lakeshore at the state park.

In 1888, Douglas, and famous landscape architect, Jens Jensen, began preservation efforts to make the area of the Illinois State Beach Park a regional park. With industry encroaching from the south, sand mining devastating the dunes, and parts of the surrounding countryside succumbing to farm pasture and homes, it looked like the unique beauty and habitat of the area would be lost. Douglas's granddaughter, Georgia, documented the site's beauty in her lantern slides in the 1910s. Legislative efforts to save the area finally began in the 1920s. "Dunes of Lake County" by G.D. Clarke, circa 1910. LCDM 93.32.369


"Prickly Pear Cactus" by G.D. Clarke, circa 1910. Photo taken in what is today the Illinois Beach State Park. LCDM 93.32.355.

Douglas's extensive mail-order business brought him national recognition. In 1896, the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina (home to George Vanderbilt) purchased a large quantity of Douglas's evergreen stock.


"Peony Field" at 703 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan, by G.D. Clarke, circa 1910. LCDM 93.32.387

The beautiful peony garden above was located down the bluff on Sheridan Road at Grand Avenue. The view is looking south with a potting shed in the background at left and a gas storage tank at right. As early as 1861, this area was designated on plat maps as "Greenhouses," and Grand Avenue did not run east of Sheridan Road until well into the 20th Century.

In the city directory, Georgia Clarke is listed as living across the street from this garden at 740 N. Sheridan Road, but her obituary states that she lived at 703 N. Sheridan Road, the address of this beautiful garden. According to her obituary, Georgia was "known throughout northern Ilinois as a garden expert... Her specialties were iris and peonies and the peony beds at the former family residence at 703 N. Sheridan Rd. were known far and wide."


Another view of the garden at 703 N. Sheridan Road, Waukegan. This G.D. Clarke slide is titled, "Hibiscus Mallow." LCDM 93.32.368.

During World War I, Georgia sold flowers from her garden to benefit Victory Memorial Hospital and the Red Cross.

Special thanks to Beverly Millard at the Waukegan Historical Society for additional information on Georgia D. Clarke and Elam L. Clarke.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day


In 1914, the Federal Government designated the second Sunday in May as Mother’s Day.

The idea for Mother's Day in the United States may be traced to “Mother’s Day for Peace,” which began to be promoted in 1872 by Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910). Howe wrote the lyrics to the “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” She was also a proponent of peace and sponsored celebrations honoring motherhood, womanhood and peace beginning in 1873.



Mildred Holloway Minto standing "under the maples" on the family farm near Loon Lake with her daughters, Katherine (in her arms) and baby Ruth in buggy, circa 1908. LCDM 93.45.77.4

The first true Mother's Day observance was held on May 10, 1908 as a church service honoring Anna Reeves Jarvis, who had worked during the Civil War to better sanitary conditions for soldiers and to reconcile people who had fought on opposites sides of the war. Her daughter, also named Anna, thought that children often lacked an appropriate appreciation for their mothers while their mother was still alive, creating the hope that a holiday honoring mothers would increase respect for parents and strengthen family bonds.


Harriet Rouse Ray and her daughter, Pearl, on the porch of their home at the Ray Farm, Diamond Lake, 1914. The family ran a summer resort, and Harriet was known as an excellent cook. Her Sunday chicken dinners were especially well attended. LCDM 91.17.34.

In Lake County, there is only one legendary woman known to have used “mother” in her name. Wealthy Buell Harvey Rudd, or Mother Rudd, was the proprietor of the O’Plain Tavern in Gurnee in the 1840s and 1850s.


The Mother Rudd House, as it came to be known, was something of a “town hall” and meeting place for the community, and Mother Rudd became synonymous for hospitality. Today, Mother Rudd’s house is home to the Warren Township Historical Society. Photo of Mother Rudd's, circa 1910.


During World War II, this mother and daughter served in the Women's Army Corps at Fort Sheridan. Private Cleo M. Yount (left) and her daughter, Private Avis M. Larson, circa 1943. LCDM 92.24.770.

Happy Mother's Day! And remember to call your mother!