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Friday, December 13, 2013

Silas Nichols: Last Civil War Veteran

Silas S. Nichols (1848 - 1945) was Lake County's last surviving Civil War veteran.

Left to right: Civil War veterans Silas S. Nichols (145th Ohio) and Frederick Worth (96th Illinois), photographed by teacher Lee Riley in May 1918.  The veterans are standing on the Townline School grounds at the northwest corner of Yorkhouse and Delany Road in Newport Township. (LCDM 2011.0.226) 

Silas Nichols was born in Sandusky, Ohio, to Joshaway and Shirley Nichols. He enlisted in the 145th Ohio Infantry, Company I at its organization on May 12, 1864. This Ohio National Guard unit enlisted for 100 days service.

Under Colonel Henry C. Ashwell, the 145th Ohio immediately proceeded to Washington, D.C. where it performed garrison duty. In July 1864, when Confederate General Early threatened Washington, the Regiment was constantly under arms. It mustered out on August 23, 1864.

While in D.C. with the regiment, Nichols saw President Lincoln three times. On one occasion, Nichols and several fellow soldiers called on the President at the White House. Lincoln came to his office door to welcome them and shook Nichols' hand.

In 1873, Nichols married Elizabeth C. Helrick (1857 - 1945) in Milan, Ohio. The couple moved to Lake Villa in 1889 and then to Waukegan in 1892 where Nichols worked for the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad as a railroad detective. He remained "special police" for the EJ & E until his retirement in 1920.

Silas and Elizabeth Nichols lived at 506 Poplar Street 
in Waukegan from circa 1905 - 1945. The house was built in 1901. 

On each Memorial Day from 1925 - 1942, Nichols recited the Gettysburg Address at the service in the Waukegan courthouse square. He continued to attend the memorial service, placing a wreath at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument until 1944. Nichols also participated in the procession of "boys in blue" each year in Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

On Memorial Day 1944, Silas Nichols (right) placed a wreath
at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the courthouse square, 
Waukegan. (LCDM 94.34.278)

Silas and Elizabeth Nichols were married for 71 years. They were feted as the longest married couple in Lake County. They credited their happy marriage to "independence for both husband and wife and plenty of give and take."

Silas and Elizabeth Nichols on their 70th wedding anniversary. 
Photo from the Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1943. 

While Silas was active in the Grand Army of the Republic as commander of the Waukegan post and judge advocate of the Illinois GAR, Elizabeth devoted herself to the GAR's Women's Relief Corps.

Each time a Civil War veteran passed away it made the papers. The Chicago Tribune was one of many area newspapers that covered Nichols' death on January 10, 1945.

In 1953, the last verified combat veteran of the Civil War, James A. Hard (1843 - 1953) died; and drummer boy Albert Woolson (1847 - 1956) was the last veteran of the Civil War. After Woolson's death the Grand Army of the Republic was dissolved, since he was its last member. At least three men died after Woolson claiming to be Confederate veterans, but their status was debunked.


In 1945, the Women's Relief Corps applied for a military headstone for Nichols. 
The application (above) was approved by the Adjutant General of Illinois.

Silas Nichols' tombstone at Hickory Union Cemetery, 
Edwards Road, Antioch Township, Lake County, IL.

Carved at the bottom of Silas and Elizabeth Nichols' shared tombstone are the words: "He shook the hand of Lincoln."

Monday, December 2, 2013

Girl Scouts of America

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America (1912-2012), which were formed in Savanna, Georgia by Juliette Gordon Low. To celebrate, let's take a look at Girl Scout items in the museum's collections.
Dorothy Gleiser, circa 1922.
LCDM 93.31.5
Above is the earliest Girl Scout photo in the museum's Lake County collections. This photo of Dorothy Gleiser (1913 - 2003) of the Thistle Troop of Lake Forest was taken at Brae Burn Farm where her father was the farm manager, and her family lived.


This 1926 photo shows Dorothy Gleiser wearing another Girl Scout uniform. The uniform pictured was donated by Dorothy to the museum in 1987.  LCDM M-87.3.1


Dorothy Gleiser's 1926 Girl Scout uniform (above). This is a typical button-down-the-front coat dress uniform of the early 1920s. LCDM 87.3.1


"Girl Scouts be Prepared" belt buckle from Gleiser's Girl Scout uniform, 1926. LCDM  87.3.1



Girl Scout pin from Gleiser's uniform, 1926. LCDM 87.3.1




Cover of guide book for Girl Scout leaders dating to 1937. LCDM 96.5.44


Cover of "Games for Girl Scouts: Brownie, Intermediate, Senior" from 1942. The 106-page booklet includes quiz and memory games, and also physical games the Scouts could play. LCDM 96.5.40.



The photo (above) was taken in 1965 at Fort Sheridan. The caption reads: "Sergeant George Stacey of 204th Military Police Company shows members of a Fort Sheridan Girl Scout Troop how to affix reflector-type safety tape to their bicycles." LCDM 92.24.731


Cookies are probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of the Girl Scouts. Here, members of the Fort Sheridan Troop sell cookies to an unidentified fireman, 1970. The sale of cookies as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917 with members baking the cookies themselves. LCDM  92.24.737


"Girl Scouts of Fort Sheridan Troop 157 that received merit badges: (from left sitting in front of table) Jackie DeThorne, Jeana Graham, Pattie Kapp, and Mary Compney, (back row from left) Kim Kusick, Kathy Phillips, Nancy Peddle, Nancy Phillips, Alesia Smith and Donna Marion. Troop 157 is headed by Mrs. Helen Hugger  and Mrs. Eunice Elliott." March 24, 1970. LCDM 927.27.729


"Members of Girl Scouts Troop 170, Fort Sheridan, hold a candle light ceremony in honor of Thinking Day, Feb. 22, 1970... Scouts are (from left) Kathy Kob, Beth Reaser, Linda Nunn, Anne Luke, Barbara Sovers, Wendy Ives, Denise Smith, Andrea Simmons, and Janice Kadomstei (center foreground)." LCDM 92.24.712 

Each year on February 22 the Girl Scouts celebrate World Thinking Day in which the girls participate in activities and projects with global themes to honor their sister Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in other countries.

(This post was originally posted August 10, 2012)

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Robert H. Aiken, Tilt-Up Construction Inventor

In 1907, Robert H. Aiken (1859 - 1925) of Winthrop Harbor, Illinois invented "tilt-up construction."

Aiken's fast and economical method of building concrete-walled buildings revolutionized construction and is still in use today. The process involves pre-fabricating concrete wall sections and lifting or tilting them into position on a concrete foundation.

Aiken was born in Abingdon, Knox County, Illinois. He came to Lake County, Illinois by 1895, when he was promoted to the rank of Colonel and assigned as the range officer at the new rifle training center at Camp Logan in today's Zion. Camp Logan was an Illinois National Guard training facility established in 1892.

On December 16, 1895, Robert Aiken married Jannette Kellogg (1879 - 1953) of Winthrop Harbor.

Jannette was the daughter of George P. Kellogg and Phoebe F. Landon Kellogg. Jannette was also the granddaughter of Nelson Landon (1807-1884), one of Lake County's most influential and wealthy pioneer settlers. Jannette and Robert resided on her father's farm along the east side of Sheridan Road just south of Kellogg Creek in Winthrop Harbor.

Aiken came up with his idea of constructing buildings using pre-cast concrete walls and raising them into position in early 1907, when he built concrete target walls for use at Camp Logan. Previously, the Camp's targets were made of wood. The new concrete targets kept ordnance from being shot into Lake Michigan and endangering boaters, and allowed the lead to be retrieved and reused.

After filing for a patent on a "method and apparatus for constructing concrete buildings," Aiken built a factory to manufacture the concrete targets and steel target frames, and used his new tilt-up method to construct it. The factory stood on his farm in Benton Township along Sheridan Road and was 80 x 75 feet and 14 feet high.


His next project was an ammunition and gun house at Camp Logan (above), and then a large mess hall at Camp Perry in Ohio. His first commercial store was built near Kenosha and was 30 x 40 feet with a cellar.

On November 14, 1908, Aiken organized the Aiken Cement Home company and incorporated it in the State of Maine (for tax purposes).

In 1909, he made plans to build a residential subdivision on his farm on Sheridan Road, using his tilt-up technique. The houses were to be concrete and two-stories high with six large rooms, front hall, stairways and bathroom. The subdivision was never built.

In February 1909, Aiken had a booth for his Cement Home Company at the 2nd Annual Cement Show held at the Coliseum in Chicago. The Chicago Tribune called him, "the novelty of the show" for demonstrating his invention of building concrete homes by actually constructing one inside the Coliseum.


In 1910, Aiken completed a new church for the Memorial United Methodist at 2935 Sheridan Road in Zion (above)
Detail of the church as it appears today. (above)

By 1910, Aiken had formed a partnership with Frederick H. Sears of Chicago with Sears organizing the Aiken Home Company of Chicago with offices at the Peoples Gas Building. Fred Sears expanded the company across the country, including in Los Angeles. The business was valued at $1,000,000.

It is unclear when and if Aiken and Sears parted ways.


Jannette Kellogg Aiken Black and grandson Hector Aiken, from History of Lake County Illinois 1939.

In 1924, Aiken and his wife, Jannette, and her sister Josephine Kellogg, subdivided the northern portion of their property, south of Kellogg Creek into the "Kellogg's Home Site Subdivision." The site was improved with one and two bedroom concrete, Spanish-style bungalows that were rented on a daily basis to tourists. In addition, there was a campground and sandwich shop on site. This was Robert Aiken's last project using his method of tilt-up construction.


Josephine Kellogg was the proprietor of the tourist camp (above), which she named "Hollyhock Hill." Aiken's concrete bungalows are still visible today on Sheridan Road in Winthrop Harbor.

Aiken's tilt-up construction remains a dominant form of construction throughout the United States. He is honored each year by the presentation of the Robert Aiken Memorial Award at the annual World of Concrete Convention.

Inventor Robert Aiken's tombstone at the Lake Mound Cemetery, Zion, Illinois.

Special thanks to museum volunteer, Al Westerman, for his extensive research on Robert Aiken. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chicago Indian Village Protests 1970-1972

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were a number of protests by Native Americans for better housing and social services. Some of these protests took place in Lake County.

Some believe the protests were rooted in the 1953 "Indian termination" policy passed by the U.S. Congress, which eliminated most government support for Indian tribes and ended protected trust status of Indian-owned land. This was followed by the Indian Relocation Act of 1956,  designed to encourage Native Americans to leave Indian reservations, acquire vocational skills and assimilate into the general population.

Native Americans moved to urban centers in five original relocation cities: Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Cleveland, and Seattle, and were to receive assistance from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) with housing and employment. Many Native Americans struggled to adjust to their new surroundings, and faced unemployment, low-end jobs, discrimination, and the loss of traditional cultural support.

Since Illinois did not have a large in-state reservation, Native people from tribes throughout the country came to Chicago. When the relocation began approximately 8% of Native Americans lived in cities. As of the 2000 census, that number climbed to 64%.

Original sign for the American Indian Center, circa 1953.
In 1953, the American Indian Center (AIC) of Chicago was organized by the Chicago Indian community. For fifty years the AIC has been the principal cultural resource for Chicago's Native Americans.

The Chicago American Indian Conference was held at the University of Chicago in 1961, attracting hundreds of Native Americans from across the country. As a result of the conference, a Declaration of Indian Purpose was created which in turn helped to mobilize a generation of Indian activists.

In 1970, the Chicago Indian Village (CIV) emerged to fight for better housing for the city's urban Native American population. The CIV's protests began when a Menominee woman was evicted from her Wrigleyville apartment. This eviction led the group to a two-month encampment at a Wrigley Field parking lot.
Senator Adlai Stevenson III (right) speaks with Mike Chosa (center)
and members of the Chicago Indian Village who crashed a political dinner
at the Sherman House in Chicago. Stevenson intervened on the protesters
behalf with Chicago police. Chicago Tribune photo, May 19, 1972. 
From 1970-1972, community organizer Mike Chosa of the Chicago Indian Village planned seven encampments throughout Chicagoland. Two encampments were held in Lake County: one outside the main gate at Fort Sheridan, and another at Camp Logan in Zion.

The goal of the protests was to generate leverage with government agencies to address inadequate housing and social services for Chicago's 16,000 Native American citizens. A fact sheet prepared by the Chicago Indian Village stated that the Indians in the encampments "are not welfare cases: they are working people."

Chicago Indian Village encampment outside
George Bell Gate at Fort Sheridan, January 1972.
LCDM 92.24.1378
The Chicago Tribune wrote on January 3, 1972: "Thirty Indians protesting substandard housing conditions yesterday erected teepees outside the main gate at Fort Sheridan that could cause huge traffic jams today." They also carried signs protesting the Vietnam War.

Similar encampments were held across the country most notably at Alcatraz Island by a group known as Indians of All Tribes from November 1969 - June 1971. The IAT pointed to 19th century treaties that stated abandoned or unused federal land would be returned to the Native people from whom it was acquired, hence their occupation of Alcatraz.

Chicago Indian Village encampment at Camp Logan
barracks, Zion, Illinois, April 12, 1972.
Photo by Joe Kordick. LCDM 2011.29
About the same time as the Fort Sheridan encampment, the protesters secured "a winter home" at Camp Logan in Zion where they remained until June 29, 1972. They then stayed at the United Methodist Church in Winthrop Harbor until accommodations were made for them with the Milwaukee Indian Action Group.

By the summer of 1972, the momentum behind the Chicago Indian Village was exhausted and the group eventually dispersed.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Battle of Chickamauga, September 18 - 20, 1863

For Lake County's 96th Illinois Infantry, Chickamauga was "A battle of tremendous proportions and fraught with mighty import."

Today, this battle is not as well known in the North, most likely because it was a Union defeat. So, on this 150th anniversary, let us look back and remember.

Lithograph by Kurz and Allison, 1890. Library of Congress.

The Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia, September 18 - 20, 1863 was the most significant Union defeat in the Western Theater of the Civil War, and had the second highest number of casualties in the war following the Battle of Gettysburg two months earlier.

The battle was named for Chickamauga Creek, and fought between the Army of the Cumberland under Major General William Rosecrans and Confederate Army of the Tennessee under General Braxton Bragg. For the 96th Illinois, this was their most intense engagement of the war.

The opposing generals at Chickamauga:
Maj. General William Rosecrans and General Braxton Bragg
Early in September 1863, Rosecrans had forced Bragg's army out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, but Bragg was determined to reoccupy the city. He decided to meet Rosecran's army head-on. As Bragg marched north on September 18, his cavalry and infantry fought skirmishes against Union cavalry and infantry with the key engagement at Reed's Bridge.

Captain Blodgett of the 96th's Company D "caught a bullet in the shoulder" near McAfee Church, but remained with the company although the wound was painful.

Fighting began in earnest on the morning of September 19, and though Bragg's men made a strong assault they could not break the Union lines.

According to the 96th’s history, by the end of Saturday, the men were "'spoiling for a fight.' Half in hopes that they might be spared the dangers of the battle, and half in fear lest they might not share in its honors."

Late on the morning of Sunday, September 20th, General Rosecrans was misinformed that he had a gap in his line. Moving units to fill the supposed gap, Rosecrans inadvertently created an actual gap. The breach was exploited with deadly force by Confederate Lt. Gen. James Longstreet's corps. Longstreet's attack confused the Union ranks and drove one-third of the Union army, including Rosecrans himself, from the field.

Major General George H. Thomas took over command, and Union units, including the 96th Illinois, created a defensive line on Horseshoe Ridge and Snodgrass Hill. The Confederates repeatedly assaulted the Federals, but the Union lines held. Thomas was thereafter known as the "Rock of Chickamauga."

Snodgrass Hill where the 96th Illinois and other Union troops
fought off repeated attacks by Longstreet's corps.
Curt Teich Postcard Archives, RC488.

The 96th Illinois's Lt. Col. Isaac Clarke of Waukegan, led his men up Horseshoe Ridge. “Clarke sat calmly on his horse near the left of the Regiment, speaking words of cheer to the men as they met the terrible fate. A moment later a bullet struck him, inflicting a mortal wound. He was assisted from his horse and carried to the rear upon a blanket,” and subsequently died.

Lt. Col. Isaac L. Clarke
The loss of Clarke caused confusion in the ranks. A staff officer approached Capt. George Hicks of Company A: "hurriedly, with arms outstretched... his manner and tone indicating intense excitement," and informed Hicks of the loss of Clarke.

Hicks immediately assumed command of the Regiment: "Comrades, you have made one charge-a gallant charge. On yonder hillside lie the bodies of your fallen comrades. Forward to avenge their deaths!"

After the days' desperate battle, “The Union forces were well exhausted and almost out of ammunition, except as they took it from the cartridge boxes of the dead and wounded.” Twilight ended the battle. Union forces retired to Chattanooga while the Rebels occupied the surrounding heights. The 96th Illinois and 121st Ohio were the last organized body to leave the field.

George E. Smith of the 96th Illinois Company D wrote to his sister in Millburn two weeks after the battle: "I suppose you have all heard of the fight in which we were engaged at Chickamauga, and are all waiting with beating hearts to hear the result." He had survived those fateful days with only his foot being scraped by a bullet.

The Union suffered an estimated 16,170 casualties and Confederates 18,454. The 96th Illinois played a critical role, always in the front line and at the right where the work was most severe. 

The 96th Illinois's losses in killed and wounded were the heaviest of any regiment in the Reserve Corps. Of the 419 men who went into the fight, 200 were killed or wounded, and 34 captured.


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Boxer Gene Tunney Trained Near Lake Villa

Gene Tunney, circa 1928
World heavyweight champion, James Joseph "Gene" Tunney (1897-1978) trained for one of his famous bouts at Cedar Crest Country Club near Lake Villa.

A New York native and son of Irish immigrants, Gene Tunney began fighting in 1915, and served in combat during World War I, hence his nickname the "Fighting Marine." He started as a light heavyweight, but in 1925 began to concentrate on heavyweight matches. 

On September 23, 1926, Tunney defeated the legendary Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) in Philadelphia, PA in a 10-round unanimous decision for the Heavyweight Championship of the World. Not surprisingly, there was great interest when a rematch was announced the following year.

On August 11, 1927, the site for Tunney's training camp for his second fight against Dempsey was officially announced. The location would be Cedar Crest Country Club (aka Cedar Crest Farms). The property located in Lake Villa Township and west of Route 59 on the shore of Fox Lake, was the former estate of coal mine owner and operator, Jackson K. Dering (1870-1925). 

The Chicago Tribune reported on August 19, 1927: "the training site is almost 70 miles by motor from Chicago... one of the few places Billy Gibson, manager of Tunney, visited in his quest for a training camp. Gibson asserts it is the most ideal training camp sites he has seen in his thirty years' association with boxing." 

Headline for Tunney's training camp announcement. Chicago Tribune August 12, 1927. 

Tunney was given a suite of rooms in the main house, and rooms for his invited guests, access to a swimming pool, and two boxing rings. According to the Tribune: "Signs will be posted along the highways directing motorists to the camp. Unlike Dempsey, the champion [Tunney] will work in public and special trains will be run over the Soo line." The Soo Line was the only railroad to the lakes region and Lake Villa. 
Gene Tunney (in back) listening to a "band of youths" playing on the lawn of Cedar Crest Country Club,
Lake Villa. Chicago Tribune, September 3, 1927. 

After some public workouts in front of 4,000 fans and newspaper reporters, Tunney announced that he would begin training in secret. He did, however, work in a total of five exhibition matches at the camp for his fans. 

"I have my own ideas of training," Tunney said to the Tribune regarding the secret workouts. "I want to perfect certain punches and I do not want any one to know the style of attack I am going to use against Dempsey." 

Jack Dempsey was the most famous boxer of his era, and a cultural icon of the 1920s. He held the World Heavyweight Championship from 1919-1926. The odds makers favored Dempsey to win the rematch. 

The Tribune reported that on September 13, Tunney spent the day golfing at the Onwenstia Club in Lake Forest and dining with society friends. His manager Billy Gibson noted that Tunney wasn't sleeping well with noise around the clubhouse and on the Fox Lake shore. Gibson said: "We thought it best for the champion to get away from the camp for a few days and forget all about the fight." 

Program for the historic fight, September 22, 1927, Soldier Field, Chicago.

Tunney rode in a bullet proof car protected by two squad cars from Lake Villa to Chicago the day of the fight. It was said that notorious Chicago mobster, Al Capone, was a fan of Jack Dempsey and bet on him to win, fueling rumors that the fight was rigged. 

The match was held at Chicago's Soldier Field, drawing a gate of $2,658,600 (nearly $34 million in today's dollars), and over 104,000 in attendance. 

Tunney dominated the fight in rounds one to six, but in the seventh round, Dempsey knocked Tunney to the ground. This was the first time in Tunney's career that he'd been knocked down.

Controversially, the referee did not start counting immediately. Instead, he waited until Dempsey moved to a neutral corner giving Tunney several seconds to recover before the actual count. Because of this delay, it became known as the Long Count Fight. 


Chicago Tribune photo from the famous Dempsey-Tunney fight, showing Tunney knocked down and the referee trying to move Dempsey to a neutral corner before beginning the 10-second count. 

Interestingly, it was Dempsey's camp who had negotiated for a new 10-second count rule for knockdowns for this fight. 

Tunney later said he heard the referee at the "two" count and could've gotten up at any point after that, but waited until "nine." Dempsey said he had no reason not to believe Tunney, who then dominated the final two rounds, and won the title by unanimous decision. 

Notably, when Tunney knocked Dempsey down in the eighth round, the referee began counting before Tunney moved to a neutral corner. 

After the fight, Dempsey lifted Tunney's arm and said, "You were best. You fought a smart fight, kid." 

New York Herald headlines the day after the historic rematch, September 23, 1927. 

Approximately 15 million people listened to the fight on the radio, but controversy over the fight decision erupted. This was due in large part because a U.S. law prohibited the shipment of boxing movies over state lines. Once the law was repealed and people could see the count for themselves, the controversy dwindled. Tunney's alertness after being knocked down quieted the naysayers. 

Perhaps the Washington Post's sports reporter Shirley Povich said it best when he wrote: "Gene Tunney did get up. With the count of nine he rose to his feet a calm, deliberate fighting machine, stunned, but aware, and there Gene Tunney saved the championship." 

It was Dempsey's last career fight and Tunney's next to last. Tunney again defended the title successfully against Tom Heeney in 1928. 

Gene Tunney and Jack Dempsey, circa 1940, location unknown. 

Despite fighting each other in one of the most controversial boxing matches in history, Tunney and Dempsey became good friends. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Confederates Join the 96th Illinois

In October 1862, while the 96th Illinois was in northern Kentucky, they were approached by two Confederate desertersJames Kenty and John McGill.

Both men had enlisted from New Orleans with the 1st (Strawbridge's) Louisiana Infantry. James Kenty was an unwilling recruit, enlisting on April 29, 1861, and John McGill was conscripted, enlisting on May 23, 1861.

A large number of the men in the Louisiana Volunteer Infantry were foreign-born, particularly Irish from New Orleans' wharves and docks. John McGill (1833-1891) was a laborer and immigrant from Ireland, and James Kenty (ca. 1840-unknown) was a sailor and immigrant from England.

Desertion rates in the South were far lower than those of Union soldiers. Some have attributed this to the South fighting a defensive war, on their own ground, giving the soldiers a sense that they were fighting for their homeland. Another factor, early in the war, were the Union's great losses.

Private Kenty was wounded while fighting with the 1st Louisiana at Pittsburgh Landing in the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862.

Battle of Shiloh, April 6, 1862.
Confederate forces under Gen. Johnston attacked a stunned Gen. Grant and his Union troops 
along the Tennessee River at Pittsburg Landing. The battle was the bloodiest the war had yet seen.
Art by Thure de Thulstrup, ca. 1888 (Library of Congress)

Kenty requested a discharge after completing his year of service, but was refused. He was present on the muster rolls until September 1, 1862. Private McGill was present on the muster rolls until April, 1862. Interestingly, neither man is listed in Confederate war records as a deserter.

How these men managed to survive until they approached the 96th Illinois is anyone's guess. They had come to Kentucky with General Bragg's Army. According to the 96th's history: "upon a favorable opportunity slipped from the ranks and made their way northward until they met this command when they offered to enlist and were accepted."

Kenty and McGill officially enlisted with Company C, 96th Illinois on November 1, 1862.

Both proved to be excellent soldiers. Kenty served most of the time in the Quartermaster's Department as the regimental/brigade butcher.

McGill was promoted to sergeant, and was severely wounded in the shoulder at the Battle of Chickamauga in September 1863. He rejoined the command, but in front of Atlanta, August 24, 1864, he was again wounded in the shoulder, this time so severely he was discharged from service.

Kenty and McGill survived the war. Kenty's last known residence was in Stockton, Rooks County, Kansas in 1886. McGill settled near Walled Lake, Michigan with his wife Elizabeth A. Graham McGill. The 96th's history noted that in 1885, he was in poor health (probably from his war wounds).

John McGill's tombstone in Walled Lake Cemetery, Michigan. 
His service with the 96th Illinois is noted at the bottom of the stone.

Experience northern Illinois's largest Civil War re-enactment 
at Lakewood Forest Preserve on Route 176 in Wauconda, July 13-14, 2013.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Women's Suffrage - 100 Years of the Right to Vote

On June 26, 1913, the State of Illinois approved women’s suffrage. Illinois was one of many states to approve women’s right to vote in advance of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920, which gave all women the right to vote in all elections.


Suffrage pageant featuring German actress, Hedwig Reicher as "Columbia" in front of 
U.S. Treasury Building in Washington, D.C., March 13, 1913. (Library of Congress)

Before women received the right to vote, they were considered second-class citizens with limited rights and privileges, and were beholden to their husbands. It was the Anti-Slavery Movement of the early 1800s that spurred progressive-minded women, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), to begin a women’s rights movement.


Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 
prominent civil rights and women's rights leaders. 
(Library of Congress)

In 1848, Stanton held a convention in Seneca Falls, NY to discuss the “social, civil and religious rights of women.” This was the official beginning of the Women’s Suffrage Movement. Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) joined the movement in 1850, and became a central figure. Anthony was famously arrested for trying to vote for Ulysses S. Grant for president in 1872.

In the "Portrait and Biographical Album for Lake County, Illinois" 1891, each man's church and political affiliations are listed, but for their wives only a church affiliation, since their political views were inconsequential without the right to vote. The sketch for Mark Bangs of Wauconda notes: "In politics he was a Whig and cast his first Presidential vote for William Henry Harrison... Both he and his wife [Clarissa Hubbard Bangs] are faithful members of the Baptist Church of Wauconda." 
Anti-Women's Suffrage postcard, circa 1918. 
Even George Washington got in on the act! (Teich Postcard Archives, BB302)

The Suffrage Movement spread, and in 1910, chapter houses of the American Woman’s League were built in North Chicago and Zion. The league worked to “advance, protect and uplift American womanhood,” and spun off into the American Woman’s Republic, which educated women about government in preparation for when they had the right to vote.

A leading activist, Grace Wilbur Trout (1864-1955) was president of the Chicago Political Equality League, which published pamphlets and circulated petitions to lobby the state legislature to grant women voting rights.  When she became president of the Illinois Equal Suffrage Association, the organization started focusing on creating local organizations and lobbying individual legislators. 
Grace Wilbur Trout, 1913. (Library of Congress)

Trout mobilized a public show of support in getting Illinois's partial suffrage bill passed. The bill permitted women to vote for "Presidential elections and for all local offices not specifically name in the Illinois Constitution," but not for state representatives, congressional representatives, or governor. The bill passed on June 11 (83 votes for and 58 votes against) and was signed by Governor Dunne on June 26, 1913.

The new law made Illinois the first state east of the Mississippi River to grant women the right to vote for President of the United States. 

Interestingly, the first woman to vote in Illinois in a town election did so twenty-two years before the Illinois law was passed. In 1891, Ellen Martin of Lombard noticed that the town's charter did not mention gender as a factor in who could vote. After she and 14 other women voted in that year's elections, the charter was quickly amended. 

Clara Colby of Libertyville, 
the first woman to legally vote in Illinois.
Courtesy of the Libertyville-Mundelein Historical Society. 

On July 5, 1913, Clara A. Colby (1878 - 1962) became the first woman to legally vote in Illinois, casting her historic ballot for a new town hall in Libertyville. Colby said, “I’m a very happy woman to have had this opportunity.” 


Headline from the "Chicago Tribune," the day after Clara Colby's historic vote. (above)

The paper noted that Clara's husband, Wayne Colby, was very proud of her. He was quoted as saying: "Just to show that it is not such a terrible thing for a man to stay at home and do the housework on the occasional voting day."

Anti-Women's Suffrage postcard, circa 1918. Men at home doing the laundry and 
looking after babies was a prominent theme of naysayers. (Teich Postcard Archives, BB342)

After returning home briefly, Clara Colby went back out to encourage more women to vote. She spoke to women on the street telling them, "Do go and vote. I don't care if you vote in favor of the new hall or against."

Daisy E. Morse (1876 - 1946) headed a delegation of half a dozen women who applied for ballots. She was quoted in the paper: "My husband told me not to vote, but you see I am here."

Libertyville's Mayor Schnaebele's wife and daughter, Caroline and Della, preferred to finish their morning housework before casting their vote. The paper noted, "They were on hand first thing in the afternoon and cast a ballot in favor of the new town hall."

The Tribune noted that Clara Colby "more than hinted that the balance of power rested in their [women's] hands and the men had best take care and keep Libertyville clean or the women would show their strength and make demands."

Commemorative plaque at Clara Colby's gravesite, Lakeside Cemetery, Libertyville, Illinois. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Fort Sheridan and the Impact of Chemical Warfare

During World War I (1914-1918), Fort Sheridan was at the forefront of mustering and training soldiers. Much of that training focused on mastering trench warfare, since the frontline in Europe was cluttered with the trenches of opposing armies.

As wounded soldiers returned from the war, the Fort shifted its priority from training soldiers to caring for them.
Postcard of soldiers convalescing at one of the wards at
Fort Sheridan's Lovell General Hospital, circa 1918.
LCDM 92.24.236.
Many of the injuries treated at the Fort were caused by innovations new to warfare such as airplanes and poison gas. More than 30% of American casualties were from poisonous gases which ranged from disabling chemicals (tear gas and severe mustard gas) to lethal agents (phosgene and chlorine). Gases blistered exposed flesh and caused rapid or, worse, gradual asphyxiation. Those fortunate enough to survive needed somewhere to convalesce. 
The hospital at Fort Sheridan was built in 1893.
Pictured here circa 1930. LCDM 92.24.1384
In 1918, the Post’s hospital expanded its operations and was dedicated as Lovell General Hospital for Joseph Lovell, Surgeon General of the U.S. Army from 1818-1836.

The hospital became a multi-building complex, including the entire Tower complex, and temporary, wooden structures were constructed on the Post’s parade grounds. This was the largest military hospital in the United States to treat wounded and convalescent soldiers.

View of Fort Sheridan looking northwest, showing the Tower and temporary
buildings for Lovell General Hospital across the parade grounds.
Circa 1920. LCDM 95.32.1

The "Trackless Train" at Fort Sheridan moved wounded between
hospital wards for treatment. Photo from the Chicago Tribune,
March 8, 1919.
Even with Lovell General Hospital and other facilities throughout the country, there were more casualties than the system could handle. In addition to treating veterans of the war, Lovell accepted civilians suffering from the Great Flu Epidemic.

In 1919, the Hostess House of the Young Women's
Christian Association was built at Fort Sheridan using
salvaged material. General Pershing, commander-in-chief of American
forces in Europe, is shown visiting Hostess House. The facility
provided a library and tea room which served homemade
meals to the soldiers. LCDM 95.32.24.

Paul Steorp of Deerfield Township, Lake County, IL, wearing gas mask,
served with the U.S. Army Ambulance Service. LCDM 2003.0.16
The war prompted an enormous expansion of the Army Medical Department.
When the U.S. entered the war the dept. consisted of less than 1,000 personnel,
and numbered over 350,000 when the peace treaty was signed in November 1918. 
In 1920, the temporary structures of Lovell General Hospital were dismantled and sold, and the parade field returned to an open state.

The memory of the horrors of WW I prompted changes in training soldiers for future conflicts, including mandatory gas mask training. 


2nd U.S. Infantry training in tear gas at Fort Sheridan,
circa 1925. LCDM 92.24.1015.

Soldiers entering a gas chamber built on the Fort's Lake Michigan
shoreline. Circa 1935. LCDM 92.24.1761.
Overseas during wartime, military personnel, nurses and civilians were legally required to carry gas masks at all times. Members of the Womens' Army Corps trained in the use of gas masks in simulation chambers as part of their coursework on chemical warfare and some studied gas identification in Officer Candidate School.

WACs emerging from gas chamber training
at Fort Sheridan, 1964. LCDM 92.24.1202

To this day, researchers work to increase protection for military personnel against greater varieties of biological and chemical weapons.

To request a free brochure on Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve with information on the history of the Fort and site map, please email me at: ddretske@lcfpd.org. To view the Lake County Discovery Museum's digitized Fort Sheridan Collection visit the Illinois Digital Archives