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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Benton Township Families

When Samuel S. Cole and Grace B. Baird married on May 27, 1859, they united two families, who were early immigrants to Lake County, Illinois and Benton Township.

James Cole and Nancy Swetnum Cole left Ireland to emigrate with their children to America in 1837. They landed at Quebec, Canada and proceeded to Rochester, New York where they remained for two months before moving to Chicago.

The Cole's son, Samuel S. Cole,
was born in County Cork, Ireland on July 25, 1820.
Photographed circa 1880, LCDM 62.62.4.7

Among the items the Coles brought with them to America was a wooden couch. The reason for bringing such a large piece of furniture across the Atlantic with them from Ireland is unknown, but it is remarkable that it stayed in the family until it was donated to the Lake County Discovery Museum in 1963.

Partial view of 8-foot long wooden couch
brought from Ireland by the Cole Family in 1837.
LCDM 63.22.
About 1840, James Cole sold his land in Chicago and moved the family to Lake County, Illinois, settling in Shields Township along Greenbay Road.

Another unusual artifact that came down through the generations
a bear trap used by the Coles while living in Shields Township, circa 1840. 
LCDM 62.62.15

In April 1856, Samuel Cole and his father sold their combined farms (201 acres) to the Lake Forest Association. This organization was created by Chicago Presbyterians to establish a Presbyterian college, which today is known as Lake Forest College.

The Coles took their profits from the sale and moved to Benton Township. Samuel purchased land on the west side of Sheridan Road at the intersection of today's Shiloh Boulevard in Zion.

In Benton Township, the Coles became acquainted with the Baird family, who had settled there several years previously.

John Baird and Jean Wilson Baird immigrated from Glasgow, Scotland to the United States with their three children, traveling on the Commodore, and arriving at New York on July 3, 1849.

Passenger list for the Commodore showing the Baird family.
Source: Ancestry.com New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (online)
From New York, the Bairds most likely traveled via the Erie Canal before taking a ship around the Great Lakes to Southport (now Kenosha) Wisconsin, and settling in Lake County, Illinois. Like many Scottish immigrants before him, John Baird had worked in the textile industry, but chose to take up the plow in America.

The Baird farm was near today's Galilee Avenue and 33rd Street in Zion.

Scottish immigrant, Jean Wilson Baird (1810-1896)
Photographed circa 1893. LCDM 62.62.4.3

The Baird's daughter, Grace Baird Cole, who was
born in Glasgow, Scotland on September 22, 1837. 
Photographed circa 1880, LCDM 62.62.4.1
Shortly after settling in Benton Township, John Baird sent a letter to his brother-in-law Thomas Wilson, who was living in New York City. Baird was trying to encourage Wilson to settle in Lake County.

In a letter dated November 19, 1849, Baird regales about the quality of farm land and the loveliness of Benton Township: "I am very well pleased with this district of country it is so hilly... the water is good & plenty... to dig down for it if you dig in low ground you will get it in a few feet & if you dig in higher ground you have to go farther down but then the water is colder & purer." (Original letter in the collections of the Chicago History Museum). Thomas Wilson did re-settle his family in Benton Township not long thereafter.

With the Cole and Baird properties relatively close to one another, Samuel Cole and Grace Braid found opportunities to meet through farming activities and Methodist meetings. Within three years of the Coles arriving in the neighborhood, Samuel and Grace were married.

Samuel and Grace had six children: Mary Jane Ferguson (Robert Ferguson), James S. Cole who died in infancy, Samuel N. Cole, Grace N. Ferry (Hiram W. Ferry), Eva E. Carman (Owen Carman), and John J. Cole who died at the age of 26.

Samuel and Grace Cole's residence as photographed in 1881.
The house was located on the west side of Sheridan Road at today's
Shiloh Boulevard in Zion. LCDM 62.62.
The Cole farm consisted of 220 acres, a beautiful brick house on Sheridan Road and out buildings. According to Cole's biographical sketch: "All of the surroundings plainly indicate the thrift of the owner, who is regarded as one of the enterprising, public-spirited and representative men of the community."

Samuel died in July 1895, and left portions of his property to each of his children. Grace died in 1915. Both Samuel and Grace are buried at Lake Mound Cemetery in Zion.

Samuel and Grace's granddaughter, Elsie Ferguson Bairstow, donated the photographs and objects featured in this post (and other items) to the Lake County Discovery Museum in the early 1960s to ensure that her family's immigrant history would be preserved and shared with future generations.