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Monday, June 21, 2021

Blog Update: Email Subscription Service

Hello Lake County History Blog Followers,  

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

From Cavalry to Tanks: George S. Patton Jr.

Cavalry descending a bluff to the beach at Fort Sheridan with photographers documenting their training. Circa 1925. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum 92.24.2658

The most famous cavalry officer to be stationed at Fort Sheridan was George S. Patton Jr. (1885-1945). Though the cavalryman-turned-tanker had a relatively brief stay at the Fort from 1909 to 1911, he made an indelible impression on all who encountered him. 

The U.S. Army post at Fort Sheridan (est. 1887) became known as a cavalry post with the arrival of the 7th Cavalry in 1892. 

The Fort's unique terrain was a welcome challenge for cavalry training. Cavalrymen tested their own and their horses' skills by descending the bluffs to the sandy beach, and traversing acres of uneven ground. 

After graduating from West Point in June 1909, a 24-year-old George S. Patton Jr. took a commission as a 2nd lieutenant with the 15th Cavalry and was stationed at Fort Sheridan. 

15th Cavalry officer, George S. Patton Jr., at Fort Sheridan, circa 1910. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum 92.24.1966.

Partial lists of "officers present and absent" at Fort Sheridan, September 1909. George S. Patton Jr. (#52) is noted as having returned from leave on September 12. Returns From U.S. Military Posts, 1800-1916. Original data from National Archives and Records Administration, Record Group 94.

On May 26, 1910, Patton married his childhood friend and sweetheart, Beatrice Banning Ayer of Boston, Massachusetts. 
Lt. George S. Patton Jr. and Beatrice Banning Ayer on their wedding day, May 26, 1910.

Wedding details as published by the Boston Globe on May 27, 1910.

After a month-long honeymoon, the newlyweds made their home at Fort Sheridan. The Boston Globe, May 27, 1910.

As a married officer, Patton was assigned to new quarters in Building 92 on Leonard Wood Avenue. On March 19, 1911, the couple welcomed their first child, Beatrice Ayer Patton, who was born at Fort Sheridan. 
Building 92 on Leonard Wood Avenue where Cavalry officer, George S. Patton Jr., his wife Beatrice and baby daughter Beatrice lived on the north side of this duplex. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum, 95.32.68. 

A story relayed by the Ray Family of Diamond Lake (near Mundelein) is that Patton would come for Harriet Rouse Ray's famous chicken dinners on Sundays at the Ray's Lakeside Cottage. Patton arrived on horseback and in uniform, of course.

According to biographer, Ladislas Farago, Patton and his wife were known at the Fort as the "Duke and Duchess." Patton was independently wealthy, and the couple enjoyed dressing up for dinner, driving expensive automobiles, and were both equestrians. Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1964. 

Lt. George S. Patton Jr. on the porch of his Army residence at Fort Sheridan (Building 92), circa 1910. Fort Sheridan Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum, 92.24.2020.

At Fort Sheridan, Patton impressed his superiors and was known as a hard-driving leader. 

In late 1911, he was transferred to Fort Myer, Virginia, where he would come to know many of the Army's senior leaders. 

Patton (right) fencing in the 1912 Summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden. He finished fifth overall in the modern pentathlon.  Swedish Press photo, public domain. Wikipedia.

In 1917, Patton joined General John J. Pershing's staff for the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) in World War I. While in France training American infantry troops, Patton became interested in tanks. His new military path quickly developed as he advocated for the development of a tank corps. When the 1st Tank Brigade was created, Patton was placed in charge. Along with British tankers, he and his men achieved victory at Cambrai, France, during the world's first major tank battle in Nov-Dec, 1917.

During World War II, Patton was the Army's leading strategist in tank warfare. He commanded the Western Task Force in the Allied invasion of North Africa in November 1942, the Seventh Army during the invasion of Sicily in July 1943, and was given command of the Third Army in France in 1944. 

An imaginative, shrewd, and often undiplomatic military commander, Patton is remembered as one of the most brilliant and successful generals in United States history. While his military genius in tank warfare was put to the test on Europe's battlefields, Fort Sheridan will always be Patton-the-cavalryman's first Army post.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

The Dairy Queen: Grace Garrett Durand

Grace Garrett Durand with her cows. Crab Tree Farm, circa 1910.

Grace Garrett Durand (1867-1948), founder of Crab Tree Farm in Lake Bluff, Illinois, was one of the most forward thinking dairy farmers of her day. Through her philanthropic nature and society connections she advanced children’s health and the production of clean milk.

Durand was born in Burlington, Iowa to Martha Rorer and William Garrett. 
Grace’s ties to the Chicago area likely began with her brother’s marriage to Miss Ada Sawyer in 1884. Ada was the daughter of one Chicago's “pioneer druggists,” Dr. Sidney Sawyer. 

In February 1888, Ada Sawyer Garrett and her mother, Elizabeth Sawyer, gave Grace an “elegant reception" at their home. This may have been Grace’s formal introduction to Chicago society. In the following years, 
Chicago’s Inter Ocean newspaper would note Dr. and Mrs. Sawyers’ travels with Miss Grace Garrett as their guest. 

Society page notice of the reception in honor of Grace Garrett. The Inter Ocean, Chicago, February 5, 1888.

Grace had quickly become the darling of social circles for her “sweet winning face and vivacious manner.” The Sawyers took her to New York where they stayed at the Windsor Hotel, and wintered together at the famed luxury resort, the Hotel Alcazar—today’s Lightner Museum—in St. Augustine, Florida.

On news of her mother’s declining health, Grace returned home to Iowa to care for her. Martha Garrett died in February 1893.

In April 1894, Grace married wealthy sugar broker, Scott Sloan Durand of Lake Forest. Their wedding was held in Burlington, Iowa “in the presence of a brilliant assemblage of invited guests.”
Grace’s maid of honor was the famous watercolor artist and illustrator, Maud Humphrey (1868-1940) of New York. Today, Maud is better known as the mother of Hollywood legend, Humphrey Bogart.
Sketch of Grace Garrett for an article titled, "Two Fond Hearts United," on the occasion of her marriage to Scott Durand. 
Inter Ocean, Chicago, April 6, 1894.

The Inter Ocean reported that the bride wore a “Queen Louise gown of white satin… and a white veil trimmed in duchesse lace.” At this point in her life, Grace was considered a “lady of fashion.” Within a few years, newspapers would spend less time talking about her clothes and more about her leadership qualities.

The newlyweds returned to Lake Forest and in 1896 built a new home on 20 acres at the northeast corner of Sheridan Road and Crabtree Lane. When Lake Forest held its first election for the Board of Education in May 1897, Durand was motivated to run. This was also the first time Lake Forest women could vote. Grace Durand and Miss Mary Neimeyer were elected to the board. 

At the turn of the century, Durand shifted her focus to dairy farming as she became aware of infant mortality rates in Chicago linked to contaminated milk. Impure milk was a problem that had been combatted with varying success for centuries, but with the rapid growth of cities the problem was exacerbated. 
Inspired by her mother’s example of helping others, Grace saw a desperate need to provide clean milk to children.

In 1904, Durand established Crab Tree dairy farm on her Lake Forest property. However, her neighbors were not enamored of having a dairy herd in the neighborhood. Some complained of the “odor and flies” and that the herd’s “bawling” kept them awake at night. 

Artist's fanciful illustration of Grace Durand astride one of her dairy cows. Washington Herald, November 28. 1915.

In 1906, the Durands’ purchased 256-acres, formerly owned by Judge Henry W. Blodgett, on Sheridan Road north of Lake Bluff. Grace marched her cows up the road to the new farm. Her dairy operation was celebrated in newspapers across the nation. The New Castle Herald noted that Durand sold: “the purest of milk… at a profit in air tight silver jugs.” Grace even enrolled in a farmer’s ten-day course at the Wisconsin University College of Agriculture in Madison, WI.
An article in Pearson’s Magazine explained how Grace’s visit to Chicago's “tenement district revealed… most of the infant mortality was due to the want of nourishment, which meant good milk, and that good milk was a rare commodity, difficult to procure, even at exorbitant prices.” Durand used the profits from selling milk and thick cream to Chicago’s most select hotels, restaurants and tea rooms to support needy children.

In 1910, several buildings on her farm were lost to fire. Durand "tearfully" sold her herd, because she could not get barns built before winter. The Durands commissioned Chicago architect, Solon S. Beman (1853 - 1914) to design her new ideal model dairy farm. It was the only farm complex Beman designed.

Crab Tree Farm buildings designed by Solon S. Beman and Durand's new herd of cows, circa 1911. Private collection
Durand was known to pamper her cows and referred to them as her "pets." She enlisted the unusual method of playing opera music while the cows were milked. Grace claimed the music made the cows happy and consequently their milk tasted better and was more nutritious. 

With her success in raising standards in dairying, Durand began to be called the “dairy queen.” 

Dairy farmers were eager to learn the "dairy queen's" methods at the Farmer's Institute
 in Edwardsville, IL. Mantoon Journal Gazette, February 17, 1910.
She became a popular lecturer at farmers’ institutes across the Midwest, sharing her experiences in dairy work, and belief in hygienic and systematic methods to enhance dairy products. Her “charming manner and decisiveness impressed” all who heard her. 

Unfortunately, Durand had setbacks in her dairy operations. In fall 1915, her herd was confirmed to have Foot and Mouth Disease, a highly infectious viral disease of hooved animals. Crab Tree Farm was one of many in the region suffering from the disease. Durand fought the diagnosis through litigation, but lost her legal battle in the Illinois Supreme Court. Consequently, the herd was destroyed. Of course, the tenacious Durand began again. 

In addition to dairy farming, Durand supported the prevention and treatment of Tuberculosis. She was one of the incorporators of the Lake County Tuberculosis Institute in October 1908, along with Dr. Elva A. Wright (1868-1950) of Lake Forest. 

In July 1932, the Durand family made news when their stepson Jack Durand received a letter threatening to kidnap his 2-year old daughter unless he handed over $50,000 (nearly $1 million today).
Grace Durand outwitted criminals in a plot to kidnap her grandchild. 
The Times, Streator, Illinois. July 12, 1932.

The police were notified of the threat and waiting at Jack Durand's home. However, the would-be kidnappers went mistakenly to Grace Durand's home at Crab Tree Farm and asked for him. A "quick thinking" Grace told them that Jack would be home soon and they should have a seat on the porch to wait. Meanwhile, she phoned the police. Perhaps it was her persuasive personality, but oddly enough the thugs waited as suggested and were rounded up when the police arrived. 

Grace was also a Temperance advocate and member of the Lake Bluff chapter of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. It was more than a little embarrassing when her husband Scott Durand was indicted for selling 30 million pounds of sugar (from 1929 to 1932) to persons who used it to manufacture liquor.
Grace Durand as featured in Harper's Weekly, May 9, 1914.

Dairy operations ceased when Grace Durand died on February 26, 1948. During her lifetime she was recognized as one of the “most powerful leaders in the milk crusade.” 

Following Durand's death, William McCormick Blair (1884-1982) and his wife, Helen Bowen Blair (1890-1972), purchased Crab Tree Farm. The Blairs association with Durand had begun in 1926, with the purchase of 11-acres of the farm overlooking Lake Michigan. 

Since 1985, Durand’s Crab Tree Farm has been owned by the John H. Bryan family. The property is still a working farm, and the original historic buildings have been renovated and now display collections of American and English Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative arts.

Special thanks to Laurie Stein, Curator at the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff, for additional research and enthusiasm for this topic.

Crab Tree Farm,
History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff,
Olmstead, Alan L. and Paul W. Rhode. Arresting Contagion: Science, Policy, and Conflicts Over Animal Disease Control. Harvard University Press, 2015.
“Garrett, Timothy M.” Chicago City Directory, 1882.
“Past Pleasures.” The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois, February 5, 1888.
“Durand—Garrett.” The Daily Leader, Davenport, Iowa, April 1, 1894.
“Two Fond Hearts United.The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. April 6, 1894.
American Druggist and Pharmaceutical Record, Vol. 25. 1894.
“Lake Forest Dames Vote: Five Run for Office and Two Win at the Ballot.” Chicago Daily Tribune, May 9, 1897.
“Mrs. Scott Durand a Student.” Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois. February 5, 1908. 
“Dairy Queen Is To Speak.” Journal Gazette, Mantoon, Illinois. February 17, 1910.
Saint Maur, Kate V. “Mrs. Scott Durand - Milk Woman.” Pearson's Magazine, July 1910.
Mrs. Durand Tearfully Orders Dairy Pets Sold.The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Illinois. November 8, 1910.
Mrs. Durand: A Twentieth Century Product. Harper's Weekly, May 9, 1914.
“The Gentile Woman Farmer and Her Fight to Save Her $30,000 Herd.” Washington Herald, Washington, D.C. November 28,    1915.
“3 Suspects in Kidnaping Plot. The Times, Streator, Illinois. July 12, 1932.
“Arrests Nip Durand Baby $50,000 Kidnapping Plot.” Chicago Daily Tribune, July 13, 1932.
“Wealthy Broker, Mate of Rum Foe, Indicted by U.S." The Decatur Daily Review, Decatur, Illinois, February 17, 1933.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Private Henry McIntosh, 102nd U.S. Colored Troops

Battle flag of the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops (1st Michigan), presented to the regiment by the Colored Ladies Aid Society on January 5, 1864. Henry McIntosh served in Company G. Image source:

Henry McIntosh (1843-1915) of Lake Forest, Illinois, served with the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops (1st Michigan) from February 1864 to October 1865. 

McIntosh was born enslaved on a plantation in Kentucky. When war erupted on April 12, 1861, he was made a horse wrangler for the Confederate army, but wanted no part in the South’s fight to save the institution of slavery. After several months, McIntosh saw a chance for freedom and crossed the Ohio River into a bordering free state.
Gateway to Freedom: International Memorial to the Underground Railroad by Ed Dwight, Sculptor. Dedicated in Detroit, Michigan on October 20, 2001.

According to his family, McIntosh made his way via the secret network of abolitionists and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. Many freedom seekers who headed north continued onto Canada, but McIntosh stopped in Detroit, Michigan where there was an established African American community.

On January 1, 1863, President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation took effect, freeing all enslaved people in the Confederacy. The intention was to cripple the Confederacy’s use of this labor source to support their armies and home front; something that Henry McIntosh had experienced firsthand.

In July 1863, U.S. Secretary of War, Edwin M. Stanton, authorized the State of Michigan to “raise one Regiment of colored Infantry.” The order stated that these men would not receive a bounty for enlisting, but would be paid “ten dollars per month.” They would also be “commanded by white officers.”

Between August 1863 and February 1864, a total of 895 men from across Michigan signed the rolls for the new regiment. The unit received its commission into the service of the United States as the First Michigan Colored Infantry on February 17, 1864. Its' designation changed to the 102nd U.S. Colored Troops/Infantry (USCI) on May 23. Henry McIntosh served as a private in Company G.

McIntosh was particularly proud that the 102nd USCI were part of the forces supporting Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman’s March to the Sea (November 15 - December 21, 1864), a campaign that led to the eventual surrender of the Confederacy. The 102nd served on picket duty, built fortifications, destroyed rail lines, and engaged the enemy.

After the war's end in Spring 1865, the process of Reconstruction began to redress the inequities of slavery and help the South become part of the Union again. Federal troops, including Henry McIntosh with the 102nd USCI, were sent to Charleston, South Carolina to keep order. 

The presence of African American soldiers caused provisional governors of Southern states to complain that “the black troops are a great nuisance & do much mischief among the Freed men.” The uniformed and armed African American troops made for a powerful image, undoubtedly generating pride in Freedmen and fear in Secessionists. 

Pressure from the governors prompted the War Department to muster-out the Black troops and send them home, essentially removing their presence from Southern states. The 102nd mustered-out September 30, 1865. They arrived in Detroit, Michigan on October 17 and received their final pay and discharge.

Shortly thereafter, Henry McIntosh made his way to Lake County, Illinois, seeking new opportunities, and settling in Lake Forest. One attraction to the area was the number of African Americans living there. This is likely where he met Sarah Martin, whom he married in 1869. According to the 1870 Census, there were eight African American households, totaling 30 people, in Shields Township/Lake Forest. 

View of 1870 U.S. Census data for Henry McIntosh, misspelled "Mackintosh" and his wife Sarah.

Henry McIntosh was an active community member, and became one of the organizers of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Organized in 1866, the church was constructed in 1870 at the present corner of Maplewood and Washington Road. McIntosh had a lifelong association with the church. 

Notice from the The Lake Forester August 1, 1903, showing Henry McIntosh as superintendent at the Bethel A.M.E. Church. McIntosh is credited as one of the organizers of this church. 

McIntosh worked as a laborer, and later as a coachman and gardener on a private estate. Sarah and Henry had no children. Sadly, on May 30, 1884, Sarah died.

Over one year later, on July 14, 1885, Henry married Fannie Davis Freleigh (1867-1960). 

Fannie was born in Missouri in 1867 to Sarah and Charles Davis. Her father was a plasterer by trade, and in the late 1870s he moved the family to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. As the oldest of eight children, Fannie helped the family by working outside the home as a house servant for the Earle Moses family. Moses was a buyer and seller of wood in Oshkosh’s lumber industry.

Between 1880-1885, Fannie came to Lake Forest and was employed in the household of Rev. Daniel S. Gregory (1832-1915), the president of Lake Forest University. 

Henry and Fannie lived on Washington Road and had nine children: William W., Etta (Mrs. Andrew Smith), Clarence, Peter, Euphemia (Mrs. Henry Walker), Arnett, Lillian, Lutie E. (Mrs. William Slaughter), and Wayman H. 
Photo from the collections of Bess Bower Dunn Museum, 64.39.2. 

The above photograph from the Dunn Museum's collections was taken on August 29, 1899, at the dedication of the Lake County Civil War monument in Waukegan. This cropped image shows an African American Civil War veteran. Is this man Henry McIntosh? 

Another view of the photograph of veterans at the dedication of the Civil War monument in Waukegan. The veteran, possibly Henry McIntosh, is right of the drummer and marked by a red star. Dunn Museum 64.39.2.

There is no list of names for the men in this photograph, making it difficult to ascertain their identities. Of the African American men who lived in Lake County and are known to have served in the Civil War, McIntosh was the only one alive at the time of this photo. 

As a veteran, McIntosh was a member of the Lake County Soldiers and Sailors Association. He was noted in the Association's records as attending the August 1913 reunion in Waukegan. From this record, we know that he participated in veterans' reunions, adding to the mystery of whether the man in the commemorative portrait is McIntosh. The museum would be grateful for any information to help identify this man. Please email museum collections staff 

Ledger entry noting Civil War veterans, including Henry McIntosh (bottom), who attended the Lake County Soldiers and Sailors Association reunion in August 1913. McIntosh was 70-years old. Dunn Museum 74.19.16.

Henry McIntosh's service during the Civil War inevitably inspired his children and grandchildren to serve their country: 

Son, Clarence Nathaniel McIntosh (1889-1963) served as Sergeant Major with the 351st Field Artillery during World War I; son, Wayman Hillis McIntosh (1900-1982), an athletic trainer at Lake Forest College, volunteered as air raid warden during World War II; grandson, Henry Nathaniel McIntosh (1923-1980) served as lieutenant in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War; and grandson Clarence Pearson McIntosh (1925-1999) served as a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. 

Henry McIntosh's grave marker at Lake Forest Cemetery.

Henry McIntosh died on August 3, 1915, leaving a legacy of service to his community and the nation. 

Special thanks to Laurie Stein, Curator, History Center at Lake Forest-Lake Bluff, for research assistance. 

Sources: (1870, 1880, 1900 to 1940 U.S. Census; World War I and II registration cards, Lake Forest city directories).

Bess Bower Dunn Museum. Lake County Soldiers and Sailors Association Collection, and G.A.R. Photo Collection. 

History Center at Lake Forest-Lake Bluff 

Detroit Historical Society 

Michigan in the War

"Lake Forester Deserts Confederacy, Marches With Sherman's Army to Sea." Uncited, July 27, 1961. 

"African American History in Lake Forest: A Walking Tour," Lake Forest College, 1997. 

"DAVIS." The Oshkosh Northwestern, Oshkosh, Wisconsin. July 2, 1931. Roy Davis obituary, brother of Fannie McIntosh. 

"Revival of Democracy." Clarion-Ledger, Jackson, Mississippi, June 14, 1942. Lists air raid wardens in Chicago's Division 8, including Wayman McIntosh of Lake Forest, Illinois. 

Robertson, Jno. Michigan in the War. Lansing: W.S. George and Company, State Printers and Binders, 1882. Michigan's Adjutant General's Department reports. Accessed February 12, 2021.

Dobak, William A. Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History United States Army, 2011.

Arpee, Edward. Lake Forest Illinois: History and Reminiscences 1861-1961. Lake Forest, Illinois: Rotary Club of Lake Forest, 1963.

Halsey, John J. A History of Lake County, Illinois. Illinois: Roy S. Bates, 1912. 

Lake County (IL) Genealogical Society. “Lake County, Illinois Marriages 1881 to 1901,” Volume III. Libertyville, Illinois.

Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Women's Army Corps at Fort Sheridan


Women's Army Corps member at Fort Sheridan, circa 1943. Fort Sheridan Collection, Dunn Museum 92.24.1112

In September 1939, Americans were in the tenth year of the Great Depression when war broke out in Europe with Hitler’s invasion of Poland. As the warfront expanded throughout Europe and Asia, the U.S. needed to increase the strength of its’ military to prepare for the possibility of war. These preparations included discussions on the prospect of a women’s corps.

Along with men, women wanted to do their part to fight the threat of fascism and many lobbied for a role in the U.S. military mobilization. At the forefront was U.S. representative Edith Nourse Rogers (1881-1960) of Massachusetts, who introduced a bill in Congress in early 1941 to establish an auxiliary corps to fill non-combatant positions in the army.

The bill stalled until the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 propelled the United States’ into war. Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, foresaw a manpower shortage and understood the necessity of women in uniform to the nation’s defense. Not only were women needed in factories, but also in the military. 

With the support of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and General Marshall, on May 15, 1942, Rogers’s bill (H.R. 4906) passed into law creating the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC). As an auxiliary unit, the women were limited to serving with the Army rather than in the Army.

The purpose of the WAAC was to make “available to the national defense the knowledge, skill, and special training of the women of the nation."

Women taking the oath as officer candidates in the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps at army headquarters, Chicago. Four of the women pictured were African American, including Mildred L. Osby (top left), who would command an African American Women's Army Corps unit at Fort Sheridan. Chicago Tribune, July 12, 1942.

The first WAAC training center was at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. On July 20, 1942, one hundred and twenty-five enlisted women, and four hundred and forty officer candidates arrived for training.

Of the four hundred and forty women selected for officer candidate training only 40 places were allotted for African American women, reportedly based on “the percentage of the population.” Mildred L. Osby (1913-1953) of Chicago was one of the African American women selected for officer training. Her fellow candidate, Charity Adams Earley, described them as “the ambitious, the patriotic, the adventurous.”

Lt. Mildred L. Osby recruiting women for the WAACs in Washington D.C., November 1942. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 

The U.S. Army post at Fort Sheridan received its first 150 auxiliaries on December 30, 1942. The WAAC detachment arrived from Fort Des Moines by train at the Fort Sheridan depot. Commanded by Captain Edith M. Davis, the women were the first company of WAACs assigned to the Army Service Forces’ Sixth Service Command (Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan) headquartered in Chicago.

First WAAC detachment arriving at Fort Sheridan on December 30, 1942. Mary Jane (Lett) Lucas aka "Jane" is right of center holding large duffel. Chicago Sun Staff Photo / Fort Sheridan Collection, Dunn Museum 95.32.23.

Among the first detachment of WAACs at Fort Sheridan was Mary Jane (Lett) Lucas (1921-2014), who recalled that the women auxiliaries were given a warm reception. She noted that the army “didn’t know what to do with us,” and was given a job as an usher at the post’s theater. The army quickly figured out how best to utilize the extra "manpower." Duties for the women’s corps included: clerks, stenographers, commissary, photo analysts, surgical assistants, lab assistants, mechanics, and chauffeurs.

On July 3, 1943, the auxiliaries were officially given “active duty status” with the passing of the bill to create the Women’s Army Corps. All auxiliaries (WAACs) were offered the choice of an honorable discharge and return to civilian life or joining the U.S. Army as a member of the Women’s Army Corps (WAC). Seventy-five percent of the women enlisted.

This new designation was important as it gave women full military rank and benefits for service injuries and allowed them to serve overseas. It also gave them protection as soldiers and if captured were eligible for rights given to prisoners of war.

WAC Mary Jane (Lett) Lucas, bottom right, with Sixth Service Command Laboratory soldiers and WACs, circa 1944. Lucas met her husband, Colonel Charles J. Lucas (1923-2011), at Fort Sheridan’s Non-Commissioned Officers’ club. They married in 1947 and settled in Grayslake. Mary Jane Lucas Collection, Dunn Museum, 2012.20.39.

Lucas was assigned to the Army’s Sixth Service Command Medical Laboratory at Fort Sheridan, driving officers from the lab, and checking in thousands of samples. This laboratory received more than 66,000 food and water samples from 1941 to 1945. The laboratory’s principal activity was the chemical and bacteriological examination of foods, including large quantities of canned evaporated milk, dried powdered milk, and cheese procured for the Armed Forces. At the lab, Lucas also worked with German prisoners of war, but was not allowed to speak to them. 

In November 1943, an African American WAC unit was posted to Fort Sheridan under the command of 1st Lt. Mildred L. Osby (promoted to Captain in January 1944). At the time of her enlistment in July 1942, Osby was married, living in Chicago, and employed at the social security board. She had graduated from Officer Candidate Training at Fort Des Moines, served as a WAAC recruiter in Washington, D.C., posted to Fort Custer, Michigan, and WAC Company B commander at Fort Sheridan. 

Capt. Mildred L. Osby, date unknown. Photo from, Arlington National Cemetery.

The seventy-five African American WACs under the command of Capt. Mildred Osby were assigned to duties in the Recruit Reception Center. Soldiers on furlough also passed through the Fort where their service records were checked and instructions given for the length of furlough time they had at home.

Soldiers and WACs worked in the Rotation Section, which had a "graveyard shift" to accommodate the great numbers of soldiers passing through and to "speed overseas veterans through." (The Tower, August 11, 1944).

WACs Pvt. Ruth Mays (right) showing records to Pvt. Florence Brown while working in Fort Sheridan's Rotational Section.  Mary Jane Lucas Collection, Dunn Museum, 2012.20. The Tower, August 11, 1944. 

Twenty-six of the original company of WACs at Fort Sheridan on their two-year roll of honor, December 1944. Mary Jane (Lett) Lucas (top row, red star). Thirty of their WAC comrades had been transferred overseas where they were serving in New Guinea, Egypt, England and France. The Tower, December 29, 1944. 

Details of the celebration at Fort Sheridan marking the 2nd anniversary of the creation of the Women's Army Corps. Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1944.

During World War II, nearly 150,000 American women served as soldiers in the Women’s Army Corps. In 1948, for their superb service during the war, President Truman signed the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act allowing a permanent place for women to serve within the military in regular, peacetime forces. 

The Women's Army Corps disbanded in 1978 and all members were fully integrated into the U.S. Army.

The Dunn Museum is celebrating those who served with a new temporary exhibition Breaking Barriers: Women in the Military through June 13, 2021. 


Bess Bower Dunn Museum (Fort Sheridan Collection 92.24/95.23; Mary Jane Lucas Collection 2012.20)

"Twenty-One Illinois Women Who Are in the Army Now," Chicago Tribune, June 12, 1942.

"War Training - First Contingent of WAACs Arrives at Fort Sheridan," Chicago Daily Tribune, December 31, 1942.

"Twenty-five WAACs Win Promotion to Second Officer," Chicago Tribune, January 3, 1943.

"American Women at War - Lt. Mildred L. Osby," Chicago Tribune, November 28, 1943. 

"American Women at War - Capt. Mildred L. Osby," Chicago Tribune, January 30, 1944.

"WACs at Fort Sheridan to Observe Anniversary," Chicago Tribune, May 15, 1944.

"'Graveyard Shift' Hastens Rotation Men Home," The Tower, August 11, 1944. 

"WACs Celebrate Second Anniversary Here," The Tower, December 29, 1944. 

"On the Record with Mary Jane Lucas," Lake County Journal, May 27, 2010. 

Earley, Charity Adams. One Woman's Army: A Black Officer Remembers the WACs. Texas A&M University Press, 1995. 

Treadwell, Mattie E. United States Army in World War II, Special Studies: Women's Army Auxiliary Corps. Washington, D.C.: Center of Military History, United States Army, 1991. "Mildred Lavinia Osby," Arlington National Cemetery. 

George C. Marshall Foundation Blog:

The Women’s Army Corps: A Commemoration of World War II Service, Judith A. Bellafaire

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Flowers for Hull House

Guest post by Steve Ferrigan, Collections Digitizer for the Dunn Museum

When the Dunn Museum staff were told to shelter in place back in March and work remotely, one of the first things collections staff did was to take digital photos of diaries in the Minto Family Collection in order to transcribe them from home. 

It turns out you can learn a lot more than just about your own family by being cooped up at home for months. Sometimes you can learn about farm life in the early 1910s. 

The diary I was tasked with transcribing was Susie Minto’s from 1912. Every once in a while, very rarely, something happens in a Minto Diary. Between the days listing who is working where and on what; between the small trips to nearby towns for supplies or new equipment; around the brief recounting of church services attended and occasional church events; the greater world and its events and characters reaches through and touches the lives of the Minto family. 

In 1912, the family living at the Minto homestead included Susie and David J. Minto, daughter Una Jean, and son David Harold and his wife Mildred and their two daughters. (See Diana Dretske's Minto post for a history of the family).

Susie Smith Minto and daughter Una Jean Minto photographed about 1898. Minto Family Collection, Dunn Museum, 93.45.89.

One such diary entry occurred on Monday, August 12, 1912: "Una rec’d her mail today a letter from Jane Addams of the ‘Hull House.’”

Throughout her diary, Susie Minto (1839-1914) of Antioch/Loon Lake, then in her early 70's, makes mention of her daughter Una Jean (1876-1963) gathering flowers from the family’s garden to send to Hull House. They sort and tie bunches late into the night and box them up to be sent with the milkman on the earliest Wisconsin Central line train to Chicago.

By 1911, Hull House had grown to a 13-building complex in Chicago. In 1912, Hull House added a summer camp, the Bowen Country Club in Waukegan (today's Bowen Park). V.O. Hammon postcard. 

Jane Addams (1860-1935) was a pioneer in the settlement movement of the late 1800s. Hull-House, opened in 1889 by Addams and Ellen Gates Starr (1859-1940) soon emerged as a vital tool for immigrants, children, and the poor of Chicago. They provided childcare, an art gallery, a library, and classes in English, citizenship, job finding, art, music, and theater.

Jane Addams photographed at her writing desk about October 30, 1912. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 

Susie’s diary entry continues: “[Jane Addams] kindly thanked Una for sending the lovely flowers & said ‘the size of bunches did not really matter although the small bunches such as came yesterday seemed to give particular pleasure to the small children in the Mary Crane Nursery which is housed in one of the Hull House Buildings. The flowers were in splendid condition with much appreciation of your kindly thought of us & the courteous letter, I am sincerely yours.’ The above is a partial copy of letter rec’d by Una [and signed] Jane Addams Aug 12, 1912."

Susie Minto's diary entry for August 12, 1912. Minto Family Collection, Dunn Museum 93.45.289.

After seeing this routine mentioned numerous times, and after seeing the thank you letter Susie describes, I decided to do a little investigating to find out what the flowers were used for.

I quickly found some Chicago Tribune articles covering the Hull House and mentioning flowers for the children. From the Chicago Tribune on November 1, 1891:

“In the dining-room is the ‘advanced’ class, absorbed in the mysteries of cutting and putting together in a logical fashion muslin underclothes. On the sideboard is a great shining tin dish-pan filled to the brim with marigolds, and geraniums, and sweet old-fashioned mignonette—an explanation, perhaps, of the presence of some of these light-hearted, carefree little daughters of Italy, to whom a whole afternoon of serious application to anything but play must be irksome to a degree. But all the children love flowers—none more than these.”

Illustration of Jane Addams distributing flowers at Hull House. Chicago Tribune November 1, 1891. 

The small bouquets in this illustration are similar to the ones Una and Susie Minto had worked so tirelessly to gather and send.

Susie Minto in her flower garden. Minto Family Collection, Dunn Museum

The Tribune article continued: 

“And after the sewing is all folded neatly away, the awkward thimble and troublesome needle safely hidden in the depths of the sewing-bag for another seven days; when all the hats and coats have been given to their rightful owners, then that dish-pan is moved out into the hall and every child receives from Miss Addams’ hands a bunch of flowers for her very own. It is worth traveling a long distance just to see this distribution, the joy in it is so evident. With a funny compromise between a bow and a curtsey, a 'thank you, teacher,' and a face wreathed in smiles, each child receives the bit of bloom and fragrance."

After reading Susie Minto’s diary and day after day of chore lists and weather reports, discovering this small glimpse of the larger world as seen through the Minto lens was a beacon of sunlight on an otherwise gray page. It made me start reading closer and looking for even more details connecting these early 20th century rural farmers to larger world events.

Reading old script can be difficult, but by transcribing these diaries the Dunn Museum can make them more accessible to researchers and the general public to enjoy and to make their own discoveries about the past. 

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The Bess Bower Dunn Museum's Minto Family Collection is available online through the host site Illinois Digital Archives.