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Friday, September 9, 2011

Daniel Brewster, Harness Maker (1821-1908)

When Daniel Brewster passed away in 1908, the local newspaper noted him as "One of Waukegan's foremost citizens." Father Brewster, as close friends and admirers called him, was one of Waukegan's earliest businessmen.

Daniel Brewster was born in Laurens, New York in 1821 to Ezra Birchard Brewster and Joanna Stearns Reed. He came to Chicago in 1843, but returned east for a short time before coming to Waukegan (then known as Little Fort) in June 1844.

He opened a saddler and harness maker's shop on the second floor of the Isaac R. Lyon building at the northwest corner of Washington Street and Sheridan Road (formerly known as State Street).

Carte-de-visite photograph of Daniel Brewster in work attire, 
including leather apron, circa 1870. Dunn Museum 94.34.33.

After establishing himself in business, Brewster returned east to marry Hannah A. Montgomery in Darien, Genesee County, New York, in October 1847. The couple made their home in Waukegan and had five children.

When this ad was printed in the Waukegan city directory in 1874, Brewster's shop was located at 61 Washington Street.

In 1862, several prominent Waukegan men, including Daniel Brewster, gifted a sword to their friend, and Brewster's colleague in the harness and saddlery business, Benjamin G. Blowney, who had enlisted with the 96th Illinois Regiment. The sword was presented by George Kirk, esquire of Waukegan, while Blowney was in training at Camp Fuller, Rockford, Illinois. Following is the letter that accompanied the presentation as noted in the 96th Illinois's Regimental history:

Waukegan, Sept 8th, 1862.
Lieutenant Blowney:
Please accept this instrument of war, to fight the enemies of our country, and may it never--God willing--be sheathed until the enemy is subdued and the Union remains inseparable, and our country becomes, in truth as wall as in name, "The land of the free and the home of the brave."

Yours truly,
George Kirk
W. H. Ellis
S. M. Dowst
Jos. Mallon
D. Brewster

It was fairly common to gift friends in the military with horses and swords to better prepare them for war and to show support. Benjamin Blowney returned from the war brevetted Major for meritorious conduct, and continued in the harness and saddlery business in Waukegan.

Brewster was not only a prominent businessman, but also a Mason. He received his degree in Union Lodge No. 78, A.F. and A.M. in 1862. In 1869, 1870 and 1876 he served as Worshipful Master, and became a life member of the Waukegan Lodge.

Photograph of Freemasons, circa 1890. Daniel Brewster is seated second from right (behind). Pictured as numbered: 1 - Jay ??, 2 - Denny Hamilton, 3 - John R. Bullock, 4 - Daniel Brewster, 5 - Joseph Palmer, 6 - Fred Taggart, 7 - Thomas A. Neunham (?), 8 - David Raeside, 9 - C.S. Laugham, 10 - Robert Mutaw, 11 - John K. Bower, 12 - Josiah A. Rice. (Dunn Museum 2011.0.229)

Detail of Daniel Brewster from Freemason photograph, circa 1890. Dunn Museum 2011.0.229.

Brewster's death was attributed to "general breaking down caused by old age," although he had been at his store almost every day until shortly before his death.

At the time of his death, Daniel Brewster was considered one of Waukegan's most familiar and best beloved men.

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