Search This Blog

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Rustic Manor

From 1947 to 1987, Victor and Marian Trybom operated the Rustic Manor Restaurant and Cocktail Lounge in Gurnee, Illinois to delighted patrons.

One of the earliest views of the Rustic Manor Restaurant shown on a postcard, 1950
Located at 4660 Grand Avenue, Gurnee, IL. Teich OCH1557

Detail of Rustic Manor sign from a retouched photo by the Curt Teich Company, 1950. Teich OCH1557

Victor Trybom (1895-1981) was born in Michigan to Swedish immigrants and farmers, Olaf and Sara Trybom. Marian Trybom (1903-1991) was born to Polish immigrants Anton and Mary Kotarski.

Victor and Marian were married in August 1923. By 1930, they were living in Gurnee, Illinois with their children Marjorie and Marvin "Moe," along with Marian's brother and sister. They gave up work on the family farm to find new opportunities. Victor found steady work at the Pacific Steel Boiler Factory in Waukegan. 
Victor Trybom's World War II Registration Card showing his home address and occupation, 1942.

After working in factories for over a decade, the family did not want to continue with the unfulfilling and labor-intensive work. As it happened, a property became available in Gurnee that was the answer to their dreams. 

In 1946, Warthen "Kelly" Kimball (1879-1963), the U.S. Postmaster of Gurnee had retired. In addition to his government job, Kimball and his wife Helen used part of their house to run a lunch room that sat 50 customers. They wanted to sell the property and move to Miami, Florida. 

In January 1947, the Tryboms purchased the property and shortly thereafter opened the Rustic Manor in the former Kimball home on the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Kilbourne Road. 

The Tryboms added 15 additions over the years to create a sprawling, pine log frontier outpost-style structure that reflected the popularity of the American Frontier and Old West. During the late 1940s and beyond TV westerns and movies were hugely popular.

Postcard of the Rustic Manor showing its frontier outpost style, 1951. Teich Postcard 1CK1422

Rustic Manor entrance, 1965. Teich Postcard 5DK1527

The Tryboms' vision for their supper club had deep roots in their childhood memories of Iron River, Michigan. The "rustic" feeling of their restaurant evoked the frontier of the Upper Peninsula with its forests and black bears, and where it's believed they sourced the pine logs for the building. 

The western theme continued inside. The Rustic Manor was known for its taxidermy animal displays. In particular, there were mounted wall cases with chipmunks and gray squirrels in different scenarios, wearing clothes and playing cards. (I wish I had a photo of that!)

Black bear and raccoon in tree beside a waterwheel and waterfall, 1959. Teich Postcard 9CK62

One of the first things you encountered on entering the restaurant was the waterfall (above) that was so loud you couldn't stand next to it and talk. My family would toss a penny or two into the pool, and then step aside to wait to be seated. Even though the sound of the water was overpowering, the environment this created made you feel like you were on an adventure.

Postcard of dining room with moose head, circa 1955. Teich Postcard. 

I often went to the Rustic Manor with my grandfather, who was especially fond of ordering the "Poor Man's Lobster." This was broiled white fish that came with hot melted butter served over a lighted candle. As a ten-year old, I thought that was fancy eating.

Rustic Manor menu cover with black bears, circa 1960. Art by Marian Trybom. Dunn Museum 2012.24.31

A page from the Rustic Manor's menu, 1968. Dunn Museum 2005.3.1

Rustic Manor drink menu, 1968. Dunn Museum 2005.3.1

In September 1986, the restaurant suffered severe damage when the Des Plaines River flooded. It was the worst flood in nearly three decades. The damage was so extensive in the region that Gov. Jim Thompson declared Gurnee and surrounding communities a state disaster area. 

The Trybom family rallied to clean and restore the restaurant. They re-opened on Christmas Day, 1986.

On the morning of January 9, 1987, disaster struck again when a fire gutted the restaurant.

Photo courtesy of the Gurnee Fire Department, 1987.

The fire was believed to have started in the barbeque pit from hot coals. Chief Dada of the Gurnee Fire Department was quoted in the Kenosha News that the fire caused "special problems because the restaurant had been expanded many times over the years and in some places had three roofs... [the] fire was traveling between the roofs making it extremely difficult to find." 

The back-to-back disasters were heartbreaking for the Trybom Family, the local community, and loyal customers. 

Initially, rebuilding was not allowed, because the property was located on a designated floodway. Through the State of Illinois, the designation was changed to “floodplain” to allow for the building project. However, the costs of a new building quickly dimmed that possibility, and the building was razed and the land sold.

Eventually the property was donated to the Village of Gurnee and dedicated as the Esper A. Petersen Foundation Park.
"Welcome to the Rustic Manor... Where Santa Claus arrives every Christmas with gifts for the Children." 1959. Longtime Gurnee residents, Alonzo and Cynthia Potter gave the family's sleigh to Marian Trybom to use in this display.
Teich Postcard 9CK61

In its 40 years of operation, the Rustic Manor became a landmark and the Tryboms' tradition of good food and hospitality never wavered. Now, decades since it closed, the sentimental longing remains for those lucky enough to have experienced the Rustic Manor.

Post updated 1/6/23

- Diana Dretske 

Bess Bower Dunn Museum, Archives, Libertyville, Illinois, 
Lake County, Illinois Maps Online 
"Happy New Year" advertisement, Kenosha Evening News, December 30, 1949. 
"For the Kids," Chicago Tribune, December 24, 1971. 
"Donors Mix Charity With Hearty Appetites," Chicago Tribune, October 10, 1982. 
"Cozy Inns That Will Warm Up Winter," Chicago Tribune, December 16, 1983. 
"Worst Flooding in 26 Years Hits Suburbs," Chicago Tribune, September 30, 1986. 
"Fire Guts Rustic Manor Restaurant," Kenosha News, January 9, 1987. 
"Family Restaurant Brings Back Memories," Lake County Journal, October 29, 2015
Warren Township Historical Society, Images of America: Gurnee and Warren Township. Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006. 

Monday, December 3, 2012

Paramount Pictures Search for the 'Panther Woman'

In 1932, Paramount Pictures held a talent contest in search of a leading lady for their film, Island of Lost Souls, the first screen version of H.G. Wells's novel The Island of Dr. Moreau.

The search for Lota, the Panther Woman, brought Paramount to the Midwest, where young women in Illinois and Indiana vied for the role. Contests were conducted by the Publix-Great State Theater Corp., and sponsored locally by the Waukegan News-Sun and Genesee Theatre in Waukegan.

On August 10, 1932, Miss Leona Bloom of 845 Ash Street, Waukegan, polled 5,320 votes to win the "right to represent Lake County" in the Panther Woman screen tests in Chicago. Leona Bloom (left) as pictured in the Waukegan News-Sun, August 11, 1932.

Miss Bloom received a two-day trip to Chicago where Paramount's screen and vocal tests were conducted. She stayed at the Hotel Sherman where accommodation was reserved for the contest winners by the Publix Theater Corporation. In addition, Miss Bloom received a porcelain miniature with an 18-karat gold plated frame.

Postcard of the Hotel Sherman at Clark and Randolph Streets, Chicago by the Curt Teich Company, 1942. The postcard caption reads: "One of the largest hotels west of New York, with 1,600 rooms, beautiful new dining rooms, elaborate banquet and convention halls." (CTPA 2BH323).

Photo of the young women competing for the title of "Panther woman." Pictured are: Leona Bloom, Waukegan; June C. white, Danville; Eleanor Wilke, Hammond; Sally Mansfield, Aurora; Wilma Jacobson, East St. Louis; Lillian Satterlee, Elgin; Eleanor Manning, Decatur; Margaret Stahl, Chicago Heights; Louise Pfund, Bloomington; Lavonne Long, Rockford; Ada Sellers, Alton; Kathryn Harney, Peoria; Lavette Carlson, Kewanee; Evelyn Gray, Joliet; Margaret Martinson, Michigan City, Indiana; and Mildred Huckins, South Bend, Indiana. Photo from the Chicago Daily Tribune, August 14, 1932.

The young women were taken to a Chicago studio for screen tests. The films were then sent to Hollywood for the executives to choose their new leading lady.

Ultimately, the studio's choice was Kathleen Burke (1913-1980), a dental assistant from Chicago. Pictured above in a publicity shot for her role as Lota, the Panther Woman.

Poster for Paramount Pictures' "Island of Lost Souls" starring Charles Laughton as Dr. Moreau, Richard Arlen, Bela Lugosi, Leila Hyams, and Kathleen Burke, which opened 80 years ago this month in December 1932.

While filming the movie, Miss Burke's boyfriend from Chicago, Glen Nelson Rardin (1902-1987), often visited the set. The studio took issue with their leading lady going out with Rardin, claiming the "midnight snacks after working hours" could affect her acting.

Burke and Rardin married in February 1933, and divorced in November 1934.

Her success in the "Island of Lost Souls" led to many more screen appearances, most notably as the leading lady in "The Lives of a Bengal Lancer" (1935) opposite Gary Cooper, and "The Last Outpost" with Cary Grant (1935).

Her final film role was in 1938, but she continued acting until at least 1940 when she played the part of Rebekah in the Biblical radio drama, "Light of the World."

I have not been able to find what became of Leona Bloom after her audition. If anyone knows, I would enjoy hearing from you. I imagine she got married and had a family, and perhaps wondered how life would've been different (for better or worse) had she been chosen as the Panther Woman.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Butter vs. Oleo Margarine

It’s the holidays and that means lots of folks are baking sweets for family and friends. But will you use butter or margarine in your recipes?

Until the late 19th century, that wasn't an option. Due to food shortages in Europe, particularly of edible fats, the need for a butter substitute prompted the development of margarine. By 1869, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès, a French scientist and inventor, developed a complex process using beef fat to create a palatable butter substitute.

From the start, margarine caused a great deal of suspicion and was subject to regulation.

In the 1880s and 1890s, most states, including Wisconsin, passed legislation prohibiting the manufacture and sale of margarine. Despite regulations, the inconsistent quality of butter available gave margarine a foothold with consumers. In 1902, Senator Joseph Quarles of Kenosha addressed the U.S. Senate, stating: “Things have come to a strange pass when the steer competes with the cow as a butter maker.” The senator was of course, referring to the use of animal fat obtained from slaughter houses to make margarine.

Food rationing during World War II changed everything. Though fats in general were rationed, butter required more ration points than margarine.

War Ration Book used by Charles & Elsie Bairstow of Waukegan, 1942. Dunn Museum 92.8.36.

War ration stamps, 1942. Dunn Museum 92.8.36

By the end of the war, margarine was a familiar sight on American dinner tables, and it had lost much of its stigma.

Curt Teich Company postcard (above) featuring Miss Nu-Maid and Grandpa promoting Oleo margarine, 1948. Nu-Maid was a popular brand of margarine and "Grandpa" had a radio show "advising housewives to buy 'Table-Grade' Nu-Maid." Curt Teich Co 8BH559.

By the 1950s, every state, except Wisconsin, repealed its ban on colored margarine. (yellow coloring was added to margarine to make it more pleasing, and more butter-like to consumers). So, it became a feature of Wisconsin life to “smuggle” margarine into the state.

Stores and gas stations along the Illinois-Wisconsin border advertised Oleo and kept large inventories of the product to accommodate the Wisconsin demand.

January 1966 photo (above) of store run by William Dooper on Route 41 and Route 173 in Lake County, Illinois. Gas stations near the State Line catered to Wisconsin residents who made the trip to Illinois just to buy Oleo margarine. The gas stations made more money selling margarine than they did selling gas. Photo from private collection

In the 1960s, it was estimated that some service stations near the state line sold as much as a ton of margarine per week to Wisconsin customers.

In the end, public preference for margarine, the impossibility of enforcing the law, and the loss of revenue led Wisconsin to repealing its anti-margarine laws. In 1967, for the first time since 1895, Wisconsin residents could buy margarine legally to make those special holiday recipes.

To quote Julia Child, who famously championed butter when it was so very out of fashion: "If you're afraid of butter, as many people are nowadays, just put in cream!"

- Diana Dretske, Curator

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Civil War Ghost of the 19th Illinois Regiment

Every so often a story comes along that makes you believe in ghosts. The tale of Private James A. Davis of the 19th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment is one of them.

(right) Portrait of James Alfred Davis (1843-1862) from "Tales of Old Barrington" book by Cynthia Baker Sharp, 1976.

First a little background on the Davis family...

James Alfred's parents were James Sullivan Davis and Parintha Lawrence Davis. The couple were married in Massachusetts in 1828, and by 1830 moved to New York State and then to Pennsylvania. By 1841, the family had settled in Wauconda Township, Lake County, Illinois.

The extended Davis family had also come to Illinois with them, and included the Sumner Davis family (James S. Davis's brother), and their parents David and Sarah Davis.

The James S. Davis farm (highlighted) was located north of Fiddle Lake in Wauconda Township. James Alfred was born there in October 1843. (L. Gast Bro. & Co. Lith. St. Louis, 1861). By 1856, the family owned both the Wauconda Township farm, and property in Barrington on Franklin Street.

According to family lore, when the Civil War broke out in 1861 and President Lincoln called for troops, the Davis's second youngest son, James Alfred, and a neighbor boy, ran away to join the army.

I researched the 19th Illinois in hopes of identifying the neighborhood friend. The Regiment's records show only one other soldier in Company C from Barrington, who enlisted at the same time as Davis, and that young man was Franklin Applebee. The Applebee home was just down the block on Main Street from the Davis home.

Barrington in 1861 showing the J.S. Davis property at the west end of Franklin Street, and G.A. Applebee home on the far left on County Line/Main Street. (L. Gast Bro. & Co. Lith. St. Louis, 1861)

James Alfred Davis and Franklin Applebee mustered in with the 19th Illinois at Camp Douglas, Chicago on June 17, 1861. James Alfred was not quite 18, but was described on his enlistment papers as being 18. His enlistment papers also describe him as 5' 8 1/2" tall, brown hair and brown eyes, single, and a farmer.

Running away to enlist was indeed a bold venture for the young men, made ever more exciting by the fact that the 19th Illinois was a Zouave Regiment.

Several officers and sergeants of the 19th Illinois had belonged to the original company of Ellsworth Zouaves. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth of Illinois is shown 2nd from right (above). Ellsworth's militia had spawned a national Zouave craze, so it's not surprising that some of the first regiments formed adopted the Zouave dress and drilling style. (See my post on Ellsworth's Zouave Cadets).

Family lore states that on April 17, 1862, James Alfred's mother, Parintha, had gone to bed in her room on the first floor. The room had a view of the front porch, and as she lay in bed she saw James Alfred come onto the porch, wearing his uniform. What great joy to have her son home from the war! Her husband, James, came into the bedroom, and she declared their son's return, but James said it wasn't so. Parintha got up and they searched the house and porch, but couldn't find James Alfred anywhere.

The Davis family home where James Alfred appeared on the porch on April 17, 1862. Image courtesy of Davis family descendant.

Parintha Davis was convinced she had seen her son. Several weeks later she discovered why.

The family received a letter from Captain J.W. Guthrie of Company C of the 19th Illinois, in which he stated: "I regret to inform you that on April 17 your son, Private James Alfred Davis, was shot and killed by a Confederate scout while on picket duty just east of Tuscumbia, Alabama." U.S. Army records note that James Alfred died at the regimental hospital the same day he was shot.

Depending on the source, later that summer or after the war, a friend and comrade of Alfred's (probably Frank Applebee) visited the Davis's and recounted those last days. He said that he and Alfred were on picket duty and when retreat was sounded at dusk he called to his friend, and Alfred replied, "I can't, I am shot."

It was the same day and time that Parintha Davis had seen her son come onto the porch of the family home. The family has always believed it was James Alfred's spirit visiting them at the moment of his death.

In all, five of James and Parintha's sons fought in the Civil War: James Alfred (19th Illinois), George L. Davis (15th Illinois Cavalry), Anson C. Davis (15th Illinois Cavalry), Luther W. Davis (52nd Illinois Infantry), and Charles B. Davis (32nd Illinois Infantry).

Just six weeks after James Alfred's death, the Davis's next oldest son, Anson, died at Monterey, Tennessee.

The Davis home where James Alfred's ghost came to visit is no longer standing. The site on Franklin Street between Hough Street and Cook Street is now a car dealership.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Curt Teich's Antioch Summer Home

Update: In 2016, the Curt Teich Postcard Archives was transferred to the Newberry Library of Chicago where it became one of its core collections. 

The Curt Teich Postcard Archives—an internationally renowned collection—calls Lake County, Illinois home. As it turns out, so did Curt Teich. 

Curt Teich lounging at his summer property on Bluff Lake near Antioch, Illinois, circa 1940. (Teich Family Papers CTPA)

One of the world's most successful postcard publishers, Curt Teich, has roots in Chicago dating back to the 1890s and in Lake County to the 1930s.

Curt Otto Teich (1877-1974) grew up in Lobenstein, Germany. While Curt was learning the printing trade, his father, Christian, and older brother, Max, traveled to the United States to see the World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. When his father returned to Germany, he urged Curt to join Max in America.

Curt Teich immigrated in 1895, and eventually settled in Chicago where in 1898 he opened a printing business.
From 1911 until 1978 the Teich Company operated out of the factory on W. Irving Park Road in Chicago. This postcard view shows the factory after the five-story addition was completed, 1922. (CTPA A91552)

In order to stand apart from the many printers in Chicago, Teich became an innovator. He turned the bulk of his operation to printing postcards, and developed a large off-set press to meet production needs. Teich postcards became known for their quality and brilliance of color.

This Fox Lake postcard from 1950 is vivid and eye-catching, and showcases the Teich Company's signature product, the "large letter" card, which they developed and produced to great acclaim. The Teich Company produced postcards for all of North America with views ranging from Main Streets to tourist sites to advertisements. (CTPA OCH1828).

From the 1920s to 1940s, the Teich Company became the world's largest producer of postcards.

As the family's fortunes increased, Curt Teich puchased a summer home on Bluff Lake near Antioch, Illinois. The family's main residence was a beautiful estate house in Glencoe.

Teich summer home on Bluff Lake near Antioch, IL. It is believed Curt Teich owned the property from the early 1930s until his death in 1974. (Teich Family Papers CTPA)

Porch at Teich summer home. (Teich Family Papers CTPA)

Curt Teich with his youngest son, Ralph, at the Bluff Lake summer house, circa 1933. (Teich Family Papers CTPA)

Curt Teich looking pleased with his catch of the day fished out of Bluff Lake, circa 1933. (Teich Family Papers CTPA)

View of Bluff Lake from the Teich's summer home, circa 1933. (Teich Family Papers CTPA)

Teich's youngest son, Ralph Teich, (1925-2000) lived most of his life in Lake County, either at the summer house or at his own beautiful estate house in Lake Forest.

It was Ralph Teich's foresight and vision that saved the company's archives. In 1982, he donated the archives to the Lake County Discovery Museum. 

Update: In 2016, the Lake County Forest Preserves transferred the Teich Postcard Archives to the Newberry Library of Chicago. 

For more about the Newberry Library's Curt Teich Postcard Archives Collection visit:

Friday, September 28, 2012

Apple Orchards

In Lake County, apple orchards were an integral part of the landscape since the arrival of the first settlers in the 1830s. The primary profession was agriculture, and each farmstead had a dwelling house, barns, cultivated fields, and apple orchard.

Image from Lake County plat map published by H.R. Page & Co., Chicago, 1885.

Orchards varied in size and were primarily for the family’s use. A good orchard would have a mixture of dessert apples for eating out of hand, culinary apples for baking, and cider apples. A typical 19th century farm orchard is shown above (foreground) on the Oren Luce Farm in Vernon Township, Lake County, Illinois. 

The first nurseryman in Lake County was Thomas Payne of Fremont Township. Payne started his business in 1841, and by the 1850s had 100,000 trees in his inventory, which included landscape trees, shrubs and fruit trees. He sold apple trees for $17 per 100.

Receipt for apples, April 1851. Minto Collection, Dunn Museum, 93.45.253

Receipt (above) for apple trees purchased by David Minto of Loon Lake from Otis Marble, Sr., for a total of $6.00 on April 1851. The Minto farm was on the east side of Loon Lake along Deep Lake Road, west of Millburn. 

Over the years, the type of apple trees planted changed dramatically as new varieties were developed. A list of available apple trees offered in 1849 to Lake County residents included varieties such as: Sops of Wine, Surprise, Sweet and Sour, Toole’s Indian Rarepipe, Twenty Ounce, Benoni, William’s Favorite, Coxe’s Red Pippin, Orange Sweeting, and White Doctor.

Excerpt of letter from George Smith to his sister Susannah, September 30, 1862. 
Minto Collection, Dunn Museum, 93.45.446

On September 30, 1862, George Smith wrote home to his sister Susannah in Millburn: "I want some more of those big apples up from the old spider. Such apples as those cost .05 apiece here and sour at that, such ones as I have." George was in training with the 96th Illinois Regiment at Camp Fuller, Rockford, Illinois. 

Inkwell, circa 1840. Dunn Museum, 79.17.155

An apple-shaped inkwell (above), included a honeybee. This inkwell was used by the Ryerson Family of Riverwoods at their former summer home in today's Ryerson Conservation Area. 

During the late 1800s, the purchase of fruit trees through mail order catalogues became very popular. Each winter the farmer would patiently wait for his fruit tree catalog to arrive to check the varieties available and compare prices. It was also common for a salesman to stop by local farms to show off the wide array of fruit trees that could be purchased through mail order.

At the turn of the 20th century, most family apple orchards in Lake County included varieties such as: Baldwin, Northern Spy, Snow Apple, Winesap, McIntosh, Jonathan, Rhode Island Greening, Golden Russet, Northwest Greening, and Maiden’s Blush.

Apple trees at Brae Burn Farm, Lake Forest, 1915. Gleiser Collection, Dunn Museum 93.31.7. 

Little Dorothy Gleiser, pictured in the photo above, is sitting in an apple tree at the Brae Burn Farm in Lake Forest. The farm was Robert Leatherbee's gentleman's farm, and Dorothy's father, Lorenz Gleiser, was the farm manager.

Postcard of Bell's Orchard "Home of the Big Apple" by the Great American Color Company, circa 1960. Dunn Museum, 2001.9.1

The earliest large scale pick-your-own apple orchard was Bell's Apple Orchard in Lake Zurich near Routes 12 & 22. The orchard was started by John Bell and William Webbe in the 1930s. By the 1980s land values had risen and the orchard was sold. The site became a subdivision known as The Orchards. 

Following World War II, the popularity of pick-your-own apple orchards surged. Locals, as well as families from Chicago, flocked to the countryside to enjoy a day out-of-doors in the beautiful fall weather. Apple varieties that continued to be popular included Jonathan, McIntosh, and Red Delicious.

Popular orchards included: Jonathan Orchards in Wadsworth, Zale's in Russell, Orchard Valley, Ziegler's Orchard in Grayslake, Heinz Orchard in Green Oaks, Quig's Orchard in Mundelein, and Wauconda Orchards.

Commemorative postcard, circa 1980. Dunn Museum 2008.2.2

Quig's began in 1947 with Henry Quig selling apples out of the back of his pickup truck. The family purchased land for the orchard and soon the business grew to include a restaurant, gift shop, and gold fish pond. Quig's had their last harvest and closed in 2005. 

In 1967, this photo ran with an article in the News-Sun about Wauconda Orchards: "The Wentzel's daughter, Laurie, shows off some of the orchards' apples available in October." News Sun Collection, Dunn Museum.

Wauconda Orchard got its start in 1951 when Richard and Marge Breeden purchased 75 acres along Fairfield Road. The orchard began modestly with 500 trees and grew to nearly 10,000 trees, becoming the largest apple orchard in Northern Illinois. 

Photo of gift shop buildings at Wauconda Orchards taken during the last harvest in 2001.

At its height, Wauconda Orchards attracted over 100,000 people per year. In 2001, the Breedens chose to retire and sold the orchard. The proposed housing development had great opposition from local residents, but eventually was built. 

Apple orchards are very much a symbol of a rural, agrarian life. With the rise in land values and population in Lake County—especially from the 1980s on—it is not surprising that farms and orchards began to disappear. As of this writing, Ziegler's and Heinz apple orchards are still in business to offer pickers a chance at this wonderful seasonal tradition.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

420 Million Year Old Fossil Rock

The Bess Bower Dunn Museum's oldest artifact (by a long shot) is a 420 million year old fossil rock.

The rock was discovered in May 1957 during the excavation of a new home site on Old Elm Road in Lindenhurst, Illinois. The unearthed rock was so large it had to be split to be removed from the ground.

Photographed with the rock split in two are Raymond Caldwell, Robert Vogel and Mrs. Caldwell. Raymond Caldwell points to a fossil in the rock excavated on the site of his family's new home. Photo taken in September 1957. (Dunn Museum photo/Vogel Vol. 2)

The discovery set off a media whirlwind, opening people's eyes to a time when this entire region was part of an ancient sea.

Robert Vogel, who founded the Lake County Museum of History in Wadsworth in 1957, (a forerunner of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum), acquired the rock for the museum’s collection. Vogel ambitiously collected artifacts to represent different eras in Lake County’s past, and the fossil rock was quite a coup, since it attracted national and international attention.

Detail of fossil rock on exhibit at the Lake County Discovery Museum (now the Bess Bower Dunn Museum), showing cephalopod fossils. Photo by D. Dretske.

The fossils embedded in the rock include small rounded shells of lampshell brachiopods, and the long pointed shells of kronoceras and orthoceras, two types of cephalopods (“head footed”). Cephalopods are the ancestors of today’s squid.

Shell and cephalopod fossils on fossil rock. Photo by D. Dretske.

American interest in fossils and dinosaur bones began in the early 1800s. As a young nation, the United States struggled with its national identity. With no ancient history or man-made monuments to brag about, it took exploration of the continent to reveal a wealth of “larger than life” natural wonders: the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, giant Sequoia and Redwood trees, and dinosaur fossils. These discoveries inspired giant-sized legends such as Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox. The discovery of the 420-million year old sea creature fossils, put Lake County on the “larger than life” map.

Robert Vogel (1925-2005) collecting the fossil rock for the museum, September 1957. (Dunn Museum Photo)

Thanks to Bob Vogel, the fossil rock became part of the museum's permanent collection and has fascinated museum visitors for many years. It has been on permanent exhibit in the museum's galleries since 1999. 

Remember, September is Illinois Archaeology Awareness Month! 

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Edward Murray, 96th Illinois Regiment

"He was an ideal soldier, quiet, manly, religious, and exerted an excellent influence in the Company."  This description of Edward Murray was written in 1887 by Charles A. Partridge, comrade of Murray and editor of the History of the 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry

Detail of Edward Murray from a photo tintype taken in 1862. Dunn Museum 62.41.2

Edward Murray (1828-1900) was born in Glasgow, Scotland. He came to the U.S. in 1834 with his parents and siblings. The family first settled in New York State, and in 1841 moved west to Newport Township, Lake County, Illinois.

Murray lived at home until he married Mary Dixon (1833-1916) on January 27, 1853. Murray wrote: "I had built a large house that was only partially finished when President Lincoln called for 600,000 men in 1862."

In early August of 1862, Murray was approached by Captain John K. Pollock of Millburn. Murray later wrote: "I was in the harvest field working when a Mr. Pollock came to me and wanted to know if I would enlist. He said he was getting up a company and would like to have me put my name on his list and after some more conversation I did."

John K. Pollock (1829 - 1901) was elected captain at the organization of Company C, 96th Illinois Infantry, and as captain did much of the recruiting. Photo Dunn Museum 92.45.622

On September 2, 1862, "every member of Captain Pollock's Company" was ordered to come to Waukegan. Edward Murray was accompanied that day by James Murrie, J.Y. Taylor, William B. Lewin and Laughlin Madden, who were friends and neighbors from Newport Township.

Seated left to right: William B. Lewin, Laughlin Madden, Edward Murray; standing left to right: James Murrie and John Y. Taylor. Dunn Museum 62.41.2

A photo of Murray and the men who accompanied him to war (above) and were his comrades in Company C of the 96th Illinois was donated to the museum in 1962 by Murray's grandson, Leland W. Simmons. 

According to the 96th Illinois' regimental history, the Battle of Chickamauga, Georgia (Sept 18-20, 1863) was a battle of "tremendous proportions and fraught with mighty import."

Sergeant Edward Murray was wounded in this battle while re-loading his gun. Years later, Murray wrote: "a ball struck me between the shoulders near the right side of the spine so as to completely paralize [sic] my lower limbs and rendering me perfectly helpless while the battle continued."

Murray's comrades had to fall back, leaving him behind, but William Lewin tried to help. Lewin "threw his gun over his right shoulder and reached down to help me up. I caught it with both of mine but he could not move me. I was a dead weight. I had no power to help myself." Murray told Lewin: "Run Billy, I am all right," and Lewin did run.

As it became dark, Rebel soldiers came onto the field and carried three wounded Union soldiers to a fire, including Murray, and gave them blankets. Murray wrote: "That was a night stamped on my memory that can never be erased as long as life lasts... I lay there perfectly helpless with my thoughts centered on my far away home and my loved one and how, or when, or if ever I should see them."

Murray and other wounded Union soldiers were held by the Rebels. On or about September 27 "a Rebel came along with the good news to us that he was going to parole us and send us into our lines. I shall never forget the joy I felt."

After a couple of months in army hospitals, Murray's brother John was able to take Edward home. Once Murray received his furlough, the brothers took a train to Chicago and onto Kenosha, Wisconsin (the closest depot to Newport Township). They arrived home on Thanksgiving Day, November 28.

Murray later wrote: "I felt I was coming home helpless, when I went away strong." It took many months before Murray recovered his health, though he walked with a limp for the rest of his life.

Edward and Nancy Murray's great-great-great-granddaugther, Millie Ramsay, recently donated to the museum an American flag made by Edwards' mother in 1862 on the occasion of his enlistment. (below)

Photo of American flag made by Agnes Riley Murray on the occasion of her son's enlistment, 1862. 
Dunn Museum 2012.22.1

Agnes made the flag with 13 stars (rather 34 for the number of states in 1861) as a patriotic tribute to the original 13 colonies.

The Murray farm is now part of Van Patten Woods Forest Preserve. Edward Murray is commemorated on the Welcome sign at the preserve.

The story of Edward Murray and his comrades is now featured in the book The Bonds of War by Diana Dretske (2021). The book was inspired by the commemorative portrait in the Dunn Museum's collection, and is available at the Dunn Museum's gift shop and SIUPress