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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: