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Friday, December 13, 2013

Silas Nichols: Last Civil War Veteran

Silas S. Nichols (1848 - 1945) was Lake County's last surviving Civil War veteran.

Civil War veterans Silas S. Nichols, 145th Ohio (left) and Frederick Worth, 96th Illinois (right), photographed by teacher Lee Riley in May 1918 at Townline School grounds on the northwest corner of Yorkhouse and Delany Road. 
Dunn Museum 2011.0.226

Silas Nichols was born in Sandusky, Ohio, to Joshaway and Shirley Nichols. He enlisted in the 145th Ohio Infantry, Company I at its organization on May 12, 1864. This Ohio National Guard unit enlisted for 100 days service.

Under Colonel Henry C. Ashwell, the 145th Ohio immediately proceeded to Washington, D.C. where it performed garrison duty. In July 1864, when Confederate General Early threatened Washington, the Regiment was constantly under arms. It mustered out on August 23, 1864.

While in D.C. with the regiment, Nichols saw President Lincoln three times. On one occasion, Nichols and several fellow soldiers called on the President at the White House. Lincoln came to his office door to welcome them and shook Nichols' hand.

In 1873, Nichols married Elizabeth C. Helrick (1857 - 1945) in Milan, Ohio. The couple moved to Lake Villa in 1889. In 1892, they moved to Waukegan where Nichols worked for the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad as a railroad detective. He remained "special police" for the EJ & E until his retirement in 1920.
Silas and Elizabeth Nichols lived at 506 Poplar Street 
in Waukegan from circa 1905 to 1945. The house was built in 1901. Google Maps.

On each Memorial Day from 1925 to 1942, Nichols recited the Gettysburg Address at the service in the Waukegan courthouse square. He continued to attend the memorial service, placing a wreath at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument until 1944. Nichols also participated in the procession of "boys in blue" each year in Chicago on Michigan Avenue.

Mrs. Lucile McGaughey pinning an American Legion poppy on the lapel of Silas Nichols while George Groat (left) of the Homer Dahringer Post observes. Waukegan News Sun, 1939.

On Memorial Day 1944, Silas Nichols (right) placed a wreath
at the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the courthouse square, 
Waukegan. Dunn Museum 94.34.278

Silas and Elizabeth Nichols were married for 71 years. They were feted as the longest married couple in Lake County. They credited their happy marriage to "independence for both husband and wife and plenty of give and take."

Silas and Elizabeth Nichols on their 70th wedding anniversary. 
Chicago Tribune, March 7, 1943

While Silas was active in the Grand Army of the Republic as commander of the Waukegan post and judge advocate of the Illinois GAR, Elizabeth devoted herself to the GAR's Women's Relief Corps.

Each time a Civil War veteran passed away it made the papers. The Chicago Tribune was one of many area newspapers that covered Nichols' death on January 10, 1945.

In 1953, the last verified combat veteran of the Civil War, James A. Hard (1843 - 1953) died; and drummer boy Albert Woolson (1847 - 1956) was the last veteran of the Civil War. After Woolson's death the Grand Army of the Republic was dissolved, since he was its last member. At least three men died after Woolson claiming to be Confederate veterans, but their status was debunked.

In 1945, the Women's Relief Corps applied for a military headstone for Nichols. 
The application (above) was approved by the Adjutant General of Illinois.

Silas Nichols' tombstone at Hickory Union Cemetery, 
Edwards Road, Antioch Township, Lake County, IL.

Carved at the bottom of Silas and Elizabeth Nichols' shared tombstone are the words: "He shook the hand of Lincoln."

- Diana Dretske, Curator

Monday, December 2, 2013

Girl Scouts of America

Last year marked the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America (1912-2012), which were formed in Savanna, Georgia by Juliette Gordon Low. To celebrate, let's take a look at Girl Scout items in the museum's collections.
Dorothy Gleiser, circa 1922.
Dunn Museum 93.31.5
Above is the earliest Girl Scout photo in the museum's Lake County collections. This photo of Dorothy Gleiser (1913 - 2003) of the Thistle Troop of Lake Forest was taken at Brae Burn Farm where her father was the farm manager, and her family lived.

This 1926 photo shows Dorothy Gleiser wearing another Girl Scout uniform. The uniform pictured was donated by Dorothy to the museum in 1987. Dunn Museum M-87.3.1.

Dorothy Gleiser's 1926 Girl Scout uniform (above). This is a typical button-down-the-front coat dress uniform of the early 1920s. Dunn Museum 87.3.1

"Girl Scouts be Prepared" belt buckle from Gleiser's Girl Scout uniform, 1926. Dunn Museum 87.3.1

Girl Scout pin from Gleiser's uniform, 1926. Dunn Museum 87.3.1

Cover of guide book for Girl Scout leaders dating to 1937. Dunn Museum 96.5.44

Cover of "Games for Girl Scouts: Brownie, Intermediate, Senior" from 1942. The 106-page booklet includes quiz and memory games, and also physical games the Scouts could play. Dunn Museum 96.5.40.

The photo (above) was taken in 1965 at Fort Sheridan. The caption reads: "Sergeant George Stacey of 204th Military Police Company shows members of a Fort Sheridan Girl Scout Troop how to affix reflector-type safety tape to their bicycles." Dunn Museum 92.24.731

Cookies are probably the first thing that comes to mind for most people when they think of the Girl Scouts. Here, members of the Fort Sheridan Troop sell cookies to an unidentified fireman, 1970. The sale of cookies as a way to finance troop activities began as early as 1917 with members baking the cookies themselves. Dunn Museum 92.24.737

"Girl Scouts of Fort Sheridan Troop 157 that received merit badges: (from left sitting in front of table) Jackie DeThorne, Jeana Graham, Pattie Kapp, and Mary Compney, (back row from left) Kim Kusick, Kathy Phillips, Nancy Peddle, Nancy Phillips, Alesia Smith and Donna Marion. Troop 157 is headed by Mrs. Helen Hugger  and Mrs. Eunice Elliott." March 24, 1970. Dunn Museum 92.27.729

"Members of Girl Scouts Troop 170, Fort Sheridan, hold a candle light ceremony in honor of Thinking Day, Feb. 22, 1970... Scouts are (from left) Kathy Kob, Beth Reaser, Linda Nunn, Anne Luke, Barbara Sovers, Wendy Ives, Denise Smith, Andrea Simmons, and Janice Kadomstei (center foreground)." Dunn Museum 92.24.712 

Each year on February 22 the Girl Scouts celebrate World Thinking Day in which the girls participate in activities and projects with global themes to honor their sister Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in other countries.

(This post was originally posted August 10, 2012)

D. Dretske