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Friday, July 13, 2018

Rags, Hero Dog of the First Division

On July 14, 1918, a homeless terrier on the streets of Paris, France was rescued by two American soldiers of the First Infantry Division. Named Rags, the dog became a war hero and mascot, and spent two years living at Fort Sheridan.

First Division Rags at Fort Hamilton, Brooklyn, New York, circa 1930. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Late on that Bastille Day eveningone hundred years agosoldiers Jimmy Donovan and George Hickman bumped into a stray dog on their way out of a cafe. The men gave the little dog a scrap of food and pat on the head, and the smart little terrier took a chance and followed Donovan down the street and into history.

Moments later, Donovan was picked up by Military Police for staying out past curfew. On the spot, he scooped up the dog and named him "Rags," claiming he had been sent to find the division's mascot. Rags charmed the MPs and was allowed to return to camp with Donovan.

Rags loved soldiers and was trained by Donovan to salute them on parade. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Just four days later, the French terriernow officially the First Division's mascotwas on his way to the war front with his new companion. Animals were key in the war effort for transportation, to convey messages and to track the enemy. Donovan taught Rags to salute soldiers on parade and utilized him for carrying messages. On his own, Rags learned how to find damaged communications wire that Donovan, as a member of the Signal Corps, repaired.

At the Battle of Soissons, July 18 - 22, 1918, Rags and Donovan along with 42 infantrymen were surrounded by Germans. Donovan attached a message to Rags's collar and sent him off to military command, which resulted in an artillery barrage and reinforcements who rescued them. News that Rags had saved the day spread through the division.

At Soissons, France, Rags began to make a name for himself as a "war dog." Soissons in ruins by William L. King, 1919. Library of Congress.

Rags and Donovan participated in the final American campaign of the war, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, which began on September 26, 1918. This was the largest American-run offensive and the bloodiest operation of World War I for the American Expeditionary Force.

On October 2, Rags carried a message across the battlefield amid falling bombs and poison gas. The swift delivery resulted in an artillery bombardment leading to the capture of the Very-Epinonville Road, and saved the lives of American soldiers.

Days later, on October 9, Rags and Donovan were caught in heavy enemy shellfire. Rags was injured on his right front paw, right ear and right eye from shell splinters and he suffered effects of gassing. Donovan was also seriously wounded and the two were taken to a field hospital together. Rags's health improved quickly, though he lost sight in his right eye. While Donovan convalesced, Rags was allowed to stay under his cot and was occasionally placed next to Donovan on the cot.

Donovan suffered from a severe case of mustard gas poisoning, which damaged his lungs. The best care for him would be at the U.S. Army post at Fort Sheridan, Illinois, where the hospital staff specialized in the treatment of gas and shell-shocked patients.
Fort Sheridan's tower overlooking parade grounds covered in temporary wards for Hospital No. 28, circa 1919. BBDM 95.32.1

During the journey from France to Fort Sheridan, Donovan and Rags were separated due to military procedures, but many compassionate individuals ensured the two would be reunited, including Col. Halstead Dorey. Colonel Dorey had recognized Rags as the "little hero of the Argonne campaign," and smuggled Rags onto the hospital ship in one of his bags. Animals were not allowed for fear of contagion, and were euthanized if found.

Jimmy Donovan and Rags arrived at Fort Sheridan in late 1918. Donovan settled into one of the wards at Hospital No. 28, later re-designated Lovell General Hospital. Rags was allowed into the hospital once medical staff realized he was no ordinary dog, but a war hero. Rags visited Donovan daily, which did wonders for both their morale.

(For more on poison gas treatment at Fort Sheridan see my Chemical Warfare post).

Postcard view of a ward at the Fort Sheridan hospital, similar to the one where Rags visited Donovan. BBDM 92.24.236

When Rags was not at Donovan's side he was exploring the fort. He soon sniffed out the best mess halls where cooks would feed him. He also found lodging at the post's fire station.

Fort Sheridan's fire station where Rags lived, shown here circa 1919. BBDM 92.24.361
The building (with an addition) is now a private residence.

Despite the care of the hospital's highly skilled staff, Donovan died, leaving Rags without his closest companion.

Donovan had been concerned about who would look after Rags. Thankfully, Rags had become a celebrity at the fort. His brave deeds had followed him from the battlefront and many took pride in having such a unique war hero in their midst.

Rags had spent so much time charming new acquaintances that he had become the "post dog." He also became attached to Major Raymond W. Hardenbergh, his wife Helen, and their daughters, Helen and Susan. Rags moved into the Major's bungalow at Fort Sheridan, which became his first true home.

The family quickly learned that Rags loved sweets, playing with the major's daughters and wandering the fort, but hated loud noises. Apparently, he was shell-shocked like so many of the veterans at the fort's hospital.

When Major Hardenbergh received orders for his new post, his wife and daughters gained the support of the fort community for bringing Rags with them. After all, they had given Rags his first home and, "It wasn't fair to make him homeless again."

Rags sledding with Susan Hardenbergh at Governors Island, New York, circa 1926. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

First Division Rags lived out his remaining years as a member of the Hardenbergh family. His war scars and fame followed him wherever he went.

Though Rags was one of millions of dogs, horses and other animals utilized during World War I as "military mascots," Rags had endeared himself to a generation of soldiers.

Rags's gravemarker at Aspin Hill Memorial Park, Maryland, placed by Lt. Col. Raymond Hardebergh. 
Epitaph: "Rags War Hero 1st Division Mascot WW I, 1916 - 1936." Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Rags saved the lives of innumerable American soldiers, and was a companion to Jimmy Donovan and the men of the First Division. Because of his bravery and the respect soldiers had for him, Rags was smuggled to the United States where he would live for eighteen years to the delight of the Hardenbergh family and thousands of men and women stationed at Fort Sheridan and army posts throughout the U.S.
Rags at Governors Island, circa 1929. Courtesy of Grant Hayter-Menzies.

For the full story of this remarkable war hero, read From Stray Dog to World War I Hero: The Paris Terrier Who Joined the First Division, by Grant Hayter-Menzies.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Captain Minskey's Patent Log

In the mid-1800s, Great Lakes shipping was key to the economic boom of the newly settled Midwest. Port cities big and small, such as Chicago, Milwaukee, Waukegan and Kenosha thrived from abundant commerce and growing populations. Farmers shipped produce to market via the lakes, and settlers and businesses benefited from shipments of lumber and goods.

A ship's patent log in the Dunn Museum's collections embodies Lake County's connection to Great Lakes shipping. Patent logs are mechanical logs that measure a vessel's speed/distance through water. The log belonged to Captain Hanson Minskey, and became my starting point for researching four generations of Minskey family sailors and ship captains.

Ship's patent log used by Captain Hanson Minskey on the Great Lakes, circa 1855. Dunn Museum70.80.1

In 1835, brothers, Hanson, Robert and John Minskey headed west from Baltimore, Maryland on horseback to Lake County, Illinois. They were part of the westward migration into the Midwest, following the opening of the Erie Canal and treaties with Native American tribes. (see my post on the Treaty of Chicago).

The brothers were the sons of Samuel Minskey (1778 - 1819) and Ann Merriken (1776 - 1828). Samuel Minskey (or Dominski) was a cabinetmaker in partnership with Edward Priestly (1778 - 1837). From 1801 to 1807, Minskey and Priestley produced bookcases, secretaries, card tables and dining tables.

The Minskey brothers grew up in Baltimore near shipyards and amid a vibrant trade culture, and understood the economic potential of the Great Lakes. Hanson Minskey (1809 - 1881), who had been in the U.S. Navy, wanted to pursue a career as a ship's captain.
Captain Hanson Minskey (1809 - 1881). 
Image from Firestone ad, News Sun June 26, 1935. 

By summer 1835, the Minskey brothers had settled in Benton Township, Lake County, Illinois along Sheridan Road. Three years later, Hanson married Charlotte E. Porter (1822 - 1881), the daughter of Jeremiah and Atossa Porter of New York. 

Hanson and Charlotte purchased 90 acres on the northwest corner of today's Sheridan Road and Route 173 in Zion. Though Hanson's occupation was as a sailor, the family had additional income from farming the land.

Hanson and Charlotte Minskey farm (underlined in red). Benton Township, 1861.
Located northwest of today's Route 173 and Sheridan Road in Zion.

Beginning in the early 1840s, Hanson Minskey became a ship builder in Waukegan, and a ship's captain. While Hanson pursued a career on the lakes, brother Robert settled down to farming, and brother John returned to Baltimore. The family's history notes Robert also being a sailor, but no supporting information could be found. Robert's son, George J. Minskey (1846 - 1930) was a sailor and ship's captain. 

View of Little Fort (Waukegan), showing piers, schooners and sidewheel steamer, 1848. 
("Little Fort" R.N. White, Chicago)

In 1848, Minskey became the captain of the newly built two-masted schooner, the James McKay. The ship's home port was Waukegan, where there was a considerable business in ship building. The ship was named in honor of one of its owners, Scottish-immigrant James McKay, who was a businessman and county sheriff. (see my post on James McKay).

Two-masted schooner representative of ships Minskey captained on the Great Lakes. 
In the 19th century, schooners were the workhorse of Great Lakes commercial shipping. 

Hanson Minskey was captain of the schooners: James McKay (1848), Liverpool (1855), Two Charlies (circa 1866), Two Sisters, Gazelle (1870), and Eclipse (1875). These were the ships and dates found with an association to Minskey.

Early in his career, Minskey introduced his sons to sailing. Jeremiah "Jed" (1843 - 1925) and Samuel (1855 - 1932) both began sailing with their father at a young age and became ship's captains.
Captain Samuel N. Minskey (1855 - 1932)
Image from Firestone ad, News Sun June 26, 1935. 

In 1867, at twelve-years old, Samuel began sailing the Great Lakes. Initially, he accompanied his father on voyages to Manitowoc and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, transporting goods.

Samuel Minskey was captain of the schooners: Gazelle (1879), Delos DeWolf (1892), and Magnetic (1905). These were the ships and dates found with an association to Samuel Minskey.

Captain Samuel N. Minskey sailed the schooner Delos DeWolf in 1892. 
This rare sailor's folk art of the Delos DeWolf (found online) was used for the cover of 
"The American Cruisers Own Book." Kahn Fine Antiques and Works of Art website.

In 1892, Samuel's ship brought the first load of paving bricks to upgrade Genesee Street in Waukegan from a dirt road to a paved road.

In 1902, while captaining a ship in the Gulf of Mexico, Samuel's wife Emma and their eight-year old son Lauren joined him. The family nearly lost their lives when the ship went down, presumably due to an accident. They were saved by a "hair's breath," but the ship and its' contents were lost. After this experience, it is not surprising that son Lauren, did not follow his father or grandfather into a life of sailing.

Jeremiah "Jed" Minskey was captain of the schooners: Two Charlies (1868), and Barbarian (1885); and the steamers: C.W. Elphicke, R.R. Hayes (1893), City of Genoa (1898), R.L. Ireland (1905-1909). These were the ships and dates found with an association to Jed Minskey.

Captain Jed Minskey transitioned from sailing schooners to steamers. 
Shown here is the steamer R.L. Ireland (right, covered in ice) which transported coal on Lake Superior. 
Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Sailing on the Great Lakes in the 19th century was dangerous work. Each captain and his crew had to know the location of every island, barrier, and lighthouse. When storms approached they had very little time to find safe harbor before being bombarded by powerful winds and the quick succession of waves.

Navigating a schooner took years of experience to master. The epitaph of "master mariner" on Samuel Minskey's gravemarker was a testament to his accomplishment.

Captain Samuel N. Minksey's gravemarker. 
Timber Ridge Cemetery, Catoosa, Oklahoma.

Life on the open watersaway from home for months at a timewith cold, wind, rain and ice battering the ship and its crew, took its toll on sailors.

After four decades on the lakes, Captain Hanson Minskey's health had deteriorated. He retired in 1878, and he and his wife sold their farm and moved to Waukegan. In an effort to regain his health, in 1880, Hanson removed to Wharton County, Texas. Texas had become known for health resorts that attracted "lungers," people with weak lungs or tuberculosis.

The following spring, Hanson sent for his wife and sister to join him in Texas. Charlotte was suffering from "paralysis of the brain," a 19th century term often used for cerebral palsy.

Sadly, the new climate was not enough to restore their health. Charlotte died on September 19, 1881, followed by a grief-stricken Hanson on September 21. Two days later, Hanson's sister Harriet died. Their remains were brought back to Waukegan for burial at Oakwood Cemetery.

Four generations of Minskeys were found to have sailed the Great Lakes from the 1840s to 1930s: Hanson Minskey, sons Jed and Samuel, nephew George, and great grandson Jeremiah J. Minskey.

Ad from News Sun June 26, 1935. Three generations of "transportation history."

Captain Minskey's patent log was donated to the Dunn Museum by Samuel's son Lauren, who survived the sinking of his father's ship in 1902. The patent log is on exhibit in the Museum's "An American Frontier" gallery.

- Diana Dretske, Curator

Partridge, Charles A. History of Lake County, Illinois. Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company,  Publishers, 1902.
Lodesky, James D. Polish Pioneers in Illinois 1818 - 1850. Bloomington, Indiana: Xlibris Corporation, 2010.
Westerman, Al. An Early History of Benton Township, Lake County, Illinois. 2010.
Kirtley, Alexandra Alevizatos, "A New Suspect: Baltimore Cabinetmaker Edward Priestley.",
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Burns, Chester R., "Health and Medicine," Texas State Historical Association.
U.S. Census records, 
Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County, Donor Files. 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

1861 Map of Lake County, Illinois

Map of Lake County, Illinois 1861. Published by L. Gast Bro. & Co.

The Lake County, Illinois map of 1861 was the county's second official map. An earlier map was commissioned by the County in about 1845, but no copies are known to exist. 

Lithographers Leopold Gast and Brother of St. Louis, Missouri were hired to publish the Lake County map. By 1861, the American map making industry was in full swing. The lithographic process was more cost effective than copperplate engraving, allowing lithographic map publishers to make good maps at a low cost, even in small publishing runs. 

Detail from map of Lake County, Illinois 1861.

To ensure the map's accuracy, the surveys of County Surveyor, George Hale, were used along with the records of the Clerk of the Circuit Court/Recorder of Deeds, Josiah M. Truesdell. The map was a useful resource for farmers, businessmen and government officials.

Libertyville Township (partial) from 1861 Map of Lake County, Illinois.

As an historical record, the map is a snapshot of Lake County’s agricultural heritage, and settlement and immigration patterns prior to the start of the Civil War (1861 - 1865). In 1860, Lake County's population was 18,257. 

An original 1861 map in the collections of the Bess Bower Dunn Museum was in need of conservation. A grant from the Signal Hill Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution funded the map's conservation by the Book Restoration Company of Kenosha, Wisconsin.

Detail of the 1861 Lake County map before conservation. BBDM 2016.0.24

The paper map had significant cracks, flaking, and the shellac coating had aged to a dark color. Its conservation treatment included, but was not limited to soaking the map in milk alkaline solution to relax flat, de-acidification, removal of shellac varnish, and mounting map pieces onto Okawara paper and then onto Irish linen.

After conservation, the map is now stable and able to be exhibited for short periods of time.

Full view of 1861 Lake County map after conservation. BBDM 2016.0.24

The map contains information on landowners and farms, locations of churches, dwelling houses, schools, businesses, roads and natural features. It also includes census data, a view of the public square in Waukegan, and business districts for Waukegan, Antioch, Half Day, Wauconda, Long Grove, Lake Zurich, Deerfield, Forksville (Volo), O’Plain Bridge (Gurnee), Diamond Lake and Barrington. 

Public Square in Waukegan showing Recorders office (left) and courthouse.

Similar to county atlases that included artist's renderings of farms, and county histories with biographical sketches of prominent citizens, the 1861 wall map promoted the county's civic pride and was a useful source for finding ownership of parcels of land. 

Today, the 1861 Lake County map is considered an invaluable genealogical and historical record. 

To view the map online (and other county maps) visit Lake County, Illinois Maps Online

Special thanks to the Signal Hill Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution for funding the conservation of the Dunn Museum's 1861 Map of Lake County.