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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Reverend Dodge and the Anti-Slavery Movement

Reverend William B. Dodge (1783-1869) of the Millburn Congregational Church was an outspoken abolitionist and leader in Lake County's anti-slavery movement. 
Rev. William B. Dodge (1783-1869), shown here in 1860.
Image from: The First Hundred Years: the Story of the Millburn Congregational Church 1840-1940. 

Dodge was 61-years old when he came to Millburn in 1844. His roots in New England, where he worked in education and the anti-slavery movement, set the stage for his leadership role in Lake County. 

Dodge was born in Rowley, Massachusetts in 1783, the son of Revolutionary War veteran, Phineas Dodge, and Lucy Nelson Dodge. In early 1807, Dodge married Sarah Dole (1781-1870) and the couple moved to Salem, Massachusetts. 

In Salem, Dodge opened the city's first Sunday School, and was an educator in the public schools for over thirty years. In 1827, he was appointed chaplain of the city almshouse, a position he retained for 17 years.
Salem, Massachusetts in 1839. Engraving by J.W. Barber. 

In 1834, the city established an elementary and high school for African American students. Although Salem's schools were integrated, the free African American community still faced adversity. William B. Dodge was hired as the school's principal due to his reputation as a teacher and anti-slavery activist.

One of Dodge's pupils was Robert Morris (1823-1882), who became one of the first African American lawyers in the United States. As an attorney, Morris worked on cases regarding African American education and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. 

Robert Morris (1823-1882), lawyer and abolitionist. (John J. Burns Library's Blog)
Dodge was invited by his former students to return to Salem for a visit (around 1861), and Robert Morris was one of his hosts. Morris recalled that Dodge was responsible for his education and had ensured he was "treated justly, and even kindly." 

The entire Dodge family was active in the anti-slavery movement, and abolitionists on the Underground Railroad. The family used their home on North Street to harbor individuals escaping from slavery. 

In 1834, Dodge's wife, Sarah Dole Dodge, and daughters, Lydia Little Dodge (1811-1848) and Lucia Nelson Dodge (1815-1845), became founding members of the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society.

Sarah Dole Dodge (1781-1870), wife of William B. Dodge. Photo circa 1860.
Robert Miller Collection,
Sarah Dole was the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran Capt. Samuel Dole of Bullard's Regiment of Militia.

The society's constitution stated: "That slavery should be immediately abolished; that people of color, enslaved or free, have a right to a home in the country without fear of intimidation, and that the society should be ready to acknowledge people of color as friends and equals." 

Ledger entry from the Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society regarding a meeting held at the William and Sarah Dodge home on January 10, 1838. Original ledger in collections of Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum
Online collections Congregational Library and Archives 

By 1842, Dodge retired from teaching and became the "antislavery agent" in the churches of Massachusetts.

Around this time, some of the Dodge children headed west to settle on the frontier, including daughter Hannah Little Dodge (1819-1884) to Millburn, Lake County, Illinois, and son Samuel D. Dodge (1809-1875) to Peoria, Illinois. 

In the spring of 1844, William and Sarah Dodge set out "to settle among [their] children" and arrived in Millburn on May 14. They purchased 120-acres on the southwest corner of today's Route 45 and Sand Lake Road in Avon Township. 

Millburn Congregational Church circled in red (top center). William B. Dodge farm denoted by red star (bottom center), and Dodge Schoolhouse across from the Dodge farm, circled in red. Map of Lake County, Illinois, 1861. 

While William and Sarah undoubtedly wished to be near their children, uprooting themselves to begin anew on the "frontier" was a remarkable undertaking. More than likely Dodge understood the opportunity this provided him to continue his work in the anti-slavery movement.

Within a few months of his arrival, Dodge was asked by the congregational community to become their pastor. His official installation was held at the dedication of the church's new meeting house on June 1, 1847. (From 1840 - 1847 the congregation met in a log structure). 

Reverend Dodge became known throughout the county as "Father Dodge." He spoke at meetings and celebrations across Lake County and "entered heartily into all reforms as they claimed his attention and support." 

By the mid-1840s, northeastern Illinois was the strongest area of anti-slavery sentiment in the state. This was in part due to the large concentration of settlers from New England (such as the Dodge Family), who brought anti-slavery sentiments with them. 

Dodge aligned himself with people of like mind, and soon distinguished himself as a leader. In 1846, he co-founded the Lake County Liberty Association which denounced the notorious Illinois Black Laws (1819-1865) that restricted the civil liberties of African Americans.

Dodge continued to take a great interest in education and in 1854 supported a tax levy to build a new schoolhouse. Neighbors met at his home and voted to approve the school, which was named Dodge School. The schoolhouse was built by William Bonner (see previous post on Bonner) and located across the road from Dodge's homestead. The first teacher was Dodge's son, James M. Dodge (1812-1887).

The community of Millburn, though small, was very much engaged in national affairs. Of particular interest was the growing divide between North and South over the issue of slavery. The news of radical abolitionist John Brown's impending execution after his failed raid at Harper's Ferry, Virginia, October 16-19, 1859, brought the Millburn congregation together for a special meeting. 

On December 2, 1859, the congregation passed a resolution that read in part: "That we will do good to those who have escaped from bondage as we have opportunity by supplying their present wants and aiding them in their flight." 

Excerpt of the resolution passed by the Millburn Congregational Church under the leadership of 
Reverend "Father" Dodge, December 2, 1859.
Original in the archives of the Millburn Congregational Church.

This resolution was in direct opposition to the federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which required that all "escaped slaves" be returned to the South and that citizens of free states cooperate or be fined and jailed. Involvement in the Underground Railroad was dangerous and illegal, and therefore very secretive, making the open defiance of Reverend Dodge and his congregation quite extraordinary. 

In 1862, due to deteriorating health, Reverend Dodge resigned his position. 

From letter of Anna White to David Minto, November 1862: "I believe we are to have a new minister at Millburn before a great while. Mr. Dodge is to be released from the church next Tuesday. There seems to quite a difference of opinion in regard to which they shall have presbyterian or a congregational minister but I presume it will come out all right." 
Minto Family Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (BBDM 93.45.502.2)

Though Dodge gave up his duties as pastor, the door to his home was always open. William and Sarah Dodge welcomed their neighbors with a cup of tea and comforting words. 

During the Civil War, Dodge's support of his neighbors remained unwavering. A number of young men from Millburn enlisted, including two of Dodge's grandsons: Samuel W. Dodge (1838-1909) and George C. Dodge (1842-1904), who served with the 96th Illinois Infantry. On the home front residents worked tirelessly for the war effort by making quilts and bandages, and writing letters to the "Soldier Boys." 

Following the war, the congregation's membership had grown and a new church was needed. When the church was dedicated in January 1867, "Father Dodge" had the honor of addressing the congregation in the old church. With his aged Bible in hand, Dodge walked alongside the new pastor, Reverend Bross, followed by a procession of the membership to the new church. 

Reverend Dodge led a procession from the old church to the new Millburn Congregational Church (shown above), 
on January 20, 1867. Photo circa 1880.
Photo courtesy of Historic Millburn Community Association

Reverend "Father" Dodge died on April 1, 1869, leaving a legacy of good works and selflessness. He was steadfast in his anti-slavery activism and concern for the oppressed, and was "greatly revered for his knowledge and for his great goodness of heart." 

Diana Dretske

  • Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County
  • Congregational Library and Archives, Boston, Massachusetts. Online collections "Salem Female Anti-Slavery Society." 
  • Dodge Family Association 
  • Historic Millburn Community Association www.historicmillburn.
  • John J. Burns Library, Boston, Massachusetts. This library is the repository for books from the personal library of Boston lawyer, Robert Morris (1823-1882).
  • WikiTree. William Bradford Dodge.
  • Boyle, Elizabeth A.  "Mobility, Migration, and the 1855 Philadelphia National Convention: Robert Morris." (2013) Colored Conventions: Bringing 19th-Century Black Organizing to Digital Life. 
  • Centennial Historical Committee. The First Hundred Years: The Story of the Millburn Congregational Church 1840-1940. (Millburn, Illinois, 1940). 
  • "Dedication of the New church at Millburn," Waukegan Gazette, January 27, 1867. 
  • Genealogy of the Descendants of John White of Wenham and Lancaster, Massachusetts : 1638-1900 : in Memorials of Elder John White, One of the First Settlers of Hartford, Conn , and of His Descendants, Almira Larkin White, Haverhill, Mass., Chase Bros., printers, 1900-09.
  • Halsey, John J. A History of Lake County, Illinois. (Chicago: R.S. Bates, 1912). 
  • Hefferman, James. "Robert Morris: A Man of Energy and Will." John J. Burns Library's Blog
  • Johnson, Reinhard O., The Liberty Party, 1840-1848: Antislavery Third-Party Politics in the United States. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2009). 
  • National Park Service. African American Heritage Sites in Salem: A Guide to Salem's History, (Revised edition, 2008). 
  • "Obituary: Rev. William B. Dodge," Waukegan Gazette, April 10, 1869.
  • Portrait and Biographical Album of Lake County, Illinois (Chicago: Lake City Publishing Co., 1891). 
  • Turner, Glennette Tilley. The Underground Railroad in Illinois. (Newman Educational Publishing Company, Glen Ellyn: Illinois, 2001).
  • Wilson, Cynthia. "Robert Morris Sr. (1823-1882)," March 25, 2018.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Lake County's Dr. King

Dr. Eugene P. King, M.D. (1893-1961), or "Ole Rex" as he was affectionately known, dedicated himself to the communities of Waukegan, North Chicago and Zion through his medical practice, and sponsorship of community gardens and the Rexes and Rexettes athletic teams.

Dr. Eugene P. King with a patient at St. Therese Hospital in Waukegan, circa 1950.
From the archives of the Convent of the Holy Spirit, Northfield, Illinois.

King was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1893 and raised by his grandmother, Winnie C. Koons (1833 - 1916). At a young age he was adopted by the King family for whom he took his surname.

King attended Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and taught vocational classes at the Lincoln Institute in Lincoln Ridge, Kentucky.

In early 1917, after the United States officially entered World War I, Eugene P. King was accepted for officers' training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa. As part of an elite group of African American men, he went through technical and physical training and graduated as a lieutenant. The success of King and his comrades laid the groundwork for change, ultimately leading to President Harry Truman's executive order of July 1948 abolishing racial discrimination and segregation in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Detail of "5th Provisional Company officers reserve training Camp Ft. Des Moines, Ia." Library of Congress. 
Eugene P. King graduated from this military camp in 1917.

King served with the American expeditionary forces (AEF) in France under General John J. Pershing (1860-1948). He worked in army intelligence, led units of African Senegalese (French troops), and was wounded while fighting on the Western Front.

Following the war's end in November 1918, it took months for the millions of American soldiers to return home due to arranging ship transport and concerns about the 1918 influenza pandemic that ultimately infected one-third of the world's population and killed an estimated 50 million people. Sadly, while King was still in France his adopted father, W. Nolan King (1865-1919), died of double pneumonia from "Spanish Influenza."

After his honorable discharge in September 1919, King traveled the globe on a tramp steamer. On his return to the United States he attended Rush Medical College in Chicago.

King graduated at the top of his class in 1924, completing the five-year course in three years. Because of his outstanding record, Dr. Frank Billings (1854-1932) personally presented King's certificate of graduation. Dr. Billings had served as Dean of Rush Medical College and president of the American Medical Association. By 1928, King opened a medical practice in Waukegan and wed Vyvien Porres.

His affinity for sports and commitment to community betterment led him to begin a tradition of sports excellence by sponsoring youth teams. All were welcome to play on Dr. King's Rex Athletic teams, and in particular young adults who were barred from playing at local schools because of their race or background.
Y Rex Athletic Club motto:
To make better men and women out of boys and girls
through clean wholesome athletic sports.

'Y' Rexettes basketball team, 1951.
First (bottom) row: Jean Anderson, Inez Davis, Dr. King "Rex Himself." Francis Thomas, Vivian White
Second row: Genevieve Pearson, Subrette Dupuy, Ardell Pearson, Barbara White, Ann Payne, Christine Springer, Marion Maxwell, Mrs. Florence W
Third row: Della Steele, Bertha Robinson, Barbara Belcher, Geraldine Evans, Lillie Vaughan.

Emblem from Rex Athletic Club girls' youth baseball jacket, circa 1950.
2019.1 Dunn Museum Collections

Dr. King purchased distinctive orange and black uniforms for his teams, and wore a jacket emblazoned with "Rex Himself." His teams played throughout the Chicago area and won 50 championships.

His own athletic ability brought him awards and even national recognition. In 1929, he was given a Daily News trophy for "Most Popular" area basketball player, in part for his impressive "one-handed set shots."  In 1954, Sports Illustrated noted him as one of the "oldest active" athletes in the nation. He was 61.
The Rexes had a "reputation of being one of the speediest teams of the north shore." 
December 22, 1939, Daily Herald.

King's philanthropic efforts were not limited to the African American community, but anyone in need, including children of Armenian and Italian immigrants. He worked through Barwell Goodfellowship Settlement in Waukegan (founded in 1915 to help the poor and sick), and was known to provide free medical service, clothing and college funds to those in need.

In addition to sponsoring athletic teams and serving as physical education program director at the S. Genesee Street YMCA, King developed community gardens to teach youth about cultivation and hard work. King planted 10,000 tulip bulbs in his personal flower garden at his home on S. Genesee Street, making for spectacular spring blossoms for everyone to enjoy.

In 1971, the Waukegan Park District created the Dr. Eugene P. King Park to honor King's legacy as a "constructive force" in the community.

The 2.7 acre Eugene P. King Park on South Avenue includes a softball diamond, 
playground, and flower bed/green house--all tributes to Dr. King's legacy. Waukegan Park District.

As an anonymous admirer said, Dr. Eugene P. King's "life was one of dedication to humanity, to his community, to his people, and to his profession. Everything he did -- he did for others."

"Wheeling Aces Downed 78-58 by Waukegan Rexes," December 22, 1939, Daily Herald.
"Doctor's Spare Time Labor Pays in Beauty," May 1, 1957, Waukegan News Sun.
"Dr. King... Symbol of Brotherhood," Jack Hagler, February 22, 1961, Waukegan News Sun.
"Lighting the Way for Many: Barwell Goodfellowship Settlement," Bernice Just, June 26, 1965, Waukegan News Sun.
"Tribute in name," July 15, 1971, Waukegan News Sun.
"Dr. E.P. King candidate for Waukegan Hall of Fame," Vincent Bulter, August 10, 1976, Waukegan News Sun.
"Lake County had its own Dr. King," Diana Dretske, August 20, 2000, Daily Herald.
"King for a day... every day," Jim Berklan, unknown date, Waukegan News Sun.
"W. Nolan King," Kentucky, Death Records, 1852-1965, 
"Eugene P. King," Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty, 1917–1918,
"Black Officers at Fort Des Moines in World War I," Iowa Pathways blog 
"Frank Billings, 1854-1932," Chicago Area Medical 

Thursday, January 17, 2019

A Century of Wolf Hunts

The American frontier of northeastern Illinois posed many challenges for settlers leaving behind established communities in the eastern United States and Europe. Here they faced the task of forging a new life in a land they perceived as "wilderness."

One of the greatest threats in that "wilderness" were wolves and coyotes, who preyed on their livestock.
"Hunting Prairie Wolves in an Early Day." Published by Wm. LeBaron & Co., Chicago, 1877.

The first county bounties (cash payments) for wolves' scalps were issued in 1838. By 1874, the Lake County board offered "twenty dollars for the scalp of a wolf slain." ($440 in today's currency). The bounties were to encourage the extermination of wolves, coyotes and even crowswhich were all felt to impact a farmer's livelihood.

Predators were hunted year round, but mainly in the winter months when they were easy to spot on the snowy landscape, and their pelts were thicker and more valuable. Hunters presented scalps for the bounty and retained the pelts to use or sell.

In 1854, farmer John Herrick (1806 - 1890) of Half Day (now Lincolnshire), announced he was offering a bounty of $8 for each "old" wolf and $1 for each "young one." Much of Herrick's farm was within the heavily forested Des Plaines River valley, which at the time was "much infested with wolves" that had committed "many depredations."

By the 1860s, sheep farming had increased to the point that Lake County was ranked third in the State of Illinois in number of sheep. In 1865, the county boasted 82,382 sheep. The more sheep, the more enticement for predators.

Nelson Landon's farm, Benton Township, 1885.
Illustrated Atlas of Lake County, Illinois. H.R. Page & Co., Chicago.

In Benton Township, to curb the wolves being "very destructive among the sheep," a "great wolf drive" was held on March 14, 1868. Hunts typically involved hundreds of men, in this instance 350, walking in a line "with guns." The day-long hunt ended at the sprawling sheep farm of Nelson Landon (1807-1884). In all, only three wolves were killed, but a "large number" broke through the lines and escaped.

While most hunts were undertaken by men, women settlers also did their part to protect family and livestock. Maria Randolph Sibley (1821-1901), who had come to Lake County from Massachusetts with her husband and young children in the 1850s, tracked a wolf that was getting their cattle. The incident may have occurred while her husband was enlisted in the 64th Illinois during the Civil War. Sibley went into the family's grain field with her gun, and a wolf came "bounding over the shocks" of cut grain-stalks, frightening her so much that she was unable to shoot. The wolf saw her, "turned and trotted away."

The last known large-scale wolf hunt took place on January 27, 1930.

The Lewis A. Mills "wolf" hunt with plane hired from Palwaukee Airport, January 27, 1930.
Gordon Ray Collection, Dunn Museum (95.28.42)

Modern times called for modern measures, and sheep farmer, Lewis A. Mills (1894-1986), hired a plane from Palwaukee Municipal Airport (today's Chicago Executive Airport) in Wheeling to search for wolves from the air. For two years wolves had "ravaged sheep and poultry flocks of the county without check." Mills's flocks and that of business magnate, Samuel Insull (1859-1938), whose estate (today's Cuneo Museum) was adjacent to Mills had been "among those suffering heaviest from the wolves."
Hunters and bystanders posing with the kill. Left to right: Bill Poulton, Leroy Kane, Donald Poulton, 
Bob Rouse, Gordon Ray, Lewis Mills, Clayton Tiffany (police chief of Mundelein), and Gordon K. Ray. 
Chicago Tribune, February 4, 1930.

Assisting in the hunt from the ground were Gordon Ray (1893-1987) and Bob Rouse (1892-1963). Rouse shot and killed one of the wolves. When the plane landed to pick up the wolf, it overturned in the snow making it necessary to get another plane from Palwaukee. In the second round, the plane "chased" a wolf to a fence line, and Gordon Ray and Lee Kane shot it.

The hunters described their prey as "wolves," but in actuality were coyotes.
January 27, 1930. Gordon Ray Collection, Dunn Museum (95.28.44)

According to Gordon Ray, whose wife Marie Schanck Ray is seen at right, 
the hunt "caused considerable excitement, even making the Chicago papers." 
Gordon Ray Collection, Dunn Museum (95.28.45)

Though these farmers identified their prey as "wolves" they were actually coyotes. This is one example of how accounts can be misleading. In researching historic wolf hunts unless details were given such as "large," "big," or "gray," it's unclear whether the animal was a wolf or coyote. To add to the historical confusion, pioneers commonly used the term "prairie wolf" for coyote.

While wolf sightings have been rare in Lake County for a century, coyotes have successfully adapted to development and changes in their environment.

The Lake County Forest Preserves encourages everyone to learn more about coyotes and the important role they play in the ecosystem. Check out frequently asked questions about coyotes. Homeowner groups and other Lake County organizations can book a free informational presentation about coyotes by contacting Allison Frederick at

Past and Present of Lake County, Illinois, Elijah M. Haines, 1877.
History of Lake County, Illinois, John A. Halsey, 1912.
"Wolves in Chicago Now," E. Hough, January 27, 1901, Chicago Tribune. 
"Farmers of Two Counties Unite to Kill Wolves," January 2, 1928, Chicago Tribune. 
"Farmer in Plane Trails Wolves; Two Are Killed," February 4, 1930, Chicago Tribune. 
"Gordon Ray recalls the wolf hunt back in '28 on the Lewis Mills farm," Kathy Rosemann, February  2, 1984, Mundelein Review. [Ray, who was nearly 90 years old when he gave this interview, mistakenly noted the hunt taking place in 1928.]
Gordon Ray His Life and Times (1893-1987): An Autobiography, edited by Gordon K. Ray.
Dickertown School and Benton Township History, 1918. School History Collection, Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County.