Durand was born in Burlington, Iowa to Martha Rorer and William Garrett. Grace’s ties to the Chicago area likely began with her brother’s marriage to Miss Ada Sawyer in 1884. Ada was the daughter of one Chicago's “pioneer druggists,” Dr. Sidney Sawyer.
In February 1888, Ada Sawyer Garrett and her mother, Elizabeth Sawyer, gave Grace an “elegant reception" at their home. This may have been Grace’s formal introduction to Chicago society. In the following years, Chicago’s Inter Ocean newspaper would note Dr. and Mrs. Sawyers’ travels with Miss Grace Garrett as their guest.
On news of her mother’s declining health, Grace returned home to Iowa to care for her. Martha Garrett died in February 1893.
In April 1894, Grace married wealthy sugar broker, Scott Sloan Durand of Lake Forest. Their wedding was held in Burlington, Iowa “in the presence of a brilliant assemblage of invited guests.” Grace’s maid of honor was the famous watercolor artist and illustrator, Maud Humphrey (1868-1940) of New York. Today, Maud is better known as the mother of Hollywood legend, Humphrey Bogart.
At the turn of the century, Durand shifted her focus to dairy farming as she became aware of infant mortality rates in Chicago linked to contaminated milk. Impure milk was a problem that had been combatted with varying success for centuries, but with the rapid growth of cities the problem was exacerbated. Inspired by her mother’s example of helping others, Grace saw a desperate need to provide clean milk to children.
In 1904, Durand established Crab Tree dairy farm on her Lake Forest property. However, her neighbors were not enamored of having a dairy herd in the neighborhood. Some complained of the “odor and flies” and that the herd’s “bawling” kept them awake at night.
An article in Pearson’s Magazine explained how Grace’s visit to Chicago's “tenement district revealed… most of the infant mortality was due to the want of nourishment, which meant good milk, and that good milk was a rare commodity, difficult to procure, even at exorbitant prices.” Durand used the profits from selling milk and thick cream to Chicago’s most select hotels, restaurants and tea rooms to support needy children.
Durand was known to pamper her cows and referred to them as her "pets." She enlisted the unusual method of playing opera music while the cows were milked. Grace claimed the music made the cows happy and consequently their milk tasted better and was more nutritious.
Dairy operations ceased when Grace Durand died on February 26, 1948. During her lifetime she was recognized as one of the “most powerful leaders in the milk crusade.”
Following Durand's death, William McCormick Blair (1884-1982) and his wife, Helen Bowen Blair (1890-1972), purchased Crab Tree Farm. The Blairs association with Durand had begun in 1926, with the purchase of 11-acres of the farm overlooking Lake Michigan.
Since 1985, Durand’s Crab Tree Farm has been owned by the John H. Bryan family. The property is still a working farm, and the original historic buildings have been renovated and now display collections of American and English Arts and Crafts furniture and decorative arts.
Special thanks to Laurie Stein, Curator at the History Center of Lake Forest-Lake Bluff, for additional research and enthusiasm for this topic.
- Diana Dretske firstname.lastname@example.org