On the evening of Sunday, October 8, 1871, a fire breaks out in Chicago, just to the southwest of the city’s center. It had been a dry fall, and the fire quickly spread. Over the next 30 hours, the central area of the city burned, spreading across roughly 3.3 square miles of the city, leaving over 100,000 people (1/3 of the city) homeless, and about 300 people dead. Much of the city was left smoldering in ashes and rubble. The fire was known as The Great Chicago Fire, and today marks the 150th anniversary of the blaze.
In 1871, my 3rd great-grandfather, Johann Adolph Wilhelm Mueller, was a brickmaker in Lake View, and had owned his own brickyard for about six years. While it is a populous Chicago neighborhood now, at that time, Lake View was a rural township just north of Chicago city limits, with about 2,000 residents, and was known for its celery fields and emerging brickyards. Thomas Moulding had established the first brickyard in the township in 1863 on Southport Ave., and started using the clay along the Chicago River to make bricks. Very soon, others, mostly Germans like my 3rd great-grandfather, set up brickyards nearby. After the Great Chicago Fire, their bricks literally helped rebuild the ravaged city. This is the story of my brick-making ancestors. Continue reading “After the Fire: the Chicago Brickmakers”→
This is the story of a special tree in our family: the Drake Maple.
In 1986, my grandpa, Ed Drake, decided that he wanted to spruce up some of the landscaping at his house. He went to a nursery, and with the help of his horticulturally-trained son-in-law, picked out some bushes for the front of his house. They picked out some yews and spireas, and bought a pretty lilac bush to plant by the front bedroom window. As they were walking around the lot, the salesman learned my Papa’s last name, Drake. He said, “I have a tree with your name on it!” He convinced my Papa to also purchase a small maple tree, the Drake Maple.
The Drake Maple is a variety of Acer rubrum, and has brilliant fall colors. A U.S. patent for this new variety was filed by Virgil James Drake (no known relation to our Drake family) in January 1973. This variety is particularly unique in its fall coloring. It is described as “having distinctively colored leaves turning from green to a colored border through shades of blue violet to red and yellow,” and was discovered by V.J. Drake in Van Buren County, Michigan in September 1967. V.J. Drake was able to propagate seedlings through cuttings of the original tree. By the time my grandpa acquired one in 1986, it was available at a few nurseries throughout the United States.
My Papa planted his new tree in a place of honor, directly in front of his house. Every fall, it shows off its brilliant colors. The edges of the leaves turn red, and often the middle of the leaf turns from green to yellow. At different times, the tree may look red or orange from afar, and the variety of color in its leaves becomes apparent at close range. My grandparents loved to watch it change colors every fall, and it was often the backdrop for family photos. I have never seen another one in person. In more ways than one, this “family tree” is quite special.
This week my Papa would have turned 100 years old. My grandfather, Edwin William Drake, was born on May 2, 100 years ago in Genoa, Illinois. He was welcomed by his parents, Charles and Emma (Medine) Drake, and an older brother, Charles. He grew up on a farm near Genoa, and graduated high school during the Great Depression. He met and fell in love with my grandma, Millie Kaiser, just before she joined the WAVES during WWII. After she left the service, they were married in June 1946. They had two daughters and four grandchildren. He lived in the Genoa area for his whole life. He was a farmer, business owner, public servant, and foreman. He accomplished many things during his life, but his family was everything to him. Papa loved his family dearly, and loved to spend time with them whenever he could. Continue reading “Papa’s Centennial Birthday”→
My 3rd great-grandparents, Johann and Marie Peiter, were German immigrants that settled in Marion County, Missouri, just west of Hannibal. They lived in the small town of West Ely, Missouri for about 50 years and were well-loved members of the tight-knit community. Many of their descendants have stayed in the West Ely area, but some of them are now located in the Chicago area.
Johann Heinrich Peiter was born 22 August 1839 in Lintorf, Hannover, Germany. He was the son of Caspar Heinrich Peiter and Marie Elenora Stolte. (His mother passed away in Germany in 1858, but his father Caspar followed him to the USA, where he passed away in 1897.) Johann went to school at Osnabreck, Germany, where he learned the mason’s trade. He married Marie Gertrude Stockhaus when he was 23 years old on 10 May 1863 in Germany. She was born 14 September 1838 in Rabber, Hannover, Germany, and was the daughter of Johann Heinrich Stockhaus and Maria Elisabeth Henrichsmeyer. Continue reading “Bio: Johann Heinrich and Marie Peiter”→