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”→
On Pleasant Hill Road, in Mayfield Township, DeKalb County, Illinois, there once was a small white schoolhouse, with a small farm cemetery next to it. It was diagonally across the road from Pleasant Hill Farm, first owned by Ira Douglass, and later owned by Gustaf Medine, and then by Charles W. Drake.
The little “crude log” one-room schoolhouse was built on land owned by Ira Douglass in the early 1840’s. Its first teachers in the 1840’s were Lucy Stuart, Fanny Clark and Harriet Russell. The earliest religious services in Mayfield were also conducted in the schoolhouse. Coincidentally, Ira Douglass was also a leader in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Mayfield. It is unknown what happened to the original schoolhouse, and how long classes were conducted there. Services for the Mayfield church were held there through at least the 1860’s, and the old schoolhouse appears on an 1871 map. In 1870, the county superintendent of the schools deemed the schoolhouse to be “too small, and is so near the road that a person sitting in his carriage can almost take hold of the door handle. There is no black-board worthy of the name.” Twenty-five students attended Pleasant Hill School that year. Continue reading “The History of Pleasant Hill School”→
I rely on census records to tell me a lot about my ancestors, and to see a snapshot of their households in particular points in time. I also try to browse their neighbors to see who they lived near, who they could have known, and who they may have done business with. I’ve found some valuable information and a few remarkable coincidences this way!