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”→
My great-great-grandparents, Andrew Kaiser and Jennie Holbrook, had a large, blended family. Between the two of them, they had 18 children. This is the story of my great-great uncle Floyd, who was their youngest child, who also died when he was very young.
Andrew Kaiser and Jennie Holbrook were married on 22 July 1885. Both of them had been married previously, and had had children with their previous spouses. Andrew had eleven children with his previous wife, Elizabeth Wentsel. Four of these children died young, before Elizabeth’s death in 1884. Jennie had previously married Thomas Burke, and they had three children. She was granted a divorce from him in June of 1885. Although it’s not clear how Jennie and Andrew met, they lived in the same small town of Prophetstown in Whiteside County, Illinois. Thomas Burke was a druggist in town, and Andrew Kaiser was a tinner. Both businessmen may have known each other, and may have been in the same social circles. After losing their first spouses, both Andrew and Jennie found themselves as single parents, with at least several small children at home. Joining their households was likely a beneficial situation for them both. Continue reading “Floyd, the youngest Kaiser brother”→
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”→
Autumn is in full swing already, and school is well underway. I recently re-discovered this old class photo amongst my scanned family photos. My 2nd great-grandmother, Louise Marie Nahrstaedt, was born in Sandau, Germany, in 1879. As far as I know, her family lived there until 1891 when they emigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago, Illinois. This image is a class photo from 1885, when Louise was in first grade. She is the girl circled in the front row. She seems to be very good friends with the other three girls in the front row, because they are all sitting close to each other, holding hands or linking arms. I wonder if she was still friends with them when she was 12, leaving for the United States, and if they were, did they ever have a chance to write to each other and remain friends? Would she find close school friends here in the United States? Only time will tell!