Friday, April 17, 2015


Frequent readers of this blog know how much I enjoy doing genealogy research.  To be better able to do this research, I have been a subscriber to for years.  I started my subscription with ancestry way back when the ability to do genealogy research online was just beginning.  In fact, I started out subscribing to both and because different sites gave you access to different records.  I have always been a big booster for  I have pointed out to people that years ago genealogy research meant going to libraries and slowly spooling through rolls and rolls of microfilm and that gave you access to millions of genealogy records from all over the world - all in the comfort of your own home.  Recently two Mormon missionaries came to my door and I told them how grateful I was to the LDS Church for spending millions of dollars and sending researchers to all corners of the earth to transcribe and digitize genealogy records.  I have always said that the LDS Church is the best thing that ever happened to genealogy.   

You readers also know how much I enjoy Find a Grave.  I spend every weekend, weather permitting, in cemeteries taking photos of graves and posting those photos to Find a Grave.  As of today I have posted over sixteen thousand photos to Find a Grave.  Unlike many people I was thrilled when bought Find a Grave because I felt that it gave Find a Grave a better financial foundation and the security that came from being part of the ancestry family.

Because I have been such a fan of, the story I am going to tell you really bothers me. Through the years people have said that was all about the money and I quickly replied that my monthly ancestry subscription price was a bargain.  Where else could I get access to millions of records for less than $35.00 per month? However my recent experience with leads me to believe that the critics may have been right.  I'll tell you the story and you can draw your own conclusions. 

All the way back in 1964, my sister Patricia married Bill Friedner.  I know that Bill's ancestors were originally from Sweden and I had added Bill and as many of his family members I could find to my family tree on  Recently I received an email through ancestry from Friedner relatives in Sweden who were trying to re-establish contacts with the Friedners in the United States.   I put them in touch with Bill and both sides were very happy to reestablish the contacts and trade information and photos.  Then one day, Bill's cousin Eva from Sweden told me that she had found a "lost" Friedner relation on Find a Grave. His name was John Friedner.  It had originally been Johann Friedner, but he changed it to John after he came to the United States.  The Find a Grave page said that John Friedner had died in 1972, and was buried in a military cemetery on Long Island, in New York State.

Eva asked me what I knew about John and I had to reply that I knew nothing about him. Subsequently Eva asked Bill what he knew about John, and Bill said he had never heard of him.  So Eva and I were both excited that we had found a missing branch of the family tree.  

Eva and I both added John to our tree and using the "shaking leaf" prompts on ancestry were able to add some information about John, but not much.  Eva asked me if I knew anything about John's marriages or divorce and I asked her where she heard about that.  She told me that at the bottom of John's Find a Grave page was an advertisement "Sponsored by Ancestry" that indicated 1 Death Certificate, 2 Birth Certificates, 2 Marriage Certificates and 1 Divorce Certificate for John Friedner.

I'm sure you've all seen these ads at the bottom of the Find a Grave pages but I never paid any attention to them until now.  I clicked on the link and it took me to the website. According to ancestry, to get access to these records I needed to upgrade my membership to the World Explorer Plus membership for an additional $10.00 per month.  I looked at the differences in the membership and decided that the additional records I would get, justified the additional expense and besides, I would also get access to those records for John Friedner.  So, I upgraded my membership and paid the additional monthly fee.  With my new membership firmly in hand I clicked on the link at the bottom of John Friedner's Find a Grave page.  The link took me to the ancestry website where it told me that to access these records I would have to upgrade to the World Explorer Plus membership.  Well, I had already done that, and still couldn't get to those records.  The ancestry website told me that if there were any problems I could call them at 1-800-ancestry, so after work yesterday I called them.

After being kept on hold for a while I finally reached a very courteous young-sounding gentleman who asked me what my problem was.  I told him the whole story and said that even though I had upgraded my membership I still did not have access to the John Friedner records.  He asked me if I was familiar with the ancestry card catalog which listed all the records that ancestry had, and I told him I was, but that the Find a Grave page had actual links that you could click on to access particular records for a particular person.  It was then that he told me that was actually not the case.  The links at the bottom of the page were not actual links to actual records - you had to search through ancestry to find the particular records that may, or may not, actually be on the site.  He went on to tell me that sometimes the records had to be purchased through Vital Check, but that sometimes you had to prove that you were related to the person whose records you were requesting.

No, I told him, the links represented that if you upgraded your ancestry membership you would have access to particular records for a particular person - and that even the number of appropriate records was listed on the link.  He told me that he was very sorry, but that was not the case. He said they had other complaints about this, but all the link did was take you to ancestry where if you upgraded, and searched through the ancestry records, you may (or may not) find the records that were listed on the Find a Grave page.

I couldn't believe it - this was false advertising at the least and actually bordered on being a scam - ancestry offered you something that may, or may not, exist.  He again said he was very, very sorry but that was the way it was set up.  He said that he would pass along my concerns, and hoped that senior management at ancestry would do something about these ads, that could be, he admitted, misleading.

I was horrified.  I told him that others said that ancestry was in it only for the $$$ but that I naively responded that no, they were in it for the research.  I told him that in the past I had been a major cheerleader for ancestry but that might change, now that I found out about this.  I asked to speak to "someone in authority" who I could talk to about this.  He put me on hold for quite a while, and when he came back he said he told the managers my concerns, and that they were sorry but were not interested in talking to me about it.  He again apologized and said that he would pass my concerns along again, and hope that something would be done.

I could not fault the young man on the phone - he was just a customer service rep - he had nothing to do about the way the business was run, but he was very apologetic.

So that's my story.  I won't be cancelling my ancestry membership - I still need access to the records they do provide, and I will continue to do my Find a Grave photography on the weekends but I have to say that I am very, very disappointed with and the way they do business.

I ended my call with the rep by reminding him that was owned by the LDS Church, and that the Church was better than this.  For a Christian Church, they were conducting business in a very non-Christian manner.

Caveat Emptor - Let the buyer beware.

I Stand Corrected:  It has been brought to my attention that is not owned directly by the LDS Church.  It is a privately owned corporation whose original founders were members of the LDS Church.  So I will revise the last paragraph as follows:

For members of a Christian Church, they were conducting business in a very non-Christian manner.  

Friday, April 10, 2015


The winter of 2014-2015 was a difficult one for Chicagoland.  Some years when we have had a mild winter I could continue Find a Grave photography almost non-stop; this year was not one of them.  So when the weather forecast for Saturday April 4 was for clear and sunny skies, I grabbed my Find a Grave photo request list and took off.  My first stop was Memorial Park Cemetery in Skokie, and it was there I found an interesting tombstone.  I was searching in Section B for a grave that turned out to be unmarked, but as I was looking I saw this tombstone:

It's a little heard to read, but here's what it says:

May 1, 1914
Age 36 Years

1st Burial Memorial Park

What a great find for a graver!  I had written previously about Dr. Jacob W. Ludlam, who was the first burial at Rosehill Cemetery on July 12, 1859, and now I had stumbled on the first burial at Memorial Park.  Before we see what we can "dig up" about Alexander Guneshoff, let's take a look at the cemetery itself.

In 1914 when the cemetery that would become Memorial Park was being laid out, the major Catholic Cemetery for the North Shore was Calvary Cemetery in Evanston.  But Calvary had been in use since 1859 and was quickly filling up.  All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines would not be consecrated until 1923.  It had been said that the Catholic Bishop was looking for land for another cemetery in the northern suburbs so when a plot of land in Niles township was put up for sale, the local Catholic pastor quickly signed a purchase contract for the land in the name of the Catholic Bishop of Chicago.  There were other parties interested in the land, so time was of the essence and the pastor took a chance by committing the archdiocese without getting the bishop's permission first.  But the pastor felt that when all the facts were known, he would be praised for his quick thinking and resourcefulness.  That was not the case.  
The then archbishop of Chicago, George Mundelein was very upset that the priest had committed the archdiocese on his own initiative without clearing it first with the chancery.  We'll never know the whole story, but Mundelein said that under no circumstances would the Niles township land be developed as a Catholic cemetery, and would, in fact be resold as soon as possible.  There is a small item in the real estate section of the Chicago Daily Tribune from March 5, 1914 that reported that on February 16, 1914 the Catholic Bishop of Chicago sold the land to the Central Cemetery Company of Illinois.  According to the Secretary of State of Illinois, the Central Cemetery Company was organized April 17, 1913 with $150,000 of capital stock.  That is how the cemetery that is now Memorial Park went from a proposed Catholic cemetery to a non-sectarian cemetery which it remains, to this day.

Now, what about Alexander Guneshoff?  Unfortunately I was not able to find out much about him at all.  In fact, if it wasn't for his death record, there would be no proof that a man named Alexander Guneshoff had ever existed - in Cook County or anywhere else.

Here is his death record from the Cook County, Illinois, Deaths Index, 1878-1922:

Name:Alexander Guneshoff
Event Type:Death
Event Date:01 May 1914
Event Place:, Cook, Illinois, United States
Address:714 N. Clark St.
Marital Status:Married
Birth Year (Estimated):1878
Burial Date:06 May 1914
Burial Place:Central Cemetery C.
Father's Name:A.Kcof Guneshoff
Father's Birthplace:Kygel Chocchoc
Mother's Name:Sandrews
Mother's Birthplace:Russia

Unfortunately this record brings up more questions than it answers.  The record points out that Alexander Guneshoff was married (although it does not give his wife's name), but it does list names for his parents.  The Death Index record though, having been transcribed from old hand-written records, could possibly be incorrect depending on the legibility of the handwriting on the original record.

Whatever the case, I was not able to find even one other record for Alexander Guneshoff, or his wife or his parents, or for anyone with the last name of Guneshoff.  I tried all sorts of alternate spelling for the last name.  The death record lists an addresss: 714 N. Clark Street.  I checked the 1910 US Census for that address - no Guneshoff family members listed.  No Guneshoff listed in the Chicago Directory for 1914 or any other year.  No Guneshoff in the Chicago Tribune archives.  No Guneshoff in  It's almost as if they never existed - except for that one tombstone.

So for now this will have to remain one of my "brick walls."  If any of you genealogy wizards out there dig up anything about the Guneshoff family, let me know.  But until then, it's a mystery to me.

Alexander Guneshoff - first burial at Memorial Park - may he rest in peace.

Friday, April 3, 2015


In my blog entry from December 20, 2011 I told the story of Katharine Craig Stewart, member of a renowned Evanston family who died from the Spanish influenza on October 22, 1918 at the age of fifteen years and eight months.  When I wrote the story I only was able to feature photos of her crypt at the Rosehill mausoleum, as well as her death certificate - I was unable to find any photos of Katharine.  Recently I came in contact with an extended relative of Katharine and I was thrilled to find that he not only had one photo of Katharine, he had several - and he was willing to share them with me, and allow them to be used in the blog.  I think it adds so much to a story to have at least one photo of the person whose story is being told.  So, updated with photos and some other material I was able to "dig up", here is the updated story of Katharine Craig Stewart:

The Spanish influenza struck terror in the hearts of everyone who encountered it.  Said to have been brought back from Spain by the soldiers coming home from World War I, this "flu" struck down the young and healthy.  According to Wikipedia, "Influenza may have killed as many as 25 million people in its first 25 weeks. Older estimates say it killed 40–50 million people, while current estimates say 50—100 million people worldwide were killed. This pandemic has been described as "the greatest medical holocaust in history" and may have killed more people than the Black Death.  It is said that this flu killed more people in 24 weeks than AIDS has killed in 24 years, more in a year than the Black Death killed in a century."

Illinois was not immune.  It is estimated that over 8,500 people died just in the City of Chicago.  Entire sections of cemeteries are dedicated to Spanish flu victims.  Over time I will relate the stories of several of the victims of the Spanish flu, but I will start with the story of one close to home, in Evanston, Illinois:  


Katharine Craig Stewart was only 15 years old when she caught the flu in October of 1918.  She had been born February 22, 1903 in Chicago to George Craig Stewart (1879-1940) and Mary Gertrude, nee Clyde (1877-1960).  Katharine came from an illustrious family.  Her father, the Rt. Rev. George Craig Stewart was the VI Episcopal Bishop of Chicago.

+George Craig Stewart

Bishop Stewart was said to have been one of the greatest preachers ever produced by the Episcopal Church.  When I asked my mother (a life-long resident of Evanston) about him, her reply was "Everyone knew Bishop Stewart.  It didn't matter whether you were an Episcopalian or not."  Katharine's mother's family the Clydes, were an illustrious Scots-American family.

The 1910 US Census shows seven year old Katharine living with her family at 414 Greenleaf Street in Evanston:

414 Greenleaf Street, Evanston

Her father listed his occupation as "Rector of a Church."  Stewart had been called to be rector of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Evanston in 1904.  In addition to her parents, Katharine had two brothers:  John Clyde Stewart (1907-1970) and George Craig Stewart, Jr. (1910-1965).

Katharine started feeling ill on October 7, 1918 and was dead fifteen days later on October 22, 1918. Public assemblies, including wakes and funerals had been forbidden to try to slow the spread of the disease.  In fact, Katharine's father was not even in the United States when she died. Bishop Stewart was in Europe ministering the the soldiers at the front. Katharine died at 7:12 PM on Tuesday evening the 22nd and was interred less than two days later on Thursday the 24th.  The cause of death for her was "Influenza with Pneumonia," as it was with so many others.

Her obituary in the Chicago Tribune of October 23rd said that the funeral notice would be "later":

Now that we have photos, let's look at the young girl who was snatched from our midst by the flu.

Katharine on the phone - 1915

A studious Katharine - 1915

Love that grin! Katharine - 1915
A sad story - but just one of thousands in Chicagoland from the scourge of the Spanish influenza.  Katharine Craig Stewart is interred in Unit A ("the old section") of the Mausoleum in Rosehill Cemetery, Chicago.  May Katharine, her dear parents and siblings rest in peace.

Friday, March 27, 2015


If you were strolling through the older sections of Chicago's Rosehill Cemetery, you might happen upon this monument:

There is a fireman's hat on the top of the monument, and the following words on the front under a Masonic symbol:

Cyrus P. Bradley
at Concord, N.H.
Nov. 11, 1819
at Chicago, Ill.
Mar. 6, 1865
45 yrs., 3 mos., & 22 days

That's all it says about Cyrus P. Bradley.  What is doesn't say is that Bradley was the first Chief of Police in Chicago, with a long list of accomplishments during his short life.  Let's take a look at the life of Cyrus P. Bradley and see what we can find out about the man about whom it was said "He never forgot a friend - or an enemy."

Cyrus Parker Bradley was born November 11, 1819 in Concord, New Hampshire to Timothy Bradley (1876-1837) and Anna Nancy nee Morrill (1792-1854).  Timothy Bradley was a descendent of another Timothy Bradley who was a Private in the Revolutionary War in Col. Thomas Stickney's regiment commanded by Lt. Col. Gerrish, and raised in the Town of Concord and adjacent towns.  The Company marched July 5, 1777  for he relief of the garrison at Ticonderoga, on the alarm, and marched 70 miles when news was received of the evacuation of the fort.

Cyrus Bradley had seven brothers and sisters:  Asa Foster Bradley (1811-1892), Louisa Bradley (1813-1879), Peter Morrill Bradley (1815-1891), David Morrill Bradley (1817-1857), Seth Eastman Bradley (1822-1903), Electa T. Bradley (1824-1902), and Timothy Matthew Bradley (1826-1890). 

In June of 1837, seventeen year old Cyrus Bradley moved to Chicago with his brother David, and attorney I.L. Milliken.  The Bradley's eldest brother Asa F. Bradley was already living here and was employed as the Chief Surveyor of Cook County.  Cyrus stayed in Chicago over the summer, but in the wintertime continued his education in Michigan City, Indiana.
In 1840, Cyrus P. Bradley joined Horace Norton & Co. in Chicago who were involved in a myriad of businesses:
He remained with the Norton Company for 8 years. In about 1843, Bradley married Miss Martha Ann, nee Hodgson (1822-1898).  Cyrus and Martha Ann were blessed with three daughters and two sons:  Martha Louise Bradley (1844-1908), Anna M. Bradley (1846-????), Emeline Edna Bradley (1852-????), Henry Cyrus Bradley (1848-1909) and Charles Hodgson Bradley (1850-1924).
In 1848 Cyrus Bradley became a candidate for public office for the first time.  He ran for the office of Tax Collector of the City of South Chicago and to his surprise was elected!  In 1852 he was elected Sheriff of Cook County, and about that time was chosen Chief of the Fire Department, of which he had been an active member since 1845.  He contributed largely to the efficiency of the (all volunteer) Fire Department and also became a Trustee of the Fireman's Benevolent Association.    
On May 26, 1855, Cyrus P. Bradley was chosen to be Chicago's first chief of police.  Actively playing a role in capturing criminals, Bradley and the Chicago Police Department were credited with solving every crime reported during its first three months of operation with Bradley as its Chief. 
When "Long John" Wentworth was elected mayor of Chicago in 1860 the office of chief of police was abolished, so Bradley took up the job of Fire Marshall.  In 1861 the new mayor Julian Sidney Rumsey reestablished the office and reappointed Bradley.
Cyrus Bradley was also appointed as a provost marshal of the army following the outbreak of the Civil War.  During his tenure as police chief, Cyrus P. Bradley made a number of improvements to the police force, including increasing the size of the force, dividing the city into distinct precincts and creating the department's first detective division. 
Bradley was especially dedicated to the capture and prosecution of counterfeiters.  In January of 1865 he traveled to Springfield, Illinois where he captured a nest of counterfeiters and $20,000 in bad money.  It was in this service that he ultimately met his end. 
Returning to work after his trip to Springfield, Bradley complained that he had caught a cold and left work early to go home and rest.  The next day, still feeling unwell, he went home in the afternoon and never left his house again.  Cyrus P. Bradley died a little before three in the afternoon on March 6, 1865.
His funeral, held on March 8, 1865 was an event for the entire city.  All police and fire stations were draped with bunting to mourn his passing and even the courts were closed to give the judges and staff a chance to attend the funeral.  The procession from downtown Chicago to Rosehill Cemetery was led off by members of the Dearborn Light Artillery Company, followed by members of the police and fire department all wearing mourning badges, and members of the Masonic fraternity in addition to family and friends of the deceased.
The day after his death, the Chicago Daily Tribune published an article about the life and times of Cyrus P. Bradley.  The article ended with this tribute:
Mr. Bradley was a man of a thousand; shrewd, sagacious, an excellent reader of character, prompt in action, of great moral courage and physical strength, possessed of an indomitable perseverance and tireless energy, unyielding in the discharge of his duty, and careless of applause.  He never forgot a friend nor an enemy, and he had many of both.  The best proof of his ability and worth lies in the fact that the was almost adored by those who worked under him, not one of them expressing any but the highest appreciation of his ability, skill and honesty.  It has been said that "no man is a hero to his valet."  If this be true then C.P. Bradley was something more than human, for those who knew him most intimately respected and admired him the most highly.  Bradley never quailed before a responsibility; if a certain course of action seemed to him necessary he always ordered it, and shouldered the consequences.  Hence his subordinates worked for him fearlessly, carrying out his instructions to the letter; they knew well that their chief would protect them to the last dollar he was possessed of.
No man in Chicago will be more missed than he; all good men will mourn his removal from among us; only thieves and their allies will jubilate over his departure.          

Cyrus P. Bradley

Cyrus P. Bradley - he spent his life trying to make Chicago a better place - may he rest in peace. 

Friday, March 20, 2015


Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune from August 3, 1906 were shocked to read the following:

Shoots Himself in Hotel Tourist in Seattle, Wash.
Mother and Wife There.
Cannot Locate Him, So Set Detectives to Hunting for Him.

Seattle, Wash., Aug. 2. - [Special] - Eli A. Gage, son of Lyman J. Gage of Chicago, former secretary of the United States Treasury, committed suicide in his room in the Tourist hotel this afternoon by shooting himself through the heart.  Death was instantaneous.

Gage registered at the Tourist hotel, which is a third-class house on Saturday afternoon, under the name of J.W. Gorst.  He had no baggage with him.  He lived at the hotel without his identity being known.  He appeared to be in the best of spirits, according to the clerk of the hotel.

Mother and Wife Hunt Him.

Gage's wife and his mother came to Seattle on Sunday to join him.  They were unable to locate him and accordingly asked the Pinkertons to find him.  The detectives were searching for Gage when he was found dead. His mother is prostrated.

Gage came to Seattle three weeks ago and stopped at the Greystone, a fashionable boarding house,  He left on July 18.

The Los Angeles Herald account contained a few additional details:

The only cause for the shooting which can be assigned is that he was temporarily insane from drinking.  His wife came (to Seattle) last Monday and employed detectives to locate her husband.  Friends of Gage believe he learned of her presence and, fearing to meet her, decided to end his life.  Gage evidently knew the detectives were on his track...

Wow!  What a shocking tale.  The Gage family was known nationwide but especially in the Chicago area and Evanston where members of the Gage family had lived for years.  Before we look into the events which drove Eli Gage to suicide, let's take a look at his notable family.

Eli Alexander Gage was born in Chicago on July 28, 1867, to Lyman Judson Gage (1836-1927) and Sarah B, nee Etheridge (1840-1874).  He was the second of four children born to Lyman and Sarah Gage.  the others were:  Lock Etheridge Gage (1865-1869), Fanny Gage (1869-1880) and Mary Gage (1869-1869).  Lyman Gage was a banker by trade, and was Secretary of the US Treasury under Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt.

The 1870 US Census finds the Gages living in Evanston.  Eli is three years old.  The household consist of Eli and his parents and three live-in servants.

Eli's mother, Sarah Etheridge Gage died on September 12, 1874, when Eli was seven years old.  It is never easy to lose one's mother, but to a young boy of 7 it must have been devastating.

The 1880 US Census finds twelve year old Eli living with his father and sister Fanny, who would die later that same year on October 23rd.  For the second time in his young life Eli Gage has lost a member of his immediate family.

The 1890 US Census for this area is lost, but on October 9, 1893, twenty six year old Eli Gage married twenty two year old Sophia Rogers Weare (1871-1950) in Des Moines, Iowa.  They met when Eli was working for a railroad and was stationed in Des Monies.

Eli and Sophia Gage were blessed with two sons: Lyman Judson Gage II (1896-1954), and John Weare Gage (1900-1962).

Gold was discovered in the Klondike on August 16, 1896 and shortly thereafter Eli Gage caught the "gold bug,", left his wife and family and headed North.  On February 26, 1897 the Chicago Daily Tribune reported that "Eli Gage, son of Lyman J. Gage who is to be Secretary of the Treasury has been seen on the Upper Yukon and he sends word to P.B. Weare of Chicago, of the North American Trading and Transportation Company that "the richest discoveries ever made on earth are now being worked at Klondike."  The North American Trading and Transportation Company was owned by the Weare family, the family of Eli Gage's wife Sophia.  In addition, Eli Gage's father Lyman Gage was a stockholder in the NAT&T Co.

"Young Mr. Gage did not learn of his father's selection for Secretary of the Treasury until his arrival at the coast of February 20."

The herd of prospectors who flocked to Alaska was so large, that the Tribune noted on October 19, 1897 that Eli Gage warned of a coming famine if food was not shipped in before the winter freeze:

The Tribune reported on November 13, 1897, that Eli Gage had returned from his Yukon adventure:

The 1900 US Census finds the Eli Gage family living at 1814 Wesley in Evanston:

1814 Wesley, Evanston

Thirty one year old Eli reported his occupation as "Furnace Manufacturer."  Also listed were his wife Sophie, their two boys and two live-in servants - one a nurse.  At the time of his death Eli Gage was reported to be employed by the James B. Clow & Sons Plumbing Supply Company - perhaps that's what he meant by "furnace manufacturer."

As mentioned above, Eli Gage's father, Lyman Judson Gage was the US Secretary of the Treasury under President William McKinley.  On September 6, 1901, President McKinley was shot by an assassin in Buffalo, New York.    There was a very interesting article in the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 7, 1901 detailing the reaction of the Gage family to the news that McKinley had been shot.  Here are excerpts from that article:

Secretary Lyman J. Gage, who was visiting his son, Eli Gage, in Evanston was seated on the porch when the tidings from Buffalo were brought him by a neighbor.  He seemed dazed by the news and with bowed head walked slowly into the house.  The dining hour was nearly at hand, but he declined food and went to his room.

Soon the bad news was known throughout the suburb and many friends of Mr. Gage hurried to the house to express their sympathy, but the Secretary declined to see anyone.  Caller after caller was told that Mr. Gage could see no one and they left after expressing their condolence.

Mr. Eli Gage ordered a carriage, and with his father drove through the quiet streets for over an hour.  During all that time the Secretary spoke hardly a word.  The drive in the cool evening air benefited him, however, and he seemed to have rallied from the shock when he returned to his son's dwelling.

Preparations were made at once for the Secretary to go to Buffalo, accompanied by his son.  The callers continued to stream in, being received by Mr. Eli Gage, who said his father was nearly prostrated and could see no one.  Shortly before 7 o'clock, Secretary Gage and his son hurried to a telegraph office and after sending a message boarded the 7:10 o'clock train for Chicago.

"The Secretary is now on his way to Buffalo," said Mr. Eli Gage.  "We will make as quick a run as possible, reaching there early tomorrow morning.  We hope to find the President less seriously wounded than these first, hurried reports have made him." 

President McKinley died as a result of his wounds on September 14, 1901.

Eli Gage's name was not in the newspapers very often from 1901-1906, and when it was, it usually concerned a social occasion.

That brings us up to his suicide on Thursday August 2, 1906.

What happened to cause Eli A. Gage to take his own life that afternoon in Seattle?  What was so bad that facing his wife was worse than ending his life?  Let's first look at what we do know:

He was working for the Clow & Sons Plumbing Supply Company.
He had been in Seattle "several months."
He was applying for a job with the Northwestern Steamship Company.
He had many friends in Seattle but none of them had seen him for a week.
His wife and child arrived in Seattle on Sunday and were searching for him.
His wife hired Pinkerton detectives to find Gage.
He was registered at a 3rd rate hotel under an assumed name "J.W. Gorst."
He went to his room at 3:00 pm "feeling very well," according to the desk clerk.
He shot himself through the heart about 3:30.
He was in his shirtsleeves and had taken off his shoes.
A new revolver and a Bowie knife lay on the floor beside him.
In addition there were four empty whiskey bottles and a quart flask which was half full of liquor.
He left no suicide note.

Several news accounts, including the one at the beginning of this article relate that his "wife and his mother" had come to Seattle to look for him.  Who was the woman who was passing herself off as his mother?  His natural mother Sarah, died in 1874.  His father's second wife Cornelia, had died in 1901.  His father did not marry his third wife Frances, until 1909.  Perhaps Sophie Weare Gage's mother accompanied her, but there was no "Mrs. Lyman J. Gage" at that time.

Eli Gage's death was officially ruled a suicide and that was that.  If the family ever found out what drove young Eli Gage to suicide, they kept it to themselves.

There was no notification in the newspapers of a public funeral for Eli Gage.  He was buried in the family plot in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago:

Genealogy research can be very rewarding as family myths are confirmed or debunked and newly discovered ancestors are "dug up." But there is another, more frustrating fact that one must face from the beginning - some mysteries will remain just that - mysteries, no matter how much they are investigated.  So today, over 100 years after the events in Seattle, I can still call it the "mysterious" death of Eli A. Gage.

May he rest in peace.  

Friday, March 13, 2015


I have mentioned before that I do alot of photography for the Find a Grave website.  I fulfill Find a Grave photo requests but I also photograph graves that I find interesting or unusual.  If a Find a Grave memorial page is already there, I just post the photo of the grave; if no Find a Grave page exists I post the name to Find a Grave and then post the photos.  Sometimes people contact me to thank me for photographing their ancestor's grave.  Such was the case recently when I was contacted by someone who thanked me for photographing her second great-grandfather's grave - Col. James A. Sexton at Rosehill Cemetery.

This person mentioned a few facts about her ancestor, and once I did a little digging I realized that Col. Sexton's story would be a good one for this blog, and so here it is:

James Andrew Sexton was born in Chicago on January 5, 1844, to Stephen Sexton (1810-1861) and Ann, nee Gaughan (????-1861). James was one of twelve children born to Stephen and Ann.  His siblings are:  Margaret Elizabeth (1838-1895), Thomas S. (1839-1889), Mary Ann (1842-1876), William H. (1845-????), Sarah Ellen (1847-1894), George Michael (1848-????), Eliza (1849-????), Matthias (1850-????), Austin Oliver (1852-1908), Joseph W. (1855-????), and Louis Napoleon (1859-????).  Stephen Sexton was a carpenter by trade.  Both he and Ann had been born in Ireland.

James Sexton spent his youth in Chicago.  Both of his parents died within a short time of each other in 1861.  Ann Sexton died March 22, and Stephen Sexton followed her on April 9.  The American Civil War began on April 12, 1861.  Even though he was only seventeen, James Sexton enlisted one week later on April 19, 1861 when the first call for volunteers for the Union Army went out. After completing a three month enlistment, he was appointed a sergeant and authorized to recruit Company I, Fifty-first Volunteer Infantry, of which he was to be Captain. In June, 1862, he was transferred to Company E, Sixty-seventh Illinois Infantry, and promoted to a lieutenancy, and within three months thereafter was elected Captain of a company recruited under the auspices of the Young Men's Christian Association of Chicago, which became Company D, Seventy-second Illinois.

James Sexton commanded the regiment at the battles of Columbia, Duck River, Spring Hill, Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee, and in the Nashville campaign. But it was the Battle of Franklin that was the singular event of the war for  Sexton.

The Battle of Franklin was fought on November 30, 1864, at Franklin, Tennessee, as part of the Franklin–Nashville Campaign of the American Civil War. It was one of the worst disasters of the war for the Confederate States Army. Confederate Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood's Army of Tennessee conducted numerous frontal assaults against fortified positions occupied by the Union forces under Maj. Gen. John M. Schofield and was unable to break through or to prevent Schofield from a planned, orderly withdrawal to Nashville.

The Confederate assault of six infantry divisions containing eighteen brigades with 100 regiments numbering almost 20,000 men, sometimes called the "Pickett's Charge of the West", resulted in devastating losses to the men and the leadership of the Army of Tennessee—fourteen Confederate generals (six killed or mortally wounded, seven wounded, and one captured) and 55 regimental  of commanders were casualties. After its defeat against Maj. Gen. George H. Thomas in the subsequent Battle of Nashville, the Army of Tennessee retreated with barely half the men with which it had begun the short offensive, and was effectively destroyed as a fighting force for the remainder of the war.

When stories of the Civil War are told, the events in the Battle of Franklin are often overshadowed by the Battle of Nashville.  To make sure as he said that, "history will do justice to the brave men who fought in the ranks," Sexton wrote his own story of the Battle of Franklin that was published by Samuel Harris, who had been a 1st Lieutenant in Company A of the 5th Michigan Calvary.  It is a short book, only 24 pages, but well worth reading.  If you wish to read it, you can find a copy here:

The Seventy-second Illinois was involved in seven battles and eleven skirmishes, being under the enemy's fire one hundred and forty-five days.  It went out with a force of nine hundred and sixty-seven officers and men, and came back with three hundred and thirty-two.  During its three years' service it had received two hundred and thirty-four recruits—more than two-thirds the total number mustered out at the close of the war.

In 1865 Col. Sexton was assigned to duty on the staff of Gen. A. J. Smith, Sixteenth Army Corps, acting as Provost-Marshal, and served until the close of the war, leaving a record which will compare favorably with that of any officer from Illinois. At Spanish Fort, on the 8th of April, 1865, Colonel Sexton's left leg was broken by a piece of a shell which exploded over his head.  He also received gunshot wounds at Franklin and Nashville, Tennessee.

After the war, Colonel Sexton purchased a plantation near Montgomery, Alabama, which he worked for two years, but ultimately he returned to Chicago.

Soon after his return to Chicago, Sexton became involved in the foundry business.  In 1867 he created a stove foundry with partner John Jackson at 178 Lake Street.  The Great Chicago Fire of October, 1871 destroyed the facility and Sexton Partnership is shut down due to little insurance on the company.  Before the fire reached the Sexton foundry, Sexton’s men tossed the foundry molds into the Chicago River for protection. He later retrieved the molds and was able to continue production.

In 1872 James Sexton met Henry Cribben.  By this time Sexton has re-capitalized and reopened the stove foundry on Erie Street.  In 1873 Sexton and Cribben joined together to found the immense stove factory Cribben, Sexton & Company.  Originally located in the old foundry on Erie Street, the business manufactured steel and cast iron parlor stoves, cooking stoves and heating stoves for both wood and coal.  By 1880, the business was producing 40,000 units a year and was wildly successful.  At the turn-of-the-century, stoves were the big-ticket consumer item.  At that time, wood burning stoves, and especially coal burning stoves, were cutting edge technology and provided services and functions that had only recently been luxuries.

But it was not all war and work for James Sexton.  On the 22d of February, 1868, Colonel Sexton married Miss Laura Louisa Woods (1849-1876), daughter of William Woods (1812-1890) and Dorcas Sophronia, nee Case (1823-1911). Her father was of English birth, and the mother a lineal descendant of Revolutionary soldier and representative of one of the earliest American families. With his first wife, James Sexton was blessed with four sons: Stephen William (1869-1922), George William (1872-1922), Ira James (1874-1925), and Franklin Tecumseh (1876-???).  Laura Woods Sexton died on September 24, 1876.  Here is her Death Notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune:

In 1878 James Sexton remarried.  His bride was Augusta, nee Loewe (1856-1934), who was of German extraction.  With his second wife, James Sexton was blessed with five daughters:  Laura Augusta (1879-????), Mabel Nevada (1881-????), Leola Logan (1885-????), Edith M. (1888-????) and Alice E. (1891-????).

In 1889, James Sexton was appointed Postmaster of Chicago by President Benjamin Harrison, a post he held for five years, serving through the time of the Worlds Columbian Exposition of 1892-1893, when the volume of mail handled under his supervision reached an enormous amount.

Cribben, Sexton and Company continued to expand and the company broke ground on the Universal Building at 700 Sacramento in 1898.  That building still stands, and the current owners have put together a nice tribute to Henry Cribben and James Sexton.  You can read about it here:

Unfortunately, that same year, ill health caught Sexton and he sold his portion of the business to Cribben’s son, William Cribben.

In addition to his family, his business and his public service, James Sexton was extremely active in the G.A.R.  While photographing graves I would often see the initials "G.A.R." on a tombstone.  I knew that they stood for Grand Army of the Republic, but that's about all I knew.   

According to Wikipedia, the "Grand Army of the Republic" (G.A.R.) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army (United States Army), Union Navy (U.S. Navy), Marines and the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service who served in the American Civil War for the Northern/Federal forces.  Founded in 1866 in Decatur, Illinois, and growing to include hundreds of posts (local community units) across the nation, (predominately in the North, but also a few in the South and West), it was dissolved in 1956 when its last member, Albert Woolson (1847-1956) of Duluth, Minnesota, died.  Linking men through their experience of the war, the G.A.R. became among the first organized advocacy groups in American politics, supporting voting rights for black veterans, promoting patriotic education, help to make Memorial Day a national holiday, lobbying the United States Congress to establish regular veterans' pensions, and supporting Republican political candidates.  Its peak membership, at more than 490,000, was in 1890, a high point of various Civil War commemorative and monument dedication ceremonies. It was succeeded by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War (S.U.V.C.W.), composed of male descendants of Union Army and Union Navy veterans.

James Sexton was elected as the Commander of the Illinois Department of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) in 1888 and Commander-in-Chief of the GAR in 1898.

James A. Sexton died at the Garfield Hospital in Washington, D.C. on February 6, 1899.  He had been ill about one month, suffering first from kidney trouble and finally from meningitis of the brain.  He was 54 years old.

In addition to the article announcing his death, the Chicago Daily Tribune published this tribute to James Sexton:

Col. Sexton's body was returned to Chicago to lie in state in Memorial Hall of the Chicago Public Library.  Mrs. Sexton requested that the services be kept simple, so the G.A.R. ritual was read at Memorial Hall and several speakers paid tribute to him.  Col. Sexton was entitled to be accompanied to the cemetery by a procession with formal marching of troops, but again Mrs. Sexton refused.  The services at the graveside of Rosehill Cemetery were again simple, with the G.A.R. ritual read and a memorial volley of shots fired.

Several newspapers noted that President McKinley sent flowers from the White House to the funeral.

The story of James A., Sexton is a familiar one - that of an ordinary person being called to do extraordinary things.  Though mostly forgotten today, Sexton is just another example of one of Illinois' finest sons.

James A. Sexton, soldier, statesman, patriot - may he rest in peace. 

Friday, March 6, 2015


My previous posts on two of the great Chicago area mausoleum builders, Sidney Lovell and Anders E. Anderson were well-received, so I though that this week I would continue the trend and write about Chicago's other great mausoleum builder Street Lightfoot, who conceived and built the magnificent mausoleum in Acacia Park Cemetery in Chicago.  If you stand out in front of the Acacia Park Mausoleum you will see this message carved into the stone:

In Memory Of
Founder & Builder
Acacia Park Cemetery
and Mausoleum
Deceased July 29, 1955

In the late 1910s the Masonic Fraternity of Chicagoland decided to develop cemeteries that would be limited to Masons, members of the Eastern Star and their families.  Street Lightfoot was hired to accomplish this because of his cemetery expertise and background in Masonry. Lightfoot developed the Acacia Park Cemetery on Chicago's north side, and the Cedar Park Cemetery on Chicago's far south side for the Masons.  This article will concentrate on the Acacia Park Cemetery and more specifically on the Acacia Park Mausoleum.

Before we look at the mausoleum he built, let's see what we can find out about the man with the unusual name Street Lightfoot.

John Street Lightfoot was born Febuary 17, 1878 in Fort Deposit, Alabama to William A. Lightfoot (1828-1914) and Anne Elizabeth, nee McRea (1835-1902).  William A. Lightfoot was a veteran of the Civil War, having fought for the Confederacy as part of McQueen's Regiment in the Alabama Calvary.

William Lightfoot had been married previously to Martha Eugenia, nee Dunn (1832-1868).  William and Martha had two daughters:  Lou E. Lightfoot (1862-????) and Martha Eugenia Lightfoot (1863-1919).  After Martha's death William married Anne Elizabeth, nee McRea (1835-1902) on August 20, 1868.  They had three sons:  William A. Lightfoot, Jr. (1869-1952),  Henry Robert Lightfoot, (1873-1944) and John Street Lightfoot (1875-1955).

The 1880 US Census shows the Lightfoot family living in Fort Deposit Alabama.  William A. Lightfoot, Sr. listed his occupation as "Farmer".  John Street Lightfoot was two years old.  The 1890 US Census for that part of the country is lost, but the 1900 US Census finds the Lightfoot family living in Tampa, Florida.

William A. Lightfoot is retired; the rest of the family is in retail,  Twenty two year old John Street Lightfoot lists his occupation as "Dry Goods Business."

On February 3, 1904, John Street Lightfoot married Jessie Estelle Gramling (1878-1966) in Hillsborough County, Florida.   

Jessie Estelle Gramling was the daughter of William Edward Gramling (1849-1901) and Sarah Wellington, nee Reid (1853-1928).  In addition to Jessie, William and Sarah Gramling had three daughters:  Mary L. Gramling (1869-????), Ethel May Granling (1879-????) and Louise Gramling (1891-1896), and two sons:   William Reid Gramling (1871-1941) and Antoine K. Gramling (1888-1965).  Their father was a carriage maker by trade.

The 1910 US Census finds Street and Jessie Lightfoot living with her parents in Tampa, Florida.  He has dropped the "John" from his name and now just goes by "Street Lightfoot".  Street lists his occupation as "Real Estate."

By the time Street Lightfoot has to register for the draft in September of 1918, the Lightfoots have moved North.    They are living at 4700 N. Winchester in Chicago:

4700 N. Winchester, Chicago

Street Lightfoor indicates his occupation as "Secretary" of the Irving Park Boulevard Cemetery.  He was based out of their office in downtown Chicago - Suite 1848 in the Conway Building, on the SWC of Clark and Washington:

In those days all of the cemeteries maintained an office in downtown Chicago.

By the 1920 US Census, Street Lightfoot has joined the Acacia Park Cemetery Company as its President.  He and Jessie are still living at 4700 N. Winchester and Jessie's mother has come to live with them. 

Street Lightfoot knew the neighborhood along West Irving Park Road just outside the Chicago city limits very well, having worked for the Irving Park Cemetery as mentioned above.  When the Masons hired Lightfoot to develop a north side cemetery, he made arrangements to purchase 83 acres of sloping land right across the street from the Irving Park Cemetery.  The land is bounded by Berteau on the north, Irving Park, on the south, Ozanam on the east and Pioneer on the west.  
The Acacia Park Cemetery was opened in 1922.  The first mention of a burial at Acacia Park was in the Chicago Daily Tribune of  June 14, 1923 for Frederick Glaser, buried in the Linden Section.

From the day it opened, sales of plots in Acacia Park Cemetery were brisk - there was a large Masonic population in Chicagoland.  Lightfoot declared from the first that all headstones at Acacia Park had to be of a uniform size, and the only large monuments allowed would be two large granite obelisks with Masonic symbols on them.

As the 1920s moved along, Street Lightfoot was restless.  His work organizing and developing Acacia Park Cemetery was complete.  The south side Masonic Cemetery he developed, Cedar Park, 97 acres at Halsted and 124 streets, was dedicated in October of 1924.  He wanted to do something that would set Acacia Park apart from other Masonic Cemeteries.  In January of 1925 he made his announcement - he would build a community mausoleum at Acacia Park.    

The announcement came in the January 18, 1925 edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune:

$800,000 Structure to Be in Acacia Cemetery.

By Al Chase

Chicago is to have one of the most magnificent mausoleums in the world - a solid marble, concrete and bronze structure - dedicated to Masons and their families.

Work has started on this impressive building which will stand in the center of the eighty-three acre Acacia Park cemetery, on the north side of Irving Park boulevard, extending from Phillips to Thatcher road, about a mile west of the city limits. 

Designed by Chicago Firm.

The $800,000 Acacia mausoleum was designed by R.G. Schmid & Co., of Chicago, who were the architects of Medinah Temple, Medinah Country Club, and other Masonic temples throughout the country.  

The building will have rooms for families, each one with bronze gates with the name of the owner; single crypts and columbariums, where cremated remains will be placed in bronze urns.

In the main part will be a high vaulted chapel.  This chapel, as well as the mausoleum corridors  and rooms will be carpeted and furnished with comfortable chairs, plants and soft lights.  Carpets are an unusual feature of a mausoleum, according to Street Lightfoot, president of the Acacia Park Cemetery Association, and also the Acacia Mausoleum corporation. 

Only One in World with Organ.

Mr. Lightfoot, a Floridian, who has only lived in Chicago a few years, states that both the mausoleum and the cemetery are completely financed and no stocks or bonds are for sale.

"I believe it will be the only mausoleum in the world with an organ," said Mr. Lightfoot, "and I don't believe there is another mausoleum anywhere that will have as beautiful a setting as the Acacia. We're going to lay out a sunken garden 150 x 400 in front of it, with a marble fountain at each end, with cascades. 

To Be Completed by Fall.

"We'll have $83,000 worth of bronze alone in the mausoleum.  The exterior will be of silvery gray and the interior of white axed Georgia marble.  We intend to have a complete ventilating system throughout the building.

"I feel safe in saying it is the only building of its kind dedicated to Masons.  We hope to have it completed by fall."

Space in the mausoleum will be sold with a stipulation in the contract that it can be used only for Masons and their families and if anyone to be buried there is found, upon investigation, not to have been a Mason, the contract will be void. 

Endowed Fund in Trust.

A perpetual endowment fund, held in trust to be administered by the Union Trust company, has been established.  The income from the fund, it is claimed, will be sufficient to insure perpetual care of Acacia Mausoleum for all time.  

The new mausoleum at Acacia Park Cemetery was dedicated June 26, 1927:

Since Street Lightfoot did not finance his mausoleum, when the Great Depression hit he did not run into any of the cash flow problems that plagued Anders E. Anderson with the Oak Ridge Abbey mausoleum.

Street and Jessie Lightfoot must have divorced sometime during the 1920s because they remarrried in St. Joseph, Indiana on June 2, 1928.  Unfortunately this was an indication of trouble ahead.

By the 1930 US Census things were looking up for the Lightfoots.  They were renting an apartment at 3000 N. Sheridan Road in Chicago, for which they paid $200.00 per month rent.  Jessie's mother had died in 1928 so she was no longer living with them, but Street's brother William Lightfoot was living with them.  They also had a live-in servant, fifty-six year old Catherine Haage.  Street Lightfoot listed his occupation as "Proprietor of a Cemetery."

3000 N. Sheridan Road, Chicago

In 1934, perhaps as an answer to the hard times being experienced all over the US, Street Lightfoot announced one more major project for Acacia Park Cemetery, a Crematorium/Columbarium.  From the Chicago Daily Tribune of November 18, 1934:

Here's a photo of the crematorium/ columbarium which is still in use today:

In 1934 the Lightfoots moved again - this time to 2256 Lincoln Park West in Chicago:

2256 Lincoln Park West, Chicago

By 1940, Street and Jessie Lightfoot were divorced.   I was not able to find Street Lightfoot in the 1940 US Census, but Jessie Lightfoot had taken an apartment by herself (and a live-in housekeeper) at 2335 N. Commonwealth Avenue in Chicago.

By the time Street Lightfoot registered for the draft in April of 1942 he had remarried.  His second wife was Elsie Helen, nee Wiese (1903-1987).  Elsie had also been married previously - to Ralph Chester Chilberg (1898-1943).  Elsie and Ralph had a daughter, Charlotte (b. 1922).

Street, Elsie and Charlotte were living in a house that had been constructed on the grounds of the cemetery, at 4214 Ozanam in what had become Norwood Park (now Harwood Heights), Illinois:

4214 N. Ozanam, Harwood Heights, IL

Ultimately, Street and Elsie Lightfoot retired to Eustis, Florida but still ran the cemetery, at least on paper.

Street Lightfoot died in Eustis, Florida on July 29, 1955 at the age of 77.  Here is is obituary and death notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune:

He is, of course, interred in the mausoleum he conceived and built:

As a tribute to Street Lightfoot, Founder and Builder, let's take a look around his beautiful mausoleum:

Inside Bronze Front Door with Masonic Symbols

Family Rooms Line the Grand Entrance Hall
More Family Rooms

Looking Back Toward the Front Doors

Even the Light Fixtures are Works of Art

The Main Chapel

Presider's Chair

Hallway Off Chapel
Hallway Lined with Family Rooms

A Wall of Crypts


Columbarium Hallway

Guarding the Columbarium

Another Hallway

Elevator Door to Upper Level

Family Crypts

Ready for the Next Masonic Service

Some additional hall and stairway views:

Architectural Details Abound

Everywhere you turn, you are reminded that Masons are builders.  Here is an assortment of architectural details from some of the Family Rooms:

I have visited the Acacia Park Mausoleum countless times, and every time I visit I notice something I hadn't noticed before.

I never met Street Lightfoot, but I wish I had.  I bet he would have been a very interesting man to talk to.  Instead we will have to know him through the beautiful mausoleum he left us.

Street Lightfoot - Master Mason, Master Builder - may he rest in peace.