Friday, December 27, 2013


In a previous post I told you how Howard Street got it's name.  As a matter of fact, many of the streets in Evanston are named after local land developers or people of note.  But only one person has each of his three names - first, middle, and last, assigned to Evanston streets. Who was that person?  Chancellor Livingston Jenks.  What can we find out about Mr. Jenks and why are three streets named after him?  Let's see what we can "dig up".

Chancellor Livingston Jenks was born January 29, 1828 in Warren, Bradford County, Pennsylvania, the fourth of seventeen(!!!) children born to Livingston Jenks (1789-1863) and Sally, nee Buffington (1796-1866) - and that does not count their four adopted children!  Of the seventeen children, nine lived to adulthood.  They are:  Cynthia (1816-1874), Sarah (1822-????), Nancy (1824-1911), Chancellor (1828-1903), Charles (1830-1893), Oliver (1831-1880), William (1834-1914), Olive (1836-1887) and Abigail (1838-1911).

Chancellor was a direct descendant on both sides of men who fought in the Revolutionary War.  On his father's side he was descended from Captain Joseph Jenkes from the Army of Independence, and on his mother's side from Preserved Buffington, a member of the Rhode Island Regiment.  

When Chancellor was a boy the family moved from Pennsylvania to Illinois, buying a farm in Deer Park in La Salle County.  From a young age, Chancellor knew that farming was not for him, and in 1851 he came to Chicago to study law under Calvin DeWolfe.  While he was practicing law, he was also buying up real estate, agreeing with Mark Twain who said, "Buy land, they're not making it anymore".

On May 6, 1855 at the First Methodist Church of Chicago he married Miss Pamella Maria Hoisington (1831-1890) of Montreal, Canada. Pamella was the daughter of Jasper Albert Hoisington (1801-1895) and Pamella, nee Manning (1799-1881).  Chancellor and Pamella were blessed with six children:  Albert (1856-1890), Charles Lawrence (1858-1898), Edwin (1861-????), Chancellor Livingston Jr. (1863-1937), Laura Belle (1865-1874), and Livingston Jenks (1868-1918).

As Chancellor Jenks' time and money allowed, he kept adding to his real estate holdings.  In 1868, in connection with Charles E. Brown and others, he acquired a large tract of land in what is now the Sixth Ward of Evanston, and laid out the sub-division known as North Evanston. He was also one of the founders of Glencoe and, in addition to his holdings in Chicago, invested largely in Englewood, Hyde Park and elsewhere.  Mr. Jenks' real estate interests having become so extensive as to demand his entire attention, he was compelled, with great reluctance, to give up the practice of the law not long before the Great Chicago Fire.   That catastrophe almost ruined Jenks financially, and just as he was regaining his footing the second great fire of 1874 happened, again caused him extensive losses.  Since the land itself was still there, Jenks was able over time to recoup his losses and ended up in better shape over the long run.

In politics Chancellor Livingston Jenks was always a staunch Republican, and before the Civil War, he and his father were active abolitionists, and their farm in La Salle County was a station of the so-called "Underground Railroad," established to aid runaway slaves in escaping to Canada.

Interestingly, Chancellor Jenks is best remembered today not for his real estate holdings, or his efforts to improve Evanston schools.  He is best remembered in connection with his efforts on behalf of a runaway slave girl.

In August of 1860, when he was in downtown Chicago, Jenks saw a runaway slave girl at Clark and Van Buren Streets named Eliza Grayson struggling in the grasp of her master, Stephen F. Knuckles, and Jack Newsom, a commissioner under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 declared that all runaway slaves upon capture were to be returned to their masters. Abolitionists nicknamed it the "Bloodhound Law" for the dogs that were used to track down runaway slaves.  Seeing the young girl struggling with the two men, Jenks promptly rushed to the assistance of the girl with the result that soon the entire group were rolling over each other in the gutter. When police officers arrived on the scene, they were all taken into custody.  The runaway slave alone was imprisoned; the others being well known and responsible, were released on their own recognizance. Planning to get the better of the slaveowners, Jenks immediately swore out a warrant charging the slave with disorderly conduct.  Jenks' mentor and fellow abolitionist, (now Justice) Calvin De Wolf issued the writ at 10:00 at night.  George Anderson, Deputy Sheriff (who was in on the "conspiracy") served the warrant at once, and took the girl from the police station with the apparent purpose of producing her before the magistrate.  On the street he was surrounded by a howling mob of several hundred persons, and, when the crowd was dispersed, the prisoner was nowhere to be found.   Before morning Eliza Grayson was on her way to Canada and freedom.  Back in Chicago, the Federal Grand Jury which was then in session, promptly indicted Chancellor Jenks, Calvin De Wolf and George Anderson on the charge of violating the Fugitive Slave Law. The affair coming  to the knowledge of President Buchanan, he made the somewhat natural mistake of supposing "Chancellor" Jenks to be a judge of one of the State courts on the chancery side.  Indignant at this instance of open violation of a cherished (by Buchanan) United States statute, he telegraphed the United States Attorney at Chicago as follows: "Prosecute Chancellor Jenks to the full extent of the law. For a private citizen to be engaged in such nefarious practices as he is charged with is bad enough; but a high officer of the Court, should be severely dealt with. (Signed) James Buchanan, President." Shortly afterward Abraham Lincoln was elected President, the Civil War broke out, and the political complexion of the Federal officers at Chicago changed.  As if by magic, the indictment against Chancellor Jenks and his two "co-conspirators" was dropped.

Pamella Hoisington Jenks died April 5, 1890 in San Diego, California while visiting their son Chancellor Jr.  Here is her death notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 7, 1890:

After his wife's death Chancellor Jenks spent the summers living with his son Chancellor Jr. at 1217 Ridge in Evanston, and the winters in San Diego, California where the elder Jenks had real estate investments.

1217 Ridge, Evanston

Chancellor Livingston Jenks died in San Francisco, California on January 10, 1903 while visiting his son Livingston Jenks.  Here is his obituary from the Chicago Daily Tribune of January 11, 1903:

and his Death Notice from the Tribune of January 16, 1903:

Chancellor Jenks was laid to rest beside his beloved Pamella in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago:

After finding out that Chancellor Livingston Jenks laid out the subdivision known as North Evanston, it is not surprising that streets are named after him.  Supposedly only Jenks Street is named after him; Chancellor and Livingston streets are named after his sons.  But there they are all in a row:  Chancellor, Livingston, and Jenks Streets in North Evanston.

Chancellor Livingston Jenks - a man willing to fight for his principals, and the namesake of three Evanston streets  - may he rest in peace.

Friday, December 20, 2013


Surfing the Internet one day I happened upon the following photograph of a drummer boy from the Union Army during the Civil War:

It is titled "Portrait of John F.P. Robie".  The writeup mentioned that he was buried in Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago so I thought this would be an interesting subject for this blog - and I was right.

John Freeman Parker Robie was born February 23, 1848 in Candia, New Hampshire to Nathaniel D. Robie (1818-????) and Ruth Jane nee Moore (1816-1895).  John had two brothers:  George Frank Robey (1844-1891) and Walter Shedd Robie (1851-1933).  Their father Nathaniel Robey was a blacksmith.  An interesting side note:  John's brother George was a Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient for "extreme gallantry in the face of the enemy."

John F.P. Robie enlisted in Company F, New Hampshire 8th Infantry Regiment on October 1, 1861 as a musician.  He was thirteen years old.  His term was up and he reenlisted on January 4, 1864.  In addition to helping soldiers march in rhythm, drummer boys like Robie used various drum calls to send messages and signals to the troops.  The drummer boys also assisted in taking charge of and burying the dead.

The Civil War ended in May-June, 1865 and John mustered out on October 28, 1865 at Vicksburg, Mississippi.  He was just short of his eighteenth birtrhday.

By 1869 John had moved north again, this time to Boston.  The Boston Directory for 1869 shows John as a clerk at 228 Broadway in Boston.  It was here that John met Charles Louis Willoughby who had started The Boston One Price Clothing Company.  John decided to go to work for Willoughby and in 1870 had moved with the company (now called Willoughby, Hill & Co.) to Chicago where they set up shop at Clark and Madison Streets.

Robie's business still required him to travel frequently to the east coast.  During one of these trips he became acquainted with Miss Marian Hosley of Canton, New York.  Robie made sure he got back to Canton frequently, and in 1883 John Robie and Marian Hosley were married.  The new Mrs. Robie returned with her husband to Chicago where they made their home.

Marian Hosley was born in Canton, New York on October 8, 1847.  She was the daughter of local farmer Henry Hosley (1820-1888) and Esther, nee Johnson (1827-1911).

In 1884 John Robie and his partner Ferson M. Willoughby struck out on their own, calling their business Willoughby & Robie.

In 1887, John Robie's luck began to run out.  The first event on the downward slide was a fire which almost wiped out Willoughby and Robie in 1887.  Here's an account of the fire from the Chicago Daily Tribune of October 28, 1887:

Robie's bad luck continued when his partner, Ferson M. Willoughby died suddenly on October 22, 1888. By 1891 John Robie called his firm Robie & Company.  The 1890s were difficult years for Robie and Company - the last time they were listed in the Chicago Business Directory was 1897.

1900 was the year that John F.P. Robie's world fell apart.  Robie & Co. had gone out of business but creditors were demanding payment on outstanding bills.  With nowhere else to turn, John Robie and his wife filed for bankruptcy on February 17, 1900.  John listed Liabilities of $9,900 and Assets of $0.  Marian listed Liabilities of $3,000 and Assets of $0.

By the 1900 U.S. Census which was taken June 6, 1900, John and his wife had moved out of their residence downtown at 298 W. Erie, to the south side at 4132 S. Calumet Avenue in Chicago. Unfortunately all that is at 4132 S. Calumet today is a vacant lot.  John told the Census taker that he was a "travelling salesman".

Marian Hosley Robie died September 26, 1900 at the age of 52.  She was buried in the Hosley Family Plot at Fairview Cemetery in Canton, New York:

Photo courtesy Anne Cady.

John Robie died August 19, 1917 in Alexian Brothers Hospital in Chicago of a cerebral hemorrhage.

 He was 69 years old.

Here's his death notice from the Chicago Daily Tribune of August 20, 1917:

I don't imagine there was any money to ship his body back east; in any case he was buried in Section 117 of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago. His tombstone indicates that he was part of the Grand Army of the Republic - a national organization of Union Civil War Veterans.

That's the story of John F.P. Robie.  From a drummer boy in the Civil War to a noted Chicago clothier.  From being listed in the Chicago Blue Book to being named on a list of people who filed for bankruptcy.  Many of John's fellow soldiers in the Civil War were killed and never got to realize their potential in life.  John, however survived the war and lived a life that took him from the bottom to the top and back to the bottom again.  Remember the immortal words of that great philosopher Ralph Kramden who said, "Be nice to the people you meet on the way up, because you're going to meet the same people on the way back down."

John Freeman Parker Robie - our Little Drummer Boy.  May he rest in peace.

Friday, December 13, 2013


I was in Calvary Cemetery in Evanston, Illinois back in October looking for a grave a friend had asked me to photograph in Section S.  I never did find the grave I was supposed to photograph but instead I found a wonderful white bronze monument to the William Wood Family:

What can we learn about the William Wood Family of Chicago, and who is the "Minnie" buried under the white bronze lamb?

William Wood was born in England July 18, 1843.  He first shows up in the United States in the 1870 Census.  He is twenty-seven years old and an iron moulder by trade.  Toward the end of 1870 he married a woman named Catherine (but sometimes called "Kate") who had been born in Canada November 13, 1832. 

Their first child, a daughter, was born July 18, 1871 in Chicago.  They named her Mary Ann, but in the 1880 Census she was called "Minnie".  

Their second child, also a daughter, was born February 12, 1876 in Chicago.  Her name was Jennie M. Wood.  Unfortunately Jennie died July 16, 1877. She was seventeen months and four days old.  Her family decided to bury her at Calvary Catholic Cemetery in Evanston. Then they erected a beautiful white bronze monument from the American Bronze Company in Chicago:


Sometime before the 1880 Census, the Wood family moved into 136 W. Sigel Street in Chicago.  There was William, Kate and eight year-old Minnie.  William listed his occupation as "Iron Moulder."

William Wood died at home, 136 Sigel Street in Chicago on January 11, 1887 at 9:00 in the morning.  He was forty-three.  The cause of death was listed as "Typhoid Aneumonia" which he had for one week. His death certificate erroneously lists his Place of Burial as Rosehill:

He was buried in the plot he had purchased at Calvary when Jennie died in 1877:

Tragedy struck the Wood family again when seventeen year-old Mary Ann Wood died on August 29, 1888 of "Bronchial Catarrh (Chronic)". According to her death certificate she suffered with this for twelve of her seventeen years:

She, too was buried in the family plot at Calvary:

Added to Mary's side of the monument is an inscription/epitaph:

"Will You Come To My Grave When My Spirit Has Fled,
And Beneath the Green Sod I Am Laid With the Dead,
When the Heart That Loved You Is Turning To Clay,
And In Calvary's Cold Dews I Am Passing Away!"

The 1890 US Census for Chicago is lost, but Catherine Wood is listed in the 1888 Chicago City Directory as the widow of William, living at 136 Sigel Street.  She is all alone now, and will remain that way until her death.

The 1900 US Census shows Catherine by herself at 136 Sigel Street. She does say that she has given birth to two children, but neither is still alive.

Catherine Wood surprisingly shows up in the Chicago Daily Tribune of July 21, 1901.  Apparently she was "cured" of blindness by Dr. Oren Oneal. According to the ad: "Mrs. Wood Was Blind - Dr. Oneal Restored Her Sight.  Mrs. C. Wood of 136 Sigel street, Chicago, is among the number who has recently been cured by Dr. Oren Oneal's Dissolvent Method.  Mrs. Wood has been gradually losing her eyesight for a number of years, and at the time she consulted Dr. Oneal she was so nearly blind that she had to feel her way around the house. Cataracts had formed on both her eyes, and her condition was truly a pitiable one. Her sight was completely restored in one month by the Oneal Dissolvent Method."

The Chicago street numbering system changed in 1909, so the 1910 US Census shows seventy-eight year old Catherine Wood living at 223 W. Sigel Street.  She owned the house on Sigel but it did have a mortgage.

Just about the time of the 1910 Census, the City of Chicago applied "Eminent Domain" and condemned all the buildings in that block of Sigel Street to build an elementary school.  In 1936 the name of Sigel Street was changed to Evergreen Avenue, and where the Wood house once stood is now the Franklin Fine Arts Academy, part of the Chicago Public School System.     

Catherine Wood died on December 13, 1918 at the age of eighty-six of heart disease. (No further mention of Dr. Oneal):

She was laid to rest in the Wood family plot at Calvary, but the American Bronze Company had gone out of business around 1909, so Catherine lies in an unmarked grave to this day.

What about the mysterious "Minnie" buried under the white bronze lamb? 

Mary Ann Wood was called "Minnie" but she was seventeen when she died.  Lambs are usually used to mark the grave of a child. According to the Calvary Cemetery records, along with the Wood family, a "Mercy Agnes Stuart (or Stewart)" is buried in their plot.  She died on April 24, 1888 at the age of 3 years and 6 months of scarlet fever:

It is likely that Minnie the lamb marks the grave of Mercy Agnes Stuart. Who she was, or if she was related to the Wood family is unknown, but it was not uncommon in those days for a family to donate a single grave to friends or relatives if a baby died suddenly. 

So that's the story of the Wood Family and their American Bronze tombstone.  I know that many people don't like the "zinkers" as they call these kinds of tombstones, but I do.  This one is not particularly top heavy, so it does not suffer from the "bottom spread" that many of these do.  Also, these tombstones held up very well in the extreme heat and cold of Chicago and still look great after over 100 years - and no fading of the lettering or inscriptions - they are just as crisp and sharp as the day they were installed.

William, Catherine, Jennie and Mary Ann Wood, and little Mercy Agnes Stewart - May they rest in peace.

Friday, December 6, 2013

SWEETHEART - Ruby Weinzimmer and Babe

I was at Jewish Waldheim Cemetery in Forest Park the Wednesday before Thanksgiving doing some Find a Grave photo requests (what else?) when I happened upon this impressive tombstone:

Louis Weinzimmer's wife and child died March 3, 1926 in childbirth. One hundred years ago one of the leading causes of death for females in the US was "complications from childbirth."  That usually meant that the mother caught an infection during the birth process and in her weakened condition was unable to fight it off.  This was, of course years before the discovery of antibiotics.  In the old days they used to call this "childbed fever."    

Let's take a look to see what we can learn about Louis Weinzimmer and his wife Ruby.

Louis Richard Weinzimmer was born February 14, 1893 in Cleveland, Ohio to Meyer Weinzimmer (1871-1938) and Rose, nee Feldberg (1874-????).  Both Meyer and Rose emigrated from Russia, Meyer in 1886 and Rose in 1887.  They met and married in St. Louis, Missouri about 1891.

Meyer and Rose had seven children:  Samuel (1892-1946), Louis (1893-1972), Millie (1895-????), Bessie (1897-????), Yetta/Edna (1900-1986), Israel/Harold (1903-????) and Lillian (1906-????).  As we chart the births of Meyer and Rose's children, we can follow them as they move around the country.  Sam was born in Saint Louis, Missouri. Louis, Millie, Bessie, and Yetta were born in Cleveland, Ohio, and Harold and Lillian were born in Chicago.  Meyer Weinzimmer owned a trucking company.

The 1910 Census finds seventeen year old Louis as a stock clerk for a mail order company.  He was living with his parents at 1435 N. Talman in Chicago.  Unfortunately the building the Weinzimmers lived in in 1910 is no longer there.  Louis told the census taker in 1940 that he had not gone beyond the 8th grade in school.

On May 22, 1915, Louis enlisted in the US Army.  His term was up after two years, and he re-enlisted on April 6, 1917.  Even though the US Army records show his discharge date as October 20, 1919, the 1920 Census (January 12, 1920) finds Louis at Camp Mercedes in Hidalgo, Texas as a sergeant in the Medical Detail.

Ruby Pitlack (some sources say "Pitluck") was born July 5, 1904 (even though her tombstone says 1899) in Saint Joseph, Missouri to Morris Pitlack (1880-1950) and Sarah, nee Friedman (1883-1970).  Ruby had three siblings:  Mollie (1903-1995), Harry Louis (1907-1971) and Minnie (1909-1914).  Morris Pitlack was a merchant of general merchandise. Both Morris and Sarah came to the US from Russia - Morris in 1900 and Sarah in 1902.  All of their children were born in the U.S. Just to drive genealogists mad, after Ruby's death Mollie started calling herself Ruby and her tombstone in fact has her name as Ruby Fine.

The 1920 Census shows the "Original Ruby" still living at home with her parents in Saint Joseph, Missouri.

We don't know how Louis Weinzimmer came to meet Ruby Pitlack, and there is no record of their marriage - either in Missouri or Illinois.  But, they probably married sometime in 1925 if her first baby was due in March of 1926.  At this time Louis was working as a coal salesman.

Here is Ruby's death certificate:

Unlike so many other women of the time, Ruby did not die from childbed fever.  Her actual cause of death was Eclampsia which I had never heard of until recently.  Fans of 'Downton Abbey' will remember that Lady Sybil died of eclampsia shortly after giving birth.  In Ruby Weinzimmer's case, both the mother and child died.  The decision was made in the Weinzimmer case to take the baby by Caesarian Section, but it was too late for both.

Even today eclampsia is the world's number one killer of mothers and babies in childbirth.

At the time of Ruby's death, she and Louis were living at 4638 N. Albany in Chicago:

4638 N. Albany, Chicago

Ruby Weinzimmer and "Babe" were buried Friday March 5, 1926 at Jewish Waldheim cemetery in Forest Park.  Louis erected a beautiful monument to them:

After the death of his wife and child, Louis moved back in with his parents and siblings at 3510 W. Palmer Street in Chicago.  The building was owned by Louis' parents:

3510 W. Palmer Street, Chicago

Louis Weinzimmer remarried sometime before 1935 to Lillian Spachner nee Berlstein.  She was born in Poland in 1891.  Lillian married Max Spachner in 1912 but they must have divorced, because he did not die until 1966.  I believe Louis Weinzimmer's marriage to Lillian Spachner also ended in divorce.  Lillian died in 1966, but there is no mention of her in Louis Weinzimmer's obituary from November 22, 1972:

He died November 15, 1972.

Shortly thereafter, he joined his beloved Ruby and Babe at Waldheim:

Anyone doing genealogy research will come across stories like this in their own family tree.  I have mentioned in other posts that a mother dying in childbirth or shortly after shows up in my own family tree on both sides.  Although modern medicine has reduced the number of childbirth-related deaths, they still happen.  It is always a tragedy when death occurs in connection with new life.  Often mothers are struck down in the prime of life, and many babies never get a chance to live at all.  It certainly was a tragedy on  March 3, 1926 when death took both Ruby Pitlack Weinzimmer and her "Babe".  May they rest in peace.

Ruby Pitlack Weinzimmer