Friday, November 30, 2012


I have mentioned before that I have relatives in Section S of Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago.  When I visit their graves I often wander around the area to look at the other tombstones nearby.  One of the wonderful things about Rosehill is that you can find something interesting and historic wherever you look.  On a recent trip to their graves I saw a very unusual tombstone:

Certainly unique, the tombstone for Waldo Deagan was carved out of a massive boulder.  It was carved to look like a mountain and along the bottom of the stone is carved "Nature-Science-Music".  What can we find out about Waldo Deagan who died in 1912 at the age of seventeen?  From the looks of his tombstone he was an explorer, or a mountain climber or a conservationist.  Actually, the opposite seems to be the case.  According to his death certificate, Waldo Deagan was a bookkeeper (not that there's anything wrong with that).  

Waldo Frederick Deagan was born in San Francisco, California on November 30, 1894, the second son of John Calhoun Deagan and Sophie (nee Funke).  He joined his brother Jefferson Claude Deagan, who was born in 1886.  We can conclude that the Deagan family moved around quite a bit because Jefferson was born in Missouri, Waldo in San Francisco and by 1900 the Deagans were living in Chicago, at 459 S. State Street.  There had been another son, Michael Roy Deagan, who died in infancy.  A skyscraper now occupies the block that used to contain 459 S. State Street.  

The 1910 Census found the J.C. Deagan family living at 1234 W. Grace in Chicago.  

1234 W. Grace, Chicago

Fifteen year old Waldo was working at the factory his father owned in Chicago that made bells.  A sister to Waldo, named Marion Vita, came along in 1902.  

J.C. Deagan, Inc. was a noted manufacturer of bells and other musical instruments including the carillon bells in the Tribune Tower.  Here is an ad from 1912:

Nothing more about Waldo Deagan until the sad news from the Chicago Daily Tribune of April 26, 1912:

DEAGAN - Waldo Deagan, April 25, at the age of 17 years, dearly beloved son of Mr. and Mrs. J.C. Deagan; fond brother of Claude, Vita, and Ella Deagan.  Services at Rosehill chapel, Sunday, April 28, at 2:30 p.m.  (Ella was the wife of Claude Deagan).

That's all we know about the short life of Waldo Deagan.  Did he die in Africa on a scientific expedition?  Did he die attempting to climb Mt. Everest?  Did he die in the Amazon jungles?  No, he died at home, 4120 N. Paulina in Chicago, of pneumonia and uremia.

4120 N. Paulina, Chicago

Why was "Nature, Science, Music" inscribed on Waldo Deagan's tombstone?  Why does his tombstone look like a mountain peak?  We may never know.  We do know, however, that seventeen-year-old Waldo Deagan died too soon to achieve his potential, whatever that may have been.

May he rest in peace.

Thursday, November 22, 2012


I was wandering around historic Rosehill Cemetery one beautiful autumn day when I happened upon a flat tombstone:

Chicago Police Department
Killed in the Line of Duty
Sept. 7, 1892
                       Star 1609

I remembered reading that there was an effort to make sure that every grave of a Chicago police officer who was killed in the line of duty had a tombstone.  Since the object of this blog is to make sure that people are not forgotten, let's look at the circumstances 120 years ago that caused Officer Henry McDowell to make the supreme sacrifice.  The story starts in the Chicago Daily Tribune from September 7, 1892:

Officer John Powell and Capt. James M. Brown Shot.
Henry M'Dowell Dying.
The Texan Brings Down Two Raiding Chicago Policemen.
He Tries to Avoid Arrest.
But After An Ugly Battle He Bites the Dust Himself.
Opinions Upon the Affray.

Racing at Garfield was stopped again by the police yesterday.

But it was undone at the sacrifice of two and probably three lives.

The policeman, John Powell, was shot and killed instantly while another was wounded mortally by Capt. James M. Brown, a Texan of wide renown who had a large stable of runners at the track.  Brown in turn was shot down and killed almost instantly by Officer Henry L. McDowell, who had just received what will probably prove his death wound.

Following is a lost of the dead and fatally wounded:

The Killed.

BROWN, JAMES M., race-horse owner of San Saba, Tex., shot by Officer Henry L. McDowell.
POWELL, JOHN, police officer of the Maxwell Street Station, residence No. 358 Center Avenue, 32 years of age, shot by James M. Brown.

Fatally Wounded.

McDOWELL, HENRY L., police officer of the Des Plaines Street station, residence No. 321 West Van Buren Street, 30 years of age, shot by James M. Brown.  Recovery regarded as improbable.

This tragic episode in the attempt of the city authorities to suppress the resort of the defiant Garfield Park  club was not unexpected, but no one looked for such sudden and exciting events as those of yesterday.  the Police had invaded the park in much the same way as they had on the preceding day, and had loaded their patrol wagons with park employees, bookmakers, and patrons of the resort.  The action of the police on the preceding day had the effect of scaring people away from the track, and the entire attendance yesterday did not exceed 1,500 persons, of whom a large percentage were in the custody of the police within five minutes after the bluecoats had entered the park, which was at 4 o'clock, and just after the third race of the day had been ruin.  Everybody wanted around the grandstand had been corralled and fifty policemen were chasing frightened sports through the inner field and returning with them to the patrol wagons, which were located behind the grand stand.  Squads of policemen chased along the stables, picking up hostelers and rubbers, while Inspector Lewis and Capt. Mahoney and other officers were arranging for the transportation of the prisoners to the Des Plaines Street Station.  A great crowd of bookmakers and hangers-on about the track had gathered outside the park on Crawford avenue, and found some pleasure in jeering the police, but the bluecoats seemed to recognize that they had by far the better part of the game and took the chaff in good-naturedly enough.

A Shot Is Heard.

As the wagons were ready to depart with the prisoners the shrill noise of the police whistle was heard coming from the direction of the southwest portion of the park.  Then a shot was heard.  There was more blowing of whistles and then more firing, and Inspector Lewis ordered his men, most of whom had returned to the wagons, to hurry to the scene of the alarm. The bluecoats sped away readily.  They knew there was mischief in the air, for they had heard threats that their efforts to arrest James M. Brown, whose stables were located near re southwest gate. would be met with force.  They knew that Brown had a record earned as Sheriff in Texas, of twelve notches on his gun,and it was known that he had boasted within twenty-four hours that he would shoot down any officer who attempted to arrest him, to enter his stables, or to take away any of his employees.  As 200 police started away frm the grandstand a bookmaker who was in captivity, cried out from one of the wagons: "That sounds like Jim Brown's gun."  

Frightened stable boys, hostlers, and hangers-on came running from the south, seeking the protection of the police and announcing that a fearful fight was on on the prairie outside the southern wall of the racing park.  Half way down the gate the police heard the firing as it became more rapid as they bent and knocked men out of their was as the went to the rescue.  They raced along on top of the stables, climbed the high fences, and went straight after three or four officers who were pursuing a little man in a grey suit.  It was Capt. Jim Brown trying to add to his reputed desperate Texas record.  Other fugitives had scattered  to the east and west along the prairies, and officers started after them, while a score continued in the chase of Brown.  At Flournoy street Brown halted, took deliberate aim at the closest of his pursuers, fired, and then turned and ran again, and disappeared behind a little group of houses near Jan Huss avenue and Flournoy street.

He Answers With His Gun.

A policeman in the lead cried out to Brown to put up his gun and quit shooting, and several more policemen fired into the air, thinking to cower Brown, and at the same time keep back the crowd of citizens which had joined in the pursuit.

Brown's only answer, as he came out from the shelter of the little houses, was to fire again at his pursuers, after which he started on a run towards Lexington Avenue, where he continued his flight through a narrow opening between the high board fence surrounding houses on the corner of the avenue and Jan Huss Avenue and a new house in the course of erection.  Carpenters and plasterers working on the house saw Brown coming with his gin, and they dropped into the basement of the place to save their own skins.  In the meanwhile, the police had deployed, some going to the west of the new house and others toward Jan Huss Avenue to head off the man who had grown so desperate in the chase.  The policemen were now firing at the man and were gaining on him rapidly.  Officer John Powell reached the sidewalk west of the house almost at the same time that Brown emerged from a little lane at the end of it.  Brown raised his pistol, and before the officer could climb upon the sidewalk, Brown fired, and the bullet struck the officer on the arm.  An instant later another ball from Brown's weapon had passed through the officer's left hand and lodged in his abdomen.  

Brown Shoots His Victim Again.

Powell fell back on the prairie.  He had received his death wound.  But the man who gave it was not content.  Brown rushed up to his victim, looked into the dying eyes, placed his pistol against the man's chin, and sent another bullet crashing through his head.

By this time the officers were coming towards the scene on a lively run, and from all directions.  It was Brown's evident intention to escape by way of the open prairie to the southwest, but he saw his escape in that direction blocked by the police, and, leaping over the body of his victim, he started towards the north, the bullets of the officers who had seen their brother fall and then brutally shot again, whizzing past his head. As Brown reached the little alley near the new house, officer Henry L. McDowell of the Des Plaines Street Station turned into Lexington Avenue from Jan Huss Avenue and cried out to Brown:  "Don't shoot any more!  Put up your gun! I will not shoot!"

"But I will," Brown yelled as he lifted his weapon and pulled the trigger.

The gun missed fire.  Brown looked at the weapon coolly and critically, and finding another cartridge in it determined to do and die right there.  McDowell carried his revolver in his hand, and as Brown who was not more than thirty feet away, lifted his gun for a final shot, McDowell raised his weapon.  Both men fired at the same time, and then both fell.  A hundred officers had surrounded brown by this time, and more were coming up after.  Several shots had been fired at him from different directions during the minute of his encounter with McDowell, but the bullet under the force of which he fell evidently came from the weapon of the officer into whose right side Brown had sent home his last shot.

Brown's Awful Death Struggle.

McDowell fell on the sidewalk, but quickly rose again and ran around the corner of Jan Huss Avenue, where he half tumbled into the gutter. Other officers who came up cared for him in every possible way, while

a hundred bluecoats surrounded Brown, every one of them with the gleam of the desire for vengeance in his eyes.  Other officers had cared for and placed in a comfortable position on the sidewalk poor Powell, in whose throat the death rattle was already heard.  He was unconscious and died almost before the smoke of the revolver that had been in such active play on the prairie had vanished.  Several of his companions stood guard over his body, while others joined the throng which surrounded the Texan who was making as strong a struggle for life as any man could whose heart had been grazed by a bullet.  His pale face was turned toward the sky and his little frame, for the man only weighed 135 pounds, quivered with the agony he was undergoing.  He had fallen right in his tracks and his slouch hat was still half fastened om his head.  Drops of blood were coming through a little hole in his shirt right above his heart, and in one of his spasms he half spat out a quantity of blood, some of which trickled over his face.  He was conscious when he first fell, but only for an instant, and he tried to speak, probably some word of defiance and hatred for his enemies, the police, for there was a bitter glare in his eyes as he rolled them from one side to another as if attempting the recognition of someone in the crowd.

The pistol with which he had killed Powell and wounded McDowell was lying by his right hand.  It was a great 44-caliber, self-acting weapon with pearl handle, and of the kind that helped to fill the earlier graveyards of Texas.  All its chambers were empty, but it was just as well, for the man who had used it gave one great struggle and passed away.  He died with his "boots on", but as one of his friends said afterwards: "I believe if he had had his choice of the manner of death he would have taken it just as it came, and we must at least give him credit for the game fight he made against great odds."

McDowell Taken To The Hospital.

Before Brown died the patrol wagon had called at the scene and hurried away towards the County Hospital, its crew offering tender duties to McDowell, who was failing rapidly.  Another patrol wagon came along and six officers lifted into it the body of Powell, which was taken home.

The officers who crowded around brown sought to secure no services of a physician for him.  His head was allowed to rest on the hard ground.  There were no words of pity for him, for the resentment the bluecoats felt over the slaughter of one of their number in so merciless a way was strong in their hearts.  The first policemen to arrive were actually as fierce as lions that have just tasted blood, and only the coolness of some few of them saved a repetition of the cruel thing that Brown had done to Powell after that officer had fallen fatally wounded.  Two officers were forced to restrain one brother officer who insisted that Brown should be treated just as he had treated Powell.

"I saw him myself," said the angry officer, "run up after Powell was dead, stoop over him like a wild beast, put that big gun of his in his mouth, and fire.  You can go and see for yourselves.  He nearly burned the face off him with the powder, which sent the bullet through Powell's head."

"It is true," said another officer.  "I saw him do it, too.  He hadn't a bit of mercy on him and he doesn't deserve any mercy from us.  He never had any mercy on anybody.  I knew him.  He killed a dozen men in Texas."

And the big bluecoat stooped as if it would be great satisfaction to him to throttle the man who just at that moment gave a convulsive shudder and died.

When The People Learned The News.

There was some delay in securing another petrol-wagon, and during it hundreds of the men who had been driven out of Garfield Park by the police began coming across the prairie confident that all danger was over and anxious to hear the results of the battle to which they had listened from afar.  

The patrol-wagon was just carrying Powell's body away as the advance guard  of the contingent came tramping over the prairie.  One of the number made sneering remarks about the dead officer.  He was sorry for it a minute later, for he was seized by a dozen angry officers and beaten and handled in rather a rough manner.  Others came along and crowded through the ranks of the policemen to look at Brown's body, and several of them heaped condemnation on the police that they had brought the horseman, which seemed to have been popular in life, to so untimely an end.  It was more than the police, with whom the memory of Brown's treatment  of the dying Powell still lingered bitterly, could stand, and they charged with overhasty will into all groups of citizens who had sympathy for any others than the police.  They used their club and their fists, and arrested a dozen of the more obstreperous sympathizers with the dead Texan.   One man got out on the prairie, and when he thought he was at a safe distance from the officers of the law he began rating them in round terms. Three or four of them started for him, and, after a lively chase, brought him back to the main group of officers, a dozen of whom jumped on him and pounded him in a cruel manner until he bawled and cried for mercy.  Citizens kept a respectful distance from the police after that, and, if they had sentiments on the situation that wer adverse to the actions of the police, they kept them wisely unuttered.

All the while the sun beat down on the dead, upturned face of the man who had made such a desperate fight against Chicago's officers of the peace, and had lost his own life only after shedding much blood, an enterprise, it appears, in which he had often been engaged before he came to his own violent doom.  At 5 o'clock a patrol wagon backed up in front of the little alley where Capt. Brown had made his stand for life and liberty.  Two policemen easily put the body into the wagon, which rattled away with it, in the direction of the morgue.

The Chicago Daily Tribune of September 8, 1892 carried the news that had been expected, but dreaded nonetheless:

He Expires In Great Agony at the County Hospital - The Inquests.

Officer Henry McDowell died at the County Hospital at 6:10 o'clock last night from the effect of the shot fired by James M. Brown at Garfield Park Tuesday afternoon.

At his bedside were his wife, sister, and brother, Drs. Wine and Kirch, and Officer Blume of the Des Plaines Street Station.  Late in the afternoon the wounded officer began to grow weaker and the physicians were summoned to his side.  His wife, who lives at No. 220 Oak Street, was also summoned.  They had not lived together for three years, but Mrs. McDowell hastened to her husband's bedside.

He was conscious until an hour before death, but was too weak from loss of blood and pain to talk.  When spoken to he would indicate that he understood and occasionally would make an effort to respond.  He recognized his sister and brother, but could not distinguish his wife.  The officer's death struggles were violent and attended with great agony.  His wife stepped to his side and asked if he recognized her.

"No," the officer was heard to whisper as he shook his head.  A moment later he was dead.

Mrs. McDowell has an 8-year-old daughter, Bessie, who is now visiting friends at Waukegan.

McDowell made no statement regarding the shooting after the ante-mortem statement of Tuesday afternoon.

The funeral services of Officer John Powell will be held tomorrow morning at his home, No. 358 Center Avenue.  He left a widow and two children.  Capt. Blettner will send a detail of officers to accompany the remains to the grave.  The inquest in the cases of both Brown and Powell are set for 10 o'clock this morning.  After the inquest the remains of Capt. Brown will be turned over to Jordan, the undertaker.

And finally, from the Chicago Daily Tribune of September 10, 1892:


A fitting tribute to the memory of one of the most courageous policemen ever sworn in rested at the Des Plaines Street Station last night.  It was the token of regard from Henry McDowell's brother officers, and will occupy a prominent place in the funeral today of the last victim of Turfman Brown's deadly revolver.  The offering consists of a huge pillow of white roses, in the middle of which, formed of blue flowers, appears the inscription, "Comrade".  At either end of the word springs a tiger lily.  Above it is a huge star, also of white roses, with the dead patrolman's number, "1609" in flowers.  The funeral has been set for 10 o'clock a.m. today, and Capt. Mahoney has detailed a large squad of policemen to accompany the remains to Rose Hill. 

I have acknowledged in this blog several times the debt of gratitude we owe to all police officers and fire fighters.  They put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis.  No matter what they are paid, it could never be enough to compensate them for risking their lives each and every day to serve and protect us.  When Officer Henry McDowell went to work on the morning of September 7, 1892 he did not know that that day he would be called upon to forfeit his life.  And yet, off to work he went, like he had every day since he joined the Force.

The next time you see a police officer or fire fighter take a minute to thank them for what they do for us.  They need to know how much they are appreciated.  I do it often - and once they realize I am serious - their faces always break into a grin and they end up thanking me.  Officer McDowell is one of over 550 Chicago police officers who have been killed in the line of duty.  The Chicago Police Memorial Foundation ( sums it up:

"It is not how these officers died that makes them heroes, it's how they lived.  They will never be forgotten."   

May Officer Henry McDowell, and all deceased Chicago Police Officers, rest in peace.

Friday, November 16, 2012

THE GOLFER'S CREED - David R. Forgan

On a recent Find a Grave photo request trip to Rosehill Cemetery I found myself in front of a large stone slab:

Carved into the stone was a name "David R. Forgan" and a quote: "We Have Loved, We Love, We Shall Love Again".  Buried beneath the stone are David R. Forgan (Apr. 16, 1856 - Dec. 28, 1931) and Agnes Kerr Forgan (Dec. 6, 1863 - Aug. 27, 1943).  I figured that there was probably an interesting story under that stone, and I was right.

David R. Forgan was an internationally renowned banker, a world-class golfer, and a master storyteller.  What can we learn about this fascinating person?  Let's find out.

David Robertson Forgan, it was said, was born with a golf club in his hand.  First of all, he was born in the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews, Scotland on April 16, 1862.  His father was Robert Forgan a master golf club manufacturer; his mother was Elizabeth, nee Berwick.  Robert Forgan (1824-1900) was founder and owner of the Forgan Golf Club Company at St. Andrews, Scotland.  

In 1877 when David was fifteen years old, he applied for a job as messenger at the Clydesdale Bank in St. Andrews on the recommendation of his Sunday-school teacher who was an officer of the bank.  He stayed with the Clydesdale bank for three years, after which he left Scotland for North America.  Once he got started in banking his rise through the ranks was meteoric.  He went first to Nova Scotia where he was hired by the Bank of Nova Scotia.  He held several positions with the Bank of Nova Scotia, first at Halifax, then at Winnipeg, and finally at Fredericton, New Brunswick.  

On June 9, 1885, David Forgan married Agnes (Aggie) Kerr in Winnipeg, Manitoba.  In 1888, the Forgans moved to the United States, where David took a position as Assistant Cashier of the American Exchange Bank in Duluth, Minnesota.  In May of 1886 their first son, Robert, was born.  He was followed by Marion (December, 1887), Ethel (June, 1889), David Jr. (October, 1891), and James (March, 1900).   

In 1890 Forgan joined the Northwestern National Bank in Minneapolis. In 1896 he came to Chicago as a vice president of the Union National Bank and was made its president two years later.  In 1900 the Union National Bank merged with the First National Bank where his brother, James B. Forgan was president.  David Forgan became its president from 1907 to 1925 when it merged with the National Bank of the Republic where he became Vice Chairman and continued after it merged with the Central Trust to become the Central Republic Bank and Trust where Forgan served with James E. Otis as co-chairmen of the board of directors.

When the Forgan family came to Chicago in 1896 they settled in Evanston.  They lived in a beautiful house that still stands at 1112 Greenwood:

1112 Greenwood, Evanston, Illinois
As well known as David R. Forgan was as a banker, he was equally well known as a golfer.  As mentioned above, he was born at St. Andrews, Scotland and his family owned the Forgan Golf Club Company.  Growing up in that atmosphere David Forgan took his golf seriously and did not neglect it during his rise in the banking profession. In 1899 he won the first annual western amateur golf championship at the Glenview Country Club.  

David R. Forgan is best remembered today as the author of "The Golfer's Creed" which was part of a speech he gave in 1899:

The Golfer's Creed

GOLF is a science, 
the study of a lifetime in which you may
 exhaust yourself but never your subject.
It is a contest, a duel or a melee, 
calling for courage, skill, strategy and self-control.
It is a test of temper, a trial of honor, and a revealer of character.
It affords a chance to play the man and act the gentleman.
It means going into God’s out-of-door, getting close to nature,
 fresh air, exercise, a sweeping away of mental cobwebs,
genuine recreation of tired tissues.
It is a cure for care, an antidote to worry.
It includes companionship with friends, social intercourse,
 opportunities for courtesy, kindliness and generosity to an opponent.
It promotes not only physical health but moral force.

David Robertson Forgan died on December 26, 1931 at the age of 69 at his home in Evanston after a three week illness.  A gall-bladder complaint led to pleurisy which brought about a heart attack early in the day of the 26th.  He succumbed at 1:15 p.m.

Joseph E. Otis said of David Forgan upon hearing of his death: "He always strove for those things that were to the best interest of all, and was beloved by all who knew him."

David Robertson Forgan - banker, golfer, storyteller.  May he rest in peace.

Friday, November 9, 2012

OUR BELOVED CHILDREN - David and Beatrice Lepavsky

I have mentioned before how moved I am whenever I encounter the grave of a child.  I am not a parent, but I cannot imagine a bigger tragedy for a parent than the death of a child.  This week we will look at a family that experienced this tragedy times two - the death of two children - eight days apart.

A recent Sunday afternoon trip to Jewish Waldheim Cemetery found me with a long list of Find a Grave photo requests.  I love doing these because it gives me an opportunity to help people and also takes me to parts of the cemetery where I would not normally go.  To those of you who are not familiar with it, Jewish Waldheim is a loose "union" of over 300 individual cemeteries from a time when Jews were either buried with other members of their synagogue or other members of a burial society, often from a particular village or region.

I was wandering through the rows of Gate #16 (Anshe Knesses Israel #2) when I came across the following tombstone:

The top of the stone said "Our Beloved Children" and marked the grave of 2 year old Beatrice Lepavsky who died October 17, 1918 and her almost-six-year-old brother David Lepavsky who died 8 days later on October 25, 1918.  I suspected that they were victims of the Spanish Influenza epidemic and I was correct.  Here is the death certificate for Beatrice:

And here's the one for David:

Both had been victims of influenza coupled with pneumonia.  In most cases it was not the influenza that caused death, it was the pneumonia that set in afterward.

What can we find out about the family of Beatrice and David Lepavsky? Let's look.  We can see from their death certificates that Beatrice and David were the children of Harry Lepavsky from Russia and his wife Esther (nee Lapping), also from Russia.  

Harry Lepavsky was born February 11, 1886 in Russia.  In the 1910 Census he said he emigrated in 1887; in the 1930 census he said he emigrated in 1890.  Either way, the 1900 Census found him living with his parents Isaac and Rachel (nee Soboroff) and his seven brothers and sisters:  Michael, Louis, Jacob, Malky, Lazar, Hody, and Moses at 177 West 12th Place, in the heart of the old Jewish neighborhood.  Harry listed his occupation as "Cap Maker".  

On January 26, 1912 twenty-five year old Harry Lepavsky was married to twenty year old Esther Lapping by Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, Senior Rabbi of Anshe Knesses Israel just before they moved into their magnificent new building on Douglas Boulevard.  

Esther Lapping was born in Russia in 1892.  In each of the 1910, 1920 and 1930 Census she said she emigrated in 1890(!!!)  She was the daughter of Isidore and Pessie (nee Grace).  Esther, too came from a large family.  She was one of eleven children.  Esther's siblings were: Anna, Ida, Abraham, Lena, Dora, Tillie, Meyer, Harry, Minnie, and Louis.  

Once Harry and Esther were married they started on their own family:  David was born on November 10, 1912 

and Beatrice was born on September 6, 1916.

When studying the history of this era, deaths from Spanish Influenza show up again and again.   In a question to the website Gapers Block: ( about the Spanish Influenza on its effect is Chicago, the response was:

"It was the deadliest epidemic in recorded history, claiming as many lives in just one year as the Bubonic Plague claimed in four during the Black Death of the mid-14th century. And yet it is hardly remembered today. The Spanish Influenza of 1918-19 killed between 21 and 40 million people worldwide. In the U.S. alone, an estimated 640,000 people died while another 25 million were infected. In Chicago, more than 8,500 lives were lost to the disease in just eight weeks." Shockingly, the fatality rate for the disease was nearly 70 percent, and it took its biggest toll on the young.  Some research suggests that there had been a mild flu epidemic in the 1880s that may have caused people who were adults in 1918 to have a limited immunity from the Spanish flu.

And again from Gapers Block:  "Precautions against the disease were primitive and largely ineffective. In Chicago, public funerals were banned, and private funerals were limited to 10 people -- including the undertaker.  Bars, dance halls, and movie theaters were closed, but churches and schools remained open. Public spitters were arrested. Businesses were asked to stagger their working days to reduce rush-hour crowds on public transportation.

In the end, 300,000 people were affected by the Spanish Influenza in the state of Illinois. The last reported cases of the disease occurred in the first couple of months of 1920. The epidemic ended not because any cure had been found, but because the virus mutated again and the deadly Spanish Influenza strain ceased to exist (sort of)." 

Beatrice Lepavsky had been ill for only ten days when she succumbed, her older brother was ill for twelve  days.  Unlike many of their peers, both Beatrice and David had been admitted to Childrens Memorial Hospital but even that was not sufficient to beat the Spanish Influenza. David died at 9:20 in the morning, by sundown that same day he was in his grave.  Beatrice must have died later in the day - her death certificate doesn't say - but she was not buried until the next day.  The deaths were coming so fast that undertakers and gravediggers were stretched to the limit.  In some places people were dying so quickly they even ran out of caskets to put the bodies in.

But life goes on for us all, and it did for the grieving Harry and Esther Lepavsky.  They went on to have three more children:  Alter/Martin (1920-2000), Alvin (1923-1997) and Hazel (1925-2000).   Harry went on to become the foreman of the cap factory, and died in 1973 at the age of 86.  I was unable to find a death record for Esther Lepavsky.  She may have changed her last name as some of her children did (to "Lee") or she may have remarried.  I think it is safe to say that Esther has gone on to her reward by now.

May Beatrice

and David Lepavsky

and their grieving family rest in peace.

Friday, November 2, 2012


When people first started using roads the roads were not named.  They were just trails through the woods or to the pass through the mountains. As time went on, the roads had names that told where they were: Center Street, North Street, Lake Street, or the way they were laid out: "The street called Straight" from the Bible.  As towns grew up, the streets were often named after the first people to settle there:  Rand, Happ, Rogers, Ouilmette (Wilmette).  As more and more people settled into an area, the town fathers had to broaden their list of acceptable names for roads, so they started naming them after politicians or patriots:  Washington, Van Buren, Franklin.  After awhile they even ran out of names of famous people they could use, so developers often used names from their own families.

As you travel on local streets, do you ever wonder who they were named for?  Evanston, Illinois was  originally settled by Methodists so many of the streets were named after Methodist clergy: Asbury, Wesley, Garrett.  The streets of South Evanston were named after settlers or land developers:  Mulford, Rinn, Brummel, Dobson.  But there is one street in the area, whose namesake will surprise you:  Howard Street (formerly Howard Avenue).  Howard serves as the border between the city of Chicago (community areas of Rogers Park and West Ridge) and the city of Evanston.  It runs intermittently through several north and northwestern suburbs, near O'Hare International Airport, and finally terminates at Ridge Avenue in Elk Grove Village.

Who do you think Howard Street was named for?  A list of famous people with the last name of Howard gives us such names as Trevor Howard, Leslie Howard, or even the ever-famous Three Stooges:  Moe, Larry and Curly Howard.  When I was a child I think my older brother tried to convince me that Howard Street was named after the Three Stooges, but that is not the case.  In fact, Howard Street was not named after someone with the last name of Howard at all, it was named after someone with the first name of Howard - namely Howard J. Ure.

Who was Howard J. Ure and why was a street named after him?  Let's find out.

Howard J. Ure came from a family of early settlers to the area known as Rogers Park.  His grandfather, John Calder Ure, had moved to Chicago as a youth from his native Scotland and settled permanently in the Village of Rogers Park, buying up large tracts of land, some of which he planted for his use as a landscaper and florist.  He moved to 17 acres at the present day southeast corner of Howard Street and Clark Street in 1852.  John Calder Ure was married 4 times, and had a total of ten children, one of whom was his son, John Francis Ure.  John Francis Ure was born in 1869 in Rogers Park to John Calder Ure and his wife Margaret, nee Keyes.

John Francis Ure as an adult lived in Rogers Park on a farm between Rogers and Birchwood, east of Clark and operated a dairy business on this site.  He also helped convince the Village of Rogers Park to be incorporated in to the City of Chicago.  Rogers Park wanted to have the benefit of police and fire protection that incorporating into the City would provide.  As a part of that deal, in 1897 John donated the land east of Clark Street that is now Howard Street to the City of Chicago that they wanted for east/west access to Lake Michigan and in gratitude, the City of Chicago offered John the chance to name the street.  He agreed and named the street after his son, Howard Ure and so, the street dividing Chicago from Evanston became not Ure Avenue, but Howard Avenue.

John Calder Ure did not die until 1905, so he could have been involved in the Chicago transaction, but he gave his property at Howard and Clark to his wife Margaret at their divorce in 1871, and she gave it to her two sons John Francis Ure and Robert Arnold Ure when she died in 1889.

Howard J. Ure was actually born John James Ure on January 13, 1896 at 5138 (now 7527) N. Clark Street to John Francis Ure and his wife Sarah (nee Carney).  His parents already had a daughter, Ruth, born 2 years before.

John F. Ure listed his occupation as "Dairyman".  By the 1900 census John James Ure was known as John H. Ure and by the 1910 census as Howard J. Ure.  Why was baby John James Ure's name changed to Howard J. Ure?  The answer is lost in the mists of time, but Howard was not a common name among the Irish or Catholics of that time.

Although John Calder Ure was a Scots Presbyterian, he sent all his children to Catholic schools, and finally converted to Catholicism on his deathbed in 1905.  Unlike his son John Francis, and his grandson Howard who are buried in All Saints Catholic Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois, John Calder Ure is buried in Rosehill Cemetery.

In 1908 the Howard Avenue stop for the elevated trains (the "el") was opened in combination with the Chicago and Northwestern train station and the terminal for the Clark Street surface lines.  Howard quickly became a transportation hub and development of land along Howard started a land boom in the area.

One of the earliest building constructed on Howard was the Howard Theatre, built on part of the former Ure farm in 1918:

What was Howard Ure doing during this land boom along the street that carried his name?  After a stint in the military during World War I, Howard joined his father, who by that time had traded farming for land development.  Their first major project was the development of the Norshore Theatre building at 1749 W. Howard Avenue for Balaban and Katz.  The Norshore opened for business on June 17, 1926.  

The palatial Norshore Theatre seated 3,017.  Its outer lobby featured huge crystal chandeliers and the ceiling was decorated with Pompeiian motifs.  The theater also contained fine French antiques.

John Francis Ure did not live long after the opening of the Norshore - he died in a car accident on November 25, 1927.

Through the years Howard Ure remained active in the life of Howard Street.  He was one of the original members of the Howard District Business Men's Association and became a director of the Howard Avenue Trust and Savings Bank at the early age of 26.  Between 1953 and 1973, he served as a director of the North Shore National Bank of Chicago  But Howard Ure is probably best remembered as a restaurateur.  He opened and operated the Grill Restaurant, and the Ship Restaurant which was located in the Norshore Theatre building.

Postcard courtesy

Unfortunately the Norshore Theatre building including the Ship Restaurant was razed in 1960.  I remember it well because my Mother used to shop at Davidson's Bakery across the street from the Norshore Theatre, and we used to park the car and walk over to the bakery right past the theatre every week.  In my mind's eye I can see it like it was yesterday (a little scary to think it was 52 years ago!).  I also remember that the scaffolding, the noise and the flames from the blowtorches used to scare me to death every time we went by.  I was afraid that the remains of the theatre were going to topple over on us as we walked by.  Not a chance - the building was so well built they literally had to take it apart with blowtorches, piece by piece.  Further east on Howard, the skeleton of the Howard Theatre is still there but it is being used as a shopping mall.

Howard Ure and his wife, the former Herdis Elizabeth Brink (1907-1998) spent most of their married life in Rogers Park at 1525 W. Birchwood:

1525 W. Birchwood, Chicago
Howard Ure was involved in Rogers Park affairs until his death in 1984 at the age of 88.  Here's a photo of him taken in front of his birthplace on Clark Street in the 1970s.  

The Chicago Tribune of November 18, 1984 noted the death of Howard J. Ure on November 16:

As I mentioned above, Howard J. Ure was buried in the family plot at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, Illinois:

So, that's the story of how Howard Street got its name.  The next time you are on Howard, say a prayer for the Ure family, Rogers Park pioneers.

May Howard J. Ure, for whom Howard Street was named, and all the Ure family rest in peace.
(all photos from author's collection unless otherwise noted)