Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Old Bible Yields New Discoveries: Part I

The collection at Clarke House Museum contains a large family bible, acquired in 1983, which was a gift from the Evanston Historical Society as NSCDA-IL sought items to fill the period rooms being restored on the museum's first floor. The bible, published 1835 by H. & E. Phinney, Coopertsown, New York, came to the museum with no provenance. The accession record gives little more than a brief physical description and notes the bible “contains family records of the Solmes family, residence unknown”. No research was ever done on the Solmeses and the bible became an overlooked fixture on the parlor étagère, blending into the overall exhibit.
A Canadian family's history is hidden between the pages of an overlooked artifact on display at Clarke House Museum.
  Solmes Family Bible in the collection of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Illinois at Clarke House Museum.

During a recent collections inventory it was discovered that the Solmes bible contained more than just the family record. At the front of the bible, glued inside the cover, were two blue and gold foil heraldic shields next to which was written “Barker Family Crest.” On the opposite fly leaf, written in pencil, “D. B. Solmes Book Feb, 8th 1869”. Tucked between its pages, untouched for decades, were an 1851 memory verse slip from the Wesleyan-Methodist Church, several c.1880 newspaper clippings of sermons by Rev. Dr. Talmage of Brooklyn, New York ; and a letter dated October 8, 1880; and — all clues to the story of D. B. Solmes and his family.

Treasures found just inside the front cover. Above: Text next to the shields reads "Coat of Arms or Crest of the Barker family." Below: "David Barker Solmes Book Feb 8th 1869" written in pencil on the fly leaf.  Someone, perhaps a child, attempted to replicate the capital "D".

Part I:  The Barker-Solmes Family
David Barker Solmes, the owner of the bible, was born May 20, 1817 in Solmesville, Ontario, Canada to Richard Solmes (1787-1867) and Lydia Cronk Barker (1783-1851). He was named for his maternal grandfather, David Barker (1730-1821), a native of "New Port," Rhode Island. The elder David had grown up on a120-acre New Port estate, the second generation of Barkers to be born in the colonies. He married Lydia Shove (1746-1804), also a Rhode Islander, on March 11, 1762 in Swansea, Bristol County, Massachusetts. The couple set up house back in New Port where they welcomed their first nine children: Samuel Shove (1763), Asa (1765), Edward (1766), David (1768), Pheobe (1770), James (1772), Elizabeth (1774), Sarah (1776; delivered in Dartmouth, Massachusetts), and Rebecca (1779). The growing family moved to Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York around 1780 where son Abraham (1781) and daughter Lydia Cronk (1783), the mother of David Barker Solmes, were born.

David Barker (1737-1821), colonial loyalist and maternal grandfather of the bible's original owner David Barker Solmes. Sketch is believed to have been based on a painting by Sir Joshua Reynolds.
Photo courtesy of the Barker family page on RootsWeb.

David Barker was a loyal subject of the British Crown and a devout member of the Anglican church. During the Revolutionary War, Barker supplied provisions to the British forces. Once this act was discovered, his property in Poughkeepsie, New York was confiscated by supporters of independence. Barker decided to join Major VanAlstine's party of Loyalists and remove to Canada in 1783 at the age of 51. His wife and the elder children accompanied him and the family departed from New York harbor September 8, 1783. The journey to an unsettled part of the Canadian countryside would be long and arduous. Fearing for the well-being of their younger children, the Barkers left them in the care of with relatives in the newly formed United States. Lydia Cronk Barker, just a year old when her family emigrated to Canada,  was one of the children left behind. According to family history she and her siblings grew up in either Poughkeepsie, New York or New Fairfield, Connecticut. The Barkers' last child, a son named Caleb (1786), was born two years after the family had settled into their new home in Ontario.

Although his property in Poughkeepsie, New York had been confiscated, Barker still had substantial means.  He brought seventeen thousand dollars with him and, although being near the point of embarrassment when he left New York, was able to bring along some valuable family heirlooms  including a Scotish-made clock and cabinet with secret drawers. These both are still owned by Barker descendants today. Each member of Major VanAlstine's party received 200 acres of land which they drew by ballot. David Barker's allotment was an area in Adolphustown, Lennox-Addington County, Ontario located between Hay Bay and the Bay of Quinte in the third concession, which became known as Barker's Point (now Thompson's point). David Barker first built a small log house, then erected a larger home along with other outbuildings which is believed to still stand today.

An early 20th century photograph of what is believed to be the Barker home in Ontario, Canada built c.1785-90.  
Photo courtesy of the Barker family page on RootsWeb.

A generous father, Barker gave each of his daughters, whether married or single, a large farm in Prince Edward County, Ontario. Daughter Lydia Cronk Barker eventually joined the family in Ontario and married her first husband Rueban Cronk who died sometime before 1814, giving her no children. At age thirty-one Lydia married Richard Solmes (1787-1867), a local farmer, on November 16, 1814. Richard and Lydia set up housekeeping in the village of Solmesville, part of Sophiasburg, Prince Edward County, Ontario. The couple welcomed their first three children: Rueban Cronk (1815), David Barker (1817), and Mary (1819). In 1821, the patriarch of the family, grandfather David Barker, died at his home at Barker's Point at age ninety-one. Two years later, Richard and Lydia Solmes completed their own family with the birth of daughter Lydia Margaret in 1823.
Monument to David Barker and Lydia Shrove erected by the United Empire Loyalists in the Old Meeting House Yard of the Adolphustown Friends. Photo courtesy of the Barker family page on RootsWeb.

David Barker Solmes  grew up to become a farmer and member of the Wesleyan-Methodist Church. He married Susan Lazier (1818-1853) on October 2, 1838 at Prince Edward Island, Ontario. The bible was probably presented to the couple as a wedding gift. On September 14, 1841 David and Susan welcomed their first child, a daughter, named Olive Rebecca. The young Solmes family attended the Wesleyan-Methodist Church in Demorestville, a small village of 300 within the township of Sophiasburg, Prince Edward County, Ontario. The congregation sat under the spiritual instruction of Irish-born minster Reverend William Pooley (1820-1896). [Learn more about Rev. Pooley and the Solmes family's spiritual life in Part 2.]

Susan and David welcomed a son, David Bishop Solmes, January 12, 1853. Unfortunately, baby David only lived five months and fourteen days, dying June 26, 1853. His mother, Susan Lazier Solmes passed away just two months later on August 8th. Left a widower with a twelve-year-old daughter, David Barker Solmes was remarried June 15, 1854 to Mary Eliza Stimson (1832-1900) in Hallowell, Ontario. The couple had seven children: Sarah Jane (1854), Jennie (1856) Rueban Clayton (1858), Franklin Stephenson (1860), a son with initials JWM (1860), Lillian M. (1863) and Richard Russell (1866). David Barker Solmes died at age eighty-two in Solmesville, where he had spent his entire life, on January 30, 1900. His widow, Mary Eliza, lived just six more years before passing away April 14, 1906.

The Solmes family bible passed to David Barker Solmes’ eldest daughter, Olive Rebecca Solmes. She is the addressee of the 1880 letter found within its pages and probably the one who tucked the Talmage sermons inside for safekeeping. [More on these items in Part 3]. It is yet unknown how the bible made its way to Illinois and into the collection of the Evanston Historical Society. The only connection to the Chicago area found to date is through Lydia Margaret Solmes Caniff, David's younger sister, who died in Chicago April 24, 1900. Lydia is probably the "Auntie Caniff" referred to in the 1880 letter written to Olive. The bible has a $5.00 price mark on its fly leaf and may have been picked up at a sale before it was accessioned into the Evanston Historical Society's collection.

Today, the Solmes family bible is on exhibit in the Clarke House Museum parlor. The bible's family registers and other contents can be viewed in person by appointment. If you have additional information on David Barker Solmes and/or his descendants, please contact Clarke House Museum at

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Passport Application Reveals Physical Description and Signature of Robert George Clarke

Unfortunately, Clarke House Museum has no portraits of the immediate members of the Henry Brown Clarke family. The only image known to exist  is the exterior view of Clarke House taken around 1865, which is in the collections of the Chicago History Museum. This image, however, shows what might be several of the Clarke children from a distance on the steps of the west portico.

The museum must rely on written descriptions to paint a mental picture of what the Clarkes looked like. We know what the Clarkes' third son, Edward, looked like from his military records but until now, we had no indicators as to the appearance of the Clarkes' second eldest son Robert.

A passport application filed by Robert George Clarke on November 9, 1868, several days before his marriage to Clara Gage, reveals interesting information about this appearance. Robert, age 30, stands 5'-6 1/2" tall with brown hair, grey eyes, and medium complexion. His face is oval with a prominent nose, medium-sized mouth, and round chin.

Robert G. Clarke Passport Application. November 9, 1868.

The passport application was filed for a trip abroad, presumably for the couple's approaching honeymoon following their marriage on November 15. In it, Robert gives the following testimony:

I Robert G. Clarke do swear that I was born in the city of Chicago Cook County state of Illinois on or about the seventh day of May An. [Anno or year] 1838 that I am a natural born and local citizen of the United States and about to travel abroad with my wife Clara G. Clarke. 

Signature of Robert G. Clarke

His brother-in-law, Franklin B. Williams, signs the following affidavit:

I Franklin B. Williams do swear that I am acquainted with the above named Robert G. Clarke and with the facts above stated by him and that the same are true to the best of my knowledge and beliefs.

Signature of Frank B. Williams

The passport application was signed by Notary Public A. E. Guilds.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

John Jones and the Illinois Black Laws

Contributed by Clarke House Museum intern Julia Mikula.

 As we come to the end of Black History Month, we note the state of life for African Americans during the period that the Clarke family lived in Chicago. From the 1830s until the end of the Civil War, Illinois was both a refuge and center of discrimination for blacks. While freedom could be gained in Illinois, its full enjoyment was not guaranteed. The 1850s, especially, were a tumultuous time for people of color in Chicago, which soon became a center of civil rights debate.
Under the Illinois Black Laws, any black resident without a certificate could be arrested as a runaway slave.

 At the dawn of its statehood, Illinois adopted legislation called the Black Laws, also known as the Black Codes. The Black Laws, passed in 1819 and in effect until 1865, included a number of restrictions on black residents. Among the restrictions was the requirement that all black residents carry a certificate of freedom (commonly referred to as "free papers") issued by the government and register personal information with the court clerk; any black resident without a certificate could be arrested as a runaway slave.1
Certificate of Freedom for John  Jones, 1844. This document identifies him as a resident of Illinois and a free person of color "entitled to be respected accordingly, in Person and Property, at all times and places, in the due prosecution of his Lawful concerns." This entitlement was severely infringed under the Illinois Black Codes.
Although Illinois was a free state, the Black Laws took measures to ensure that slaves did not earn their freedom in Illinois. In addition to the requirement that all black citizens needed a certificate of freedom, the Black Codes threatened fines for anyone who brought slaves to Illinois and freed them.2 On top of these restrictions, blacks were unable to vote, sue whites or testify against them in court, or bear arms.3 In short, the Black Laws officially made blacks second-class citizens.

John Jones (1816- 1879) Image courtesy of Chicago History Museum.
Of course, black Chicagoans challenged the Black Codes, and one of the most prominent opponents was John Jones. Jones was born in Green City, North Carolina to a free mulatto mother and a white father who apprenticed him to a white tailor, Richard Clere.4 When the tailor died, Clere’s family tried to claim Jones as their slave, but Jones attained a certificate of freedom in 1838.5 Jones moved to Chicago in 1845 and set up a successful tailor shop at 119 Dearborn Street.6 

Once established in Chicago, Jones began to fight for equal rights for people of color. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed the Fugitive Slave Act, giving slaveholders the right to seek runaway slaves in the free states, but the Chicago City Council largely disapproved of the ordinance.7 Jones joined in protest of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, and he and six other men set up a Liberty Association to watch for slave catchers seeking runaway slaves.8 Jones and his wife Mary brought fugitive slaves and such antislavery activists as John Brown and Frederick Douglass into their home.9

In 1864, the Chicago Tribune printed Jones’ pamphlet entitled The Black Laws of Illinois and a Few Reasons Why They Should Be Repealed, and Jones spoke to General Assembly members about why the Black Laws should be eliminated in Illinois; his efforts succeeded in March 1865 when the Illinois General Assembly voted in favor of removing the codes.10

John Jones went on to be elected as the first black Cook County commissioner in 1871, serving a second term from 1872 until 1875. During his time in office Jones helped pass legislation which outlawed segregation in local schools. His tailoring business continued to thrive and was operated by his son-in-law after his death May 31, 1879. His is buried in Chicago's Graceland Cemetery.

John Jones refused to allow the discrimination of African Americans to continue unchallenged in Chicago and throughout the nation. His efforts brought about real change in Illinois, moving the state ever closer to true civic equality. This Black History Month, we remember and thank John Jones for his contribution to bringing rights of free citizenship to all people.

1 Elmer Gertz, “The Black Laws of Illinois,” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 6, no. 3 (1963): 463-464.
2 Gertz, “The Black Laws of Illinois,” 465.
3 “Early Chicago: John Jones,” WTTW, accessed February 15, 2012,,4,3,4.
4 Christopher Robert Reed, Black Chicago’s First Century: Volume 1, 1833-1900 (Columbia, MO: University of Missouri Press, 2005), 62.
5 Reed, Black Chicago’s First Century, 62-63.
6 Reed, Black Chicago’s First Century, 71-72.
7 Reed, Black Chicago’s First Century, 100.
8 Reed, Black Chicago’s First Century, 101.
9 “John and Mary Jones: Early Civil Rights Activists,” Encyclopedia Chicago, accessed February 15, 2012,
10 Reed, Black Chicago’s First Century, 141-142.

Reed, Christopher Robert. Black Chicago’s First Century: Volume 1, 1833-1900. Columbia,
MO: University of Missouri Press, 2005.
Encyclopedia Chicago. “John and Mary Jones: Early Civil Rights Activists.” Accessed February 15, 2012.
Gertz, Elmer. “The Black Laws of Illinois.” Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 6, no. 3 (1963): 454-473.
WTTW, “Early Chicago: John Jones.” Accessed February 15, 2012.,4,3,4.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Sarah Hale and the Campaign for a National Thanksgiving

The following article was contributed to the Clarke House Museum Blog by museum volunteer Steve LaBarre.

      Things are beginning to take on the appearances of the winter holidays here at Clarke House. With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday fast approaching, I thought I would pause a moment to reflect on the history of the holiday during the time that Henry and Caroline Clarke lived in Chicago.

      Thanksgiving as we know it today took on a very different appearance during the early to mid-nineteenth century.  We currently celebrate the day on the fourth Thursday in November signed into federal legislation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on December 26th, 1941.  A century and a half before this, on September 28, 1789, just prior to leaving for recess, the first Federal Congress passed a resolution asking then President George Washington to recommend to the country a day of thanksgiving.  Washington would issue a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26th, 1789 as a “Day of Publick Thanksgivin” – the first national Thanksgiving celebrated under the new Constitution.   

      From that time forth many presidents issued Thanksgiving proclamations, but the months and days on which it was observed varied greatly.[i]  As years passed, designation of the holiday was deferred to state-specific legislation.  States choosing to celebrate Thanksgiving would each select their own date of observance independent of the others. Most states celebrated Thanksgiving anytime between October and January- most likely based on the tradition of celebrating the year-end harvest.[ii]  Illinois was among several that regularly observed the holiday in November.

      This pattern of state-proclaimed Thanksgivings continued through much of the nineteenth century. Mrs. Clarke and the children would have read the Illinois governors' annual proclamation naming the date of Thanksgiving in local newspapers. Their relatives in New York would have celebrated the holiday on a completely different day. It wasn't long before a push to standardize Thanksgiving, declaring it a national holiday, began to take root among citizens of the United States. 

    Not until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln signed a presidential proclamation declaring the last Thursday of November as the day of Thanksgiving, did the nation universally celebrate the holiday on the same day.[iii] So how did it come to pass that Abraham Lincoln wrote a proclamation claiming Thanksgiving to be a Federal holiday in November?  

Sarah Hale, c.1831 by James Reid Lambdin (1807-1889).
In the collection of Richard’s Free Library, Newport, New Hampshire .
           The story goes that a persistent lady by the name of Sarah Josepha Buell Hale (October 24, 1788 – April 30, 1879) was one of the influential forces in campaigning and persuading Lincoln to enact his proclamation.  Sarah Hale was an American writer and influential editor well known for her Poems for Our Children (1830), containing the well-known “Mary’s Little Lamb.”[iv]  She was born in Newport, New Hampshire on a farm belonging to her great-grandfather, Daniel Buell.     

Hale received no formal education, only what was taught to her by her mother an older brother, a student at Dartmouth, who taught her Latin and philosophy. When her husband died suddenly, in 1822, leaving her with little means to provide for herself and five children, she began to try her hand at authorship.  She published a volume of verse, The Genius of Oblivion (1823), and sent out numerous poems to local periodicals.  She won acclaim in 1826 for her novel, Northwood, A Tale of New England.  Two years later the Reverend John Lauris Blake offered her the editorship position of the Ladies Magazine, which began her active life as writer and promoter of conservative reform.[v]  While editing the Ladies Magazine in 1837 Louis Antoine Godey bought out the magazine and established Mrs. Hale as literary editor of the Godey’s Lady's Book.[vi]

      Just as many ladies of the mid-nineteenth century, Mrs. Clarke would have read frequently the latest issues of Godey’s Lady's Book.  She and her daughters could read about social and political thoughts of the day and reference the latest woman’s fashion plates advertising the styles direct from England and France.  One such article or editorial Caroline might have come across was in the January through June issue of 1847, volume 34.  On page, 174 Sarah Hale wrote:

                THANKSGIVING DAY.—We ventured to suggest, in our “Book” for January, that the last Thursday in November would be the day best suited for the Annual Thanksgiving holiday throughout our Republic.  The suggestion has been responded to in terms of approbation, and we trust the leading journals in the nation will give their aid to prepare for such a universal rejoicing next November.  That month of gloom would then become the gladdest in the year.[vii]

                Eleven years later Hale was still campaigning to establish recognition for the holiday.  Volume 57 from July – December 1858 states:
                                           OUR NATIONAL THANKSGIVING.
All the blessings of the fields,
All the stores the garden yields,
All the plenty summer pours,
Autumn’s rich, overflowing stores,
Peace, prosperity, and health,
Private bliss and public wealth,
Knowledge with Its gladdening streams,
Pure religion’s holier beams—
Lord, for these our souls shall raise
Grateful vows and solemn praise.

                We are most happy to agree with the large majority of the governors of the different States—as shown in their unanimity of action for several past years, which we hope, will this year be adopted by all—that The LAST THURSDAY IN NOVEMBER shall be the day of NATIONAL THANKSGIVING for the American people.  Let this day, from this time forth, as long as our Banner of Stars floats on the breeze, be the grand THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY of our nation, when the noise and tumult of worldliness may be exchanged for the laugh of happy children, the glad greetings of family reunion, and the humble gratitude of the Christian heart.  This truly American Festival falls, this year, on the twenty-fifth day of this month.
                Let us consecrate the day to benevolence of action, by sending good gifts to the poor, and doing those deeds of charity that wilt, for one day, make every American home the place of plenty and of rejoicing.  These seasons of refreshing are of inestimable advantage to the popular hear; and, if rightly managed, will greatly aid and strengthen public harmony of feeling.  Let the people of all the States and Territories sit  down together to the “feast of fat things, “ and drink, in the sweet draught of joy and gratitude to the Divine giver of all our blessings, the pledge of renewed love to the Union, and to each other; and of peace and good-will to all men.  Then the last Thursday in November will soon become the day of AMERICAN THANKSGIVING throughout the world. [viii]

Sarah Hale later in life, c.1855-60.
Her campaign for establishing Thanksgiving as a federal holiday lasted seventeen years. She began as early as 1846 imploring President Zachary Taylor, and subsequently Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan all to nationalize the holiday. [ix]  Her initial attempts failed to persuade, but the letter she wrote at age 75 to President Abraham Lincoln on September 28, 1863 seemed to have an influence none of the others had. After nearly two decades of dedicated prodding, Sarah Hale's wish for a national Thanksgiving Day came true. President Lincoln signed formal legislation finally establishing a national holiday of Thanksgiving for the American people through an official proclamation in 1863.

The Abraham Lincoln Papers at the Library of Congress
Series 1. General Correspondence. 1833-1916.
Sarah J. Hale to Abraham Lincoln,
Monday, September 28, 1863 (Thanksgiving Day)

[i] United States National Archives 11/14/2011.
[ii] Appelbaum, Diana Karter. Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History.  New York, Facts on File, 1984.
[iii] Appelbaum, Diana Karter. Thanksgiving: An American Holiday, An American History. New York, Facts on File, 1984
[iv] Johnson, Allen & Malone, Dumas ed. Dictionary of American Biography Volume IV.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960: 111
[v] Johnson, Allen & Malone, Dumas ed. Dictionary of American Biography Volume IV.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960: 111
[vi] Johnson, Allen & Malone, Dumas ed. Dictionary of American Biography Volume IV.  New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1960: 111
[vii] Godey, Louis Antoine & Sarah Josepha Buell Hale ed. Godey’s Lady's Book. Philadelphia: Louis A. Godey, Volume 34 from January – June 1847:  174.
[viii] Godey, Louis Antoine & Sarah Josepha Buell Hale ed. Godey’s Lady's Book. Philadelphia: Louis A. Godey, Volume 57 from July – Decemeber 1858: 463
[ix] Schenone, Laura. A Thousand Years Over A Hot Stove: A History Of American Women Told Through Food, Recipes, And Remembrances. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2004: 118

Monday, August 15, 2011

Charles Walker

In short, taking into consideration the varied incidents of his active life, his indomitable perseverance and industry, and the financial ability he has exhibited, Mr. Charles Walker has had few equals and no superiors, as a skillful business man and a good citizen.
-Chicago Magazine, March 1857

The Clarke family's relocation to Chicago in 1835 can be largely attributed to the persuasion of Charles Walker. Walker was Henry Brown Clarke's brother-in-law, married to his younger sister Mary (1805-1838). Charles Walker was born February 2, 1802 in Plainfield, Otsego County, New York. He was the oldest son of Colonel William W.  and Lucretia (Ferrel) Walker. Charles had limited education but was a quick learner. He  started school at age six in a log school house built by local farmers. Working his father's farm most of the year, Walker had only three months during the winter to devote to study, doing lessons with a teacher during the day and his parents in the evenings. By age fifteen he became a teacher himself, teaching local children during the winter months. At  eighteen, while still employed as a teacher, he began to study law. The sedentary lifestyle of an attorney did not bode well with Walker's active disposition so, upon the advice of physicians, he soon gave up the law choosing instead to travel the countryside as a livestock buyer for his father.

At age twenty-one his health began to diminish, presumably from excessive time outdoors, and he decided to hire himself out to a friend as a mercantile clerk. Within two months he had mastered the trade and opened his own business in Burlington Flats, New York May of 1824. He soon owned a grist mill, saw mill, potash factory, and tannery in addition to his mercantile. Walker married his wife, Mary Clarke May 8, 1827. He dealt successfully in grain, cattle, and other sundries until 1828 when a large shipment of cheese, butter, and pork, en-route to a southern market, was lost at sea. Walker suffered financially, but was able to grow his business back until 1832 when a decline in prices brought on another blow. Still determined to make it in trade, Walker continued to buy and sell in the New York market.  In spring 1833 he was able to turn a damaged cargo of raw hides from Buenos Aries into a profitable venture by making the leather into boots and shoes for fall Indian payments in Chicago. His brother Almond Walker took these, along with an assortment of guns, boots, shoes, and raw leather to Fort Dearborn in Chicago autumn of 1834.

Realizing the profit to be made out west, Charles Walker set out for Chicago himself in May 1835. Confident in the potential of Chicago as a center of commerce, he purchased several real estate lots, one at the corner of Clark and South Water Streets. Through a partnership with Captain Bigelow of Boston and Jones, King, & Co.Hardware, Walker bought the land for $15,000 cash. That spring he purchased hides in St. Joseph which he added to the other goods picked up in Chicago, which he sent back to New York. The total shipment was said to be the first from the state of Illinois to be sent as far east as Utica or Albany.

In June 1835 he returned to Chicago with his brother-in-law, Henry Brown Clarke. While Clarke purchased land for his own estate, Walker introduced him to local business associates which undoubtedly secured Clarke employment with Jones. King, & Co. when he returned with Caroline and their two sons in October. Walker also returned to Chicago in 1836 to establish the firm Walker & Co. with brother Almond Walker and brother-in-law Eri Baker Hurlburt, Esq (also spelled Hulbert, 1807-1852) a general store on South Water Street that dealt in importing animal husbandry implements and household goods from the east. Even with his primary business affairs in Chicago, Walker continued to reside in New York.

When the panic of 1837 hit Chicago, Walker was one of few who remained in business. He was able to satisfy his debts and keep a good reputation, which enabled him to actually grow his operations during a time of economic downturn. He used depreciated Western money, still accepted and circulated in Chicago, to purchase large quantities of goods, then shipped the items to his Eastern creditors as barter payment avoiding any transmutation of currency. Walker's success allowed him to help Henry and Caroline when they experienced financial trouble in the late 1830s, saving them from foreclosure on their house. Although financially secure, Walker experienced personal tragedy with the death of his wife Mary in June 1838. He was remarried in 1841 to Nancy Bently (d.1881) at Lebanon Springs, New York. His new wife and son Charles H. Walker (by Mary) left from Otsego County, New York and permanently took up residence in Chicago May, 1845.

Despite the assistance from Walker, Henry Brown Clarke declared bankruptcy in 1842. That same year Walker formed the firm Walker & Clarke in Buffalo with Henry's younger brother Cyrus Clarke, Esq. (1806-1884) of Utica, New York. Walker was chosen as a director for the Galena Railroad in 1847. Another financial crisis occurred the same year, this time in the grain trade, but Walker's ventures again endured so that by 1851 C. Walker & Son of Chicago (formed with his son), Walker & Kellog of Peoria, and Walker & Clarke of Buffalo were among the largest purchasers of grain from farmers in the United States. He served as second president of the Chicago Board of Trade from 1849 to 1851.

Ad for Walker & Clarke, 1853.

Charles Walker contracted cholera around 1851 and was forced to leave the management of his affairs to his son Charles. He recovered, but the toll of illness lead him to retire from business altogether in 1855. In 1856 he served as president and director of the Chicago, Iowa & Nebraska line, intended to be a continuation of the Galena railroad. Charles Walker died in Chicago June 28, 1869 leaving a lasting legacy as one of Chicago's early businessmen but more importantly, as a dear friend and devoted kinsman to the Clarke family.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

New Acquisition: Pink Lustreware Tea Set

Pink lustreware tea service c.1820-30 now in the collection of The National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Illinois, housed at Clarke House Museum.
Clarke House Museum recently received an English pink lustreware tea service c.1820-30. The set is almost complete with eleven cups an saucers, cake plate, serving bowl, sugar bowl, and teapot.  The Staffordshire porcelain features a transfer print design accented by lustre banding.

Lustre is a form of decoration that can be applied to any form of ceramic goods, whether earthenware or porcelain. The design is formed in metal, then dissolved in acid and applied as a thin film on top of the glaze. This can be brushed on or applied through a dipping process.When fired, the oxidized metal in the lustre solution is reduced to its original metallic form. When gold was used as the lustre metal on a light colored background it took on a pink sheen, as seen in the pieces here.

Sugar bowl and Creamer
Lustre was often combined with transfer printing. The design was first engraved on a copper plate to which a warmed printing ink would be applied. The plate would be wiped leaving ink only within the engraved lines. Next the copper plate was pressed evenly into strong tissue paper, picking up a mirror image of the design. The tissue paper was then applied directly to glazed pottery or porcelain transferring the design to the piece. Next the object, with tissue still attached, was submerged in cold water to harden the ink and wash the paper away. Hand-applied enamel colors might then be applied before finally being fired in a kiln.

Detail of Transfer Print

Nearly all fine china goods used in the United States during the early nineteenth century were imported from England. Mrs. Clarke might have received a tea service like this as a wedding gift upon her marriage to Henry Brown Clarke in 1827 and it is likely that the Clarkes owned at least one piece of lustreware when they set up house in Waterville, New York. This tea service will go on display in the study later this month. Be sure to look for it on your next visit to Clarke House Museum.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Carpenter and the Maid

The Clarkes contracted John Campbell Rue as finish carpenter while constructing their stately Chicago home. Rue was born in Bath, Stuben County, New York March 23, 1809. He was the son of Joseph (c.1781-1820) of Albany New York and Mary Katherine Campbell Rue (b.1785) . John Campbell had a sister Adeline (c.1807- before 1810), and brother Schuyler (b.1816).

John Campbell Rue came to Illinois with his friend Ira Minard (1809-1876) in 1834. Rue considered buying property in Elgin and St. Charles, Illinois. He is recorded as fencing a farm in Elgin, possibly Sections 27 and 28 of Plato Township, Kane County that he is shown as owning in 1860. Rue decided to settle in Chicago a few months later, plying his trade as carpenter and builder. He is credited with helping to construct the town’s first breakwater. He is also said to have built Chicago's first newspaper office for his friend John Wentworth (1815-1888), editor, publisher, and later owner of the Chicago Democrat

The Clarke family had brought a domestic, Elizabeth “Betsey” Saunders, with them on their trip from New York. Betsy was born in Petersburg, Rensselaer County, New York in 1802. She was a distant cousin of the Clarkes and may have been hired for the family relation. She is mentioned in Mrs. Clarke’s November 1835 letter and would have been 33 years old when the family moved to Chicago. Betsy and John met during the construction of Clarke House, enjoyed a very brief courtship, and were married September 23, 1836

The Rue family claimed that John was never paid for his work on Clarke House, and worse, accused by the Clarkes of being a thief. Betsy's obituary from the January 5, 1895 edition of the Elgin Advocate states "In 1837 Mr. Clarke was among the many who were financially embarrassed and Rue on demanding his due was told that he didn't deserve anything, as he had entered his (Clarke's) home and robbed him of one of his jewels." Whether or not this is true, Betsy promptly left the employ of the Clarke family after her marriage to Rue and the couple took up residence on the 100 block of, coincidentally, Clark Street. The Rues had five children, three sons and two daughters: Mary (c.1837), Franklin (c.1838), Marcus (c.1840), John Ira (c.1843), and Anna Maria "Annie" (c.1845). 

Two of their sons, Marcus and John Ira, served in Company K of the 59th Illinois Infantry during the Civil War. They enlisted as privates September 1, 1861 and were mustered in September 6th to the 9th Regiment Infantry Missouri Volunteers (renamed Company K of the 59th Illinois Infantry Regiment in 1862). Marcus was born c.1840 in Chicago. At the time of his enlistment Marcus was 23 years old with light hair and blue eyes, standing 5'6" tall. He listed his occupation as carpenter. During his three-year term in service Marcus was engaged in Pea Ridge, the Siege of Corinth, Battle of Perryville, Stone's River (Murfreesboro), the Tullahoma Campaign, Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge (Chattanooga), the Atlanta Campaign, Buzzard's Root Gap, Resaca, Kennesaw Mountain, Peachtree Creek, and Jonesborough. He mustered out September 17, 1864.

John Ira Rue was born 1843 in Chicago. He was 18 years of age upon enlistment with light hair and dark eyes, standing 5'-6" tall. He also gave his occupation as carpenter. John Ira was engaged in the Battle of Pea Ridge, the Siege of Corinth, and took wounds at Perryville, Kentucky which rendered him a patient at the  Government Hospital for the Insane in Washington D.C., renamed St. Elizabeth's Hospital in 1916. He lived out the rest of his life as a patient there until his death November 29, 1916. He was buried with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Government Hospital for the Insane established 1855.The Hospital's early mission, as defined by its founder, the leading mental health reformer Dorothea Dix, was to provide the "most humane care and enlightened curative treatment of the insane of the Army, Navy, and District of Columbia."

The family lived in Chicago until the spring of 1887, relocating to Elgin where Rue continued the carpentry trade. He passed away at his home at 78 N. Crystal Street in Elgin, Illinois June 11, 1892. His funeral was held at 1p.m. on Monday June 13, 1892. He was buried in the family plot, Section 23, Lot 38 of the Plato Center Cemetery.
Elgin, Illinois around the time the Rue family relocated.

Upon his death, John Campbell Rue had an estimated $15,000 of real estate in Cook and Kane Counties. An attorney, a Mr. Ranstead, was appointed Executor of the Will. The heirs named to Rue's estate were wife Elizabeth, son John Ira, and grandaughter Emily W. Liddell (Annie's daughter).

Betsy lived three more years. She took sick December 9, 1894 and remained bed-ridden before dying January 30, 1895. She passed away at the home of her nephew, Ezra Rue (son of John's brother Schuyler), 120 N. Crystal Street, where she had lived, presumably, since John's death. Her funeral was held at 11 o'clock on Wednesday January 2, 1895. She is buried beside John in the family plot at Plato Center Cemetery.

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