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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