Friday, March 25, 2016

SHE CALLED HER HOME "OAKTON VILLA" - Nancy Ann Dunning (Mrs. James S.) Kirk

I was browsing through the Chicago Tribune archives the other day looking for interesting stories that might end up as articles for this blog. In the course of doing that I came upon the following article from December 23, 1900:

I already knew from my Evanston history that Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston started out in "the old Kirk home."  In fact, here is a postcard from about the time of the sale, mis-labeled "St. Francis Hotel."  You do have to pay for your room, but I don't think anyone ever thought that St. Francis was a hotel.

But it was the last sentence of the article that caught my eye: "...the tragic death of Mrs. Kirk in the Windsor Hotel fire in New York last year left the place without an occupant." 

Although I have written about other tragic hotel fires in this blog, I was unfamiliar with the Windsor Hotel fire. What I found in my research was the story of a horrific hotel fire, but also of a daughter's devotion to her invalid mother in a story that reached from New York all the way back to Ridge Avenue in Evanston, Illinois, to an estate named "Oakton Villa."  I know that Major Mulford named his estate "Oakton" but I had never heard of "Oakton Villa".  Let's see what we can "dig up" about this story.

Mrs. James S. Kirk was born Nancy Ann Dunning in Ottawa, Canada (then called Bytown) on September 28, 1824, one of eleven children born to Abijah Dunning, Jr. (1768-1839), and Mary Ann, nee Henderson (1780-????).  She was educated in the private schools of the area and was considered one of the "Belles of the Dominion." When she was sixteen years old she met James S. Kirk (1818-1886), a clerk in one of the stores in the town, and after a one year courtship they were married in Ottawa on December 29, 1839. Kirk was 21 at the time of their marriage.

James Smith Kirk was born September 16, 1818 in Glasgow Scotland to Alexander Kirk and Margaret, nee Forrester.  Alexander Kirk was a shipbuilder on the River Clyde in Scotland.  When James was 6 months old, the family left Scotland and settled in Montreal, Canada. James Kirk graduated from the Montreal Academic Institute, and afterwards began the manufacture of soaps, candles and alkalies,  Later on, he was involved in the lumber business, overseeing the work in the woods and then the drive of the lumber down the river to Montreal.

Shortly after their marriage, the Kirks moved to Utica, NY where Kirk opened a soap and perfume manufacturing company.  Kirk's soap-making business prospered.

The 1840 US Census shows the Kirk family living in the 3rd Ward of Utica, New York.  The family consisted of (1) male under the age of 5; (1) male under the age of 30; and (1) female under the age of 20. James and Nancy Kirk are the adults, and the child is their firstborn son, James Alexander Kirk (1840-1907).  In all, James and Nancy Kirk had 11 children:

Children of James S. Kirk and Nancy Ann Dunning Kirk:

The 1850 US Census shows the Kirk family as still living in Utica, New York.  James Kirk listed his occupation as "Chandler."  In addition to James and Nancy, four of their children were living: James, John, Milton (listed as "William") and Ellen (listed as "Helen.")  In addition, they have two live-in servants.

In 1859 Kirk decided to take his business to the big city and moved his business to Chicago, but the 1860 US Census has the family still in Utica.

Sometime in the early 1860s, Kirk moved his family to Chicago.  The family took up residence on the North Side and Kirk's business continued to grow in his plant at No. 18 and 20 River Street - the original site of Fort Dearborn.

In 1867, Kirk set up a large new plant on North Water Street in Chicago. It was about that same time that James Kirk erected a beautiful home on the "High Ridge" in the Village of South Evanston on land that had previously belonged to Major Edward  Harris Mulford. Kirk spent $25,000 building his new homestead which his wife named "Oakton Villa," after "Oakton", the name Major Mulford bestowed on his 160 acre estate.

In the 1870s, the James S. Kirk Company continued to prosper.  His plant on North Water Street employed about 50 people and made nearly $600,000 worth of soap during the year.  The 1870 US Census showed James Kirk and his family living in their new home in South Evanston. James and Nancy were living with their children Milton, Wallace, Helen, Charles, Arthur and Edgar and four "domestic servants."  Kirk said he owned real estate worth $50,000 and personalty of $25,000.  Right above the Kirks on the census form is 76 year old Major Edward Mulford and his 75 year old wife Rebecca.  I would have loved to attend their Block Party!

In the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Kirk sustained losses amounting to $250,000, but they led to the building of the factory, an imposing five-story structure with a 182-foot chimney. The whole plant was described by contemporaries as "the largest manufactory of its kind in America.

By 1880, the North Water Street plant was one of world's largest soap factories, with machinery driven by steam engines, a workforce of 250, and an annual output worth over $2 million.  Four of James and Nancy Kirk's sons joined their father in the family business:  James A., John B., Milton W and Wallace F.   Contemporaries described James Kirk as a “stern old churchman,”

The 1880 US Census shows James and Nancy Kirk and sons Charles, Arthur and Edgar living at Oakton Villa.  In addition there were a live-in cook, a ladies maid and a servant.  Their coachman lived adjacent to the Kirk home with his family (probably in a coach-house.)

Newspapers from June 17, 1886 carried the following note:

He was buried in the family plot at Rosehill Cemetery under this imposing monument:

James and Nancy Kirk had always been very supportive of Evanston charities in general and in Northwestern University in particular, and Nancy Kirk continued this after James' death.  In 1894 she established the Kirk Memorial Prize for Oratory at Northwestern.  It was valued at $100.00 and was awarded to the best speaker in the Senior Class each year.

It was mainly through the efforts of Nancy Kirk that Evanston Hospital was established giving Evanstonians quality local health care instead of having to travel to Chicago for access to a hospital.

After her husband's death, Nancy Kirk divided her time between Florida in the winter months and Oakton Villa during the summers.  Her son John and daughter Helen lived nearby and she enjoyed spending time with them and her twenty-five grandchildren.  She also enjoyed traveling, and that's what took her to New York in March of 1899 where she would meet an untimely death in the Windsor Hotel fire.

The Windsor Hotel fire took place on St. Patrick's Day - March 17, 1899. It was said to have been caused by careless discarding of a lit match which ignited some lace curtains in an open window. Before it was over, almost 90 people died (estimates vary), with numerous bodies landing on the pavement; some people fell when escape ropes burned their hands, while some jumped in preference to being burned alive.  The operator of the hotel, Warren F. Leland, was unable to identify his 20-year-old daughter, Helen, who had jumped from the 6th floor.

The Chicago Daily Tribune from March 18, 1899, tells the story of what happened to Nancy Kirk and her daughter Helen Kirk Haskin:

Her Daughter, Mrs. Haskin, Is with Her at the Last After a Vain Attempt to Save Her.

One of the most pathetic incidents of the fire was a deathbed parting in Bellevue Hospital between a devoted mother and a loving and heroic daughter.  The mother, Mrs. Nancy A. Kirk, widow of James B. Kirk of Chicago, feeble with seventy-six years and an invalid, was literally carried from the burning hotel by her daughter, Mrs. Charles G. Haskin, who bore her down the smoke-charged staircases from the fourth floor.

Leaving her mother to the care of two foremen, who carried the aged woman to the street, Mrs. Haskin ran back to her apartment to save some valuables.  She nearly lost her life, for the flames had spread rapidly, and it was with difficulty that she managed to find her way through the halls back to the lower floor.  She reached the street, where she sank half fainting.  Her hair was singed, her clothing scorched, and her arms badly burned.  She gasped, “Where is mother?  Thank God I got her out alive.”

The two firemen who had carried Mrs. Kirk to a place of shelter had called an ambulance surgeon to attend to the aged woman, who for years had been a sufferer from heart disease.  Mrs. Kirk was placed in the ambulance when her negro nurse, who had attended her for years and was devoted to her, dashed across the street.  She, too, had had a narrow escape from the doomed hotel.

Goes to the Hospital With Her.

“That lady is my good mistress,” screamed the girl.  Then as the driver was about to drive off, she cried, “I’ll go to the hospital with her.”  Without further ceremony she clambered into the seat beside him.

“Hurry up!  Drive!  Drive fast!” she begged.

The driver lashed his horse.  The maid clung to his arm.  Mrs. Haskin followed in a cab.  Her mother, still unconscious, was carried at once to a cot in Ward 12.  Mrs. Haskin, who was suffering intense pain from the burns on her arms, would not consent to treatment until she had seen her mother.  But all the medical skill of the hospital could not save Mrs. Kirk. Who even then was dying, although the surgeons did not tell the daughter so.  Hypodermic injections, in the hope that the aged woman’s heart might be stimulated, were administered, but the smoke and the excitement had done their work.

A few minutes before Mrs. Kirk died, her daughter knelt at the bedside and took the mother in her arms.  While thus embraced Mrs. Kirk’s gaze rested on her daughter’s face.

“Do you know me, mother? I am Mary.  We are safe, mother.  You are getting good care and you will soon be on your feet.”

The mother passed away with the daughter’s arms around her.

An hour elapsed before Mrs. Haskin was sufficiently composed to permit of her burned arms being treated.

Intended to Return to Chicago.

Mrs. Kirk came east in the Christmas holidays, in the company of her daughter Mrs. Haskin.  They spent the remainder of the winter at Lakewood, N. J., and had intended returning to Chicago early this month, but Mrs. Kirk, at the suggestion of her friends in the East, decided to come to New York for a brief visit.  They registered at the Windsor Hotel principally because the late James S. Kirk had always spoken highly of the famous hostelry.

Not later than three weeks ago, Mrs. Kirk wrote to Milton W. Kirk, one of her sons, saying that she and her daughter were already preparing to go home and would probably start within two weeks.  Preparations were being made to renovate the family residence in Evanston for the reception of the mother. 

Mrs. Kirk’s body will be taken to Chicago in the morning on the Pennsylvania Limited, which leaves here at 9:45.

The funeral of Nancy Kirk was described in an article in the Chicago Daily Tribune of March 22, 1899:

The funeral of Mrs. James S. Kirk, a victim of the Windsor Hotel fire, was held in the afternoon from Oakton Villa, the family residence, 365 Ridge avenue, Evanston.  The services were conducted by the Rev. Nacy Magee Waters, pastor of Emmanuel Methodist Episcopal Church, assisted by the Rev. William Macafee of the First Church, of which Mrs. Kirk was a member.  The music was by the choir of Emmanuel Church.

Mr. Waters paid an eloquent tribute to the heroism of Mrs. Kirk and her daughter and to the loyal courage of other women at that fatal hour saying: “Read in the light of this terrible event.  I am proud of womanhood and our human nature, and I know God is.”

The honorary pallbearers were:  Dr. Henry Wade Rogers, Dr. Herbert W. Fisk, C. O. Boring, J. R. Hoagland, W. H. Jones, J. S. Gibbs, Harvey B. Hurd, and Horace A. Goodrich.

The active pallbearers were the heads of the different departments of the Kirk factory, as follows:  Phillip Walters, Forbes Munson, Morris Connors, George Schraeder, J. Pine, J. Oestman, and Henry Shenick.

Interment was at Rosehill, in the family lot, where Mr. Kirk is buried.

Monsignor Biermann from the nearby St. Nicholas Catholic Church in Evanston bought the Kirk Homestead in late 1900 for $35,000.00.  The doors of the new Saint Francis Hospital opened on Jan. 1, 1901. Two patients were treated. By the end of the first year, 70 patients had been admitted. The five sisters who renovated the house into a 25-bed hospital performed all the nursing care and general maintenance of the property. More of the surrounding property was purchased as a farm, where cows and chickens supplied milk and eggs and vegetables were grown for hospital use.

As the number of patients grew, it became evident that more room was needed. In 1909, ground was broken for the central section of the permanent hospital and the cornerstone was laid. The new building was erected at a cost of $150,000 and dedicated on May 28, 1910. An enclosed passageway connected the new structure with the old Kirk house.

During the scarlet fever and diphtheria epidemics in 1914, the Kirk building became a contagious ward. As many as 40 patients at a time were cared for by the four sisters who took charge. For 12 months the building was in "isolation."  The old Kirk homestead was finally razed in 1928.

Of course I never met Mrs. Kirk, nor did I ever see the Kirk house - but I have many ties to St. Francis Hospital.  I was born there, as was my mother.  Both my mother and my father died at St. Francis.  Our roots are deep into the land that was once the Kirk Homestead.

Nancy Ann Dunning Kirk - South Evanston pioneer - beloved by all - may she rest in peace.

Special thanks to Mike Kelly for the research assistance.    

Friday, March 11, 2016


When I was working on the article about Louise Paullin I set out to find her grave, figuring that she was buried next to her husband former Evanston mayor S.G. Ingraham.  I found his grave at Christ Church Winnetka, but it turned out that Louise was buried in her father's plot at Rosehill.  That got me wondering where all the past mayors of Evanston were buried.  I set up a Virtual Cemetery on Find a Grave, but here is a list of Evanston mayors and where the dead ones are buried:

As  I was doing the research to find where each former mayor was buried I found that many of them had led lives that were quite interesting, so from time to time I will feature the story of one of Evanston's former mayors on this blog, starting this week with the first of Evanston's former mayors, Dr. Oscar H. Mann. 

Readers of the Chicago Daily Tribune from October 25, 1911 saw the following item back on Page 7:


Dr. O. H. Mann of Gobleville, Mich., died yesterday from injuries received in a fall.  He was the last president of the Village of Evanston, and the first mayor following the change of its form of government in 1892. Three years ago he moved to Gobleville.  The funeral will be held Thursday at Rosehill.  The Evanston council voted to attend in a body.

The fact that the Evanston City Council had voted to do anything "in a body" was certainly newsworthy.  Let's see what we can find out about Oscar Mann that his death would allow disparate politicians to come together to mourn his loss.

Oscar Henry Mann was born November 24, 1835 in Providence, Rhode Island to Timothy Metcalf Mann (1807-1872) and Eliza, nee Tupper (1806-1877).  Timothy Mann was a physician.  It is not known whether or not Timothy and Eliza had other children besides Oscar, but we do know that Oscar's grandfather William Tupper was an officer in the American Revolution with the 3rd and 4th Connecticut Regiments.

Oscar Mann received his early medical education in New York City, and began practicing there. While in New York he met Amanda M. Finch (1835-1927), the daughter of Nathaniel J. Finch (1809-1883) and Sally, nee Tyler (1809-1870).  Nathaniel Finch was a farmer by trade.  Oscar and Amanda were married in Illinois on July 06, 1857.

Oscar Mann received the degree of Doctor of Medicine from the Hahnemann Medical College in Chicago in March, 1856.

After graduation the new Dr. and Mrs. Mann moved to Peoria, Illinois where Dr. Mann got a job as a Botanist.  It was in Peoria that their first child Florence E. Mann (1859-1929) was born on September 22, 1859.

The 1860 US Census shows the young family living in Peoria's First Ward.  Oscar reported his occupation as "Botanist."

Oscar and Amanda's second child, Edwin Eugene Mann came into the world in November of 1864.  Shortly thereafter, Florence and Edwin were joined by Oscar L. Mann who was born in Ottawa, Illinois on June 4, 1866.  Dr. and Mrs. Mann did not have any more children after that.

In 1866 the Mann family moved to Evanston, Illinois where Dr. Mann had accepted a position at the Northwestern Female College where he lectured on Chemistry and Hygiene.  In addition to his responsibilities at the College, he opened up a medical practice in Evanston on Davis Street.

The 1870 US Census finds the Mann family living in the Village of Evanston.  Thirty four year old Oscar indicated that his occupation was "Physician."  His wife, twenty nine year old Amanda was "Keeping House," and there were the three children, nine year old Florence, six year old Edwin and three year old Oscar.  Dr. Mann said that he owned real estate worth $5,000 and personalty of $2,500.  Strangely, Dr. Mann told the census taker that he had been born in Connecticut, but he was born in Providence, Rhode Island.        

In addition to his private practice, Dr. Mann was well-respected in the medical profession at-large.  In 1870 he was elected president of the Illinois Homeopathic Medical Association, in 1871 president of the Cook County Medical Society, and in 1872 president of the Illinois State Medical Society.

In 1874 Dr. Mann began his political career when he was elected Trustee of the Village of Evanston.

The 1880 US Census finds the Mann family still living in the Village of Evanston.  Dr. Mann still reports his occupation as "Physician" and Amanda was still "Keeping House."  The two boys were "at School," although nineteen year old Florence does not list an occupation.  This time Dr. Mann told the census taker that he had been born in New York. 

In addition to the Mann family, there were two other people living with them: thirty four year old Arthur Crockett was their coachman, and twenty one year old Marian Craig (no relation) was listed as a "Servant.". Newspapers of the time report that Dr. Mann was "beloved by all."

On April 22, 1891 Mann was elected president of the Village of Evanston on the "Citizens" ticket, defeating Joseph Larimer who headed the "Regular Citizens" ticket.
The biggest issue Oscar Mann faced as President of the Village of Evanston was annexation.  Ever since the Village of North Evanston merged with Evanston in 1874, there had been constant talk of Evanston annexing the Village of South Evanston, and some even went so far as to suggest an annexation of Rogers Park.  Furthermore, there was still the issue outstanding of whether Evanston itself should be annexed by the City of Chicago.

The issues that brought about talk of a merger between Evanston and South Evanston were familiar ones - citizens of a smaller village wanted the same municipal services that citizens of a larger adjacent village enjoyed.  But with Evanston and its adjacent neighbors, the most important issue was clean, fresh water.  In 1874 the Village of Evanston had installed a communal water system to provide all its citizens with purified Lake Michigan water.  South Evanston, on the other hand, was constantly trying to address ever growing drinking water and sewage disposal problems.  South Evanston residents saw that their nearby village neighbors had clean water and they wanted it too.

But there was another issue that influenced proponents and opponents to a merger:  liquor.  Evanston, and Northwestern University were founded by Methodists who opposed "demon rum" in all its forms.  In 1853 John Evans, for whom Evanston was named, added an amendment into the charter of Northwestern University which outlawed the sale of liquor within a four mile radius of the university. When the town of Evanston was incorporated in 1863, one of the trustees' first official acts was to make the "four mile limit" a city ordinance as well.  The noted apostle of temperance, Frances E. Willard, lived in Evanston and the world headquarters of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was in Evanston, as well.

Parts of the Village of South Evanston were outside the four mile limit and alcohol was sold there.  In addition to the liquor issue, there were economic and social differences as well.  Many Evanston citizens were wealthy Protestants whereas South Evanston residents tended to be from the working class and many were Catholic.  While Evanston's higher-class residents wanted no part of South Evanston's lower class residents they knew that if South Evanston merged with Chicago, liquor would be sold as far north as Greenleaf Street which was the northerly border of South Evanston.

But there was opposition on the other side as well.  It was well know that with the exception of the water system, the infrastructure of South Evanston was in better shape than that of its northern neighbor.  Also, many South Evanstonians were afraid that their property taxes would increase exponentially because of Northwestern University and its huge parcels of tax-exempt land.  (Not surprisingly this remains an issue in Evanston to this day.)   

The issue finally was put to a vote in 1892.  The date chosen for the vote was February 20, and a majority of the voters in both of the Villages would have to vote in-favor if the merger was to be approved.  If the merger passed, the new consolidated Village would now be called the City of Evanston, and a municipal governing structure would be put in place.  Village President Mann was firmly in favor of consolidation.

Despite all the forebodings the voters overwhelmingly approved the proposition.  In all, 1,879 citizens cast ballots, 584 in South Evanston and 1,259 in Evanston.  The union was approved by 57% of South Evanstonians and a surprising 66% of the voters of the Village of Evanston.  Now there would have to be an election for Mayor of the City of Evanston as well as for a City Council.

Village President Oscar Mann decided to run for mayor; his opponent was John R. Lindgren, who was a partner in a Chicago investment banking firm.  Both candidates had been solidly in favor of the consolidation.

The campaign for the first mayor of the new City of Evanston was one that would have been more at home in the rollicking City of Chicago than in staid Evanston.  Lindgren portrayed himself as an apolitical citizen who was a high-minded public benefactor.  Mann accused Lindgren of being in the pocket of Northwestern University (a charge that was leveled at a recent Evanston mayor as well - some things never change).  Lindgren was endorsed by the Evanston Index newspaper; Mann was endorsed by the Evanston Press newspaper.  Here's how the Chicago Daily Tribune described it on April 16, 1892:

Evanston's Political War Waxes Fierce Each Day.
Dr. Mann's Adherents Institute an Attack on J. R. Lindgren in a Manner Which Inures to His Benefit.
The Course of the Last Board of Village Trustees Forms a Fruitful Source of Campaign Ammunition.
The Battle of the "Cotton" and the "Silk" Stockings.

With its evolution from village simplicity to the dignity of urban government, Evanston has taken unto itself the turmoil and strife which in these days seem always incident to all matters political pertaining to the officials of a city.  It is the choice of the officials that has stirred Evanston to its deepest depths, and, truly, the stirring process has resulted, in less degree, about as might be expected from such an operation in connection with the Chicago River.

Two tickets are in the field. The "ins" against the “outs,” the Press against the Index, the cotton socks against the silk stockings, the supporters of the present administration, with Dr. Oscar H. Mann, the present Village President, as candidate for Mayor, and the supporters of John R. Lindgren, the philanthropic banker.

It is largely a pitched battle between the citizens who do business in Chicago and live in Evanston and those who both work and live in the big suburb. In this latter class are included most of the local contractors, who have had fat pickings for the last year.  The present administration is seeking to perpetuate itself by the nomination of Dr. Mann, while the "outs" are attempting to elect a Mayor who will do something, in the person of John R. Lindgren.  Until last Saturday Dr. Mann had some prospects of success.  Then his organ published a page or so of disgraceful charges of the use of money in behalf of his opponent, John R. Lindgren.  No instances were or could have been specified, as Mr. Lindgren, who is of the banking firm of Haugan & Lindgren of Chicago, is a man of the highest reputation, a leader in the church, and a popular society man. The result has been exactly the opposite of what the Mann faction expected.  The citizens generally, including many of Mann's supporters, have become aroused by this exhibition of pot-house politics, and the result is the probable election of Lindgren by a safe majority.

A Vigorous Opposition.

The opposition to the present administration has developed into large proportions, and an investigation is being vigorously prosecuted into the manner of letting certain heavy contracts during the last year.  The first unpleasant result of this investigation concerns the building of the new City Hall, which is being done by the contractor at the head of the Mann forces. The contracts for a part of this building called for an expenditure of $29,922, and the extras are said to have amounted already to $15,000.  It is freely charged that it will cost from $60.000 to $75,000 to complete it according to original specifications, an admission of a state of affairs which has alarmed the taxpayers.  The history of this contract is interesting as well as instructive.  Bonds to the amount of $25,000, the limit allowed villagers, were voted at last spring’s election, with the understanding that that amount, with the addition of $5,000 then in the contingent fund, would complete a suitable village hall. Though it is customary in the erection of public buildings to advertise for competitive plans, the village President took the matter into his own hands and employed a Chicago firm to draw up plans for a building to cost $30,000. The plans and specifications were drawn up and bids advertised for. All bids were so far above $30,000 they were all rejected, and instead of re-advertising or modifying the plans so that the building would not cost over $30,000 the building committee headed by Dr. Mann, employed Charles T. Bartlett to earn $30,000 by putting up the walls and roof.  This the contractor is now doing.  Rumors are also afloat concerning certain sewer contracts, in which one of the local contractors at the head of the Mann faction is concerned.  The fact is recalled that Dr. Mann's son-in-law, an army officer was put in as inspector of the building while on a furlough. There are many stories afloat of this character, and as the present administration is receiving its heartiest support from the contractors and possible beneficiaries of city work the taxpayers generally are arraying themselves on the side of the Lindgren forces.

Mr. Lindgren is a native of Chicago, but of Swedish antecedents. He has a large and enthusiastic following among the people of that race. The fact has just been made public also that his entire salary and perquisites as Village Treasurer last year, amounting to $1,500, was donated secretly several months ago to the public Library, and this has increased his popularity among the working men, who are friends of the library.

Dr. Mann is a physician of large practice and is personally unobjectionable, but he has become involved with the wrong element, it is thought, and his best friends are anxious to see him out of politics.

Government of the Past.

For years Evanston has been governed in a paternal way by a Village Council consisting of such men as H. H. C. Miller, Frank P. Crandon, George Sargent, J. R. Lindgren, Frank M. Elliot, W. C. Magill, ex-Gov. Evans, and a host of others-all solid business and professional men who did business in Chicago and owned and occupied residences in Evanston. A year ago all this was changed and a new element, consisting for the most part of local grocers, furniture dealers, painters, carpenters, and contractors, snatched away the reins of government to the horror of their wealthy and more aristocratic and intelligent fellow-citizens. Then Dr. O. H. Mann was elected Village President and a number of local tradesmen as Trustees.

With this everybody predicted some dire or shocking revolution. "Everybody" was a good prophet. The revolution has come in the shape of a city form of government and the calamity in the unmistakable garb of ward politics and political “bossism.”  The "cotton-sock" Council made big promises as to the sweeping improvements it purposed making. Every street should be paved, every rotten board sidewalk replaced by the finest kind of cement, the old shanty of a City Hall should give way to an imposing structure, the tumble-down fire engine house and the cubby-hole of a police station by structures befitting the culture and dignity of the Athens of the West.

In making these the Council reckoned without its host.  Three blocks of paved street, a mile or so of cement walk, the outside walls of a new City Hall, a number of big contracts on sewers, a long record of weekly Council disputes, and a large indebtedness are the fulfillment of what was promised.

After viewing this record, the "outs," who were put out by alarming majorities, picked up hope and determined to get in. Accordingly a caucus was held and John R. Lindgren was chosen as the best possible candidate.

Methods of the Campaign.

In this campaign the methods used and stories circulated would do credit to a Chicago ward boss. The opponents to Mr. Lindgren charge his campaigners with buying votes, hold meetings in negro churches and tell the audiences that Mr. Lindgren is too proud to speak to them and that Dr. Mann is the only friend of the poor man. After the “services” an ice cream lunch, provided by the Mann campaigners, is served, and everything is merry as a marriage bell.  There is a general antagonism to the financial policy of Northwestern University, which takes advantage of its exemption from taxation to speculate in land. For this reason the most unpopular thing that can be said against a man is that he is a university man. This charge is made against Mr. Lindgren at all the political meetings managed by the Mann faction.

Mr. Lindgren said in an interview:

"I am in favor of the university as an educational institute. As such it is of great benefit to the town and the town is a great benefit to it.  But its policy of handling its land interests has been unfortunate to say the least. It has made enemies where a broader policy would have made friends."

Tone of the Newspapers.

While the Mann organ, the Evanston Press, seeks to gain the election of its candidate by throwing mud, the Lindgren organ, the Evanston Index, is dignified in all its utterances, and devotes its political columns to a straight-forward statement of the strong points of the Lindgren ticket, without saying a harsh word against Dr. Mann and his faction. This difference in newspaper utterance is a type of the difference in the methods of the two parties represented.  Contrasted with the impassioned utterances of Mr. Lindgren is the following interview with Dr. O. H. Mann:

"These people are all lying, and they know they are lying. They tell us not to throw mud, while they are throwing it all the time. They charge us with using money, while I can prove that are using it themselves. Here I have worked day after day to secure to the city a decent City Hall on a lot that was formerly used as a dumping ground for old boots and dead cats, and then they jump on me for doing it.  I have done the bulk of the planning myself.  Night after night, I have worked on these plans until 2 o'clock in the morning and I have actually spent $3 of my own money for drawing paper and materials, without asking for remuneration. Altogether I have spent time on this work that would come to thirty eight-hour days. And for my reward they charge me with crookedness. In the first place the City Hall, according to the present plans, was never supposed to cost more than $30,000, and all the Trustees who approved my work knew this. If they did not know it they were too densely stupid to be worthy of a place in the Council.

“When the first bids were rejected because they were beyond our means the whole Council agreed to do as much toward putting up the building as the $30,000 would allow.  A second time bids were advertised for external construction and the lowest bid on that was $39,000.  Then I stepped in and by dickering with the contractors got that down to $29,922 and the contract was given to Mr. Bartlett for that amount.  If he comes out with a loss of $500 he will do well."

Instances of Popular Feeling.

A few instances will serve to show the popular feeling in this campaign. Ex-Congressman George S. Baker said in reference to the City-Hall contract:

“In June the two village newspapers stated in interviews with President Mann that he had had plans drawn by Holabird & Roche for a new village hall to cost $30,000, and that those plans could be seen in time village office.  On the strength of this the people, at the election which shortly followed, voted $30,000 for the erection of the buildings.  They argued that the $1,500 a year interest on the bonds would be cheaper than the annual rental and repairs on the various offices and buildings being used by the village. In August bids were received for the erection of the building according to the plans of Holabird & Roche, the lowest bid being $52,000.  As they could not raise this amount Mr. Bartlett was employed to build the walls and put the thing under roof for $29,822, or only $78 less than the price originally to be paid for completing the building. Bartlett's work was to have been completed Jan. 1, 1892, and it is only partly done now.  Men capable of judging what it will cost to the building after Bartlett is through with it say it will be not less than $30,000 more, and some say that even that will not put in the heating apparatus and other necessary items of expenditure.  The building, at even that immense cost, is not what the city needs.  The men who engineered the scheme showed exceedingly bad judgment in the exterior, which is unsightly, and in the interior, in crowding the library and city offices to give the bulk of space to the police and fire departments.  There is not a police or fire department in Cook County that will be so luxuriously housed as that of Evanston.  In ten years the space devoted to the city and that set apart for the library will be too small.  Dr. Mann plumes himself on this wonderful city hall.  He is its father, its Nestor.  It is his pride, his boast, his joy, his all.  Now let him stand by it."

Candidates for Attorney and Treasurer.

Allied to the contest for Mayor is one for City Attorney and Treasurer. Frank R. Grover, who has been Village Attorney, wants to give his friend Dr. Mann legal points again this year and Thomas L. Fansler wants to be Dr. Mann's City Treasurer.

Martin M. Gridley, a rising young attorney who is widely known in political circles, is running on the Lindgren ticket for the Attorneyship and Arthur N. Sullivan for the Treasurership. Evanston has seven wards and each ward is to have two Aldermen. These Aldermanic candidates are careful not to take sides in the Mayoralty fight, but it is understood the names marked with an asterisk are Lindgren sympathizers.

First Ward-William E. Suhr, *Winfield S. Smyth, *John W. Thompson, Frank P. Judson.

Second Ward-*George P. Merrick, Jerome A. Smith, William D. Hitchcock.
Third Ward-Charles H. Cowper, A. C. Pinkham, *Patrick E. O'Neil.
Fourth Ward-*William G. Norkett, James Hibben, *Walter S. Gates.
Fifth Ward-*John A. Comstock, *James O'Connell, John Witt, Joseph Hobbs.
Sixth Ward-Henry M. Kidder, John S. Scott, Robert N. Freeman. De Witt C. Haight.
Seventh Ward-*Frank M. Forrey1 *George P. Mills, Joseph McCallum, *William A. Dyche.

But the most startling state of affairs is not that developed by the Mayoralty election.  This afternoon an election will be held for the purpose of choosing the President of the School Board and two trustees in District No. 1 which includes the old village territory of Evanston. Ordinarily little attention is paid to this school election. One year only eight votes were cast in it. But now that women can vote the local politicians on the Mann side have set the women of the town by the ears for the sake of accomplishing certain objects of their own and the result is two tickets, one of which seeks to reelect H. H. C. Miller as President of the board, George S. Lord as a member, and to elect Mrs. Louise Brockway Stanwood in place of ex-Congressman George S. Baker, who has declined reelection.

What the Mann Politicians Decided.

This ticket was first in the field, and the Mann politicians, headed by Charles T. Bartlett, a large contractor who is not even a resident of that district, decided it would be a good political move to oust Mr. Miller and Mr. Lord. This committee, which had been working other parts of the town by means of a liberal use of beer and cigars, therefore repaired to the residence of Mrs. Gertrude M. Singleton last Tuesday night, smelling of cloves, and told this ardent temperance worker that it was a shame that the dear children in Evanston were not receiving better instruction as to the awful effects of alcohol on the human system, and also that there should be a free kindergarten in connection with the public schools. These noble objects, which, by the way, were special hobbies with Mrs. Singleton, they said could only be accomplished by the defeat of Mr. Miller as President of the board, and furthermore they said that nobody in town could defeat Mr. Miller quite as well as Mrs. Singleton, and that if she would run they represented 300 votes which should all be hers. Dodgers were immediately scattered through the town announcing the ticket.  The work at Mrs. Singleton's residence was done so secretly that these dodgers gave the first intimation of the true state of affairs. Then the fun began. Women all parts of the district began to fly about like mad. They very soon found out the true state of affairs, and determined to beat this W.C.T.U.-beer combination ticket and elect Mr. Miller and Mr. Lord, both of whom had done excellent service on the board for years, together with Mrs. Stanwood who is a Vassar graduate and an educator of experience.

The outcome of the election was extremely close, and a great disappointment to those who continued to subscribe to the ideal of Evanston as "the classic village."  Oscar Mann won by a mere 25 votes, just one percent of the total cast of 2,351.  Lindgren carried the original Village of Evanston by 91 votes; Mann carried the former South Evanston by 115 votes.  Afterward, Lindgren supporters claimed to be "certain" that liquor had been offered to influence some voters. Charges of ballot irregularities, including participation by aliens also were issued. Remember, this was in 1892!  Some things really do stay the same...

And the friction continued after the election was over.  There was great opposition to Mayor Mann's choice for Director of Public Works, and there was a jurisdictional dispute for the mayor's $600.00 expense account.  This was followed up by an investigation of allegations of bribery by a member of the Evanston City Council.  So much for "Heavenston" as it had come to be called.

Just as everything seemed to be quieting down, Mayor Mann had to deal with another crisis - an annexation of Evanston by the City of Chicago had been placed on the April 17, 1894 ballot.  There's nothing like a good crisis to bring everyone together, and the potential annexation by Chicago did the trick. As much support as there was for the annexation of South Evanston by the Village of Evanston, there was even more opposition to the annexation of the City of Evanston by Chicago.

"True Evanstonians," proclaimed Mayor Mann as he announced his own opposition to annexation, "valued the individuality of their community." The Reverend H.A. Delano of the First Baptist Church reminded fellow citizens, "Morally, educationally, socially, every way, we have everything to lose and not a thing to gain."   The overriding reason against annexation line was put forth by Northwestern University President Henry Wade Rogers when he said, "Should annexation carry, we cannot keep the saloons out of Evanston."   

The largest electoral turnout in the history of Evanston saw the annexation resolution defeated by 78% of the Evanston voters.

As the 1895 mayoral election approached, Mayor Mann showed his interest in running for reelection on an anti-university ticket.  However, the support did not seem to be there, so he ultimately decided not to run. On April 16, 1895, William A. Dyche (another subject of this blog) was overwhelmingly elected mayor to succeed Mayor Mann.

By 1895 Oscar Mann was in his early 60s.  Finished with politics, he decided it was time for him to wind down his medical practice and think about retirement.

Mayor Mann and his family decided to "Go West" after leaving Evanston.  Mann bought a ranch at Okobojo, South Dakota, although he retained his legal residence in Evanston and friends reported that the former mayor kept up-to-date with affairs of Evanston politics.

In the days after he left Evanston, Oscar Mann developed an interest in Theosophy and in 1899 was elected President of the White Lotus Theosophical Society of Pierre, South Dakota.

The 1900 US Census reports the Mann family as living in Llewellyn Township, Sully County, South Dakota.  Oscar Mann reported his occupation as "Physician."  He correctly reported this time around that he had been born in Rhode Island.  Amanda reported that she had given birth to four children, three of whom were still alive.  The identity of the Mann's fourth child is unknown.  Both of their adult sons were living with them in 1900.  Edwin was divorced and reported his occupation as "1st Lieut. U.S. Army."

Young Oscar and his family were also living there.  Their part of the family consisted of Oscar and his wife Mary, who had given birth to one child who was not alive in 1900.  Oscar reported his occupation as "Traveling Salesman."

In 1908, Oscar and Amanda Mann had given up the western life and moved back to the Midwest, buying a place in Gobleville, Michigan.

The 1910 US Census reports the Mann family as being in Pine Grove Township, Van Buren County, Michigan where seventy five year old Oscar Mann reported his occupation as a "Farmer engaged in General Farming."  With him was his seventy four year old wife Amanda.  They reported they had been married for fifty-four years.  Oscar Mann correctly reported again his being born in Rhode Island.  Living with them was their four year old granddaughter Mildred Mann and three hired hands: Fred, Mable and Edwin Luedecking.

Oscar Mann died October 23, 1911 from complications from a fall he had several days earlier.  The Cause of Death was "Cerebral Hemorrhage." Here is his death certificate:

The family decided to bring him back to Rosehill Cemetery in Chicago for burial.  Here's his tombstone:

Oscar Mann lived at an exciting time in Evanston's history.  Evanston was having growing pains - trying to become a City while still retaining its "Village" appeal.  And for what it's worth, I thought the Holabird and Roche designed City Hall was a magnificent building.  Take a look for yourself:

Mayor Oscar H. Mann

Dr. Oscar Henry Mann - May he rest in peace.