Conrad H. Wilcox
DCGS Publications Committee Chairman
My DuPage County Cousin: Henry C. Middaugh (1833 – 1916)
Teacher, Banker, Businessman, Land Developer and Gentleman Farmer –
A DuPage County Pioneer Slightly Ahead of His Time
The line of traffic ahead of me had slowed to almost a standstill, so I had time to look out of my car window at the street sign right there beside me. It was just over a year ago and I had been travelling east on Chicago Avenue through the suburbs of Downers Grove and Clarendon Hills and was about to enter Hinsdale. I immediately did a double take since in big letters the sign clearly said Middaugh Road. My pulse speeded up just a bit, since I had just been working on one of my most interesting and challenging ancestral lines, my Middaugh line. Did I have a connection to that cross street? I made a mental note to check it out when I returned home.
A quick survey of the early DuPage County histories gleaned several references to a Henry C. Middaugh as one of the more interesting and influential pioneers in DuPage County. I was soon reading about an early settler who was a teacher, banker, businessman, land developer and a gentleman farmer. In many respects, he seemed to be a man slightly ahead of his time. I noticed in my research, several pictures of an elegant residence that Mr. Middaugh had built on the corner of Chicago and Norfolk Avenues in what is now known as Clarendon Hills. He had purchased 270 acres in that area in the 1870s. My interest was really fueled when I read that this 20 room residence, now known as the Middaugh Mansion, was described as one of the most imposing structures in the whole state.
It suddenly dawned on me that in my trip through that suburb the day before, I had been sitting in my car right in front of this "Middaugh Mansion" and never realized it. So, at the next opportunity, I grabbed my camera and camcorder and traveled back to Clarendon Hills to see this unusual home which is the only building in Clarendon Hills on the National Register of Historic Places. I was almost certain that this Henry C. Middaugh had to be a cousin of mine and my next project would be to research and determine our common ancestral lines.
A Startling Discovery
Thus, it was with a sense of excitement and anticipation that I pulled into the parking lot of a very stately looking old brick structure. It appeared that the mansion was already locked up for the day but in the parking lot were a group of people who had just left the building. Walking up to one of the men, I introduced myself as a cousin of Henry C. Middaugh and had come to see and take pictures of this famous and unusual mansion.
What I heard in the next few minutes in that parking lot was both amazing and shocking. This group of people were members of a Middaugh Mansion Study Committee who had just met there in the mansion to discuss local efforts to save this 8,800 square foot, three story, over a century old building from demolition. It seems that the mansion and property were now owned by the Notre Dame Church at 64 Norfolk Avenue which has current expansion plans and the mansion has not been included in the parish plans for a new church, office space and meeting rooms.
With a few photos of the exterior, I left the Middaugh home that day in a state of confusion and depression. I determined to return soon to visit the inside and research the history of the structure. And I couldn’t wait to resume my serious research into the ancestry of Henry C. Middaugh as well as my own connection to the Middaugh line.
Cousin Henry C. Middaugh - Back Twelve Generations
Research quickly confirmed that Henry was indeed my cousin, with our common ancestors being Aert Theuneszen Middagh and Breckje Hansen Bergen. Aert was born in Heicop, Holland, probably in the early 1620s. He first emigrated to the colonies in 1652 on the ship Beaver. This Dutch line has been one of my more fascinating to research since most of my lines are early English lines to New England in the 1600s.
Henry C. Middaugh’s ancestral line to Aert, the immigrant is as follows:
7. Henry C. Middaugh, 6. Elijah, 5. Abraham, 4. John, 3. Joris, 2. Dirck, 1. Aert Theuniszen Middagh.
My ancestral line to the immigrant is as follows: 10. Conrad Wilcox, 9. Lina Knapp, 8. Fred, 7. Robert, 6. Elizabeth Middaugh, 5. Joseph, 4. Samuel, 3. Abraham, 2. Jan, 1. Art Theuniszen Middagh. This makes Henry C. Middaugh my 5th cousin 3 times removed. Researchers have also extended the line of Aert, the immigrant, back five more generations in Holland as follows: Aert Theuniszen Middagh, Anthonis Aertse, Aert Thonisz, Anthonis Gheritsz, Gherit Thoenisz, Anthonis Gherits Middach, born about 1480.
The Man of the Mansion
On my next visit to the mansion a few days later, I had a much better mental picture of my cousin who had lived there. Even from the parking lot while looking up at the majestic grandeur of the cupola tower and the stained glass windows, I could almost visualize the family farm back in Scio, Allegany County, New York, where Henry was born on February 19, 1833. His parents were Elijah Middaugh who was born April 6, 1805 in Dryden, Tompkins County, New York and Louisa Noble, born October 28, 1811 in Whitehall, New York. Elijah and Louisa were married May 13, 1832.
Henry was raised on the farm, educated in the district schools and attended Friendship Academy and Genesee College. He even began to teach school there, but like many other young men, in the fall of 1854 he decided to head west. After teaching one term in southern Illinois, he arrived in Chicago and taught for a short time in Jefferson Village which is now a part of Chicago. During 1855, young Henry secured a job in a lumber and sash factory where he worked for the next three years.
Beginning in the spring of 1858, Middaugh worked as a book-keeper and teller for the Merchant’s Savings Loan and Trust company. After seven years, he decided to go into business for himself. He started out by manufacturing office and school furniture and founded the Famous Furniture Company. In 1868, he sold this business to his partner, A. H. Andrews and with O. H. Queal, he engaged in the lumber trade for a short time. After sixteen months, in June of 1869, Middaugh sold out to him.
In the growing commercial climate of Chicago, he had prospered in both businesses and by 1869 was a man of wealth. He decided to invest in land adjoining Hinsdale on the west. In that year, Middaugh along with Amos T. Hall, Robert Harris, J. M. Walker, and O. J. Stough, formed a syndicate and purchased 270 acres north of the railroad. In 1871, Middaugh drained-tiled the land and planted eleven miles of White Ash and Elm trees. On November 4, 1873, Middaugh with a group of other men, recorded a plot of 640 acres as Clarendon Hills which previously had been West Hinsdale. Soon, Middaugh acquired the entire 270 acres and began to occupy it as a farm. He raised horses, Berkshire pigs and thoroughbred Jersey cattle and had barn room for 500 tons of hay and 150 horses.
Henry desired to order the best grass seed possible so that his vast herds of cattle and sheep would thrive. What a surprise the following spring when the 270-acre field sprouted not grass but daisies. By accident the seed that was shipped to him from Ireland turned out to be a hardy daisy seed and was so good that the flowers reseeded themselves. The daisies spread throughout Clarendon Hills and remained down through the years. When Chicagoans traveled that way on the railroad, they called the community, "Daisy Fields". Cousin Henry’s planting error became his legacy. The daisy became the Village symbol and "Daisy Days" celebrated each June is the oldest community event. The community’s early indigenous activity centered about this huge farm which, with the subdivision of unique curved streets that Middaugh laid out, comprised almost all of the northern part of the Village.
On February 7, 1878, Henry married his first wife, Susan Price, who had been born in Lakeville, Livingston County, New York. She suddenly died of apoplexy on September 11, 1897. Both Henry and Susan are buried in Bronswood Cemetery, Oakbrook, Illinois. Henry was married the second time to Mary Elizabeth Waters on October 17, 1898. She was a wealthy Chicago lady who had been born December 24, 1848 in Maine. She died from heart failure on January 11, 1907. In 1907, Henry married for the third time to Mrs. Jennette Gordon Wilson from Bloomington, Illinois. Even though Henry had married three times, he never had children.
His career was truly marked by success and service. He served as a DuPage School Director and for eight years as a member of the DuPage County Board of Supervisors. The last four years he acted as chairman. He also donated land for the Hinsdale Golf Club. Henry C. Middaugh died at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 28, 1916 at his home in Clarendon Hills.
My Visit to the Mansion
Now, finally, I was able to tour the inside of my cousin’s imposing and elegant 20-room mansion. Even as I passed through the main entry-way and viewed a unique entry-way bench and then the impressive staircase, I could see how it took Henry three and a half years to complete. Beautiful hand carved wood seemed to be everywhere.
I could readily see how meticulous Middaugh was in supervising the construction. When I saw the bronze screws that he used everywhere instead of the usual nails, I placed my fingers on one in order to actually feel this most unusual feature of the construction. I glanced at the floors, since I had read that he would use a billiard ball to make sure the floor was absolutely level. If the ball rolled, the floor was redone. I saw four fireplaces, each with inlaid tile of a different design. It seemed almost unbelievable to me that a wrecking ball might soon be crashing through all of this historic elegance that was completed in 1892.
As I paused in the kitchen area, I could begin to see that cousin Henry had constructed not only an attractive residence but a very functional one with all the newest conveniences. The entire building had been supplied with hot and cold water, hot water heating and gas for lighting and cooking. There was even a dumb waiter for sending refreshments to the third-floor ballroom, as well as a button call system to communicate with the servants.
The beautiful ballroom itself was a high point of my visit. There I saw the side door going to the high cupola where Middaugh could go to look over his farm and stock. It was about then that I decided it would be important to find out what measures were being taken to preserve this most unique historic building for future generations, not only for Clarendon Hills and DuPage County but for all Middaugh cousins scattered around the world. It was, in fact, one of only 23 buildings in DuPage County on the National Register of Historic places. For your own pictorial tour of the Middaugh Mansion, go to: http://www.clarendon-hills.il.us/midman/index.html.
Help Save the Middaugh Mansion
Henry C. Middaugh, whose Dutch ancestry goes back to 1480 in Holland, had no children. Would his presence here in DuPage County suddenly be eliminated by bringing in the bulldozers? Would the primary visual memory of the Middaugh line here in our county be gone forever? Built to last, cousin Henry’s mansion has stood for more than a century, most recently serving as office space for the current owner, Notre Dame Catholic Church. Back in 1998, the mansion’s future was uncertain when Notre Dame Parish began plans for a $6 million expansion that didn’t include the mansion. When later in September of 1999, as the parish made it clear that it definitely needed the area where the Middaugh mansion was sitting on their campus, it appeared that if nobody stepped forward to move it, it would be reduced to rubble.
A Middaugh Mansion Study Committee, formed by the Village of Clarendon Hills, began to swing into action to determine if the mansion could be saved. Don Kimball has served as chairman of this committee. Since that day to the present they have been working on specific proposals for saving and utilizing the mansion, analyzing the building’s condition and ability to be moved and preparing recommendations for future sites.
The Friends of the Middaugh Mansion was also organized by Diane Hiller, to help educate the community about the 8,800 square foot mansion. Many activities have been planned to help introduce the community to the mansion.
As of now, Clarendon Hills officials are planning for a referendum in April, 2001 to fund the rehabilitation and possible relocation of the 108 year old mansion. Notre Dame parish recently pushed back the ground breaking for its proposed campus expansion, which would demolish the mansion if it is not moved, until sometime in 2002. Meanwhile, the newly created Middaugh Foundation will work with the Village and parish officials and members of the community on options for saving the mansion.
Time is quickly running out. If you would like to help save the Middaugh Mansion, let the Clarendon Hills Village Board know how you feel. You can contact them at: The Village Board, 1 N. Prospect Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514. You can also contact the Friends of the Mansion with help and contributions at: Friends of the Mansion, % Clarendon Hills Bank, 200 W. Burlington Ave., Clarendon Hills, IL 60514. Or you can call Diane Hiller at 630-574-2809.
What is our final answer? Will this year witness the final passing of a special era in DuPage County History? Is this historic DuPage County landmark and my cousin Henry’s unique creation and residence worth saving from demolition or not? Yes or no?
Reprinted from THE REVIEW, a quarterly publication of The DuPage County (IL) Genealogical Society,
February 2001, Vol. 27, No. 3