City of the Century

Chicago Shall Rise Again!

The Cooks, The Filers,
Blanchards and Pecks
Dwight and George Hemenway

Play: Down By the Riverside


After the war, George Whitfield Hemenway attended Wheaton College and graduated from its Commercial Department in 1868. His sisters Ellen and Ellma also attended Wheaton, as did his sister-in-law Louisa D. (Cook) Hemenway, wife of his oldest brother Edwin, and Mary and David Caleb Cook.
The following was taken from The History of DuPage County: The Faculty consists of J. Blanchard, President, and eleven Professors and instructors. During the last year there were 222 students in attendance. The present term 132 names are enrolled. Of these, 23 belong to the regular College classes, the remainder are distributed in the Classical Preparatory, English Preparatory, and Commercial Departments. The buildings are commodious and well constructed. The grounds are spacious and handsomely laid out, and planted with shade and ornamental trees. Endowments have been secured for three professorships, amounting to $28,000. The institution has a Normal Department, in which students are fitted for teaching.

George's Diploma

1860s to 1870s

In 1864 Edwin and Dwight Hemenway married sisters Louisa Desiree and Mary Amelia Cook in a double ring ceremony in Wheaton, Illinois. The sisters parents, Ezra and Permelia Cook had settled on a farm in Milton near Wheaton. Within a couple years of their marriage, Dwight and Mary moved to Chicago with the Cooks. In 1867 Ezra Cook opened a printing office on LaSalle Street between Washington and Randolph, across from the Courthouse. He specialized in bank forms and supplies. It was a family business. Dwight and Mary, Ezra Jr. and David Cook all helped in the shop and office. Edwin and Louisa remained in Wayne Center, but George Hemenway joined them in Chicago in 1868 after graduating from Wheaton College.

George was unable to do physical farm work after the War. He was permanently disabled as the result of his injury. Rumor had it that he had been shot in the back at Perryville. An abcess developed on his back and hip due to the extreme hardship and exposure he endured on the campaign. No antibiotics existed in those days to treat him. The abscess would spread to his leg and he would walk with a cane for the rest of his life.

His uncle E.C. Guild, MD wrote: "I knew he was a quick, stout, and active fellow (before the War), and I am very confident he was a sound man when he enlisted."

His uncle Charles Hemenway wrote: … "While in service he got an Abscess on his hip that got to be a simmering sore and he was badly disabled by it. The family thought for a time that it would kill him. For many months he was wholly disabled, but after he began to get better … he got to doing light jobs. He was not able to do hard farm work of any kind after discharge, as he could not stoop over on account of his back, but he had a machine to make brooms and could stand up and work on that a considerable part of the time."

EA Cook

"In the Fall of 1868 I went to Chicago and went to clerking for E.A.Cook & Company, Stationers, Printers, and Lithographers, 88 LaSalle Street. I worked for them for two years, then quit and worked for myself about a year, and then went back to work for the same firm and worked four years more. My occupation was bookkeeper and compositor. I remained in Chicago until 1877. - George Hemenway



Ezra Cook, Jonathan Walter and Eunice Woodworth Filer

In Chicago George Whitfield Hemenway moved near the Jonathan Walter Filer family. He had met Anna Persis Filer at Wheaton College and married her in 1869. The Filer ancestors also arrived with the Great Migration in the 1630, having been from England's landed gentry. They began to raise a family. Son Walter George (Wally) and daughter Eunice Luella (Ella) were first and second born. Their son Frederick Clyde was born in 1874. The family survived the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 before migrating once again.


In 1871 Chicago was a boomtown. It had become one of the fastest growing cities in America. Because of this, construction standards were lax. The city was built principally of wooden structures that many described as "shabby". On top of that, a drought descended on the city. The Tribune reported that "The absence of rain for three weeks has left everything in so flammable a condition that a spark might set a fire that would sweep from end to end of the city."

There had already been several fires in the city that year. As a result, the fire department was exhausted. After the final conflagration began, it took just over an hour for it to reduce the entire west side of the city to ashes. But the fire showed no signs of slowing down. It jumped the Chicago River and headed for the center of the city. Even the oil covered river burst into flames. In just moments, the fire spread to the banks and office buildings along LaSalle Street. LaSalle Street was lined with many of the finest buildings in the city. One by one, the great office buildings, hotels, and department stores of downtown went up in flames.

General Sheridan

Chicago gets back to work.
The corner of State & Madison streets after the fire.

In the early hours of the fire, looting and violence broke out in the city. Later General Sheridan was brought in to restore order and martial law was declared. The streets of Chicago thronged with people from all walks of life trying desperately to get out of the city before the flames consumed them, wealthy women wearing all the jewelry they owned, immigrant women carrying mattresses on their heads, half-naked prostitutes, crying children searching for parents, and the sick and crippled being carried in makeshift chairs and litters. In only a few hours more than 300 people lost their lives and 100,000 were left homeless. The Ezra A. Cook Company was reduced to ashes, but fortunately neither the Cooks, Hemenways, nor Filers lost their homes.

Corner of Monroe & LaSalle streets after the fire

Ruins of the Courthouse

As terrible as the disaster was, Chicago was not dead. Within days of the fire, rebuilding began on a huge scale. The rest of the country was amazed at the speed and energy with which the city rebuilt itself. Within three years it once again dominated the entire western United States.

George & Anna's marriage certificate


Anna Persis Filer



               Edwin, Dwight, George                                George and Anna 

Ida Stevens                                                                                      
The future Mrs. Amos Filer                                                                                  


Babcock’s Grove, Illinois, October 30, 1848

My dear Mr. Lincoln,

My name is Sheldon Peck.  I am a portrait artist and a farmer…

After I finished harvesting all my crops in late September, I had some free time to go to Chicago.  Instead of going there by horse, I took the newly built railroad.  I went there to earn money by painting portraits of people.  I was fortunate enough to hear that you were speaking at a Whig rally in Chicago on October 6.  I was very impressed that night in Chicago by your speech.  Your speech took two hours and held my interest the entire time.  Your views and my views on politics are very much alike.  I admire your concern for the common man and, most of all, your desire to put an end to slavery.

On your way back to Springfield, if you find yourself near Babcock’s Grove, I would like you to come to my farm.  I would be happy to paint your portrait as a gift to you for your outstanding work.


Sheldon Peck

Courtesy the Lombard Historical Museum



“Susan Peck has gone to Rockford today, I expect with Charles Peck, and if she likes it out there she is going to stay and go to drawing school, I believe Charles teaches drawing there.”
- Lydia M. Filer

“Charles Peck has sold his share of the Panorama to Dick Patrick, and Dick and John and Dr. Chambers ...from Chicago, goes with it… Charles and Mr. (Sheldon) Peck are at Rockford painting.”  
- Lydia M. Filer

Photo Courtesy the Lombard Historical Museum

Charles Peck was the son of Sheldon Peck.  Charles and his brother John traveled west to California around 1849 during the Gold Rush, and Charles sketched what he saw on the trip.  In 1850, Charles exhibited his western sketches, including his California Panorama, and he toured the country lecturing on California.  In 1861, Charles Peck
 served as a photographer for the Union Army during the Civil War.

The Art Institute of Chicago

The Academy of Design was founded by Charles Peck and L. H. Ford in 1866.  During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Charles Peck’s Chicago home sheltered the Academy of Design’s art from the fire.  The Academy later became the Art Institute of Chicago.


                                                                     INDIAN ANECDOTES

ECookA sketch has been preserved of a discourse delivered in New England by one of the Indian converts and preachers of that worthy missionary, John Eliot.  Excessive rains having proved destructive to the corn crop, the “praying Indians,” as they were termed, appointed a day of fasting and humiliation.  The preacher in question selected the twentieth verse of the eighth chapter of Genesis, “Noah builded an alter unto the Lord; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”   Then followed a sermon particularly interesting and appropriate.  “A little shall I say,” began the Indian, “according to that little I know.  In that Noah sacrificed, he showed himself thankful; in that Noah worshiped, he showed himself godly, in that he offered clean beasts, he showed that God is a holy God.  And all that come to God must be pure and clean.  Know that we must by repentance purge ourselves; which is the work we are to do this day.  Noah sacrificed and so worshipped.  This was the manner of old time.  But what sacrifices have we now to offer?  I shall answer by that  in Psalm 4th: ‘Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, and put your trust in the Lord!’”  Better orthodoxy was never sounded from the pulpit.

The following is an Indian view of the Trinity.  Eliot had been lecturing on the doctrine of the Trinity, when one of his auditors, after a long and thoughtful pause, thus addressed  him:

“ I believe, Mr. Minister, I understand you.  The Trinity is just like water, ice and snow.  The water is one, the ice is another, and the snow is another; and yet they are all water.”

An English captain in the year 1759, who was engaged in a recruiting mission in the vicinity of Bethlehem, met one day a Moravian Indian.  He asked him whether he had a mind to be a soldier?  “No,” he replied, “I am already engaged.”  “Who is your captain,” asked the officer.  “I have a very brave and excellent captain,” was the Indian’s reply; “his name is Jesus Christ; him will I serve as long as I live; my life is at his disposal.”  The British officer suffered him to pass unmolested.  --  The Methodist

Courtesy of the Wheaton College Archives



The President remarked that the news would come soon and come favorably, he had no doubt, for he had last night his usual dream which had preceded nearly every important event of the war. 

I inquired the particulars of this remarkable dream.  He said it was in my department – it related to the water; that he seemed to be in a singular and indescribable vessel, but always the same, and that he was moving with great rapidity toward a dark and indefinite shore: that he had had this singular dream preceding the firing on Sumter, the battles of Bull Run, Antietam, Gettysburg, Stone River, Vicksburg, Wilmington, etc.   Gen. Grant remarked, with some emphasis and asperity, that Stone River was no victory – that a few such victories would have ruined the country, and he knew of no important results from it.  The President said perhaps he should not altogether agree with him, but whatever might be the facts, his singular dream preceded that fight.  Victory did not always follow his dream, but the event and results were important.  He had no doubt that a battle had taken place or was being fought, and Johnston will be beaten, for “I had this strange dream again last night.  It must relate to Sherman; for my thoughts are in that direction, and I know of no other very important event which is likely just now to occur.”

Great events did indeed follow.  Within a few hours the good and gentle, as well as truly great man who narrated his dream was assassinated, and the murder which closed forever his earthly career affected for years, and perhaps forever, the welfare of his country. 

Gideon Welles, in the Galaxy    

Courtesy Wheaton College Christian Cynosure



Mr. Spafford, recently returned from England, gives us the following information concerning his work.  When Mr. Moody was preparing to leave this country about a year since, he corresponded principally with two men who were to make arrangements for him and assist him in his work in the British Isles.

When he landed at Liverpool, a letter was placed in his hands stating that both of these men were in their graves.

A stranger, with all the human aid on which he had in a measure relied cut off, he felt that this was a voice of God to him telling him not to make flesh his arm.  He went boldly forward, but was looked upon him with suspicion.  The Christian, a paper with scarcely eleven thousand subscribers, was the only paper that dared to mention him or his work.  From facts subsequently brought out, it appeared that the people feared that Mr. Sankey, his companion, and that Mr. Moody also, were actuated by mercenary motives.

Still they went prayerfully and earnestly to work, and had precious meetings, which were not without fruit.  They could not, however, unite the ministers in cordial co-operation with them, and after a while Mr. Moody said, “We will go to New Castle; if we cannot unite the clergymen there in a general effort for salvation, I will go home.”  God heard prayer; the clergymen joined Mr. Moody in working for the salvation of souls, and a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit followed.

From this time on, the obstacles to successful work seemed removed.  The tide had turned.  The papers, both religious and secular, were glad to publish anything concerning their meetings.

The most striking manifestation of God’s power in bringing about union Christian effort, was at Edinburgh.  That city, in which intellectual attainments were at a premium, and where intellectual pride had run strong partitions between different sects, was fused into one glowing flame of love to Christ and an outpouring of God’s Spirit came like a Pentecostal shower.

Mr. Moody’s prayer in public soon after he started out in the Christian warfare was, “O! Lord, make us humble.”  We believe it is his prayer still.

A memorial fund for him was started by a friend, and before he heard of the movement, had reached one thousand pounds more or less, (from $4000 to $5000).  As soon as he heard of it he told the manager of the enterprise that he would not take one cent of the fund.  His work had been too precious to allow even a suspicion that he labored for gain, to rest upon it.

The circulation of The Christian, the paper which first aided him in his work, has increased from 10,000 to 40,000 since last June.

  From the Christian Cynosure  Courtesy of Wheaton College Archives


                                                 COLLEGE SECRET SOCIETIES
Hon. William M. Evarts

…Mr. Evarts is the son of Jeremiah Evarts, whom the American churches have canonized for his piety, patriotism and ability.

This Mr. Evarts was United States counsel along with Caleb Cushing at the Geneva Arbitration.  He is, we believe, the second Alumnus of Yale, chosen trustee by the Alumni with whom he is the most popular of all the graduates.  He is said to have belonged to “The Scull and Bones” Senior secret society at Yale, and his disgust at what he saw and experienced doubtless has strengthened his purpose to recommend as he does the “suppression” of college secret societies…

From the Christian Cynosure      Courtesy Wheaton College


Jeremiah Evarts


Related By An Eye Witness

An alumnus of Yale College, speaking of the election of Wm. M. Evarts, for whom he voted, as trustee, remarked that Evarts was a member of “The Skull and Bones,” and well knew from experience the nature of the college secret societies which he recommended the trustees to suppress.

“Did you,” I asked, “belong to any of those societies in Yale?”

“No, he replied; “but I have witnessed their initiations.  The college Seniors were invited to witness from a gallery, the initiations of the lower classes.”

He said the “Skull and Bones” was named from the circumstance that a delegation, armed with a literal human skull and cross bones knocked and rattled the same against the doors of their candidates elect, at midnight, which was their time of meeting.

My informant then described the different modes of initiation which he had witnessed.  The candidates were gathered after night, by members dressed in a grotesque costume, furnished by a New Haven Jew who dealt in such things; and if on the way to the hall, which commonly led by the college restaurant, the candidate treated his conductor to an excellent supper, it lightened the savageness of his initiation.  But if he was poor or “stingy” he was put through without mercy.

I told him that a friend of mine, the son of a wealthy banker in Indiana, was not tossed in the blanket, or “hazed” at all.  “That must have cost him one hundred and fifty dollars,” was his reply.  I then saw how the immense sums spent in night entertainments by these societies are procured.  The wealthy are let off for money; while the poor furnish at once the amusement and money by the man degrading initiation which the wealthy pay to get rid of. 

The candidates he said, were brought in blindfolded, and put in a sort of man-cage at the end of the hall; from which when the orgies began, they were taken by operators who ran them at breakneck speed the length of the hall; where the blinded and befooled wretch was put into a simple dry goods box; pad-locked down close, and then, with rope and tackle, jerked suddenly to the top of the hall, which was in this case, some twenty or more feet.  Suddenly the bottom of the box was jerked out and the candidate came down sprawling upon a large sail-cloth blanket, rigged with poles at the edges, in the hands of a dozen or twenty stout and practiced fellows, who tossed him nearly back to the box he came from, till they were satisfied, and the master of ceremonies says, “That’ll do.”

Another interesting ceremony was lashing the candidate to a machine in the wall of the room; head, shoulders, arms, body, legs and feet, and then by joints in the same bending his head and feet as near together as practicable and whirling him round and round an axle, head over heels, till giddy and near swooning.  Another was, to place the hoodwinked candidate in a shallow box on wheels and running him at full speed, the length of the hall, over sticks of lumber about two inches square which had the effect of jolting and throwing him around so as to require all his strength to hold on.  If in all or any of these delightful college performances the candidate does not wince or beg off, but goes through with the stoicism of an Indian, or utters witty remarks, he is a brave fellow; but woe to the wretch whose weak constitution or acute sensibility makes him to flinch!

“But,” said I, “suppose one refuses to go at the summons of one of these literary societies!”  “If he says, ‘I go to the Gamma Nu,’ and treats them respectfully,” was replied, “he is let off.  But if he simply refuses they double teams on him, and perhaps hit him over the head with a sort of paddle like a policeman’s club.”

“And is it possible,” I continued, “that citizens of New Haven are aware of this system of extortion, rowdyism, night feasting and general deviltry.”

“Many of them have witnessed these initiations.  Dr. Bacon has witnessed them.”

“And yet,” I replied, “Dr. Bacon, in a letter to the Boston Congregationalist, came down on a New Haven daily which published the fact that a student had the bones of his fore-arm broken while being initiated and was taken home in a carriage, with an affected lordly contempt, and spoke of the secret clan, the ‘Delta Gamma,’ I think, as a harmless debating club.”

The object and end of this training, horse-play, buffoonery and midnight sport with human souls and bones, is, to extort money to run the concern; to handle, subjugate, tame and intimidate human beings, made in the image God, to hold night revels and feasts; and to mingle enough of the awful, mysterious, and mock-solemn (for in the midst of this devil’s balderdash, honor is appealed to and oaths and obligations administered) to generate in many an infidel heart-loathing of the solemn ceremonies of religion; and confound the ideas of morality and religion in all.

One thing particularly struck me.  The candidate while lashed tight to his stocks, in a horizontal position, had the hood-wink removed from his eyes, permitting him to see, by dim and awful gas light, a huge glittering sword, of tin perhaps, but looking like steel, suspended over his throat; and, in the midst of some awful threatening words, let fall and striking on some obstruction within an inch of his naked neck.

And these, on the word of a gentleman whose veracity needs no endorsing where he is known, are the secret societies of Yale College, which have undermined, eaten out and squelched the old societies, Linonia and Brothers in Unity. 

 from the Christian Cynosure  September 25, 1873     Courtesy of Wheaton College


Hazing Freshmen -- … “Hazing” is a sort of college rowdyism practiced on timorous freshmen.  It is both a nuisance and an outrage, and several institutions have been compelled to pass laws against it.  It has been sometimes fatal, often injurious, and always begets ill-will, though carried on, as the Ann Arbor students represent, with ‘good feeling,’ and as an ‘athletic sport’.  No institution ever gained reputation from allowing the custom.  – The Christian Cynosure May 14, 1874


Wheaton, Ill., Dec. 26th, 1873

…the faculty of Wheaton College are a unit in favor of the rule adopted by the trustees prohibiting membership in secret societies, either in the College or outside.  We object to the secret orders, not merely as societies which are secret, but to the secret religious ceremonies which they all practice, more or less, from the largest to the least.  Such rites, practiced by members of a body taken promiscuously from the community, professors of religion, and men making no profession, is nothing less than a moral and religious system in which personal piety is not required, nor general justice, but only fealty to a clan. We  regard the whole system, therefore, as opposed to true religion and just government, and of course, hostile to God and man.  

J. Blanchard    President Wheaton College

From the Christian Cynosure


The Great Chicago Fire of 1871

Great Chicago Railway Station Train Departure