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A publication of the Des Plaines History Center

VOLUME 45, NO. 1

JANUARY-MARCH 2011

DES PLAINES’ CIVIL WAR CAMP│PROFILE OF A SOLDIER │GREENHOUSES IN DES PLAINES│


DES PLAINES’ CIVIL WAR TRAINING CAMP GREAT GRANDSON OF THOMAS JEFFERSON LED 16TH U.S. I NFANTRY By Stephen M. Kahnert

This description places Camp Slemmer east of the river, south of the railway line and north of the current Methodist Campgrounds. That wedge has been called North Western Park and Poyer Woods across the years.

The pavilion walls at Lake Opeka capture the names of Des Plaines residents who died serving their country, including three volunteers who served in the Union Army during the Civil War: Henry Emerson, Theodore Rogers, and James SadMajor Slemmer, West Point class of dler. A few miles away is a Civil War encampment barely known “TO M AKE A GOOD INFINTRY , IT IS EStoday: Camp Slemmer. SENTIAL THAT IT SHOULD PASS SOM E

A few months after the April 1861 start of the War Between the States, a training camp was established in Des Plaines for army regulars, as opposed to volunteers. From August to November 1861 hundreds of men joined the 16th U.S. Infantry encamped in Des Plaines. A regiment newly created by President Lincoln, it was named for and led that summer by Major Adam J. Slemmer, leader of the spring 1861 standoff at Fort Pickens, in Florida.

MONTHS IN A CAMP OF INSTRUCTION .

THE

CARE OF HIS ARM S AND ACCOUTREMENTS, TO MARCH, TO FIRE WELL, TO BUILD HUTS, TO HANDLE THE AXE, SPADE, AND SHOVEL, TO MAKE CARTRIDGES,

FASCINES ,

HURDLES ,

AND

GABIONS, SUITED TO FIELDWORKS, TO COOK , AND TO CONSIDER HIS KNAPSACK, HAVERSACK,

&C.,

AS PART OF

HIMSELF.”

From the Chicago Tribune of October 17, 1861 regarding Camp Slemmer: “It is located at Maine Station on the Northwestern Railway on a beautiful plain a few rods from the Des Plaines River. The camp is skirted on the east and the south by handsome growth of timber … There are now about 300 regulars in the camp.” 2 Cobweb JANUARY-MARCH 2011

SOLDIER M UST BE TAUGHT TO TAKE

COLONEL H. L. SCOTT M ILITARY DICTIONARY, 1861

1850, arrived in Des Plaines in July 1861, stayed six weeks, then was posted to a role with higher visibility, Acting Inspector General of the Department of the Ohio. A short time later, a November 4, 1861 Tribune article brought news of the camp’s closure: “Departure of the Sixteenth U.S. Infantry …

which has for the past three months been in camp at Desplaines [sic] Station … broke camp early on Saturday, and arrived in [Chicago] at about 2 p.m. of that day, taking temporary quarters at the Wigwam…” The Wigwam was where Abraham Lincoln won the Republican Party’s nomination in downtown Chicago 18 months earlier. A great grandson of President Thomas Jefferson, Major Philip Sidney Coolidge, led the 16th U.S. Infantry out of Des Plaines that day to their next posting at Columbus, Ohio. Thirteen months after leaving Des Plaines the 16th U.S. Infantry took part in the Battle of Stones River near Murfreesboro, Tennessee, the morning of December 31, 1862. Stones River was one of the deadliest Civil War engagements with one third of Union and Confederate combatants, 24,000 men, killed or wounded. Major Slemmer, who had returned to command the 16th that day, was wounded and did not fight in any other battle of the war. He died of heart failure in 1868 serving with the U.S. army in Wyoming territory. There’s another connection to Des Plaines on that Tennessee battlefield: Chaplain Augustus Co-


“THE SIXTEENTH IS COMPOSED OF EXCELLENT STOCK FOR SOLDIERS, AND UNDER THE TUITION OF PROPER INSTRUCTORS WILL UNDOUBTEDLY BECOME A CRACK REGIMENT OF THE

UNITED STATES

REGULAR FORCE. IT IS COMPLETELY ARMED

WITH REGULATION MUSKETS, AND FURNISHED WITH CAMP EQUIPAGE OF THE BEST QUALITY . IT IS SUPPLIED WITH THE USUAL REGIMENTAL BAND. THE UNIFORMS ARE ALSO OF THE REGULATION STAMP, DIFFERING BUT SLIGHTLY FOM THOSE USED BY VOLUNTEERS, WITH WHICH OUR CITIZENS HAVE OF LATE BECOME SO FAMILIAR.” CHICAGO TRIBUNE NOVEMBER 4, 1861

Top right: Adam J. Slemmer Above: Map of Maine Township, 1862. The gray area at the center of the map indicates the area that is the present day downtown Des Plaines. The approximate location of Camp Slemmer is indicated by a yellow circle.

nant. Twenty-five years before the Civil War began he worked a farm on the banks of the Des Plaines river. He and wife Betsey became the first couple of record married in our city. Eventually he became a Unitarian minister who spoke out powerfully against slavery. During the Battle of Stones River, on the eve that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, the 19th Illinois for whose soldiers Co-

nant was chaplain, lined up to the left of the U.S. 16th Infantry’s position at a spot later called ‘The Slaughter Pen’. Within six weeks Augustus Conant would be dead from dysentery after ministering to many wounded soldiers who survived the skirmishes of December 31 and January 2. There was no fighting at Stones River on January 1, 1863. ●

1381 Prairie Ave. Des Plaines www.prairieleeframe.com Cobweb JANUARY-MARCH 2011 3


DES PLAINES' GREENHOUSE HERITAGE

“WHAT IS WRONG WITH DES PLAINES?” By Mike Schwass and Laura Young This was the curious topic of a 1936 WPA-sponsored* public speaking class. Residents at the time were surprised when a garden club member declared in its defense that Des Plaines was known to some as the “Flower Center of the World.” The statement sparked a lively discussion concluding with the plan to form a “Get Ahead Committee” to encourage local merchants to add the slogan to their business stationery. The Journal arti4 Cobweb JANUARY-MARCH 2011

cle read: “The point in view was for the committee to present to the public a new name for the city, who, instead of calling our community “A Dangerous Place to Live,” would call it the pleasing and picturesque “Flower Capitol of the World.” Admittedly an improvement, but was it warranted? Indeed it was.

quality of the Des Plaines River valley created ideal conditions for growers. Further, the proximity of the railroad provided access to coal for the boilers which heated the “hothouses” through the winter months. In fact, many greenhouse men got their start apprenticing with the Garlands before establishing businesses of their own.

The then-thriving greenhouse industry owed its start to the work of Solomon Garland, who arrived in Des Plaines in 1861, devoting his extensive homestead to farming and six large greenhouses. For decades the Garland name was synonymous with beautiful flowers and produce. His sons Warren, Frank and Solomon, Jr. went on to establish numerous greenhouses of their own. Another son, George, established Garland Manufacturing, specializing in greenhouse construction. George was credited with several patents which improved the durability, usage, and cost effectiveness of the structures. Solomon Jr’s. wife, Minnie established the first flower shop on Ellinwood Street in 1920.

Among these men were Henry Blewitt, who studied landscape architecture in London prior to coming to the U.S., and George Hoefle, who went to work for Frank Garland after becoming an orphan at age 16. Hoefle later established a flower shop on River Road. His daughter Gladys and son-in-law Harvey Busche assumed ownership of the shop which later sported the Busche name.

Why Des Plaines? As the Garlands learned, climate, water availability and the exceptional soil

*In 1933, as part of his Second New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt established the Works Progress Administration (WPA) to provide jobs for millions left unemployed by the Great Depression. While well known projects of the WPA include building roads and bridges, the Works Progress Administration also put actors, musicians, writers, and photographers to work. A WPA mural of the greenhouses is now a part of the Des Plaines History Center collection.


Despite the ideal conditions and expanding industry, growers experienced their share of hardship. In 1918, a devastating snow storm hit the area, creating twenty foot snow drifts which prevented trains from bringing supplies, including essential coal, to local residents. Several greenhouses were lost as a result. Despite these setbacks, the industry boomed in the 1920s when more commercial flowers were grown in Des Plaines than anywhere else in the country. This attracted more growers, including Al Klippert who purchased 10 acres on dusty Oakton Road in 1925 where he grew carnations and chrysanthemums. Viola and Nick Schaul grew flowers on 20 acres at the southwest corner of Touhy and Lee until eminent domain forced bisection of their property to establish the Northwest Tollway. Premier Rose Gardens, founded in 1929, helped establish the city’s nickname, “City of Roses” for the two million roses it grew annually on its 80 acres. During the Great Depression many growers survived by trading their flower stock for carrots, onions, beets and other vegetable crops. Pre-

mier was a godsend during this time for the jobs it provided, paying $11 per week for greenhouse work. They also financed other growers, including Andrew Benson’s orchid nursery. Benson’s orchids were cross pollinated by hand, with plants being tended by hand until their first blooms appeared, five to seven years later! The labor of love paid off as Benson’s variety of orchid boasted 15-18 blooms per plant. Amling’s was also a local leader in rose production. Their success with rose grafting enabled them to export 25,000 rose bushes annually to California where grafting had not yet been successfully achieved. With all those roses, one would think the city would smell like Eden. Unfortunately, the manure needed to fertilize them offered a far more potent aroma for those nearby! Numerous industries existed alongside the greenhouses. Greenhouse construction firms Lord & Burnham and M. Winandy & Sons joined Garland Manufacturing. Glaziers thrived, tasked with the never-ending installation and repair of glass. Those who delivered coal struggled to meet the demand of the growers. In 1936,

Images, left to right: Allied Florist Meeting at Pesche’s, early 1960s. Pictured are Adeline Pesche, Florence Dahm, Bette Klippert, Alma Pesche, and Helen Wietor Leider. Employees of Des Plaines-based Lord & Burnham greenhouse construction company on a job in Carmel, Indiana. Chrysanthemums at the Hoefle greenhouse on River road, 1920s. Maine Township High School, located between Thacker Street and Ashland Avenue, with the greenhouses of Charles F. Arnold's florist business in the foreground, circa 1915.

18,000 tons of coal were used by the six rose growing establishments alone! That industry employed 152 men, producing 18 million roses, nearly all of which were delivered by truck. The life line of the delivery business was Nellessen Express who picked up the flowers before dawn for transport to the markets on South Water and Wabash in Chicago. Local florists also thrived. Notable among these was Fred Pesche, who emigrated from Luxemburg in 1911 and established Pesche’s Florist in (Continued on page 7)

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PROFILE OF A CIVIL WAR SOLDIER:

PETER REITER Born in Diedricheim, Germany in 1837, Peter Reiter came to America as a young man and settled in Des Plaines. Reiter served in the Union infantry during the Civil War from 1862-1865. His regiment was assigned to the 7th Division, 17th Corps. Army of Tennessee, later Wagners Division 4th Corps. Army of Cumberland. The regiment participated in a number of expeditions and skirmishes, and participated in the siege of Vicksburg in 1863. Reiter’s service earned him citizenship in 1882 and he remained in Des Plaines where he became a janitor at North Division School. In his obitu-

ary, it was noted that Reiter was well liked by the students . The Reiter homestead was a familiar sight in downtown Des Plaines; it was located at 836 Pearson and was constructed of brick from the Whitcomb brick yard. The home was razed in the early 1970s to build a parking lot for St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Reiter died on February 5, 1922 and is interred at Town of Maine Cemetery. Photographs Top left: Peter Reiter, far left holding an American flag, marches with the G.A.R. in a Des Plaines’ Independence Day parade circa 1907. Top right: Reiter in an undated photograph, circa 1918.

6 Cobweb JANUARY-MARCH 2011

Above: Dedication of Civil War memorial at the Town of Maine Cemetery, 1901 The Soldiers’ Monument at the Town of Maine Cemetery was unveiled in October 1901. The dedication ceremony included music by the Des Plaines Military Band and a speech by Peter M. Hoffman. Members of local Grand Army of the Republic posts were in attendance as well as the Ladies Relief Corps and Daughters of Veterans.


1924. Pesche had 11 children who all worked in the business at one time or another. This family business continues at its original location at 170 South River Road, and is the last place in Des Plaines where people can get fresh flowers straight from the grower. The boom of the 1920’s began its decline with the advent of air cargo transportation during WWII, which enabled growers in warmer climates to ship nationally. High taxes and heating costs faced by local growers made it hard to compete with warm climate growers who enjoyed lower production costs. As profits declined, many businesses were forced to sell their land to developers or re-focus their efforts on serving the local market.

But what became of the Garlands? Nearly 150 years after Solomon Garland established the first greenhouses, many Garland descendants continue to live on the old family site although you likely know them by a different name. Robert Schwass, who worked in the greenhouses as a young man and lived his full 93 years as a resident of Des Plaines, built his home on Garland Place, part of his maternal grandfather, Solomon Jr’s. homestead. Robert and his wife Catherine (Kay) raised six children, including Jim, Mary and youngest son Michael Schwass who proudly continue to live on the original Garland land to this day. ●

IN MEMORIAM Mike Schwass, longtime Des Plaines resident, motivational speaker, and friend of the History Center, passed away on September 10, 2010. This article was completed several months before Mike’s passing, and the History Center is pleased to share it in this quarter’s Cobweb.

MEMORY GIFTS History Center memory gifts are a wonderful way to honor the life of a friend or loved one. Memory gift applications are available at the History Center, or fill out the form below. All donations are tax deductible as provided by law. Each is acknowledged with an appropriate card sent according to your wishes. Enclosed is my gift of $____________ Made payable to the Des Plaines History Center Name: ___________________________________ Address: __________________________________ City/State/Zip: _____________________________ How do you with the card signed?

In memory of: _____________________________ In honor of: _______________________________ To commemorate: __________________________ Send notification card to: Name: ___________________________________ Address: _________________________________ City/State/Zip: ____________________________ Mail this form to the Des Plaines History Center 781 Pearson Street, Des Plaines, IL 60016 Cobweb JANUARY-MARCH 2011 7


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Front page photograph: Busche’s Floral Shop on River Road, 1946 DPHS photograph P1559

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