Watseka or Watchekee was a Potawatomi Native American woman, born in Illinois around 1810, and named for the heroine of a Potawatomi legend. In 1826 she married Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard. They mutually dissolved the union about two years later. Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard born on August 22, 1802 in Windsor, Vermont. He was an insurance underwriter and land speculator. Hubbard first arrived in Chicago on October 1, 1818. Hubbard wrote, the area was "Four and a half houses, a fort and a Potawatomi town."
Beginning as a French voyageur, he would become a friend to the Indians, an adopted son of Chief Waba of the Kickapoo, husband to Watseka (niece of Chief Tamin of the Kankakees). Hubbard was Chicago's first insurance underwriter, the builder of Chicago's first stockyard, a financier and land speculator. The Indians called Hubbard "Pa-pa-ma-ta-be", which translates as "Swift-walker." He got this name after walking 75 miles in a single day to bring settlers in Danville back to Chicago to help fight off an Indian raid. When a local Indian tribe questioned his ability to perform this feat, he challenged their champion walker to a race. Hubbard's challenger lost by several miles and was unable to move the next day. Hubbard seemed to be unaffected.
The first winter Hubbard worked as a meatpacker was so cold, he was able to store the pig carcasses on the banks of the Chicago River without worrying about them spoiling. He later built the largest warehouse in the Midwest to house his meatpacking facilities.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 nearly bankrupted him, but Hubbard eventually paid all the insurance claims his company was liable for. Today, Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard is virtually unknown in Chicago, his name mostly associated with "Hubbard's Cave", an area where the Kennedy Expressway passes under a series of streets, beginning with Hubbard Street. Writing in 1881, A.T. Andreas stated that "only [Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard] became identified with the modern commerce and trade of the city, who had been connected with the rude Indian traffic which centered in Chicago in the earlier times.
[Information from these two former websites: "Explanation Guide Watseka" and "Explanation Guide Hubbard]
Motion picture star Fern Andra (originally Andrews) was born in Watskea November 24, 1893, the daughter of William and Sadie Andrews. While still a student in the Watseka Public Schools, she and her brother Fred sang and danced in performances at Braden Brothers' Opera House there.
Before she was 16 she left Watseka, joining the Millman Trio, a high wire vaudeville act headed by circus star and Ziegfeld headliner Bird Millman. The act toured the United States on the Orpheum circuit, later, in the summer of 1911, traveling to Europe and performing extensively there.
After an accident suffered by Bird Millman in Europe, the trio broke up there, with Fern remaining overseas while her fellow troupers returned to America. She appeared in various musical comedy and dramatic stage roles on the continent and worked for an Austrian film company, subsequently becoming a private pupil of the Austrian director Max Reinhardt.
She then entered into a wildly successful career as a star of German films, eventually heading a film studio and distributing company bearing her name and owning a series of Fern Andra Theaters throughout major German cities. Starring in more than a hundred German films, she became known as the Mary Pickford of Germany.
Because of a brief marriage in the waning days of the war to a German flyer, Baron Freidrich von Weiche, a member of the famed "Red Baron" von Richthofen's flying squadron, the actress was thereafter frequently identified in the press as "Baroness" Fern Andra.
Returning to the United States in 1927, she became a major figure in Hollywood and theatrical circles, marrying the Broadway, Hollywood, and Shakespearean matinee-idol Ian Keith. That marriage and an earlier one in 1923 to Kurt Prenzel, at the time the German middleweight boxing champion, both ended in divorces. In 1938 she married again, this time to a retired U.S. Army Brigadier General Samuel Edge Dockrell.
In September 1973, after extended residence in Wiesbaden, Germany, the general and his wife returned to the United States. The general himself died in an Aiken, South Carolina, hospital on September 19, 1973, one day after their return. Miss Andra died in Aiken five months later, February 8, 1974, thus bringing to a close a storybook life that had taken her to the pinnacles of moviedom fame, from an obscure childhood in Watseka, Illinois, to acclaim in European capitals and Hollywood, in the world of the stage and silver screen.
(History of Iroquois County Illinois-Beckwith page 34 and )
Watseka Republican 16 Jan. 1936
BIRTH CERTIFICATES GROWING IN DEMAND
Because in most cases a birth certificate is required in order to become eligible for old age pensions, either in order to prove the minimum age for which a pension is allowed or to prove citizenship, county clerks are being swamped with requests from all over the country for birth certificates.
The main difficulty in Iroquois county arises from the fact that due to fires all birth records dating prior to 1878 have been destroyed. In many cases the only way to prove a birth is by certifying to a copy of a notice in the Watseka Republican telling of the birth, since the Republican is the only paper which retains files that old, having been published continuously since 1856, a matter of almost 80 years.
But, while the Republican files are very complete, as newspaper files go, they are not absolutely so. The file of the first year, 1856, is complete, and most of the other years to the present time, but there are about twelve years missing in the 60's and 70's. In cases such as this, there is no recourse, unless a person can be found who remembers the details of a birth and is willing to sear to an affidavit before the county clerk.
A request was received recently from Dorset Brooks, now living in California. Mr. Brooks said his parents were David O. Brooks and Susan Burle Brooks, and that he was born, March 29, 1874 , on a farm five miles south of Crescent City. The details of the birth are known to Jane Meinhard of Gilman,, stated the writer I the letter. Since the birth occurred before 1878, the Republican files were consulted last week, but the year of 1874 happens to be one that is missing. So unless one of our readers can supply us with information regarding Mr. Brooks birth it might be difficult for him to get his pension.
Little School House on The Prairie
It was 1931 and I had just graduated from Mac Murray College, Jacksonvillle, Illinois with a B.S. Degree in Art Education and a minor in English. Try as hard as I might, I could find no openings in the education field for my qualifications-the depression still had its grip on the nation.
My first year out, there were at least eight of my friends in similar plight, so we all enrolled in shorthand and typing classes at the local high school. (Watseka Community High School).
In the spring of 1932 I heard of a vacancy at the Longshore School just three miles south of Watseka on the Woodland Road. I started on my quest -- never having been in a county school in my life I figured my first job would be for the experience --I was right.
After finding out who the directors were, I started seeking them out. The last one I remember vividly. He was plowing a field and must have been neigh into the middle of it when I stopped him. Never having trudged over a freshly plowed field before was a new experience and a bit degrading! Well, I got the job -- eight months at $40 a month minus either three or five months of $5 deductions each month for Teacher's Retirement. There was the problem of transportation and janitor work at the school. The latter I did myself--I learned to fire a furnace, bank a fire, sweep the floor whose cracks never gave up all the dirt! My Dad drove me to school and somtimes I took his car picking up several students as passengers along the way. Eggs, fresh butchered meat or the like I received as gratitude for my services-- the other times nothing.
My school was large-- thirty pupils at one time was the largest. they were in all eight grades and no alternating of grades. Some names like Schladdenhauffen were so long that I could not make them fit in the school registers-- as I remember there must have been at least five of them in the family. I had learned how to schedule all subjects within the school day. Believe you me-- it was puzzlement! I attended a teacher's institute before school started that gave me many pointers on how to keep the primary grades interested and learning. I had the upper grades listening when they should have been doing their work. Their comment was "We didn't do that when we were in first grade". Flattering --but not helpful!
I had heard my aunts tell of their county school experiences--te recitation bench, the games and pranks on the playground, the lunches they packed to school. Now I knew what they were talking about. I had a recitation bench, I had problems on the playground and in the outdoor toilets. What do you do when your little first grade boy comes to you and asks " What does f-u-*-* spell?" After a session with the older boys, we had a scrub party down in that outdoor "privy". Then the lunches of cold biscuits and maybe nothing more. It was after seeing these lunches I was prompted to start a hot lunch program.
Our school building had a vestibule--really a cloak-room in which we placed a small kerosene stove. I don't know where we got it, but it worked. I assigned lunch committees, clean-up committees and what ever else we needed to make it work. And it did! Our favorite menu was tomato soup, which the girls had good success in making. It was only after I insisted the boys have their turn at it that it lost its popularity--the boys soup curdled!! This brought much criticism from the girls. When some one in hte neighborhood butchered we had fresh meat for lunch which took longer to prepare and no one assigned to prepare it seemed to mind. Even clean-up was done happily as that got them out of studying. Since we did not do "hot lunch" everyday of the week, I felt they did not get robbed of precious study time.
Christmas was always a special time. I would spend much time looking in my old Latta Teacher's Aid book for ideas, poems to recite, songs to sing, etc., sometimes short plays. These I would type an assign to different students to recite. Near Christmas musch time was often needed to ready ourselves for the program.
Our school had many windows on the south--a few reflector kerosene lamps on the same wall and that was it. I only used the lamps for the Christmas program as this was the only night program. If some of the parents had not brought lanterns or big special lights, we would have been pretty much in the dark! An old pump organ furnished our music, which I asked one of the parents to provide for the program. All went well except for this ladies husband who invariably sat in the back of the foom and "carried on" trying to get the pupils to laugh or forget their lines.
There are always thos students who take your "all" in order to teach them and that was Fern. I kept her in at recess to help her read. I kept her for awhile after school in which case she informed me "My Dad will "whup" you if I don't get home!"
©2005 Carrol Mick and Illinois Genealogy Trails