Walter E. Baxter

Walter E. Baxter Interview*

History of Uptown, Rosehill District/Rosehill Cemetery, Document #6

Source: Informant Walter E. Baxter, 6816 North Clark Street, a blacksmith who opened his own shop in the Rosehill district in 1873 d there ever since. Interviewed January, 1928.

I bought my place out here in ’72 and moved and built the house and blacksmith shop in 1873. My abstract shows that the land was first bought in 1858 but I would have a hard time looking it up to find out who the buyer was. The man who sold it to me was named Barton Galloway. He was just a real estate man, I think.

The only farmer here when I looked at the place was Hansen across the street. But that was all I wanted. I had been living in Hyde Park and wanted to come someplace where I could start in business. I knew that I could take care of this farmer’s horses and made wagons for him. Hansen had a barn and orchard besides his garden. There were other farmers in the district, but he was the nearest.

The old school house was standing when we moved here. It was on Peterson west of the tracks just inside the land the Cemetery owns now. About 1888 this building was sold to Jim Anderson and my daughter had to go to the new Rosehill school which is still standing on Clark Street. My daughter remembers the old school house pretty well for at lunchtime they would go out into the hall and find their lunches frozen. The teacher in the old building was Mamie Budlong who was related to the Ravenswood Budlongs. Her brother Joe lives on Foster and Western. It was an old frame building painted white with a well in the yard. There was just one room and the kids had to stand around the stove plenty of times to keep war. I can’t tell how old it was when we came but it had been standing several years. Everyone went to this school because there wasn’t any other. They used to get there by going down Peterson Street for it ran to the door. Peterson of the Nursery had built the and kept it repair for a long time. The reason the school had to be moved was because the Cemetery wanted to enlarge their grounds. Jim Anderson moved it about half a block south of the Drive to the end of his property and made it into a house. They still use it for that purpose but who, I don’t know. When they began having classes in the new brick building, only the first floor was finished. The teacher was Kate McCartney. My daughter and Belle Anderson were the first pupils to graduate from eighth grade from that building, although Billy Barstow took the exams soon after they did. My girl went to Lake View High School after that. She and Belle had the first pianos in the neighborhood. Her teacher came from Evanston every week and his pay hardly took care of his carfare. They thought they were pretty grand, having pianos.

Some of the early people were Young and Klein and Keller who were all south of the Drive. Keller was east of Clark. Then there was Hans and Dr. Rush. Martin Schneider built his saloon after we came, maybe about 1874. He had two sons, Jake and Martin. John Belgon the blacksmith built his own shop from the land he rented from Schneider north of saloon. There used to have dances in the hall back of Schneider’s. My daughter could tell you about those good times. Baer built his saloon about 1873, an old frame place.

The reason people talk about living in Summerdale or Rosehill is because they live near either one of those stations. The stations were called that when people began coming here and it makes you think in the terms of the station name when you area asked where you live. Summerdale is south of Bryn Mawr Avenue and Rosehill is north of it. The nearest drug store we had for a long time was in Ravenswood.

The first church we went to was the Methodist on Morse Avenue in Rogers Park. We even walked to get to it. Then when Bowmanville had a protestant church we went there. When we began to organize our own church we had a Sunday School in the office of the Cemetery. There were only six protestant families around Rosehill – the Purvis family, the Barstows, Razzbury or Erasmus Hansen’s family, mine and two others. We decided to build a church of our own since everyone else around were Catholics. So we took subscriptions and then got volunteers to do the work. I built the foundation myself and around 1890 it was up. It is the first house west of Clark Street on Cemetery Drive and is an apartment now. The first trustees were Arthur Barstow, Mary Bristle and myself. The Anderson, and the Jim Andersons, Jake Bristle, McGraff, George Caird, Tuillingers and my family went there.

There were some German Lutherans and so when there was a Lutheran church started near here, those people left us for their own church. Then when the Swedish churches came and took the Swedish members away from us we couldn’t make the church pay. We all worked hard to keep it up for we wanted a Congregational church. My youngest daughter had charge of the sewing class and the women made things and did all sorts of things to support that church. We used to get ministers from the Federation after we gave up keeping a residential minister. They were students who came out and spent the day, preaching in the morning and having dinner with one family, preaching in the afternoon and going to tea at someone’s house, and then going back to church for the evening service. We used to spend the whole day in church on Sunday.

Finally we got behind in our fire insurance payments and the company condemned the building and boarded up the windows. Boys used to get in and break up things and steal the money out of the poor box. They would take the women’s sewing bags and play the piano until finally we had to give it up entirely. Then Reverend Yarrows took charge of selling it and a man bought it who made a house of it. He still lives in it. I think we sold it around 1913 but it may have been even later.

* Walter E. Baxter was born August 1849 In England. He and his wife Elizabeth Dickerson were married in 1872, just before they immigrated to the United States. They apparently came directly to Chicago and built a home and business building on the west side of Clark Street [later 5816 North Clark] several doors north of Cemetery Drive. They had eight children, all of whom survived. Walter died at his Clark Street home in January 1929, his wife having predeceased him. Walter worked as a blacksmith and a horseshoer until he retired about the time of W.W.I., when he became a janitor in an office building.

Cover page: Documents: History of the Uptown Community, Chicago. Prepared for the Chicago Historical Society and the Local Community Research Committee, University of Chicago. Research under the direction of Vivien M. Palmer; staff investigators Marion Lindner and Beatrice Nesbit. These documents contain data just as it was secured form old residents and from existing documents. A final check of the data will appear in the volume of the Social History of Chicago.

Format: Photocopy of a typescript without page numbers in the Chicago History Museum library; volume 2 of a 6-volume set containing documentary information on 20 Chicago community districts/areas.

Publication date: 1925-1930.