Robert Hawley Milne Papers
(A letter from Flora Louise Milne)
Robert Milne was born in Scotland in 1805, and came with his siblings and his wife Isabella Maitland Milne to Lockport, Illinois in 1836. He was a contractor on the Illinois and Michigan Canal involved in the construction of locks. He was also a lumber merchant and stockbreeder in Lockport. In 1871, the Governor of Illinois appointed Milne Canal Commissioner. Heirs and relatives of Robert Milne lived in the Milne House in Lockport for several generations.
This collection comes from the estate papers of James Walter Milne (1920-2004), passed down through five generations of Milne families and relatives who lived in and loved the "Old Stone House" on East Seventh Street in Lockport. The residence is most commonly known as the Robert Hawley Milne House, and is presently owned by the Adelmann family who have registered it in the Historic Buildings Register and restored it to its original 1836 condition as much as possible. Many thanks are due to the Adelmanns for this historic monument.
This collection includes original documents, which include handwritten indentures and bonds that confirm the purchase in 1841 of the "Old Stone House" by Robert Hawley Milne from the Newton family of Chicago. Robert Hawley Milne left his State of Illinois Collector's Office hand written receipts from 1849 to 1881 (in 1849 he paid $9.31 in state taxes). We see in 1873, while commissioner, he was assessed $74.10, applied for an abatement of $45.62, and paid $28.48 to the United States Internal Revenue Service. The collection also includes letters of recommendation to Governor John M. Palmer and certificates proclaiming Robert Milne as Canal Commissioner in 1869 for 1871. His last will and testament is also part of the collection.
His eldest son, James Alexander Milne (1862-1930), married Kate Ophelia Read and inherited the working farm. James A. Milne left records including bills and receipts for barrels of nails and barrels of beer, etc. These remain part of the collection of handwritten ephemera. Their eldest son, Dwight Read Milne (1886-1961), married Flora Jane Putnam in "A Pretty Wedding in Rosamond" (see news clipping in the collection). Unfortunately, Dwight's papers did not fit into the precious desk in the library at the Old Stone House and many have been lost. However, the collection does include photographs of the dairy, family and friends swimming in the Romeoville Quarry, and picnicking on the lawn.
This introduction only lists the names of heads of the household of the Old Stone House. The last will and testaments of these members naturally list the names of brothers, sisters, wives and children who many will find interesting. Not only the name of Milne, but Putnam, Read, Maitland and others come up again and again in the documents. A great number of writings by Rev. Eugene B. Read, a chaplain in the Civil War, including his journals, letters, sermons, and poetry are included in this collection. Eugene's wife, Ophelia Putnam, was a grandchild of Israel Putnam, as was Flora Jane Putnam Milne, who then married her first-cousin-once removed, Dwight Read Milne. Thus, the personalities of our early pioneers were often those of close acquaintance.
Agnes Milne married John Peaslee, with the handle bar mustache as seen in family photos, [and] ran a hardware store in Lombard, Illinois. They were at the family picnics on the lawn and always wanted me to help write stories about the house. This is how I remember the stories told on the south lawn at picnic-time, which was almost every day in the summer. The stories of men going to World War I, of golden waves of grain, etc. are also missing. Sadly, living memory is foggy on important, non-documented things like the rhythm the Putnam family had to name the eight (8) oxen used as sodbusters in Rosamond, Illinois, (Hey Up! Dick & Holly, John and Molly, Bob and Polly, Sam and Jack). The Putnams came by train from New York State when the train was newly built. When asked where they wanted to go, the answer was: "Wherever you stop the train." When they founded the little town of Rosamond, they named it for the sister who died on the way. The sod house stood at least until 1956, and resembled the house Frank Maitland Milne is pictured with in Saskatchewan when he went to homestead in the Great Dust Bowl of 1927. He returned to the dairy farm and was struck by lightning while driving the team and wagon loaded with metal milk cans. Frank lived through the accident and was very instrumental in helping Lockport develop the farmlands his family had worked for over one hundred years. The barnyard is now a school called Kelvin Grove in Lockport. Dwight Read Milne Jr. has written some of his memories including his World War II experiences in a bomber over Japan. This donation of the Robert Hawley Milne Collection is as close as I can come to writing the stories.
The collection of books reflects the minds of the times and offers illumination. These include Bibles, The Lives of the Signers with engraved portraits, [and] Model Farms and their Methods, [which] describes most of the farming techniques in Illinois, including those used by Robert Milne at his Kelvin Grove farm in Lockport, Illinois. The books are available for viewing at Lewis University in Romeoville, Illinois and through the Lewis University Library online catalog at https://i-share.carli.illinois.edu/lew/.
The papers, book collection, pictures, and various ephemera were presented to Lewis University in Romeoville for protection, preservation, and extended accessibility by Flora Louise Milne, executrix of the James Walter Milne and Gladys Donkle Milne estate in 2005. It is with great pleasure that we see the digital publication of these historical documents and special thanks goes to Mary Ann Atkins for her hard work and John Lamb for his perseverance at establishing and preserving the history of the Illinois and Michigan Canal. If any friends or relatives have documents to share, please consider donating them to the Howard and Lois Adelmann Regional History Collection at Lewis University.
Perhaps this collection will inspire books and stories to be written and remembered.
Flora Louise Milne
For more information on the collection please call the Canal and Regional History Special Collection at 815-836-5665
Lewis University Canal and Regional History Special Collection
One University Parkway
Romeoville, Illinois 60446