Gurnee History - Mother Rudd
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Mother Rudd Home | Early History of Warren Township | Walter S. Gurnee
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If she could see it now, Mother Rudd would have good reason to be proud of the newly restored house in Gurnee which bears her name. The Mother Rudd Tavern, which is located on Kilbourne Avenue just north of Grand Avenue in the Village of Gurnee, Lake County, Illinois has taken on a new elegance since 1987 when the Village of Gurnee began restoration. In 1991 the Village turned the building over to the Warren Township Historical Society for their use as a museum.
Mother Rudd was born Wealthy Buell on June 4, 1793 in Lyme, Connecticut and married Jonathan Harvey on December 5, 1813. Wealthy and Jonathan Harvey had a total of 13 children, 9 of whom survived to adulthood. Their daughter, Nancy, was born in June of 1820 in Herkimer Country, New York. In 1837 the family moved to Summit County, Ohio. In 1843, Jonathan Harvey moved his family to Warren Township in Illinois and acquired 80 acres of land which had originally been claimed from the United States by Charles Parson, land agent for Illinois Land Company. In 1835-36 Mr. Parson had built a log building on the property which was large enough to accommodate several families to be used as a shelter for families while they were building their own homes in the area.
In 1840 the population for Lake County was 2,634.
In 1844, due to the increase in travel between Chicago and Milwaukee (a five day overland trip, with Gurnee being a half-way stop), the original Harveys built a new building, now known as the Mother Rudd Tavern (about 250 feet south of and across the road from the original site) on Milwaukee Avenue (now Kilbourne Rd.) on the north side of Grand Avenue. The story is told that when Mrs. Harvey was planning to build the house the carpenter offered to build it for nothing if she would pay him the doors, at the rate of $1 for the first door, $2 for the second, $4 for the third, and continuing to double the cost for each door in the building. Mrs. Harvey was about to accept the offer when a friend showed her that at this rate the last door (there would be 22 in all) would cost more than $2,000,000.00, and she declined the offer.
In January, 1845 Jonathan Harvey died, and in December of 1846 Wealthy Buell Harvey married Eratus Rudd. The building became known as the Mother Rudd Tavern.
In 1845 the population of Lake County had reached 8,236 and by 1850 it had risen to 14,266. "Good" land was worth $5.00 per acre and livestock was abundant.
The Mother Rudd tavern was the scene of many public meetings and, after the organization of the township in 1850, it was the official "town hall," and all caucuses and elections were held here. The Rudd estate received $10.00 per year for the use of the rooms for election purposes. In addition, the well at the southwest corner of the house was known as the "town well and pump," and everybody watered their horses at the well, which was never known to go dry.
Originally, the building was used to house homesteaders until they were able to build homes on their claims. The building later became a stage stopover place for people traveling from Chicago to Milwaukee. The second floor of the inn had several small rooms across the back and the entire front was one long room. This was the scene of many dances and was sometimes known as "The Crystal Ballroom". When the inn was full of travelers, this big front room was used for the men. The women and children were bedded down in the small rooms. The door locks on the small rooms were on the inside, but the two doors of the big front room had their locks on the outside. This was done in order to keep the men from leaving early without paying and also to keep the place "pure."
In the spring of 1854, the Chicago & Milwaukee Railroad began running its trains from Chicago to Milwaukee in the unprecedented time of five hours and the stage lines went out of business.
In 1859 Nancy Harvey, daughter of Mother Rudd, married Lucien Mutaw. One of Nancy and Lucien Mutaw's daughters, Josephine, married Bert Paddock. Their descendant, Vernon Paddock of Gurnee, was instrumental in restoring this house and is President of the Mother Rudd Foundation.
In 1860 the Lake County population was 18,300 and the Warren Township population was 1,124.
In 1860, at the time of the nomination of Abraham Lincoln for President, the Town of Warren won a 30 foot flag for sending the most people to Chicago to the Republican Rally and the Liberty Flag Pole was erected by the Republicans of the township just east of the Mother Rudd Tavern. The wood for the pole was cut in the woods of James Stout, about half a mile south of where it stood, and was in reality two trees spliced together at the half-way point, the splice being about four feet long and secured with two iron bands, after the fashion of the mast of a ship. Some of the pro-slavery Democrats, known as "Copperheads," boasted that the pole would not be standing at election time. To forestall their designs, the pole was guarded every night by relays of the Republicans armed with shotguns.
In addition to the pulley for raising the flag, the pole had as a terminal a wooden ball about a foot in diameter. One day in 1880 a high wind swayed the pole back and forth and the ball flew across the street and landed within a foot of old Charles Baxter, nearly scaring him to death. To avoid further trouble, the pole was cut down.
During the Civil War the tavern became a stopover on the underground railway system. Slaves were hidden in the barn on their travel to Canada and freedom.
In 1870 Eratus Rudd died and Mrs. Wealthy Rudd discontinued the tavern. However, after Wealthy Rudd died in August of 1880, at the age of 87, her daughter, Nancy Mutaw, reopened the tavern and maintained it until nearly the end of her life (she died in 1894 at the age of 74), but while she was popular and affable, the place never enjoyed the wide range of social affairs which made it well-known as the Mother Rudd Tavern.
Following the death of Nancy Mutaw, the building was sold to Thomas H. McCann and was used as a single family home. Mr. McCann farmed the land and at one time Mrs. McCann operated a small candy store at the west end of the large front room. In the 1930's the building was occupied by the Hugh McCann family, who continued to farm the land. Joseph and Helen Gilmore bought the property in 1944. After the Gilmores, there were several owners until the Village purchased the house.
In 1984 the village of Gurnee purchased the three acre site of the Mother Rudd Tavern for $75,000, hoping that the building, which was one of the first permanent structures erected in Gurnee, would some day be restored and preserved as a historical site. The Warren Township Historical Society expressed an interest in the building for a historical museum, and plans were discussed for its restoration.
A feasibility study on the restoration of the house to its original condition for use as a museum revealed that it still had much of the original detail and construction, including square headed hand-made nails which were prevalent throughout the woodwork and much of the original hardware was still in use. The building would need to be reinforced and the plaster walls and ceilings would have to be restored. Doors, wood trim and hardwood floors would have to be refinished and the floor plan would need to be restored to original (by removing some partitions); fixtures and hardware needed to be replaced and aluminum siding would need to be replaced with wood.
Initial financing for the project was provided by the Village of Gurnee from the hotel/motel tax fund and area contractors and businesses contributed building materials and labor to restore the building as well. The Warren Township Historical Society had undertaken the task of completing the restoration and filling their museum with memorabilia and historical artifacts.
The Village of Gurnee / History / Mother Rudd / Last Revised 03/28/01