Wall Insulation Turns Out to be Newspaper Clipping from 1867

Lake Forest couple own home steeped in history from the mid-1800s and beyond.

Not too many people can view their house as a treasure hunt.

But that’s exactly what residents David and Pam Waud have found.

Sometimes those treasures actually are buried.

Like in the wall.

When the couple moved into the house in 1986 and took on the project of renovating their kitchen, they discovered an old newspaper clipping from the Chicago Tribune.

The date?

Tuesday, Dec. 17, 1867.

It wasn’t a complete front page and was the only piece they found as part of the insulation in the wall.

“We were able to flatten it out. That’s why we kept it, and then we started reading it,” Pam said.

In 1867, Andrew Johnson was in the middle of his term as the nation’s 17th president. The Tribune’s editor at the time was Joseph Medill, and the newspaper was considered a “force for Midwest conservatism and Republican orthodoxy,” according to the article, The Chicago Tribune's Lost Years, 1865-1874, by Harris L. Dante.

That may explain why among the front-page articles was one on Ulysses S. Grant, the Union general who led the North to victory over the South and was two years out from becoming the 18th president. Johnson was a Democrat, and in the next year he came within a vote of being impeached by the Senate.

Under the heading “Europe,” the first subhead refers to “The English Press on the Recent Fenian Operations.” The Fenian Brotherhood, founded in the United States in 1858, was an Irish republican organization that raided British army forts, customs posts and other targets in Canada, to pressure Britain to withdraw from Ireland, according to Wikipedia.

Another subhead on the left side of the front page states, “Order from General Howard Making a Large Reduction in the Force of the Freedmen’s Bureau.” The Freedmen’s Bureau, led by Union Army Gen. Oliver O. Howard, aided distressed freed slaves from 1865-69. It originally was set up by President Lincoln to last one year but wound up being a key component of Reconstruction in the South, according to Wikipedia.

This isn’t the first brush with history from the 1800s for the Wauds. Both natives of Lake Forest — he from the East Side, she from the West Side — they knew the house they bought, originally built in 1859 on Deerpath and later moved to Illinois Road in the early 1920s, had been labeled, “the house Lincoln slept in.”

“The owner of the house was the campaign manager’s brother-in-law, and Lincoln was speaking on this particular day in Waukegan,” Pam said. “The story is Lincoln tarried here after his speech. We went down to the historical society in Chicago and we couldn’t find anything.”

Apparently, the legitimacy of the story was questioned about 25 years ago, and the bottom line was that no one had definitive proof either way.

“But if we sell the house, that will be the tagline,” Pam joked.

Over the years, the couple has done more readings on the history surrounding the house. They have a scrapbook of photos dating back to when it moved to Illinois Road, such as a birthday party on the front porch with a nanny standing behind each child in attendance.

“Every time we take something apart, we find sort of scars in the house of where there used to be a door or a bedroom that you didn’t know used to be there, which is always sort of fun,” Pam said. “Where they had a stove in a room, there are scars on the floor. Now the house has a lot of bedrooms, but we think they were dressing rooms at one time.” 

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Patricia Havrin June 22, 2012 at 07:01 PM
What an amazing find! We discovered a "modern" washing machine brochure behind the built in bookcase of our 1935 house -which I have attached a picture of above- We thought our find was pretty cool, but yours was really quite a special discovery Thanks for sharing.


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