LFLB History Museum

Sneddon-Larsen Family

Charles Anton Larsen and Annie Jensen both immigrated to the U.S. from Denmark, initially settling in Wisconsin, where they married in 1895. By 1900, they were living in Lake Forest, on Depot Avenue, as McKinley Road used to be called.

In Lake Forest, the Larsens joined a growing community of Danish immigrants. In 1916, Annie helped found Lake Forest chapter 148 of the Danish Sisterhood with 10 other women. They met twice a month, initially at Blackler Hall, then Anderson Hall, the American Legion and the YWCA. During World War II, the Sisterhood raised money for Victory Bonds and sewed for the relief of those back in Denmark suffering from the effects of the war.

Charles Larsen took classes to learn the construction trade and went into business as a carpenter and contractor. His brother Chris soon joined him in Lake Forest and in his work. Charles Larsen built the cottages at Onwentsia pictured here, used for guests of club members.

He also built homes on Sunset Place and one on Edgewood Road for his family. This house was situated on a large lot, with a garage and workshop, chicken coop, vegetable garden and grape arbor.

Charles Larsen passed away in the prime of life, at age 46 in 1919. He had contracted typhoid from drinking contaminated milk produced on the farm adjacent to the Larsen property, located where the high school is now.

After her husband’s death, Annie Larsen rented out the homes on Sunset Place that her husband had built for extra income. She also raised money by selling fruits and vegetables grown in their large garden.

The Larsens had five children: Herman and Margaret, born before the Larsens arrived in Lake Forest, and Marion Charlotte, known as Sal, Charles Edward or Chuck, and Arthur, born here in town. The children all attended school in Lake Forest and then Deerfield-Shields High School in Highland Park. After the death of their father, the three younger kids, still living at home, all went to work to help support the family.

Margaret Larsen married Christen Miller Sweningsen. He worked as a chauffeur on the Hugh McBirney estate on Laurel, the House of the Four Winds, where Margaret also worked as a maid and then the cook. They lived in an apartment above the garage, pictured here. The Sweningsens had two sons, Chuck and Jack, both excellent students and athletes. In the fall of 1941, after Chuck had graduated with honors in engineering from the University of Illinois, his younger brother Jack was killed by a train when crossing the tracks at Laurel Avenue. He was walking home from football practice on the first day of school. The next day, distraught students at Lake Forest High School took up a collection to honor their class president, which became the Jack Sweningsen Memorial Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding senior boy in leadership, character and scholarship.

Charlotte Larsen worked for years as a bookkeeper, for various stores in town and at Lake Forest College. In 1945 she married Harry Peddle. Harry was the course pro at Deerpath, and he and Charlotte managed the golf course there in the later 1940s and early 1950s.

Now we’ll backtrack a bit to catch up with the other side of the family. William Sneddon and Janet Douglas were married in 1900 in Scotland. They lived and worked on Muncraig Farm, where William’s father was farm manager.

It was a chance meeting in 1906 that brought William and Janet Sneddon from Scotland to Lake Forest. One day, William encountered Louis F. Swift, president of an American meat-packing empire, on the road near Muncraig Farm. Swift had just built a new estate, Westleigh, and purchased over a thousand acres of farmland in west Lake Forest. Impressed by the beauty and efficiency of Muncraig Farm, as well as by William Sneddon, who was an articulate talker on the subjects of stock and farming, Swift made one of those impulse decisions that characterized his career: he invited William Sneddon to come to Lake Forest to run his farms.

The next year, 1907, the Sneddons and their three small daughters, Mary, Bessie and Margaret, called Maggie, came to Lake Forest.

They settled in quickly at Everett Stock Farm, where as superintendent William Sneddon had charge of the planting and harvesting, the stock, and the other farm workers. Though William and Janet never returned to Scotland, they maintained their connection to their home, writing numerous letters and postcards. William also brought over two of his brothers and other relatives to work on the farm.

William Sneddon became a known figure in the Everett community. He always seemed to be in the right place at the right time: whether it was capturing suspecting arsonists at the Swift barns in 1929, discovering the body of a Chicago gangster in 1938, or protecting the sheep from the threat of wolves.

The Sneddon girls attended the local one-room schoolhouse west of Lake Forest, and then Everett School when it opened in 1914.

All three sisters graduated from Deerfield-Shields High School. Maggie continued her education at Northern Illinois State Teachers College in Dekalb, graduating in 1926.

In 1934, William Sneddon bought the Everett Stock Farm, and the Sneddon house at 1550 Everett Road, from Louis Swift. He ran the farm until his death in 1947. His daughter Bessie, who married Harold Bayes in 1928 and worked for the Western Actuarial Bureau, often returned to ride and care for the horses.

The Sneddons’ oldest daughter Mary briefly taught at Everett School in the early 1920s before her marriage to Olna David Cooper, who was farm manager of the Sadler Farm in Vernon Township. Mary maintained her connection to Everett School in the 1940s by working as the school cook when Everett became the first school in Lake Forest to serve hot lunches.

The Coopers had two daughters, Mary and Margaret. Margaret died in 1951 while still in high school, in a car accident when the car she was riding in with three classmates crashed into a tree in Highland Park.

Mary Cooper married Mack Taylor in 1952. The Taylors lived for years on Mawman Avenue in Lake Bluff.

Mary Cooper Taylor worked for 30 years for American Educators, Inc. at Tangley Oaks in Lake Bluff.

Mary Taylor had followed in the footsteps of her mother and aunt Maggie in the field of education. Armed with her teaching degree, Maggie Sneddon began teaching at Everett School in 1926. In the 1930s she moved on to Halsey and Gorton.

It was at Gorton that Maggie Larsen met her future husband, Chuck Larsen – at a school play that starred Chuck’s nephew Jack Sweningsen. They were married at First Presbyterian Church in 1939.

At the time Chuck was working as a greenskeeper at Deerpath Golf Course. He was a talented golfer, the best in the family, although he was a lefty who’d taught himself to golf using right-handed clubs. Maggie Larsen golfed, too, and really she was much better at it than her signature move would indicate: she always seemed to hit the ground with her club before hitting the ball. I suppose all those divots ensured the greenskeeper had something to do!

In the 1940s Chuck Larsen began working as a plumber at the Great Lakes Naval Base, work that was shortly interrupted by World War II. He served in the navy as a Motor Machinist, assigned to a destroyer escort ship, the USS Hissem, that carried troops and supplies to the Mediterranean, and later to the Pacific fleet.

Nine months after Maggie Larsen had visited Chuck at boot camp in Idaho, their daughter Jan was born. Chuck was informed of the news aboard the USS Hissem with this telegram. He finally first met his new daughter a few months later.

After the war, Chuck Larsen returned to his job as a plumber at Great Lakes and the family continued to reside in the Larsen homestead at 1350 Edgewood. Family members were always around, like Chuck’s brother Art and his young son Rich, pictured here on the right. But the Larsen contingent was slowly moving west. Chuck’s mother Annie moved to California, where the Sweningsens were already living, in the 1940s. In 1951, Rich Larsen remembers visiting family in California for Christmas. He and his mother stayed on to watch the Rose Parade, but his father Art had to return to Lake Forest early for work. Just before they were about to follow him back home, a postcard arrived in California from Rich’s dad. It said, “Just climbed in the pantry window due to snow. Moving to California in June. Love Art.”

Of the Larsens, Chuck and his older brother Herman remained in Lake Forest. In 1947, Chuck and Maggie Larsen built a new home at 1550 Greenleaf, which they owned for nearly 50 years.

The Larsens formed a tight-knit circle with their neighbors, including Don and Virginia Fiester, who lived next door. They watched each other’s kids and pets, wallpapered each other’s homes, and held block parties. The particular block party you see in this picture was actually thrown by their neighbors on the Larsens’ lawn while they were gone, visiting relatives in California. The neighbors rigged up all kinds of gags – built an outhouse, put up a For Sale sign, pretended to chop down trees – and took pictures of everything, which they mailed to the Larsens in California. Poor Jan thought it was all true!

Chuck Larsen was a Mason, and so Jan was a member of the Lake Forest Rainbow Girls. She graduated from Lake Forest High School in 1962 and followed in her mother’s footsteps by attending college at Northern Illinois.

It was at Northern Illinois that Jan met her future husband Stephen Polep, whom she married in 1965.

In the next year, 1966, Maggie Larsen retired from teaching after 40 years in Lake Forest public schools. She spent the last ten years of her career at Sheridan School, starting with the year it opened, 1957. I love this picture because it contains representatives from two of our Centennial Families – Maggie Larsen as the teacher, and up on the left in the top row, Monica Stein as a student.

Chuck Larsen retired from his work at Great Lakes in 1972 after 30 years. In retirement, Maggie stayed active as a mainstay of the First Presbyterian Church Rummage Sale. Additionally, any trip that she or Chuck took to get groceries at the Jewel was liable to last at least two hours, they would see and chat with so many people they knew.

Stephen and Jan Polep lived in Crystal Lake, where their son Steve grew up. Jan was a librarian at the Crystal Lake Public Library for almost 40 years, and Stephen taught chemistry and physics at Huntley High School.

When Jan Polep’s cousin Mary Cooper Taylor passed away in 2003, she was the last family member to live in Lake Forest or Lake Bluff. A founding member of the Historical Society, Mary Taylor donated some of the best photographs of west Lake Forest that we have in our museum collection.