The roots of the Farwell family in Lake Forest are deep, and
the family tree has many branches. Tracing the Farwells back in Illinois, the logical beginning of the story is with
Henry and Nancy Farwell, pioneering settlers from New York in the 1830s. They were of strict
Presbyterian stock, leading to a family legend which held that when two Farwell
brothers were chopping wood on a Sunday, one cut off the tip of a finger, a
mishap that was seen amongst family elders not juzst as an accident, but as
proper penance for breaking the Sabbath.
Their first home in western Illinois was a log cabin of 14 square feet.
According to family memoirs, the boys of the family, included young sons John
V. and Charles B. Farwell, built a new home of brick and stone, not only making
their own brick and cutting their own stone, but also creating the wagon used
to carry the materials.
John V. Farwell made his way to Chicago
in 1845 with very little capital; according to one account he arrived on a load
of wheat with $3.45 in his pocket. His first employment was in the City Clerk’s
office at $12 a month, earning $2 extra for each meeting of the city council he
reported. Apparently some of the city fathers disliked his scrupulous reporting
of exactly what was said at each meeting – his honesty ultimately lost him the
Quickly, though, he found a new one: he began to climb the ladder
clerking in the dry-goods business; by 1850 he was admitted to partnership, and
shortly the sister of his partner, Emeret Cooley, became his second wife. By
1865 he had taken over the wholesale firm as J.V. Farwell and Company –
Marshall Field received his training under Farwell’s supervision. J.V.
Farwell’s forward-thinking in building an extra-large warehouse meant that his
firm was well-equipped to supply the troops during the Civil War, leaving him
in an enviable position afterward. By 1881, the Chicago Tribune called
J. V. Farwell and Company one of the leading factors in the trade of the West,
adding that (quote) “There is not a house whose members have done so much in
building up and beautifying Chicago.”
(Endquote.) J.V. Farwell was also prominent in religious circles, a leading
spirit in the development of the YMCA in Chicago
– this may have led him to become, along with his brother Charles, one of the
original shareholders in the Lake Forest Association in 1857.
J. V. Farwell’s Lake Forest home, built in 1869, was the
first American country house to be built largely with Portland cement. Both
cement and contractor, Leonard Double, had been imported from England. One difficulty posed by
the building material became clear only later, when the family struggled to
have the house wired for electricity.
J.V. Farwell had five children; Fannie, the
youngest, was born in 1864. The Farwell children grew up spending summers in Lake Forest, a relatively
small college town before the population grew at the turn of the century, where
the family attended the First Presbyterian Church. A relative recalled that
once at the Wednesday night prayer service, shortly before Fannie and her
cousin Grace took a trip abroad, church elder Samuel Dexter Ward included the
two girls in his prayers: he prayed that “his two young friends who
were going to Paris to school, might return safely and uncontaminated.”
Back from Paris safe and sound, Fannie
Farwell married Henry Nelson Tuttle, a well-known Chicago attorney, in 1888. They inaugurated
the family tradition of building on the original, large J.V. Farwell tract of
land when their home near the corner of Lake and Westminster
was built in 1891 – it still stands as one of the oldest surviving homes so
close to the shore in Lake Forest.
The Tuttles had three children – Grace Emeret Tuttle, born in 1895, was
the youngest. She was an accomplished tennis player and golfer, winning the
women’s championship at Onwentsia in 1932. During World War I, she and the rest
of the “Dozen Debutantes,” as they were called, served their country in several
ways, from modeling imported gowns for the benefit of French war orphans, to
attending a Red Cross nursing course and serving with the Draft Board. (These
skills came in handy later in life, when Grace volunteered at the Great Lakes Naval
Hospital during World War II and later
for decades at the Lake Forest
When Grace Tuttle and Kent Chandler
were married in 1918, the society pages in the Chicago Tribune gushed about the pair, noting that “the
bride-to-be is one of the most popular of the younger girls here, more than
usually pretty and chic in appearance. Her young soldier fiancée is tall and
also blessed with more than the ordinary allotment of looks.” Kent
Chandler shortly left for Europe to serve as a
captain in the American Expeditionary Force in World War I.
family’s roots in Chicago stemmed back to 1876,
when Kent’s father Elisha
Eldred Chandler came to Chicago
to work with his friend Philip D. Armour – he was an employee of Armour and
Company for 53 years. After the war, Kent Chandler went into investment banking
before becoming himself an executive at A.B. Dick and Company.
In 1937, Kent Chandler was elected
mayor of Lake Forest.
He was not the first mayor in the family: his wife’s grandfather J. V. Farwell
was mayor in 1871 – and would not be the last: his son Kent Chandler Jr. became
mayor in 1970. Other cousins and uncles also took the helm of city leadership
as mayors and aldermen, creating a family legacy of service to the community
and helping people solve problems.
Despite the family’s leadership
role in town, Kent Chandler made it clear that there were no shortcuts for his
five children, who grew up amongst cousins on Westminster,
attended the Bell
School, and enjoyed games
of father-son baseball in the open space between their homes. When Mayor
Chandler got a call one year on July 5th from the city police,
saying that his son Emerson was one of the boys that had been caught illegally
setting off fireworks, the young Chandler
was left to learn his lesson overnight in the police department.
After serving in the 5th Marine Division in World War II, Kent Chandler
Jr. met his wife Frances Robertson at one of the many delayed coming out
parties after the war – they met at the Onwentsia swimming pool, and then he
cut in on her on the dance floor later that evening. They were married in 1948
and have survived the test of time, having recently celebrated their 60th
wedding anniversary. They built their home on Westminster
in 1956 – it is located on the spot where Kent’s parents had planted their
World War II victory garden – a location that has certainly proven a good omen.
The family has supported countless
local organizations over the years, among them First Presbyterian Church, Lake Forest Hospital
and Gorton Community Center. Their legacy of
service will continue to provide a backbone for Lake Forest in decades to come.