Saturday, October 8, 2011

Mrs. O'Leary's Cow and My Yawman Ancestors

In legend, Mrs. O'Leary's cow is blamed for the fire that destroyed Chicago 140 years ago.  Was the bovine also responsible for sending my Yawman ancestors packing back to Minnesota?

In 1860, my 2nd great-grandfather Andrew Yawman and his milliner wife and daughters were in St. Paul, Minnesota; in 1870, the family lived and worked as milliners in Chicago; in 1880, they were farming a homestead in Pipestone County, Minnesota.

Digging a little deeper in the records, I found the Yawman family in Chicago city directories in 1870 and 1871. The family lived at 714 Larrabee; daughters Rebecca Yawman and Kate Phillips were running a millinery and fancy goods shop at 92 State Street. Here is a map of modern-day Chicago showing those two locations (point A is the shop address and point B is the home address):


Following is a map showing the area of Chicago affected by the fire with an orange box around the area roughly matching the map above:

Public domain map of Great Chicago Fire from Wikimedia.

Although I cannot be sure that the Yawmans were in Chicago on October 8, 1871, it appears that the area in which they lived and worked was destroyed. Such a catastrophe certainly could be the reason they were back in Minnesota by the time of the 1880 census.



© 2011 Denise Spurlock

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