Friday, March 27, 2015

I am Lolita Sheldon Armour


My name is Lolita Sheldon Amour. Actually, it’s Lola H. but I changed it in the 1900s. I understand that some of you will be viewing The Scots of Lake Forest in our country home on April 11. It was a wonderful place to live and I am pleased it still exists. Did you know I grew prize winning roses at Mellody Farm? I am sure they must all be gone by now. During the Great War, we also grew acres and acres of potatoes for our troops. We had two other homes but this was our favorite.

I was born in Suffield, Connecticut in 1869. My father was Martin J. Sheldon and he was from an old family in Connecticut. My mother was born in England. Sadly, she died when I was eleven. It was a very difficult time but my dad did the best he could under the circumstances. He placed me in Miss Porter’s school in Farmington. It was a great school and gave the training I needed for all the other phases of my life. My father never remarried and died in 1917. He is buried beside my mother in the Woodlawn Cemetery, Suffield, CT.

It wasn’t easy to travel then but I made several trips to Chicago visiting friends. On one of those trip, I met Ogden Amour. I think it was at a party but I do remember it was love at first sight. We talked and talked about our common interests and Ogden was very persistent, a trait that served him well in business. Three weeks later our engagement was announced.

Three months later, May 13, 1891, we were married in New York City. I was 22 and Ogden was 28. My father lived at the Murray Hill Hotel and we reserved one of the private parlors. It was elaborately trimmed with roses, lilacs, and hydrangeas. We stood under a canopy of roses for our vows and Dr. Gunsaulus of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Chicago read the marriage service. You recognize that name, don’t you? He’s the one who preached The Million Dollar Sermon that had such a dramatic effect on my father-in-law, Philip D. Amour.

It was a very small wedding there were no ushers and my husband didn’t have a best man. I only had two attendants: Miss Murray of Chicago and Miss Farrington of Rhinebeck, New York. Only family members and close friends were present. My father gave me away and I so wished my mother could have been there. She would have been so happy.

You should have seen my wedding gown. It was made in Paris of all places and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was made of white brocaded satin with a full court train and trimmed across the front of the skirt with a frill of old point lace. Ogden had given me a diamond lovers’ knot which fastened my tulle vest and I carried a bouquet of lilies of the valley. My granddaughter wore the same dress when she was married in 1953. I wonder what happened to the dress and the diamond knot? After the ceremony we traveled throughout the south.

By September of that same year work began on our first home, It was located on the northwest corner of Michigan avenue and Thirty-seventh place in Chicago. Such a large house for just two people but the Amour’s had an image to uphold. Ogden loved long halls and grand stairways and this house had both. You will see the same pattern when you visit our country home on April 11. The house wasn’t finished until the end of ‘92 and on January 14, 1893 we had a grand open house. Everyone came to visit. It was like the “who’s who” of Chicago. Just look at these names: Kimball, McNeil, Kellogg, Allerton, Keith, Pullman, Farwell, Buckingham, Peck, Spaulding, McIllwaine and the list goes on and on. It was a wonderful night and our poodles had such a good time.

This is a funny story from our past. We owned the first horseless carriage in Chicago. Ogden bought it in Europe and had it delivered to Chicago. So, one day, I left home to get Ogden from work. His office was in the Home Insurance building at Adams and La Salle. Here I am a woman in 1899 driving the first vehicle in Chicago that was not being pulled by a horse. You should have seen the look of amazement on the faces of policemen and of course the horses snorted and bucked at this strange sight and sound. When we finally arrived home, Ogden declared firmly and finally, “Never again, Lolita, it isn’t safe.” We had such marvelous fun and great memories. If I remember correctly, we also brought the first gas powered automobile to Chicago. It was a Panhard and painted a bright red. Sorry we didn’t keep that car. It was such a favorite.

Since we are talking about cars, and since you are going to visit Lake Forest on April 11, I think this is also a funny story. Arthur L. Farwell brought the first car to Lake Forest in 1904. The town fathers thought it so dangerous that they passed a special ordinance for protection. “This required a man on horseback to ride ahead of Mr. Farwell waving a red flag and ringing a copper dinner bell.”

Our daughter was born in 1897. We didn’t think she was going to live. She was premature and crippled. Most premature children born at that time never lived but Lolita was such a fighter and she made it. Perhaps, I should let her tell her own story some day. It was such a painful time that we never had any more children but you should have seen Ogden when he arrived home and had time to spend with our baby.

Ogden could always make money and he accumulated great wealth which in private he shared freely. We supported many charities but tried to be anonymous when we could. Toward the end of his life, events began to turn against him. I won’t go into detail but we lost everything including the mansion in Lake Forest.

It is still painful to talk about his death. Ogden was in London at the time and was staying in the Amour suite at the Carlton hotel. He had contracted typhoid fever and that, combined with a weak heart, was just too much. He was sixty-four and the date was August 27, 1927. We brought him home on the Derengaria and the funeral was held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago. The church was filled with the rich and the poor. They touched shoulders with each other as they paid tribute. Many stood around the edges of the sanctuary. He was buried in the family plot at Graceland.

When you visit our home on April 11, I hope you will think of us and how much we enjoyed this place as our summer home. Remember, the program begins at 2:00 p.m. on April 11, 2015 and the film lasts an hour followed by a reception. I hope this small article of memory will help you appreciate the great mansion and the Scots of Lake Forest. Ogden was always proud of his Scottish heritage, and he was a life member of the Illinois Saint Andrew Society. Please wear your Scottish attire and kilt if you have one.

Click here to register................

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society

Personal Note:  I will be in the Sarasota and Naples area, April 14 through Sunday, April 19 If you would like to have breakfast, lunch or dinner, call me or sent an email to I will be attending a meeting, doing Scottish research, etc.  If you are knowledgeable about Bertha Palmer and her land holdings in the Sarasota area, please contact me. If you are a member of a St. Andrew’s Society, please contact me. I will have a rental car and don’t mind driving to you.

April 4, 2015 - History Club meeting will feature the town of Pullman. Our speaker will be Michael Shymanski. He and his wife live in Pullman and they were founding members of the Historic Pullman Foundation. You will hear about some of the Scots who lived and worked in the town of Pullman. Museum opens at 9 a.m. and the program begins at 10.

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