Thomas Henry “Harry” Green

 

                            Cora Childs                                  Harry Green                                Harry  and Cora

Thomas Henry “Harry” Green was born January 9, 1857 in Dayton, the oldest son of Jesse Green and his second wife, Hannah Rhodes. Harry went to grade school in Dayton. He then attended Jennings Seminary in Aurora, one of the finest private high schools in the middle west. Jesse Green, Harry’s father, was himself largely self-educated, as he had only a few terms of formal schooling. He clearly recognized the value of education for his children and sent them to Jennings.

Like his younger brothers, Harry began by working for their father in the woolen mill, but on the first of February, 1880, at the age of 23, Harry took over the store in Dayton, where he sold dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, notions, medicines and almost anything else you could think of. A notice in the Ottawa paper announcing the change in management said that he was doing a cash business. In earlier times on the frontier, a storekeeper would offer credit to the farmers, or would take farm products in trade for goods, but by the 1880s, cash was more readily available, so Harry could operate on that basis. He traveled to Chicago and St. Louis periodically on buying trips, where he would replenish his supplies and see what was new and interesting.

The Dayton store would have been one of the centers of village life. In addition to the many items for sale, there were other attractions. In February of 1881, the Dayton Library Association was founded, with Isaac Green as President, Charles Green as Secretary and Harry Green as Librarian. Harry was the librarian because the library, all one hundred volumes of it, was housed at the store. You paid fifty cents a year to join and then you could borrow any book. The store was also a central point for spreading the news, so much so that the correspondent to the Ottawa newspaper requested that news items for the column be left at the store.

Some time in the mid-1880s a young lady named Cora Childs came to teach in the Dayton school. She had been born in 1860 in Marshall County. In 1864, her parents moved to Ottawa to take advantage of the better educational opportunities for their daughters. She graduated from Ottawa Township High School in 1879 and then completed the two year program at Wesleyan college in Cincinnati in one year, graduating in June 1880. She taught at several other La Salle County schools before coming to Dayton. When her parents moved to Morris she taught in the Junior High School there, but Harry had obviously made an impression on her and they were married on February 22, 1888.

After their marriage, they lived near Morris, where Harry ran a bakery and restaurant. He was also a jobber, or wholesaler, in fruits, confectionery, oysters, tobacco and cigars. An ad for Green’s Bakery and European Restaurant in the Morris Herald touted their wedding cakes, which could be furnished on short notice, and described the business as a place “Where you can get anything you want, from a cup of coffee and sandwich up to a big square meal.” Unfortunately, this establishment burned and they then returned to Ottawa. Harry went to work for the Standard Brick Company, where his brother-in-law, C. B. Hess, was a partner.

In 1892 Harry and Cora moved to Chicago where he later worked as an electrical engineer. Cora was very active in various patriotic organizations. She held a number of offices with the DAR, including many years as regent. She was the first regent of the Chicago chapter of the DAC, the Daughters of the American Colonists; was a member of the Daughters of 1812 and many other similar organizations. She and Harry, who was now T. Henry,  were listed in the 1913 Chicago Blue Book of prominent residents. At that time they lived at 55 W. North Avenue and had a summer residence in Morris. Cora was active in the social life of Chicago, announcing her daughter Mabel’s engagement at a reception and musical at the Plaza hotel.

Somewhere around 1910, Harry’s last name acquired an extra “e”, Greene. Cora, who was very interested in family history, had learned much of the Green history from Harry’s cousin, Maud, who was the Green family historian. Maud had attempted to trace the Green family’s origin, and had identified John Greene the Surgeon, of Rhode Island as a possible progenitor. Cora evidently convinced Harry that the extra “e” should be added. In Harry’s obituary, which Cora surely wrote, the “e” was even added retroactively to his father, Jesse, and his grandfather, John, neither of whom ever spelled their name that way. Incidentally, it is almost certain that John Greene the Surgeon was NOT an ancestor of the Dayton Green family.

Harry died September 24, 1939 in Chicago. The funeral was held in Chicago and the body was taken by train to Ottawa, where he was buried in the family plot in the Ottawa Avenue cemetery on Sep. 27th.

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