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Centennial Celebration
Governor Lowden addresses a gathering at the centennial celebration in Chester

Lowden of Sinnissippi

Margaret Fullilove-Nugent
Ogden Elementary School, Chicago

On October 7, 1993, Phillip Lowden Miller and his wife, Bonnie, sold 1,039 acres of the Lowden-Miller estate, Sinnissippi Forest, to the State of Illinois. The estate's owner had once been Governor Frank Orren Lowden. Phillip Miller is his grandson. The governor's former ownership is a sign of his concern for land use.

Frank Lowden was born on January 26, 1861, in Sunrise City, Minnesota. His parents were Lorenzo O. Lowden and Nancy E. Bregg Lowden. Lowden grew up on a farm. When he was a young boy he worked on the farm and attended a Quaker academy in New Providence, Iowa. For five years thereafter he taught in small-town and rural schools. He graduated from Burlington High School and taught there. Lowden then attended the University of Iowa and was the class valedictorian at Union College of Law. In 1887 he was admitted to law practice in Illinois. For many years Lowden was a very successful lawyer.

In 1894 Lowden met Florence Pullman on an ocean liner. Florence Pullman was George M. Pullman's daughter. Pullman was the sleeping train car manufacturer. Lowden married Florence Pullman on April 29, 1896. On January 20, 1897, Lowden's first child, George M. Pullman Lowden, was born. One fall night Lowden said to his wife, "I am beginning to look at a summer home near Chicago, where it is just as good for you and the baby or babies as at the seashore, with a good deal of favor."

On May 4, 1898, Florence Lowden was born. She was the Lowdens' first girl and she was Phillip Miller's mother. Florence's mother kept a diary. On May 15, 1899, she wrote: "Frank and I have been on a farm hunting expedition. We went to Oregon, Ill. to look at a very beautiful farm of 600 acres on the Rock River. We were most pleased and made an offer.

60 ILLINOIS HISTORY / APRIL 1994


Rain. Home, 10:30 p.m." That land and the house on it had belonged to and was built by Luke Hemenway, a pioneer from New Hampshire. The land seemed wonderful. It was outlined by the rocky, rough river. The green meadows and flat fields made one feel more wonderful than walking on a cloud or hearing the whispers of the sea, concluded Lowden's biographer, William Hutchinson.

Mrs. Lowden purchased the house and the land on May 20, 1899. The 576 acres and house cost $27,500. Over the years, Lowden bought thousands more acres, up to about 4,400 acres. The Lowdens modernized and enlarged the house with telephones, gas, electricity, plumbing, a laundry, a furnace, and a porch. They also repaired and enlarged the stables and barn to hold a carriage, ponies, horses, and cattle. When Mrs. Lowden, Florence, George, three nurses, a cook, a coach man, and several maids arrived for the first time for a two-week stay at "The Oaks" farm center, their eyes lit up, and they smiled broadly. Shortly after they moved to The Oaks, daughter Harriet was born on August 7, 1900. In 1901 the Oregon-Reporter claimed that "The Oaks farm center" had become a "veritable village." In 1902 Mrs. Lowden changed the name of the property to Sinnissippi Farm, the Indian name for the Rock River, meaning rocky waters.

In 1906 Lowden was elected to the U.S. Congress. He did not count on politics for his future. He was more dependent on his success as a lawyer. When he took his seat in Congress, he and his wife were forced to move to the New Willard Hotel
Governor Lowden led the state's support of World War I. Lowden is pictured here with Major General Bell.
Lowden and Bell

(even though her mother had a great house built for them in Washington, D.C.). Lowden led the fight to upgrade the State Department's consular service, and he retired from Congress in 1910.

Lowden aimed for increased political responsibility. In 1916 Lowden was elected governor of Illinois. No other Illinois governor was more successful with legislative support at critical times. Lowden was a conservative Republican and believed business principles should be government's principles. Lowden polled 54 percent of the vote over two opponents. Lowden wanted to reorganize Illinois' administration. He wanted to get rid of the 125 controversial state agencies and reduce them to nine. Lowden also wanted to make sure that the government was run honestly and fairly, and he wanted a new constitution that would centralize tax structure and permit an income tax. (Lowden's hope for an income tax was not granted until 1972.) In 1918, on the state's one-hundredth anniversary, Lowden oversaw construction of the Centennial Building, and in 1919 he supported ratification of what is now the Nineteenth Amendment, woman's suffrage.

In 1920 Lowden was an unsuccessful candidate for President at the Republican convention. His failure was partly due to conflicts with Mayor William Hale Thompson of Chicago. As governor, Lowden had refused Thompson's plan to give Chicago city hall influence at the state capitol and the White House. Thompson eventually retaliated and did not allow his delegates to vote for Lowden at the convention. Lowden served out his gubernatorial term until 1921. Thereafter, he retired to Sinnissippi Farms to spend more time with his family and take care of his land.

When Lowden's wife died in 1937, he became confused and felt very frustrated. It was no consolation that she had willed him a $4.5 million estate that included Sinnissippi, Castle Rest, Florenden (the Pullman summer house) and the other Pullman estates in Washington, Memphis, and Sioux City. Frank Lowden later moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he died of cancer on March 20, 1943.

At the formal dedication of Sinnissippi Forest as a state site in 1993, Phillip Miller said, "We are delighted that the tradition of proper land use started by Governor Lowden on this property is continuing with others." Lowden once said, "I like to think of that beautiful and fertile spot.... as a place where my children and my children's children and their children after them will gather long after I have become dust." These are fitting words for one of Lowden's chief public legacies.[From William T. Hutchinson, Lowden of Illinois; Robert P. Howard, Mostly Good and Competent Men; Howard W. Fox, Sinnissippi Forest; Telegraph (Dixon) Oct. 8, 1993; Ogle County News (Polo) Oct. 14, 1993; The Rockford Register Star Oct. 8, 1993.]

ILLINOIS HISTORY / APRIL 1994 61


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