Lowden of Sinnissippi
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.
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
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.]