A Brief History of Grayslake

Long before the first settlers arrived, the Potawatomi people called this area home. Following the conclusion of the Black Hawk War in 1832, the Potawatomi were removed and the territory was opened to settlement. The first pioneers to travel to the area we now call Grayslake arrived in the mid 1830s. Early families such as the Grays, Forvors, Hendees and Riches found fertile soil, groves of trees and an attractive and unspoiled lake. William M. Gray, whose land included a section of the south shore of this lake, would soon lend his name to it. Even though he eventually left the territory, Grays Lake bears his name to this day.

The early settlers took up farming, with nearby Hainseville providing access to goods and services. With the outbreak of the Civil War, fifty local residents would enlist, most serving in the 96th Illinois Volunteer Infantry. One in five would not return. Nearly one in four were wounded or disabled.

Upon the conclusion of the war, our veterans exchanged their swords for plowshares and life continued in this quiet, agricultural setting. Then, in 1886, two events happened that would transform the area. In the summer of 1886, Henry Hawley, Chase Webb and Charles Whitney platted a subdivision called Grays Lake. That same year, the Wisconsin Central Railroad arrived. A fledgling downtown began to emerge and the railroad helped fuel growth.

By 1895, local citizens petitioned Lake County to incorporate as a Village. On May 9, 1895, voters formally approved the creation of the Village of Grays Lake. The name would soon become Grayslake and a community was born. Residents moved and added onto a one-room school house, creating the first Village Hall. Today, that structure continues to serve the public as the west wing of the Grayslake Heritage Center & Museum.

The arrival of a second rail line from the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad in 1899 accelerated the growth of the community. By that point, the Grayslake Business Directory already boasted: a general store, a hardware store, a bank, a jeweler, a pharmacy, two hotels, one resort, three saloons, a lumber company, two blacksmith shops, a barber shop, a masonry shop, a carpentry shop, a furniture and undertaking business, a dentist and a well driller. The Opera House and Bowling Alley would come in 1902, followed by the Fisk Kyle cannery in 1904, The Grayslake Times in 1905 and the Wisconsin Condensed Milk Company in 1912. Nestlé would briefly acquire this last structure, before selling it to the Grayslake Gelatin Company in 1922. The iconic smokestack from this building, bearing the name Grayslake, is still a defining part of the community's skyline.

By the end of World War I, the original population of 325 residents had roughly doubled to more than 700. Despite the difficulties of the Great Depression, the community continued to grow. Following the Second World War, the local population swelled to just over 1,900. The creation of Grayslake Community High School (now Grayslake Central), the Village's first High School reflects this trend. In keeping with the small town spirit of this tight-knit community, students laid the sod, cut from the nearby Doolittle farm, for their new football field in 1949.

The most dramatic growth, however, came between 1990 and the present day. Like many communities near Chicago, Grayslake witnessed explosive growth during this span, climbing from 7,800 in 1990 to almost 21,000 today. Yet, for all of the changes, Grayslake still maintains its small town charm. Tree lined streets and a friendly downtown recall the community's earlier years. Nearby, the lake from which the Village derives its name, provides a living link to our past.

Memorial Day Address 2015

Each year, the Village of Grayslake honors the memories of our veterans who sacrificed everything in service to their nation. Grayslake's Memorial Day parade and formal program honoring those who died in service to our country is an important and well attended event. This year, Senior Chief Mass Communication Specialist Monica R. Hopper delivered the address. The following is a transcript of her moving speech:

It was incredibly humbling for me to have been asked by another Grayslake veteran to give the memorial message today. Being new to the community made it that much more important to me to get it right, to ensure this message would honor the spirit of Memorial Day and our service members who sacrificed their lives for our country.

History tells us that Americans have long wanted to remember the sacrifices of their service members, as there are a number of places and people who claim to be part of the first Memorial Day.

For example, in Waterloo, N.Y., a ceremony was held on May 5, 1866, when businesses closed and the city honored local veterans who had fought in the Civil War. Memorial Day as we know it though, a day to honor the dead and decorate their graves, seems to be first credited to Southern women from Columbus, Miss., who visited a Battle of Shiloh cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers. The women were disturbed by the nearby bare gravesites of the Union soldiers, and so placed some of their flowers on their graves as well.

There was unease in the North over whether or not decorating the gravesites of both Union and Confederate soldiers was keeping old wounds open, or was reconciling with the South. It took Gen. John Logan issuing an order in 1868 before Memorial Day became a theme in the nation.

Logan had previously served in the Union Army, as well as in the Illinois House of Representatives, and he would go on in later years to become an Illinois Senator. But in 1968, while serving in the House of Representatives, Logan was also the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic. The Grand Army of the Republic was one of the first organized advocacy groups in America, made up of veterans from the Union Army, Union Navy, Marines, and U.S. Revenue Cutter Service.

On May 5, 1868, Logan issued General Order No. 11. He called for the gravesites of all who died in the defense of their country to be decorated on May 30 on what he called "Decoration Day", and for it to be observed annually and nationwide. There was probably no one in a better position to end the unease about such an act than he was. He was the commander in chief of all Union veterans. His order legitimized the practice in the North for good.

In his order, Logan said these words which have guided me as I prepared for today, "Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic."

It had been a mere three years since the end of America's bloodiest war. More than six hundred and twenty thousand Americans had died. Yet in his order, Logan recognized humanity's tendency toward neglect, and he knew that neglect, coupled with time, would fade any memory. In his speech he had but one goal – that the cost of a free and undivided republic – the lives lost – would not be forgotten.

Studies on long-term memory say maintenance rehearsal is necessary to preserve a memory for any length of time. That means that in order to remember something, it has to be regularly recycled back into working memory. Working memory is your immediate conscious perceptual and linguistic processing. A lot of us are purposeful in planning to remember monumental occasions in our lives. We do this through photographs, through momentos, through journals. We want to remember that day, that event, that feeling, that person, and so we plan to bring it back into our working memory every time we look at an image, at a momento, at a journal entry or book.

When Logan called for the Grand Army of the Republic to remember the fallen once a year, to bring them back into their working memory each year, he ensured that those who sacrificed their lives for the nation would not be forgotten. By 1880, all northern states recognized the day. The South, however, chose to honor their dead on a separate day.

It wasn't until after World War I that Decoration Day, now known as Memorial Day, was changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. In 1971, it was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress and today almost every state observes the day.

A couple nights ago I met with a Grayslake family who is also a Gold Star family, which is a new term to some of you, but it means a loved one of theirs was killed while serving on active duty. I asked them to tell me about their son, a Marine Lance Corporal who died in 2005 while serving in Iraq. I am a transplant into the Grayslake community, but I can think of no more important thing than to ensure we are remembering those who are still paying the price of their veteran's sacrifice to our country.

Sean went to Warren Township High School. He intended to go to Southern Illinois University and become an architect. On March 19, 2003, his 18th birthday, the war in Iraq began. His parents, Dan and Janet, say he never turned the television off. His eyes were glued on the war and he felt called to go, he felt called to make a difference in Iraq.

Sean did make a difference, not just in Iraq, but also in the lives of his buddies. In fact, on his last day in theater he volunteered to take his best friend's role in a convoy mission so his friend could spend his birthday resting. Sean did not come back from that mission. He had laid down his life for his friend.

In July 2010 the Joseph and Ellen Dimock family of Wildwood learned that their son, Army Ranger Joey Dimock II, gave his life in service to his country while on his second deployment to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Joey, like Sean Maher, had attended Warren Township High School, both had been Boy Scouts, and Joey had been active in his church's youth group, going on a mission trip each year with the church high school students. You might have met Joey in the community also, as he taught swimming for the Wildwood Park District.

Dan and Janet Maher and I thought about Gen. Logan's words, about the need of a country to remember the cost of a free and undivided republic. And together we tried to measure the cost of a veteran's sacrifice in unmet dreams, both the veteran's unmet dreams and the families. We also tried to measure it by the ways a family changes after a loved one dies in war.

After awhile, knowing that to actually measure that cost is impossible, we started instead to count the benefits of our free republic. Some of the things that came to my mind were the freedom of religion, the right of women to work outside the home, the right to vote – and who would have considered the right of families to have more than one child as a benefit of American citizenship?

A couple weeks ago a Sailor of mine turned in a leave chit, a request to take some of her vacation days. She was crying when she turned it in, and when my petty officer asked her what was wrong, she said she could not believe that she could actually take vacation and go to a conference to learn more about her religion. She said in her home country she would get killed for such a thing.

When I served in Afghanistan I interviewed a woman who was receiving letters at home threatening her death if she continued to teach outside of her home. She had a husband and small children, yet she did not bow to the threats. There was a large wall built up around the school where she taught and a security guard at the gate where she entered each day. All of this was necessary to protect the women who chose to teach, as well as the girls whose parents allowed them to learn. Viscous attacks were expected and planned for.

Some countries in our world today struggle with election fraud and subsequent rioting where people lose their lives; in other countries citizens are afraid to go to the polling booths because the booths are riddled with bomb blasts and gun battles.

China recently relaxed its one-child policy. When I say relaxed I mean this, Chinese citizens who were born as an only child are now allowed to have two children without having to pay a hefty fine. But only those citizens.

These are a few of the many the blessings of being American.

America has changed over time, as we hope other countries will, too. Our history books also speak of our injustices – to Native Americans, to African Americans, to women, and so on. America has changed as its people have asked for it to. But we have that right and the time to process and develop because of those who have fought for our freedoms, both then, and even now.

In 1863, five years before Logan's order establishing Decoration Day, President Lincoln gave his famous Gettysburg Address at a civil war battle site.

Lincoln spoke of dedicating a portion of the Gettysburg battle field to those who had fallen. But he said it wasn't really possible to dedicate the field, that the field had already been dedicated, consecrated, hallowed by those who laid down their lives there. And then Lincoln spoke of the future, and his words matter as much today as they did then.

He said - "It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining here before us, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…and that the government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Today we remember the one and a quarter million Army Soldiers, Navy Sailors, Air Force Airmen, Marines, and Coast Guardsmen who died in service to our country, to protect the government of the people, by the people, and for the people and to ensure it lives on for future generations.

To any and all Gold Star Families and those who have lost a loved one on active duty, thank you for loving a patriot and for sharing them with your country. We are honored by their belief in America and return that honor by remembering them here today. May God bless and watch over our troops, and may God bless America.