Category Archives: Biography


Peter J. Thornum was my Great Grandfather.

I began my research into his past in July of 1992 when I took my first trip to Chicago where my early roots originated. Since that time, following his life and times has proved to be an entrancing and irrepressible and joyful voyage into the past..

Some of the substantiated facts I have learned concerning him are as follows:

Born in Ribe Denmark March 10, 1844 reared in the region of his birth until he reached the age of fourteen years and then was employed as a cook on a vessel, leading the life of the average seaman, until seventeen when he was promoted to mate. In 1862, he entered the United States Navy and continued there for four years. He served on the US ships of war the Princton and the
Mohican. In 1866 he sailed the Great Lakes between Buffalo and New York City and in that same year he located in Chicago, still continuing on the Lakes but making this city his home. In 1870, while mate of the vessel “Badger State” he was shipwrecked and the vessel was lost, though all the passengers were rescued. He continued sailing until 1871, when he was again shipwrecked
on the schooner “Levant”* which went down five miles from shore, everyone on board was lost except Peter who was picked up by a passing vessel the next morning. The vessel had left Chicago the day of the never to be forgotten conflagration (great fire) of 1871, the weather at the time being very cold.

He then abandoned life on the Lakes and followed the occupation of a painter doing contracting, and employing many men in his business. He continued to be thus occupied until 1884 when he located in Winslow, Jackson and Talman’s subdivision, erecting a residence on Seymour Street. In 1877 he moved his house to 704 West North Avenue. He was one of the first to locate on that street, and in 1880 while still contracting for painting, he was engaged as an agent for fire insurance. Transacting more insurance business than any other agent in that part of the city, he represented Germans of Freeport and the Milwaukee Mechanic’s Insurance Companies.

In August of 1869 he was married to Christina Jepsen, a resident of Chicago, but a native of Denmark coming to this country at the age of twenty. They had four children: Frederick, Emma, Selma, Thyra.

He always favored the Democratic Party with his influence, and had been the water and building inspector, besides holding various offices. In 1882 he was nominated for the office of State Senator as the opponent of William E Mason. He was an active member of The Danish Brotherhood, Wicker Park Lodge N0. 281, Independent Order of the Odd Fellows and went through all the chairs. He was vice president representing the West Side of the Democratic Central Committee at the same time that Charles Thornton was vice president from the South Side. He served on the executive committee of the Carter Harrison League in 1902.

In 1906 he died in his adopted country at the age of 66 years. Having resided in Chicago 40 years he now rests in Mt. Olive Cemetery surrounded by family.

* “Steaming Through Smoke and Fire 1871”, by James L. Donahue, published in 1990, page 91.

 Contributed 17 Jan 1999 by Joyce Daugherty

PETRIE, Michael

The name of Michael Petrie has a good sound in the business circles of Chicago. Mr. Petrie was born October 14, 1848 in Chicago. His parents were Philip and Catherine (LAUX) Petrie. The father comes from Neunkirchen, the mother comes from greater Losheim, of a province on the Rhine. The older Petrie served as an Ordnance Officer under Napoleon in 1835 and was married on February 7, 1838 and came to America with his wife. On August 24 of said year Philip and Catherine came to Chicago. On the 7th of February 1888 they were permitted to have a celebration of their Golden Wedding anniversary. Philip Petrie preceded her in death. She gave him eleven children. The widow died on 22nd of May 1898 at the age of nearly 80 years. When the Golden wedding celebration was held the bridegroom was 74 years old, and the bride was in her 68th year. Bishop Fehan attended the ceremony and at the end he gave a short message. On this occasion the bridal pair could claim six sons, fifteen grandchildren, and a six-week-old great grandson.

Michael Petrie, whose picture accompanies this article attended St. Joseph School and the Ogden School. Later he attended the Saltman’s Business College. After he had served up to the year 1870 in the law offices of John mattock he became a junior partner of the law firm Mattocks, Mason and Company. Their office was located on the corner of Dearborn and Lake Streets. Before the year 1872 he founded the Alton Exchange (presently occupied by the Chicago Opera House) on his own property on 163 Washington Street where it remained for some 22 years. In the last seven years Mr. Petrie had his office in Teutonic Buildings on the corner of Fifth and Washington Streets. He had rooms 407,408,and 409 which offered him elegant and excellent facilities in order to carry out his work. There were many and varied duties, especially since he has so many responsibilities. In this connection he was made responsible for Seipp’s and Successors, and for Mrs. Pauline Bush and Heirs, widow of Valentine Bush, the holder of Bush Brewery and Company, for the lands of Mrs. Anna Bush and for the houses of Bush Brewing Company and Successors, and for heirs of Peter Schuttler etc. Mr. Petrie was as agent of the grounds and as long time resident of Chicago a precise knowledge of the value of pieces of property and an unfailing understanding of money matters. In the course of the years he has demonstrated this ability so that he has acquired the confidence of business people.

The fact is that Mr. Petrie has never attempted to live in the posh part of life. Although in the years from 1876,1877, and 1878 he did serve as assessor of North Town to which office he was elected. In the year 1896 when his brother Nicholas held the office of County Commissioner died and he served for the remainder of his term, That is for one and one-half years, (part of the line is not legible) till the beginning of the term of his successor. (Several lines to faint to read). He is a member of the Germanic Men’s chorus, a member of the Marquette Club, a member of the Bar hunting club, of the Rice fishing Club, a member of the Hesperio Lodge of St. Bernard Commando. One of his brothers Charles G. Petrie, was for 35 years a member of the local Fire Company, and Secretary Marshall of the same.

Mr. Petrie is not married. He is a good musician and at earlier time he sang in German Men’s chorus and assisted in the church choirs.

Contributed Jun 2000 by Joan Higgins

Source: Chicago and the German Influence, published 1897, translated by Noah G. Good in 1997.

MITCHIE, John Charles

John Charles Mitchie enlisted as a private in the Illinois Infantry and fought on the Union side during the civil war. At the age of 17 on April 2, 1861, he enlisted in Company K, 12th Volunteer Illinois Infantry where he served 90 days. Then in the fall of 1861, he enlisted in Company F, 37th Illinois Infantry. He re-enlisted at Brownsville, Texas as a veteran after the civil war and was eventually discharged with his whole unit from the army in Houston, Texas, May 12, 1866. He fought in many significant battles of the civil war including Sugar Creek, Pea Ridge, Neoska, Netonia, Prairie Grove, Vicksburg, and Blakely (Alabama).

After the civil war, John Michie returned to Chicago where he worked in a bakery for eleven years. On November 26, 1868, he married Mary Susan Curtis. September 1877, John and Mary Susan homesteaded near Beaver Creek (Ravenna) in Nebraska. They had twelve children with seven surviving to adulthood (Margaret Michie Curran “Maggie” 1871-1950; John Charles Michie Jr 1873-1936; George Curtis Michie 1881-1930; Katharine McGregor Michie Hochreiter 1883-1968; David Francis “Dave” Michie 1886-1946; James Michie 1889-1958; Veronica Michie Cleveland “Ve” 1890-1984; and Joseph Esam “Ese” Michie 1892-1976).

John and Mary Susan Michie farmed near Beaver Creek, Nebraska. After a while, they sold their farm and moved into the town of Ravenna. John served his community well as justice of the peace, town clerk, school director, and as a Sherman County schoolteacher. Their children Margaret “Maggie” Michie Curran and Katharine McGregor Michie Hochreiter continued to live in Nebraska. Their son John Charles Michie Jr moved to Chicago, Illinois to work in the bakery business. Their daughter Veronica “Ve” eventually moved to California with her husband Grover “Pete” Cleveland. Three of their sons (James, Ese, and George) moved to Merigold, Bolivar County, Mississippi to work for their Bremner – Michie cousins in a cotton plantation business set up by Illinois Infantry 19th’s Captain David Francis Bremner — who married John’s sister Katharine Michie. David Francis Michie joined the Burlington Railroad and worked out of Alliance, Nebraska before transferring to Rawlins, Wyoming and eventually working for the Union Pacific Railroad, dying in 1946 in a train wreck in Sweetwater County, Wyoming near Rock Springs.

John was an active member in the G.A.R. Grand Army of the Republic after the civil war. He was said to have enjoyed talking about the days of the civil war with other veterans. When he went to Lincoln, Nebraska he would inquire as to where the civil war veterans would be so that he could visit. In his later years, the joke would be that he would be told that the veterans were all at Wyuka where upon he would ask where Wyuka was so that he could go there to visit. Wyuka, of course, was a cemetery in Lincoln, Nebraska.

 Contributed May 2000 by Tawnya Michie Kumarakulasingam [Passed down from John Charles Michie to David Francis Michie to John Richard Michie to William David Michie to Tawnya Marie Michie Kumarakulasingam.]

HARBISON, Leslie Craig

Mr. Harbison, president of Household Finance Corporation, was born in Batavia, Iowa, December 14, 1878. Son of Samuel Morrison and Cordelia (Quig) Harbison. He received his education in the public schools of Philadelphia and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. His first position was that of an outside representative of Frank J. Mackey, Philadelphia, in 1897. Later he was transferred to their Cleveland (Ohio) office, where he remained from 1900 to 1905; as manager of the Washinton (D.C.) office from 1905 to 1908; and was in the middle-western branch offices in Chicago from 1908 to 1917. In 1918 the organization upon which Household Finance Corporation was subsequently built came into being and in 1925 it assumed its present corporate form. In that year Mr. Harbison was appointed president, and under his leadership Household Finance Corporation has become the largest organization of its kind in America, with 148 branch offices in ninety-one cities of twelve states.

Mr. Harbison is a member of the Illinois Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. His clubs are Chicago Athletic Association, Medinah Athletic, Bob o’Link, and Westmoreland Country. His favorite recreations are golf, hunting, and fishing.

He married Maude E. Bower, of Boston, Massachusetts, December 31, 1900. Their children are Gladys Irene (Mrs. John H. Lawson), David Samuel, Leslie Craig, Dorothy Maude, and Elizabeth Helene.

The hectic events and crises in these difficult years had gradually taken their toll of Leslie Harbison. He gave the appearance of being a robust and relaxed man, but actually he was not. He approached every problem with great intensity and he insisted on being kept informed of the most minute details, despite the growing multiplicity of company activities. He worked hard at everything he did, often staying long past the usual closing hours and always taking home a full portfolio. On the afternoon of December 22, 1933, he visited briefly in several offices in Chicago, then went back to his own office. He never emerged. The next morning his secretary, Mildred G. Seymour, found him on his couch. He had died of a heart attack while preparing to leave, for he was wearing his overcoat and on the desk nearby were his hat, gloves, and the inevitable portfolio. In its obituary, Personal Finance News called him “the father of the personal finance business” and offered apt assessment: “It was Mr. Harbison’s constant opinion that the personal finance business had much wider opportunities for service than had been realized. He devoted much time and unlimited energy to securing enactment of the small loan law in Illinois, notwithstanding the opposition of many of the leading small loan operators at the time. The position which he took then has now come to be accepted by the entire business, a fact which stands in tribute to his foresight.”

 Contributed May 2000 by Cristy Thompson [Leslie Craig Harbison’s daughter Dorothy Harbison married Mr. William H. Hall 08 Oct 1938.]

Source: Lending is Our Business

BURNS, Bridget Ann

Bridget was born 08 Jun 1890 in Banbridge, County Down, Northern Ireland. There the family had a farm so she had a lot of hard work. There were ten children in the family and over the years they all left except Bridget and her sister Teresa. The father took sick a couple of years before he died in 1919 and the two sisters took care of him. She never married. After his death, Bridget went to Glasgow, Scotland and opened a fruit store which she said was very successful. After a few years, she left Scotland and came to Chicago and lived with her brother and wife. She eventually got a job and her own apartment in Chicago.

She lived in Chicago for about thirty years before passing away 28 Feb 1959 at age 68 years. Bridet Burns was buried at Mount Carmel Cemetery, 1400 S. Wolf Road, Hillside, IL 60162. Grave site: Grave #4, Lot North 8, Block 11, Section 25, with flat marker. The sad part about her death was that she died and no family members knew it until after the burial. There was no family in Chicago any more. One of the sisters at the hospital found where her brother lived in Arizona and told him. She also said the only visitors she had while laid out was a couple of the sisters from the hospital.

 Contributed 17 Jul 1999 by Ed Burns