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John Russell
House

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

by
John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Rennels
Cabin

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.


[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house (although the accompanying text calls it three stories), with a gabled roof pitched at about 45° and two chimneys. The front door is protected by a porch extending almost the full length of the house, supported by four wood columns. It is the Rainey House in Carrollton, Illinois.]

Lyle D. Stone

Henry T. Rainey House, Carrollton, Built 1850's.

p44 "Walnut Hall"

Thayer's Note: The current (2008) owners of the house have asked me to state here that it is private property, not set up as a museum, and no visitors are allowed.

Any survey of outstanding old Illinois houses would be incomplete if it did not include the home of the late Henry T. Rainey, who for almost a quarter of a century was in the national spotlight as a congressman from Illinois and who, in his later years, served as speaker of the national House of Representatives.

The old Rainey mansion, known as "Walnut Hall," is one of the two principal sights of Carrollton. The other is a heroic-size statue of Speaker Rainey himself, which stands in a landscaped park at the northern approach to Carrollton.

"The spreading, three‑story brick house with imposing columns and solid black walnut woodwork throughout," says Illinois: A Descriptive and Historical Guide, "marks the entrance to a 485‑acre model farm. Mr. Rainey was an enthusiastic farmer; during the years he practiced law in Carrollton and later as time would permit, he took an active part in the management of the farm."

We are told that "many pieces of historic or artistic value adorn the estate. Cannon and statuary of early days are about the lawn; the house is a museum of ancient firearms, swords, engravings, rare editions of books, and early American furniture. A Seth Thomas clock, once the property of Thomas Jefferson, is one item in the collection. North of the house a campground borders an artificial lake."

An event which will be long remembered in Greene County occurred in this house in 1934. This was when President Franklin D. Roosevelt came from Washington to attend the funeral services of his late friend. The nation's Chief Executive sat in the parlor of Walnut Hall, near the coffin that bore the mortal remains of Speaker Rainey, and around him, as well as on the grounds of the estate outside, was the largest collection of nationally known personages ever seen in the county. Besides, thousands of farmers and townspeople were present that day.

It was fitting that "Henry T.," as he was affectionately known, should occupy one of the old residential landmarks of Greene County. For he was a true "native son" of the region. His grandfather, William C. Rainey, a native of South Carolina who had moved westward to Kentucky, came to Greene County in 1832. He settled on a farm near Carrollton and for forty years served as justice of the peace in the pioneer prairie community.

One of his sons, John, was reared on the farm and in his mature years became a prominent real-estate man of Carrollton. John married p45a daughter of Samuel Thomas, one of the first settlers of Greene County. They had three children and one of these was Henry T. Rainey, who was to bring honor and fame to the family. He was born at Carrollton on August 20, 1860.

After receiving a high school education in Carrollton, young Henry attended Knox College at Galesburg, and finished his studies at Amherst College. He then took up law in Chicago and, upon being admitted to practice in 1885, returned to Carrollton to begin his public career. After holding several local offices he was elected to Congress in 1902 and served in that body, except for one term, until his death in 1934. With his impressive physique and thick crop of white hair, Speaker Rainey was one of the familiar figures of Washington life during the early days of the New Deal, a regime which he fervently championed.

Although he was in Washington a major portion of his time, Congressman Rainey managed to spend a few months each year in his country home at Carrollton. Here he and Mrs. Rainey maintained their farm and looked after their herds of Holstein-Friesian cattle and their Hampshire hogs. And in the many rooms of their residence the Raineys lived among souvenirs, relics, and antiques collected abroad during their Washington years.


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Page updated: 30 Mar 08