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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

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.
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Carl Sandburg
This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40° and two chimneys; it is partly overgrown with roses or ivy. The front door is arched with a fanlight. It is the Horace Capron House in Hebron, Illinois.]

Horace Capron House, Hebron, Built 1850.

 p173  In the Lakes Country

A man who did much to further the cause of scientific agriculture in this country during pioneer days, and who even introduced progressive farming methods into Japan, was General Horace Capron,​a who established a home in Illinois. The old Capron house on a hill near Hebron, in the vicinity of the much-visited lakes region northwest of Chicago, has become a well-known residential landmark.

Horace Capron, whom one biographical reference work designates as "a public-spirited man of outstanding character, high ideals, great personal courage, and of courtly, distinguished bearing," built his house in 1850. But it was not until 1854 that he occupied the mansion, bringing to it a second wife, who was Margaret Baker of New York. Here the Caprons lived during the 1850's and supervised their large farm, which was almost a thousand acres in extent.

"During 1850 and early 1851 the 'Mansion' was built, the bricks and building materials being hauled from Milwaukee by slow ox team," writes Kenneth K. Schaefer in a centennial history of Hebron, published in 1936. "The Capron house was a marvelous building for its day, and present-day visitors to the 'Mansion' cannot help being impressed with its spacious and multitudinous rooms, high ceilings, large fireplaces, solid mahogany spiral stairway and priceless glass chandeliers."

Horace Capron was born in Attleboro, Massachusetts, on August 31, 1804, the son of a physician who had served with distinction in the Revolutionary War. Another son, Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Seth Capron, was graduated from West Point in 1821 and for a time was stationed at Fort Dearborn, on the site of Chicago. Upon reaching maturity, Horace entered the cotton manufacturing business in Maryland and, following his first marriage, acquired a large farm. At this time he wrote a series of articles for the American Farmer magazine entitled "On the Renovation of Worn-Out Soils." He later became a leader in agricultural societies in Maryland.

During the years he lived in his northern Illinois mansion, Capron enlarged his experiments in progressive farming and helped to educate other farmers to improve their cultivation methods. This work was interrupted, however, by the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. He was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of the 14th Illinois Cavalry, served in many campaigns, and later became a brigadier general. For a time he was adjutant to General Indicates a West Point graduate and gives his Class.Grant.

After the war, General Capron returned to his northern Illinois farm and later went to Washington, having been appointed United States  p174 Commissioner of Agriculture. Then, in 1871, he resigned this post to accept an appointment from the Japanese government to introduce American farming methods into that country. After several years he returned to America and lived in Washington until his death in 1885.

When General Capron was living in his Hebron house after the Civil War, he entertained numerous distinguished persons, including General Grant. For his war services, Capron was awarded land by the government. On this tract the town of Capron grew up.

After General Capron left Hebron for Washington his mansion was occupied by his brothers, Newton and John. When they died, the Hebron house came into the possession of a number of successive owners, including George F. Harding, Sr., Halsey Fink, the Bates family, and George McClure. Here was born Granville Bates, well-known star of the "silent" movie days.​b

More recently the old Capron abode became the country home of Ross D. Siragusa, president of the Admiral Corporation of Chicago. And, in 1945, Mr. Siragusa sold the property to Royce A. Kelley, of Alden, Illinois.

Thayer's Notes:

a For a detailed biography of Gen. Capron, see A Laurel Founder's Life.

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b A character actor most of whose career was after the introduction of sound: see the biographical sketch and filmography at IMDb.

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Page updated: 1 Jun 17