September 30, 2013
September 30, 2013
Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
By Barbara SchockAugust Sandburg believed owning property would help secure his family from want. He purchased the cottage on East Third Street before his marriage. It was sold in 1879 and the Sandburgs, with children Mary and Carl, moved to a rented house on East South Street. The reasons for moving to the house are unknown. It was no larger than the Third Street house and it was located farther away from work.
On April 6, 1882, August purchased a large abode on East Berrien Street. It accommodated his growing family and portions of it were rented to others. The rental income helped to meet the mortgage payments.
In 1883, August purchased his former residence on South Street from Mr. and Mrs. A.S. Hoover. He made improvements to the property and assumed it would be a good investment. He had received a quit claim deed for the property. Unfortunately, Sandburg didin’t understand that kind of deed failed to assure a clear title to the real estate.
Twenty years before another family had purchased the property and William C. Grant held a mortgage on it. He had never received nor asked for payment of principal and interest. His death in 1889 set in motion the settlement of his estate. Attorneys for his widow informed August Sandburg that he had to pay the mortgage as well as the accumulated interest which amounted to $807.24 (more than $20,000 in today’s money).
Sandburg took time off from work, put on his best suit and went to see Forrest F. Cooke and George W. Thompson, attorneys at law. They told the judge that Sandburg had spent more than $1100 improving the property and that Mr. Grant had never attempted to collect on his loan. The judge ruled that August Sandburg must pay the full amount to the estate of William C. Grant.
This overwhelming financial obligation had a devastating and long-lasting effect on the Sandburg family. August became morose and worked even harder to assure the welfare of his family. He also lost his sense of trust.
Carl Sandburg was only eleven years old, but he got a job cleaning a real estate office early in the morning. After school he delivered newspapers. Those several hours of work yielded only $1.25 a week. The worse effect was on Carl’s grades.
The family came to understand that they could send only one child on to high school. Mary was a bright student and probably could get a teaching job after she graduated. Her earnings would be very helpful to the household.
Over the next few years more children were born to the Sandburgs; labor agitation for better hours and wages and the Panic of 1893 when 74 railroads went bankrupt, all contributed to the hard times suffered by the family. The experience also ended the boyhood of Carl Sandburg. He would have to get his basic education by reading books rather than attending school.