The property now known as The Grove National Historic Landmark was once owned by the Kennicott family. The extended Kennicott family held 868 acres in West Northfield, Illinois (now Glenview, IL).
In 1850, Dr. John A. Kennicott shared his first impressions of The Grove, stating: [w]hen I settled at ‘The Grove,’ some 14 years since, there was along the course of the Milwaukee Road for many miles, some of the finest natural park scenery, principally burr oaks, with low spreading heads that I have ever seen in any country. The exceeding beauty of these scattered trees, gracefully dotting the verge of the prairie, on the west side of the river, where trees are seldom found, and the bold outline of ‘heavy timber’ on its eastern shore, with the lovely chain of blue islands, obscurely visible in the western horizon, rendered the whole landscape most truly delicious, and was the principal inducement to my remaining here.
- In 1836, Dr. John Kennicott, a medical physician, brought his family, including Mary and sons Charles and Robert, here from New Orleans. Eventually there would be seven children — Charlie, Robert, Amasa, Alice, Cora, Bruno and Flint. All lived in a log cabin, which was enlarged as the family grew, before building the Kennicott House in 1856.
- Dr. Kennicott became a prairie doctor. He made calls on a circuit that ranged from 30 to 50 miles a day…taking him as far north as Waukegan and as far west as Elgin.In 1842, Dr. Kennicott began The Grove Nursery… one of the first commercial nurseries in the region and one of the largest in Northern Illinois. Eventually, Dr. Kennicott gave up an active medical practice for horticulture, but he was never without his black doctor’s bag as his old patients still wanted and expected his medical assistance. The nursery still exists and is known as Kennicott Brothers Company.
From 1850 until his death in 1863, Dr. Kennicott labored relentlessly for the establishment of a national system of agricultural and mechanical universities, to be supported by federal grants of land to each state. On July 2, 1862, President Lincoln signed the Morrill Act, also known as the Land Grant Act, into law. This act established the Nation’s system of land-grant universities.
- Son Robert Kennicott was an American naturalist and herpetologist. Often referred to as a “sickly child,” Robert received his education in the forests and prairies rather than in a classroom, studying insects, snakes, fish, amphibians, mammals and anything else that caught his attention. Soon, he was providing specimens for the Smithsonian Institution via assistant secretary Spencer Fullerton Baird. The Western Union Telegraph Expedition commissioned Kennicott as a scientist for their excursion to Alaska in the mid-1860s. Kennicott died on the expedition and was memorialized as the namesake of Alaska’s Kennicott Glacier.