Though residents of Wilmette and the greater North Shore community may recognize the name “Gage” from the “Gage house” at 1134 Elmwood in Wilmette, or “Gage Street” in Hubbard Woods, they may not be as familiar with its significance in Wilmette history. John and Portia Gage, along with their sons, Asahel, Henry, and Augustus Neander, were early investors and developers of Wilmette. After John and Portia purchased 136 acres of land north of Elmwood Avenue in 1857, the Gage family actively worked to establish Wilmette as a place for settlement, as well as a geographical and commercial center for commerce. The family collaborated through frequent written correspondence to transform Wilmette from a rural forest to a suburban hub, connected to its surrounding villages by both railway and road. Though John and Portia never lived in Wilmette, their sons were prominent figures in the early village and raised their families here.
While John and Portia Gage were atypical in several respects, as members of the abolitionist and feminist movements and as prominent Spiritualists, Gage family letters and other documents depict a family that was representative of important patterns of 19th century political life, entrepreneurship, and settlement.
This online exhibit of items drawn from the Gage Collection has been made possible by the generous donation of family documents and photographs by two great-great-grandsons of John and Portia Gage: Stanley R. Gage of Ontario, Canada, and Donald S. Gage of Boulder, Colorado. The Wilmette Historical Museum is deeply grateful to both of them for the many rare items they have contributed to that collection, and for sharing with us the history of their distinguished family. This exhibit is the work of Museum intern Katie Masciopinto, the 2016 winner of the Helen N. Morrow Fellowship.