Legacy of Early Philanthropist Jane Strang McAlister Lives On
Byline: Diana Dretske
One of Lake County's earliest and most generous philanthropists was a retired sheep farmer and Scottish immigrant, Jane Strang McAlister (1817-1903).
McAlister was born in Perthshire, Scotland and immigrated with her parents and siblings to Canada in 1834. Several years later she married John McAlister, also of Scotland, and followed her parents to Millburn, Lake County in 1842.
Millburn was a place of heavy Scottish settlement and Jane's relatives, the Strang's, had already settled there and were becoming prominent citizens. McAlister and her husband arrived in Millburn with a team of oxen and $25. They purchased more than 100 acres northeast of the village, and called their homestead and sheep farm Irving Farm. For the next 40 years, McAlister sheared sheep, carded wool, spun it into yarn and knitted stockings and other garments. She also worked in the fields, and since they had no children, the McAlisters often hired boys from the orphanage to assist with the farm work.
In 1882, McAlister and her husband retired from farming and moved to a house on Clayton Street in Waukegan. It was often the custom of farmers to move to the "city" in their later years. In 1888, her husband died and McAlister sold their Millburn farm to her nephew.
McAlister became a devoted member of the First Presbyterian Church in Waukegan. …