Ralph G. Martin, in his biography Cissy: The Extraordinary Life of Eleanor Medill Patterson (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1979), covers his subject's Lake Forest interlude -- from about 1909 to 1913 -- in some detail. For the years of Cissy's marriage to the dashing Count Gizycki Martin appears to have drawn on Cissy's own fictionalized account in her 1920s novel, Fall Flight (cataloged under "Gizycka"). This still is a thrilling account or version of this then-innocent midwestern young woman's experience. She begins by falling in love ("I thought of him every hour of every day... and all night too," Martin quotes Cissy saying on p. 69) while in imperial St. Petersburg and Vienna, where Cissy's aunt and uncle McCormick were serving in the diplomatic corps. Then follows her stormy courtship and marriage in 1904 against family wishes, and finally her ultimate disillusionment at the raggedy ancestral "seat" of the Gizyckas on the steppes half-way between Warsaw and Kiev. The eventual divorce documents, in the Joseph Medill Patterson papers in the Lake Forest College library's special collections, corroborate Fall Flight's tale of physical abuse and ultimate escape. As the Count sought unsuccessfully the funds he thought he was due from the marriage to the "Porkopolis" heiress to recoup his estate's fortunes, little Felicia became a pawn in an international chess game reported breathlessly in the world press. Cissy's brother, Joe (whose estate was on the north side of route 60 just east and west of Milwaukee Road) "called the Count 'a blackmailer, baby snatcher, a drunk and an adulterer'" for which the Count sued him for $1 million in damages. Only an appeal by President William Howard Taft to the Czar finally got Felicia released to her mother. Says Martin "The
scandal made Cissy a celebrity."
So in 1909 Cissy and little Felicia arrived in Lake Forest, settling down in what hardly would have been a low-profile location: regally looking eastward toward the Onwentsia Club and in sight of everybody moving across the fashionable golf links. Indeed, the house at 90 North Ahwahnee Road is pictured from a postcard of the day in the plates following p. 128 in Martin's biography: "Residence of Countess Gizycka, Lake Forest, Illinois."* Felicia's social life is chronicled in a scrapbook of the late Bertha Browne's in the College library's special collections: parties she attended with little girls were written up in the Society pages. She was shadowed by a detective, which girlfriend Jane (Warner, Mrs. Edison) Dick recalled later. With the detective nearby little Felicia played with Elinor and Alicia, uncle Joe's daughters, in the cornfields around the site where Hawthorne Center spreads itself today. As Martin quotes Mrs. Dick, "I always thought how fabulous it was to
have [the detective] around. It made everything fascinating and scary" (p. 130).
In 1985 a very gracious Felicia Magruder visited Lake Forest again when the Patterson Papers
first were made available to researchers. She visited the home of this writer and his family, bringing with her echoes of imperial Russia, of turn-of-the-century Vienna,
and of Lake Forest's golden age. Felicia had married columnist Drew Pearson and others too, but in 1985 she seemed nostalgic and at peace in a world far different
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