When former Lake County coroner Barbara Richardson received an Outstanding Achievement Award in Community Service from the YWCA of Lake County, she reflected on her formative experiences as a Girl Scout.
“I only wish I could somehow let my mentor, Catherine Trowbridge, know about this," Richardson said. "She was my Girl Scout leader, neighborhood chairman, and pushed, pulled, and tugged me into the same roles when I was a very young woman.”
Celebrating the history of Girl Scouts, the “Cookies, Camping and Community: The Girl Scout Story” exhibit at the , tells the centennial story of Girl Scouting and is dedicated to Catherine C. Trowbridge.
Catherine (Crane) Trowbridge was born in Massachusetts in 1907. As a young adult she came to Lake Forest, Illinois to teach elementary school. At a luncheon she was inrtroduced to Cornelius Trowbridge. They were married in 1933 in an apple archard in Connecticut. The family relates that their father afterwards would say that he would have said “Oh, no” rather than “I do,” if an apple had dropped on his head.
After living over a garage in Lake Forest a short time, the couple moved to Lake Villa, where he worked for Allendate School for Boys. Their home in Lake Villa had no running water, thus an outhouse. Upon the birth of their first child, the couple moved to a house on Westerfield Place in Grayslake. Next they moved to the DeGraff farmhouse, now on Carol Lane off of Lake Street. The house was adjacent to the farm which became Grayslake’s Central Park.
The children in later years recalled the farm animals getting loose and skating on ponds in the farm fields. Catherine became a Girl Scout leader when Barbara Erickson Richardson and other girls asked her to lead a troop of Girl Scouts. The first Girl Scout troop in Grayslake began in 1939.
After starting the local troop, Catherine went on to help with the Scouting movement in Round Lake, Mundelein, Lake Villa and other Lake County commnities. She was a founder of the Girl Scout Council in Lake County. In the mid-1950s, the Trowbridge family moved to Massachusetts where Catherine became the President of the Cape Cod Girl Scout Council and later the Plymouth Bay Girl Scout Council. During her career, she was a volunteer trainer of not only Girl Scout leaders but a trainer of Girl Scout leader trainers as well. Catherine retired from her active Scout life in 1971.
While Catherine was busy with Scouting and her family, husband Cornelius continued working with boys. He worked with the Boys Court in Chicago and served as a probaton officer in Lake County. He died in Massachusetts in 1972. Catherine’s talents went beyond her organization skills. She was a talented water color artist who also liked to write. She died in Arizona in 1991.
The Trowbridge family of four children recently recalled that their mother was often in uniform. She was constantly busy with badges, meetings, parades, campouts, swimming lessons, and Scout camps.
When their son was asked about his memories, he laughed and said, “I was always scouting girls.”
In a letter to the Grayslake Historical Society, the oldest daughter wrote, ”She often wished she had become a professional. In our eyes, she had.”
Three of the four children of Cornelius and Catherine C. Trowbridge are life members of the Grayslake Historical Society. The Society invites all to the Grayslake Heritage Center and Museum to view the legacy of Catherine C. Trowbridge in the exhibit, “Cookies, Camping and Commuity: The Girl Scout Story.”
The Museum is open noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and during downtown community events. The archives are open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday. Speical tours can be arranged by calling 847-543-1745 or 847-223-7663.
- Contributed by the Grayslake Historical Society.