Robert Hall Tinker was born to the Rev. Reuben and Mary Throop Wood Tinker on December 31, 1836 in the Sandwich Islands (modern day Hawaii). The family settled in Westfield, New York, when Robert was 13. At the age of 15, Robert left school and began working as a bank clerk. In 1856, William Knowlton was visiting his brother in Westfield, New York, met Robert Tinker, and was impressed with him. Arriving back in Rockford, Knowlton decided to write Robert and offer him a position as clerk in the Manny Reaper Co., where he was business manager for the wealthy widow, Mrs. John H. Manny. Robert accepted the offer and arrived in Rockford on August 12th, 1856. Knowlton and Mrs. Manny were out of the city when he arrived, so he was given a room on the second story of a small dwelling standing opposite the St. Paul freight house. When Knowlton returned he gave Robert a position as a clerk, which he held before going to work as a bookkeeper for the Emerson-Talcott Company. Later, the eastern young man, who even then was familiarly known as Bob Tinker, returned to his first employer. Knowlton and Tinker formed a partnership to sell Manny Reapers. Tinker was later placed n charge of the Manny factory.
In 1862, Robert spent 9 months traveling extensively throughout Europe. As soon as his trip was over, he began to purchase land near Mrs. Manny’s mansion and started building his cottage. On April 24, 1870, Robert Tinker and Mary Manny married and began living in his cottage in the winter and in her mansion on the north side of Kent Creek in the summer.
When he was 39 years old he served as Mayor of Rockford from 1975-76. Robert was instrumental in helping Rockford to acquire a Public Library and an Opera House and was prominently identified with Rockford’s business and industrial growth for 68 years.
He became President of the Rockford Oatmeal Co., Rockford Steel and Bolt Co., and of C&R and Northern R.R. until it was absorbed by the C.B.&Q line. He was head of the Water Power for many years until he resigned in 1915. Robert also served on the Rockford Park Board until he retired on February 16th, 1924.
In 1901, Mary, Robert’s wife of 31 years, passed away. He then married her niece, Jessie Dorr Hurd, in 1904. It is thought of as a marriage of convenience. In 1908, Robert became a father, at the age of 71, when Jessie adopted a son, Theodore Tinker. Robert died in the Cottage on December 31, 1924, his eighty-eighth birthday.
Mary Dorr Manny Tinker
Mary was born August 29, 1829 in Hoosick Falls, New York, the youngest of three. She was reared in her grandparents’ stately mansion and received her education at the Academy in her native city. She became interested in the manufacturing of farm implements, and it was this lively interest in and attention to her family’s occupations, public and private, that attracted her future husband’s regard to her. She maintained this interest in business through her life, and the great force of her character was intensified highly by just the culture and training she received in her early youth.
In 1852, she was married in her grandparents’ mansion to the young Reaper inventor, John H. Manny. They came to Rockford in 1853 and made their home in a small, white frame house on South Main Street. In January of 1856, John H. Manny died of tuberculosis and left Mary a widow at the age of 28. Mary was a businesswoman, staying involved with the Manny Reaper Company after John Manny’s death. She owned several parcels of land in Rockford, including the Holland House located on the north side of the creek. By 1857, Robert Tinker became her personal secretary, and on April 24, 1870 they were wed. Mary died September 4, 1901 at the age of 72.
Mary was a member of the Second Congregational Church and Women’s Missionary Society, Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Rockford’s Seminary Visiting Committee, and was a founding member of the Ladies Union Aid Society that has evolved into today’s Family Counseling Services of Northern Illinois.
Jessie Dorr Hurd Tinker
Jessie was born in Hoosick Falls in 1859, the fifth child. As a toddler, the family moved to Rockford. Jessie’s mother, Angeline, died in childbirth in 1863. As a result, Jessie and her sister Marcia spent most of their youth with their aunts Mary and Hannah. The sisters permanently moved into the Cottage in 1873 while they attended the Rockford Female Seminary School. It is uncertain if Jessie graduated, but it is understood that Mary Tinker did not believe in a liberal education for girls and informed their teachers of courses which were not appropriate for girls to study.
At the age of 35, Jessie married Gye J. C. Hurd, a dressmaker and artist from Chicago. The married lasted from 1894 until 1897, when Gye passed away from a softening of the brain (a series of small strokes in the brain). Jessie moved back to the Cottage to be with her family. There is a theory that Jessie had a miscarriage during their short marriage.
After her Aunt Mary passed away in 1901 and her sister, Marcia, passed in 1904, Robert and Jessie became the only family members left in the Cottage. They were married in a quiet ceremony in the house on March 14, 1904, six weeks after Marcia’s death. In the Victorian Era, an unmarried man and an unmarried woman, with no blood ties, could not live together, which lead to the marriage of convenience between Robert and Jessie. In 1908, Jessie adopted her son Theodore from an orphanage in Normal, Illinois.
Jessie inherited the cottage in 1924 but did not have a great source of income and proposed a partnership with the Rockford Park District. In 1938, Jessie finalized the trust that left the Cottage and grounds to the Park District and contents to three Trustees. She remained in the Cottage until her death in 1942, from a stroke at the age of 83.
She was a member of the Second Congregational church, a member of the Temperance Society, and a proponent of Women’s Suffrage. She served on the Board of Directors for the McFarlane Children’s Home in Rockford and hosted fundraisers on the Tinker Grounds. Jessie is best known for her irises and often won “premium” in flower shows.
Marcia was born in Hoosick Falls, New York in 1856, the fourth of five children. The family moved to Rockford in the early 1860s’ when Marcia was a toddler. Her mother, Angeline, died during childbirth in 1863. As a result, Marcia and her sister Jessie spent much of their youth with their aunts Mary and Hannah. At the age of 17, Marcia and Jessie permanently moved into the Cottage with their aunts and uncle. It may have been due to their father marrying a 19 year-old-girl.
While living with her aunts, Marcia attended Rockford Female Seminary School and graduated. At college, Marcia was good friends with Jane Addams and was asked by her to be the manager of the Holland House Restaurant, which she refused.
Marcia had an active social life and was involved in many parts of the Rockford community. She was involved with the Second Congregational Church, teaching Sunday school to children and a member of the Decoration Committee. She was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), the Ladies Union Aid Society (helped families who needed food and heating fuel) where she worked as an editor of an edition of the Rockford Morning Star, and ran the Trolley on Trolley Day, where a percentage of the fares collected went to the Women’s Aid Society. Marcia became a leader of the Young People’s Society, a Christian youth society to encourage “youth fellowship.” She was also Robert’s bookkeeper and accountant.
In 1903, Marcia began to have chest complaints and died from breast cancer in 1904, at the age of 48.
Theodore (Ted) Tinker
Ted Tinker was born in Freeport, Illinois. His biological mother was the daughter of a Reverend, and his biological father was a racecar driver. After his father perished in a car accident, his mother gave him up for adoption in the local Freeport orphanage. A fire in the orphanage sent to the children to Normal, Illinois, where he was adopted from the Baby Fold by Jessie when he was 10 weeks old. Theodore helped with chores at the Cottage and attended Kent School. Jessie and Robert’s failed attempt to get Teddy into Keith Day School resulted in Teddy being accepted into a military academy in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, at the age of 15. He excelled in art and sheet metal work at the military academy.
At the age of 18, Teddy married his first wife, Gertrude, and had a baby named Rosemary. He lived with a cousin in Loves Park, where he worked for a contractor. The small family lived for a few years in Des Moines, Iowa, before moving to Milwaukee in the 1930s. Teddy and Gertrude divorced in 1945, and Gertrude and Rosemary moved to Arizona. Gertrude was killed on a strip of highway after a truck ran into her. Rosemary was also killed in a car accident on the same highway as her mother, one year later. After his divorce from Gertrude, Ted married Lois Jensen and had a daughter with her. He spent most of his life in Wisconsin, where he worked for a trucking company and the railroads. On May 26, 1984, Theodore died in a car accident at the age of 76.