jr. Le Baron and Company Wm..

The past and present of Kane County, Illinois : containing a history of the county ... a directory ... war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion ... statistics ... history of the Northwest ... etc., etc online

. (page 25 of 114)
Online Libraryjr. Le Baron and Company Wm.The past and present of Kane County, Illinois : containing a history of the county ... a directory ... war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion ... statistics ... history of the Northwest ... etc., etc → online text (page 25 of 114)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Tax Collector then. The first session of the court was in 1836, and the court
was composed of Thomas H. Thompson, Claudius Townsend and Mark Daniels,
County Commissioners, with Mark W. Fletcher, as Clerk.

The Elgin bar has ever been noted for its legal and forensic ability.
Among its honored names are the first ones who came to the village, while it
was yet a hamlet of but a few houses, and who practiced in the old Thirteenth
Circuit, viz. : E. E. Harvey, who went into the military service at the call for
volunteers in the Mexican war, and gave his life for the country, dying in
Mexico; P. R. Wright, formerly Circuit Clerk, and now a resident of Cali-
fornia; I. G. Wilson, Judge of the old Thirteenth, and afterward the Twenty-
eighth Circuit Court, and now an eminent member of the Chicago bar ; Chas.
H. Morgan, formerly Judge of the Elgin and Aurora Courts of Common Pleas,
and later U. S. Judge in one of the Territories ; Edmund Gifford, also a Judge
in New Orleans ; and last, though not least, Sylvanus Wilcox, who so worthily
occupied the bench of the Twenty-eighth Circuit. Judge Wilcox is the only
one of the above named eminent lawyers who has an abiding place in Elgin.

The Probate Court, as first organized, was a very simple institution, con-
sisting solely of a Probate Justice of the Peace, who was his own Clerk. No-
Sheriff or Bailiff guarded his tribunal or made his presence awe-inspiring by
his cry of "Oyez ! oyez ! " but in the simple guise of a Justice of the Peace,
he settled the estates of the dead, dividing them among the living according to-
law or the will of the decedent.

The first estate administered upon in the county was that of Archibald
Moody, who died July 27, 1836. Letters of administration thereon were
granted .to Lydia C. Moody, his widow, by Mark Daniels, Probate Justice,
June 6, 1837, which was the first recorded act of the court. The Administra-
trix gave bonds in the sum of 2.000, with Gideon Young as security.

The first will probated in the court was that of Warren Tyler, of St. Charles.
It was dated September 10, 1837, and admitted to record on the testimony of
Thomas P. Whipple and Mark Fletcher, November 6, 1837, /this being the


second act of the court, and the first act of Isaac Wilson, Probate Justice.
Diadema Tyler and Thomas P. Whipple were appointed Executors, and gave
bonds in the sum of $6,000, with Reed Ferson and Ephraim Perkins security.
The principal bequest was 360 acres of land, to which decedent held a claim
under the claim laws of the country.

The first letters of guardianship issued were to Moses Shelby, as guardian
of Rebecca Gillespie, on November 5, 1838, with Thomas P. Whipple as secu-
rity in $200 bonds.

The old seal^of the Probate Court was a copper block, with a weeping wil-
low and tomb stone, emblematic, in those days, of the grief for the dead, but in
the present it is more impressive of the cost of the funeral, and the wasting of
the estate in settlement.

The Probate Justices gave way to the County Court in 1849, when Isaac
G. Wilson, a son of the Isaac Wilson who performed the last two official acts
above mentioned, was elected County Judge under the new Constitution, and
James Herrington, County Clerk. These officers were elected in November,
18-19. commissioned in December, and held the first term of the County Court,
for county business, the following January, commencing on the 10th day of the
month, 1850. The court was composed of Isaac G. Wilson, County Judge:
Andrew J. Waldron and Marcus White. Associate Justices, and James Her-
rington, Clerk. The court allowed pauper bills to the amount of $138 ; court
expenses, $165. and miscellaneous bills, $13. The court also granted John D.
\Yygant, of Batavia, and William G. Webster, of Geneva, grocers' licenses for
a year for $25 each. It is needless to say the groceries to be sold were wet gro-
ceries. The bonds of the County Judge, County Collector and Justices and Con-
stables were approved, except some that were informal, which were rejected and
new ones filed. Roads were ordered reviewed and re-located, and an order passed
that no more bills for the laying of roads would be allowed by the court. A.
P. Hubbard and Thomas A. Scott were appointed a committee to examine into
the financial condition of the county, and report its status at the March term
of the court, which they did, and their report ordered printed ; but it is not
recorded nor on file, and whether the county had much or little indebtedness,
we cannot now know.

Gen. Elijah Wilcox, of Elgin ; Dr. D. D. Waite, of St. Charles, and W. B.
Gillett, of Sugar Grove, were appointed a committee to divide the county into
towns, according to the terms of Section 6 of the law of 1849, relating to
township organization. They made a report and divided the county as it now
stands, except as to the division of Geneva and Batavia, which was effected sub-
sequently. They called Rutland, Jackson ; Plato, Homer, and Virgil, Frank-
lin, but they were soon after changed as they are now known, E. R. Starks
giving the name of his native town in Vermont to Jackson, and the town of
Homer being honored with the name of our then worthy citizen and State
Senator. Plato.


Orsemus Wilson, Esq., Poor Master of Batavia, was directed to get Schultz,
a pauper, boarded for less than 1.25 a- week, if he could. Wm. R. Parker,
Justice of the Peace, was told to hold oil and not to issue any capias against
Alvin Hyatt, whom he had found guilty of an assault and battery, and fined
$15. The Court selected a Grand and Petit Jury for the March term of the
Circuit Court, and adjourned. The last term of the court for county business
was held June 3, 1850, and then the Supervisors took the purse strings of the
treasury in hand, and have held them ever since.

The first settlement of the Treasurer of the county was made December 1,
1838,- and the whole amount of funds received by him was $548.54, including
thirty license fees, and fines. His compensation was $10.87. The County
Treasurers, from 1836 to 1841, received as the total amount of revenue of the
county during the time the sum of $3,982.07. The commissions amounted to
47. They couldn't afford to pay much to make their election sure. David
Dunham was Recorder of Deeds from August 1, 1836, to September 1. 1843 ;
but that wns not much of a bonanza, for he used to write up his records in his
store on rainy days, and other times when business was not pressing. The
whole seven years of his official term are comprised in the first three books of
the Recorder's office, and number 997 instruments.

The first tax levied in the county was in the year 1836, and was laid on
personal property only, real estate not being taxable until 1847, five years after
the land sales in 1842. The amount of the levy -\vas about eight hundred dol-
lars, and B. F. Fridley was Sheriff and ex officio County Collector, a?ul John
Griggs was County Assessor. The first tax levied after real .estate became taxable
was in 1847. The assessment o f lands and village lots amounted to $446,185,
and of personal property to $321,320. The taxes levied were for State purposes,
2,839: county purposes, $2,302.54, and for roads, $1,535.01. Total, $6,677.29.

The first instrument recorded in the county was an agreement for a deed be-
tween James Crow and Wallace Hotchkiss, for lands which said Crow claimed
300 acres of prairie and 160 acres of timber. The prairie land was on the
east side of the Fox River, in Batavia, and the timber was in the Big Woods.
The amount of purchase money was $2,000. This instrument was filed for
record January 23, 1837, and recorded in book 1, page 1.

The first village plat recorded was that of Geneva, on May 8, 1837, at 11
o'clock A. M., in Book 1, page 9 ; and St. Charles or as it was then called
and recorded, Charleston filed her plat the same day, at 2 o'clock P. M., and
it follows Geneva in the same book, on page 11. The first deed recorded is one
from Richard J. Hamilton and James Herrington, by Mark W. Fletcher, their
attorney in fact, to Kane County, for a block of ground in Geneva, known as
the public square. This was the original courthouse block, on which the origi-
nal court house was built.

The first mortgage fded for record was f- denJ from James Herrington to
Jacob Miller, both of Geneva, July 5, 1837. It conveys a two-thirds interst


in 110 acres of timber on the east side of the river, in Geneva, and was the
original ciaini of Haight and Bird. Miller gave Harrington an agreement to
re-convey on the payment of 300 in one year, with 1*2 per cent, interest,
quarterly. This was the only way security could be given on real estate, as
the laws of the United States made it unlawful to mortgage the land until
patents were issued for it.

Large tracts of land were entered at the land sale, by parties in trust for
others, and bonds given for deeds in payment of the sums advanced, and such
interest as was agreed upon. Right here comes to mind an incident growing out
of that practice, partially in Elgin, which shows that the confidence game was
practiced in early times as well as later in that city.

In Western New York lived, in 1840-41 and later, a man named William
Mills, familiarly known and called by many of the early settlers in Elgin, as
"Billy" Mills. He was a rioted man amon.sr the people of Elgin, ia those
early days, and was a man of wealth and good report. Some time in the Spring
of 1845 or 1846, a genteelly dressed and self-possessed gentleman came into
the stage house at Tibbals', in Elgin, and represented himself to be a nephew
of "Billy" Mills, of New York. He had come out to loan money and make
investments, and wanted a good room, regardless of expense, and so Tibbals
put the best room of his really good hostelry at his service, and treated him as
the nephew of as prime a favorite as Billy Mills ought to be shown.

The news of the arrival of a nephew of Billy Mills was soon noised abroad,
and the fact that he had lots of money to loan and invest was as soon known.
He was at once the center of attraction. The funnel's who had bought their
land through others, and were paying 18 to 24 per cent, for the accommoda-
tion, immediately began to negotiate with the nephew of his uncle for loans to
pay up the said advances, and at much lower rates of interest. Many, too,
sought for further accommodations, to reloan the money at an advance on the
rate the nephew charged. The days of Spring lengthened into Summer, and
the Summer heats began to strengthen, and still the nephew basked in the sun-
shine of " Uncle " Billy's fame and prestige, without a cloud or passing shower
to disturb his tranquility. He suggested to his host, from time to time, that he
was ready to pay his bill on_presentation *' expected another remittance from
Uncle Billy soon ; had loaned Deacon a little cash to take up the mort-
gage on his farm ; would be all right as soon as another letter came." etc.
Tibbals said it was all right, and continued to feed him in good style and diive
him around the country behind a pair of spanking bays. One day, which he had
set for fulfilling his engagement, the people came with their bonds and mort-
gages drawn up in the most approved ^tyle, tricked out in sealing wax and red
tape, to get the money to consummate the projects of their hearts, and move
into the splendid castles in Spain which many of them had already erected. But
the mails had failed to come in, and the disappointed ones were put oft" till an-
other day. The day came, and with it again came the people and their seen-


rities, and also a letter from Billy Mills himself, to some one whose suspicions
had been aroused and had communicated with Mills in regard to the u nephew,"
stating that the "nephew" was no relative of his, but was imposing on the
good people of Elgin. The people looked foolish, as their castles disappeared,
and especially those who had indulged in such rosy dreams of money loaning.
But Tibbals, when the truth flashed upon him, was furious. If " our army
swore terribly in Flanders," then Tibbals was worthy of a full Brigadier's com-
mission in it. He mounted in hot haste his buck-board, and drove off at a slash-
ing pace to Geneva to get sundry writs of capias, ne exeat and attachment,
whereby he might get indemnity for the outlay he had made for the said
nephew's comfort. The writs were duly issued and served upon the boarder,
with an unknown alias, and in due course of time the trial came on before the
Circuit Court and a jury. John J. Brown, the eloquent advocate in Chicago,
at rhat time Avas retained by the defendant, and interposed a plea of non compos
mentis. He did not try to rebut the evidence that was piled up by the prosecu-
tion, but rather sought to make the testimony stronger bv the cross-examination

* */

The evidence being all in, and the counsel for the plaintiff having closed his
case, the defense took the floor and began one of those impassioned appeals t<>
the jury for which Mr. Brown was so noted. He showed conclusively to the
jury and audience that the defendant, instead of being harassed by grasping
creditors and unfeeling bailiffs, should be tenderly cared for by Christian men
and women ! The Court was convulsed with suppressed laughter, the jury and
audience were in tears, and Tibbals himself rose and, wiping his eyes, stalked
out of the court room, muttering to himself, " I'll be d d if I knew I was such
a wretch as to prosecute such a poor fool as that ! "

Among the first things established in the county for the general good, wan
the Yankee institution the public school. With the yearning for a wider acre-
age and larger gains, was the kindred spirit of knowledge how to attain to and
use the increased facilities when they should be in hand. And so, by the time
the settlers, in 1834, had built their shanties and staked out their claims, they
looked for the school master, and. lo ! . he was in their midst, and from the land
where the pedagogue, male and female, is indigenous Vermont. In the fall of
1834, a Mr. Knowles was enthroned in East Batavia, with the hazel brush as a
scepter, to rule over and teach nine infantile subjects. The throne room was in
a log cabin on Col. Lyon's claim, about one mile east of the river, and was the
first school house built in the county. The school ma'am was but a short way
behind, and her name was Prudence Ward, and her kingdom was in Ira E.
Tvler's.Iog house, in St. Charles, and she beijan her reign in 1835. This vear,

v O < *>

too, a Mr. Livingston taught school in East Geneva. The female pedagogues
multiplied in the land greatly, so much so, that the male of the species, for a
season, became extinct. Miss Charlotte Griggs, in Plato; Mi>s Amanda Cochrane,
in Dundee; Miss Harriet Giffbrd, in Elgin, and Mrs. Sterling, of Geneva, being
the first teachers in their respective localities, all before the close of the year 1837.


The first teachers' institute or normal school held in the county was con-
vened in 1850, at the old court house in Geneva, under the fostering care of
Father Brewster, who was the School Commissioner. Prof. Sweet was
the Director,, and John B. Newcomb, of Elgin ; Achsah Waite, of St. Charles ;
Miss Fox, of Elgin, and Miss Kidder, afterward the wife of D. L. Eastman, of
St. Charles, were chief assistants. The mystery of a minus quantity " one
less than nothing" was lucidly explained by Miss Waite to many whose lives
since then have been striking illustrations of the theorem. The first institute
will never be forgotton by those who participated in it. The Marys and Fannys
and Williams and Johns, how they did parse but never declined the verb
"to love ! " How they rattled on about the uttermost parts of the earth, and
yet thought the sweetest place on earth was just there in the class. How the
problem of two and two make four was solved in a twinkling, when the class in
arithmetic was ordered to the Unitarian Church, and Mary Ann, of Big Rock,
and the little black-eyed Miss W., from Sugar Grove, paired off with the young
schoolmasters of Aurora. A certain cosy farm house in the southwestern part
of the county will tell how two of these former mathematicians solved that other
more difficult problem of life, and demonstrated that three from two raakejEpe/
- Newcomb drilled us all fn phonetics, and Sweet " elocuted " for our benefit, and
we followed in concert until such a howl rose up the Genevans rushed to see
what lunatic asylum had turned its inmates out for a holiday. The school-
ma'ams that were, and those that would, be, came in such numbers they could
not all be accommodated at the residences of the people ; but Father Brews ter
God bless the good old man was equal to the occasion, and so he called for
supplies of bedding and rations, and soon the dancing hall of the Geneva House
then occupied and kept by Mr. Sterling was transformed into a dormitory
and kitchen, and the girls added to their theories the additional accomplishment
of practical living. As we think of the two hundred and more girls, old and
young, then present, we ask, with Holmes,

"Where are the Marys and Anns and Elizas.

Living and lovely of yore?
Look in the columns of old Advertisers
Married and Dead by the score."

Elgin claims the first academy and the first college in the county. The
academy was chartered in 1839, but was not opened until 1855, when the col-
lege was built and transferred to the academy, and the two companies merged in

The first sermon preached in the county was by Rev. N. C. Clarke, in
1834, in the log house of Christopher Payne, the first actual settler in the
county, east of Batavia. Mr. Clarke was one of the early missionaries sent
out into the West to tell the "glad tidings" to the pioneers, and gather them
into church societies and Sunday schools. He was one of God's noblemen, of
u kindly, affectionate manner, truthful and sincere, and one who drew nu-n to


better things by his own gentle and consistent ways quite as much as by his
persuasive exhortations. No breath of suspicion ever attainted him, but he
seemed to stand on the mountain top, in the clear sunlight of truth and moral-
ity, always, from his first entrance into the county, until loving hands bore him
tenderly to the beautiful city of the dead that" overlooks his old homestead, in

His colleagues were Elder J. E. Ambrose and Elder Kimball. These men
traveled on foot or on horseback, among the early settlers around Chicago, stop-
ping where night overtook them, and receiving the hospitalities of the cabin,
without money or without price. Reverently asking the blessing of God upon
all that they did, their lives were .simple and unostentatious, their wants few and
easily satisfied ; their teaching plain and unvarnished, touched with no elo-
quence save that of their dailv living, which was seen and known of all men.

L -^ *f

Though of different religious seers one being a Congregationalist, one a Bap-
tise, and the pther a Methodist yen no discord was ever manifested between
them, but a united effort was made by them to show men the way to better
things by better living, and thus, finally, to reach the best of all, God and
heaven. They were not only physicians for the soul's cure, but they sometimes
ministered to the body's ailments. They married the living, and buried the
dead; they christened the babe, admonished the young and warned the old:
they cheered the despondent, rebuked the wilful and hurled the vengeance of
eternal burnings at the desperately wicked. When other orators were scarce,
they sometimes mounted the rostrum on the Fourth of July, and highfaluted
for the edification of the people, like other patriotic mortals. Wherever they
came they were welcome, and notice was soon sent around to the neighbors and
a meeting was held. For years they could say literally, as did the Master
before them : " The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but
(we) the sons of men have not where to lay our heads."

Father Clarke, in St. Charles, and Elder Ambrose, in Elgin, finally settled
down and were located over respective congregations of their own faith, and
Elder Kimball, the Methodist, in Blooniingdale. Father Clarke has gone to
his rest, sincerely mourned by all who had ever known him.

The first church in the county was organized in Batavia, in 1835. It was
of the Congregationalist faith, and another one of the same faith was organ-
ized in Elgin, in 1836. The first Methodist Episcopal churches were organ-
ized in Aurora and Elgin, in 1837. The Baptists organized a society in 1836,
in St. Charles. The Unitarians organized a society in Geneva, in 1837, and
about that time the Universalists organized one in St. Charles. The first
Roman Catholic gathering was probably in Rutland, though Aurora claims the
first church up as late as 1848, or after. The first Congregational minister in
the county was Father Clarke; the first Baptist. Elder Ambrose; the first
Methodist, Rev. William Kimball: the first Unitarian. A. II. Conant, and the
first Universalists, Andrew Pingree and William Rounseville. The first church


buildings erected exclusively for worship were those of the Congregationalists-
in Batavia and Dundee, in 1840, though the Universalists began theirs in 1838,
but it was not finished until 1843. Aurora built her first church in 1843, for
the Methodists, and Elgin hers, in 1840, for the same society, and Geneva, for
the Unitarians, in 1843. In 1850, there were eighteen church edifices, valued
at $30,000, and capable of seating about five thousand persons. The first
Sunday school in the county was organized in Batavia, in 1835, but the schools-
multiplied rapidly, one being organized wherever children could be gathered in,
even if there were not a half a dozen to begin with.

Bishop Chase, of the Episcopal Church, the founder of Jubilee College, at
"Robin's Nest," near Peoria, held a service under the ritual of that church,
in St. Charles, in 1838, in the school house then standing on the corner near
Dr. Crawford's present residence. It was quite a noted event in those days.
The Bishop was a tall and large man, had white hair and was a very fine look-
ing old man, and in his Episcopal robes of scarlet was an august looking person-
age. The Episcopalians in St. Charles at that time were Dr. Thomas P.
Whipple and R. V. M. Croes, the latter a son of an Episcopal clergyman, of
New York City. The Bishop was entertained by Dr. Wliipple. The Herring-
tons, at Geneva, and Joseph W. Churchill, at Batavia, were also Episcopalians.
Churchill was a bluff, nervous fellow, and much attached to the forms of his
church. One Sunday, as he and his daughter were going to church, he a.4ced
her if she had got her prayer book. She said, "No father, I forgot it,'"
Churchill blurted out : '"Forget your prayer book ! Go f.nd get it ! You might
sis well be in as in an Episcopal church without a prayer book."

There was a time when a great religious awakening swept over the com-
munity, and Father Clarke, assisted by two clergymen from Boston or
thereabouts, had charge of the revival. Naughty rumor had been busy with
the names of the two men from the old Bay State, and it was whispered that
one of them had found it convenient to leave his creditors to get their just
claims paid by suffering fifty per cent, loss on the same ; while of the other it
was said that he, had literally taken to himself a wife, in that he had taken a
wife of some other man, and she was then with him in the (then) village of
Elgin. These rumors Avere subsequently found to have more than a mere sab-
stratum of truth.

While the religious awakening was at its height, Mr. Clarke and the two
assisting ministers called pastorally on the people, and, among others, visited
Mr. P. G. Patterson, and talked with him kindly, admonishing him to try and
reform. Patterson listened patiently and quietly to his visitors, and at length
Mr. Clarke asked him what he thought of what had been said. Patterson, look-
ing up to Mr. Clarke, said, feelingly : " Mr. Clarke, you are a good man and a
kind neighbor, and I thank you for your visit, but, as for the other gentlemen, all
I have to-say is, I pity twenty shitting* to the pound, and live with my own ivife.
The interview closed abruptly, for there was no room fur further argument.



Online Libraryjr. Le Baron and Company Wm.The past and present of Kane County, Illinois : containing a history of the county ... a directory ... war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion ... statistics ... history of the Northwest ... etc., etc → online text (page 25 of 114)