The Old Settlers in Convention.
A Gala Day Among the Pioneers and their Descendants.
Good Attendance, Good Dinners, Good Speaking, and Good Times.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, August 23, 1883.
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson.
The annual gathering of the first comers of Kendall County occurred on the Fair Grounds last Thursday, and there never was a more enjoyable occasion.
Everything was in good trim, the day was bright and warm, and the clouds of dust met on the road thither were forgotten on the green grass and cool shade of the Fair Grounds.
People began to arrive early, and by eleven o’clock there was more than a thousand people at the picnic, and by one o’clock, between fifteen hundred and two thousand.
Everyone came in the best of humor, and there were no cross faces or sour dispositions. It was a festival of good feelings. The officers of the Association were “Just more than happy,” for there was no lack of convenience for the merry makers.
The Kendall Cornet Band was out in full force in its handsome uniform, and blew sweet music through the many curls and quirks of their horns. The base drummer and the snare drummer struck the best licks for “auld lang syne” and the people of the Fox River valley.
Did you notice the carriages, buggies, and the road carts? Every last man had a tip-top vehicle, and the ladies rode in ease and sat more gracefully than they ever could on the high seat of a lumber wagon in the days of yore.
The reporter is at a loss how to write it up. He cannot find the language to tell the story as it seemed when hand met hand and the wrinkled faces were smoothed out into smiles, and friend met friend the old things had again become new.
Just imagine the very best time you ever had, or ever expect to have, and that is the Old Settlers Picnic of 1883.
The opening exercises took place about half past eleven. President West Walker Matlock was on the stand, just as proud as President Arthur could be, and happy to see his old friends and neighbors gathering around to listen.
The Band played, and many feet kept time to the music.
A quartet, consisting of Messrs. Hobbs, Dearborn, Hill and Skinner sang the grand old song “America.”
Reverend Edward W. Adams led in fervent prayer, and many a heart said Amen!
“Auld Lang Syne” was then sung by the quartet, and Smith Minkler and the President introduced Vice President Litsey, for the welcome address. When Brother Matlock got in this neat witticism on the Squire; “I take pleasure,” said Mr. Matlock, “in introducing to you Mr. John Litsey to make the welcome address; he has been waiting for forty-eight years for this occasion.”
And Mr. Litsey spoke; he made a neat speech, and was listened to, with attention.
Then came dinner, everyone went for the baskets. Great big baskets, great full baskets, baskets piled up so high with good things that the cover would not go down, and you couldn’t tuck them under a buggy seat. Baskets full of palatable things that would make Queen Victoria hungry. They took them out to shady spots, spread the table cloths, laid out the contents, and ate and ate and ate, yet there was enough left to feed a multitude.
After this gustatory event, the ladies gathered up the remnants, and many of the men folks lit cigars and smoke, while the better ones gathered in groups and told stories of when they hauled wheat to Chicago; about the old Saugenash and American hotels, Brush Hill, Widow Berry’s Point, and other old time reminiscences.
Reverend Andrew W. Chapman was introduced to deliver the address. It did not take long for the speaker to get the attention of the chattering throng. As he warmed up to his work, all voices were hushed and he was listened to closely for the half hour he spoke. His theme was our country, its magnificence, its enterprise, its immenseness and a prognostication of its future. America did not suffer at Mr. Chapman’s hands. He is a regular Yankee and he spoke as a true patriot. He dealt also in facts and figures, talked of what religion and morality does for a people as well as a picture of the evils of immorality and irreligion. He is a practical man; he is a radical man; he is Andrew W. Chapman, and no one else.
He was followed by ex-Senator Samuel R. Lewis, of Ottawa, who spoke of the early days; a subject he is familiar with, having lived here boy and man for more than fifty years. Mr. Lewis is a self made man, a plain farmer, but has been and is a power in La Salle County politics. His son, E. C. Lewis is one of the Board of Railroad and Warehouse Commissioners of Illinois. From five years’ intimate acquaintance with Samuel R. Lewis, we know him to be a man Illinois is proud of. As age creeps upon him, he can reflect on a well-spent life.
Music by the Band.
Dr. Simeon Parmley Ives, of Oswego, who is one of the early comers, spoke next, after which that part of the program was closed.
Officers for the coming year were elected as follows:
President, Smith G. Minkler.
Vice-President, West W. Matlock.
Secretary and Treasure, Edmund S. Seely.
It was also voted to hold a similar picnic next August; the day to be fixed by the officers.
Then there was more music by the Brass and Martial Bands. It was in the latter, which Major Snell, of Jericho, and Smith G. Minkler renewed old times and supplied the muscles of their arms, to make the drumsticks fly.
Formalities were over, and visiting was at its full flood for two hours more.
Notes of the Day.
The Honorable John S. Armstrong and wife, of Sheridan, and the Honorable Perry Armstrong, of Morris, greeted many old friends.
There was only one accident on the grounds, and that came nearly being serious. A horse and carriage was near the bandstand among the people on the seats and there were two or three people in the carriage. The horse seemed to be coltish, became restive, and backed the carriage up to the seats on some ladies and children, creating great excitement for the moment. The animal was promptly caught by the head and restrained. However, not until Mrs. Harley Barnes, of Bristol, had been severely bruised in the arm, and had fainted away. A little daughter of Mrs. Aaron Boomer’s had been cut near the eye. It was an unfortunate occurrence.
The only representative from Aurora was the Honorable Lorenzo D. Brady. The other friends from up the river had gone to attend A. M. Herrington’s funeral.
Among those present was Reverend Wesley Batcheller, a pioneer Methodist preacher, who had ridden in the early days over 3000 miles, using the same horse and saddlebags, preaching the Master and His cause to the scattering congregations of Northern Illinois. The aged man was looked upon with reverence by our people as one who had done much. He now lives on a farm in the town of Freedom, La Salle County.
Sim Brown took in the Morris picnic on the 15th, Mrs. Brown did not go, but she came to the Old Settlers’ picnic in Yorkville.
The Honorable M. B. Castle, of Sandwich, takes in all the good things and of course joined our old settlers.
Mr. Charles Z. Convis, of Lisbon, is getting ready to move to Hardin County, Iowa. He has been a resident of Kendall County for forty years, and now leaves for a new home. One less old settler, but he must come to next year’s gathering.
Dr. Julius A. Freeman and family of Millington were present. The Doctor’s carriage attracted some attention by the way the horses were hitched. The buggy pole is short, reaching only to the shoulders of the horses, and the neck-yoke is fixed to the end of the pole and harness, just aft of the horses’ front legs. It is a peculiar manner, but the Doctor says it works well.
Among other visitors from abroad were lawyer Hiram Ryon and wife Anne “Elizabeth” (Hiddleson) Ryon of Streator. Mrs. Ryon is the daughter of Uncle William “Billy” Hiddleson. Postmaster Ryon of Streator was also present. These gentlemen were former residents of Little Rock Township, but have not lived here for some years. They met many old acquaintances. Of course Uncle Billy was present as he is an old settler we are all proud of. He has given the country a family of boys and girls the father and mother should be proud of.
Mr. and John C. Taylor and Father Wright of Sandwich, met many old friends. They still remember with pleasure the days when they lived in little Kendall.
There were quite a number of young men on the grounds in baseball uniforms and they enjoyed themselves playing ball, doing some very pretty work, even though the grounds were not very satisfactory. They were from Lisbon and Oswego, with some Yorkville help.
The following letter is from a former resident of Lisbon, and will be read with interest.
Cobden, Illinois, August 14, 1883.
S. G. Minkler, Esquire
I sincerely regret my inability to be present at the Kendall County “Old Settlers’ Picnic.” I have hoped to enjoy the privilege of meeting the few old settlers now living, who with me endured the hardness during those long years of hard times from 1837 to 1845, when wheat, the only marketable commodity, had to be wagoned to Chicago, and sold sometimes for less than it cost to have it handled.
Probably the 30 years since I left Lisbon have wrought many changes in the population, and I should find myself a veritable Rip Van Winkle among you, recognizing but few of my old friends and being recognized by less. I have very distinct recollections of the early settlement of what is now Kendall County, as, with my father and family, we located on that wide expanse of prairie between Holderman’s Grove and the Aux Sable timber. I did not then think it would ever be occupied and improved in my day. Now I am told the prediction of Irus H. Collins, Esquire, is fulfilled, when he said in 1836, men now living will see every quarter section from the Du Page to the Fox and Illinois Rivers, occupied by industrious and intelligent people, enjoying all the comforts that wealth can bring. Something of the same feeling used to inspire my imagination when passing near Long Grove where from a high plateau I could see a large part of Kendall County from the south and east, and beyond the Fox River on the west and north, with the charming and beautiful valley of the Fox River between, rivaling any conception I had formed of the Vale of Cashmere as describe in song and story. The silence of that day has been changed, and now the busy hum of industry with all the modern improvements, is heard on every hand. You might interest some of the young men who now ride their sulky plows, planters, cultivators, harvesters and all those implements by which farming is made easy, be describing the plows made by Fletcher Misner before the Diamond plow was invented and similarly all the utensils for farming in those days by which farming was not made easy. Just as they had their uses, and have been laid aside for a better system, so it is with those of us who were the early workers and pioneers, we are being laid aside, and others fill our places. Whether the parallel holds well in the development of a higher and purer civilization by the coming generation I cannot say, I have my doubts. I could not hope to see in your gathering today but a few of those whom I knew in my young manhood. Many I know have gone beyond the river, and how many still remain is a question.
Hoping your gathering will be large and that you will have a good time. That you all may be benefited and cheered on to act your part well and that at last you may “wrap the drapery of your couch about you and lie down to pleasant dreams.” Signed C. E. Wright (Chester E. Wright, son of Thomas Gilbert and Hannah E. (Tracy) Gilbert.
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