The Old Settlers.
They Gather in Force and Enjoy a Homelike Visit.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, August 8, 1894.
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson.
Thursday, August 2, was a memorable day for about fifteen hundred visitors on the Fair Grounds, in Yorkville. Not withstanding the clouds of dust stirred up by vehicles, the people came from all the towns of the county; from Ottawa, Marseilles, Chicago, Aurora, and Morris to meet with the early settlers of this county and talk of days that have gone and of friends that have passed away. The day was cool, which was a great blessing, but the wind was too fresh at times for a typical picnic day.
There is always some home duty to keep a good many from attending occasions of this kind. This time it was the busy threshing machine, and many regrets were expressed that this one or that one could not be present because of the hum of the steam thresher that calls for ceaseless attention in its attacks upon the heavy sheaves of oats. But there were a good many here, and they were all happy in the various pleasures of the day.
The attendance is generally light in the forenoon, and only about three hundred were assembled at 11:30 when President Joseph N. Harris called the meeting to order in the Implement Building, and Smith G. Minkler, drummer, and Albert H. Litchfield, fifer, gave the opening number of the program. These “young fellows” make welcome ring with the martial notes.
Reverend Wilbur Fisk invoked the divine blessing on the gathering and prayed for the happiness of the fathers and mothers of the county; for the welfare of the State and Nation and for God’s guidance in all future action.
Secretary William T. Linn read the necrological report, which was as follows:
Little Rock Township.
Mrs. Ann Elizabeth Schneider died June 18, 1894, aged 65 years. She came to this county in 1846.
Archibald Sears died October 28, 1893, aged 92 years. He came to this county in 1836.
Mrs. Marinda Henning died July 9, 1894, aged 70 years. She came in 1840.
John S. Boyd died October 4, 1893, aged 52 years. He was born in Kendall County, May 23, 1842.
Mrs. Rhoda Marsh died November 12, 1893, aged 80 years. She came to Kendall County in 1836.
W. H. Hanson died November 30, 1893, aged 72 years. He came to Bristol in 1845.
Galusha Stebbins died December 21, 1893, aged 81 years. He came to this county in 1835.
Catharine Alden died December 16, 1893, aged 69 years. She came to Kendall County in 1841.
George W. Kellogg died November 6, 1893, aged 82 years. He came to Kendall County in 1835.
Emanuel Cooney died November 9, 1893, aged 58 years. He came to Kendall County in 1839.
James B. Welsh died at his daughter’s in Chicago November 16, 1893, aged 80 years. He came to this county in 1856,
Daniel Jesse Platt died February 7, 1894, aged 84 years. He came to Plattville in 1833.
Esther Platt died February 17, 1894, aged 78 years. She came to Plattville in 1833 with her husband Daniel Jesse.
John Moore died July 28, 1894, aged 84 years. He came to Kendall County in 1836.
Big Grove Township.
Mrs. Simeon Brown died March 1, 1894. She was born in Herkimer County, NY, August 2, 1822. She came to this county in the fall of 1845.
Abraham Brown died June 25, 1893, aged 66 years. He came to Kendall County in 1834.
Edward Wright died December 30, 1893, aged 83 years. He came to Kendall County in 1838.
Elijah Prickett died December 8, 1893, aged 74 years. He came to this county in 1834.
Phebe A. Brown died December 8, 1893, aged 74 years. She came to this county in 1844.
William Parker died September 20, 1893, aged 65 years. He lived in Oswego forty years. He arrived in this county in about 1853.
Mrs. Elizabeth Jessup died July 4, 1893, aged 56 years. She came to Kendall County in 1840.
Mrs. Stephen English died November 22, 1893, age 85 years. She was an early settler.
Charles L. Murdock died November 12, 1893, aged 73 years. He came to Oswego in 1843.
Orville E. Judson died at Sandwich, Illinois November 24, 1893, aged 76 years. He was one of Oswego’s earliest settlers.
Heman H. Smith died July 14, 1893, aged 82 years. He came to Kendall County in 1846.
Mrs. Polly H. Thurber died October 23, 1893, aged 84 years. She came to this county in 1834.
Andrew Anderson died October 21, 1893, aged 71 years. He came to this county in 1851.
L. F. Smith died December 6, 1893, aged 68 years. He came to Kendall Township in 1849.
John A. Newell died February 1, 1894, aged 75 years. He came to Kendall County in 1834.
Mrs. Electa Sherman died December 31, 1893, aged 78 years. She came to this county in 1836.
Mrs. Michael Lewis died June 24, 1894, aged 90 years.
Andrew Wells Chapman died May 9, 1894, aged 61 years. He came to this county in 1858, and had lived here ever since.
William Bryant died June 8, 1894, aged 54 years. He was born in Kendall County October 6, 1840.
The President called for the welcome remarks and introduced John R. Marshall who made the following brief speech.
Mrs. President, Ladies and Gentlemen:
The modern history of the territory now known as Kendall County began with the settlement in what is called Holderman’s Grove in the southwest corner of Big Grove Township, in 1828, as is stated in Hick’s History of Kendall County.
The number of settlers increased very slowly until 1831-33, when those historical names; Earl Adams, Ebenezer Morgan, George and Clark Hollenback, the Havenhills, William Harris, the Aments, the Minklers, James Smith Cornell, Dr. Calvin Wheeler, and others took a place as pioneers of the Fox River Valley.
After forty-four years knowledge of this county, and over thirty years continuous residence herein, I feel like an early settler myself, and the legends, reminiscences and personality of this locality is pretty well grounded in my mind. It has been my fortune to record the weekly history of this people for nearly a generation. I feel at home in a society composed, as this one is, of a membership which cannot be excelled for true worth anywhere on the broad prairies of Illinois. This is a phenomenal community; a plain every day people; honest in purpose; loyal in feeling, and apt in the absorption of those things which lead to art, culture and clean education. It is fortunate that this is a rural community. We are called by the city papers “bucolic citizens,” and “hay-seeds”, but the country district is the better place for solid comfort. A home in the little county of Kendall and daily contact with its sturdy farmers, mechanics and merchants, is about as pleasant living as poor human nature can expect in this imperfect world. We are pre-eminently a quiet, peaceful, contented people.
My first home in Illinois was in Chicago, where I came as a boy in the spring of 1848. My first introduction to Kendall County was in the summer of 1850, when, a boy of thirteen, I drove out with a horse and carriage and brought out a housekeeper for Captain Stevenson, who lived on a farm in Long Grove, just south of Yorkville. The President of your society, Mr. Joseph Harris, returned to Chicago with me to attend school. George Harris drove us to Naperville and we walked from there to Chicago on the old plank road.
How crude the country was forty-four years ago. How crude it must have looked so far as civilization is concerned, sixty-eight years ago when the first settlers came. When Earl Adams fell in love with the locality that is now called Yorkville, resolving to make his home here, but was overcome by the advantages of Big Grove and tarried in the vicinity of Georgetown. What a scene it must have been when these first comers set eyes on God’s most beautiful masterpiece, the Fox River Valley.
Look about you neighbors. Reflect on what was and what is now. And in so short a time has the miracle been worked. Why, even I remember the virgin prairies of the towns of Seward, Lisbon and NaAuSay when they blossomed and glowed in the summer sun, a carpet of red and yellow far exceeding the most beautiful Axminister or the softest Wilton. The fresh prairie flowers were the most charming floral exhibit on the Creator’s green earth.
If we who have not yet reached three-score years can remember the wonderful beauties of those early days, what must be the memories of those who have passed fourscore and more? Here with us is the venerable Father Lane, who within less than five years will have seen a century of the Nation’s growth. Here is the veteran Minkler, one of the best known men in Illinois, because it was he who made the Minkler apple, and no orchard is complete without a Minkler apple tree.
These men and others came here when a neighbor was worth his weight in gold, because neighbors were about as scarce as gold. These men accounted it not as a hardship to make a friendly visit in those days, and the whole family was cordially greeted and the best there was in the house was set before them, and then for the good old talk. It was a time when to see a kindly face and hear a friendly word was a godsend to the isolated settler. You did not have the daily paper at your doors laden with the world’s news, nor could you go a hundred miles in three days to make a friendly call. It was a day of sacrifice, of self-abnegation; a day of brotherly love and neighborly kindness, when you helped with a dollar or to hold down a land claim.
How time flies! But how well does progress keep up with time? You have often heard your neighbor talk of driving to Chicago with a load of wheat, or other produce of the farm, over sodden roads, through perilous sloughs, and across un-bridged steams. Our honored ex-representative in Congress, Honorable Lewis G. Steward, now living among us and in active business, did a heap of teaming to Chicago in his youthful days. He was one of the first to haul wheat to that market. And that was so long ago. You are not old yet. We are not old yet. True, you are fourscore and more and we are nearing threescore. We have seen generations come and go, yet the blood is hot within us when we remember the early days in Illinois. What have you seen? You have seen the perfection of the railroad, the wonders of electricity in the telegraph, the telephone, the phonograph, the wonders of the World’s fair within two hours ride, you have seen a city grow to a population of a million and a half from a mere hamlet on Skunk River, now dignified by the name Chicago. You have seen the Fox River Valley taken from the possession of the red man and made one of the most productive regions on this continent. Not only is the land cultured, but the people are cultured, and the church and schoolhouse, side by side, stand as monuments to our glorious civilization.
People of Kendall County, old and young, you who came as pioneers, you who came when the wealth of our civilization was upon us, you who are to the manner born, the heartiest welcome the people of Yorkville can offer is yours. May your lives grow in usefulness and happiness. May your families prosper in all things that are good. May the God whom you revere, whom we all acknowledge, who is the Father of us all, be with you this day and forever.
The welcoming speech was followed by a song by the musical favorites, Mr. and Mrs. Marcellus H. Evans of Pavilion, without whom an old settler’s picnic would not be perfect.
The music was followed by the response by the Honorable George M. Hollenback. He can claim distinction as a pioneer of this section having been the first white child born within the borders of the county. He said:
Mrs. President, Ladies and Gentlemen and Mr. Marshall:
We accept with grateful acknowledgments your kind words of welcome, the remembrance of which will be treasured in our memories, and ever find a warm response in our hearts.
You will agree with me, Mr. President, when I refer to this occasion as one of the very few events in our ordinary life that release us from our usual business affairs, and laying aside our responsibilities and cares afford us the opportunity to unbend ourselves, and again mingle in cheerful recreation with our friends and neighbors. I need not say to you that we need the excitement of this kind after a season at our usual avocations in order in some manner to renew the waste, the wear and tear to our constitutions to which we have been constrained by our necessities, and the vicissitudes of the season, to revive our social natures and, in some measure, to aid in developing the finer sentiments and feeling of our humanity.
When I look around this assembly and see so many friendly faces my heart warms and the desire that these friendly reunions might be more frequent comes bubbling up. While we rejoice with you that the occasion is a triumph of social enjoyment we would be most ungrateful if we did not acknowledge the thoughtful care and hospitality of those to whom we are most indebted for it. We are especially indebted to the officers of this society for the delightful program they have given us for our enjoyment of this day, and their best efforts for making the occasion a success.
May the Old Settler’s Society of Kendall County long continue.
Then came the dinner hour, and the meeting was adjourned for an exploration of the big picnic baskets. Family groups were scattered here and there around the grounds in most of the available places. The moments during dinner were enjoyable not only for the gustatory pleasure, but for the happy little talks in which all hands joined in honor of the day.
Soon after one o’clock reinforcements began to arrive. Loaded vehicles rolled in rapidly until the grounds were well filled by visitors. The Kendall Cornet band also came, and made the occasion happier by their stirring and beautiful music which inspired all in general greetings and conversation. It really was exceedingly pleasant to see how genial and cordial, everyone was.
It was two o’clock when the drum again “beat to quarters,” and the band took a place under the roof and drew the people to the seats by a rattling good time. The seats were all filled and numerous carriages, with their occupants, drew near, when the ladies quartet, Miss Rannie Hobbs, Mrs. Dr. McClelland, Misses Jessie Crum and Nannie Hill took the platform and sang “The Old Folks at Home.” It was interesting to watch the faces of the audience as they sang this pathetic song. There was an intentness of listening and many an eye was glistening with moisture as they thought of the old folks they once had at home and their memory was stirred to its depth.
By request of the President, Mr. Asher Havenhill, as a personal friend, introduced the speaker of the day. And most happily did Asher allude to his boyhood companion as he said a few pleasant words and introduced the Reverent Warren W. Day, pastor of the Congregational Church of Ottawa. Mr. Day was greeted by a host of former neighbors who had known him and his parents years ago, when they lived in the vicinity of Newark. As he began his address and talked of the days when he was a boy among us, the interest in his words increased and he received the closest attention. Mr. Day is a speaker of ability: he is easy, fluent, impressive in delivery, and an excellent teller of amusing anecdotes. He spoke of the early settlements along Fox River, of his boyhood days and the trials of children who did not have the happy appliances of amusement of today. Back then the reading of the boy and girl was solid. It took a strong mind to digest Baxter’s Saints Rest and the works of theology which formed the library of the farmer. His tribute to the old time spelling schools came in most happily, and its mechanical effect was somewhat disastrous. He knew a young man who could stand all night in a spelling school and spell correctly every word in the book but who, when he wrote a letter, invariably began “Mi deer sur!” Mr. Day believed in the old time singing school and believed it should be revived. He believed that while teaching psalm tunes, should mingle a good deal of the lively popular music of the day. Of course music was elevating and not debasing in nature. The speaker spoke of the habit of the fathers giving their boys the poorest tools on the farm to work with and their wonder why they could not do as good work as those who wielded the bright new scythe, the clean hoe or the sharp axe. In Mr. Day’s travel through life he has struck a very large amount of hard common sense.
It is not our purpose to print Mr. Day’s address, for it was not a good place to take notes, and we did not see any manuscript in his hands for the printer’s benefit. He is an off-hand talker and that kind can hold an audience, especially when he talks as Mr. Day did.
Mr. Joseph Harris was re-elected President, and Mr. William T. Linn Secretary, Treasurer, and general manager for next year’s gathering.
The formal meeting adjourned soon after three o’clock, and public’s attention was turned to the ball game. Too much cannot be said in commendation of this annual meeting. You have to be present in person to notice how cordial the people are, and how much like a family gathering it is. There is no formality; you are free to converse with anyone you meet and to be just as sociable as you know how. Kendall County is small and compact, and there is no reason why there should not be five or six thousand people at these picnics, as no one has any great distance to travel. It was noticeable that many from other places, who have not lived in the county for years, were most happy in greeting former neighbors. Next year let us have a rouser.
The ballgame in the afternoon was of the “rocky” order, but furnished any amount of amusement for the spectators, and it took about three hours to finish. The Millington and Yorkville nines were the contestants, and for once “Jeter’s Colts” got beautifully trounced. It was what is called in professional parlance a “slugging match,” and the Yorkville pitchers were slugged, swatted and batted all over the ground. The score was 35 to 25 in favor of Millington, so you see that it was a great game. A high wind blew form the northwest and when a batter lifted a ball in the air the wind took it to the south fence. But the Millington batters were tremendous batters without any wind about it. Charley White, an all around brunette player, covered himself with glory. As a pitcher he was effective, on second base he took the ball unerringly, and as a batter and base runner, he leads the team. Brainard was also a heavy batter and did good work.
We want to comment the gentlemanly conduct of the Millington club. There was no rowdyism or unnecessary noise about them. The played ball like professionals and our people liked them. It is the noisy swearing, rowdy ball club that tires the spectators.
The Yorkville club did as well as they could, but did not seem to be in it Thursday. It was an off day for them. Their fielding generally was good, but some rank errors and bad plays cost them the game. They were fairly outplayed all around, and no one complains. It was a very amusing game.
G. H. Richmond was over from Marseilles looking first-rate.
Glad to see James J. Dobbins here from Oswego. “Jim” is a good all around man.
The Thurbers of Marseilles, who knew and are related to many of our people, enjoyed the reunion very much.
Mr. and Mrs. John W. Greenfield, from the old “Dick” Greenfield farm, were pleased with the day’s festivities.
Mrs. Loucks of Aurora, daughter of the late Francis A. Emmons, Sr., who settled in this county in 1837, was greeting old acquaintances.
Mr. W. D. Lloyd and his daughter, Miss Lloyd, of Morris, came with Mrs. John Murley and daughter, and they met many old friends.
Lewis Steward and wife were there. “Lew” is one of the institutions of the county, and such a gathering is not complete without him.
Those sterling good people, Mr. and Mrs. Lyell T. Aldrich and Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Bagwill and Miss Bagwill were here from Millington.
That good old friend, Sim Brown, was on hand as usual, but was not in a happy mood because his wife is no more with him to enjoy such visits.
General and Mrs. Andrew Welch were down from Aurora, accompanied by the daughter, Miss Bessie Welch, and her friend, Miss Adra Sherer.
Aunt Harriet Hay, in the 93rd year of her age, was on the ground with her children and grandchildren, as lively as anyone about. She came to Bristol more than fifty years ago.
Gilbert “Denslow” Henning of Plano was on hand looking in well kept condition. He came here in 1836, but you would never think he was an old settler; he holds his age of about 60 years well.
John S. and Edmund S. Seely were on the grounds. Kendall County has no better citizens than the members of the Seely family, and this includes Frank and Town and their families.
It was good to see Phineas Davis on the grounds. For twenty years past he has lived in Morris, but he never forgets his old Plattville friends. Mr. Davis is one of those men you can tie to through thick and thin.
The ladies of the Temperance Union did a fine business at the lunch stand. They furnished the best refreshments and their charges were very reasonable. The lunch stand was a great accommodation.
Scott Coy was out from Chicago, looking just as hearty as he is big. Glad to see Scott who put us in mind of the time when Al Hobbs, Scott Coy, Myron Hopkins, Town Seely and the Record man used to run a good part of Yorkville.
Mrs. Nathanial Pease Barnard of Newark and Miss Annie Palmer of Millington, who represent the Record in their respective towns, attended the picnic. The Record is rather proud of these talented reporters; they are above the average of local itemizers. Mrs. Barnard is a thorough business woman and Miss Palmer is a most charming young lady.
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