All Kinds of Woolen Goods

Jesse Green and Sons business card

The woolen factory at Dayton produced many different products. Cassimere was a closely woven twilled fabric. It had a smooth surface and was used for suits. Jean was not the same fabric as denim in the 19th century. Topcoats, vests and jackets could be made of jean in different colors – black, blue, or white. Denim was used for work clothes worn by manual laborers, while other workers would be dressed in tailored trousers made of jean. Although the two fabrics were similar, denim was made with one colored thread and one white thread; jean was woven of two threads of the same color.

Sock yarn could be had in a light mixture or in a blue grey. Carpet yarn also came in assorted colors. Blankets (white, grey, or multicolored) and buggy rugs were available to keep out winter’s cold and wind. Carpet was made in a number of styles and flannel could be purchased in white, scarlet, grey striped, or black and white check.

Other varieties of cloth included satinett (half wool and half cotton, but finished the same as wool); doeskin (a twilled fabric that came in different weights); linsey (a strong, coarse fabric with a linen or cotton warp and a woolen weft); and tweed.

Maud Green remembered that “Grandma [Barbara Grove Green] spent her time knitting socks and long stockings for all of us, out of factory yarn, and we had woolen underwear, skirts and dresses made of factory flannel.”


Elizabeth Lair

Elizabeth Letts tombstone

Elizabeth Lair was born September 3, 1785 in Rockingham county, Virginia, the daughter of Joseph and Persis Lair. She married Samuel Dunavan December 22, 1807 in Rockingham county, Virginia. They had three sons, William Lair, Joseph Albert, and George Milton. Samuel died June 22, 1816 in Licking county, Ohio and she was left with 3 small boys, aged 8, 4, and 1. The following year she married David Letts, February 27, 1817 in Licking county, Ohio. In 1830 David removed his family to the new country in Illinois, joining another group of Licking county people in La Salle county.

Her son Noah Harris Letts gave this description of his mother when, in 1900, he wrote an account of his family’s history:

“My mother at the period of time I am writing about [about 1829] was a very robust woman weighing about 150 pounds, dark hair, blue eyes and fair complexion, and I can safely say a very handsome woman and was of a very kind disposition, beloved by all that personally knew her, and was a loving mother, and idolized her children, and in return they dearly loved her. She could govern us children by kindness and never used the rod, but it was somewhat different with our father. He would use the beech limb on us, if we displeased him, but I presume not without a cause, as we were rather wild”1

“This fall [1835] on the third day of September our mother died after a short spell of sickness with the bilious fever. We were left a lonely set of children, who had lost a kind and loving mother and we felt the loss, for our mother was beloved by her children and all who knew her. She was a woman in the prime of life and had always been a very healthy, robust woman until this last spell of sickness. On the day she died she was just fifty years old. She was buried in a new graveyard on the bank of Fox River about three-fourths of a mile north of Dayton, opposite the mill dam, and I think was the first person that was buried there, and since it has been the burying ground of Dayton and quite a distance around. The graveyard is kept up very nicely but I have not had the satisfaction of visiting my mother’s grave for a number of years. But she is not lost to my memory or ever will be while I am alive.”2

  1. Paul M. Angle, editor, “PIONEERS / Narratives of Noah Harris Letts and Thomas Allen Banning / 1825-1865” (Chicago: The Lakeside Press,1972), 22-23.
  2. Ibid., 59-60.

Quite a Fish Story


Dayton has always been a good fishing site, but nothing has been caught there in recent years that can hold a candle to this 1849 monster.

“A ROUSER! – We are sorry for our friend DELANO, of the Fox River House – his reputation’s gone! Hitherto he has stood unrivalled in this region as a fisherman – taking not only vastly more than any body else, but larger ones. But he must ‘come down’ now on size. The largest muskelunge he has caught we believe weighed but 28 or 29 pounds – Mr. Sherwood caught one at Dayton on Monday with a hook and line, that weighed over 32 lbs.! It was over four feet long, and 9 inches across the body. We got the head! It looks like that of some monster of the ‘briny deep.’1

  1. Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, March 30, 1849, page 2, col. 3

Bridge Collapses

Collapse of Fox River bridge

From the Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1940, p. 8

Bridge Collapses

            Ottawa, Ill., May 19 (Special). – An automobile and a truck were thrown into the Fox river at Dayton, northeast of Ottawa, late this afternoon when the bridge which spans the river collapsed. Two occupant of each vehicle were rescued unhurt.

            According to information given to Sheriff Edmund J. Welter, an Ottawa newspaperman, D. M. Davis and his wife were in their sedan, near the center of the bridge, when a truck driven by Robert Shelton of Marseilles, who was accompanied by his wife, drove upon the bridge. Then the span broke and both cars plunged downward. Timbers kept the cars from falling into the water, which is 10 feet deep.

            The bridge at Dayton is on what is known as the Old Chicago road. Sheriff Welter blocked the gravel road at intersections on both sides and posted detour signs.