The First Old Settlers’ Picnic – La Salle County 1869

THE OLD SETTLERS’ PICNIC.

This picnic, which had been looked forward to with such “great expectations,” was held on Wednesday. In every particular it was a success. The glorious weather was not brighter
than the sunshine of happy faces, and the beautiful scenery of the grove was made still more beautiful by the presence of so much solid worth mingled with so great a degree of enjoyment.
Judge Caton showed himself the fine and hospitable gentleman that we knew him to be in offering the use of his noble park for the purpose; and if he be frequently the entertainer
of the “great and mighty,” he proved yesterday that he was equally at home in entertaining the grand old pioneer, with his rugged nature, his hard hands, his tough muscles and determined will – the elements that have made these western wilds “blossom as the rose,'” and constituted the great west the granary of the world.

Long before noon the wagons, the buggies and the teams from a distance began to arrive at the grove, and the preparations were soon made for enjoying all the good things, and listening to the speeches to be delivered on the occasion; but probably there was nothing finer than to see the meeting, hearty and cordial, that occurred between friends who had not seen each other for years. Some there were of the very first settlers – men and women too who had known what it was to live in daily fear, and nightly dread of the stealthy step and murderous assault of the treacherous Indian. To those it must indeed have been pleasant to meet the friends and acquaintances of the stormy and insecure past, and to reflect how beautiful is the present – how full of promise; and, as they introduce their children and grand children to each other, how full of thankfulness must their hearts be that their hard toil and unremitting labor has been crowned with such glorious results.

The crowd that assembled probably numbered eight hundred to a thousand. It would
have been much larger but for a misapprehension on the part of the public. The picnic
was got up by the Old Settlers’ Society, and the condition of membership in that Society
being 30 years’ residence in La Salle county, most people seemed to think that none but
members were admissible to the grounds. This was a mistake – it was intended to have a general picnic under the auspices of the Society

Arrangements were made for supplying an excellent dinner to Old Settlers from a distance and invited guests, and when we mention that this part of the programme was left entirely in the hands of the popular host of the Clifton, and fully bore out the unsurpassed reputation of that good hostelry, further praise would be ” painting the lily” or doing any other absurd work.

Bowman, the ubiquitous, was of course there,and got every one to sit for photographs. In one group the following were pictured, all of whom were settlers prior to 1829; David Pembrook, Jeremiah Pembrook and J. E. Shaw, who originally hailed from New York; then John Green, Jesse Green, David Green, Barbara Green, Eliza Dunavan, Catherine Dunavan, Nancy Dunavan, David Grove, Burton Ayers, Jeremiah Srawn, J. S. Armstrong, Margaret Armstrong, from Ohio: John S. Mitchell, from Indiana, and A. W. Cavarly, from New England.

The next group was of settlers who arrived between the years 1829 and 1832, and was composed of the following persons; Joseph A. Dunavan, Josiah Shaver, C. Shaver, J. R.
Shaver, W. L. Dunavan, M. Trumbo, Sarah Parr, Mrs. Millikin, Sarah Pitts, R. Debolt, of Rutland; G. W. Armstrong, of Brookfleld; G. M. Dunavan, of Dayton; A. M. Ebersol, C.W. Eels, A. S. Alderney, H. L. Brush, Mrs.Watts, Mrs. Gibson, David Strawn, Charles Brown, N. Beaubien, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Libby, of Ottawa; Mrs. Munson, of Freedom; J. W.Armstrong, of . Deer Park; Wm. Pitzer, of Rutland; M. Shepherd, L. E. Skeel, Mrs.Dake, Mrs. Smith, Henry K. Parr, of Serena; A. Hogaboom, of Farm Ridge; Mrs. Jackson, of Milford; and Mrs. Ann Fitch, of Clinton,Iowa.

Groups wore also taken of those who had arrived between 1832 and 1835, and between 1835 aud 1841.

After the dinner had been duly disposed of, a stand for speakers was constructed, and Mr. Shaw made chairman. Judge Champlin, in pursuance of previous appointment, made the first speech. It was in the Judge’s happiest vein, and was replete not only with many humorous thrusts, but with reminiscences of the olden times of the deepest interest Thes peech closed with some beautiful lines of theJudge’s own composition. Owing to the lateness of the hour at which we make up this report, we are obliged to omit both in this issue,but shall make room for them in our next. He was succeeded by Arthur Caton, in an original composition, ” The Self-made Man.” Though the subject was old, it was treated with considerable ability and much novelty. The delivery was superb, and we predict for the descendant of our respected ex-Chief Justice a career of great distinction as an orator.

Judge Cavarly was the next speaker. His speech was also quite lengthy, and though we have a full report of it, we are also obliged to defer its publication to our next.
“Auld Lang Syne” was then sung, and it was expected that this would wind up the proceedings, but thw irrepressible and humorous Lucien Delano was called oat to show his paces, and, like the roaring farce’ after the classie drama at a theatre, did all he could,
and was a success, in sending the people home pleased with him, with themselves, with each other and with everybody.

We are hopeful that this, the first such picnic in our locality, will not be the last and are glad to understand that it is intended to make it an annual occurrence. There is a great deal to love, honor and respect, in such gatherings – they do good in many ways, the facts of the past are brought more forcibly to our minds when their living heroes are before us; the memory of those who perished, is more firmly venerated; the impulses which urge onto the future have more nerve power given them, and the contrast of the past with the present gives our hopes new wings on which to float to the grand possibility of the time to come.1


  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, 21 Aug 1869, p. 4, cols. 2-3

Celebrating the 4th of July with the Dayton Home Makers

Fourth of July

SANE 4TH POPULAR WITH LOCAL PEOPLE
PEOPLE OF CITY GO ELSEWHERE TO CELEBRATE
BUT FEW CELEBRATED
Small Gatherings the Popular Idea with Mercury Climbing Skyward and Heat Suffocating

Ottawa’s first real break from the old custom of celebrating July 4th was successfully carried out Thurs. The sound of pistols and fire crackers was hushed and an occasional pop caused slight cases of nervous prostration wherever they were heard. The unusual quiet caused too many favorable comments to revert to the old system of blowing off fingers and following tetanus victims to the cemetery.

Ottawa observed the day, but did it differently than other cities hereabouts. People were priviledged to go and come as they pleased. While many left town for a specimen of the wild and wooly bllows [sic] outs the vast majority remained within a small circle of celebrants and today are thanking their stars for the exhibition of foresight that kept them quiet throughout the day.

La Salle and Streator drew heavily from the rank and file of local citizens. Glen Park and Starved Rock came in for their share. Sulphur Springs also drew well from here. The favored spots, however, were in the country innumerable little gatherings from ten to a hundred and fifty people in numbers were scattered about the country side. The river banks were treated partially and small picnic crowds were scattered up and down the Illinois spending the day in their own manner and following the dictates of their own desires.

That Ottawa will never resume the old fashioned form of celebrating is assured. Thursday night was conspicuous by its silence and at night there were no shattered nerves nor torn and bleeding kids to mark the nation’s birthday.

The Dayton Home Makers

Although the surrounding country a number of family picnics were held, and some of them were very largely attended. None of these was more successful than that given by the Dayton Home Makers’ Circle. It was held at the home of Henry Schmidt, north of the city. The attendance was large, a splendid dinner was served, and a program and sports rounded out a very enjoyable day.1


  1. The [Ottawa, IL] Free Trader, 12 Jul 1912, p5, col 3