The Green Houses

map of Dayton showing location of Dayton Green houses

Location of Green family houses

The Green Houses
Maud V. Green
1946

The first house in Dayton was on the site of our present home [1] and was probably not a log cabin as Grandfather [John Green] had put a saw-mill in one end of the flour-mill in the spring of 1830, leaving his family on the farm four miles up the river until the next Fall, in the cabin 18 x 24 where they had spent the first winter.  They were still in the first house in 1832 at the time of the Blackhawk War as they made a fort of it that summer and had sixty people there just after the Indian Creek Massacre.  Then they all went to Ottawa where Ft. Johnston was built on the south bluff.

I never heard how long it was until the second house was built in the hillside, facing the river.  It had three stories with a spring in the basement floor running into a stone trough, parts of which are still in existence.  The spring dried up long ago but I can remember it.  The upper floor was even with the top of the hill.  It had a porch on the east side of at least one floor.  While the men were away at the California Gold Rush in 1849 the Hite family lived in this house and rented the farm, the only time any but the Green family ever lived here (in 117 years).

In the summer of 1853 John Green & his sons David and Jesse built three square frame houses in a row [1, 2, 3],  John’s where the first house stood.  In these three houses, the Jesse, David & Isaac Green families grew up.  The Jesse Green house was destroyed by fire within the last twenty years and our father’s house was torn down (in 1924) and replaced by the present structure, which is the fourth house on the original building spot.  The David Green house, owned by Charles and Grace Clifford, is the only one still standing of the three built in 1853.

[See pictures of all of these houses here.]

It Reads Like a Romance

little girl

First, a little background:

Marriages
In Dayton, Ill., Dec. 29th, 1880, by Rev. John Ustick, Mr. Alexander M. Alcorn, of Earl, and Miss Ella Courter, of Dayton, LaSalle Co., Illinois.
This marriage took place on the coldest day of the winter, the mercury that morning indicating from 20 to 24 degrees below zero according to exposure, and Elder Ustick rode 32 miles that day to keep his engagement. Irv. Smith drove out and back with him, and didn’t mind the cold until he found he’d gone two miles out of the way and to the wrong house; then he sputtered a swear or two and hurried on.1

[Son Harvey A. Alcorn, from 1900 census of Earl twp, was born Dec. 1881.]

BORN
Earl, May 29th, [1883] to Alex. Alcorn and Wife, a son. [This is Asa, died 1885.]2

BORN
On May 2nd, [1887] to Mr. and Mrs. Alex Alcorn a little daughter. Mother and child doing well.3

And now to the 1889 story from the Chicago Tribune:

IT READS LIKE ROMANCE
The Story Behind a Petition for the Possession of a Child
A. M. Alcorn, a La Salle County Farmer Appeals to the Courts to Recover his 2-year-old Daughter

A petition for habeas corpus was filed in the Circuit Court yesterday by Alexander M. Alcorn, a La Salle County farmer, to recover the custody of his little daughter May, 2 years old. Alcorn’s story read like a romance. Ten years ago he wedded a pretty young girl, who lived in Dayton, La Salle County. Their wedded life was happy for several years, until a young man named Samuel Mitchner engaged to work for Alcorn as a farm hand. The wife, Ella F. Alcorn, who had borne her husband two children, became infatuated, it is charged, with the brawny young tiller of the soil. Last Christmas Alcorn, who had business at the village near by, returned home to find that his wife had eloped with Mitchner. She had left their 7-year-old boy but took little May with her. For some time the heart-broken farmer plodded on at home, but he was not idle. Engaging the services of a detective he located the guilty pair in Chicago. Before they could be arrested they fled, leaving little May in the care of two women – Mrs. Lizzie Frazer and Mrs. Button. The women refused to surrender the child to her father, claiming that she was Mitchner’s child, so the father invoked the aid of the courts. Judge Tuley will hear the case this morning, and has ordered the production of the child in court.4

He Secured Possession of His Daughter

Alexander M. Alcorn, the La Salle County farmer who began a legal fight Wednesday to secure the possession of his 2-year-old daughter May, triumphed yesterday in the fight and bore his little one back to her country home. Alcorn’s wife eloped last Christmas with a farmhand in his employ and carried the little girl away. The father traced the guilty couple to this city [Chicago]. When they were discovered they again fled, abandoning the baby, leaving her with a woman named Mrs. Hutton, where the father found her. Mrs. Hutton refused to surrender the child, as she was not certain Alcorn was its father, but willingly gave her up when the court so ordered. The little one, so heartlessly abandoned by her mother, nestled confidingly in her papa’s arms and was seemingly quite content.5

and the Earlville Leader:

About the beginning of the present year the wife of Alexander M. Alcorn went to Chicago giving as a reason that she could make some money. She took with her their youngest child, a little girl in her second year. Their other child, a boy of about seven, was left at home with his father. About two weeks ago she returned. She claimed she was making $20 per week in the hair dressing business and that she could make more if she had more capital. Her husband let her have $200. Suspecting that all was not right she was followed into the city and found to be living with a man named Samuel Mitchner, who formerly worked for Mr. Alcorn on his farm. When the guilty couple found they were detected, they left before they could be arrested. The little girl, May, was left with two women, Mrs. Lizzie Frazer and Mrs. Button, who refused to give the girl to its father. Mr. Alcorn filed a petition of habeas corpus in the circuit court of Cook County. The writ was issued. Thursday Judge Tuly heard the case. After listening to the evidence, the Judge gave the child into his keeping. Mr. A. arrived home with her the same evening. It is not known where the guilty couple have fled.6

Another chapter in the Alcorn elopement affair occurred last Saturday when Mrs. Alcorn returned from Chicago and again installed herself as mistress of the home which she some months ago deserted. Upon her appearance, it was suspected that she returned for the little girl, therefore a warrant was sworn out for her arrest and placed in the hands of Constable Boozel to be served. When he reached there an understanding had been arrived at between husband and wife, the wife forgiven for her escapade, and henceforth in all probabilities their relations will be the same as before.  Mitchner, the hired man, made his appearance, and caused a dark blot in the history of a happy home. Mrs. Alcorn threatens the existence of young Wood, the amateur detective, who shadowed her to Chicago and then lost her, as she claims it was he who caused her acts to be made so prominent.7

with a happy ending in 1910:

Married This Afternoon
Just as we go to press we learn of the marriage of Charles Louis Wold and Miss May Alcorn, two of the well-known and highly respected young people of this vicinity, the wedding ceremony taking place at the home of the bride’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Alex Alcorn, at 1:30 this afternoon. Rev. D. R. VonderLippe of the Presbyterian church officiated.8


  1. Earlville Gazette, January 7, 1881, p 8, col 2
  2. Earlville Gazette, June 2, 1883, p 1, col 3
  3. Earlville Leader, May 6, 1887, p 5, col 4
  4. Chicago Tribune, May 2, 1889, p. 12, col 1
  5. Chicago Tribune, May 3, 1889, p. 8, cols. 2-3
  6. Earlville Leader, May 3, 1889, p 5, col 4
  7. Earlville Leader, May 24, 1889, p 7, col 3
  8. Earlville Leader, May 19, 1910, p 4, col 3

The Old Barn

Green farm - old barn on left

Green farm – old barn on left

When I was a child, all of Dayton was our playground, but no place saw more action than the old barn on the Green farm. It was no longer in use, having been damaged by fire, and had been replaced by the new barn, where the cows were housed.

The old barn made a perfectly marvelous playground. We played a game that had some of the aspects of hide-and-seek, some of tag, and some of a game we made up on the fly as we went along. One of the most important skills to have in order to do well at the game was the ability to climb. In order to avoid being caught by a pursuer, you might climb to the hayloft at the north end, scurry along southward, avoiding the area where the fire had burned the floor away, climb down the silo, and seek safety in the lower level. At some point you might turn into the fox rather than the rabbit. The game had no formal stopping point; no one ever won. It just kept going until, all of a sudden, everyone had somewhere else to be.

The old barn had other uses, as well. I had an aunt who was an amateur artist, who sat up in the hayloft and painted a picture of the dam and the river valley from high above it.

One of the fascinating things in the hayloft was an old sleigh. It had belonged to previous generations, who needed it for winter traveling, but it had been stored in the hayloft, unused, for many years. My mother always wanted it brought down and refurbished, but somehow my father never got around to it. My sister and I have the sleigh bells and bring them out every year to add to the Christmas spirit.

I don’t know whether our mothers didn’t know what we were doing, or just held their tongues, but no one ever said “Don’t go up there.” There might have been an occasional “Be careful” but that’s all. It was a different, and magical, time to be a child.