Holiday Memories – Christmas 1953

The following column is reprinted from volume 3 of the 1953-54 publication, Our School News, produced by the students of the Dayton School.

Holiday Memories

Mrs. Genevieve Hall of Ottawa called at the John Jackson home on Christmas eve.

Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Hiland, Terry, Janelle and Laurel visited Mr. and Mrs. Vernon Hiland and family of Moline.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Clifford, Candace, Sally and Mrs. Ralph Green spent New Year’s Day with Mr. and Mrs. Eichelberger of LaGrange.

On Christmas Day, the Clifford family called on Mr. Clifford’s mother. Mr. and Mrs. Sears, their children, Mr. and Mrs. Roberts and their two girls also were there.

On Christmas Day Mr. and Mrs. Floyd McMichel, Mrs. Mossbarger and Bobby called at the home of George McMichel of Wedron.

Mr. and Mrs. Cruit and their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Ray and their three children, Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Barr and child came to spend a day at the home of Oran Mathias in honor of Mrs. Mathias’s birthday.

On New Year’s Day, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Thompson and their three children came from Florida and spent the day at the Chester Thompson home.

Mr. and Mrs. Bernard Hackler, Bryan and Gary were vacation guests of Mr. and Mrs. Howell of LaGrange.

Holiday visitors at the Mathias home included Mr. and Mrs. Cecil Barr of Decatur, Mr. and Mrs. Lloyd Ray of Bethany, Mr. and Mrs. Wayne Cruit and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Heiland of Findlay, Ilinois.

Mr. and Mrs. Charles Poole, Robert, David, Nancy and Patty spent Christmas Day with Mr. and Mrs. George Poole.

Mrs. Oran Mathias, Jimmy, Linda, and Gary spent Christmas in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Chester Mathias in Shelby County. They also visited Mr. and Mrs. Ray of Bethany.

Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Leonard spent Christmas Day with the Don Leonard Family.

Mr. and Mrs. Jason Hughes spent New Year’s in Pontiac at the Ramsey home.

Dixie Slover spent Christmas in Chicago with her father. She had an enjoyable time shopping, going to the big stores and visiting relatives. Mr. Slover brought her home New Year’s.

Mrs. Kossow’s parents from Peru were New Year’s guests at the Kossow home.

Marty reports a vacation in Florida during the holidays where he went swimming, sight seeing and fishing. To go fishing Marty and his Dad went out in a boat.

The George Pinske family visited relatives in Freedom township during the holidays.

Mr. and Mrs. Joe Frig, Lounetta, Clarence and Mary Jo spent Christmas at the home of their grandmother, Mrs. McConnahay in Ottawa. Lounetta enjoys using her flash bulb camera which she received as a gift.

The traditional gathering at the home of Fred Eichelkraut in Ottawa was attended by the Robert Ohme family, it is held on Christmas eve.
Robert and Charles are busy with the gas model airplanes which they received at Christmas.

Carol Dezso accompanied her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank VanDorn, and brother, Jimmie, to South Bend, Indiana, during the holidays where they visited friends and relatives.

Sally Ann Peters enjoyed riding her mule during the holidays. Her grandmother, Mrs. Pearl Peters entertained relatives at Christmas time.

Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Carrier, Jack Traeger of Chicago were holiday visitors at the home of Mr. and Mrs. A. Walleck.
During the holidays, Bob skated to Wedron.

Mr. and Mrs. Harold Fosse entertained the Melvin Holm family on Christmas Day. On December 27, Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Holm and family attended the Fosse family reunion held at the Masonic Temple in Ottawa.

Larry Mettille is the possessor of a new gun and enjoyed hunting during the holidays. The Jess Mettile family visited Mr. and Mrs. L. Halterman of Ottawa on Christmas Day. An interesting specimen, that of a heart, was viewed by Larry Mettile while at this aunt’s home,

Dick Jackson visited friends at Earlville at Christmas time, later during the vacation he entertained these Earlville friends at his home. Dick has a new electric train which he enjoys greatly.

On Christmas eve, a gift exchange was held at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Wilson. Guests present included Mr. and Mrs. Eugene Davis and son of Maywood and Mr. and Mrs. Lum McKinney.

Kenneth Newtson received a 16 gauge shotgun for Christmas. He skated to Wedron during the vacation period. Guests at the Newtson home for Christmas included Mr. and Mrs. LaVerne Jamieson and daughters, and Fred Newtson.

Larry Polen tried out his new skates during the holidays.

Eddy Peters visited relatives in Marseilles during the holidays. Eddy enjoyed decorating, then later taking the tree down.

Mrs. Eva Charlier, Miss Emma Fraine, Mrs. Mathias and Linda were guests at the home of Mrs. J. Trent during the holidays.

The Great Flood of 1855

The Fox River has seen ice jams many times over the years.

The last of January, 1855, witnessed a great storm and flood, extending over several States and doing vast damage everywhere, this county not excepted. At Ottawa the principal loss was the destruction of the Illinois River bridge, then but about two years old. Up to the evening of Saturday, Jan. 31, and as long as the ice from the Illinois River came square upon the piers, they bore the pressure without sign of giving way; but on that evening, when the ice came out of Fox River, borne on a drifting current of six or seven miles an hour, and striking the piers from a quartering direction, they could resist the shock no longer, and before midnight an ominous crashing heard in that direction above the roar of the ice showed that the noble bridge had shared the fate of so many others and gone down before the flood.

Daylight on Sunday morning revealed the extent of the ruin. The trestle-work and the second pier from the north shore had entirely disappeared, taking down with them the entire bridge to the third pier, leaving the two south spans still resting on the piers so shattered as to be barely able to carry their weight. The woodwork of the bridge lodged on an island near Utica, and a portion of it was recovered.

The cost, however, of repairing the damage exceeded half the original coat of the bridge. At the time of this disaster the water rose a foot above the highest point touched since the county was settled, the point mentioned being reached in 1849.

Some damage was done to the Fox River bridge. Considerable property was injured and carried off from the low ground on the east side of Fox River. Messrs. Fredenburgh, Smeaton and Van Gaebeck, living next to the bridge, were obliged to emigrate, and lost in fences, hay, wagons, etc., seriously. Persons living on the south side of Main street, east of Fox River, who had their stables on low ground, all lost something. Below the hydraulic basin, south of the main part of the city, some damage was done. On the low ground in Ottawa Center about a dozen houses, generally small and occupied by poor people, were submerged to the roof and the contents ruined where not carried off.

The chief disaster at Dayton was the destruction of the fine bridge erected by the people four or five years before at an expense of some $4,000, It was taken off bodily, leaving nothing but the naked abutment The feeder was so injured that mills could not run for a month or so. Some sixty or seventy rods of the bank were swept away and the lock was seriously damaged.

At Peru and La Salle the damage was pretty heavy. At the latter place all the lower stories of the buildings on the canal basin were submerged, and much fear was entertained with reference to the fleet of loaded canal boats in the basin, but they appear not to have suffered much. At Peru the fine stone freight house of the Rock Island Railroad had its whole east side knocked out Several loaded canal-boats were sunk, and some warehouses and other buildings damaged in various ways.1

  1. History of La Salle County, Illinois, 2 vols. (Chicago: Inter-State Publishing Co., 1886), 1, 451-452.

Saved From Amputation

Having a good doctor in the early days was essential, as this excerpt from Jesse Green’s memoir shows:

Our first physician in Dayton, was a German, whose name I have forgotten, next was Allen H. Howland, Harmon Hurlbut and Peter Schemerhorn, Dr. Howland was also an excellent surgeon whom father employed, when he had his arm smashed from the hand to above his elbow, in cutting the ice from a water wheel, other Physicians wanted to amputate his arm, above the elbow but father would not consent to this, and sent for Dr. Howland, notwithstanding they had just passed through a very bitter campaign, in which Wm. Stadden was the regularly nominated candidate for the state Senate and Dr. Howland ran against him as an independent candidate and was defeated. When he called to see father and examined his wound, father made this proposition to him, “if he would save his life and his arm, he would give him five hundred dollars,” and the Dr. said he could do it, and took the case and did do it, and got his five hundred dollars.


A little information about the good doctor:

Dr. Allen H. Howland was born in 1796 in Saratoga County, New York. In 1823 he was one of the organizing physicians of the Wayne County, NY, Medical Society. In 1826 he married Catherine Reed in Canandaigua, New York. By 1838 he had moved to La Salle County , living in Ottawa.

In 1838 Allen H. Howland ran as an independent against William Stadden (who was running for re-election) in the race for state senator for the counties of La Salle, Kane, Iroquois & Livingston. Stadden, a long-time friend and family connection of John Green’s,  won with a sizeable margin.

In 1848, Howland was elected president of the Ottawa Medico Chirurgical Society. A prominent physician in Ottawa for nearly a third of a century, he died in 1866.

The First Mills

An example of a water-driven mill. The ones described below may have looked similar.

From Jesse Green’s Memoir

Early in the spring of l830 development of the water power was commenced by using the stumps from the timber from which the mill was being constructed. Economy was sought to a greater extent than it is at the present time. The saw mill was built with sufficient room to put a pair of stones in one end of it to do our grinding until a better mill could be erected, having brought with us the necessary mill irons, black-smith tools etc. Whilst the men were getting out the timber for the mill and dam, which had to be built to intersect a small island, brother David and myself took the contract of scraping out the race or waterway for a distance of about a half mile (he being ten, and I twelve years old). We each had a pair of oxen and an old fashioned scraper. I sometimes had to help him load and dump his scraper and vice versa. We had the race completed by the time the mills were ready to draw their gates.

On the morning of the 4th day of July 1830 the first wheat was ground by water power in the northern portion of Illinois. We did not at this time have a bolt for separating the flour from the bran but we thought that graham flour was good enough to celebrate that Natal day with a double purpose that will never be forgotten by the latest survivor of the memorable event. It marked the first and greatest step in the alleviation of the hardships and suffering of the early settlers, and they soon all had plenty of graham flour and corn dodgers. Up to this time we were obliged to grind our grain in a coffee mill, or pound it in a mortar improvised by burning out a hole in the top of a stump, and attaching an iron wedge to a handle to use as a pestle which was operated in a manner similar to the old fashioned well sweep.

Our second flouring mill was built in 1831. Having plenty of lumber at this time, a good frame building was erected but before we had got fully acquainted with the pranks of old “Fox”, we found that we had encroached too closely on her banks, and by way of admonition a gorge of ice shoved the mill back a little, sufficient for a warning, the damage not being so great but that it was soon repaired so as to do our grinding until a third mill could be built.

The third mill was built in 1834 of much greater dimensions containing five pairs of “flint ridge burrs” gotten in Ohio together with the old Pioneer [grindstones], which were used for grinding corn and buck-wheat. This mill did a very extensive business in the manufacture of flour which found a ready market in St. Louis at that time, and a little later Chicago became our market.