Kirby Todd and Folk Valley

In 1947 Kirby Todd became the music teacher for the rural schools of La Salle County. I was attending the Dayton school when he first took up his post, succeeding Miss Ida Chamberlain. He taught us folk songs and square dancing and was immediately very popular.

He was the founding president of Folk Valley, a non-profit corporation dedicated to the preservation of the art of square dancing and other folk arts. Folk Valley was situated on land near the Illinois river east of Marseilles. The idea of Folk Valley came to him when he was teaching the school children in Grand Ridge. The principal and several adults asked him to teach adult square dancing. He began teaching square dance classes every fall and winter.

He was an assistant professor of health and physical education at Illinois State University from 1964 to 1972 and served as sponsor and director of two groups that provided recreational activities for students –  Shufflin’ Shoes and the Lloyd Shaw Dancers. He retired in 1989 and died September 21, 1998, at the age of 88.

Wedding Gifts – 1881 Variety







When Ada Green married William McMillen in Dayton on March 10, 1881, the Free Trader’s account of the ceremony included something that was common for that day, but unusual today. In addition to a description of the ceremony, the remarks made by the pastor, and the wedding dinner, the next paragraph gave a list of the wedding gifts and their donors.















Here are some examples of the types of wedding gifts of the time:

a sugar spoon




a cake basket







The First Step

Family Cares






a salt and pepper castor





napkin rings





a pickle castor





a spoon holder










This was very definitely a family wedding – of all the donors listed only a half-dozen are not members of the Green family.


144 Years Ago This Week in Dayton Social Life

Rural Happenings

            Dayton, March 13. – We derive considerable enjoyment here from reading the correspondence from neighboring towns, and have always thought it an interesting part of the county newspaper; and such items as may in our humble judgment be of interest to your readers, we will try to send from here from time to time.

The ice has moved out of the river. Boating will soon be all the “rage.” The river is slowly falling and will soon be fordable. This beautiful spring weather seems such a relief from the cold, cold winter. Roads are getting quite dry.

The Literary is in good running order and having good success. The exercises show care in their preparation and talent in their delivery. The library of the society, containing over a hundred volumes of choice reading, is a great benefit to the town. Much interest is taken in it and beneficial results we have no doubt will proceed from its use.

Harry, Jos., and James Green arrived home on the 1st from Aurora, where they have been attending school during the winter. The boys look fine. “Hash” seems to agree with them.

Rev. Sophie Gibb preaches in this place every two weeks. Her next appointment is Sunday evening, March 16.

Rev. G. Barnes, Congregational minister at Ottawa, delivered a discourse here last Thursday evening. He has a regular appointment once in four weeks.

Our school ma’am, Miss Frank Mott, will give an exhibition Saturday evening, March 22. Miss M. we understand, closes her labors here with the winter term. She has taught our school quite successfully during her sojourn here of about three years, and now feels she needs a rest from her labors. Mr. Chas. K. Howard will teach the summer school.

A number of our young folks visited your city Tuesday evening to witness the performance of “Fanchon.” They all seemed well pleased, and especially spoke highly of Miss Kate Smith’s acting.

The social party at the hall week before last was quite an enjoyable affair. The young folks seem to have gone with the intention of having a good time, and we think they were not disappointed. Another in the near future is talked of. Prof. Sweet, who furnishes the music, says he is the happiest man in Plano. (N. B. It’s a boy.)

The Literary at their last meeting appointed a committee to make arrangements for an entertainment the proceeds of which will be devoted to the purchase of an organ. The temperance and moral drama “Three Glasses a Day, or The Broken Home,” is in rehearsal.

Mr. Basil Green has the contract of filling in the deep ravine south of town.

By the great firing of guns and general confusion taking place at the time of writing, we should judge a battle was taking place at Wedron. A “chivaree,” we suppose.

“Fishing” days are not far off.                                                Oc.1

  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, March 15, 1879, p. 8, col. 2

Settling the Prairies

Township 34 North Range 4 East of the 3rd Principal Meridian

The map above is the original survey of the area around Dayton (starred) and indicates by the green lines the extent of the timber in the area. In his memoir, Jesse Green wrote of the impact of the open prairies on settlers from the east: –

The first settlers all came from heavily timbered country and as a consequence did not think it possible that those broad prairies would be settled in their day but expected to have unlimited range for all the stock they might desire to keep. The first settlers secured as much of the best timber as they possibly could, through pre-emptions and floats (as they were called) which were subject to transfer and sale by their holders. In the course of time they expected to have neighbors skirting the timber belts of the country but did not have the remotest idea the prairies would be occupied, however, it was not long until coal was discovered and thought to be almost inexhaustable. Lumber began to be brought across the lakes, and the problem of the feasibility of settling up the prairies was solved, and only a few years later the prairies in this section were nearly bought up, largely by eastern land speculators which retarded the settlement of the country considerably for a number of years, driving immigrants still farther west,

Who is on the Honor Roll?

Honor roll of the pupils of districts 2 and 10, Dayton township, for the term commencing May 3d, 1880, and ending July 1st, 1880. The pupils were graded on a scale of 10 in their studies and deportment, a deduction being made for each case of tardiness and absence. There were 13 pupils enrolled. The following named pupils attained an average grade of 8: Mabel Trumbo, Bertha D. Angevine, Clara S. Angevine, Lester Brown and Mamie Debolt.
E. M. Angevine, Teacher1

Mabel Trumbo, born 1866, was the daughter of Moab Perry and Rebecca (Kagy) (Walters) Trumbo.

The Angevine sisters, Clara, born 1864, and Bertha, born 1867, were the daughters of Charles Edward and Cornelia (Davenport) Angevine. The teacher was their sister, Eva.

Lester Brown, born 1871, was the son of William M. and Kate (Hess) Brown.

Mamie DeBolt, born 1868, was the daughter of George W. and Mary (Sutton) DeBolt

  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, July 24, 1880, p. 1, col. 4