Invented in Dayton

To all whom it may concern:
Be it known that I, Isom L. Thompson, a citizen of the United States, residing at Dayton, in the county of LaSalle and State of Illinois, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Wagon-Jacks; and I do hereby declare the following to be a full, clear, and exact description of the invention, such as will enable others skilled in the art to which it appertains to make and use the same.

This is how Isom Thompson began his application for a patent on his invention, an improved wagon-jack. His application was witnessed by his brother, Foster V. Thompson and by Freeman Wheeler. The improvement came from his experience with farming, but Isom had not always been a farmer.

He was born in November, 1840, in Adams, Jefferson County, New York, one of five children of Isom Thompson and Elzina Foster. He left the farm sometime between 1875 and 1880, and took up the trade of carriage maker.

About 1894 his older brother, Foster, decided to move his family to Illinois. Isom made the journey with them and settled on a farm in Rutland township. After Foster died in 1897, Isom, who never married, continued to make his home with his sister-in-law and her 2 sons, his nephews, Oscar and Lamotte Thompson. Isom died there on Saturday, December 2, 1905, of apoplexy. 

Opal is a Standout

Jersey cows

Not, unfortunately, a picture of Opal, but a close lookalike.

DAYTON, ILL., COW COMPLETES TEST

Dayton, Ill., July 16. — Opal of Greenacres, 569949, a pure bred Jersey cow in the herd of L. A. Green, at Dayton, Ill., has completed an official production test. Opal was started on this test at the age of 4 years and 11 months and in the following 365 days she yielded 549.86 lbs. of butterfat and 8,109 lbs. of milk. Her milk averaged 6.78 per cent butterfat for the year and for two successive months of this test her production of butterfat was above 63 lbs. per month. With the above record, made on two milkings a day, Opal of Greenacres qualified for the Register of Merit of the American Jersey Cattle Club. Her sire is Master of the Sea 183761, and her dam is Mayfield’s Spotted Maid 351671.1


  1. The [Streator, Illinois] Times, July 16, 1928, p. 2.

84 Years Ago Today in Dayton

Dayton store

On the left, behind the store, is the Dayton clubhouse

Dayton Woman’s Club Observes Anniversary of Its Founding1

The Dayton Woman’s club today had started the 26th year of its organization, with memories of the fitting observance yesterday of the silver anniversary of its founding.

The present members of the club, who include many of the 13 charter members, received 100 friends from 3 to 5 p. m. yesterday in the Dayton clubhouse, to mark the anniversary.

Silver and white appointments were used on the tea table from which the guests were served. Daises, calla lilies and white delphinium formed a centerpiece. Mesdames Ralph Green and Gilbert Masters poured.

Baskets of flowers were used about the room to create a background for the lovely event.

Piano solos were played by Miss Betty Rensch, a piano duet was played by Mary Louise Varland and Betty Follett, a vocal solo, “June Morning,” was sung by Miss Ida Chamberlain and a violin solo was played by Marjorie Williamson, accompanied by her mother, Mrs. Ernest Williamson.

Painting Given

A painting of Wallace Nutting’s was presented to the club by Mrs. Bert Tuttle in memory of Mrs. Fannie Osbourne. A tribute was given Mrs. Osbourne by Mrs. E. C. Cleary. The presentation was made to Mrs. Arthur Retz, president of the club.

Of interest to the guests was a picture on exhibit of the home of Mrs. Rush Green, now destroyed by fire, in which the club was organized 25 years ago.

Honored yesterday were the following past presidents of the club: Mesdames Gilbert Masters, Dan Hallowell, Ben Chamberlain, Will Fleming and Miss Maud Green. They were given special badges and also were in the receiving line, as was Miss Jennie Fraine.

Charter Members

Among the 13 charter members of the club present were: Mesdames Masters, Hallowell and Misses Jennie and Emma Fraine.

The guests included Mrs. B. O. Benson of Tampa, Fla., a guest of Mrs. John Smith of Wedron; Mrs. Annie Barnes of Boston, a guest of Miss Jennie Barnes and Mrs. Carrie Green; Mrs. Barbara Masters of Chicago, a guest of Miss Maud Green; Mrs. Emily Brown and daughter Ethel of Oak Park; and others from Ottawa, Grand Ridge, Harding, Wedron and Marseilles.

The celebration was in general charge of Mesdames Charles Clifford, Arthur Retz, Ralph Green, Will Ryan and Misses Jennie and Emma Fraine and Maud Green.

The first meeting of the group in its 26th year will take place Wednesday, June 29, in the club house, which the organization constructed in 1923 and 1924.

The club was founded June 13, 1913, to promote sociability, discuss subjects relating to a betterment of the community and provide amusement and recreation.


  1. Ottawa Republican-Times, June 15, 1938, p6

Early June in Dayton

Rural Happenings

Dayton, June 5. – The late rains have raised the river somewhat. Fishing is some better than it was before the rain. Lots of people come to enjoy piscatorial sports. A few bring tents and camp out for a few days, but as soon as a tent is pitched, we notice the mercury in the thermometer begins to move toward zero, so camping out has been so far a wretched cold business.

Query: “If Park Reed still continues to seine, what has become of the Ottawa Fish Protective Association?”

Mr. Harry Green departed last Tuesday on a wool-buying trip near Mendota.

J. Green’s horse which was supposed to have been stolen from the stable last Saturday night, was taken up as an estray by Mr. Jos. Hall, four miles north-west of town, and returned to Mr. Green last Wednesday. The horse had broken his halter and walked off.

Mr. W. B. Roberts, with A. Reed & Sons, Chicago, was in town Wednesday.

Mr. Wm. George, Miss Ida George, and Miss Helen Tarket, all of Leland, were visiting at D. Green’s a few days last week.

Miss Carrie Stowell of Bloomington, is visiting her sister Mrs. J. Wright.

Mr. Jos. Green returned last Saturday from a wool buying excursion near Washburne. Mr. Burtie Stadden, formerly of this place but now of Wenona, accompanied him for a few days visit with his little Dayton friends.

The musical Union at their meeting last week chose the following officers for the ensuing term: president, Chas. K. Howard; secretary and treasurer, Miss Reed; Leader, Chas. Green; organist, Jennie Dunavan.

Universalist services next Sunday evening by Rev. Mrs. Gibb.

Rev. G. B. Barnes, of Ottawa, preaches at the school house this evening. Mr. B. delivered an excellent sermon at his last appointment, being a forcible argument in favor of Christianity.1


  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, June 7, 1879, p. 8, col. 1

Another Dayton Business

PLOUGH FACTORY

Jacobs & Co. would inform the Farming Public that they are manufacturing at Dayton several kinds of Ploughs, which have been heretofore approved, to which they invite the attention of those wishing to buy. These ploughshare – made of the best material, and warranted to be perfect in every respect – They are also manufacturing the improved revolving Colter, which is acknowledged to be far superior to the common straight ones. Call and examine for yourselves.

Old ploughs will be repaired to order on reasonable terms.1

The revolving colter was an improvement on the previous form, which was a vertical knife edge to cut through roots and vines. A fixed knife collects roots and vines and tends to plug up. The rolling blade greatly reduces the friction through the ground and does not gather rubbish on its edge. 

Another Dayton company in the forefront of technological advancement!


The Ottawa Republican, April 29, 1854, p4, c4

Sibling Dispute Leads to Fratricide

The 1860 mortality schedule for Dayton

I was looking at the 1860 list of deaths in Dayton in the preceding year and was struck by the entry for James Mahar. MURDERED? A little research in the local newspaper produced this story:

FRATRICIDE – On Saturday last, two brothers, named James and Daniel Maher, living in the town of Dayton in this County, came to Ottawa to do some trading, and as is too frequently the case with a certain class of countrymen, drank a great deal too much whiskey before they went home. They got home however, about 8 or 9 o’clock in the evening and both took supper at James’ house. After supper James got to quarreling with his boys, when Daniel interfered and took the boys’ part.

Thereupon the brothers quarreled, and agreed to fight it out, but conceded that both were too drunk then, fixed upon the next morning for the fight, shaking hands upon the agreement. Daniel then started for home, and in passing through the bars, picked up a large club, and dared James to meet him. James picked up a mop or fork handle, and followed Daniel beyond the bars, where the fight commenced.

James struck the first blow which was warded by Daniel so that the mop handle broke in two. Daniel then struck James on the head, felling him instantly, and then passed on. James not rising again, his boys went to him and found him insensible. On closer examination, it was found that his skull was fractured, and that his injury was mortal. He lay insensible until next morning, when he died.

The Coroner was sent for, and an inquest being held, brought to light the above facts. Daniel made an attempt to escape but Deputy Sheriff having gone after him with a competent force arrested him on the prairie in the neighborhood, and brought him back to jail, where he now awaits his trial.1


  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, June 18, 1859, p. 3, col. 2

A Shower for a New Bride

MRS. HERBERT M’GROGAN HONORED PARTY GUEST

Misses Emma C. Fraine, Jennie L. Fraine and Addie Thompson were hostesses at a miscellaneous shower given Saturday afternoon in the Dayton Community house in honor of Mrs. Herbert McGrogan, a recent bride, who was formerly Miss Ceal Pillion.

The program consisted of a heart relay contest, participated in by all the guests. Mrs. Hans Vogel accompanied by her daughter, Miss Virginia, gave three vocal solos, “To You,” by Speaks, “A Brown Bird Singing,” by Barrie, and “Smilin’ Through,” by Penn. Miss Zelda Garrow interpreted two readings entitled “Like Calls to Like,” by Edgar A. Guest and “Before and After.” Miss Ida Chamberlain, accompanied by Mrs. Arnold Wilson, rendered two vocal solos, “And [sic] Old Fashioned Town,” by Squires, “Try Smilin’” by Penn. Nicholas Parr, accompanied at the piano by Miss Katherine Pitts, favored the guests with two vocal solos addressed especially to the bride, “I Love You Truly,” by Carrie Jacobs Bond and “Just A-Wearyin’ For You,” by the same composer.

After the program the honored guest, seated at a table over which was suspended a parasol of pink petals under a white bell, received the many beautiful and varied gifts presented to her by the other guests.

The guests were then seated at a long table arranged in the form of a large T. The color plan was pink and white with yellow chrysanthemums in many crystal bud bases [sic] and in a large crystal vase and also, tall pink and white tapers were used. The three main center pieces consisted of a bride and groom in a Cinderella coach drawn by a large white swan. The individual favors were “Ships of Love on a Sea of Matrimony,” and the place cards were cupids bearing two hearts united as one. Various baskets of flowers and large white bells were arranged throughout the room. Dainty refreshments in pink and white were served.

Among the 60 guests present were people from Ottawa, Marseilles, Wedron, Wallace, Waltham, Rutland, Dayton and vicinity.1


  1. Ottawa Republican-Times, October 23, 1933, p. 2, col. 1

Drama in Dayton

An evening of entertainment at the Dayton school house

A large audience assembled at the school house last Saturday evening to witness the presentation of the drama, “The Lost Children,” by the Musical Union, assisted by others of the home talent. Considerable pains had been taken to make this closing entertainment a complete success and the members of the company exerted themselves to their utmost to secure that end and acquit themselves creditably. The words of the play were all well memorized and the parts were finely sustained.

The characters of Jamie and Lily, “the lost children,” were performed in an excellent manner by little Eddie Hess and Gertie Howard, who entered into the spirit of the play and were highly encored by their appreciative listeners.

The prologue and epilogue by Eddie and the tableaux in which Gertie figured beautifully as the Goddess of Liberty, capped the climax of their success.

William Dunavan as Mr. Manly, Cora Green as Mrs. Manly, and Dessie Root as Bridget sustained their parts admirably. The other characters of the play, Jennie Dunavan as Miss Fitzallen, William Davis as Mr. Bonville, James Green as Town Crier, Chas. Green as Watchman, and William Holton as Dick, played their parts well.

The squad of soldiers under the command of Thomas Howard was a novel feature in our home theatricals, and the drill and the military tableaux were considered very fine.

The minstrels deserve a word of praise for their funny efforts.

The singing between the scenes by the chorus of young girls was quite good and their selections appropriate.

All in all the drama was quite a success and is highly satisfactory to the management. The members of the Union desire to return thanks to Capt. S. R. Blanchard, of Ottawa, for his kindness in fitting out the military scene, which made the drama quite effective, to Mr. Thos. Howard and others for their kind assistance in presenting the drama, and to Wright’s orchestra for their excellent music.1

For those of us unlucky enough to have missed this outstanding production, this newspaper description of another presentation of the play gives an idea of the action:

The opening scene takes place in the parlor of Manly Hall. Mrs. Manly tells Bridget (who has an endless story about “my father”) to dress the children and let them out to play. The children dressed, the lady with matronly solicitude tells them above all things not to run after the soldiers.

The next scene opens with a most imposing array of soldiers, neatly dressed in dark blue cloth with white facings. The men were put through the manual exercise and company drill and then marched and counter-marched followed alas! by Lillie and Jamie, now as the reader will see, two lost children. Fortunately a sailor boy on his way to his vessel stumbles across the lost ones in the street and finding that they only know that their names were Lillie and Jamie, and that “pa’s name is pa”, and “ma’s name is ma”, he takes them to his home and leaves them with his mother.

Meanwhile the frantic father has enlisted a watchman and the town crier into his service but no signs of the children can be found. A report however comes that a sailor was seen carrying two children off to sea. The upshot is that the sailor is found, brought before Mr, Manly who seizes him by the throat. Fortunately the sailor’s mother enters with the two children and all is explained. The sailor refuses to take any reward; Bridget tries to tell a wonderful tale about “my father’’ and all ends well.2


  1. Ottawa Free Trader, May 7, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
  2. Passaic (New Jersey) Daily Times, December 20, 1884. p. 2, col. 2

Definition of an Old Settler

early settler

There were many Old Settlers Reunions in La Salle County in the 1870s and 1880s and many arguments as to what constituted an old settler, but there was little argument as to the three major events one had to have experienced to be a true Old Settler. Those were the deep snow of 1830-31, the cholera epidemic of 1832-1834, and the sudden freeze of 1836.

Jesse Green wrote about these in his memoir, although he was a year off in his recollection of the sudden freeze. But he wrote his memoir in 1895, at the age of 78, so he was close enough. None of the Green family died from cholera in the 1832 epidemic and consequently it does not play a large role in Jesse’s memoir.

The second and third winters we were here we had about two feet of snow, which lay on the ground most of the winter, and drifted badly and crusted over so that we could ride over fences without difficulty, and prairie chickens were so plentiful and tame that on a frosty morning, they would sit on trees so near our cabin that Father stood in the door and shot them, until some of the men said he must stop before he shot away all of our ammunition, and leave none to shoot deer and turkeys. 

I will give an account of the most sudden, and greatest change in temperature, in my recollection, which occurred in the early winter of 1837 & ’38.  I left home about noon when it was drizzling rain sufficient to wet my clothing, and when I reached a point a little below Starved Rock, it commenced turning cold so fast that I ran my horse as fast as he could go to Utica, and by the time I reached the hospitable home of Simon Crasiar, it had frozen the ground hard enough to bear up my horse, and my clothing as stiff as it would freeze from being wet.  I had to be helped from my horse, and saddle and all together my clothing being frozen to the saddle, and I do not think I could have gone a quarter of a mile farther. The next day returning home it was a terrible cold day, my left side against the wind was nearly frozen by the time I reached Ottawa, where I went into a store to warm myself, and all I could do to prevent it, fell asleep in a short time, I heard a number say that during that blizzard, they saw chickens frozen in their tracks.

For more information, illinoishistory.com has this page devoted to the stories of the Winter of the Deep Snow. And see here for information on the Sudden Freeze of 1836, and here for more on the cholera epidemic.

Croquet Games and More – A View of Dayton Social Life

croquet player

Dayton, May 8, 1879. – The weather during the past week has been quite cool. Small fruit is doubt injured somewhat, but it is to be hoped no great damage will be done. The frost’s come like the Dutch girl’s beau, “efery evening, mine sweet sourcrout.”

J. Green & Sons have the Woolen Mills refitted, and are now ready for custom work, manufacturing goods on shares, &c. They will also pay the market price in cash for a limited amount of wool.

Messrs. Zearing & Row, and Basil Green will finish at the culvert this week or next. Two large coal beds have been opened on Mr. Green’s land, enough coal to supply the town for some time.

Mr. Martin Wilkie has commenced the erection of a dwelling house on his property south of his present residence.

The tile machine with brick attachment arrived this week, and D. Green & Son say they will be making first class brick in about a week. It is generally conceded that the clay around Dayton is of an excellent quality and will make good substantial brick and tile.

Mr. W. R. Roberts with A. Reed & Sons, Reed’s Temple of Music, Chicago, was in town last Saturday.

Prof. Newberry has two schools at Hinckley, Ill. He sends his best regards to the Union, and wishes it success.

D. L. Grove is laid up with a severe attack of erysipelas.

Miss Clara Grove of Rutland is spending a few days in town.

Quite a number of our young folks gathered at the pleasant and commodious residence of O. W. Trumbo, Esq., last Wednesday, to celebrate the birthday of Miss Josie Green. Croquet and other games were engaged in on the pleasant lawn adjoining the residence, but as overcoats and mittens were needed and the party did not come prepared with those convenient articles, the games were adjourned and all gathered around a good, comfortable fire. After an excellent repast, prepared in honor of the occasion by Mrs. Trumbo, the party scattered; some to tune their voices for the meeting of the Union, others ascended to the balcony and enjoyed the beautiful prospect. May Miss Josie have many happy returns of the day, was the wish of her many friends.

Occasional1


  1. Ottawa Free Trader, May 10, 1879, p. 8, col. 1

History of the Fox River at Dayton

The power house at Dayton – 1925

In 1915, the State of Illinois conducted a survey of the Fox River and proposed improvements. The report traced a history of the state of the Fox River from the 1830s to the present day (1915). Much information was presented on flooding and how it affected the many structures along the length of the river. The following excerpts from the report give a look at the river at Dayton and the place’s suitability for a hydro-electric plant. Following this report, the state built a dam and power house at Dayton in 1925. 

State of Illinois Rivers and Lakes Commission
Report of Survey and Proposed Improvement of the Fox River

p. 48: Although the records are not complete it seems to be pretty well established that there have been great floods on the Fox River in 1849, 1857, 1872, 1882 and 1902.

p. 48-9: Of all the floods, however, the one of 1857 seems to have been the most pronounced. . . . Heavy rain on February 6, 1857, melted the accumulated snow and broke up the ice. All the bridges from Batavia to Ottawa were washed out and several dams upstream gave way.

p. 50: There seems to have been many more floods in the days of the early settlement of the Fox River valley than in later years, although there were plenty of forested areas then while now there is practically no timber. In the early records frequent mention is found to washing out of dams and bridges year after year. The explanation for this is very likely due to the fact that originally the bridges were low wooden structures and the dams were crude affairs whose main reliance for stability consisted of logs across the channel. These were insecure affairs and high water floated them away. Most of the early bridges were built by private subscription and at great sacrifice of time and money to the pioneer settlers. Often they were no sooner erected than a freshet would wash them away.

p. 57: The Fox River valley was settled by the white race from 1839 to 1850. Pioneers looking for homesteads were impressed by the beauties of the valley, the abundance of clear water supplied by the river and the opportunities for securing water power from this stream. One of the first thoughts of the early settler was to start a saw or grist mill, the former to cut timber for buildings for family and cattle, and the latter in order to feed both himself and his stock. Otherwise, long journeys over trackless forest and prairie were required before the early family could have flour or meal. The history of the early settlements in the Fox River valley shows that practically the first thing done in every case, after building a house, was to build a dam and put up a water-wheel-driven mill. These dams were very crude timber structures, built of logs and slabs, and generally washed out or were seriously damaged by high water.

p. 62: Of the abandoned water-power sites, that at Dayton would naturally have a greater interest than the ordinary on account of its use in diverting the water from the river to the feeder of the Illinois and Michigan canal, which connected the canal proper at Ottawa. The head of the feeder was located about half a mile north of Dayton, where the State constructed the dam. Edward B. Talcott, resident engineer, in his report of December 10, 1840, referring to the Fox River dam, lock and section of the feeder, says this work was finished in September, 1839. This improvement was maintained until 1902 when the dam was washed out, since which time the feeder has been abandoned, as well as other interests dependent on this water power. In addition to its use as a feeder for the Illinois and Michigan Canal, a reservation was made between the Canal Commissioners and the owners of the mill property at Dayton that the latter were to have the use of one-fourth the supply created by the improvement, “the same shall be drawn out of said feeder within seven-eighths of a mile from the head of the guard lock” under direction of the Canal Commissioners. This gave the required power for manufacturing interests, but with the passing of the dam and power all else was abandoned, as shown by the large four-story building stripped of all machinery.

The first dam at Dayton was built in 1830 by John Green and was erected to furnish power for a grist-mill. It is claimed that this mill was the first one in the State to be operated by water power.
The second dam built by the State in 1839 was about fourteen feet high and was constructed of stone with a wooden crest. It developed about 2,000 horse-power, part of which was distributed —
120 horse-power to paper mills
40 horse-power to tannery
34 horse power to tile factory
120 horse-power to grist mill
40 horse-power to collar factory
120 horse-power to brick factory
—-
474 horse-power

One-fourth of the power was to be used on the east bank of the river and one-half the total developed power was to be used in Ottawa. The present stone mill building was built in 1864 by Jesse Green, at a cost of $65,000, and was operated as a woolen mill until 1882, when it was sold to a pressed brick company, who operated it until 1901, when financial reverses caused the owners to close the mill.

p. 66: Mr. R. S. Feurtado, of Chicago, made a report in 1910 on the proposed hydro-electric development of the Fox River near Dayton and Wedron. This report is in considerable detail and has gone into the question of power development at these two locations thoroughly. The minimum flow of the river is taken at 620 second-feet, but by building dams across Indian and Somonauk Creeks and holding the flood waters in the reservoirs thus created and discharging same into the Fox, a minimum flow of 933 second feet is obtained. On this basis the river alone at Dayton, with a 31-foot head, would furnish 1,740 horse-power constantly. With the two reservoirs proposed and the mill pond at Wedron to add additional water during the periods of low water, Mr. Feurtado estimated the total installation at the Dayton power house would be 6,220 horse-power.

p. 67: In this proposed development it was intended to build a 19-foot dam near Dayton that would create a pond of 209½ acres and have a capacity of 80,864,000cubic feet. The Wedron mill pond would have an area of 950 acres, that at Indian Creek would have 680 acres, and that at Somonauk Creek would have 550 acres area. This would make a total reservoir of 2,370 acres.
By reference to the profile of the Fox River it will be seen that there is a sharp drop in the river bed just above Dayton, giving a large head for a dam located at the foot of this slope. Near Wedron the river bed flattens out, giving a better storage location. This, combined with the fact that Indian Creek and Somonauk Creek valleys form natural reservoir basins, tends to make this an exceptional location for power development. Owing to these natural advantages and also that there is a good district surrounding Dayton for marketing electrical power, all contribute to make this one of the best locations for the development of a hydro-electric plant in this part of the State.

A Trip to The Court House

Ottawa Courthouse

Ottawa Courthouse

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

The seventh and eighth grades are studying county, city and state government in civics, and in connection with that visited the Court House in Ottawa on January 14.

They visited the Sheriff’s office, the office of County Recorder and there saw the photostat machine at work and the addressograph machine being worked.

We learned of the work of the County Recorder and how the records of the county real estate, deeds, mortgages, etc are kept.

We were given a photostat copy of a chattel mortgage and watched a plate made for the addressograph machine and were given a copy of the work done by this machine.

We went to the County Clerk’s Office and learned how the records of births,  marriages and deaths are kept, and were given a demonstration of how a delayed birth certificate may be secured from these records.  Connie Krug’s record was looked up and we saw the information available when needed.

We also saw the jury box and the names in it which may be drawn for jury duty as needed. The County Clerk has the only key to this box.

We saw the files where the permanent registrations are kept for voting privileges, the books which are sent to the precincts on voting days, and the files for those who have not voted for four years and where the registrations of deceased persons are kept.

We saw where the Board of County Supervisors hold their meetings, where the Board of Review meets.

We witnessed a class of twenty-seven persons from LaSalle County, Grundy County and Bureau County receive the oath of allegiance to the United States. They had fulfilled all the legal requirements for naturalization previous to this final step. Following the oath of allegiance short speeches were made by representatives of the following organizations:
The American Legion
Veterans of Foreign Wars
Daughters of the American Revolution
War Mothers
Relief Corps
La Salle County Bar Association
Dept of Naturalization and Immigration
Judge Zearing of the District Court

Following the oath of allegiance the pledge to the flag was repeated, the new citizens were given their naturalization papers, other patriotic material including flags, and were taken to the office of County Clerk where they registered as voters for their respective counties.

Dayton Post Office Will Close on April 1, 1954

DAYTON’S Post Office, located in the grocery store, top photo, will be abandoned by the federal government April 1. The post office, serving La Salle County’s earliest settled community, is over 90 years old. Lower photo, Dominic DeBernardi, present postmaster, points to the closing notice. Note the old type boxes. (Daily Republican-Times photos.)

Old Dayton Post Office Ends Existence April 1
County’s First Settled Village Victim of U. S. Economy Drive

            As part of an economy move by the U. S. Postal Department, Dayton, oldest settled village in La Salle County, is about to lose its post office, which was set up at least 90 years ago.

            The office is located in a grocery store now run by Dominic DeBernardi who also is postmaster.

            The office will be closed April 1 and its 69 patrons will be served from the Ottawa Post Office by rural free delivery. Victor Boissenin of Ottawa will be carrier.

            The new patrons will add 1.9 miles to his daily route, according to the Ottawa Post Office. Boissenen, however, will be paid for only one extra mile in accordance with the complex figuring under postal rules and regulations.

            The Dayton Post Office patrons are all village residents. They now will have to install rural mail boxes near their homes to receive mail.

By April 15

            Postmaster Frank J. Mulholland of Ottawa said Dayton People will have until April 15 to erect such boxes, which must be of a certain height from the ground and maintained by the patron in accordance with postal regulations.

            Mulholland also said Dayton people will have to register their address at the Ottawa Post Office by April 1. The names of residents, names of their children and others who receive mail at the residence must be on the registration list.

            The Ottawa postmaster Tuesday met with about 30 Dayton residents to explain the new mail system for the village located four miles northwest [sic] of Ottawa.

            The carrier, Boissenin, will enter the village from the east via State Highway 71 and the Dayton rural road, circle the town, and leave on the road west of the village leading to Ottawa.

            The post office at Dayton has a fourth-class rating and pays between $1,200 to $1,500 per year to the federal government.

Four Deliveries

            There was a time when the Dayton Post Office received mail four times a day via the Burlington Railroad. The service was cut to two deliveries per day several years ago and on Feb. 2, 1952, the last passenger train with mail aboard passed north through the town.

            Since then mail has come into and gone out of the village twice a day via truck serving the Aurora and Streator area. The truck service will be discontinued when the rural free delivery service goes into effect.

            Dayton was settled in 1829 by a party of Ohio immigrants who saw riches in the water power of the Fox River. Mills were established to grind corn and wheat.

Water Power

            Later, water power ran other mills in the hamlet, making it a prosperous place before and after the Civil War. The postmaster was an important figure then but his political head was sheared off with a change of national administration.

            The postmaster in Civil War days was an Englishman, G. W. Makinson, born in England, July 15, 1826, and who came to La Salle County in 1844. An old county history says of him, “He is an Independent (voter), Universalist; own house and two lots in Dayton, valued at $1,500; wife was Charlotte Evans, born Feb. 28, 1828; were married in Ottawa Sept. 22, 1847; have seven children, Anna, Josephine, Jesse, Lewis, Edgar and Lottie; he was appointed postmaster during the administration of James Buchanan; after two years he resigned; was reappointed and has held the office ever since.”

            Makinson must have been the exception to the rule that village postmasters were subject to dismissal when political administrations shifted at Washington. Buchanan was a Democrat, but the history was published in 1877 and the Republicans had held sway for 16 years.

from The (Ottawa, Illinois) Daily Republican-Times, March 19, 1954, p. 1, cols. 2-4

Joseph E. Skinner

Joseph Ellsworth Skinner

In the 1840 census, Dayton is not identified by name, but is not hard to locate. At the bottom of the last page of the La Salle County section, John Green’s name appears third from the end. The names surrounding his are mostly familiar names that appear frequently in the village’s history. But the name immediately above John Green’s is Joseph E. Skinner, who does not appear in the later history of the village. A newspaper search found this:

The [Streator, Illinois] Times, 19 Jan 1894, p2

This explains why he appears next to John Green in the 1840 census, but where did he go later? Upon investigation, it appears he spent only that one year of 1840 working in Greens Mill.

Here is another case of someone with a Dayton connection who went on to greater things in the larger world. The short notice above hinted at later adventures which were written up in one of the county histories. That information has been added to the biography page, which you can read here.

Churns

This scrap of paper, with its drawings of early family churns, was found among the papers of Maud Green. She pictured the churn that was used by her grandmother (Barbara Grove Green) on the left. In the center she drew a Blanchard churn (see below) with the story of 5 year old Ralph pulling out the plug. The barrel churn on the right was another means used to convert cream to butter.

Here’s a bit more information on the various types of churn.

Plunge or dasher churn (left, above)

The plunge churn is a container, usually made out of wood, where the butter-making action is created by moving in a vertical motion a staff that is inserted into the top. This type of churn is also known as an ‘up and down’ churn.  The staff used in the churn is known as the dash, dasher-staff, churn dash, or plunger.

The staff might be perforated, or it could have a wooden circle, or crossed boards attached, but even with those to help beat the cream, this method took a long time. The chant “come butter come, come butter come” was thought of as a charm to turn the cream to butter. It was sometimes made into a song that went with the rhythm of the work.

Many cultures had their own churning songs. Some had other charms and superstitions too. Both in Europe and North America metal objects – like needles, knives or horseshoes – were used to drive away evil influences which might prevent cream from turning to butter.

paddle churn

Paddle churn

Paddle churn

Another prominent type of churn was the paddle churn, which was a container that contained a paddle, which was operated by a handle. The paddle churned the butter inside the container when the handle was turned. A wooden box, earthenware crock, or glass jar had a paddle inside attached to a rod, which was turned by a handle on the top or side. These were widely sold as small, convenient household churns in 19th century America.

Barrel shaped oak container

Barrel churn

Barrel churn (right, at top)

The barrel churn was also used extensively. This type of churn was a barrel turned onto its side with a crank attached. The handle would operate a crank turning paddles inside the barrel, as in the paddle churn, or the whole barrel might be turned by the handle, either horizontally or vertically, depending on its construction. 

In the early days of the 20th century, the barrel churn was recognized as the most convenient and efficient kind of churn in use.

The Blanchard Churn (center, at top)

A variant of the barrel churn is the box churn, of which the Blanchard Churn is an example. The handle operated a crank turning paddles inside the box. One of the earliest U.S. manufacturers was the Blanchard Churn Company based in Nashua, New Hampshire. The company name on their product was so well known that Maud had no problem reproducing it in her sketch.

I can still remember one additional way I watched my great-aunt Maud churn. She would put the cream in a large glass jar with a lid and sit sloshing it back and forth between her hands until the butter formed. It was a slow process and made a small amount of butter, but she did it to amuse us, I suppose, not because she needed to.

A Card and Dancing Party at the Dayton Club House

Dayton
by Mrs. Grace MacGrogan

DAYTON WOMAN’S CLUB HOSTESS AT PUBLIC PARTY

Members of the Dayton Woman’s club were hostesses Friday evening at a card and dancing party in the Dayton club house. The early part of the evening was spent playing games of bridge, five hundred, and euchre. Favors were awarded, Mrs. Earl Gardner and John Jackson in bridge; to Mrs. Ada Hallowell and Sam Buckingham in five hundred, and to Gladys Lattimore and Glen Nelson in euchre. A four piece orchestra furnished music for dancing at the conclusion of the card games. The committee in charge of the arrangements was comprised of Mrs. Earl Gardner, Mrs. Harold Schilling, and Mrs. Benson Chamberlain.1

Dayton store

On the left, behind the store, is the Dayton clubhouse


  1. Ottawa Republican-Times, March 16, 1934, p. 2, col. 4

March 8, 1884 – News From Dayton

dance party

From Dayton

Dayton, March 4, ’84. – The young folks sent out about twenty-five invitations last week for a social party at the residence of H. B. Williams, Esq., in East Ottawa of Friday evening, Feb. 29. Messrs. John Hall, Chas. Green and Wm. Dunavan were the invitation committee, and Messrs. C. B. Hess and S. W. Dunavan were floor managers. About twenty couples were present and all had a very enjoyable time. Two large parlors had been prepared for dancing, the floors nicely waxed, and everything was in good trim. The music by Prof. Cliff G. Sweet and wife of Aurora, consisting of violin and harp, was excellent and was greatly enjoyed by all present. For good first class music, new changes and delicious waltzes, they cannot be excelled and we can heartily recommend them to parties desiring such music. At a late hour the guests retired thanking Mr. and Mrs. W. for their kind hospitality and for the pleasant time they had had. The following guests were present: Prof. and Mrs. C. W. Tufts; Mr. and Mrs. T. E. MacKinlay; Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Hess; Misses Stout, Misses Angevine, Misses Dunavan, Misses Watts, Craig, Barnes, Marriner, Misses Childs, Misses Loy and others. Messrs. Angevine, Trumbo, Hall, Mitchell, Butters, Dunaway, Flick, Clauson, Messrs. Green, Messrs. Dunavan and others.

            The paper mill after being shut down for three months, will start up this week.

            The tile works have opened a coal mine across the feeder from their works and will mine their own coal this season. The coal and fire clay will be run across and delivered at the works in cars.

            Two pet bears passed through town last Saturday and greatly amused the boys with their tricks.1


  1. The (Ottawa, Illinois) Free Trader, March 8, 1884, p. 8, col. 1

My Dayton Childhood

My great-aunt Maud was a large part of my childhood. She lived nearby and I spent a lot of my early years following her around.

One Sunday afternoon in July 1947 she thought of several ways to amuse an eight-year old. As she wrote down for me later:

Today Candace and I measured the old elm tree in the back yard planted by my father in 1853. It was thirty feet around at the base. Then we counted my cousins on both Green & Trumbo sides. There were 62 Greens and 31 Trumbos (first cousins) and they had 198 children who would be second cousins to Candace’s mother.

As you can see, she was interested in family connections and I can remember drawing family trees on the back of old rolls of wallpaper at her direction.

She knew how to fold paper into miraculous shapes and forms. We made cornstalks out of newspaper and boats out of typing paper. There was one paper folded boat that went through many forms along the way – a pocket book, a picture frame, a double boat and finally a motorboat. We made nose pinchers, cornucopias for May Day, and lots of other things.

She showed us how to make hollyhock weddings, with a white flower turned upside down, with a bud as a head, for the bride and colorful bridesmaids to accompany her. See an example here.

Sunday dinner began with my father killing a chicken and delivering it to aunt Maud. She would pluck it and clean it, carefully pointing out the gallbladder attached to the liver and warning that breaking it would release bile which would ruin the meal. After the feet were cut off, we had the fun of pulling the tendons to make the toes flex.

She was the unofficial historian of Dayton and knew all the families for miles around. And of course (see above) she was related to almost all of them. I was fortunate to inherit all her family information and her photographs of early Dayton, most of which appear around this web site. I owe a great deal of thanks to this much-loved aunt.

Charles Hayward – Dayton Landowner

Charles Hayward was born April 8, 1808 and grew up in Lebanon, Connecticut. He moved to Cleveland, Ohio, in 1818, and in 1835 or 36 he moved to La Salle County, one of its oldest settlers. He bought farmland, some of which was in Dayton township (highlighted above). In addition to farmland he also owned lots in Ottawa, Peru, Marseilles, and La Salle.

He served as School Commissioner of the county. He also built the Fox River House in Ottawa, which he kept for a few years being also interested in merchandising. His business affairs met with well deserved success. In 1847, Charles sold his business interests in Ottawa and moved to the Dayton farm. He had carried on farming the whole time they lived in Ottawa. By the time of his death, July 20, 1849, he was a wealthy landowner, his land being valued at more than $17,000.

His wife was Miss Julia Ann Mason, who was born in Cortland County, New York, on July 22, 1819, the daughter of Oliver and Sarah (Thayer) Mason. Charles and Julia were married in Ottawa on October 8, 1838. They had three children:

Estelle J, born December 11, 1839 on the farm in Dayton township, died October 1,1918 in Ottawa. She never married. When she died her estate was valued at $113,000, with $94,000 in real estate.

George, born April 18, 1843, died March 1, 1906 in Ottawa. He married Nettie Strickland on June 17, 1875. They had 3 children: Edith, married George Gleim; Mabel; De Alton

Emma/Emily Julia, born Nov. 5, 1846, died August 4,1920, married David Lafayette Grove [d 1897] on October 21, 1880. They had two children: Louise; Chester

After Charles’ death, Julia married Henry J. Reed on December 18, 1851. They had one son, Charles.

The interesting thing about all this for me is that some of Charles Hayward’s land, the land later owned by Emma Grove, is right next to our family farm, the original John Green property, which my sister and I still own. Also, David Grove is my 1st cousin 3 times removed.

Which just goes to prove my contention that everyone connected with early Dayton is related to everyone else.

Sorghum Making in Dayton

sorghum making

REVIVE MAKING OF SORGHUM IN LA SALLE CO.

Back in the days when pa and ma were young and grandpa and grandma ran the farm, making sorghum was an annual fall task, and nearly everybody who lived on the farm had sorghum for their winter pancakes.

George Gleim, Ottawa attorney, was one of those who came to manhood in the days when sorghum making was a regular part of farm work.

A few years ago Gleim made a trip to southern Illinois, commonly known as Egypt. There he found that sorghum making was not a lost art, as it had nearly become in this part of Illinois.

That gave him the idea that sorghum making might be revived in La Salle county. Last spring, Gleim induced seven farmers, in Dayton township to plant an acre of cane on their farms. Some of them were from southern Illinois and they readily agreed to raise the cane.

Last week these seven men cut their cane, preparatory to the making of sorghum. Then Gleim produced an old fashioned sorghum mill, operated by a tread mill, with a horse as motive power. He also brought a big pan, fifteen feet long and four feet wide, which he had obtained in “Egypt.”

Four men from the same district who knew how to cook sorghum were also imported into the county. A shed was erected in a woodlot on the farm of Mrs. George Gleim, in Dayton township.

After experimenting with their outfit and getting it in working order, the production of sorghum, at the rate of 70 gallons a day was started last week.

The mill will be in operation for the next ten days, keeping a crew of men busy from early morning till late at night.

William Rexroat is chief cooker. Two men skim off the scum which forms on the top of the sorghum as it is cooked in the huge vat, after being crushed in the old fashioned mill.

James Dixon, Vincent Smith, Arthur Crosiar are among the men who raised the cane, and they are helping to crush and cook it.

The sorghum is being sold at the mill, either in containers on hand there, or in containers which the buyers bring with them.1


  1. The Times (Streator, Illinois), 16 Sep 1931, p. 6