The Anatomy of a Paper Mill

The above survey was made for F. D. Sweetser in November of 1892, preparatory to his selling the paper mill to the Columbia Paper Company. The paper mill lay between the feeder and the west side of the Fox river, south of the bridge. The main body of the factory consisted of the machine room, the beater room, and the bleach room, with the boiler room at the back. The plat shows the water diverted from the feeder to power the machinery and then returned to the river. The lime house appears just north of the main building.

The paper was made from straw and made a low-grade wrapping paper. In 1886 the paper mill was turning out about six tons of this paper per 24 hours. Although the river provided the power the mill needed, it could also bring trouble. In February 1887 the river flooded and the mill was closed for several weeks until repairs could be made. The flood also washed away all the straw that was stockpiled to last out the winter.

At the time of its sale in 1893 to the Columbia Paper Company, the mill was Dayton’s chief industry. Unfortunately, the new owner closed the mill and the heyday of industrial Dayton was nearly at an end.

Dayton Was Once an Industrial Center

by C. C. Tisler


Off the beaten path of the paved road, the hamlet of Dayton at one time was one of the thriving industrial centers of the county in an age when water-power operated mills produced flour, lumber and other products. Steam power then had not penetrated Illinois, and electric power was still a century away.

The electric power was there in the foaming water which poured through the mill races, but it had not been harnessed to bring light and power to any one either at the site where it was developed or many miles away.

So when the pioneers came into La Salle county 115 years ago, or even before, one of the first things they sought was waterpower where a grist mill could be operated. That was the case at Dayton, where the mill on the swift Fox river at one time ground the grist for settlers for 100 miles away. It was the only water power operated mill at one time in all northern Illinois.

The trade of mill wright was then an important one and the construction of dams was a necessary item of business in pioneer life.

State Built Dam

Eventually, the state of Illinois, as part of the construction of the Illinois-Michigan canal, built a dam in the Fox river at Dayton to supply water for the canal at Ottawa. The water was carried through a feeder, parts of which are still in existence in Ottawa and south of Dayton on the west bank of the Fox river. It is still state property and is in the state park system.

Three-quarters of a century ago, Dayton was still a thriving town

One of the flourishing industries of the hamlet was the Fox River Horse Collar Manufacturing company. The officers were John Read, president; A. F. Dunavan secretary and treasurer; John Read, A. F. Dunavan, H. B. Irey, David L. Grove and N. Brunk, directors. They were wholesale manufacturers, their advertisements sais, of the celebrated Pennypacker Horse Collar; also very good grade of horse collars and leather team nets.

Woolen mills also were operating in the village, and an old county directory lists Peter Coleman as one of their spinners.

The horse collar manufacturing business was first conducted by the firm of George Pennypacker and Brunk, then Dunavan became a partner and eventually sole owner with his son.

An average of 12 men a day were employed in the plant which made annually 1,500 horse collars and 50 dozen fly nets besides other articles along the same line.

Incidentally, if the business was still in existence, it probably would not now be turning out horse collars, but products for the army to keep men afloat after they had been shipwrecked, besides other similar items for the armed forces.

Tile Factory Flourished

The Dayton Tile Works also was a flourishing business in the hamlet along the Fox river many years ago. It was established 65 years ago by David Green for this [sic] sons, John and George Green. Eventually Charles bought the interest in his brother George.

But the most important business ever set up in the village was the woolen mills.

John Green in September, 1829, looked over the site of the future village and entered claim to 80 acres of land including that of the future mill site. He also purchased 160 acres in Rutland township. Two months later he was back in Dayton from his home in Ohio with his family to spend the winter.

His flour mill was put into service on July 4, 1830, and Mrs. Green baked bread from the flour for their dinner the same day.

His saw mill furnished the lumber to build the first frame house in Ottawa. A grist mill of one run of burrs was built in 1932 [sic] and one with four run of burrs in 1834. For the next two years his trade came from a distance of 100 miles. The mill was rebuilt in 1857 and stood for many years.

John Green and his sons in 1840 built the first woolen mill to run power looms in the state of Illinois. Its business flourished for a quarter of a century and supplied wool goods in Civil War days. A new mill was built in 1864.

War Time Troubles

War time financial reverses struck the firm when they bought 60,000 pounds of wool in 1864 at $1 a pound and a year later were unable to get more that 50 cents a pound for the same wool. Part of their goods in storage was destroyed in the Chicago fire of 1871 with a $15,000 loss.

Settlement of financial difficulties was made through purchase of the mill by Jesse Green, who ran it from 1878 to 1882. The property then was sold to Williams and Hess, who organized a stock company to make pressed brick.

John Green also had the experience of helping to build canals in two states. In Ohio he hired 200 men to build 15 miles of the Ohio canal. In Illinois he constructed two miles of the old lateral canal or feeder between Ottawa and Dayton.

Hamlet though it is the village of Dayton like other small towns throughout the county is platted and the plat is on file with county officials.

The platting was unique in one respect. The central section of the village in Green’s addition has First, Second, and Third Prairie streets. Other streets in the village are Jackson, Lafayette, Pendelton, O’Connell, Main, Canal, Washington and Franklin. Canal street, as one might expect, is the one closest to the lateral canal east of the village and west of the Fox river.

Stones Now in Park

The mill stones with which John Green produced the first grist in all of northern Illinois on July 4, 1830, have not been lost to posterity.

They were hauled overland, probably in an ox cart, to Indian creek north of Harding, where they were used in a mill at a settlement which was wiped out by an Indian raid on May 20, 1832. The historic stones are now in front of the small buildings in county owned Shabbona park, which houses a museum of pioneer relics. An old history of Illinois, published 80 years ago, said of Dayton, “The village of Dayton, in the township of the same name and central part of the La Salle county, situated on the west bank of the Fox river four miles above Ottawa.

“It was settled in 1829 by John Green who carried on farming on an extensive scale. He also paid considerable attention to raising improved stock and some very superior Durham and Spanish breeds were brought here by him.

“The immense and unfailing water privileges on the river at Dayton bespeak for it at no distant period a place among the leading manufacturing towns in the great west.

“The water is drawn from the Fox river feeder under a 20 foot lead. It has two large flouring mills, one saw mill, one wool carding and cloth dressing establishment, and a machine shop already in operation and there is still ample power to drive 50 runs of burrs. There are two schools and two churches within a mile and a half of this place. Distance from Chicago, via Chicago and Rock Island railroad 88 miles.”

  1. From the Ottawa Republican-Times, date unknown

John Green’s Last Will and Testament

John Green

John Green

Last   Will & Testament of John Green deceased
Filed June 3rd 1874

Know all men by these presents that I, John Green of the Town of Dayton in the County of LaSalle and State of Illinois considering the uncertainty of life, and being of sound mind and memory, do make declare, and publish this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills, I give bequeath and devise my real Estate and personal property, as follows that is to say,

First I desire that all my debts be paid of whatever name or nature, to be made out of my Personal property, first, and balance if any from my real estate hereinafter devised and bequeathed unto my three sons Jesse Green, David Green, Isaac Green and my daughter Rebecca Trumbo.

Second I desire that my beloved wife Barbara Green shall have three hundred dollars per annum during her natural life (if she requires it) to be paid equally by my three sons above named, who are required to pay for her use quarterly the sum of twenty five dollars each, and it is hereby expressly understood that the said Barbara Green is to have her bed and bedding, and to make her home with my son Isaac Green.

Third I give, bequeath and devise unto my son Jesse Green and to his heirs and assigns, the following real estate Viz:- the South half of the East half of the North West quarter of Section twenty nine (29) and the North half of the East half of the South West quarter of section twenty nine (29) and the East fraction of the West half of the North East quarter of section thirty two (32) containing Sixty five and Sixty five (65 65/100) one hundredths acres lying and being in the North part of the West half of the North East quarter of section sixteen (16) also village lots one (1) two (2) and three (3) in Block numbered nine (9) and lots No one (1) two(2) three (3) four (4) and five (5) in Block No Eight (8) all in the original Town plat of Dayton, all the above and foregoing lands and lots lying and being in Township No thirty four (34) North of Range four (4) East of the third Principal Meridian in LaSalle County and State of Illinois, to have and to hold the same together all the rights priveleges and appurtenances thereunto belonging.

Fourth I give, bequeath, and devise unto my son David Green and to his heirs and assigns that portion of the West part of the South East quarter of section twenty nine (29) Town 34 North of Range four (4) East of the third P.M. and bounded as follows Viz: on the North by lands heretofore deeded to Jesse Green and David Green, (and since by them to John F. Nash assignee of J. Green & Co) on the East by Fox River, on the South by the section line dividing Sections twenty nine (29) and thirty two (32) and on the West by the Feeder to the Illinois and Michigan Canal, containing Eight (8) acres be the same more or less together with my entire potion of the water Power Secured and reserved in a certain Deed or release given to the State of Illinois and bearing date June 5th 1838 and not heretofore disposed of, also subject to the restrictions and conditions of said Deed or release to the State aforesaid, also Vilage lots No one (1) two (2) and the North half of lot No Seven (7) and all of lot Eight (8) in Block three (3) and lots three (3) and four (4) in Block No one (1) in the original town Plat of the Vilage of Dayton LaSalle County Illinois: Also eighteen and Seventy-nine (18 79/100) hundredths acres of the North End of the South half of the East half of the South West quarter of section (29) Township thirty-four (34) North of Range four East of the third 3rd principal Meridian in the County of LaSalle and State of Illinois: To have and to hold the same together with all the rights, priveleges and appurtenances thereunto belonging or in any wise pertaining.

Fifth, I give bequeath and devise unto my son Isaac Green and to his heirs and assigns the North half of the East half of the North West quarter of section twenty nine (29) and all of that part of portion of the fractional North East quarter of section twenty nine (29) which lies West of Fox River, except that portion heretofore deeded to Jesse Green and David Green as shown by deed duly recorded in Book Eleven (11) Page four (4) of County Records; also all that portion or part of the West part of the South East fractional quarter of section twenty nine (29) lying West of Fox River and bounded as follows, on the North by the half section line of said section twenty nine (29) on the West by the half section line of said section (29) on the South by Washington Street as Shown by the original Town Plat of the Vilage of Dayton, on the East by the Feeder to the Illinois and Michigan Canal be the same more or less To have and to hold the same together with all the improvements and appurtenances thereunto belonging or in any wise pertaining, all of the above and foregoing lands lying and being in Township thirty four (34) North of Range four (4) East of the third principal Meridian in LaSalle County and State of Illinois.

Sixth: I give devise and bequeath unto my daughter Rebecca Trumbo and to her heirs and assigns Lots one (1) two (2) and three (3) in Block No fourteen (14) also fractional lots two (2) three (3) and four (4) in Block No eleven (11) all in the original Town Plat of the Vilage of Dayton, to have and to hold the same together with all the improvements rights, priveleges and appurtenances thereunto belonging.

Seventh, My other Daughters Eliza Dunavan, Nancy Dunavan, Katherine Dunavan and Rachael Gibson have all been provided for, previous to the making of this distribution of my estate.

Eighth should there be any portion of my personal property left after paying my indebtedness as hereinbefore mentioned, I desire that it be divided equally among my three sons Jesse Green, David Green, and Isaac Green.

Ninth I hereby appoint my sons Jesse Green and David Green Executors of this my last Will and testament, in witness whereof I have signed, sealed published and declared this instrument as my will at Dayton LaSalle County Illinois, this 19th day of January A. D. 1874

John Green {seal}

The said John Green of Dayton LaSalle County Illinois on this 19th day of January A. D. 1874 signed and sealed this instrument and published and declared the same as and for his last Will, and we at his request and in his presence, and in the presence of each other have hereunto written our names as subscribing witnesses.

Chas B. Hess
Geo. W. Green
Newton M. Green

Oldest Flour Mill in Northern Illinois

Green's Mill with house behind

From The Sunday Times-Herald, Chicago, March 27, 1898

Famous Old Structure at Dayton Built in 1830 Is to Be Torn Down
Was Erected by John Green

            Within a short time one of the landmarks of northern Illinois will have disappeared under the march of “improvement” and a most interesting relic of the pioneer settlements will have passed away forever.

This survival of the old regime is the famous flour mill at Dayton, a small village on the Fox River, seventy-eight miles southwest of Chicago. It was known in early days from Fort Dearborn to Springfield as “Green’s mill.” Erected in 1830, while the smoke of Indian teepees yet curled from the opposite bank of the narrow river, it was a rendezvous for settlers within a radius of a hundred miles, and from that day to this, until a few months since, its millstones have ground the wheat of the Illinois prairies.

Its passing is due to the crushing competition of the great roller mills of Minnesota and the country still farther to the west. This spring it will be torn down and a brick building erected on its site, using its present water power to send electricity to Ottawa four miles south.

Settlement of Dayton

            The mill was built by John Green, an Ohio pioneer, who in 1829 with a few of his kinsmen, made the long and dangerous journey to the Fox River and at its rapids, four miles above the mouth, he located the site of the present mill. They were thirty-four days on the road, a distance which can now be accomplished in less than twenty hours. The company numbered twenty-four, nine men, four women and eleven children, ranging from infants up to 16 years of age. Of the men John Green, David Grove, Henry Brumback, Reason Debalt and Samuel and Joseph Grove became ancestors of several of the most influential and respected county families of the present day.

John Green, the leader, was a man of action, and his wife, Barbara Grove, was no less decided. With vigor they set to work on the gristmill, and it was opened on July 4, 1830. That forenoon the flour was ground from which the holiday bread for dinner was baked, and the fifty-fourth anniversary of the nation celebrated with sincerity and patriotism.

Difficult to Erect

            It was not an easy task in those days to build a gristmill hundreds of miles from the nearest settlement. For the millstones the hardest bowlders or “hardheads,” relics of the glacial period from Lake Superior, were selected, worked into proper form, and made to do the work. Later the mill had work for four pairs of “burrs,” and ground all the flour and meal for a wide extent of country. At one time in the early ’30s all the grain of the Fox River settlement had to be brought by flatboat from Springfield via the Sangamon, Illinois and Fox rivers, Ottawa, Hennepin and Peoria being the only settlements between the two places. Some of the Greens conducted this expedition. In 1832 the Indians drove the settlers into Fort Johnson at Ottawa, but did not harm the Dayton mill, although they massacred eighteen whites within twelve miles, the upright dealings of John Green with them undoubtedly saving his property from the torch.

Mr. Green and his sons later built a woolen mill at Dayton, and until 1874 the family ran the flour mill. Then Daniel Green and his sons conducted it until a few years since, when it was bought by M. Masters, who has just disposed of it to an Ottawa man for the power. In 1855 it was enlarged, but is substantially the same as on that July day of 1830 when its first grist was ground.

Dayton School 1945-1946

Dayton School 1945-46

The downstairs room (grades 1-4) of the Dayton School in the 1945-1946 school year.

Front row: Sharon Thomas, Cathie Corso, Joan Lane, unknown, Gary Mathias, Kenny Newtson, Philip Patterson
Second row: Carl Schmidt, Ken Thomas, Larry McGrogan, Gary Allen, Billy Krug, unknown, Bertha Davis, Candace Clifford, Herbie Lane
Back row: ____ Smith, Miss Emma C. Fraine, Harold Winchester, Darlene Winchester, Shirley Patterson, ____ Eltrevoog, unknown, Sharon Newtson

Tourists in the Fox River Ice Gorge

1875 ice gorge picture

If you look closely at the above picture, you can make out several people sitting and standing inside one of the ice caves created by the 1875 ice gorge. The picture was taken by W. E. Bowman, well known Ottawa photographer. The Ottawa Republican on March 26, 1875, had this to say about the event:

Who, during the past week, has not heard of the Fox river ice gorge? What wonderful stories have been told concerning it, what fears excited, what direful properties uttered. Hundreds have visited it, while thousands have listened, with palpitating hearts and trembling limbs, to the Munchausen descriptions of its magnitude, its reserve power and the awful doom awaiting the city should heavy rains fall before the less destructive rays of a spring sun have time to break the barrier and send the massive blocks of congealed crystals, perforated, unsound and brittle over the dam into the Illinois.

The gorge begins about a mile above the aqueduct, in the bend of the river, not far from Lyman’s Mound, and extends a distance of two or three miles up the river, if not up to Dayton. In some places the solid cakes are piled to a height of fifteen or twenty feet, and extend in width over an area of not less than a quarter of a mile, including the bottom lands and side hills. Throughout this expanse the ice is strewn in every conceivable shape and position, forming hills and valleys, yawning caverns and frightful abysses, which add a wild grandeur to the surrounding landscape, the whole constituting a picture of unsurpassed beauty that must be seen to be appreciated. Near the mound alluded to are debris of the Dayton bridge, and scattered here and there among the cakes are huge stones which were carried from their resting places by the irresistible momentum of the torrent.

But the gorge does not excite pleasurable emotions only. One cannot look over this vast ice field without reflecting upon the immense inherent power it possesses for carrying destruction to property should a sudden rise in the river precipitate it upon the territory in its front. Bridges would be swept away, houses submerged and a vast amount of property damaged and possibly lives lost. A few days like yesterday will, however, render it harmless.

Cold and Snowy

Maud Green in snow

This picture shows Maud Green in the yard of the Ralph Green home in Dayton sometime in the first part of the 20th century. Snowstorms were a welcome occurrence in early Dayton as snow-packed roads were easier for sleighs than muddy, rutted roads were for wagons. However, the accompanying frigid weather made travel uncomfortable and hazardous.

The Ottawa [IL] Free Trader, January 15, 1881, p. 1, col. 3

Last Sunday night and Monday saw some of the coldest weather of the season – the Mercury in Ottawa standing at about 20 below – thermometers vary more than watches. At Dayton they claim 26 below, and at Streator 24 at 8 o’clock. Anyhow it was cold. The week thereafter was milder. On Thursday for a few hours there was a driving snow storm, drifting badly, however. Ice cutting goes on for private houses, the crop now being some 20 inches thick, and of fine quality.

April 2, 1881, p. 8, col. 1

Dayton, March 30. – The last great snow storm (Saturday, March 19,) has completely blockaded our roads, the lanes and some main roads being filled with snow, covering the fences in many places. By a six or seven miles circuitous our citizens have been enabled to drive from here to Ottawa. Our “oldest inhabitants” say it was the hardest storm for 25 years. It isn’t often we have five months of solid winter. Two months and a half of extremely cold weather and two and a half of deep snow. With farmers the spring work will come on all at once and farm laborers will be in active demand.

February 20, 1886, p. 2, col. 4

Dayton, Feb. 16. – The river is clear of ice here – it went out last Saturday and Sunday, but as it formed a gorge near Howland’s place, the water is backed up quite high here. The heavy mush ice began running on Tuesday morning, and threatened a repetition of the great flood of last year.

The lane leading into town from Ottawa has been full of snow and impassable until the recent thaw, when a road was broken through. It is almost impassable yet, however, and a number of tip overs were reported this week. Dayton people drive to Ottawa via Chas. Olmstead’s.

February 11, 1888, p. 2, col. 4

Dayton, Ill., Feb. 7 – Another fine snow storm has commenced this morning which will make the sleighing still better. It has been excellent this winter, and during the past few weeks the weather has been warm enough to make sleighing thoroughly enjoyable. We have a very fine drive from here to Ottawa on the feeder, and as the ice is about 18 inches thick it is perfectly safe. The young people have been improving the times with sleighing parties in the surrounding neighborhood. They had a very enjoyable party a week or two ago at the large and commodious residence of Lew Robinson, Esq., in Rutland township, and last week they were entertained by Mr. and Mrs. H. B. Williams, of Ottawa.

Christmas in Dayton, 1931

Christmas greetings

Program Given at Community Party at Dayton

Decorated Christmas trees and red and green streamers formed an attractive setting in the Dayton Community hall, Saturday evening for the annual Christmas party sponsored by the Dayton Woman’s club.

One hundred and seventy-five guests were served cafeteria style at the community supper at 7:30 o’clock.

An interesting program of vocal, piano and dance numbers was presented by a group from the vicinity of Dayton. The program consisted of the following numbers: piano solo, Dorothy Mitchell; song, Mrs. T. J. Cruise, Miss Anna Cruise and Will Breese; solo, Will Breese; duet, Mrs. T. J. Cruise and Miss Cruise; reading, Zelda Garrow; solo, Billy Gardner; solo dance, Dorothy Mitchell; acrobatic dance, Della Tohella; Christmas song, Mrs. Benson Chamberlin; cornet solo, Walter Anderson; solo, Alden Garrow; solo, Earl Gardner; solo, Nicholas Parr.

An orchestra furnished tunes for old time and modern dances at the conclusion of the program.

The committee in charge was comprised of Mrs. Arthur Retz, Mrs. Thomas Waldron, Mrs. Alvin Hepner and Miss Emma Fraine.1

  1. Ottawa [Illinois] Republican-Times, December 28, 1931

Christmas in Dayton, 1888

Dayton Doings

Dayton, Ill., Dec. 27. – King Winter visited us last night and we find a good covering of snow on the ground this morning. A little more and we will hear the sleigh bells jungle.

Christmas day has passed and everyone has recovered his usual equilibrium – at least we should suppose so.

The Sunday school gave a very pleasant Christmas entertainment, at the school house, Monday evening. A good program was rendered, after which the children were made happy by receiving many toys, candy, as well as useful and pretty presents.

Our worthy P. M. gave a family dinner at his residence on Christmas day, which done up the post office for that day, at least.

A large family dinner was also held at the residence of Mrs. David Green in which about 35 persons happily participated.

In fact the day passed very pleasantly in our little village, although the young folks were pining for the beautiful snow, and its accompanying sleigh rides.

Frank Green came down from Chicago to spend the holidays.

W. J. Burke has gone to Penryn, Placer county, California, where he has hired out for a year to work on Mr. P. W. Butler’s large fruit farm. He writes back that he is delighted with the country.

The Brick Works have had fine weather for rebuilding, and have got a new roof on their building, new floors, &c., and will soon have it in good shape again. We understand a new company has been organized with about $30,000 capital stock, Messrs R. C. Hitt and Ed. C. Alen Jr., of Ottawa being members of the new company; also Messrs. Soule and Williams. We wish success to the new company, and see no reason why the property should not be a paying institution, if properly managed.

The Tile Works, Paper Mill and Collar Factory are running right along and doing a good business.

The Roller Mills have had a good big trade and been quite busy. The farmers are learning where to take their grists of wheat and corn to have good work done, and will patronize home industries.1

  1. Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, December 29, 1888, p. 5, col. 2

The First Dayton Bridge



John Green owned the west bank of the Fox river in 1837 and William Stadden owned the east bank. The following act of the General Assembly authorized them to build and operate a toll bridge.


AN ACT to authorize John Green and William Stadden, to build a Toll Bridge across Fox River.
In force 20th July, 1837

Sec. 1.             Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That John Green and William Stadden, their heirs and assigns, be and they are hereby authorized to build a toll bridge across Fox River; in township number thirty-four, north of range number four east, on section number twenty-nine at the town of Dayton, in La Salle county, State of Illinois.

Sec. 2.             The said John Green and William Stadden, their heirs or assigns shall commence the building of said bridge within two years, and complete said bridge within five years from and after the passage of this act; said bridge shall be built in a good and workmanlike manner, so as to give a safe and easy passage to all persons and their property wishing to cross said bridge.

Sec. 3.             After said bridge shall be completed, the said John Green and William Stadden, their heirs or assigns, are hereby authorized to place a toll gate on either end of said bridge or elsewhere, where they may ask and receive of all and every person passing said bridge such toll as the county commissioners’ court shall fix from time to time.

Sec. 4.             If said bridge shall be out of repair for more than six months at any one time, said charter shall be forfeited; Provided, That destruction of said bridge by fire, high water, other casualty shall not work a forfeiture of the privileges hereby granted, but said Green and Stadden, their heirs or assigns, shall proceed immediately to repair the same.

Sec. 5.             If any person or persons shall wilfully do or cause to be done any injury to said bridge, the person or persons so offending shall forfeit and pay to the said Green and Stadden, their heirs or assigns, double the amount of such injury or damages, to be recovered before any court having jurisdiction of the same.

Sec. 6.             The said Green and Stadden, their heirs or assigns, shall be entitled to purchase, hold and convey, as much real estate as may be necessary to construct the aforesaid bridge, and erect a toll house or whatever may be necessary for the use and purposes of said bridge.

Sec. 7.             This act to be in force from and after its passage.

Approved, 20th July, 1837.

The Hazards of Winter Travel


After the Fox river bridge at Dayton was washed out in the 1870s, traffic between Dayton and Rutland was difficult. There were two places where the river could be forded during low water and there were times in the winter when the ice was firm enough to allow crossing. The ice was uncertain, however, and could not be counted upon. The only other option was to go around by Ottawa and cross on the bridge there.

Dayton was isolated even further when heavy snow made the roads impassable. To make matters worse, when the snow melted, the mud was an equal obstacle to travel.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, January 8, 1881, p. 8, col. 3
Dayton, Jan. 5. – The river is now being crossed at this place on the ice.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, February 19, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
Dayton, Feb. 16. – The “thaw” of last week was unable to start the ice at this place, with the exception of that on the rapids above the woolen factory, which moved down and broke up our ice bridge. We are thus left without any means of communication with the other shore. The great snow storm on last Friday and Saturday has given a new impulse to sleighing and the “merry sleigh bells” are again heard all over the land. East and west lanes and the roads are, however, most of them, impassable on account of deep snow drifts. The thermometer at this place last Monday morning recorded 14 degrees below zero.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, March 19, 1881, pp. 4-5, cols. 6 & 1
The “beautiful snow,” as far as sleighing is concerned, has departed for the last time this winter we trust. The streets and roads are left in a terrible condition, being in places almost impassable on account of the water, slush, snow and mud. The lane from Dayton to the main road to Ottawa has been blocked with snow for about five weeks, so that all travel is by the way of Mr. Olmstead’s. The thaw and light showers have not raised the water in Fox river at this place to a very noticeable degree. The ice is still in the river, and has probably become so softened that it will do no serious damage to dams or bridges.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, June 4, 1881, p. 8, col. 2
Dayton, June 2d, 1881
The river is falling slowly, and is now being crossed at both fords. Fishermen and sportsmen are here in great numbers. The Earlville people seem to have struck a “boom” and are turning out en masse for a good time fishing and camping out.

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, February 6, 1886, p. 7, cols. 3-4
The river is all frozen over solid and teams are crossing below the paper mill.

The Dayton bridge had been out since the early 1870s and not until 1885 was a plan for its replacement finally put into action. It still took two years before it opened. (For the story of the Great Dayton Bridge Affair, click here.)

The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, April 2, 1887, p. 4, col. 6
From Dayton
Dayton, Ill, April 1st, 1887. – Our bridge is finished at last and open for public travel. It is a very fine three span iron bridge, the neatest one on the river, and is a fine addition to our village. Of course every one will use it now that it is constructed, and it was noticed that about one of the first to use it was one who had fought the hardest.

Repairing the damage


In 2014 and 2015 we repaired and restored a number of the grave markers in the Dayton cemetery. The cemetery was 180 years old and over the years had suffered from vandalism and the ravages of time and weather. Some stones had fallen over and were embedded in the ground, as was the Gerret J. Harms stone seen above. Others had been knocked over or had fallen as the ground shifted beneath them. John Heider, a professional gravestone restorer, drafted a number of family members as his willing, if not terribly able, helpers. Before we were done, some of us were very able.

Some other before and after pictures may be seen here.

Thanksgiving 1901


The reporter to the Free Trader from Dayton was careful to chronicle the Thanksgiving activities of his neighbors.


George Galloway enjoyed his duck at his own fireside on Thanksgiving day.

Mr. Isaac Green and family were guests of Mr. and Mrs. O. W. Trumbo on Thanksgiving day.

Mr. and Mrs. George La Pere dined with Mrs. La Pere’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. William Lohr, on Thanksgiving day.

Mr. and Mrs. Ed McClary spent Thanksgiving with Mr. E. H. Pederson and wife, deputy U. S. marshal at Yorkville.

Miss Blanche McGrath and Miss Kate Hogan of Streator were guests of the Misses Colman on Thanksgiving day.

William and Walter Breese and Lowell Hoxie and wife of Aurora spent Thanksgiving with Mr. and Mrs. John Breese.

William Collamore, Jr., of Ottawa and Miss Olson of near Morris, gave Thanksgiving at the home of William Collamore, Sr., and wife, on the 28th.

Wilmot Van Etten, agent for the Q. at Batavia, with his wife and three sons, Clare, Walcott and Frank, dined with Mr. and Mrs. O. W. Trumbo on Thanksgiving day, returning on the afternoon train for Batavia.1

  1. Ottawa Free Trader, December 6, 1901, p. 12, cols. 1-2

The 225th anniversary of Barbara Green’s birth

Barbara Grove Green

Barbara Grove Green was born November 15, 1792, in Rockingham County, Virginia. She was my great-great grandmother and by the time she died, she was regarded as the grandmother of a large area of the county. Here’s what was said about her in the Free Trader on May 22, 1886:

From Dayton
Barbara Grove Green

            Died May 5th, 1886, at the age of ninety three years, five and a half months. She had been confined to bed for about two months, and gradually and gladly passed away like an infant going to sleep. It was her desire to cast off this earthly tabernacle and be present with her Lord.

She retained her faculties to the last, with the exception of her sight, of which she had been deprived for the past seven or eight years. She was never heard to murmur or complain of her misfortune, but on the contrary seemed cheerful and happy.

She was born in Shenandoah county, Virginia, November 15th, 1792. At the age of thirteen she, with her parents, removed to Licking county, Ohio, being in the year 1805, and lived there until the fall of 1829, when she and her companion, John Green and family, removed to this county. A few incidents of their journey will show the hardships and privations of those early pioneer days. We quote her own words from statements made by her to one of her grand daughters, who has recorded them:

“We started from Licking county, Ohio, on the first of November, 1829, for the state of Illinois. There were 24 in the company. Father had gone to Illinois the September before we started and bought land. He and three other men rode on horseback around by Cleveland and along the lakes. When they reached Chicago, where there were only two families besides the garrison, father bought some provisions and in paying for them pulled out quite a roll of bills. That night his brother, Wm. Green, dreamed there were robbers coming and woke the others up, but they refused to start out in the night just for a dream, and he went to sleep again only to dream the same thing again, and when he had dreamed it three times he told them they could stay there if they wanted to, he was going to leave; so they all started and soon after they saw three men following for the purpose of stealing they [sic] money.

“When we reached the ‘Wilderness,’ in Indiana, a man who lived on the edge of the woods told us it was impossible to go on, as the mud was so deep, unless we could travel on the wagons already stuck in the mud; but if we were foolish enough to try it, we must leave ‘those two smart little boys’ (Jesse and David), for we would surely freeze to death. But we did go on and the men cut a new road through the woods for sixty miles, about ten miles a day.

“The, when we got to Cicero river, we had to take the wagons over with bed cords. One wagon, loaded with mill irons and blacksmith tools, was so heavy it tipped over, and we lost a good many things.

“Then the next place we came to was Sugar creek, and it was so high we had to pull the wagons over with ropes again and cut trees for us to walk on. Then there was a swamp next to the creek that the men had to carry the women over on their backs. Between Iroquois and Nettle creek there were five days the horses had nothing to eat, as the prairie was burnt, and they became so weak they got stuck in a ravine and could hardly pull the empty carriage out.

“One evening we had only bread and tea for supper, but that night father came back with corn and beef that he had obtained at Holderman’s Grove, and we were the happiest people you ever saw. We spent the next night at the Grove and the next day home, at what is known as William Dunavan’s farm.”

She lived in the town of Rutland something over a year when she removed to Dayton, being at this place at the time of the Black Hawk war in 1832. Of this war she says: “On the 16th of May, 1832, the girls and I were at the spring, near where the feeder bridge now stands, when Eliza came down on horseback and told us that the Indians were coming, and we would have to go to Ottawa immediately. Then we went to a place a couple of miles below Ottawa and stayed there all night, and the third day returned home again. This was Sunday, and the next day the men made a stockade around the house out of plank. After it was finished they tried it to see if a bullet would go through it, and as it did, they hung feather beds all around. There were about sixty people here at the time, and we were so crowded that they had to sleep on tables, under the beds and all over the house.”

Mr. Green had intended to remain in his improvised fort during the war, but at about twelve o’clock at night, hearing of the massacre on Indian creek, and fearing there might be too many Indians, all those in the fort went to Ottawa. “When we got to Ottawa, there was no fort there, only a log cabin on the south side of the river, but they soon built a fort on top of the hill. We went to the fort, but there was so much confusion there that we had the log house moved up on the hill and lived in it. The next day a company of soldiers from the southern part of the state passed through Ottawa on the way up the river.”

Grandma Green bore all the hardships and privations incident to the settlement of two new countries and lived to see the development of this vast prairie country far, very far beyond her anticipations. When she came here she supposed that in time she might see the country settled around the skirts of timber, but never in her early days did she anticipate seeing the prairies settled up.

Dayton’s Centennial – Part 2

More description of the Dayton centennial from the Ottawa Republican-Times, September 16, 1929

woman singerThe Dayton Song

 A song composed especially for the centennial by Edith Dunavan Hamilton, a great granddaughter of John Green was sung by Miss Isobel Brown at the afternoon program. The song follows:

“Sound of the axe-man’s stroke, creaking of ox-teams yoke, bravely the young wives smile ‘though danger lurks the while. Planting the cornfields, plowing for bounteous yields, braving the winter’s cold, we honor you, dear pioneers of old.

By the river gently flowing – Dayton, mellowed by the year’s swift going – Dayton. Through days of storm and strife, through years of peaceful life for those gone these many years, we pause to shed a tear, today we gather to honor your 100 years.”

Some Old Dresses

During the afternoon, Miss Maude Green, Mrs. John Bowers, Miss Helen Hallowell and Miss Edith Reynolds donned garments of several decades ago and promenaded the streets, reviving an interesting bit of history in regard to modes and fashions. Only the marcelled hair of Miss Hallowell and Miss Reynolds which peeked from underneath their quaint old bonnets showed that they were maids of the twentieth century rather than of the days when Dayton was in its infancy.

Mementoes, relics and curios on exhibition at the celebration includes:

Display of arrow heads, owned by Elmer R. C. Eick, 420 Christie street, Ottawa, many of which were found in Dayton and Rutland townships; quilt made by the great, great  grandmother of Mrs. Verne Wilson; coverlet made in Virginia more than 75 years ago, the property of Mrs. Van Etten; shawl owned by Mrs. John Thompson, made by her mother, Mrs. Elizabeth Brumbach, 80 years ago; quilt made by the wife and daughters of Matthias Trumbo in 1850; straw plug hat and woman’s straw hat of the vintage of about 1800; picture of old school house on the site of the present elevator in Dayton; corn planter used by David Strawn in Livingston county, loaned by Mrs. Walter Strawn; trunk carried in a covered wagon across the plains to California by Joseph Green in 1849 and again in 1852; another trunk brought from Rockingham county, Virginia, by Matthias Trumbo; steelyards which belonged to the Hayes ancestors, sewing box, which belonged to Mary A. Boston, grandmother of G. R. Hayes of Wedron; English tea caddy loaned by Mrs. Wilcox; bedspread made by the mother of C. H. Tuttles, 65 years ago; old candle molds used by Mrs. David Strawn, loaned by Mrs. Walter Strawn; 17 year locusts gathered in 1933 by Mrs. John W. Reynolds of Dayton; piece of fancy work made by Mrs. Mary D. Bennett, 81 years ago; reproduction of Jeremiah Strawn’s lantern 100 years old, loaned by Mrs. Walter Strawn; pictures of John and Barbara Grove Green; vest worn by Mr. Hall when killed by the Indians in the Indian creek massacre in 1832; old cow bell used by David Strawn’s farm in Livingston county, loaned by Mrs. Walter Strawn; flint lock guns which belonged to Peter W. Ainsly and Tim Thompson, lantern and fork found in Wedron under C. E. Thompson’s house; mammoth tooth found near Norway in a gravel bed 30 feet underground; copper toed boots; charcoal iron belonging to Mrs. Sarah Thompson; horse pistol brought from Nebraska by Edman Thompson, half brother of George R. Hayes of Wedron; handcuffs plowed out on the old Ed. Brundage place by G. R. Hayes at Wedron; silk stovepipe hat made by Roussel in Paris and worn to the inaugural ball of President James Buchanan in 1856 by one of Rhoades family; a large map of La Salle county drawn in 1870 by M. H. Thompson and C. L. F. Thompson, showing Dayton as one of the towns of the county; pictures of the old Dayton woolen mills, collar factory and Green’s mill were shown on the map; coverlet brought from Virginia by Mrs. Frank DeBolt’s mother and one brought from Ohio by Mr. DeBolt’s mother; a black net and lace shawl owned by Mrs. Charles Hayward Reed; brown blanket made in the old mills and owned by Mrs. Cornelius Bogerd’s mother; hoop-skirts, dress, blouse and hat about 100 years old; linen, black silk and satin capes eighty years old belonging to Miss Catherine Rhoades; a spinet, 85 years old, and having twenty-nine keys and 30 inches in height; coverlet, more than 100 years old owned by David and Anna Grove and brought from Ohio; a dollman, made of English broadcloth, lined with figured silk and worn by Sidney Lowry; two woven baskets each more than 75 years of age; spiral hall tree 75 years old; sugar, and coffee scoops made of wood; spatula of wood used to remove pie plates from the old ovens; earthen bowls, pottery jugs and ladles used more than 75 years ago; a tardy bell and a call bell used at the old Waite school. which was taught at that time by Miss Susan Bailey of Ottawa. Miss Bailey taught the school when she was sixteen years of age. She is 91 years old now. There were two chairs on display, which were brought down the Ohio river to Memphis, Tenn., thence to Alton, to La Salle on the Illinois and then overland by a four-yoke ox team to the Old Fox River house at Ottawa. The chairs were the property of Miss Rhoade’s grandmother, Mrs. Sarah Collins Rhoades and were brought to Ottawa in 1843; bed quilts made in 1860; two Paisley shawls which had been in the Collins family for 75 years;  mourning shawls and hats which were loaned out at the time of funerals which were at least 65 years of age; a table of mahogany and a tidy which were wedding presents of Mrs. Catherine Rhoades in 1860.

Dayton’s Centennial – Part 1

Greene, J. Kent

The following account of the dedication of a brass plaque marking the location of the first grist mill in the Green settlement appeared in the Ottawa Republican-Times, September 16, 1929. The boulder on which the plaque was mounted can still be seen, but the plaque was stolen long ago.

Kent Greene, assistant state’s attorney of Cook county, and a grandson of John Green, who selected the ground on which Dayton was built, dedicated the impressive looking monument that was erected at the east of the Fox river to mark the spot an which the first grist mill was founded in the spring of 1830.

In an extemporaneous address that was one of the most beautiful bits of oratory Greene depicted the trials and tribulations of his grandfather and the others who were associated with him as they journeyed from Licking county, Ohio, to found the little settlement on the Fox river bank in December, 1829.

He told how they had come through Chicago1, passing Fort Dearborn and getting stuck in the mud on what is now Lake street and Wacker drive as they journeyed on to the place John Green had selected as a better site for a town when he had visited this part of the country in September, 1928 [sic: 1828].

He told how the monument had been erected to mark the site on which the first grist mill, the first saw mill and the first woolen mill in this part of the country had been established. These rugged pioneers, the speaker said, dealt in the first woolen manufacturing in Illinois and for a long time their was the only woolen mill in the state.

He paid tribute in beautifully chosen words to his grandfather and the others who were associated with him, and expressed the hope that the remembrance of their deeds would be an inspiration to those living in the community in the future.

  1. He is romancing a bit here. The trip through Chicago was made by John Green on his  September exploratory trip; the full party never got north of Kankakee. They certainly did get stuck in the mud, just not at Lake and Wacker.

Dayton’s Exhibit in the La Salle County Centennial

Family and wagon

One of the exhibits in the 1931 La Salle County centennial parade was a covered wagon, drawn by oxen, that held a group representing the John Green party, arriving in 1829 from their home in Ohio. John and Barbara Green and family were played by their descendants:

John Green was represented by his grandson, Lyle Green
Barbara Green by her great-granddaughter, Mabel Myers
Their daughter Eliza by her great-niece, Ruth Mary Green
Their daughter Nancy by  her great-great-niece, Helen Myers
Their son Jesse by his great-grandson, Lewis Myers
Their son David by his great nephew, Kenneth Green
Their daughter Katherine by her great-great niece, Ruth Van Etten
Their daughter Rachel by her great-great niece, Ann Van Etten
Their son Joseph by his great-great nephew, John Van Etten

Buy Your Drain Tile Here

Tile works letterhead

Drain Tile. – We have been shown specimens of Drain Tile manufactured by the Green Brothers at the Dayton Tile Works, and if all are like these, and we are assured they are, there are no better tile made in the country. They are made in all sizes from 2 to 8 inches. Sold at Ottawa prices, with 10 per cent. off for cash. For sale at the works in Dayton or at Freeman Wheeler’s on the Chicago road, east of Dayton.

Ottawa Free Trader, September 20, 1879, p. 1, col. 2

110 Years ago today this appeared in the Ottawa Free Trader newspaper

Resided in County for Seventy-Eight Years
The End Came Peacefully at Ryburn Hospital Saturday Night – Had Been For Years Actively Identified With Life of County

Jesse Green died at six o’clock Saturday night at Ryburn hospital. To the younger generation, and to the newcomers among us, that may not mean much. But to the old residents of the county, it will come as the notice of the close of a long eventful and useful life. As man and boy he had lived in La Salle county for almost eighty years. The notice of his death will be read with regret by a wide circle of friends.

Jesse Green was born in Newark, Ohio, in 1817. With his father, John Green, he came to Dayton in 1829. Father and son were long identified with the growth of the county in many ways. The elder Green built the first mill at Dayton, the first flour being ground there on July 4th, 1830. A sawmill was also run in connection and it furnished the lumber to build the first frame house in Ottawa in 1831.

In 1840 they built the first woolen mill with power looms in the state. This ran very successfully until the close of the war. In the early 70’s they met with a series of reverses, but Jesse Green bought in the property and ran it until 1882, when it was sold to Williams and Hess. They organized a stock company for the manufacture of pressed brick.

In 1849 Jesse Green was one of an adventurous party of about fifty others who made the overland trip to California. After remaining in the west two years he returned to La Salle county to make it his home until his death.

He was married June 22, 1843, to Isabella Trumbo, daughter of Mathias and Rebecca Trumbo. His first wife died December 1, 1854, leaving five children – John B., Rollin T., Newton M., Clara J., and an infant who died soon after her mother. Mr. Green subsequently married Hannah Rhoades, a native of Brownsville, Pa. From this second marriage, nine children were born – Thomas H., Joseph, James A., Cora R., Sarah (deceased), Frank, Jesse A. (deceased), John K. and Mabel (deceased). In politics Mr. Green was a Democrat. He was a Universalist in religious faith. He has served three years and supervisor, two terms as justice of the peace, and about six years as postmaster at Dayton.

The children now surviving are Newton M., of Serena; Mrs. C. B. Hess, of this city; Thomas H., Frank, and J. Kent, of Chicago; Joseph, of Coffeyville, Kansas; James A., of Grand Junction, Col.

The funeral will be held from the C. B. Hess residence Monday afternoon at 2 o’clock. Interment in the Dayton cemetery.1

  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, 11 October 1907, p 5, col 3

First winter

The winter of 1829-1830, when the Green party had just arrived in Illinois, was a difficult one. Even though John Green had arranged with William Clark to plant a crop of winter wheat, they had no mill to grind it into flour. Small amounts could be ground by hand, in a coffee grinder, but this was tedious and time consuming. Jesse Green recounted in his memoir one way they tried to deal with the problem.

Soon after our arrival here father sent a team down to a mill in Tazewell County for flour and got what was supposed to be sufficient to last until we could grind some of our own wheat, but he did not take into consideration our increased appetites, which we thought had nearly doubled. Then Uncle Samuel Grove and I took a grist of frostbitten corn to Mr. Covil’s ox-mill below Ottawa on the south side of the river. We were ferried across the Illinois River just above the mouth of the Fox, by two daughters of Dr. David Walker who ran the ferry in the absence of their father. We followed an Indian trail, not a wagon track was visible. Probably owing to the fact that our corn had been caught by an early frost before reaching maturity, we did not succeed very well in grinding it in the Ox-mill, and we returned home with a good portion of our grist unground. Some time later we took another grist up to Mission Point where Rev. Jesse Walker had a similar mill in connection with his mission and school for the civilization and education of the rising generation of our Indian friends and neighbors, but his mill did not prove to be any more successful in grinding our soft corn than Mr. Covil’s mill.

They must have been very relieved when their own mill was built the following spring.

The mill  illustrated above is the type of the Dayton mill, but in Illinois the mill was built of wood, not of stone.