Fox River Floods

old dam built by state of Illinois                                                 Old dam built by State of Illinois

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. 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.

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.

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.

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. This dam was built to divert water to the feeder of the Illinois and Michigan canal. The head of the feeder was located about half a mile north of Dayton, where the State constructed the dam. 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 in 1902 when the dam washed out yet again, all manufacturing in Dayton was abandoned.


From the State of Illinois Rivers and Lakes Commission, Report of Survey and Proposed Improvement of the Fox River, 1915

It was the law!

scales

If you were living in Dayton in 1845, it would be against the law:

To plant or cultivate castor beans without a good and sufficient fence;

To take up a stray animal and use it prior to advertising it, unless it be to milk cows and the like, for the benefit and preservation of such animals;

To charge for passage on a toll bridge to any public messenger or juror when going to or returning from court;

To bet on a card, dice, or any other kind of game;

To charge more that six percent interest on a loan;

For any sheriff or jailer to confine persons committed for crimes in the same room;

To sell any goods or merchandise without a license;

To have more than one ear mark or brand, or one the same as the ear mark or brand of your neighbor’s;

To marry under the age of 17 (male) or 14 (female);

For a notary public to refuse to pass on his books, papers, and other documents to his successor;

To refuse to support one’s parents, if sufficient resource is available;

To remove or pull down any barrier on a public road closing it for the purpose of repairs, except for carriers of the US Mail;

To hire a carriage driver known to be a drunkard;

For a carriage driver on any public highway to allow his horses to run;

To charge to view a performance of juggling, tightrope walking, wax figures, circus riding or the like, without a permit;

To run steamboat races;

To cut any black walnut tree without the permission of the owner;

For married women to write a will.

La Salle County Fair – 1870

 

curculio catcher

In 1870, a reader of the Prairie Farmer magazine submitted an account of the La Salle county fair, which mentioned the Dayton Woolen mill among the other exhibits.

After running down the list of animals (horses, cattle, swine, sheep, and poultry) and mentioning fruits and preserves, the cloth and needlework exhibits, and the races,  the correspondent got down to what really interested him – farm tools and machinery. He reported agricultural implements, too numerous to mention, were ranged on the ground. Nathan Woolsey, of Waltham township exhibited something new in fences, being an iron post and board fence, the post in two parts, the part that enters the ground being of cast iron, shaped like a lance head, and two feet long, in the top of which is a bar of wrought iron about 1 1/2 inches by 3/8 inches thick, to which the boards are fastened by bolts. An excellent invention for the prairie, he thought.

However, the attention of all was centered first and last on Dr. Hull’s curculio catcher, exhibited by J. E. Porter, of the Eagle Works, Ottawa. The plum curculio was a beetle that attacked plums, peaches and other deciduous fruits. It ruined the fruit and various methods were tried to get them off the trees. At one point a bounty of $20 for 5000 was offered.

The difficulty of removing them by hand led to various schemes to shake them out of the branches, called jarring. Striking the tree limbs with heavy sticks was fairly effective, as the beetles would fold their legs and fall to the ground when disturbed. However, when on the ground the curculio would roll up into a small ball which was hard to find and remove.

The curculio catcher, illustrated above, solved this problem by catching the beetles before they hit the ground. It is easy to see why this exhibit would have attracted the attention that it did.

Although modern chemical poisons have made the elimination of these pests easier, they have also made the process much less colorful.

To read the full account of the 1870 fair, including the reference to the Dayton Woolen mill, see this.

Albert Charlier

S S Kroonland

When Albert Charlier died in Ottawa on June 5th, 1945, his obituary, reporting his burial in the Dayton cemetery, said only that “the deceased, of whom little is known, lived in a cottage near Dayton.” He has no tombstone in the cemetery. He never married. Nonetheless, it is possible to reconstruct the outline of his life and make his history known at last.

Albert was born in Fréconrupt, La Broque, Alsace, on September 26, 1879, the son of Jean Baptiste and Marie Claire (Charlier) Charlier. The Catholic Charlier family had lived in Fréconrupt for hundreds of years.

When Albert was about 15, an older friend, Josef Beller, decided to go to America. He must have written home with good news about his prospects, because at age 25 Albert also decided to emigrate.

He left Antwerp on March 18, 1905, on the S S Kroonland [photo above] where he traveled in steerage. He arrived in New York City on March 28. He was 25 years, six months old, single, a laborer, and able to read and write. He paid his own passage and had $44 with him. He had been living in Rothau, in Alsace, which had recently changed from being part of France to belonging to Germany, so he was listed on the manifest as German, although actually Albert was French. He said his final destination was Dayton, Ill, where he was going to join his friend Josef Beller.

Apparently he found work in Dayton, as in 1908 he was able to buy lots 6 and 7 in block 13 of the original town of Dayton from Elizabeth Benoit for $175.

In 1910 he was living in Dayton working at odd jobs. He owned his house and had filed his first papers for naturalization.

In 1918, when he registered for the draft, he was a mine worker for the Dayton Clay works. He was of medium height and weight, with brown hair and eyes.

In 1920, he was living in his own home in Dayton and working as a railroad section laborer. He had not yet become a citizen.

In 1921 he sold his house and lots in Dayton to John Garcia for $450. He went back to France, probably to see how his family had fared during the war.

In 1923 he returned from Europe on the S S La Lorraine, sailing from Le Havre on April 16. His nearest relative in France was his father, Mr. Charlier in Schirmeck, Alsace. He was bound for Dayton, Illinois. He was going to join a friend, Mrs. Klari Hess Green in Dayton, Illinois. This is most likely Clara Green Hess, daughter of Jesse Green and wife of C. B. Hess.

On January 14, 1938 he went to the circuit court in Ottawa and became a naturalized citizen.

In April 1940 he had been out of work for 6 months . He had worked for 6 weeks in 1939 at the power plant in Dayton for a total of $100.

By 1942, when he registered for the WWII draft, he was again employed at the Dayton power plant. He listed Lindo Corso of Dayton as someone who would always know his address.

He died of stomach cancer June 5th, 1945, in the hospital in Ottawa, and was buried in the Dayton cemetery on June 7th.

Unknown at his death, he is unknown no longer.

Another Dayton Schoolteacher

Naomi Trent

Naomi Trent
March 2, 1902 – January 15, 1974

 Mrs. Trent was born March 2, 1902, in Norcatur, Kansas, to Charles and Mary Patanoe Pool. On Jan. 21, 1921, she married James Trent, who preceded her in death in 1963.

She was a retired school teacher and former principal of the Dayton School. She also taught at Central School. She was a member of the Ottawa and Dayton Women’s Club, the Retired Teacher’s Association, and World War I Woman’s Auxiliary.

Survivors include two daughters, Mrs. George (Dorothy) Haas of Morris and Mrs. George (Maxine) Heide of Lagos, Nig.; one son, James of Melrose Park; a brother, Clifford Pool of Clearlake Highland, Calif.; nine grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents and her husband.1

Mrs. Trent and Santa

Mrs. Trent ruled over the upstairs room of the Dayton school, which held grades five through eight. In addition to her teaching duties, she was involved in many school activities, not the least of which was presiding at the annual Christmas pageant at the clubhouse.

When I was in Mrs. Trent’s room, there were around twenty students in the four grades. After listening to the other classes recite their lessons, by the time we reached eighth grade, we had heard them all several times over. Luckily Mrs. Trent realized this and the eighth graders, once their lessons were prepared, could work on a large jigsaw puzzle spread out on a table at the back of the room. We never did manage to complete it, as I recall.


  1. From her obituary in The Daily Times [Ottawa, Illinois] Jan 16, 1974, p. 10

How to Tell A Yankee from a Buckeye

 

prairie schooner

Dayton was largely settled by people from Ohio, but the eastern states also contributed settlers to the area. If you need to know how to tell the difference, these remarks, given by  P. A. Armstrong at the 1877 La Salle County Old Settlers’ Reunion will help:

“The state of Ohio, though comparatively speaking one of the younger states, contributed largely towards furnishing the first settlers of this county, among whom I will mention the Greens, Shavers, Groves, Debolts, Dunavans, Hupps, Brumbacks, Pitzers, Richeys, Strawns, Milligans, Trumbos, Armstrongs, Parrs, Hitts, Reynolds, Wallaces and Bruners, all of whom have left many descendants. New York also contributed handsomely to the first inhabitants, while Pennsylvania, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and many of the eastern states had their representatives here at an early day. As a general rule we could distinguish whether the incoming emigrant were Yankee or from the Middle States.

The Yankee drove but one span of horses to his wagon and rode on the wagon to drive – the other drove from four to six horses to his wagon, riding the left hand wheel-horse to drive. The wagon of the Yankee was coupled longer than the other, had a flexible tongue held up by a neck yoke, and was of several inches narrower gauge and far lighter draft. The box was much lower and longer than the other’s, and of simpler construction and more easily taken apart to put on and oil.

The Buckeye or the Middle State wagon was schooner-shaped and closely coupled together. The rear wheels were some 12 inches greater in diameter than the front ones. It had a still tongue, which was ever busy pounding the legs of the wheel horses. The team was driven by a single line. Three sharp jerks to turn to the right – a steady pull to turn to the left, guided them.

The harness was both a curiosity and a monstrosity – a curiosity, how it ever came into use; a monstrosity by way of punishment to the poor horses who wore them. Great heavy blind bridles, huge collars, massive hames, broad backband and heavy trace-chains for the leaders, immense breeching that literally covered the hind-quarters of the wheel-horses, side-straps full five inches wide for tugs, and large bent-skin housings upon the wethers of each horse, were sufficient to melt anything in the shape of flesh.

The box was much higher at the ends than in the middle and was made of panel work, and so mortised together that the entire weight had to be lifted up in taking it off or putting it on the wagon. Hence it required the united effort of a whole family to handle it. These schooner wagons being about 5 inches wider than the Eastern wagon, they of course never tracked with them, and hence they made a new track, at least on one side. Being very heavy they sank to hard pan in every slough, and when planted they are “solid muldoons.”

These wagons, so dissimilar, each had their advocates for a while, but the superior advantages possessed by the Eastern wagon were so patent that the prairie schooners were abandoned and suffered, like the wonderful one-horse chaise, to tumble to pieces and were never repaired or duplicated.”1


  1. Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, August 18, 1877, p. 4, col. 6 – p. 5, cols. 1-5
  2. image credit: By Kevin Burkett from Philadelphia, Pa., USA (Flickr Uploaded by SunOfErat) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

116 Years Ago Today in Dayton

tent in camp site

[NEWS FROM] DAYTON

Charles Sheppler of Wedron Sundayed at Dayton.

Some nice fish are now being caught above the dam.

Charles Clodt and son Charles, spent Sunday at Serena.

Mr. and Mrs. Jack Channel and son, of Marseilles, spent Sunday here.

Miss Marguerite Clodt is spending a few days with Mr. and Mrs. Ed Clodt.

Mrs. Stella Kelly and child are now visiting her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Wm. Cullimore.

Miles Masters, formerly of this place, but now of Ottawa, made a flying visit here on Tuesday.

G. L. Makinson, now employed at Hess’ factory, will shortly remove his family to Ottawa.

Miss Etta Barends, of Joliet, is spending her vacation with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Jos. Barends.

Miss Ruth Fleming, who has been spending the past four weeks at Earlville, returned home on Saturday.

Farmers are getting along nicely with their threshing, and will soon be through if the weather holds good.

Miss Nellie McGraw, of Streator, who has been visiting the Misses Coleman, returned home on Sunday evening.

Frank Corell was stung on the hand by a large bumble bee on last Saturday. He quoted scripture in French for a few moments.

There are just fifty houses in Dayton, fourteen of which are vacant. The tile, brick and grist mills, also the electric light plant, are all idle.

Last Thursday, Miss Mary Coleman, on entering the barn, discovered a huge snake about four feet long. A neighbor was called, and his snakeship was killed.

The camp just north of the ice house above the dam, is certainly an ideal spot. There are about a dozen glass blowers from Streator at the camp, and sometimes as many as fifty visitors can be seen enjoying camp life at one time. Good boating, turtle soup and fresh fish always on hand, and no one who ever visited there ever went away without leaving sweet memories behind. On Saturday, August 17th, will be “Ladies’ Day” at the camp, when the wives and lady friends of the members will be present and a most enjoyable day is expected by all. Good music and dancing will be one of the features of the day.

Twenty-nine boys ranging in age from five to ten years of the “Fresh Air Fund” arrived over the Q. R. R. at 11:17 A. M. on Tuesday. A number of ladies and gentlemen from Ottawa met them at the train and escorted them to their camping ground, just west of Basil Green’s residence. The camp presents a very pretty appearance, everything about it being very neat and tidy. Eight tents comprise the sleeping apartments, while one dining, two commissary and one kitchen tent make up for the rest. Felix Mader of Ottawa presides over the culinary department, while Charles Caton acts as his assistant. Through the courtesy of Mr. Basil Green a dam has been built just south of the camp, where the boys may bathe and enjoy a fresh water bath, unlike that of the Chicago river. Judging from the first day or two, the visitors next week will be very numerous, and will no doubt wake up this old burg, which has so long been sleeping.1


  1. Ottawa Free Trader, 9 Aug 1901, p12, col 1

Hezekiah Bacon – Weaver

         Bacon, Hezekiah Hezekiah and Sarah (Davey) Bacon

The Dayton woolen mill had a number of employees from England. Some worked there for many years; others for only a few. One such was Hezekiah Bacon, who was only in Dayton for a few years. He appears in the 1870 census of Dayton, living with the William Lancaster family. No other record has been found of him in La Salle county. However, a good bit is known of his life both before and after his stop in Dayton.

Hezekiah was born in 1833 in Halstead, a silkweaving town in Essex, England. His father and mother, older brother, and younger sisters were all silkweavers, as was Hezekiah. The town was dominated by the silkweaving trade and when, in 1860, the tariff on imported silks was removed, competition from the French caused the trade to collapse in England.

Hezekiah had married Sarah Ann Davey in 1852 and they had four children, so the poor opportunities for him in England decided him to emigrate to America. He came by himself, to test the possibilities before bringing the rest of his family. He arrived in New York City in December of 1867. How he came to Dayton is unknown, but one plausible explanation is that he went from New York to the mill town of Lowell, Massachusetts, and found work in the mills there. Hezekiah may very well have met William Lancaster, who was also working there, and come with him when he headed west. Both William and Hezekiah were working in the Dayton woolen mill in 1870.

In 1872 he sent for his wife. Sarah Ann arrived in New York in October of 1872, accompanied by their youngest child, Emily, aged 4. Two older children, Sarah Ann and Hezekiah Charles, immigrated later, while one daughter remained in England.

In 1873 the Dayton factory went out of business and Hezekiah had to find another workplace. J. Capps & Sons’ woolen mill was a major manufacturer in Jacksonville, Illinois, and both Hezekiah and William Lancaster were soon working there.

Hezekiah died September 17, 1887, in Jacksonville and was buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery. After his death, Sarah Ann lived for a time with her daughter Emily Nichols. Sarah died in 1915 and is also buried in Diamond Grove Cemetery.

Additional information about Hezekiah Bacon may be found here.

Grand Balloon Ascension

                              1

This announcement, which appeared in the Ottawa Free Trader 161 years ago today, would surely have caused great excitement in Dayton. Mr. S. M Brooks, the great American aeronaut was coming to town. A balloon ascension, followed by a fireworks display, would have attracted people from far and wide, and many Dayton people would surely have been among the spectators.

Silas M. Brooks popularized ballooning all over Illinois and Iowa. He would begin with a lecture on aeronautics. Following that, the balloon would be inflated and Brooks would take his place in the car. The ropes would be released and Brooks would ascend majestically into the heavens.

At least, that is how the show was supposed to go on. Balloon ascensions were dangerous. Just the previous year, in Chicago, a balloon ascension by Brooks took the aeronaut up “about a mile.” The balloon ran into trouble and was entangled with a telegraph wire, when the car, and Brooks, fell to the ground. The freed balloon rose into the skies and, despite a reward for its recovery, was never seen again.

Balloons were gaily decorated and some launched accompanied by music. It was also common to launch unmanned balloons. Sometimes a number of small balloons were launched, to the spectators’ delight. With the balloon and the fireworks, it was the Fourth of July three weeks late.


  1. Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, July 26, 1856, p. 2, col. 7

A Trumbo Reunion

Trumbo reunion       A Trumbo reunion held in 1906, a few years later than the one described in this 1904  article.

A TRUMBO REUNION
Was Held Thursday Up at Glen Park. Many of the Family Were There

            The Trumbo reunion was held at Glen Park. Thursday, June 25th, was the day. The Trumbos, large and small, old and young, gathered at their annual picnic. The place of meeting was Glen Park. About seventy-five went up on the morning train and later in the day a number more drove up. The afternoon train brought in another bunch of about fifteen or twenty.

The morning was spent in the amusements that resort furnishes. At noon a chicken pie dinner was served. The Trumbos then sat around, shook hands and swapped stories until 2:30 p.m., when the following program was given:

Trumbo Reunion, Meeting at 2:30 p. m.
Opening by Gualano orchestra – Two selections.
Pres. Elias Trumbo opens meeting.
Miss Dora Trumbo reads minutes prepared by Mrs. Parr, secretary, she (Mrs. Parr) being absent.
Election of officers – Same officers retained.
Address by Mr. Trumbo, of Pontiac.
History of Trumbo family from 1774 to 1904.
Selection by Gualano orchestra.
History sketch by Jesse Greene, read by Miss Trumbo of Pontiac.
Speaking by Mrs. Wm. Long.
Recitation by Strawn Gay.
Recitation by Miss Trumbo, of Pontiac.
Recitation by Miss Carpenter.
Gualano orchestra.

Those present from Ottawa were: Mr. and Mrs. Jesse Grove, Mr. and Mrs. George Pitzer, Barbara Jackson, Mr. and Mrs. George D. Sleuder, Mr. and Mrs. E. T. Strawn, Mr. and Mrs. G. W. Strawn, Florence Strawn, Mr. and Mrs. J. F. Trumbo, Mr. and Mrs. C. G. Deenis, Elias Trumbo, Mr. and Mrs. Sleuder, Mr. and Mrs. J. W. Gay, Strawn Gay, Isabelle Gay, Dorothy Gay, Charles Bradford, Jesse Grove, Lucy Grove, Helen Trumbo, Mr. and Mrs. E. F. Bradford, Rebecca Bradford, Mrs. Frank Shaver, Irene Shaver, Glen Shaver, Ruth Carpenter, Mrs. B. F. Trumbo, Mrs. C. L. Douglas, Josephine Trumbo, J. F. Trumbo, C. H. Tuttle, J. G. Shaver, Roy Deenis, Henry G. Hall, Roe Debolt, Mrs. H. E. Ruger, Mary Follett, Mae S. Knowles, W. H. Knowles, Frank Follett.


  1. The Ottawa [IL] Free Trader, 1 Jul 1904, p2, col 2

The Dayton Company on Their Way to the Gold Fields

DELANO-LIFE-ON-PLAINS-BOOK-COVER                      California gold rush

The following descriptions of the journey across the plains to the California gold fields come from 2 sources – Alonzo Delano’s Journal,1 which he kept day by day during the journey and Jesse Green’s memoir,2 in which he wrote his memories of the trip many years later.

Twenty wagons and forty-nine men, principally from Dayton, but some from Ottawa, left on the boat Timoleon from Ottawa for the California gold fields on April 2, 1849.  Jesse Green was elected captain of the company; Joseph Green, his younger brother, was among the company.  John Green, their father, had been hired by the company to go with them as far as St. Joseph, MO to buy the oxen for the journey.

From St. Louis  they took a boat up the Missouri River to St. Joseph.  There were no cases of cholera on their boat, but on other boats, many people died – in one case, 12 in a single night.  The first night after arriving in St. Joseph, one of the company suddenly came down with cholera and died before morning.  That was the only death in the Dayton company during the entire trip across the plains, but John Green decided there was so much cholera on the river that it would be dangerous to go home, so he went on to California with them.

They left St. Joseph and went sixty miles up the river to find more plentiful grass for the teams, then headed west , travelling without a road for some two hundred miles.

[JG memoir] We agreed upon a point of compass that we would travel, making headway on our route rather than striking more south in order to reach the main road from St. Joseph.  The grass still being short we did not aim to travel over five to ten miles a day for a spell, and were so long reaching the main road that [a] mutinous spirit began to manifest itself, until I yielded to their request to allow Mr. Delano (of Ottawa) to lead them, which he undertook to do not caring for my compass, and though it was a clear day, I found before noon that in his eagerness to strike the road sooner, he had swung completely around and was traveling on the divide between the big and little Nimehahs down stream, while all knew we should travel upstream.  To satisfy the company that we was lost, I went to the nearest stream to see in which direction the water was running.  I knew by my compass and otherwise but did not wish to take any chances in ordering a countermarch.  I hurried back and stopped the train for our noon halt, and satisfied our men that we had been traveling the most of the forenoon on our back track, and said if they desired to go with me to California we should have to turn about, and try to make [the] camp which we had left in the morning, and I would lead them as I had been doing by the aid of my compass but would bear a little more in the direction of the road.  In due course of time we struck the road at a point where we could not possibly have bettered had we been well acquainted with the country,  as ten miles further west we would have encountered sand hills where it was impossible to travel with teams.  Mr. Delano published a history of our travels across the plains giving a good and truthful account with the exception of his leadership of our company, which was of such brief duration that he doubtless did not consider it worthy a place in his history.

 

[AD journal] May 15, 1849:  the party found a ford through a stream “and it was duly consecrated by an involuntary baptism of Mr. [John] Green.  The old gentleman rode in to sound the depth, when his saddle-girth gave way and he slid, body and breeches, over the mule’s head into the water; but as cold baths are recommended by physicians, he consoled himself upon the water-cure principle against future disease.  Notwithstanding the consecration, fate claimed a mite for her share from the old gentleman, for when the train was about to ford, he rode in to show the way, when the girth gave way a second time, and made a cold-water man of him again;  then he claimed the honor of being the best marksman in the company, for without firing a shot he had got a brace of ducks – two duckings in one morning.”  

That night, again according to Delano, John Green, who was acting as hunter for the party, did not return to camp. There was much concern and at the earliest dawn a search party went out.  About 11 o’clock, the old pioneer was sighted approaching the camp.  It seemed that, the previous evening, just as he was approaching camp, an antelope started up near him and in attempting to bring it down he was led on a chase of 2 to 3 miles and lost the direction of the camp.  He wrapped himself in his blanket and slept until the rising sun showed him the correct direction.  Upon his coming in, a second search party was sent out after the first and it was not until night that the entire company was re-united.

[JG memoir] …at Laramie the abrupt bluffs approached so nearly that we were obliged to leave the River for a distance of one hundred miles over the Black Hills, and here grass was so scarce, that we concluded to divide our train, as it was almost impossible to find grass in sufficient quantity for so large a train.

[AD journal} Captain Greene continued in command of eleven wagons and 29 men…I parted from Captain Greene with regret, for his modest unassuming manner, and his sterling good sense had made me much attached to him.

[JG memoir] Isaac Freadenburgh of Ottawa was elected captain of the branch Company.  Our friend Delano was in the mess that went with Mr. Freadenburgh.  He tried to get into our mess; when we separated he said I knew how they abused him and he really cried like a child at his being refused.  The difficulty between him and his mess mates was that they thought he was spending too much of his time on his Journal and failing to do his share of camp duty.

They crossed the Continental Divide at South Pass.

[JG memoir]  “…and here on top of those gigantic mountains, although eager to reach the mines, we were constrained to stop and meditate on the grandeur of the scenery, surpassing anything we had ever beheld, as peak after peak, snow-clad, in the distant Wind River Mountains, dazzled the eye…” The next point on our route of importance, was the crossing of Green River, where we found about five hundred wagons awaiting their turn to be ferried over by a company of Mormons.  Instead of waiting on this company, there was a train there from Hennepin in our state, which had two wagon boxes made of sheet iron with the view of using them in such emergencies, they crossed their own train and we paid them ten dollars each for ferrying our wagons and loading them over, and swam our teams.  By this means we got ahead of the five hundred teams awaiting the ferry.”

They arrived in the mines on September 2, 1849. They spent a year at various locations, with a moderate amount of luck, but in late summer of 1850 they decided to go home. Rather than recross the great plains, they went home through Mexico. On September 2, 1850 they went to San Francisco and took passage on  a boat which landed them at Mazatlan, Mexico, after a trip of 18 days. In Durango, there was a Government Mint and they exchanged some of their gold for coin to buy horses, which they had to take in silver, and put it on a pack mule.  They bought 500 head of horses at 5 to 6 dollars each and drove them overland to Texas, where Joseph and some others remained to winter them there and drove them home in the spring.  Their profit was not as great as they’d hoped as they arrived with less than half the original number, due to stampedes in Mexico.  The Mexicans would stampede the horses, then get a reward for rounding them up, although some went missing every time.

[JG memoir]  We passed over the memorable battleground of Buena Vista where General Taylor and General Santa Anna were in command.

In San Antonio Jesse and John Green and Mr. Goodrich left the company and took a steamer at Port Lavaca for New Orleans, in what was a very rough passage – the boat striking bottom 2 or 3 times and seeming as if it must be smashed to pieces.

[JG memoir]  “We arrived at New Orleans all safe and got aboard a boat for Saint Louis the same evening, and while at supper we had our trunk broken open in our state room just back of where we were sitting, and everything of value taken, not much money however, only about fifty dollars in silver, but all our specimens of gold and other rare specimens of value together with several small buckskin sacks, filled with black sand and fine gold, a watch, etc.  These sacks were very nearly as heavy as gold, and doubtless those thieves thought they had made a larger haul than they really did.  We regretted the loss of our specimens more than all else.”

They encountered ice on the river at Cairo and reached St. Louis with difficulty.  There, they found the Illinois River was frozen over and were obliged to return home by stage, reaching there in January of 1851, where Jesse Green saw for the first time his daughter Clara, born over a year before.


  1. Delano, Alonzo. Life on the Plains and Among the Diggings. Auburn [N.Y.] : Milner, Orton & Mulligan, 1854.
  2. Unpublished memoir of Jesse Green, a transcription of which is in the possession of Candace Wilmot, Urbana, Illinois.

Thomas Henry “Harry” Green

 

                            Cora Childs                                  Harry Green                                Harry  and Cora

Thomas Henry “Harry” Green was born January 9, 1857 in Dayton, the oldest son of Jesse Green and his second wife, Hannah Rhodes. Harry went to grade school in Dayton. He then attended Jennings Seminary in Aurora, one of the finest private high schools in the middle west. Jesse Green, Harry’s father, was himself largely self-educated, as he had only a few terms of formal schooling. He clearly recognized the value of education for his children and sent them to Jennings.

Like his younger brothers, Harry began by working for their father in the woolen mill, but on the first of February, 1880, at the age of 23, Harry took over the store in Dayton, where he sold dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, notions, medicines and almost anything else you could think of. A notice in the Ottawa paper announcing the change in management said that he was doing a cash business. In earlier times on the frontier, a storekeeper would offer credit to the farmers, or would take farm products in trade for goods, but by the 1880s, cash was more readily available, so Harry could operate on that basis. He traveled to Chicago and St. Louis periodically on buying trips, where he would replenish his supplies and see what was new and interesting.

The Dayton store would have been one of the centers of village life. In addition to the many items for sale, there were other attractions. In February of 1881, the Dayton Library Association was founded, with Isaac Green as President, Charles Green as Secretary and Harry Green as Librarian. Harry was the librarian because the library, all one hundred volumes of it, was housed at the store. You paid fifty cents a year to join and then you could borrow any book. The store was also a central point for spreading the news, so much so that the correspondent to the Ottawa newspaper requested that news items for the column be left at the store.

Some time in the mid-1880s a young lady named Cora Childs came to teach in the Dayton school. She had been born in 1860 in Marshall County. In 1864, her parents moved to Ottawa to take advantage of the better educational opportunities for their daughters. She graduated from Ottawa Township High School in 1879 and then completed the two year program at Wesleyan college in Cincinnati in one year, graduating in June 1880. She taught at several other La Salle County schools before coming to Dayton. When her parents moved to Morris she taught in the Junior High School there, but Harry had obviously made an impression on her and they were married on February 22, 1888.

After their marriage, they lived near Morris, where Harry ran a bakery and restaurant. He was also a jobber, or wholesaler, in fruits, confectionery, oysters, tobacco and cigars. An ad for Green’s Bakery and European Restaurant in the Morris Herald touted their wedding cakes, which could be furnished on short notice, and described the business as a place “Where you can get anything you want, from a cup of coffee and sandwich up to a big square meal.” Unfortunately, this establishment burned and they then returned to Ottawa. Harry went to work for the Standard Brick Company, where his brother-in-law, C. B. Hess, was a partner.

In 1892 Harry and Cora moved to Chicago where he later worked as an electrical engineer. Cora was very active in various patriotic organizations. She held a number of offices with the DAR, including many years as regent. She was the first regent of the Chicago chapter of the DAC, the Daughters of the American Colonists; was a member of the Daughters of 1812 and many other similar organizations. She and Harry, who was now T. Henry,  were listed in the 1913 Chicago Blue Book of prominent residents. At that time they lived at 55 W. North Avenue and had a summer residence in Morris. Cora was active in the social life of Chicago, announcing her daughter Mabel’s engagement at a reception and musical at the Plaza hotel.

Somewhere around 1910, Harry’s last name acquired an extra “e”, Greene. Cora, who was very interested in family history, had learned much of the Green history from Harry’s cousin, Maud, who was the Green family historian. Maud had attempted to trace the Green family’s origin, and had identified John Greene the Surgeon, of Rhode Island as a possible progenitor. Cora evidently convinced Harry that the extra “e” should be added. In Harry’s obituary, which Cora surely wrote, the “e” was even added retroactively to his father, Jesse, and his grandfather, John, neither of whom ever spelled their name that way. Incidentally, it is almost certain that John Greene the Surgeon was NOT an ancestor of the Dayton Green family.

Harry died September 24, 1939 in Chicago. The funeral was held in Chicago and the body was taken by train to Ottawa, where he was buried in the family plot in the Ottawa Avenue cemetery on Sep. 27th.

The marriage of Jesse Green and Isabella Trumbo

Jesse Green & Isabella Trumbo marriage license            

On June 22, 1843, Jesse Green, son of John and Barbara (Grove) Green, married his cousin Isabella Trumbo, daughter of Matthias and Rebecca (Grove) Trumbo. They lived in Dayton in this house, which was built in 1853, on blocks 7 and 8 of the plat of Dayton.

Isabella died in childbirth on December 1, 1854, and the baby died shortly thereafter.

They had 5 children, two of whom lived to adulthood:

Rollin T., born January 31, 1847; died September 21, 1864 in Dayton.

John Byron, born in July 1847; died 6 May 1849, while his father was away in California digging for gold.

Clara Isabel, “Callie”, born December 21, 1849, also while her father was in California. She married Charles Benton Hess on April 12, 1869 in Dayton. They later moved to Ottawa, where she died on July 25, 1930.

Newton M., born May 7, 1852. He married Ella Pool on December 24, 1874. She was the daughter of Joseph and Mary Ann (Anderson) Pool. Newton Green died on February 29, 1920.

William D., born in November 1864; died January 14, 1855.

Jesse remarried about a year after Isabella’s death and had a second family with Hannah Rebecca Rhodes.

The widow is entitled to the following . . .

Appraisal of property for widow

Christian Stickley died in Dayton on April 19, 1854, and is buried in the Dayton cemetery. His widow was entitled by law to certain items from the estate for the support of herself and her children. The inventory (shown above) lists the following items:

Necessary beds, bedsteads and bedding for the family of the deceased
Necessary household and kitchen furniture
One spinning wheel
One loom and its appendages
One pair of cards [for carding the wool before spinning]
One stove and the necessary pipe therefore
The wearing apparel of the family
milk cow with calf, one for every four persons in the family
One horse, at the value of forty dollars
One woman’s saddle and bridle, of the value of fifteen dollars
Provisions for the family for one year
sheep, two for each member of the family
Fleeces taken from the same
Food for the stock above described for six months
Fuel for the family for three months
Sixty dollars worth of other property

Left with small children, the widow, Esther (Morgan) Stickley remarried, to Aaron Daniels, on February 22, 1855, and he became the guardian for her children. Watch for a future post on the guardianship releases for sons Edward and Henry Stickley.

You Wouldn’t Get Rich This Way

                             

Illinois law in 1845 allowed for payment for certain tasks required by law:

Coroner’s Fees:

For holding an inquest over a dead body, when required by law, five dollars.
For summoning the jury, seventy-five cents.
For burial expenses, &c., ten dollars.
All of which fees shall be certified by the coroner, and paid out of the county treasury, when the same can not be collected out of the estate of the deceased.

Juror’s Fees:

To every juror sworn in each civil action in the circuit court, twenty-five cents.
To each juror sworn in a civil case, before a justice of the peace, twenty-five cents.
For attending an inquest over a dead body, when summoned by the coroner, to be paid out of the county treasury, twenty-five cents.

Fees for Guarding Jail:

To each man, for every twenty-four hours guarding jail when required, on producing the certificate of the jailer, sheriff, coroner or justice of the peace, of the same, to be paid out of the county treasury, one dollar.

The twenty-five cents paid to jurors in 1845 is equivalent to about $7.50 in current money. Until the Illinois law governing juror’s pay was changed in 2015, jurors were getting from $4 to $10 a day. Taking inflation into account, their pay hadn’t gone up in 170 years! However, jurors are now a little  better off – the present-day juror’s fees are $25 for the first day and $50 for each additional day.

The Paper Mill

 

tile factory about 1864

This picture, taken about 1864, shows the tile works on the west bank of the Fox river, below the bridge at Dayton. The paper mill was later constructed in the open area to the left of the existing buildings, about 500 feet south of the tile factory. As one of the major industries in Dayton, the paper mill received its fair share of mention in the Ottawa Free Trader.

 

July 12, 1879, p. 8, col. 1
The paper mill of Williams & Co., situated at the lower end of the manufacturing portion of the town, is one of the best in the state. Their products are so favorably known that running night and day the year round they are unable to supply the demand.

February 19, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
Williams & Co. shipped a car load of paper to Vermont a couple of weeks ago.

May 7, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
Mr. L. Eels, fireman at the paper mill, is lying dangerously ill with the erysipelas.

June 11, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
Mr. Brown, a paper mill hand, shipped his wife last Wednesday on account of her immorality.

March 8, 1884, p. 8, col. 1
The paper mill after being shut down for three months, will start up this week.

January 17, 1885, p. 5, cols. 1-2
The paper mill owned by H. B. Williams is closed for the winter, having at this time a large surplus stock on hand. It gives employment to 15 men.

January 9, 1886, p. 8, cols. 1-2
The tile works and paper mill have shut down for the winter, the latter mill putting in another machine. The tile works have had a very successful trade during the season and have sold off all their stock on hand.

February 20, 1886, p. 2, col. 4
We notice that Mr. Burks has invested in a new team and wagon. He will haul straw for the paper mill this summer.

May 8, 1886, p. 8, col. 3
The paper mill is to be started up this week, and has been rented by Mr. H. B. Williams to Messrs. David, Moore, and Hewitt. It has been overhauled, new water wheels put in, and will be in good shape for doing a good business.

July 10, 1886, p. 8, col. 4
The Paper Co. are turning out about six tons of straw wrapping paper per 24 hours.
H. B. Williams, Esq. has been painting and repairing his tenant houses in Dayton this spring, and greatly improved their appearances. The paper mill also received a coat of paint which makes it look quite respectable.

August 28, 1886, p. 8, col. 1
The paper company are putting in a new pulp engine and a new bleach tub.

September 18, 1886, p. 5, col. 3
The paper mill is receiving large quantities of straw every day. They are stocking up for winter.

November 13, 1886, p. 8, col. 1
H. B. Williams, Esq., has traded his interest in the paper mill here to F. D. Sweetzer for the latter’s interest in the agricultural store at Ottawa.

February 5, 1887, p. 8, col. 2
The paper mill has been shut down for a week or ten days to make some repairs.

February 12, 1887, p. 4, col. 6
Dayton, Ill., Feb. 11th, 1887. – The little Fox became the raging Ohio during the flood of last Tuesday. The paper mill lost six hundred dollars worth of straw, which is quite a loss to them, as it is difficult to replace it at this time of year, on account of the bad roads.
The paper mill has been fitted up with new calenders, and expected to start up this week, but cannot do so on account of high water.

February 11, 1888, p. 2, col. 4
The paper mill expects to get started this week or next. The state’s men have been busy during the past two weeks stopping a leak in the bank near the flume.

March 3, 1888, p. 8, col. 4
The paper mill men discovered another leak in their bank last week and put in a coffer dam so as to repair the damage. The holes in the bank were no doubt made by muskrats.

May 12, 1888, p. 8, col. 2
The paper mill was compelled to close down about ten days ago for want of straw. We understand they have now made arrangements for bailed straw to be shipped in and will soon be started up again. We hope they may find plenty of stock and not be obliged to stop their mill again during the year.

June 2, 1888, p. 8, cols. 2-3
The paper mill has started up again, and is getting a number of car loads of baled straw.

June 30, 1888, p. 8, col. 1
The Paper Co. are getting to plenty of baled straw and are running right along. The prospects at present are that there will be plenty of straw in the country for them after harvest.

25 Aug 1888, p1, col 4
Bart Ford, who hauls straw for the Dayton paper mill, was the victim of an unfortunate mishap on Monday evening. He was driving by the mill with a heavy load of straw, when the wagon wheels struck an obstruction and the load tipped over, throwing him to the opposite side of the wagon. He struck his face upon the tire of one of the wheels and was knocked senseless. He is terribly bruised and his nose is broken.

December 29, 1888, p. 5, col. 2
The Tile Works, Paper Mill and Collar Factory are running right along and doing a good business.

March 11, 1893, p. 7, col. 1
F. D. Sweetser has sold the Dayton paper mill to the Columbia Paper Company, a member of the trust, for $20,000. The mill was Dayton’s chief industry, and as the trust has closed it indefinitely, another nail has been driven in the coffin of village ambitions.

November 15, 1901, p. 12, col. 1
The young Indians were out in full force of Sunday morning, the event being the moving of the boiler from the old paper mill to the saw mill, at the organ and piano factory at Ottawa. It proved to be quite a task, but Bert Holmes and his little Eugene proved equal to the emergency. Mr. Lou Merrifield was in charge.

An oyster supper was held last Wednesday . . .

oyster stew

An oyster supper was held last Wednesday evening at Mr. Jesse Green’s, the proceeds of which will go toward purchasing an organ for the school house. Quite a number were present. The old organ was put up at lottery, and the proceeds from both amounted to about $25. Mr. H. B. Williams drew the instrument and we understand will sell tickets for it again, the proceeds to go for the same purpose.

The literary’s entertainment will be held at the school house Friday evening, April 4. The following is the cast of characters of the play, “Three Glasses a Day, or The Broken Home:”
Ralph Aubrey                          Mr. John Green [son of David Green]
Harry Montford                      Mr. Wm. Dunavan [grandson of Eliza Green Dunavan]
Zeke Wintergreen                   Mr. Chas. Green [son of David Green]
Mrs. Aubrey                            Miss Cora Green [daughter of Jesse Green]
Clara Aubrey                           Miss Josie Green [daughter of Basil Green]
Julia Lovegrove                       Miss Ada Green [daughter of David Green]
The entertainment will conclude with the extremely ludicrous Dutch farce, “Hans, the Dutch J. P.”1

The previous notice, which appeared in the Dayton news column of the Ottawa Free Trader describes two of Dayton’s popular social activities of the 1870s. Frequently held as a fund raiser, as in this case, the oyster supper was a well known and popular event. Packed in barrels and whisked from New York by train, oysters were a popular food. Diners could usually choose from a variety of oyster dishes: raw, fried, or scalloped, but oyster stew was the mainstay.

The play, described as “A Moral and Temperance Drama, in Three Acts” was published just the previous year. The cast of the play consisted entirely of the young Greens, aged 17 to 24, showing themselves to be very up-to-date in their literary endeavors.

“Hans, the Dutch J. P.” was also a new offering. Judge for yourself whether it is as “extremely ludicrous” as reported. A copy of the short script can be read here.


  1. The Free Trader, March 29, 1879, p. 2, col. 4

On Memorial Day We Honor Another Veteran

US flag

On this Memorial Day weekend, the veterans buried in the Dayton Cemetery take the spotlight. One of them is John W. Channel. He was born March 10, 1849 in Licking County, Ohio and came to Illinois with his parents in 1851.

In April, 1865, at the age of 16, he lied about his age to enroll in Company E, 3rd Illinois Cavalry. In May, the Regiment went to Minnesota where he participated in an Indian expedition through Minnesota and Dakota Territory. They arrived back at Fort Snelling in October, where he was discharged.

He returned to Dayton where he married Josephine Makinson on June 27, 1868. They had two children who lived to adulthood, Eva M., born in Dayton July 31, 1869, and Clyde W., born July 5, 1887.

In 1870, he was working in the Green Woolen Mill as a cloth finisher. In 1881 he moved to St. Louis where he was engaged in the manufacturing of horse collars, with J. W. Denning & Co. He sold his interest to his partner on account of poor health, and returned to Dayton  to assume the management of the Basil Green tile works. When the firm of Hess, Crotty and Williams was organized, Mr. Channel became the superintendent of the works. He remained in this position until the Standard Fire Brick Co. was organized, when he left the employ of Hess, Crotty and Williams, to become president and general manager of the new company. In 1898 he disposed of his interest in the Standard Fire Brick Co. and purchased the tile factory of Basil Green of Dayton, in company with his son-in-law, Arthur T. Ladd, operating under the firm name of J. W. Channel & Co. He died November 22, 1900 and is buried in the cemetery, as is his wife.

John W and Josephine Channel, tombtone

A Medical Story from Early Dayton

caduceus

The following report, from the Ottawa newspaper, gives details of the courage required to confront the horrors of medical care without anesthesia, in early Illinois.

Surgical Operation

           Messrs. Editors. – Permit me to lay before the readers of your paper a detailed account of an operation I yesterday saw performed upon the breast of a female living at Dayton, who, for her courage and fortitude in sustaining it, has scarcely a parallel on the records of Chirurgery. Mrs. Q____, aged about 30, perceived a tumour eighteen months’ since in the left breast, which in consequence of its small size and not being painful, was little regarded until three months since, when it began rapidly to enlarge, ulcerating and becoming very painful. Accordingly she was apprised of the truth, that there was no hope of a cure in her case, short of a complete extirpation of the tumour, to which operation she expressed her assent; and with an unflinching resolution she seemed to call forth all the energies of her body and mind, and bared her bosom to the formidable strokes of the Scalpel. The operation was performed by Doct. Hurlbut, according to the approved method laid down by Sir Astley Cooper, with a clear perception of the nature and extent of the malignant mass, being a Medullary Sarcoma, of which he was careful not to leave the least particle from which it might again form. The tumour, which weighed five pounds, was removed in about 20 minutes, although it was rendered very intricate by many adhesions. Dr. H. shurely merits the approbation of the profession, for the expert manner in which he removed the tumour; and Drs. Hatch, Sanger, and myself, who by request lent our assistance, can vouch for the feeling and tender manner the operation was conducted. Nothing, Messrs. Editors, could be more touching to our feelings than to see this poor dependent creature alive to every trivial roughness while treading the prosperous path of life, suddenly raising in mental and bodily force, to abide with unshrinking firmness this most formidable operation, not a groan passed her lips, nor was there the least distortion, or rigidity of the muscles.


  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, February 25, 1842, p. 2, col. 4

English Workers at the Dayton Woolen Mill

power looms

Many of the employees at the Dayton Woolen factory were from England, bringing their previous experience of factory work to the Dayton mill. One of these, William Lancaster, was working in Dayton as a wool sorter in 1870.

William was born in Addingham, Yorkshire on May 31, 1835, the son of Thomas and Ann (Wildman) Lancaster. Thomas and all his family were deeply involved in the wool trade.  Thomas worked in the West Yorkshire mills as a wool top finisher;  at least five of his sons and three of his daughters also worked in the factory. The children would start by the age of ten, on the spinning machines. As they got older, they moved on to more responsible jobs – wool combing overseer, power loom weaver, or wool top finisher. William, at the age of fifteen, was a power loom weaver of worsted cloth.

In 1859 William married Elizabeth Muff, the daughter of William and Patience (Elsworth) Muff. They had a daughter, Frances Elsworth Ann, born the following year, and in 1862, a son, Seth Elsworth. For whatever reason, William seems to have left the wool trade and moved to Pudsey, Yorkshire, where he was a milk dealer in 1861. Whether this was because of a slowdown in the wool trade or merely a desire for a change, in 1866 William left Yorkshire altogether and with his wife and son (Frances having died in 1865) took ship for America on the City of New York leaving from Liverpool and arriving in New York on July 30, 1866.

Apparently wool was in William’s blood though, as he found recruiters were encouraging workers to go to Lowell, Massachusetts, to work in the mills there. He found work there as a wool sorter, and while living in Lowell, a daughter, Martha Ellen was born. More research will be needed to explain how he heard of Dayton and why he decided to go there, but by 1870 he was at work in Dayton as a wool sorter. He inspected all incoming wool and was skilled in sorting it into lots by color and quality, as length and fineness of fiber. A successful wool sorter would have had a perception of color shades greater than that of an artist.

By 1880, William had moved his family to Jacksonville, Illinois, where he and his son, Seth, were working in the Jacksonville Woolen Mills. Apparently unable to settle in one place, by 1900 he was working and living in Chester, Pennsylvania, another mill town not far from Philadelphia. Here his wife, Elizabeth died in 1893, and a few years later he remarried, to Margaretta, widow of John Blithe. In 1910, at the age of 74, he was still working as a wool sorter. He died on March 9, 1917, bringing to a close a life dedicated to the wool trade.