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

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.

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.

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.

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.

The Standard Fire Brick Company

standard-fire-brick-company

The Standard Fire Brick Company1
Fire Brick and Fire Clay Articles

            In August, 1892, the Ottawa Paving Brick Company, under the management of John W. Channel, who, for several years prior to this date, had been superintendent of Hess, Crotty & Williams’ brick factory, leased the brick works at Dayton, Ill. For three years this plant was run successfully, when, in November 1895, the Standard Fire Brick Company, of Ottawa, Ill., was organized by Thomas D. Catlin, John W. Channel, M. W. Bach and E. W. Bach, with $25,000 capital stock. The company bought the Dayton property, consisting of the large, substantial four-story stone building, formerly used as a woolen mill, and also the three-story frame building used for many years as a horse collar factory, together with all the clay-lands, waterpower and machinery. John W. Channel was made president and general manager, Thomas D. Catlin, vice-president and treasurer, and E. W. Bach, secretary.

            Shortly after the Standard Fire Brick Company had been legally organized and had commenced business, negotiations were entered into with the firm of Hess, Crotty & Williams for the purchase of their brick factory, located about a mile east of Ottawa, at a location called “Brickton.” The capital stock of the Standard Fire Brick Company was increased to $50,000 and the purchase of the plant of Hess, Crotty & Williams effected, and the company assumed control in May, 1896, with the same set of officers that the original Standard Fire Brick Company had, each private individual of the old firm of Hess, Crotty & Williams taking an interest in the company which purchased their plant.

            On May 1, 1900, the Standard Fire Brick Company assumed control of the plant of the Ottawa Fire Clay & Brick company, whose interests are now merged in the Standard’s. The plant, an immense one, is located east of Ottawa, and east of the Standard Fire Brick Company’s original Brickton plant, and is on the line of the C., R. I., & P. Ry.

            With these three factories the capacity of the Standard Fire Brick Company, as regards fire brick and fire clay, is practically unlimited. It is the largest fire brick plant in the United States, and will produce 100,000 fire brick per day. The officers are T. D. Catlin, president and treasurer; M. W. Bach, vice-president; E. W. Bach, secretary. The Dayton plant is situated four miles north of Ottawa, on the Fox River branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroad system, and has its own side-track along the yards, and the Ottawa factory is located on the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific mainline, with a side-track at the factory also. Thus the company has double the shipping facilities that any concern located on a single system would have, saving, of course, a great deal of annoyance and the expense caused by transferring from one road to the other. The company is a member of the Western Railway Weighing Association, from which a great benefit is derived.

            At the Dayton factory the company has abundant water-power, and at Ottawa steam-power is used. Both places are heated thoroughly by a complete system of steam pipes, and they are also amply equipped with the usual dry pans, pug mills, clay crushers, conveyors, hand and power presses, clay bins and auger machines, no steam presses being used in the manufacture of their wares.

            The company has 65 acres of clay land, all underlaid with a vein of fire clay, most of it within 8 to 16 feet of the surface. At Ottawa, on top of this fire clay, there is a vein of coal about 22 inches in thickness, and above this coal a vein of common clay, varying from common yellow clay to one having the nature of soapstone. This yellow clay, properly mixed with a proportion of fireclay, is used in making their sidewalk tile. At Dayton, on the west side of the river, there is, above the fire clay, besides a vein of coal, an extensive bed of valuable shale about 30 feet in depth. This makes good common ware, and mixed with a little fire clay, makes as fine a sidewalk tile as one will find anywhere in the country. On the east side of the river, where the main supply of the company’s fire clay is obtained, there is nothing above the fire clay except a bed of excellent gravel about five to eight feet in thickness. This gravel makes it possible to maintain the roads to the factory in excellent condition.

            Fire brick and fire clay articles are the company’s main product. The market for this material is, besides Chicago, the great trade center of the West, all of the northern part of this state, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Michigan, all of them great manufacturing states. Their competitors in the fire clay materials are very few, while the competitors in the common clay products are many, nearly every location of any size at all having its own common brick yard.

            This fire clay is the material out of which they manufacture their most important products. The upper stratum of common clay and coal is removed and the beds of fire clay exposed, they being from six to ten feet in depth.

            They can well be proud of the reputation their brick have attained in Chicago and the Northwest, which is unparalleled by any of their competitors. They supply material for stack linings, boiler settings, iron cupolas, furnaces, foundries, lime and brick kilns, retorts, and any purpose requiring refractory brick. The beds of plastic fire clay at Brickton, and also to a limited extent at Dayton, have not been touched in recent years, although they are very valuable deposits, as they are adapted for the manufacture of stone ware and articles of that kind.


  1. Ottawa in Nineteen Hundred (1900; reprint, Ottawa, Illinois: La Salle County Genealogy Guild), 20. viewed on Google Books

Great care has been taken in the burning . . .

tile-works-letterhead

            Green Bros. have just finished burning their third kiln of tile, and are now ready to furnish customers with a good quality of tile at the lowest market price. Great care has been taken in the burning, and the tile taken from the kilns are found to be of the same degree of hardness none too soft, but all alike. Some parties have been misrepresenting the tile by saying they are too soft, but to those who would know the truth, we must say, “visit the kilns and see.” Tile will be drawn to the top of the hill by the proprietors for those who will notify them of their desire. In fact, the firm will do everything to please customers, not only in market prices but in a good quality of tile.1

            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.2


  1. Ottawa Free Trader, September 13, 1879, p.8, cols. 1-2
  2.  Ottawa Free trader, September 20, 1879, p. 1, col. 2

Millstones

millstone-shabbona-parkOne of the original Dayton millstones

The reason the Green party settled at what became Dayton was the presence of the rapids of the Fox river. They were looking for a mill site and liked the look of this spot. They had brought the mill irons and the millwright with them from Ohio, but the mill stones were a local product, created from boulders found along the river bank. The mill was the first order of business upon arriving, and Jesse Green remembered its first day of operation:

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

In one of the many upgrades and improvements to the mill, the original millstones were removed, but not discarded. They are today to be found in Shabbona park, near Earlville.

How to Make a Rainbow

rainbow

The Dayton woolen factory’s products came in a range of colors. In order to produce the various shades, a large number of vegetable dyes had to be kept on hand. From an inventory of the factory in 1873, they had a variety of dyes and other products used in making woolen cloth.

Before dyeing, the raw wool had to be washed and cleaned with something that would remove the oils that occur naturally. The oxalic acid listed in the inventory would have been used on the wool as a first step.

Alum, chrome, and soda ash were used as dye fixatives, or mordants.

Extract of logwood, a purplish-red natural dye obtained from the logwood tree, could produce black, grey, navy blue, purple, violet or lavender, depending on the mordant used.

Sicily sumac could produce dyes of red, yellow, black, or brown.

Cudbear was extracted from a lichen and produced dyes in the purple range.

Camwood produced a brilliant but non-permanent red dye.

Brazilwood extract produces bright reds, corals, and pinks.

Fustic , a bright yellow dye, is very colorfast. It is frequently combined with other dyes to produce a range of yellow and green colors.

Lard oil was used to prepare the dyed and dried wool for carding.

Large quantities of these were kept on hand. The inventory listed 533 pounds of logwood; 800 pounds of Sicily sumac; 1260 pounds of Camwood and more than a ton of soda ash.

It was certainly a colorful business!

 

Coal mining in Dayton

coal miner

Did you know they used to mine coal in Dayton? All quotes from the Ottawa Free Trader.

February 2, 1867
Coal at Dayton, – Messrs. Grove, Stadden & Co. have opened a 2½ foot vein of splendid coal directly under the village of Dayton. The coal is obtained by drifting*, and lying many feet below the surface, is, like all deep coal found in this vicinity, much superior to coal obtained by stripping. Their drift is located a few rods below Green’s Mill, where they are prepared to sell to all customers that may apply, at prices as low as at any other bed in this region.

Dayton, May 8, 1879.
Messrs. Zearing & Row, and Basil Green will finish at the culvert this week or next. Two large coal beds have been opened on Mr. Green’s land, enough coal to supply the town for some time.

December 10, 1887
Considerable coal is being mined here this winter.

* A drift mine is an underground mine in which the entry is horizontal into the ore seam, usually on the slope of a hill.

The Meat Cleaver Bandits

Dayton store

The Dayton store/post office/gas station

from the January 26, 1922 Free-Trader Journal

DAYTON P. O. ROBBED BY MEAT CLEAVER BANDITS; GET $7.25

Thieves Use Butcher’s “Weapon” to Break Open Strong Box Containing
Funds Belonging to Uncle Sam and Store Keeper

Running a risk of facing a term in the federal prison to secure a few dollars of government money, thieves last night robbed the Dayton postoffice, making way with $5.25 in postal funds and $2 in pennies from the W. B. Fleming grocery store. The robbery is believed to have been pulled by the rankest kind of amateurs, so kiddish did the traces left behind by the robbers seem.

The postoffice which is located in one corner of the Fleming grocery store, was closed shortly before 9 o’clock last night. This morning at 7 o’clock Mr. Fleming opened his place of business and built a fire before he discovered that the place had been burglarized.

A small safe, which is more in the nature of a strong box, twelve by twenty-four inches in dimensions, which held the postoffice funds, had been smashed open by a meat cleaver, which was taken from the butcher shop. The supply of stamps was passed over, the robbers evidently searching only for cash. The money from the store was taken from a cash drawer and from a dish in the candy counter.

The meat cleaver was found where it had been hidden by the robbers, after the theft in the coal pile, in the basement.

Entrance to the building was gained by breaking out a basement window. The robbers then went upstairs by an inside stairway. They worked with the door, until they succeeded in getting the wooden bar lock that fastened it from the arm that held it.

A trail of burnt matches which were strewn on the floor around the room, showed that the burglars had taken their time in making the search. The robbers were evidently of a hungry frame of mind, for they stopped long enough to have a lunch, opening a can of peaches, and scattering crackers all around the cracker box, Some bars of candy are also believed to have been devoured by the hungry boys or men.

The candy and cigarette case was evidently overlooked for it is not believed to have been touched.

The thieves left the building by a side door which they unlocked from the inside of the building. The door was carefully closed after the robbers and it was not until a careful investigation was made that it was learned that the exit had been made that way.

Deputy Sheriff Fred E. Stedman went to Dayton this morning to make an investigation.1


  1. Ottawa Free Trader-Journal, January 26, 1922, p 1, col 2

Bridging the Fox

wooden bridge

In 1837, John Green and William Stadden, who owned the land on either side of the Fox river at Dayton, were granted permission from the state to build a toll bridge. They had to complete the bridge within 5 years and could place a toll gate at either end to collect a toll, the amount of which was set by the county commissioners’ court.

By 1854, the bridge needed replacement and a subscription was taken up to build a free bridge. The toll was dropped to encourage those living on the east side of the river to patronize the businesses in Dayton.

In 1857, there was a severe ice jam in the Fox River between Dayton and Ottawa and the free bridge at Dayton was carried away. Jesse and David Green took on the job of rebuilding and in December of that year, the following announcement appeared in the Ottawa paper:

Free Bridge

The free bridge across Fox River at Dayton is now completed, and persons living on the east side will again have the privilege of patronizing our new Grist and Flouring Mill, which is capable of grinding from 50 to 60 bushels per hour. As the undersigned have expended their means very liberally in erecting such a Mill and Bridge as the growing wants of the country require, they hope to receive a liberal share of public patronage. Persons coming from a distance will find good warm stabling in connection with the above Mill, free of charge, and their public house has passed into other hands, and bids fair to do justice to the inner man at reasonable rates. Please give us a call.                                                              J. & D. Green1

In 1875, the bridge washed out again and for the next ten years, there was only a precarious ford to cross the river. The county agreed to pay one-half of the cost of a new bridge, leaving Dayton and Rutland to pay one-fourth each. In 1885, although Dayton was ready to pay their share, Rutland opposed the bridge, because they had recently been taxed for a bridge at Marseilles. Dayton offered to pay part of Rutland’s share, but it was some time before the bridge proposal was passed by the Rutland voters. The bridge was not finished until April 1887, and lasted until it collapsed in 1940.


  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, December 12, 1857, p. 3, col. 6

The Bran Duster

Bran Duster

Drawing of Bran Duster from patent application

No one could accuse David Green of not being up-to-date. Left in charge of the Green businesses in Dayton while his father and brother went to California to seek gold, he refurbished the grist mill and installed a newly invented piece of machinery. In February of 1849, Frost & Monroe, a Michigan company, got a patent for a machine called a Bran Duster. By November of that year, one of these newfangled machines was installed in the mill at Dayton, as reported to the Prairie Farmer by one of its correspondents:

At Ottawa, on my return, I saw a machine, called a Bran Duster, patented by Messrs. Frost & Monroe, for the purpose of taking the flour out of bran after the latter has passed through the mill. It is said to gather five barrels of flour from the bran of a hundred. One is put up at Dayton, La Salle county. The cost I did not learn.1


  1. Prairie Farmer, November 1, 1849, p 22

A Summer Crime Wave

picture of an old safe

1885 was not a good year for the Dayton Horse Collar Factory. As you will see, there were no less than THREE attempts to rob the safe that summer.

The first try:

A. F. Dunavan, of the Dayton Collar Factory, was in the Free Trader office last Thursday morning and stated that an attempt had been made the night previous to blow open his safe. Powder was placed in the keyhole and fuse was found on the floor, but the burglar or burglars left, finding the attempt unsuccessful. Krouse, the gunsmith, went up and opened the lock of the safe, which had been so damaged that it could not be opened.1

Later in the summer, two more attempts were made:

Wednesday night of last week burglars broke into the safe of A. F. Dunavan & Son, of Dayton, the celebrated horse collar men. The safe was blown open with powder, but the thieves found nothing to reward them for their trouble, the safe being only used for the protection of books and papers in case of fire. This was the second attempt made by burglars, within the last two weeks, to break open this safe. Safe cracking is getting almost too numerous in this vicinity of late. There is work for a good detective in this county.2

However, it doesn’t appear that the thieves made any profit from their labors, reinforcing the notion that crime doesn’t pay.


  1. Ottawa Free Trader, May 30, 1885, p. 1, col. 5
  2. Ottawa Free Trader, August 15, 1885, p. 1, col. 5

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night . . .

Jesse Green - postmaster appointment

. . .stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
(The unofficial motto of the United States Postal Service)Dayton postmark

Dayton had a post office from 1837 to 1954. In that 117 years, there were 17 postmasters, George Makinson and Edward McClary having each held the post at two different times. An example of the appointment procedure in the 1840s is shown above in Jesse Green’s appointment, which lists the steps he must follow in order for his appointment to be approved. He had to post a bond and swear an oath, all of which had to be documented and sent to Washington.

The Dayton postmasters were
William Stadden 1837
Charles Miller 1839
Aaron Ford Jr. 1845
Jesse Green 1847
Christian Stickley 1849
George W. Makinson 1854
Oliver W. Trumbo 1857
George W. Makinson 1866
Maud V. Green 1895
Edward McClary 1897
Charles Hippard 1907
Frank Brown 1914
Mary Fleming 1919
Obert Howe 1923
Grace MacGrogan 1924
Edward McClary 1925
Catherine Corso 1940
Donald Ainsley 1945
Dominic DeBernardi 1946

In 1954 the Postal Service discontinued the Dayton post office, all Dayton addresses changing to RFD Ottawa. The final day of the Dayton post office was April 15, 1954.

Big Fire at Dayton in 1890

burning building

BIG FIRE AT DAYTON

The City Hotel, Owned by James Timmons, Goes Up in Smoke

W. B. Soule, Vice President of the Brick Works, Narrowly Escapes Death – The Loss Estimated at $2,000 – Insurance, $1,000.

Shortly after 12 a. m. Friday morn the people of the little town of Dayton were aroused from their slumbers by the cry of fire, and in a few moments the demon presented itself in its greatest form. The city hotel, the largest building in the town, was the scene of the conflagration, and the flames had gained such headway before being notices that it was utterly impossible to subdue them in any way, and in a few moments the building was a mass of ruins. There is no fire department in the town, but the people turned out en masse, and with buckets and tin pans fought the flames as best they could while the furniture was being removed.

Their battle against the flames and smoke was for a few minutes only, and they were compelled to give up and stand by while the building, furniture and all sunk before their gaze. The fire was first noticed by the engineer at the mill, and it was his cries that awakened the inmates of the house. The fire originated in the kitchen, located in the east end of the house and only a few feet from the C., B. & Q. R. R. track. The origin of the fire is unknown, but it is generally supposed that it caught from the sparks of a passing engine. This is merely a supposition. There was no fire in either of the cook stoves in the kitchen, but it might be that the fire was the work of an incendiary, although Mr. Timmons, who was the landlord of the house, says that he does not think that he has an enemy in the town.

There were ten boarders at the house, and of this number all escaped without any injuries except W. B. Soule, the vice president of the Fox River Brick Company. He is a man about 75 years of age, and did not know of the fire until the flames entered the room that he occupied. When he awoke his room was filled with smoke, and had it not been for the assistance of two of the other boarders he would have been burned to death. As it was he narrowly escaped suffocation and is now lying in a very critical condition.

The house was a two story brick building and was well furnished. In the cellar were stowed away sufficient supplies to run the house for the winter. These, together with nearly all the furniture, were destroyed. In fact there was only very little saved, and the damage is estimated at $3,500. The building was insured for $1,000 by MacKinlay & Warner, of this city, leaving a loss of about $2,000.

The hotel was an old landmark in the town, and was a pleasant resort to the hundreds of fishermen, from this and other cities, who visited Dayton during the summer months. Mr. Timmons was interviewed by a representative of this paper, this morning, and as yet he is undetermined whether to re-build.1


  1. Ottawa [Illinois] Republican-Times, November 28, 1890, p. 2, col. 3

 

All Kinds of Woolen Goods

Jesse Green and Sons business card

The woolen factory at Dayton produced many different products. Cassimere was a closely woven twilled fabric. It had a smooth surface and was used for suits. Jean was not the same fabric as denim in the 19th century. Topcoats, vests and jackets could be made of jean in different colors – black, blue, or white. Denim was used for work clothes worn by manual laborers, while other workers would be dressed in tailored trousers made of jean. Although the two fabrics were similar, denim was made with one colored thread and one white thread; jean was woven of two threads of the same color.

Sock yarn could be had in a light mixture or in a blue grey. Carpet yarn also came in assorted colors. Blankets (white, grey, or multicolored) and buggy rugs were available to keep out winter’s cold and wind. Carpet was made in a number of styles and flannel could be purchased in white, scarlet, grey striped, or black and white check.

Other varieties of cloth included satinett (half wool and half cotton, but finished the same as wool); doeskin (a twilled fabric that came in different weights); linsey (a strong, coarse fabric with a linen or cotton warp and a woolen weft); and tweed.

Maud Green remembered that “Grandma [Barbara Grove Green] spent her time knitting socks and long stockings for all of us, out of factory yarn, and we had woolen underwear, skirts and dresses made of factory flannel.”

 

A Handmade Gravestone

champaign-albert-john tombstone

This tiny gravestone, only 12 inches high, stands out in the Dayton Cemetery not only for its size but for its material. It is made of brick and appears to be handmade. John Champaign, the father of little Albert John, was a day laborer in the brick yards in Dayton. Whether he made the gravestone himself or had a friend at work do it for him, it almost certainly was made in Dayton.

John Champaign was born in January, 1858, in Michigan, of French-Canadian stock. In 1870 he was living with his parents and siblings in South Bend, Indiana. On September 21, 1880 he married Louise Haverley in South Bend. Sometime before 1883, John and family came to Dayton, where they were living in 1900. By 1910, they were back in South Bend, where they lived out their lives, John dying in 1938 and Louise in 1947.

One of their daughters, Grace, married James C. McGrogan of Dayton on April 30, 1900, and remained in Dayton when her parents moved back to South Bend.

A Most Distressing Accident

Fred Green

Fred Green, who survived the accident

A most distressing accident occurred at the Williams paper mill at Dayton, on yesterday morning. The unfortunate victim was Fred Green, oldest son of Mr. Basil Green, aged 14 or 15 years. He was one of the employees of the mill, and while talking with some young men, was thoughtlessly handling a rope working a spindle. Suddenly his hand was caught in the machinery, his body was caught up and he was hurled through the air until two revolutions of the spindle had been made, when the hand was torn from the arm and he fell to the floor. His left hand was torn off; the same arm broken above the elbow so that it had to be amputated; two fingers on the other hand had to be amputated at the first joint, and both his legs were broken. Dr. Hard, happening to be in the village treating diphtheria patients, was called at once. He immediately telegraphed for Drs. Dyer and McArthur, who went to his assistance, and after several hours’ work left the unfortunate lad as comfortable as could be expected. His life is in great danger.1


  1. The [Ottawa, Illinois] Free Trader, May 29, 1880, p. 1, col. 3.

 

Counterfeiters, Thieves, and Outlaws

bandits

Nathaniel Proctor ran the general store in Dayton in the late 1830s. Jesse Green’s memoir has this story about his time in Dayton:

Proctor had a very nice and amiable family, and was apparently a high minded and honorable man, he had a great faculty for gaining friends and did a very successful business for a year or two. One cold winter day father went from the mill up to his store, and put his feet up against the stove to warm them, having his pocket-book containing between five and six hundred dollars wanted for buying wheat in his pants pocket. Returning home he soon discovered he had lost it, and thinking it might have dropped out of his pocket at the store, he returned immediately to look for it, but not finding it, he offered Mr. Proctor’s boys five dollars if they would find it for him, saying he must have lost it between the mill and store; seeing they made no effort to find it, he concluded they had found it, and that probably he would see no more of it.

Not long after this occurrence Mr. Proctor went to St. Louis for some goods, and on his return, and probably in St. Louis passed some counterfeit money, and learning by some means that he was liable to be arrested, he never returned to Dayton. Father being security for him to the amount of twelve or fifteen hundred dollars, and other creditors gobbling up his goods, it fell to fathers lot, to take his book accounts and notes, nearly covering the amount he was held for provided collections could be made. They were scattered over a great extent of country. It was afterwards learned that he had dealt quite heavily with members of his gang of outlaws, that infested the whole north western portion of the state.

His book accounts and notes were put in legal shape for me to collect and I was sent out with his books in a pair of saddle bags, and calling one night on one of his principal creditors, who was keeping a Hotel on the Pickamesoggin not far from Belvidere, I found a crowd of ruffians, all armed with pistols and bowie knives, and I could scarcely make up my mind, which would be best under the circumstances, to try and find another stopping place for the night, or boldly face the trying ordeal which I felt sure I was doomed to for the night. I finally concluded that if they might have any intention to rob, or molest me, they would do so in either event, and I determined to put on as bold a front as it was possible for a little boy of 18 and concluded to seek no farther. When I went in and threw down my saddlebags containing the books, there were a dozen fierce roguish eyes cast upon me, which almost made the hair on my head stand on end, and young and defenseless as I was, my situation can be better imagined than I can tell it.

I concluded to retire to bed soon after supper, as my company did not seem at all entertaining to me, and about twelve o’clock at night the landlord brought up a great burly fellow and put him in bed with me, he first laid a big pistol under his pillow, and then a large bowie knife. My sleep from then on until morning was somewhat disturbed, as they all knew my business, and I had a bill of $250.00 against the landlord, they would naturally suspect that I had collected some money, such thoughts as these kept crowding upon me before I could sleep, in fact I do not think I did sleep any that night, the more I would think of my situation as it occurred to me, among (as I thought) a den of thieves, the more would I think, that they probably would destroy my books and possibly me too. So my stay there was anything but pleasant, but fortunately no demonstrations were made or harm done and next morning as soon as I heard any movements below, I left my bedfellow pretty early sleeping soundly on his arms, and after breakfast had a settlement with the landlord. He gave me no money, but I took his note with which I was more than glad to leave him, but his note was never paid. I suspect that most of Proctor’s customers in that far away region were members of the gang of outlaws called the bandits of the prairies, and the Driscols who were summarily punished near Mount Morris in early times were of the same gang.

Whilst invoicing Proctor’s goods, his dies for making bogus coin were discovered, and secretly laid aside until going home at noon when it was the intention to secure them; but when they put their fingers upon them, like the Irishman’s flea, they were not there, removed by his clerk probably.  In digging out a cellar to the store, he [the new owner] found father’s old pocketbook minus the money lost with it. A little later the old store building was torn down, and inside the plastering was found a ten dollar copper plate on a Michigan bank for making counterfeit money. All sympathized deeply with the disgraced family, who remained in Dayton but a short time after this unfortunate circumstance. But where they went and their subsequent identity, we never learned as they probably were no longer known by the name of Proctor.