A Difficult and Dangerous Journey

Covered Wagon

In Elmer Baldwin’s History of La Salle County, the sketch of Dayton’s settlers includes an account, on pages 268-270 , of the Green party’s journey from Licking County, Ohio, to La Salle County.


On the 2d of November, 1829, the following named persons left Newark, Licking County, Ohio, for what is now La Salle County, Illinois: John Green, David Grove, Henry Brumback, and Reason Debolt, with their families, and the following named young men : Samuel Grove, Joseph Grove, Jacob Kite, Alexander McKee, and Harvey Shaver. Their outfit was one four-yoke ox team, three two-horse wagons, and one carriage. Found the roads passable till we got into Indiana, where we lay by three days for bad weather. The streams were high, but we were bound for the West, and pressed forward. Found about forty teams weather-bound at Boxby’s, on the Whitewater, where we were told it would be impossible to proceed unless we traveled on the top of wagons and teams already swamped. From there we cut our way through heavy timber for sixty miles, averaging about ten miles per day. One of the party, with a child in his arms, was thrown from the carriage, breaking three of his ribs, and the carriage wheel passed over the child without injuring it. The wounded man pursued the journey, never complaining ; so readily did those hardy pioneers adapt themselves to circumstances, and heroically face the inevitable. The streams were so high we had to head them, or, as the saying is, go around them.

We traveled five days by the compass, when we arrived at Parish’s Grove, Iroquois County, Illinois. From there we followed an Indian trail to Hubbard’s trading post, on the Iroquois river. Here we bought all the corn we could get—about eight bushels— and a perogue, or canoe. Loading it with about thirty hundred weight of our goods, we put Jacob Kite, Joseph Grove, and Samuel Grove, on for a crew, with directions to work down the Iroquois to the Kankakee, and through that to the Illinois, where they were to meet the teams. This was necessary, as our teams were worn, feed scarce, and roads very bad, or, rather, none at all. On the trip, Joseph Grove became so chilled that he contracted a disease from which he never fully recovered.

Our teams crossed a prairie which had no bottom—at least, we did not find any. The second day, found a stream too deep to cross; felled trees from either side till they formed a temporary bridge, over which we conveyed our goods and people, which was barely accomplished when the accumulated waters swept our bridge away. The teams were made to swim, one horse barely escaping drowning. One of the women became nervous, and could not be induced to walk the bridge. John Green took her on his back, and made his way over on his hands and knees. The exact position in which the lady rode is not recorded.

A heavy rain came on, and we encamped in a small grove, and were obliged to cut up some of our boxes to make a fire. That night we shall never forget; most of us sat up all night. Mother laid down in the wagon, and tried to sleep, and was frozen fast so she could not rise in the morning. It took us over three days to reach the mouth of the Kankakee, a distance of thirty miles, while the perogue had to go seventy miles by water. The crew had about given up in despair of meeting us, when they fortunately heard a well-known voice calling to a favorite horse, by which they were directed to our camp. We ferried most of our goods over the Illinois on the perogue, when a friendly Indian showed us a ford where we took our teams over without difficulty. Our corn being exhausted, our teams had nothing to eat but browse, or dry prairie grass, and very little of that, as the prairie had nearly all been burned over. In the afternoon of the 5th of December, we came in sight of a grove of timber, and John Green, believing it to be Hawley’s (now Holderman’s) Grove, started on horseback to ascertain. His expectations were realized, and he found Messrs. Hawley and Baresford butchering a beef. He harnessed Baresford’s horse, a large gray one, to a light wagon of Baresford’s, and taking a quarter of the beef, and filling the wagon with corn, started for Nettle creek timber, where he supposed the party would stop.

The company had ordered a halt and prepared to encamp, but with the expectation of going supperless to bed as their provisions were exhausted, when Mr. Green drove up, to the great joy of the whole party, both man and beast. From the time the corn gave out and the provisions were running short, one young man refused to eat, contending that as they were bound to starve, the provisions should be reserved for the women and children.

The next day, being the 6th of December, 1829, about four o’clock P. M. we reached our destination—except the three young men in charge of the perogue, whom we expected would reach here before us; and when night came on we were all cast down with fearful forebodings, as we thought they must have met with some serious accident. But our anxiety was soon relieved. On the same day they had made the perogue fast at the grand rapids of the Illinois, now Marseilles, and crossing the prairie without any knowledge of the country, became benighted, but seeing the light from our cabin, joined us about eight o’clock, and we had a great time of rejoicing, the lost having been found. The self-sacrificing brother joined us in a hearty meal, and his appetite never failed him afterward.

Our next object was to secure some provisions, as we had a large family and good appetites. We bought twenty-four hogs of Markly, on the Desplaines; then went south to Tazewell county, bought thirty bushels wheat at four shillings, eighty bushels corn at two shillings, and took it to a horse mill where Washington now is; spent several days in putting the mill in order, having to dress the boulder mill stones, and furnish the motive power. Provisions were scarce before we had produced a crop; we frequently lived on beef, potatoes and pound cake, so called, being made of corn pounded in a mortar.

We went to work improving in the spring, and by July 4th we had 240 acres fenced, and nearly all broken, and had built a saw mill, dam and race, and had a run of boulder mill stones in one corner of the saw mill grinding wheat, the first ground on Fox river. The stones were made from boulders or hard heads, found here, by Christopher Payne, brother of the Dunkard preacher who was killed by Indians on the prairie between Holderman’s Grove and Marseilles, in 1832.

The Sidewalks of Dayton

Concrete sidewalk in front of elevator

Concrete sidewalk in front of elevator

Ottawa Free Trader, November 22, 1879, p. 8, col. 2

Our sidewalks have been repaired to some extent during the past few weeks. They had been in a somewhat dangerous condition.

May 8, 1886, p. 8, col. 3

A new sidewalk has been constructed down the hill under the railroad bridge. It is quite an improvement over the old rickety walk that has been ornamenting the hill for so long.

April 23, 1887, p. 6, col. 1

The young folks will hold an entertainment Friday evening, for the benefit of the sidewalks.

April 7, 1888, p. 8, col. 2

The young folks will give an entertainment at the schoolhouse Friday evening for the benefit of the sidewalks in this village. The temperance play, “On the Brink,” is on the programme.

July 18, 1913, p. 8, col. 3

One hundred and fifty people attended a lawn social given at the home of Mrs. E. A. Dallam in Dayton Friday evening. A program of unusual merit was rendered, and Ottawa people were among the principal participants in the entertainment. The hours were from 8 until 11 o’clock, and ice cream and cake were served. The Ladies’ Aid society of Dayton assisted Mrs. Dallam as hostess, and $25.00 were cleared, which amount will go towards the sidewalk fund.

September 5, 1913, p. 8, col. 2-3

Many Ottawa people attended the dancing party given at the residence of Rush Green in Dayton, Friday evening. The affair was for the benefit of the construction of a cement sidewalk from the elevator to the school in Dayton and is the third of the parties to be given. Like the others, it was a huge success and a neat little sum was netted towards the sidewalk fund. The evening was spent at dancing, Dwyer’s orchestra, of this city, furnishing the music. Refreshments consisting of ice cream and cake were served during the evening. The arrangement committee consists of William Meagher, Frank W. Lansing, William Buckley, Jr., R. A. Carter, James W. Collison and Harry W. Tanner.

November 7, 1913, p. 1, col. 3

Contractor Green, who is building concrete sidewalks in Dayton, has the job nearly completed. This will be a fine improvement for the village to the north.

July 24, 1914, p. 8, col. 4

The Woman’s club of Dayton will hold another lawn social Wednesday evening, July 22, at the home of E. A. Dallam. Ice cream and cake will be served, and there will be a Victrola concert. The proceeds to be devoted to cement sidewalks for Dayton.

La Salle County Old Settlers

During one of the La Salle County Old Settlers picnics, pictures were taken in groups, depending on when they arrived in the county. This picture shows the settlers who arrived in 1832 and 1833. The gentleman on the left of the back row is Isaac Green. He did indeed arrive in 1833, being born in Dayton on August 8th. His parents, John and Barbara Green, and his older siblings had been in La Salle County since 1829.

Isaac was the youngest child in the family. While his older brothers and sisters married and were given land by their father, Isaac remained at home and took over the home farm, supporting his parents in their old age.

He had a well-known grain and stock farm, where he made a specialty of raising Norman and Clydesdale horses and thoroughbred cattle. He was well known at mid-west stock shows, where he showed some of the finest in either class to be found in the state.

173 Years Ago Today


William Reddick

Democratic District Convention

The convention was organized by the appointment of Rees Morgan as chairman, and George Kiersted of Grundy and D. Green of La Salle, secretaries. The following delegates presented their credentials and took seats in the convention.

La Salle county – Dayton – William Stadden, David Green, John Russell1

[David Green was elected to the post of secretary. The convention proceeded to nominate William Reddick for senator and J. O. Glover, Ambrose O’Connor, and William Barber for representatives.]

  1. The Ottawa Free Trader, May 22, 1846, p. 3, col. 1

Jesse and David scrape out the millrace


In this excerpt from Jesse Green’s memoir, he shows that on the frontier, a ten year old and a twelve year old were doing a man’s work.

Early in the spring of 1830 development of the water power was commenced by using the stumps from the timber from which the mill was being constructed. Economy was sought to a greater extent than it is at the present tine. The saw mill was built with sufficient room to put a pair of stones in one end of it to do our grinding until a better mill could be erected, having brought with us the necessary mill irons, black-smith tools etc. Whilst the men were getting out the timber for the mill and dam, which had to be built to intersect a small island, brother David and myself took the contract of scraping out the race or waterway for a distance of about a half mile (he being ten, and I twelve years old). We each had a pair of oxen and an old fashioned scraper. I sometimes had to help him load and dump his scraper and vice versa. We had the race completed by the time the mills were ready to draw their gates.

A Little Bit of Dayton’s History


Ottawa, Republican-Times, January 10, 1922

Of all the people who made the trip down the Fox river from Dayton to seek refuge in Fort Johnson, at Ottawa, from the murderous Indians under the leadership of Black Hawk, on a May day ninety years ago, there is now but one living – Mrs. Barbara Jackson, of this city. Mrs. Jackson, 92 years of age, resides at No. 2 [error, hand corrected to 4] Gridley place, in East Ottawa. She was but two years of age when her parents received word of the impending danger and made the trip to safety.

This is one of the interesting features developed in some very valuable accounts of the events of early days in this vicinity, brought out as a result of a paper written by Dr. E. W. Weis and read at a recent meeting of Illini chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, fixing the exact location of Fort Johnson. The Republican-Times has secured permission to publish the story of the exciting experiences of these pioneers in 1832, from notes gathered by Mrs. Frances Strawn and Miss Maude Green, of Ottawa, Samuel Grove, of Utica, and other descendants of the history makers. Publication is here given for the first time to some of the incidents.

It was on the second day of November, 1829, that “Green’s Company,” consisting of twenty-four people, started westward from Newark, Licking county, Ohio, for the place in La Salle county now called Dayton, but formerly known as Green’s Mills. This “company” consisted of John Green, his wife, Barbara Grove Green, and their eight children; David Grove and family; Rezin Debolt and family; Henry Brumbach and family; Samuel, Joseph and Jacob Grove, Harvey Shaver, Jacob Hite and Alexander McKee.

In August of the same year John Green had visited this county and selected a site for a mill on the rapids of the Fox river. This site was situated on land subject to entry at that time so he traveled to the seat of government at Vandalia and entered the land on which the water power at Dayton is located. Mr. Green then engaged William A. Clark, the first settler in Rutland township, to put in forty acres of fall wheat and to build another larger log cabin, eighteen by twenty-four feet in size (all in one room) to be finished by the time he should return from Ohio with his family.

At Ottawa Mr. Green found two cabins – one occupied by James Walker, near where the present Boat club building stands, and the other on the south bluff, belonging to Dr. David Walker.

On December 17, 1829, the party reached its destination and early in the spring of 1830 the improvement of the water power was commenced. It was necessary to build a dam, which intersected a small island, this dam being designed to furnish all the power that was necessary at that time. The men worked in their shirt sleeves, making enough rails to fence a quarter section of land that winter. The cabin built be Mr. Clark for the settlers had to accommodate the entire company of twenty-four people for the first winter. In the spring they built a sawmill.

One of the problems they had to solve when spring came and they were ready to start work on the mill was finding stones or boulders of sufficient size and proper shape to make into grind stones. These were found close together on the east side of the river nearly opposite the mill site. They served a good purpose for a number of years, being used at Dayton in three different mills and finally given to Thomas J. Davis, who placed them in a mill along Indian creek.

They were later removed to the cemetery where those unfortunate settlers were buried who were massacred by the Indians along Indian creek. The stones now repose among other relics of early days in the museum at Shabbona park.

Having plenty of lumber the next season, 1831, a frame building to serve as a grist mill was built, separate from the saw mill, to accommodate the increasing immigration, which began when, in the fall of 1830, the following families came from Licking county, Ohio: David Letts and family, William L. George M. and Joseph A. Dunavan, brothers; widow Anna Pitzer, sister of John Green, and her family; Mathias Trumbo and family; David Shaver and family; William Parr and family; Jonathan and Aaron Daniels and family; Edward Sanders and family; Joseph Kleiber and family and Benjamin Fleming and family. All settled in Rutland township, which at that time included most of Dayton township. Many of these names are still represented among the leading citizens of this portion of La Salle county.

The same fall other families from Ohio settled on the south side of the river. Mrs. Elsie Strawn Armstrong was among these, and her brother, Jeremiah Strawn, the father of Mrs. Zilpha Osman, who has lived for many years at 532 Congress street, settled in Putnam county. Col. John Strawn and John Armstrong came in the fall of 1829 and settled near Lacon.

The first intimation of danger from hostile Indians during the Black Hawk war, in 1832, was conveyed to the settlers by Shabbona, who warned them to seek safety, but, instead, they fortified the house of John Green, which stood on the bluff overlooking the woolen mills by digging a trench around the house and inserting slats from the saw mill, doubling them so as to be proof against the bullets from Indian rifles.

This enclosure was made large, enough to care for all the neighbors who came in from the surrounding country – about sixty, all told. Several settlers who were delayed seeking this protection were massacred along the banks of Indian creek, about ten miles distant, during the afternoon of May 20, 1832. The Dayton settlers received news of this slaughter about midnight of that night. The informant, Wilburn F. Walker, advised them to leave the fort at once and go to Ottawa, crossing to the south side of the Illinois river, where there had assembled a number of families. He thought they would be safer there and better enabled to defend themselves against an attack.

Some of the Daytonites owned a large perogue – a long canoe-shaped boat hollowed out from the trunk of a tree – which was bought of Gurdon S. Hubbard, on the Iroquois river, when the first settlers came through. Samuel Grove, of Utica, states that his father said that, after buying the perogue, three men brought it down the river loaded with three and one-half tons of mill iron. These three men were Jacob Hite, Joseph Grove and Samuel Grove.

After deciding to heed Mt. Walker’s warning, this perogue was filled with women and children, with two men – William Stadden and Aaron Daniels – the latter two to navigate the unwieldy craft. Nearly thirty humans were crowded into the boat, and the balance of the party walked down the bank of the river.

Among these “hikers” were William Parr and his wife, Sarah Trumbo Parr, whose one and one-half year old son, Henry K. Parr, was one of the first white male children born in La Salle county (he was carried in the perogue); David Grove and wife, Anna Houser Grove; John Green and wife, Barbara Trumbo [hand corrected to Grove] Green; David Letts; Mathias Trumbo and wife, Rebecca Grove Trumbo; Rezin Debolt and wife; William Stadden and wife, Elizabeth Hoadley Stadden; Nancy Green, who later married Albert Dunavan; Jesse Green, who married Isabel Trumbo; David Green, who married Mary Stadden; Cyrus Shaver, who married Elizabeth Hackett, and John Trumbo.

Among the children in the perogue were Katherine Green, who later became the bride of George Dunavan; Joseph Green, Rachel Green, later married to George Gibson; Rebecca Green, who married Oliver Trumbo; Rebecca Shaver, who married Robert Snelling; Josiah Shaver, who married Janet Neff; Harver Shaver, who married Sarah Johnson; Nancy Shaver, who married Sheldon Allen; Kate Shaver, who married John Spencer; Barbara Shaver, who married Joseph Miller; Barbara Debolt, married to David Conard; Henry K. Parr, married to Elsie Armstrong; Lavina Debolt, married to Mr. Bounds; Lavina Trumbo, married to West Matlock; Isabel Trumbo, married to Jesse Green; Eliza Trumbo, married to William Gibson, and her twin brother, Elias, who married Catherine Long; Elizabeth and Katherine Grove and Barbara Trumbo, who later became Mrs. Joseph Jackson.

So far as can be learned, Mrs. Jackson, of this city, now ninety-two years of age, is the sole survivor of this party which fled along the dangerous trail from the blood-hunting braves led by Black Hawk. After reaching Ottawa the party was ferried across the river without mishap and given quarters on the south bluff, where they remained in camp until the following August, when it became safe to return to their homes, Black Hawk, in the meantime, having been captured in Wisconsin, whither he had been pursued by troops.

While in camp on the south bluff the pioneers erected a small fort under the direction of Col. James Johnston, of Macon county. It was built just east of where the east road leads up to the bluff and was named Fort Johnston. The site of that old fort is on the property now owned by Dr. and Mrs. E. W. Weis. False alarms drove the settlers into the fort a few times, but most of the nights they slept undisturbed in their tents.

In 1834 the third mill was built at Dayton, equipped with five pairs of “flint ridge burrs,” obtained in Ohio and used for grinding buckwheat. In 1840 the Greens built the first woolen mill in the state, a building three stories high, thirty-two by sixty feet in dimension, the ruins of which still stand. Samuel Grove, of Utica, now 85 years of age, relates that his father used to tell how the Indians, as well as the whites, used to come to the Dayton grinding mill to buy meals, and they would bring furs to trade for the meal. A certain number of handsful of corn meal were given for a certain number of furs, and he said that after the measuring was done the Indian squaws always grabbed an extra handful of meal for good measure.

The incidents here related are but a very few of the many hardships and dangers with which the pioneers of La Salle county were forced to contend, but they took it all as part of the day’s duties and laid the foundation for the sturdy American citizenship which developed the county into  one of the most prosperous and substantial zones in the great Middle West.

La Salle County Centennial

La Salle County centennial

In 1931 La Salle county celebrated the centennial of the founding of the county. The La Salle County Centennial Association was organized to put on a suitable celebration. The president of the centennial association was Mrs. Ralph A. (Ruth) Green, of Dayton. Other members of the committee were Al Schoch, former mayor of Ottawa, Etta Dunaway, and A. M Corbus, owner of Corbus Drug Store in Ottawa.

comm coin front


As part of the celebration a commemorative coin was issued. The front had a picture of Starved Rock and the back a plow and wheat sheaf. There were a number of committees created, each with supporters from each of the townships. Those from Dayton were Mrs. L. A. Green, Mrs. Nettie Masters, Miss Maude Green, Mrs. Hattie Poole, Mrs. [sic] Emma Fraine. The largest committees were those responsible for the pageant, a mammoth endeavor which was held at the La Salle County Fairgrounds the evening of June 5, 1931. It consisted of a series of episodes retelling incidents in the history of the county. The second episode reenacted the arrival of the Green party in 1829 and their subsequent settlement in Dayton. Each pioneer in the episode was represented by a direct descendant.

The Membership Roll found at the back of the souvenir program listed everyone who had purchased a membership certificate, as shown above. The list includes Mrs. Clara Fish Heath, though she apparently did not make use of her certificate, as it was found among Ruth Green’s papers, long after the centennial was a distant memory.

Early Days of Dayton and Ottawa

John Green played a role in the early history of La Salle County. This excerpt from Jesse Green’s memoir tells of that time.

“The first election in this part of the country was held in the home of John Green on August 2, 1830, Pierce Hawley, John Green and Samuel Grove were judges of election, John Green certifying to the qualifications of his associates and Pierce Hawley to the qualifications of Mr. Green. Following is the list of voters:

“John Green, Hugh Walker, Wm. Purcell, Pierce Hawley, Edmond Weed, Joseph Grove, John Dilsaver, Alexander McKee, Reason Debolt, Peter Lamsett, Joseph Grove, Samuel Grove, Robert Beresford, and Henry Brumbach.

1831 IL counties

“We were then a part of Fox River Precinct of Peoria [sic; actually Putnam] County. The following winter the legislature organized the county of LaSalle extending from Groveland to the northern boundry of the state, making it over a hundred miles long and about thirty six miles wide.

“The following spring an election was held at Ottawa (March 7, 1831) and George E. Walker was elected Sheriff; John Green, Abraham Trumbo and James B. Campbell, County Commissioners; and David Walker county clerk. At the same time LaSalle County was designated, Cook County was laid out to the east and Putnam County to the west, all being taken from the northern part of Peoria County. Governor Reynolds signed the bill on the 15th day of January 1831.

“At the first meeting of the LaSalle County Commissioners March 21st, the county was divided into three election precincts. The first which included ranges one and two east of the 3rd P. M. was called Vermillion with the polls at the house of David Letts who lived in Township 32, Range one, Wm. Seely, Martin Reynolds, and David Letts being judges of election. The second which included ranges 3 and 4 east of the 3rd P. M., was called Ottawa with the polls at David Walker’s; John Brown, Edward Keys and Samuel Allen, judges of election. The third included ranges 5, 6, 7, and 8 east of the 3rd P. M. was called Eastern, the polls being at the home of Vetal Vermett, Holderman’s Grove and the judges of election were John Dougherty, Edward Weed and Wm. Schermmerhorn.

“The first marriage after the organization of the county was that of Sheldon Bartholomew to Charlotte Hugabone. It took place according to the records June 22 , 1831, and that fall my sister Eliza and Wm. L. Dunavan were married which I believe was the second marriage in this county both parties having since passed the boundry line between life and death, my sister having but recently died at the age of eighty-four.”

Dayton Was Once an Industrial Center

by C. C. Tisler


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

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

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

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

State Built Dam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tile Factory Flourished

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

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

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

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

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

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

War Time Troubles

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

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

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

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

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

Stones Now in Park

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

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

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

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

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

  1. From the Ottawa Republican-Times, date unknown

The First Dayton Bridge



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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Approved, 20th July, 1837.

Dayton’s Centennial – Part 2

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

woman singerThe Dayton Song

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

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

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

Some Old Dresses

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

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

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

Dayton’s Centennial – Part 1

Greene, J. Kent

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dayton’s Exhibit in the La Salle County Centennial

Family and wagon

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

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

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

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.

The Black Hawk War – An Eyewitness Account from 1832

(1099) Barbara Grove Green - frame


Maud Green

Barbara Grove Green                                 Maud V. Green

The following account was dictated to Maud V. Green by her grandmother, Barbara Grove Green, December, 1884. It was transcribed from the handwritten original by Candace Wilmot, gr-gr-granddaughter of Barbara Grove Green.

On the 16th of May 1832, about ten o’clock in the morning, myself and the girls were washing at the spring near where the feeder bridge now is when Eliza came down on horseback and told us that the Indians were coming & that we would have to go to Ottawa right away.  Then we went to a place a couple of miles below Ottawa (to Penbrook) and stayed there all night the next day come up to Ottawa and next day home again.  This was Sunday and the next day the men made a stockade around the house out of plank.  After it was finished they tried it to see if a bullet would go through it, and it did, so they hung up feather beds all around.  There were about sixty people here at the time, we were so crowded that they had to sleep on tables, under the beds and all over the house.

The same night George Walker came and told us that we must go to Ottawa again, so we left right away and went down to the river to get in the pirougue, but when we got there we found that Daniels’ had taken the boat and gone before we got there, so we had to walk.  As I had forgot some of Rachel’s clothes and, coming back to the house, I found Jesse and David yet in bed.  They had been waked before we started so I supposed they were with us.  We followed the river bank all the way down and I had to carry Becky all the way because she would cry when anyone else took her.

Aunt Becky Trumbo was sick so that she could not walk and she rode on the horse behind old Mr. Letts.  Eliza Trumbo was left standing on the river bank and we went off and forgot her.  Wm Dunavan came back and got her.  When we got to Ottawa there was no fort there, only a log cabin on the south side of the river, but they soon built a fort on top of the hill.  We went to the fort but there was so much confusion there that we had the log house moved up on the hill and lived in it.  We women didn’t know what the trouble was til we reached Ottawa and then they told us about the “Indian Creek Massacre” where there were sixteen people killed.  Two boys who ran away and two girls who were taken prisoners, were the only ones that escaped.

The next day (?) a company of soldiers from the southern part of the state passed through Ottawa on the way up the river and two men Hazleton and Schemerhorn who lived at Mission Settlement intended to go with them to their farms but failed to get ready in time and so were an hour or two behind the soldiers.


Fardowners vs. Corkonians

Irish canal workers

The word  “fardowner” appeared in America at least as early as the 1830s, and referred to people from Ireland who came to obtain work on the new systems of canals and railways. The Corkonians came from County Cork in southern Ireland, while the Fardowners were from central Ireland. Rival clans competed with each other for jobs on the canals and there were frequent outbreaks of violence. One such outbreak among the workers on the Illinois-Michigan canal in 1838 is told of by Jesse Green in his memoir:

The season of 1838 we had what Mr. Baldwin in his history of the county terms “The Irish rebellion,” the Corconians being in the majority on the canal, the rivalry between that class and the Far-downs, culminated in the attempt of the Corconians to drive all Far-downs off the canal.

The sheriff Alson Woodruff called out all the available men he could get to thwart their purpose, he sent up to Dayton where we had on the upper and lower works something over one hundred men, all Far-downs, working on the feeder. The contractors on both works were absent that day and no one was left except myself and Cousin John Stadden who was willing to marshall and lead our men to the scene of expected battle. We were the only Americans in the squad, so we marched our men down the tow-path unarmed expecting to meet the sheriff in Ottawa, but he had preceded us down the Canal, and we continued our march down the tow-path, and met the Corconians coming up at the upper end of Buffalo Rock, armed with all manner of death dealing weapons, guns, pistols, scythes, shovels and picks &c. As soon as our men saw their opponents marching up the canal in such formidable array, they all broke ranks and ran up the North bluff like a herd of wild swine, leaving Stadden and myself alone there, and though a serious matter we almost burst with laughter to see the stampede. Doubtless it proved to be a very lucky circumstance, had they stood their ground and met the Corconians unarmed, we should probably have had a bloody battle and our men would have fared badly.

The Corconians continued their march up the canal to Ottawa when the sheriff with his posse of armed men halted them just west of town and read to them the riot act, and demanded that they lay down their arms and disperse, which most of them did but some attempted to run with their arms (not a gun was fired up to this time) in Mr. Baldwin’s history he says “it was claimed by some that fourteen or fifteen were killed.” We were ordered by the sheriff to pursue the fugitives on horseback and disarm them, which seemed to imply that if they ran too fast they were justified in retarding their speed, but I only heard of one instance of this kind, one bragadocia whom I will not name bragged that he stopped his man “rather suddenly” in the high grass fronting Judge Catons residence. I pursued one man and overtook him on the bank of the river just east of the present water works plant. I could not see that he had any arms, but told him he had a pistol which he must surrender, but he stoutly denied having any kind of weapon, until I told him my orders were to shoot if obliged to; and drew down my gun and cocked it as in the act of shooting, he then said he had a pistol but it was a borrowed one and he was afraid if he gave it up he never would find it again; I assured him that all arms and weapons taken would be left in charge of the sheriff and be returned to owners as soon as the difficulty was settled, he then handed the pistol to me.

On our return home that night we found our men had all returned home safely, and “Begore lucky it was fur us that we did run, faith had we stood our ground, ivery mithers son ivus would have been kilt.” The work proceeded without much trouble on this score, but it was desirable and almost a necessity on the part of contractors to not mix the two clans on the same work.

A Party in Dayton


Dayton on September 14, 1929, was the scene of a glorious centennial party, marking the 100th anniversary of the arrival of the Green party in Illinois. Two bands, a children’s chorus, and a dance orchestra provided music; a gigantic tug-of-war and other tests of skill and strength amused the merry-makers; and former residents came from near and far to join the festivities.

A marker was dedicated on the spot where the mill-stones were found which were used in Green’s mill, the first water-powered mill in northern Illinois. The marker, a brass plate with the story of the discovery, was placed on a boulder set in cement, along the east bank of the river. Although the boulder may still be there, the brass plate disappeared many years ago.

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

There were many mementos, relics and curios on display:
.     straw plug hat and woman’s straw hat of the vintage of about 1800
.    old candle molds
.    flintlock guns which belonged to Peter W. Ainsley and Tim Thompson
.     blankets and coverlets made in the old woolen mill
.     hoop skirts, dresses, black silk and satin capes
.     an 85 year old spinet, having twenty-nine keys, and thirty inches in height
.     a tardy bell and a call bell from an old school
.     mourning shawls and hats, which were loaned out at the time of funerals

The revelry went on well into the evening and a good time was had by all.

The Terrors of Cholera

Cholera was an ever-present danger in the middle of the 19th century and the disease could strike swiftly and cruelly, as this newspaper article from 1854 shows. Aaron Daniels lived just across the Fox river from Dayton and was related to members of the Green family.

Cholera—Fearful Mortality

While there has not, during the present season, been a single case of cholera in Ottawa, originating here, and our city has been unusually healthy, the disease has on several occasions broken out in some isolated families in our vicinity, like a fire in the night, consuming every thing before it. The last family that has suffered from its terrible visitation is that of Mr. AARON DANIELS, a respectable farmer, residing about three miles north of Ottawa, east of Fox River. The disease first made its appearance in his family on Friday of last week, and up to last Thursday morning six of its members has fallen victims to the ruthless scourge, as follows:

On Saturday evening, Minerva Daniels, daughter of A. Daniels, aged about 17.
On Monday night, Jonathan Daniels, son, aged about 20 years.
Ruth Ann Daniels, daughter, aged about 14 years.
Judith Daniels, daughter, aged about 11.
Aaron Daniels, son, aged about 4 years.
And on Thursday morning Mrs. Aaron Daniels, aged about 40.

The family of Mr. Daniels being largely connected in the neighborhood, a number of persons—friends and relatives—visited and remained at the house during their affliction, nearly all of whom have since been taken with the disease, and in many instances, with fatal results, as the following melancholy list of the dead will show.

On Monday evening Geo. Head, son of Thomas Head, aged about 18 years.
Same day Louisa Parker, child of Mrs. Parker, daughter of Aaron Daniels—aged about 4 years.
On Tuesday morning, Mrs. B. Fleming, sister of Mrs. A. Daniels.
On Wednesday, Alvah Channel, living with A. Daniels—aged about 20.
On Sunday, Miss Kingsley, school teacher, lately from Mt. Palatine. She had been boarding in the family of Mr. Daniels until the cholera made its appearance, when she started for home, but was taken at Ottawa, where she died.
On Thursday, Mr. Garrett Galvin, who had assisted in burying the deceased members of the family of Mr. Daniels.

We hear of several others in the neighborhood who have taken the disease, but up to yesterday morning of no more deaths. All the persons taken thus far, we believe were at the house of Mr. Daniels, either calling or assisting there, during their affliction; and it is remarkable that the disease has spread in no families where there have been cases except that of Mr. Daniels. The only cause we have heard assigned for this fearful visitation is the fact that a few days before the disease made its appearance, Mrs. D. had used fresh pork in his family. This alone, although doubtless very unhealthy food at this season, is not believed to be of itself sufficient to account for the fatality ascribed to its use, except on the hypothesis that the pork had become tainted. Considering the extreme heat of the weather, this is not unlikely to have been the case, and although it may not have been perceptible, we are assured that the slightest taint will render such meat otherwise not unwholesome, as poisonous as strychnine.

The reports circulated in town that the family had suffered for want of attention, and that great difficulty had been found in obtaining assistance to bury the dead, &c., we know to be wholly untrue. The truth is, that during most of the time, too many persons were at the house. The family has many friends and relatives in the whole neighborhood, and frequently they gathered in so numerously that they were advised to keep away. Sufficient help was constantly at hand, and complaint on that score is neither made by Mr. D. nor, if made, would be just to his neighbors.1

  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, August 19, 1854, p. 3, col. 1

Early Mail Delivery


newspaper listing of early mails

Mail Service to Dayton in 1842

Tri-weekly mail up Fox River, via Dayton, Northville, Pennfield, Bristol, Oswego and Aurora to Geneva, arrives every Monday Wednesday and Friday at 8 o’clock, p. m., and departs every Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, at 3 o’clock, a. m.

The Dayton post office was established in 1837. In 1842, as this mail schedule shows, Dayton was on the Fox River route up to Geneva, in the north. Because of the relative ease of the river route as compared to the overland routes, there were three mail deliveries a week in Dayton, whereas the other routes only provided weekly service. There was no home delivery of mail, so stopping by the post office to get your mail was also a social activity for the exchange of local news.

In 1842, prior to the use of envelopes and postage stamps, letters usually consisted of one sheet, folded, with the charge (paid by the recipient) written in the corner. At this time, the charge for a letter was 25 cents, and often a letter languished at the post office until the recipient could afford to retrieve it. A story is told of a man whose letter lay in the post office for over a month because he could not collect the money to get it. He finally traded the postmaster four bushels of wheat for it and thought he had made a good deal, so anxious was he to hear from the folks back home.

Image from Illinois Free Trader, October 28, 1842, p. 3, col. 2