What’s for Dinner?

deer, quail, prairie chickens

When the Green party arrived in La Salle county in 1829, they had to be self-sufficient as far as food went. There was no McDonalds down the road, nor any grocery stores in the neighborhood. So what did they do for food? How did they provide for themselves?

To begin with, there was plenty of game: deer, turkey, prairie chicken (grouse), quail, squirrel, goose, duck, and fish. One highly specialized form of hunting was bee-hunting. A good bee-hunter could find and harvest 30 bee trees a season, yielding 50 gallons of honey and 60 pounds of beeswax.

Chickens were rarely eaten, as they were too valuable as egg producers. Only when they were too old to lay did they end up in the stewpot.

They didn’t bring pigs with them, as there were plenty of feral hogs in the woods, although hunting them was dangerous. Pigs, both wild and (later) domesticated) were the main source of pork, lard (both for shortening and for lamp fuel), and cracklings – those crispy bits that could be baked into bread. They ate mostly pork, usually cured. There was fresh meat in the late fall and early winter; otherwise the meat was salted or smoked to preserve it. Jesse Green tells of how his mother salted and smoked the breasts of hundreds of the prairie chicken which he and David killed.

They had plenty of fruit: mulberries, raspberries, wild strawberries, blackberries, crab apples, pawpaw, persimmons, wild cherries, wild grapes, wild plum, ramps, and may apples were common in Illinois, although probably not all of them were found right here.

There were many varieties of nuts: beech, chestnut, hickory, walnut, hazelnut. Most nuts were fed to hogs, not consumed by people.

There was no white sugar available, so food was sweetened with honey or the sap of the sugar maple, which was collected primarily to make sugar, not syrup.

They made a coffee substitute from parched corn, ground in a coffee mill, and made tea from sage or wild sassafras.

Within a few years of their arrival they would have been growing wheat, buckwheat, corn, sweet corn, pumpkin, beans, soybeans, potatoes, apples, and peaches. They would have planted herbs, both for cooking and for their medicinal uses. Lemon balm was good to relieve feverish colds or headache; thyme tea mixed with honey was good for a sore throat, coughs, or colds; lavender was good for headaches, fainting, and dizziness.

Most kitchens would have had a few large pots, some hand-hewn wooden bowls, a dipper made from a gourd.

Most dishes were either fried in lard or simmered/boiled in water. For slow-cooked dishes of beans, greens, potatoes and other thrifty ingredients, salt pork was used for flavoring. The staples were meat, cornbread, and cornmeal mush.

The time required to start a fire in the morning and get a meal cooked meant that there was one substantial meal a day, eaten at mid-day, with leftovers for supper. Breakfast would be mush or pancakes. Cooking would be done in the fireplace.

The major difficulty was storing up enough food to last through the winter. Cabbages, onion, and turnips could be stored for a time in the root cellar, but large quantities of cucumbers, cabbage, eggs, and pigs feet were pickled to preserve them. Fruit was dried or bottled in a thick syrup. Meat was smoked, dried, or salted.

Early Customs


The latchstring is out.

The following excerpt from Jesse Green’s memoir shows the changes that appear in a frontier society as the population increases:

“I think it may truthfully be said, that in no sphere, or stage of progressive civilization and advancement is the Scriptural Injunction obeyed with a fuller realization of its import and importance, than in the early settlement of a New Country. Namely, “do unto others as you would that they should do unto you.”

Circumstances all combine to make each and every one feel his dependence upon others and consequently this injunction is obeyed not merely as a duty but as a pleasure, as this dependence is felt in so many different ways. A cabin has to be built requiring the assistance at the entire neighborhood, harvesting will not admit of delay and a neighborhood joins teams in order to do it to better advantage, and a hundred and one little acts of kindness are rendered and gladly reciprocated through a higher and more exalted motive than we usually see in older settled countries, but with increased prosperity or wealth men become more selfish, and selfishness begets strife, and strife puts the big man on top with the little one whineing at his heels. Such seems to me, to be the tendency of the age in which we live. It is fast coming, and now is to an alarming extent, that man’s worth is measured by his dollars and cents. No man of ordinary means can think of filling any high office of honor and trust, the moneyed man has got on top, and the others qualifications of honor, honesty and fitness in every respect avail not against dollars and cents.

It used to be the custom of the country that no matter who chanced to reach your home at night, the stranger was made perfectly welcome to share your scanty fare “without money and without price”.  In the morning the guest offering to settle his bill for entertainment, usually the only charge was “go and do likewise.”

This generous and hospitable spirit prevailed for a number of years in the infancy of this new, great and prosperous country. We had no pennies, nothing less than six and a fourth cent pieces (five and ten cent pieces came later) and sixpence then was more readily given in making change than a penny is today. With greater immigration from all parts this generous and hospitable disposition began gradually to die out and we begin to see the big sign swinging high in the air announcing entertainment  the latch string now pulled in, free entertainment was no longer expected and from this time on a more selfish and acquisitive disposition began to take root and grow among all classes of society.

And here commenced the race for money making gradually all seemed to enter vs with each other first to see who could get the most land, and then to see who could raise the most wheat, the most corn, the most cattle and the most hogs. It required great production of everything raised, or grown in those days, to bring a little money, pork was sold at $l.50 per hundred, wheat when hauled to Chicago our only market except in a small way at the mill, would not bring over 40 to 50 cents requiring a week to make the trip with ox teams, and in order to raise their tax money, the settlers could not afford to put up at Hotels, but were obliged to carry their own grub, which the hardy women knew well how to prepare for such a trip and they were obliged to camp out. Tax money bothered the pioneers for a number of years. They did not require much of either gold or silver for anything else as all seemed to understand the rule of barter, and it supplied most of their wants or needs.”

Christmas in Dayton, 1931

Christmas greetings

Program Given at Community Party at Dayton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in Dayton, 1888

Dayton Doings

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frank Green came down from Chicago to spend the holidays.

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving 1901


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to Tell A Yankee from a Buckeye


prairie schooner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

116 Years Ago Today in Dayton

tent in camp site


Charles Sheppler of Wedron Sundayed at Dayton.

Some nice fish are now being caught above the dam.

Charles Clodt and son Charles, spent Sunday at Serena.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Grand Balloon Ascension


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

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

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

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

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

A Trumbo Reunion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An oyster supper was held last Wednesday . . .

oyster stew

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Spring Tradition


violets          Virginia Bluebells

In the early 1900s kids made May Baskets – sometimes pages from wallpaper sample books formed into cone shapes, sometimes strips of paper woven into square baskets.  They filled them with flowers, often violets and bluebells, and with candy and hung them on friends’ doors.  The trick was to yell “May Basket!” and run away fast, because if the receiver of the basket caught you, you’d get kissed.  Of course, some ran away faster than others.

One time a boy who lived here happened to be upstairs when he heard the call “May Basket!”  He ran to a window, jumped on the porch roof, and then flung himself the 12 or 14 feet to the ground and landed running.

“Did you catch them?” he was asked.

“Oh, yes, they wanted to be caught.”

Sending Money in 1854

torn bill

Brighton Iowa May the 8th A D 1854
Dear Nephue
I have at last got ready to write to you conserning your money I went after it the first week in Aprile but Mr Dfrans was not at home and I left word for him to bring it down but he did not come tell last friday. he gave me $88 in $3 $5 and 10 bills and the ballence in gold. on saterday I turnd out to git large bills, and found but one fifty Dollar bill and that was all that I could git, larger then $10 but I have $20 so I will inclose $100 in this letter, or one half of each bill, and the other half in A letter that I have rote to send to Ephraim whare you will find it if he gits his letter and as soon as I can git sutable bills for the gold I will send it if this gose safe
I have not got that rent money yet but I sent him sharp orders if he dit not soon pay it I would give it to some boty to colect it I think your Mother could afford to come after it
we ar all well except my self I had another turn of the rumitis but am gaining again
hoping that these fue lines ma find you all in good health, write as soon as you git this and not fail, so fairwell
Jacob Snyder
[The spelling has been left uncorrected. To see the original, click here.]

This letter was written by Jacob Snyder to his nephew, Oliver Trumbo, of Dayton. In the days before the existence of checks or money orders, it was difficult to send money to someone at a distance. If it could be sent with a trusted person who was traveling to that location, that was the best. In the absence of such a person, careful people often resorted to the method Jacob describes in the above letter. A bill or bills would be cut in half; one half sent in one letter and the other half, as in this case, sent to a friend. The person to whom the money was sent would then join the two halves, which could be exchanged for complete bills. Another method was to mail the half bills and wait until confirmation arrived that the money was received. Then the second half could be sent. This method took more time, but did not require involving a second party.

A Social Party

couple dancing

Dayton, March 4, 1884. – The young folks sent out about twenty-five invitations last week for a social party at the residence of H. B. Williams, Esq., in East Ottawa of Friday evening, Feb. 29. Messrs. John Hall, Chas. Green and Wm. Dunavan were the invitation committee, and Messrs. C. B. Hess and S. W. Dunavan were floor managers. About twenty couples were present and all had a very enjoyable time. Two large parlors had been prepared for dancing, the floors nicely waxed, and everything was in good trim. The music by Prof. Cliff G. Sweet and wife of Aurora, consisting of violin and harp, was excellent and was greatly enjoyed by all present. For good first class music, new changes and delicious waltzes, they cannot be excelled and we can heartily recommend them to parties desiring such music. At a late hour the guests retired thanking Mr. and Mrs. W. for their kind hospitality and for the pleasant time they had had. The following guests were present: Prof. and Mrs. C. W. Tufts; Mr. and Mrs. T. E. MacKinlay; Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Hess; Misses Stout, Misses Angevine, Misses Dunavan, Misses Watts, Craig, Barnes, Marriner, Misses Childs, Misses Loy and others. Messrs. Angevine, Trumbo, Hall, Mitchell, Butters, Dunaway, Flick, Clauson, Messrs. Green, Messrs. Dunavan and others.1

  1. Ottawa [Ilinois] Free Trader, March 8, 1884, p. 8, col. 1

The Sounds of Winter


In the absence of paved roads, a wet fall could make roads impassable and people waited eagerly for cold weather and snow. It was then time to get out the sleigh and resume visiting with friends and neighbors.

Maud Green remembered that ” ‘Old Jim’ belonged to Grandma Trumbo, & mother inherited him in 1873.  The sleigh bells & a sleigh came with him.”

The sleigh, unfortunately, is gone, although in my childhood it was still up in the hayloft of the old barn. My mother always wanted to get it down and restore it, but it never happened and then the barn burned. However, the sleigh bells are still in existence and are brought out every Christmas to hang on the door. Here’s a reminder of the joys of a sleigh ride:


Thanksgiving Day 1900 in Dayton

Thanksgiving dinner

A report of one Thanksgiving feast:

A Thanksgiving dinner given by Mr. and Mrs. O. W. Trumbo was largely attended. Among those present were Mr. and Mrs. W. Van Etten and three children, Batavia, Mr. Eugene Appleton, Miss Ella Green, Aurora, Wm. Miller, wife and three children, Rutland, Mr. and Mrs. Isaac Green, Miss Carrie Green and Lyle A. Green, Dayton.1

The hosts were Oliver W. Trumbo and his wife, Rebecca Green. Their daughter Jessie was the wife of Wilmot Van Etten and the mother of Clare Trumbo Van Etten, Walcott Gumaer Van Etten, and Frank Campbell Van Etten.

Ella Green, whose name appears coupled with Eugene Appleton was the daughter of David and Mary (Stadden) Green. Eugene appears to have been an unsuccessful wooer, as Ella later married Dr. George H. Riley.

William Miller’s wife was Alta Barbara Gibson, daughter of George W. and Rachael (Green) Gibson. Their children were Gertrude Rae Miller, Howard Miller, and Glenn Gibson Miller.

Isaac Green and wife Mary Jane Trumbo attended with their son Lyle. They had no daughter named Carrie, but they did have one daughter at home in 1900. Possibly daughter Maud was misidentified as Carrie.

  1. Ottawa Republican-Times, December 6, 1900, p. 4, col. 4

The Drunken Dancing Master


FROM DAYTON, Jan. 8, 1877

Being a constant reader of your paper, I see no one has taken note of our little village for some time. Permit me, therefore, to give you some items of interest.

Our improvements are plain. The paper mill of Williams & Co. is running in full and is in a flourishing condition, turning out about 24 tons of paper per week.

It is needless to say the Fox River Horse Collar Manufacturing Co. still carry on an extensive business. They are known far and wide. Nothing seems to daunt them, nor does their trade decrease. In spite of hard times they prosper.

The store formerly owned by John T. Makinson has been purchased by Jesse Green & Sons, who have enlarged the building and now have on hand a full line of groceries, woolen goods, &c.

Our inhabitants are a class of persevering, energetic people. Among them is a renowned ex-granger, to whom life on a farm becoming monotonous, he concluded to enter into something which would bring him more in contact with the people of the world. So he engaged in wholesale manufacturing pursuits, but becoming weary of the hum of machinery, retired from business and set himself down to think what he should do next. At length he exclaimed, “I have it!” I will do something for the people which will cause my name to be handed down to future generations with honor never to be forgotten.

‘Tis true, we have no churches, but we don’t need any – our people are good enough. They are noted for honesty, integrity, and warm genial disposition. Neither have we any saloons, nor do we need them – our people are temperate, and Ottawa is not far distant. But notwithstanding our people are good and temperate, they are deficient in good manners and gracefulness – cannot describe a proper circle in making a bow; in short, need a dancing master. Therefore he had one imported from the east, organized a dancing school – in fact, two dancing schools, one for juveniles at 4 P. M., another for adults at a later hour. Juvenile class assemble to meet their tutor dressed with all the care and taste their fond mothers could devise, their flashing eyes sparkling with anticipated pleasure, the bloom of health and innocence upon their cheeks. Their teacher arrives by the train, alights and walks up the railroad track describing a Virginia worm fence. Great consternation among his admirers. It was a stunner, a perfect surprise. Crowds could be seen on every corner with blanched cheeks and distended eyes, asking what shall we do? “Pickles!” shouts one. “Lemons!” cries another. “Yes, that’s business, give us lemons,” says a third. “Who cares for expenses. Here – you – somebody – hold him up on t’other side; feed him lemons; walk him two miles and a half!” A consultation was then held as to whether the school should continue, the gentlemen being in favor of a change of tutors, while the sentiments of the majority of the ladies seemed to be, “get drunk if you want to, boys, we’ll forgive you.” This is apparently a new style of crusaders.

Much more might be said upon the subject; but suffice it that the adult class proceeded to be instructed, and got through as well as could be expected under the trying circumstances, closing with an appointment for Thursday evening, Jan. 11.


  1. The Ottawa [Illinois] Free Trader, January 13, 1877

Elizabeth Trumbo’s Will

The Elizabeth Trumbo house

Elizabeth Trumbo house

Will of Elizabeth Trumbo, Deceased

I, Elizabeth Trumbo of the Town of Dayton in the County of La Salle and State of Illinois, being of sound and disposing mind memory and understanding, do make publish and declare this to be my last will and Testament hereby revoking and making Void, all former Wills and testaments by me heretofore made.  It is my will, First that my funeral charges and debts shall be paid by my Executor Oliver W. Trumbo, my son whom I do nominate and appoint to be the sole Executor of this my Last Will and testament. In the Second place, what property remains after the payments of my just debts, and funeral charges and the Expenses attending the Execution of this my last Will, and the Administration of my Estate, I wish to dispose of in the following named manner, to wit; Third I give devise and bequeath to my daughter Mary Jane, wife of Isaac Green of La Salle County in the State of Illinois the sum of Two Thousand dollars, Also all that tract or parcel of land designated as Block one in Green’s Addition to the Village of Dayton, in La Salle County Illinois together with the house, and other improvements, and the household furniture, Beds bedding, and all the hereditaments and appurtenances thereunto belonging, or in anywise appertaining, to have and to hold the premises above described to the said Mary Jane Green of La Salle County Illinois, and to her heirs and assigns forever, Fourth, I give and bequeath unto my Grand son Walter Trumbo, Son of John Trumbo decd the sum of Eight Hundred dollars, when he shall arrive at the age of Twenty-one years But if he shall not live to become twenty-one years of age, then at his death, the said sum of Eight Hundred dollars Shall come back to my children, Fifth I give to my daughter-in-law Delia wife of Ahab Christopher Trumbo decd the sum of one dollar.

Sixth I give and bequeath unto my daughter-in-law Rebecca G. Trumbo, wife of Oliver W. Trumbo, of Dayton La Salle County Illinois the sum of Eight hundred dollars, also one Horse, One Spring Wagon together with any surplus in money or personal property that may be left after satisfying the above and foregoing Will. Seventh, All of my other heirs not mentioned in this will have heretofore been provided for.

In witness whereof I the said Elizabeth Trumbo have hereunto Subscribed my name and affixed my seal this Eighth day of April A. D. one thousand eight hundred and Seventy three1

The house shown above , the one referenced in the third clause in the will, is also the place where Mary Jane Trumbo and Isaac Green were married. It is located at the top of the hill, on the south side of the road which leads down to the new bridge across the Fox river. The house is still relatively unchanged.

  1. Elizabeth Trumbo probate file, 1873, file T48, La Salle County Genealogy Guild, 115 W. Glover, Ottawa, IL.

Dayton Homemakers

Dayton Homemakers 1912

In 1911, a group of farm women in Dayton township got together and organized a club, shown above, with the object of social gatherings where they could get to know their neighbors and exchange ideas on home management. They began with twenty-three members who met monthly. They always had a speaker, discussion, and, of course, refreshments and visiting. They are still meeting in 2016, and are not so different from the meeting described below, which took place in 1922. Wouldn’t you have liked to hear the responses to their roll call? and not just for the recipes!


The members of the Dayton Homemakers’ club held a meeting yesterday at the home of Mrs. Louis Bellrose in Dayton township. Practically all members of the club and a large number of guests were in attendance.

An interesting program was given. Mrs. Hans Vogel sang two solos, Mrs. Charles Long of the Rutland club told of the work her organization is doing, and Miss Houston of St. Joseph, Mo., who is visiting her aunt, Mrs. Charles Bellrose, told of her recent travels through Mexico.

A clever feature of the program was a roll call, when every member responded, giving her most embarrassing moment and her favorite recipe. Late in the afternoon refreshments were served by the hostess.

The September meeting will be held at the home of Mrs. John Eustis. This session was postponed one week on account of the county fair and will be held on Sept. 21.1

More information on the Dayton Homemakers can be found here.

  1. Ottawa Free Trader-Journal, August 11, 1922

The Library Association of the Dayton Literary Society

Book label - Dayton Literary Society

The Dayton Literary Society flourished in the 1870s and 1880s as shown by the clippings below, taken from the Ottawa Free Trader newspaper. Book No. 70, in which this bookplate appears is My Own Times by John Reynolds, published in 1855. Reynolds was governor of Illinois from 1830-1834. It is tantalizing to speculate on what the other 99 volumes might have been.

December 7, 1878, p. 4, col. 5
The Literary meets Friday evening to re-organize and adopt a new constitution. A committee has been appointed to procure more books for the library.

March 15, 1879, p. 8, col. 2
The Literary is in good running order and having good success. The exercises show care in their preparation and talent in their delivery. The library of the society, containing over a hundred volumes of choice reading, is a great benefit to the town. Much interest is taken in it and beneficial results we have no doubt will proceed from its use.

February 5, 1881, p. 8, col. 2-3
The Library Association has reorganized and will soon add a few more volumes to their catalogue. The following officers were chosen for the ensuing year: Mr. Isaac Green, president; Chas. Green, secretary; Harry Green, librarian. An initiation fee of fifty cents for the year will be charged, with no monthly dues. An invitation is extended to all to join the association and enjoy the privileges of the library. It contains many readable and instructive volumes.

February 19, 1881, p. 8, col. 1
The Library Association has adopted a constitution and is receiving many new members. The library is at the store, and Harry is the librarian. He will issue cards of membership at fifty cents each, and allow the holder to read any and all of the hundred volumes in the library.

There’s WHAT? in Them Thar Hills


New businesses are not always welcome, especially when uninvited. Some time around 1950, without the knowledge of the owners, a still was being operated on the Green farm, in one of the ravines north of the barn. For several weeks there had been rumors of a still in operation somewhere in Dayton. Then Dom DiBernardi, who kept the store in Dayton, told Charles Clifford, operator of the Green farm, that three boys had seen the still. Clifford investigated and, upon finding the still, contacted Harland Warren, La Salle County State’s Attorney. Warren, in turn, contacted the Internal Revenue Service. An agent for the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Division was sent out immediately and was shown to the scene. He commented that apparently someone had returned to the still the previous night and attempted to burn part of the barrels and remove several pieces of pipe. He described the still as “peculiar” and seemed to think the operators were on the amateur level. The still had been chopped to pieces, and no further investigation was planned. Mrs. Ruth Green, owner of the farm, was subjected to considerable teasing in the days that followed.