CITY OF AURORA.
Within the bounds of the above described Congressional Township there has arisen,
within forty three years, a city which, while it exceeds in size all the others along the banks of Fox River, is
surpassed by none of them in the beauty of its location.
On the 25th of November, 1833, Joseph McCarty, a millwright, living in Chemung County, near Elmira, N. Y., left
his home, in company with a single companion, one Jeffry tBeardslee, to seek his fortune in the West. Unlike so
many others who have left Eastern homes with a similar object in view, he had mapped out a definite course before
starting, and decided upon the exact spot where he designed to locate. Proceeding across the country to the head
waters of the Alleghany, where a sufficient stop was made to construct a "dug out" of suitable dimensions
to convey two passengers and a small chest of tools down the river, the young men launched their rude craft, and
floated leisurely toward the mouth of the stream so aptly described by the elegant and poetic Frenchmen in the
name which they applied to it, "Beautiful." Their journey to Pittsburgh was exceedingly arduous during
much of the way, owing to its frequent interruptions from rapids and mill dams, where they were obliged to land
and unload their boat, and drag it over the country to a point. below. But they at length arrived there without
serious accident, and, abandoning their pirogue and taking passage on a small steamer, they pushed on toward the
Mississippi. It may be well to state here that their destination was the head of navigation on the Illinois River,
where Mr. McCarty, deceived by the inaccurate maps of the State, supposed that he would find excellent water power
and mill privileges, where he believed that a great city would eventually arise; but on reaching Cairo it became
evident to him that it would be impossible to complete their journey until the following Spring, as all nature
furnished indubitable signs of the speedy approach of winter. They accordingly went into winter quarters at Cape
Girardeau, then a thriving town, where it would seem from various entries in Mr. McCarty's account book that they
worked at odd jobs during the cold weather to pay for their board. At the opening of Spring they continued their
journey to the Illinois, and up the stream to the place selected, where they discovered that it was not the desirable
position represented, and that it had already been claimed by a party which had preceded them but a few weeks.
They accordingly directed their journey to Ottawa, then an insignificant settlement of a few small houses, where,
hearing of a good site for a mill up the Fox, McCarty hired a prospector, Robert Faracre by name, to accompany
them; and following the course of the river they arrived, on the first day of April, 1834, at the Indian village
occupied by Waubansie, chief of the Pottawattomies, and two or three hundred of his warriors, just north of the
present site of the city of Aurora, on the west side of the river, on what was afterward known as the McNamara
farm. The banks of the river, which have long since been stripped of much of their sylvan glory, were then thickly
wooded, and along the east side the native forest trees had attained a remarkable size in many places, and formed
a continuous wood extending from the vicinity of the present city to Batavia. This forest, afterward known as the
"'Big Wood," the Indian village, and the whole of the land now occupied by the city of Aurora, had been
included in a tract ten miles square, set apart by the United States Government as an Indian reservation, but had
subsequently been purchased by treaty with Waubansie and his tribe, just previous to the arrival of McCarty, Beardslee
and Faracre, as recorded above. On approaching that part of the river bank opposite Stolp's Island, a landscape
of unusual beauty was presented to their view. The river there wound gradually to the west from the almost direct
southerly course above, and, continuing to a point some five hundred yards below the southern extremity of the
island, assumed in a graceful curve its former direction. The ripples dancing over the limestone bed were as clear
" The bright waters of that upper sphere,"
while the tangled shrubs with which the margin of the island was covered, the stately and grand forests of oak
which rose gloomily along the eastern bank, all contributed to form a delightful picture to the eye of the eastern
voyageurs, accustomed from their earliest remembrances to such scenes, but wearied for weeks with gazing over the
trackless and uninterrupted prairies, which stretch away across the country which they had just traversed. The
natural fall, too, and the island partially obstructing the channel, formed the advantages which they had sought
so long, and McCarty immediately laid claim to about 360 acres on the east side, and proceeded to make good his
title by erecting thereon a log cabin about 10x12 feet in dimensions; and later, in order to enjoy the entire right
to the water power, he took up another claim of about 100 acres on the opposite side of the river, on which he
built a similar shanty. The log house on the east side was the first dwelling within the limits of the city, and
was located about seventy five feet directly east of the spot where the old gristmill stands. The nearest white
settler at that time was Elijah Pierce, who lived three miles down the river with his family, at the place now
occupied by the village of Montgomery. The nearest neighbor on the east was not less than ten miles away. Naperville
contained a few families, and there was a family living on Rock Creek, about twelve miles west of the Indian village;
while still another, arriving about the same time as McCarty and Beardslee, put up a shanty in the vicinity of
Batavia. The Indians displayed considerable curiosity in the proceedings of their white neighbors, and frequently
visited them, begging bread, tobacco and whisky. They were friendly, and at the time of Black Hawk's raid, two
years previous, Waubansie had warned the scattered settlers of the impending danger, thus meriting, if he did not
receive, their eternal gratitude. During the Summer of 1834, McCarty and his men occupied the shanty upon the east
side, doing their own cooking, with the exception of their bread, which was prepared by Mrs. Pierce, down the river,
and carried home in flour sacks. In the meantime, a dam had been commenced and was steadily progressing, and the
timbers for a saw mill having been prepared, the neighbors within a radius of fifteen miles were invited to the
raising. It is said that about a dozen men came. In October, a more convenient house was commenced, and the first
settlers were thinking of making a gigantic stride in the direction of an advanced civilization, by inhabiting
a dwelling 14x18, when their numbers were augmented by the arrival of Samuel McCarty, a younger brother of the
one who then owned Aurora. Some weeks previous, Joseph McCarty had sent him a glowing account of the wilderness
where he had pitched his tent, and he had immediately settled his business as a millwright, in Chemung County,
and, taking the most direct route for Illinois, had arrived at Waubansie's reservation on the 6th of November,
1834, three weeks from the day of his departure from home, having journeyed a part of the distance in the same
stage with the late Ira Minard, one of the pioneers of St. Charles. Previous to his arrival, his brother had purchased
for him, of a squatter, a claim of 400 acres south of his own, for which he paid the sum of $60. Of this squatter
we can obtain no satisfactory information, no reference to him occurring in the early records of these times, save
in this connection only, and he was doubtless one of those wandering characters who appear in all new countries,
but who vanish like the native animals before the advance of civilization, and his biography has no connection
with the rise and progress of Aurora. In the following December, as the pioneers were sadly in need of a hostess,
Stephen A. Aldrich and family* were received into their dwelling, Mrs. A. being the first white woman known to
have trodden the pathless wilds of Aurora. The city then contained eight inhabitants, viz.: the two McCartys, Beardslee,
Faracre, Mr. and Mrs. Aldrich, and two small children.
* They afterward removed to Sangamon County, Illinois.
During the same month and year, R. C. Horr, who had previously emigrated, with his family, from Canada to a point
further south, came to the reservation with the intention of removing his household goods thither if the prospect
appeared favorable. Finding the place all that he had anticipated, he bought of the McCartys the first acre of
land sold by them, which was situated where some of the principal business houses in the city have since arisen,
and paid for it the sum of $2.00, agreeing, also, to build thereon a dwelling and a tannery, the former of which
was subsequently erected; but Mr. Horr, meeting with reverses in business, failed to fulfill the stipulation in
regard to the latter. He removed his family in the Spring of 1835, and became a useful member of the growing settlement,
being elected the first Justice of the Peace.
As the Aldriches remained but a short time in Aurora, Horr may be considered the first permanent settler after
Under the successive blows and joint exertions of all the male members of the settlement, the mill and dam were
soon completed. An old mill book, now in the possession of Samuel McCarty, shows that the first sawing was done
for Mr. Wormley, of Oswego, Ill., on the 8th day of June, 1835.
In the same year, a tide of emigration from the East reached Fox River, and gave the first promise of prosperity
to the little settlement then known as McCarty's Mill.
We notice upon the old mill book, referred to above, the names of R. C. Corr, James Leonard, Levi and George Gorton,
B. F. Phillips, the first cabinet maker in the place, Joseph and Lyndorf Huntoon, Winslow Higgins, William Brown
and Mr. Barker; beside whom we may mention Dr. Eastman, the first settled physician, and wife,R. M. Watkins and
wife, Seth Read, Theodore Lake, Charles Bates, Elgin Squires, William T. Elliott, Peter Mills, E. D. Terry, Richard
Terry and many others, in the years immediately following, if our space would permit.
The Higginses, who arrived in August, 1835, and settled on the east side of the river, and the Huntoon, who came
immediately after, were the earliest of these. They came direct from Naperville, Canada, and were connected by
marriage, Mrs. Higgins being a daughter of Joseph Huntoon and a sister of Lyndorf. They brought three horses, two
cows and a yoke of oxen with them, and at once set about constructing a frame house, which was completed during
the year, and was the first dwelling of the kind erected in the place. It stood on the present site of E. R. Allen's
warehouse, was an exclusively home made structure, Mr Higgins having manufactured the shingles from red oak, the
material which formed the entire building, and was about 18x20 feet in dimensions, two small wings being subsequently
attached. It has since been removed to North Broadway, opposite the round house, where it still remains. About
the same time, a frame building was finished by Samuel McCarty, which is still in existence, having been somewhat
It is difficult for us now, with the conveniences and luxuries of the metropolis at our doors, to realize the many
privations which the pioneers were often obliged to undergo at that comparatively recent date. They had to go to
Ottawa or Chicago for all their supplies. The nearest grist mill was forty miles down the river, at a place then
called Green's Mill, now Dayton. The country swarmed with Indians, who stole their horses, and with wolves, who
confiscated the smaller domestic animals; the settlers often knew by experience the meaning of hunger, and they
shook with the ague from December to June.
Shortly after the arrival of the iligginses and Huntoons, they found themselves one morning without horses, while
the fresh tracks indicated that they had been taken in the direction of Chicago. There was one remaining steed
in the place, which Mr Huntoon mounted, and hurried away on the trail of the thieves. They were easily followed
from the tracks, as none of the Indian ponies were shod, while those which they had stolen left deep impressions
in the soft sod at nearly every step. Mr. Huntoon pursued them to the Indian encampment, within sight of the agency,
but there lost track of them. He then applied to the Indian agent, describing the property, which was recovered
after a thorough search. Complaint was made to the Chief in command, who proposed that his dishonest subjects should
be rigidly punished; but upon a reconsideration of the circumstances, both the agent and Mr. Huntoon concluded
that, since the Indians were so vastly superior to the settlers in numbers that they could have annihilated them
if their resentment was aroused, it was deemed prudent to allow the thieves to depart, after a sharp reprimand.
But few difficulties of this kind occurred, however, as the Pottawattomies left the country during the following
Fall; and Mr. Burr Winton, who is now living in Aurora, at the age of 76, and who came to the place October 9,
1836, states that the last Indian had gone when he arrived.
But some of the other embarrassments due to their isolated position, and the diseases peculiar to all of the Western
country at the time of its first settlement, were not to be overcome with as much ease. The ague afflicted all
alike, and Dr. George Higgins, now a practicing physician in Aurora, a son of the early settler, and who was only
a small boy when he accompanied him from Canada, gives some doleful accounts of his father's sufferings with the
disease which reduces its victim to a skeleton, but, according to popular belief, never kills.
A Miss. Squires, who lay sick with the ague, in the lower room of Mr. McCarty's house, while the workmen were shingling
it, stated, in good faith, that she shook so severely that they were frightened from the roof. The two Huntoon
families and the Higginses - eleven in all - occupied one and the same dwelling for a time after their arrival,
and the doctor states that on one occasion, during their first year in the new country, their grain which had been
carried to Green's mill failed to return as soon as they had expected it, and the last article of food in the house
was devoured. In this strait, the grandmother, whom he represents as one of the keen, scheming Yankee women who
never failed to suggest an invention adapted to the demands of any emergency, sifted a small quantity of bran,
mixed it with water (the cows were dry), and cooked a cake, which he says was the most delicious morsel that he
ever tasted. This process was repeated three times, and she was finally reduced to the necessity of mixing and
baking the portion of the bran which would not go through the seive, before the grist arrived. But famine never
stalked into the settlement after the first year's crop was harvested, and the stories told of the fertility of
that virgin soil are almost incredible. In 1836, Mr. Higgins hired an acre of land of the McCartys, upon which
he planted potatoes, agreeing to take three fourths of the crop as his share. His share was 300 bushels. Benjamin
Hackney, who arrived in the settlement several years later, raised forty two bushels of winter wheat to the acre,
weighing about sixty two pounds to the bushel, which was the eleventh crop on the same land.
After 1835, settlers flocked into the place by scores, and from that date its destiny was manifest. In this year,
the original plat of the city was laid out, the survey of which must have occurred late in the Fall, as Mr. Samuel
McCarty, who superintended it, and who is still an honored resident of the city, states that the ground was frozen
to such an extent that some difficulty was experienced in driving the stakes. The village, as first laid out, extended
from Flag street, on the north, to Benton, on the south, and some six blocks back from the river.
It was in this year, also, that the first public religious services were held in the settlement, the first sermon
being delivered by a Congregational clergyman from Ottawa, in Mr. Horr's house. Rev. Mr. Springer, of the Methodist
Church, followed close in his track and preached occasionally during the Fall and Winter of 1836-7. The year 1835
is likewise memorable as the one in which death first appeared in the village. A Miss Elmira Graves, an invalid,
brought from the East by her friends, with the hope that a change of climate would effect a cure, died late in
the Fall, and was buried near the corner of Benton and La Salle streets, a point then believed to be beyond the
possible limits of the city, but now nearly in the heart of it.
In the same year, the water power, with the McCarty claim on the West Side, was sold for $500, to Z. Lake. Two
saw mills were subsequently built upon it, the last of which stood upon the site now occupied by the ruins of the
Black Hawk Mills. The rapid increase in the population from the arrival of immigrants during the Fall of 1835,
and the Spring and Summer of 1836, made it apparent to the least enterprising that some immediate steps should
be taken toward supplying the want of a grist mill. Hauling grain forty miles was an item of labor which could
ill be afforded by men dependent upon their daily toil, and, accordingly, in 1836, the McCarty brothers commenced,
and afterward, having formed a partnership with Robert Miller, finished the long wished for institution during
the following year, the first grist being ground in February 8, 1837.
Previous to this date, Aurora had had a school. Her first settlers had come from a portion of the country proverbial
for the dissemination of knowledge among its inhabitants, and where the school teacher was considered as essential
a factor in the body politic as the farmer or the mechanic. Accordingly, it has been a matter of some controversy
to determine when the first school was started, and it seems to be admitted on all hands that it is difficult to
point to a time, after the first boy or girl appeared in the town, when there was not one.
According to Mr. Burr Winton, a man by the name of Livings, from Syracuse, N. Y., appeared in the settlement, early
in the Winter of 1836, and told the settlers that they ought to have a school. This axiom was readily received,
"but," said they, "we have no house." A small slab shanty stood near the river, on the East
Side, and Mr. Livings, pointing to it, said that it might well be turned into an alphabet dispensary, and that
he would willingly teach there, for three months, if the settlers would assure him twenty five pupils, at $1.50
each. A subscription paper was circulated and the required sum pledged, but, on opening the school, only fourteen
children appeared, the entire juvenile force of the village. The school, however, progressed for several weeks,
but the measles breaking out among the pupils, it was closed before the three months had expired. The pedagogue
betook himself from Aurora to Chicago, where he was subsequently found dead in a hay loft, having committed suicide.
Two rude houses were subsequently erected, one on the East and the other on the West Side, in the former of which
a Miss Julia Brown taught the first term, and has frequently been incorrectly cited as the first teacher in the
place. Men were generally employed as teachers in the Winter, and women in the Summer, and, for a number of years,
rude huts, built for the purpose, or rooms in private dwellings, were used as school rooms. The teachers were generally
paid by subscription, the present elaborate school law being then unknown. Three Directors were appointed, in Aurora,
at an early day, and Burr Winton, one of the first board, says that he was obliged to pay a teacher for one quarter,
amounting to about twenty eight dollars, from his own private purse.
The old State Line Road between Chicago and Galena crossed Fox River, previous to 1836, at Gray's (now Montgomery),
and there was no road between Naperville and Aurora. The mail for McCarty's Mill, as Aurora was then called, was
obtained at Naperville.
In the above mentioned year, however, Samuel McCarty and some of his men staked a road to that place; also west
to Big Rock, and erected rude bridges where they were needed. Mr. McCarty then consulted with the mail contractor,
offering to board his drivers and teams a month, gratis, if he would take the new route. The offer was accepted,
and Mr. Winton, who was then living in Mr. McCarty's house, relieved him of part of his agreement, and boarded
the drivers during the month himself.
It was then proposed to have a post office, and at the suggestion of Mr.Winton, a meeting (November, 1836) of
the citizens was called to take action in regard to it. Mr. R. C. Horr was chosen Chairman, and, the assembly declaring
themselves in favor of Mr. Winton as their Postmaster, a petition was drawn up, and, with their signatures appended,
together with that of the nearest Postmaster, according to a common custom, and presented to the proper authorities;
and in March, 1837, Mr. Winton entered upon the duties of the office, which he held for ten years, with honor,
at the expiration of which time he resigned. It would be natural to suppose that the institution which the pioneers
had sought for so long would have received liberal patronage, and that an extra mail bag might have been required
to carry the messages which would pour hourly into its letter boxes, but such was not the fact, and Mr. Winton
states that he believes that the amount due the Department, from the office, during the first quarter, did not
exceed $10.00. It must be recollected, too, that it cost twenty five cents to send a letter then.
Some difficulty arose in deciding upon a name for the office, a part of the inhabitants being in favor of perpetuating
the memory of the friendly old Chief of the Pottawattomies, by calling it Waubansie, and various other proposals
were made, but Mr. E. D. Terry having suggested Aurora, Homer's "rosy fingered" goddess received the
honor, and the village as euphonious and classic a name as could have been conferred upon it.
In the Fall of 1836, a hotel, 16x31, was put up on the present site of the Tremont House, by E. D. & Richard
Up to this time, plastered walls were unknown in the place, but as it was the general belief that some approach
to metropolitan elegance should be attempted in the new building, the limestone with which the river banks abounded,
were collected in sufficient quantities and burned in a log fire. When this difficulty in obtaining lime was thus
overcome, another appeared in the fact that there was neither a plasterer nor trowel nearer than Chicago. There
was a blacksmith, however, in the person of Mr. King, on the West Side - a true son of Vulcan - who could make
anything which taxed the ingenuity of the heathen patron of his art, except a thunderbolt; and, an old saw being
presented to him, a trowel speedily appeared therefrom, with which Richard Terry plastered the walls
At a period a little later, James Leonard put up a building on the West Side, on River street, which was used as
a hotel, but in those days every man who had ten square feet of spare room, kept tavern.
In the Fall of 1836, a bridge was built across the east channel of the river, by voluntary subscription, but being
a light wood structure it was swept away, by a freshet in the following Spring.
In the Spring of 1838, a subscription paper was circulated to obtain funds to rebuild the bridge. This document
is still in existence, and stipulated that the amount subscribed should be paid in four separate payments, the
first to be made on the first of April, the second on the first of June, the third in July, and the fourth in August.
It cost about $2,000. The McCartys headed the list with $500. This bridge was in turn swept away, and was again
rebuilt across the east channel in 1843 (by subscription list).
Aurora was now on the highway to prosperity, with taverns, stores, shops, a post office, schools, stage route,
and everything which betokens the thriving village, when the financial storm of 1831 swept over the country. All
Northern Illinois was flooded with worthless Michigan securities, and many of the inhabitants of the coming city
suffered in common with settlers in all parts of the State, but they eventually arose above the tempest.
The progress of Aurora was at no time stayed, the tide of immigration continuing as before and valuable additions
were received this same year to the population, among which we may mentions J. G. Stolp, who came from Onondaga
Co., N. Y., in the Spring; Geo. McCullum, Robert Mathews and his family, Isaac Marlett, Wm. V. Plum, Clark Wilder,
Messrs. Sawtall, Wallace and Campbell.
* Now living in another county.
Various important topics seem to have agitated the village during the year, prominent among which was the temperance
question. A society was organized early in the Winter, with E. D. Terry as President, and Perseus Brown, also known
as "Dr." and "Cooper" Brown, as Secretary, and Dr. O. D. Howell (then a school teacher), acting
under its direction, delivered the first temperance lecture in the town. Spirituous liquor was then as common an
article of trade as cut nails or calico prints, and the society did not pretend to inculcate total abstinence among
its members, but simply the temperate use of alcoholic drinks. But there was one in the society, Mr. Brown, the
worthy Secretary, who was as radical in his denunciation of drink and the drunkard as are any of our modern teetotalers.
He would neither use the beverage himself nor in any possible way, however remote, would he assist any one to use
it. If a man brought him a barrel to repair, he had been known to ask for what purpose he wished to use it, and
if he replied "to hold whisky," some other cooper than "Cooper" Brown must mend it. This eccentric
but conscientious man was drowned some years later, by accident, in Fox River.
The year 1837 also witnessed the building of a carding mill on the upper end of the island, by J. G. Stoip, which
was subsequently moved to a point further down the river, where the business developed into its present proportions,
Stolp's Woolen Mills being now known throughout the West.
In 1838, Mr. Winton suggested the feasibility of purchasing a Town Library; and, as the suggestion was favorably
received, an association was formed for that purpose, each member paying $2.00 ford a share One hundred dollars
were thus raised and expended in the purchase of popular and instructive works, Harpers' Family Library forming
an important part of them. Although the interest in the library diminished to a considerable extent, at one time,
it has never been allowed to perish, and during the last fifteen years has been increased by successive additions,
until at the present time it contains upward of two thousand volumes, embracing all the various departments of
literature and science, standard works upon history and philosophy, complete sets of the books of all the best
writers of romance and books of reference, many of of which are to be found in no private library in the city.
A great advance was made in its history in the fall of 1864,* when a number of the most influential and intelligent
men in the city conceived the plan of establishing a reading room in connection with it. Previously, the few books
which had been collected had been generally kept in the private house of the Librarian, and had often become scattered
and many of them lost; but since the date above named, the library has steadily increased.
* In that year it was chartered.
(See seperate page for church and school history.)
MANUFACTURES AND RAILROADS.
But to return to 1837, from which we digressed to trace the educational and religious history of Aurora. In
that year, George McCollum built, on his present stand, a carriage and plow manufactory, which was subsequently
operated in the exclusive manufacture of wagons and carriages, and is still in successful operation. From ten to
fifteen men are employed. Mr. McCollum came from Susquehanna County, Pa., in 1836, and worked for King, the first
blacksmith in the town, during a part of that year. A larger carriage shop was established fourteen years ago,
on the East Side, by Brown & Meyer, who are now doing the most extensive business of the kind in the vicinity.
During the years 1839-43, inclusive, numerous settlers flocked to Aurora, among whom we notice the names of O.
D. Day, Wyatt Carr, R. C. Mix, Charles Hoyt and the Hall brothers. Hoyt came from Cleveland, O., in the Spring
of 1841, and having bought of Zaphua Lake the land along the west bank of the river, with an undivided half of
the water power, built thereon a four story grist mill, 40x50 feet in dimensions, and carrying four sets of stones.
R. C. Mix was the millwright. This, at the time, was the largest flouring mill on Fox River, and was a landmark
all over the West. The flour made ranked with the best in the market, and Blackhawk Mill continued in successful
operation, with scarcely a day's interruption, until the morning of October 26,1875, when the building was destroyed
by fire. It was then owned by R. A. Alexander.
Mr. Hoyt had sold it, in 1856, to Squires & Whitford, and had erected, on the land now occupied by Hoyt &
Brothers Manufacturing Company, a small shop for the manufacture of stave machinery. The building was subsequently
used by Reeves & Carter, manufacturers of the Grouberg Reaper, and later by Carter & Pinney, as a general
repair shop, and came into the possession of the present proprietors, sons of Charles Hoyt, in the Fall of 1868.
Since then, having been much enlarged, it is devoted to the manufacture of all kinds of wood working machinery
- planers and matchers, chain feed surfacers and resawers being a specialty. Over forty hands are usually employed.
In 1847-8, some of the enterprising business men of Aurora proposed to connect their town by railroad with the
Galena & Chicago road, now known as the Galena Division of the Chicago & Northwestern. Hon. L. D. Brady,
then a member of the Legislature, secured a charter for the Aurora Branch Railroad Company. In 1850, the road was
commenced, and finished in the Fall of 1851, having cost, with an engine, two passenger and twelve freight cars,
about $100,000. Stephen F. Gale, of Chicago, was its first President. In 1852, the charter was so amended that
it empowered the company to extend the road "in a southwesterly direction, on the most practicable route,
to a point fifteen miles north of LaSalle, and where such extension may intersect any railroad, built or to be
built, northward from the town of LaSalle, in LaSalle County, and there to form a connection with any such railroad."
The name was then changed to The Chicago & Aurora Railroad, and a conjunction being formed with the Military
Tract and Peoria & Oquawka roads, direct railroad communication was opened between Aurora and the Mississippi
in 1855. Since this date, her railroad facilities have increased to a remarkable extent, tracks having been laid
as follows: First, the main line extension, running direct between Aurora and Chicago, which, with the road running
west, now forms the main line of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Road; then the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River
Valley Road, built by C. H. Force & Company, to which Aurora subscribed $60,000, the terminus of which is Streator;
the Chicago & Iowa Road, running west to the Mississippi by way of Rochelle, and built by F. E. Hinckley, the
citizens of Aurora taking $100,000 stock, and finally an extension of the Ottawa, Oswego & Fox River Valley
Road, to Geneva, along the west side of the river. Occupying many acres of ground, on the East Side, on Claim street
and Lincoln avenue, are the extensive shops, tracks and depots of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
The shops alone give employment to over eight hundred hands. Volumes might be written describing these manufactories
and the perfect and systematic order which is to be found in every department of them, but we have only the space
to say that the various parts, both wood and iron, of locomotives and coaches are here constructed, and advise
the reader to visit them himself. On the 18th day of May, 1873, the greater part of the works were destroyed by
fire, involving a loss of a quarter of a million of dollars, but they were immediately rebuilt on a more extensive
plan than before. The company is one of the most prosperous in the country. The general agent of its complex business
at Aurora is Mr. Wm. H. Hawkins, one of the early settlers, who came to the town in 1837.
The Aurora Silver Plate Manufacturing Company also deserves mention as contributing essentially to the business
prosperity of the city. It was organized in 1869 by a joint stock company, under a charter from the Legislature.
Its founders were Chas. L. Burphee, Daniel Volentine, Geo. W. Quereau, O. N. Shedd, D. W. Young, Chas. Wheaton,
Samuel McCarty, J. G. Stolp, M. L. Baxter, Wm. Lawrence, Wm. J. Strong and James G. Barr. The capital, at the present
time, is $100,000. They employ sixty five hands. The building, which is situated on the island, covers 20,000 square
feet of floors, and their rolling mill is the only one of the kind found west of Cincinnati. The above, with the
Aurora woolen mills, mentioned on another page, completes the history of the great manufactories of Aurora. There
are several other less noted establishments, but, although each are of importance to the city, and one, at least,
employs a number of hands, we can scarcely be expected to notice in a history of the county.
DEATH OF JOSEPH MCCARTY.
Before the wonderful progress which we have recorded had been made, and ere the hum of machinery and the scream
of the locomotive had resounded through the busy city, its founder, Joseph McCarty, was quietly sleeping in his
grave. In 1839, while working in the field, he was suddenly attacked with hemorrhage of the lungs All possible
medical assistance was rendered, but from that day he steadily declined. Being advised to seek a more genial climate,
he took with him a friend, Mr. Enoch Terry, still living in the city, and proceeded to the South, where, after
wandering in vain in search of health and strength, he died, near the center of the State of Alabama, at the age
of thirty one.
In 1842, Theodore Lake laid out the village of West Aurora. To illustrate the rapidity with which real estate arose
about that time, we may cite a single case of its transfer. Benjamin Hackney bought a farm on the East Side in
1844, for which he paid $2,500, and after dividing it into town lots, sold it for $50,000.
The newspaper history of Aurora has been quite interesting. The first publication was a Democratic sheet called
"The People's Platform," issued by Isaac Marlett about 1846, but soon removed to St. Charles, then a
more important town than Aurora. "The Weekly Beacon" first appeared June 1, 1847, and was then edited
by the Hall Brothers, M. V. and B. F., the former a Whig, the latter a Democrat. It was accordingly conducted on
neutral principles, and at one time had two departments, in which the politics of both of the respective parties
were advocated. B. F. Hall finally disposed of his share in the concern, when it became a Whig paper. In 1853-4,
James W. and Dudley Randall purchased it, and soon after removed the office to the East Side. It then passed through
various hands in rapid succession, as follows: William Goldy, a good job printer; the late N. S. Greenwood, of
Waterman, DeKalb Co., an intelligent farmer; George Brewster, a Chicago editor; until, on the 6th of September,
1856, "The Dairy Beacon" appeared, with Hon. A. C. Gibson as editor. The editorship was next assumed
by Mr. Brewster, who was followed by one Day, and Day by Augustus Harman, who continued its publication until the
consolidation of the Beacon and Guardian, July, 1857, when J. W. Randall and Simon Whitely became proprietors of
the Republican Union, as the newspaper was famed. This joint proprietorship lasted but a single month, when Mr.
Whitely took the materials of the old Guardian, a. Democratic sheet which had been established by him in 1852,
to his old quarters and resumed separate publication under the title of the Republican. The creditors of Mr. Randall
took possession of the old Beacon office, and it was sold to pay debts. In September, 1857, Augustus Harman, who
had been editor, and O. B. Knickerbocker, who had been the compositor for J. W. Randall, came into possession of
the Beacon material and revived its publication. They continued in partnership until June, 1848, when Mr. Harman
retired, and, with Miss Ellen Beard, who afterward became Mrs. Harman, commenced the publication of the Reformer.
On the 1st of January, 1859, Mr. George S. Bangs formed a partnership with Mr. Knickerbocker, and the Beacon was
enlarged. This proprietorship continued until March, 1866, when Bangs sold his interest to Knickerbocker, and,
in October of the same year, J. H. Hodder purchased an interest in the paper, and it has been issued since that
date under the proprietorship of Knickerbocker & Hodder. For the history of the Beacon, we are indebted to
its editor. The Aurora Herald was established in 1866, by Thomas E. Hill, and is one of the permanent institutions
of the city. Its present proprietor, Pierce Burton, purchased it in 1871. The Aurora Daily News was first issued
on the 18th of March, 1874, by Messrs. Siegmund & Faye. On the 1st of February, 1876, Mr. W. B. Hawkins, formerly
editor of the Indianapolis Courier, purchased a half interest in the establishment. It is the only daily paper
published in the city. The Aurora Volksfreund was established in the Winter of 1868, by Peter Klein, its present
editor and publisher, and is the only German paper published in the Fox River Valley. Klein & Siegmund were
the first proprietors, but in the Summer of 1871, Mr. Klein bought out Mr. Siegmund. It is a handsome sheet, and
seems destined to become eminently successful.
The year 1847 witnessed the greatest flood which has devasted the banks of Fox River since their first settlement.
A sudden thaw late in the Winter broke up the ice while it was still thick, and Stoip's Island was completely submerged,
while the saw mill, Eagle Mills, Moore & Howe's wagon factory and the sash factory of Reader & Merrill
were all more or less damaged. The total loss was estimated at $100,000.
ORGANIZATION AND INCORPORATION.
In 1845, the village of East Aurora was organized. Her first board of officers were elected to hold office until
1847, and were Daniel Eastman, President; Daniel McCarty, Perseus Brown, Luke Wheelock and P. J. Wagner, Trustees.
In 1854, West Aurora was incorporated under the general law, and elected Myron V. Hall, President; D. B. Waterman,
B. Street, George McCollum and A. Richardson, Trustees. A charter was obtained, incorporating both sides under
one city government, during the session of the Legislature for 1856-7, and the first election under the new order
was held the first Tuesday of the following March, resulting as follows: For Mayor, B. F. Hall; for Aldermen, J.
D. Clark, W. V. Plum, Holmes Miller, J. B. Stolp, William Gardner, R. C. Mix, L. Cottrell and S. L. Jackson. The
present Mayor is F. L. Bartlett.
A portion of land on the island was deeded by J. G. Stolp for a Court House, and the ground was broken for the
foundation in July, 1859. It was not until 1865 that it was sufficiently completed for the reception of the post
office, and during that year the portion of the work which still remained unfinished was performed. Most of the
work was done in 1864. The building is an imposing stone structure, and was erected at a cost of over $69,000:
It contains the post office, court room, a public hall, jail, library room and several other well finished apartments,
rented as offices, and is an honor to the city and a source of commendable pride to its citizens. In 1868, the
were removed - one to Montgomery, the other to North Aurora, where they now span the river; and in the following
year the beautiful and substantial iron ones now crossing the stream at Aurora were put up by the town.
Shortly after the war, the ladies of Aurora, by various means, commenced raising funds for the erection of a
soldiers' monument. Years passed, and successive additions were made to the amount in the hands of their treasurer,
until, in 1876, it was resolved to put the original design into execution, or in some other manner devote their
savings to the perpetuation of the memory of the brave sons of the town who had given their lives in the defense
of their country. Accordingly, architectural designs were obtained, and a small but beautiful stone memorial building
was raised upon the island just east of the Court House, at a cost of about four thousand dollars, where it now
stands, an appropriate mausoleum. It is intended to use it as a library building, when completed, and the Grand
Army of the Republic proposes to place a statue upon the pedestal, upon its summit, which will cost $1,000 or more.
POSITION, RESOURCES, ETC.
Aurora is beautifully situated, at a favorable point for commerce and manufactures, on the gently undulating
hills which slope from either bank of Fox River, at a point about forty five miles from its mouth. It covers an
extent of two and a half miles north and south by two and a fourth miles east and west. Its water power is extensive
and unfailing; it possesses excellent quarries of building stone, in positions easily accessible; and, in general,
its natural advantages are unsurpassed. Its population, by the census of 1870, was 11,162, since which time it
has materially increased, and may safely be estimated at the present time (1876) at upward of thirteen thousand.
The assessed valuation of its property, in connection with that of the township, was $4,394,431, and it contains,
aside from the institutions which we have enumerated, palatial residences and business blocks, hotels, mills, shops,
a fire company, a police force, various orders, and all the organizations and advantages usually found in a city
of its size and importance.