History of Aurora Township, Kane County, Il
From: The Past and Present Kane County, Illinois
Wm. Le Baron, Jr. & Company
Chicago 1878

AURORA TOWNSHIP.

Had ancient mythology been ransacked, it would have been impossible to have found a name containing a more pleasing and purely imaginative history than the one which this townhip bears; and it may be added with equal truth that the picturesqueness of the valley, stream, prairie and hill with which it is diversified renders it worthy to be associated with a conception which was the personification of ideal beauty. Forty four years ago, however, the Egos of the Greeks, the Aurora of the Latins, shed her smiles over its fields, now marked with farmhouse, granary, mill and village, and beheld only a wilderness. Its broad acres were uncultivated, its forests - then magnificent - allowed to run to waste and only serving as a home for the Indian and the wolf and their wild neighbors. But the Sac and Fox War was precipitated, and then all was changed. Scott's army was sent in pursuit of the cowardly wretches, who had glutted their vindictive hate with the blood of women and children, and a new era was ushered in.

SETTLEMENTS.

Among the earliest ones to avail himself of the return of peace and of the measures on foot to move the friendly Indians under Waubansie from the State, was Jacob Carpenter, who came to Chicago from Logan County, Ohio, in November, 1832. In December of the following year, having spent the Summer and Fall at Naperville, which then contained some half a dozen families, he took up land and built a log house on the east side of Fox River, about half a mile from the spot now occupied by the village of Montgomery. This house was the first in Aurora Township and one of the first in Kane County, and was occupied by Carpenter and his family the week before Christmas.

In the following April, Elijah Pierce, Carpenter's father in law, also from Logan County, followed him to the new country, and built a second shanty on the same side of the river and nearer the bank than Carpenter's, where for years he kept entertainment for man and beast. There the stage horses on the Chicago & Galena Road were regularly changed as long as the route ran by way of Montgomery. His accommodations were not as good as may now be found at the Palmer House, or even in Aurora, but they were the best which could then be obtained nearer than Naperville. His shanty had one room, which served as kitchen, dining room, sitting room, parlor and bedroom; and Mr. Wm. T Elliott, who came from Tioga County, N. Y., and took up an adjoining claim in June, 1834, says that he has seen forty people - men, women and children - packed away in promiscuous order for the night, upon the floor of that room.

At that time, no Government surveys had been made anywhere in the vicinity All were squatters, and all were obliged to go to Ottawa, for the transaction of any public business.

Mr. Elliott, our worthy informant, who still resides, at the age of 67, upon his original claim, is responsible for being the author of the first romance which the annals of the county furnish. He "was a goodly stripling then," and, casting his eyes around among the damsels of the land, he saw none so comely as Rebecca Pierce. It may be a matter of doubt if the country afforded any other damsel during the first year of his residence, but, be that as it may, we have it on good authority that Rebecca was fair and seventeen, and willing to place her head in the matrimonial slipping noose, but here the cruel parent who figures in all romances interposed his veto. It is not material what reasons he urged or even if he urged any at all. His refusal produced the usual effect, and everything went on in the regular order found in any one of Mrs. Southworth's novels. Wm. T. said "Wilt thou cleave unto me in spite of Pa Pierce ?" and Rebecca answered "I will." The next morning a youth might have been seen wending his way along the road which led to Ottawa. He raised his eyes and saw a man approaching. It was Mr. Pierce, the last person whom he cared to meet. Mr. Pierce advised him in a friendly manner, as parents are apt to assume in such circumstances, to make no more attempts to obtain his daughter, as they would be useless, and receiving from Mr. Elliott the gratifying assurance that he would have Rebecca or die in the attempt, he went on his way - rejoicing, perhaps. On reaching Ottawa, forty miles from home, the ardent lover proceeded at once to the office of the County Clerk, whose reign extended over a vast territory, but small population, and asked for a marriage license. The lady's age was demanded and the license promptly refused. The Clerk, however, at the request of Mr. Elliott, examined the marriage law, and informed him that he might marry, if he would publish a notice of his and the lady's intentions two weeks previous, in church. He, therefore, returned disappointed and discouraged. Fortune seemed to favor him now, for as he approached his cabin he met that zealous and exemplary pioneer "Father Clark," to whom he unbosomed himself, and was told that he should be "cried in meetin' come next Sunday." Father Clark published him, as agreed, in Naperville, and, in due time, tidings came to the enraged parent, who vowed that the marriage should never take place. Now, Mr. Pierce went to Chicago for nearly all the groceries used in his business as landlord. Thinking that only one week had expired since the announcement of marriage, he left home with a light heart, it may be supposed, and chuckling, as he rode along over the ruts, to think that the man who so yearned to call him "Father," had walked to Ottawa and back for a marriage license in vain, Wm. T. and Rebecca, meanwhile, were chuckling, too, for on this morn the two weeks had expired. In the afternoon, Rebecca went visiting. There was no suspicion, as her lover, who had a field of wheat near by, had passed the house at noon with his cradle upon his shoulder. Later in the afternoon he returned, met Miss Pierce, and Father Clark united them. When the unreasonable father returned, he felt greatly discomfited, and, though not a man given to unseemly mirth, some say that he danced a horn pipe many times around his shanty, but, having thus become calm, he reasoned, after a night's sleep, that it would be the part of wisdom to make no more disturbance. Accordingly, Mr. and Mrs. Elliott commenced housekeeping, and their marriage, which occurred August 3, 1835, was the first in Aurora Township.

Their daughter Emeline - now Mrs. Joseph Denny, of Aurora - whose birth occurred August 5, 1836, was the first white child born within the limits of the present township.

Mr. and Mrs. Elliott are among the most respected of the early settlers, and, to all appearances, will witness a score more of years of the progress the town, which they first found containing less than a half dozen of dwellings.

Land was not dear in those early times, and, as proof of this, it may be stated that Mr. Pierce bought a claim of 380 acres, most of which is now within the city limits, for $7.00. This tract was afterward owned by B. F. Fridley. who came to Aurora in 1835, and is still living in the city.

On the 20th of September, 1836, Thomas Carpenter died, after a short illness. It is a fact worthy of note, that he was the first settler in Aurora Township, and the first who died there outside of the Present city limits. He was also one of the very first who settled in the county, and was only four months later than Christopher Payne, the, earliest pioneer.

Another very early settler in this township was John Peter Snyder, a German, from Erie County, Penn., who arrived in Chicago with his family July 10, 1832. Finding all the country around in confusion from the recent Indian atrocities, and the efforts of the Government to suppress them, he took passage to Michigan, instead of unloading his goods, and remained there until the following September, and then returned to Chicago, where he lay ill for two weeks or more. He then went to Naperville, where he found a settlement already established, and stayed there during the Winter and the following Summer. and, being a millwright, put up a small saw mill for one of the Napers. During his first Fall there (1882), he had explored the country around North Aurora, in company with Lansing Sweet, a brother in law of the Napers, but, fearing the Pottawattomies, had made no claim. In the Fall of 1833, in company with his brother, John Nicholas, more popularly known as Peter John," who now lives near Plano, Kendall County - he took up a claim on Blackberry Creek, and built another saw mill. Indeed, they seem to have had a peculiar fondness for such work, for, according to John Peter, he and "Peter John" were located, in the Fall of 1834, on land now occupied by the North Aurora Manufacturing Company's Works, hammering away at still another saw mill. When he arrived there in 1834, he says that the McCartys had commenced their improvements below. Certainly, the country was indebted to the Snyders for some valuable improvements, for after the first explorers have located in a new country, the greatest benefit is conferred, not by the one who erects a school house or a church, but by the man who builds a mill. They precede all other improvements, and are the beacon lights in the van of civilization. The dam across the river at North Aurora was also built by the Snyders.

The first mill was burned a number of years after its completion, and John Peter built another, which is still standing.

Meanwhile other settlers had located in the country around, and at first taking up claims by squatter right, and afterward purchasing of the Government, the township had become rapidly settled.

In the Fall of 1835, Daniel Gray, from Montgomery County, N. Y., visited the West, where his brother, Nicholas, had located the previous Spring, on a farm now within the limits of Kendall County. Pleased with the new country, he made immediate preparations to settle there, and in the Fall of 1836, having removed his family from New York, he built the first frame house in the village, which he named from the county he had left. It was located in the south part of the place, near the west bank of the river, was about 22x38 feet, and, having been moved from its original site, is still used as a dwelling.

MANUFACTURES AND BUSINESS.

Daniel Gray was a man of indomitable energy and enterprise. Mills and manufactures sprung up at his bidding, as by magic, and Montgomery, although the little village has still good prospects for the future, would doubtless have had a far more brilliant history had he lived. No sooner had he settled in the place than he commenced improvements on a grand scale. A store, foundry, reaper and header manufacturing shop over one hundred feet in length, a second foundry built of stone, and one of the best stone grist mills in the country, appeared in rapid succession, furnishing employment for thirty or more hands, and Mr. Gray was making preparations for still more extensive business operations, in the establishment of a manufactory of stationary engines, when, in the Winter of 1854, he died. The store had burned a number of years previous. The stone foundry has subsequently been used for a short time as a manufactory for cotton batting, but is now idle, as is the large building formerly used as a manufactory. The flouring mill is now doing a good business, and running twenty four hours in the day. Hord, Emmons & Co. are the present proprietors, the manufactured article enjoys a good reputation throughout the West, and is shipped in sacks to all parts of Northern Illinois.

A large cheese factory, built in 1874, and which, we are informed, is doing a good business for the farmers, stands on the opposite side of the street. The place also has a small sash and blind factory, two stores and an excellent stone depot for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which crosses Aurora Township from east to west, and passes along the edge of the village.

Turning now for a moment to North Aurora, we find several small manufactories there which deserve brief mention. The grist mill, a good wooden building, was commenced in 1862; the sash, door and blind factory was built some fifteen years ago; the foundry, now employing about fourteen hands, was erected in the Spring of 1874, and a large and elegant building, to be used as a store, was put up the same year All are owned by the North Aurora Manufacturing Company. A cheese factory of magnificent dimensions, the property of J. H. Boswell, was built in 1875. It has used 6,500 pounds of milk during the past Summer (1877), and manufactured cream cheese, which was shipped to Liverpool, England, during a part of the season.

The station is thirty five miles west of Chicago, on the old State Road. It has two stores; the one on the east side, built in 1874, the other occupying one end of the cheese factory. The place is four miles from the city of Aurora, on the branch railroad which connects Aurora with Batavia, on the east side of the river. The railroad company have built a depot there.

Like Montgomery, North Aurora has excellent water power, and there are a number of residences, in the immediate vicinity, on either side of the river. About half a mile distant, John Peter Snyder still resides, looking as young as many men at 45, although he claims to be 76, and says he has kept his youth so well because he had such easy times when the country was new. The extension connecting Aurora with Batavia and Geneva, by way of the West Side, crosses the township within half a mile of North Aurora

SCHOOL HOUSES.

As early as 1839, a small frame school house stood in Montgomery, and the first term was taught in it by a young lady. Mrs. Ellis, then Mrs. Carpenter, now residing in the village, states that her little boys went there to school as early as the winter of 1838. The teacher was paid by subscription. The house is now used us a dwelling by Mr. Harrison Young. Another school was started, at quite an early period, near North Aurora, and others followed throughout the districts more remote from the river, until the adoption of the School Law brought about the present condition. A fine public school building, erected some twenty years ago, stands in Montgomery.

POST OFFICES.

An attempt was made by the settlers near Montgomery to obtain a post office as early as 1836, but the stage route being changed about that time, the attempt was given up for full ten years. At length, when the manufactories established by Daniel Gray had made the village of sufficient importance, the project was renewed, and Hiram Border was commissioned the first Postmaster. This post office, and the one at North Aurora, established January 18, 1869, with A. H. Stone as its first Postmaster, are the only ones in the township.

The village of Montgomery was at first surveyed not long after Daniel Gray's arrival, and it was then laid out at a spot somewhat below its present site. It was in this original plat that the school building was put up, and it has not been removed to the position of the more modern place. The earliest marriage within its present corporate limits was that of Ralph Gray, in 1843; the earliest death within the same bounds was that of De Witt, a son of Daniel Gray, in the Fall of 1844. The

GEOLOGY

of Aurora Township may well be mentioned, as it contains some fossil remains which render it interesting to the student. These have been, for the most part, found in a variety of its limestone, of which two are found, one of which is quarried for building purposes. The huge granite boulders which abound throughout the prairie country, and are generally referred to the Drift Period, are occasionally seen in all parts of the township, being often formed of a conglomerate, but not unfrequently of pure granite. They are popularly called "hard heads." Brick clay is common in several sections, and there are several beds of good sand for building purposes. But by far the most interesting trophies which can be ranged under the head of geology were unearthed by the workmen on the railroad, as they were excavating, about a quarter of a mile above the depot, within the city limits, in the Fall of 1850. These were the tusks of a mastodon, and eight molar teeth. Supposing the first tusk to be a stick, it was nearly destroyed by them, but the second was obtained in an almost perfect state of preservation, and measures nine feet in length. The largest tooth weighed seven and a fourth pounds. The tusk and several of the teeth are preserved in Jennings Seminary.

SOLDIERS.

In common with the other townships of the county, Aurora furnished her full quota during the late Rebellion. It is beyond our limits to trace the record of all of those brave men who hastened to protect their country in her hour of need. Their names are enrolled in indelible characters upon the pages of fame, and, though the bones of many of them bleached upon the Southern plains, and their bodies rotted in prison pens or fell on the field of battle, yet their memory will live forever among the good and true.

NAME, POSITION, ETC.

Aurora Township occupies the most southeasterly position of the townships of Kane County. It is bounded on the north by Batavia, on the east by Du Page County, on the south by Kendall, and on the west by Sugar Grove Township. It is known as Township 38, North Range 8 east of the Third Principal Meridian, and its population, by the last census, was 2,033. Its assessed valuation will be found in connection with the following sketch of the City of Aurora.


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