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

BLACKBERRY TOWNSHIP

Town 39 North, of Range 7 East, of the Third Principal Meridian, more familiarly known as Blackberry Township, was surveyed in August, 1842, by Silas Reed, one of the surveyors in the employ of the Government.* It lies south of Campton and north of Sugar Grove, and is bounded on the east by Geneva and Batavia, and on the west by Kaneville. The township is crossed from north to south by Blackberry Creek, which, with several small tributaries, are fringed with a thick growth of oak and other timber, which originally extended over the entire western third of the town, and was early named Lance's Grove. The surface in this region is unusually rugged for Kane County, the creek in some parts of its course meandering through deep gorges, like the mountain streams of the Eastern States. Two isolated mounds or hills in the vicinity rise to a height overlooking all the surrounding country, and are considered stupendous eminences by those whose wanderings have been limited by the limits of this Prairie State. The eastern portion of the township possesses more of those features of scenery common to the best part of Northern Illinois. Nelson's Lake lies partly in Blackberry and partly in
Batavia, and its outlet, Lake Run, flows to the southwest into Sugar Grove Township, where it unites with Blackberry Creek. The township contains but little lowland, but the streams referred to furnish, with their affluents, water in sufficient quantities, and the soil is of an excellent quality. The Chicago & North-Western Railroad crosses the north tier of sections, and two of its stations, Blackberry and La Fox, are located in the township.

* From a copy of the Surveyor's field notes in the possession of Rev. A. Pingree.

SETTLEMENT.

The first settlement in Blackberry was made by William Lance and his son John, early in May, 1834. The father was a native of New Jersey, but had been for a number of years a pioneer, his last dwelling place being in the State of Indiana. Starting thence, upon the opening of Spring, with the above named son, his daughter Mary, now Mrs. John Souders, and a younger son, Charles, he drove with eight yoke of oxen to the bank of Fox River, at the Big Woods. Here Mr. Lance was delayed by illness for a few days; and John, leaving the company, encamped in the wagon, crossed the river, and journeying west past Nelson's Grove, selected the claim where Charles Souders now resides. The Spring of 1834 is said to have been one of the mildest on record in the State, and vegetation was already far advanced when the Lances arrived on the banks of the river. This fact lent a peculiar charm to the scenery where the young man decided to make his home - a spot which, even in the dreariest season of the year, is by no means devoid of romantic beauty - and he marked the spot under the firm impression that it was the most picturesque land upon which the sun ever shone. Having returned to the other side of the river, he guided the remaining members of the party to the place, where the Lance family finally claimed between 70 and 8000 acres. For several days they lived in their wagon, engaged meanwhile in building the first log house in the town. Mrs. Souders is supposed to have been the first white woman in the township. On the morning of the third or fourth day, the settlers noticed smoke arising from the south, and while still speculating upon the probabilities of its issuing from a pioneer dwelling or an Indian wigwam, a horseman appeared upon a distant hill, riding toward them, who, upon his arrival, introduced himself as Mr. Isbell, and explained that he had just arrived with a party from Ohio, and that the smoke arising in the distance came from his camp fire. He had noticed smoke at the north of him, and, impelled by curiosity, had ridden to discover from whence it came. As may be supposed, the Lances were much rejoiced to learn that they were not alone on the frontier, and mutual congratulations were exchanged. A few days later, the Lances had their house ready to raise, and it was located very near the spot where C. Souders now lives. After its erection, they broke and fenced forty acres of land, and planted a portion of it with corn. It should here be stated that Isaac Waltrup accompanied Mr. Lance from Du Page County, and took up the claim of which George Gould now owns a portion. He was never a resident of the township, however, returning to Du Page in August in the year in which he had taken the land, and later sold it to Hiram Hall. In the Fall, the Lances, father and son, returned to Indiana, leaving Mary and Charles at Peter Dodd's, a brother in law, in DuPage County. Dodd had taken up his claim in March of the same year, but eventually sold it and settled in Blackberry. Late in the Fall of 1834, John Lance and his sister Margaret were married, the latter to David Beeler, who accompanied the entire family back to Illinois, arriving on Christmas, and settling on a place now known as Johnson's Mound. The Lances and Beeler were the only settlers in the township during the Winter of 1834-5.

During the summer of 1835, important accessions were made to the settlement around the Grove. The township, from the first, presented inducements to immigrants which they Were not slow in perceiving. A high table land above the fevers and chills of the river bottoms, and possessing all the fertility of the lower sections, with timber in abundance - the indispensable consideration in the mind of a Yankee and a powerful one to the Hoosier, as well - a land of hills and streams, resembling more than those of any other town in the county the Eastern country, it was the first of the back townships to be settled. To the native of hills and valleys, the boundless prairies appear unspeakably flat and dull when viewed for the first time, and it often requires weeks and months to remove this first impression. The variety of surface in Blackberry, on the contrary, was the exact reverse of the extensive plains, dreary in their changeless beauty, which the pioneers had crossed on their way thither, and? consequently, many of them remained.

Among those who settled in the above mentioned year, were Harry White, Hiram Hall, David W. Annis, George Trimble and L. D. Kendall. White located at the south part of the Grove. Annis came from the State of Vermont, and located on land now owned by his heirs. He was a noted man in the township during its infancy; was County Commissioner and held several positions less important. It is said that he never sought for a public position and possessed none of the contemptible qualities of the scheming politician.

In the Spring of 1835, John Souders, from Ohio, took up the claim where he now lives. At that time, Mr. Souders was a bachelor, possessing only a small amount of wealth, and worked for the farmers in the neighborhood. Late in 1835, between Christmas and New Year's, he married Mary Lance. The ceremony was. performed at the log house of the bride's father, by Esquire Morgan, from near Yorkville, as there was no Justice of the Peace in the township at that time. The marriage certificate was obtained in Ottawa, and an unsuccessful attempt was made to secure the services of a magistrate in Aurora, but none could be found in that place qualified to serve. In the same Fall, Martha Beeler - now Mrs. Cooledge, of Oregon - a daughter of David Beeler, was born. This was the first birth in the township. After his marriage, Mr. Souders settled upon his claim. His land has never been transferred nor mortgaged, and the title is, therefore, one of the best in the county. John Vanatta settled in Blackberry in 1836, on land now owned by Mrs. D. Beeler. R. Acers was one of the proprietors, following Vanatta. Among the first settlers at the head of the grove were Messrs. Corey and S. Kendall. J. G. Acers, from the State of New York, took up the land where he now lives, in June, 1836, and James. Smith, S. Platt and J. Calkins were in Blackberry, previous to the close of the year 1837. Mr. Sperry was likewise an early settler, as were Messrs. Larkin and N. B. Spalding, near the present site of Blackberry Station. As might have been expected, the grove was entirely claimed, before settlers began to establish themselves upon the open prairie, and there were not a few of the pioneers who believed that much of the land which is now the most valuable in the State would never be inhabited. Taking a claim without timber or running water seemed to them an undertaking sufficiently wild to warrant the indictment of a man for insanity. It was cutting apart from all moorings. Still the prairie was, in process of time, settled, and many claims had been made upon it, at the time of the public land sale.

FIRST DEATH.

The first death of which we find any record in Blackberry occurred under unusually distressing circumstances. Mrs. William Lance was one of the numerous good women whose minds have been wholly absorbed within the limits of their own homes. She, therefore, found but little time to visit her neighbors, although one, Mrs. Vanatta, had frequently urged her to call at her place. At length, she determined to comply; and on the 2d day of February, 1837, she left her five younger children at home, with one James Dawson, who boarded at her house, and in company with her husband, proceeded to the Vanatta claim. The chimney of the Lance house was built upon the Hoosier plan, with one of the wide mouthed fire places, so familiar among the pioneers. The members of the family left at home retired early. while Mr. and Mrs. Lance remained with their friends until late in the evening. A coal rolled from the fire place upon the floor. The young man Dawson and the children were all asleep, and the house was soon in a blaze. One of the little girls, Sarah, awoke and aroused the others, who ran out of doors; but the terrified and bewildered child, to whom the others owed their lives, remained upon the bed, and the flames enveloped her. Pamela, the eldest of the children, saw her sister's danger, and running to the portion of the low roof above her, uncovered it, and reaching over into the smoke, had succeeded in touching her hand, when a gust of air sent a cloud of smoke and forked flames toward her, obliging her to desist from the brave efforts. Dawson, who was a youth of eighteen summers, did nothing to assist the little girl, or quench the flames, but according to tradition, sat upon the fence and watched the building burn. The child perished; and her parents, returning from their pleasant visit, discovered, with agony, the charred remains of their daughter amid the ashes of their dwelling. She was buried in the old grave yard, upon the farm now owned by C. Souders. The neighbors circulated a subscription paper for Mr. Lance, gave liberally, and rebuilt his house, thus restoring his property; but the greatest loss no generous friend could return, and the horrible manner in which the child perished saddened, for years, the previously happy home. Mr. Lance died in 1873, at the age of 102, his life having been shortened by a cancer. His memory remained clear to the last.

FIRST ROAD, MILLS, ETC.

The earliest road through Blackberry was laid from Sugar Grove to Chicken Grove, about 1837, and was surveyed by Mr. Tanner, now a hardware merchant in Aurora. The first mills were wooden mortars scooped from oaken blocks, while common iron wedges served for pestles. Thus the grain was pounded, and the cake made therefrom was appropriately called pound cake. When grinding was required on a more extensive scale, the settlers made journeys to the distant hamlet now known as Dayton, but then called Green's mill. Here they were often obliged to wait for a number of days, as customers were invariably ahead of them, and the small establishment was patronized for a distance of over forty miles on all sides. They were joyful days for the Blackberry people when mills began to appear along the river in Kane County; and Aurora, St. Charles, Geneva and Batavia thenceforth furnished them with the staff of life until the village of Blackberry became the business center of the town.

One of the earliest Justices of the Peace, as well as one of the best known settlers of Blackberry, was William West, who located on a tract near the grove now occupied by his heirs. He afterward removed to Geneva, opened a bank and became one of the fixtures of the capital, where he died a number of years since.

CLAIM ORGANIZATION.

At an early day, the settlers of Blackberry, in common with those of Sugar Grove, established a claim organization. In this organization, they bound themselves, under bonds of $2,000, to protect each other from claim jumpers. Asa McDole, a Justice of the Peace in Sugar Grove Township, drew up the writings, and Banker West bid off the claims at the land sale.

MISCELLANEOUS INCIDENTS.

A cheese factory is in the process of erection at Ball Mound and will soon be running and in operation.

The Blackberry people originally obtained their mail at Geneva (La Fox post office). The first in the township was at Blackberry Center.

One of the first churches built in Blackberry Township was a Union church, on the edge of this township, in or about 1853. And among the first preachers were Rev. Mr. Springer, of the M. E., and Rev. Van Denser, of the Christian Church.

BLACKBERRY VILLAGE

is situated 44 miles west of Chicago, and nine miles west of Geneva on the Iowa Division of the Chicago & North-Western Railroad. The original plat was made in 1854, by Jacob Johnson, and contained 40 acres. Since that period, additions have been made by Andrew Johnson, Horace Willis, Gates and L K. Reed. The first house within the corporation was a small station house, built in the Fall of 1854. A Mr. Vandevere, at that time Station Agent, built a shanty just south of the railroad track, which is still standing, though recently moved to another part of the village A store was built on the east side of Main street, by Henry Remington, in the Fall of 1854, and occupied by him for some time with dry goods and groceries. It was the first lot sold in the place, and has since changed hands several times, and was owned at one time by A. T. Gray, now of the firm of Gray & Warne. It finally came into the possession of John McElliott, and was burned about 1868. A house was built on south side of railroad in 1854, by M. D. Frary, which is still standing, but has been moved across the street, and is now owned by George Corby. The drug store of Dr. McNair - 40 feet of it - was built by Fuller & Owen, in 1855, and occupied as a general store, such as are usually found in small country towns, by them for a number of years. The Free Will Baptist Church and also the Christian Church were built during the Summer and Fall of 1856. At the close of this year, there were only five or six dwellings inside of the corporation. The warehouse now owned by Willis & Swain was built in the Summer of 1856, by J. and A. Stewart, as a grain warehouse, and long used in that capacity. Another grain warehouse was built in 1861, by N. L. Barber. These energetic men also opened the first lumber yard in the village. Gleason built a tavern on the spot now occupied by the hotel known as Hurd's Hotel, in 1858. H. S. Read built extensively in Blackberry at an early day. He built the handsome Read brick block, by far the best in the village, in 1860, in which are several business firms, together with the Masonic Lodge. E. Warne built an agricultural warehouse in 1866, which has been occupied as such ever since. Gray & Warne built the store, now occupied by them, in the year 1866. The store in which the post office is at present kept was built by John Scott, in or about 1856.

THE FIRST SCHOOL HOUSE

in the village of Blackberry was a small house, 22x24 feet, and had been in a union district of Blackberry and Campton Townships, and stood in the south part of the latter. Was bought, in 1860, by Blackberry, and moved over into the village, but has lately been degraded by being used as a hog pen. In 1860, an elegant frame school house, two stories high, and specially adapted to school purposes, was erected in the village at a cost of $3,000. It is daily attended by an average of 200 pupils. Miss Hattie Smith taught the first school.

The church organizations in the village are the Methodist Episcopal, Free Will Baptist and Catholics. The Christians also had an organization some years ago, but it has gone down, and their church, at present, is used as a concert hall and theater, occasionally. The Catholics have a good stone church, built in 1868, in the south part of the village. It is well attended, and has a large membership. The Methodists have about 60 members, an elegant church edifice, which was built in 1862, and are in a flourishing condition. When the church was built, the Rev. Mr. Webster was Pastor, and so continued for years. He took charge of the little flock with a membership of sixteen, which, at present, number as above. The Free Will Baptist Church was built in 1857, and their society in the village organized in the same year. The first preacher was the Rev. Mr. Coulton; and the society, when formed, had some twenty five or thirty members. At present, the attendance is regular, and a large congregation gathers every Sunday to hear the Word expounded.

The Masons, Odd Fellows and Good Templars have flourished successively in Blackberry village, but none of them exist here at the present day, save the Masons. Their hall is in Read's brick block, and is known as Blackberry Lodge No. 359, A., F. and A. M.

THE CHEESE FACTORY

was built in 1877, by Daniel Johnson, and is a good, substantial building. He receives about 2,000 pounds of milk per day, which is mostly worked up for his patrons. He designs increasing his capacity for the coming year, and of doing a larger business than he has done hitherto.

A post office was started here in 1854, of which William Ross was the first Postmaster. It was known as "Blackberry Station" office, at that early day.

The war record of the village was good, and a hearty response made to every call for soldiers to maintain the old flag. The names of some of those enlisted are as follows: H. and W. Tracy, N. D. Frary, Z. Hayes (deceased), A. S. Fuller, John Johnson, Reuben Fellows, and Jacob Matthewson, present Postmaster, all served in the Eighth Illinois Regiment; Walter Ottway, H. Z. Tydeman, W. H. Tydeman and J. W. Swayne served in the Fifty fith Regiment.

Dr. Smith was the first located physician in Blackberry, and came in 1856. He, however. remained but a short time in the place, and was soon followed by Dr. Samuel McNair - probably about the Spring of 1860.

The first burial in the present village cemetery was Herbert Frary, a son of N. D. Frary, but the first death occurring in the village was Mrs. R. Davidson. A. S. Fuller and Miss Hannah Johnson were the first couple united in the holy bonds of wedlock, within the corporate limits of the town of Blackberry. The legal profession was represented by A. S. Babcock, first about 1858, and, at a later day, by C. H. White and F. G. Garfield. But the citizens are quiet, honorable and upright, and are not the most liberal supporters in the world of those "learned in the law." Joseph Smith built the first blacksmith shop in 1854, which was torn down some years ago. It stood on the north side of the railroad, and was well patronized by the neighboring farmers.

To sum up: Jacob Johnson made the original plat of Blackberry in the Fall of 1854, as before stated, having bought the land from John Calkins, the original claimant. The next plat was the addition of Anderson, who was a Norwegian by birth; and soon after Gates and Willis also made additions. Willis was a very benevolent man, and an enterprising one withal. He did considerable toward the improvement of the place, and contributed liberally to the building of the churches. He also built one or two dwellings. In 1868, a large steam flouring mill was erected, to which the town gave $2,500. It is a large and substantial building, and is doing a good business.

LA FOX

is also a village of Blackberry Township, and is some three miles east of the village of Blackberry, on the railroad. It is a small place and situated too near Blackberry to ever grow to an immense size. The station was at first called Kane Station, and was established about 1858. Afterward changed to correspond with the name of the post office, which had been established under the name of La Fox. It was moved from Geneva, and new equipments sent there about 1859, and B. F. Dean was appointed the first Postmaster. The office is yet in existence and furnishes mail matter to quite a large scope of country.

THE CHEESE FACTORY

was built at La Fox, in the Spring of 1869, by Potter & Barker, who have operated it ever since. It is a large two story building of about the average capacity. Most of the milk is bought direct from the farmers, and about one hundred thousand pounds of cheese is manufactured annually. They commenced the manufacture of butter in the Fall of 1877, and now run that branch of business pretty extensively.

The Potter & Barker elevator was built in 1868, by Dean, who then owned the place. It is a capacious building, and specially arranged for grain storage. It holds some 6,000 or 7,000 bushels.

The store, the only one in the village, is owned by B. F. Dean, and was commenced when the station was first located.

The first storehouse was a small, insufficient building, owned by Mr. Carlow, but in 1873 Potter & Barker built the present handsome store now occupied by Mr. Dean. The annual sales of the store are about $15,000.

The village has a splendid school house two stories high and containing all modern improvements and conveniences. It was built late in the year 1870. and is occupied during the entire school season. The very best of teachers are employed and particular attention given to all the branches of modern education.


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