History of Blackberry Township, Kane County,
From: The Past and Present Kane County, Illinois
Wm. Le Baron, Jr. & Company
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
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.
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.
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.
A cheese factory is in the process of erection at Ball Mound and will soon be running and in operation.
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 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.
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.