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


Joseph Russell and Jesse Newman, from La Porte County, Indiana, accompanied by the wife of the latter, who acted as their cook during the journey, came to Fox River in October, 1834, and at length found their way to land, now farming a portion of the township of Dundee, where they took up a claim. After remaining a few days, they retraced their steps to the Hoosier State; and having spent the Winter there, returned about April (1835), with their families, thus becoming the first white settlers of the township. While preparations were being made for building a house, the families lived in a tent pitched on a tract of land near Carpentersville, upon which the residence of Mr. Marshall was erected in later years. Mr. Jesse Miller, who settled in 1834, in Cook County, and now resides in Algonquin, McHenry County, states that he assisted Newman in raising a log cabin upon that tract during the Spring of 1835, and that there was then not another house in Dundee. There were wigwams, however, and they were still inhabited when the Oatmans arrived, a year later, as will hereafter appear. Some time after Newman's habitation had been completed, Mr. Russell built a log cabin upon the East Side, which remained until within three years, a few rods below the brick yard. Newman died after a residence of a few years. Like a majority of the other settlers, the Newmans and the Russells were in only moderate circumstances at the time of their arrival, and had left civilization with the hope of bettering their condition. They, therefore, experienced most of the inconveniences incident to new settlers, but possessed an advantage over some, from the fact that they owned teams and a few cattle; both families were scions of the "Old Dominion " stock.

Later in the Summer of the same year, Thomas Deweese, living in McLean County, Illinois, left his home without any previous preparation, informing his wife that he was going bee hunting. Days and weeks passed before he returned, and then he appeared as suddenly as he left, and told of adventures which he had had in an unsettled part of the country several days' journey to the North whither he had resolved to immigrate. This unsettled region was the present township of Dundee; and before Fall he had removed all of hips effects there. Few men figured more extensively in the early settlement. He was exceedingly enterprising; possessed of an adamantine constitution and all the hardy qualities which contribute to form the successful pioneer; but his friends say that he was unscrupulous in many of his proceedings. Arriving early, as has been seen, he laid claim to a vast extent of territory, embracing all the best claims in the township, upon which he erected, or pretended to erect as proofs of his ownership, a log house, a majority of which could not have been used as habitations by any forms of animal life, requiring more extensive shelter than the native wolves or gophers. He then surrounded himself with a gang of pugilists, plug uglies and nondescript vagabonds, who obeyed him in all things; and, with their aid, expelled from his claims any man attempting to settle thereon without first having purchased of him. This custom gave rise to many broils and fights, but by far the greater number of the settlers preferred to buy of him rather than defy his wrath.

In May, 1835, Mr. A. R. Dempster located on the East Side, on a farm now owned by George Giddings. Mr. Dempster is still one of the most respected residents of Dundee Village, and we are indebted to him for some of the incidents of pioneer life which follow. He states in an article entitled "Reminiscences," which recently appeared in the Dundee Record, that after crossing Fox River, at Ketchum's Woods, the first man whom he met was Mr. Newman, and that the names of the settlers within three or four miles were Mr. Russell and wife, son Joseph and son-in-law Jesse Newman, John Jackson, Dr. Parker, Mr. Moore, Mr. Burbank and George Taylor on the West Side, while upon the East Side were Benjamin Trick, Mr. Van Asdeli, Jesse Miller, at Miller's Grove, and the Hawleys, a little north of that point. Thos. Deweese, already mentioned, came that Summer, as did Gen. McClure, who became the first Postmaster, at McClure's Grove, in 1837, and John M. Smith, to the north of him.

The post office took the name of the grove, and the Postmaster's record may be found in the annals of the last war with Great Britain. At Hoosier Grove, southeast of Dundee, there were several settlers at this time, among them the Hammers, Branhams and others, from Indiana.

Prominent among the Pottawattomie Indians, who still lingered, in meager numbers, along the river, was a chief by the name of Nickoway, who, with his followers, inhabited a cluster of wigwams a little below where the brickyard now lies. This once powerful tribe had dwindled to an insignificant hamlet of hucksters and beggars. They visited the whites almost daily, bringing honey, game and fish, which they willingly exchanged for flour, rum and tobacco, generally giving the settler a good bargain. But they were no less importunate when they had no articles of exchange, and deemed beggary as honorable as trade.

Mr. Jesse Oatman, who will receive further notice in the sketch of Dundee Village, relates a curious incident of a visit which he and several of the ether settlers made to the Indian wigwams, shortly after his arrival. They found the families comfortably situated, for Indians, with four or five acres of land in cultivation, about eighty rods below the brickyard. There were six huts and perhaps twenty five Indians. As the strangers entered the dwelling of the principal warrior, the mother of the family was engaged in plucking the feathers from a sandhill crane, which one of her relatives had shot. This operation was quickly performed as she merely pulled the larger feathers from the wings. and tail. She then poured a few beans into a kettle of water, doubled up the bird, without any further dressing, and with head, smaller feathers and entrails in their natural position, placed it upon the beans, to stew, and hung the kettle over the fire. This was the first Sunday dinner which Mr. Oatman saw prepared in Dundee, and it is scarcely necessary to add that he took occasion to leave before it was cooked, regardless of the earnest solicitations of the hospitable squaw that he should remain and eat.

Another settler states that, upon stopping, at a somewhat later date, at the Indian settlement, a younger and fairer Pocahontas was busy making corn bread. The dough was placed in the pan or kettle, and as it was not sufficiently moist to be readily moulded into a smooth surface, the tidy maiden spat upon her hands and thus worked it into the proper shape. Each of these anecdotes is fairly illustrative of the real domestic habits of the many Minnehahas immortalized in song; while, for a true portrait of "Lo" himself, a darker chapter would be required than can be given in a History of Kane County.

About 1835, Henry Smith and Mr. Freeman located west of Dundee Village, where George Giddings now lives. The Ashbaughs, upon what is now the McNeal place, were likewise among the earliest in this region. On the 28th of June, 1835, Catharine Dempster, afterward Mrs. Malcomb McNeal, now deceased, was born at her father's old homestead, and was the first white child born in Dundee Township. At this time, there was no physician for a circuit of many miles, the man mentioned above as Dr. Parker not being a regular practitioner. His wife, however, had attained some reputation among the pioneers as an accoucheure, and was generally employed in their families.

About 1836, the population of the township was increased by the arrival of the Bucklins, Mr. Manning, George W. Browning, George Hall, Mr. Bangs and the Perrys. John Allison and William Wilburn were in the township, and assisted in building Deweese's mill, the same year. Mr. Welch settled with his large family upon the East Side.

The first death in the township was that of the aged father of Thomas Deweese, in October, 1836. The body was laid at rest on the East Side upon a hill which overlooks the surrounding country, and now forms a part of the Hull estate. A marble slab was raised to mark the spot, and, although no fence protected it and the lot at length became a pasture, the time - blackened stone stood unbroken through the storms and changes of more than forty years until, in 1877, it was removed, with the remains, to the burying ground.

A number of new arrivals, in 1837, rejoiced the earlier squatters with the hope that Dundee might at one day be as populous as the Eastern and Southern homes which they had left. Among these new comers were William Hall, a Scotchman, who founded the fine nursery; G. Hoxie, who settled in the Fall on a farm now owned by William Lampkin, and T. H. Thompson, who settled on the West Side and was for many years County Commissioner, the first Supervisor, and a man highly honored. The year 1838 witnessed the arrival of C. V. Carpenter, Daniel, his brother, and W. R. Heminway, now Postmaster in Dundee Village.

Among the earliest marriages in the township were those of Alexander Gardiner with Sallie Miller (1837), and Capt. Jamison to a daughter of Gen. McClure. The first physician was Dr. John R. Goodnow, from New Hampshire, who purchased a claim, embracing about eight hundred acres, of Thomas Deweese, in 1837.

In 1839, G. W. Bullard, from Massachusetts, settled on the East Side. Mr. Dempster states that, of those in the township when he came to the country, scarcely an individual is now living. This genial Scotchman is a brother of the celebrated ballad singer and composer, W. R. Dempster, and many of his townsmen contend that, in his younger days, his voice was fully equal to his more illustrious kinsman's. It was customary, years ago, to call for a song from him on general public occasions, and he invariably elicited the heart felt applause of the assemblies. Once, he had hurried from home to attend a political meeting, forgetful that he was liable to be called upon, and without doffing his farm suit. When it became known that he was present, some merciless granger shouted the name "Dempster!" and it was immediately taken up on all sides, and he was obliged to emerge from his place of concealment and go to the front in his old clothes. "He appeared confused, at first," said our informant, "as he commenced to sing A Man's a Man for a' That,' but as he came to the line Our hodden gray, and a' that,' he raised his head and sung as he had seldom sung before. Clear and full rose his voice, and many an old settler hears the echoes of that song to this day. The man was the man for a' that, and he was a man possessed of all the generous impulses and the high sense of honor peculiar to the true sons of Old Scotia." His fiery temper and impulsive nature often caused him trouble, but he was ever ready to make full reparation for any wrong committed under their influence, and several amusing anecdotes are told illustrative of this disposition.

On one occasion, while he was busy near his house, a neighbor's horse, which had given him great trouble, came near him and commenced pilfering. Mr. Dempster dropped his axe, and, driving him away, returned again to his work. Raising his head, after a few moments, he beheld the horse returned and again in mischief. Without a moment's thought, he hurled the axe at him It described a number of curves through the air and, descending, hit the beast, severing the hamstring and entirely ruining him. The unfortunate perpetrator of the deed, who had repented before the helve had left his hand, went immediately to his neighbor and frankly related the whole circumstance, offering to pay for a portion of the horse, as he looked upon the act as accidental. But the provoked neighbor failed to discover the accident, accused him of wilfully destroying his property, and claimed restitution for the full value. Mr. Dempster then agreed to pay whatever arbitrators, chosen by each of them, should decide would be right. The. men were named, and, having rendered a verdict to the effect that he was holden for the entire cost of the animal, about $125, he paid it without a murmur. It must be understood that such a sum was enormous to a settler of only limited means.

On another occasion, an ox, belonging to Mr. Russell, had given Mr. Dempster much annoyance, by breaking down his fence and eating his corn. He had repeatedly complained to the owner, and at length told him, that if his ox broke into his field again, he would make beef of the animal. Mr. Russell laughed at him, not thinking, for a moment, that he would put the threat into execution. Mr. Dempster found the ox in the corn field, the next morning, eating, as usual; and without a moment's reflection, seized his rifle and shot him through the body. As in the horse trouble, he went immediately to the owner, and offered to pay all damages; but Mr. Russell was not so easily conciliated. He was a powerful man, while Mr. Dempster was rather beneath the medium height, and he accordingly proposed to take vengeance upon the spot. Mr. Dempster, knowing that he was no match for his angry neighbor, excepting in a foot race, led him a journey up a neighboring hill, in which the more portly man soon lost breath, and he was able to talk with him in safety. It was then agreed that the ox should be butchered; that Mr. Dempster should purchase a quarter of the beef, and that the remainder should be peddled out among the neighbors. In this manner, more than the estimated value was obtained. About half a mile below the village of Dundee, one Davis attempted to build a dam at a very early day hired a number of men to work for him, and partially dug a mill race but possessing no means sufficient to complete it, he suddenly left the country and his debts, and hied him for parts unknown. The township of Dundee was surveyed under the direction of the United States Government. by William Melbourn, in April, 1840.* Some years after this event, an incident occurred near Dundee Village, which awakened the sympathy of the entire neighborhood. Mr. James Howie was splitting rails near the river, when his son, about 14 years old, entered a boat with a boy about his own age, the son of James Sherrer. Mr. Howie cautioned them, and then continued his work, while the boys rowed to the opposite bank, amused themselves there for a short time, and started to return. When they had nearly reached the land, Mr. Howie's attention was attracted by an unusual splashing. Raising his eyes, he observed the boys tetering the boat in sport, from side to side, and while he yet looked, it capsized. Neither of the boys could swim; and after a short struggle, both of them drowned. The bodies were recovered, and buried with unusual ceremony.
*From a copy of the Surveyor's field notes, in the possession of Rev. A. Pingree, of Pingree Grove.

About twenty four hours after the burial, three medical students from a college which need not be named called upon Dr. Abner Hager, who was living in the village, was well acquainted with the occurrences, but not bound by ties of relationship, or especial friendship to the families of the deeeased, and represented to him that they wished his assistance in obtaining the bodies secretly for the dissecting table, as they were in perfect health until the accident occurred, and were therefore unusually valuable from a scientific standpoint. Powerful inducements were offered for his cooperation, but to his lasting honor, be it told, he refused, threatening exposure if they made the attempt. They left him with execration, and Mr. Jesse Oatman having been informed of their designs, watched the graves until no further protection was necessary. The doctor is now living in' Marengo, McHenry County. The first school in Dundee was taught in 1838, upon the hill on the east side of the river, by Miss Amanda Cochrane, now Mrs. Moses Wanzer, who had come to the township late in the Fall of the previous year, with Marshall Sherman and Cyrus Larkin, who settled two and a half miles west of the village. Since then, the township has steadily progressed in its educational facilities. It contains at present twelve school districts, three having been consolidated to build the graded school house in Dundee Village. Three of the school buildings are constructed of stone, two of brick and the remainder of wood. The school tax for the year 1877 was $8,075.

A cheese factory was erected in the Spring of 1877 by Sidney Wanzer, two miles and a half from the village, on the West Side. It is a good wooden building and has a fair patronage. Another was built in the same year and on the same side of the river, four miles from the village, by J. T. Mason. It is a large wood and stone structure and is doing an extensive business. Milk is purchased of the patrons. The year 1877 seems to have been unusually productive for cheese factories, and on the 1st of May one built by Jesse Oatman it Sons commenced operations on the West Side, nearly opposite Carpentersville. It is 28x44 feet in dimensions, exclusive of the engine room, and has a capacity for 10,000 pounds of milk per diem. The proprietors purchase of the farmers. Dundee is one of the best dairy townships in the United States, and further statistics of the vast quantities of milk manufactured and shipped from its depot will be found in connection with the village history. Many of the farms are excellent, and one owned by Mr William Sutfin has taken the premium as the best kept farm in the county.

Passing up the east bank of the river from Carpentersville, the tramp will behold a peculiar building, among the trees, upon the opposite side. The dome which comprises the entire structure is covered with tin, which, glistening in the sunlight, renders it visible for a long distance. It was built in 1856 as a Spiritual church, under the direction of a medium. E. W. Austin, Leister Woodard and Henry Petrie were the Trustees. It cost about $1,000; was built by subscription, but never successfully used for the purpose for which it was designed, and is now a dwelling.

The township is the most northeasterly in the county, is crossed by the Fox River Branch of the Chicago and North Western railroad, is bounded on the north by McHenry County, on the east by Cook, on the south by Elgin Township, and on the west by Rutland, and contained, by the census of 1870, 2,079 inhabitants.

[Also see the Village of Dundee.]

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