CITY OF ELGIN.
With some unimportant changes in the relative positions of the savage hordes who occasionally made it their
hunting ground, the land now occupied by the city of Elgin remained, in the early Spring of 1835, as it had been
since the discovery of the continent.
Early explorations had been confined to the east and south, and, though Scott's army had cleared the way three
years previously, the vast resources of this valley were at that date undeveloped; no cabin appeared with the curling
smoke from the fire of the pioneer, and no claim lines betokened the earliest settlement. Desolation reigned in
the midst of the "Garden of the World," and silence, interrupted only by the chirp of some feathered
songster, the bark of the prairie wolf or the triumphant yell of the dark hunter, as he brought down the vigilant
But the settlers were on their way, and in order to fully comprehend the immediate causes which led to the peopling
of Elgin, it will be necessary to retrace our steps to the previous year, when there dwelt in the county of Oneida,
State of New York, a man by the name of Hezekiah Gifford. Having heard of a land in the West, fertile beyond all
that he had ever seen, wealthy in water privileges, and abounding with ample supplies of wood, "a land of
streams," of fields already cleared for the harvest and waiting for the plowman, he sold his property in the
East and repaired to Buffalo. Taking passage thence on a steamer for Detroit, with a Mr. Duryea, with whom he had
formed an acquaintance in Buffalo, he arrived, after a stormy voyage, went by stage thence to St. Joseph, when
he boarded a schooner and was landed in due time safe in the native mud of Chicago. That city - now the pride of
the West - was then scarcely a suitable dwelling place for a colony of prairie dogs or gophers. Its dirt begrimmed
cabin walls and vile streets, in which pigs and geese wallowed in filthy happiness, presented no attractive features
for any higher orders of creation; while in place of theaters during the week, and churches on Sundays, the inhabitants
enjoyed daily dog fights and drunken rows. There were, however, some good and law abiding citizens even in that
hamlet, and the generally depraved condition was owing, in great measure, to the lower classes of emigrants who
sought refuge there, and the reeking saloons which were kept open for their especial benefit. While wending his
way along the streets of this "beautiful West," Messrs. Gifford and Duryea descried a man approaching
with a yoke of oxen, and hailing him ascertained that his name was Ferson, and 'that he lived upon the banks of
Fox River, the goal for which they had started when they left New York. They accordingly secured places in his
cart, and, taking the old army trail, after a weary journey, in which they were frequently obliged to walk, were
at length landed at the log but owned by Mr. Ferson and his brother, on the west side of the river, where St. Charles
now stands. Having partaken of their hospitality in the shape of some good venison steaks and coffee, and obtained
the rest of which they were so sorely in need, they proceeded down the river, following an Indian trail to Aurora,
where they found a lone cabin and its owner, Joseph McCarty, near by digging granite boulders to form the first
dam. From this point, they went to the present site of Yorkville, thence to Indian Creek and Somonauk, and finally
to the vicinity of Blackberry, where they found a man by the name of Hollenbeck, comfortably settled; and having
taken up claims near him, returned to New York, where Mr. Gifford directed his steps to the home of his brother,
James T. Gifford, in Yates County, and related the story of his adventures.
In such vivid colors did he portray the beauties of the Fox River country, that James T., who was a man of unusual
energy, determined to sell his farm at the earliest opportunity and emigrate West in the Spring. Meanwhile, Hezekiah
visited his father's family, in Oneida County, and some friends, in Chenango County, where he married, ands returning
to his brother, who had disposed of his property during his short absence, both started with a team and lumber
wagon, which was loaded with tools and provisions for man and beast, and arrived in Chicago on the 24th day of
March, 1835, having driven the entire distance. Having received glowing accounts of a place then called Milwaukee
Bay, now Milwaukee, they directed their course northward from Chicago with a man named Goodwin; they did not meet
a single soul on the way, and were so poorly supplied with the necessaries of life, they were obliged to divide
their few biscuits with their horses. Arriving at their destination, they ascertained, to their great disappointment,
that all the land about the present city of Milwaukee had been claimed, and accordingly formed the determination
to procecd southwesterly to the country visited by Hezekiah in the previous season. The horses which they had ridden
from Chicago were accordingly delivered to Mr. Goodwin, who was about to return, and the Giffords took up their
line of march across the country, but were soon obliged to return, having lost their way; and, wandering to the
south of Milwaukee, reached the lake at the site of the present city of Racinc. Here they became acquainted with
one Jack Jumbean, one of the waifs which the earlier French occupancy had left upon the shore of life, a half breed
trader and trapper, and a fair type of the coureurs du bois, so frequently alluded to in Parkman's admirable History
of the Conspiracy of Pontiac. Jack told them that he knew the country well, and that by taking the trail from his
door they, would reach Fox River in half a day. They, therefore, made the attempt again, and this time successfully,
for, at the period stated by the trapper, the stream appeared in the distance, and they were soon upon its solitary
banks. Following it to the south, they walked for miles without meeting a sign of human habitation or of life until,
as they were beginning to be wearied by their tedious journeyings, they discovered a lone Indian in a canoe, whom
they hailed and induced to convey them to the opposite bank. Their inquiries of this dusky Charon in regard to
settlers were answered unsatisfactorily, and, night coming on, they slept upon the ground without supper. Upon
the earliest break of day, they were up and on the march. Creeks were waded and marshes crossed, yet still nothing
but a wilderness spread out before them. At length, after they had been some thirty hours without a morsel of food,
Hezekiah Gifford observed a small but in the distance. With quickening paces they hastened to obtain the succor
which it promised, but the "ancient mariner's" disappointment awaited them. There were no children playing
near its doorway, no obstreperous cur ran out to meet them. "The silence was unbroken," and when they
shouted, there was no response. Approaching and peering in, they beheld the body of a dead Pottawattomie warrior,
in a sitting posture, wrapped in his blanket and adorned with many trinkets, indicative of his rank and importance.
This was all that the but contained, and it was merely a rude sarcophagus, common among tho Indian tribes. Their
feelings can better be imagined than told, for they were nearly famished, and starvation stared them in the face.
Weakened by hunger and travel, they continued southward. Night again settled around them, and with it rain, and
they awoke, wet and chilled, from a sleep disturbed by the howling of wild animals near their cold couch. Early
in the day, they came to Nipersink Creek, in the present county of McHenry, and were obliged to wade the stream,
which was waist high, holding their clothes above their heads. Having reached a point near the present town of
Algonquin, they were rejoiced at the sight of a human figure moving in the distance. Approaching, they found, to
their great joy, that the stranger was a white man, who was at the time engaged in the pioneer employment of splitting
rails, and informed the travelers that he worked for Samuel Gillan, whose cabin was near. James Gifford was so
rejoiced to hear this that he exclaimed in ecstacy', "Oh, now we'll have a good meal !" and the hired
man conducted them to the door, where they were kindly received by Mr. and Mrs. Gillan, and were soon enjoying
the good meal anticipated. After a refreshing sleep and a hearty breakfast, they left the dwelling of their liberal
host, and a few miles further brought them to the present site of the city of Elgin, where they were enchanted
with the beauty of the scenery the rapidity of the clear stream, the woodland on either bank, almost free from
underbrush, and the fields as beautiful as if already waiting the harvest - and here they determined to locate.
Accordingly, James T. laid claim to the land still known as "James T. Gifford's plat of Elgin," while
his brother took up a tract further south, upon the same side of the river (east), and including the grounds now
occupied by the National Watch Factory. Having learned from Mr. Gillan that a Mr. Welch was living at the head
of Little Woods, within the present limits of St. Charles Township, they then proceeded to his place, as a mere
act of courtesy, and afterward returned to Chicago for their horses and wagon. As they were about to leave that
place, two days after, on their return, a man stopped them on Randolph street; stated that his name was Joseph
Kimball; that he was looking for a mill site; inquired if they knew of a good location, and their place of residence.
On being told that they came from Fox River, the gentleman inquired the way there, received his directions, and
the Giffords started for their claims. It may here be mentioned that James T.'s cabin was built within the present
limits of the little triangular square near the present residence of Mr. Davidson.
A description of the mode of constructing the houses in the Elgin of that day may not be uninteresting, as contrasted
with the modern architecture. The shanties were built of logs, unhewed, and consisted of one or two rooms, according
to the amount of time at the disposal of the builder. In case there were two, they were known as double log houses,
and were constructed by piling up two pens side by side. The roofs were of shingles, two feet long and more, split
from oak logs, and generally unshaved, and, there being no nails in the settlement, they were bound down by poles
laid across them and extending the full length of the roof, each tier of shingles resting upon two similar poles
which formed the rafters, and ran lengthwise, instead of obliquely, as in these dangerous days. The first binding
pole, and the nearest to the eaves, was held in its place by resting upon two or more wooden pins driven through
the shingles, the next one depending for support upon several sticks of proper length, the lower ends of which
rested upon the lower pole, while the upper ends formed a base. Thus the entire row of poles were held in position
by the pins underneath the lower one. The floors (when they had any) were of puncheons, and the doors, of the same
material, were hung upon wooden hinges. uncouth as these first cabins must have been, they are said to have afforded
excellent shelter for the inmates. The grotesque roofs seldom leaked, and the corn dodgers eaten by their ample
fire places tasted (according to the testimony of the old settlers) as good as the finer fare of the present day
by a modern coal stove, behind the solid protection of brick walls.
Mr. Hezekiah Gifford's cabin was built near where the residence recently owned by George S. Bowen stands. The Giffords
had not long returned from Chicago when Samuel J., G. W., Russell and Jonathan Kimball, parties with whom Joseph
Kimball had communicated, made their appearance at the settlement, and announced their intention of making claims
in the vicinity. The two previous settlers were, of course, rejoiced at this prospect of having near neighbors,
gave the visitors a hearty welcome, and the claim lines were soon staked out, Mr. Samuel J. Kimball choosing the
land now owned by Walter and Joseph Kimball, his house being still in existence near the residence of the latter;
while Mr. Jonathan Kimball also took up a tract upon the West Side, within the present corporation limits. G. W.
Kimball settled at first a number of miles south, but subsequently moved to Elgin, where he has since died. Russell
Kimball also settled within the city limits, but removed at an early day. Mr. Joseph Kimball, who had made the
inquiries of the young men in Chicago, died while on a journey East for his family. During the early Spring of
this year, the Giffords went to a small settlement upon the banks of the Du Page and purchased four yoke of oxen,
and from thence James T. went to Chicago, where he found his brother Asa and Mrs. Hezekiah Gifford, who had just
arrived from the East. Accompanying him back to Fox River, Mrs. Gifford was for six weeks the only white woman
in the settlement. She had but just established herself in her new home when a company of the "noble sons
and daughters of the forest" called upon her - not for the purpose of paying their respects, as civilization
would have suggested to their untutored minds - but to beg for flour and other supplies, which the savage is unable
to obtain save by trade with the settlers. Often they would bring her fish and venison, which they would offer
to exchange for these products so rare among them as to be regarded as dainties, and on one occasion when the lady
was alone a band of about twenty walked into the cabin and one essayed to help himself to flour. Mrs. Gifford,
although nearly frightened to death, assumed a bold air, and gave the audacious gentleman a push which sent him
reeling across the cabin and produced shouts of laughter from his companions, who always admire a brave "squaw."
They soon left the dwelling without taking further liberties, but meeting Mr. Gifford, were conducted back and
presented with all the flour that he could spare. Indeed, it may well be doubted if any could be dispensed with
for a less important consideration than the friendship of the savages, for the scarcity of mills throughout the
country was sorely felt at this time. Journeys were made to Green's Mill (now Dayton), and a settlement near Joliet,
where a set of mill stones had been attached to a saw mill, but both of these buildings were continually crowded
with customers, and grain was not unfrequently stored in them for a week, awaiting the proper time for grinding.
As a previous writer has suggested; they "ground slowly," like the mills of the gods, but, unlike them,
not particularly small. But Mr. James T. Gifford, equal to any emergency, conceived the idea of constructing a
cheap substitute, for pulverizing the wheat and corn nearer home An immense stump was hollowed out to form a mortar,
within which a huge pestle was fitted, and attached to a long pole, balanced upon a post like the well sweep which
raised the "old oaken bucket;" and here the grain was pounded as occasion demanded.
And now the settlers began to feel the need of a road to the outer world, and accordingly one was staked to Meacham's
Grove, since known as Bloomingdale. Late in the 'same Spring, James Gifford visited his former home in the East,
and upon his return was accompanied by his family, consisting of his wife and five children, and also by his two
sisters, Experience and Harriet, the latter of whom still resides in Elgin.
In June, 1835, P. J. Kimball, Sr., settled upon the spot where Mr. Borden's dwelling now stands, and with him came
two ladies - rare accessions to the Fox River settlements then - Mrs. Kimball and her daughter. And now the hope,
presumptuous though it at first seemed, began to dawn that there might one day be a town in that beautiful valley,
and Mr. James T. Gifford startled his brother and sister in law one day by saying, without previous warning, "What
shall we call the town ?" Hezekiah arose in astonishment, while his wife nearly fainted, but, regaining her
breath, she gasped some reply which indicated that she was not a credulous woman and was not to he imposed upon.
"Well," said James T., "I have a Scotch name for it, and a short one, 'Elgin.' It should here be
observed that Mr. Gifford was very fond of the old tune by the same name, which Burns has immortalized, and likewise
of old "Dundee," and that he had previously applied the latter to a small village in New York. But Mrs.
Gifford could not recover in a moment, and now ventured to inquire if they really supposed stages would ever run
there. "To be sure we do," replied both the brothers, and, in 1837, the energetic James T. having laid
out in the previous year the Galena road as far as Belvidere, Mrs. Gifford saw two stages pass in one day into
Elgin. Mr. Gifford had labored diligently to secure the passage of the stages through the town, as there was some
effort made to establish the line by way of St. Charles. He even went to Washington and spent several weeks there,
at his own private expense, presenting inducements for a mail route through his place. His labors were signally
successful, and the place formerly know as State Road became legally Elgin. The first post office was established
in his house in January, 1837, the mail being carried a short time from Chicago on horseback. The same log building
served also as the first school house in the Summer of 1836, Miss Harriet Gifford being the "wielder of the
birch and rule." Her juvenile monarchy contained but ten subjects, who are said to have been governed with
skill and kindness.
Religious exercises commenced in Elgin upon the first Sunday after the arrival of the Gifford family, when Miss
Harriet Gifford read a sermon in her brother James' log cabin. Later, regular services were held each Sabbath in
the same dwelling, conducted by Russell Kimball or Deacon Philo Hatch, the latter having settled upon the East
Side, upon the lot since known as the Webb place. The James T. Gifford house seems to have been the first public
building for all purposes - preaching, courts and public meetings - and was even of more importance than town houses
to larger places.
On the 4th of July, 1836, the first celebration of the people of Elgin, or "State Road," as it was still
called, occurred, as follows: The road previously blazed to Meacham's Grove was such that the wayfaring man might
err therein unless diligent attention was given to the blazed trees through the woodland and the furrows across
the prairie. Accordingly, scveral teams were attached to a fallen tree at Elgin, and the settlers, turning out
en masse, drove them to a point half way between the two places, leaving a deep track the entire way, and were
there met by a delegation from the grove with a similar path marker, and all were refreshed by an Independence
dinner of corn cake, cold bacon and coffee.
At an election held for Lake Precinct, at the house of Thomas H. Thompson, within the limits of the present township
of Dundee, on the first day of the same month, Jonathan Kimball was chosen Justice of the Peace, and S. J. Kimball
On the 10th of October following, the first election in the town of Elgin was held, at the public house of Hezekiah
Gifford, erected the same year, upon the site afterward occupied by the Presbyterian Church. Political life, thus
commenced, received new vigor on the 9th of October, in the following year, when the second election in the place
occurred at the same hotel, which was then owned by Eli Henderson. On this occasion, James T. Gifford was elected
Justice of the Peace, and Eli Henderson, Constable.
The year 1836 is remembered as the date when the first religious society was regularly organized in the town. In
February of that year, Rev. John H. Prentiss, of Joliet, and Rev. N. C. Clark, then of Naperville, met, by invitation,
a small congregation at the house of J. T. Gifford, where, after a sermon by the former gentleman, it was determined
to form a church as soon as convenient.
In the following May, the determination was carried into effect, under the direction of Father Clark, of the Congregational
denomination. Mr. Clark subsequently removed to Elgin, where he enjoyed for many years the love and reverence of
all his townsmen, and died lamented by all.
The first male white child born in Elgin appeared upon the stage of life November 28, 1836, and is now well known
to the citizens of the place as Joseph Kimball. The first death, that of Miss Mary Ann Kimball, a daughter of P
J Kimball, occurred in May of the same year; and the first marriage. at the house of Jonathan Kimball, when his
daughter was joined in wedlock with Sidney Kimball. It will be observed from the above that the Kimball family
was sufficiently numerous to form a respectable hamlet by themselves.
The first cemetery was situated upon land now owned by Mrs. Horace French, and there the body of the lady mentioned
above was buried. The later burying ground was laid out in 1844, and the remains of many of those deposited in
the former ground were disinterred and removed there. Through the care of a former sexton of this necropolis, a
perfect record has been kept of all bodies deposited therein - a volume which cannot be too highly appreciated.
In 1836, the Indians left, to the great joy of the settlers; for, although friendly and generally harmless,
they were a source of constant dread to the timid, and were more bold and impudent in their importunity than the
tramps who now traverse the country, from Maine to California. The thought that a licensed rattlesnake sleeps upon
the doorstep is not pleasant to a brave man, even if he knows that the reptile may be propitiated by an abundancc
of food, and by carefully observing the rule to go around him; and a very similar sentiment may be said to have
existed in the minds of the early pioneers toward their red neighbors. They dared not use them otherwise than respectfully.
Their demand for "pennyack," "quashkin and "goonatosh" always received an answer of peace
and a liberal donation, even if the settler had scarcely enough of these supplies to last his own family a single
day, for he knew that the slightest insult would rouse the war hounds from the lair. Despite all the sentiment
which has been wasted upon them, a careful study of their habits, from the most favorable reports of those acquainted
with them, will convince any sane man that the "abused" Pottawattomies were, even in the most favorable
ligat in which we can view them, a lazy rabble of armed thieves and vagrants. In the year of their departure, the
Elgin people received a terrible fright, by a courier arriving in the village, from the north, with a report that
the Chippeways had dug up the hatchet, and were on their way toward Fox River in overwhelming numbers. A public
meeting was called and measures of defense at once taken, but the Indians failed to make an appearance, and the
settlement was troubled with reports of them no more.
In the Fall of 1836, a frame addition was made to Gifford's Tavern, which was originally of very moderate dimensions
for a public house, being only 16x24 feet. Until April, 1875, this addition was standing.
Not long after this, the Elgin House, kept for many years by a man by the name of Tibballs, was erected by William
S. Shaw, at the corner of Chicago and Center streets, where it was considered one of the most magnificent hotels
in the West. A part of it is now the Elgin House, kept by William Spendlove. Tibballs left Elgin when the railroad
came, confident that grass would thenceforth grow in the streets; and in the Spring of 1851, the hotel was converted
into a seminary, under the management of Misses E. and E. E. Lord, now of Chicago.
The closely contested election for Governor, in 1837, and the Congressional contest between. Stephen A. Douglass
and John T. Stewart, aroused a vast amount of enthusiasm in Elgin and nearly every legal voter is supposed to have
cast his ballot. The election was held at Eli Henderson's house, and resulted in 47 votes for Carlin and Anderson,
Democratic candidates for Governor and Lieutenant Governor; while Edwards and Davidson, Opposition, received 26
votes. The number cast for Douglas was 45, to 26 for Stewart. The Congressional District included nearly all Northern
In 1837, Mr W. C. Kimball came to the growing hamlet and set about developing its resources with Mr. S. J. Kimball
and James T. Gifford. A dam was built across the river by Folsom Bean, a mill race dug upon the West Side by Mr.
Kimball and upon the east by Mr. Gifford, while the former put up a saw mill and the latter quite a good grist
mill. which stood for years at the head of the race. Later, it was used for a slaughter house, and finally burned
by incendiaries. An old settler states that it required all the men then living between St. Charles and Alconquin
to raise the saw mill. It is still standing.
In June, 1838, Dr. Tefft, who, as has been heretofore seen, had been in the township since 1835, removed to the
village, where he built the first frame house in the place, upon land now occupied by the market. About the time
of his arrival, another physician, Dr. Elmore, settled upon the place now occupied by Mr. Carpenter. In the following
year he commenced keeping hotel in the house built by Hezekiah Gifford for that purpose, and left the town shortly
About the same year, one Judd. Elgin's first blacksmith, made his appearance in the village. Previously, a brother
of Judd had preceded him and burned a coal pit for the coming smith. While engaged in this work, a small shanty
provided for his accommodation caught fire and burned down. This was the first conflagration in Elgin. The blacksmith
left about 1839, and was followed by another worker in iron and steel Jason House by name.
Several other arrivals should be noticed at this time, among them B. Healy, the first harness maker; Harvey Raymond,
Burgess Truesdell, Alfred Hadlock, William Shaw, John and Vincent Lovell. Elgin people, as we have seen, had suffered
great inconvenience, during the early years of the settlement, from the lack of a bridge. On one occasion, it is
said that two young ladies, who were visiting upon the West Side, were obliged to take off their shoes and stockings
and wade the river to reach the opposite bank. Such a state of affairs began to appear extremely scandalous to
the village, and the citizens resolved upon. the immediate erection of a bridge. A rude wooden structure was accordingly
raised in 1837, one of the abutments standing immediately in front of and within two or three feet of, Healy's
shop, so much has the channel of the stream been narrowed since that day. In 1849, the bridge was carried away
by a freshet, and was replaced by a more substantial one of the same material, which remained until 1866, when
it was removed for a handsome iron one. The Elgin people now imagined that they had secured for themselves a permanent
bond between the river banks, and one which would defy alike the wear of time and the fury of the elements. What,
then, was their disappointment when it went down beneath the weight of a drove of cattle, and when, after being
replaced. a portion of the new structure shared a like fate on the 4th of July, 1869. The curse of Sisyphus seemed
to have been imposed upon them; but they bravely recommenced their work, and this time with success, for, after
the third attempt, the bridge has held itself in place. A new iron bridge of different design was constructed in
1870 from a point near the watch factory to the opposite side.
Mercantile enterprise was first displayed in Elgin by the appearance, in 1836, of a frame store on Block 9, upon
the north side of Chicago street. In the same year in which it was raised, Samuel Stoars commenced selling goods
in a small log store, and was soon after joined in business with F. Bean, the partnership continuing for several
years. The dam, built by the latter, went out the following April, but was replaced by another during the Summer.
Chicago was now beginning to rise from the mud, and a market could generally be found there for all the Western
products. A reliable authority states that from 1838 onward, wheat ncver sold for less than thirty cents. nor corn
for less than twenty cents per bushel, and pork was often firm at $1.50; and at that time prices seldom rose far
above these figures. Let farmers who complain of the present hard times read this and be happy. As early as 1835,
Mr. J. T. Gifford had sketched a plan of that part of the city now known as J. T. Gifford's plat of Elgin, extending
from Division street on the north, to Prairie street on the south, and from Chapel street to the east bank of the
river; but there is no record of a survey among the plats in the Recorder's office until August 3, 1842, where
we are informed that a described tract upon the east side of the river was regularly laid off in lots and streets,
for the proprietor, James T. Gifford, by J. P. Wagner, County Surveyor. On the 12th day of February, in the following
year, a similar service was performed by the same gentleman for W. C. Kimball, the proprietor of the West Side.
Settlers for all points West had been pouring into Elgin almost daily for more than a year, when, in 1838, B. W.
Raymond and his partner, S. N. Dexter, appeared in the village and bought one half of the J. T. Gifford claim.
To Mr. Raymond Elgin is greatly indebted for many of the improvements which followed, for although not an actual
resident, he displayed a remarkable interest in its progress, contributed liberally for the establishment and support
of the Elgin Academy, was for a long time one of the leading merchants, was a partner in the foundry of Augustus
Adams & Co., instrumental in establishing the woolen mill built by S. N. Dexter, in 1844, and in securing the
location of the watch factory, of which he became President. During the year 1838, the Baptists, who had met for
some time in the house of Hezekiah Gifford, organized a society under the Rev. J. E. Ambrose, and for several subsequent
years met with other religious organizations in a frame building, 25x30 feet, which stood at the northeast corner
of Du Page and Geneva streets, and is still well remembered by the Elgin people as the Elgin Chapel. It was raised
principally through the liberality of Mr. Gifford, and was used both for church and school purposes and was surmounted
by a small tower, and the first bell hung in the village. Several denominations were nurtured during their infancy
within its walls. We will have occasion to allude to it again. From 1839 to 1840, no extensive enterprises were
launched, but the steady growth of the town continued during the interval, and new arrivals constantly appeared.
In the latter year, great interest was taken in the Presidental election, the Whig element haying attained considerable
strength in the village. As a list of the voters may be of interest as illustrative of the increase in the population
during fiye years, and the political changes since that day, we give the following as recorded. The names prefixed
with a W. represent those who voted the Whig ticket:
Colton Knox, Edward E. Harvey Geo. W. Renwick, David Hunter, (W.) Erasmus Davis, Philo S. Petterson, (W.) Benjamin
Hall, (W.) Thomas Frazier, (W.) Wm. V. Clark, (W.) Thomas Hammers, (W.) James P. Corron, Wm. Conley, Thomas Calvert,
Aaron Harwood, Lewis Ray, Charles H. Hayden, Joseph S. Burdwick, Anthony Phillips, Caleb Kepp, W. S. Shaw, (W.)
Luther C. Stiles, Asahel B. Hinsdell, Seth Green, George Hammer, Justice Stowers. Hiram Williams, Jonathan Kimball,
Joseph Tefft, Wm. C. Kimball, (W.) Burgess Truesdell, (W.) Charles W. Mappa, (W.) George Hassan, (W.) Asa Merrill,
John W. Switzer, James Hoag, (W.) Otis Hinckley, (W.) Abel Walker. Francis Wells, Samuel Waterman, David Hammer,
David Welch, John Hill, (W.) George E. Smith, (W.) James Sutherland, (W.) Finley Frazier, Daniel B. Taylor, Geo.
W. Hammer, Geo. R. Dyer, (W.) Lorenzo Whipple, (W.) Erastus Bailey, (W.) Lyman Rockwood, Guy Adams, (W.) Myron
Smith, (W.) Lewis Tupper (W.), Ralph Stowell, Whitman Underwood, (W.) Halsey Rosenkrans, Lyman Williams, Jonathan
Tefft, Jr., (W) Moses Wanzer, (W.) Norman Stephens. (W.) S. A. Wolcott, Ransom Olds, Jas. M. Howard, (W.) Ralph
Grow, (W.) Perry Stephens, (W.) Calvin Carr, Ira Earl (W.), Solomon Hamilton, (W.) Asa Gifford, John B. Scovell,
(W.) John Lowell, (W.) E. A. Mittimore, William B. Howard, (W.) Aaron Bailey, Alfred Hadlock, Wm. W. Welch, (W.)
Harvey Gage, Elisha Sprague, John Flinn, Pierce Tobin, (W.) Benjamin Burritt, (W.) N. C. Clark, (W.) Walcott Hart,
Benjamin Williams, Geo. W. Kimball, (W.) Harvey Raymond, (W.) Charles B. Tucker, Jesse Abbott, Isaac Stone, John
S. Calvert, (W.) Hezekiah Gifford, Amos Tefft, (W.) Wm. R. Mann, Lewis Eaton, Abraham Leatherman, (W.) Peter Burritt,
Daniel Leatherman, Samuel Parker, Nathan E. Daggett, (W.) Craig Duncan; (W.) Thomas Mitchell, (W.) Calvin Hall,
Adin Mann, Isaac West, Jonathan Tefft, A. W. Hoag, (W.) Anson Leonard, John Guptill, Joseph Corron, (W.) L. S.
Tyler, George Hammer 2d, Amos Clark, Elijah Clark, (W.) Philo Sylla, (W.) James H. Scott, (W.) Philip H. Sargent
(W.), Solomon H. Hamilton, (W.) John Ternworth, (W.) Vincent S. Lovell, Sidney Heath, (W.) James Parker, (W.) Orange
Parker, James Todd, (W.) Chaplin W. Merrill, Horace Heath, Richard A. Heath, Hiram George, (W.) William A. Moulton,
Simon Deke, W. M. Bellows, Abel Pierce, (W.) Joshua E. Ambrose, Benjamin Adams, Samuel Minard, (W.) Asa Rosenkrans,
(W.) P. J. Kimball, Jr., (W.) Charles Merrifield, (W.) Byron Smith, (W.) John June, S. P. Burdick, Owen Burk, Aurelius
Barney, Chas. S. Tibballs, (W.) Artemus Hewett, (W.) Christopher Branham, Daniel Guptail, (W.) Humphrey Huckins,
(W.) Henry Serman, Marcus Ranstead, (W.) A. D. Gifford, (W.) Alphonso Whipple, Josiah Stephens, (W.) Alfred Gurlean,
(W.) Geo. Sawyer, Samuel Kimball, Geo. F. Taylor, (WO P. M. Goodrich, (W.) Anson Underwood, (W.) Jas. H. Rowley,
(W.) John Cromer, (W.) David Corlis, (W.) Geo. W. Rowley, (W.) Alexander Plummer, Wm. W. Welch, Luther Herriek,
(W.) Halsey Adams, Alfred C. Ordway, Samuel Hunting, Russell F. Kimball, Abraham Cawood, (W.) E. K. Mann, N. K.
Abbott, (W.) Horace Benjamin, (W.) Thomas Bateman, Samuel J. Kimball, Berry Branham, Wm. Plummer Kimball, A. S.
Kimball, Joseph Kimball, Charles Kimball, (W.) Aaron Porter, (W.) Gould Hinman, (W.) A. R. Porter, Jason House,
(W.) Jarvis Smith, (W.) Seth Slawell, Franklin Bascomb, Mark Adams, (W.) Stephen De Long, James West, Thomas Burbanks,
Moses Gray, Elijah Waterman, Almond Fuller, (W.) Jas. T. Gifford, John Ranstead, D. B. McMellen, Isaac Hammer,
(W.) Isaac Otis, Rowland Lee, Alexander McMellen, Folsom Bean, Judah H. Fuller, Philo Hatch, Amos Stone. It will
be seen that this list contains the voters of the entire township.
In the same year (1840), the legal profession was first represented in Elgin, the practitioner being Edward E.
Harvey, a former student of Joseph Churchill, Esq., of Batavia, and a brother of Geo. P. Harvey, still a resident
of the city. Mr. Harvey was a good speaker and a successful lawyer, remaining in Elgin until 1847, when, having
received a commission as Captain, he raised a company of volunteers and led them to the seat of war in Mexico,
where he died in the following year, near Cerro Gordo, at the age of 32. In 1841, Isaac G. Wilson, the son of Judge
Wilson, of Batavia, settled in Elgin and commenced the legal practice. He was a thoroughly educated attorney, being
a graduate of the Cambridge, Mass., law school, and held the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court in McHenry County.
Having practiced in Elgin until 1849, he was then elected Judge of the County Court, and in 1850 removed to Geneva.
In 1852, he was elected Judge of the Circuit Court, which office he held until 1867; he is now practicing his profession
in Chicago. From 1846 to 1850, Judge Wilson and Sylvanus Wilcox were law partners. The practice thus ably commenced
was continued by Edmund Giffford, from 1845 to 1861; Paul R. Wright and A. J. Waldron; Charles H. Morgan, from
1847 to 1863; E. S. Joslyn, from 1852. to the outbreak of the rebellion; John S. Riddle, from 1857 to 1862; Thomas
W. Grosvenor, from 1858 to 1861; Joseph Healy, E. W. Vining, A. H. Barry, R. N. Botsford, J. W. Ranstead, Wm. H.
Wing, W. F. Lynch, Eugene Clifford, Henry B. Willis, Cyrus K. Wilbur, John McBride and others. Many of the above
left their professions to serve their. country in the late war, and some died from wounds received upon the battle
Several of the medical profession have already been noticed. Among others who followed, Dr. Anson Root deserves
especial notice as one who assisted in building up the town, having purchased one fourth of the original James
T. Gifford claim and settled with his family, about 1839, in a log house, which occupied a position near the present
residence of J. A. Carpenter. His death occurred in Elgin in February, 1866. In the following years (from 1839),
Drs. Treat, Fairie, R. S. Brown, E. Tefft, C. Tony, J. Daggett, E. Sanford, V. C. McClure, O. Harvey, T. Kerr,
Paoli, E. Winchester, Peebles, B. P. Hubbard, E. A. Merrifield, B. E. Dodson, Wetherel, D. O. B. Adams, N. F. Burdick,
Fred Bartels, Berkhauser, George Wilbar, Cutts and Pulaski successively appeared in the town, and forming leagues
with the naturally salubrious climate, have generally succeeded in keeping the population in an excellent state
of preservation. But in 1845, intermittent and bilious fevers, which had so afflicted all the settlements, became
epidemic and raged with fearful havoc. The inhabitants became panic stricken, and fled the place; nearly every
remaining settler was prostrated with the prevalent disease, and it is even asserted that one man, whose wife had
died from its effects, could with difficulty find sufficient assistance to bury her in a decent manner. James T.
Gifford removed to a little village in Wisconsin, with the hope of protecting his children from the general destruction,
but the pestilence followed him, and two of his family died there. Returning after the health of the village was
restored, he remained in active business until August, 1850, when he fell a victim to the Asiatic cholera. He was
one of the noblest and most generous men that ever lived, a philanthropist by nature, and his memory is still cherished
by the inhabitants of the city, to the prosperity of which he contributed so largely. The spot where his cabin
stood, although now in the heart of the town, has been set apart from the encroachments of business blocks and
dwellings, and is devoted to the public, as was the life of the truly good man who once dwelt there.
But, returning to 1840, we find an important change in process in the business part of Elgin. Previous to that
date, it was believed that the "hub of the town - the grand center from which all the mercantile interests
were to radiate - was to be the part of Center street near its intersection with Chicago street, but about this
time Mr. Raymond erected the store formerly occupied by Stewart's bakery, and, subsequently, business centered
there. The post office was also moved to the building since known as Roberts meat market, which also served as
the office of Judge Wilson. A little later, great financial difficulties arose, and threatened, for a time, to
suspend the progress of the town. The Illinois State Bank, the great source of supply to the West, refused to redeem
its notes, and went down amid the ruin of thousands; but the Marine and Fire Insurance Company's notes were substituted
as legal tender, and Elgin once more continued in her upward career to success. About 1840, Burgess Truesdell established
an extensive cocoonery in the village, and quantities of the silk manufactured went into the market, but not proving
financially successful the enterprise was relinquished.
The first train entered Elgin early in February, 1850, and the occasion was one of great rejoicing to the inhabitants.
The village remained for two years the western terminus of the Chicago and Galena track, and the swarms of explorers,
settlers and pleasure seekers for all points West were landed at her depot, where crowds of hackmen met them with
their discordant yells and efforts to carry them to any hotel in town, or wherever they might wish to travel west
of the place. The old depot still stands near the building recently erected near the old Raymond store, used later
by the Stewarts as a bakery. That corner is historic, and those years were years of wonderful progress for Elgin.
Hotels sprang up, business prospered, and the streets were filled with residents and strangers daily. Among the
new public houses was the one erected by P. J. Kimball, Jr., near the depot, and, when the road crossed the river,
Mr. W. C. Kimball built the Waverly House, still well known throughout the Northwest. But like all the towns along
the river, Elgin was doomed to a season of great business stagnation, and the night was approaching. The railroad
was continued west, business left with it, and during the years which followed, the only life which the village
contained proceeded from several important manufacturies, among them an extensive tannery, owned by B. W. Raymond.
For a time, it was hoped that the Fox River Valley Road would be completed to the great lumber districts of Wisconsin,
and thus open a trade in that product, but the road ended at Geneva, Wis., and the village sunk down deeper than
ever into the lethargy which the removal of the western terminus had produced. Great manufacturing companies, however,
were induced, by the favorable situation and the wise liberality of the citizens, to establish their shops and
factories in the town, and thus, as will be seen, the dying commercial interests were revived.
In February, 1854, Elgin became a city, with Dr. Joseph Tefft for the first Mayor, and Charles S. Clark, R. L.
Yarwood, L. C. Stiles, P. R. Wright, E. A. Kimball and George P. Harvy the first Board of Aldermen. The general
financial cloud of 1857 lowered gloomily over the young city, but she had begun to recover her wonted prosperity,
when the news of the capture of Fort Sumter threw the entire place into the wildest indignation. In one week after
the tidings were received, the first company for the first regiment of Illinois volunteers was ready to leave for
the battle field. No town in the county has a more glorious war record than Elgin, as will appear upon a careful
scrutiny of statistics given upon another page of this work. The first company was mustered into the service upon
the 15th of April, 1861, and was again mustered in, after its first term of service had expired. Another company
entered the service from Elgin, with the Thirty sixth Regiment, in 1861; a third was contributed to the Fifty second
in the same year, and later in the Fall, a fourth to the Fifty fifth. The Forty eighth Regiment was enrolled in
1862, and in it went a large quota from Elgin. She also contributed a company to the Sixty ninth Regiment - three
months men - and on the 5th of September, 1862, sent two companies for the One Hundred and Twenty seventh. The
Elgin Battery was mustered into the service in the Fall of the same year; and in the Summer of 1864, two companies
left the place with the One Hundred and Forty first Regiment. Aside from the above glorious list, individuals left
as volunteers in other regiments, throughout the entire struggle. Scarcely a battle was fought, without some representatives
of the patriotic little Bluff City participating therein, and the names of some of them are immortal.
[To Part 2 of Elgin History]
[Also see the township of Elgin]