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


As common, in townships containing county seats, the history of Geneva. centers in the village of the same name, which lies two miles, by rail, from Batavia, and nearly the same distance from St. Charles. Its streets are laid. out with more regularity than those of any other village or city in Kane County, and, though not noted for manufactures or the amount of business transacted in them, they are marked by elegant homes, the owners of which are - many of them - engaged in business in Chicago, and have never endeavored to render the village a bustling, noisy place, but simply a quiet suburban retreat - a
"Sweet auburn, loveliest village of the plain."

Its society is considered among the most cultivated and accomplished in the county, and several of its old families, as the Dodsons, Pattons, Herringtons, Alexanders and others, have resided within its limits for many years and remember the time when the village contained not a dozen dwellings An old record of town plats in the Recorder's office shows that the place was surveyed May 8, 1837, by Mark W. Fletcher, County Surveyor, and that the proprietors were, then, James Herrington and Richard Hamilton. The original plat contained some 300 acres on the nearly level plain upon the West Side. To Daniel S. Haight, already mentioned, the honor of making the first


is due. An authority of unimpeachable veracity affirms that Haight was making improvements on the bank of the river in June, 1833, and another equally good informant states that early in the same month and year, Haight and James Brown, who subsequently settled at Nelson's Grove, came on a prospecting tour to the banks of Fox River valley. The former was one of the most respectable of the Hoosier pioneers - is represented as a tall and well formed man - honest, and not given to drunkenness. The early settlers always selected a position near some good spring as a site for building, and Haight's shanty of unhewn poles or small logs stood just west of where the cheese factory now stands, near one long distinguished from others in the vicinity as the "Big Springs." There is abundant proof that he resided there early in 1834, but whether he ever regarded Geneva as his permanent abode may be doubted, since in the Summer of that year he left and was absent in Chicago and Naperville several weeks, returning in the Fall and selling to James Herrington in the Winter of 1834-5. He subsequently removed to Rockford, laid the foundation of the town on the east side of the river, lived and died there. The next house within the present village limits was put up by Arthur Akin, near McWayne's spring. James Herrington came from Meadville, Pennsylvania, with his family, consisting of his wife, five boys and two girls, in May, 1833, and stopped in Chicago, where Mary, a third daughter, was born. The great metropolis of the West was then chiefly noted for its low groggeries, and Mrs. Herrington, wishing to educate her family under more moral influences, strongly objected to remaining. No civilization was, in her opinion, preferable to the type there found, and accordingly, in April, 1835, the family removed to the place purchased of Haight the previous Winter. This excellent lady (Mrs. Herrington) is still living in the village, at the age of seventy eight, possesses a remarkable memory concerning the settlement from 1835, and has been of great service in furnishing items of early history for this chapter. The Herrington residence was built further up the bank, west of Haight's little dwelling and just south of a solitary tree, now standing, which has since grown there. The building was, for a long time, the most ambitious structure to be found in a circuit of many miles, and was built of hewn logs, and on the plan of those so frequently described as "double log houses" in the History of Western Pennsylvania, where the Herrington family were prominent and where the name is still met with among the records of some of the early institutions of Mercer County. A painting of the house is still in existence, in which it is represented as a long, homely structure, with two low stories, while three chimneys project two or three feet from the ridge of the roof and a low porch overhangs the five windows upon the east side. The dwelling was constructed almost wholly of oak, but had a good white ash floor and butternut shingles All the settlers, in 1836, and the years immediately following, found shelter and refreshments therein; there the first election and court in the county were held, and there it was decided what the name of the county seat should be. It was, in short, the first hotel in the village, and in many respects the most important house in the county. It has long been torn down and removed. Mrs. Herrington states that the first meal in their new house was cooked and eaten upon a pile of logs, near the spring, which was doubtless a more agreeable place to dine than Haight's vacated shanty, which was converted into a store (the first in the place) in the same year, and furnished with a stock of goods by Mr. Herrington. L. M. Church was the first clerk who sold to the people of Geneva and vicinity, and was followed in the same store by David Dunham, who remained with Mr. Herrington until elected County Recorder. Indians were numerous, and encamped on the island just below. They were excellent customers, when they possessed any article of exchange, but most audacious thieves, and one of them, commonly known as "Indian Jim," after selling his horse for a drink of whisky, to Augustus Herrington* - now Solicitor for the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad - returned the next night and stole the beast.
* United States District Attorney, under Buchanan.

Nothing could surpass the river and its wild scenery then. Not an old settler speaks of it without becoming immediately enthusiastic. Hour after hour, in the calm days of Summer, the swarthy Pottawattomie fisherman might be seen in bis light canoe, erect as the spear of a single prong which he poised in his hand, as he glided over the quiet surface of the stream. A thousand fantastic forms appear on either bank as he floats along past the bubbling spring upon his right and the little emerald crowned island rising like a water nymph on the left; but his eyes are blinded to all but the finny swarms that revel in the transparent element below. Ten, fifteen, or even twenty feet are no security from his keen eye and unerring aim. and monsters which are never drawn from that river in the present degenerate days were then secured daily. If a single dam presented for a time obstructions to the streams of life which ascended from the Mississippi in the Spring, it was merely a temporary one, broken by every flood; and the old settlers say that it was not unusual to obtain, in Fox River, fish weighing sixty or seventy pounds.

In 1836, a number of immigrants flocked to Geneva, and in the same year Kane County was organized, and named from Hon. Elias K. Kane, one of the first United States Senators from Illinois, upon its admission to the Union, in 1818.

Clybournville contested for the honor of being the county seat with Geneva, but all know the result. Geneva, or Herrington's Ford, as it was then called, was obviously a more central point, and besides, it had a post office established the year previous, under the name of La Fox, with James Herrington as first Postmaster. "Daddy" Wilson carried the mail on horseback between Naperville and Geneva, and made the trip once in two weeks. That belonging to Geneva was carried in his pockets, and they were never weighed down. Several of the settlers, like those of Aurora, were anxious to have their village called Waubansie, but, as in the sister town. a name much more agreeable to the ears was chosen, at the suggestion of Dr. Dyer, formerly from Geneva, N. Y., and now living in Chicago.

During this same year, James Herrington erected a more convenient storehouse in the village. Crawford Herrington, a brother of James, had settled, in the Summer of 1835, upon the claim taken by Arthur Akin, and his son, James, born early in 1836, was probably the first child born in the village.

Margaret Herrington, a sister of Hon. James Herrington, and whose birth occurred November 3, 1836, was the first female child born in the place, and the first birth after the village was laid out.

During the same memorable year, N. B. Spaulding, living on the present Clark Wilder farm, in Aurora, came with his betrothed bride, Miss Angelina Atwater, to Geneva, and was married in the village. Their marriage license is said to have been the first granted in the county.

The first sermon in Geneva was preached during the same year, in James Herrington's house, by Rev. N. C. Clark. In that year, Logan Ross settled in the village, and the clink of the anvil was first heard there. Running horses, foot racing, wrestling and fighting were at that time the principal amusements of the place, and in all the athletic sports Ross was known far and wide as the champion.

The year 1837 witnessed the building of the first court house, a small wooden edifice, used until the erection of the stone building, still standing upon the original site, but vacant since the completion of the magnificent structure commenced in 1856, and now occupied for the dispensation of justice. The lower story is used as a jail.

The second building was commenced in 1843, and completed in 1844, and cost the county only the small sum of about $800, since the citizens generally assisted in labor and by furnishing materials; but the house now occupied has cost the county not less than $125,000. Win. Derby was the contractor. Twelve sessions three of the Circuit and nine of the County Court - are held therein yearly.

The year 1837 is likewise memorable as the year of the arrival in the village of a colony, consisting of Caleb A. Buckingham, Charles Patten and Scotto Clark, from Boston, with Abram Clark, brother to the latter, and his wife, from Westminster, Vt., who left the former place on the 13th of September, by way of the canal to Buffalo, and thence by steamer to Chicago, arriving on Fox River, at Geneva, upon the 1st day of October. All settled within the present,limits of the village, Scotto Clark building just north of where Mr. Belden now lives, and his brother and family living in the same dwelling, and keeping house for him; while Buckingham opened the first law office in the place, and practiced with great success for a time, but died in Chicago in 1840, before attaining the eminence to which his brilliant talents would have promoted him but for his untimely decease.

In the Winter of 1837-8, Scotto Clark and Charles Patten returned East. the latter for a stock of merchandise, which, upon his return, in the following May, he placed in a small store upon the corner where the block which he now occupies has since been raised. One Isaac Claypool then had a small stock of goods in the village, but remained in business but a short time.

Among Geneva's prominent men were Dr. Henry Madden, afterward widely known in the county and State. Dr. Henry A. Miller, who married a daughter of Judge Wilson, of Batavia, was the first resident physician in Geneva, and had a wide practice throughout Kane County. At the time of Patten's arrival, Mark Daniels, one of the early purchastrs, was living in the place; also, Hendrick Miller, who built in the village the first distillery on Fox River. Julius Alexander, from Southern Illinois, located within the present corporation limits, in July, 1837, upon the East Side, where he built a blacksmith shop the same year.

There were several arrivals in 1838, among them John Chambers, from Tompkins County, N. Y., and Peter Sears, who was part owner of the claim purchased by Scotto Clark, on the East Side, and came from Boston with the family of the latter.

About the same time, the first bridge was constructed at Herrington's Ford, by Gilbert & Sterling, but was swept away before completion. Several built since then have met the same fate, and one, erected in 1857, at a cost of $22,000, was removed to make way for the elegant iron structure, 522 feet long, built in the Winter of 1868-9; cost, $16,000. The first dam was built early in 1837, and was immediately followed by a saw mill, on the East Side, which Mr. James Herrington referred to in a communication to the Chicago Democrat, in May of that year, as "nearly completed." Sterling, Madden & Daniels were the builders. In 1844, Howard Brothers built the first grist mill, upon the opposite bank.

In 1839, the village lost by the death of James Herrington, one of its most energetic and able business men, and as has been seen, one of its earliest settlers.


The first building in the village used exclusively for school purposes was the wing of the present elegant stone house, and was built upon the same site in 1855. Later, a brick building was put up upon the East Side. Previous to 1873, each side was a part of a separate district, but in that year the building upon the West Side was erected, at an expense of $25,000, the two districts were consolidated, and the old brick building has since been used as a primary department. Both schools are now under the efficient management of Mr. C. E. Mann. the County Superintendent of Schools and one of the most successful teachers in the State. The large school contains five departments. Average attendance on both sides, 234; total enrollment, 335.


Methodist Episcopal. - In 1837, Hiram G. Warner, a local preacher of the Methodist Episcopal denomination, preached to a small congregation in Geneva in the old court house. In the following year, Revs. Wilson and Gaddis visited the town, and a class was formed consisting of three members living in the present limits of the village, whose names were Alison Abbott, Julius Alexander and Marietta Warner, and for some time services were held in the tavern owned by one Hendrick Miller and kept by James Hotchkiss. The class was at length added to the St. Charles Circuit, embracing Aurora, Batavia and St. Charles. In 1844, the first measures toward building a house of worship were taken by Rev. E. C. Springer. A lot was procured from the county, deeded to the Trustees in 1850 for one dollar, and in the same year a building was put up, which was occupied for twenty years, when, in 1870, a larger and more convenient house was first thought of. In the following year, the matter received general attention from the members; in 1872, the ground was broken for the foundation, and before the end of the year services were held in the new building, which was not finished, however, until 1874. It is a stone structure, and by far the finest church in the place. Present membership, 110.

Episcopal. - The records of this church date back to 1838, when Rev. A. H. Cornish, one of the missionaries, addressed a congregation containing only eight members, but no pastor was located in the village until 1855, when Rev. J. H. Waterbury settled there, and a stone building was shortly erected, costing $8,000. The present membership is twenty six. W. J. O'Brian is Rector, in connection with church at Batavia.

Congregational. - This was one of the earliest religious societies in the village, having received its first start from the ministration of Rev. N. C. Clark, as recorded upon another page. It now contains a large and wealthy membership and a good house of worship.

Unitarian. - The constitution of this society was formed in Geneva, and signed by twenty two members, in 1842. Rev. Augustus Conant occasionally officiated as pastor. Efforts were immediately made to build a church, and on the 24th of January, 1841, the stone one now occupied was dedicated. Rev. Mr. Conant continued his labors as pastor until 1857. In 1874, the church building was repaired, and is now well adapted to the purpose for which it was designed. Rev. R. L. Herbert is the present pastor. The membership is about fifty.

The Disciples at one time attained the position of an established organization in Geneva, but of late years the society has been on the decline, and now numbers only a dozen members.

Free Methodist. - About thirteen years ago, a Free Methodist Church was organized within the corporation, and a small stone building erected, where services were regularly held for several years, but, being encumbered, it was sold, in 1873, to the Swedish Methodist Episcopal Society, and the members allied themselves with the Free Methodist Society at St. Charles.

The Swedish Lutheran Church was established about 1852, in St. Charles, and a building put up a year later. Rev. Erlan Carlson, now pastor in Andover, first officiated to the society, which then contained about fifteen members. About 1855, the Church made Geneva its central point. In 1862, Mr. Carlson was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Sederstam, now in charge of a pastorate in Minnesota, and, in 1867, he was in turn followed by Rev. C. Lendell, now preaching in Chicago. Rev. C. H. Lodergren, the present pastor, followed in 1874. There are now 250 members

Swedish Methodist Episcopal. - Years ago, traveling preachers of the Swedish Methodist Episcopal denomination occasionally addressed diminutive gatherings of their people in Geneva. A society was formed, with some sixteen members, about 1866, but dwindled away until there were but three members. It revived, however, under the preaching of Rev. Albert Errickson, and now boasts about sixty members, who enjoy regular weekly preaching from a resident pastor, Rev. S. B. Newman.


In 1850, Eben Danford obtained a patent for the Danford Reaper and Mower, of which he was the inventor, and commenced the manufacture of the machines about 1851, upon the East Side, in partnership with Capt. J. D. Webster; some fifty men were employed; but in 1857 the company failed. Danford & Howell opened a foundry in the vacated buildings in 1862, but dissolved partnership about four years later. The business was then continued in the same site a number of years by W. H. Howell, who at length erected, at a cost of $18,000, including tools, the buildings which he still occupies upon the West Side. From thirty five to forty hands are employed. The "Geneva Fluting Iron" (of which W. D. Turner is the inventor), smoothing irons, pumps and various fixtures are manufactured.

The flouring mills of Geneva form the most important business interest of the village. Three companies are in successful operation - Bennett Brothers & Coe upon the East Side, and John Burton on the West Side, who are employed in merchant work; James T. Bards on the West Side, engaged in the custom business. [lards and Burton occupy separate parts of the same mill, the one built by Howard Brothers. In 1868, it was repaired by Smith, Bards & Wright, and was used both as a merchant and custom mill Later, the merchant portion, which occupies the north end of the building and contains four sets of stones, was used by Smith & Wright, while Bards confined his business to the other portion, which contained but two sets. Smith & Wright's portion subsequently passed into the hands of the present proprietors. Half of the brick mill owned by Bennett Brothers & Coe was erected as a paper mill by Alexander & German in about 1846. It then passed into the hands of O. M. Butler, was then owned by C. B. Dodson, and purchased from him by the present owners. An addition of equal size was made of brick on the north side of the original part in 1868, and in its furnishings is considered the best flouring establishment on Fox River. It contains nine sets of stone and a capacity for manufacturing one hundred barrels of flour per day.

Geneva was organized under the general statutes in 1856, later by special charter, and is governed by a President and a board of four Trustees. Capt. C. B. Dodson was the first President.

WAR RECORD-1860-65.

An independent cavalry company was organized in the village by Capt. C. B. Dodson, in 1861, and was assigned as a bodyguard to General Steel, remaining with him until discharged. William Wilder, now in Honolulu, was First Lieutenant; John Bundy, afterward Major, and now editor of the Religo-Philosophical Journal, Second Lieutenant, and Charles Herrington, afterward killed in the employ of the C., B. & Q. Railroad Company, Orderly Sergeant. Company D, of the Fifty second Illinois, and Company G, of the One Hundred and Forty first, were, also, enrolled in the place. In the former, Judge Isaac G. Wilson, now in Chicago, was Colonel; Nathan Herrington, now of Blackberry, Captain; Louis H. Everts, First Lieutenant, who returned as Major, and is now principal partner in the firm of L. H. Everts & Co., of Philadelphia, one of the leading publishing companies in the East. In this regiment, Joseph Kessler returned as Lieutenant and C. B. Wells, Commissary.

Company G, of the One Hundred and Forty first, was enlisted by Captain Charles Herrington. George Gilman, from Blackberry, where he still resides, First Lieutenant; Chester Steward (deceased), Second Lieutenant.

Aside from these, Hon. J. H. Mayborne - now one of the most eminent members of the Kane County bar - went to the war as Paymaster, with the rank of Major; Thomas Clark as Captain in a colored regiment, and Frank Clark as a Lieutenant. Four of the sons of James Herrington, Nathan, Alfred, Charles and Thaddeus (deceased), served their country through its years of peril, and returned in safety; and there were many more, who occupied lower ranks, but rendered equally efficient service, to whom their country will forever remain indebted.


In 1851, the Wilson Brothers established a small sheet in Geneva called The Advertiser. In about 1867, the name was changed to The Geneva Repub, which passed into the possession of S. L. Taylor in 1870, and was sold to Tyrrell & Archer in the following year. Tyrrell left the company in 1873, when the paper went into the hands of McMaster, Archer & Wheeler, who published it until 1875, when Charles Archer became the sole proprietor and editor. It is a neatly printed folio, 24x36, circulation about 500.

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, already mentioned in the foregoing sketch of the township, has an excellent stone depot in the village, 112 feet in length, and corresponding in its other dimensions.

The population of the village, as nearly as can be estimated from returns examined, is about 1,670.

Return to [ Illinois History ] [ History at Rays Place ] [ Rays Place ] [ Illinois Biographies ]

Illinois Counties at this web site - Adams - Carroll - Champaign - Cook - De Kalb - Du Page - Edgar - Kane - LaSalle - Lee - Logan - Macoupin - Madison - Mason - McHenry - McLean - Stark - Stephenson - Vermilion - Will

Also see the local histories for [ CT ] [ IA ] [ IL ] [ IN ] [ KS ] [ ME ] [ MO ] [ MI ] [ NE ] [ NJ ] [ NY ] [ PA ] [ OH ] [ PA ] [ WI ]

All pages copyright 2003-2013. All items on this site are copyrighted by their author(s). These pages may be linked to but not used on another web site. Anyone may copy and use the information provided here freely for personal use only. Privacy Policy