History of the City of Geneva, Kane County,
From: The Past and Present Kane County, Illinois
Wm. Le Baron, Jr. & Company
CITY OF GENEVA.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.