History of Geneva Township, Kane County, Il
From: The Past and Present Kane County, Illinois
Wm. Le Baron, Jr. & Company
Geneva occupies the northern part of Town 39, North Range 8 East of the Third Principal Meridian, and contains Geneva village, the county seat. The township is north of Batavia and south of St. Charles; is crossed from east to west by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, along the west side of Fox River by the Fox River Valley Road and the St. Charles branch of the Chicago & Northwestern.
Settlements were made along the river banks a year, at least, before those in the country east and west, the
first being within the present corporation limits, and mentioned in the sketch of Geneva village. Fox River was
no chain of stagnant mill ponds then, but clear as a New England brook meandering from its home in the mountains.
Its banks were not less beautiful than now, though that beauty was of a milder type. Forests covered the rolling
table lands, which were too low to be called hills by the eastern explorer, and too rugged to be designated as
prairies by the Western pioneer. The deer still rambled along its slopes, and were hunted by men as wild as they;
and all nature strove to present a combination of varied objects picturesque as fancy can portray, and charming
even to the eyes of the settlers who had wandered there from the hills and valleys of the Quaker State, unsurpassed
in their majesty and romantic beauty. The living sources of information concerning the settlement of this township
can give no record of its events in which they participated previous to April, and but a limited one previous to
June, 1834. All prior events are obtained from what was told them when they came by settlers then in the country,
and from exceedingly limited and often unreliable written accounts. Such men as Haight, Crow, Corey and Andrew
Miles were not literary in their habits. They never questioned whether the " pen was mightier" than anything
or not, nor dreamed that they were making history. And had they foreseen the future they would no doubt have contented
themselves with forming its past without recording it. A drink of whisky or a fight had more charms to them than
the perpetuation of their memory by posterity, and had their immortality depended upon themselves, their names
would have been stricken from the county records in 1837. They were a brave, a hardy, an honest class of men, and
their vices were such as were common to the border, and which civilization would have removed and replaced, possibly,
by more degrading ones. They drank to excess, they fought like Bengal tigers, but always in what they considered
a fair way, and deceit or fraud were utterly foreign to their natures. Their word was more binding to them than
any written obligation, and countless thousands could be safely trusted in their hands. They were honest men-"
the noblest works of God." Haight's record will appear in the sketch of Geneva village Of Crow little is known,
except that he took up a claim on the east side of the river in 1833, or early in 1834, sold early, and had left
the township in the Spring of 1835. Samuel Corey, one of the stalwart Hoosiers from the Wabash, lived on the place
now owned by George Acers, on the north edge of Batavia, in June, 1834, where he had been living for several months
at least Capt. C. B. Dodson states that he often transacted business for him, and that he had trusted him with
large sums of gold, and had found him always reliable and trustworthy, but apparently as careless as he was honest.
He would ride off over the country with two or three thousand dollars in his saddle bags, and stopping at one of
the rude Hoosier houses would hang up his saddle, wealth and all, out doors for the night. On being cautioned against
such a reckless course, he claimed that none would steal traps that the owner appeared to consider worthless. An
accident illustrative of his reckless character occurred to him in 1834, and nearly ended his life. One day Capt.
Dodson appeared in his presence ready for a journey. " Where are you going ?" said Corey; to which Dodson
replied, "To the first wedding in the country, that of Volney Hill," who lived in Du Page County. Corey
answered him with an oath that he was going too, as he had a pair of steelyards that he had borrowed of Capt. Naper,
and which he must return; " and, by G-," he added, " I'll give you the worst race you were ever
led." Dodson informed him that he would be happy to have him undertake it, and mounting their horses they
started off at a desperate speed. But Corey, hampered with the steelyards, was soon brought up against a tree,
knocked senseless from his horse, and lay like one dead upon the ground. On being restored, his first word was
an oath, and an assurance that he would go to the wedding anyhow; but he was more seriously injured than he at
first Supposed, was confined to his bed for several days, and wisely refrained in the future from horse races when
trammeled with anything more than his own weight Miles, who is represented by our worthy informant as a good natured,
lazy and ignorant native of Indiana, had taken up a claim upon the East Side, and was living in a miserable shanty,
upon Capt. Dodson's arrival, but was bought out by him previous to 1835. He was one of the earliest settlers in
the county, and was doubtless upon his claim late in 1833. But the earliest living informant regarding this region
is Mrs. C. B. Dodson, then Miss Warren, who was one of a party of six from near Warrenville, Du Page County, who
explored Geneva in a lumber wagon in April, 1834. The party was induced to make the journey from the representations
of Frederick Bird, her brother in law, who had previously been along the banks of Fox River, and described Geneva
as " the most beautiful country that lay out doors." He settled in the same year on the farm now owned
by Eben Danford, and was residing there in April, 1835, but about that time sold his claim to Samuel Sterling,
removed to the vicinity of Rockford, where he subsequently died. He was a native of New York. Capt. Dodson states
that upon his settlement at the mouth of Mill Creek, in June, 1834, Wheeler was living upon the Curtis farm, and
he represents him as very similar in character to Andrew Miles, and a native of the same State. According to Hon.
James Herrington, the Curtis place was occupied in the Spring of 1835 by Allen Ware, a bachelor from Virginia,
who is portrayed by him as in rather better circumstances than his neighbors, living in a comfortable cabin, with
a barn - good for those days - near by, and an orchard of young apple trees near his door. Just below this place,
in June, 1834, lived another Hoosier, Arthur Aken, but his claim was sold early, and he continued with so many
of his class to break land for others to cultivate. Ware also left before the country had emerged from its original
wild state. Capt. Dodson further states that Edward Trimble, from the Pan Handle part of the Old Dominion, was
living on the East Side, upon the farm now owned by Mrs. Sterling, when he arrived in the country, and that during
the same year (1834) his marriage to a daughter of Christopher Payne occurred at the house of the bride's father,
where he (Dodson) had the pleasure of dancing at the wedding, on the puncheon floor. Every township claims the
first death, marriage and birth in the county, but our informant assures us that this is without doubt the first
of the numerous first weddings. Trimble left the country in 1836, and was subsequently killed by Indians in the
far West His brother, William Trimble, settled in the village. The same reliable informant tells us that one Latham
settled between Payne and Miles in Batavia, early in 1834, and that late in 1833, James Nelson, the settler in
honor of whom Nelson's Grove was named, had built a cabin there, and that the Bowmans and Lairds, from Pennsylvania,
had squatted among the Pottawattomies, in Aurora Township, in the same year.
Capt. Dodson took a contract, during the year, 1836, to construct the canal, and became acquainted with Col.
Archer. At that time, Dodson owned, aside from his Clybournville and Geneva property, a mill on the Kishwaukee,
which he wished to dispose of previous to signing the contract. Accordingly, he stated to the Colonel that he would
like to wait a few days before concluding their arrangements regarding the canal, and told him that he was going
on a journey Westward the next morning. " How far are you going ? " said Col. Archer." To Rock River."
"Do you know my daughter, Eliza ?" Dodson, who had met her while visiting his future wife, who attended
the same school, replied that he did. "Well, then," said Archer, "she is going to Rock River, too;
can't you take her ?" Dodson said he was going horseback. " Just the way she goes," said the Cononel.
A party of Chicago's "upper ten" had determined to leave the town the next day on an exploring trip across
the prairie, and Capt. Dodson was anxious to accompany them as far as their paths lay in the same direction. The
prospect of being delayed by Miss Archer was not at all agreeable, but, rather than displease the genial Colonel,
he consented. While eating dinner on the next day, the party passed, and, soon after, Capt. Dodson followed with
the lady, who hadfilled her saddle bags with provisions for the journey, and hurried on to overtake the advanced
company, whom they came up with just in the edge of town. Miss Archer's shoe was down at the heel, as usual, as
they approached, and hovered over the surface of the earth like a gigantic snow shoe or a small canoe suspended
in the upper air from her toe. Col. Hamilton, one of the party, noticing its peculiar appearance, she explained
by saying that those shoes were "old Whitlock's," her landlord's, and that she had given him hers, as
his own were too small for him.
FIRST DEATH AND BIRTH.
Andrew Mills died in 1836, and was the first adult buried in the old village cemetery.
In these early times there were few routes of travel, but the whole country lay open to the tramp, and he could take his choice for a footpath. The highway was bounded by the rising sun on the east and the setting sun on the west, instead of fences as now, but there were a few main paths from important points, which even then were followed with little variation. These were at first trails, the origin of which must be sought beyond the limits of history, amid the traditional lore of the Kickapoos or the Pottawattomies, the later occupants of the soil. They existed when the first white wanderer entered Kane County, and for aught that is known to the contrary, some of them were old when La Salle sailed down the Illinois River in the Winter of 1679-80.
The most noted and doubtless the only one of these trails through Geneva extended from Chicago westward to Geneva
village, past the present site of the cheese factory, south of the big spring, near Haight's old house, and thence
on across the township to Galena. This trail was traveled by the Herringtons, in 1835, and by the earlier settlers,
and a part of it at least was at a later date surveyed and regularly laid out, thus becoming the permanent thoroughfare.
The first school in Geneva was taught in the Winter of 1835-36, by Mrs. Samuel Sterling, on the place now owned
by E. Danford, north of the village. The school house was the Samuel Sterling residence, built of logs, and, unlike
the other houses in the neighborhood, had a stone floor of the original limestone flagging, lying just as the last
universal convulsion had left it. It stood on the river bank where the ledge lies but a short distance below the
surface of the ground. Mrs. S. was hired by Mr. Herrington, and paid by subscriptions from the few settlers in
the vicinity, and ruled over about a dozen pupils.
COUNTY POOR HOUSE.
The county poor farm is situated on the East Side, and extends slightly beyond the township line of Batavia. It was formerly owned by E. Lee, and the house, once occupied by his family as a dwelling, was fitted for the first poor house, but being found inconvenient for the purpose, both in size and structure, a substantial stone building was put up in 1872, at a cost of about $15,000. The farm occupies 180 acres.