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


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.

These earliest settlers were, as has been seen, mainly from Indiana. Several of them were in the country in 1833, and of these it may now be considered impossible to state which was first. From a statement made by Payne to Squire E. S. Town and others, Haight is generally considered to have preceded the others; but, in regard to the priority of time of several of the earliest of those in the present township of Geneva, nothing positive can be stated. They were a simple and generous people, honest themselves, as has been stated, and, as is often the case among such people, believing in the honesty of every one. An illustration of this faith in others is given by the authority who has already been so frequently quoted. Col. Archer, of Indiana, formerly from Kentucky, was a great man in 1836, for he held the high position of an Illinois & Michigan Canal Commissioner, compared with which the Governor of one of the Western States was as a mole hill to the Pharos of Alexandria; but this potentate was a Hoosier. He was a gentleman, however, possessed of a nature which won the friendship both of the low and mighty; was possessed of an ample fortune, and an only daughter, whose name was Eliza, whose chief delight was to squander it. This girl was, in many respects, unique among her sex, not in being spoiled by her parents, but in the possession of a stature almost gigantic, a foot which would rival in magnitude a plantation negro's, and a disposition to which fear was utterly unknown. With all these shocking deformities, Eliza Archer possessed the feminine characteristics of a handsome face and form. Previous to her importation to Chicago, where she was attending school, at the time this incident commences, she had whiled away her leisure hours by riding wild colts, barebacked and unbridled, over the southern fields, and in frightening her unhappy father in various other ways, too shocking to the modern belle to be here narrated. At school, she did precisely as she pleased - lavished money in reckless profusion upon her person, neglected her studies, took off her shoes and stockings in recitation, appeared barefooted in the school room, and was generally decidedly independent. Still, Miss Archer was a good young lady, and the above are merely slight eccentricities which her friends readily forgave.

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.

Col. Hamilton informed them that the best road to their destination was by way of the old army trail, across Kane County, and soon after, the company separated, the two who were bound for Rock River taking the course designated. At night, they drew up at Kent's House, at Mecham's Grove, where the young lady amused the company with her wit and passed for Dodson's wife, until bedtime dispelled the illusion.

Arriving, the next day at noon, at the cabin of a Mr. Gifford, many miles west of their lodging place of the previous night, the stubborn damsel refused all entreaties to stop and take dinner, and, hurrying her horse past the place to a grove a mile or more away, dismounted from her horse, " Packenham," and, having secured him, proceeded to unburden the saddle bags and eat. Capt. Dodson followed her example. Then mounting their horses, Miss Eliza held hers long enough to observe that she was dying with thirst, and then

"-loosed him with a sudden lash; Away ! away !
and on they dash, Torrents less rapid and less
rash. Town, village-none were on their track,
But a wild plain of far extent, And bounded by a
forest black "

They rode till their thirst was insupportable, their tongues swollen and they ready to drop from their steeds, when, turning his eye to the left, Capt. Dodson noticed a little lake almost hidden in the trees, which they had approached and nearly passed. Wheeling his horse, he reeled to the bank and drank as if whole waves could never satisfy him. His rash friend, too, with even less than her usual modesty, stretched herself at full length, drowned her thirst, and then declared that Packenham should go into the water and get cool. But our informant had noticed that the shore was formed of a thin muck, which sunk beneath the slightest pressure, and told her, in decided terms, that she must not attempt to ride in, as the horse could not possibly turn without falling. This was enough to determine her to ride in, if all Illinois opposed her, and in she went, for, on attempting to regain the shore, Dodson's words were verified; the horse went down and, having her shoe in the stirrup, Miss Archer sailed, with her costly wrappings, into the mud and water; but, regaining her hands and feet at the moment Packenham arose, she scrambled out ahead of him just in season to escape being trodden beneath his hoofs. There," she laughed, as she arose from the mud, "I've lost old Whitlock's shoe." But, to shorten a long story, they arrived at the Rock River without any further adventures, Miss Archer having ridden, incrusted in mud, from the little lake in the condition in which she emerged from her involuntary baptism, swam the river, and she was welcomed by her friends on the opposite shore. Mr. Dodson left their house the next day, traveled to his destination, and, after selling his mill property, returned for the lady, whom he had warned to be ready, that he might not be delayed. But upon his arrival she had made no preparation to return, and after her horse had been led to the door she suddenly concluded, at the solicitations of her friends, that she would not go. The suggestion of the persecuted Dodson that her father would expect her and require an explanation from him were of no avail, and he was obliged to leave without her. Miss Archer made her appearance some ten days after his arrival in Chicago, greatly to the relief of the Colonel and Capt. Dodson, the latter of whom had, until then, been treated with marked coldness since his arrival without her. This journey was, probably, the most romantic of the early ones across the country.

Capt. Dodson, the first of the early settlers now living in the county, still resides in the village of Geneva. Mrs. Dodson is also living. Miss Archer subsequently married a planter, and lives in one of the Southern States, and we are informed that Col. Archer, her father, now more than 80 years of age, was a member of the last Illinois Legislature.

The wonderful strides which have been made in forty years in the progress of all parts of the county connot be better appreciated than by observing that upon that memorable drive whole townships were passed without the appearance of a house, fence or single evidence of civilization, and there was not a railroad then in the entire State of Illinois. The absence of wood and water deterred, for several years, settlers from locating in Geneva Township east and west of the cluster of pioneers along the river. Particularly on the West Side, where a small prairie stretched away into the present Township of Blackberry, was this absence of woodland calculated to discourage Eastern men; but before the close of the year 1839 the real value of this section was seen to be superior, in many respects, to any other in the township, and the land had been generally taken up. Its value has greatly increased since then, not merely from its being settled and cultivated, but from the disappearance of many of the sloughs, which formerly rendered large tracts along Mill Creek worthless. This creek was reported by the Government Surveyors as a navigable stream for steamers - a statement too prodigiously absurd to require comment, and conclusive evidence to any one who has attempted to cross it, excepting by the regular highways, that the author of it had been " ditched " there. Among the earliest of the immigrants to perceive that the prairie land was worth taking up were a Mr. Cheever, on the place now known as the Lilly Farm; William Sykes, who settled about 1839 southwest of the village, upon the present Town place; Lyman German, about 1837, on the East Side, upon land now owned by Messrs. Joy & Woolston, while John R. Baker was on the banks of the "stream navigable for steamers" previous to the sale of Government land. Scotto Clark, who came from Boston in 1837, and purchased from Wheeler, also Peter Sears, who were early settlers upon the East Side; Robert Lester, originally from the north of Ireland, later from Canada, settled in the same year upon the same side, having purchased of Julius Alexander, then residing upon the tract, and is living there still, while Even Danford purchased the old Bird place, upon the opposite side, which is his residence to this day.


Andrew Mills died in 1836, and was the first adult buried in the old village cemetery.
In 1835, the first birth in the township occurred, being in the family of Edward Trimble.


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 road from Geneva to St. Charles, on the West Side, was surveyed by Mark Fletcher, in 1838. It is now one of the most beautiful drives in the country, is graveled from St. Charles to Batavia, and is always good, whatever may be the condition of the highways in other parts of the country. No road in Northern Illinois traverses a more beautiful country or one in which wealth has been more generally expended upon every home. Scarcely a poor dwelling appears throughout the entire drive the grounds around nearly all are under excellent cultivation, while the same uninterrupted elegance and wealth continue to Aurora, a distance of eleven miles. The road follows the various curves of the river during almost the entire distance, and, seen with its ripples sparkling in a Summer's sun, through the occasional openings in the foliage, it recalls to the pleasure seeker the days when a deeper mantle of leaves overhung its banks and no manufactories or mills blackened its wavelets.


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.

The next schools were located in the village, and will be noticed under the proper head.

After the school law went into operation, Geneva became intimately connected with Batavia, in the management of her public institutions of learning, and several of her districts lie partly in one township and partly in another.

There are now nine school districts in the two townships, all of which are supplied with houses and are generally' under competent management.

The estimated valuation of the school property in Geneva Township and village is about $30,000. In no one of the institutions indicative of an advanced civilization has progress been more apparent than in the facilities for education in this and the adjoining townships.

Forty years ago, there were only two schools within an extent of a dozen miles up and down the river and directly westward to the vicinity of Dixon, and these two were in operation during only four or five months in the year.


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.

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