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


So far as can be ascertained with any degree of correctness, the first settlement was made in Plato Township in the early part of 1835. In the Spring of this year, John Griggs and son, also named John, came from Ohio and took up claims adjoining each other in the southwest part of the township. They had lived for some time in Du Page County, but came here, as above stated, in the Spring of 1835, and made permanent settlements. A man named Judkins located a claim this same Spring, and built on it, but sold out soon after and returned to his old home in Indiana. He and Griggs, Sr., built about the same time, and to one of them, but which one cannot now be determined, belongs the honor of erecting the first house in Plato Township. That built by the elder Griggs is still standing, having survived the sunshine and the storms. of more than forty years, that of its builder more than a decade. He kept the first tavern in the township, a small log house, and as it was on the direct stage line from St. Charles to Galena, he in that early time had plenty of patronage. As "mine host," he entertained his guests with plenty to eat and to drink, and his hospitality was proverbial far and wide. He died in 1861. John Griggs, Jr., still owns his original claim made in 1835, but has recently moved to Genoa, and his son, Eugene Griggs, occupies the old homestead.

John S. Lee, another of the early settlers, when about 19 years of age, came to Kane County from Putnam County, N. Y., in July, 1835. In the December following, he made the claim upon which he still lives. He owns a fine farm of over five hundred acres.

There were then but three log huts in the entire settlement, and the few families there did their milling in Du Page County, near Naperville, until several years later, when they went to Boardeman's, on the east side of the river, near Batavia, and, later still, to Elgin.

Mr. Lee was elected Justice of the Peace in 1840, and was the second in the township (John Griggs, Sr., was the first), and, after holding the office nine years, resigned.

Dr. L. S. Tyler came to Udina, in Plato Township, from Orange County, Vt., early in 1836, and located a claim. John Ranstead came about the same time, and took up a claim near Tyler's, and for a while both lived together. A family of Merrills were living near Udina at that time, but of them nearly all trace is lost. Mr. Ranstead died a few years ago, and his son-in-law, Mr. Britton, now lives on the old original farm. Dr. Tyler; finding no opening in Chicago, came to this township and went to work. He was eight years at Udina, and was the first regular physician in the town.

The following anecdote is illustrative of the. hardships of those early times: In December, 1836, Dr. Tyler had been to see a man named Moore, between his claim and Dundee, and had gone in a wagon drawn by two horses. They (Ranstead was with Tyler) started to return home about 4 o'clock in the evening. Three miles distant, they came to Tyler Creek, so called from two families of Tylers who had settled near its mouth, in Elgin Township. It was frozen, had partly thawed, and dropped down so as to form a letter V. It was a very cold night, and the moon shone clear. After some deliberation, they concluded to see whether the horses would break in, and so took them from the wagon for that purpose. Ranstead led in first, and the horse broke in. Tyler then led the other, a rather poor old horse, into the creek. He was badly shod, and, his feet slipping from under him, he fell twice, when he gave up. Ranstead went to Olds', who lived a mile distant, for oxen to pull the horse out, while Tyler remained, in water up to his waist, and held up the horse's head, meantime, to prevent him drowning. A rather worthless cur, with somewhat questionable habits, which was with them, when the oxen came seized one of them by the nose, which set up a hideous bellowing and ran home. They then bethought themselves to fasten a rope to the horse in the creek, and haul him out with the other, which they successfully accomplished, and, leaving him on the bank, wrapped in blankets, they went to Olds' to supper, having previously given the horse the remainder of a bottle of whisky which Olds had that day bought in Elgin, and was thoughtful enough to bring to the rescue. After supper, they went home, and it was so cold that, next morning, the ice would bear the wagon and team, and they were crossed over in safety. Dr. Tyler moved to Elgin in 1849.

Dr. Daniel Pingree came to Plato Township, in 1838, from New Hampshire, as noticed in the history of Rutland Township. After taking up his claim, he spent several years in traveling, and in teaching in the Southern States, mostly in Tennessee, occasionally visiting his claim in Illinois. He studied medicine, and graduated in February, 1849, at the Indiana Medical College, when he went to California, and practiced his profession in the Golden State for several years. He returned, in 1860, and located permanently on his claim in Plato Township, where he continues the practice of medicine. He has devoted considerable attention to the raising of Norman horses, and owns some fine specimens of that famous breed.

William Hanson, a native of England, came to this township, in 1839, and took up a claim one mile south of Plato Center, upon which he is still living. He is Town Treasurer, an office he has held without change since 1844.

Thomas Burnidge, when but a minor, came with his parents from Massachusetts, and settled at Plato Center, in 1840. He is still living, but the old couple "sleep with their fathers."

Indians were plenty in the country at the time of the early settlement of the township. When Mr. John S Lee came to the town, in 1835, there were large numbers, he informed us, in this section. Though perfectly harmless at that time, they were rather disposed to be lazy, were arrant beggars, and required watching, owing to a slight disposition on their part to take little things not strictly belonging to them. The last of them were removed to their reservation, in 1836, made them by the United States Government.

The first birth, or one of the first, in the township, was Abijah Lee, born September 4, 1839, who, from the best information to be obtained, is believed to have been the first white child born in the new settlement. One of the most noteworthy facts connected with this, the first born, is that he entered the army of the Union, at the commencement of the late war, where he continued faithfully serving his country until peace crowned her arms.

John S. Lee, already mentioned as one of the earliest settlers of Plato, and Miss Perry, of Campton, were the first couple married.

The "grim monster" appears to have favored this community, for no death had occurred until the population had increased to such an extent that the event was not felt nor noticed as it would have been in a more sparsely settled neighborhood, and there is no one now who remembers the first to cross the dark river.

A post office was established at Plato Corners, near the south line of the township, somewhere between 1840 and 1844, but was discontinued, after a few years, since which time the citizens of that section have mostly gotten their mail from Elgin. In 1854, they obtained an office at North Plato, of which Freeman Temple was the first Postmaster. Three years after, he was succeeded by C. M. Campbell, who held the office until 1859, when it was discontinued. It was re-established in 1869, with H. Eastman as Postmaster. After holding the office for four years, he was succeeded by L. E. Bamber, who held it until 1876, when he in turn was succeeded by Charles Cole, the present incumbent. A post office was established at Plato Center, with Thomas Burnidge as Postmaster, during the Presidential term of Andrew Johnson, but, after existing for seven years, was discontinued. In 1877, they again petitioned for an office, but from some cause failed to obtain it.

The first store in Plato Township was established at Plato Corners in 1848, by Levi Jackman, of Elgin, who, after a few years' business, closed it out and returned whence he came. The next of which we have an authentic account was opened in North Plato in 1854 by Freeman Temple, who continued it about four years, when he was succeeded by other parties, who, with some changes, have kept it in operation to the present day.

The cheese factories in this township are three in number. The first was built in 1866, two and a half miles southeast of Plato Center, and was run by Duncan Johnson, who finally became the owner of it. It was consumed by fire in March, 1876, and so speedily rebuilt that it was in operation again in two months from the burning. Soon after rebuilding, he sold this factory to Hawthorne & Brother, of Elgin, who are still running it and doing a good business, Sometime before making this sale, Johnson built a factory at Plato Center, and commenced business in March, 1874. It is a good and substantial framy building, two stories high, and runs, upon an average, up to its full capacity. In 1873, Peck & Son built a factory at North Plato. It is a stout frame two story and basement, and remains in good condition. Messrs. Peck & Son are still the owners, but for the two past seasons it has been operated by R. R. Stone, of Elgin. It is doing a very good business, but at present is not running up to the average capacity. These factories make up most of the milk for their patrons, but what is not thus made up is bought from them direct. A large portion of the farmers in Plato Township are having their milk worked up at home; only a few along the north boundary shipping from Pingree Grove.

The first church in the township was built at Udina, by the Congregationalists, in 1852. The society was originally organized in 1848 by Rev. N. C. Clarke, of Elgin, and the first preacher in charge of the little flock was Rev. Mr. Taylor, who, after one year's services, was succeeded by Rev. Mr. French. He remained in charge three years. Up to this time, the society had worshiped in the school house, but this year (1852) a good, comfortable frame building was erected, and formally dedicated by Rev. Mr. Clarke, who became the first Pastor of the society in their new temple. The church at present numbers 62 members on its roll of membership, and is under the pastoral charge of Rev. Mr. Sawers. A few years subsequent to the building of the church at Udina, the old Scotch Presbyterian, or Covenanters, erected a church in the "Northeast Corner" of Plato, near the line of Rutland Township, known as Washington Church, a name it still bears. Rev. Mr. Stewart was their first minister. Rev. Mr. Gaily is at present in charge. Sometime about 1865-67, the younger element, becoming more liberal in their views and dissatisfied with some of the extreme tenets of the old church, seceded and built a church of their own but a few rods distant, and which goes by the name of American Presbyterians. Being young and weak both in numbers and in finances, they feel themselves unable to support a preacher exclusively, and their pulpit is filled by Rev. Mr. Sawers, Pastor of the Congregational Church at Udina. Both of these Presbyterian Churches are near the Rutland line, and are supported principally by the Rutland people. The Methodist Episcopal Church, at Plato Center, is an elegant frame edifice, built in 1859. The first sermon preached in it was by Rev. T. M. Eddy, of Chicago, who formally dedicated it to the worship of God on the 7th day of December of that year. The ministers in charge during its first year of existence were Revs. Woolsey and Call. The society was organized about the year 1848, and worshiped first in the Town House and afterward in the school house, which they occupied until the building of the church. It is in a flourishing condition, has a large membership and is under the spiritual guidance of Rev. Mr. Whitcomb.

A church was built at North Plato, in 1873, by the Scotch Presbyterians. It is a handsome edifice, and cost about $3,000. Rev. Mr. McDougall was the minister in charge at the time of its erection. Other societies were formed there several years anterior to this period, viz., Baptists, Free Will Baptists, Methodist Episcopal, Free Methodist, etc., who worshiped in the school house. All of these societies have either dwindled away or been merged into the Freewill Baptists, who alone now occupy the church. The Presbyterians still hold the church property, but from some cause have not used it for the past year. The first preacher permanently stationed in the town was Rev Mr. Elmore, a sort of missionary sent hither by the Baptists, about the year 1845. Transient ministers, however, had occasionally preached in the township previous to his coming. He organized a society at Plato Center about that time, but how long it existed no one now living can tell. A school house was built at Plato Corners in the year 1840. It was a log structure, and the walls of it are still standing This was unmistakably the first school house built in the township. The first school was a general subscription school, and was taught by Charlotte Griggs. In examining the old school records, the first entry we find is as follows: "At a meeting of Trustees of Schools, held at the house of Solomon Ellison, October 23, 1841, there were present Stephen Archer and Franklin Bascom, Trustees, who appointed J. S. Burdick Treasurer." The bond required by law, as the records of that date further show, was duly made by him and accepted by the Trustees, they themselves being "qualified according to law by John S. Lee, Justice of the Peace." At a meeting held November, 1841, the Trustees "proceeded to lay off said Township into School Districts, as follows, to wit: Sections 1, 2, 3, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 22, 23 and 24 shall be known as District No. 1; Sections 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 16, 17 and 18 as District No. 2; Sections 19, 20, 21, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32 and 33 as District No. 3, or Chicken Grove; Sections 25, 26, 27, 34, 35 and 36 as District No. 4 or Otter Creek." After which the Trustees proceeded to appoint Directors for each district as laid out. At a meeting held December, 1841, "It was ordered by the Trustees, at the request of the legal voters of said township, that the Treasurer give legal notice that an election be held on the 8th of January, 1842, for the purpose of incorporating said township," and at a meeting held on the day named, at J. S. Burdick's, "It was unanimously resolved that the township be incorporated." Signed by L. S. Tyler, David Bogue, Russell Throll, John S. Lee, J. S. Burdick, School Trustees, who were elected for the township at this meeting.

The following teachers also received certificates of qualifications: D. McNichols and Sarah Ann Burdick.

The following is a list of the children coming under the School Law, according to the report made May 1, 1843: District No. 1, 24; District No. 2, 28; District No. 3, 23; District No. 4, 46; District Union 3, 30; District Union 5, 25; total, 176.

The report made October 1, 1847, showed the number of districts to be eight, with a total number of children under 21 years of age, 407. At a subsequent meeting, the following teachers received certificates of qualifications: Mary Field, Maria Harpending, Olivia Watkins, Martin Burdick. At a meeting, January 6, 1844, William Hanson was elected Treasurer, and "his bond accepted."

The following report of schools was made in 1851: Number of schools, 7: number of male teachers, 4; number of female teachers, 8; highest compensation paid per month, $12.00; lowest compensation paid per week, $1.50; number of scholars attending, 250; number of districts, 10; number of school houses, 5; number of frame school houses, 3; number of log school houses, 2: amount of school funds, $1,582.47; children under 21 years of age, 417.

The report made in 1877 showed nine districts wholly in the township, with three union districts, all with good substantial frame buildings, and the estimated value of school property, $5,400.00; estimated value of school libraries, $70.00; present school fund, $3,180.08.

Plato Township compares favorably with any in the county as regards educational facilities.

The Railroads of Plato are few and far between. About a half mile or perhaps a mile of the Chicago & Pacific Railroad burdens its soil, just clipping off the northeast corner of the town. Pingree Grove station, on the above road, is near the township line, however, and affords the citizens convenient facilities for shipping.

The old State road, from Chicago to Galena, which was the first road built through this section, likewise takes off a very small corner of the township. But the first road of any consequence to the town was the stage road from St. Charles to Galena, intersecting the old State road at Belvidere, and was the road on which Griggs' tavern stood, as mentioned further back.

Plato Township is known as Township 41 North, Range 7 East, with an assessed valuation, in 1877, of $460,244.00.

Originally, Plato, Burlington, with portions of Campton and Virgil, were known as Campton Precinct. It was divided in 1840, and Plato and Burlington called Washington Precinct.

In those primitive days, there seems to have been wire pulling in political circles as well as in these corrupt times, as evidenced in the fact that at the election of 1840, the Whigs, who were vastly in the minority, the town being Democratic, succeeded by some political hocus pocus in electing their petty officers. There not being offices enough to accommodate all who desired those little honors, the precinct was again divided in 1844, Plato still retaining the name of Washington.

In 1848, when the State was divided into townships, by Government survey, this township was called Homer, but at the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors, it was found that there was another Homer in the State, and this must be again changed. Bent upon having a name, however, memorable in ancient lore, the name of Plato was suggested, ostensibly for Willliam B. Plato, of Geneva, but more particularly, perhaps, for the ancient philosopher. The name was unanimously adopted and has been retained to the present day.

The hamlets of Plato Township are Plato Center and North Plato, situated wholly in the township, and Udina and Pingree Grove, located astride the lines. The last two named have been mentioned, the one in the history of the Rutland and the other of Elgin Township.

Plato Center has a store, recently opened by Luzi Schneller; a steam feed mill, owned and operated by Fred Van Nostrand; a grocery store and cheese factory, by Duncan Johnson, and an excellent school house.

North Plato has a store, by C. M. Campbell: a post office; a blacksmith shop; a cheese factory, owned by Peck & Son, and a good school house.

Cemeteries, of which the township has several, though they are rather small and thinly inhabited; that adjacent to the Methodist Episcopal Church, at Plato Center, is well kept and quite a beautiful place. The first burial within its precincts was a child of George Abbot, in 1853.

The burying ground of the Congregational Church at Udina is a lovely spot, beautifully ornamented with shrubs and evergreens. The first occupant was Benjamin F. Knapp, buried there in 1842.

Politically, Plato Township is Republican, though in the old days of Whiggery, it was largely Democratic.

Its war record is good, turning out, as it did, its full complement of soldiers to battle for the old flag, several of whom rose in rank to important official positions.

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