History of the City of St. Charles, Il Part 2
From: The Past and Present Kane County, Illinois
Wm. Le Baron, Jr. & Company
Chicago 1878


Several destructive fires have occurred aside from those already mentioned. Two stores have been destroyed upon the site of the building afterward erected by Minard & Osgood, and now occupied by W. F. Osgood & Co.; and a conflagration, in 1843, destroyed the buildings west of Hunt's Mills Epidemics have also visited the place and spread destruction in their track, and at this point a few brief remarks upon the prevailing


of the county when first settled, and their modifications and successors, will not be irrelevant to the subject under consideration, since no other town in the county suffered as much from them at one period as did St. Charles, although its location is — generally speaking — extremely healthful. As in other regions of the West, intermittent and remittent bilious fevers sorely afflicted the pioneers, and probably shortened the lives of many; yet, when "there were scarcely well people enough to take care of the sick," the mortality from the above diseases was surprisingly light. Their effect was rather to postpone improvements and retard labor. But pernicious fevers properly belong to a lower latitude. Dysentery and erysipelas were far more malignant and fatal than now. About 1847, the intermittents began to give way to typhoid fevers — rare previously — and, though generally mild, the latter carried off quite a number, until about 1857, when diphtheria and cerebro-spinal diseases displaced it to a marked extent. From 1857 to the present time, diphtheria has made many households desolate; while its ally and next of kin, scárletina, has been increasing the bills of infantile. mortality. It would seem that the most striking change of diseased action was a relief from bilious and malarious maladies, and an increase of those affecting the blood and nerves. Since the abatement of malaria, consumptive disease is also probably a little on the increase. These discouraging statements are more than offset, however, by the increasing vigor of the general population, and by the rapidly diminishing death rate from infantile dysentery and cholera infantum, which are not one fourth as prevalent nor one tenth as fatal as in 1845. Then, these complaints commenced in May, but now, they are deferred until August, and "Dr. Frost" comes to the relief of the juvenile sufferers. On the whole, the health of the people has steadily improved since the first settlement, and St Charles and the vicinity are now—and ever have been—as salubrious, at least, as any locality in the State. Malarious diseases yielded to the lowering of the beds of the river and water courses, constantly going on, thus increasing the rapidity of their currents; the cultivation of the soil, the thinning of the densest strips of timber, prairie fires, better water, and other causes; and the hope will be doubtless realized that blood and nervous diseases will also yield to hygiene when more generally taught in the public schools.

The above meager notice will be more complete by adding a short account of the visit of Asiatic cholera to Kane County, which first appeared in Aurora in 1849, and, invading all the river towns with more or less fatal results, disappeared in 1854. It may be safely estimated that from three hundred to three hundred and fifty victims yielded to the cold embrace of the destroyer in the above period, within the limits of the county. Two thirds of these were foreign emigrants, who brought the seeds of the disease with them. This was notably the case in St. Charles, where the Swedes suffered the most — the cholera decimating a small colony. We have it on the best authority that cholera killed far more people than is now commonly imagined, as its presence was often denied by well meaning people, and physicians denounced for calling public attention to genuine cases. This policy was sometimes suicidal. It was at first hoped and believed that Dr. Eastman, a talented physician, of Aurora, had hit upon an efficient treatment, but events proved that no physician in the county or elsewhere could boast of signal success in staying its ravages where it had once appeared; and more than one of Dr. Eastman's own family fell victims to the epidemic. A few dozen sporadic cases, so called, occurred in Elgin, Batavia, Clintonville, and even in Geneva, during the Summers of those five years, and quite a number of them were fatal; but, in 1852, St. Charles had to bear the brunt of the disease, which appeared there in its most malignant form.

The name of Dr. H. M. Crawford deserves honorable mention here for his faithful treatment of the sufferers, and for the warning which he sounded in season and in the face of strong opposition, thus preventing, in a great measure, the fearful spread of the contagion which must otherwise have occurred. No doubt there are many who daily walk the streets of St. Charles whose lives were saved by him at that time; and he risked his own for the public welfare, as so many zealous physicians have done from time immemorial. As already mentioned, the Doctor was one of the last of the early settlers, having sailed from Ireland, where he had received a thorough education at various colleges, and arrived in New York in the Spring of 1848. Forming an unexpected liking for the Americans, he made the tour of the States, and, being delayed in St. Charles by a snow storm, in The Fall of the above year, he was induced to settle in the town and practice his profession. He soon established a reputation, scarcely paralleled in the State, as a surgeon and physician, and his practice has been unsurpassed, at least for devoted and laborious philanthropy. In July, 1852, a case of cholera occurred on the East Side, the patient being one of the first arrivals of a considerable body of Swedes. Dr. Crawford, who was called to attend him, quietly advised his immediate isolation, and also the separation of the sick from the well in other families—suspecting the existence of cholera germs among them The suggestion was disregarded. "It is only typhus," said some, and the cold pestilence was allowed to take refuge by other firesides. As many as a dozen of those exposed to the contagion took refuge in an abandoned cooper's shop, which was soon a hospital, while other houses occupied shortly presented the same appearance. Dr. Crawford and one faithful nurse stood to their posts, night and day, unaided and alone, for nearly a week, until some benevolent ladies came to the rescue with full hands and kind hearts, and the village authorities, with their eyes now opened by the death of some five citizens and nearly twice as many Swedes, hastened to establish a hospital, and appointed. Dr. Crawford as physician in charge. These hastily improvised shanties stood on the Aldrich place (then woods), north of the town, and, although the death rate was high, the needed generosity of the St. Charles people was nobly exhibited, and all done which could be done under the circumstances.

The nurse who assisted Dr. Crawford in the first outbreak sacrificed her life to save her suffering friends and neighbors, and the writer regrets his inability to ascertain her name. After a first attack of cholera, she relapsed from going to her work too soon and despite the best efforts of her physician, succumbed among those she had helped to save. The annals of the human race present few instances of a more exalted heroism than that exhibited by this nameless woman, and her memory should be forever embalmed in the hearts of the citizens of St. Charles. The glory of the conqueror or the statesman is mean and contemptible compared with hers, for personal interest could have had nothing to do with her devotion. When the inevitable decay which awaits all that man can build hags become the last inhabitant of the village in which she suffered and died, and its shapely masses of material shall have crumbled back into the original dust from whence they arose, let her faithfulness be remembered. Especially should her own countrymen honor her with an immortality which the granite shaft or marble mausoleum can never confer. Let them teach her story to their children as soon as they are old enough to understand the meaning of words, as one of the rarest recorded exhibitions of philanthropy, and let them in turn continue its rehearsal to their offspring, from generation to generation, down to the most distant ages.

At least seventy five persons lost their lives at this time in the city and township of St. Charles alone; and it is clear that as many more would have died had it not been for the heroic devotion of a few who made an unselfish effort in their behalf.

During this epoch, several cases of an amusing as well as tragic character occurred. One illustrates the toleration of "heroic" and even poisonous doses by cholera patients. John Maguire, living east of St. Charles, came home from Chicago in the clutches of the prevailing disease. His son hastened to St. Charles, only to see Dr. Crawford taking his departure, on a fleet horse, in a furious rain storm. A vial dropped unbroken from his pocket in a pool of water, and, seeing that he could not overtake the doctor, the young man hied home with the medicine. The father, in the agony of the disease, seized the vial as the son approached and swallowed at a dose the contents, viz., one oz. of laudanum and an equal amount of creasote. He is still living, in the State of Iowa. A powerful Swede, fifty years of age, would trust to nothing but prayer and water, and waded, while in cholera, into the middle of the river and raising his hands in supplication to Heaven, fell into the deep water. He was rescued from the stream only to die of the disease in a few moments after being conveyed to the old " cooper shop " for medical treatment.

A family of Pennsylvanians by the name of Camp, consisting of husband, wife and six children, passed through St. Charles, westward, in July of the following year, when they were attacked with cholera on the road west of the town. Three, including Mr. C., died on the road in a deserted log shanty, which stood above King's Mill Creek, near where Lake's cheese factory now stands, in Campton Township. When under the shelter of this poor refuge the balance of the family were gathered, the insatiable monster was not at all contented with his havoc, but immediately sieze d upon all the others. The neighbors bravely flocked to their assistance. Dr. Crawford was called, and at the end of three days and nights of unremitting labor pronounced all safe, with careful management. One interesting and beautiful girl of 19, who had hung tremblingly in the balance between life and death for three days, was cheerful again and convalescent. The mother was ordered to see to it that no food should be given unless by the hand of the doctor, and she was not to be raised in the bed. But no sooner did the uncontrollable sleep overcome for a few minutes the giver of this order, than the poor girl, yielding to the morbid desire for food, persuaded her mother to fetch her a tin cup of bread and milk, a large spoonful of which she greedily swallowed. A faint cry awoke the doctor, whose head had rested against a projecting log, the cup was snatched from the trembling hand and the head quickly lowered, but all efforts at resuscitation were unavailing, and Annie Camp, like a rosebud stricken from the stem by some rude blast, was laid with her father and three brothers on the north bank of the little stream.


The railroad history of this city is of melancholy interest. After the Chicago & Galena Railroad Company had extended their track from Chicago to Turner Junction, the people of St. Charles began to discuss the prospect of obtaining a further extension to their own town. Ira Minard was active in advocating the feasibility of the plan, and subsequently liberal in securing its operation.

In 1849, a road was commenced from the city to connect with the Chicago & Galena track, three miles northwest of the Junction; and on the 12th of December, in the same year, the first train entered St. Charles, and the scream of the locomotive was heard for the first time in Kane County, or in the Fox River Valley. In the following August, the Chicago & Galena Road completed their track to Elgin, and changed their route from St. Charles to that place. The citizens of St. Charles, seeing that the salvation of their town depended upon the thoroughfare which they had opened, took the matter into their own hands and ran two trains a day from their town to the Junction. Ira Minard controlled it until October, 1856, when it passed into other hands. The depot stood upon the East Side, just east of the position now occupied by the Free Methodist Church. B. D. Mallory was the Agent from August to November, 1850, and Leonard Howard from the latter date until 1857.

In 1853, Minard and others obtained a charter for the St. Charles & Galena Air Line Road, into which the charter previously granted for the Branch Track was merged. Ira Minard became President of the company, and heavy stock was taken all along the line; while at Galena the people contributed handsomely, as the road would, when completed, furnish them a competing thoroughfare with the. Chicago & Galena Road and the Illinois Central, as well as a more direct route to Chicago.

The Chicago & Galena Road, commenced with the ostensible purpose of extending to Galena, had never approached nearer that town than Freeport, but from there had depended upon the Illinois Central track. The inhabitants of the place, groaning under the monopoly of a single thoroughfare, rejoiced at, the prospect of completion. In an evil hour, one E. C. Litchfield, from Cazenovia, N. Y., appeared in St. Charles, representing that he and his friends possessed sufficient means to build the railroad if he was allowed to take a controlling interest in the stock. He was permitted to subscribe for it, the thoroughfare was commenced and graded from Chicago to St. Charles, the culverts were generally built; also, the piers and abutments for a bridge across Fox River, and the track was laid for nine milos from Chicago. Minard had staked his whole ample fortune, $80,000, upon the success of the enterprise, while hundreds of poor men all along the line had taken stock for all they owned. It must be understood that Litchfield had promised that the road should be finished, and that it should not previously pass out of his hands into the possession of the Chicago & Galena, or any other competing line.

Never was a villainous scheme more successfully executed. When the controller of the stock had crippled the only man who had any power to oppose him, and was assured that any opposition to his own designs would result in that man's ruin, he coolly informed Minard that he had concluded to sell his stock to the Chicago & Galena Company, and promised to make ample reparation for any personal inconvenience which such a course might occasion him, if he would raise no objections. He was thus permitted to take his choice when there was no choice to take. The refusal and loss of his property could not have helped his friends, who were already ruined, nor saved his town, which was then doomed; and he, accordingly, took the course which any other sane man would have taken. The road ended at the Des Plaines River, and the grading upon the west bank of the Fox River, since it was not for the interest of the Chicago & Northwestern Company to continue it; $700,000, paid by the hard working farmers and industrious mechanics across the State, was lost, and many families reduced from wealth to poverty, and the useless piers stand to this day in Fox River, appropriate monuments to the perfidy of E. C. Litchfield. Minard has been unjustly blamed for his course in the disaster, but it is sufficiently apparent from the above that he was guiltless. The loss of the railroad was the severest blow ever given to the prosperity of St. Charles. It nearly annihilated the village for more than fifteen years. She had arisen triumphantly from pestilence and repeated conflagrations, but now many false prophets gravely shook their heads and quoted, with a dolorous whine, Byron's line,

"'Tis Greece, but living Greece no more,"

and declared that she would never rise again. But prophets are sometimes mistaken, as the sequel shows; and intelligent manufacturers were not so blind to their interests as to overlook such water power as the river affords at this point, nor were families of means and culture, who chanced to visit the town, unsusceptible to the charms of its natural surroundings. Glancing carelessly from the hill, on the West Side, up the river beyond the great stone piers, "to him who in the love of nature holds communion with her visible forms," the view is one which will never be forgotten. And then, where in Northern Illinois can the spot be found which rivals in beauty the grounds on the opposite bank, belonging to L. C. Ward, with the residence which rises above them, recalling in its commanding position and graceful architecture the stories of the Alhambra ? Such scenery had its effect, and the town gradually awoke. In 1870, in consideration of an agreement entered into with the * Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, by which the company promised, for the sum of $35,000, to be paid by the citizens of St. Charles, to build and operate perpetually a track connecting the place with the main line at Geneva, trains again entered the village. The entire cost of the road, including right of way, exceeded $4.5,000. The depot still used is a reconstructed dwelling, built by Capt. Richard Sargent. Since the completion of this track, business, which had already given some indications of reviving, has more than doubled, and the town may be considered in a more prosperous condition than ever before. In 1875, the place, which had formerly been under village government, became a city under the general statutes, and elected a Mayor and Board of Aldermen. The first Mayor was Dr. J. K. Lewis, one of the early physicians, the son of an old settler, and a man in every way qualified to hold the position.
* The new name for the old Chicago & Galena Railroad


Few cities of its size in the State present a more brilliant war record than St. Charles. The names of all her soldiers appear upon another page in this work, but a few deserve special notice. Among these Gen. J. F. Farnsworth occupies the front rank. By him the Eighth Illinois Cavalry was organized, in 1861, a regiment the most active of all the cavalry regiments in the Army of the Potomac. The General went out as Colonel, but was subsequently promoted. J. S. Van Patten, now in the Kane County Bank, was Quartermaster. Company A was raised in the city, and Company I in the county. Of the former, William G. Conklin (Second Lieutenant in the Sixth Illinois during the Mexican war) went as Captain, was promoted to the office of Major and resigned. The Colonel of the regiment (Farnsworth) served from 1861 to 1863, was in all the battles in front of Richmond, in 1862; at Antietam, Fredericksburg, South Mountain, and many of the smaller cavalry skirmishes, but in 1863 resigned to take his place in Congress, where he had been a Representative for four years before the outbreak of the rebellion, and where he remained for ten years after leaving the army. Previous to the great struggle, he had figured in the organization of the Republican party, was a strong Abolitionist and contributed in no small measure toward the Anti slavery movement. He still resides in St. Charles. It should here be mentioned that Capt. Conklin did gallant service in the Mexican war, as did Lieut. Lewis Norton, now in California. Thirty four men of the ninety four who enlisted for that struggle in the company formed in St. Charles, were killed or died of diseases contracted during their absence. In the Seventh Regiment (war of rebellion) we notice the names of George Sill and D. B. Chamberlin, still residents of the place. The Seventeenth Illinois Cavalry also rendezvoused at St. Charles in the Fall of 1863, where they were organized by Gen. Farnsworth. In the Thirty sixth A. H. Barry, well known at the Kane County bar and at present a resident of Elgin, was Major, and John Elliott, one of the first Board of Aldermen in St. Charles, was First Lieutenant. The latter was captured by the rebels and had many thrilling adventures and hair breadth escapes. The laws of the South were at that time the " Laws of Draco," and on one occasion Mr. Elliott was delivered to the civil authorities for some trivial offense and sentenced to be hanged He escaped by breaking through a box car, in which he was confined, and still preserves an unbroken spinal column in the city where he enlisted.

In the Fifty second, Capt. F. H. Bowman, now in the hardware business, H. N. Wheeler, editor of the St. Charles Leader, and Frank McMaster, now in Colorado, may be mentioned.

Dr. H. M. Crawford went ash Surgeon in the Fifty eighth, and found abundant scope for his high talents at Fort Donelson and Shiloh, where he earned an enviable record. At the battle field, the the regiment was broken up and decimated, and the doctor was assigned to the post of Chief Operator and to the charge of general hospitals, until its re-organization, in 1864. At the hospitals of Monterey and Corinth, he exerted himself so arduously in the care of the sick and wounded, that his health became seriously impaired. By a leave of absence, however, after the second battle of Bull Run, it was recruited, and he returned to the appointment of Chief Surgeon in Hospital No. 4, in Jackson, Tenn., and was subsequently promoted to Chief of Hospitals at La Grange, Tenn., where he again injured his health by his unremitting labor for the comfort of his patients. Light duties at Vicksburg were imposed in place of the laborious ones at La Grange. He was next Brigade Surgeon on Sherman's raid to Meridian, then Division Surgeon on Red River Expedition, and was Chief Operator for A. J. Smith's corps after Pleasant Hill and Yellow Bayou. From thence he again joined his regiment, and, after filling various other appointments with credit to himself, was honorably discharged in the Spring of 1865.

N. T. Roach was Commissary in the same regiment.

Capt. Richmond, now of Chicago, was a favorite of the One Hundred and Twenty seventh, and well deserving of the good will of his regiment, while Samuel W. Durant attained an honorable record in the same regiment as Quartermaster.


The cloud of desolation which at one time 'threatened to envelop all the interests of the town has, as we have seen, passed by, and the streets, from the crevices of whose sidewalks the grass was beginning to grow, are now thronged daily with life and activity, while several important manufactories are in successful operation. Prominent among these is the Hardware Company, represented and controlled by S. L. Bignall, which gives employment to fifty five men, and melts 1,000 tons of iron a year. The iron business was commenced about 1844, by Burdick & Clark, who built a small foundry, which subsequently passed into the hands of John Lloyd, who remained sole proprietor or partner in the business until his death, when, after some changes in ownership, it became the property of S. L. Bignall & Co., who sold, in 1876, to the S. L. Bignall Hardware Company, the stock company by which it is now owned. Pumps, windmills, grind stone fixtures, sad irons, corn shellers, and various articles for which Mr. B. possesses letters patent are manufactured. The buildings have recently enlarged to more than triple their original size, and the foundry and machine shops, combined, rank as one of the great manufactories of Fox River.

Brownell & Miller's paper mill, which is the old Debit mill enlarged, is operated in the manufacture of straw wrapping paper, of which about a car load is shipped weekly to Chicago. The quality is said to be as good as any in the market, and the company employ eighteen hands. The present proprietors purchased the building of O. M. Butler in 1867, and Mr. Miller states that it was the first manufactory of the kind west of the Ohio.

The St. Charles File Company — J. P. Doig and J. T. Gallagher — commenced operations in St. Charles in June, 1877, in the large stone shop back of Haines' mill, having previously been in the same business, between six and seven years, in Chicago, and gained in the meantime a No. 1 reputation for their files, which have, in a great measure, superseded the English ones, with which the Western market was previously stocked. They employ twenty two skilled workmen.

Louis Klink's Wagon and Carriage Shop, commenced in 1866, was the first establishment of the kind which has made that industry successful in St. Charles. His sales during the past year amounted to $20,000. The Doyle also have a similar manufactory, upon the east side of the river, and are considered excellent workmen.

St. Charles Mills. on the East Side, and already referred to, were purchased from William G. Conklin, in September, 1877, by A. Fredenhague, who operates them for both custom and merchant work. The building contains three run of stones, and four hands are employed.

R. J. Haines mill, upon the West Side, has received mention upon another page.

One of the great interests of the city is the dairy business, and farmers for a circuit of five miles send milk here to supply the cheese and butter factories. The building of the St. Charles Dairymen's Association, upon the East Side, one of the finest cheese factories in the United States, was erected in the Spring of 1872, cost $11,500, and has since received additions and improvements to the amount of $3,500. The association was chartered by the State, in April, 1877, and operates the factory for the patrons, making and selling the products, and deducting from the market price two and one half cents per pound for the manufacture of cheese, and five cents for butter.

The following statistics will convey to the reader a clear understanding of the extent of its patronage:



milk received

cheese made

butter made

















































Within the past Summer (1877), Martin Switzer has erected, upon the West Side, on the bank of a never failing spring brook, a stone cheese factory of vast dimensions, which will doubtless eventually obtain much of the patronage of that part of the township. As it has only been operated a part of the season, no fair estimate of the amount of its yearly business can be presented.

Leaving now the manufactories for the mercantile interests of the town, we find several large and elegant business blocks: W. F. Osgood's, L. C. 'Ward's and the one built on the West Side by John Gloss, during the Summer of 1877; also, on the East Side, the gigantic pile of stone which William Irwin, one of the early settlers, has been more than a score and a half of years in rearing. " You'll never again see the man," observed its honest and industrious builder, as he pointed to it, "who has piled up such a mass of material as that with his own fingers;" and we left him, convinced of the truth of his statement.

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