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


Settlements were made in St. Charles Township early in 1834. John M. Laughlin, now residing at Round Grove, just across the boundary line of St. Charles, within the limits of Du Page County, was living in Coles County, Ill., in the Spring of 1834. Setting out from thence to visit his native home in Virginia, he retraced his way through Lawrence County, Indiana, where he found a colony preparing to make a settlement in Northern Illinois Possessed of an adventurous spirit, and being urged by several of the company to cast his lot with them, and assist in driving their cattle, he complied, and to him We are indebted for a history of the settlement which followed. The party consisted of Elijah Garton and family, comprising wife and six unmarried children; John W. Gray and wife, who was a daughter of Garton; Albert Howard and family of six children, Thomas Steward and four children, and our informant. They were far better prepared than most emigrant parties for life on the prairies, as Garton drove 100 sheep, an equal number of cattle, six pairs of oxen, and eight span of horses, to Round Grove, where they arrived on the 8th of May. Garton settled upon the south side of the timber, in St. Charles, and immediately commenced a log cabin on the edge of the prairie, which is still remaining in a tolerable state of preservation - the oldest house in the township. Gray settled in Du Page County, where Laughlin now lives, and Howard on the northwest corner of the grove, on land at present occupied by Mark W. Fletenel Early in the same Spring, Rice Fay, from the "Bay State," took up his claim and built a little below the site now occupied by the residence of John Keating, at Fayville, but did not settle until the following Fall His tract lay upon Scott's old trail, which crossed the township from east to west. About the same time, a man named Brigham, a bachelor, settled upon the west of Fay. One of the Trimbles was then living just within the edge of St. Charles, south of the Geneva line.

Summer passed, and early Autumn found several other squatters and permanent settlers in different parts of the township. Foremost of these arrivals was that of Friend Marks and family, from the State of New York, who squatted on the farm now owned by George Plummer, and built at the northeast corner of the grove. Then followed William Arnold, from Indiana, who, with wife and children, located not far from the present site of John C. Wilson's stone house, where he laid claim to about four hundred acres; and Alexander Laughlin, from the same State, who took up the tract now owned by Moses Colton. Walter Wilson and family, from Glasgow, Scotland, founp their way to the Western wilds in the same year, and, stopping a few days at Jacksonville, whither his son and son in law Thomas Wilson and Thomas Barlan had wandered in 1833, they then proceeded together to St. Charles Township, where they arrived early in September, and settled on the place since known as the Ponsonby farm, on Section 19. Marks had at that time completed the body of a large house at Plummer's Grove, but it was still roofless; while Arnold's family were living in their wagon, on the West Side, near the site now occupied by the residence of William McWilliams; and Alexander Laughlin had but just arrived.

Wild was the life they led then. Not a road, or even cow path, crossed St. Charles, and, with the exception of the one in the northern part of the township, no very clearly marked trails Just before the arrival of the Wilson family, John C. and Thomas had been sent ahead to spy out the land, and, in company with a gentleman of color, who bore the appellation of Harry, they crossed the river at Payee's, and, following up until they came to a little brook flowing into a creek, took up their claim. While they were exploring the land, Harry wandered away up the river and became lost in the woods. Night came on, and he was unable to retrace his steps. Picking his way in the darkness and through the mazes of the forest, he suddenly observed a light ahead of him, and a few moments later, came to a halt near a camp of Pottawatomies. The warriors, wrapped in their blankets, lay dozing around their camp fires in lazy abandonment, while the hard working, abused and greasy looking squaws waited upon them, bringing sticks to replenish the embers, or now and then throwing a fresh morsel of dog flesh or a plump rat or gopher into the boiling kettle, while snarling curs contested for the refuse morsels, It was a romantic scene, as the curling smoke arose in serpentine windings and mingled with the dark leaves of the oak or the maple foliage gilded by the early frost And Harry crept nearer, until the crackling of a stick brought the watchful bogs with angry yelps to his heels. "Ugh!" grunted the warriors, and with one single motion stood before him. Questions were asked and answered satisfactorily, and the terrified African was invited to partake of their hospitality All night he lay among them, scarcely daring to stir, for whenever he turned upon his hard bed or moved hand or foot a bark from the dogs was immediately responded to by a grunt from some suspicious warrior, and the attention of the whole company was immediately fixed upon him. Never, he used to affirm, after his return, did he pass so restless a night. Sleep left his eyelids, and upon the earliest break of day he arose and followed the river and creek back to the Wilson claim.

Charles B. Gray, now on the southeast' corner of Section 23, who came to the township in May, 1835 states that he has seen a column of Indians marching in single file, according to their usual custom, which extended from the corner near the residence of William Matteson eastward to Round Grove. They were always treated, with wholesome respect by the settlers, and never committed more serious depredations than by occasionally stealing corn and pumpkins. They were not addicted to anything akin to modesty, however, and one of the company which Mr. Gray mentions left his Column, and approaching the point where he stood observing them, requested a donation of watermelons, and as this festive fruit was not to be obtained, contented himself with confiscating the cucumbers in the vicinity.

Indian camps were located upon the present site of the city of St. Charles, and our informant states that he has seen 200 warriors, squaws and papooses where the clink of the hammer and anvil and the hum of the mills are now heard. And other native vagrants were not less numerous throughout the township.

Wolves carried off the sheep, howled beneath the cabin windows, and were shot within twenty feet of the doors. Mr. Laughlin states that during the year after their arrival, one of Mr. Garton's cattle died, was dragged forth upon the prairie, and seven wolves successively shot while devouring the carcass. Fifty deer were frequently seen in a single herd, and the same informant states that he shot them upon the Garton farm in numbers too great to present to the skeptical eye of the modern reader. He had brought from the South two magnificent grayhounds, which, to use his own expression, "could run down any animal that ever walked;" and in brilliant colors does he portray the excitement of the chase as witnessed from the old cabin door. Pointing out the deer, bounding leisurely along the prairie, to his canine companions, they would leave him as an arrow let loose from the bow. They seemed to fly, only touching the ground at every tenth or twelfth spring. Soon the deer, becoming alarmed at the approaching messengers of death, quickens his pace, and anon makes his strongest and swiftest bounds, but all in vain. The hounds are upon him, and one of them seizing him by the muzzle, he is flung to the earth, while the other fastens his jaws upon his throat, and he roams the prairies no more. Shortly after the Wilson settlement, but during the same Fall, a colony arrived from New Brunswick, consisting of Mrs. Young, Stephen and Joel Young and his sister Jerusha, a C. Young, Robert Moody, wife and two children; Samuel Young, wife and one child, and J. T. Wheeler, having left home in July and landed in Chicago the 19th of September. The last settled upon a farm upon the West Side, just north of the city, and still resides there. Robert Moody and Samuel Young located within the limits of the present city, and will be mentioned on another page, while Joel Young took up his abode upon the present Park's farm, between St. Charles and Geneva. The company stopped between Naperville and Warrenville, with Gideon Young, who had preciously settled there, but who removed in the Spring of 1835 to the farm now owned by A. G. Fowler. John Kittridge, from New Hampshire, was building a house upon the farm now owned by N. C. Joy, in the Fall of Wheeler's arrival, and the latter, with Joel Young, obtained their bread there of Mrs. Kittridge, while Wheeler's house was being put up. They slept on the ground. In the same Fall, T. A. Wheeler, from Vermont, visited the township and took up a claim now owned by heirs of Joseph Switzer,but being injured in assisting James T. Wheeler to build his house, he returned to his eastern home and sent out his brother Richard to hold his claim. He afterward returned, and the brothers both lived many years in the township. Richard is now living in Michigan, while his brother's widow resides upon a farm on Section 26, east of the city, owned by her husband previous to his decease. The land upon that side along the timber was generally taken up in 1834. Joseph Pemberton, a bachelor, from Coles County, Illinois, settled early upon the place now owned by Benjamin Vinicke and Joseph Crawford; also a bachelor located With one Lee, on a claim which included the present Disbro farm. Nathan Perry took up the land now owned by Mark Dunham during the same year, and built thereon an exceedingly primitive cabin, with neither glass, nails nor boards in the entire structure. The inconveniences incident to the isolated position of the settlers at that time can scarcely be exaggerated. During the Winter of 1834, supplies began to fail the party from Lawrence County, and Garton and Howard drove to La Fayette, on the Wabash, with ox teams, to replenish their store. During the greater part of the distance, the temperature was between twenty and thirty degrees below zero. Much of the prairie which is now arable and contains some of the most valuable land in the country then lay throughout a large part of the year submerged beneath the waves, and when, in the following June, Laughlin made a journey to Chicago with two yoke of oxen, he was obliged to wade the entire level country east of Oak Ridge and swim the Des Plaines River. Wm. Welch, from Michigan, and his son in law, Tucker, also James Davis, all found homes on the East Side in 1834. During the year 1835, settlers and land speculators poured into the township in swarms; and by the close of the year 1837, we consider it safe to state that there was not an acre of land worth taking, in St. Charles, unclaimed. To accommodate the herd of immigrants westward and bring custom to his doors, Friend Marks broke a road during rainy days from his house to Herrington's Ford, in 1835. This track was traveled for many years, was probably the first regularly laid road in the township, and led to the first tavern, at Mark's. The unfortunate landlord fell into the hands of land sharks when the Government sale took place, lost his claim, left the township and shortly afterward died. Walter Wilson died in the township some ten years ago. His son, John C., lives on the southwest section, on a farm recently purchased of Hugh Huls, having remained upon the first claim over twenty years, and erected nearly all the Buildings now standing thereon.

Thomas Wilson married the only daughter of Alexander Laughlin, removed with him to Whiteside County, after remaining a short time in St. Charles Township, and is still living, although Mr. Laughlin has been dead several years.

William Arnold sold his claim to Levi Brown, about 1840, and removed to the banks of Rock River, where he died the same year. The honest old pioneer. Garton, and his wife both rest in the ancient graveyard near the camp ground. But the earliest death in the township was that of Stephen Young, who departed this life May 8, 1835, was buried on the north line of the J. T. Wheeler farm, and afterward removed to the first burying around in the city, which stood on the site of the West Side school. The first sermon delivered upon the west side of the township was preached at his funeral by a Congregational clergyman named Perry, a relative of the Perrys upon the East Side, then living upon the Mark Dunham farm. He subsequently preached a number of times at Mr. Wheeler's house. Religious services had previously been initiated at the house of John Kittridge, by the organization of a Bible class, early in the same year. There were not more than seven members at first, but their numbers increased, as time went on, and the services, which originally embraced merely singing, prayer and the study of the Scriptures, were rendered more interesting for those who participated in them by the reading of a sermon every Sunday. The place of worship, too, was frequently changed, as the country filled up, and each family of those who attended was expected to furnish accommodations occasionally.

At that time, the borders of Ferson's Creek were entirely covered by a thick growth of blue beech, and in this wood the Indians were encamped. While the Wheeler family were away at church, one Sunday, a party of these red skins came to the house, and, with their usual modesty, demanded a pipe and tobacco of Mrs. Young, who was, ere this, Mr. Wheeler's mother in law by his marriage with her daughther, Jerusha, at Warrenville, on the 15th of the preceding January. Mrs. Young answered their importunity by lending them her own pipe, for she was an elderly lady, and addicted to the use of the narcotic weed. The Indians smoked until satisfied, and then walked away without returning it. But the brave old lady was not to be baffied in this manner. Following them and shouting at the top of her voice until they halted, she immediately seized the pipe, which was held in the mouth of one of the astonished warriors, and ordered him to give it up. The cowardly always feel awed by the bravery of the brave, and an Indian is a coward by nature. Therefore, instead of resisting and walking on, or hurling the old lady to the earth, he quietly yielded, and Mrs. Young returned with the precious property, from which the sweet incense arising soon testified to the satisfactory result of the only collision between one of the representatives of the white and Indian races recorded in the annals of St. Charles Township.

In the Fall of 1835, death visited the Garton family, and Akira, a twin sister of Mrs. C. B. Gray, was laid in the grave - the first in the old burying ground at Round Grove.

In the same year, Rev. N. C. Clark, also Rev. Jesse Walker, missionary to the Pottawattomies and Kickapoos, preached several times at the house of Elijah Garton, and in January, of the same year, John M. Laughlin married Emily, the daughter of Elijah Garton, at the house of the bride's father. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr. Hubbard, Baptist preacher, from Warrenville. This was the first marriage in the township. The earliest birth was that of a child of Samuel Young, in the Spring of the same year.

On the 8th of May, upon the day of Stephen Young's death, Solomon Dundam, from the State of New York, arrived on the place now owned by his son Mark. Mark Fletcher also purchased the farm where he still resides, in the same season, but remained a number of years in Geneva before settling upon it.

The year 1835 was rendered memorable by the arrival of Daniel Marom, the first blacksmith in the township, who built a shop in the timber at Norton's Creek. Also, of Thomas Steward, in the Fall, while Nathan Pierce, whose son, James Pierce, is now a resident of Aurora, was an early settler upon the Hoag place.

In 1836, crowds came, and from that date the history of St. Charles becomes one of a whole community and no longer of individuals. But there was one who settled in June of that year, upon the farm now owned by his son, who deserves special notice - Rev. D. W. Elmore, a graduate of Union College, a man of splendid education and of opinions far in advance of his age, who purchased 100 acres at Fayville, of one Brigham, a bachelor, who had squatted there the previous year and built a log house. The pet object of Mr. Elmore's life was the establishment of an industrial or manual labor school, in which impecunious young men might obtain the means for a liberal education by working certain hours in each day upon a farm connected with the proposed institution. For this purpose, he took up 300 acres of land adjoining the Brigham claim, wrote much and talked more upon the subject, but, to their shame be it said, many of his cotemporaries regarded his philanthropic schemes as the dreams of a visionary, and his hopes were never realized. While working in the field, on the 29th day of July, 1854, a terrific storm arose, lightning struck upon three separate places on hips farm, and, one of the bolts having pierced him, he passed forever beyond the disappointments of this world.

A majority of the remaining American settlers in the township came from 1837 to 1845, and among them may be mentioned, in the former year, Amos Stone, from Massachusetts, now of Belle Plaine, Iowa, who located upon land in Sections 4 and 5, worked his farm by day and made shingles for a living by night, until the roofs of nearly all of his neighbors' houses were furnished; the Bisbys, in the same year, in the western part of the township; George Plummer, who settled where he now lives, in 1844; Harlow Hooker, in October, 1839; Stephen Fellows, deceased; and Robert Lincoln, deceased, on the firm now occupied by hips sons.

A colony of Swedes arrived about 1852, which has since received occasional additions by new emigrations from the Scandinavian Peninsula. Among the first of this race who appeared in the township may be mentioned Charles Samuelson, now a resident of Elgin; John Colson, at present with L. C. Ward, of St. Charles; and, in 1853, Peter Lungreen and sons, August, who is also with Ward, and Swantey, who has since removed to Elgin.

One of the earliest stone houses in the township was erected by D. W. Elmore, in 1841, at Fayville, and is still occupied as a dwelling. Rice Fay's stone house, now owned by John Keating, was put up shortly after, and strangers were frequently entertained there during the following years. Much historical and romantic interest centers around this section. Villages without a name are sometimes found by the wanderer through the earth's broad expanse, but here we find no less than three names without a village.

Shortly after Mr. Elmore's arrival, he laid out a number of lots at the bend in the river, and named the position Asylum; a few of the lots were purchased, a post office established named Fayville, and kept, at different times, by Messrs. Fay, Nelson, Wait and Elmore, and a small saleratus factory started by Elmore & Burdick, which, however, continued in operation but a short time. The post officer was discontinued, and, at a later date, another established and called Silver Glen, which has met a similar fate.

During the most halcyon days of the place, which people once dreamed would arise, a stone house, which now stands in ruins, a little west of John Keating's mansion, was put up and occupied several years, for various purposes, being used at one time by Russell & Calhoun, as a blacksmith shop, and then passing into the hands of a man named Acres, whose spouse kept a low groggery therein and sold "reaming sweets that drank divinely," to the youth far and near. After making night hideous with their unholy orgies, for a number of weeks, and disturbing the slumbers of good people, the den was at length closed, and the inmates turned upon the cold world, in consequence of an unusually sanguinary drunken row, in which a young man working for Mr. Elmore was killed.

Tradition says that, after hearing of the affair, a reverend father of the Catholic Church Visited the spot, and, indignant at the brutal lawlessnes of certain of his flock, who had been frequent visitors at the house, cursed it in the name of his God, and no man, continues our informant, has ever inhabited it from that day to this. The roof is fallen in, and its deserted walls stand, a habitation for the owl and the bat.

"And over all there hangs a cloud of fear;
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said, as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted!' "

The region is peculiarly interesting to an admirer of the beauties of nature. The ground is rugged on both sides of the river, which makes an abrupt curve to the west a mile above, and at this point resumes its southerly course. Several little islands darken the transparent stream, and one, the upper, is covered with a luxuriant growth of low reeds and willows; a natural but thin covering of trees softens the rude angles in the hills, from whose rocks two noisy brooks, one above and the other below the Elmore farm, leap from successive terraces, forming sparkling cascades, on their way to the river; and the residences in the vicinity - all of sone quarried from the ledges which form their adamantine foundation - present, when seen through the leafless branches of December, and contrasted with the shadows of the trees inverted in the still water, along the river bank, a view as pleasing, in all its outlines, as any which will be found in a journey through the country.

Far away to the north, the smoke wreaths from the manufactories of Elgin may be seen in a clear day, while the spires of St. Charles rise on the south.

The earliest saw mill outside of the city limits was erected about 1845, by Lewis Norton, on Norton Creek. The builder left his home in the following year for the Mexican War, and but little work was ever performed in the new building.

Claim organizations were common in St. Charles previous to the land sale, and were productive of some good and some evil results. Jumping of claims was never tolerated, and records are not wanting of settlers visiting a pseudo-claimant en masse, and leveling his shanty to the ground, or setting fire to it. On the other hand, a great evil was done when Section 16, which the government had set apart for school purposes in each township, was sold to claimants in St. Charles for the mere pittance of ten shillings per acre, thus cheating the town out of not less than $9,600.

Schools were organized, as elsewhere in the county, long before there was any regular district organization. In 1839, a little log school house stood just inside the line of the fence now surrounding Jerome Elmore's yard. Schools were taught later in various houses within the neighborhood, for a time in an old log building on the present Foley place, in the deserted stone house and in Amos Stone's barn. But in 1857, a stone house, expressly designed for school purposes, was built in Fayville, or District 2, as it had then become, and is standing there to this day. A wood building was erected not far from the residence of Harlow Hooker (District No. 3,) at a very early day, but was replaced, in 1876, by a new house, the most elegant one in the township, at a cost of $1,500. District No. 1, on the road to Elgin, on the west side of the river, contains an old wood building, valued at $600. District No. 9 has a brick building, in good condition, worth $800, built ten or twelve years ago. District No. 4 has a wood building, on the West Side, valued the same as District No. 9, and District No. 6 contains the neat white school house opposite the Widow Wheeler's place, valued at the same sum. The entire school property of the township may be estimated at $5,100.

The assessed valuation of the township in 1877, at fifty cents on a dollar, was: Real estate, $472,836; personal property, $71,464.

In 1851, the cemetery, now owned by William Irwin, was laid out upon the East Side. It contains ten acres, and is beautifully located, thirty two feet north of the corporation limits. The lots are laid out ten by twelve feet, a road, fifteen feet wide, surrounds it upon the inside of the fence, and two of the same width cross it, one from east to west, the other from north to south. The grounds are well shaded, and several beautiful monuments arise among the trees.

The manufacturing interests of the township are confined to the products of the dairy. In the Spring of 1869, Martin Switzer opened a cheese factory near his place, on the west side of the river, and operated it until October, 1876, when it was sold to Robert Wright, and worked by him until May, 1877, and was then closed.

The Spring Brook Factory was first built and operated in 1867, by Mr. Larkin; was then continued, with rather indifferent success, by various parties, until purchased by, Newman & Thompson, who, in 1876, built a new factory upon the old site, and supplied it with all the modern improvements. It stands in the front rank among establishments of the kind, and is doing an excellent business.

The township is noted principally for grain raising and the manufacture of butter and cheese. It lies south of Elgin, north of Geneva, east of Campton Township and west of Du Page County, and is crossed on the northeast corner by the Chicago & Northwestern Railway.

[Also see History of the City of St. Charles.]

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