History of Sugar Grove Township, Kane County, Il
From: The Past and Present Kane County, Illinois
Wm. Le Baron, Jr. & Company
SUGAR GROVE TOWNSHIP.
As a Congressional township, Sugar Grove is known as Township 38 north, Range 7 east of the Third Principal Meridian. It occupies a position west of Aurora, north of Kendall County, south of Blackberry and east of Big Rock Township. Its surface, though gently undulating, presents more of the features of the prairie than that of the adjoining township on the east, and its name, Sugar Grove, was given by the Indians. from a beautiful grove of sugar maples situated mainly in Section 9. The earliest settlers recollect seeing the remains of sugar camps, scars upon the trees, and sap troughs strewn upon the ground, at the time of their arrival in the country, and there is no doubt that the Pottawattomies had manufactured there, as late as 1833, the saccharine food, which they seem to have relished next to whisky. The first
in the township was made by a party from Ohio and New York, composed of James, Isaac C. and Parmeno Isbell,
James Carman, an old gentleman by the name of Bishop and Asa McDole. All but the last hailed from Medina County,
Ohio, and on their way to the new country, in a cart drawn by two yokes of oxen, had overtaken, at a place then
known as the Black Swamp, in Wood County, Ohio, Asa McDole, who had lefts his home, in the State of New York, several
weeks previous, and was also traveling toward the setting sun. They agreed, therefore, to cast their lots together,
like the company who lay " at Southwark at the Tabard," some five centuries before, and thus continued
their journey to Oswego.
The land throughout this and the adjoining townships had not been surveyed by the Government at the time of its settlement, but was taken up by the pioneers, and staked out in farms of such shape as suited their convenience, the main consideration being that there should be a grove of good timber included within the limits. The beautiful and fertile prairie farms, which are now the most valuable in the country, were then considered almost worthless, and were the last to be claimed. The various tracts were known as "squatters' claims," and they were cultivated and eventually fenced with the same zigzag boundary lines which are found in all the farms, townships and counties in the Eastern States to this day. But in 1839 and '40, the United States Surveyors came and placed those inflexible lines which swerved not for farm, house nor garden, and in June, 1842, the sections were sold at auction in Chicago. Parts of several claims were thus frequently embodied in one section, and sold to a single purchaser. Much injustice might thus have arisen from settlers losing their improvements, had they not formed regular claim organizations, placing themselves under bonds to observe certain salutary measures for the general welfare. A special agent was selected to bide in the sections or parts of sections for 1.25 per acre, on the day appointed for the sale, naming as the purchaser in each case that settler who owned the largest share in the tract sold. At the end of the sale, each settler who had purchased any portion of his neighbor's farm deeded it back to him at the same price which was paid for it. Col. S. S. Ingham was the purchasing agent of the farms of Sugar Grove. From the above explanation, the reason why none of those farms have straight section lines will be evident. It is impossible to repress, if we would, a sincere admiration for the calm and philosophical course pursued by the settlers of this township during its entire history. They were men of more than common intelligence, possessed of broad and liberal ideas upon all subjects, and a far reaching sagacity. Hence there has never been any narrow and suicidal policy, nor grappling for spoils in any of their public acts, while the efforts which have been made to promote general intelligence would have been creditable to a city containing many times the population of Sugar Grove, which has not a single village. Peace and good order prevailed through the period when many sections are scenes of violence and crime. For years there was nothing like an aristocracy to be found within its limits, and Mr. Densmore, who passed through there, says "they were the happiest days in the country." Harmony and a general reciprocation of good services was too common to be generally noticed, and Mr. P. Y. Bliss gives the following as an illustration of this statement: Mr. I. C. Isbell called at his store one morning and announced that, as he intended to kill a steer on the following Saturday, Mr. B. might tell any of the neighbors who happened around to call at his house and get a piece of beef. On the day named, a number of the settlers appeared and found the steer slaughtered and the quarters standing out against a post waiting for them, with a knife and hatchet near at hand with which to cut off whatever part they wished. Thus the meat was divided among them gratis.
FIRST DEATH, BIRTH, MARRIAGE, ETC.
Death commenced his work among the settlers before they had completed their second year in the West. The first
to fall was a child of Carman's, in 1835. Others followed, and a broken and disfigured slab lying upon the ground
in the old graveyard, near the residence of P. Y. Bliss, states that Asa McDole, one of the founders of Sugar Grove,
died September 16, 1839. On the 7th day of August, two years previous, he had been elected the first Justice of
the Peace in the township, while Sugar Grove was still a part of the. old Fox River Precinct.
ROAD, TAVERN, POST OFFICES, STORE, ETC.
A road ran through Sugar Grove, on the way from Chicago to Dixon, as early as 1834, and, in 1838, a tavern stood
upon the route on Section 14, and was kept by Robert Atkinson. The old building is now used as a dwelling, on the
On the 1st of June, 1839, Mr. Bliss filled the new building with such goods as are demanded by the country trade,
and opened the first mercantile establishment in the township. Its trade extended over a territory reaching from
Dundee to Yorkville, and from the borders of Kane County on the east to Johnson's and Shabbona Groves, DeKalb County,
on the west. No other store in Kane County ever drew such a wide range of custom, and, according to Mr. Bliss,
the annual sales exceeded those of any other in the county by thousands of dollars. In order to have exceeded the
sales of any establishment by thousands, the population must have increased very rapidly during the two or three
preceding years, for when, in 1837, a vote was taken for the division of Kane and De Kalb Counties, the ballot
stood 170 for to 83 against the erection of the proposed new county. It is known, however, that it had increased
thus rapidly, and that real estate had become proportionately dear, while, in the main, other property which had
been previously introduced into the settlements at a greater expense had become relatively cheaper.
organized in 1841, for mutual improvement, by the interchange of ideas upon agriculture and every theme of general interest. The proceedings of its first meeting were published in the first number of the Prairie Farmer, and many useful ends were accomplisher under its direction in the following years, which it would have been difficult to effect by any other means. The business statistics of the township, collected by the Club, and read by Mr. Thomas Judd before a meeting called in St. Charles to consider the feasibility of extending the Chicago & Galena Railroad west of that place, were taken as a basis on which to compute the estimated products of the other townships, and had their due proportion amid the various other considerations; which led the company to extend it. The second State Fair in Northern Illinois was held at Aurora. In the previous year it had met at Naperville, with the promise by the citizens of that place that a free dinner would be given on the grounds. The dinner was a failure. The citizens of Aurora resolved to excel their sister town, and not disappoint the assembled multitudes, and, accordingly, announced that on that occasion all should eat and be filled. The day approached, and the farmers of Sugar Grove were called upon to assist in the preparations. Several of the delegates from the Institute, who met with Aurora toe consider the matter, proposed a warm dinner, but this proposal seemed so utterly impracticable to the people of Aurora that they laughed at them. But Sugar Grove resolved that there should be hot tea and coffee, and warm vegetables, with meats enough to supply the State, if necessary, and to this end a plan of operations was arranged by the Farmers' Institute. A steer, three years old, was dressed, and sent around the township in arts to be cooked, while pigs, turkeys and chickens were killed without stint. Coffee and tea were boiled in huge brass kettles, and vegetables cooked in caldron kettles on the ground, and after all had enjoyed a repast such as Kane County never furnished before or since, Mr. Judd states that " they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets, and distributed them to the citizens of Aurora." When Kansas, suffering from drouth and anarchy combined, sent a wail eastward for help, the Farmers' Institute of Sugar Grove donated 1,000 bushels of wheat and sent them to her. Two
have exercised an important influence in the mental culture of the inhabitants of the township. According to
some of the early settlers, sectional jealousy was first introduced through them; but be that as it may, their
beneficial effects can scarcely be over estimated. Sectional feeling must have appeared of necessity, as the entire
township became settled, and the fact that it was ushered in with the first library should count for naught in
a consideration of the value of the library itself. The first one was organized in the winter of 1843, by the farmers
resolving themselves into a company of stockholders. Three of them headed the list by purchasing shares to the
amount of ten dollars each, and others followed with smaller sums. The books were first kept at the house of S.
G. Paull, Section 16, and the collection bore the name of Farmers' Library. The old records show that the books
were most industriously read, and additions were occasionally made to their number until, in 1851, there were 964
volumes, embracing valuable works upon a variety of topics. Many of them are now in the school house, in District
7. The second library was known as the Independent Farmers' Library, and was established during the Winter following
the organization of the first. It was kept at Col. Ingham's, two and a half miles from the other. The books have
now become scattered.
in the township was built, by Silas Reynolds, on Section 10, where it is now used as a dwelling, by Millard Starr. Previous to that time, a peculiar
was enacted near Jericho, which may be mentioned, as it resulted in the death of one of the earliest settlers
in that vicinity. Mrs. I. S. Fitch had taken a young and friendless girl into her family, and had cared for her
as a mother until she arrived at a marriageable age, when she became the wife of Reuben Johnson, who has been mentioned
as one of the early settlers near Jericho. Mrs. Johnson had occasionally shown symptoms of insanity, but no danger
was apprehended from her, and when suffering from her temporary attacks she had been allowed her liberty, and had
generally taken refuge with her old friend Mrs. Fitch, whose house was near her own. On the day on which the following
events occurred, Mrs. Fitch was alone in her house employed about her domestic duties, when Mrs. Johnson entered
in a high state of excitement. Mrs. Fitch, however, being accustomed to see her thus, continued with her work,
and was busied with her back turned toward the young woman, when she crept slyly behind her with a razor, and cut
her throat from ear to ear. The unfortunate lady ran to the door screaming to her son, who was at work in the field
near by. He hastened to the house and, by holding the severed arteries, prevented the flow of blood until surgical
aid could be obtained, but while the wound was being dressed she died. More than thirty five years have passed
since that day, and Mrs. Johnson, still a raving maniac, lives at her home in Jericho. Mrs. Fitch was buried in
a field near her house, but a number of years afterward her remains were exhumed and placed in the cemetery. On
raising her coffin from the grave, the attention of her son was directed to the enormous weight which it appeared
to contain, and on removing the lid the body was found to be a solid mass of stone!
early received attention from the citizens of Sugar Grove. A number of the settlers, in the years 1835-6-7, came from New England, celebrated front a time " beyond which the memory of man runneth not to the contrary " as the home of education and intelligence. They brought with them the ideas native to the soil of Massachusetts and Vermont, and hence schools and teachers came with them.
The township now contains seven schools, all of which are in successful operation. One of them - as it is, no
doubt, far in advance of any other district school in the State - deserves special notice. We refer to the one
in District No. 7. All of the branches usually taught in high schools and academies, with the exception of the
languages, may there be pursued, if desired; but the special aim has been to furnish a course adapted to an intelligent
farming. people. Its history is brief: With one of the citizens of Sugar Grove, Mr: Thomas Judd, the idea of an
agricultural school had long been a favorite one. Mr. F. H. Hall had, for a number of years, been in charge of
the West Side School, in Aurora, and being possessed of a nature which led him to seek the low of cattle and song
of birds," etc., he had purchased a farm in Sugar Grove. where he was in the habit of repairing for health
and recreation. The farmers of the township, believing that Mr. Hall was the man to make a district school successful,
if any one could, at the suggestion of Mr. Judd a proposition was made him to leave his position at Aurora, and
he at length consented to do so if a building 36x54 feet and two stories high were furnished him, and he could
be insured $150 per month.
The only church standing wholly within the township was commenced in Jericho in May, 1855, and completed and dedicated the following Winter, at a cost of about $2,500. A subscription to the amount of about $500 was obtained from the farmers in the immediate neighborhood; from $250 to $300 from a fund procured by the Congregational Society in the East to aid weak societies in the West, and the balance was furnished by Deacon Reuben B. Johnson. The building was dedicated as Mount Prospect Free Mission Church. The Methodist Episcopal Society has occupied it part of the time, but the building has generally been considered a Congregational Church. Both societies are now extinct, and no regular services have been held in the house for a number of years. It is used principally for funerals. The burying ground for the southern portion of the township lies just adjoining.
in Section 14, was built about 1865. Although a small building, a good business is done.