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


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.

Mr. James Isbell, who owned one of the *ox teams, and was our worthy informant, states that there were then but two houses in the place, one on each side of the river. Crossing there, they proceeded to the northwest, and arrived in Sugar Grove on the 10th day of May, 1834, eighteen days after the Ohio party had left home. Taking up their abode in a vacated Indian wigwam, which stood in the edge of the grove, they commenced building a more convenient residence, and early in the Summer occupied it. This shanty was the first built by white men in Sugar Grove Township, and was located within the limits of Section 9.
* The other belonged to Lyman Isbell. Tames Isbell also drove in four cows, two belonging to himself, the others to Lyman.

Later in the same Summer, Mr. Bishop left the settlement and took up his abode further south.

As Lyman Isbell, an older brother of Isaac and James, was expected, with their mother, sister and his own family, consisting of his wife and two children. a log house was built, on a more ample plan, to receive them. It stood not far from the residence of P. Y. Bliss, and some of the logs from its walls are still in existence.

In due time the expected friends came and took possession of the house, during the month of July. They drove into the township a span of horses, the first seen there; while it is supposed that no white woman or children had crossed its boundaries previous to the arrival of Mrs. Lyman Isbell and her children, old Mrs. Isbell and her daughter, Miranda. It may be well here to state that the Ohio parties now remaining in Sugar Grove were all related: James, Isaac C. and Lyman Isbell being brothers, from Granger Township. Ohio, while Parmeno was their nephew, from Copeley Township, and Carman. a brother in law of Lyman Isbell, had left a home in Bath.

On the Fourth of July, James Isbell went to Oswego, purchased a bottle of whisky, and returning, drank it with his friends.* There were five persons at this celebration, and it was the first held in Sugar Grove.

Of the original settlers, Asa McDole now sleeps in the graveyard, near the residence of P. Y. Bliss. Parmeno and Carman have also gone to their final resting place; and I. C. Isbell, now in California, and James Isbell, our informant, now living in Batavia, at the age of 77, are all that are left. Lyman Isbell is likewise in his grave.

During the Winter of 1834-5, Joseph Ingham settled on the creek, east of the place now owned by Esquire Densmore. A number followed in the Spring and Summer of 1835, among whom we may mention a Mr. Gould, who located near the Densmore farm, and returned East after a few years. Rodney McDole, first settler, now living in the township; Cyrus Ingham, a son of Joseph, mentioned above, who came out, bringing his father's family, and Harry White. Many others flocked in in rapid succession during this and the years immediately following. Silas Reynolds, a native of Sullivan County, New York, who still resides near Sugar Grove post office, and who settled in the township on a tract which he still owns, in the Spring of 1836, states that he found, upon his arrival, the following men living around him, aside from those already named: Silas Gardner, Samuel Cogswell, Joseph Bishop, Samuel Taylor, Silas Leonard, Isaac Gates, Nathan H. Palmer and Lorin Inmann The Barnes, too, were early settlers on Blackberry Creek, as was a Mr. Hon, west of the present site of the cheese factory, and Jonathan Gardner, from the shores of Lake Ontario. The latter became homesick, after a short residence in the West, pined for the fishing coasts of his native bay, and, after sighing through the settlement for a time that he would. rather have what "gudgeons" he could catch from the shores he had left, at a single haul, than all the land in Illinois, he retuned home, where he no doubt remains, still fishing. But the land in Illinois is worth more than his fish, now. Thomas Judd, from Franklin County, in the old Bay State, settled in Sugar Grove, in the Fall of 1836. Land had begun to rise even at that date, and Mr: Judd paid I. C. Isbell $200 for his claim, forty acres of which was timber. In the same Fall, H. B. Densmore located in the township, where he still remains. In 1857, Mr. Densmore was elected Town Clerk, and has retained the office ever since. P. Y. Bliss, one of the oldest and most respected residents in Sugar Grove, who settled on his present location in 1837, states that, in riding from his residence, in the following year, direct to Geneva, he passed not a house, furrow nor fence of any kind, and that the old Court House at the county seat was the first building which appeared to his view. In the year of his arrival, B. F. Fridley was High Sheriff, being the second elected in the county. Several settlers took up claims, that same year, in the vicinity of Jericho. Reuben Johnson, I. S. Fitch, the Austins and Capt. Jones were among them. A number of settlers flocked in during the year 1838, and among them Ira M. Fitch, now a Justice of the Peace in Aurora, and the founder of the Fitch House, in the Spring of 1867.


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.


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.

In the Fall of 1835, the first marriage in the township, that of Dr. N. H. Palmer and Miranda Isbell, occurred; and on the 19th of August, in the same year, Charlotte, a daughter of I. C. Isbell, was born. This has been generally considered the first birth in Sugar Grove, although the McDoles and some others claim that the birth of A. G. McDole, a son of Rodney McDole, was prior to it. It is safe to say, at least, that McDole's was the first male, and Isbell's the first female child.


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 original site.

Several years more passed before a post office was obtained, and it was not until 1840 that one was established, near the center of Section 15, at the house of Thomas Salter, its first Postmaster, who still lives in Aurora at the advanced age of 89. About two years later, one was located at Jericho, I. S. Fitch being in charge of it. These offices are still known as Sugar Grove and Jericho, the former having been removed to Sugar Grove Station. Later, the Grouse and Winthrop offices were established, but the latter is now no longer in existence.

On the 22d day of November, 1838, a man popularly known as " Boss " Read, who still lives in Blackberry, erected for P. Y. Bliss a frame house, which is still occupied by its original owner, on its original site. In the Spring of 1839, the Methodists held their quarterly meeting in one of its rooms, before it was quite completed; but religious exercises had been introduced into the township some time previous, the first sermon having been delivered by the devout and conscientious " Father" Clarke.

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.

"In 1836," says Mr. Silas Reynolds, " a calf was worth $10 in Sugar Grove, while in 1837 a yearling, in 1838 a two year old and in 1839 a three year old sold for the same price." Not at all encouraging for the farmer who had kept the calf, in 1836, with the hope that it would increase in value.

Tha first cemetery in the township was situated, in 1839, in the low ground near the slough, east of the residence of P. Y. Bliss, but, after interring one of the old settlers there in a grave half filled with water, the neighbors of _the deceased unanimously concluded that it would be sacrilege to bury another friend in such a location, and, accordingly, a burying ground was purchased a little north of the former position and in a place adapted for the purpose. It is now surrounded by a good stone fence, and contains several elegant and costly

Sugar Grove has, at various periods in its history, established organizations which are seldom found in rural districts, and never excepting among a population of superior intelligence. Prominent and first among these was the


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 1846, the first


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!

It was in 1847 that the delegates were chosen to form a new Constitution for the State of Illinois, but it was not until August 2, 1850, that the first town meeting, under the new Constitution adopted, met at the house of S. G. Paull to elect officers for Sugar Grove. Ira Fitch was chosen Moderator, and W. B. Gillett (now of Aurora), Clerk. The following officers were then elected (we give their present residence after their names; if deceased, it is also denoted): Supervisor - E. D. Terry (Kendall County).

Town Clerk-Henry Nichols (California).
Assessor-S. S. Ingham (deceased).
Overseer of Poor-Ezekiel Mighell (Aurora).
Commissioners of Highways-Jesse McDole (deceased), Ephraim Case (Aurora), S. G. Paull (deceased).
Justices of the Peace-Ira Fitch (Aurora), Wm. Thompson (Aurora). Constables-Charles Abbott (deceased), I. J. Sanford (Iowa).
Collector-Ira Fitch.
Supervisors of Roads - Joseph Inmann (Iowa), Ira Fitch, J. J. Denny (deceased), L. Nichols (gone West), Wm. Thompson, H. Smith (gone East), E. D. Terry, A. Casselman (Sugar Grove), S. G. Paull L. Benjamin (Sugar Grove), I. Barnes (deceased).

It was also voted that the town meetings he held in future at the Center School House, which was built in the Fall of 1848, and was located in District No. 7. The number of voters, as shown by the records of the first meeting. was 102.


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.

About this time, the question of a new town house began to be agitated, the farmers from the northern part of the township desiring to have it located about 100 rods north of the location occupied by the old building, erected in 1848, while the balance of the township insisted that the former site should be retained. The contest grew warm, and a town meeting was called for a general ballot.

Mr. Judd, wishing to assist in securing his favorite scheme and at the same time prevent the perpetuation of sectional jealousy, announced a picnic for the same day, and all the township was invited. At the same time, Mrs. Snow, one of the most enthusiastic converts to the school project, extended invitations to many of the principal business men of Aurora.

The day arrived, and with it a crowd. During the entertainment, Mr. Hall presented to the assembled multitude the object of the picnic, and called for subscriptions. $1,400 were taken on the spot. This, with subsequent donations from residents of the township, and the district tax, swelled the subscriptions to $4,500.

The house was commenced in the Fall of 1875, and, with a good barn and horse shed, is paid for. Mr. Judd and L. H. Gillett subscribed $500 each, and the former contributed the land upon which the building stands, and in 1876 erected, for the accommodation of pupils coming from a distance, a hotel, at a cost of $12,000. The school is supplied with a library of 500 volumes, and excellent phulsophical and chemical apparatus. The regular course of study includes agricultural chemistry, breeds of cattle, and all studies which pertain directly to farming. Forty teams are fastened in the stalls daily, and a majority of the pupils from outside of the district come a distance of ten miles. The system upon which the school is managed is probably the most successful to be found in any district school in the State, and the normal class from the institution is furnishing the surrounding country with teachers, who will, it is hoped, introduce as fhr as possible the same admirable methods in other districts. In nothing is reform more imperatively demanded than in the common schools of this and other States; and any institution which has for its object, in part, the accomplishment of this end, should meet with the approbation of every intelligent citizen.

The assessed valuation of the school property of Sugar Grove is $9,800. The new town house was erected near the school house, in District No. 7, at a cost of about $1,500.


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.

Sugar Grove Township furnished her full quota of soldiers for the late war, and their record was glorious in the Forty second, Fifty second and One Hundred and Twenty fourth Regiments.

The township contains some of the best farms in the State, is well supplied with timber and water, is crossed from east to west by the Chicago & Iowa Railroad, thus giving easy fhcilities of transportation for its abundant produce; is inhabited by a wealthy and intelligent population, and is admitted to be the banner township of Kane County. Its population in 1870 was 792. The assessed valmation of its property in 1876, $674,127, and the average assessed valuation of its land, $24.91 per acre.

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