In 1851 Mendota was incorporated, its growth was steady and encouraging, the population at the close of the
century being 3,736, and at the census of 1920 about 4,000. According to Elmer Baldwin the town “was entirely ignored
by the early settlers” as was its eastern neighbor, Earlville, prior to the coming of the iron horse.
In 1853 the Illinois Central Railroad laid out or allotted a plan for a city. The first settler was D. D. Guiles,
who built the first store and, in partnership with George Wells, “put in the first stock of goods,” and, with keen
foresight of the growth of the district, contracted to build three and a half miles of track for the Chicago, Burlington
& Quincy Railroad. The first hotel was opened by John Kelly and in 1853 the two railroads had each an agent
in the newly born city. The first postmaster was Mr. Guiles, appointed in the same year.
In 1855 the town was incorporated, with J. H. Adams as president and D. G. Bly as clerk. On the 14th of July "the
first ordinance was passed, and, according to a local historian, had Mendota but lived up to its spirit the history
of the town had been different." Of the seven sections of the ordinances, one declared that "no license
for the sale of intoxicating, spirituous or mixed liquors shall be granted within this corporation"; another
forbade gambling; another prescribed penalties for breaking the Sabbath; and "two others dealt heavy blows
at liquor of all kinds, and named heavy penalties for the violation of the law [ordinance] restraining [i. e.,
restricting] its use."
In 1867, eight years after its foundation as a village, Mendota became a chartered city, the first mayor was Boyd
Lowe. From this period Mendota has maintained its steady progress, as shown by one of its prominent citizens to
whom we owe thanks for the following historical sketch:
"The first paper started in Mendota was The Press, founded by C. R. Fiske in 1854, who with John Fleming founded
the Presbyterian church, both being Presbyterian ministers. The Mendota Observer, now the Sun Bulletin, was started
about 1856. In 1862 it became the property of Mr. R. H. Ruggles who was succeeded by Mr. Robt. Hallenberg, the
present owner. The Mendota Reporter was founded January 1, 1878, by John Sanford and G. P. Gardner. January 1,
1883, thirty years ago, it passed into the hands of Mr. Otto Kieselbach, the present owner.
"The first lawyer to practice in Mendota was C. H. Gilman. The first doctor was John L. Teed. The first bank
was organized by Colonel Bowen, February 13, 1865, with a capital stock of $65,000.00, and there were twenty-six
stockholders. The first schoolhouse was built in 1854, by voluntary subscription. Blackstone School was built in
1868 at a cost of $30,000.00, The Lincoln School, on the east side, at a cost of $27,000.00.
"The Mendota of the present, located eighty three miles from Chicago, in La Salle County, has three railroads:
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; The Illinois Central, and the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul. The Mendota-Clinton
branch of the Burlington system also starts from this point. Mendota has thirty seven passenger trains daily, all
trains stopping here. Thirty one of these bring mail.
"The waterworks system is supplied by two wells 400 feet deep. It has twenty six miles of water mains and
114 fire hydrants. The filter beds of the sewerage system are modern, and ample to provide for all sanitary conditions.
Thirty two miles of cement sidewalk, many paved streets and a Tungsten lighting system over the entire city, with
all night service, are among its improvements.
"There are in the city eight churches: Presbyterian, Methodist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Baptist, Adventist,
and two Catholic.
"Among the public buildings we mention two public schools, Carnegie Library, Fireman's and Police Building,
and two fine depots. The Public Telephone System has nearly 1,200 subscribers. Mendota has two fine public parks
and enjoys a city and rural free delivery.
"In a business way the famous Tower Cultivator & Pulverizer Manufacturing plant, run by the J. D. Tower
& Sons Company; the Black Brothers manufacturing plant; The Cow Boy Tank Heater Company, of which Mr. Edgar
Willis is the head; and The Mendota Manufacturing & Transfer Company, are located here, besides a brick works
and tile yards.
"Three banks, nine grocery stores, five dry goods stores, five clothing stores, four hardware stores, four
jewelry stores, five shoe stores, three meat markets, three drug stores, three printing offices, two furniture
stores, four hotels, and a large number of other business firms minister to the wants of the people. The water
of this vicinity is excellent while the soil can scarcely be surpassed in any part of the United States."