History of the towns of North and Old Utica, LaSalle County, Il
From: History of LaSalle County, Illinois
By: Michael Cyprian O'Byron
The Lewis Pullishing Company
Chicago and New York 1924


Though classed as a village, North (or New) Utica is a prosperous town situated north of the Illinois River and rich in its historical associations, scenery and mineral wealth. Its population in 1900, thirty years after the incorporation, was 1,150, in 1910 it was given as 976 - a decrease of 174; at the census of 1920 it had risen to 1,037.


Old Utica, as described by Elmer Baldwin, was first occupied by Simon Crosiar, a native of Pennsylvania, "and, when the business was all done by river boats, was a commercial point of some importance, the boats arriving and departing with considerable regularity. It was regarded as the head of navigation, except at very high water when the boats ascended to Ottawa." After the opening of the Illinois & Michigan Canal and the construction of the railroad, its business declined, and the northern settlement, at first known as New Utica, under the fostering influence of railroad and canal, became a busy and prosperous town. Simon Crosiar died in 1846, his widow, Mrs. Sarah Crosiar, survived him by twenty-five years. "Both Mr. and Mrs. Crosiar were bold, hardy and resolute" (qualities inherited by their descendants to the present day), "and well calculated for frontier life. Mrs. Crosiar told the writer [Elmer Baldwin] many incidents of her pioneer life. She said she was not afraid of the Indians, even when alone, unless they were drunk; but they were like white men when intoxicated, unreasonable and dangerous. On one occasion, during her husband's absence, they came and wanted whiskey; she had covered up the whiskey barrel and told them she had no whiskey. They told her she had, and went to uncover the cask; she then seized a hatchet and told them they should not have it if she had. They told her she was a brave squaw, but raised their tomahawks, and she was compelled to yield to numbers: they got the whiskey and had a big drunk, but did not molest her."

Among the Utica pioneers we find few who were not native born Americans. James Clark and his wife came from England, lived for some time in Ohio, and moved to La Salle County in 1833. Clark was one of the canal contractors, and "was the first to develop and manufacture hydraulic lime for the market from the Silurian strata of that neighborhood," thereby conferring a great benefit upon the locality and the whole Northwest, and enriching himself in connection with the Consolidated Cement or Hydraulic Lime Company of the West. From 1870 to 1872 he sat as a representative in the Twenty seventh General Assembly.

From 1834 to 1850 there was a slow but steady increase of native Americans, all or nearly all from the east and southeastern states. In 1834 William Simmons, a Kentuckian, bought land and began farming; in 1836 the Dickinsons came from Massachusetts, and the numerous Hartshorn family from Madison County, New York. One of the sons, Alfred I. Hartshorn, is said to have sent over the Illinois Central Railroad the first coal shipped from La Salle.

Hiram Higby, from New Hartford, Connecticut, came to Utica in 1836, and was the first supervisor of the township. In 1835, after one year's residence in Ottawa, he bought land in Utica and became a farmer; in the following year Zenas Dickinson arrived from Granby, Massachusetts, settled on section 10, and died in November, 1857, leaving two sons, Samuel and Zenas C., the former entering into a partnership with James Clark in connection with the Utica section of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, and was for many years captain or manager of three river steamers plying from the head of navigation to the City of St. Louis.

Zenas Clark Dickinson, son of Zenas the first, came to Utica with his parents in 1836, and settled on section 10; his wife was Harriet Donaldson, and they had a family of six children Another immigrant who preceded the Dickinsons was Benjamin Hess, who came in 1833 and died in 1830 at the age of seventy seven. Virile and procreative, as befits the pioneer, Mr. Hess, the Dickinsons and Hartshorns - and indeed the majority of the early settlers - brought with them from their former homes the assurance of the Psalmist that children are "as arrows in the hand of a mighty man, and that he who hath his quiver full of them shall not be ashamed to speak with his enemies in the gates."

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