History of Chemung, Il.
From: The History of McHenry County, Illinois
Published by: Munsell Publishing Company, 1922




Cheinung Township is located in the extreme northwestern portion of this county, and is bounded on the north by Wisconsin, on the east by Alden Township, on the south by Dunham Township, and on the west by Boone County. It comprises all of congressional township 45, range 5.


This township originally had more low wet land than any of the other townships, but through a course of scientific draining this land has come to be very valuable, having as it does the richest of soil. Piskasaw Creek and its three branches, are its principal water courses.


The name Chemung was given the village of Chemung before the township was organized, by a Mr. Steward who came from Chemung County, N. Y., and he desired to name the place after his old home. The township was organized in 1850, and took on the name of the village.


Between 1836 and 1838 the following came into the township for the purpose of making permanent settlement: George Trumbull, M. Wheeler, Wesley Diggins, Alonzo Riley, and William Hart, and these were the first to effect the settlement, although it has been claimed that the two brothers, David and Ransley Shaw lived here for a brief time. David Smith, T. B. Wakeman and Daniel and Adolphus Hutchinson came here several years later.

Between 1840 and 1845 William Sewer built a saw-mill which finally became a flour-mill, and in 1853 Mr. Myer built the stone-mill in the village of Chemung, later owned by the Sandersons. In the seventies and eighties this mill was doing a large business in grinding buckwheat flour for the Chicago markets.

The settlement of the township was about the palmy days of Jacksonian Democracy, and Whigs were not very numerous, but the five of them including W. G. Billings, who later was made internal revenue collector, Hayden Hutchinson, and C. R. Brown, just enough for a caucus, kept up the party organization till they finally carried the county.

The first church in the township was erected by the Presbyterians, at Chemung village. This original church was replaced in 1873 by a new structure.

David Baker and S. L. Puffer were the first genera1 merchants at Chemung village.


The old village of Lawrence, sections 22 and 27, was settled in 1855, the railroad depot being built in 1856. Bixby & Conklin first offered goods for sale, but ere long three others went into trade, believing that the depot at that point would eventually kill Chemung. G. F. Kasson and G. Blakeslee next began business, but it was not long before the store was burned. This village was named for Lawrence Bixby, its first merchant. In 1857 a steam flouring mill was operated, but did not pay and was soon abandoned.

Lawrence had a post office several years, but when the railroad shops were located at Harvard all business drifted to that village and since then Lawrence has not progressed commercially.

Among the pioneer dealers in Lawrence may be recalled by the older citizens of the county, W. L. Boyd, R. Gillis, F. Beidt, E. S. Bowen, H. S. Gould, C. Palmer, S. Clark, A. Thompson and J. L. Anderson. The business of the village has long since disappeared entirely.


Chemung was laid out in 1844, but like Lawrence has suffered from being too near to Harvard, also within this township. The first house in Chemung was erected by a Mr. Lewis and was built of logs. Burge & Aisles kept the first store; Mr. Baker the second. Other business men were: Jacob A. Wood, B. F. Carey, A. J. DeGraw, Peter Fitzer, Henry Munger, Householder Brothers, J. P. Kennedy, E. D. Maxon, S. L. Puffer, J. A. Little, John Alexander, G. I. Sinderson, Warren Chase, James Potts and N. Crane. With a store and shop or two Chemung has kept its name and place on the map but has never been able to increase in commercial interest.


This city is sixty-three miles northwest of Chicago, on the Chicago & Northwestern railroad, and is beautifully situated in section 35 of Chemung Township. It was platted November 25, 1856 by Amos Page, proprietor. Abraham Carmack and Jacob A. Davis were the original owners of the town site of Harvard, having obtained it from the government in 1845. They sold it to Gilbert Brainard, and after his death the land was secured by a company of railroad men, who laid out the town in 1856. E. G. Ayer, a member of the company named the place Harvard in honor of Harvard, Mass. Many additions have been made to the place with the growth of recent years.


In 1856 the first stock of merchandise was placed on the shelves in the new town of Harvard, the owner of these goods was Charles Crawford. His store was in reality a railroad shanty. Soon after Hull & Julius opened their store in a one-story log cabin. The first frame building was erected by J. C. Crum on the corner of the railroad right-of-way and the crossing of Ayer street; it was used for a lumber yard office. Mr. Crum was engaged in the lumber trade before the coming of the railroad. He used to purchase his stock of lumber in Kenosha, Wis., shipping it to Chicago by rail, and thence back to Woodstock by rail, and from there freighted it. The first frame store was built, in the spring of 1857 by John Diggins. The earliest blacksmith was H. Norton; the first wagonmaker was J. Flemming; the first shoemaker was Daniel Carpenter.

The first hotel of note was that erected by David Smith in 1856. Its many landlords included these: J. E. Sanford, Milton Stevenson, William Parker, Lewis Thompson, Schuyler Higgins and Everton Walker who called the property the "Walker House."

The Ayer Hotel, still standing and used as a commercial traveler's stopping place, was erected by Wesley Diggins in 1859, and H. C. Blackman became proprietor. At first it backed up to the tracks and depot but later it was turned around and now faces the main street of the city; also a part of it faces the depot.


From a directory of McHenry County published in 1876, the following facts concerning Harvard have been obtained, and when contrasted with the city of Harvard of today, are indeed interesting.

Harvard is the junior town of Chemung, and, like many other juniors, it has absorbed the substance of the seniors till it almost rivals the county seat in size, containing five dry goods stores, four grocery stores, one boot an.d shoe store, two mixed stores, such as clothing, boots and shoes, two drug stores, two hardwares, eight saloons, two livery stables, two bakeries, three confectioneries, two clothing stores, two jewelry stores, two furniture stores, one photograph gallery, three hotels, one bank, five doctors, two lawyers, two harness shops, one fiouring mill, one planing-mill, sash and blind factory, three millinery stores, one dentist, one news depot, two barber shops, two malt houses, one cheese factory, four blacksmith shops, three wagon shops, one car repair shop, three meat shops, one agricultural implement warehouse, three churches and a schoolhouse."

A steam flouring mill was built here in 1865 by Mr. Wood, and its total cost was $15,000.

The first store was that opened by Holden Julius in 1857. The first school building was erected in 1859 of brick.

The first church was the Methodist Episcopal one erected in 1859. The Presbyterian, built in 1867 and Congregationalist, in 1870.

Another description of Harvard in 1877 reads thus: "All trains of cars shipped from Minnesota or Baraboo to Milwaukee have to be made up here. In one month last year (1876) there were 9,918 cars left here to be made up into trains. Some days as many as thirty trains are received here and it is no uncommon sight to see thirty engines in town at one time. Harvard is the headquarters for all division men to Baraboo. About 125 railroad men work here constantly, the coal sheds alone employing thirty men; the engines coming here consume 1,500 tons of coal a month, and the company pays out about $8,000 here each month; no small item for so small a town."

But the coming and going of years make changes, especially in railroad affairs. Divisions and shops are liable to be removed at anytime, as the railroad system extends on to greater distance, so it has been in Harvard, but the advantage of its early day boom has left its mark for good and other enterprises have made up for the loss of what was once supposed would be still larger railroad interests.


The following is a list of business and professional men at Harvard prior to 1885 and during that year:

Eugene O'Connor, Sterns & Peters, Joseph C. Crumb, A. E. Axtell, E. J. Smith, J. H. O'Connor, W. H. Milligan, John Cullen, Thomas Collins, Albert Haffner, Edward Haffner, George Haffner, Elmer Carpenter, N. L. Jackson, Miles Munger, Haven Bros., Thompson & Hodkins, Henry Sewger, John Flemming, E. N. Blake & Son, Lewis Whitmar, Gault Bros, Dr. M. A. Adams, Samuel Richardson, Groesbeck & Wilkinson, Stafford & Gardner, Edward Rector, J. M. O'Neil, J. Sullivan, W. C. Wellington, L. Van Wie & Co., Hubbard Bros., M. J. Powers, Matthew Ottinan, H. B. Miner, W. B. Walker, Hunt & Helm, Megraw & Wakley, Marshal & Saunders, E. D. Beardsiey, H. Wellstein, L. R. Lines, Lake & Logue, D. C. Downs, Lake & Crumb, W. D. Hall, A. W. Young, G. R. Wager, Telcomb & Co., William Fay & Bro., George Ducker, Rupert Church, J. H. Callender, H. W. Binnie, Williams Bros., Rogers & Stevens, William George & Co., Scott & Walform, T. G. Spriggs, Dr. C. M. Johnson, B. H. Wade, M. D., A. C. Bingham, H. T. Woodruff, U. W. Parmiey, Clark & Brainard, G. T. Barrows, Wm. I. Wooster, Elmer Simons, Simon Hill, Richard Powers, Thomas O'Brien, Wallen & Sloey. William McGee, John L. Hayes, E. U. Hayes, Henry Zyschach.


Harvard became an incorporated village February 28, 1867, amid the following were the first officials: H. G. Ayer, president; William Marshall, clerk. The trustees were: J. C. Crumb, Frank Cobb, Owen McGee, B. F. Groesbeck. In 1891 Harvard became an incorporated city and its affairs have usually been well administered to the best interests of its population. The mayors and clerks have been as follows: mayors, N. B. Helm, P. E. Saunders, M. W. Lake, L. A. Gardner, James Logue, John A. Sweeney, W. D. Hall, Richard Phalen, J. H. Vickers, C. J. Hendricks, F. O. Thompson.

The clerks have been few in number but very efficient. From about the date of the city's beginning P. E. Saunders was clerk until his death in 1913, when his son, Eugene Saunders, the present clerk, took the office and has attended to it ever since. No finer set of city records (mostly reduced to typewriting) can be seen in the state than those found at Harvard.


The following are the officials of the city of Harvard: mayor, J. U. Maxon; clerk, Eugene Saunders; health official, Dr. C. W. Goddard; magistrate, H. S. Williams; treasurer, E. A. Crumb; attorney, R. F. Marshall; aldermen, Jerome Crowley, J. M. Harris, Benjamin Hagar, H. A. Jordan, Amos G. Smith, and F. O. Thompson.


The waterworks were established at Harvard in 1891, for which the city has been variously bonded, and for which some bonds are still unpaid. Water is obtained from two deep wells, one 900 and one 1,800 feet, and these furnish an abundant supply of pure water. A volunteer fire company of sixteen members looks after the fire department. In 1918 a $3,000 auto-fire-truck was purchased by the city.

The city receives its electric lighting from the Illinois Northern Utility Company and has since 1911 prior to that private concerns furnished the lights of Harvard.

A full square in the center of the city is devoted to public park purposes, however it has not been much improved.

The two story brick city hail was erected in 1895.


Harvard secured a post office in 1851. Its first postmaster was William Randall; he was succeeded by the following persons: R. W. M. De Lee, A. E. Axtell, J. W. Groesbeck who was appointed in 1880 and he in turn by Messrs. J. A. Sweeney, Dr. Woodruff, J. A. Sweeney, M. F. Walsh and M. F. O'Connor.

There are numerous rural free delivery routes out from Harvard; the office in Harvard is well managed by competent help and general satisfaction is had by the patrons of the office.


The various factory interests of Harvard include the branch of the famous "Black Cat" Hosiery Company of Kenosha, Wis., the Bowman Milk Bottling Works and the Hunt, Helm & Ferris factory which are treated in another chapter of this work.


Just to the south and east of Harvard is found the beautiful, though silent city, the cemetery which was laid out about the time the village of Harvard was platted. In all northern Illinois one can find none so beautiful and well cared for. It can be seen from incoming trains, as having been originally planned, and is annually kept up to a high state of perfection. The shade trees and flowers in season are indexes to the passerby of a people of religious and cultivated tastes. This is indeed a true index of Christian civilization, proper care for the departed. The monuments erected here are in keeping with the grounds wherein repose hundreds of Harvard's deceased pioneers and later citizens.


The 1910 Federal census reports gave Chemung Township, including Harvard city, a population of 4,101; and in 1920 it was 4,421.


The following are the township officials of Chemung Township: supervisor, W. H. Ward; assessor, John Dean; clerk, F. O. Thompson; highway commissioner, W. D. Cornwell; justices of the peace, John T. O'Brien and Charles J. Vierek; constables, R. W. Hall, James Hagen and Fred Dean.

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