The Annual Meeting of the Old Settlers of Kendall County
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, August 31, 1876.
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson
Last Friday was the day set apart for the annual meeting of the Old Settlers of Kendall County, to be held on the Fair Grounds in Bristol. The day was all that could have been desired. The two previous days were extremely hot, and it was feared by many that another hot day would follow; keeping many at home. But Thursday night and Friday morning were cool, with an easy breeze from the northwest. Early in the morning, carriages and buggies commenced to come in. Of course, those who traveled the farthest arrived first. By eleven o’clock, the Fair Grounds presented a lively and joyous appearance.
This seemed to us to be an entirely new crowd. We have attended Fairs and conventions, but we do not remember attending any meetings where there were so few we knew. Not only were the old residents of Kendall County present, we saw Mr. Tenney, N. R. Hobbs and others, from Aurora; L. E. Hay and others from Sandwich, and many others whose names we did not know. Mr. John Schneider, who built the first sawmill in this section before there was a house, was on the ground, shaking hands with old and new friends. It would be useless for us to mention all the old settlers by name as they would fill the paper to the exclusion of all other matters.
At two o’clock, the President, Squire Litsey, called the people into the Floral Hall to hear the experience of some of the older settlers. The hall was filled to overflowing, and attention and good order reigned supreme. We are not able to give the full remarks of all, but will give all we can.
John Litsey, Esquire was the first to speak. He came to Kendall County 43 years ago in 1833. Shortly after his arrival, he returned to Kentucky, and stayed there three years. He married there, and returned to Kendall County. He was told these prairies would never be settled, but now you can go from county line to county line without finding a spare lot. He never failed to raise a crop, and always found friends. When he first arrived here a company was formed for the protection of the settlers’ lands. He joined the company the first day; the second day he helped “lift” a man who had settled on another man’s claim, and he was arrested for riot on the third day. He and others, were taken to Ottawa, and bound over to the Circuit Court. The judge sustained them, and they were let go. That was the last time he was taken to court.
He was followed by Dr. Kendall of Lisbon, who was here two years before Squire Litsey. Dr. Kendall settled in Kendall County 42 years ago in 1834. He took up a claim on the east side of Big Grove, and put up the first house in that region of the county. He had his lumber sawed at Schneider’s sawmill, at the mouth of Blackberry Creek, and made his own bricks for the chimney. His was a pretty respectable house. He needed to go to Chicago for dry goods and drugs. He and Dr. Wheeler, now deceased, were the only two physicians between Ottawa and Aurora. He also told about the Fourth of July celebration and free dinners which he was instrumental in organizing.
West Matlock came to Kendall County with his father in August 1833. He made a claim at Hollenback’s Grove, and then returned home. The only building at the time of his arrival was a pen about eight by eight feet where the court house now stands. In the spring of 1834 he came back, and brought some cattle with him. At that time there were dishonest men. Flour provided by the Government to the whites and friendly Indians for free distribution, was given to the Indians and sold to the whites. Mrs. Ami D. Newton was here at that time but was too young to remember it. Everybody was kind, and wanted early settlers to take the claims next to them.
Smith G. Minkler came here 43 years ago in July 1833. His trip to Illinois took nine weeks. He remembers riding after Dr. Kendall for a sick woman, and he dared to say the child was half grown by the time he got back. There were very few settlers then; Edward Ament; Hugh Walker; Steven Sweet; Peter Specie; and Mr. Hollenback at the Grove. They were all squatters. The county was settled by people with very little means seeking a home, scarcely a man had $500. Mr. Minkler was taken to Geneva for the same crime as Squire Litsey. He stayed at the land sale for two weeks to see that his neighbors got their rights. Their house had a parlor, sitting room, kitchen, and bed room, all in one room. They slept in rows on the floor, and when there was not enough room, they put a row across the other way. In those days, their wives wore calico dresses and sun-bonnets. He had the parchment deed for the purchase of his land. At one time, he almost had to carry his grain to Chicago on his back because he had to empty his wagon three times to get it out of the mud. He believed that an industrious young man could pay for a farm easier now than they could when land was ten shillings an acre.
Honorable Lewis Steward came to Kendall County 38 years ago this previous May. The prairie was blooming, and he found the county in all its glory. He arrived in Kendall County near Dr. Brady’s; traveled toward Mr. Mighell’s; and ate dinner at noon under a tree on the bank of the Fox River near Mr. Hiddleson’s. He arrived at Mr. Matlock’s after dark. Mr. Matlock’s house was about 14 by 16 feet, and held 27 persons that night, but nobody found any fault. He could not help comparing the county now with what it was then, and hoped the young people would try and improve it as much in the next 40 years as they had in the past forty years.
Uncle Martin Boomer came to Kendall County 23 years ago. He took the stand and seemed in his happiest mood. He said the weather had been so hot that his people had not made any preparations to come, so he put on his best clothes, put a muskmelon under his arm, and came alone. He built the second house in this section. People said it would blow down, but it didn’t.
Uncle Martin was followed by D. H. Shonts of Plano, who came to this county 34 years ago, from New York, with about $38.00 in his pocket. He took up a claim that had not come into the market. When it came time to pay for it, he only had about $100, and had to borrow the remainder at 25 percent interest to make the payment. He planted ten acres of winter wheat, which was killed out, and in the following spring he planted spring wheat while his wife drove the team. He had the misfortune to cut his foot and his neighbors turned out on Sunday and harvested his grain for him. He was in favor of letting Christian principles predominate, and stated he would not give a cent for a county without churches and schools.
There being no further speeches to be made, on motion of West Matlock, the old officers were reelected; John Litsey, President, and James Smith Cornell Secretary. West Matlock was elected Treasurer, and the meeting in the hall was dismissed. Smith Minkler opened a bag of apples for dessert, which was duly appreciated.
The President and Secretary were untiring in their endeavors to make it pleasant for all. Swings had been erected for the children, and some amused themselves playing croquet. Ira Lozier made candy for all, and had good ice cream on the ground, and H. A. Holland sold watermelons and knick-knacks. Taken all in all, it was one of the best meetings ever held by the old settlers of this county. Every town was well represented, and it is hoped that many more meetings of the same kind may yet be held.
Return to Table of Contents