The Old Settlers Meet and Shake Hands, Tell Stories and Have a Jolly Picnic.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, August 31, 1882.
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson.
The pioneers of Kendall County have met and parted until another August rolls around, when they hope to meet again without the loss of a member and renew the good fellowship of this past Thursday.
The young settlers are beginning to look forward to the annual gathering of sires and mothers with as much pleasure as the older ones do.
This past Thursday was a beautiful day, and Providence favored us as to weather; withholding the showers until night, and refreshing the air with rain that weary picnickers might have “a good night to sleep.”
The people began to arrive as early as nine o’clock. Soon Yorkville was as lively as the more ambitious cities, and still they came. There were long processions of teams from the south and the north, and the east and the west. Carriages, buggies, spring wagons and road carts were the modes of transportation. There was not a lumber wagon nor an oxen team in the procession as it was in the “early days” more than forty years ago.
By noon there was a large gathering on the Fair Grounds, and every one seemed supremely happy and social. The grounds were in good condition. Mr. Minkler had got up some mottoes, and evergreen decorations, making it all pleasant. The Plano Cornet Band was in attendance and played excellent music during the day, enlivening the steps of even the most aged.
The President, Lewis G. Steward, called the people to order, and after a piece by the band, Reverend S. P. Keyes, of Aurora, offered prayer. This was followed by a brief address from the President, welcoming the old settlers of Kendall County and their friends. Mr. Steward made his welcome hearty. He was followed by the ever popular Seward man, Reverend, Andrew W. Chapman, who can get up and say better and stronger things extempore than any other man in our county. He made a capital address.
After this came dinner, and so great was the amount of provisions on the ground that it took until nearly two o’clock to dispose of it, clear up the things and settle down again to speech making and visiting. The dinner hour was a happy one, and no person was allowed to go hungry.
After hunting all over the grounds for a lumber wagon, and not being able to find one among hundreds of vehicles, a nice spring wagon was rolled up by the stand, and President Steward again requested attention. The Band played a lively piece, the folks gathered around, and Honorable George M. Hollenback, the first white person born in the county was introduced for a five minute talk. He spoke of his boyhood days and the first school house, and was quite graphic in his description.
He was followed by John Litsey, Esquire, who told of his first plow and the work of the pioneers.
David H. Shonts, Esquire, was the next speaker, and for a man with a broken collar bone and arm in a sling he made a rattling speech. If the Squire had been well he could hardly have done better.
The next speaker was a man from Grundy County, who was a resident of Big Grove Township for years, a man whom all honor, William Stephen of Morris. He told us of the good old times, but did not think them any better than the present days.
John R. Marshall was put up for a few moments till Mr. Minkler could hunt up another speaker, and then Reverend S. P. Keyes told of the early churches in this valley, and how he preached in school houses and residences with a large circuit and attentive congregations back in the eighteen forties.
Asher Douglas Havenhill was coaxed into the wagon and made a nice talk. He was just the man for the place, and as a representative of a family of pioneers he was able to talk of old times with the best of them.
Smith Gorsline Minkler made some apt remarks, Lewis Gilbert Steward talked a few moments and then it was voted to hold another picnic next August.
The following gentlemen were elected officers for the ensuing year:
West Walker Matlock, President.
John T. Litsey, Sr., Vice President.
Edmund S. Seely, Secretary and Treasurer.
And then the meeting adjourned, but for nearly two hours longer many people lingered, loath to leave so pleasant a company.
It was a grand success.
The Honorable M. B. Castle and daughter Gracie, of Sandwich, enjoyed the picnic as much as the oldest settlers.
George M. Cowdrey was down at the picnic Thursday, with a broken back. He dropped a stitch while setting posts the day before, hence his lameness.
Isaac Morris Hay, of Somonauk, (people without reverence for age call him “Ike”) was on hand as usual with his father and mother, who were glad to see old acquaintances. Ike is the Bee King of De Kalb County. He has over 100 swarms of Italians, and makes honey a paying business. A big frame of that sweetening left at the Record office will keep the editor in a sweet spirit until after the election.
Dr. Daniel B. Jewell, Sr., of Oswego, is one of the earliest comes to this county. He was present at the time of its organization, and can tell some good stories of the old days. He even remembers seeing when a boy, the engagement in Casco Bay between the Enterprise and Boxer during the War of 1812.
Francis Tuthill “Frank” Seely was out from Chicago, and his mother (Mrs. Dr. Townsend [Millicent (Tuthill) Seely] was on the grounds, well on to 90 years of age, but bright and cheerful.
From Aurora we saw that good friend of Kendall County, Mr. William McMicken, who way back was working in Oswego with a Mr. Nellis.
We also saw Elder S. P. Keyes, one of the pioneer Methodist preachers.
A. K. Perry, Mr. Bishop, Mr. Denney, the furniture dealer, and Clark Wormley were there.
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