The Old Settlers are Jolly.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, September 24, 1884.
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson.
Last Thursday was a perfect day, and the annual picnic of the pioneers of Kendall County and their friends was a perfect success.
“Smith” Minkler was the happiest man in the county. This gathering is his especial hobby, and he would get up from his bed if he were dying to attend the Old Settlers’ picnic. He was the life of the occasion, and kept things moving.
A lad, Andrew Arnold, was stationed at the gate in the morning to count all who entered the grounds, and there were 1797 persons in attendance. This was certainly a fine turnout considering the Fairs and other picnics that had been held so recently.
The Kendall Cornet Band was in attendance and enlivened the occasion by their fine music. A martial band, with Mr. Litchfield as fifer, also wakened the echoes of the olden times, and Brother Minkler handled the big drumstick with his accustomed energy.
The program as formally carried out began with martial music and then an air from the Band.
Prayer by Reverend Henry Buss.
Music by the Band.
President Minkler then made his address of welcome, full of heartiness.
The response was made by John R. Marshall, who did the best he could.
Music by the Band.
The Honorable M. B. Castle of, Sandwich, was called upon and made a very happy speech full of humor and kindness.
Mrs. Adelia Augusta (Southworth) Aldrich, the “Galva” of the Record, was escorted to the stand and introduced. She made a few brief and pointed remarks, showing that she possessed keen wit and could be as much at home among the pioneers as the President.
Then came dinner, and until two o’clock the grounds were merry with laughter and talk as the cloths were laid here and there while an immense amount of most excellent provisions were consigned to the work of making more bone and muscle to aid the good people of Kendall to get through with the labors of the day. John Hughes thought this was a most interesting part of the program.
At two o’clock the assembly was sounded, and the President introduced to the audience a man of note in Illinois, a pioneer of fifty-one years standing, an adopted son of the Fox River Valley, a jurist, traveler, and good raconteur. John Dean Caton, formerly Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Illinois.
He began by expressing his gratification in meeting so many former neighbors and friends, for at one time he had been a resident of the county. He had held his first court in Yorkville as a Circuit Judge. He was a resident of the county when he received his appointment as Judge of the Supreme Court. His first living child had been born in Kendall County, and his memory ran back to the warm friends he had made here, and his heart was full of love and affection for our people. The Judge also spoke of the first settlement in the State being made away from grove and timber, on the broad prairies, as having been made in Kendall County when Levi Hills built the first house in what is now the village of Lisbon. He was full of reminiscences, and told some good stories, one of which we will try and relate.
The Judge’s Story.
Along about 1844 or 1846, I had been to Chicago to hold court for Judge Young, who was sick. It was in September that I left Chicago for Yorkville to open court there. I came in a carriage with wife and two young children. My team was one good horse and a colt not good for much. The roads were muddy, and when within two miles of Yorkville we had to cross a slough that looked very bad to me. But there was no alternative, and I drove along. About midway through the slough my horsed got mired in the mud. The colt acted badly, and they both went down. Here was a dilemma, but being young and vigorous I was equal to the occasion. Getting out of the carriage into the mud, I took my children out one at a time, and carried them to the high ground. Then I took my wife on my back and packed her out to take care of the children. Going back, I unhitched the colt, got him up and led him out. Then I got the good horse up and hitched him to the end of the pole, and he dragged the carriage out. You may imagine my condition after wading about so much in the black mud leg deep to do all this. Having hitched up again and getting my family into the carriage, I started on my journey, and as I drove along I began to get mad that the Supervisors should allow the roads to be in so dangerous a condition, and the more I thought of it, the madder I got. It was on Saturday that this occurred. Arriving at Yorkville, we put up with Mr. Rulief S. and his wife Susan, kind, hospitable people. Mrs. Duryea got me a tub of warm water and I cleaned up getting madder all the time. The next day being Sunday, it took me all day to clean up my clothing, and my temper grew hotter. Monday morning came and court was opened and the Grand Jury sworn in, but my temper was not abated. I made a speech to the jury, told them of the horrid condition of the roads, and that town officials were responsible. I was not mild in my remarks, either. I told the jury it was a shame, and that every Supervisor in the county should be indicted for neglect of duty. The jury went out, and sure enough the next day brought in bills of indictment against all the Supervisors. These gentlemen appeared in court and all but one plead guilty, and I fined them five dollars each, and five dollars was a good deal of money in those days, my friends. Well, the one who plead not guilty showed that the place he was indicted for leaving uncared for was just across the line in another county, and he stood trial. But the prosecuting attorney, then Benjamin Franklin Fridley, proved other neglected places in his town, and I fined him ten dollars for his contumacy. The fines were paid, and the next time I passed along the roads I found men in all parts fixing the bad places. So you see it had a good effect.
This story was greatly enjoyed by the audience, but we can not tell it with the humor in which the Judge did.
A Supplemental Story.
Friday morning, Mr. John A. Newell, who is well versed in old time incidents, told this on the Judge.
“The Supervisor whom the Judge fined double the amount he did the others, was the late William Hoze, of Oswego. He was about the only wagon maker in that region at the time. Soon after the court incident related above, Judge Caton happened to meet with an accident near Oswego, in which his carriage was broken. Of course, he took it to Mr. Hoze for repairs. All those who knew Hoze knew him to be a man of quick impulses and rather radical expressions. He felt he had the Judge as the Judge had him in the court room, and when he had done the work on the Judge’s carriage, he charged two prices. The judge winked a bit at the bill, but remembering the court room matter and the ten dollar fine, saw the joke and paid up without a murmur, and thus Hoze got even on the ten dollars.”
The Judge was listened to with the greatest attention, and made a most excellent impression on the people. At the close of his address he went out and shook hands with many. Then Reuben W. Willett took him in his carriage with Lewis G. Steward and the Honorable George M. Hollenback, and drove him over to Yorkville where he had held his first court. After they returned to Bristol he was taken to the residence of John R. Marshall for a rest. After taking supper there, Mr. Willett took him to the depot, and the Judge took the evening train to Ottawa, saying as he went it was one of the most enjoyable days he ever passed.
After Judge Caton closed, Mr. John S. Armstrong of Sheridan spoke. He was followed by the Reverend Andrew W. Chapman, of Seward Township, who made a forcible and well-received address.
Music, of course, was interspersed at times.
The election of officers resulted in making:
Lewis G. Steward, President.
Edmund S. Seely, Secretary and Treasurer.
In addition, one person from each Township was elected to act as Vice President. We depended on Brother Castle for these names, but he got to be so busy talking that he neglected it, and we can only recall those of Gilbert “Denslow” Henning and Johns Springstead Seely.
It was a long time after the formal adjournment before the grounds were vacated as there was much visiting to be done, and actually the last hour was about the happiest.
To attempt to make any personal mention of those present would be an endless task, and we close with the statement that the people from our nine towns, from Aurora, Sandwich, Streator, Sheridan, Morris, and elsewhere had as pleasant a time as they ever enjoyed.
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