The Early Settlement of Kendall County;
Read at the Old Settler’s Picnic by George M. Hollenback, Esquire
Compiled and Edited by Elmer Dickson.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, September 29, October 6, and October 13, 1870.
In the history of states very little but conclusions are give, in very rare instances examples of personal daring, strategy, or suffering, are the exception rather than the rule. The most interesting portions of the history of any community are those of a traditional character, relating to the events pertaining to its early settlements and the toils, dangers, and privations to which its early settlers were subjected. The early settlement of this region was attended with all the difficulties and dangers attending and incident to the settlement of a new country. All the advantages of civilization and civilization itself were left far behind. There were many difficulties to overcome and master before anything like security or ease could even be considered. The vicissitudes incident to the climate had to be guarded against, roads had to be improved, immediate wants and necessities had to be provided for, and the unbroken soil had to be prepared to receive the seed, the product of which was to furnish sustenance in the future.
The title of that portion of the territory now embraced in Kendall County lying south of what is known as “The Indian Boundary Line” was acquired by the United States of the Indians, so tradition informs me, about sixty years ago, and was, so the tradition goes on to say, the foundation of a very serious misunderstanding between the Government and the Indians, and came about in the following manner. When the Government desired a wagon road from Chicago to Rock Island, to which the Indians did not object, a treaty was had on the subject. As usual the white man was too crafty for his red brother, and instead of a mere wagon road of the usual width, the treaty covered a magnificent strip of land twenty miles wide, across the whole State of Illinois from Chicago to Rock Island. It is apparent to any person knowing the Indian character, that such a transaction would have its fruits. It did in this instance, and the massacre of the garrison at Chicago in August 1812, was the result. The title to that portion of the territory embraced in the county lying north of the Indian Boundary was acquired by the treaty of 1829, held at Prairie du Chien, in July 1829. The result of the treaty of that year, as we shall hereafter see, was trouble with the Indians by a misunderstanding, alleged on their part, quite as serious as the one spoken of before.
By the Treaty of 1829 the greater portion of the northern portion of the State lying north of “The Indian Boundary Line,” was acquired. Long before the Indian title had been extinguished, adventurers and traders had established themselves at several places in that portion of the State, principally in the neighborhood of Galena; for the purpose of digging lead ore and shipping the same down the Mississippi River. Dixon, whom the Indians called “Nachusa”, had established himself at what was known as “Dixon’s Ferry,” now the flourishing city of Dixon, at a very early day, perhaps as early as 1827 or 1828.
However, today we wish to speak of our own particular locality. The first permanent settlement on the Fox River, except near the mouth of the river in the neighborhood of Ottawa, and the first settlement in Kendall County as far as we know was made by Clark Hollenback and his brother, George Hollenback, William Harris, Ezra Ackley, and their families. Clark Hollenback had passed the winter of 1831-1832 with a portion of his family on the Indian Reservation in the Aux Sable Grove. In the latter part of the winter he was joined by William Harris, Ezra Ackley, and his brother George Hollenback. The last named persons had been living with their families for some time previous, 15 or 20 miles below Peru, on the south side of the Illinois River. They passed up the Fox River as far as the site of the present city of Aurora. Upon their return they camped not far from the site of the village of Oswego on a portion of the farms now owned by the venerable Daniel Pearce. Early in the morning, George Hollenback arose before his companions and went on a tour of observation while absent. He took in the country and staked off the first claim, which now includes a portion of Mr. Pearce’s farm. Upon his return he informed his companions, William Harris and Ezra Ackley, who had now arisen and cooked their breakfasts, of his determination to located there, to which they at once objected. They gave as their principal reason that as they desired to settle together, there was not sufficient timber for the use of all of them. After discussing the subject at some length they prevailed on Mr. Hollenback to abandon his claim and seek a new location. They then agreed to retrace their steps, Mr. Hollenback saying that upon their trip up, in crossing the prairie east of the river he had noticed a grove that lay on the left of their route. He indicated he did not see it until they were very near because so much of it was lower than the surrounding country. He indicated his willingness to return and locate there if they would agree among themselves, before entering the grove, on the portions they respectively wanted to occupy in order to prevent disputes and misunderstandings in the future. Upon entering the grove on the east side, there is a narrow ridge or divide between the Hollenback and Ackley Creeks. They agreed that the crest of the ridge should be the division line of their future possessions. Ackley and Harris chose the north side of the line, and Hollenback selected the land on the south side of the ridge. The line made that day, perhaps the first claim line made in Kendall County, is the partition line between two farms today. Upon making their claims they immediately set to work, and in a few days had erected claims shanties on their respective claims for the accommodation of their families. With their completion, they set out to seek and bring their families to the proposed settlement. Clark Hollenback and his family located in the grove, about half a mile northeast of Newark. George Hollenback and Ezra Ackley arrived at the grove, which now bears Hollenback’s name on April 18, 1831. They were joined in a few days by their friend William Harris and his family.
It may be said that the settlement had fairly begun. It may be well to notice here some errors made by a correspondent of the Kendall County Record in a series of articles published in that paper little more than a year ago which purported to give a history of some of the events we are now detailing, to-wit: William Harris and Ezra Ackley were brothers-in-law, and not William Harris and George Hollenback; “the old log house” was built in 1831 and not in 1832, the writer of this was born in the old log house on December 1, 1831, which could not have been the case had the house been erected at a later date.
It may be interesting to some to know who cut the first tree down in Hollenback’s Grove at the commencement of the new settlement. After the family of Mr. Hollenback had encamped for the night, they were joined by a man who carried an axe on his shoulder. He was a perfect stranger but nevertheless welcome, and in payment for his lodging, supper and breakfast (though no charge was made), he volunteered and cut down the first tree, after which he left and located in Big Grove. The man was Moses A. Booth, afterwards a worthy and much esteemed citizen, who died in 1845.
The early settlers of the country were very poor with respect to a circulating medium. They were rich enough, though in property, but there was no market for anything. Consequently, when what little money the settler brought with him to the new country had been expended at the trading posts for necessities, privation began to be felt. It is true that the country abounded in game, fish, and furs of different kinds to a considerable degree, but here was no transportation. In those days, it was not unusual for the debtor to give his creditor a note with a due date for so many horses, cattle, or hogs, whose value would be equivalent to his debt.
We once heard a story of a smart chap who lived down on the Wabash River, who gave his note payable in horseflesh. When his note came due he tendered a dead horse, remarking that there was nothing said in the note about the horse being alive.
A great majority of the persons traveling in the country then were of the most doubtful character, Adventurers and vagabonds abounded in the old settlements. We read of our sometimes entertaining angels unaware and it was the lot of the early settlers to sometimes entertain beings of a different character. We will relate one instance of this sort which will suffice. Many years ago we were visiting some friends in an eastern state, when a person present told the following story and offered to produce documents to substantiate it. He said a few years ago a man was put on trial and sentenced to receive the extreme penalty of the law in a neighboring county for committing a capital crime. The day of the execution arrived and the prisoner was brought forth upon the scaffold. He was asked if he had anything he wished to say and replied in the affirmative, and began. He said “nearly twenty years ago when I was barely a man in years, I was prompted by a desire for adventure and to begin life for myself, I left my home down east and turned my face westward. In due time, I found myself in the northern part of Illinois. The country was very new; in many places house were scores of miles apart. I visited the lead region (Galena area) where speculation was rife. All kinds and conditions of people were there and vice of all kinds abounded. I was soon out of money. No one knew or would trust me, and in order to meet and overcome a pressing necessity, I committed a crime (the nature of which it is not necessary for me to say) against the person and property of another. I left the locality and became a wanderer. In the course of my travels in a southeasterly direction, I was passing through one of the beautiful groves with which the section abounds. I was early in May and the trees were just putting on there summer livery of leaves, when close to a small stream, I found a man a little above middle age engaged in splitting rails. I entered into conversation with him; he answered my questions mildly, and kindly sat down by my side upon a portion of the tree he was splitting up and entered into quite a conversation about the country, of perhaps an hour or so. At the end of which time I confided enough in him to tell him I was in trouble, that I had committed a crime which if known would deprive me of my liberty and might extend further than that. I confided in him that since committing the crime I had found no peace of mind, but was a wanderer through the land. He heard me patiently and when I had finished he said, “I will not play the part of an informant on you young man, you are miles from any court that would have jurisdiction of your case. You are still a very young man, and the world is before you. It is not too late for you to reform. Try and see if you cannot be a man, it is well worth the trial. The country is new and has need of many young men such as you seem to be.
He said many other things to me, principally by way of advice which was interrupted by a call to dinner. He asked me to partake of his hospitality. I did so and accompanied him to his shanty which stood in a small clearing not far off. After dinner he offered me a home at his house until I could do better, but I had other plans in view. After advising me still further, I took my departure, mentally resolving to profit by his advice, but an unlucky temptation occurred, my good resolution left me and I sunk still deeper than ever before. I continued to do so until the date of my arrest. Had I followed the good advice I had been given while it was still possible for me to reform I would not be here today. I am about to suffer justly, I have nothing more to say.” It is hardly necessary for us to say the man who gave the criminal the above advice was no other than Uncle George Hollenback, as he used to be called when spoken of
The First Crop.
When fairly settled and “keeping” house, Mr. Hollenback and his family began clearing a small piece of ground. Part of the clearing was to be used to plant a small orchard when the time arrived for that purpose. Someone had told him that apple and other fruit trees would not do well on prairie soil.
Partly because there was not sod to interfere with the growth of the corn he proposed to plant the corn by the middle of May. Sufficient ground had been cleared to raise 300 bushels of good corn when it was picked and cribbed. Long before the corn crop could mature; it became apparent to Mr. Hollenback that some means must be employed to keep his neighbors and his family from suffering. To this end, after the corn had fairly started to grow, he took his team and went to the neighborhood where he had formerly lived, beyond the Illinois River. There a friend gave him three or four acres of wheat which had been self-sown from the crop of the previous year, but the wheat was not ripe. After waiting patiently for some weeks, during which time he did odd jobs of work for his former his neighbors, (and it would not do to go home without something to live on), the wheat was ripe enough to cut, which he did with the old fashioned sickle. The weather became showery as it sometimes does about harvest time, which occasioned another delay. After it became dry enough to thresh, (which operation was done with a flail), the wind furnished the motor to separate the chaff from the wheat and result was six or seven bushels of excellent wheat per acre. The wheat was ground in a horse mill and bolted by hand and made into a few hundred pounds of flour of good quality. He was now off for home, which he reached in two days, after an absence of just six weeks. He arrived in the nick of time for the last loaf of bread had just been divided.
All was lovely now; there no longer was a prospect of starving. There was plenty of flour to last until the corn matured, of which there was a good prospect. The river and tributary creek abounded in excellent fish and the thicket occasionally gave cover to an Indian pig, and small game abounded to a considerable extent, which could be hunted or trapped. The first summer gradually came to a close. Visitors, except half-naked Indians were few and far between. The Indians only came when they wished to beg for something; most generally grain, flour, or bread, which they denominated by the general name of “Domine,” and they called potatoes “quash kin.”
How They Lived.
Toward winter the small supply of flour had almost disappeared, but in corn they found a substitute for almost every variety of food known in domestic cookery. It made bread pudding of different kinds, cookies, etc. We will venture to say that many of the receipts for preparing the same are not found in Miss Leslie’s Cook Book.
The mode of preparing the corn before cooking is somewhat novel and may perhaps be interesting to those who are about to emigrate to the west. In the first place a tree of suitable size was cut down. A portion a few feet long was cut off and set on end. A fire was kindled on the top and a cavity burned and hollowed out to a sufficient depth to make a mortar. A pestle was made by driving an iron wedge into a small stick and so secured that it would not fall out. The corn was placed in the mortar, and a little water poured on it, and it was pounded into a meal as fine as could be, divesting the grain of its outside covering. It was then sifted in a hand sieve, resulting in some very fine meal for bread and cakes. The contents of the sieve are then emptied into a pail of water. The coarser portion of the grain settled to the bottom, furnishing material for hominy and puddings. The refuse rising on the top was skimmed off and thrown away.
In this manner, bread and most of the other food was prepared for the ensuing winter, which like the preceding winter was very severe. The long winter passed pleasantly away. The houses of the three families were not far apart. In fact, William Harris’ and George Hollenback’s houses were not over a half mile apart, and Ezra Ackley’s house was about midway between therm. Visits were frequently interchanged between the three families, during the long winter evenings. Absent ones were remembered and spoken off. Residing in distant states, and personal exploits and histories were recounted, and finally the spring of 1832 arrived.
In addition to going to the mill in the summer of 1831, Mr. Hollenback had at odd spells prepared the logs and built the old house before spoken of, and on account of an accident, was obliged to occupy the new house much sooner that he had anticipated. One night during the month of August a severe thunder storm accompanied by a severe wind blew a large tree on his shanty, completely demolishing it and greatly endangering the lives of himself and family. However, no great damage was done to the log cabin, and during the pelting midnight storm they effected their removal to the house which was their home for nearly half a score of years. The little settlement was not without its excitements. There were births and marriages, but no deaths. In less than a year from the date of the settlement, the first birth was a pair of twins at George Hollenback’s home, of which the writer of this was the eldest, thus being the first white child born on Fox River by only a few minutes.
The first marriage was that of Mr. Harris’ eldest daughter, Nancy Harris, to Edward Glenn Ament, yet a well know citizen of this county.
The spring broke early and everything seemed much more cheerful and encouraging. The flocks and herds had increased; a stack of corn sufficient to last until the next crop matured was still on hand. A larger area had been broken up for the coming corn crop; seed oats had been procured, and winter wheat had been sowed the previous fall which promised well. Flax seed had also been sowed to be used in the manufacture linen cloth. By the 16th of May the corn was planted, and now was to befall the infant settlement’s greatest misfortune. For a long time, trouble by the Indians had been threatened, and now culminated into actual hostilities. In order to make a narrative of the Indian troubles more intelligible and to account somewhat for the extraordinary conduct of Shabbona toward the white people hereabouts it is necessary to go back a little. The summer of 1829 or 1830, the particular year is not remembered by those who are cognizant of the facts, was particularly wet. The Indian corn fields were on the islands and river bottoms. The rivers and their tributaries raised to a great height, so the river bottoms and islands were submerged, and the winter’s supply of corn was not raised by the Indians. The succeeding winter was unusually severe, and many tribes suffered for lack of food. The Indians called Clark Hollenback “Corkcoat,” and had a very high regard for him. He had a large supply of cattle, which he sold to the suffering Indians at a fair price, and waited for his payment until the government paid the Indians the annuities due them. It is said an Indian never forgets a favor nor forgives an injury, and this act of benevolence may be the key to unlock the mystery of why a greater number of persons were not killed. Sometime in the early spring of 1831, Clark Hollenback, his family and son, George B. Hollenback and son-in-law, Patrick Congers, (sic Cunningham who married Hannah Hollenback), located at the grove near where Newark now stands. As stated before, George B. Hollenback kept the first dry goods store in this section, and at this time kept a small stock to trade with the Indians and what few white people were passing and re-passing through the country. In the spring of 1831 the Sauk Indians conceiving or pretending that they had been cheated or otherwise wronged by the treaty at Prairie du Chien crossed the Mississippi River at Fort Armstrong (Now Rock Island), and demanded satisfaction for their grievances of General Atkinson, who was then stationed at that point. Considerable force was exhibited on the part of General Atkinson, but in order to conciliate them, and give them no possible cause for dissatisfaction, several thousand dollars worth of provisions, consisting mostly of flour and pork was turned over to them from government stores. This apparently satisfied them and they re-crossed the Mississippi River to their own homes, somewhere in the present state of Iowa.
The Indian War.
In the spring of 1832 the Indians undertook the same game and the commandant at Fort Armstrong notified the then Governor of the State in regard to the threatened hostilities, but it took the messenger a long while to reach the capital, and it took much longer for the Governor to call out and equip the militia. Before any considerable force could be interposed between the Indians and the settlements, the blow had fallen. This portion of the country had belonged to the Pottawatomie Indians from time immemorial, and at this time they had not been removed from the country. Although the Chiefs professed friendship for the white people, they also professed friendship to the hostile Indians, who were the Sauk and Fox Indians. Many of the Pottawatomie warriors were really friendly to the hostile Indians.
General Atkinson who had followed the Indians from the Mississippi River arrived at Dixon’s Ferry on the 15th when he learned of the defeat of Major Stillman’s battalions at Sycamore Creek the day before. When the Indians crossed the Mississippi they passed up the north side of the Rock River, while General Atkinson, with the U. S. forces, passed up from Fort Armstrong on the south side of the same river, until he arrived at Dixon’s Ferry, where he stopped for a time. From this point Major Stillman or General Atkinson, dispatched a young man name Holley, and two others, whose names are not now known, on horses for the settlements on Fox River, but they never reached their destination. The men, their horses and their equipment were never seen nor heard of from that day to this. There can be but a single conjecture with regard to the fate of the young men. That is they were intercepted and murdered by the Indians. The same day the Indians arrived at the mouth of Rock Creek, at which place it was proposed to hold a council with the Pottawatomie Chiefs.
For a day or two it was noticed that there was a considerable stir among the Indians, as they were passing and re-passing almost continuously, but they all appeared to be good humored, as though nothing serious or anything out of the ordinary course of events was to happen. Only once did the Indians during all of this time do anything that excited suspicion or alarm. Mr. Hollenback’s house was clapboarded between the logs; an Indian in passing took the ramrod out of his gun and lightly tapped on the boards with the end of it and then exchanged knowing glances with his companions, as much as to say ‘those boards don’t offer much protection.’ During all of this time the council was in session, the Pottawatomie Chiefs could not be drawn into the war. It may be that they didn’t want to be but the only reasonable inference that can be drawn is that Shabbona and his friends wished to gain all the time he could in order that his scheme for the preservation of his white friends might be successful. Toward the evening of the 16th, knowing that the council would at best only meet a few hours more, and also knowing that he was closely watched, and that his absence would be fatal to the accomplishment of his plans he secretly dispatched his sister’s son, a trusty young Indian by the name Peppers or Pepys, with instructions to proceed to George Hollenback’s house as that was the nearest house to the place the council was being held and give him and his family warning. The young man feared he might be followed. Although his excuse afterwards was that he was a stranger to this locality and go lost, it is certain that instead of going to George Hollenback’s as he was directed, he went to Clark Hollenback’s, four miles in a contrary direction. All of this consumed most precious time. Upon arriving there he immediately let his errand be known and departed. Clark Hollenback was absent at that time and was not expected home for some days. His son Thomas then a young man of 17 or 18 years happened to be home and the only chance of saving the lives of his uncle and family was to ride a perfectly unbroken colt which happened to be the only horse on the premises. He immediately saddled, bridled and mounted the horse, and calling for his rifle started on his journey, but in shifting his rifle from one hand to another the colt became almost unmanageable which caused him to drop his rifle, which he snatched after as it was falling and was lucky enough to catch the ramrod which drew out, and was used by him as a persuader for his colt. In that way he made it to his uncle’s house at a degree of speed that would have astonished Tam O’Shanter.
His salutation to his aunt upon riding up was, “Where is Uncle?” She answered that he was out hobbling the horses. He immediately responded, “If you don’t get up and clear out of here, every dammed one of you will be murdered in twenty minutes by the Indians!” By this time the family was aroused to a sense of impending danger. The wagon box was set upon the wagon, the horses harnessed and hitched to the wagon, and while Mr. Hollenback hurried to Ezra Ackley’s and William Harris’s houses to give the warning a few necessary articles were tumbled into the wagon. The calves and cows were turned together and left to themselves. By this time, George Hollenback had returned. Ezra Ackley did not have a wagon so he and his wife and two children mounted on his two horses. The William Harris family soon joined the Ackley family. Mr. Harris’ team had strayed off a few days before, and he and his two eldest sons had searched for them but were unable to find them. Thus the Harris family had no means to escape except on foot. Mrs. Harris’s father, old Mr. John H. Combs, was so sick he was not able to leave his bed, and had to be left to the mercy of the Indians. It was now growing dark, the women and small children got into the wagon. The larger children and men started out on foot to make their escape, with the wagon following them. All were pursuing an easterly course. After going about a mile, the wagon got “stuck” in a slough and all of the horse’s efforts to pull it our proved unavailing. It was decided to send someone back to Hollenback’s for a pair of stretchers which had been forgotten in the haste of departure, so that Ackley’s team could be hitched to the end of the wagon tongue to help pull the wagon out. Ackley and someone of the party proposed that they would go back together after the desired articles, which lay upon a shaving horse in the yard. But Mr. Hollenback did not agree to this suggestion, he argued that he was a smarter man on foot, and the Indians would be less liable to catch him than they would the other two. It was finally agreed that Mr. Hollenback should go upon the dangerous errand. Before doing so he told the party that in case they heard him halloo they were to make no reply but save themselves the best they could. He then left, expecting to be gone no more than twenty minutes, but they saw no more of him for nearly that many hours.
To be continued next week.
The Old Settlers.
Last week we gave a short account of the Old Settler’s Picnic, and promised a more complete account this week. On the first page will be found the sketch read by Mr. Hollenback, in part, the balance will be given in succeeding weeks.
After the dinners were eaten on the 20th, the people gathered around the speaker’s stand (a wagon) to listen to a few of the pioneers. Mr. Lewis Steward, of Plano, was called upon first, and with much diffidence mounted the rostrum and said substantially; that he was proud to meet the old settlers of Kendall County on this joyous occasion. He paid a high eulogium to the natural features of our beautiful county, which the settlers took hold of from the hand of God, and tilled the soil without the laborious work of the Eastern settlers. Thirty-three years ago he ate his dinner near this spot, and could not help contrasting that primitive meal with the sumptuous viands he was regaled with today. We take more pleasure in looking into the future than to the past. The deeds and progress of the past should only incite us to greater and nobler improvements. The speaker then made a raid on the politicians which created much amusement.
John Litsey, Esquire, was surprised by a loud call to mount the stand, and the Squire surprised the people by his easy manner of speaking. He went through this state in 1833, passing through what is now Newark, where George Hollenback kept store with a few boots and shoes, a few necessities, and a barrel of whiskey. The latter being a staple article of commerce at that day. At one time in his journeying he came across 800 Indians in one body on the prairie. He first settled near Big Grove. He was notified the first day of his settlement that he must join the rest in protecting their claims. On the second day he was notified that a claim had been jumped, and that he must help restore the claim to its rightful owner. He helped. On the third day, he was arrested with others by the Sheriff of La Salle County for riot. He was bound over, and at the term of Court went to Ottawa for trial. The whole party was tried and acquitted. Daniel Platt built a barn at Plattville, and had to go to Big Grove to get men to raise the frame for him. In those days a man would not hitch up his team and draw corn to Chicago for all the corn would bring. He spoke of many matters if interest, and paid a high compliment to our common and Sabbath Schools.
Mr. Carpenter of Warrenville, Du Page County, was called upon next, and made a nice little speech of about ten minutes length. He came to this state in 1833, coming from New York to Chicago, the trip taking three weeks. The entire railroad he saw was a piece between Albany and Schenectady. The car ran on wooden rails and was drawn by one horse. He went to Warrenville in 1834. In the same hear, he passed through Aurora on the day the McCarthy’s were raising a small sawmill. At Oswego he stopped at a bachelor’s (Mr. Moss) and he and his party had a splendid supper gotten up by Mr. Moss. At Long Grove he stopped with Dr. Ives, and the next day went over to John Shepard Matlock, Sr.’s log cabin. There Mr. Matlock told his son, a boy named West, to go out to the patch and bring in the biggest watermelon he could find. That same West is standing over there; a sturdy and successful example of the early pioneers.
Later, he rode back to Massachusetts on horseback, taking some $4,000 with him to make payments for his brother merchants. He said the schools in Chicago were the best in the State, and the reason was his wife (then Sarah Warren) taught the first school in that place.
Mr. West Matlock was then called up to certify the watermelon story, which he did, and then uttered some words of deep importance to all, and invited the meeting to prepare for the Old Settler’s meeting above, where the Lord of Hosts was President.
George M. Hollenback then read the paper commenced on the first page of this paper.
The band played “Home Sweet Home,” and the meeting broke up.
Following this there was a list of names, with the date of their coming to the state, of as many as we could gather during the day. If names that should have been included, but omitted, it was asked that these names, the date of their arrival and the State they came from, be provided to the Secretary of the Association, John R. Marshall of Yorkville.
As per request of the Secretary, the following sketches have been sent in, for which we are much obliged.
Sheldon Addison Tomblin was born at Grant, Herkimer County, New York September 29 1805 and came to Kendall County (then La Salle County), May 25, 1835. His son John Westly Tomblin of Chicago was born on June 3, 1835 after their arrival, in a school house in Long Grove without a stove or fireplace.He paid Daniel Platt, of Plattville, the last cent he had to pay his bill, but was able to borrowed $15.00 from Stephen Ashley to help him make it through.His family then consisted of his wife, (Beulah (Foster) Tomblin), four sons: Ira Tomblin, Levi S. Tomblin, Norman Fuller (Foster?) Tomblin, John Westly Tomblin, and one daughter, Achsah “Asa” Tomblin.
Elbert Marcy was born in Pittston, Pennsylvania. He came to Kendall County in 1844 and took up a claim on section seven, in Little Rock Township. His claim was deeded under him, and he had to take another claim, which he held. He bought a fractional quarter adjoining, which made the farm he has lived on since, and lately sold to Amer Cook. He has bought a place near Spotsylvania, Virginia, and will move their next month.
Chased by Indians.
After leaving he made all haste to get to the house, as he got closer he thought it would be prudent to use some caution, for it became apparent that he was near the presence of someone. The door of the house was made of basswood puncheons split out of a log, and the door was made when the material was somewhat green and it had shrunk some, leaving cracks. He immediately discovered a light in the house through these cracks. He knew there was but little fire in the house at sundown, which was the usual supper time and the supper had already been served upon the table when the warning came. It was apparent to him that someone must be in the house. He had by this time arrived so close to where the shaving horse stood by the fence that he was almost reaching his hand through the fence when the door of the house suddenly opened and a person came out carrying a blazing torch which instantly lit up surrounding objects. He was astonished to find the door yard was filled with Indians, many of them almost within his reach. There was not much time for deliberation. It was instant and successful flight or death. He started with a speed and elasticity that astonished him. As he did so he heard a rattling in the fence, or a falling of rails behind him, and in an instant knew he was being pursued. Of one thing he was certain, he was perfectly familiar with the ground, and if, as he afterwards found out to be the case, his pursuers were strangers, and he could baffle them somewhere in regard to the nature of the ground, which in some places was exceedingly rough.
The course pursued in the race was in a northeasterly direction, almost at right angles with the line of flight pursued by the families. Ackley Creek, by reason of recent rains, was overflowing its banks in some places, and Mr. Hollenback knew of a narrow place which he could easily jump to which he now shaped his course, and which he easily cleared at a single leap. Here he gained a decided advantage, for his pursuers, eager for their prey ran in the water.
He now shaped his course in the direction of where Dr. Cook’s house now stands and began to feel, for the first time, that the extraordinary exertions he had been making were fast telling upon his strength. It was but death he thought anyhow, and the race would soon terminate, and so it did, unexpectedly in his favor. The race had now been kept up for about a mile, and in descending a hill he accidently tripped, and stumbled several rods down the hill. When he finally reached the ground below he was in the bottom of a ditch or excavation at the foot of the hill. He now gave up everything for lost, but in a few seconds his pursers ran by him. When they did so, he ran on his hands and feet for a hundred yards or so up the hollow, when he lay down to get his breath and rest a few minutes. His two pursuers ran on some distance, stopped and gave up the chase, and finally retraced their steps by about the same route they had pursued him.
It was about full moon and had the appearance of rain. A portion of the time it would be almost as light as day, then it would cloud up and be dark, and so it was alternately light and dark all night. After resting a short time he proceeded in search of the wagon, but the excitement of the evening was too much to grant him the patience to make his search. He frequently found the wagon track and as frequently lost it. He could only follow it successfully by turning his back to the moon. By so doing he could keep between the tracks, but when he turned his face toward the moon he could not see the tracks at all, probably because of some law of refraction or reflection.
A Skirmish and Escape.
He soon lost the tracks and all his efforts to find them again proved unavailing. He now hallooed once or twice at the top of his voice in order to put the fugitives on their guard and pushed on he knew not whither. They heard his warning and one of the boys wished to answer, but the prudence of his mother prevented him from doing so. In the meantime, the wagon was unloaded and gotten out of the slough, reloaded and passed on its way. Mr. Hollenback passed on until he came to a grove but could not discern its location. He sat down under a tree and in that position must have fallen asleep, for he said it was perfectly clear and bright when he awoke. Her climbed up in the tree under which he sat and could see into his own yard with perfect ease. He could see the house and discern objects walking around it. He could see the cows and calves feeding on the hillside not far from the house. Because he was not over a mile or two miles from his brother’s house, he concluded he would cautiously proceed in that direction and make some observations. In nearing the house he had gotten as near as the rise of ground in Mr. Gridley’s field 25 or 30 rods from the house. When he turned and looked to the south he saw three men coming from a southeasterly direction. Not knowing whether they were friends or foes he dropped down and lay perfectly still in order to see what shape matters would assume. The men on horseback proved to be Messrs. Kellogg, Holderman and Cummins, who had heard that there was trouble of some sort between the Indians and whites. They were coming out to Clark Hollenback’s to see what the trouble was. They knew that the Indians placed great reliance in Mr. Hollenback, and he could give them the desired information. As they neared the house, someone in the party called out “halloo,” which was answered by the same salutation. At right angles, with the line of approach of the party on horseback, there was a sod fence; the ditch created by the construction of the fence furnished an admirable place of concealment. Indians were hiding immediately behind the sod fence and other places of cover. From the sod fence, the house, trees and thicket, more than 100 guns were fired at the party on horseback; some of the shots fired were at very short range, not more than 15 or 20 paces. Strange to say, only one ball took effect, and that was in the neck of Mr. Cummins’ horse, just under the mane. A very exciting race now commenced, Indians on foot after the men on horseback. They passed very near Mr. Hollenback’s place of concealment. Just about the time the firing commenced he thought his place was rather an uncomfortable one in case things were not all right, and he crawled backward 25 or 30 steps, as well as he could to a low place, and had the satisfaction of seeing about a hundred painted savages occupy the very position occupied by him less than five minutes before. He lay on the perfectly bare ground just few yards away, but they were excited over the race, and their faces were turned from him, and when they saw that there was no chance of catching the men they were after, gave a little yell, and ran back to the house. Afterward, in speaking of his escape he said it afforded him the greatest relief of anything he ever experienced when they left him and were out of sight. After which by rolling along and creeping on his hands and knees he reached still lower ground until he could venture to rise on his feet. He now made good his escape and before ten o’clock, came into sight of his own wagon and family. The soon saw him and stopped, but he motioned them to proceed, which they did. It was only a few minutes until he overtook the wagon. The meeting can be better imagined than described, for they almost hailed him as one raised from the dead. They then proceeded on their way to Plainfield in safety.
We will return to the families, in doing so, justice compels us to mention a young man whom we have not before mentioned by the name of Peter Bolinger, who was at this time a member of Mr. George Hollenback’s family. Mr. Bolinger, Ezra Ackley and Thomas Hollenback were the only men with the women and children during that long and anxious night. As stated elsewhere, Mr. Harris and his two sons had gone the morning before in quest of their horses which had strayed. It proved they had gotten lost, and it was a mutual surprise to Mr. Harris and his family to meet on the prairie that morning after the vigils of that long-to-be-remembered night. After Mr. Harris joined them they made all haste to Edward G. Ament’s, who was Mr. Harris’ son-in-law. In addition to Mr. Ament and his brother Hiram Ament, they also found a man by the name of Morton, who lived with Mr. Ament, and with the addition to their numbers were soon on their way again. Stopping where John K. LeBaron, Esquire, now lives, they found an old bachelor by the name of Stephen West (sic Sweet,) and the old Frenchman, Pierre Lamsett, better known to the old residents as Peter Specie (or Pecie as he called himself.) The fugitives now began to have better luck, for just across the Big Slough from where J. R. McLain, Esquire, now lives, or did a short time ago, the found Keeler Clark and his brother William O. Clark (the latter is well known in this county a dozen years after as the famous Mormon preacher.) They were breaking prairie with a large team of oxen for Walter Selvey on the farm owned by Gordon Hopkins. Mr. Clark took a portion of his breaking team and replaced the jaded horses on Mr. Hollenback’s wagon, and with their fresh team they passed on rapidly. It was at this point that they were joined by Mr. Hollenback. The number of adult males in the company had been increased to ten. As soon as it was light that morning, Thomas Hollenback left the company to join his father, Clark Hollenback’s family, who fled to Ottawa, and it was his intention to follow them. In going to his father’s house it was necessary for him to pass along close to the sod fence spoken of before. He rode leisurely along toward the house, no one appeared in sight, but suddenly he was fired upon from all sides except the south by the Indians concealed behind the sod fence, trees and other coverts, many of them only a few yards away. Strange as it may seem, neither he nor his horse received a scratch. He found it almost impossible to urge his horse to leave the spot. He finally got his head turned and if the ramrod did good service the night before, it was of equal importance now, and he even made better time than he did then, and he was soon out of reach of harm from his pursuers.
It seems almost incredible that he should escape so easily, but it must be borne in mind that the Indians are a very excitable, nervous race, and that those Indians had not slept any perhaps for several nights and had eaten very little food during the time. Consequently their nerves were not in good working condition for making close shots. Thomas made good his escape, but it was a very narrow one, and he retraced his steps to the wagon much faster than he left it. On nearing it, it was observed he was as pale as a ghost, and as he was near enough to speak vociferated: “Aunt, Uncle, and all our folks are killed but I am bullet proof by God!” In this he was happily mistaken; his Uncle joined the party a few hours afterward, as we have already seen, and his father’s family escaped safely to Ottawa, but he did not see or hear of them for weeks.
Mr. Ackley did not remain in Plainfield with the remainder of his neighbors, but that afternoon the John Dougherty and Walter Selvey families, who had established themselves at the Aux Sable Grove, passed by Plainfield on their way to the Wabash County, Indiana. Mr. Ackley and his family bidding their good friends goodbye joined them and proceeded to Wabash County and was soon in a place of safety.
Adam Payne Killed.
Upon arriving at Plainfield some buildings were torn down and before night a very decent stockade had been erected, a military company had been organized of which Chester Smith was chosen Captain, and all management and precaution was taken for defense and to prevent surprise, such as guard mounting. About a week after this a man by the name of Payne, a Dunker preacher, stopped a short time at the stockade at Plainfield. His family had been stopping at Hollenback’s Grove where he expected to find them. Patrick Cummins, spoken of before, was his step-son. Mr. Payne avowed his intention of joining his family, who were supposed to now be at Ottawa. He was advised to accompany the people of Plainfield to Chicago by Mr. Hollenback and others who were fully competent judges of the situation. Mr. Payne had been to Ohio on a visit and had returned across the State of Indiana, thence to Plainfield via Hickory Creek on his way home. At Plainfield he got the first intimation of the Indian trouble. In addition to the splendid bay mare which he rode, Mr. Payne had on his person $400 to $500 in cash. He was a fanatic about religious subjects and supposed his profession would carry him through all difficulties and dangers. He paid no attention to the warning given him, but left Plainfield with the avowed intention of going to his family. This happened on the morning that the establishment at Plainfield was broken up, which will be hereafter noticed. He was never seen again alive by his friends, but a few weeks after an escort of some government wagons taking provisions to Ottawa accidently found his remains about midway between Hollenback’s Grove and the Illinois River. His head had been cut off and his left arm broken. He was identified by his long flowing beard which is usual to the sect. He was one of three well-known brothers in this section; their names were Adam, Aaron and Christopher. Adam and Aaron were preachers; Adam was killed while at this time Aaron was with the Volunteer forces in pursuit of the Indians. Aaron was a good soldier and fully avenged the death of his brother, although to this day, if living, carries two balls in his body which he received at Blackhawk’s final defeat on the banks of the Mississippi. When last heard of by the writer he was in the distant State of Oregon.
Mr. Combs Saved.
We have heretofore stated that the father of Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Ackley, on account of serious illness, had been left behind the evening of the flight. It was determined by Peter Bolinger, a young man named Cooper, and a young man from Hickory Creek, whose name is now forgotten, to rescue him if alive. He was left on Wednesday night and it was decided that Saturday night was when the attempt was to be made. So admirably was their arrangements made that the old gentleman was removed to Plainfield without any harm to the young men or inconvenience to him. He stated that the Indians visited him daily and finding him helpless had place food and water with his reach, and had otherwise treated him kindly. We cannot account for the conduct of these Indians toward Mr. Combs, for it was usually their practice to spare neither age, sex or condition. The only reasonable conjecture can be that they were keeping the old man alive knowing that some anxiety would be felt for his welfare, and that someone might possibly at some time visit the locality in order to determine what his fate was, when they would have better opportunities to kill or capture them. In case no one came to look for him, they could still kill him, but by the effort and good fortune of the young men, their plans were frustrated.
The Indian Massacre.
The settlement on Indian Creek was more unfortunate than that on Fox River. It consisted of three families; the Davis, Hall and Pettigrew families, and two millwrights who were preparing to build a mill for one of these persons. Davis was a blacksmith and a man of almost herculean strength and a genuine specimen of frontiersmen. He feared nothing and would fight anything. This settlement got the news in ample time. They leisurely loaded their wagons and went to Ottawa and staid there three or four days, perhaps longer. Not hearing or seeing anything of Indians, Davis began to chafe and grow restless. Finally on the 20th it was agreed that they should return to Indian Creek the next day. Early in the morning of the 21st they loaded up their wagons and moved back to re-occupy their cabins. They had hardly gotten their things unloaded when Mr. Davis had to go to the shop for something, and as a precautionary measure took his rifle with him, Mrs. Pettigrew happened to be near the door, looked out and said, “My God! Here are the Indians now!” The work of death now began by an indiscriminate butchery of all the persons in sight. Mr. and Mrs. Pettigrew and Mr. and Mrs. Hall were killed almost instantly, although Mrs. Hall was not killed until she had identified a half breed Pottawatomie who had frequently visited her house and eaten at her table named, Tenge Forqua. Davis heard the alarm and snatching up his rifle, instantly shot down the nearest Indian. Then using his rifle as a club, he rushed into the thickest of the fight, but he was soon overpowered and slain, but not before he had beaten the brains out of three of them. It is said that a dozen such men as Davis would have whipped the whole band. As soon as Davis was killed the conquest was easy. Eighteen of the white people were killed outright. Two of Mr. Hall’s daughters were carried into captivity. One small boy, who was a son of Mr. Hall, escaped. He and a little brother and sister were at the creek getting willows. His brother and sister were on the bank, and he was down near the water. Upon hearing the noise he looked up and saw the Indians killing his brother and sister. Then he hid himself in the willows until it was after dark, when he escaped and carried the news of the massacre to Ottawa. A portion of Stillman’s command was then on its way from Dixon to Ottawa, and passed within plain hearing of the firing, but they never went out of their way to see where the firing had come from, but kept on the even tenor of their way. It is true they might not have reached the settlers in time to prevent the murders, but they might have given the Indians a fight, as that was what they were out for. It may have been their experience at Sycamore Creek six days before, was sufficient to gratify any curiosity they might have had on that score. In a few days a party of men visited the scene in order to perform the last sad rites. They found the bodies of all, more or less mutilated, but they had wreaked the most of their vengeance on the remains of poor Davis, who was cut and mutilated in a manner too revolting to mention. The Indians he had killed were laid in a pile, and Davis’ body, as cut and mutilated as it was, was laid on top of them by the savages.
The Misses Hall were taken to Wisconsin, where their captors traded them to the Winnebago Indians for forty horses, and they were finally ransomed by the United States Government for $3,000. They were kindly and humanely treated by the Indians during their captivity of six months.
It has been stated that Clark Hollenback was absent at the beginning of the Indian trouble. On his way home he received information of the fact from some source which he did not credit, and kept on until he was surprised by finding himself in the presence of Indians, who at once gave chase. He was well mounted but was a large heavy man, weighing over 200 pounds, and after running as far as he thought prudence required, he sprung from his horse, took shelter behind it and leveled his rifle upon his pursuers, who gave him a wide berth.
Rather a laughable incident occurred during this time, showing another narrow escape. A rather eccentric man by the name of William Brooks, whom the Indians gave the romantic name of “Tobaccotuk,” had undertaken to make his escape to Ottawa, but had got lost and had hidden himself in the tall grass in a slough. Hollenback and the Indians nearly ran over him in his place of concealment, which he only dared to leave during the night, when he would break cover and travel hard all night and at daylight in the morning would find himself back in his old quarters whence he had started from the night before. He remained here four or five days, until a detail of men were sent from Ottawa and escorted him to a place of safety.
Laughton’s Capture and Escape.
We will now return to our friends at Plainfield. After remaining at Plainfield about a week, a company of 40 men under the leadership of the well-known Captain John Naper of Naperville came to remove all the people congregated there to Chicago. They found 30 able bodied men able at Plainfield. The Stockade at Plainfield was not considered safe as it was too small to accommodate the people gathered there. Thus the necessity of removing them to Chicago, where they could be better fed and guarded. But before doing so the news was brought of the murder of the Hall, Davis and Pettigrew families at Indian Creek, as narrated before. Captain Naper and his group proceeded to perform the last sad offices due to humanity. Before proceeding upon his sad duty Captain Naper had made an arrangement with David Laughton and the Pottawatomie Indians who were known to be friendly to go out upon a scout and meet his command in its return at George Hollenback’s house at the grove. Laughton had long been among the Indians, and had intermarried with them and was the husband of Waish-kee-shaw, to whom the well-known reservation of that name was made. Laughton performed his mission satisfactorily and proceeded to the place of meeting, and upon nearing the grove instead of using ordinary caution, upon discovering the tracks of shod horses supposed that Naper and his party had reached the appointed place for the meeting, gave a shout and galloped up to the house. Instead of meeting Captain Naper as he expected, Laughton found himself in the hands of infuriated and hostile Indians. Upon discovering that he was a white man, they immediately made their preparations to put him to death. It required all the tact and diplomacy of his Indian friends to save him. After many threats and imprecations, the hostile Indians were prevailed upon to let him go, and putting spurs to their horses Laughton and his companions were soon well on their way to Plainfield, rejoicing at their most fortunate escape, when they were shortly joined by Captain Naper and his party who had been to Indian Creek, buried the dead and returned to safety.
Move to Chicago.
On the following morning the establishment at Plainfield was broken up, and the people removed to Chicago, though not without some danger. It was ascertained afterward that a considerable number of Indians lay in ambush at the crossing of Flag Creek, but they thought the train was too strong to attack and allowed it to pass unmolested.
For about three weeks the people who went up to Chicago from Plainfield remained in comparative ease and security. During this time the able bodied men in and around the garrison, who still kept up strict military organization, made frequent scouting excursions into the country. When not scouting or engaged in mounting the guard, they employed their leisure hours in ball playing and other athletic exercises. Thus the time passed until the 12th of June, when the lookout discerned a number of sails on the Lake. It was the long looked for United States forces under the command of General Scott, hastening up for the defense and protection of the frontier people. Never was a sight more acceptable to human eyes, for in those transports they were sure they saw a speedy deliverance. The vessels came near the harbor and finally entered. A boat was sent ashore, and it was immediately announced that the dread scourge, cholera was aboard. Instantly, from lip to lip the news was borne, and in less than an hour from the time of the first announcement of the disease, every person, with two exceptions, was ready to leave, the teams were all loaded and the train was ready to start.
The Plainfield people who required an escort of 40 men to guard them to Chicago were now willing and ready to return without any escorts, saying they would rather face the Indians than the cholera. They left Chicago in hot haste, and returned immediately to Plainfield, where they remained until the hostile Indians were driven from the country, and peace and confidence fully restored.
The last depredations committed by the Indians in this vicinity were done on Sunday, about the middle of June. Upon that day a mounted detachment numbering about 150 men left Ottawa for the purpose of proceeding to the Hollenback settlement and collecting and driving the settler’s stock to a place of safety. About the time the detachment left, something happened to one of the volunteers that delayed his departure for a few minutes, before he proceeded to join the rest of the men. Upon his way he fell in with two men named Schermerhorn and Hazleton, who were following the detachment in order to visit their house, which was not far from the old Mission, which they supposed was perfectly secure. The party had reached a place not far from William L. D_______’s, when they were fired upon and the men in the wagon were both killed, and the soldier on horseback, by some miracle escaped unharmed. An Indian threw a spear at him as he was turning his horse which cut some of the mane out just in front of his saddle. He immediately returned to Ottawa and after procuring sufficient force returned to find the bodies of the two men, which they returned to Ottawa, but the Indians were gone. The detachment had heard the firing a mile or so behind them, but thought nothing of it until they heard of the killing. In the afternoon of the same day a similar tragedy was enacted on the west side of the Fox River, near Indian Creek. On that day four young men, named Beresford, McFadden, and two Warren brothers, left Ottawa and proceeded up the river near Beresford’s home in quest of strawberries. The young men were in fine spirits, and it was Beresford’s twenty-first birthday. They presently dismounted, and after picking strawberries until they were satisfied, they proceeded to mount their horses, which they all did with the exception of Beresford, when they were fired upon by Indians which so frightened Beresford’s horse that he could not mount and the horse immediately broke away and ran. The volley only took effect upon McFadden who received a ball through the ankle, and the same ball gave his horse a mortal wound. The horse ran about four miles and fell dead. The Warrens affected their escape without a scratch. Not so with poor Beresford, when last seen by his companions he was fleeing for his life with the Indians in close pursuit. His fate from that time is veiled in darkness. No friendly eye ever rested upon his form afterward, and the manner of his death is of course unknown, but there can be no doubt that he was put to death. To his aged parents it was a heart rendering blow, and they lived in the vain hope that their son would at some time be restored to them, but they went to their graves without their hopes being realized.
The detachment spoken of before proceeded on their errand, accomplished it and returned without molestation. It is believed that no person was killed within what are now the limits of Kendall County. Before leaving the country the Indians burned all the housed in the vicinity except George Hollenback’s house. Many of the articles taken from his house were found in good condition afterwards, but the majority of the household goods were either carried away or destroyed.
The Settlement Increases.
During 1833, immigration began to pour into the county. It came from all directions, the lank, cadaverous Yankee, with his nasal twang and close calculation, with the same fashioned garments worn by his grandfather at Bunker Hill, met upon the most fraternal terms of equality, the backwoodsmen of the border in their leather clothing and the men from regions farther south in their linseys, woolens, and Kentucky jeans. Good feelings generally prevailed, neighborhood disturbances, vexations lawsuits, lawyers, and even courts, except in form, were unknown.
A year or two later surplus grain and other products began to find a market at Chicago, which was still a hamlet
by the side of Lake Michigan, where now the daily receipts and shipments are counted by hundreds and thousands.
The inevitable peddler of wooden clocks from Connecticut was the first of his species to open up the county to
that kind of traffic and opened the way to others of the same class. Not infrequently the term “peddler” was but
another name for a far different calling and was a convenient cover for the pecuniary traffic in base coin.
Buying and selling claims was now a fruitful source of speculation and continued to be up to the financial trouble of 1837, after which buying and selling of claims was almost unknown. The financial difficulties of 1837 put an effective quietus upon transactions of that character and were a source of much embarrassment two years later when the Government land was first brought into market.
The cholera was fatal to very many of the soldiers under Scott’s command, many died on the vessels on the way up from Buffalo to Chicago, some died in Chicago after they landed as did also the two men who remained at the Fort after the arrival of the troops. Many of the soldiers died on the march after leaving Chicago and it is said that the graves of three of these soldiers were seen and known for years by the early settlers in the vicinity of Little Rock. Recently it has been a moot question regarding who the first white person was born in the city of Chicago. A few weeks ago the Aurora Beacon, claimed to have discovered the first, and if not first, then the second white person born in that flourishing metropolis. The question arises then, who was the original Jacobs? If no white person had been born their prior to the first of June, 1832, then that honor belongs to a daughter of James Beggs, long a resident of Plainfield. She was born in the Fort a short time after the arrival of the Plainfield people there. Sometime during the summer a daughter was born to Colonel R. J. Hamilton. These births can be substantiated by testimony of credible witnesses if necessary.
The summer now drew near its close. The Indians had been driven from the country, and but a remnant of them escaped across the Mississippi after the fight at Bad Axe. A short time afterward the volunteer forces were marched to Prairie du Chien and mustered out of the service. The various detachments of volunteers at the various stations soon followed suit. Before this time the establishment at Plainfield received an addition to its forces from the south part of the State. The Plainfield volunteer company was mustered out of the service sometime in August and the various families stationed there repaired to their respective homes or places from which they had originally came from. Mr. Harris’ and Mr. Hollenback’s families repaired to Ottawa, from there Mr. Harris went to the neighborhood where he had wintered in the winter of 1830-1831, and in the month of September, Mr. Hollenback and his family returned to the place in Ohio from where he had moved to Illinois in 1829. Old Mr. and Mrs. Combs accompanied them. They had lived in adjoining counties in Ohio. Mr. Hollenback and a young man named John Perry returned to Illinois in the spring of 1833, and raised a crop during the summer of that year. He then returned to Ohio and removed his family to Illinois for the second time. He remained on the land he chose for his home until his death over thirty-two years later. Mr. Ackley also returned and occupied the claims he left during the Indian troubles. Mr. Harris did not return to his claim at the Grove, but sold it to John Matlock, the father of our friend West Matlock, Esquire, and he in turn sold it to Robert Ford. Mr. Ford subdivided it into several farms and sold it to as many different people. Mr. Harris then settled at Long Grove and remained there until his death.
The Early Settlers.
So far as we have been able to ascertain, the following is a list of the persons and families in the year 1831, residing in this part of Kendall County: William Harris, wife and six children, Mr. and Mrs. Combs, Ezra Ackley, wife and six children, George Hollenback, wife and five children, Clark Hollenback and family, George Kellogg and family. Adam Payne and family, his stepson named Cummins and wife, Moses Booth, Edward Glenn Ament, and his brothers Calvin, Hiram and Anson.
Of the settlers of 1831 there are but few left in the county. Many of them have died and many have immigrated to other counties. Of those who were heads of families in 1831, not one remains in the county. Of the person in this vicinity in 1831, we can now only enumerate the following: Edward Glenn Ament, Ansel Reed, Dr. Blexton Harris, Mrs. Dr. John Assur Cook, Clark Hollenback (the second of that name), Sarah Ann (Hollenback) Boyd, (Mrs. William Price Boyd) of Bristol, David S. Hollenback and Dyson Holderman. Justus W. House and John Shurtliff settled on the Aux Sable Creek, at an early day, but to the particular year we have no definite information. Ezra Ackley died in 1840; Clark Hollenback died in 1844; Rebecca, wife of William Harris died December 19, 1845; Sophia, wife of George Hollenback died February 26, 1861; George Hollenback died in 1863; and William Harris died August 5, 1864. Ann, widow of Clark Hollenback and Elsey widow of Ezra Ackley, still survive, but are not now residents in this vicinity. It has always been our purpose in preparing this paper to maker particular mention of the principle men of the several towns of the county, new as well as old settlers, those who have given direction and character to the affairs of their several neighborhoods or localities, with many other matters of interest, but the short notice given before this meeting has prevented the collection of the necessary material to do so. For that reason this production has to go forth with many imperfections; grammatical and otherwise. It is hoped the writer will be pardoned for the frequent mention of the names of members of his own family but they are so intimately connect with the early settlement of the country, that the history of the events which we have detailed would be imperfect without it. We are now done with the detail of the most important events connected with early settlement of the country. The facts as we have stated them take away very much of the romance from that portion giving the history of the Indian difficulties as it is popularly related by those having but little information on the subject.
King Solomon wrote nearly three thousand years ago, “There is nothing new under the sun.” The thinking man is forcibly reminded of the arbitrary use of the word “new’ when applied to this country. Less than a mile from the spot where we are congregated today evidences of a civilization older than that of the Incas or that which descended to Montezuma and his son Gnatomozin. The mound builders have not even left “a habitation or a name” whence they came or whither they went. We can only conjecture that they occupied the same land we occupy. The same warm sun that warms us warmed them, and we refresh ourselves at the same fountain they did. Yet all they have left is apparently a few rude mounds of earth. All else has perished, even to their very bones. Occasionally some sacrificial implements are found to tell us that religion is an instinct in man coeval with the existence of the race. How silent and yet how eloquent is the still small voice that tells us of the departed. Here was their home, this was their country. Undoubtedly they had the same passions and desires with which we are endowed but more than twenty centuries have elapsed since they have become cold and silent. During that period nations have risen and again they have passed away, The Redeemer has become a man and has suffered. Greece and Rome, then the great countries of civilization, are now only great in their wealth of ruins. The chosen people of God have been for 1800 years wanders and outcasts from their inheritances and the holy places of Israel are polluted with the touch and tramp of the Moslem, and a new world has been discovered and peopled.
The inheritance of the Mound Builders is yours, you are at least the third race who has possessed it. Shall history repeat itself upon you? Will you make room and surrender this goodly heritage of yours to another race? We are told nations, like animals, contain within themselves the principles of their own dissolution. Can we anticipate that our people are an exception to the rule? Let us not anticipate.
Let us hail with pleasure the organization of this society, let us have an organization in which all political and selfish feeling shall be laid aside, let no difference of opinion upon spiritual matters prevent us from the full enjoyment of all pleasures which this day and each succeeding anniversary of it affords. Let us devote at least one day a year to meet in this beautiful retreat under the shade of theses grand old trees, and talk over the times and scenes of long ago, as long as the last survivors of the society organized this day shall remain. But with all our greetings and merry makings let us not forget those of “the old settlers” who have preceded us to “that Bourne from whence no traveler returns.” How frequently they have left us the past few years. Of those who were heads of families thirty years ago, now few remain to join our assemblies. We would like to especially remember the old soldiers of the Cross, those watchmen on Zion’s walls. What old settler does not remember Sinclair and Bullard, father Bibbins, Brainard, and a host of others who have given direction to spiritual matters? They are gone, but their works live after them, and will as long as Christian influences are felt in the community. The fathers and mothers of today were the children of twenty years ago. So we go.
Man is a social being. He has been endowed by his Creator with an organization susceptible of the highest degree of social enjoyment. Society, in some form or other, enters into all the concerns of life. It begins in the marriage relation and extends down through all the minutia of our existence. No community can do without society. Mankind is dependent upon one another for the commonest necessaries of life, and this helps, with other things, to find society and social intercourse. Did it ever occur to you, friends, when you have passed along Washington Street in the city of Chicago, and gazed upon that magnificent Board of Trade Building, that that edifice had been erected at the expense of your muscle, and that of your brother farmers for hundreds of miles around? Its erection grew out of your necessities and the necessities of others. It is the same with the erection of the remainder of the city and all other cities, and all railroads and other improvements. It is the operation of the same principle which has raised the price of your land from $1.25 to $50.00 and $75.00 per acre. Let us meet occasionally for social enjoyment and to lay off the cares and perplexities of life, as well as for the transaction of business suited to our respective trades and professions.
The settlement of the unhappy differences which grew out of the late Civil War is a source of congratulations. The principle “that all men are created free and equal” is no long a theory but a fact, and has been place beyond a peradventure by taking from Legislative bodies the power to deny or abridge the right of suffrage on account of race, color or previous condition or servitude.
The agitations of questions growing out of an institution are no longer stepping stones to politicians of all political parties to positions of power. Other and different questions will in time perhaps arise, but let us hope that no political question will ever arise which will be such a source of agitation and discord as those which have just now been, and it is hoped they are settled forever.
In conclusion it may not be amiss to indulge somewhat in the retrospect, sufficient at least to contrast the present prosperity with the recent past. There are some present with us today that have seen all this vast region around us when it was one vast unbroken wilderness, except at military posts and a few other points, from the Illinois River to the frozen ocean. In little more than a generation of men, a vast empire has arisen in the West. The center of population and power has departed from the Atlantic slope and lies hundreds of miles westward in the broad valley of the Mississippi. They have seen the city of Chicago rise from a mere military station to be the finest city in size in the Union, and the greatest produce market in the world. They have seen the vast prairies, rich in its profusion of grass and flowers, bud and blossom into smiling farms and dotted here and there with thriving villages and towns.
Many of you have perhaps been reared on the land of your adoption. In the outset you may have been poor in the things of this world, but you have been rich in purpose, and strong in heart. You have overcome obstacles; you have suffered from the vicissitudes of climate, and have wanted many of the necessaries and comforts of life while you enjoyed none of its luxuries. You have become wealthy and strong and great and made to yourselves names such as you could not have hoped to attain had you remained in the land of your nativity.
It may be that you have wrought during the heat of the day, and had little to shelter you amid sunshine and storm, but the “times that tried men’s souls” have passed away, and you enjoy a degree of prosperity and independence of which the earliest settler did not even dream. The time has come when you can truly sit under the shade of your own vine.
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