Published in the Kendall County Record, March
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
In the fall of 1855, our father moved his family from Plano to Newark. He came here because of the better schools for his children. By many the town was still called Georgetown.
The Fowler Institute was at that time beginning its second year and there was a good public school taught by Fred Freeman. The people of the little town were intelligent and friendly and are to this day.
Two churches flourished in the town at that time. The Methodist Church was newly built and dedicated the year before. I do not know when the Baptist Church was built. These houses were filled on Sunday mornings and evenings. Both had good Sunday Schools and fine libraries. The ministers were Budd and Cassidy at the Methodist Church. They were followed soon after by Robert K. Bibbins and the Rev. Wilder, called Elder Wilder at the Baptist Church.
Some of the leading businessmen at that time were John Coy, Isaac Lott and John Hollenback who kept a general store. George Winchell, had a hardware store, Henry Thuneman, sold drugs and school supplies. Thuneman also sold jewelry and repaired shoes. Barnett sold clothing. Kennedy Brothers had a wagon shop and George Cooper did blacksmithing. There were three doctors, Freeman and Dyer, partners, and Dr. Beaty. Mrs. Robert LeBeau had a millinery shop in her home, making many of her own hats. William Lutyen and Mr. Cox kept hotels. Nelson Niblo was the postmaster and I think Justice Of The Peace. Samuel Wright was a cabinetmaker.
Newark had sidewalks; two or three places laid side by side. In many places only the warped plank remained, but we got there just the same.
All homes were fenced in. Some had picket fences, but more were of boards. At that time stock was allowed to run at large.
Newark had a town bell. At the time it was purchased the only place in which it could be hung was the belfry of the Baptist Church. From there for many years, its sweet and clear tones could be heard ringing warnings of fires and tolling for deaths and funerals besides doing duty as a church bell. Does anyone know what Newark has done with its town bell?
Then all of the largest shows in the country came to Newark pitching their tents on the Nichols block. This being the village green. Puckerville was not on the map.
Those who disapproved of shows and considered them wicked complained about the money they took out of town. They didn't take into account that, which they spent here, which was a good sum. Show day was a great treat for school children. If any could not go into the tents they could and did see the parade and he animals and hear the music.
Old Shabbona and few of his tribe came to Newark about once a year, stopping at the home of John Hollenback. This too was a treat to the children who soon as they were let out at noon, trooped down there to see them. They were always outside seated on the porch or on the ground, wrapped in their blankets. They always looked just the same and paid no attention to us.
A prosperous farming community surrounded Newark. Among the nearest farm owners were the Havenhill Brothers, Oliver, Marshall, Fielding, Cyrus and Hiram. Others were Edward Hughes, Asa Manchester, John McMath, John Krouse, Edward Brown, Edward Rowe, George Barron and Selah Gridley.
On all of these farms were large bearing orchards. They contained all the finest varieties of apples ever grown. Plenty were available for home use and sale during the year around. Hard apples like romanites and russets were buried in the fall and dug up in the late spring. These were of fine flavor and lasted until harvest apples were ready to use.
Small fruits were to be had in abundance. Nearly every farm had what was call a plum thicket where every year the trees were full of big, red, wild plums which the farm women made into "plum" butter.
Candles furnished the only lights in town at that time. On the farms these were made at home from home tallow. Some were made in molds but more were dipped. This was a fall job in which the whole family shared.
I can remember when the first kerosene lamps were brought to Newark. At first these were tall, awkward affairs, with marble base and glass bowl. Two of these were bought and served as ornaments on the center table along with the family Bible and plush album.
About this time, the first screen doors were being placed on houses. This was the most welcome of all improvements to the housekeeper and everyone ordered them on sight. They did away with a great annoyance.
Newark in the fifties was not a beautiful town. There were no shade trees, fine buildings nor smooth streets, as can be seen now in all towns. It was the churches, schools and social life of the community that made Newark such a good place in which to live. Such a dear old home to come back to.
Today one would have to travel far to find a safer, saner or more beautiful place in which to rear a family than little old Newark.
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