Old Settlers Meet, Young Settlers Not Barred.
Oswego’s Anniversary is Great, Big Crowd, Big Program, Big Time All Around.
Compiled and Edited by Elmer Dickson
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, June 29, 1904.
Sometime, between sixty-five and seventy years ago, when Indians roamed at will over the prairies of Illinois and eked out their existence, the first settlers of Oswego took up their abode about forty-five miles southwest of old Fort Dearborn. This epoch in the civilization of Kendall County is one of the mysterious pages of history. It is uncertain just when the pioneers of our neighboring town stopped there. No dates have been preserved that lay claim to the primary settlement of the town.
Not withstanding the fact, the seventieth anniversary of the history of Oswego Township was celebrated Thursday by a county picnic. The management was in the hands of Nineteenth Century Club of Oswego. The historical society was started last year when the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of Plano was observed in Steward’s Park, and the Oswego picnic is the second meeting in the history of the society.
Oswego was dressed in gala day attire, inside and out. Flags and bunting festooned the store buildings, the residences throughout the town were decorated in national colors, and the townspeople were all dressed in the picnic suits to correspond with the hot weather and patriotic environment. Probably the largest crowd ever entertained in Oswego gathered to partake in the doings. The street cars ran every half hour and in the afternoon they were all crowded. It is conservatively estimated that about 1500 people visited Oswego, besides the citizens of the village.
It was a great day for all. The old settlers, who have grown gray in the development of the town, who have left their imprint on the manners and customs of the village, and who have played a prominent part in many legends and historic stories with which the village is surrounded, were there to greet an old neighbor of fifty years ago. In the schoolhouse square, in the shade of large trees, the benches and seats had been arranged for their accommodation. It was here that they sat and conversed, rehearsed the stories of Indian strife and prairie breaking, and the many thrilling events of pioneer life. The committees had not forgotten the younger generation in their work. The young folks of the present day enjoyed it all. There were many things to interest them. At times, thoughts of the sweltering rays of the sun were dismissed from the mind.
The Enterprise Band of Aurora was on hand early in the morning and had the air filled with music throughout the day. To start the day properly, a program of athletic sports and field events had been prepared. In this, as in all other phases of the celebration Oswego was supremely evident. The only prize that went to an out-of-town athlete was second place in the 200 yard dash by S. Jones of Plano.
One of the most interesting and complete details of the day was the exhibition of relics and mementoes in the Hall of Antiquities. The collection was shown in the large Shoger building on the east end of Main Street, which was crowded with visitors who came and looked, went out, and then came back again. In the first room there was a collection of pictures of old settlers of Oswego, belonging to the Kendall County Historical Society, many of which were seen at Plano last year. Prominent among the photographs were the Oswego descendants of Captain and Mrs. Perez Walker, and also of themselves. Mr. and Mrs. Steven Fox, Senator Foster, now of Washington, DC, and hundreds of others who were connected with the settlement of the county. Almost every conceivable article of agricultural and domestic life in the early history of Illinois was on exhibition. The collection is growing each year, and this year there were many things not seen at Plano. Contributions are always gratefully received and well cared for by the society. Crockery, dishes, quilts, spreads, tablecloths, chairs, tables, newspapers, books and documents, spinning wheels, churns, firearms adzes, etc., all from fifty to two hundred year of age were there to attract attention of the sightseers. One of the interesting exhibitions was the big Indian panel made of arrow points belonging to Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence Hafenrichter of Yorkville. Mr. and Mrs. Hafenrichter are enthusiastic collectors of Indian relics and they have a large assortment in their home on the south side. This Indian with the drawn bow is made of arrow points glued to a background of green and is a beautiful and difficult piece of work by Mrs. Hafenrichter. There are hundreds of points of various shapes and colors in the make up of the Indian. They all worked into place as if they had been originally made for that purpose.
An old prairie breaking plow attracted much attention. It was a mammoth piece of farm machinery of oak beams and steel plates. A little blue training coat trimmed with brass buttons and gilt braid, belonging to Henry Wormley, told a silent story of the preparations for strife to maintain our free country. In the list of firearms were many that had done service in the Revolution, French and Indian Wars, War of 1812, and the Civil War. They were curious looking instrument alongside the modern repeater. An old blunderbuss, 200 years old, the property of Mr. King, was still bright and shiny, and despite its age was in a fine state of preservation. Standing on an easel in the second room was a picture of Shabbona, “the friend of the white man” his wife, and his rifle. Who can tell how often a bullet from that old gun had laid low a stealthy Indian as he was about to raid a white settler’s cabin. An ancient looking baby cradle, made of oak slabs and bedded with straw and an old comforter the property of Mrs. Simons, had rocked to sleep many of this county’s pioneers. A rifle owned by Henry Green Smith had been through French and Indian Wars and the Revolutionary War.
The above are but a few of the many old relics. The reporter could not begin to describe them all for a newspaper article. It would take volumes to tell the stories connected with them, and we are only giving a few of the more prominent ones. The Committee in charge of the antiquities was composed of Mrs. Helen Richards. Mrs. Alice (Rees) Cligget (Mrs. William Cliggitt), Mrs. H. B. Read, John Conway and William Cliggitt. Their work in this line was certainly thorough.
Dinner, and Then.
When the noon hour came all were ready for the picnic dinner. The visitors had brought their lunch baskets filled with good things, and the many shady nooks of the village were invaded to furnish a brief respite from the hot sun. In the Yeoman Hall the Nineteenth Century Club ladies were serving dinner. The hall had been decorated, the big windows were wide open, and it was a pleasant place to refresh. The menu would tempt any man who had just been to dinner. It consisted of a big plate of baked beans, chicken sandwiches, salads; coffee, ice cream, cake and other delicacies which were set before those who had not brought lunch. Those who partook of these items did ample justice to it all, and demonstrated their appreciation of the ladies’ efforts by returning for supper. The program for the afternoon was given at the schoolhouse park, where a platform had been erected. Supervisor Russell was President for the day, and in an able address he “delivered the keys of the city” to the visitors, and did it as nicely as Mayor Harrison could have done. Mr. John F. Steward of Chicago who has spent many years in the work of resurrecting the history of this county prior to the coming of any white men here, was on the stand and told the story of the massacre of the Fox Indians on Meramech Hill, near Plano, and the annihilation of that tribe by the French and their allies. Reverend D. T. Robertson of NaAuSay had the address of the day, and it was an able eulogy to the sturdy character of those who had first broke the ground and withstood the attacks of Indians, weather and disease in Kendall County. Honorable George M. Hollenback read a paper on the reminiscences and personalities connected with the changes of the county seat at Oswego and Yorkville, which will be published next week. John R. Marshall gave the dates and publishers of the newspapers that have been printed in the county since its organization.
The double quartet that appeared at Plano last year, dressed in quaint costume of olden days, was present and furnished the music. The old familiar songs and patriotic melodies brought back many memories to the older folks, and the young people enjoyed the harmony and the manner of rendering. Those in the quartet were:
Reverend Frank R. McNamar [McNamer].
Reverend Francis O. Wyatt.
Miss Clara Burson.
Miss Elva Bradley.
Mr. Warren Mighell.
Mr. Frank Young.
At 3:15 the ball game was commenced on the diamond on the river flats. Many had expected to see a close game between Oswego and Plano and for the first five innings it looked as if their hopes were to be realized, the score being 3 to 3, but in the sixth, Oswego got started and ran in five scores and five more in the seventh. With one more in the eighth the score finally read 14 to 3. Committees had made big preparations for the evening entertainment. The band gave a concert on the street, and as soon as the shades of evening had been drawn over the tired crowd, the fireworks were started. A big supply of sky rockets, candles, wheels, flower pots and other set-pieces had been procured, and it was after ten o’clock before the last spark had died out and the last cloud of smoke had floated away, satisfied that it had done its part in Oswego’s celebration.
In the Yeoman Hall, where a few hours before the hungry folks had been fed, the floor was cleared and Schultz’s orchestra of five pieces installed on the platform. It was warm, no it was hot, and there was a big crowd in the hall, but who could resist that music. A round dance or two was enjoyed, and then a quadrille was called. And all knew what that meant. “Put” Howard had been see around the hall and there was a scramble to get into the rapidly filling sets. Put’s “salute your partners” and the music was demure at first; with the “first four forward and back” the time was slightly increased, and when he got to “grand right and left” the crowd was surely going some. The old boys twenty-five and thirty years ago began to discard their coats, fans were wielded with vehemence, and with a whoop of fun an encore was demanded. It did not take many of these to send some of the older folks to their seats, and they were content to remain as wall flowers the rest of the evening. It was a great climax to the day. What if it did cost a few stiff joints the next day? Oswego does not have a seventieth anniversary every year, and her loyal sons and daughters were in to enjoy it all from the first.
Mr. Avery Noyes Beebe of Yorkville gave a gratifying talk on old times and also gave the names of the citizens of Kendall County who have become prominent in holding important positions in life. They were:
United Sates Senator, Addison G. Foster; Frank Vanderlip, John West Mason, Thomas Finnie, and Henry Sherrill, as members of the Illinois Constitutional Convention; Lewis G. Steward, Member of Congress; John R. Marshall, State Senator; Reuben W. Willett, member of the State Board of Equalization; L. D. Brady, Orlando H. Haven, S. H. Randall, Robert N. Matthews, Alanson K. Wheeler, John M. Crothers, Valentine Vermilyea, Jacob P. Black, Oliver C. Johnson, William P. Pierce, Ira Coy, Henry Sherrill, George M. Hollenback, Joshua McGrath, Peter S. Lott, Alonzo B. Smith, Andrew Welch, William M. Hanna, Edgar W. Faxon, Reuben W. Willett, Charles T. Cherry, and Edgar L. Henning, members of the Illinois legislature; Theodore DeLand, Fourth Assistant Secretary Treasury; John B. Littlewood, Examiner Patent Office; Thomas G. Steward, Chief Engineer of the Patent Office and George H. VanEmon, Census Bureau.
Some Personal Notes.
After the invited speakers had concluded their part of the program, some of the home folks were called. Mr. Rank, ex-postmaster, and for nearly forty years Oswego correspondent for the Record, spoke entertainingly and encouragingly. He scouted the notion of hard times for the early settlers, having lived in the vicinity for sixty years and said he always had enough to eat and wear and a good place to sleep.
Mrs. Margaret Young, Mrs. Mary "Elizabeth" (Jolly) Jeneson, (Mrs. Thomas H. Jeneson), Mr. D. M. Haight and Mr. Adam T. “Ad” Armstrong gave testimony as to the good times the old settlers had, and Mr. Armstrong read a pleasing local poem.
Anyone under 70 years of age was considered young. Among the elderly people present was Mr. John Hemm, who is 88 years and 4 months old, who enjoyed visiting with friends. Albert H. Litchfield who is 84 years of age, and bears his age like a boy. Daniel Johnson who was born in 1816 and gives promise of being here in 1916.
The Pearce family, who came in 1832, was among the earliest residents of Oswego, and sturdy representatives of the family, Ezekiel, James, Colvin and Frank Pearce were on the grounds Thursday.
Supervisor Russell is a splendid man to preside at public gatherings. He is prompt, decisive, and pitches in little stories and personal allusions that make the meeting lively.
The ladies of Oswego know how to make visitors feel welcome. They took special pains to make visitors feel at home, and the Record folks were well taken care of by Mrs. Martha (Russell) Goudie, (Mrs. James Hunter Goudie, Sr.), Mrs. Elizabeth M. (Clark) Russell, (Mrs. John D. Russell), and Mrs. Susannah Pearce, (Mrs. Fred Kelsey Pearce.) A little personal attention does help to make a visit enjoyable.
The program committee, with Mrs. Wayne as Chair, made it all a splendid success.
The handsome residences in the portion of Oswego not seen from the trolley line surprised all visitors. It was a revelation to many who know the village only as they ride through on the railways.
We dare say no one in Oswego can push a wheelbarrow full of fireworks with the skillful alacrity of Archie Lake.
The vender of the obnoxious “feather duster” did not enjoy a big trade, and soon left town. The celebration was not a “street carnival.”
Oswego folks are taking much interest in the youthful baseball battery of Joe Richards and Bennie Biesmeier. They are a fast pair, and did effective work against the larger fellows from Plano, striking out eleven Plano batters.
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