Illinois Genealogy Trails
St. Charles Township
©Transcribed by Kimberly Torp
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St. Charles is the center one of the eastern tier of five townships in the county, embracing Town 40, Range 8. Its lands were first offered for sale by the government on June 6, 1842, all having been practically claimed and pre-empted before that date. The east bank of the river was nearly covered by the heavy oak, hickory, maple, ash, black walnut and butternut timber of the "Little Wood." The low, level, but very fertile prairie on its eastern border stretched away across the old army trail into Du Page County, while a little south of the center of the township, lightly connected with the woods by open woodland, was a beautiful body of stately forest called "Round Grove." The two arms of Norton Creek, which unite near the centers of Sections 14 and 23, half encircle this fine grove, and from this junction flow to the river near the center of Section 15. LEWIS NORTON built a saw-mill on this stream about 1845, but as he was one of the volunteers for the Mexican War, very little sawing was done at the mill. Further north the prairie is drained by the small streams that meet near the dividing line of Sections 1 and 12, forming Brewster Creek, on which CHARLES BREWSTER, son of "Father" E. W. BREWSTER, operated a saw-mill in the early days. Passing near Wayne, the old Indian trail followed by General Scott's army approached the river on "the divide" between these streams. West of the river there was a fringe of woodland along its bank and along Ferson Creek, the western part of the county being beautiful rolling prairie land. Near the north line of Section 11 the river makes a broad sweeping curve to the west and a half mile north of west, following this course about a mile and a half, when it swings away to the south again near the center of the township. In the broad channel of its northwestward course lie five separate islands well above the ordinary flow of the water. The half encircled promontory-like bluff is bold and high, and was densely covered with heavy forest trees, including many sugar maples. On the high northwesterly and westerly bank of the stream, at and below the second bend, stood stately great white oak trees, under whose broad spreading branches glimpses of the prairie land to the west could be seen. Two rippling brooks from the highlands above had cut their channels down to the underlying bed of limestone rock, and near the highway fell in little shimmering cascades toward the river.
As early as 1834 the beauty of this location and the evident fertility of its soil attracted RICE FAY, a strong, enterprising man who settled and long resided upon Section 3 and subsequently erected thereon the fine, substantial stone dwelling, since occupied by the KEATING family. Soon a blacksmith shop was opened by the river roadside, two or three small stone houses were built and a little store established, and the settlement became known as Fayville. In 1836, The Rev. D.W. ELLMORE entered a claim west and south of CAPTAIN FAY'S. He laid plans for the location here of a large industrial training school, and in 1851, with these plans in view, platted a village called Asylum. He also had a bill for the incorporation of his school introduced in the Legislature; but his sudden death by lightning, on July 29, 1854, ended these philanthropic efforts of a cultured, broad-minded Christian pioneer. Three post offices - Fayville, Silver Glen and Riverside - have been established and discontinued at this place. Quite extensive lime kilns were opened here in the early days.
The different branches of Ferson Creek enter the northwestern corner of the township, and with numerous curves and windings, serving to water and drain many farms, find the river near the southeast corner of Section 21. There were a few red cedar trees on the rocky banks of the streams, besides extensive deposits of excellent gravel and sand on the higher knolls along Brewster, Norton and Ferson creeks, which are now of value. In the spring of 1834, EVAN SHELBY and WILLIAM FRANKLIN, brothers-in-law, followed the army and Indian trails to a beautiful location near the Fox River, where they marked claims and built a log cabin and in August of that year, MRS. FRANKLIN came with her two children. ELIJAH GARTON with his wife and six children, and JOHN W. GRAY, his son-in-law; MR. AND MRS. ALBERT HOWARD, with six children; MR. AND MRS. THOMAS STEWARD and four children (a most surprising party of emigrants) arrived at Round Grove, it is said, on May 8, 1834. FRIEND MARKS and family, WILLIAM ARNOLD, JOHN M. and ALEXANDER LAUGHLIN; WALTER WILSON, with his sons, JOHN C. and THOMAS, and his son-in-law, THOMAS BARLAN; MRS. MOSES YOUNG, with her sons SAMUEL, STEPHEN, JOEL and DANIEL C., and her daughter JERUSHA; ROBERT MOODY, J.T. WHEELER, JOHN KITTRIDGE (after whom Dr. KITTRIDGE WHEELER, D.D. the distinguished Baptist divine, is named), NATHAN PERRY, WILLIAM WELCH (who settled on the army trial beside Brewster Creek, on what became Section 1), and his son-in-law, TUCKER; WILLIAM WILSON, MELVIN MARSH and JAMES DAVIS all came this first year, and the most of them entered land along the east side of the timber. It is said that a settler name CRANDALL built a cabin on the west side near CAPTAIN F.H. BOWMAN's residence in 1834. Three of the most active and enterprising men who have contributed to the progress of the town and county - SOLOMON DUNHAM, MARK W. FLETCHER and CALVIN WARD - came in 1835, as also did CHARLES B. GRAY, EPHRAIM and O.W. PERKINS, WARREN TYLER and his son, IRA, DANIEL MARVIN, the first blacksmith, and many others. In this year the first school was opened in a part of WARREN TYLER'S double log house, standing where the "Western Enterprise" tavern was afterward built. It was taught by MISS PRUDENCE WARD, who, in serene old age, still survives, crowned with the glory of a long life of Christian kindliness and exemplary usefulness. In 1835 FRIEND MARKS performed the first roadwork in the county by marking and improving a wagon track past his cabin (which was the first tavern) to Herrington's Ford. It is said that GARTON and HOWARD drove their ox-teams to the Wabash settlement after supplies for these pioneers in the winter of 1834-5, which was unusually severe, the mercury during their trip ranging lower than twenty degrees below zero. J.N. LAUGHLIN has stated that in June, 1835, he drove to Chicago with two yoke of oxen which had to swim in crossing the Des Plaines, and that the level land, from Oak Ridge in, was entirely covered with water.
In January, 1835, J.T. WHEELER and JERUSHA YOUNG were married at the home of GIDEON YOUNG, who then lived at Naperville. J.M. LAUGHLIN and EMILY GARTON were married at ELIJAH GARTON'S the same month; DEAN FERSON and PRUDENCE WARD were married in "Charlestown," as it was then called, on September 14, 1835. Death, as well as Love, was busy in the little colony. STEPHEN YOUNG died May 8th, and it is said that, at his funeral, the Rev. MR. PERRY, a Congregational clergyman, preached the first sermon in the township. That fall ALZINA GARTON, twin sister of MRS. GRAY, died and was buried at Round Grove.
Crowds of settlers came in 1836. Among them were JOHN GLASS, the BAIRDS and the HOWARDS (FRANCES CHRISTMAS BAIRD was born on December 25 of that year), ZEBINA BROWN, GEORGE PARKER, J.H. ANDRUS, JAMES T. DURANT (whose brother, BRYANT, arrived the next year), NATHAN H. DEARBORN, DR. WHIPPLE, DR. NATHAN COLLINS, HORACE BANCROFT (the first postmaster, who four years later, refused to continue in office under General Harrison's Whig administration), ASA HAZELTINE, VALENTINE RANDALL, MAJOR W.G. and SMITH CONKLIN, AMOS N. LOCKE and BELA T. HUNT. During this year plans for utilizing the water power, and laying out and improving the village were matured, and in large measure carried forward. About this date excellent families were also settling in the northwest portion of the township, prominent among whom were JOEL HARVEY, JAMES O. BURR, MARK BISBEE and GARRITT NORTON, each of whom established farms that have been models of thrift and productiveness.
Among all these early settlers will be noticed the names of families who have contributed very largely to the development and prosperity of the township and county. Famous camp meetings have been held, from the very earliest times, in the beautiful glades of the timbered lands bordering the eastern line of the township. St. Charles is one of the most prosperous dairy districts of the county, and its later development forms and important part of the progress of the county.
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Edited by Newton Bateman, LL.D. and Paul Selby, A.M.) and History of Kane County Edited by Gen. John S. Wilcox. Chicago; Munsell Publishing Company, 1904, pp. 718-719
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