In 1826, or perhaps the year following, Robert Beresford, wife and two sons, settled at the southern point of Holderman's grove, on one of the newly located sections of what was known as Seminary land, and thus became the first actual settler in Kendall county.
The Seminary land was a donation of thirty-six sections from the United Sates to the State of Illinois, for the purpose of founding a state college. They could be located anywhere on the public lands, and Governor Edward Coles in 1825-6 caused twenty-six of the sections to be located by a Board of Commissioners, and reserved from general sale. In locating one section at Holderman's, the Board left civilization far behind, but their attention was probably directed there by the canal survey, and they acted on the best information they could obtain. But if they could have once feasted their eyes upon the glorious landscapes south and west of the famous little grove they would have been in no doubt about the propriety of driving their stakes there. It is situated on the broad, swelling water shed between the Fox and Illinois rivers, and is a fit beginning to a country that has as many magnificent views and delicious bits of landscape in proportion to its size as any county in the State. There are no high hills in Kendall county, yet from some points thirty miles can be seen in one direction, and townships unroll like a panorama before the eye. The range is not so extensive along the county line road from David Wheeler's around to Holderman's, but for beauty it is unsurpassed.
Probably 1826 also Pierce Hawley followed Mr. Beresford from Ottawa, and located a mile from him on the north end of the grove, close to the survey, or Indian boundary line. These two cabins were for a year the only ones on the eighty miles between Chicago and Ottawa.
In 1827 or thereabouts, Moses Booth, one of the first pioneers of this country, came to Ottawa. That summer Reuben Reed, with a little family, moved from Ohio to Chicago. While there, October 1st, 1827, a son was born, who is now Levi Reed, of Pekin, Ill. If not the first child born in Chicago, he certainly antedates several who have claimed to be the first.
Late in November Mr. Reed went the lonely road to Ottawa; and feeling better suited with that place than with Chicago, sent back a team for his family. The weather was cold, but bravely wrapping herself and little ones as warmly as possible, the mother started on the journey. Her maiden name was Hannah Bailey; she deserves to be remembered. They forded the O'Plain near Riverside well enough, but at Plainfield the driver had to cut the ice before he could ford the DuPage.
They remained over night at Beresford's, and in the morning, though it was steadily snowing, pursued the slow tenor of their way. But the snow came thicker, the driver lost the trail, and at night they found themselves at Beresford's again, having made a circle on the prairie.
It was then decided that James Beresfordd, one of the sons - afterwards killed at Indian creek - should pilot them through. But it was very cold, and he had no overcoat; nor was there an overcoat in the settlement to borrow. Fortunately, however, there was material found to make one, and at it they went the next day. In the course of the day they lacked a needle, and Ansel Reed, the oldest boy, then nine years old, was sent around the grove to Mr. Hawley's to borrow one. And with the borrowed needle the coat was finished.
Half a century has passed since then, and Ansel Reed is getting to be an old man, but he remembers still the first journey he took in Kendall county. Having lodged the third night at Beresford's, they started again the following day and reached Ottawa in safety, where the father had secured quarters for them at David Walker's, by the spring. In a little while they moved out a mile and a half into a small cabin owned by Col. Sears, and afterwards went on a claim owned by Mr. Pembrook. Moses Booth was on Covill's creek, three miles southwest of the mouth of the Fox.
In 1828, Mr. Beresford sold to John Dougherty and moved back to Ottawa. The same year two new neighbors settled on the Seminary section adjoining Mr. Dougherty. One was Mr. Edmund Weed, and the other was Vetal Vermet, an enterprising Indian trader, who in his journeys between Peoria and Detroit, used to stop at Dr. Walker's, and lost his heart to Miss Huldah, one of the daughters. It was the end of his trading. They were married in 1828, and going out on the prairie, settled down near that favored and favorite spot first commended by the canal surveyors, and then known as "Beresford's." Being also on the direct line from Chicago to Ottawa, it was presumably a fine point for a tavern, and might in time become a village and go ahead of Chicago. The feat did not appear difficult, for of the two the splendid little grove on the highland was by far the best site. Chicago was a butt for the ridicule of travelers, and was only a hamlet at most. In 1827 its tax amounted to three dollars, so it is said, and the Sheriff of Vermillion county paid it out of his own pocket rather than travel the one hundred and twenty miles intervening between its quaking swamps and the county seat. The four families now of Hawley, Dougherty, Weed and Vermet constituted the settlement. There was besides a man by the name of Countryman, who had married an Indian wife, and lived with the Indians in the grove across the slough, three-quarters of a mile from Dougherty's. He had a log cabin on the edge of the slough, about eighty rods from the present residence of William Stephen and a bark wigwam in the middle of the grove. His Indian name meant Sand Hill Crane. His squaw, a sensible, hard-working woman, after some years, left him, and died of small pox in Milwaukee. He was one of those characters found on every frontier, who, either indolent or unfortunate, take up with a wandering, barbarous life as an escape from the toils or restrictions of civilization.
A half-breed, Francois Bourbannais, jr., or "Bull Bony," as the settlers called him, resided on the mission premises at Mission Point. Mr. Vermet and the other settlers at the grove, used to go there to grind their corn in a horse mill which was owned by the mission, and which was the only grist mill within reach in those days.
In October William Marquis and his little family came from Ohio and settled beyond Morris, the first settlers in Grundy county.
In 1829, by a treaty made at Prairie Du Chien, the Indians ceded to the government the territory north of the old boundary line, and thus Kendall county was open to settlers. But a large portion of the Indians were unwilling to sell. Black Hawk and Keokuk were rival chiefs, and the former declared that the latter signed away lands that he had no right to. A feeling of resentment had been growing for years. The whites were encroaching. The hunding grounds were being spoiled. Promises made at former treaties had been badly kept. The representations made at the canal treaty thirteen years before had not been realized. And now it appeared to the restive Indians, that the whites, having for years been robbing them piece-meal, were at last resolved to take the whole. It was inevitable, certainly, but the Indian lacked both the wisdom to understand and the philosophy to accept the inevitable. However, the treaty was made, burdened, as usual with special reservations in favor of whoever should show a claim or had friends influential enough to make one. The Pottawatomie war chief, Waubonsie, obtained a reserve of a hunting ground of five miles square near Aurora. Two reserves were granted in Kendall county. One of a quarter section to an Indian called Mohahwa, who had rendered some important service or other, hence called the "Mohahwa Reserve," in the town of Oswego, north end of Aux Sable grove. There had been an Indian village on it, and a dancing ground which is intact to this day.
The other was three-quarters of a section on the east side of Aux Sable grove, town of Na-au-say, and was granted to Weskesha, the Indian wife of David Lawton. Both these reservations were located, "at or near the head waters of the Aux Sable." Lawton died five years after. His brother in 1831 kept a log tavern on the O'Plain, near Riverside. A section at Mission Point was also reserved to Bourbonnais, who sold it to M. E. Bowen and John S. Armstrong.
In 1829 the chapel cabin, at Mission Point, was destroyed by fire, and was never rebuilt. The cause of the fire does not appear, but it was probably accidental.
And so ended an enterprise which, although, it continued but five years, was yet important enough to be perpetuated in the name of the township afterward formed, and the results of which are undoubtedly recorded in heaven and will be as permanent as eternity.
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