Winnebago County, Illinois
'Who's for the Ferry' and other Reminiscenses
WHO'S FOR THE FERRY?
OLD ROCKFORD FERRYMAN SAYS HOI-YE-HO FOR ANOTHER TRIP
Scenes of an Early Day at the Ford of the Rock Recalled in a Letter From Asher Miller--Stirring Scenes at Spring Election
Asher Miller, who is now at Skyland, Calif., has written the following interesting letter to the Register-Gazette concerning the days when he with others was engaged in running the ferryboat which carried on all traffic between the east and the west sides of the Rock river at Rockford:
"The ferry at Rockford was owned by Judge S.M. Church and had Giles Hard, James Taylor and John Fisher as ferryman. The fleet of boats were the decked scow, 14x15; a flat-bottom skiff, 12 feet long, and two canoes, or "dugouts." The ferry rope, three inches in diameter, was fastened to the top of a heavy post 20 feet from the ground and passed from the east bank of the river to the west side, crossing a roller that was framed between two posts, of equal height as those on the east side, and was fastened to a windlass on the bottom, which was turned with iron bars to pull the main line taut. Two large plank pulley blocks three feet long, with grooved wheels hung on the main line with smaller wheels in the lower end, through which the brace ropes of the big boat passed. Then emigrant travel was brisk we crossed two double wagons and teams each trip, and as we pushed from the shores, shortened the forward brace rope by a hand windlass, and raised our ‘leaboards’ by 2x6, fastened to the railing of the boat. This trolley current would strike these boats and send them across the river very fast at times and as we neared the shore would unwind the fore-brace and come in square to land. It would do me good to make one more trip of the old boat and show the young people how it was done. At this time, 1843, Rockford had three places of worship; the Baptist church, which stood on North Main street, where Deacon Mabie led the singing, ably supported by Mrs. Dr. Haskell and Mrs. C.P. Kimball. The Congregational church stood just across Church street west of the present post office. Hubbell Potter and wife, parents of Mrs. W.T. Lathrop and Captain Potter of the U.S. navy; Mrs. Judge Church and Deacon Baker, father of Captain H.N. Baker, were promptly on the eat bank of the river Sunday morning to be ferried over on their way to church. On the East side, where now stands the church where Rev. L. Waldo, father of B.R. Waldo and brother of Uncle Hi, preached, was the M.E. church. The black walnut siding (never painted) was warped and twisted, showing the inner brick lining in many places. Yet this was also the "court house" and the place where S.B. Gregory taught young men to wrestle with "Virgil" and "Day’s" algebra. About this time the question of where the new court house should be located was agitated. The old jail was being built on the West side in the summer of 1843, and East Rockford thought to have the court house. James Mitchell was circuit clerk, Mr. Dunbar was recorder of deeds, and had his office in the basement of Potter & Preston’s store, now known as Shaw’s block, on the East side. Here arose the "river" question. He East side had one county commissioner and the West side one, and soon the race began to see which should elect the third commissioner, also who should be recorder of deeds.. Dunbar, the incumbent, was a strong man and confident of holding the office. William Kulin, a "J.P,." who made his home with Jesse Blinn at Rockton, who it was said would marry a young couple and mark it down if they were poor. He entered the race against Mr. Dunbar, and one morning in August we crossed the river and at the livery barn of Charles Tyler saddled a pony and led him to the boat and across the river to the south front of the Winnebago house, where papers were given me for differ rent precincts, and I was told to mount the pony and let him go west on the old Galena road. It was 10 a.m. and my first stop was at "Twelve Mile Grove," in which were the homes of Ehraim Sumner, Sullivan, Daniel and Edmund Whittlesey. After dinner I left for Esq. Thompson’s father of Lieut. Thompson of Pecatonica, then across river to Ezra Cable’s, uncle of L.F. Warner in Sugar river precinct, thence down the river to Gideon Young’s in Harrison precinct, leaving election papers at all these places. Twilight fell as we left Mr. Young’s, and it was open prairie all the way to Rockford, where I arrived at 9 p.m. with a tired pony. The election came off later. Ezra Cable was elected county commissioner and the location of the court house was settled to be on the West side. The vote for recorder of deeds was Dunbar 563, Hulin 566. Mr. Hulin said that men would call to congratulate him on his election, saying "I was one of the three that turned the ‘scales’ in your favor." Hulin kept account of one hundred and fifty men who called on him to prove that they were one of the three who elected him. While working at the ferry one day after election, Mr. Hulin came and asked me to row him across in the skiff to the East side and bring over the records. We went to Mr. Dunbar’s office and carried in our arms books "A", "B", "C", "D" and "E" containing al the records of deeds and mortgages in Winnebago county. After crossing to the West side we carried the five books to A.S. & C.E. Millers office, a little room in the Winnebago house, next to Volney Marsh’s store. Think of this Comrades Holland and L.F. Lake as you look over many books hunting for the chain of title of the first five books we brought from the East side. Of John Fisher, the writer, would say many deeds of kindness were done by him. An aged man and woman crossed the ferry one day, expecting to meet their son, who lived in Ogle county. Their letter had been delayed and they had no money and told us so. Mr. Fisher said, "you are welcome at my home until your son comes. " After two days waiting Fisher said to "Dud" Redfield who was on the Dixon stage, "you take these old people to Oregon and I will see you paid." On the way over the son met them and all was happy. In a future letter the writer will tell of the building of the old dam and what came of it. ASHER MILLER [Daily Register-Gazette, April 01, 1898]
OLD SINGING MASTER
Recollections of the Ferryman Bring Up Others Equally Vivid.
Cherry Valley, April 13--Editor Register-Gazette: I have read the article in the Semi-Weekly Register Gazette by Asher Miller about the old ferry and other matters at Rockford in 1843 and I was prompted to go him two better in 1841. I crossed the river on the ferry boat first in November, 1841. In that year I took a line of singing schools along the Rock River from Fort Atkinson to Rockford. When I went to Rockford to engage a school I was told by a Mr. Parker who had started one and the unruly boys had broken it up, that I could not do anything for the boys would carry on so it wouldn’t amount to anything. Being forewarned I was forearmed. As was the order in getting up schools a committee was appointed o raise funds by subscription to pay the teacher by the evening and other expenses and have the school free for all. About a hundred dollars was raised and I engaged for two evening a week at $2 a night and expenses with some sly hints that I wouldn’t stay long. "We started in and I was on the lookout for breakers and hadn’t long to wait for about the third night they began to roar and half a dozen boys about 15 years old began to whistle and make cat calls and shuffle. The school was in the hall on the second floor of the Winnebago house on the west side kept by Lyon. I drew a spot on the leader, Baker, jerked him onto the floor and dragged him to the head of the stairs and sent him promiscuously down. The remedy was effectual, the trouble was over and of the 400 to 500 inhabitants about 100 attended the school to learn or for lack of a better pastime. The next winter I held a school on the east side in a large brick building owned by Mr. Wheden near where the Westminster church is. The description of the old ferry boat is very minute and accurate and I see it now with the bow elevated, quartering up stream, gliding back and forth by the current of the river. Many of the persons and places mentioned by Mr. Miler of 1843 were non est in '41. Dunbar, Hulin, Spafford, Dr. and George Haskell, Mabie, Lathrop. Baker, Church and others attend the school for profit or pleasure. The Holland house, noted at that time for its sumptuous hospitality, stood on the north side of Main street, east side. On the south side of the street was a row of one-story buildings the business center. On the west side in '41 there were but a few buildings and three of four places of business. Volney Marsh’s store, Miller’s law and Dr. Haskell’s office were in, and by the Winnebago house. At that time there was great excitement over the Mulford robbery and the gang of counterfeiters, horse thieves, and robbers extending from Detroit to the Mississippi river. River navigation loomed up and air castles began to rise as people perceptively saw the boats groaning under burden of passengers and merchandise plowing the noble Rock. But when the railroads became the theme it put a quiteus on river navigation, turnpike and plank road enterprises, and the bottom fell out of those cherished schemes. When the bridge was built across the river Judge Church was released from profit, care and responsibility and the last I knew of him he was securing the right of way for the Beloit and Madison Railroad company in 1854 and paid me $500 for going three-quarters of a mile through my farm five miles north of Beloit. D. MERRILL [Daily Register-Gazette, 04-18-1898]
PRIZES AWARDED BY ROCKFORD HARDWARE
Prize were awarded by the Rockford Hardware Co., at Fourteenth avenue and Ninth street, last Saturday evening to visitors to the store who registered during opening week.
First prize in the adults' contest were given to Ernest E. Fosberg, 2330 Parmele street, who won an electric percolator; second prize, a break box, was won by Oscar Rudin, 1634 Sixteenth avenue; and third prize, a tea kettle was captured by Mrs. A. Johnson, 1502 Sixth street.
In the boys' contest Quentin Olson, 1414 Seventeenth avenue, was the winner, and the girls' trophy went to Miriam M. Wetherell, 2325 Tenth street. Each received a pair of roller skates. [--Rockford Morning Star, Aprill 12, 1921]
President Theodore Roosevelt Visits Rockford 1903 New Stories
BUCK DEER KILLED BY CAR NEAR BOYLAN
For the first time in the memory of veteran police officers, a deer was struck by a car in the city of Rockford Thursday night. The young buck deer bounded onto N. Main Street in the 4900 block, just north of Boylan High School, and into the path of a car driven by Clare E. Larson, 16, 1186 Old River Road. Larson said he had no time to swerve out of the way and his car struck the deer, throwing it onto the right shoulder of the road to its death. The youth said he was driving north at about 50 miles an hour when the deer suddenly came across the road from the west. Police Officer Harold Hall investigated the accident and called state conservation officer Merton Matteson to dispose of the body of the deer. "This is the first time I’ve ever handled an accident involving a deer," said Hall. [--Rockford Morning Star, 05-10-1968]
THEY'RE CITY SLICKERS REALLY; Seven LARSONS MONOPOLIZE 4-H
Seven children of Mr. and Mrs. Layton Larson, Old River Road, could put on a summertime fair of their own But the seven would rather enter the Winnebago County 4-H Fair, where they have established what amounts to a Larson monopoly of the awards. This year, for example, they entered 28 exhibits--and came away with 28 ribbons, most of them blue. Last year the clan had another mark (23 for 23). This remarkable average is even more remarkable because the Larson are really not farmers at all. Mr. Larson is a salesman, not a farmer, and the children have only to acres on which to raise their calves, grow their crops and flowers, and do everything else that active 4-H’ers do. The seven members of the Larson family who corner the market on awards each year at the annual 4-H shindig are Judy, 18; Cindy, 17; Wendell, 16; Randall, 14; Clare, 13; Carol, 11 and Laona, 10. Judy, Cindy and Wendell have been active in the Lathan Lancers 4-H Club for four years Randall and Clare have been club members for three years, and Carol or two; this is Laona’s first year as a 4-H girl. The Larson were represented in almost every category at this year’s fair. They entered a calf in the livestock competition, and placed a number of chickens in poultry divisions. There were also Larson exhibits in photography (Carol and Laona), knitting and indoor gardening (Judy), and flowers and horsemanship (Cindy). Candles made by Larson boys stood alongside floral arrangements arranged by Larson girls in the show’s handicraft tent. With only two acres to work with, things can get a little crowded, Mrs. Larson noted. “With al seven going at once, it can get pretty hectic around here at times,” the proud mother said. And the outlook is for even more crowds and activity. Standing in the wings, waiting to join the fun are two more Larsons--Lorraine, 7, and Larry, 5.
Mr. and Mrs. Layton Larson, Old River Road, haven seven children, farmers all, who won 28 ribbons in as many exhibits in Winnebago County 4-H Fair. Though Dad is a salesman and the children have only two acres to develop their prize winners, most of their ribbons are blue. Five members of the family are, from left, Wendell, 15, Cindy, 17, Clare, 13, Carol, 11, and Randy, 14 (Register-Republic staff photo) [--Rockford Register-Republic, 08-13-1965]
Thousands of people attended the grand opening of the Flying Saucer, pictured above, located at 2004 11th. street. The Flying Saucer, owned by Joe Engbarth, is Rockford's most modern drive-in and offers curb service deluxe. Engbarth made the following statement: "We specialize in chicken served in the basket, also spaghetti, cheeseburgers and tomatoburgers." Everything sold will be wrapped to take out. The business plans to fill orders for home parties, picnics and group affairs. The Flying Saucer is open daily from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. and Sunday and holiday 3:30 p.m. to midnight. The dial phone for "take-out" orders is 2-9549. --Rockford Morning Star, June 12, 1949
C.A. Pierce Built Restaurant Sign
One of the oustanding animated electric signs built in recent years has just been erected for the Flying Saucer walk in restaurant, 506 E. State St. and shown above. Designed and built by C.A. Pierce, Inc., 324 Chestnut st., this sign covers the entire front of this new and modern restaurant. The Flying Saucer, known for their good food and reasonable prices is open seven days a week until 2:30 a.m. Owned and operated by Joseph Engbarth, the Flying Saucer drive in at 2004 11th st., is under the same management and is open daily except Tuesday. Deluxe curb service is featured at the 11th st. unit only. Both restaurants are airconditioned.--Adv. [Rockford Morning Star, June 3, 1951]
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