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History of Will County

By Hon. George H. Woodruff.


The following is probably nearly a correct list of the persons who spent the Winter of 1834-5 within the present city limits: A. W. Bowen and wife, Wm. H. Blackburn and wife, Thomas Cox and wife. O. D. Putnam, Henry Bone and wife, the two Baileys, George West and wife, N. H. Cutter, Benj. E. Barker and wife, Eri Dodge and wife, Jay Lyons, Edward Perkins and James C. Troutman, on the east side of the river; and M. H. Demmond and wife, Miss Murray, G. H. Woodruff, James McKee and wife, Richard Hobbs, Charles W. Brandon, Daniel Clement and wife, Charles Clement, N. H. Clarke, D. Maggard, Asaph Webster, wife and son, Mr. Campbell and wife, a family named Lumereaux, and probably one or two others, on the west side. Mr. Makepeace and wife went to Fox River.


During the Winter of 1834-5, the Rev. J. H. Prentiss, of Onondaga County, N. Y., came on here, under the auspices of the American Home Mission Society, and believing that there were already some here who needed preaching to, and that there would probably soon be many more, determined to locate here, and during the Summer of 1835, came on with his family and established a mission. He first preached in a little stone house that stood on the southeast corner of Broadway and Western avenue, until a house was built by Demmond, E. Haven, McKee and J. Beaumont and others, for school and church purposes, on Hickory street, on the edge of Comstock's Pond. The house is still extant with considerable revamping, and is occupied as a residence by Mr. Tyrrell. It was long used as a school house and meeting house. Here the famous pedagogue of the early days, John Watkins, once taught. He has been called the first teacher at Chicago and at Joliet. Mr. Watkins was a worthy man and teacher, and we are sorry to take from him the honor of being first on the ground. But Mrs. Kinzie, in "Waubun," tells of an earlier one in Chicago, and a daughter of B. E. Barker says that a Miss Persis Cleveland taught the first Juliet school in the old block-house. If this was so, the writer protests that he never saw her on his frequent visits to that locality. John Watkins now lives in Joliet, almost blind, and is occasionally seen upon our streets. If not the first pedagogue in Chicago, he must have been next, as he taught school in the same log house where Father Walker preached and lived in the days of his early labors in that city. S. W. Stone, a later acquisition to our city, taught in the same building, on Hickory street, as early as 1845; and some of our young men, who are not so very young, first learned "how to shoot"-—paper wads under his administration.

Mr. Prentiss built a shanty on Oneida street, just under the bluff, where he lived until he got his house finished—a house which still remains, and is the one lately occupied by Mr. Denker, on South Broadway. He was the first settled minister in the city, and organized a Presbyterian Church in August, 1835.

The Episcopal (Christ) Church dates its organization a little ahead. This was organized in May of that year, by Bishop Chase, of "Robin's Nest," Peoria. Comstock Hanford, John Griswold, Miles Rice, Orlin Westover, A. W. Bowen, Julia Ann Hanford and Amorette B. Griswold were the original members. Some of these were from Yankee Settlement. All, except Dr. Bowen, were outside of Joliet.

The original members of the Presbyterian Church were: Simon Z. Haven, Stephen Hubbard, Josiah Beaumont and his wife Eliza, Daniel Reed and his wife Cinda, Elias Haven and his wife Emily N., Eliza Prentiss, Delia Butler (Mrs. Prentiss' sister), and others were soon added. Forty-three names are on the original record, from August 12, 1835, to March 31,1838, when Mr. Prentiss left for another field, and the Church soon ceased to have records, September 2, 1838, being the last entry. Among these names—the writer will be pardoned for mentioning—were an honored father and mother, Theor and Chloe Woodruff, and a beloved wife, Hannah B. Woodruff. Rodney House, the good, gray old Deacon of the present Central Church, who had settled on the Au Sable in 1833, and moved to Joliet in 1835, was also a member.

Of course, itinerants of the Methodist Episcopal Church were early on the ground, and organized classes at Juliet, as elsewhere in the county. As early as 1836, the Joliet Circuit was established, of which Stephen R. Beggs was first Elder, who at once commenced the work of building the first Methodist Church building, and organized the Church in 1837. That old Methodist Church was, for several years afterward, the blacksmith shop of the Rock Island Railroad. But long, long it had the honor of being the first and only church edifice in Joliet. Long, long, its walls resounded to the eloquence of the early preachers of the Church, and the shouts, amens and happy songs of the brethren, sisters and children. Long, long, quarterly meetings and love feasts there gladdened the hearts of the membership. Many, many, precious souls were there "born into the kingdom," some of whom still fight the good fight of faith; while many, many, have received the palm of victory, and now shout "amen" to the new song.


The season of 1835 made many additions to our embryo city, among whom were John L. and Richard L. Wilson, George Higley and family, Levi Jenks and family, Archibald Crowl, Wm. Walters, O. F. Rogers, Rev. J. H. Prentiss and family, Abel Gilbert, Geo. Squire and wife, Rodney House and family, William A. Chatfield and family, S. W. Bowen, Abijah Cagwin and family, a Mr. Boland and his two sons, Abner and Andrew, H. N. Marsh and wife, Elias Haven and sons, David Rattray, James Brodie, Francis Nicholson and wife, W. R. Atwell (our first blacksmith) and wife, Allen Pratt, Dr. Curtis Haven, Barton Smith and two sons and family, Joel George and wife, Sullivan Demmond, Jonathan Barnett, Charles Sayer, J. Beaumont and family, E. M. Daggett, E. C. Fellows, Fenner Aldrich, George Howliston, Alonzo Castle, Asa Rowe, Elias Hyde, Dr. Daniel Reed, David Crozier, Wm. Sheriff, S. B. Hopkins, Walter Seeley, Edson White, O. W. Stillman, John M. Wilson, and a lawyer of the name of Pepper—not a misnomer.


In 1836, the great speculation year, they came in rapidly. It will be imposible to recall all. Among the additions were J. A. Matteson, Orange Chauncey and wife, Albert Shepard, Uri Osgood, James Stout, Thomas, Edward and Bennett Allen, Dr. R. E. W. Adams and family, Mr. De Berard and family, John Currey and family, J. J. Garland and wife, Dr. Comstock and family, Otis Hardy and family, Edmund Wilcox, Thomas R. Hunter, W. J. Heath, David Richards and family, Hugh Henderson, Capt. Amos Fellows, J. C. Newkirk, Hervey Lowe, Richard Doolittle, Wm. Blair, Rufus Colton, Elnathan Bassett, Wm. S. Burgess, Thomas G. Burgess, S. S. Davis, Wm. A. Boardman, Stephen Hubbard, Giles Jackson (late of Ottawa, deceased), Dr. Scholfield, Wm. G. Hubbard, Dr. Wallace A. Little, Henry Fish, M. Worthingham, Thomas Culbertson, John Green, Lewis Reed and sons, David L. Roberts and family, Isaac H. Palmer, E. E. Bush and family, Dr. Simon Z. Havens, Henry G. Brown, David Richards, Theor Woodruff and George Woodruff, and our first installment from Germany, George Erhard, John Beltz and Mr. Gritzner.


Of course, from the Spring of 1835, building progressed rapidly on both sides of the river. A brisk rivalry, which sometimes got to be right sharp, sprang up between East and West Juliet: for rivers, like

"mountains interpos'd
Make enemies of nations, who had else,
Like kindred drops, been mingled into one."

No sooner did a stranger make his appearance, than he was seized upon by parties interested in selling lots, and the special merits and advantages of the East or West Side (as the case might be) were urged with all the earnestness and eloquence of a man running for office. Either side called the other "Canada," and to get the start in any enterprise or public improvement was an object which enlisted the energies of all. Communication between the two sides was difficult and occasionally impossible. For some years, we had to rely on the ford or precarious foot-bridges, and on skiffs, "dug-outs" and rafts. After we organized under our town charter, we had a ferry, the boat for which was built by Otis Hardy; and the first permanent bridges were built in 1837 (which lost their permanency the next Spring) by the ingenious device of scrip, a kind of "flat money."


We gave in that authentic history, "Forty Years Ago," a few incidents connected with this bridgeless period, some comic and some tragic; but we did not tell the story of "Uncle Bige's" experience in dug-outs. It ought to be placed on record. When "Uncle Bige" first came to this county, in 1835, he pursued for a while during that Summer the business of a traveling merchant. One time, during a period of high water, he came back to Joliet on the West Side. He left his wagon at some safe place and got some one to take him over in a boat. The landlord of the tavern where he stayed wanted some tea. Uncle Bige had a supply in his wagon, and he thought he saw a good way to pay his board bill, and so undertook to go over and get some. When he came to the river, he found no means of crossing except a dug-out. He had never tried to navigate a dug-out, but he had often seen others—even little Indians and squaws—row them about at will, and it seemed an easy thing to do. Most people have the same idea, until they try it. So he got into one end of it without much trouble—this was forty-odd years ago, before he became one of our solid men—pointed the other end toward the place where he wanted to land on the West Side, and pushed boldly out. The river was booming from recent rains, but the dug-out went all right for a few feet until the prow struck the strong current near the center of the river, when its direction was suddenly changed from west to south. Uncle Bige did not like the change. McKeestown was his destination, and not New Orleans. He at once tried to bring about a return to the original direction. He tried to "larboard" and then he tried to "starboard" but on went the dug-out toward the maelstrom made by McKee's dam. The prospect was not cheering to a man who had not made his will. He began to get a little excited and to doubt his ability to manage a dug-out. To cheer him, the people who had begun to collect on either shore, gave him some very good advice. One cried out, "Put your paddle on t'other side;" and another, "Put your paddle on this side;" and another, "Head her up stream," etc., etc. It is one of our good deeds which affords us great satisfaction in the retrospect, that we offered Uncle Bige some very good advice on this occasion. It may have been the means of saving a future Judge to Will County. Who can tell what great results hang upon the most trifling actions! Uncle Bige tried to follow all this good advice, and was, no doubt, very much encouraged by the interest manifested in his welfare. But the plaguy dug-out obstinately refused to mind the helm; whichever side he put the paddle seemed to make no difference—on, on she went toward New Orleans. His mind underwent a change in respect to dug-outs. He wished he was on shore where he could read up in the art of navigation. He thought about his wife and children way back in York State, and, perhaps, of some other things. McKee's old dam and the maelstrom seemed to be moving up toward him at a fearful rate. He was fully convinced now that he did not know how to manage a dug-out, and, seeing not far off, just above the dam, a couple of "staddles" that had been left standing, he thought he would rather trust them than it, and concluded to go overboard. This was not a difficult thing to do. The dug-out spilled him easily—as easily as falling off a log, and very much like it. He very soon found the bottom of the Des Planes, and partly by his own efforts, a la crab, and partly by the force of the current, he succeeded in seizing one of the staddles and showing his head above the surface, snorting like a porpoise. The dug-out went on, bottom side up. He did not care for the ship, but he did want to save the cargo. The staddle was now his only hope; clinging to that with a deathlike grasp, he rested and calmly surveyed the situation. After a while relief came to him in the shape of a rope thrown from the East Side. By the help of this he at last made port. It was not the one for which he had first "bent his venturous prow," but it gave him real estate security, and that was what he most wanted. He did not get the tea, but he had taken a valuable lesson in the navigation of dug-outs, with which he has remained content. He has never thought he could manage one since. It would take two at least to hold him now!


As we have elsewhere said, when the settlement was first made here, our nearest postoffice was at Uncle Billy Gougar's, and this was called the Juliet postoffice. The mail route—per Indian pony express—was from Danville to Chicago, and passed by Gougar's, through Yankee Settlement. Dr. Bowen, who was well known at the Postoffice Department at Washington, not only officially (having held the office of Postmaster in the place from which he came), but personally, succeeded in getting the route changed to go from Gougar's to Plainfield via Juliet, and soon after a stage mail route was established from Chicago to Ottawa by way of Plainfield and Joliet, which in a little while was run directly from Ottawa to Chicago via Joliet, leaving Plainfield out in the cold. He was appointed Postmaster in 1835, as we have elsewhere stated.


Now there are a great many of the persons named in the above lists, of whom we should like to make special mention, and respecting whom we should like to record some incidents. But the amount of paper we are consuming admonishes us that we must restrain our inclinations in this regard. Some of these persons are well known; they have lived long and still live among us, and however pleased we might be to write their obituaries, we cannot do so while they persist in keeping hale and hearty. It would not suit our ideas of good taste. George West was a Methodist preacher, but out of health for some time, and soon left.

M. H. Demmond, the proprietor of "West Juliet," was originally from Massachusetts. For several years he was a merchant in Oneida and Herkimer Counties, N. Y., where he accumulated a considerable property by diligent attention and fair dealing. In 1834, he thought he would come West, where he could invest his gains to better advantage. Circumstances have justified his course. He died of cholera in 1854, leaving a handsome property to his wife and his wife's niece, afterward Mrs. Bartleson. Mr. Demmond was never a member of a church, but he was always the most liberal supporter of such religious and educational efforts as secured his confidence and respect. He was the first to welcome Mr. Prentiss, and was his most liberal supporter and friend. And it is but just to say that in this respect his widow, who still lives among us, follows the same course. He was also noted for his honorable and upright dealing, and had the confidence of all.

Abijah Cagwin, "Uncle Bige"—we beg his pardon—Judge Cagwin, became our County Judge from 1839 to 1842—four years. "Uncle Bige" still flourishes, like one of the sturdy oaks of fifty years ago, which the woodman has spared. "Uncle Bige," we mean Judge Cagwin, once built a saw-mill on Hickory Creek, below the Red mill. He built several dams successively which the high water carried away each Spring, until at last he gave the creek a final damming (with an n in it) and left it to the Joliet Woolen Factory Company.

James McKee was a Kentuckian, a marked character, well informed, a great reader, a strong temperance man and Abolitionist, honest but stubborn, a great man to discuss moral and political questions, and hospitable. He was elected a Justice of the Peace and greatly magnified his office. He took the view that his official oath required him to take notice of every infringement of the statute, and he did not wait for a complaint to be made, but at once ordered the arrest of any person whom he saw disorderly. This gave rise to some amusing scenes. The lessees of his saw-mill used to run it on Sunday, and McKee would have them arrested on Monday and fine them.

The name Haven has occurred frequently in the preceding lists, and something more ought to be said respecting this family, once so prominent among us. Elias, Simon Z., Curtis and Samuel Haven were brothers, who came here about the same time from the State of New York. Philo A., Orlando H. and James were sons of Elias Haven, of Joliet, and Dr. Rush Haven (now of Chicago), Carlos Haven (late of Chicago, deceased) and Dwight Haven, of New Lenox (School Commissioner of our county from 1865 of 1868, inclusive), are sons of Samuel Haven, of the Hickory Creek settlement. O. H. Haven, a young man who was once a well-known and prominent citizen of Joliet, and represented this district in the General Assembly of 1849, died of cholera in 1854. In 1839, he, with Philo A., built the saw and grist mill which once stood below town, and the dam across the river, which still remains. The California excitement took James and Philo A. from us, and they have never returned to stay. Dr. Rush and Carlos also went there, but came back again, with more or less of the root of all evil. Simon Z. Haven, a physician, returned to New York, and Curtis Haven was many years a physician in Joliet and died here. Elias was one of the founders of the First Presbyterian Church, in 1835. Dwight Haven is now, we believe, the only male representative of this once large family in Will County. His brother Carlos died in Chicago in 1862, having taken high rank as a lawyer. Mrs. James Goodspeed is a daughter of Samuel Haven. He died in March, 1866, at the age of 67.

Hugh Henderson came from Norway, Herkimer Co., N. Y., in 1835, and was one of our best known and ablest lawyers. He was a member of the firm of Henderson & Boardman, and afterward of Wilson & Henderson. He was elected Judge of Probate in 1837, and Circuit Judge in 1839. He was also a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1847. He had an eminently judicial mind, and his legal opinion always carried great weight. Although he was an ardent politician, he numbered many of his political opponents among his warmest friends. Frank and courteous in manner, and pure and spotless in character and reputation, his early death was deeply regretted. He was taken sick while on a visit to his native place, and died there in October, 1854.

We told one story of Dr. Comstock in "Forty Years Ago," and must put another on record, for the Doctor was one of our characters, one of the best of the early day. He was an able preacher as well as a good doctor. He was at home wherever he went. It was a common thing for a woman on going into her parlor to find the Doctor stretched out upon the lounge, reading, or perhaps fast asleep. It was the "old Doctor," and nobody thought of taking offense. On one occasion, he had visited a patient late in the evening, and, wishing to leave an appointment with another doctor (who, for convenience sake, we will call Dr. B.) for a council next day, he walked, according to his custom, into the house (those were the primitive days when we did not lock every door), and and knowing that the Doctor was not in, opened the door of what he supposed to be the bedroom occupied by Dr. B.'s wife, and proceeded to make known his errand, as he supposed, to her. It happened that the room was occupied by a (then) unmarried sister of Dr. B.'s wife. She was not a little frightened, at first, to see in the dim light a strange man of somewhat singular appearance unceremoniously enter her bedroom (the Doctor wore a shawl wrapped around his neck and shoulders long before men's shawls came into fashion). But she soon discovered that the intruder had no evil intent, and listened quietly to his statement, after making which the Doctor withdrew. Dr. Comstock found out, the next day, the blunder he had made, and felt that an apology was due the young lady. He accordingly called and made his apology by walking through the room where Dr. B.'s wife and her sister were both sitting, and saying: "In the morning behold it was Leah!" On another occasion, when he visited a lady patient whose disease seemed to baffle his remedies, he entered her room with the abrupt remark, "Desperate diseases require desperate remedies," and forthwith administered a kiss to his astonished patient.

C. W. Brandon, commonly known as Deacon Brandon, was our first stone mason and stone cutter, and built the Wilson store (soon to be mentioned), and Barker's stone cottage, long the most costly dwelling in Joliet, now metamorphosed. He was also the proprietor of the city of Palmyra. We do not refer to the Palmyra built by Solomon, and known as Tadmor in the desert, but the Palmyra of Will County, built in 1836. If the reader does not know its history or location, let him look upon the county records, where he will find all its noble avenues, its splendid palaces and its grand temples recorded by the same skillful hand that is now writing this history—and you will find them nowhere else. If you have the curiosity to look upon the ground where it stood, and to dig among its ruins, ask Prof. Palmer to point out the spot to you. He married one of the Deacon's comely daughters, and lives in the vicinity; and if the city has left any bumps he will know where they are, for he is great on bumps. And while searching for ruins, you might also look up those of Romeo, Lunenburg, West Lockport, Williamsburg, Middletown, Vienna, Carlysle, Chelsea, New Rochester, and New Buffalo, all once flourishing cities of Will County; but now the gopher burrows unscared amid their ruins. We suggest to the next Fourth of July orator that, instead of asking, "Where are Thebes and Babylon?" etc., he should vary the question and ask, "Where are Lunenburg?" etc. Mr. Brandon died in 1871.

E. E. Bush was some time mine host of the old "American," and had the honor at one time of feeding J. C. Newkirk, John M. Wilson, Charles Clement, and this deponent, and others not equally celebrated. Bush was a son-in-law of Lyman Hawley, and consequently the Hawley girls used to be at the American a good deal, which did not hurt it any; did it, Charley? Bush moved to Lockport, and was long Postmaster there, where he died many years ago.

John L. and Richard L., and a younger brother who came a little later, Charles L. Wilson, were the sons of Judge Quartus Wilson, of Albany, N. Y. They were some time residents here, engaged in merchandising, canal contracting, etc. They afterward removed to Chicago. Richard L. was Postmaster there, under Taylor. The Wilsons founded the Chicago Journal. We don't know whether Chicago feels it or not, but she is greatly indebted to Will County for men as well as for stone and gravel and coal. The list of men we have allowed to go there would be a long one, embracing some of her best lawyers, physicians, judges, merchants, capitalists, and public men, editors, etc., and thus we have helped to raise her out of the mud in more senses than one.

Everybody knows David Richards, and how his farm is now one of the finest portions of the city, and Richards street, a fashionable avenue. We do not suppose that when David set his stakes there he anticipated becoming part of the city.

Lewis Reed had a blacksmith's shop under the bluff, just north of Exchange street, where a bold and frowning bluff, with a lime-kiln below, stood where now we make the easy ascent. Could those who want the hill cut down have seen it then, they would be forced to own that it had already been cut some. One of Mr. Reed's sons is the Rev. Francis Reed, a Methodist preacher, now at Mendota.

W. J. Heath, above named, is the man who has been so long known in Joliet as Justice Heath, and sometimes, by way of eminence, as Chief Justice Heath. He has worn the justicial ermine many years; but he is still extant, and we shall not, therefore, write his obituary, but must leave that pleasing task to some future historian. But we have a little story to tell of him. Mr. Heath did not arrive at the dignity of being Chief Justice of Joliet at one jump, but went through the preliminary steps of Constable, Deputy Sheriff, etc. It so happened at an early day, when the Kankakee River formed the boundary line between Will and Iroquois Counties, that he had given him some papers to serve on a couple of men who resided on the Kankakee. So he set out to hunt them up. After a long and lonesome ride, he arrived at the banks of that stream, and found, living near the ford, one of the men of whom he was in search, on whom he served his process in due form. But here he learned to his chagrin, that the other man lived just across the river. Although he was not yet a justice learned in the law, he even then knew that a process from a Will County Court would not have any force on the other side of the river. Here was a quandary. He did not like to lose his fees and mileage on this paper—it was half of his day's wages—and the whole was little enough reward for his long ride. A brilliant idea struck him. He had often heard it said that everything was fair in war and in love, and he was already enough of a politician to have learned that everything was fair in politics. Then why not in law. He at once resolved on a strategic movement. He crossed over, and, riding up to the man's house, found him with his horse just ready to go away. Mr. Heath told the man that he was happy to find him and with his horse all ready, as he wished very much for a man to go over to the other side to witness the execution of a paper. Would he be kind enough to take that trouble? The man readily complied. When they had got safely on the Will County side, Mr. Heath asked the man his name. The man told him it was Beebee. "Beebee," exclaimed Mr. Heath. "Ah, I believe I have got a process to serve on you," and accordingly he proceeded to read to the astonished squatter the document with which he was armed. The man was so astonished at the cheeky procedure that for a moment he was speechless; but he soon recovered his voice and proceeded to tell Heath what he thought of him, in language more forcible than elegant. But Heath had saved his fees and mileage, and cared little for the man's private opinion. Whether in this case the end was large enough to justify the means is a problem in casuistry which we submit to the Joliet Philosophical Debating Club.


As will be seen from the preceding pages, there had begun to be a considerable immigration into this and other parts of the North west as early as 1830 and 1831. This immigration was interrupted in the Spring of 1832, by the Black Hawk war—so called from the noted chief who was its prominent instigator. Although the seat of the war was principally to the west and north, on Rock River, and, although the Pottawatomie Indians of this region were supposed to be friendly, yet great alarm was felt by the settlers in this vicinity. It was at once feared that the tide of war would sweep this way, and that a general war of extermination had been resolved upon by the Indians, and that the efforts which it was known Black Hawk was making to draw in all the Indians of the Northwest, would be successful. There was abundant reason to justify their fears. On the 21st of May, a frightful massacre had been perpetrated on Indian Creek, about fifteen miles above Ottawa, within thirty miles of Joliet, in which fifteen settlers, men—women and children—had been suddenly surrounded and massacred, with the usual barbarities of Indian war-fare. One boy alone had escaped from the settlement and carried the news to Ottawa. Two girls named Sylvia and Rachel Hall, of the ages of 15 and 17 respectively, had been carried off as prisoners, and held for ransom. As we have elsewhere noted, this event is closely connected with the history of Joliet. The news of this and other atrocities might well arrest further immigration and drive out many already here. The settlers at Walker's Grove, with some who had fled from Fox River, to the number of 125 in all, collected at the house of Father Beggs, on Section 16, which seemed most favorably located for defense. This they hastily fortified, by pulling down all the surrounding outbuildings and fences, and forming outer barricades of the material. The question arose whether they would escape to Ottawa or remain at the fort. Mrs. Flagg, the wife of Azariah Flagg, a woman of great decision and judgment, threw the weight of her influence in favor of staying, and presented so many and so strong arguments for this course that the settlers finally determined to stay. It was afterward ascertained that this course saved their lives, and that the party who had committed the outrage at Indian Creek were laying in wait, expecting them. Indeed, one person, the old Dunkard preacher, of the name of Payne, refused to stay, and, trusting to his sacred character, put out for Ottawa and met his fate a little way from the fort. They chose James Walker for their commander, and resolved upon a vigorous defense. They collected all the guns, hoes, scythes, axes, pitchforks, etc., of the neighborhood, and melted up their pewter spoons for bullets. Here they waited a few days, and no Indians making their appearance, and, as they had but four guns, they though the safer course was to go to the fort at Chicago. Thither, accordingly, they made their way, under the protection of the company elsewhere mentioned, where they found the fort full of settlers that had fled thither for protection. The crowded state of the fort rendered their stay there exceedingly uncomfortable, and they suffered nearly as much as from their fears of the Indians. The settlers in Yankee Settlement also fled to Chicago. The alarm had been carried to the Settlement by Hiram Pearson, of Chicago, and Daniel Mack, of Hadley, who had started for Danville, and who encountered fugitives from the West somewhere near the Des Planes River. They returned at once and gave the alarm, and the families were quickly gathered together and went to Chicago. While there the refugees organized a company of twenty-five, chose Holder Sisson, of Yankee Settlement, their Captain, and started out on a scout to ascertain, if possible, the whereabouts of the Indians. They stayed the first night at an old settler's of the name of Lawton, on the Des Planes, went thence on to Naperville, then down to Walker's Grove, stopping the second night at Fort Beggs. They then proceeded on toward Ottawa, and at Holderman's Grove they met a party from Ottawa, and both parties went to Indian Creek, where they found the mutilated and decaying bodies of fifteen persons, including six children. Having buried these, they went on to Ottawa, where they found the remnants of a regiment which had skedaddled from the encounter at Stillman's Run. They then returned, over the same route, to Chicago. On their return they found the body of the Dunkard preacher; neither his long, reverend beard, nor his peaceful character had availed to save him from the treacherous savage. After a few weeks' stay at Chicago, the discomforts of the fort were so great that the settlers from Yankee Settlement returned, and built a fort on the Sisson-Hanford place; and those from Walker's Grove returned to that locality.

Scott had arrived at Chicago, bringing with him a foe more dreadful than the Indians even. This caused a more sudden stampede from than there had been to Chicago from the country. Lanfear, and his ox-team, of the Yankee Settlement, were pressed into the service by Scott to take his supplies to Galena. At this time there was a Pottawatomie village or encampment between Fraction Run and Big Run, Lockport, and remained there a year or two after. A story is told of this fort to this effect: Runyon, wishing to put the courage and watchfulness of its inmates to the proof, disguised himself as an Indian, and with rifle and tomakawk approached with stealthy step. He came near paying dearly for his experiment, as the defenders were about to fire upon him, when his wife, with the sure instinct of a woman, discovered the disguise and prevented the catastrophe. The settlers on Hickory Creek, Jackson's Grove and Joliet Township, and all down the river, being, many of them, from Indiana, sought safety in that direction by a hasty flight. A number having collected near Gougar's, they sent Robert Stevens, David Maggard and one of the Normans to reconnoiter. They saw some Indians on the prairie near the Lilly-Cache, who seemed to be driving off cattle. They returned and reported, giving it as their opinion that they were Pottawatomies. It was afterward ascertained that this was so, and that they were on their way to assure the settlers that there was no cause for alarm. But the settlers had by this time become so excited that they commenced at once to flee, and to notify all the region of their danger. Every horse, pony and ox-team was at once brought into requisition. The chattels of the settlers were hastily loaded, and women and children placed in the wagons, while the men with their guns rode the horses as guards. When the settlers gathered together on the prairie, there were some seventy or eighty, with twenty teams, mostly drawn by oxen. The stampede, as we have heard it described by some of the survivors, was at the same time terrible and ludicrous. They tell of one who, hatless and coatless, with his supplies of flour, sugar and bacon hastily loaded on his horse before and behind him, was too badly scared to wait the tardy movements of the main column, and put out at the utmost speed of which his horse was capable, throwing overboard one article after another of his impedimenta in order to increase his speed, never pausing until he reached the Kankakee. Some accounts have it that he got on to his horse "hindside afore," and that he did not stop until he reached the Wabash. But the narrator, we fear, was given a little to exaggeration, as even historians sometimes are—a thing very much to be deprecated. But if true, he no doubt presented the boldest front he had to the enemy. The fugitives met a company of armed men from Indiana, who had come out to aid and protect the settlers. Some of the fugitives, having cooled off a little, returned with them. It was this company which built the fort, of which we have spoken, on the bluff, and which was named "Fort Nonsense" by the early settlers. Mr. Jesse Cook, named in the list of early settlers of the township, was one of those who returned and who helped build the fort. Mr. Cook also relates that, on returning to their homes, they found that the friendly Pottawatomies had shown their friendship by taking care of the pigs, chickens and provisions they had left in their flight—such good care that the settlers never had to take care of them any more.*

Robert Stevens and David Maggard also returned and concealed themselves for a few days in a cave under the bluff on the west side of the Des Planes. Most of the families returned the next Spring. There was also a block-house built, which was standing many years after the writer came, in Reed's Grove, but whether built before or after the stampede we do not know.

It will be seen from this record that Will County figured in the Black Hawk war. True, no bloody battles occurred on its soil, but there were many races.

*We find the following statement in a biographical sketch of Gurdon S. Hubbard,-which may seem to conflict with-what we have given. We conclude, however, that the companies referred to are the same: "In the Spring of 1832, on Sunday morning, news reached Danville of the hostilities of Black Hawk's band, and that they were killing the settlers on the Des Planes and Du Page Rivers. He (Mr. Hubbard) persuaded Col. Moore, who commanded the Vermilion County Militia, to call out his regiment at once, without waiting the orders of the Governor, and to march for the seat of war. Mr. Hubbard furnished transportation, and bought provisions and ammunition, and the following Tuesday, the regiment took up its march with ten days' rations. Arriving at Joliet, a rude stockade was built, one company left, and another sent to Du Page, where another stockade was (had been) erected, where they left another company, and the balance joined Gen. Atkinson.

No heroes spilled their blood in defense of their hearths and homes, but they took good care that the savages should not spill it for them. At least four, and perhaps more, forts were built, and their pewter plates and spoons were freely sacrificed for the common defense, and Joliet (Campbellstown and McKeestown), are monuments of the bloody slaughter of Indian Creek.


After the Black Hawk war, which was soon brought to a close by the vigorous movements of Gen. Atkinson, while Gen. Scott was fighting the cholera, the tide of immigration set in strong to the West. No region presented a more inviting prospect to the farmer than that embraced in Will County. Here, too, were mill-sites up and down our streams inviting the manufacturer, and any quantity of sites for towns and cities to catch the eye of the speculator.

The earlier settlements as they were initiated, both before and after the war; we have pretty fully detailed. By 1835, our population had so greatly increased that a new county was called for. Chicago was so remote that it was very inconvenient to be obliged to go there as often as the exigencies of business required. Juliet began to be talked of as a county seat.

During the Winter of 1835-36, through the efforts of our citizens, especially James Walker and Dr. A. W. Bowen, who went to Vandalia as members of the Third House, and who were both shrewd and influential men, an act was passed creating the county of Will. It received its name from Conrad Will, a member of the Legislature who had died just before. Gov. Ford, in his history, says, that he was chiefly remarkably for his good nature. We accept the name as a just compliment to our people. Dr. Bowen got inserted in the act a provision locating the county seat not only in Juliet, but on the public square which Campbell had had the sagacity to appropriate for that purpose. Thus the East Side made a second point on us of the West Side (it had already got the postoffice). An election was ordered in March for a Sheriff, three County Commissioners, Recorder and Coroner. A convention was called to nominate the county officers. This was held in the upper room of the old Demmond Block, which had just been erected. And here the West Side made a point. This convention was called without regard to party, and was largely attended by the substantial settlers throughout the county. Of course they would make out a good ticket. They nominated Holder Sisson, Thomas Durham and James Walker, for Commissioners; Robert Stevens for Sheriff; George H. Woodruff for Recorder (here is the point), and E. M. Daggett for Coroner. The ticket met with some opposition as to Recorder, and Sheriff especially, but it was triumphantly elected.

In those days we could make a good run, if nothing else. The principal tactics we used was to keep out of sight, which we think was sagacious. It is worthy of note here that at this election those living on the East Side were obliged to go to Philip Scott's on Section 23, and those living on the West Side to Plainfield, in order to vote. Robert Stevens declined to qualify as Sheriff, and in the Fall, at the first regular election, "Uncle Fenner Aldrich," who had lived at Plainfield, was chosen in time for the first Circuit Court.

We need hardly say that the Board of County Commissioners answered to our Board of Supervisors, transacting the business of the entire county. Their first meeting was held at the "Juliet Hotel," then kept by Thomas H. Blackburn, on March 14, 1836. They appointed Levi Jenks, a west sider, County Clerk and School Commissioner, and Charles Clement, Treasurer of the county. They divided the county into ten election precincts, as follows:

1. Du Page Precinct—Consisting of Town 37, in Ranges 9 and 10 (now the towns of Du Page and Wheatland). Elections to be held at the house of David K. Clark. Harry Boardman, Seth Wescott and Isaac Scarrett to be Judges of Election.

2. Plainfield Precinct—Towns 35 and 36, in Range 9 (Troy and Plainfield). Elections at house of Chester Ingersoll. Oliver Goss, W. W. Wattles and R. W. Chapman, Judges.

3. Canal Precinct—Town 36, in Ranges 10 and 11 (Lockport and Homer). Election at house of Luther C. Chamberlin. Charles Gray, Selah Lanfear and Comstock Hanford, Judges.

4. Joliet Precinct—Town 35, Range 10 (Joliet). Elections at the house of Thomas H. Blackburn. Isaac Merrill, Thos. H. Blackburn and Alonzo Castle, Judges.

5. Hickory Creek—Town 35, in Ranges 11 and 12 (New Lenox and Frankfort). Election at house of Chester Marshall. Mansfield Wheeler, Lewis Kerchival and John I. Davidson, Judges.

6. Jackson—Town 34, Ranges 9 and 10 (Channahon and Jackson). Elections at house of Jasper Willson. Henry Watkins, Seymor Treat and Joseph Shoemaker, Judges.

7. Forked Creek—Towns 32 and 33, in Ranges 9 and 10 (Reed, Wilmington, Florence, Westley and Custer). Elections at house of Robert Watkins. John Kilpatrick, Hamilton Keeney and Thomas Cox, Judges.

8. Rock Village—Towns 32, 33 and 34, in Ranges 11 and 12 (Manhattan, Greengarden, Wilson and Peotone, and two townships now in Kankakee County). Elections at house of Samuel Davis. Archer Caruthers, Samuel Davis and Hugh Carmichael, Judges.

9. Thorn Creek—Town 34, in Ranges 13 and 14 (Monee and Crete). Election at house of Minoris Beebe. Minoris Beebe, ______, Judges.

10. Kankakee—Towns 32 and 33, in Ranges 13 and 14 (Will and Washington, and two townships now in Kankakee County). Elections at house of Enoch Sergeant.

All Election Precincts also to be Magistrate Districts, and elections were ordered for Justices and Constables.

Some of these precincts were soon divided. Canal Precinct was divided the next year into Lockport and Spring Creek (now Homer), and Channahon was set off into Van Buren Precinct, and other changes soon followed. At this first session also, the county was divided into seventeen Road Districts, and Supervisors appointed, and all able-bodied men between the ages of 21 and 50 required to work five days on the roads. Trustees of School Sections were also appointed. Viewers were also appointed to lay out the first county road from Juliet to Plainfield and on to county line. (The first road projected, and not a good road yet!)

They also ordered a writ of adquod damnum (as the records have it), but whom it hit or what it did, we can't say; perhaps it is lying around loose yet. It was something about a cut-off from the Kankakee to the Des Planes. Jenks made the two first words into one, but we presume it hurt just as badly. They also fixed the price of tavern charges at 25 cents a meal, 12 1/2 cents for lodging, and 6 1/4 cents for drinks. We regret to say that this is not now in force.

All cities have their golden age, when everything is bright and lovely, when the best men are exalted, and the people rejoice. If this period of which we write was not the golden age of Will County, pray tell us what period was. Think of it! The best men in office, a good square meal for 25 cents, lodging for 12 1/2 cents, whisky for 6 1/4 cents, no tramps, no burglars, no gas bills or ice bills, no book or map agents, no lightning-rod peddlers, no oily-tongued interviewers to persuade you that being a representative man and an old settler you ought to have your history and portrait in a book! But, alas, those times are over and gone.

After finishing the county business, which took them four days, the County Commissioners voted themselves $6 each, and adjourned. A dollar and a half a day was not a very big salary steal.

Let us note that at the end of the year Mr. Clement was allowed $16.60, being 2 per cent on the money he handled. Having made his pile, he retired and gave place to Bennett Allen.

Last Update: Sunday, 22-Mar-2015 20:05:27 EDT

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