This town is diversified between woodland and prairie, and is divided by the Des Planes River & the Illinois & Michigan Canal, which pass through it from north to south. Away from the river-bottom, the elevation rises almost to abrupt bluffs, beyond which, on either side, are beautiful table-lands or broad rolling prairies of the most productive soil, relieved only by a belt of timber on the east side of the Des Planes, mostly in Lockport, but extending a short distance into Homer Township. A peculiarity of this section of the country is said to be the non-existence of timber on the west side of the water-courses. Old settlers mention this fact and advance their theories as to the cause, some of which are vague and far-fetched; but without attempting to solve the problem, we will state upon the authority of several parties of this vicinity, that not a tree stands on the west side of the Des Planes but such as have been transplanted by the white people, while a fine forest lined its eastern shore at the time of the early settlement. As regarding this strange freak of nature, we will pass it with the philosophical reflection of the schoolboy, whose theory as to the cause of the magnetic needle pointing to the north was “that it is a way it has.” As a civil township, Lockport is described as Town 36 north, Range 10 east of the Third Principal Meridian, and is bounded north by Dupage Township, east by Homer, south by Joliet, west by Plainfield, and is one of the wealthy towns of Will County.
The first permanent settler in Lockport Township was Armstead Runyon, who came to the neighborhood in October, 1830. He was born in Kentucky, but removed to Ohio when but 15 years old, where he remained until 1827, when he came to Danville, Ill. Here he remained until his removal to Lockport, as above stated. His first Winter in this section was that of the “deep snow,” so vividly remembered by the few old settlers still surviving, and who were here that memorable Winter. Mr. Runyon had a large amount of stock, most of which he left at Danville, except some hogs which he brought with him, thinking they would winter on nuts and acorns, but they all perished during the deep snow, as he had nothing to feed them. The next Spring, as soon as the snow had sufficiently disappeared to allow travel with safety, he took his men and went to Danville after the remainder of his stock and for provisions. The high waters, consequent on the melting of such quantities of snow, detained him six weeks beyond the time he expected to be gone, and his family run short of provisions before his return. Mrs. Boyer, of Lockport, a daughter of Mr. Runyon’s, informed us that for several weeks before he returned they had nothing to live on but salt pork and corn bread made of meal so musty that it did not seem fit for a dog to eat. She remembers but two families then living in what is now Lockport and Homer Townships besides her fathers, viz., Edward Poor and a man named Butler, who lived where Mr. Milne now lives. Of Butler she remembers but little except that he lived there; but whence he came or whither he went she has forgotten. When her father decided to remove to this section, he gathered up, brought his family and hired men to the place and lived in a tent until he got his cabin ready to move into. Mrs. Boyer remembers very distinctly how the prairie wolves used to come round that tent and render the night hideous with their blood-curdling howls. When the news came of the Black Hawk war, and that the savages were moving in this direction, Mr. Runyon was plowing in the field, which he continued until noon notwithstanding the exciting rumors. He then gathered together his family and what goods he designed to take, and moved on to Hickory Creek, where the settlers were to rendezvous preparatory to retreating toward Danville. But upon his arrival there he found they were already gone. His company consisted of his own family, Edward Poor’s, Holder Sissoms and Selah Lanfear’s. Finding that the Hickory Creek people were gone, they held a council of war, and, at Mr. Runyon’s suggestion, went to Chicago, or Fort Dearborn, instead of Danville, as originally intended. He was also the first to propose to come out from Chicago and build the block house which was built on Mr. Sisson’s place, as noticed further on. Indians were plenty in this section when they first settled here, but of the friendly Pottawatomies; and Mrs. Boyer remembers an encampment, or Indian town, on both sides of her father’s place, and their trail from the one to the other was by the house. They used nearly always to come in when passing, but did nothing wrong and generally behaved very well. While Mr. Runyon was gone to Danville, and detained so long, it was reported that the small-pox was at the Indian camps, and Mrs. Runyon refused to let any of them come into her house: when they were seen approaching, the proverbial latch-string was drawn in. This very seriously offended the “noble red men,” but they offered no molestation. Mr. Runyon went to California in 1849, where he lived until his death, which occurred in September, 1875. His daughter, Mrs. Boyer made a trip there to see him the Summer before he died. Though one of the very earliest in this section, he had been away so long that none but the oldest settlers remember him personally.
Many of the early settlements of Lockport were made by New Yorkersmen of intelligence and enterprisequalities still distinguishable at the present day. Among these early pioneers, we may mention the following from the Empire State: Holder Sisson and his brother-in-law Cyrus Bronson, Selah Lanfear, Lyman Hawley, and his son Warren Hawley, Nathan Hutchins, William Thomas, William Gooding, Isaac Preston, A. J. Mathewson, David C. Baldwin, Edward P. Earley, Col. James Wright, James S. Baker, Justin Taylor, Horace Morse, Hiram Norton, Henry Bush and perhaps others. Sisson was one of the first settlers in the township, and located on the east side of the river, in October, 1831, on what has since been known as the Hanford place. He was born in Rhode Island in 1790, and died in April, 1878, at the ripe old age of 88 years. Though born in Rhode Island, most of his life had been spent in New York, until his removal to the West. He served six months in the war of 1812; was Captain of a company during the Black Hawk War, and built a fort or blockhouse on his place near the village of Lockport, in the Spring of 1832. He first located in Indiana, near the present city of Evansville, at which time the country was new and very sparsely settled. During the fifteen years he remained there, he improved five farms, and, finding no market there for his produce, built flatboats and carried it to New Orleans. As an example of his indomitable energy, of the four trips he made to the Crescent City, he returned from two of them on foot. From this Indiana settlement he returned to New York, but did not remain long; until he again removed to the West, as already noticed, in October, 1831, and settled in this township. When the Black Hawk war broke out, the families of the few settlers were removed to Fort Dearborn (now Chicago) for safety; they made the trip to that haven of peace in ox-teams, and on the return to the settlement of the men, Mr. Sisson was elected Captain, and proceeded at once to build a blockhouse, and make preparations for defense. On receiving his command, he was ordered by Gen. Scott to proceed with his company to Indian Creek, in La Salle County, and bury the unfortunate whites massacred there by the Indians. In November, after settling in Lockport, he went to Michigan where he had sold a drove of cattle “on time” while living; in the Wabash country, to try to make some collections; but the trip was a fruitless one, as well as one of privation both to him and his family at home, which at that time consisted of a wife and five little children. The Winter set in, and he was detained long beyond the time he had intended remaining; his family was almost without provisions, or any of the necessaries of life. During his absence his wife had to go out and cut wood in the forest and carry it to the cabin to keep her children from freezing. There were few neighbors, and they were at a distance; Indians were plenty, but mostly of the friendly Pottawatomies, and under these circumstances, the heroic woman endured the long absence of her husband ignorant of his fate, and hardly daring to hope for his return, owing to the severity with which the Winter had set in. His sufferings and perils were great, and a man of less courage and energy would have sunk beneath them. As he was returning from this fruitless trip, while crossing Mud Lake with his Indian pony, the ice gave way and pony and rider were submerged; the weather was piercing cold and the snow nearly two feet deep. It was night, and in his frozen clothes he rode on to his home, not knowing whether he would find his wife and children alive or dead. Upon his arrival, finding them all well and comfortable as could be expected under the circumstances, he sat down and wept like a child. But we draw a veil over the meeting, and, as the novelists say, leave it to be imagined; to describe it is beyond the power of any who never experienced a similar meeting. Soon after the close of the Black Hawk war, he sold his claim to Comstock Hanford and removed to the west side of the Des Planes, on the bluff where George Wightman (who married Mr. Sisson’s youngest daughter) now lives. The second night after his removal to this place, a prairie fire, one of those terrors to the early settlers, came well-nigh ruining him. Sixty tons of hay, standing in ricks, were burned, and to-day handfuls of the cinders can be picked up on the spot where the ricks stood. Of 170 head of sheep, they were all burned to death or injured so that they died from the effects, with the exception of six or eight; and of forty head of cattle, many died from the scorching, and those left he was obliged to sell for a dollar or two apiece to prevent them from starving on his hands, as he had nothing left to feed them.
Such were the hardships borne by the pioneers who made this country what it is, and prepared for us homes which cannot be surpassed in any State, or in any country. And yet we frequently hear people complaining of hard times. Hard times! Why, the present generation knows no more of hard times than, to use a homely phrase, “a hog does of holiday.” The few survivors who settled here forty years ago or more can bear witness to the fact of hard times now and then. Mr. Sisson was elected one of the first Commissioners of Cook County, when Will, Du Page and Lake were included in Cook; and when Will County was set off, was one of its first Commissioners, both of which facts stand as evidence of his integrity and ability. At the time of sale of the Government land, he was selected by his neighbors to look after their claims and interests, and all who remember the period of “claim law,” know something of the importance and peril attaching to his position. But a look at his face, or his ringing voice, assured all that with him it was not safe to trifle. When Mr. Sisson died, the Lockport Standard paid an eloquent tribute to his worth, from which we make the following extract: “His word was law, his courage has been for nearly two generations a household word; no taint of suspicion mars the soundness of his private and public character. His children simply worshiped him, and they are a unit in the expression that he was never known to do a mean thing, or set a bad example. His widow’s views are tersely expressed in these few words to the writer, that he was the most upright and perfect gentleman she ever knew; that his judgment was always clear; he knew no side but the right. Through all his apparent sternness, he was exceedingly social, and in many directions as confiding as a child, as loving as a woman; and it is no exaggeration to say that few lives are so complete in all their details and leave so rich a legacy to those that live after it.” Cyrus Bronson, a brother-in-law to Sisson, settled on Section 10, on west side of the river, in 1834. He was born in the land of wooden nutmegs, but had lived some time in New York before removing to Illinois. He was killed by lightning in September, 1857, leaving several sons to perpetuate his name. Cyrus M. Bronson lives one and a half miles from where his father settled forty-four years ago; another son, Montraville Bronson, lives in the village of Lockport; David H. Bronson lives in McHenry County and Eliel S. Bronson lives in Dupage Township. The widow of Mr. Bronson is still living but is quite old and rather feeble. Cyrus M. Bronson, one of the sons above referred to, is quite a remarkable man and has a most tenacious memory. In fact, as pertaining to early events, and dates of particular occurrences, he is a walking encyclopedia, and we have drawn on him extensively for information contained in these pages. Nathan Hutchins settled under the bluff on the place where Fitzpatrick now lives, who bought it of Hutchins. The latter’s father came with him to this country, but did not live longwas a very old man when they settled here, and died in 1835, one of the first deaths which occurred in the town. A brother of Hutchins came out in 1834 and remained two years, when both removed to the neighborhood of Rockford. He was a great hunter (the brother) and had but one eye, which adapted him for shooting without the trouble of having to close an eye to draw a bead. A. J. Mathewson, the present County Surveyor, came West in 1837, and was some time engaged in surveying the canal. In 1865, he was appointed by the Board of Public Works of Chicago, for deepening the Canal, and, in 1867, was engaged to make a survey of the Illinois River from La Salle to its mouth. He still resides in the village of Lockport, with an office in Joliet. William Thomas, General Superintendent of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, with headquarters at Lockport, settled in Michigan in 1836, but after a time returned to New York. In 1871, he was appointed Superintendent of the Canal which position he still holds. D. C. Baldwin settled in this township in 1834, where, after farming a number of years, sold out and removed into the village, embarking in the mercantile trade, which he still pursues. He is noted for having taught the first school in Homer Township. Horace Morse came about 1835, and is mentioned as the first tavern-keeper of the township.
William Gooding, together with the family of his father, who are also mentioned in the history of Homer Township, came to Illinois in 1833. He had been prevented from coming earlier on account of “wars and the rumors of wars” of Black Hawk. He and his wife and infant son were the first passengers to come around the head of Lake Michigan with the United States mail, and arrived in Chicago in May of the year mentioned, when the metropolis of the Great Northwest was mighty in nothing but its mud and mire, and contained but about one hundred and fifty inhabitants besides the garrison. Three days later, they arrived in Gooding’s Grove, then a part of Cook County. In 1836, he was appointed Chief Engineer of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, which position he held until its completion, in 1848. He traveled over the first completed section of railway in the United States, from Albany to Schenectady, N. Y. The cars were something like old-style stage-coaches, and were drawn by horses. He died at his home in Lockport, in May, 1878. E. P. Farley settled in this township in 1837, but of him not much could be ascertained. The Hawleys settled here in 1835. The father, Lyman Hawley, settled near where Warren Hawley now lives, and at the time, there was not a house or cabin between his settlement and Plainfield. The elder Hawley is dead, but his son, Warren Hawley, is still alive, and one of the thrifty farmers of the country. Isaac Preston came to the settlement in 1836. He was born in New Jersey in 1792, and had lived some time in New York before coming to Illinois. He remembers to have seen his father with crape on his arm, as mourning for Gen. Washington, when the “Father of his Country” laid down his earthly life. J. B. Preston, a son of Isaac Preston, was a man of much note, and is said to have been the youngest man that ever received the office of Surveyor General. Hiram Norton was one of the most enterprising men the town of Lockport has known, and did more in his day, perhaps, for the building-up of the place than any other man; and though he has long since gone to his reward, the evidences of his works are still seen and felt by those who survive him. Col. Wright sprung from a good old Revolutionary stock, his father and grandfather both having served in the great struggle for independence, and participated in many of its battles. He came from Saratoga, N. Y., to Illinois, in 1833, and to Lockport Township in 1837, and settled in the present village of that name, on the identical spot where he now lives. He was brought up on the battle-ground of Stillwater, where Burgoyne received his first check, and which was the first of a series of brilliant engagements that resulted finally in the surrender of the British General and his proud army to the Continental forces under Gen. Gates. Col. Wright’s father owned the farm upon which stood the house in which Gen. Frazer died. All readers of our Revolutionary history are familiar with the death of that gallant officer. One historian thus describes it, in the battle of Stillwater: “Here Arnold did an act unworthy of the glory of the well-fought battle. He ordered up twelve of his best riflemen, and pointing to Frazer, who, on horseback, with brandished sword, was gallantly animating his men, he said ‘See that officer. Himself is a host. Let me not see him long.’ The riflemen flew to their places, and in a few moments the hero was cut down.” Col. Wright says he has often seen the blood-stain on the floor of this house, where Frazer was laid, just under the window, when brought in wounded, and where he breathed his last. A few years ago, there was, says the Colonel, a pot of gold found buried in the barn upon this same farm, and is supposed to have been buried there by some of the British officers. Baker settled in the present village of Lockport in 1837, where he has ever since resided. He is a carpenter by trade, and has always followed that business, and perhaps has left his mark on as many edifices as any other man of his age in Will County. There are, he says, but three men living now in the village that were here when he came, viz., A. J. Matthewson, D. C. Baldwin and Joshua Croneen. The village proper of Lockport was laid out, but there were no houses except the Canal office and perhaps a log cabin or two. In one of the latter a man had lived for a time, named Everdeen, but had moved to Bachelor’s Grove. There are some who accredit the man Everdeen as the first settler in Lockport Township, but we have been unable to learn anything very definite concerning him, and, from information received from other sources, are of the opinion that he was not the first settler in the town at all. He moved to Bachelor’s Groye, in Cook County, but what further became of him we do not know. Selah Lanfear settled here in 1832, and was so near the line as to be hard to say whether he was in Lockport or Homer Township. He was in the blockhouse during the Sac war, a member of Capt. Sisson’s company. He was a brother of Deacon Asa Lanfear, who settled in Homer a few years later. Justin Taylor settled here in 1834, but had come out the year before, on a tour of inspection. He was at Chicago at the Indian treaty, and saw several hundred Indians start for their new hunting-grounds beyond the Father of Waters. He died in 1847. His widow married William Sanborn, and is still living. A coincidence in the family may be mentioned in the fact that they have four sons dead and four living, one daughter dead and one living. Alomon Taylor, a brother of his, came here in 1835, and settled on the farm just north of where Fitzpatrick now lives. He went to California in 1850, and died from an accident received there. In 1852, his widow married Jacob Smith, and at present lives about a mile from their original settlement. Joseph Heath came from Hartford, Conn., about 1834, and settled where C. S. Allen now lives. He was a young man then, but afterward married and raised a large family of children, who have gone out in the world to do for themselves, and he has removed to Minooka, where he now lives, enjoying his wealth, gained by a life of honest toil. Thomas Webb also came from Connecticut, and settled where Stephen Williams now lives, in August, 1833. He had lived for a time in Ohio before coming to Illinois, and after remaining on this place about four years, moved just over the line in Dupage, where he died, in 1840. Michael Noel was a son-in-law, and lived on the place for some time after Webb moved away, when he finally sold it to Williams, who now occupies it, as already stated. William Rogers was from Ashtabula County, Ohio, and settled near where Daggett’s mill now stands, in 1832 or 1833. Mrs. John Giffin, a daughter of his, is living about one mile southwest of Lockport village. He finally moved up on the bluff, where he died, some years later. His widow afterward married John Mulligan, a man of Irish extraction, but had been raised mostly in England, and was a member of the Episcopal Church. It is said that she loved him most devotedly. He was on his way to Pike’s Peak, during the gold excitement of 1859, when he died, and she had him brought back and interred at home. She then rented the farm and went to live with her children, in Livingston County, where she died, about three years ago, but made the request that he should be disinterred and taken to that locality and buried before her, and she then laid by his side. Her request was complied with, and side by side they sleep. Harvey and Thomas Reed were from Kentucky; the latter came in 1832, and the former in 1834 or 1835, and settled where William Mauer now lives. He went to California during the gold excitement of 1849-50, and to Pike’s Peak during that excitement, in neither of which he seems to have amassed any great fortune, thus verifying the saying that “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Thomas Reed settled where D. Mallon now lives, on the West Side. He sold out about 1858 or 1860, and removed to Iowa, where he died, a few years ago, more than 90 years of age. He was a warm-hearted Kentuckian, fond of his bitters, good-natured and jolly, but whole-souled, and generous to a fault.
James B. Marvin settled in this township in 1834, about one mile east of the village, where he lived until his death, which occurred a few years ago. He, with Mr. Mason, mentioned more particularly in the history of Homer Township, made the trip to California, overland, during the gold fever in 1849 and 1850. They were in Sacramento City when it was burned as a huge bonfire on the election of Gen. Pierce as President of the United States. A son of Marvin now lives on the homestead, and the place has never been out of possession of the family since its entry in 1834. Hale S. Mason first settled in Homer Township, where his history is more fully given, but has lived in Lockport since 1846. B. B. Clarke, whose father settled in Plainfield, and lived for years in Dupage Township, where their history is given, is now a prosperous merchant in the village of Lockport. Gen. James Turney was from Tennessee and John W. Paddock from New York, the first representatives of the legal profession, and came about 1836 or 1837. Luther C. Chamberlain came from New York, but settled first in Homer Township. Dr. Chancy White was an early settler, and one of the first physicians. Joseph Haight was from the Nutmeg State, and settled in 1834. Patrick Fitzpatrick is a son of “Ould Erin,” but had resided in Canada from early youth until he came to Illinois. His first visit was in 1832, but owing to the Sac war then going on he returned to Canada where he remained a year and a half, and came back to this section. He bought the claim of Nathan Hutchins, and settled on the bluff west of the village of Lockport, where he still lives. He is one of the few old landmarks still left in the country. When he settled here, he says there was not a cabin from his place to Plainfield, and Will County was a part of Cook. He voted at the first election held in Will County, but has forsworn politics since the defeat of Van Buren in 1840.
Dr. John F. Daggett, who has practiced medicine in Lockport and the surrounding country for forty years, is a native of the Green Mountains of Vermont, and came to this neighborhood in 1838. He entered the medical college at Woodstock, Vt., when but 19 years of age, and taught school through the Winter to pay his course through college, from which he graduated in 1836. He married Angelina Talcott, of New York, a sister of the late Mancel Talcott, of Chicago, and of Edward B. Talcott, one of the engineers who surveyed and laid out the Illinois & Michigan Canal. He still lives in Lockport, and looks as if he was good to practice his profession forty years longer. John Bovee came from Ohio in 1837 and settled in this township, but has been dead many years. Hon. Charles E. Boyer came from Reading, Penn., and first located in Chicago, where he embarked in the mercantile business. In 1839, he came to Lockport and opened a store, but closed it out in a short time and took a contract on the Canal. He went to California in 1850, and contracted to build Bear River Canal. He served a term in the State Legislature, and was a candidate for the State Senate when he died in September, 1868. Robert Milne came from the “banks and braes” of Scotland in 1836, and stopped first in Chicago, where he bought out the first lumber merchant of the Garden City and engaged in that branch of trade. Although pretty well off in regard to worldly wealth, it would probably take a longer purse than his to buy the lumber trade of Chicago to-day. In 1840, he engaged in contracting on the Illinios & Michigan Canal, and built five of the locks. He settled in the village in 1846, owns an excellent farm adjacent, and devotes a great deal of attention to raising blooded cattle, and has imported some very fine animals from the old country. John Griswold came from Vermont, and settled here about 1834 or 1835, where he still lives, a prosperous farmer. Benjamin Butterfield is an early settler, one of the very early ones, and is said by some to have built the first log cabin in the township; but we are unable to vouch for the truth of this statement. He was in the block house built by Sisson in the time of the Sac war, and went to Iowa. He is said by some to have been in Homer Township, but he has been away so long that few can tell much about him now. Judge Blackstone, First Lieutenant of Sisson’s company while in the blockhouse, was also a very early settler, but there is some discrepancy as to his settlement, whether it was originally in Homer or Lockport. This embraces many of the first settlers of Lockport Township up to the time when the influx became too great to keep pace with the arrivals. It may be that there are omissions of the names of many who should be mentioned as pioneers, but if so we have been unable to learn anything in regard to them. Many of them have gone to their account, and others have moved away and all trace of them lost.
As already stated, there were plenty of Indians here when the white people began to settle in the vicinity, but they were friendly, lazy, and not at all times disposed to heed that commandment forbidding us to steal. Says the “Will County Gazetteer,” of 1860: “From the observations of the first white settlers in this vicinity, it is evident that what is now Lockport had long been a favorite resort of the Indian tribes which had occupied this section of the country. The spreading oaks, the clear running brooks, the rapid river, all made this one of the brightest spots in this paradise of the red man. Here their graves are found, their caches, or places for hiding their corn, etc., and arrow-heads, stone hatchets and other evidences of their having lived and died here. Even after the settlements by the whites commenced, the Indians often came here to spend the hunting and fishing season. Another reason why this became an important stopping-place for them was, that here was the best ford across the Des Planes River, and a crossing could be effected here in consequence of the rapid fall and numerous channels into which the river was divided in extreme high water, when it could nowhere else.” But the time came when, “Lo! the poor Indian,” with the star of empire, had to wend his way westward. Their old hunting-grounds have changed into broad, cultivated fields, and herds of domestic animals now graze where they once chased the wild deer. Their war-whoop is no longer heard, their council-fires have gone out in the forests and few now living remember them from personal knowledge. Mrs. Wightrnan says she very well remembers the last Indians she saw in this settlement. She and others of her father’s children were sitting on the fence eating butter and bread, when two Indians came along on their ponies, and snatched the butter and bread from their hands. Mr. Rogers, who lived in the neighborhood, had called for something and witnessed their act to the children, became incensed, and seizing Mr. Sisson’s horse-whip rode after the Indians and whipped them every jump for a mile or more. She was a small child at the time, but remembers the occurrence and that they were the last she ever saw in the country. Mr. Bronson says that when they took up their line of march for their new hunting-grounds beyond the Mississippi, they presented a rather sad and mournful spectacle, as they trudged along on foot in true Indian file, with heads bowed down and a melancholy and dejected cast of countenance, that might well have become the bard of Bonny Doon, when he wrote:
“Farewell my friends, farewell my foes. My peace with these, my love with those.”
The first white child born in Lockport Township, is supposed to have been Orrin Runyon, who was born on the 27th of May, 1833. He lives now in California. This is doubtless correct, as at that time there were but a few families in the town. The first birth on the west side of the Des Planes River, in the present limits of Lockport, was Eliel S. Bronson. a son of Cyrus Bronson, born April 23, 1835. The first marriage was that of Louisa Webb and Michael Noel, and the matrimonial knot was tied by C. C. Van Horne, a Justice of the Peace from the Hickory Creek settlement. C. M. Bronson says that upon its being reported that the wedding was to take place, and no invitations having been received by any of the neighbors, he, but a boy at the time, was dispatched to Webb’s to reconnoiter, but ostensibly to borrow something, as borrowing was an every-day occurrence at that period of the country’s settlement. Upon presenting himself as an Electoral Commission of one, he found the old gentleman sitting on a three-legged stool, eating a piece of the wedding cake, Van Horne riding away from the place and the new bride and bridegroom sitting on the bed looking very sweet at each other, all of which seemed to indicate that the deed was done, which proved to be correct, for on entering the house he was introduced to the bride, and offered a “hunk” of the wedding cake. The Webbs were from Ohio, and Noel, it seems, had been the girl’s lover before the family came West, and for two years after their removal to Illinois she neither saw nor heard from him, when finally he decided to pay her a visit, which culminated in a marriage, the first of which we have any record in Lockport Township. The first death was that of a maiden ladya Miss Miner, and a sister of Dr. Miner, who lived on a part of Armstead Runyon’s land. She died in the Summer of 1834, of consumption, and was buried on what is now known as the Hanford Place. Another of the early deaths was that of the father of Nathan Hutchins, who lived with his son on the west side of the Des Planes, and died in 1835. A custom prevailed in that early day of carrying all dead people to the grave, which seemed to the simple-minded settlers to show more affection for the departed than hauling them in a hearse or wagon. The Fall Mr. Hutchins died was one of almost unprecedented ague, even in this ague climate, and it wras hard to find, says Mr. Bronson, four men to carry him to the grave who were not shaking with the ague. There were no grave-yards or cemeteries laid off at that time, and they carried him up on the bluff and buried him near where Fitzpatrick’s barn now stands. As nearly as the spot can be designated, it is directly in front of the barn-door, where every time Fitz steps out he treads upon the sod that covers the old pioneer; and it would not be in the least surprising should his troubled ghost rise up sometime and confront Fitz for this apparent desecration of his lowly resting-place. The following circumstance is, perhaps, not out of place in this connection. A son of Nathan Hutchins went to Chicago with a wagon and team. He carried a load of produce to be exchanged for groceries and such goods as were needed at home. They were then living near Rockford, having moved to that section in 1836. The young man’s team was found stabled by some one who recognized it, and word sent to Hutchins, who came and took it home. It had been there several days, the proprietor of the stable feeding and caring for it without knowing to whom it belonged. From that day to this, the young man has not been heard of. It is said that he had a little money, and whether he ran away or was murdered is, and will perhaps remain forever, one of the unrevealed mysteries.
The first practicing physician in Lockport Township was a Dr. Miner, who came to the settlement in the Winter of 1833-34, and lived on Mr. Runyon’s place for a year or two. He was an Eastern man, but from what State could not be ascertained. He was a bachelor or widower, and a maiden sister lived with him and acted as housekeeper, and is mentioned elsewhere as the first death in the township. Mrs. Boyer remembers both him and his sister well, though but a child at the time, but does not know what finally became of him. Dr. Bronson was, perhaps, the next physician, and removed to Joliet. Dr. Chancy White came in 1836, and was from New York, and now lives in Galesburg, Ill. Dr. Daggett was, perhaps, the next, and has been administering to the afflicted of the community since 1838. The lawyers, stores and post office of the township are more intimately connected with the village of Lockport, and will be given in that chapter. The first Justice of the Peace was Jared Runyon, and was acting in that capacity as far back as 1836 or 1837, though no one can now tell with certainty just when he received the appointment. One of the first roads in the town, other than the Indian trails, was near where the canal is located, and extended from Lockport to Joliet. In 1838, the Canal Commissioners cut a road direct to Chicago, which bears off to the right of the Chicago & Alton Railroad, and, in 1889, the road was opened through from Chicago to Ottawa, on the west bluff, and which afterward became quite famous as a stage route. It used to be a great thoroughfare of travel, when stage-coaches were the common mode of transit. The first mill in Lockport Township, or in Northern Illinois, of any consequence, was built in what is termed West Lockport, by William Gooding, Eli S. Prescott, William Rogers and Lyman Hawley. Rogers had pre-empted the land on which the mill was built, and the names given above were the original proprietors. It was begun in 1836, and completed in 1838; was built of stone, and cost 830,000; with four runs of buhrs, and is still in operation. Dr. Daggett bought it entire in 1855 but had owned an interest in it for several years previous. Other mill and grain interests will be mentioned in the history of the village.
The first minister of the Gospel in this section of the country was a young man from Massachusetts, of the name of Greemvood, sent out by the Home Mission of the Presbyterian Church, and who preached for a year and a half at the house of the elder Bronson, on the west side of the Des Planes River. After leaving his labors in this town, he went to the wilds of Wisconsin, and once got lost in what was well known in an early day as the “Big Swamp” of the Badger State, and came very near starving to death before he found his way out. He had some property, and when believing he was doomed to perish in the dismal swamp, sat down and wrote his will, threw it on the ground and lay down by it to die. But reviving somewhat after a while, got up and pursued his way in a kind of listless manner, until the crowing of a cock infused new life into him and assured him that relief was at hand. He found the cabin of a settler, who took him in, gave him food, and where he remained until his exhausted energies were fully restored. The next preachers to proclaim salvation in this township were the Methodist itinerants. Revs. Blackburn and Beggs, the latter now living in Plainfield, resting from a long life of labor in the vineyard of the Lord. Another of the early preachers of that day was a Congregational minister of the name of Foster, who used to preach at the schoolhouse, long before there was a church edifice in the town. The old fellow had a way of wiping his nose on his coat-tail, when preaching, a performance not altogether agreeable to his hearers; and so Dr. Daggett, with some others, raised a contribution and bought the good old preacher a beautiful red bandana, which, with due solemnity, they presented to him. The elder Mr. Bronson was in Chicago one day with his team, and when about starting home was accosted by a very polite, courteous gentleman, with a slight foreign accent, who asked to ride out with him. He brought him out in his wagon, found him very intelligent, and was well pleased with him. Acting upon the injunction to be kind to the wayfaring man, for many have so entertained angels unawares, he kept him over night, and in the morning sent him on to Joliet. A few days later, Mr. Bronson was in Joliet, when the same gentleman came up and spoke to him, apparently very glad to see him. He then learned that it was Father Plunkett, sent to Joliet to take charge of the Catholic Church there, and whose melancholy death is noted in the history of that city.
Education received attention at a very early period in the history of Lockport. The first school of which we have any account was taught in 1835, by a young lady from Joliet whose name is now forgotten. She afterward married a man named Eastman, and removed to Chicago. The next was taught by a Miss Royce, of Dupage Township. Both of these schools were before the day of schoolhouses, and were taught in a little room built by Capt. Sisson as an addition to his dwelling and intended for a kitchen, but surrendered it for school purposes. The first schoolhouse was built by the neighbors en masse, and was a small log cabin. The work and material were donatedone man giving logs enough, delivered on the spot, for a side and an end, and another for a side, etc., while another cut down a tree, sawed it up and made “shakes,” or boards, to cover it. A log was cut out for a window, a large fire-place with a stick chimney, and benches made by splitting open a small tree, boring auger-holes and putting in legs, is a pen photograph of this primitive schoolhouse. There are some who assert that the first school was taught by a Miss Warren, of Warrenville, Du Page County, as early as 1834, just in the edge of Lockport, near what was known as the Barnett Place. But of this school we are unable to learn anything very definite. The schools of Lockport have expanded somewhat since that day. In 1872, we find there were 10 school districts, 1,244 pupils enrolled, 1 graded school, and 15 teachers employed. There were 10 schoolhouses, 4 districts having libraries, with an aggregate of 320 vollumes, and the amount paid to teachers was $6,490. The special tax levied for school purposes was $8,574.60; total expenditures for the year, $9,839.81 leaving a balance of $1,068.36 in the treasury. Further mention is made of the schools and churches in the history of Lockport Village.
At the land sale which took place in Chicago, for the land embraced in Lockport Township, the people had organized a kind of protective society against speculators, and appointed one of their number to look after their interests. That man was Holder Sisson; and faithfully he performed the duty. As the numbers of the claims were called, while Sisson bid on it for them, they would stand around and watch to see if a speculator bid, and if so, unless he took it back very suddenly, they put him in the river until he did. The auctioneer favored the settlers, and as soon as the Government price was reached, it was with him “going, going, GONE.” Finally, a compromise was effected, whereby the speculator paid for all the land and gave the the squatter half. This enabled many to procure homes who did not have money to even pay the Government price for a “forty” or an “eighty.” As the country settled up, old settlers say it seemed rather hard that they could not let their stock run at large, and cut their wild hay where they pleased. When the first settlers came in, everything was free, the country wild, and every man, for scores of miles, neighbors. As it settled up, these things changed, and people became more and more selfish, until it seems, at the present day, that it is every man for himself, and the take the hindermost. Then a man would loan another a horse or an ox, or anything else that he had, except his wife and babies, though he had never seen him before. But now such confidence would, in nine cases out of ten, be abused. These somber reflections are not those of the historian, but the echo of some of the old settlers who have seen the country grow up, and have marked these changes in the people and in their manners and feelings toward one another.
C. M. Bronson remembers two species of birds quite common here when his father removed to this section, in 1834, but which have long since disappeared. One of them was about the size and very similar to the English curlew. It had a bill about seven or eight inches long, and when disturbed would rise in the air, and, circling overhead, pronounce very distinctly the word chelee. The other was somewhat smaller in size, but similar in appearance, and could say very plainly, “go to work.” But as the English and Irish came in, who are fond of birds as food, and took to shooting them, they soon disappeared. Mr. Bronson informed us that he was once bitten on the great toe of his right foot by a massasauga, or prairie rattlesnake, and for eight years was unable to do any work. He was finally cured by a severe attack of fevers, in which he came near dying, but which had the effect of driving the poison from his system, and when he recovered from it was free from the other also. He describes a sickly season when 500 canal men died and were buried, and upon the graves of whom not a drop of rain had fallen from the burial of the first to that of the last. They had come from a country of a different climate, were little used to eating meat, and here they had plenty of it, and working hard in the hot sun would sicken and die by scores. When one “shuffled off the mortal coil,” the others would hold a “wake;” no matter how pressing work might be, everything was “dropped;” and if the departed had any of the world’s wealth, not a lick of work would the others do while it lasted, but drink and fight, and sometimes, in their drunken orgies, prepare the material for another wake. A grave-yard was laid out and consecrated for their special benefit, as the Catholic Church never bury their members except in holy ground. The following anecdote, by a correspondent of the local press, writing under the nom de plume of “Styx,” will serve to illustrate somewhat the Irish character as represented here during the building of the Canal. Writing of some of their little frays, the correspondent says: “Representatives from different parts of Ireland gathered into separate settlements, and raising the old songs and war-cries that have so often torn ‘the Harp of Erin’ to tatters, they have re-enacted the refreshing dramas of ‘Donny Brook Fair’ and the “Kilkenny Cats,” in which every sprig of shillalah was rampant and restless. Funerals and ‘wakes’ followed on the heels of each otherthe ‘wakes’ being productive of more funerals, and the funerals of more ‘wakes!’ The writer remembers seeing a funeral cortege that started from the flat, near where the prison now stands, consisting of a dirt-cart with the coffin and mourning occupants, and preceded by the carriage of the priest, who led the way to the Lockport burying-ground. Wrapt in that kind of dreamy forgetfulness that was introduced by the exciting watches of the previous night, the occupants did not notice how the hind-end-board of the wagon had jolted out, nor did they notice, while climbing the hill at the old prison quarry, the coffin had taken a notion to slip out after the end-board, but went on to the grave-yard full of grief and lamentations. ‘Begorra, Jamie’s gone!’ was the startling remark of the sexton as he reached after the missing casket.”
The Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad passes through Lockport Township from north to south, and was built through in 1856. But as a full and complete history of this great road is given elsewhere in this work, we deem it unnecessary to recapitulate here. The same applies to the Illinois & Michigan Canal, which also passes through the town from north to south, and the history of which is fully given in another page. There is a point or two, however, upon which we may touch in regard to it. That it is designed to become, at no very distant day, a ship-canal, upon which will float thousands of crafts from all parts of the country, there can be little doubt, since a few shovelfuls of dirt have been judiciously removed from the low divide between the Chicago and Des Planes Rivers, permanently uniting Lake Michigan and the Father of Waters. With this few miles of canal widened and deepened for ships to pass through, it would be of untold advantage to the whole country. There are those living to-day who will yet see mighty steamers unloading cotton and sugar at the piers of Chicago, and taking in the grain of the prairies and the minerals of the Superior country, steam away to the Crescent City of the South. As pertinent to the subject, the following extract is from a speech delivered in the Congress of the United States, by Hon. Carter Harrison, on this very enterprise: “Fifty years ago, only a prophet could have seen at Fort Dearborn the site of a mighty city. But his mantle of prophecy need not have been heaven-born. It was only necessary that its woof and fabric should be woven of commercial and engineering sagacity, united to close observation of the little bayous and the low divide separating its waters from those of the Des Planes River close by. That divide was only a few inches above the average surface of the lake, and in high water the birchen canoe of the savage passed freely from one to the other. * * * Ages ago, the prairie States of the Northwest were a vast inland, shallow sea. Its deep pools were the beds of the present lakes. When the bottom of that sea was upheaved and the barriers to the east and south were broken down, the waters of Lake Michigan flowed through a long cycle of centuries, through the Des Planes River to the Mississippi. As the prairies to the south were gradually lifted, and the outlets to the east were deepened, the southern outlet became nearly closed. Nature thus wrote on that low divide the first engineer’s report in favor of a ship-canal to unite the Mississippi and the Lakes. She traced along that flat marsh in the dark waters of that little bayou the plan for tying the Gulf of Mexico to the Gulf of St. Lawrence. A gentle breeze parted sister-waters in that sullen creek and carried them to far-distant oceans, where one would be caught in the grasp of the stream coming down from Labrador, the other to be wooed bv the warm embrace of the Gulf-stream, again to be re-united in mid-ocean.” With all its natural advantages, it does seem that the making of this a ship-canal would be one of the grandest improvements of the age, and we have no doubt but that a few more years will witness the inauguration of such a movement.
Politically, Lockport Township is Democratic. In the days of building the Canal, whereon were employed so many sons of the “old sod,” it polled up sometimes rather huge Democratic majorities, as the first thought of the Irishman when he arrives in this country is the right of franchise, and hundreds of them had been freshly imported for canal purposes.
“Young Barney O’Toole was a broth of a boy. Who crossed over the sea with bold Pat Malloy. They landed at nightit was rainy withal And the next day got work on the raging canal.”
It is stated, and very reliably, too, that at the Presidential election of 1840, some of the “Canalers” voted not less than twenty times apiece; and it is estimated that along the Illinois & Michigan Canal there were probably 5,000 illegal votes polled for Van Buren. But with the completion of the Canal and the exit of the “Irish Brigade,” it has toned down, and the two great parties are more evenly divided, though the Democrats still have the majority. The name of Lockport was given to the village by Armstead Runyon, and the township named for it. The name originated from the first lock on the Canal between Chicago and Lockport being at the latter place, and hence, was deemed an appropriate name.
The Village of Lockport
Lockport village is situated on the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad and the Illinois & Michigan Canal, about thirty-three miles southeast of Chicago and four miles north of Joliet. The town site for Lockport was chosen by the Canal Commissioners, and the village laid out by them. It was selected with a view of making it their headquarters, and soon after its selection, they erected their Canal office here, which has ever since, with some improvements, been used for that purpose. The village was laid out under the supervision of William B. Archer, by a surveyor named Wampler, and the first sale of lots took place on the 22d day of November, 1837, and lots sold to the amount of $6,000. The Canal office was the first building of any importance erected in the town, and doubtless had considerable influence in inducing the first settlers of the village to come to the place. The Canal Commissioners, as well as many other persons of intelligence, probably over-rated the advantages of this locality for a commercial and manufacturing town. Joliet, only four miles south of the site selected for Lockport, had at that time been laid out and established as the county seat, and the natural advantages of its position, with the agricultural and mineral wealth surrounding it, would preclude the existence of other towns in such close proximity. Lockport, with all her wealth, must eventually become a part of Joliet. It was laid out with much care, and fine taste exercised, as will be seen from its broad and regular streets. The residences are built with regard to beauty as well as utility, many of them being surrounded with tastefully laid out and highly ornamented grounds. With its eligible location and romantic site on a sloping hillside, and withal its healthy condition, it is very favorably adapted for, as it no doubt will some day be, a suburban retreat of Chicago.
The first store was established in Runyontown town (now North Lockport) by a man named Kellogg, and was but a sort of grocery store, a rather small affair. Goss & Parks kept the first dry goods store at the same place, and at the laying-out of Lockport proper, removed within its limits, Goss and Stephen Gooding opening a store in partnership, and Parks likewise opening one on his own hook. After the retirement of Stephen Gooding, Oliver P. Gooding took charge of this, and soon other mercantile establishments were opened, and Lockport grew rapidly. The first building of any pretensions erected, was the Canal office, as already stated. There were, however, several cabins and huts put up within the present limits of the village, by the early settlers, long before it was laid out as a village. The first tavern was built by Horace Morse, but Mr. Runyon, we believe, kept travelers before this tavern was built, though he did not pretend to keep a regular hotel. The first post office was established in 1836, over on the west side of the river, at the stone mill, and Edward P. Bush was the first Postmaster. The office remained at the mill until 1839, when it was removed across the river to the East Side, where it has ever since remained. While at the mill, the mail came once a week, and was brought on horseback. In 1839, coaches were put on the Chicago and Ottawa route, and the mail then came that way, which was considered, in that early day, quite an improvement, and a considerable advance toward civilization. The first representatives of the legal profession were Gen. James Turney and John W. Paddock, both long since dead. At present Messrs. L. S. Parker and W. S. Myers, men of ability, constitute the “learned in the law” of Lockport. The first village schoolhouse was built in 1839; a small frame building, about 18×32 feet, and cost perhaps $200. It was used for schools, religious services, townhall, and anything else that happened to come along. The present handsome stone building, with its fine clock, was erected a few years ago at a cost of 830,000quite a contrast to the little shanty built for school purposes forty years ago. The present building would be an ornament to any town. The following is the record of the school for the present year: Prof. D. H. Darling, Principal; Misses Paxson, Gooding, Devine, Parker and Herron, Teachers.
Before Lockport proper was laid out, and as early as 1836, Armstead Runyon laid out North Lockport, or what was long known as Runyontown, but now called Runyon’s Addition to Lockport. West Lockport was laid out by William Gooding, Lyman Hawley, William Rogers and Eli Prescott, the parties that built the stone mill. At one time this was the most flourishing part of Lockport, but both it and Runyontown have been merged into the village proper. Lockport was incorporated under especial act of the Legislature, approved February 12, 1853, and signed by J. A. Matteson, Governor. At the election for adopting the village charter, the vote was 86 in favor of and 55 against the charter. The first Board of Trustees elected were Isaac H. Steward, Henry Torrey, S. S. Chamberlain, D. C. Baldwin and Chauncy Doud. Henry Torrey was chosen President of the Board, I. H. Stewart appointed Secretary, and Chauncy Doud, Treasurer. The following is the present Board: David C. Baldwin, William Shields, Samuel Matthews, John Ryan and Jacob Lotz. D. C. Baldwin is President of the Board; William Shields, Clerk; F. F. Stowe, Police Magistrate; William A. Johnson. Police Constable, and James Wright, Jr., Street Commissioner.
Lockport has always been the headquarters of the Canal Commissioners, and the General Superintendent, Mr. Thomas, has his office here at this time. Without going into a detailed history of the Canal, which has been thoroughly given in another department of this work, we will mention one little anecdote especially pertaining to this section and to Lockport. The first boat that passed through the entire length of the Canal after its completion, was the “General Thornton,” and made the passage in April, 1848. But the first that floated on its Bridgeport-tainted waters was the “General Fry,” named for one of the Canal Commissioners. It was built near where the depot now stands, and as it was an event of importance, unprecedented in the history of Lockport, everybody went down to see it launched. As it gently “slided” from the stocks into the “raging canawl,” Dr. Daggett rode in on it, and the boat, seemingly conscious that it carried more than Caesar and his fortunes, acquitted itself handsomely, by dropping into the water “right side up.” When the Canal was completed and opened to Chicago, in March, 1848, this boat was the first to make the trip to that city. It was the occasion of a grand excursion for the purpose of celebrating an event of great national importance. A magnificent reception was given the excursion, as Chicago, even then, knew how to entertain her country cousins. The boat was met at Bridgeport by a propeller and a large number of citizens, who took the excursionists on through the river, and for a ride out on the lake. The river was lined with people on both sides, to see the first excursion that had come through the Canal. They were taken in and “dined and wined,” and a general good time had all round. There are those (Blue or Red Ribbonists, perhaps) who remarked with some emphasis, that the entire excursion got gloriously drunk. But doubtless this is a sort of “stretch of conjecture,” and should be taken with all due allowance for ill-natured remarks.
Lockport is a grain market of considerable importance. Trade in grain began here on the opening of the Canal in 1848. Hiram Norton, the father of the present grain dealer, J. L. Norton, John Milks, Jenkins, and Geo. Gaylord, were the first who entered the business. Gaylord & Co., with the exception of from 1852 to 1863, have been in the trade ever since, and handle annually from 300,000 to 400,000 bushels of corn and oats exclusively, all of which is shipped by the canal. Gaylord was the first man to buy grain at legal weights, and had a hard fight with the other dealers to maintain it, but eventually carried the day. Since buying the Martin property, Gaylord & Co. have storage and cribbing capacity for more than 200,000 bushels of grain. Their elevators have improved steam-power, and are provided with grain-dumps and all modern conveniences for handling grain. Norton & Co. are the only other firm in the grain business here at present. They handle, including the wheat used in the mill, perhaps between 800,000 and 900,000 bushels annually. With an extensive and well-appointed warehouse and steam elevator of large capacity, they are well prepared for the grain business in any form or shape. George B. Martin, at one time, was a heavy grain dealer at this placetoo heavy for the financial benefit of many of his patrons. He commenced business here in 1849-50, without capital it is supposed, and by dint of energy and good business ability worked up an immense trade, gaining the fullest confidence of the entire community. There are, perhaps, few cases on record of a more complete betrayal of confidence. Many hard-working people had deposited their savings with him, and it is even said that washerwomen had money deposited in his hands, when, without warning he failed most disastrously, to the amount of $200,000, a failure aggravated in its nature and sad in its results; scarcely equaled in the distress it wrought among the working people, by Spencer’s State Savings failure or Myer’s “busted” Beehive, of Chicago. He is said to have been of most excellent family, was not a fast man nor high liver, but is supposed to have managed badly, paid too much interest, and traded too high on borrowed capital. One bad move he made was in establishing a grain point at Romeo, a few miles north of Lockport, which took considerable trade from him, which, otherwise, he would have secured at this place. William Shields and Anderson are now buying grain at Romeo for Norton & Co., and do quite a large business for a country station.
The first Fourth of July celebration in Lockport was an old-fashioned barbecue, which was gotten up in 1839. Whole animals, such as muttons, pigs and poultry were roasted, and the primitive board groaned under the bountiful supply of eatables. Hiram Norton was President of the celebration; Gen. James Turney, a lawyer of considerable ability, was the orator of the occasion; Edward B. Talcott read the Declaration of Independence, and Dr. Daggett marshaled the grand procession. It was a general good timea day of rejoicingand everybody enjoyed it to the utmost, winding up in the evening with a grand ball at the Canal office, then the most capacious building in the place, which had been put in “apple-pie order” for the occasion. Fiddlers were rather a scarce article in the country at that time, and the only one of any note was living at St. Charles, Kane Co. Dr. Daggett was appointed a committee of one to procure his services. Of course about the “Fourth,” the old fellow’s musical accomplishments were in demand; Daggett found him with several propositions before him for consideration, and the only means of securing him was to outbid all others. He offered him $60, and being the longest pole, it “knocked the persimmon.”‘ Daggett brought him over to the scene of action, but as he was extremely fond of the “wine when it is red,” before midnight he was blind drunk. So went their $60, and they were forced to find some one who could make a noise on the catguts, about as harmonious as the filing of an old saw, in order that the dance might go on as laid down in the programme.
One of the most important features in the business of Lockport is the industries of Norton & Co., who employ a large number of men in the several departments of their business. Their flour-mills on the west side of the Canal are the largest in the State, having the very best and most improved machinery, with twenty-eight runs of buhrs, under the superintendence of Robert Whitley, an experienced miller, and when employed at full capacity, will turn out from seven to eight hundred barrels of flour per day. The Winter wheat used at these mills is brought from the southern part of the State, while the Spring wheat is from the West. In connection is a cooper-shop, in charge of Henry Ripsom, who employs, usually, about thirty hands, making the barrels used at the mills. On the east side of the Canal, at the large warehouse and elevator, is the corn-mill, having five runs of buhrs, and used wholly for corn and for grinding wheat for their home customers. Albert Deeming is Superintendent of the store, carried on in connection with the mills and grain warehouse, and Jacob Lotz is the general shipping clerk and manager of the warehouse. The paper mills of this firm, known as the Lockport Paper Company, are an extensive establishment. About thirty men find employment in them, and they run day and night. The mills were built in the Fall of 1872, and make a specialty of board paper, which is manufactured from straw, using daily about six and a half tonsone and a half tons of straw to a ton of paper. To the efficient manager of the mills, Samuel Wilmot, we were indebted for a visit through the large establishment, and many items of interest as to its workings and capacity.
The stone quarries in and around Lockport are quite an important branch of the business of the place, though in the immediate vicinity of the village the stone does not compare in quality with the quarries of Joliet and Lemont. J. A. Boyer opened a quarry here in 1869, but the quality of stone taken from it did not warrant the working of it, and it was soon abandoned. Mr. Boyer’s quarries at Lemont are among the most extensive, and produce as superior a quality of stone as any quarry in this section of the State. He furnished from these quarries much of the material in the beautiful stone-front buildings recently erected on the West Side in the city of Chicago. He, also, has furnished the stone for the new Catholic Church in Lockport, by far the handsomest church edifice in the village. Though these quarries are not in this township, nor in Will County, yet their proprietor, Mr. Boyer, was born and reared in Lockport, where he still lives, and to omit mention of them here would be to leave out an important part of its history. He employs from one hundred to one hundred and fifty men, and has all the improved machinery and the best of shipping facilitiesboth on the Chicago & Alton Railroad and the Canal.
Oak Hill Quarry, now owned by Isaac Nobes, is one of the best in this section. Just south of Lockport village, conveniently located to both railroad and canal, has fine facilities for shipping. This quarry was opened by G. A. Cousens & Co., afterward passed into the hands of George Gaylord, and, in 1868, Mr. Nobes came into possession of it and has since worked it. He works about thirty-five men, and is supplied with all the modern machinery for working quarries and handling stone. He has one of the finest residences in the State, outside of the large cities. It is built of stone, and presents a very fine appearance. The large quarries of W. A. Steel are in Lockport Township, but were mentioned in the history of Joliet, where the owner of them lives. The first quarries worked in this section of the country, however, were opened by Dr. Daggett on the west side of the Canal, a little south of Lockport, and nearly opposite Nobes’ quarry. He sold $30,000 worth of stone the first year he opened them, and that of an excellent quality. But he is not operating them at present, owing to the fact, perhaps, of there being so many others in the business that it does not pay as well as it did years ago. It is wonderful to contemplate the inexhaustible supply of stone in the hills and bluffs of the Des Planes Valley. And the quality, too, the convenient ledges and layers in which it is found, and the easy access to it, is not the least wonderful item in regard to these vast quarries. It almost seems that the layers of stone had been purposely arranged for the convenience and benefit of man.
The history of the press dates back to quite a remote period in the history of Lockport. The first newspaper was established by one H. M. Fuller, in 1848, and was called the Will County Telegraph. During the year 1849, Judge Parks (now of Joliet) became the leading editor, while Fuller remained the publisher, until the Moon arose on the 23d of January, 1850, when it passed into the control and management of John M. Moon, who continued to edit and publish it for a few months. The business men of the town, it seems, owned the paper, while Moon was only editor and publisher, and his political views not altogether coinciding with those of his readers, he was forced to resign his position. The paper was somewhat tinged with Free-soilism, and he, it appears was a red-hot Democrat, and if one may be allowed to judge from the following extract taken from his valedictory, this Moon set ingloriously in a cloud-bank: “He pledged himself at the outset to keep the avowal of its proud motto intact; at the same time that he also declared his sympathy with the party named,* (* The Free-soil Party) in its present sentiments, and in regard to its peculiar objects. Not unmindful that it is not in the power of mortals to command success, he registered his stern determination to deserve respect, by resigning his post as soon as it might seem that the assertion of those sentiments would be incompatible with the feelings of subscribers and the success of the enterprise. That time has fully come. From several quarters he has received intimations to this effect, and they had recently become so plain and so numerous that he could no longer, with consistency, overlook them. His retirement follows in mere consistency.” He closes his valedictory with a grandiloquent Micawberistic flourish as follows: “He has carried his colors high and fearlessly against the extension of it (slavery) in the free portions of this country upon any pretense or construction whatever; and he wraps these colors around him, now that he can no longer combat as a testimony of the principles for which he fought, and in defense of which he fell.” Dr. Daggett succeeded him in the editorial management of the paper April 10, 1850, and follows his high-strung valedictory with a modest salutatory, in which he acknowledges his ignorance of the newspaper business and cares of the editor, and ventures to hope that he will give satisfaction to his readers, and as a means to that end declares his intention to please himself. When Daggett sat down in the editorial chair, the name of the paper was changed to Lockport Telegraph. He remained the editor until 1857, and for a few months had for assistant editoror editressa Mrs. P. W. B. Corothers, a lady of considerable literary merit, and whom many of our readers will remember as quite a pleasing writer. The paper underwent several changes in proprietors, viz., Plumb & Holcomb, Daggett & Holcomb, Charles D. Holcomb and we know not what others, until it finally became extinct, and the Phoenix “rose from its ashes.” The Lockport Phoenix was established in 1875, and the other branches were added to it the following year, as noticed in the history of Joliet. The plan of publication of each office is to set its ratio of type, which is sent to the central office, and there put in the form of general local and reading matter, while the advertisements for each locality are inserted at rates corresponding to the amount of circulation. The papers are devoted especially to local and county news, and are intended to go with Chicago and other outside journals, so that subscribers ordering one of them with a Phoenix can obtain a complete assortment of reading matter at the usual cost of one country paper. The Phoenix is under the control of J. S. McDonald, a veteran editor and live newspaper man. The Will County Commercial Advertiser, a live and sprightly paper, published by Hawley & Curren, is the Lockport Standard in a new form and character. It is devoted to home interests and is quite a readable sheet.
The people of Lockport, with their ten churches in their midst, have no lack of Gospel influences surrounding them. Religious services were first held in Lockport under the auspices of the Episcopal Church, in 1834, Rev. Isaac W. Hallum, of St. James’ Church, Chicago, occasionally visiting it and administering to the welfare of the people. The first Rector was Rev. Andrew W. Cornish, at the time Rector of the Episcopal Church of Joliet, where he resided, preaching at the two places alternately. From his day to the present time, the following ministers have officiated: Rev. William Bostwick, 1842-45. During his administration, the parish was duly organized by Rt. Rev. P. Chase, D. D., and the first church was built in 1844. Rev. Charles E. Todd, 1845-46; Rev. D. E. Brown, 1847-51; Rev. S. D. Pulford, 1852-55. In his time, the present parsonage was secured to the parish. Rev. S. L. Bostwick, 1857; Rev. Samuel Cowell, 1858-62; Rev. O. A. Gilbert, 1862-66; Rev. W. H. Cooper, 1868-70; Rev. William Turner, was next, under whose ministry the corner-stone of the new stone church was laid. After the Rev. Mr. Turner, Rev. Mr. Cowell again took charge for three years, and was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Philips, and in the Summer of 1878, Rev. John McKim became Rector. The church cost about six thousand dollars, was finished in 1874, and is at present under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. McKim. The membership is small, but is flourishing, with an interesting Sunday school, of which the Rector is Superintendent. The corner-stone of the church was laid September 20, 1870, as above stated, by Bishop Whitehouse, assisted by several local clergymen. It has been completed in excellent style, and is one of the handsomest churches in the village.
The Methodist Church was organized in Lockport at an early day. In 1838, this was included in Joliet Circuit, with Rev. William Crissey, Pastor, and Rev. John Clarke, Presiding Elder. In the Winter of 1838, Rev. Mr. Crissey formed the first class in Lockport, consisting of G. L. Works, class-leader, his wife, D. Breesee and wife, M. Brooks, R. Lowrie, Polly McMillen, Dira Manning, A. Heath and Julia Reed. In the Spring of 1842, Col. Joel Manning joined on probation, and was appointed class-leader, a position he held for fifteen years. In 1852, Lockport was made a station, and, in 1854, it and Plainfield were united. In 1854-55, during the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Reed, the present fine stone church was built, at a cost of $7,000; and, in 1867, a second parsonage was built, costing about $3,000, on a beautitiful lot opposite the church. The present Pastor is Rev. Mr. Strout, with a large membership and a flourishing Sunday school, of which Arthur Deeming is Superintendent.
The Baptist Church was organized in 1844, by Rev. Solomon Knapp, with twenty-one members. Some years later, their church was built, a neat little frame building, which cost about $1,500. The Church is now under charge of Rev. Robert C. Ray, and has about seventy-six members. A Sunday school is maintained, with an average attendance of eighty children, of which Frank Hopkins is Superintendent. The Congregational Church was organized in 1838. with nine members, viz.: Erastus Newton and wife, John Gooding and wife, Harvey Raymond, Dr. Chauncy White and wife, and William B. Newton and wife. The church was built in 1839, at a cost of $2,000. The first minister was Rev. Isaac Foster, and following him in the order given were Rev. Jonathan Porter, Rev. Alanson Porter, Rev. Joel Grant, Rev. Mr. Whiting, Rev. George Slosser, Rev. Alfred L. Riggs, Rev. H. C. Abernethy, Rev. Mr. Post, Rev. A. B. Brown, Rev. J. E. Storm. The present Pastor is Rev. S. I. McKee, with a membership of fifty. Sunday school established in 1841, Eli Eddy, Superintendent, with an attendance at present of about two hundred children, and Prof. D. H. Darling, Superintendent.
The Roman Catholic Society was organized here at the commencement of the building of the Illinois & Michigan Canal, and was at first attended by the priests in charge of the Joliet Mission. The first resident priest at Lockport was Father Dennis Ryan, and the first church was a small frame shanty, moved from Lemont, which, with some improvements, has been their house of worship ever since. In 1877, the elegant stone church was begun which is not yet completed. When finished, this will be the finest church in the village, and a handsome ornament to the place, and will cost about $25,000. The architects are Egan & Hill, of Chicago, and the stone is furnished by J. A. Boyer, of Lockport. Father Dorney is the priest in charge, and to his energetic efforts is the parish indebted for this magnificent church. A well-attended Sunday school is maintained in connection with the Church. The German Catholics also have an elegant stone church, a comfortable parsonage, and fine grounds. A large membership worship at this church, made up of the German citizens of Lockport and the surrounding country. There are in the village, in addition to those alreadv mentioned, three other German churches and one Swede church. Of these, however, we have not been able to learn much beyond the fact that they are occupied regularly, with the usual church and Sunday school services.
Freemasonry and Odd Fellowship are represented in Lockport by flourishing lodges. Des Plaines Lodge, No. 23, I. O. O. F., is one of the oldest Lodges of this Order in Northern Illinois, and was chartered January 12, 1847, by Stephen S. Jones, Grand Master, and J. F. Ruhci, Grand Secretary. The charter members were John Blackstone, Harvey Mosier, William P. Whittle, John W. Paddock and B. C. Waterman, not one of whom are now living. John Blackstone was the first Noble Grand. The present elective officers are: J. H. Weeks, Noble Grand; John Pitts, Jr., Vice Grand; W. J. Deeming, Secretary; John Geddes, Treasurerwith a membership of thirty-five. The removal of members and the formation of new lodges in the vicinity have kept the membership down at a small number. Lockport Lodge, No. 538, A., F. & A. M., was chartered October 1, 1867, A. L. 5867, by Most Worshipful Jerome R. Gorin, Grand Master, and H. G. Reynolds, Grand Secretary. The first officers were: C. H. Bacon, Worshipful Master; John C. Backus, Senior Warden; and William J. Denton, Junior Warden. It is officered at present as follows: F. P. Stowe, Worshipful Master; H. M. Starrin, Senior Warden; W. C. Fisher, Junior Warden; and H. R. Wells, Secretary; with about seventy-five members on the Lodge records.
The medical faculty of Lockport comprises some able physicians, viz., Drs. Daggett, Bacon, Larned and Schoop. Dr. Daggett has been a practicing physician in this section since 1838, a period of forty years; and as a successful practitioner has few equals. Dr. C. H. Bacon came from New York, and first settled in Mokena, but soon removed to Lockport. He was appointed Assistant Surgeon of the Volunteer Corps, at the beginning of the war, but was promoted to full Surgeon in August, 1863, which he held until November, 1865; was appointed Post Surgeon at Johnsonville, Tenn. In 1869, he received the appointment of Physician and Surgeon at the State Prison at Joliet, which he held until July, 1874, since which time he has practiced in Lockport. Dr. Larned is a well-read physician, and Dr. Schoop is a young physician of promise. Writing of doctors and medicine naturally brings to mind grave-yards and burying-grounds. It is with no disparagement or disrespect to the medical fraternity that we make the observation, but the grave-yard is the final abode of man after he passes beyond the doctor’s wisdom; and in this connection we would say a word or two in admiration of Lockport’s little city of the dead. Located on the summit of the east bluff, overlooking the village and the valley of the Des Planes, a more lovely and appropriate spot could not have been selected. It is well laid out and tastefully arranged, shaded with a few grand old forest-trees and plenty of ornamental shrubbery, interspersed with flowersfit emblems to the memory of the loved and lost.
The organ factory of William Evans is a Lockport enterprise; and while it is not an extensive establishment, it is of some importance as a manufactory. Organs, from the largest to the smallest, together with melodeons, are made to order, and of an excellent quality. Another factoryif a tannery can be called a factoryis the tannery of John Marks, and which does quite an enterprising business and adds something to the importance of Lockport. The mercantile business is confined entirely to a retail trade, which is well represented by courteous and energetic business men in all its branches.
Source: LeBaron, William, Jr. History of Will County, Illinois. Chicago: William LeBaron, Jr. & Co. 1878.