1886 Necrologist Report

(Transcribed and copyrighted April 22, 2001, by Lawrence B. Peet, Joliet, Illinois. Permission granted to copy for non-commercial use only. All in Italics and upper case surnames are added to or modified from the original by the transcriber.)

(1886 Old Settlers’ Association of Will County, Necrology report, compiled by Dr. B. F. Allen and printed in the Joliet Weekly News, September 3, 1886, supplemented by portions from the Joliet Daily News of September 2, 1886, with the history of the creation of Will County and establishment of the first county government by George H. Woodruff, transcribed by Lawrence B. Peet.)

Old Settlers Reunion.

The sixth annual reunion of the Will County Pioneers is being held to-day at the Driving Park. It is also the fiftieth anniversary of the organization of Will county.

The attendance this morning was rather slim, but towards noon people came in faster and mingling together talked over “ye olden times.” Death has thinned the ranks considerably, the past year having witnessed the departure of twenty-one to their long home.

The ladies of the Brooklyn Baptist Church supplied a fine dinner from 11 to 2 at the low price of 35 cents, which was liberally patronized, although many brought baskets of good things and spread tempting arrays upon the ground.

President Woodruff and Secretary Allen passed around with pleasant smiles, welcoming the newcomers and introducing strangers.

The exercises were opened by the audience singing the Doxology, after which prayer was offered by the chaplain, Stephen R. BEGGS.

Dr. B. F. ALLEN, secretary, treasurer, and necrologist, read the minutes of the last meeting and made a report as treasurer, about the balance on hand last meeting to have been $42.79, dues paid since then, $59.50; total $102.29; expenses of last meeting, $46.31; leaving a balance of $55.98. At the meeting of Sept. 2, 1885, he introduced a resolution, which was carried, requesting friends of any pioneer who should die during the following year to send him a notice of such death. Not a single notice was sent, which necessitated his spending a whole day looking over the files of The Daily News, from which the following list was made:

Mrs. Mary ASHLEY, wife of Cyrus ASHLEY – Born in 1836; died at her home in Joliet, of consumption, October 7, 1885.

Mrs. Louisa W. DIBELL, widow of Elder J. B. DIBELL, and mother of Judge DIBELL – Born in Ellington, Conn., in 1819; died at Joliet, October 17, 1885.

James GOODSPEED, member of the bar, editor of The Joliet Republican, postmaster and alderman – Born in Tioga county Pa., in 1836; died at his home in Joliet, October 17, 1885.

Wm. NETTLER – Born in 1810; died at Wyannette, Bureau county, Ill., October 8, 1885; was for many years a farmer in Frankfort township, this county.

Jepthah ELDERKIN – Born in 1803; died November 4, 1885, in Joliet, in which place he had been a quiet resident for many years.

Mrs. Rebecah DEMMOND, widow of Charles DEMMOND – Born in Rutland, Mass., in 1804; came to Illinois in 1839; died at the home of her son, M. G. DEMMOND, in Joliet, Dec. 4, 1885.

Mr. CORBETT – Born in 1810; found dead in his bed December 5, 1885, about four miles from Wilmington.

Rob’t STRONG – Born in Greensboro, Vt., in 1806; settled in DuPage township in 1831; died at his home there December 30, 1885.

Jacob S. PALMER – Born in 1810; died in Joliet, January 14, 1886.

Mrs. Caroline E. SUNDERLAND, sister of S. W. RANDALL, of this city — Born in 1813, died at Plainfield, March 6, 1886.

Saxton R. RATHBURN, father of Valentine RATHBURN – Born in Marcellus, Onandaga county, New York, in 1805, came to Illinois in 1845; died at DuPage, March 12, 1886.

Mrs. Abiah WEEKS – Born in 1797, died at the home of her son, Horace (WEEKS), in Joliet, March 26, 1886. Was the mother of four sons, Horace, George, Charles and John.

Dan’l B. McELHERN – Born in 1819, died at Joliet, April 24, 1886.

Mrs. Rachel BARRETT – Born in 1814; came to Jackson Grove, Ill., in 1848; died at Brooklyn, Joliet township, March 21, 1886.

John LINEBARGER – Born in 1818; died at Bonfield, Ill., May 6, 1886. Was an old timer and for many years a resident of Jackson, Ill.

Robt. L. SEWARD – Born in Otiego, Co., N. Y., in 1828; came to Will County in 1850; elected alderman in 1872; was one of the “solid eight” who voted for $1.000 license; died at his home in Joliet, June 26, 1886.

Morgan ASHLEY – Born in Lewis Co., N. Y., in 1818; came to Illinois in 1833, first settled in Plainfield; died west of Lockport, June 20, 1886.

Wm. J. HEATH, police magistrate, justice of peace and sergeant-at-arms of state capitol during MATTESON’s governorship – Born in Oswego, Co. N. Y. in 1804; came to Illinois in 1840; died at his home in Joliet, June 10, 1886.

Peter ADAMS – Came to Joliet in 1839, died in Galesburg, August 13, 1886. Was for many years a highly respected and esteemed citizen of Joliet.

Calneh ZARLEY – Born in Pike Co., Ohio, April 21, 1822; came to Joliet in 1831; died at his home here August 20, 1886. Was editor of Joliet Signal, forty years till his death; postmaster and member of board of school inspectors.

After dinner the program came along in due order, George H. WOODRUFF made a spicy address and read several letters of regret and a poem from the pen of Albert T. KERCHEVAL, of California. Then Capt. PHELPS read a most excellent poem, which we give herewith:

(With apologies to the descendents of Capt. PHELPS, I will bypass his literary work because it is outside the scope of our treatment here. – L. B. Peet)

The old settlers doing that, followed after The News went to press yesterday were very lively and entertaining and there was a big crowd toward the last. Judge PARKS’ address was pleasantly received and a grand old hand-shaking wound up the proceedings.

The names of those present yesterday, who came to Will county prior to its organization in 1836 were:

Mrs. J. T. WATERMAN, Mrs. Robert STEVENS, 1830; Daniel GOUGAR, ’31; H. SNAPP, Ira O. KNAPP and wife, J. P. HEMPHILL, ’33; J. P. KING, Dwight C. HAVEN, C. J. LINEBARGER, L. M. CLAYES, John WILLIAMS, Sr., T. J. LANG and wife, George H. WOODRUFF, D. C. BALDWIN, ’34; G. W. EVANS, C. C. SMITH and wife, H. N. MARSH, ’35.

The following officers were elected for the ensuing year:

President – Dr. DAGGETT.

Vice Presidents – Curtis MORSE, Homer; Amos PAXTON, Lockport; Thomas SPRAGUE, DuPage; Robert CLOW, Wheatland; T. J. LANG, Plainfield; D. C. SEARLES, Troy; Charles SMITH, Channahon; John KELLY, Wesley; Selah MOREY, Florence; Jabez HARVEY, Wilton; R. J. BOYLAN, Jackson; Clark BAKER, Manhattan; H. H. STASSEN, Green Garden; Fred WILKIE, Washington; A. P. LILLY, Crete; D. L. CHRISTIAN, Peotone; Levi DOTY, Frankfort; Thomas DOIG, New Lenox.

Executive Committee – Alexander McINTOSH, George MUNROE, Clay CASSEDAY, William H. ZARLEY, Edmond WILCOX, Joliet.

Secretary-Treasurer – B. F. ALLEN.

Chaplain – S. R. BEGGS.

Geo. H Woodruff’s address was peculiarly interesting. It was full of history and prophetic visions. We shall quote a few entertaining features. He began by saying:

That must have been a sober day in the history of our 100th regiment when, after its baptismal fight of three days at Stone river, it was mustered on the fourth day of January, 1863, for roll call, and Lieutenants WORTHINGHAM and MITCHELL, and privates THEILL, HOPKINS, RHAM, HESS, GREENMAN, ATKINS, killed on the field, and many others wounded and in the hospital, failed to answer to their names.

Not altogether unlike the sad feelings of those survivors, as they closed up their depleted ranks, have been ours today, as we have listened to the names of those pioneers who have died since our last meeting, and as, during our hour of social interchange, we have learned of this one, and that one, who have been prevented from meeting with us by the infirmities of age.

I trust a feeling of gratitude to Almighty God, for the life and strength still vouchsafed us, has not been wanting in our hearts.


The emigration into this region after the Black Hawk war was so rapid that the people began to agitate the matter of a separation from Cook county early in 1835. It was felt to be too great an inconvenience to be obliged to go to Chicago – then an all-day’s journey – when ever we wished to indulge in the luxury of a big law suit, or getting married or divorced.

Accordingly, in the winter of 1835-6, Dr. A. W. BOWEN of Joliet, and James WALKER of Plainfield, went to Vandalia, then the capital of the state, for the purpose of lobbying the project through the general assembly. They were successful and on the 12th day of Jan., 1836, an act was passed by which the territory now included in Will county, and also all that part of Kankakee county lying north of the Kankakee river, was erected into a new county, to be known as the County of Will. The name was given to it, not because we were especially a wilful people, but because a senator of that name had just died, whose memory they could in this cheap way make immortal.


By this act Joliet was made the county seat.


By this Addison COLLINS became our first surveyor, and also a justice of the peace, and James McKEE, C. C. VAN HORN and O. W. STILLMAN our first justices.

Mr. Woodruff then gave a detailed description of how candidates for office were nominated and elected by “word of mouth,” there being no written or printed ballots as now.

The first county ticket was as follows:

County commissioners – James WALKER, of Plainfield; Holder SISSON, of Lockport, and Thomas DURHAM, of Bourbonnais.

Recorder George H. WOODRUFF, of Joliet.

Sheriff – Robert STEVENS, of Joliet.

Coroner – Ephraim DAGGETT, of Joliet.

Mr Woodruff and O. W. Stillman are the only survivors of those early officers named above.

The venerable president then said:

At the March election those who resided upon the west side of the river in the precinct of Plainfield, and had to go to that ancient burg to vote, while those residing upon the east side were in the Hickory creek precinct and voted at the log house of Philip SCOTT, on the farm now owned by John SHUTTS, Esq.


The first county court was held on the 14th day of March, at the old “Juliet Hotel,” which stood on the northeast corner of Ottawa and Van Buren streets, then kept by Thomas H. BLACKBURN. Holder Sisson, James Walker and Thos. Durham composed the court, not so imposing in number as the present board of supervisors, but three dignified, true and honest men.

Their first act was to appoint Levi JENKS clerk in whose behalf a strong petition was presented by his many friends. He had come to our embryo city from Ohio during the summer of 1835, and was known as a ready scribe. Mr. Jenks is still living and is, beside myself, the only survivor of the original county officers. They also appointed him school commissioner, under bonds of $12,000. William ROGERS, Aaron MOORE, W. A. CHATFIELD, Archibald CROUL, and Charles CLEMENT, all good men and true, were his sureties, all of whom are now dead.


At a special meeting in May, grand and petit jurors were selected. Of the two lists there is but one – George TYRON of Channahon – that has not joined the silent majority.

One of the most important acts of this May session was the fixing of tavern rates, then considered a wholesome restraint. They were as follows:

For brandy, gin, rum and wine, 6 ¼ cents per glass.

For shrub, wisky, cider, beer and all fermented liquors, 6 ¼ cents.

Speaking of the first court house, the historian said:

At the meeting of the commissioners’ court, held in March 1837, it was resolved to build a court house and jail, combined. Richard L. WILSON, a member of the board, and Allen PRATT and Albert SHEPARD, were appointed a building committee, and authorized to contract for the erection of a stone building two stories high, and 35 x 40 feet on the ground. The contract was let to Blackburn & Wilson for $2,000.


A pretty good idea may be got of its appearance from the illustration published in the historical edition of The News, which Mr. PAIGE has had transferred to the walls of one of our new court rooms.

And here comes the prophetic part:

The old first court house, and indeed, the second one, by which it was superceded in 1850, make but a sorry appearance beside our new one. Fifty years hence our children and grand-children will no doubt keep the centennial of Will county. While no one can predict the changes and improvements of the next half century, I believe that the present generation has done its work so wisely and so well, that yonder beautiful building will then be standing intact, and still answering the needs of Will county. I hope the city papers will put this prediction on record. It may give the speaker of 1936 an opportunity to smile at our expense. For so great a progress in the coming fifty years as we have seen in the past, would give Will county a court house equal at least to our State Capitol.

But should such a one be built, I do not think it will be built upon the ruins of the present new one, but on some one of our highest bluffs, with so high a tower that from it one will then look down upon a city of three or four hundred thousand – its gorgeous stores and dwellings and extensive manufactories not only filling up this valley from Lockport to Joliet Lake, but also crowning all the enclosing bluffs, and extending far out upon the outlying prairies; while through this same rocky bottom shall then flow an enlarged canal, fed directly from Lake Michigan, and bearing upon its placid waters the commerce both of the lakes of the north and the great rivers of the south and west. Our new and beautiful court house will then be occupied by the city magnates of the council and school boards – not the present incumbents probably – and a grand city library containing something besides novels.


But, fellow thirty-sixers, we shall not see it, at least not in the flesh. What we may see and know as disembodied spirits is not worth our while to speculate on, for we shall soon know.