A Visit to Plano in 1873
Published in the Kendall County Record, August 21, 1873.
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
In company with Governor Beveridge and Senator Marsh, H. L. Boies, editor of the Sycamore Republican, drove down into the Fox River valley. The following comments represent his notes on the occasion.
This is a smart village of 1,500 inhabitants, and is one of the live, active, growing towns of this section of the state. It is the headquarters of the monogamous branch of the Mormon Church. Joseph Smith, the son of the prophet, lives here, and has a temple and extensive publishing house.
The prosperity of the village grows out of the manufacture of the Marsh Harvester, of which 3,000 machines were built last year and 4,500 will be built next year. Manufacturing villages always flourish.
Our visit was in acceptance of the invitation of Mr. Lewis Steward, the life of the village of Plano, and one of the remarkable men of this state. He is a lawyer, farmer, miller, manufacturer, tanner, merchant, grain dealer, cheese maker and projector of the Plano Stock Breeding Association. He has all these branches of business in active operation directly under his eye. He drives them all with his characteristic energy and profit. Yet he has abundant leisure to make his home the seat of an enlarged hospitality and to take an active interest in projected railroads, new towns and manufactories. He has the brain of a philosopher and the energy of a stream engine. His handsome house gleams like a Grecian temple out of the shades of the grove on the outskirts of the village, and on the banks of Big Rock Creek. The creek is a never failing mill stream that runs his saw mill, his grist mill, tannery and cheese factory. Waterpower also runs his hydraulic ram, which sends water eighty feet high, over his buildings and grounds. He has a farm of 1,300 acres here, and another 1,000 acres at Steward Station on the new Chicago and Iowa road. He has 2,500 sheep and 1,000 hogs and a host of cattle.
He is the principal proprietor of the Plano Stock Breeding Association. He finds the most satisfaction and profit in the horses of the association. They were all brought out on the lawn together and exhibited to us. They may be the finest collection of horses in the state. One of them named Panic, was purchased a year ago for $6,000 and has earned $7,000 this season as a breeder. He is a beautiful bay, 17 hands high, weights 1350 pounds and can trot in less than 2:40. Revenge, is a golden sorrel thoroughbred, tall, straight and graceful. His dam was Fashion, the most celebrated mare of her age. She won 31 out of 35 races. His sire was Monarch. Young Lion is a magnificent French Canadian horse, weighing 1,400 pounds, son of Black Diamond, a fast trotter. He is jet black, with the most magnificent mane and tail ever seen. Young Scotland is an imported Clydesdale, a monster in size, and an active, smart four-year-old. Several other fine horses are in the stud, and Mr. Jacobs the enterprising manager, is constantly adding to it.
We had a long morning ramble over the beautiful trotting park, around the mills, tannery, cheese factory and fishponds, up the Big Rock Creek. The creek is a remarkably pure stream; fed by springs so freely that in some parts it never freezes over. Though sometimes-dry five miles up stream there is always good mill power at this point. Groves of red cedar grow here in abundance. Steward has a vast field of 300 solid acres of corn, which five men raise, tend, cultivate and harvest.
The Governor is warmly in sympathy with the farmer's movement for lower transportation. Our visit will probably bear fruit in the inauguration of a suit against the C. B. & Q. Railroad Company for exorbitant charges. Iron coming from Pittsburg to Chicago, a distance of 500 miles, costs 26 cents per hundred. The same iron, in the same cars, forwarded to Plano, 50 miles, costs 23 cents per hundred. If a suit for extortion cannot be based on that instance, it is not easy to see on what a suit can be maintained.
In the afternoon, behind Steward's lively trotters, we rode some thirty miles up and down the beautiful valley of the Fox River. It is the prettiest part of the west. We stopped on one elevation spot to view the landscape and could over look a dozen miles up and down that bright and shining river. Sandwich, Somonauk, Plano, Millington, Millbrook and other villages were glittering in the evening sunlight.
A couple of miles south of Plano is a spot where some $30,000 have been sunk in one of the best dams in the state and a splendid stone mill that has never been used.
Then down to Millington an old river village that has been revived by the Fox River Valley Railroad and by manufacturing projects. A large handsome woolen mill stands idle on the river, having sunk some $15,000 in capital. The failure of another woolen mill further down was also recently announced. It is fortunate that the steam woolen mill in Sycamore began to build a few years ago was converted into a more profitable channel.
Newark is an ancient village two miles south of Millington. It was a thriving village when Aurora was unknown. It would have been a fine city if the railroads had not run around it. The Fowler Institute is the most conspicuous building in the place. Considerable trading was going in town, but its glory has departed.
Driving home we stopped at the pleasant farm home of our former Representative in the Legislature, Hon. George M. Hollenback, but he was absent.
Onward we go to Millbrook a pretty little village on the Fox River and the Fox River Railroad. We stopped at the handsome house of Mr. Jacob Budd the principal proprietor of the village. He is the thrifty owner of the mill, its store, its warehouse, a thousand acres of land around it, its handsomest residence, and a half dozen of the prettiest children in the Fox River valley. Then rested and refreshed, we dashed down the bluff, forded the river at a seemingly dangerous depth, and after a lively half-hour's drive in the cool of the evening, reached Plano again.