Earl Adams, the Life of a Pioneer

"The Builder of the First House in Yorkville"

Published in the Millington Enterprise, March 1875
Republished in the Kendall County Record, March 31, 1875
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson.

Mr. Earl Adams had lived in Kendall County, Illinois, 41 years, most of the time within a mile of Newark. He was well known by all the old settlers and a large circle of later ones.

Mr. Adams was born in Washington County, New York, August 7, 1799, of Quaker parentage. In 1825, when he was 26 years old, he was married in Chautauqua County, New York to Miss Deborah Gifford.

Six years afterward, in the spring of 1831, Mr. Adams and the late Mr. Ebenezer Morgan, of Oswego, came west on an exploring tour. They descended the Ohio to the Mississippi and then up to St. Louis. There, buying ponies, they crossed the State of Illinois, nearly 300 miles to Fort Dearborn, now Chicago. They traveled up the Illinois River to Ottawa. Then taking the bank of the Fox River they came to the place where Yorkville now stands. Reining up their horses on the present Courthouse hill, they gazed around on the lovely stream below them. The wide beautiful prairies were before them and the timber behind them. The green was dotted with flowers, the birds sang in the branches, and a group of deer stood in the edge of the hazel thicket some distance away, gazing at the white strangers. They were pleased with the place and its surroundings. "Here," felt Mr. Adams, "is my home," and dismounting he drove his stake in the soil and took possession.

Returning through to Fort Dearborn they disposed of their ponies and returned home by the way of the lakes. They were just in time. The next spring the energetic and discontented Sac Chief, Black Hawk, rebelling against the sale which the Sacs and Foxes made of the lands, to the United States, fomented war. The red wave swept down from Wisconsin through northern Illinois. One summer was sufficient to quell the Indians. Black Hawk was captured in the autumn and taken to Washington, D.C., and some of the eastern cities to impress his mind with the greatness of the nation he had foolishly made war against. Following his tour he was released on his parole of honor and allowed to return to his people. Peace was again restored. The following spring, 1833, the westward journey was commenced. Mr. Adams took the goods with a team of oxen pulling the load. Mr. Morgan went ahead with the family in a wagon drawn by horses. It was a long, slow journey, yet beguiled constantly by new sights and sounds. Thus the journey was less tedious than it might otherwise have been. On reaching his claim Mr. Adams built a log house on the spot where the Yorkville Courthouse now stands. This was the first house in Yorkville. His claim embraced the largest part of the site of the present town. The land was not yet surveyed, nor was it until years afterwards, but settlers made claims and bought them when they came on market.

After staking on his Yorkville claim for some time, Mr. Adams sold out and took another claim at Aux Sable Grove. From there he again removed and took up a claim on the west side of Big Grove. It was here that he remained until his death.

He first built in the grove, as nearly all the first settlers did, in order to have the protection of the trees against the weather. For the first two winters he was schoolteacher in the log schoolhouse that stood very near the center of the grove. It was the first school in that section of the country. The families of the Havenhills, Misners and others attended it. Mr. Adams did his chores in the morning and taking his youngest son in his arms, started off gleefully to school.

He attended in the building where the red schoolhouse now stands. Newark was then called Georgetown, in honor of George Hollenback, who kept the only store in the place. The building, though of course repaired, still stands on the corner of Thuneman's and is now owned by L. C. Bernett of Ottawa. It was Mr. Hollenback's second house, as the first one, standing farther east, across the creek, was burnt by the Indians during the Black Hawk War. The name of the town was changed to Newark about 25 years ago. The old house is decrepit from age and has lost its importance. It does not look much as it did 40 years ago, when in its white conspicuousness; it was a landmark and familiar object to prairie travelers.

When the log house in the grove had its day, Mr. Adams built the present dwelling and moved the old one over to serve as an outhouse. The roof still survives poor old remnant!

In 1835, Morgan Edwards, since known as the "sailor preacher" held a series of religious meetings at the Baptist Church, in Newark. Mr. and Mrs. Adams attended and were both converted. They made an open confession of their faith in Christ, uniting them with the Methodist Society. They were continuing and faithful members as long as they lived. It is unnecessary to enumerate their virtues, but two things all will agree in having put on their record, simply as matters of historical fact. Mr. Adams was a trusted counselor in difficulty and a practical friend to the poor. The credit of both, if he were still living, he would undoubtedly ascribe to the power of Christ within. In 1858, his wife died and was buried in the cemetery at Millington. For the last ten years of his life he was withdrawn from active service on the farm. For the last five years he was constantly failing. His trouble was bronchial consumption and he coughed almost incessantly during those five years. At the beginning of the present year he began to fail perceptibly. The evening before his death he ate heartily of a light meal but coughed all night. Towards morning, the weary spirit was loosed and he passed away to his Savior and to his rest. He died January 15, 1875, in his 76th year.

George W. Kellogg

NaAuSay Township

Published in the Kendall County Record, November 18, 1875

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

Mr. George W. Kellogg of NaAuSay dropped in to see us Monday, and we drew him out to talk of early days. He came to this country in 1835, and rode from Plainfield to Somonauk on horseback. He says there was a log house where the courthouse now stands in Yorkville and a house in Bristol near where Lane's mill now is and that was all the buildings there were where these villages now stand. He has ridden from Plainfield to Holderman's and the only house between those points was Daniel Platt's. He spoke of the first Fourth of July celebration in Chicago, when Judge Smith, of the State Supreme Court made the speech, and prophesied that in 50 years Chicago would have a population of 100,000. This so amused the Chicagoans of that day that they pulled the Judge from the platform, calling him a fool and poured whiskey on this head. They don't waste whiskey on the head now. They pour it down the throat.

The Trust Has It!

The Yorkville Paper Mill Joins the Majority

Published by the Kendall County Record, February 15, 1893

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

Last Wednesday morning Mr. Sherry Black said to a Record reporter that the Yorkville paper mill had not been sold but negotiations were in progress. The sale was made in Chicago on that same day. Now the Columbia Paper Company owns all the waterpower and the old mill in Yorkville.

The trade has been on hand since October last, when the paper combine asked Mr. George M. Hollenback, administrator for the Jacob P. Black estate, for an option on the property. Mr. Hollenback asked $12,000 for the plant. The day the option expired, the paper combine said they would take it. The time since then has been consumed in smoothing out legal affairs. February eighth the bargain was closed. The money paid, and the Blacks cease to own the mill. We are sorry it has been sold, for it is probable the combination will shut down the mill and throw about thirty of our people out of employment. It is not a pleasant contemplation for small towns that these monopolies can close up their well-paying industries in order that more dollars may be squeezed out of buyers.

The Yorkville mill has a history, but we cannot give it categorically. It was in the 1840s, we think, when Jacob P. and Elias A. Black came to the Fox River and went into the milling business. First at Milford (now called Millington.) They remained there but a short time before buying the waterpower at Yorkville and moving here. For some years they ran a grist and saw mill only. About 1856, they put up the paper mill, which has just been sold and for a number of years made printing paper. They were making "print" paper when the Record was started in 1864. We paid them as high as 26 cents a pound for paper. Those were war prices. We now pay 4 ¾ cents a pound for paper. When the mill began to get old, and Mr. Jacob Black having died, Elias A. Black withdrew from the business. The mill then had various lessees or owners. It was during this period that the manufacture of straw wrapping paper began (paper made from straw.) The old machinery could not compete with new plants in the print paper line. The old mill made good wrapping paper. A good deal of money was expended about here for straw and to men for hauling. Of late years the plant has grown dilapidated. The building is in poor condition and the machinery in constant need of repairs. Mr. Hollenback made a good sale for the heirs, whatever may be the outcome for Yorkville.

It seems sad to see the old landmark in strange hands and, we fear, unfriendly hands, but it is part of the world's economy.

James Smith Cornell

Published in the Kendall County Record, September 18, 1895

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

James Smith Cornell died at his home in Yorkville, of paralysis, September 11, 1895, at the advanced age of 87 years and 5 days.

Deceased was born in Queens County, New York, September 6, 1808. He resided there and in New York City until the spring of 1835, when he came to Illinois with Ruleif Duryea. In partnership with him, he built and opened the first store in Yorkville. The store was near where the courthouse now stands. There was but one house in the place at that time.

James S. Cornell was the second sheriff of Kendall County. He served in that capacity for six years.

September 13, 1838, he was united in marriage to Marion P. Howe. At that time they moved to the farm between Yorkville and Plano, were he resided most of his life. (The Cornell farm was located mainly in section 19, Bristol Township. It was located on the north side of present day Illinois State Route 34.) Twelve children were born to this worthy couple. Nine of whom, with their mother survive him, viz: Andrew J. Cornell of Joliet; Milton E., and Charles R. of Yorkville; Rollin T. of Fox Township; Neil of Plano; Willis J. of Dakota; Mrs. William A. Puterbaugh (Mary Duryea Cornell), Mrs. George Hay VanEmon (Stella B. Cornell) and Miss Eva A. Cornell of Yorkville.

The funeral service was at the house at 2 o'clock Saturday afternoon. Owing to sickness in the family of Rev. Wilbur Fisk, REV. N. M. Stokes of Chicago, who was a much beloved pastor of the Yorkville Methodist Church a few years ago, conducted the service. The male quartet sang the hymns. The pallbearers were five of the sons of deceased and a son-in-law, William A. Puterbaugh. The sixth son, Rollin Cornell, was away in a southern state.

With James S. Cornell goes one of the landmarks of Kendall County. He had a large acquaintance with the older people along the Fox River, and was a much-respected man. During his long life he had been an active man, only succumbing to the insidious advance of old age the last six months. It will seem strange not to see him again on our streets as he was social in his manner and loved to recount incidents of the early years.

Pioneer Days in Kendall County

Remembrances of Mrs. Julia Hallock Bradley

Published in the Kendall County Record, December 29, 1897

Edited by Elmer Dickson

Among the very early pioneers of Kendall County was Mrs. Darwin Bradley, now a resident of Chicago. Mrs. Bradley recently visited her niece, Mrs. A. N. Beebe, on the north side, and in conversation with her she recalls many interesting incidents of pioneer times.

Her father, Mr. Isaac P. Hallock, and family came to Kendall County in the year 1833. They first lived on the old McClelland farm near Specie Grove. About a year afterward, Mr. Hallock bought the Abijah Haymond farm, on which he had just erected a log cabin. This is the farm presently owned by the Jacob P. Black Estate, on which Mr. Frank Seely recently resided. An excellent picture of the farm was recently published in the "Breeder's Gazette," Chicago.

Mrs. Bradley visited the "old cabin home" about one year ago. She noticed the greatly improved condition in this vicinity since the olden times and pioneer days. There was not much then to call Yorkville. No stores or business existed except John Schnieder's sawmill. Ruleif Duryea enjoyed the distinction of being the first merchant here, having built a small store in Yorkville, where he kept only a few staple goods. Some pioneers went to Oswego to get family supplies. Most of the supplies were bought in Chicago in exchange for wheat hauled there by pioneer farmers.

Among the first settlers were the Harris, Heustis, McClelland and Ament families. At that time, the Indians were very much in evidence. Though not hostile they were troublesome. Most of them were thievish and irresponsible beggars. They would prowl around and dodge in at the back door. If they could find beef and pork they would help themselves. The housewives were afraid to object.

Now new conditions surround us, the age of improvement has come. The old trails have given place to graveled roads. Boards and barbwire define the farm lines. The fruit trees are bearing. The stately mansions and improved outbuildings take the place of log cabins and the "Illinois barn" covered with slough grass. The fine carriages have superseded the old despised lumber wagon. Unfortunately the evidence is lacking to prove any improvement in hospitality among the people.

Mrs. Bradley was but five years of age when her family came to this country. She is acquainted with many of the old settlers in the northernmost towns and knew Mark Beaubien of Newark. She still retains her home in Aurora, but spends most of her time with her daughter, Mrs. Lespinasse, in Chicago.

Old Store Closes Out

George M. Johnson Retires from Business in Yorkville

Published in the Kendall County Record, August 30, 1905

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

With the closing of the business career of George M. Johnson, closes one of the last chapters of Yorkville's early mercantile history. Mr. Johnson has been recognized in past years as one of the leading merchants of the county. Now he feels that he has earned a rest from the responsibilities and cares of the busy world, and will retire and take life easier the rest of his days.

Mr. Johnson was a farmer after coming to this country. He worked for his father and then for himself. He formerly owned the farm now occupied by Thomas Tendall south of Yorkville. Altogether he was a tiller of the soil for 18 years. He then moved to Yorkville and embarked in the elevator and grain business for three years. In 1877, he moved into the Hiram Hopkins building and started a general merchandise store, which he operated at the same old stand up to last week when the transaction was completed. In the process he exchanged the stock for farmland in North Dakota.

During these years as a Yorkville merchant, Mr. Johnson has held the confidence of his patrons and of the general public as a just and upright man. This is evidenced in no better way than the many offices of public trust he has held. He was supervisor of the Town of Kendall for eight years. He discharged his duties in a conservative and businesslike manner. He is a power among his own people, the sturdy Scandinavian element that thickly settles the southwestern part of the county. He has always been an ardent worker in the Norwegian Lutheran Church, which dedicated a new $15,000 structure at Helmar a few years ago.

The two clerks who have been with Mr. Johnson so many years will likewise be missed in local business circles. Lawrence Hafenrichter, the ever jovial and witty mixer of languages, has been in the store for 26 years. Fred Ahrens, who has always been obliging and courteous to customers, has been behind the Johnson counters for 14 years.

Mr. Johnson wishes to thank the people for the liberal patronage they have given him these many yeas. He says, "If I were as young as I used to be I probably would not give up the store, but the people have been very kind and I want them to know that I appreciate it all, now that I am about to quit."

Mr. & Mrs. Gallier Return for a Visit

Published in the Kendall County Record, September 1906

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

Wednesday night Mr. and Mrs. William Gallier arrived in Yorkville from Oregon for their first visit here for many years. Mr. Gallier was the village blacksmith here 50 years ago. He built the brick shop on the corner of Bridge and Railroad streets now occupied by Paul Graves. In 1869, they left here and went west and have lived on the Pacific coast since. Mrs. Gallier is a daughter of Solomon Heustis and sister-in-law of Daniel Johnson. They were much pleased with the growth of Yorkville and the beauty of its improvements. Mr. Gallier recognizes the old brick shop, the "Cooper Seely" building occupied by Carter & Son, Union Hall and the old Fox River House. The rest is strange to him. He is 80 years old and remarkably active mentally and physically. It seems like a dream to talk with him of the olden times.

Anna Adams Brainard

Published in the Kendall County Record, April 10, 1907

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

The south side bluff at the head of Bridge Street in Yorkville, has not always been occupied by the county's stately capitol building. This may be noted in the obituary notice of Mrs. Anna Brainard who died at Sheridan last week and was buried in the Millington-Newark Cemetery. Anna Adams was born in Chautauqua County, New York, July 7, 1827. At the age of six years she came to Illinois with her parents. Their first cabin home in Illinois was situated on the hill where the courthouse now stands in Yorkville. Their emigration in 1833 makes the family one of the early settlers of this county.

Death of Mrs. Duryea's Daughter

Was one of the first residents of Yorkville where the courthouse now stands.

Published in the Kendall County Record, July 30, 1913

Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson

Mrs. Anna Maria Duryea Jones has been getting the Record at Jersey City, New Jersey. Monday a card came from the postmaster of that city notifying us to stop sending the paper to her. Reason, "Deceased."

And so passes away another who began life in the Fox River valley in the earlier days. Deceased was a daughter of the late Rulief and Susan Duryea, who were about the first settlers in Yorkville. They came here in 1834 and made a home on the hill where the Kendall County courthouse now stands. At first their home was a log cabin. Later their home was a more pretentious frame house in which the writer was a visitor about 1850. He well remembers the premises. Deceased was probably born there, as she must have been about 76 years old. She spent some of her time in Chicago with her mother's sister, Mrs. Covell. Later she married and went to New York, living some years at Ossining, then known as Sing-Sing. Later she moved to Jersey City, where she died a widow. We have no particulars of her death. Her sister was the wife of Mr. Ed. L. Hathaway. From Hicks's history of Kendall County we take the following extract as bearing on the matter.

Rulief Duryea and James S. Cornell had been in business together in New York, and came to Yorkville as a firm. Mr. Cornell came by water with a stock of dry goods. Mr. Duryea and family came overland. On his journey he bought a span of black horses, "John and Charley." They were true and gentle, and would follow wherever there was a track. He crossed Fox River at the Galena Ford near Montgomery. Arriving at their chosen location they purchased of Mr. Bristol the claim on which Yorkville now stands. They then adopted the famous cabin on the courthouse hill as their future residence. (The cabin built by Earl Adams in the spring of 1833. Adams sold his claim to Lyman Bristol in the spring of 1834 when he resettled at Specie Grove.) The cabin was twelve by fourteen feet, one story high with a slab floor, puncheon door on wooden hinges, rived shingles "staked and ridered" on logs notched together. There was not a nail in the building. There was only one window, consisting of four, seven by nine inch lights, by the door. The room was so dark that when pegs were put in the upper log to hang articles on, the occupants would often strike their heads against them. Those wooden pegs were Mrs. Duryea's improvement. Mr. Bristol had got along without them, but she mentally resolved that she would not live in a house with no "place to put things." She soon succeeded in having the matter fixed to her liking. A new frame building was put up for a store and the business of Yorkville commenced. The partnership continued until 1838, after which Mr. Duryea continued it alone until his death in 1846. He was a generous, kind hearted man, and still remembered with gratitude by many that he befriended in their need. Mr. Cornell married Marion, a daughter of Titus Howe and made the first farm on the Rob Roy prairie in Bristol Township. The frame then erected still forms part of his residence.

Last Modified on 2014-02-28 19:39:42-0600 CST by Elmer Dickson