The Old Settlers' Picnic 9-1-1897

At House's Grove.

Old and Young Settlers Assemble in Large Numbers.
All Have a Good Time Visiting, There was a Fine literary Program, Interesting Talks by Pioneers, Good Sing and Recitations, Reverend James Lewis Speech, and a Baseball Game.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, September 1, 1897.
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson.

A reporter from the Record office was assigned the task of attending the picnic at House's Grove in the town of Seward last Thursday. If he should make a report of that assemblage as it deserves it would take a page of the paper and good deal more talent than said writer is possessed of. It was just such a day as everyone wanted to see for the occasion. It was just cool enough to make a long drive enjoyable and comfortable, and there wasn't enough dust to speak of. The scenery along the road from Yorkville is the best Kendall County affords. The fine residences, orchards laden with apples, thrifty cornfields presenting a picture of prosperity and abundance in the land.

For a great number of years the good people of Seward Township have been holding an old settler's picnic. Some said it has been thirty years since the first one. They have mostly been held in the beautiful grove belonging to Mr. Justus W. House, but some years the event has taken place at Coop's Grove. This year Mr. House again had the meeting and was gratified to see the large attendance of good people from that township and all the surrounding country enjoying themselves there. There were people from Joliet, Morris, Plattville, Lisbon, and Yorkville, and everywhere in between. No less than two thousand people were congregated together.

Talk about hospitality, the kind that you receive in Seward is the kind you read about. No sooner did you arrive than you were pressed from all quarters to share the contents of the lunch baskets of those substantial providers who live in that community. If necessary, those people would cheerfully slaughter a beef, a hog, and a flock of chickens or turkeys to feed you, if they had the least idea that you were hungry. They also fed you on ice cream and lemonade during the day until you had to exclaim, enough!

All roads centering at House's Grove were filled with conveyances of various kinds early in the forenoon, and there was a good crowd there by eleven o'clock. The Yorkville Band had arrived early and kept the woods merry with good music. Our boys are very popular out there. A large platform and speakers' stand had been erected by those having charge of the picnic. Seats were provided for the company. Numerous flags added a patriotic tinge to the place, for the people over that way are not lacking in love of their country.

The formal program was commenced in the forenoon, and that jolly NaAuSay citizen, Mr. Sheldon Wheeler Johnson appeared as the Master of Ceremonies, or President of the day. The picnic association has no regular organization, but Mr. Johnson was pressed into service, and he performed his duties in a happy manner. There was music by the band and a song composed by Reverend and Mrs. France, was sung by the choir composed of Mesdames Crook, Naden, Bedford, Miss Heap, Messrs. Williamson and Crook. The singing was fine. The Reverend Mr. Lewis of Joliet followed with prayer, and an adjournment was then taken for dinner.

At this time the social enjoyment was at its height, and for an hour and a half the writer was too busy to note what was going on except in his own locality. It seems as if a description of picnic dinners had become a chestnut and in bad taste. Everyone knows that the good housewives of Kendall County and Seward Township in particular are perfect in the culinary art. They do not lack in the where-with to prepare a feast at any and all times. The always fulfill and surpass all requirements in this line. Still to parade accomplishments of this kind to the exclusion of the more noble ones of the heart, mind and soul seems to the writer as though these splendid women would resent it. Of course, the men folks always partake of their share of the good things to eat, but are nevertheless mindful of the other good attributes of the kind hands of those who prepare the feast.

When dinner was over and the remnants cleared, everyone walked around and chatted a while to settle the dinners. Music by the band notified the people that the exercises were about to be resumed at the stand. There was music by the band, a song by the choir, and then the Reverend, Mr. France made the welcome address, which was responded to by Mr. Sheldon W. Johnson. Mr. France is a pleasant talker and said a number of nice things, all of which added to the enjoyment of the picnic. A notable feature in connection with the afternoon's proceedings was some short speeches by the pioneers of that section of the country. A large number of these venerable gentlemen were seated upon the platform. Below is a list of their names with their date of settlement  in Kendall County.

Peter A. Bronk, 1837.

George Buell, 1835.

Jeremiah 'Jerry' Collins of Morris, 1833.

Marion Green, 1847.

Abel H, Heap, 1849

James Heap, 1849.

Ralph Heap, 1849.

F. B. Hills of Aurora, 1837.

Rodney House, Jr., 1839.

Rodney House, Sr. of Joliet, 1831.

Wallace McCloud, born here in 1840.

John McKanna, 1846.

John H. Morgan, 1843.

Isaac Naden, 1846.

Obadiah Naden, 1846.

Ami D. Newton of Yorkville, 1836.

William H. Randall, born here in 1849.

Austin Dhu Searles,            1853.

Edmund S. Seely, 1837.

W. B. Shufelt, 1859.           

Cornelius Stryker, 1845.    

N. L. Tabler, born here in 1838.

John VanDolson, 1838.

Joshua VanZandt, 1851.

Rollin Mason Wheeler, 1843.

Sheldon Hiram Wheeler, 1845.

Thomas H. Widney, 1845.

All of the above gentlemen were present. Most of them having settled in Kendall County fifty or more years ago. The man who has lived longest in the town of Seward but was unable to be present is Mr. John Shurtliff who settled here in 1831. Although absent he was not forgotten, as his name was frequently mentioned.

Mr. Edmund S. Seely of NaAuSay Township was first called upon for a speech and his remarks telling how badly he was scared to face so large an audience seemed a little queer, for he talked as readily and pleasantly as an orator with years of experience. He spoke particularly of the evolution in the mode of traveling since the time he settle here and made the crowd smile aloud by describing in a humorous way how a young man took his best girl out riding in the early days. He then branched off on the subject of schools and education, showing that as much progress has been made in that line as in the ways of transportation. Mr. Seely really made a fine speech. He was followed by Mr. House of Joliet, who is 80 years old. He told of his first trip to this part of the country. It was good to listen to this fine old gentleman's remarks.

Mr. Jerry Collins, who now lives in Morris was the next one to give reminiscences of olden times. He has been very successful in his years of activity, and is said to be the possessor of 9,300 acres of land in Grundy County.

Mr. John Morgan, ex-Sheriff Ami D. Newton, and some others were called upon and this part of the program was a capital hit.

Some recitations were next in order. One was given by Miss Nora Churchill and another by Miss Nellie Falkenberg, who is a daughter of that good friend of the Record who writes up the Seward and Minooka happenings. Mr. Matthew Martin 'Mart' Falkenberg. These ladies are fine elocutionists. Miss Falkenberg will soon go to Quincy to attend school.

A little miss of about seven years, Hazel VanZandt, sang a pretty song which delighted everyone and put them in a good humor to listen to an able address by the Reverend James Lewis of Joliet, who was a soldier and is a G. A. R. man. Listening to the reminiscences related by the old gentlemen reminded him of a story 'Uncle Dick' Oglesby used to tell; about folks remembering things that occurred a long time ago, and some things they remembered which never happened. A soldier received a wound on the left side during the war very near his heart. It was a very dangerous wound, but a peculiar one in that it never bled a drop outwardly. In after years though, sixteen different men had come to him, and each one told him he was the one who caught him in his arms when he was shot, and that the blood spurted all over him. The sixteen men had all remembered something that never happened. This was not the case with the stories told by the old settlers though. He then made a fine address of perhaps a half hour's length, appropriate to the conditions existing in this land at the present time. He said it was an era of speculation, and told the people to beware of prosperity that came from such a cause because it could not be permanent. The nearer the laws are made and the people conform to the laws of God, the greater and more permanent would be their prosperity.

A fine recitation by Miss Watson of Minooka, and music by the band concluded the program.


Of course there had to be some baseball playing. No picnic in this age would be complete without it. In the afternoon the bald-head men trounced the young fellows in good shape, just to show them they could. Those who played under the former title were Messrs. Stephen Findlay, Thomas Holbrook, W. Heap, Abel Hurst, Wallie Bean, Almerin Belfield, John Findley, Robert Shurtliff, and Jim Powers. Mr. Hurst pitched and Wallie Beane was the catcher. The opposing team was composed of Joseph Findley, John Patten, Bert Myers, Robert Coop, William Coop, James Jackson, and the three Forans, John, William and Dominick. Joe Findley and John Foran composed the battery for the boys. Kelly Skinner umpired the game and there was enough to keep the crowd yelling most of the time. The score was 26 to 22 in favor of the men without hair.

At the close of the program in the afternoon there was a game between the Minookas and a team from Verona, over in Grundy County. Two of the Minooka players have been seen on the Yorkville diamond frequently, Charlie White of Newark and Viner of Millington. It was an even contest up to the seventh inning, when the gentlemen from Minooka got the lead and won. The writer left for home before the game was completed, but has since heard that the score was 30 to 16 in favor of Minooka.

Taken as a whole the picnic was a grand success. The people of Seward are to be congratulated upon the outcome of it. They have shown that they can organize and conduct a big picnic as well as anybody. It would be nice to make personal mention of the prominent people present, but all the Record can do is say that all the good people of Seward were there, with a cordial welcome for everybody who came. All left with a desire to meet Mr. House in his pretty grove next year on a similar occasion.

Last Modified on 2012-12-21 05:13:14-0600 CST by Elmer Dickson