The Old Settlers' Picnic 9-12-1878
The Old Settlers Gather.
The Biggest Crowd Ever In Yorkville.
President Minkler the Happiest Man in Nine Counties.
Old and Young Enjoy a Gala Day.
From Four to Five Thousand People Present.
Originally Published in the Kendall County Record, September 12, 1878
Edited and Compiled by Elmer Dickson
Thursday, September 5, 1878, is a day to be remembered in Kendall County. It was a day when one of the most glorious outdoor gatherings that ever met was held in Black's Grove in Yorkville. It was a beautiful morning, and at an early hour the people and long strings of teams began to arrive. It was one continuous procession from nine o'clock until one o'clock. It was a solid gathering of the solid families of the solid little county of Kendall.
The grounds had been put in order by the officers of the Old Settlers' Society. There was a large platform, with seats for thousands arranged in front of it, and numerous refreshment stands.
It was about eleven o'clock when President Minkler called the meeting to order. The audience sang old songs in grand style, followed with a prayer by Rev. Asa Prescott of Pavilion. The President, Smith G. Minkler, gave the following welcoming address:
Ladies and Gentlemen: When I say ladies and gentlemen I do not mean that class of person that is dressed in finery, and decked with tinsel and gewgaws. I am referring to men and women with a high sense of honor, the yeomen of our country; such as this audience is composed of that I have the honor to welcome to our annual festival.
We have had our ups and downs, our successes and our disappointments, our hopes and our fears, our grief's and joys, for these twenty, thirty and forty years. And now we come together to clap glad hands, and renew old acquaintances, and have a year of jubilee, for at least one day. In fact, we ought to stay here and rejoice and give thanksgiving for three days for the blessing bestowed upon us this past year. You are enjoying good health, your barns are full, your granaries and your cribs are full, and your baskets are full, and now let you hearts also be full. You need a day of relaxation from toil and the cares of business. This day has been set aside for a day of mirth and enjoyment. I am glad to see so many children here, demonstrating that the race is not likely to run out when we are gone. And now, I say again in behalf of the officers you have chosen, we welcome you. The day is yours.
By this time the crowd around the stand was immense, and it was utterly impossible for a reporter to get a distinctive idea of the proceedings, and we must give them in a disjointed manner.
After music by a martial band, in which N. R. Hobbs, of Aurora, Major Snell, of Jericho, H. H. Litchfield and Smith G. Minkler were in; an aged man, with gray hair and whiskers, but erect and firm in carriage, rode up to the grandstand mounted on a horse with saddlebags behind him; appearing to be a stranger. Reverend James W. Lee of Newark, interrogated him, and learned he was Reverend Father Beggs, of Plainfield, the first Methodist preacher in this section of the country. He represented the early itinerancy. As he looked upon the well dressed and well kept crowd around him, his mind must have reverted to the scene fifty years ago when this country was in its native beauty, and his communing was with God and nature as he rode his lonely circuit.
During the dialogue, we learned that Father Beggs was 75 years of age, and born in Virginia. He commenced to preach in 1822, when the Western Methodist Conference included six western states. We learned that he traveled a circuit for forty-seven years. He was the first preacher stationed in Chicago, and went through the Blackhawk War. The first year he preached he received $30.00 in money and boarded around, and the second year, $33.00. He said he was educated in 'brush' College, meaning he grew up with the country.
This was followed by music by the drum corps, while time was spent looking at the relics displayed on the grounds. A flax brake was displayed, which a young Danish girl they call Maggie, used as though she was familiar with the instrument. There was a large spinning wheel on the platform being run by Mrs. Stolp, an 81 year old lady from Aurora. She was attired in the garb of the long ago. She made a 'curtsy', which no young lady of the present day could equal. Other ladies, whose names we did not learn, took part in the old time exercises. Mrs. S. Bolster, had flax and a 'hetchel' to work it with. Mrs. Ursula Steward, the 77 year old, mother of the Plano Stewards, also did some spinning. The rolls of wool for the occasion were furnished by Mr. Stolp, of the Aurora Woolen Factory. Mrs. Lewis Rickard, Catherine (Loucks) Rickard was quite expert at the wheel, although she is not an old lady, by any means. Henry Collman, Esquire of Kendall Township, furnished a small spinning wheel, at which a number of the old ladies tried their hand. Henry could run it very fast.
Just south of the platform was 'Galva's' threshing floor, (without the flour) and a flail. Many could use it, but we noticed they did not care much about 'getting their hand in.'
The next item of interest was an early settler going for his meat. With an old Queen Anne's musket a man on horseback went to the woods, shot a hog of the 'razorback' specie; hitching a rope around his snout, and the other end of the rope was fastened to the horse's tail, and thus the animal was dragged into camp. This scene was enacted Thursday by a man who understood his business, and played his part well; the horse was likewise.
In the afternoon, short addresses were made by Reverend James W. Lee, Reverend Andrew W. Chapman, Honorable John S. Armstrong, Randall Cassem, and others. Their talks were interspersed with singing the songs of yesteryear by Captain Hobb's 'Old Folks'; and music by the band.
However, before this was accomplished, dinner had been eaten. All over the grounds, across the ravines, in neighboring yards; white table clothes were seen checking the green sward, and happy family parties assembled in real joyous festivities to talk over family gossip, exchange contents of bountiful baskets, and have a real old fashioned time. It was a very happy hour renewing old acquaintances in the grove.
It was a marvelous crowd of good nature. Even the tired children did not utter or whimper a complaint all day. Not a man, woman or child was seen in town under the influence of liquor, and there was no occasion for a police officer, or a harsh word. Such perfect order among thousands of people was wonderful. But Kendall folks are just the best folks in the world.
James McClellan Gale, of Bristol, furnished the neatly made evergreen 'welcome sign' which hung over the stand.
An endeavor was made to get a list of the early settlers present, but it was only partially successful.
Ansel Reed came to Illinois, to this part of the country, in 1827, and is the oldest settler here. He was born in 1818, and is yet a hale and hearty man.
Reverend Stephen R. Beggs has been a resident of Plainfield for 47 years.
Mrs. Marcus Steward, Ursula (Hollister) Steward, of Plano, came here in 1838. She is 77 years old.
Mrs. Polly Oatman (Thurber) Noble, now living in Ottawa, came in 1836. She is 77 years of age.
Frances Tuthill 'Frank' Seely, now of Chicago, settled here in 1840, and while he owns to 58 years of living, you would never think it so.
Jeremiah Shepard, III came to Kendall County in 1836 and his wife Ellen Theodosia (Browne) Shepard came in 1838. They now reside in Aurora. Their daughter Cecelia Ellen Browne (Shepard), now Mrs. Edmund Seely Satterly, R., was the first child born in the county south of the river. Mr. Shepard is 61 years of age.
Waldo Warren Marsh, and his wife Rhoda A. (Stillwell), came to Kendall County in 1836. He is 66 years of age.
Mrs. Anna Hopkins came to Kendall County in 1854. She is 79 years of age.
Mrs. N. A. Satterly, now of Aurora, came to Kendall County in 1852. She is 68 years of age.
Mr. Charles Jedediah Lincoln came to Kendall County in 1838. He is 60 years of age.
Mr. Cornelius 'Jones' Henning came to Kendall County in 1836. He is 53 years of age.
Mrs. Millicent (Tuthill) Seely, widow of the late Dr. Townsend Seely, came here in 1838. She is 86 years old. Her daughter, Elizabeth Townsend (Seely), Mrs. Henry Seely Jessup, was about six months old at the time.
Mrs. Sarah 'Jane' (Hoyt) Wheeler, widow of the late Dr. Calvin Wheeler, settled in Bristol in 1839. She is 63 years of age.
David Brown, father of Simeon and Edwin Brown came to Kendall County in 1845. He is 84 years of age.
John L. Clark came to this county in 1835, and his wife came in 1838.
The Honorable Oliver Cleveland Johnson, Sr. came from Vermont in 1843. His wife, Mary Ann (Wheeler), daughter of the Honorable Alanson K. Wheeler, came at the same time.
Henry Pulver came from New York in 1843. This gentleman has in his possession a Spanish quarter of 1725, which was plowed up in a field near his farm in NaAuSay Township years ago.
Robert D. Gates, Sr., an old Maryland neighbor came in 1839. He is 61 years of age.
Fletcher Misner, who is one of the old standbys, came in 1835. He is 64 years old. His wife, Mary S. (Jackson), came in 1836. This couple had on exhibition a valuable relic, an old Bible printed in the German language in the year 1763.
Mrs. Mary A. Cole, widow of Jeremiah J. Cole came in 1836. She is 72 years of age.
Alonzo G. Tolman, Sr. came in 1834. He is 62 years of age. His wife, Almyra (Hart), came in 1845.
James Smith Cornell came from Long Island to this county in 1835. He is 70 years old. For six years, he was the sheriff of this county. He has always been a working, energetic citizen, and the success of the picnic was largely due to his assistance.
John T. Litsey is one of the early comers, and will arrange for the picnic next year as President.
Frances 'Asbury' Emmons, Sr. and his wife Lydia Ann (Morris) came from Monmouth County, New Jersey in 1836.
Mr. William A. Ives, of Amboy, who years ago lived in Long Grove, was present.
Here the record stops, and the historian wrote no further; not from lack of histories to note, but from weariness, or inability to find the people wanted. There were hundreds of other pioneers on the ground, but their names were not given.
The officers elected for the next year were:
John Litsey, Lisbon, President.
John S. Seely, Oswego, Vice President.
John Dunn, Kendall, Secretary.
A collection was taken up to pay expenses and $24.00 was contributed. After paying outlays incurred, the balance was sent to the yellow fever sufferers.
About four o'clock the people began to go home, and by five o'clock the grounds were deserted; everyone going away happy.