Organizational History of Kendall County

Kendall County was organized in 1841. The impetus for organizing the new county was the distance its citizens had to travel to their county seats. The three north townships, part of Kane County, had to travel to Geneva. The six south townships were a part of LaSalle County and had to travel to Ottawa.

Kendall County is made up of nine congressional townships and is 18 miles square. In the bill first introduced in the Legislature for the organization of Kendall County, the new county was called Orange. Before final passage of the Act the name was changed to Kendall. It was named for Amos Kendall, Postmaster General in Andrew Jackson's cabinet.

The first county seat was located in Yorkville. John H. Harris, E. A. Rider and William E. Armstrong made up the locating committee. The first building to serve as a courthouse was built on lot number eight, block 15, original village of Yorkville. It remained standing until 1899, when it was torn down and a residence built in its place. The first courthouse was a two-story building. The first floor was built of brick with the second story of wood. It was built by the citizens of Yorkville and was not owned by the county.

There was some dissatisfaction with the choice of Yorkville as the county seat. In September 1845, the question of where the permanent location of the county seat should be was submitted to a vote of the legal voters in the county. Eight hundred sixty eight votes were cast. Oswego received 456 votes for a majority of 44 votes.

A site for the new courthouse in Oswego was purchased from Walter Loucks. Festus Burr of Oswego drew the plan for the building. In March 1847, the County Commissioners advertised for bids to build a new courthouse. The contract for the building was let to Luke W. Swan at a cost of $2535. The contract for seating and inside furnishings was let to John W. Chapman of Oswego for $500.

The county continued to increase in population and in 1859 the question of removing the courthouse to a more central location was again submitted to a vote of legal voters with the following results.

Towns            For   Against

Oswego            18       364

Little Rock      225         9

Fox              282         1

Kendall          240        23

NaAuSay            5       119

Seward             9        73

Lisbon           132        19

Big Grove        170        36

Bristol          259         5

         Totals 1290       649

In November 1859, the Board of Supervisors met to decide on a new location for the courthouse but were stopped from taking any steps by an injunction suit filed by Walter Loucks of Oswego. Supervisors Henry G. Wilcox, of Big Grove and Archibald Sears of Little Rock were appointed as a committee to secure legal counsel and look after the interests of the county in the suit.

It was December 1861, before the Board of Supervisors again addressed the question of the new location of the courthouse. Two sites were offered. The block where the courthouse was ultimately located, and the public square in Bristol. The Village of Bristol was organized at this time so the trustees of the village could deed the public square to the county if the site was selected.

The vote to locate the new courthouse was five for Yorkville and four for Bristol. Brothers Jacob P. and Elias A. Black donated the land to the county on which the courthouse was located.

In January 1863, Supervisor Lewis Steward of Little Rock, Jacob P. Black, of Yorkville and Supervisor William Thurber, of Kendall were appointed to a committee to let the contract to build the new courthouse. Mr. Kinney prepared plans of the new courthouse. The estimated cost of the building was $20,000. The actual cost of the building, including furniture, furnace and grading the lot was $24,051.62.

Jacob P. Black had been elected to the Illinois State Legislature in 1862. He resigned from the Board of Supervisors and William Thurber was appointed to fill his term on the Board. Thus Black was not a Supervisor while on the committee.

Mr. Steward, who was Chairman of the Building Committee, handled the money. He received $250 for his services. Mr. Black received $100 for his work.

Before the new courthouse was completed, Jacob P. and Elias A. Black built a two-story brick building between the Union block and Kendall County Record office. One of the purposes of the new building was to provide a place to hold the county records until the new courthouse was approved. This enabled the transfer of county records from Oswego to Yorkville on June 7, 1864.

In the meantime, the question of whether or not the courthouse could be relocated was in the Illinois State Supreme Court at Springfield. The courthouse was ready for occupancy before the case was concluded but could not be opened until the Supreme Court decided on the merit of the suit to prevent the removal of the county seat from Oswego to Yorkville. Ultimately the right to move the courthouse to Yorkville was upheld by the court and the county seat has been in Yorkville since that time.

Last Modified on 2013-05-26 01:53:58-0500 CDT by Elmer Dickson