Rufus Grey's Reminiscences
He is the Oldest of All the Old Settlers and Came Here in 1835.
Kendall County Record, July 21, 1897
Edited and compiled by Elmer Dickson
Rufus Grey, who is now living in Aurora, came to this part of Illinois two years before J. G. Stolp arrived, locating just below Montgomery. The old pioneer has written out the following few reminiscences of the early times, says the Aurora Herald:
In 1832 the government surveyed a road from Detroit to Chicago and from there to Galena, crossing the Fox River at Montgomery. The first stage on the route was an open wagon pulled by a mule team, carrying the mail. The proprietor was a man named Winters. He sold out to Frink and Walker. They continued to run the stage until the railroad was built. The nearest post office was at DuPage County and was named Paw Paw post office. Afterwards the name was changed to Naperville, after Joseph Napier, the oldest resident. It used to take two weeks to communicate with our eastern friends and the postage on a letter was twenty-five cents.
The first post office (in this vicinity) was established on Fox River at Montgomery and Elisha Pierce was appointed postmaster. He secured his commission, but the postmaster at Naperville withheld the key. At about that time Joseph MacCarty settled in Aurora and commenced building a dam and sawmill. By representing to the postmaster general that the appointee was not competent for the position, he secured the revocation of the commission and the appointment of Burr Winton, who served several years.
One notable occurrence took place with regard to the stage. There being no bridge across the river, the stage was obliged to ford the stream or cross on the ice. On this occasion the ice was not strong enough and the stage was obliged to lie over until the next day. There were a number of passengers and your correspondent keeping bachelor's hall was obliged to entertain them. The next morning we had to get the mules on the ice and putting a noose around their necks slide them across.
The first settlers had a hard time of it, especially the farmers. We had to market our produce in Chicago by team and there were no bridges across the sloughs. Many were the times we had to carry our grain on our shoulders out of the sloughs, get out the wagon and then load them.
I had one experience, which I never want again. I had two yoke of oxen to my wagon and was going down the Brush Hill when the staple in the tongue gave out and let the wagon on to their heels. In going down the hill the hind yoke straddled a tree. The tongue ran up the tree and the oxen were firmly hung. What to do I did not know. It was very dark and I was alone and the cattle were choking to death. Fortunately I had I had a knife with which I cut the bow key and saved them. It was but a short distance from the hill to the Brush Hill tavern. I left the load standing and the next morning hitched to the hind end and dragged it from the tree.
With all our privations we had very many happy times. We had more true fellowship than at the present time. We were all hail-fellows well met and there was not caste in society. We all stood on equality. Would that we had more of the same spirit at the present time.
For the information of the rising generation the question has often been asked me what was a puncheon floor. In selecting a tree the object was to find a straight grain tree and then score and hew the side. Then using a beetle and wedge split off the slab. The objective was to make the slab fairly smooth on one side. The same process was continued until the log was used up. When the slabs were laid with the smooth side up, they made a very durable floor.
There was one disadvantage the early settler had to contend with, the land not being surveyed, which caused considerable trouble in establishing boundaries between claimants, causing numerous fights, called claim fights. In June 1835, we had a great land sale from LaSalle County south and the settler's claims were respected. There was only one man who bid against the settlers and he was immediately knocked down. Governor Duncan made a speech in favor of the claimants.