SOME EARLY CLANS, ABODES, & ROADS

The first years of settlement of the Fox River Valley in the middle 1830s were challenging. Kane County was created and then quickly carved up without any formal government survey. Quadrangular townships were not created in their modern form until 1848. Instead, precincts with vague boundaries were established for purposes of voting and setting up the first government. Geneva was in the Sandusky Precinct, and to the west was Orange Precinct in what was in 1836 western Kane County. By 1837 Orange Precinct was mostly in the new DeKalb County created that year by cutting in half the newborn Kane.

Among the first Genevans were many pioneers who had been through the creative process of organizing brand new settlements before. Included were sheriffs, judges, county commissioners, justices of the peace, postmasters, school founders, and voters in their previous new settlements. Some moved on from Geneva and did all this yet again further west. For example, James Brown had been both a township supervisor and constable back in Ohio. Then he settled in Indiana before coming to Geneva.

The name “Sandusky” likely had been chosen by two of the candidates for the title of First Geneva Settlers, James and Mary Brown. If so, Angus Ross and his daughter Mary likely were behind the toponymic effort. In about 1812, James Brown and a large clan of Rosses lived across Deer Creek from each other in Madison County, Ohio. James Brown married Mary Ross there in February 1824. The Angus Ross family settled in what is now DuPage County on the west branch of the Dupage River near the intersection of modern Routes 38 and 59, just 4 miles SE of Geneva. The Rosses, Browns, Haights, Corys, and many other “first Genevans” came to Illinois from Fountain County, Indiana.

When Mary Ross Brown died in October 1896 at age 87, the Geneva Republican reported that as a child of five years, she had been in the blockhouse in August 1813 at Fort Sandusky, Ohio (actually the name had been changed by then to Fort Stephenson). There U.S. forces, including her father Angus Ross, held off a much larger attacking force of British regulars and their Native allies.

Kane County, named for one of Illinois’ most ardent pro-slavery advocates, Elias Kent Kane, was birthed via a partition from LaSalle County. Kane abutted Cook County to the east, the latter county named for Daniel Pope Cook. Cook was active in Illinois’ campaign for statehood. He also handily defeated Kane to keep his seat as Illinois’ first U.S. Congressman. Cook was a vehement opponent of slavery and was instrumental in preserving Illinois Territory’s prohibition of slavery that dated to the Ordinance of 1787. Cook joined with the faction that included future Governor Edward Coles to narrowly thwart Kane’s attempt to flaunt Article 6 of the Ordinance of 1787 passed on July 13th, 1787. This “Julyteenth” date is crucial as the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, passed in 1865 outlawing slavery throughout the U.S., quotes verbatim from Article 6.

Geneva has three buildings listed on the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Two were built as residences but later repurposed. Charles B. Wells house is one of the homes repurposed into a hospital and then into shops. The Bristol Farmhouse that may have started as two identical structures became a factory. James Brown donated the stone for Augustus Conant’s Unitarian Church, Geneva’s third HABS structure that both remains and retains its original purpose.

The memory of many remarkable early Genevans, like the Browns, have faded into the mists of history. The physical artifacts associated with them are also rapidly disappearing. The Bristol Farmhouse should not be another example.

Geneva’s Health and the Environmental Kuznets Curve

Historic towns have many legacies. Geneva has a Historic Preservation Commission and a Historic Preservation Planner. Geneva also has an environmental history that does not receive the same attention. The nation’s environmental focus is on Climate Change. This must not cause Geneva to forget that pollution, like politics, is fundamentally local.

Please Click Here to read: Geneva’s Health and the Environmental Kuznets Curve

Little Eva

A kidnapping and ransom crime
Please help identify the cast of characters in the order of their sordid appearance.

This amateur video was made in about 1960 and begins with a scene depicting how the village of Wayne, Wayne Township, DuPage County, Illinois was principally perceived by citizens of surrounding communities: a speed trap conducted by a one-man police force in the person of  Constable Abner Clark.

Abner was both an elected Wayne Township Constable and a Deputy Kane County Sheriff. This dual role was necessitated to create credentials in both Kane and Dupage Counties. He served as the entire Wayne Police Force for 17 years until he retired in 1966 (and was replaced by three men).  “Ab” was shot at once and beaten to a pulp by three thugs once.  He wrote many speeding tickets. He also was the founder of the Kane County Clean Streams movement.  He played a small part in the classic film Little Eva. Abner Clark is buried in the Little Woods Cemetery.

The film’s setting includes scenes recorded just over the DuPage-Kane County line in an area known as Dunham Woods, a part of the historic Little Woods. The old Dunham brick home was by the 1930’s the Dunham Woods Club and was the only watering hole in the vicinity. The crime depicted in Little Eva was hatched there. The complete cast, in their order of appearance, would make the film even more historically significant than it already isn’t!

 

 

Who Sadie Cooksey Was

The Geneva School for Girls in the 1970s.

The buildings of the Kane County Poor Farm are just visible at the upper right. The southeast quadrant of Geneva, much of it depicted in the above photo, was in tragic ways a human dumping ground. In that quadrant, at various times, were located the Girls’ School, The Kane County Poor Farm, and the Kane County Jail. Not surprisingly, this quadrant, its denizens lacking any positive attachment to the land, was nearly devoid of resident champions to protect it from the ravages of society. The result was that the Poor Farm transitioned into Midway Landfill which morphed into Settlers’ Hill Landfill, the gigantic blot on Geneva’s prairie landscape.

Happily, the Girl’s School campus is now Fox Run, a small gem of a residential neighborhood. Sadie Cooksey lies at peace there because of the foresight and generosity of the developer and residents who have carefully preserved and maintained the school’s small cemetery. Sarah Elizabeth Cooksey and her daughter Elizabeth Marie are buried there by the small clearing in Fabyan Woods just on the right edge of the photo.  Fabyan Woods marks the northern boundary of Big Woods. Geneva, first known as Herrington’s Ford, was settled in the gap between Big Woods and Little Woods that happened to coincide with a shallow spot with a limestone bed in the Fox River that was man, horse, ox, and wagon friendly.

Sarah Elizabeth Cooksey may have lived in Fabyan Cottage, the building to the left just east of the foreground parking lot.

Fabyan Cottage

Click here to read: “Who Sadie Cooksey was.”

Photographic artist Maggie Foskett asked, “Who Was Sadie Cooksey?” The essay presented here is an incomplete answer to her metaphorical question.

The Death, Birth, and Life of Community Hospital, Geneva, Illinois

Please click here to read The Death, Birth, and Life of Community Hospital, Geneva, Illinois

The doctrine of medical practice is undergoing radical change. Community Hospital’s time belonged to the old medical doctrine of fragmentation, inefficiency, idiosyncrasy, uneven quality and high cost. The old doctrine was also highly personal and almost entirely dependent on individual professionalism. The replacement doctrine is systematic and corporate, driven from the top down based on big data and big margins. The defects of the old doctrine were manifold and obvious. Its virtues were subtle and subjective. The defects in the new doctrine are yet unclear, but troublesome.

Aratus Kent – The Apostle of Northern Illinois

Click Here To Read: Reverend Aratus Kent – The Apostle of Northern Illinois

 

How many roads must a man walk down before they call him a man? Perhaps, just as the popular ballad proclaims, the exact answer is blowing in the wind. Whatever the precise quantity, Reverend Aratus Kent’s travel in quest of the salvation of his fellow man far exceeds the minimum requirement. Even at the age of 65 he often trudged alone 10 or 15 miles at a time across the treeless prairie in mid-February so that some destitute congregation would not miss a sermon on the Sabbath. The “Apostle of Northern Illinois” deserves a prominent place in the annals of the Prairie State.

Aratus Kent had a tangential connection with Geneva, Illinois. Geneva’s founder was Daniel Shaw Haight. Haight left Geneva in 1835 after selling his extensive Geneva claim to James Herrington. Haight founded east Rockford where he had discovered a mill site superior to Geneva’s. West of the Rock River Germanicus Kent claimed the land. Kent and Haight had the good sense to cooperate with each other (but not without some friction). Germanicus was the brother of Aratus Kent. Aratus travelled through Rockford and preached there. Doubtless, he was acquited with Haight.  Kent founded Rockford College which was the women’s school that was created in parallel with Beloit College for men.

Jane Addams was a Rockford graduate, Nobel Prize winner, and classmate of Hannah Wells of Geneva, whose Geneva home Jane visited. Another Rockford student of the time was Julia Lathrop, Addams’ later collaborator at Hull House, who, along with Geneva’s Julia Harvey, was instrumental in the founding of the Geneva School for Girls. Aratus Kent would have been proud!