In the spring of 1835 the only human inhabitants of Kingston were the Pottawattamie Indians, who occupied a considerable village upon the farm since claimed by Lewis Driggs, and who, upon the low-lands near the Kishwaukee river, had two or three flourishing fields of corn, cultivated by the squaws, and protected from the depredations of their ponies by a shabby defense of stakes and poles.
But the report had gone abroad that the Indian occupancy of this section of country must cease with the fall of this year, and a number of white men, attracted by the story that timbered land, not claimed, could be found upon the banks of the Kishwaukee, made their way into this section, and speedily claimed all of the timber in the town. Among these first comers were: Thomas Robb, George H. Hill, Isaiah Fairclo, Harmon Miller, Lewis Driggs, John Judd, Benjamin Schoonover, James Green, Nathan Billings, and John Freel. They built for themselves rude shanties, somewhat like the Indian wigwams, of poles and bark, and lived in them until the approach of winter compelled them to erect substantial, though small, log cabins.
Mr. George H. Hill, who was always a favorite among the people of the County, for his candor, intelligence, and integrity, was stripped of his entire property this winter by the destruction of his house by fire.
Kingston, in addition to the. benefits of the rich, black, fertile soil that is common to all the land in this County, has more than one-third of its surface covered with excellent timber, and is remarkably well watered. These advantages early attracted settlers, and it was among the first inhabited towns in the County.
But poverty and destitution were the prevalent complaints of the early inhabitants. They started in life without much property, and for many years found it difficult to acquire it.
They raised small crops. In 1837 Mr. W. A. Miller raised ten acres of corn, and he had then the largest crop in the County. Mills were to be reached only by traveling long journeys, and the people avoided this necessity by pounding corn or buckwheat in a mortar, and living upon the rough cakes made from this coarse provender. Fish was a great resource. They were taken in great abundance, and, barreled for future use, they constituted a permanent article of diet. Gradually the new comers acquired the comforts of life, but nearly a score of years elapsed before the real hard-ships incident to the new settlement were ended.
An unusual proportion of the first settlers now remain upon the lands which they first occupied, and enjoy that wealth and comfort to which the hardships endured in the early times have given them the best of titles.
The population of Kingston in 1855 was 874 ; in 1860, 1094; in 1865, 1181.
In April, 1860, a fearful tornado swept through the town. It was first seen as a black cloud, in tunnel shape, sweeping along at the rate of a mile a minute. Huge trees were taken up in the air, and carried off like straws. A house belonging to Isaac McCoy was torn in fragments, and not a stick of it was left near its former position. Even the stones of its cellar were carried off. It was occupied by Mr. Weaver, but fortunately empty at the moment. The earth, in the course of the tornado, was swept and hollowed out so that it resembled the bed of a rapid river. Large stumps were torn out by the roots. Mr. Luke Penwell, seeing it approach, ran to avoid it; but being caught, seized a sapling, to which he clung with the energy of despair, while the wind whipped his legs around his head with great violence.
A similar tornado, passing in the same direction, swept through the town seven years before.
In April, 1862, Mr. George Magenety was killed by being shot by Asa Baldwin, a wealthy money-loaner of Belvidere, while resisting Baldwin's attempt to take possession of some property conveyed to him by a chattel mortgage. Baldwin was arrested for murder, and lay in jail for many months ; but obtained a change of venue to Belvidere, and was finally acquitted.
Kingston, from a population of 1094, gave 105 soldiers to the ranks of the defenders of the Union.
Among the dead of the war from this town were three sons of John Russell. They were : Wesley Dickson Russell, of Company F, in the Thirteenth Infantry, R. W. Russell, of Company K, Forty-Second Illinois Infantry, who was wounded at Stone River, remained seven days on the battle-field, was then re-taken, and died of his wounds, and David F. Russell, of the Ninety-Fifth Infantry, who died at Vicksburg. Richard W. Atwood, of Company C, in the One Hundred and Fifth, lost an arm and leg at Dalton, Georgia, and after intense suffering, died two weeks after. Ira G. Burzell, of Company L, Eighth Cavalry, was drowned in the Mississippi. Arba Lankton, of the Ninety-Fifth, died in hospital at Vicksburg.
John Swanson, at Atlanta, August 12, 1864.
David Bear, at Chattanooga, December 27, 1864.
Levi Sherman, at Bowling Green, December 3, 1862.
Gilbert Barnes, at Jefferson City, Mo., October 24, 1861.
Abner Westbrook, at Memphis, Tenn., October 22, 1864.
James Collier, at Evansville, Ind.
Frank Artz, at Chattanooga, October 15, 1860.
J. B. Blake, died at home, December 1, 1862.
Abner Dalby, at Vicksburg, November 2, 1866.
Anson Brainard, at St. Louis, December 12, 1861.
Henry Potter, at Natchez, Miss., July 29, 1863.
William H. Branch, at home, December 29, 1861.
E. H. Branch, Pontotoc, Miss., July 12, 1864.
William Davis, at Tipton, Mo., October 15, 1861.
Lewis Miller, at home, December 4, 1864.
William Middleton, at Milligan's Bend, February 5, 1863.
Andrew Raymond, at home, April 24, 1864.
George Ayres, at home, November 8, 1864.
Thomas Burchfield, at South Tunnell, Tenn., Jan. 3, 1863.
C. N. Brown, at Paducah, Ky., March 22, 1865.
Isaac Kepple, at Batesville, Ark., May 15, 1861.
George Palmer, at Chickamauga, September 20, 1863.
Frank McMann, not known.
The names of a large portion of the enlisted men will be found in the roster of those regiments to which they belonged. Among the commissioned officers were : Colonel Lorenzo H. Whitney and Lieutenant William Whitney, of the Eighth Cavalry, Lieutenant William Hill, of the Ninety-Fifth Infantry, Lieutenant John Hickman, of the Ninety-Fifth, and Captain J. W. Foster, of the Forty-Second Infantry, who was desperately wounded and reported dead, but survived to suffer the horrors of a rebel prison. The story of his sufferings, escapes, re-captures, and final flight to the Union lines, is of thrilling interest.
The Supervisors of Kingston have been :
For 1850, John Sheely ; 1851, C. W. Branch ; 1852, W. A. Miller ; 1853- 54-55-56-57, George II. Hill; 1858, George L. Wood; 1859-60, James McAllister; 1861-62, Phillip Heckman ; 1863, George H. Hill; 1864-65, C. W. Branch; 1867, Phillip Heckman ; 1868, C. W. Branch.
A small hamlet, called Stewartville, consisting of a store, post-office, wagon and blacksmith shop, and a handsome Masonic hall, is the only village in the town.
Among the many wealthy farmers of the town, Messrs. N. Saum and John and James Russell have been long noted for the encouragement they have given to the Agricultural Societies, and for their noble herds of high-bred Devon cattle. There are three good churches in Kingston, at which public worship has for many years been regularly maintained by the Methodist denomination.
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
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