The annals of the County, whose incidents naturally group themselves about the County Seat, have already given a pretty full history of this town. It is a pleasant town, unusually favored by nature with an abundance of timber and running streams. Its soil is particularly rich, black and unctuous, destitute of sand or gravel, and hardly as productive as that of some other portions of the County. This may, however, be due to its having been longer tilled; for when Erasmus Walrod first came here, in 1835, he raised ninety bushels of corn to the acre, on the upturned prairie sod.
The first settler of the town was probably Lysander Darling, who came in 1835. Dr. Norbo, a Norwegian, came the same year, and claimed Norwegian grove, which thus received its name. Also, Mr. Chartres, a Frenchman, who gave name to Chartres' grove. J. C. Kellogg, E. F. White, Zechariah Wood, and Peter Lamois, were also among those who made their homes within the borders of what now constitutes this township, in this first year of its settlement by the whites.
In 1836 the New York Company, composed of Christian Sharer, a wealthy New Yorker, Evans Wherry, Clark Wright, and Mark Daniels, under the firm name of C. Sharer & Co., claimed two square miles of land, running from Marshall Starks' farm on the north to the south line of the town. They laid out a village plot at the north of the creek, damned the Kishwaukee river, built a mill, enclosed with a high, heavy rail fence a tract sixty rods wide and two miles long whose west line was on what is now Sornonauk street, and prepared to build up a town.
This was in the flush times, when wild-cat money in abundance filled every ones pockets, and the speedy growth of great cities in the west was confidently expected.
When these bubbles had burst, and hard times came on, the company, although they had expended a large amount of money, abandoned their claim, dissolved their co-partnership, and never "entered" their land.
The old town of Sycamore, north of the creek, consisted of two or three log cabins, in some of which Esquire Jewell kept a blacksmith and wagon shop, and J. C. and Charles Waterman kept a store. It was abandoned next year for the higher land where the present village of Sycamore stands.
Captain Eli Barnes built the first house in this village, the large tavern now the Sycamore Hotel. The construction of so extensive a structure was considered a wild, extravagant expenditure of his means; but it did much to establish the town, and retain the County Seat, which it was then thought would soon be removed. The Captain was full of zeal for the welfare of this village, and for years labored, perhaps more than any other man, to secure friends and votes to counteract the numerous efforts to procure the removal of the seat of justice.
A little framed house had before this been moved down from the Hamlin farm, and was occupied by Dr. Barrett, the first physician of the place. It stood, till 1855, where D. B. James subsequently built a handsome residence, and was then burned down, on suspicion that it had been used for the sale of liquor.
The old Court House was built in 1889, nearly opposite the present structure, and in 1840 the dreary little village consisted of a dozen houses, scattered over considerable land, but without fences, and with but one well.
The Mansion House, called the Nunnery, then kept by Morris Walrod, contained a large part of the population of the place.
A Congregational church was organized in 1840 with eleven members, and, with Rev. David Perry for pastor, held services in the Court House. Captain Barnes gave the church the lot on which their handsome church edifice now stands, and the building was erected in 1844, but not completed till two years after. A Methodist church was built the same year, on a lot given by Carlos Lattin. The Episcopal church was built in 1856, and the Baptists, Universalists, and Roman Catholics, built churches two or three years after.
Marcus Walrod was the first boy born in the place, and Mrs. W. R. Thomas the first girl.
Eli G. Jewell and Captain Barber did most of the law business for many years; but in 1841 Andrew J. Brown opened an office, the first regular lawyer. He was succeeded by Mr. Masters, and he, in 1842, by E. L. Mayo. W. J. Hunt practiced law here in 1844. There were then eighteen houses in Sycamore.
In 1848 the population of the village was 262; in 1849 it was 320 ; in 1850, 390 ; and in 1851, 435.
Much of the land now included in the village was still owned by government in 1848. During that year, Mr. J. S. Waterman entered his fine farm, and W. J. Hunt took up a half-section north and east of the village.
In 1855 there were in Sycamore six dry goods stores, two hardware stores, two cabinet ware-rooms, one drug store, four grocery and provision stores, two saloons, three taverns, one banking and exchange office, two wagon shops, one livery stable, two harness shops, two tin shops, one jeweler shop, three shoe shops, four blacksmith shops, one shingle manufactory, one tailor shop, one meat market, one cooper shop, seven lawyers, four physicians, ten carpenters, four painters, three circulating libraries, three churches, and one steam saw-mill. The population of the township at this time was 1646.
In 1858 Mr. D. B. James erected the fine brick block now called George's block, which was dedicated with an old-settlers' celebration and festival. During the same winter a series of interesting lectures were delivered there by Horace Greeley, Bayard Taylor, George Sumner, and other distinguished speakers.
In the following year the Sycamore and Cortland Railroad was built, at a cost of about $75,000. Its cost was a heavy expense to the citizens, for the times were hard and money scarce; but it has proved a source of great advantage to the business and growth of the town, which has steadily Nourished and increased from that time to the present. The receipts of the road, which were only $4500 in 1860, have increased to over $12,000 in 1867.
The village of Sycamore is one of the most attractive of its size in the western country. It contains many fine residences, and a population wealthy, enterprising, and remarkably social.
Among its leading citizens are the brothers Waterman, five of whom have, at times, resided here, and been among its most active business men, since the first settlement of the County. Mr. James S. Waterman, the first merchant in the place, and the first banker in the County, has become its wealthiest citizen, and his elegant mansion has ever been the seat of an hospitality almost unlimited.
Of the Ellwood family of six sturdy brothers, noted for unbounded energy and enterprise, shrewdness and bonhomie, four have resided here, and two at De Kalb. Mr. Reuben Ellwood was a citizen of the place in 1838, but subsequently removed to New York, where he filled some important public positions. He was presented as the candidate of this County for Congress, in 1868.
Hon. E. L. Mayo, a lawyer of marked ability, moved to this place from Vermont in 1842, has held many public offices, and was a candidate for Congress in 1854.
Hon. D. B. James, formerly a lawyer in Lyndon, Vermont, removed to this place from California in 1852. He built a number of the best buildings in the place; has been an especially active member of the Republican party of the County since its organization; was appointed Aid-de-Camp to Governor Oglesby, with the rank of Colonel, delegate to the National Convention of 1864, and was chosen Judge of the County Court in 1865.
General Daniel Dustin, formerly a physician of Lyndon,
Vermont, removed to California in 1850; was a member of the Legislature of that State; moved to Sycamore in 1856; raised a company for Farnsworth's Cavalry in 1862; was chosen Colonel of the One Hundred and Fifth Infantry in 1863; served two years as commander of a brigade, and made one of the most faithful and popular officers in the service.
General Charles Waite, one of six worthy sons of Hon. Daniel Waite, of Sycamore, enlisted, at twenty-three years of age, as a private in the Twenty-Seventh Michigan In-fantry, fought his way up to the Colonelcy of that rough, ungovernable band of miners, whom he alone ever succeeded in reducing to proper discipline, was severely wounded in service in Virginia, and received the star of the Brigadier for gallantry displayed in the battle of the Wilderness.
General Charles Stolbrand, a Colonel in the revolutionary forces of Sweeden, and an eminently skilful military officer, was engaged in making an abstract of titles to the land of this County when the war broke out. He raised a company of artillery in this County, which, under command of Captain John W. Lowell, did excellent service in the Second Illinois Artillery. General Stolbrand was speedily promoted to Chief of the Artillery in the Army of the Tennessee, and he, with
General Tom Humphrey, of this County, bore the reputation of being the coolest, bravest officers in that army. He is now a resident of Beaufort, South Carolina.
General E. F. Dutton enlisted, at twenty-two years of age, in Company F, of the Thirteenth Infantry, of which he was made First Lieutenant. In 1863 he was chosen Major of the One Hundred and Fifth, rose to the rank of Lieutenant- Colonel, and served through the war with that regiment. He was brevetted Brigadier for gallantry on the march to Atlanta, and in the battle of Goldsboro, North Carolina.
Sycamore is credited on the State record with 307 men furnished for the suppression of armed rebellion. Many gave their lives to their country, and many have returned maimed and crippled ; but the record of casualties is not now attainable.
M. E. Church at Sycamore
Of the Supervisors of this town, Dr. James Harrington served from its organization in 1850 until 1856, when E. L. Mayo was elected. D. B. James succeeded him, serving in 1857-58 ; James Harrington followed in 1859-60-61 ; Roswell Dow in 1862-63-04; Samuel Alden in 1865-66; Henry Wood in 1867; and N. S. Cottreil in 1868.
In 1858 the village of Sycamore was incorporated, and in accordance with the provisions of its charter, has been represented upon the Board of Supervisors by the President of its Board of Trustees.
These have been:
For 1850, E. L. Mayo;
1860, C. M. Brown;
1861, Alonzo Ellwood ;
1802, C. O. Boynton ;
1863, Alonzo Ellwood ;
1864-65, Charles Kellum ;
1866, Luther Lowell ;
1867-68, C. O. Boynton
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
Transcribed and Contributed to Genealogy Trails by Friends For Free Genealogy
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