Illinois Genealogy Trails
Kane County, IL
©Transcribed by Kimberly Torp
View Plat map from 1920
Township 39, covering the half townships of Batavia and Geneva, has ever been in all its material aspects and resources, as attractive and desirable as can well be imagined. The soil is deep and very fertile; prairie and woodland could not be more conveniently alternated; the beautiful river, frequently widening to encompass many picturesque islands, holds its course almost due southward across its center; many charming spring brooks wind their way through its highly cultivated and thoroughly improved farms; and its artistic suburban lawns extending to the outflowing stream, and exhaustless quarries of the finest building stone in this part of the State, are found in many places along its banks. The main Indian and army trail passed near its eastern border, and it included the opening between the two bodies of heavy timber known as the "head of the Big Woods".
These most desirable natural features, and its proximity to the trail, are the plain reasons why it irresistibly attracted the first settlers, and became the rallying center of the early activities of the county. Its highly cultivated farms, its excellent rural homes and buildings, and its intelligent agricultural enterprise and wealth, have ever kept it in the front rank of the fine farming townships of the county, while its two beautiful cities have been noted for refinement and intellectual culture from their first settlement.
A little more than the south half of Town 39 constitutes the Township of Batavia adjoining Aurora. Its first cabin - perhaps the first in the county - was built by COLUMBUS PAYNE in the grove bordering the prairie just east of the city of Batavia. It was a most charming and attractive spot, and was probably not more than half a mile south of JAMES WATSON WEBB's trail, as he approached the river in his perilous journey of 1822. As the pioneer settlers came along the old army trail, PAYNE's near-by cabin became a hospitable shelter while they prospected for desirable locations. Mr. E.K. TOWN and HARRY BOARDMAN, who "put up" at PAYNES in 1834, have frequently stated that sixteen guests had spent the night together in that one 16x16 log house; and when some one suggested they were crowding the family, Mrs. PAYNE told them not to be uneasy about that, as she had lodged twenty-three persons at one time. So this was not only the first house, but also the first tavern in the county; and in it the first wedding occurred, as heretofore stated.
PAYNE sold his claim to ISAAC WILSON, the second County Judge and father of JUDGE ISAAC G. WILSON, who came in 1835. At the first precinct election held in this house in 1836, E.S. TOWN and IRA MINARD were elected Justices of the Peace. Here too, REV. N.C. CLARK preached the first sermon, as heretofore stated, and in Batavia, DODSON VANDEVENTER was born October 10, 1834 - the first white child born in the county. In the winter of 1834-5, MR. CLEGHORN taught a school here; JOEL MCKEE opened the first store in 1835 and in 1837, CHARLES BALLARD built the first regular tavern where the "Revere House" stands. JOSEPH W. CHURCHILL, the first lawyer to locate here, came in 1835; also JOHN CHURCHILL, JAMES ROCKWELL, HORACE TOWN and DR. D.K. TOWN, the first physician. JOHN GREGG, the indispensable "village blacksmith" opened a shop east of the village limit near "the trail" in 1834, and it is said that farmers came from west of the Kishwaukee to his shop for repairs to their plows and tools - thus beginning, with good workmanship at his trade, the manufacturing industries that have given Batavia so wide and favorable a reputation. TITUS HOWE put up the frame for a sawmill, and began the construction of a dam near the lower end of the island, in 1834; but, before completing either, sold his property and claim in 1835 to WILLIAM VAN NORTWICK and his son JOHN, both of whom were educated and experienced engineers familiar with the production and use of water-power, then the only energy in practical use for driving machinery. Associated with eastern capitalists they built the dam at the head of the island. JOHN, while retaining his interest here, returned to his engineering work for the State of New York, and attended also to the eastern end of the financial business of the partnership. He became a permanent resident of Batavia in 1848. The firm of VAN NORTWICK, BARKER, HOUSE & CO. became the first shippers of Illinois flour to the young city of Chicago, by strict integrity and by manufacturing the best product known in their time, establishing the reputation for excellent production that has made Batavia famous, and securing a ready market for its goods.
COL. JOSEPH LYON dug the first stone for curbing a well in 1834 or '35, and the first regular quarrying of this excellent stone was begun in 1842 by Z. Reynolds. Since then eight or 10 different quarries have been operated, and very smooth surfaced blocks, about ten inches thick, and up to nine by twenty feet square, have been shipped in great quantities, beside the usual irregular flat building stone.
Batavia Village Platted: The original site of the village on the east side was platted by VAN NORTWICK, BARKER, HOUSE & CO. in 1837, and on the west side by JOHN VAN NORTWICK in 1844. April 26, 1856, twenty-seven votes were cast in Batavia in favor of village incorporation and eleven against. At the first election of village officers, held May 10, 1856, T.C. MOORE, one of the most genial and gentlemanly lawyers of the county, served as Moderator and J.C. PINDAR as clerk. JOHN VAN NORTWICK, ORSAMUS WILSON, M.N. LORD, D.U. GRIFFIN and GEORGE E. CORWIN were elected as the first Board of Trustees.
These are a few of the beginnings of the unusually attractive and prosperous township and city of Batavia - the namesake of the equally beautiful city in New York, from which GEN. ISAAC WILSON and others of its first settlers came to Illinois.
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Edited by Newton Bateman, LL.D. and Paul Selby, A.M.) and History of Kane County Edited by Gen. John S. Wilcox. Chicago; Munsell Publishing Company, 1904, pp. 699-702
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