Illinois Genealogy Trails

Blackberry Township

©2001 Transcribed by Kimberly Torp

View Plat map from 1920

This is Township 39 North, Range 7 East, and is another rich agricultural township. Bald Mound, near the center of Section 23, and Johnson's Mound on the northwest quarter of Section 5, are said to be the highest points of land in the county, and have ever been conspicuous land-marks, noted for the exceeding beauty of the landscape visible from their summits. Nelson's Lake - now nearly dry - lies partly in Blackberry and partly in Batavia Township. Lake Run, the outlet of Nelson's Lake and its tributary streams in the southeasterly part of the township, and Blackberry Creek, with its numerous branches in the westerly part, have ever furnished an abundance of running water for its fine grain and stock farms. The land in this township is the most undulating or rolling, perhaps, in the county and it is one of the townships in which the groves, woodlands and prairie are so favorably mingled, although along the line of Blackberry Creek, from Elburn station in the northwest corner of the township, south to Sugar Grove, there was heavy timber in the early days. The Iowa Division of the North-Western Railroad passes through its northern tier of sections across the entire township, with the busy station of La Fox and the fine, growing village of Elburn, affording excellent shipping facilities for its people and their products. Its splendid farms are devoted to grain and stock-raising, and feeding and dairying, and its landowners are highly prosperous.

A NOTABLE PIONEER - The first settler in this township was a remarkable man; and within the years of his eventful life occurred the most momentous and far-reaching movements and events in man's history. WILLIAM LANCE was born April 8, 1771 in Hunterdon County, New Jersey Colony, a subject of King George III. He was five years old when the immortal Declaration of Independence was adopted and twelve at the close of the Revolutionary War. He well remembered many incidents of the historic struggle, and had frequently seen Washington and other famous characters of the first years of the Republic. Many of the Indian struggles on the Atlantic coast, the War of 1812, the Mexican War and the awful conflict of the great Rebellion were not altogether history to him, but incidents in his country's development within his own observation. He lived during the administration of all the great historic Presidents of the Republic. Possessing much of the pioneer spirit, he was living in Indiana in 1833 and resolved to push still farther westward. Early in the spring of 1834, which was an unusually mild and early season, he started with his adult children JOHN and MARY and a much younger son, CHARLES, driving, it is said, eight yoke of cattle, and, on the trail in what is now Du Page County, they picked up a man named ISAAC WALTHROP. They camped for a few days at the head of the Big Woods, probably near CHRISTOPHER PAYNE's cabin, and JOHN prospected the west side of the river. He found a location near the southeast part of the heaviest body of timber on Blackberry Creek near the present northwest corner of Section 28, which he thought (and truthfully) one of the most delightful spots on earth and, returning, piloted the family to the place. There on May 2, 1834, they located the first claim in all that portion of Kane County, and there MR. LANCE resided until his death, September 7, 1873, aged 102 years, four months and twenty-nine days.

In the fall, WILLIAM LANCE and his son JOHN, having left MARY and CHARLES with an uncle in Du Page County, returned to Indiana for the other members of the family. JOHN and an older daughter, MARGARET, married in Indiana during that winter, and all returned to Illinois together, arriving at the claim on Christmas Day. WILLIAM LANCE and his family, JOHN LANCE and his bride, and DAVID BEELER with his bride, MARGARET LANCE - all living in one little log cabin - were the only white people in this township; and probably the only ones in the county, save HAIGHT, west of the river during the winter of 1834-5. MARY LANCE, the first white woman in the township, married JOHN SOUDERS about Christmas time 1835, theirs being the first wedding in the township; and about this date her sister, MARGARET BEELER, gave birth to a daughter, MARTHA, who was the first white child born in the township. A little more than a year after, on February 2, 1837, another sister, little SARAH LANCE, was burned to death in the destruction of the first cabin built in the township. These are said to have been the first death and the first fire in the township - a very remarkable train of "firsts" to center in the family of a man of such extraordinary experience.

In the spring and summer of 1835 came D.W. ANNIS, HARRY WHITE, GEORGE TRIMBLE, L.D. KENDALL, JOHN SOUDERS, HIRAM HALL, and perhaps others, and settled near R. ACRES and J.G. ACRES. JOHN VANNATTA arrived in 1836, and during that year and the following year, S. KENDALL, MR. COREY, JAMES SMITH, S. PLATT, J. CALKINS, MR. LARKIN, NOAH B. SPALDING and others took up claims in the township. WILLIAM B. WEST was one of the first settlers. He became a magistrate of the township, and a man of great influence throughout the county; was also the first banker at Geneva.

The early settlers of Blackberry effected a very strong organization of protection against "claim jumpers" and to secure to all their respective claims, each placing himself under $2,000 bonds to observe its requirements. They selected MR. WEST to bid in all the land at the Government sale, and convey to each his proper portion according to the claim lines. Whoever will examine a map of the township, showing the irregularity of the farm lines, will get some idea of the delicacy and difficulty of the duty assigned to MR. WEST, but which he successfully and satisfactorily accomplished.

PETER H. JOHNSON, at an early day, paid DAVID BEELER $1,150 for his improvements and claim of about 1,000 acres, covering the Mound and a little below its summit, on its southerly side near a distinct Indian trail, he built the first frame house in the township, which he opened with a national celebration on July 4, 1844. WILLIAM P. WEST was another influential man among the pioneers of this township. The names of many of these pioneers, and of others not here mentioned, are still familiar as "household words" in the families of the older residents of the county.

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. 704-705

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