1840 SKETCH OF OTTAWA, OTTAWA CENTRE, DAYTON AND GENEVA (KANE COUNTY)
Ottawa and the Surrounding Country
Notwithstanding the general cry of "hard times," the improvements of our town during the last summer have been almost incredible. Between forty and fifty new buildings, among which is a number of large and commodious dwelling houses, have been finished, besides which several are still in progress and will shortly be completed. The new Court House, too, which is in progress, will, when finished, add much to the appearance of the place, and, together with the public square, will be quite an ornament to our town. Several buildings, also have had their appearance and convenience very much improved by undergoing important alterations and repairs, and among these the Mansion House is most conspicuous. Upon the whole, the improvement of Ottawa has been as great as could have been expected even under more propitious circumstances, and will vie with that of any other town on the Illinois River; and the approaching summer promises still greater improvements, as several important buildings are already in contemplation, of which the Catholic Chapel may be mentioned as one. Its location will be, we understand, on the west side of the side-cut; it is to be built of stone, and the cost is estimated at $12,000. When completed it will probably be behind no building of the kind in the whole state. The enterprise certainly speaks well for the liberality of our Catholic fellow citizens.
Ottawa Centre has also improved considerably during the past season, by the erection of several neatly finished brick and other buildings, which give that branch of the town decidedly a handsome appearance.
We are pleased to observe that the town of Dayton on Fox River, about four miles from this place, is not behind its neighbors in the march of improvement. An advantage which this place possesses over most is the immense water power created by the construction of the Feeder to the Illinois and Michigan Canal. In addition to the already, extensive milling operations, a large grist mill is in a state of forwardness and will be completed in a short time. A (… text cut off …) shortly be finished. The town is located on the west side of the river and contains a number of fine buildings. The hotel owned by Mr. Dunavan is a beautiful brick building, and in it the "way-faring traveler" can be accommodated to his entire satisfaction. The inhabitants of the place are distinguished for their enterprise, hospitality and unflinching democracy.
The annexed extracts from a letter which we find in the Worcester (Mass.) Palladium, show that the importance of this section of the Great West is commanding the attention of travelers, which augurs well for a continuance of its prosperity:
"Geneva is the county seat, or as a New Englander would term it, the Shire town of Kane county. It is delightfully situated on both banks of the Fox river. It has a neat court house, a large hotel, several stores well filled with goods and several well-built dwelling houses, well painted, and many of a smaller and more temporary character.
"In travelling up the valley of this River from its junction with the Illinois, one can hardly believe, as his mind averts to its recent history, that he is gazing upon realities instead of a fanciful picture. Seven years since, savages were almost the only inhabitants; there were a few scattered white settlers, but they were in constant danger of the Indian rifle and scalping knife; and cruel and bloody were the scenes of Indian butchery exhibited in this region of county.
"Now mark the contrast. Ottawa, which is situated at the junction of the Fox and Illinois Rivers, which six years since contained only a few scattering log huts, has sprung up into a beautiful town, and now has a large elegant brick court house nearly finished, three large hotels, about fifteen or twenty spacious stores well supplied with all varieties of merchandise, and a good supply of lawyers, doctors, mechanics, &c., &c. As you approach it, it has the appearance of a bustling little city. The great Michigan and Illinois Canal, which is now being rapidly constructed, passes through this village and unites with the Illinois river below, and will render this place one of great importance.
"This Canal is destined to become one of the most important works of Internal Improvement ever commenced in the United States, and will materially affect the business interests, not only of the northern and eastern, but also of the south-western States. On some future occasion I will give you a more extended account of this great work, and the bearing it will probably have upon remote parts of the Union by opening a water communication, and forming a connecting link between the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes of the north, the Canadas and the eastern states. As you travel up the Fox River you find extensive farms, with large enclosures, yielding wheat, oats, corn and other agricultural productions in vast quantities. The original log cabins begin to disappear and large, well painted farm houses, barns &c. take their places. On some of these farms there are large stack yards filled with stacks of wheat, some of which will yield 1000 or 2000 bushels of wheat each, as the product of a single plantation this year and cornfields a much larger amount of corn. Pork is becoming abundant. Hogs run wild in the prairies and timber till late in the fall when they are gathered, and often without any more fatting are taken to the slaughter. Some farmers have many hundreds of hogs. Northern Illinois will this year produce a large surplus of pork for foreign markets.
Within a few miles above and below this town (Geneva) other large, flourishing villages have sprung into existence; such as Oswego, Bristol, Aurora, St. Charles, Elgin, &c., &c. The River, as it passes these towns with a rapid current, is about 500 or 600 feet in width, and at each of them a dam is thrown across, thus creating a large water power; and flouring mills on an extensive scale are already in full operation; also saw mills, by means of which the people are well supplied with flour and lumber. It seems almost incredible that these changes are the work of new settlers and almost all the result of four or five years enterprise and industry; that within that time the red man had yielded to the white man possession of these their uncultivated wilds and been succeeded by all this civilization, prosperity and happiness. [The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, November 27, 1840; Submitted by NP]
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