Kane County, IL Biographies

Biography of James Clayton Herrington,

founder of Geneva, Illinois

(Transcribed from the book "Geneva, Illinois, A History of Its Times and Places")
Julia M. Ehresmann, editor
Published by Geneva Public Library District
Geneva, Illinois

[Contributed by Source #15]

James Herrington was born in Crawford County, Pennsylvania, on May 8, 1798, son of James and Ann Clayton Herrington. At maturity, James Clayton moved to Mercer, where he operated a general store, distillery and newspaper office with his older brother, Jacob. In competition with Herrington's store was Nathan Patterson's, which evidently supplied young James with a bride. For in 1819, he married Charity Patterson, who was then twenty years old. She was strong-willed, capable and durable. Her life and influence spanned all of Geneva's formative years until her death in Geneva in 1879. She bore ten children: Augustus Marlin, Nathan Patterson, James Clayton, Jr., Nancy (called Fanny, who died in 1839), Alfred Richard (Dick), Jane, Thaddeus, Mary, Margaret, and Charles.

James Clayton's father was a practical engineer and surveyor, a career then in the greatest demand. He applied for a job of surveyor of the Huron Territory and traveled to Fort Dearborn, Illinois in 1830 to begin work. While waiting for confirmation of his appointment, he improved and claimed a quarter section of land (160 acres) in downtown Chicago, part of it just south of the fort and the rest between about State Street and the lake shore from 12th south to 16th Street. The senior Herrington was certain of the high value of his claim and he looked forward to making his home there. His letters to his sons in Pennsylvania have frequent references to the opportunities of owning rich Illinois land and show his shrewd business acumen. He wrote to James Clayton that a shanty next to a store could be rented out for a fortune, "as people are paying $6.00 a night to sleep in an open lot." Father Herrington clearly had "Western fever." But it was ague, a malarial disease contracted while he was a soldier in the Black Hawk Wars, that sent him back to Pennsylvania forever.

In 1833, with his father's land and cabin beckoning from Chicago, James Clayton sold his interest in the Mercer store, packed up Charity and their first seven children, and prairie-schoonered to Lake Michigan, where the family moved into the senior Herrington's holding. Shortly afterward, title became available to the property. One "James Herrington" took title, but not the same one who had claimed it.

The raw, new town of Chicago was rife with burgeoning enterprises and inflamed by speculators, especially in land. It has been written that it was Charity, unhappy with the unwholesome influence of Chicago on her children, who instigated the move west to the Fox River. It seems more likely that James, well-schooled by his father, considered the move a profitable business investment. His choice of Big Spring seems to reflect the advice of his father given in a letter dated January 27, 1831 (Chicago Historical Society) to: "hunt out a good grove of timber & water." His father also mentioned that no one could expect to find the choicest land, good timber, and a good spring all at one location. When James Clayton found all of these on (Daniel) Haight's claim, he must have recognized that he had a chance to settle and develop a first-rate investment.

In April 1835 James Clayton Herrington moved with his family, which by then included baby Mary, to Big Spring. Haight's shanty was so dingy, smelly and unpleasant that the new arrivals lived out of doors. They cooked over open fires and slept beneath the stars, unless it rained, when they slept under the wagons in which they had moved from Chicago. Immediately, work was begun on a double log house, of a type common back in western Pennsylvania. This was a long structure of two low stories, with three chimneys projecting two to three feet from the roof ridge. A low porch overhung five windows. It was just west of Haight's shanty. Frederick Bird, along with the older Herrington boys, helped construct the house from native oak; they put in a white ash floor. Bird split the butternut shingles for the roof and was paid in trade for his labor.

By the autumn of 1835, the family was comfortably settled in this homestead, which was to serve as the virtual center of community life for the first years. James had opened a general store in Haight's shanty, a spot marked today with a plaque on the south side of State between River and First. Herrington's store ledger for 1835 and 1836 shows a substantial trade, much of which was on credit. Later on, in 1836, Herrington built a new store, which was noted as "a great town improvement." There is sound reason to believe that this building was the one used as a polling place and for the first meetings of the county commissioners court in the summer of that year, and that it was on the north side of State, on lot 12 of Block 37, about opposite the Herrington house. Admittedly, this opinion is not part of local tradition. L. M. Church, and later David Dunham, came to clerk in Herrington's store.

Although county historians refer to the early settlement as "Herrington's Ford," Herrington himself was calling his town "La Fox" in 1835. In a letter dated December 31, 1835-returned addressed "La Fox P.O."-he was soliciting the speedy federal designation of the post office. Herrington's place had been the unofficial post office from the beginning, and the official confirmation of La Fox, P.O., came through on March 17, 1836, just three months before the adoption of Geneva as the town's name. (In government records, however, Geneva remained "La Fox Post Office" until 1850. Herrington was postmaster until his death, and mail for Genevans was brought from Naperville once every two weeks, on horseback, by Batavia's much esteemed postmaster Isaac ("Daddy") Wilson.

(The following excerpt is from the book "The Herrington Family from Maryland through Pennsylvania to Illinois" by W. Douglas Little.)

The year 1839 was an eventful year for the Herrington family, as on March 25th, James Herrington died followed in two days by his oldest daughter Nancy (Fannie). A few days later (April 7th) Charity Patterson Herrington gave birth to their son Charles.


[Contributed by Source #4]

The following writeup on my great grandfather is typed on stationery headed "Galena Boulevard Methodist Episcopal Church, Galena Boulevard and Locust Street, Aurora, Ill." It is dated Aug. 3, 1915, and since John Gilbert Sutphen died Aug. 1, 1915, I suspect it was read at his funeral service.


John Gilbert Sutphen was born in Earlville, Illinois, May 19th, 1857. (C. Brummel's note: "Incorrect. He was born in 1851") His father, Charles H. Sutphen, was one of the earliest settlers of La Salle County, building the first log house in Earl Township on the thousand acre ranch purchased from the government. Mrs. Sutphen, the mother, named the township. There were six sons in the Sutphen family, George E., Fred A. of Aurora, and Charles T. (deceased), Albert W., and William C., of Los Angeles, California and our departed brother John Gilbert. There were three daughters; Mrs. Carrie Sutphen Graham of Berkley, Cal., Mrs. Sarah Sutphen Cook and Mrs. Mary Sutphen Gray, both deceased.

February 1st, 1890, Mr. John Gilbert Sutphen married Miss Mary Ellen Bartruff. The four children born into this home still live. The son Harry, and a daughter Mrs. Elsie Sutphen Nicholson live in Sandwich, Illinois, and Mrs. Flora S. Martin and Miss Helen Sutphen reside in Aurora.

In years past our Brother Sutphen sang in the Methodist Episcopal choir in Burlington, Iowa, and was an active worker in the church. He was a patient sufferer in recent illness. He often expressed his determination to again give himself to active church work with returning health.


[Contributed by Source #7]

How often do we get a biography written by the actual person? We are very grateful to Barb Norbie at barbnorbie@msn.com for sharing this autobiography of her g-g-grandmother:

Alison Templeton Binnie was born in Airdrie Scotland in 1776. This is her story....

I became the wife of John Binnie in 1803 and our life together was blessed with 10 wee bairn. The boys grew into fine young men. My son David left for America in 1847 and settled in the county of Kane. He was so delighted with the prospects here finding the soil so perfect for growing crops that he persuaded his brothers Robert, Henry and Alexander to make the journey here "for t' take advantage of the oportunities available to any one willin to come to this great land.

Mi darlin husband John had passed on (he was in his 100th year) and so at the age of 74 I packed my belongins and embarked on the a great journey. Along with my 3 sons, Robert's wife Agnes, and 6 of their 8 children, we boarded the boat in 1850 that would bring us across the sea to this grand country. It was in 1849 that our little clan sailed on the ship Khatadin for Dundee.

Many families from our homeland had come here to settle. The Aberdeen North American Investment and Loan Co. had bought up large tracts of land in the northern portion of the state and Scottish banks in Chicago and Milwaukee financed immigrants. This financing made it possible for many of our countrymen to purchase land.

My son Alexander was able to acquire land on the west side of the river. That would be on Sleepy Hollow road between Higgin's road and the Huntly road.

Alexander developed a firm there and I have lived with him and his family all this time.

It was not an easy life in the beginning. For so many of us had so little. We tried to time our arrival in the spring so there would be time to plant and harvest before the first winter. For once winter arrived, it was more difficult to hunt and fish. We could bring only the bare necessities with us from home. Afew cooking utensils, an axe, a saw and kindred tools. a bible, afew pictures, a plow if there was room and most important a rifle. We brought as much money as we could. some of the women brought cuttins from shrubs and plants and seeds. The provisions we brought were just enought to keep us from starving.

Everything the family used was made by hand. We made candles and soap. We even made some of our furniture. The women would have quilting bees. Game and fish were plentiful. The folk of all the neighborhood would gather together at the river and seine for fish. the fish were dragged in by the bushel. They were divided and salted. Sharing with others was the spirit of the frontier. The men would get together for turkey shoots.

My son Robert, and his family also took up farming and raised sheep. Robert would travel from farm to farm shearing sheep sometimes as many as 40 a day and he would be paid 10 cents a head. Great flocks of sheep would be taken the river to be washed at shearing time.

Despite the hardships, life was good for us. I am so proud of my sons and what they have done. They are fine, hard working men. The life of a farmer is not an easy one, but I truly believe that if you work for "Mother Nature", ye get paid by "Father Time".
Contributor's note:

I thought this was an interesting story my gggreatgrandmother wrote. She died September 23, 1866. She was 90 years old. She is buried in Dundee. Her son Robert, married Agnes McLaren (also from Scotland), they had a large family. One of their daughters, Alison Binnie (born in Airdire), married John McLean. (John born in Lanark Scotland). They had 14 children. One of their daughters, Alison McLean (born in Elkadar Iowa) married Ephraim McBroom. They had 11 children. One of their sons Guy, married Vivian Shoop, one of their sons was my father. I hope others will find this interesting. If any one is related to any of these people, I would love to hear from you.

Hon. Thos. C. MOORE.
For Many Years an Able Lawyer of Kane Co., and a Prominent Resident of Batavia..
Died at Washington D. C., July 11, ’95, aged 78 years, Sketch of His Life by a Washington Writer.

Hon. Thomas Cincinnatus MOORE was for many years a member of Kane County Bar. He died July 11, 1895. He came to Washington in 1892, to temporarily reside with his son, W. A. MOORE, with the hope that his health would be restored to him, and that he could again resume the practice of his profession at his old home, Batavia, Illinois. Advancing years operated against him, and he steadily failed in health until he succumbed to an attack of congestion of the lungs.
All old citizens of northern Illinois will best remember him as Tom MOORE, a genial, kind hearted gentleman, ever ready to help a friend or serve his party. His associations in early days were with some of the oldest and earliest citizens of Illinois.
He was born, November, 26, 1817, on Mount Emmett, near Shelbyville, Bedford county, Tennessee. The facts of his early ancestry are traditional and meager. His grandfather was a Thos. MOORE, and his grandmother a Miss Elizabeth WANHOP, and they came from the north of Ireland in the same vessel and were married in Virginia – both being of Scotch-Irish descent and strict Presbyterians. To them were born four sons and one daughter, part of whom settled in Kentucky, where their descendants now live. His father was Thos. MOORE, and his mother was Miss Cassandra CRAWFORD, who was born in South Carolina; and they were married on Jan. 18, 1810, in Georgia, to which place the grandparents had removed. To them were born five children, Robert Emmett, Amelia, Wm. Henry Harrison, Sophronia, and the subject of this sketch, who adopted the name Cincinnatus in after life.
The third Thos. MOORE, of whom we now write, married Miss Delia Ann VANDERVEER, May 23, 1843, in Vigo county, Indiana. She still survives him, and is with her only daughter, Mrs. Cassandra HICKOX, in Springfield, Illinois.
Tom MOORE had born to him six children; three died in infancy, and three still live, Wm. Arthur MOORE in this city in the service of the United States, , Mrs. HICKOX, and Joseph Raymond MOORE, who now resides in Batavia, Ill.
In 1821 he moved to Clark county, Ill., from there to Coles county, where he resided until he was twenty-one, working at farming, flat-boating and rail splitting. He was admitted to the Bar of Clark county in 1843, where he practiced three years, when he moved to Chicago and from there to Batavia in 1848, at which place he lived until he came here on a visit in 1892.
In politics he was a whig in early days, and was present and acted as the secretary of the first meeting which organized to form the Republican party. That it was the first meeting called for that purpose has been denied by those present at meetings in other states; but Tom Moore preserved the record of his meeting and stoutly maintained up to the last that it was the first.
The members of the Kane county Bar, to show their kind appreciation of his friendship, gave to him on his 70th birthday a beautiful gold-headed cane suitably inscribed, which aided him to walk in his declining in years.
The writer, way back in boyhood, remembers him as a kind, polite, dignified Christian gentleman, and is indebted to him for many civilities. All of the Kane county contingent present in Washington were at his funeral, where the services were conducted by a Grand Army Chaplain as a friend of Arthur.
Washington D.C., July 13, 1895. [Batavia Herald, 25 July 1895]

Elijah H. GAMMON
The late Elijah H. GAMMON, who was Vice-President of the Plano Manufacturing Co., was born in Lexington, Maine, Dec. 23, 1819, and at an early age began to lean upon his own resources for support, as his parents were farmers, of small means, and unable to even furnish him the education he so much desired and which he acquired by studying nights and working days for the necessaries of life. At the age of nineteen years he began teaching school, but still continued his studies, as he had decided to become a Methodist preacher. In the year 1843 he married Sarah J. CUTTER, and the same year was stationed at Wilton, Maine, with a salary of $100 per year. He continued preaching in this section until 1851, when, on account of the sever climate, he contracted a bronchial trouble that necessitated his removal to a more congenial clime. After careful investigation, and correspondence with friends who had moved to Ill., he with his wife and two daughters, Abbie K. and Sarah M., came west and settled in Ross Grove, DeKalb Co. The country then being new, he opened a select school. In 1852 he united with the Rock River Conference of the M. E. Church, and was stationed at St. Charles. From there he was sent to the Jefferson street church in Chicago, and in 1854 came to Batavia, where he remained pastor one year, of the M. E. church, when he was appointed Presiding Elder of the St. Charles district, which duties he discharged until his health failed him in 1858., when he was confined to his bed for a long time. After his recovery, he was unable to continue in the ministerial work, was placed upon the superanuated list, which relation he maintained until the day of his death. During the year of 1855 occurred the death of his wife, who is buried at this place. In May, 1856, he married Mrs. Jane COLTON, who followed him to their future home, Dec. 23, 1892. His only son Charles Wesley GAMMON was born Sept., 1857, and died at the age of 19 years, of typhoid fever, while attending school at Worchester, Mass. In the year 1859 Mr. Gammon bought an interest in, and became a member of the firm Newton & Co., with home he continued until 1861, when his attention was called to the great demand for harvesting machinery, and he conceived the idea of a large house for distributing them at Chicago. From this thought, came the great distributing firm of Easter and Gammon. In 1864 this firm took hold of the Marsh Harvester and became its general agents for six of the western states. This was the foundation of then great fortune which he accumulated - upwards of two millions. A few years later, Mr. GAMMON acquired an interest in the Plano Manufactory with the Marshes and Stewards and early in 1870 he associated with him, Wm. DEERING, under the firm name of Gammon & Deering. In 1878 he withdrew from active connection with it and spent considerable time traveling in Europe as well as his own country. In 1881 he became associated with W. H. JONES, now President of the Plano Mfg. Co., who with others immediately placed a harvester, the “Light Running Plano,” on the market, which was a most marvelous success, and to-day the factory ranks among the best. The establishing of the Gammon Theological Seminary at Atlanta, Georgia, and the beautiful and spacious M. E. Church, of Batavia, will stand as fitting monuments to the memory of the christian gentleman. He departed this life at his home in Batavia, July 3, 1891. [Batavia Herald, 7 April 1893]

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