Illinois Genealogy Trails

Sugar Grove Township

©Transcribed by Kimberly Torp

View Plat Map from 1920

Township 38 North, Range 7 East, forms the middle of the tier of three southern towns of the county, and if people interested in the county will only remember that its southern line of townships constitute the Thirty-eighth North of the Base Line, and that its western tier are in the Sixth Range East of the Meridian Line, they will have no difficulty in accurately locating any tract of land of which they have the government description. Of the ten agricultural townships in the county, no one can authoritatively declare either one to be the best. Yet this is often claimed for Sugar Grove, and few, if any, will doubt that it is at least "as good as the best." Lying directly west of the populous and wealthy city of Aurora, whose western limit is but a mile and a half from the township line, and closely connected by highways as good as the city streets, it feels the stimulus of the wealth and culture of the metropolis, and its land values are probably the highest of any in the towns away from the river. Its northeasterly portion along Lake Run and Blackberry Creek is well covered with excellent woodland, portions of which, in the early days, was heavy timber and the remainder - about two-thirds of the township- was beautiful prairie, with a skirt of timber at the southwest bordering a branch of the Big Rock Creek. Every foot of the soil is very fertile, and well supplied with pure, excellent water; and the abundance and convenience of wood and water, together with the handsome "lay of the land," was very attractive to the pioneers seeking homes in a delightful region of absolutely unoccupied country, where they had "all out of doors" to choose from.

Very early in the spring of 1834, ASA MCDOLE left his home in the state of New York and started alone to explore the Far West. In Wood County, Ohio, he camped for the night with JAMES and ISAAC C. ISBELL (brothers), PARMENO ISBELL (a cousin), JAMES CARMAN and an elderly man named BISHOP, who had just left Medina County, Ohio, for the same purpose. They had arranged for a third brother, LYMAN ISBELL, whose wife was CARMAN' s sister, to join them when they had found a satisfactory location, and bring on the family, consisting of LYMAN's wife and two children, Mother ISBELL and her daughter MIRANDA. Of course, MCDOLE joined them. They had two ox-teams, some axes and a few implements, a little food, blankets, etc., and each man had a flint-lock musket. The muskets were as serviceable for "flashing powder in the pan" and so starting a fire - for matches were scarce, if not unknown, in those days - as they were for shooting game. The ISBELLS also had four cows. This was April 27. Journeying westward they crossed the Fox River at Oswego, where there was one cabin on each side of the river, and thence pushed on nearly northward across the trackless country, until on the 10th of May, when, having camped in a most beautiful grove of maple trees near a pleasant stream, they made up their minds that nothing more desirable could be found. They saw plain indications that the Indians had been accustomed to making sugar from these trees, and here they found an abandoned Indian tepee, or shack, which they used while building, for immediate shelter, the first cabin erected in the township. Next they constructed for the expected family quite a commodious and comfortable log house farther north and west, near the line of Sections 10 and 9. Each was made entirely of wood "from the tree," and with very few and simple tools. In July LYMAN arrived with the families, driving the first horse team that was brought into the county. They marked a number of choice claims, and were doubtless the only whites west of the river until JOSEPH INGHAM came in the following winter, and settled lower on the Blackberry below its junction with Lake Run. The next spring his son CYRUS INGHAM came with his father's family. These were Oneida County, New York, people of the best quality. JOSEPH's brother, SAMUEL INGHAM, came four years later with his excellent family, and took up a large tract of land. The brothers, with their descendants, have always been active promoters of all worthy enterprises, have filled many public positions and maintained high standing and wide acquaintance throughout the county. HARRY WHITE, ASA and RODNEY MCDOLE, WILLIAM A. TANNER and THEOPHILUS WILSON - names as familiar as household words in the county - came also in 1835, but RODNEY MCDOLE, after locating his claim, returned to Menard County for the bride he had married in January of that year. He came back in the spring of 1836 and lived to be the oldest settler in the township. In 1833 or '34, he carried a chain for "A. Lincoln, surveyor," in Sangamon County, it is said, and over twenty years later the great President was glad to meet and greet his former chainman and friend.

A number of other settlers came in that season, and, in the spring of 1836, SILAS REYNOLDS, LORIN INMAN, SAMUEL TAYLOR, SILAS GARDNER, NATHAN H. PALMER, SAMUEL COGSWELL, ISAAC GATES, JOSEPH BISHOP and SILAS LEONARD were located here. JAMES JUDD and H.B. DINSMORE also came in this fall. The next year (1837) IRA H. FITCH and family, including his parents, took up a claim that became a part of Section 32, and opened a blacksmith shop in connection with his farm. The hamlet called Jericho gathered about this settlement. JOHN MORRIS, the AUSTIN family, CAPTAIN JONES, REUBEN JOHNSON, CHARLES SIMMONS, EZEKIEL MIGHELL and P.Y. BLISS and doubtless a number of others, came also in 1837. MR. BLISS built a frame building near the northwest corner of Section 10 in 1838, and "Father" CLARK preached here the first sermon in the township. In June, 1839, Mr. Bliss put in a stock of merchandise, and this first store in the town, it was said, drew trade from Dundee to Yorkville and from Warrenville to Shabbona Grove. His business for a time seemed to overshadow that of any merchant on the river. MR. BLISS has stated that, in going from his place to Geneva in 1838, he passed not a building, fence, furrow or sign of human habitation or occupation, and that the wooden court house, built by COL. R.J. HAMILTON, was the first indication of settlement to be seen. To indicate the generous feeling of neighborly helpfulness that prevailed, he said that one morning ISAAC C. ISBELL called at his store and told him he meant to kill a beef on the following Saturday morning and wished BLISS would tell any of the neighbors whom he happened to meet to come to his place and get a piece of the meat and that, when they came, they found the dressed quarters of beef, with a knife and hatchet by a block, ready for each to take such portion as he wished.

The township has always been noted for its educational zeal. Schools and circulating libraries were established at any early day and steadily maintained. The first library, opened in the winter of 1843, came to contain 264 volumes of the best literature. It was kept at the home of S.G. PAUL on Section 16. Another whose books reached about 500 in number, passed to the unique school in District NO. 7, so long and ably presided over by Prof. F.H. HALL. This school, in its best estate, was largely the product of the philanthropic zeal and enthusiasm of THOMAS JUDD, an early settler, to whose efforts the county owes much of its progress. His statistics regarding the productive capacity of the country, greatly encouraged the builders of the pioneer Galena & Chicago Union Railroad, and his contributions to the "Prairie Farmer," and papers read before the farmers' institutes and agricultural societies, did much to stimulate improvement in methods of farming, at that date the only productive industry of the people.

The name of the township did not have to be imported, for it just naturally suggested itself. The first marriage in the township was that of DR. N.H. PALMER and the pioneer girl, MIRANDA ISBELL in the fall of 1835; and during that same fall, A.G.MCDOLE, a son of RODNEY MCDOLE, and CHARLOTTE ISBELL, a daughter of I.C. ISBELL, were born. The first death was that of a child of MR. CARMAN'S in 1835. A trail and wagon track from Chicago to Dixon passed through the township and beside it, on Section 14, ROBERT ATKINSON opened the first tavern. ASA MCDOLE was the first Justice of the Peace, elected in 1837, and his death on September 16, 1839, was perhaps the first among the adults. Sugar Grove post office was the first in the township, established at THOMAS SLATER'S house, near the center of Section 15, on September 18, 1840. The township has ever been a productive grain and stock-growing section, and while it is extensively given to dairying, there is still a great deal of fine stock, both reared and purchased and fitted for the Chicago market. The Chicago & Iowa Railroad crosses the township near its center, and the district has exceptionally good facilities for shipment on this line, as well as the main line of the Burlington System. Sugar Grove is the only incorporated village in the township.

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. 719-721

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