Illinois Genealogy Trails

Virgil Township

©Transcribed by Kimberly Torp

View Plat map from 1920

As St. Charles is the center of the eastern tier of townships, so Virgil is in the center of the western tier. It adjoins DeKalb County, which was once a part of Kane and, while that condition existed, was in Sycamore Precinct with its voting place at LYSANDER DARLING'S house. The township now consists of Town No. 40 North, Range 6 East. Soon after the government surveys were made, marking the township lines, its few inhabitants voted to call it Washington Township, but at a town meeting held April 30, 1842, the name was changed to Franklin and so continued until 1839, when it was changed by the State Commissioners to Virgil, as heretofore stated in the sketch of the county.

Several small streams have their sources well toward the eastern line of the township, and with scarcely enough fall to make any perceptible current, they converge and unite near the center line dividing Sections 21 and 20, and form one of branches of the Kishwaukee, whose waters are carried to the distant Rock River. The eastern portion of the township along the sources of these drains was low prairie, covered with a luxuriant growth of coarse vegetation, which, in the early days, was not inviting to the pioneers. The land was too wet for convenient cultivation, and too damp and cold for the production of good crops. The rank slough grass threatened fearful prairie fires in the late fall and early spring and the low land was the abiding place of malaria with its attendant fever and ague, and during the summer and fall it swarmed with mosquitoes. And so, like the low prairie east and west of the Des Plaines timber, these lands were passed by the majority of the first pioneers and, for a number of years after the opening of the government land sale on January 30, 1843, there was public land subject to entry in this township. Cultivation and drainage soon removed these objectionable features, and the fine farms of this township have long been held as among the very best in the he county. Its rich alluvial soil, the accumulated deposit of this luxuriant vegetation through countless centuries, had become almost exhaustless in fertility, and productive of abundant crops and the most nutritious grasses. Virgil township is one of the very finest stock-raising and dairy regions of the state.

LUTHER MERRILL, JOHN B. MOORE, JAMES OUTHOUSE, MILTON THORNTON, and DANIEL MCKINLEY appear to have located claims on land now within the township in 1836. MERRILL was probably the first, and he claimed all the land in sight. His absurd pretensions probably retarded settlement; for it is said that MOORE "jumped" a part of the vast tract "claimed" by MERRILL, and was ready to fight for it if attacked; and that OUTHOUSE, rather than fight, gave MERRILL his choice of $100, or a fight for the 200 acres he selected, and that MERRILL sensibly chose to accept the money. Quite a number of settlers who came in 1837 and '38 gave MERRILL something for his "claim" rather than contend with him. JOSHUA READ, JOSEPH GRAY, WILLIAM H. ROBINSON, DANIEL SMITH, HENRY and LYMAN GERMAN, ELEAZER PATTEE, HARRISON CHAMBERS, CHARLES JACKSON and JOHN MCKINLEY came in 1837-8. MILTON THORNTON, WILLIAM H. ROBINSON and JOSHUA READ and his many sons and daughters were unusually public-spirited, enterprising people. OUTHOUSE was a son-in-law of MR. READ. These pioneers rest in honored graves, but the influence of their good works in the land they began transforming from an uncultivated wilderness to a fruitful garden remains, and their descendants have been and are occupying many positions of usefulness, trust and honor. GEORGE BAKER was an early and very highly respected settler in the northeast corner of the township, near the GRIGGS and LEE settlement at Chicken Grove; also L. S. ELLITHORP, ORSON KENDALL, the WARFORDS and MCEWENS. It is said that JOSHUA READ built the first frame house in the township. All the timbers in the framework were hewed with the broadaxe. Previous to about 1850, the light balloon frames (as they were first called), now in use, were unknown, and the frames of buildings were of solid hewn timbers, mortised and tenoned, and held in place by hardwood pins. They were framed into firmly fastened "bents," as they were called, which were raised to a perpendicular position by hand, using ropes and "pike poles" for that purpose. To erect these heavy "bents" at the ends of the building and across it between the ends as desired, and to put in place and secure the "purlin plates" that bound them at the top from end to end of the structure, was a heavy and somewhat dangerous job, and required the united strength of the neighborhood, directed by a cool and experienced head. The "raising bees," so common in former days, were to put up these heavy frames. To "score" the logs properly and then to hew straight and true to the line, is an almost forgotten art which was well know to the pioneers; and occasionally one of these solid old frames is still standing.

The first notable dancing party, probably, ever given in kindly recognition of assistance at the "raising," was held in the house of JOSHUA READ, and in it occurred also the first marriage in the township - that of MARIA READ and ORSON KENDALL in 1839 - "Esquire" WEST officiating. Probably the first birth in the township was that of a daughter born to Mr. and Mrs. MERRILL in the summer of 1837.

In 1839 a log school house was built on the JOSEPH WOODMAN farm on Sectin 24, and the school held in it that winter was taught by SIMEON BEAN. This building was also used for the first religious services by the REV. MR. KING (Probably of King's Mill in Campton), a Baptist clergyman, as early as 1840; and in that year a settler on the northeast corner of Section 17 - probably on the STACY P. KENYON place - hung out a tavern sign. One of the frontier wayside inns had this original sign: A small gate made of puncheon staves, was hung upon two tall posts over the entrance and upon the four cross slats was rudely painted:

"This gate hangs high and hinders none;

Refresh and pay, and travel on"

surely an indication of hospitality and a humorous landlord. About 1844, MRS. GRAVES opened a little store near the tavern, and in 1845, JOSEPH JENKINS started a blacksmith shop. These are some of the "beginnings" in this prosperous township.

The Iowa division of the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad was constructed on an airline from the southeast corner of Section 35 to the northeast corner of Section 31 and to comply with contracts requiring the road to be in operation as far west as the county line by January 1, 1853, the ties were laid upon the level but ungraded frozen ground, rails spiked upon them, and the first train slowly moved to this point on that day. Here at the county line and upon Sections 30 and 31, the village of Lodi was platted and surveyed by ANDREW PINGREE for Messrs. LOREN HEATH and ZACHARIAH HATHORN, on March 20, 1854. This charming place is the only incorporated village in the township. Its beautiful location attracted a population of about four hundred residents within a year and a half after it was platted. The Chicago Great Western Railway enters the township near the center of Section 13, and crossing on an airline passes out a little south of the center of Section 6. Richardson, near the northeast corner of Section 7, is the station on this road, Lily Lake station being about six miles easterly. A highway is laid near and along its southern line across the township, three others, at about equal distances, cross above it, and still another lies between it and the Burlington on the town line. It is also equally well provided with cross roads, and all these roadways are constructed and maintained in admirable order. These numerous highways indicate the intelligence, enterprise and activity of the people and a ride in summer time over either of them, among the highly cultivated farms with their pastures filled with well-bred dairy stock, and past the beautiful farm homes with spacious, well arranged barns and out-buildings, is as charming a drive as can well be imagined.

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. 721-723

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