La Salle County IL News



LaSalle County Once Turned Out Prized Telegraph  
An Interesting Article Donated by Charles Steck about the Caton Telegraph Instrument Shop - one of the largest in the United States in the 1800's.

 The LaSalle Coal Basin (article describing the importance and quality of the Illinois coal in 1857)

Thomas Fitzmoris Looking for Sons
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, August 21, 1840
Information Wanted
Thomas Fitzmoris, is anxious to ascertain where his family may be found. It consists of five sons, viz: James, aged 21 years, dark hair and about 5 feet 11 inches in height; Merica, aged 18 years, Charles, aged 16 years; Thomas, aged 14 years, and John, aged 12 years. The last he saw of them was at the mouth of the Ohio river, and they formerly resided at Columbus, Indiana. Any person who may be able to inform him where they may be found, will confer a lasting favor on a parent who is confined by sickness at the present time.
Thomas Fitzmoris
Ottawa Ill.
Care of the "Free Trader."
Editors in Missouri will much oblige the subscriber by noticing this advertisement.
Ottawa, August 14, 1840

Eliza Ann and James Levins Separation
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, February 19, 1841
The public are hereby cautioned against harboring or trusting my wife, Eliza Ann Levins, on my account. As she has left my bed and board without any just cause, I am determined to pay no debts or her contracting after this date.
James Levins
Ottawa, Feb. 18, 1841

Alson Woodruff Postmaster
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, March 5, 1841
New Post Master
Alson Woodruff, Esq., has been appointed Post Master at this place, vice M. E. Hollister resigned. The appointment is a good one, and gives, we believe, general satisfaction. Mr. Hollister has been an able and efficient public officer, and we tender him our thanks for the promptness with which he at all times dispatched business we had with the office.

John Hosford's Ox
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, March 5, 1841
Mr. John H. Hosford, of Munsontown, in this county, slaughtered a few days since, an ox weighing 1,419 pounds, net weight and yielded 234 pounds of tallow.

Mr. Douglas Buys Mansion House, Peru
The Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser, Ottawa, Ill, June 11, 1841
Mansion House, Peru.
We understand Mr. B. Douglass, of the City Hotel in this place, has taken the Mansion House at Peru, where his numerous friends and the travelling public generally may expect to receive every attention desirable. Mr. D. has our best wishes for success and hope his reputation as an obliging and attentive landlord may be appreciated by numerous visitors who may sojourn at the thriving town of Peru.

Illinois River Depth in June 1841
The Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser, Ottawa, Ill, June 25, 1841
The Illinois River is at this time lower than it has been for the past two seasons. The steamer La Salle, which heretofore made regular trips from Utica and Peru to St. Louis, was unable to perform the last trip within the stipulated time. It is with much difficulty, we are informed, that boats cross the Beardstown bar. The weather is sadly out of joint. Within the last ten days we have witnessed almost every variety. On the one side we have been severely afflicted by "the scorching tyranny of his solar highness," whilst at this time the fiery day-god appears to be conquered, and is enshrouded in damp and chilly vapor, almost requiring artificial means to keep our biped mortality in motion.

Big Vermilion River Fourth of July Celebration
The Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser, Ottawa, Ill, June 25, 1841
The inhabitants in the vicinity of the Big Vermilion River intend to celebrate the anniversary of American Independence at the house of Messrs. Galloway in the southern part of North Vermilion Precinct. The committee appointed to make arrangements have resolved to celebrate of the 5th in the following manner: At half past 10 o'clock a precession will be formed at the house, and proceed with martial music to a place selected where an oration will be delivered by E. Baldwin, Esqr., after which the procession will return to the house where a suitable dinner will be prepared. The inhabitants of the vicinity are respectfully invited to attend.
L. L. Bullock
Secretary of committee

Mr. Lewis Resigns
The Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser, September 17, 1841
We understand Mr. Lewis, lately elected School Commissioner of this county, has vacated the office, owing to the circumstance of his being obliged to visit the East shortly and remain some length of time. A new election, we understand, will take place on the 9th of October next.

A. O. Smith's Watermelon
The Illinois Free Trader and LaSalle County Commercial Advertiser, September 17, 1841
We were last week presented with a fine lot of watermelons by Mr. A. O. Smith, of Indian Creek. It was the finest collection we have seen or tasted the present season. Mr. A. Ford, Sen., and a number of other individuals, have also favored us with choice specimens of their culture. They will severally please accept our thanks for thier attention to us.

Gen. McClasky's Radish
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, November 12, 1841
We have at our office the largest radish we have ever seen or heard of. It was raised by Gen. McClasky on Indian Creek and measures forty inches in length and twenty-one inches in circumference. Beat it, who can!

1841 River News
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, December 3, 1841
The Illinois River at Peru was frozen over on Saturday night last. It closed at this place on the following night. The weather is now mild and the late heavy fall of snow rapidly melting and the river gradually rising. Should the present favorable weather continue a few days longer, navigation will be resumed. We understand the steamer La Salle ascended the river to Lacon, but owing to the unfavorable weather, was not able to continue her voyage to Peru, where she was expected to arrive on Saturday last.

John Kuntz Runaway
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, April 8, 1842
Runaway from the subscriber, residing near Ottawa, LaSalle County, on or about the 12th of March ult., an indented by named John Kuntz. He is about 17 years old, and rather small for his age. All persons are forbid harboring or trusting him on my account, as I am determined to pay no debts of his contracting.
H. Higby.
April 8, 1842.

Joseph Ross will not pay wife's debts
The Illinois Free Trader, Ottawa, Ill, April 15, 1842
I, Jospeh Ross do forbid and forewarn all persons having any dealings with Mary Ross, my wife, for I will not be accountable for them. I do forbid any person or persons purchasing any notes or bonds against me.
Joseph Ross.
June 22d, 1841.

New Post Offices
The Ottawa Free Trader, June 28, 1844
New Post Offices
The following new post offices have recently been established:
At Eagle, in La Salle county, with Norton Mackey as post master.
At Winnebago, Bureau county with Jacob Sells as post master.
At Ridge Farm, in La Salle county with Elmer Baldwin as post master.

Bullock Appointed Post Master
The Ottawa Free Trader, January 3, 1845
Jas. S. Bullock has been appointed post master at Vermillionville, in this county, in place of L. W. Dimmick, resigned: and
John Hoffman, Esq., post master at La Salle, in this county.

Asa Holdridge Raises 612 lb Hog
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, February 27, 1846
A hog raised by Mr. Young of Bunker Hill, Ills., was sold in this market yesterday, which weighed 498 lbs., net. - St. Louis Repub.
Taking of hogs, this brings to mind what we forgot to mention last week - that a hog, raised by Mr. Asa Holdridge, of Point Republican, in this county, was sold in this market on Monday of last week, that weighed 612 pounds. That was a hog.

Samuel Ebersol Grows Mammoth Squash
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, November 27, 1846
Mammoth Squashes
Mr. Samuel Ebersol of South Ottawa precinct, left with us a large Mammoth Squash, weighing 90 lbs. This is the largest Squash we have ever seen and we think will be hard to beat. We also received on a short time since, from Mr. Joseph Hoy of Indian Creek, but not as large as that of Mr. Ebersol. We thank our friends for their valuable presents and during the winter will pleasingly remember them while enjoying their valuable presents.

Mount Knickerbocker changed to Norway
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, January 8, 1847
The name of the Post office at Mount Knickerbocker, La Salle county has been changed to Norway and Mr. J. P. App has been appointed Postmaster.

William Reddick Appointed Aid to Governor
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, January 22, 1847
Appointment by the Governor
Wm. Reddick of La Salle County to be aid to the Governor with the rank of Colonel. We tip our beaver to Col. Reddick, and are requested by his numerous friends here to state that they will be happy to meet him at any time after the adjournment of the Legislature and at such a place as he may previously designate to celebrate the honors conferred by the Governor. Eyes right! Heads up!

Post Office Changed to Hardin
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, August 13, 1847
The name of the post office at Munsen, in this county, has been changed to Hardin. Dr. T. B. West is the P. M.

Rezin Debolt's Hog
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, February 4, 1848
The finest lot of pork yet brought in - Forty hogs averaging 314 pounds apiece were brought in yesterday by Mr. Rezin Debolt of Trenton precinct, in this county and bought by Mr. Boughton. We will send the Free Trader one year gratis to any farmer of LaSalle county who can beat it.

New Post Office - Wright
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, January 7, 1848
New Post Offices
The following new post offices have been established:
Wright, La Salle county, supplied from Peru. C. R. Potter, P.M.

Sheldon Cadwell's Hog Beats Debolt's
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, February 25, 1848
Sometime since we offered the Free Trader for one year to any farmer in this county who could beat the lot of pork brought in by Mr. Rezin Debolt. This morning a note was handed us from Mr. Sheldon Cadwell, of Vermillion precinct, requesting us to send him the "proffered reward," as he had sold to Mr. Harmon, in Peru, a lot of 64 hogs averaging 303 ¾ lbs. - 40 of the best averaging 400. Mr. Cadwell shall have the paper, of course.

Mr. Wentworth to Escort John Quincy Adams Remains to Interment
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, March 17, 1848
Mr. Wentworth of this District, has been appointed by Speaker Winthrop one of the Committee to escort the remains of the venerable John Quincy Adams to the place designated by his friends for interment.

River Navigation
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, April 7, 1848
The River
The river still continues in good navigable order to this place. We had the pleasure of seeing the jolly countenance of Capt. Rider, with his fine boat the "Timoleon," on Monday, at our wharf, where he left a very handsome pile of freight. The Timoleon is a large boat, yet draws as little water as any boat on the river and is behind none for speed. The incomparable "Prairie Bird," was also here on Thursday, and left a heavy freight.
Merchants above, who get their groceries, &c., from St. Louis could save sixteen miles hauling, if they would always insist on boats unloading here instead of at Peru, while the river is navigable to this point, which is always the case in spring, although many boats affect not to know it.
Capts. Rider of the Timeleon and Capt. Pratt of the "Bird," have our thanks for late St. Louis papers.

Flooding on the Fox and Illinois Rivers (Spring 1849)
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, March 2, 1849
High Water. - During the past week the streams have risen to an alarming height. Both the Illinois and Fox Rivers have swollen to between twenty-one and twenty-two feet above their ordinary stages and should the snow, which fell during the last night, melt suddenly or go off by rain before the streams fall, there is no calculating the damage that would result from the flood. The water at present is but a few feet off the Fox River bridge. The ice above the bridge is still unbroken and it is hoped will remain so till the water falls; for should it go at the present stage, it would, at many places badly wash the banks of the canal, whilst the aqueduct at this place would be by no means safe and the bridge certain to go. We understand the water is up to the windows in the lower part of Peru.

Mr. Sharwood Beats Mr. Delano's Fishing Record
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, March 30, 1849
We are sorry for our friend Delano, of the Fox River House. His reputation's gone. Hitherto he has stood unrivalled in this region as a fisherman - taking not only vastly more than anybody else, but larger ones. But he must "come down" now on size. The largest muskellunge he has caught we believe weighed 28 or 29 pounds. Mr. Sharwood caught one at Dayton on Monday with a hook and line, that weighed over 32 lbs.! It was over four feet long and 9 inches across the body. We got the head! It looks like that of some monster of the "briny deep."

Mr. Black Missing
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, April 20, 1849
A young man named Black, a clerk in the office of Glover & Cook, attorneys in this place, left for Peru about the 20th Feb., last, on business, to be gone a day or two, but has not been heard of since, although inquiry has been made. It is feared some accident has happened to him. He was about twenty-five years old, 5 ft., 6 in. high. He left his clothes, &c. he came here with the highest recommendations from Messrs. Osgood & Little of Joliet and while here conducted himself with the strictest propriety. Any information in regard to him will be thankfully received by Messrs. Glover & Cook.

George Lamb Won't Pay Wife's Debts
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, April 27, 1849
Whereas Ann E. Lamb has left my bed and board without any just cause I forbid anyone harboring or trusting her on my account, as I shall pay no debts of hers contracting after this date.
George H. Lamb
Paw Paw, April 26, 1849

J. D. Mark Loses Pocket Book
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, June 15, 1849
Lost between this office and the opposite side of the Ill. River, a leather pocket book with a steel clasp, contain some money in Wisconsin bills, and an order on Mr. Rugg for a harvesting machine, with a receipt and a warrantee for the machine, a note on Blackmore for 20 dollars and other valuable papers. A liberal rewarad will be paid to any person delivering it here or at Walker and Hickling's store or giving any information that will lead to its discovery. The name J. D. Marks, owner of the pocket book will be found on most of the papers.

Mr. Erwin Missing
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, August 17, 1849
We can see no motive for remaining silent in reference to the fact that Mr. Erwin who has kept a warehouse and lumber yard at this place since last fall, and been dealing in produce, has very mysteriously disappeared. He went to Chicago on business, accompanied by Mrs. E., three weeks ago last Saturday. On the following Monday he left Chicago to go across to St. Joseph, to purchase lumber, we believe, leaving Mrs. E. in Chicago, but further than that he went aboard the Sam Ward and paid his fare, nothing has since been heard of him. Diligent search has been made at Chicago, New Buffalo, Niles, St. Joseph, &c., but to no purpose. There is nothing whatever to show, beyond his paying his fare on the Sam Ward, that he ever got out of Chicago. Of course his relatives and friends are racked by the most distressing uncertainty as to his fate. As far as we have been able to learn, not the slightest reason exists why he should thus have absented himself voluntarily and indeed that he has done so is not imagined by any one acquainted with the man or his circumstances.

Mr. E. B. Newton's Inn
The Ottawa Free Trader, Ottawa, Illinois, December 22, 1849
To Travelers - Mr. E. B. Newton is running a comfortable, covered carriage between this place and Peoria, semi-weekly, on the south side of the Illinois River, via Vermillionville, Lowell, Point Republic, Mount Palatine, Magnolia, Metalora (Metamora?), & c. He leaves Ottawa every Wednesday and Saturday mornings and returns Friday and Tuesday evenings. Mr. N. will attend to anny (any) business entrusted to his care, along his line, on reasonable terms.

January 23, 1857

Until further notice, trains on the Illinois Central Railroad will run as follows:

Pass Lasalle at 	 2:10 p.m.	Pass Decatur	 7:00 a.m.
""   ""			 1:35 a.m.	""  ""		 5:15 p.m.
Bloomington at		 5:10 p.m.	Bloomington	 9:10 a.m.
""  ""			 4:40 p.m.	""  ""		 8:12 p.m.
Decatur 		 7:20 p.m.	Lasalle		12:12 p.m.
""  ""			 6:50 a.m.	"" ""		11:15 p.m.
Mendota			 12:25 p.m.	Mendota		 1:15 p.m.
""  ""			12:35 a.m.	""  ""		12:35 a.m.
					Amboy		 2:20 p.m.
					""  ""		 1:25 a.m.
					Freeport	 5:00 p.m.
					""  ""		 3:40 a.m.

Trains going south connect at Decatur for Springfield, Jacksonville and Naples;  and at Pana for all parts of Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana, for Balt., Wash. City, Philadelphia, Pittsburg.

Trains going north connect at Mendota with the C.B. & Q. R.R. for Burlington, Quincy, and all towns west on that road; and for New York, Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, and all towns east on that road.  At Dixon with Dixon Air Line Road for Sterling, Fulton City, and for Genevia.  At Freeport with the G. and C.U. R.R. for Madison, Jonesville, Beloit and Rockford, and all towns in Wisconsin: at Dunleith with the Minneso. Packet Co's. 1st class steamers for St. Paul, Winona, La Crosse, and all towns on the Upper Mississippi river.

Aug. 15, 1856.
JAS. C. CLARK, Sup't

Illinois State Democrat, Aug. 29, 1860

Contributed by Candi Horton

William Powell, of Somonauk, La Salle county, cut seven acres of wheat a few days since, and counted on thirty bushels to the acre. The seven acres yielded 327 bushels, or nearly fifty bushels to the acre.

Illinois State Democrat, Wed. Sept. 5, 1860

Contributed by Candi Horton

The LaSalle Press learns that the stock- holders of the Northern Illinois Coal and Iron Company are about to commence a suit against Col. E. D. Taylor, President of said company, for $10,000 damages, for conspiring with the miners to promote his own ends.

Edwardsville Intelligencer, March 31, 1870

Contributed by Kim Torp

A nine feet vein of coal was struck in the town of Bruce, in LaSalle county, a few days ago 80 feet below the surface, on land owned by Mr. David Straw -

The Dixon Telegraph (Dixon, Illinois)
August 21, 1872

A wholesale marrying occurred at the German Catholic chruch in Peru, Ill., on Sunday, the 11th of August - ten couples, all Poles, from LaSalle, being united at the same time.

The Dixon Sun (Dixon, Illinois)
November 19, 1873

The following is from the Sandwich Ill. Free Press: Mr. George Wallace, of Earlville, informed us recently, that while he was on his way to Chicago, as a representative to the Farmer's Club, he overheard a conversation on the train between Mr. William Munson of Freedom and Mr. D. C. Maylor, a heavy coal merchant of LaSalle, who owns 2,000 acres of land, and employs 4,000 men. They had never met before, but commenced conversing about their family affairs. They both came to Illinois in 1828; both married the same year; both had thirteen children; both had seven now living; both had the same number married; both sent their youngest children to the same school, in South Bend, Ind. Mr. Taylor is 69 years of age, and Mr. Munson is sixty-seven - both stout healthy men "without an unsound tooth in their head." Mr. Munson's first wife was a member of the Hall family, who were captured by the Indians at Harding, when she was but sixteen years of age. Then again, each had four daughters married, and each had one son, neither belonged to a church, and both were Democrats; and both are known to be rich and talented men. Where is there such another couple?

May 7, 1874

"Clipper" is the name of a new steamer belonging to Huse, Loomis & Co.  It is in size between the Beaver and McCook, and is intended for general work between here and Henry. So says the Peru Herald.

Patrick O'Brien
Henry Republican, Henry IL, May 17, 1883
The La Salle Democrat says that Patrick O'Brien of that city, is 101 years of age and in possession of all his mental faculties. He was born in Ireland, was married three times, was in the employ of Dean Terry's father before the Dean was born, voted for Andrew Jackson. Shook hands with Clay, Calhoun and other statesmen of their day, heard Webster's Bunker Hill speech and always lived a solid, honest, all-wool-and-a yard-wide democrat.

The Daily Review (Decatur, Illinois) July 1, 1886

John Murphy, the insane stranger captured near Boody, a few days ago, belonged to LaSalle county, having escaped from the poor house in May. He has been returned to that county by Sheriff Milligan, who came after him.

Taken From The Toluca Star Newspaper
March 21, 1902  - Around About Us

The entire county of LaSalle, by an order issued March 6, by Postmaster General is to have the free rural mail delivery as soon as practical. Several petitions for rural mail routes have been forwarded to Congressman Reeves recently and when the matter was taken up with the postal department it was decided to establish the rural mail service through the entire county.

Taken From The Toluca Star Newspaper
December 19, 1902

Spring Valley and LaSalle Interburan Completed

The steel bridge across the Illinois river at Spring Valley was completed at 10 o’clock last Friday night, and a short time thereafter the first car passed over. The interburan now connects Ladd, Spring Valley, Peru and LaSalle, and there is much rejoicing along the line.

Florian Afton Gets His Children
The Putnam Record, Hennepin, Putnam Co., Illinois, Wednesday, January 23, 1907. No. 31
- Contributed by Jack C. Henning

Afton Gets His Children

Florian Afton, of Ottawa, who formerly lived in this county, and married a Miss Grasser here, is again in the lime light. Afton seems to delight in legal controversies and The Record has frequently copied items form the Ottawa papers regarding his escapades. The Chicago Record-Herald, of January 16, had a long story about Afton's troubles, which is taken at Ottawa with many grains of doubt, but which, it is hoped, may be his last. We copy below a portion of the Chicago story:
Florian Afton, an Ottawa, Ill., gardener, who claims to be the "champion ill-luck man of Illinois," yesterday gained a final victory in his seven year fight with Superintendent Hastings H. Hart of the Illinois Children's Home and Aid Society for the custody of his children. Judge Gibbons issued the order that gave the father his daughter, Sarah, aged 17 years, and two sons, George, aged 13, and Frank, aged 11, and the quartet expect to join the other children today at their old home and start life anew.
During the long struggle, which Afton said cost him $2,000, his house, he asserts, has been set on fire three times, his wife and two children have died; he has been arrested and spent five days in jail; he has traveled more than 5,000 miles and has petitioned a dozen judges of Cook county for the custody of his children. In addition he said that he had been repeatedly threatened with violence if he did not leave Ottawa.
Mr. Afton said his trouble stared when he for the public welfare wrote a letter to an Ottawa newspaper charging a banker with "forgetting" to pay all of his taxes. That banker, he said, was the chairman of the associated charities, and court proceedings to declare Afton's children dependents were soon afterwards begun.

Ann Roth Requesting a Separation from Stinky Husband
Alleging that her husband, Adam Roth, has not taken a bath since their marriage in 1901, Anna Roth of La Salle county, Ill., asks for legal separation. [Times-Promoter. (Hernando, DeSoto County, Miss.), 19 June 1908 FOFG KT]

Friday, Nov. 21, 1913, Ste Marie Tribune, Jasper Co, IL
Contributed by KT FOFG
Thrown into jail for a debt under law which the La Salle county officials call "old and barbarous", William J. Parks, a La Salle real estate dealer, is conducting his business by telephone from his cell.

LaSalle County Raises Money through Liquor Fines

Edwardsville Intelligencer (Edwardsville, Illinois) February 12, 1916

Raising the Wind

LaSalle County has ways of raising revenue which have apparently never occurred to the officials of other counties. In LaSalle County this week 250 saloon keepers were found guilty of violating the Sunday closing law, and their fines aggregated more than $15,000. They had to pay them, too, the prosecution not being for political effect or anything of that sort. Unfortunately Madison county has no saloons which keep open on Sunday or perhaps no interested officials. At least nothing of this kind ever happens in Madison County.

Lasalle County 1925 Gossip News

Gossip / Visiting -
Mr. and Mrs. Everett Smith of Robinson, spent the week-end with the latter's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Frank Pogue.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Miss Blanch Nale was able to visit her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. John Nale Sunday.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

John Sefton and Leslie McConnell each lost a horse last week.[Source:
"The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Frank Pogue traded his farm to Alfred Pierce for a farm in Indiana and will have their sale next Tuesday, February 17. [Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Roscoe Dow is home at present.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Mrs. Nellie Headlee and mother called on Mrs. Pogue Friday
afternoon.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Floyd Colelasure and family visited Tuesday at John Wood's.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Sick List -
Little Everett Dow has been on the sick list the past week.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record" (Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

Ernie Colelasure is very poorly.[Source: "The Flora Journal-Record"
(Clay Co., Ill.) 12 February 1925]

The Caton Telegraph Shop

LaSalle Country factory once turned out prized telegraph

(Donated by Charles Steck - Newspaper article date unknown.)

According to the article, the Civil War era had the equivilent of the cell phone.  The device was a portable telegraph key called the Caton Pocket relay which was manufactured at a factory in Ottawa, LaSalle County, Illinois.  The Caton Telegraph Instrument Shop was founded by Illinois Supreme Court Judge, John Dean Caton of Ottawa.  He was born in New York in 1812.  In 1833, John Caton moved to Chicago to study law and then in 1842 became a resident of Ottawa, Illinois where he had moved for health reasons. At the same time, he was appointed to the state Supreme Court.

In 1849, John Caton was asked to assist in bringing the first telegraph line into Illinois from St. Louis.  The Mississippi Telegraph Company was formed with Caton as one of the directors.  John Caton became as knowledgable as possible about telegraphy and even learning how to send and receive messages. When the company began to fail, he used his political clout to get helpful laws passed and took over as the company president.  John Caton expanded the operation into Iowa and Minnesota and was contracted to install telegraph lines along railroad routes.  He also worked on improving the reliability of the telegraph lines.  To prevent the problem of rotting telegraph poles, John Caton explored swamps in Green Bay, Wisconsin by canoe with Chippewa Indian guides, where he selected Cedar trees for use as more durable poles.  In order to have a reliable source of telegraphers and equipment, he founded the Caton Telegraph Shop in 1849.

The Caton Telegraph Instrument Shop produced some of the finest telegraph instruments of the 1800's.  The author of "Key and Telegraph" column for the quarterly journal of the Antique Wireless Association stated in the article that telegraph factories as large as the Caton Telegraph Shop were not very common - especially in the 1850's.  There were a couple of big shops on the East Coast, mainly in New York, one in Kentucky and the Caton Telegraph Shop.

The article states that after the civil war, this factory in Ottawa was the second largest of those owned by Western Union, who was at that time an industry giant.  In 1872 the business was sold to the Western Electric Manufacturing company and the shop equipment and employees were moved to Chicago.  They became a part of Western Electric, which for decades was a huge supplier of equipment for the Bell Telephone Company.  

The building that once housed the factory is no longer occupied by any business and is not recognized locally.  


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