The History of Dayton Village, LaSalle Co IL

Transcribed by Nancy Piper

Dayton Village

Dayton Village received its name from Dayton, Ohio. It was founded before the township of Dayton was organized. John Green erected a small mill where the village of Dayton now stands in 1830. At that time there was no mill within a hundred miles of Dayton. A few years after a larger mill was erected. It was a frame building, four stories high, with six run of burrs. At this time the business was very prosperous. In 1855 the present building was erected. The mill has always been owned and operated by the Green family.

The horse-collar factory was established in 1862 by George Pennypacker; afterward it was sold to A. F. Dunavan & Son, the present owners. There are eight laborers employed in this factory. It has a business of about $100,000 per year.

The paper-mill was established in 1875 by H.P. Williams & Co. Nothing but the coarser grades of brown paper are made. It is doing a fair business. About twelve or thirteen men are employed.

The woolen-mill was established in 1838 and used till the close of the war. In 1864 a stock company was formed and a stone building was erected in which the business was continued by Jesse Green until 1884, when it was converted into a firebrick manufactory. Besides these manufactures, there have been a tile factory, tannery, saw-mill and chair factory at Dayton. The water-power is said to be the best in the State.

John Green was the first merchant in Dayton Village. Aaron Ford, George Makinson, C. H. Green and John Channel have successively been merchants, there never being over one store at any one time.

The postoffice was established soon after the village was founded. Charles Miller was the first Postmaster. Jesse Green, C. Stickley and George Makinson have served since that time. William Dunavan was proprietor of the first hotel at Dayton. James Timmons now owns and is proprietor of the Dayton Hotel The population of Dayton Village, in 1880, was 217. Probably it will now reach nearly 250.

[Source: History of La Salle County, Illinois : together with sketches of its cities, villages and towns, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history, portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens : also a condensed History of Illinois, embodying accounts of prehistoric races, aborigines, Winnebago and Black Hawk wars, and a brief review of its civil and political history.. Chicago: Inter-State Pub. Co., 1886.Page 84]


The earliest settlement in the township of Dayton was made in the spring of 1829, by a Mr. Clark from Fort Clark, near Peoria. During the month of September Mr. John Green and brother made a journey through the northern and southern portions of Illinois, with a view of settlement. At the site of Dayton they found excellent water power, said to be equal to the best in the State and a good country surrounding it, which induced them to pass by the marshy and uninviting side of Chicago, where they were strongly urged to locate. They traveled as far south as the State Capitol, Vandalia, and finally entered a claim on what was then known as the Rapids of Fox river, four miles above its confluence with the Illinois river, it being canal land and subject to entry at that date.

Mr. John Green purchased Mr. Clark’s land and crops and then returned East for his family. On the second day of November he started with them for his new home in the West. They were forty-five days on the journey, landing at the cabin he had purchased of Mr. Clark, on the 15th of December. Part of his route was over a country without a road, and comprehending the needs of a new country, he brought with him mill irons for both a saw and grist mill, also mill-wrights, and by the next harvest had erected a saw mill, in one end of which he placed a pair of “Nigger Heads,” made from granite boulders near at hand and on the Fourth of July 1830, the first wheat was ground by water power in the northern section of the State.

Two years later the Black Hawk war broke out and the few settlers in this vicinity built a log fort around the residence of Mr. Green, in the present village and remained there until the evening of the massacre on Indian Creek, when, fearing the little fort would not protect them, they removed to Ottawa, reinforcing the small party already assembled there, and protected by a fort. Here they remained until fall, when the danger being considered past, they, in common with other settlers, returned to their claims. Peace being assured by the close of this war, and the removal of the Indians beyond the Mississippi river, settlers began to come in rapidly and in 1833 a more substantial mill was erected. Being located at the foot of the rapids, at an exposed point from the spring freshets, whereby it was damaged, in 1834 a mill containing six run of stone was built a little farther up the bluff, which for a number of years did the grinding for a country comprising a radius of more than fifty miles in extent. This mill was operated until 1855, when it was replaced by the present one. It has four run of stone and is now mainly supplying the home trade.

The woolen mills were built by John Green & Sons, who were the first in the State to manufacture by the use of the power loom. They used their first building for this purpose until 1864, when the present five story stone factory was erected. A good trade in cloth is maintained.

About the time the woolen mills were started, or soon after, Mr. Wm. Strattan established a second flouring mill, containing four ran of stone. It was operated some time, when becoming unremunerative it was abandoned. After lying idle several years it was torn away and in 1876, the present flourishing paper mill was erected by S.W. Williams & Company. They are now manufacturing about two tons of paper daily.

The old mill building, erected in 1834 was in 1868 or’69, converted into a horse-collar manufactory. It is making from two thousand to two thousand five hundred dozen collars annually.

This abundant water power caused the location of these factories and the growth of this small town. The site of the village was laid out by Daniel T. Hitt, County Surveyor, for Mr. Green, July 13th, 1837. As it is only four miles from the county seat, and upon a rather rough site, the growth of the town has been slow. The population is about three hundred. It contains one good store, a hotel, a few shops and the large industries already noted.

One of the finest sulphur springs in the West is situated a few miles above Dayton, and with a little improvement would make an excellent summer resort. The first store in Dayton was erected on the site of the present hotel barn. The present hotel is the only one every built here. It was erected by Wm. Dunnavan soon after the town was established.

The first school house was built on the hill not far from the present hotel and was used for educational and religious purposes until 1846, when a frame house was built. School was also held in a rented building and in the front room of Mrs. Goodrich’s residence. After that became too small the present school house was erected in 1859 or ’60. It contains one room, the school being conducted under the common school law. No church has ever been built in town, the school house answering that purpose or the people attending elsewhere, generally at Ottawa.

The railroad was completed in January 1871 through Dayton and by means of it coal is brought to town with great ease and cheapness, thus facilitating the natural advantages of the town as a manufacturing point. The village has never been incorporated, being governed under the township organization.

[The Past and present of La Salle County, Illinois : containing a history of the county, its cities, towns, &c., a biographical directory of its citizens, war record of its volunteers in the late rebellion, portraits of early settlers and prominent men, general and local statistics, map of La Salle County, history of Illinois, Constitution of the United States, miscellaneous matters, etc, etc.. Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., Ottaway & Colbert, printers), 1877. Page 349-350]

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