The History of Utica, LaSalle County, IL

Transcribed by Nancy Piper

North Utica was laid out October 16th, 1852, by J. H. Wagner, County Surveyor for Hiram Higby, who platted that portion north of the canal and west of the sectional line. On May 5th, 1859, James Clark made the first addition to the town, including that portion directly east of the original town, separated by Clark street. He has since made several additions to the town.

Mr. Clark opened a small store in his stone warehouse, and soon after the canal was opened was appointed postmaster, which office he held for some time. The first store building was erected by a man named Pearce. It is now occupied by Thad. O'Sullivan. Wm. Simmons erected a tavern about the same time. It is now the residence of Mr. Geo. Cook. A good hotel was not built until Mr. Clark erected one near the depot, which burned down a year ago. Mr. Clark's first house occupied the site of his present residence on the bluff overlooking the town. When he opened the Cement works, in 1845, and later built his warehouse, the site of town was almost in its primitive state, only a few cabins being erected, and these generally by the laborers employed upon the canal. Soon after the town was laid out, Edward Golden built a residence just south of the canal and Mr. Geo. Cook, still a resident, moved into a double log cabin near the foot of the bluff, where he for a time kept boarders.

The railroad traffic began in April, 1853, and from that time the growth of Utica has been constant. A frame depot building was erected soon after, which remained until destroyed by fire, when it was superseded by the present stone structure. The fire from the former depot communicated with and destroyed Mr. Clark's hotel.

The increase in the grain trade continued from the opening of the canal. In 1863, Mr. D.G. Weld erected a second warehouse and began the business. A good idea of the amount of corn shipped from this point may be obtained by examining the books of the elevator companies, which show for the years from 1867 to 1874, inclusive, one million, one hundred and sixty-four thousand bushels shipped. In addition to this large amount, great quantities of oats, rye and barley were shipped on the railroad. Owing to the lack of suitable stock yards, shipments of cattle and hogs have averaged only from seventy-five to one hundred cars per annum. These are just now completed, and that branch of trade will materially increase. About 1863, a pottery was established, which for a few years confined itself to the manufacture of crockery ware. In 1869 it was changed into a tile factory and as such is building up a good trade.

One of the chief attractions of the town is the abundant supply of excellent water from artesian wells, two of which have been sunk in the village limits. These were put down in 1874, one to a dpth of one hundred and thirty-five feet, and one to a depth of two hundred and fifty feet. Threee veins of pure water were struck, all of which yield copiously. Mr. Clark, by means of a force pump, conveys the water to his residence, much higher than the surface at the mouth of the well. It also supplied the railroad tank and by means of pipes is conveyed over the town.

Utica contains about five hundred inhabitants, is well supplied with good stores, several shops, in addition to the large industries and controls a large trade with the surrounding country. It was incorporated as a town in 1867. The election for the first board of trustees was held on November 9th of that year, and resulted as follows: John L. Clark, James M. Higby, T.E. Culver, E.F. Dimmick and Patrick Ryan. This board chose for its President, Mr. Higby and for clerk, Mr. Dimmick. The town still continues under the village corporation.

Social Interests

A school district was established before the town of North Utica was laid off. A small comfortable log house was built near the site of the stone warehouse and school taught therein some time. A school house was afterwards built near the canal, which was used until 1850, when the present stone school house was erected. As the growth of the town has increased two other buildings have been erected one of which contains two rooms. Three teachers are employed in the summer and four in the winter. Mr. J.M. Day is the present superintendent.

The Catholic society is the only one in town occupying a church. They have been organized about fifteen years, and, prior to the erection of their present church, occupied a frame building, which, on a Sunday morning some years ago, suffered destruction by fire from a defective flue. The present commodious brick and stone church soon occupied the place fo the former one. The congregation has enjoyed a good increase from the original memebership and are under the pastorate of Father Terry, of Ottawa.

The Baptists have fore many years maintained a society about a mile north of town. As this has become rather inconvenient to the members in town, about six months ago an organization was perfected her, which now numbers about forty members. They worship in hall. The Congregationalists did for some time maintain a church, but owing to a decrease in membership, the organization has been disbanded.

Utica is in sight of the famous Starved Rock, to which so many curiosity seekers go every year. The site of the old town was the site of one of the largest Indian villages in the Mississippi valley, and it was here that the famous Robert De La Salle, on his downward voyage of discovery about the last of Decmeber, 1680, landed and found the village then deserted, the inhabitants being absent on the chase, and after helping himself to some maize, proceeded on down the river.


Cement Chapter, No. 58, R.A.M. - Officers: C. C. Halladay, H.P. James Clark, K.; Wm Wilson, S.; John L. Clark, C.H.; T. E. Culver, P.S.; C.C. Perrin, Sec'y. Meets at Utica each Saturday succeeding the meeting of Cement Lodge No. 304.

Cement Lodge, No. 304, A.F. & A. M. - Officers: C.C. Halladay, M.; F.A. Leonard, S.W.; J. B. Cundiff, J.W.; M. D. Leanred, Treas.; C. J. Gardnre, Sec'y. Regular communications every Tuesday evening after the full moon.

Utica Lodge, No. 402, I.O.O.F. - Officers: Geo. Bennett, N.G.: Alex. Dalziel, V.G.; Edwin Smith, Sec'y; Henry Bartlett, Trease.; Dr. Clugston, D.G.M. & G.R. Meets at Utica every Wednesday evening.

Starved Rock Lodge, No. 22, I.O. of G.T. - Officers: Alex. Dalziel, W.C.T.; Miss M. Erwin, V. T.; Miss S. Fallis, Sec'y; Miss Mary Dodd, Treas.; E. Smith, L.D. Meets at Utica every Friday evening.

[Source: The Past and present of La Salle County, Illinois, Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., Ottaway & Colbert, printers), 1877. Page 334-336]

TheVillage of Utica

The village of Utica is situated about one mile north of the Illinois River, on the Illinois & Michigan Canal and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad. Old Utica was a town situated on the bank of the river. It was laid out by George H. Norris, Deputy County Surveyor, for G. H. Walker, owner of a store in Ottawa and a speculator in Western town sites. It was first occupied by Simon Crosiear who built a large frame warehouse in which he kept a small stock of goods and the first post ffice. Two years later Thomas Brown opened a small grocery store. A few shops were built and also a tavern by G. W. Armstrong. This point for a time was considered the head of navigation and boats arrived and departed with some regularity. For a time Old Utica promised to be the metropolis of La Salle County, but when the canal was built it missed Utica and Peru was made the terminus. This was the death blow to Old Utica and it now stands like Goldsmith's deserted village. Instead of the panting of the river boat, its shrill note of arrival and departure, and the busy hum of the cheerful denizens of the embryo town on the shore,

"Along its glades a solitary guest,
The hollow sounding bittern guards its nest;
Sunk on its bowers in shapeless ruin all,
And the rank weeds o'er top the crumbling wall."

But nature has been lavish in bestowing her gifts upon this section of the country. The natural advantages for business are the best in the county. The canal was completed in 1848 and the next year James Clark erected a stone warehouse on the bank of the canal. Mr. Clark opened a small store in his warehouse and soon after the canal was opened was appointed Postmaster, which office he held for some time. The first store building was erected by a man by the name of Pearce. William Simons erected a tavern about the same time. Mr. Clark's first house occupied the site of his present residence on the bluff, overlooking the town.

North Utica was laid out Oct. 16, 1852, by J. H. Wagner, County Surveyor, for Hiram Higby, who platted that portion north of the canal and west of the section line. May 5, 1859, James Clark made the first addition to the town, including the portion directly east of the original town, separated by Clark street. He has since made several additions to the town.

Soon after the town was laid out, Edward Golden built a residence just south of the canal, and Mr. George Cook moved into a double log cabin near the foot of the bluff, where he for a time kept boarders. From that time to the present Utica has had a slow but permanent growth. In 1867 it was incorporated as a village, and an election was held Nov. 9, which resulted in the election of the following Trustees: John L. Clark, J. M. Higby, T. E. Culver, E. F. Dimmick and Patrick Ryan. Mr. Higby was chosen President and Mr. Dimmick, Secretary. It continued under the corporation until 1885 when it was incorporated under the general law, May 8.

The 1886 Board of Trustees are: H. S. Gilbert, J. E. McGuire, John Holeman, T. O'Sullivan and R. Hallett. James Clark is President; T. H. Marbin, Clerk, and A. C. Stage, Treasurer.


Cement Manufacturing

While the business men of Utica are energetic and have as much push as the average of men engaged in business, it is not to them that Utica owes its growth and prosperity. The manufactures are not institutions of a "hot-bed" growth, but are of a permanent character. They have forced themselves upon the people rather than have been drawn out by the business men. There is no other locality in the broad State of Illinois where there is as much clay, sand and hydraulic limestone of such a superior quality and so easily accessible as in Utica, and the only surprising feature about it is that more have not engaged in the business. When the canal was constructing, a very fine quality of magnesium limestone was discovered, and a mill was built by Norton & Steel, who had a con tract to furnish cement for the building of the canal. In 1845 the property was purchased by James Clark, who has had control of the business ever since. After the canal was built, sale for the cement was found elsewhere.

In 1853 a large stone mill was erected which is still in use. From time to time improvements have been made. At one time the kilns were located on the edge of the bluff near the mill, and the raw rock was conveyed from its bed in the river bottom to the kilns by means of a horse-car rail way. Patent processes of grinding and burning are now used. The material is burned at the beds where found. The stone now used is found just beneath St. Peter's sandstone, and is not over six or eight feet from the surface. It makes a superior quality of cement which is largely sold throughout the Northwest. About 150,000 barrels are annually manufactured. From seventy-five to one hundred men are employed. In 1883 a joint-stock company was formed of which James Clark is President; C. J. Gardner, Vice-President; and N. J. Carey, Secretary and Treasurer.

There are three kinds of clay found in the vicinity of Utica. What is called the blue fire-clay is found in the banks across the river and is found no where else in the State. In the same banks is another quality of clay called the plastic clay, and is used in rolling mills, etc. Large quantities of it are shipped to Chicago by E. J. Reynolds & Co., who also ship fire-sand. The third quality of clay is found up the canal, and is called shale. It is of a yellowish color and when mixed with the blue clay makes a very superior quality of sewer pipe.

Utica Sewer Pipe and Terra Cotta Company

Over twenty years ago a man by the name of Perry, who was in the employ of James Clark, discovered that the clay found at Utica was of a superior quality, and in company with a Mr. Merrigold established a pottery. These two men conducted the business for a time and sold out to James Clark, who afterward converted it into a sewer-pipe factory. Mr. Clark continued the business for a number of years and sold out to the present firm, which is known as the Utica Sewer Pipe and Terra Cotta Company. The stock holders are: James C. Reynolds, Thomas Connelly, H. S. Gilbert, E. J. Manchester and G.C. Cadwell. J. O. Reynolds is President and Manager, and H. S. Gilbert is Secretary and Treasurer. The company was organized in 1882, and the present buildings erected on the south side of the canal the same year. The main building is 380 x 60 feet, and is two and one-half stories high. The entire works cover about two acres. There are ten kilns in operation and about forty-five men are employed. The capacity is forty tons per day. The company is doing a business of about $50,000 annually. It is the largest factory of the kind in the State and is excelled by but few in the United States. Sewer pipe, ground clay, fire brick, fire proofing, large drain tile, chimney flues, chimney tops and lawn vases are manufactured.

In 1864 Judge Wilson and a Mr. Goodrich, from Chicago, were in Utica hunting a fine quality of clay. They made arrangements with A. T. Griffin to send them a barrel of clay that it might be tested. On testing its qualities it was found to be of a superior quality. Mr. Griffin immediately commenced the shipping of it, his business amounting to only $300 the first year. Since then, however, it has sometimes amounted to over $10,000 annually. He ships both clay and sand. The sand is of two kinds, called fire-sand and glass sand. Some of it is ninety-eight per cent silica. Mr. Griffin erected buildings on the north side of the canal and commenced the manufacture of tile and fire-brick. In the last four years the buildings have been twice destroyed by fire and each time have been rebuilt. There are five kilns now in operation and about 100 men are employed. The business represents a capital of $100,000.

Other Businesses

H. S. Gilbert & Co. have a large grain elevator situated on the north bank of the canal, with a capacity of 50,000 bushels. This company does the largest business of any in the county. It has elevators at Grand Ridge, Ottawa, South Ottawa, Wedron, Buffalo Rock, Henry and Hennepin.

The lumber-yard was opened in 1873 by E. F. Pulsifer and it now covers two acres, with a capital stock of $18,000 invested. It is situated just south of the canal and six men are employed.

Mr. Pulsifer owns also the large elevator situated on the south side of the canal near the bridge. It has a capacity of about 50,000 bushels. It was purchased from Mr. Wells in 1872. Mr. Pulsifer resides in Chicago.


General stores, E. E. Taylor, J. P. Hazel, J. E. McGuire, Dennis Lynch, T. O'Sullivan and M. D. Learned & Co.; grocers, Ira Conover and Martin Stack; restaurant, C. P. Fetterer; hardware, E. F. Wagenknecht and John Holeman; agricultural implements, Lassig & Castendyke; druggists, H. W. Higby & Co. and K. W. Leland & Co.; harness shop; J. Fitzgerald; wagon-maker, C. C. Perrin; blacksmiths, E. D. Smith and C. C. Perrin; barbers, Emil Karrer and J. B. Cundiff; milliners, Miss Jennie Coughlin; shoe shop, A. Sonne and T. C. Niccum; carpenters, T. E. Culver and John Chrisholm; painter, T. L. Higher; lumber yard, E. T. Pulsifer; elevators, H. S. Gilbert & Co., and E. T. Pulsifer; hotels, Cement House by M. Prentice and Utica House by L. R. Irvin; livery stable, William Fowler; Utica Hydraulic Cement Company, James Clark, President; Utica Sewer Pipe Company, J. C. Reynolds, President; Utica Fire-Brick Company, A. T. Griffin; saloons, Peter Cosgrove, M. Cavanaugh, T. O'Sullivan and Byrnes & Holland; Utica Weekly Blade, edited by O. M. Hale; physician, C. O. Courtright.

There are three churches, Baptist, Methodist and Catholic, and one school-house.


In 1876 the Utica Enterprise was established by D. L. Hennessey. The Utica Gazette was established by W. A. Wells in 1880, and two years later changed its name to the Utica News, under the management of W. P. Wilson. July 18, 1885, the Utica Weekly Blade was established by C. M. Hale.


Utica's prominent physicians have been: J. M. Higby, C. A. Wilcox, F. B. Clark, F. Clendenen, Dr. Gale, Dr. Rose, D. A. Clugston, Dr. Carson, C. O. Courtright and K. W. Leland. No lawyers have ever undertaken to make a living here.


The first school-house built in Utica was in 1845. It was a log cabin and stood near the canal. The first Directors were D. Campbell, A. O. Crosiar and James Clark. In 1850 Hiram Higby donated two lots on which was built a stone school-house at a cost of $500. James Donaldson was the contractor. The Directors for that year were A. O. Crosiar, James Clark and James Donaldson. Since that time two frame buildings have been erected. In the last year a new brick school-house has been erected. It is two stories in height with a basement, contains six rooms, is heated by steam, will accommodate 300 pupils. The building cost over $5,000. The Directors are: J. E. McGuire, John Holeman and Ira Conover. The cost of the school per year is about $1,800. The apparatus is valued at $100. A flowing artesian well is situated near the school-house. One male and three female teachers are employed. Two hundred and ninety-one pupils are enrolled. In the village there are 253 males under the age of twenty-one years, and 204 females, making a total of 45-7.


The Baptist Society in Utica was founded in 1868, and has undergone many trials and tribulations in the seventeen years of its existence. Messrs. A. T. Griffin, H. S. Gilbert, G. O. Cadwell and Deacon Harris have been its strongest supporters. Its former pastors were Rev. I. O. Falls, Rev. Ray, Rev. G. T. Raymond, Rev. J. C. Shipp and Rev. Charles Boaz. In the last year a neat little church parlor has been fitted up. The Sunday-school, under the superintendency of H. S. Gilbert, averaged 135 during the last year. Its collections were $233.

Methodist Episcopal Church.- At an early day the Methodist society held meetings in Utica. The society owned no church, but met in halls, etc. Services were held occasionally by local and appointed ministers. In 1885 a church was erected on the lots donated by Mrs. W. B. Davidson for that purpose. The church is a very handsome little edifice 50 x 32 feet and is seated with opera chairs. It cost about $2,000. Rev. A.. Saunders is at present supplying the pulpit. The society numbers about forty members.

The Catholic Church was established in Utica, in 1856, under the spiritual guidance of Father O'Reilly, of La Salle. A few years later it was transferred to Ottawa and was presided over by the late Dean Terry, for upward of twenty years. Until the year 1883 the church at Utica was what was called a mission church and belonged either to Ottawa or La Salle. It became an independent church in 1884, and is now under the charge of the Rev. J. Canon Maynihan. The present church was built about eleven years ago at a cost $3,000. The society owns a fine parsonage. The church property is valued at $10,000. The lots were procured by the efforts of J. E. McGuire, Denis Lynch and T. O'Sullivan. The society at present numbers about 120 families.


Utica Lodge, .No. 402, I. O. O. F., was chartered Oct. 12, 1869, with the following members: Henry C. Phelps, R. I. Jackway, J. B. Peckham, J. D. G. Weld, C. C. Perrin and E. Fitzgerald. The first officers were: J. B. Peckham, N. G.; Dr. D. A. Clugston, V. G.; Henry C. Phelps, Sec.; J. D. G. Weld, Treasurer. The present officers are: P. W. Hadley, N. G.; K. Reynolds, V. G.; A. C. Stage, Sec.; Ira Conover, Treas.; A. E. Smith, War.; G. A. Bennett, Con.; Nels Linguist, 1. G.; A. C. Pearson, R. S. N. G.; L. Riggins, L. S. N. G.; James Isham, R. S. V. G.; A. Warner, L. S. V. G. ; John Holeman, Deputy Representative. The lodge numbers at present forty-two members. Four are deceased. The lodge first met in Lynch's ball, then removed to Clark's hall, and afterward returned to Lynch hall and remained there until it removed to its present quarters in 1884, at which time a building was erected at a cost of $3,500.

Utica Lodge, No. 141 A. O. U. W., was organized April 17, 1879, with twenty members. The first officers were: M. D. Learned, P. M. 'V.; James Briggs, M. W.; C. J. Gardner, Recorder; P. R. .Martin, Financier. The present officers are: J. P. Hazel, P. M. W.; F. Holeman, M. W.; F. A. Robbins, For.; David Dick, O.; A. C. Stage, Recorder; C. J. Gardner. Receiver; M. D. Learned, Financier; W. McCauslin, Guide; W. Swanland, O. W., M. Glancy, I. W.; C. J. Gardner, Representative. The lodge numbers forty-two members and meets every second and last Monday evening in each month in Odd Fellows hall.

Division No.3, A. O. H., was established in 1874: with sixteen members. The first officers are: P. Hoy, Pres.; Ed. Fitzgerald, Vice-Pres.; J. E. McGuire, Rec. Sec.; D. Lynch, Treas. The present officers are: John Larkins, Pres. ; Dennis Byrne, Vice-Pres.; John Clear, Rec. Sec.; William Landers, Fin. Sec.; Peter Cosgrove, Treas.; The division numbers about thirty members and meets the second Thursday evening of each month in Lynch's hall.

The members of the G. A. R. belong to the post at Ottawa.

At one time Cement Chapter, No. 58, R. A. M. ; Cement Lodge, No. 304, A.. F. & A. M., and Starved Rock Lodge, No. 22, I. O. G. T., were established in Utica but they are now defunct, or at least are inactive.

[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 675-682 - Transcribed by N. Piper]

Page 675-682

North Utica

The classed as a village, North (or New) Utica is a prosperous town situated north of the Illinois River and rich in its historical associations, scenery and mineral wealth. North Utica, incorporated March 5, 1869, had 1,150 inhabitants in 1900; by the census of 1910. These had dwindled to 976 and ten years later returned a total of 1037.

[History of La Salle County, Illinois. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1924.]

The History of Old Utica

Old Utica, as described by Elmer Baldwin was first occupied by Simon Crosiar, a native of Pennsylvania, "and, when the business was all done by river boats, was a commercial point of some importance, the boats arriving and departing with considerable regularity. It was regarded as the head of navigation, except at very high water when the boats ascended to Ottawa." After the opening of the Illinois and Michigan Canal and the construction of the railroad, its business declined and the northern settlement, at first known as New Utica, under the fostering influence of railroad and canal, became a busy and prosperous town. Simon Crosiar died in 1846, his widow, Mrs. Crosiar, survived him by twenty-five years "Both Mr. and Mrs. Crosar were bold, hardy and resolute."
[History of La Salle County, Illinois. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1924.]

Old Utica

At one period in the existence of this town, it promised to be the metropolis of LaSalle county. Situated at the head of navigation on the Illinois river, it was made the shipping point for St. Louis and Chicago. Steamers would come up to this place, discharge their cargoes, reload with other products and return down the river. This discharged cargo would be loaded into wagons and hauled to Chicago, then considered a town of very little importance. The town of Utica was then situated on the right bank of the river, directly south of the present town. It was laid out by Geo. H. Norris, deputy county surveyor, for Geo. E. Walker, owner of a store in Ottawa and a speculator in western town sites. Simon Crozier, an Indian trader, built a large frame warehouse soon after navigation commenced. Here he stored goods for further shipment and dealt in commodities needed by his neighbors, then very few. He was also postmaster, serving in that capacity some time. Two years after the town was laid out, Thomas Brown opened a grocery and dealt in what was then considered a necessary luxury - whiskey.

These two stores, few shops and a primitive tavern, built by Geo. W. Armstrong were all the old town contained. In order to secure the passage of the Canal act, it became necessary to secure one more vote in favor of the measure. The man willing to give that vote was found who came to the legislature from Peru. He would not, however, vote for the canal unless the terminus was made at Peru. This necessitated a new survey, which took the canal north of Utica, and changed the steamboat landing. This changed the whole character of the town and all its future prospects were annihilated. The steamers would only come to Peru and Utica could only hope to be an ordinary town on the canal route. Hence improvements stopped, and before long, where the new town called North Utica is now situated, the laborers began to erect cabins from the extensive growth of timber found here and the more sagacious citizens began preparations to remove to the canal.

The canal was completed in 1848 and the next year Mr. James Clark erected the stone warehouse on the bank of the canal. Four years before this he had purchased a cement mill, in operation at the foot of the bluff, which for some time had not been in a prosperous condition. From time to time he has enlarged and improved this industry, until he now manufactures seventy-five thousand barrels of hydraulic cement annually, and could make double that amount did the market warrant it. This industry was started to aid in the construction of the canal, where all the material was used for some time. The quarry where the cement is obtained is south of the canal, on the flats, where the stone can be had from one to six feet beneath the surface.

[Source: The Past and present of La Salle County, Illinois, Chicago: H.F. Kett & Co., Ottaway & Colbert, printers), 1877. Page 333-334]

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