PAW PAW
REMINISCENCES OF PAW PAW

Photo from Karen Holt
History of Lee Co IL by Frank E. Stevens Vol 1 1914.
It was built in 1837 - Could it have been Mr. Town's?

THE FOLLOWING PAPER WAS READ AT A RECENT MEETING
OF THE TWENTIETH CENTURY CLUB
Contributed by Marilyn Widler

"The large part of Paw Paw was situated on a tract of land at the west end of Paw Paw grove. Two places chose the same name, Paw Paw township and Paw Paw grove, and it was decided by lot which should have the name of Paw Paw. This tract was bought by Peter May from George Town in 1841. When the Mays first came to this place, they reached here in the evening with a covered wagon, tired from their hard day's ride and they found their teams buried down in the mud and their wagons fast where the depot now stands. They could go no farther, which was no uncommon thing in those early days. They spent the night at the nearest house as every home was open to new comers and they were made very welcome. There had been a big fire that day and the house and store of Mr. Hastings was still smoldering.

"Mr. Town's log house was the first built where our village now stands and Peter May's cabin stood where Mrs. Siglin now lives. There was a brickyard at the east end of the grove and it was afterward moved to this town, being the first manufacturing plant located here. In 1845 Amos Sawyer erected a log cabin where the Detamore House now stands. Jacob Rogers, nicknamed "Prairie Rogers" because he chose to settle on the prairie as it was then called, away from the grove, settled on what is now the home of F. E. Rogers.

"Twelve years had elapsed since the first settlers came and there were only six families in all. The business houses were one blacksmith shop and a shingle mill, there being no store since the fire some time ago. Peddlers were numerous, but occasional trips were made to Earlville, Aurora and Chicago. Dr. Heath was the first doctor in the place, and Field and Robinson started a store in 1848. The Hendershots and a Mr. Pelcher built a small brick house on the Hendershot corner, and the house Mrs. Ives lives in now was built the same year and is still one of Paw Paw's landmarks.

"The first schoolhouse stood across the street from the Ira Baker corner and had two teachers in 1849--Erastus Gates teaching the boys and his sister, Prudence, teaching the girls. Blacksmithing was in such demand that five forges were kept running in one shop, as all the plows and farming tools had to be made at home. We must not forget one landmark of noted fame. As a musician he was called the "Lion Bass" and his voice sounded like distant thunder. He was heavy in weight as well as voice, weighing over 400 pounds. He was genial and jolly and many remember Mr. Flagg as he sat at the door of his little home where Dr. Stetler now lives. His wife was very thin and the couple reminded one of Jack Spratt and wife, one so fat and the other so lean.

"John Colville was the first merchant after 1850 and had the post office in his store. I will never forget seeing him, when a child, turning the envelopes sidewise to read the addresses, as he was blind in one eye. We have learned that there was not a saloon here at that time and we are glad to say there are none now. The railroad came into Paw Paw in 1872, and the first train was run on July 4th of that year. The first shipment of coal and lumber came about the same time. The event was one of rejoicing for the people of the little burg. With the railroad came more people and more improvements. The Oak Grove creamery was built in 1880 and there were two hotels at that time. The old brick hotel 16x22 was followed later by one 20x30 and later still by the present Detamore House. The Paw Paw House was built by Barber, Bull and Hendershot. The post office was made a money order office July 1st, 1875. The Paw Paw Herald appeared Nov. 23, 1877 and was called later the LEE COUNTY TIMES.

"The Baptist church was organized in 1841 at South Paw Paw and the building was moved to this place in 1873. The Presbyterians held their meetings in the school house until 1873 when they built their first church. The Methodists also held their meetings in the school house and built their first church in 1876.

"Many have been the changes in our little town as the years have followed each other in quick succession. The beautiful grove of fine black walnut and sugar maple and heavy trees that were once the pride of the early settlers have succumbed to the woodman's ax. Where once those trees spread their branches and afforded shade to man and beast, now the fields of corn and oats are nodding to the breeze. The people also have changed; many have left us for a fairer land and very few remain of those who called themselves the founders of our town. The early settlers were a very happy and contented lot and today we can enjoy the fruits of their labors."

Home