BYRON
This village, situated on a horseshoe bend of the Rock River in the northern part of the county, is one of the earliest settled localities, is favored
by features of unusual value to its development, and will, without doubt, become one of the best towns on the river. For many years it labored under great
disadvantages, having no railroad or capital to improve its water power, and in 1877, being visited by a conflagration which leveled to the ground the new
growth which it had attained under the stimulus of the railroad.

About the first of July, 1835, Jared W. Sanford came up Rock River from Dixon, on horseback, en roufe (or Rockford—then called "Midway." Noting the excellent water privilege a mile west of the present site of Byron, on Leaf River, he laid claim to it by planting there a claim-stake, and proceeded on up the river. His brother, Joseph, and Perry Norton were then working on Kent's
mill at Midway, and when told of the beautiful country south, they were induced to go down and examine it.
Mr. Norton still resides one and a half miles north of Byron, and is the oldest living resident. An account of his trip to the "far West," as it was then
called, may be of some interest, showing, as it does, the vast changes time has made. From ocean to ocean is now but a pleasant ride of seven days, in palace coaches. Mr. Norton was from April 26 to May 26, 1835, in traveling from New York to Galena. The route was : to Buffalo by canal, to Detroit by steamboat, across Michigan to Chicago by stage—all passage seats to Chicago
were taken fifteen days in advance, such was the multitude seeking Western homes—from Chicago to Ottawa by stage. Ottawa had one tavern, one store, a few dwellings on the south side of the Illinois River, one on the north, and one between the Fox and Illinois Rivers. He went to Paw Paw Grove by private conveyance, and thence to Dixon on foot. Dixon consisted of a tavern,
kept by a man named Black, in the old fort of the Black Hawk War, and five or six dwellings. He then went by stage to Galena, where he hired out to a Mr. Brush, agent for Germanicus Kent, of Midway.

He arrived there on the eighth day of June. Rockford then consisted of two families and eight or ten young men ; Mr. Kent on the west, and Mr. Haight on the east side of the river. Mr. Kent had begun improvements there in the Fall of 1834; had commenced building a dam across the creek, near the Holland (now the Tinker) place. During the season of Mr. Norton's arrival immigration became more general ; among the settlers were Montague Dunbar, Fox Wood and family, Boswell and family,Thatcher Blake, still a resident of Rockford, and Joseph Sanford, who came in the Fall or Winter of 1834.

As before stated, Joseph Sanford, Jared W, Sanford and Perry Norton went down the river to the site of Byron, about July 10, 1835, and while there they claimed land to the amount of nearly two sections, on the southwest side of the river. They returned to Midway the same day. Joseph Sanford decided to continue work for Mr. Kent for a year, so J. W. Sanford and Mr. Norton returned to their claim with a horse and yoke of oxen, and established their claim by laying the foundation for two cabins. This, rude as it must have been, inquired four days' labor. Indians and mosquitoes were plenty, though the
latter were by far the more troublesome. On the fifth day the two settlers returned to Midway, where Mr. Norton met, unexpectedly, his father and brother J. W. Norton. The former afterwards became a resident of Byron Township, where he still resides. Mr. Norton needed oxen to cultivate his land, and to purchase them he borrowed $100, each, of his father and Joseph Sanford. The latter was a partner in the claim. The next thing was to buy the oxen. Neighbors Kent and Haight had none to sell—other neighbors, where were they .' At Dixon's Ferry, Cherry Grove—forty miles away—Buffalo Grove, Washington Grove, and on Old-Man Creek (now Kyte River). But no cattle were found for sale at any of these places, and Mr. Norton finally found three yoke of oxen at Indian Creek, fifteen miles north of Ottawa. For these he paid $45, $52.50 and $55. He also bought a plow and barrel of flour. In order to get these home he must have a cart, and, to make one, a friend sawed two circles from
an oak log for wheels. The return road was a strange one and he received frequent directions from passing Indians. Much trouble was experienced by the settlers in keeping the cattle at home. When they were let out to pasture they would frequently stray away forty or fifty miles. Jared Sanford named their new habitation Fairview, after his Connecticut home.

About the middle of October, M. M. York, who bought an interest in the claim, P. T. Kimball, — Rogers, and Mr. Norton returned to Fairview from Midway, to make rails for fencing their claim. They brought flour, bacon and coffee and made saleratus biscuits with the river water. Here they lived in a rail shanty and the wagon box for twenty-three days.
The Pottawattomie Indians frequented the river, which they called the Sini-sepo," or Rock River, whence the name "Sinnissippi." The settlers obtained a log trough which the Indians had hollowed out to hold maple sap, or "sugar water," and used it as a canoe for crossing the river. Being cut square at one end, it was known as the bob-tailed canoe. Wagons were ferried across the river for travelers in this rude canoe. The present woods of that vicinity have grown up since that time, and it was necessary to obtain logs from the other (north) side of the river.

They returned to Midway to pass the Winter, and when Mr. Norton returned in the next March, he found M. M. York, P. T. Kimball, Sebra Phillips and J. Sanford in a little log cabin of about ten by fourteen feet in size. This was the first house in the township, and was just across the river, opposite the village. Here Mr. Norton took up his abode, sleeping on a wagon board at night,
with boots for a pillow and overcoat for a blanket. This exposure resulted in an attack of the ague.

In this Spring other settlers came in. L. O. Bryan, Silas St. John Mix, Asa Spaulding and others came in April. These filled the cabin unto overflowing, so that Messrs. Kimball, Bryan and Norton moved up and across the river, about one and a half miles. Here they built a log shanty near and northeast of Mr. Norton's present residence. To make this log house two tiers of rails were built up, leaving a space between them of one and a half feet. This was filled in with prairie grass, making a warm house. The roof was made of "shakes," * while the door was made by hanging up a blanket.
Cooking was done out of doors, and a cow was purchased to furnish milk. The pioneers then began to think themselves living in fine style.

David Juvenall with his family, from Sangamon, Ill.; Andrew Shepard, an uncle of Mr. Norton, with his family, from Ohio, and William Illingworth, arrived in May, 1836. J. L. Spaulding and — Kizer came soon after, and Simon S. Spaulding came in October. In the Spring of 1835, John Whitaker settled at Black Walnut Grove, where he resided with his family until his death. His son, William J., now resides there, having married the only daughter of Silas St. J. Mix. Another son, Solomon, is living near by, both in good circumstances.

There are two daughters, Mary, who married John Millis, and Julia, the wife of Stephen B. Shuart. Peter Smith and James Scott also made claims at this grove in the Fall of 1835, two or three miles southeast of Byron. Scott sold out to Dauphin Brown and S. Patrick in 1837. Mr. Silas St. John Mix first came April 10, 1836, but returned to Jacksonville
for his family, having emigrated there from Bradford County, Pa. Mr. Spaulding arrived at Fairview in August, 1836, and brought three cows, a team, provisions, etc. belonging to Mix and Spaulding.

The claim of Mr. Norton and Jared Sanford on the north side of the river was divided and the site of Byron included in Mr. Sanford's portion. This he disposed of to Miner M. York and Joseph Sanford. Mr. Mix built his (the first) house within the village site during that Fall. It is now used as the residence of his son William.

October 29, Lucius Reed arrived with his family. John Morrison, —Slavin, Lewis Carr and Samuel Patrick came in 1836. Seth Noble, a wealthy farmer of Marion Township, came in the Spring of that year.
Much trouble was experienced on account of claim-jumpers. The first prominent conflict of this kind was in 1837, between Wm. D. Johnson, a settler, and the notorious Aikens, Carrs and Morrison.

The first election was held in August, 1836, at Fairview, to elect precinct and county officers. This was then a portion of Jo Daviess County, and Col. Wight, of Galena, passed through on an electioneering tour. He made stump speeches wherever he could obtain a hearing, and furnished the proper papers and directions for holding 'elections. He was a candidate for the State
Legislature. Mr. Moses Hallett, candidate for the office of sheriff, also visited Fairview, and both obtained the thirteen votes polled there, as the voters knew of no opposing candidates. A local justice and constable were elected. Mr. Norton was chosen to carry the poll books to Galena, a distance of over eighty miles. Erastus Norton and family came to Byron November 1, 1836. Doctor A. E. Hurd—the first physician—and Hiram Horton came during that Winter.

" Deacon " Brewster, with a family of seven daughters and two sons (James and Mortimer), came in 1837. A large number of settlers came that year. We can not attempt to name them all, but a few have been remembered, among whom were Isaac Norton and family, consisting of his wife and five daughters (his four sons were already in the West). Col. Dauphin Brown and family, consisting
of three sons and five daughters, who was a resident of Marion Township ; Curtis, now gone; Deacon Morley, now of Iowa; John Sabens (who built the first barn in the township), now gone ; Charles Tanner, Joshua White and James M. Clayton, of Marion Township ; F. A. Smith ; Allen Woodburn, still living on his place, three and one half miles north of the village ; Hiram Maynard, deceased, and many others.
Jared W. Sanford lived at Byron until within five years, when he moved to and died in Kansas. Joseph Sanford is still living. Perry Norton lives a mile and a half north of Byron. M. M. York now lives at Fort Scott, Kansas. Parton T. Kimball now lives at Rockford. Sebra Phillips died in this state. L. O. Bryan died in Marion Township. Asa G. Spaulding lives in Rockford. Andrew Shepherd died in this state. David Juvenall died in Marion Township. Silas St. John Mix, the oldest resident of the village, resides in Byron, aged seventy-nine years, and still retains all his business and physical faculties, unimpaired. His portrait appears in this work. I. S. Knowlton and T. P. Parker, still residents near Byron, came in the Spring of 1838.

For a long time, Dixon, twenty-five miles distant, was the nearest postoffice. The settlers took turns in going for the mail, once a week. When Frink & Walker established a stage route along the river, between Dixon and Rockford, the local post-office was established, and as the settlement was then called Bloomingville, that name was chosen for the post-office. The Postmaster
General, however, suggested that the name be changed, as there was already a " Bloomington" and " Bloomingdale" in the state. It was then decided to call it Byron, a name it has since held. Asa G. Spaulding was the first postmaster, who was followed by Mr. Mix. Then Albert Wilbur was made postmaster, and Mr. Mix appointed his deputy, followed by John H. White as
nominal postmaster. Mr. Mix succeeded him and still continues, efficiently, in
that office.

First Sawmill


The first saw mill was erected by Messrs. Sanford Brothers & Brown, in 1837. The first grist mill by William Wilkinson, of Buffalo, N. Y., who commenced building it in the Fall of 1837 and completed it during the next year. In 1837, it was sometimes necessary to go as far as Dayton, on Fox River, near Ottawa, to Elkhorn Grove or Newburg, on the Kishwaukee River, to have milling
done. In 1835 and '36, supplies were obtained from Galena or Chicago. The first salt hauled from the latter place cost fifteen dollars per barrel. The first stirring plows used here were manufactured at Buffalo, N. Y., by Wilkinson & Sons. These were very good in a clay soil, but almost useless on the prairies of Ogle County. In plowing with such implements, knolls were left wherever
a turn was made, making, finally at the edges of the field, quite an embankment. Deere, of Grand de Tour, made the first plows suitable for this country.

 

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