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It stands on the farm of Henry Dufield, about half a mile east of Woodstock, and near Dufield's Lake, which supplies the ice for the brewery of Arnold, Zimmer & Co. and the city of Woodstock.
Unlike most of the towns, Dorr contains no prairie, her soil having been originally covered with oak openings, and the land being mostly clay. Water is afforded by a branch of Hanley Creek that crosses the northeast corner, on Sections 1 and 2, in a general southeasterly direction, and a branch of the Kiswaukee rises on Section 17, about two miles south of Woodstock (which is on Sections 5, 6, 7 and 8), and enters Grafton from Section 35; and another branch of the same creek takes its rise on Section 28, leaving the town on Section 32.
The Chicago & Northwestern Railway enters this township about the middle of the east line of Section 25, takes a course almost due northwest, passing through Ridgefield (on Section 24) and Woodstock; then leaving, about the middle of the north line of Section 6, making about seven miles of track.
This town has two Presbyterian churches, one at Ridgefield, built in 1873, and the brick church at Woodstock, built in 1854; two Catholic churches, one on Section 34, a wooden building, and the one built in Woodstock, in 1854, of brick; one Methodist, one Congregational, one Baptist and one Universalist church, the latter not having been regularly used for three years.
In 1843, the county seat was changed from McHenry to Woodstock, and the act permitting that change having required, as conditions, that the place receiving the most votes for the county seat should donate two acres of land for a public square, and build upon that square as good a court house as the one then in use at McHenry, Woodstock complied with these conditions, and in 1844 the records were moved into the new court house.
The first settlers on the land now included in the city were Alvin Judd, James M. Judd, George C. Dean, Robert Metcalf, Henry M. Waite, Joel H. Johnson, E. I. Smith and Wm. Beach.
The first store was opened in 1845, in the house of E. I. Smith, now owned by Levi Cowdry, and occupied by Mr. Wainwright, It was kept by Ithram Taylor till the stores in town drew away the custom. The first to open a store in “ Centreville” were A. W. Fuller and I. R. Lyon, in the building owned by John Bunker, burned in October, 1871. This store was ready for business in 1848, and continued till their new brick store, now owned by M. D. Hoy, was built, in 1851.
The county seat being without offices for the county officers, with the exception of Sheriff, who had his office and residence in the court house, the Commissioners let to H. M. Waite & Co. the job of putting up a suitable building, to be of eight feet brick walls. The walls being up, the contractors, unable to persuade the Commissioners to put on the other story, finally agreed to pay the County $600 for the privilege of putting up the second story themselves, which being done, the Commissioners took it off their hands, and the result was that the building known as the “Old Rat Hole," so called because, the people having nicknamed the county officers“ rats,” it was natural that their offices should be called “rat holes.” The brick for this building and the brick house near the pickle factory, built about the same time by a brother of Nelson Norton, were made by Cattle Dufields and Clinton Murphy, now of Abingdon, on the corner now occupied by Uncle Joe Thompson.
Fuller & Lyon having opened the ball with a substantial brick store, R. G. Schryver put up the one now owned by Thos. Solverson, and Enos W. Smith the next one west. In 1851, the south side was swept off clean by a fire that burnt out Ira Trowbridge, Alonzo Anderson, Jacob Petries and the Woodstock Argus, in which office the fire originated. Trowbridge rebuilt the next year. Anderson put up “The Woodstock House,” C. B. Durfee the “Green Front Drug Store," where he opened the first bank, J. H. Johnson the one now owned by the Salisburys, and — Duffield the stores of Choate and Thomas.
Alvin Judd, “in the brave days of old," had a small house on the northeast corner of the square, where he kept a sort of tavern, the concern being too small for a hotel. This was built in 1844; but before he got his pre-emption made legal, F. S. Smith, of McHenry, bought Judd's forty acres of the Government, thinking to oust Judd, but J. H. Johnson drew up a bill and sent to Congress, which, being passed, legalized Judd's pre-emption and blocked that game. Judd sold, in 1855, to Mr. Trall, who moved the house to the spot so long occupied by the “Exchange," put up the main part, and Woodstock had a respectable hotel.
About two years after, he sold out to Kent. The American House was then put up on the west side of the square, and kept successfully by G. H. Griffing, White and McMasters. The Waverly House was built by Roswell Enos, in 1856. He had two lots, worth, at that time, about $7 each; and he put up a cheap house, which finally fell into the hands of Leander Church for the small sum of $15. Church enlarged it in 1857, and called it the “Waverly.”
In 1847, the first school house was built on the present school lot, and the school being opened, it soon became necessary to double its capacity. That old building was sold in 1866, one-half of it now being used as a blacksmith, wagon and paint shop, in the rear of John Donnelly's store and in 1867, the present fine school building was erected at a cost of $40,000, the number of pupils being but a little short of four hundred.
The old court house becoming inadequate to the county business, in 1857 it was superseded by the new building, costing about the same as the school
house. It speaks for itself, nor need any citizen of the county to feel ashamed of it.
Large quantities of wheat being raised in that early day, a storehouse became a necessity, out of which grew the brick structure now owned by Eckert & Hickox. It was put up in 1854, by M. W. Hunt, Fuller & Lyon, and in June, 1855, when the first train came through on the broad gauge, the warehouse contained wheat enough to load several such trains as were run at that time. The wheat having been moved, the gauge of the road was immediately changed.
The old Barrow's planing mill, too, has its history. In 1845, H. M. Waite and his partner, thinking that a flax-mill would be a paying investment, bought of Alonzo Diggins, at Brookdale, his hotel barn, moved it to Woodstock, set it down where it stood for so many years, and finding, after a year's trial, that flax did not pay large dividends, turned it into a planing-mill. The old mill has changed hands many times, having again taken a change of base to the east of the foundry.
A tannery, too, must be built, and, in 1853, Swartwout & Enoch erected one just east of where Neil Donnelly's house now stands. In digging the well, which was four feet square, the workmen came to the top of a tamarack tree, and, following down as they dug, finally took it out by the roots, the trunk being sixteen feet long. The tannery never amounted to much; it went into the hands of one Maryatt, of Wisconsin, and was finally burned down in 1862 or 1863.
Another of the early institutions of Woodstock was the steam saw-mill of Enos W. Smith, put up in 1852, run about four years and closed, but not until it had used up a large number of oak logs.
The Quinlan grist-mill was erected by Cornelius and Jerry Quinlan in 1845-6, but never was a paying investment, and, upon the opening of Phoenix mill, three years since, the old brick mill was closed.
The store now occupied by E. E. Thomas & Son was first opened by A. W. Tappan & Co. in 1855. Convers, the brother-in-law of Tappan, being one of the foremost men in organizing the Republican party the ensuing year.
The most important trial that took place in the old court house was that of Davis and Taylor Driscoll for the murder of Campbell, in Lee County, in 1843.
At that time, the entire northern part of the State was infested with an organized gang of horse thieves and counterfeiters, who gave the settlers so much trouble that they were compelled to organize themselves into a band of “Regulators," and the organization elected Campbell, of Lee County, for their Captain. He made it so warm for these gentry that his death was resolved upon, and the two young Driscolls were selected, by lot, to put him out of the way, which they did by calling him to his door in the afternoon, in broad day
light, and shooting him down in his own yard, after which they rode leisurely away, but not without being seen by young Campbell, then about sixteen years This young man, in giving his testimony at the trial, identified
young Driscoll, then but little older than himself and with whom he was well acquainted, saying that he would have shot him at the time had not his gun missed fire. Driscoll, who sat near, said to the witness: “ You would not have shot me, would you ? ” and Campbell replied: “Yes, I would; and will now, if I ever catch you outside of the court-room.” The witness was rebuked by the court and the trial proceeded, but resulted in one of those mysterious verdicts that sometimes startle a community by their evident injustice, and the Driscolls were set at liberty. One of them afterward met his death at the hand of some avenger, but the people of Winnebago and Boone Counties captured several of the gang, including the old man Driscoll, organized a court on the open prairie, with “ Judge Lynch” on the bench, and this time they did not get off so easily, two being hung and two shot within fifteen minutes. These summary proceedings caused the emigration of about thirty families from the county, nor did they return, with, perhaps, two exceptions.
Henry Eckert and P. C. Teeple, thinking that Woodstock ought to support a foundry, in 1866 erected the building since purchased and enlarged by L. H. S. Barrows. Mr. Barrows has enlarged on every side, and has now the largest and most complete establishment of the kind in the county.
Before the removal of the county seat to Woodstock, John Burtschy built a small brewery on the Quinlan farm, nearly opposite the farm house of." Len” Burtschy, in Greenwood. This was soon after moved to the eastern part of Woodstock, and, after a year or two, again moved to the lot now occupied by the residence of Francis Forrest, Esq., near the barn of the old Woodstock House. This building was destroyed by fire in 1854, and it was only by the most strenuous exertions that the barn itself was saved. Mr. Burtschy then purchased of Rich & McCahill the house now occupied by Mr. Zimmer, and, building an addition for the purpose, again commenced the manufacture of beer. John Burtschy dying, the property fell into the hands of “ Len" Burtschy in 1857, who, in 1859, sold out to one Martin, the latter, after about a year, disposing of one-half the concern to George Greble. The property then was transferred from and among Fink, Arnold and Gibhart, till finally, in 1867, Jacob Zimmer bought of Gibhart one-half, and, Arnold buying the other half, the firm became, in 1867, Arnold & Zimmer. Henry Harmon then bought onethird, since which time (1868) it has been owned by the three last mentioned. The capital invested is estimated at $75,000. They make their own malt, of which it requires three and one-half bushels for a barrel, and produce annually about 4,500 barrels of beer, upon which the Government tax is $1 each.
This firm now own the ice-houses at Dufield's Lake, which supply their two houses at the brewery, as well; they having put up this winter 1,800 tons of ice. The first ice house at the Lake was built in 1855 by Haas & Griffing
Of the industries of Woodstock one more remains to be noticed—the pickle factory. A stock company was organized in the fall of 1873, with $50,000 capital.
The building being ready, a Mr. Hopkins came from the East with the best of recommendations, and carried on business swimmingly till-pay day, when the bottom fell out.
The Directors then leased the factory for five years to Heinz, Noble & Co., of Pittsburgh, the integrity and business capacity of this firm being above suspicion. More money was raised, a new engine put in, vinegar machines set up, two additions built and the number of tubs doubled. Cucumbers, cauliflowers and cabbage were produced and turned over to the Nobles till the payments became due, when this firm, too, collapsed.
Last year the factory was operated in two ways; some of the growers having their cucumbers put up for themselves, and others selling to John Wheat, Esq., at forty cents a bushel. This venture proving successful, it is purposed to plant 500 acres in 1877.
In August, 1872, the east side of the square, from the “ Rat Hole” to the next street north, was burnt out, entailing heavy loss upon many, including T. Whitson & Sons, in whose hardware store the fire originated, there being no doubt as to its being the work of an incendiary. The fire removed the old wooden row to make way for the present fine brick block, it having all being rebuilt except the store of Richmond & Bird, at the north end, and nearly all the same year.
Among the notable men of Woodstock may be mentioned William Sloan, who came in 1814, who bought on the west side of town, planted a nursery, and, taking an active part in the organization and construction of the Chicago, St. Paul & Fond du Lac Railroad, became its President. He was accidentally killed in Chicago, while witnessing the operation of putting up the first line of telegraph in that city.
James H. Slavin, another of our lawyers, while living, was acknowledged to have no superior in the county in the line of his profession, but seems to have been generally misunderstood. He always discouraged litigation and would not touch a suit that he was satisfied had its origin in spite. His death occurred from a chronic malady in 1875.
Lawrence S. Church was another who figured largely as a lawyer, finally becoming Colonel, and a member of the Constitutional Convention, of which he proved one of ablest thinkers. He died in July, 1870. Of all the lawyers that have done business in Woodstock, probably Wm. Kerr had the most friends, the fewest enemies and the most influence with a jury, although he was not an orator. He was buried with Masonic honors in 1866.