AVON TOWNSHIP ROUND LAKE SCHOOL DISTRICT 44
“Seventh and eighth grade students throughout Lake County compiled the 1918 School History notebooks in celebration of the Illinois Centennial. The histories feature photographs and accounts from students and teachers at one-room schoolhouses. In addition, information on the settlement history of the area is often included, along with photos of early families, businesses and residences.” – Bess Bowers Dunn Museum of Lake County
Cover Page of “Local History of School District No. 44 Of Avon”
The following has been transcribed by Vernon B. Paddock from the “Local History of School District No. 44 of Avon” by the eighth grade class of the Round Lake School. The document “1918 School Histories – Avon Township – Round Lake School” is provided by the Bess Bower Dunn Museum of Lake County (formerly the Lake County Discovery Museum) through the “Illinois Digital Archives” website of the Illinois State Library.
Illinois Digital Archives website for “1918 School Histories – Avon Township – Fort Hill School”:
This little notebook is an attempt to provide a story on the life of the early settlers, by Lake County, especially of that portion of the town of Avon where our school district number fourty-four (sic) is located. The subject matter of course is suggested or obtained of very largely by the old residents of the district.
Our object has been to provide a story which will make the past live for us and our children. For soon there will not be living an old settler who remembers the hardships and trials their fathers underwent.
We have tried to trace the events leading to the settlement of Avon and further to give some notion of a few of the chief land marks in the struggle of their early life that forms a back ground upon which we today are making our progress.
We can never be too grateful to the memory of those fearless settlers (pioneers) who by their untiring labor cut down the forests, tiled the swamps, laid out roads, and bridged the rivers, so that today we the people of Avon and Lake County can trod this land with less strife and make better progress than they.
Our thanks are due to our elders by people of our community who have given us all the valuable material they could remember.
Lake County lies at the extreme north east corner of the state of Illinois. It is bounded on the north by Wisconsin on the south Cook County and east by Lake Michigan and on the west by McHenry County. Its length from north to south is twenty three and one half miles and its width is about twenty miles (east to west). Its area is almost four hundred seventy square miles or about three hundred thousand acres.
Fox River waters a portion of its western border. The Des Plaines River (Aux Plaines River) passes through Lake County from north to south in the eastern portion. There are smaller streams (creeks) which are tributary to the rivers mentioned and to the Great Lake lying to the east ward. West of the Des Plaines River are more than fifty lakes. From this fact Lake County derived its name.
Lake County was at first a part of St. Clair County back in the territorial days. St. Clair County was named in honor of the first Governor of the North West Territory. Since then it has been a part of many other Counties in the northern part of the state. The two latter ones being Cook and McHenry. When McHenry County was first organized including Lake County, it was set off from Cook and La Salle Counties by the state Legislature in 1835 to 1836.
In the year 1836 the State Legislature gave the citizens of McHenry County the right to organize a separate County. Until that organization was completed the County was to be under the power of Cook County. The next year 1837 the organization having been completed the first election was held. The first election was held at a house of a settler near what is now Libertyville. There were three County Commissioners which served the same as our County Board today, a sheriff, Coroner, recorder, Assessor, A Treasure, A Probate Justice of the Peace, and a Clerk of the County Commissioners Court. The county seat was selected at the village of McHenry on the west side of the Fox River. There the County Offices went to carry on the work of the County.
All of the officers chosen at first came from the eastern on Lake County side, as the settlers came from the East. The principle states were New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont.
They at first settled a long (sic) Lake Michigan in what is now Lake County between the lake and the Des Plaines River. The other land of Lake County between the Des Plaines and Fox River was inhabited by tribes of Indians.
The next year 1838 inhabitants had pushed on west of the Des Plaines River. Around the numerous lakes with sandy shores near Creeks where there was a good mill site for that was worth as much as California gold in a later day, and on the fertile prairies that were scattered about among the timber lands. The inhabitants said that the County (McHenry) had become quite thickly settled and that a division would add to the convenience of the people in transacting business. So a petition was drawn up, signed by most of the legal voters of the County and presented to the legislation of the State of Illinois.
The outline of the petition was that they, the inhabitants of the County of McHenry had come to the conclusion that in order to procure the greatest amount of comfort convenience and prosperity it is necessary that the County be divided making the center of Fox River forms a New County to be called Lake County and that part west of the Fox River continue to form the County of McHenry.
The County’s population of the year 1838 was about 4 000 with the list of 875 tax paying citizens. The people had now begun to take up “claims” so that they had property to be taxed. The land of which Lake County is comprised is part of the Country acquired by the U.S. Govt. by treaty with the Pottawattomies (sic) and other tribes of Indians about 1829. The Indians were to keep the title of this land until 1836 then they were to remove west of the Miss. River. The settlers came in though even if they had no right pushing the Indians from their hunting ground and homes to the West. Although the settlers could not own the land as yet they were taxed at this early date 1835-1836 from their personal property.
The petition was acted upon favorable by the Legislature in the session of 1838-1839. An Act was passed creating the County of Lake, establishing its boundaries as follows: “All that portion of McHenry County east of a range not less than three miles nor more than four miles east of the present county seat (McHenry Village) of McHenry County, shall constituted a new County to be called the County of Lake.
One of the first things to determine after the County had been set off was the location of the county seat. Three men were appointed as commissioners to locate it. They met at Vardin’s Grove, known now as Libertyville at that time known as Independence Grove. They decided that that place was nearer the center of population in the County so they selected the place as the location, and with the consent of the people named it Burlington. Two years later a post office was built in the same place with the name of Libertyville.
During the first few years the business of Lake County was transacted by three commissions. One of the early questions to concern them was the erection of permanent county buildings. Mr. London who was in favor of moving the count seat to Little Fort, (Waukegan) succeeded in postponing the work. His argument was that the finances of the new County would not meet the expense.
As it was, when the Legislature convened in 1840, Capt. Robinson was selected by the friends of Little Fort (Waukegan) to attend its sessions for the purpose of presenting petitions for the removal of the County seat. The Legislature passed an act submitting the removal to a vote of the people on April 5, 1841. This election which evidently was attended by much under hand work, resulted in a majority of 186 in favor of Little Fort. Accordingly on the 13th of Apr. the County seat was changed at Little Fort in the south east quarter of section 21.
By an act of Congress, the County would be entitled to 160 Acres of the land by preemtion (sic), at the place where the County seat should be located. That is to say, the land upon which the county seat of any County should become located, it being govt. land, the County should have the right by preemption to enter 160 acres of the same at any time, at the proper land office, by paying $1.25 per acre. Accordingly such of the inhabitants of Little Fort as had any claims upon the southeast quarter of section twenty-one (21), very generously released them in favor of the County. About April 20, 1841, the County Commissioners purchased the land at the land office in Chicago, this being the first transfer of land fee simple in the county.
The County Commissioners then had the quarter section subdivided into lots and blocks by John A. Mills, County Surveyor, and his assistant, George Gage and in May a general sale of lots was held to meet the expenses which had been incurred in perfecting the title of the land. In September, 1843, the County Commissions entered into a contract with Benjamin P. Cahoon of Southport to build a court house forty feet by sixty feet, two stories high, taking in payment unsold lots in the quarter section owned by the County. A jail had been completed by Burleigh Hunt before this time.
The first term of Circuit Court in the County was held in temporary court house in Libertyville April, 1840.
Some of the Grand Jurors from Avon were: David Wait, David Rich, George Thompson, George A. Drury. Some of the Petit Jurors from Avon were: Levi Whitney, Elbert Howard, George Gage, Nathaniel King.
The first term of Circuit Court held in Little Fort was opened in October, 1841, in the upper story of the old stone house under the bluff known as the Kingston Building.
The County business was transacted by three County Commissioners until 1849, when at the November election, by a vote of sixteen hundred ninety two to three the people decided to organize the County into towns. Colonel Josiah Moulton, Michael Dulanty and Elijah M. Haines were appointed as commissioners to divide the County and fix their names. Each Congressional township was set off as a town except that fractional Township 46, Range 9 was attached to Township 46 Range 10, thus making fifteen towns.
The first meeting of the Board of Supervisors was held in Waukegan on Monday, April 22, 1850.
The Town of Avon.
There was a great debate over the naming of this town. Many of the inhabitants presented a petition to the commissioners asking for its name to be Hainesville. There was a protest make (sic) against this name, then Eureka was suggested, where upon it was referred to the inhabitants of the town, at a meeting held Jan. 21, 1850 at the school, house, now Avon Center. Avon was proposed and agreed to as the name of the town. It was so named by the commissioners.
The first town meeting was held at the hotel in the village of Hainesville, on the first Tue., in April 1850. Nahum White, he lived near Squaw Creek where Mrs. Ed Renehan farm is now, was chosen as Moderator and Leonard Gage, Clerk, the following persons were elected town officers: John Gage, Supervisor; a Mr. Slusser, Town Clerk; James Kapple, Overseer of Poor; A Mr. Arnold, Leonard Gage and one other Commissioners of Highways; there were two elected for Justices of Peace, one being Levi Marble; Mr. J. Salisbury, Collector; Freeman Bridge, Assessor. There were over a hundred votes cast at this town meeting.
Hainesville at this time, 1850, was quite a village. The first tavern in Avon was located here and was run by a Mr. Haines for a number of years. A large schoolhouse (sic) was built of logs. Here they held their religious services until a church was built. In the early days there were a great many revival meetings held in the groves. The first cemetery was located near Cranberry Lake, north of Hainesville but is now abandoned. In 1846 a post office was established here and Mr. Haines was postmaster.
This town when first established was the same as the Congressional Township 45, north Range 10, east of the 3rd Principal Meridian. It was then six miles square but about four years ago, 1914, a new town, Lake Villa, was established and part of it was formed from the northern part of Avon therefore making Avon four miles in width and six in length.
The first claim of government land made in this town was by a man by the name of Taylor. He built a log cabin, then left Avon and a few years later sold his claim to Leonard Gage. The Gage’s Lakes were named from Leonard and George Gage who were the early settlers near the east side of the town.
Some of the early settlers of this town were Noer Potter, Churchill Edwards, Delazan E. Haines, Harley Hendee, David Hendee, David Rich, Levi Marble, George Thompson, Tom Renehan, Leonard Gage, Laurence Forror and William Gray.
Grays Lake takes its name from William Gray, who settled at an early day on south side of the lake. Noer Potter came from, Pennsylvania in 1836, driving all the way with teams. They followed along the east banks of the Des Plaines to Libertyville, where they crossed in a boat, leaving their team to be cared for by a settler. They bought an ox team from a settler on the west side of the river and completed their journey to Avon. The boys walked most all the way from Pennsylvania working at different places for a few days at a time. They were about six weeks on the road.
Mr. Levi Marble went through Chicago when he came to Lake County. He came by wagon in 1839. His claim of land was in the south western part of Avon. There were a few indians left when the Marble lived here. There was a cemetery for indians near Fox Lake. Every few years the Indians would come to this cemetery. They used to come to these chain of lakes for their provision. The families would have to be careful with their babies and young children for the indians would try to steal them. They would most always ask the mother to give their babies to them.
Mr. Marble kept first post office of Avon at his residence about 1840. It was called the Fort Hill Post Office. The mail was brought from Waukegan to Wauconda in a stage coach. The coach would come one day and go back the next. At that time it cost twenty-five cents to send a letter and the receiver always paid it. Sometimes the letters would stay in the office for months until the person could earn enough to pay for it. Later the post office was removed to Mr. George Thompson’s residence which is about a quarter of a mile from Mr. Marble. It was again removed in later years to the homestead of Mr. Marble, the postmaster was then Mrs. W. Combs.
Mr. Marble and Mr. George Thompson bought the land for the Fort Hill Cemetery. Mrs. Solomon Marble was the first one buried in the Fort Hill Cemetery.
The first school house in Avon was in 1841 near the home of Levi Marble. It therefore became known as the Marble School House. It was a log building, of hewn logs and built by the contribution of the people. The building was not very large. About three logs five feet long were left out on each side and glass was put in the whole length, this served for windows. There was one door in the front of the building. For desks they cut the log out all around on the walls of the room so a slate could be laid on them. Slabs of wood were cut forming benches around the room where the pupils sat and studied with their backs facing the center of the room. The center of the room was vacant except for a stove. The teacher’s desk was built right in the floor. It was about six feet long. Around it a platform was built about two steps height.
School was held both summer and winter. In the summer the term was usually from May to August. The teachers were usually women then. The winter term was from October to March. Men usually taught in the winter.
In the winter months, there were many large boys as they were not needed on the farms then. Some of the pupils were from eighteen to twenty years old. The main studies were reading, spelling, arithmetic, writing, and geography. There were no grades such as we have today. There was never any money in the district to buy wood. The people of the district would cut wood and bring it there. The teacher then received a very small salary and boarded around in the neighborhood if they did not live near their homes.
David C. Townsend was one of the teachers at the Marble School. He lived not very far from the Marble home. His home was west of Squaw Creek. He bought eighty acres of land from the U. S. government for about twenty shillings or $1.25 an Acre. He came from New York by land in covered wagons drawn by four horses. They came to Chicago about 1836. There were not many people there then. From there they followed on a road which was made from an indian trail along the Des Plaines River. Then came across country from near Half Day to land not far from Squaw Creek. Here they were attracted by a spring which had good drinking water. The deer would come here to this spot to drink. They camped here in their wagons until they made their logs for their houses.
Calvin Lobdell, the father of Louis Lobdell, our present township treasurer came from New York State by land to Chicago at the same time as David Townsend. He followed the lake shore from Chicago to Kenosha Wisconsin which was then only an indian fort. There he stayed a while as a watch maker. He heard of the good land in this part of the country and came here and bought land. He worked his farm and also kept at his trade which was mending watches and tins.
A great many crossroads in the town were built through sloughs and were filled in with logs. This cost the settlers sometimes almost five hundred dollars to build such a road.
The people of Avon and the near by community used to do a great deal of fishing at Squaw Creek near the old saw mill. People would get large fish. Some were pickeral (sic) and were about six feet long.
The First Settlers and The Plank Road
The first settlers came into the county in large covered wagons drawn by ox teams or four horses. They followed trails especially where the land was high. There were no roads laid out for all land was common that is it belonged to the government. The land not being drained had a great many sloughs with all wild grass. This grass once set fire would burn and spread for miles driving people from their settled camps. The land also was covered with timber except between the Des Plaines and Fox Rivers here and there were small prairies.
A few years after some of the permanent settlements in the county were made the highways of the county were important questions brought up before the commission for the roads were often almost impossible. The people thought their best market for their produce was at Waukegan, and those settlers living between the Fox and Des Plaines were in favor of good roads. About 1848 a company was organized to construct one of the first roads of the county. It was to be built of plank from Waukegan to McHenry. A saw mill was built on the Des Plaines river where the planks with which the road was built were sawed. The work of grading was expensive but in time the road was completed to Hainesville, with a few stretches across bad places between that place and Volo.
The old plank road was one of the first toll roads in the county. Several toll gates were located along the way. The three important ones were at Waukegan, at Gage’s Corners, and at Hainesville. A person was not allowed to go past until he had paid his ten cents toll. The money was used to improve the road but this plan did not work, so in a few years the work was abandoned. The planks as they became loosened were purchased at low price by the farmers that lived along the way.
In the early day about the time of the plank road a stage coach ran from Waukegan to Volo, then to Wauconda, three times each week, carrying the mail and any passengers it might happen to have.
Farms of School District No. 44
S. W. ¼ + N. ½ of S. E. ¼ Mrs. Tyler Gilbert Mr. Orvis
S. E. ¼ of S. E. ¼ Mr. John Hart
N. ½ of S. W. ¼ Mr. John Hart Mr. W. Molidor
S. ½ of S. W. ¼ + N. E. ¼ Wm Wilson Jr Mr. A. Hanson
N. E. ¼ Mr. Walter White Mr. G. White
S. E. ¼ + W. 1/8 of W. ½ of S. E. ¼ Thomas Mead Mr. Kick
E. ½ + E. 1/8 of W. ½ of S. E. ¼ John Hook
E. ½ of N. E. ¼ Marion Godfrey
W. ½ of N. E. ¼ + W. ½ of N. W. ¼ Hattie Moxis
S. W. ¼ of S. ½ + N. ½ of N. W. ½ John Carfield
S. W. ¼ of N. W. ¼ of N ½ John Carfield
S. E. ¼ of N. W. ¼ of N. ½ Oliver Hook
W. ½ of N. E. ¼ of N. ½ Oliver Hook
Sec. 9 in Town of Lake Villa
W. ½ of S. W. ¼ of S. ½ Everet Culver
E. ½ of S. W. ¼ of S. ½ T. J. Potter
N. ½ of N. E. ¼ of N. ½ Caroline Cleveland
S. E. ¼ of N. E. ¼ of N. N. ½ Marion Godfrey
S. W. ¼ of N. E. ¼ of N. ½ Wm Wallace
N. W. ½ of N. ½ Chas Meade
S. 1/8 of S. E. ¼ of S. ½ + S. E. ¼
of S. W. ¼ of S. ½ Walter White
E ¼ Nehring
S. ½ M. H. Huson Mr. B. Martin
W. ½ of S. W. ¼ J. B. Converse Earl Converse
S. ½ of N. W. ¼ Mrs. E. Renehan George Walmsley
N. ½ of N. W. ¼ + S. W. ¼ of N. E ¼ Harrison Gilbert Frank Dietz
S. W. ¼ of N. W. ¼ Mrs. E. S. Huches Fox
E ½ of S. W. ¼ C. M. Cleveland
E. ½ of N. E. ¼ Sherman Davis
N. W. ¼ of N. W. ¼ W. H. Smith
W. ½ of S. E ¼ W. H. Smith Mr. P. Wagner
N. E. ½ of S. E ¼ Armour & Co.
S. E. ¼ of S. E. ¼ T. J. Renhan
N. E. ¼ John Hook Frank Galigor
S. W. ¼ & W. ½ of N. W. ½ John Hart
E. ½ of N. W. ¼ Thos Mead Kick
School District No. 44.
School District No. 44 was organized in the year 1910. It was comprised of three school districts, the Gilbert school, Meade school, and Hainesville school district. But in 1911 the Hainesville school district withdrew. School District No. 44 now covers the land as shown on the map. The land where the school house now stands was donated by Henry Hurt for school purposes.
This picture is one corner of the grammar room.
The Meade school was one of the schools that is now consolidated with the Round Lake School and helps to form the School District No. 44. The land was donated by Thomas Meade for school purposes but now that there is no longer a school the land was replaced in his farm. The school building still remains standing and is used for a tenant home.
The Gilbert school was one of the first schools in the town of Avon. It was a frame building and was built by subscription by the people. The land was donated by Mr. Gilbert. The school was torn down a few years ago.
The furniture of the school was more complete and modern than some of the earlier schools of Avon. The stove was a medium-sized heater placed in the center and near the front of the room.
The above picture shows the stove. The teacher is Miss Harriet Meade.
One of the first teachers of the Gilbert school was Stephen Marvin. He acted as schoolmaster and town clerk. The teachers then received a very small salary.
In the early day the old and young from all around it would meet at the school-house for “spell downs.” A great many have been held at the Gilbert school. Church services were also held there until 1865 when a church was erected near Squaw Creek. This church is called the Fort Hill Church, it is in the southwestern part of our school district. The lumber for this church was hauled from Waukegan.
A great many people that have lived and are living in this district have boxes of arrow heads they have picked up from the fields. Today one can find a great many along Squaw Creek and the lakes. Mr. George Renehan has found many arrow heads, and axes around the shore of Round Lake. The axes were made of chunks of stone, with one end molded to a more sharpened edge. Near the top of the axe are indented bands running around the axe, this making it easier to handle. Near Mr. Renehan’s in the grove near Round lake is a crude seat cut in a tree. This is supposed to have been done by the Indians.
In the year 1900, the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was extended on from Libertyville to Nippersink Point. It therefore passed through the village of Round Lake which is in our district. At about that time the only house in the village was the Emarias Whites. He had a farm which he later has sold parts of it as lots. The first building after the depot was built, was a store, built and run by Mr. Fitz Patrick and Mr. Esmond. These two men later built the livery barn. Then William Smith built a building which was used for a hotel. It was where or in the same building as Mr. Sam Litwiler’s hardware store is today.
The Avon Hotel was built in 1900. It is one the east side of Round Lake. The proprietor and owner is George Renehan. His father, Tom Renehan came to Lake County in 1836, when he was six years old with his father. He came from Canada by way of Detroit with oxen. They stopped at Chicago. For their nights lodgings they slept under the covered wagons.
In travelling over this part of Lake County, he selected the spot in Avon which is a hill on the south side of Round Lake for his cabin. Part of his farm is in our school district. They built a log cabin and after they had it finished they went back to Canada to get the rest of the family.
In 1848 they built a part of their frame house and in 1856 they built the addition on it. It remains standing in the same spot where it was built.
Mr. Tom Renahn’s father killed thirteen deer while he was living.
In 1851 Tom Renehan went to California going by way of the Isthmus of Panama. He got some gold while there which he had melted and made his wife’s wedding ring.
Mr. Renehan bought the first mower in Avon. He paid $150 for it. He mowed other people’s hay for five dollars an acre. He also had the first cradle scythe. It was given to the Lake County Historical Society.
Saw mill on Squaw Creek
About the year 1850, a saw mill was built on Squaw Creek, in the western part of the town of Avon, by Nahum White, which was in successful operation for many years.
A dam was built with timber and brush across the creek then dirt piled on it. I was so wide that they could drive across it. They built a waste on the west corner of the dam with two or three boards that they could pull out so as to let the water flow through when the dam was too full, then it would not wash the dam away. When the water would get too low they would slide the boards back again.
The mill was built at the end of the dam on the east side of the creek. It was about 40 ft. long and 16 ft. wide with a frame shed built over it. The saw and a long slide where the logs were laid and spiked down so the saw could cut them, were built on a floor. Under the floor was the wheel with a wall of planks built around it. There was a gate where water could be let through into an iron trough then when it would flow against the wheel it would cause it to run. The saw was moved by cogs and its motion was up and down. Inch boards were the smallest that could be sawed.
The spring of the year was the best time for sawing for the creek would be high then. The people from all around would haul logs in the winter to be ready for the spring’s work.
A Tornado and a Cyclone.
In the year 1861 a tornado about a mile wide came from the south west to t the northeast, through the towns of Grant, Avon, and Antioch in Lake County. It came in the afternoon about two o’clock. It swept by instantly bringing rain too. The people who ran for safety in the cellars were standing in water about four feet deep. The young trees would whip the ground. Large trees were torn out of the ground by their roots. Parts of houses were blown all to pieces. It took roofs off of barns and houses. The fences then were of rail. They were torn down and then the cattle had to be herded night and day until they could be rebuilt.
In the year 1902 a cyclone coming from the southwest did considerable damage. It moved barns off from their foundations. It blew the chimney and part of the roof off the Fort Hill Church. It also blew the roof of John Hart’s barn off.
The Men In Military Service.
The men from our district that fought in the Civil War were Mr. Theodore Wirtz, and Mr. Elijah Richardson.
The boys from our district that are now in the war (1918) are Ralph Litwiler, Andrew Batzner, and John Lucas, and his brother.
A New Barn.
We have one new building in our district which is Mr. John Hart’s barn. It was built in the fall of 1917. It is 36 ft. by 60 ft. in size. The cost of the barn was $3,200.
Armour’s icehouse was the largest in the world under one roof. In all it covered five acres. It is about a third of a mile from the village of Round Lake. This is a picture of the Armour’s boarding house which is east of the icehouse.
The Burning of Armour’s Icehouse
The burning of Armour’s icehouse happened at midnight on the nineteenth of August 1917. It was thought to have been started by some I. W. W. (NOTE: presumed to be “Industrial Workers of the World” union out of Chicago)
When it was first seen something shot across the roof, that looked like a star. It immediately started to burn in six different places on the roof.
The flames at first blazed the highest near the engine room where it is thought to have started. The fire was so bright that it lit up the village of Round Lake so that anyone could read a newspaper. The brightest of the fire lasted about two hours. For about two weeks it smoked and burned.
The wrecking crew came and removed the eighteen ice cars. After they had removed the wheels and other wreckage new rails were laid so that cars could be brought in to be filled with ice that didn’t melt and then shipped to Chicago. As soon as the ice was removed the boards or parts of walls were torn down and were sold for firewood at one dollar and a half a load.