Archive for the ‘Pioneers’ Category


January 7, 2018

This is the corner of Golf and Meacham Road.  It is one of the busiest spots in Schaumburg Township.  But, when Ebenezer Colby paid cash on September 1, 1845 for the land patent on this property at the United States Land Office in Chicago, it was nothing but open grassland as far as the eye could see.

Ebenezer Colby was born October 16, 1788 in New Hampshire.  His wife, Abigail Hurd Willey, was born on January 19, 1791 in the same state. They married March 3, 1811 and had their children in Manchester, Vermont.  The children were born between 1812 and 1831 and included Abigail, Ebenezer Franklin, Lucy Philenda, Rachel Horatia, Marietta Belinda and Almira “Myra”.

The family, including Abigail’s husband, James Taylor, lived for a time in western New York and moved to Illinois in 1843.  Ebenezer or, Eben, as he was often called, soon became active in politics when he joined Thomas Bradwell as delegate from the Salt Creek Precinct to the Chicago Democratic Convention in 1844. (The Salt Creek Precinct was a large regional designation that was so named in the 1830s and 40s because of Salt Creek that runs through the northwest suburban townships of Palatine, Schaumburg and Elk Grove.)

By 1845 the Colbys had purchased their Schaumburg Township patent and were farming their land in Section 12, which is in the upper right portion of this 1842 map.  They bought the parcel that is the left half of the lower quarter and is a total of 80 acres.

In 1847 Eben continued his political prominence when he was elected one of five delegates to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in Springfield.  Interestingly, according to Marilyn Lind, in her book Genesis of a Township, Mr. Colby promoted a resolution that eventually passed and allowed for 5000 of the 50,000 copies of the Constitution to be printed in German.  Could this have been a reflection of the high percentage of German settlers in the Schaumburg Township area? Additionally, he also was one of seven “nays” in the final vote on the constitution. This begs the question, why would he have opposed it?

Mr. Colby also began to immerse himself in various posts in local government as township supervisor, assessor and chairman.  This was no strange consequence as his neighbor, Daniel H. Johnson, had served in the post of township supervisor before him.

Prior to his tenure that ran from 1851 to 1855, the township originally went by the name of Township 41N/ Range 10E–as is noted on the map above.  It’s not exactly a catchy name.  At some point, in the years he was in office, a lively, charged meeting occurred that seemed to have pitted the German contingent of the township against the “Yankee” contingent.  The intent was to choose a new name for the township.  The Germans were passionate about the name “Schaumburg” which was the area in Germany they hailed from.  The Yankees opted for Lutherville or Lutherburg, which may have been a nod to Martin Luther.  After much discussion, Fredrick Nerge of the German contingent–and for whom District 54’s Nerge School is named– “hit the table with the firmness of an old German soldier and shouted: “Schaumburg schall et heiten” or “Schaumburg it shall be.”   (History of Schaumburg, 1850-1900)

We don’t know how long the Colbys remained in Schaumburg Township but, at some point they moved to Elgin, most likely maintaining their property here for a few years.  It had to have been sometime in 1855 after he’d finished his service as a Schaumburg Township government official or in the following year of 1856.  We know the latter date because, in the book, Death Records in Elgin, it states that Abigail Colby died in Elgin on November 11, 1856. She was subsequently buried in the Channing Street Cemetery in Elgin.

We also know that sometime in 1851 or 1852, the Colby’s daughter, Myra, pictured above, began attending the Elgin Seminary.  E.C. Alft’s Elgin:  An American History states that “the Elgin Seminary was established in the spring of 1851 by the Misses Emily and Ellen Lord.”  On May 18, 1852 she married James Bradwell and, according to E.C. Alft’s Elgin:  Days Gone By, she “created an Elgin sensation in 1852 when she eloped, her father and brother giving chase with firearms.”

Ultimately, the marriage proved to be successful and, in fact, Myra completed legal training with the hopes of serving as a practicing attorney.  It took until 1892 for her to become one of the first–if not the first–woman in the state of Illinois to be admitted to the Bar.  Various sources differ on who attained this dramatic achievement but it is a definite possibility that it was Myra.

Meanwhile, Eben Colby continued his residence in Elgin after his wife’s death and was listed there in the 1860 census.  He was 73 years old and his profession was listed as “carpenter.”  He was living with Emily Burlington, “a female black laborer” (who was mentioned as such in the 1850 census) and a 65 year-old widow named Malinda Hall.  It is also worthy to note that on the 1861 Van Vechten plat map for Cook County, the Colby property in Schaumburg Township had been sold and was now in the hands of J.T. Thomas.

Eben then, at some point, made his way to Fort Dodge in Webster County, Iowa where his daughter, Marietta “Mary” (Colby) Haviland lived.  We then meet up with him again in the same book where we last saw his wife, Abigail.  It is there, in Death Records in Elgin, that he is listed as having died on September 4, 1869 in Fort Dodge, Iowa.  He was 80 years old, 10 months and 12 days.

The family obviously regarded him highly enough to have his remains sent back to Illinois to be buried in the same block of the Channing Street Cemetery as his wife, Abigail.  It could have been their daughter, Myra Colby Bradwell, who was living in Chicago with her husband, who was also an attorney, and probably able to afford the cost.

Unfortunately, the Channing Street Cemetery no longer exists so we cannot capture a photo of the Colby’s gravestones.  In 1889, twenty years after Eben Colby’s death, when most remains from Channing Street were reinterred in the new Bluff City Cemetery, it is noted in the records that the Colbys did not make the move.  It is quite possible there was no gravestone for the couple and their grave site could not be determined or, very little remained if there was.

Suffice to say, the Colbys definitely made their mark on Schaumburg Township–from purchasing the available land patent, being actively involved in state and local government, to parenting children who were notable in their own right.  It was an active time in the early, formative years of Illinois and, even though the Colbys were not young people when they arrived, they made the most of the time they had.  Without Mr. Colby and his participation, Schaumburg Township might, in fact, be Lutherburg Township.  And try to imagine that on the Schaumburg Township sign on Illinois Boulevard!

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library






January 29, 2012

A couple of weeks ago I received a call from a gentleman who was doing research on an early Schaumburg Township pioneer by the name of Horace P. Williams. He is a great, great, great grand nephew and wondered how much information we had on his relative.

Knowing a fair amount about some of our German settlers, it was time to look into a gentleman who was clearly not of that lineage.  It turns out we had a number of sources in our Local History Digital Archive and there was also a nice entry in the 1884 History of Cook County written about Mrs. Lavina T. Williams, the wife of Horace.

Mr. Williams was one of a group of New Englanders in the 1830s who was looking for cheap land. He found it in Schaumburg Township and, from 1844 to 1846, proceeded to purchase 720 acres. The land was in Sections 10, 11 and 14. Think of standing in the north entrance of JC Penney at Woodfield Mall, looking north and west, and you’re getting a glimpse at the Horace P. Williams acreage.

Horace was born on April 16, 1813 in Canaan, New Hampshire. The story goes that Mr. Williams, as a young man of 24 or 25, first came to the Lake County, IL area in 1838 and stayed there for two years.

He returned east at the end of that time (circa 1840) and, on the way back to Illinois, stopped in Ohio and purchased a flock of sheep that he proceeded to drive to Schaumburg Township. This was the first flock of sheep in the township. The story is confirmed in a 1903 obit, the Andreas history of Cook County and numerous other places.

Horace went back to the northeast, once again, in 1843–one has to wonder who was taking care of the sheep–where he promptly married Lavina T. Thomas of Montgomery, VT in June. She had been born in Franklin County, Vermont in 1816, the daughter of Jonah and Sallie Thomas.

After their marriage Horace and Lavina immediately journeyed back to our township and set about improving and purchasing the large parcels of property in Sections 11, 12 and 14 as mentioned above. He and Lavina later had four children:  Flora, Owen, Ida and Eva.

According to a 1903 obit of Lavina’s, he finished his life on his prosperous farm. The agricultural census of 1860 sheds some  light on his valuable farming operation. He was the largest landowner of the township, with a total cash value of $23,200. (The regular federal census of 1860 lists his total value as $34,000.) He owned a team of oxen, eight horses and 564 sheep. The wool production must have been substantial but the figure is not given. It is stated though, that the farm produced 50 gallons of molasses, 20 bushels of grass seed, 1500 bushels of corn, 125 tons of hay and average yields of oats, wheat and potatoes.

The farm was so busy that it was necessary for him to employ William and Louis Thies from Prussia as farmhands and Ann Beamish from Ireland as housekeeping help.

Original documents owned by the Schaumburg Township District Library detail Mr. Williams’ dealings with the township fathers. On April 3, 1851–a year after the township was founded–he signed a petition to the Schaumburg Township Highway Commissioners requesting stoppage on road construction of the Chicago and Dundee Road (now known as Higgins Road.) It is assumed the said road would have gone through his property or that of his neighbors. Unfortunately, a denial was issued on June 30 “because of non-compliance with the law.”

Another document filed with the Schaumburg Township Commissioners of Highways on November 23, 1867, by a neighbor, Heinrich Mensching, sought governmental permission to lay a drain across the property of Williams’ and his neighbors, the Kublanks, in Section 11. While Mr. Williams and the Kublanks rejected the idea, the three Commissioners on December 9 gave their permission as well as the specifications of the size of the drain and the amount that would be laid on each parcel. It doesn’t appear he had a lot of luck with the local governmental hierarchy.

According to family lore, he had an early affiliation with what is now North Central College in Naperville. An explanation can be found on “When North-Western University moved from Plainfield to Naperville in 1870, a year before the Great Chicago Fire, the Horace Williams family contributed to the founding of the university. Because they helped found the university, North-Western issued their family a perpetual scholarship for one male in a generation. Today that college still exists, renamed North Central College.”

Horace eventually spun off some of his property to his daughter, Ida Yates. On August 4, 1881, while visiting his daughter, Flora Biggs in Kansas, Mr. Williams passed away at the age of 68. His body was brought back to the area and he was buried near his daughter Eva in Hillside Cemetery in Palatine, IL.

He left an estate of $60,000 and a homestead of 720 acres. Lavina later moved to Palatine where she died on February 6, 1903.  She is also buried in Hillside Cemetery.

After the death of Horace, the farm was operated by his daughter Ida and her husband, Charles Yates.  Charles inherited the farm when Ida died in 1895.  Yates hung onto it until 1905 when he sold it to Charles Quindel, which is reported in Genesis of a Township. This ended the 64-year tale  of Horace Williams—one of Schaumburg Township’s earliest pioneers.

It is interesting to note that all four of their children–even Flora who had moved to Kansas–are all buried in the Williams plot in Hillside Cemetery. Their affiliation to the area obviously ran deep.

Jane Rozek
Local History Librarian
Schaumburg Township District Library

Material for this posting was extracted from the obituary of Lavina Williams, entries written by Wendy M.  for Horace P. and Lavina Williams on, the Palatine Mailing List on, History of Cook County by Andreas (1884) and documents on the Schaumburg Township District Library’s Local History Digital Archive.