Kane County History: St. Charles’ First Settlers, One Lost, Found Again

Kane County History: St. Charles’ First Settlers, One Lost, Found Again

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was written by Tim Kirsininkas, marketing manager for the St. Charles History Museum. Images are courtesy of the St. Charles History Museum.

The McCornack Oil Service Station, which stands on the former site of Ira Minard’s Home, pictured in 1928.

The St. Charles History Museum shares a distinct and unique connection to one of St. Charles’ early settlers and the man who helped to map out St. Charles in its infancy.

Ira Minard came to a budding riverfront settlement in 1833 as part of an extensive group of New Englanders and former Chicago residents moving west to lay claim to the lush lands of the Fox River valley.

In 1835, a handshake agreement between a small group of these new settlers would shape the future of this small riverfront community. Another settler, Evan Shelby, was looking to capitalize on his claim on the east side of the river, while Ira Minard and Read Ferson were looking for more land.

Shelby exchanged eight acres of his prime riverfront property, where Ferson and Minard helped to construct the town’s first dam, mill, and trading post on the bank of the river at the site of where City Hall stands today.

From this point on, their budding community was put on the map.

These men helped plat the original town maps and christened the village Charleston, in homage to a town in Vermont near where the settlers originated from (the city would later change its name to St. Charles at the suggestion of prominent attorney Stevens Sanborn Jones after realizing another Illinois town already held the name).

Ira Minard’s original 1885 home, now located at 1201 Illinois Avenue. Photo – Google Maps

Ira Minard chose a piece of land along the town’s main street as his home. Through analysis of years of St. Charles Township Assessor’s records, our Museum staff recently discovered that Minard’s home stood at the current site of 215 E. Main Street – where our very own Museum building resides today.

We knew that his original house, constructed in 1885 was moved to make room for the new McCornack Oil Service Station thanks to a 1928 St. Charles Chronicle article. What we did not know however, was where this house was actually moved to. By digging further into the township’s records, we were able to find that the house was moved to 1201 Illinois Avenue.

Now that we were able to rediscover this important piece of St. Charles history, we will be looking to begin the process of getting this building landmark status. The story of this Minard home is a reflection of the work that we do here at the Museum, and an example of how our city’s lengthy 185-year history can sometimes be hidden in plain sight.

We can uncover the history of your home, too – you might be surprised at its story! Head to www.stcmuseum.org/research to learn more and get started and uncover your home’s history today.

‘History Happy Hour’ July 25 Aboard The Fox River Queen

Photo courtesy of the St. Charles Convention and Visitors Bureau, http://www.visitstcharles.com

The St. Charles History Museum and St. Charles Park District will partner to host a special “History Happy Hour” Cruise aboard the Fox River Queen paddlewheel boat from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, July 25.

Passengers will learn about how the river helped to form the many communities that exist today along the river, some of the other historic commercial boats that have operated on the waterway, and historic locations along the river route like the famous Al Capone hideaway.

Tickets are $35 each and include appetizers and two drink tickets.

Tickets and registration for all these programs are available now on the Museum’s website, www.stcmuseum.org. For more information, contact the museum at (630) 534-2334 or email info@stcmuseum.org.

Read The Kane County History Series!