- Editor’s Note: This article is part of a weekly series on Kane County’s amazing history. Today’s article was contributed by Jennifer Putzier, director of the Batavia Depot Museum.
The settlement of Clybourneville, once located just north of Mooseheart at the mouth of Mill Creek and now part of the City of Batavia, is just one of many that popped up on the new frontier.
Christopher Payne is considered the first settler in Kane county when he founded the settlement that became Batavia in late summer of 1833.
In June of 1834, Captain Christian B. Dodson settled about a mile and a half south along the Fox River and founded Clybourneville. It is said there were only five pioneer families in the whole county at this point.
With a growing population and the Potawatomi settlement nearby, Dodson built a trading post — the first store in the county. He saw great potential in the area and partnered with Archibald Clybourne of Chicago to build a dam and Kane County’s first sawmill on Mill Creek to take advantage of the wealth of lumber in the Big Woods.
For his contribution, Dodson named the new settlement Clybourneville.
The VanDeventers family was growing, as well. William and a pregnant Mary VanDeventer arrived in Clybournville the summer of 1834 with their children. On Oct. 10, 1834, the family welcomed a baby boy, which they named Dodson. The child, possibly named in honor C. B. Dodson, was the first child born to settlers in the Batavia area.
(Many early county history books lay claim that he was the first white child born in the county, but Elbert Welch of Elgin, born Sept. 29 of 1834, may hold that title.)
Dodson’s trading post proved profitable for a while, and it was filled with skins that “were purchased for almost nothing and sold for but little more” (The Past and Present of Kane County, 1878, Page 297). Relations with the nearby Pottawatomie were reportedly good. Thanks to the help of a young Native American man who was stationed at the post to help interpret, Dodson learned to speak Potawatomi.
In 1835, Dodson took a contract from the U.S. government to resettle the local tribe to reservation lands in Kansas. According to the agreement, Dodson was to furnish as many horses and wagons needed, equipping each wagon with an axe, hammer, nails and oil cloths to keep everything dry for the journey.
Many were willing to go, but Chief Waubonsie was reluctant. Dodson and his men, in the end, convinced the tribal women to go. Waubonsie had little choice but to follow.
In 1836, Clybourneville put in a bid to become county seat, but lost it to Geneva. C. B. Dodson, who worked so hard to found Clybournville, found opportunities elsewhere. He met his future wife thanks to his sawmill — Colonel Julius Warren needed lumber to build his home in what would become Warrenville.
It was during this transaction that Dodson was introduced to the Warren family, which included Julius’ sister, Harriet. At roughly the same time, he took a job as a contractor on the new Illinois & Michigan Canal. After he and Harriet married Feb. 3, 1837, they moved nearer the canal leaving Clybourneville behind.
Even this was short term. In 1838, Dodson sold the contract and his family (which now included a set of twins) made their home in Chicago. They fell on hard times financially, and had to sell nearly everything to repay a bank loan, according Mrs. Warren’s diary.
They found themselves back out in the Fox Valley, this time in Geneva, where they help shaped the community that grew around them.
Though Clybourneville continued without Dodson, the settlement didn’t thrive like Batavia did. Allen Hubbard took over the sawmill and Hugh Gibson took over the store. John Randolph Baker recalled what Clybourneville was like in 1837 in a letter to his granddaughter:
“Late in the fall of 1837 we found a vacant store where Father Foote’s family, and the writer and his better half commenced housekeeping. It was a log house with stick chimney in a small town at the mouth of Mill Creek, called Clybourneville. Allen P. Hubbard was the proprietor of the town and had 640 acres of about one third timber land. He had a hundred acres under cultivation, which I took on shares. …
“In Clybourneville there was one dwelling house that Mr. Hubbard occupied, two stores, and one log house and one log store and one frame building. Father Foote rented the frame dwelling for $5.00 per month and the writer paid one dollar per month for the log house. I had forgotten, there was a tailor shop kept by an Englishman by the name of Stownell.
“He was a good tailor. He had been up in Wisconsin in Walworth County, a little south of Geneva Lake. He boarded with Allen P. Hubbard while in Illinois. He owned a timber claim in the Big Woods, some twenty acres, and Father Foote and myself had bought thirty acres adjoining.”
Clybourneville did not grow much beyond that. By 1878, the book “The Past and Present of Kane County, Illinois” called Clybourneville “a prospect then, a memory now.”
The last known reference to Clybourneville is in the 1849 Batavia Township records. When the township was established, the “Clybourneville District” was overseen by John Butrick, who had purchased land from Allen Hubbard in 1845.
Shortly afterwards, the Stephens family purchased most of the property around the Mill Creek area in including Clybourneville. Isaac S. Stephens built Mill Creek Park in 1890 very close to the old settlement. Mill Creek Park entertained visitors with carnival rides, a large water slide, and picturesque views of the Fox River until it closed in 1909.
Tickets to the park were free for those that had purchased a round trip ticket there on the Aurora and Geneva Railway – all others were charged a nickel! Isaac Stephens also provided much of the field stone used in building the Batavia United Methodist Church on Batavia Ave in 1887 from his property.
Today, Clybourneville is part of Batavia, and is a merely a note in our county’s history.
About the Batavia Depot Museum
The Batavia Depot Museum opened in 1975 as a partnership between the Batavia Park District and the Batavia Historical Society. The Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad Depot was the first of its kind built in 1854, and is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
Inside, the city’s past comes alive through exhibits detailing the history of rail transportation, manufacture of windmills, agriculture, banking, commerce and a brief stay by Mary Todd Lincoln at Bellevue Place. Open seasonally, from March through mid December, the museum’s hours are 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Labor Day.
Read The Kane County History Series!
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