Early Settlement


History of Jo Daviess County  1904

It is not known, and cannot definitely be ascertained, who were the first occupants of the territory within the bounds of what is now Jo Daviess County.

It is more than probable that what is now known as Galena River was discovered by the French trader Pierre Le Sueur, who is said to have visited the mines long before any permanent settlement was made. That lead-mines existed near the site of the present city of Galena prior to 1810 is fairly well established; but they were worked by the Indians and the product of the mines were used only for the purpose of making bullets. It is also probable that traders and trappers made annual visits to the mines near Galena prior to 1820. There is on file with the Secretary of State at Springfield an old map, published in 1820, wherein Galena River is named "Mine River;" but just how it came to be called Mine River is not definitely known, and it is more than probable that many people visited the mines who left no record of their visit.late John Lorrain, in his life-time, published a short history of Jo Daviess County, in which he says that, "in 1820, one Jesse Shull and Samuel Muir opened a trading-post near the present site of the city of Galena, which was then called January's Point, and by this name was known to the early settlers. The supposition is that, prior to this time, one Thomas H. January, a Pennsylvanian, had a log smelting-furnace somewhere within the limits of Galena, but just where it was it is now impossible to ascertain."

It is probable, also, that Julian Dubuque, after whom the city of Dubuque, Iowa, was named, visited the mines of Galena prior to 1820. It is reasonably certain that the first settlement in the county was made on the banks of Galena River and was occasioned by the mines, but where the first location was is not known and cannot be definitely ascertained. An old copy of the "Gazetteer of Illinois and Missouri," published in 1822, speaks of a small stream twenty miles below Dubuque's mine and about seventy above Rock River, as emptying into the Mississippi, the bank of which stream and the hills are filled with lead-ore of the best quality; and that three miles below the mines is a trader's village, consisting of ten or twelve cabins, and that, at this point, the ore is smelted and sent by boats to New Orleans. It is probable that the trader's village above spoken of was afterwards known as Portage, which is near the junction of the Illinois Central Railroad with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy and the Chicago Great Western, in Section 35, Town 28, Range 1 West, and being in West Galena. It is claimed that Col. George Davenport, agent of the American Fur Company trading with the Sacs and Foxes, occupied a trading-post at Portage, but just how long he remained there is not known. It is also claimed that the post was afterwards occupied in 1821 by Amos Farrar of the firm of Davenport, Farrar & Farnam, agents of the American Fur Company, but this does not rest upon any recorded evidence. Little attention was at first paid to its agriculture, the mines being the attraction and, like all mining camps, few left any record of their location there.

In the years 1822 and '23, emigrants of a more permanent character began to flock to the mines. Among them were a Dr. Samuel C. Muir, Thomas H. January, Amos Farrar, Jesse W. Shull, Francois Barthillier, A. P. Van Matre, D. G. Bates, John Connell, John Ray, James Johnson and others. It is claimed that a Mrs. Adney was the first white woman who came to the mines and located in Galena. In 1824 Lieut. Martin Thomas was appointed Superintendent of the mines on the Upper Mississippi, and authorized to grant leases and permits to smelters and miners, and to farmers. provided they did not interfere with mining interests.

It is claimed that the first white child born in Jo Daviess County was James Smith Hunt, who as born on the 9th day of October, 1824.

There is a fairly well authenticated tradition though not sufficient to amount to a certainty that a white man married an Indian woman, built a log cabin and did some farming near he mouth of the Sinsiniwa River in Jo Daviess County, in the year 1810; but just who he was or where he came from it is impossible to ascertain. Tradition also has it that his squaw-wife informed him that her tribe had determined to kill him, and warned him to flee: but that he refused to heed the warning and was massacred, and that his bones lie buried somewhere near the mouth of the Sinsiniwa River.

From the best information obtainable, it could appear that the first permanent settlement made in Jo Daviess County was upon Lots 10, 11 and 12 in Block 5, east side of Galena River--which lots are directly south the Chicago & Northwestern depot and directly west of the passenger depot of the Illinois Central Railroad--and that the person asking such permanent location was Francois Barthillier (which has been corrupted into "Bouthillier"), and that a street running from said lots up past the residence of General Grant was named after him.  It seems probable that he made such location about the year 1819.  He was an Indian trader, and , a year or so afterwards, moved further north.  It was not for some years after this that Jo Daviess County began to have permanent settlers in any great numbers.  Space will not permit me to give in detail the names of all the settlers who became permanent inhabitants after the year 1820, and no complete list of the the same is obtainable.  

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