Stories of the Civil War Soldiers of St. Charles Written by Jennifer Trail

An Eagle Named Abe

The 17th Illinois Cavalry Regiment, which was the second regiment to be stationed at Camp Kane, had a golden eagle mascot named Abe.  The soldiers had heard stories of eagles seizing children, lambs and rabbits, so they gave Abe the eagle a chicken to ensure the children and livestock of St. Charles would be safe.  The soldiers quietly waited to see if the eagle would make a meal of the chicken.  The two birds cautiously observed each other before Abe made his move. To the soldiers surprise, instead of eating the chicken Abe tucked the chicken under his wing and guarded the hen.  The two were quite attached and stayed by one another for a few days.  The soldiers eventually had to dispose of the chicken but there was no doubt that the chicken and eagle were friends.

A Grand Reunion

On July 14th, 1924, 206 Civil war veterans from the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiments came together to march together one last time.  They disembarked from the Northwestern train and marched to Main Street.  The men all marched in perfect unison, not one was distracted by the cheers of the crowd on either side.  They marched over the Main Street Bridge and up the hill until they were across from where the Baker Memorial Park is today. The trees the men saw were planted when they were young boys and this was where the magnificent silk banner was torn in the wind they day they assembled to go to the front.  From there they marched south and within a few more turns they had arrived at their old camp ground.  There all voices broke into song as they remembered their days in the war.

A Bad Omen

Before the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment left for war, the town of St. Charles gathered to send the soldiers off with the presentation of a silk flag.  As the beautiful silk banner was placed on the flagstaff all eyes were upon the flag in anticipation.  People were in awe as the silk gleamed in the light of the sun.  A gust appeared and instead of flowing gracefully, the wind struck the banner and it was thrown about and torn.  They believed this was a sign that the United States Government would be divided and the 8th Illinois Cavalry would be the causes of this division.

The True Location of Langum Park Written by Jennifer Trail

Research Part 1

The area of Langum Woods, near the east bank of the Fox River, has had a few names in the past few centuries: 55 Acres, Camp Kane, and now Langum Park.  The area has quite a rich history, dating back to the Civil War.  The southern end of Langum Park is dedicated with a memorial for Camp Kane.  When I read about Camp Kane, I started to wonder where exactly camp Kane was located.  I started researching the area to see what the area of St. Charles looked like in the 1860s and what remains of those buildings today.

 1860's Map of St. Charles showing location of Camp Kane highlighted in Green

1860's Map of St. Charles showing location of Camp Kane highlighted in Green

Camp Kane was located in and near Langum Woods but the exact location is unclear without evidence.  The following information along with reference to a map of St. Charles from the 1860’s helps achieve a better understanding of where the camp was located. I started off searching the internet for what I could find about Camp Kane.  I quickly learned that the camp was located on land that Col. John Farnsworth had owned on the east bank of the Fox River.  The land sat between the Fox River and 7th avenue.  The St. Charles Library website also mentioned that the camp is in the location of today’s Langum Park.  I then went to the museum’s primary sources to see if I could confirm and narrow down the location of the camp.  In reading various primary documents about Camp Kane, such as books, brochures, letters, and journals, I further strengthened the beliefs of the location that my previous sources had stated. 

From reading a statement in a book about the history of the Illinois 8th Cavalry Regiment, which was stationed at Camp Kane, I concluded that the camp must have been north of the Farnsworth mansion because when the regiment marched south to Geneva it was necessary for them to pass opposite of Col. Farnsworth’s mansion.  Although the Farnsworth mansion no longer stands today, as it was torn down in late 1992, the location of the mansion was on the west side of the river on top of the hill overlooking where the Mount St. Mary’s park is today.  I thought I knew a potential location for the camp until I read these next few sentences from the Camp Kane dedication brochure from 1982

map 2.png

“McCauley’s stone quarry bordered the property on the north; on the far east as the South Cemetery (7th Avenue Cemetery) where Evan Shelby and other early pioneers are buried. In between was a large stand of timber known for years by local residents as “55 Acres,” and now known as Langum Park.  The clearing was along the east bank of the Fox River”

I knew where the South Cemetery was and the Fox River, but I didn’t know the location of the McCauley’s quarry.  My next step was to uncover the location of the quarry.   I soon came across a history of the McCauley family of St. Charles.  The author, Ken McCandless believed he had found the location of the quarry at the junction of 5th and Riverside Avenue, and at first, I also believed this was the location of the quarry. 

After hours of sorting through the museum's photographs and primary documents, I became stuck with no idea what to search for next.  Perhaps this meant I was done with my long and difficult journey locating Camp Kane.  I reflected on my research journey and began to realize many of the sources I read were 2nd hand accounts.  I wasn’t reading the evidence, I was reading about the evidence.  In search of this original evidence, I went to the Kane County Government buildings to discover more.  While I was there I looked at old maps, aerial maps, and deeds from the late 1800s.  I found evidence that contradicted and proved my original ideas wrong.

Research Part 2

map 3.png

One of the most surprising things I learned was one that contradicted what many people had written about Camp Kane and Col. Farnsworth.  Many people believed that the camp was set up on land that Farnsworth had bought in 1858.  There is no record of Farnsworth owning land on the east side of the Fox River.  The deed that I found for Farnsworth buying property in 1858 was for land on the west side of the river where the mansion was later built.  The land that people assumed was owned by Farnsworth, was actually owned by a farmer named Ortho W. Perkins. Colonel Farnsworth was a well-respected man and most likely asked Perkins to use the land for the Civil War and Perkins agreed. This could be a reason for why there is no record of a land transaction.  I even remembered a quote I read which mentioned the soldiers being camped on a part of the Perkins farm.  Before seeing the evidence I had quickly overlooked that statement.

When looking at some maps from the mid-1900s, there was a land feature that caught my eye.  In the area of Langum Park where the baseball fields are now, was a landfill area.  If there was an area to discard unneeded tailings and dirt, it is quite likely that this was the area of the quarry.  I viewed an aerial photo from 1939 which showed an area which looks like a stone pit on the northeast corner of Langum Park.   This seems like a much more likely location for the quarry than the area Ken McCandless said the quarry was.  The block between 5th Ave and Riverside Ave is much too small to be a quarry.

 This photo is most likely McCauley’s quarry. It is an image of a quarry in St. Charles from the late 1800s and it is unlikely there was more than one quary inSt. Charles at that time.

This photo is most likely McCauley’s quarry. It is an image of a quarry in St. Charles from the late 1800s and it is unlikely there was more than one quary inSt. Charles at that time.

At this time, I rethought my theory about Camp Kane being located north of Colonel Farnsworth’s mansion.  The soldiers passed his house when they marched south to Geneva.  I know before the regiment left there was a ceremony to show them off.  This ceremony most likely took place in town. From town they would have marched south, past Col. Farnsworth’s mansion and continued on to Geneva.

With all these facts in mind, I created a new map showing my new thoughts on the location of Camp Kane.

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Timeline for Langum Park

  • 1850’s In the 1850’s and possibly earlier “There was a large stand of timber known by local residents as “55 acres.”
  • 1861    Farnsworth set up Camp Kane on land owned by Otho Perkins for the 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment.   
  • 1864    Farnsworth set up camp again for the 17th Illinois Cavalry Regiment.
  • 1925    Mayor Langum set aside 20 acres in 1925 to be a city park.
  • 1978    First time Langum Park was in the St. Charles city directory.
  • 1982    June 13th, finally after 67 years of trying to dedicate it as a historical park a memorial was put in place at camp Kane and dedicated as a historical site.
  • 2000    In 2000 wanted to rebuild the Farnsworth mansion in Langum Park standing right across from where it was once built at the south end of the park. 
  • 2014    The Jones Law Office was moved from Cedar Ave. to its current location in Langum Park.   During the Civil War, the law office served as a military recruiting headquarters.

Langum Park Today

 Langum Park is no longer the 55 acres it used to be. The park is now a total of 31.2 acres. The park area has increased since Mayor Langum set aside the 20 acres of land 98 years ago. The forested area of the park has shrunk to about 9 acres.  Today the park has baseball fields, tennis courts and a playground.  There are plenty of picnic tables throughout the park and a great view of the Fox River.  In the winter there is a sledding hill and an ice rink for hockey. On the south end of the park stands the Jones Law Office along with multiple signs about the Civil War and Camp Kane.  Civil war reenactors have come to Langum Park multiple times throughout the last few years. 

Behind the Name

Langum Park was named for one of St. Charles longest serving Mayors, Doctor I. G. Langum. Mayor Langum set aside 20 acres of land in 1925 to become a public space. He was a very productive mayor and St. Charles benefited from his good deeds as mayor.  He was the Mayor for seven consecutive terms.  He started a soup kitchen during the Great Depression and many other projects to help the community during the difficult time. 

Summer Fun: Miss Pikes Progressive Camp

With the summer season here, many parents have had to make the decision of what to do with their children. In the past, many parents looked to Miss Pike’s Progressive Camp in the Fox River Valley to keep their children active and entertained during the summer months.

Miss Pike’s Progressive Camp began in the 1930s and was located at Pinelands on Route 25, north of where Little Woods School is today. The camp was directed by Dorcas and Stella Marie Pike, both graduates of the Pestalozzi-Froebel Teachers College on Chicago. Charles Pike, the brother of Docas and Stella also worked at the camp, serving as athletic supervisor for the boys’ sports and golf lessons. In addition, the camp had many counselors to offer guidance and give special attention to the needs of the campers.

Enrollment in Miss Pike’s Progressive Summer Camp typically lasted eight weeks and was available to boys and girls ages three to fifteen. The camp focused on developing the physical and social health of each individual child with activities such as horseback riding, tennis, golf, twice daily swimming lessons, hayrack parties, picnics, nature excursions, and after dinner movies. Private tutoring was also available to students for an additional charge. To ensure the healthy development of campers, the Pikes kept daily records of camper’s weight and hired a University of Chicago clinic specialist to supervise their diets.

The Pikes also worked to strike a balance between relaxation and outdoor actives within their camp. They placed all the campers on a regular sleeping schedule which included naps for the younger campers. Finally, the Pikes ensured that the children were surrounded with experienced councilors who provided supervision and friendship for the campers.

The regular summer season for Miss Pike’s Progressive Camp ran from June 20 to August 16 and cost $240 per camper, but a $40 discount was offered if a camper was registered by the first of May. However, when the summer camp ended in may many parents wished that their children could remain at Pinelands and continue their educations.

In 1932, aware of the demand Stella Pike and her husband bought a large house at the southeast corner of Main and Seventh Streets in St. Charles and opened the Miss Pikes’ Progressive School. The combined boarding and day school offered instruction for boys and girls in the elementary grades but soon began to offer high school level courses. Overall, the Pike’s strove to incorporate an academic curriculum with a hoke-like familiar atmosphere so children would become polite, well-rounded individuals.

Each year the school would open the second week of September and closed around the first of June. Tuition was approximately $950 and included everything but piano and voice lessons. As more students entered the school, the Pikes felt the need for more space and decide to build an addition to their house in the late 1940s. The school continued at this location up until the late 1960s when Stella and her husband retired. At the time of the closure, the school was nationally renowned and had housed children from across the country.

 

St. Charles Scoop: The Great Spider-Snake Fight

The Great Spider story began Aug. 21, 1932 when a St. Charles city employee was checking the pumphouse of Fourth Street and walked into a fascinating and awesome sight. A spider holding a snake captive in its web. For the next three weeks no legendary spider of snake ever enjoyed such a burst of notoriety as these two creatures in the St. Charles pumphouse.

Snake and Spider War, Photograph contributed by Mayor Langum. Sept. 1932

It was surmised that the snake, a seven inch garter, had made a pass at the spider and missed. The snake's had was annoyingly tangled in the web. When the snake tired, the spider, sensing weakness, began to relentlessly spin more web. 

Besides being a closeup of a natural struggle for survival, which attracts human attention, this situation presented elements that aroused human emotions. Some people were shocked. Some felt the pity for the snake which was clearly losing the fight. Gambling instincts were provoked. The wire service spread the story and pictures of the epic battle throughout the nation.

Adding to the interest was the fact that the two creatures who normally are among the most repulsive to man, were not able to capture human interest and sympathy for their respective positions. People all over the country took sides. Some wanted the snake to win. Many thought the clever little spider deserved the victory. Phone calls and letters came to city hall from all of the U.S. and Mayor Langum found himself in the middle of a great controversy and refused to take sides.

Days passed into weeks and still, the struggle between the spider and the snake made the news. The spider by now had cunningly spun reinforcing threads in several directions and the snake couldn't battle to free itself. On September 14, about three weeks of international commotion, Mayor Langum decided he'd had enough.

He entered the pump house alone and cut down the snake. It was exhibited for a few days in a store window to prove that it was alive. A number of days later the same was released in an area of Pottawatomie Park where it was occasionally seen running away from ground spiders.

Click to read the full article, St. Charles Chronicle, September 11, 1932.

St. Charles Scoop: Camp Kane

Today's St. Charles Scoop goes back in time today to talk about Camp Kane and the Illinois 8th Cavalry. Camp Kane was a training ground for the Eighth and Seventeenth Illinois Calvary, the Calvary was lead by General John Farnsworth. Camp Kane was home to training grounds for more than a thousand Union soldiers and along Farnsworth was the famous Marcellus Jones, the man who fired the first shot at Gettysburg. Born in Canada, Farnsworth was a surveyor and studied law in Michigan before moving to St. Charles to establish a law office in the 1840s. He served in the United States Congress from 1857-1860, and from 1863-1872. Farnsworth was an abolitionist and a friend of Abraham Lincoln and nominated Lincoln for the office of U.S. President at the Republican Party Convention in 1860. The 8th Illinois Cavalry Regiment saw action in many Civil War battles, most notably the Battles of Manassas, Williamsburg, Mechanicsville, Alexandria, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg. The 8th Calvary was also tasked with searching for John Wilks Booth who shot and killed Lincoln, they also guarded Lincolns tomb while it was in Springfield Illinois. In August 2014, the Jones Law Office was moved from Cedar Ave. to its current location in Langum Park.  During the Civil War, the law office served as a military recruiting headquarters.  At one time, the small building was used as a holding cell for deserting soldiers.

Camp Kane is one of the last four surviving Civil War training ground sites in Illinois. The Camp Kane Heritage Foundation, which came together in 2014, put together an ambitious plan to raise about $10 million to construct a Civil War Underground Railroad and Discovery Center at Camp Kane in St. Charles. Even to this day some St. Charles residents are unaware of Camp Kane and its importance to our towns history. The museum boasts a display of the Camp Kane and Illinois Eight Calvary with its display in the museum with such items as a office Kepi, a backpack from the civil war, and Civil War Epaulets

St. Charles Scoop: Leroy Oaks

Leroy Oaks is a beautiful forest preserve that attracts a lot of visitors every year even during the winter time. Leroy Oaks doesn’t just play home to visitors it’s also the home of high school cross country races during the high school season and is a place many people flock to for wedding photos, prom photos, family photos, and simply to enjoy nature. The barn at Leroy Oaks is a landmark many people know of quite well, it’s the most popular spot for people to take photos of groups or individuals, the forest preserve also sees lots of runners, walkers, and bikers. Leroy Oaks is maintained by the forest preserve crew and they do controlled burns, clear out ruts of logs, and keep the forest preserve nice and clean for many to enjoy. Another big attraction in Leroy Oaks is the creek where many people like to visit in the summer whether it’s to play in the creek on sit on the bank of the creek and enjoy a book or enjoy some family time. Leroy Oaks is a great place to visit to get away from the day to day grind as a place to go to and unwind and enjoy all of it’s beauty. Leroy Oaks is also located near the great western trail which is a path that goes for miles and miles that starts near the parking lot and is a variation of crushed limestone and pavement that many people enjoy for walks, runs, bike rides, and even sees people practicing skiing during winter. As summer is in full swing there is nothing better than to go enjoy all  that Leroy Oaks has to offer whether you plan to go play in the creek or take a nice walk along the paths. Of course, on a day like today is a great day to play in the creek.

St. Charles Scoop: Colonial Cafe

Colonial Ice Cream has been around for over a hundred years and was founded in 1901. Colonial started out as a delivery service for milk and eventually ice cream, they used to pack the milk and ice cream with ice that was harvested by workers and packed. Colonial has transformed over the years from a dairy business to a restaurant and attract people for breakfast, lunch, and dinner offering a wide variety menu. Their still most famous for their ice cream and the famous kitchen sink, a concoction of different ice cream and topping placed in a kitchen sink and if you finish the kitchen sink you get a bumper sticker saying, “I finished a kitchen sink” Colonial Café. The Café has moved to a new location on Randall road near the circuit court. The menu offers people many beverages, and food options with so much diversity but most people have their favorite dishes they go to whenever they go there. The Colonial Café has been a benchmark of St. Charles being one of the oldest business to exist for over a hundred years and to this day is a local hot spot that many favor. For many people Colonial Café is just more than a restaurant and café to them, it’s their favorite place in St. Charles to get something good to eat or simply to enjoy their famous ice cream which lots of St. Charles residents have fond memories of.

St. Charles Scoop: Running Clubs

There are plenty of running events throughout St. Charles every day because, let’s face it, working out and running by yourself can get boring; having people to run with makes it more fun! Two of the most popular groups are great places to meet and run with people who like to exercise and socialize. The first is the Fox River Trail Runners, who run on the Great Western Trail every Wednesday night and host many other runs and races throughout the Kane County area. Another way to meet runners is through a visit to Dick Pond Athletics. Dick Pond has many programs for runners, and even if you aren’t quite a runner yet they have a run to walk program which prepares you for the transition from walking to running.

Dick Pond is also a shop full of great running gear for all levels of athlete. Glenn, the owner of Dick Pond, has done a lot for the local running community of St. Charles, and his staff is very knowledgeable and can help find the best shoe for you. The Fox River Trail Runners group as well as Dick Pond Athletics aren’t just great opportunities to enjoy runs with others: they are also perfect for you to meet new people, make friends, and socialize. No matter your skill level, both groups welcome all people who want to run. St. Charles has a vibrant running community, and both the Fox River Trail Runners and Dick Pond Athletics are great ways to become a part of this welcoming community. 

St. Charles Scoop

Pottawatomie Park has been around for a long time, and has something for just about everyone whether it’s mini golf, swimming, golfing, events at the community center, paddle boat tours, or just relaxing in the park. Especially now that summer is in full swing there is lots of fun to be had at the Park. Fancy a round of golf? The Pottawatomie golf course is for you. With a nine hole variety course, it is a great place to hit the greens. Maybe you’re looking to do something with friends:  perhaps a round of mini golf or a ride on the paddle boats that you can take out on the river. Summer heat got you beat? Consider a nice day at the swimming pool: take a dip, relax on a on a chair, and let the day pass by. No matter who you are there is something fun for you at Pottawatomie Park!

 

 

 Image courtesy of St. Charles Park District 

Image courtesy of St. Charles Park District 

How to Get North on the Westside?

Guest Blogger-Archie Bentz

Archie Bentz was the last owner of what is now the St. Charles History Museum and over the last few year's he has been compiling a list of the Tri-Cities service stations. When the Museum was creating its new exhibit Serving Gas to Preserving History, Archie was a wealth of information but it also sparked some new questions and we are looking to the community for help.

 This is a current Google Earth photo of  311-313 N 5th Street  in St Charles, the present home of Boyle Body Shop.  

This is a current Google Earth photo of 311-313 N 5th Street in St Charles, the present home of Boyle Body Shop.  

I am currently working on compiling a history of Tri-City service stations and automobile dealerships.  I have a limited history of this site going back to 1932 as shown below and would appreciate any information to fill in the gaps in dates and names of those in operation. 

My Remembrances...

Here is what I remember of this area in St. Charles as a kid; The main north-south highway that we know of today as Route 31 or Second Street in St Charles did not pass under the railroad tracks about 3 blocks north of Rt 64.  There had been no provision for a tunnel or underpass of the railroad right-of-way.  I believe there only two ways to go north of St Charles on the west side; 1) travel west on Dean Street and drive over the tracks, 2) there was a tunnel under the tracks either on north 5th or north 6th.  I believe that since there was this early filling station on north 5th it would stand to reason it was constructed to service the northbound traffic leaving town. 
The original filling station would have been the right side of the building prior to the addition of service bays.

313 North 5th Street History

  • 1932 Wheeler's Shell Oil Station?       
  • 1940 Jones Harry (my cousins paternal grandfather, later the operator of Brilliant Bronze on Main St.)
  • 1947-56 Myers Phillips 66 Ph 3595-Clarence C Myers (same Myers @ 611 E State Geneva?)
  • 1958-62 Schulz Phillips 66 and used cars?
  • 1970’s Schulz Body Shop Mike Schulz
  • 1996-Present Boyle Body Shop-Denny Boyle

What Do You Remember?

Who remembers when north 2nd Street and the railroad underpass were constructed and the highway was designated Route 31?

Does anyone have early photos of this location that could be shared with the Museum and myself?