SO, HAD YOU HEARD of the community of Evarta before last week’s PDQ Me? For nearly thirty years we’ve been introducing you to many features—man-made or natural in Northwest Illinois—everyday or historical—an event or person that sets apart from the entire. We have several of those yet to tell!
In Ogle County there were/are many groves of trees—notable in size and surrounded by beautiful rolling prairie and out- croppings of rocky bluffs. The various groves had their own characteristics or lore attached to it.
December 15, 1836 Dr. John Roe and wife, Elizabeth, moved into their log cabin and thus began a decade-long tradition. It was a simple thing but it saved many a life.
A lighted oil lamp burned every night, all night in the Roe’s window to guide the lost or lonely prairie traveler, even the doctor himself out on call. The place, naturally, became known as the “Lighthouse” or “Lighthouse Point” — a charming sobriquet.
As churches came to be built, their permanency and the local Methodist Church, became identified as the “Lighthouse Methodist Church,” a beacon, yes, for the lost and lonely, the searching soul. Its congregation has met about as long as anyone in Northern Illinois.
If there was a chance for any of the “groves” in south central Ogle it could have been “Daysville,” about half-way between Oregon, the eventual capitol of Ogle and the Roe’s Lighthouse. Reference gives that “it was planned to be the center of the area.”
The “planning” took place in the mid-to-late eighteen fifties when railroads were making tempting lures, phoney rewards, all to gain land in that case, a village cited to hold a depot along with stores that eventually filled the street-grocery, clothing, two hotels, a blacksmith shop and so forth.
Although “Daysville” was an active place, Oregon won the railroad line to make it’s “fame and fortune.”
Daysville is easily reached by taking the road south near the golf course/cement plant just east of the bridge over the Rock River. Only a couple miles in a wooded, scenic drive you’ll come to the Daysville Cemetery with its impressive Civil War monument and other markers. Large numbers come to pay their respects, riverside. You will also see the remnants of Daysville itself though much reduced in business numbers to one excellent café, “LaVigna.”
Almost part of the border that triangulates the neighborhood of groves being described is “Watertown” Road which with its creek supported a saw mill, a carding mill to process wool and had the prestige of a post office for two years.
The only explanation for the name of the one-time bustling community of a dozen houses—now dwindled (!) was that the area was prone to floods: from Kyte Creek, we suppose, rather than the Rock.
One of Watertown’s famed citizens was one Major Chamberlin who having arrived in 1835 catered to his penchant for horses. He bred, raised horses by the dozens. During the heyday of the “Prairie Bandits” in the 1840’s, a gang of thieves whose “extended family” stole and passed on horses in an interstate agenda was feared by most but Chamberlin did something about it. He’d secure his most valuable horses in the barn equipped with a very heavy door. There were secret exits and entrances and the heavy main door was controlled from the interior by a clever windlass to thwart the Banditti.
This genuine threat to frontier life will be assembled in the future.
Perhaps it was Major Chamberlin’s love of horses from an early time over the Watertown Road that inspired the Burright family to take up horse racing—they lived in this neighborhood, too, but more in Honey Creek.
Neva “Grandma” Burright became nationally famous for driving sulkies pulled by pacers and trotters. She drove well into her seventies.
Honey Creek was at one time “Honey Creek Station,” a marketing stop on the railroad. It was laid out by the Major Chamberlin at Watertown in 1873. He enticed the railroad by donating the property for the depot. Livestock pens to hold cattle waiting shipment to the Union Yards in Chicago plus a large grain elevator built in 1905, holding grains for shipping also. Its life was short. It was torn down in 1930 as Markets changed. The pictures of a Honey Creek plat and its elevator are taken from the 1970 Ogle County History.
The cartoon of the conductor signaling with a lamp is from a reference concerning Evarta, Stephenson County community.
Driving sulkies was a popular past time in the area. Chamberlin, for one had an oval track. Fairs and festivals featured them. “Grandma” Burright was part of the contents in the PDQ Me in the past.
Reference says that the people in Nachusa Township were “spirited.” “Hot Elections” occurred and voters plied with cigars and candy bars! Like many another of America’s thousands of villages there were individualists in every one ... Just like today!
Wouldn’t you have appreciated seeing the man in charge of the semaphore lamp waving it with the signals to guide the train engineer; this long before electronic devices of any kind!
And there were a few “bad apples” in the bunch. The execution of the Driscoll gang, the Banditti of the Prairie was committed in the midst of all the neighborhoods by the local possé at Washington Grove. Add that to the lore of the Northwest.