History of Montgomery

History of Montgomery

The following is based on the book Past and Present of Kane County Illinois printed in 1878 by the Wm. Le Baron Company of Chicago, and on The History of Montgomery Illinois in Words and Pictures printed in 1990 by the Montgomery Historical Committee: 

The earliest white settler to come to the area that later became Montgomery was Jacob Carpenter, who came to Chicago from Logan County, Ohio in November 1832. In December of the following year, having spent the summer and fall at Naperville, which then contained some half a dozen families, he took up land and built a log house on the east side of the Fox River. This house was the first in Aurora Township and one of the first in Kane County, and was occupied by Carpenter and his family the week before Christmas 1833. His wife, Nancy Pierce Carpenter, gave birth to a son, Elijah P. Carpenter, on May 25, 1834--the first white child born in Aurora Township.

In the following April, Elijah Pierce, Carpenter's father-in-law, also from Logan County, followed him to the new country, and built a second shanty on the same side of the river and nearer the bank than Carpenter's. For years this served as an inn for travelers, although it had only one room that served as kitchen, dining room, living room and bedroom. William T. Elliott, who came from Tioga County, NY and took up an adjoining claim in June 1834, said that he had seen 40 people -- men, women and children--sleeping on the floor of that room. William Elliott later married Rebecca Pierce, daughter of Elijah Pierce, on August 3, 1835. This was the first marriage in Aurora Township.

At that time, no Government surveys had been made anywhere in the vicinity. All were squatters, and all were obliged to go to Ottawa for transaction of any public business.

In the fall of 1835, Daniel S. Gray, from Montgomery County, NY, visited the area, where his brother Nicholas Gray had located the previous spring, on a farm now within the limits of Kendall County. Pleased with the new country, he made immediate preparations to settle there, and in the fall of 1836, having removed his family from NY, he built the first frame house in the Village. It was located in the south part of what is now Montgomery, near the west bank of the river, and was Montgomery was that of Ralph Gray in 1843. The earliest death was that of DeWitt, son of Daniel Gray, in the fall of 1844.

Daniel Gray was a man of much energy and enterprise. No sooner had he settled in the place than he commenced improvements on a grand scale. A store, foundry, reaper and header manufacturing shop over 100 feet in length, a second foundry built of stone, and one of the best stone grist-mills in the country, appeared in rapid succession. Mr. Gray was making preparations for still more extensive business operations, in the establishment of a manufactory of stationery engines, when he died in October of 1855.

Daniel Gray is considered to be the founder of Montgomery, as he purchased several land grants from the Federal government, and owned large sections of land. The settlement was called "Graystown" for several years, but eventually he pursuaded the other settlers to call the little village "Montgomery" after the county in New York that he and several other settlers had come from. He had a good portion of his land on the west side of the Fox River surveyed and platted in 1853, and he began selling off lots for building houses. Nevertheless, when Daniel Gray died in 1855, he still owned the majority of the lots in the village. His heirs continued selling off these lots and the village continued to grow.

In 1858, the Village of Montgomery was incorporated, with 30 votes being cast for incorporation and four against. Ralph Gray, son of Daniel Gray, was elected Village President. Trustees were John Lilley, R. L. Davis, Edward Gillett and A.C. Palmer. Miles Ferguson was appointed Village Clerk. Ralph Gray served as Village President until his death in June of 1860, and he was succeeded by Vine A. Watkins, a son-inlaw of Daniel Gray.