History of Plano, Illinois

History of Plano


(Excerpts from Plano, Birthplace of the harvester, written and compiled by Vernon Derry, edited by Mrs. Raymond Nelson for Plano’s 100th Anniversary) Italics added.

Plano was not founded on a desolate terrain as were many villages a century and a half ago. This area had been occupied by a few early Kendall county settlers who had been here for several years. A Mr. Ball had built a saw an grist mill on Big Rock Creek one mile south of Plano in 1835. He sold this mill to John Schneider two years later. Mr. Schneider had built the first mill at Yorkville in 1832, being an early settler there. Other mills were build nearby along the creeks and Fox River. David and Benjamin Evans were among the first settlers who claimed land where Plano is now located. They sold out to Marcus Steward in 1838. Archibald Sears and Cornelius Henning settled in 1836 from New York State.
The Aurora Branch Railroad was completed in 1851, running between Turners Junction (West Chicago) and Aurora. This line connected with the Chicago and Galena Union (Northwestern) at the junction giving Aurora a train into Chicago. In 1853, the Aurora Branch Railroad extended its tracks westward to Mendota, Illinois, and the name changed to Chicago and Aurora Railroad. The tracks missed Oswego and Bristol what we now know as the north side of Yorkville, but stations were built for these villages along the right of way. There was a distance of eleven miles between the Bristol station and Sandwich with plenty of room for another station. So, between the Big Rock and Little Rock timbers the town of Plano was laid out on February 28, 1853. Plano is the Spanish word for plain. Plano was not built along a river, but up on the plains. John Hollister, a landholder of the vicinity suggested the name. Much of the land belonged to Marcus Steward who was instrumental in inducing the surveyors to lay the railroad over his prairie land instead of following the river towns of Oswego, Yorkville, and Bristol.
John Fletcher Hollister

The first house built in this new town was constructed by William Ervin who soon opened a general store in his home. Calvin Barber built the second house in town and soon afterwards built the Excelsior, Plano’s first hotel. Hugh B. Henning opened up the second store in our new village. All this and more took place that first summer in 1853, before the first train pulled into town on August 23.

The nearest post office was at Little Rock village (est. 1836) where the mail was brought in on the Frink & Walker stage coaches twice each week. Plano’s post office was established in 1854 with Denslow Henning receiving the commission as first postmaster.

The Bell Rings

Perhaps the first school in our vicinity was the Hiddleson school which opened in 1837. Mr. Hiddleson contracted to construct a log school house complete with shake roof and filling between the logs for the sum of eighty dollars. This school was in the Rob Roy timber. Joseph Lehman was the first teacher. Another early school was held in a log cabin on the site of the Plano Cemetery. It opened in 1839 with Thomas Hamilton, a well educated man from England, as the first teacher. He taught French, Latin and higher mathematics to the older “scholars.”

In 1845 the Ryan school opened, luring all the children the from other schools. The first teacher was a Mr. Greeley, relative of the famous Horace (Go west, young man) Greeley. This school operated for about ten years. The Gravel school was the first within the new town of Plano. It was built in 1850 and was the leading school in the township until the Plano Academy was opened in 1854. This academy was unquestionably the finest school in the county. At first it was maintained by charging tuition, but later was supported by taxes when the State of Illinois passed such laws. As the attendance grew, a number of smaller buildings were built or moved to the school grounds. The large original building was referred to as the mother hen, while the smaller ones were the little chickens.
The Academy
After many years the big building was moved up on Main street and was replaced with a fine new brick and stone school on the same site. This building accommodated both grade and high school students until the new high school Bingaman Building was built in 1926. The new Centennial grade school on the south side of town will be dedicated this year (1954) and will provide the finest facilities for education for many years.
Plano Grade School

Our City Fathers

In 1836 Cornelius Henning, his wife Marbry (Thurber) and family left their home in Resselaer County, N. Y., and settled on the present site of Plano.
Cornelius Henning
Marbry Thurber Henning

Hugh B. Henning, a son of Cornelius, raised his family just west of Plano. He and his wife Jane Ursula (Steward), were the parents of four sons, Edgar L., Albert E., Charles S., and Lawrence.

Edgar L. was born April 8, 1849. His early life was spent on his father's farm and in local schools. In 1869 he graduated from the University of Michigan. His first postiton was as a bookkeeper with the firm of Steard & Henning, manufactureres of horvesting machines. In 1875 he went in partnership with W. F. Ross under the firm name of Henning & Ross, operating a lunber and implement business. He was the promoter of Plano's first electric light plant.

He married Mary Sears in 1874 having two children, Arthur Sears and Ethel A. Henning. In October, 1909, Edgar L. moved to Washington, D. C. and died three months later.

Arthur Sears Henning now retired (1954), resides in Washington, D. C. For many years he was a competent and trusted correspondent of the Chicago Tribune. Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Sears Henning are the parents of three daughters and also have six grandchildren.

William T. Henning, another son of Cornelius, settled on a farm near Plano. He was married to Marinda B. Brown and died in 1881. They were the parents of the following children: Loren D., Gilbert F., Clara E., Hershel E., Hattie E., William W., and Eva L.

Loren D. Henning, son of William T. was born on April 13, 1845. He recieved his education in the district schools after which he assisted his father in homesteading until his marriage to Laura Ervin on December 30,1868.

He was a very successful farmer and retired in 1890, spending the remainder of his life in Plano. His first wife died in 1891 and she was survived by her husband and three children, Everett W., Katherine and Ervin D.

On May 20, 1896, Loren married Mrs. Maude E. (Applegate) Cook. Maude, also a native of Plano was the daughter of Seirgn Potter and Sarah Ann (Davis) Applegate, who came to Plano in 1856. Her father was engaged in the merchandising business for over forty years.

In February, 1901, Mrs. Maude Henning was appointed librarian of the Little Rock Township Public Library and served very efficiently until her retirement in November 1951. Loren Henning died October 16, 1916.

Gilbert Denslow Henning, youngest son of the late Cornelius Henning was born January 28, 1828. He was appointed Plano's first postmaster in 1854. Mr. Henning died in Plano on October 17, 1909. He has a large number of relatives still residing in Plano today.
Gilbert Denslow Henning

Marcus Steward and his wife Ursula (Hollister) journeyed from Wayne County, Pennsylvania, with their family of five chidlren in a covered wagon. Four more children were born to them after settling here. Marcus bought a claim which later was the site of northern Plano. His occupation was farming so he lost no time in developing and cultivating the ground. In 1842 he built a sawmill and in 1852 a grist mill on Big Rock Creek. Later Marcus assisted his sons in the development of the Marsh Harvester.
Marcus Steward

The Hon. Lewis Steward, eldest son of Marcus, followed in his father's footsteps to become one of Plano's leading citizens. He was instrumental in inducing the railroad surveyors to lay the tracks out through his land. He was a promoter of good roads by graveling them. Lewis is also credited with and responsible for the turning point in harvester history -- the Marsh Harvester. Accomplishing many things for Plano, Lewis Steward will long be remembered for his interests in our city's welfare. Plano has often been called "The Child of Lewis Steward's Creation."

John Fletcher Steward, second son of Marcus also became one of Plano's distinguished men. Besides being a historian, he was a mechanical engineer and inventor, having many patents on harvesting machinery. Much of his knowledge was gained from extensive travel. He was the author of the "Lost Maramech and Old Chicago," a book requiring endless research, even into the French army archives of nearly three centuries ago. No volume is more complete than this in dealing with local Indian history.

William Deering Steward, grandson of the original Marcus Steward, was the last of Stewards to make Plano his home. He was the third son of Lewis, the harvester king. He was educated locally and received his law schooling in Chicago, and was the first president of the First State Bank of Plano. He also was mayor of our city for fourteen years. All of us remember Deering, as he was with us until 1953.

Archibald Sears was one of the early settlers in Kendall County. In 1836 with a capital of $1,500 he left New York state, buying surveying equipment on the way. Upon arriving here he assisted in making surveys, and worked in various counties laying out sections and townships. Meanwhile, Mr. Sears invested heavily in land. Later be became a large stockholder in the Sandwich Manufacturing Co. He was twice married, outlived both wives, No, his 2nd wife survived until 1905. dying at the age of 92.

Albert H. Sears was born in Plano from the second marriage of Archibald Sears. Albert was one of the incorporators of the Plano Manufacturing Company organized in 1881. He was director and general superintendent of the plant until 1883 when he resigned to enter the banking and mercantile business. In 1895 when the Plano Mfg. Co. moved to West Pullman, Mr. Sears bought the old harvester plant and started his own business. The Sears name will always be remembered in Plano.

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Anne Sears Genealogy
Updated: January 13, 2006, by Anne Sears
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