Picturesque Geneva Retains Its Historic Flavor

By Murphy, Jean | Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), July 14, 2000 | Go to article overview
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Picturesque Geneva Retains Its Historic Flavor


Murphy, Jean, Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)


Mill Creek, site of the Home Builders Association of Greater Fox Valley's Gallery of Homes 2000, is located a few miles west of one of Illinois' oldest and most picturesque places - Geneva.

Well-known in the region as a quaint, charming, historic town, Geneva has long been a day, weekend or summer destination for Chicagoans looking for a country getaway.

But it is also a place for families to live and raise children. It is a community of neighborhoods that are linked to a unique downtown and historic districts by a network of integrated green space and the Fox River.

Over the years, Geneva has strived to retain its picturesque surroundings and the country atmosphere.

"It was, and still is, the desire that Geneva be a place of beautiful homes, a residential outpost of the big city, rather than a bustling, smoky manufacturing town," according to literature from the Geneva Chamber of Commerce.

Now a city of approximately 19,000 people, Geneva had humble beginnings.

Daniel Shaw Haight, a Dutchman, was the first white settler. He staked a claim under the 1831 land grant act of Congress and built a "dwelling of unhewn poles" on the Fox River in 1833. After only a few months, however, he and his wife moved to the more civilized town of Naperville and two years later sold their claim to James and Charity Herrington.

The Herringtons were to become very influential in the growth and development of Geneva (which was called Herrington's Ford, LaFox and Campbell Ford before the name Geneva was finally adopted in 1836).

James Herrington platted the town, helped establish it as the Kane County seat, was elected sheriff and opened a combination general store/tavern/post office, all before his untimely death in 1839 at the age of 41.

In the years that followed, Geneva grew and the economy revolved around agriculture. Soon there were factories producing packed meat, butter, cheese, milled grains, glucose and flax.

The coming of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad in 1853 had a huge effect on Geneva. Not only did it provide a link with Chicago, but it also brought a huge influx of Swedish immigrants to the town. They labored to bring the railroad to Geneva and then many of them returned to the little town to live.

Once settled in the area, they communicated with friends and relatives back in Sweden, extolling the virtues of Geneva, and more Swedes began the trek. By 1895, half of Geneva's citizens spoke Swedish as their first language.

Geneva was officially incorporated as a village in 1858 and then as a city in 1887. In fact, James Herrington, son of the town's founder, was the first mayor.

One of the most interesting chapters in Geneva's venerable history concerns Colonel George Fabyan and his wife, Nelle.

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