History of Polo

The Library has many books on Polo and Ogle County in the Local History section and the local paper on microfilm going back to 1865.

History of Abraham Lincoln in Polo


Abraham Lincoln in Polo

        Much interest has centered upon the visits of Abraham Lincoln to this area, particularly to Buffalo Grove and Polo.  Documented visits to these two communities number only four and of these only one can justifiably be described as a "visit".
        But to give the documented facts of his presence in this immediate area one must mention his military service.
        It will be remembered that Lincoln, then only 23 years old, had been elected captain of a company recruited to aid in fighting the Blackhawk War in 1832. He served as captain only a brief period then was discharged. He then enlisted as a private in the company of Captain Iles at Dixon's Ferry.
        On June 8, 1832, Captain Iles set off according to military orders issued by Col. Zachary Taylor, later to become president, to follow Kellogg's Trail to Galena "to examine the whole country for Indians and to collect as much information about the enemy as possible . . . Camp is made 20 miles from Dixon's Ferry."
        Kellogg's Trail traversed the prairie a few miles east of Polo, passed a short distance west of Mt. Morris and then on northwesterly.  So Lincoln's first experience did not touch Polo at all.  On the return visit his Company passed through Buffalo Grove.
        Now some consideration must be given to Lincoln's only real visit to Polo.  This was in 1856 on the occasion of his public address at Oregon.
        When Zenas Aplington learned of the plans for the big rally, a highlight of the Fremont-Buchanan campaign, he extended a personal invitation to Lincoln to be his house guest.  Subsequent eventualities confirm the statement that Lincoln accepted Aplington's invitation, came to Polo where he was the latter's guest on the night before the joint debate with Col. John Wentworth and again the night of August 16, 1856, the day on which the debate was held.
  After breakfast the first morning, Aplington and his guest walked downtown past the Sanford House, crossed the street and climbed the stairs to the law offices of John D. Campbell over the Bingaman and Schell meat market which was on the lot now occupied by the central portion of the Polo National Bank building.
        There Aplington introduced Lincoln to Campbell who had already heard of the Rail Splitter.  Campbell and his law partner, J. W. Carpenter, were invited to accompany them to Oregon.
        The story of Campbell's association with Lincoln is told in his own words which were printed in a little folder.  A copy of this folder "Personal Recollections of Abraham Lincoln," came into the possession of the late James Nichols, former mayor of Polo, whose father's sister, Mary Nichols, married Joshua Aplington, perhaps a brother, at least a relative, of Zenas Aplington.
        This folder Jim Nichols placed in his copy of the report of the unsuccessful constitutional convention held in 1922, of which he was a member.  After the last of the Nichols family, Miss Olive Nichols, had passed away, a sale of the household effects was held at the Olive Nichols home on West Colden street.  There the book with some others was put up for sale at auction.  It was a few years before the little Campbell folder was discovered nicely preserved between the leaves of the leather bound book.  It revealed a historical secret, secret at least to modern day Polo residents, that Lincoln not only visited Polo but stayed two nights here.
        The story had been going the rounds that this was the case but it could not be documented. The Campbell folder proved the story true band at the same time proved another untrue-that Lincoln stayed overnight with Judge Campbell.
        In 1856 Campbell was a young lawyer not yet elected county judge and still a boarder at the Sanford House.  Campbell's leaflet not only reveals the fact that Lincoln did stay overnight but it named his likely host, who was none other than Zenas Aplington, and the further fact that Lincoln stayed two nights.
  In browsing through sources of local history including that of the late John W. Clinton, for 50 years a dedicated student of life and times in Polo, reference was found that named Zenas Aplington as Lincoln's host both nights the future President was a guest in a Polo home.
        These facts were known to earlier generations in Polo but today no one could be found who could document the Polo Lincoln story.  The generation that knew these facts and others as well from the lips of those who made early history in now gone.  Only published accounts can be the source.  In his leaflet Judge Campbell, whose daughter Juanitta, was the wife of the late Same Hammer, reminisced as follows concerning his recollections of Lincoln:
        "I met Lincoln but a few times, yet under circumstances very favorable for forming an estimate of the goodness and greatness of the man, and for forming an opinion which foreshadowed to my mind the wonderful achievements wrought by him in the interest of our republic and of mankind during his presidential term.  I first met Lincoln in the autumn of 1856 in Polo.  The occasion was a political rally at Oregon before the presidential election which occurred in November of that year.  The candidate for the presidency that year were John C. Fremont, nominated by the Republican party, and James Buchanan nominated by the Democratic party.  The speakers advertised for the Oregon rally were John Wentworth of Chicago and Abraham Lincoln of Springfield.  I remember that on the posters advertising the meeting, Wentworth's name was printed in letters about four inches high and Lincoln's below that of Wentworth's in letters only about two inches high.
        "Mr. Lincoln came to Polo the night before the meeting and I think was a guest of
Zenas Aplington (a published story in John W. Clinton's scrapbook of local history said that Lincoln stayed both nights at the Zenas Aplington home).
        "The next morning Mr. Aplington introduced me to Lincoln in my law office and invited me and my law partner, J. W. Carpenter, to accompany Mr. Lincoln and himself to Oregon. We accepted the invitation, and we four rode over in a carriage, arriving there at noon. The political meeting was held at or near the fair grounds at about 2 o'clock in the afternoon. An immense crowd of people was in attendance. Mr. Wentworth made the opening address, which was a very able effort, perhaps an hour long. At the close of his address a large proportion of the audience arose and started to go away. The chairman of the meeting called to them to remain and hear the address of Abraham Lincoln. They paused and remained standing while Mr. Lincoln arose to begin his address. The appearance of the speaker in his ill-fitting dress and his generally awkward manner provoked the mirth of the audience to such an extent that the laughter was audible, but when he had fairly begun the people standing moved forward and sat down to listen - reminding me of the congregation in Goldsmith's "Deserted Village," "who came to scoff but remained to pray."
    "When Mr. Lincoln had finished his address it was the general opinion of those present that his speech far surpassed Mr. Wentworth's in logic, power and eloquence. Quite late in the afternoon, the same quartet that went in Mr. Aplington's carriage returned to Polo, where Mr. Lincoln again stayed all night. I was then boarding at the Sanford House and sat by the side of Mr. Lincoln at the breakfast table next morning and afterwards sat talking with him on the Mason street front of the Sanford House for an hour or more. Later in the day Mr. Lincoln came up into our office, which was located in the rooms over Bingaman & Schell's meat market, and after visiting a while, said that he "would take a little walk" to stretch his legs. I offered to walk with him, and we went up Division street as far as the summit, about where the water tower now stands and then returned to the Sanford House.
    "In our ride to Oregon and back Mr. Lincoln was very talkative and told many stories so quaint and funny that we almost exploded with laughter; in the meantime he scarcely ever smiled. His stories were always made to point a moral or adorn a tale. I remember well his facial expressions at all times when I was with him; they were always sad and thoughtful, and his deep-set eyes had a far-away look. The next and only other time that I saw Mr. Lincoln was at the joint debate between himself and Senator Douglas at Freeport in the fall of 1858, which was the most famous of all the joint debates between those intellectual giants."
    Now that it has been reaffirmed that Lincoln spent two nights in Polo the question naturally arises, "where did Zenas Aplington, his host, live in 1856? Has the "Lincoln House" been destroyed and removed? Is it still standing?
    Many believe that Lincoln was a guest in the house now owned and occupied by
Mr. and Mrs. John Paap, 125 North Franklin Street.
    Records state that Zenas Aplington about 1849 moved one of his frame houses from Buffalo Grove to his farm on the prairie northeast of the town. Later, when the town was platted Mr. Aplington's home stood on lot 1, block 21, at the corner of North Franklin and Locust Streets. Lot 1 in 1856 was the very last lot on North Franklin lying parallel to Locust street facing east.
    But Lot 1 today is not in that exact location. Some time after 1872 the City replatted in that particular area with the result that Lot 1, Block 21, is now occupied by the Town Hall, the north side of that structure. Do not let this legal description confuse you for historical records, including the abstract in possession of Mr. and Mrs. John "Jack" Paap, show Lot 1, Block 21, as being situated in the actual corner of North Franklin and Locust Streets. That is the exact location to which Zenas Aplington moved his house about 1849. It is where all records state he lived and made his home. One reference is made to it as Mr. Aplington's "cheerful home," which gives an insight into his philosophy of life.

History of Buffalo Grove


Buffalo Grove History

    One of the factors which contributed largely to the opening up of Rock River Valley was the discovery and working of the lead mines at Galena.  Many of the pioneers from the eastern states traveling to Galena passed through this beautiful valley.  Many of these travelers either abandoned their original destination, in order to locate in what later became Ogle County, or returned at a later date to find homes here. 
    Some of the early Galena trails through this part of the country crossed Rock River at Ogee's Ferry.  Ogee later sold his ferry to John Dixon.  The Kellogg Trail, marked in 1825, passed through this area between where Polo and Mt. Morris are now located.  The Boles Trail, marked in 1826 went about a mile east of where Polo is now located.  In 1829 John Ankeny marked a trail which went through what later became Buffalo Grove.  Ankeny's Trail nearly corresponded to the Galena Road which Levi Warner surveyed in 1833.
    One of the distinguishing features of "the grove," which the early settlers called "Buffalo Grove," was its beautiful trees.  The Indians called this grove "Nanusha" which means Buffalo.  These woods were formerly a favorite haunt for buffalo.  The first white settlers found immense quantities of buffalo bones in this locality.  They, however, did not see buffalo.
    What happened to all these buffalo?  The winter of 1778 is known in our early history, as the "winter of the deep snow."  In the Mississippi Valley it snowed heavily, then the weather became warm and a crust formed over the snow.  It was too hard forthe buffalo to break through to get bark and grass for food.  During that winter many of the buffalo starved.
    Isaac Chambers can, without doubt, be considered the first settler in what today is Ogle County.  In the spring of 1830 he built a cabin on the south side of the creek near the Galena Trail.  It was his intention to keep a tavern, or inn, for the travelers on their way to Galena.
    John Ankeny had passed through Buffalo Grove the previous year on his way to Galena.  Ankeny marked some trees to indicate that that area was his claim.  When Ankeny returned in the spring of 1830 with his family he found that Isaac Chambers had built a log cabin to be used as a tavern on the site he had staked out.  Some controversy ensued between these two men in which Chambers was successful.  So Ankeny chose land on the north side of the creek about a half mile west from where Chambers had built his tavern.  Here Ankeny built rival tavern.
    In the spring of 1831, Oliver W. Kellogg and Samuel Reed, with their families, arrived at Buffalo Grove.  Mr. Kellogg purchased the claim and improvements of Isaac Chambers.
    Samuel Reed came to this area with the purpose of farming.  The first spring he was here he broke and planted fourteen acres of corn.  In 1832, he sowed some wheat which was, without doubt, the first wheat sowed in what today is Ogle County.  This area can rightfully claim the first farm in the country.  The Reed claim is a part of the farm now owned by Sam Gilbert.
    In the spring of 1832 the Black Hawk War began.  A dispatch was sent to the settlers telling them of the battle at Stillman's Run, where the Indians were victorious.  They were ordered to go at once to the military headquarters near Dixon's ferry.
    These settlers, so it is said, then went to Peoria where they remained until September.  Then they returned to their homes in Buffalo Grove.
    The day after these settlers left for the military headquarters a group of men returned to Buffalo Grove to look after some stock that had been left behind.  These men found the body of William Durley in the road at the edge of the woods.
    William Durley, a miner, with two other men, was taking a dispatch from Galena to the army which was located on Rock River.  Durley was killed by Indians, but his two companions escaped.  The men who found Durley buried him where he had fallen when he was attacked.  The Polo Historical Society had a marker place where Durley was buried.  This is about a mile west of Polo on the Polo-Eagle Point road.
    In 1834, Colonel John D. Stevenson arrived from Louisiana and settled near Mr. Kellogg.  He brought a small stock of goods with him and kept store in his log cabin, thus becoming the first merchant in this territory.
    In March 1835, Oliver W. Kellogg and Hugh Stevenson had a town platted which they called St. Marion, although the Post Office, established in 1835, was called Buffalo Grove.  Buffalo Grove Post Office was established before the one at Rockford.  In 1839, the name of the village was changed to Buffalo Grove.  One of the early drivers for the mail route was Isaiah Rucker, who later settled on a farm west of Polo.  Some of his descendants are living here today.

    In 1836, Oliver W. Kellogg with George D. H. Wilcoxen, built the first sawmill in what is now Ogle County.  This mill was located on Buffalo Creek near the center of the woods.  Slight traces of the old dam and race can still be seen near the Bluffs west of Polo.
    In 1837, Zenas Aplington, a young man of 22, came to Buffalo Grove.  At first he worked at the sawmill.  During the next 13 years he worked as a blacksmith, carpenter, sawyer, and farmer.

    In 1843, Zenas Aplington and Timothy Perkins caused to be circulated a petition to sell Section 16 - the section set aside for schools by the Ordinance of 1787.  When this section was sold, Zenas Aplington bought a portion of it.  About 1849 or 1850 he moved a frame house from Buffalo Grove to his farm, about a mile east of the village, which is now the town of Polo.
    From 1830 to 1840, the migration to Buffalo Grove was slow, but gradually increased year by year.  In 1835, there were 15 families living in the vicinity of Buffalo Grove.  In 1852, when construction on the Illinois Central Railroad was started, nearly 1000 people lived in this village.
    At this time there were six stores.  In 1834, Colonel Stevenson "kept store" in his log cabin.  In 1836, he built a new frame building which he used as a store and home.  Horatio Wales, with Hunn and Chandler, opened the second store in 1836, followed by Elijah and Theodore Winn, in 1839; L. N. and C. R. Barber, 1834; Job Arnold, 1844; and Helm and McClure in 1849.
    In 1852, a steam sawmill was built by George D. Read.  This mill furnished ties for the Illinois Central Railroad, which was being constructed.  A distillery was operated in the village until 1856.  Junis Leal had a glove factory there until after the Civil War.  A large brick yard was located where the sewage disposal plant is now located.
    In 1847, Dr. William W. Burns met L. N. Barber of Buffalo Grove at Galena.  Mr. Barber prevailed upon Dr. Burns to visit Buffalo Grove and later to practice his profession there.  Dr. Burns lived in Buffalo Grove and had an office there until he moved to Polo.  Dr. Burns built the huge red brick house in the 100 block of N. Barber St., and lived there until his death.  Since the death of the last of his family, this house had not been occupied although the beds are still made and the clothes remain in the closets.
    After the Illinois Central Railroad was built, the site for the new town of Polo was surveyed near the new railroad.  Many of the people of Buffalo Grove moved their homes and businesses into the new town.  What was left of this once prosperous pioneer village became known as "Old Town."  The people who lived in Buffalo Grove now are but a memory shadowed by the passing of time

History of the Bank



Banking in Polo

        Lemuel N. Barber came to Buffalo Grove in August 1843.  In October of the same year, he and his brother Chanceford R. Barber opened a general merchandise store in Buffalo Grove.  Chanceford did some private banking there.  The interest rate was ten per cent or more.  Then Lemuel moved his merchandise store to Polo in 1856.
        Chanceford Barber moved to Polo and opened his bank in the west end of the main floor of the then Sanford Hotel (now the Post Office).  Later he built a brick building where the Lutheran church now stands, facing south.  Here he operated for two years.  In 1858 he built the west part of the Hough Hardware building and moved his bank there.  Here he carried on his bank for sixteen years.
        During this period the Exchange National Bank was organized and in 1870 the Exchange Building, now the Marco Hotel and Post Office, was built, displacing the former Sanford hotel.  In 1871 the first president of the Exchange National Bank was Rube Wagner and first cashier was W. T. Schell Sr.  Its capital stock was $60,000.  In 1872 the capital stock was raised to $80,000.
        In March of 1874 Chanceford Barber organized the bank firm as Barber and Trumbauer and moved to the brick building on the northeast corner of Mason and Franklin Streets (now the Gamble Store).  Chanceford Barber died in 1879 and his son, Henry Barber, who had taken a position in the bank as teller in 1874 (at age 19), took over his father's banking interests.  Sometime between 1880 and 1883 the Barbers built the brick bank building on the same location.  Henry Barber passed away in 1896, leaving Bryant Barber, the younger brother, in charge.  In 1902 the bank firm built the present bank building, finishing it in 1903.  The Barber's Bank was operated as a private bank throughout its history.  The bank closed in 1917 after the supposed suicide of Bryant Barber.
        The Exchange National Bank (present post office building) was still operating, having reorganized about 1931 as the First National Bank.  This bank closed in the fall of 1932.
        The Polo State Bank organized after the closing of Barber Bros. Bank in 1917 with A. M. Johnson as president.  The Polo State Bank closed in 1933.
        The present Polo National Bank was organized and chartered under the date of August 10, 1935, and opened for business on August 15th of the same year.  There was $50,000 capital, $10,000 surplus and $2,500 undivided profits.  Our present Polo National Bank has been successfully solving the banking problems of our people since 1935.