I’m sort of back, and so here’s a post…

I seem to be recovering from heart valve surgery, although the road seems long and winding, as the poet said. My mind is not as foggy as it has been for the past several weeks, and so thought I’d, what the heck, try a post.

On Dec. 19, 1900, the Kendall County Record proudly announced from Yorkville that:

 The first car on the electric railway uniting Aurora, Oswego and Yorkville arrived in Yorkville on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 1900. It was only a car for the working force, but its arrival was a matter of interest to a great number of our people. Put this item in your scrap book. It is expected and is so announced by manager Henry Evans that the road will be open for regular business on Monday next, Dec. 24. There is a good deal of uneasiness among Yorkville business men and their friends as to the influence of the road on trade here. One chief advantage of the road in view of many is that we can go to Aurora or Chicago to evening or afternoon entertainments and not be dependent on our one railroad, which runs only the one evening train. There is no cause for uneasiness.

The arrival of the interurban was a very big deal, indeed. In those days, most all roads, plus most streets in smaller towns like Yorkville and Oswego were dirt. During summer rains, and winter and spring thaws, those dirt tracks turned into little more than muddy tracks into which the vehicles of the day could sink. So, the all-weather tracks of the interurban were enthusiastically welcomed since only the deepest snow or the hardest, flooding rains could stay the sturdy trolleys from their appointed rounds.

In fact, the trolleys served towns up and down our Illinois Fox River Valley from 1900 until most of the private interurban companies went out of business in the mid-1920s, driven into bankruptcy by the uneven competition with motor vehicles. While trolley companies had to maintain their own roadbeds, roads on which the growing number of autos, buses, and trucks drove were government built and maintained. As motor vehicles became more popular, fewer rode the trolleys and in a sort of death spiral, service and maintenance declined, driving ever more customers away.

So it was ironic that another short story in the same week’s Record mentioned that not only had the first car arrived in Yorkville on the electric road, but that the seed of its destruction—a motor car—had come to town the same day:

On Dec. 19, 1900, Kendall County Record Publisher John R. Marshall proudly noted he had his first automobile ride in a Chicago Motor Vehicle Company car. Although this is a 1903 model, the 1900 version was probably much the same. The newfangled auto and the first trolley on the interurban line both arrived in Yorkville the same day.

Tuesday afternoon a big three-seated vehicle stopped in front of The Record office and soon had a crowd around it. It was a fine looking thing on wheels, but the peculiarity was, there were no horses. It was an automobile carriage of 12 horse power gasoline engine manufactured by the Chicago Motor Vehicle Company at Harvey, south of Chicago. This vehicle had come out from Chicago by way of Plano and had been to Sheridan, and Tuesday morning it left Sheridan for the return by way of Yorkville, Oswego, Plainfield and Joliet. The party came here from Sheridan in an hour and a quarter–and we know the roads that way are not smooth as a floor. The motorman by the touch of a lever started the machine and took us across the bridges and east along Main street on the north side and back, and did it as easily as one would drive a family horse and for speed…well, George Pedersen just had to hold onto his hat and the writer was uneasy for fear the machine would bolt the track and go into the ditch. But the driver had perfect control, even while running at the rate of 20 miles an hour, and brought us back safely. The power is from gasoline vapor, without the use of any water, and it is very economical. The price of such a machine as was here is $1,600; it will carry a dozen people easily.

The innovations, they come and they go…

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Filed under Fox River, Illinois History, Kendall County, Montgomery, Oswego

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