When pioneer farmers arrived in the Fox River Valley, with them came some of the area’s earliest business owners. Among those were the millwrights that built dams up and down the Fox River and the mills the dams powered.
At 1:30 p.m. Feb. 29, at Oswego’s Little White School Museum, architect, planner and historian Michael Lambert will recount the history of that era and some of the effects from it that remain to this day.
The museum is at 72 Polk Street, two blocks from Oswego’s historic downtown business district.
Pioneer businessmen immediately understood the importance of the Fox River as a source of water power to run a variety of industries, from Ottawa to Elgin, influencing early town planning and settlement patterns. In Aurora, the river powered cotton mills, and in Yorkville, it powered a paper mill. In Oswego, a water-powered sawmill produced lumber, and an adjacent furniture factory turned out everything from chairs to tables. At almost every dam on the river, a grist mill ground wheat, rye and corn into flour.
Lambert will guide attendees through the details of the Fox Valley’s earliest river-centered industrial development period, which lasted from 1825-1855. Those early pioneer manufacturers gradually were replaced because of changing technology. Today, only remnants of the Fox Valley’s water-powered industrial roots survive.
Admission is $5. Advance registration is recommended, but walk-in registration the day of the program is welcome. The presentation, suitable for visitors aged 16 and older, will be hosted by the Oswegoland Heritage Association in partnership with the Oswegoland Park District.