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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Old Illinois Houses

John Drury

reprinted by
The University of Chicago Press
Chicago and London, 1977

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
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Jane Addams
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[image ALT: A photograph of a two‑story rectangular brick house, with a gabled roof pitched at about 40° and two chimneys; it is partly overgrown with roses or ivy. The front door is arched with a fanlight. It is the John Deere House in Grand Detour, Illinois.]

John Deere House, Grand Detour, Built 1838.

 p182  In a Picturesque Community

On a horseshoe bend of the Rock River, some six miles northeast of Dixon, is one of the oldest, best preserved, and most attractive villages in Illinois. It is called Grand Detour, so‑named by early French traders because of the "Great Bend" on which it stands. Having a population of no more than two hundred and being located away from main-traveled roads, Grand Detour is something of a "deserted village"; a white, elm-shaded, picket-fenced community of the type found in older New England regions.

Because of its picturesqueness, this little, century-old community has in recent years attracted a number of artists who have taken over some of the ancient red brick and white clapboard dwellings and converted them into studio homes. But Grand Detour is of interest to historical students, too, for the founders of the village, John Deere and Major Leonard Andrus, manufactured the first steel plows in the United States and thus played important roles in the development of American civilization.

In consequence, the two outstanding sights of Grand Detour are associated with these two men. One is the Major Leonard Andrus' Memorial, marking the site of the original Deere & Andrus plow factory, and the other is the home of John Deere. Situated in the center of the village under a huge, ancient elm and surrounded by a white picket fence, the Deere house, although built more than a hundred years ago, is remarkably well preserved and noteworthy for its interior furnishings, all of which are authentic and of the John Deere period.

A native of Rutland, Vermont, where he was born on February 7, 1804, John Deere came west in 1837 and settled at Grand Detour. He set up a blacksmith shop and the following year he built his house and brought his family to Grand Detour. Both he and Major Andrus, who also was from Vermont, succeeded in bringing other settlers from the Green Mountain State to Grand Detour and soon the village was a thriving community.

Since its two best-known citizens were Vermonters, as were many of its first settlers, it was inevitable that Grand Detour should grow and develop in the manner of a New England village. Like innumerable old Vermont communities, Grand Detour has wide, unpaved streets, foot-paths instead of sidewalks, houses set far back on spacious lawns, windlass wells, picket fences, and massive old trees that arch over the streets and in summer clothe the white village in a mantle of green.

 p183  When Grand Detour was at the height of its boom in the middle 1840's, due mainly to the presence of the Deere & Andrus plow factory, the village contained an estimated population of a thousand. The number declined, however, when railroads appeared in the late 1840's and by-passed Grand Detour. It was in 1847 that John Deere sold his interest to Major Andrus and moved to Moline, where he established a larger plow works than the original factory.

With the departure of John Deere, his house acquired a new owner. It continued to be occupied as a dwelling through the Civil War period. In later years, an unsuccessful attempt was made to purchase it by Deere's son, Charles, who had become president of the Deere company. The house did come back into the Deere family, however, some years after the death of Charles Deere when it was acquired by his daughter, Mrs. William Butterworth, of Moline.

Appreciating the historic value of this house, which is a simple, dignified, two‑story frame dwelling with a classic portico, Mrs. Butterworth carefully furnished its rooms with maple and walnut furniture, fine china and pottery, pictorial wallpaper, hooked rugs, old lithographs, mid-Victorian bric-a‑brac, and other household articles of the 1840's.

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Page updated: 11 Dec 07