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The Fox Lake Story: Record of Sayles Family Throws Light on 100 Years of Fox Lake's History



The Fox Lake Story: 
Record of Sayles Family Throws Light On 100 Years of Fox Lake's History -- Fox Lake History Linked with Sayles 
        By Ray Walsh 
Published in the Fox Lake Press January 17, 1957

    The downtown business section of the village of Fox Lake stands almost entirely on land that belonged 100 years ago to John Sayles. 
        Through the kindness of his granddaughter, Jane Homan, and her mother, I have learned John Sayles' story.  They let me look through old deeds, contracts, and other papers, and they told me what they knew of stories handed down through the family, from generation to generation. 
        In one deed dated Oct. 23, 1848, and signed by David Smith of Addison County, Vermont, conveyed 80 acres to John Sayles of Waukesha, Wis.  The land was described at the SE 1/4 of the NE 1/2 and the NE 1/4 of the SE 1/4 of Section 9, Township 45 North, Range 9, west of the 2nd principal 
meridian. 
        This would be the land now bounded on the north by the alley behind Klaus's store on Grand Ave., on the east by Forest Ave., on the west by Rte. 12, and extending one-half mile. 
        John Sayles also purchased 40 acres directly south of tract, extending to the north line of Kings Island.  On these 120 acres are all the business buildings on Grand Ave. between Rte. 12 and Forest, and everything on the east side of 12 from Grand to the Milwaukee Road spur track.  South of this track, it includes every business house of both sides of Rte. 12. 
        On Jan. 7, 1850, John Sayles purchased for $25 a small tract lying north of the original piece.  This would be everything west of the Fox Lake Grade School and south of the village hall, running west to Rte. 12. 
        His wife Betsy's people had squatted on this hill near the present village hall many years before, but had not been able to buy it because it still belonged legally to the Indians. 
        The names of Betsy Sayles' parents do not appear in any of the deeds.  A great-granddaughter of John and Betsy, Ada Anderson, told me that Betsy had been born there and had watched the Indians move out after the Black Hawk War.  Ada got the story from her grandmother, Cynthia. 
        It is evident that John Sayles married Betsy soon aftr he came to this area in 1848.  Their first child was a boy, Frank.  A daughter, Cynthia, was born in 1850, and another son, Ed O. Sayles, was born in 1852. 
        On Aug. 22, 1865, John Sayles bought the west fractional half of the SE 1/4 of Section 9, containing 49 acres, from John and Mary Horan, who had obtained it from William Wisner.  This deed was witnessed by Stephen Marvin and his wife, Tryphena.  The amount paid was $250. 
        This land lies south of the Lagoon Marina and is now largely occupied by Pistakee Portals and Eagle Point Heights.  It includes all the Pistakee shoreline there except Eagle Point. 
        On Dec. 31, 1868, John and Betsy Sayles gave $350 and 134 acres of land to their son, Frank, on the stipulation that Frank was to feed, clothe, furnish medinicos [sic], house and otherwise maintain his parents.  When the younger brother, Ed (then 16), reached 21, Frank was to deed half of the land to him. 
        This contract, however, was never fulfilled.  Frank took off with a man named Dowell for the California gold fields.  Dowell, it is said, came back alone and rich.  Frank never returned. 
        John Sayles died in 1879.  In 1883 his widow, Betsy, issued a quitclaim for all the land to her son, Ed.  I asked how Cynthia had not been mentioned in these transactions, and was told that old John had not favored her marriage at the age of 15 to Harry Dunnell.  Her brother, Ed, however, felt that she had been unfairly treated and bought land for her. 
        Part of that land was on Forest Ave. south of Cathryn.  She later willed it to her daughter, Mabel. 
        Ed is said to have helped her buy the site of the old Dunnell House in April 1877.  There Cynthia and Harry Dunnell started a resort business in a part log, part frame building.  This piece of land was previously owned by J.L. Tweed, Robert Stanley and William Wisner. 
        Ed O. Sayles married Betsy Jane, whose last name is not definitely known, and had three children.  A daughter Etta married John Dalziel.  A second daughter Grace now lives in Florida.  Their son Ernest married Marion Cornus of Hebron, Ill., in 1910, and they had six children. 
        Marian told me that Ernest took off for Oklahoma and never came back.  She lives now with her son on S. Rte. 12.  Her daughter Jane and husband Elmer Homan operate a sportsmen's supply store on S. Rte. 12. 
        Ed O. Sayles, they say, was sometimes too openhanded for his own good.  At times his wife Betsy Jane became so provoked [she would walk in the woods] behind the present [1957] location of the Fox Lake Funeral Home on South Rte. 12. 
        At one time the Sayles family had four houses.  One was on a side hill where the Pilgrim Shop now stands, and one, built by Robert Stanley in 1857, stood on the site of the first Betsy Sayles parents' log cabin, near today's village hall.  The oldest Sayles house is on S. Rte. 12, where Marian Sayles lives [1957] with her son. 
        Ed Sayles laid out a small subdivision in 1900 at Grand Ave. and Nippersink Blvd.  The original plat was notarized by Alex Tweed. 
        The openhanded Ed charged $10 a year for a 90-year lease on each lot, but his wife Betsy Jane called this deal off and sold the lots outright.  Ed explained that he just wanted to get the new town started and wasn't trying to make money.  The railroad, however, it is said, paid him for the land it used. 
        When the railroad came, Ed went into the bus and hauling business.  His and Franklin Marvin's livery barns were on the hill near the site of the new fire station. 
        It is said that Ed did well in this business.  He always wanted to do good, and sometimes stood on the street giving money to those who needed it.  As Marian told me, his wife Betsy Jane did not think much of this idea and would take off for her house on the hill whenever she got sufficiently annoyed. 
        Ed had a large part in helping the new town get started.  He donated land for streets and roads, and entered into many phases of the village's development. 
        Ed O. Sayles was a public-spirited citizen who put the welfare of his community above personal gain. 

Linked to"The Fox Lake Story: Record of Sayles Family Throws Light on 100 Years of Fox Lake's History," Fox Lake Press (17 January 1957)

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