The Great Rush — Kenyon Family
Fully aware of the risks, Ezra T. Kenyon brought his wife Susan and sons Ezra W. and Dennis to Mount Hope in 1840.
The Mount Hope Colony was another speculative land venture started in 1835 by Yankee investors. The Colony ultimately failed.
Charted by a group of eastern investors, the Providence Farmers and Mechanics Emigrating Society of Rhode Island purchased 8,580 acres southwest of what is now the town of McLean.
“No Yankee is ever satisfied with his condition... The great hunger of the Anglo-Saxon is land, land, more l and. But the Stoney, Sandy, Soil of Rhode Is land and Providence Plantation could hardly satisfy this hunger.”
Ezra gave up a job as a foreman at a Connecticut cotton mill in order to see the western country he had heard so much about.
The Kenyons set off from Plainfield, Connecticut in April, traveling first to Albany, New York, then by the Erie Canal to Buffalo and by steamer through the Great Lakes to Chicago. They purchased a yoke of oxen and a wagon in Indiana, arriving in Mount Hope nine days later.
The Kenyons built a home; the first of many improvements to their 160 acre half share of the colony.
When the Chicago & Alton Railroad bypassed the village of Mount Hope in 1852, the end loomed.
Most residents and businesses of the Mount Hope village moved to the nearby town of McLean where the Chicago & Alton passed through.
By 1854 the village of Mount Hope was gone.
“The town, with its streets and alleys and public square, was duly mapped out, a stone being planted at the northwest corner of the public square, from which it was decreed that all future surveys should be made. Alas for all human calculations! The stone is about all that is now left of the once prospective city.”
Following in the Yankee tradition, both Kenyon boys attended a Mount Hope subscription school to get their education.
Subscription schools, like the one Ezra and Dennis Kenyon attended in Mount Hope, were funded by a monthly tuition fee paid by the parents to the teacher.
Textbooks, like McGuffey readers, were first published in 1836, but not widely used until the 1850s. The Kenyon boys most likely learned to read using newspapers, Shakespeare, or the Bible.
Some were successful in Mount Hope, while others found the work too difficult and moved on or returned east.
By 1874 Ezra T. Kenyon had passed the original farmstead on to his oldest son and Dennis Kenyon had his own farmstead.