History of Lisbon House, Lisbon, Illinois

Historic Hotels / Thursday, May 2nd, 2019

The proprietor of the Prairie Tavern was known for his hospitality and the business prospered. When the increase in business demanded it, the original log tavern was replaced with a three-story limestone building. 1History of Kendall County, Rev. E. W. Hicks, 1877, p. 146. The building was actually constructed by Thomas Spencer who settled in Big Grove Township in 1837. 2Mr. Spencer claimed to have built the first school house in Lisbon Township. According to him he had personally hewed out every stick of timber for the school’s walls. Kendall County Record, August 11, 1870. The new hotel was called Lisbon House, and its name was painted on the front of the building in large black letters.

When Levi Hills decided to move on, he sold the hotel to Mr. Jefferson. 3Lisbon Comet, July 2, 1896.

When stagecoaches ceased running through Lisbon, the tavern was closed and the Henry Sherrill family purchased the property from Mr. Jefferson, and used the building for their residence. One of the Sherrill’s daughters married Dr. Burry who practiced medicine in Chicago, and for years they used the building as a summer residence. 4Henry Sherrill bought the large stone stage house in 1844.

In 1871 the limestone house was almost destroyed by fire. The following articles recount the near loss.

“This morning at the breakfast hour, a dark column of smoke arose from our village. It lit up at intervals with leaping; red, angry flames then came the cry “fire, fire.” Whose house could it be? Pails were seized and a rush made for the smoke and flames. Farmers passing with corn to Morris hitched their teams and joined the hurrying throng. A corner turned, and then at the head of the street stood the burning house. It was the residence of the Hon. Henry Sherrill. The fire originated in the attic of the kitchen, which was attached to the main building, a stone structure. Back of the kitchen was the coalhouse, filled with fuel, then adjoining was the carriage house. These buildings were of wood, which the flames seized with resistless rapidity. The flames mounted the roof of the main building, and radiated an intensity of heat that no one could endure. Little hope was entertained of saving any part of the house. A clean sweep seemed inevitable. This would have involved the certain destruction of other buildings, and where the flames, under such irresistible sweep, could be arrested, was impossible to conjecture. The village had gathered around the burning building, and they came together not as spectators to see a neighbor’s house licked up by the flames, but to save it. The burning building, with sheets of flame pouring over the roof and sides sent up a column of blaze. The decisive moment had come upon which success or failure hung. With timbers and pries the burning mass was careened over, away from the principal structure. Then a dash was made for the ladders, speedily they towered up to the main roof, and brave men passed the blazing eaves, and mounted the scorching heat. Blankets were thrown over the wooden cornice that overhung the flames below. The cornice was already ablaze, and the flames were creeping into the shingles. Then came the water, a line of pails passing up the ladders, another through the house, up into the attic. It soon became evident that this courage and daring would make the stone building the protecting rampart to the rest of the street. For a few moments, “scales in even balance hung,” and the position on the roof was perilous. Had a less determined effort been made at this stage of the fire, a sweeping conflagration must have been the result. Braver men never fought fire! Smoke in suffocating thickness, drove the men from the attic. But again and again they rushed into the smothering atmosphere, sending up to the peak a continuous line of water pails. These floods no flame could brave long. Soon the telling effect was marked and decisive. The angry flames were drenched. The pile of coal and fragments of the prostrate building continued burning for six hours. Then the pails returned to work until the last faint spark expired.” 5Kendall County Record, September 14, 1871.

“This past Saturday morning the rear part of the residence of Hon. Henry Sherrill in Lisbon was discovered to be on fire. The fire started from a defective chimney in the frame addition to his stone house, which burned. Much damage was done to the furniture in the stone house in getting it out and things were generally deranged. The loss was about $700 none of which was covered by insurance.” 6Kendall County Record, September 14, 1871.

The stone house that once was a bustling stage station and inn remains a private residence. The current owners have spent many hours renovating and maintaining the old inn.

1860 census of Lisbon Township, page 176, enumeration date June 26, family # 1221.

VanPelt, John            32 M NJ Hotel keeper
VanPelt, Jane (Vreeland) 30 F NJ
VanPelt, Ann "Annie"      9 F NJ
VanPelt, Katie            5 F NJ
VanPelt, Tunis            3 M IL
VanPelt, Cornelius      8mo M IL
Skinner, John            30 M NY Dentist
Skinner, Catherine       30 F NY
Skinner, Charlotte      7mo F IL
Kellam, E. M.            60 M NY Teamster
Smith, John              50 M NY Tinsmith
Naden, Isabella          20 F Norway? Domestic

References   [ + ]

1.History of Kendall County, Rev. E. W. Hicks, 1877, p. 146.
2.Mr. Spencer claimed to have built the first school house in Lisbon Township. According to him he had personally hewed out every stick of timber for the school’s walls. Kendall County Record, August 11, 1870.
3.Lisbon Comet, July 2, 1896.
4.Henry Sherrill bought the large stone stage house in 1844.
5.Kendall County Record, September 14, 1871.
6.Kendall County Record, September 14, 1871.

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