Pioneer History by Richard C. Schmal

Dorothy Taylor Lilley, Cedar Lake Pioneer

(from the Feb. 23, 1994, Lowell Tribune, page 8)

Dorothy Taylor was born in Rensselaer County, New York, the daughter of Abigail Williams and Obadiah Taylor. Her father fought in the Revolutionary War.

When she was a young girl, the family moved to Erie County, Pa., where she later met and married Dr. Calvin Lilley.

The newlyweds started out as pioneers in 1830, leaving Pennsylvania in a wagon going west. After a few weeks of traveling on what was then very poor trails, they arrived in the South Bend area, where they decided to settle. Because Dr. Lilley was a man of means, they were able to acquire a thriving inn on the main trail between Chicago and Detroit.

In 1832 Dr. Lilley and his Taylor in-laws decided to explore what was to become Lake County, Indiana. The area had not been surveyed (1834), so they returned to South Bend.

By 1836 land could be claimed, so the Lilleys sold their busy inn to Dorothy's sister and her husband, James Palmer, and decided to move to the Cedar Lake area to stake a claim. That same year, Adonijah Taylor, Horace Taylor and Horace Edgerton settled nearby in the West Point area of Cedar Lake.

Dr. Lilley and David Reed soon had a sawmill running at the outlet of the lake on Binyon Rd., about a block south of the present Cedar Lake Town Complex. Most of the lumber cut was used for the large building that was to become the Lilley Inn, near the present corner of 133rd and Morse St. Some will remember this as the site of the old Kennedy Hotel.

Pioneer Lilley made many wagon trips to Chicago and South Bend, bringing supplies to make the inn a place of "luxury."

The Lilleys had no children, so "Aunt Dorothy" helped to mother her numerous nieces and nephews, with whom she was a great favorite. She was a very efficient innkeeper's wife, who, during his absence, would take charge of the inn and the store with the help of several nephews who lived nearby and who loved to work at the inn. The boys were hired to help care for the travelers' horses, stabled in barns close to the hotel. They carried wood and water, took care of several huge fireplaces, helped prepare the food and clerked in the store.

Her nieces assisted in the kitchen work, washed clothes down at the lake, made candles, washed dishes, cleaned lamps, and helped with the baking.

Dorothy was a very particular housekeeper, and the inn was kept very clean at all times. The large upstairs rooms were used by several guests at a time, with a lack of privacy when there was a crowd, and some sleeping on the floor. Some of the early inns printed signs to hang in the sleeping rooms: "Remove spurs."

The matresses were freshly filled with straw or corn husk several times a year, while some guests were lucky enough to sleep on feather beds. Dorothy worked during her "spare hours" piecing quilts or tieing comforters to make sure there was an ample supply.

She used her New England recipes along with the foods found locally, and the Lilley Tavern was noted for its good food. She served wild honey; wild strawberries, blackberries and cranberries; and made jam to eat with the biscuits and corn bread served at each meal. When available, a variety of vegetables were served with venison, bacon, quail, squirrel and rabbit, as well as fresh fish caught in the lake nearby. They had a cow and chickens, so the inn served fresh butter, milk and eggs. Other supplies were bought in the city, such as flour, sugar salt, tea and coffee. Buckwheat and corn were ground at a nearby grist mill. One of Dorothy's specialties was huge frog legs fried in deep fat in a big iron kettle.

The big inn was a central point for neighbors to gather to talk about daily happenings, business and politics, and they also held some religious meetings there.

Dr. Lilley, besides being a successful merchant, innkeeper and builder, was the first physician in Lake County. Dorothy Taylor Lilley assisted him as a nurse by helping with his office work and by preparing some of the medicines.

The doctor died in 1839 and was buried near his wife's father (Obadiah Taylor) in the West Point Cemetery near the inn. This cemetery has been moved to Fairbanks St., where a memorial stone has been placed to mark the new site.

The West Point Cemetery held the remains of Obadiah Taylor, 1762-1839; Adonijah Taylor, 1792-1843; William Taylor, born 1821; Lewis Warriner, died 1845; Sabra Warriner (Mrs. Lewis), 1792-1838; Sabra Warriner, daughter of Lewis and Sabra, died 1838; and Franklin Edgerton, son of Horace and Betsey Taylor Edgerton, died 1842.

A few years after the death of Dr. Lilley, Dorothy married Aurora W. Dille, son of General Dille of Ohio. In 1839 the inn and store, along with other Lilley property, was sold to Judge Benjamin McCarty of Porter County, who tried in vain to convince the state that Cedar Lake would be the best site for the new county seat.

Some of the information for this story is from the book Pioneer Women of Lake County, 1834-1850 by Avis Bryant Brown and Ethel Alice Vinnedge. This small book includes stories about 45 pioneer women, written by their descendants and is available at the Lowell Public Library. It is a fine tribute to the pioneer ladies who braved the wild with their families to help build the great "County of Lake."

Last updated on October 17, 2005.

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