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events have happened in Freeport and Stephenson County, Illinois,
and remarkable people have lived there. These are stories gathered
about people and events from 1835 through World War II.
by Robert Bike
The Bible mentions about 232 plants by name, or closely enough to figure out what plant is meant. Of these, 24 are aromatic plants; that is, parts of the plants can be pressed or distilled to get an essential oil. Essential oils are the lifeblood of plants and have tremendous healing capabilities.
healing power of plants is the basis for modern medicines.
Originally published in manuscript form in 1999, I completely revised the book and added illustrations.
Biblical Aromatherapy in paperback,
List price $24.99; introductory offer $19.99
To order the pdf version and download to your computer or phone,
The electronic version is only $2.99!
Carlile, columnist for the Freeport (Illinois) Journal Standard,
featured this website in her column on January 19, 2007.
Life Purpose is to inspire my friends
Robert Bike, LMT, LLC
All text and photos Copyright 2002 - present Robert L. Bike, except for photos and text from uncopyrighted material in the public domain.
In 1910 Addison Luther Fulwider published the History of Stephenson County. Much of it was a re-hashing of the Tilden 1880 History of Stephenson County. Both the Tilden and the Fulwider histories were published before copyright laws. Below is a rendering of the Fulwider book, scanned, with OCR errors, spelling errors, etc. Occasionally you will see question marks. Fulwider never proof-read his book, and places where he probably meant to go back and finish were never finished, and the question marks were left.
I am cleaning the scan up as much as possible, but errors remain. This is a work in progress. I will add to it as I can, and correct errors as I can. Fulwider wrote interminably long paragraphs, which I've broken up into many smaller paragraphs for easier reading.
Beware as you read that this is a highly racist time. Native Americans were never give their just due for how they treated the land they owned. And the language used in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates was highly racially charged.
Below is Part Three - Townships.
For easier navigation, I've added a few section headings. Enjoy!
Rock Grove Township
Rock Run Township
Silver Creek Township
West Point Township
Part Three - Townships & Towns
Buckeye Township is located in the north central part of the county, and is second to no other township of the county either in fertility of soil or in political importance. It is traversed from north to south by Richland Creek, one of the swiftest streams of the county, and second in size only to the Pecatonica River. Richland Creek flows through the villages of Buena Vista and Red Oak, and has in the past afforded excellent water power for turning a number of mills. Most of the mills are now abandoned, and those which are still operated in various portions of the county are doing only a meagre business, hardly sufficient to warrant their continuance. Cedar Creek, which rises in Dakota Township, pursues an uneven and eccentric course in a general westerly direction, and joins Richland Creek a short distance south of Red Oak. It is itself joined by Coon Creek, a very small stream, which rises in the northern part of Buckeye Township, is joined by a multitude of little brooklets, and flows into Cedar Creek just east of Cedarville.
As far as can be learned, John Goddard was the first permanent white settler in Buckeye Township. He came to these regions in 1835, and settled in the southern part of Buckeye Township, near the present site of Cedarville. This was in the spring of the year. Before fall, David Jones and Levi Lucas came and settled near him, the former making claim to a large tract of land surrounding the present village of Buckeye Center. Here he built a log cabin and began housekeeping. In time the population was increased by the arrival of George Trotter, Richard Parriott, and William Hollenback.
In 1835, William Robey had made a claim in Buckeye Township, but did not come to take possession until the following year. In 1836 there came also Jehu Pile, Andrew St. John, Ira Holly, Job Holly, Daniel Holly, and a number of others. Jehu Pile and Richard Parrioft settled near the present town of Cedarville, while the others for the most part laid their claims in the northeastern part of the township.
In 1837, a large number of families came to settle. In that year also, in the month of May, occurred the first death in the township, that of Richard Parriott, Sr. Among the settlers of '37 were Dr. Thomas Van Valzah, who bought the mill claim of John Goddard and Barton Jones, built what was afterward known as the Cedar Creek Mills, and afterward put up a log cabin for his family. This mill continued in operation, under the management of one John Fisher, from November, 1837, to January 1, 1838. That year Cedar Creek overflowed its bank and the dam was destroyed. Since that the present dam has been constructed. At the time of Dr. Van Valzah's immigration a large company came, including J. Tharp, G. W. Clingman, Jackson Richart, Lazarus Snyder, Jacob S. Brown, Joseph Green, amid others.
In 1838 occurred the first marriage solemnized in Buckeye Township. Robert Jones and Mary Harlacher were united by the Rev. Mr. McKean, the first Methodist preacher of the county, the ceremony being performed all the residence of Dr. Van Valzah. The bridegroom built a rude log cabin for his new bride, and thither he escorted her, without the preliminary convention of a bridal tour. On the 23rd of June following, David Jones was born to the couple, the first recorded birth of the township. Among the arrivals of the year were Benjamin Bennett, John Murdaugh, Adrian Lucas, and James McGhee.
In 1840 the increase of population still continued, in spite of the fact that Indian camps in the district menaced the settlers. Life was hard, and the Pottawatomies and Winnebagpes were near by with their settlement at the mouth of Richland Creek, on the banks of the Pecatonica. But from 1840 dates the prosperity of the Buckeye settlers. In that year came J. B. Clingman, Philip Reitzell, George Reitzell, who settled near the present site of Buena Vista, Henry Wohlford, John Fryebarger, Richard Parriott, Jr., Franklin Scott, George Ilgen, who afterward became the founder of Cedarville, and a number of others.
After 1840, farms were opened and cultivated, new homes were built, and the old log cabin began to disappear. For a time it was hard to make a living. The early Buckeye settlers depended mainly on their guns for meat, and created great havoc among the flocks of prairie chickens and herds of deer which were to be found in the timber. Flour was difficult to obtain until the various mills were started, but from 1840 on, the conveniences of life became more accessible.
Previous to 1838, Buckeye Township was a portion of the district known as Central Precinct, which comprised the present towns of Buckeye, Dakota, Harlem, and Lancaster. About that time the present division was made. Within the next ten or twenty years, the various villages of the township were established. There are today in Buckeye a larger number of' villages than in any other township of the county. In 1849, Cedarville was founded and laid out by George Ilgen, and in the same year Buckeye Center came into existence. Buena Vista was platted and settled on September 19, 1852. Later on Afolkey was settled in the northeastern portion of the township on the town line. Buckeye Township is today one of the most prosperous sections of the county. It has a population of about 3,000 inhabitants, most of them located on the farms of the the township. Buckeye is one of the larger townships of the county, containing thirty-six square miles. It is traversed by the Madison and Dodgeville branches of the Illinois Central Railroad, which pass through Red Oak, formerly known as Cedarville Junction, and Buena Vista.
Buckeye Center is no longer a post office, and since the removal of that institution there is nothing at the cross roads to attract the attention of the passing traveller. Formerly a large number of farmers came to Buckeye Center for their mail, and the settlement which sprang up about the post office supported a general store. However, the advent of the Rural Free Delivery system put Buckeye Center post office out of service, as it did so many others. With the withdrawal of the post office the store discontinued its business and the village is now merely a group of farm houses.
Buckeye Center does, however, contain the town hall of Buckeye Township, where the township meetings are held. There is also an Evangelical church, the oldest now in existence in the county. It is the same building which was originally built, and presents an exceedingly dilapidated appearance, many of the windows being broken in, and the whole property abandoned and out of repair. Services have long since been discontinued in the church, and the building is now of interest only to the lover of the antique.
While Buckeye Center is hardly a village in the strict sense of the word since the removal of the post office, the settlement is most picturesque, being located in a wooded hollow at the foot of a considerable hill. The main buildings of the settlement are occupied by the Maple Spring Dairy, whose trim dwelling-house and outbuildings, and neat, well-kept, sweet-scented dairy bespeak a prosperous and well conducted business.
Red Oak is the newest town in Buckeye Township. It was not a natural settlement, but sprang into existence at the time of the building of the railroad to Madison and Dodgeville. In 1888, the two northern branches of the Illinois Central were put through. They ran over the same tracks from Freeport to Scioto Mills, and thence to a point in the southern part of Buckeye Township. Here they divided and the Madison branch went north through Buena Vista and Orangeville, while the Dodgeville line ran in a northwesterly direction through the towns of McConnell and Winslow.
At the point of divergence in the southern part of Buckeye, there was originally no town, but a tiny settlement quickly grew up about the railroad station. The station was originally named Cedarville Junction, from its proximity to that village, but the post office which was presently established, assumed the name of Red Oak, and the railroad name of the village was also changed.
The first settler of Red Oak was W. R. Bender, who founded the village in 1888. He opened a grocery, and general store, and became the first postmaster. The settlement grew slowly for a time, when the influx of several farmers raised the population to about one hundred, which it still remains. For thirteen years, Mr. Bender conducted his grocery and general store, until the advent of another grocery in 1901. At that time he closed the doors of his general store, and reopened soon after with a hardware and farmers' supplies establishment.
In addition to its two stores, Red Oak also boasts of a creamery, which is one of the oldest institutions of the town. It was built and organized in 1892, four years after the coming of the railroad. The Red Oak Creamery is now in the hands of the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, and is operated by William Waite. It is doing a large business, and is one of the most prosperous of its kind in the county.
Red Oak possesses two lodges, one a camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, and the other an organization of the Mystic Workers. There is one church, a Methodist organization, which was founded soon after the building of the town. The church edifice, which is a handsome brick structure, was erected in 1891. The pastor now in charge is the Rev. W. M. Kaufman, of Orangeville, who has Red Oak as part of his circuit. The several church societies are all active organizations in their various lines of activity, but aside from them, the social life of the community is necessarily limited. The last census numbered the population of Red Oak at about 125, and the village has grown little, if any at all, within the past ten years.
A typical village of the prairie is Buena Vista, located on Richland Creek in the northwestern corner of Buckeye Township. The site has been appropriately named Buena Vista, for it is located on a slight natural eminence, the prospect from which is most beautiful. Outside of the natural beauty of the surroundings, there is little within the town to attract the visitor or speculator.
Buena Vista was platted and laid out September 19, 1852, by Marcus Montelius, who acted as surveyor. Philip Reitzell was the real founder of the town, inasmuch as he contributed forty acres for the town site, and took charge of selling them. But Buena Vista never grew very rapidly. When the railroad came through in 1888 there was an influx of population, which, however, never amounted to a "boom." Unfortunately, Buena Vista has never offered any inducements to settlers. There is no church in the village, and has never been one. Bellevue church, one and one-half miles east of the city is a Lutheran church, and offers facilities to the members of that church. Aside from the Bellevue church, the places of worship are, in general, at a considerable distance from Buena Vista. As far as schools are concerned, the village is fairly well provided for. There is a very satisfactory district school, but no high school opportunities are offered, and the aspiring youth is obliged to journey either to Orangeville, or, as is usually the case, to Freeport.
Buena Vista possesses a creamery, which was established about thirty years ago, and has been in operation almost constantly since that time. It is operated by a Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, and is managed by B. Jonely, who has been in charge for the last four years. There is also a large lumber business, which, however, is not a home industry, but is conducted by Meyers Brothers, of Scioto Mills.
The old Whitehall Mills, long since burned to the ground, were for a long time the only mills of the vicinity, and enjoyed a large business. In 1839 or 1840 the old mills were erected by Philip Reitzell and Ezra Gillett, the former building the grist-mill and the latter the saw-mill. Mr. Reitzell purchased the saw-mill from Mr. Gillett, and operated the business until his death, when his sons succeeded to the business. They continued in possession until 1869, when the venture failed and the mill was sold under foreclosure proceedings to the Northwestern Life Insurance Company for $22,000. In 1870 Jacob Schaetzell and Jacob Rumel bought the business and sold it to Samuel Wagner. Mr. Wagner disposed of the business to Jerry Wohlford, for $18,090, and the latter continued in operation until the burning of his mill. After a short season on operation, Mr. Wohlford discontinued the grist-mill and continued to operate the saw-mill alone. In 1887, the place was visited by fire, and the mill burned to the ground. No attempts were ever made to rebuild the structure.
At the present time, Buena Vista patronizes one store, which carries a general stock of groceries, dry goods, hardware, books, drugs, etc. W. M. Gift who is proprietor of the store has only owned the venture for a few years. Mr. Gift is also postmaster at Buena Vista. The last census gave Buena Vista a population of 30 inhabitants, and there are small prospects for further growth or development.
Cedarville is a beautiful village six miles south [sic] of Freeport in the valley of Cedar Creek. About the village along the creek that cuts its way through the outcropping Galena limestone, are some of the most picturesque scenes in the County of Stephenson. The absence of railroad or trolley gives the village many characteristics peculiar to the towns of earlier days.
The first settlements were made in 1837. That year Dr. Van Valzah, the pioneer of that long train of immigrants from Pennsylvania, built a cabin and bought the claim to the mill site. The same year came the Chicagoans. Josiah Clingman had visited the vicinity and picked out a claim in 1836, and then brought his family in 1837. His wife, Mrs. Maria Clingman, is still living in Cedarville having passed the century mark, Dec. 12, 1909. She says there was just one log shack in the present limits of Cedarville when her family arrived in 1837. Levi Lucas had a log house north of the village, and here the Clingmans stayed until Mr. Clingman put a roof on his log house. John Goddard and Barton Jones had marked the mill claim which they sold to Dr. Van Valzah.
The village was laid
out in 1849 by George Ilgen, the surveying being done by Marcus Montelius.
About 1850, James Canfield set up a brick kiln about two miles west of
the village. The present store and post office building was built about
the same time by Samuel Sutherland. Other houses were built around 1851
by Francis Knauss, James Benson, David Clements and Dr. Bucher. John H.
Adams [sic] built a handsome residence in 1854, and put up the
mill in 1858.
The village grew slowly until it reached a population of 400 or 500. Its citizens of the early days were among the most progressive people of Stephenson County. Schools and churches have been maintained and in all the greater movements of the county, Cedarville has been represented by earnest and able men and women.
John C. Pepperman is president of the village board and Henry Richert is clerk.
Mr. Frank W. Clingman is president of the board of school directors, and Geo. Kryder and Clinton Fink are members. The first school was three miles north of the present village in 1836. In 1846, through the influence of Hon. John H. Adams [sic] and the Clingmans, a one-story frame building was put up by subscription, near the old cemetery. A. Mr. Chadwick and a Julia Putnam were the first teachers.
In 1853 the basement of the Lutheran church was used as a school room, till a two-story brick building was completed in 1855. The lower room was for school purposes while the upper room was a public hall. In 1857, a Miss Gorham conducted a private school in the upstairs room. This school was conducted by Colonel H. C. Forbes till 1865. In 1880 the directors were John H. Adams, Joseph P. Reel and Jacob Sill. The present school building was erected later and is now being equipped with a steam heating plant. Many students have gone out of the Cedarville schools to achieve success and fame in the world.
Cedarville has four church buildings, the old Methodist church being built of brick in 1849; the German Reformed and Lutheran in 1854; the Evangelical in 1859 and the Presbyterian in 1876.
The first Methodist meetings were held in the log schoolhouse and at the homes of Methodists and were conducted by the occasional circuit riders. The present pastor is Rev. B. C. Hollowell.
The Evangelical church at first worshipped at the schoolhouse and in the homes of the members. The church was built in 1856 at a cost of $3,000. Prominent among the founders of the church were the families of Benjamin Hess, Christine Auman, David Neidigh, Benjamin Levan, Robert Sedam, William Vore, Henry Mark, Jacob Sills, etc. It is claimed that the first services were held by Rev. Levi Tobias.
The Lutherans organization has been abandoned. Among its pastors were Rev. G. J. Donmeyer, E. Miller, J. Stoll, A. B. Niddlesworth, B. F. Pugh and Rev. Mr. Shimpf.
The following is the history of the Presbyterian church of Cedarville taken from the Historic Manual published in 1906: The first meeting that we have any record of was one held in what was known as the Richland schoolhouse, situated midway between Cedarville and Buena Vista, now known as the Belleview schoolhouse.
An affidavit setting
forth what was done at the meeting was found by John G. Bruce, December
13, 1893, amongst the papers of Adrian W. Lucas in his possession, to-wit:
"State of Illinois, Stephenson County, ss: We, the undersigned, do hereby certify that on the twenty-ninth day of December, A. D., 1845, the German Presbyterian Society of Richland, in said county, met at the Richland schoolhouse and elected viva voce the following named persons for the term of one year from the first Saturday in January, A. D., 1846; Adrian W. Lucas for the term of two years from the same time; and John H. Addams for the term of three years from the same date. That the name and style of said church or corporation is and shall be "The German Presbyterian Society of Richland," in said county.
"In testimony whereof, we have hereunto set our hands and seals this second day of January, A. D., 1846.
"HENRY AULT, (SEAL)
"ADRIAN W. LUCAS, (SEAL)
"JOHN H. ADDAMS. (SEAL)
"State of Illinois, Stephenson County, ss: Henry Ault, one of the above named trustees, after being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that the facts set forth in the foregoing certificate are true.
"HENRY AULT "Subscribed and sworn to before me this 5th day of January, A. D., 1846.
"JOHN A. CLARK. "Clerk of the Circuit Court of said County. "Filed and entered for record this 5th day of January, A. D., 1846, at half after 1 1 o'clock a. m. Liber B, pages 437 and 438.
"JOHN A. CLARK, Recorder.
"Members Henry Ault, Adrian W. Lucas and wife, Elizabeth Lucas (Mr. Lucas' mother), Levi Lucas, Thos. Pollock and John Pollock."
How long this organization
lasted or who were members other than the above named, we have no way
of finding out. We have another record of later date that was also found
with Mr. Lucas' papers, which reads as follows:
"BUCKEYE, ILL., January 27, 1851.
"At a meeting held pursuant to public notice for the purpose of organizing a Church of Christ, a sermon was preached by Rev. J. C. Downer, of Freeport, from Acts 20 -.24, after which Rev. A. Kent, of the Presbytery of Galena, was appointed moderator and Rev. J. C. Downer, clerk, Adrian W. Lucas and wife and grandmother, Elizabeth Lucas, Levi Lucas, Robert Boals, Mrs. Margaret Boal, Thomas Boal, Mrs. Catharine Jenkins, Miss Jennie Boal, Miss Sarah Boal, John Wilson, Mrs. Rosana Wynkoop, and Mrs. Sarah Young presented a joint letter of dismission from the First Presbyterian church of Freeport, and requested to be formed in the church."
The following resolutions
were passed unanimously, viz
"Resolved, that we now form a Church of Christ, which shall be called the First Presbyterian church of Cedarville, and be under the care of Presbytery of Galena, etc.
The session met after adjournment, with the following as members: A. W. Lucas, elder; Rev. A. Kent, moderator; and Rev. J. C. Downer and John N. Powell, of the Galena Presbytery, as members.
At this meeting the following members presented themselves and were admitted on profession of faith, viz: Andrew Wilson, Mrs. Mary Boal and Miss Letitia Boal.
July 12, 1851. At
a meeting of the session held after preparatory services, the following
members were received into the church, viz
A. W. Lucas, Henry Ault, Levi Lucas, Thomas Pollock and John Pollock
The services of the congregation were held in the Reformed church during the years 1867 to 1875 inclusive, and during the year 1876 in the M. E. church.
At a congregational meeting held January 21, 1876, it was decided to buy lots from Charles Duth and build on them a church. With this end in view, Jacob Latshaw, John Wright and J. Weber Addams were elected as a building committee, with full power to act.
At this time Mr. W. Lucas (familiarly known in this community as Aunt Betty Lucas) offered to give $1,000 toward the erection of a church. With this splendid offer the committee went to work and built a fine church, 36x56 feet, gothic in style, with a 98-foot spire (a part of the spire was taken off) costing $3,400. The church was dedicated free of debt on Sunday, October 29, 1876. Rev. T. C. Easton, of Belleville, Illinois, assisted the pastor, Rev. L. H. Mitchell in the services. Many were turned away who could not find even standing room in the church during the service.
It was decided to celebrate the sixth anniversary of our church on December 29, 1905, and, with this object in view, a committee, consisting of Rev. R. Nexwomb, Mrs. J. K. Benson and C. W. Frank was elected, with power to act. The committee went to work with a will, and prepared a fine program.
The committee to
build a parsonage reported to the congregation that Morgan Gandy was the
lowest responsible bidder. On motion the contract was awarded to him,
and a building committee consisting of Jacob Latshaw, John H. Addams and
John Wright was appointed. All the buildings were completed, costing $1,022.00
and committee discharged April 10, 1880. The following named are the present
officers of the, church Minister Rev. A. W. McClurkin. Elders F. W. Clingman,
C. W. Frank Elias D. Baker, Henry Richart. Trustees J. K. Benson, Mrs.
S. B. Barber, Jr., Alma Richart, Oliver P. Cromley, T. Hutchinson Rutherford,
E. D. Baker.
Supply Pastors Calvin Waterbury, 1845; J- C. Downer, 1851; John N. Powell, 1851; A. Kent, 1851; Robert Colston, 1853; Matthew B. Patterson, 1866; B. Roberts, 1867. Pastors John M. Linn, 1867-1871; Louis H. Mitchell, 1874-1878; John C. Irwin, 1879-1882; James McFarland, 1883-1884; J. W. Parkhill, 1884-1885; J. H. Dillingham, 1886-1889; Thomas Hickling, 1890-1892; Henry Cullen, 1892-1900; Emmett W. Rankin, 1900-1901; Charles P. Bates, 1901-1902; James T. Ford, 1902-1904; Ozro R. Newcomb, 1905-1907; A. W. McClurkin, 1907.
The Cedarville Cemetery Association was organized in 1855 by John H. Addams, Marcus Montelius, Josiah Clingman, Peter Wooding and John Wilson. Josiah Clingman was elected president and John H. Addams secretary and treasurer.
The Cedarville Library was established in 1846. The first board of trustees consisted of John H. Addams, A. W. Lucas, Josiah Clingman and William Irwin. For years the library was located in the home of John H. Addams and was accessible to all. This library probably contained a higher proportion of books of real value than the libraries of today.
The Independent Band of Cedarville was organized in 1873. In 1880 the officers were President, Henry Richert; Secretary, J. B. McCammon; Treasurer, W. B. Clingman, and George W. Barber, leader.
At present, Cedarville maintains one of the best bands in northern Illinois and is in great demand to play at public gatherings.
The first postmaster was George Reitzell. He was followed by William Irwin, Robert Sedam and Johnathan Sills. Jackson Richart began in 1856 and the present postmaster is Henry Richart.
From 1835 to 1855 the people of Cedarville had faith that the village was to grow to be a city. Mills and factories were established, many of which did a big business for that day. But a few factors which the people could not control determined otherwise and the place is a village still.
One factor was the perfection of steam power. Another was the decline of the available water power, with its intervals of uncertainty. Another was the failure of the village to secure a railroad, and the fourth is that modern phase of industrial life that has gathered up the little shops and factories into great corporations with almost unlimited capital. One by one these irresistible forces undermined the prospective industries of the village until the last dream of a city has been dissipated, and left Cedarville with the great opportunity to be a model village.
In this it may still easily become great. Among the early business enterprises were Reel & Syler's Purifier Manufactory, which did a $30,000 business in 1880; J. B. McCammon's Carriage Factory, a $10,000 business in 1880; John Shaffer's Carriage Factory, established in 1859; the J. W. Henny Carriage Factory, which moved to Freeport; and the Cedarville Mills. The first mill was a God-send to that portion of the county. Dr. Van Valzah conducted it until 1840 when it was sold to David Neidigh. Conrad Epley and John W. Shuey bought it of Neidigh and sold it to Hon. J. H. Addams in 1844 Ior $4,4- In 1846 Mr. Addams rebuilt the mill and in 1858 built the mill that now stands as one of the land marks of the county. It was three stories high, 36x54, had three run of stones, and cost $10,000. Its capacity in 1880 was 100 barrels of flour daily.
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Stories, Volume 1
events have happened in Freeport and Stephenson County, Illinois,
and remarkable people have lived there. These are stories gathered
about people and events from 1835 through World War II.
Rock Grove Township is the home of a group of the most thrifty and prosperous farmers that can be found anywhere in Stephenson County. The farms are under high cultivation, and each and every one is provided with the most up-to-date machinery and farm appurtenances. The number of new circular barns which have been erected within the last few years in and about Rock Grove exceeds that of any other township of the county. Corn, wheat, oats, rye, and barley are grown in abundance, and hogs, sheep, and cattle are raised in large numbers, and the whole township from one corner to another presents an appearance of thrift, peace, and plenty, which is exceedingly beautiful to the eye.
There are two townships in the county which are not entered by any railroad, and Rock Grove is one of them. There has been talk at various times of connecting Freeport and the village of Rock Grove by an electric line. Such a line would possibly prove a paying venture as it would supply the long felt want of transportation facilities to the dwellers in the village and especially the farmers of the surrounding country. The prospects of an immediate completion of the venture are, however, exceedingly vague.
Rock Grove is traversed by a number of small creeks, notably Rock Creek, which flows south to join Rock Run in Rock Run Township. There are also a number of other small streams which have their sources in this township and flow down to swell the tide of the Pecatonica. The ground is slightly rolling, and the surface of the township is well wooded. There are large groves of valuable timber at Walnut, Linn, and Rock Groves, suitable for building and other mechanical purposes. The water supply is admirable; there are a number of artesian wells of delicious drinking water scattered throughout the region.
No permanent settlement was made in Rock Grove Township earlier than 1835, although many transients and prospectors had passed through on their way westward long before that date. In the summer of 1835, Albert Albertson, accompanied by Johnathan Corey, came to the township, and, having pitched their tents in the vicinity of the present village of Rock Grove, they were so delighted with the aspect of the country that they decided to remain permanently. They entered their claims in Section 36 of the present township and there took up their permanent abode. In December of the same year, Albertson and Corey were joined by Eli Frankeberger, who came with his family from Champaign County, Ohio, and settled in the present village of Rock Grove. In the same month of their arrival, the first white child born in the township, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Frankeberger, and straightway christened "Louisa Frankeberger."
The following winter was one of sore trial to the new settlers, owing to insufficiency of food and supplies. In the course of the winter they were joined by Josiah Blackamore, and later by one or two others. But the recruits were few, and it was only the enthusiasm and courage of the new settlers that kept them from a disgraceful retreat. That they did remain in their chosen habitation is greatly to their credit, and that they never regretted it is shown by the fact that most of them spent the rest of their lives within the bounds of Rock Grove Township, and their descendants are living there today.
In 1836 few new settlers came to Rock Grove Township, but in 1837 they began to come in large numbers. Previous to this year, the settlers had laid their claims in and about the future village of Rock Grove. Some of the newcomers went farther out in the country, as Joseph Musser, who settled in Sections 19 and 20, Thomas Chambers, Samuel Chambers, William Wallace, and a few others. They all clung close to the grove, however, and did not go up into the northern part of the township. In the same year came Mr. Moon, who laid his claim in Sections 31 and 32, east of the grove, Joseph Osborn, who opened a farm in Section 35, and laid claim to timber lands in Section 30.
In Section 31, in the future village site, Samuel Guyer and Daniel Guyer came to take up their claim, and later founded the village itself.
The first marriage occurred during the winter of 1836-7, and the contracting parties were Josiah Blackamore and Miss Wallace, a daughter of William Wallace, an early settler. This marriage did not take place in the township itself, however, but in Green County, Wisconsin hence many of the old settlers disclaim it as the first marriage in the township. It is said that Josiah Blackamore, who was one of an army of volunteer soldiers, who had been sent by the government to aid in driving back the Indians, became smitten with the charms of Miss Wallace and on his return from the Indian wars, he wooed and won her.
In 1838, the first marriage within the bounds of the township itself occurred. Albert and Lavinia Albertson were united in marriage by Eli Frankeberger, who was justice of the county in addition to his farming duties. On April 19, 1839, Elijah Clark and Harriet Hodgson were united at Walnut Grove by Squire Kinney.
In the fall of 1839, Solomon Fisher and Jacob Fisher came to Rock Grove Township and laid claim to 600 acres of ground in Sections 25 and 26. The claim had previously been entered by Drummond, a transient miner, who erected a 16 by 16 cabin and dug a well. Drummond did not stay long and sold out to the Fisher brothers upon his departure from the locality. In 1839 and 1840 the immigration was large. Among those who came at this time were Peter George, John Fisher, Calvin Preston, J. S. Potter, John Kleckner, John and Reuben Bolender, George and Jacob Maurer, Joseph Barber, Levi, Adam and Michael Bolender, and others. By this time the population of the township was very well distributed. The settlers were not altogether gathered about the grove, but had spread out and taken claims even up in the northern part of the township near the state line.
The first death in the history of the township occurred in 1842, although some say it was 1843, and took place under very tragic circumstances. William Wallace, one of the earliest settlers of the region, became violently insane, and going out into the woods on the edge of the grove, he hung himself to a tree. He was buried in the vicinity of the village of Rock Grove, where the tragic event occurred. Along in 1843 another tragedy occurred, this time a tragedy of mysterious and inexplicable nature. A man named Boardman, who was employed on the farm of one Daniel Noble near Walnut Grove, was shot to death by the hand of an unknown assassin. Nothing was ever learned either of the assassin or the possible motives for his deed, and, although the event transpired nearly seventy years ago, it is still shrouded in the deepest mystery.
After 1839, prosperity began to be apparent in the township. Supplies were easier to obtain, and the founder of several mills in the nearby county, viz the Van Valzah Mills at Cedarville, the Curtis mills at Orangeville, and various smaller mills on Rock Run, placed the inhabitants of Rock Grove Township in a safe and comfortable position. From about 1841 dates the modern history of Rock Grove Township. In 1844 occurred the sale of government lands at public auction, and thereafter the inpour of settlers was very great. In 1846 the first school was established in the township, in Section 36, near the village site, and the educational facilities of the township have since been on the steady increase. At present no section of the county is provided with better conducted schools. In 1850 the township was set apart and formally organized as Rock Grove Township. In the same year the village of Rock Grove, first known as Guyer's Addition, was founded.
Rock Grove Township comprises a territory of thirty-three square miles, or nearly that area. It contains but one village, the Rock Grove mentioned above. Located in the far northeastern corner of the county, it is farthest of any township from the county seat, but is well provided with schools and churches and is one of the pleasantest spots of the county for permanent residence, both from a farming standpoint and as a place of retreat, where joy and comfort can be the prime factors in life.
Rock Grove village although not formally platted out until as late as 1850, was one of the oldest villages in the county. It was in reality founded by the first settlers who came to the township, inasmuch as they located their claims in the immediate vicinity of the grove, and many of them in the very town site itself. The land on which the town was later located was originally owned by C. W. Cummings, who afterward sold out to Peter D. Fisher. Fisher himself had also owned some land in the neighborhood and Samuel Guyer owned extensive property just to the west. In 1850 Samuel Guyer laid out the village and sold lots, but the whole settlement was replatted and re-surveyed by Benjamin Dornblazer in 1855. In 1856, on the 20th of August, J. D. Schmeltzer set apart, surveyed and platted nine acres in the southwest quarter of Section 36, and called it by the name of Schmeltzer's Addition.
In 1852 Fisher's Addition, which had never been settled thickly enough to deserve the name of village, was abandoned, and sold to Solomon Hoy. Thenceforth it was never used for village purposes, but on April 22, 1869, Samuel H. Fisher laid off four acres south of Schmeltzer's Addition in village lots and a settlement quickly sprang up there. The village is today as it was then, occupying for the most part only four or five streets, with one main street on which the stores and all the principal residences of the village are located .
Rock Grove possesses three churches, schools, two stores, a telephone exchange, a hotel, and several lodges, which meet in the Woodmen's Hall. There are also two cheese factories, one of them operating about a half mile north of Rock Grove, the other some distance west.
Churches. Of the three churches, only the Evangelical and Reformed churches are at present holding divine worship. The third, an Evangelical Lutheran congregation has temporarily disbanded, and no services are being held in the church.
Evangelical Church. The Evangelical adherents of Rock Grove have had a church and held services for a very long time, but for some years after establishing the congregation, no church edifice was bought or built. The congregation held services and worshiped in the church belonging to the Lutheran congregation, located about a half mile west of the center of the village.
In 1878 the congregation had increased to such an extent that it seemed advisable to put up a church building. Under the direction of a building committee consisting of George Meyers, Jere Swartz, Jacob Sullivan, William Alexander, and A. Bolender, an edifice costing $2,300 was put up and paid for by subscriptions from among the farmers of the township and village. The church was dedicated on the 27th of November, 1878, and has been in use ever since that time.
The Rock Grove Evangelical church is in the same charge with the Oakley church, and both are presided over by the Rev. G. Eberly, who has been in residence since about a year ago, when he came here from Anna, Illinois. Both churches are in a prosperous condition. The Rock Grove church is the larger of the two, having a membership of eighty-six and a Sunday school of one hundred and twenty. The Oakley church has a membership of sixty-two and a Sunday school of about sixty. The church owns a parsonage, beautifully located in the village of Rock Grove, and valued at about $1,000. The Rock Grove church is estimated at about $1,600, and the Oakley church at a slightly smaller amount.
Reformed Church. The Reformed church holds its services in the Lutheran church building west of town. The membership is very small, having a congregation of about fourteen, with a Sunday school of twenty. The pastoral duties are performed by the Rev. G. W. Kerstetter, pastor of the Dakota church, and services are held only occasionally. The Rock Grove charge was only established in 1908.
Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Evangelical Lutheran church holds its services at intervals in the above mentioned church west of the village of Rock Grove. At the present time the church is without a pastor, the Rev. Mr. Delo having left some time ago. It is probable that services in the Rock Grove church will be altogether discontinued.
Lodges. Rock Grove boasts of two lodges, the Rock Grove Lodge of the I. O. O. F. and the Rock Camp, No. 142 of the Modern Woodmen of America. The former has been in existence for many years, having been founded about thirty years ago. The membership at present is extended to about sixty members. G. Frankeberger is noble grand and Henry Long is secretary. The M. W. A. Lodge was established twenty years ago and has a membership of about forty. Both of these organizations meet in the M. W. A. hall on Main street.
The Kaup Hotel and feed barn has been conducted for some years by F. S. Kaup on East Main street. Mr. Kaup intends to move to Orangeville, where he will conduct the Central Hotel. He has kept a most excellent house in Rock Grove and his departure will be deeply regretted. There is no rival institution, nor has any provision been made for a new hotel as yet.
There is one general store, conducted by D. L. Thoren, also a Bell telephone exchange. The present population of the village is estimated at about three hundred, with no prospects for any great increase in the near future. Rock Grove is one of the most picturesquely situated villages in the county, and affords quiet and rest for a large number of prosperous retired farmers, whose comfortable and well kept homes line the main street of the village. Although not on any railroad line, Rock Grove is easily accessible, being only a few miles from the C., M. & St. P. station at Rock City, and about eighteen miles from Freeport.
William Brewster was the first settler in Winslow Township. It is likely that he came in 1834, although it has been claimed that he came in 1833. He was a native of Vermont who had lived a while in Tennessee and later at Peru, Illinois. He was a man of means and erected a comfortable house at Brewster's Ferry, cleared eighty acres of ground and established a ferry. He rented the ferry to William Robey the next year and returned to Peru.
This township is the northwestern corner of the county and contains twenty-seven sections and nine fractions of sections along the Wisconsin line. In all it contains about eighteen thousand five hundred acres. The township is crossed by the Pecatonica, east of which are many groves of hard wood. Most of the township is made up of rolling prairie. Joe Abenos assisted William Brewster in the running of the ferry. A. C. Ransom came into the township in 1834 and returned with his family in 1835, settling one and one-half miles southeast of the present village of Winslow. Here he laid out the town of Ransomberg which prospered a few years but was soon abandoned. George Payne settled at Brewster's Ferry in 1834 and George W. Lott built a cabin in what is now Winslow in the same year. Other settlers that year were Harvey and Jerry Webster.
In 1835 many settlers came in from the east. Lemuel W. Streator bought the Brewster holdings for $4,000. He married Miss Mary Stewart and became a prominent man in the county.
James and W. H. Eels established claims that year and the family has been prominent and influential in affairs of Stephenson County. In 1835 George W. Lott and the Websters began the erection of a sawmill. Lott was to build the mill and the Websters were to build the dam. Hector P. Kneeland aided in the work and the four owners completed the mill in the fall. In 1836 Stewart and McDowell opened a store in Ransomberg. In the same year Dr. W. G. Bankson settled on Section 35 and set up his shingle as the first physician in the section. He was married to Phoebe McCumber in the fall of 1836. In 1837 the following settlers arrived: Rev. Philo Judson, Cornelius Judson, Charles McCumber, Ephram Labaugh, Alfred Gaylord, Rev. Asa Ballinger and S. F. M. Fretville. The Judsons settled below Brewster's Ferry, Rev. Philo soon moving on west. His daughter became known as Mrs. Governor Beveridge. The first child born in the township was Sara Maria Denton, born in the fall of 1836. I. V. Gage, son of Silas Gage, was born January 10, 1838.
Newcomb McKinney, Hiram Gaylord, Cornelius and Johnathan Cowen opened farms and built cabins. May 28, that year, there came from Plymouth County, Massachusetts, John Bradford, Thomas Loring, Columbus and Ichabod Thompson and the Moulton brothers. They came out to build up the land of the Boston Western Land Company on which company's land the village of Winslow was later built. In the summer of 1838 they built a shingle factory and a hotel, the American House. Elias and Edward Hunt came the same year and in 1839 Joseph R. Berry, W. P. Cox, Gilson Adams and A. A. Mallory settled in the township.
In 1844 the Boston Land Company sent out as agent Cyrus Woodman, and under his energetic direction the township was rapidly settled up.
The Massachusetts influence gave the township its name, for in 1838 it was called Winslow in honor of Governor Winslow, one of the provincial governors of that state. The name was given by W. S. Russell, the agent of the Boston Land Company in 1838.
The Boston Land Company at one time owned seventy-two thousand acres in Wisconsin, Missouri, and Illinois. Seven hundred acres were in Winslow township on the site of the present town.
In 1844 Cyrus Woodman, the new agent of the land company, surveyed, platted and laid off the village of Winslow. Lots on the main street were held at ten dollars and twenty-five dollars each. The real estate company was not lacking in hope and laid off a city with square, streets, avenues, and a wharf. Later the company decided to sell farms instead of town lots, and thus disposed of its holdings.
The village was organized in 1850. In 1880 it contained three hundred and seventy-five inhabitants, five stores, one church and a hotel.
In 1837 Rev. Asa Ballinger came to Winslow. He was a pioneer Methodist circuit rider, and preached each Sunday in cabins or groves. In 1849, Elisha Hazzard, a congregationalist minister, arrived and had good success as a minister. From 1840 to 1855 the spiritual welfare of the people cared for by transients, in addition to Hazzard and Ballinger. In 1855 the Presbyterian organized with nineteen members. The first meeting of the Presbyterians was at the village hotel April 9th. A later meeting, April 19th, was well attended and April 21st the organization was effected. The Presbyterians held services in the schoolhouse till fall, when a brick church, 35x55, was built at a cost of $2,000. Up to 1880, the following pastors had served, though part of the time the organization had services by transient preachers: Rev. John N. Powell, John Johnson, A. T. Wood, a Mr. Schofield and A. S. Gardner. After 1880 the church declined and the organization was broken up. The building was sold to the German Evangelical church, which now uses it.
Mr. A. T. Loomis, a Congregationalist preacher, held a revival in Winslow in 1877. He met with great success, securing one hundred converts. At the close of the revival, the "Winslow Christian Association" was organized. On the 9th of May, 1878, this organization became the Congregational church with sixty members. Services were held for a time in Wright's Hall. In 1880 Rev. Frances Lawson was pastor. The organization never became strong and was later discontinued.
The German Evangelical church of Winslow was established as a mission and bought the Presbyterian church building in 1899. At present there is a small but earnest membership of about thirty. The Sunday school is in good condition and has a membership of about the same.
The church has had the following pastors: 1883, William Caton; 1885, John Fahger; 1887, F. S. Entorf; 1889, Otto Brose; 1890, Geo. Harris; 1890, Peter C. Koch; 1893, W. P. Rilling; 1894, C. A. Heisler; 1898, J. A. Holtzman; 1901, J. H. Spear; 1902, B. H. Reutepohler; 1902, W. C. Hallwacs; 1903, Henry Schaffner; 1905, John Widner; 1907, to the present time, William Gross.
The Methodist church, of which Rev. Charles Briggs is pastor, is an active organization and has a beautiful frame church building erected in 1891. H. H. Morse is superintendent of the Sunday school.
Rev. Metzker is pastor of the U. B. church, which has a good church building and an active membership.
The first school in Winslow was held in Edward Hunt's wagon shop in 1840. After a short time a schoolhouse was built on a hill southwest of town which was used till 1872, when a larger school building was erected at a cost of $3,000. It is a frame structure, 40x40 and two stories high. The average daily attendance in 1880 was sixty-five students.
Winslow Lodge, No. 564, A. F. & A. M. The Masonic lodge was established in 1867. The following were charter members Benjamin Pym, John Bradford, Jacob Sweeley, P. Sweeley, D. D. Tyler, R. E. Mack, T. Rodebaugh, C. M. McComber, M. J. Cooper and J. W. Saucerman.
The Winslow Register is in its fifteenth year. Mr. F. A. Deam is editor and proprietor. The Register is an eight-page weekly, newsy, and showing a liberal advertising patronage.
Fuller's private bank was organized May 20, 1894, by Mr. J. M. Fuller, who died in 1898. The bank is now in charge of Mr. J. B. Fuller and does an extensive business.
One of the leading industries of Winslow is Karlen's cheese factory, one of the best in the country. The product is the Blue Label Cheese.
Mr. J. M. Gordon is president of the village board, F. A. Deam secretary, and Charlie Brand, marshal.
The school directors are: Adam Rect, president; Dr. Willis, clerk, and 1910, P. P. Fisher; 1910, elect. Professor Moorhead.
The officials of the Modern Woodmen of America, No. 762, are: Venerable counsel, J. M. Gordon; clerk, C. C. Tyler; adviser, L. H. Fuller; escort, F. P. Hymes; sentry, A. H. Collyer.
March 4, 1902, Winslow suffered a disastrous fire which destroyed several business houses.
of the village board of Winslow for the fiscal year 1910, were as follows
Lighting $ 650.00
Streets and alleys 400.00
Mr. J. B. Fuller is treasurer of the Winslow school township.
West Point Township is six miles square, is the east half of Township 28, and has an area of twenty-two thousand eight hundred acres. In 1850 Waddams Township was organized, thus leaving West Point with its present boundaries. The first settlement in Stephenson County was made in West Point Township. It was made by William Waddams at Waddams Grove in 1833, the next year after Black Hawk's War. The war and the previous uncertain attitude of the Sacs and Foxes had held back the settlement of the county. The Winnebagoes also were frequently moody and likely at any moment to join Black Hawk in an attack on the white settlements. The final defeat of the old Sac Brave at the battle of the Bad Axe, August 2, 1832, made it possible for the first time for settlers to take up claims in Stephenson County with safety. Even then there were many dangers because small squads of Indians still lurked about the county. While the threshing Uncle Sam had given them had taken the fight out of the red men, yet such a foe might be expected to make trouble by means of the skulking bands which, at least, were not afraid to steal. Mr. Waddams felt the effect of Indian depredations more than once. At one time they drove away his hogs.
Mr. Waddams and his sons, Hiram and Nelson, built a plain log house of one room. The ax was the chief, if not the only tool. The logs were cut and shaped from the trees of the grove a one-room cabin, with puncheon floor and the great fire place.
In 1834, the Waddams family was joined by the families of Geo. S. Payne, John Garner and his sons, Alpheus and A. J. Garner. Payne settled near Waddams and the Garners a half mile from Lena. The next year, 1835, came Luman and Rodney Montague and William Tucker. These families all cut away small clearings and began the cultivation of crops on Stephenson County soil. The presence of these pioneers paved the way for others and in 1836, Washington Parker made a permanent settlement.
In 1837 there came Samuel F. Dodds, Jacob Burbridge, Martin Howard, John Harmon, Samuel and Marshall Bailey, George Place, David T. Perry, Robert and William LaShell, James Thompson, Oliver Thompson, Mr. Graham, John Tucker, Jesse Tucker, Benjamin Tucker.
Pells Manny, who came in 1836, was made postmaster in 1838, and secured his first patent for the Manny Reaper in 1849, and began the manufacture of reapers in a little shop at Waddams before moving his work to Rockford and Freeport.
J. D. Fowler and Thomas Way took up claims in West Point Township and in 1839 M. L. Howard came. From 1839 to 1853, the township was rapidly settled up. The welfare of the settlers was held back because of the absence of a good means of transportation and because of a lack of good markets. Supplies were obtained by wagon from Galena, what products the early farmers had for sale were hauled over the same long and unbroken roads.
For these reasons the people were extremely interested in the coming of the railroad. Every step in the progress of plans was watched with anxiety. When the time came to aid by subscribing stock, the people contributed to the point of sacrifice. When the first trains finally puffed into Freeport, it seemed that the day was not far distant when West Point Township would have both markets and transportation. During 1854, the road was completed through the township and on to Warren. There was almost immediately a twenty-five cent advance in the price of farm lands due, in part, to the large numbers of new settlers.
In 1854, at the instigation of the Illinois Central Railroad Company, Samuel F. Dodds laid off one hundred and sixty acres for a village site and named the station Lena. The location proved to be a good one, for here grew up the largest town in the county with the exception of Freeport.
West Point Township did its part nobly in the war of the Rebellion. Every demand of the government was promptly filled. Her volunteers were to be found in the Eleventh, Fifteenth, Forty-fifth, Forty-sixth, and Ninety-second Infantry and in the Fourteenth Cavalry.
In 1836 a Methodist class meeting was organized as the result of preaching by Rev. James McKean, the previous year in Luman Montague's cabin. A Presybterian class was organized in 1840 by Rev. Arastus Kent, who was practicing in Galena and Dubuque. Sabbath school began the same year in J. D. Fowler's cabin and a log schoolhouse was erected on Luman Montague's farm.
Amanda Waddams, born in 1836, was, no doubt, the first white child born in the county. Eunice Waddams and George Place were married in 1837, July 4, this being, it is claimed, the first marriage in the county. The first burial in the old cemetery was that of Minerva Rathburn, about 1839.
THE LENA STAR
The Lena Star was founded in 1866. In that year, John W. Gishwiller, a photographer of Lena, and Samuel J. Dodds, postmaster, formed a partnership to secure material to start a newspaper and job office. They expended about one thousand four hundred dollars for a Washington Hand Press and other necessary equipment. The firm secured the services of John M. Shannon, who was then in Lena on a visit to his brother, the station agent. They also secured Robert Shannon of Chicago, then one of the fastest typists of the west, and Captain S. C. Harris, another printer. The complement of men was completed by Charles Weaver, the printer's "Devil." After considerable work by the "Devil" and others in blacking the faces of the new type, the first paper of Vol. I, No. 1, of the Lena Star went to press. S. J. Dodds was editor.
March 21, 1867, Mr. Dodds withdrew from the firm. May 3, same year, Mr. John M. Shannon secured control of the paper. February 12, 1869, Mr. James S. McCall, of Freeport, Illinois, purchased the Star outfit and secured James W. Newcomer, of Freeport, as manager and editor. 1878, April 5, W. W. Lowis purchased the paper.
1892, A. O. Rupp bought the plant. 1893, July 24 Irving S. Crotzer, one of the "Devils" who had risen to be foreman, bought the plant. In 1900, T. Francis Gaffney, one of the Star's "Devils," assisted a stock company in starting a newspaper and a job office. It was called the "Lena Independent," and Gaffney became manager and editor.
December 21, 1902, Miss Rosalie Taylor, of Lena, was employed as manager and editor. She was assisted by Charles Weaver, who had just returned from a twenty years' sojourn at Fort Scott, Kansas. Miss Taylor and Weaver conducted the paper till the equipment was bought by Charles O. Piper, December 17, 1903. It was evident that one good newspaper would satisfy the crying demands for a weekly paper at Lena, and March 24, 1905, Mr. Piper bought the old Star office and moved the "Independent" plant to the Star office, thus combining the two in the name of the Lena Star Printing Company.
August 27, 1908, Professor Howard C. Auman purchased the Star and directed its destiny till October, 1909, when the Star passed into the hands of the present proprietor, D. W. Gahagan. Mr. Gahagan is a newspaper man of experience, having been in that business seven years at Seneca, Newton County, Missouri. Miss Rosalie Taylor is again employed on the Star as local editor. The Star is now a four-page, six column paper, typographically a model of excellence, full of news and advertising. Almost a complete file, both of the Star and the Independent, are kept in the Star office.
This account is taken from the Lena Star, October 14, 1909: Mr. Gahagan is putting out an excellent paper, which in general appearance is a credit to Lena and the community. The large number of space ads shows that the services of the Star as an advertising medium are highly appreciated by the business interests of the county.
The Lena Bank is a private bank, the firm being George L. Baldwin & Company. The officials are: President, F. A. Latham; vice president, Peter Seise; cashier, George L. Baldwin. The bank was organized in 1867 by S. Rising, under the name of Rising, Smith & Company, and in 1870 changed to Foil, Corning & Company. In February 1878 the firm name again became S. Rising & Company. Later, the firm became Foil, Narramore & Company, and in 1906, became George L. Baldwin & Company.
The Citizens Bank of Lena was organized in 1880 by Andrew Hinds and George L. Stevens. Later, the firm name was Charles Waite & Company. The present officers of the Citizens Bank are: President, Anthony Doll; vice president, Charles Leseman; cashier, J. C. Dunn. The directors are the above officials, and George Shick, A. J. Clarity and J. D. Hinds.
Both banks do an extensive business in Stephenson and Jo Daviess Counties and are sound and reliable institutions. The Lena Bank steered safely through the panic of 1873 and both banks have weathered the panics of 1893 and 1907 in a way that proves the stability of their organizations.
Joseph Lampbert is president of the town board, and Captain J. M. Schermerhorn, eighty-two years of age, is town clerk. The following are members of the board J. D. Hinds, William Boeke, Jacob Lutz, George Boeke, Charles Berhenke, and H. R. Nelson. George Sloatman is City Marshal.
The ladies of the G. A. R. have an excellent organization of which the following are officials President, Mrs. W. H. Crotzer; vice presidents, Mrs. Fred Harris and Mrs. Anna Kostenbader; chaplain, Mrs. Kramer.
The Lena schools are now under the efficient management of Professor L. M. Carpenter. The High school with Miss Wilson as assistant, maintains a good reputation, and is accredited by the University of Illinois. The first school was in the log house on Samuel F. Dodd's farm. In 1850 a log schoolhouse was built on Franklin street and served till 1854 when the old stone schoolhouse was built at the corner of Franklin and Lena streets. A two-story stone building was built in 1859. The two districts were combined in 1866 and in 1868 a large adequate school building was erected. The board of school directors is made up of the following officers and members: President, Frank M. Halliday; clerk, George Baldwin; Dr. Stiver, Lewis Heidenreich, J. C. Lampbert and R. M. White, members.
The complete roster of teachers for the Lena schools for the coming year is as follows: Principal of High school, L. M. Carpenter; assistants in High school, Miss Sue E. Wilson and Miss Vera Trump; grammar department, Miss Lydia Vautsmeier; second intermediate, Miss Luella Buss; first intermediate, Miss Mary Perkins; primary, Miss Selina Rutter.
THE G. A. R. WILLIAM
R. GODDARD POST
The William R. Goddard Post, G. A. R., of Lena, has always been an active and enthusiastic organization of the Civil War Veterans. The Post took its name from William R. Goddard, a citizen of Lena who served in the Mexican war, and who, at the outbreak of the Civil war, again entered the services of his country. As a soldier and a commander, he won distinction on the battlefield and won rapid promotion till he became Major of the Fourteenth Illinois. Major Goddard fell while leading his men at the Battle of Shiloh. The first commander of the Post was General Charles Waite.
BENJAMIN R. GODDARD
At one time the Benjamin R. Goddard Post of Lena numbered about one hundred members. Some have moved to other parts of the county, but most of them have honored graves in the Lena Cemetery. The Post has not been less faithful as its membership has declined. The Post had charge of the dedication of the Black Hawk War Monument at Kellog's Grove and each year conducts the Memorial Day services. Another patriotic and fraternal duty, that of conducting the burial services of the old soldiers who pass from this life, is faithfully performed. At the present time the Post has the following members:
Commander of the Post C. F. Houser, Co. G, Ninety-second 111.
Senior Vice Commander John Reeder, Fifteenth 111.
Junior Vice Commander E. Kahel, Ninety-third 111.
Quartermaster A. S. Crotzer, Ninety-second 111.
Chaplain W. H. Crotzer, Ninety-second 111.
Officer of the Day George Shoesmith, One hundred and Forty-sixth 111.
Officer of the Guards Chas. Gassman, Co. A, Ninety-second 111.
Waddams Grove is a small village, having a store, a post office, a creamery, an elevator, the Illinois Central Station and a few dwellings. The school is located a mile or more beyond the village. The venerable J. H. Osborne, who built the first store in Waddams, is now postmaster, a position he has held for 39 years. The elevator is run by L. F. Keeley. The feature of the village is the beautiful park maintained by Mr. George Schultz. The owner is a student of science and takes a special interest in flowers. The park is one of the prettiest places in the county.
A pretty little cross roads settlement on the road from Lena to Waddams Grove is Louisa. It lies where the Galena Road intersects a cross roads, and contains a church, cemetery, school, and a group of houses. There is no general store nor is there any need for one, for the village is only about two miles northwest of Lena, and the farmers of Louisa are accustomed to do their trading at the larger town. The settlement is of recent origin, and hardly promises to
become a village of any great importance. It deserves mention however as one of the rural communities so numerous in Stephenson County, along with Waddams Center, Afolkey, Legal, and others of equal unimportance.
Kent Township, located in the western tier of townships of Stephenson County, contains thirty-six square miles, or a total of about 22,700 acres, nearly all of which is under cultivation. It is bounded on the north by West Point Township, on the east by Erin, on the south by Jefferson and Loran, and on the west by Jo Daviess County.
It was settled very early in the history of the county, at least six years before most of the county was settled up. The first settlement was made in 1827 by O. W. Kellogg, a now famous pioneer, who staked out his claim in the virgin forest at Burrows' Grove. He cleared away the timber, built for himself and his wife and children a log shanty, and re-named the stretch of timberland Kellogg's Grove. It has since been rechristened Timms' Grove, and stands near the site of the Black Hawk monument.
But about the time of Kellogg's settlement, the Black Hawk War occurred, and the Kellogg family, after enduring the throes of the combat successfully, packed up their effects, and departed for other parts. For eight years, no permanent settler ventured into Kent Township. Then, in 1835, a man named Green, who hailed from Galena, came to settle, and he obtained possession of the Kellogg cabin. Not satisfied with the aspect of the country, he remained only a short time and disposed of his real estate to James Timms, who became the first permanent white settler in Kent Township, and one of the first of the whole county.
In the fall of the same year, Jesse Willet made his appearance settling near the bridge afterward known as Willet's Bridge, near to the Timms settlement. About the same time Calvin Giddings and Jabez Giddings came and settled on the banks of Yellow Creek four miles north of the Timms cabin. For a long time after these migrations no new settlers ventured into the district, and Timms and his neighbors remained in sole possession. In the fall of 1836, Gilbert Osborn came, and then again intervened a time of inaction, when no new settlers came to take up their new homes in the wilderness. For three years this condition of affairs prevailed. In 1839, J. Reber settled a mile and a half northwest of Timms' Grove, and in 1840 Frank Maginnis erected a cabin. Benjamin lllingsworth came the same year and settled near the Timms homestead, remaining with the Timms family until he could get his house into shape such that it should protect him from the force of wind and tempest.
With 1840 the township became more populated. In 1837 the first marriage took place. James Blair and Kate Marsh were united in holy bonds of matrimony at the house of James Timms. The old records do not state who performed the ceremony. The first birth was Harvey M. Timms, son of James Timms and wife, who was born May 26, 1837, and resided in this county all his life. The first death took place in the same memorable year. The unfortunate was Jesse Willet, Jr., who was buried in the old "Willet burying-ground" near the present site of the Dunkard church. The first school was opened in 1837 by one William Ensign, who instructed the young idea in the house of James Timms, magnanimously loaned for the purpose. Among the families represented in his school were the Timms, Maginnis, Giddings, and Willets.
About 1838 a mill was built on Yellow Creek by John and Frederick Reber. Its site was near the center of the township, and it was well patronized by the farmers round about. The coming of the mill was a great boon to the pioneers. Before its advent they had been obliged to have their grinding done at Craig's Mill, at Apple River, and at other places of uncomfortable and inconvenient distance. Still the question of supplies was a troublesome one. Meat and game were procurable, but many supplies had to be obtained from Galena in Jo Daviess County, from Dixon, in Lee County, and other points at a considerable distance. The new mill thus furnished an inducement for emigrants to settle in the Kent district, and they came, forthwith, in large numbers.
By 1840 the tide of immigration was well begun, and in 1844, four years later, the land of Kent Township, was sold at a public sale in Dixon. This proceeding caused no end of trouble, for there were conflicts of title between the old settlers and the new purchasers, and in some cases the quarrels were violent and of long duration. In time they were settled, but for many years there was more or less feeling harbored by certain of the settlers against one another.
Kent Township was only opened up to the commercial world when the Chicago and Great Western Railroad chose to lay their tracks across the southwestern corner of the section. This brought an influx of speculators and purchasers, and the railroad company established a station, thereby founding the village of Kent. The village has never grown to surpassing dimensions, principally because the railroad which performs its service connects with the county seat only indirectly. It remains, however, a pleasant and habitable little settlement, with an enterprising and energetic population.
The water supply of Kent Township is good. Yellow Creek, entering from Jo Daviess County, flows east and south through the whole central part of the township. Its tributaries are few, but sufficient to cover the surface of Kent with a network of rills and brooklets, and prevent a dearth of the desirable moisture. The land is mostly prairie with a few large groves still standing.
In general there is very little to differentiate Kent Township from the ordinary middle west rich farming lands. It is a square of highly desirable land, inhabited by a rich and prosperous class of scientific farmers whose premises present as attractive and orderly appearance as one could wish to see.
When the Chicago Great Western Railroad laid its tracks through Stephenson County in 1887, the village of Kent was surveyed and platted, and lots were sold. As it was the only village in the township, a phenomenal growth was anticipated a growth which, unfortunately, has never been realized. The village is located in the southwestern corner of the township, near the county line. It contains about one hundred and fifty inhabitants and supports several stores, two churches, and a creamery. Owing to the proximity of Kent to Pearl City, the people of Kent for the most part attend lodge in that village.
Lutheran Church. The Lutheran church of Kent was built about 1880. It is on the same circuit with the Pearl City church, and is officiated over by the Rev. Alex MacLaughlin, who lives at the larger village. The Kent Lutheran church is an unusually well built and well equipped church, and is valued at about $3,000. The membership is quoted as sixty, with a Sunday school of practically the same proportions. Morning services are held every two weeks at the Kent church, with evening services on the alternate Sunday.
M. E. Church. The early history of the Methodist church is completely lost. It is not a very old organization, having been founded not more than twenty years ago, about the time of the platting of the village itself. The Kent church is in the same charge with two other rural churches, all three of them being officiated over by Rev. Armitage. The parsonage of the pastor is located in the village of Kent, and the building is valued at $1,200. The Kent church is valued at $2,500. The circuit, which is a student charge, has an aggregate membership of ninety-seven souls, about forty of whom are connected with the Kent church.
Kent Observer. The Kent Observer, a weekly newspaper, printed at Pearl City on Thursdays, is the official organ of the villagers at Kent. It forms a part of the sheet published by the Pearl City News, and comprises half of the edition of that paper, or space equivalent to a seven column quarto. While the paper is issued at Pearl City, it is devoted to the interests of the people at Kent, and contains news items, and other material of interest to the people of the town. The Observer was originated by Mr. Freas, a former editor of the Pearl City News, and has since appeared with unfailing regularity on Thursday of every week. The paper is a great boon to Kent people and is widely patronized both in the village itself and in the surrounding rural districts. Dr. M. W. Hooker is editor.
Kent contains a creamery, operated by a farmers' stock company, and a grain elevator. The business section of the town is very lively for a place of the size, and the stores do considerable business with the farmers of the vicinity.
The population of the village was listed at about one hundred inhabitants at the taking of the last census. There has been considerable increase since 1900, and the next census will probably bring the mark up to one hundred and fifty or more.
Dakota Township is the smallest in the county, comprising, like the townships of Erin and Jefferson, an area of only eighteen square miles. However, in that limited space, the township includes some of the best farming land in the county, some of the thriftiest and most prosperous appearing farm houses, and, withal, some of the prettiest and most picturesque stretches of landscape that the county can boast of.
There is no large stream. Cedar Creek, which has its source in Rock Grove Township, just across the town line, flows through the whole length of Dakota Township, from north to south, being fed on its way by a multitude of small rills and brooklets, most of them dry at certain seasons of the year, which flow down from the springs on the hillsides to join the larger current.
One railroad enters the township, the C., M. & St. P. R. R., which cuts across the southeastern corner of the oblong, and touches Dakota village, the only village of Dakota Township.
The early history of Dakota Township is closely identified with that of its western neighbor, Buckeye Township, of which it was formerly a part. In 1860, the division was made, and the eleven thousand, three hundred and seventy-eight acres of Dakota were set aside as they are today. Various causes have been assigned to account for the break. The probable and generally accepted reason is that the continued petitions and complaints of a company of farmers living near the present site of Dakota, finally secured the desired division. These gentlemen were all good citizens and desirous of exercising their right of franchise, but when a trip to the polling place entailed a drive across country of twelve or fifteen miles of bad road, they were put to great inconvenience.
The polling place was then located at the old red schoolhouse near the present village of Buena Vista. It seems now that a more illogical and less central position could hardly have been selected, for not only were the farmers in the eastern part of Buckeye township quite isolated from the politics of the section, but the village of Cedarville and the settlement which marked the site of the future village of Dakota were altogether out of range. The town house of Buckeye has since been moved east and south to a more central location at Buckeye Center, but all this occurred later. At the time of which we have been speaking, Silas Yount, Robinson Baird, B. Dornblazer, and a few others carried on their campaign for a separate township throughout ten years of strenuous endeavor. In 1860 they were rewarded with success, and in September of that year, the present township of Dakota was established.
As the early history of Dakota is altogether coincident with that of Buckeye, it has been treated elsewhere under that head. The first settlements in Dakota came about the year 1836. Among the early settlers of the portion of Buckeye which subsequently became Dakota were Benson McElhiney, who settled near Hickory Grove, Henry Bordner, Jacob Bordner, John Brown, Robin McGee, James McKee, Samuel Templeton, John Price, Peter Fair, Daniel Zimmerman, Robert Pierce, John B. Angle, and others. Some of them, the great majority, established themselves along the banks of Cedar Creek, others ventured farther out into the township, and took up claims in the northern and eastern sections. In 1857, the Western Union Railroad came through the township, and with this advent the early history of Dakota is closed.
Dakota, or Dakotah, as it is sometimes called, was founded in 1857, when the Western Union Railroad, now the C., M. & St. P. R. R. first laid its rails through Stephenson county. When the railroad decided to touch the southern portion of Dakota Township, several of the public spirited farmers decided to try to found a village in the southeastern corner, and obtain a post office there. The land on which Dakota village was built was then owned by Robinson Baird and Ludwig Stanton. Mr. Baird sold out his claim to Thomas J. Turner, who, in turn, disposed of his interest to S. J. Davis. To Messrs. Davis and Stanton belongs the credit of laying out and platting the village of Dakota.
One hundred acres were appropriated for the town, and three farm houses were located at different points on the stretch when the platting was completed. These three houses were the only visible signs of life in the village, for the post office had not yet come. The railroad company built their station, which they chose to mis-call "Dakotah" and "Dakotah" it has ever since remained. When the C., M. & St. P. R. R. came into possession of the Western Union lines, the title was not changed, although the post office has always been "Dakota."
The growth of the village during the earlier years of its existence was slow and unpromising. Soon after the coming of the railroad, a petition was presented to the post-office department to locate a post-office at Dakota. Robinson Baird and Benjamin Dornblazer were the men instrumental in securing this improvement. Their petition was immediately granted and the present name of "Dakota" affixed to the settlement. The village did not appear promising, and very little inducements were offered to the prospective settler, until Benjamin Dornblazer built his mansion, the first substantial house of the village. In the next year, which was 1859, Messrs. Dornblazer and Brown built the first warehouse located in the village. Others were subsequently erected by Fisher and Schmeltzer, and one was moved into the village already built and needing only the foundations to complete it. By 1860 the village contained seven dwellings and three stores, the houses being owned by Benjamin Dornblazer, Samuel Lapp, D. W. C. Holsapple, Abner Hall, Robinson Baird, Daniel Keck, and Mrs. Dawson. The three stores were a blacksmith shop, conducted by Mr. Holsapple, a cabinet shop owned by one Robert Neil, and the general store of the village, the proprietor of which was Daniel Keck.
1860 was the golden year of Dakota's history. In that year a large number of new buildings were erected Fisher and Schmeltzer's warehouse, the third which had been raised in the history of the village, the new Methodist church, the village hotel, after occupied by John Brown as a residence. Two new houses were built and used as residences by one George Muffley and Mrs. Ingraham.
Soon after Charles Muffley came to settle in Dakota, and opened the first taproom of the village, which he ran in connection with a carpenter shop. The venture did not seem to prosper, for Mr. Muffley abandoned it and enlisted as a volunteer at the time of the war, and is reported as never having returned from the combat.
The Civil War suddenly
thwarted the growth of the village and everything was at a standstill
for a number of years. Nothing in the way of progress was accomplished
for four years, and then the town took a new start and erected four new
residences. Then began Dakota's one and only "boom." Between
1866 and 1870 the main part of the village was built and only a limited
number of additions have been made since that time. In 1869 the settlement
was incorporated as a village, by a special act of the Legislature, approved
during the session of 1869, and the first election under the provisions
thereof was held on Monday, April 5, of the same year. Silas Yount, W.
R. Auman, and J. D Bennehoff acted as judges and F. B. Walker and A. T.
Milliken as clerks. The. The following officers were elected at the first
Peter Yoder, president; John Brown, W. R. Auman, George Lambert, and R. M. Milliken, members of the board.
From 1869 to 1873, the town grew amazingly the "boom" had not yet subsided. Then came a frost a killing frost in the shape of the panic of 1873, which withered up all trade, advancement and improvement. Everything was at a standstill, and Dakota's "boom" was over. The financial stringency which affected the whole country so disastrously was felt for five years, and Dakota never fully recovered from the effects. No market could be found for the crops, and the resources of the surrounding country, abundant though they were, were valueless for they could not be disposed of. When the panic loosed its clutch, the prospects for the growth of Dakota as a financial center, however vague they might have been, were effectually crushed.
Within the years of recovering from war and panic, Dakota began to gradually settle down into the customary type of country village which is familiar to everyone. There has never been anything in the least "dead" about Dakota. Business has never for a moment stagnated, but, on the contrary, has kept up a gratifying and prosperous increase, quite different from most of the villages of Stephenson and surrounding counties. But the history of the village has been a disappointment for it has never grown to the proportions fondly planned for it by its early founders. The population at present numbers about five hundred inhabitants. There are several stores, a large grain elevator owned by the H. A. Hillmer Company of Freeport, a high school known as the Dakota Interior Academy of northern Illinois, three churches, and a number of lodges and fraternal organizations.
Interior Academy. The Interior Academy of Northern Illinois, formerly known as the Northern Illinois College, was founded in Dakota in 1881, under the leadership of the Rev. Frank C. Wetzel, pastor of the Reformed church of Dakota. Rev. Wetzel conducted the work for six years and then left it to devote his entire time to the ministry. The academy has since been presided over by Professor W. W. Chandler, Rev. H. L. Beam, Rev. H. C. Blosser, Rev. H. L. Beam, Rev. P. C. Beyers, Rev. C. K. Staudt, Professor Nevin Wilson, Rev. W. D. Marburger, now of Orangeville, and Rev. G. W. Kerstetter, the present incumbent.
The academy, though small, is really an institution of unusual excellence for so small a settlement, and many of its graduates have made names for themselves. The list of alumni, published annually, show a large number of business men in Freeport and Chicago, and a number of boys and girls at college. The course of the school is remarkably complete, the musical department being especially noteworthy. Seven instructors are employed on the faculty, the present roll being: Dean, Rev. G. W. Kerstetter; languages, Miss Alma B. Conrad; mathematics and science, Mr. C. M. Finnell; commercial course, Mr. F. L. Bennehoff, Jr.; instrumental music, Mr. Gail P. Echard; vocal and piano, Miss Rosa E. Vollrath; violin, Mr. Edwin R. Rotzler.
Within the past year a number of improvements have been made and the equipment of the school has been materially added to. The Academy buildings, which consist of a college building and boys' dormitory, are pleasantly located in a four acre plat of ground, shaded by a grove of maple trees. The original college building is a substantial frame structure, 40x70 feet, containing an auditorium and four recitation rooms. The trustees and faculty aim at constant improvement and raising of the school standard. A monthly journal, called the Interior Standard, is published by the faculty and students in the interest of the school. A special outfit of physical apparatus has been added this year enabling the students to perform all the experiments required in an ordinary high school course in physics. Athletics and all manly sports are encouraged, special emphasis is laid on public speaking and debate, and in every respect the standard of the institution is being raised. The course of study embraces five years of work, including a preparatory year and four years of the regular course. Forty-one students were enrolled in the school last year, nearly half of them in the music department.
Lodges. Dakota supports four large and flourishing fraternal organizations, and several smaller societies and lodges. The I. O. O. F. have had a lodge in Dakota for many years, and the Modern Woodmen of America, Mystic Workers of America, and Royal Neighbors have been established within the last twenty or thirty years.
Dakota Lodge, No. 566, I. 0. 0. F. The Odd Fellows Lodge was established by Deputy Grand Master W.J. Fink on the 22nd of February, 1875, with eight charter members and the following officers: Noble Grand, Ezra Durling; vice grand, J. W. Gladfelter; treasurer, E. Yount; secretary, J. D. Schmeltzer.
For a time after the founding of the lodge, meetings were held in Keek's Building. In 1876, a separate hall was built for the accomodation of the society. On the morning of October 27, 1877, this new building, which the lodge had occupied for only a short time, was totally destroyed by fire, and everything except the lodge books of the society were consumed in the conflagration. The loss occasioned was not very great, amounting to a pecuniary damage of only $380, but the havoc wrought and the inconvenience occasioned by the destruction of paraphernalia and appurtenances was tremendous. No attempt was made to rebuild the structure, but quarters were taken in Artley's building, and a lodge temple was never again erected.
The Dakota lodge is in a prosperous condition, with a large membership. The officers for the current year are Noble Grand, Roy Blunt; secretary, W. C. Smith; financial secretary, Ralph McElhiney; treasurer, J. W. Smith.
Golden Rule Camp No. 137, M. W. A. The camp of the Modern Woodmen of America was established in Dakota October, 1884, and is today in flourishing condition. A. J. Foster is secretary of the organization.
The Rebekahs, in connection with the I. O. O. F., the Royal Neighbors, and the Mystic Workers, are also large factors in the social life of the community.
Churches. There are three churches in Dakota. There were formerly four, but one of them has discontinued services.
Methodist Church. The Methodist worshipers of Dakota began to meet and hold services very soon after the village was founded, but no congregation was formally organized until the summer of 1860. At that time plans were made for the building of a church edifice, which was thereupon begun and duly finished in the fall of the same year. The original cost of the building, which is a frame structure, 49x36, was $2,000, but that amount was increased by various improvements and additions which were subsequently made. In 1878, a steeple was added, and a number of internal and external improvements and changes were made. This fall the fiftieth anniversary, of the building of the church will be observed by the congregation, and plans for a celebration are being made. Several years ago the church and parsonage were entirely remodelled, the latter structure having been built in 1875.
The Dakota Methodist church is in the same charge with the Cedarville church, the Rev. B. C. Holloway officiating as minister of the gospel in both places. The church property of the charge, all told, is valued at $8,000, including a $3,000 church at Dakota, one of similar value at Cedarville, and a $2,000 parsonage. The congregations are both very large, that at Dakota numbering one hundred and twenty-five members, with a Sunday school of one hundred and fifteen, while the Cedarville church has a membership of one hundred and ten, and a Union Sunday school, conducted in connection with the other churches of the village.
Reformed Church. The Reformed church is of recent organization, dating back to 1881, when it was organized by the Rev. Frank C. Wetzel, as first pastor. Previous to last year, the congregation has had no permanent place of worship, but held their services in the Evangelical Lutheran church. Last year, 1909, the Lutheran church was purchased from that congregation for the sum of $1,500. The church was at the same time repaired inside and out at a cost of $300.
The Dakota church, which is on the same circuit with the Rock Grove church, has a membership of forty and a Sunday school of forty-two, while the latter church has a membership of fourteen and a Sunday school of twenty. The Interior Academy of Northern Illinois is conducted by the pastors of the Reformed church, Rev. G. W. Kerstetter being the present official. The academy property, including the parsonage, which is used as a boys' dormitory during the school year, is valued at $10,000.
Rock Run Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian church of Dakota, known as the Rock Run Presbyterian church, because it was first established in section 30 of that township, was organized in 1855. In 1856 the church edifice in Rock Run, long since abandoned, was built. In 1870, when the "boom" of Dakota was in progress, the Rock Run congregation decided to remove to Dakota, and built their church there in the same year. The church structure, which is the finest in the village, cost $3,000, is of frame 35x55, with a steeple eighty feet in height, affords a seating capacity for 300 worshippers, and is provided with an excellent organ.
The congregation consist of about one hundred members, the Minister at Cedarville officiating as pastor. The Rev. John M. Linn was the first pastor of the Dakota church, and the pulpit has since been occupied by a large number of pastors, with their parsonage at Cedarville.
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Stories, Volume 1
events have happened in Freeport and Stephenson County, Illinois,
and remarkable people have lived there. These are stories gathered
about people and events from 1835 through World War II.
Ridott Township is the largest township of Stephenson County. It is oblong in shape and contains an area of fifty-four square miles, just six more than Rock Run, which is second in size. Likewise the township contains more villages than any other in the county. Several of these are no longer post offices, since the coming of the rural free delivery system, and one of them, Nevada, :s practically deserted, with nothing except a group of houses to mark the place where a flourishing village once stood.
The first settlement in Ridott Township was made in the year 1836. Andrew Jackson and Jefferson Niles arrived in this county on the 4th of March of that year, and built a little shanty on the south bank of the Pecatonica, near the present site of the village of Ridott. Just previous to that time, either early in 1836 or in the latter part of 1835, Harvey P. Waters and Lyman Bennett had visited Stephenson County and pitched camp at the mouth of Yellow Creek in Silver Creek Township.
The whole of the district, including Silver Creek and Ridott Township, was then known as Silver Creek Precinct, and so remained until the passage of the law providing for township organization, when the two were divided. Waters remained for several months in his first location, when he pulled up stakes and moved into Ridott, where he continued to live for many years. Before going to Ridott, however, he went to Kirk's Grove, where he put up a mill known as Waterman's Still. Then, about March, 1836, he came to Ridott.
In the same spring, a large number of new settlers came, among them Sawyer Forbes; Daniel Wooten, who settled about a mile east of the place where the village of Ridott stands today; Horace Colburn; a Mr. Wickham, who entered his claim where the village of Ridott rose later; John Reed and his brother, who took up claims on the south bank of the Pecatonica near the paint where Farwell's Bridge spans the rivet; Benjamin and Josiah Ostrander, who "squatted" near the mouth of Yellow Creek; David Niles; Asa Nichols; and others. Nearly all of the pioneers chose to build their huts on or near the Pecatonica. As they subsequently found out, the site was not as healthy as could have been desired, but, after all, it was the logical place for a pioneer to take up his claim. The land was fertile, the water power was good, and a large part of the transportation was by water. The rolling prairies away to the southward about the present village of German Valley were just as fertile and desirable if they had only taken the time to find out. Later settlers did discover the gold mines which lay in the rich loam of the German Valley district, and the result was the flourishing colony of Germans who established themselves in that region.
In 1837 a very large number of pioneers came to take up claims in Ridott, apparently attracted more by the advantages which the place seemed to offer than repelled by the numerous disadvantages which faced them at the outset. A list of the newcomers of that year cannot be given with any attempt at completness, for many names are lost or forgotten. Some of the new settlers were Caleb Tompkins, who settled in a tract of timbered land near the river; G. A. Seth; Isaac Farwell; Eldredge Farwell, the two last named settling about four miles east of the present Ridott, near the present Farwell's Bridge; Garrett Lloyd; Norman Brace; Levi Brace; Isaac Brace; Orsemus Brace; Harvey Webster; Jeremiah Webster; Sybil Ann Price, who settled about a mile west of the Farwell farm; Stewart Reynolds; Sanford Niles, and others.
In 1838, another delegation quite as large came to take up land in Ridott Township. Among the new men this year were Lewis Gitchell; David Gitchell; Philo Hammond; Ezekiel Forsythe; Jacob Forsythe; John Lloyd (a brother of Garrett Lloyd who came in 1837); Putnam Perley; Ezekiel Brown, who "squatted" on the river bank, near Holmes Mill; John Brazee, who settled west of the present village; Christian Clay, and others.
In 1839 Charles Babcock came, and later George H. Watson, who drove before him a flock of a thousand sheep, Willia B. Hawkins, Ross Babcock, Anson Babcock, John Karcher, Lewis Woodruff, and others.
After 1840 the immigration was continuous, and the township became settled up. The northern part was settled first, however, and it was not until perhaps ten years later that the original German Valley-ites arrived bag and baggage in Stephenson County.
In 1842, on the 28th of August, the famous colony of English agriculturists, whose descendants in many instances still reside in Stephenson County in the vicity of Ridott, came west. They settled in the timber lands in Ridott Township, near the river, having been directed to that portion of the county by their scouts who were sent out the year before and settled the lands near the river as suitable place for settlements. For several years the Englishmen lived together in peace and harmony in the Ridott woods. Then a dissension arose for some unknown reason, and part of the colony departed for the western wild, and have never since been heard of, except indirectly. Among the prominent members of the colony were Thomas Hunt, with his wife and mother, Robert Knight, Charles Foulkes, Robert Lankford and wife, Thomas Clay, Henry Layland Knight and wife. Charlotte Hurst, John Wooton, George Barnes, Joseph Gibson, Joseph Lester, and W. R. Fairburn and wife.
Between 1840 and 1850 the lands in Ridott Township increased greatly in value, and as a result settlers began to feel that the land was desirable. In 1850 the famous colony of Germans, whose descendants conduct the business of the village of German Valley, arrived in these parts. Among their numbers were the familiar names of Uno Collman, Poppa Poppen, Wessel Wessels, Jurin Van Buckum, Christian Akermann, Folk Hayunga, Yelle Ruter, T. Jussen, John Heeren, Balster Jelderks, Fokke Rewerts, Michael Van Osterloo, and others, who were joined later by reinforcing colonies from their particular districts of Germany.
The first birth in Ridott Township occurred in 1837, when Margaret Wooton, daughter of Daniel and Julia Wooton, was introduced to this plane of existence. In 1839 came the first marriage. The happy couple were A. J. Niles, and Nancy A. Farwell, daughter of Gustavus A. Farwell. The ceremony was performed by the Hon. Thomas J. Turner, one of the early settlers of the county, who, in his capacity of justice of the peace, was vested with such authority. The first deaths are in doubt. Some assert that the drowning of Milburn and Reed in the Pecatonica, not far from the mouth of Yellow Creek, was the first instance of a visit of the Grim Reaper. Others assert that the drowning occurred in Silver Creek Township, just across the town line, and there is very good reason to believe that such was the case. At any rate, the drownings are on record as the first cases of death, and if they are not authentic, there is no story to the contrary which attempts to give the names of the unfortunates.
After 1850 the growth of Ridott Township was rapid and somewhat uninteresting. About the beginning of the decade the township suffered a relapse in the visit of the cholera plague which attacked Freeport and points along the Pecatonica and Yellow Creek. The blow struck hardest at Nevada, near Ridott, which never fully recovered. Unlike Mill Grove, in Loran Township, it was not erased from the map, but the number of deaths was appalling, and most dreadful to contemplate in so small a town.
In 1852, the Chicago and Galena Union Railroad, afterward a part of the Chicago and Northwestern system, came through, and speculators and purchasers came to the township in large numbers. But not until about ten years ago did the Ridott farmers have their greatest impetus for development and improvement. This came in the shape of the Rockford and Freeport electric line of the Rockford and Interurban system, which touched the villages of Ridott and Nevada, running parallel with the Chicago and Northwestern tracks. This was especially a boon to the villagers of Ridott for it has enabled them to come to Freeport and do their shopping at any and every time of the day, affording quick, cheap, and comfortable transportation.
In addition to the Interurban, three steam railroads enter Ridott Township, making a total of four within the whole area. The Chicago and Northwestern cuts across the northern end of the township, running through Ridott village, and also Nevada, but not maintaining a station at the last named place.
The Illinois Central runs through the central portion from northwest to southeast and through the stations at Everts and Legal. Lastly, the Chicago and Great Western cuts across the southwestern corner of Ridott Township, with its station at the village of German Valley. From German Valley it runs directly southeast to Ogle County, where its first station is located at Egan. From that point it runs to Chicago in an almost direct line.
The farms of Ridott are in good condition and have a well kept, prosperous look. That is not particularly true of the farms in the northern part of the township, near the river. The farms in this section of the county are very old, and probably more dilapidated and forsaken farm buildings can be found in the region surrounding the State Road than in any other section of the country roundabout. Of course, these farm houses are not occupied and it is only a matter of time when they will be torn down. The new and occupied buildings are of course well kept and neat in appearance. There are also a number of old stone buildings, very ancient, and interesting to the lover of the antique. Among the very old buildings of Ridott Township, and of the county for that matter is the old Hunt place, on the State Road, south of Ridott, formerly used as a Tavern for the Chicago-Galena stages. The place is still occupied by the descendants of the original keeper.
As a place for investments in farm lands both with a view to speculation, and permanent residence, Ridott Township is not surpassed. The lands about the Pecatonica River in the northern end of the section are well wooded, but aside from that the surface is most wide rolling prairie, containing lands which compare well in fertility with any part of the state.
The village of Ridott was founded in 1860. Nevada, a short distance west of the village site, and now known to the inhabitants of Ridott as the "old town," was the fore-runner of Ridott. When the Chicago and Galena Union Railroad was completed through the township, a station was established at Nevada and a town surveyed and platted. This remained in existence for three years, at the end of which time J. S. Cochran and brother of Freeport purchased sixty acres of land, upon a part of which the present village of Ridott stands. Through some previous transaction, the details of which were always shrouded in mystery, the Cochran Brothers had concluded a contract with the railroad company, agreeing to grade the side tracks, plat, and lay out the town, providing the railroad station was transferred from Nevada to the new place. On the loth day of July, 1860, the station was moved to "Cochranville" as the place was then christened, and soon after G. W. Loveland, the Nevada postmaster, in obedience to instructions from the department, moved the post office to Cochranville, and built the post office, the first building erected in the village. The first store was soon after built by the Cochran Brothers, and named the "Farmer's Store." About the same time, Oscar H. Osborn built a house near the track which he adapted to residence and saloon purposes. Ridott has never been a "dry town" since that date. In 1861, Samuel Irvin built his shoe shop on Adams street, James Clark his residence, on the same street, W. E. Moorhouse a house on Jefferson street, and these constituted the village until the close of the Civil war. A few buildings were erected in the vicinity, but the period was not distinguished by phenomenal growth or enterprise.
In the fall of 1861, the name of the village was changed to "Ridott" through the agency of a petition prepared by the residents and addressed to the Department at Washington. The name was taken from the township, and that, in turn, is said to have been named after a clerk in the post office department at Washington.
After the close of the war, the growth of Ridott was renewed, and the building of the village resumed. Ross Babcock erected a brick building which still stands on Adams Street, and contains "Ridott Hall," a spacious audience room, office rooms, and two stores. Isaac S. Shirey built a residence on Washington street, J. A. Kerr soon built a house near to his, and later Josiah Deimer, Mrs. Lewis Getchell, Reuben Clark, and Hezekiah Poffenberger erected mansions on the same street. Henry Gibler built himself a home on Adams street about the same time, and Dr. M. W. Walton moved a building into the village, reconstructed it, and used it for dwelling purposes. In 1867, the U. B. church was erected, the only one in the village for many years, in 1869 the new brick schoolhouse was built, and in 1875 the town was incorporated as a village. F. D. Coolidge was the first president of the village board, and the first members were H. P. Waters, Samuel Moyer, O. M. Doty, W. A. Kerr, and J. L. Robinson. W. A. Kerr acted as village clerk, and Samuel Moyer as village treasurer.
Among the archives of the village have been preserved the records of the first birth, the first marriage, and the first death. The first birth was a son to Oscar and Mary Osborn. The first death was that of Elizabeth Leech, and the first marriage was contracted between Brock Mullen and Mrs. Mary Hill.
For many years the village pursued the even tenor of its course, quite like the ordinary country village. But about ten years ago a change was effected, when the Rockford and Freeport line came through Ridott and erected its station there. The increased facilities for transportation have been taken advantage of by the people of Ridott to such an extent that they do practically all of their shopping at Freeport, and now consider themselves as suburban dwellers of the county seat. The village has grown a great deal since the advent of the electric line, and numbers a population of about four hundred inhabitants.
United Brethren Church. The largest and most influential church of Ridott is that belonging to the United Brethren, Association. The congregation was organized about 1859, before the village of Ridott was laid out, and was composed principally of the residents of Nevada. Services were held) first in the schoolhouse on the Moyer farm, later in the schoolhouse on the Waters farm.
In 1867, the present church, a frame edifice 28 x 48, valued at about $2,500, was built on a lot on Adams Street. Recently the whole building was rebuilt and remodelled. A parsonage valued at about $1,500 has also been built, next to the church building. The congregation numbers fifty-eight, with a Sunday school of one hundred and six. There have been a large number of pastors connected with the Ridott church since the coming of the first pastor, Rev. James Johnson. All of them have also performed the pastoral duties at the Winneshiek church in Lancaster township. The minister at present in charge is the Rev. J. E. Fry.
Free Methodist Church. The Free Methodist church was organized in 1875, and numbers a congregation of about forty. For some years services were held in the schoolhouse, in Ridott Hall, and in various other locations. Then the present church edifice, a small and unpretentious structure on Adams Street, was erected. Rev. Mr. Ferns was the minister under whose direction the charge was organized. The pastor at present officiating is the Rev. J. G. Plantz.
Lodges. Ridott is not a great lodge town. Unlike the villages of the northern part of the county, which are very active in this direction and support a large number of secret societies, Ridott supports very few. The two now in existence are the camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, which was established about fifteen years ago, and the lodge of the Stars of Equity, which is a comparatively recent organization.
Ridott Band. The Ridott Band was organized in June, 1910, by Professor L. M. Hiatt, of the University of Indiana, who came to the village at that time to reside with his relatives, the McCrackens. The band consists of twenty-six brass instruments, and furnishes music on all occasions where an organization of the kind is called upon to officiate.
Before the Chicago Great Western came through the county, there was a general store and one or two houses at the cross roads where German Valley, or Baalton, as it was then called, was located. With the advent of the railroad, in August, 1887, the present village was platted, and the town re-christened German Valley.
Probably the least attractive and interesting of all the Stephenson County villages, German Valley is nevertheless the home of a number of wealthy farmers, who are descendants of the famous German colony that came to Ridott over half a century ago. The country about German Valley is most attractive, the fields are fertile and productive, and the farm houses and barns are trim and well kept. The village itself is far from lively. There are half a dozen stores in operation, a creamery, a blacksmith shop, and a grain elevator owned by the H. A. Hillmer Co., of Freeport.
M. E. Church. The Methodist church of German Valley is of recent origin. The present church edifice was put up in 1903, the congregation having met about in various places before the building of the church. It is a frame structure, of a modern type of architecture, having cost about $2,500. The congregation also owns a new frame parsonage, located across the street from the church, which is worth about $1,500. The congregation numbers in the neighborhood of fifty communicants, with a Sunday school about as large. The Rev. Edward Breen is the pastor in charge.
There are no other churches in German Valley, but there are a number located within a radius of a mile or two, which are attended by the German Valley citizens. The German Reformed church is located a mile west of the town, and the Christian Reformed church two miles northeast.
Pleasant Prairie Academy. The German Valley high school, known as the Pleasant Prairie Academy, is located about a mile west of the village, at the settlement known as Pleasant Prairie. The academy is operated by the officials of the German Reformed church, and has been in the past presided over by the ministers of the Pleasant Prairie Reformed church.
Rev. Mr. Byers is at present principal of the Pleasant Prairie Academy. He is assisted by Rev. Schicker, pastor of the Pleasant Prairie church. The academy offers an excellent course of instruction, covering three years of preparatory work, and four years of high school and academic instruction. A very full course is offered, including Latin, Greek, English, the modern languages, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and the various studies included in the curriculum of an up-to-date high school. The faculty includes a corps of three or four instructors.
German American State Bank. The State Bank of German Valley was organized in December, 1906, and opened for business January, 1907. It is one of the prosperous village banks of the county, and was incorporated under the banking laws of the state of Illinois. The founder and original president of the institution was F. A. Briggs, of Madison, Wisconsin, who resigned after a short term of office, to be succeeded by H. W. Coffman. The bank is capitalized at $25,000. The officers are: President: H. W. Coffman. Vice-president: H. Heeren. Cashier: Louis Fosha. Assistant Cashier: L. Van Osterloo. The German American Bank occupies a substantial brick building built especially for its occupation on the main street of the village. It enjoys a large patronage among the farmers of the vicinity.
German Valley also supports a creamery, which is owned by capitalists at the village of Kent, twenty miles west of German Valley. The local superintendent in charge of the factory at German Valley is C. B. Ressler.
Unlike most of the county villages, German Valley does not possess any lodges or secret and fraternal organizations. The want is filled by the various church societies, and by the lodges at Ridott, and the neighboring villages to the west and north.
There are half a dozen stores, a large general store owned by N. H. Jansen, a post-office, blacksmith shop, and the usual residences. The population of the village is quoted as two hundred, with a slight increase since the taking of the last census. German Valley is about fourteen miles from Freeport, accessible by the Chicago Great Western from the South Freeport station.
A visit to the site of Nevada is not necessary to convince the inquisitive historian that the village no longer exists, for the mere name is scarcely mentioned in these parts today. Formerly it was a place of great importance and was settled very early in the history of the county. Before the propagators of Ridott had brought their village before the eyes of 'the world, the town of Nevada was platted out and promised to be, some day, a factor of importance in county politics. But fate had ordained differently.
Nevada came into existence in 1852, when the Chicago and Galena Union Railroad came through the region. The railroad surveyors as well as the farmers of Ridott felt the need of a station somewhere along the route through Ridott Township, and the services of a surveyor were secured to plat out a town and sell lots. A railroad station, long since disappeared, was built, and the town named "Nevada" after Nevada City, Colorado, where Daniel Wooton, who owned the land on which Nevada was platted, died in '49, en route to the gold fields in California. A post-office was also established, of which William Wright was postmaster, and a number of improvements were made, which seemed to show that Nevada was a coming city.
This was all in 1852. Hardly had the town felt itself established, when the cholera plague came swooping down upon it from the west and with deadly results. So many of the inhabitants died within one short summer that the population was decreased nearly a half. In 1854, the cholera came again, and with results quite as horrible. The town was so depleted in population that it seemed unlikely that it would ever be able to tide over. However, it survived the shock six years, and an agency other than the dreadful cholera, viz., commercial enterprise and a transaction on the part of a company of Freeport gentlemen, which would today be branded "graft," succeeded in forever ruining Nevada's prospects.
These men bought a large territory of land, where the village of Ridott stands today, having previously concluded arrangements with the railroad company that in the case of their platting out a town the railroad should remove its station, side-tracks, and so forth, to the new site. This was done in 1860. On the 10th of July of that year, the station was removed, and trains no longer stopped at ill-fated Nevada. A little later in the year, in obedience to the instructions of the department at Washington, G. W. Loveland, postmaster of Nevada, moved his postal station to the new town, and as the sun of Ridott rose, the orb of Nevada set. The villagers of Nevada were not loath to leave their old homes, with their memories of the cholera plague, and their proximity to the swamps and river bed lowlands, and a large majority of them moved to the new village. A few remained in the old home, and saw the deserted houses of their departed townsmen go to rack and ruin about them.
are sometimes quite as interesting as inhabited settlements. Sometimes,
at least, from a historical standpoint, they are even more so. A visit
to the empty plat of the Nevada town site shows some interesting developments
within the last few years. The city lots have long been parts of a farm,
and have been utilized as cornfields, but now a transformation is taking
place. The town is apparently reviving. A new house has been built on
the main street within the last year, and an old mansion which stands back at some distance in aristocratic seclusion, has been re-painted and re-inhabited.
It would be strange indeed if the logic of events should make Nevada a village again, with a wakeful community. It may be the case, for the village is easily accessible from Freeport by the interurban, and the lack of transportation facilities, which ruined the town, has been filled by the coming of the new electric line. As yet, the steps which have been taken are too vague to be called hopeful, and the population is a mere baker's dozen, while back from the little handful of houses which border on the tracks stretch the furrowed fields of a thriving farm, and the site which the village of Nevada used to occupy is only marked by the waving blades of corn.
Everts Station, or Stevens Post-office, is the first station east of Freeport on the line of the Illinois Central Railroad. It is a tiny settlement, and of little or no importance since the post-office has been removed. The hamlet contains a few houses, a store, and a grain elevator owned by Freeport capital. Everts was founded when the Illinois Central line came through, although Stevens Post-office was of earlier origin. The village was at one time quite a thriving little community and promised, some day, to gain some importance. The rural free delivery system cut off the post-office patronage, caused the trade of the store to dwindle, and now Everts is a very lifeless spot without much prospect of future resuscitation.
Legal, or Legal Post-office, as it is still familiarly called, contains a store, and a cross roads settlement of limited dimensions. It is located on the Illinois Central line about two and one-half miles east of Everts, and formerly contained a post-office with a large rural patronage. The post-office is now discontinued, and the settlement is no longer of any importance. It does not contain any church or school, although school and church facilities are offered in the near vicinity. No regular railroad station is maintained at Legal, and the settlement, as a village, is now practically abandoned.
Waddams township is six miles square, and contains twenty-three thousand and forty acres of rolling prairie. It is crossed by the Pecatonica River, which receives a large number of tributaries within the confines of the township. The most important is Waddams Creek, a small but swift current, which rises in the southwestern corner of the township and flows northeast into the Pecatonica.
In addition, there are numerous other creeks and streamlets which cover the township with such a system of water courses that water power is never lacking. The township, it is believed, was surveyed by William Hamilton, son of the great secretary of the treasury in Washington's cabinet, who had settled in the lead mine regions at Hamilton's Diggings and who also was an Independent Ranger during the Black Hawk War.
The first settlement was made by Levi Robey in 1835. His nearest neighbor was William Waddams, seven miles to the west. He built a log cabin on the Pecatonica, and began a "clearing," which was the first farm in Waddams township. The same year Nelson Wait, Hubbard Graves, Charles Gappen, Alija Watson, John and Thomas Baker and William Willis joined the settlement.
These earliest settlers got their mail and supplies at Galena and went on a two or three days' journey to mill on Wolf Creek. Indians and wild animals abounded in the wilderness and the settlement of the township was accompanied by the usual frontier dangers and privations.
The settlement was
made strong in 1836 by the new arrivals, mostly from the east. That year
came Thomas Hawkins, John Boyington, Lydia Wait and family, N. Phillips,
Pells Manny, John Lobdell, Barney Stowell, Lewis Griggsby, Nicholas Marcellus,
John Dennison and a nam named Velie. The first birth in the township was
William Robey, son of Levi Robey, September
Within recent years Waddams township has taken a place of great importance in the politics of Stephenson County. It is one of the few Democratic townships of the county outside of Freeport, and, as such, is an interesting factor in all county elections.
McConnell is a pleasant little village on the Pecatonica River and on the Dodgeville branch of the Illinois Central Railroad. Besides several stores, hotel, blacksmith shop, two churches, a school house and the postoffice, there is an excellent creamery run by Peter Danielson, an expert butter-maker. The surrounding farmers find excellent market for milk. The creamery puts out from nine thousand to twelve thousand pounds of butter daily. West of McConnell, about one mile, is a cheese factory that does a good business. McConnell has a number of fine residences that are well kept.
The old house, the oldest now standing in McConnell, was built by Robert McConnell and is yet in good repair. There is nothing left of the old mill but a remnant of the dam. Two old settlers, who have been citizens for more than fifty years and who know the history of the community, are Mr. A. C. Martin and Charles Graves.
In 1836 John Dennison entered one thousand acres on the present site of McConnell. He had the town fever and his idea was to lay out and build up a town on the Pecatonica. He was joined by John Vanzant and built a saw mill north of the grove in 1836. The next year, Dennison and Vanzant, the latter being a surveyor, laid off the land in town lots and made such improvements as they could in order to attract settlers.
In 1838 Robert McConnell arrived from Pennsylvania and purchased the land and improvements and called it "McConnell's Grove." He established a store at once and brought his stock from Galena. The town did not build up rapidly and the land was secured by the Illinois Central Railroad Company, which sold it to John Kennedy after the best timber had been removed. Kennedy sold lots and farms to settlers, including Charles Webster, George Buck, John Ault, Lewis G. Reed and other about 1855.
In 1880 McConnell had a population of about one hundred and fifty, a hotel, two wagon and blacksmith shops, a harness shop, two stores and received mail three times a week. The school house was built in 1849. The first teachers in the vicinity were Fayette Goddard and Adeline Hulburt, with an average of seventy students for many years. The school district was divided, because of the increased number of settlers, in 1868 and 1871. The present school building was erected in 1889. Talk of building a new three room school is persistent, but the majority of the taxpayers are not yet convinced that they want to build so large a school.
McConnell Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church was organized in 1850, October 19, with nineteen members. The first pastor was Rev. G". J. Donmeyer. Services were first held in the school house, and in 1869 the church building was erected. It was built of brick, 30 x 45, had a steeple and cost $2,200. In 1880 there were fifty members, and G. J. Donmeyer was still pastor. His connection with the church had not been continuous, however, and for a time Rev. J. Stoll and J. K. Bloom had served as pastors. Rev. Mr. Barr is the present pastor.
Lutheran Church. Three miles to the west of McConnell is another Lutheran Church, which was organized also by Rev. G. J. Donmeyer in 1851 with thirteen members. In 1871 the organization built a church building valued at $1,890. In 1880 Rev. J. W. Fritch was pastor.
Rev. W. G. Metzker, of Orangeville, is pastor of the United Brethren Church.
A small Methodist congregation, under the pastorate of Rev. Charles Briggs, is making excellent headway.
The village of Damascus is one of the oldest of the county. It is not a large settlement, and has never been platted out as a village site, but all of the farmers within a radius of a mile or more call themselves residents of Damascus. The population gathered about the store and blacksmith shop, which form the nucleus of the village, numbers about one hundred and fifty.
Damascus was founded and given its present name in 1837 by Norman Phillips, who became its first postmaster after a while. In three or four years the post-office was established and Damascus continued to have a post-office patronage of five hundred or more until the rural free delivery system came a few years ago, and Damascus post-office ceased to do business.
Damascus is largely settled by members of the Phillips family, descendants of the man who founded the village, and for many years the post office was conducted by members of the Phillips clan. The one break in the link was the post mastership of W. K. Bechtold, who for a while ran the general store, and held the office of postmaster at the same time.
The village contains a general store, owned by G. W. Phillips, a blacksmith shop, of which James Albright is proprietor, a school, a church, and a creamery. In years gone by, Damascus was a very important point. Being situated on the Pecatonica River, at one of the few points where the stream was crossed by a bridge, it drew a large number of transients to its population. These gradually departed upon the building of more bridges, and the establishment of ferries, and to-day the place is of very little commercial importance, except for its creamery.
Tradition says that when the controversy concerning the establishment of the county seat was in progress, Damascus was an active factor in the struggle, and was finally defeated by the small majority of one vote. Freeport, Cedarville and Damascus were the candidates for the honor, and, as is well known, Freeport eventually won out. Nevertheless, both Cedarville and Damascus were lively competitors. They had the advantage of a more central location and at one time it seemed as if they were the logical candidates for the court house. But Freeport backed up its claims with a large sum of money, and the battle was to the strong.
Damascus Creamery. The creamery is operated by a farmer's stock company, of which J. A. Phillips is president. It does a large business, and, outside of Freeport, is by far the most important creamery in the county.
First Baptist Church. The Damascus Baptist Church has been in existence for about twenty years. It was founded in 1890 by the Rev. C. E. Wren, pastor of the Lena Church, and has since been attended by the pastors who do service for that congregation. The charge is a student charge, and the pastor at present in charge is the Rev. Hervey Gilbert, who resides at Lena. The membership of the church is about thirty. The church building was built very soon after the founding of the church society in Damascus.
Damascus lies on the road between Lena and Cedarville, about an equal distance from both of these points. It is situated on the town line between Harlem and Waddams townships, and the post-office has at various times been located in Harlem Township. At the time of the advent of the rural delivery, it was established on the Waddams side of the road, and the greater part of the village is on that side. The last census gave the village a population of about one hundred and fifty, and there has been hardly any increase since that time.
Waddams Center, as the name indicates, is the central spot of Waddams township. The site is not marked by a village of any consequence, and the main object of interest is the district school, known as the Waddams Center School. The settlement embraces a territory of three or four square miles, the inhabitants of which designate themselves as "Waddams Center people." Waddams Center does not support a church, but there is a church at McConnell, only a short distance away, which is attended by the farmers of the region. There is no general store, nor has there ever been a post-office. The population of the whole settlement at Waddams Center is about fifty.
Erin township originally comprised not only its present area but, in addition, the township of Kent, to the west, which was subdivided from Erin on March 17, 1856. It was a strange freak of the logic of events that the blow which severed Kent from Erin and left the latter deprived of the superior wood and water advantages formerly enjoyed, should have fallen at a meeting of the board of supervisors which was convened on St. Patrick's day. For Erin township, as its name implies, was settled largely by Irish farmers, and the village of Dublin in the western part of the township contains one of the two country Catholic churches of the county.
About 1835 the first settlements were made in that part of the county which is at present Erin Township. The settlers were Hibernians from the "ould sod," by name Bartholomew Doyle and Michael Murphey. Both of them settled in the range at present known as "Dublin Settlement," the former on the site of St. Mary's Church of the Mound, and the latter about a mile away from that spot. Their nearest neighbors were the settlers in the western part of the township, which has since become Kent. Among these were the Timms family, the Willets and various others who are mentioned in the history of Kent township.
For about two years the settlers were few and far between. In 1837 Valorus Thomas arrived and settled about four miles away from Dublin settlement, on the line between Harlem and Erin townships. In the same year came Ebenezer Mulnix, and a Mr. Helm, who settled near Thomas. Bartholomew Doyle remained on his farm long enough to improve the land and donate three acres for the erection of St. Mary's Church. Then he moved west about half a mile, into Kent township, sold his old farm to one Robert Franey, and began the opening and improvement of a new grange.
Between 1837 and 1840, a goodly number of emigrants came to Erin township, with a large preponderence of the Irish element among them. The large part of Dublin settlement did not come until about 1842, but some of the forerunners came earlier. Among the newcomers, about 1839, were James Fowler, John Fiddler, John B. Kaufmann, Peter Van Sickle, George W. Babbitt, Jonas Pickard, Palmer Pickard, Lewis Grigsby, F. Rosenstiel, and their families.
In 1840, there was another large inroad, including, among others, Reuben Tower, William Schermerhorn, John Lloyd, Frederick Gossmann, John Hammond, Nathan Ferry, E. H. Woodbridge and a number of people whose names are lost to us. Amos Davis, who had settled at Scioto Hills in 1837. moved west into Erin township about 1840 or a little later.
In 1842, Dublin settlement began to grow very rapidly. Andrew and George Cavanaugh came in that year, also Andrew Farrell, Dennis Maher, who settled in section 29, John McNamara, Patrick Brown and many more. None of the newcomers were more warmly welcomed than the wife and family of a man named Burns. They had come by wagon train, and when crossing the Rock River at Dixon, the bridge collapsed, and all were hurled to the depths below. In the havoc which ensued, a number of the unfortunates were drowned, among them Mr. Burns and his son. Mrs. Burns and the rest of her family were fortunate enough to escape, and instead of remaining about the spot where the calamity had occurred and spending her time in vain lamentations, she pushed on to the destination at which her husband had been aiming. Here she arrived safely some time later and was warmly welcomed by the settlers.
The first birth in the Irish settlement occurred in 1843, when a son was born to George Cavanaugh. In the next year, the first marriage was solemnized by the Catholic priest. Robert Cavanaugh and Bridget Maher were the happy couple. In December, 1845, the first known death is said to have taken place. One Mr. Gillis, who was taken sick in the autumn of that year, died, according to tradition, from lack of proper care and treatment. He was buried in the grove on Burns' Branch, the first recorded burial of the township.
St. Mary's Church of the Mound, the first Catholic church built in the county, according to some, was put up by the Dublin settlers in 1836. This seems highly improbable, but such is the tradition. There has always been more or less of a controversy between the Catholic parishioners of Dublin and Irish Grove, each parish asserting that its church was the earliest of the county. It is quite impossible to decide the controversy, for records have been so meagerly preserved. The "Golden Jubilee" souvenir, issued by the congregation of St. Mary's of Freeport during the Golden Jubilee Celebration of 1896, does not attempt to take part in the dispute, but merely states the dates of the founding of the parishes with resident priests. According to this, Dublin settlement has the advantage of a few years. It was attended by priests from Galena until 1843, when Father Derwin, appointed by the bishop of St. Louis, became the first resident priest, also doing service at the Irish Grove settlement in Rock Run township.
The Irish Grove church was certainly erected in 1838, the Dublin church within a year of that time. Consequently we can approximate the time of building and find that it was very early in the annals of Stephenson county. Once the church was built, there was something to draw Irish settlers to the vicinity, and to this day, Erin and Dublin settlements have maintained their full quota of Hibernians.
Erin township is quite as fertile as any in the county, and contains quite as good land. It has an area of about eighteen square miles, being one of the three smallest townships of the county in company with Jefferson and Dakota.
There is no large creek or stream of any importance nor are there any groves or timbered sections of appreciable extent. The township is crossed by the Illinois Central Railroad (main line) with its one station at the village of Eleroy. This line, formerly a part of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad came through in 1852, and was later purchased by the Illinois Central, which now controls the line from Freeport to Galena.
Dublin, or New Dublin settlement as it is familiarly called, embraces four square miles of territory, partly in Kent and partly in Erin townships, from Willet's Grove to Callan's corners, and is largely settled by Irish farmers who came from the immediate vicinity of Dublin, on the Liffey.
The first settlers were Bartholomew Doyle and Michael Murphey, who came about 1835 or 1836. New arrivals were not numerous until 1842, when a large number of emigrants, including Andrew Cavanaugh, George Cavanaugh, Andrew Farrell, Dennis Maher, a Mrs. Burns, John McNamara, Patrick Brown, etc.
Soon after the coming of Doyle and Murphey, St. Mary's Church of the Mound, one of the two rural churches of Stephenson county which adhere to the Catholic faith, was established by a Galena priest. Recently a new and handsome structure was erected, which does great credit to Dublin settlement, and is an unusually attractive church edifice for a country congregation.
The present parish of Dublin comprises a territory about eight thousand acres in extent, and numbers fifty or more families. The settlement is unique in that it has clung together for a period of nearly eighty years without much change in its character except the natural improvements that have come to all the farm lands of the middle west.
Rock Run township, next to Ridott, is the largest township of the county, having an area of forty-eight square miles, while the latter has fifty-four. It is one of the wealthiest townships of the county, and is composed of good and fertile farming land, interspersed with occasional stretches of forest.
Rock Run has a most interesting history. It is probably the most cosmopolitan township of the county, and has numbered among its early settlers a most peculiar and unusual combination of Yankees, Germans, Dutch, Irish and Norwegians. Strangely enough, they lived side by side peaceably, and their descendants have intermarried so that the original races and their characteristics are no longer discernible.
The first permanent settlement in Rock Run, of which there is any record, was that of a Mrs. Swanson, who came to these regions with her family and took up a large claim in section 10 or n, near the site of the future village of Davis. Mrs. Swanson was a widow, with a large family of children, who aided her in the care of the farm. This was in 1835. In the same year, a number of settlers, who has previously visited the township, en route to the lead mines at Galena, returned from the west, and settled permanently on lands adjoining the "Widow" Swanson's habitation. These pioneers who presently returned to take up claims included S. E. M. Carnefix, Alexander McKinn, Arthur Dawson and one or two others. Presently a new delegation arrived, in 1836, including Thomas Flynn, E. Mullarkey, Henry Hulse, M. Welsh, William Lee, Leonard Lee, Nathan Blackamore and Aaron Baker. The Irish section of the new immigrants settled in the eastern part of the township, about four miles south of the present village of Davis, and there founded a settlement which later became known as Irish Grove.
Once the precedent was established, the number of arrivals grew. In the next year, 1837, a large migration occurred. Among the newcomers of 1837 were Dr. F. S. Payne, Nathan Salsbury, D. W. C. Mallory, John Hoag, S. Seeley, T. Seeley, Peter Rowe and others.
After this the new arrivals were continuous, and the township became quickly crowded with settlers. The Irish Grove settlement continued to grow, and the Hibernian "squatters" there were joined by a new delegation, including Pat Giblin, Miles O'Brien, a Mr. Corcoran, who afterward moved to Rockford, Thomas Foley, and some relatives of the Mullarkeys. In 1838 occurred the first birth in the township, also the first marriage. A son was born to Albert Flower, who managed the saw mill on Rock Run, and "Pony" Fletcher and Narcisse Swanson were united in holy bonds of matrimony, the latter event happening in the fall of 1838, the former earlier in the year.
The streams of Rock Run township are very swift, and have in the past afforded water power for turning the wheels of a large number of mills. Only one of these is now standing, a substantial stone structure at Epleyanna, which still continues in operation. In 1837, a saw mill was built on Rock Run in section 27, and the same year Thomas J. Turner put up a grist mill in section 34, and sold it to Nelson Salsbury, who, in turn, sold it to James Epley. In 1838, H. G. Davis came to the township with his family and purchased the Rock Run saw mill, which had been put up the year previous by Stackhouse, Carrier and Flower.
Here the first post-office ever located in the township was soon established, with H. G. Davis as postmaster. In the early part of 1839, the present Epleyanna mills were built by Josiah Blackamore and Leonard Lee, who later disposed of their holding to Conrad Epley. A number of smaller mills were built farther south along Rock Run and its tributaries, but no trace is to be found of many of them. There was one, for instance, on the Carnefix farm, south of Davis, in section 28, the ruins of which are still to be seen.
In 1839 a large number of arrivals were registered. Among them were Conrad Epley, who purchased the Epleyanna mills, and from whom the village of Epleyanna takes its name, Edward Pratt, who afterward moved to Freeport, M. Flower, Edward Smith, who settled in section 13, Uriah Boyden, who took up a claim in section 30, Thomas Fox, who went to Wisconsin within a short time, and a large number of settlers who came to live at Irish Grove, among them Thomas Bree, Martin Mullen, Patrick Flynn, Michael Flynn, Patrick Flynn, Jr., Thomas Hawley and William Marlowe, as well as a number of others whose names have not been preserved in the traditions of the Celtic settlement.
In October, 1839,
occurred an event which is most memorable in the annals of Rock Run township.
A delegation of Norwegians arrived at the settlement at Rock Run mills,
and there formed what is said to have been the first Norwegian settlement
in the United States. Whether or not this was the case, it was at least
the first Norwegian settlement in this part of the country. The descendants
of the early settlers are some of them living in Rock Run township today.
Others have vanished from the pages of the Rock Run annals. Among the
Norwegians who settled at Rock Run Mills were C. Stabeck, whose descendants
afterward became identified with the history of the village of Davis,
Ole Anderson, whose descendants are also farming in Rock Run township
today, Canute Canuteson, who opened the first blacksmith shop in the township,
Civert Oleson and Ole Civertson, who opened the first wagon-shop in the
vicinity. They were thrifty and hard working citizens and became a credit
to the community
in which they had chosen to settle.
In 1840, D. A. Baldwin arrived and took up a claim in section 40. In the year following, 1841, Captain Knese settled in section 13. Fresh arrivals were numerous at the various settlements, especially at the Norwegian colony at Rock Run Mills and at Irish Grove. In 1841, the first post-office in the township, Rock Run Mills P. O., was established at H. G. Davis' mill on Rock Run, with Mr. Davis himself as postmaster. It remained at the mills until 1848, when it was removed to Jamestown, or Grab-all, near the present site of Rock City. When the Western Union Railroad came through, and Rock City became a point of importance, the post-office was again moved, and the Jamestown settlement went out of existence. In the fall of 1840, a son of John R. Webb died, the first recorded death in Rock Run township.
From 1840 on the township developed rapidly. In the summer of 1838, the Catholic Church at Irish Grove had been erected. In 1855, the First Presbyterian Church, known as the Rock Run Presbyterian Church, was organized, and services conducted by the Rev. Joseph Dickey. This church was subsequently removed to the village of Dakota, in Dakota township.
In 1857, the Western Union Railroad, now the C., M & St. P. R. R. came through the township, and the village of Davis and Rock City became the points of importance in the township. Rock Run Mills and Jamestown, or Grab-all, were fairly abandoned, and the only outlying settlement of the old days was Irish Grove.
Rock Run is to-day one of the pleasantest places both for farming and residence in these regions, and it is hard to realize what the pioneers who took up their claims in 1835 must have gone through before they could transform the wilds of the prairie into a place of habitation. Times were hard financially, to add to the burden. The early settlers were able to make their living very satisfactorily, for there was an abundance of game, and vegetables and fruits such as the region afforded, they were easily able to grow themselves. But there were other menaces. The Indians had not left the district, nor did they for many months after the fields of Rock Run began to assume the appearance of highly cultivated lands. Another enemy, even more subtle than the Indian, was the snake. At one period in the history of Rock Run township, the whole district is said to have been fairly overrun with snakes. And they were snakes such as are never seen in these parts to-day not the harmless garter snake, although that species flourished also, but rattlesnakes, and the deadly massasauga, whose bite nearly resulted in the death of more than one venturesome pioneer.
Rock Run township is well provided with streams. Rock Run, a small but swift current, flows down from Rock Grove township at the north, and is joined, near Epleyanna Mills, by Rock Creek, a stream of equal size, which flows down from the northwest. Rock Run pursues a southward course, receiving the waters of a number of smaller streams, flows into a small lake near the new mill on the Hunt property, east of Ridott, and thence into the Pecatonica River, which it joins just above Farwell's Bridge. Brown's Creek, a small swift creek, rises in the northwestern part of the township, and flows southeast into Rock Run, tarrying for a while in a tiny lake, near its mouth.
There is only one railroad, the C., M. & St. P., which crosses the township from east to west, touching the villages of Rock City and Davis, and running in the vicinity of Epleyanna.
The township is well wooded. There are a number of large groves and timber lands left, but the majority of them are disappearing under the blows of the axe, and the larger part of the land is under cultivation.
Davis is the largest village of Rock Run township, and one of the most important of the county. It is of recent growth, being one of those settlements which the coming of the railroad has "made," and not a town of natural growth, In 1857, when the Western Union Railroad had surveyed its route through the county, and was making all preparations for the building of the line, it became very evident that a station on its route through Rock Run township was most necessary for the farmers of that district. Accordingly, Samuel Davis, John A. Davis, Thomas J. Turner and Ludwig Stanton, who owned the land in the vicinity of the present village, donated a total of one hundred and sixty acres, which was surveyed and platted for a village site. This was in 1857, and the work of surveying and platting was not quite completed that year. In 1858 everything was finished and the sale of lots began. That year the railroad was finished through the village, but the train that first sped over the rails was not run until the following year, on the occasion of the state fair, which was held in Freeport in 1859.
The panic of 1857, occurring at a time when the village of Davis was in its earliest infancy, threatened for a time to blot out the venture altogether. Lots were sold very slowly, although the men interested in the enterprise made every effort to offer inducements to new settlers. Streets were laid out and made good with crushed stone, sidewalks were built, lots cleared, trees planted, and building sites were offered for sale at prices ranging from $40 to $125. A few of them were sold, but the work progressed slowly.
In 1858, the first store in the village, known as "Davis's Store," was erected by Samuel J. Davis. In the summer of 1859 the Evangelical Church was put up, and other church edifices were soon after erected. The stone schoolhouse was put up in 1858, and the first brick house in the town was finished for occupation in 1866 by Ernest Wendt.
From 1857 to 1863 there was almost no growth. War and panic succeeded in checking the progress of the growing village, and for a time it looked very dark for Davis. It seemed at one period as if the village must certainly be abandoned, but a better time was coming. With the close of the war, business suddenly revived, almost as if it had never suffered a relapse. From 1863 to 1869 a steady growth was visible, and residences, stores, and other buildings were erected in large numbers. By 1873, the settlement felt itself ready to assume the privileges and duties of a corporate community.
On Thursday, May i, of that year, an election was held to decide whether or not the settlement should be incorporated under the provisions of the general law for incorporating villages, adopted April 10, 1872. S. J. Davis, Peter McHoes and John Gift acted as judges of the election, and the project was carried by a vote of thirty-three to thirty-one. Soon after an election was held, and the first town officers duly installed in their positions. The first village officials, elected in the year of 1873, were: E. A. Benton, president; E. Clark, M. Meinzer, Thomas Cronemiller and M. W. Kurtz, members of the board; M. W. Kurtz, village clerk; village treasurer, no record for 1873.
Since the incorporation of Davis as a village, a development fully meeting the expectations of the most sanguine of its dwellers, has taken place. Short as the time of its development has been, Davis has attained to the rank of fourth or fifth in size among the numerous villages of Stephenson county, and is only exceeded in size by Freeport, Lena, Orangeville and possibly Pearl City. It is about equal in size to Winslow, Cedarville, Dakota and German Valley. Business has never been at all lively in Davis. There is a grain elevator owned by H. A. Hillmer, of Freeport, also a creamery; and these two comprise practically the only reasons for Davis' commercial communication with the outside world.
Farmers' Bank. The Farmers' Bank, of Davis, is a substantial institution founded fifteen years ago, and since maintained on a firm and solid basis. The officers and directors are all men of avowed business ability, and the affairs of the bank have been conducted with unimpeachable sagacity and clear-headedness.
The Fanners' Bank was organized in 1895 by T. Stabeck, a descendant of the C. Stabeck, who immigrated to Stephenson county with the original Norwegian colony and settled at Rock Run Mills P. O. in 1839. The institution was capitalized at $25,000, which capital has never been raised. The bank occupies a brick structure, the most substantial on the main street of Davis, a few doors from the hotel. The officers of the Farmers' Bank at present are: President, Fred Alberstett; vice-president, Niles Pattison; cashier, C. O. R. Stabeck; directors, Fred Alberstett, Niles Pattison, C. O. R. Stabeck, H. N. Stabeck, and O. H. Anderson.
The Davis Creamery, operated by J. F. Beardsley, was established about fifteen years ago, and continues to do a flourishing business.
Newspapers of Davis. Davis has, at certain periods of its history, supported weekly newspapers. The projects have all been discontinued for the very excellent reason that the village of Davis is altogether too small to support a newspaper, and there is not the slightest probability that they will ever be resuscitated.
The Davis Budget, started in May, 1873, by K. T. and K. C. Stabeck, was a quarto sheet, independent as to politics, which was published in connection with the Freeport Budget. For five years, the Davis Budget was published by Stabeck Brothers, until they removed to Freeport in September, 1878, and decided to devote their whole time to the publication of the Freeport sheet. They disposed of their Davis interests to S. W. Tallman, who changed the name of the paper to the Davis Review and the politics from independent to republican. Mr. Tallman spent a good deal of labor upon his paper, and succeeded in raising the weekly circulation from a mere handful to three hundred and fifty. But he soon discovered that a newspaper in a country village was not a paying proposition. The Davis Review was abandoned, and the unsavory experiment has never been tried since.
Churches. Davis contains four churches, but services are held in only three of them at present.
First Methodist Church. The First Methodist Episcopal church is the leading church of Davis in activity and in respect to the size of its congregation and Sunday school. Likewise it is one of the oldest. It was organized in 1 June, 1859, under the auspices of the Rev. James McLane, with twelve charter members. For three years services were held in the Davis schoolhouse, when the church leased the Evangelical Chapel, and held services there when the church was not in use by the other congregation. In 1866, four years later, the structure at present in use was built at a cost of $1,800. Subsequent repairs, improvement, and additions have raised the value of the building several hundred dollars.
For a time the Davis church formed a part of the Durand (Winnebago County) charge, and services were held only on Sunday afternoons. In the fall of 1878 it became an independent charge, with the Rev. F. W. Nazarene as pastor. For a good many years after this, the Davis charge was a student charge, but within the last three years it has had a regularly ordained minister. The Rock City church has become a part of the Davis charge also.
The congregation at Davis numbers fifty-two members, but a much larger number attend the services in fact, practically all the English speaking portion of the community. The Sunday school numbers a few more about sixty-two. The church building, together with the lot upon which it stands are valued at about $3,000. The parsonage which is a comfortable building, built some time ago, is valued at $1,200.
The various church societies are very active. The Epworth League and the Ladies' Aid Society form a large part of the women's and young people's social life in Davis. The church is in a very prosperous condition at present. Two years ago, the church was entirely rebuilt, inside and out, at a cost of $450, $150 being expended upon the exterior repairs, and $300 upon the interior frescoing and re-decoration. New Methodist hymnals were purchased recently by the congregation to take the place of the old ones, which were deemed out of date and inappropriate. The pastor in charge is the Rev. J. A. H. McLean, an Englishman, who came to the Davis charge from Canada in January, 1910.
Evangelical Association. The Evangelical church of Davis is the oldest church of the village. It was organized in 1857, with the following members Thomas Bond and family, Jacob Bond and family, Jacob Weaver, Michael Meinzer, William Kramer, T. Jenuine, and their families, and M. Abbersted. Services were conducted in various private residences and in the schoolhouse until 1862, when the present church was built at an expense of $2,500. It is a frame structure, solid and substantial, without attempt at much ornamentation without or within. Recent improvements have somewhat raised the value of the property.
When the break occurred in the Illinois Conference and the Dubs faction withdrew, the latter built another church in Davis, and the Evangelical Association continued in possession of its first church. Some changes were occasioned, however, notably in the circuit, which no longer embraced Rock City, but took in instead Davis, Afolkey and Ridott. The minister in charge of the Davis church resides in Afolkey. The Davis church numbers about fifty communicants, with a Sunday school of about the same size. The church property is valued at $2,750.
Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Lutheran church of Davis is probably a thing of the past. Services have not been held in it for some time and although the congregation still possesses a handsome church structure the church is disorganized and broken up.
The Lutheran church was one of the newer churches in Davis, having been organized as late as 1870 by the Rev. William Shock, of Forreston, with eighteen members, of whom Joseph Keller was elder, and Levi Ungst deacon. For two years services were held in the Methodist church. In 1872, the present structure was built, of frame 34 x 50, with a steeple seventy-five feet high, at a total cost of $3,100. It was then occupied for many years, but lately, as heretofore stated, services have been discontinued, and there is every reason to believe that they will never be resumed.
United Evangelical Church. One of the smaller churches, as well as the newest, is the United Evangelical church. It came into existence at the time of the quarrel in the Illinois Conference, and the Dubs adherents of Davis withdrew to complete its organization. Services were held in various places until a few years ago, when the new church building, a frame structure, was put up. The new church is an inconsiderable and unpretentious edifice, built in the most old fashioned of styles. The congregation numbers about fifty. The Davis church is on a circuit with the Rock City church. The pastor is the Rev. J. Johnson, who came here from Ashton, Illinois, on April 1, 1910.
Lodges. The village of Davis supports a large number of lodges, of which it is possible to give only brief mention.
Evening Star Lodge, No. 414,A. F. & A. M. The Davis lodge of Masons is one of the oldest in the county. It was organized on March 11, 1864, under a dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. It obtained a charter October 5 of the same year. The following were the first officers James Zuver, W. M.; George Osterhaus, S. W.; Edward R. Lord, J. W.; Dr. J. R. Hammill, secretary; Charles Wright, treasurer. The lodge has always been the most prosperous and progressive of the commuity. It occupies a handsome lodge hall, and has now a membership of fifty-two members. The officers are W. M., C. O. R. Stabeck; secretary, T. H. Briggs.
Eastern Star. The Eastern Star lodge was established in Davis seven years ago. It has always had a large membership, the present roll amounting to about thirty-three members. The officers are: W. M., Mrs. William Kanne; secretary, T. H. Briggs.
Davis Lodge, No. 376, I. 0. O. F. The Odd Fellows lodge of Davis was organized September 19, 1880, with the following members: Martin H. Davis, Isaac Denner, John Nagle, Thomas Hays, Alvin Gestenberger, and J. W. Caldwell. The officers were: Noble Grand, John Nagle; Vice Grand, Martin H. Davis; treasurer, Thomas Hays.
The I. O. O. F. occupies today a lodge hall just off from the main street, which is one of the largest and best appointed in the country towns of the vicinity. The membership is thirty-four, and the officers Noble Grand, Arthur Wise; secretary, A. A. Rheingans.
Rebekah Degree, I. O. 0. F., Faithful Lodge, No. 187. The Rebekahs have been in existence in Davis for fifteen years. The membership has been fluctuating, at times higher than it is now. The lodge now claims a membership of twenty-eight, with the following officers: Noble Grand, Miss Ella Degunther; Secretary, A. Rheingans.
R. N. A. The Royal Neighbors have been in existence for the past four years, have a membership of twenty-three, and the following officers Oracle, Mrs. A. Bliss; Secretary, Miss Ella Degunther.
Modern Woodmen of America, Davis Camp, No. 25. The Davis Camp of the Modern Woodmen is one of the oldest in existence, having been founded about twenty-five years ago, when the organization was very young. The membership is large, approximating fifty-two. A. Helmts is Counsel, and M. M. Kurtz, Secretary.
Mystic Workers, Davis Royal Lodge, No. 143. The Mystic Workers first came into existence in Davis in 1902, and have since pursued a prosperous and upward path. The membership is far larger than that of any other organization in Davis, embracing as many as seventy-two members. The officers for the year are Prefect, E. Jenewien; Secretary, Edward Degunther.
The village of Davis supports a number of stores and shops, a reasonably satisfactory hostelry, known as the Davis Hotel, two livery barns, etc. Among the mercantile establishments, the barber shop of Edward Degunther is especially to be noted. It has been kept by the Degunther family for nearly the last half century, having been kept by the grandfather of the present proprietor for many years, then by his father, P. J. Degunther, and now by himself.
The village is said to have a population of about five hundred or more inhabitants. It is reached from Freeport by the C, M. & St. P. R. R., being about thirteen miles distant by railroad, and twenty miles by carriage road. The village supports very good schools, the district school building being one of the best for miles around. It is a two-story structure, 30 x 20, which was built in 1863, at a cost of $2,000.
Rock City, located about two and one-half miles west of Davis on the line of the C., M. & St. P. R. R., is a city only in name. It is doubtful if a spot more completely devoid of life is existent in the county. The site is not an unpleasant one, for all that, and the village contains a central square, in the middle of which is a tall windmill, which pumps water for the village pump and watering trough.
The village was projected and platted early in 1859, upon the completion of the Western Union Railroad through the place. In reality the history of Rock City reaches farther back than 1859, for the village is a logical outgrowth of the old Rock Run Mills Post-office, founded by H. G. Davis as early as 1841. In 1848, the Rock Run Mills Post-office was moved to a town called Jamestown, or Grab-all, very near the site of Rock City. Here it remained for eleven years, until the building of the Western Union Railroad through Rock City made Grab-all a lost town and the very site is now almost forgotten.
On January 10, 1859, George Raymer executed a contract with T. S. Wilcoxin and William Peterson for the transfer of a certain section of land for village purposes. In the same year the village was surveyed and platted, and lots were sold at prices ranging from $10 to $50. Upon the completion of the railroad, the town began to build up somewhat, but the settlement never suffered the throes of a "boom." No considerable inducements were ever offered to settlers in Rock City, and settlers never came there in considerable numbers.
Rock City boasts of two churches and a school, both churches being supplied by ministers from Davis.
United Evangelical Church. This church somewhat dominates the religious element of the village. It was originally a church of the Evangelical Association, having been founded in 1868. The present edifice was completed and dedicated in 1869, under the pastorate of the Rev. H. Rohland at a cost of $2,200. The pulpit is now occupied by the Rev. J. Johnson, of Davis. The number of communicants approximates thirty-five, with a Sunday school of about the same proportions.
Methodist Church. In the fall of 1878 a number of Methodist believers of Rock City connected themselves with the Davis circuit, holding services in the schoolhouse and the Evangelical Church until the summer of 1879, when the present church building was completed and occupied. Its cost, including a bell, was $1,500. The congregation at Rock City has always been small; the present membership is about a dozen. No Sunday school is maintained. It is altogether probable that Methodist services will be discontinued at Rock City, the size of the Methodist community being too small to warrant their further continuance.
Rock City presents a commonplace appearance, quite like that of any other unprogressive country village of the present day and age. There are a few very handsome residences, one or two stores, a railroad station, together with the buildings connected therewith, and there the catalogue ends. There has never been any large influx of population, and probably never will be. The fact that the village is hemmed in between Davis and Dakota, and is, withal, only about eleven miles from Freeport by railroad, and seventeen by road precludes the possibility of growth. The population is not over one hundred.
Epleyanna is a small settlement on the road between Rock City and Davis. It scarcely deserves the title of village, for there is no general store, and there never has been a post-office. There is a mill which was built in 1837, and, with many improvements and changes, is still standing. It is a stone structure, three stories in height, and is turned by the current of Rock Run.
Among the features of the settlement are the German Evangelical Church, Rev. Mr. Beerbohm, pastor, and the Epleyanna School. The settlement comprises a few less than a dozen houses and a population of about thirty inhabitants.
The settlement takes its name from Conrad Epley, who early in the history of the township purchased the Epleyanna Mills and the land surrounding the regions. His descendants have moved to other parts of the county since his death.
Irish Grove was one of the earliest settlements of the county. It was gathered about 1836 by a company of Irish immigrants, whose descendants still reside in the vicinity. There were the Mullarkeys, the Foleys, the O'Briens, and many others. Here, at Irish Grove, one of the five Catholic churches of Stephenson County was established in 1838. Father Petiot, a Galena priest, assisted in the raising of the first structure, and he is said to have walked on foot from the western town to preach the Word of God to the early settlers.
The old church did service until 1862, when the second structure was built. The old church had been a ramshackle affair with only two pews, and the 1862 edifice was not much better. Finally, in 1895, under the leadership of Father Sullivan, the Irish Grove people built the present handsome frame structure.
Irish Grove has no store or post-office, and only about twenty settlers, but the vicinity is replete with Celts and adherents of Catholicity.
Silver Creek township is adjacent to the city of Freeport, and is consequently a section of considerable importance from every standpoint. It is bounded on the north by the Pecatonica River, on the east by Ridott township, on the west by Florence township, and on the south by Ogle county. The township is somewhat larger than the surveyors' customary thirty-six square miles, owing to the extensive curves of the Pecatonica River. All told the township embraces twenty-two thousand and sixty-nine acres of land, or about thirty-seven and a half square miles.
The township is well supplied with water. Yellow Creek courses across the northwestern corner of Silver Creek and flows into the Pecatonica two or three miles east of Freeport. Yellow Creek is joined on its way by three smaller creeks, all of which rise within Silver Creek township, and the Pecatonica is joined by one inconsiderable stream which rises in the southern part of Ridott township, flows into Silver Creek, and thence north through the eastern part of the township to the river.
Three railroads cross Silver Creek township: the Illinois Central, with two branches, the main line crossing the extreme northern portion from west to east, and the south branch traversing the town from north to south, from Freeport to Baileyville; the Chicago and Great Western which crosses the central part of the township from east to west; and the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul, which crosses the northwestern corner and then proceeds into Florence township.
The roads are good and the school and church facilities of Silver Creek are particularly excellent. The proximity of the township to Freeport has made the growth of any large town an impossibility, and the section is devoid of settlements except for a tiny one at South Freeport, a station at Dunbar, and the outlying sections of Baileyville, whose post-office is in Ogle county.
The first permanent settlement in Silver Creek township was made in August 1835, by Thomas Craine, who took up a claim in the southwest corner of the township, built a log cabin, and made a home for his family, which consisted of a wife and three children. In the fall of the same year, Augustus Bonner settled on section 34, near the mouth of Yellow Creek. However the land did not belong to him, and, during the winter of 1836, he relinquished the claim and the cabin which he built upon it to the rightful owner, Thomas Covel. He himself went on farther west.
In the spring of 1836, a large number of new settlers arrived, Charles Walker, F. D. Bulkeley, a Mr. Hammand, and, in the fall of the same year, Sidney Stebbins, Joel Baker, Loran Snow and a Mrs. Brown. Of these, Charles Walker was a notorious character, and his subsequent history was particularly interesting. It seems that he was employed by Thomas Craine, the pioneer settler, to tutor his children, at the salary of $75 a quarter. It was a mere pittance, of course, and evidently Walker did not think that it was enough to meet his needs, for he began to employ his spare moments in the profitable enterprise of horse stealing. Unfortunately, his career was short lived. He was soon caught, and sent to the penitentiary at Alton.
The next year was a fallow period in Silver Creek's development. Settlers came in large numbers to other portions of Stephenson County, but very few to Silver Creek. In 1837 Seth Scott settled here, near Craine's Grove, Hiram Hill, at a point on Yellow Creek, Major John Howe, west of Craine's Grove, I. Forbes, in the extreme eastern portion, on the old Stage Road near the Ridott town line. Two deaths occurred in 1837, those of Thomas Milburn and a man named Reed, who were drowned while attempting to cross the Pecatonica River. These were the first recorded deaths in Silver Creek Township. Reed, according to tradition, had only arrived in the township a few months previous.
John Milburn arrived in 1837, and in 1838 John Walsh, John and Thomas Warren, the latter of whom settled northeast of Craine's Grove, Isaac Scott, Samuel Liebshitz, Christian Strockey, Christian Strockey, Jr. Frederick Strockey, Chauncey Stebbins, and others, all of whom made their claims in the extreme eastern part of the township. And so it continued for about five years more. No one ventured into the western part of the township, whether from ignorance of the fertility of the land or from some other motive will probably never be known. In 1839 another delegation arrived.
The '39-ers included Jacob Hoebel, A. Gund, Valentine Stoskopf, Jacob Shoup, Jacob Bartell, D. E. Pattee, "Jock" Pattee, and others, among them a man named Judkins. Shortly after the arrival of this delegation, Mrs. "Jock" Pattee committed suicide by hanging herself to a tree in the eastern part of the township on Gallows Hill.
In the summer of 1838 the first birth in the township occurred. The distinguished infant was Jacob Thompson, the son of William and Lucinda Thompson. Nearly three years later the first marriage in Silver Creek was solemnized, that of Frederick Baker and Miss A. Craine. Miss Craine was a daughter of Thomas Craine, and the wedding ceremony was performed at her father's residence by Squire Thomas. The date is said to have been February n, 1841.
From that time forward the township began to settle up. Two years later, in 1843, a large number of settlements were made in the western part of Silver Creek, that hitherto neglected portion of Stephenson County. Ever since, Silver Creek has been one of the wealthiest and most populous townships of the county. Many of the early settlers were Germans, a thrifty and desirable class of citizens, who have ever since predominated in the annals of Silver Creek.
South Freeport, formerly known as Dunbar, is the Freeport station of the Chicago & Great Western Railroad. It is located at the point where the railroad approaches nearest to Freeport, and consists merely of railroad buildings the passenger and freight offices, with their attached buildings. A few houses have sprung up in the vicinity, formerly a tiny settlement, but there is no store or post-office, and the population of the whole village, if it can be called a village, does not exceed twenty or twenty-five inhabitants.
When the Great Western originally surveyed its line through Stephenson County, much dissatisfaction was felt because the railroad did not intend to enter Freeport. The directors of the line received a great many petitions from Freeport people, but nothing served to alter their course. When the line was finished, however, they did condescend to build the old "Dunbar" station near the point where their tracks crossed the south branch of the Illinois Central. The name was subsequently changed to "South Freeport." The station is connected with Freeport by a stage line. Stages leave the Rest Room, at the corner of Van Buren and Exchange Streets, in time to connect with the various Great Western trains. A short time ago automobiles were substituted for the stages, but they are now doing service elsewhere, and the South Freeport traffic is again via stage line.
Dunbar is no longer a village. At one time there were prospects for the establishment and building of a prosperous country village, but the proximity of the place to Freeport, and the unsatisfactory nature of the site precluded any such possibility. There is now only a railway platform along the side of the tracks and a sign-board to denote the place where Dunbar might have been. A declining spur connects the Illinois Central tracks with those of the Great Western. A few hundred feet south of Dunbar is the Oakdale Campmeeting Ground of the Evangelical Association.
Baileyville proper is not in Stephenson County, but is located for the greater part in Ogle County. A northern addition, however, known as Knapp's Addition, extends into Silver Creek Township. It is said that plans were once made to remove the Baileyville post-office from Ogle to Stephenson County, and transfer the business section of the town thither. Extensive plans were immediately made for the establishment of a village, but for some reason none of them ever materialized. Obviously it was altogether impossible to try to found a village where there was no natural reason for its existence, and where no settlers wished to take up their abode. Thus the experiment was a gloomy failure, and Stephenson County suffered the loss of a possible additional village to its already large quota of settlements. The village of Baileyville today embraces about one hundred inhabitants, a dozen or more of whom live in Silver Creek Township.
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Stories, Volume 1
events have happened in Freeport and Stephenson County, Illinois,
and remarkable people have lived there. These are stories gathered
about people and events from 1835 through World War II.
Next to Freeport, Lancaster is probably the most important township of the county from a political standpoint. It comprises a territory of about thirty-three square miles, or about 17,000 acres of improved land. The township is irregular in shape, being bounded on the south by the Pecatonica River, whose irregular and meandering curves make .the surveying of the township and the calculation of its area a matter of approximation, and difficult in the extreme. The soil is rich and the township contains some of the best farming land in the county. The extreme southern portion is not so valuable, owing to the fact that the river is apt to overflow its banks and render a great part of the adjoining fields useless and swampy.
The history of Lancaster Township begins in 1835, with the migration of Benjamin Goddard, his wife, John Goddard, and John Jewell, who came to this county in 1835, and settled in Central Precinct, afterward Lancaster Township. It was in the winter of the year, in the month of December, when the immigrants arrived, and the prospect of the snow-covered fields and the desolate woods must have been far from heartening. To Benjamin Goddard belongs the credit of making the first permanent settlement in the township, although he was only one of a company which came in 1835. Most of his associates, however, became identified with Freeport Township, which was afterward cut off from the southwestern corner of Lancaster and he alone remained in the outlying country.
For several years the settlers neglected Lancaster, or, if they settled there at all, did not remain permanently. For several months the newcomers had no neighbors at all except William Baker and Levi Robey, who had "squatted" in Buckeye and Harlem Townships. As far as neighbors in Lancaster were concerned, there were none. In 1836, Levi Lucas, Robert Jones, and John Hoag visited Lancaster, but apparently were not pleased with the prospects, for they stayed a brief time only, and then removed to Buckeye and Rock Run Townships.
In the same year David Neidigh settled for a short time and then packed up his goods and moved into Buckeye. In 1837 a few permanent settlers arrived. George Hathaway and Robert Hathaway came in and entered their claims in Sections n and 32. In 1838 Elias Macomber settled in Lancaster, and in the same year a Mr. Sedam built his log hut in the far northern part of the township on the town line of Buckeye and Lancaster. In 1839, L. O. Crocker, who has previously resided in Freeport, moved into Lancaster, and later Joseph F. McKibben and Dr. John Charlton settled in Section 16, Andrew Sproule in Section 12, very near to the present site of the village of Winneshiek, John Stotzer in Section 24, Samuel Smith, Jr., in Section 24, and later, in 1840, W. B. Mitchell and Jacob and Mycene Mitchell, who took up extensive claims in the northern part of the township.
On March 31, 1836, occurred the first birth in the township, that of Lucy In the same year the first marriage occurred, Thatcher Blake being united with Goddard. In the winter of 1837 occurred the first death, that of Reagan Lewis. Jane Goodhue.
From 1840 on, the history of Lancaster Township possesses no distinctive features. It was quite the same of Lancaster as of the rest of the county. Settlers began to pour in in large numbers and the land was all quickly taken up. With the completion of the railroad to Freeport, the rural portions of Lancaster suffered a relapse, as many of the farmers went to settle in the city. Later on this loss was hardly noticed, so quickly were the vacant places filled, and today it is one of the most populous townships of the county.
Lancaster Township has always been the scene of considerable political activity. It is strongly republican in politics, and many of the Lancastrian farmers have filled offices in the county and state. Next to Freeport itself, Lancaster is always looked upon as the principal political hot-bed of the county.
There are no important streams in Lancaster Township, if we except the Pecatonica River, which forms the southern boundary, and is hence not within the township. A small and unimportant stream known as Lancaster Creek rises in Dakota Township to the north, flows south through the eastern part of Lancaster Township and through the village of Winneshiek thence into Ridott Township, where it joins the Pecatonica River. Three railroads enter Lancaster Township, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul R. R., which traverses the entire township diagonally from northeast to southwest, the Chicago & Northwestern R. R., which crosses the extreme southern part of the township from west to east, just north of the Pecatonica River, and the Rockford & Interurban Electric Railway, which runs parallel with the Chicago & Northwestern tracks.
Owing to the proximity of Lancaster Township to the city of Freeport, there are several institutions properly to be connected with the life of the city, which deserve mention within a history of the township. There is, for instance, the Freeport Country Club.
The Freeport Country Club was founded in the summer of 1909 by a company of ladies and gentlemen of Freeport who were desirous of easily and comfortably enjoying the pleasures to be derived from sojourning in the rural districts. These adherents of the simple life leased a large territory of land belonging to the Maynard farm, and thereon erected a small and unpretentious but comfortable and well appointed country club house. The site is most beautiful, occupying a considerable extent of hilly lands completely covered with a dense growth of forest. The club house, a rustic one-story structure, is located at the edge of the woods, on the very crest of the hill, from which the distant spires of Freeport are visible five miles away.
The institution is so new that very little has yet been done in the way of improving the land. The site offers great opportunities, however, to the landscape gardener. The woods are most beautiful, covering the sloping sides of two hills with a thick woody ravine between them, where the timber is so thick that the sunlight barely filters in between the boughs, and where it is cool and so dark that the matted leaves and grass scarcely dry from one shower to another. Part of the timber has been cleared away, and up on the hilltop a tennis court has been laid out. Swings, garden chairs, etc., have been placed about the clubhouse grounds, and golf links are projected for the coming year.
Forest Park. Forest Park's career begins with the building of the Rockford-Freeport electric line. Previous to the building of that railroad there were no pleasant picnic grounds within easy reach of the city. The managers of the interurban conceived the scheme of establishing a pleasure park somewhere along their line, and entered into negotiations for the securing of a suitable spot. They found a ready co-operator in the person of F. B. Stoessiger, who owns a farm on the River Road about three miles east of Freeport.
The farm of Mr. Stoessiger is well known as one of the most picturesque spots in the county. It lies cramped between the river and the Ridott Road, and is covered in part by a thick grove of trees. The old farm house is an early stone structure, built over half a century ago. It is built close to the highway and clinging to the side of a steep hill. Down behind the farm house is the old spring house, a most interesting landmark and one of the few spring houses left in this part of the country. The water which gushes up from the sand bottom is clear and deliciously cool, and the spring house has become of late years a Mecca for picnickers. In the grove across the tracks from the spring house Forest Park was built. The buildings consist of a few small sheds and outbuildings for shelter in case of rain, a lemonade and pop corn stand, which is occupied only on picnic days, a speaker's stand, and a number of tables and benches for picnickers. The grove winds along the banks of the river, and affords a most delightful spot for picnics. It has become the custom of late ears for a number of Freeport fraternal organizations to hold their annual picnics at Forest Park, and many Sunday school and private picnics are held there as well.
There are also a number of private parks and picnic grounds along the river near the electric line, but none are especially deserving of mention.
Winneshiek, a village of recent growth, is the only settlement of Lancaster Township. It is located in the extreme eastern part of the township, about three miles south of the village of Dakota, and eight miles from Freeport. Formerly Winneshiek supported a post office and many of the farmers of the surrounding country came here for their mail. With the advent of the rural free delivery system, Winneshiek post-office was discontinued, but the general store continues to do a prosperous business among the farmers of the vicinity.
The town site is attractive, the group of houses being located at the foot of a rather steep hill, and surrounded by a small grove of trees. Lancaster Creek courses through the village on its way southward to the Pecatonica. Since the removal of the post-office, Winneshiek is deprived of all its former importance as a business centre, but it still has a population of fifty or more, and a store which is doing a steady paying business.
The village supports a church and school. There are also two other churches in the immediate neighborhood of Winneshiek, as well as three or four schools within a radius of three or four miles. The village is best reached from Freeport by train to Dakota, and thence by carriage, or by carriage direct from Freeport, driving through eight miles of the most attractive cultivated land of Stephenson County.
Harlem is one of the central townships of the county and one of the most important in every respect. It was settled fourth in point of date in the county, and has always been an important factor in the social and political life of Stephenson County.
As far as can be learned, the first settler who came into Harlem Township there to remain permanently was Miller Preston, who hailed from Gallipolis, Ohio. Mr. Miller first came to the county in 1833, en route from Dixon to Gallipolis, by a roundabout route prospecting. The land in Harlem Township looked promising, and he determined to settle down there. But it took some time to arrange his business affairs, at home in Gallipolis in such shape that he could make the move. He was engaged in the tanning business in the Ohio town, and he found it necessary to complete tanning a quantity of hides for which he had made a contract before going on his prospecting tour. So long did it take him to thoroughly straighten out affairs before leaving for the west, that it was 1835, fully two years later, before he set out for his future home. At a point on the Galena stage road he built his cabin and set up his claim. The township where his land lay was then a part of Lancaster Township, and had, only a short time before, been part of the old Central Precinct. Soon the eastern section of the township was portioned off into Lancaster Township and the western half took its present name of Harlem.
Harlem Township has always been noted for the particular attractiveness of its natural scenery. At the time when Miller Preston built his log cabin, for which he was obliged to hew the heavy logs from the adjacent forests, the country is said to have been surpassingly beautiful. The region from the earliest times was noted for its picturesqueness, and it was this, perhaps, which drew to its confines a large band of Indians. As late as 1840 the Indians were in full sway in the region, and they held a large camp Winnebagoes and Pottawattomies at the confluence of Richland Creek and the Pecatonica River.
In the fall, after Miller Preston's arrival, came William Baker, who settled in the southeastern corner of the township, and the party with Benjamin Goddard, all of whom settled in the part of the township which afterward became Lancaster. In 1836 Elias Macomber arrived, but he, too, settled in the Lancaster portion. A year later, in 1837, a large number of immigrants came to Harlem Township: John Edwards, Rezin, Levi, and Thompson Wilcoxin, Levi and John Lewis, and others. Levi Wilcoxin soon after built a mill on the banks of Richland Creek on the site of the present Scioto Mills. John Lewis put in the water wheel of the new mill, and among the other newcomers who assisted in the labor of building were: John Edwards, George Cockrell, William Goddard, Alpheus Goddard, Peter Smith, Wesley Bradford, Homer Graves, and John Anscomb. In the month of August of the same year the mill was finished and commenced to run.
P. L. Wright was a newcomer of the year 1838. He settled on a claim purchased of William Robey, who had come a short time previous with E. H. D. Sanborn. Mr. Sanborn owned a farm a half mile in area which he subsequently sold to George Furst for $2,800. In the same year came William Preston, who located his claim on the banks of the Pecatonica, Mathew Bridenhall, and a number of others. Lewis Preston established his farm in Section 10, and had not been in Stephenson County very long when a little daughter was born to him, the first recorded birth in Harlem Township.
In 1839 Robert Young arrived in Harlem, near the mouth of Cedar Creek in the northeast portion of the township. In the same year Benjamin Bennett came. In February, 1839, occurred the death of Mrs. William Preston, who was buried on the farm of her husband, William Preston, in Section 15. This was the first death in Harlem Township.
In 1839 Thomas Cockrell came to Stephenson County, and settled on the east side of the Pecatonica in Harlem Township, near the present site of Scioto Mills, which was for a time known as Cockrell Post-office, from the fact that Thompson Cockrell and his relatives held extensive farms in the immediate neighborhood. Thompson Cockrell, or "Tom" Cockrell, as he was familiarly known to the people of the vicinity, died only recently, at the ripe age of eighty-six. He was a familiar character in Freeport, and could be seen almost any pleasant day sitting about the court-house clad in his red flannel shirt, for which he was famous. "Tom" Cockrell was proprietor for many years of the Scioto Flouring Mills at Scioto Mills Post-office.
From the settlement of "Tom" Cockrell in Harlem Township the immigrants began to be numerous, and the "modern history" of the township begins. After 1845 there is very little distinguishing about the history of Harlem Township. Soon the railroad came through, the old Chicago & Galena Union Railroad, afterward sold to and made a part of the Illinois Central Railroad, and immediately land prices in Harlem Township took an upward jump. Nor have they ever gone down. Land in Harlem continues to be most valuable, and in respect of prices cannot be matched anywhere else in the county, although Lancaster, Rock Grove and Buckeye contain farm lands which are the equal of Harlem in every respect.
Harlem Township is fairly covered with a network of streams, large and small. The Pecatonica River flows through the township diagonally from southeast to northwest. It is joined by a mutlitude of smaller streams, such as Richland Creek, which is probably the swiftest stream in the county, and has in the past afforded water power for turning numerous mills, Cedar Creek, which flows into Richland and thence to the Pecatonica, Preston's Creek, a small stream which makes its way into the river from the west, and a large number of smaller rills, which join the Pecatonica and its tributaries, mostly from the eastern side.
Only one railroad traverses Harlem Township, but that railroad possesses two branches. The main line of the Illinois Central runs through Harlem from east to west, and the northern branches, which run to Madison and Dodgeville, leave the main line at West Junction and thence run side by side for about four miles into Buckeye Township, where they divide at Red Oak and go their several ways.
There is but one village of importance in Harlem Township, Scioto Mills. Damascus, a settlement on the road from Cedarville to Lena is partly in Harlem, but the post-office, now discontinued, was in Waddams Township. Harlem is one of the most populous of the townships, as it is one of the most important. It contains an area of about thirty-four square miles, and a population of over two thousand inhabitants.
Scioto Mills, formerly known as Cockrell Post-office, an inconsiderable village of something less than an hundred inhabitants, is the only village which Harlem Township boasts. It is located on the banks of Richland Creek, on the Madison-Dodgeville branch of the Illinois Central Railroad.
Richland Creek, with its swift current and many rapids, furnishes admirable water power, and a number of mills have always been located along its banks. Scioto has always been a favorite spot for mills, although the present mill has not been running for some time. Levi Wilcoxin built the first mill ever located at this particular spot on Richland Creek, and later Scioto Flouring Mills, with Thompson Cockrell as proprietor, were located on the site of the first mill. Milling has long since been discontinued.
The village itself contains two or three stores, the railway station, a blacksmith shop, and a number of residences. There is only one street, but the town is very beautifully situated on a hill sloping down to the creek, in the midst of a grove of high trees. The main business of the Meyers Brothers Lumber Company is located at Scioto Mills, with sub-stations at Buena Vista, and elsewhere. The last census gave Scioto Mills a population of over one hundred inhabitants, but the number has dwindled somewhat since that time, and comprises about ninety at the present time.
Oneco township, in the north central portion of Stephenson county, next to the Wisconsin state line, comprises an oblong section of land containing about twenty-seven square miles. The land is fertile and contains not only a large area of farm lands, but a very considerable acreage of timbered lands. Richland Creek, coursing through the central portion of the township from north to south, affords water power for a mill at Orangeville, and Honey Creek, which flows through the village of Oneco, in the north central part of the township, formerly turned the wheels of a mill at that settlement.
Oneco township was settled very early at least two years before most of the townships of Stephenson county. The first settler, according to tradition, was one Simon Davis, who arrived in 1833, and settled in this portion of the section known as "Brewster Precinct." He took up Ms claim very near to the site of the future village of Oneco, and was soon followed by Andrew Clarno, who established himself on the banks of Honey Creek. John M. Curtis was another comer of the same year, and he, too, settled in the vicinity of Oneco. Both Davis and Clamo had passed through the region sometime before, and had gone on their respective routes north and west to the lead mines in Galena and Southern Wisconsin. Then, for some unknown reason, whether it was because they were unsuccessful in their ventures, or tired of the mining life and desired to follow the pursuit of agriculture, both of them returned and staked out their claims in Stephenson county.
No settlers came after them for two years as far as can be ascertained at the present time. In 1835, the first representatives of the Van Matre family, who subsequently settled in the vicinity of Winslow, arrived in the persons of Lewis and Jefferson Van Matre. Lewis Van Matre had also passed through the county some time previous on his way to the lead mines, and he too had developed a distaste for mining, and returned to take up farming. His brother, Jefferson Van Matre, came from Ohio the same year. Three other brothers followed them within the next four years Morgan Van Matre, in 1836, and William and Joseph Van Matre, in 1839.
In 1836, the population of Oneco township was considerably augmented. A large migration to different parts of the county occurred in that year, and Oneco did not fail to receive her full quota of new settlers. Nearly all of them settled round about Oneco village: Duke Chilton, Lorin Remay, Fred Remay, Ralph Hildebrand, M. Lott, Jonas Strohm, and a number of others whose names are now forgotten.
The years 1837-1838 witnessed an even larger immigration. A great number of new settlers, whose children are, in many cases, still identified with the township, arrived. There were James Young, Philip Wells, Warner Wells, all of whom established their farms at the head of the region known as Long Hollow, James Howe, Henry Howe, George Howe, Henry Johnson, who settled in the northeast corner of the township, near the state line, Oliver Brewster, John R. Brewster, Ezra Gillett, who afterward erected the Buena Vista Whitehall Mills, Joab Mortion, who settled in the eastern part of the township, Isaac Klecker, whose claim was just east of the village of Oneco, James Turnbull, who later moved to Winslow Township, "Father" Ballinger, whose son Asa was famous as one of the earliest circuit preachers of the Illinois conference, and others.
In 1838, a tragedy
occurred, one of the few recorded in the annals of Oneco Township. Mr.
Lott, who had come to the region with his family in 1836, committed suicide.
This was the first death known to have taken place in the township, but
he was not buried near the place where the deed was committed. As his
final resting place is unknown and forgotten, there are some old settlers
who discredit the story. As none of them were contemporaries of the traditional
Lott, it is quite impossible to render any decision as to the merits of the tale. Certain it is that the oldest grave in the township is that of William Van Matre's daughter, in Mount Pleasant cemetery, which bears the date 1840.
In 1839 the roll of newcomers included Lewis Gibler, who came from Ohio to .Oneco Township, and settled in section 18, the two Van Matre brothers before mentioned, Jacob Stroder, and others. William Van Matre settled in the western portion of the township, near Winslow. Later he moved to Rock Grove, and from there to Mineral Point, Wisconsin.
In 1840 a number of old settlers who have left numerous descendents came to Oneco, among them Michael Bolender, Isaac Miller, Lyman Hulburt, William Hulburt, Nelson Hulburt, John Clarno, Joseph Norns and Seth Shockley. The first marriage is said to have taken place in Oneco in this year. The contracting parties were Henry Rybolt and Lizzie McNear, and the ceremony was performed at the residence of Joseph Van Matre, by Squire Gibler. In the same year occurred the death of William Van Matre's daughter, who, as before mentioned, was the first to die and he burned within the confines of Oneco Township. Of the births in the township, there is no record, nor is there any way of finding out who was the first white child to be born in this section.
There were many drawbacks to the joys of living for the early settlers of Oneco Township. Indians were numerous, and snakes were even more so. We, of the present day and generation, who hardly ever think of either of these pests, can scarcely realize how great and manifest was the danger from both to the pioneer settlers in Stephenson county. The Indians did not make their presence known by war whoops or demoniacal yells at this stage of history. They were past that, but they made themselves quite as obnoxious to the settlers in a more subtle manner. For instance, they did not "appreciate the difference between thine and mine," and, what was worse, they did their stealing in the small hours of the night, when there was no opportunity of redress for the white man. But whenever a stray Indian was discovered in the act of helping himself to what was not his own, his punishment was swift and terrible. The occasional sights of their unfortunate comrades dangling from the burdened limbs of trees along the road served to dampen the ardor of the poor Winnebagoes and Pottawattomies, and the struggle with them was short lived.
With the snakes it was a different matter. Even more subtle than the Indians, they were doubly venomous, and a dozen or more deaths are on record which were caused by the bite of the rattlesnake, or "racer," the massasauga, or the deadly moccasin. They lurked in the tall grass by the side of the roads and rivers, and in among the grain, and more than one unfortunate stepped upon their shining scales and straightway felt their sharp fangs buried in his flesh.
A story is told of a lad who was fishing with his father, on the banks of one of the small creeks. The country was totally virgin thereabout, and the tall weeds and underbrush round about the river banks furnished most excellent hiding places for the rattlers. As the boy, who had been sitting on the bank with his pole, got up to go to his father, who sat a short distance away he suddenly, as he supposed, stubbed his toe on a stone and uttered a sharp cry of pain. His father hurried to his assistance and immediately discovered that he had been bitten by a "racer." The poor man, frantic and cold with fear, had not the slightest idea what remedies to apply, and carried the boy home for the application of restoratives. But he was too late. The poison had all the while been coursing through his system and he died at sunset.
In spite of the dangers from Indians, snakes, and horse thieves, Oneco Township enjoyed a rapid growth and prosperity after the year 1840. After the filling up of the land, Oneco village was settled, and later Orangeville, first known as Bowersville. In 1888 the railroad came through, and since that time the township has been quite accessible to Freeport and the outside world.
Orangeville, the third settlement in size in Stephenson County, is located in the southern part of Oneco Township, on the banks of Richland Creek, whose current turns its one and only mill. It is situated on the Madison branch of the Illinois Central Railroad, about fifteen miles north of Freeport by railroad and fourteen by road.
The first settler on the site of Orangeville was John M. Curtis, who took up a claim on the spot where Orangeville now stands, and there located his farm. In 1845 John Bowers, to whom is due the credit of founding the village of Orangeville, came to Stephenson County. He first settled at Walnut Grove, in Rock Grove Township, where he remained for about a year. Then, seeking a more desirable place of habitation, he came a few miles west, and possessed himself of three hundred and twenty acres of land in Oneco Township, on the banks of Richland Creek. On this three hundred and twenty acres of ground a log cabin, and saw and grist mills had already been built and Mr. Bowers began to operate the mills soon after his arrival. A year's residence on his new farm firmly convinced Mr. Bowers that the site was suitable for the founding of a village. Although it was as late as 1845, the land about Orangeville had not been improved in the least, and the section was almost as wild as the region about Oneco had been, before its fastnesses resounded to the blows of the pioneer's axe. But, with the help of Marcus Montelius, who surveyed and platted fifteen acres of the village site, Mr. Bowers pushed boldly forth upon his venture.
In 1849 the first brick house, a structure on High street, long occupied by the post-office, was built. In the same year Charles Moore built a residence, George Hoffman a store, John Bowers a blacksmith shop, which was afterward occupied by Benjamin Hallman, and a number of farmers their residences. The old mills which had been built by John M. Curtis were still standing, but John Bowers began to improve the mill buildings in that year. The work of improvement and reconstruction was most arduous, and the greater part of the mianual labor was done by Mr. Bowers himself. It was impossible to get suitable shingles and lumber in the regions about Orangeville, and Mr. Bowers, acting as driver, hauled the material from Chicago in his own wagon. By the next year, 1850, the mill was completed at a total cost of $8,000.
The appearance of Orangeville, or Bowersville, as it was then known, was very promising, and speculators and purchasers thronged to the place where they bought up large quantities of land. The first lot in the village is said to have been sold to Daniel Duck, who paid ten dollars for it. Another early settler was William Herbert. The village offered numerous advantages to settlers. It was about the right distance from Freeport, the lots were exceedingly cheap, the water facilities were good, and the village seemed to be on the point of a flourishing growth. A large number of settlers came within the first ten or fifteen years, and business has never since been at a complete standstill.
The war in 1861, instead of disastrously affecting the growth of the little community, only served to increase the business done by the merchants. It was truly surprising how little effect the great national conflict seemed to have on Orangeville business, when the other villages of the county, such as Davis and Dakota, were nearly prostrated, and never fully recovered from the effects.
During the progress of the war, no surprising developments took place, and business suffered somewhat of a setback: Scarcely had the peace of Appomattox Courthouse been concluded, when the development of Orangeville began again with renewed vigor. In 1867, the settlement was incorporated as a village. That year the first village elections were held with the following results: President of board, Charles Moore; associates, William Wagenhals, George Erb, W. A. St. John, Jacob Kurtz; village clerk, W. A. St. John; village treasurer, W. Wagenhals.
In the year 1888 the Madison branch of the Illinois Central Railroad built its tracks through Orangeville and the village at once became a place of great importance. Numerous brick stores and office buildings were built on the main street, known as High street, and the community became a prosperous, thrifty little town. And so it remains. There will never be any great additional development in Orangeville, for the time for that is past. If Orangeville was ever to be a city, it must have become one long ago, and it never reached that status. However, its existence as a thriving village is quite assured. Orangeville has always contained a decided preponderance of the German element among its citizens, and the thrift and financial prowess of a German community is well known throughout the United States.
Orangeville contains two banks, four churches, a large number of lodges and fraternal organizations, one newspaper, and a number of commercial enterprises, including the Orangeville mills.
The People's State Bank. This is the oldest bank in the village. It is housed in the finest and newest building on High street, a brick structure, two stories in height, with provisions for office suits on the second story, and the offices of the bank on the first floor.
The institution is capitalized at $25,000, and the following are officers: President, D. A. Schoch; vice president, C. A. Bolender; cashier, George S. Wagner; directors, D. A. Schoch, C. A. Bolender, George S. Wagner.
Orangeville State Bank. The offices of the new state bank are located on High street at the lower end of the thoroughfare near the railway station. The building in which the bank is housed is a new one and the offices are most elegantly appointed in every respect.
The Orangeville State Bank was founded February 1, 1909, by a stock company of farmers living in Orangeville and the surrounding country. It is capitalized at $25,000, and has deposits amounting to over $60,000. The officers are President, B. D. Yarger; vice president, Christ Wohlford; cashier, E. M. Reeser; directors, B. D. Yarger, Christ Wohlford, C. L. Seidel, Ivan E. Rote, A. H. Hale, Samuel Boals, William F. Neuschwander, M. G. Wirsing, and W. M. Hartman.
Churches. There are five churches in Orangeville, two of which, namely the Lutheran and Reformed churches, occupy the same church edifice.
Reformed Church. The Reformed church of Orangeville is very old in point of time, having been organized May 3, 1851, by Henry Halliston, with twenty-four members, of whom Henry Ault was elder, and John Bowers and Michael Bolender deacons. For a short time meetings were held about in the private residence of the members. Then, at a meeting held the same year, it was decided to join forces with the Lutherans in the erection of a church edifice. Daniel Rean, John Bowers, and John Wohlford were appointed to serve on the building committee. Plans were immediately formulated for the church building, and in September, 1852, the cornerstone was laid by the Revs. G. J. Donmeyer, Daniel Kroh, and George Weber. On September 23, 1855, as much as three years later, the church was finished and dedicated. The church cost $1,900, is a brick structure, with a wooden spire, and has a seating capacity of two hundred. A year ago it was redecorated at a considerable cost and now presents a highly creditable appearance. A number of ministers were present at the dedication services, including the Revs. G. J. Donmeyer, Daniel Kroh, F. C. Bowman, Arastus Kent, J. P. Decker, and the Rev. John Hoyman, the first pastor of the church.
The present membership is eighty-five, with a Sunday school of seventy-five. The value of the church building is about $2,000, and that of the parsonage, which was bought some time ago, $1,800. The Rev. W. D. Marburger is in charge, having come to Orangeville from Dakota about a year ago.
The Orangeville church numbers among its communicants Mrs. A. J. Beam, a member of the Ebel family, who has been the first missionary from these districts to China. She departed for the east about seven years ago, and has only recently returned to Orangeville.
Lutheran Church. The Lutheran congregation was organized in 1847 under the auspices of the Rev. G. J. Donmeyer, with a very small membership. Services were at first held in a log schoolhouse in the Ault farm in Buckeye Township. Rev. G. J. Donmeyer took charge for a number of years, working in company with the Rev. Ephraim Miller, of Cedarville. The services were occasionally held in the schoolhouse, sometimes in the mill, but more often in private residences.
In 1851 the Lutheran congregation combined with the Reformed church in an effort to build a church, a brick structure, costing $1,900, the same which is mentioned above in connection with the Reformed church. Since the pastorship of Rev. G. J. Donmeyer, a large number of ministers have occupied the pulpit of the church, which has since come to be known as "Salem Congregation of the United Evangelical Lutheran Church."
The present incumbent is the Rev. M. Colber, who has been here four years. He came to Stephenson County from Middletown, Indiana, in November, 1906, and is a Pennsylvanian by birth. The Orangeville church is on a circuit with the Bellevue church near Buckeye Center. The membership is sixty, with a Sunday school of seventy-five, while the Bellevue church has a membership of forty-five, and a Sunday school of seventy. The Lutheran congregation of Orangeville possesses a parsonage which was built fifteen years ago, and is valued at $2,000.
United Brethren Association. The United Brethren church is the oldest in Oneco. It was established as early as 1844. At first services were held in schoolhouses, private residences, etc. In 1856 the present Orangeville circuit was organized, and in 1857 the Orangeville church was built. It is a brick structure which cost $2,000. Other churches have since been built in the circuit which is very large, and includes McConnell, Winslow, Oneco, St. James and Orangeville.
Rev. W. G. Metzker is the minister in charge. He has been in Orangeville about a year, having come from Good Hope, Illinois (MacDonough County) in October, 1909. The Orangeville congregation numbers fifty-five members, with a Sunday school approximating fifty. The church is valued at $2,590 and the parsonage, which is a handsome residence, is valued at $3,000.
Methodist Church. Three churches are included in the Orangeville charge of the M. E. church, vix., the Orangeville church, the Red Oak church, and the Pleasant Hill church.
The Methodists have held services in Oneco Township for over half a century, but it was not until October 15, 1875, that the sect first saw fit to organize into a congregation and hold worship at stated times. On that memorable date, Benjamin and Mrs. Bowers, Mrs. Susan Bennett, Mrs. Sarah Heckman, Mrs. B. J. Parriott, Mrs. J. H. Cook, Mr. and Mrs. William Frederick, and Mr. and Mrs. William Holloway decided to form the congregation and thus became the charter members of the church. Rev. F. B. Hardin became the first pastor, and services were held in the Reformed church. After a while the Masonic hall was secured as a place of worship and services were held there for a long time. The church building now in use was built about twenty-five years ago. It is valued at $2,000, and the parsonage, a rather old structure, at $1,200. The church contemplates building a new church edifice, and it is probable that this step will be taken some time soon. Recently the church was refitted inside and out at a cost of $700, but there is great need for an entirely new building.
The Rev. W. M. Kaufmann is in charge of the Orangeville church. He came to Orangeville a year ago in November, 1909, and preaches also in the Red Oak and Pleasant Hill churches. The membership at Orangeville is sixty, with a Sunday school of about equal proportions, while that at Pleasant Hill is forty, with a Sunday school of sixty.
United Evangelical Church. Hope church, of the United Evangelical Society, is a part of the charge which includes Orangeville, Stavers, and Fairfield. It was formerly a church of the Evangelical Association, and was built about thirty years ago, to be purchased from that society when the break in the Illinois Conference occurred.
Services of the Evangelical faith were long held in Orangeville, but not until 1870 was Orangeville circuit made a separate charge. In 1880 the present church edifice was built and dedicated on January 18, of that year. It is a very commodious and well appointed frame church, thirty-six by fifty-two, with a steeple eighty-seven feet high, and an auditorium which will hold two hundred persons. The interior decorations and particularly have been frequently renewed and improved. Among the appurtenances is an organ, one of the finest in the rural sections of the county. The church originally cost the congregation $2,500 and was repurchased from the Evangelical Association in 1894 for $2,000.
The parsonage was put up a number of years ago and is valued at $3,000. Two years ago a fine new barn was added to the parsonage, and the house itself was remodelled and redecorated.
Rev. A. W. Smith occupies the pulpit of the three churches at the present time. He came from Manhattan, Illinois, April, 1909, and has been in Orangeville nearly two years. The Orangeville congregation numbers seventy-five, while the Stavers' membership is about one hundred and fifty and the Fairfield again about seventy-five. The Sunday schools of the three churches are large in proportion to the membership.
Lodges. There are a number of lodges in Orangeville, few of which deserve special mention. The most important are the Masons, the Odd Fellows, the Mystic Workers, the American Stars of Equity, the Yeomen of America, and the two Ladies' Auxiliaries of the Mason and Odd Fellow organizations; viz., the Easter Star and Rebekah.
Orangeville Lodge, No. 687, A. F. & A. M. The Orangeville lodge of the Masons was chartered October i, 1872, although the lodge had been working under a dispensation for a long time previous to that date. The pioneer Masons whose names appeared on the charter of the Orangeville lodge were: B. H. Bradshaw, David Jones, James Musser, Benjamin Musser, Charles Musser, I. G. Ermhold, J. K. Bloom, H. W. Bolender, P. Sheckler, William Potts, and D. A. Schoch. The original; officers at the time of the securing of the charter were. B. H. Bradshaw, W. M., David Jones, S. W., and James Musser, J. W.
In 1876 the Masonic lodge erected a handsome hall on High street for the lodge home. It is a two-story structure, with a basement also in use. The latter contains a banquet room, with kitchen and stoves. The first floor is a hall for entertainments, lectures, and social gatherings. The second story contains the lodge room of the various societies which meet in the hall. Nearly all of the Orangeville secret organizations use this hall, and it is in great demand by church societies, etc., on festive occasions.
The present condition of the lodge is most satisfactory. The membership is large, with every prospect for increase. The officers in charge are W. M., M. W. Gouse, secretary, J. I. Cadwell.
J. R. Scroggs Lodge No. 133, I. 0. O. F. The Odd Fellows lodge is the the oldest organization of the kind in Orangeville. It was organized October 13, 1868, a charter issued to A. A. Krape, Thomas Spriggs, Henry Dinges, J. K. Bloom, J. J. Moore, and William Sandoe. The officers were Noble Grand, A. A. Krape; vice grand, J. K. Bloom, and secretary, William Sandoe.
The lodge has always been most prosperous. Meetings are held weekly in the Masonic hall, on High street, where the lodge has always met. The society has a present membership of eighty persons, with the following officers now in charge Noble Grand, J. C. Schadle; secretary, Cyrus Snyder.
American Stars of Equity. The Stars of Equity were organized in Orangeville five or six years ago. The membership is large, and the officers are George S. Wagner, president; H. U. Hartzell, secretary.
The Yeomen of America. The Yeomen were organized at the same time. The officers are James Chilton, president; George S. Wagner, secretary. Meetings are held in the Masonic hall.
Eastern Star. The Eastern Star was founded six years ago. The officers are: W. M., Mrs. W. G. Snyder; secretary, Miss Carrie Cadwell.
Rebekahs. The Rebekahs also have had a lodge in Orangeville for about ten years. The membership is somewhat fluctuating, with a present roll of about fifty. Mrs. Harry Snyder is noble grand.
Schools. Orangeville has always had very excellent schools, but it has recently placed itself in the front rank of the villages of the county outside of Freeport by the founding of its new high school. The first village schoolhouse was built before 1850, and stood on the site now occupied by the Lutheran and Reformed church. In 1860, the school was first graded. In 1874 the new building was completed at a cost of $6,000. It has since continued to be in commission, but the prospects just at present are extremely bright for the building of a new school. The quarters are very cramped for the high school, and more room is imperatively required.
The Orangeville High school was founded in 1909, by the Rev. W. D. Marburger, of the Reformed church. It offered a one year's course last year, will offer a two years' course next year, etc., until the full four years' course is filled out. The enrollment of the Orangeville school for the past year, including grades and high school, was one hundred and fifteen. Rev. W. D. Marburger is principal, and he, together with Miss Rutter, of Freeport conduct the high school department.
Orangeville Mills. The first mills ever built in Orangeville were put up by John M. Curtis the pioneer settler at Orangeville. He built a very primitive dam on Richland Creek in the year 1838, and erected a mill which remained in commission until his death between 1840 and 1850. At that time John Bowers purchased the property and conducted the mills for a while. In 1850, when Orangeville had been platted and had begun to be a village of some consequence, Mr. Bowers tore down the Curtis Mills, and built a new building, at a cost of $8,000. The present building is a frame structure, 40x60, three and a half stories high, with a capacity of two hundred bushels of wheat daily.
In 1857 operation at the Mills was suspended for two years. In 1859 they came into the hands of Hefty, Legner, & Company, who ran them for seven years. In 1865, they were sold to E. T. Moore & Company. The Moore family transacted the business of the mill for many years, and finally shut down some time in the eighties. For intervals thereafter the mill was idle, and continues to be so for short periods. It is at present conducted by C. W. Bennett. The grist-mill alone is utilized, and corn, barley, and rye flour are ground.
Recently a new mill has been erected in the east end of town by E. Timm. It is run by steam power, and is used as a grist-mill, saw-mill, and planing-mill.
Orangeville Creamery. The Creamery is very old, but has of late diminished in importance, owing to the monopoly of the creamery business by the trusts. The building, which was, in its day, one of the largest and most complete establishments in the west, was put up in January 13, 1879 by D. A. Schoch and H. W. Bolender. The capacity of the plant was about one thousand four hundred pounds of butter daily, thus using six thousand pounds of cream every twenty-four hours.
The original proprietors have long since given up the business and it is carried on by a Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association. Improvements and changes have been made in the buildings, increasing the daily output of the factory.
Orangeville Band. The Orangeville Band, a very creditable institution for a village of the size of Orangeville, was organized in March, 1909, by Stuart Bolender. It is a brass band, of eighteen instruments. The band has played about at various county fairs in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, and in Freeport. They expect to play this fall at the County Fair of Green County, at Monroe.
Orangeville Orchestra. Stuart Bolender is also responsible for the organization and existence of the Orangeville Orchestra, which consists of five musicians, all of them relatives of the founder, and bearing his name. It discourses sweet strains at dances in Orangeville, and upon all occasions where the services of such a musical organization are desirable.
The Orangeville Courier. The Orangeville Courier was established in 1882 by William H. McCall, who later removed to Freeport, where he is now connected with the Journal Printing Company. Mr. McCall conducted the business for a number of years, and succeeded in working up a large and growing subscription. But he felt that the business of running a country newspaper was not altogether a path of roses, and left the village to accept a more lucrative position in the city.
On leaving Orangeville, he disposed of his business to L. I. Hutchins, a brother of Dr. I. N. Hutchins, who is at present practising medicine in Orangeville. Mr. Hutchins ran the "Courier" for two years and. then sold it to Joseph Upp. Mr. Hutchins is now engaged in the printing business in Monmouth, Illinois.
Joseph Upp remained proprietor for only six months and then disposed of the business to H. U. Hartzell, who was employed at the office at that time. This was in 1890, and on August 16 of that year, the transfer of the business was made, Mr. Hartzell becoming sole owner. He has conducted the business ever since with unbroken success.
While the career of a country newspaper in a village of the size of Orangeville is apt to be beset with all sorts of trials and tribulations, the lot of the Orangeville Courier has been more successful than the majority. While Editor Hartzell has not made a mint of money, he has conducted a paying business as is very evident from the fact that he has remained in it for these twenty years. The Courier has a large subscription, something less than a thousand, among the farmers of the country surrounding Orangeville in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. The paper is a six column quarto published every Saturday.
S. D. Confer Medical Company. The Confer Medical Company was organized in 1893 by S. D. Confer. It is doing a good business, and handles liniments, cough syrups, patent medicines, tablets, extracts, spices, toilet articles, stock remedies, etc. The officers are: President, W. S. Confer; secretary, W. D. Confer.
The business section of Orangeville presents a trim and lively appearance these days. A number of new buildings have lately gone up, and the street is now lined with a row of substantial and well appointed brick edifices. There are a large number of stores doing all sorts of businesses, and catering to various trades. The condition of the village is most gratifying. It is about third in size in the county, and has a steady population of about one thousand inhabitants.
The oldest village in Oneco Township, and one of the oldest in the county, is Oneco, settled as early as 1840. It is situated in the north central portion of the township, northwest of the village of Orangeville, and consists of a church, a school, and a store, surrounded by a handful of houses.
Oneco was located on the old stage road to Galena and the lead mines of southern Wisconsin, and when it was laid out and platted, there were lively hopes on the part of its promulgators that it might become the most important city of the county. Henry Corwith, acting on behalf of J. K. Brewster, took a claim of a quarter section of land, surveyed it and platted it for a town. Later all but fifteen acres of the town site was bought and occupied as a farm. These fifteen acres were twice added to by Alonzo Denio, and the original fifteen acre plat with the two additions of Denio constitute the present village of Oneco.
In 1843, the first school house was built near Oneco village. In 1851 the first schoolhouse within the village was built a brick structure on Denio's addition, just east of the postoffice. In 1876 the structure which is still in use was built on the Orangeville Road at a cost of $2,000.
U. B. Church. The church of the United Brethren Association, which is the only church building within the village of Oneco, was established ten years ago. The structure itself was erected in the summer of 1880 by the Methodist congregation of Oneco. It was occupied by them for twenty years, until the small size of the congregation and the shortness of the distance to Orangeville, which was only two miles away, made them decide to join forces with the larger church.
At the time above mentioned the transfer of property was made and the United Brethren Association took possession of the church. The Oneco church is on a circuit with Orangeville, McConnell, St. James, and Winslow, pastoral duties being performed by the Rev. W. G. Metsker, of Orangeville. The church property is valued at $1,200, and the membership numbers forty-three communicants, with a Sunday school of fifty.
The men who planned the village of Oneco entertained a vain hope that the settlement might some time attain prominence. Four things have thwarted the growth of the village. The first was the lack of the water power which the settlers had hoped to obtain. Honey Creek flows close to the village, and while, at stated seasons of the year, it is swollen with floods, and afford some water power, nevertheless it is of no value for the greater part of the year. Thus the mill venture was a failure. The second relapse which Oneco suffered was in the platting of Orangeville which was established on a more favorable site. Two villages of equal prominence could hardly exist in those days within two miles of each other, and when one of them offered greater inducements for habitation than the other the battle was sure to be to the strong.
When the railroad came through in 1888, and decided to locate its station at Orangeville and pass by Oneco, the third misfortune befell the ill-fated village. All the traffic was turned aside to Orangeville, and Oneco was no longer a commercial center. But with the coming of the Rural Free Delivery, the fourth and final blow was administered and the village passed out of existence. Oneco lost its postoffice, like so many other small villages, and the population, which had once been in the neighborhood of one hundred, dwindled to less than half that number. The more aspiring inhabitants of the village transferred their place of habitation to Orangeville, Rock Grove, or elsewhere, and Oneco became a tradition.
The site of the village is pleasant, though not surpassingly, beautiful. The town presents an appearance of thrift, if not liveliness, and, in spite of the lack of commercial advantages, the village of Oneco still remains a very pleasant place for residence.
Jefferson Township occupies the southwestern corner of Stephenson County, and comprises an area of eighteen square miles. Although one of the three smallest townships in the county, it contains some very desirable land, and is most attractive as a place of residence. The ground is rolling, and the hills rise to considerable height. Jefferson's only village, Loran, is picturesquely situated, lying among and between the green hills, near the source of the Plum River.
Jefferson Township was originally included in Loran Township. As late as September, 1859, this condition of affairs prevailed, and then, obeying the numerous petitions of the citizens of the western section of Loran, that portion was subdivided off, and Jefferson became a separate and independent township.
The settlers did not come into either Loran or Jefferson very early, and the land was strangely neglected. The first settler who came into the part of the township which afterward became Jefferson was Hector C. Haight, who made his appearance with his wife and family in 1837. He entered his claim and established his farm about four miles from the present village of Loran, on the Freeport road.
Very soon after Haight's settlement, M. Pennington came in and opened a claim in the eastern part of the township. The immigration to the southwestern corner of the county was for some unknown reasons not very large, but the section which afterward became Jefferson received the biggest quota of settlers. George Lashell settled where the village of Loran is today. Thompson Smith, Henry Aurand, and Jacob Gable, who later went to Kent, all settled in Jefferson, also Charles Fleckinger, who built his cabin and planted his corn patch on a hill near Loran.
After the coming of the railroad to Freeport, the section quickly filled up with settlers. The names of the early settlers are for the most part lost, but it is certain that they came in large numbers. Ministers of the gospel, and teachers began to be in large demand; and a number of them are listed among the early settlers of Jefferson Township. Two teachers who are known to have migrated to this section of the country were a Mr. Bonnemann and George Truckenmiller.
The first schoolhouse in the township was a log cabin, built near the village of Loran, and the children for miles around attended it, as the only institution which their portion of the country possessed. Two ministers who are on record as pioneer preachers of the gospel were Revs. Kiefer and Chester, who came soon after the advent of the school and teachers and preached to the people (so says tradition) in the barn of one Samuel Hays.
In 1844 occurred the first death of the township. Louis Kleckner, a laborer in the employ of Samuel Hays, was taken ill with a sort of malarial fever, which seems to have been prevalent in the early days of the county. He received the best of care and attention, but notwithstanding, he died, and was buried in the cemetery in the wilderness west of Loran. The records seem to indicate that the death of Kleckner was greatly mourned in the county side round about and was considered a deplorable tragedy. We have stated that Kleckner's death was the first to occur in Jefferson Township. His burial was however preceded by that of a man named Tiffany, living in Jo Daviess County, who died at his home across the county line and was buried in the Loran cemetery. His headstone bears a date earlier than that of Kleckner's.
The first marriage took place in the fall of 1845, the contracting parties being Henry Doherty and Catherine Fleckinger. The ceremony was performed by the Rev. Mr. Kiefer at the home of the bride's father. Tradition says that the celebration of the event was meagre, for the times of prosperity had not yet come in the vicinity of Jefferson, and the settlers lived in the meagrest and closest manner possible. But after 1845 the township began to fill up. It continued to be part of Loran until 1859, when, as before stated, the division was made, and Jefferson went on its way rejoicing.
The township does not contain any railroad, but the line of the Chicago and Great Western passes less than a quarter of a mile from the northwestern corner of the township. The land is well supplied with streams, and contains the source of the Plum River, which flows down into Carroll County. Though small in size, Jefferson Township, has always played an important part into county politics. It is always largely democratic, which distinguishing feature has perhaps served to differentiate it from the other townships of the county.
Loran is one of the most picturesque villages of the county, being situated between and among the hills. It is a very old settlement, and, in spite of the lack of railroad facilities, has continued to hold its own with the towns of the county which are more favorably situated.
In 1854, George Lashell, who owned a farm near the Jo Daviess County line, conceived the idea of laying out a town and selling lots at a very reasonable price. The county surveyor was called into service, and laid out the plat of the present town, which has never been increased or added to because of a too rapid influx of population. The village occupies only one street, and originally contained five blocks of twelve lots each. The sale of lots was so slow that part of the original town plat was then vacated for village purposes, and only as much reserved, as equalled the limited demand made.
The town contains a store, blacksmith shop, two churches, a schoolhouse, and a number of private residences.
The First M. E. Church was built in 1875, and is valued at about $1,500. It is a frame edifice 30x40, with a seating capacity of one hundred and fifty worshipers. The congregation numbers about seventy-five members, who live in Loran and the surrounding country. There is no resident minister.
Evangelical Church. The Evangelical church is also a frame structure, 30x44 in dimensions, and was built about forty years ago. The membership of the church is about fifty, and the pastoral duties are performed by the pastor of the church at Shannon, Carroll County.
The schoolhouse is a stone building located on High street, the main and only street of Loran. It has always been considered an unusual good district school, and serves the country round about Loran for some miles.
Loran has not grown
appreciably within the last fifty years, and hardly any development is
to be expected of the village, as it is inaccessible, without transportation
facilities, and offers no inducements in the way of business opportunities
to the prospective settler. Its pleasant location distinguishes it from
most of the villages of the county, but in all other respects the place
is the ordinary country village. The population is supposed to be about
one hundred or
Florence Township forms one of the southern tier of the county. It has an area of exactly six square miles, and is bounded on the north by Harlem and Freeport, on the east by Silver Creek, on the west by Loran, and on the south by Ogle and Carroll Counties. The township is well wooded, but there is also a large acreage of fertile and valuable farm lands. The water supply is good, and the streams are numerous. Yellow Creek flows through the north central portion of the township from west to east, and is joined by one or two smaller creeks of greater or less importance, which flow down from the south. The rills and brooklets cover the township with a network of small watercourses, and at certain seasons of the year become flooded with the heavy rains.
Two railroads enter Florence Township. The Chicago, Milwaukee, & St. Paul cuts across the southeastern corner of the township, and has a station at the village of Florence Station. The Chicago & Great Western cuts across the central part of the township in a straight line from east to west, with its only station at Bolton.
The lands about Yellow Creek are heavily timbered. Especially on the north side of the creek are there woods of considerable extent. Near the village of Bolton, formerly Van Brocklin, the County Woods, a stretch of almost virgin wilderness, are situated. Farther toward Freeport are Beebe's Woods, and, adjoining them, the forests and hollows of Krape Park, formerly Globe Park, where the Freeport Chautauqua is held each year. Oakland Cemetery, Freeport's new cemetery, a beautiful stretch of wooded land, is located in Florence Township, on the Pearl City road, about three miles west of Freeport.
The first claim taken up in Florence Township was entered upon by Conrad Van Brocklin, who settled on Section 17, near the site of the future village of Van Brocklin. He had come to this county from western New York in the fall of 1835, and after a long, hard winter's journey he arrived at his new home in March, 1836. His first log cabin was built but a short distance from the farm house which he afterward built and which his descendants have continued to occupy for many years. For most of the first year he had no neighbors nearer than Thomas Craine, at Craine's Grove, and at Freeport. In August of the same year, Mason Dimmick, of Ohio, emigrated to Stephen son County, and took up his claim northeast of the cabin of Mr. Van Brocklin. Otis Love and his family soon followed, and these three conclude the list of settlers of 1836.
In 1837, Lorenzo Lee arrived, as did James Hart, who settled a mile and a half north of Van Brocklin's. A few more came in this year, whose names are now lost, but the influx of settlers was not very great as yet.
In 1838 the emigrants began to arrive in large numbers. A few of them settled at Liberty Mills on Yellow Creek. They were followed by one Mr. Wickham, William Smith, known to the farmers roundabout as "Saw-Log" Smith, a Mr. Strong, who came in 1839, Sheldon Scoville, Russell Scoville, and C. K. Ellis, who came the same year, and others. In 1839 Anson Babcock came to Florence Township, but the prospects were not encouraging enough, and he returned to New York state with his family. Strangely enough, many of the early comers to Florence did not remain and improve their claims. The Van Brocklins were permanent fixtures, as the lapse of time has proved, but the others came more or less as a matter of experiment, and many of them departed sooner or later for other parts. Mr. Strong, who had come in 1839, stayed several years, but at the end of a period of reasonable prosperity he departed for Lebanon, Ohio, where he became a member of the sect of Shakers. Several of the other early settlers are said to have become Mormons, and a few of them moved to Freeport.
After 1840, the number of settlers suddenly increased surprisingly, and the claims began to be improved. Eli Ellis, P. T. Ellis, Mr. Sheets, William Boyer, John Turreaure, and a few others came in 1840. Improvements began to be made everywhere, and the condition of the township was greatly bettered. Mills were built along Yellow Creek, some of which are still standing, such as Liberty mills and Hess' mills. All of them have long been silent.
The growth of Freeport offered an impetus to settlements in Florence Township. Formerly farmers had sought the more distant parts of the county, such as Rock Grove Township, and Winslow and West Point, owing to the fact that agricultural prospects in those portions of the country were brighter. Now they began to discover that Florence Township contained a goodly extent of tillable land, and the nearness of a base of supplies at the county seat quickly boosted the price of land. Also the proximity of Kirkpatrick's mills at Mill Grove, in Loran Township, and the comparative insignificance of the distance to the old Van Valzah mills at Cedarville.
By 1850 the claims were taken up, and the township was about filled up. In that year, and within the next four years, the country in the northern part of the township, along the banks of Yellow Creek, suffered greatly from the plague of Asiatic Cholera which fell upon Stephenson County at that time, and a large number of deaths were reported. Gradually the plague wasted itself, and, since 1854, it has never visited these regions.
By 1840 there was a demand for schools in Florence Township, and, in response, the first school was opened, in James Hart's log cabin, with Miss Flavilla Forbes as teacher. By 1850 the school census of the township showed such an increase that other schools were imperative necessities. In 1857 the first railroad, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, then known as the Western Union Railroad, surveyed its line across the southeastern corner of Florence Township. In 1859 their line was built, and with the coming of the Iron Horse the pioneer history of Florence Township is past. Later the Great Western surveyed its line through the county, and immediately the village of Van Brocklin, at Liberty Mills, then rechristened Bolton, sprang into prominence as a settlement of importance.
The farm lands of Florence Township today present a neat and orderly appearance. It is a well known fact that when the Freeporters have friends or out-of-town guests to whom they wish to show the fine farming lands of the county, they invariably take them out on the Pearl City road, and down south through Florence Township. And this is not wholly on account of the accessibility of Florence, but because the region justly deserves its name of the most fertile and prosperous of the regions round about.
There are a number of Freeport enterprises, connected with the growth and development of Florence Township, which deserve mention in connection with the history here presented.
Krape Park. Globe Park, in the possession of the Order of the Knights of the Globe, was established about ten years ago, and named from the organization of which W. W. Krape was founder and supreme captain general. It is a portion of the wooded land lying on the banks of Yellow Creek about a mile west and two miles south of town. Just adjoining the tract are Beebe's Woods, noted for their popularity as a picnic ground for Freeporters.
When the Cosmopolitan Life Insurance Company went out of existence, and the Order of the Knights of the Globe suffered in consequence, Globe Park passed from the hands of the fraternity into Mr. Krape's own hands, and the park was rechristened Krape Park. For several years it has been the seat of the Freeport Chautauqua, of which Mr. and Mrs. Krape were the instigators and advisory committee.
A number of improvements have been made, which improve the park as a camping and chautauqua ground, but somewhat mar the natural wilderness. The necessary park buildings, including a very attractive and commodious little lodge for the keeper of the park, have been built, a windmill on the banks of the creek supplies the place with drinking water, and a large iron bridge spans the creek near the park lodge. Formerly a bridge was built across the dam, farther down stream, but four years ago, it was deemed unsafe and removed, and the present structure forthwith built. Across stream are located the Chautauqua buildings. No large auditorium has been built as yet, but one is contemplated. Several cottages have been built on the cliffs, and swings and park benches add to the comfort and convenience.
Nature had done her best to render the site of Krape Park attractive. Yellow Creek, at other points a very ordinary muddy prairie streamlet, is here transformed into a sylvan river of exquisite beauty. On the south side of the creek the limestone cliffs tower to a height of two hundred feet, indented with numberless caves and tiny indentures. A natural bridge of considerable proportions spans the dry bed of a stream, which formerly made its way down the cliff side in the form of a tiny waterfall, and which, at times, becomes gorged with the spring rains. Two large caves in the rock are accessible from the river and by pathway from overhead. One of these is known as Krape's Cave, while a smaller but more picturesque opening, far above, half covered with trailing vines and shrubbery, is known as Bear Cave. A huge cliff, rising above Krape's Cave, and surmounted with a growth of evergreen, has become known as Cedar Cliff, and the point of land on the heights overhead, from which an extended and lovely prospect of the park and surrounding country is visible, is christened Lookout Mountain. Until recently animals have been kept in the park, but not long ago the deer were taken away. Krape Park is about two miles from the heart of the city, and is accessible by an automobile transfer line from the courthouse.
Oakland Cemetery. The new cemetery, four miles from Freeport, covers about one hundred and fifty acres of wooded land, extending southward about a mile from the Pearl City road. The landscape gardener has done his most to beautify the locality, and a large part of it is now laid out with winding drives and carriage paths. A large stone gateway half hidden by vines and trees forms the entrance to the cemetery and from the entrance, the drive leads down into the hollow and up on the hill where most of the lots now sold are located.
Several stone buildings have been erected on the premises. There is a stone receiving vault, built into the hillside, down in the southern end of the cemetery, a stone chapel where services can be held, and one marble mausoleum erected by Jacob Schaetzel. Many of the lots of the city cemetery have been transferred to Oakland Cemetery, and the place is now regarded as one of the most beautiful spots in the neighborhood of Freeport.
Bolton comprises two villages: the original village, known as Van Brocklin, which contains a church and originally contained the store and post-office, and the new village, called Bolton, which is built about the Chicago Great Western station, nearly a mile south of Van Brocklin. The old village is of early foundation, and marks the site of the first permanent settlement in Florence Township. The new village dates from 1887, when the railroad station was erected and the plat of the town laid out south of the station.
There is nothing of interest at Bolton. The town contains a grain elevator, a creamery owned by a farmers' stock company, and a distillery, which caters to a local trade. The population of the town is about fifty, with small signs of an appreciable future increase. Yellow Creek winds through the old village of Van Brocklin, now almost deserted, but for the country church. The site is very picturesque, lying a short distance southwest of the limestone cliffs and caves of Krape Park. The old village is interesting as the site of an early settlement in the county's history, but the new village is practically without life or interest.
Loran Township is one of the western townships of the southern tier. It is bounded on the west by Jefferson Township, on the north by Kent and Erin, on the east by Florence, and on the south by Carroll County. Until 1859 it was of much larger extent than at present, comprising also the township of Jefferson, with its eighteen square miles extent. In 1859, owing to a petition of the dwellers in the western part of Loran, that section was divided off, and became a separate township. As Jefferson Township has been treated elsewhere, we now propose to treat of the settlers who took up their claims and established themselves in that part of the country which is now Loran Township.
The first settlement in the township was made in 1836 by William Kirkpatrick, who subsequently built Kirkpatrick's mills and became a figure of great prominence in the county history. He established himself in Section 14, on the banks of Yellow Creek, at the settlement which was later known by the name of Mill Grove. Here he soon erected his mill just at what time we cannot say. Some of the old settlers assert that he put it up in 1836 or 1837 as soon as he had got his household settled. Others are quite as vehement in their declarations that the event did not take place until 1838. Whatever the time was, it is of small importance to know the exact date. It is altogether probable that Mr. Kirkpatrick built his mills as early as 1837 at least, for the traditions of the village of Winneshiek, which became Freeport, affirm that some of the houses of that settlement were constructed of boards brought from Kirkpatrick's mills on Yellow Creek.
Mr. Kirkpatrick built his mill as soon as he did his house, and the traditions say that he was subjected to all sorts of hardships while the building was going on, being forced to sleep in his wagon, in an improvised tent, and so forth.
Loran Township was settled very slowly, and later than almost any other section of the county. As late as 1838 the settlers were few and scattered, and confined almost entirely to the Kirkpatricks and the few people about the mill in the Mill Grove settlement. In the next year Smith Giddings came, with John Shoemaker, who settled in Section 19, Albert Curry, and Sylvester Langdon, who established himself in Section 15. There were others, but their names are now forgotten.
In 1840 a considerable delegation of new settlers arrived: the Babb family, including Samuel Babb, Solomon Babb, Reuben Babb, and Isaac Babb; Mathias Ditzler, and Christian Ditzler. In 1841, George House arrived and soon after him John Lamb. Warren Andrews and Anson Andrews came about this time, but just when it is impossible to say. They settled in Section 3, and there erected a mill on the banks of the creek. In 1842 Horace Post came, and located near the Andrews brothers' mill. Among the other settlers who came in this year were Truman Lowell, Moses Grigsby, William Barklow, Thomas Foster (both of these men settled in Section 17); Joseph Rush, in the southwestern corner of the township; Samuel Shively, near Yellow Creek; John Apgar, also on the creek bank near Kirkpatrick's mill; Henry Layer, and two men by the name of Slocum and Pointer.
Until 1848 settlers came slowly and in small numbers. While the rest of the county began to crowd up with emigrants about 1840, Loran Township did not receive its full quota for fully eight years. With 1848, the process of change began and soon Loran became as populous as any township in Stephenson County. The first marriage said to have occurred in Loran was that of Thomas French and Polly Kirkpatrick, who were married in the fall of 1840.
A certain Mrs. James who died about the same time and was buried in the township was the first death. The first school in the township was founded in 1840 at Kirkpatrick's Mills, where it remained for about a year. Then the pedagogue removed his parlors of learning to a new schoolhouse built especially for the purpose in Section 2, near Babb's church. The men instrumental in securing the new building were Reuben Babb, William Kirkpatrick, and Anson Andrews, the first school trustees of Loran.
Until late years Loran Township has always been behind the other townships of the county in point of development. One reason for the neglect which the township suffered was the comparative unhealthfulness of the township, especially along the banks of Yellow Creek. It is said that all sorts of fevers and agues prevailed along the banks of that stream, while even the inhabitants farther inland were subject to fevers of the severest sort. Now-a-days this condition of affairs has been entirely dissipated, and it is very hard to realize what must have been the dangers to which the early Loranites were subjected. In 1850, when the cholera plague made its presence known in the county, Loran suffered excruciatingly. Mill Grove, about Kirkpatrick's Mills, was nearly wiped out of existence. All the farms in the vicinity felt the effects of the plague, which was in every instance of so sudden and violent a character, that many a sufferer who had not realized that the poison was working in his system in the morning was seized with the sickness and died before sunset. In 1852, when the cholera appeared the second time, the horrible story of two years previous was repeated with even greater calamities. In 1854, on the occasion of the third and last visit, Kirkpatrick's Mills suffered again.
Since that time, the improvement of the farms, and the drainage of the land has brought about so great a change "that Loran Township has no longer a reputation for unhealthfulness as a place of abode. Mill Grove has disappeared, but Pearl City is very much alive and is as thrifty and thriving a little settlement as can be found in the rural districts of Illinois.
In addition to the unhealthfulness of the land there were the various other plagues to which the early settlers of Stephenson County were subject: snakes, the unfriendly red man, and the ordinary terrors of the wilderness, of which we can have not the slightest conception today. But the farmers were sturdy and survived the perils of the years and their descendants are engaged in the cultivation of farms which are as productive and well conducted as any that can be found in the county.
The township is well supplied with streams. Yellow Creek, entering from Kent Township at the north, flows south and east through Loran and is joined by a large number of sluggish creeks and brooklets. The Chicago & Great Western Railroad crosses the township from east to northwest, following somewhat the course of Yellow Creek, with its one station at Pearl City. The area is the regulation thirty-six square miles, since the division with Jefferson Township.
There is little to tell concerning the history of Mill Grove, but what there is is of a profoundly pathetic nature. The settlement marked the site of the first permanent settlement in Loran Township. It is located in Section 14, on the banks of Yellow Creek, where that stream makes a wide curve and loop to the northward, and William Kirkpatrick was the man whose efforts brought it into life.
He settled here with his household effects in 1836, and straightway proceeded to build a mill which was christened Kirkpatrick's Mill. For a long time, it remained the mill of greatest importance in the county, its nearest competitor being the Van Valzah Mills at Cedarville, established by Dr. Van Valzah. When new emigrants came to Loran Township, Kirkpatrick's Mill was the logical place for them to take up their abode. Not only was it the only settlement of consequence, but the rest of the township was almost an untrodden wilderness, and the courageous pioneer was never desirous of hewing himself a home in the wilderness when there was already one hewn out for him on the outskirts of the virgin forest. So Mill Grove continued to thrive and became quite a settlement in spite of the unhealth-fulness of the site.
But the settlers had founded their expectations upon vain hopes if they ever thought Mill Grove would become a settlement of considerable size. In 1850 the cholera visited Kirkpatrick's Mills with disastrous results. In 1852 the dread disease appeared again, and almost the whole population was which to operate. The population was gone, the town dead, and the wheels of the mill silent. Never again did Mill Grove attain importance as a settlement. When the schoolhouse was moved away in 1841, no second institution of learning was ever built. With the advent of the cholera and its attendant calamities, the town was abandoned, and its name is almost forgotten.
Pearl City is one of the most wide awake and progressive villages of Stephenson County. It has a population of about five hundred inhabitants, and ranks about fourth in size in the list of Stephenson County towns. While it is a village in point of organization, and number of inhabitants, Pearl City, as its name rightly indicates, has many of the qualities of a miniature city. It is not far from Freeport, but the fact that it is not connected with the county seat by railroad has permitted it to develop independently, and has kept many of its citizens from transferring their place of residence to the larger city.
Pearl City is in reality made up of two separate and distinct villages Pearl City, the main village, the business section of which is located south of the Chicago Great Western tracks, and Yellow Creek, the old original Pearl City, which is located north of the railroad tracks, and has completely separate business and residential sections of its own. Yellow Creek is now known as the "north side" to the people of Pearl City, and contains the few scattered buildings which are remnants of the old village.
Concerning the history of Pearl City there is not a great deal to tell. The village is of comparatively recent growth, having been almost entirely built up within the last twenty years. Before the Chicago Great Western Railroad came through the county there existed a tiny settlement known as Yellow Creek, which contained a blacksmith shop, general store and post-office, and three or four houses. The location of the village was not especially pleasant, and it did not seem at all likely that a village of consequence was to be erected at that point. But the advent of the railroad changed matters. A station was established at Yellow Creek, and a grain elevator built, after which the town immediately began to feel its own importance. The Yellow Creek settlement, which was about a quarter of a mile north of the point at which the station had been erected, was enhanced by the addition of a few houses, and one or two stores were also put up.
But the distance of the station from the village, and the inconvenience attached thereto soon caused a revolution in the village. The more progressive merchants moved about half a mile south of their old locations and erected new buildings close to the Great Western tracks. Three grain elevators were put up, also south of the tracks. With the building of two brick buildings in the new business section, the growth of the new village seemed assured. The railroad had caused the whole site to be platted out when it came through, and the officials of that company were interested in bringing the village farther toward the station.
Still the name of the settlement remained "Yellow Creek" and the sign painted upon the Great Western station announced the fact to travelers. Finally a number of public spirited citizens, feeling that it was inappropriate that their growing town should be hampered by the public proclamation of its proximity to Yellow Creek, petitioned for a change of name and the village became "Pearl City" about fifteen years ago. Since that time the name of the railroad station has also been changed, and now the metropolitan character of the settlement is assured in name if not in fact.
The churches of Pearl City are three in number, the First Methodist church, St. John's English Evangelical Lutheran church, and the Dunkard church.
First Methodist Church. The Methodist church is the leading church of Pearl City, both in size and activity. The early history of the church is extremely difficult to trace. In the beginning it was a part of the Kent circuit, and was ministered to by a student pastor. About fifteen years ago, the Pearl. City congregation, having increased greatly in size, felt hampered by the lack of church facilities offered, and decided to petition for the establishment of a separate church, and a pastor who should be able to devote his entire time to Pearl City. The petition was carried through, and the Pearl City congregation became a separate organization.
Soon after this event, the church previously occupied by the congregation was sold to the Dunkard congregation, and the erection of a new structure commenced. Previous to the occupation of their first church the Methodists had been in the old town hall which stands just south of the present commodious edifice. The new church, probably the handsomest country church in the county, was built in 1901 at a cost of $5,000, L. W. Herbruck being especially instrumental in the work of building.
The latest work of the congregation has been the building of a new parsonage for the minister, next to the church. This parsonage, which cost about $3,000, was completed the latter part of July, 1910. The church is in a flourishing and satisfactory condition in every way. The congregation numbers seventy, with a Sunday school of approximately one hundred and fifty. The Rev. J. V. Bennett is the minister at present in charge.
St. John's English Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Lutheran church of Pearl City, which is located on the south side of the town, and occupies a handsome brown frame structure, was organized September 1, 1888, with a charter membership of thirteen earnest members. Rev. Klock was the first pastor.
Soon after organization the congregation deciding upon the erection of a church building, the present edifice was built, and has been occupied for about twenty years.
The Pearl City church is on the same circuit with the Kent church, both of the churches receiving the services of the Rev. Alex. MacLaughlin as pastor. The Pearl City church has a membership of thirty-nine, with a Sunday school of about fifty-five members. " The church property is valued at $2,500, with a parsonage worth $2,000.
Dunkard Church. The Dunkards' stronghold in Stephenson County has always been in the western part of the county in the vicinity of Pearl City and Kent. There had always been a number of the sect in the village itself, but they never occupied a church edifice of their own until about fifteen years ago, when they purchased the church of the Methodist congregation. They have no pastor, but every member of the congregation officiates as pastor in turn. The membership of the church is somewhat fluctuating, but remains in the neighborhood of fifty.
Lodges. Pearl City, like every other country village in this section of the country, supports a number of lodges. Most of these have been founded within the last ten years, and deserve only passing mention. The Masonic lodge is the oldest of the aggregation, and holds an important place in village activities.
Pearl Lodge, No. 823, A. F. & A. M. The Pearl Lodge of the Masonic order was founded in the winter of 1893. It is the most important fraternal organization of Pearl City, and has a membership of about sixty-five. Meetings are held on the first and third Tuesdays of the month. Dr. M. W. Hooker is worshipful master, and C. G. Robinson is secretary.
Fox Camp. No. 711, M. W. A. The Woodmen founded their Pearl City lodge about fifteen years ago, and have maintained a prosperous and lively organization ever since. The camp meets every Thursday evening. The officers are: J. F. Mishler, V. C., and John Seebold, clerk.
Eleroy Lodge, No. 247, I. O. 0. F. The Eleroy lodge was organized at Eleroy, in Erin Township, on the i8th of December, 1857, but was transferred to Pearl City a few years ago. It is now attended by the inhabitants of both villages, and by the farmers of the country lying between. Although the lodge itself is by far the oldest in the list, the time of its existence in Pearl City has been comparatively short, and hence it ranks among the newer Pearl City lodges. Meetings are held every Monday. P. H. Schnell is noble grand, and J. V. Bennett secretary.
The other lodges have all been founded since 1900, and occupy somewhat secondary position in the fraternal life of the community. They are: Rose Leaf Camp, No. no, R. N. A. The Royal Neighbors meet on the second and fourth Fridays of every month. The officers are: Oracle, Sarah Heine; recorder, Lucy Hooker.
Orpha Chapter, No. 304, Eastern Star. The Eastern Star meets on the first and third Friday evenings of the month. Emma Sheffy is worthy matron, and Julia E. Snow performs the duties of secretary of the organization.
Pearl City Banking Company. The banking facilities of Pearl City are unexcelled for a village of the size. The Pearl City Bank, a' private corporation, was organized about twenty years ago, by Simon Tollmeier, who became the first president, and has since continued to hold the office. The firm represents a capital of $25,000, and a personal responsibility of $250,000. The officers are: President, Simon Tollmeier; vice president, Dr. S. H. Aurand; cashier, A. L. Kurd; directors, Simon Tollmeier, Dr. S. H. Aurand, Frank R. Erwin, Fred Tollmeier, Frederick Althof, Henry Althof, August Althof, Charles Althof, Albert Althof, Otto Althof.
The bank occupies a frame structure on Main street which is well fitted out for its banking offices.
Pearl City News. One of the best country newspapers of the state is the Pearl City News, edited and managed by Dr. M. W. Hooker, who purchased the paper last March. It was founded in 1889 by William H. McCall, who also started the Orangeville Courier on its career. Mr. McCall resigned after filling the editor's chair for a brief time, and Ed Barklow took charge of the venture. Subsequently the paper fell into many hands. It passed under the management of Messrs. Beadell, Perkins, Freas, and Buckley, and on March 1, 1910, was sold to Dr. Hooker.
Dr. Hooker occupies the position of editor, with his brother, O. G. Hooker, as associate editor. The paper has a large circulation among the farmers of the vicinity. It is a seven column weekly octavo, and is an attractive up-to-date sheet in every respect.
The management of the Pearl City News also publishes the Kent Observer, a weekly newspaper devoted to the interests of the village of Kent. This portion of the paper was founded by Mr. Freas during his management of the concern. The Kent Observer occupies the last four pages of the News, the two papers being printed together, and containing items of interest for both of the villages. The News also maintains correspondents in the various country towns about Pearl City, and publishes items of interest to the subscribers in those localities.
Pearl Hotel. The hotel of Pearl City, known as the Pearl Hotel, occupies a frame structure near the railroad station. It is a neat, well kept, and inviting hostelry, far superio'r to the ordinary country village tavern. L. J. Krell was proprietor for some time, but disposed of his interests to Mrs. Dodge who is the present owner.
The hotel offers excellent accommodations at somewhat reasonable prices. The table is especially good.
The business districts of Pearl City and Yellow Creek contain two or three dozen stores, including general stores, hardware establishments, millineries, dry goods, drug stores, a blacksmith shop, livery stable, etc. The business outlook of the town is most satisfactory, and the prosperity of its inhabitants may be judged from the statement that there are sixteen automobiles owned at present within the corporate limits of the village. Many of the farmers about Pearl City are also owners of the horseless carriages, and the whole of the rural districts thereabout present an appearance of thrift, careful attention, and scientific farming. Pearl City is thirteen miles from Freeport, and is accessible from the county seat either by carriage, or by the Chicago Great Western from the South Freeport station.
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Stories, Volume 1
Part Three - Townships & Towns