S. B. (Simeon Baldwin) Chittenden.

History of Henry county, Illinois : it's taxpayers and voters; containing also, a biographical directory, a condensed history of the state; map of the county; a business directory...etc online

. (page 16 of 78)
Online LibraryS. B. (Simeon Baldwin) ChittendenHistory of Henry county, Illinois : it's taxpayers and voters; containing also, a biographical directory, a condensed history of the state; map of the county; a business directory...etc → online text (page 16 of 78)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

hundred adherents to his belief.

These met with great opposition from the Lutheran House of
Bishops, and Mr. Jansen and some of his more prominent followers were
at times imprisoned. During one of his confinements in that place he
was visited by two physicians, who would have adjudged him insane, had
not an influential merchant been present and threatened them with full
process of the law for this most unjust act. This merchant was a mem-
ber of the Lutheran Church, but a man of large, liberal views, and pos-
sessed with a strong love of liberty.

Mr. Jansen persisted in his work for some three years or longer,
when, the opposition becoming too strong, it was decided to emigrate to
that land of liberty, America ; there to establish a colony and worship
their God in their own way, and in their own belief. One of the prin-
cipal tenets of their religion was that all things should be in common,
so that no poor would go unprovided, or none suffer for lack of means.
Among the first converts to this belief were a Mr. Hedine and a Mr.
Olson, men of property, who gave freely of their wealth to aid those who
were needy.

A delegation of them visited King Oscar I, to obtain passports, hav-
ing been refused these necessary papers by the proper authorities. The
King told them he could not conflict with the authority of the House of
Bishops, save to grant them the privilege of leaving the country should
they desire. He gave the orders, and procuring the passports, the colony,
numbering some eleven hundred persons, set sail in the Summer of 1846.
They arrived in New York in October of that year, and the same month
about seven hundred of them reached Bishop Hill, Henry County, Illi-
nois, the remaining four hundred having gone to other localities. Many
of this latter number were deceivers and impostors, having joined the
colony for no other purpose than to get their passage paid ; the fund for
this object having been a common one, and some had had their debts paid
before leaving Fatherland.

In order that Mr. Jansen could come to America (he had preceded
the colonists), he was compelled to escape into Norway, where, obtain-
ing a passport under an assumed name, he succeeded in embarking on a
vessel whose destination was New York.

The year previous to the landing of the colony, a few persons had



been sent to America for the purpose of finding them a home. These
had selected the present site of Bishop Hill, and when the emigrants
arrived in New York they were met by Mr. Jansen. their acknowledged
leader, and at once came to their new home.

A brother of the Mr. Olson Olef Olson had been one of the party
sent out the year previous, and had made a pretty thorough prospecting
tour throughout the West, in the Spring of 1846, including the states of
Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. He had written to many of his friends in
Sweden advising them of the feasibility of the coining of the colon}', and
of the ease with which a home could be secured in the then western
wilds. He purchased of the elder Piatt a farm at the east end of Red
Oak Grove ; this being the first of any connected with the colony.

After Mr. Jansen reached the United States, he sent word to the
friends in Sweden to print, or get printed, some hymn books and other
religious works for the use of the colony. This printing was very diffi-
cult to obtain, as no printer would risk the fine attendant on such publi-
cations. To obviate this difficult)' a press was purchased, and with the
aid of a practical printer, the} 7 did their printing.

Of the eleven hundred colonists who came in 1846, many sold their
estates at a sacrifice, and were compelled to send an agent in after years
to collect even this.

The colonists settled at first along the south bank of the South Ed-
ward Creek, a small, sluggish stream. The site was a most beautiful one,
being sparsely covered with a small growth of oaks. Having neither
material for building nor money with which to purchase it, they erected
tents for their immediate protection. These proving inadequate, caves
were excavated in the hillside, and in these rude habitations many of the
colonists passed their first Winter in America. These were damp and
unwholesome, and much of the mortality prevailing was due to them.
While erecting tents for their own immediate accommodation, they were
not forgetful of the worship of Almighty God, and erected a very large
tent in which their meetings and Sabbath-schools were held. The hard-
ships that followed the immediate settlement were more than many
of the members had resolution to endure, and they left singly and
in squads as their lack of -faith and pressing wants seemed to require.
On reaching their new home the funds of the society were nearly ex-
hausted, and they had no credit. Notwithstanding this, provisions must
be had for the year's consumption. Not a man, save a sailor, who had
picked up a little English, could speak a word of that language. John
Olson, who was gifted with the faculty of making intelligible sigits, under-
took to provide food, and succeeded tolerably well while the money
lasted. They were expecting funds in the Spring in sufficient amounts
to relieve all pressing and immediate wants. Mud caves soon gave place
to houses constructed of unbaked brick and an occasional frame, but these
residences were very inferior till 1849, when a four-story brick was
erected, about 100 feet in length and 4a in breadth. The basement was
intended for a dining-room and the upper part divided into rooms for
families: In 1851 the building was extended 100 feet in length. It is
still occupied by families of new comers, or by those unable to provide
their own homes.

A large frame building, the upper part designed for a church and


the basement for families, was erected as early as 1849, the religious zeal
of the colonists causing them to look after a house of worship before
securing their personal comfort. This edifice is still occupied for the
purposes for which it was erected.

To the credit of the people it must be stated that they established
an English school as early as January, 1847. A Presbyterian clergyman,
Rev. Talbot, taught some thirty-five scholors in a mud cave, from Janu-
ary to July. At times he was assisted by his daughter, Mrs. Pollock,
afterwards the wife of Eric Jansen, and now his widow. Talbot taught
the second school, and Nelson Simons, M. D., was employed about one
year as their third schoolmaster.

While the improvements in general were going on the colonists were
not neglectful of orchards and the planting of the smaller fruits ; but it
cannot be said that the yield of fruits so far has equaled their expecta-
tions. Among the earlier branches of industry a brewery, for the manu-
facture of small beer, was erected. This beverage is a common drink
among the Swedes, and the manufacture commenced at an early day.
About the j'ear 1851 they erected a commodious brick brewery from
which they manufactured some ten barrels of beer a day while in opera-

The progress of improvement was steady, and a grist-mill on a small
scale was soon in operation on the Edwards Creek, at the Hill. Two
saw-mills were also soon under way on the same stream. One of them
they purchased. The construction of a steam grist-mill was commenced
in 1849, under the direction of Eric Jansen, but not completed till after
his death.

The correct conduct of these people soon convinced those living near-
est them that nothing was to be apprehended from them, as their creed
was essentially harmless to all outsiders. And in the hoiir of need, the
colonists found fast friends in the majority of those near them. By the
year 1851 they had grown and strengthened, and had built a first-class
steam flouring-mill, which turned out a large surplus of flour beyond the
wants of the colon}*.

They had opportunities of securing large quantities of wheat, receiv-
ing sometimes one-third and at others one-half the crop for taking care of
the balance. Flax was a staple with them for several j'ears. From the
crop of 1847 they manufactured 12,000 yards of linen or thereabouts, and
sold the entire amount, as they had two or three years' supply of
clothing on hand. In 1849 they sold 12,454 yards of linen and 4,129
yards of carpeting. In 1850 they sold the crop of 1849: linen, 9,328
yards; 'carpeting, 8,618 yards. In 1851 crop of 1850 : linen, 28,822
yards; carpeting, 8,287 yards. This was the largest product in any one
year, and the amount gradually grew less till the year 1857, when they
manufactured but little for sale. The aggregate amount of linen sold to
1857 was 130,809 yards ; of carpeting, 22,569 yards. The carpeting
was all coarse, being known as " rag " carpeting. The linen was much
of it quite fine ; but the coarser kinds were the most in demand, and after
the first year or two but little fine linen, except in the shape of table-
cloths, was manufactured. These goods were sold for cash, or traded for
other goods in demand at the Hill, as opportunity offered ; large quantities
being peddled out over the country.


The spinning and weaving is done almost exclusively by the women,
children of both sexes assisting at spooling, etc. In the early years, as
looms and rooms in which to place them were scarce, the weavers were
divided into squads or gangs, and the looms kept running night and day.
Not a little of the prosperity of the colony is due to the bone and muscle
of the women who labored through the summer in the fields as industri-
ously as the men, and in the winter at the wheels looms and other work
carried on in doors.

From living in such poor habitations at first, and from being unac-
customed to the climate, great numbers sickened and died. Especially
among the children was the mortality fearful. During the great cholera
scourge of the years 1849, '50, '51 and '52, men would go to their work
in the morning in good health, and die before the going down of the sun.

From this cause, and the leaving of those in fear of the disease, the
colony was at one time reduced to 414 souls. These survived the plague,
and had the hardihood to remain. At the time Mr. Jansen was mur-
dered, in May, 1850 (an account of which is given elsewhere), they were
suffering from sickness, desertion, and death, and the fact that these had
the fortitude to remain amid such a multplicity of discouragements, was
proof conclusive of the earnestness of their conviction that they were
called to suffer, and, if need be, to die in demonstrating the true method
of Christian fellowship. In erecting the large buildings for dwellings ;
in the manufacture of cloth ; in the erection of large mills ; in their fru-
gal industry, and in their honest endeavors to promote their welfare spirit-
ually and temporally, during all these trials of poverty, sickness, death,
desertion, and strangers in a strange land, a lesson of commendable zeal
may be learned, and an example of fortitude which has few equals in the
history of Henry County.

By the year 1853 or '54 affairs were brightening, and prospects grew
better. Other emigrants came, other buildings were erected, and the
hopes of the early colonists began to be realized.

Brick buildings, capable of accommodating from eight to double that
number of families, were at times erected. In these each family had one
or more rooms. All worked together, and at meal time repaired to the
large dining-rooms and partook of food provided for all. Each one was
required to labor, and after receiving sufficient clothing and food from
the products, the remainder were used to purchase more land or build
additional buildings. Human nature is the same in all ages and among
all people, and here, as well as elsewhere, were those who would not per-
form their share of the labor, or provide for the common good. By the
year 1860, it was found that the theories of Mr. Jansen would not prevail
in practical life, and a division occurred.

By this year all the large brick buildings spoken of were erected.
At this time they were divided into two parties, known as the Johnson
(Jansen) and Olson parties. The former, being more numerous, obtained
about two-thirds of the property ; the latter, the remainder. No serious
difficulties arose from this division, and the individual affairs were con-
ducted on the same plan heretofore pursued.

The following year, the Olson party were divided into three divi-
sions or parts, and the Johnson party made an individual distribution of
their lands and town property.


By this time it had been clearly demonstrated that it was better by
far for all to be thrown upon an individual responsibility, and a distribu-
tion on the following plan was made of all property belonging to this
party :

To every person, male or female, that had attained the age of 35
years a full share of all lands, timber and town lots, and personal property
was given. A full share consisted of 22 acres of land, one timber lot
nearly two acres one town lot, and an equal part in all barns, horses,
cattle, hogs, sheep or other domestic animals, and all farming implements
and household utensils. All under this age received a share correspond-
ing in amount and value to the age of the individual, no discrimination
being shown to either sex. The smallest share was about eight acres of
land, a correspondingly small town and timber lot, and part of the per-
sonal property. Thus a man over 35 years of age, having a wife that age
or over, and several children, would receive many acres of land and con-
siderable property to manage. He held that of the wife and children
simply in trust, the deeds to all the property being made in the name of
the head of the family.

This division is still maintained, and as a result of this, and thereby
each being thrown upon his own resources, active industry at once pre-
vailed, the result of which may now be seen in well-tilled farms and com-
modious dwellings.

This same year, in April, the town was laid out by the trustees, Olef
Johnson, Jonas Erickson, Swan Swanson, Jonas Olson. Jonas Kronberg,
Olef Stenberg, and Jacob Jacobson. In 1861, the Olson party, being
divided into three factions, continued to prosecute their labors under the
colony system. One year's trial, however, convinced them of the results.
These factions were known as Olson, Stonberg, and (Martin) Johnson
divisions, which, at the close of the year 1861, divided their property to
the individuals comprising each faction on the basis adopted by the John-
son party in 1860. The shares were, however, not quite so large. The
large brick buildings are now principally owned by the old settlers.

After the establishment of the colony the school-room was removed
from the cave to any vacant room which could be utilized for that pur-
pose. The school-room was therefore constantly changing until the erec-
tion of the large frame building spoken of, when the upper room in it
was occupied for a number of years. In the year 1858 or '59 the present
school-house was erected. It contains four rooms for school purposes,
and a library. Two teachers are now employed, who have been raised in
the colony, and all exercises have always been conducted in the English
language, showing the colony came to America to become her citizens.

In the Fall of 1848, an adventurer named Root, the son of a wealthy
Swede, of Stockholm, made his appearance at Bishop Hill, having been,
as he asserted, just discharged from the army that had been operating in
Mexico. Subsequent developments however indicated his having been
a fugitive from justice. Upon his arrival at Bishop Hill he expressed a
desire to become one of the fraternity, and as there seemed to be no
reasonable objection, he was duly admitted.

He soon after made a marriage contract with a cousin of Eric Jansen,
the consummation of which was under special contract, to wit: that if
Root should afterwards decide to leave the colony, he should go alone,


leaving the wife to enjoy in the colony all the rights and immunities of
the establishment.

He soon earned the reputation of being constitutionally opposed to
labor of any kind, spending most of his time with a gun on his shoulder
in the woods, and even this soon getting tiresome, he shortly left for parts
unknown. His tyrannical treatment of his wife had, however, pretty
thoroughly destroyed her affection for him, and she bore the separation
with feelings more of joy than sorrow.

After an absence of several months, during which time his wife gave
birth to a son, he returned to the colony. It was some time before he
called to see his wife, notwithstanding he was informed a son was waiting
to greet him. Soon after taking up quarters with his wife, he proposed
to have her leave the colony with him, to which she strongly objected,
while he as persistently insisted upon hei going. Jansen sustained the
objections, which exasperated Root to such an extent he exhibited to his
wife a revolver and bowie knife, swearing vengeance on Jansen, and at
other times threatening to use them on her or the babe.

Matters proceeded in this manner some time. when, being unable to
persuade her to accompany him peaceably, lie determined on carrying off
his wife by force, which he endeavored with the assistance of outside
friends to accomplish in the following manner: Obtaining the services
of a young man named Stanley, who belonged in Cambridge, he stationed
him with a horse and buggy at a convenient distance from Mrs. Root's
room, and while the community were at dinner. Root compelled her to
enter the buggv. and the trio drove rapidly away from the Hill, Mrs. Root
being seated in the bottom of the buggy and covered up. Their proceed-
ings being observed, they were soon hotly pursued and overtaken within
two miles of their starting point, by a dozen of the brethren, who ordered
them to stop. They were told distinctly if the woman wanted to leave,
she could do so unmolested ; but if she wished to stay, they proposed to
take her buck.

Root and Stanley, both being armed, kept their pursuers at bay, the
woman meantime making manifest her desire to return by an effort to
release herself from the coverings thrown over her. Root laid his pistol
on the seat behind him, and endeavored to hold her down ; meanwhile
one of the attacking party rushed up, and, seizing the weapon, carried it
off. Stanley, seeing the six-shooter in the wrong hands, and his own
being only a single-barrel, concluded it best to surrender, and the woman
was allowed to leave the buggy and go witli her friends. At this point
Stanley disappears from public notice, except in a "single instance some
time after, when he distinguished himself by figuring as one of two parties
(the other being the lady with whom he boarded) of whom a choice bit
of scandal arose, which was finally settled by the infuriated husband of
the aforesaid lady. Thwarted in his purpose, Root had Jansen and oth-
ers arrested for restraining the liberty of his wife. She was subpoenaed
as a witness, and the officer insisting on her accompanying him at once,
she assented with the belief she would soon have justice done her in the
courts. The officer, however, had no legal authority to take this step ;
but was carrying out a deeply-laid scheme of Root's to get possession of
the woman, and succeeded in taking her to Cambridge, where she was
confined in a room and denied all communication with her friends. Mr.


S. P. Brainard, the Clerk of the Circuit and County Courts', took a most
active part in excluding the friends, and much to their disgust, as to them
\vas hi' indebted for his election to office.

A day later Root succeeded in abducting his wife the mwd time,
and. taking her in a- buggy, despite her screams, drove to the Rock River
settlement, and put up at the house of P. K. Hanna.

From here Root took her to Davenport, thence to Chicago, where
she had a sister living, who, knowing of Root's brutal treatment of his
wife, soon communicated with the colonists, and they, in turn, offered
the woman safe transit to her home in the colony if she desired it. Mrs.
Root signifying her wish to return, was sent for by a party, who. with a
team, took her back to Bishop Hill, which place she reached in safety ;
thence she wont to St. Louis, where she remained until all danger was
past, when she returned to the colony, where she still lives.

At the May term of court in 1850, Root, being greatly exasperated
at Jansen for his repeated efforts to induce his (Root's) wife to remain in
the colony, shot Jansen in the court-house, just at the hour of adjourn-
ment for dinner. Mr. Jansen expired in a few hours. Root was at once
taken into custody, tried for murder, receiving a sentence of two or three
years in the State Prison. He died shortly after its expiration.


The county seat was located at Richmond, Oct. 6, 1837. The. first
term of Circuit Court was held here by Hon. Thomas Ford, afterwards
Governor of the state, on April 2, 18o9. In the month of June follow-
ing the small frame court-house was burned, also a two-story house erect-
ed by Harris. Steps were at once taken to remove the seat of justice

to a more convenient locality, the citizens of Geneseo being most active
in this move wishing to secure the prize for their own town. In this they
were defeated, as the site selected was the Morristown Colony purchase.
One term of court was, however, held at Geneseo on April 6, 1840, and
two the following year. Court was removed to Morristown, and the first
session held there on May 16, 1842 ; afterwards, on Sept. 26 ; on May 15,
1843 ; on Sept. 25 ; and lastly, on May 24, 1844.

The county seat was located at Cambridge in the early part of 184;! ;
but no provision being made for holding courts there, they continued to
meet at Morristown, where the court-house, a small unfinished frame
building, was located. The citizens of Cambridge, desiring to make cer-
tain of the seat of justice within their own limits, obtained permission
from the county officers to remove this building to their town. It was
granted, and the building removed in the Summer or Fall of 1843.
Yet court did not come ; still continuing the county business at Morris-
town two sessions in September and in May following. The court-house
referred to was brought to Cambridge with ox teams, and placed on the
southeast corner of what is now the College Square. Here courts were
held until the erection of the present structure, which was completed
and accepted July 8, 1845. It was erected by Sullivan Howard, one of
the early settlers of Wethersfield, and cost about $3,000. The old wooden
jail was begun in 1853, and completed the following year.

The present court-house, a very commodious and comfortable build-
ing in all its parts, was finished in 1866. In 1858 a small fire-proof


building was erected immediately west of the court-house, costing about
$10,000. It is used as the receptacle for all the county records, and as
the offices of the county and circuit clerks, and that of the county treas-
urer. It is intended to erect, as soon as practicable, probably during the
coming year, a court-house suitable to the needs of the county, and one
which will be an ornament to the energy and taste of the citizens.

The first case tried in the Henry County Court before a jury, was an
appeal case wherein Hiram Pearce was tried for " disturbing the peace
and good order of a congregation assembled for divine worship, by pro-
fane language and disorderly and immoral conduct." He was found
guilty and fined twenty dollars.

In the old court-house, accommodation could hardly be had for the
officers of the court, when they had to find room for the jury. This body
often retired to the shadow of a near tree, or hay-stack, and carried on
their deliberations in commodious but rather undesirable quarters.

To find lodging at first in Cambridge was almost an impossibility, and
tended greatly to lessen the growth of that place. The members of the
bar would have to go to Andover, and to neighboring cabins for shelter
and food. Pages could be filled witli incidents illustrating the mode of
administering justice which, though generally unhindered by legal forms,
was sure. The first case in the present court-house was conducted by
Judge Jos. Tillson, now a resident of Cambridge, and who has been closely
identified with all her interests.

November, 1849, under the new constitution, a county judge (who

Online LibraryS. B. (Simeon Baldwin) ChittendenHistory of Henry county, Illinois : it's taxpayers and voters; containing also, a biographical directory, a condensed history of the state; map of the county; a business directory...etc → online text (page 16 of 78)