William W Davis.

History of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908 : illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume v.1) online

. (page 2 of 72)
Online LibraryWilliam W DavisHistory of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908 : illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume v.1) → online text (page 2 of 72)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

was generally supposed to be the north boundary of Illinois. Nathaniel
Pope, our delegate in Congress, seeing that Chicago was north of that line,
and would be excluded by it from the state, and that the contemplated
Illinois and Michigan canal to connect the lakes with the Mississippi, would
be partly without the state, came to the conclusion that it was competent for
Congress to extend the boundaries of the new state as far north as they
pleased. This amendment was to extend the northern boundary of the
new state to the parallel of forty-two degrees thirty minutes north latitude.
Few persons realize what we owe to Pope's amendment. It simply secured
for Illinois instead of Wisconsin, fourteen of our splendid northern counties,
including the city of Chicago. A small empire. Everlasting honor to


Nathaniel Pope, whose far-seeing sagacity gave forever to Illinois one of the
richest jewels in her crown.

Shadrach Bond was elected first governor, and began his term of four
years in October, 1818. He was a native of Maryland, a farmer and early
settler, and what is remarkable, suggests Ford, in his first message made a
recommendation in favor of the Illinois and Michigan canal. Ninian
Edwards and Jesse B. Thomas, were elected the first senators. The first leg-
islature provided for the removal of the seat of government from Kaskaskia,
the seat of power for one hundred and fifty years, to Vandalia, a spot selected
by the commissioners. The state archives, a small wagon load, were accord-
ingly removed by Sidney Breese, then clerk to the secretary of state, for
twenty-five dollars.

But other towns were after the capital, Jacksonville, Peoria, Alton, and
there was a strenuous canvass. The question was settled, however, Feb. 28,
1837, when the two houses met in joint session, and on the fourth ballot,
Springfield was chosen, receiving seventy-three votes, a majority over all
competitors. The old capital building at Vandalia was several times remod-
eled, and is still standing, its small cupola visible through the trees to the
traveler on the Illinois Central. The corner stone of the new building at
Springfield was laid July 4, 1837, and the brilliant E. D. Baker, afterwards
senator from Oregon, who fell in the civil war, was orator of the occasion.

During the early years of statehood, Illinois was the frontier state of
the Northwest, Iowa not being organized until 1846, and Wisconsin not
until 1848. In 1818 the northern part of the state was almost wholly unoc-
cupied by white settlers, and even in the southern half the settlements were
separated by long stretches of wilderness. In 1818 the whole population was
about forty-five thousand. Some of these were descendants of the old French
settlers, and lived in the style of peasants in old France hundreds of years
ago. We quote a paragraph from Ford to show the simple manners of these
primitive communities.

The farmer raised his own provisions, tea and coffee being rarely used
except on special occasions. The farmer's sheep furnished wool for winter
clothing, and he raised cotton and flax for summer attire. His wife and
daughters spun and made it into garments. The fur of the raccoon made a
cap. The skins of deer or cattle tanned or dressed by himself, made shoes or
moccasins. A log cabin without glass, nails or hinges, was considered a com-
fortable home. Every farmer made his own plows and harness, as well as
furniture for the house in the shape of chairs, tables and bedsteads. Carts
were made without tires, used without tar, and creaked with a vengeance.

During the thirty years from 1820 to 1850 the progress was remarkable.
The building of the Erie canal in New York, the improvement of naviga-
tion on the lakes and rivers, the removal of the Indians, gave an impetus to
emigration. Instead of the easy plodders from Kentucky and the border
states, came a stream of resolute men and women from Pennsylvania, New
York, and New England. From 55,000 in 1820, Illinois increased to a
population of 850,000 in 1850. Chicago was beginning its marvelous devel-


opment. From a fort and village in 1833, in 1850 it had a population of
30,000, and in 1853 had increased to 60,000.


For many of the facts given under this head we are indebted to the
careful researches of Charles Bent and Robert L. Wilson. Previous to 1825
the whole northern part of the state extending for a considerable distance
south of Peoria, was included in the county of Tazewell, but on Jan. 13, 1825,
an act was passed setting off Peoria county, which extended south of the
city of Peoria, then known as Fort Clark, and north to the northern boundary
of the state. This territory included a large number of the present counties
of northwestern Illinois, among them Whiteside. On Feb. 17, 1827, Jo
Daviess county was formed, and included within its boundaries the territory
constituting the present county of Whiteside, where it remained until Jan.
16, 1836, with the exception of that portion of the -territory embraced in the
present townships of Portland and Prophetstown, which had been set off to
Henry county by the act organizing that county in 1836. That part of the
act of Jan. 16, 1836, fixing the present boundaries of Whiteside is as follows:

Section 6. All that tract of country within the following boundary,
commencing at the southeast corner of township numbered nineteen, north
of seven, range east of the fourth principal meridian; thence west with the
said township line to Rock river; thence down along the middle of Rock
river to the middle of the Meredosia with the line of Rock Island county to
the Mississippi river; thence along the main channel of the Mississippi river
to the point where the north line of township twenty-two intersects the same;
thence east with said last mentioned township line to the southeast corner
of township twenty-three; thence south with the line between ranges seven
and eight to the point of beginning, shall constitute a county to be called

Sec. 16. The county of Whiteside shall continue to form a part of
the county of Jo Daviess until it shall be organized according -to this act, and
be attached to said county in all general elections, until otherwise provided
by law, and that after the organization of Ogle county, the county of White-
side shall be attached to said county of Ogle for all judicial and county
purposes, until it shall be organized.

So much in a general way for the ingenious, geographical and political
arrangements devised by the early Solons for the welfare of the county. Next
came the subdivisions.


An election was held in 1849 in the different precincts for the purpose
of allowing the electors to vote for or against township organization. There
was a vote in favor, but on account of some illegality, another election was
held on Nov. 4, 1851, which resulted in a majority for the measure of 232
in a total vote of 543. L. D. Crandall, L. H. Woodworth, and William Pol-
lock were appointed commissioners to divide the county into townships, and
to fix names and boundaries, under the township organization law adopted


at the election of Nov. 4, 1851. On Feb. 24, 1852, the commissioners reported
the following townships: Fulton, Ustick, Clyde, Genesee, Jordan, Sterling,
Montmorency, Coloma, Hahnaman, Hume, Como, Hopkins, Tampico, Vol-
ney, Prophetstown, Portland, Erie, Fenton, Lyndon, Mt. Pleasant, Union
Grove, Garden Plain, Albany, Newton. These made twenty-four, but as
Como was merged in Hopkins, and Volney in Prophetstown, the number
became as at present, twenty-two.

The first town meeting under, the township organization law was held
on the first Tuesday of April, 1852 in Albany, Coloma, Clyde, Erie, Fenton,
Fulton, Garden Plain, Genesee, Hopkins, Jordan, Lyndon, Newton, Mt.
Pleasant, Prophetstown, Portland, Sterling, Union Grove, Ustick. Elections
were not held in Montmorency, Hahnaman, Hume, and Tampico, as they
were not fully organized. The first annual meeting of the Board was held
at Sterling, Sept. 13, 1852, and W. S. Barnes was elected chairman.


Sweet fields beyond the swelling flood,

Stand dressed in living green,
So to the Jews old Canaan stood,

While Jordan rolled between. -Watts.

First catch your rabbit, was the standing advice in the cook books before
directions were given for cooking the quadruped. So the men of the east
considering removal to Illinois had before them the serious proposition of
getting there. Around them were their native hills, a thousand miles to
the west the virgin prairies, but lying between a region of difficult travel
like unexplored Ethiopia in the ancient geographies.

Two general routes were open to the eastern emigrant : From New Eng-
land by the Erie canal and lakes to Chicago; from Pennsylvania by canal
and the rivers. The points inland had, of course, to be reached by wagon.
A few illustrations may give a good idea of the Jericho road our pioneers
had to traverse.

In the spring of 1831, John H. Bryant, brother of the poet, set out for
Illinois from Cummington, Mass. At Albany he took a boat on the Erie
canal, and reached Buffalo in seven days, a trip now made in almost as many
hours. The lake at Buffalo being full of ice, he was obliged to hire a team
to Dunkirk. Then by wagon to Warren on the Alleghany river in Penn-
sylvania. He found quarters with an English family who were making
the voyage in a craft called an ark down the stream to Pittsburg. This
occupied seven days. From this city by steamboat to St. Louis, and thence
up the Illinois river to Naples. He was now within twenty-two miles of his
destination, Jacksonville, and completed the journey on foot. The whole
trip occupied five weeks, and cost $60. Now you can make it in a Pullman
car in thirty-six hours. The next year he and brother Cyrus rode to Prince-
ton, in Bureau county, on horseback.

Samuel Willard in his Reminiscences in Illinois from 1830 to 1850,
says his father went from Boston to Carrollton, Greene county, in March and


April, 1831, taking twenty-seven days to reach Bluffdale. He with wife and
three sons, traveled by stage and steamer till they reached Pittsburg, and
then by boat on the Ohio, Mississippi, and Illinois. A canoe up a "sloo"
brought them to the end of water travel, with a walk of two miles to the
house of a friend. Household goods went from Boston to New Orleans, and
were brought north by boat, arriving months afterward.

The father and mother of Henry Holbrook traveled from Steuben county,
New York, in 1838, in a buggy drawn by one horse, while the family and
goods were conveyed by two. At Erie, Pa., a large box was shipped on a
sailing vessel. After a tedious trip of five weeks, suffering severely from
exposure, they arrived at Genesee Grove in December. Edward Richardson
was in company, traveling the whole distance on foot. The vessel was
wrecked, but a part of the goods were received a year later.

Col. Ebenezer Seely, one of Portland's strenuous pioneers, had his event-
ful experience in early transportation. With his own family, and those of
John Reed and Henry Brewer, he floated down the Alleghany and Ohio
rivers to Louisville, where he took a steamer for St. Louis, and thence to
Rock Island, arriving June 4, 1835. After much effort he secured a team
to take his family to Portland, and a ferry boat to bring his goods from
Rock Island.

Sometimes the trip from the East was made on horseback by men who
wished like Joshua to spy out the land, and make a leisurely survey of the
conditions. In this way, it is said, the father of Hugh Wallace rode
from Pennsylvania, and selected the land for Hugh, Elijah and Hamilton,
who afterwards occupied it.

Nathaniel G. Reynolds, Prophetstown, came from Buffalo to Detroit by
water, thence to Chicago by team. From Chicago to Rock river only an
Indian trail, and for forty-four miles before reaching Prophetstown, not a
house in sight. This was in 1835.

As there were no bridges across the smaller streams, it was often nec-
essary to swim the horses. This was especially dangerous in time of high
water, when even creeks became raging torrents. Peter Cartwright, the
celebrated Methodist preacher, who had half of Illinois for his circuit, was
often obliged in meeting his appointments, to swim the flood, and dry his
clothes on the other side.

Another tremendous bugbear was the sloughs or in western dialect,
"sloo?." They were, in some respects, more troublesome than the streams.
These could be forded or swam, if the current was not too swift. But the
slough was sometimes an impassable barrier. If a team got stuck in the
morass, nothing could be done unless more power could be secured. The
mire was deep, tough, sticky. So teams traveled in company, and by doubl-
ing up, the wagons could be jerked through the swamp. These sloughs
occurred in the hollows of the prairies, and travelers who rattle along today
over our graveled roads have no idea of the profanity that rang from these
treacherous bottoms.

James Talbot, who settled in Jordan in 1835, in coming to the ,west.
sailed down a small stream in a flatboat to Pittsburg, where he took a steamer


down the Ohio and then up the Mississippi and Illinois river to Peoria.
He remained there until his removal to Jordan, and made the overland
trip in an ox-wagon drawn by three yoke of cattle. Ten to fifteen miles a
day were the allowance for an ox-team. One mode of conveyance was a yoke
of oxen at- the wheel, and a horse in the lead driven by a whip. David
Hazard, who came to Lyndon in 1837, brought his family and goods from
Pennsylvania, nine hundred miles, in twenty-eight days, all the way by team.

Even as late as 1851, travel in Illinois was no luxury. With his father,
the writer made the trip from Lancaster, Pa. By rail to Johnstown, and
then one hundred miles by canal to Pittsburg. Down the Ohio, stopping at
Cincinnati and Louisville, to St. Louis, up the Illinois to Naples, by rail
to Springfield. On our return to the east, by boat up the Illinois to Peru,
thence by stage to Dixon and Sterling, and after a short visit, continuing our
journey by stage to Aurora, where we again struck rail for Chicago. These
stages were simply two horse wagons with canvas covers and curtains, and
hard seats that made you sore at the end of the ride.

Railroads were scarce in 1851. The Illinois Central was not made, and
here and there only a local line. The T-rail was not in general use, and the
road bed was not solid. Engineering was in its infancy. Dr. Willard gives
a description of their construction. On the ties were laid long wooden beams,
or stringers, and fastened on top of these bars of wrought iron, an inch thick
and three inches wide. These strap rails were spiked fast, the heads of the
spikes even with the rails to avoid a jar to the wheels. When an end of a
strap rail got loose, and stuck up, it was called a "snake-head." If it pierced
the car floor, at it sometimes did, serious accidents resulted. Engineers car-
ried hammers to nail down unruly snake-heads that threatened danger.

Another comfort very much missed by the early settlers was the absence
of religious service. Many had come from the staid communities of the east
where churches and Sunday schools were regular features from childhood.

But the sound of the church-going bell,
These valleys and rocks never heard.

They did the best in their power to supply the need. Sunday schools and
services ,were held in homes, and after schoolhouses were erected, ministers
were always welcome to preach. The late Barton Cartwright, of Oregon had
a long circuit extending from Rockford to Rock Island, which he regularly
traversed, and many of his appointments were in the country schoolhouses.
The ride of Sol Seely, son of old Col. Seely, was long a subject of thrill-
ing narrative. After the election in 1836 when Van Buren became president,
although only about twenty votes were cast in Portland township, it was
necessary to send the returns to Galena, the headquarters, as Whiteside then
formed part of Jo Daviess county. Sol was mounted on an Indian pony,
given the precious document to deliver to John Dixon, at Dixon's Ferry,
where the stage driver for Galena would take charge. Between Prophetstown
and Dixon, only twenty-eight miles, but nothing but an Indian trail. On
reaching a stream west of Dixon, swollen to the banks, although the weather
was cold and the water icy, Sol dashed into the current, and swam the pony


across. Arriving at the Dixon house, .his frozen clothes were dr.' .-d, and
himself put in proper trim by good Mother Dixon for h'* return next morn-
ing. Sol spent his later years in Sterling, where his > ting house was a
popular resort. He was a firm believer in Spiritualism. Meeting him once
soon after the Buffalo assassination, he remarked with the utmost gravity,
"Well, I saw McKinley this morning."


Shall we be carried to the skies,

On flowery beds of ease,
While others fought to win the prize,

And sailed thro' bloody seas? Isaac Watts.

After arriving in the earthly Canaan, the end of the cedious joun ey,
the next question was about a place to live. Sod houses as in Kansas
never attempted. Generally a neighbor offered room until a shelter could
be thrown up, but otherwise all sorts of shifts were employed. For instance,
Asa Crook, who came to Prophetstown in 1834, lived in his wagon for three
weeks, and then made a lodge, covering it with hickory bark, in which he
lived all summer.

But the primitive style of house was the genuine log cabin. Williai
Dudley's first cabin in Lyndon was only twelve feet square, and yet w-
large enough for his family of four and a boarder. No drawing rooms o
fancy apartments in those days. Puncheons hewn with a broad ax furnished
the floors. The spaces between the logs were plastered if lime was to be had.
The roofs were not water tight as the shingles were coarse and not jointed.
Many amusing incidents of storms that beat through the flimsy canopy. D.
F. Millikan's cabin in Lyndon was covered with bark, basins were set to
catch the water at night, and umbrellas were held to protect the sleepers
from drenching showers. Mrs. Mary Wallace, in Sterling relates the same
unwilling baptism. Sometimes only an earthen floor in the cabin, and Mrs.
Wallace, who was full of these incidents, tells of the baby rolling from the
bed one night, and of the search in the darkness to find him. But these
early cabins were roomy, elastic, and no sudden influx of company proved
too great for their accommodation. As in the omnibus, always room for
one more. Latch string always out.

For two years the writer en joyed- the shelter of a log cabin, and the mem-
ory is delightful. It was a novel transition from the boyhood comfort of
a substantial two-story brick in old Lancaster. This was the fireside of Charles
Diller and his good wife, Ann, in Jordan, near Wilson's mill. In the regular
family there were father and mother, five children, a girl, two boarders,
and myself. A shed for the stove answered for kitchen and dining room.
Only one room in the cabin proper, which at night by a curtain swung on
wire was turned into two chambers, and a low cot was drawn from beneath
the high bed where it stood during the day.

But the low loft to which we climbed by a narrow stairs was the main
accommodation for the boys and boarders. Three double beds were squeezed



("00 r-r'

n 23

* - ~ 5, 5 '
3 ? S* ^ 3


o c o m a.

3 fT cr

S - 5" ' cu-<:

g. p, -2. fc

^ S 5" B 2.

-. t> t CT 5

15 o ~, 2 (?

"I <-S

O 20


2 S" S 1 -^ 2,

ai * o ^

3" 9 ? "** iS

o 2 : iEH

3 ^ J ^ *^ CD

ft *3"j ^^" ^

^ j? 3' r* o

3 3 2

r4- ^ "a -t-

O S" 1 ft?

2, 5* SB * -

. S, C L






together. One window only, and the ventilation was not scientific, but we
slept and survived. When it stormed winter or summer, your pillow bore
testimony to rain or snow. And the table! If the old settlers had no rugs
or lace curtains, they certainly reveled in the good things of the earth.
Plenty of their own excellent ham or beef, fresh vegetables, the richest of
cream, pies and puddings, banquets and appetites that kings could not com-
mand. This was in 1856, and the reign of venison was over. The deer had

These old cabins have naturally disappeared before the changes of time
and the ravages of the elements. But this Diller cabin remains. The late W.
A. Sanborn, who bought the beautiful farm from the heirs, and established
an' extensive range for the rearing of blooded horses, had the little structure
removed to one side, and it is now in fair preservation. In some cases within
our knowledge, after modern dwellings were erected on another side, the
old cabins were allowed to stand, and used for cribs, corn-cobs, or other
purposes. The cabins of Major Wallace and Joel Harvey at Empire in
Hopkins stood till they tumbled down.

"To what base uses do we come at last!"

On many county fair grounds the old cabin has become of late years

a prominent ornament. It is either a real specimen removed from its early
situation and set up, or an ingenious imitation constructed of modern logs.
At any rate, the conception is happy. What a world of suggestion, of
reminiscence, the primitive structure awakens 1 It is a pleasing landmark
of social progress. We think of Lincoln and Garfield, of Daniel Webster's

early surroundings. All honor to the log homestead!


What a bliss to press the pillow

Of a cottage chamber bed,
And to listen to the patter

Of the soft rain overhead!

While substantial^ food was plentiful in the form of meat, game, and
vegetables, the fruit to which our father s were accustomed in the east, was
sorely missed. No peaches or apples until nurseries were started. Wild plums
and crab-apples in the timber, and these were economized to the fullest extent
in sauce and pies. Coffee and tea were for company, and wheat or rye did
for common use. When mills were distant, wheat and corn had to be ground
in hand mills. Buckwheat was prepared in this way for cakes. Tomatoes
were at first considered an ornament, and formed no part of table luxury.
One funny thing. Dandelions were missed, and someone sent to the east
for seed.

One of the,sorest wants was the grist mill. The settler had the wheat and
corn, but it had to be ground. In 1835 grists were taken to Morgan county,
one hundred and fifty miles south. Wilson's mill in Jordan, built in 1836,
was the only mill in the county, and people for forty miles came with their
grists. It was a log mill, but made good floiir. For clothing, too, various
expedients were employed. Hide* of deer dried for coats, buckskin for


breeches, raccoon skin for caps, moccasins for shoes. Wild bees furnished
honey, and skillful hunters could shoot enough game to lay in a supply of
meat for winter.

Stoves were few and far between. Chicago was for awhile the nearest
point for general supplies, and the trip from Whiteside consumed twelve
days. Prices, however, were so low, and groceries so high, that a farmer had
nothing left on his return, but his limited purchases. He could not haul
more than fifty bushels of wheat, which at twenty-five or fifty cents would
purchase only the barest household needs. Small stores in time gradually
sprang up at Como, Sterling, and other towns to furnish staple articles.
Ash hoppers and appliances for soap were soon found to be necessary, and
the late Mrs. Mary Wallace of Sterling, to her old age took much satisfaction
in making the family soap, both hard and soft.

It was a fortunate thing that the people were blessed with good health,
for doctors were only to be found in the cities. The country was too thinly
settled to afford profitable living to an established physician. Every family
was supposed to have a medicine chest or shelf of common remedies, and
in almost every community there was some experienced mother who in cases
of ordinary disease could administer the proper remedy. Such a nurse was
Mrs. Wallace or Mrs. Kilgour, who were often summoned to the bedside of
suffering. For ague, quinine was -the ready relief, and for various ailments,
calomel or blue pill. Drug stores are a modern luxury.

Online LibraryWilliam W DavisHistory of Whiteside County, Illinois from its earliest settlement to 1908 : illustrated, with biographical sketches of some prominent citizens of the county (Volume v.1) → online text (page 2 of 72)