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

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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 26 of 72)
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man, where they have since resided. They are both hale and hearty, and will
now prepare for the diamond jubilee.

On Saturday, Feb. 22, by a freak of the almanac, the fiftieth anniversary
of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Wahl coincided with the birthday of the illustrious
George. They really belong to Hahnaman, as their active years were spent
there, but farming becoming too strenuous, in 1890 they took their abode in
a new home on Ninth avenue, Sterling. This was the scene of the festivities.


All of their family were present except a daughter, Ethel, in California. Both
are in the discharge of daily duties, and ready to greet friends with a smile.

Including the family of nine children, sixteen grandchildren, and one
great-grandchild, thirty-six relatives sat down to a banquet that only Mrs.
Wahl, a cook of the old school, could prepare. She was Miss Anna Kirgis.
Besides words of congratulation, the occasion was made memorable by marks
of substantial appreciation. Mr. Wahl was brought to time with a solid gold
wateh, and his estimable partner will hereafter make her toilet with a diamond

Perhaps the only murder in the township occurred June 26, 1901, when
Thomas Brunton killed Thomas McDonald, at Deer Grove, by knocking him
down. Both were tramps, and at the time were carousing at a shed or corn



The history of the drainage of the swamp lands of Whiteside county will
at the present time cover a period of over fifty years. The south half of the
county is mostly level land with here and there a few sand hills, and contains
about four-fifths of the swamp lands. The north half is more broken and
hilly, and most of the low lands are in the western part along the Mississippi

In 1850 congress passed an act to enable the states to reclaim and improve
the swamp lands within their limits, and in 1852 the general assembly of the
state of Illinois passed an act giving each county the authority to select, and
sell the swamp lands and devote the proceeds, to the drainage or reclaiming
said lands.

The act also provided for the appointment of a drainage commissioner
who was to select the lands, and under the directions of the board of super-
visors see that the provisions of the act were carried to completion.

The total number of acres selected and sold by the county was a little
over seventy thousand, of which about one-fourth was in the townships of Tam-
pico and Hahnaman, the rest being in the other twenty townships except Gen-
esee and Jordan, both high and rolling land. The lands were appraised and
sold at different prices, three dollars, one dollar and fifty cents, and fifty cents
per acre, the terms of sale were one-fourth cash, with the balance in notes with
interest. Forty acres was the smallest subdivision of land sold, and some tracts
would be partially dry land, others entirely in deep swamps, the total receipts
from the swamp land sales was over $175,000.

Three-fourths of the proceeds of the sale of lands were loaned at a high
rate of interest, and a large sum of money having accumulated it was turned
over to the school fund, and distributed among the townships in the same ratio
with other school moneys. The townships of Tampico and Hahnaman pro-
tested against it, but were overruled. The amount turned over was about
$175,000, about the amount for which the lands were sold.

After the first land sale the drainage commissioner began the construction
of ditches through the channels of the largest sloughs, the longest being the


Coon creek ditch about twenty miles in length, running from the east line of
the county in the township of Montmorency, in a southwesterly course
through the townships of Montmorency, Hume and Tampico, emptying into
the creek east of Prophetstown village. This ditch has several branches that
would make the total length over forty miles.

Over one hundred miles of ditches were made at a cost of nearly $90,000.
This amount was all the county of Whiteside spent in the drainage of the
lands donated by the government for that purpose.

In 1879 an act was passed by the general assembly enabling the owners of
adjoining tracts of land to form drainage districts for the purpose of raising
money by assessment on the lands improved, to pay the cost of building levees,
and digging ditches. The law proved to be a cumbersome piece of machinery
to effect its purpose, and until it was amended in 1885 making the commis-
sioners of highways ex-officio drainage commissioners, there was very little
done. Since then there has been spent a large amount of money for reclaim-
ing wet lands.

The land now improved under the drainage law is more than twice the
amount selected and sold by the county, and about one-half of the wet land is
now under cultivation. The old ditches have been enlarged, new ones dug,
and ditching machines are continually at work. It will take much labor aad
time to make all of the low lands tillable every year, but as they increase in
value, a greater expenditure will be warranted for their improvement.

The boundary line between the counties of Whiteside and Rock Island is
the channel of a swamp through the low lands between the Mississippi and
Rock rivers, a distance of about fifteen miles, called the Meredosia slough, the
name being a corruption of "Marais D' Ogee", given the swamp by the early
French explorers. About half way between the two rivers the channel is hard
to find, the ground being very lever for about two miles in all directions, and
for some time there was a dispute about the line, each county claiming juris-
diction over about a thousand acres. The land in question is on a higher level
than the swamp north and south, and forms a divide between the rivers over
which the water from either river when high would flow to the other. A few
years ago a dyke was built across the divide over which the water has never been
high enough to pass.

The drainage of the swamp is accomplished by forming union drainage
districts, parts of which are in each county.


The world was sad- the garden was a wild ;

And man, the hermit, sighed till woman smiled. Campbell.

As Paris is France, so Rock Falls is Coloma. For a long time, there was
no Rock Falls. It has shot up like a gourd within the memory of the present
generation. After Sterling was a goodly city, the opposite bank, the site of
Rock Falls, was a sand waste. It was open commons for sham battles. It was
like Ethiopia on maps of Africa in 1850, a sort of unoccupied territory. In


looking across, there stood the Arey House, a solitary landmark, like the lone
tree of the prairies, the lone star of Texas. It is today the historic building of
Ifack Falls. It has been removed from the original site, and is now on the
street west of the Methodist church. It was built in 1837 by Edward Atkins,
an Irishman, and had, says John Arey, walnut shingles, oak floor, and siding
of various timber from the woods. Another early house but remaining on the
original situation is the homestead erected by L. H. Woodworth, who came in
1839, as surveyor for that wonderful canal. But this dwelling was built later. .
It is the same as first erected, says Mrs. A. S. Goodell, with the exception of a
porch added afterwards. It is on the river bank in eastern Rock Falls, and is
still surrounded by the trees of the early woodland.


A change came o'er the spirit of my dream. Byron.

Our early settlers were men of large ideas, immense plans. In 1837
Edward Atkins, A. B. Wheeler, Isaac Merrill, and Daniel Brooks, laid out a
tract a mile square to be called Rapids City. It was in keeping with the spirit
of internal improvement that prevailed throughout the state. Rock river at
this point was selected as a favorable stream for better navigation, and the
scheme comprised a canal up and down the rapids to enable boats to pass by
means of a lock. The canal was located along the south bank of the river,
and $40,000 expended. This gave the south side a great advantage in future
prospects, and led to the project of Rapids City. It was on the south side of
Rock river opposite Chatham, west of Broadway, and while the state canal work
was in progress, seemed to have a more prosperous future than Chatham and
Harrisburg on the north bank. The work done on the canal was one-half
mile long, between avenues A and D in the present city of Rock Falls. A
dry stone wall, eight feet wide at the bottom, and four feet at the top, was
laid along the margin of the river far enough from the bank to give the canal
the proper width. The stone was quarried from the bank to build the wall,
and the stripping from the quarries deposited on the river side, making a
bank fifty feet wide and a little higher than the wall. When the work was
stopped, the wall was from six to eight feet in height, But no part of it was
completed. W T ith the failure of the canal, all further progress ceased in Rapids
City. Business was suspended, and" the parks and palaces of the paper city
vanished in thin air.

The best laid schemes o' mice and men
Gang aft agley.


A. P. Smith was the founder of this hive of industry. Originally a music
teacher, in 1867 he purchased of the Sterling Hydraulic Company, which con-
trolled a dam built in 1854, one-half interest in their water power, and forty
acres of land on the south side of the river, as well as 25 acres from other
parties, and laid out the town. He constructed a race, and wisely offered



tempting inducements to capitalists to make investments. His business sagac-
ity was abundantly rewarded, and soon numerous factories were in operation.
One of them was his own mitten factory, which employed eighty persons,
mostly girls, producing $100,000 worth of goods annually. In 1871 the rail-
road was completed, giving Rock Falls direct communication with Chicago.
The largest concern to be established in the young town was the Keystone
Works, 1867, formerly Gait & Tracy, in Sterling. In 1876 W. E. Lukens
platted his nursery, and began to sell lots. The first new store was built by
T. Culver in 1867. The- village was organized in 1869 under the state law.
The Rock Falls House, kept by Barnard Doty, was opened in 1868. The post-
office was established in 1868, Truman Culver, postmaster. He held the office
three years, and during the last year, the business amounted to $1,500. A
bank was established in 1874 by Ephraim Brookfield from Coleta, and after
his death, George W. Nance took charge. The different ferries and bridges
by which the two sides of the river have always had communication are con-
sidered under a separate head. As Como was declining, her buildings no
longer in use, were removed to Rock Falls, whose star was in the ascendent.
In the spring of 1867, A. C. Hapgood opened a' store in a structure thus
transported over the prairie. This was afterwards the Baltic House. Sub-
sequently A. Woodworth became partner in a building also transplanted from
old Como.


The rectory of Epworth is the fount

To which all streams of Methodism mount. E. W. Pearson.

The Rock Falls M. E. church was organized as a class during the winter
of 1868-69 by Rev. J. H. Ailing, then pastor of Fourth Street church, Ster-
ling. Religious services were held in the Industrial building, and later in
the upper room of the Dr. J. L. Merrill building. Ailing with Mr. Denning
of Broadway church held a revival, assisted by Presiding Elder Moore, and the
society began its career. The need of a building was urgently felt, subscriptions
were asked for, a lot was purchased from Merrill for $300, and the structure was
occupied in the spring of 1870. An organ was secured in 1869 for $140, and in
1870 the mission committee at Elgin appropriated $100 to the support of the
work. John A. Stayt was appointed first pastor, Oct. 11, 1870. The dedication of
the church which had now cost $4,189 took place in April, 1871, under direc-.
tion of Dr. J. H. Moore. The first bell was cracked and taken down. The
present bell, hung March 22, 1872, has been faithfully ringing its call to
worshipers. In the early part of Stayt's pastorate, preaching points were estab-
lished at Hume Center and Banes' Corners. A lot was bought for a parson-
age, and the house completed in 1872, at a cost of $1,104. At the close of
1872 the charge had grown to a membership of 87, with three Sunday schools,
Rock Falls, Hume, and Banes, which had a total attendance of 388. Rev.
Thos. Chipperfield became pastor in 1872, the membership increased to 158,
and the S. school to 214. During the pastorate of Rev. M. M. Bales, the church
was completely remodeled and a new parsonage constructed at a combined
cost of $5,146. During the 36 years of her history, 1,164 persons have united


on probation, and since 1883, more than 1,800 have been converted at her
altars, an average of 61 conversions a year. The total enrollment of member-
ship for 36 years is 8,795, an average yearly enrollment of 244. Total benevo-
lence contributed $5,896. Last year it amounted to $506. The present pastor,
Rev. F. W. Nazarene, is the seventeenth in this flourishing field.

In connection with the church proper, are numerous societies. The Sun-
day school has 286 pupils with 29 officers and teachers. The Epworth League
has a membership of more than a hundred. Then there is a Junior Epworth.
Four societies of the gentler sex: Woman's Home Missionary, Woman's For-
eign Missionary, Ladies' Aid, and Social Auxiliary. Rev. C. A. Gage, ap-
pointed to the charge by Bishop Andrews in 1903, gathered the various items
in regard to the history of this congregation and issued in a neat booklet,
from which much of our information has been derived.

The Christian church, one of the last on this field, has had a phenomenal
advance. Although only organized in 1904, the present membership is 200.
Rev. Mr. Spicer of Sterling, and State Evangelist Monser took a leading part
in its establishment. As a nucleus, a Sunday school had been started in 1897,
which has an enrollment of 250. There is an Endeavor Society and Ladies'
Aid. Rev. Roy Stauffer, now in an eastern pastorate, contributed largely by
his unceasing efforts to the development of the work. A young man of
unlimited energy. His successor, Rev. C. F. Ladd, was associated for a time
with the Volunteers of America. He and his wife are both from Rhode Island,
and find an earnest people to strengthen their hands. One of the active men
of the young society is M. T. Mouck. At a recent prayer meeting officers were
elected for the ensuing year as follows :

Trustee Robert Larson.

Elder Joseph Hoak.

Deacons Howard Sprinkel and James Creighton.

Financial Secretary Charles Hoak.

Treasurer J. W. Hatch.

Clerk Miss Ethel Mouck.

Deaconesses Mrs. H. L. Sniffer and Mrs. M. T. Mouck.

In the western part of Rock Falls is a finn white frame edifice, bearing
above the door the inscription :

Immanuel Evang. Luth. Kirche,

There were ninety families in connection, but some have withdrawn to the
Lutheran church in Sterling. There is German preaching in the morning,
but no evening service, as so many of the people are farmers. The pastor, E.
Hafermann, as we gleaned in an interview, came from North Germany, was
educated at a gymnasium, came to America in 1888, and after thirteen years
in Kansas and Wisconsin, accepted this place in 1903.


This was organized Dec. 26, 1875, by the following charter members:
Richard and Mrs. Mary E. Arey, W. J. Rice and wife, Augustus Edgerton,


Mrs. Delia L. James and Mrs. Allpress, James and Mrs. Mary Arey, Mrs.
Sarah E. Phelps, Miss Hattie L. Arey, Mi's. Sophia E. Wright, Mrs. Emeline
A. Dyer, Miss Fannie Wright, and Rev. S. D. Belt. Certificate of incorpora-
tion filed July 27, 1876. The services were held in the fourth district school-
house until Dec. 3, 1876, when the first service was held in the church build-
ing, on the corner of First avenue and west Third street, Rock Falls. The
Sunday school was organized, Jan. 2, 1876, with a membership of one hun-
dred, Rev. S. D. Belt, Supt. A long succession of Ministers : Rufus Apthorp,
W. Cone, 0. W. Fay, C. B. Ludwig, J. R. Kaye, A. W. Safford, E. A. Freden-
hagen, H. A. Kearn, S. S. Healey, R. W. Purdue, W. A. Elliott, E. W. Mur-
ray now in charge. The present membership is 143, S. school, 183, Y. P. S.
C. E., 25. Junior, 20. There are 24 members in the Woman's Miss. Society,
Mrs. S. Atkins, president. In the Ladies' Mite Society, 60, Mrs. Ella Limerick,
president. The officers of the church consist, besides the pastor, of four dea-
cons, James Arey, J. Meckling, Aaron Fluck, E. Slater. Trustees, E. R. Nims,
F. Lukins, F. H. Geyer, Fred Shuler, G. Fields. Treasurer, John L. Newton,
clerk, G. H. Jennings, supt. of S. school, J. H. Meckling. The church is built
of frame, neatly painted, and occupies a conspicuous position in the heart of
Rock Falls.


Grow old along with me !

The best is yet to be,

The last of life for which the first was made. Rabbi Ben Ezra.

The Browning club celebrated the tenth anniversary of its organization
at the home of 0. E. Maxson, Tuesday, Jan. 8, 1908. The house was beauti-
fully decorated with festoons of club colors, purple and gold.

The club was organized January 7, 1898, at the home of Mrs. A. J. Mc-
Neil with Mrs. McNeil president, Mrs. Robert McNeil vice-president, Mrs. C.
C. Woodworth secretary and Miss Mary Geyer treasurer. The membership
was limited to twenty. The object was the study of Browning and other poets.
Of recent years the membership limit has been placd at thirty. About twenty
of the charter members are still members, and during the ten years over sixty
ladies have availed themselves of this opportunity to study the poets. The
club is essentially a study class and in the past ten years has studied the Brown-
ings, Scott, Tennyson, Homer, Emerson, Lowell and Shakespeare. Over four
hundred study classes have been held besides the evening meetings for gentle-
men and afternoon socials.

On the occasion of this anniversary the members and their guests to the
number of fifty assembled at 1 o'clock when an elaborate four course luncheon
was served. Several of the young lady daughters of the members assisted.
Each guest received a beautiful souvenir in the shape of a folder prettily deco-
rated and containing a striking photograph of the esteemed leader, Miss Gould,
and the names of the present members. This was a surprise to the leader and
shows the love and reverence in which she is held by those who have been
helped and cheered by her close companionship during these ten years while
she has given so freely of herself to meet their varied needs.



After luncheon the president, Mrs. Mae Smith, called the meeting to
order and. in a neat speech offered a toast to "The Brownings may their
shadows never grow less and may they live to celebrate their one hundredth
birthday." Miss Farena Hubbard opened the program with a difficult selec-
tion on the piano. Miss Gould read one of her scholary papers entitled "Lit-
erature; its place in Civilization." Under the general title "People Whom We
Have Met," the following characters were discussed :

"Aurora Leigh," Mrs. Charles Hubbard.

"Romney Leigh," Mrs. A. S. Goodell.

"Caponsacchi," Mrs. William Wells.

"Ulysses," Mrs. Charles Geeting.

"Penelope," Mrs. Frank Anthony.

"A Winter's Tale," Miss Lizzie Coe.

Miss Elizabeth Emmons read a very brief and witty history of the club.

Miss Clara McCune sang several beautiful selections. She was accom-
panied by Miss Emma Sheldon.

These circles in which ladies meet to discuss literary subjects and at the
same time enjoy social recreation cannot be too highly commended. After-
noons at cards leave no valuable thoughts to occupy the mind, and waste time
that should be more profitably employed. The name, too, is full of inspira-
tion. None of the nineteenth century poets have done more to ennoble and
sweeten the thought of the world than have the Brownings, Robert and Eliza-
beth Barrett.


A mother's love how sweet the name !

What is a mother's love?
A noble, pure, and tender flame,

Enkindled from above. Montgomery.

"Mother Wright" is a remarkably strong and cheerful woman for eighty-
eight. She gave the writer a cordial reception. Mary Mahaffey was born near
Belfast, Ireland, 1819. Queen Victoria's year, for whom she has a warm ad-
miration. Her grandfather was a Scotchman. She was married in Philadel-
phia in 1847 to Hugh Wright, who died at 51. She has lived 31 years in
Rock Falls. A loyal Presbyterian. No matter what the weather, she crosses
the river to attend the church of her fathers in Sterling, shaming the younger
people who are afraid to turn out. Somewhat older and also quite bright is
Mrs. Asa Emmons, or "Aunt Nancy," who occupies a room with her daughter,
Mrs. Hewitt. She was born June 22, 1814, at Beverly, West Virginia. Her
father, William Booth, was in the War of 1812. She came with her father
to Albany, this county, in 1837, and was there married to Asa Emmons, an
expert stair-builder. A devout Methodist, and happy in her religious hopes.
She prefers to receive callers in her own apartments, where she reads, sews,
writes, and meditates. In pleasant weather, she takes a walk. This paragraph
appeared in a Sterling paper:

Mrs. Asa Emmons, Rock Falls, ninety-three last June, 1814-1907, in a
conversation yesterd'ay with W. W. Davis related an incident that gives her


a remote connection with 1776. Her mother's father, Edward Hart, was a
brother of John Hart, signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was
from New Jersey, and the Hessians in 1777 burned his property. Singular
enough, Mr. Davis happens to have among his curios, a piece of Continental
Script with the signature of John Hart.

One morning in February, 1908, the writer called upon Mrs. Phebe
Worthington, doubtless the oldest woman in the county. She was born on
Long Island, July, 1812, and was in her 98th year. The venerable lady was
sitting in a low chair by the window, and readily engaged in conversation.
Her sight is failing so that she is no longer able to read the Bible, but her
hearing is perfectly good. She retires at nine, and rises at eight, partakes of
three meals a day, enjoys oatmeal for breakfast, uses tea instead of coffee. In
earlier years, she attended the Baptist church in the pastorate of Elder Mason
in Sterling. She came with her husband in 1839, who died long ago, and is
now living with her son Alf, on the original homestead. A gracious picture
with her kindly face and loving manner.


Josiah S. Scott, mentioned in the history of Hume township, died at the
home of his daughter, Mrs. Bernard Miller, in Rock Falls, Jan., 1907. As
he was born in Ohio in May, 1819, he was in his 89th year. After carrying
on his farm in Hume for nearly forty years, in 1883 Mr. and Mrs. Scott
removed to Rock Falls, where she died in 1899. Josiah cast his first vote for
Van Buren in 1840, but in 1860 he voted for Lincoln and was a Republican
ever since. A carpenter in early manhood. His father had thirteen chil-
dren, and he had twelve. Dr. F. J. Scott is a prominent physician in Rock
Falls. Josiah united with the Methodist church, and in every relation of life
was an honored citizen. A broken hip some months before his death increased
the weakness of his advanced age.

THE G. A. R.

There are thirty-two members. It is known as Will Enderton Post, No.
729, and is named for its first commander in 1891, of the 34th Illinois regi-
ment. It was originally a part of the Will Robinson Post, Sterling, but for
convenience, the comrades withdrew, and organized their own. The writer
met two of the boys in the office of J. G. Limerick, and gathered several inci-
dents from their career. H. L. Brewer, present commander of the post, be-
longed to the 12th Illinois Infantry, Col. John McArthur, afterwards general.
He was a Scotchman, had the boys wear Scotch caps, and the slogan was "Mc-
Arthur and his men." Hard fighting. They were in the assault at Fort
Donelson, at Shiloh, Atlanta, the march to the sea. Mr. Brewer was in the
grand review at Washington, May 24, 1865, the military pageant of the war

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 26 of 72)