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 6 of 72)
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on the street. If not, -I must certainly go to his home. How often he
invited me to his cottage, and how often I enjoyed his generous hospitality.

" '0 for the touch of a vanished hand,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

" 'My acquaintance with Mr. Kelly began in September, 1856, when I
met him at a teachers' institute in Como. He was the teacher, but soon
became county superintendent. Under his administration, the schools of
Whiteside received a vigorous impulse. He visited the schools during the
day and addressed the patrons at night. And what addresses they were.!
He was a remarkable speaker before a crowd of plain people. His rich voice,
hearty manner, fund of anecdotes always charmed, and the announcement
that Kelly was to speak was sure to pack the house. Like Washington,
Beecher and men of earnest natures, Prof. Kelly took much delight in
outdoor life. His cottage on the edge of Morrison was a poet's home, with
its oaks, vines and shrubbery He was the Nestor of Whiteside teachers.
Of all in service during his early visitations, only four remain, John Phinney
of Morrison, Grove Wright of Rock Falls, D. N. Foster of Sterling and
myself. In his eighty-seventh year, David Dudley Field, the eminent lawyer,
composed a remarkable poem, which I believe represents the very sentiments
which governed our dear friend Kelly in his later years:

" 'What is it now to live? It is to breathe
The air of heaven, behold the pleasant earth,
The shining rivers, the inconstant sea,
Sublimity of mountains, wealth of clouds,
And radiance o'er all of countless stars.
It is to sit before the cheerful hearth
With groups of friends and kindred, store of books,
Rich heritage from ages past,
Hold sweet communion, soul with soul.' '

Of all the teachers in the county in 1858, only four remain at the
present writing, November, 1907 : Grove Wright of Rock Falls, John Phin-
ney near Morrison, and D. N. Foster and W. W. Davis of Sterling.

J"hn Phinnev was one of the features at the institutes. His hobbies

were grammar and mental arithmetic, and he was always ready to take up


the cudgel in defense of any method of his that was carelessly criticised. He
made no pretensions to elegant speech, but was perfectly able in his earnest
way to maintain every principle he espoused. Mr. Phinney taught at vari-
ous places, Unionville, Sterling, Como, was thorough in his drills and gave
universal satisfaction.

D. N. Foster's usefulness was confined to Jordan, chiefly at the Capp
school, and he retired early from the strain of professional life to engage in
farming. He now owns the Doc Coe farm on the Freeport road. His wife,
formerly Miss Carrie Dinsmoor, a Massachusetts girl, niece of the late Hon.
James Dinsmoor, was also a teacher, and during their residence in the
country, was a director of the district school.

Grove Wright was in some respects the most successful teacher in the
county. There have been more scholarly principals, but none who had the
art of infusing so much enthusiasm into his pupils. They all believed in
Wright, and heartily entered into every plan he proposed. Most of his work
was in Sterling, in the second and the third wards. His exhibitions every
winter in old Wallace Hall had a delightful mixture of declamations, dia-
logues, music, various performances, that were heartily enjoyed. Nothing
before or since like them. He was a good singer, and music was a promi-
nent feature in his schools.

Miss Mary Oilman, a graduate of Mt. Holyoke, who taught in the old
second ward school in 1857 and 8, and who, Grove Wright says, was the
best scholar in Latin, history and mathematics he ever met, had a terrible
experience in her later years. She married Rev. U. Small, first pastor of
the Sterling Cong, church, and they had one son, Forrest, for whose educa-
tion they made every sacrifice. Scarcely had he entered upon the practice
of law in Minnesota, when his body was found one morning, the victim of a
brutal and mysterious murder. Mrs. Small, always delicate, gradually pined
away, and the poor father, left in double desolation, also died a few years ago.

C. B. Smith kept a select school in the basement of the old Presbyterian
church on the site of the present township high school. Maria Denning,
daughter of Rev. S. F. Denning, pioneer Methodist minister, was a pupil in
Latin, and died afterwards in Cuba. Smith studied law, and died in Mount
Carroll, where he. practiced law for many years.

H. H. Smith, no relative, was in the county for several years. He was
one of those trained minds, .full, quick, ready to see a joke, wore glasses,
master of the subjects he was called to teach. Always welcome at the insti-

Maurice Savage was a fixture at Round Grove where he taught with
great acceptance for a long time. An excellent mathematician. After his
marriage, he went south where he still resides, engaged in some other business.

There were the Kimballs, two brothers, serious, earnest fellows, who were
both engaged at different times in the school at Unionville.

Of the girls. Miss Martha Millikan and Mary Scott must not be forgotten.
Miss Millikan married and died in 1908, and Mary Scott, after a devoted
career, sleeps in the cemetery at Lyndon.

Another of OUT pioneer teachers, Mrs. Lucius E. Rice, formerly Martha



C. Coburn, still lives at Lyndon in the active discharge of her domestic duties.
She began to teach in Vermont, her native state, and after seven years of
service there, removed to Wisconsin, where she taught three years, and then
to Lyndon, spending another three years in the school room. At Peacham,
Vt., she attended the school of which "the famous Thaddeus Stevens was a
pupil. She saw the house where he was born, and remembers his coming
there to see about a burial lot for his mother. He once said to a minister:
"If what you speak of is religion, my mother had it." Not far from her
town, the wonderful mathematician, Zerah Colburn was born. As we all
know, New England people for two generations swore by Colburn's arith-
metic. It came next to the primer and the catechism with its

In Adam's fall
We sinned all.

One of Mrs. Rice's teachers confidently affirmed that with three "things anyone
could pass successfully through this vale of tears: the Bible, Webster's dic-
tionary and Colburn's arithmetic.

Perhaps the most venerable, the longest in service of any of our teachers,
was Mrs. John Whallon, widow of the well known captain. She was born
in 1832, coming with the father in wagon in 1837 from Massachusetts. Mar-
tha began to teach as a mere girl, returning to Galesburg after a time for
^ further preparation. She taught at Sterling in 1848 when there was no
school building and Col. Wilson had to hunt a room and seat it, at Rock
Falls .then Rapids city, when the river was innocent of bridge and had to be
forcled. She was in faithful service all over the county, at Como, Lyndon,
Prophetstown, Portland, Fulton. In her first terms she received one dollar
and a half per week, and boarded around. Mrs. Whallon spent the sunset
of her active and useful life in quiet retirement amid ancestral scenes in

W. W. Davis generally had an essny or lecture at the early institutes.
He was for some time secretary, and every night during the sessions read a
critical report of mistakes made during the day. Most of his teaching in the
county was at Empire, now Emerson. Some of his former 'pupils have risen
to prominence elsewhere. Miss Alice Dinsmoor was for many years principal
of a young ladies' seminary in Brooklyn, Wilson Sterling is professor in the
state university at Lawrence, Kansas, John K. Reed is a missionary in Litheria
on the west coast of Africa, Dr. J. F. Keefer is one of the leading physicians
of. Sterling, Rev. W. C. Seidel, D. D., now at Nashville, Tennessee, in charge
of a Lutheran church has long been active in the service of that denomina-
tion, east and west.

I've wandered to the village, Tom,

I've sat beneath the tree,
Upon the schoolhou.-e playground,

That sheltered you and me;


But none were left to greet me, Tom,

And few were left to know,
That played with us upon the green,

Just twenty years ago.


On Jordan's stormy banks I stand,

And cast a wishful eye,
To Canaan's fair and happy land,

Where my possessions lie. Samuel Stennet.

All roads lead to Rome, or did, and three of the best highways in the
county lead from Sterling to Jordan : the Freeport road, the Hoover, and the
Pennington. If you go out the Freeport road, which starts from the east
end of Sterling, on the left is the Catholic cemetery of ten acres, and although
new, has many handsome monuments. We pass John Zigler's place with its
boxes of bees and yards of chickens, each breed by itself. That frame dwell-
ing was the home of D. 0. Coe, or Dish, as he was called, long an elder in the
Presbyterian church. Over there to the west is the farm house of Mrs. George
Royer, with an unfailing spring in the cellar, a good place for butter and
milk. Farm after farm of families all scattered.

They grew in beauty side by side,
They filled one home with glee,
Their graves are severed far and wide,
By mount and stream and sea.

The Bressler farm and the Doc or Jonathan F. Coe place, now owned
by D. N. Foster. The father of these Goes was Simeon M., who came to Jor-
"dan in 1835 and died in 1848. His wife was Mary Miles. A large family
of 13 children, mostly boys. Each son got a farm. S. M. or Sim, who lived in
the southern part of Jordan, was for years town treasurer. Near the Doc
Coe place was an early frame schoollwmse, called the Coe school. It was taken
down, and a new stone building erected on the west of the road, called the
Stone school.

Penrose is the business center of Jordan. There is a commodious gen-
eral store with dwelling attached and a well kept lawn and garden on side and
rear. W. D. Detweiler and wife are the accommodating proprietors. Just
this side is a small Quaker graveyard containing the graves pf Elida John,
who died in 1888 at seventy-seven, and Sarah, his wife, in 1890, at ninety.
Also that of A. C. John, son, hospital steward of 34th 111. Infantry, who
died in 1899 at 67. The little meeting house is now a dwelling. An iroli
fence in front. Here is a United Brethren church. Radical, built in 1896,
with 23 members, and preaching every second Sunday. A Sunday school
and Y. P. society. There are three Sunday schools in Jordan.

The White church formerly, now East Jordan church, is the strong-
est religious organization in the,town. Originally erected as a union edifice,
but now controlled by the Liberal branch of the United Brethren, with Rev.


J. A. F. King as pastor. A flourishing Sunday school of 150 pupils with
Alex. Anderson as superintendent. Mrs. Lizzie Detweiler has home depart-
ment and circulates lesson leaves in both English and German. The latter
is Sonntagschul Lektionen, published at Mennonite Book Concern. Berne,
Indiana. There are also a C. Endeavor and Junior E. Mrs. M. Kidder has
the first primary of 30 scholars. Mrs. Nelson Jacobs, sister of Dr. J. C.
Maxwell, Sterling, has the cradle roll of 24 tots, and has held the position
for 26 years.

Now let us drive beyond Penrose two miles, and on descending a hill
a little valley lies before us, and prominent in the outlook towers a large
frame building, grand, gloomy and peculiar. It is Wilson's old mill, for
thirty years a scene of busy traffic. Here came Joseph Wilson from Pennsyl-
vania, and built a log mill in 1836. An enterprising man, and from time
to time he installed improvements to keep his grists to date, sparing no
expense. His flour put up in family sacks had a high reputation, and a gen-
eration of Sterling and Dixon people believed no bread or cake could be
undertaken without Wilson's flour. "Take no other." He hauled the goods
himself to the towns, and many a day has the writer seen the venerable
miller perched on the top of a two-horse load on his way to market. He
delivered himself from house to house. The dam was thrown across Buffalo
creek, and the meadow with the race on one side and woodland on the further
hill, made an ideal landscape of rural beauty.

How dear to this heart
Are the scenes of my childhood,
When fond recollection
Presents them to view.

Not long before his death he enlarged the residence, making many rooms,
perhaps for the entertainment of strangers, for the place was the center of a
Quaker influence. Every Sunday Friends' meeting was held for the benefit of
the few disciples who assembled there. Frances was a zealous advocate for
her faith, and loaned the writer Clarkson's Portraiture of the Quakers. Both
Joseph and Frances are buried in the orchard at the home, the sons are gone.
Mary lived alone in the spacious mansion for twenty years until a nephew
lately moved in, while the huge mill, silent and tenantless, is occupied as a
warehouse by a farmer.

To what base uses do we come at last.

The big water wheel also remains. The whole structure speaks of deso-
lation, and is a mute reminder of departed prosperity.

One of the best men who ever lived in Jordan was James Talbott. who
came from Westmoreland, Pa., in 1835. A carpenter in the east, but here
he became a farmer. A devout Methodist. Oliver, born in 1833, is the best
known of the surviving children and now resides in Polo. His wife is Mary
Furry, a prominent writer and speaker in the W. C. T. U.

In form, the late Jacob Vogdes was the Saul of the township. He was
from Pennsylvania, kept bachelor hall on his eighty for some years, and in


1859 started for Pike's Peak and continued his journey to California, where
he died after a varied career in mining. He was seventy-two. He was six
feet four, broad shouldered and massively built. Jovial and kindly, his face
always wearing a smile.

About two miles from Wilson's mill was the log cabin of Charles Diller,
in which he lived from 1850 to his removal to Sterling in 1878. He had
been a teacher in Pennsylvania, was the most intelligent man in his neighbor-
hood, was school director and justice of the peace, and kept open house. His
wife, Ann (Thompson), was the soul of hospitality. Of four boys, Thomas
was teacher in the country and Sterling for several terms, and in 1889 was
appointed postmaster of Sterling by Harrison, in 1897 by McKinley and again
in 1901. He purchased the Standard as a weekly from Theodore Mack, and
in cooperation with J. W. Newcomer, published the paper until its appear-
ance as a daily in 1893, Mr. Newcomer retiring.

The Diller farm of nearly 400 acres was purchased by the late W. A.
Sanborn, banker, and turned into a stock ranch by the erection of extensive
barns. It is now owned by Fernandus Jacobs, who, with his 1,068 acres, is
easily the largest land owner in Jordan. He started without a dollar and is
still under sixty. It is a little singular that another man of almost the same
name, John Adam Jacob, a foreign German, coming here poor, died at 64,
owning 1,000 acres in Jordan and much in Iowa.

On the crossroad from the Freeport to the Pennington is Jordan Center
with its town hall erected in 1888 after a hot contest about the site with Pen-
rose and a neat schoolhouse, both painted white. On the east side of the
Pennington road stands the First Evangelical Lutheran church of Jordan
with a pretty cupola and bell. Rev. Frederick William Schneider, Baden,
Germany, is pastor. He was at the gymnasium of Breslun from 1881-1885,
and three years at the theological school of Capitol university, Columbus,
Ohio. The church was organized in 1874, remodeled in 1897, is well equipped
with organ and other essentials, and is a credit to. the people. An addition
to the comfortable parsonage in 1907. Henry Helms, Henry Bitters, Ber-
nard Fulfs, are the deacons. Besides the Sunday school of 80 pupils, there
are Ladies' Aid society and Luther League. Membership of two hundred.
The ground for church and cemetery was given by John Wolfersperger, who
was one of the large landholders in that district. At one time he had a
dairy of fifty cows, sending butter to St. Louis. His son, Aaron, is now
Judge Wolfersperger of Sterling. Mr. Wolfersperger came to the country
in 1851.

South of the church is another landmark, the Capp schoolhouse. The
first in 1856, the later one about 1867. D. N. Foster, now in Sterling, taught
there before 1860. Across the Elkhorn to the east was the Hubbard Grove
school, in which from 1856 onwards we find wielding the birch such tyros
as W. W. Davis, John Lennon, C. W. Marston and others. Charles Diller,
James Woods and John Furry were directors.

In September, 1907, occurred at the Jordan Lutheran church an event
that was productive of much good and pleasure. It was the meeting of the
Wartburg Synod, the session continuing several days. Seldom that the staid


people of a farming community are favored with so many ministers and so
much preaching. One noon the Ladies' Aid society served dinner in the
Sunday school. It was a sumptuous entertainment of the richest viands that
only country pantries can furnish, and in a quantity that left a surplus for
another banquet.

The cemetery adjoins the church and has many elegant memorials of
granite and marble. The lots are kept in good order.

Gone before

To that unknown and silent shore.

The W. C. T. U. flourishes in Jordan. At one of their late festivals 87
guests were present, and the occasion afforded great delight and profit to the
happy throng. An excellent and varied program comprising a violin solo,
a duet and quartet, followed by an earnest and suggestive address by Mrs.
Dunlap of Champaign on the requisites of an ideal home. Bountiful refresh-
ments at the close.

Another admirable feature of Jordan life is the interest in the Sunday
school cause. The East Jordan Loyal alumni celebrated their sixth anni-
versary in the winter of 1907 at the home of James Anderson with a banquet
and toasts. The roll in five years grew from 23 to a membership of 55. Five
years faithful attendance is the condition of membership.

The Loyal Sunday School Army Alumni is an adjunct of the East Jordan
Sunday school. The organization is composed of persons who have passed
a grade of seventy-five per cent, perfect in attendance, lesson study and con-
tribution for four consecutive quarters in each year for five years. The class
at present numbers fifty-two. A banquet is held annually at which officers
are elected for the ensuing year. The officers for the year 1908 are as follow- :
President, Mrs. Emily C. Coats; secretary, Miss Myrtle Sivits; treasurer, Mr.
Clarence Parks.

The W. C. T. U. was organized about twenty years ago with a member-
ship of one hundred. The present officers are: Mrs. Ida Anderson, president;
Mrs. Jennie Jacob, treasurer; Mrs. Martha Dick, secretary. Parlor meetings
are held at the different homes, one a month.

The Royal Neighbors were organized Aug. 24, 1898, and the present
membership is 58. The number of the camp is 1103. Of the nine officer.-.
Mrs. Ruth Sivits is oracle; Miss Margaret Coats, recorder, Miss Sarah Hocker,
receiver; and Dr. Jane Keefer, physician. Jordan is a progressive community
and takes hold of every movement that promises benefit to the general welfare.

An amusing incident, happened about 1894 in connection with a mission
fest or service held in the woods near the John Kratz farm. Tt was in autumn
and was under the auspices of the Jordan Lutheran church. The preaching
was mostly in German. One of the speakers in an exciting flight of elo-
quence and fancy, exclaimed. "I see a fire!" at the same time, 'to give force
to his remark, pointing in the direction of the house of a simple hearer who
sat on a front bench. He took the orator at his word, and as his dwelling
was in that direction, seized his hat and darted off like a deer to quench the
flames. The scare almost broke up the meeting. After the service was over,


Dr. Severingshaus advised the young preacher to avoid hereafter being too


Two sudden blows with a ragged stick,

And one with a heavy stone,
One hurried gash with a hasty knife,

And then the deed was done:
There was nothing lying at my feet

But lifeless flesh and bone!

Hood's Dream of Eugene Aram.

A mile south of the Jordan Lutheran church a mysterious murder
occurred on the night of May 31, 1897. After a careful examination of all
the circumstances connected with the affair, Walter Stager, states attorney,
made an official report to the board of supervisors, filling six columns of the
Sterling Standard, from which we glean the following outline:

Tobias Kauffman at one time lived on his farm, six miles north of Ster-
ling, on the west side of the Pennington road. In 1894 he moved into a
house on the east side of the road, farther north, on the George Kapp farm,
whose wife, Hattie, he had married. After moving, he continued to keep
some stock and grain on the old place, where remained the usual sheds, pens,
cribs and granary. George was the only son left at home, the other broth-
ers have gone. He was twenty-one in January, 1898. In April, 1897, some
little pigs were missing on the old farm, and on examination it was believed
that grain was also stolen. Suspecting that the thief might return for further
plunder, George decided to sleep in the vacant dwelling. On Monday even-
ing, May 31, 1897, between seven and eight, George, armed with a big navy
revolver, left home to spend the night at the lonely house. This was his
last appearance alive. The next morning, as he did not come to break-
fast, his father started to look for the boy. Now a few words of explanation
about the scene of the catastrophe. Southwest of the vacant dwelling was a
strawstack. Half way between the strawstack and granary was a corn crib
and pig pen. On approaching the spot, the father saw smoke, and then the
strawstack on fire. He ran around the stack and into the house where he
found George's shoes. Mr. Kauffman then ran towards his home, calling for
help. His daughter Jessie, the hired man Schroeder and a boy soon came,
and presently, just in front of the granary, George's cap and a piece of his
shirt sleeve were found. Inside the granary door a stick of wood was found
which may have been used to knock the boy down. The next move as to
the burning straw pile. Using a long wire to rake off the blazing top, the
body of George was discovered and brought to the ground. The corpse was
naked, black and badly burned. The forehead was smashed, the skull
cracked and a bullet had passed through the head. Afterwards George's revol-
ver, watch and much blood were discovered on the spot where the body had

This, then, is the result of the investigation : George had taken off his
shoes on going to bed, and hearing a noise, rushed out in his stocking feet,


and at the granary received the blow that smashed his skull. The body was
placed on the stack, shot, and the stack set on fire. The only motive for his
murder must have been to prevent his informing on the thieves whom he
had surprised.

As may be supposed this horrible affair created intense excitement, and
for weeks the scene of blood was visited by hundreds of people, far and near.
No clue was ever found, and the murder of George Kauffman will remain
among the dread mysteries of crime.

Besides, this Duncan

Hath borne his faculties so meek, hath been
So clear in his great office, that his virtues
Will plead like angels, trumpet-tongued. against
The deep damnation of his taking off.


In 1853 Archibald Maxwell came over, and in 1854 James, William
and John, settling on land west of Wilson's mill. About the same time, Mr.
and Mrs. Charles Crichton opened a place in the woods south of Hnbbard's
Grove school. They died several years ago, and none of their numerous
family remain in the neighborhood. When Mr. Crichton arrived he had
barely money enough to buy a cookstove, but at his death had a well improved
farm. They all came from the vicinity of Glasgow and brought with them
the ancient Gaelic virtues of thrift and sobriety.

There were also the Andersons. James came to America in 1851, and
in 1853 returned for his wife. After living awhile at Buffalo Grove. Ogle
county, then in Clyde township, they finally cast their lot in Jordan, where
they engaged in fanning until their removal to Sterling, nearly twenty

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 6 of 72)