History of Grand Rapids Township, LaSalle County, Illinois

Grand Rapids Township

Grand Rapids and Fall River, till 1863, were one town, named Grand Rapids, from the Grand Rapids of the Illinois, which washed its northern border. It now embraces the Township 32 N., R. 4. There is a grove of timber along the creek on Secs. 6 and 7, called Ebersol's Grove; the remainder of the town is prairie. Covell creek rises near the southeast corner, and, running northwest, passes out on S. 6. The high land or divides on the east and west sides of the town are quite elevated, and have considerable descent to the creek and its branches, in the centre of the town, giving good drainage, a diversified surface, and a more than ordinarily picturesque view to a prairie landscape.

The early settlements were nearly all on the only grove in the town, on Secs. 6 and 7.

Luke Rugg, with his wife, Salome Patch, and family, from Lancaster, Worcester County, Mass., settled on S. 23, in 1839. He was one of the Worcester colony, started by Geo. W. Lee, John D. Thurston, Pyam Jacobs, and others. Mr. Rugg, at the time of settlement, was four miles from timber and three miles from neighbors, and after a residence of ten years neither timber nor neighbors had approached any nearer, except a grove of locust about his place, known over the county as Rugg's Grove.

Sick of seclusion from society and despairing of the settlement of that region, Mr. Rugg moved to Ottawa in 1849, where he died. His children are: Lewis, who came with his father's family in 1839 ; married Sophia Dimmick ; lived a few years in Ottawa, and is now in Pontiac. George H., lived with his father, till he moved to Ottawa, in 1849. He invented and manufactured Rugg's Harvester, for several years a popular and successful machine. He is now manufacturing furniture in Ottawa. Charles went to Iowa.

The prairie region of Grand Rapids, after 1850, rapidly settled, and the region so long occupied by Mr. Rugg, and him alone, was, soon after he left it, teeming with an active and well-to-do population. It is related that the settlement of that town commenced at the north end and progressed south. The town was soon made a school district, and a schoolhouse built in the northwest corner. Soon after, that district was limited to four sections, named No. 1, and the remainder made district No. 2, and a good house built; that district was then limited to four sections in the northeast corner, and the balance of the town made district No. 3, which at once voted a tax to build a school-house. This process was continued till 'the last four sections in the southeast corner of the town, having helped build all the school-houses in the other eight districts, had to build their own without outside help. The houses were all very fine ones. They were built by a tax on the real estate in the district, and by a vote of the people who lived in all those instances mostly in the four sections, which in the end composed the district, and as the remainder of the territory taxed was nearly all owned by speculators, with no one residing on it, the voters were very generous in voting a tax, or as some called it, "salting the speculators."

One of those speculators who owned three sections in the last district, complained of being legally fleeced. He said, " I have paid a liberal tax to build nine different school-houses, better ones than are usually seen in older sections of the country, and now three men settled on the one section I do not own, vote a tax of ten or twelve hundred dollars, three fourths of which I have to pay. These Western men are ardent supporters of education." This last statement of the building of school-houses may have been an exaggeration in this instance, but similar cases did occur, and forcibly show the nature of the contest waged between the settlers and those called land speculators. And where the settlers made the laws and executed them, they frequently had the advantage.

[Source: History of LaSalle County, Illinois by Elmer Baldwin, Chicago, Rand, McNally & Co., Printers, 1877, SKETCH OF THE PIONEER SETTLERS OF EACH TOWN IN THE COUNTY, Grand Rapids, Page 451-454 - Transcribed by Nancy Piper]