Livingston County, Illinois
Pleasant Ridge, at an early period in the history of Livingston County, was one-quarter of the election precinct known as Saunemin, and, as noticed in another chapter, for a year or two after township organization, was a portion of Saunemin Township. It was soon divided, however, leaving Pleasant Ridge and Charlotte one town, and they so remained until 1864, when, upon petition to the Board of Supervisors, Pleasant Ridge was set off from Charlotte, but through some method of sharp practice, managed to retain the original name — Pleasant Ridge — together with the township property, etc., as detailed in the history of Charlotte Township.
As a political town. Pleasant Ridge is fractional. That portion lying north of the river votes and transacts all of its business in Saunemin Township, owing to the difficulty of crossing and re-crossing the sometimes turbulent little stream; while as a regular Congressional and School Township, it comprises the usual thirty-six sections, and is known as Township 27 north. Range 7 east. Its soil is irrigated and drained by the North Branch of the Vermilion River, which flows through the township in a westerly direction, and which is bordered by the only native timber the town affords.
The name Pleasant Ridge is derived from the beautiful undulating surface of the land, which has much the appearance of the gentle swell of the ocean.
The first permanent settler in what is now Pleasant Ridge Township was Nathan Townsend. He came from Cape May County, New Jersey, and settled on the southwest section (31) of the town, in June, 1843. His settlement and claim was in the timber skirting the Vermilion River, and was the only one in the territory embraced in Pleasant Ridge for a number of years. He bought his claim, which had been made originally by a man named Brooks, noticed as one of the early settlers of Avoca Township.
This man Brooks, though he had built a cabin and made a claim here, and had even lived on the claim for a short time, is really not considered an actual settler, and had sold the claim to a man named Wilson, who had never lived on it, but had sold it to one Leighton, and Leighton sold it to Townsend. It seems to have been a practice of Brooks to make a claim, erect a cabin on it, and then sell it to some other party, as we hear of him among the old settlers in several different neighborhoods. After disposing of this claim, he made one in the next grove east, being just on the edge of Forrest Township, and which he made without any regard to the points of the compass, but was located on four different " forties." He finally removed to Iowa.
This settlement of Townsend, however, is usually mentioned as the first in Pleasant Ridge, and, as stated above, was made a number of years before another family sought the neighborhood. For the first years of their life in the wilderness, and until they got a start, their lot was rather a hard one. When Townsend first settled here, there were few families within a radius of a dozen miles, and we have the word of Daniel Townsend, a son of Nathan Townsend's, that he knew every man living between Ash Grove and Rook's Creek, a distance of sixty miles. They sometimes had hard scratching to live, and went to Chicago for salt, and to Wilmington to mill, and to Green's Mill near Ottawa.
Daniel Townsend related to us how an uncle of his had been to mill once, in Winter, when the weather was intensely cold. Becoming so cold that he could not remain in the wagon, he got out to walk, when it is supposed that walking by the side of his wagon, he drew one line a little tighter than the other, thus pulling his horses round in a circle. He finally realized the fact that he was lost on the prairie, and it covered with snow, with a cold wind blowing from the North. Seeing that he must inevitably freeze to death if he wandered on in this way, he turned his horses loose from the wagon, thinking that they would strike out on a due course for home, and he would follow their trail, being too cold to attempt to ride ; but they dashed off from the wind, contrary to his expectations. All night long he wandered over the prairie and through the snow, the utmost exertions required to keep from freezing to death. At daylight the next morning, he found his way to Mr. Townsend's, so nearly frozen that he fell in the yard, and but for timely aid must have died in a very short while. He was taken in and cared for, and Mr. Townsend's boys went out to look for the horses, which, however, were never found alive. They had wandered a long distance from home, and seemed to have taken refuge from the wind in a deep ravine, where they either starved or froze to death, and were found finally by tracking wolves to their skeletons.
When Townsend used to go to Wilmington to mill, there was but one cabin between their settlement and the Kankakee River, and it had been deserted for a time. Of the Townsend family, there are still living in this immediate neighborhood three of the sons—Daniel, George and Aquilla ; and two sisters — Mrs. A. Towns and Mrs. Breckenridge. Another brother lives in Wisconsin, and a sister in Texas ; while the father, Nathan Townsend, has recently removed to Nebraska. Isaac Wilson came from Indiana, in 1837, and settled in Avoca, where he is noticed in the early settlement of that township. He remained there until he came to Pleasant Ridge and settled in 1853, among the earliest, after Townsend, and where he is still living.
He was the first Supervisor, and held the office when Pleasant Ridge was included in Saunemin Township, together with Sullivan and Charlotte. He was also one of the first, if not the very first, Justices of the Peace in this township, after becoming a town to itself. He stated that he used to haul grain to Chicago, when this great city was a small village almost buried in the mud and mire.
Hiram Popejoy and Henry Demoss, both from Avoca Township and belonging to families that rank among the earliest settlers there, came to this neighborhood in or about 1850, and made settlements. Popejoy finally removed to Fairbury, where he now lives. Demoss, after some years, returned to Avoca and still resides there.
James Maddin is also an early settler in Pleasant Ridge, though north of the river, and in that portion of the town which votes in Saunemin. He came from Wheeling, Va., in 1834, and settled in Marshall County, near Lacon, then called Columbia. Peoria was called Ft. Clarke, and five miles up the river from the latter place was another small settlement called Little Detroit. In 1872, he came to Pleasant Ridge, and entered land upon which he still lives. He has held several local offices in the town, such as Assessor and Collector. When Mr. Maddin first settled here, his nearest neighbor, east, was forty miles distant. M. T. Veiley came from New York and settled here in 1855. He first settled in Waukegan, Lake County, from whence he came to this township as above stated.
This comprises a list of some of the earliest settlers in the town, until they began, to move in too fast to keep track of them.
The first birth in Pleasant Ridge Township is supposed to have occurred in the family of Charles Brooks, during the short time he lived on the claim that Townsend afterward bought, and was probably about 1840-41.
The first death in the township was Levi Ide, a young man who came from Ohio and was living with Townsend. He took sick and died suddenly in 1848, and was buried in the Popejoy graveyard, in Avoca Township. His family afterward came on from Ohio, had his remains taken up and returned and interred them in the family burying-ground in his native State.
The first marriage was a daughter of Charles Brooks and St. Clair Jones, son of Charles Jones, who then lived in Forest Township, and occurred in 1841. His people opposed the match rather strongly, but that ardent
" Young love that laughs at bolts and bars "
seemed to care little for parental frowns, and they were married in spite of all opposition.
Pleasant Ridge has neither a store, post office or mill within its borders. It has but one church edifice, and that belongs to the Ormish society, and is located in the southern part of the town. These people are of a rather peculiar religious belief, as noticed elsewhere in this history, and take little or no interest in worldly matters beyond their necessary pursuits, and hence we are unable to obtain much information in regard to their church, aside from the fact that it exists and is regularly occupied by the members of this faith in its vicinity. There is a burying-ground adjacent, the only public cemetery in the township.
Notwithstanding there are no other church buildings, there are church organizations, which are held in the school houses. There is a regular society of the Christian denomination in School House No. 2, and services are held every Sabbath by them or by the Methodists. A large Sunday school attends this school house regularly. Services are also held in many of the other school houses in the town.
The first Justice of the Peace in Pleasant Ridge, as already stated, was Isaac Wilson, who was likewise one of the first lists of Justices elected after the formation of the county. The first practicing physicians in the town were Drs. Gentry and Hulsey, of Pontiac, who used to extend their professional visits to this neighborhood. The first bridge was a wooden structure spanning the North Branch of the Vermilion River, which was a kind of temporary affair, and was finally washed away. The spot where it was built is now adorned by an elegant iron bridge, put up in the Fall of 1874, and at a cost of about three thousand dollars.
The first schools in Pleasant Ridge were taught by Clement Hinman, in School House No. 2, and Perry Abby, in the Beal School House, in 1858. These houses were both built that year, and the schools above noticed taught immediately after they were completed.
By examination of the school records in possession of M. W. Moulton, Township Treasurer, we find that the first meeting of Trustees of which there is any record was held on the 2d of March, 1861, and that there were present William R. Beatch and William R. Tucker; Henry Hefner, Clerk. Henry C. Hefner presented his bond as Treasurer, in the amount of $13,000, with Joel Tucker, James McDonald and Amos Bright as security, which was approved and ordered to be filed.
At a meeting held March 18th of the same year, James Sackett was elected an additional Trustee, and Beatch President of the Board.
At the April meeting. Town 27, Range 7 east, was divided into school districts, as follows, viz. : District No. 1, to be composed of Sections 36 to 25, and one-fourth from Sections 24, 23, 22, 21, 20, taken from the south side of said sections, and south half of southeast quarter of Section 19. District No. 2, of Sections 5, 6, 7, 8, 17, 18 and 19, with some fractional parts of other sections. District No. 3 included the remainder of the township. Several schedules of teachers were presented and disposed of in the usual way.
From Treasurer Moulton's last report to County Superintendent of Schools we take the following statistics:
Number of males in township under 21 years: 295
Number of females in township under 21 years: 225
Number of males between 6 and 21 years: 231
Number of females between 6 and 21 years: 147
Number of males attending school: 174
Number of females attending school: 108
Highest monthly wages paid any teacher: $48.25
Highest monthly wages paid female teacher: $35.00
Lowest monthly wages paid male teacher: $30.00
Lowest monthly wages paid female teacher: $22.00
Average amount paid male teachers: $39.87
Average amount paid female teachers: $30.13
Whole amount paid teachers: $1,848.61
Estimated value of school property: $5,400.00
Estimated value of school apparatus: $90.50
Estimated value of school libraries: $12.00
Principal of township fund: $7,002.47
District tax levy for support of schools: $1,640.00
There are seven school districts in the township, in all of which there are good, comfortable frame buildings, and flourishing schools maintained for the usual term during each year. Mr. Moulton, the School Treasurer, one of the wealthy farmers of the. town, came from New Hampshire and settled on his present place in 1866.
As stated in another portion of this history, Isaac Wilson was the first Supervisor of this township, and held the office in 1859. In 1861, George E. Esty was elected Supervisor, and was succeeded by C. G. Friend, in 1863, and he the next year by H. J. Roberts. L. Wallace was elected in 1865, and J. K. Clarke in 1866, who continued in office until 1870, when William Blain came in as Supervisor of the town, and was in turn succeeded by M. T. Veiley in 1873. In 1875, J. H. Carter was elected to the office, and succeeded by J. K. Clarke in 1876, and he in 1878 by M. W. Moulton, who is the present Supervisor.
Other township officers are as follows : J. M. Hanna, Town Clerk; B. M. Bullard, Assessor ; William Bell, Collector ; J. H. Carter and Louis Holloway, Justices of the Peace.
As stated in the early part of this chapter, the only native timber in Pleasant Ridge Township is along the Vermilion River. But many of the citizens have planted and cultivated timber, until there is not a section of the prairie land, nor perhaps a quarter section, but has beautiful groves of timber on it, planted since the land was settled. Pleasant Ridge has much very fine farming land, while there is some in the timber along the river that is rather thin soil.
It is situated in the second tier of townships, with Saunemin on the north, Charlotte on the east, Forrest on the south, and Avoca on the west, and is probably about four-fifths prairie land.
Politically, Pleasant Ridge is strongly Republican, and has been almost from the first organization of the Republican party. Of late years, the Granger element has had some effect on its political status ; yet, in all cases involving strict political principles, the Republicans carry the day.
The war record was equally good, and compares favorably with any township of a like population in the county. The names of its soldiers will be found in our war record, in another department of this history.
[The History of Livingston County, Illinois - Wm. LeBaron, Jr. & Co. - 186 Dearborn Street, Chicago (1878)]