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History of New Boston  - Mercer County, Illinois


HISTORY OF MERCER COUNTY, Chicago: H. H. Hill and Company, Publishers, 1882 - Transcribed by Veneta McKinney


The township of New Boston embraces congressional township 14 north, and ranges 5 and 6 west, extending to the Mississippi river. The eastern part is undulating and contains a depth and richness of soil unexcelled in the county. The western part of the township is level, containing a narrow strip of sandy soil, in some places almost destitute of vegetation; between this strip and the undulating region of the east the bottom land is extremely fertile and produces heavy crops.

The minerals, as far as known, are limited in kind and quantity, being wholly comprised in a stone quarry at the mouth of the Edwards river. The drainage is excellent. The swamp lands so common to some localities are almost wholly wanting here. The Edwards river flows through the township, entering on section 1 and passing out on section 33. In the western part are several small lakes, of which Bald Eagle, Eliza and Swan lakes are the principal ones. The township is well supplied with timber in the eastern part and along the river bottom, the kinds being oak, maple, walnut, sycamore, and similar deciduous trees.

The township has a somewhat interesting railroad history, to which we shall refer more fully farther on. The Galva and Keithsburg branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy enters the township on section 24 and takes a diagonal course to the town of New Boston, a branch running to Keithsburg from a point on section 27, thereby giving a southern outlet and southern connections.

This, in brief, is a description of the town today, with its happy, independent, self-reliant people. Let us turn back to earlier days and trace the work of the hardy pioneers, who bravely struggled to reclaim the land from its native wilderness, and plant here the institutions of the more favored east.

To Mr. William Denison and his son John W. belong the honor of planting the first settlement in the township, as well as in the county. They were Pennsylvanians, and came directly from Wayne county, Indiana, having previously lived for a short time in Ohio. They settled near the site of the present town of New Boston in 1827, and there lived in close and friendly relations with the Indians who at that time frequented the place. The vicinity offered many attractions to the Indians in the shape of hunting and fishing; and, indeed, at the present time it has more than a local celebrity in this respect.

H. W. Denison, a son of John W. Denison, born in 1832, was the first white child born in Mercer county. He is still a resident of New Boston, as is also his mother.

Let the reader pause here a moment and call to aid his imagination in picturing a settlement of this kind. On the one hand a boundless waste of prairie, covered with tall waving grass, which sinks and rises with a billowy motion, as far as the eye can reach. On the other hand the great Father of Waters, spread out in silent majesty, or lashed to fury by the untrammeled winds which sometimes sweep over the plains from the west. Here was to be found the savage in his native wildness. Here he smoked his pipe of peace or hallooed his wild war-dance. And here was started the first settlement of what was to be, at a future time, one of the myriads of fair towns that dot the broad State of Illinois.

The elder Denison had several children besides John W., mentioned above. Among them were Erastus, James, Joseph, Ezra, Newton and Elmer. The family of Denisons, individually and collectively, occupied the greater portion of the region bordering on the river, including what is now the town of New Boston.

During the Black Hawk war of 1832, the Denisons left the county, but returned after the close of hostilities. Their being enabled to leave the county uninjured was due wholly to the warning of friendly Indians. The first of these warnings were not heeded, but at last those Indians with whom they were friendly came and told them that, as they seemed determined to stay and be killed, it was thought best to let the friendly Indians kill them decently. The family concluded that they would take an excursion in preference to staying at home, even though the staying would secure "decent" killing by their friends. The story is told that, after they had left, their Indian friends gathered up all the articles that had been left in the hurry and excitement of the occasion and placed them in the deserted cabin, marking the spot with such signs as would deter other marauding parties from committing any depredations. These articles were found on the return of the family, all in good order and nothing missing. A detailed account of the dangers and narrow escapes is given elsewhere.

Mr. Denison's recollections of the manners, customs and traits of the Indians in this vicinity, are curious and interesting. Though exceedingly cruel after the actual commencement of hostilities, they invariably abstained from any preliminary bloodshedding. When Black Hawk was passing his warriors up the Mississippi, previous to the last campaign of 1832, he came ashore, stopped at Mr. Denison's house, partook of their hospitality, and guarded the house until the last canoe had passed up the river. They were capable of the strongest sentiments of friendship, and held in lasting remembrance any act of kindness, rewarding the same, sometimes, after the lapse of years. They were strictly honest with those whom they considered honest, and though the Denison family lived among them for years they never suffered a loss from theft or other depredation committed by them.

Immediately after the death of an Indian, the family and friends went into mourning for a length of time proportioned to the dignity of the deceased, which continued day and night until the appointed time had expired. When the sick became conscious of approaching death, they usually selected their own burial place, which was located generally on some commanding eminence, thus enabling the spirit to have a commanding view of the surrounding country, with its more or less busy scenes of warfare or friendly intercourse. In burying the dead, a small amount of food was deposited with the body to last the spirit a year. This was repeated until the relation of body and spirit was supposed to be totally severed; usually till about the third year. A stranger was disposed of by being wrapped in bark and hoisted among the branches of some commanding tree. From this fact doubtless arose the supposition that this style was a mode of burial among some of the tribes.

Black Hawk is described as a short, thick-set individual, who was the war chief, while his associate, Keokuk, was a peace chief. Although knowing the superior power of the whites, he made war relying on the help of the Great Spirit to sustain the right. He was taught by bitter experience, as many another has been, the time when "right shall triumph over might" is still in the future.

From Mrs. Margaret Denison, widow of John W. Denison, who was one of the original settlers at the Upper Yellow Banks, we have derived the following information, here given almost in her own words:

William Denison, and his son John W. Denison, with their families, came from Connersville, Ind., to Springfield. Ill., in 1826. In 1827 both families came to this county, arriving on the 2oth of April, and made settlement at New Boston. They were the first white settlers in Mercer count v. A week afterward John Vannatta arrived and located his home on the present site of Keithsburg. His brother Benjamin came two or three years later to the same place. The Denisons pitched their home on the river bank, half a mile below New Boston, where they started and kept a wood yard for supplying steamboats. They lived opposite the old graveyard. William Denison made a claim in that place, and John Denison took the present site of New Boston. Until the Black Hawk war they planted their garden close to where Dr. Willits' house stands, in rear of the Union hotel. The soil was a rich mold on which vegetables flourished ; but it was blown off by the winds, and is now only a bleak sand ridge.

The Indians called this locality "Upper Yellow Banks." From the time of their settlement here till the spring of 1831, the Denisons lived in perfect peace with the Sacs and Foxes. Only occasionally did a Winnebago Indian show himself in these parts. The men of this tribe were large, tall, broad-shouldered, and superior in stature to the Sacs and Foxes, and spoke a different dialect. The Indians dwelt here in great numbers.

In the spring of 1831 the friendly Indians, who belonged to Keokuk's band, told the whites at the Upper Yellow Banks that there was going to be war, and urged them to depart to a place of safety among their own people, or to go with them and they would secure them from harm. Keokuk was living on the Iowa river; he said he was going to build a town, and tried to persuade them to come to his settlement, promising to give them full protection, but they declined to go, feeling that, if they must leave their homes, it would be better to be among their kindred race.

The only settlers at this place at that time were the Denisons, and Daniel S. Witter and wife, and his hired man, named Twist. A captain coming down the river from Rock Island brought word that an outbreak was imminent, and all these persons were taken on board his steamer and carried to Nauvoo. After a sojourn there of two months they returned, but found their corn, which was up large enough to be cultivated when they went away, all destroyed, and not an ear was raised that year. Witter and Twist never came back. The latter had taken a claim and was cutting wood.

Concerning the troubles of this year, it is recorded in the Atlas Map of Mercer county, that after the whites "had been moved to Fort Edwards, now Warsaw, the friendly or 'pet' Indians assembled on the deserted premises, gathered up all the articles of their friends that had been left in the hurry and excitement of the occasion, stored them safely away in the loft of the house, closed the doors securely, and put a mark upon them well understood by the tribes. When the family returned home not an article was missing."

Against this recreation of fancy stands the trustworthy statement of old Mother Denison, that they left behind a part of their movable effects, as dishes, books, soap, chairs, chickens, and that such goods as they could they buried ; but the despoilers carried off everything. Her lady's saddle was found with the plush covering taken off and the skirts cut into strips. Mrs. Denison complained to Keokuk of the loss of this, and when he went to St. Louis, he bought another and gave her.

At that time there was not business enough on the upper Mississippi to call for a special class of boats. The furnishing of wood to these boats was a considerable business. About $3 per cord was paid.

The Denisons all conversed readily in the Indian language, having learned it after their settlement on the river. The Indians could talk but little in English.

Early in 1832 a council of war was held at New Boston. This was attended by Black Hawk, Keokuk, and some 3,000 followers. Black Hawk came down the Mississippi, and Keokuk down the Iowa river, on which he was living. New Boston was a central point, and the general rendezvous on grave or mirthful occasions. The council was held on the site of the town, beneath some scattering trees. The Denisons were present and heard the speeches of the two chiefs. Keokuk spoke first. His counsel was pacific. He told his people that a war with the whites would be wasteful, hopeless, disastrous; that they were as numerous as the trees of the Mississippi valley, and could not be conquered. Black Hawk sullenly closed his ears with his fingers, and refused to hear what was said. He followed in a speech for war. He said the whites had stolen his land; that his father was buried at Rock Island, and his desire was to be laid among his ancestors.

These two men were strikingly dissimilar in personal appearance. Keokuk was large, of fine person, noble bearing, neat in dress, and went appareled like a white man, in fine blue broadcloth. Black Hawk was a heavy set man, not tidy like Keokuk, and wrapped his muscular form in his blanket, though sometimes he was seen to wear a coat.

Once more the Denisons were urged by their red friends to abandon their home. They were told that war was decided upon, and that to remain was to court certain death. They were on familiar and friendly terms with the savages, and their experiences of the year before did not make them hasty subjects of fright. When they asked why the war was not begun when threatened the first time, the Indians replied that they were not ready then ; that they submitted to the situation to gain time; but that they were now fully prepared for war.

The Denisons hesitated about departing three or four days, and all the while the Indians showed a truly anxious interest in their safety and did not relax their exertions to induce them to go away to a white settlement. Keokuk, who was employing all his influence to prevent his followers from joining the war party, promised them protection if they would come and live with him. Appearing still to be determined not to forsake their homes, an Indian calling himself Captain Pepo, who seemed to have a solemn concern about their respectable extermination, came to them and with all the fidelity of a friend urged them to go, telling them that the young warriors who would come would roughly insult and barbarously murder and mutilate them, and that to save them from so painful and humiliating treatment, it they would not leave for a place of safety, "he would come and kill them decently. After this, discovering moccasin tracks among their garden-beds, they concluded that the savages were prowling around, and thought it no longer safe to tarry in the neighborhood. They were living about half a mile down the river, where the woodyard was, and opposite where the graveyard now is. Taking most of their goods, they began their removal one morning, and went down to Pence's Fort, which consisted of some block-houses, and was situated four miles northeast of Oquawka.

Having at the time nearly 150 cords of wood at the yard, the two sons of the senior Denison, William and Erastus, were left behind to cord up what was not piled, and to sell as much as they could to the steamboats. In the turn that affairs took, this wood was all lost.

A Frenclnnan by the name of Pentacosa, who called himself Coty, had a trading house at New Boston, and that evening the young Denisons went up to stay with him. In the night the Indians surrounded the premises and assaulted the building; the three inmates escaped by the back way, and gliding swiftly but cautiously down to the edge of the river, followed along precipitately under the bank, the Indians coming behind and whooping with vengeance. The fleeing men waded the Edwards at the mouth, and then struck for Pope creek, at a point where it was spanned by a foot-log, Ave miles distant. At this point a dog in pursuit closed up with them and Erastus Denison shot him. The Indians were last heard here, about a quarter of a mile back, and it is supposed they threw up the chase at the creek. The party continued their flight apprehensive of pursuit until "Coty" gave out and was secreted by his companions in the tall grass, in a sink or basin. The two men now went forward as rapidly as the darkness of night would allow, and arrived at Pence's at two in the morning, having accomplished the flight of sixteen miles since nightfall. At daylight the men at the stockade turned out to go for the Frenchman, and when he had been safely brought in they went up the river together in boats to the Upper Yellow Banks, and brought away all his goods from the trading post. Two squaws were found sitting in the house, having been stationed there to take care of the place and prevent its being despoiled.

After peace was made and the families returned, the Indians affected to have much sport in telling the Denison boys that in their flight they made the brush crack as if they had been bucks.

Not being satisfied with their confinement at the fort, the Denisons, a week later, went to Monmouth to stay. John Denison bought a house and a small piece of ground, and lived there through the summer. In the fall they came back to New Boston in time to put up hay for winter. William Denison returned to his old place on the river, but John went back two miles, where he made a farm. Mrs. Denison had three small children, and that fall she stayed alone with the children in her house a week, while her husband went back to Monmouth to get his com and potatoes. Mother Denison was a brave woman and felt no alarm, though she heard the guns of the Indian hunters as they were fowling, and her husband's absence was prolonged several days beyond expectation.

The same day that the Denisons left the Upper Yellow Banks, Benjamin Vannatta, who was living at Keithsburg, loaded up his goods at night and drove out on the prairie and remained in a low place, going from there next day to the fort.

Just before hostilities ended a party of seven Indians penetrated the country as far as Little York, and creeping up on a young num named Martin, who was mowing on the prairie, all fired upon him at once and shot him dead. They afterward said that they could have killed many more, but being acquainted with them, and having been fed and warmed by them, they were deterred from taking their lives. Unfortunately, Martin was a stranger who had never had the privilege of bestowing a favor. A company of rangers was raised that summer at Monmouth, and this command scoured the country between Oquawka, New Boston and Monmouth. A detachment of these was sent out after this prowling band and pursued them so close that they threw away everything in their flight, and escaped across the Mississippi.

When Black Hawk returned from his tour to Washington, he had the candor to tell his people that Keokuk was right in his estimate of the strength and number of the whites, and assured them that instead of being as numerous as the trees of the Mississippi valley they were as numberless as the trees and the leaves together.

William Denison had a very handsome daughter by the name of Julia, about fifteen years old, for whom the savages conceived a great fancy and to buy whom they exhausted every means. Mother Denison cannot remember the offers that were made by her savage admirers, but thinks that they at one tune brought thirty ponies. They came several times to urge a bargain. That young lady is now the wife of Judge Ephraim Gilmore, of Aledo.

Nancy Denison, daughter of John Denison (now Mrs. William Willett, of Keithsburg), was another white child whom the savages were bent on possessing, and several times attempted to kidnap. The squaws would pick her up and wrap her in a blanket, but before they could get away the vigilant watch dog would discover their movements, and assailing them furiously, compel them to leave her. They were often at the house, and by making much of her, and giving her presents, had artfully won her childish confidence so that she was greatly pleased at the prospect of going with them. She learned to converse in the Indian as early as in her own tongue.

All the Indians drank whisky. When they went on a spree two or more kept sober to take care of the others. When any got troublesome and ungovernable, these would bind them till they recovered themselves.

Mrs. Denison is living in New Boston at the age of eighty.

In 1833 Wm. Drury came to this vicinity and made a claim near the bluffs. At the first glance he felt convinced he had found "God's country," and he has never felt that he made a mistake in so estimating it. At that time there were but four distinct white families in the township.

Very soon after this, as the richness of the soil became tested, settlers began to come in rapidly. At about the same time land speculators from the east also turned their attention to this locality. The inordinate cupidity of these speculators often involved them in bitter contests with the settlers. As soon as the lands were surveyed and came into market, the settlers, in order to compete more successfully with the speculators, were in the habit of forming a ring around the land office, and endeavoring to keep out the "land sharks," as they were called, by physical strength. Nearly all the land sold in this locality, was sold from the government land office in Galena. The settlers usually appointed some one person to attend the land sale and bid off the several lots upon which they had made claims. The settlements mere made principally along the river, the settlement of the upland country being regarded as an absurdity.

In 1834 Wm. Wilson made a settlement. During this year the number of settlers increased so rapidly as to cause great inconvenience in some parts of the country on account of the great extent of territory - embraced in the jurisdiction of Warren county.

In September of this year, 1834, the town of New Boston was laid out (the first of any in the county). The land, as has been previously stated, was owned originally by Wm. Denison. He sold out his claim, or two-thirds of it, to Elijah Iles, of Springfield, and Edward Burrall, of Massachusetts. An honor attaches to it of more than usual importance from the fact that the surveying was done by Abraham Lincoln, the Martyr President of the United States. The site possessed peculiar natural advantages, and had been known as the upper Yellow Banks, the Lower Yellow Banks being located at Oquawka. To say that site was more favorable for a city than any other point for miles either way is certainly no discredit to the larger cities that have since been founded and hold populations largely in excess of New Boston. Situated opposite the mouth of the Iowa river, which is a navigable stream for some distance; located on high banks, without the inconvenience of bluffs in the rear; with Sturgeon Bay as a safe and commodious harbor ; a rich agricultural country surrounding it, and no large city within a great distance ; what more natural than to suppose it simply a question of time when it should be the city of the west! The thoughtful reader will undoubtedly satisfy himself why these expectations were not fulfilled as he peruses the subsequent history.

In 1835 the legislature passed an act erecting the new county of Mercer, and appointing New Boston as the temporary county seat. By the provisions of the act an election was directed to be held on the first Monday in April, 1835, in the town of New Boston at the house of Eli Reynolds. Thirty seven votes were deposited for county officers.

S. V. Prentiss located here during this year, as did also Mr. Ed. Drury and M. L. Willits. They are all living in the township at present and have been since their settlement here.

About 1835 a school was organized at the bluff about four miles east of New Boston. This was also the first school-house in Mercer county. The first school teacher was the Hon. Geo. W. Julian, since that time almost countless numbers of teachers have been engaged in the work in the town; but perhaps the most prominent and deserving of mention is the name of Simeon P. Smith. Hardly a man now living in the vicinity but knows personally or by hearsay of his good work as an educator. Of him Dr. Thomas Willitts says: "Among the aims and interests of human life, opening wide the avenues to independent thought and efficient intellectuality is paramount, and he who has been successful as an educator, is most truly a benefactor.

Having lived long, and been an interested observer of human progress in many of its phases, I can most conscientiously say that no other instance has come under my notice in which so much was achieved in common schools in the same time (short or long) as was done by my friend Simeon L. Smith in the town of New Boston and vicinity (beginning about forty years since), in awakening the latent possibilities of the infant mind.

The causes and reasons for his singular and marked success in school were no doubt many; perhaps some that were peculiar and purely intellectual.

But he seemed to form a clear and correct judgment quickly of the capacity of each pupil, and of their home discipline, and was so intensely earnest himself that his feeling and action seemed contagious. He seemed to know just what a pupil could do, or should do, and was careful to know that it was done, or to require a suitable reason why it was not. If one in a class failed, he seemed to know whether idleness or inability was the cause, and promptly used the appropriate remedy. Evenings, mornings. Saturdays; indeed, any unoccupied time the class, or the pupil, or any number that he deemed required awakening aid, were called to the residence of some employer, his boarding place, or the school-house, where the appropriate exercises, instructions or questions were presented. Prompt and absolute obedience of every scholar seemed a prerequisite, and understanding every principle in the branches taught himself, knew the cause of failure or embarrassment, and lifted or led the pupil so gently into the light that he was impressed that he had found it himself. Scholars thus energized went on and up to greater and more successful efforts, opening wider the way to greater attainments in the more advanced and progressive series of scholarly developments. Every pupil under his teaching for a few years is now easily distinguished from the mass in this, that they are good spellers, good readers, and prompt, ready and accurate mathematicians, all achieved by a thorough, clear, and logical mental analysis of the problem, ever making their own rules, and never committing those of another. Of his religious sentiments I can say that he was an admirer of puritanic rigidity in the observances of an ideal straight edge, as a guide in religious and moral duties. If not an apologist for its bigotry of the inspirational claim for or of the bible, he said or cared little, but ever observed, applauded and advocated the clearly marked moral duties as expressed by the life and precepts of Jesus, with little or no respect for the ceremonies and formalities of the churches, regarding them as figments of catholicity that the world would be the better for losing.

Johnson Noble settled in the township in this year, 1835. Mr. Ephraim Gilmore was the first assessor and treasurer, appointed April 13, 1835. He was also the first surveyor and first postmaster.

The following settlements were -made in 1836. John W. Ditto, who settled on S. E. 1/4 Sec. 27, having previously made the claim in March of the same year. His was the only house out on the prairie except Joseph Denison's on the S. W. 1/4 Sec. 34, which was built the same spring. John Denison was living in the timber out on the Edward's Flats, having settled there on his return after the Black Hawk war in the autumn of 1832. John Pratt, Milton L. Willits, Isaac Lutz, James M. Mannon, Gilbert Ives, and Harley Ives, also made settlements in this year.

During this year a somewhat animated discussion arose in regard to the removal of the county seat. New Boston being situated at the extreme west of the county lacked a central location, an item of great importance in the days of horseback conveyances, and this fact was strongly urged as sufficient grounds for the removal of the county offices to a more accessible point. Those who favored its retention did so on the grounds that as New Boston was the town of the county, and always destined to be, so far as could be ascertained at that time, nothing could be more appropriate than to let the county seat remain.

In 1837 the legislature enacted a law by which Wm. McMurty, of Knox county ; Thomas Spragins, of Jo. Daviess ; and John S. Stephenson, of Ogle, were appointed a commission to locate a permanent seat of justice. The provisions of the act required that the proprietors of the place selected should donate to the county lots equal to at least twenty acres, the proceeds of the sale of which should be used in the erection of public buildings. The commissioners fixed the site at Millersburg on the N. E. 1/4 Sec. 3, T. 14, R. 4.

Dissatisfaction still existing, the question of its removal was agitated still further, until the legislature, in 1839, authorized an election to be held in April of that year, to decide its location by vote ; providing, however, that, if it resulted in locating it at New Boston, the proprietors "should donate not less than two acres of land and the sum of four thousand dollars in money,"- the money to be paid in four semi-annual installments. The effort was unsuccessful. The matter did not stop; but, as the topic is a matter of county history, we will return to our settlements of the year 1836 and 1837.

Lots in New Boston were held at high figures in these earlier times, prices ranging from $200 to $700. The lot where the old "Drury Warehouse" stands brought $900. James S. Thompson settled and commenced business in New Boston in 1836, and from that time until his death, 1868, was closely connected in public and private life with the welfare of the community. In 1837 John Roberts, J. C. Sloan, N. N. Larrance and John Davis settled in the township.

In 1838 Isaac Lutz came to this township, and began the erection of a grist mill on Edwards river, on section 1. This mill has been kept up ever since, and is still running and doing good work. It belongs to some of the heirs of Isaac Lutz.

Elias Pullen, E. A. Crapnell and Joseph Alyea, with their families, settled in the township in this year. Elias Pullen settled on section 9, E. A. Crapnell on section 14, and Joseph Alyea in town, which at that time contained twelve or fifteen buildings. This was four years after the survey and plat of the town was made; and, although the town was laid out, only a small portion had been subdivided into lots. This, together with the fact that the majority of the proprietors were non-residents and held their property at high figures, partially accounts for the slow growth of the town.

In 1839 Jacob Beard settled on section 9, and Charles and Christian Rader settled on section 27. The settlements up to this time had been located mostly along the rivers Mississippi and Edwards; but from this time forward the settlements increased rapidly in number and take a wider range.

In 1840 Dr. Mark Willits settled in New Boston, the first resident doctor of the place.

He is still living in the town at this date, April, 1882, and has had a wide and extensive practice almost continually during his long sojourn in the county. Drs. Hereld, Shiner and Howey were early physicians.

Mr. M. Poffenbarger settled in the town in 1840.

In 1845 the first newspaper in the county was established at New Boston, under the name of the "New Boston Advertiser." The name and management were changed several times, being successively "The Yeoman of the Prairie Land," the "New Boston Broadhorn," "The Golden Age," ''The New Boston Nonpareil," "The New Boston Reporter," and lastly, the "New Boston Herald," the last number of the latter being published in 1872, C. A. Ballard, editor.

The township was organized in 1852; and the first supervisor from New Boston was I. N. Bassett; the first town clerk, Thomas Alyea; the first justice, G. W. Warner.

The following have been supervisors for the township: I. N. Bassett, one year; Sidney Chidester, one year; Amos Prouty, one year; William Drury, one year; John Roberts, five years; D. J. Noble, two years; Thomas Martin, four years; Walter Pryne, one year; William A. Wilson, twelve years. Mr. Wilson is supervisor at the present time.

The following is a list of the town clerks: Thomas Alyea, one year; B. Thomas, one year; Isaiah Alyea, one year; G. B. Tyler, one year; Simeon Sheldon, one year; J. E. Griffin, six years; A. F. Waterman, two years; D. T. Hindman, one year; George Lytle, one year; C. A. Ballard, three years; R. S. Scudder, two years; T. H. Doughty, eight years.

The justices of the peace have been: G. W. Warner, sixteen years; J. C. Swafford, two years; Amos Prouty, fourteen years; John Sharp, four years; C W. Bras, twelve years; W. C. Austin, eight years; John Roberts, four years.

The village of New Boston is situated on a part of sections 31 and 32. It received an addition, known as Turner's Addition, in 1856, and in 1859 was incorporated under a special charter, having at that time about 700 inhabitants.

At the breaking out of the war in 1861, New Boston responded promptly to the call, and was always ready to aid the cause with men or money. To say there were none who sympathized with the South, would, of course, be an exaggeration; but the town may justly feel proud of her war record. We give elsewhere a detailed history of company "G," 27th regiment. The whole interest of the town, during the four years of this bloody struggle, seemed centered in the welfare of her "boys in blue" and the success of the Union forces.

Shortly before the war, in May, 1859, the township held an election to vote for or against a subscription of $ 18,000 to aid in the construction of the Western Air Line railway. The bonds were voted, but the road was never completed. In June, 1868, another election was held to vote for or against a subscription of $18,000 to aid in the construction of the American Central Railway Company. One hundred and eighty-four (184) votes were polled for the subscription and three (3) against. The township bonds were to run ten years, bearing ten per cent interest. In June, 1879, the unpaid bonds were refunded at a lower rate of interest, and there now remains but $5,500 indebtedness against the township, a mere trifle when her magnificent resources are taken into consideration.

The village of New Boston voted bonds to the amount of $30,000, running twenty years and bearing seven per cent interest, for the same purpose. All these bonds were voted with the understanding that the road was to be extended to Fort Wayne, thus making connections with the eastern seaboard lines, and westward to Council Bluffs. The reaction in railroad speculation set in before the road was completed, and the company soon found themselves in want of capital, being finally compelled to sell the road to the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company, by which company it is now owned and operated. Had the road been completed as projected, crossing the Mississippi at its present western terminus, there is hardly a doubt that New Boston would today have been one of the most thriving cities in the west. At the present time a new road is surveyed from Rock Island southward, crossing the Mississippi at or near New Boston, and making connections through to Kansas City. Should this road be completed, the future prospects of the town are indeed bright.


The first school was held in a log cabin out at the bluff, and presided over by the Hon. George W. Julian, in 1834 or 1835. The township was finally divided into eight districts, each supporting school for six or more months each year. The only graded school is the New Boston public school, it being divided into five departments. The first school-house built in the city district still stands in a rather dilapidated condition on lot 1, block 3.

At the last census there were 517 school children in the township, district No. 5 furnishing 312.

The religious sentiment of the people is quite diversified, a large number being in opposition to the orthodox church. Of the three or more church organizations, but one, the Methodist, supports a resident pastor.


This society was organized in July, 1838, at the residence of Emily Burleigh, with the following members, viz: Joseph Alyea, Thorlea Alyea, Thomas Alyea, Mary Alyea, Dr. Edmond Harrell, ---Butler, Emily Burleigh - 7. New Boston at that time was in what was called the Mercer Mission. There were so many appointments that the preacher was compelled to preach almost daily, having but two or three rest days in a month.

The first resident preacher was George Smith, who was pastor over the society. The first meetings of the class were held at the residence of Emily Burleigh, but after Joseph Alyea had built his house in the town of New Boston, the meetings were moved to that point. Mr. Smith remained with the church but one year, and but little is remembered concerning him. Henry Summers was the presiding elder at the time of organization. The next year Thomas M. Kirkpatrick was the preacher in charge. This was about the year 1839. The preacher in those times had to be economical. He was allowed for that year, $75 for table expenses, and $100 salary, and a trifle for traveling expenses. He also remained a year,, and accomplished a good work. He was followed by Brothers McMurtry, Wilson and Burr. Brothers Doughty and Ross at this time were local preachers, and as the circuit was very large, most of the work devolved upon them.

In 1866 the society built the parsonage on lots 7, 8 and 9, block 4, in Thompson's addition. It cost about $1,500. The church building, in which the congregation has since worshiped, was erected in 1876, on lots 2, 3 and 4, block 13, in Thompson's addition. At the time of its erection it was the best in the county, and it still remains one of the best. Its cost was nearly $6,000. The present board of trustees consists of T. H. Bras, J. T. Bell, E. Stevens, John Stevens, W. A. Wilson, Eli Craft and Thomas Alyea. The last named has been trustee, with the exception of one year, since 1845, and class leader thirty-four years. Three of the members of the first class, Emily Burleigh, Mary Willits and Thomas Alyea, are yet alive and members of the church, having been engaged in the good work forty-four years.

The present pastor of the church is Rev. G. B. Snedecker. The church, like most organizations of such long existence, has had its ups and downs, sometimes in the valley of humiliation and sometimes on the mountain's top, as on the mount of transfiguration; but always has its course been forward, and the good it has accomplished cannot be compared with anything in this world. Only eternity will reveal the amount of treasure gathered on earth and stored in the Master's graneries above. [To Mr. Thomas Alyea we are indebted for the notes from which the foregoing has been written. - Ed.]


The Baptist society was organized in 1844 by Elder Hovey, with the following members, viz : William Denison and wife, James Denison and wife, Harrison Smith and wife, M. Poffenbarger and wife, E. A. Crapnell and wife, William Crapnell, William Noble and wife, Mr. and Mrs. McChesney, and Miss Williamson. In 1845 a church buildiing was commenced on lot 5, block 13, and completed in 1848.

Elder Hovey is described as a man of great mental powers, and one thoroughly in earnest in his work. Although a man well advanced in years at the time he began his labors in the place, he remained as resident pastor for five years after its organization.

The building being situated on sandy foundation, was at length completely undermined by the action of the wind, and fell down about 1859. The last resident pastor was Elder Brimhall, who remained a year or two. The society has had no resident pastor since 1851, but has kept up the organization, and also a Sunday school, holding meetings at present in the town hall. It is hoped at some future time to see the society in a flourishing condition;


This society was organized in February, 1857, with the following members, viz : Mrs. Eva Nevius, Mrs. Joseph Kane, Mrs. M. J. Edwards, Mrs. Sarah Poffenbarger, Mrs. M. J. McLaughlin, Mr. G. W. Crabb. The first and only church building the society has had was begun about 1868. It is a large, commodious structure, and cost, when completed, $6,620.17. The first pastor was Rev. S. G. Hair. The church has had no resident pastor for some years, the last one being the Rev. William Gay.

At the present writing, no meetings are held, but the society still keeps up its organization, and the few members left hope at some future time to see the church resume its old position.


In the latter part of the year 1855 a few members of the society of Odd-Fellows determined to establish a working lodge of the order in New Boston, and the following facts have been presented by M. Chamberlin, D.D.G.M.: The mystic number (five) made application for a dispensation. The Grand Master, by authority of the Right Worthy Grand Lodge of Illinois, issued a charter dated October 12, A.D. 1855, granting the dispensation. Monday evening, November 20, A.D. 1855, a meeting was held with District Deputy Grand Master Kelley in the chair, Past Grand Sweeny acting as grand marshal. By order of Grand Master Kelley, the grand marshal presented Charles H. Bell, M. M, Prentiss, John L. Hartson, Mark J. O'Brien and W. T. Power, who were duly obligated, and the grand master declared the lodge duly instituted under the name and title of New Boston Lodge, No. 188, I. O. O. F.

After election and installment of officers. Brothers J. C. Bell and Daniel Hines were admitted by card, H. W. Denison and B. Milliken were initiated, and J. S. Thompson petitioned for membership. The meeting was regularly held on Monday evening of each week.

During the late rebellion the membership was reduced very nearly to the magic number, several brothers being enlisted as soldiers. The form of one now lies moldering away to kindred dust in southern soil - a tear to his memory. All credit is due to the few members who held their meetings, paid the capitation tax, and held their representation in the Grand Lodge. Several lodges in the state became defunct during the war.

After peace was again restored No. 188 increased in membership, and in October, 1865, the brothers were very arduous in their endeavors to secure a home for themselves. Cheerfully each brother donated to the building fund, and on the evening of May 21, 1866, the lodge met in their new hall, size 27x40 feet, lodge room carpeted and well furnished, and no one regrets the extra effort to secure a home, but with honest pride they can feel that they are beneath ''the shadow of their own vine." The membership enrolled from organization up to April 1, 1882, is 178. The number of brothers buried by the lodge has been nine. The amount of relief paid, $1,456.40 (this amount was paid by the lodge and the members by individual donation). Charity abideth in the heart of every good and true Odd-Fellow. It is within the knowledge of members of our order that the relief extended by them, under their teachings, has been the means, under providence, of bringing within the church many who today would have been aliens from the household of faith. Many of the brothers cheerfully donated in honor to the "Wiley monument fund ; also to the Lincoln monument fund, not forgetting our worthy and honorable G.R.S.; to his memory, we have a name in the Ridgley Monument Fund. Of the members at the organization of our lodge, only one. Brother Daniel Hines, now holds a membership.

Connected with the order is the Rebekah Degree. This degree associates the wives of Odd-Fellows with them in the high and important work of visiting the sick, relieving the distressed, burying the dead, and educating the orphan."


This is the home of the patriarch, the evergreen retreat of Odd-Fellowship, supported by the three pillars of Faith, Hope and Charity, and here we have the tables of law, likewise the lesson as taught in the golden rule. A weary pilgrim can here find rest, eat at our table and drink of our pure water. Hospitality to the stranger is a pure principle within the heart of every true patriarch encampment.

No. 70 was instituted December, 1866. The number of patriarchs enrolled up to April 1, 1882, was eighty-two. Several of the patriarchs instituted a new encampment, others changed their residence, and like our subordinate lodge, the time came when there were but one or two more members than the original number; but like the ancient Patriarch Abraham, the father of the faithful, our trust was in God, and to-day our tent is enlarged for the increase of membership.


A dispensation and charter were issued to New Boston Lodge No. 59, in the latter part of 1848. The history from that time to 1853 is somewhat obscure, owing to the fact that in 1851 the records were burned; also, all books, papers, furniture, etc.

In 1852 a new dispensation was granted, and the following officers duly installed : John E. Willits, W.M.; George Ralston, S.W.; William Wilson, Jr., J.W.; Elias Willits, Treas. ; Daniel Winslow, Sec; E. J. Denison, S.D.; M. Poffenbarger, J.D.; Josiah Mai-field, Tyler. In October, 1853, a new charter was issued and the following named individuals duly elected and .installed as officers, viz: J. E. Denison, W.M.; E. Harrell, S.W.; A. Gingles, J.W.; R. Thomas, Treas.; G. W. Warner, Sec; Elias Willits, S.D.; John Hoover, J.D.; Josiah Maxfield, Tyler.

The lodge has had a prosperous existence, and to-day is one of the strongest and most efficient in the state. The misfortune of losing the records by fire is more to be deplored, from the fact that the Grand Lodge of the state has also lost the records covering about the same facts.

The lodge has always been noted for its activity, and during the somewhat lengthy period of its existence has had no serious dissensions.

Something over 200 members have been admitted since the re-organization, and at present the membership is sixty-seven, with the following corps of officers: George Lytle, W.M.; Ed. L. Willits, S.W.; A. Imber, J.W. ; John Fry, Treas.; W. C. Austin, Sec.; J. J. Mason, S.D.; N. W. Gibson, J.D.; S. Swartwout, Tyler.



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