Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

Millbrook Township


Est. Nov. 6, 1849
 Elmore, Laura and Rochester
Rail Roads: Atchison & Topeka 
Water Ways: French Creek and Spoon River
Other: (Chase P.O.1896) (Elmore P.O. 1875)





Millbrook Township History [from "The History of Peoria County, Illinois; Johnson & Co., 1880.  Transcribed by Karen Seeman]
Millbrook Township History
[From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.]










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by William H. Adams.

Millbrook Township is located in the northwest corner of Peoria County. The south two-thirds is a rich prairie soil, raising abundant crops of small grain; the north part, along Spoon River, being an argillaceous loam, produces also the finest of blue grass. Owing to the presence of quantities of lime and iron in the soil, the pastures impart a strength, elasticity and firmness to the horses, rivaling the celebrated stock of Kentucky.

Underneath the surface is a porous subsoil varying in depth from one to two feet, which is succeeded by the glacial drift, and this by the coal measures. Vein No. 6, usually about four feet in thickness, occupies an area equal to twelve sections; while No. 3 probably underlies the whole township. The first is reached by drift along Plum Hollow, the latter by a shaft on Section 6 on Walnut Creek. Fine, beds of gravel suitable for making roads are found along Spoon River, and shale, suitable for the manufacture of fire-brick, is found in several localities.

The Township is rich in evidence of the dwellings of a prehistoric race. At the confluence of Walnut Creek and Spoon River there appears to have been a large village, which is shown by the finding of a number of stone and flint implements, the presence of funeral mounds, and other usual accompanying evidences of the presence of a large population. On a high bluff between the two streams are traces of an old fort, octagonal in form, the outlines of which are nearly obliterated by the lapse of time. In the northwest angle is an oblong elevation, sixty-four by forty-seven feet, and six feet in height. An exploration has disclosed the presence of small pieces of galena, copper beads and awls, leaf-shaped flint implements, red ochre, charcoal and faint traces of human bones, all of great antiquity. Twenty rods west of this is a low mound sixty-two by nineteen feet. On Section 4 is an important group of mounds, the first of which is a small round one from the center of which to the center of the second is a distance of thirty-nine feet; thence to the center of the third, thirty feet: thence to the south end of the fourth is fifty feet. The fourth measures eighty feet from south to north, with a cross at the center, thirty-three by twelve feet and two feet high. From the west end of this one to the center of the fifth is one hundred and twenty-three feet. This is a common round mound forty feet in diameter and three feet high; thence to number six is fifty-eight feet. This one is ninety-eight by eighteen feet and two feet high. Thence in a northwesterly direction it is seventy-five feet to still another one hundred and four feet by eighteen feet and two and a half feet high. from the north end of which if is one hundred feet to another one hundred and forty by twenty feet and three feet high. On the top of this grows an oak tree three feet in diameter. An immense number of flint or hornstone chips are found scattered through the materials of which the mound is constructed, the nearest known out-cropping of which is at Burlington, Iowa. This group commences in the valley just above high water mark and extends northwesterly, terminating on a bluff sixty feet above high water.

First Settlers.—William Metcalf was the first white settler. In the spring of 1833 he, with his wife, two children and a boy named Amos McRill, came by wagon from Richland County, Ohio, camping out at night and arriving at French's Grove. That fall he made some improvements on the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 9, 11 N., 5 E., by erecting a cabin and fencing a small field, and in the spring of 1834 moved on to the land. John Sutherland, a native of Pittsburgh Pa. came to Peoria in the year 1834 and bought the lots on which the National Hotel now stands and was one of the original members of the Presbyterian Church, known as the Lowry Church. In August, 1835, he located on Section 32, 11 N., 5 E. He was a man of high moral principles, of unquestioned probity and business integrity, and inflexible in his determination to do right. It is said that, after leaving Peoria, he frequently walked from his home in Millbrook to Peoria to attend church. He, of course, sided with Lowry in his controversy with the adverse party. He died September 30, 1843, leaving numerous descendants, who still reside in that part of the county.

Mr. Sutherland and his family formed the nucleus at French's Grove, around which gathered a community noted for its high moral and religious character. Among others, who, by precept and example, added much to the reputation of the settlement for enterprise and thrift, were Daniel and John A. McCoy. John Smith, Sr., John Smith, Jr., and Therrygood Smith, from Richland County, Ohio, settled where Rochester now stands in October, 1835, a young man named John White cutting down the first tree where the village afterward grew up. The first settlers were mostly from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York. Scotland and Ireland, and, as a rule, were industrious, enterprising and ambitious to earn homes for themselves and their families. Their influence in the community has given it a character which will distinguish it for generations yet to come.

Rochester.—The site of Rochester was chosen for its excellent water power furnished by Spoon River. It was surveyed on the 13th of July, 1836, by George C. McFadden, deputy under Thomas Phillips, County Surveyor. On the 29th of the same month the plat was acknowledged by John Smith, Jr., before James P. Harkness and recorded in the Recorder's office.

About this time Clark W. Stanton, a carpenter from Rochester, New York, arrived and bought from Smith a half interest in the town site and mill-seat, and in the following spring, bought Smith's entire interest for the sum of $3,200. The first store to be opened was that of Thomas J. Hurd, of Peoria, who, in the summer of 1836, brought, a small stock of goods to the place and opened out in a small log building on the river bans. He was succeeded in a few months by Stacey & Holmes. In the winter of 1836-37 John Smith, Jr., opened a stock of goods, but the ensuing spring sold out to Hon. David Markley, of Canton, in Fulton County, then a prominent politician of the State.

Mills.—As might have been expected, the utilizing of the water power of Spoon River was one of the enterprises first to attract the attention of early settlers. In those early days the owner of a mill, if a good one, had a real bonanza. Flour and lumber were two of the essentials of life; and people would travel many miles and await their turn in patience to get a supply of either. It was in the fall of 1836, after the enterprising Clark W. Stanton had purchased one-half of the interest of John Smith, Jr., in the mill-seat, that they, in company, erected the first saw-mill; and so great was the demand for lumber that the mill was kept running night and day. After Stanton had purchased Smith's remaining interest he erected a grist-mill, which began to grind some time in the summer of 1837. People came to it from Prince's Grove, Slackwater, Massilon, Scotland Prairie, Newburg, French's Creek, French's Grove and Lafayette. By adding improvements from time to time, it became one of the most complete and best equipped flouring mills in Central Illinois. Benjamin Huber, who had an interest in it, says that, late in the 'fifties, the mill would grind two hundred and fifty to three hundred bushels of wheat per day and one hundred bushels of chop feed or corn, and that it was crowded with business. But the march of improvements, with the coming of railroads to other points, sapped it of its business, and it is now going to ruin, part of it having already tumbled into the river.

About 1839 or 1840, Gilbert Arnold built a saw-mill on Section 6 on the bank of Walnut Creek; but this, too, has long since gone out of sight.

In 1856 John Carter, a wealthy farmer, residing in the eastern part of the township, undertook the erection of a grist-mill on Spoon River on Section 3, but being unskilled in mechanical engineering, he was at the mercy of any charlatan that came along calling himself a mill-wright. Through floods, law suits and ignorance, he was ruined financially. The mill, however, was finally finished and did a fair business, but, for the past few years, it has been abandoned.

Education.—The first school house in the township was in Rochester, and built by Dr. John L. Fifield, Clark W. Stanton, Russell Stanton and Jonah Lewis, without the assistance of public funds. It remained until 1867, when it was replaced by a large and commodious brick structure, which still remains. The first school in the township was taught in the winter of 1836-7 by Caleb North in a log house on the southwest corner of the northwest quarter of Section 20, for which he received $10 per month. Elisha J. Sutherland is probably the only pupil of that school now living. The township is now divided into eight full and two fractional union districts, in all of which public schools are regularly taught. The zealous interest taken by the people in the cause of popular education, is manifested by the flourishing condition of these schools and the liberal taxes, voluntarily imposed upon themselves by the tax-payers, for their support. The school houses are, as a rule, of the most improved pattern and furnished with all modern appliances to secure the comfort, health and advancement in study of the pupil, the coat varying from $600 to $4,500. They compare very favorably with those of any other township in the county. Some of the districts, notably No. 2, have fine school libraries.

In the year 1845 Rev. Robert Breese and his accomplished wife, who was a graduate of the celebrated Holyoke Seminary, established a school of high grade in Rochester called the "Breese Seminary," Mrs. Breese was the real principal, her husband devoting his time principally to ministerial work.

Religion.—Constituted as the early communities were, it could not be supposed otherwise than that the promotion of religion would be their first and chief concern. Accordingly we find that in the summer of 1836 Rev. George G. Sill, a missionary preached the first Presbyterian sermon in the house of John Sutherland. A church of that denomination was organized at Rochester in the summer of 1838, with sixteen members, Joseph Warne, ruling elder, which was taken, under the care of Presbytery in October of the same year. Rev. Robert B. Dobbin succeeded Rev. Sill, but how long he preached does not appear. In 1815 Rev. Robert F. Breese was installed pastor of the churches of Rochester and Prince's Grove, which he continued to serve until his death, September 2, 1851. The Rochester church was dissolved by Presbytery sitting at Brimfield September 20, 1854, in con- sequence of the division between Old and New School, the New School members having withdrawn and formed another church in Stark County.

The French Grove Presbyterian Church was organized October 20 1851, by Rev. Addison Coffey, Rev. William McCandlish and Ruling Elder John Reynolds, a committee previously appointed by Presbytery. There were fifteen members and William Reed and George S. Purselle were ordained and installed as the first Ruling Elders; Rev. John C. Hanna, a licentiate, was appointed to supply the church one-half of his time and the church at Rochester as often as consistent with his other engagements. Rev. Charles McLuer is now pastor of the church, which is in a prosperous condition, having a good Sunday school, of which Mr. W. H. Todd is Superintendent.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, of Rochester, organized in the year 1836, was the first church organization in the township. Rev. William Cummings preached the first sermon in the house of John Smith. The original members were John Smith and wife, Therrygood Smith and wife, William Metcalf and an unmarried daughter of John Smith, and John Smith, Sr., as chosen first class-leader. A house of worship was commenced in 1838, which was blown to fragments by a cyclone on May 8th of that year. Through removals and death, the church at one time became almost extinct, but there are now houses of worship at Rochester and Laura, the former being the legitimate successor of the first church, and worshipping in a building formerly belonging to the Congregationalists.

The Methodist Church, of Laura, was built in the summer of 1889 at a cost of $1,300 and furnished at a further cost of $200. The first pastor was Rev. D. D. McComen. The church is connected with the Monica charge, its members numbering about sixty.

The Christian Church, at Rochester, was organized December 18, 1844, by John W. Underwood, with four members, the first meeting of seven persons having been held in the old school house in November and conducted by Milton King. They began building a house of worship in 1858, but it was blown down by the cyclone of May 8th of that year. In the summer of 1864 they erected another, which cost between $3,000 and $4,000. In course of time, in consequence of deaths and removals, the membership became too feeble to maintain an organization and, a few years since, Jonathan Pratz, the only remaining Trustee, deeded the church building to the Directors of Glendale Cemetery Association, by whom it was repaired, repainted and placed in good condition. It is now used for moral and religious entertainments, and is free to all approved ministers of the Gospel. From here, after the last sad rites have been performed, the dead are carried forth for interment in the beautiful Glendale Cemetery. A flourishing Sunday school, under the superintendence of Mrs. M. Stevenson, meets here weekly. The present directors of the Association are William H. Adams, President; W. Winchester, Secretary; S. H. Winchester, Treasurer; and Elder Aley, W. H. Wilcox and Henry Sweat.

The Congregational Church, Rochester, was organized June 30, 1841, at the house of Elias Wycoff, in Stark County, with nine members, the ministers present being Rev. S. S. Miles and Rev. S. G. Wright. After entering into covenant, Messrs. William Webster and N. Wycoff, were duly elected and installed Ruling Elders, and Rev. S. G. Wright designated as Moderator of the Session. In 1854 the meetings were held at Rochester, at which time Rev. Charles B. Donaldson was acting as pastor, and at a meeting held April 14th of that year, the name was changed from Spoon River Congregational Church to Elmore Congregational Church of Rochester. During the summer and fall of 1866 was erected a house of worship costing $2,300, which was dedicated January 22, 1867. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. W. G. Pierce, of Elmwood, who was assisted in the services by Rev. James Wycoff and Rev. B. F. Haskins, the last named continuing to be the pastor for twelve years. From a variety of causes the society ceased to maintain its organization, and the church edifice is now owned and used as a place of worship by the Methodist Episcopal Church of Elmore.

The Church of New Jerusalem (Swedenborgian) once had an organization in Rochester, the first meeting having been held at the house of John Smith, Jr., on Section 18. At this meeting Rev. John R. Hibbard, an eminent divine of Chicago, made an address. The society consisted of John Smith and wife, Gilbert Arnold, Caleb North, G. P. Wycoff and the Adams and Pulsipher families of Southport. The numbers having been depleted by deaths and removals, meetings are no longer held.

The First Sunday-school was organized in the spring of 1844, Mrs. Breese, wife of Rev. Robert Breese, being the first Superintendent. She was a woman of fine attainments and great force of character, and made the school a success in every respect. Of those who attended this school the following survive: E. J. Sutherland, James Sutherland, Miss Columbia Duim, of Galesburg; Sarah Smith, nee Bodine, Kansas; M. A. Dooley, nee Bodine, Missouri; Mahala Hurd, nee Bodine, West Jersey, Stark County; Acenath Neal, nee Matthews, Peoria, and Irene Abby, nee Stanton.

Commerce.— From 1835 to 1856 Peoria was the market for Millbrook Township. The wheat, corn, oats and dressed pork were hauled there in wagons. Some of the cattle were driven to Chicago. After 1856 Elmwood and Oak Hill, on the Peoria & Oquawka Railroad, became its principal shipping points. After the building of the Buda branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, the village of Monica became a market for the eastern part, and Brimfield for a part of the south side of the township. In the year 1887 the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was located across the township and, in the following year, an elevator was erected at the village of Laura on the line of that road. There are now two large and well equipped elevators at that place, besides cribs of 15,000 bushels capacity.

The village of laura is located on the southwest quarter of Section 22. It was laid out in 1888 by James M. Kellar, who was the first Postmaster. John Shaw brought the first stock of goods to the village. There are now three dry goods stores, one hardware and implement store, a blacksmith shop. a chop-mill, a millinery bazaar, a Methodist Episcopal Church, two elevators, a lumber yard. two hotels, the postoffice and a very fine, commodious and well-equipped public school building. The inhabitants are a religious and church-going people. The population numbers about 150.

The elevators are operated by C. C. Davis & Co., who shipped from this point in the year 1898, 51,890 bushels of oats; 101,600 bushels of corn; 790 bushels of wheat and 500 bushels of rye. During the same year there were shipped from this station five cars of horses, thirty-five of cattle, thirty-nine of hogs and five of sheep. This statement does not represent all the corn and oats grown in the township, as some from the west side went to Elmwood.

Chase Station is located on the line of the same railway on Section 19, in the midst of a fine agricultural section, inhabited by an intelligent, enterprising and thrifty community of farmers and raisers of stock. There is here a general store, a postoffice and other evidences ot an incipient village.

Biographical.—The first child born in the township was a son to Clark W. Stanton, July 6, 1836. It lived only twelve days. This was the first interment in what is now Glendale Cemetery, and the first in the township. The first marriage in the township took place at the house of Clark W. Stanton, December 15, 1837, the contracting parties being Mr. T. Greeley, a native of Salisbury, New Hampshire, and Miss Chloe A. Barnes, a native of New York. The first physician was John L. Fifield, a native of Salisbury, Hillsborough County, New Hampshire, who came to Peoria March 10, 1838, and soon after located at Rochester. Here he remained practicing his profession until 1845, when he removed to Victoria. He was an eminent and able physician and a gentleman of the courtly manners of the olden times.

The first blacksmith in the township was Jacob Roland, who came in 1836. The first post office was located at Rochester in 1845, but was named Elmore, Therrygood Smith being first Postmaster.

On account of its desirability as a site for mills, Rochester, at an early day, attracted the attention of immigrants, and soon gave promise of becoming an important point for business. Before the days of railroads its grist and saw mills, its wagon-maker and blacksmith shops, its packing house and, hotels made it one of the liveliest business places in Central Illinois. Its great misfortune was to have been so located that the railroads did not find it, and being remote from the county-seat, it became, in a measure, isolated from the rest of the world, and its business has gradually died out.

From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.



Millbrook Township History
[from "The History of Peoria County, Illinois; Johnson & Co., 1880.  Transcribed by Karen Seeman]

In the Spring of 1833 William Metcalf, then a young man, with a wife and two children, left Richland county, Ohio, to seek a home in the then far West. They came by wagon, camping out on the way, and arriving at French Grove, Brimfield township, ended their journey. Mr. Metcalf erected a house on Sec. 9, of Millbrook, and removed his family into it in the Spring of 1834, and was the first settler in the township. John Sutherland, a native of Pittsburgh, Pa., came to Peoria in 1834, bought the land where the Ingersoll hotel now stands. He removed to Millbrook in 1835, and located on Sec. 32. Mr. S. was one of the organizers of the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria. He died September 30, 1845.

Christian Church -- This church was organized December 18, 1844, by John W. Underwood, with four original members. The first meeting was held in a school-house in November, conducted by Elder Milton King. Seven persons attended this meeting. In the Summer of 1864 the church built a house of worship costing between $3,000 and $4,000. It was dedicated by John O'Kane in June, 1865. The present membership is twenty-five. The officers are John A. Pratz, Jonathan Pratz, and O. P. Willett; pastor -- Dr. John Doyle. The first Sunday school was organized in the early part of 1844. The Rev. Robt. F. Bruse, superintendent. There was a regular attendance of twenty children.

Congregational Church was organized June 20, 1841, at the house of Elias Wycoff, Jr., in Stark county. Ministers present were S. S. Miles and S. G. Wright. The original members were nine in number. After entering into covenant, Wm. Webster and N. Wycoff were elected ruling elders, and duly installed in office, and S. G. Wright moderator of session. In 1854, the meetings were held in Rochester, in Millbrook township. It appears on record that Chas. B. Donaldson was acting pastor after December, 1854. At a meeting of the church held April 14, 1866, the name was changed from that of Spoon River Congregational Church to that of Elmore Congregational Church of Rochester.

During the Summer and Fall of 1866 the society succeeded in building a house of worship, costing $2,300. Five hundred dollars was donated by the Congregational Union, the rest was raised by its members and the citizens. It was dedicated on Wednesday evening, January 22, 1867. The dedication sermon was preached by Rev. Wm. G. Pierce, of Elmwood, assisted by James Wycliff and B. F. Hawkins. Previous to the sermon it was announced that the donations and subscriptions would be sufficient to free the church from debt. The Rev. B. F. Hawkins filled the pulpit for twelve years. On June 28, 1878, Rev. C. S. Benton was called to the pulpit for one year. Their pastor at present is Thos. Armstrong.

M. E. Church was organized in the year 1836. Rev. Wm. Cummings preached the first sermon in the latter part of May or the early part of June. This was the first church organized in the township. The original members were John Smith, Sr., and wife, Therrygood Smith, an unmarried daughter of John Smith, and Wm. Metcalf. John Smith, Sr., was chosen class leader. In the year 1858 the society commenced the erection of a house of worship, and had it inclosed and roof on, when it was torn to fragments by a cyclone on the 8th day of May of that year. Through misfortunes and various causes the organization, at one time very strong, became extinct.

Presbyterian Church -- Old School -- Some time in the Summer of 1836, Rev. Geo. G. Sill preached the first Presbyterian sermon in the house of John Sutherland, on section 32. The church was organized some time previous to 1838, by Rev. Geo. G. Sill. Among the members was John Sutherland, Mrs. Christina Sutherland, Mrs. Mary Matthews, John Pratz, Elias Wycoff, Wm. Webster, Miss Mary Wycoff, Mrs. Matthews. The organization was dissolved years ago, and Mrs. Matthews is the only one of the members now living there.

French Grove Presbyterian Church -- Rev. A. Coffee, Rev. Wm. McCandlish, and ruling elders Rice and Reynolds were appointed at Crow Meadows, September 22, 1852, to visit Brimfield, French Grove, and Scotland, to examine the religious state of affairs, and organize a church or churches, if the way was clear. The committee reported at Princeville, April 15, 1853, that they had organized a church to be called the Church of French Grove. The exact date of organization can not be ascertained. The licentiate, John C. Hanna, supplied the pulpit one half of the time, and the church at Rochester as often as consistent with his other engagements. Wm. Reed and John Coe are the present elders. Rev. J. M. Boyd supplies the pulpit. The church is in a flourishing condition, having a membership of one hundred. The society has a large and prosperous Sunday school, Mr. J. C. Coe, superintendent.

Swedenborgian, or Church of New Jerusalem -- The first meeting held by these people was at the house of John Smith, Jr., on section 18. The meeting was addressed by the eminent divine, Rev. John R. Hubbard, now of Detroit, Mich. After this, meetings were held once a month. Either at this meeting or a subsequent one an association was formed, consisting of the following members: John Smith, Jr., and wife, Gilbert Arnold, Caleb North, G. P. Wycoff, and the Adams and Pulsifer families of Southport. Deaths and removals have so depleted their ranks that they no longer hold meetings.

Schools -- The first school in Millbrook was taught by Caleb North, in a log house 12 x 14 feet, in the Winter of 1836-7, for which he received $10 per month.

Millbrook is divided into eight full school districts and two fractional union districts. The citizens of the township manifest a zealous interest in their schools, as shown by their flourishing condition and the liberal tax imposed to sustain them. The school buildings are of a superior order, varying in cost from $600 to $4,500. Perhaps no township in Peoria county can exhibit a finer class of school-houses, or show a more liberal taxation, in proportion to its wealth, for the support of their schools. The trustees of the school fund for 1879 were: John Doyle, president; E. L. Witlett and John Mason; S. H. Winchester, clerk and treas.




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