Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails

Richwoods Township


Est. Nov. 6, 1849
Part of Richwoods was given to Town of the City of Peoria when it was organized in 1907.
Location: Situated in the eastern portion of Peoria County. Joining Peoria township on the North.
Named: It was called Richwoods by its first inhabitants because of its heavy timber of sugar maple, elms, walnuts and oak.
First Settler: William German in 1832 on Sec. 29
Towns/Villages: North Peoria, Averyville, 
Water Ways: Peoria Lake and Illinois River
Other: Kellar Station, Beacons field, Prospect Hill, Prospect Park, Race track, County Fair grounds





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

Richwoods 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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Richwoods—so-called by the early settlers before there was any township organization, in consequence of the richness of its soil—does full justice to the appellation. Before the plow or the spade of the husbandman had pierced the virgin soil, the grass grew higher than a man's head, and the most luxuriant forests of hard and soft maple, elm, oak. hickory, cottonwood, walnut, sycamore and other forest trees grew within 'its domain. These forests abounded in wild fruits, the strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, gooseberry, mulberry and plum.

No township in the State can boast of more picturesque scenery, its eastern border is washed by the waters of the Illinois, back from which rise its bluffs commanding kaleidoscopic views of the water and the farm, garden and pasture lands which lie along its banks. On the northern boundary quite a different view is presented. The land is more level, and, as it approaches the line, the forests are not so dense and are interspersed with miniature prairies. On the west side its surface is again undulating, on account if its approach to the Kickapoo Creek.

The earliest settler of whom there is any record was Hilary German, who settled on Section 29 in 1832, but did not remain long enough to improve his farm to any great extent. The early settlements were composed in part of a nomadic element who only remained until the country began to be civilized and settled and who would then take their departure in search of larger hunting grounds. To those who endured the toil of improving large farms, and who subjected themselves to the privations of frontier life, the need of praise is due, and to them and what they accomplish this sketch will be chiefly devoted.

In 1832 Thomas Essex came and settled on Section 29. He cleared and improved his farm and remained until his death, and was then laid to rest on his own soil. Mr. Essex always impressed us with the idea that he was a "Mighty Hunter." We do not remember ever having seen him without his gun and accompanied by some six or seven dogs. He, with his gun and dogs, formed a very prominent feature at a charivari, which we remember to have witnessed in our childhood days. Mr. Essex had several children who left the neighborhood long ago. (We think he has a son in Nebraska; of the others we have not heard for many years.) In 1833 Benjamin Slane, Marjoram Belford, William Nixon, Stephen Carroll, Levi McCormack and Simeon Barton all located on Section 27.

In 1834, Josiah Fulton, who had come into Peoria in 1819, when it was yet Fort Clark, came and settled on Section 28. Mr. Fulton was quite conspicuous among the early settlers, and early identified himself with the growth and interests of the township. He was elected Justice of the Peace and Supervisor; for the former he re-
fused to qualify, but the latter he accepted, and Micajah Moss qualified and served as Justice of the Peace. Mr. Fulton had a family of ten children, six sons and four daughters. The voters of the township used to say, "the way Mr. Fulton and his six sons would vote would carry the election." He was a stanch Republican, and was rarely known to vote any other ticket. He lived to the ripe old age of ninety-three years, on the farm on which he first located. Before his death he divided up his farm among his children, and, four of them to day are yet living on different parts of the home farm.

Another settler whose memory is always surrounded with a halo of interest was John Clifton, who, as early as we can tell, came and squatted on Section 16 and, in 1834 and 1835, purchased a farm and lived there the remainder of his days. A Nimrod of the forest, we have seen him clad in a suit of buckskin, for which he had killed the animal, dressed the skin, cut out the suit of clothes and made them all with his own hands. This same Mr. Clifton was one, if not the chief, musician of the township, and many a "husking bee" and many a frolic, where the maidens were wont to trip the "light fantastic toe," were gladdened by his presence. In the evening he would sit out before his cabin door and the strains from his violin would be wafted o'er hill and dale, and repeated by the echoes until the forest was vocal with the melody. One of his daughters, Mrs. William Poplett, is now living at Prospect Heights; the others are living at Princeville, but his only son died years ago.

William Stringer was another old settler who came to Peoria in 1833, and soon after purchased a farm on Section 4, reared a large family and passed to his rest. Mrs. John Crawl, of Mossville, is the only surviving member of his family in this region. We must not confound this family with that of Moses Stringer, who came here about the same time, and in 1835 purchased a farm on Section 22, where he lived until his death. He had a large family all of whom have passed away, and only the grandchildren are left to tell the story of their grandsire's pioneer life. Isaac Crandall, of Averyville, is the oldest living grandson.

In the spring of 1835 Rev. Isaac Kellar came from Washington County, Maryland, and in the fall of the same year, his brother-in-law, Henry Schnebly, came, and not being able to get a house, Mr. Kellar extended to him the hospitality of his, where he remained with his family until spring. It was during this period that the first marriage ceremony occurred—Mr. Charles Ballance to Miss Julia Schnebly, the ceremony being performed by Mr. Kellar in his own house. Mr. Schnebly purchased a farm from. a man by the name of Elson on Section 29. He had a very large family of children, many of whom have passed away. The eldest surviving child, Mrs. Susan E. Edwards, of New York Avenue, Peoria, can tell many stories of her girlhood frontier life. Mr. C. C. Schnebly, the youngest son, resides on the homestead farm. and Joseph, another son, is a resident of Peoria. The avenue of locust trees, planted by Mr. Schnebly on the Mt. Hawley Road, are a living monument of his providence. Mr. Schnebly was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria from the time of its organization until his death.

Another old settler who, with his family, were quite prominent in the early history of the township, was Joseph Batchelder, who came from New York State sometime in the thirties. His wife was a sister of William L. Stone, who was quite prominent in the literary world in his day. Mr. Batchelder was one of the original elders in the First Presbyterian Church of Peoria, and it had to be a very stormy day to prevent his taking the drive of five miles, with his family, to church on Sabbath. He had quite an intelligent family. One of his sons, now Rev. Joseph Mayo Batchelder, D. D., entered the ministry and is pastor of a Presbyterian congregation at Osborne, in the State of Kansas. He and his brother, Charles, made the brick on the farm, and built the house in which they lived for a number of years, the same which William Dempsey now owns.

Richwoods has been rather favored with celebrities. Major Lewis J. Hines, a native of Virginia, came to the township in 1831, and settled on Section '31. He enlisted in the Black Hawk War, where he won the title of Major. The farm owned by George Easton, now called Aeriton. is the one which Major Hines improved. In the fall of 1835, Major Hines' brother, John, came from Ohio and established himself on Section 26, where he lived during the remainder of his life. Mr. Hines had quite a large family, but only one daughter and two sons survive him. John Hines. Jr., who lives near the "Race Track" owned by Charles Off, is a son of John Hines. In 1836 Thomas and Ann Giles, who were of English birth, arrived from New York State and settled on the property now owned by his son Nathan Giles, D. H. Downing, B. L. T. Bourland and others. His son, Joseph, built the original of the present residence of Mr. Bourland, and occupied it some years before his removal to the West. Mr. Giles was a Baptist minister and a British soldier; had served as a guard to Napoleon while on the Isle of St. Helena, and while there his son, Thomas, was born. Thomas formerly owned a farm in the northern part of the township, next to the line of Medina Township, where he lived for some years with his family and, having only one daughter, called her Helena in honor of his birthplace. Mr. Nathan Giles, his brother, has been quite an influential man in the township; has held various important offices of trust, and has been on the lookout for the weal of the township generally. Two original settlers, of whom we have failed to make mention, were Daniel and Christopher Orr, who came to the State from Virginia, and purchased the farm just north of Springdale Cemetery, now owned by the Tripp Brothers, of Peoria. Daniel died some years ago. One of his daughters, Mrs. Fleming, is living on Perry Avenue, Peoria. On the opposite side of the road from the Orr farm lived Chauncey C. Wood, who always identified himself with the interests of the township, filled the office of Deputy Sheriff from 1842 to 1846, and also served several terms as Supervisor after the period of township organization.

In 1850 the first township election was held in a new house which Rev. Isaac Kellar had built, but was not occupying, on the site of the present one where his daughters are now living. There being no available place to hold the election, Mr. Kellar tendered the use of his house and, consequently, the election was held there the ensuing year. A town house was afterward erected on a lot purchased from Isaac Kellar's heirs—a large and commodious structure devoted exclusively to public use, both religious and secular. Unfortunately this building was destroyed by a cyclone about thirteen years ago. There are now five voting precincts in the township.

Schools and churches.—In 1836 the only school house was a log structure of the most primitive type, which stood in the middle of the road on. Section 27. There being no one to teach, Mr. Kellar was so much interested that he himself taught the school for a short time, until a young man from Pennsylvania, J. G. Bryson, consented to take charge of it. This was the same John G. Bryson who, for so many years, was engaged in the mercantile business in Peoria. Pennsylvania furnished quite a number of highly esteemed and valued citizens to the township: James H. Work, Mrs. Col. Lindsay and family, Smith Frye, who held the office of Sheriff for some time, and whose son, Smith, not long since deceased, had a beautiful farm adjoining the Medina line, now operated by his wife and sons. Mrs. Frye is a sister of ex-Sheriff Johnson, who also has a beautiful farm across the road from that of Mrs. Frye, which he rents.

There were no churches in the township and preaching services were held in the school houses. Mr. Kellar preached the first sermon ever preached in the township, in the school house on Section 27. Now there are churches at Averyville and one in the west part of the township, Grace Methodist Episcopal Church, which grew out of the Sunday-school so long conducted by the lamented Judge and Mrs. Loucks, and latterly by Mr. George P. Millard. There are several Sabbath-schools in the township not connected with churches, which are well officered and self-supporting.

Public highways.—At the time Mr. Fulton came to Fort Clark in 1819, as one of the first seven American settlers, there were no roads or bridges. Everything was in a wild and chaotic state; but in 1835, when Isaac Kellar came, there was the Galena road, which ran along the river, the Mt. Hawley road which skirts the bluff, and the Knoxville road. Until the Rock Island & Peoria and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroads were completed, the travel and mail went by stage.

Scenery—town statistics.—The south half of the township is fast becoming a suburb of Peoria—many business men of Peoria having beautiful homes within its' limits. Another feature which adds beauty and picturesqueness to the township, is the beautiful cemetery of Springdale, which abounds in circuitous drives through valleys and over and around hills, from some of which there are beautiful river views. Many costly monuments and stones, erected in memory of lamented dead, crown the summit of these hills. Glen Oak Park in this same part of the township, forms another beautiful and unique feature. In the midst of a landscape beautiful for siluation, it has been greatly improved by the construction of lakes, ponds, fountains, rustic bridges, Palm House, Pavillion and all other necessary buildings, with many beautiful walks and drives. The suburbs, Averyville and Prospect Heights, are almost exclusively devoted to factories.

The present population of the township is 5,250. Its officers are L. O. Eagleton., Supervisor; John Short, Town Clerk: Benjamin Wookey, Assessor; William G. Scott, Collector ; Edward J. Singer, William Dempsey, Fred Sipp, Commissioners of Highways: H. B. Shiveley, Lewis O. Hines, C. C. Schnebly. Trustees of Schools; and Alfred A. Phelps, School Treasurer.

Villages.—This township has the following villages: Averyville, situated on both sides of the Galena Road between the river and the bluffs, was organized as a village March 22, 1890, has a population of 1,573 and contains several important factories, which are enumerated among those of Peoria. The Peoria Water Works are situated near its northern boundary. The reservoir is on the bluff on land formerly belonging to the Schnebly homestead.

Peoria Heights is a village organized November 21, 1898, and re-incorporated November 10, 1901. It has a population of 309, and is situated on an eminence overlooking the river and the contiguous lowlands, affording one of the finest landscape views in the State. It also contains important factories, and is reached by the Glen Oak and Prospect Heights trolley railroad running tram Peoria. A short distance north of it is the site of the original Prospect Hill Pavillion, built many years ago, but long since burned.

North Peoria was organized as a village May 13, 1883. It had a population in 1900 of 2,358. It has, however, been annexed to and is now embraced within the city of Peoria. It is principally a residence district. There are also other additions and subdivisions of land in the immediate vicinity of Peoria, and now constituting suburbs thereof, which must eventually be absorbed by the city. Kellar Station is also an important center of population further from the city.

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








Richwoods Township History

Richwoods is situated in the eastern portion of Peoria county, joining Peoria township on the north. Was so called by its first inhabitants because of its heavy timber of sugar maple, elms, walnuts and oak, and when the township organization was effected the name was retained.

It has within its limits Springdale Cemetery, containing one hundred and seventy acres of land, beautifully situated on the bluff overlooking Peoria Lake and the Illinois river. The county fair grounds -- Jefferson Park -- is also in this township. Mr. William German was the first settler of the township. He came in 1832 and located on Sec. 29. Later in the same year came Thomas Essex, a native of Virginia, and settled on the same section. In 1833 Benjamin Slane, Marginus Belford, and William Nixon, came and settled on Sec. 27. Mr. Slane remained but a short time, then removed to Princeville township. He was the first supervisor from that township. Also later in 1833 Stephen Carroll, Levi McCormick, and a man by the name of Barton, settled in the township. In 1834 Josiah Fulton and family removed from Peoria. The first marriage was Charles Ballance, of Peoria, to Miss Julia Snebly, in 1835. The first death was Mr. Stephen Carroll's father. The first minister was Rev. Isaac Keller, who preached in a log school-house on Sec. 27, in 1835. Nathan Giles immigrated to the township in 1836; was a native of Oneida county, N. Y. John Berket of Lancashire, England, came to the county in 1836. Smith Frye came from Washington county, Penn., in 1834; was an active, influential man. Was elected sheriff of the county in an early day. Mr. Frye was killed by a pistol shot at the stock yards in Peoria, in 1860, by a man named Carroll. Benjamin Lusk settled in the township in 1834. He was from Duchess county, N. Y., has two sons living in the township. John Heines also came as early as 1834. He was born in Frederick county, Va. In 1833 William O. Stringer settled on Sec. 8, and was among the earliest settlers of the township.

Schools -- In 1851 the Snebly and Chauncey wood school-house was built, being the first frame building used for school purposes in the township, (previous to that log cabins were used,) eighteen by twenty-four feet, and cost $400. The next was the Stringer school-house in the northern part of the town, in 1853, at a cost of about $400, which is still standing and occupied for school purposes. The next was the brick house on section 28, known as the Fulton school-house, which was pulled down and a fine building erected in 1858, on section 33, in its stead, known as the Jackson, or Yates school-house, at a cost of $1,000. In 1853 the Spears school-house was erected, a brick building, eighteen by twenty-four, and cost $400. It was afterwards abandoned, and the district being divided up, there has been two houses erected, one known as the Louks, and the other the Sipp. They are frame buildings costing about $600 each. In the northwest corner of the township a frame building was erected, known as the Snebly and Johnson school-house, costing about $500. In the year of 1865 or '66, there was a frame building erected on section 15, on the Illinois Bottoms, known as the Littleton school-house, and cost about $400. The Hines school-house was built in 1872, on section 28, and cost $500. The schools are in a flourishing condition, always pay very good prices for teachers, and having sessions of six to nine months a year.
[from "The History of Peoria County, Illinois; Johnson & Co., 1880.  Transcribed by Karen Seeman]




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