Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Occupies the southeastern corner of the county and is nine miles in length by six in width, with an area of 34,400 acres, of which about 30,000 acres are under cultivation. It is well watered in the northern part by the Pecatonica and tributary streams, and heavily timbered in that section also, while the southern portion is mostly rolling prairie. The township formed a portion of Silver Creek Precinct until after the passage of the law providing for township organization, when it was laid off and named, it is said, after a clerk in the Post Office Department at Washington. The first settlement of the town was made in the spring of 1836, by Andrew Jackson and Jefferson Niles, who claim to have come on the 4th of March of that year, and built a shanty on the east bank of the Pecatonica. During the winter of 1835 or 1836, or early in the spring of the latter year, Harvey P. Waters, accompanied by Lyman Bennett, visited the present territory of Stephenson County, and halted at the mouth of Yellow Creek, now included within the limits of Silver Creek Township. He remained here until spring had become an established fact in this section, when he removed to Ridott, and is still enumerated in the census of that town. That spring, it is said, quite a number of settlers identified themselves with future Ridott, and, besides increasing the number of voters in that portion of the county, contributed materially to the promulgation of its attractions. Among these were Sawyer Forbes, Daniel Wooten, who settled one mile west of the present village of Ridott ; Horace Colburn, where Samuel Moyer now resides ; a man named Wickham, who entered the land upon which the village of Ridott is located ; John Reed and brother, who squatted on the Farwell farm ; Benjamin and Josiah Ostrander, at the mouth of the Creek ; David Niles, on land subsequently owned by Garrett Lloyd ; Asa Nichols, and some others. They, one and all, indulged the same anticipations, experienced the same vicissitudes, conquered the same hardships, and rejoiced in final victory, as did those who came at an early day, and, in other portions of the county, were tried and triumphed gloriously. reside within its limits, as one of the most healthful, fertile and desirable in the county, the home of industry, independence and prosperity. The first deaths are alleged to be the drowning of Milburn and Reed, in Pecatonica River, as related in the history of Silver Creek Township, in which township it is also claimed this accident occurred. \par
The primary settlements made in Ridott, as elsewhere in portions of the county watered by the Pecatonica, were established along the bank of the river. The land there was more desirable, apparently, for agricultural purposes than the rolling prairies at a distance from the stream, and the water-power sought to be utilized for mechanical and other purposes was deemed as an invaluable adjunct to the building-up of the country. The houses were, of course, primitive beyond description, often being constructed of sod, with thatched roofs and other evidences of the limited resources available in those days. Yet this discouraging outlook attracted rather than dismayed the emigrants, who came in large numbers even after the township had been generally settled, and desirable sites were held at extravagant rates. In 1837, Caleb Tompkins took up land in the timber on what was afterward known as the Bride Farm. G. A. Seth, Isaac and Eldredge Farwell settled adjoining each other, four miles east of the present village. Garrett Lloyd became a settler this year also, as did Norman, Levi, Isaac and Orsemus Brace, Harvey and Jeremiah Webster, Sybil Ann Price, who entered a claim to land three miles east of the present village; Stewart Reynolds, Sanford Niles, etc. These were followed in 1838 by Lewis and David Mitchell, Philo Hammond, Ezekiel and Jacob Forsythe, John Lloyd, a brother of Garrett Lloyd, who came the year previous; Putnam Perley, who entered a claim to the place now known as Hemmen way's; Ezekiel Brown, who settled near Holmes' Mill; John Brazee, one mile west of the village, probably Christian Clay, and others. In the fall of 1837, a girl was introduced into the household of Daniel and Julia Wooten, - who was christened Margaret, and published as the first birth to occur in the township. In 1839, among those who cast their lines in the pleasant places with which Silver Creek Precinct abounded, were Charles Babcock and George H. Watson, accompanied by 1,000 sheep; William B. Hawkins, Ross and Anson Babcock, John Karcher, Lewis Woodruff, etc., etc. Early this year, i. e., on March 10, Thomas J. Turner, who had been among the first to settle in the township and make permanent improvements, and was then acting in the capacity of a Justice of the Peace, performed the first marriage ceremony that occurred in the town ; the celebrants were A. J, Niles and Nancy A., daughter of Gustavus A. Farwell ; the ceremony took place at the farmhouse of N. Eldredge Farwell, and the "couple" began the voyage of life without the "fixins " and " flourish " now deemed indispensable to similar events.
The decade between 1840 and 1850 was noticeable for the number and quality of those who came into Ridott to settle ; during that period the improvements that were made, included the railroad then projected, and many other features of enterprise that in these Edisonian days would be regarded as bubbles on the water. On the 28th of August, 1842, a colony of English agriculturists arrived in the township and took up land that had been reserved for their occupation in the timber. The "head-centers " of the party sent out an agent the year previous who canvassed the situation in America, prospected over the West quite generally, and, after making careful estimates of the advantages offered elsewhere, advised the establishment of an English colony in the township of Ridott. The report submitted and containing the recommendation cited was adopted, and in harmony there- with, the following persons came into the township : Thomas Hunt, wife and mother ; Robert Knight, Charles Foulkes, Robert Lankford and wife, Thomas Clay, Henry Layland Knight and wife, Charlotte Hurst, John Wooton, George Barnes, Joseph Gibson, Joseph Lester and W. R. Fairburn and wife. They settled in the timber remained together about one year and a half, employing their knowledge, obtained at home, in preparing the earth for the. bounteous harvests, which have since been yielded. At the expiration of that period, death, a division of sentiments and other causes combined to dissolve the colony, the members of which were distributed about the then almost undiscovered West. Many, however, remained in Stephenson County, where they have prospered, and are, to-day, among the most extensive and enterprising farmers in this portion of the State.
About 1850, lands began to increase in value and command ready sale. During that year, the influx of Germans was quite large. They were composed of the better class of that nationality, and, settling south of the old State road, opened up farms and completed improvements, which to the present day, testify in behalf of those who projected and concluded them. The colony originally numbered about fifty members, among whom were Poppa Poppa, Wessel Wessels, Jurin van Buckum, Christian Akerman, Folk Huyanga, Yelle Ruter, Uno Collman, T. Jussen and others, whose descendants have survived them and succeeded to generous inheritances, the fruit of labor employed by their parents, and which has done so much to create a demand for land in the State. From 1850 to 1860, the settlements made by individuals and parties were more frequent and permanent. In 1852, the Galena & Chicago road, since passed into the possession of the Northwestern corporation, was completed through Ridott and contributed materially to the populating and improvement of the township. In 1860, the lands had been generally taken up and occupied ; the war, as a matter of course, diminished the population to an appreciable extent ; but since its close, the numbers who enlisted and never returned have been made up by the arrival of those now counted among the inhabitants and identified with the public good. The township, to-day, is regarded, by those at least who reside within its limits, as one of the most healthful, fertile and desirable in the county, the home of industry, independence and prosperity. The first deaths are alleged to be the drowning of Milburn and Reed, in Pecatonica River, as related in the history of Silver Creek Township, in which township it is also claimed this accident occurred.
When the Galena & Chicago Railroad was completed through the township, a station was established about one mile west of the present village, and a town surveyed and platted. The place was named Nevada, after Nevada City, Colo., at which point Daniel Wooten, who owned the ground upon which the former place was located, died in 1849, while en route to California. A post office was established here, of which William Wright was the Postmaster. Considerable improvements were made, and for several years appearances seemed to indicate that Nevada would, in a brief time, become a thriving town.
This condition of affairs remained unchanged until the summer of 1860. At that time, J. S. Cochran and brother, of Freeport, purchased 60 acres of land upon part of which the village of Ridott now stands. It seems that prior to the purchase of the town site, the Cochrans had concluded a contract with the rail- road company, by the terms of which the former were to grade the side tracks, plat and lay out the town, in consideration of the company's removing the station to the point now occupied. Accordingly, the side tracks, etc., were completed, thirty acres of land were surveyed and platted into lots 30x120, and on the 10th day of July, 1860, the station was removed. Immediately thereafter, G. W. Loveland, Postmaster at Nevada, in obedience to instructions from the Department, removed the post office thither, and completed his present house on Adams street, the first house in the village, which was at that time known as " Cochranville." Improvements were made without delay. The Cochrans built the large frame building on Adams street, now known as the " Farmers' Store." A man named Oscar H. Osborn erected a house near the track, and adapted the same to residence and saloon purposes. In 1861, Samuel Irvin built a shoe- shop on Adams street ; James Clark, a residence on the same thoroughfare, and W. E. Moorhouse a dwelling on Jefferson street, these constituting the improvements made until the close of the war. The period intervening between 1861 and 1865 was not noticeable for enterprise ; some little building was carried on, but nothing of note is remembered to have occurred. Quite a number of soldiers enlisted from Cochranville and vicinity, a limited number of whom returned, the remainder yielded to the fortunes of war and were buried in the trenches, or settled elsewhere.
During the fall of 1861, through the agency of a petition prepared by the residents and addressed to the Department at Washington, the name of the village was changed to " Ridott," by which name it has been known to the postal authorities, the commercial world and the general public, ever since. After the peace at Appomattox Court House, an impetus was given to building up and improving the village. Ross Babcock erected the brick block on Adams street, containing two stores, office rooms and "Ridott Hall," a commodious audience-room dedicated to "free speech," wherein the Free Methodists hold services, lectures are delivered, soirees are given, and the cheerful minstrel warbles his melodies. Isaac S. Shirey put up a handsome residence on Washington street ; J. A. Kerr followed the precedent on the same street, and later, Josiah Deimer, Mrs. Lewis Getchell, Reuben Clark and Hezekiah Porfenberger, on the same thoroughfare; Henry Gibler, one on Adams street; Dr. M. W. Walton moved a building into the village and reconstructed it, making an attractive residence out of its frame, etc., etc.
In 1867, the church edifice of the United Brethren Association on Adams street was commenced, and completed during the year following. In 1869, the old red schoolhouse on the Waters place was vacated, and the base of operations changed to the handsome brick schoolhouse on Jefferson street, completed that year and since occupied. The past ten years have been years of prosperity, though not fruitful of events or replete with accidents or incidents calculated to inspire ambitious youth or create a fever in the blood of the age. In 1875, the town was incorporated as a village, under the general law, with the following list of officers. It should be observed, however, that the first birth was a son to Oscar and Mary Osborn, named Irwin, and who now resides in Iowa. The first death was Elizabeth Leech, and the marriage of Brock Mullen to Mrs. Mary Hill was the first matrimonial venture concluded in the town. The village now contains a population of about 350, has three stores, two blacksmith-shops, two saloons, two religious congregations, and one wagon, shoe and harness shop, also one livery stable.
1874 - F. D. Coolidge, President; H. P. Waters, Samuel Moyer, 0. M. Doty, W. A. Kerr and J. L. Robinson, Associates.
1875 - Reuben Clark, President; Samuel Moyer, J. L. Robinson, C. L. Christie, H. Poffenberger and W. A. Kerr.
1876 - Isaac S. Shirey, President; C. L. Christie, Reuben Clark, 0. M. Doty, H. Poffenberger and Samuel Moyer.
1877 - H. Poffenberger, President; Samuel Moyer, Terrence Griffin, H. Gochenour, F. W, Kerr and Robert Shirey.
1878 - Henry Gochenour, President; C. W. Warner, C. A. Dibble and G. W. Moyer. At a special election held November 5, 1878, Isaac S. Shirey and 0. M. Doty were selected as Trustees.
1879 - Isaac S. Shirey, President ; Reuben Clark, W. K. McGilligan, Samuel Moyer, 0. M. Doty and H. B. Dibble.
1880 - H. Poffenberger, President; R. Clark, W. K. McGilligan, H. Gochenour, 0. Knickenberg and James Hotchkiss.
Clerks. - W. A. Kerr, 1874 ; I. S. Shirey, 1875 ; W. K. McGilligan, 1876-78; G. R. Loveland, 1879; George E. Bennett, 1880.
Treasurers. - S. Moyer, 1874-76; G. W. Loveland, 1877-80.
Police Magistrates. - G. W. Loveland, 1875; resigned and was succeeded by M. W. Walton, who still serves.
The first school taught in this portion of the township, was a select school in a log house on the farm of Horace Colburn, now owned by Samuel Moyer. Here Miss Laura Colburn and her successors in office sowed the seeds of knowledge and administered the birch for about ten years. At that date, or in 1855, a frame schoolhouse was erected on the farm of Harvey P. Waters, and for fourteen years the " Old Red Schoolhouse," by which term it was known, did duty as a church, lecture-room and house of entertainment, in addition to the object for which it was erected. In 1869, the brick schoolhouse on Jefferson street was completed, the " Old Red " vacated, and moved to the Moyer farm, where it supplies a varied want, graphically expressed as "long felt," being a washhouse, butcher shop, and what not peculiar to settlements provided with limited resources. The present school edifice is 40x60, compactly built, two stories high, and cost about $5,000. The premises contain two departments, employ two teachers, and enjoy an average daily attendance of seventy-five pupils. The schools are conducted at an annual expense of $1,200, a portion of which is obtained from the State, and are under the control of a board composed of Wesley Johns, J. A. Kerr and Marvin Hammond.
United Brethren Association.
This society, the largest and most influential in Ridott, was established in the township before the village was laid out, with a small membership, under the pastorate of the Rev. James Johnson. The congregation was composed of residents of Nevada principally, as also members of the denomination residing in other portions of Ridott Township, and services were conducted in the schoolhouse, first on the Moyer farm, and, finally, until the church was built, in that on the Waters farm. In 1867, the frame edifice on Adams street was commenced, its completion and dedication being postponed until the following year, when it was taken possession of and has since been occupied. It is of frame, 28x48, handsomely equipped, capable of seating an audience of two hundred. The congregation at present numbers forty-five members ; the church property represents an estimated valuation of $2,500, and the following have officiated as Pastors : Revs. James Johnson, Mr. Frazer, Mr. Dodds, Mr. Davis, L. B. Peck, G. B. Walker, J. H. Phillips, Mr. Thayer, P. Hurles, I. K. Statten. J. H. Grimm, F. Reibel, H. D. Hesley, and W. S. Hayes, the present incumbent. Free Methodists - Numbering about thirty communicants, was organized in 1875, under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Ferns. The association worships in Babcock's Hall, the Rev. Mr. Frink being the Pastor in charge.
RIDOTT CEMETERY, located on the farm of Samuel Moyer, and laid out about 1868 or 1869, is a handsome inclosure of one acre, devoted to burial purposes, and under the control of Mr. Moyer. The cemetery contains some elaborately carved monuments, commemorating the virtues of those who sleep beneath the sod, and is a spot of beauty, if not a resort for joyous pleasure, that will be regarded with sympathetic interest until the world is rolled up like a scroll.
Was removed from Nevada in 1860, to the depot in Cochranville, with G. W. Loveland as Postmaster. In the fall of 1861, it was changed to Ridott. Mr. Loveland remained in charge until 1863, when he was succeeded by Samuel Irvin, who removed the office to his store on Adams street. He was followed by William Carroll, Jr., who continued in possession from 1865 until 1870, when Jacob D. Schmeltzer took charge, and acted until I. S. Shirey was appointed. Mr. S. discharged the trust until the fall of 1879, when he resigned and G. S. Babcock was appointed his successor, and is still serving.
The village boasts a band, composed of the young men residing in the vicinity, which was organized in 1878, and on all occasions when its services are called into requisition, discourses most excellent music.
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