Genealogy and History
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Erin township originally comprised not only its present area but, in addition, the township of Kent, to the west, which was subdivided from Erin on March 17, 1856. It was a strange freak of the logic of events that the blow which severed Kent from Erin and left the latter deprived of the superior wood and water advantages formerly enjoyed, should have fallen at a meeting of the board of supervisors which was convened on St. Patrick's day. For Erin township, as its name implies, was settled largely by Irish farmers, and the village of Dublin in the western part of the township contains one of the two country Catholic churches of the county.
About 1835 the first settlements were made in that part of the county which is at present Erin Township. The settlers were Hibernians from the "ould sod," by name Bartholomew Doyle and Michael Murphey. Both of them settled in the range at present known as "Dublin Settlement," the former on the site of St. Mary's Church of the Mound, and the latter about a mile away from that spot. Their nearest neighbors were the settlers in the western part of the township, which has since become Kent. Among these were the Timms family, the Willets and various others who are mentioned in the history of Kent township.
For about two years the settlers were few and far between. In 1837 Valorus Thomas arrived and settled about four miles away from Dublin settlement, on the line between Harlem and Erin townships. In the same year came Ebenezer Mulnix, and a Mr. Helm, who settled near Thomas. Bartholomew Doyle remained on his farm long enough to improve the land and donate three acres for the erection of St. Mary's Church. Then he moved west about half a mile, into Kent township, sold his old farm to one Robert Franey, and began the opening and improvement of a new grange.
Between 1837 and 1840, a goodly number of emigrants came to Erin township, with a large preponderence of the Irish element among them. The large part of Dublin settlement did not come until about 1842, but some of the fore-runners came earlier. Among the newcomers, about 1839, were James Fowler, John Fiddler, John B. Kaufmann, Peter Van Sickle, George W. Babbitt, Jonas Pickard, Palmer Pickard, Lewis Grigsby, F. Rosenstiel, and their families.
In 1840, there was another large inroad, including, among others, Reuben Tower, William Schermerhorn, John Lloyd, Frederick Gossmann, John Hammond, Nathan Ferry, E. H. Woodbridge and a number of people whose names are lost to us. Amos Davis, who had settled at Scioto Hills in 1837. moved west into Erin township about 1840 or a little later.
In 1842, Dublin settlement began to grow very rapidly. Andrew and George Cavanaugh came in that year, also Andrew Farrell, Dennis Maher, who settled in section 29, John McNamara, Patrick Brown and many more. None of the newcomers were more warmly welcomed than the wife and family of a man named Burns. They had come by wagon train, and when crossing the Rock River at Dixon, the bridge collapsed, and all were hurled to the depths below. In the havoc which ensued, a number of the unfortunates were drowned, among them Mr. Burns and his son. Mrs. Burns and the rest of her family were fortunate enough to escape, and instead of remaining about the spot where the calamity had occurred and spending her time in vain lamentations, she pushed on to the destination at which her husband had been aiming. Here she arrived safely some time later and was warmly welcomed by the settlers.
The first birth in the Irish settlement occurred in 1843, when a son was born to George Cavanaugh. In the next year, the first marriage was solemnized by the Catholic priest. Robert Cavanaugh and Bridget Maher were the happy couple. In December, 1845, the first known death is said to have taken place. One Mr. Gillis, who was taken sick in the autumn of that year, died, according to tradition, from lack of proper care and treatment. He was buried in the grove on Burns' Branch, the first recorded burial of the township.
St. Mary's Church of the Mound, the first Catholic church built in the county, according to some, was put up by the Dublin settlers in 1836. This seems highly improbable, but such is the tradition. There has always been more or less of a controversy between the Catholic parishioners of Dublin and Irish Grove, each parish asserting that its church was the earliest of the county. It is quite impossible to decide the controversy, for records have been so meagerly preserved. The "Golden Jubilee" souvenir, issued by the congregation of St. Mary's of Freeport during the Golden Jubilee Celebration of 1896, does not attempt to take part in the dispute, but merely states the dates of the founding of the parishes with resident priests. According to this, Dublin settlement has the advantage of a few years. It was attended by priests from Galena until 1843, when Father Derwin, appointed by the bishop of St. Louis, became the first resident priest, also doing service at the Irish Grove settlement in Rock Run township.
The Irish Grove church was certainly erected in 1838, the Dublin church within a year of that time. Consequently we can approximate the time of building and find that it was very early in the annals of Stephenson county. Once the church was built, there was something to draw Irish settlers to the vicinity, and to this day, Erin and Dublin settlements have maintained their full quota of Hibernians.
Erin township is quite as fertile as any in the county, and contains quite as good land. It has an area of about eighteen square miles, being one of the three smallest townships of the county in company with Jefferson and Dakota. There is no large creek or stream of any importance nor are there any groves or timbered sections of appreciable extent. The township is crossed by the Illinois Central Railroad (main line) with its one station at the village of Eleroy. This line, formerly a part of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad came through in 1852, and was later purchased by the Illinois Central, which now controls the line from Freeport to Galena. [History of Stephenson County by Addison L. Fulwider, 1910]
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