Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Kent Township, located in the western tier of townships of Stephenson County, contains thirty-six square miles, or a total of about 22,700 acres, nearly all of which is under cultivation. It is bounded on the north by West Point Township, on the east by Erin, on the south by Jefferson and Loran, and on the west by Jo Daviess County.
It was settled very early in the history of the county, at least six year before most of the county was settled up. The first settlement was made in 1827 by O. W. Kellogg, a now famous pioneer, who staked out his claim in the virgin forest at Burrows' Grove. He cleared away the timber, built for himself and his wife and children a log shanty, and re-named the stretch of timber - and Kellogg's Grove. It has since been rechristened Timms' Grove, and stands near the site of the Black Hawk monument.
But about the time of Kellogg's settlement, the Black Hawk War occurred, and the Kellogg family, after enduring the throes of the combat successfully, packed up their effects, and departed for other parts. For eight years, no permanent settler ventured into Kent Township. Then, in 1835, a man named Green, who hailed from Galena, came to settle, and he obtained possession of the Kellogg cabin. Not satisfied with the aspect of the country, he remained only a short time and disposed of his real estate to James Timms, who became the first permanent white settler in Kent Township, and one of the first of the whole county.
In the fall of the same year, Jesse Willet made his appearance settling near the bridge afterward known as Willet's Bridge, near to the Timms settlement. About the same time Calvin Giddings and Jabez Giddings came and settled on the banks of Yellow Creek four miles north of the Timms cabin. For a long time after these migrations no new settlers ventured into the district, and Timms and his neighbors remained in sole possession. In the fall of 1836, Gilbert Osborn came, and then again intervened a time of inaction, when no new settlers came to take up their new homes in the wilderness. For three years this condition of affairs prevailed. In 1839, J. Reber settled a mile and a half northwest of Timms' Grove, and in 1840 Frank Maginnis erected a cabin. Ben- jamin lllingsworth came the same year and settled near the Timms homestead, remaining with the Timms family until he could get his house into shape such that it should protect him from the force of wind and tempest.
With 1840 the township became more populated. In 1837 the first marriage took place. James Blair and Kate Marsh were united in holy bonds of matrimony at the house of James Timms. The old records do not state who performed the ceremony. The first birth was Harvey M. Timms, son of James Timms and wife, who was born May 26, 1837, and resided in this county all his life. The first death took place in the same memorable year. The unfortunate was Jesse Willet, Jr., who was buried in the old "Willet burying-ground" near the preesnt site of the Dunkard church. The first school was opened in 1837 by one William Ensign, who instructed the young idea in the house of James Timms, magnanimously loaned for the purpose. Among the families represented in his school were the Timms, Maginnis, Giddings, and Willets.
About 1838 a mill was built on Yellow Creek by John and Frederick Reber. Its site was near the center of the township, and it was well patronized by the farmers round about. The coming of the mill was a great boon to the pioneers. Before its advent they had been obliged to have their grinding done at Craig's Mill, at Apple River, and at other places of uncomfortable and inconvenient distance. Still the question of supplies was a troublesome one. Meat and game were procurable, but many supplies had to be obtained from Galena in Jo Daviess County, from Dixon, in Lee County, and other points at a considerable distance. The new mill thus furnished an inducement for emigrants to settle in the Kent district, and they came, forthwith, in large numbers.
By 1840 the tide of immigration was well begun, and in 1844, four years later, the land of Kent Township, was sold at a public sale in Dixon. This proceeding caused no end of trouble, for there were conflicts of title between the old settlers and the new purchasers, and in some cases the quarrels were violent and of long duration. In time they were settled, but for many years there was more or less feeling harbored by certain of the settlers against one another.
Kent Township was only opened up to the commercial world when the Chicago and Great Western Railroad chose to lay their tracks across the southwestern corner of the section. This brought an influx of speculators and purchasers, and the railroad company established a station, thereby founding the village of Kent. The village has never grown to surpassing dimensions, principally because the railroad which performs its service connects with the county seat only indirectly. It remains, however, a pleasant and habitable little settlement, with an enterprising and energetic population.
The water supply of Kent Township is good. Yellow Creek, entering from Jo Daviess County, flows east and south through the whole central part of the township. Its tributaries are few, but sufficient to cover the surface of Kent with a network of rills and brooklets, and prevent a dearth of the desirable moisture. The land is mostly prairie with a few large groves still standing. In general there is very little to differentiate Kent Township from the ordinary middle west rich farming lands. It is a square of highly desirable land, inhabited by a rich and prosperous class of scientific farmers whose premises present as attractive and orderly appearance as one could wish to see.
TOWN of KENT
When the Chicago Great Western Railroad laid its tracks through Stephenson County in 1887, the village of Kent was surveyed and platted, and lots were sold. As it was the only village in the township, a phenomenal growth was anticipated a growth which, unfortunately, has never been realized. The village is located in the southwestern corner of the township, near the county line. It contains about one hundred and fifty inhabitants and supports several stores, two churches, and a creamery. Owing to the proximity of Kent to Pearl City, the people of Kent for the most part attend lodge in that village.
Lutheran Church. The Lutheran church of Kent was built about 1880. It is on the same circuit with the Pearl City church, and is officiated over by the Rev. Alex MacLaughlin, who lives at the larger village. The Kent Lutheran church is an unusually well built and well equipped church, and is valued at about $3,000. The membership is quoted as sixty, with a Sunday school of practically the same proportions. Morning services are held every two weeks at the Kent church, with evening services on the alternate Sunday.
M. E. Church. The early history of the Methodist church is completely lost. It is not a very old organization, having been founded not more than twenty years ago, about the time of the platting of the village itself. The Kent church is in the same charge with two other rural churches, all three of them being officiated over by Rev. Armitage. The parsonage of the pastor is located in the village of Kent, and the building is valued at $1,200. The Kent church is valued at $2,500. The circuit, which is a student charge, has an aggregate membership of ninety-seven souls, about forty of whom are connected with the Kent church.
Kent Observer. The Kent Observer, a weekly newspaper, printed at Pearl City on Thursdays, is the official organ of the villagers at Kent. It forms a part of the sheet published by the Pearl City News, and comprises half of the edition of that paper, or space equivalent to a seven column quarto. While the paper is issued at Pearl City, it is devoted to the interests of the people at Kent, and contains news items, and other material of interest to the people of the town. The Observer was originated by Mr. Freas, a former editor of the Pearl City News, and has since appeared with unfailing regularity on Thursday of every week. The paper is a great boon to Kent people and is widely patronized both in the village itself and in the surrounding rural districts. Dr. M. W. Hooker is editor.
Kent contains a creamery, operated by a farmers' stock company, and a grain elevator. The business section of the town is very lively for a place of the size, and the stores do considerable business with the farmers of the vicinity. The population of the village was listed at about one hundred inhabitants at the taking of the last census. There has been considerable increase since 1900, and the next census will probably bring the mark up to one hundred and fifty or more. [History of Stephenson County, by Addison L. Fulwider, 1910]
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