Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
Rock Grove Township
Rock Grove Township is the home of a group of the most thrifty and prosperous farmers that can be found anywhere in Stephenson County. The farms are under high cultivation, and each and every one is provided with the most up-to-date machinery and farm appurtenances. The number of new circular barns which have been erected within the last few years in and about Rock Grove exceeds that of any other township of the county. Corn, wheat, oats, rye, and barley are grown in abundance, and hogs, sheep, and cattle are raised in large numbers, and the whole township from one corner to another presents an appearance of thrift, peace, and plenty, which is exceedingly beautiful to the eye.
There are two townships in the county which are not entered by any railroad, and Rock Grove is one of them. There has been talk at various times of connecting Freeport and the village of Rock Grove by an electric line. Such a line would possibly prove a paying venture as it would supply the long felt want of transportation facilities to the dwellers in the village and especially the farmers of the surrounding country. The prospects of an immediate completion of the venture are, however, exceedingly vague.
Rock Grove is traversed by a number of small creeks, notably Rock Creek, which flows south to join Rock Run in Rock Run Township. There are also a number of other small streams which have their sources in this township and flow down to swell the tide of the Pecatonica. The ground is slightly rolling, and the surface of the township is well wooded. There are large groves of valuable timber at Walnut, Linn, and Rock Groves, suitable for building and other mechanical purposes. The water supply is admirable; there are a number of artesian wells of delicious drinking water scattered throughout the region.
No permanent settlement was made in Rock Grove Township earlier than 1835, although many transients and prospectors had passed through on their way westward long before that date. In the summer of 1835, Albert Albertson, accompanied by Johnathan Corey, came to the township, and, having pitched their tents in the vicinity of the present village of Rock Grove, they were so delighted with the aspect of the country that they decided to remain permanently. They entered their claims in Section 36 of the present township and there took up their permanent abode. In December of the same year, Albertson and Corey were joined by Eli Frankeberger, who came with his family from Champaign County, Ohio, and settled in the present village of Rock Grove. In the same month of their arrival, the first white child born in the township, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Frankeberger, and straightway christened "Louisa Frankeberger."
The following winter was one of sore trial to the new settlers, owing to insufficiency of food and supplies. In the course of the winter they were joined by Josiah Blackamore, and later by one or two others. But the recruits were few, and it was only the enthusiasm and courage of the new settlers that kept them from a disgraceful retreat. That they did remain in their chosen habitation is greatly to their credit, and that they never regretted it is shown by the fact that most of them spent the rest of their lives within the bounds of Rock Grove Township, and their descendants are living there today.
In 1836 few new settlers came to Rock Grove Township, but in 1837 they began to come in large numbers. Previous to this year, the settlers had laid their claims in and about the future village of Rock Grove. Some of the newcomers went farther out in the country, as Joseph Musser, who settled in Sec- tions 19 and 20, Thomas Chambers, Samuel Chambers, William Wallace, and a few others. They all clung close to the grove, however, and did not go up into the northern part of the township. In the same year came Mr. Moon, who laid his claim in Sections 31 and 32, east of the grove, Joseph Osborn, who opened a farm in Section 35, and laid claim to timber lands in Section 30. In Section 31, in the future village site, Samuel Guyer and Daniel Guyer came to take up their claim, and later founded the village itself.
The first marriage occurred during the winter of 1836-7, and the contracting parties were Josiah Blackamore and Miss Wallace, a daughter of William Wallace, an early settler. This marriage did not take place in the township itself, however, but in Green County, Wisconsin hence many of the old settlers disclaim it as the first marriage in the township. It is said that Josiah Blacka- more, who was one of an army of volunteer soldiers, who had been sent by the government to aid in driving back the Indians, became smitten with the charms of Miss Wallace and on his return from the Indian wars, he wooed and won her.
In 1838, the first marriage within the bounds of the township itself occurred. Albert and Lavinia Albertson were united in marriage by Eli Frankeberger, who was justice of the county in addition to his farming duties. On April 19, 1839, Elijah Clark and Harriet Hodgson were united at Walnut Grove by Squire Kinney.
In the fall of 1839, Solomon Fisher and Jacob Fisher came to Rock Grove Township and laid claim to 600 acres of ground in Sections 25 and 26. The claim had previously been entered by Drummond, a transient miner, who erected a 16 by 16 cabin and dug a well. Drummond did not stay long and sold out to the Fisher brothers upon his departure from the locality. In 1839 and 1840 the immigration was large. Among those who came at this time were Peter George, John Fisher, Calvin Preston, J. S. Potter, John Kleckner, John and Reuben Bolender, George and Jacob Maurer, Joseph Barber, Levi, Adam and Michael Bolender, and others. By this time the population of the township was very well distributed. The settlers were not altogether gathered about the grove, but had spread out and taken claims even up in the northern part of the township near the state line.
The first death in the history of the township occurred in 1842, although some say it was 1843, and took place under very tragic circumstances. William Wallace, one of the earliest settlers of the region, became violently in- sane, and going out into the woods on the edge of the grove, he hung himself to a tree. He was buried in the vicinity of the village of Rock Grove, where the tragic event occurred. Along in 1843 another tragedy occurred, this time a tragedy of mysterious and inexplicable nature. A man named Boardman, who was employed on the farm of one Daniel Noble near Walnut Grove, was shot to death by the hand of an unknown assassin. Nothing was ever learned either of the assassin or the possible motives for his deed, and, although the event transpired nearly seventy years ago, it is still shrouded in the deepest mystery.
After 1839, prosperity began to be apparent in the township. Supplies were easier to obtain, and the founder of several mills in the nearby county, viz : the Van Valzah Mills at Cedarville, the Curtis mills at Orangeville, and various smaller mills on Rock Run, placed the inhabitants of Rock Grove Township in a safe and comfortable position. From about 1841 dates the modern history of Rock Grove Township. In 1844 occurred the sale of government lands at public auction, and thereafter the inpour of settlers was very great. In 1846 the first school was established in the township, in Section 36, near the village site, and the educational facilities of the township have since been on the steady increase. At present no section of the county is provided with better conducted schools. In 1850 the township was set apart and formally organized as Rock Grove Township. In the same year the village of Rock Grove, first known as Guyer's Addition, was founded.
Rock Grove Township comprises a territory of thirty-three square miles, or nearly that area. It contains but one village, the Rock Grove mentioned above. Located in the far northeastern corner of the county, it is farthest of any township from the county seat, but is well provided with schools and churches and is one of the pleasantest spots of the county for permanent residence, both from a farming standpoint and as a place of retreat, where joy and comfort can be the prime factors in life.
Rock Grove village although not formally platted out until as late as 1850, was one of the oldest villages in the county. It was in reality founded by the first settlers who came to the township, inasmuch as they located their claims in the immediate vicinity of the grove, and many of them in the very town site itself. The land on which the town was later located was originally owned by C. W. Cummings, who afterward sold out to Peter D. Fisher. Fisher himself had also owned some land in the neighborhood and Samuel Guyer owned extensive property just to the west. In 1850 Samuel Guyer laid out the village and sold lots, but the whole settlement was replatted and re-surveyed by Benjamin Dornblazer in 1855. In 1856, on the spth of August, J. D. Schmeltzer set apart, surveyed and platted nine acres in the southwest quarter of Section 36, and called it by the name of Schmeltzer's Addition.
In 1852 Fisher's Addition, which had never been settled thickly enough to deserve the name of village, was abandoned, and sold to Solomon Hoy. Thenceforth it was never used for village purposes, but on April 22, 1869, Samuel H. Fisher laid off four acres south of Schmeltzer's Addition in village lots and a settlement quickly sprang up there. The village is today as it was then, occupying for the most part only four or five streets, with one main street on which the stores and all the principal residences of the village are located .
Rock Grove possesses three churches, schools, two stores, a telephone exchange, a hotel, and several lodges, which meet in the Woodmen's Hall. There are also two cheese factories, one of them operating about a half mile north of Rock Grove, the other some distance west.
Of the three churches, only the Evangelical and Reformed churches are at present holding divine worship. The third, an Evangelical Lutheran congregation has temporarily disbanded, and no services are being held in the church.
Evangelical Church. The Evangelical adherents of Rock Grove have had a church and held services for a very long time, but for some years after establishing the congregation, no church edifice was bought or built. The congre- gation held services and worshiped in the church belonging to the Lutheran congregation, located about a half mile west of the center of the village.
In 1878 the congregation had increased to such an extent that it seemed advisable to put up a church building. Under the direction of a building commit- tee consisting of George Meyers, Jere Swartz, Jacob Sullivan, William Alexander, and A. Bolender, an edifice costing $2,300 was put up and paid for by subscriptions from among the farmers of the township and village. The church was dedicated on the 27th of November, 1878, and has been in use ever since that time.
The Rock Grove Evangelical church is in the same charge with the Oakley church, and both are presided over by the Rev. G. Eberly, who has been in residence since about a year ago, when he came here from Anna, Illinois. Both churches are in a prosperous condition. The Rock Grove church is the larger of the two, having a membership of eighty-six and a Sunday school of one hundred and twenty. The Oakley church has a membership of sixty-two and a Sunday school of about sixty. The church owns a parsonage, beautifully located in the village of Rock Grove, and valued at about $1,000. The Rock Grove church is estimated at about $1,600, and the Oakley church at a slightly smaller amount.
Reformed Church. The Reformed church holds its services in the Lutheran church building west of town. The membership is very small, having a congregation of about fourteen, with a Sunday school of twenty. The pastoral duties are performed by the Rev. G. W. Kerstetter, pastor of the Dakota church, and services are held only occasionally. The Rock Grove charge was only established in 1908.
Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Evangelical Lutheran church holds its services at intervals in the above mentioned church west of the village of Rock Grove. At the present time the church is without a pastor, the Rev. Mr. Delo having left some time ago. It is probable that services in the Rock Grove church will be altogether discontinued.
Rock Grove boasts of two lodges, the Rock Grove Lodge of the I. O. O. F. and the Rock Camp, No. 142 of the Modern Woodmen of America. The former has been in existence for many years, having been founded about thirty years ago. The membership at present is extended to about sixty mem- bers. G. Frankeberger is noble grand and Henry Long is secretary. The M. W. A. Lodge was established twenty years ago and has a membership of about forty. Both of these organizations meet in the M. W. A. hall on Main street.
The Kaup Hotel and feed barn has been conducted for some years by F. S. Kaup on East Main street. Mr. Kaup intends to move to Orangeville, where he will conduct the Central Hotel. He has kept a most excellent house in Rock Grove and his departure will be deeply regretted. There is no rival in- stitution, nor has any provision been made for a new hotel as yet.
There is one general store, conducted by D. L. Thoren, also a Bell telephone exchange. The present population of the village is estimated at about three hundred, with no prospects for any great increase in the near future. Rock Grove is one of the most picturesquely situated villages in the county, and af- fords quiet and rest for a large number of prosperous retired farmers, whose comfortable and well kept homes line the main street of the village. Although not on any railroad line, Rock Grove is easily accessible, being only a few miles from the C., M. & St. P. station at Rock City, and about eighteen miles from Freeport.
Rock Grove Village is located in Section 31, a place of quiet, unpretentious beauty, one of the lovely villages of the plain, containing upward of a hundred inhabitants and every feature that would contribute in any degree to satisfy modest ambition. C. W. Cummings originally owned the land upon which the village is located, which he sold to Peter D. Fisher in early days. Fisher also owned the east half of the southwest quarter of Section 31, 9, 29, and Samuel Guyer the west half of the same quarter and section. Guyer laid off the village about 1850, but in July, 1855, Benjamin Dornblazer resurveyed and replatted what was then known as Guyer's Addition, about the center of the town.
On the 29th of August, 1856, J. D. Schmeltzer set apart nine acres in the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 31, 9, 29, caused it to be surveyed and set apart in lots for village purposes, under the name of Schmeltzer's Addition. It should be stated that in the winter of 1852, the addition of Peter G. Fisher was sold to Solomon Hoy, and abandoned for village purposes, but on April 22, 1869, Samuel H. Fisher laid off four acres south of Schmeltzer's Addition, for village lots, in use for that purpose. The village is not thicky settled, each resident having breathing and living room sufficient, without encroaching upon his neighbor's comforts or privileges. It is supplied with a handsome church edifice, schoolhouse, etc..
Evangelical Church. - Previous to 1878, the members of this society held services in the Lutheran Church, near the village, put up in 1856. In 1878, the increase in membership induced the congregation to build a church of their own, which was completed the same year, under the direction of a building committee, consisting of George Meyers, Jere Swartz, Jacob Sullivan, William Alexander and A. Bolender, at a total cost of $2,300, raised by subscription in the township. The church was formally dedicated on the 27th of November, 1878, and has been constantly occupied since. At present, services are held in English on alternate Sundays, under the pastorship of the Rev. W. W. Shuler, and in German, alternate Sundays, the Rev. J. Shafle, officiating.
The German Reformed and Lutheran congregations own a church about one mile from the village, in which services are held occasionally, under the auspices of either sect, circuit riders attending to the pastoral duties.
Schools. - Institutions of learning, of course of the most primitive character, were first rendered available about 1841, when Paul Chandler, or some other equally venturesome pedagogue, wielded the birch and educated the callow idea into a complete familiarity with the rudiments of learning. To-day the school system that is in force throughout the county, is regarded as equal to the requirements. In the township, there are schools at every cross-road, and one of more than ordinary importance at Rock grove Village. Here, the attendance averages seventy-five daily, during the winter term, and $600 per annum are expended in its support. The cause of education, like that of morals, is extended a generous and sincere support throughout the township. fertility, productiveness and natural resources, has in the past twenty-four years fully realized unto the inhabitants gathered within its limits, the fullest fruition of promises held out to them nearly half a century ago, as inducements to remain. [HISTORY OF STEPHENSON COUNTY, by Addison L. Fulwider 1910]
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