Genealogy and History
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History of Rock Run Township
Source: "History of Stephenson County, Containing a History of the County, its Cities, Towns &c..." Western Historical Company, 1880
Rock Run Township located in the western tier of township, is one of the largest and proportionately wealthy sections into which the county is divided. The soil is productive and comprehends 70 per cent of the territory, the balance being grown up with timber. It contains upward of 30,000 acres, is watered by Rock Run, furnishing abundant power form mill, and other mechanical undertakings, and is divided in the center from east to wet by the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, which has been largely instrumental in developing the townships resources, appreciating the value of property and contributing to her population.
The first settlement of a permanent character made in the township is said to have been effected by a Mrs. Swanson, who came to the country with her family and entered upon the possession of a farm in Section 10 or 11. She was a widow, but was aided in the care of her property by a family of children, who accompanied their parents to Illinois.
Settler had made their appearance prior to the advent of "Widow Swanson" including S.E.M. Carnefix, Alexander McKinn, Arthur Dawson and one or two others, but these had remained temporarily in transit to the mines and it was not until the "widow" became a fixture that they returned to stay. To these pioneers, with Thomas, Flynn, E. Mullarkey, Henry Hulse and M. Welsh, William and Leonard Lee, Nathan Blackamore and Aaron Baker, is due the honor of first breaking ground in the township, but they had hardly been located when the precedent they established was emulated, and in the year following arrivals were more numerous. Among these were Nathan Salsbury, who settled in Section 34, and with him Dr. F.S. Payne, D.W. C. Mallor, John Hoag, S. and T. Seeley, who settled near Rock City, Peter Rowe, etc.
The Mullarkeys, with Thomas Foley and one or two others, who came during the previous year, opened farms about two miles south of the present town of Davis, where they established a settlement, that has long been known as "Irish Grove," from the large number of Celts who followed in the wake of those who came in 1836. The following year, Pat Giblin, Miles O'Brien, a man named Corcoran, who subsequently removed to Rockford were included in the roster of inhabitants gathered at Irish Grove. The same year, Thomas J. Turner put up a grist mill in Section 34, but sold it to Nelson Salsbury, who in turn disposed of it to James Ebley. The first birth is alleged to have occurred this year, it being a son of Albert Flower, at the saw-mill on Rock Run.
During 1838, H.G. Davis with his family came to the township and purchased the saw-mill put up in Section 27 by Stackhouse, Carrier & Flower. Mr. Davis paid $4,000 therefore and completed the dam that summer. The only Catholic Church in the township was built this season, by Thomas Flynn, E. Mullarkey, M. Welsh and a priest believed to have been Father Piltitot, who walked from Galena to disseminate the Gospel among the settlers, and assisted in raising the frame hewed out by Calvin Cloton, alias Amost Isabel. This old church had but two pews for many years, and was kept in service until 1862, when the present edifice was completed. "Pony" Fletcher and Narcisse Swanson were married in the fall of 1838, it is said, and claimed to be the first marriage in the township.
In 1839 numerous accessions were made, and improvements kept pace with the influx of inhabitants. Among those who settled in Rock Run Township during 1839, were Conrad Epley, Edward Pratt, who subsequently removed to Freeport. M. Flower, Edward Smith, settling on Sec. 13; Uriah Boyden on Section 30; Thomas Fox, who removed to Wisc.; Thomas Bree, Martin Mullen, Patrick Flynn, Michael Flynn, Patrick Flynn (second), Thomas Hawley and William Marlowe, who identified themselves with the settlement at Irish Grove and some others..
In the early part of that year, Josiah Blackamore and Leonard Lee built the present Epleyana mills which then had but one run of stone, and were afterward sold to Conrad Epley. A party of Norwegians settled at the mill on Rock Run in Oct. 1839 being the first settlement made by this nationality in the US. The delegation included C. Stabeck, Ole Anderson, Canute Canuteson, who opened the first blacksmith shop in the township; Civert Oleson and Ole Civertson,the latter opening the first wagon shop in the vicinity. There was much to encourage the settlers this year, and the country began to bear the appearance of being highly cultivated. But times were hard. Those who had removed from comparatively plenty to the West and were compelled to toil with indefatigable energy to triumph over the embargoes which constantly intervened between them and comfort. Game was to be had in abundance, but pork and other luxuries were only to be procured from a distance, and at a price ($43 to $50 per barrel) that denied it to the most independent. Snakes, too, were numerous beyond comparison, and fatal as the plague, and many an old settler recalls the times when he was obliged to pirouette in a lively manner, or drop a sheaf of oats, to avoid being bitten by the venomous massasauga. Yet, in spite of these objections life in the wilderness was not without its charm, and, whatever complaints found expression, did not deter immigration from the East and across the sea, and though clouds shone over the pathway of these venturesome pioneers, there were glimpses of sunshine to relieve the passing gloom and encourage the coming of that perfect day which long since made its welcome advent.
In 1840, D.A. Baldwin settled in Section 30 and Capt. Knese in Section 13 the year following. Additions were made that year to the Irish and Norwegian settlements, and every nationality represented in the new field of labor and development had their number increased by fresh arrivals. In 1841, the first regular post office in the township was established at the Rock Run Mill and H.G. Davis appointed Postmaster. It remained here until 1848 when it was removed to Jamestown - otherwise known as "Grab-all" -- near Rock City where it was retained for a number of years, but finally abandoned when Rock City and Davis were laid out and dignified with the privileges appertaining to towns and villages. A son of John R. Webb died in the fall of this year, the first, it is claimed, in the township.
From 1840 to 1850 the township developed with gratifying rapidity, consequent upon the increase in population and cultivation of the soil.
In 1855 the first Presbyterian Church in the township was built, and services were conducted by the Rev. Joseph Dickey. In 1857, Davis was laid out, and two years later, the Western Union road was completed through the township. During the war, Rock Run contributed her quota to the Union army, and with the dawn of peace her citizens once more took up the "Burden of life" with renewed spirit, have borne the burden imposed with dignity and character, and the homes of comfort that greet the gaze withersover the eye may be turned in tramping the township highways are the results.
The most pretentious and populous village in Rock Run Twp., though of comparatively recent birth, has, since that event grow with each succeeding year, and waxed in strength with age, experience and observation. The town is pleasantly located on the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway, in the northeastern section of the township, and is as bustling, busy and prosperous a community as can be found in the State. It is already celebrated for the industry and enterprise of its inhabitants, as a shipping-point for the large crops raised in the vicinity; also for the publication of the Davis Review, which has been sustained seven years by the patronage it has commanded from the citizens and many other features of excellence, reserved for mention in their appropriate places.
From the year 1857, at a time when the completion of the Western Union road was a conclusion irresistible, the necessity for a station on that thoroughfare, at a point in the township convenient and accessible to travelers and shippers, was apparent to even those who had taxed their incredulity with regard to the enterprise in progress. It was at a period when great financial embarrassments were beginning to crowd the commercial and speculating spirits of the country, and men hesitated before entering upon new ventures, as much by reason of their apprehension regarding results, as of a lack of resources. Nevertheless, it was decided to lay out the town, and in the year mentioned, Samuel Davis, John A. Davis, T.J. Turner and Ludwig Stanton donated a total of 160 acres for the purposes of a "new dispensation," and caused the same to be surveyed and platted, a task accomplished by Edward McMahon, and christened the results of their labors. " Davis". The first survey was completed with twenty blocks laid off, but in March following (1858) the survey was concluded and the plat promulgated. In 1858, the railroad was finished to Davis, and in September 1859 the first passenger train was run through the town to Freeport, on the occasion of the State Fair, which was held in that year at the latter city.
When the village was first conceived in the minds of those who were instrumental in its production and subsequent growth and development, its present site was a territory embracing cultivated farms, occupied severally by D. A. Baldwin and others who resided on the premises and whose respective homes made up the complement of improvements to be observed at that time. Immediately on the completion of arrangements to lay out a village these farm appurtenances were removed and the farms themselves divided and subdivided into squares and lots, with streets of generous dimensions, and named for the old settlers throughout the township, such as Stanton, Turner, Carnefix, Blackamore, Lee, etc. But lots sold slowly. The panic of 1857 and effects incident thereto, prevented ready sale of property, and disappointment was substituted for the feelings of encouragement the founding of the village produced. A few were sold, however, as the years progressed, at prices ranging from $40 to $125, and the improvements were projected and carried on in spite of the hard times and unpromising outlook. Houses were built, streets rendered passable, sidewalks laid, trees planted, and other efforts made which added to the attractions of the place.
In 1858 Samuel J. Davis erected the first store in the village. It was located at the corner of Stanton and Salsbury streets, and still stands on the spot of its origin. In the summer of 1859 the Evangelical Church was put up and was quickly followed by the erection of other church edifices. The stone schoolhouse was completed in 1858, and the first brick house in the growing town was made ready for occupation in 1866. Ernest Wendt was the enterprising citizen who made the investment. It is now occupied by John Butler.
From 1857 to 1863 there were but comparatively few additions to the population. After that period of comparative inaction had passed, there was a marked improvement in the quota of arrivals and steady growth was visible. In the latter year, the frame additions to the schoolhouse was finished and during the decade ending with 1869, residences, stores and other marks of progress were increased and sustained by the inhabitants.
On Thursday May 1, 1873, an election was held to determine the question of incorporating the town under the provisions of the general law for the incorporation of villages, adopted April 10, 1872. The polls were located at the Pennsylvania House; S.J. Davis, Peter McHoes and John Gift acted as Judges, and 33 votes were deposited in the affirmative, to 31 votes against the proposed organization. A meeting was convened on May 5, following, at which the votes were canvassed, with the result cited, and thereafter Davis was published throughout the county with its legal prefix of villages.
The following is the roster of officers who have served since that date:
1873 - E.A. Benton, President; E. Clark, M. Meinzer, Thomas Cronemiller and M.W. Kurtz, Associates.
1874 - John Gift, President; E.A. Benton, T. Cronemiller, M.W. Kurtz, T. Hayes and George Zimmerman, Associates.
1875 - John Gift, President; T. Cronemiller, E.Clark, A. Inman, P. Orth and M.W. Kurtz, Associates.
1876 - A.B. Cross, President; W. potter, Joseph Gibbons, B. Moorberg, John F. Fink and Henry Deimer, Associates.
1877 - Peter McHoes, President; Joseph Gibbons, John Butler, W. Potter, Jacob Orth and E. Long, Associates.
1878 - John Gift, President; J. Bellman, S.J. haynes, Levi Epley, M.W. Kurtz and John Butler, Associates.
1879 - John Gift President; S.J. Haynes, H.W. Kurtz, W.Z. Tunks, John Butler and John Barloga, Associates.
1880 - Elijah Clark, President;John Butler, Jacob Orth, and the President were qualified to serve one year; John Long, M.W. Kurtz and Adam Rhenigans, to serve two years.
Meetings are convened monthly in a stone building on Stanton street, erected in 1879 for a council hall and calaboose.
Village Clerk - M.W. Kurtz, 1873; John F. Fink, 1874; Henry Reese 1875 and 1876; M.W. Kurtz, 1877; J. Potter, 1878 and 1879; E.J. Hinds, 1880.
Police Magistrate - John B. Smith, elected in 1876 to serve four years.
Schools - Previous to the laying out of the town, pupils residing in the section wherein Davis is located, attended school at Epleyana, two miles northwest of the village. In 1858, a separate district was made in the town site, and a stone schoolhouse erected on the hill in the southwest quarter of the town. The building cost $1,200, and supplied the wants of the residents until 1863. By this time the number of attendance had increased materially, necessitating the building of an addition to the original edifice, which was finished that year. It is of frame, two stories high, 20x30, costing about $2,000, and furnishes abundant accommodations for the present roster of pupils.
The departments consist of first and second primary, grammar and high schools, employing four teachers and affording the means of education to an average daily attendance of 150 pupils.
The schools are under the supervision of a Board of Directors, composed of M.W. Kurtz, President; Joseph Brink, Nicholas Heinen and Thomas M.W. Kurtz, President; Joseph Brinker, Nicholas Heinen and Thomas Cronemiller and requiring an annual outlay of $1,500 for their maintenance and support.
The Davis Review
The only paper in the township, was established in May 1873 by K.T. & K.C. Stabeck, when it was known as "The Budget", a quarto sheet, published in Freeport also. The Messrs, Stabeck continued in charge of the paper until September, 1878, when they removed to Freeport, abandoning the field in Davis to S.W. Tallman, who purchased the latter office about $600, changed the makeup to a seven-column folio, the politics from Independent to Republican, and substituted Review for Budge. Since the purchase, Mr. Tallman has been conducting the enterprise single-handled and his paper now enjoys a weekly circulation of 350 copies in the township of Rock Run, Rock Grove and Dakota, of Stephenson County, also in Durant, Pecatonica and other townships of Winnebago County. The paper is issued on Fridays and the establishment is valued at $800.
The society was organized in 1870, through the labors of the Rev. William Schock of Forreston with 18 members. Joseph Keller was Elder, Levi Ungst, Deacon and services were held in the Methodist Church. In the spring of 1872 the congregation decided to erect an edifice for its own benefit and occupation and an effort was made to raise the funds necessary for that purpose. Through the untiring energy and industry of Joseph Keller, Aaron Gold and others, a fund was collected the same season and the church on Turner street completed and dedicated. It is of frame, 34, 50, handsomely finished, surmounted by a steeple 75 feet high and cost, when ready for service, a total of $3,100. The auditorium affords a seating capacity for 300 worships. The following pastors have officiated; The Revs. Charles Young, Richard Lazarus, William Seidel and J.A. Bartler the present incumbent.
Davis Evangelical Association
Was organized in 1857, with the following members; Thomas Bond and family, Jacob Bond and family, Jacob Weaver, Michael Meinzer, William Kramer and T. Jenuine and families and Mr. Abbersted. At first services were conducted in private residences and the schoolhouse, continuing in these resorts until 1862, when the present church as completed at an expense of $2,500, being of frame, finished with reference to convenience and solidity rather than ornament or elaborateness. The diocese is included in what is known as Davis Circuit, which includes Rock City and other points, having a total of 236 members, 115 of whom are communicants of the church in Davis Village. The value of the village church property, which embraces a parsonage is quoted at $3,500 and the following ministers have been - The Revs. George Fleisher, John Dengel, Jacob Schafle, Samuel Dickover, W. Strasburger, A. Niebul, H. Rohland, William Huelster, Henry Bucks, L.B. Tobias, S.A. Tobias, and J.G. Kleinknecht, the present incumbent. The association also have a church at Rock Run, established about 1850.
Davis Methodist Episcopal
Was organized in June 1859 under the auspices of the Rev. James McLane, with 12 charter members. Until 1862, services were held in the schoolhouse, when the use of the Evangelical Chapel was obtained and occupied four years. In 1866 the present edifice costing $1,800 was erected and has since been occupied by the congregation. With the exception of one year, the church formed a part of the Durant charge and services were had only Sunday afternoons. In the fall of 1878, however, it became an independent charge, with the Rev. F.W. Nazarene as Pastor. Since then, the church has enjoyed a steady growth and is quite prosperous. Its membership numbers about 80, embracing a large proportion of the English speaking element of the community. During the summer of 1880, extensive repairs were made on the church, which is now one of the neatest and most commodious in the district. Since its foundation the following Pastors have officiated in charge of the congregation; The Revs. James McLane, C.C. Best, L. Holt, H.N. Reynolds, Thomas Cochran, M.G. Sheldon, Mr. Taylor, L. Campbell, T.L. Hallowell, W.H. Orlap, P.C. Stere, T.H. Hazeltine and the present minister.
Davis Manufacturing Company
Was incorporated in 1876 with a capital stock of $10,000 and the following official board; Lemuel Goodrich, President and A.J. Morris, Secretary; Lemuel Goodrich, A.J. Morris, Jacob Orth, E.A. Benton, G.W. Becker, A. Inman and M.W. Kurtz, Board of Directors. The objects of the association were the building and conducting a flour-mill and in the summer of 1876, the mill on Blackamore street, opposite the Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Track, was completed, supplied with four run of stone, propelled by steam power, and taken possession of by Ball & Green, under a lease executed by the company. The sum of $16,000 was paid for building the mill, being largely in excess of the capital stock, which was secured by a trust deed of the property to the stockholders. This was foreclosed in 1878, and sold to the gentlemen composing the original board of officers and directors, who now own the property. It has been operated at intervals by the company - Aaron Stoll and Gift & Eichelberger, until May 1880 when its was closed up. The capacity of the mill is stated at 450 bushels of wheat per day in addition to a large quantity of ground feed. The organization is still in existence but not active.
Evening Star Lodge No 414 A.F. & A.M. -- was organized under dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Illinois March 11, 1864 and received its charter Oct. 5 of the same year, with the following officers; James Zuver, W.M. & George Osterhaus, S.W.; Edward R. Lord, J.W.; Dr. J.R. Hamill, Secretary; Charles Wright, Treasurer. The lodge prospered, increasing its roster of membership, the influence exerted by the members and resources of the craft. Recently the lodge erected a handsome hall on Stanton street, which was completed, furnished and dedicated the same year at an expense of about $3,000. The lodge now contains 42 members with the following officers; John Weber, W.M.; D.G. Lashell, S.W.; C.M. Gift, J.W. ; G.W. Beckeer Treasurer; T. Ihlert, S.D.; T. Nulks, J.D.; C.A. Carnefix, Secretary; I. J. Haynes, Chaplain and W.T. Schlamp, Tiler. Meetings are held on the first and third Fridays of the months.
Davis Lodge No 376 I.O.O.F. - Was organized on the 19th of Sept. with the following members; Martin H. Davis, Isaac Denner, John Nagle, Thomas Hays, Alvin Gestenberger and J.W. Caldwell. Of these, John Nagle was N.G. Martin H. Davis, V.G. and Thomas Hays, Treasurer. The present officers are Jacob Swartz, N.G.; W.S. Caum, V.G.; Henry Warner, Treasurer; J.M. Caldwell, Secretary; J.W. Caldwell, Warden; and J.L. Blackamore Conductor. The present membership is about 25 and meetings are convened weekly.
The town of Davis now has 12 stores of dealers in dry goods, groceries, drugs, and other commodities; two blacksmith shops, in one of which a superior quality of plow is made; three churches, one paper, one mill and other evidences of prosperity, together with a population of about 700, to commend it to the patronage and confidence of the world at large.
On the 10th of January 1859, George Raymer executed a contract with T.S. Wilcoxon and William Peterson for the transfer of the southwest corner of the northeast quarter of Section 29, containing 50 acres for town purposes, which was the first move made toward founding Rock City. During the same year, the town was surveyed and platted, 180 lots being laid out, fronting on Jackson, Washington, Main, Congress, Clay, Center and Market streets and Jefferson avenue, which commanded prices ranging from $40 to $50 each, when the town began to build up, immediately upon the completion of the railroad. In the fall of 1859, Samuel Hutchison and S.E.M. Carnefix, donated an addition to the south part of the town, which, however, was vacated in 1860, and remained unimproved. David Wilcoxon, John Graham and Perry Duncan were the store keepers, and the station was located and built during the same year.
The educational facilities limited to a school on Carnefix farm at an early day, were increased and improved after the town was laid out, and are today inferior to none in the county. Two churches afford spiritual pabulum to the citizens, and in this respective Rock City is equally fortunate as other township villages already mentioned. To these advantages is added that of accessibility for shipping purposes to farmers and speculators, being in the center of the township, with goods roads from all portions of the surrounding country leading to the depot, and the town is rapidly assuming a prominence and value in this respect, that will result in attracting to its population, enterprise and wealth in the near future.
Its roster of material interest is made up of two stores, two churches and a schoolhouse, and these, together with the fact that the town is but a short distance removed from Freeport, induce the conclusion that at some day, not far distant, it may be made the resident portion of that thriving city.
As already stated, a school was maintained previous to the laying out of the city on the Carnefix farm; subsequent to that event a stone schoolhouse was put up west of the village and taught by a master of the art naming Searles. This edifice answered public expectation and demands until the present quarters were erected in 1878, when they were substituted, and promise to supply the needs for which they were built until Rock City shall become a city in fact as also in name. Two teachers are employed; the average daily attendance is 75 pupils and the annual expense about $800.
EVANGELICAL CHURCH of ROCK CITY
Was organized in 1868 with a limited membership, which has been measurably increased during the past 10 years. In 1869, the present church edifice was commenced, completed and dedicated under the pastorship of the Rev. H. Rohland. It cost $2,200 is in a good state of repair and an ornament to the town. Rock City being in the Davis Circuit, the same pastors who officiate at that point do likewise for communicants residing at the former place.
The organization of this church is due to the efforts of a small body of Christians who connected themselves with the Davis Circuit in the fall of 1878. Services were held in the Evangelical Chapel and the school house until the summer of 1879, when the church building was completed and taken possession of. Its cost, including the bell and furniture, was $1,500; it has at present about 25 members with the Rev. F.W. Nazarene as Pastor.
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