Genealogy and History
Part of the Genealogy Trails History Group
FIRST SETTLER, William Wadams
Bronze Tablet to be Placed on Farm Four Miles West of Lena To Mark Site Where Settler Erected Cabin
Lena Legion Post To Conduct Ceremonies
Marker is Gift of Charles M. Shoesmith, Lena Resident -
Date To Be Determined Later
Plans are being made by the Lena American Legion post for the placing of a bronze tablet some time in the near future on the site where the first permanent settler of Stephenson county erected his cabin. This site in on Peter Shrob's farm, located four miles west of Lena, and just east of Waddams Grove, a few rods northwest of the Pinhook school, in West Point township. At the April meeting of the county organization held at Orangeville recently, an invitation was extended to all of the Legion Posts of Stephenson County and surrounding territory, also to the Freeport American Legion Drum and Bugle corps to participate in this celebration.
A special invitation is extended to all old settlers and others who are interested in the marking of the first permanent settlement in the county, which was made by William Wadams and his two sons, who came from JoDaviess county and staked their claim here in 1832. William Wadams was born in Auburn, New York, Dec. 2, 1786. Here he grew to manhood. He married Miss Lucy Rolland of Corinth, Vermont. After their marriage they moved to the territory of Indiana, which except for a year or two in Ohio, remained their home until 1827 when the family, some walking and some riding horseback, came to Peoria, Illinois.
A year later, the Wadams family moved to Galena, where they stayed up till the time of the Blackhawk War, when they fled from the Indians. During the war the family lived for a brief time at White Oak Springs and at Apple River, keeping hotel in the former place. At the close of the war, Mr. Wadams built his log cabin on his four hundred acre claim in West Point township, which was then a part of JoDaviess County. Here he established a permanent homestead where he remained until his death which occurred May 15, 1856. His wife lived here until her departure from this earth in 1878, although the log cabin was torn down and a frame house erected by her son JoDaviess Wadams, in 1863. After the death of his parents, JoDaviess went to California, but he was heard to speak of his home in West Point township as "the dearest spot....... William Wadams was the father of thirteen children, however his daughter Mrs. Jacob Burbridge said when reciting the history of the family in 1891, "this fact brought us no ill-luck." He became prominent in the local affairs of JoDaviess and later Stephenson County, served as justice of the peace for several years, and presided at the weddings of many of the young men and maidens of the locality. While living at Galena he put up the first four-mill in northwestern Illinois. His first neighbors were probably Luman Montague, who settled on what is still known as the old Montague place, one mile northeast of the Wadams homestead, and Wadam's son-in-law, Jacob Burbridge, who settled one mile north.
Luman Montague set our the first nursery in this part of the state. He was the father of Henry Montague, who died on the old homestead in December 1931. Mrs. Henry Montague died in Lena in January 1932. They have no living children, but have one grandson in California. Jacob Burbridge was a veteran of the Blackhawk war. He brought the firs seed wheat to northwestern Illinois. Mr. Burbridge, as well as his wife, who was a daughter of William Wadams, passed away in the village of Lena. As far as those interested have been able to determine, there are no descendants of William Wadams living in this locality at present. The definite date for the dedication will be announced at the next county meeting of the American Legion posts, which will be held in Lena May 16. The marker has been purchased through the efforts of C. B. Shoesmith of Lena, whose grandfather was one of the earliest settlers of Kent township and a friend of William Wadams. [April 23, 1934 clipping, Contributed by Karen Fyock]
Old Settlers Association
Personal Recollections by J.L. Rockey
Association to hold 70th Annual Reunion on August 23, 1939
Old Settlers Picnic - August 1894 - Contributed by Karen Fyock
Reminiscences and personal recollections of pioneer days in Stephenson County compiled by the late John L. Rockey form a valuable record that is prized by the Stephenson County Old Settlers Assoc. In his article Mr. Rockey who was born near Cedarville but spent his later life at Harrisburg PA, links the past with the present by relating memorable events concerning many of the early settlers who organized the Old Settlers Assoc. The articles list details regarding the organization of the association in August 1869 for the purpose of perpetuating and cherishing the history and traditions of the past through annual gatherings which brought thousands of old homefolks on the trek to Cedarville each August through the years that followed to show country pride and gratitude because of the good fortune of our forefathers who made it possible to claim this fine heritage, all roads leading to this beautiful village of Cedarville with its lovely groves. Most of these men were American born, but descended from European heritage. They were an excellent class of people believing that Stephenson county was one of the garden spots of the earth and there was splendid co-operation.
Many founders of the society were prominent and influential citizens of their several communities. I cannot disassociate John H. Addams from the very foremost, wrote Mr. Rockey. A worthy helper in this movement was Squire Marcus Montelius in whose grove the first reunion was held. He was a surveyor with wide acquaintances in every part of the county. Jacob Latshaw, the village tinsmith, an ardent admirer of Benjamin Franklin and also Jackson Richart the millwright, Joseph Reel and the blacksmith, Jackson Piersal, all ready to bring Cedarville to the front.
Of the farmers in this area, the four Clingman families were themselves a goodly host, they were an honor to the state of Ohio and gave our Buckeye Township its name. Josiah Clingman was a pioneer justice of the peace and in the absence of minister married many young couples. Squire Clingman and his wife were ideal pioneers. She attained the age of 105 years The Squires brother John B. lived nearby and all the younger Clingmans of the Patton neighborhood were valued citizens. Then there were the Lucas brothers Levi and Adrian, also from Ohio. Very courtly and dignified gentlemen, invariably on horseback. I was born in one of Adrians houses, baptized in the Baumgardner barn before the Zion church was built with my middle name being Lucas out of respect for Adrian.
Excellent farmers further north were Jesse and Robert Jones, Englanders by birth, skilled in woodcraft with advanced ideas in farming, pioneering in fruit growing, with large orchards, a vineyard and a hop yard. The Wilcoxen brothers lived south of Cedarville on extensive farms. Other interested farmers were the Wrights, John B. Angle, the Rutherfords, Samuel, Thomas and George Barber. Free and unstinted support came from the Hockmans, Humphreys, Snyders, the Matters, Folgates, Wohlfords, Yeagles, Eppleys, Cryders, Jacksons and others. Equally fine support came from the farmers West of Cedarville - the Leids, Frys, Addams, Wetzels, Canfields, Reagors, Rigneys and others. From the McConnell neighborhood were the Diveleys, Shippees, Bechtels and Robeys. Levi Robey was the first president of the society, well qualified with his jovial nature and store of anecotes, Waddam Robey who bore a striking resemblance to our beloved Lincoln was popular as sheriff of our county.
Pioneers in the Winslow section were the Blanchards and the Brewsters, John K. and his brother Daniel. John K as the builder of a great hotel, conspicous landmark of Northern Illinois. Those from the Western part of the county were Luman Montague and Pells Manny, Judge Andrew Hinds, Dr. W.P. Narramore, Dr. Bradshaw, St. John, Trotter, Bobb, Kleckner, Krape, Belnap, Caldwell, Bollender and Pollock families. Southward lived the scotch-irish families named Wilson, Boals, Nelson, Steward and Thompson. In the Rock Grove section were the Chambers, Barbers, Prestons, Rockey, Myers and Bolender families. John Swanzy, the Hunts, Minors and others came from Ridott. The Colemans, Rosentiels and Hettingers from Silver Creek and the Taggerts from the southwestern sectin.
In Lancaster and Harlem were the families of Furst, Snyder, Rezner, Stout and McCool. In Freeport were Sunderland, Burchard, Ordway, Atkins. Other Freeporters I recall are Emmert, Walton, Cronkrite, Best, Giles, Barton, Sterns and Stover families.
I remember details of the first reunion. The grove was on the Buckeye township line where Harlem and Lancaster join. The day was unusally pleasant with sunshine and a cool breeze. Streams of teams were seen on all the roads, all headed for this place, where care-takers received them. Every locality was represented and joyous were the meetings of long separated friends. Hands were shaken and eyes beamed with pleasure, the spirit of former days was revived. In those early days there was difficulty getting supplies, a railroad had been regarded as an impossibility but the soliciting of subscriptions began and progress was slow. It was tedious to go by team to Galena or Chicago with a load of produce to get groceries. But the women took a hand and as a pioneer mother of Oneco township expressed it "We must sacrifice, we can save and sell the colts, but a railroad we must have." The completion of the first railroad to Freeport marked an epoch in the county history, prosperty which brought comfort and contentment for we not so much out of the world. Youth today cannot comprehend what that railroad meant to our country. Cedarville missed by two miles getting the railroad and felt it keenly for it had woodland, water courses and hills and easy roads through them.
New names and new faces will appear at future meetings with the retirement of the original settlers. May these citizens of the future grasp opportunity eagerly. [Freeport Journal Standard 16 August 1939]
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