HISTORY OF MT. PLEASANT TOWNSHIP
[Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles Bent; Page 291 - 296; pub. 1877]
Mt Pleasant is the name of township 21, range 5 east of the 4th principal meridian. It was organized in 1852 from Union Precinct and denominated "Mount Pleasant" by A.C. Johnson, the name having been previously applied to a small school house, situated upon a little knoll near Morrison, by one of the early teachers of the township. It contains 36 sections of land - 23,040 acres. The land is principally undulating prairie and of exceeding fertility. Rock creek, which flows in a general southerly direction throughout the western part of the township, presents, along its course, a series of small bluffs covered with timber. The stream furnishes a number of valuable mill sites, and excellent quaries of sand and lime stone are found along its banks. The principal groves of forest trees are in the immediate vicinity of Morrison. The productions of the township are mainly corn, cattle, hogs and horses. The quantity of pork produced is very large. The yield of corn is excellent, and of a superior quality. Latterly wheat has not been produced to any extent; but formerly the yield was large, as the following extract from the "Whiteside Sentinel" of September 1, 1857, will shows:
"In the spring of 1856, Mr. George D Brown purchased eighty acres of prairie land in Mt. Pleasant township. This land was immediately broken up, and this spring was sowed to wheat. The crop (just harvested) has paid for the land, expenses of breaking, fencing, harvesting, etc., and ten percent on cost of purchase. This land has since been sold for $30.00 per acre - clearing to Mr. Brown, in the space of about one year the neat sum of $2,400."
The first settlement made on the territory now embraced by Mount Pleasant township was in the latter part of 1835 by Wm. H. Pashcal, John D. Paschal, James J. Thomas , and Felix French. These gentlemen selected claims in and near the timber just east of the present City of Morrison. Jonathan Haines, of Tazewell county, visited the section now known as Jacobstown, in 1835, and the next year settled there and erected a small saw mill on the east side of the creek. After sawing one log a freshet carried off the mill. Subsequently Mr. Haines erected a grist and saw mill which rendered service for a number of years, and proved of much value and convenience of the settlers. About the year 1837 Mr. Haines laid out "Illinois City" just west of Jacobstown. Ten acres were included in the "city" and lots offered without money and without price to all who would improve them. The lots were not improved, and "Illinois City" never was graced by blocks of buildings and a great population, with a directory and City Council. On the older maps the "city" is marked in larger letters than the State Capital, and emigrants traveling westward prior to 1840 often heard of "Illinois City." The earliest settlers were not favorably disposed to locating upon the prairie, and usually made their claims in the timber or its immediate vicinity. The timber growth found by the pioneers was large and of good quality. Trees that would produce three rail cuts were abundant.
In November, 1835, William H. Paschal completed a log cabin which was occupied during the winter by W.H. and John D. Paschal, Felix French and James J. Thomas. The next spring prairie land was broken and planted with corn, the crop being known as "sod corn." This was doubtless the first farming in Mt. Pleasant township. At this time the Winnebago Indians were numerous, peaceable, but natural thieves and very filthy. This tribe disappeared in 1838 after having nearly exterminated the game. Wolves abounded and were very bold, causing the settlers much trouble. At one time a pack of them made an attack on Mr. Paschal's dog when tied within ten feet of the cabin, and but for prompt interference the canine would have furnished a supper for the hungry brutes. Wolves infested the country inpacks for some ten or fifteen years afterwards, and were destructive to pigs and poultry, until the county became more generally settled, and liberal bounties were paid for their destruction. The scalps became a circulating medium and stood at par, while the "wild cat" and "red dog" money of those days was at fifty per cent discount. In 1836, George O. James settled in the north part of the township, and the same year, John B. Pardon and Pardon M. Dodge located near where Morrison now is. Jonathan Haines, Horace Heaton, Henry Boyer, and Samuel Love also made settlement this year.
William Heaton and family settled in 1837. He with those of his sons who were grown up made claims in the north part of the township. A.C. Jackson in 1837 purchased a claim from Pardon Dodge and became a resident. Soon after John W. Stakes and James Knox with his family of boys moved into the settlement from the Rock river country in the south part of the county. Anthony M. Thomas, and his sons John R., G.W., and Wm. C., and John M. Bowman, Pleasant Stanley, and John James, came into the township this year. In those early days but few of the pioneers were "visionary" enough to think the surrounding prairies would, in a score of years, be converted into cultivated farms and dotted over with fine residences. In common with others of the county the pioneers of Mt. Pleasant experienced great privations. Before they produced grain they were compelled to pay as high as $1.00 per bushel for poor corn to subsist upon. After they commenced raising grains and pork they were obliged to transport it many miles, sell it for a very small price, and "take pay in trade." As the community increased in population and resources, roads were viewed and established, and all the elements of civilization brought into use.
One of the first cares of the settler was the establishing of schools. In 1838 Oliver Hall was employed by the handful of pioneers, by subscription, to conduct a school in a little log structure in Mr. Paschal's timber. The "windows" of this primitive "temple of learning" were made by stretching greased paper over openings in the logs. For his services Mr. Hall was paid $10.00 a month and "boarded 'round". He was succeeded as teacher by Mr. Benjamin Burns, now a resident of Union Grove Township. Mr. Oliver Hall, the first school teacher in Mt. Pleasant, was born in Charlton, Wooster county, Massachusetts. He resided in that State until 1838, when he emigrated to Whiteside county, Illinois. After a residence of three or four years he returned to New England where he remained fifteen years, then came back to Whiteside county, and is now a resident of Morrison.
The settlers were not deprived of gospel services. The Methodist Episcopal Church had pushed far out into the wilderness and upon the prairie, and the pioneers had the benefit of the mission services. Rev. James McKean, a missionary, held religious services at Elkhorn, and in the grove in Mt. Pleasant, preaching at the house of James J. Thomas. In 1836 he formed a "class" composed of James J. Thomas and wife and George O. James and his wife, the first religious organization in Mt. Pleasant. A Rev. Mr. James and Rev. Barton H. Cartwright frequently conducted services after Mr. McKean. Mr. Cartwright was then upon the circuit and reached Union Grove, as the timber about Morrison was called, once in four weeks. Through other works the readers of the History have all become familiar with the description of the itinerant preacher upon his circuit. Gospel services were conducted afterwards by D.B. Young, Samuel Slocumb of Albany, and Thomas Freek, who resided not far from Erie; also a young gentleman from Fulton. These religious laborers were known as "local preachers." The gospel was preached in this way from 1836 to 1842 or '43, when stated services were held at the school houses, then springing up, and also at Unionville. Previous to the school house preaching, the cabins of the settlers had been required to do duty as churches, and the "neighbors" from Winchell's Grove, now Kingsbury Grove, in Newton, counted it no hardship to drive to Mount Pleasant to listen to the gospel.
In January, 1843, the "land came into market" and it was necessary to pay for the claims, the Government price being $1.25 per acre, payment to be made in gold or silver. The settlers had come to the country poor in purse, the finances were in a distracted condition, and the products of the land commanded but a small price, therefore the men who had made claims met with great difficulty in securing the money necessary. Mr. J.D. Paschal relates that he sold his hogs for $1.50 a hundred, and other products at similar figures, and with much labor and tribulation paid for the land. His experience was that of nearly all the settlers. Previous to the purchase of the land the settlers were annoyed by "claim jumping" - that is , locating on lands previously claimed, and for mutual protection the farmers of this vicinity formed themselves into a society to prevent claim jumping. A.C. Jackson was at one time President. In this township little trouble was experienced, but in other portions of the county there was considerable difficulty. The man who had the temerity to jump a settler's claim was frequently assisted to "jump off" in a manner more vigorous than pleasant. The whip, rope and gun being readily brought into requisition when necessary.
As nearly as can be ascertained, the first funeral in Mt. Pleasant township occurred in 1836, being that of James Heaton, who was buried in a grave yard near Jacobstown. The first child born in the township was in June 1836 and named John French, a son of Felix French. The first wedding celebrated in Mt. Pleasant township was in 1836, at the house of Henry Boyer, who then resided near where Jacobstown now is, at the spring on the Morrison and Jacobstown road. The contracting parties were John Powell and Miss Campbell, afterwards Mrs. Russell, who died about two years ago in Morrison. J. T. Atkinson, a Justice of the Peace, performed the ceremony. Mr. J.D. Paschal, who was then a singing master, was to have a singing school at Mr. Boyer's house, and this was chosen as an auspicious time for the ceremony. A large party of the settlers assembled, and were thoroughly surprised and delighted by the novelty of a wedding. The ceremony was followed by good old-fashioned singing and an excellent meal. There of rare occurrence until several years later. representatives of the fair sex was not so numerous in 1836 in Mt. Pleasant as at the present day, and weddings we
The pioneers of Mt. Pleasant suffered for the bare necessities of life during the first year of their settlement. Mr. J.J. Thomas relates that food was so scarce that it was divided so closely that a spoon was necessary to make an equal division. During the winter, owing to lack of hay and absence of other feed, many cattle starved to death. In the spring Mr. Thomas only had four head left out of twenty-two he had driven from the south part of the State. In the spring in company with Mr. James Heaton, he visited Milledgeville, where there was a "corn cracker," to secure food. They purchased a few bushels of frosted corn from a Mr. Ankeny, at $1.00 a bushel. This they shelled and carried upon their backs three miles to the "corn cracker," where they gave a third to have it ground. Mr. Heaton had a pair or weak, starved oxen, at Ankeny's , with which they started for Union Grove with their precious food, but so feeble were the cattle that it was two days before the journey was accomplished. The settlers suffered to a considerable extent from ague and other diseases peculiar to new countries. Physicians were few and at great distances, so that the medicines were principally furnished by Nature, reinforced by "Ague and bilious specifics," brought from the former homes of the emigrants.
The following is the first record of school meetings obtainable; "pursuant to public notice, the citizens of township 21 north, range 5 east, county of Whiteside, Illinois, met at the house of A. M. Thomas, on January 1, 1846 and elected William Knox, A.C. Jackson and Jonathan Haines, Trustees of said town. The trustees met at the house of A.C. Jackson, and appointed Jonathan Haines Treasurer of said Board." April 13, 1846, "The Trustees, with the County Surveyor, proceeded to survey section 16. The section was divided into eight lots, and prices fixed at $1.25, $1.50, $1.75 and $2.50 per acre." October 2, 1847, the school fund of the township was reported to be $412.74; the number of all white children under the age of 20 years 118, of which number 17 were in district No. 1; it was also ordered that wood for schools be purchased at $1.00 a cord. April, 1848, the school fund was $1.171; money in the Treasurer's hands subject to distribution, $35.25; it was "ordered that the Treasurer pay himself from the above sum $3.22, and $19.75 to the School Commissioner for selling school lands, and the balance to A.P. Young, School teacher, except so much as will be necessary to purchase "a pail and cup for the school." April 19, 1856, the township was divided into school districts; District No. 1 to consist of Sections 17, 18, 19 and 20; District No. 2, sections 1,2,3,4,9,10,11, and 12, and the north one half of sections 13 and 14; District No. 3, sections 5,6,7 and 8; District No. 4, sections 29, 30,31 and 32; District No. 5, sections 23,24,25,26,35,36, and south half of 13. District No. 6, sections 27, 28,33 and 34; District No. 7, sections 15,16,21 and 22. In 1857 District No. 2 was divided, sections 3,4 9 and 10 remaining as No. 2, while sections 1,2,11,12 and the north half of Sections 13 and 14, were erected into District No. 8.
Round Grove, a railway station in the eastern part of Mt. Pleasant, was surveyed and laid out in January, 1856, by Winfield S. Wilkinson, at the direction of and for John A. Holland, Chas. D. Sanford, Jedediah I. Wonser, and James McCoy. Considerable shipping is done at this point by the farmers. There is a postoffice, store, etc, at the station. An excellent school house is located here, and also a Methodist church in which services are maintained by the Methodist Society, and occasionally by other denominations.
In the early history of the country small collections of settlers were usually made in the vicinity of the mills where people came from great distances to have their grain ground, and thus the little hamlet of Jacobstown came into existence. The place was named for Royal Jacobs, who managed the mill. At one time there was a store in the place that had a large trade, a blacksmith and cooper shop, etc. A heavy business was done at the mill, but now the shops and stores are gone, and Jacobstown exists as a town and trading point only in name.
The records of the first township meeting in Mt. Pleasant read as the annexed: " Annual town meeting of legal voters of Mt. Pleasant convened at the Mt. Pleasant school house, April 6, 1852 and Ward P. Lewis was chosen Moderator, and John W Staketems elected Clerk pro . Officers duly sworn in by an acting Justice of the Peace, after which the meeting proceeded to the election of township officers for the ensuing year by ballot. On the canvass of the votes the following officers were declared duly elected; Supervisor, Aaron C Jackson; Assessor, Alfred Haines; Collector, Cyrus P. Emery; Overseer of the Poor, John James; Commissioners of Highways, William H Paschal, R.K. Hiddleson and Horace Heaton; Justices of the Peace, G H Dimick and R. K. Hiddleson; Constables, Cyrus P Emery and A.C. Pratt. Six overseers of Highways were elected - J M Lenhart, Henry Wyman, Alson Knox, H H Jacobs, George O. James and J. Kennedy.
April 5, 1853, it was "resolved, that a lawful fence for this town for the ensuing year shall be of rails, posts and rails or posts and boards, and shall be four and a half feet from the top to the ground, and sufficiently tight to turn cattle, sheep and hogs running at large." An effort was made to prevent hogs running at large, but failed. It was decided to prevent calves under one year of age from running at large; also "that every man be his own pound-master for 1853". April 4, 1854 it was ordered that all hogs be shut up. April 1856, it was ordered that all owners of bulls, over six months old, found running at large, be fined $5, the fines to be applied to roads and bridges; also decided by vote "that pigs and hogs be confined, and all legal voters authorized to take them up when found running at large, and to be entitled to 25 cents for hogs and 12 1/2 cents for pigs, animals to be advertised and if not claimed to be sold, the seller to be responsible to the owner for the money received, above expenses of taking up, advertising, etc." April 1857, at a town meeting held in Johnson's Hall, A C Jackson, H A Johnson and John E Bennett were appointed a committee to frame a hog law; swine and sheep were prohibited from running at large, under a penalty of $5; 40 cents road tax was levied upon each $100 worth of property. April 1859, a road tax of 40 cents on each $100 was levied; dogs were taxed, the proceeds to be devoted to road and bridge purposes; J.A. Fisher was appointed Poundmaster. April 1860, a resolution was adopted by which a fine of $1 shall be assessed for scouring plows upon public highways; the road tax levied was 20 cents upon each $100; one-half of funds arising from fines for violation of stock law to be turned into poor fund for the benefit of widows and orphans. In 1865 it was resolved to give each volunteer who is credited, or may be under the last call, to the town, $110.00
Since the township organization of 1852 the following have been officers of Mt. Pleasant:
Supervisors: 1852 - 56 Aaron C. Jackson; 1857-58 Ward P. Lewis; 1859-63 S. H. McCrea; 1864 -70 Henry R. Sampson; 1871-73 Addison Farrington; April 7 1874 Winfield S Wilkinson was elected and resigned September 3 1874; Dewitt C McAllister was appointed to fill the vacancy; 1875-77 Dwight S Spafford.
Town Clerks: 1852-56 Ward P. Lewis; 1857 William W. Houseman; 1858-60 H. P. Roberts; 1861-63 Henry R Sampson; 1864-65 E L Worthington; 1866-71 Frank Clendenin; 1872-77 J M Burtch
Assessors: 1852, Alfred Haines; 1853, John W. Stakes; 1854, Gilbert H Dimick; 1855 V V Vedder; 1856 Cyrus P Emery; 1857 Wm Knox; 1858 A C Jackson; 1859 Wm Knox; 1860 Ezra Finch; 1861 D K Lincoln; 1862-64 Thomas Steere; 1865 George D Brown; 1866-68 DeWitt C McAllister; 1869-72 Ward P Lewis; 1873 Meril Mead; 1874-76 Ward P Lewis; 1877 Dewitt C McAllister
Collectors: 1852 -55 Cyrus P. Emery; 1856-57 ALfred Haines; 1858-60 Bela C Bailey; 1861-62 John E Duffin; 1863 John S Gillett; 1864-65 Erastus B Humphrey; 1866 Wm H Judd; 1867-68 Thmoas Allen; 1869 M Y Lewis; 1870-71 Wm H McInroy; 1872 Edwin J Congar; 1873-74 A P Young; 1875-77 John N Baird
Justices of the Peace: 1852 Gilbert H. Dimick, R. K. Hiddleson; 1856 Simon Fellows, Henry S. Vroom; 1857 Hiram Olmstead, H. S. Vroom; 1860 James Cobleigh (County Seat Justice), Hiram Olmstead, Simon Fellows; 1864 William Lane, Simon Fellows, Sewel Smith; 1868 Addison Farrington, Geo. H Fay, James Cobleigh; 1872-77 George H Fay, John N Baird.
The following is assessed value of the different kinds of property in Mt. Pleasant township, including Morrison, as shown by the Assessor's book for 1877. The assessed value is about two fifths of the actual value; No. Acres improved land, 21,723; acres unimproved land, 588; valuation of improved land, $417,773; value of unimproved land, $6,903; improved lots, 431; unimproved lots, 68; value of improved lots, $197,045; value of unimproved lots $2,112; number of horses 581; cattle 1474; mules and asses 19; sheep 390; hogs 1999; fire and burglar proof sales 28; billiard and similar tables 11; carriages and wagons 278; watches and clocks 485; sewing and knitting machines 291; piano fortes 28; melodeons and organs 73; value of merchandise $36,865; value of material and manufactured articles $1975; value of manufacturing tools, credits other than banks, $47,250; value of household and office furniture, $11,023; value of shares of national bank stock $40,000; value of all personal property $203,368; value of railroad property $28,000; assessed value of all property $855,698.
The population of Mt Pleasant township, including Morrison, according to the census report was in 1870 - 2,553 persons. In November 1876, the township polled 624 votes, which at the usual estimate would show the population of the township to be 3,120. The census of School district No. 1, which embraces Morrison, showed a population of 2,031. The inhabitants of the township and city of Morrison are principally American, the census of 1870 enumerating only 378 persons of foreign birth and ten negros. The population of the township in 1877 is about 3200.
The City of Morrison is situated in the western part of Mt. Pleasant township, on Sections 17, 18 and 19 and near the geographical center of the county. The town was surveyed and laid out in 1855 by W.S. Wilkinson, Surveyor, under the management of Lyman Johnson, who had come to the place as a railroad contractor and builder with Mr. H.S. Vroom, the year previous. In 1851 the line of the present C. & N.W.R.R. had been surveyed through northern Illinois, the original line passing some distance north of the present location of Morrison, to the then flourishing village of Unionville. The citizens of that town, not familiar with railroads or their management, were assured in their own minds that the road must pass through that village, and no where else, therefore they demanded extravagant prices for their lands, and wee not disposed to make any concessions to the railway company. As a sequence the line of the road was changed and Unionville left at one side.
The original proprietors of the town of Morrison were men of enterprise and business sagacity, and Mr. Johnson by liberal dealing and good management secured the location of the railway station where it now is, and the future of Morrison was then assured.
The proprietors and incorporators of the town of Morrison were Lyman Johnson, H.S. Vroom, Homer Caswell, John W. Stakes, James Snyder, L.H. Robinson, N.M. Jackson, John J. West and W.H. VanEpps. The land upon which Morrison now stands was originally claimed by John W. Stakes, and entered by him and Wm. Knox, but purchased by Johnson, Vroom and the other proprietors from J.W. Stakes, Jeremiah Lenhart, J.T. Atkinson, Porter Robertson, and the Knoxes.
After the surveyor's chain had been run through the hazel brush and scrub oaks, the town, to spring up within the survey, was named "Morrison" by Mr. Johnson, in honor of Mr. Charles Morrison, a wealthy merchant of New York, and friend of Mr. W.H. VanEpps. Doubtless Mr. Morrison would have given substantial aid to the town but for the fact that business reverses swept his property away and left him a poor man. The originators of the town were sanguine of the future from its first inception, and invited merchants, mechanics and professional men to come and make their homes in the "new City."
The first house erected was by Lyman Johnson on the site now occupied by Library Hall. It was commenced in 1854, before the town was laid out; subsequently it was enlarged and used for a "hotel" known as the "Morrison House." Portions of the structure are now doing duty in different parts of the town as dwelling houses.
Charles Morrison, for whom this city was named
The following extract from a letter signed "Gotham," and printed in the New York Day Book, March 12, 1855, presents a fair picture of Morrison as it then appeared, and contains a prophecy which has been literally fulfilled: "The first important station on this road east of Fulton is Morrison, a new and commanding place just springing into existence, possessing innate vitality aside from its beautiful central position to warrant the assertion that it will never lag for energy, or in other words want for go-aheadativeness so long as it has a name, and its present proprietors, Johnson and Vroom (two enterprising citizens from Chicago), with their eastern associates, manager the helm and push forward the contemplated improvements so liberally provided for. Within a circle of one mile three fine mills privileges exist; one known as Jacob's Mill, a fine four story flouring mill; about three-fourth of a mile below is an equally good privilege owned by Mr. Robertson, with only a saw mill at present; and a short distance sill below on the same little Rock river is the third water power to be improved. Stone abounds in fine quarries, a fine and quite extensive grove of timber, called Union Grove, immediately north and adjoining the town of Morrison, with good material at hand for making brick, combining so many essential elements at hand as to require no great foresight in pointing to this place as being, not only the most central in the county, but at no distant day transacting a vast amount of business by capitalists building up a large commercial and inland trade in the very heart of this wealthy new country. No point in my travel thus far has so infatuated me and beguiled my time, as this promising, charming spot. What an opening for a half a dozen of our enterprising young men in your great city to open trade and become great and good in the destined growth of this western town. But two small stores are existing up to this time at Morrison. The Directors of the Air Line Railway have wisely selected this as a fit place to erect an extensive depot and station building, and if my observations are of any worth, a more judicious expenditure could not well be contemplated."
October 19, 1855, the first train was run into Morrison under charge of Mr. John Furlong, now a resident of the City. The next day his "residence" came in upon a flat car all ready to locate. For several weeks Mr. Furlong's family had been keeping house in the shanty upon a flat car, at Round Grove awaiting the forward move to Morrison. Mrs. Furlong related that the growth of population in the new town was noticed by the "new lights" that appeared each night in the new shanties springing up amid the brush. At this time one sled was sufficient to convey all the young people of Morrison to the "entertainments" then given at Unionville. During this year several residences and small stores were erected, among the first being the residence of H.S. Vroom, on the corner of Main and Base Streets, where F.C. Woodruff now resides. L.H. Robinson, Rev. L.L. Lansing, and others also erected dwelling houses, and Mr. Henry Ustick came to the town and opened a small general store.
The same year Mr. Ira Towne, a carpenter, removed from Fulton to Morrison; Mr. Thomas McClelland and S. Eshleman started a blacksmith shop and Mr. Wilcox of Como, also built a small shop and engaged in blacksmithing. Mr. A.S. Tryon burnt a kiln of brick in the south part of the town. The brick from his yard was used in the walls of the Baptist church which was erected in 1856-57. This was the first church edifice in the place. In 1855-56 the inhabitants worshipped at Unionville, where they were three or four churches, and in Johnson's Hall, a room fitted up over a store erected by Mr. Lyman Johnson in 1855. During this year a Dr. Norris, the first man who located in Morrison to practice medicine, built a shanty on the site of the present Universalist church, which he used as an office and residence. Among the physicians who came to Morrison at an early day were Dr. H.P. Roberts, now living in Iowa; Dr. William S. Coe, since deceased; Dr. A.Nowlen, from Unionville; Dr. W.W. Winter from Milledgeville, Carroll county, in the winter of 1957-58 who moved to Chicago in 1862, where he has a lucrative practice; Dr. S. Taylor, formerly of Erie, in this county; and Dr. H.C. Donaldson from Como, where he had been in successful practice since 1847. Drs. Nowlen, Donaldson and Taylor are still in practice in Morrison.
The first funeral in the town was that of Mrs. B.O. Russell, her grave being the first in Grove Hill cemetery.
On November 30, 1855, the first child was born - Miss Minnie Vroom, a young lady still a resident of the town. Charles Morrison Johnson, son of Lyman Johnson was the first boy born in Morrison, he is now a law student.
The railroad depot in 1855 was only a board shanty, yet a large business in shipping to and from this point was done by the company. H.H. Cortright, now General Freight Agent of the Hannibal & St. Jo. Railroad, was the first station agent.
In 1855 John E. Bennett came to the town and engaged in the mercantile business and in 1856 when the postoffice was removed from Unionville to Morrison, was made Postmaster. The feeling between the two towns was intensely bitter, and the citizens of Unionville refused to visit Morrison for their mail, but had letter boxes fitted up in a store in the former town, and one of their citizens was deputized to bring the Unionville mail from Morrison to be redistributed. The Morrison Postoffice has denounced as a location unfit for ladies to enter, a place where every bean barrel concealed a whisky jug.
In 1857 the permanency and future of Morrison was assured. Merchants, mechanics and professional men had begun to pour into the town, realizing its great advantages. The rich farming lands on all sides were soon improved by an enterprising class of farmers, and trade increased rapidly in the new town. This year the following firms were engaged in business; John M. Cobleigh, merchant tailor and clothier; R.M. and J.H. Johnson, dry goods; Neely & Johnson, dry goods and groceries; Spears & Bro., dry goods and groceries; O.B. Crosby, groceries and provisions; I. Burton, groceries and provisions; S.W. and F.H. Robinson, hardware dealers; W.L. Coe and A. Nowlen, drugs, medicines, paints, oils and glass; S.H. McCrea and Co., dealers in grain and lumber; J.V. Giles & Co., grain and lumber dealers; John H. Brown, produce dealer; Chas and B.O. Russell, in the hotel business; Vroom & Brokaw, livery stable; Wm. Trauger, groceries; Alphonso Bent, and Laune & Thompson, painters; H.A. & C.J. Johnson, attorney at law; R. Thompson, auctioneer; L.H. Robinson, Lyman Johnson, Olmstead & Gridley and Knox & McCrea, engaged in selling town lots; Wm. Finch, groceries and boots and shoes; Thos. McClelland and Sol. Eshleman, blacksmiths; F.W. Chapman, jeweler. J ohn M. Cobleigh is the only one mentioned who is still engaged in the same business in Morrison.
A large business was transacted by the merchants and considerable quantities of grain and other produce were shipped. From July 1, 1856 to July 1, 1857, 175,000 bushels of wheat were shipped from Morrison, the price ranging from 75 cents to $1.00 per bushel. In 1857 the brick stores now occupied by Spears & Son, Spears & Shafer, J.S. Green and Robt. Wallace were erected by Bartholf and John Weaver. This was the first brick block erected in Morrison. The same year the railroad company erected a depot building, and a number of residence sprang up in different parts of the town. Good business lots sold at from $150 to $350, and residences location at from $75 to $100. The strip of table land now occupied by numerous fine residences was laid off and placed in market about this time by Mr. Peter Knox.
On November 3, 1857, the citizens of the county voted upon the question of the removal of the county seat from Sterling to Morrison, the result of the ballot being in favor of the latter town, and the records were removed to Morrison May 3, 1858. The county offices wee for several years on the second floor of the brick building on Main street now owned by J.S. Green and S.W. Robinson. Court was held on the floor above, in what was afterwards known as Concert Hall. The removal of the county seat to Morrison gave the town a great impetus, and the population increased with wonderful rapidity.
An excellent class of stores was established, and trade was received from many miles in all directions. Several churches were soon afterwards organized, and a lively interest manifested in schools in the young village.
The first agricultural fair in the county was held at Morrison in the fall of 1856, and was quite successful. This exhibition attracted considerable attention to the new town. The Whiteside County Agricultural Society was formed at Unionville, February 26, 1856. The annual exhibitions of the Society were given in Morrison until 1863, when the fair was held at Sterling, in which city it has been annually held since. The Whiteside County Central Agricultural Society was organized at Morrison in 1872, and the first exhibition given on the fine grounds in the south part of the city October 1st, 2, 3 and 4th 1872. The Society has been very successful since its organization.
Morrison was incorporated in the spring of 1857. The records pertaining to the incorporation are copied in full as follows: "Notice: the residents of lawful age of the town of Morrison Illinois, will meet at Johnson's Hall on Saturday April 18 at 4 o'clock to consider whether the said town shall be incorporated under the statues in such cases made and provided. A full attendance is requested." Signed by Wm. L. Coe, April 8, 1857, with a certificate appended that five copies of the "notice" had been posted in five conspicuous places.
A meeting was held in pursuance of the call, and Lester H. Robinson was chosen President, and Wm. L. Coe, Clerk. The two gentlemen were sworn by C.J... Johnson, a Notary Public. The meeting proceeded to ballot upon the question of "Incorporation," and upon canvassing the votes, it appeared that "for Incorporation" received 17 votes and "Against' received two votes. One vote cast was blank. An election was held April 25, 1857 to elect five Trustees and one Police Magistrate. The whole number of votes cast was 44. Samuel H. Vroom, S.H. McCrea, Lyman Johnson, James G. Gridley and Wm. L. Coe were elected Trustees and Hiram Olmstead, Police Magistrate. Alphonso Bent was President, and Wm.. L. Coe, Clerk of the election. The annexed is first poll list of the town at that election; John H. Brown, Chas. Foster, John W. Weaver, N. Davidson, S. Eshleman, L.D. Laune, J.E. Bennett, Samuel Finch, Albert Plum, James Chapman, Rockwell Thompson, S.H. McCrea, Thomas McClelland, S.W. Robinson, S.I. Davidson, W.L. Coe, A. Bent, R.M. Thompson, Hiram Olmstead, W.F. Johnson, C.E. Williams, John Davidson, H.S. Vroom, I.B. Neely, Silas Wilcox, Wm. Rusler, D.Quackenbush, G.L. Vroom, L.L. Lansing, H.J. Olmstead, C.J. Johnson, E. L. Johnson, Chas. Potter, H.V. Brokow, Abe. Anthony, John King, Henry Spitler, John Furlong, Jacob Coon, J.G. Gridley, Henry Levitt, Wm. Paxton, John H. Lane, L.H. Robinson.
At the first meeting of the Board of Trustees Bela C. Bailey was appointed Street Commissioner and Police Constable. Ordinance No. 1, fixing the boundaries of the town, was adopted June 3, 1857. The description is: "Commencing at the northeast corner of lot 1, block 5; thence west along the street next north of said block 5 to the west line of the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 18; thence south along said quarter section line to the southwest corner of lot 15, block 20; thence along the south line of said block 20, east to the southeast corner of lot 1, block 20; thence south along the west thence east along the south line of said South street to its intersection with the east line of Clinton street; thence north along the east line of Clinton street to line of Grove street 225 feet to the southeast corner of lot 4, block 24; thence north along the east line of lots 4,3,2 and 1, to the northeast corner of lot 1, two acre lot; thence north along the east line of said lot, and the east line of Knox's addition, to the northeast corner of lot 1, block 8, in said addition; thence west along the north line of said Knox's addition to the northwest corner of said addition; thence south to the place of beginning." In addition to this ordinance,s even others were adopted during 1857; No. 2, prohibiting swine from running at large in the town under a penalty of $1.00 for each offense. No. 3, providing that each inhabitant over 21 and under 50 years of age shall pay a poll tax of four days labor upon the streets within a mile of the center of the town (this ordinance was repealed by No. 5 which fixed the labor at three days upon the streets, or, in lieu thereof, $3.); No. 4 ordering a tax levy of fifty cents upon each $100 of taxable property; No. 6, providing for a fine of $5 upon any person who should sell spiritous liquors in less quantities than one gallon without a license - the license fee being fixed at $30 per annum; No. 7 fixing licenses for shows and exhibitions at not less than $2, nor more than $25; no. 9 to suppress billiard tables and similar games - providing for a fine of $5 for each day the games, which were denominated as "nuisances," should be maintained.
The following is a list of the Trustees and Clerks of Morrison from its incorporation to its organization as a city in 1869. 1857 - Wm. L. Cox, H.S. Vroom, S.H. McCrea, Lyman Johnson, J.G. Gridley; Clerk, Hiram Olmstead. 1858 - Wm. L. Coe S.H. McCrea, Lyman Johnson, H.S. Vroom, J.G. Gridley; John E. Bennett was elected Clerk, but resigned, and H.P. Roberts was appointed. 1859 - Joseph M. Gilman, H.P. Roberts, John Devine, John E. Duffin, Thomas McClenland; Clerk, James A. Fisher 1860 - S.H.McCrea, R.D. Stiles, L.H. Robinson, O.B. Crosby, J.E. Duffin; Clerk, John Devine 1861 - C.M. Gerould, S.W. Robinson, Ira Robinson, A. McFadden, D. Quackenbush; Clerk, A. McFadden. 1862 - C.M. Gerould, James Cobleigh, W.F. Johnson, Lyman Johnson, Ezra Finch; Clerk, James Cobleight. 1863 - J.P. Martin, A. Farmington, D. Quackenbush, Sewel Smith, J.R. Bailey; Clerk, Sewel Smith. 1864 - Samuel Taylor, D.S. Spafford, Wm. L. Coe, D.L. Columbis, W.F. Johnson; Clerk, D.S. Spafford. 1865 - C.J. Johnson, Wm. Spears, F.W. Chapman, W.E. Duffin, F.W. Chapman, A.B. Lukens John Furlong; Clerk, F.W. Chapman 1866 - James Cobleigh, J. E. Duffin, F.W. Chapman, A.B. Lukens, John Furlong; Clerk, F.W. Chapman 1867 - J.R. Ashley, E.L. Worthington, R.V. Stocking, J.S. Green, Marx Kahn; Clerk, E.L. Worthington 1868 - R.V. Stocking, J.S. Green, A. J. Jackson, S.Taylor, C.W. Sholes; Clerk, A.J. Jackson.
The Legislature of the State, in session in 1867, passed a bill incorporating the "City of Morrison." In the description of the location, range four was by some means substituted for range five, thus locating the "City of Morrison" in Union Grove instead of Mount Pleasant township. An election was however held under the "Charter," and two tickets put in the field, the issue being "Charter" and "Anti-Charter." The "Anti-Charter" ticket was elected by a large majority, and the anomaly of a Board of City Officers was presented working under a charter in opposition to which they had been elected but the difficulty was finally settled as to "whether Morrison had, or had not, a City Government," by bringing the case before the Circuit Court under a writ of quo warranto against the acting officers of the "City. The Court decided that there was no city government, inasmuch as no vote of the people upon the question of the adoption of the charter had been taken.
In 1869 the Legislature passed an act to incorporate the "City of Morrison." The act was approved February 23,1869, and an election to decide upon the adoption or election of the charter was held March 29, 1869; 217 votes were cast, of which number 168 were for adoption, and 49 against. The first charter election was held on the first Monday of April. The licensing of saloons was a prominent issue, and an anti-license Board was elected. The officers chosen were George A. Whitcomb, Mayor, and W. J. Savage, Jas. Cobleigh, W. L. Coe, S. W. Robinson, J. S. Green, and J. A. McKay, Aldermen. J. S. Green was chosen Treasurer, L. G. Johnson, City Attorney, and W. E. Savage, Clerk. In 1870, N. M. Jackson was elected Mayor by 23 majority. Three Aldermen, Jas. Cobleigh, Charles Bent, and J. N. Baird, were elected. The issue was upon the question of licensing saloons, the anti-license party upon the general issue being successful. George H. Fay was elected Police Magistrate, J. S. Green Treasurer; L. G. Johnson was elected City Attorney, but resigned soon after, and F. D. Ramsay was appointed. W. E. Savage was appointed Clerk, but resigned- the office, which was filled by J. H. Calderwood. In 1871, Charles Spears was elected Mayor by 50 majority, license again being the issue, the result being in favor of the license party. A. Nowlen, Wm. Lane, and R. V. Stocking, were elected Aldermen. Warren Wilder was chosen Clerk, by the Board, and J. S. Green, Treasurer. The saloon license fee was fixed for the municipal year at $300.00. The indebtedness of the city was reported at $6,296.37. In 1872, George H. Fay, J. W.,Riner, and E. W. Payne, were elected Aldermen, and Charles Spears was re-elected Mayor. A. Farrington was appointed Clerk. License to saloons was voted by one majority. The proposition to vote a two per cent, tax was adopted by a majority of five.
November 12, 1872, the citizens voted upon the question of re-organization of the city under the general laws of the State; also for or against minority representation in the City Council. "For re-organization" received 172 votes, and "against re-organization," 45 votes. "For minority representation in the Council" received 30 votes, "against," 156 votes.
The first election for city officers under re-organization was held April 15. 1873. E. B. Warner was elected Mayor; J.M. Burtch, Clerk; John S. Green. Treasurer; Geo. H. Fay, City Attorney; W. F. Johnson, J. W. Riner, Warren Wilder, Wm. Lane, D. S. Spafford, and E. W. Payne, Aldermen. For licensing of saloons received 73 votes, and against license received 134 votes. April 22 1873, the city debt was $4,194,47. In 1874, A. Nowlen, M. Mead, and R. V. Stocking, were chosen Aldermen. 186 votes were cast for license, and 85 against. Saloon licenses were fixed at $400. In 1875, A. J. Jackson was elected Mayor; W. H. Boals, Clerk; Geo. H. Fay, Attorney; and John S. Green, Treasurer; Ed. A. Worrell, M. V. B. Smith, and Chas. Bent, Aldermen. For license received 136 votes; against license, 72. The saloon license fee was fixed at $600. In 1876, Oliver Baker, Geo. W. MacKenzie, and H. K. Sampson were elected Aldermen, the majority for license being 131. In 1877, Geo. A. Whiteomb was elected Mayor; J. S. Green, Treasurer; J. M. Burtch, Clerk; F. D. Ramsay, Attorney; W. S. Wilkinson, J. B. Mason, Leander Smith and John Clark, Aldermen. The vote upon the license question stood 206 votes for, and 205 against. The license fee was continued at $600 per year.
The only contests the citizens of Morrison have had at the polls have been upon the question as to the liquor traffic, and methods of regulation; the question of the levy of a two per cent, tax; the adoption or rejection of the city charter; and the question of re-organization under the general laws of the State in 1872. April 22, 1873, the debt of the city was $4,194,47. The first loan was made by the City Council under Ordinance No. 22, passed April 28,1873. It was for $7,000, payable in seven annual installments of $1,000 each. Payments have been regularly made according to the provisions. On September 30th of the same year, a further loan of $3,600 was made, payable in three annual installments. December 22, 1874, a loan of $500 was made, and a temporary loan of $1,500 on treasury orders. These loans were promptly paid at maturity. Of the annual appropriation bill of 1875 the sum of $4.260 was included therein to pay matured indebtedness, and the Council deemed it best to fund a portion of the amount, and negotiated a re-loan of $3,500, payable in seven annual installments, beginning July 1, 1877. Provision has thus far been made to meet payments. At the beginning of the municipal year in 1877, the funded indebtedness of the city was $9,600, drawing interest at ten per cent, per annum.
The indebtedness of the city as it matures can, and doubtless will, be promptly met, and with ordinary fortune and careful management the city can soon be out of debt. Since 1873 great improvements have been made, requiring a large outlay of money; all this had to be provided for, as well as the large debt that accumulated in the early history of the town and city. Among the improvements mentioned, has been the erection in 1877, at a cost of over $2,000, of a city building 24x40 feet in size, and two stories in height. On the first floor, and to the rear, is the city jail, divided into three iron-lined cells; the balance of the room on this floor is fitted up for use of the hose cart and other property of the fire department. The second floor is divided into two apartmentsâ€”a large one for the use of the City Council, and a small one to be used as headquarters for the fire company.
The water problem is one that is important in most cities, and is a question of vital importance for many reasons. Not only for every-day domestic use, but for manufacturing purposes and the extinguishment of fire. The water question has, from the origin of the town, been of peculiar interest to Morrison, as the supply had to come from wells sunk to great depths, and cisterns. It was the importance of the question that caused a public meeting to be held March 7, 1868, when the citizens authorized the Board of Trustees to bore an artesian well, and for that purpose asked that $3,000 in bonds be issued, the contract not to be let until the bonds were taken. The contract was finally let to Mr. Joseph Shirk, who, under many difficulties, bored to the depth of 1,200 feet. The water arose within about 20 feet of the mouth of the well, where it still stands, and furnishes water in ample quantity to supply the town. Mr. Shirk's bill for boring the well was $3 per foot for the first 600 feet, $4 per foot for the next 400 feet, and $7 per foot for the last 200 feet. Pipes were laid from the well, and a tank capable of holding 150,000 gallons was erected where a supply of water was to be kept in case of fire. One of the largest sized wind-mills was provided for pumping purposes, but was not entirely successful. In November, 1874, the tank burst when containing about 75,000 gallons of water. The flood of water caused considerable damage to surrounding property, and the wind-mill was wrecked. After this a new plan was adopted, a powerful steam engine procured, and two pumps, one a Blake and the other a Dean, are used for pumping. The entire arrangement is upon the Holly plan. The tank is still used for a water reserve in case of fire. The capacity of the pumps is about 1,200 gallons a minute. Water mains with fire plugs are distributed through the principal business parts of the town, furnishing an unlimited supply of water for daily use and the extinguishment of fire. Morrison has a well drilled and equipped fire company provided with about 1,500 feet of hose, hose cart, and other necessary fixtures. Mr. H. S. Ferguson is foreman. The company was organized in 1876, since which time it has several times responded to the alarm of fire with good effect; at the time of the burning of the lock-up, in 1876, when a prisoner named Thomas Gaffey was burned to death, the company, by their promptness and the help of the excellent waterworks, saved much valuable property. The present system of water works have cost the city about $10,000.
The Morrison carriage works were established in 1871, by A. J. Webster, in what is known as the Library Hall Building, on the corner of Main and Bane streets, in a small way at the outset. Mr. Webster continued the business about a year and a half, when the Works were purchased by Wilder, Ely & Co., who introduced various improvements,, and considerably increased their capacity. This firm carried on the business for a year, when Mr. H. S. W. Ely purchased the entire interest, and managed the Works alone for about a year, adding continually to their efficiency. In August, 1875, Mr. Geo. A. Whitcomb bought a half interest, and the firm name became Ely & Whitcomb. Both of these gentlemen are able, active, thorough-going business men, and under their management the Morrison Carriage Works have attained a position second to none of the kind in the Western States. Their aim from the start has been to give every purchaser a vehicle that would please him as long as he used it, and judging from the rapid increase of their sales, this aim has been scrupulously adhered to. The size of the main factory, which faces on Main street, is 40 x 80 feet. This includes the whole of the lower floor of Library Hall Building, with the exception of the entrance to the Hall. Besides this, there is an additional building on the east of, and adjoining the Hall building, 26 by 80 feet in size, and two stories high, the lower floor of which is at present used for storing manufactured work, and the upper story for storing materials. In the rear is the main factory is the blacksmith shop, 24 by 60 feet. A part of the wood work for the carriages is also done in a building on Main street, a little west of the principal factory. So rapidly, however, has the business increased, that it was found necessary to erect another building into which the painting, varnishing and trimming departments could be located. This building has been put the present season, and is situated on Grove street, to the north of and almost opposite the main factory on Main street. It is two stories high, 40 by 80 in size, and is heated by a furnace. It is also provided with an elevator,so that carriages can be hoisted complete from the lower to the upper story, and then save the trouble of taking them apart and carrying them up a flight of stairs up by hand. The firm now occupy 16,000 feet. The establishment is divided into four departments, termed the wood work, the ironing, the painting, and the trimming; and in each of these the firm employ the most skillful and experienced hands. The work turned out consists of carriages, phaetons, jump Seats, open top buggies, three spring democrats, platform wagons, and the celebrated side spring with equalizing rods. All the work done at the factory is taken from the rough, and followed up in the different departments until the splendid vehicle stands ready on the platform for use. The wood used for the main or substantial parts of the carriage, is of second growth hickory, brought from the State of Ohio, and the iron selected from the very best that can be obtained. Neither common wood nor common iron is used in the construction of any part of the work turned out at this factory. It has been the purpose of the firm to avoid cheap work, their object being to use the best materials, employ the best artisans, and adopt every improvement worth consideration, and by maintaining this standard their business has increased, while that of most of the carriage manufacturers throughout the country has been dull. The firm buy all the material necessary to be used, outside of their own manufacture, directly from the manufacturers, and in large quantities, thus saving the profits of the middle men. The extent of territory in which their carriages are now sold reaches from Chicago to California, and from St. Paul to St. Louis. It is noticeable, also, that at every Pair where their carriages have been exhibited, they have taken the first premiums. Their sales for the year 1877 have increased over eighty per cent, above those of any former year.
The Morrison Agricultural Works were established in June, 1873, by a stock company, with a capital of $20,000. The stock was all taken in that month, and the Company organized by the election of the following officers: President, R. V. Stocking; Secretary, S. W. Robinson; Treasurer, A. J. Jackson; Directors, S. W. Robinson, D. S. Spafford, J. S. Green, R. K. Hiddleson, M. V. B. Smith, Wm. Forsting, and R. V. Stocking. The Works were placed in R. V. Stocking's foundry and machine shops on the corner of Market and Madison streets, which were afterwards enlarged. The buildings of the Company now consist of the main building of brick, two stories high, 32 by 60 feet in size, in which the wood work is done; a foundry on the south side of the main building, 20 by 52 feet in size; a blacksmith shop on the west side, 24 by 60 feet in size, and a paint shop opposite the main Works, on the southwest corner of Market and Madison streets, 24 by 36 feet in size. The Company manufacture the Morrison wagon, Morrison (field) stalk cutter, and the Morrison bob sled, a large number of each being manufactured annually, and of excellent make and finish. The present officers are: President, M. V. B. Smith; Secretary and Treasurer, W. S. Wilkinson; Superintendent, R. V. Stocking; Directors, S. W. Robinson, D. S. Spafford, W. S. Wilkinson, M.V.B. Smith, R.V.. Stocking, and Wm. Forsting.
In addition to the manufactures mentioned, there are those of R. P. Goodenough, and P. F. Hellerstedt, at both of which carriages, buggies, and platform wagons are manufactured. These gentlemen are skillful mechanics, and turn out superior work, for which they have a large sale. Morrison is a commercial town. On all sides there is a magnificent farming country tributary, and the town is supplied with an excellent class of business houses which provided for the wants of the farmers. In 1877 there is in the town, five dry goods stores, six grocery stores, six hardware and implement houses, three clothing establishments, five tailoring establishments, eight dealers in and manufactures of boots and shoes, two grain dealers provided with elevators, five blacksmith shops, three wagon shops, five harness shops, one cooper shop, several dealers in flour and feed, three livery stables, six hotels, four restaurants, four saloons and billiard halls, three meat markets, two butter dealers, two cigar manufacturers, four drug stores, three book stores, one printing office, two photographers, six real estate and insurance agents, one abstract firm, one bank, two furniture dealers, one upholsterer, two jewelers, five millinery establishments, six dress making establishments, one exclusive hat and cap store, two dealers in musical instruments, three sewing machine dealers, eight physicians, five lawyers, two dentists, four barber shops, four paint shops, two lumber yards. There are also three stock dealers who disburse an immense amount of money annually for cattle and hogs, which are the leading products of the farmers in the neighborhood of Morrison. The city has an excellent graded school, seven churches and a fine public hall. [Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles Bent; pub. 1877]
WILLIAM PASCHAL FAMILY - FIRST SETTLERS IN MT. PLEASANT
Morrison Built on Claim Owned by John W. Stakes & William Knox
[Source: Daily Gazette, Bi-Centennial Edition 1976]
The land upon which the City of Morrison is built today was mainly a prairie area of scrub oaks, hazel brush and immense stands of timber at the hill at the north part of town and eastwards when the William H. Paschalfamily settled in Whiteside County near what is Morrison today. It was in the autumn of the year 1835 the family of William H. Paschal arrived and they were the first white settlers in the town of Mt. Pleasant. Paschal was accompanied by his brother, John D. Paschal, along with James J. Thomas and Felix French. Mrs. Thomas was a sister to the Paschal brothers and Mrs. French was a sister to Mrs. Thomas. These gentlemen selected claims in and near the timber just easy of the present city of Morrison.
In November 1835 William H. Paschal completed a log cabin which was occupied during the winter by his family and those of the other three early settlers. Nineteen people wintered in this cabin with no chimney and cooking was done outside. Hardships endured were extremely severe. Food was very scarce. During the winter, many cattle starved to death and J.J. (James) Thomas, who had driven 22 head from southern Illinois, had only four left when winter passed. The next spring, prairie land was broken and planted with corn, the crop being known as "sod corn." This was doubtless the first farming in Mt. Pleasant. During this period Winnebago Indians were prevalent in the area. They were peaceful but natural thieves. Wolves also caused the settlers trouble as they were very bold and also destructive to pigs and poultry. One time, a pack attacked Paschal's dog which was tied near the cabin but were driven away before making a meal of the dog.
In 1836 George O. James settled in the north part of the township along with other settlers, among them Jonathan Haines; who settled near what was later known as Jacobstown. He erected a small saw mill on the east side of Rock Creek which flows in a general southerly direction throughout the western part of Mt. Pleasant. After sawing one log, a freshet carried off the mill. He then built a grist and saw mill which was used for a number of years. This mill was torn down before 1900 and all that remains of Jacobstown is the old stone house which once served as a store for the town. This house is the one we see on the road to Rockwood Park. About the year 1837, Haines laid out a town called "Illinois City" just west of Jacobstown. Ten acres were included in the city and lots were offered without money to all who would improve them. There was no apparent interest in this site as the lots weren't improved. However, on the older maps, the "city" is marked in larger letters than the state capital and emigrants traveling west before 1840 often heard of "Illinois City."
One of the first concerns of the settler was educating their children so in 1838 Oliver Hall was hired by a handful of pioneers to conduct a school in a little log structure in Mt. Paschal's timber. The windows of this primitive "temple of learning" were made by stretching greased paper over openings in the logs. For his services, Mr. Hall was paid $10 a month and "boarded 'round." In January 1843, the "land came into market and it was necessary to pay for the claims, the government price being $1.25 per acre, payment to be made in gold or silver. The settlers had come to the area poor in purse and had difficulty securing the money necessary to buy the land. Prior to the purchase of the land, settlers were often annoyed by "claim jumping," that is, locating on land previously claimed. To protect themselves, farmers formed themselves into a society to prevent claim jumping. The man who had the temerity to jump a settler's claim was frequently assisted to "jump off" in a manner more vigorous than pleasant. The whip, rope and gun were readily brought into use when necessary.
In the year of 1851, the line of the Chicago and Northwestern railroad had been surveyed through the then flourishing village of Unionville. The citizens of that town, not familiar with railroads or their management were assured in their own minds that the railroad must pass through that village and nowhere else. They therefore demanded extravagant prices for their lands. The line of the railroad was consequently changed and Unionville left to one side. The railroad passed through Morrison which assured the future of this town. When the line of the railroad was diverted around Unionville, feelings of the residents of that town were intensely bitter toward Morrison, and when the post office was moved to Morrison in 1858, the citizens of Unionville refused to come to Morrison for their mail, but had letter boxes fitted up in a store in their town and one of their citizens deputized to bring the Unionville mail from Morrison to be redistributed. The Morrison post office was denounced as a location unfit for ladies to enter, a place where every bean barrel concealed a whiskey jug.
Two individuals who played key roles in the establishment of Morrison were Lyman Johnson, a native of Vermont and builder of the railroad between Round Grove and Fulton, and H.S. Vroom, also a railroad employee. The proprietors and incorporators of the new town purchased the land of the site from John W. Stakes and William Knox, who originally laid claim to it. The land consisted of 114 acres and was bounded by what now are Knox, Grape, South and Clinton Streets.
The name "Morrison" was chosen by Lyman Johnson for Charles Morrison, a wealthy New York merchant and friend of one of the other Morrison founders. Mr. Morrison intended to invest in the new city and further its interests but business reverses left him a poor man. The first house was built by Mr. Johnson in 1854 and was later enlarged and used for a hotel, known as the Morrison House (located at southwest corner Lincolnway and Base St., no longer there). It was a great day on Oct. 18, 1855 when the first train entered Morrison in charge of John Furlong, who continued to reside in the city.
The rate of growth of Morrison after that date was illustrated by Mrs. Furlong who recalled how "new lights" appeared each night in the shanties springing up amid the brush. During this year several fine residences and small stores were erected including the home of Mr. Vroom at Main and Base streets. Henry Ustick established the first business in Morrison, opening a small general store. The original proprietors of Morrison had acquired a location for a railway station at the site of Wilkens parking lot. This was only a board shanty in 1855 although a large amount of business was done by the company. The railroad company erected a depot building in 1857 at this location which was afterwards used as a freight office. While the depot was built in 1885, the second track was added in 1887. By 1857, the permanency and future of Morrison was assured. Merchants, mechanics and professional men had begun to pour into the town and the rich farming land in the surrounding area was being rapidly developed. Morrison was incorporated in the spring of that year.
The first city ordinance set the boundaries of the town, the second prohibited swine from running at large, the third provided that each inhabitant over 21 and under 50 shall pay a poll tax of four days labor on the streets. There was a type of liquor control too. Ordinance No. 6 stipulated that a fine of $5 would be assessed against anyone who sold "spiritous liquors" in less quantities than one gallon without a license. The license fee was fixed at $30 a year at this time but was increased rapidly over the next years until by 1875 the permit to run a saloon cost $600. In 1858 edition of the Sentinel, the possibilities of a bright and prosperous future for Morrison were enumerated upon. A good many new improvements were going forward, and others were being considered. The merchants and traders of that day were doing a flourishing business. The streets were daily crowded with teams of farmers. The inhabitants, who numbered four or five hundred at that time, were a hard-working and thrifty group. The low price of property was another inducement to settle in Morrison, business lots were selling from $150 to $350 while residential locations could be had for $75 to $100.
In 1864 Morrison was described as a thriving little town, compared to its beginnings in 1855. It boasted about 1000 inhabitants, six dry good stores, three hardware stores, three drug stores, four grocery stores, and the best clothing house in the county. Also on the list of our town's assets were four churches completed and one in the process of being built, a dozen produce dealers and two carriage and wagon manufacturing shops. Industrial concerns began to pop up in Morrison beginning in 1871 when the Morrison Carriage works was established by A.j. Webster in the Old Opera house building at the corner of Main and Base Streets. (torn down about 1950). This firm was soon joined by a company called Morrison Agricultural works which manufactured the Morrison wagon, field stalk cutter and bob sled. Another carriage works also operated in Morrison. The list of commercial establishments of 1877 published in Bent's history gave an idea of the tremendous growth Morrison experience in only 22 years.
Five dry goods stores, six grocery stores, six hardware and implement stores, three clothing stores, five tailoring shops, eight dealers in and manufacturers of boots and shoes, two grain dealers, five blacksmiths, three wagon shops, five harness shops, one cooper shop, several dealers in flour and feed, three livery stables, six hotels, four restaurants, four saloons and billiard halls. Three meat markets, two butter dealers, two cigar manufacturers, four drug stores, three book stores, one printing office, two photographers, six real estate and insurance agents, one abstract firm, one bank, two furniture dealers, one upholsterer, two jewelers, six dress making firms, one exclusive hat and cap store, two musical instrument stores, three sewing machine shops, two lumber yards, four paint shops, four barber shops, eight physicians, five lawyers, two dentists.
Morrison could even boast a baseball team as early as 1867 when the first game was played against Sterling's club, Morrison, having just started their season, lost by a rather large margin to their opponents. After a few games had been played the Morrison team decided to call themselves the "Achilles Baseball Club." Among the natural attributes used to some extent in Whiteside County were it four mineral springs, one of which was located in Mt. Pleasant Township. In 1877, it was named Black hawk Spring and was used as a health resort. A Mr. Dailey built a hotel and bath-houses there. The railroad offered excursion rates and there was transportation to the spa. Cold or warm baths in the beneficial waters were available and room and / or board could be had by the day or week. The resort was popular in the days when a glass of bad-tasting water or a bath in the same odoriferous fluid was believed to be a cure for many of the ills which plagued mankind. This particular spring was located just south of French Creek at the end of what is now Genesee Ave., Hugh Nelson's property.
Morrison had water problems in those early days. The water supply up to the late 1860's had come from deep wells and cisterns. In 1868 an artesian well was drilled to a depth of 1200 feet, striking water in sufficient quantity to meet the needs of the town for use in case of fire. A large windmill to pump the water was erected but this didn't prove satisfactory. In November 1874, the tank burst and flooded the surrounding area; causing considerable damage and also requiring a remodeling of the system. The water tank was repaired and kept filled for emergencies. In 1881 the Water works were moved to the southwest part of the city near the creek. Springs were located there and a reservoir was built over them. In 1906 , four wells, each six inches diameter, were driven to a depth of about 75 feet. The springs gradually decreased and he reservoir was removed about 1950. Presently there are four wells, in production three in Waterworks Park and one in Kelly Park. Also located in Kelly Park is an elevated storage tank which holds 500,000 gallons. Average daily consumption of water is 1,200,000 gallons. The sewage disposal plant is under the control of the water works department. The primary treatment plan was build in 1939, remodeled in 1862 and now has a potential capacity of 8000 population. [Source: Daily Gazette, Bi-Centennial Edition 1976]
Odell Library, Morrison IL
The Morrison Library and Scientific Association was founded in 1878 by J.D. Odell and the first headquarters was located on the third floor of the bank building. The association had a collection of some 2,400 books in addition to a collection of minerals, fossils and geological specimens. Members were assessed the sum of $1 per year. Odell presented the association with $1,000 for books and later gave the library, which was the former Congregational Church. [1 July 1876 - From the Daily Gazette Bi-Centennial Edition]
February was a very busy month at the Odell public library. 186 more books being circulated than in January, which had three more open days. There was an average daily circulation of 81.
Saturday Feb. 23, the circulation was the largest on record for an ordinary day, 176. Only twice before has this number been surpassed. On two dates in February 1918 the number reached 214 and 186. these records followed the re-opening of the library after being closed for threeweeks owing to fuel shortage. Forty-three books were added during the month, and an unusually large number of class books were taken out, travel, and biography leading. Twentyfour volumes have just returned from a visit to the bindery, and these "old friends in new dresses" are always in demand, as only the best books are rebound. [6 March 1929 - Sterling Daily Gazette]
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