Winnebago County, Illinois
MACHESNEY, Fred - proprietor of Rockford Airport
STEPHEN MACK, FIRST SETTLER OF WINNEBAGO COUNTY. By Cornelius Buckley (1856-1940)
Previous to the year 1832 the region designated the Rock River Valley was practically unknown to the general public. The mining country in Illinois and Wisconsin contained a few embryo settlements in the early 20's. At different points on the banks of the Rock River a shifting trader's cabin might be seen during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. The names of some of those traders are known to us; but they cannot be classed as permanent settlers. With the advent of the latter their occupation ceased. They were not tillers of the soil or builders of towns and villages. They finally followed in the wake of the Red man across the great river and prairies to the foot of the Rocky Mountains. John Dixon, the founder of the present city of that name, has pretty generally been distinguished as the first permanent settler of Rock River Valley; and for the apparent reason that local historians and authors of county histories, either from want of knowledge, or by reason of a sense of false modesty, have never asserted the prior claim of Stephen Mack of Rockton and Macktown. In recent years different sketches, more or less mythical in character, concerning Mack's career on Rock River have been recited at old settlers' meetings, and have appeared in the public prints.
His few intimate early associates who probably knew something of his personal history--Robert J. Cross, Jesse Blinn, and others - have long since passed away. Prom what we do know concerning his personality, we may fairly conclude that he was of modest demeanor and inclined to be non-communicative in regard to his family, his youth, and early adventures in the West. Owing to the fortunate result of a correspondence with Mrs. Lillian D. Avery, Secretary of the Oakland County Historical Society, Pontiac, Michigan, and Mes. Carrie Mack Newberry of Pontiac, the youngest daughter of Stephen Mack of Macktown, the write is able to lay before the public some interesting facts and data not heretofore published, or even known in the vicinity, pertaining to the first settler of Winnebago County, Illinois, and likely the first settler in the Valley of the Rock River. Stephen Mack came from good old Revolutionary stock. He was a native of Turnbridge, Vermont, born in the month of February, 1798, the son of Stephen Mack, Sr., and Temperance Bond of Gilsum, New Hampshire. The father of our subject, Colonel Stephen Mack, Sr., was a native of Lyme, Connecticcut, where he was born in 1764, the son of Solomon Mack. Both father and son served in the Continental Army during the Revolution. After his marriage in 1788, Colonel Mack settled at Turnbridge, Vermont, engaged in mercantile business, and kept a tavern. He was commissioned a Colonel of a militia regiment, and took great interest in military matters. About the year 1807 he settled in Detroit, then a struggling frontier village, leaving his wife and twelve children in Vermont.
At Detroit he engaged in the mercantile business, including the fur trade, and for many years the firm of Mack and Conant was known and rated high among the enterprising mercantile establishments of the West. Colonel Mack was present and witnessed the humiliating spectacle of Hull's surrender of the fort at Detroit to the British in 1812. He served as trustee of the Village of Detroit and was a member of the reception committee on the visit of President Monroe to Detroit in 1817. He was a Director of the Bank of Michigan; and on the collapse of that institution his entire estate was exhausted to satisfy claims against a defaulting cashier whose bond he had signed. He finally settled on the present site of Pontiac, and became the founder of that city, where he built a dam, a grist mill, and a saw mill. He died at Pontiac on November 11th, 1826. Many of his descendants are well-known residents of Michigan at the present day. His family moved from Vermont to Detroit in 1822.
His son, Stephen Mack, Jr., came to Rock River about 1822, settling at Grand Detour, and later at Bird's Grove, adjacent to the present site of Ho-no-ne-gah Park, two miles east of Rockton. Here William and Thomas Talcott found him on July 25th, 1835. A trader's license was issued to Mack to trade at Rock River on October 5, 1835, and again on September 6, 1824, and October 5, 1826, four years before the advent of Mr. Dixon. At Grand Detour he married a Potowatomie woman, Ho-no-ne-gah, said to have been the daughter of a chief. Later in life he had this Indian marriage confirmed by a ceremony before Justice of the Peace Hulin at Rockton. Eleven children were born to Mack and Ho-no-ne-gah as the fruit of this marriage, nine of whom reached adult years.
Ho-no-ne-gah, from all accounts, was an intelligent, Thrift, and industrious woman, neat in appearance and deportment, and very skillful in the used of the needle. She died at Macktown in July, 1847, leaving a child about one year old, now Mrs. Carrie Mack Newberry, of Pontiac, Michigan. Mack continued in the fur trade at Bird's Grove until the autumn of 1835, when he settled on the bluff at the mouth of the Pecatonica, where in 1839 he erected a large frame residence still standing, and well-preserved. In this house he died suddenly on April 10th, 1850. Dark rumors were afloat in the neighborhood of Macktown for years, implying that his death was caused by poison, administered by a person--no blood relative--materially benefited by his death. He was buried by the side of Ho-no-ne-gah and a son Henry, a few years from his house. On May 19th, 1880, the remains of Stephen Mack, his wife Ho-no-ne-gah, and their son Henry, were removed from Macktown and re-interred in Phillips Cemetery, south-west of Macktown, where an appropriate tombstone marks their final resting place. This act of benevolence was accomplished by his old friends then surviving, J.R. Jewett, William Halley, and R.R. Comstock.
An interesting incident in the life of Mack, and which has been vouched for by one of his early friends, was the visit of Black Hawk and a band of his warriors to the trading post at Bird's Grove, on June 26th, 1832. A camp of Winnebagoes at the Grove entertained Black Hawk. Mack secreted himself on the island in the river, now owned by Philip Hauser, until the departure of the Sacs. I can scarcely believe that Mack's life was in serious danger. He had a great influence with the Winnebagoes, and very likely was personally known to Black Hawk. During his long career in the Valley of the Rock River, Mack continued in the fur trade, disposing of his products to John Kinzie at Chicago, and Solomon Juneau of Milwaukee. At Macktown he built a spacious general store and conducted, with his cousin Merrill E. Mack, a general mercantile business. He also built at Macktown several private residences, none of which remain standing. He built a school house at Mack, and the first bridge across Rock River in the State of Illinois, in 1843. This bridge was built with a draw, so that boats could pass up and down the Rock, and we well know that in Mack's day there was some steamboat traffic on Rock River. This bridge was swept away in the great flood of June 1st, 1851, and was never rebuilt. He served for years on the Board of Supervisors, and was one of the County Judges, under the old system at the time of this death.
Mack's children were well educated, and became useful members of society. His youngest daughter Carrie was taken in charge by the youngest brother of her father, Almon Mack of Rochester, Michigan, by whom she was raised and educated. She still resides at Pontiac, and has been Regent of the Pontiac Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
At this time of his death, Mack owned all of Section Twenty-three in Rockton township, south of the Pecatonica River, which with his Macktown farm, aggregated upward of one thousand acres. He received $5000.00 from the United States as an interest due by reason of his children's relations with the Potowatomie Nation. In his will he provided for an equal distribution of his estate among his children.
Stephen Mack was a cousin of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet. His sister Almira Mack joined the Mormons at an early day, and followed their fortunes to Utah, where she was living as late as 1876. Mrs. Mack, the mother of Stephen, joined her daughter Almira in 1846, and continued to reside with her until her death about 1856.
The want of more detailed information regarding this worthy citizen and first of pioneers is to be deeply regretted. His native modesty forbade his keeping a diary, and Rockton had no historical society to preserve a record of the interesting incidents in the busy and interesting life of Steph Mack. We may justly deplore the indifference which produces so regrettable a condition, while we endeavor to profit from the sad example.
MARCHESANO, Rev. Anthony V. - Obituary and Biography
Laurence McDonald Is Its Oldest Official-- SKETCH OF HIS BUSY LIFE --Is One of the Best Known Citizens of the County--Interested in the Fair Almost Since its Inception--
The oldest officer in the Winnebago County Agricultural Society and one who has done as much, if not more than any other man, to place it on its present high standard, is Laurence McDonald, the Sage of Seward. Soon after he became a land owner in this county Mr. McDonald’s connection with the agricultural society began and from that day to this, he has lent his energy, far sightedness, and business acumen to make it a public educator and typical of the great resources of Winnebago county. Probably no citizen of the county, certainly no one among the tillers of the soil, is more generally known in the northern part of the state than Mr. McDonald. He has been and is today a man of affairs who has found time outside of building up one of the finest farms in the state, to keep abreast of the times politically, socially, and educationally, and to serve his fellow citizens in positions of trust with marked success. The approach of the annual exposition finds Mr. McDonald busying himself in his duties as member of the board of directors. In reference to his long connection with the society something in review of his busy career will be of interest.
Mr. McDonald first saw the light of day in County Meath, Ireland, Jan.6, 1833, his parent being Patrick and Julia McDonald, natives of that county. He was one of a family of eleven children. He came to America with his mother in 1854 and located in New Jersey. He became a resident of Winnebago county in 1855. It is told of him that when he first set foot on the broad prairies of which he was destined in later years to own a goodly share, he had only one dollar in his pocket. He straightway found employment with ex-Governor Bebb. He was not afraid of hard work and he was ambitious. In a few years he had purchased a part of his present property and had a home of his own. His was married Sept. 1, 1867, to Miss Mary Williams, of this county and has a family of eleven children. At present, Mr. McDonald owns a fine farm of over 800 acres, as productive and attractive an estate as there is in the county. During his long residence in Seward township he has earned the esteem of his fellow citizens, who have been pleased to honor him in official capacities. He was justice of the peace nearly thirty years, assessor for a decade, school director for nearly a score of years. In 1881 he was sent to the legislature in which he served with signal ability.
Mr. McDonald has taken the keenest interest in politics and has long been a valiant worker for the republican party in the county. He has been much in demand on the hustings and with his ready with and his knowledge of men and parties has never feared to meet any of his follows in debate. He has presided at many large campaign meetings here and his figure is as familiar a one in Rockford as it is in his own township and his circle of friends in enviably large. Mr. McDonald has the history of the Winnebago County Agricultural Society at his tongue’s end and his friends are proud of the part he has had in its up building. He has an inexhaustible fund of anecdotes of the early days of the exposition, and particularly of the time when Jeff Davis was invited to deliver an address at the fair, the announcement of which caused such a storm of protest that he revoked his acceptance of the invitation. The controversies which this engendered advertised the Winnebago county of 1875 as no other was ever advertised before and even resulted in a duel between two editors of St. Louis papers. As a successful farmer Mr. McDonald believes in the fair as an educator and his voice and hand have always been in favor of raising its standard of excellence. He is early on hand when the fair opens and his cheery salutation has been heard for so many years that the fair would hardly seem natural if he were absent. As an officer his services are highly valued by the society and the younger men in the organization hope to have him with them for many years to come. [--Rockford Morning Star, 08-07-1898]
This gentleman, who is one of the prominent residents of Rockford, personally superintends the operation of his two farms, one of which is in Ogle County, and contains two hundred and forty-two acres, while the other includes a quarter-section in Boone County. The original of this sketch was born in Guilford Township, Winnebago County, March 31, 1844, and is the son of William Mulford, a native of Long Island. From a genealogical, chart of the Mulford family, which was published by William Remsen Mulford, of New York City, who was a member of the New York Genealogical and Historical Society, we extract the following information in regard to the early history of the family:
The first ancestor of our subject in America was John Mulford, who was born in England, and on emigrating to this country was accompanied by his brother William, they making their home in Connecticut. Jolin's name appears many times in the Minutes of the Council of Connecticut. He removed from that State to Southampton, L. I., previous to 1643. The next in line was his son, Capt. Samuel Mulford, who was a town officer in Southampton at a very early age, and was Captain in the Colonial militia. He went to England in 1716 and appeared before a committee of the House of Lords, and by his pleading, the duty on whale oil was removed. He was a member of the Provisional Assembly. The next in line was his son, Capt. Mathew Mulford, who was a land-owner in Southampton and also a Captain in the Colonial militia. Following him was Col. David Mulford, also a native of Southampton and a Colonel in active service in the Revolutionary War. The next in line was Mathew Mulford, the grandfather of our subject. He was born in Southampton and removed to Rensselaer County, N.Y., in 1800, where he was one of the early pioneers. He secured a tract of land which he improved and resided upon until his death, on the 24th of March, 1845. The maiden name of his wife was Mary Hutchinson; she departed this life July 31, 1834. Mr. Mathew Mulford served in the War of 1812 and was a pensioner of the Government during his last years.
The father of our subject was reared to agricultural pursuits in his native State, where he resided until 1835, at which time he came to Illinois, being one of the early settlers of Winnebago County. There were but one or two houses where Rockford now stands, and at that early day the land surveys were not yet completed. Wolves, deer, bears and other wild animals were numerous and Indians often proved troublesome. Mr. Mulford made a claim to a tract of Government land in what is now Guilford Township, where he erected a log cabin , covering it with poles, on which he strewed hay. Being single he kept "batch" for a time, and in that humble, abode commenced housekeeping after his marriage. He continued to reside there until his death, March 2, 1862. The maiden name of the mother of our subject was Lucy Stewart. She was born in Orleans County, N. Y., and was the daughter of Nathan and Lydia (Young) Stewart. The children born of her union with Mr. Mulford were named respectively Eli H., Edward, John H., William D., Charles L., Mary E. and Ida Viola. Edward Mulford, of this sketch, was reared on the home farm and attended the pioneer school in Cherry Valley Township. The first schoolhouse was built of brick, with seats made of slabs placed on wooden pins for legs. In his early youth, he remembers that there were no railroads in this locality and Chicago was the nearest market and depot of supplies.
The original of this sketch remained parents until the outbreak of the Civil War, when, in June, 1862, he enlisted in Company A, Sixty-seventh Illinois Infantry, serving his country bravely and honorably for three months, at the end of which time he was discharged on account of disability resulting from a sunstroke. Later, he located at Cherry Valley, where he engaged in the drug business and also in buying and shipping grain, continuing thus actively engaged for about ten years. In 1882, he came to Rockford, where he has since resided. He has always maintained an interest in agricultural pursuits and now owns a farm of two hundred and forty-two acres in Ogle County and one of one hundred and sixty acres in Boone County, and gives his personal attention to the supervision of both.
October 22, 1867, Edward Mulford was united in marriage with Sophronia Johnson, who was born in Cherry Valley, Winnebago County, November 22, 1844. To them have been born two children, Mary Edna and William B. In his political views, our subject votes with the Republican party, and, being a Grand Army man, is a member of Nevius Post No. 1. Peter B. Johnson, the father of Mrs. Mulford, was born in Sturbridge, Worcester County, Mass., where his father, James Johnson, as far as is known, was also born. The latter-named gentleman was a farmer and passed his last days in Sturbridge. The grandmother of Mrs. Mulford was the daughter of Peter Belknap. She died on the home farm in Sturbridge. The father of our subject's wife was a tanner by trade, which occupation he did not follow, however, being engaged in the manufacture of boots and shoes at Sturbridge. In 1837, he emigrated to Illinois and located in what is now Cherry Valley Township, this county, where his twin brother, James B., had previously located. There he entered a tract of land from the Government, three miles south of the village, and erected a log house in which the two families made their home for a time. Mr. Johnson then erected a brick residence, in which the two families again took up their abode and here Mr. Johnson improved a farm and resided until 1856. At that date, he sold his property and removed to Rockford, where he made his home a few months and then located on another farm which he owned in Cherry Valley Township, and there passed the remainder of his life. His wife was Miss Sophronia Lamb, who was born in Sturbridge, Mass., and was a daughter of Luther and Lavinia (Willard) Lamb. She died on the home farm in 1844. The father of Mrs. Mulford served as Assessor of Cherry Valley Township and also held the responsible position of Sheriff of Winnebago County. [Portrait & Biographical Record Winnebago & Boone Cos., IL. Chicago: Biographical Pub. Co., 1892]
Indians, Bandits, Show up in Mulford History
When you speak of pioneers, don’t forget the Mulford family, Charles street road, whose members still live on a homestead stakes out 112 years ago. The Mulford history in this county reaches all the way back to the time when wolves and bears outnumbered pioneers, Indians regarded the white man as a curiosity, and the notorious "prairie bandits" flouted inadequate law enforcement. William Mulford, whose ancestors landed in New England in the Seventeenth century, was the first of the family to settle here. In 1834, when he was 35 years old, Mulford’s desire for adventure and fortune led him here from New York to choose a homestead. His choice was a 160-acre tract in what used to be Guilford township. But government surveyors had not yet mapped the territory, and Mulford had to wait a year before occupying the land.
Built Thatched-Roofed Cabin
The following year, 1835, he built a thatch-roofed log cabin on his new property. Within six years he had turned the heavily wooded site into a productive farm. Then he sought a wife. On June 6, 1841, he married Lucy Stuart. Farming was a back-breaking business then, and the financial rewards were meager. For example, one year Mulford took a wagon load of wheat to the Chicago market. He returned from the two-week trip with a grindstone, his sole gain from the wheat sale.
In 1857, he built a brick house near the log cabin to meet the housing needs of his family of seven children. The sturdy structure has served the family well from then until now, without major repairs. Heirlooms, which help so much to link past with present, abound in the old home, but Mrs. Charles D. Mulford, wife of the present tenant, is quick to point out that the family doesn’t collect or sell antiques. Last week she pointed to a collection of odds and ends, some as much as 200 years old, and said: "We’re saving them for the children, and if the children don’t want them they’ll probably be given to the county historical society" Among the interesting heirlooms is a section of a woolen blanket, which illustrates the industry of pioneer women. The first Mrs. Mulford sheared the sheep, carded, spun, and wove the wool for the blanket. To top off the job, she dyed it blue and white.
First Edition Dictionary: The Mulfords also have saved a first-edition Webster dictionary published in 1829. Although the first William Mulford proved his business acumen by acquiring almost 700 acres of farm land prior to his death in 1862, his grandson, Charles, thinks he was "taken in" by a clever merchant on one occasion. That was the time he purchased a "family right" to "Professor LaMoine’s non-explosive burning fluid, or substitute for kerosene." The evidence it contained in an official looking document, bought by the elder Mulford for $2 in 1861, which lists the recipe for the fluid. The recipe says: "To seven pints of common commercial alcohol add one pint turpentine, 24 grains of gum camphor, 12 grains of alum, and one gill tincture of Red Sanders."
One of Mulford’s sons, Eli, was fatally wounded in Tennessee during the civil war, and the family still has communications relating to disinterment and removal of body from a military graveyard
Brother "Passed Line"
When the family heard Ely, a member of Company E. 74th Illinois Volunteers, had been wounded, his brother, Edward, was sent to Tennessee to see him. In he family collection is the pass Edward received to "pass lines between Nashville and Chattanooga." It was signed by the adjutant for Maj. Gen. U.S. Grant, who then commanded "the military division of the Mississippi." Ely had died before Edward’s arrival, so the latter arranged to take the body home. The family has the receipt for $80 from Nashville, Undertaker who handled the disinterment and shipment.
The old log cabin was razed many years ago, and a corn crib now stands on or near the cabin foundation.
The Mulfords saved the crude hand tools which William Mulford used for farming, but the barn in which hey were stored was destroyed by fire.
Bandit Raid Netted $484
The story of the "prairie bandits" raid on the Muford log cabin is contained in an old magazine kept by the family. He bandits entered the cabin and robbed Mr. and Mrs. William Mulford of $484 in gold. But when the bandits were captured at a later date, William took over the farm belonging to one of them. He sold it in settlement of his loss in the robbery. Down through the years the Mulfords have been troubled by the problem of "what to keep and what to throw away." Mrs. Charles Mulford said she is sorry that a trumpet owned by the original Mrs. Mulford was discarded a few years ago. The trumpet was used in place of a dinner bell. Three of the original William Mulford’s grandchildren still reside in the area. In addition to Charles, who resides on the homestead, there are W.B. Mulford and Mrs. Walter Haskell. [--Rockford Morning Star, 04-07-1946]
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