Winnebago County, Illinois
The first settlement in Harlem Township was on the east side of Rock River, on what was called Big Bottom, nearly opposite the stone quarry. A man named Wattles staked out his farm into lots and streets, and called it Scipio; but even its classic name did not give it prestige. The proprietor built the only house ever completed. The stakes remained for several years, until they were plowed under by the owner, who could not give away his lots.Other early settlers were P.S. Doolittle, G.C. Hutchins, W.T. Magoon, Peter Mabie, Robert Smith, and Lyman Taylor.The village of Harlem is a small station on the Kenosha division of the Chicago & Northwestern railway. There is a Methodist church some distance from the station. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
Although Harlem Township has been settled as long as other areas of Winnebago County and its population now is second only to Rockford Township’s, Harlem Township’s residents have steadfastly resisted organization.
Even in 1967, there was not a single incorporated city or village in the township, although the 1960 census showed a population of 14,404 and unofficial counts in 1967 put the total well over 15,000.
The bulk of the township’s population in centered in the area known asNorth Park (present dayMachesney Park), immediately north of Loves Park, along the east bank of the Rock River.
This is in the area settled in 1835 by Hiram Wattles, the township’s first resident. He laid out the short-lived town of Scipio.
Across the township, along the Boone County line, the pioneer spirit was being shown with more fervor.
This is where the community of Argyle was formed on land claimed in 1834 by the Amour brothers, John and George, who had come to Ottawa, Ill., from Kintyre in Argyleshire, Scotland.
One of the most significant developments in Harlem Township history cam in 1956, when the Illinois General Assembly appropriated $165,000 for the acquisition of land for a state park and artificial lake adjacent to the Rock Cut Forest Preserve on Harlem Road.
After prolonged court battles over land acquisition, the land was prepared and a dam was built on Willow Creek. The lark began to fill in 1960 and it and the park were dedicated by Gov. Otto Kerner Sept. 6, 1962
The 700-acre part was named Rock Cut State Park and its 162-acre lake was designated Pierce Lake in honor of William Pierce, Rockford state representation who had worked tirelessly to win the project for Winnebago County. The state has continued to enlarge the park and it is expected to embrace a total of 1,362 acres when land acquisition is completed.
The park, with boating, sailing, fishing, camping, and picnicking facilities, was ranked the fifth most heavily used state park in 1965. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
OLDEST TAVERN IN THE COUNTY STILL STANDS
Near the C.H. Parker Farm Home in Harlem Township--Was Known as the Buckhorn Tavern and Six Generations of the Same Family Have Lived on the Place--Legislation Prohibiting the Bribing of Editors is Wanted--Other Rockford Stories Briefly Told
The S.T. visited the C.H. Parker farm in Harlem Township the other day and incidentally stood within the walls of the oldest "tavern" now standing in the county. It’s only a few rods east of the Parker farm house. With timbers of hewn oak, drop siding and floors of the same wood, but cut by a saw, the old frame is likely to last another century to remind the men and women of a hundreds years hence of the mode of travel, the trails, the old stage coaches made through the wilderness by the pioneers and their miscalculations in picking town sites. When the boss of the stage line that ran from Chicago to Beloit decided on making the site of the old tavern a stopping place, he doubtless calculated that a town would spring up about the traveler's home but today woods surround the farm, the village of Harlem a mile away is the nearest town and the big city of this section is six miles distant. A couple of buck horns taken from a buck shot by the founder of the tavern and nailed to a tree that gave shade the guest, gave the name of the "Buckhorn Tavern" to the hostelry. It had a fireplace where great blazing logs gave warmth and good cheer to the guest and originally had two more sections built on one side and at the rear. An old (?) bedstead and the remains of a spinning wheel are still in the ruins giving the old structure an added tone of venerable age.
Mrs. Anna Parker, mother of C.H. Parker, lives with her son on the adjoining farm and she relates many interesting anecdote of the old days when the stage “put up” at the now deserted Buckhorn Tavern. The original owner of the property, Mr. Sammons, was her great-grandfather. He lived at the old tavern as did also her grandmother Anna Hurlbut and her father E.S. Bartholomew. She is still a resident on the adjacent farm as is her son and she has grandchildren who count it a great treat to visit Grandma Parker. That makes five generations who have lived at the old tavern or its neighboring farm house and a sixth generation within easy visiting distance.
Standing a few feet from the old Buckhorn Tavern once grew a monster oak fully two feet in diameter. It died from old age or disease and years ago the father of C.H. Parker cut it down for firewood. Many inches from the bark of the oak he discovered a big augur hole, conclusive evidence that white men had been in the neighborhood long before the nearly hundred years ago day when the tavern was erected. The old stage road is still discernable winding through the woods near Rock Cut and Mrs. Anna Parker can still point out the old Indian trails. A visit to the Parker farm is mighty entertaining to those who are interested in pioneer days and conditions. Some day, when we are thoroughly civilized, the practice of giving appointive offices to newspaper editors or proprietors will be prohibited by law. Then the best men a principles will get hones editorial support. So long as political jugglers can buy editorial opinions by promising easy jobs with big pay, this will not be possible. The system as now practiced is a gag, a bribe, to mould public opinion and is clearly an abuse within the province of legislative correction. To choke off bribing editors would be far more important legislation than even the passage of the anti-pass law. With three live youngsters in the sheriff's office--Guy Ginders, Fran Burbank and Harry Baldwin--the law breaker is going to lead a merry life in Winnebago County the coming four years. Participants in keg parties and "sich" will have to keep a sharp-eyed lookout on guard to escape the trio of live ones. [Rockford Republic, Friday, November 6, 1914--Article submitted by Roger Seeberg]
(The building which is now a Gospel Hall, once housed the Harlem Methodist Church. The building was erected in 1871 on land donated by Asa Taylor, the first inhabitant of Harlem Village)
HARLEM METHODIST GOT ITS START IN 1845
Twelve persons met in a one-room schoolhouse on Alpine Road in 1845 for church services. And with that plans for the first Harlem methodist Church and its adjacent cemetery were started. All 12 persons had settled in the area known as Harlem--Asa Taylor, its first settler, and his wife; Phineas Atwood, his wife and two daughters; Chancy Wilder and his sister; Mr. and Mrs. Charles Haskings, and Dr. and Mrs. Palmer (the only couple who left the settlement after a short time.) Schooling and worship of God were important to this small farming community. They met each week in the schoolhouse near Asa Taylor's house on Alpine until a hurricane blew off the roof, then moved to the schoolhouse at what is now West Lane. The first schoolhouse site was near the stables where the government kept horses for the stage coach. The first post office was across the street. In the second schoolhouse, Asa Taylor, who had come from New York in 1849, told the group he would give them an acre of land on which to build a church and another acre for a cemetery adjacent to it. At the time the new church was built there was discussion about building closer to the Harlem population center. But the old location won and the new church was built at 8509 N. Alpine Road, down the road "a piece" from the old site. The Rev. Charles Young is pastor of the Harlem United Methodist Church. His parish has few descendents of the first parish, but it does have descendents of Asa Taylor--among them the family of Mrs. L. Parker Hurlbert of Forest Hills Road. "The parish has changed from a primarily rural one to urban," said the Rev. Mr. Young. "We can use the old parishioners with all their rich heritage," he said. "We want to come out of th epast and move into the future, incorporating this heritage." Taylor never say the church which was built in 1871, but he was the first occupant of the cemetery. Trying to arrange the wooden corn crib where corn was coming out, he injured his back and two weeks later, with no doctor nearer than Chicago, Taylor died and was buried in the cemetery. Also buried there is a general who served in the War of 1812, Gen. Zadock Coleman. The general moved to Harlem from Vermont in 1834 after retiring from the Army. The adopted son of the general's granddaughter, Rudolph (Randy) Coleman, lives on Rock Cut Road in Harlem Township. The old church looks just about the same as it did in 1871 except for the spire which blew off and was replaced by a bell tower. [Rockford Register Republic, October 7, 1968]
(now present day Machesney Park)
The most densely populated area of Harlem Township is North Park (present day Machesney Park), and unincorporated, unexplainable modern settlement at the west edge of the township. It has been defined as “everything north of Loves Park until you get to farmland.” If the residents of North Park chose to incorporate, their community undoubtedly would be second to Rockford as the largest in the county. But, this is the unique thing about North Park. Its residents are living where they are because they don’t want to be in a city. They voted down proposals that they annex to Loves Park in 1952 and 1955, and have turned a deaf ear to suggestions that they annex to Rockford. In the late 1940’s, there were only a few hundred families in the North Park area. Twenty years later, the population was estimated at between 12,000 and 15,000. Although North Park has no actual government of its own, it does provide some of its own services. It has its own fire protection district, one of the largest in Northern Illinois, and in 1955 it formed its own water district, completing an $850,000 water system two years later. Lynn C. Ray, known unofficially as "the mayor of North Park," has spent many years ass chairman of North Park’s water board and chief of its fire department. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
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