Winnebago County, Illinois
Burritt Township History
Burritt is one of the few townships in Winnebago County which has no railroad. There are no towns or villages with the single exception of Wenpletown, in the eastern part. A post office was formerly located there, but it has been superseded by the rural free delivery. There is a church in the township on section 14. Settlements were made in this township at an early date. James Atkinson came from England in 1837. Other pioneers were Thomas J. Atwood, Albert J. Atwood, George A. Atkinson, Edward H. Boomer, Jacob B. Conklin, William Dickinson, Jesse Herrington, Joseph Jennings, William Ludley, and Jefferson Southard. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
The year by year population of this rural township never has been much over the 600 mark. But for more than half a century the farmers of Burritt Township put on an event that boosted the population for one day a year as high as 50,000. Burritt township is the home of the Trask Bridge Picnic, billed as the “world’s largest one-day farm picnic” Its origin was in the festival held in 1911 at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Scott, members of the Burrit Grange that had been organized two years earlier. To their home came farm neighbors with farm produce and homemaking articles to display. The exhibits quickly outgrew the Scott home. A few years later the Grange picnic was moved to Andrews Grove, an area that had been used since the Modern Woodmen of America. On thousand persons attended the first Trask Bridge Picnic in the grove. Walter Potter, who gained the nickname of “Picnic Potter” because of his single-minded devotion to planning the annual gatherings is credited with making the picnic a major political event. Speakers with national status were on the program almost every year. Because gas rationing made travel difficult, the picnic was called off for four years during World War II, but it drew its largest crowds in the post-war years. The peak was hit in 1953, when 50,000 attended. It grew more difficult each year to find workers to put on the picnic and farm show, and the Trask Bridge Picnic died a silent death after the last one was held in 1965. It is sign cant that the picnics were held just a stone’s through from one of the county’s first landmarks.
Alva Trask, one of the first settlers to arrive in the township in 1835, staked his claim near the Pecatonica River, northwest of Rockford. In less than a year he saw the need for an easy means of crossing the river and he was just putting the finishing touches on his ferry boat in May, 1836, when the pioneers who settled Durand arrived at the river’s edge. Rather than travel several miles upstream to a shallow ford used by the Indians, they helped Trask finish his boat and were
his first passengers across the river. Trask’s ferry became an important early link between Rockford and the communities growing to the northwest--Duran, Monroe, and Madison. The first wooden bridge--the original Trask Bridge--was built in 1839, and it served until 1868, when it was replaced by a wood and steel span. In 1931 the present concrete bridge was built in the middle of a cornfield and a new channel was dug, eliminating two bends in the river. Alva Trask was listed as one of the five men living in the
township late in 1835. The others were his brother, Elias, and Isaac Hame, John S. McIntosh, A.M. Sherman, and John Manchester. Many of Burritt Township’s early settlers came directly from England, Ireland, and Scotland, and virtually all took up the trade they had practiced in their homelands, farming. Brief biographies of 190 men living in the township were published in 1877, and all but five of them were farmers. The exceptions were a wagon maker, a painter, two blacksmiths, and a carpenter, Edward Wemple,
whose father started the settlement of Wempletown by building a house and blacksmith ship and helping establish a church. Burritt Township remains farming country, and motorists traveling on Illinois Highway 70 (Trask Bridge Road), barely have to slow down as they pass through the tiny pioneer settlement of Wempleton. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
The village of Durand is a business center for a considerable portion of Winnebago County lying north of the Pecatonica river. The village derives its name from H.S. Durand, the first president of the Racine & Mississippi railroad. This line later became the property of the Western Union, and is now owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway Company, and the line extends to Freeport. Among the pioneers may be mentions L.V. Cleveland, John A. Johnson, and Frederic Sidorus, all of whom came in 1837. The location of the village at this point was the result of a compromise between various interested parties who jointly purchase the site of John Pettingill, Price B. Webster, and Edward Peppers. The proprietors were John F. Pettingill, Bruce B. Webster, Edward Pepper, L.V. Cleveland, Solomon Webster, Duncan J. Stewart, M.C. Churchill, G. H.Sackett, John R. Herring, William Randall, and D.H. Smith. These gentlemen on the 118th day of November, 1856, conveyed their interest in trust to J.R. Herring, by whom the town was immediately laid out. Durand was for about two years the terminus of the Western Union railroad. The growth was quite rapid during that time. John F. Pettingill erected a hotel, the Duran House, at a cost of $13,000. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1837. Rev. Mr. Whitford preached the first sermon at the residence of Scott Robb. He was succeeded by Rev. McCane, who was on the circuit one year or more. A chapel was erected in 1857. The pastor in September, 1905, was Rev. E.O. Stover. The membership reported to the conference of 1904 was 58. A Congregational church was organized June 11, 1848, at Hill's schoolhouse, with seven members. The Roman Catholic Church began the erection of a house of worship in 1865-66, which house of worship remained in an unfinished condition for several years. Father Cotter of Pecatonica is the officiating priest and holds services every third Sunday. A Lutheran church, affiliated with the Norwegian Synod, is now in process of construction. The village has a population estimated at 700. Miss Lillian J. Harris is postmistress. There is a town hall, with a seating capacity of about 300. There are two banks: the Durand State Bank, with a capital of $25,000; and the Citizen's Bank, a private banking house. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
In August, 1835, William E. Enoch, the eldest son of Henry Enoch, accompanied by two or three men from Will County, came to what is now Guilford township on a land prospecting tour. While out on his trip, young Enoch was taken sick and returned home. In September following, his father, Henry Enoch, and brothers, Richard H and A. I. Enoch, started out, and, following the direction of William, struck Rock River at Rockford. Leaving his sons in camp, he started out, and, going northeast from there two or three miles, he struck the spring brook known as Bucklen Creek (Keith Creek). Believing this stream came from springs, he followed it to its source, which he found in the northeast corner of section 11, town 44, range 2, now in the town of Guilford. Here in the centre of a great prairie he found a sping of water 25 feet in diameter, the water about 24 inches deep and coming up from numerous places in the bottom throught snow-white sand. The water was cold, and clear as crystal; the bank of the spring fringed with tall grass and bright prairie flowers. He was so charmed with the location, the great spring, the apparent fertility of the soil, and the general beauty of the sorroundings, that he at once made up his mind to make it the future home of himself and family. Going to a thicket of hazel and young poplar trees a few rods distant, he cut a small stake, and planting it on the bank of the spring, declared it his "claim". This spring became dry in the early 'seventies (1870's). This location was known for many years as the big spring of "Uncle Enoch" in the prarie. Mr Enoch made this claim his permanent home until the autumn of 1856. Other early settlers of Guilford were Elisha A. Kirk, Thaddeus Davis, Sr., and his sons, David A., Thaddeus Jr., and Daniel; Harry Doolittle, J.H. Kirk, Elisha A. Kirk, Giles C. Hard, G.L. Horton, and Dr. Charles Church. [from "Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois", Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo]
Guilford Township ceased to exist as a political subdivision in 1929, when it was absorbed by Rockford Township, and the origins of the name "Guilford" are unclear (although a Mrs. Dolly Guilford and her son, Elijah, settled as some of Pecatonica's first settlers in 1834).
Harrison is one of four extreme northern townships of Winnebago County. The first settlement in this township was made in the fall of 1835 by a Mr. Brayton, who made a claim on section 35. In the spring of 1836, Mr. Brayton moved on his claim and commenced making a farm. In 1840 the settlers desired to form a new precinct, and it was necessary to present a petition to the county commissioners to have a new precinct formed. At the time a majority of the settlers were democrats, and several of the citizens being together one day, they pitched up Isaac Parker to circulate a petition. He consented to do so on condition that some of his neighbors (who were Democrats) would work for him hoeing corn while he was absent, to which they readily agreed. Parker then drew up his petition, went to Rockford, where the county commissioners were in session, and had no difficulty in getting a new precinct formed, but was asked what name they should give it. Park, being a Whig, immediately answered, Harrison, which name was adopted. When Parker returned and told how well he succeeded, his democratic friends were greatly disgusted with the name. When the county was organized under township organization the name was continued. Its war record is notable. The whole number of enlistments was 122; whole number killed or died in the service 24. It is believed that this town furnished a larger number of enlistments in proportion to the population than any other town in the county. Of the foregoing enlistments, 12 were in Wisconsin regiments, and a number are credited to other townships. The village of Harrison is in the northeastern part of the township, at the junction of Sugar and Pecatonica rivers. It is a small settlement about one mile almost directly south of Shirland. It has no railroad facilities, and therefore has made comparatively little progress since the early days. There is a Congregational church, with a membership of forty-four, and the pulpit is supplied by the pastor of Shirland.. The Modern Woodman had erected a hall, which is used for public meetings and lodge purposes. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
The naming of Harrison Township might be classified as a political trick pulled on the area’s predominantly Democratic residents by a Whig who was holding all the aces. The township, nested under one of the biggest bends in the snaking Pecatonica River, was first settled in February, 1836, by a man known to history as “Mr. Brayton.” Four years later, when Winnebago County was being organized and voting precincts were being formed, a group of farmers living in what is now Harrison Township decided to form a voting precinct. Most of the early pioneers were Democrats from New England, but a Whig, Isaac Park, was chosen to circulate a petition and present it to the county commissioners. Parker agreed to undertake the task on the condition that his Democrat neighbors hoe his corn while he was absent. The county commissioners agreed to the formation of the new precinct, and when they asked Parker what name had been selected, he replied “Harrison”, after William Henry Harrison, the Whig who that year defeated Martin Van Buren for the presidency. “When Parker returned and told how well he succeeded, his Democratic friends were greatly disgusted with the name,” according to a history of the township. However the name was retained when the townships were organized in the county. Except for the small settlement on Illinois 75 at the end of the Rockford-Harrison road, Harrison Township’s population always has been scattered on farms. At one time the community had a hotel, several grocery stores, and other shops, but for most of is history, Harrison has been a residential rather than a commercial center. David Jewett, a native of Genesee County, New York, cam to the area in 1837 and was a major force in developing both Rockton and Harrison. He built one of the first say mills on Rockton’s water power, was a partner with Stephen Mack in the construction of Mack’s bridge across the Rock Rover, and owned a home in Mack’s struggling little settlement, Macktown. He sold the mill and the house in the early 1840’s and moved to Harrison Township, where he operated a 400-acre farm the rest of his life. In 1848, he laid out the village of Harrison, which was settle but never incorporated. Harrison’s Congregational Church was built in 1891 for a total cost of $1,775. It remained unchanged until 1963, when a $2,000 addition was constructed, with all labor being donated. The church’s first full-time pastor, Rev. Dean Lang, arrived in 1960, and in 1963 a parsonage also was built. As Harrison struggled to remain a community, its church also struggle with a dwindling membership. In 1927, after it was proposed that the church be converted into a community building, members voted to keep it as a church. Its continued existence is credited to the efforts of its Ladies Aid Group. In 1907, the Winnebago Farm School was founded in Harrison Township as a boarding school for boys from broken homes. The school is known now as the Durand Boys Farm School. At present there are only about 30 homes and a school in the Harrison community, and the entire township’s population in the 1960 census was only 646. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
Laona is the northwestern township of Winnebago County. The are no towns or villages in the township. No Railroad passes through it, and there is only one church within its borders. Among early settlers of the township were Peter Johnson, Niles Patterson, William Phipps, and Rienza Webster. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
Laona township lies between the Wisconsin state line and Durand Township, and its history and life have always been intertwined with Durand's. The original site of the no-longer extant settlement of Laona was on the north branch of Otter Creek, just north of what is now Durand. It was here that the area’s first mill was established by Samuel Pillsbury, a wandering Methodist preacher. This was sometime between July, 1836, when the first settlers arrived in the township, and 1846, when Mr. and Mrs. Jon Steves bought the mill. When the Steves, New Yorkers who had settled in Rockford, took over the mill, there were only two houses in the settlement. Mr. and Mrs. Steves also operated the first Laona Post Office. In 1852 the post office was moved a few miles north into what is now Laona Township and the mill settlement was platted and recorded in 1853 as Medina. The new Laona Post Office was located near a blacksmith shop and a general store, but in 1875 it was discontinued and the Durand Post Office took over the mail duties. One of the most prominent citizens produced by Laona Township was Duncan J. Stewart, one of the eight children of Alexander and Polly Flowers Stewart, who came to Laona in a covered wagon from New York. Stewart moved to Rockford in 1874 and founded the Stewart and Co. Store, later the D.J. Stewart and Co. Store. Much of the history of the township can be traced through the family of Halvor Anderson, who went to the lead mining region near Galena in the early 1840’s to earn enough money to buy a farm. When he finally saved enough money, he walked from Galena to the land office in Dixon and bought 30 acres in the northeast section of Laona Township. Anderson, who came to this county from Norway, later bought 200 more acres from neighbors. Anderson had two sons, Ole and Andrew. Ole, the first member of the family to serve on the county board of supervisors, lived on the original farm. Andrew bought 220 acres a mile east of the original homestead and it was on this farm that Merle K. Anderson, later a state representative, was born. Merle represented Laona Township on the county board until he was elected to the state office. At that time his wife, Emma, became the county board representative of the 479 residents of the township. Geographically, Laona Township is one of the smallest in the county, but it technically became even smaller in 1959 when 10 percent of its total area was declared a floodway in the Sugar River and Otter Creek watersheds. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
Owen is a township lying directly north of Rockford,. The Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul railroad passes through nearly its entire length north and south. There is a station at Latham Park. There was once a post office there, but it has been superseded by a rural route. Among early settlers may be mentioned Patten Atwood, who went there in 1839; Mowry Brown, who first came to Rockford in 1838; Wadleigh Favor, William Haley, Frederick M Knapp, James B. Lee, Stephen O. Thompson, Isaac W. Seaverns [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
By being in the right place at the right time, Owen Township saved the pioneer communities of Rockford and Rockton for the men who had arrive first in Winnebago County. In 1837, a year after the first settlers came to Owen Township, Count Chlopicki, spokesman for a group of displaced Poles, visited the three-year-old settlement of Rockford. His group had been promised by the U.S. government that it could settle on 36 sections of unclaimed land in the West. After assuring his hosts that he wouldn’t try to get Rockford, which was being developed even though formal claims hadn’t been made, Chlopicki went back to Washington and claimed Rockford and Rockton Townships. Title to the land remained in limbo until 1942, when the government rule the Poles had violated the agreement that they must claim 36 sections in three adjoining townships. In their haste to get the quickly-developing river cities of Rockford and Rockton, the Poles overlooked pastoral Owen Township, which lies between the other two townships. Owen Township’s earliest settlement was at its western edge, along Meridian Road. In 1860 the Meridian church was built on land donated by Jonathan Todd. There was no resident clergyman, but a minister rode in from Rochelle to conduct services. By the early 1900’s, the population had shifted to the center of the township and the church was moved to the crossroads area known as Owen Center, at Latham and Owen Center Roads. The Pioneer Meridian Church building became part of the Owen Center Methodist Church, and only 15 remaining graves serve as a reminder of the Meridian Church and cemetery. James B. Lee, a farmer from Pennsylvania, came to Winnebago County in 1835 and is generally credited with being the first resident of Owen Township. When he first saw Rockford, there were only two houses in the infant settlement. Lee’s claim was at the northwest corner of the township, bordered by Shirland and Harrison Townships. Another Early settler was William Halley, who settle in Rockton in 1838 and worked as a tailor until he decided to become an Owen Township farmer in 1860. He later served as a justice of the peace, township supervisor and assessor. Henry A. Latham, who settle on 250 aces along the Rock River in Owen Township in 1854, came closer to anyone else to developing a community in the township. The area known now as Latham Park contains permanent and summer homes along the river back. Another name that looms in Owen Township history is that of George Tullock, a shoemaker who struck out for Rockford from Chicago in 1948. He was riding with a teamster, but the going was so slow that Tullock got off and walked, arriving in Rockford three days before the team and wagon. He gave up his trade to farm at the south edge of Owen Township, on the land just east of what is now the fashionable and sprawling Tullock’s Woods Subdivision. Owen Township's population has grown from 582 in 1920 to 1429 in 1960, largely through the development of the Tullock’s Woods and Latham Park areas, but most of the township remains agricultural. Traditionally "dry", Owen Township learned in 1955 from its supervisor, George W. Brown, that there had never been an official cote on prohibition of the sale of liquor. Residents went to the polls April 6, 1955, and voted 83-31 to continue the unofficial prohibition that had been in effect as long as anyone could remember. [from "Sinnissippi Saga" Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
OPERA HOUSES, WAGON SHOPS FIGURE IN PECATONICA'S HISTORY
AREA SETTLED FIRST IN 1835
PLATTED IN 1852
PECATONICA--Before the railroads penetrated other parts of norther Illinois, this village promised to be a real metropolis. Growth of railroads combined with the financial panic of 1857 proved to be the telling blow. The wild prosperity of Pecatonica was eliminated and never was reborn after the panic ended. The Pecatonica area was settled as early as 1835 by Ephraim and William Sumner, a sister, Mrs. Dolly Guilford, and Elijay and Thomas Hance.
The following year the township of Peeketolika was established. It was composed of the present townships of Pecatonica, Seward and Burritt in Winnebago county. Land on which the present village is located was purchased and occupied by Daniel Reed, in 1846. Reed farmed the property. In 1852 when the Galena and Chicago Union railroad began building a route which would run through Pecatonica, T.D. Robertson and John A. Holland, both of Rockford, bought in a partners of Reed. Village of Pecatonica was platted the same year. N.F. Maynard built the community's first home north of where the railroad tracks now run and opened a general store in it. By the fall of 1852 the booming village had a hotel, the Pecatonica house. All this was done before the railroad, now known as the Chicago and North Western, was completed in August, 1853. Arrival of the railroad sent the tiny village whirling into prosperity almost beyond imagination. Before the panic of 1857, Pecatonica at one time had 12 to 15 dry goods stores all doing good business. In addition, there were seven blacksmith shops.
"The business area for Pecatonica extended as far south as Leaf River in Ogle county," commented Claude A. Colberg, 71, who has lived in Pecatonica all his life. He is a former county supervisor.
Colberg's grandfather, John P. Colberg, a wagon maker, came to Pecatonica in 1854. he set up a wagon shop on the site of the present Nicol building.
"Grandfather even saw Lincoln when he was lying dead in a casket," Colberg said.
Colberg's father, John Albert, was born in Pecatonica in 1857. He too became a wagon maker and took over operation of the shop when John P. Colberg died.
Third generation of the family to operate the wagon shop was Claude and Frank W. Colberg, both sons of John Albert Colbert.
Claude Colbert, in business in Pecatonica for 55 years, now operates a gas station. Frank Colberg lives in Rockford
WHEAT SOLD FOR $2
While the pre-panic boom was on in Pecatonica, farmers in the surrounding areas also were doing well. Wheat, the top crop, was selling for $2 a bushel.
"Grandfather told me that before the Illinois Central and Milwaukee railroads were built south of Pecatonica, wheat was hauled to Pecatonica, unloaded, and weighed at the Salisbury warehouse," Colberg said. "The waiting line was on Main st. from Market to 9th, a distance of seven blocks."
Then came the financial panic in 1857 and it lasted to about 1885. Many Pecatonica stores had to close.
"The panic ruined about two-thirds of the business places here," Colberg said. "By the time the panic ended, railroads were being built to the south and out trading area was gone."
The village has never been able to regain the boom prosperity it once enjoyed, although today it is still a prosperous trading center.
An ironic development during this period was the action of the Illinois Central in establishing a westward route from Chicago. The I.C. in 1887 surveyed for a line going through Pecatonica where 9th st. is now located. Eventually, the road decided against this route and builth farther south through Rockford and Seward.
TRADE AREA CUT
If the Illinois Central had built through Pecatonica, the community might have been able to prevent the loss of its large trading area. More than half a century ago Pecatonica was considerably smaller than it is today, according to Leonard Mullican, Pecatonica cafe operator. Mullican, 63, was born in Durand township and came to Pecatonica with his parents at the age of 4. He has been a well-known figure in the Main st. business district since he was 21. Mullican worked in the Thiel hardware store for 22 years, clerking and doing sheet metal work. He has operated Brownie's lunch room for the last 20 years. "Business was pretty good years ago and still is," Mullican said. "We've grown quite a bit lately and there's been a lot of new buildings going up." Since the end of the 1857 panic, Pecatonica has been the trading and community center for its immdiate area of rich farm land. The Winnebago county fairgrounds was established here, too, after Fairgrounds park in Rockford was abandoned as the site of the county fair.
FIRE TAKES ITS TOLL
Maybe that explains why the community has had quite a few opera houses. The first was Sage's opera hall. The next opera house was the G.A.R. hall and in 1890 the Modern Woodmen of America hall. The old three-story building which housed Excelsior hall burned down in 1857 in a spectacular blaze. The structure was at Main and 3d sts. The following decade fire destroyed the Maryhew building on the west side of Main st. But the worst fire in the history of Pecatonica occurred in the 1880's when half of the east side of the Main st. business district was lost. This year time removed another vestige of early Pecatonica. The old Salisbury wheat warehouse built in 1852 was torn down. [Rockford Morning Star, January 8, 1956]
Pecatonica, Winnebago County, Illinois
The town was named from the river on which it is located. This was named from a corruption of the Indian word pickatolica, the Indian name of a species of fish. [Source: A history of the origin of the place names connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railways .. Stennett. William H., Chicago, 1908]
Township of Pecatonica History
Contemporaneous settlements were made in several townships of Winnebago County. The township of Pecatonica was settled in 1835. The first settlers were Ephraim Sumner, William Sumner, Mr. Dolly Guilford, Isaac Hance, and Elijah B. Guilford, who is still living. The tracts now covered by the village of Pecatonica were first owned by Daniel Reed, and William and Ephraim Sumner. In 1852, Thomas D. Robertson and John A. Holland, both of Rockford, purchased an individual interest in the town plat, and with Mr. Reed laid out the village. The plat was filed for record on December, 1852. During the spring of 1853, arrangements were perfected by which Mr. Robertson was to make and convey all titles to said property. M.F. Maynard erected the first building and opened the first grocery store in July, 1852. Sullivan Daniels opened the first public hotel, called the Seward House. In September, 1853, the Galena & Chicago Union Railroad began the receipt and delivery of freight at Pecatonica station, under the superintendence of Josiah Stevens. The first great improvement for Pecatonica was the construction of the turnpike across the bottoms, a distance of about one and a quarter miles. It was built by subscriptions at a great expense for that time, under the direction of Daniel Reed, Sr., in the autumn of 1853.
The post office was established in the autumn of 1853, and Tracy Smith was appointed postmaster.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1853, by the Rev. Barton H. Cartwright and Rev. Horatio N. Irish. The society met in a grain warehouse, where all religious assemblies convened. In 1854, a small house of worship was erected, which served the purpose of the society until 1868, when a stone church was erected. The membership of the church in October, 1904, was 166. Rev. Charles Virden has served two years as pastor.
The First Congregational Church was organized February 18, 1854, under the direction of Rev. Johnson, with a membership of six. A house of worship was dedication in the autumn of 1855.
The Swedish Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in the year 1858, by Rev. Andreen.
The First Baptist Society was organized in Rock Run, May 7, 1843, under the direction of William Stillwell, and in 1855 was removed to Pecatonica. It maintained an uncertain existence for some years, and finally disbanded. It belonged to the Rock River Association.
The First Universalist Church was organized August 5, 1855, with seven members. A chapel was built in 1863, and remodeled in 1875.
The German Evangelical Church was organized about 1874, with a small membership.
A Roman Catholic Society was organized in 1871-2 with fifty members.
A high school building was erected during the summer of 1862, and the first school was opened November 24 of the same year, under the supervision of J.S. Mabie, who served as principal until August 14, 1862. Mr. Mabie afterwards became pastor of the First Baptist Church of Rockford. The Village of Pecatonica was incorporated by an act of the legislature of 1868-9. The bill for the incorporation of the village was introduced by Hon. Ephraim Sumner, who was then a member of the house. It now has a population of about 1,400. An opera house was built in 1897. It is owned by a stock company, and has a seating capacity of about 600. Irvin S. Sumner is the postmaster. [Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
While Rockford, Rockton , Durand and Roscoe devoted their early years to establishing themselves as manufacturing centers, the fledgling community of Pecatonica set its sights early on becoming what it is today and has been most of its 132-year history--a retail center midway between Rockford and Freeport.
Pecatonica originally was called Lysander Township, but the residents picked up the Indian name that had been discarded as unwieldy by the citizens of what is now Rockton. Pecatonica is a corruption of the Indian word Peeketolika, meaning crooked river, an apt description of the Pecatonica River. Pecatonica Township was settled Sept. 19, 1835 by Ephraim Sumner, his brother, William, their sister, Mrs. Dolly Guilford, her son Elijah, and Thomas Hance. In the next year, Hance became the father of the first white child born in Winnebago County, Ogden Hance. The first settlement was at Twelve Mile Grove, about a mile south of the present village, along the road to Galena. The year 1836 saw a large influx of settlers in the area, but commerce didn't arrive until the preliminary work of clearing and taming the land had been accomplished. In 1842, Ephraim Sumner built a stone tavern and inn to serve travelers along the Galena road. This building stood until 1914. A huge grove of trees stood at the present site of Pecatonica when Daniel Reed bought the property for farmland in 1846. He and Tracy Smith opened a dry goods store in 1852, across the street from the village's first merchant, N.F. Maynard, who had established a grocery store earlier that year.
Reed also gave Pecatonica what would serve as its most notable landmark for 70 years, the Pecatonica House, a hotel and restaurant that operated from 1853, when it was razed to make room for the American Legion Hall. Reed and Maynard set the pace in the new community's business district. By the mid-1850's, after the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad had pushed through the community, Pecatonica had a busy commercial district, boasting at least 13 dry goods stores and seven blacksmith shops.
The financial panic of 1857 hit Pecatonica businessmen hard, slowing down the village's development more than a decade. By the time the businesses has struggled back, new railroads had been built, bypassing Pecatonica to the south. Despite the panic and the detour by the railroads, Pecatonica had 78 established businesses by 1877 and a $20,000 grist mill was in operation on the river north of town. Pecatonica had cemented its position as a shopping and service center for many of farmers living between Rockford
The village was incorporated in 1869, the same year the first village elections were held.
While the business community was growing up, Pecatonica was growing in other ways. Seven churches were organized between 1853 and 1874.
The school that had been housed temporarily at Main and 5th Streets when it opened in 1849 was moved into a new, two-story frame building in 1862. A brick grade and high school replaced this structure in 1894 and in 1930 a high school addition was built. Pecatonica's present high school was built in 1958, and in 1966 voters decided to enlarge it with a $195,000 addition.
The on-again, off-again Winnebago County Fair, once a feature in Rockford's Fairgrounds Park, came to Pecatonica in 1921.
Before then, the Prairie View Grange had been holding a picnic at the present fairgrounds every Fourth of July, and the Seward Horse Show and Fair Association had been staging successful and popular horse shows.
A group of Pecatonica businessmen, combined these events into the Winnebago County Fair, which has been held annually since 1921, the except during the years of World War II. After the charter had switched hands several times, it was taken over in 1952 by a group of Pecatonica citizens who formed the non-profit Winnebago County Fair Association. Another popular attraction at the Pecatonica fairgrounds for the past 40 years has been the rodeo staged on Fourth of July weekends.
Except for the gristmill, Pecatonica attracted no industry until modern times. Dean Milk Co. establish a condensed milk plant there in 1925. It was the village's oldest industry when it closed in 1967. A corn cannery that operated for several years closed in the 1950's.
Pecatonica's greatest industrial strides have been taken in the past two decades. Ipsen Industries, Inc., established a manufacturing plant for ceramic blocks in 1956. AnPec Manufacturing Co. has been making machine parts in Pecatonica since 1946. In 1965 the old Woodman Opera House was converted by the Winnebago Fabricating Co., into a factory. Its original product was children's "skateboards", but when that fad died, the company diversified to other wood products. In 1965, after illuminating its business district with bright, new mercury vapor lights, the village of 1,659 residents adopted the hopeful and boastful slogan: "The Busiest, Best, Brightest, Biggest Little Town in Northern Illinois." [Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
PECATONICA IN ITS YOUTH: DIFFERENT CHURCHES, DIFFERENT NAME
PECATONICA--Five hardy pioneers 126 years ago trekked their way across grassy, rolling tree-studded plains to finally begin building their homes along the banks of a slow-moving, muddy river. The five settlers, Ephraim Sumner, William Sumner, Mrs. Dolly Guilford, sister of the two Sumner brothers, Elijah Guilford, her son, and Thomas Hance founded Pecatonica Township. Later in 1835 a county of seven justice precints was organized--Yellow River, Rock Grove, Peeketolika (now Pecatonica, Seward and Burritt), Kishwaukee, Rockford, Rock River and Belvidere.
Township offiials were elected Aug. 27, 1836. Ephraim Sumner and Isaac Hance were selectedas justices of the peace, and William Sumner and Thomas Hance as constables.
Peeketolika (Indian for "crooked river") was approximately 105 square miles (Pecatonica Township, 36 square miles; Burritt, 33; and Seward, 36). Rockford Township is 113 square miles.
Peeketolika was the first township in Winnebago County to receive the birth of a white child. Ogden Hance, son of Thomas Hance, was born Oct. 21, 1836.
During 1846 Daniel Reed, Sr., purchased a tract of land which was to become the village of Pecatonica. Until 1852, Reed farmed the land.
But as the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad (now Chicago and Northwestern Railroad) was being laid across Reed's land, T.D. Robertson and John A. Holland, both of Rockford, became interested in opening a railway station on Reed's land.
Reed plotted the land and laid out streets and building sites. Pecatonica's first birth was that of Katie Scanian, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Patrick Scanian.
The first business was opened in 1852--a grocery and provision store owned and operated by N.F. Maynard on the west side of Main Street north of the railroad tracks.
In the beginning, the town was called Lysander, but authorities wanted it changed to Pecatonica.
During the latter past of 1852, Reed began building the Pecatonica Hotel at the corner of Main and 3rd Street. Sullivan Daniels, Reed's son-in-law, began operating the hotel and named it the Pecatonica House.
The hotel existed until 1924 when the American Legion Post, Eugene J. Bailoga, bought the structure for $225. The post then raised its own building.
During the Civil War, Pecatonica supplied 276 soldiers; 4 in the Spanish American War of 1898; and 107 in World War I.
An act to incorporate the town of Pecatonica by special charter was passed by the Illinois General Assembly and approved March 4, 1869. Pecatonica voters approved the charter in an April election.
Twelve years later, on April 22, 1881, a 96 to 31 vote carried a plan to organize a village under state law.
By 1875, six churches were built.
But the community has not been freed from wickedness and crime, according to a 1923 Pecatonica High School yearbook. "The Crystal Palace, a den of iniquity, was a disgrace to the village," it said.
Both the village and township slowly grew until they had a population of 1,022 and 1,590 in 1910. By 1940 they had increased to 1,306 and 1,856, an increase of about 300.
Census figures for 1960 show the village has climbed to 1,659, while the township grew to 1,970. [Rockford Register-Republic, July 29, 1961]
Village of Argyle
Argyle, Winnebago County, Illinois, named by John Andrew, Sen., an early settler from Argyleshire, Scotland. The village at one time was called "Kintyre" from the place in Scotland. [A history of the origin of the place names connected with the Chicago & North Western and Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis & Omaha railways .. Stennett. William H., Chicago, 1908]
Argyle is another hamlet on the Kenosha division, near the Boone Count line. That portion of the county was settled in an early day by Scotchmen from Argyleshire. Their descendants support one of the most prosperous country churches in Illinois. The present house of worship was dedicated February 14, 1878. The sermon was preached by the Rev. Francis L. Patton, of Chicago, but later president of Princeton University. The church well seats six hundred and cost, with furniture, $12,796. Rev. B.E.S. Ely, Sr., was pastor at the time the church was dedicated. The manse adjoins the church [from "Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois", Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
The unincorporated village of Argyle was formed on land claimed in 1834 by the Armour brothers, John and George, who had come to Ottawa, Ill., from Kintyre in Argyleshire, Scotland. Their cousin, James Armour, a shoemaker, had made the original claim, but he had no desire to tame the unbroken land along Willow Creek, so he gave the claim to his cousins. The brothers built a log cabin in the area known as Scotch Grove, which actually is in Boone County, lived in it long enough to verify their claim, and then returned to Ottawa. During a visit to their native Kintyre, the Armour brothers found their friends and relatives in serious straits. Crops had failed for several years, and small farmers were feeling the pressure form oppressive landlords. It was to these depressed farmers that the Armour brothers carried their message about the fertile prairies of Northern Illinois. Their uncle, John Greenlee, was the first to accept their invitation, but before he could get to the boat, he was arrested for failure to pay for the up-keep of buildings on his rented farm. Details of Greenlee's escape are hazy, but it is known that he got out of town wearing a lady's long cloak and hood. In December, 1836, he and his nephew, John Armour, arrived in Scotch Grove. Greenlee's wife and children moved into the Armour cabin with him the spring of 1837, becoming the first established family in the township. They settled their own claim that summer. The Greenlees were followed by a steady stream of immigrants from Kintyre. There were the Reids, the Pickens, the Howies, the McDonald, the Giffens, the Andrews, and the Fergusens. The influx of settlers continued until the mid 1860s, and Argyle became an established community with a railroad station, a post office, and a stock company creamery.
The backbone of the Argyle settlement is and always had been the Willow Creek Presbyterian Church. The congregation was organized in 1844 with 51 members and the first brick church building was occupied in 1850. The present church, a tall, red brick building, has been in use since 1877. The settlement's other permanent fixture is the Argyle School, which had its origin in 1842 when the settlement's first log school house was built.
"Argyle is pretty much the same now as it was when I was a boy, only there was more business," said Matthew Andrew, on the eve of his 90th birthday in September, 1967. Matthew and his brother, Hugh T. Andrew, 14 years his junior, are the third generation of their families to live in Argyle. Their grandfather, John Andrew, arrived in Argyle in 1840 from Scotland.
"Things stayed about the same here until the railroad pulled out about 1937," recalled Hugh T. Andrew. "We had already lost the creamery and the elevator was closed."
About 60 persons live in the 15 to 20 homes that make up Argyle now. Many are descendants of the Scottish pioneers; others are newcomers who work in Rockford and Belvidere. Their only reminders of the settlement's former commercial life are a grain elevator and a general store--both of them closed. [from "Sinnissippi Saga", Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
"I will remark that it gining you a picture of this town, the name of which has been for some years disadvantageously connected with another place near by: I am compelled to recite the annals of that, and to advert to its rise, decline and fall; believing also that the high expectation as to its predicted greatness has been so extensively circulated that the facts, together with the "grand result," would not be without interest to many of your readers, as it is rather a wonder in the fast growing west for towns to decline, when commenced under such extremely flattering promises.
The new town of Kishwaukee to which the Post Office has recently been removed, was recorded this spring, and commences its careers under the discouraging aspect of general pucuniary distress throughout the whole country. But the prospects ahead do not seem to be lessened, by any means, from that circumstance, as the only object is to raise it upon a permanent basis, and not for speculation, to create a village suited to the wants of surrounding country, which is among the most densely settled in the valley of Rock River. The lands in this township were sold the past October and all but about three sections were bought by actual settlers. On the first opening of the Rock River country to the tide of emigration, after the Black Hawk War, the public mind was especially directed to the junction of the Kishwaukee with Rock River, as a point where a very large and important town must rise with the settlement of the country. But in making the selection of that point two very important facts were overlooked by the early pioneers. First, that emigrants coming from the east, and the settlers meeting Rock River on that side were more inclined to tarry there than to penetrate the country, on the opposite or west side of the river, more especially so at that early period, when public ferries were "few and far between."
Secondly. That with the view of future commerce of Rock River, the Kishwaukee offered by far the best and almost the only harbor on that stream, never less than ten feet of water for nearly a mile and in navigable seasons only a current of a mile and a half an hour, allowing all kinds of river craft to moor quietly along its banks. However, overlooking these advantages, the village was laid out on the west bank of Rock River, and the town commenced about half a mile above the mouth of the Kishwaukee River. This I think was in 1835 or '38. The frames of many buildings were raised, but after the completion of one ware house the over sight as to the tendency of settlemend was percieved, and most of the frames were taken down and removed to the east side of Rock River, a half a mile above the Kishwaukee, but with a view of extending the village down to it, as the seat of commercial operations, when Rock River should be rendered navigable for Steam boats. But on the breaking up of the streams in the spring, the original site on the west, and the ground between the one selected in its stead, and the Kishwaukee, offered insurmountable objections to extending the town in that direction, on account of its being entirely inundated at such seasons. But in those days it was considered sheer madness for a man to buy a building lot which neither required digging down or filling up! Besides, purchases were they so outre(?) as to require a feasible site, seldom ever saw the lot they purchased except upon paper. The proprietors, nothing daunted however by these disadvantages, or regarding them as benefits, united the project of raising a Rock River Cairo!(?) and determined to build a town there, which they predicted would rival even your good city of Chicago. They had claimed almost all the surrounding country within many miles, and here ensued a scene of speculation in village lots and farming claims, which has probably never been equalled in any town in the west; and at that day it was difficult to find a land speculator who had not a Kishwaukee lot in his pocket! In 1833(?) and 1837 I think that 70 buildings were raised in less than 12 months and probably 15 or 20 finished--and the force of capital and credit were strained to the utmost, by the proprietors, to concentrate there the elements of a thriving, and prosperous town.
But aside from the disadvantages of location, some of Owen's "counteracting principles" were busily at work. Rockford was only 7 miles above and on the same side of Rock River, and the settlers there turned their early attention to to laying out leading roads, in order to concentrate the great east and west travel at that place; which, in the absence of all efforts elsewhere have succeeded. Besides the Kishwaukee running from a northeasterly direction, left Kishwaukee in a Peninsular position to the great back country--the largest extent lying on the south and east side of the stream and that when once settlers crossed that barrier, they would proceed to Rockford, the great mart for trade, and the seat of great intelligence and personal enterprise. These causes operating together have left what may be termed ancient Kishwaukee, to fall before public opinion, and to become abandoned both by the proprietors and nearly all its inhabitants.
The stores originally started there were discontinued in '38, and the place has struggled along, enjoying a precarious existence ever since. The principal grade carried on by its inhabitants since has been the disposing of their houses, stores and frames, which have been purchased and moved in great numbers on the adjacent farms, and other villages. The consequence has been an immense sacrifice of capital by all parties concerned, and making the name of the place a bye-word. From the wilderness of naked frames, which a year ago ago stared the stranger in the face, it acquired the appellation of "Rib Town." To sum up the whole, both hope and expectation among the principal parties concerned have long since expired, and the remnants of frames and buildings are now mostly for sale. This spring a village has been laid off on the south side of the Kishwaukee, fronting on that and Rock River, to which the Post Office has been recently removed, and a town in commencing on a scale which with the natural advantages surrounding it, will put an end to the character for Locomotion which has hitherto been attached to the name.
It retains the original Indian cognomen of Kishwaukee, which signifies "very clear water," and is very aptly applied to the stream. Its location as to health is highly eligible, and also its nearness to water power. An air line from Chicago to Galena within half a mile from the village; and it being the shortest and best route betweet the two places, crossing the Fox at Charleston, it will ere long attract much of the travel. The great River Road passes through the town, as also the road from Ottaway on the Illinois, to the upper Rock River, and Wisconsin Territory. Several houses and stores are in the process of erection. Also a church for the accomodation of the Methodist Episcopal Society.
The place enjoys the advantages of a thriving settlement--and the inducements for farming emigrants were never so great as at present. The lands now with Government titles can be purchased here under the existing depression of prices, for less than half the former estimated value for the mere claim, or right of possession. I believe this to be a pretty universal fact, however, that lands sell even in good times for more as claims, than where titled. The feeling for speculation on uncertainties, so innate a property in the American character, is undoubtedly the cause of this anomaly in the new countries. Emigrants are tempted to push further west, with the hope of grasping as original claimants, their choice of the Governmental lands--and finally they ascertain that the light foot of a pioneer has marked the sport before them--and weary of further advance, they settle down as purchasers of claims, at whatever prices these roving speculators choose to ask. Experience will alone teach them that they have left behind titles land, society, schools, and churches for a less price than they are obliged to pay for a lonely habitation on the frontier, and to be held only by the unsettled and uncertain tenure of a claim. That is the experience of the writer when he first acquired his interest in this valley.
Referring again to the subject of this communication, I will here remark, that those who have looked as disinterested observers upon the present location of Kishwaukee, the entire adaptation of its position as to travel--the access to it from the extensive back country -- its commercial force with reference to its harbor and front on Rock River, and the unrivalled beauty of the site for building a flourishing town; it has been a matter of wonder that any attempt should ever have been made to build a village in this vicinity except on this place. The choice of Lots is given to those who wish to erect buildings, and there is a fine opening for mechanics of all trades -- a blacksmith and a shoemaker here are much wanted. For the purpose of trade there is probably no place in the west offering equal inducements at present, as there is no store on the east side of Rock River between this and Dixon's Ferry, a distance of about 30 miles, and the country is thickly settled; two enterprising merchants would be sure to succeed here. The site of the town commences on a table, affording an easy access to both rivers--and rises back in the distance of half a mile through a thin skirt of burr oak openings to the height of 80 feet--leaving both rivers in full view for several miles, as they wind their serpentine course through the rich cultivated farms, which skirt the banks of either stream.
--Yours, in haste,
[Rock River Express, June 2, 1840]
from the Chicago American
The new village by this beautiful and romantic name is built on the south side of the mouth of the Kishwaukee, at its junction with Rock River, on the direct route between Rockford and Dixon's Ferry and seven miles below the former place. In the early settlement of this country a village by this name was located on Rock River, some distance above its mouth. It was a scene of extensive speculation--and after the bursting of the bubble--the buildings were torn down, which fact gave to it the very appropriate appellation of Rib Town, a full description of which, by a graphic hand, sometime since appeared in our paper. The new village is remarkable for health--splendidly located--and the magnificent natural scenery which surrounds it, makes it a perfect Eldorado. It possesses fine natural advantages for travel, being on a straight line between Chicago and Galena. The first house was erected there between five and six months ago. The Post Office, (N.T. Rossiter, P.M.) was removed there, owing to the prosperity of the place. It has two stores, 1 tavern, 1 tin Tin and Copper Smith, 1 Watchmaker, several carpenters and other mechanics. Under a legislative act, a company are now building boats for a ferry across the river. The main road from Ottawa on Illinois River meets Rock River here. The title is secure to the village and lots are given to these that will build. [Rock River Express, January 2, 1841]
August 3, 1835, Robert J. Cross, of Coldwater, Mich., and Col. Von Hovenburg, with a Pottawatomie Indian for a guide, came from Milwaukee into what is now the township of Roscoe. Mr. Ross bought a claim of Lavec, an employe of Stephen Mack, upon which he subsequently settled. In September of the same year, Elijah H. Brown, James B. Lee, and William Mead came from La Porte county, Indiana. Until a postoffice was established at Beloit, the first settlers obtained their mail at Chicago. In the spring of 1837 a postoffice was established at the village of Roscoe, and M. P. Abell was appointed postmaster. The village was laid out under the direction of Messrs. Lelands, Jenks and Tuttle, and the plat was filed for record August 3, 1841. The township and village derived their names from William Roscoe. a celebrated English biographer.
There are two churches, Methodist Episcopal and Congregational. The membership of the former was reported to the Rock River conference of 1904 as 128. The pastor the last conference year was Rev. T. E. Fluck, who also supplied the church at Harlem.
The Congregational church was organized November 28, 1843, with eighteen members. June 3, 1858, the wife and seven children of Rev. Illsley, the pastor, were killed or drowned. In building the Madison branch of the Chicago & Galena railroad, a high embankment had been thrown up at the crossing of the creek about half a mile above the village. The culvert was too small for the volume of water, and up to the afternoon of the day of the awful catastrophe, a pond two miles long, half a mile in width and from twenty-five to thirty feet in depth had formed above the embankment. About midnight the culvert caved in, the embankment gave way, and the water rushed down in one mighty torrent, carrying away several houses in its maddened rush, among which was the brick house occupied by Mr. Illsley and family, which toppled over and buried beneath its ruins the mother and seven children. Mr. Illsley, who had lost a leg, was comparatively helpless and was carried away
by the flood nearly down to the Rock river, where he caught in a tree and held on until he was found by L. W. Richardson, who waded in and carried him out. In the Roscoe Cemetery, near the northeast corner, the eight bodies of one family, who had not all been united for some time till the day of their death, were buried in one day. Rev. Eaton, the venerable father of President Eaton, of Beloit college, was pastor of this church for many years.
The Beloit and Madison division of the Chicago & Northwestern railway passes near the village of Roscoe. The Rockford. Beloit & Janesville electric line passes diretly through the village. [---from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
William Roscoe of Liverpool, England, was a 19th Century poet, author, essayist and historian, not to mention a fervent abolitionist. Legend has it that a Henry Abell stood up at a town meeting in 1841 and proposed that the township in the northeast corner of the newly-formed Winnebago County be named for the English man of letters. The name Roscoe survives, as does the story, but there's some doubt that his actually is the way it happened.
Another story is told in a letter written in 1935 by Mrs. Edwin Hobart, who as Lillie Tuttle, was one of the children of Amos Tuttle, an early Roscoe setter and one of the men who platted the town. As she recalls it, her father and a group of men friends were having supper together in the Tuttle home a few days after the plat was filed in 1841, when one of the men said to Tuttle:
"Well, Uncle Amos, you'll call the village Tuttleville after you, won't you?"
"I could never walk up and down these streets and have it called Tuttleville," the modest pioneer replied.
"I'd be proud to have it called Roscoe, after me," said a less modest Charlie Roscoe.
"So be it," Uncle Amos answered.
No Charlie Roscoe is listed among Roscoe's earlier settlers, and his name doesn't appear among the 62 registered voters in the township's 1852 poll list, but as Mrs. Hobart recalled in her letter, he left Roscoe shortly for St. Paul, Minn., leaving behind only his name.
Most of Roscoe's history is less obscure than the origin of its name.
In August, 1835, R.J. Cross ventured into Northern Winnebago County from Coldwater, Mich., stopped at Stephen Mack's trading post, and bough a claim from one of Mack's French-Canadian employees. It was two miles northwest of the present village of Roscoe, near where Hononegah Forest Preserve is now. Cross went back to Michigan for his wife and four children, returned to settle the claim, and went on to serve as Roscoe Township supervisor and state representative.
Arriving in Roscoe three years later was a one-family population explosion. Dr. Solomon Jenks arrived from Saybrooke, Ohio, with his wife and 13 children (a 14th child was born after Dr. Jenks died in 1843 at the age of 47).
Following the doctor were his four brothers, all with big and growing families.
By 1840 there were more than 40 Jenks in town.
Dr. Jenks, his brother, Smith, Amos Tuttle and Alvin Leland filed the town plat Aug. 3, 1841.
Roscoe's first scholars learned their lessons to the tune of an anvil, not to a hickory stick. The first school was at one end of Reynold's blacksmith shop, in space made available in 1836 by the smithy. Classes moved to the Methodist Church in 1849 and the red brick schoolhouse was built in 1855. This served until Kinnikinnick School was built.
James Thompson appeared in Winnebago County in 1840 with dreams of building an industrial empire. The ambitious Canadian found all the space was spoken for on Rockton's water power, so he drifted down to Roscoe, got together with Amos Tuttle, and built an iron foundry on the south branch of Kinnickinnick Creek. Then, in rapid succession, he built several sawmills, a woolen factory, and a distillery.
Thompson's foundry was one of nine buildings destroyed in the flood of 1858 and the distillery was bought by an Ebenezer Brown and converted into a grist mill.
The reaction of the early settlers when they lost what probably was the first whiskey distillery in Winnebago County history isn't recorded, but the Rockford Register-Gazette on Oct 28, 1916, hailed the distillery's demise as a boon to mankind. It said:
"The grain, instead of being converted to whiskey to steal away a man's brains, was converted into food-stuff that nourished the human body and became the stuff of life."
Thanks to Henderson Coffin, some of the oldest, most substantial buildings in the county are in the Roscoe area. Coffin, one of the earliest settlers, established three brickyards in the Roscoe area.
Instead of starting out as a settlement of the temporary wooden buildings, highly vulnerable to fire, Roscoe from its earliest days featured many substantial hard brick homes.
Another pioneer businessman in Roscoe was J.K. Armbly, who established a broom factory and the went on to become a millionaire in the canned goods industry in Chicago and San Francisco.
At the time of the Civil War, Roscoe had seven blacksmith shops, four wagon makers, a grist mill, a distillery, a foundry, a woolen factory, two sawmills and Armby's broom factory.
There also was the American Hotel, which featured a "for men only" bar and barber shops in its frame annex.
In terms of human lives, the most tragic event in Roscoe history was recorded June 3, 1857.
Rev. Horatio Ilsley, pastor of the Congregational Church, lived in a brick house near Kinnickinnick Creek with his wife and eight children.
The creek was rising, and experienced residents warned the pastor that his house and family were in danger.
Apparently minimizing the peril, the minister stayed in the house as the creek rose. During the night, the house was swept away, and Ilsey's wife and eight children were either drowned or fatally injured.
The pastor, who had lost one leg earlier in an accident, was swept downstream. He grabbed the branches of a low-hanging tree and held on for five hours before his shouts attracted the attention of rescuers.
Roscoe's Methodist Church was organized as a "Methodist Class" in September, 1836, by an itinerant preacher, Samuel Pillsbury, the same man who built Durand 's first mill. The first Methodist Church was built in 1848-49, and the present brick structure has been in use since 1907. The Congregational Church was organized in 1843, and in 1924, when Roscoe's town hall burned down, the unused Congregational Church building became the town hall.
Although it had been settled since 1835 and platted since 1841, Roscoe remained an unincorporated village for more than 100 years. For years, civic improvements were financed by festivals and other fundraising enterprises of the Roscoe Improvement Association, the community's unofficial government.
In 1965, Roscoe, one of the oldest communities in the county, became the newest village when its 1,000 residents voted in favor of incorporation. --from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968
Seward Township and Village of Seward
Seward forms the southwest corner of Winnebago county. It is in this township that the highest price has been paid for farm land in this county. The village of Seward is on the Illinois Central. A Roman Catholic church stands some distance north of the railroad track. Perhaps few persons now living ever heard of the Vanceborough post office. Vanceborough was another name for Twelve-Mile Grove, on the State Road, about half way from Rockford to Freeport. Ephraim Sumner settled near there when he came to Winnebago County, in 1835. He engaged in milling and farming near Twelve-Mile Grove, and became an extensive landowner. February 11, 1845, Mr. Sumner was commissioned postmaster of Vanceborough. He was to retain the office during the pleasure of the post-master-general. The commission is signed by C. Wickliffe, who was postmaster general during the administration of John Tyler. The seal is the figure of a man on horseback, with a small mailbag upon his back. Both man and horse are apparently in great haste to reach the next station. This commission, now in possession of Hon. E.B. Sumner, is well preserved, although it was issued sixty years ago. The elder Sumner built a stone house at Vanceborough, which is still in a good state of preservation, and has well-nigh outlived the memory of the town. These primitive villages along the old stage lines were superseded by the railway station and they now scarcely live in memory. Among the early settlers of the township were, A. Bridgeland, Mrs. Sylvia Conover, Samuel Faulkner, William Fitzgerald, Jacom M. Hamilton, Rev. Chester Hoisington, Marcus L. Lowrey, and Hon. Laurence McDonald. [---from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
Seward Township, the area that rang the death knell for the one-room school by creating Illinois’ first consolidated school district, was settled Oct. 18, 1836. On that day a train of covered wagons from Ohio stopped on the unbroken prairie in the southwest corner of what is now Winnebago County. In the wagons were Joseph Vance and his family and two bachelors, Edmund Wittlesby and Austin Andrews. Their modest settlement, known immodestly as Vanceburg, soon boasted a tavern, two stores and a blacksmith shop, and by 1844 there we 15 families in what was referred to generally as Twelve Mile Grove area. The township’s earliest residents were from Vermont, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Ohio, but some international flavor was added in 1846 when Alfred Bridgeland and his family arrived from England. Twenty homes dotted the area by then and Seward Township’s future looked just as secure as that of any of the other struggling settlements being carved out of the prairie. The tiny village of Seward, however, was the only permanent settlement to emerge in the township. It started when the Illinois Central Railroad pushed its tracks through the property owned by George Tracy in 1887 and named its station there Tracy’s Crossing. As a village grew up around the station, the settlement’s name was changed to Seward. Fromal incorporation never came to Seward, but the community formed a telephone company in 1906, opened a bank in 1921, and was the site of a popular horse show and fair early in the century. The tiny schools in Seward area were consolidated in 1903, beginning a movement that ended in 1957, when Winnebago County’s last one-room school was closed and consolidation of all county schools had been accomplished. Early Seward was the home of Michal Bebb, a famed botanist whose research with willow trees resulted in a species being named for him. He lived in Seward from 1857 until the early 1880’s when he moved to Rockford. He died in Rockford in 1885. The rugged independence of Seward Township’s earliest pioneers was revived by their by their descendants in this decade when it was decided to build a $95,000 sewage disposal system to end health hazards created by privately-owned cesspools and septic tanks. Residents of the area formed the smallest sanitary district in Illinois in 1963, voting 84-3 for the project. The bottom almost dropped out of the project when it was learned that a $15,000 federal grant, which virtually had been promised to the district, could not be obtained. Undaunted, the residents of the district subdivided part of the districts’ land and sold 26 lots, raising $13,000 and providing the basis for a new residential neighborhood. The sewer system was connected to 65 homes and business buildings and it went into operation in 1964. Although most Seward residents work elsewhere, the community has two successful business, the Seward Screw Products Co. and the Seward Coal and Lumber Co. By their own choice, Seward Township residents either have to travel for alcoholic beverages or go without. The township voted itself dry before national Prohibition was enacted and the situation never has changed. [--from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
Township and Village of Shirland
The township of Shirland borders on the state line. The village of the same name is in the eastern part of the township It was originally called Kapota, and Indian name. The village has never been incorporated. It has a population of about 125, and is on the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul road. Thomas B. Boswell was appointed postmaster October 29, 1869, and served until about ten years ago, when he was succeeded by his son, George E. Boswell, who still retains the office. A town hall was erected about three years ago, in which all township elections and political meetings are held. The religious need of the community are supplied by two churches. The Methodist Episcopal belongs to the Freeport district and had a membership in October, 1904, of 208. The pastor is Rev. J.C. Jones, who has served seven years. The Congregational Church is one mile and a quarter north of the village. It has thirty-three members. The pastor is Rev. Selby. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
Three lonely prairie schooners carrying adventurous pioneers from New York state were the first homes in the area north of Rockford known as Shirland Township. Shirland, the township wedged between the early-flourishing settlements of Durand and Rockton, has for 132 been primarily a farming area. Two cousins, Arlo and George Seaton, and Jerry Wheeling, accompanied by their wives and children, were the inhabitants of those three prairie schooners in 1836. They erected a crude log cabin to serve as a common kitchen and dining hall until they had staked claims and built the first homes in Shirland Township. Their first settlement was known as Kepotah, an Indian name that lives on in the name of a sportsmen’s’ club operating in the Shirland area today. Since its earliest days, Shirland’s daily life and history have been linked closely with its schools and churches. Lemuel Fiske, who settled in 1838, floated logs down the Pecatonica River to Rockton where he had them cut in to the boards that formed Shirland’s first school, built in 1840. This all-purpose community building, constructed near the confluence of the Sugar and Pecatotonica Rivers, was used as a house of worship by the settlement’s Methodists and Congregationalists on alternating Sundays. The village was laid out at its present site in 1858 after the Western Union Railroad made the river confluence a refueling point in 1858. Horses powered the pumps that forced water into the noisy locomotives. With the train stop providing the start, Shirland developed into a modest village, boasting retail stores, a hotel, and a cheese factory that was producing 500 pounds a day by 1869. Although it is built on two rivers, Shirland never was able to tame their water power successfully. Elon L. Yale, a Canadian, built a sawmill on the Sugar River in 1859, only to see his dam washed out by the next spring’s floods. He rebuilt the dam, but after it was washed out again the project was abandoned, along with all hope of developing power from the rivers at Shirland. Shirland’s Methodists built their own church in 1869, and in 1938 became one of the first congregations in the united states with an air-conditioned house of worship. The present Methodist Church, built in 1907, is Shirland’s only full-time church. The Congregational Church, organized in 1846, was constructed debt-free in 1863. Money to finance construction was raised through a series of “5-cent socials” in the community. The church is used now only for Memorial Day ceremonies, funerals, and occasional special services. Shirland Township, with an official 1960 census population of 631, remains essentially a farming area based on the tiny village containing homes, a general store, the churches, the fire station and the grade school. Shirland’s grade school, serving the entire area, continues to grow as the school-age population in the district increases. In 1967 the district undertook its third expansion program, constructing an $80,000 addition to the grade school building. [--from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
History of South Beloit
It took South Beloit a long time to become an established part of Winnebago County and Illinois. In 1967, with an official population of 3,781, it is the third largest community in the county and one of the only three with city status. South Beloit's northern boundary is the Wisconsin state line, and historically the city's growth, life and economy have been tied to Beloit rather than Rockford. An 1877 map of Winnebago County identifies South Beloit only as "South Part, Beloit City." A history of the county written the same year doesn't even mention the settlement growing up at the northern edge of Rockton Township. South Beloit had its beginning in the early 1830s, when a French-Canadian fur trader, Joseph Thibault, built a log cabin at what is now the intersection of State Street and Shirland Avenue. He dealt with the Indians in the area until 1836, when Caleb Blodgett, the "father of Beloit", arrived at the junction of Turtle Creek and Rock River and claimed all the land "as far as the eye could reach" from the river junction. The claim included Thibault's land, for which Blodgett paid $200. Blodgett set up a sawmill on the creek and made the first steps toward developing Beloit as a major industrial center. In 1837, a New England company bought Blodgett's 20,000 acres, which embraced all the land three miles south and five miles north of Turtle Creek and a stretch of land reaching five miles west of the Rock River. Colonized originally as New Albany, the city became Beloit in 1857. The area south of the state line existed as an appendage of Beloit until 1917, when the population hit the magic 1,000 mark. The nation was in the midst of World War I, Rockford was bursting at its seams with the buildup of Camp Grant, and the vote in September, 1917, to incorporate South Beloit as a city almost went unnoticed in the newspapers of the day. The infant city set up the only mayor-commissioner municipal government in the county, created its own police department, and began to function as an independent political entity. Its population has continued to increase markedly since its incorporation, and South Beloit is now twice the size of its venerable neighbor in the township, Rockton. As well as being a residential area serving Beloit, South Beloit is an industrial city in its own right. It is the home of the Gardner Machine Co., manufacturer of heavy disc wheels and abrasives, the Warner Electric Brake CO., and two major manufacturers of concreter pipe, the Durgom Concrete Pipe Co. and the International Pipe and Ceramics Corp. Over the years, South Beloit also developed a special meaning for residents of Rockford and other parts of the county. While other communities closed their bars, dance halls, and night clubs on Sundays, South Beloit kept its bars open, attracting revelers from a wide area. South Beloit lost some of its exclusiveness during the 1960s when Sunday openings were approved for Rockton, Rockford, and the unincorporated areas of Winnebago County. In September, 1967, as other communities in the area were celebrating their centennials and Illinois was preparing to mark its sesquicentennial, South Beloit had a big civic birthday party marking its first 50 years as a city. [--from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
SOUTH BELOIT BEGAN AS A LOG CABIN
Its 7,000 Acres Were Once Bought for $200
South Beloit's first building was a log cabin near the present intersection of State street and Shirland avenue--the home of Joseph Thibault, a French-Canadian who for 12 years lived and traded furs with the Indians at the spot. A large stone placed there by the Beloit Historical society now marks it.
In 1836 the land "as far as eye could reach" from the junction of Turtle creek and the Rock river was purchased by Caleb Blodgett and his son, Nelson, who set up a sawmill at the junction of the waters and diverted the creek for power. Their purchase included about 7,000 acres, for which they paid Thibault $200. They named their village Blodgett's settlement.
Once Named New Albany
Water power attracted eastern settlers and in 1837 a New England company, headed by Dr. Horace White, Robert P. Crane and Otis P. Bicknell, bought most of Blodgett's land, which by that time included 20,000 acres, encompassing all three miles south of the Turtle, five miles north and five miles west of the Rock. Colonizing began at once, and the village went by the name of New Albany until 1857, when the name Beloit was adopted. South Beloit became a separate community in 1917 when the population south of the state line reached 1,000. A municipal government with a mayor and four commissioners was formed and in October of that year an Illinois charter was obtained and the name South Beloit officially adopted.
By 1940 its population had grown to 2,825 and it was the second largest city in Winnebago county. Mayor Arthur Schroeder and commissioners of public health and safety Melvin Lynch, streets and public improvements, Bernard M. Kreamer, account and finances, Arthur E. Furman, and public property Sumner E. Earl, comprised the city council, the mayor being manager of public affairs.
In the first year, a police department was established with officers on a part-time basis. Now Chief Anthony Curatolo is a full-time officer, and Deputies Howard Milner, George Coniglio, Paul Garber, Dewey Abbott and Abner Madru work part-time. Modern equipment they use and maintain includes one patrol car with two-way radio.
They city fire department was created June 17, 1928, and C.E. Hillman appointed first fire chief in January, 1929. The present chief, Fay A. Hanson, took office in 1932 and has held the post ever since. All other firemen are volunteers. A new $6,000 truck will replace obsolete apparatus next month.
The Chicago and Galena Union railroad branch line was completed through South Beloit in November of 1853, and two trains a day operated between there and Chicago. This line later became part of the Chicago and North Western system. The Racine and Mississippi railroad, now part of the C.M. St. P. & P. company reached there in 1856. Both the Milwaukee and North Western lines now serve the city.
South Beloit is separated from Beloit proper only by the state line. It is 16 miles north of Rockford on highways 2 and 51 and is noted principally for its industries and factories, which have a total payroll roster of about 4,000 person.
Four of the largest plants having world-wide markets for their products are: the Handley-Whittemore company, which manufactures 200 different types and sizes of metal punches, shears and bending rolls; the Gardner Machine company, which makes heavy disc wheels and abrasives, and was founded by F.N. Gardner, inventor of the disc grinder.
The Warner Electric Brake company, founded by A.P. Warner, inventor of the Stewart-Warner speedometer and designer of the Warner trailer (this plant is located on the site first occupied by the Thompson company, which burned during the flood of 1904.
The General Refrigeration plant, makers of air conditioning plants and large refrigerators, which was formerly the Lipman Refrigeration corporation and is now owned by the Yates-American Machine company. Its products are still known as Lipman machines.
Points of Identification
In the accompanying photograph (transcriber's note: photo too blurry to be included) points of interest indicated are: (1) South Beloit high school. (2) Route 2. (3) First Congregational church, in Beloit proper. (4) George Shew home. (5) Robert J. Barr home. (6) City park. (7) High school athletic field, and (8) the factory area. Information concerning South Beloit was obtained by Register-Republic correspondent Mrs. Leah C. Warner of Beloit. [--Rockford Register-Republic, March 4, 1947]
CITY FIRST SETTLED BY TRAPPER IN 1824
SOUTH BELOIT--The history of this city of 3,800 is closely tied to that of Beloit, its sister city north of the state line.
The first white man in the area was Joseph Thibault, a French-Canadian trapper who built a cabin in 1824 near what is now the intersection of Shirland Avenue and State Street.
In 1837, agents of the New England Emigrating Co. chose the area as the new settlement for a group a easterners wanting to come west.
As the settlement grew, the terrain and availablility of resources gradually led to the develpment of mills, and blacksmith shops in the southern part of the settlement, while the homes and retail shops were concentrated in the northern part.
The farming area became known as the south part of the settlement, and after the name Beloit was adopted in 1857, it became known as South Beloit
One of the important resident in the latter half of the 1800s was William H. Wheeler, an industrialist and inventor. He was instrumental in attracting much of the industry that came to South Beloit.
One of his failures, however, occurred in the mid-1880s when he attempted to acquire land to relocate the Eclipse Windmill Co. and Williams Engine Work in South Beloit.
He was unable to acquire the land needed, and the two firms stayed in Beloit and became the base for the current Fairbank-Morse Co.
In 1903, the Stewart Warner Instrument Co. was established here to manufacture, among other things, automobile speedometers. The instrument company later became Warner Electric Brake and Clutch Co., still an important industry in the city.
South Beloit became a city in 1917 when it had a population of about 1,500. The city still maintains its mayor-city commissioner form of government. [--The Rockford Morning Star, March 17, 1973]
SOUTH BELOIT RELIES ON BELOIT
South Beloit is used to living in the shadow of Beloit, Wis. South Beloit relies on Beloit for many services, medical facilities, commercial outlets, and even utilities. In the city's early history it was much of the same. An 1877 map of Winnebago County identifies South Beloit only as "South Park, Beloit City." A history of the county written the same year doesn't mention the settlement growing on the state's northern boundary. South Beloit had is beginning in the early 1830's when a French-Canadian fur trader, Joseph Thibault, built a log cabin at what is now the intersection of Shirland avenue and State street. Thibault lived a meager existence, dealing with the Indians until 1836, when Caleb Blodgett, called the father of Beloit, arrived at the junction of Turtle Creek and the Rock River. He claimed all the land as far as the eye could see from the river junction. Blodgett claimed what was Thibault's land and paid him $200. South Beloit remained as an appendage of Beloit until 1917 when the population reached 1,000. The citizens voted in September, 1917, to incorporate South Beloit. The fledgling city set up a mayor-commissioner municipal government, the only such system in the county, created its own police department, and began to function independently. The city has not only served as a residential area for Beloit, it also is an industrial city in its own right. It is the home of Gardner Machine Co., Warner Electric Brake and Clutch Co., and two major manufacturers of concrete pipe. Throught the years South Beloit developed a special meaning for residents of Rockford and other parts of the county. While other communities closed their bars, dance halls, and night clubs on Sunday, South Beloit kept its bars open, attracting drinkers from on drinkers from a wide area. South Beloit lost some of its exclusiveness during the 1960's when Sunday openings were approved in Rockton, Rockford and the unincorporated areas of Winnebago County. --Rockford Register-Republic, July 1, 1976
Township and Village of Winnebago
The first setller in what is now Winnebago Township was David Adams Holt, who made a claim in 1835 to section 34. William Holt came in 1836, and another brother, Elijah Holt, in 1837. Other pioneers of 1838-39 were Alby Briggs, and Duty, Richard L., and Horace Hudson, three brothers. Duty Hudson opened the first public house in the township, which was known as the Buck Horn Tavern, at Westfield Corners. The first post office in the township was established there, and Duty Hudson was appointed postmaster. The place is designated on later maps as Elida.
The village of Winnebago was laid out in 1854 by Duncan Fergusen, under the direction of Thomas D. Robertson, John A. Holland, John Van Nortwich, and J.D. Warner. A depot was erected in 1854. J.D. Warner was the first station agent, and he held that position twelve years. N.G. Warner built and opened the first store in 1855. The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized as a class, with nine members, in 1839, by Rev. Mr. Worthington. The Methodist Episcopal Society was organized in March, 1855, with Rev. Barton H. Cartwight as pastor. A chapel was erected the following year. It was during the pastorate of Rev. Cartwright, in 1855, that the church at Westfield Corners was erected. This field is now abandoned. Rev. T. A. Brewster has served three years as pastor at Winnebago. The church has a membership of one hundred.
The Congregational Society was organized July 11,1846, at a meeting called for the purpose at Westfield. In July of the following year Rev. James Hodges was chosen pastor, and remained ten years. He was succeeded by Rev. S.P. Sloan, who remained until November, 1870. The third pastor was Rev. Henry M. Daniels. A house of worship was completed and dedicated in 1854. The church now has no regular pastor. The membership is eighty-four.
The Presbyterian Church was organized August 23, 1868, with twenty-four members. A house of worship was erected in 1869, at a cost of $4,300. The present pastor is Rev. M.S. Axtell. The membership is two hundred and ten.
The Free Methodist Church was organized with ten members May 29, 1865. The present membership is sixteen. The pastor is Rev. James H. Harvey, whose circuit also includes Rockford and Ridott.
The Adventists effected an organization in 1872, with forty-three members.
The first hotel in Winnebago was opened in the fall of 1859, and was called the Winnebago House.
The village of Winnebago has a population of about 500. W.F. Tritle is postmaster. Alworth, a station on the Illinois Central, received its mail by rural free delivery from Winnebago. A post-office was once established at that point, but it has been discontinued. [from Past and Present of City of Rockford and Winnebago County Illinois, Charles A Church and H.H. Waldo, 1905]
Historically, the name Winnebago has had a confusing time of it in Winnebago County, where is Indian tribe by that name once roamed. Winnebago Township, immediately west of Rockford Township, went through a mixed-up series of names changes (LaPrairie, Westfield and Elida) before Winnebago was adopted in 1855. The Village of Winnebago sometimes is confused with the “Paper Village” of Winnebago, which won 75 votes to Rockford’s 320 in the 1836 balloting for county seat.
There is no confusion over Winnebago Township’s history. Its first settler was David Adams Holt, who moved there from New York in 1835, built a log cabin, and became the father of the first white child born in the township. In 1839, he became the first settler to die in Winnebago Township. The settlement went on under the influence of Holt’s two brothers, William and Elijah, who settled in 1836 and 1837 on adjacent sections of land near the south edge of the township.
Following the Holts were Jonathan Weldon, his wife, and their four children, traveling from New Hampshire in a covered wagon that was especially constructed so the parents wouldn’t have to cross fords on foot. Both had been crippled from childhood. Weldon become one of the organizers of the Agricultural Society of Winnebago County, which held the first county fairs.
Duty Hudson, who came from New York in 1839, gave the area its first tavern and hotel--the Buckhorn Tavern, located on the stage coach line between Chicago and Galena.
These were the influential men in the community when LaPraire Precinct was formed by the county commissioners in 1839.
In 1843, when the voting place was changed from John A. Holt’s home to Duty Hudson’s tavern at Westfield Corners, the name of the precinct was changed to Westfield.
The first political upset in Winnebago County history was recorded soon after this change was made. Reuben Alworth, an outspoken Democrat in solid Whig territory, defeated his Whig opponent, Rev. James Hodge, in the 1847 election for justice of the peace.
A history written 30 years later refers to the upset as "one of those political marvels past all finding out." Alworth’s names lives on in an almost extinct community south of Winnebago.
When the county switched over to a township form of government in 1849, residents of the townships were given the opportunity to choose the names they wanted. The name Westfield was chosen for the Winnebago area, but, through a mix up, the commissioners in charge assigned the name Elida. This was the name used until the name Winnebago Township was adopted in 1855 upon the petition of residents of the area. [from Sinnissippi Saga, Nelson, C. Hal, 1968]
The "Other" Winnebago
The name Winnebago as used in early histories of Winnebago County, sometimes causes confusion. The name was given to a "paper village", one platted but not developed in 1836 in an effort to win the county seat away from Rockford.
Winnebago County had reached the 350 population mark necessary for its first election and was trying to decide where to build its courthouse when in August, 1835, Nicholas Boilvin, Chicago, and a Major Campbell bought about 637 acres of land from Catherine Myott for $800. The deed for this sale of land near the present intersection if Auburn and N. Main Streets in Rockford was the first one filed in Winnebago County.
A town was laid out on paper and Boilvin and his associated set out to woo the county commissioners into naming "Winnebago" the county seat.
One of Boilvin’s associates, Charles Reed, manager of the Winnebago project, was reported to have attempted to influence the commissioners privately to choose Winnebago.
To make Winnebago even more attractive, Reed built a two-story hotel and store and induced others to build seven homes, a free ferry and a lime kiln.
The dispute was settled in 1839, when voters made their choice. Rockford received 320 votes to Winnebago’s 75. Other votes when to Roscoe, 2; Willow Creek, 5; Pecatonica, 1; and Scipio (Harlem Township), 1.
This settled the first Winnebago’s future. Some of the houses were moved into Rockford. Many of the 2,430 residential lots that had been platted were sold at deliquent tax sales, and much of what was hoped to be the county seat of Winnebago is now a cemetery. [from "Sinnissippi Saga", C. Hal Nelson, 1968]
CHANGED NAMES MAKE HISTORY COMPLICATED
By Bill Garson
Someday we'd like to find a map that showed the famous Chicago-Galena stage coach line and where the route was laid on the approaches to Rockford. Checking references gets complicated when Twelve-Mile Grove, Newburg and Westfield Corners are mentioned in the same breath by some old Rockford historians who seemed to like to use the names interchangeably.
Westfield Corners is familiar to many Rockford residents, but the name Westfield had a tough time hanging on it 1839, when what is now Winnebago township was separated from Rockford township.
Winnebago township, upon separation, was named LaPrairie township, but Joseph Folson and a number of other people who had come from Westfield, N.Y., petitioned the county commissioners to change the township name to Westfield. From 1843 until 1849, the township was so named by order of the commissioners, but something happened in 1849 during a township re-organization and the township turned out to be named Elida.
Stuck With Elida
Elida, although given through some error, stuck until 1855, when once more a group of township residents petitioned for a change of name and came up with Winnebago.
Westfield Corners was deemed fairly important in the early days. It was known all along the Chicago-Galena stage route as the Buck Horn tavern. Its owner, Duty Hudson, erected two upright posts in fron of the tavern, locking them together with a cross beam. On the center of the beam he placed an immense pair of buck antlers.
Became Post Office
The place later became the first postoffice in Winnebago township. Duty Hudson was appointed the first postmaster. But here, too, the name mixup took place. On old maps, Westfield Corners is designated as Elida. How Elida seemed to be getting the better of Westfield Corners in those early days no one knows, or at least no one put the reason down in history.
Twelve-Mile Grove was quite a place then, too, on the stage line. It was located two miles south-east of what is now Pecatonica, and was established by Ephraim Sumner, one of the founders of Pecatonica. Sumner built a stone house in 1842 which stood in good condition until it was razed in 1914. A little settlement grew up at Twelve-Mile grove called Vanceborough. A post office was established, too, and Sumner was appointed postmaster.
Newburg was a town that was considered an early rival of Belvidere and Rockford. In 1935 Colonel James Sayre platted the village, built a sawmill and grist mill. The grist mill attracted business from all around the area, being the first in northern Illinois. Then Sayre abandoned his mill and the village of Newburg declined. Wempleton is still noted on a road sign on Kilburn ave. rd. It was a thriving little hamlet in the early days, boasting a postoffice. It was located in the eastern part of Burritt township. [Rockford Register-Republic, July 25, 1955]
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