Winnebago County, Illinois
The Post Office of Fountaindale is in Seward, not Winnebago. It has been established about nine months. [--Rockford Weekly Register-Gazette 01-15-1870]
"Jim" Dishes Up the Latest News in that Thriving Town
An Interesting Letter DESCRIPTIVE
Cherry Valley, Aug. 14---Cherry Valley is bounded on the East by Belvidere, on the North by Codfish Avenue, and on the South by Buck's Ranche. Its inhabitants are honest, industrious, and virtuous. Yet at the present there seems to be a little difference in opinion on the latter subject. However we will not stop here for any comments
This town boasts of three elevators, four wagon and blacksmith shops combined, a $20,000 school house, two commodious churches, four dry goods stores, two drug stores, six grocery stores, two hotels, two millinary shops, one hardware, one livery and sale stable, one meat market, and no saloon.Each and all seems to be doing a fair trade in their line of business. However, it is rather dull just at the present time. The farmers are all up to their ears in their harvesting. The grain crops that are unharvested are flat on the ground, caused by a heavy storm from the northeast a few days since. The farmers think they will be able to save about four fifths of the crops. There are many hundreds of acres of brrom corn in this vicinity, but on account of so much rain and cold nights, it is generally thought that there will be less than two-third of a crop harvested and a great per cent of that will be second grades. Many farmers are contracting their grain from the machine, and in a few days we may expect to see the town full of teams loaded with grain. [Rockford Times, August 18, 1875]
Winnebago county has fifteen post offices in it, to wit: Argyle, Cherry Valley, Durand, Elida, Fountaindale, Harlem, Harrison, Kishwaukee, New Milford, Pecatonica, Rockford, Rockton, Roscoe, Shirland, and Winnebago. Harlem, Winnebago, and New Milford, each, have two offices in them, and Burritt, Owen, Guilford and Laona, are all without an office within their limits. Argyle and Harlem are in Harlem Township, Kishwaukee and New Milford are in New Milford and Elida and Winnebago in Winnebago. [--Rockford Journal, 12-27-1879]
The special election in Durand township, was held yesterday afternoon. It will be remembered that the regular township election was declared illegal, owning to the fact that the judges closed the polls to early. The result of yesterday's election is as follows: Joseph Tombs, Supervisor; Scott Montieth, Town Clerk; David Campbell, Assessor; and William Kiley, collector. No particular change in the choice of officers has been made, but the extra election was an absolute necessity. This makes eight new and fifteen old members of the Board of Supervisors. [Rockford Weekly Gazette, 04-28-1880]
TWO HARLEMS ARE CONFUSED -- Harlemites Near Chicago Have Become Greatly Enraged
DEMAND CHANGE OF NAME
Mail Clerks and Only True Harlem Cause the Trouble
Confusion in mail address to Harlem, Ill., has caused the residents of Harlem, Cook county, to rise up in rage and demand of the government that Harlem, Winnebago county, should no longer bear the name officially, but that distinction should rest with the village near Chicago that knows fame as the headquarters for a race track and Chicago sports. The demand was made on Senator Mason by a delegation from the racing suburb of Chicago, by three of the German residents of that community together with the postmaster of the village of Oak Park, W.E. Hutchinson. They told Senator Mason a terrible tale of woe, and the genial Chicago legislator telegraphed immediately to Postmaster General Payne to investigate the case and try to settle the matter satisfactory to all. Postmaster Isaac Swarthout of Harlem, Winnebago county, which is the only Harlem recognized and having a postfixes, is known throughout the county and section as one of the best county postmasters that Uncle Samuel has on his force. But despite this the following tale, which was evidently relate by the committee from Harlem, Cook county, consisting of President Klimmer, George Schroede and A. Roof, is told on the Inter Ocean:
"The postmaster at the real Harlem postoffice is one of those hardfisted sons of toil who are farmers first and postmasters just to accommodate Uncle Sam, and who do the best they can, which is to take care of the mail pouches when they are thrown off the train, deliver the letters whenever they are called for, night or day, and all for $60 or less a year. But this Winnebago county postmaster has been for a long time receiving from 50 to 200 letters a week addressed to house numbers on Monroe, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, Lake, Superior, Madison, and other streets, which are extensions of the Chicago thoroughfares. While it is neither seed time nor harvest, and business on the farm has not been rushing, the genuine Harlem postmaster has had his hogs to feed and 30 cows to help milk, therefore he had postponed until Sunday the job of going over the letters addressed to Madison, Monroe and other streets, and deciding that the real Harlem, the one indorsed in the posted guide of Uncle Same, contains 'no such person'. This is the conclusion reached by the people of Harlem) Cook county) who receive the bulk of their maid on Mondays via Harlem, Winnebago county." [The Rockford Daily Register-Gazette, Saturday, March 1, 1902]
INVADERS IN WINNEBAGO WOULD TAKE HARLEM P.O. -- THEY MEET WITH TOTAL FAILURE
Chicago Suburb Wants to Steal the Name Which Belongs Out Here AND HAS EFFRONTERY TO ASK SURRENDER
Postmaster Swarthout However is Too Much For Visitors and Sends Them Home
There is a desperate effort on foot to steal out neighboring village of Harlem and wipe that name off the postfixes map of Winnebago county. Two stout and husky Germans came out last Monday and left Rockford prepared to take possession of Harlem and terrorize it into a surrender of its post office name.
Why They Want It
It comes about this way. Between Chicago and the suburb of Oak Park is a tract of land occupied by the Harlem race track, a score or so of saloons and about 4,000 inhabitants who are the most independent and prosperous citizens on the face of the globe. They have no taxes to pay and on the contrary are in receipt of an income which has furnished the locality with cement walks, asphalted streets, a town hall painted pink, blue, and yellow, and everything else the residents can desire--except a post office and here’s the rub.
Too Much Prosperity
It does not matter that the village board, overburdened with the license fees accruing from the race track, the saloons and others attributes of a wide open town, are considering the advisability of paying a dividend to each resident so that no one need toil. It is a little satisfaction that the town hall has been painted for the third time in a year and that the streets are sprinkled every 10 minutes, rain or shine. There is one thing missing--the locality has no real name of its own. The people to be sure call it Harlem, but the United States government persists in calling it "Oak Park, Station 2", and refuses to recognize its claims to the name of Harlem, Ill, as long as there is already a Harlem in Winnebago county. So that is why Oak Park Station No. 2, with is 4,000 inhabitants and great wealth, is desirous of gobbling up the only original Harlem in Illinois.
The Deputation Arrives
The two emissaries arrived at Harlem at 4:30 o'clock last Monday and after pleading with Postmaster Swarthout for a surrender by the villagers of their name, and being politely told to go to--Oak Park Station 2, left on the 5:30 train. They were informed that the only original Harlem was a post office before the fictitious Harlem was thought of: that 75 years ago when the Frink & Walker stage line went through it was presented with the name of Harlem and proposed to keep it.
It Goes Back
So the invaders retired and in their local paper, printed in the German language, say in regard to their visit:
This They Say:
Harlem in Winnebago county is so small that the conductor on the train thought he had made a mistake in buying his ticket as it was the first one he had collected from that place in six years. He was not surprised at this statement, for when he reached Harlem all he saw to suggest a town was a store 12x40 feet, containing the post office, groceries, dry goods, and all other necessities of the farmer. There was also a school, elevator, butter factory, church and depot. There are not enough inhabitants to form a village, township government being supreme. A the last election only 285 votes were cast in the 36 square miles of the township.
The teacher of the school lives in Rockford and has but 22 pupils.
The Harlem of Cook county has a population of 4,000.
But Harlem is still Harlem and the other place is Oak Park Station 2.
[The Rockford Daily Register-Gazette, Saturday, October 25, 1902--Article submitted by Roger Seeberg]
Some time ago a story of New Milford appeared on the country life page. In an effort to determine how the town was named, we inquired of several of the old settlers of that community, but without avail. Then we ventured a guess that sounded quite rational. We said that since the Shirley mill had been established a few miles distant some time before, and since there was a ford at the village by the new mill or New Milford. Bert Baxter, however, called us up this week to say that he understood that the circumstances were quite different from what we had dreamed to be the case. He says that New Milford was settled in 1841 by persons from New Milford, Conn. Previous to this time, the little settlement was had been called Butler, apparently because a family of this name had located there. Loyalty to the old town out in New England, though, caused the settlers to change the name to New Milford. Mr. Baxter also told me of his discovery on an early map of a well laid out town just north of the Barett farm along the Kishwaukee river. Especially did he observe one thoroughfare named Lee street. This was the old town of Kishwaukee. Housed in the little settlement of Kishwaukee were either torn down or moved away. All that remains of the village that once gave indication of becoming a properous city are partially filled up cellar excavations. [Rockford Morning Star, March 23, 1928]
NEW MILFORD ONCE A THRIVING PLACE
By Mike Mooney
New Milford--A couple blinks of the eye, and it's possible to pass through this small community just south of Rockford on U.S. 51 without knowing you have visited New Milford. Four gas stations, a general store, a tavern, a barber shop, a used car lot and a motel represent 100 per cent of the community's business, with all of it nestled on the two sides of Illinois' main north-south highway. The community itself is a mixture of young and hold homes...basically a bedroom community serving as home to about 1,000 middle-class residents who work in either Rockford or Belvidere. Although small, New Milford has served an important role in the growth of northern Illinois and, at one time, was just as large as is giant neighbor to the north, Rockford. ' Jack Baxter is a direct descendant of one of the original settlers who moved to New Milford to plow the open prairie lands and start a farming community. Neither a historian nor author, Baxter recently became both by writing and publishing a 50-page book entitled "Yesterday, Today...The History of New Milford." "Today New Milford isn't even a town," Baxter laughed. "But years ago, it was a thriving community. This book is just the story of that history, told by a careful search of all available documents and through the recollections of the oldtimers who have spent all their lives here." Although official state highway department signs greet passersby on U.S. 51, the community of New Milford is really nothing more than an unincorporated portion of WInnebago County. Formed in October, 1835, the community was a recognized township from 1850 through May 1, 1916, when is was consolidated into Rockford Township. Baxter uncovered these and other interesting facts about the community when he started working on a genealogy of the Baxter clan some 20 years ago. "I never intended to write a history of New Milford," Baxter admitted, "But as I researched the Baxter family tree, I started coming across so many facts that I felt it was necessary to put it all on paper. The book is the end result." Baxter's research includes the history of Illinois, Winnebago County and other nearby communities--including Midway, the name Rockford originally was called. "All my life, I had always heard there was a time in history when New Milford was bigger than Rockford," Baxter said. "But I never could prove it through research. There was a time, back around 1839, that Rockford and New Milford were probably about the same size. But the town of Kishwaukee, located further west than New Milford, may have been bigger than both." The book is the result of 20 years of research, which included correspondence with officials in the state of New York and hundreds of private conversations. "I also spent a lot of time searching the New Milford church records, the cemetery records and historical data on Winnebago County at the courthouse." Baxter said. "The usual method was talk to an oldtimer, pick up a piece of information here and there, and then set out to document it. It was a painstaking process, and I'm sure there are still a few mistakes. But this is as accurate a history as I've been able to find." That history traces the birth of New Milford to a period some three months after Germanicus Kent and Thatcher Blake arrived on the Rock River from LaPointe (Galena) and named their joint community Midway since it was located halfway between Galena Fort Dearborn (Chicago). This was about five years after Stephen Mack built a home where Dry Run Creek meets the Rock, midway between the present-day communites of Rockton and Roscoe, and a year before Mack built his trading post at the intersection of the Pecatonica and Rock Rivers, which first was called Pecatonica and later Macktown. The early New Milford settlers were transplants of English stock from New York and New England, and turned to the unbroken prairie lands for a living. The Black Hawk Wars were already history when these first white settlers arrived, and the few Indians remaining in the area were of a peaceful nature. "A lot has been written about the Black Hawk Wars," Baxter noted, "But very little tells the truth. People paint a picture of vicious Indians attacking the white settlers. But during the entire 15 weeks of the war, only 70 whites were killed while chasing Black Hawk's migration of women, children, and old men and braves out of Illinois and into Iowa. "That army broke up in what is now Dixon, and many of the soldiers went back home to get their families and return." By 1853, there were less than 10 permanent buildings in the village, half of which were located in a triangular plot bordered by the present day U.S. 51 and Ryberg Road. There were also 50 permanent dwellings surrounding the township. By the beginning of the Civil War, New Milford was big enough to supply 136 men in the Winnebago County quota of 2,778 for the Union forces. One of those men was Oscar Rogers, who died of starvation as a prisoner of war on April 26, 1864, in the infamous Andersonville, Ga., prison camp. His body was moved from Andersonville and buried in the New Milford Cemetery. The cemtery itself is a book of history. Included in the plots are the unmarked grave of a German soldier who died while a prisoner of war at nearby Camp Grant in World War II. "There wasn't much about my research which surprised me," Baxter said, "but it was still something that just kept snowballing as time went by. I was never interested in history in school. My interests were more along the lines of geography and art. But you can't help but get interested in this type of research once it starts." Baxter did all the work on the book himself, including the typing of more than 100 pages of material for the 50-page book. He had just under 400 copies printed, and is selling them at several locations in the community for $7 each. But he isn't going to stop with the New Milford book. "No, I still plan to do the history of the Baxter family," he said. "In fact, it's already at the printers. The New Milford book was still just a sideline in the family book." That family book has offered problems of its own, starting with Jack's aunts and uncles. "My dad was one of 21 children born in the house two doors west of here," he said. "The Baxters were one of the original settlers, and big families were the rule for those early pioneers." And, like New Milford, the Baxters played a role in the growth of northern Illinois. [--Rockford Morning Star, December 28, 1975]
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