Clinton is now one of the populous and prosperous towns of our County, but was not settled so early as those towns which were more favored with timbered lands. One small grove of about one hundred acres borders the Little Indian Creek, which has its head in the town; the remainder is handsome rolling prairie.
In 1835, when old Deacon Pritchard came through this section of country, on foot and alone, prospecting for a home in the west, he found at this grove just the spot he desired, and he resolved to possess it; but returning next year with his family, after a journey of forty days by wagon from New York, he was disappointed by finding it claimed and occupied by Mr. 0. P. Johnson, who has given his name to the grove. Pritchard moved on to Grand de Tour, on Rock River; but eight years after, returned and bought the property, and upon it he and his sons, among the worthiest and best citizens of the County, have ever since resided.
In 1843, nine families constituted the population of the town. These were the families of W. B. Fields, Parker Thomas, Alexander McNish, Silas Hines, John and James Walker, Preston Curtiss, William Robertson, and C. B. Whitford, most of whom still reside in the place. In 1845 and 1846, came Shelburne J. and Tracy Scott, Felix and Baldwin Woodruff, and Sylvester Hall; and in 1847 and 1848, when Shabbona's Grove (which is on the west line of this town) was sold by the old chief, and divided into lots by the wily speculator Gates, so that all could procure timber, a dozen more settlers made claims on the prairie, and became permanent inhabitants of the township. Among these were N. S. and Thomas J. Greenwood, Benjamin Matteson, William Sherman, Sylvester and Elbert Hall, J. L. Bailey, J. L. Mighell, Aruney Hill, and John Secor.
In 1850, when the township organization was adopted, the boundaries of Clinton included- one-half of Victor and of Afton, as well as its present territory. In 1853 it was reduced to its present dimensions.
The commissioners appointed to organize and give names to the towns found that the citizens of four of the original thirteen had selected the name of Clinton, and it was awarded to this town by lot. The Scotts and a number of other settlers had migrated from the vicinity of Clinton, in New York, and retained an attachment to the name.
In 1855 the population of Clinton had increased to 807 ; in 1860 to 1000 ; and in 1805 to 1010.
In 1847 the first school was opened in the township, and was taught by Mr. H. C. Beard.
The Baptists and Presbyterians organized the first churches, and for several years had regular services, which were well attended. But the Methodists have since been in the ascendancy, and in 1807 built an elegant Gothic church, near the center of the town, one of the finest church edifices in the County.
Claim wars were not infrequent in the early history of the town, and the sacredness of the claimants' rights was rigidly enforced by the people. As late as 1851, some of the settlers had not yet paid for their lands, but held them by claim only. In that year occurred the last of the claim wars. One Hugh McKerg had deeded some land claimed by John Secor. The people of the town rose in a body, and chose a committee to demand of him a release of the land, threatening to destroy his property if he refused. But Hugh's heart was hardened, and he refused to let the land go, but watched his property by day and by night. After several nights' watching, he ventured to sleep; but woke to find his fences on fire, his well filled up, and much of his movable property carried oft'. He found it politic to settle that claim without further delay. It would hardly seem that land at that time was worth fighting for. It kept the people, however hard they worked, yet miserably poor. They raised fine crops; old settlers speak of having raised forty-two bushels of choice winter wheat to the acre, but it brought them little money. When they had carried it sixty miles to market, over roads almost impassable, it sometimes failed to bring enough to pay the teamsters' bills. It is as easy to raise five hundred dollars now from a farm as it was to raise fifty in years from 1840 to 1850.
About one person in nine of the total population of Clinton enlisted in the Union army during the war of the rebellion. She sent 111 men, and raised by taxation and contribution $13,746 for war purposes.
The names of those who lost their lives in that war were:
Jonathan Morris, who died at Tunnel Hill, January 26, 1863.
Egbert Matte son, at Louisville, Ky., November 19, 1862.
M. C. Kirkpatrick, at home, April 10, 1863.
Seeley Simpson, at Atlanta, August 5, 1865.
Henry Kellogg, at Bowling Green, November, 1862.
James Low, at Gallatin, March 3, 1863.
Ashael Childs, at LaGrange, Tenn.
C. Rose, Jr., at Camp Butler, January 19, 1862.
Corydon Heath, at Milliken's Bend, July, 1862.
Alfred Hodgekin, at Meriden, Miss., August 7, 1864.
Charles Nears, in Virginia, June, 1864.
E. A. Pritchard, at home, July 29, 1865.
The latter, a Captain in Company II, of the Thirteenth Infantry, was a bright example of the Christian soldier. A native of Malone, N. Y., he moved with his father's family to Clinton in 1845, pursued the study of law at Aurora and Cincinnati, and obtained a good law practice at Aurora; but impelled by motives of purest patriotism, he left his young family at the first outbreak of the war, served for three years most honorably in the gallant old Thirteenth, fighting its every battle; but lost his health in the service, and returned, to fall a victim to consumption, just when the people of De Kalb County were about to elect him to an honorable civil office. He was, in intelligence, in culture, in every manly virtue, one of the very foremost men of our County.
Reuben M. Pritchard, his brother, a gentleman of ability and high integrity, has been for six years Supervisor of the town, and one of the leading citizens of the County.
Charles Wesley and William Wallace Marsh, who settled in Clinton in 1850, have gained both fame and fortune by the invention of the famous Marsh Harvester. The first machine was used and first patent obtained in 1858. The first made for sale were used in 1861, when twenty-five were manufactured. Five thousand will be built for the harvest of 1869, and the admirable invention promises to supersede all other modes of harvesting; grain.
The Supervisors of Clinton have been:
For 1850, Reuben Pritchard;
1851, James R. Eastman;
1852, Arunah Hill;
1853, C. B. Whitford;
1854, Arunah Hill;
1855, Reuben Pritchard;
1856, Reuben M. Pritchard;
1857, O. A. Tubbs;
1858-59, N. S. Greenwood;
1860-01-62, R. M. Pritchard,
1863-64, W. C. Macey;
1865, R. M. Pritchard;
1866, J. L. Mighell ;
1867-68, Robert Humphrey.
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
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