This town, the northwestern most of the County, contains more running streams and a larger surface of timbered land than any other town in the County. It has also some quarries of stone, mostly a soft, inferior limestone, which is used for building, and is also converted into very good lime.
Andrew and William Miles and Samuel Corey were probably the first settlers in the town. They came in 1836, following close upon the footsteps of the Indians, who had been removed but a year before. Mr. Miles brought the first fruit trees, and the fine orchard on the Humphreys place was a part of this first importation.
Other settlers who followed soon after were D. M. Gilchrist, T. H. Humphreys, Theophilus Watkins, Elder Barrett, and John M. Riddle.
Hicks' mills were built in 1837, by the Hicks brothers and Gilchrist. They did both the sawing and grinding. The water-power was pretty good, and the mills have been in use till this day. In 1838 these mills were kept busy in sawing lumber to build the new town of Kishwaukee, which was projected and designed to be an important place. It was located at the mouth of the Kishwaukee river. Several buildings were constructed, stores, shops, etc., started, but the town never acquired any considerable size, and is now abandoned.
The early settlers were all quite poor; indeed, many of them were thriftless and improvident. Some, who are now wealthy, subsisted for the most of the time, during their first residence, principally upon suckers, which they caught in immense numbers in the neighboring streams.
The builders of the mill were desperately poor, and when their land came in market, they were unable to purchase the title to their mills, and they became the property of Dr. Hobart. He was a marked character, a man of much general information, and thoroughly educated, and enthusiastic in his profession, of fine appearance, and possessing great ambition, he played a prominent part in the affairs of the town in its early history, and acquired a large amount of property ; but, to the surprise of all who knew him, died of delirium tremens at last.
This township, with the other two which form the northern tier of the County, was surveyed and put in market some five years earlier than the twelve towns south of it. This accounts for the fact that the survey lines do not coincide with those of the towns below it.
Very little of the land, however, was entered at this early date. It was held by means of claim associations, composed of men who were banded together to lynch any one who should enter lands held by claim title. In 1845 Dr. Hobart was President of such an association. Its by-laws provided that any person entering land claimed by any of its members should be compelled to deed it back to the claimant, on payment of the price ($1.25 per acre) paid for entry, or should pay the claimant the same sum, in addition to what he had already paid the government, and take the property. This association, holding vast tracts in this manner, kept many who otherwise would have become permanent residents from settling there.
Many of the first settlers of the town were from the Southern States. Among them were William T. Kirk, one of the most extensive and wealthiest of the farmers in the County, and who has borne a prominent part in its political affairs ; Spencer Myers, an energetic, wealthy farmer : the Riddles, men distinguished for sound judgment and good sense ; and the Rowins, extensive, spirited, and wealthy farmers.
D. B. Kingsbury, an intelligent and worthy citizen of this town, came from New Hampshire in 1844. He bought a fine farm of one hundred and forty-four acres for one thousand dollars, and has since added largely to its extent. At that time most of the town was not settled, or entered. There was but one house between Kingsbury's grove and the little town of Belvidere.
Thomas J. Humphrey, a gentleman of education and culture, and a lawyer by profession, came in 1848. He died soon after his arrival, leaving a large family of children.
The eldest male member of this family was Thomas W. Humphrey, who was then but eight years of age. Although left thus early, struggling with the hardships of frontier life in Illinois, he acquired a superior education for his circumstances, passed through the scientific course at Beloit college, subsequently became deputy Circuit Clerk of He Kalb County, married at twenty-one, and purchased the Humphrey homestead. He was always a bold, brave, venturesome youth, whose intelligence, integrity, and manliness of character made every one his friend. He crossed the plains to California in 1861, and on the expedition heroically rescued a wounded emigrant and his family from a tribe of hostile Indians.
Returning in 1862, he raised a company of volunteers from about the borders of De Kalb, Boone and McIIenry Counties. This company was made a part of the 95th Illinois Infantry, of which he was chosen Lieutenant-Colonel. Devoting himself with characteristic ardor to his new profession, he was from the first really its first officer.
At the storming of Vicksburg, on the 19th and 22nd of May, 1863, he was wounded on the first day, but, continuing at the head of the regiment, was on the 22nd stunned by the explosion of a shell, and reported killed, but crawled back to camp in the night.
At the disastrous battle of Guntown he lost his life, and with that loss the army lost one of its most distinguished and most fearless officers, and De Kalb County one of the most heroic of her sons.
His body was returned to Franklin, and beneath the grand old oaks of the family home the largest concourse ever assembled in the town gathered to honor the memory of their martyred hero, by one of the grandest of funeral ceremonies.
A younger brother of General Humphrey, Captain James Humphrey, enlisted early in the war as private, in the Eighth Cavalry, and fought his way up to a Captaincy.
Of the ninety-nine men enlisted from this town seven became commissioned officers. They were, in addition to those mentioned, Captain John B. Nash, Lieutenants Hiram Harrington, Samuel Williamson, John M. Schoonmaker, and John W. Burst, all of the One Hundred and Fifth. Lieutenant Burst first entered the Fifteenth Infantry, but lost his sight while on duty in Missouri, by the poison of a scorpion. After nearly six months of blindness, he recovered; and, full of ardor for the great cause, he re-enlisted in the One Hundred and Fifth, and after two years faithful service at the battle of New Hope church, he lost his leg, which was three times amputated before it finally healed.
Of the martyred dead of the war from this town were:
Hiram S. Harrington, who died August 27, 1863.
W. Miles, at home, December 2, 1862.
Wesley Witter, at home, December 25, 1862.
John Stoker, in hospital, Bowling Green, Nov. 23, 1862.
Eustice Lusher, in hospital, Bowling Green, Nov. 21, 1862.
Henry Cline, at Gallatin, December 22, 1862.
Alonzo Randall, near Memphis, March 1, 1863.
J. H. Strawn, at Gallatin, July 20, 1864.
W. L. Foss, at Atlanta, August 16, 1864.
C. E. Foss, at home, April 20, 1865.
A. G. Foss, at Chattanooga, 1862.
S. L. Cronkhite, at home, August 24, 1865.
Isaac Weaver, at Alexandria, Va., January 21, 1862.
P. C. Rowin, at Stone River, December 31, 1862.
Danford Goralum, December, 1863.
J. G. Griffin, in hospital, N. Y., May 25, 1865.
John Eckert, at Paducah, March 9, 1862.
A terrible tornado passed through the northern portion of the town of Franklin on one Sunday in May, 1853. It prostrated immense trees, fences, buildings, and everything that stood in its course. The first house struck was Mr. John Youngs'. It was a large building, but in an instant it was lifted up, shattered to splinters, and considerable parts of it carried off' so far that they were never found. Mrs. Young was killed instantly. The residence of Mr. Ira Dean was next struck. It was torn in pieces ; and a lady relative, who chanced to be visiting there, had her back broken, and died soon after. In a chamber were two boys, engaged in playing cards. Both were blown out of the window, but not seriously injured. Several other houses were unroofed, and some barns destroyed.
In 1860 another tornado passed through the central portion of the town, passing, like the former, from the southwest to the northeast. It carried off one house, of which the occupants were absent, and twisted off and carried away huge trees, which could never after be found. Some electric force seemed to be at work in this terrible gale. It tore the ironwork from tools and machinery, and played numberless strange pranks.
Upon Mr. Charles Buckman's place may be seen a curious relic of the Indians. It is a stout stick of timber, about eight inches square, hewn out so as to resemble an Indian with four faces. It is reported to be an Indian idol.
The population of the town was 837 in 1855, 936 in 1860, and 951 in 1865. The town was organized under the present form of government in 1850.
The names of its Supervisors have been :
For 1850, Clark Bliss;
1851, John Kiddle;
1852-53-54, Jonas Hoight;
1855, William T. Kirk;
1856, W. L. King;
1857-58-59- 60-61, William T. Kirk ;
1862-63-64, J. W. Ellithorpe :
1865-66, D. B. Kingsbury:
1867-68, Stephen G. Rowin.
Source: History of DeKalb County, Illinois by Boies, Henry L. (Henry Lamson), 1830-1887
Transcribed and Contributed to Genealogy Trails by Friends For Free Genealogy
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