Dekalb County, Illinois
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Pierce Township History

Pierce is a prairie town, remote from woodland. The head waters of Big Rock Creek rise in the eastern part of the town, bursting from the side of a natural elevation sixty feet above the lowlands near it. The spring is impregnated with sulphur.

The northern portion of the town is very undulating, the southern portion very level. Its soil is particularly adapted to wheat, and for the past eight years it has probably produced more of this cereal than any other town in the County. The towns of Pierce and South Grove have been the principal wheat-growing towns of the County; and although it has been the fashion to decry the raising of wheat as an unprofitable business, yet the people of these towns have in ten years been elevated, principally by the production of this crop, from a condition of poverty and destitution to comparative independence.

Three-fourths of the population of Pierce are natives of Germany and Ireland. A considerable portion of the Ger- mans are, however, from Pennsylvania, but speak the German language, and preserve the German customs. The only church in the town is a Lutheran church, in which, for ten or twelve years, a German minister has been maintained, and religious services conducted in the German language. The Germans occupy the level plain in the southeastern portion of the town, while the Irish are principally in the rougher land of the north. They are generally an industrious and economical population, who came here twelve or fifteen years ago with nothing, but have now grown independent, if not wealthy. They are fast buying out the farms of the adjoining American settlers, and promise soon to monopolize the whole township. They are a prolific race, and raise more babies to the acre than any other town in the County !

The first settler of Pierce was Elder Nathan Wilcox, who made a farm in the northern part of the town in 1848. In 1850, Harrison and Horace S. Champlin bought 1100 acres in this and the adjoining town of Afton, and running thirteen breaking teams, they broke up over 600 acres during that
summer. Their friends called them crazy for settling so far from woodland, and predicted that they would not see that section of the County settled for thirty years, if ever. There was then not a house between them and the Somonauk timber, ten miles south. Levi and Moses Hill at that time re-sided in this town, and during the same season came Thomas Halloran, P. Home, P. Dunn, L. Hennegan, John Ferrick, the Butlers, and the Dillons.

In the eastern part of the town the German settlement was started by Christian Myers, Henry Ramer, Josiah Jacob, and George Eberly. Most of the land was "entered" in 1852, and the remainder was bought up in the following year.

The School Section was sold in 1857 at $1.25 per acre ; but the purchasers were an improvident population, who failed to pay even the interest upon their purchases, and the land reverted back to the school fund, and was again sold in 1858 for from $5 to $6 per acre. All predicted that the latter purchasers would fail to pay, as their predecessors had done. No man, they argued, could afford to pay so large a price. It was as hard to raise $100 then as to raise $1000 now. But that land is now worth $40 per acre, and the purchasers have grown rich upon it.

For many years the interest upon the fund created by this sale paid all the expenses of the schools. The first school was kept in the German settlement, and was opened in 1853.

This section of country was at first included in Somonauk precinct, subsequently in Orange precinct, and before the township organization was adopted, was incorporated with Cortland (or Pampas) in Richland precinct. Until 1853 the north half was attached to Pampas, and the south half to Squaw Grove. In that year it was organized into a township, and named Pierce, in honor of the President. The name was selected by Mr. Champlin and that jolly eccentric, George W. Kretsinger.

The majority of the population of this town were not enthusiastic in favor of the war; but when a draft was made, they promptly raised nearly $11,000, and filled their quota; $4500 of this sum being contributed by subscriptions of the citizens, and $6000 borrowed upon a note signed by twenty of the wealthy towns-people. This sum was subsequently paid by a tax upon the town. To the two last men procured as substitutes $1400 was paid by the town, in addition to $600 of County bounty and the same by the United States government; and both of these substitutes deserted as soon as they reached Chicago. The total number of men furnished was 100.

The population of the town in 1855 was 667 ; in 1860, 945; in 1865, 975.

The first Supervisor of Pierce was H. S. Champlin, who served in 1853-54. He was succeeded by C. M. Humistor, who served till 1860, when B. Milnemow was elected. S. Denton filled the office in 1861; Thomas Gormley in 1862-6-3; N. S. Cottrell in 1864; G. W. Slater in 1865-66; and C. M. Humiston in 1867-68.

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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