A History Of Millville
Submitted by Alayne Hammer
The Flash June 25, 1997 Page 18
(by Don and Ruth Hermann)
As you leave Stockton and head west on U.S. Route 20, you will soon come to a sign that reads “Apple River Canyon State Park 6 miles.” You turn north on the blacktop road and soon you are traveling on the old Frink and Walker Stage Coach route that served the town of Millville nearly 150 years ago. The stage coach route was the main route from Chicago to Galena a distance of 160 miles and requiring 5 days for the trip and at a cost of $12.50. The coach stopped at Millville to leave off mail and passengers as it was a main stop between Freeport and Galena.
Quoting from the Chicago-American newspaper dated June 15, 1839 it read ‘Frink Walker stage lines leave from
State Street office and barn at 123 Lake St., Tuesday and Saturdays at 6 a.m. via Apple River. Arriving every Wednesday
and Friday at 6 p.m. carrying mail and four to seven passengers, one riding with the driver. Scheduled stops: Dixon
Ferry, Freeport, Lena, Millville, Scales Mound, and Galena. It is necessary to arrange for a seat one to five days
Our State Park was once the site of the town of Millville which was larger than Chicago and more important. The first white settler to arrive in the territory was a man by the name of Kirker who arrived in August 1828. He built a house near the river with intentions of using it as an inn and tavern as there was some travel along the road. After a long and hard winter with no one traveling, he moved on and left the house vacant.
Then in 1830, Hiram Imus Jr. bought the place and he and his wife moved in and in 1831 his brother Charles and family and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Rice settled here in 1831.
In 1835 Thomas Rolin and Jackson Burbridge built a saw mill at Millville and from this time on the town began to flourish and the demand was so great for lumber that the erected another saw mill upstream.
Three years later in 1838 the settlers petitioned the Postmaster General for a Post Office, asking that John R. Smith be appointed postmaster. The Postmaster General granted the petition but insisted that the community be given a name. The settlers were so anxious to have their mail delivered that they lost no time in deciding on a name. They decided to call it Millville after the mill in their community.
By this time Millville had a population of 330 people, larger than Chicago at that time. One of the most important factors of it growth besides the river, was the Frick and Walker stage line which ran through town. The Walker house near the river which is now the site of the parking lot just east of Main street, was the stopping place for the stagecoach. A large barn was built behind the Walker house where a fresh relay of horses were ready for the hard run from there to Galena. Business was booming on the stagecoach line and many travelers were coming in with stories of the gold rush in California. So many of the settlers took off for California to seek their fortunes. Jasper Rosencrans and Ira Townsend started home from California to Millville in 1850 but no further word from them ever reached their families. Sherod Townsend was murdered on the way home and those that did return brought little or no gold, thus the whole community was discouraged.
1830 was a great year for Millville not only did they open their post office, but the town was laid out. It is registered and mapped in the Jo Daviess County Plat map book in 1893. The map shows the stage coach route as the Main Street and to the east was Hill Street, Bench Street, and Water Street, running east to west. To the north was 1st and 2nd streets There were 26 lots laid out west of Main Street, which averages 50 ft. wide and 10 ft. deep. Main street was 58 ft. wide and other streets 60 ft. wide. The larger number of lots were laid to the east or right of Main street. The town covered about 1200 feet running north and south and about the same running east and west.
Some of the merchants are listed as follows:
Mr. Dean-Blacksmith Shop
John W. Marshall-Dry goods Store
Col. George Davenport & Mr. Easley-General Store
Mr. Dorn-General Store
Eldridge Howard-Inn and Tavern
Mr. Smith-Blacksmith Shop
Mr. John Marshall-Store
Matt Bruner-Blacksmith Shop
S. Like-Wagon Maker
With the town booming the Burbridges tore down their sawmill as lumber was running short in the location so they built a grist mill near the same site. H. Kleckner, Elam Hoover, Achkind and James Strong were grist millers. A race was built through the middle of town from a small dam east of Main street. This race furnished energy for that grist mill. The farmers brought grain into town for grinding. They came from many miles around.
Just as you enter the town on the left side was a mineral scales. As mining was a great business in this country the miners would bring their sacks of ore into town to be weighed and credited. Most of the lead that was mined was used in making bullets. After taking care of their business, they proceeded to the taverns where a fight was always in order after a few drinks. This added to the bad reputation of the village as a fight was a regular Saturday night feature. The fights would always end up in the back of the taverns in an open area. This area called the battleground and is so named in some of the maps.
The youths of the village indulged in the activities. Two boys took part; a boy in the pool and one with a gun on the bank. The boy in the pool ducked when the other fired. One missed and a Van Dyke boy received a serious neck wound. Elias Horn was arrested and taken to Galena for trial. Col. John Rawlins, later Chief of Staff for Grant, defended young Horn and he was acquitted. General Rawlins had previously attended school in Millville.
In July, 18367, Sarah Ellen Stephans, daughter of Peter Stephans, was murdered near Millville by Mr.
who was their hired man. He was tracked down by his boot prints and buggy whip found near the body. The citizens hung him from a tree until he confessed. He was then taken to Galena for trial where he was found innocent and set free.
After establishing a post office in the town in 1838, the citizens decided it was a time to build a school and church so a building was erected that was used for both school and church. A few years later, another building was built for school only. Rev. Ford, a Baptist minister served the church with Sam Kellum as Sunday School Superintendent. Elam Hoover, Mary McNett, Hatty Blackstone and Samanthy Townsend taught classes in the school.
Superintendent Kellum offered a Bible to the boy or girl who could recite the greatest number of verses from the Scriptures. Joseph Vick, age 15, recited 800 verses and won the prize.
Millville was not without a cemetery. Cholera epidemics swept through the village, killing many of its citizens especially children. There was a grave stone which listed 52 names of citizens who had died in one of these large epidemics. In 1922 a cemetery census showed 22 gravestones, most of them children and two Civil War Veterans. The trail to the cemetery which is about 50 ft. south of the park border today, sits on private property. At the time of this article was written, there was one marker which was flat on the ground and was about 3 ft.X 2ft. and about 3” thick. The inscription read, “Mr.Easly 1865.” The pool in Millville was named after Mr. Easly and is so named on the maps of the village. This was the only gravestone fully readable and only one other tombstone was in the cemetery. The rest of the stones were in pieces and stacked around a tree trunk. Of these a few could be made out with the inscriptions as follows:
Another just aged
32 years 3 days
Marye age 25 years.
Today the cemetery is just a cow pasture.
Most of the history so far on Millville has been more or less the good news. Now the bad news.
Millville flourished until 1874 when the “lead rush” was over after 20 years of activity. The Illinois Central railroad built its line from Freeport to Galena just six miles north of the town in 1854. Soon the Stagecoach line started to lose business to the railroad and settlers were starting to move out.
Another major factor of the passing of Millville, was the location in which it was built. It was a bad
location for flooding. Most of the homes and businesses were erected down in the valley where they constantly hammered
by the overflowing of the east branch of the Apple River. One man was killed when his wagon and horses were washed
downstream in the strong current of the flooded crossing. In 1892 a violent storm broke out the upper dam which
washed out most of the buildings of Millville.
They were washed from their foundations and carried downstream. There was no incentive to build the town back so it ceased to exist.
In 1933 the Illinois State Park System acquired 157 acres of land to be used as a State Park. In October of 1933, dedication of the Park was held with Mr. A.M. Smith of Stockton acting as chairman. Congressman Leo Allen spoke on the importance of recreation centers and Father Guccione, of Apple River, spoke of the scenic wonderland. A poem written by Bert Wonziker, who was born and reared in the vicinity, was read by Mrs. Vera White Scotchhbrook. Music was furnished by the Stockton Band and Stockton Barbershop Quartet.
Today the park consists of 298 acres. It is hard to realize that 150 years ago there was a lively and
prosperous town on this very spot.
© 2001, Genealogy Trails