Illinois Genealogy Trails
Big Rock Township
©Transcribed by Kimberly Torp
View Plat Map from 1920
This is the southwest corner township of the county, in Range No. 6, Town 38, and its lands came into market June 6, 1842. It is one of the very best agricultural townships in the county, and along Big Rock Creek is found the most picturesque scenery in the county. The southwest and the northeast portions of the township consist of beautiful rolling prairie lands with deep fertile soil, doubtless of ancient alluvial formation, while traversing it diagonally from the northwest to the southeast corner, along the branches of the Big Rock Creek, are fine bodies of heavy timber. The two branches of Welch Creek flow from the Kaneville line, nearly south through the eastern half of the township to their intersection on Section 24, a mile or two north of its junction with the Big Rock. The old Chicago and Galena stage road passes through the center of the township from east to west. It will be readily observed that this natural distribution of prairie and timber lands, with an indispensable water supply and the accessibility of this region over the stage road, would strongly attract the early settlers. Undoubtedly the first family taking up a claim on land within the township was that of SANTY COOK, who was found living in a tent pitched about a mile south of the present Big Rock village in 1834 or '35. COOK was from Kentucky and doubtless brought his family down the Ohio or the Cumberland to the "Illinois County." But little is known of his history. He must have staked out an immense claim, as it is recorded that he sold a thousand acres of it at one sale. JUSTICE E. AMENT located about a mile north of the village in the fall of 1835, and says that the COOKS and MATTHEW H. PERRY'S family were the only settlers then in the township. JOHN PIERCE, JOSEPH SUMMERS, ROBERT NASH, JAMES W. SWAN, PERCY TAYLOR, ROBERT FISHER, ALEXIS HALL and J.W. WHIDDON came in 1836. A waif called "INDIAN JIM" was also there at that date. In 1837, among others, came JAMES and ISAAC HATCH, EDWARD WHIDDON, MR. REXFORD, L.D. and JESSE BRADY and a MR. MATLOCK, who settled at a sharp bend in the creek still called "MATLOCK'S POINT"; also, JAMES DUNDEE who came from Ireland and, it is claimed, originated the principal ideas of the riding-cultivator.
L.J. LAMSON, who came from "York State' in 1837, tells an interesting incident suggestive of the conditions of pioneer days. He says he took the stage at Chicago for Big Rock Creek, of which he had received very favorable accounts, and was put down at the creek-crossing just before dark. The driver at once splashed his team through the water and drove on west. Looking about him he could discover no indication of human presence, save the wagon tracks through the grass, and following them until night fall, he saw a light through the darkness. Approaching it he found a miserable cabin almost destitute of the ordinary comforts of life. Its occupants were asleep upon the floor except one very large man, who hospitably welcomed him and said he might have his place upon the floor, as his tooth ached so that he could not sleep. As the people unrolled from their blankets next morning he discovered that he had nested with the whole Cook family, men and women, who were all fully grown and unusually large.
MAURICE PRICE and many others came in this year. CALISTA ANN AMENT, the first white child, was born November 13, 1837. COON and MASSY built the first saw-mill on the creek during this year. The first marriage was that of THOMAS W. GLASSPOOL and KATIE COOK, a daughter of the settler first mentioned. EDWARD PIERCE was born in 1836, soon after his father's arrival and his was the first birth in the township. JOSEPH SUMMERS kept the first tavern on the old State road. WILLIAM COON opened the first blacksmith shop and a MR. WELBY the first store. The first school house, of rough logs, with door, desk, seats and floor made of slabs, was raised by a "bee" of settlers in 1841, upon the claim of JOSHUA F. RHODES, and in it the first school was taught by COLIN AMENT. J.F. RHODES, THOMAS MEREDITH and IRA HODGES were the commissioners who located the state road from Aurora westerly through the county.
Among the old settlers of Big Rock and their descendants will be found both men and women who are among the most prominent and useful in the county. The shape of the farms and location of the highways of this rich agricultural township, as shown upon the map, most forcibly indicates the eager desire of the early settlers to attach wood and water to their homesteads.
From page 743:
BIG ROCK PLOWING MATCH, a farm contest which originated in Big Rock Township, in 1895, William Thomas and others being the promoters. The first President of the association was William Thomas, and the first plowing match was held on his farm one mile north of the village of Big Rock. The purpose was to bring the farmers of the community together for object lessons in plowing, and to promote friendly rivalry in this important feature of agriculture, prizes being offered for the best work of this kind. The first match proved successful beyond expectation, and new features have since been developed. A grain exhibition has been added, and an entertain ment and exhibits by the ladies of Big Rock each year have added largely to the Importance of the occasion. As high as 5,000 people have been in attendance at these exhibitions, and the day of the Big Rock Plowing Match is an annual holiday in this region.
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