ROCKY FORD COMMUNITY

Amboy, Lee County IL


One of the earliest settlements in Lee County was at Rocky Ford in Amboy Township and for many years was the central point of interest in the southern section of the county. The ford at the Green River had made it a crossing place from time immemorial; the Indian trail from Council Bluffs to Chicago crossed here and, in the time of the BlackHawk War, troops under the command of Major Stillman forded the stream at this point on their way to fight at what was to become known later as "Stillman's Run."

Timothy Perkins is generally credited with having been the first settler and in partnership with Horace Bowen, erected a sawmill to take advantage of the swiftly rushing wwater of the stream for power. The Peru and Galena Road, which passed nearby, was a stage route for many years and, after the completion of the Illinois-Missippi Canal, was a highway of heavy trafic and travel. In 1848 Frederick Dutcher bought the property and in the following year platted the village of Shelburn, making the stream divide it through the very center.

Immediately upon laying out the community, the small distillery of later fame was erected on the south bank and in 1853 saw added to it a general store. A few houses were built and eventually the town came to one of busy commercial business transactions. The large flouring-mill and distillery combined was the central business location; the first reason for any success Shelburn had as a community.

A story told is one concerning the owner of the distillery and his desire to avoid paying the revenue tax on his product to the government. The owner, in order to avoid the tax, built a pipeline to a point quite a distance away; thee he could draw off the liquor and dispose of it with no one being the wiser. However, as with m ost schemes such as this, the revenue men discovered the idea and that turned the trick and ended the liquor-distillery operations.

In 1840 Shelburn had a post office with Asa B. Searless serving as the first postmaster and two years later became a stage stop on the Frink & Walke coach line. Rivalry between Shelburn and Binghamton to the east became very intense and when the latter procured the removal of the post office and later even the diversion of the stagecoach line, open fighting almost took place. These two events were "too mortifying to be endured," as an early history has said, and about as soon as it could be done another post office under the name of "Equator" was begun.

In 1859 and explosion destroyed part of the south wall of the four story 60 x 60 foot mill building at a loss of over $4,000. About 10 years afterward, the building was destroyed by fire and for all practical purposes, Shelburn ceased to exist. Part of the foundation and the altered wall of the old mill are still to be seen just to the north of the Rocky Ford Bridge south of the city of Ambly. The distillery (Which brought a certain amount of fame to early Rocky Ford), assumed to have been located on the opposite bank of the river, is not now visible as that land is included in the Amboy sewage disposal plant property and is, hence, hidden under water.

Home