History of Franklin Grove

Lee County Illinois

Photos Contributed by Karen Holt
History of Lee Co IL by Frank E. Stevens Vol 1 1914



In June, 1835, Col. Nathan Whitney rode through the present site of Franklin Grove, found no cabin or settler, and became the first white man known to have been in the region. The next month the first pioneers settled in the Grove. They were Jeptha Condit Noe, and Cummings McWorter Noe and their families. Both families later moved to Ogle county, but the first log cabin remained for years as a cherished landmark.

The early settlers in and around the grove were dependent upon the "saddlebags," pioneer preachers, for sermons and services at baptisms, marriages and burials. The Rev. Barton Cartwright came to Illinois and met Black Hawk on his way to Washington. Rev. Cartwright served the area from 1833 to 1862 when he left to serve as chaplain in the army. The village was first laid out on May 3, 1843, and was named Chaplin. Later, in 1854, when the railroad officials named the stations, John Dixon requested that the name of his deceased son, Franklin be given to the little station 10 miles east of Dixon.

Louis M. Blaisdell was the first president of the village board of Franklin Grove, established May 8, 1854, by Thomas D. Robertson and Christian Lahman. From early days emphasis was placed upon schools and education. Pioneer log cabin schools were started at the saw-mill near Whipple Cave, where Squire Jeremiah Whipple held regular school. In May, 1836, Edward Morgan located near the present site of the village. In September, 1836, Nathaniel Yale came in, and the following December Cyrus Minor settled there. Schools were held in the log cabins alternately. Miss Eliza Cooper was the first school teacher.

The nearest schoolhouses were at Lee Center and Lighthouse. Otis Timothy came in 1837 and taught school in Lee Center. Miss Harriet Helmershausen came in 1840 and also taught in Lee Center. In April 1856, the White schoolhouse, the first frame school building, was opened by Thomas W. Scott and his wife. The log cabin school house in the Northern part of town was closd as was the primary school in the southern part of town.

The Indians had left this region before the settlers came, but George T. Newcomer made collection of 3,000 specimens of Indian arrows and relics from the Rock River valley. Inevitably there were a number of famous "first events" in the Franklin Grove area. Amos Holly was the first white child born in the Grove. Colonel Whitney started the first nursery in 1843. Abram Brown was the first postmaster in the village and was in office from 1845 to 1849. In 1851 Charles Ambrose opened the first dry goods store in a small stone building on the corner south of the blacksmith shop. Fayette Yale clerked in the store. This was the first store, frst merchant and firt clerk in he village.

Several attempts have been made to compile a history of the Franklin Grove Methodist church. The Rev. John Williamson, pastor from 1869 to 1871, started a history going back to 1854 with the aid of several people in the town including Mrs. Rachel Sanders, whose father donated the use of his cabin for a church. In 1919 the Rev. Warren E. Kern sent to Franklin Grove from Ashton the Williamson church history and other papers and Miss Iva Minor undertook to compile a complete record. The occassion for this was the separation of the Ashton and Franklin Grove charges. Miss Minor, on moving to Winnebago, turned her book over to Mrs. Vera Hull and at the latter's death, the book was reported lost.

The Rev. Charles D. Wilson (*1930 - 1933) recommended the complete compilation of all church records. Andrew Dierdorff, Bela R. Halderman and other members furnished reports. At the time of the Centennial, a history was printed covering the first hundred years, 1836 - 1936. In 1939 a second volume "Memories for the Aldersgate Bi-Centenary" was published. It contained a district superintendents' salutation, biographies, membership lists, illustration and memorials, and was edited by Miss Adelia Helmershausen.

A new church was dedicated Oct. 5, 1902, when the Rev. Ira E. Honeywell was pastor. At the present time the Rev. Norman C. Miller is pastor, Mrs. Faith Cravens is president of the WSCS and Mr. Frederick C. Gross is superintendent of the church school. A young people's society, the Epworth league, was organized February 1890 by the Rev. George M. Bassett. These young people held regular Sunday meetings and did missionary work.

The visits of the Rev. William Spencer, presiding elder of Dixon district to the quarterly meeting, were always welcomed by the Sunday school scholars. It was his custom to gather the congregation and seated at the organ, play and sing several songs and tell missionary stories. The Presbyterian society was organized by the Rev. W.W. Harsha, the Rev. E. Erskine and ruling elder, Charles Crosby, in room one of the white schoolhouse Jan. 1, 1861. The membership at that time numbered 30. The Rev. W.W. Harsha was the first pastor and was succeeded by the Rev. W. Hare. The Rev. H.C. Montanus is the present pastor. The Gilbert supper is held yearly and provides a permanent source of pleasure and profit. The Sunday school and woman's society also hold prominent positions int he community.

The Church of the Brethren was organized in 1854, and in 1847 a church building ws erected near Nachus where the Emmert cemetery is now located. In 1852 a new building ws erected followed in 1910 by another one which was located in Franklin Grove. On May 1, 1927 a new and commodious church building in the village itself was dedicated with Pres. Otho Winger of Indiana giving the dedicatory sermon. The Rev. Daniel Dierdorff and the Rev. Cyrus Suter were much respected in the community and several evangelists have held special meetings there.

In 1865 the Rev. William Uhl organized the St. Paul's Lutheran church. The Rev. Orville Kalkwarfe is the present pastor. St. Pauls ladies society with Mrs. Alice Shafer as president, does a great deal of home mission work. This consists of aiding the orphanage and old people's homes at Muscatine Iowa. The village has always taken a great interest in athletics. The public school boys rank high in county tournaments. The ball field adjoining the school is a center of attraction. Not only do the pupils drill here but also regular ball games are played.

The Franklin Woman's club is a strong society of active women. The club meetins are held in the Kersten gymnasium monthly, Mrs. Pearl Kessselring is the current president. Frequent visits are made to the Eldena home. The home of Dr. George W. Hewitt was remodeled into a funeral home which is now operated by Mr. Henry W. Hicks and his wife. The village also has a beautiful and well kept cemetery.

The Franklin Reporter, founded in 1869 by John Blocher, is the oldest weekly in Lee County. Among the editors succeeding him were George W. Gaver, who printed much local history and Bela R. Halderman, who published the town's centennial news in 1935. The village has always contributed its share in times of national emergency at the time of the Civil War 231 men from the village entered the army. There were ten men who fought the war in Cuba. The list of World War heros numbers 85.

There are many family names in Franklin Grove which were prominent throughout the community. One of the best known families was the Dysart family. James Dysart (1785-1870) and hiw wife, Elizabeth Rohler, located in the vicinity of Franklin Grove. Samuel Dysart married Margaret Jane Henderson and was one of the most prominent public citizens. His son, Harry Dysart, was a grain buyer, and his grandson, Horace Dysart, a road commissioner, William Dysart was a successful business man and farmer. George W. Brayton served as postmaster. His family took great interest in municipal affairs, Miss Alice Brayton was a music teacher, and Frank Brayton was a life long friend of the village making frequent visits thee.

George Washington Ling, son of Henry E. ling was one of the Civil War heros. His birthday anniversary was made a village event each year. The Joseph Woodruff family settled near Lighthouse but several members of the family later moved to Franklin Grove. Catherine Woodruff was the wife of Charles Bill who was an early postmaster. His daughters Mary Alois, Ella and Martha were singers and speakers at early church, school and civic gatherings. Mrs. Ella Bill Miller is the oldest native born resident. She was 93 years of age on April 10, 1951.

Dr. Uriah Chittendon Roe was proprietor of the Roe Family Medicine company, and followed his pioneer father, Dr. John Roe, in a wide practice in Ogle and Lee counties. His sons, Dr. Nathaniel C. Roe and Frederick U. Roe, assisted in the making and selling of Roe Family medicines. Daniel Moore Bradstreet was a Major in the war of 1812. He was an interesting speaker as he told tales of his grandfather's Revolutionary war adventures. His father's father answered the call of Paul Revere and rode to Lexington with Col. John Baker's men. His mothers' father fought the battle at Bunker Hill when the American General Warren fell. George Hammond Tayler, grain buyer, was born May 30, 1826 and died December 20, 1895. He served as school director and his daughters, Alice and Ella, taught grades one and two in the public school. He kept a public library in his office which was a gathering place where citizens met to read the Chicago market prices and discuss politics of the day.

Alvah B. Fitch was an agent of the Central and North Western railroad. Lieutenant A.B. Fitch was born February 5, 1828, and married Almira Rood, music teacher and pianist. He wa a patriotic citizen who often related his war experiences. Alexander M. Norris was a prominent business man and soldier. He was born in 1827 and died in 1904. The Dixon evening Telegraph carriers, Larry and Shirley Woessner, have delivered the paper on the south side of the tracks for the past two and one half years. Theya re the children of Mrs Alice Woessner. Their father, the late Lawrence G. Woessner, owned and operated an implement store in Franklin Grove until his death in November 1947.

Dixon Evening Telegraph - Centennial Edition 1951

Jeptha Noe and Col. Nathan Whitney were among a party of neighbors from NY state who came to the north side of Franklin grove to settle in June of 1835. The first log cabin was built near Iron Spring in the grove west of Oscar Fick's home by Noe in 1936. Col. Whitney, however, madehis claim one mile south of the grove and constructed a cabin in 1836. In 1838 he constructed a large home which is purportedly the first frame house built between Chicago and the Mississippi River. It was a t the site of the present William Crawford farm across from the Earl Miller farm.

One of the oldest houses which still stands in Franklin Grove was built by Silas Tolman in 1839, north of Chaplin and across the street from the present site of the Methodist Church. It is part of the home that is currently occupied by the Bill Yocum family. Cyrus Minor built the first cabin at the site of the present village in 1836. Soon others built around the Group-Stomberg corner and in 1848 or 49 Christian Lahman laid out approximately ten acres of his own land into town lots. A business district developed with a blacksmith, shoe store, hotel, saloon and several other shops.

About 1851 the first survey for a railroad was made through the area, placing it somewhat north of the established village. Later, a second survey was made putting the railroad through land owned by Christian Lahman, Adrastus W. Tolman, John Dement and Thomas D. Robertson. A new town was laid out along the developing railroad site in 1854, by these four men. Houses and businesses were constructed and Elm Street became the center of a new business district. By Dec. 3, 1854, when the first train ran from Chicago to Dixon, there was a grain elevator, lumber yard, several stores south of the tracks on Elms St. and a hotel on the north side which still stands, and is the home of Mrs. Anis Spangler.

Originally designated Chaplin, the village was renamed Franklin Grove in 1854 upon the request of John Dixon, who wanted the little station named for his young deceased son. Louis M. Blaisdell was the first president of the village board of Franklin Grove, established May 8, 1854, by Thomas D. Robertson and Lahman. From early days emphasis was placed upon schools and education. Pioneer log cabin schools were started at the sawmill near WHipple Cave, where Squire Jeremiah Shipple held regular school sessions. In 1856 a public school was erected where the present grade school stands. It had two rooms on its first and second floors. Primary through high school classes were conducted with T.W. Scott as principal. In 1867, the building was enlarged and used until 1894 when a larger, brick structure was completed.

Franklin Grove's first church edifice was built by the Universalists at the corner of Elm and Hughes Streets, across from the present Kersten gym. The majority of the early settlers were either Methodist or Brethrens and services for both groups were held in the homes of members. In 1863, construction of the first Methodist Church was begun, but progress was slow, because of the Civil War. The congregation however, began using the unfinished structure in 1864. By 1865, it was completed at a cost of $2,300.

The Presbyterian Society was organized by the Rev. W. W. Harsha, Rev. E. Erskine and the ruling elder, Charles Crosby, in the schoolhouse Jan. 1, 1861. The membership at that time numbered 30. In 1865 the congregation joined with the German Luterans and built a church wich is the present sanctuary of the Lutheran Church. About 1891, the Presbyterians purchased the present building,w hich had been the old roller skating rink.

Church of the Brethren constructed an edifice in 1847 in what is now Nachusa, where the Emmert cemetery is presently located. A larger facility was built in the early 1900's within the village limits. Franklin Grove prospers today with approximately 20 bueinesses catering to the needs of the community that is home to about 968 people. The village's current mayor and village board president is Mike Hilliker. Present trustees are Nick Maisano, Robert Meier, Keith Roop, Ed Floto, Robert Stevens, Glenn Spangler and Eileen Glenn is the clerk.

From the Dixon Evening Telegraph - The Heritage Edition February 28, 1976

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