History of East Grove Township


This township was originally in what was known as Winnebago precinct, the voting place being for a time at Samuel Meek's and then at David Welty's. In 1850 Lee county adopted township organization, and what is now the township of East Grove was embraced with May, Hamilton, and the south half of Marion, all called Hainilton. In 1856 May was organized therefrom, and in 1859 Marion, arid it was not until 1865 that East Grove was organized in its present boundaries, namely, T. 19 N., R. 9 E., and Fenwiek Anderson was its supervisor for that and the succeeding year. It is of the south tier of towns of the county and the second from the southwest corner.


Esq. Charles Falvey purchased a claim of one William T. Wells in 1836, and occupied it in 1837. This was in what is now the north half of Sec. 34, in the grove that afterward gave the name to the town. On the north his nearest neighbor was a Mr. Robinson, six miles distant in the south part of what is now Marion, who afterward (in 1839) sold his claim to David Welty. Esq. Falvey has resided there almost continuously since. He owns lands also in Bureau County, a little south, near Ohio station, and a portion of the time he has resided there. He is of an active, energetic make-up, and has been identified, in some phase, with almost every movement in not only the township of East Grove but the surrounding towns in Lee and Bureau Counties. He enlisted under Thomas Carlin, afterward governor of Illinois, and served through the Black Hawk war. Now in his old age he is with an only child, a daughter, Mrs. Weldon, on his farm near Ohio station, his wife having been dead many years. Joseph Smith (familiarly known as "Dad Joe") settled in 1833 in the grove bearing his name, southwest of East Grove, some three miles in Bureau county. He was a guide for Gen. Atkinson's army, and a spy under Zachary Taylor in the Black Hawk war. H. W. Bogardus was also prominent as a settler of early date. In 1839 David Welty resided a short time in the north part of this town, while erecting buildings on a claim he purchased of a Mr. Robinson, in the south part of what is now Marion. His residence has been in Marion and Dixon ever since, and will be spoken of in notices of them no doubt. Fenwick Anderson came from Canandaigua, New York, to Dixon in the fall of 1844, and remained there until 1849, then came to what is now the S. 1/2 of Sec. 34 of East Grove. He purchased a claim of Robert Tate. This Mr. Tate was a svorkman in the plow shops of John Deere, at Grand Detour. His family, with a son-in-law by the name of Kyes, worked the claim until Mr. Anderson bought it. This house, a rude log structure, was for a number of years a stage depot on the Galena and Peoria road. When he came his nearest neighbor on the north was Squire Falvey, on the east Aaron Kelly. In 1852 he, with S. P. McIntosh, put up a kiln of 200,000 brick in the south part of the grove, which when burned proved most excellent, and from which he built his present residence in 1853. Thomas Shehan came to Bureau county in 1844, and moved to Sec. 35, in East Grove, in 1849, buying a claim of one John Kasbier. S P. MeIntosh came from Alton, Illinois, at the time of the land sales in Dixon, and purchased the E. 1/2 of Sec. 36 of East Grove township, and the E. 1/2 of Sec. 1 in Ohio township, though he did not occupy it until 1856. John Downey, A. A. Spooner, John Flynn, M. Coleman, A. Barlow, D. Sullivan, Henry Hubbell and Samuel Tubba settled in this town soon after those formerly mentioned.

In 1842 John W. Harrison, a deputy sheriff from Toronto, Canada, while on a visit to this region, was murdered by James S. Bell, near the N. W. corner of Sec. 35. David Welty, then a justice of the peace, held the preliminary examination on a charge of murder, and committed him to jail at Dixon, to await his trial in the circuit court, if indicted bu the grand jury. A bill of indictment was found and returned into court September 13, 1842. After motions to quash the indictment and continue the case to the next term had been denied, a change of venue was taken, and Judge Thomas C. Browne then presiding, sent the case to Whitesides county circuit, where he was tried, convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to the Alton penitentiary. After serving a part of the term of his sentence he escaped from the prison and was never retaken.

A charter was granted by the legislature of this state to H. W. Cleveland, who built a turnpike in Sec. 3 of this town effecting a crossing over Inlet creek, and a toll-gate was kept at the southern terminus. This was on the Peoria and Galena stage route. Mr. Cleveland sold his interest to a Mr. Millard, and his heirs to Charles Crofts. All this was prior to 1849.

A somewhat detailed account of a murder committed in this town in 1849 is here given, as it has a connection with the "Banditti of the Prairie" of those times, and perhaps was the last of their depredations committed, as so many in this case were implicated and came to their death that it broke up the gang.

The one giving an account of this murder says: "In the summer of 1849, on a Monday morning, Charles Crofts (reputed to belong to the gang or band of the `Banditti') came to Hyra Axtell, and the two came to my house inquiring if I had seen or heard anything of Crofts' hired girl. Her name was Salina Montgomery, aged about fifteen years. Neither myself nor family could give any tidings, not having seen or heard of her for some time. Crofts claimed that she bad disappeared without saying anything to the family of her intention of going away, and what had become of her was a mystery. Axtell took an opportunity to communicate with me, unobserved by Crofts, and said he believed there was something wrong in the matter, and that the neighborhood should be informed and a search made. I agreeing with his suggestion, we accompanied Crofts to his house (being connected with the toll-gate on the south end of the turnpike) and were with him about the premises. There were three men mowing not far from the house, Eli Shaw, and the names of the other two I cannot remember, except that the first name of one was Dennis. There was also in their company one Samuel Perkins, usually called `Sam Patch,' having a rifle with him. After being there some time and having conversation with them in various phases, Axtell and myself became more fully convinced that a misdemeanor had been committed. We concluded to go in different directions and inform the mother of the missing girl, who resided in Dad Joe Grove, or in that vicinity, and the neighborhood generally. He went west and south, and I north and east, and by night near a hundred people had gathered. We searched that night through the woods and grass, and the next day until noon, and finally Crofts' house. Crofts had stated that the girl had taken all her clothes with her. While searching the second story we discovered that one of the ceiling boards had marks of having been recently moved and replaced. We took off the board and found the best clothes of the missing girl, and under them implements for making counterfeit half dollars. These incidents strengthened the convictions of foul play. A consultation of the crowd was had, and two (W. B. Stuart and James Blainsen) were deputed to go to Dixon for a boat with which to explore Green river. There was an element of the credulous who sent two (Samuel Meek, Jr, and Patrick McFadden) to consult a fortune-teller. The search was continued while these conimittees were gone, but without success. The committees returned; the one with a boat and Nathaniel G. N. Morrill, the owner, and the other reporting that the fortune-teller said a murder had been committed, and five persons were implicated, that the one who had committed the murder had neither boots on nor was barefooted, that he was raged, and wore a straw hat, that the law would never be enforced against any of them, and yet the public would be satisfied that they were the ones who were concerned in the matter. Perkins wore moccasins and otherwise answered the description of the one first spoken of. The search went on. This N. G. N. Morrill was peculiarly well adapted for working in business like this. About this time Stuart and Blair, each with a party of men, went to their respective homes for dinner, and when Blair arrived his wife informed him that Perkins had been there during the forenoon, looking pale and haggard, and inquired of her if they had dragged the lower bayou. She told him she did not know, and he went away hurriedly. Blair deemed this important tidings, hurried through his dinner, and came to Stuart's with the information, and on consultation a complaint was made and a warrant was issued by `Squire Stuart for the arrest of Perkins, and placed in the hands of Constable Willard and Richard Meek. Previous to this Perkins had been living in a shanty in the grove, about halfway between Crofts' and the bayou. On the search being instituted, he removed his family and effects to his father-in-law's, Reuben Bridgman, a little north of the present limits of the city of Amboy. The constable, with his assistants, proceeded to Mr. Bridgman's and were informed by him that Perkins had taken his rifle only a short time before and went into the cornfield (of about 30 acres) to hunt chickens.

More assistants were procured, and the cornfield was surrounded. By this time it was about ten o'clock at night, with a bright moon. The family at Mr. Bridgman's were in bed except Perkins' wife. The old gentleman got up and stated that Perkins had not yet returned since going into the cornfield in the afternoon. He pointed to a cottonwood tree, which he said was in the direction Perkins had taken, that a little before sunset they heard the report of a gun which they supposed was a shot at prairie-chickens. Constable Willard, with Richard Meek, James Keeling, W. B. Stuart, and F. R. Dutclier, went in the direction of the tree, and a few rods before reaching it they found Perkins lying on his back, dead. Notice was given to those around the field, and a crowd was soon there. Perkins was still grasping his gun with both hands, and the toe of his moccasined foot was in the guard on the trigger, the muzzle on his breast. A portion of the skull was found nearly a rod from the body, the inside powder-burnt. The coroner (Solomon Parker) was sent tbr, who summoned a jury of inquest. They investigated the case and rendered the following verdict: "The undersigned being duly summoned and qualified by the coroner of Lee county, as a jury of inquest on the dead body of Samuel Perkins, found dead in the cornfield near Reuben Bridgman's, believe the said Perkins came to his death by shooting himself with a rifle-gun through the head." (Signed) " Jessee Hale, foreman ; W. B. Stuart, Richard Meek, Francis H. Northway, Joseph Farwell, William M. Hopkins, Samuel Bixby, Elisha Palmer, John C. Church, Ira P. Hale, John Skinner, R. P. Treadwell. Inlet precinct, August 3, 1849." Meanwhile the search for the missing girl had been going on. This Mr. Morrill adopted the plan of going down the stream to where it loses itself as to having a channel by spreading over the swamp, and by wading upward thoroughly searching every part. It was a dry time and the water quite low. This plan was followed, and when the mouth of the little bayou (as the coroner termed it in his report) was nearly reached the body was found. The upper part of the face was bruised as though struck with some heavy substance, and some insist that a bullet-hole was in the forehead. The excitement ran high, the male portion of the country for a dozen or more miles in every direction had come out. Coroner Parker was among the number and at once impaneled a jury of inquest, who took possession of the body and held their inquest. The following witnesses were examined, as the records show: Drs. J. B. Gregory, of Dixon, and Harmon Wasson, of Amboy, as physicians; Samuel Meek, Sr., Eli Shaw, John Koons, Hyra Axtell, N. G. H. Morrill, Samuel Shaw, Richard Meeks, T. L. Dennis, Charles Crofts, Sally Perkins, Catharine Shaw, and Lyman Hubbard. After the examination closed, the following verdict was rendered: "We, the undersigned, having been summoned and sworn to hold a jury of inquest on the dead body of Salena Montgomery, found dead in Inlet creek, in Winnebago precinct, Lee county,and State of Illinois, and having attended to their duty by a faithful examination of the said body, and by an examination of witnesses in the case and all diligent inquiry they have been able to institute, do report their verdict to be, that the said Silena Montgomery came to her death by violence, and that one Samuel Perkins, late of Lee county, was the immediate agent in procuring her death, as we verily believe." (Signed) "George E. Haskell, foreman; Joseph Gardner, Sabin Trowbridge, I. Means, Alva Hale, L. D. Wasson, Lewis Clapp, Cyrus Williams, Philip Mowry, Joseph Lewis, Ozias Wheeler and B. F. Brandon. Winnebago precinct, August 4, 1849." The circumstances surrounding led to the con- clusion that Crofts, Eli Shaw, and the two others that were found mowing for Orofts at the commencement of the search, were implicated in the affair. Warrants were issued, and W. B. Stuart and Curtis were deputed to arrest Crofts and Shaw. They, with Hyra Axtell, started, and on the way, near Samuel Meek's, they found a team and lumber wagon, and in it lay Eli Shaw dead. One report is that he died from the effects of strychnine and whisky, and that it was found that he had purchased some of the former at Dixon, of Dr. Gregory, on that day. From the records in Dixon it is found that a coroner's inquest was not held until March 1, 1850. As his death occurred so long before this he was probably buried and exhumed when the inquest was held. The verdict was as follows: "Verdict of the coroner's jury, impaneled to ascertain how and in what manner the body of Eli Shaw came to its death. We, the jury in said case, do find that Eli Shaw came to his death from causes to the jury unknown. Dixon, March 1, 1850." (Signed) "John Dement, foreman; A. L. Porter, A. H. Eddy, I. Means, N. F. Porter, J. W. Davis, J. M. Cropsy, C. A. Smith, John V. Eustace, Thomas H. Ayers, Cyrus Williams, N. G. H. Morrill."

After leaving the body of Shaw in the care of Meeks the three before mentioned went on to Crofts' house, arriving there at a late hour of the night. Near the door they found a horse and spring-wagon and a trunk in the wagon. Crofts was about ready to go away. Through a rift in the window curtain they saw him load one pistol and lay it upon the table near him and take up another and commence to load it. At this juncture the door was burst open, the loaded pistol and Crofts grabbed at the same time, and Crofts duly ironed by the arresting party. The trunk was taken from the wagon, Crofts placed in it, and Stuart hurriedly drove to Dixon and delivered the prisoner to the jailor. Crofts' wife and her brother, John Bryant, were in the house at the time of the arrest but did not attempt to interfere. The remaining two implicated ones left this vicinity, but were heard of at Peoria, and the officers having the warrants for their arrest proceeded there, found and took them in charge. They were ironed and placed upon a steamer for Peru, there to take the stage for Dixon. Not long after leaving Peoria the prisoners, having the privilege of walking about the boat, watched their opportunity and simultaneously threw themselves overboard and were drowned, the irons upon then facilitating to make an effectual taking off in this way. Of the five implicated only Crofts now remained alive. He remained in jail, having been indicted by the grand jury August 23, 1849, and the case continued to the next term. His wife visited him occasionally, and a few days before the term time and shortly after one of these visits the jailor, calling at the cell, found Crofts with his throat cut and life extinct; a razor lay by with which the deed was done. The next day a coroner's inquest was held, which resulted in the following verdict: "Upon the view of the body of Charles Crofts, now lying dead in the jail of Lee county, at Dixon, Illinois, we, the jury of inquest duly impaneled and sworn diligently to inquire, and a true presentment make, how, in what manner and by whom or what the body of the said Charles Crofts, which here lies dead, came to its death, do find that the said Charles Crofts came to his death by cutting his own throat with a razor on the afternoon of the 22d November, A.D. 1849, while confined in the jail of Lee county.' (Signed) William W. Heaton, foreman Charles Dement, E. W. Hines, J. B. Brooks, James Benjamin, A. M. Pratt, R. B. Loveland, James Campbell, Horace Preston, E. B. Blackman, Gilbert Messer, Elias B. Stiles. Dixon, Lee county, Illinois, November 23, 1849.' The theory generally held in relation to this matter, which caused the murder of the girl Salina, is as follows: Crofts' premises was considered a rendezvous of the banditti of those times. Crofts owned the turnpike across the Winnebago swamps and kept the toll-gate at the south end, it being near the center of Sec. 3, of East Grove. Several individuals had been known to pass over the turnpike from the north and were not heard from afterward, especially a peddler who had formerly frequented these parts, and it is supposed this hired girl knew so much of the workings of this banditti that they concluded it was not safe for her to live, and as `dead men tell no tales,' they murdered her. Crofts planned the mode of proceeding, Perkins was guilty of the overt act, and the other thre& helped to secrete the body, so all were, as principals or accessories, participants in the matter."

History of Lee County Pg 631 - 639


At the November session, 1864 of the Board of Supervisors. East Grove was set apart from Hamilton Township. In 1837 Charles Falvey occupied a claim on the north half of Section 34 in the grove, from which the town took its name. On the north his nearest neighbor was a Mr. Robinson, six miles distant. In 1849 Fenwick Anderson settled on the south half of Section 34. having purchased the claim of Robert Tate. The house, which was built of logs, was for a number of years a stopping place for the stage on the line from Peoria to Dixon and Galena. In 1852 Mr. Anderson burnt a kiln of 200.000 brick in the, south part of the grove, which proved to be of excellent Quality and with which he built his residence. Thomas Sheban moved onto Section 5 in 1849, buying a claim of one John Kasbier. At the time of the land sale at Dixon, in 1844, S. P. McIntosh purchased the east half of Section 36, but did not move onto it until 1856. John Downey, A. A. Spooner, John Flynn, M. Coleman, A. Barlow, D. Sullivan, Henry Hubbell and Samuel Tubbs were also early settlers.

In 1842 John W. Harrison, a Deputy Sheriff from Toronto, Canada, while on a visit in this region, was murdered by James S. Bell, near the north west corner of Section 35. Bell was finally tried in Whiteside County, on change of venue, and sent to the penitentiary.

On the northeast corner of the southwest Quarter of Section 10 stands a church, known as the "Union Church," which was built a nunher of years ago by contributions of citizens without regard to denominational distinction.

The old State road from Peoria to Dixon and Galena passed through the centers of Section 10 and 13 and jogged cast on or near the Marion town line, for a distance of about 20 rods west of the east line of Section 34, and thence passed directly north until it crosses Inlet Creek, or Green River. This road was turnpiked under authority from the Legislature. (See "Marion Township.")

The population of the township in 1890 was 659; in 1900 it was 653, as appears by Government census.

Transcribed by Rays Place
From: Encyclopedia of Illinois and the History of Lee County
Edited by: Mr. A. C. Bardwell. Munsell Publishing Company Chicago 1904.