Nelson Township
Since 1836

The town of Nelson comprising about two thirds of a six- mile square township has not yet become so populous nor so abounding in wealth as to occupy an exalted position in the household of Lee County; yet it yeilds to none in its claim for merit and respectability. Beautiful Rock River forms its northern boundary and the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad runs through from east and west crossing the river at the western line of town. Nearly midway between Dixon and Sterling lies the unpretentious little village of Nelson, many of whose male inhabitants earn livlihood in the employment of the railroad company. The large schoolhouse is used for religious services and other meetings.

Most of the farming land near the town is of excellent quality, and the prsperity of its farmers is shown by the dwellings and by large barns. Indeed few towns in Lee county can boast of as beautiful farm buildings as are found in Nelson .

The first settlers located in the town during the 1830's and 1840's when Nelson existed as an adjunct of Dixon. In 1859, two years after the opening of Nelson station, the town became a reality.

The first settler of Nelson Township was Luther Stone who came in 1836 and staked his claim on section 29. His two sons Burrill and Samuel accompanied him. Abner Coggswell settled there in 1843. Charles F. Hubbard came in 1837. Lewis Brauer, Nathan Morehouse and Charles Noble were among the early settlers of Nelson. Luther Stone erected on his claim a large log house and in that he kept a tavern for many years. The first supervisor of the township was Abner Coggswell. The first Justices of the Peace were Daniel Uhl and George Jones.

The first assessor was Michael Troutman. The first collector was R. Henry Heaton, all of whom were elected in 1860, the year the township was organized. The township did not attract early settlers, it was sparsely settled prior to 1854. In that year, Jacob and Solomon Harding, Daniel Uhl, John Geiger, and Eli Geiger came. William Uhl settled on the northwest quarter about 1852. Frederick Haupt and his son Fred and Gerhard H. Missman settled in the township in 1855 and Eli Lloyd the next year. Arthur Phillips, John Mooers, Michael Troutman, Elijah Walker, Henry Heaton, Albert Hubbard and Conrad Hartman were among the settlers of the early or middle 50's.

The Zion Lutheran church was organized in the township at an early date and services were held in a little schoolhouse located on the southwest quarter of section 23, which was built about 1856. In a short time a larger schoolhouse was erected on the spot, which was also used for church services until 1880. The cemetery which was started within the same enclosure where the small schoolhouse stood, has been enlarged and is controled by the Pine Grove Cemetery Association, and is incorporated under state law.

December 22, 1862, the "Town of Nelson" was platted land of Willard S. Pope and Samuel Nelson. In 1902 and 1903 the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad company built a branch leaving its main line at Nelson and running thence to Peoria. At Nelson they erected large coal sheds. This has given impetus to the village. Nelson had a population of 454 in 1880 and in 1900 of 586 as shown by the census.

John McKinstry, one of the first settlers in Nelson, arrived in 1857 and started the town of Nelson as a station on the Northwestern RR, six and one half miles west of Dixon. It was a tract of wild prairie and often during the howling of the wolfs would salute his ears. Wild game was to be had in abundance not far away.

McKinstry opened the first store in Nelson and was agent at the Chicago & Northwestern Depot from 1857 to 1877. He established a Postoffice in 1858. He served in public affairs as a member of the Lee county board of supervisors, which office he held for four years in the interests of Nelson township. J. McKinstry was married to Miss Hattie Landis on March 29, 1871. In 1874 the Nelson cemetery association was formed with the following board of directors. Henry C. King, Samuel Stone and Enos F. Babcock. The land was given by John McKinstry and later a large iron arch bearing the name "Nelson Cemetery" was presented by Martin Dietrick.

April 3, 1860, the first Nelson town meeting was held in McKinstry's store. Benjamin F. Stewart served as moderator, George Jones clerk, William Uhl, Abner Cogswell, John Mooers, C.A.Southwell and Jacob Harden were chosen to divide the town into road districts. In order that a highway overseer could be chosen, a fence law was adopted in order to confine pigs and sheep. A bounty of $1 was paid for all wolves killed. Abner Coggswell was the first supervisor, John McKinstry first clerk, Michael Troutman first assessor and Henry Heaton & John Mooers collectors.

Nelson continued to grow in population and improvements. In 1919 a two story brick garage was erected by Paul Young, who is operating the same today. In 1894 the present Stitzel's General Store was taken over by Miller C. Stitzil from his brother, James Stitzel who retired. Miller C. Stitzel also served as postmaster from 1895 to 1904. Klaus Siebolt was postmaster from 1904 - 1906. Two years the mail was delivered on rural route from the Dixon postoffice. In 1908 Weyert Vieth served as postmaster. In 1909 Miller C. Stitzel was again appointed postmaster. In 1923 A.W. Peterson succeeded Stitzel and served until 1925. In 1926 the mail was again delivered rural route. The following year M.C.Stitzel was appointed postmaster and served until 1940 when he was retired on pension. His son Earle D. Stitzel was appointed in 1940 and is serving at the present date.

There are five schools in the township and village; the Cook School- Mrs. Catherine Siemens teacher: directors Ran Ransom, Russell Grobe and Harold Ringer. Hill School - Mrs. Mary Jane Mumford teacher, directors Roy McCleary, Louis Meepen and Sidney Buckaboo. Walker School - Mrs. Lee Ackert teacher, directors Joe Payne, Roy Kenney and Sam Crabtree. King School - Miss Julia Brechon teacher, directors Glen Grimes, Arlo Conderman and Julius Meekel. The present two room brick school was erected in Nelson in 1922. Teachers are Mrs. Bessie M. Gale and Miss Lucille Moats, directors Stanley Holaday, Willard Miner and Frank Sawyer.

On August 23, 1923 the village of Nelson was incorporated. First members of the village board were; Leo Lehman president; Gus Bathlomeow, Ben Vieth, Klaus Siebolt, Edward Ortgiesen, Paul Young and Henry Duffy trustees, and Frank Funk village clerk.

On May 20, 1924 an ordinance was passed to build cement walks on all streets in the village. March 1925 an ordinance was passed to put an electric system from Dixon to Nelson and install street lights and residential lighting.

In 1926 electricity was installed in all homes and on each street corner of the village. In 1928 the present Nelson village hall was erected. In 1930 Clarence Walker organized the Nelson Boy Scouts who were active a number of years. They later disbanded and on April 31, 1950 George Crossman organized a scout troop. The Cub scouts were also organized in 1950 by LeRoy Genz. The present scoutmaster if Bill Hollingsworth and the cub masters Paul Timmons and William Weber.

In 1935 and ordinance was passed for improvement of streets and paving. The Rock Island Road South of Nelson which runs east and west through the township was first built by George Ransom.

The Nelson Community Sunday School was first organized by Mrs. James (Hattie) Stitzel. Later Klaus Siebolt was in charge and in 1925 Mrs. Edward (Olive) Ortgiesen assumed charge and is now serving as superintendent. Mrs. Earl (Flo) Stitzel orgazized the Nelson girl scouts April 28, 1932 and was in charge of the troop for nearly four years. In March 1950 Mrs. Ivan (Lucille) Sharp, Mrs. Stanley (Florence) Holaday, Mrs. Clarence (Josephine) McDonald and Mrs. William (Marguerette) Salmon organized the Nelson Nifties 4-H club.

The first Nelson Day was held Aug. 22, 1948 at Genz park. Officers were LeRoy Genz, Myrtle Weber, Lorain Horner, Josephine McDonald, Elnora Jannsen, Clemons May, Jack Genz, Jake Gall, Jim Crombie, and Glen Ganz. April 6, 1948 Nelson Cemetery was registered as a privately owned burial ground. Mrs. Miller (Francis) Stitzel was succeeded by Mrs. John (Pearl) Shoaf who is in charge of the cemetery. The present custodian is Charles Moats.

September 4, 1946 the Clyde Shoemaker Coal Co. was established.

February 16, 1945 the Nelson PTA was organized. First officers were Mrs. Ivan Sharp, Mrs. Edward Hendryx, Mrs. Guy Molton and Mrs. Hazel Lawson. In 1950 the PTA was disbanded and the Nelson Community Club was organized Oct. 11, 1950 - Officers are Jacob Gall, Rollo Bunnnell, Mrs. Walter (Gertrude) Thompson and Harry Remrey.

Settlers in the 1890's were John McKinstry whose home is now owned by Willard Salmon, Sloan McKinstry whos present owner is Earle Stitzel. Anthony Thome whose home is now owned by H.L. Reed. Edo Wessels, present home owner is Gus Barthlomeow. Bill Cordes - present home owner is Edward Ortgeisen. James Allison, home now owned by Clemens May. Dave Donichy's home is owned by Mrs. Cecil Jannsen. Henry Duis, home owned by Mrs. Emma Onken. John Dolly residence, owned by the late Bill Scholl and occupied by the Fred Waller family. William Joynt home now owned by Charles Moats.

Farm owners in the 1890's were Owen Clayton farm now owned by Fred Deets; August Keister, now being farmed by John L. Miller; Edward Hollenbeck farm now owned by James Hendryx; Burrell Stone farm now owned by Mrs. Bessie Miller; Arthur Phillips farm now owned by Earl Fluck; Edward Ashling farm now owned by George Crombie; George Ransom farm, now owned and occupied by his daughter Miss Mary Ransom; Martin Detrick farm now owned by Willard Hartshorn; Simon Young farm now owned by Edward Bollman; Norman Long farm operated now by Harry Remrey; John Stitzel farm now owned by Earle D. Stitzel and sister Mrs. Mabel Stitzel Eastabrook; Henry Bollman farm now owned by Mrs. Florence Harden Bollman; Joe Atkinson farm now occupied by Joy Atkinson.

The population of Nelson Township in 1940 was 651. In 1950 there were 629. The oldest living resident in the village is Mrs. Frances G. Stitzel, wife of the late Miller C. Stitzel who is 81. Gun Onken who came to Nelson in 1892 has lived in the village continuously for 59 years.

Dixon Evening Telegraph May 1, 1951 written by Mrs. Earl Stitzel

**I checked on World Connect where I found Earle D. Stitzel born July 1894 in Iowa, listed as a merchant and also as Postmaster between 1940 - 1963 in Nelson Township. Flora M.Taylor (writer of this article) born 1898 in Kansas is listed as his wife.

Nelson Township History

Nelson Township is a small township but in everything that makes for progress, good citizenship and h ome making, Nelson is of the largest. Always intensely loyal to its neighbor, Dixon nuch of its history is so closely identified with Dixon's that I fear one must look into Dixon's history to get Nelson's history.

While referring to Nelson's loyalty to Dixon, I should say that when it became necessary to enlarge the old first courthouse and make it over into our second courthouse, the burden as usual fell upon Dixon to meet the expense. The county board refused to consider the proposal for enlargement.

Amboy, always awake to its opportunity to wrest from Dixon the county seta, opposed, and so it became necessary for Dixon to shoulder the expense. The burden was heavy and in a manner superbly generous. Nelson township cheerfully consented to assume responsibility for part of the debt incurred in the enterprise. Accordingly a tax was voluntarily spread and collected.

The NorthWestern railroad passes through Nelson township in a southwesterly course. For years Nelson remained contented with the ordinary routine of village line. No aspirations for big things ever appealed to its few substantial citizens, but when the cut-off was made between Nelson and Nachusa, Nelson took an considerable commercial importance, because before that time a few years, the branch southward from Nelson to Peoria had been built and the two roads made Nelson a center of importance. When the NorthWestern pushed its road farther into the coal fields, Nelson as a railroad center was placed in a commanding p osition. Into Nelson there came for distribution over the entire system, over 500 cars of coal per day to say nothing of the other cars of general merchandise.

The first settler of Nelson township was Luther Stone, who came in 1836 from Erie county, N.Y. and made his claim on section 29. His sons, Burrill and Samuel Stone, came with their father and shared all his hardships. Abner Coggswell settled there in 1843. Charles F. Hubbard came there in 1837. Lewis Barber, Nathan Morehouse and Charles Noble, father of Charles H. and Col. Henry T. Noble, were among the other early settlers of Nelson..... Charles F. Hubbard, one of the most conspicuous, like many others, came to Lee county through an accident.

In company with his brother-in-law, William Graham, he started for the Rocky mountains. These two young men went from New York to Pittsburgh, then down the Ohio river to Cairo; thence up the Mississippi to St. Louis which was to be their debarkation point for the mountains. But upon resting there they found the Santa Fe wagon train had gone and no other train would depart for a long while. The Rock river country had a great reputation at the time and so they turned their course northward and came to Dixon. Buying a claim from John Dixon, they settled on the south bank of Rock river and there Mr. Hubbard lived until the day of his death, on the northeast quarter of section 11, the bluff of which overlooks the river for a long distance.

The Hubbards and the Grahams and the Bayleys and the Lawrences, living on opposite sides of the river were people of rare intelligence and education. They all were people of means. In point of breeding, gentility, refinement and culture, they certainly were citizens of the very first rank. No better ever entered the counties of Lee County. Nelson being originally a part of Dixon precinct, I must ask the reader to consult Dixon history to secure very much of Nelson's history.

Luther Stone erected on his claim a large log house and in that he kept a tavern for many years.

The first supervisor of the township was Abner Cogswell. The first justices of the peace were Daniel Uhl and George Jones. The first assessor was Michael Troutman. The first collector was R. Henry Heaton, all of whom were elected in 1860, the year the township was set off and organized.

Nelson was athe home of Grandma Weed, who while alive enjoyed the distinction of being th eoldest of five generations of Heatons living at one time. She was 105 years old. Following came Grandfather Heaton; his son, Judge William W. Heaton, his son, Dwight Heaton and his son, Charles.

The leading and I may say, only , church in Nelson Township is Zion's Evangelical Lutheran, which was organized Feb. 23, 1867 with 58 members. The first elders were Conrad Hartman and Daniel Uhl, the first deacons were Lewis F. Long and Gerhart Missman. The first pastor was Rev. A.A> Trimper, the Dixon Lutheran minister. The second pastor was Ephriam Miller, who assumed his duties there in 1871. In 1878 Rev. J.P. Sanderson followed. In the year 1877, Rev. J.W. Henderson assumed charge and in 1879, Rev. J.B. Kast became pastor.

The Dixon Telegraph - 20 January 1949

At the February meeting, 1860, of the Board of Supervisors that part of the Town of Dixon lying south of Rock River, in Town 21, Range 8, was set apart as the Town of Nelson. The earliest settler in the township was Luther Stone, who, with his sons, Burrell and Samuel, settled in 1836, on Section 29. Abner Coggswell settled on Section 30 in 1843. Uriah Gruver has been considered an old settler, but it was as late as 1854 when he came to Dixon, and it was 1865 when he settled on Section 26 in Nelson Township. Charles F. Hubbard settled on the northeast quarter of Section 11 an early day, but we have been unable to acertain the year. Nathan Morehouse located a short distance north of the southeast corner of the southwest quarter of Section 17 in 1847. William Bivens bought the farm and moved onto it in the spring of 1849. Lewis Brauer settled somewhere east of Bivens about the year 1849.

It is a singular fact that this township was backward in attracting early settlers, being sparsely settled prior to 1854. In the latter year Jacob and Solomon Harding, Daniel Uhl, John and Eli Geiger came. William Uhl settled on the northwest quarter of Section 23 about 1852. Frederick Haupt and his son, Fred, and Gerhard H. Missman settled in the township in 1855, and Eli Lloyd the next year. Arthur Phillips, John Mooers, Michael Trautman, Elijah Walker, Henry Heaton, Albert Hubbard and Conrad Hartman were among the settlers of the early or middle '50s.

Mention should be made of a set of young fellows who were known as the “Bluff Boys,’ and who made the cabin of Charles F. Hubbard, oa the river bluff, their headquarters. Among them were Alexander Charters, commonly known as the “Governor,” Carleton Bailey. Capt. William Graham and Mr. Hubbard. The group was composed of young scions of wealthy families in the East or across the waters, who had enjoyed the privileges of city schools and life, and had come to a new country for fun rather than business or the opportunities which pioneer life afforded. They, to a man, were jovial, high-spirited and not indifferent to the cup. “Gov.” Charters became the host of Hazelwood; Carleton Bailey settled in Dixon Township in the Bend opposite Grand Detour Town ship; Capt. Graham acquired land in Palmyra Township. All were congenial companions and became endeared to those about them.

Zion Lutheran church was organized in the township at an early date, and services were held in a little school house located on southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 23, which was built about the year 1856. In a short time a larger school house was erected on the spot, which was also used for church services until about the year 1880, when it was torn down. The present church building owned and occupied by the society, was built in 1880 and stands on the southeast corner of Section 22. The cemetery which was started within the same enclosure where the small school house stood, has been enlarged and is controlled by the Pine Grove Cemetery Association, which was recently incorporated under the State law.

December 22, 1862, the “Town of Nelson” was platted on land of Willard S. Pope and Samuel Nelson. In 1902 and 1903 the Chicago & North-Western Railroad Company built a branch, leaving its main line at Nelson, and running thence to Peoria, and here at Nelson tbey erected large coal sheds. This has given something of an impetus to the little village and it is manifesting unmistakable signs of growth.

Nelson had a population in 1890 of 454 and, in 1900, of 586, as shown by the Government census. of the spirit of colonial days, and vigorously used all that was needed to meet the emergency.

Shaw Station was platted as "Shaw" on land of Sherman Shaw October 24, 1878. The place has an elevator operated by Chas. Guffin, a Congregatlonal church, which was built five or six years ago. and a public school.

The population of the township in 1890 was 789. while in 1900 it was 876.


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.

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