To The
History of Palmyra Twp.


The Dixon Evening Telegraph is today resuming the interesting history of Lee County and will publish several articles each week until it is completed. The narrator is Mr. Elbert L. Fulmer of the Dixon Evening Telegraph staff. Following is the first installment of the history as it relates to Palmyra township.

The proximity of Palmyra township to Dixon and the warm social and political friendship always existing for Dixon makes the township almost a common community with Dixon. In speaking of Dixon one seems duty bound to include this large and wealthy and patriotic township of Palmyra. To this day Dixon contains more sons and daughters of Palmyra than she holds of her own children. The home loving tendency always has been strong with the old settler and few of them ever moved westward. They set their stakes in Palmyra and there nine-tenths of them remain.

The rainage toward Rock River which is Palmyra's south boundary could not be ordered better. Its numerous park like groves furnished timber in abundance to the early settler. Its first settlers were sturdy homeseekers, able and more than willing, to meet the struggle with frontier hardships. Sugar Grove covering over 2000 acres and the northwest part of the township, was the largest of the groves. In partial compensation those settlers found fish in the river, and game in the timber and on the prairies in abundance. Maple sugar was easily supplied, nuts for the winter, berries for the summer and for winter preserves were supplied lavishly. And in the roar of crackling winter fires in the glow of great fireplaces the pioneer of Palmyra enjoyed all the creature comforts man could honestly crave. And who shall say the showier civilazation of today affords greater enjoyment?

Like the sister settlements of Inlet and Melugin's Grove those of Palmyra began in 1834. Members of the Morgan family, John and Harvey, the father, and Benjamin Stewart, with them came first.

The Winnebago Indians from the Freeport and Prophetstown Villages were numerous but friendly. On the South side of Sugar Grove the Morgans and Stewarts settled. In November of 1834 John H. Page and wife, and Stephen Fellows; in the spring of 1835 a large number of settlers came along and took up claims in Palmyra. The number included Smith Gilbraith, Wright, Tomlin, Capt. Oliver Hubbard, James Powers and sons, Thomas and Japetha; Michael Fellows, Abaslom Fender with a large family, William W. Bethea, Daniel Obrist, Anson Thummel, Jefferson Harris, Klepinger, Nathan Morehouse, Sales, Thomas and his sons Enoch and Noah; Sandy ( William T.) Bush, Elkanah B. Bush, Martin Richardson, William W. Tilton.

It was W.W. Bethea who remarked he was attracted to those parts because John Dixon was reputed to be the only man who had any money and who always gave appointment to him who asked for it. The first dollar earned in Lee County by Mr. Bethea was his wage from Mr. Dixon.

Mrs. Hubbard did the first teaching in Palmyra in her own house. A private school taught at the Fender place by William Johnson in 1841 was next. At Prairieville in the upper room of a house, Levi Gaston taught a private school. A round building half way between Gap Grove and the Fender place was used during winter months for two winters for school purposes. William W. Bethea was the teacher but if I am correctly informed the true historic building was the old log schoolhouse standing on the southwest corner of John H. Page's field near the forks of the road and was surrounded by a locust grove. This old school in 1845 numbered 50 pupils among the teachers were William Johnson in 1844, subsequently an Episcopal clergyman John Norris, Emeline Dodd, subsequently his wife, Abigail Norris, a sister who married Noah Thomas, Sarah Badger, a sister of the Amboy Badgers, and Calista Mason, daughter of Col. Jeman Mason and subsequently wife of Morris Johnson.

Afterwards a frame school building was built at Gap Grove across the road from Mrs. Hutton's house. The Sugar Grove frame building was built about 1847 near the sight of the later Church and School building. Following is a discription of it. It was severely plain, unpainted, unfenced and destitute of shade. Simplicity also reigned within. The high backed benches with their ungainly desks separated by aisles were elevated from one to two feet or more above the floor sloping down an inclined plane and were marvels of ugliness. Not a map adorned the walls, nor was any apparatus furnished with the exception of a blackboard. There was not even a bell to summon the pupils from their play. The teacher having to rap on a window with a book or ferrule. In the year 1857 - 58 a brick church with basement for school purposes was built near the old sight.

Source: Dixon Evening Telegraph January 17, 1949