History of Willow Creek Twp.
Source: History of Lee County 1914/Frank Everett Stevens


This township is closely associated to this very day with Wyoming, its neighbor on the south and all the old traditions are treasured here because many of them applied originally to Willow Creek. The name Willow Creek. was taken from the creek of that name, and it in turn was so named from the great numbers of Willows which grew originally along its banks. This creek takes its sources in section 5 of Wyoming township, crosses the line into section 82 of Willow Creek township, flows northerly through sections 29, 20, 21, 17, where it deflects northwesterly into 7 then westerly it empties into Inlet Swamp, in section 16, of Viola township.

This is a heautiful township of land. Quite unusual, it possesses unrivaled scenic beauty and lands of unsurpassed fertility at the same tine. Today it ranks as one of the richest towns in Illinois. So too it may boast with honest pride that there dwells within its limits one of the very first persons who came there in its trying pioneer days. His name is David Smith. and a nobler a man and gentleman than David Smith is not to be found today. I am under many obligations to him. In all my researches, I have trou­bled many people with my inquiries. Some have been gentle and generous; others have been too mean and slovenly to answer gentlemanly letters and on personal requests have been found still worse. But Mr. Smith has gone out of his way to assist me in my Lee county inquiries and his information proved to be of inesti­mable value. He settled for me the much mooted Job Alcott ques­tion, and that of itself is of great importance to me.

Mr. Smith came to Willow Creek as a lad in 1837 and with his parents settledd at one of the four beautiful groves of this township, from whom it derived its name, Smith's Grove. Smith's Grove located on sections 34 and 35, was the largest perhaps, of the four. John Smith, from Argyleshihe Scotland, educated for the ministry, reached Willw Creek in August, 1837, and bought from James Armour a claim in section 35. Armour had bought it from one Cameron, who squatted on it originally. A few logs had been cut and that was the extent of the improvements done on the claim when it came into the possession of Mr. John Smith. This claim included all of Dry Grove, a few scattering trees so called beeause no creek. ran near them.

John Smith was not the first settler of the township, but he was the first settler of that locality. The house, erected immediately was the second built in the township. It was thatched with mowed grass and the house of David Smith stands today almost on that identical spot. In December following, the family suffered a fearful calamity. Their house burned down and consumed all their clothing, bedding, money, and a very valuable library, the only private library of consequence in the State of Illinois. The fire caught in the roof. It was the first dwelling in the township to be consumed by fire.

With indomitable pluck and energy, characteristic of the pioneer, especially of the Scotch pioneer, another log house was erected a few rods east of the first. Fortune dealt unkindy with this worthv family at the first; just as it did with so many other families away from old home ties, surrounded by Indians; lonesome. About three weeks after settlement, John Smith, the second son died and he was laid to rest in the family burying ground. That was the first death and burial in the township. Robert and David, other sons lived and and remained and grew to manhood on the old place. There John Smith died in 1860, and there David lives today. Robert moved to Dixon and there died. When John Smith came to Lee county he brought with him the old all-iron plow in the firm conviction that nothing but the Scotch plow could turn a furrow of virgin soil. But as against the wooden beam steel plow of Illinois, Mr. Smith cncluded he would not care to compete and so he threw it away along with his mattress of thistles, which he thought was the only bed in which mortal man could find soun slumber.

How lovingly the Scotch regard the home! John Colvill, later of Paw Paw, came with the family from Scotland, and lived with them for some years at first. The other groves beside Smith's Grove are Allen's Grove and Twin Groves. Allen's is located on sections 35 and 36, Twin Groves on section 17. In the autumn of 1836, one Peter Gonzolas, from Dutchess county NY said to have been a Frenchman, came and made a claim at Allen's Grove. Peter (Pierre) is a French name; but Gonzolas, never. He may been a Frenchman and probably was, but in tossing his name down the ages, it has become badly disfigured. He remained two or three years and then left; some say with the Indians. Before leaving he sold his claim to Richard M. Allen, and that was the first farm in the township to receive improvements. The grove took its name from Allen and if the speech of people and the written records are to be taken at par value, then that grove by any other name would smell much sweeter.

Allen lived in a log house and kept tavern. His grove was thickly grown up to hazel bushes and chaparral, making a safe retreat for the horse thieves and counterfeiters who were said to have rendezvoused there during his brief sojourn. Allen left. When he left is not known, because in all human probability he did not leave upon the order of his going but left at once and was succeeded by a man named Price. Allen, however, in 1839, was still here. In 1844 Israel Shoudy came and bought Price's claim, and lived upon it for the most of his lifetime. In 1839 Horatio G. Howlett, who had been living in Dixon for a couple of years, settled at Allen's Grove and he remained here for the remainder of his life. Howlett was just the man for the nascent little settlements. He, like Town, of Paw Paw, feared nothing. He was elected constable when Town was elected a justice of the peace, with the understanding that never would either take fees for services in civil cases.

One day Justice Town sent Constable Howlett a warrant to serve on a man named Lovelin (or Loveland), charged with horsestealing. As the most likely place to find a horse thief, he went to Allen's and was told the party wanted was plowing out in the field. The stolen horse, in the stable, was tied and a companion was placed in charge of it, with instruction to take certain aim at Lovelin and fire, should he, Howlett, give the order. It was Howlett's expectation that he and Lovelin would return to the stable together. Howlett read the warrant and demanded that Lovelin go with him to Paw Paw. Lovelin refused. Undisturbed, Howlett then said he presumed Lovelin was armed while he was not; that Lovelin might do as he pleased about submitting; but he, Howlett, proposed to take the horse and restore it to its owner. Lovelin fell into the trap and went to the stable to prevent the return of the horse, stating that only over his dead body could that horse pass. The instant the two men reachd the stable, the guard darted into sight and drew a bead on Lovelin's heart. Howlett demanded a surrender and again instructed the guard to shoot when ordered. Lovelin surrendered, Allen gave bail and the man was released. A bowie knife and two pistols were taken from him. Soon thereafter he requited Allen's kindness in harboring him, bu running away with the wife and a horse of his friend Allen. With Allen's assistance he was caught; lodged in the Sycamore jail; he escaped; lay in a stream of water until nearly dead; was retaken and sent to the Galena jail.

One day while confined there, when the jailers' little son brought him his meal, he caught the boy in his arms, escaped, ran to the brow of a hill or cliff near by, and when the sheriff made for him, he held the child aloft between them and threatened to dash him to death below if not permitted to escape. Without a word of remonstrance he was permited to go his way in peace. Later the fellow was lodged in jail in St. Louis, charged iwth horse stealing. Judges Caton and Drummond, who traveled the trail through Allen's Grove from Ottawa to the hunting grounds of Wisconsin, told Mr. Howlett of the Galena incident. This was the first arrest made in Lee county for horse stealing.

Speaking of this trail - a state road was laid subsequently, along that trail from Ottawa to Rockford, and for southeastern travel it was used very largely. It has been said that many times twenty and thirty teams in procession passed Allen's Grove.

Twin Groves were named first. Moore's, from William Moore, the earliest settler there, who began his improvements in 1837 at the more southerly grove. James Thompson and Levi Lathrop came together as early as 1842, and together they bought Moore's claim, on which the latter had 30 acres of plowing. For the timber claim, Moore was paid $50, the northwest quarter of southeast quarter of section 17. A short while afterwards Thompson bought out Lathrop's interest, and there Mr. Thompson remained the remainder of his days.

Robert Blair, brother-in-law to Mrs. Thompson, came at the same time from Melugin's Grove and bought a claim north of the grove, but he never took title from the Government. About 1850 he returned to Melugin's Grove. In 1881, he died at the house of Mrs. Thompson. The first birth at Twin Groves was that of a son of Mr. Blair, named Robert - 1846. Mr. Thompsons firs house was no more not less than a pen built with rails and covered with straw. A log cabin, not much better than the pen, followed. For quite a while after this time there was a lull in the advent of settlers. George Wise and Isaac Gardner, brothers-in-law, started improvements at the north grove, but very soon sold to Mark R. Averill, and left the country; Wise went to California and Garnder to Florida. Neither did Averill remain long. In the winter of 1853-54 he moved to Paw Paw, after selling his land to Jacob B. Fisher in the fall of 1853. About 1846 Cummings Noe came to Twin Groves and settled. His first residence, like Thompson's was a pen. He, Mr. Thompson and James Smith entered from the Government all of the south grove when it came into market. The first white man's road marked out, though never surveyed, was staked out by Erastus Noe, from Twin Groves to Hickory Grove and used many years. Hogs, running wild, estrays probably, were found in the timber before the settlers made their homes there.

James Smith and Nathan Koons reached there in 1847. Koons settled in the southwest corner, while SMith took up a 300 acre claim or more at Twin Groves. Joseph Barnhardt came in company with them. In the month of June, Shabbona and his Indians paid them a visit, which was enjoyed by the Indians, notwithstanding they nearly froze. Smith carried to his new home a willow cane which, when starting, he had resolved to plant when he reached his new home. After cutting it into four pieces, he planted them and in time he had four trees from which other cuttings were taken by thousands, thus realizing a prophecy that he should realize from his cane thousands of dollars, and which prophecy, by the way, was ridiculed. During the war a man from Galesburg, named Platt, bought those trees growing int he region and shipped cuttings in carload lots to all parts of the West, to be used in planting, for hedge fences. It took over two years to clean up the trees which originated from Smith's cane.

Jesse Koons from Ohio and A.N. Dow settled here in 1847. Samuel Reese and James Stubbs came in this year of next. A married brother of Stubbs came too, but he died soon after and James moved to Mendota. About the same time Cyrus and John Goff came and tarried a few years. Lewis H. Durin and Gilbert Durin, brothers, came from Vermong in 1849, and these two men have left an imprint for good on Willow Creek, which never can be effaced. The L.H. Durin and Jacob Fisher estates own the north grove to this day. Later, Gilbert Durin removed to Steward. The Durins always were doing good while living and it is the same today with their children. Miss Ida durin of Scarboro, in this township, in the year 1913, built for the school district what is regarded as the only perfect school room and attributed in Lee Cunty. The dedicatory exercises in the summer of 1913 attracted attention from all parts of the state.

Wesson Holton, from Vermont, located northwest of the groves in 1852 and he was another strong man intellectually and every way; one of the grand old kind. William L. Smith arrived in 1853 and James A. Harp in 1854. In 1853, the Byrds from Virginia settled on the north side of the groves. Louis P. Braithwaite came in 1853 and Louis P. Smith in 1854. This brings Twin Groves down to recent years, comparatively.

About 1840 Doctor Basswood came to the southeast corner and remained 4 or 5 years. Nathaniel Allen and his family came in 1845. His sons were named Harrison, Nathaniel, Chandler, Ephraim and Alonzo. He had four daughters. Benjamin Nettleton came in about the same time. Isaac C. Ellsworth from Vermont settled in 1846. The year previous his son, Benjamin Ellsworth, drove a herd of stock out from Ohio. Christopher Vandeventer, from NY came in 1848 with a two horse team and a drove of sheep and cattle. He settled on the southeast quarter of section 24, and at that time there was not a house between his own and the notorious Brodies' Grove in Ogle County, 17 miles north.

Between 1846-1855 there came to this part of the township Mathew, Perry and Amos Atkinson, Mc Nabb, Richard R. Walker, Andrew stubbs, Freeman Crocker, Daniel Maxwell, Sylvanus Staples, Prince Stevens, Hugh Wells, George Clark, Richard Clark, John Platt and Alonzo Osborne, Jephtha Mittan, in 1850, settled in the southwest corner. Along up the east line, John B. Briggs came in 1851 and John H. Bacon and E.E. Bacon about 1854. The Germans, as in sublette and Bradford ,w ere conspicuous in the early settlements of Willow Creek, although they were not among the very early settlers.

The first to come was Gootlieb Hochstrasser, in 1854. About the same time came Joseph Herrmann. in 1856 Frank Bates, Frank Herrman, John Herrman and in 1857, a second Frank Bates and Erhart Hochstrasser. John Yetter came in 1859 and in 1860 George Erbes came. Today, dotted all over Willow Creek, you will see farms owned by the descendants and relatives of these men, especially the Herrmanns. There are in Willow Creek, Joseph M., August, Henry, Edward, F.C. and F.N. herrmann, all splendid farmers and ll prosperous.

But by far the most numerous are the Norwegians of Willow Creek and neighboring towns, which make up one of the very largest Norwegian settlements in the US. It is about 8 or 10 miles long and about 6 miles wide. Sublette got many Norwegians first. Subsequently they left and most of them came to Willow Creek. The first was Amund Hilleson, who as a single man went to Sublette in 1851. From his first years' wages he bought from the Government in 1852, the northeast quarter of 15. In the spring 1855, he settle don that land. In the early part of 1856 < a href=""> Lars Larson Risetter, who had gone to Sublette, followed Hilleson into Willow Creek and settled on the southwest quarter of 15. When he died, he was one of the richest men in Lee County. He bought land extensively, cheap, and it rose rapidly, and of him it was said "No man made so rapidly and so fairly as Mr. Risetter."

Other Norwegians were Jacob Edwards, Haakon Risetter, Newton Boyd, S.M. Maakestad, T.T. Eide, Thomas Nelson and Ole J. Prestegaard, the richest Norwegian in northern ILl, who as a poor sailor came to Lee in 1864. Without possible exception, these Norwegians came from Hardanger, Norway. Las summer, 1913, over 2000, from all parts of the US assembled at Lee in this township to hold their second annual fest. It was one of the noted events in the history of Lee County. For two days those Hardangers visited and sang, and in the great tent just northwest of town, they assembled to bear tidings from one to another and arrange for attendance of the Hadangers at the home coming, back at the old childhood haunts in the fatherland. WIthout the slightest inconvenience, that vast multitude was cared for in and around the little village of Lee. During the two days session not one boisterous word was uttered. Not a single police officer was detailed to care for the crowd. It was the best behaved crowd that ever met in Lee county.

These Norwegians are industrious, frugal and hard-working. Without exception they are people of means. Not a saloon can be found in this township. At one time a blind pig attempted to foist itself upon g the community, but by the times those norwegians got through with the proprietors, a lesson had been taught which has not been forgotten to this day. Every Norwegian out here sings beautifully and the concert given the first night of the fest was a rare treat to all. In 1866 the Norwegian parochial school was established as a part of the Lutheran church system, having for its object the teaching of the catechism in the native tongue. The Norwegians all teach the children the mother tongue. First, sessions were held in private houses; next in various schoolhouses during the vacation periods. Alto and Willwo Creek townships were divided by the Lutheran church into three districts for select school purposes. Six months's school were held each year, three of them in the spring and three in the fall. Those in Alto and part of those in north Willow Creek - nine families - constituted the ALto district and held their school in Union district No. 10. The third or south distict occupied the schoolhouses of districts 5 and 7 and the one in Lee. The school was organized by Rev. C.g. Peterson and while waiting for a teacher, Rasmus Rasmussen taught for a month. Then Thomas Nelson, the first regular teacher came. Subsequent teachers have been Messrs. Hendricksen, Christopherson, J. Gossendel, Iver Fanebust, E. Teffre, S.W. Weeks, J.J. Maakestad and another, a student, S.V. Tveit of Rochester MN, president of the Hardanger Society, was another teacher. These same scholars are presumed to attend the English public schools. In 1881 the south district built a private schoolhouse 18 x 26 on the southeast corner of section 15, at a cost of $500. Holden Risetter donated half an acre of ground for the purpose. The present council of Lee is composed of the following - S.M. Maakestad, president, or mayor; Barney Jacobsen, George Beels, Sr., Marshall Edwards, L.A. Plant, Oliver Halsne adn Robert G. Nowe. Kinnie Ostewig is clerk and F.A. Bach is treaurer.

Lee has its own electric lighting and power plant which gives an all-night service. This independent plant is owned by J.E. Malmsberg. Power is generated by a 20-horsepower engine and I am told five gallons of kerosene will run the plant fifteen hours. T.T. Eide is the oldest merchant of Lee. He has been located in one spot 30 years and has amassed a fortune there. S.M. Maakestad has a very large general store, a handsome two-story brick of two rooms and filled with a very large stock of goods. Mr. Maakestad enjoys one of the largest business incomes in Lee county. The opera house is a very commodious room, 60 x 90 feet, I should judge. It is well lighted, well ventilated and surrounded by ample exits in case of fire. During the winter season a course of entertainments is always maintained. The merchants guarantee the amounts needed to suppor tthem and invariably the people patronize them liberally. In this auditorium the Norwegians held their banquet last Sept. 18, at their Hardanger Lagets, at which nearly 1000 were fed. This is called the Nelson Opera House...

Three blacksmith shops do a thriving buisness in Lee; they are owned and run by Lars H. Jordal, John Malmsberg and John Tonch. The garage and machine shops of Swan Ostewig & Co. are the largest of the kind in Lee County. In all the country round, this is the only shop in which welding can be done and in vuleanizing. Mr. Ostewig does all of it for neighboring cities and villages. His welding appartatus generates 6,300 degreesof heat. In the imemdiate vicinity of Lee over 150 automobiles are owned by farmers and citizens.

The Lee State Bank runs its deposits up over $200,000. It was organized Nov. 14, 1903. Its capital stock is $25,000 and its loans now aggregate $175,000. The officers are Henry Johnson, president; O.A. Johnson, Vice Pres.; F.A. Bach, cashier. The directors are Ole J. Prestegaard, O.A. Johnson, H.W. Johnson, J. E. Johnson, T.O. Berg, J.M. Herrmann, H.L. Risetter and W.E. Prichard. G.P. Peters is proprietor of the large harness shop. WIlliam Brown, Olaf C. Brown and Thomas G. Brown compose the firm Brown Decorating Co. which does a heavy business for 20 miels around. Nels G. Johnson does an extensive paper hanging business. Robert G. Nowe has one of the largest hardware stores in Lee Co. I doubt if here is a larger one in the county. He issues handsome annual catalogues and does a large mail order business. Charles B. Wrigley is the postmaster. He also keeps a stock of groceries.

Lee does an enormous grain business and the men who in the past have bought grain in Lee had made independent fortunes. 600,000 bushels were marketed this year of short crops by the Neola elevator and that of Mr. J.E. Johnson. This Mr. Johnson buys live stock extensively too. Wm. Minnehan runs the local meat market. George Edwards and A.A> Colby operate restaurants, and R.C. Flint and son operate the hotel. A.R. Rogde now 85 years old, is the only member left of the old first guard of Norwegians who came to Willow Creek in the 50's He lives today on the same farm on which he settled. It lies partly within the village of Lee. This village has a splendid volunteer fire company, of which Henry Eide is the chief. Le was incorporated about the year 1875.

The Norwegians of this big settlement educate their children. The public schools of Lee are of the very best and after the children have finished the high school, they are sent to the university. In one family, three brothers are professors; one at Yale, one at Northwestern and another in the East.

The Lutheran church called the Southwest, has a pipe organ which cost nearly $2000. Rev. D.J. Borge is the pastor. Twenty voices comprise the choir, out of which a glee club has been organized. This church has a membership of 300. The Lutheran Church Northwest exerts just as commanding an influence in the community and its musical exercises command the same talent and the same numerical strength. The Norwegians are a temperate, happy, industrious and prosperous people and the settlement is said to be the largest in the US. Gradually extending, it has reached over into Shabbona and Milan townships of DeKalb county and over into Alto and Wyoming of Lee County. And only think - a few years before, these Norwegians were so scattered that no more than four church services could be held in the year.

The first school of the township was held at Allen's grove in 1848 and was taught by Martha Vandeventer, sister of Christopher Vandeventer, in one of Israels Shoudy's log houses. Shouldy had several log houses and was a tavern keeper at the time. A little later Miss Nettleton and Miss Laura Brace kept school in the same place. In the spring of 1849 a frame schoolhouse was built by subscription on nearly the site of a later one - Shoudy donated the land - and the next winter Clara Price taught there. Miss Smith of Shabbona Grove was an early teacher in this school and so was John Colvill, later of Paw Paw. Over at Twin Groves the first school ever taught was in a log cabin belonging to James Thompson. The first teacher is thought to have been a widow named Mrs. Stubbs, who was an early teacher int hose parts. Miss Maria A. Holton, later Mrs. B.F. Ellsworth, taught here in the summer of 1853. The Twin Groves schoolhouse was built in 1854, by subscription and in the fall of 1857 was bought by the district at auction. In the winter of 1863-64 it was burned down; another was built the following summer and Miss Mary J. Fisher taught in it the first term. Now the beautiful school building built by Miss Ida Durin is used at this point - Scarboro.

The Ellsworth school was built int he spring of 1855 and Mrs. Ellsworth taught the same that summer. The finished lumber and shingles used in its construction were hauled from Earlville by Joseph McCoy. Religious exercises were held here regularly. The Vroman schoolhouse was built about the year 1855 and Miss Helen Vroman was a teacher there. Allusion has been made once or twice to the beautiful schoolhouse built at Scarboro by Miss Ida Durin. WHile upon the subject of Willow Creek Schools, I might just as well tell all about this famous school. At this moment, it is the only school denominated "perfect" or, technically speaking "superior" in the the county, and at tis dedication it was the third in the state to receive from the state educational department a diploma. On Satuday, the 17th of May, last (1912) with a splendid program this beautiful building was by Mr. U. J. Hoffman, a representative from the state superintendent’s office. Mr. L. W. Miller, superintendent of Lee county‘s schools, was present too, and it may be said in this connection that he has done a vast amount of work in bringing to their present high standard the schools of Lee county.

This Scarboro school cost $2,200. It contains a distinct library room, and it is filled with useful books. Its lavatory is conveniently arranged with reference to the two wardrooms and its mountings are of the best nickel. The schoolroom is about 25 by 40. The seats are graduated with reference to the size and ages of children from the primary to the eighth grades. Cement sidewalks lead from the street to the doors of the school opening to the east. The very latest model of heating apparatus has been placed on the first floor. Mrs. Maria Ellsworth, the first teacher to teach school in that district, in 1852, was present and told the story of the first school already mentioned, and for her services she received the sum of $1.25 per week and boarded ‘round. How beautifully she contrasted the perfect school in which she was seated to the little affair way back in the fifties!

The program for this momentous occasion was as follows: Vocal duet, Misses Mishler and McCosh; male quartette: invocation, Reverend Schweitzer; vocal solo, Misses Mishler and MeCosh, Miss Newcomer, pianist; reading, Miss Olive Yetter; address of welcome, Prof. L. W. Miller, county superintendent; vocal solos, Misses Mishler and McCosh, Miss Newcomer, pianist: address and presentation of tablet and diploma., U. J. Hoffman; vocal duet, Misses Mishler and McCosh, Miss Newcomer, pianist; History of the School District, George T. Noe; Experiences of an Early Teacher, Mrs. Maria Ellsworth. And this was a rare treat. Male quarette. “Illinois." Placing “Superior” doorplate on the front of the building and photographing the new building. Refreshments were served in the open air to a very large number who were present to witness the interesting services. If I remember rightly. Mrs. Ellsworth said that her first school, taught in 1852, burned down in 1868 or 1869. About two years afterwards a more pretentious affair replaced it, which by the bye, is used to this day in the village of Scarboro in the form of a store. The present is the third. I had almost forgotten to mention that the lighting arrangements proceed from the rear and left of the pupils, and in order to secure the most possible of sunshine and daylight, the windows bow somewhat. Miss Eunice Fisher, daughter of Jacob Fisher, is the present teacher in charge. Besides manual training which Miss Fisher teaches, sewing is taught by her.

Willow Creek had two country postoffices before Lee and Scarboro were platted. The first was the Willow Creek postoffice called by the people “Twin Grove,” where it was established about 1849 The early maps, however, designate this as Willow Creek post-office. Robert Blair was the first postmaster. He moved away, however, at the time and never handled any mail. It was actually established at the house of one of the Goffs, who had it for a short, while, and until Blair removed in 1850. Gilbert E. Dunn took it then and kept it until 1853, when it passed into the hands of William L. Smith. After keeping it for a while, he deputized a man named Beckwith to run it, who went wrong and then Mr. Smith took it back to his own house. James Harp followed and Ira Dunn followed him. William Moore, B. F. Ellsworth. A. H. Knapp and Adam Miller successively followed. The South Willow Creek postoffice was established in the sixties sometime, on section 34, and was kept until about 1873, by Hiram T. Abrams, when it was abolished.

The first preacher we can locate was Elder Baker, an itinerant Presbyterian, who held meetings at Allen’s Grove in the Shoudy house. Reverend Canfield and Elder Wood from Earlville came oeeasionally. An exhorter named Olmstead is said to have preached in the various settlements of Willow Creek even before Baker. Rev. Tames Price also preached there in the early day. The first sermon at Twin Groves was preached by a Methodist minister from Rochelle. Rev. Richard Haney was the first circuit rider who came there with any sort of regularity. It has been said of Mr. Haney that he delighted to join in the wolf hunts and that upon one occasion he dug from the ground seven wolves Rev. Davids and Roberts also preached there prior to 1860.

In 1855 Willow Creek was taken from Wyoming and made a township and to it the present township of Alto was joined. The first annual town meeting was held at Twin Groves school­house, District 3, Ira S. Dunn was made chairman of the meeting: A. N. Dow was made moderator, and G. Bishop. clerk: and E. Woodbridge, Justice of the Peace, swore them in.

In 1861, Willow Creek was reduced to the regulation Government township, 6 miles square by the organization of Alto. Until 1860, the elections were held at the Twin Groves schoolhouse. The next two or three meetins wereheld at teh Vroman schoolhouse. After that they were held at Allen's Grove. In 1865, they were moved back to Twin Groves. In 1867 and 68 the Vroman house was used for the polling place and in 1869 the Center schoolhouse; for the next 2 years, the polling place went back to Vroman place and in 1872 to the Cener house. In 1874 the election was held at the red schoolhouse and the next year at Adam Miller's. At the town meeting in 1874, C.M. Bacon presented a resolution instructing the town board to take initiatory steps toward buying a lot in the center of the township and building thereon a town hall. It was adopted. John Yetter, supervisor, L.G. Durin Assessor, Dwight Davenport Town Clerk and Robert Thompson and H.G. Howlett, justices of the peace, reported that one acre in the southeast corner of section 16 culd be bought for $150 and that a building 24 x 34 with 12 foot posts could cost about $800. A vote on the proposal to build was carried, 50 to 47. That same season the building was erected and the total cost was about $1100.

On Oct. 16, 1869, a vote was taken ont he proposition to bond the townshp to aid the proposed Rock River railroad, but it was voted down, 24 to 1. On March 26, 1870 another election was held to vote on the proposal of bonding the township in aid of the Chicago & Iowa railroad, for $50,000 on condition the company should run within one mile of the center of the township, and that was carried 75 to 51. But the road ran through the corner of the town and no bonds were issued.

the first supervisor was Robert Smith; the first town clerk was G.E. Durin; first assessor, Prince Stevens; first collector, William Byrd.

When during the Civil war it was feared Illinois might be invaded, a Union League was organized with a membership of about 70, of which Nathaniel Nettleton was captain-president, and Andrew Stubbs was marshal. The organization met at Allen's Grove and the Vroman schoolhouse and was drilled by John Edwards of Paw Paw, a Mexican war veteran. When towards the end of the war recruits enlisted slowly. Willow Creek voted a bounty of $600 to every volunteer who should enlist and be credited to Willow Creek Twp. after that date. No draft followed. This little community did its full duty in the long struggle. As near as may be leanred the following is a list of those boys who enlisted from Willow Creek Township: N. Chandler Allen, Alonzo Allen, Harrison Allen, who was in the Mexican war as well; David Anderson, Dewitt Abrams, Devalson Abrams, Sylvester Bidwell, John, George & William Baisley, G.S. & Adin Briggs, John Britton, Alpheus Beemer, Charles Bennett, Reuben Bactil, Joseph & Bigelow Barnhard, Lewis P. Boyd, Orin Cisco, Levi Cashner, Robert & Alexander Donaldson, Frederick Erbes, John Edgar, John Ellsworth, Lewis M. Fairchld, George w. Girard, Ehrhart Gehrig, James C. Howlett, George & Edward Hollenback, Charles E. Hall, Moore & Santee Hess, Edmund W., Densla & Chandler G. Holton, George Hochstrasser, Orlando Jones, Andrew Jackson, Sivert & Morris Johnson, Zephaniah & Joseph Kengular (or James Keghtlinger), Nelson Larson, S.S. & Jonathan F. Lingon. F.C. Mason, Peter & Chauncey Mittan, James, William, Merritt and Clement Miller, Frank, Francis and William Mills, Amos and William Noe, Hamilton Nichols, Thomas Nickelson, William, Benjamin and Nathaniel Nettleton, Jacob & Alexander Schwab, Jacob Smock, Charles Steinbrook, George Seymour, William & Thomas Steel, John Shoudy, John, James, Bayard and Alexander Smith, John Unger, David & Robert Vroman, Abram Van Patten, Irwin, Christopher & William Vandeventer and Robert Wells.

In 1868 a Methodist Episcopal church was erected on the southwest corner of Section 16, jointly by the Methodist, Congregationalist and United Brethren societies and today is called the Twin Groves Methodist church. James & Amanda Thompson donated the ground. The trustees for the church were james Thompson, L>G. Durin, Henry Lewis, Aaron Smith and M. A. Rice. The building was 30x40 with a high spire, and it cost $3,500. Besides the lot donated, James Thompson gave $1,000 and his wife, Amanda gave $630 towards building. It was dedicated Nov. 9, 1868; Revs. F.A. Hardin and A.P. Beach conducted the services. By the arrangement governing this church, made at the time it was agreed to permit each other denomination to use it; that if at any time the Methothsts desired to control it exclusively, they might do so by returning to the donors of other societies the money these members had contributed.

The first regular Methodist preacher to occupy this pulpit was C. C. Combs, while Reverend Brewer officiated for the Congregationalists. Reverend Wendell was the first preacher for the United Brethren. Among those who have followed are Reverends Young, Bender, two Lewises, for the United Brethren. Following Combs, are Curtis, Farmiloe, Stoddard, Davis, Hoffman, Tibbals, Record (1879).

In the winter of 186?, a protracted meeting was held here, lasting seven weeks, during which 130 conversions were made. Reverend Combs conducted it. Over one hundred united with his society. When he reached this circuit, the Methodists had only nine members, all women. The Congregationalists and United Brethren have nearly all of them left the community. The Congregational Society was formed about 1859. Among those who were original members were Ephraim Dmin, Mrs. Dunn, Mr. and Mrs. Harper B. Davenport, Woodbridge, Rev, and Mrs. James Brewer, Mr. and Mrs. Simon (or Simeon) Cole. Caleb M. Bacon became a member later. Reverend Brewer was the first preacher, Rev. Henry Buss the second, and the third and last was Reverend Ereed. A salary of $200 was paid the preacher and the services were held in the Twin Grove schoolhouse until the erection of the church. In the spring of 1864, Rev. Jacob Fowler revived the Episcopal church, which had been in existence formerly, and he brought together about fifteen communicants. Under the fostering care of this gentleman, the church grew and prospered until about forty communicants attended regularly in the Ellsworth schoolhouse. Among the number of communicants were Winfleld Argraves and Mrs. Argraves. Adam Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Argraves. Mr. and Mrs. Abram Rosenkraus, Lydia Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph McCoy, Henry Abrams, Jephtha Mittan, Mr. and Mrs. Xathan Koons and Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Beemer. This mission was attached to the Shabonna mission. In 1866, the vestry, with some outside help, built a church. 30x40, for $2.600. This was dedicated Sunday, Aug. 6, 1866. Rev. Madison Handy became the second minister and he continued to keep the flock together. But when Rev. A. C. Wallace came along, the beginning of the end appeared. He lost his congregation. When it owed him, in arrears, $500 for salary, he obtained judgment against the church, sold the place to make his debt, bid it in himself and when the redemption ran out, he sold it to the United Brethren Society. As a matter of fact the church stands over the line into Wyoming township on the northwest of section 6. This society, which lived exclusively in Willow Creek was organized with twelve original members. The first pastor was Reverend Adams; the first-class leader, Cwnmings Noe, and the first trustees were R. Hall, Cummings Noe and H. Lewis.

A German Lutheran church was organized in Willow Creek township at the Byrd schoolhouse by Rev. William Halleberg, in 1870. The families of the following persons became members: George Erbes, Ehrhard Hochstrasser, George Hochstrasser, Godfried Gehrig, Louis Gehrig, William Hackman, Henry Schultz, Jacob Rubel, Jacob Schoenholz and John Schoenliolz. Revs. William Halleberg, Charles Weinsch, John Feiertag, H. H. Morton, W. 0. Oeting and W. Krebs have been ministers for this pulpit.

A society of Dunkards was organized in the Byrd schoolhouse in 1863, after meetings had been held around at various houses. The original members were John and Margaret Toft, Alva B. and Amanda Harp, William and Ellizabeth Vroman and D. C. and Catherine Vroman. Rev. John Fillmore settled in the township soon after and he held services around at the Beemerville, Byrd and Twin Groves schoolhouses. Allen’s Grove had preaching of some kind from 1844. About 1848, the Presbyterians organized a society and maintained an existence for several years. Reverends Baker, Breed and another were the preachers. A Methodist and a Baptist society were organized there too. The Zion church of the Evangelical Association was organized. Ministers have been Revs. C. M. Young, John Schweitzer, A. Gotschel, A. Strickfaden, 0. Ghestatter. J. K. Schultz. and T. J. Lintner

At first, for six years prior to the organization in 1868, at the Byrd schoolhouse, regular preaching was had every two weeks by Rev. J. M. Sindlinger, Henry Messner or L. B. Tobias. Some of the original members were William Dukelberger and Mrs. Dunkelberger, John C. Yetter, Mr. and Mrs. John Yetter, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Yetter, Mr. and Mrs. Gotlieb Hochistrasser, George Hochstrasser, Julia Yetter and Mary Hochstrasser. William Dukelberger was first class leader. The first trustees were John Yetter, William Dunkelberger and J. L. Lutz, John Yetter was superintendent of the Sunday school for many years before his removal to Steward and later to Mount Morris.

On the southeast corner of section a church building was erected in 1875 at a cost of $3,000. Its dimensions are 32x46 and the same was dedicated by Bishop Jacob J. Escher.

The first services of the Catholic church were held at the house of Peter Kimbler about 1863. Father Westkarn said mass. The first communicants were Peter Buchholz, Peter Schneider, John Herrmann, Joseph M. Herrmann, Frank Herrmann, Frank Bates, Thomas Down, Frank Bates, Jr., Peter Kimbler and six other families. Father Westkam, who came over from Mendota, advised the building immediately of a church and almost $2,000 was subscribed at once. The next year a church was built on the northwest corner of the southwest quarter of section 16. The main building was 26x40, with an addition which at times has been used as a parochial school. John Herimanu donated four acres of ground for cemetery purposes. The first priest who celebrated mass in the new church was Father Nigg of Mendota. Fathers Goldsmith, Gobbles, Anthon Butter, Frank Schreiber, Fralich, Joseph Baenak, and Charles Hahn have been subsequently installed in this parish.

By far the largest societies in Willow Creek township are the Norwegian Evangelical Churches. One is Southwest and the other Northwest4 This church was organized in the autumn of 1858, by the Reverend Didriksun, who made one visit to Bradford township. At first, the members were scattered widely apart: some in Sublette, others in Bradford, Lee Center and Willow Creek and meetings were held four times a year, around in the four different towiiships. After the church had been put into good working order, Rev. A. C. Preus, came and meetings were held more frequently and the inem­bers assembled at the Byrd and Twin Groves schoolhouses. After a little while, the Norwegians left their old settlements in the other townships and came to Willow Creek and Alto to live, and in 1864, over twenty families had gathered here to live. Among those who were first worshipers in this church were Amund Hillison, Lars Larson Risetter, Lar.~ Salmonson, Jacob Oleson, Haldor Xe~1son, Jacob Peterson. Holden Peterson. Lars Oleson, William Oleson, C. Christopher, Edwin Winterton, Lars Hillison, Haakon Risetter, Thomas Uiliison, Christian Hullison Sexer, Amund Oleson, Boyds. Reverend Preus remained a year or two when be was succeeded by C.J. Peterson, under whose charge the church was built and the parochial school was established. This beautiful church building, located in the northeast of section 11, arrests the eye from a long distance. It cost $3,500. It is 35x60 with a fine spire. A parsonage with twenty acres of ground surrounding belongs to the church and is located on the northwest quarter of section 2. In 1870 it was bought for $40 per acre. This latter building cost about $1,700 and was built in 1875. A barn has been added.

First, Chicago was the market for Willow Creek farmers. With the completion of the canal to LaSalle and Peru, the latter places were patronized. Seven days were consumed in the Chicago trip with horses. The grist mills were at Dayton on Fox river, Dixon and Binghamton.

In Willow Creek buffalo bones were especially thick over the ground when the earliest settlers came in. It was thought that inasmuch as they were more numerous in low places, the animals must have been driven there for forage during the cold winter of 1830-31, and unable to get out of the blinding storms, were frozen to death in great numbers. This, however, is not true. In 1825 no buffalos were seen in Northern Illinois by the settlers or the suckers going to and from the mines at Galena.

“The tornado of Sunday, June 3. 1860, struck this township about 9 o’clock at night, midway of the west line of section 18. William Citts was within eighty rods of it when it left the township, he says the noise was not unlike the rattle and clatter of a freight train when standing close to it, except that the former was more tremendous in volume. Boards, plows, harrows, timbers, reapers, stoves, furniture, earth, stones, animals, —everything that it could gather in its way, was whirling, dashing and crashing with a thundering roar and force that filled the ear with a sound of picturesque terror as much as if heaven and earth were battling for the same space at once. Andrew Stubbs, standing out of its range, as it went by, saw it first, several miles west and describes its appearance as it approached and passed.

“The night was moonlit, and from where he watched the tempest, the moon was visible throughout. Massive pillars of flaming cloud were piled from earth to sky: the top was a sheet of flame; shafts of electricity as large to the view as a stovepipe, poured in hideous currents down the seething mass of inky blackness, presenting a sign of sublime horror.

The first house in Willow Creek which received its fury wsa Abram Miller's near the township line. It wsa unroofed, then taken up, carried over the well and the stable, but failing to clear a straw stck, was overturned and scattered in all directions. The occupants were Mr. Miller and two children. The mother lay some time under a part of the roof in an insensible condition, having sustained considerable injuries. None of the others were much harmed. The children, sound asleep in their beds, when the shock occurred, were thrown 25 rods into a wheat field, where one of the little fellows was found shouting lustily that all the windows were broken out. A tin boiler standing beside the house, full of water, was not disturbed; and a book of receipts, brought from Iowa, was picked up on the farm. Gilbert E. Durin's place was the second reached. His house stood nearly out of the patch, but a small addition was snatched away. James Nealis and another man were blown into the tops of some locuts in the dooryard, and the former was cut so badly in the thigh on a scythe handing upon a limb, that he bled nearly to death. A.N. Dow's premises were the next. His house was seized as if it had been a toy, carried into the air and turned roof downward. Eight persons composed this family and all were hurt, one child having an arm broken.

The damage of the timber fell chiefly on William Smith. Thompsons house, a very heavy structure wsa unroofed and a large building moved on its foundation. A man nameed Scheiler, living on Thompson's land, had his house demolished and all seven of the family badly hurt, and horribly begrimed. From this point to section 14, lay a stretch of prairie, and no injury to life and little damage to property wa done; but there a house belonging to William Bacon, occupied by ALlen Johnson and his sister, was wrecked. The inmates, on the first appearance of the storm, had luckily gone to a neighbor‘s, and thus escaped its terrors.

The county line was reached midway of section 13, and here at Allen McConeky’s the most painful destruction was accomplished. It was now between 9 and 10, and the family had retired. Rain had been falling hard but calmly before the crash came, and Mrs. McConeky arose to attend to keeping the rain out of the windows. The wind began to rise, and in a few moments so increased that she remarked to her husband that the house would blow away. He sprang to her side at the window, and at that instant, she relates, she saw the east side of the house coming in upon them, but can remember nothing more, save that she was conscious of lying on the ground with a heavy weight resting upon her body. The housee was shivered to atoms. Mr. MeConeky was killed outright, also the eldest and the youngest boys. Their little son was terribly bruised and all hope of his recovery was for some time abandoned. Mrs. MrConeky had an arm broken. Horses and cattle were killed here as elsewhere in the path of the destroyer. “In the vicinity a boulder weighing half a ton was lifted from the ground and carried some distance; but the most curious exhibition of power was at the point where the storm ended its work, three-fourths of a mile east of the county line. At this place was a piece of newly broken prairie. The furrows lay parallel with the direction of the tornado, and the top sods were lapped up, twirled into a close body, and deposited forward a pile of ten or twelve wagon loads. As if glutted with disaster, the storm now raised, and carrying on its dismal and solitary energies high up in the air, moved on to Lake Michigan, where it lost its identity.”

Besides several private burying grounds in Willow Creek township, there are two beautiful cemeteries, both kept beautifully. One is the Ellsworth cemetery and the other is the Twin Groves cemetery. The first named is located on the south side of the public road in section 34 and took its name from Isaac C. Ellswortb on whose farm it was laid out. The other is located on the southwest quarter of the southeast quarter of section 17, adjoining the public road on a gentle rise of ground which sets off nicely the handsome monuments which have been erected there.

This chapter should not he dismissed without recording the little beginnings of things in the village of Lee, now so prosperous. The Chicago & Iowa railroad was completed to this point in the autumn of 1871. The county line between Lee and DeKalb counties runs north and south through the principal street in Lee . It is built on the southeast quarter of section 1, which brings it right up in the northeast corner o th town of Willow Creek. The first little building put up was by Christopher & Jorgens and was used for a grain office and grocery. At about the same time J. Cheasebro built an office and began buying grain and dealing in coal, and lumber. R.J. White built the first stoer in the spring of 1872 on the corner of Main & B streets and soon after a postoffice was established, he was appointed postmaster. he had a partner named Knight who sold out his interest to one A.B. Trask sho sold out to Henry Moore and he in turn sold to W.H. Bryant. In 1874 White retired and Bryant received the appointment of postmaster. After three years he sold out and thereafter dealt only in agricultural implements.

J. Johnson started a general store on the west side of Main street, between A & B streets. In July 1872, the railroad switch was finished and freight began to move in and out and Lee began to boom. Abel Downer opened the third general store which included a stock of drugs. During the same season Ostewig and Leyder started a hardware store...... James Minneham built the first dweeling in 1872. The next March W.H. Emmett erected the second and in 1874 others went up rapidly including that of Mr. Christopher, east of the tract. Frank Bacon built a Hotel on B Street in the early winter of 1872-73. In 1874 A>B. Trask built the second which has outlived the first one. Trask's was called the Clifton House.

The North elevator was built by J. Cheasebro in the fall of 1872, immediately following, Christopher & Jorgens erected another ot the south. The fist butcher shop was opened on B street east of the track in 1872. Next year William Finton moved it over onto Main street, north of B. Miss Margaret Edsall was the first milliner and dressmaker and opened her rooms in 1873. Lars Helland erected a wagon shop and Iverson & Espe a blacksmith shop. These were built on the east side.

In 1873 Mr. Schoenholz built a harness shop, Lars Larson Risetter built a store and dwelling on the southeast corner of Main and B streets, Lars Midnes a notion store, Knudt Tyler started a photograph studio and Trask, a store and dwelling, first occupied by C. H. Rathbun. Stevens & Prestegaard built a hardware store on Main street in 1875. In the same year, B. H. Skoyles began the erection of a gristmill which was finished next year. In 1879 Christopher & Jorgens enlarged their elevator, put in a stationary engine and added wood-working works. On the northeast corner of Main and B streets, Sardis Voshurgh built in 1881, a handsome brick store, the first one built in Lee.

The village was incorporated and the first board of trustees were James G. Boardman, Arthur McLane, William R. Baumbach, A. B. Trask and W. H. Bryant. On Aug. 11th they held their first meeting. McLane was chosen president and John Johnson clerk of the board. The first school in Lee was opened in the Dyas building in December 1874. with W. H. Emmett as teacher. In the summer of 1875 Miss Eva Brvait taught the school in the Midnes building. In the spring of 1873 Miss Margaret Edsall taught it in the shop she had occupied formerly as her millinery and dressmaking establishment. In that summer the schoolhouse was built. In this new school building Miss Hampton taught the first school or term. T. L. Johnson, Miss Mary Griffin, T. W. Shanks, William H. Haviet, Henry E. Daniels, A. B. Trask were the first directors. The first public talk made in Lee was given by a /// who had changed his name to Professor Ryder in the Dyas building. On the same day a union Sunday school was organized in the same room. This room had formerly been used for a saloon and when Ryder spoke, planks were placed across the heads of pine beer kegs which never had been removed, and right across those same seats this first and very successful Sunday school was organized. At this same time, preaching was begun in Lee by Reverend Nicholson of Shabbona for the Methodists and Reverend Clouse from the same place for the Baptists. The next sunimer the religious meetings and the Sunday schools were removed to the Midnes building and there they remained until the schoolhouse was erected in 1876. There the two denominations, Methodists and Baptists, held alternate services until the Methodists built a church and in that the same alternate services were held for some time.

W.H. Emmett was the first Sunday School superintendent.. then it lapsed for awhiel and Samuel Henderson revived it. The Methodist church was built in 1877 and was dedicated Dec. 30th of that year. Its cost was about $2,000. It is a building, Gothic in style, 28 x 42 with a spie. It stands on the DeKalb county side of the village. The catholic church, built at Lee stands just to the west of the business part of the village. It is a fine building 40 x 60.

Before this church was built, Twin Groves to the west was the only place at all near-by, where services were had and there they were held but once a month. At Rochelle, 13 miles north; at DeKalb 18 miles to the northeast and at Sandwich, 20 miles to the east, were the nearest Catholic churches. In the sprin gof 1878 M.P. harris, John Kennedy, James Kirby and Bernard Malloy began an active campaign fo building a church suitable fo the many communiants of the neighborhood. Kirby was designated to act as treasurer and Harris as secretary, to see the catholics and enlist their co-operation. Cash in those days was not plentiful, but those who desired a church, were financially good in ever way. In three days $3,000 in good notes bearing 10 percent interest were secured. John Kennedy, James Kirby and Stephen Kirby divided these notes equally as collateral and each advanced the sum of $1,000. Then the men first named went forward and built the church. John Kennedy gave one acre of ground and $500 in money which constituted the largest contribution made by any one individual. The church cost $3,200. In the fall of 1878 it was dedicated by Rev. Father verdin, vice president of St. Ignatius College, Chicago. Father edwards was the first priest in charge. At first, services were held there but every other Sunday. Now the parish has a resident priest and regular services are held and the congregation is a very large one.

Six years ago the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. paul RR, desiring to enter the coal fields to the southwest, in order to supply the needs of the company, determined to run a line of road through Lee county for that purpose. under a leasing agreement with the Burlington, they were permitted to run over the Burlington line from Steward to Rochelle. From Steward southerly, the St. Paul road directed its course. The company went in its course just about a mile and a half to the east and established the station of Roxbury where grain is bought and shipped in large quantities and all at the expense of Compton.

P.J. Schoenholz operates the first and oldest store, a general one, and Carl C. Fisher, the other. My genial olf friend, H.D. Riley presides at the anvil and forge of Scarboro's solitary blacksmith shop and it pleases me to note that he is doing a prosperous business. Mr. William H. Webber, one of Viola's biggest farmers tells me that as a live stock shipping point it does a splendid business. Two large elevators here care for the grain. Shearer Brothers of Steward, foreseeing the inroads scarboro was likely to make in their Steward business, promptly built an elevator in Scarboro. The Neola people have the other.

The Evangelical church about which we have read in other pages found itself located right in the midst of the village when scarboro was laid out. This is a beautiful church, built with every arrangement for comfort. A perfect kitchen in the basement includes the adde dfeatures of a dining room and in this admirable room suppers are given frequently. The Scarboro school stands just to the south. About half a mile, farther to the south, one of the beautiful Twin Groves stands. through it wIllow creek runs and there picnics and gatherings are held.

In this beautiful little village you will find the very highest specimens of the builder's art, improved with every modern convenience. Electricity, steam heat, baths, hot and cold water, in the houses; cement sidewalks; and all the village surrounded with lands which can hardly be valued. Onlay a little while agao, Mr. Henry B. Cobb of Viola, living just a little way to the west, leanred that a certain farm might be bought. It lay near his big tract of Viola land and he bought it without regard to price. Three hundred per acre was the price; over $50,000 and the money, cash in hand, was paid down. Verily prosperity dwells around Scarboro, possibly the smallest village in the county. At all events, the youngest, yet one of the richest and prettiest. And it is located in Willow Creek township; old Twin Groves !


In this town are to be found four groves, often referred to in early history and by early settlers as landmarks, by names which they still retain; Smith's Grove, Allen's Grove and Twin Grove, or Groves for there are two of the latter, as the name implies.

The township may perhaps be distinguished from all others in the county by the large percentage of inhabitants of either foreign birth or extraction, the Norwegian and German predominating. An enumeration made in 1880 placed the population at 1,214, of whom onehalf were of foreign birth. Add to this the probable number of descendants of such parents, and the number will be greatly increased. We have been unable to find the census of 1890 covering such statistics, and that of 1900 is not yet obtainable.

Settlements were made almost simultaneously at the several groves. Peter Gonzolas. a Frenchman, put in his appearance at Allen's Grove in the fall of 1836; John Smith, a Scotchman, at Smith's Grove in 1837 and William Moore at the south one of the Twin Groves, in the latter year.

The Gonzolas tract (the Shoudy farm of recent years) was acquired in the spring of 1878 by Richard M. Allen, whose name was given to the grove, and this farm was the first in the township to be improved. Allen sold in 1840 to a man by the name of Bond, who sold to a Mr. Price in 1842. Mr. Smith bought a claim on Section 35, and there settled, and the name "Dry Grove," by which the timber was first known, soon surrendered to the name of the proprietor. With Mr. Smith came another Scotchman, John Colville, who was postmaster for many years at Paw Paw, dying there in October, 1893. Mr. Smith's log cabin, roofed with mowed grass, was the second to be built in the township. In mid winter following its construction, fire caught in the inflammable roof, and the cabin burned to the ground. As soon as possible another was erected in its place. Soon after moving into the first cabin Mr. Smith's son John died, the first white person in the township to be taken away. Mr. Smith sent to Ottawa, the nearest point, for a doctor, who was guided across the prairie by Robert, a brother of the sick boy, now residing in Dixon.

Robert and David Smith, sons of the first settler, still survive and own parts of their father's original claim.

Israel Shoudy came in 1844 and bought the Gonzolas or Allen tract from Price, and lived there until his death, which occurred in California at an advanced age only a few years ago. His remains were brought back and are buried over the line in DeKalb County. Horatio G. Howiett settled at Allen's Grove in 1839, having spent the two preceding years at Dixon. Nathaniel Allen settled in the vicinity of Smith's and Allen's groves, in 1845 with four of his five sons and daughters, his son, Chandler, coming a year later. Benjamin Nettleton had joined the settlement as early as this. Isaac Ellsworth came in the spring of 1846 and Christopher Vandeventer in 1848. The Littletons arrived at Smith's about 1845.

The Indian Trail from Ottawa north to the hunting grounds in Wisconsin ran through Allen's Grove.

Twin Groves were first named Moore, from William Moore, the earliest settler there, who began his improvements in 1837 at the South Grove. James Thompson and Levi Lathrop came here together about 1842, and in partnership bought Moore's claim. The first birth at the grove was that of Robert Blair, son of Robert Blair, Sr., in 1846. Cummings Noe settled here probably as early as 1846, and together with James Thompson and James Smith, entered all of the South Grove. James Smith and Nathan Koons, Jesse Koons and A. N. Dow arrived in 1847. Cyrus Goff came in these early days and built between the two groves where he kept a tavern. Lewis G. and Gilbert Durin, brothers, joined the Twin Grove settlement in 1849. Wesson Holton's coming was in 1853. The station "Scarboro" on the Rochelle Southern Railway, now being built, is located on L. G. Dunin's farm.

The pioneer among the German settlers was Gotlieb Hochstrasser in 1854. A little later, but probably in the same year, came Joseph Herman. In 1856, Frank Bates, Frank Herman and John Herman were added, and the next year witnessed the arrival of Archeart Hochstrasser.

Of the Norwegians, Ommor Hilleson was the forerunner of the large settlement, having, it is said, landed in New York in 1837 and walked all the way thence to Chicago. He settled in Bradford Township a year or two later and, after accumulating a goodly fortune, died there. Though the pioneer of his nationality, the greater portion by far settled in Willow Creek Township. Lars Larsen Rissiter located there in 1847.

In this township, as elsewhere, schools were early looked after. The first school in the township was at Allen's Grove. It was started in 1848 in one of Israel Shoudy's log houses, and Martha Vandeventer. sister of Christopher Vandeventer, was the teacher. Preceding her, however, were Miss Price, Eliza Nettleton and Laura Brace. In the fall of 1849 a frame school house was built by subscription, one half mile east of the present one. Prior to the building of this school house, school was taught by the ladies mentioned in the dwellings of Dr. Basford, Shoudy and Howlett. The first Board of Examiners to pass on the qualifications of teachers for this school consisted of John Smith, Sr., H. G. Howlett and Colville, Smith examining as to Geography and Grammar, Howlett in Mathematics and Reading, Colville in Writing and Spelling. At Twin Groves the first school was taught in James Thompson's original log cabin, but in what year we are not informed. Later, in 1854, a school house was built at the Groves by subscription and was purchased by the school district three years later. It was destroyed by fire in the winter of 1863-4. The Ellsworth school house was built in the spring of 1855, and Mrs. Ellsworth was the first teacher.

It will be recalled that the territory. now embracing the town of Wyoming, Willow Creek and Alto, was first set off as Paw Paw Township, but was soon changed to Wyoming. In 1855 the north two thirds was made into the Township of Willow Creek. The first town meeting in the new township was convened at Twin Groves School House, April 3, 1855. A. N. Dow acted as Moderator and G. Bishop as clerk. In 1861 Alto Township was set apart. In 1874 the town house was built on the southeast corner of Section 16, Willow Creek, at a cost of $1,100, including one acre of ground. At a meeting to pass on the question of building, the proposition was carried by a vote of 50 to 47.

When the Chicago & Rock River Railroad Company (now the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy) was seeking township aid toward the construction of its line, at an election held October 16, 1869, Willow Creek gave one vote in favor to twenty four against the proposal. But when the Chicago & Iowa Railroad Company applied for a subscription of $50,000 to its stock, the town, at a meeting held March 26, 1870, by a vote of seventy five in affirmative and fifty one negative, agreed to subscribe for the stock on condition that the road be located within, one mile of the center of the town. This condition not having been complied with, the town wholly escaped railroad taxation.

The town was one of four to levy a bountytax to encourage enlistments in the War of the Rebellion, Dixon, Lee Center and Palmyra being the two others. The reports of the Adjutant General of the State credits Willow Creek with $5,200 bounty paid at an expense of $232.70, being a total of $5,432.70. The patriotism of the community was further evidenced, not only by the volunteers it sent to the front, but by the fact that, although it was then a purely agricultural district, with no village to increase its population, a "Union League" was organized in the dark days of 1862 with a membership of seventy.

Churches.- As early as 1844 and for eight or ten years thereafter, regular preaching was held at Allen's Grove, and about 1848 a Presbyterian Society was formed and existed several years. In 1868 a church building, under control of the Methodist denomination, was erected on the southwest corner of Section 16, at a cost of $3,500, owned jointly by the Methodist, Congregationalist and United Brethren denominations. It was dedicated November 9, 1868, Rev. F. A. Hardin and A. P. Beach officiating. The date of the organization of the Methodist Society is not accessible to the writer. The Congregational Society was formed in 1859. It never numbered over seventeen members, the removal of whom from the section gradually accomplished its dissolution.

The Norwegian Evangelical Lutheran church was formed in the fall of 1858, by Rev. Didrikson. The members were then scattered through several townships, but in time the most of them were found in Willow Creek. A church building was erected on a commanding site (northeast corner of the west half of northeast quarter, Section 11), at a cost of $3,500. A parsonage, with a twenty acre tract adjoining, belongs to the society. The Zion church of the Evangelical Association was formed in 1868, its membership being confined to Germans. The first trustees were John Yetter, William Dunkelberger and J. L. Lutz. In 1875 a house of worship was erected on the southeast corner of Section 5, at a cost of $3,000, including ground.

The German Catholics had readings of mass about 1863, by Father Westkam, of Mendota, at the house of Peter Kimbler. The following year a stone building was put up on the northwest corner of the southwest quarter of Section 16, at a cost of $3,000.

In 1863 a society of Dunkards was formed and, in 1870, a German Lutheran Society was organized by Rev. William Halleberg.

In the spring of 1878 a Catholic church was built in the village of Lee, at a cost of $3,200, John Kennedy, James Kirby and Stephen Kirby being the principal contributors to the undertaking. It was dedicated in the autumn of 1878 by Father Verdin, of St. Ignatius College, Chicago. Father Edwards, of Rochelle, was the priest in charge when it was built.

A Methodist church was built in the village in 1877, at a cost of nearly $2,000. It is located in the DeKalb County section of the village.

It is doubtful if any other agricultural township in the county has as many churches and distinct denominations ministering to the religious wants of its people.

The tornado which swept over the county from the west on Sunday, June 3, 1860, entered Willow Creek about nine o'clock in the evening, midway of the west line of Section 18, and left it midway of the east line of Section 13, on the county line. Devastation was strewn in its path. Mrs. Abram Miller, Mr. James Nealis, A. N. Dow and family, consisting of eight persons, and Mrs. McConeky were all more or less seriously injured, while Mr. McConeky and his eldest and youngest boys were killed outright. All of the buildings in the path of the storm were either injured or totally demolished, and a windrow of twisted, splintered and uprooted trees, ten to twenty yards wide, was left through the southern portion of the Twin Groves.

Village of Lee.- That portion of the village lying in Lee County was platted for Francis E. Hinkley and John Kennedy August 19, 1872.

The first building to be erected was the small grain office and grocery of Christopher & Jorgens. About the same time J. Cheasbro put up an office for trading in grain, coal and lumber. The first store was at the corner of Main and B Streets, and was built by R. J. White, who became the first Postmaster in the new town. J. Johnson was the next to start a general store, his location being on Main Street, between A and B Streets. Abel Downer's, at the southwest corner of Main and B streets, was the third general store, and included drugs. Ostewig & Leyder started in hardware the same season. The first dwelling was built by James Minnihan, in 1872. W. H. Emmett erected the second in March, 1872. The first hotel was built by Frank Bacon on B Street, and in 1874 A. B. Trask built the second. The first elevator was erected by J. Cheasbro in the fall of 1872, and that winter Christopher & Jorgens built one. A third elevator was erected in 1901 and is operated by James E. Johnson. The other two are now owned and operated by M. P. Harris. The first brick structure to be put up in the new town was the store of Sardis Vosburg, at the northwest corner of Main and B Streets. The first school was opened in December, 1874, in the Dyas building, with W. H. Emmett as teacher. Different vacant rooms were occupied until the summer of 1876, when the first school house was put up.

Lee has the distinction of belonging to two counties, the center line of B Street being the dividing line between Lee and DeKaIb. It was incorporated as a village June 23, 1874.

About three o'clock on the morning of July 5, 1902, the place was visited by a disastrous fire, which licked up one entire block of buildings on the west side of Main Street. Substantial brick buildings are gradually taking the place of the ones destroyed.

According to the census, the population of the township, including the Lee County part of the village of Lee, was 1,034 in 1890 and 959 in 1900. The part of the village lying in Lee County was 153 in 1890 and 151 In 1900. The total population of the village in 1890 was 264 and in 1900, 286.

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.