Ogle County, Illinois
Oh! A wonderful stream is the River Time,
As it runs through the realm of tears,
With a faultless rhythm, and a musical rhyme,
And a broader sweep, and a surge sublime,
As it bends in the ocean of years.
-B. F. Taylor
Forty-eight years have come and gone since white men began to exercise dominion in the Rock River Valley - erst the home of the Winnebagoes and their kindred. These years have been full of changes, and the visitor of to-day, ignorant of the past of the county, could scarcely be made to realize that within these years there has grown up a population of nearly thirty thousand in 1878, that, in all the accomplishments and acquirements of life, are as far advanced as are the people of the counties of the older States. Schools, churches, colleges, palatial - like dwellings, beautiful grounds and camping places of the native tribe of red men, and in every direction there are evidences of wealth, comfort and luxury. There is but little left of the old landmarks. Advanced civilization and the progressive demands of revolving years have obliterated all traces of Indian occupancy, until they are only remembered in name.
The beginning of these changes was made in 1830, when Isaac Chambers and john Ankeny selected their claims at Buffalo Grove.
Of the voters and heads of families representing a population of 3,479 in 1840, many removed from the county to find homes in other States, while the spirits of others were called to join the immortal throng gathered around the great white throne in the far-away realms of eternal life and light. Others preferred to remain in the homes the commenced in the lands of the Winnebagoes, and, by the goodness and mercy of God, have grown in wealth, wisdom and usefulness, until, in their declining years, they are respected and honored patriarchs in the community that owes much of its character to other influences they established in pioneer times.
It is not strange that among the pioneer settlers of any new country a deep-seated and sincere friendship should spring up, that would grow and strengthen with their years. The incidents peculiar to life in a new country - the trials and hardships, privations and
destitutions - are well calculated to test not only the physical powers of endurance, but the moral, kindly, generous attributes of manhood and womanhood. They are times that try men's souls and bring to the surface all that there may be in them of either good or bad. As a rule, there is an equality of conditions that recognizes no distinctions. All occupy a common level, and, as a natural consequence, a brotherly and sisterly feeling grows up that is as lasting as time, for "a fellow feeling makes us wondrous kind." With such a community, there is a hospitality, a kindness, a benevolence and a charity unknown and unpracticed among older, richer and more densely populated commonwealths. The very nature of their surroundings teaches them to "feel each other's woes, to share each other's joy." An injury or a wrong may be ignored, but a kindly, generous, charitable act is never forgotten. The memory of old associations and kindly deeds is always fresh. Raven locks may bleach and whiten; full round cheeks sinken and hollow; the fires of intelligence vanish from the organs of vision; the brow becomes wrinkled with care and age, and the erect form bowed with accumulating years, but the true friends of the "long ago' will be remembered as long as life and reason endure
The surroundings of pioneer life are well calculated to test the "true inwardness" of the human heart. As a rule, the men and women who first occupy a new country- who go in advance to spy out the land and prepare it for the coming of a future people - are bold, fearless, self-reliant and industrious. In these respects, no matter from what remote sections or countries they may come, there is a similarity of character. In birth, education, religion and language, there may be a vast difference, but imbued with a common interest, and no matter what changes may come in after years, the associations thud formed are never buried out of memory.
In pioneer life there are always incidents of peculiar interests, not only to the pioneers themselves, but which, if properly preserved, would be of interest to posterity, and it is a matter of regret that the information of the "Old Settlers' Association" has not been continuously maintained in the Ogle County. The presence of such associations in all the counties of our common country, with well kept records of the more important events, such as dates of arrivals, births, marriages, deaths, removals, nativity, etc. as any one can readily see, would be the direct means of preserving to the literature of the country, the history of that community, that, to future generations, would be invaluable as a record of reference, and a ready method of settling important questions of controversy. Such organizations would possess facts and figures that could not be had from any other source. Aside from their historic importance, they would serve as a means of keeping alive and further cementing old friendships, and renewing among the members associations that were necessarily interrupted by the innovations of increasing population, cultivating social intercourse, and creating a charitable fund for such of their old members as were victims of misfortune and adversity.
Actuated by the purposes suggested in the last preceding paragraph, the pioneers of Ogle County organized a society in 1896 that was known as the "Ogle County Old Settlers Society". The first formal meeting was held in the town of Rockvale, at the house of Hiram Reed, February 10, 1896. John Phelps was elected Chairman, and James V. Gale, Secretary. James V. Gale presented the following constitution, which was adopted:
The name of the Society shall be the Ogle County "Old Settlers Society". Its objects shall be to revive and establish the harmonious social relations once existing, and to perpetuate among themselves a remembrance of the trying and eventful scenes through which they passed in the early settlement of the county.
.... SECTION 1. The Society shall consist of those who settled in the county up to the year 1841 inclusive, and shall pay to the treasurer annually the sum of one dollar.
.... SECTION 2, The officers of the Society shall consist of a president, one Vice-President, Secretary, a Treasurer, and an Executive Committee of five persons, all of whom shall hold their position for one year, or until their successors shall be elected.
.... SECTION 3. The Recording Secretary shall keep the records of the Society, and conduct the correspondence of the Society.
.... SECTION 4. The Treasurer shall keep the funds of the Society, and disburse tem on the written order of the President, or Chairman of the Executive Committee.
.... SECTION 5. The Executive Committee shall take charge of all papers transmitted to the Society, designed for publication, or otherwise. They may also establish such by-laws, rules and regulations as they may deem necessary for the government of the Society. Provided, the same do not conflict with the constitution.
.... SECTION 6. There shall be an annual meeting of the old settlers of the county, at the County Seat, at such times as the Society may think proper.
.... SECTION 7. The constitution may be amended by a vote of two-thirds present, at any annual meeting.
After the adoption of the constitution, the following named gentlemen were elected to the various offices: President, John Phelps, of Rockvale; Vice-President, A. O. Campbell, of Byron; Secretary, James V. Gale, of Oregon; Treasurer, William J. Mix, of Oregon; Executive Committee, William O. Flagg, of Flagg; Hiram Reed, of Rockvale; Albert Brown, of Marion; Virgil A. Bogue, of Buffalo, and Isaac Trask, of Pine Rock.
On motion, it was declared that the first annual meeting of the old settlers be held in Oregon in May 1869.
The second meeting of the old settlers was held at the house of John Phelps, Esq., in the town of Rockvale, Tuesday, March 23, 1869.
The reporter contained a sketch of the second meeting as follows: Mr. Phelps was not apprised of the event, but he was one of that class of individuals who cannot be carried by storm or captured by surprise. Shortly after the arrival of guests, a presentation of an elegant and finely wrought silver cup was presented to Mr. Phelps and a pair of gold spectacles to Mrs. Phelps. James V. Gale, of Oregon made the presentation, and accompanied the same with an elegant and well times speech. Mr. Phelps responded briefly, reviewing the past history of the county and the trials endured by the early pioneers. Supper was announced at short intervals from 9 till 12; the table fairly groaned under delicious burdens. Mr. Gale then read a short sketch concerning the manner in which Mr. Phelps made his claim. * * * The guests were thanked for their visit, and they retired in company with the 'small hours," feeling that the ties of friendship had been strengthened and their hearts made lighter for having "auld acquaintance brought to mind."
The first annual meeting of the association was held at the court house in Oregon, My 27, 1869. The meeting was called to order by the President, Mr. John Phelps, who delivered a welcome to the settlers. He was followed by Mr. William Artz, of Oregon, who spoke at length. At the conclusion of the speaking, Mr. John James moved that, on account of the stormy weather, the festivities of the occasion be postponed until some future time, and that the Executive Committee be empowered to call another meeting at such time as they might think best. On motion, all those who came into the country prior to 1842 were invited to sign the constitution, when the following gentlemen recorded their names, giving also, the year in which they immigrated to the county, their place of nativity and their ages.
The roll presents the following names:
Place of Birth
|1834||*John Phelps||Bedford County, Va||72|
|1835||James V. Gale||Concord, N.H.||62|
|1836||A. O. Campbell||Bradford County, Pa|
|1835||*Hiram Read||Cornish, N.H|
|1835||J. W. Jenkins||Ohio|
|1838||A. I. Allen||Lancaster County, Pa||54|
|1837||F. A. Smith||Massachusetts||52|
|1837||Clinton Helm||New York||40|
|1838||F. G. Petrie||Canada||50|
|1837||William J. Fletcher||Maryland||48|
|1834||B. Y. Phelps||Bedford County, Va||59|
|1834||G. W. Phelps||Wilson County, Tenn||57|
|1841||S. T. Betebenner||Maryland||63|
|1837||Benjamin Boyce||New York||72|
|1838||John Sharp||Ogle County||31|
|1836||John V. Gale||Concord, N.H.||55|
The next reunion was held Oct. 12, 1869, at the fair grounds. We are unable to state any of the proceedings of that meeting or any that have been held since the above date, owing to the fact that the records have not been preserved, or, if preserved, were not rendered accessible to the writer.
A large majority of the above-named pioneers came here before 1841, and saw the wild prairies disappearing year by year before the well-directed industries of themselves and their followers. Nearly all of those whose names appear in this catalogue are well preserved intellectually and physically, and enabled to take life easily - to sit beneath their own vines and fig trees and enjoy the accumulations of the industry and economy of their pioneer days.
[Source: "Mount Morris, Past and Present" Compiled and Published by the Kable Brothers, 1900 - Transcribed for Genealogy Trails by Collette Jenson]
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