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Stephenson county was formed from Jo Daviess and Winnebago counties, in February, 1837, and is bounded north by Wisconsin Territory, east by Winnebago county, south by Ogle and Jo Daviess, and west by Jo Daviess county, It is 27 miles long, and 21 miles wide, containing about 560 square miles. It is watered by the Peekatonokee and its tributaries on the north, and the heads of Plum river and smaller streams in the southwestern part. The timber is
mostly in groves; the prairies generally undulating and rich, with
tracts of hilly barrens and oak openings. The population is not large, but rapidly settling, as are all the northern counties. For judicial and representative purposes it is attached to Jo Daviess county. (no county seat established)
[Source: A Gazetteer of Illinois by J. M. Peck, A. M. Second Edition 1837 pp. 195-196]
The county was named for Colonel Benjamin Stephenson, an official of the Illinois Territory.
Its county seat is Freeport
Freeport is a flourishing city and capital of Stephenson County. It is situated in the
midst of a rich agricultural region, and enjoys a lucrative trade. Its Railroad
facilities for communication with all points of the compass are superior. It is the
Western terminus of the Galena Division of the Chicago and North Western Railroad,
distant from Chicago, 121 miles. By the Illinois Central, it is 67 miles east of Dubuque
and 380 miles north of Cairo. By the Western Union Railroad, it is 118 miles south west
of Milwaukee, and 94 from Rock Island.
The first settlement was made in 1835. Stephenson County was organized and Freeport
was made the County seat. In 1850, the town received a village charter, and in 1855 it
was organized under a city charted Freeport, now contains about 10,000 inhabitants, and
enjoys a large wholesale and retail trade.
The manufactures, although in their infancy are numerous and important, among them may
be enumerated one large reaper manufactory; several founderies (sic), 2 flouring mills, 5
wind mill manufactories, one woolen mill, one carpet factory, several breweries, 4 brick
yards, 4 or 6 large carriage works, a cultivator manufactory and 2 earthern (sic) ware
establishments. There is also here about 300 business establishments, which supply the
wants of a large district of wealthy farmers. Freeport boasts a large
number of fine public buildings, among which are the new Court House, erected at an
expense of upwards of 100,000, and a Soldiers' Monument. The Wilcoxon Opera House, also
large number of costly business blocks, and several fine school buildings.
Contributed by Virginia Gorton Bonne - from Bailey's Freeport Directory, 1873-74,