HISTORY OF COLOMA TOWNSHIP
[Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles Bent; pub. 1877; Page 126-130]
The first permanent settlement in the territory now embraced in Coloma township was made by Edward Atkins, a native of Ireland, and Isaac Merrill, a native of Connecticut, early in 1837 - Mr. Merrill being the prior settler. Before the close of the year they were joined by Noah Merrill and Daniel Brooks, and Atkins, who was an energetic, enterprising man, had begun the erection of a large frame house intended for a hotel. November 6, 1838, a son - Nelson B. now a resident of Sterling - was born to Noah Merrill, believed to have been the first white child who began existence in Coloma. In February, 1839, there were living in what is now Coloma Township, Edward Atkins, Isaac Merrill, Noah Merrill, Daniel Brooks, Ira Sillaman, Zerah M. Chapman, A. B. Wheeler, W. W. Durant, now of Albany, Samuel B. Cushing, John J. Cushing and Frank Cushing. Herman Emmons and L. H. Woodworth came into the settlement this year. W W Durant had a small store, the first in this vicinity. In 1837 Edward Atkins, A B Wheeler, Isaac Merrill and Daniel Brooks laid out the town of Rapids City on a scale commensurate with its imaginary future grandeur, hopes never to be realized. It was a mile square, occupying the tract on which Rock Falls now stands. The State had entered upon the extensive but insane system internal improvements by which canals and railroads were to be built to every hamlet, and under which paper towns multiplied almost as rapidly as frogs in Egypt. Every man began to consider his humble cabin the nucleus of a great commercial emporium, and in his dreams he saw the day when extensive warehouses and vast manufactories should crowd each other along the banks of the neighboring brook, when some yet to be built canal should bear on its bosom the wealth of an empire, and when over the projected lines of railroad should be borne a mighty tide of traffic. It was not for a moment considered that an uninhabited country could not in the nature of things require a large amount of articles from abroad and that it could produce very little to send away.
The wild schemes daily increased in number. A reckless system of finance based on nothing and professing to create values where none existed, was relied on to raise funds and provide for the expense of these needless constructions, until at last the end came - bankruptcy - easily foreseen by prudence and moderate sagacity. This part of the State was to share in the blessings of free communication with the rest of the world, and as, if the rapids were removed, something that courtesy might consent to call a boat might navigate Rock River as far as Dixon, and as such obstructions were easily turned by a canal, and as, moreover, a canal besides being a good thing gave a chance for fat contracts, it was resolved to construct one around the rapids at this point. The contract was let in 1839 to Ethan Nichols. Mr Nichols dying the same year his brother and Sanger and Galbreath, who had been contractors on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, took charge of the contract. L H Woodsworth, who came in 1839, was engineer in charge, having previously practiced his profession in he East. Work was commenced. Sanger and Nichols opened a large store, and for a time all went well and the desert seemed to be about to "bud and blossom as the rose." About $40,000 was expended - a large sum for those times. The store did a heavy business. The canal was nearly half completed, and the future seemed radiant with hope, when the gaudy bubble burst and rudely dissipated the gorgeous mirage. The State was bankrupt, loaded with debts of which the most sanguine could not see a possibility of payment. Work ceased, and the only memorials of the project are its history, an unsightly ditch, and some heaps of broken stone.
In October 1839 death made his first visit to the settlement, bearing beyond the dark river Mrs. W W Durant. A marriage had been solemnized previous to this time, William Hawkins and Luna Brooks being the contracting parties.
In 1844 Mr. Richard Arey came to Coloma and took charge of the property formerly owned by Atkins, whose interest had been purchased by James E. Cooley,of New York, in 1843. This property included an undivided interest in the valuable waterfront on which the manufactories of Rock Falls are now located. With the bursting of the internal improvement bubble, and the widespread ruin consequent thereon, business stagnation and hard times came, stores were closed, public works suspended, and for a time but little progress was made; when prosperity again visited the banks of Rock River, business enthroned herself on the north Side the stream. During the winter of 1844 about thirty Winnebago Indians camped in the vicinity. They are described as very filthy and most persevering beggars. The next spring they went north, never to return the last of the red men who made this pleasant land their home, and since that time Indians have seldom visited this region. From this date neither a store nor shop of any kind was found within the borders of Coloma until 1867. Until 1857 there was no way of crossing the river except by fording, although several attempts had been made to establish a ferry above the rapids which had resulted in failure. In 1845 the first school was taught. In 1846 the first school house was fitted up, funds being raised by subscriptions; it was used for the next ten years. In 1856 a new schoolhouse was finished, and a bridge built by subscription nearly completed, a few plants being left out to prevent its use until paid for. As some of the subscriptions were payable only on its completion, they could not be collected, and it being carried away by a freshet in February 1857, it was never opened for travel. In the same year, after the destruction of the bridge, B G Wheeler, a banker of Sterling; started a ferry above the rapids, but as it was not adequate to the wants of the public, being frequently out of order from the breaking of the chain by which it was driven, James A.Patterson started another below the rapids. By act of the Legislature dated February 12, 1857, Whiteside County was empowered to borrow $2,000 to replace bridges over Rock River lost by floods or which might be carried away during the present or next ensuing month. This was intended to aid in replacing this bridge, but the money was never raised. No bridge was again built until 1863, when the Sterling Bridge Co. erected one under a Legislative charter. In 1868 the Rock River attempted to declare its independence, and carried away a part of the bridge, which was soon replaced. A Post Office, called Rapids, was established about 1847, with Artemus Worthington as Postmaster, and a mail route on the south side of the river from Dixon to Prophetstown was also established, but after a short time it was discontinued.
This township was organized in 1852. The first town meeting and election to perfect the organization was held April 6 1852 at the home of Richard Arey. A hog law was enacted condemning these much coveted yet very troublesome brutes to close confinement, and $5.00 was voted for incidental expenses. In 1854 it was voted that a fence to be lawful must be four and one-half feet high. In 1855 $50 was voted for incidental expenses and $300 for highways. In 1856 the railroad was completed from Chicago to Sterling, thus rendering the country more accessible. In 1857 the plat of Rapids City was entirely vacated. The township did not, however, settle up rapidly, the county map of 1858 giving the names of but thirty-one residents, and showing the sites of two school houses. The location of roads was much the same as at present. Nothing of special interest appears in the records for the next three or four years. The discussions at the annual meetings were not very fully reported, or were very short and confined to few topics. There is plenty of evidence that cattle were becoming more numerous and also that hogs, sheep, horses and mules constituted a part of the worldly goods of the people, and that they were not a little troublesome. The pound and the pound master were early established institutions and required a vast amount of legislation, and entailed some expense on the community. The location of the pound appears to have been a very difficult task, as it was often moved, and we should say that it was a very perishable structure as it required an almost yearly appropriation to repair it or to build a new one. We are happy to say that no charges of bribery or corruption in connection with it have come to our knowledge, but newspapers were scarce in those days and lawyers not plenty, which may account for this want of social enterprise. In 1856 $25 was voted for town expenses, and neat cattle were declared not "legal commoners" after December 1st; sheep not at any time. In 1859 a fence "shall be considered lawful fence that shall be judged by the fence viewers to be sufficient to protect the growing crops;" $50 was voted for town expenses. In 1862 but 23 votes were polled. Through the war Coloma bore her share of the burdens and many of her sons were among those who rose to defend the Union, and jeopardized their lives in the high places of the field. In 1865 it was voted to raise a tax for paying the bounties to volunteers, by a vote of 24 to 5. In 1867 a new era dawned upon Coloma. A P Smith moved into the township, purchased lands, laid out the town of Rock Falls, built a race, and awakened a spirit of progress and improvements which has since built up a thriving village on this long neglected site. July 26 1869 at a special town meeting it was voted to subscribe $50,000 to the capital stock of the Chicago & Rock River Railroad Co., by a vote of 123 to 4. This year $80 was voted for township expenses, and J A Patterson, K. Woodford and L H Woodworth were appointed a committee to purchase grounds for a cemetery. The previous year $200 had been appropriated for the purpose. They were instructed to purchase two acres of a certain lot if the title should prove good. In 1872 the Chicago & Rock River Railroad was completed, and it virtually passed into the hands of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Co., which now operates it as a branch line. This year there were three tickets for township offices in the field and a heavy vote was polled - 172 ballots being cast. In 1873 it was charged that township bonds in aid of the Chicago & Rock & Rock River Railroad had been unlawfully issued, and a committee was appointed to fight the claims. At the annual meeting in 1874 the committee reported that they had engaged Messrs. Bennett & Sackett to attend to the case on the part of the town; $380 was voted for township expenses at this meeting. January 28 1875 a special town meeting was held to consider the railroad bond matter, and it was resolved to enjoin the tax for the payment of the bonds. At the annual town meeting for 1875 $950 was voted for township expenses - $300 of which was appropriated to fight the bondholders with. The question of compromising the bond cases was considered and steps instituted in that direction. At a special town meeting January 21 1876 the Supervisor and Town Clerk were instructed to sign and indemnifying bond and procure an injunction on railroad bond tax. At the annual meeting in 1876 $1,000 was voted with which to carry on the bond cases. September 11 1876 at a special meeting it was resolved by a vote of 251 to 1 to issue $25,000 worth of bonds running until 1886 and bearing ten per cent interest, to raise money to pay interest on railway bonds and costs. These bonds were issued and sold, and the township had then outstanding; Railroad bonds to amount of $47,500; township bonds $25,000 - total indebtedness $72,500. The total expense of the bond cases were reported as $1,169.30
This township was originally a part of Portland Precinct. It was then included in Rapids precinct, and was known by that name until organized as a town in 1852. For the name Coloma no reason can be assigned. It was suggested by a gentleman who had been to California and returned.
The following is a list of township officers:
Supervisor: 1852, Richard Arey; 1853 L H Woodworth; 1854 A. W.(Artems) Worthington; 1855-57 Sidney Barber; 1858-59 Frank Cushing; 1860 - 67 L. L. Emmons; 1868 Jas. A Patterson; 1869-70 L L Emmons; 1871-73 M. R. Adams; 1874-77 H. F. (Henry) Batcheller.
Town Clerks: 1852 L H Woodworth; 1853 D. F. (Daniel) Batcheller; 1854 A W Worthington; 1855-57 Herman Bassett; 1858-67 J. D. Arey; 1868 Richard Arey; 1869-70 A. S. Goodell; 1871 J. D. Davis; 1872-73 James McDonald; 1874 C. E. Doty; 1875-77 Henry P Price.
Assessors: 1852 L H Woodworth; 1853 D F Batcheller; 1854-55 Richard Arey; 1856-69 L L Emmons; 1860 Herman Bassett; 1861-64 L H Woodworth; 1865 J M Wilbur; 1866-67 J. W. Nims; 1868 John Enderton; 1869 J. W.Nims; 1870-71 A. C. Hapgood; 1872 L. H. Woodworth; 1873 J. W. Nims; 1874 C. H. Payson; 1875-77 J. W. Nims
Collector: 1852 A. F. R. (Asa) Emmons; 1853 Sidney Barber; 1854 Samuel Emmons; 1855 John Enderton; 1856-57 Henry Aument; 1858 E H Barber; 1859 H F Batcheller; 1860-62 Richard Arey; 1863-65 J W Nims; 1866 Richard Arey; 1867-68 N. C. Sturtevant; 1869-70 Julius Smith; 1871 Chas. Labron; 1872 John D. Davis; 1873-76 Theo. P. Lukens; 1877 Timothy Burdick
Justice of the Peace: 1852 Frank Cushing, Samuel Emmons; 1853 Richard Arey; 1854 Josiah Sturtevant; 1856 C. C. King: 1857 L. H. Woodsworth; 1858 Alonzo Golder; 1859 Samuel Emmons; 1860 L. H. Woodworth, Frank Cushing; 1863 G W Hall, Richard Arey; 1864 L. H. Woodworth; 1865 Richard Arey; 1866 J. M. Wilbur, L H Woodworth; 1867 J D Arey, L H Woodworth; 1869 J D Arey; 1870 J M Scott, H P Price; 1872 C G Glenn, T. C. Loomis; 1873 J. D. Davis, A. S. Goodell; 1874 R. L. Hamilton; 1876 James Pettigrew; 1877 J. A. Kline, James Pettigrew.
[Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles Bent; pub. 1877; Page 126-130]
The city of Rock Falls, situated on the south side of the Rock River, in the northern part of Coloma Township, stands on a sandy plain, sufficiently elevated to be out of the reach of floods. The original plat covered the northwest fractional quarter of section 27 and the northeast fractional quarter of section 28, in township 21 north, range seven, east of the fourth Principal Meridian.
The great advantage of this site were noticed by the early settlers and a town called Rapids City was laid out. However, the financial state of business, the want of capital, and the difficulty of obtaining money with which to make improvements, rendered the progress of the locality slow and years passed by before another effort was made to call attention to the vast capabilities of this locality. The Rock River flowed as free and bridgeless as when the Indians were lords of its bands and the forests rang with the war-whoop of he savage Winnebagos. In 1857, the plat of Rapids City was entirely vacated and a town was almost unthought of. In 1854 the Sterling Hydraulic Co., built a dam and the water power became available. In 1867 A.P. Smith, a native of New York, a man of energy and sagacity, moved to this neighborhood from Sterling, bought a tract of land, and laid out a town, to which he gave the name of Rock Falls. Mr. Smith possessedthe capital necessary to improve the property and at once began the construction of a race, connecting with the dam of the Sterling Hydraulic Co. The work was completed at a cost of $12,000 and the work of building up a town began.
A.C. Hapgood moved a store from Como to Rock Falls and began business this year. Messrs. Galt and Tracy erected a machine shop, the nucleus of the Keystone Works and later International Harvester Co. Gideon Reynolds adn Mary Arey were married in December, the first wedding in the place. A daughter was born to J. Barker, the first birth. The first death was Byron C. Hunt in 1868. A postoffice was established and opened for business March 15, 1868, with Truman Culver as postmaster. On Jan. 26, at a public meeting, it was resolved to incorporate the town under the general law of the State. Fifteen votes awere polled, all in favor of the step. An electrion for Trustees was held Feb. 4 and 48 votes were cast. The town government was immediately organized. The first ordinance was entitled, "An ordinance to prohibit the sale of malt liquors in the town of Rock Falls in quantities of less than one gallon," and bears the date of Feb. 26, 1869. IT was resolved that no licenses for saloons should be granted and Rock Falls started out on her onward and upward career as a temperance town.
In 1870, the license party carried the day, 83 votes being cast at the leection. The license party again prevailed at the annual elections in 1871, at which only 60 votes were cast. During 1871, the Chicago and Rock River Railroad, extending from Shabbona on the Chicago and Iowa Railroad to Rock Falls, was built, passing through a rich agricultural district. Before its completion it passed into the hands of the CB&Q Railroad Co. In 1872 the license party again prevailed at the polls, 150 votes being cast. The Chicago and Rock River Railroad was formally opened for business on Jan. 4, 1872. The town of Rock Falls grew in population and wealth and was much benefitted by the increased facilities afforded for business by the railroad. In 1874,75,76 and 77, a no-license board was elected, the vote being polled as follows: 1874 155 votes; 1875 171 votes; 1876 230 votes; and 1877 171 votes.
Manufacturing establishments multiplied and the population increased from 471 in 1870 to 1200 in 1877. A survey in 1877 shows the following - One dry goods store, four groceries, two millinery, on tailor, two drug stores, one jeweler, two boot and shoe stores, one harness shop, two butchere shops, three hardward stores, three blacksmith's, one barber, one lumber yard, one elevator, two coal dealers, one iceman, one bank, one news depot, one real estate and surveyors office, one real estate office, one real estate & insurance office, four hotels, six physicians, two printing offices, oen restraurant, two livery stables, the Keystone Mfg. Co, Eureka Mfg, E.C. Palmer, H.F. Batcheller and Son, Phelps & Dyer, Utility Works, A.S. Todd, Union Mfg., Rock FallsMfg, a mitton factory, one merchant, flouring mill, one feed and meal mill. There were three churches, a lodge of IOOF, two lodges AOUW, and one hose company. The town had two school houses and a well managed grade school was maintained nine months out of the year. The railroad company had a depot building, roundhouse, water tank and turntable.
Rock Falls was connected with Sterling by a bridge and a small steamer the White Swan, ran between the two places above the dam. Measures were taken that year to erect a free bridge above the dam and it was scheduled to be completed during 1878 at a cost of $40,000. It would connect Mulberry Street in Sterling, with Bridge Street in Rock Falls, passing over the Chicago and Northwestern Railway track. The early history of ROck Falls would be incomplete without a sketch of Augustus P. Smith, the founder. He was a native of Cobleskill, Schohark County, New York and was born Feb. 2, 1831. In 1848 he went to New York City, where he resided two years and then became a resident of Cherry Valley, Otsego County, N ew York, where he also remained two years. From there he went to Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, and in 1855 came to Illinois, settling in Sterling in 1856, residing there until his move to Rock Falls, which became his home. Smith was married to Miss Elvira J. Champlin at Gloversville, N.Y., April 14, 1855. Their children were Florence May, born in 1859; Mabel E., 1861, Helen Marr 1863 and Gertrude in 1868. In 1867 he founded Rock Falls.
The schools of Rock Falls were an outgrowth of those of Coloma. The early settlers mostly men of some education who felt that knowledge is power and that to their children mental culture was almost as important as food. Schools were therefore early founded and the schoolhouse and the teacher were almost as necessary in the pioneer settlements as they are today. In 1845, Miss Anastatia Sturtevant, eldest daughter of Josiah Sturtevant, taught the first school in an old store building in Rapids City. The next year, 1846, a small building, 12 x 12 originally constructed for a cornhouse was bought from L.H. WOodworth for the sum of $20, to be paid in produce, the amount being raised by subscription. It was moved to where the brick schoolhouse in East Coloma later stood, and a Miss McLaughlin was installed as a teacher. The number of pupils increased and in 1854 the erection of a brick school house was begun, the old house being completed in 1856. In 1858 there were two school districts in Coloma, one in the east part, the other in the west part with the school house located on the east part of Section 31. In 1877 Distric No. 2 contained Rock Falls and all west of the township, with District No. 1 east of town, with a schoolhouse located in the southeast part of Section 26. [Sterling Daily Gazette July 25, 1967]
The city of Rock Falls today is enhanced in the historic shadow of a prairie-land area once commanded by Indians who made dual use, as a provider of necessary foodstuffs and a methods of travel as well, of the swift flowing waters of the Rock River which forms the natural north boundry of the city. As early as 1837, Isaac Merrill, the first permanent citizen of the area which was first called "Rapids City" settledhere to be followed that same year by Edward Atkins, A.B. Wheeler and Daniel Brooks. These men laid out a tract a square mile to be called Rapids City. It was on the bank of the Rock River at the east section of Rock Falls that pioneer-settler Edward Atkins built a home later to be known as "Arey House." The building occurred in 1837 and included walnut shingles, oak floor and siding of various timber and woods from the adjacent area. Another homestead in east Rock Falls was built by L.H. Woodworth in 1839. Woodworth was a surveyor for the canal to be built later at the east edge of Rock Falls.
The founder of the City of Rock Falls was A.P. Smith, an industrialist with a vision for this area. Smith came from New York, was originally a teacher of music. In 1867 Smith purchased the Sterling Hydraulic Company which controlled a dam built in 1854, one half interest in their water power and 40 acres of land on the south side of the river, as well as 25 acres from other parties, and laid out the town of Rock Falls. Smith went on to construct a race and offered inducements to capitalists to make inveestments and after area responses, numerous factories were in operation.
The village of Rock Falls was organized in 1869 under Illinois state law. The first town meeting was held on Jan. 26, 1869 and William L. Smith was elected president and H.P. Price, clerk. Five trustees to represent the town were elected at a town meeting on Fe. 4, 1869 and they were W.L. Smith, William H. Shephard, Eli Geiger, Henry P. Price and J.A. Bickford. Geiger was named treasurer; Charles H. Wellman, constable; J.A. Patterson, supervisor; John Arey, surveyor; William Smith, street commissioner and Eli Eckman, poundmaster. It was during 1869, the founder of Rock Falls, August Smith, built a mitten factory which employed some 80 girls and produced some $100,000 in good yearly. In later years the building was to serve as a school and the last occupant and owner was the Rock Falls Odd Fellows Order.
Also during the year of 1869, a class holding meetings in an unfinished store in Rock Falls organized and proceeded to build the very first church in the city. This group founded the present Rock Falls United Methodist Church and the the first church facility was built in 1870 and the cost was set at $4,189. The largest concern in the young city of Rock Falls in the year 1870 was through an organization of the Keystone Company by Galt and Tracy, formerly of Sterling. Galt and Tracy owned a factory in Sterling which was destroyed by fire in the summer of 1867 and almost immediately, they crossed he river to Rock Falls and laid the foundation for the new works which grew into the Keystone Company in 1871. They engaged in the manufacture of cornplanters and other farm machinery and their warehouses crowded the bank of the Rock River.
At the time (1870) the Keystone Company was organized the official populaton of Rock Falls was 471 residents. After the death of George Tracy, several changes were made and among them, the name "International Harvester Company". The extended International Harvester plant covered seven acres and the buildings proper, averaging three stories, occupied five of the seven acres. The yearly production was between 45,000 to 50,000 farm machines of various kinds. The foundry was making yearly some 1,500,000 casting using about eight million pounds of iron. In 1871 the railroad was completed giving Rock Falls a direct communication with Chicago. Eureka Manufacturing Company also organized in 1871 and was following by the Industrial Building at a cost of $50,000 and then, the Globe Mills.
The first Rock Falls bank was organized in October of 1874 along with the Keystone Burial Case Company and the White Swan Ferry business between Sterling and Rock Falls. In 1876 W.E. Lukens platted a nursery and began selling lots. The first new store was built in 1867 by T. Culver. The first free bridge over the Rock River connecting the twin cities was built in 1878. In 1879 the Northwestern Barbed Wire Company was organized. In 1880 the first high school class had six graduates and the Rock Falls population was 894 persons. In 1881, A.C. Stanley purchased the grocery business owned by John Newton. The Rock Falls News was established in 1882 by Captain William Parker and first located in rooms over the Rock Falls post office.
Highlights of the year 1883 in Rock Falls included the construction of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Bridge across the Rock River and the purchase of the IOOF Cemetery at the east edge of Rock Falls. On April 18, 1883 the trustees from the Rock Falls Independent Order of Add Fellows were authorized to purchase a 10 acre land tract east of Rock Falls for the purpose of establishing a cemetery. The land was purchased from B.F. LeFever and A.C. Stanley was the the first treasurer of the cemetery. Records indicate the third lot in the cemetery was sold to T.Stevenson for the sum of $10.
There is little in the historical record to be found about the first cemetery in Coloma Township or Rock Falls. An earlier record did indicate a small cemetery plot located at the corner of Dixon Avenue and First Avenue but no records have been found to substantiate the number of graves or when they wre apparently moved to what is now the IOOF Cemetery. In 1885 George W. Packer purchased the E.F. Brook Company whic manufactured Yankee hand sleds, butter tub machinery and blacksmith punches. The Merrill School was built in 1888 and still in 1889, an old schoolhouse was purchased for the Rock Falls City Hall. The population of Rock Falls had grown to 1,950 in the 1890 census. In 1892, the population was 2,535 and at the end of 1897, the population was estimated at 3,500.
In 1891 the paper mill exploded killing four men and destroying the building. Also during 1891 A.C. Stanley, a prominent merchant, built a three story brick building in the 100 block on West Second Street called "The Stanley House". Stanley house featured a hotel in the upper stories and restaurant in the lower level. City officier in 1893 included Ward Lincoln, Mayor; E.C. Winters, city clerk; H.L. Shelton, city attorney; Phil H. David, treasurer; T.S. Welch, marshal and John Rae, superintendent of streets. BlF. Kadel was chief of the Rock Falls Fire Department; W.C. Holbrook, city engineer;; Dr. E.L. Dow, health commissioner; Charles M. Fox, city electrician and E.C. Winters, city collector.
The board of aldermen included R.E. Wetzell and H.N. Shaffer, first ward; John Dickson, R.H. Woods, second ward; A.S. Goodell and e.A. Macomber, third ward. Progressing rapidly, the City of Rock Falls telephone line was extended to Tampico in 1894 and in 1895, the first electric light plant was established. The first Christian Church of Rock Falls was establishedin 1897 and area sons were enlisting in the Spanish-American War during 1898. Street names were changed in Rock Falls during 1899 and the Frank Building was built.
At the turn of the century, Rock Falls boasted fine business houses which represented every l ine of trade enhanced by a busy "Main Street" district. A.J. McNeil was the leading hardware dealer along with E.U. Taylor. The A.C. Stanley grocery store was listed as the biggest business in town. E.R. Hopkins ran a jewelry store and F.H. Geyer operated the largest furniture store. J.M. Bickford operated the leading drug store and rolla H. Woods ran the Billiard Hall. Kline & Son ran a drug store also in the Geyer block.
At thistime, among the factories and establishments were large lines of agricultural iimplements, barrel carts, butter tubs, lumber, building material, cabinet furniture, carpet weavers, carriages, wagons, chairs, dairy good, garden implements, hardware specialties, hrness and saddelry good, ladder trucks, machine shops, paint shops, stock waterers and windmills. Among the retair stores there were three dealers in agricultural and farm implements; two bakeries; three barber shops; six blacksmiths and horse shoers; three boot and shoemaker stores; two lumber, wood, coal, brick and building dealers and three carpenters, building and contractors.
Others were, three dry goods and carpet firms; two dentists, three dressmakers; two dealers in harness andhorse furnishings, installment house, livery, feed and sale stables, three livestock dealers; five market gardeners, and three quarry building stone, masons and contractors. Others included three meat markets, three music teachers; four physicians and surgeons; five real estate dealers; two variety stores; six boarding houses; three book printers includind books and stationery; five insurance agencies, four clothing stores; four restaurants and a number of fruit and vegetable growers on the edge of the city.
In addition to the manufacturing climate in Rock Falls at the turn of the century, the city provided a water system, electric light plant, a sewer stystm that was under construction, improved streets many with brick and cement walks, schools of the highest standard and many churches. Surrounded by one of the finer agricultural regions in the state, Rock Falls was further enhanced at the turn of the century by many beautiful homes lending assurance to the fact it was at that time a "rapidly growing city" offering many desirable advantages. [Sterling Daily Gazette July 2, 1976]
Rock Falls Early Fire Department
The first volunteer fire company in Rock Falls was known as the Keystone Hose Co., named because the equipment belonged to the Keystone factory. Meetings were held at the Keystone plant. No night was too cold or wet for the hardy volunteers, who responded at all hours to the fire bell. Many times,e specially at night, there were only five or six men, but they were joined by more along the way. The men pulled the fire wagon until the full team arrived.
In 1907 a fire station was built, shortly after the city jail had been erected. It joined together the jail and the city hall building. The department continued to be a volunteer one, but its name was changed from Keystone Hose Co. to the Rock Falls Fire Department. Much new and better equipment was purchased and a fire wagon and a team of spirited horses was obtained.
The horses soon became favorites among the citizens of Rock Falls. They were named "Thome" and Grady" after ex-mayor A.A. Thome and ex-postmaster C. C. Grady. The responsibility for their training fell to P.A. Whitney, who soon after the fire station was completed became the first driver of the fire wagon. He worked patiently with the horses, training them so well they performed their duties efficiently for 13 years, at which time a motor truck was purchased.
When Whitney was the driver of the fire wagon theere were from 16 to 18 volunteers on the department. He served for over one year and was succeeded at the end of that time by Robert Nicol. The two fire horses found a good home for retirement at the George Eckert farm near Geneseo, where they lived several more years.
The members of the Rock Falls Fire Department in 1929 included John Smith, fire chief; Clyde Graves, assistant; Robert Nicol, fire truck driver; Sam McBride, assistant fire truck driver; Lloyd Emmons, Lawrence Hixon, Sam Traister, John Edeus and FredSmith. Fireman Fred Smith was the only member of the department who once belonged to the old original Keystone Hose Co. Fire truck driver Robert Nicol joined the department at the time it was organized.
Some of the early firemen were; C.C. Grady, A.C. Stanley, Andrew Burdick, A.J. McNeil, George Huffler, Stratton Mingle, Frank Beemis, John Pippert Sr., H. Shaffer, C.P. Frye, William Emmons, Harry Price, John Dickson, Robert Harper, P.A. Whitney, Marion Humphrey, Wallace Billings, Fred Wagley, Gus Hansen, William Deyoe, Allie Morrison, Edward Haag, Edward Hankenson, Herman Redemeyer, Gus Petri, E.L. Longellow, Dan Roland, John Lineberry and Clifford Graves.
A.C. Stanley, Robert Harper, John Washburn and Clarence Scott were several of the early fire chiefs of the Department. Connie Nicol, former fire chief of the Sterling Fire Department and a father of the present fire chief, Richard Nicol, was a regular attendant at the firemen's meetings with his dad when he was a youngster. When the roll was taken, Connie's name was always called and he responded in the same manner as the firemen died. [From the Daily Gazette July 25, 1967]
BACK -- HOME
© Copyright Genealogy Trails