Some History of Whiteside County IL
Written by Landis Fay (1992)
Second Edition Edited, Transcribed and Contributed by Larry Reynolds April 2006
Preface to the Second Edition
The original history of Figi was written on a manual typewriter by Fay C. Landis in 1992. The copy in the Sterling Library was not a good reproduction and, therefore, it did not provide suitable copies. For that reason, I volunteered to transcribe it so that a more readable and reproducible copy could be made available. During the process of transcribing the book, I also made some minor editing and spelling changes, but I was careful not to remove the first-person character of Mr. Landis’ text. I also added two appendixes: one provides background on the Patriots’ War, an obscure skirmish between New York and Canada in the early 1800s; and the other is a transcription of a newspaper article providing a brief summary of the history of Figi.
The first edition did not have the author’s name on it and his name was almost lost to history. This book provides such a rich history of Clyde and Genesee townships that I thought it was only fitting to include something about the life of Mr. Landis, who died in 1998. For that reason, I have included a memorial to him.
I trust readers will find this second edition of value whether the interest is local history or family history. First-person accounts of early county histories are exceedingly rare. Regardless of our interest, we all owe a debt of gratitude to Mr. Landis for the effort it took him to record his remembrances. If it were not for him, not only would the early history of the area be lost, but the name Figi would have long ago been forgotten.
Larry L. Reynolds Providence Forge, Virginia
In Memoriam August 18, 1950
Coleta Man Writes Book Of Poems On Humorous Philosophy
In “I Dare You to Read This.” a book of poems inspired by all kinds of events, activities, conditions, observations and the things that concern man, just issued from the press of a New York publisher, are the literary forays of Fay C. Landis, bachelor, Coleta farmer, and a native of Rock Falls.
The pen name of the writer is “Kuzzan Zeeke” and he is a teller of tall tales, amusing anecdotes and composer of poems about many subjects among whom motion picture stars are not exempt.
There is much that is amusingly readable in this little volume, which does credit to Mr. Landis.
He was born in Rock Falls and attended Whiteside county schools and Wartburg college. He is now engaged in farming his father’s farm in Clyde township. Writing is his recreation.
FAY LANDIS MORRISON
Fay C. Landis, 85, of 22420 Pigeon road, Morrison, died Monday, Nov. 9, 1998, at his home.
Funeral services will be at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at First Presbyterian Church, Morrison, with the Rev. Dr. James A. Camp, pastor, officiating. Burial will be at Grove Hill Cemetery, Morrison. There will be no visitation. Arrangements were completed by the Morrison Chapel of the Bosman-Renkes Funeral Home. A memorial has been established.
Mr. Landis was born Sept. 27, 1913, in Rock Falls, the son of Elmer and Emma (Minssen) Landis. He graduated from Morrison High School and attended Wartburg College, Clinton, Iowa. He married Gertrude R. Huggins on Oct. 4, 1953, in Garden Plain. She survives. He farmed in the rural Morrison area his entire life. He was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, Morrison. He authored a book of poems and wrote lyrics to the song “The Rock River Valley.”
Survivors include two daughters, Ruth Ann (Perry) Clark of Freeport and Naomi Lee Kerkove of Fulton; a son, Ray (Marjorie) Landis of Davison, Minn.; seven grandchildren; and seven great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by a grandson and two granddaughters.
Figi, White Pigeon, and Suburbs
Let us explore some of the early history of the northern and northeastern parts of Whiteside County, giving special emphasis to northwestern Genesee Township in the vicinity of Genesee Grove and the early settlement of Figi as well as the northeastern part of Clyde Township in the vicinity of White Pigeon and New Clyde.
Top Priority: Wood and Water
Our early history is dominated by the specific needs of the people striving to make a living here in hopes of opportunity and freedom to espouse their philosophies of life. From 1835 to the 1850s, the settlers needed wood and water; therefore, they took to the wooded areas or groves that were near small streams and springs. The woods provided shelter from the roaring prairie winds. In the 1850s they began to get markets for their grain and livestock; consequently; they started to buy prairie land nearby and kept living in their original homes. Slowly but surely, they found this arrangement to be an inconvenience and built frame houses on their workable lands since many saw mills sprung up by the grist mills along the streams.
Freedom, Opportunity, and Elbow Room
First, many came here from the southeast part of the United States, because of slavery. My great, great-grandfather came from Virginia. He was a Dunkard and they were opposed to slavery. Some, like the Jesse Hill family, came from North Carolina, walked 1,500 miles to Rock Creek, found it flooded and impossible to cross, went back a couple of miles, and settled at Genesee Grove. The area today included the Genesee Grove Central Cemetery and the Coleta Sportsmen Club and on north. Some settlers carried their supplies on a packhorse as only a few could afford horses or oxen to pull wagons. Also, many of the trails and streams were impassable for wagons much of the time. Others came down the Ohio River by raft and up the Mississippi to Fulton. Then they hired someone to haul their possessions to their planned location.
Quite a few settlers came from Canada. They originally came from Scotland and England or Ireland, but became involved in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38. This was enough war for them so they came especially to Clyde Township. After the Civil War, around the 1870s, there was a large influx of Germans because of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Germany resorted to compulsory military training and when these men were mustered out of the army, they too had their fill of war. So those with families immigrated to Whiteside County. My grandfather was no exception; he didn’t want to raise his sons for “cannon fodder.”
Just prior to and after the Civil War, another change came for the people as the railroads crisscrossed the country and the population centers moved like the shifting sand. First, the Grove centers; then these were changed to the needs of the prairie dwellers, followed by the explosive growth caused by the railroad centers leading to towns created by factory workers.
Rock Creek starts in the eastern part of Carroll County and flows in a southwesterly direction through Clyde Township and on through Whiteside County into Rock River just east of Erie. It is about 55 miles long and had several grist and saw mills in our area. Little Rock Creek originates in Carroll County, flowing south into Rock Creek through the middle of Clyde Township with a course of about 15 miles. Little Spring or Figi Creek begins from springs in Genesee Township and flows into Rock Creek in the southeast part of Clyde Township and is about 10 miles long. Franklin or Pigeon Creek originates in Section 2, Clyde Township and flows in a “U” direction for about 5½ miles into Rock Creek in Section 13 just south of Stinemeyer’s mill.
Government in the Making
Prior to 1825 our area was part of Tazewell County and was inhabited by the Winnebago, Sax, and Fox Indians. On January 13, 1825, we became part of Peoria County, which extended to the border of the Wisconsin Territory. As far as can be determined there were no Europeans living permanently in our area. However, there were trail roads used for transient travel, especially to Galena and Peoria. On February 17,1827, Jo Daviess County was formed and our areas became part of it. However, it wasn’t until 1835 when our first permanent settlers came in the form of the Jesse Hill family, who settled in Genesee Grove, and the Adam and John James families, who settled in the southwestern part of Genesee Grove. On February 16, 1836, Ogle County was formed and we became a part of it. We were in the Crow Precinct and voted at Lyndon. It comprised about two-thirds of what is now Whiteside County. In 1837 Genesee Grove became a part of the Elkhorn Precinct and Dent’s Grove (Clyde) became part of the Union Grove Precinct, voting at Unionville.
We Can Vote
In 1836 about a total of 50 people voted in the area of what is now Whiteside County. The Ogle County commissioners set the price of each meal at 37½ cents, each horse fed at 25 cents, each horse per day and night at 75 cents, each lodging per night at 12 ½ cents, and a pint of whiskey at 12 ½ cents. In 1836 a tax of ½ of 1 percent was levied for county purposes on slaves, carriages, sleighs, distilleries, horses, cattle, watches, clocks, and household furniture. “Boy! These taxes will be the death of me yet! Who says this is a ‘free’ country?”
On March 11, 1837, the Lewiston Trail ran from Peoria to Galena, crossing Rock River on Asa Crook’s ferry just above Prophetstown, crossing Plum River near Savanna, and Wappal’s on Apple River. There was also a second road across the future Whiteside County on the west coming from Geneseo, crossing Rock River at Penny’s ferry near Rock Island, then to Albany, crossing Green River, then north of Fulton, then to Savanna, and joining the Lewiston Trail to Galena. There was also a trail road leading from Chicago to Dixon (Dixon’s ferry over Rock River) to Garden Plain, then to Albany where there was a ferry across the Mississippi River to Camanche, Iowa, and on westward. The Galena-Springfield stage coach road crossed Rock Creek near Armstrong’s quarry. Just across the trail on the north side was a stone house along the side of the hill with spring water running out of the basement. The stage coaches used to stop there and it was originally the White Pigeon Post Office according to an old timer named Will Heide. They also had branch and jerkwater lines to the coach lines and at various intervals. Let us remember that Chadwick is a railroad town that wasn’t founded until the 1880s.
The Winnebago Indians thrived in the Figi and White Pigeon Grove areas, especially along Rock Creek. At the time of the Black Hawk War of 1832, there were a considerable number of Sax and Fox Indians here. It is said that Abraham Lincoln and U.S. Grant have traveled through the area. Grant’s home was at Galena and Lincoln was a captain in the Black Hawk War, having stayed in the Dixon area. After the war the Sax and Fox Indians were forced into the Wisconsin Territory; however, the Winnebagos were quite numerous until 1839. They enjoyed the plentiful hunting and fishing in our community. Generally they were peaceful, but were quite light fingered; for example, borrowing a horse without the owner’s consent and forgetting to return it. They liked to help themselves to the early settler’s cache of food and clothing when the settlers were away from home. Then the people would attempt to catch them and whip them with a black snake whip if they caught them. The Indians didn’t like that and threatened to come back and scalp these settlers and burn down their houses. But, they rarely came back because they hated to feel the lash of the whip. Sometimes the settlers would escort them out of the community with any implement of warfare available. On of the circuit rider preachers at Figi took a common table fork as a weapon. The Indians were scared to death of it because they believed a stab by one would always be fatal. If you are shocked that they whipped Indians, remember that in this era, whipping with a black snake whip was a common form of punishment for anyone caught breaking the law, especially claim jumpers.
The Indians raised corn on the creek bottoms. Each Spring they would pull out the old stalks of corn and drop seed corn in the hole with a fish for fertilizer and then cover it with soil. They used crude hoes made of a pointed rock tied to a limb with whang leather to cover and hill the forthcoming plants. Because the hills were at the same place each year, the bottoms became very rough and almost looked like they were boggy.
On my dad’s farm there was about ten acres of. prairie grass on the west side of the road and about a quarter of a mile back from the road. J.M. Winkey said that it was one of the rare places in the vicinity that had prairie grass and that the Indians used to have a campsite there. To this I will have to agree because I remember when my dad plowed just before the gentle slope he plowed up bushels of Indian arrow chips, but he never found any relics at the campsite. Apparently the Indians took extremely good care of their equipment; but, about 20 rods away you would begin to find all kinds of arrowheads and tools. I found an excellently-preserved axe about 50 rods away; also spear points, celts, and tomahawks. Some arrow points were not native to our area. Perhaps they traveled farther away from home than people think, and their love for trinkets that are colorful made them trade with other tribes. They enjoyed amusements like other people, as I have found quite a few game balls (perfectly founded rocks). They also had mortars and pestles for grinding, and even a rock by which you could twirl a stick with whang leather to create enough friction heat to light a fire.
I always wondered why the Indians made a campsite in an open prairie grass area, as there wasn’t any running water there, or so I thought. However, we made a startling discovery when they built the Pilgrim Road along the south side of the piece where the prairie grass had been. I saw a big earthmover stuck plus three large caterpillar tractor-bulldozers and a smaller bulldozer all at the same time. They didn’t get one earthmover machine load of clay moved all afternoon. They finally used dynamite to blow out and loosen the dirt. The Indians had water all right, and a sufficient quantity to last all summer.
Dug Wells and Springs
The early settlers knew this also, as I can remember in the “40” on the J.T. Jansen place they had dug a well boxed in by oak plants down 20 feet or so and it was thirst quenching cook and guzzlet tickling tasty on the hottest days. It had a windlass with a bucket on each end. Yes, the rocks of the Rock Creek provided many excellent springs. On the old Reecher place near Figi where the Coleta Trout Ponds are, there is still a very healthy spring with running water flowing across the cellar floor and out the side through a 6- to 8-inch tile. It furnishes enough water to feed the three trout ponds. I can remember about 50 years ago when a man by the name of Weltzin lived there. They had a muskrat get into the basement. What a commotion among the jars of milk, butter, and other perishable edibles until Mr. Weltzin used the shotgun. Wow! The good old days! There is also a spring house on the old Harve Lorke place, now owned by the Reinhard Habben estate.
Indian Mounds and Altars
Getting back to the Indians, before going on a spring tangent: in Section 13, Clyde Township, in the White Pigeon area there are four burial mounds and two altars. I saw them when I was a young boy while hunting for ginseng with my dad and Louis Stinemeyer. I took a picture of one of the altars on a clear day and there is a haze emanating from it. How can that be explained? One thing is for sure; I’m not going to disclose the exact location because there are some who will be tempted to be poachers. After all these years we should let these sacred burying grounds of the Indians be left alone. Perhaps it can be said this was the Indian way of cremation. First, remember that a mound is more or less like a mass grave that is on top of the ground instead of being dug six feet deep. Besides the bones and teeth, there are rock tools, arrows, spears, and pottery. Items that the Indians thought apropos for their spiritual life, while the altar is much smaller—about 6 feet long and 4–5 feet wide. It is usually found on rocky soil and is not as high as the mound. The body is placed on the ground, covered with humus soil and limestone rock, and a big fire is built over it. After each fire, the ground level is slightly raised a bit by the charcoal, lime, and ashes. About the only tell-tale evidence is teeth and a different type of soil.
Genesee became a township of Whiteside County in 1852. Prior to that it was first a part of Crow Creek Precinct, then Elkhorn Precinct, and afterward a precinct by itself called Genesee Grove Precinct in Ogle County. Before that, it was part of Winnebago County, Galena County, Peoria County, and Tazewell County. Genesee Grove is about six miles long and three miles wide and is in the northwest part of the township. In 1835 it was settled by the Jesse Hill, Sr. family who walked 1,500 miles from North Carolina. The Adam and John James families lived in the southwest part. The Indians told the Hill family that there was another “paleface” family living nearby, so Jesse Hill went to find out if someone was living on his claim. After a discussion, they both concluded that 6,000 acres of land was enough on which both of them could survive so they divided the Grove equally.
1835—Jesse Hill, Sr., 9 children, wife (died in Indiana). Adam and John James families.
1836—John Wick, William Wick, Eli Redman, Mark Harrison, Joseph Mush, and Samuel Landis. Most built their cabins near what is now the Genesee Grove Central Cemetery. There were stone basements on the south side of what is now Pilgrim Road. When I was a young boy, Sunday School kids used to somehow find time to play there. J.M. Winkey, William Winkey, Annetta Fredericks Conrady verified that the name of the settlement was Figi.
1837—Ivory Colcord, Pleasant Stanley, Isaac Brookfield, James McMullen, and Jacob Hufman.
1838—Levi Marble, Edward Richardson, Mr. Carr, Harvey Summers, John Thompson Crum, Martin D. McCrea, William Crum, and Henry Holbrook.
1839—James Scoville, R. Tilton Hughes, Ezra R. Huett, Rensselaer Baker, Israel Reed, Marvin Chappell, and Watson Parish. A total of 29 families.
Figi Area Firsts (Schools)
During the winter of 1837–38, Ivory Colcord held school “larning” sessions at the William Wick log cabin. Some of the young men commenced to learn the alphabet and afterward learned enough to enable them to do business. Later, Dinsmoor Barnett taught school near the Wick cabin when the neighbors did not have day work for him. Log school houses were built just as soon as four or five families settled near each other. The first school cabin was erected near the creek north of the William Wick cabin and within a few rods of Walter Doud’s cabin. They left the bark in the logs so it could be distinguished from the homes. Soon afterwards, another school was built on the north side of the Grove near the Jesse Hill cabin. At about the same time, Nelson Fletcher taught at a school near Prospect Grove. This grove is just east of Genesee Grove and a short distance north with parts of it extending into Carroll County. Mr. Fletcher afterward lived in Carroll County and was its county school superintendent. A short time later, a school was built at New Genesee in Section 31, which is in the southwest corner of the township.
The first religious services in the area were held in the cabin of William Wick by Methodist circuit riders. They were men who were full of zeal and faith, ever pressing onward to the outposts of civilization, preaching the Word of Life in the cabins of the settlers. As soon as they built a school cabin, they would use it also for a church. Separation of Church and State issues had not yet arisen. Riley Hill was the man of the house at Figi, and formed a Methodist Society in 1838 at its school cabin. Ivory Colcord was chosen class leader. Riley Hill moved on, and several families kept holding meetings. In 1840, six families decided to form a Christian Church, as the result of Rev. Henry Howe coming to Figi, moving into the cabin of Nathaniel Moxley, and holding revival meetings. He baptized 13 members and stayed until 1844.
In 1843, John Yager settled in Figi. Mr. Yager’s ancestors were from Germany and he was raised a farmer and followed agricultural pursuits; but, in addition, he was an ordained minister of the church organized by Alexander Campbell, now called the Christian Church. He and many members of his family are buried on top of the hill in the West Genesee Grove Central Cemetery. On his stone it says that he organized the Christian Church at Figi in 1843. Whenever they did not have a regular minister, J.Y. Yager and Tomas Stanley took turns preaching. Later, Rev. Barton Courtright came to the Wick cabin and became the regular minister. The United Brethren organized at Hazel Green School in 1854 at Sight (Prospect) Grove. In 1858 they built an edifice to the school house. Pastors were Rev. T.H. Grimm, Rev. D.S. Buck, Rev. M.V. Crum, and W.I. Buyers.
German Lutheran Church in West Genesee
After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, the Figi area had a large influx of Lutheran Germans, who were tired of war and, since Germany had compulsory military training, they found the answer to their prayers in Genesee and Clyde Townships. They found the old church a golden opportunity. Since it was on the land of Henry Litzrodt, they bought title to the land just west of the cemetery to use for a house of worship for a small stipend with the right to use the land for as long as it remained an independent Lutheran Church. They built a new edifice just after the mid-1880s. It was well attended for years until the influx of churches were assembled in large towns in the area. It was here that old timers of today saw the stone basements of the remnants of the early days when Figi prospered across the road o the south side.
In the early years ministers were students from the Wartburg Seminary at Dubuque, Iowa. In the mid-1880s the railroads expanded almost everywhere throughout the area. In 1886, the year Chadwick was founded, a railroad was built through Chadwick from Milledgeville. A route was built to Dubuque and Chadwick came on the map. My grandfather lived on 40 acres east of Milledgeville. He noticed groundhogs had dug out gravel from their burrows. Then he sold his land to the railroad which built a short spur to his farm, using the gravel to build the railroad through Chadwick and on westward and northward. The railroad served our area very well, as student ministers from the seminary would come to Milledgeville by train early on Sunday morning. Then a member of the church would get them to perform the services much to the religious satisfaction of the members. Then a family would treat the student to a good old-fashioned farmer square meal, much to his delight, after which they would take him back to Milledgeville by horse and buggy. The service, followed by a meal, gave the student experience and incentive.
The Plucky Preacher
The names of the Litzrodt, Weanke (Winkey), Grubb, Wagner, Rhode, Fredericks, Brown, Schultz, Strauch, Lorke (Larkey), and Kuebler families were well represented on its roll. From one of these names there was a member who was guilty of imbibing a little too freely. His wife went to the preacher at the Lutheran Church and asked what she should do about it. The preacher came to their place that same day, hunted up all the whiskey bottles and jugs her husband had stacked away and broke every one of them! What a stinking mess, but glory hallelujah! The husband was so upset that he never touched a drop of liquor again, but turned to smoking cigar clippings in his pipe. On his pipe he placed a tin lid with a lead-pencil-sized hole in the lid. He wore bugger boots the entire year with his pant legs about a foot too long. He would shove the pant legs in his boot and then pull the bottom up over his boot top, which made a nice pocket in which to carry his bag of cigar clippings. When he wasn’t smoking, he would put his pipe in the other boot pocket, which was almost never except when eating and milking. When the cows twitched—they had radar in their tails even if it hadn’t been invented yet—they would never miss knocking his pipe out of his mouth and it would land in the gutter. “By goodness life!” he would say in his pet emotional outburst. Then he tied a wad of cord string on the end of the stem of his pipe so he could hold it more firmly in his mouth. He used to read his German Bible regularly and would tell dad about being boiled in sulfur and brimstone.
In the early 1900s, the minister from the West Jordan Church, Illinois Synod, would also serve the Emmanuel Lutheran Church. Among them were Rev. P.C. Boysen, Rev. H.J. Lee, and Rev. J.F. Eshbaugh. The last services of the year would be the Christmas program. Services would not start again until Easter. The congregation dwindled until they only had services every two weeks in the afternoon. During the Depression, Rev. Boysen received $90 a year; however, the Boysen family ate well. One family dressed ducks at Thanksgiving and they saved several bags of potatoes for the minister. The minister attempted to visit each member every month or two, and in the garden season would be given vegetables, berries, apples, pears, and dressed chickens. In winter when butchering was done, they made sure they received some meat. When someone had wheat ground for flour, they received flour. One family raised broom corn and had brooms made. It doesn’t take much imagination to guess who received a couple of them. A neighbor who lived close to the parsonage would give them milk daily. In the Fall the congregation would take a day to cut wood and fill his wood house full of ranked chunk and split wood. When someone shelled corn, they filled the cob house full of cobs. The minister’s family never had to go to a soup kitchen.
Times Haven’t Changed, or Have They?
In the early years the men sat on the west side of the church by a heating stove and the women and children sat on the east side beside the other heating stove. The stove pipes went two-thirds the length of the church before merging into one pipe where it entered the chimney about the beautiful Wurtemburg style altar. One afternoon the stoves smoked out the congregation. Satan much have been trying one of his tricks by raising up a storm cloud of smoke. That following week I helped Rev. Lee take down the pipe; however, Rev. Lee didn’t have any experience in cleaning stovepipes. Even though he made a valiant effort, he forgot to shove together all the stovepipe sections. They came apart and fell onto the pews and the floor. It not only dusted the pews and floor with soot, but our poor minister looked like a “half breed.” We got the job done though and found a dead Moscovey duck in the base of the chimney. We swept up the mess the best we could and felt quite proud of our achievements; that is, until the next meeting. When we arrived at the church, we were greeted with the chattering of the ladies doing the house cleaning; in their Sunday best! They just didn’t appreciate remnants of soot on their clothes. I glanced at Rev. Lee and he was standing there as meek as a lamb with a very penitent look on his face. I knew he was praying: “Lord, help me out of this mess and I promise never to take down those stovepipes again.” And, he didn’t.
In Winter, on occasion, they held services in members’ homes. After the servicess the hostess would have a tass kuffee and some special delicacy of the day, plus hot chocolate for the children. The children kept quiet as a church mouse anxiously awaiting patiently for the service to be over. They relished the singing of the last hymn with extraordinary anticipation.
The Old Order Changes, Yielding to the New
Our son was the last child baptized there in 1956. A few years later, Rev. Eshbaugh held the last service there. At the conclusion of the service a ceremony took place to release the building from the Holy purpose to which it had been dedicated. A Mr. Morrison from Buffalo Grove bought the building and salvaged much good dimension lumber from it. Roscoe Fellows of Round Grove bought the bell. His wife, a Wagner, had been confirmed there. Raymond Habben bought the old pump organ. The beautiful hand-hewn Wurtemburg style altar was kept in the shop for a year or so and then was given to a small Lutheran church near Chicago. The net proceeds from the sale was given to the Bethesda Lutheran Church of Morrison where several of the members went for their church home. The cemetery (Genesee Grove Central), just east of the church, remains giving glory to the many ardent Christians who dedicated their lives in service to their Lord. It is necessary to mention William “Bill” Winkey (Weanke). It was his life, and even though he had much sorrow with which to contend, he bore his cross joyously with faith. I can still hear his wife’s voice singing in her crackly voice in the eternity of time the words of “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.”
Just below the hill from Bill Winkey’s home flows Little Spring Creek Number 2, or Figi Creek as some called it. It is fed by two large springs. One from the Reecher place where the Coleta trout ponds are today and the other northeast from the Winkey farm home now owned by the Coleta Sportsmen Club, which bought the 80 acres from Alfred Habben in 1965. Samuel Reecher, from Maryland, bought the fish pond area in March 1868: 200 acres in Section 17. Coming out of the side of the hill was a large spring of cool water in a stream about the size of a field tile. They built a house over it so the water would run in a stream through the basement to a holding tank for cooling milk; it was later used for a meat processing room. This room was about 16 feet wide and the length of the house. It was built on the opposite side of the house from the hill with a single slant roof. The spring water flowed through it to the other side of the road where later in the 1880s they built a dam to form a lake to stock fish.
In the meat processing room they had a scalding tank which was heated with steam from a boiler. Just outside the room they had an unloading chute and a small enclosure to hold the hogs to be butchered. The flowing spring water carried away the waste products. As many as 20 hogs a day were butchered. Samuel’s sons, Isaac and Aaron Reecher, helped and later became owners of the farm. My aunt was related to the Reechers and she is 96 today. It is estimated that about 350 gallons per minute of water flows from the spring.
First Settler Jesse Hill, Sr.; Genesee Grove
Jesse Hill, Sr., and family originally came from North Carolina and settled on the north side of Genesee Grove in the summer of1835. His wife died in Indiana, and, since he wanted to have his nine children live near him, he came west to Rock Creek; but, it was flooded (it seems that it flooded in those days also) and impossible to cross. So, they went back a couple of miles and concluded that there was enough timber and adjacent prairie to make a living for all of them and they staked a claim. They built a cabin and one day some Indians told them that there was a “smoky woman” on the south side of the grove. They investigated and found the Adam and John James families on the southwest side of the grove. They concluded that each could make a living with half of the grove and the adjoining prairie. Therefore, they made a treaty. Jesse had nine children: five boys and four girls. They did not even have a team of horses so during the first winter of 1835–36, they cleared a field of its timber. The boys split rails and the girls carried them on their shoulders to the place where the fence was to be built. They could not get shoes, boots, broadcloth, worsted goods, or calicoes. Even if they could have obtained them, they didn’t have any money to buy them. Consequently, they had to be contented with buckskin moccasins in place of boots and shoes. The girls made linsey from sheep’s wool and dyed it with the bark of butternut trees. This fabric was called butternut. The girls also made a course fabric from cotton by spinning and weaving. This was worn in the summer and the linsey in the winter. In fact, they did not have store-bought fashions in those days. It can be said that the comfort of the season dictated their attire. Even though they weren’t related to Orientals, they sat in tailor fashion (cross legged) on the puncheon floor because they didn’t have any chairs or tables in the cabin. It sure did save on dusting; a hint for today’s housewives’ welfare.
James Family, 1835; Genesee Grove Southwest
Adam and John James came to southwest Genesee Grove in 1835. Several Winnebago Indians came to the James cabin when the men were not home. It scared the living daylights out of the two ladies and they fled to Union Grove, which was the nearest settlement at that time, or so they thought. One of the women had a baby and she carried it all the way to Union Grove. Night fall came before they got there so they hid in some high prairie grass and slept there. The next day they arrived at Union Grove safe and sound with a determination to never let the Indians surprise them again. The mother was the first prize obtained in 1838 by the grim destroyer of life. The rider of the white horse commenced holding his fairs early in our history and tied the ribbon on the door of many a cabin. The doomed ones were rudely, but sacredly, buried in the grove or on the prairie. The summer winds sang as soft a requiem over their lowly graves as it would have done had the elegant tombstones and imposing monuments of the later days marked their last resting place. Soon after Adam James sold his cabin to William Wick and others. Then the Adam James family returned to Morgan County, Illinois. Incidentally, there was another brother, George O. James, who later settled in Mt. Pleasant Township.
John Wick, October 1836; Figi
John Wick was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, January 26, 1793. He spent his boyhood in Ross County, Ohio, and married Elizabeth King of London County, Virginia, April 14, 1814. They had two boys and two girls. He was a farmer and came to Genesee Grove from Ohio in October 1836. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, serving under General Scott, but didn’t get into the battle that General Scott won, instead arriving there in time to guard prisoners.
William Wick, June 1836; Figi
William Wick was born in Fayette County, Kentucky, and is the brother of John Wick. He also spent his boyhood in Ross County, Ohio, and married Margaret Redman, the sister of Eli Redman who also came to Genesee Grove, in Ohio. He settled in Genesee Grove in 1836. They had four girls and two boys. He died in 1858 and is buried at Figi. In the War of 1812, he served with is brother John. He was an honest, unsuspecting man and was often the victim of designing persons. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Figi. Everyone found a cordial welcome at his cabin, which was the first place that school was held by Ivory Coldord, and later by Dinsmoor Barnett. In 1839 Bill was the first assessor for the County Commissioners.
Eli Redman, June 1836; Figi
Eli Redman was born December 22, 1794, in Greenbrier County, Virginia. He was a farmer and moved to Ohio and then in 1827 to Tazewell County, Illnois. He served as a Private in the Virginia Regiment in the War of 1812. Later he was a Second Lieutenant in the Illinois Militia. Eli came to Figi with his brother-in-law William Wick in June 1836. He married Catherine Owen September 29, 1853, in Indiana. They had three girls and five boys. He died October 29, 1862 and is buried in the Figi Cemetery. He was known as “Uncle Eli Redman.” He was liberal to a fault. No man ever asked a favor of him in vain.
Mark Harrison, Spring 1836; Genesee Grove
Mark Harrison was born in Yorkshire, England, May 6, 1804. He was a sailor who came to New York in 1826. In 1832 he went to Chicago and worked as a sailor on the Great Lakes trade. In the Spring of 1836 he helps Hezakiah Brink dig out a mill pit at Empire (now Emerson). He made a claim in 1837 of the Twin Grove property and adjoining prairie with Joe Bush. He married Mrs. Mary Taylor, who was from North Carolina. They had two girls and 3 boys. On the day they were married, they cooked and ate their wedding dinner in their cabin. They didn’t have a table, bed, or chairs. A board, laid on two pins driven into augur holes in one of the logs of their cabin, was their table. The seats (chairs) were three-legged stools. Their bed was straw and prairie grass covered with homespun cotton cloth. It was several years before they had the luxury of a table and chairs. When Mrs. Harrison came from North Carolina, they carried all their goods on a packhorse. The packsaddle was made from wood and fitted to the back of the horse. When Mark was married, he had a grand total of 50 cents, but his bride-to-be had $15. It makes one wonder: did he marry her for her money; or did her wad of money have any good use on the prairie? They invested it all in a joint account and purchased wheat, oats, and corn for seed. The next Fall Mark took a cow to Galena and sold it for $5. He used the money to purchase two five-pound bunches of cotton yard and his fair lady wove into cloth, which constituted all the fabric they had to wear. Mark sold wheat to Hezakiah Brink for 25 cents a bushel and took as pay a three-year-old colt valued at $30.
Joseph Bush, 1836; Genesee Grove
Joseph Bush was an Englishman who came west with Mark Harrison and, as partners, staked their claim at Twin Grove and adjoining prairie. James D. Bingham broke some prairie sod for him in 1837. He got cold feet and went back East, never to return.
Samuel Landis, 1836; Genesee Grove
Samuel Landis was born in Hardy County, Virginia (now West Virginia) in 1792. He went to Ohio, then to Indiana, and married Elizabeth Stretch in Indiana. They moved to Michigan and almost froze to death in the harsh winter of 1834. Then they moved back to Indiana and later came to Genesee Grove in the Spring of 1836, settling about one-half mile east of Figi. The had six girls and four boys. Sam used two oxen to drag a small tree to make a trail to Figi so the family would not get lost. He also moonlighted as a cabinetmaker—a trade he learned in Virginia. Suffering from a tumor, he was given chloroform and had it surgically removed. He died in January 1854 and is buried in Genesee Grove Central Cemetery.
Ivory Colcord, 1837; Figi
Ivory Colcord was born July 20, 1799, in New Hampshire. His wife, Elzina Holbrook was born June 27, 1805, in New Hampshire. They had seven boys and 5 girls. They settled in Genesee Grove October 13, 1837. He shipped his family and good from Olean Point, New York, on a flatboat down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh where he took a steamer down the Ohio River, then up the Mississippi to Fulton. John Baker, Fulton’s pioneer, furnished a team and acted as driver and guide. They all took passage in the same wagon and the convoy crossed the sloughs and prairie to Genesee Grove. The whole trip took six weeks. He bought 200 acres of timber and 300 acres of prairie from William Wick for $150 in gold—a fabulous transaction for that day. They built a 12-foot by 12-foot cabin for the winter of 1827–38. In this “luxurious” cabin the family cooked, ate, washed, and slept. A large part of their goods were kept in their wagon, which stood in the yard all winter. Do you suppose they had dogs? If they did, I wonder if the dog had to sleep in the wagon? The next summer they expanded their cabin to accommodate all of their goods. Mr. Colcord was educated. He taught school in the evenings at the William Wick cabin; later in his one expanded cabin. He not only farmed, but was the first class leader of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He was also the first Justice of the Peace and on May 16, 1839, became the Coroner for all the county precincts. At age 33 on the first Tuesday, April 1852, he became the first Supervisor of Genesee Township on the Whiteside County Board of Supervisors. He died January 25, 1865.
Pleasant Stanley, 1837; Figi
Pleasant Stanley came to Genesee Grove in 1837 and lived with William Wick for three years. He worked for Jonathon Haines for eight years. He married Sarah Jane Crum. They had 1 boy and 5 girls and lived her 27 years. In 1864 they moved to Tama County, Iowa.
Isaace Brookfield, July 1837; Figi
Isaac Brookfield was born in New York July 9, 1791. He settled in Genesee Grove (Figi) in July 1837 and built a log cabin. After six years he moved to Indiana, returning in 1858, settling in Sterling. He was a shoemaker by trade and died in January 1877 at the age of 84.
James McMullen, 1837; Figi
James McMullen was born in Ireland. He came to Canada and then settled in Genesee Grove (Figi) in 1837. He was married with eight children. After his wife died, he moved back to Canada, found another wife, and moved back to Illinois. He was an intelligent and enterprising man.
Jacob Hufman, 1837; Hazel Green
Jacob Hufman came from Canada and settled on the north side of Genesee Grove. He was a farmer and married with four boys and 3 girls. His son George was the first person married at Figi in 1838. The name of George’s wife is unknown. The first marriage in a new settlement is always blissful and for miles and miles around the happy couple were congratulated. In more ways than one it is an affair for the entire neighborhood. A new era had unfolded, so to speak. I wonder what noise-making instruments they used for their shivaree?
Riley Hill, 1838; Figi
Riley Hill came to the William Wick cabin as a Methodist circuit rider in the Spring of 1838. He founded the Methodist Episcopal Society and lived here two years. Then, he moved to Warren County.
Levi Marsh, 1838; Figi
Levi Marsh had a sister, Miss Susanna L. Marsh of Foxbury, Massachusetts, who married William W. Durant of Thomaston, Maine on June 1, 1827. She died in Rock Falls in October 1839. Levi’s history has eluded me; however, he did settle in Genesee Grove in 1838, but where?
Mr. Carr, 1838; Figi
Mr. Carr is believed to be Joseph H. Carr, a Methodist Episcopal circuit rider. His will was probated October 29, 1839 and it is the first record of the Probate Court of our county. Ivory Colcord and William Wick were appointed administrators under the will and gave a bond in the sum of $800.
Havey Summers, 1838; Genesee Grove
Harvey Summers came from Indiana to Genesee Grove in 1838. He married Charlotte I. Wick, daughter of William Wick. They later moved to Jasper County, Missouri.
John Thompson Crum, 1838; Figi
John Thompson Crum came from Indiana to Genesee Grove in 1838 with Martin D. McCrea. Mrs. McCrea was John’s sister. He staked a claim at Figi, remained here a couple of years, and went back to Indiana to marry Mary Pierce. They came back with a stock of goods and had a store at Figi. He hired Ephriam Brookfield to clerk in the store. About 1852–54 John built the first house, a house and store combined, on the southwest corner of Section 10 in what is now Coleta, but then called Crum’s Corners. In 1856 he moved it to the southeast corner of Section 9 where he used it as a dwelling and store. While this move might seem as though it is a long distance, in reality it is from the gas station today to where the hardware store now is located. In 1860, Crum sold the store to Ephriam Bookfield. Then Crum moved back to Indiana.
Martin D. Mc Crea, 1838; Figi
Martin D. McCrea was born May 31, 1806, in Kentucky. After his father died, Martin was raised by an uncle in Indiana. He married Margaret Ann Crum January 1, 1835 in Indiana. They had 3 boys and 3 girls and came to Genesee Grove in 1838. John Thompson Crum came along with him and his family. Martin was a peculiar man. Being raised in the atmosphere of what was at that time the extreme western frontier, he was deprived of almost all the advantages of common schools. His associations were with the dwellers log cabins. He hated intensely what he understood to be a mean act. If he made up his mind to be a man’ friend, he would sty by him until death. On the other hand, if he became possessed with the idea that a man was dishonest, he would say so fearlessly. He often indulged in veins of wit and sarcasm and was incapable of revenge. Martin was buried at Genesee Grove Central Cemetery.
William Crum, 1838; Genesee Grove
William Crum made a claim in Genesee Grove 1838, farming for 10 years and then selling out to go into the dry goods business at Galt. H e owned and lived on a farm known as the Perkin’s place in Como. William married Emeline Wick in 1843. They had one child before his wife died, after which he married Rachael M. Lee.
Henry Holbrook, December 5, 1838; Genesee Grove
Henry Holbrook was born May 24, 1815, in Cornish, New Hampshire. He married Caroline Ross April 11, 1833. Henry and Caroline eventually had nine girls and four boys. They came west and settled in Genesee Grove December 5, 1838, settling at a spring in the Grove, which undoubtedly means at one of three locations: the Harve Lorke; Reecher; or Figi Creek towards its source beyond the Bill Winkey place. He was a practical farmer and worked at shoe making in the winter season. As late as 1838, the cabins were all built in the timber, as the belief was universal that no person could live on the prairie because of the severe winters. It is much warmer in timber because of the shelter from the wind.
James Scoville, October 1839; Prospect Grove
James Scoville was born February 10, 1810, in Washington County, New York. In 1834 he walked from home to Chicago, and then to Milwaukee. There were no bridges, so he had to wade or swim the streams. He worked in the lumber business for $25 per month. Then he walked back to his family in New York. He was married November 15, 1832, having 8 girls and 2 boys. In October 1839 he came to Sight Grove, later called Prospect Grove, buying land from William Wick. They built a cabin and moved into it in November 1839. Their worldly possessions consisted of a span of horses and a wagon. He bought his first year’s supplies from Warren Company, about 100 miles south. In his second years the products of the farm were sufficient to sustain them. Their first home was a one-room log cabin 18 feet by 20 feet that was used as a kitchen, dining room, parlor, sleeping room, granary, harness room, and wood house. In addition, his cabin was a stopping place for any and all strangers who passed by that way. They were among the solid people of Whiteside County.
R. Tilton Hughes, 1839; Figi
R. Tilton Hughes was born June 17, 1812, in Kentucky. When he was 12 years old, they moved to Shawneetown, Illinois, then later to Jacksonville at a time when there was only one house there. In 1836, they moved to Elkhorn Grove, which at that time was in Jo Daviess County and is now in eastern Carroll County. He came to Genesee Grove in 1839 and married Mary Jane Scoville March 13, 1841, eventually having two boys and two girls. They lived in Genesee Grove nine years before the lands were brought into market by the U.S. Government. Later, he sold his holdings and bought the Jonathon Haines farm just west of Jacobstown mill and about two miles north of Morrison.
Ezra R. Huett, 1839; Figi
Ezra R. Huett was from New York state. He settled in Genesee Grove in 1839 and married Miss Clawson. He was a carpenter by trade. They had 13 children and later moved to northern Iowa.
Rensselaer Baker, 1839; Genesee Grove
Rensselaer Baker was from New York. He settled in Genesee Grove in 1839 with his wife. They had one boy and one girl. He later went to California for the gold rush in 1849. There is no word of him since; no doubt he didn’t make it.
Israel Reed, 1839; Figi
Poor Mr. Reed didn’t get counted in the 1840 census. It’s possible he couldn’t read. It’s also possible he was a Methodist circuit rider just passing through.
Martin Chappel, 1839; Genesee Grove
There is no information available on Martin Chappel.
Watson Parrish, June 1839; Genesee Grove
Watson Parrish was born in Virginia. His father fought in the War of 1812 and died at Richmond, Virginia. His mother and family moved to Mercer County, Kentucky, in 1815. In 1837 they moved to Dyer County, Tennessee. Watson married Louisa Demint in the Spring of 1839. They had six boys and 1 girl. In June 1839, they moved to Genesee Grove where Mrs. Parrish died in 1847. Watson married again, having three more boys. After his second wife died, he married again and had three girls; 14 children in all. How many acres are need to support a family that large?
Here’s an interesting story about Watson Parrish. In the early days of Genesee Grove, the prairie rattlesnakes were plentiful and always expressed a willingness to bite by rattling. On this particular occasion, when several families had pooled together to harvest wheat on the land of one of the members of the group, one of these serpents was discovered. The snake drew itself into a coil and sounded its rattle; ready to strike. The reapers fell back in a record retreat and had a council of war on how best to attack the challenger. However, before anyone could speak, Watson Parrish came to their rescue and hollered out in a stentorian voice, “Boys, stand back, and I will show you how they kill snakes in Tennessee!” The order was promptly obeyed as he approached the enemy with extrasensory perceptional bobbing and weaving. When within three feet of the rattler, he sprang into the air with the intention of landing on it with his feet close together, thereby crushing it; but, in his exuberance, he made a miscalculation and came down on the opposite side. In his attempt to save himself he fell flat on his back across the snake, very much scared, as was also the snake. The unengaged parties came to his aid pronto, and separated the belligerents without either having received any injury. The snake was finally killed with a club. After deliberating, they gave the snake to Mr. Parrish for rattlesnake stew with a stern warning that he wasn’t living in Tennessee anymore.
Other Early Area Settlers
Middleton G. Wood
Middleton G. Wood came to Hickory Grove in 1843. He was a blacksmith by trade.
John Yager came to Genesee Grove in 1843. He was a farmer and minister. It is said he stated the Christian Church at Figi in November 1838, but that differs from when he is supposed to have settled here. He did settle in Chambers Grove, Illinois, in 1836. The location of Chambers Grove is unknown, but is must be nearby. He, his two wives, and ten children are all buried in Genesee Grove Central Cemetery.
Mrs. Amanda Wick
Mrs. Amanda Wick is the sister of E.T. Hughes. She was first married to John R. Smith, son of T.W. Smith, one of the first judges of the Illinois Supreme Court. She came to Genesee Grove and married Azariah Wick August 6, 1838. They had six children. Azariah died in the Civil War in the military hospital at Nashville, Tennessee.
William Stanley married Delia Ann Bunce November 30, 1842. They had six girls and four boys. He was born in Virginia August 7, 1819. Most of his family are buried at Hazel Green Cemetery.
James A.L. Bunce
James A.L. Bunce was born in Rensselaer County, New York, and married Hester Lewis. They had 11 children. All their names start with the letter D: Delos, Delaney, Deborah, Demitt, Delia Ann, Darwin, Dunmore, Danforth, Delight, David, and Dewitt. Many of them are buried at Hazel Green Cemetery.
Edward is the father of James Scoville. He came to Genesee Grove in 1843 and married Susan Case. They had eight boys and three girls. He was killed by being thrown from a runaway wagon at the age of 30 years.
Elias Demint is from Tennessee and settled in Genesee Grove in 1840. He married and had three boys and 2 girls. They lived at the Grove for several years and then moved to Iowa.
Early Settlers Buried at Figi (Genesee Grove Central Cemetery)
Ambrose Gaylor Born 1801
Samuel Landis Born 1792
Eli Redman Born 1790, wife Catherine
Jesse Hill Born ca. 1790, had 10 children
John Wick Born 1793, wife Catherine
Hiram Crum Illegible; born ca. Late 1700s
William Wick Born 1795, wife Margaret
Ward Hiddleson Illegible; born early 1800s
William Moxley Born 1833, wife Sarah
John Yager Born 1809, wives Elizabeth, Catherine, and Margaret plus many children
William Harvey Born 1830, wife Sarah
George R. Proctor Born 1807, wife Mary
William Hardy Born 1822, wife Permelia
Stephen Robinson Born _____, died 1850
Hiram Hopkins Born _____, died 1845
Henry Abagail Holbrook Born 1815, wife Caroline
C.A. Harine Born 1812
Heinrich L. Linerodt Born 1825, wife Boskie
Sarah Ann Born _____, died 1839, wife of Daniel Ward
Early Burials at Hazel Green Cemetery, Prospect Grove
Dearest Mother Thou hast left us
Rev. Jacob Crom Illegible, born ca. 1825, wife Anna.
Words on Anna’s stone:
Here Thy loss we deeply feel
But ‘tis God, who has bereft us
He can all our sorrows heal
Cephas Hurless Born 1827, wife Elizabeth
Martin Overholser Born 1809, wife Barbara
Rachal Bushman Born 1820
John Buntly Born 1818
Willima Meade Born 1827?
William Johnson Born 1807
Jacob Wetzell Born 1816, wife Susan
D. Repass Born 1816
George Wilfong Born 1803, wife Catherine
Samuel Martin Born 1818
John A. Martin Born 1811
Isaac Swearingen Born 1809, wife Hannah
County Commissioners Court
On May 6, 1839, the County Commissioners Court at Lyndon appointed William Wick of Figi as Assessor and Ivory Colcord as Coroner. On November 4,1851, a general election was held to vote for or against a township organization for the area of Whiteside County. The vote was 376 for and 144 against. Genesee voted a tie: 19 for and 19 against. The first meeting of the Board of Supervisors was held on Tuesday, April 1852. Ivory Colcord of Figi was the first Supervisor for Genesee Township; Abram H. Law, Town Clerk; William Crum, Assessor; William Crum, Collector; and John W. Lowery and James D. Law, Justice of the Peace.
Just for the Record
The John Stinemeyer Quarry was in Section 13, Clyde Township and quarried Niagara Limestone.
White Pigeon is in Section 14, Clyde Township.
Figi is at the north edge of Section 18, Genesee Grove Central, Genesee Township.
Coleta is in Genesee Township at the junction of Sections 9, 10, 15, and 16.
New Genesee was in Section 31, Genesee Township.
Empire (now Emerson) is in Section 14, Hopkins Township where Spring and Elkhorn Creeks merge.
Malvern is in Section 35, Clyde Township.
Apple’s Grist Mill was in Section 26, Clyde Township.
Stinemeyer’s Grist Mill was in Section 13, Clyde Township.
The highest elevation is 800 feet about sea level in Ustick Township.
Prior to 1825, the entire north section of the state was in Tazewell County.
On January 13, 1825, Peoria County was formed from just south of Peoria to the Wisconsin Territory border. Peoria was then known as Fort Clark.
On September 7, 1832, the County Commissioners Court ordered all tavern keepers these limits on their charges: meals, 25 cents each; a horse fed, 25 cents each; a horse kept day and night, 50 cents each; lodging, 12½ cents each; a pint of brandy, wine, and gin, 25 cents; a pint of whiskey, 12½ cents; and a quart of cider or ale, 25 cents. (Remember the copper ½-cent piece?)
On March 6, 1835, all able-bodied male persons over 21 and under 50 years of age shall perform five days labor on the public highways in the district where they preside.
On January 16, 1836, Portland and Prophetstown Precincts became part of Henry County.
On March 16, 1836, a tax of ½ percent was assessed on each slave, wheeled carriages, sleighs, horses and cattle above three years old, clocks, watches, household goods, and all other property. (Even though the Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery in the Northwest Territory, slavery had such a hold on people that up to this time, the ordinance was ignored by many people.)
In the Spring of 1836, all Whiteside territory was placed in three election districts: Elkhorn Grove; Harrisburg (now Sterling); and Crow Precincts. Genesee and Clyde Townships were in Crow Precinct since those two precincts had not yet been established.
In 1837, Ogle County authorities placed Genesee in Elkhorn Precinct and Clyde Township in Union Grove Precinct.
On May 6, 1839, Genesee Precinct was formed. Clyde Township remained in Union Grove Precinct.
On May 16, 1839, Genesee Precinct was placed in Road District Number 6. Ivory Colcord was the Supervisor. Clyde Township was in Road District Number 10, Union Grove Precinct. John W. Stokes, Supervisor; Guy Ray, Clerk of the Court; A.R. Hamilton, Sheriff; and C.G. Woodruff, Treasurer. Union Grove Assessor for Clyde Township was Henry Buyers. Genesee Assessor was William Wick, but he declined and was replace by his brother, John Wick.
On June 5, 1839, Rock River ferry rates were set by the First Circuit Court as: each person, 12½ cents; wagon or carriage and two horses, 75 cents (a country fortune at that time); additional horse or ox, 12½ cents; wagon and one horse, 37½ cents; cart and two horses or oxen, 50 cents; cattle, hogs, and goats, 6¼ cents each; and sheep, 3 cents. The ferry was free to citizens of Whiteside Territory. (At that time everyone knew who was and was not a citizen of the territory and ID cards weren’t required, even if they had been available.)
Taxes for 1839 were set at 50 cents for every $100 of assessment.
Circuit Court bills: December 3, 1839: John Boyer, Union Precinct (Clyde Township) $6 for assessing; John Wick, 3¾ days for assessing Genesee Township $7.50.
On March 4, 1840, the bounty on wolf scalps was set at 50 cents each.
In June 1840, D.B. Young was appointed the first school commissioner.
In March 1842, the place of election for Union Precinct was changed from Jonathon Haines residence to the schoolhouse in Unionville.
On February 9, 1850, Genesee Precinct became all of Township 23, Range 6 East. Waterford Precinct became all of Township 22, Range 5 East (now Clyde Township).
On February 24, 1852, Waterford Precinct becomes Clyde Precinct.
On the first Tuesday of April 1852, the first Supervisor of Genesee was Ivory Colcord, age 33, a farmer from Maine. The first Supervisor of Clyde Township was W.P. Hiddleson, age 35, a, farmer from Pennsylvania.
In 1840, the Whiteside County population was 2,514; in 1850 it was 5,361. Persons under the 10 years of age who could not read or write: 13. School children in 1850 totalled 1,364. The total educational income was $3,147. The population in 1860 for Clyde Township was 604, for Genesee Township it was 157, and for Tampico Township it was 195. In 1876, there were 14, 876 pupils in school in Whiteside County. The number of persons between 12 and 21 who were unable to read or write was 3. The causes for those 3: idiocy, 1; illness or neglect, 2.
November 9, 1844, Presidential Election Results
Union Precinct: Whig, 36; Democratic, 34; Abolition 12.
Genesee Precinct: Whig 26; Democratic, 17.
Total for Whiteside County: Whig, 289; Democratic, 348; Abolition, 47; Total, 684.
Senator: Captain H.H. Gear, 422; L.A. Sawyer, 376; A.W. Brown, 63. Total, 861.
Representative: Joseph Crawford, 434; Thomas J. Hanes, 355; J. Baker, 63; Total, 852.
In September 1857, the County Clerk was directed to pay $300 to the person or persons securing the arrest and conviction of anyone stealing a horse from a citizen of Whiteside County. In 1860 an additional reward of $50 was offered to any officer arresting a horse thief. (It was almost as dangerous stealing horses in those days as it was stealing chickens during the depression days of the early thirties.)
Dwellings Before the Log Cabin
Some of the first settlers made a dugout cabin by digging a hole in the ground and siding it with small logs partially hewn. The upper part extended a couple of feet above the ground. They filled the chinks (cracks) with clay, leaving a couple of chinks open for light above ground on the leeward side. After digging out the cellar and cellar-way, they placed a roof matted with prairie grass over tree limbs and brush. A couple of rocks were used as steps in the cellar-way that led to the cellar. Now they had quick, luxurious accommodations complete with a fireplace where they could be comfy when the norwesters blew.
Homespun, Homebaked Food
The first bread was made from green corn grated by a hand grater. Imagine going to bed at night, if you can, after a supper of stewed pumpkins, potatoes with skins, and green cornbread. If the men had a good day hunting, they would have fresh rabbit, squirrel, prairie chicken, deer, possum, raccoon, or even fish. They dried much of their food, boiled it down in grease, or smoked it. Hogs and sheep ranged at will until the early 1850s. In the Fall, men and boys had great sport rounding up wild hogs, which were somewhat fat living on a diet of acorns. However, these were not domestic hogs as we know them today; these had long tusks and were very rambunctious and dangerous.
Many of the settlers were young men without families. Most had very limited means, if any at all, and for the sake of economy, and in many instances, necessity, banded together and occupied a single dwelling that could be maintained easily and cheaply to keep it livable. They resided in these until their labors provided enough money to allow them to procure a house of their own. There were young, hardy, enthusiastic, and the difficulties of their pioneer life only added zest to their determination. There was no way they would go back home and admit their failure. It is said that one young man got married with 15 cents in his pocket, his bride had $7.50, and they lived a very happy life. Who says they couldn’t live on love in those days? Girls at the tender age of 9 and 10 were often sent to live with other families who needed domestic help. By the time they were of the marrying age of 15 and 16, they had learned all the rudiments of pioneer living and had saved up a dowry to start housekeeping.
The village of Coleta is laid out in Genesee Township—named after Genesee County, New York—at the corner of Sections 9,10, 15, and 16. The first building erected was the store/house of John Thompson Crum and was at the southwest corner of Section 10; the northeast corner of the main intersection in town where the gas station and garage are located today.
Crum came to Figi (Genesee Grove Central) in 1838 with his brother-in-law Martin D. McCrea. Mrs. McCrea was his sister. He had a stock of goods and hired Ephriam Brookfield as clerk. Later, he went back to Indiana and married Mary Pierce. After a couple of years, he purchased an acres of land on the opposite corner, Section 9, where the Stinemyer hardware store is now located. Apparently he moved his Figi store goods to Coleta and brought along his clerk, Ephriam Brookfield. Both had been bachelors. In September 1859, Ephriam married Harriet Yager, the daughter of John Yager of Figi. Crum sold the store to Ephriam about 1860. Ephriam owned the store for 14 years and sold it in 1874 to Henry S. Wickey. Ephriam moved to Rock Falls and commenced banking using his own capital.
The 40-acre lot on the southeast corner of Section 9 and the southwest corner of Section 10 was first owned by David Wyman. Later, he sold it to Azariah Wick. Mr. Wick sold it to Alestis S. Smith, who in turn sold it to C. Overholser. Mr. Overholser sold it to Samuel H. Kingery, who afterwards sold it back to C. Overholser. In the plat of the village, this 40-acre lot was laid out into town lots.
In 1856, Mr. Crum purchased 40 acres on the northeast corner of Section 16 (where the old post office used to be located) and laid them out into small lots. A lot of 14 acres was also sold by Wick to A.S. Smith, who sold to Mr. Crum. This lot was also laid out in village lots. (It seems there were wheeler-dealers and land speculators even back then.) It was said that Mr. Crum offered a free house lot to any person who would build a house on it. The next owner of them was Samuel Haldeman, who sold lots to David Horning, Dr. E.M Winter, Barrett M. Burns, and the balance to Hiram Reynolds. The latter sold one lot to Andrew Griffith (no, not the Andy Griffith of today’s TV fame), one acre to the Methodist Church, and the balance to John Yager, who had lived at Figi and started the first Christian Church there in 1839 with 12 members. He was a farmer and ordained minister. His stone at Genesee Grove Central Cemetery has this information inscribed on it.
Wick sold an acre on the northwest corner of Section 15 to William Pierce. A Walter Pierce ran the White Pigeon store at the end of the nineteenth century and it is possible that Walter was the son of William. Mr. Pierce sold to Mrs. Winslow, who soon after sold one lot to Hiram Reynolds and the other to Henry Kennedy. On the road leading west (now Pilgrim Road), lots were sold to A.T. Crum and William Harrow or Karrow. One lot, a two-acre lot, was sold to Cephus Hurless. Mr. Hurless sold one village lot to Seth Knapp and one to Catherine Fenton. Many of these people are buried at Genesee Grove Central and Hazel Green Cemeteries.
The new village was first called Crum’s Store. It seems the people were not satisfied with that name, nor with the name Clayton as some called it; consequently, they called a meeting to discuss it and the consensus decided that it should be called Coleta. This name was suggested by Miss Nora Porter, later Mrs. E.R. Ferguson.
The first school house in the village was built in the summer of 1858, Ephriam Brookfield being the first teacher. There were 60 pupils on the roll then. By 1877 the number of pupils was 100.
The first church erected was the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was built in 1868 and had 20 members. By 1877 it had 66 members. The building was a large frame structure, well finished and furnished, to which a parsonage was added nearby. Rev. H.F. Clendin was the pastor in 1877. Sunday school had 50 members with J.W. Tumbleson the superintendent.
The United Brethren Church was built in 1868 and had 100 members. In 1877 the membership was about 75. Rev. Gardner was the pastor. Sunday school attendance was 50. David Overholser was the Sunday school superintendent.
The Christian Church cost $2,500 to build. John Yager paid most of that cost. It had no regular minister. Services each Sunday were either lead by John Yager or Thomas Stanley. There were 125 in the Sunday school. Thomas Stanley was Sunday school superintendent.
Besides these three churches and the school, all completely modernized, there was a hall over Wickey’s Store called Brookfield Hall that was used for all public meetings. Although it might be difficult to believe, there also was a thriving Masonic Lodge in the village. Coleta contained 28 dwellings and 18 business places, including stores and shops, totaling 50 buildings. Today, they have another first; a factory in the old school house where walky-talky transceivers are made that are used in professional football players’ helmets.
Unusual Weather of the Early Years
The winter of 1842/43 was extremely cold, as was the winter of 1832/33 when some of the early settlers almost perished in Michigan. In 1843, it began to rain on November 16th and it turned to snow on November 17th. The wind blew and Rock Creek was frozen over the next morning. It remained very cold all winter. On the 23rd of March 1843 it was 23 below zero. The ice on Rock Creek did not break up until the afternoon of April 9, 1843. It was almost May before any fieldwork could be done. In more modern time in the 1930s I can remember a driving rainstorm on Armistice Day, November 11th, and it turned to snow and fell below zero by morning. The chickens froze to death attempting to find shelter in a large wood pile that had not yet been sawed into stove lengths. Then too, in the late 1930s we had snow on the 25th of September. It was a beautiful Sunday morning, but by mid-afternoon we had a blizzard. Our trees were laden with snow and our pears and apples had not yet been picked. However, to our surprise, the fruit was not frozen. You could have played checkers on our shirt tail because of the speed with which we picked them, got the garden produce in the cellar, dug the potatoes, and gathered in the pumpkins and squash.
The year 1844 was very wet, as was 1951, 1858, 1865, and 1869. There were corn failures in each of these years. In 1859, we had a frost every month and most of the time it was a killing frost. On July 4th there was a freeze sufficiently hard to kill the corn (obviously, no greenhouse warming affect that year). The corn crop was a total failure and the other crop yields were light. The following year in 1860 it was the most fruitful year that this section of the country had ever had.
Clyde: Union, Watertown, Waterford, and New Clyde
Clyde Township was originally settled by English and Scottish people, mainly in what was called Dent’s Grove. Historians tell us the name Clyde was derived by the postal department when the grist mill owner at the Little Rock Creek mill applied for a post office there and wanted to name it Watertown. However, there already was a post office in the state by that name. Consequently, the postal department drew five letters from a box of block letters of the alphabet and from them formed the name Clyde. More on that later. The township was first a part of Union Precinct and was called Waterford. Another post office was established at Brothwell’s Mill (Stinemeyer’s) and it was called New Clyde. Now, that should settle that, but we’ve been told by old-timers that the historians got it wrong. The Scots and English settlers first came to Canada and fought in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38. Some were wounded and killed and others were taken prisoner. That was no way for a good Scotsman or Englishman to live, so they left their land north of Toronto and settled in Dent’s Grove. It is told that they named the township after the River Clyde in Scotland.
The First Settler in Clyde
Samuel Wressel staked a claim in the easst part of Clyde Township, Section 14, in 1838 and that is in the White Pigeon area. Sam was born in Lincolnshire, England. He moved to Canada, got shot in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38, then got the urge to move, and settled among the Indians in the White Pigeon area. About a year later he sold his claim to Zachariah Dent for $100. Dent built a cabin on it. The Hollingsheads also came along at about that time. Same lived in the area until he was 80 years old.
The First Mill, 1838
Andrew M. Wing and Dr. H.H. Fowler of Fulton built a sawmill on Rock Creek on the Styke place east of the Greenwood school. The early dams were of brush construction. Whenever there was high water, these dams would give way so a hurry-up repair job was always required. Later they made the dams from oak beams. Wing and Fowler hired Hugh Hollinshead and H.W. Daniel to build the dam. Butler E. Marble and his son Levi operated their mill. They also attempted to operate a corn cracker at the mill, but it wasn’t a success. Some people said they could crack more corn with a plumping stone. The mills were used only three or four months of the year because there was insufficient water in the races to provide power.
Genesee City, 1838
Across Rock Creek and east of the mill, Andy Wing laid out Genesee City. Lots were sold to people from the East, especially those from the New Jersey area. When the buyer arrived, he found a beautiful array of stakes. Needless to say, this fabulous city was a disaster; however, our area did have an influx of settlers.
Here They Come
Henry Daniels was born in Norfolk County, England. He was married to Lydia Hollinshead in 1835 and came to Clyde in 1838. They had a family of four boys and one girl. Henry helped build and operate Brothwell’s mill in Section 13. He also had a carding machine in his cabin to clean raw wool so it can be spun into yarn on a spinning wheel.
Samuel Currie was born August 15, 1812, in Roxburyshire, Scotland. He immigrated to York County, Canada, in 1829, settled near Toronto, and married Jane Patrick June 15, 1833 in Canada. Samuel was wounded in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38, leaving one arm permanently damaged. He came to Clyde Township in 1839, settling in Section 30. After his wife Jane died he married Miss Julia Thomas May 27, 1840. It was the first marriage performed in Clyde Township. It was also the first ceremony by Justice of the Peace A.C. Jackson.
Richard Bestwick was born in Yorkshire, England, September 12, 1810. After immigrating to Canada, he married Miss Sarah Patrick in 1836 at York near Toronto, Canada. He was the brother-in-law of Samuel Currie through his marriage to Sarah’s sister Jane. They moved to Clyde Township in 1839, settling in Section 30. Sarah died in 1844 and he married Mrs. Anna E. Humphrey of Fulton in 1849. Richard had five boys and four girls. He was a farmer and later Supervisor of Clyde Township.
Zachariah Dent was born in Buckingham, Norfolk County, England, July 26, 1806. He immigrated to Canada in 1832 where he worked as a store clerk in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada. Zachariah fought in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38. He came to Clyde Township in 1839 and bought the claim of Samuel Wressel in Section 14. It became known as Dent’s Grove (White Pigeon today). Zachariah married Eunice Montgomery in 1843. She died in 1869, leaving no children. Later he was Assessor of Clyde Township and lived to a ripe old age.
William Wilson was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, and immigrated to Canada in 1832. He was taken prisoner in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38. William came to Clyde Township in 1839, settling in the North Clyde area, what is the northwest part of Section 6. That area was sparsely settled until after 1850. He helped start a Sunday school in the area in 1841.His wife, whom he married in Canada, died in 1863. He later became Justice of the Peace for Clyde Township. William is buried in the North Clyde Cemetery.
John Wilson, the brother of William Wilson, was born in Renfrewshire, Scotland, February 9, 1812. He immigrated to Canada in 1832 and fought in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38. John came to Dent’s Grove September 1839, settling in Section 17. He married Jane Blue November 28, 1841. They had four boys and four girls. John and Jane were grandparents of our 40th President, Ronald Wilson Reagan, whose mother was Nellie Wilson.
Donald Blue and John Wilson located in the west central part of Clyde Township in Section 17 and were the only residents in that area.
Donald Blue was born in Argyleshire in the Highlands of Scotland January 18, 1799. He married Catherine McFarlarin January 15, 1815. She was born January 1, 1801. He was 15 and she was 14 at the time, but they were married 62 years. They had eleven children: four boys and four girls, plus three children that died in infancy. They immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada, March 1820 and lived there for eight years. Then they moved to 30 miles from Toronto. He fought in the Canadian Patriots’ War of 1837–38. They moved to Clyde Township in 1839, settling in Section 17 on what is now the Burger Swanson farm that is occupied by Rodney Bush. He went to California in 1852 for three years to pan gold, then returning to Clyde Township.
Other Settlers in the 1840 Census
Hiram Hopkins settled in Clyde Township in 1839. His second child was born here.
John and Hugh Hollinshead came to Clyde Township in 1839. John moved to Ustick a couple of years later, while Hugh worked as a miller and was also a road viewer in 1839.
William Hiddleson built the second mill at Hough’s mill. It is now Appel’s mill.
Wesley Robinson settled in Clyde Township in 1838. He married the daughter of Martin Montgomery of Sterling. It is believed that he later moved to Morrison and operated a hardware store.
J.F. Demmon was the largest farmer in Clyde Township. He was a Justice of the Peace and a member of the Committee for Whiteside County Central Agricultural Society.
Benjamin West became one of the early Supervisors and a charter member of the Masonic Lodge. He must have lived to a ripe old age.
White Pigeon Lots Before 1850
In 1850 there were 10 small lots in White Pigeon. The largest landowners were J.B. Fredericks, C.J. Howe, William Wells, and Larry Gaffee. Smaller landowners were Henry Conrady, George Brooks, William Wilson, and Samuel Wressel. The acreage of the lots were 5, 6, 11, and 20 acres. Most were 5-acre plots. White Pigeon was surveyed October 21, 1850, at the insistence of William Wilson, by William Pollock, County Surveyor. It was the west half of the
southwest quarter of Section 14. The survey used witness trees, such as white oak 4 to 8 inches and 14 inches to 3 feet in diameter, hickory 8 to 15 inches in diameter, black oak 2 feet in diameter, burr oak 10 inches in diameter, and black oak saplings.
In the main, Clyde Township was sparsely settled until the 1860s. The first settlers lived in the groves where they had small lots like those in White Pigeon and New Clyde. There was also a settlement on the northeast corner of Clyde Township near the Armstrong place. Really, there were almost two settlements: one near the William Heide place to the Armstrong place; and the other near the county line between the Gus George place and the Garwick place. These people often bought prairie land separately and would raise their crops away from their home and timber lot. About 1850 they began to build warmer houses and found markets for their produce grown on the prairie land. Then they found the convenience of living on their farmable land more to their liking.
Stinemeyer Mill and New Clyde Post Office
The first mill dam was constructed of brush and logs in 1838 by Hugh Hollinshead and H.W. Daniel. The mill was operated by Butler E. Marble and his son Levi. They installed a corn cracker along with the saw mill. However, Mother Nature is quite fickle to the whims of Man as a flood sent water pouring down against that brush dam and it floated merrily down Rock Creek on its way to the Mississippi. Yankee ingenuity was now called for. They moved the mill farther north to above the gooseneck in the creek so that when it overflowed the flow would go west of the mill dam and not exert as much pressure again the dam. As years progressed, they built a solid oak frame dam. Joseph H Brothwell constructed a mill with improvements where the Stinemeyer mill was operating in later years. In the Fall of 1844, a post office was established at
Landis Whiteside History - Part 2