HISTORY OF NEWTON TOWNSHIP
[Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles Bent; pg 333-340; pub. 1877]
The township of Newton was originally a part of a Precinct known as Crow Creek, and later belonging to Albany Precinct, and when Lyndon and Albany Precincts were divided in 1844, to create Erie Precinct, a part of Newton was included in the latter. At an election in 1849 the people of the county decided they would adopt the township organization system, and the Commissioners appointed for the purpose of dividing the county into townships, gave Newton its present boundary, and denominated it "Greenfield"- the name being suggested by its broad fields of living green. This election proving void, in 1851 the people again voted favorably upon the question of township organization, and Commissioners then appointed, applied the name of "Newton" to the present township, in honor of a township in Cumberland county, Pa., where many of the settlers were from.
Newton contains 22,167 acres of land, lacking about 300 acres of being a full township, the western tier of sections being fractional. The southern one third of the township is low, but has been largely reclaimed by drainage, and is now excellent farming and grazing land; the northern and central portions except in the immediate vicinity of the groves, is undulating prairie, the soil of great fertility. Two considerable groves of timber, "Miller's" and "Kingsbury," diversify the general features of the township. The land is sparingly watered by streams, but wells of good water are obtained without much labor.
The first settlement in the territory, now Newton, was made by Jeremiah Pearson, of Georgia, in 1835, in Section 21, on a little stream in the timber west of Joseph Miller's present residence. Pearson sold his claim in 1836 to John and William Piercy, of Virginia, and crossed the Marias De Ogee and died a few years afterwards. The Piercys transferred the claim to Joseph and John Miller, and returned to Virginia. The cabin built on the first claim still stands, a land mark in Newton's history.
The second settlement in the township was made on Sectiou 16, in 1836, by Adam Stallnaker, a Virginian. He sold his claim to Alexander Thompson and Samuel Miller, in 1838. Mr. Stallnaker afterwards made a claim in Albany township, where he died. John S. Thompson, and Mrs. Hugh Thompson, still reside on the Stallnaker claim. In 1837, Adam Huffman, of Virginia, made a claim on Section 24, in the east part of the town. Mr. Huffman resided in Newton until a few years ago, when he removed to Clinton Iowa. Luke Abbey, of New Jersey, also made a settlement on the same Section in the fall of 1837. During the same year Stephen B. Slocumb and William G. Nevitt made claims in the northeast part of the township, about three miles from Albany, and settled upon them very soon afterwards. Mr. Slocumb dragged a log with an ox team from Albany to the Miller Grove, and the trail thus marked out became a road which is now known as Slocumb street; the road was afterwards continued through to the Erie Settlement. During the year 1838 Henry Rexroad located on section 23 and built a claim cabin. The same year John Winchell, of Indiana, settled near the Mineral Springs, the grove thereabouts taking his name, and by which it was known to the older settlers. Mr. Winchell returned to Indiana in 1844. Jerome Yager, of Virginia, made a settlement also in 1838. In 1839, quite a reinforcement was received by the arrival of Alexander Thompson and his sons, who purchased claims; Samuel Miller came the same year, and Joseph and John Miller soon followed. The same year Wm. Booth, with his family, came into the township and settled on section 9, being the first family to locate in that part of the town. Lyman Bennett also resided in the township at this time, near the Mineral Springs. In addition to Stephen B. Slocumb, his brothers William, Samuel and Charles Slocumb, were early settlers in the northwest part of the township. Settlers continued to come into the town rapidly after the way was well opened, but it was not until 1850 that the rich prairie land began to be settled, the pioneers as a rule seeking the timber and water courses. The land "came into market" in 1845, but had been surveyed in 1840.
The early settlers found the timber populated by Indians, peaceable, but beggars and thieves. The trail between Miller's grove and the Mineral Springs grove was, until the prairie was broken up, well defined. The pioneers experienced no difficulty in raising magnificent winter wheat, which they threshed out by "tramping it" with oxen and with flails. The chaff was cleaned from the grain at first with sieves and pouring it from a height while the prairie winds were blowing. When fanning mills came into use the neighbors, by clubbing together, procured one. The first threshing machines were rude affairs in comparison with the elaborate concerns of the present. A machine used in Newton many years ago was invented by the "Knox boys," now substantial farmers in the vicinity of Morrison. Upon the machine bundles enough were carried to produce a few bushels of wheat, and the team was driven around in a circle until the sheaves were threshed. This invention was known as a "Traveller." It was slow work, but an improvement upon the treading out process and the flail. Owing to the lack of water power no mills were built in Newton, and the settlers were obliged to visit distant points to have their grain ground. Until Albany became a market the farmers by tedious stages hauled their produce to Galena, Savanna, and in some instances to Chicago.
Among the pioneers of Newton who settled in the township previous to 1840, are the following: Jeremiah Pearson, John and William Piercey, Adam Stallnaker, Luke Abbey, Adam Huffman, Jerome Yager, Wm. G. Nevitt, S. B. Slocumb, W m. Slocumb, Samuel Slocumb, Charles Slocumb, Henry Rexroad, John Winchell, Wm. Booth, Sr., Stephen C. Booth, William S. Booth, Edward D. Booth, James H. Booth, Joseph Miller, John Miller, Samuel Miller, Alexander Thompson, J. S. Thompson, Hugh Thompson, Lyman Bennett, John Beardsworth, Horace Chamberlain, Horace Root, O. A. Root, Reuben Root, John Root, William Prothrow.
The first white child born in Newton township was Wm. Abbey, son of Luke Abbey. He was a member of the 34th Illinois Regiment, and died of disease soon after the regiment went into service. The first marriage celebrated in the township, was that of Henry Rexroad and Eliza Abbey. It is usually asserted that the first person in the township to die was a young man in the employ of James Early, by the name. of Swett, and next a gentleman by the name of Gile. Both these men, however, lived in what is now Fenton, just over the Newton line. They were buried on the bank of the Marais d' Ogee, near where Mr. J. Y. McCall now resides. The first death in what is now Newton township, was probably that of John Winchell's chIld, at Mineral Springs.
The first school was taught in Henry Rexroad's claim cabin, on section 23, in 1839, by Eliza Abbey, afterwards Mrs. Rexroad. It was conducted upon the subscription plan, and numbered about ten pupils. A Sunday School was inaugurated the same year, John Freek, of the Erie settlement, Superintendent. This earnest gentleman walked from Erie each Sunday. He also had charge of the prayer meeting and class service of the members of the Methodist church.
The first religious organization was a Methodist class, in 1839, led also by Mr. John Freek. The names of the members of the first class, now obtainable are, Adam Huffman and wife, Luke Abbey and wife, Mrs. Jerome Yager, Mrs. James Early, and Henry Rexroad. The same year Rev. McMurtay preached to the little society. Rev. James McKean also served them. Samuel Slocumb, a local preacher, ministered occasionally to their spiritual wants. The services were held in the cabins of Adam Huffman, Henry Rexroad, S. B. Slocumb, John Winchell, and others, until the school houses began to multiply, when they were made to do duty as churches. The first" regular" school house was built in Newton in 1842, near Mineral Springs. It was of hewn logs, and at that time considered quite a pretentious institution of learning. About this time S. B. Slocumb donated a tract of land for church purposes, and principally by his efforts and those of W. G. Nevitt, a building was erected to be used as a church. It is now known as "Slocumb's School House," but religious services are still continued in the building. Since this first early organization the Methodist denomination has had a strong footing in Newton, and at this time has a pleasant and substantial church edifice -" Zion Church"- in the northeast part of the township.
The Presbyterians, of whom a respectable number were among the early settlers, were soon provided with religious instruction at Miller's Grove. They were also worshipers at Albany. The members of this society kept up their interest, and for years had preaching in the Center School House. They now have a large, comfortable church edifice near the center of the township, and maintain regular services.
The Roman Catholic Church is well represented, and have a new church edifice. Rev. John Kilkenny, of Fulton, has charge of the Parish.
There is also a large number of persons in the township denominated "River Brethren," or "Dunkards." Their religious services are conducted in barns, and the people are noted for their simplicity, honesty and frugality.
In 1857 the Camanche, Albany & Mendota Railroad excited the farmers to a high pitch, and visions of convenient markets, greatly enhanced values of land, and other advantages, passed before them. Assistance was asked from the tillers of the soil to put the road through, and readily they responded by mortgaging their farms. The road was a failure, but the farmers were required to pay. Many of them suffered severely for a "barren failure," as only the grade of the road was the result of their contributions. The bridge franchise of the concern was sold to the company that now own the bridge over the Mississippi at Clinton, Iowa. Despite all drawbacks Newton prospered and increased in material wealth. Settlers began to pour in and rapidly settled up the rich prairies and bottomlands, and the building of railroads through Albany on one side, and Erie on the other, created convenient and excellent markets for the bounteous crops of cereals and live stock, and at this time Newton, in point of agricultural wealth and importance, ranks equally with any township in the county.
During the war of the rebellion Newton made a magnificent record, sending 140 men into the field, a larger number than the voting population of the township was at any time prior to the war. Of this number 26 were killed and died of disease while in the service. The citizens who remained at home were lavish with their contributions, and no call for aid of the soldiers in field and hospital was unheeded. Immense sums of money were also raised to pay bounties to volunteers, and otherwise prosecute the war.
The first election under township organization was held in Newton, April 6, 1852. Officers elected: Supervisor, Joseph Miller; Town Clerk, S. B. Slocumb; Assessor, John S. Thompson; Collector, John Mitchell; Overseer of the Poor, Luke Abbey; Commissioners of Highways, George Rouse, W. G. Nevitt and O. A. Root; Constables, Arthur Huffman and W. 'V. Slocumb; Justices of the Peace, William Payne, S. B. Bliss; Pathmasters, Mathew Abbey, S. W. Slocumb, William Prothrow, and Robert Roxby; Poundmaster, John Beardsworth. The township was divided into four road districts, and a lawful fence was defined as one four and a half feet high. The Road Commissioner assessed two days labor upon each person liable to road labor; also an assessment of taxes on property sufficient to raise the deficiency to 144 days' labor; also one day's assessment against non-resident lands for each $300 in value. The next year, at the annual township meeting, $60.00 was voted for current expenses; in 1854 $100 was appropriated, and a resolution adopted providing for a fine of 25 cents per head on hogs running at large, for each day's violation. In 1856 a rail fence five feet high, staked and ridered, upon blocks fourteen inches high, was decided to be a lawful fence. In 1862 it was by vote resolved to collect by taxes $50 to pay for wolf scalps-$1 for old wolves and 50 cents for pups. In 1862 Mr. S. B. Slocumb resigned the office of Clerk, owing to removal from the township, and addressed his fellow-citizens a letter, retrospective and prophetic, which contained much valuable advice. The letter was ordered recorded, and a committee appointed to indite a suitable reply. October 25, 1864, a special meeting was called and a tax of one per cent. voted on each $100 to pay bounties to volunteers. In 1867 the citizens memorialized the Board of Supervisors in regard to swamp lands in the township. The lands in question have been largely recovered by drainage, and bid fair to become the most valuable property for general agricultural purposes in the township.
Supervisors:-1852, Joseph Miller; 1853, William Prothrow; 1854, James Blean; 1855, S. B. Bliss; 1856-'58, William Prothrow; Prothrow resigned, vacancy filled by I. B. Emmons; 1859, S. B. Bliss; 1860-'61, E. L. Cone; 1862, William Prothrow; 1863-'65, Jos. H. Marshall; 1866-'67, William Prothrow; 1868-'71, J. H. Marshall; 1872-'77, Jesse K. Blean.
Town Clerks :-1852-'61, S. B. Slocumb; 1862-'65, Jesse K. Blean; 1866-'67, E. C. Simpson; 1868-'71, J. K. Blean; 1872, E. C. Simpson; 1873, A. F. Rexroad; 1874-'75, E. B. Myers; 1876-'77, Herbert Beardsworth.
Assessors :-1852-'53, John Mitchell; 1854, W. G. Nevitt; 1855, John Blean; 1856, William Fletcher; 1857-'58, S. B. Bliss; 1861-'62, Joseph B. Marshall; 1863, W. Y. Wetzell; 1864, Henry Rexroad; 1865, W. L. Mitchell; 1866, Edwin Thomas; 1867, S. B. Bliss; 1868-'72, William Payne; 1873-'75, Henry Myers; 1876-'77, W. L. Mitchell.
Collectors:-1852, John Mitchell; 1853, Wm. Mitchell; 1854-56, O. A. Root; 1857, Arthur McLane; 1858, I. B. Emmons; I859, John Baker; 1860: Peter Myers; 1861, John Baker, 1862, S. B. Snyder; 1863, Charles W. Abbey, 1864-'66, Henry Myers; 1867, C. W. Abbey; 1868, W. L. Mitchell; 1869, Chas: E. Wood; 1870, George M. Miller: 1871, S. W. Smith; 1872, Jas. Van Fleet, 1873, Wm.}f.. Miller; 1874, J. L. Van Fleet; 1875-'77, Charles Wood.
Justices of the Peace:-1852, Wm. Payne, S. B. Bliss; 1856, O. A. Root, S. B. Bliss; 1860, W. G. Nevitt, I. B. Emmons; 1864, I. B. Emmons, L. Slaymaker; 1865, H. E. Collins; 1867, O. A. Root; 1868, O. A. Root, W. G. Nevitt; 1872, A. O. Myers, W. G. Nevitt; 1877, W. G. Nevitt, George Hill.
The first recorded school meeting was held in Newton, December 25,1849. Trustees, John S. Thompson and Wm. Payne. A laudable interest has always been take Ii in educational matters, and the district schools of Newton compare favorably with those of any township in the county. The districts are all able to pay, and as a rule employ competent teachers to whom liberal salaries are allowed. There is in the township, eight schools. Present Board of Trustees, Henry Rexroad and W. G. Nevitt. Jesse K. Blean is Secretary and Treasurer.
The Assessor's books for 1877 enumerates 15,622 acres of improved land, and 6,545 acres unimproved; 552 horses; 1,388 cattle; 574 sheep; 2,380 hogs; 98 sewing and knitting machines; 24 pianos, organs, and melodeons; assessed value of agricultural tools $3,208. Total assessed valne of all property, $455,022. Population of Newton in 1870, 880. Estimated population in 1877, 1,100.
The Kingsbury Postoffice has been established for several years, and is the only postoffice in the township. The mail is brought from Fenton Center and Erie by horse. Dr. Cyrus Miller is Postmaster.
The Mineral Springs, noted for their superior medicinal qualities, are situated on section 24, near the eastern
boundary of the township. There are two of these springs, the water being about alike in both. They are resorted
to by many in quest of health, during the summer season; but the hotel arrangements, as yet, are insufficient for
the accommodation of a large number at a time. With a proper outlay of money these Springs could be made a favorite
resort, not only for the invalid, but the pleasure-seeker, and would soon become widely renowned. The place has
already become known as the "Saratoga of Whiteside." The Springs are owned by Mr. William A. Passmore.
The situation is romantic, being in a beautiful ravine; and surrounded by hills. Attached to the Springs are good
bathing-houses. [Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles
Bent; pub. 1877]
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