HISTORY of STERLING TOWNSHIP
[Source: Whiteside County, Illinois, From Its First Settlement To The Present Time; by Charles Bent; Page 390; pub. 1877]
The present township of Sterling originally formed a part of Harrisburgh Precinct, and then of Elkhorn Precinct, where it remained until it was created a township by the Commissioners appointed by the County Commissioners’ Court in 1852 to divide the county into townships, give them names, and prescribe their boundaries. Sterling township comprises all that part of Congressional township 21 north, range 7 east of the 4th principal meridian, as lies north of Rock river, and contains all of sections 1-21, 24, and fractional parts of sections 22, 23, 25, 28, 29, and 30, in that Congressional township. The land back of Rock river is rolling prairie, excepting along the banks of the Elkhorn creek, where it is broken in places, and more or less covered with timber. Along the river in the middle and upper portions of the city of Sterling, and for a short distance eastward, the land is somewhat bluffy, all of which was originally covered with timber. The balance along the river is divided between bottom and rolling land. The township is watered by Rock river on the south, and by Elkborn creek, which enters it near the northwest corner of section 2, thence flowing nearly westward through sections 8 and 4, and thence in a southwesterly course through sections 5, 8, 17, and 18, when it passes into Hopkins township. Besides the timber land along the banks of Rock river and Elkhorn creek, there is quite a tract on section 6, in the northwest part of the township, which is divided into lots. The farming land of the township is exceedingly fertile, and under the excellent management of its owners, produces abundant crops. A good quality of stone for building purposes is quarried at the foot of the bluffs in the upper part of Sterling, and in the rapids of the river.
Early in 1834, the populous township of Sterling could boast of only one inhabitant, Mr. Hezekiah Brink, who, though bearing the weight of many years, is still living at his old homestead. During that year Mr. Brink made an exploring expedition through a portion of Rock River Valley. At Dixon he met Messrs. Andrews and Holland, and with them journeyed down the north side of Rock river through Gap Grove, passed the site of the present city of Sterling, and paused at the point where Como is now located. From thence the explorers followed the Elkhorn to the mouth of Spring creek, a little west of the present village of Empire, crossing the, former stream by swimming their horses, and transporting themselves and baggage in an Indian canoe. Striking down to the river again, they followed an Indian trail to a point opposite the Prophet’s village, and leaving their horses to graze at the ox-bow bend, crossed over to where they found a cabin, occupied by a Mr. McClure, with whom they remained over night The next morning they started back to Dixon, following the river trail, and after a few day’s rest at Father Dixon’s cabin, during which they discussed the relative merits of the different points they had visited, decided where to locate their respective claims. Andrews and Holland, having the first choice, selected the land on the river bend, afterwards known as the Como Purchase. Mr. Brink made his claim on the north bank of Rock river, east of the street now known as Broadway in Sterling. As soon as this matter was concluded, Mr. Brink proceeded to Oswego, on the Fox river, and exchanged his horse for a yoke of oxen. Upon his return to Indiana, he brought his family back with him to its new home, and occupied his cabin about May 1, 1835. His improvements were made within the limits of the present city of Sterling. At that time Mr. Brink’s nearest neighbor resided at what is now called Old Prophetstown
In 1835 John J. Albertson and came from Dutchess New York, and made a claim east of Mr. Brink’s, upon which they settled. William Kirkpatrick came in the spring of this year, made a claim and built a cabin where, the section line between section 22 and 27 intersects Rock river at the rapids. He came from Sangamon county, Illinois, and had crossed the river at this point in going from home to Yellow creek near Freeport, where he had a saw mill. John W. Chapman also came in 1835, and settled west of the present city of Sterling, claiming the constitutional number of acres - six hundred and forty of prairie, and one hundred and twenty of timber. Samuel S. Geer, John Simonson, John Wilcox, and Jacob Brown, also came this year.
In 1836 the population was increased by the arrival of Elijah Worthington and Julius D. Pratt, from Luzerne county, Pennsylvania; Luther Bush, from New York; Van J. Adams from Ohio; Wyatt Cantrell from Kentucky; John W. McLemore, David Steele, John Ogle (came from Fountain county, Indiana with his family, in the spring of 1836. He was a carpenter by trade. He married Miss Sarah Brink, in Indiana. Their children were, Benjamin, John and Daniel. Mrs. Ogle, after the death of her husband, married Ezra Huett, moved to Iowa, where he died in January, 1877), Enoch and Noah Thomas; Nelson Mason, John D. Barnett (came to Chatham with Nelson Mason; and was a partner with him, in the first store opened in that place. At the establishment of Rock River Rapids Postoffice, he was appointed the first Postmaster. He had a wife and one child, and returned to the East in 1841); and others. Messrs. Mason and Barnett were met on the prairie where they were searching for homes for themselves and families on Government lands, by William Kirkpatrick, while on one of his trips from his home in Sangamon county to his mill on Yellow creek, and persuaded by him to visit Chatham. The place pleased them so well that they determined to locate there. Van J. Adams made a claim about two miles east of Sterling, upon which he resided until his death.
During the year 1837 the number of settlers was further increased, among them being Hugh Wallace, Eliphalet B. Worthington. James C. Woodburn came with his brother, Capt. Geo. W. Woodburn, from Cumberland county, Pennsylvania, to Sterling, in 1837. In 1839 he was elected the first Sheriff of Whiteside county, and served the regular term. He conducted the first Circuit Court held in the county, at Lyndon, in 1840. he died of consumption in 1848. George W. Woodburn, Ezekiel Kilgour, William A. Merritt, John Pettigrew, D. C. Combs, William H. H. Whipple, and Benjamin Fancier. The Woodburns purchased part of the claim of John W Chapman, west of Sterling. Mr. Whipple also purchased a part of this claim. William A. Merritt died twenty years ago of consumption. D. C. Combs was a blacksmith, and had a shop in Harrisburg, but did not remain long. A man by the name of Johnson made a caim during the year, in the grove now the property of the heirs of Joel Harvey, three miles west of the present city of Sterling. He was unmarried and lived with his brother-in-law, a Mr. Halloway. Johnson died in 1838, and was the second person buried in the cemetery near the Lutheran church, Mr. Steele being the first. After the death of Johnson, Mr. Halloway, who was an Englishman and did understand the science of farming, returned East. The land was afterwards entered by other parties.
A large number of settlers came in 1838, among them, Luther B. Wetherbee, Col. Jacob Whipple, James M. Whipple, Dr. John A. Bates, Dr. A. W. Benton, Daniel M. Vrooman, Jesse Penrose, Theodore and Elijah Winn, Jonathan Stevens, Wesley Robinson, John Platt, and Brewster Platt. Daniel M. Vrooman went to California in 1850, and when last heard from he was at returning from Sacramento to San Francisco on a boat. Dr. John B. Bates, a highly educated gentleman and successful physician, died in the winter of 1842-’43. His remains were taken to Massachusetts by his friends, for burial, about ten years after his death . The Wlnn brothers have been dead a number of years. Dr. A.W. Benton practiced medicine a number of years in Sterliog, and then moved to Fulton. He died some years ago. Jonathan Stevens made a claim north of the present city of Sterling. Marshall L. Pratt came this year and purchased an undivided sixteenth part of Harrisburgh and remained, two years, and the went West, forfeiting his claim, which became the property of Theodore Winn. Among the arrivals in 1839 and 1840, were John Enderton, C. C. Judd, William E. Boardman, William H. and George K. Adams, Robert L. Wilson, and John Dippell. After that time settlers came in more rapidly, as the beauty and fertility of Rock River Valley had become pretty Widely known.
The following are the names of the early settlers of Sterling, as near as can be asertained with the year of their arrival : 1834 Hezekiah Brink, James Holland, John Andrews, William Andrews, Peter Burke, Samuel Geer; 1835, Samuel S. Geer, John J. Albertson, Isaac H. Albertson, John Simonson, John W. Chapman, Wright Murphy, William Kirkpatrick, John WIlcox, Jacob Brown, Samuel Brady; 1836, Elijah Worthington, Julius D. Pratt, John Ogle, Wyatt Cantrell, John W. McLemore, Van J. Adams, Col. S. W. Johnston, Luther Bush, Nelson Mason, John D. Barnett, John Mason, Andrew McMoore, David Steele, William Oliver, Isaac Ricco, William Reed, Enoch Thomas, Noah Thomas, Andrew Swan, Bowman Bacon (removed to the west in 1838,with the Stevens family, to which he was related. Mr. Bacon married Mrs. Fuller. He served in the army as Cantain of Company G, 74th Illinois Regiment. He was wounded at Kenesaw Mountain, from the effects of which he died, July 21, 1864), Andrew Oliver, D.B. Combs, A.F.R. Emmons; 1837, Eliphalet B. Worthington, James C. Woodburn, George W. Woodburn, Ezekiel Kilgour, Zera M. Chapman, Levi Chapman, Porter S. Chapman, William H.H. Whipple, Henry Brewer, Horatio Wells, John Pettigrew, Benjamin Fancier, A.B. Steele, Henry Tuttle, Marshall Pratt, John Petty, Hiram Hadlock, WIlliam A. Merritt, Moses Warner and family came west in 1839 in company with the Whipples and Wetherbee families; they stopped about a year in Sterling, and in 1839 settled in Lee county. Mr. Warner died in the winter of 1876-7, at an advanced age. Two sons, Henry and Moses M., reside in Sterling. Hugh Wallace. Hiram Platt (came to Sterling from New York State in 1837, and made a claim at the spring two miles north of the city of Sterling. Mr. Platt married late in life. His wife died a few years after the marriage, and he died in 1869), D.D. Guile, D.C. Combs; 1838, James Carley, Sutherland Ingurel, William Rogers, Charles Wickwire, William Stephens, Dr. John A. Bates, John Brendago, Martin Montgomery, Zachariah Dent, Col. Jacob Whippled, James M. Whipple, Luther B. Wetherbee, George Wells, George D. Reed, Robert C. Andrews, Charles King, Chester Millard, Theodore Winn, Elijah Winn, Jesse Penrose, Wesley Robinson, Daniel M. Vrooman, John Platt, Brewster Platt, George Blanchard, Jonathan Stevens, Charles Miles, George Chandler, Ephraim Batcheller, Dr. A.W. Benton; 1839, John Enderton, C.C. Judd, Oscar Rhodes, William E. Boardman, William H. Adams, George K. Adams, R.L.. Wilson, D.F. Batcheller, John Dippell and others, came in 1840, and the settlement from that time was largely increased by arrivals.
The first white child born in the present township of Sterling, was Margara, daughter of Hezekiah and Martha Brink, the date being February 25, 1836. She married Mr. A.B. Crandall, in 1855. The first male child born in Sterling is claimed to be Chas. M. Worthington, a son of Elijah Worthington, and well known as a former editor of the Sterling Gazette.
The first death is stated to be that of a young man who had been one of a party to oust a claim jumper. At such times parties went armed, fearing a warm reception from the jumper and his friends, and such as the case with the party which this young man joined. While on their way to the claim a musket was accidentally discharged, the contents of which entered hisleg, causing a wound of so serious a nature that amputation was found to be necessary, and a short time afterwards he died.
There seems to be a lack of recollection as to the earliest marriage which took place within the territory now comprising the present township of Sterling. The first marriage of which we have been able to find any record was that of Robert C. Andrews and Rhoda C. Kingsbury, which occurred April 24, 1842, Van J. Adams, Justice of the Peace, officiating, although other marriages unddoubtedly took place at a much earlier date. The marriage of John Dippell and Esther H. Bush occurred June 18, 1843. That of James Bradley and Lucinda Brewer February 13, 1844.
The early settlers of Sterling had been well educated at their old homes, and soon turned their attention to providing means for the education of their children. There were no school houses , and as in similar cases throughout the county, the cabin was turned into a school room. Mrs. E.B. Worthington has the honor of being the first teacher, the school being held in her own house. Among her scholars were many who today are leading citizens of Sterling and other places. The next school was taught by Mr. L. Whipple, in a building erected for a shop on Fulton street in the fall of 1838. Mr. William H. Andrews succeeded Mr. Whipple as teacher in the same building. Now the finest shcoolhouses in the county, or in this section of the State, can be found in Sterling.
Religious services, like the schools, were held at first in the cabins of the settlers. Hezekiah Brink, Luther Bush, and others, early opened their residences to the minister, and invited their neighbors to attend divine services. The first religious society in the township was organized in the cabin of Mr. Brink, in 1836, by Rev. Barton H. Cartwright, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church. The members were then few in number, but strong in the faith. Out of this organization has grown the present Broadway M.E. Church, in the city of Sterling.
The first traveled road was from the present city of Sterling to Gap Grove, and was laid out by Hezekiah Brink in the primitive manner of the time, by cutting down a small tree and hitching his oxen to it, and then having it gragged over the prairie, the distance between the places being seven miles. The road was soon afterwards legally laid out by viewers appointed by the Jo Davies County Commissioner's Court, Mr. Brink being one of the viewers.
The first town meeting in Sterling under the township organization law, was held at the Court House, April 6, 1852, with Luther Bush as Moderator and David M. Ward, Clerk protem. Fifty four votes were polled. It was ordered, among other things, at that meetin g, that there should be one Pound Master in the town who should build at the expense of the town, a good and sufficient pound or yard to keep any animals which might be put into it, the yard to cover an area of thirty-six feet square, and to be located at the discretion of the Pound Master. The owners of hogs were forbidden to allow them to run at large at any season of the year; but other stock owned by them might be permitted to do so under certain restrictions. It was also voted to levy a tax to build the Pound. The Commissioners of Highways, elected at this town meeting, reported during the year that the road labor asessed was two days for each man, not exempt by law, and that all the fines and communtations had been received by the Overseers, and expended for the benefit of the highways.
At the town meeting in 1853, it was ordered that the grave yard above the upper town be purchased for the use of the inhabitants of the township, and that a deed be made to the Board of Supervisors in trust for the township. A committee, consisting of L.D. Crandll, R.L. Wilson, and Hezekiah Brink, was appointed to obtain, if possible, a further quantity of land, either by donation or purchase, adjoining the above grave yard, which should be added to it, for burial purposes, the committee to report at the next town meeting. A motion was made at this meeting to repeal the hog law passed the year before, but it was vociferously voted down, and to show that hogs must mind their business, and keep in their litle pens, it was ordered that a fine of twenty-five cents in addition to the lawful fee be levied on each hog put into the Pound, the owner to disburse the quarter. It was further ordered that a fine of ten dollars be levied on any person with should forcibly take away any hog put into the Pound, or for injuring or destroying any part of the. fence enclosing the yard, all of the money arising from swine fines to become a part of the town fund. The number of votes cast at this election was thirty-four, twenty less than at the first town meeting.
At the town meeting in 1854, the committee appointed at the previous meeting made a report, and it was then ordered that the township purchase of Jesse Penrose, a tract of land consisting of eight or ten acres, owned by him, lying east of the grave yard, near the bank of the river, above the upper part of the villageof Sterling, and that twenty-five dollars per acre be paid there-for, the tract to be used as a burying ground for the township. It was also voted to raise two hundred dollars to purchase the land. The hog law was further added to, by imposing an additional fine upon the owner of every hog, large or small, taken up and put into the Pound. A tax was not deemed necessary by the voters at this meeting, to meet the expenses of the township for the coming year, as a fund sufficient for that purpose remained in the hinds of the Supervisor. The number of votes polled at this election was only thirty-two. The following shows the vote cast at each town meeting from 1855 to 1860; 1855, 91; 1856; 242; 1857, 226; 1858, 321; 1859, 407; 1860, 430.
The following have been the Supervisors, Town Clerks, Assessors, Collecton, and Justices of the Peace, of the township of Sterling from 1852 to 1877, inclusive:
Supervisor - 1852-’55, Jesse Penrose; 1856, Edward N. Kirk; 1857-’58, Decius 0. Coe; 1859, Frederick Sackett; 1860, Samuel S. Patterson; 1861—’62, Daniel Richards; 1863, Marcus L. Gee; 1864, Nelson Mason; 1865-’66, A. A. Terrell; 1867, Dicius O. Coe; 1868, Joseph M. Patterson; 1869-73, Joseph M. Patterson,
William M. Kilgour; 1874, John G. Manahan, Samuel C. Harvey; 1875-76, Joseph M. Patterson, James M. Wallace; 1877, William A. Sanborn, W. C. Robinson.
Town Clerks: 1852-’53, Norton J. Nichols; 1854-’55, R De Garmo; 1856, Edward Jamieson; 1857, A. H. Buckwalter; 1858, Rudolph Kauffman; 1859-’61, Jesse Penrose; 1862-77, J. B. Myers.
Assessors: 1852, Henry Tuttle; 1853-’54, Marcus L. Coe; 1855, Benjamin Stauffer; 1856, Cyrus Manahan; 1857, James Galt; 1858, Charles Rost; 1859-67, D. M. Ward; 1868, John C. Teats; 1869-71, W. H. Smith; 1872, Adam R. Smith; 1873, J. C. Teats; 1874, Israel Slater; 1875-’77, Charles N. Munson.
Collectors - 1852, Henry Aument; 1853-54, George W. Brewer; 1855, Benjamin Stauffer; 1856-’57, John Dippell; 1858, Rudolph Kauffman; 1859, Joseph E. Cobbey; 1860, Jerome D. Herrick; 1861, Charles M. Worthington; 1862, C. L. Ginkinger; 1863, Edward H. Barber, 1864, C. L. Ginkinger; 1865, R. L. Mangan; 1866-.’67, Richard B. Getz, 1868, F. 0. Headley; 1869-’71, Andrew K. Haberer; 1872, Charles N. Munson; 1873-74, Israel Slater; 1875, D. Bard Rock; 1876, Noah Merrill; 1877, John H. Sides.
Justices of the Peace:-1855, Joseph Golder, D. M. Ward; 1856, Wm. M. Kilgour; 1858, D. M. Ward; 1860, Wm. M. Kilgour, John S. Stager, Joseph E. Cobbey;. 1864, John S. Stager, Allen W. Beatty; 1866, R.L. Mangan; 1868, John S. Stager, R. L. Mangan, E.G. Allen; 1869, R. Champion, F. Vandervoort; 1872, B. L. Mangan, J W. Alexander, R; Champion, E.G. Allen; 1873, J.W. Alexander, R. Champion, R.L. Mangan, E.G. Allen; 1877, E. G. Allen, R. Champion, Adam B. Smith, J. W. Alexander, R. L. Mangan.
On the bank of Rock river above Sterling are several groups of mounds and earthworks, and below the Fair Grounds there are, twenty-two mounds, one which is the largest in the county. These ancient mounds contain in many instances human bones, showing that the buuilders used them in part at least, as burial places for their dead. The question whether these mounds were built by a prehistoric race, is. still a mooted one. Besides those bones, a great variety of articles have been found, consisting of ancient crockery, arrow and spear heads, stone axes, curiously shaped fragments of stone, intended undoubtedly for ornaments, and in some cases copper tools and implements. These have been eagerly sought after by those interested in ancient relics, and are carefully treasured by their possessors.
About two miles east of the city of Sterling, on the farm of Mr. Albertson is a mineral spring, the water of which is said to contain soda, magnesia, potassa, lithia and, silica, and some chlorides and phosphates. This spring has lately become quite noted, and many resort to it for the beneficial properties of water. Bathing houses, and other buildings for the convenienoe of guests, have been erected, and the place has assumed the appearance, to quite an extent, of a fashionable watering resort. The spring is situated in a beautiful grove, the drive to it from Sterling,over a fine road, affords pleasure as well benefit.
The following is related as the way an early pioneer of Sterling township secured a second wife, and may be useful to some at this day who are anxious to find spouses to take the place of those who have gone to the realms above. This early settler being left alone in a strange country by the death of the, wife of his youth, and being desolate beyond degree, determined to seek for another help meet. But how to do this was the difficulty, and after revolving the matter in his mind for several days determined to call upon the Probate Justice in Sterling, and one day made that official a visit. The Justice kindly gave him a list of all the widows in Whiteside county, taken from the Probate records, together with a letter addressed to whom it might concern, that the bearer was an intelligent, and industrious farmer, had a good home, and was in possession of the qualities both personally and materially to make the coming wife happy and contented. Thus prepared he started out on foot on a cool, bracing December morning, with his wedding garments, tied up in a bandana handkerchief, slung across his shoulder. ‘the first day’s search proved unsuccessful, but on the second, he found a widow willing to listen to his suit, and a bargain., was concluded. Two weeks, were to intervene before the happy event, and at the end of the probation he led his blushing bride of fifty summers to the altar. In this connection it might be well to add that the festive groom had grappled with the cold and snows of seventy winters; The Probate Justice, as a reward the part he had taken in securing the union of two loving hearts was invited, together with his wife and friends, to partake of the banquet provided by the newly wedded pair at the home where they were to fight the battle of life together.
The township contains 12,040 acres of improved lands, and 2,292 of unimproved. Number of improved lots, 1,082; unimproved lots, 385. The number of horses in the town, as shown by the Assessors book for 1877, is 765; cattle, 3,185; mules and asses; 21; sheep, 65, hogs, 1,328; steam engines, including boilers, 7; carriages and wagons, 512; watches and clocks, 436; sewing and kniting machines, 319; piano fortes, 75; melodeons and organ 99. Total assessed value of lands, lots and personal property, $2,340,470; value of railroad property, $45,829. Total assessed value of all property in 1877, $2,349,709.)
The population of Sterling township and city in 1860, according to the Federal census was 2,428. The population of the township, outside of the city, in 1870, was 712, of which 600 were of native birth, and 112 of foreign birth. The present population outside of the city is estimated at 1,000.
History of Sterling
Sterling is beautifully situated on the south bank of Rock river, on sections 20, 21 and 22, of Congressional township 21 north range 4 east of the 4th Principal Meridian. The portion of it lying along the line of the river from Mulberry street to the eastern limits is somewhat high and broken, and fine building sites, many of which have been occupied. The rise of ground, however, in the lower or western part of the city, which commands a fine view of the river, is at present the favorite building locality, and upon it, and facing Third street, are situated some of the most splendid private residences in the city. Many of these residences are palatial in their construction, adornment, and interior appointments, exhibiting in a marked degree not only the opulence but taste of their owners. Other dwellings of almost equal magnificence ar scattered throoughout the city, the surface being sufficiently undulating to furnish excellent building locations in every part. Added to these natural advantages, has been the work of the citizens in filling up the low places, leveling the elevations where necessary, properly grading the streets, and more than all, in planting an abundance of shade trees. Many of the streets are rendered truly magnificent by the beauty and luxuriance of these trees, in a sanitary point of view the location of Sterling is unexcelled. The land is sufficiently elevated above the river to prevent overflow even at the highest stage of water. The height also renders drainage facilities easy of accomplishment. Diseases prevalent in many other towns, are unknown in Sterling, and the general healthfulness of the place equal to that of the most favored in this regard, in Northwestern Illinois. Nature not only gave beauty and healthfulness to the location of Sterling, but added to them a water power of a magnitude rarely excelled. She apparently not only designed making the place one of great attraction to the seekers for beautiful homes, but also gave them the facilities for the creation of immense wealth. The advantages afforded by the rapids for manufacturing and milling purposes was early discovered, but the limited means of the settlers at the time prevented them from being utilized to any extent. It did not require a very keen insight into the future, however, to predict that at no distant day the enterprise of man would turn them to valuable account. Such open and undisguised offers of nature for, the production of wealth are not often rejected. When their discovery once becomes known, some pioneer opens the way for their utilization by the construction of a rude dam or race, and builds his mill, relying upon the sparsely settled country around for support. In a few years this rude structure, and even ruder machinery, gives way to a building of larger dimensions, and machinery of later and more improved make. These in tUl’fl are succeeded by still more ample structures, and extensive and powerful machinery, until they too give way to the mammoth factory, and the almost human agencies which do their work in the manufacture of the thousand and one articles of merchandise and industry, which contribute so much to wealth, comfort, and advancement of the human race. The first white man to take advantage of the power furnished by the Rock river rapids, of which there is any account, was Wyatt Cantrell, who constructed a rude dam, and built a diminutive mill on the north bank of the river at the foot of the present Walnut street, in the city of Sterling. Limited as were his facilities, he did the custom work for the settlers in the eastern and southern parts of Whiteside county, and a portion of northern parts of Bureau and Henry counties, for ten years. Since that pioneer effort, this great water power has been developed to such an extent as to make it available for turning any amount of machinery. Within the limits of the manufacturing district of three large fiouring mills, and nearly a dozen manufactories which derive the motive power for their machinery from this source, and these take only a portion of the power, the Rock Falls mills and manufactories dividing it with them. Most of these manufactories have been built within the past few years and the number is still steadily on the increase. How many there will be years from now, human ken cannot foretell. The stately and capacious structures which have already been erected, and the almost ceaseless whirl and hum of their machinery, indicate a constant and growing business in the manufacture of the different kinds of implements and goods carried on within their walls. This must beget competition, as well as induce manufacturers of other staples, and not unlikely luxuries, to seek this favored locality, and erect even more pretentious buildings, containing the most powerful and improved machinery, side by side with those which now send forth to all of the States and Territories and even to many of the foreign lands, articles which equal any of their kind in excellence of make, and beauty of finish. It is not in the nature of things for a power like that at Sterling to keep in motion only the running gear of a limited number of works. It will keep grasping continually for additional wheels, and pulleys, and spindles, and engines, until it is enabled to use all its vast propelling force. Sterling, therefore, possessing this power cannot fail of becoming one of the largest and most important inland manufacturing points in the great West. The next decade may see the smoke arising from the tall chimnies of an hundred factories, and the citizens of the city daily hear the clang and clamor, the hum and the whirl, that issue from, and witness if they choose the hurry and the bustle that abound in, these hundred temples of manufacturing thrift and enterprise. The rich and prolific agricultural country which surrounds Sterling can easily furnish subsistence for the hundred, or thousands, of mechanics and operatives whose services these factories will require, and the railroad facilities will always be made sufficient to meet the demand for the import of the raw material, not furnished by home supply, and the export of the manufactured article.
The present city of Sterling took its rise from the combination of two villages, known as Harrisburgh and Chatham. Harrisburgh was settled first, the pioneer being Hezekiah Brink, who in early June, 1834, put up a house of logs and rifted lumber in what is now the First Ward of Sterling. This primitive building was the first one erected in the now populous city. Mr. Brink's nearest neighbor at that time was Mr. McClure, who had made a claim on Rock river, near the present village of Prophetstown. Close to his habitation the beautiful Rock river, the Sinnissippi of the Indians, and all around him was the boundless prairie, the only variation in the landscape being here and there along the river bank a narrow belt of timber. The place was desolate enough, and illy portended the growth in a comparatively few years of a large and wealthy city. Mr. Brink was soon afterwards joined by others, as mentioned in the history of the township, and the settlement began its career. In the summer of 1836, Capt. D. S. Harris, of the steamer Pioneer, came up the river with a load of provisions, and landed above the rapids, the settlers assisting with their ox teams in towing the boat over them to the landing point. A quantity of these provisions were sold to the settlers, and for payment the Captain took a one half interest in the town, which was then, in his honor, named Harrisburgh. Immediately afterwards Capt. Harris, Elijah Worthington, Hezekiah Brink, and others, had the town surveyed, laid out, and platted, the survey being made by Israel Mitchell, of Jo Daviess county, and the plat recorded in Ogle county. The town was bounded on the east and north by the city limets on the west by what is now Vine street, in the city of Sterling, and on the south by Rock river. A meeting was held by Capt. Harris and the leading settlers on board the steamer while it was being taken over the rapids, and among other matters discussed was that of establishing a Postoffice in the new town, and it was finally decided that a petition asking for one should be forwarded to Washington, as soon as some other preliminary matters had been settled. This petition was sent on in due time to the Postoffice Department, with a request that the name of the Postoffice be Rock River Rapids, and the postmaster Hezekiah Brink. The Department immediately acted upon it and granted both requests, but Mr. Brink declined to accept the position, and the Postoffice was abandoned. Some error having been discovered in the first survey, the town of Harrisburgh was re-surveyed and re-platted in 1837, by Joseph Crawford, now President of the First National Bank at Dixon. Mr. Swan, an agent of Capt. Harris, built a store that season on the bank of the river, known afterwards as the Richardson House which was occupied by Worthington & Brink, with a stock of goods. Several dwelling houses were also erectad in 1836 and 1837. In the spring of 1835, William Kirkpatrick, a resident of Sangamon county, Illinois, made a claim and built a cabin in what was afterwards known as Chatham. He was then the owner of a mill and a large claim on Yellow creek, near Freeport, Stephenson county, and the few inhabitants who had made permanent settlements in and around the territory now comprising the city of Sterling, were suspicious that Kirkpatrick was a land shark, basing their opinion upon the fact that the owner of so large a mill claim needed all his means to take care of and improve it, and whatever else he obtained would be merely for speculative purposes. The views entertained by the settlers were soon made known to him, and he invited a conference. Several meetings were held, which finally resulted in a compromise, Kirkpatrick agreeing to enter into a bond in the penal sum of $1000 conditioned that he should lay out a town at the rapids of Rock river, the next year. The bond was made and executed on the 16th of November, 1835, to Isaac H. Albertson, Simeon M. Coe, Wyatt Cantrell, Solomon Whitman, Ward Storer, Nathaniel Morehouse, John J. Albertson, Harvey Morgan, and John Simonson. In the spring of 1836, Kirkpatrick carried out his agreement, had the town laid out and platted, and gave to it the name of Chatham. During the summer he built a frame house in the town, hauling his lumber from his mill at Yellow creek, a distance of forty miles. This was the first frame house erected in what is now the city of Sterling, and stood on the bank of the river, occupying the site of Col. Boyden’s present residence. The original settlers of Chatham were: Nelson Mason, John D. Barnett, P. C. Cushman, P. F. Batcheller, John Enderton, A. McMoore, Robert 0. Andrews, John Mason, and Hugh Wallace. Messrs. Mason and Barnett purchased the interest of Kirkpatrick in the town, put some improvements to the frame house, arid filled it with an assortment of dry goods, groceries, boots and shoes, hats, caps, clothing, etc., making the stock the first assorted one opened in Whiteside county. The settlers in Buffalo, Elkhorn, and Genesee Groves, and also from Lyndon, Prophetstown and Portland, as well as many Indians then remaining in the Winnebago swamps, did their trading at this store. The original survey and plat of Chatham was made by Joseph Crawford, but in the spring of 1837 it was found that they were incorrect, and that re-surveying and re-platting was necessary, which was done by Charles R. Rood, now of Garden Plain. About five hundred lots were then platted. The plats of both Chatham and Harrisburgh were made and recorded before any of the townships were surveyed and divided into sections by the Government surveyors, and several years before the land was placed into market by the Government. Chatham was bounded on the east by the street now known as cherry street, in the city of Sterling; on the north by the city limits; on the west originally by what is now A street, and on the south by the river. The tier of blocks between Locust arid A, and part of B streets, were afterwards vacated by act of the General Assembly, upon petition of Hugh Wallace, and made a farm. Mason & Barnett were succeeded in 1841 in the general mercantile line, by William and George Adams, who erected a store building for their trade on Third street, the site being now occupied by the residence of Mr. Summy. Some other buildings were put up, but the growth of both Chatham and Harrisburgh at that time was very slow.
Lying between Vine street, or the west line of Harrisburgh, and Cherry on the east line of Chatham, was a space of ground which remained for some time as neutral territory. This space now covers over six blocks of the of Sterling. A survey and plat of this ground was made by Charles assistants R. Rood, his assistants in making the survey being Col. Ezekiel Kilgour, Nelson Mason, Samuel Barnett, Andrew Oliver, and Col. W. M. Kilgour, then a boy. The survey was made some time after that of Harrisburgh and Chatham but before the township was surveyed and divided into sections by the government surveyors. Mr. Rood had, therefore, to make his starting points at the northwest and southeast corners of the Congressional township, and make his calculations in running his lines therefrom as to what section, or part of sections, this particular piece of ground would be on when the Government surveyer located the sections in the township. The survey was accurately made, and the land afterwards found to be on section 22. The plat was recorded in Whiteside county.
The towns of Harrisburgh and Chatham, being in such proximity were rivals until a common interest demanded the throwing aside of all personal feelings and uniting to promote the general good. In one thing, however, the people of both towns agreed perfectly from the start, and that was that Rock river would continue to be a navigable stream, and become the great thoroughfare for the exportation of their products, and the importation of such goods as would be demanded in the market. They looked to St. Louis, and other southern ports, as the points at which they must buy and sell. There was no thought then that in Rock river would ever be reduced to such an extent as to preclude navigation, or that the iron horse would monopolize the carrying trade, and divert the channel of transportation from the southern cities to the great city on the lake. Aside from the river, the only method of transportation was the toilsome one, by team. It is no wonder, then, they looked with pride upon the noble river, and hailed the arrival of a steamer with every demonstration of delight. To meet this steamboat traffic the streets running from the river were laid out one hundred feet wide, while those running parallell with it were made much narrower, an order which the people would now prefer to have reversed. The first dwellings, as well as business houses, were also erected on the bank of the river, so as to be near the center of trade. Rock river was navigable at that time, and Congress had so declared, which latter fact, of itself, was undoubtedly sufficient to remove all doubts, if any had been permitted to exist. The steamer Pioneer, commanded by Capt. Harris, came puffing up the river as early as 1836, and the people of the upper town, in the exuberance of their joy, named the place Harrisburgh, in his honor. Other steamers followed, and the prospect was that an era of uninterrupted river navigation had commenced, the vessels to ply at least as far north as Harrisburgh and Chatham. The rapids opposed a farther ascent of the river, but these could be easily avoided by digging a canal, and in 1839 a contract was let to construct one which would shun them entirely. But “the best laid plans of mice and men gang aft aglee.” The canal was never finished: Rock river threw up the Sponge as a navigable stream, and the locomotive came in as the propelling power for transportation.
In June, 1837, a Postoffice was established in Chatham, called Rock River Rapids, and John D. Barnett appointed Postmaster. The mail was brought from Dixon by Nelson Mason, who had secured the contract, by horse during the summer, and in the winter in what was called a “jumper.” The mail then was taken no farther west than the Rapids Postoffice, Mr. Mason carrying it for a consideration of eight cents per mile. It came tri-monthly, and was received at Dixon from the general mail carried by coach from Peoria to Galena, the route being by way of Dixon’s ferry. This mail was carried for a long time by James Dixon, a son of the late well known Father Dixon. The Postoffice was kept in Mason & Barnett’s store, a small frame building standing on the river bank, a little south of where Dr. Royer now resides. Previous to the establishment of this Postoffice, the settlers in and around Harrisburgh and Chatham were compelled to go to Dixon for their mail. The letters and papers would be directed to Rock River Rapids, but as there was no office at that point, they would be detained at Dixon until called for, and the silver quarter paid for each letter. Mr. Barnett was Postmaster for about a year, when Daniel D. Guiles received the appointment, and moved the office to Harrisburgh, keeping it in a frame building which is still standing south of Lincoln Park, and not far from where John Dunmore now lives. This was a victory for Harrisburgh, and she wore the escutcheon for some time. In 1841, Eliphalet B. Worthington was appointed Postmaster, and kept the office for quite a time in his house, on Main street, in Harrisburgh, the site of which is now occupied by the residence of R. L. Mangan. Mr. Worthington afterwards bought some lots on the intermediate space between Harrisburgh and Chatham, and situated on the street now known as Broadway, upon which he built a house, and upon its completion moved the Postoffice into it. This was considered a good stroke of policy on the part of Mr. Worthington, as it allayed all feeling between the rival towns as to which should have the honor of possessing Uncle-Sam’s depository for the mail, besides strengthening his tenure of office. Being on neutral ground, and about midway between the points contending for the supremacy, the combatants laid down their armor, and shook hands over the verdant chasm. At this time Harnisburgh was familiarly known as Tinkertown; the neutral territory where the Postoffice was located, Tylertown; and Chatham, Muncey. Simeon M. Coe is said to have been the author of these names. But whether that be so, or not, each had its significance, as every old settler is well aware. These names clung to the localities for some time after the consolidation of the towns. In the early part of 1840 Sterling was without a store, Mason & Barnett having gone out of business. Happer & Mcllvaine soon afterwards started one, but remained only about six months when they moved their stock of goods to Albany, on the Mississippi river, where they continued in trade for a long time, Mr. Happer being still in business there. Theodore and Elijah Winn then opened a small stock in the upper town, and continued in business until 1843 when they sold to Blanchard & Fuller, but as they did not increase the stock the people of Sterling procured their supplies from Dixon and Albany, the former place being ten miles to the east, and the latter thirty miles to the west. Happer & Mcllvaine, at Albany, secured a large share of the trade. Albany and Fulton were the principal shipping points for the products of the county. Wheat was mainly the article of production, and the demand was then at the South. Sometimes there was a surplus of stock over the home consumption, a market for which was found at the Galena lead mines
When Whiteside county became fully organized, and the question of the the County Seat arose, the people of Harrisburgh and Chatham being the propriety of securing the boon. Neither of them could expect to get it in the face of the opposition of the other, and yet neither would yield. It was well known that the one which secured the prize would be the town, and the other would lose its name and identity. Local pride rebelled against such an emergency as the latter, and hence strenuous efforts were made. The towns had been rivals for several years, and each had put forth its best efforts for the supremacy. The location of the Postoffice had given them opportunity for a trial of influence and strength, but owing to the office being moved to neutral territory, neither gained any advantage. That was but a slight matter, however, compared to the county seat of such a county as Whiteside even then promised to become. The people of Harrisburgh reasoned that if the courthouse, jail, and other county buildings could be located within its bailiwick, the town would speedily become the most important in the county, and but a few years elapse before it would grow to be a large and populous city, and thos of Chatham followed the same ratiocination. The inhabitants outside of these towns were equally anxious as those within them, to get the county seat tin that locality, believing it would add an impetus to the growth of the town securing it, and thus afford an improved market for their products. Contentions among themselves, and a heavy pressure from without, rendered the state of things anything but pleasant to the citizens of both towns. “What shall we do?” was the question the Harrisburghers and Chathamites asked themselves. “What will you do?" was the one propounded without; but what to do remained a mooted point. Finally the proprietors of the two towns seeing that the discretion was the better part of valor, agreed to have a meeting and hold a friendly discussion over the important matter. The first convocation did not result in an agreement; neither did several other ones subsequently held. Eventually early in 1839, it was decided to unite the towns, and then came the question of the name for the consolidated town. On this point Worthington and Brink represented Harrisburgh, and Wallace and Mason, Chatham. Mr. Brink strongly urged the name of Pipsissiway, but the others considered that cognomen way out of the way, and wanted one more civilized in its character, even if it should not be so euphonious. To end the debate a proposition was made to make Broadway the dividing line, and have coppers tossed as to which side of that street the county buildings should be situated in the event of the county seat being located in the consolidated town, the winners also to have the also to have the right naming the future city. The gentlemen mentioned above were selected as the tossing parties, and upon examination of the coin of the realm as it fell to the floor after exhausting the evolutions given to it by their dextrous hands. It was found that Wallace and Mason had won. These gentlemen then agreed upon the name of Sterling, and the new town was ready to enter the field as a competitor for the seat of justice of Whiteside county. The elections held in 1839 under an act of the General Assembly, to locate the county seat, and other matters pertaining to the subject, will be found under the head of “County Seat !- Chapter IV, pages 71—76, of this volume. The court house in Sterling was ordered by the County Commissioners Court to be located on Block 57, west of Broadway, and the work upon it commenced in 1842, Luther Bush receiving the contract for the brick and stone work, and plastering; and D. F. Batcheller, A. McMoore, and William Oliver, for the wood work. Court was first held in the building in 1844. At the time of the removal of the county seat to Sterhing, Hugh Wallace was the only lawyer residing in the place. Mr. Smith from Vermont, settled soon afterwards, but was drowned on the 4th day of July, 1843, while attempting to cross Rock river during a fierce gust of wind. Maj. M. S. Henry came in 1844. Now there are fifteen disciples of Coke and and Blackatone in the city. The old court house is still standing, although its uses as a seat of justice ceased at the removal of the county seat to Morrison in 1858. We have mentioned the fact that as early as 1839 an appropriation was made under the the internal improvement act of the General Assembly, to Construct a canal around the rapids on the Rock Falls side of the river, which would enable steamboats and other river craft to go farther up the stream, and the untimely fate of the scheme by reason of the crash which followed the reckless and extravagant system of finance of the State at that time. This failure, however, did not deter those who considered Rock river a navigable stream from soliciting other appropriations, and entering into other undertakings, to remove or avoid obstructions to navigation. They therefore petitioned the General Assembly of the State to pass an act for the improvement of Rock river, under which a tax could be levied for the purpose. In complianee with this request the General Assembly passed an act on the 25th of February, 1845, entitled “An act for the improvement of the navigation of Rock river.” By the provisions of this act the County Commissioners of the counties lying on the river, were authorized to levy a tax in their respective counties to secure the removal of all obstructions from the rapids at Sterling to the mouth of the river, the work to be done under the superintendence of a Board of Commissioners. The report of these Commissioners, made December 6, 1847, and signed by John Dixon, President, states as follows in regard to the improvement of the rapids:
“The contract made with Thomas McCabe to excavate a channel through the rapids at Sterling, having been given up by him, the Board employed William Pollock, one of our members, to superintend the work on said rapids, with authority to employ the necessary workmen, and procure the necessary tools and implements. Mr. Pollock reports that he found it very difficult to get suitable workmen, but with the small number he succeeded in raising, he has made considerab1e improvement in that part of the channel that remained to be excavated, by removing the more prominent obstructions in the channel, by which means the passage of flat and keel boats will be much facilitated. The Board expended for the work upon said rapids under Mr. Pollock’s superintendence, and for the services of Mr. Pollock, connected with it, the sum of four hundred and flfty4wo dollars, and fifty-three cents. There had been previously paid to Mr. McCabe for excavation on said rapids under his contract, in the years 1845 and 1846, the sum of five hundred and sixty-five dollars and seventy-eight cents, making with the amount paid during the last season, the sum of ten hundred and eighteen dollars and thirty-one cents, which has been expended by authority of this Board for the excavation on the rapids at Sterling. And although the channel has not been completed through the rapids, such as was contracted for with Mr. McCabe, yet the Board is of the opinion that by the work already done, the passing Up and down said channel for boats, rafts and other craft, will be found to be materially improved and expedited, and that persons who have occasion to pass up or down said rapids will be satisfied that the money expended thereon by this Board, as above stated, has not been misapplied.” The Board made a further report, December 23, 1848, in which they state that “since their last reportin December, 1847, the Board has held but one meeting, which was last, at which they appropriated of the tax assessed for the improvement navigation of Rock river, a sum not exceeding one hundred dollars to be expended under the superintendence of William Pollock, in removing obstrutions to the navigation of Rock river from the rapids at Sterling to the mouth of the river; of which sum Mr. Pollock has expended eighty dollars and fifty cents in the removal of the most prominent obstructions.” It will be seen by these reports that the commissioners appointed under the act of the General Assembly, for the improvement of the navigation of Rock river, entertained the most positive assurance that by the removal of the obstructions then known to exist, the stream would be rendered navigable for the future for “boats, rafts craft.” This idea prevailed for some years later, but was finally abandoned, as we have mentioned elsewhere, and the water of the river put to a use at Sterling, Rock Falls, Lyndon, and other places, which has proved of much greater financial advantage.
John Galt opened a store in Sterling in 1844, and the next year James L. Crawford became a partner, the firm name being Galt & Crawford. Afterwards John B Crawford entered as a partner, and the firm name was changed to Galt, Crawford & Co. In 1847 J. H. Boynton and James C. Woodburn formed a partnership under the name of Boynton & Woodburn, and opened an assorted stock of goods. Mr. Woodburn died in 1848, and Mr. Boynton continued the the business. The latter was in the peddling trade previous to 1847. His wagon was labeled “Western Trader,” and was known by all the settlers in Northern and Southern Wisconsin. It has been rightfully said of him that he was a Napoleon in that branch of trade. M. S. Henry commenced a private bank and in 1854 formed a partnership with Lorenzo Hapgood, the firm name being H.S. Henry & Co. This bank was continued until 1861. H. A Munson also opened a bank during that time, in connection with an insurance company, and ran it for a short time. A. H. Buckwalter started a store about the same time as Boynton & Woodburn, and after conducting it awhile, received Edward Jameison as a partner. The house closed about 1858. Feather & Hoover followed when the latter retired, E. G. Allen became a member of the firm, and remained so until the firm was dissolved in 1859. The firm of Patterson & Witmer commenced business in 1855, and had a heavy trade for about ten years, when the Pattersons retired. The firm of David N. Crawford & Co., came into existence after the dissolution of that of Galt, Crawford & Co. Mr. Crawford continued in business ever since, his partners, however, having been changed several times. These were among the oldest and largest of the early business houses of Sterling, after the removal of Happer & Mcllvaine to Albany, the stores of Mason & Barnett, and others, were in existence before the consolidation of Harrisburgh and Chatham.
The excitement in regard to the Postoffice ran high again in 1856. When E.B. Worthington retired, Lewis D. Crandall received the appointment as Postmaster and located the office soon afterwards in a building on the north side of Third street not far from where Maj. M. S. Henry now lives. There was not much objection made to the removal to that place, and had the office remained there until the demands of the people as the town increased required a differation, everything relating to the mail and its delivery would have been serene. But by some means not generally understood, Mr. Crandall was removed and Joseph Hutchinson appointed. This change was enough of itself, as it appeared to arouse the indignation of the people. They wanted to be consulted in so important a matter. It was probably not so much because they desired Mr. Crandall retained, as it was to have a voice in the appointment of his successor in case of his removal, the great object being to have an incumbent in the position who would keep the office at a point convenient to the business district. The announcement, therefore, of the removal of Crandall, and the appointment of Hutchinson, created the greatest excitement among the citizens and business men generally, as they knew it portended a change of base as to the Postoffice location, and sure enough the change was made. Hutchinson kept a store in what was then known as Wallacetown, some distance west of the business part of Sterling, and there he established the Postoffice. To get to it the merchant, lawyer, doctor, mechanic, and the “rest of mankind and and womankind” in Sterling proper, would be compelled to travel greatly out of their way, and in rainy weather to wade through thick mud. To show how deepiy they resented this movement on the part of the government and its new appointee, they refused to mail their letters at Sterling, and directed all their correspondents to send their mail to Galt or Nelson. Some even went so far as -. to refuse to take their mail out of the Sterling Postoffice, preferring to suffer the inconvenience occasioned by the delay rather than in any manner patronise the Hutchinson institution. This inconvenience caused considerable trouble in the business matters, but it was cheerfully submitted to. Meetings were held by the indignant citizens to devise means to secure the removal of Hutchinson, or if he must be kept in office to get an order from the Postoffice Department causing a return of the office to a locality within the business part of the town. On one occasion a large number gathered at one of the stores just after a very heavy rain, and as usual the Postoffice was the theme of discussion. It did not take long to excite the already intense feeling of the crowd, and to make them ripe for any movement which could be used as a means of retaliation for the great wrong perpetrated upon them. The suggestion soon came that they all march down to Hutchinsons’s store through the deep mud, and carry with them on their —boots as much of the article as could be made to adhere, and when they had entered the place to deposit it by thorough stamping upon the floor or any other convenient place. The chronicles of the times do not state the result. Relief, however, came afterwards in the removal of Hutchinson, and the appointment of L. King Hawthorne, who moved the office to Third street, between Mulberry and Spruce. This brought it again within gunshot of the stores and other business places, and the people once more calmly returned to their various pur suits. The stirring times during Hutchinson’s incumbency are still fresh in the remembrance of many of the citizens of Sterling. The growth of Sterling was slow until the railroad era. Up to that time it was considerably behind Fulton, Albany and Dixon. Its prospects for the future were often so dark and gloomy that neighboring towns looked upon it as a doubtful enterprise. The citizens, however, were not dismayed. They felt assured that the vast water power would he utilized at no distant day, and that the fertile agricultural country surrounding it would soon be populated by enterprising and thrifty farmers. It needed only some avenue more speedy than the common highway to take the products of the machinery at the water power, and the surplus products of the soil, to a general distributing market, to make available the advantages which nature had so lavishly bestowed upon it. Railroads were being constructed through different parts of the State, and the people felt assured that the beautiful valley of Rock river would not remain long as a region unknown to the iron horse. Chicago was sending out tracks in different directions; and it would be strange if one did not find its way through the Rock river country. The more sagacious predicted that the time would come when an air line railroad would run from the Lakes to the Mississippi” They saw the great markets at the east reaching out even then for the products of the Upper Mississippi Valley, and the way to grasp them could only be afforded by the locomotive and the car. In these predictions they were correct and the air line railroad came. The project of constructing a railroad from Chicago directly west to the Mississippi river was brought forward as early as 1851. Previous to that time, the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad had been completed to Rockford, and afterwards to Freeport. But that road did not answer the purpose for Rock river valley, neither did it look toward a consummation of the project of a direct line from the Lakes to the Mississippi river, and as a consequence the St. Charles Air line, the Dixon Air Line, and the Mississippi & Rock River Junction Railroads were projected, and work upon them commenced. In 1853 the Michigan Central, and the Galena & Chicago Union Companies came forward and assisted these newly organized companies, and eventually they all passed into the hands of the latter, and the name of the Chicago & Galena Union Railway was assumed. This company immediately pushed forward the work of completing the present road from Chicago to Fulton, and in 1856 the first train entered Sterling. The people had been watching and waiting for so long, that when it did occur their joy was unbounded, and to give vent to it in part at least, an old fashioned barbacue was decided upon. This remembered occasion was held in the summer. Over three thousand peopIe assembled under an awning composed of branches of trees in full leaf erected just south of the present artesian well. A large, fat ox had been donated by S. Miles Coe, and roasted whole, and after partaking of it, and a other viands and luxuries furnished by the grateful citizens, the vast concourse listened to an eloquent oration delivered by Benjamin F. Taylor, the then literary editor of the Chicago Evening Journal. At its conclusion the "little giant of the West,” Hon. Stephen A. Douglas, came forward and made one of those happy addresses for which he was so famous. Those who heard it say it was superior in matter and delivery to anything of the kind they ever heard. The ceremonies and festivities of the occasion concluded with a ball in the evening, which was largely attended, Mr. Douglas being among the gayest of he gay throng which, inspired by the best of music, threaded the maxy intricacies of the dance. From that day Sterling has been rapidly marching on to wealth and greatness.
Unlike most other towns, Sterling did not organize as a village previous to its incorporation as a city. There were probably valid reasons why this was not done, yet in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the people of so large a town as it had grown to be, would not have been content to have remained under township organization simply for so many years. Local pride alone would have induced many to organize as a municipality. The citizens of Sterling, however, were undoubtedly looking forward to the day when they could jump into the harness as a full fledged city, without the preparatory schooling as a village. Such at any rate was the case.
Sterling was organized as a city under a special charter granted by the Assembly of the State, and approved February 16, 1857. The first election undere the charter was held in April of that year, and resulted in the choice of Lorenzo Hapgood for Mayor; John Pettigrew and David H. Myers, as aldermen for the First Ward; Henry Bush and D. R. Beck, for the Second Ward and James Galt and B. G. Wheeler, for the Third Ward. The City Council met for organization at Boynton’s Hall, on the evening of April 23 1857, William Caffrey was appointed Clerk pro tem, after which Mayor Hapgood delivered his inaugural address. Some preliminary business was transacted, and the Council adjourned to meet at the same place on the evening of April 25th. At that meeting L. King Hawthorne was elected City Clerk; Edward N. Kirk City Attorney; and Winfield S. Wilkinson, City Surveyor. Mayor Hapgood appointed the following committees: On Finance, Ald, Galt, Beck, and Pettigrew; On Claims, Ald. Beck, Wheeler, and Myers; On Judiciary, Ald, Bush, and Pettigrew; On Printing, Ald. Myers, Galt, and Beck; On Streets and Alleys, Ald. Pettigrew, Bush, and Galt; On Ordinances, Ald. Bush, Galt, and Pettigrew. The first ordinance was passed by the Council, and approved by the Mayor, May 2, 1857, and related to the duties and salary of the City Surveyor. The second, relating to shows and exhibitions, was also passed and approved at the same meeting. Something of a contest arose over the selection of an official newspaper organ, there being two newspapers published in the city at the time, known as the Sterling Times, and the Republican. To ascertain which one was entitled to the honor, the Committee on Printing required both to furnish sworn lists of their subscribers, and when these verified lists were handed in, it was found that the Times had 187 subscribers, and the Republican 186, the former therefore winning the prize by a single name. This did not satisfy Mr. Caffrey, publisher of the Republican and at the next meeting of the Council he sent in a petition asking for a reconsideration of the vote which gave his rival the coveted honor of calling his paper the official organ. A special committee consisting of Ald. Bush, Pettigrew, and Galt was appointed to consider the matter, but before they reported a compromise was effected by which each paper agreed to publish the proceedings of the Council gratis, and charge the same rates for publishing ordinances and notices as had been before charged by the Republican. Ald. Myers resigned his seat in June, 1857, and on the 30th of that month a special election was held, at which Asa F. R. Emmons was chosen to fill the vacancy. Sterling Aldermen were fined at that day, one dollar and costs, for every time they were absent from a meeting of the Board. At the meeting of the Council held on the 6th of August, 1857 Hezekiah Windom, and two hundred and forty-five other residents of the Second Ward, presented a petition praying the Council not to grant any license for the sale of spirituous liquors in that Ward. The petition was referred to a special committee who reported on the 13th of the same month, adversely to the prayer it contained. The report stated that some eleven weeks previous to the presentation of the petition, the City Council had adopted the policy of refusing to grant license for the sale of liquor in any part of the city, and passed an ordinance strictly forbidding its sale within the city limits, but that no effort had been made to enforce the ordinance, and in consequence parties sold openly in each Ward. Under such a state of affairs the Council had thought it best to repeal the prohibitory ordinance, and license a limited number of houses to sell spirituous, vinous, and malt liquors, in the respective Wards. The Committee did not, therefore, deem it policy to discriminate as to license in favor of any Ward. The report was adopted by the Council. This was the first attempt on the part of any of the citizens of Sterling, as such simply, to secure the intediction of the sale of intoxicating liquors in any part of the city limits. The principle, however, had taken root, and finally triumphed. The charter was amended by an act of the General Assembly in 1869, and the city has been working under the amended charter since that time. Under this charter the corporate limits of the city are described to be all that district embraced in the platted town of Sterling, including the several additions thereto, as now platted and recorded in the office of the Recorder of Whiteside county; also all that part of the Southwest quarter of section twentytwo, in said town, which lies north of Rock river, and all that part of the said town of Sterling lying between the said platted town and the central line of Rock river and bounded on the east by the section line running between sections twenty two and twenty-three, in said town, and on the west by the line of G street, in Wallace’s addition to the said city of Sterling, extended southerly to the middle of Rock river.” Section three provides that whenever any tract of land adjoining the city shall be laid off into town lots, and duly recorded, the same shall be annexed and form a part of the city. Section four divides the city into Wards as follows: "All that part of the city lying east of the center line of Broadway, extending to the north and south boundaries of the city, to constitute the First Ward; all that part lying west of First Ward and east of the center line of Locust street, extending to the north and south boundaries of the city, to constitute the Second Ward; and all that part of the city lying west of the center line to Locust street to constitute the Third Ward.” The Mayor or any two Aldermen may call special meetings of the city Council. City elections are held on the first Monday in March, in each year.
The following are the names of the different Mayors, Aldermen, and City Clerks of the city of Sterling from the organization of the city in 1857, up to and including the year 1877, with the date of their election
1857: Mayor, Lorenzo Hapgood; Aldermen, John Pettigrew, Daniel H. Myers, Henry Bush, D. R. Beck, B. G. Wheeler, James Galt; City Clerk, L. King Hawthorne.
1858 : Mayor, Lorenzo Hapgood; Aldermen, John Pettigrew, Charles L. Ginkinger, S. Hazen; City Clerk, L. King Hawthorne.
1859: Mayor, Lorenzo Hapgood; Aldermen, Henry LeFevre, Smith Barrett, David Leavitt; City Clerk, L. King Hawthorne.
1860, Mayor, Nelson Mason; Aldermen John Pettigrew, Ansel A. Terrell, Morgan Baker; City Clerk, L. King Hawthorne.
1861 : Mayor, John L. Price; Aldermen, William L. Youmans, Benjamin Gurtisen, Thomas K. Facey; City Clerk, L. King Hawthorne.
1862: Mayor Nelson Mason; Aldermen, John Pettigrew, Ansel A. Terrell, Morgan Baker, City Clerk, J. Haskell—Mr. Haskell resigned and J. B. Myers was appointed.
1863 : Mayor, Fred Sackett; Aldermen, William L. Yeomans, S. L. Warren, Thomas K. Facey, Charles M. Worthington; City Clerk, J. B. Myers.,
1864, Samuel S. Patterson; Aldermen, George W. Brewer, Henry S. Street, Edward 0. Cook; City Clerk, W. H. Thatcher.
1865: Mayor, Nelson Maxon, Aldermen, Richard L. Mangan, R. B. Stoddard, James M. Wallace; City Clerk, W. H. Thatcher,
1866: Mayor, Thomas A. Galt; Aldermen, W. W. Pratt, L. Morse, Benjamin C. Coblentz; City Clerk, W. H. Thatcher.
1867: Benjamin C. Coblentz; Aldermen, Henry Thomas, Joseph H. Boynton, George B. Kitel, City Clerk, W H Thatcher
1868: Mayor, Benjamin C. Coblentz; Alderman, John Pettigrew, Joseph M. Patterson, Andrew J. Hull; City Clerk, W. H. Thatcher.
1869: Mayor, C. P. Sanford; Aldermen, William L. Yeomans, A.A. Terrell, A. N. Young, L. P. Johnson Miles S. Henry, H. A. Bunn, City Clerk, C. L. Sheldon.
1870: Mayor, John G. Manahan; Aldermen, Don Dippell, Benjamin Gurtisen, Clarence Jewett, H. S. Street; City Clerk, C. L. Sheldon,
1871; Mayor. John G. Manahan; Aldermen, Maltby C. Stull, John Martin, L. P. Johnson, R. B. Colcord William L. Patterson, James M. Wallace; City Clerk, C. L. Sheldon.
1872: Mayor, John G. Manahan; Alderman, Henry H. Hoover, Benjamin Gurtisen, Decius O. Coe; City Clerk, C. L. Sheldon.
1873: Mayor, William H. Bennett; Aldermen, Maltby C. Stull, Jacob R. Sides, William C. Robinson, S. H. Kingery, James M. Wallace, R. Shove; City Clerk, Lucius R. Root - Mr. Root resigned, and J. C. Teats was appointed to fill the vacancy.
1874: Mayor, Joshua V. McKinney; Aldermen, Cyrenus Beecher, M. H. Kreider, C. L. Sheldon; City Clerk, J. C. Teats.
1875: Mayor, B.C. Church; Aldermen, Maltby C. Stull, William C. Robinson, S. H. Kingery, D.J. Jenne, James M. Wallace, Nicholas Gaulrapp; City Clerk, J. C. Teats. Mayor, B. C. Church; Aldermen, Cyrenus Beecher, Meno S. Bowman, A.J. Hull; City Clerk, J. C. Teats.
1877 Mayor, Joseph M. Patterson; Alder,am. William Lightcap, Norman A. Thomas, W. C. Robinson, Horace. G. Clark, Henry S. Warner, John Werntz, M. B. Fitzgerald, M. A. Bunn, E.W. Edson; City clerk, J. ?. Teats.
The city of Sterling is one hundred and ten miles west of Chicago, and twenty-six miles east of the Mississippi river. Its location is sixty~three and six one hundredths feet above low water in Lake Michigan, and six hundred and forty-six feet above the level of the sea, taking the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad track as the point of elevation. It is in latitude 40 degrees, 50 min utes north, and longitude 90 degrees, 5 minutes west, from Greenwich The railway facilities are excellent to all points, as it is situated on the air line of the Galena Division of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, which afford speedy transportation accomodations east and west, and is the northern terminus of the Rockford, Rock Island & St. Louis Railroad, opening communication with the south. On the Rock Falls side is the terminus of the Rock River branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad. In 1852 the property holders of Sterling by common consent deeded to John GaIt one-half of their unimproved lots, in trust, to be conveyed by him as such trustee to a company that would duly organize under the laws of the State, and construct a dam across Rock river, opposite the town, together with a suitable head race. A company known as the Sterling Hydraulic Company, with John A. Holland then at its head, was accordingly organized in 1854, and the work on the dam and race commenced. The dam was finished in September, 1855, at a cost of about seven thousand dollars, and is one thousand feet in length, and fourteen feet wide, the power being under a six foot head of water. The present officers of the Hydraulic Company are: Lorenzo Hapgood, President, and James M. Wallace, Secretary and Treasurer. The first bridge connecting Sterling and Rock Falls was erected in 1856—’57, but was washed away by a freshet soon after its completion. The present bridge was built in 1863 by the Sterling Bridge Company, at a cost of thirty thousand dollars. It is a toll bridge, and has been extensively used since its construction. In 1868 a part of the bridge was carried away, but the loss was soon replaced. The officers of this Company are: William. L. Patterson, President, and William A. Sanborn, Secretary and Treasurer. During the session of the last General Assembly an act was passed to allow the construction of bridges over the waters within the State, according to the provisions therein contained, and under it the electors of Sterling held an election in August last to decide whether or not a free bridge should be built across the river connecting Sterling and Rock Falls. The project had been discussed for some time previously, and the contestants for quite a period were supposed to be pretty evenly divided, but as the election approached the friends of the bridge increased in numerical force, and finally carried the day by a large majority. The bridge will extend from the foot of Mulberry street in Sterling, to Bridge street, a little east of the Industrial Building, in Rock Falls. Work has already commenced on the structure on the south side. The entire cost will be borne by the city of Sterling, which has voted $40,000 for its construction. It will be built of iron, and made throughout a substantial structure. After the destruction of the first bridge in 1857, B. G. Wheeler, a banker in Sterling, and one of its first Aldermen, started a ferry above the rapids, but it got so frequently out of repair that it was comparatively useless. When that was abandoned James A. Patterson ran one for a time below the rapids, but stern fate decreed that it should not be a success, and it was also abandoned. In 1874, George W. Barr purchased a steam tug of some parties in Lyons, Iowa, fitted it for a ferry boat, and conveyed it to Sterling where he launched it upon the river above the dam, and commenced the ferry business. The little steamer was christened the White Swan, and from the start has done a good business, making one hundred and fifty trips daily during the season. It has passed through several hands since it was launched by Capt. Barr, but in 1876 came into the possession of James A. DeGroff, who is the present owner. Mr. DeGroff is one of the solid men of Sterling, and although not taking charge of the boat himself, sees that every comfort and convenience are afforded to those who patronize it.
Sterling is lighted with gas furnished by the Sterling Gas Light Company, which was incorporated in 1874. The works, which are quite extensive, were erected during the same year, at a cost of forty thousand dollars. Between three and four miles of mains have been laid, and a large number of lamp posts erected throughout the city. The business streets, and many of those on which private residences are exclusively situated, are finely lighted. The hotels, public halls, and many of the stores and dwellings are also lighted by gas furnished by these works. The officers of the Company are: Joseph M. Patterson, President: William L. Patterson, Secretary; and John Charter, Treasurer.
The Fire Department of Sterling is composed of one engine company, three hose companies and one hook and ladder company. It is in excellent condition, and the members number about one hundred and fifty in all, active,energetic men, ready at any time when duty calls them. The companies are as follows: Columbia Engine and Hose Company, No. 1, located on Market street North of Third street; Niagara Hose Company, No. 2, located at the foot of Locust street, on the water power; Hose Company, No. 3, located on the corner of B and Third streets; and Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1, located on Market street, north of Third. The latter company carries six ladders, four Babcock Fire Extinguishers, as well as all other necessary appliances. The city has the Holly system of pumps for fire purposes. These are located on the water power at the foot of Locust street, the wheel and power furnished by the hydraulic Company. Pipes extend from this point to different parts of the city and at all necessary corners of streets fire plugs are situated so that in conflagration a good supply of water can be obtained. An abundant abundant can also be furnished by the artesian well belonging to the estate of the late Joel Harvey, and in time it will undoubtedly be utilized for fire, and largely for domestic and other purposes. This well is situated in the northeastern part of he city, and is 1,665 feet deep, having a flow of fourteen feet. The power furnished by it is sufficient to reach the upper story of any building in the city.
The Postoffice is located at No. 90 Mulberry street, a few doors south of Third street, to which place it was removed by Mrs. Emily J. C. Bushnell, now Mrs. M.S. Henry, shortly after she received her appointment as Postmistress. Upon her resignation in 1871, Mrs. Electa E. Smith, the present Postmistress, was appointed. The business of the office has increaseI rapidly in the past few years and as a consequence it has been enlarged from time to time as the public demanded. It now contains eight hundred and eighty-two boxes, and one hundred and twenty-five drawers. During the fiscal year of 1876, the office paid to the Government six thousand dollars, besides defraying all expenses. The money order department during the same year transacted a business of two hundred and twenty-five thousand dollars.
We have been enabled from the records to obtain the following amounts of city indebtedness for the years named: On the first of April, 1867, the indebtedness was $16,056,39; on February 15, 1870, $17,030,87; February 15, 1871 $12,747,86; February 15, 1872, $10,237,01; February 15, 1873, $5,129,54; February 15, 1874, $6,223,10; February 15, 1875, $9,733,91;February 15, 1876, $4,588.64; February 15, 1877, $4,225,14. The present indebtedness is small when we take into consideration the size of the city, the expenses necessarily incurred in sustaining its government, and the amount expended for needed improvements.
The charter election in Sterling for several years has turned almost wholly upon the question of licensing the sale of spirituous, vinous, and malt liquors. Since 1873 the no-license party has been largely in the majority, and has carried the entire city ticket at each election, but nearly every Alderman. At the incoming of the anti-license party in 1874, a stringent ordinance was passed prohibiting the sale of spirituous liquors, ale, wine and beer, in less quantities than five gallons. The ordinance provides that “every person or corporation who shall, by himself or herself, or by agent, employe, servant, or otherwise within the limits of said city of Sterling, or within one mile of said limits north of Rock river, sell or barter, in any manner, any wine, rum, gin, brandy, whisky malt liquors, strong beer, ale, porter, mixed liquors, or any intoxicating liquors whatever, in less quantities than five gallons, shall, upon conviction thereof be fined not less than ten dollars, nor more than one hundred dollars.” For the sale or barter on Sunday, within the limits mentioned, the penalty is not less than twenty dollars, nor more than one hundred dollars. The ordinance further provides that the giving away of liquors, or other shift or device to evade its provisions, shall be deemed and held to be unlawful selling within its intent and meaning. The city authorities have been very active in discovering every violation of the ordinance, and when once ascertained the violators are prosecuted to its full extent. The result is that liquor is not sold openly. and probably but comparatively little in secret dives or dark corners. The example set by Sterling has been followed by several other towns and villages in the County.
A large number of business houses and private residences have been erected in the city within the past few years, and notably so during the years 1876 and 1877. During the latter year several large blocks of stores, mainly on Third and Locust streets, besides over one hundred private residences in different parts of the town, have been built. Additions and improvexnent~ have also been made to the various manufacturing establishments. The Galt house, one of the finest hotels west of Chicago, was erected in 1876—77, and formally opened to the public on the 21st of August, of the latter year. Over five hundred guests participated in the complimentary banquet given in its honor, under the management of Messrs. A Terrell, Joseph M. Patterson, and E. W. Edson, an executive committee on the part of the citizens. The hotel is situated on the southwest corner of Locust and Fourth streets, with a front of one hundred and twenty feet on the former street, and one hundred on the latter is four stories high, with a basement, and has all the room, convenience, and elegance of the modern first class hotel. It is owned by Thomas A. Galt. The Wallace House, long known as a capital hotel, has been greatly enlarged an improved during the past year, by its enterprising owners, and ranks with the best in the country. The Boynton House is also a fine hotel, and has been kept for many years by its owner, J. H. Boynton.
The city of Sterling in 1877 contains ten dry goods houses, fourteen groceries, six hardware, stove, and tin stores, seven drug stores, seven clothing stores, eight boot and shoe stores, four jewelry establishments, three musical instrument establishments, four agricultural implement establishments, two hat and cap dealers, three furniture dealers, one wholesale and retail harness and saddle manufacturer and dealer, three harness shops, four milliners, five dressmakers, two stationers, two marble and granite works, three cigar manufacturers, five tobaceonists, three bakeries, one feed store, one auction store, One paint store, three photographers, seven coal dealers, four barber shops, three plumbing establishments, four meat markets, two wholesale liquor dealers, two live stock dealers, three butter dealers, three lumber dealers, two ice dealers, two brick makers, two tanneries, three confectionery stores, three eating houses, one laundry, one packing house, two grain dealers, one brewery, three livery stables, four cooper establishments, seven blacksmith shops, seventeen lawyers, twelve physicians, three dentists, three newspapers, six hotels. The manufactories, mills, and distillery are mentioned under the applupriate head.
In 1855, the city of Sterling had a population of 1,741: in 1860, 2,427; and in 1870 3,998. The population in 1877 is estimated at 7500.
The following extract from an article published in the Western Manufacturer, of Chicago, shows the light in which Sterling is regarded by non-residents, and is a fair expresion of the estimation entertained by all who have visited it: "It is a city presenting advantages to the business man and manufacturer second to none in the country. Possessed of an almost unlimited water power, with the rapid growth of the industrial interests of the West, its future grand possibilities cannot be over
estimated. It abounds in an educated and industrious population,unexcelled publis schools, numerous well appointed and well united churches, live newspapers, and every essential element which characterizes a city. Sterling offers to capitalists opportunities for the most profitable investment of their money in manufacturing and business enterprise, as well as the refinements and comforts of a pleasant home.
STERLING in 1854
[Originally published in the Diamond Jubilee Edition of the Sterling Daily Gazette, Dee. 9, 1929]
"The growth of Sterling was slow until the railroad era. Up to that time it was considerably behind Fulton, Albany and Dixon. This comment of the Bent and Wilson history was written more than half a century ago. The Sterling of today looks as little like the Sterling of 75 years ago, when the first paper was published here, as Volume one, Number one of The Sterling Times looked like the Sterling Gazette of today.
Was County Seat
Twenty years before the first newspaper, the first settlers had come here, and the settlement had grown, as frontier towns grew in those times, until it had become of sufficient importance to wrest the county seat from Lyndon, and court was held here in 1844. By 1854 the community had a population of 1,700.
The court house was on the west side of Broadway, north of Third street, and the business district centered about Broadway, with a growing tendency westward from the first "Main street," which was Sixteenth avenue. The court house was used for many purposes. Several lawyers had offices in the building. It was also used for school and church purposes for a time. Harrisburg and Chatham had been united under the name of Sterling for five years, but the city was not incorporated under a charter until 1857.
Hugh Wallace, who was the only lawyer here prior to the coming of the court house, had been elected state senator in 1852. He owned lands west of Locust street and his influence was swinging the settlement westward to "Wallacetown." The post office had been moved from the original site of the E.B. Worthington home on Sixteenth avenue to Broadway and then to the Crandall building in the 800 block on East Third street, in which the Gazette occupied the second f1oor. The town had spread out so much by that time that this move provided a fairly central service for "Tinkertown, Tylertown. and Mauney," as S.M. Coe had, just for the fun of it, dubbed the three settlements east of Broadway, around Broadway and west of Broadway. "Wallacetown" was just beginning to exert an inf1uence. which was to draw trade heavily to the west end when the railroad came. Houses with stores sometimes blocks apart, in between, straggled along the rough and uneven street from Nineteenth avenue to Locust street and beyond.
Mud was the bugaboo of the spring and fall seasons, and in rainy weather water flowed through ravines at Second avenue and Locust street. It was not possible to cross Locust street at the Third or Fourth street intersections and people went north to Fifth and Sixth streets to make the crossing. Bridges in the form of sidewalks were built across the street later, and the sidewalks along East Third street were built up high to keep them out of the mud, with walks similar to bridges at the Second avenue crossing and along the street for a ways east of Second avenue.
Many Substantial Homes
There were a few log cabins in the earliest days, but saw mills enabled the settlers to use rough boards a few years later and as early as 1839, the first two brick houses were built here. Harry Brewer building the first one on East Third street, southeast of Lincoln park, and Capt. Andrew McMoore built one the same year on the northeast corner of Second street and Fifth avenue. Many other brick buildings followed, Hezekiah Brink, the first settler, establishing a brick yard northwest of the present Community Athletic park.
Stone from the Sinnissippi quarries and from the river bed was also used to build other homes. Hugh Wallace erected the mansion of the town soon after the railroad came, the substantial stone on West Third street now used as the office of Frantz Manufacturing Co. The old stone David homestead next west of it dates back to about the time of the first newspaper. The James A. Galt estate brick home in the 800 block of West Fourth street was built for a farm residence before the coming of the railroad. A number of other old homes east of Broadway and a few west of Broadway are still standing in which The Sterling Times was read when it was first published.
The old business houses that clustered around Broadway and extended west several blocks were disposed of in various ways in later years, when the railroad caused the business center to move westward toward the depot. Some were burned a down, for most of them were of wood, others were moved westward, some as business places and others to be remodeled into dwellings in various parts of town. A few of the old brick structures are still standing.
City Not Organized
The strangest thing about the old town when the first paper was published, was that it was not a town at all in the legal sense, only a township, with township organizations and no village entity. Its supervisors, justices of the peace and constables were its officers of the law, with the town clerk the nearest approach to a mayor. Two years after the railroad came, Lorenzo Hapgood was elected the first mayor, in 1857, John Pettigrew and David H. Meyers were elected aldermen from the First ward, east of Broadway, Henry Bush and D.R. Beck, aldermen from the second ward, between Broadway and Locust, and James Galt and B.G. Wheeler for the third ward, west of Locust.
Had Only One Church
The only church building in the community was that of the Presbyterians, which was started in 1848 and finished in 1852, on the present township high school lot, facing East Fourth street west of Fifth avenue. The Presbyterians later sold it to the Catholics, who renamed it St. Patrick's church, the Presbyterians building a new church , on West Fifth street. St. Patrick's Roman Catholic church was organ ized in 1854, the same year the newspaper started. and services were held in a large building known as "Crandall hall," until the early sixties when a frame church was built which was used until the old Presbyterian church was purchased. The First Methodist church was the first religious organization formed here in 1838 but did not build a church until 1855, a year after the first newspaper.
The late W. W. Davis is authority for the statement that the Rev. Hazard, a Congregational minister, preached the first sermon in the settlement in 1837, but the Congregational church was not organized until 1856, the same year that the Baptist church was organized. St. John's Lutheran church was organized in 1854, the same year as The Times started.
No Public Schools
Though this was by no means a Godless community, even the court house being used for religious gatherings and many homes thrown open for regular or occasional meetings, the fact that only one church was standing here before the newspaper came suggests that the presence of the press has a good effect in stirring the people to organize and build churches. But be that as it may, the newspaper certainly did, from the very start, begin to boost for schools, and the First ward school was organized two years later, in 1856, the Second ward school was organized in 1859 and the Third ward school in 1866. Though there were no public schools when the first paper was published here. Mrs. E.B. Worthington had started a school as early as 1838 and the citizens had built a schoolhouse from hardwood lumber sawed at Wilson's mill. Mrs. Worthington was still teaching with the help of others in the old school on Broadway when her pupils read the first local paper. The Edwards seminary which many of the older citizens of today attended. was not started until 1875.
Not a Lodge in Town
Just how 1,700 got along without any lodges is hard for the joiners of today to imagine, but the Odd Fellows, the first fraternal organization here, did not organize until October of 1855, after the newspaper had been published for nearly a year.
No Factories Here Then
Though Wyatt Cantrell had built a wing dam at an angle of 45 degrees trom the river bank at the foot of Sixth avenue as early as 1838, and obtained power enough to run a grist mill, the power dam in its present location was not started until 1854, the year the newspaper started, when the Sterling Hydraulic Co. was organized. and the dam was finished in 1855, at a cost of $7,000, giving a six-foot fall of water. The year the dam was finished the first real manufacturing concern begin to make sash, doors. blinds, butter tubs, and other wooden articles. It later became the Sterling Manufacturing Co., incorporated in 1870, and gradually developed into an implement works, continuing until a few years ago Though the Times and Republican and Gazette all "boosted" continually for factories, it was not until the 70's that the real industrial development of the community began to take permanent form. There were grist mills and saw mills, blacksmith and wagon shops, and brick yards in the earlier days but no real factories.
Farming Chief Business
Farming was the chief business of the community, and some of the be leading business men were as much interested in their farms as they were in their stores or little shops in the early days. The first dream of the community had been for steamboats on Rock river, and when the boats did not come, the community kept on "waiting for something to happen" until finally the railroad stirred them to start a newspaper and begin to start things.
If there are those who imagine that Sterling was behind the times, it is necessary only to remind them that hundreds of older towns than Sterling had not made the progress that this community had made even in its early days and the fact that The Sterling Gazette is the nineteenth oldest daily newspaper among the 154 dailies of Illinois shows that Sterling was not so slow. Among her citizens of the long ago were some of the brightest and most enterprising spirits of their time and when they finally saw the opportunity, they at once united their efforts and made the most of it. Many older towns than Sterling had not done half so well, while some others that were better laid out have since dropped out of the race altogether or have lost much of their old time prestige.
Some Old Stores
Among the few stores here was that of Galt, Crawford and which was just then changing over to the firm name of D.M. Crawford and Co. J.H. Boynton, who was known throughout northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin as the "Western Trader," having been a peddler with a wagon of that name before he opened a store in partnership with J. Woodburn here in 1847, was in business at the time, Mr. Woodburn having died some years before the paper was started here. H.A. Buckwalter and Edward Jameison conducted a store until 1858.
Happer and Mcllvaine had moved to Albany. J. Walker and Co. had a Variety store, Golder and Bush were druggists. Hall and Blakesley kept a hardware store. A.E. Moore sold books. stationery and fancy articles. Mrs. D.R. Beck was a milliner, M.S. Henry and Lorenzo Hapgood had a private bank, The Patterson and Witmer store, which became one of the city's best known stores for many years was not started until a year after the newspaper was started. Undoubtedly there were other small business concerns that did not appear in the advertisting or news of the few copies in the file of the earliest papers of that time. [Originally published in the Diamond Jubilee Edition of the Sterling Daily Gazette, Dec. 9, 1929; transcribed by Christine Walters]
Woodlawn Mineral Springs
A Summer Resort Unsurpassed in Natural Beauties
Through the courtesy of the Standard Editor I am requested to give a column to the "Souvenir Standard" of 1896. No theme presents itself more profitable to Sterling and its surroundings than Woodlawn Mineral Springs, which are located one mile east of the city of Sterling, in a beautiful grove of forty acres through which winds its way a stream of pure spring water, clear as the crystal dews. Dr. Hannah Pettigrew, the proprietor of this health resort and its attendant physician, has done all in her power to do, in making this delightful spot charming to herguests and invalids who come here in quest of health or pleasure. Lovers of rural scenes and rural enjoyments, find this place unsurpassed in natural beauty and advantages of any of the popular resorts for pleasure seekers, who find their enjoyment in escaping from the round of fashionable life or the din of the city, and rush of care. The waters of these Springs have been proven beyond question to be possessed of most wonderful healing properties, and many diseases that have l ong baffled the skill of the medical practitioner have been cured by the aid of these powerful waters and the skill of Dr. Hannah Pettigrew.
This "Health Home" has all the requirements for comfort and rest; pure and cool in summer, in winter protected from the invasion of cold by a steady temperature of heat that radiates a glow of genuine comfort,while here and there are potted plants that bloom in nooks and corners, and exude their fragrance born of summer time gladness. The table always so inviting, has the best of well cooked food for the invalid, and none are debarred from choice wines if used with proper and judicious care. Separate from the main building or home, in a fine bath house near the spring, and also a pavilion for dancing parties where all the requisites for social Terpscorean amusements are furnished. There is also another building with pleasant sleeping rooms for the accommodation of any who may wish to visit the place for a short time and enjoy the delightful shade of Woodlawn, to rusticate and tone up the nervous system that is often over taxed with the excitement of business, or wearied iwth the treadmill monotony of daily life. There is no place in all my wanderings around the world of change (and they embrace a wide scope) which I have visited where one can come more in harmony with poetical Nature, or commune with the soul of beauty and love, than at Woodlawn. The great artist has found expression of beauty in leaf and bud, pebble and ripple of the laughing brook, whose low song is the sweet lullaby to the grasses that adorn its banks and listen to the melody that breathes of other streams under other skies that will join it on its way to the great ocean of wates. The feathered songsters that bathe in its pure bomos sing sweeter and seem to praise God more joyfully at Woodlawn. When the grand old trees that have stood sentinel so long over their beloved Woodlawn, shall don their new spring suits, and the more tender ones are still in their swaddling clothes and the song of the birds in their glad joy for this new birth is heard in the land, and the tender verdure whispers to the sleeping flowers, the interest of the place then is to the studen sublime. [Source: Sterling Standard 1896]
This property is owned (or once owned) by Samuel Albertson
HISTORY of The Sterling Fire Department
The history of the Sterling Fire Department is a story of "success and progress," with a humble beginning housed in the city hall basement in 1872 to the present time when the department maintains one of the finest, most efficient and modern fire control systems in the State of Illinois. The history of the Sterling Fire Department began with a letter written to the Sterling city council seeking permission to organize a fire department. The original letter was written Sidney Osmer, Sterling's first fire marshal, and approved by the city council Aug. 6, 1872.
The first fire marshal appointed by the city of Sterling was Sidney Osmer, between 1860 and 1875. At that time the city had a pumping station located at the foot of Locust Street. Holly pumps were installed and pumped water through four, five, and six-inch wood pipes, which covered an area of 10 blocks and supplied 13 hydrants.
The fire department had three hose companies and one hook and ladder company. The chief was W. C. Robinson, and about 150 men were enrolled on the department. Their equipment consisted of six ladders, four Babcock extinguishers, leather buckets, and other necessary equipment. The average number of calls at that ar time was about two a year.
The next set of records was dated about 1881, and at that time the chief was Moses Dillon. The enrollment was about 130 men. The water pumps were still located at the foot of Locust Street, but there were 41 hydrants in service.
In 1885 there were five hose companies, two engine companies, and one hook and ladder company. A new pumping station was put into operation in July of 1886. There was talk of providing a headquarters for the fire department, and the city was to put it to a vote of the people to provide a city hall and fire station. The chief of the fire department at this time was Joe Burke, who was also chief engineer.
In 1889 to 1890 a city hall was erected on Third Street between First Avenue and Locust Street, and all the different hose and ladder companies were consolidated into Union Hose Company at the city hall and Lincoln Hose Company in the east end of town. Around this time there was also a fire-bell installed at Locust and Fourth Street. Charles H. Ives was the chief of the department at this time, and the roster for the station read as follows:
The Union Hose Company Chief Charles H.Jves; First Lieut. H. J. Higby; Second Lieut. Samuel Seix; Third Lieut. James C. Fryberger; Secretary, J. W. Snaveley; and Treasurer, Warren Roth. The firemen were Newell, Feigley, Angell, Keener, Lawler, Dundon, Wink, Modler, Howard, Shoop, Schaefer, Johnson, Bennett, Ruggs, Gaulrapp, Campbell, Berlin, Babcock and Blair.
The Lincoln Hose Company included Capt. L. Little; Lieut. R. L. Mangan; Secretary, P, G. Kelsey; and Treasurer, W. P. Mangan. The firemen were E. J. Mangan, S. T. Mangan, Comstock, Hankerson, Williams and Betts.
Chief Ives worked or ran a wagon factory at First Avenue near the river, where the National Manufacturing Company is now located. At that time he designed an extension ladder for the fire department, which was in use for many years. It was during his term that the horse-drawn apparatus was put into use. Whenever the fire alarm went off, different livery barns would rush a team to the fire station to take the hose wagon and ladder to the fire. It was also during his term that the Gamewell alarm system was installed, consisting of 12 alarm boxes scattered about the city. A bell was also installed in the tower of the city hall.
In the early 1900's the department consisted of Chief S. A. Stull; Ass't. Chief C. J. Johnson; Capt. E. F. Williams; First Lieut. John Dundon; Second Lieut. John A. Loos; Treas. Warren Roth; Secy. William Boehm; and Driver, John Gleason". The other members were Dennis Boyer, S. A. Cass, John Cushman, Michael Devine, Fred Duhm, O. A. Feigley, William Howard, A. J. Gerdes, George Blair, Hugh Ramsey, Joe Tahan and Arthur Johnson.
It was in the early 1900's that a team of horses was purchased for the fire department, and the department was able to respond to calls much more quickly. In 1910 a new fire station was built next to the city hall, and the first full-time fire department was started. John Gleason was the chief, and five full-time firemen served under him. Each man worked four 24-hour days and had the fifth day off.
The first piece of motorized fire equipment was an American Lafrance hose and chemical truck and was purchased in 1912. William Boehm was appointed chief about this time and held that position until around 1922. In 1922 C. L. Nicol was appointed chief, and in 1923 a 1,000 g.p.m. Ahrens Fox pumper was purchased by the city. The 1912 American LaFrance truck was then equipped with a 500 g.p.m. pump. Other pieces of equipment purchased during Chief Nicol's term were a 1924 - 500 g.p.m. Seagraves pumper and a 1937 Seagraves 65 ft. aerial ladder, which is still at the main station and undergoing repair.
In 1944 Chief C. L. Nicol retired from the fire service, and Chris Dingler was appointed chief. During Chief Dingler's term a 1952 American LaFrance 1,000 g.p.m. pumper was purchased for the fire department. Chief Dingler retired in 1955 and Richard Nicol, son of C. L. Nicol, was appointed chief. During the early years of Chief Nicol's term a 1954 Dodge 500 g.p.m. rural pumper was purchased for the department. Also, the department was increased to thirteen fulltime men and fifteen part-time men, who received pay for answering calls. In 1957 an American LaFrance 1,000 g.p.m. pumper was purchased. After the city election in 1963, Chief Nicol was demoted to captain, and James Samuelson was brought in from Moline, Illinois as chief of the department. In 1963 the department received a 1963 Ford rescue truck, which was donated by the local Independent Insurance Companies. Chief Samuelson left in 1967 and Richard N icol again became Chief of the Department. [The Daily Gazette July 1, 1976; transcribed by C. Walters]
STERLING IN 1901
Sterling - a flourishing city on the north bank of Rock River, in Whiteside County, 109 miles west of Chicago, 29 miles east of Clinton, Iowa, and 52 miles east-northeast of Rock Island. It has ample railway facilities, furnished by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Sterling & Peoria, and the Chicago & Northwestern Rail roads. It contains fourteen churches, an opera house, high and grade schools, Carnegie library, Government postoffice building, three banks, electric street and interurban car lines, electric and gas lighting, water-works, paved streets and sidewalks, fire department and four newspaper offices, two issuing daily editions. It has fine water-power, and is an important manufacturing center, its works turning out agricultural implements, carriages, paper, barbed-wire, school furniture, burial caskets, pumps, sash, doors, etc. It also has the Sterling Iron Works, besides foundries and machine shops. The river here flows through charming scenery. Pop. (1890), 5,824; (1900), 6,309. [From the "Historical Encylopedia of Illinois" 1901; sub. by KT]
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