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History of Alba Township

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Henry County Illinois, 1885

Copied by Linda Lang; Transcribed by Susie Martin-Rott


Alba Township was the last township to attract the early, or for that matter, also the late comers. It is traversed by Green River, that meanders entirely from the east part of it to the west side, mostly in the northern tier of sections. And then, just west of the west line is the mouth of Mud Creek, which enters the township at the south line and bends around through sections 35, 29, 30, 19 and 20. These streams were, it seems, protecting barriers against the settlers, and they travelled around them, the immigrants from the east striking south of Mud Creek and the Green River Swamps; and those, of course, which came by way of the river, stopped among their friends in other parts of the county, and often, for many years, lived there without seeing any part of Alba Township.

The name Alba was one of unaccountable inventions of the Commissioners selected to give baptismal names to the twenty-four townships in the County. What, if any, meaning there is attached to it we are unable to ascertain. It is a case, perhaps, of purely poetic fancy, and will always remain a reminder to posterity of the oversight of those who gave names to localities in the county of what an opportunity was missed--what inadequate ideas the men who shaped the destinies of this fair portion of our land had of the real benefactors who made the great sacrifices for our good. (The word "alba" in Latin signifies "white").

There is a tradition, or rather an unverified story, that two brothers, James and John Sumatro, came into this part of the county in an early day, about 1836, and put up a pole cabin and made a small truck patch; but their chief occupation was hunting and trapping. Their home was the cheapest and easiest made they could design-- simply a poor protection from the elements, and indicated they were ready, on short notice, to follow the game in its migrations from one portion of the country to another. They lived their solitary life, it is thought, wintering here only one winter and spending two summers, and had possibly been gone years before the remains of their camping place were discovered. Where they were from or where they went is not known.

It was only after the Winnebago Swamp Land Company had succeeded in demonstrating the feasibility of draining these swamp and overflowed lands that permanent citizens and farmers began to turn their attention to the township, and now may be seen the tillers of the soil tickling the ground that breaks forth in smiling crops, where once a good sized steamboat might have easily floated. These lands, when once restored to the husbandmen, like all overflow lands, are deeply covered with the richest soil. This is true of the Green River swamp lands, except in spots where there is more or less peat in the drift deposits. While Alba Township still only has a sparce population, yet the future may transform it into a very rich garden spot, producing all the cereals and grasses in unexampled quantities.