The History of Henry County
Its Tax-Payer and Voters
Chicago: H. F. Kett & Co., 15 Lakeside Building
THE WETHERSFIELD COLONY
The direct settlement of Henry County is largely attributed to the location of colonies. These were mainly from
New England, and brought with them all their New England foresight, energy, and frugal thrift; and to the
Wethersfield colony, possessing all these attributes, the present prosperity of this portion of the county may be
As has been noticed in these pages, Mr. Pillsbury, and his associates, Slaughter and Pike, were commissioned by
he New York Association, 1835, to select a location for the “Andover Colony.” Upon the return of Mr. Pillsbury in
the Fall of that year, he was written to by the Rev. Dr. Caleb J. Tenney, of Wethersfield, Connecticut, concerning
the location of another colony in the region of country in which the lands of the Andover Colony were situated, and
an interview requested. The result of this interview led the Doctor to project another colony, to be styled the
“Wethersfield Colony,” and to be located near the former. Dr. Tenney was an eminent divine, and well acquainted
with the prominent men of that day who would be likely to favor an enterprise by which religion and free education
might be successfully planted in the great Mississippi Valley, and he addressed many of them in relation to this
matter. These efforts led to a meeting in the Congregational Church at Wethersfield, some time in the Autumn of
1835, the exact date of which can not now be obtained. Here the enterprise assumed a tangible shape, and at a
subsequent meeting an organization was effected. As the names of he projectors of this enterprise will be of
interest to many of the citizens of the county, and valuable as an item of history, they are here given. They were:
Dr. Caleb J. Tenney, Selden Miner, Roger Wells, Martin Kellogg, John Francis, Chancey Coleman, Weltha Willard, Rev.
John Marsh, Joshua Goodrich, George Wells, Horace Blaine, Henry Robbins, Col. Sylvester Blish, Rev. Samuel Redel,
William Butler, Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, Miles Adams, Elizur Goodrich, Samuel Galpin, E. Porter, Rev. Horace Hooker,
William Tenney, George P. Shipman, Russell H. Nevins, Timothy Stillman, Allen Talcott, Rev. Geo. A. Calhoun,
Francis Loomis, Edward Payson, D.D., Rev. Geo. Stebbins, Rev. John Woodbridge, Gersham Spring, D.D, Merritt Butler,
Osmond Harrison, Rev. Harvey Tolcott, Jeduthan and Jonathan Hubbard, Sulivan Howard, Geo. Richards, Jasper Gilbert,
Rev. Alpha Miller, Nathan DeWolf, J. L. Belden, Nathan Kelley, Stephen Topliff, Dr. A. Welch, Geo. B. Holley, Rev.
Chancey Booth, Richard T. Haines, Rev. Ralph Emerson, Robert Gipson, and a few others whose names cannot now be
The company was styled the “Connecticut Association.” The stockholders resided at different points from Maine to
New York, some of whom were quite wealthy, and others were very prominent in the religious world. The great
temperance agent will be recognized in Rev. John Marsh, Dr. Payson was a distinguished Christian minister, and Rev.
Gardner Spring was an eminent divine at the head of one of the most aristocratic Presbyterian churches in the
The stock of the company was fixed at $250 per share, and entitled each shareholder to one hundred and sixty
acres of prairie land, twenty acres of timber, and a town lot. During the winter of 1835-‘6 one hundred shares were
taken, and $25,000 paid into the treasury. In February, 1836, a “committee of purchase” was appointed, consisting
of Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, Col. Sylvester Blish and Elizur Goodrich. The first of these was selected on account of
his having some experience in matters of this kind; the second, on account of his energy and prompt business
habits, and the third because he was a competent surveyor.
The route of this committee was through Baltimore; over the mountains to Wheeling; down the Ohio River by
steamboat to its junction with the Mississippi; thence up that stream to the Illinois River; up that to Peoria and
thence to Knoxville, Henderson Grove and Andover, at which later place was a house or two, but no inhabitants, nor
did any arrive until July following. Arriving here, neither feed nor horses could be obtained, and they were
compelled to walk some twenty miles over to “Barren Grove”-with only a deserted cabin on the way, in Sugar Tree
Grove-along the south side of which they commenced to select the Company’s land. Rev. Pillsbury and Col. Blish were
sanguine of the future of Illinois, and owing to the previous knowledge of the former, were not long in finding the
“desired haven.” The surveyor did not partake of their unbounded confidence, and trudged around locating the
selections they made, until they had, at different times, succeeded in selecting and entering ninety-nine quarter
sections of land, in Townships 14, R 5 and 15, R. 5-the first entry being made May 7, 1836.
The purchase was made from the Government in the name of Goodrich and Blish, who deeded the land in trust, for
the purpose of the association, to Chester Bulkley, secretary and treasurer, who afterwards deeded to individual
members, or to those who purchased of the company.
The following Spring, March 1837, an additional quarter section was added, making the entries a round hundred.
This committee returning, another, consisting of Rev. Joseph Goodrich, John F. Willard and Henry G. Little, was
appointed to survey and lay out a town plat, and to divide the timber land into twenty-acre lots. On November 17,
1836, Mr. Willard and Mr. Little reached the lands purchased by the company, with the intention to at once lay out
the town and the timber lots. They found in the grove, one and one-half miles northeast of he purchase, a cabin,
and the family of Mr. John Kilvington, of whom mention is made in the early history of Kewanee. This afforded a
home for the party. An effort was at once made to obtain the services of the county surveyor, who lived thirty
miles distant, to perform the task, but the attempt proved fruitless, as he could not accomplish it until the
following Spring. They returned to French Grove, in Peoria County, where Mr. Little had taken a cabin, and secured
the services of Surveyor Nelson Simons, well known to many citizens of this county. The returning party consisted
of John F. Willard, H. G. Little, Nelson Simons, William Wheeler, W. T. Little, Sullivan Howard and Simeon B.
Stoddard, who reached, on foot, the purchase, on the evening of November 16, 1836. The two following days were
spent in surveying and locating the tracts. Toward the close of the second day the party, with the exception of
Willard, who remained to build a cabin, started for “Fraker’s Grove,” twelve miles distant. As it was very misty
the night was intensely dark, and they lost their way. By removing the glass from the face of their compass, so
they could feel the hands on the face, they with great difficulty regained their course, and reached their
destination about midnight. Awakening “Old Man Dunbar,” as he was called, from his slumbers, they were given food
and shelter in the only cabin in this vicinity.
Willard worked two weeks at his cabin, boarding at Mr. Kilvington’s, some two miles distant. When he had
completed it, in company with N. Butler and Joseph Goodrich, he “bached” it through the Winter. He hauled his hay
from where Sheffield now stands, and obtained the greater portion of his corn in Peoria County.
During the Spring of 1837, the services of the County Surveyor were obtained, the timber divided into
twenty-acre lots, and the town of Wethersfield laid out. “In the month of April,” as now appears on the county
records, the streets were laid out at right angles, and were six rods-ninety-nine feet-in width. The blocks
contained four lots of two and one-half acres each, except those immediately on the public square designed for
business lots, and containing one-fourth acre each. One block was set apart for a public square, and one for
Academy and College purposes, but the former of these only appears on the town plat. Two lots, one on the east and
one on the west, were set apart for cemetery purposes. It will be noticed this village was a counterpart of that of
Andover. Counting from north to south the streets bore the names of North, Mill, Church, North Main, South Main,
College and South streets. Running east and west they were named East, Edwards, Dwight, Willard, Tenney, Hollis,
Payson and West streets. It will also be observed the names of divines entered largely into this list, Edwards and
Dwight being in their day presidents of Yale College, and Tenney and Payson having a national reputation.
John F. Willard, as has been stated, erected the first cabin on the colony purchase. Sullivan Howard built a
cottonwood board “shanty” in February, 1837. He wintered in French Grove, Peoria County, and hauled his lumber from
Ellisville on Spoon river, seventy miles distant. Henry G. Little, now living in Iowa, “raised” a cabin in March.
William T. Little built another soon after. This latter was just eighteen by twenty feet in dimensions, and, for
some time, accommodated the family of his father, Abner B. Little, the two families comprising nine members. In
June, the first birth in this colony occurred in this cabin, a daughter being born to William T. She lived to
maturity, married , and removed to Vermont.
Elisha R. Wolcott, and Caleb J. T. Little arrived in April, Evan Wheaton came in June, and C. B. Miner in July.
In August, Colonel Sylvester Blish and his son William arrived with their families. They were better prepared than
most settlers, and were the first to come through from Connecticut with teams. They stopped with H. B. Little on
their arrival, and with his family rather filled his cabin. Shortly after this the first election was held in this
precinct after its organization, the place of voting being Mr. Little's house. Selden Miner came in August, Luther
C. Sleight some time that season. In the Summer of 1838 Francis Loomis came. John H. Wells and David Potter, whose
family became somewhat prominent in the colony, came in October. This latter gentleman planted the first orchard in
the settlement, and raised the first fruit crop. Champlin Lester moved in the Spring of 1839, Deacon Zenas
Hotchkiss in the Summer. William T. Little, before mentioned, turned the first furrow on these prairies where now
C. C. Blish resides. He was soon followed by others, and that season-1837-quite a “sod crop” was raised-and mostly
eaten by cattle. The project of building a steam grist and saw mill was agitated the first year of the settlement,
and in 1837 decisive steps were taken toward the accomplishment of this most necessary of conveniences.
Abner B. Little, father of H. G. and C. J. T., came to Wethersfield in April, 1837. He was born at New Salem,
N.H., in 1774, and married Nancy Tenney, of Hollis, N. H., Jan. 20, 1802. Thirteen children were born to them, ten
of whom came to this county, and whose names appear elsewhere. Mrs. Little died July 7, 1847, aged 66 years. Mr.
Little , Sept. 8, 1863, aged 89 years.
The food of the colonists was exceedingly coarse and rather scanty. Coffee, cornbread and pork-port, cornbread
and coffee, constituted the chief variety; but what was lacking in quality was made up most abundantly in the
amount consumed. The appetite of the frontiersman is not generally so dainty as voracious. Excellent air and
abundant exercise atoned for all tastes. The mill proved disastrous financially to the colony, involving it some
$4,000 in debt, besides the amount paid on its completion,--$5,000. No one could be found to purchase such an
incumbrance, and after various changes, it was sold to Jeduthan Hubbard for $2,000, thereby making a clear loss of
$7,000. It had been most beneficial, however, in supplying a dire necessity to all this country. A most interesting
incident occurred in its erection and continuance, which the reader will find recorded in these pages in the
chapter headed “Interesting Events.” As the indebtedness of the colony had to be met, but little more than eighty
acres of prairie land was given to each stockholder in addition to the tow lot and timber land.
Out of the nearly sixty members of the association only four came personally to aid in the organization. These
were Col. Blish, Francis Loomis, Sullivan Howard, and Charles Richards. Selden Miner was represented by two sons,
and Gardner Spring, D.D., by one son. Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury was already at the head of the Andover colony, where
for many years he was the most prominent man in it. He was married here, Dec. 18, 1837, to Miss Caroline Miller. On
August 22 previous he performed the first marriage ceremony in the colony (also the first in the county), being the
nuptials of Lewis Hurd and Caroline W. Little, a sister of Henry G. and W. T. Little. They are still residents of
Wethersfield. James E. Carson opened a temporary store in the Winter of 1839-’40, but suspended operations in less
than one year. In the Spring of 1845, Garey E. Smith opened the first store proper. He was followed by Daniel
McClure, who established his trade in 1849. The following year William Blish opened a stock of goods, and was
followed by others in quick succession, when the advent of the railroad and the consequent opening of Kewanee,
causeda general removal of all such commodities to that locality.
The earliest school was taught by Parmelia Stewart, daughter of R. R. Stewart, of Geneseo. She is now Mrs. Dr.
Hume of that city. She taught in what is properly known as the “Old Log Church.” Afterwards a school-house was
built a little south of this latter building, and school was held there for a few years. The next move in this
direction was the purchase of the old Baptist Church, which is still used. About ten or twelve years ago, a new
edifice was constructed, and is now used in connection with the former, for educational purposes.
The Congregational Church. Although a number of the colonists were members of this religious faith in their
former homes, it was not till October, 19, 1839, they they organized the church here. Previous to this time,
however, Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, of Andover, was employed to preach to them one fourth of his time, through a part
of 1837, and to about November, 1838. He often walked from one charge to the other, and when the reader will
recollect the entire absence of bridges, compelling him to wade or swim the streams, he will properly judge the
labors of this man, and his indefatigable industry. Rev. W.F. Vaill was sent here by the Connecticut Home
Missionary Society, arriving at Wetherfield November 21, 1838. The following year, at the date mentioned, the
church was organized at the house of Col. John H. Wells, with fifteen members. They were: Rev. Joseph and Mrs.
Goodrich, Rev. William Vaill, Nancy T. Little, Mrs. Rhoda Blish, John J. Wells, Mrs. Julia Wells, L.C. Sleight,
Hosea and Mrs. Buckley, Deacon Zenas Hotchkiss and wife, Norman Butler and wife, and Francis Loomis. Rev. Vaill
remained pastor some eight years. As has been stated, the meetings were held for some timein private residences;
Col. Blish's being the largest, was often used for this purpose. Mrs. Blish is now the only one of the original
fifteen who comprised the first members, now living in this vicinity. In the summer of 1838, a log church was
erected, and used until the year 1849, when a frame structure was built, which is yet standing. In 1851, a good
parsonage was erected. On the organization of the Congregational Church in Kewanee many of the members from
Wethersfield united there, it being a more convenient location. Gradually almost all went there, until now but a
small number remain, and no regular service is maintained. Following the Rev. Vaill was Rev. Samuel Ordway, who
remained about three years. He was succeeded by Rev. Darius Gore, who was pastor about the same length of time,
when R. S. Thrall came, who preached one and a half years. Rev. W. T. Bartle was the next pastor, and preached for
two years. After him was Rev. Thomas Snell, who remained one and a half years, and was succeeded by Rev. Robert
Rudd, who filled the pulpit one year. The next was Rev. B B. Parsons, who was installed pastor August 17, 1859, and
remained in charge some time. He was followed by Rev. L. D. Pomeroy, whose pastorate extended over four years, and
was succeeded by Rev. Rider, who preached some two years. Rev. W. T. Bartle was again called, and preached for them
one year. From that time the church began to decline, owing to the members uniting at Kewanee, and has sustained no
regular ministry since.
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1841. The meetings were held for some time in residences, and at
other times in the school-house, until the year 1853. In 1851, a commodious house of worship was commenced, but not
completed and occupied until 1853. The formation of the society in Kewanee, with which many of this church united,
caused a decline in the church here, and it was finally abandoned.
The Baptist Church was organized at a council held September 23, 1843, by eight persons, viz: Elder Edward Otis,
Charles B. Miner, Mary G. Miner, Edward Otis, Merrill Otis, Hileman Otis, and Hannah and Sarah Otis, united. The
first three of these were from Connecticut, the remainder from Ohio. It was not until two years afterward that
preaching was secured. During this time, Elders Otis, Jonathan Miner and others officiated. During the Summer of
1845, Elder Charles E. Tinker was secured to preach one Sunday in each month, and so continued for five years. The
meetings were sometimes held on the north side of Barren Grove, and at other times at the west end, in
school-houses, and often in the open air. For the last two years of this man's labors the meetings were not held at
Wethersfield, and this church ultimately became the Baptist Church at Annawan. Another church was established at
Wethersfield, May 17, 1851, with eleven members. They were: Ezekiel Cole, Mrs. Maria Cole, John Ewing, Mrs. Keziah
Ewing, Mrs. Jane White, Mrs. Susan Ellenwood, Mrs. Caroline Purviance, Mrs. Maria F. Miner, Charles B. Miner, Mrs.
Mary A. Miner, and Austin Sykes. Of these, the last three named are members.
In July, 1852, Elder J. M. Stickney commenced to preach for this charge, remaining but a short time. He was
succeeded by J. S. Mahan, from Galesburg. They now numbered only nine members, but in 1854 were greatly increased,
over fifty uniting. Elder Mahan resigned in 1855, and was followed by Dr. J. M. Winn, who was succeeded the same
year by Elder S. P. Ives. The following Summer, the members, by a majority vote, decided to remove their place of
worship to Kewanee, and sold their unfinished brick church to the School Trustees of Wethersfield. From that time,
the congregation assumed the name of the First Baptist Church of Kewanee. Other churches were established in this
colony, but they are now extinct, or the members are so few that no regular organization is sustained. As the
colony is the source from which all the affluence, position and wealth of Kewanee were obtained, this extended
sketch is given it. Many pages could be filled with incidents connected with the early life of these people, hut
space forbids their insertion, save a few, which the reader will find in a chapter already referred to.
BISHOP HILL COLONY
The founder of the colony at Bishop Hill was Mr. Eric Jansen, a man about thirty-five or forty years of age, and
a native of Sweden. He was possessed of strong religious convictions, large social affections, and an active
vigorous mind. He abjured the Lutheran faith, the most universal religion of his native country, and one which bore
much the same relation to Sweden that the Established Church of England does to that kingdom. By precept and
preaching he gathered about him some eleven hundred adherents to his belief.
These met with great opposition from the Lutheran House of Bishops, and Mr. Jansen and some of his more
prominent followers were at times imprisoned. During one of his confinements in that place he was visited by two
physicians, who would have adjudged him insane, had not an influential merchant been present and threatened them
with full process of the law for this most unusual act. This merchant was a member of the Lutheran Church, but a
man of large, liberal views, and possessed with a strong love of liberty.
Mr. Jansen persisted in his work for some three years or longer, when, the opposition becoming too strong, it
was decided to emigrate to that land of liberty, America; there to establish a colony and worship their God in
their own way, and in their own belief. One of the principal tenets of their religion was that all things should he
in common, so that no poor would go unprovided, or none suffer for lack of means. Among the first converts to this
belief were a Mr. Hedine and a Mr. Olson, men of property, who gave freely of their wealth to aid those who were
A delegation of them visited King Oscar I, to obtain passports, having been refused these necessary papers by
the proper authorities. The King told them he could not conflict with the authority of the House of Bishops, save
to grant them the privilege of leaving the country should they desire. He gave the orders, and procuring the
passports, the colony, numbering some eleven hundred persons, set sail in the Summer of 1846. They arrived in New
York in October of that year, and the same month about seven hundred of them reached Bishop Hill, Henry County,
Illinois, the remaining four hundred having gone to other localities. Many of this latter number were deceivers and
impostors, having joined the colony for no other purpose than to get their passage paid; the fund for this object
having been a common one, and some had had their debts paid before leaving Fatherland.
In order that Mr. Jansen could come to America (he had preceded the colonists), he was compelled to escape into
Norway, where, obtaining a passport under an assumed name, he succeeded in embarking on a vessel whose destination
was New York.
The year previous to the landing of the colony, a few persons had been sent to America for the purpose of
finding them a home. These had selected the present site of Bishop Hill, and when the emigrants arrived in New York
they were met by Mr. Jansen, their acknowledged leader, and at once came to their new home.
A brother of the Mr. Olson-Olef Olson-had been one of the party sent out the year previous, and had made a
pretty thorough prospecting tour throughout the West, in the Spring of 1846, including the states of Illinois, Iowa
and Wisconsin. He had wntten to many of his friends in Sweden advising them of the feasibility of the coming of the
colony, and, of the ease with which a home could be secured in the then western wilds. He purchased of the elder
Piatt a farm at the east end of Red Oak Grove; this being the first of any connected with the colony.
After Mr. Jansen reached the United States, he sent word to the friends in Sweden to print, or get printed, some
hymn books and other religious works for the use of the colony. This printing was very difficult to obtain, as no
printer would risk the fine attendant on such publications. To obviate this difficulty a press was purchased, and
with the aid of a practical printer, they did their own printing.
Of the eleven hundred colonists who came in 1846, many sold their estates at a sacrifice, and were compelled to
send an agent in after years to collect even this.
The colonists settled at first along the south bank of tile South Edward Creek, a small, sluggish stream. The
site was a most beautiful one, being sparsely covered with a small growth of oaks. Having neither material for
building nor money with which to purchase it, they erected tents for their immediate protection. These proving
inadequate, caves were excavated in the hillside, and in these rude habitations many of the colonists passed their
first Winter in America. These were damp and unwholesome, and much of the mortality prevailing was due to them.
While erecting tents for their own immediate accommodation, they were not forgetful of the worship of Almighty God,
and erected a very large tent in which their meetings and Sabbath-schools were held. The hardships that followed
the immediate settlement were more than many of the members had resolution to endure, and they left singly and in
squads as their lack of faith and pressing wants seemed to require. On reaching their new home the funds of the
society were nearly exhausted, and they had no credit. Notwithstanding this, provisions must be had for the year's
consumption. Not a man, save a sailor, who had picked up a little English, could speak a word of that language.
John Olson, who was gifted with the faculty of making intelligible signs, undertook to provide food, and
succeeded tolerably well while the money lasted. They were expecting funds in the Spring in sufficient amounts to
relieve all pressing and immediate wants. Mud caves soon gave place to houses constructed of unbaked brick and an
occasional frame, but these residences were very inferior till 1849, when a four-story brick was erected, about 100
feet in length and 4.5 in breadth. The basement was intended for a dining-room and the upper part divided into
rooms for families. In 1851 the building was extended 100 feet in length. It is still occupied by families of new
comers, or by those unable to provide their own homes.
A large frame building, the upper part designed for a church and the basement for families, was erected as early
as 1849, the religious zeal of the colonists causing them to look after a house of worship before securing their
personal comfort. This edifice is still occupied for the purposes for which it was erected.
To the credit of the people it must be stated that they established an English school as early as January, 1847.
A Presbyterian clergyman, Rev. Talbot, taught some thirty-five scholors in a mud cave, from January to July. At
times he was assisted by his daughter, Mrs. Pollock, afterwards the wife of Eric Jansen, and now his widow. Talbot
taught the second school, and Nelson Simons, M.D., was employed about one year as their third schoolmaster.
While the improvements in general were going on the colonists were not neglectful of orchards and the planting
of the smaller fruits; but it cannot be said that the yield of fruits so far has equaled their expectations. Among
the earlier branches of industry a brewery, for the manufacture of small beer, was erected. This beverage is a
common drink among the Swedes, and the manufacture commenced at an early day. About the year 1851 they erected a
commodious brick brewery from which they manufactured some ten barrels of beer a day while in operation.
The progress of improvement was steady, and a grist-mill on a small scale was soon in operation on the Edwards
Creek, at the Hill. Two saw-mills were also soon under way on the same stream. One of them they purchased. The
construction of a steam grist-mill was commenced in 1849, under the direction of Eric Jansen, but not completed
till after his death.
The correct conduct of these people soon convinced those living nearest them that nothing was to be
apprehended from them, as their creed was essentially harmless to all outsiders. And in the hour of need, the
colonists found fast friends in the majority of those near them. By the year 1851 they had grown and strengthened,
and had built a first-class steam flouring-mill, which turned out a large surplus of flour beyond the wants of the
They had opportunities of securing large quantities of wheat, receiving sometimes one-third and at others
one-half the crop for taking care of the balance. Flax was a staple with them for several years. From the crop of
1847 they manufactured 12,000 yards of linen or thereabouts, and sold the entire amount, as they had two or three
years' supply of clothing on hand. In 1849 they sold 12,454 yards of linen and 4,129 yards of carpeting. In 1850
they sold the crop of 1849: linen, 9,323 yards; carpeting, 3,618 yards. In 1851 crop of 1850: linen, 28,322 yards;
carpeting, 3,237 yards. This was the largest product in any one year, and the amount gradually grew less till the
year 1857, when they manufactured but little for sale. The aggregate amount of linen sold to 1857 was 130,309
yards; of carpeting, 22,569 yards. The carpeting was all coarse, being known as "rag" carpeting. The linen was much
of it quite fine; but the coarser kinds were the most in demand, and after the first year or two but little fine
linen, except in the shape of tablecloths, was manufactured. These goods were sold for cash, or traded for other
goods in demand at the Hill, as opportunity offered; large quantities being peddled out over the country.
The spinning and weaving is done almost exclusively by the women, children of both sexes assisting at spooling,
etc. In the early years, as looms and rooms in which to place them were scarce, the weavers were divided into
squads or gangs, and the looms kept running night and day. Not a little of the prosperity of the colony is due to
the bone and muscle of the women who labored through the summer in the fields as industriously as the men, and in
the winter at the wheels-looms and other work carried on in doors.
From living in such poor habitations at first, and from being unaccustomed to the climate, great numbers
sickened and died. Especially among the children was the mortality fearful. During the great cholera scourge of the
years 1849, '50, '51 and '52, men would go to their work in the morning in good health, and die before the going
down of the sun.
From this cause, and the leaving of those in fear of the disease, the colony was at one time reduced to 414
souls. These survived the plague, and had the hardihood to remain. At the time Mr. Jansen was murdered, in May,
1850 (an account of which is given elsewhere), they were suffering from sickness, desertion, and death, and the
fact that these had the fortitude to remain amid such a multiplicity of discouragements, was proof conclusive of
the earnestness of their conviction that they were called to suffer, and, if need be, to die in demonstrating the
true method of Christian fellowship. In erecting the large buildings for dwellings in the manufacture of cloth; in
the erection of large mills; in their frugal industry, and in their honest endeavors to promote their welfare
spiritually and temporally, during all these trials of poverty, sickness, death, desertion, and strangers in a
strange land, a lesson of commendable zeal may be learned, and an example of fortitude which has few equals in the
history of Henry County.
By the year 1853 or '54 affairs were brightening, and prospects grew better. Other emigrants came, other
buildings were erected, and the hopes of the early colonists began to be realized.
Brick buildings, capable of accommodating from eight to double that number of families, were at times erected.
In these each family had one or more rooms. All worked together, and at meal time repaired to the large
dining-rooms and partook of food provided for all. Each one was required to labor, and after receiving sufficient
clothing and food from the products, the remainder were used to purchase more land or build additional buildings.
Human nature is the same in all ages and among all people, and here, as well as elsewhere, were those who would not
perform their share of the labor, or provide for the common good. By the year 1860, it was found that the theories
of Mr. Jansen would not prevail in practical life, and a division occurred.
By this year all the large brick buildings spoken of were erected. At this time they were divided into two
parties, known as the Johnson (Jansen) and Olson parties. The former, being more numerous, obtained about
two-thirds of the property; the latter, the remainder. No serious difficulties arose from this division, and the
individual affairs were conducted on the same plan heretofore pursued.
The following year, the Olson party were divided into three divisions old parts, and the Johnson party made an
individual distribution of their lands and town property.
By this time it had been clearly demonstrated that it was better by far for all to be thrown upon an individual
responsibility, and a distribution on the following plan was made of all property belonging to this party:
To every person, male or female, that had attained the age of 35 years a full share of all lands, timber and
town lots, and personal property was given. A full share consisted of 22 acres of land, one timber lot-nearly two
acres-one town lot, and an equal part in all barns, horses, cattle, hogs, sheep or other domestic animals, and all
farming implements and household utensils. All under this age received a share corresponding in amount and value to
the age of the individual, no discrimination being shown to either sex. The smallest share was about eight acres of
land, a correspondingly small town and timber lot, and part of the personal property. Thus a man over 35 years of
age, having a wife that age or over, and several children, would receive many acres of land and considerable
property to manage. He held that of the wife and children simply in trust, the deeds to all the property being made
in the name of the head of the family.
This division is still maintained, and as a result of this, and thereby each being thrown upon his own
resources, active industry at once prevailed, the result of which may now be seen in well-tilled farms and
This same year, in April, the town was laid out by the trustees, Olef Johnson, Jonas Erickson, Swan Swanson,
Jonas Olson Jonas Kronberg, Olef Stenbeig, and Jacob Jacobson. In 1861, the Olson party, being divided into three
factions, continued to prosecute their labors under the colony system. One year's trial, however, convinced them of
the results. These factions were known as Olson, Stonberg, and (Martin) Johnson divisions, which, at the close of
the year 1861, divided their property to the individuals comprising each faction on the basis adopted by the
Johnson party in 1860. The shares were, however, not quite so large. The large brick buildings are now principally
owned by the old settlers.
After the establishment of the colony the school-room was removed from the cave to any vacant room which could
be utilized for that purpose. The school-room was therefore constantly changing until the erection of the large
frame building spoken of, when the upper room in it was occupied for a number of years. In the year 1858 or '59 the
present school-house was erected. It contains four rooms for school purposes, and a library. Two teachers are now
employed, who have been raised in the colony, and all exercises have always been conducted in the English language,
showing the colony came to America to become her citizens.
In the Fall of 1848, an adventurer named Root, the son of a wealthy Swede, of Stockholm, made his appearance at
Bishop Hill, having been, as he asserted, just discharged from the army that had been operating in Mexico.
Subsequent developments however indicated his having been a fugitive from justice. Upon his arrival at Bishop Hill
he expressed a desire to become one of the fraternity, and as there seemed to be no reasonable objection, he was
He soon after made a marriage contract with a cousin of Eric Jansen, the consummation of which was under special
contract, to wit: that if Root should afterwards decide to leave the colony, he should go alone, leaving the
wife to enjoy in the colony all the rights and immunities of the establishment.
He soon earned the reputation of being constitutionally opposed to labor of any kind, spending most of his time
with a gun on his shoulder in the woods, and even this soon getting tiresome, he shortly left for parts unknown.
His tyrannical treatment of his wife had, however, pretty thoroughly destroyed her affection for him, and she bore
the separation with feelings more of joy than sorrow.
After an absence of several months, during which time his wife gave birth to a son, he returned to the colony.
It was some time before he called to see his wife, notwithstanding he was informed a son was waiting to greet him.
Soon after taking up quarters with his wife, he proposed to have her leave the colony with him, to which she
strongly objected, while he as persistently insisted upon her going. Jansen sustained the objections, which
exasperated Root to such an extent lie exhibited to his wife a revolver and bowie knife, swearing vengeance on
Jansen, and at other times threatening to use them on her or the babe.
Matters proceeded in this manner some time, when, being unable to persuade her to accompany him peaceably, he
determined on carrying off his wife by force, which he endeavored with the assistance of outside friends to
accomplish in the following manner: Obtaining the services of a young man named Stanley, who belonged in Cambridge,
he stationed him with a horse and buggy at a convenient distance from Mrs. Root's room, and while the community
were at dinner, Root compelled her to enter the buggy, and the trio drove rapidly away from the Hill, Mrs. Root
being seated in the bottom of the buggy and covered up. Their proceedings being observed, they were soon hotly
pursued and overtaken within two miles of their starting point, by a dozen of the brethren, who ordered them to
stop. They were told distinctly if the woman wanted to leave, she could do so unmolested ; but if she wished to
stay, they proposed to take her back.
Root and Stanley, both being armed, kept their pursuers at bay, the woman meantime making manifest her desire to
return by an effort to release herself from the coverings thrown over her. Root laid his pistol on the seat behind
him, and endeavored to hold her down; meanwhile one of the attacking party rushed up, and, seizing the weapon,
carried it off. Stanley, seeing the six-shooter in the wrong hands, and his own being only a single-barrel,
concluded it best to surrender, and the woman was allowed to leave the buggy and go with her friends. At this point
Stanley disappears from public notice, except in a single instance some time after, when he distinguished himself
by figuring as one of two parties (the other being the lady with whom he boarded) of whom a choice bit of scandal
arose, which was finally settled by the infuriated husband of the aforesaid lady. Thwarted in his purpose, Root had
Jansen and others arrested for restraining the liberty of his wife. She was subpoenaed as a witness and the officer
insisting on her accompanying him at once, she assented with the belief she would soon have justice done her in the
courts. The officer, however, had no legal authority to take this step; but was carrying out a deeply-laid scheme
of Root's to get possession of the woman, and succeeded in taking her to Cambridge, where she was confined in a
room and denied all communication with her friends. Mr. S.P. Brainard, the Clerk of the Circuit and County Courts,
took a most active part in excluding the friends, and much to their disgust, as to them was he indebted for his
election to office.
A day later Root succeeded in abducting his wife the second time, and, taking her in a buggy,
despite her screams, drove to the Rock River settlement, and put up at the house of P. K. Hanna.
From here Root took her to Davenport, thence to Chicago, where she had a sister living, who, knowing of Root's
brutal treatment of his wife, soon communicated with the colonists, and they, in turn, offered the woman safe
transit to her home in the colony if she desired it. Mrs. Root signifying her wish to return, was sent for by a
party, who, with a team, took her back to Bishop Hill, which place she reached in safety; thence she went to St.
Louis, where she remained until all danger was past, when she returned to the colony, where she still lives. At the
May term of court in 1850, Root, being greatly exasperated at Jansen for his repeated efforts to induce his
(Root's) wife to remain in the colony, shot Jansen in the court-house, just at the hour of adjournment for dinner.
Mr. Jansen expired in a few hours. Root was at once taken into custody, tried for murder, receiving a sentence of
two or three years in the State Prison. He died shortly after its expiration.
The county seat was located at Richmond, Oct. 6, 1837. The first term of Circuit Court was held here by Hon.
Thomas Ford, afterwards Governor of the state, on April 2, 18.9. In the month of June following the small frame
court-house was burned, also a two-story house erected by Harris. Steps were at once taken to remove the seat of
justice to a more convenient locality, the citizens of Geneseo being most active in this move wishing to secure the
prize for their own town. In this they were defeated, as the site selected was the Morristown Colony purchase. One
term of court was, however, held at Geneseo on April 6, 1840, and two the following year. Court was removed to
Morristown, and the first session held there on May 16, 1842; afterwards, on Sept. 25; on May 15, 1843; on Sept.25;
and lastly, on May 24, 1844.
The county seat was located at Cambridge in the early part of 1843; but no provision being made for holding
courts there, they continued to meet at Morristown, where the court-house, a small unfinished frame building, was
located. The citizens of Cambridge, desiring to make certain of the seat of justice within their own limits,
obtained permission from the county officers to remove this building to their town. It was granted, and the
building removed in the Summer or Fall of 1843. Yet court did not come; still continuing the county business at
Morristown two sessions in September and in May following. The court-house referred to was brought to Cambridge
with ox teams, and placed on the southeast corner of what is now the College Square. Here courts were held until
the erection of the present structure, which was completed and accepted July 8, 1845. It was erected by Sullivan
Howard, one of the early settlers of Wethersfield, and cost about $3,000. The old wooden jail was begun in 1853,
and completed the following year.
The present court-house, a very commodious and comfortable building in all its parts, was finished in 1866. In
1858 a small fire-proof building was erected immediately west of the court-house, costing about $10,000. It is used
as file receptacle for all the county records, and as the offices of the county and circuit clerks, and that of the
county treasurer. It is intended to erect, as soon as practicable, probably during the coming year, a court-house
suitable to the needs of the county, and one which will be an ornament to the energy and taste of the citizens.
The first case tried in the Henry County Court before a jury, was an appeal case wherein Hiram Pearce was tried
for “ disturbing the peace and good order of a congregation assembled for divine worship, by profane language and
disorderly and immoral conduct." He was found guilty and fined twenty dollars.
In the old court-house, accommodation could hardly be had for the officers of the court, when they had to find
room for the jury. This body often retired to the shadow of a near tree, or hay-stack, and carried on their
deliberations in commodious but rather undesirable quarters.
To find lodging at first in Cambridge was almost an impossibility, and tended greatly to lessen the growth of
that place. The members of the bar would have to go to Andover, and to neighboring cabins for shelter and food.
Pages could be filled with incidents illustrating the mode of administering justice which, though generally
unhindered by legal forms, was sure. The first case in the present court-house was conducted by Judge Jos. Tillson,
now a resident of Cambridge, and who has been closely identified with all her interests.
November, 1849, under the new constitution, a county judge (who was also probate) and two associates, styled
county justices, were elected, to-wit: J. M. Allan; judge; Wm. Miller and John Piatt, associates. In 1850, Allan
was elected Representative to the General Assembly, and a special election for judge to fill the vacancy occasioned
by his resignation, resulted in the election of Joseph Tillson. In 1853, Stephen Palmer was elected judge, and
Robert Getty and John Piatt, associates. In 1857, the township organization was effected, and the board of
supervisors discharged the duties of the former court.
This celebrated Indian chief lived two years at Shabbona Grove, in this county. He was born at an Indian village
on Kankakee River, about 1775. While young, he was made chief of the band and went to Shahbona Grove, now DeKalb
Co., where they were found in the early settlement of this part of the state. During the War of 1812, Shabbona,
with his warriors, joined Tecumseh; was by his side when he fell, at the battle of the Thames. Shabbona, in 1827,
by visiting every lodge of the Pottawattamies, prevented them from participating in the Winnebago War. Shabbona was
styled the white man's friend" (through reproach) on account of his always being so friendly to the whites. In all
the Indian wars of his day Shabbona exerted such influence that he prevented his own tribe and many other tribes
from making or participating in wars against the whites, and often in times of war notified the settlers, and
thereby saved their lives. The citizens of Ottawa bought him a tract of land above Seneca, Grundy Co., on Illinois
River, on which they built a house and supplied him with means on which to live. He died July 17, 1859, in his 84th
year, and was buried at Morris. His squaw, Pokanoka, was drowned Nov. 30, 1864, and was buried by his side.
The traveler in 1853, had he passed from Dixon to Wethersfield, would have found where now stands Kewanee, a
modest and well-tilled farm, the property of M. B. and J. P. Potter, on the west, and a broad, undulating prairie
on the east, the division line being then a township road, and now known as Main Street. The unpretentious
farm-house, now the residence of Harry Thompson, may still he seen by the curious, standing directly north of the
building known as "Phillips Block." The first settlers of the land comprised in the township were John Kilvington,
Robert Coultis and Cornelius Bryan, who came in the Fall of 1836. In the month of February, previous, John King and
_____ Pierce made the first entries. They were followed by Goodrich and Blish, whose entries bear date May 7, 1836,
and in July by Henry Kemerling. This same year twenty-one sections-13,440 acres-were taken up by the Connecticut
Association, and before 1850 almost every acre was entered.
The advent of the C. B. & Q. R. R. in 1853 (then called the Military Tract R. R.) decided the location of
the village. Strenuous efforts were made by the citizens of Wethersfield, one mile south, to secure the passage of
the railroad through their town. Owing to heavy grades and the crossing of a stream, involving a large extra
expense, this was not acceded to by the company, and grading was commenced on the proposed route. Enterprising
citizens of that day saw the result, and quickly took advantage of tile location to secure a town on the
Nothing particularly noteworthy took place until the railroad depot was fixed on the northwest quarter of
section 33. The company had at first decided to place it on the northeast quarter of section 32, but a defective
title compelled a re-location. Matthew B. and J. P. Potter and Col. Blish owned the site. The former, after selling
five acres of their quarter section to Geo. A. Morse and Silas Willard, traded the balance to Dwight Needham for
his beautiful farm a little farther south. Mr. Needham at once sold to Capt. Sullivan Howard, Ralph A.
Tenney-better known as " Ralph" and Henry G. Little; and these gentlemen sold a quarter interest to Nelson Lay.
Willard and Morse's tract lay on either side of the railroad, on Main street, and here they built a store and
warehouse in 1853. This was known as the "Pioneer'' store, and did a lucrative business for nearly twelve months
without opposition. The building stood on the lot now occupied by the residence of Mr. Joseph O'Brien, and was, in
1863, destroyed by fire.
On May 1, 1854, the town was laid out by the following named gentlemen: Sullivan Howard, Nelson Lay, H. G.
Little, R. A. Tenney, Geo. A. Morse, and Sylvester Blish, all of whom, excepting Col. Blish, are still living. At
that time all was life and activity. Wethersfield, which was then quite a thriving village, suffered in a very
short time a loss of nearly all of her business houses, which were one by one put on wheels and moved to
The survey was made by C. C. Blish, now President of the First National Bank. The streets were at right angles.
The lots contained from one-quarter of an acre to four acres of land, according as they were more or less central.
The streets were generally four rods wide, though Main street is one hundred feet in width. The first house erected
on the town site was the Kewanee Hotel. It was kept for some time by Tenney & Hutchins. In February, 1856, the
present proprietor, Mr. E. V. Bronson, whose portrait appears elsewhere, purchased the property of R. A. Tenney,
and for twenty-two years has successfully supplied the gastronomical needs of the public.
It was probably the intention of the founders of the town, that Main street should be the street, and in fact it
was for some time. "Phillips Block," the first store in the town proper was built thereon by Nelson Lay; J. D.
Schriver erected the old "Philadelphia Store" there; Davenport & Robinson their grocery (now Miles &
Minnick's); Dr. Pinney had his drug store where now stands the Freewill Baptist Church, and on the corner next
south was the dry-goods establishment of Aaron Cooper. A few buildings only were built on Tremont street, which was
in wet weather very little short of a canal as far as navigation was concerned. Yet the hotel and the depot slowly
and surely drew the trade center westward. C. N. Cutter erected, very early, the building now occupied by Bennison
Bros., and which for many years was known as "Cutter's Hall," and considered quite palatial in those days.
Residences sprang up rapidly in all parts of the town, grain warehouses were built, and in eighteen months the town
boasted of a population of 1,500, including Wethersfield.
Some of the early merchants were Fitch & Skinner, whose drug store occupied the site of the present T. H.
Phillips' brick block ; Joseph Montgomery, whose stock consisted of boots, shoes and clothing, and whose store
occupied the site of that now used by James Barker; Mr. James S. Howard who erected the house now known as the
McConnell House, and therein kept the first furniture store of Kewanee; and a hardware store which was built by
Fred. Wild, the building now doing service as the shop of Mr. McConnell. All these were erected during the Summer
and Autumn of 1854, or soon after.
Contemporary with them was the residence of Mr. Dwight Needham, which is now the property of Mrs. Martha Pratt.
It was the first building of that character erected on the town plat. This same Autumn a warehouse was constructed
by the Pratt Brothers. Two years after, in 1857, it was set on fire by one William Whiteford, and totally
destroyed. He received a term of nine years in the penitentiary for his nefariousness. An elevator was also built
by the railroad company which is still used. When the town was laid out, the proprietors gave it the name of
Berien, in compliment of Col. Berien, chief engineer of the railroad. He rather objected to this, however, and
being asked to name the town, suggested "Kewanee," an Indian name, supposed to signify Prairie hen. This cognomen
was readily accepted by the proprietors, and on Feb.14, 1855, was legalized by a special act of the Legislature.
The post-office was established in 1854, and given the name of Kewanee. Col. Blish was appointed as incumbent of
the office, who occupied a portion of the store of Otis & Pinney for the discharge of his duties. It will be
remembered this building occupied the site of the Free-will Baptist Church. In the Fall of 1855, Col. Blish died,
and Mr. R. A. Tenney, who, among other enterprising acts, erected the first brick residence in town, now occupied
by Dr. G. W. Fellows, succeeded him. Different administrations caused many changes to occur in this office. It is
now held by Capt. N. H. Pratt, one of Kewanee's most estimable citizens, and the office ranks as third-class.
The business interests of town have grown remarkably well. It is almost twenty-three years since the Phillips
Block was erected, and now there are a large number of stores of all kinds ; shops of every description, and
artisans of all trades, whose different articles of commerce find ready sale in the town and surrounding country,
and in some cases to other localities.
The First National Bank was organized October 28, 1870, with a capital of $75,000. The surplus is now $18,000,
and the average daily deposits are over $100,000. The officers are: Chas. C. Blish, President; S. W. Warner,
Vice-President; and C. S. Wentworth, Cashier. Messrs. D. L. and W. F. Wiley, President and Cashier of the First
National Bank, at Galva, on January 1st, 1876 established the People's Bank. It is a private affair, well managed,
and abundantly supplied with capital. Mr. H. L. Kellogg is Cashier.
The success of any town depends largely on the manufacturing interests therein and the ability to keep employed
its citizens, thereby causing money to freely circulate within its own borders. Kewanee is very well supplied in
this respect, having within her limits the O'Brien Manufactory, the Haxton Steam Heater Company, the Kewanee
Manufacturing Establishment, and that of H. H. Perkins. The first mentioned of these was established in 1858, in
Princeville, Peoria County, for the manufacture of carriages and wagons. They remained here until 1865, when they
removed to Kewanee and continued their manufacturing. January 1, 1874, a stock company, with a capital of $75,000,
was formed, and the facilities greatly increased. The O'Brien brothers are largely interested here, and hold the
offices of president, secretary and treasurer. Mr. Jas. O'Brien is the first named officer, W. F. O'Brien the
second, and Joseph T. the third; They employ about fifty men, and make, on an average per day, two wagons, two
carriages, and 100 harrows. These latter find ready sale throughout the entire Northwest.
The second manufactory mentioned was organized in April, 1875, with a capital stock of $50,000. They make steam
heaters, castings, and all classes of steam material. Their sales will aggregate $60,000 annually. About forty men
are employed. W. F. Haxton is President, E. R. Kerr Secretary, and J. H. Pierce Treasurer.
The Kewanee Manufacturing Company was organized January 12, 1876, with a capital of $50,000. They are in good
condition, capable of doing excellent work, and at reasonable prices. They employ constantly twenty-five hands,
with a probable increase. Their specialties are: "Kewanee" windmills, "Orr's" sulky plow, and the "Centennial"
harrow. In addition to these they do a large amount of extra job work. The officers are: C. C. Wilson, President,
and Josiah Keeler, Secretary. Their implements find large sales through the West, and through some portions of
Mr. H. H. Perkins is at present making a new-formed riding cultivator. It has the quality of being capable of
raising and lowering the shovels, of giving them a greater depth, and of a different slant, also of placing them
nearly to, or far from the row of corn--all without stopping the team or leaving the seat.
Mr. H. H. Bryan, who opened the first wagon shop in Kewanee, is still in business. He commenced his trade in
Wethersfield, in 1850, and when Kewanee was incorporated he removed his shop to its present location, where he has
since carried on a successful business, employing now from ten to fifteen men, and enjoying a trade aggregating
Aside from these manufactories mentioned, the town supports a goodly number of shops of various kinds, whose
products find a ready market in the immediate vicinity.
There are thirteen churches and five public school buildings, including the high school. In 1874 the citizens of
the town erected the building known as Library Hall. The upper story is used for a public hall, in which concerts,
readings and lectures are given. The lower story is occupied by the office of the Lathrop Coal and Mining Company
(a notice of which is given in the geological description of the Company, by the First National Bank, the office of
the Express Company, and the office and rooms of the Library Association. The latter has a library of 1,300
volumes. It was opened to the public in the Spring of 1875. It is managed by a board of six directors, and is open
to the public every evening, and on the afternoon of each Sunday.
THE COAL INTERESTS
At Kewanee much capital is employed in the coal trade. The Lathrop Coal and Mining Company, whose principal
banks are one and a half miles east of town, employ over 200 men, and ship annually large quantities of this
mineral. The coal, which is of a superior quality, is reached at a depth of some 100 feet, and, by an ingenious
contrivance, is easily loaded on the cars when brought to the surface.
This company was organized in 1869, and they now represent a capital of nearly $400,000. The president of the
company is Hon. Sidney Bartlett, of Boston, Mass. In addition to the shafts operated by this company, there are
many others owned by private parties.
Coal is found in paying quantities at almost any point between Galva and Kewanee, and is mined by many persons
on their own property. The Geological Report of Henry County, made in 1873, by direction of the State Geologist, by
Mr. James Shaw, contains many items of interest, and is well worth a careful perusal.
In Kewanee there are thirteen regularly organized churches. The oldest of these is the Congregational, whose
organization was effected August 7, 1855, in a school house, now a grocery store. During the Winter previous,
meetings were held in the Kewanee House and at a few private residences. The organizing council was presided over
by Flavel Bascom, D.D. Forty-four persons united, many of whom had been members of the same religious body at
Their names were: Clarissa Bassett, Jane Botterill, Hosea Bulkley, Robert Cook, Martha R. Cook, Martha A. Cook,
Mary A. Cook, Isabella Fell, Thomas D. Fitch, Harriet W. Fitch, J. Francis Goodrich, Sarah H. Goodrich, Elizabeth
A. Hawks, Sullivan Howard, Elizabeth B. Howard, Horace M. Howard, Mary E. Howard, Harriet L. Howard, James S.
Howard, Martha Howard, Martha A. Hooker, Nelson Lay, Mariette Lay, Frances Lay, Hiram T. Lay, Mary Jane Lay, Lemuel
B. Leonard, Sarah Patrick, Olive Lincoln, Harvey W. Lincoln, Nancy E. Lincoln, Henry G. Little, Fidelia M. Little,
Louisa S. Little, Mary M. Little, Francis Loomis, Fanny M. Loomis, Joseph R. Loomis, Ruth C. Pinney, Harriet N.
Tenney, Joseph A. Talcott, Mary L. Talcott, Charlotte M. Talcott, Lucina Sykes. Of these persons, Sulivan Howard,
Elizabeth Howard, Hiram T. Lay, Olive Lincoln, Nancy E Lincoln (now Mrs. Dr. Day), Ruth C. Pinney, Joseph A., Mary
L. aud Charlotte M. Talcott (now Mrs. T. P. Pierce), and Lucina Sykes are still members here. The rest have removed
or gone to their reward.
The church edifice was completed and dedicated March 11, 1858, having been built the year previous. It was very
much enlarged and beautified in the year 1871. The Rev. Charles H. Pierce was preaching to the congregation at the
time of organization, and remained until January, 1858. He was succeeded, as the next pastor, by Mr. Charles C.
Salter, who was ordained and installed April 20, 1859, and was regularly dismissed March 11, 1861. Rev. James M.
Van Wagner was called to the pastorate of the church in February, 1864, installed June 6. He remained until April
6, 1868. Rev. James Tompkins was called June 1, 1872, installed September 10, and is still filling the pulpit as
pastor. During the intervals between any of these pastorates the pulpit was filled by supplies. The congregation is
now in a good condition. The member-ship is 239. The Sunday-school (Mr. O. H. Loomis, Superintendent,) has an
attendance of 341.
The Free Will Baptist Church was organized April 29, 1865, in the Protestant Methodist Church, with eleven
members. The organization council consisted of Rev. S. Bartlett, Rev. H. S. Browne, and Rev. R. G. Broadfoot. The
following is a list of the original membership: Rev. William Bonar, Mrs. Mary Ann Bonar, A. B. Palmer, Mrs. Mary
Ann Palmer, D. W. Payne, Henry Malone, Mary Malone, S. W. Warner, A. B. Gurney, Caroline E. Gurney, and C. H.
Gurney-eleven persons. Prior to the organization, services were held in the Swedish Methodist Church, in the
southwest part of town, and next in the Protestant Methodist-now Free Methodist Church. They worshiped in this
latter place until November, 1865, when they removed to Cutter's Hall, where they remained until January, 1866,
when they again removed, this time to the Christian Church. This building is now a dwelling. Here they met for
religions exercises until January 16, 1870, when they worshiped a few months again in Cutter's Hall. About May,
1869, they commenced the erection of their present church building. It was completed June 1, 1870, when they
immediately occupied it. It is a very comfortable structure, and cost, including the lot, $6,800.
The pastors of this congregation have been the following named persons: Rev. William Bonar, from August 12,
1865, to March 7, 1867; Rev. 0. D. Patch, from April 1, 1867, to March 1, 1874; Rev. J.J. Weage, from May 1, 1874,
to May 1, 1875. At that time the present pastor, Rev. H. S. Browne, was called to the pastorate. The number of
members is one hundred and two; the Sunday-school has an attendance of about sixty. The superintendent is Mr. H.
Blanchard. Mr. A. B. Gurney, one of the original members, is clerk of the church.
The Free Methodist Church was organized in a private residence in Wethersfield about the year 1866 or 1867.
Meetings had been held for some time previous in the residences of different persons, and in the Swedish Methodist
house of worship. Also in a store-room in Wethersfield.
About the year 1870, they purchased their present church edifice of the Protestant Methodists, and have since
occupied it. At the organization, some five or six persons were admitted as members. They have, at different times,
enjoyed good seasons of revival, and now number some twenty-four or five members. The first minister was Rev.
Jonathan Dick; next, Rev. William Cooley, whose wife occasiona1ly officiated at divine service. He was followed by
J. G. Terrell, during whose ministry the church was purchased, at a cost of $1,000. Next, Rev. George Coffee,
followed by Rev. W. W. Kelley; he by Rev. John Whiting; he by Rev. James Thaxter, when the present pastor, Rev.
James Kelso, took charge. The Sunday-school, under the superitendence of Mrs. Robinson, numbers about twenty
The Presbyterian Church was organized in the Baptist Church by the Rock Island Presbytery, March 26, 1872. A
preliminary meeting had been held to invite the Presbytery to this action in the house of S. M. Hurd, on February
At the organization the following persons were received as members: Daniel and Mrs. Eunice Baldwin, William E.
and Mrs. Sarah A. Haxton, R.A. and Mrs. L. Little, Jacob W. and Mrs. Hannah Jones, S. M. and Mrs. Emily Hurd, N. H.
and Mrs. Lura Blakely, Effie Blakely, Mrs. C. H. Graves, George H. Lincoln, George Kliner Mrs. J. Powers, Mrs. P.
Wright, Mrs. John Whiffen, Clark Bradish, William W. Winter, and Mrs. Virginia L. Winter, and ________Shanahan.
During the Summer the church was erected. Including the lot it cost $5,000. The Rev. N. D. Graves was pastor of
the church about three years. Rev. Josiah Milligan, of Princeton, preached for them for some time, when the present
pastor, Rev. J. D. Howey, was called. He has occupied the pulpit over one year. There are now eighty-six members,
and a Sunday-school of one hundred scholars.
The Baptist Church. On the 9th of May, 1856, it was decided by a vote of the members of the Baptist Church, at
Wethersfield, to remove their place of holding services to Kewanee, a more desirable location. There were at that
time over one hundred members. They worshiped for some time in different halls, and in some of the other churches.
On December 21, 1865, a building committee was appointed, and steps taken towards the erection of a suitable church
edifice. This was completed and occupied July 7, 1867, and cost, including the site, over $8,000. There are now
about two hundred and thirty-five members, and a Sunday-school of one hundred and fifteen scholars. The pastor is
Rev. P. P. Shirley.
The following is a list of the pastors of this church and their terms of service: At the removal Rev. S. P. Ives
was pastor; Rev. H. B. Foskett, from December, 1857, to August, 1862; Rev. J. La Grange, from October, 1862, to
September, 1863; Rev. A. D. Freeman, from March, 1864, to July same year; Rev. William Storrs, from November, 1864,
to May, 1865; Rev. A. Jones, from December 1, 1865, to March, 1867; Rev. K. W. Benton, from July, 1867, to July,
1872; Rev. Carlos Swift, from November, 1872, to June, 1874; Rev. R. L. Colwell, from September, 1874 to February,
1876, when the present pastor, Rev. P. P. Shirley, was called. The church is now in a flourishing condition, and
enjoying evident signs of prosperity.
The Methodist Episcopal Church at first met for some time in a school-house, about one mile east of Kewanee, in
a hall over the store of J. D. Schriver, and in private houses. Some of the members had been connected with the
same religious body in Wethersfield, but desirous of building up a church in Kewanee, came here to worship. They
organized a class of thirty persons December 15, 1855, in the school-house referred to; being then under the
pastoral care of Rev. J. O. Gilbert. The principal members were: A. Thornton, William King, J. Shipley, Erastus
Johnson, W. S. Oliver, William Bowen, W. C. Kent, and John Schriver.
The corner stone of their church was laid October 23, 1856. The day was made "one of gladness" by the members.
In the stone the following articles were deposited: A bible, hymn book, and description of the church ; a paper on
which the following was written: "John Morley, Presiding Elder of Kewanee District, Peoria Conference, Illinois;
Joseph O. Gilbert, pastor of Kewanee; Arthur Thornton, William C. Kent, Erastus Johnson, Joshua Shipley, William S.
Oliver, William Bowen and William King, Trustees. The first Methodist Church built in Kewanee, October 23, 1856.
Number of inhabitants in town, 1,500." There were also placed in this stone two copies of the Kewanee
Advertiser, one number of the Fourth of July preceding, which gave an account of a great celebration of that
day ; one number of the Henry County Dial; one number of the N. W. C. Advocate; a copy of the
Missionary Advocate; a map of Kewanee, given by R. A. Tenney; one fifty cent piece in silver; one ten cent
piece; one three cent piece, and one five cent piece.
This building has become old and inadequate to the growing demands of the congregation, and during the coming
Summer a new one will be constructed which will cost $10,000. The parsonage was purchased in 1856. June following
the organization of the church a Sunday-school was organized. There were sixty pupils in attendance.
The pastors of this church have been Rev. J. O. Gilbert, from organization until 1858; Rev. John Chandler, one
year; Rev. E. Ransom, one year; Rev. J. S. Cummings, two years; Rev. W. P. Graves, one year.
During his ministry the congregation became self-supporting. Rev. U. J. Giddings was next, remaining two years;
Rev. W. J. Beck, two years; Rev. Benj. Applebee, two years; Rev. John P. Brooks, one year; Rev. M. P. Armstrong,
one year; Rev. G. W. Arnold, two years; Rev. B. C. Dennis, two years; and Rev. G. W. Arnold, again two years, when
the present pastor, Rev. M. Spurlock, was assigned to the pulpit, and is now serving his first year. There are now
three hundred and twenty members, and a Sunday-school of two hundred and fifty scholars. During the month of
January, 1877, over eighty persons united with this church.
The Protestant Episcopal-St. John's-Church. On Sunday, May 13, 1855, a Protestant Episcopal Sunday-school was
organized in the Kewanee House. This was the first religious organization in Kewanee, and the school met the
following Sunday for the first time at Odd Fellows Hall. There were twenty scholars, and R. P. Parrish was
Superintendent. The first full Episcopal service, with sermon, was in the Summer following, by Rev. Porter, of
Jubilee College. In October, Bishop Whitehouse made a visitation, and held two services in the unfinished Methodist
Protestant Church. During the Summer and Autumn of 1856, Rev. Philander Chase officiated occasionally in the same
church. On the 13th of July, 1856, the church was organized, with the name of St. John's. The officers were R. P.
Parrish, Senior Warden; George A. Morse, Junior Warden; James B. Morse, J. H. Howe, H. L. Sloan, Geo. W. Foote, and
E. V. Bronson, Vestrymen; and L. D. Bishop, Clerk. The first rector was Rev. George E. Peters, who commenced his
labors in 1857, and remained two years. A church edifice of the early English Gothic style of architecture was
constructed in the Summer of 1857, finished in the Fall, and consecrated by Bishop Whitehouse, November 15, of the
same year. It is quite a neat church, and cost about $5,000. The first church-bell of the town was rung from the
belfry of St. John's.
The Primitive Methodist. The persons adhering to this faith met for some time, prior to their organization into
a church, in Cutter's Hall and in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The organization was made in the Spring of 1865,
and two years later, in the Autumn of 1867, the first board of trustees was chosen. The principal members then were
Joseph Garland, John Bennison, John Bradbury, John Bamford, Moses Jones, William Bennison, and J. Breckon. The
church edifice was erected in 1873, at a cost of $2,000. The pastors of this church and their terms of service are
as follows: Rev. J. Hewitt, May, 1865 to May, 1867; Rev. Chas. Dawson, 1867 to 1871; Rev. Thos. Butterwick, 1871 to
1873 ; Rev. William Jacks, Jr., 1873 to 1876, when the present pastor, Rev. Chas. Dawson, again assumed charge.
There are now eighty members and a Sunday-school of eighty-seven scholars.
The United Evangelical-St. Paul's-German Church. About ten years since, some of the German people living in this
vicinity and professing belief in the doctrines of this religious body, organized a church.
For a short time they met in a school-house, but at once commenced the erection of their present edifice.
Nineteen persons united at the organization-the pastor being Rev. Hilmer, who remained about one year. Their church
cost some $2,500. They also own a very comfortable parsonage. Rev. Hilmer was succeeded by Rev. Rein, who remained
five years, when the present pastor, Rev. G. W. Reiger, was installed. The majority of the members-now about
fifty--in the country. The Sunday-school numbers some forty scholars. About one year ago another church was
organized in the country, three miles northeast of Kewanee. It is for the accommodation of those living in that
locality, has about thirty-five members, fifty Sunday-school scholars, and is under the pastorate of Rev. Reiger,
who preaches there each alternate Sunday.
The Church of the Latter-Day Saints. The first meetings of this church were held at Amboy in 1859. An
organization was effected here of probably one hundred members. From this place they were sent out to preach, and
in 1862 effected the establishment of the church here. In 1868, they erected their present church edifice, locating
it nearly one mile north of town. Regular services are maintained here, the membership being one hundred and
eighteen with an average attendance of sixty at the Sunday-school. They are in no way connected with the Mormon
doctrine, and do not-believe in or practice its teachings. The presiding elder of this branch is Thomas
The Swedish Lutheran Church. Before their organization in 1869, the members composing this church met in private
residences and in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The organization was made in September of that year, with about
sixteen persons. In the Autumn of the following year they erected their present church-edifice, at a cost of nearly
$3,000. There are now fifty-five members. The Sunday-school contains about twenty-five scholars. The first minister
to this church was Rev. Lendholm, who remained but a short time. He was followed by Rev. N. Neurgren, who was
pastor two years. The Rev. John Wingstrom, of Princeton, is the present pastor, having succeeded Rev. Neurgren.
The Swedish Methodist Church was organized at an early day in the history of Kewanee. It is now, however, quite
small, and does not sustain regular preaching.
The Catholic-St. Mary's-Church was organized at the house of Matthew Joyce, then occupying the site of the
present church-building, in the early part of 1854. About thirty-five heads of families were admitted to membership
at this time. Some of the more prominent ones were Lawrence Hunt, Patrick Cavanaugh, Matthew Joyce, James Hunt (now
deceased), James Gallagher, Thomas Caton, and Edward Hunt (now deceased). The following year a church, eighteen by
twenty-four feet in dimensions, was erected. It has since been remodeled and enlarged. The pastors of this church
have been as follows : Fathers Lynch, O'Gara, Powers, Dulhunty, Duggan, Hannigan, Kilkernny, J. M. Ryan, and the
present priest, Rev. John Ryan. The membership is now nearly eight hundred, but the reader will bear in mind that
all members of a family in this church are counted as members of the church from their earliest infancy.