History of Garden Plain Township
From Bent-Wilson History Book, 1877
Posted by Dana Fellows
Although this township was first settled at an early day, reference being had to the chronological history of the county, it never became a precinct by itself, and only attained a distinct organization when the Commissioners appointed by the County Commissioner's Court fixed the boundaries and gave names to the different townships of the county, in 1852, under the township organization law. Previous to that time it first formed a part of Van Buren place, and where for a long time grain and produce were taken, and marketing done. The township includes all of township twenty-one north of base line, diagonally through the north part, commencing near the Mississippi river on the west and reaching to the Fulton and Ustick line on the northeast, where it connects with the range running through the latter town. North of this range the land is partly sandy, and partly of a deep loam, skirted along the river bank by a growth of small timber. The western outlet of the Cattail runs through a part of this low, loamy land. In this part of the town is situated what is known as the Holland Settlement, made up of thrifty, frugal families from the land of dykes and canals. South of the bluffs the surface of the land is rolling, the soil of peculiar richness, and the scenery, dotted as it is by finely erected farm houses, ample orchards, and well arranged shade trees is one great beauty. A ride through the town when the harvest sun has ripened the waving grain and given the towering corn its deepest hue of green, as witnessed upon the broad fields which stretch far away on either hand, is one of infinite pleasure, and never to be forgotten. The name of Garden Plain was rightfully and properly given to this township. Nature and man have both made it a garden, and he who owns a portion of its fertile acres can congratulate himself upon being one of the favored few whose heritage is in a goodly land. The honor of naming the town is attributed to Col. Samuel M. KILGORE. The township is watered by Spring, Cedar, Lynn and Cattail Creeks, and also by wells of unusual excellence. in both the east and west parts are groves of forest trees, and the same kind of trees are also scattered along the bluff.
The first settler in the town was Abel PARKER , who came in the spring of 1836 from the town of Wells, Rutland county, Vermont, and made a claim and built a cabin in what is now known as Parker's Grove, preferring, like nearly all of the settlers of that day, timber land to the open prairie. A few years of experience, however, drew them out of the groves to the broad, open expanse which nature had endowed with unsurpassed fertility, and there is the luxuriant prairie grass, and among the wild prairie flowers, they began to build their homes. Soon after he made his claim, Mr. PARKER brought on his family, consisting of six sons, David, Jacob, Truman, Francis, Edwin and Hiram, and three daughters, Clarissa, Eliza and Mina, all of whom are now living except David and Mina. Mr. PARKER died in 1840. Clarissa, the eldest daughter, married Samuel ROBBINS in 1839, and Eliza married Henry M. GRINNOLD during the same year. Mina married John GRANT some years after. Both Mrs. ROBBINS and Mrs. GRINNOLD are widows, the former living in Carroll county and the latter in the city of Fulton. Mr. GRINNOLD died and was buried on the plains of Colorado, while returning from the Rocky Mountains. The sons living are still residents of Garden Plain. Previous to Mr. Abel PARKER'S coming, a Mr. COOK had bought a claim on the bank of the Mississippi river, in the township, but as he did not reside there long he is not classed by the people as an old settler. It is supposed he purchased the claim of John BAKER, the first settler of Fulton. The place is now used for a pasture by Dr. H M BOOTH of Albany.
Charles R ROOD also came in 1836, arriving in October, at Albany, where he remained for three years. In 1839 he bought land on Section 22 of the present township of Garden Plain, and improved forty acres of it the next year. In 1837 Ira BURCH and Joseph BACON bought claims on sections 12 and 13, although they resided on lands adjoining in Union Grove township. The former was the father of Messrs. Thomas J HARRISON, D and Ira S BURCH, and Mrs. George CLUFF, now residing in Garden Plain. previous to 1840. Thomas SEY came in the same year, and settled on a part of what is now known as the HAM farm. He died soon after, and in 1839 his widow married Stephen SWEET. She died in the the fall of 1862. Mr and Mrs SEY had an only son, named Thomas, who was killed during the late war. John REDFERN also came as early as 1837, and settled near the HAM farm. Both Mr. REDFERN and his wife are now dead.
Isaac CROSBY and wife, with Elijah KNOWLTON, came from Massachusetts in 1838, and settled near Cedar creek, where they built a log cabin which stood on the same site now occupied by the house of Mrs. John KILGORE. Mr. KNOWLTON died in this cabin in 1838. Samuel SEARLE boarded with Mr. and Mrs. CROSBY while they lived there, and improved a part of the farm now owned by Thomas WILSON. Mr. CROSBY afterwards bought the farm, a little east of the Garden Plain Corners, on which he now resides. In 1839 James A. SWEET came from Seneca county, New York, and settled at Parker's Grove at first, and then purchased the farm at the Corners, where he still lives. Col. Samuel M. KILGORE also came that year, and settled in what is known as Baird's Grove. Col. KILGORE had a family of two sons and four daughters. The two sons, Ezekiel and Samuel P., are both married and live in Iowa. The eldest daughter, now Mrs. BARNES, lives at Lacon IL; the second , Mrs. Hugh THOMPSON, died in the winter of 1876; the third, Mrs. Susannah GRINNOLD, resides in Garden Plain, and has been a widow for several years; and Margaret, the youngest daughter, became the wife of Ithamar JOHNSON, and died some years since. Both Mr. and Mrs. KILGORE are dead, the latter dying only a few years ago at the age of 84 years. Mr Stephen SWEET, uncle of James A. SWEET and William MINTA, came in the same year. He died some years ago. Mr. Alpheus MATHEWS was also an early settler, arriving in 1837, and living near where the school-house now stands, in the Holland settlement. He is now a wealthy farmer, residing in the Lockhart district. After 1840 permanent settlers came in more rapidly, as the exceeding richness and fertility of the soil, and the beauty of its location, had become somewhat extensively spread.
The first white child born in the township was Mary MATHEWS, daughter of Alpheus and Abylene MATHEWS, her birth occurring on the 20th of August 1840. She married Samuel MONTGOMERY, and died in 1872.
The first parties entering into wedlock were Mr. Samuel ROBBINS and Miss Clarissa PARKER, eldest daughter of Abel PARKER. The happy event occurred in 1839, and was duly solemnized by Gilbert BUCKINGHAM, Esq., the then well-known Justice of the Peace, of Albany.
The first death occurring in the township was that of Elijah KNOWLTON. He died in March 1838 and was buried in the graveyard near Albany, being the first person interred there.
The first dwelling was built by Abel PARKER, in Parker's Grove, soon after his arrival in 1836. It was of the usual pioneer size and although room was scarce it sufficed, even for a large family, until, by perseverance and hard work, a more commodious one could be erected. Joseph BACON put up one of about a similar size in the same year, in what is known as the Burch district. The erection of frame houses commenced about 1842, although it was some time after 1850 before they began to assume anything like the proportions of the present spacious residences of the town.
The early residents of Garden Plain, coming as they did in a great degree from the Eastern and Middle States, took an earnest interest in the cause of education. Although there was no regular school house in town during the early years, yet the few inhabitants clubbed together and secured a little log house standing then a little north of David PARKER'S residence, and had a school opened there, with Miss Susannah BOYNTON as teacher. Seymour KNAPP was the second teacher in that house. This was as early as 1843. The first building put up as a school house was the cement one now standing at Garden Plain Corners, and was erected in 1850. There are six school districts now in the town, with seven commodious and well furnished schoolhouses, the Cedar creek district containing two - one at Cedar creek, and the other at the Holland settlement. In the latter school the scholars are children of Holland parents, yet the English branches are exclusively taught, the parents desiring their children to obtain as far as possible a good English education. Many of these parents are yet unable to speak the English language intelligibly. The large building at the Corners was built for a grade school, and will be very soon used as such. This school house was dedicated February 9, 1869, at the occasion of the meeting of the Mississippi Teachers' Association there at that time.
The first preacher who ministered to the spiritual wants of the inhabitants, was Father McKEAN of the Methodist persuasion, living at Elkhorn Grove, who traveled through that section of the county, and held services for the few inhabitants wherever an opportunity afforded. These pioneer ministers were men of indomitable energy, of fervent piety, and great zeal in their calling, and no dangers of either "field or flood" could deter them from fulfilling an appointment. In Garden Plain he preached in the little log cabin used for school purposes.
The earliest traveled road through the territory now comprising the township was the Rock Island and Galena road, running along the river bank, and was used as a stage route. This road was quite extensively traveled before any of the present cities and villages along its route were even though of, much less laid out in to lots and blocks. For many years it was the only overland route from Rock Island to Galena, and competed strongly with the river boats in the transportation of passengers. It is now known in Whiteside as the Fulton and Albany road. The second road used ran from union Grove to Albany. In 1839 a company was organized to lay out and construct a road across the Cattail, and subscriptions to the amount of $800 were obtained for this purpose. For three-quarters of a mile across the slough rails had to be laid side by side, and upon them was placed a thick layer of earth taken from the bluffs on either side. As this wore down more earth was drawn upon the road, until finally it became quite passable. Mr. C R ROOD superintended the construction of that part of the road. Albany was then the large town in the county, to which grain and produce were taken for a distance extending even to Sterling. Every road which could be opened to it was, "therefore, a material benefit to both the town and the farmer. After this road had been built the proprietors of the Frink & Walker stages opened a direct line from Chicago to Albany, thus connecting, as it may be termed, the lakes and the Mississippi River by an airline stage route. The road is now known as the Albany and Morrison road, and runs nearly through the center of Garden Plain township. This was also the first legally laid out road, after the township organization.
The Post office at Garden Plain was first established on the 13th of April 1846 and Charles R ROOD Appointed Postmaster. Mr. ROOD continued to hold the position until 1851 when he resigned, and James A SWEET was appointed in his place. The first mail was carried on a north and south route running from Peoria to Galena, but in 1850 it was delivered by the Frink & Walker line of stages running from Chicago to Albany and Rock Island. When this line gave way to the Dixon branch of the Chicago and Galena Railroad, the office was discontinued. In 1862 it was re-established, and D.H. KNOWLTON appointed Postmaster, who held the office until it was again discontinued in 1864. In the spring of 1876 it was re-established the second time, and L P HILL, the present incumbent, appointed Postmaster. The mail is now delivered by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad.
The Wesleyan Methodist had the first religious organization in the township, but it was discontinued a number of years ago. It is mentioned that this Society were favored with preachers of much more than ordinary talent, among them being Rev. Mr. CROSS and Rev. Mr. GOODWIN. Some local preachers and laymen also officiated when the regular pastors were necessarily absent, and sometimes astonished their hearers by the doctrines taught. One, for instance, said "the doctrine of faith and repentance had become stale, so that it was necessary to present other themes for contemplation", and thereupon proceeded to deliver a regular old fashioned Anti-Slavery speech. But, notwithstanding this break, the gospel was preached in those days in all its purity and power, very little of the milk and water kind of furnished so frequently now-a-days being dealt out. Such men as PHELPS, CROSS, SINCLAIR, JUDSON, GOODWIN, MITCHELL, EMERSON, and CARTWRIGHT, would not have been at home in the pulpit without the privilege of dealing sledge hammer blows at all unrighteousness. The United Brethren had a standing in the township also at an early day, but like the Wesleyans have ceased to exist as an organization.
The First Presbyterian Church of Garden Plain was organized November 5, 1863, and the act of incorporation duly recorded immediately afterwards. At that time James A SWEET, C S KNAPP and Alexander WILSON, were chosen Trustees. This action was had by the counsel for Rev. Josiah Leonard, who presented the preamble and resolutions which formed its basis. The Society was organized, however, at a much earlier date. The first meeting for consultation was held in the school house at Garden Plain Corners, on the first of March, 1850, and was presided over by Rev. J J HILL, Rev. H L BALLEN acting as Scribe. At an adjourned meeting, held March 16, 1850, Francis PARKER, James DELAY, Samuel M KILGORE and Mrs. E ZOINS, agreed to unite together in the organization of a church, to be known as the First Presbyterian Church of Garden Plain. Articles of faith and a form of Church covenant were then adopted and the meeting adjourned to Saturday, March 23, 1850 at which time S M KILGORE was duly received as an elder, and entered upon his duties. The first sacrament of the Lord's Supper was administered by Rev. J J HILL, March 24, 1850. From that time to the present it appears that regular services have been held, and the ordinances of the church enjoyed, except at short intervals. Rev. W T WHEELER commenced his labors as stated upply in the fall of 1850, and continued regular services until the fall of 1851, when he was removed by death. Rev. J WALKER was then engaged for one half of his time, commencing December 1, 1851, continuing his labors for about one year, and was succeeded by Rev. E K MARTIN, who in turn was succeeded by Rev. W S JOHNSON. After Mr. JOHNSON closed his pastorate, the desk was irregularly supplied until Rev. Nathaniel PINE was employed. Mr. PINE commenced his labors in January, 1856 and continued to preach until the fall of 1857. During this period there were several additions to the church, and a good degree of interest manifested in the Sabbath School, the meetings of the Society being still held in the school house. In February 1858, Rev. Josiah Leonard became pastor and continued with slight interruptions until the fall of 1871. The church was increased in numbers, and greatly encouraged and strengthened during Mr. Leonards pastoral charge. In April 1869, the following entry was made int he record: "The past year there have been twenty-four additions, twenty-one of which were by profession. The church at the close of the year numbered fifty-six - four have left without letters, and two were regularly dismissed. Seventeen adults have been baptized." At the conclusion of the labors of Mr. Leonard, Rev. E E BAYLISS was invited to become the pastor of the church, and accepting, entered upon his duties in October 1871. He continued as pastor until the spring of 1874, when the changes of his views on the subject of baptism caused his dismissal. After that the pulpit was in the main supplied by Rev. D E WELLS, pastor of the Presbyterian Church in Fulton, until the middle of August, 1875, when arrangements were made for a union with the Presbyterian and Congregational Societies at Albany, for the services of Rev. N D GRAVES, one-half of whose time should be devoted to the charge at Garden Plain and the other half at Albany. Mr. Graves is the present pastor. It should also be stated that the names of several other clergyman appear upon the record, besides those already named, as supply for brief periods , and among them honorable mention should be made of Rev. J COON, of Albany, and Rev. Mr. PRIME - the former officiating at different times as supply in the intervals of no regular pastoral service, and the latter as supply alternately for a year and a half. The records show the following summary: Ten elders have been ordained; whole numbers of members, 124; regularly dismissed, 30; died, 3; expelled, 3; dropped from the roll, 3; total number now enrolled, 80. The records also show fifty baptisms, about half of which were those of adult persons. of the present number enrolled, several have moved away without taking leters, leaving the actual membership not far from seventy. As there is almost a total absence of any record of benevolent contributions, and of items incident to the support of preaching, it is impossible to approximate even the amounts given. The church edifice is located at Garden Plain Corners, and is a neat and commodious structure. It was finished in 1870, and dedicated to the worship of God on the first Sabbath in October of that year. The whole expense in erecting and furnishing the building amounted to $3,944.96. In addition to the church edifice the Society have erected a beautiful parsonage at an expense , including the lot, of $1,750. The parsonage stands a little to the south of the church. Ample horse sheds have also been erected, which stand as witnesses of hopeful progress, and receive, as they deserve, the commendation of passers by, as well as the thanks of the horses that perform so important a service for the comfort of those who weekly visit this place of prayer and solemn convocation. The present Trustees are James BURNETT, Robert R MURPHY and Andrew STOWELL.
p The first M.E. Church society in Garden Plain was organized about 1848, Elder SINCLAIR and Rev. Charles BABCOCK forming a class of twelve members. The Society became connected with the Albany circuit. In 1860 the church edifice was built at a cost of about $2,000. It is centrally situated in the south part of the town, is a well-finished building, and was the first church structure erected in the township. Mr. William MINTA father of the late John MINTA was the principal person who secured the erection of the building, and contributed liberally toward its construction. It was built on his land. In 1862 the Society was transferred to the Fulton circuit, and has remained a part of that circuit until the present. Rev. W H Smith was then the pastor in charge of the Fulton circuit. The present pastor is Rev. J S David. A Sabbath-school is connected with the church. There is an M E Society also in the north part of the town, at Cedar creek, which is supplied by the Fulton an Albany preachers.
The Temperance Reform Club of Garden Plain was organized at Lockharts schoolhouse, in the north part of the town April 1 1875, with Elisha LOCKHART as President, and William E SMITH Secretary. The Club started with only fifteen members, but the number increased afterwards very rapidly. The present officers are : William SNYDER, President, and V B STOWELL, Secretary. It was here that the zealous and successful Garden Plain Missionaries, Elisha LOCKHART, John W BAKER, Francis PARKER and Thomas J BURCH, organized for their work. These missionaries started out in the spring of 1875, and visited places throughout the entire surrounding country, holding meetings in churches, school houses, or wherever they could, carrying the pledge with them, earnestly exhorting all to sign, and organizing similar Clubs to the one at Lockharts. Their manner of work is so devout of pretension, their addresses so pointed, fervent and convincing, and their zeal so earnest, that the secure the signatures of hundreds to the total abstinence pledge, which otherwise could not have been obtained. Much of the good done by them becomes immediately apparent, but much of it, though none the less effective, is not publicly exhibited. This latter is the case with the moderate drinkers who as yet do not show the effects of liquor because of the small quantities taken, and that only at intervals, but who are saved from becoming drunkards by the influence of the Missionaries. Many a man, and many a family , blesses this noble band of men to-day for the reformation that has been caused by their labors. Unlike the majority of temperance lecturers they give their time and talents gratuitously to the great cause in which they are engaged. It is only necessary to point out to them a place where they can do good by holding a meeting, and they throw aside business and pleasure alike to attend. Such men are true reformers, and merit the encouragement of the good and pure everywhere. A Division of the Sons of Temperance was instituted at Lockhart's school house in 1875, by Dr. W C SNYDER, who also installed the first officers.
The Mendota branch of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad enters the town near the southeast corner, on section twenty-five and ends on section four, near the Mississippi River, where there is a depot to which a regular line of omnibuses run from Fulton. There is also a depot at Garden Plain Corners. The one at the latter place is a very neat structure. The Western Union Railroad enters the town in the northwest part, on section four, and following the river passes out on section nineteen. The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad also runs a short distance through the town, entering on section four, and passing down to the bridge across the Mississippi River. This bridge, commonly known as the Clinton bridge, abuts on the territory of the township of Garden Plain. The Garden Plain and Clinton ferry start on the east side of the river, on section seventeen of the township. The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad when first built through the town, ran down to Cedar creek where a small depot was built. The old ferry, the first one started from Garden Plain to Clinton and known as the Aiken Ferry, was then running from that point, and upon the ferry the railroad transferred its freight and passengers to and from Clinton. It was at this point the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Company actually drove some piles in the river, and made other preparations to construct a bridge to Clinton, a few years ago. The work did not progress far, however, before it was abandoned. Whether the Company fully intended to build the bridge, or simply commenced operations to induce the Chicago & Northwestern Company to enter into an agreement allowing them to run their cars over the present bridge at Clinton, the public were never informed. It was conjectured at the time that the latter was the object in commencing the work, as the C, B & Q Company had made several attempts to cross the bridge, but were at each time frustrated by the vigilance of the Chicago & Northwestern people. That the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Company desire to cross the Mississippi at or near the Narrows, there can be no doubt, and we predict it will be done in the near future.
The first town meeting , after the incorporation under the township organization laws, was held April 6, 1852. The following is a list of town officers from that date to the present:
Supervisors: 1852, Samuel M KILGORE; 1853 - 54, J C V BAIRD; 1855, C S KNAPP; 1856, James A SWEET; 1857-61, A M GEORGE; 1862, C R ROOD; 1863 A M GEORGE; 1864 C R ROOD; 1865-66 James A SWEET; 1867 C R ROOD; 1868 D B ARREL; 1869 David MILLER; 1870 J M EATON; 1871 - 75 David MILLER; 1876 - 77 J M EATON
Town Clerks: 1852 -54 D C KILGORE; 1855-64 John GRANT: 1865-67 Matthew HANNA; 1868 M EATON; 1869-74 Alexander WILSON; 1875-77 Hiram E SWEET
Assessors: 1854 James A SWEET; 1855 J C V BAIRD; 1856 D C KILGORE; 1857 C S KNAPP; 1858 John GRANT; 1859 J C V BAIRD; 1860 D C KILGORE; 1861 J C V BAIRD; 1862 D B ARREL; 1863 J C V BAIRD; 1864-65 John S KILGORE; 1866 D B ARREL; 1867 J C V BAIRD; 1868 W W PARKER; 1869 Ithamar JOHNSON; 1870 J J HIGGINS; 1871 - 74 J C V BAIRD; 1875 - 77 P J KENNEDY
Collectors: 1852 - 74 C H PARK; 1875-76 R R MURPHY; 1877 A J STOWELL
Justices of Peace: 1852 James R MONTGOMERY Sr; Henry M GRINNOLD; 1856 E D STONE, J C V BAIRD; 1860 J C V BAIRD, J H ADAMS; 1864 D H KNOWLTON, A MATTHEWS; 1868 D H KNOWLTON, A MATTHEWS; 1872 D H KNOWLTON, Alex. WILSON; 1877 D H KNOWLTON
Garden Plain contains 17,430 acres of improved land, 1,692 of unimproved. The Assessor's book for 1877 shows the number of horses in the township to be 676; number of cattle, 1,956; of mules and asses, 16; of sheep 373; of hogs, 3,231; carriages and wagons, 227; sewing and knitting machines, 86; watches and clocks, 205; piano fortes, 6; melodeons and organs, 25. Total value of lands, lots and personal property, $461,432; value of railroad property, $174,676. Total assessed value of all property in 1877, $636,108.
The population of the township in 1870, as shown by the United States census reports of that year, was 1091, of which 905 were native born, and 186 foreign. In 1860 the population was 816. The estimated population in 1877 is 1,200.