Whiteside County, Illinois History
History of Whiteside County, Illinois, Edited by Charles Bent Morrison, IL; 1877
Submitted by Bob Mosher

Whiteside County was named in honor of Gen. Samuel Whiteside, a brave and distinguished officer, who participated in the Indian wars in this section of the country from 1812 until the close of the Black Hawk war. During the latter he was first Major, afterwards Colonel, then General of Volunteers. In his pursuit of Black Hawk in 1832, he passed through this section, and burned Prophet's Town. Gen. Whiteside was a native of Rutherford County, North Carolina, and came to Illinois Territory about the year 1806, and settled in what is now Madison County. Besides holding the positions severally of Captain, Major, Colonel and General Commanding of forces against tlie hostile Indians, he was frequently elected and appointed to civil offices of trust and honor. He died in 1861, and was buried near the home of his daughter in Christian County, Illinois. Gen. Whiteside participated actively in the affairs of this State at an early day, was a man of unsullied integrity, great sagacity, generous impulses, and was highly esteemed by the wide circle of people who knew him.

Whiteside County lies in the northwestern part of Illinois, and is intersected by Rock river. It is bounded on the north by Carroll and Ogle Counties, east by Ogle and Lee Counties, south by Henry and Bureau Counties, and west by the Mississippi river. It embraces sixteen entire, and five fractional, congressional townships, and contains 430,570 acres of land and 5,021 lots. Of the lands 333,616 acres are improved, and 96,954 acres unimproved; 3,002 lots are improved, and 2,013 unimproved. There are twenty-two townships in the county, organized under the township organization laws of the State, as follows: Albany, Clyde, Coloma, Erie, Fulton, Fenton, Garden Plain, Genesee, Hahnaman, Hume, Hopkins, Jordan, Lyndon, Mt. Pleasant, Montmorency, Newton, Portland, Prophetstown, Sterling, Tampico, Union Grove, Ustick. The northwestern part of the county is hilly, consisting of a succession of ridges, some of them quite sharp, rising to an elevation of more than 100 feet, separated by narrow valleys; the central part is moderately rolling, while the south-eastern part is quite level, a few sand ridges traversing the plain. Much of this part of the county comprising a part of Prophetstown, all of Tampico, Hume, Montmorency and Hahnaman, was formerly regarded as swamp land, sloughs and marshes covering most of the surface. It has been drained and is now mostly cultivated.

The general slope of the county is to the west and south. Its principal streams are the Rock river, Elkhorn, Sugar, Grove, Spring, Rock, Lynn, Spring (west) and Otter creeks. The Rock river - Sinnissippi of the Indians-rises in the southern part of Wisconsin, flows southwesterly and falls into the Mississippi about four miles south of Rock Island. It is a tortuous stream obstructed by many rapids and furnishing an abundance of waterpower, which is used at two points in the county, Sterling and Lyndon. Its course within the county is about 50 miles; its total length about 200 miles. It is too shallow for navigation except in times of floods, and the current is through most of its course very strong. Elkhorn creek rises in the east part of Carroll County and flows a generally southwesterly course falling into Rock river about seven miles southwest of Sterling. It has two branches-Sugar creek flowing from the east across Jordan township with a course of about seven miles, and Spring creek flowing from Carroll County southerly into the Elkhorn with a length of about ten miles. The Elkhorn is quite winding, has considerable fall, and furnishes some water power; it is about forty-five miles long Grove creek is a small stream rising in the northern part of Hopkins township and flowing into the Rock river; it is about ten miles long Rock creek rises in the eastern part of Carroll County and flows by a winding channel south-westerly into Rock river about a mile east of Erie. It affords a tolerable waterpower at several points in its course. It has a length of about fifty-five miles. It has two branches of some note - Little Rock creek flowing from Carroll County south with a course of about fifteen miles, and Lynn creek rising in the southeast part of Garden Plain township and flowing south-east with a length of about twelve miles. West Spring creek rises near the center of the southern tier of sections in Garden Plain township, flows west to near the town line and then turns slightly to the northeast and falls into the Mississippi; it is about ten miles long. Otter creek is formed by a stream flowing from Carroll County and one rising in the eastern part of Ustick. It flows west into the Mississippi; length about fifteen miles.

The highest lands in the county are all the northeastern part and probably attain an elevation of at least 800 feet above the level of the sea. The Mississippi bluffs are from 90 to 150 feet above the river.

The soil of the county is in general highly fertile, and corn, oats, rye, barley potatoes, and all kind. of vegetables are grown, and yield large crops. Wheat is raised, but the yield is not large, nor is it a certain crop. Strawberries and raspberries thrive, but apples, pears and other fruits bear irregularly and seldom produce large crops. Hogs are raised in great numbers, and much attention is given to rearing cattle and horses, some parts of the county being especially well fitted for pasturage. There are some extensive areas of sandy land, on which the soil is thin, and when it is once broken through the tract becomes a waste of drifting sand, spreading from year to year, and carrying ruin beyond its original bounds. In Fulton, Garden Plain, Albany, Newton, Erie and Prophetstown, these sandy wastes are found, their only products Euphorbia -- spurge of several species, and sand burs.

The climate is very variable, the thermometer ranging from 90 to 100 Fahrenheit in the shade in summer, and to 30 and even 40 below zero in winter - an extreme range of 140. The winter winds are sharp and piercing. Snow falls very irregularly, but the ground is seldom covered long at one time. Occasionally there are heavy snowstorms, which are usually accompanied by strong winds which drift it into huge pile, rendering roads impassable and leaving a east being almost unknown. Even in the warmest weather the evenings and mornings are cool and pleasant. The summers are usually somewhat dry after the middle of July. The annual rainfall is about 42 inches, but it is very irregularly distributed. Fierce storms occasionally sweep over the county, the region from Albany east being the favorite theater for their exhibition. The great tornado of 1860, one confined to a narrow area in Union Grove in 1869, the Tampico tornado of 1874, and the storm of June, 1877, are probably remembered by many. The climate is healthy, the death rate low, and cases of acute diseases uncommon and more generally arising from exposure and carelessness than peculiarities of climate.

Previous to 1825 the whole northern part of the State, extending for a considerable distance south of Peoria, was included in the county of Tazewell, but on the 13th day of January, 1825, an act was passed setting off Peoria County, which extended some distance south of the present city of Peoria, then known as Fort Clark, and north to the northern boundary of the State. This territory included the present large number of rich counties in Northwestern Illinois, among them Whiteside. On the 17th of February, 1827, Jo Daviess County was formed, and included within its boundaries the territory constituting the present county of Whiteside, where it remained until January 16, 1836, with the exception of that portion of the territory embraced in the present townships of Portland and Prophetstown, which had been set off to Henry County by the Act organizing that county in 1836. That part of the act of January 16, 1836, fixing and establishing the present boundaries of Whiteside, is as follows:

"SECTION 6. All that tract of country within the following boundary, to-wit: commencing at the southeast corner of township numbered nineteen north of range seven east of the fourth principal meridian; thence west with the said township line to Rock river; thence down along the middle of Rock river to the middle of the Meredosia with the line of Rock Island County to the Mississippi river; thence along the middle of the main channel of the Mississippi river to the point where the north line of township twenty-two intersects the same; thence east with said last mentioned township line to the southeast corner of township twenty-three; thence south with the line between ranges seven and eight to the point of beginning, shall constitute a county to be called Whiteside.

"SEC. 16. The county of Whiteside shall continue to form a part of the county of Jo Daviess until it shall be organized according to this act, and be attached to said county in all general elections, until otherwise provided by law, and that after the organization of Ogle County, the county of Whiteside shall be attached to said county of Ogle for all judicial and county purposes, until it shall be organized."

Ogle County was also organized under this act, and fully completed its organization in December, 1836, at which time Whiteside became attached to it for judicial and county purposes as provided by the act.  

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