History of Carroll County


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In January, A. D. 1818, the territorial legislature of Illinois petitioned Congress for the admission of the territory into the Union as an independent state. At that time Nathaniel Pope was territorial representative (delegate) in Congress, and it was through him the petition was presented to Congress. By reason of a pressure of other business, the petition was allowed to remain in abeyance until the following April, when, with certain amendments prepared by Mr. Pope, it became a law, and Illinois was declared to be a sovereign and independent state of the American Union. The amendments prepared by Mr. Pope, were first, to extend the northern boundary of the new state to the parallel of 42 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude; and second, to apply the three per cent fund arising from the sales of the public lands, to the encouragement of leaving instead of to the making of roads leading to the state, as had been the practice on the admission of Ohio and Indiana.
"These important changes," says Ford's History of Illinois, "were proposed and carried through both houses of Congress, by Mr. Pope, upon his own responsibility. The territorial legislature had not petitioned for then-no one at that time having suggested or requested the making of them, but they met the unqualified approbation of the people of the state."
Under the ordinance of 1787, there were to be not less than three, nor more than five, states, erected out of the territory northwest of the Ohio River. The boundaries of these states were defined by that ordinance. The three states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, were to include the whole territory, and were to be bounded by the British possessions on the north. But Congress reserved the right, if they thereafter found it expedient, to form one or two states in that part of the territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southern bend of Lake Michigan.
"That line, it was generally supposed," continues Mr. Ford, "was to be the north boundary of Illinois." Judge Pope, seeing that the port of the state, was led to a critical examination of the ordinance which resulted in a clear and satisfactory conviction that it was competent for Congress to extend the boundaries of the new state as far north as they pleased, and he found no difficulty in convincing others of the correctness of his views.
The same ordinance vested Congress with the power, if they should find it expedient, to establish a state north of Illinois, in that part of the northwestern territory which lies north of the parallel running through the southern bend of the lake. "Under this provision, Wisconsin, at one time laid claim to certain part of the northern section of Illinois, including," said Mr. Ford, at the date of his writing (1847), "fourteen counties, embracing the richest and most populous part of the State."
When Illinois was admitted into the Union in 1818, the whole people numbered only about forty-five thousand souls. Of these, some two thousand were the descendants of the old French settler at Kaskaskia, Prairie du Rocher, Prairie du Pont, Cahokia, Peoria and Chicago. These people lived in the style of the French peasantry of more than two hundred years ago. They had mode no improvements in anything, nor had they adopted any of the improvements made by others. The other forty-three thousand were made up by people from Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia and Pennsylvania. In that year (1818) the settled part of the state extended a little north of Edwardsville and Alton; south, along the Mississippi to the mouth of the Ohio; east, in the direction of Carlysle, in Clinton county, to the Wabash, and down the Wabash and the Ohio to the confluence of the Ohio with the Mississippi, where Cairo has since been built. But the country included within these boundaries was not all occupied at that time. Between the Kaskaskia River and the Wabash, and between the Kaskaskia and the Ohio there was a large wilderness that could not be traversed in less than three days. The entire northern part of the state was a trackless prairie. But gradually the settlements extended northward. Year b year immigration increased, but, as a rule, the early settlers selected homes in the timbered districts, leaving the prairies as worthless for agricultural uses, because of the scarcity of timber for fencing and other purposes. Gradually, however, a change came over the minds of men in regard to these things, and the prairies were sought after and put under cultivation; and as their easy subjection to farm tillage and rich returns came to be known, their fame spread abroad, and Illinois began to be regarded as a very Valparaiso.* But with all their wealth and productiveness the prairies of Northern Illinois remained comparatively unknown, and almost entirely unoccupied by white men until after the close of the Black Hawk Indian troubles, in 1832.
The first part of Northern Illinois to be permanently occupied by white men, so far as any records can be found, seems to have been LaPointe (now Galena). As to who made the first settlement the authorities differ. Ford's history ascribes that honor to Colonel James Johnson and a party of miners, from Kentucky, who located there in 1824, and commenced mining operations about one mile above the present site of the city. Another authority gives the honor to Ira Barker, who went from Terre Haute, Indiana, with an exploring party in the summer of 1824. This party made the entire journey across the state without seeing a single white man or sleeping in a house until they reached La Pointe, which, on their arrival, only boasted three or four log huts. The same authority from which this information ids derived says that in the same Summer three other men, Smith, Meeker and Harris, also arrived at the same place, La Pointe. Whatever the differences of opinion as to who were the first settlers there, all agree as to the time-the Summer of 1824. These men, it is fair to presume, were all mining adventurers, and the extraordinary success that attended their ventures induced a great rush there in 1825; while in 1826 and 1827 fortune hunters poured in by thousands. In 1825 Galena was mapped out, and February 17, 1827, Jo Daviess County was organized. With the exception of the Galena miners of 1824, and a few scattered fur traders, there were no white settlers in all of Northern Illinois at that time.
The first settlements made in Carroll County were at Savanna, in 1828. In November of that year, George and Vance L. Davidson, Aaron Pierce and William Blundle, and their families, who had gone to the lead mines (*Spanish for Vale of Paradise.) at Galena during the great excitement, attending their early discovery and development by white men, removed from the mining district and settled at what was then known as the "Council Bluffs of the Upper Mississippi." This name was derived from the high, rocky bluffs that overlook the river at Savanna, and from the fact of an Indian council house having been built there. This house was built of poles and the bark of trees, and was two stories high, and sufficiently large to hold 1,000 persons. This old council house was still standing when the above named families came there, and was occupied by the Pierce family as a frontier hotel, and may be recognized as the first hotel or tavern opened in Carroll County. The Pierce family continued to occupy this old council house as a residence and house of entertainment until a log cabin could be built.
Settlements in Western and Northwestern and Northern Illinois at that date were few and far between-the Galena mining district being by far the largest, as it was the nearest to the new settlement made at the "Council Bluffs of the Upper Mississippi" by the Davidson, Pierce and Blundle families. Westward across the Mississippi and far away towards the setting sun the country was unknown to white men, and uninhaited save by Indian tribes. It was one vast wild, the stillness f which had never been broken by the voice of civilization and the resounding strokes of industry, as they fell upon river, forests and flowery prairies. Eastward to Dixon's ferry, the prairie was just as wild as that from which it was divided by the Father of Waters, and the nearest settlement on the on the south was at Albany. Thus situated the new settlement was an isolated one-almost entirely shut out from civilization and civilizing influences, and to the hardy and resolute men and women who commenced it belongs the honor and the glory of being the advance guard of that large multitude of intelligent, refined and wealthy men and women who came after and swept on before them even to the golden sloppes of the mighty Pacific ocean.
In a historical sketch of the county, prepared by Hon, James Shaw, of Mt. Carroll, and read by that gentleman at Lanark, July 4, 1876, there is the following reference to some of the surroundings of these pioneers, which we transfer to these pages as a part of the county's Past:
"The Indians were numerous and friendly. Game and fish were abundant, and so were mosquitoes, flies and raccoons, also blackbirds, crows and other birds of prey. In fact, the first corn fields had to be guarded from the depredation of the latter. * * * River navigation was then done mostly by keel boats, by cordeling, poling, sailing and rowing, and the usual time from St. Louis to Galena was 30 days. Skiff voyages were often made to St. Louis. In July, 1828, Arron Pierce and Marshall B. Pierce, his son, went to Bond County, this state, where they first made a temporary settlement on coming to the West, and drove their horses and cows to their new home at (now) Savanna." These, it is to be assumed, were the first domestic horses and cows known to the territory now embraced in the present County of Carroll.
The Winter of 1828-9 was spent in building cabins, making and hauling rails and preparing the ground for spring crops. These pioneer families had moved from the mines in wagons drawn by oxen, and, coming in November, when the season was too far advanced to make hay, the oxen were subsisted upon the green grass that was protected and sheltered from the frosts and snow by the thick growth of wild rushes that grew abundantly along the bottom lands.
From November, 1828, to the Spring of 1830-1, these families lived alone, but about the latter date John Bernard, and three other men, named respectively, Hays, Corbin and Robinson, joined the little colony, and set about making arms on claims they selected. Says Mr. Shaw in the paper already quoted: "John Bernard settled on the place now known as the 'Hatfield' place, and Hays and Robinson on the farm now owned by George Fish. Corbin took up the farm now owned by Noah McFarland. Corbin built his house or nest in a tree, eight feet from the ground, to keep away from the snakes that abounded there." These men were all bachelors when they first settled here, but all of them subsequently became convinced that it was not good for man to be alone, and took wives unto themselves.
Up to the breaking out of the Black Hawk War, in 1832, the families of George and Vance L. Davidson, Aaron Pierce and William Blundle, and the "old bachelors," Bernard, Hays, Robinson, Goss and Corbin, and a man named Upton, constituted the entire population of the lower river part of Jo Daviess County. When Black Hawk and his tribe of Pottawatomies declared war against the whites who had settled on various parts of their hunting grounds, the women and children of the settlers at the "Council Bluffs of the Upper Mississippi," were removed to Galena for safety, while the men remained to take care of their stock, cultivate their crops, etxx. "To provide for their own safety," continues Mr. Shaw, "they built a small block-house fort of logs, near the point of of the bluffs and not far from where the residence of Mr. M'Dupuis now stands. In this fort they withstood the fire of the Indians all of one afternoon without the loss of life, but their horses and cattle were not so fortunate. During that afternoon attack, Upton, who was a wild, daring, generous man, but in intemperate habits, and withal a kind of favorite with the settlers, had quite and adventure. When the attack commenced, he was out hunting, and not far from the site of the "Whitton farm" had sot a deer and was in the act of cutting its throat when he saw a band of Indians advancing in a circle towars him, with the evident intention of making him a prisoner. He didn't stop to finish the slaughter of the deer, but, re-loading his rifle, he struck out for the fort at a pace that has never since been equalled on the Upper Mississippi savannas.* Bullets flew thick and fast from the Indian guns, but Upton ran so fast they did not reach him, or dodged so quick as to escape their range, and escaped unharmed, although it was said that one ball did cut off the strap of his powder horn. As he neared the fort he heard the firing, and, turning from his course, sought concealment and safety in a cave, about half a mile above the present village site, which has ever since been known as "Upton's cave." He remained in the cave until darkness came on. The besieged men remained in the fort until nightfall, when, under cover of darkness, they made their escape to the river and started for Galena in a skiff. From his place of concealment Upton could hear the splashing of the skiff's oars and the murmuring voices of the occupants, and hailed them and thus escaped with the rest. It was said threat, as the little boat was rounding to take him on board, the occupants urged him to jump in before it had got within forty feet of the shore. During the afternoon, when the Indians were after him, Upton had done some pretty good jumping as he thought, but forty feet was a little more than he was willing to undertake, particularly as the night was dark and he didn't know the depth (*An open, grassy plain of large extent, and destitute of trees.) of the water. He was particularly anxious to keep his powder dry. It was also said before leaving the fort the men drew lots to see who should first go out and reconnoitre the surroundings and hunt up their boat. The lot fell upon Aaron Pierce, who, though his hair almost lifted his hat from his head, did his duty like a brave man. Mr. Goss happened to be outside of the fort when the attack commenced and was shut off from the main entrance by the Indians, but climbed up on the top and let himself down through the chimney.
The Black Hawk War was not of long duration, and, in 1833 the influx of settlers to this part of the state was pretty large, and many accessions were made to the "Upper Mississippi Council Bluffs' colony, the first settlers having returned as soon as the danger had passed/ In 1832 Luther H. Bowen, a surveyor, after assisting in establishing the boundary line between Illinois and Wisconsin, settled at Galena, where he engaged as a clerk in some of the heavy smelting works. In 1835 he came down to the "Council Bluffs of the Upper Mississippi," and bought the claim interests of George Davidson and Aaron Pierce, in section four and nine, where the village of Savanna was founded. In 1836 he returned and laid off the town, and soon after commenced business by opening a store, and where he continued to live until his death, lamented by all, May 5, 1876-a period of forty years, during which time he was recognized as one of the most public-spirited men of the county, and in which he was called to fill several positions of trust and honor, in all of which he was approved by his fellow citizens as a good and faithful servant.
When Mr. Bowen subdivided, his land into town lots, he named the place Savanna, by which name it will hereafter be called in these pages. The name was suggested by the marshy plains lying south of and adjoining the town site, which were supposed to resemble the savannas that abounded along the course of the lower Mississippi river.
The first post-office in this part of the Galena or Joe Daviess territory-for it was a territory then, embracing all the country north of the 41st parallel of latitude and west of Cook County-was established at Savanna in 1836, and Mr. Bowen was appointed postmaster.
Soon after Mr. Bowen opened his store, another was opened by Pierce & Davidson, and still others followed from time to time, for the Savanna settlement was the only one of importance between the villages of Galena and Rock Island and a few years later became of almost as much importance as either of those places, a prominence it maintained until towns and trading places grew up with the settlement of the country east to Rock River and the Kishwankees. Freeport then-although a prominent trade and railroad center now-was known as Winnisheik (Indian) village.
In August, 1837, Dr. Elias Woodruff came from Orange County, New York, and took up his residence here. John W, Fuller and David L. Bowen had also become Savannas, and, being men of spirit and enterprise, became prominently identified with the town and its subsequent history. Dr. Woodruff, John Fuller and David L. Bowen are still living, at the date of this writing. [November, 1877.] Dr. Woodruff in 1851 opened a drug store in a small frame business without interruption to the present. About the same time, Aaron Pierce, who had, in 1828 occupied the old councoil house as a residence and hotel, or tavern, built a frame hotel on the site now occupied by the home of John B. Rhodes, but it was afterwards moved further down town, and is now known as the Chambers House. In 1837, Mr. L. H. Bowen also erected a hotel building, which was christened the Mississippi House, but the name was afterwards changed to the Woodruff House. This building of fort years ago is still standing and occupied as a hotel.
Miss Fuller, a sister of John W. Fuller, taught the first Savanna school in the Summer of 1837. In the Winter of 1837-8 Dr. Woodruff taught the village school in a log building that stood down toward the lower end of town. He was the first male teacher and likewise the first physician to prescribe and administer fever and ague remedies, then, as in all new countries, the prevailing diseases. And north of the 41st parallel of latitude he was the frontier physician. West to the Pacific Ocean, there was no other one, and no need of one, for that vast region of country, now so full of life and civilization, was a wild, uninhabited by white men. It is said to the credit of Dr. Woodruff that he never failed to respond promptly to all calls, whether rich or poor, and that no settler was ever allowed to suffer and languish for want of medical treatment and medicine, no matter how poor he might be; that fees did not concern him nearly as much as the health of those among whom he had cast his fortunes.
The first saw-mill was erected in 1833, by Captain Craig, at Bowen's mill site, on Plum River, about two and a half miles to the east of the main part of the village. A year later, the Bowen Brothers (Luther H. and John L., the last named having joined the settlement in 1835-6) came in possession of this property and continued to operate it for some years. A powder mill was built at the same place in the course of the early history of Savanna, but both it and the old saw-mill went down long ago. Perhaps it ought to be written that the powder mill went up,, as, in 1845, two of these mill buildings blew up, killing a young man named Balcom, and seriously injuring Elinathan Jacobs and one or two others. The mill was immediately rebuilt, and the manufacture of blasting powder for the mine (for which they were originally built) continued. In time, they ceased to be sufficiently remunerative to justify their continued operation, and the enterprise was abandoned. Idle and untenanted, some fishermen encamped in them, and in attempting to light a pipe, another explosion of powder that had been embedded in the loose soil succeeded, instantly killing one of the party, named Hicks, terribly burning another one, named Smith, and badly injuring a third one. The mills were originally built by Porter Sargent in 1839, but a man named Bemis and some other eastern capitalists subsequently became interested in the enterprise, and at one time, when the Galena and other upper river lead mines were in the zenith of their success, proved a profitable investment. The site of these mills is now occupied by the large flouring mills of Messr. Wood & Kitchen.

While Savanna was building up as a village, settlements had been making and extending back into the country, and the people found it inconvenient and expensive in time and money to go to Galena to attend to county business, the distance being about forty miles by river, and about the same distance across the country and the hills. As the settlements increased, this inconvenience began to be a subject of general complaint, and ways and means came to be considered by which these inconveniences might be obviated. After mature deliberation, the information of a new country was conceded to be the surest and quickest means of emancipating themselves from the inconveniences against which the settlers had just cause of complaint. The necessary measures were inaugurated to carry out their purpose, and the eleventh session of the General Assembly of the State, which convened at Vandalia on the third day of December, 1838, passed the following act defining the boundaries of Carroll County, and providing also for the manner of choosing a seat of justice.
SECTION 1.Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly. That all that tract of country contained within the following boundaries, to-wit: Beginning at the northeast corner of town 25 north, range 2, east of the fourth prinvipal meridian; thence east, on said township line, to the middle of range 7; thence south on the section line, to the north boundary of Whiteside County' thence west along the north boundary of Whiteside county to the middle of the channel of the Mississippi River; thence up the middle of the channel of the Mississippi River to a point opposite the place of beginning; thence east to the place of beginning, shall constitute the County of Carroll.
SEC. 2. That, for the purpose of fixing the permanent seat of justice of the said county, it shall be lawful for the legal voters within the above named boundaries to meet on the Second Monday in April next, at the several places of holding elections, and vote for the place where the county seat shall be located, and the place receiving a majority of all the votes given shall be the permanent seat of justice of said county; and it no one place shall have received a majority of all the votes given, then it shall be lawful for the said legal voters to meet at the several places of holding elections on the second Monday of July, 1839, and then and there select and vote for one of the two places only heretofore voted for in April having the two highest number of votes, where the county seat shall be located; and that place having a majority of all the votes given, shall be the permanent sear of justice of said county.
SEC. 3. The county seat shall be located on lands belonging to the United States, if a site for said county seat on such lands can be found equally as eligible as upon lands owned by individuals. If such location shall be made upon lands claimed by any individual in said county, or any individual having pre-emption right or title to the same, the claimant or proprietor upon whose lands, claim, r pre-emption right, the said seat of justice may be located, shall make a deed, in fee simple, to any number of acres of said tract, not less than twenty-five, to the said county: or , in lieu thereof, such claimant, owner or owners, shall donate to the said county at least three thousand five hundred dollars, to be applied to the building of county buildings, in six, twelve and eighteen months after locating said county seat. If the town of Savanna, in said county should receive the majority of all the votes given, the proprietors or owner of said town are hereby required to donate to said new county, for the purpose of erecting public buildings, a sufficient number of lots, in the town of Savanna, for the accommodation of the necessary public buildings, and three thousand five hundred dollars in cash, payable in three equal instalments, say in six, twelve and eighteen months, from the time the location of said county seat is established.
SEC. 4. An election shall be held on the second Monday in April, next, at the different election precincts, for the purpose of electing county officers, who shall hold their offices until the net general election, and until their successors are qualified; which said election shall be conducted, in all respects, agreeably to the provisions of the law regulating elections. Returns of said election shall be made by the judges and clerks to the justices of the peace within said county. Said justices of the peace shall meet at the town of Savanna within seven days after said election and proceed to open said returns, and in all things perform the duties required by law of the clerks of county commissioners' courts and justices of the peace in like cases.
SEC. 5. That the county commissioners shall meet at the town of Savanna, within ten days after their election, and being first duly sworn, shall proceed to lay off the county into justices districts, and shall order an election to be held for the purpose of electing additional justices of the peace and constables within said county; shall provide means for raising county revenue, lay off the county into road districts, appoint supervisors, assess the amount of road labor, and perform such other duties as are required by law; Provided, That nothing in this section shall be so construed as to repeal out of office any justice of the peace or constable now entitled and residing within the limits of said new county.
SEC. 6. The courts of said county shall be held at the town of Savanna until a suitable preparation can be made of the county seat; said county shall constitute a part of the sixth judicial circuit, and the circuit court shall be held for said county twice a year, at such time as may be fixed by the judge of said district, until otherwise provided by law.
SEC. 7. The qualified voters of the County of Carroll, in all elections, except county elections, shall vote with the district to which they belong; and the clerk of the county commissioners' court of said county shall compare the election returns of said county with the clerk of the County of Jo Daviess, and shall make returns of elections to the Secretary of State, as is now required by law. The provisions of this section shall be observed until the next apportionment, or until otherwise provided by law.
SEC. 8. The east half of the seventh range, lying north of Whiteside County and South of Stephenson County, in towns 23, 24 and 25 north, shall be attached to and form a part of Ogle County.
Approved February 22, 1839. [Laws 1838-9,pp.160-1-2.]
In those days there was perhaps as much political figuring, according to the population, as there is now, and men who had county seat aspirations to gratify were no less wily and watchful than are the politicians of 1877. The founders of Savanna were naturally and creditably ambitious to have that point made the county seat of the new county, but there were some influences inimical to their interests to overcome. These influences, in the main, were confined to the three eastern townships. At Elkhorn Grove, a settlement almost as large as that at Savanna had grown up, which, united with the other influences opposed to Savanna, would overcome and defeat the last named place for the county seat. If that influence could be divided, the Savannans felt assured of success. These influences were fully considered, and plans matured for their division or removal. In preparing the bill for the erection of the county it was so drafted (as the reader will se by reference to the first section) as to split the eastern tier of townships in the centre from north to south, This legal maneuvering crippled Savanna's opposition and rendered the choice of that place as the county seat certain beyond doubt, and accounts for the three half townships of Lima, Elkhorn Grove and Shannon, on the east.
As will be seen by reference to section four of the law under which Carroll County was organized, it was made the duty of the voters to elect a full board of county officers at the same time they voted for the location of the seat of justice, and that the returns of the election shoud be certified to by the judges and clerks of the election in the several precincts, and transmitted to the justices of the peace within the county by virtue of their election under the jurisdiction of Jo Daviess county, who should open the pool books, count the ballots and declare the result. The law further provided that these justieces should meet at the town of Savanna, within seven days after the election, for the discharge of this duty, and on Thursday, the 11th day oa April, they so met, and, after examining the returns, made the following certificate:

We, the undersigned, acting justices of the peace in and for the original county of Jo Daviess, now within the limits of Carroll County, do hereby certify that the town of Savanna received the greatest number of votes for the county seat of the said county of Carroll, being one hundred and twenty-six votes, at an election held in said county, on the 8th inst.
Given under our hands and seals this 11th day of April, A. D. 1839.
JOHN KNOX. [Seal.]
J. C. OWINGS. [Seal.]

This certificate was returned to the County Commissioners' Court and ordered to be spread upon the record, and is to be seen on the 6th page of the old journal.
Within the territory of the county there were only three precincts or voting places-Savanna, Plum River and Elkhorn Grove. Only two places for the county seat were voted for -Savanna, and Section 9 in township 24 north, range 5 east, about three miles to the southeast of Mount Carroll. The vote in the three precincts was as follows:

Precincts. Savanna Section 9.
Savanna 108 19
Plum River 4 30
Elkhorn Grove 14 37

Total for each place 126 86

Aggregate number of votes cast 212
Majority in favor of Savanna 50

Of the 212 votes cast (and this was a full county vote) only eighteen were given for Savanna outside of that precinct.
Thus far we have traced the history of the settlement of the territory within the limits of Carroll County, from its first occupancy at Savanna by George and Vance L. Davidson, Aaron Pierce and William Blundle and their families, in November, 1828, to its organization, as a separate and independent county and the location of the seat of justice, in 1839. Now, from the fact of its coming within the range of the Galena district, a brief synopsis of its Physical Geography and Geological formations will not be without interest, after which the political, commercial and social history will be resumed.