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Whiteside Co Townships > Prophetstown Township

Portrait & Biographical Album of Whiteside Co. 1885

Originally published 1885 Chapman Bros. Chicago, IL
Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin Tampico Area Historical Society www.tampicohistoricalsociety.citymax.com

Pages 886-889



The territory that is now embraced by this township during the earlier division of the county, belonged to Crow Creek Precinct. In 1837, when Whiteside County was by the County Commissioners of Ogle County attached to the territory of that county, this territory was formed into Prophetstown Precinct, embracing all the territory in this county south of Rock River. The name was afterwards changed to Portland. In 1840, this territory was divided into three precincts, which were named Prophetstown, Portland and Rapids. This arrangement gave to Prophetstown its present territory and the western half of that territory now embraced by Hume and Tampico Townships.

After the election for township organization, in 1851, the Commissioners appointed to give names and boundaries to townships, retained the name of Prophetstown for the territory lying in town 20 north, range 5 east, south of Rock River; and the name of Volney to that part in township 19 north, range 5 east. The latter name was afterwards dropped, and the entire district was known only as Prophetstown. This township was organized under the township organization law April 6, 1852, when the following named officers were chosen: Obadiah W. Gage, Supervisor; J. W. Gage, Assessor; Wm. R. Cox, Clerk; R.W. Smith, Collector; and N.G. Reynolds, Overseer of the Poor. Commissioners of the Highway were P.D. Beardsly and E.S. Gage.

This is the largest township in the county. The nature of the land is mostly rolling, and but very little of it broken. The soil is a sandy loam and very productive. It is watered by Rock River and Coon Creek. Along these water-courses there is more or less timber. Back, or south from Rock River, there is quite a forest. There are several pretty groves in different portions of the township. One of the county ditches runs along the west part of the township, emptying into Coon Creek.

The first settler to locate in the territory now embraced by Prophetstown was Asa Crook, with his family, which consisted of his wife and nine children, four sons and five daughters, and a hired man by the name of Brown. They came about the first of June, 1834, and located near the mouth of Coon Creek, and were accompanied by Norman B. And Alexander J. Seely, who located in what is now Portland Township. Mr. Crook constructed, for their use through the summer, a wickeup.

Samuel A. McLure came in a few days later that Mr. Crook and made a claim, but did not stay long, selling out his claim to that stirring pioneer, John W. Stakes, who came in with his family, and John Bowman, along in September.

Before Stakes and family came in, however, Col. Ebenezer Seely, had arrived, and made a claim on what is now section 6. Co. Seely came from Cattaraugus Co., N.Y. He went first to Michigan, expecting to find his brothers, Norman and Alexander, there. On arriving in Michigan he found they had pushed on West to Illinois, and so he followed them. Mail facilities were not so good in those days as now, and the family at home had not been advised of the brothers’ change of base. He put up a cabin on his claim and wintered there and about the settlement. Mr. Crook also built a cabin, which made them more comfortable winter quarters. In March, 1836, Co. Seely went back for his family, and returned with them in June. They had a farm in New York and also a saw-mill, which they sold, and, constructing a raft, put all their household effects aboard and started down the Allegheny River. He bought with him his family, his father and mother, John Reed and family, and Henry Bower and family; also a large supply of provisions.

Leaving the Allegheny River, they passed down the Ohio to Louisville, where he disposed of his lumber and then took a steamboat for St. Louis From St. Louis they came up the river to Rock Island. At Rock Island he hired a ferry-boat, upon which they all embarked with their goods and supplies, and poled it up Rock River to Prophetstown, where they all safely arrived after a journey of two months and 20 days. He brought with him among the rest of his cargo, lumber, door and window frames. More particulars concerning this pioneer and his family will be found in his biography, on page 189.

The settlement was increased this year by the arrival of Amos Gordon, N.G. Reynolds, Harry Smith, Charles Atkinson, Marvin Frary, Edward Wright, William Hill, Alonzo Davis, J.S. Johnson, an a few others. In 1836-37, considerable addition was made, and from this on immigration set in quite liberally.

The first child born in this township, and the first female child in the county, was Anna Stakes, daughter of John W. Stakes, in 1835, on section 35, on section 22. Col. Seely says that the first male child born in the county was William Hopkins, at Como. The first death was that of Jeduthan Seely, Sr., in the fall of 1836. Col. Seely was the first Postmaster, getting his commission in the fall of 1836. Solomon, his son, carried the mail, receiving it at Dixon, to which place it was brought by mail contractor. Col. Seely was Postmaster until 1856, a period of twenty years, and then the office was given to Farmer Adams, who lived on section 13. Mr. Adams had it about four years, when it was removed to Spring Hill, in Portland Township.

Lovica Hamilton taught the first school in the township, in the summer of 1836. It was on section 3, in a log school-house. Miss Hamilton was afterwards married to John C. Swartbout, and raised a large and respectable family. Daniel Crocker bought the first stock of goods into the township from Galena, in the spring of 1836. He located on the banks of the river in a log house, near the ferry. It is said by some that this was the first stock of goods opened in the county. This ferry was run by John Knox, and was the oldest ferry in the county except the Crandall Ferry, and was located about two miles from Lyndon.

In the early part of 1835, Asa Crook opened the first tavern. It was a double log cabin, located on sect 3, and became quite famous in those days for its hospitality.

About this time there were about 300 or 400 Indians (mostly Winnebagoes) camping near the mouth of the creek, and Asa Crook used to trade with them a good deal, and was a great favorite with them. In the fall of 1835 a Winnebago Indian was killed by a Pottawatomie, in a quarrel. The murderer fled, and a reward of two ponies was offered for his capture, or for his head, by the Chief. Some Indians went in pursuit, and finally captured the fugitive at the mounds, in Wisconsin, near where Racine is located. They killed and decapitated him, and returned to camp with the head, which was buried in the grave of the murdered Winnegago.

The Prophet, and Black Hawk, whose home was at Rock Island, had left the country before the settlers came. The Indians soon followed them, passing beyond the Mississippi, to fade away at last.

Col. Seely, in 1836, sowed the first handful of wheat in the township, and said to be the first in the county. In 1837, he went to Aurora, and had the first grist ground. He saw, as he was passing through Chicago on his way to Whiteside County, in 1834, the first two-story building that was erected in that city. It was being built for a hotel, and was located upon the site of the present Briggs House, corner Randolph and Fifth Avenue. Col. Seely, in early days, started the buildings, laying out considerable money. But there were other interests, which were directed towards Prophetstown. When the railroad came it passed through Prophetstown and then turned northward, leaving Portland some two miles to the south, and Col. Seely’s project was unsuccessful. This contest was rather spirited and bitter, leaving some unpleasant reminiscences behind. One of the results of the contest was the petition of Col. Seely to the Board of Supervisors to have his farm, his home of 80 acres, set off to Portland Township, which was granted, and to all intents and purposes he is a citizen of that township. He is still living at his home, in his eighty-third year, and is hale and hearty. (See page 189)

Those pioneers had but few sources of amusement in the early days, but were very fond of a little sport now and then. Once on a time, and a very good time it was, they say they had a Fourth-of-July celebration. It was the first held in the township, being at no later date than 1836. Nothing aroused those old pioneers like a Fourth-of-July celebration. They could not have grand processions then with gay uniforms, brass bands, roaring of cannon and the display of fireworks, but they could have a dance; and this they did, and Asa Crook’s tavern was the place where it was held. Col. Seely was a prominent and important factor in this celebration, and he wanted it to go off well, which he thought it could not do unless there was a little something to drink. But just at this time the article of drink was a very scarce commodity. Deacon Crocker had some wine, but he kept it for sacramental purposes, and would not sell it for any other, being inclined to temperance principles.

Col. Seely finally prevailed upon the Deacon to let him have a gallon for the use of the ladies who were to participate in the celebration, some of whom, he stated, were not very well. Having obtained permission to enter the cellar, the Colonel saw his way clear. He secured the services of a boy and two patent pails, entered the cellar by the back way, filled his pails, and returned to the tavern. They had a grand time. The wine was drank, and the ladies went home well and happy.

Prophetstown is one of the best improved townships in the county, and has a larger per cent, of its lands under cultivation than any other. It ranks the first in stock-raising, and is a large producer of grain. Its roads are good, and the buildings throughout the township are substantial, many of them being very attractive.The Clinton branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad was completed through the township in 1871. It passes through the northeast corner, entering on section12, and going out on section 5. The people do their trading mostly at Prophetstown. The population now is estimated at 2,200. The census of 1880 reported 1,709. Special attention has been given from the first by the people of this township to the education of their children. The result has been that they have good school buildings in all their districts.


Obadiah W. Gage: 1852-8

Mark R. Averill: 1859

H. S. Cabbott: 1860-61

Mark R. Averill: 1862

Andrew J. Fuller: 1863-67

William Hill: 1868

Leander W. Lewis: 1869-71

George B. Quigley: 1872

Leander W. Lewis: 1873-5

P. B. Reynolds: 1876-9

S. G. Baldwin: 1880-4

Gilbert Rogers: 1885

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