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Whiteside Co Villages > Rock Falls

Source: Portrait & Biographical Album of Whiteside County, IL
Originally published 1885
Chapman Bros., Chicago, IL
Reproduced on CD and purchased from OLD GLORY ACCENTS

Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin
Tampico Area Historical Society

Page 845-50


In 1837, a portion of that territory now occupied by the incorporated village of Rock Falls, was  known as Rapids City. The first building was erected by Edward Atkins, who came from Canada, and is the same now occupied by Deacon Arey as a resdence. It fronts on Bridge Street, and stands between the river and Main Street.

At this time the State had made an appropriation of $40,000 for the improvement of Rock River, an account of which is given in the hisotry of Sterliing; and it was thought a large city would eventually here be built. A town was laid out one mile square, which presented a beautiful sight on paper. The contractors for the improvement of the river opened a small store, and Rapids City had a beginning, and that is all it ever had. The hard times succeeding the panic of 1837 caused the State to withdraw all aid for internal improvements, theproprietors of the place gave up all hope ofits future greatness, and in 1857 the plat was vacated.

In 1867, A. P. Smith, of Sterling, purchased an interest in the water power, including some 65 acres of land on the south side of the river, including a portion of the old site of Rapids City, and at once had surveyed and platted a town to which he gave the name of Rock Falls. Mr. Smith's intentions at first were to make the place an addition to Sterling, but he subsequently thought best to lay out a town independent of that place. In platting the town he was joined by W. A. Sanborn and the Sterling Hydraulic Company, owners of a tract of land adjoining that of Mr. Smith. the plat recorded in the office of the records at the county seat is dated Jan. 28, 1868.

Aside from the manufacturing interests, the first improvements made in Rock Falls were by A. D. Hapgood, who moved a house from Como, in which he opened up a small stock of general merchandise late in the summer of 1867. The venture was not profitable. The house now forms a part of the Brewer House, and has been used for hotel purposes a number of years. Oliver & Saxon and Charles Hoag now represent the trade.

In November, 1867, Truman Culver erected a building on the southeast corner of Main and May Streets, in which he opend a grocery store, the first in the place. His first day's sales amounted to 25 cents, his only customer purchasing a box of axle grease. At the end of three weeks the entire receipts amounted to $27. The old adage, "A poor beginning often has a good ending," was exemplified in his case, bor, on the expiration of the first year, his sales amounted to $35,000. "The people found out," says Mr. Culver, "that the little store on the corner was bound to do business."

In the spring of 1868 Newton & Muckenridge came from Como and opened a stock of general merchandise in a building erected for the purpose, opposite Culver's, on Main Street. The copartnership continued but a short time, Mr. Muckeridge taking the dry goods and returning to Como, J. L. Newton retaining the groceries and continuing the business. Mr. Newton still continues in business. A. C. Stanley, Enoch Long and C. K. Worrell also deal in groceries, in the spring of 1885.

The first drug house was started in the spring of 1868. Mark Bickford is the present druggist.

Andrew Goodell and Charles Ingalls, under the firm name of Goodell & Ingalls, commenced the hardware trade in the summer of 1868. Scott & Van Vleet and Joseph Pennybecker are the present representatives.

The first harness-maker was M. Hendricks, in 1869. Samuel Morse now represents that trade.

Samuel Schultz, in 1872, was the first shoemaker. John Reiter and James Kelley are now engaged in the business.

R. H. Sheldon & Son were the first agricultural implement dealers. They began business in 1874, and yet continue in the trade. Scott & Van Vleet also deal in that line of goods.

Joseph H. Bachus, in 1868, began blacksmithing in the village. George Adair, John Wood and Herman C. Rouse are now in the trade.

James Rush opened a barber shop in 1871. Ted Williams now represents that trade.

James Scott was the first attorney, in 1872. No representative at present.

The first physician was Dr. J. L. Morrill, in 1868. He still continues here, in the practice of his profession. Dr. W. M. Smith and J. W. Montgomery are also here.

The first jeweler was A. W. Erb, in 1869. J. S. May and A. N. Taylor are now in the business.

Brown & Ryan were the first liverymen. W. B. Brown and H. Schofield are now in the business.

The first milliner was Mrs. N. L. Baldwin, who still continues in the trade.

The first hotel was the Rock Falls House, opened by Mr. Doty in 1868. The Rock Falls House and the Brewer House now entertain the traveling public.

John Reiter is the present boot and shoe dealer.

The first meat market was opened by William L. Smith, in 1868. The present dealers are Pipperd & Woodford, George Hoffner and Mr. Mansfield.

Julius Smith opened a furniture store in 1872. There is no representative now here in that line.

The dry-goods and notion trade is represented by C. K. Brown and Mr. Worth.

A bank was established here in October, 1874, by Ephraim Brookfield, who came from Coleta. He continued the business until his death, in January, 1876, and was succeeded by George W. Nance, who had been with him since the opeing of the bank. Mr. Nance was succeeded by J. L. Newton, who still continues the business.

The first marriage was that of Gideon Reynolds and Mary Arey, in 1867.

The first birth was that of Lenoretta, daughter of John Barker.

The first death was that of B. C. Hunt, Sept. 15, 1868.

The Rock Falls Progress was the first newspaper. Its career was short. The Whiteside Times, Ensign of Liberty and Rock Falls News have likewise been published here. The latter is still in existence. A history  of the press is found elsewhere in this volume.

The postoffice was established here in 1868. Truman Culver was the first Postmaster. He held the position until 1872, when he was succeeded by C. K. Brown, who was in turn succeeded by Dr. J. P. Ralph and James Pettigrew. In July, 1874, a money-oder department was attached to the office, which was and is a great convenience to the citizens of Rock Falls and vicinity.

In 1868 a meeting of the citizens of the township was held to consider its educational interests. It was voted to unite the whole township in one shcool district, with the understanding that at the village a high shcool was to be maintined. A school-house was erected on the corner of Elm and Bridge Streets, a two-story frame structure, with three rooms. M. R. Harris was the first pricipal. The school-house remained on this location until 1875, when a block of ground was purchased fronting on Florence, between Gove and Marr Streets, and it was removed to that point, reconstructed and a new one built. The schools are in a flourishing condition.

Rock Falls was incorporated as a village under the general laws of the State in 1869. Its first election for village officers was held Feb. 4, of that year. The first ordinance passed was one prohibiting the sale of malt liquors in the place. In general the affairs of the village have beenmanaged in a manner satisfactory to all concerned. The following named comprise the officers for 1885:
Trustees:  R. M. Sheldon
President: W. H. Tuttle, Joseph Wright, J. M. Bickford, W. H.Kadel, S. M. Mingle
Clerk:  W. H. Cadwell
Treasurer:  C. E. Doty
Attorney:  C. L. Sheldon
Street Commissioner:  H. N. Schaeffer
Policeman:  H. L. Brown

(Note from transcriber - This has been transcribed ver batim. However, it appears that the listings for "Trustees" and "President" have been reversed)


The secret and benevolent societies are not as well represented in Rock Falls as they would be if not in proximity to Sterling. Probably every society in that city numbers among its members citizens of this place. The expense of maintaining separate organizations is thus avoided. The Odd Fellows, United Workmen, and Women's Christian Temperance Union are well represented here, though the latter must not be classed among the secret socieities.

Ancient Order of United Workmen, Industrial Lodge, No. 5 was instituted June 11, 1875, with 28 charter members. It has had a flourishing existence and now numbers 62 members. One member has been removed by death since its organization - D. L. McKenzie. Truman Culver was the first Master. Palmer Collins is the present Master Workman.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Advance Lodge, No. 590,was instituted Sept. 22, 1875, and holds its meetings regularly each week. The lodge is in a flourishing condition and numbers among its members some of the best citizens of Rock Falls and vicinity. There is no encampment here, those taking the degrees of that branch of the order uniting with the Sterling Encampment.


As in respect to benevolent societies, so it is in regard to the Churches. At present but three of the denominations are represented here, many uniting with the Church of their choice in Sterling. The Methodist Episcopal, Congregational and German Lutheran each have church edifices.

Methodist Episcopal Church - This Church was organized in 1868, and was connected with the Fourth Street Methodist Episcopal Church charge of Sterling. Several notable revivals have been held, resulting in large accessions to the Church. The erections of the church edifice was commenced in 1869, but it was not completed and dedicated until April, 1871. Rock Falls embraced part of a circuit until 1872, when it was made a station. The Church has had a prosperous career and has accomplished great good in the community since its organization.

First Congregational Church - This Church was organized Dec. 26, 1875, with 14 members, and held its meetings for nearly a year in one ofthe school buildings. In August, 1870, a house of worship, 40x75 feet, was commenced and a portion of it completed and occupied Dec. 3 of the same year. It was soon afterwards fully completed and is a very neat and commodious house of worship. The Church now numbers 65 members, and is in a healthy condition. Richard Arey and J. E. Durstine are the Deacons; D. O. Coe, Superintendent of Sunday school; Rev. O. W. Fay, Pastor.

German Lutheran Church - This church was organized in 1877, and a housse of worship at once erected. The membership is small.


Rock Falls Progress - In 1870 Cadwell & Tuttle commenced the publication of the Rock Falls Progress, a seven-column folio sheet. This was the first paper established in the village. After a few numbers were issued it was changed to a five-column quarto. The paper was continued for seven years and then suspended, pricipally on account of the continued illness of Mr. Cadwell. A fair patronage was received, the proprietors making no complain on that account.

The Whiteside Times - In 1876, A. J. Booth & Co., removed from Morrison to Rock Falls and commenced the publication of the Whiteside Times, a six-column quarto, independent in politics. The firm continued the publication of the paper till May, 1878, when they leased the material of the office to Hyde & Searle, who contniued the publication of the paper for one year, Booth & Co. refusing to longer contnue to lease them the material. The paper was consequently suspended.

Searle's Times  - Elmer Searle, of the firm of Hyde & Searle, not being content with his experience in the newspaper line, commenced the publication of a paper known as Searle's Times, Cadwell & Tuttle doing his priinting. The paper was short-lived, dying on the expiration of three months.

The Ensign of Liberty - On the 25th day of February, 1879, the first issue of a paper under the foregoing title made its appearance in Rock Falls, with J. M. Foley as editor and proprietor, though the paper was printed by Cadwell & Tuttle. It advocated the principles of the National Greenback party, and as there were not enough holding the peculiar views of that part in this vicinity, within three months it died a natural death.

Rock Falls News - Rock Falls had been without a newspaper for some time, the Whiteside Times having suspended. Th field was a good one an must be occupied; so, thought Wm. Parker. Accordingly, on the 5th day of July, 1882, the first number of the Rock Falls News made its appearance, with Wm. Parker as editor and proprietor. In his introductory, the editor said:

"We shall publish a paper devoted to building up and advancing every manufactory, trade and industry located in our town, encourage a spirit of public improvement and advocating a high standard of education. * * * * * Of politics we shall make a secondary consideration. While we are a working Republican and a firm believer in Republican principles, we also believe there are many of other political parties who are equally as sincere in their beliefs and entitled to respectful consideration.; therefore our columns will always be open to give the political news of all parites, publish their announcements and report their proceedings. On the temperance question we are in harmony with the majority of the people of Rock Falls, having no use for saloons, and believing them to be a detriment to the moral and financial well-being of any community; to be prohibited wherever public sentiment will enforce prohibition, as it seems to do in Rock Falls. Our business we shall conduct on business principles. We shall pay for all we get and expect pay for all work we do for others. We want every one to understand that he will be expected to pay his subscription or printing bill with the same promptness as he does his grocer or his butcher."

The News was commenced as a seven-column folio and contniued as such until Dec. 14, 1882, when it was changed to an eight-column folio. In April, 1884, it was changed to a five-column quarto, which form it yet retains. On the 1st day of January, 1885, Miss Anna F. Parker was admitted as a partner in the publication of the paper. Miss Parker is the daughter of theoriginal proprietor, and had been an assistant in the office for some time. She is a young lady of fine ability and wields a ready and fluent pen. The News has a fine advertising patronage, an increasing circulation, and the office has a good run of job work.


Rock Falls is noted for its manufactories, there being several very extensive ones in the place. If the account which follows is not as complete as would be desired by some, it can be said that neither the publishers nor editor of this volume is to blame. There are some men who possess such an infinitesimal amount of public enterprise that they will do absolutely nothing toward advertising the business interests of their town, or placing them in the best light before the public. Not only this, but should they be lucky enough to make a little money they become arrogant, selfish, and lordly in their bearing.

The Keystone Manufacturing Co. is th outgrowth of two distinct lines of business, in Sterling, one commenced in 1857 by Geo. S. Tracy, and the other in 1863 by Thomas A. Galt. Mr. Tracy had a planing mill and engaged in the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds, while Mr. Galt engaged in the manufacture of farm implements. Shortly after Mr. Galt commenced, the two firms united under the firm name of Galt & Tracy, and subsequently the name of "Keystone Works" was adopted. The firm was very successful from the start, but in 1867 met with a serious loss in the burning of their manufactory. Another building was erected and the works put in operation and soon moved to the south side of the river. Later on, a joint-stock company was incorporated under the nme of the Keystone Manufacturing Company, with a capital of $150,000, which was subsequently increased to $350,000.

The Sterling Manufacturing Company dates its commencement from the time George S. Tracy manufactured doors, sash and blinds before the war. It was organized in 1870, with a capital of $30,000, a joint-stock company, having its works in Sterling. In 1883 they moved to Rock Falls, and their works there are among the finest on the water power, the capacity being treble that of their old works in Sterling. The plant comprises five acres of land, with ample water power and the best of railroad facilities. The company manufacture various agricultural implements. About 30 men are employed.

The Enterprise Works - In 1859 H. F. Batcheller commenced the manufacture, on his farm, about one mile south of Sterling, of a hand corn-planter of his own invention, and during the year made 12 machines, of which he sold seven. Making some improvements in the implement, he exchanged those sold for the improved ones. Until 1873 he continued to make machines on his farm. In that year he erected buildings in Rock Falls, since which time he continued their maufacture here, while at the same time he has added other implements to his manufactory. Among other articles manufactured have been churns, butter-workers, dog-powers and a general line of dairy and creamery supplies. For some time A. M. Batcheller has been a partner, the business being transacted under the firm name of H. F. Batcheller & son. The average sales of the corn-planters are 1,500 per year. In 1884 the company had the misfortune to be partially burned out, but immediately rebuilt. In 1883 a foundry was  added to the other departments of the business. The Enterprise Works is the name by which the institution is more generally known.

The Northwestern Barb-Wire Company, ov which W. M. Dillon is Presidnet and Treasurer, L. H. Dillon, Secretary, and James Burke, Superintendent, made during 1884, 400 car-loads, of 20,000 pounds each, of the famous Kittleson Barb Wire - enough to encircle the "wide, wide world." To do this the company employed, on an average, 65 men. There are 35 machines, which were kept running continuously night and day for six months. The works were not closed during the year except for repairs. Among the additions to the plant made in the past year, are a new fire-proof warehouse, 75x25 feet, and a new brick building 72x100 feet, with a twenty-inch wall, to be used for a warehouse, but built heavy enough for any kind of manufacturing. The company is a responsible one.

The Rock Falls Roller Mills of Dillon, Boweres & Strock, is one of the institutions of Rock Falls. The capacity of the  mill is 100 barrels per day, and it is run up to its full capacity, making brands of flour equal to any made. L. H. Dillon, M.C. Bowers and M. C. Strock are the members of the firm. They employ on an average six men.

The Eureka Manufacturing Company was organized in 1871, and is engaged in manufacturing various agricultural implements. About 50 men are employed. John M. Galt is President; M. A. Bunn, Vice-President;  J. G. Crawford, Secretary; Alexander McCloy, Treasurer.

Church, Utley & Company - B. C. Church, H. B. Utley and Samuel Patterson are the proprietors of the Rock Falls Mills, established in November, 1862. John E. West is the Superintenent. The capacity of the mills is six and a half tons per day. They make a superior article of straw wrapping-paper for grocers and butchers, at the average rate of three car-loads a week. They run day and night. The product is shipped in car-loads only, over a wide scope of country. The compnay enjoy the reputation of making an excellent quality of straw wrapping-paper, and furnishes employment to about 40 men.

The Creamery Package Company, as its name implies, are manufacturers of butter tubs, creamery supplies, etc. and occupy rooms in the east end of the Industrial Building. In 1884 they manufactured 400,000 butter tubs, in addition to other supplies. Employment is given to about 75 men. C. M. Gates is the President and genral manager. The company was orgianized in 1882.

George W. Packer has for some years been engaged in the manufacture of patterns and models, affording employment to from three to eight men. In the spring of 1885, he purchased the establishment of E. F. Brock & Co., manufacturers of the Yankee hand-sled, butter-tub machinery and blacksmith punches. Some 15 men are now employed.

Smith & Goodell are manufacturers of bee-hives and apiary supplies, in the Industrial Building. They are successors to Dur & Harris, andhave been in business but a few months.

A. S. Todd manufactures pruning shears, hedge trimmers. barrel carts and barn-door hangers, in one of the busy basements of that hive ofindustry, the Industrial Building.

Dyer & Keeney are manufacturers of hand corn-planters, barb-wire spools, step-ladders, center-tables and flower-stands. The business was started in the Industrial Building in 1872, by Mr. Dyer. the company furnish employment to about 20 men.

Farwell, Huling & Company began the manufacture of farmers', miners' and mechanics' garments, Dec. 1, 1884. They are at present giving employment to about 200 women.

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