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Whiteside Co Villages > City of Fulton

Source: Portrait & Biographical Album of Whiteside County, IL
Originally published 1885, Chapman Bros, Chicago, IL

Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin
Tampico Area Historical Society


The city of Fulton is located at what has been called the "Narrows of the Mississippi River." The site is a beautiful one, with all the necessary advantages for a large town. Nature, it would seem, has done here all that it could do to aid man in the building of a large and populous community. along the river and to the south a level plain extends for several miles, while back from the river to the northward the land gradually rises to an eminence that affords a commanding view of the surrounding country, and forms charming sites for residences. From these heights can be seen for several miles the noble Mississippi as it flows toward the Gulf, the rugged bluffs on the Iowa side and the prairies of Illinois stretching far away into space. Along the banks of the river there are great beds of rock which are sufficiently high to be free from inundation, and yet low enough for the conveniences of steamboat landing, and the erection of wharfs and warehouses. Another advantage which this landing seems to have is that it undergoes so little change. This effect is undoubtedly produced by the "narrows: above, which, to a certain extent, controls the great flow of water southward.

This city is 134 miles from Chicago, and 377 miles by water from St. Louis; and is in lattitude 41 degrees, 52 minutes and 3 seconds north, and longitude 90 degrees, 11 minutes and 3 seconds west of Greenwich.

The first settler here was John Baker, who, it may be truthfully said, was the founder of the town; for, when this pioneer made his claims and located here, he evidently did not do so for the purpose of putting them into a farm. This was in the spring of 1835. He erected his first cabin near the Cat-tail, where he lived for some time. The second cabin he put up was on the banks of the river near where Spinker's pottery works are, in 1837. In 1836, Mr. Baker had an acquisition to his settlement, the new arrivals being his nephew, John W., with his wife and three sisters. In the fall Joseph Crawford came in. During this year James McCoy paid him a visit, but did not tarry long. He came up from Virginia on horseback, looking out for a good country to locate in, and went on north. Finding nothing that suited him so well as Fulton, he returned in the spring of 1837. About this time there was quite an influx to the population of this Mississippi village, and Baker began to think he had planned wisely. Among those that came in about this time, were George W. Kellogg, John B. Jenkins Henry C. Fellows, Dr. Daniel Reed, Jeremiah and Alvin Humphrey, Robert Booth, John Redfern, R. J. Jenks, John Grinmold, Edward Rolph, Allen Graves, Edward Caudry, Lyman Glake, Jesse Johnson, Jonathan Briggs, David Ross and A. Briggs.

Mr. Baker had a partial survey made in the latter part of 1836 by Joseph Crawford, laying off some lots in what is now known as section 28. In 1837 some of the new-comers purchased an interest in Mr. Baker's claim, and it was decided to abandon the old survey and have a new one made. James McCoy, who was a surveyor as well as a law student, was secured to do this work. He was assisted by Henry G. Fellows, George W. Kellogg and John B. Jenkins. Mr. McCoy received ten cents a lot for his services. He laid off 2,600 lots. During survey he bought one-sixteenth interests in these lots. The owners at this time of the city to be, were Alvin Humphrey, John Baker, Henry C. Fellows, John B. Jenkins, James McCoy, George W. Kellogg, John W. Baker, Lyman Blake, Jeremiah Humphrey and R. J. Jenks. Several cabins went up this season, which gave an air of stability to the settlement.

A community of this kind could not be long together without a matrimonial affair. The fair sex were exceedingly scarce at this time, yet this only made them more precious, and the single men more ardent. Edward Rolph and Frances Baker (sister of John Baker) had met, and loved. The result of this was that in the fall a wedding was announced, and everybody invited to attend; and, as this was the first affair of the kind in the country, no one refused. The wedding was at the residence of John Baker. Mrs. Daniel Reed, who had established an enviable reputation for cooking the most palatable and savory dishes, and that too, from the scantiest larder, superintended the culinary department. She made a wedding cake for the bride, which gave her great delight, and it is said she paid almost as much attention to it as she did to the bridegroom. A young lady who was living with Mrs. Reed took charge of the bride. The bridegroom was loth to put on gloves, stating that it was not cold enough to wear them! They were married by Justice Barlow. It was a merry time all around, and everyone was happy. The Justice was particularly so, having drank the bride's health a good many times! He got on the table and sat down, taking his coffee through the medium of ginger-bread. Mrs. Reed celebrated her 84th birthday on the 13th of last May (1885).

The first birth in the town was a son to the wife of Robert Booth. This important event occurred in the early part of 1838. The first person who died in Fulton was Eunicia Aldrich, a daughter of John Baker's second wife, by her first husband. She died in 1838 and was buried near the Cat-tail Creek. Joseph Fowler died soon after, and was buried in the grounds now inclosed by the cemetery. He was interred just north of the lots first set asie for the cemetery.

The first religious service held in the town was in 1838. by Rev. Mr. Emmerson, a Congregational minister. Dr. Daniel Reed was the first physician to settle in Fulton. He died in 1882. (see page 240) Robert Booth opened the first regular hotel in the town. It was a frame building and was located just east of what was known as the square. The building was subsequently moved out onto a farm. R. J. Jenks constructed the first ferry for crossing the Mississippi. This was in 1837. Chenery & Phelps opened the first store, which was early in the spring of 1839. They started with their goods the fall before, but their goods were frozen in at Alton, where they remained through the winter. They brought in a large stock for those days. Before this store was opened, the people did their trading mostly at Galena and Fort Armstrong, now Rock Island. Sometimes they traded at Albany.

The land of this section was put into the market in October, 1839, when it was sectionized. This was done along the river and extending back to the bluffs. It was all surveyed and sectionized about the year 1844, when it was all in the market. In 1839 the plat of Fulton was enlarged, and included then about 500 acres. The Land Office at this time was at Galena. Hollis Chenery was appointed agent by the claimants of Fulton, to go to the Land Office and purchase the land, which was then held at $1.25 per acre. This he did, and when he returned, deeded it back to the claimants.

The first postoffice was established in Fulton in 1838, with John Baker as Postmaster. Hollis Chenery succed Mr. Baker in 1841. In 1849 another change was made and A. Phelps was appointed, who held the place until he died. John Phelps then took charge and held the office until 1853, when he was succeed by W. S. Wright. Succeeding Mr. Wright were George S. Phelps, J. J. Jones, O. Leighton and E. P. Wills. When Abraham Lincoln became President he apponted Dr. W. C. Snyder, who held the office until 1883, when having been elected to the Legislature, he resigned, and was succeeded by his son, J. C. Snyder, who at present holds the office.

In 1848, the town was impeded in its growth on account of the cholera.

The first school opened in the town was by James McCoy, inthe winter of 1840.

When the settlers first came in, there were quite a number of the Winnebago, Pottawatomie and Fox Indians loitering about, who had not yet gone to their reservations beyound the Mississippi. They made themselves at home among the settlers, pitching their tepees wherever  they pleased. They were friendly, however, and made no disturbance. A favorite amusement with the settlers was to hire the Indians to dance for them.

The Aborigines must have had a large town here at one time, the location being selected on account of its favorable river crossing. There were deep paths worn into the ground leading from the east to the river. There were also primitive smelting furnaces found here, and upon their being dug out, quantities of lead and lead ore were discovered, together with Indian relics and tools. What uses they put the lead to is not know The ore was taken from the bluffs in the northeastern part of the town. From the tumulated appearance of the ground, they must have also planted and raised corn here to a considerable extent.

The first saw-mill put in operation in the town was by Price & Todd, in 1853. It was called Todd & Dement's Mill. There was a small water-power  mill startedup on the Cat-tail some years before this, but it did not pay and was abandoned. The Demment Mill afterwards passed into the hands of Culbertson, Smith & Co. The lumber business contnued to increase until it became an important factor in the growtrh of Fulton.

In 1851 quite  an impetus was given to the growth of Fulton by the railroad project which had for its object the connection of Fulton with the lakes by rail. This project was conceived by Judge James McCoy, one of Fulton's oldest and most prominent citizens. After passing through many complications, the particular history of which will be found in the chapter on railroads, this road was completed to Fulton.

Pending the construction of this road, Charles Dement conceived the project of erecting in Fulton the largest hotel west of Chicago. This hotel, called the Dement House, was completed in 1855, at a cost of $100,000, and furnished with goods from New York at a cost of $40,000. The building is 100x110 feet, and five stories high. The walls were built of stone taken from the Fulton quarries. It was finished with all the imporvements known at that time, elegantly furnished and thoroughly  apponted throughout. for a time it was crowded with guests, and it seemed that another hotel was necessary to meet the demands of the city. But the action of the railroad companies changed all this, and in 1857, this grand hotel closed, and with it many other enterpirses connected with the city.

In 1855, business matters were so prosperous that it was thought best to have the town incorporated. A meeting was held for the election of officers in April. Wm. C. Green, Charles Dement, Onser Caswell, Wilson S. Wright and James Briggs were elected Trustees. Wm. D. Green was elected President of the Board; Benj. S. Gerrish, Clerk; and Charles N. Wheeler, Treasurer.

The village was platted in 1856. Among the provisions were, that all streets and alleys north and south should run parallel with Base Street, and streets  east and west parallel with Ferry Street. This plat embraced all of section 28 except that part extending into the river, and about 60 acres in the sourthwest corner.

The growth of the town induced the people to take on a higher organization, and in 1859 Fulton became a city. It was organized under a special act of the Legislature, passed Feb. 14, 1859, and it is governed under the provisions of the charter granted by this act, and the amendments thereto, approved March 9, 1869.

The city perfected its organization under the provisions of its charter by an election held the first Tuesday in April, 1859. James McCoy was chosen Mayor; Leander Smith, Daniel E. Dodge, Lyman Blake and Charles A. Chase, Aldermen; and Jerome T. Westwell, Clerk.

The lumber interests became quite an important auxiliary to the development of Fulton, and one of its principal industries. In 1862 C. E. Langford put his mill in operation, from which grew his present extensive lumber manufactory. He first repaired the old Dement Mill, and operated that awhile. In 1868, he took Warren P. Hall in as a partner. In 1878, it was incorporated, with a capital stock of $75,000. From time to time the manufacturing capacity of this lumber mill has been in creased until it has reached its present dimensions.

In the latter part of December, 1864, the right of way into the city by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St.  Paul Railroad was obtained, and condemnation of property had **. In the early part of 1865 the track was completed and the road came into Fulton, but known then as the Warsaw, Rock Island & Galena Railroad. In the month of January, 1883, the Fulton, or Clinton, & Mendota Branch of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, completed its track and run its frist train into the city. In addition to the above-mentioned railway lines, the City of Fulton has the transporation facilities afforded by the Mississippi. There are numerous boats plying the river and landing at Fulton, but the principal business done is by the Diamond Jo Line, as it is called, which was established in 1866 by Joesph Reynolds. It was started at first to operate in connection with the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad. This line brings  down in boats and barges much of the products of the Great Northwest. Their cargoes are transferred into the warehouses and elevators, and taken from there by rail to Chicago, the emporium of the world. The Fulton and Lyons Ferry furnishes ready transporation across the Mississippi to Lyons. It makes trips every hour.

Fulton enjoys a permanent and staeady growth. Its buildings, dwellings, as well as business blocks, have been of late years constructed mostly oif brick. The census of 1880 gave it a propulation of 1,733 souls. The population is at present estimated at about 2,100.

The change of the plans of the Northwestern Railroad by crossing the Mississippi River at Clinton, instead of at the "Narrows," materially affected the destinies of Fulton. Beyond a doubt this is the best place for constructing a bridge across the Mississippi of all along the Illinois shore. But this city has sustaining resources within herself and will progress forward, not backward. It is supported by a rich agricultural and stock-raising country, which is not fickle, and will not change, though railways may. It has many substantial and enriching industries that cannot but he perpetuated. Its many beautiful residences indicate the taste of its citizens; its fine schools, their intelligence. As a place of residence, its site is healthful and pleasing. From its heights most superb views can be had from every point of the compass.

Many of the early settlers of this place, though they have passed through the struggles and hardships of pioneer life; though their shadows fall toward the east, and the frosts of many winters rest upon their heads, are still in possession of health to enjoy the blessings of the civilization and the culture they have labored so hard to establish. They have built upon the lands once occupied by a race that has left nothing behind them but their mounds, and by another that is fast passing away. But the new race will remain as long as the "Father of the Waters" shall wash the shores of their city.

The following are the names of the present officers of the city government. Mayor, Wm. C. Green; Aldermen -  John Steward, Oliver E. Finch, First Ward; Jackson F. Martin, George S. Sardam, Second Ward; Lyman Blake, Joel W. Farley, Third Ward; Clerk, Thomas H. Smith; Treasurer, Charles B. Mercereau; Attorney, James McCoy; Marshal, Fred K. Bastian.






Fulton Churches & Cemetery


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