Submitted by Robin Pardus
History of Whiteside County by Wayne Bastian
[Transcribed by Robin Pardus]
On November 4, 1851, Portland voted 21 to 11 in favor of organizing into a township. Organization was completed on April 6, 1852, when the first election for township officers was held. George Paddock was chosen as the first supervisor. He resigned soon after the election and P. Bacchus Bess was named as his successor. In 1855 and again in 1864, persons owning more than one dog were taxed one dollar for each additional canine. The township met its quota of men during the Civil War with out paying an extra bonus as many of the township did.
The Presbyterians were active in organizing as early as 1839 when they established a church at Sharon. The meetings were held in a log- schoolhouse until the society built a church on the northwest corner of section 29 in Congressional Township 19 north, range four east, in 1841. Dedication services were held on Christmas Day. A parsonage was built soon after. It burned at a later date and replaced. Nathaniel Norton contributed largely to the project, donating both money and a ten-acre tract of land. Part of the ground was laid out as a cemetery.
Sharon Church changed greatly with the passing of years, Presbyterians became fewer; members of other faiths attended and the name was changed to People's church. It was out-grown and replaced with a new church which was dedicated on July 7, 1907, Henry Kempster, Richard Thompson and J.P. Fuller, who attended the dedication on December 25, 1841, were present at the second ceremony. The new edifice had an auditorium 48 feet by 30 feet in size and an annex 18 feet by 30 feet. The ceilings, floors and woodwork were hard pine. Seating was furnished by Opera chairs and there were gas lights. The basement had a furnace room and kitchen. The last regular service was held in Sharon Church on December 7, 1941, but a Ladies' Aid society remained active and took on the care of the unused building. In 1967, there were 18 members left. They have explored the possibility or razing the church and making the handsome pulpit-furniture and woodwork available to needy churches. The "cathedral windows of chipped glass" are generally in good repair although there have ben a few replacements of panes. The glass has a Jack Frost pattern that tempers the light gently. Outwardly the church presents a well-kept appearance but the inside is sadly dilapidated because of the leakage where the belfry was removed. A swarm of bees has moved into the vestibule. There is a divergence of opinion on the fate of the white church. Some of the Ladies Aid believe it should be preserved as a landmark while others take a realistic view on the cost of maintenance and the dwindling of workers caused by the passing of time. The cemetery is maintained by taxes levied by the township. It presents a pleasant sight in its well-groomed condition. The old fence was removed but the wrought and cast-iron arch was left with the name Sharon and the date 1841, where the entrance used to be. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Arnett presented a large tablet of concrete which was installed in front of the arch. It lies against a gentle slope and carried a single monistic word, Memories. There is another cemetery in Portland Township. It is know as Sandytown although in earlier days it was called Portland. The burial ground is located on Section 14, congressional Township 19 north, range four, and along County Route Three. There are fewer graves than in Sharon Cemetery and, towering over the old and new markers, is the column the Ladies' Aid erected in 1867.
Ladies' Aid societies in those days were organized to provide necessities and comforts for the men in service. They served much the same purpose as the local chapters of the Red Cross did in later wars. They mad bandages and dressings, collected small luxuries and utilities such as needles and thread, paper and writing materials, dried fruits and bedding. The tall monument rest on a base of native stone, There is a plinth of white marble which supports a tapering, square column. At the top, an eagle with raised wings watches from his lofty perch. Even though his beak was dulled by the destructive fingers of Time, his claws still curve fiercely on the globe. The monument shows the erosion of 100 years but it carries legibly the testimonial, "To Their Sons Who Died for Their Country in Grateful Remembrance, Ladies Aid Society, Portland, Illinois, 1867." Listed in fading letters are the names of 12 soldiers who lost their lives during the Civil War. They are Eugene L. Besse, Lyman D. Chase, William R. Norcott, Dennis Mendall, Bark Bisby, Robert Emit Adams, Seth E. Langdon, Daniel McNaughton, George Ocoboch (?), Jonathan H. Brown, Carlos W. Martin and J. Delos Timmerman. The Spring Hill Evangelical United Bresthren Church was built in 1887, outside of Portland Township and Whiteside County. It was then called Emmanuel Church and was located in Loraine Township, Henry County. About 1893, the building was moved north to the crossroads in the center of section 27, Congressional Township 19 north, range four east, where it was popularly called the Arnett Church after the owners of the adjacent farm. Services were held there until about 1908 and four years later the building was sold. It was moved again, that time to the platted area of Spring Hill to a church site obtained from David Urick. The removal was accomplished by the use of teams and capstans. It was rededicated as a Union Church, the property of the people of Portland. About 1930, a society of the United Brethren Church was constituted and the Spring Hill church shared a pastor with the Loraine Church. Extensive improvements were mad about 1954 and the church was again rededicated. Complete services are offered. Presently (1967), the Rev. Albert Atteberry has charge of the Loraine, Spring Hill and Ebenezer Churches.