From Bent-Wilson History Book, 1877
Posted by Dana Fellows
The township of Erie was formed from Erie Precinct under the Township Organization Laws in 1852. and contains
14,392 acres. The village of Erie, within the township, contains 195 lots. The township upon the south and east is
skirted by Rock river, the borders of the stream being fringed by timber of a fine quality. The land is usually
savanna, which by drainage is being rapidly reclaimed, and is of unexhaustible fertility. Within the borders of
the township is a large body of sandy land, portions of which is not valuable for agricultural purposes. Rock
Island county borders the township on the west and Newton and Fenton townships on the north. Erie Lake, a
considerable sheet of water, as fair as a picture, lies just north of the village of Erie. Wells of living water
are easily obtained.
The farmers of the township are principally engaged in stock raising. The luxuriant growth of grass
making the breeding of cattle a desirable occupation. Heavy crops of corn are also produced, and large quantities
of pork. The yield of cheese arid butter is also considerable.
The first settlement made in the territory now Erie, was by Lewis B. Crandall, Peter Gile and Mr.
Hunt, in the fall of 1835 Mr Crandall located upon Section I8. The first farming done in the township was doubtless
by him. A large proportion of early settlers of Erie were from Erie county. N.Y; on Lake Erie, and the name of the
lake that washed the shores of their home county was transferred to the fine body of water near their new homes.
Naturally and properly the Precinct when organized became Erie, which name descended to the present township.
The following is a list of the first settlers of Erie and their nativity, being as nearly complete as can be
secured from memory. None are intended to be enumerated who settled after 1840: John Freek, England: Joseph Fenton,
David Hunt, N. J. George, Henry and Harvey Steele, Conn.; Peter Gile, Lewis D., John and L. Crandall, Orville and
Alvin Brooks, Wm. Teats, James Hamilton, Charles R. Coburn, Samuel Carr, N .Y.; Arthur Putney. Ernest Warner, Mass.
Mr. Fenton is classed a settler of Erie, but more properly belongs to Fenton, as very soon after locating in Erie
he removed across the line into what is now Fenton township. A biographical sketch of him will appear in the
history of that township.
Erie Precinct was established by order of Commissioners’ Court, December 1,1844. The territory was formerly
embraced in Lyndon and Albany Precincts, The boundaries of Erie Precinct are described on the books of the County
Commissioners as follows: ‘‘Commencing at the town line in town 20 north, range 4 east 4th Principal Meridian, at
the southeast corner of section 37, running north to the northeast corner of section 15; thence west to the
northwest corner of section 14, township 20 north, range 4 east; thence south to the township line thence west to
the county line; thence to Rock river; thence up said river to the place of beginning." This Precinct included all
the present township of Erie and portions of Newton and Fenton townships, When the township of Erie and portions of
Newton and Fenton Townships. When the question "for" or "against" township organization was voted upon, November 4,
1851, Erie was one of two precincts to vote against organization,’’ casting eleven votes. "for" and seventeen
Mr. Alvin Brooks., now of Clyde, Kansas, one of the original settlers of Eric township, furnishes the following in
regard to the early settlement of Erie. His statements are confirmed by the surviving pioneers of Erie township.
He says - ‘‘The first man who crossed the river to make a claim cornmnenced cutting timber to erect a cabin and was
frightened away by the Indians. He was next followed by Lewis D Crandall, Mr. Hunt and Peter Gile. Hunt made a
claim of the grove three miles below. Erie known as ‘‘Hunts’ Grove.’’ Messrs, Crandall and Gile selecting the Erie
Grove, Crandall choosing the lower half and Gile the upper. The three men put up a cabin for Mr. Hunt, it being the
first house of any kind between Lyndon and the Marias De Ogee. [This was in the Autumn of 1835 soon after , Mr.
Gile went to work, being anxious to complete his cabin so that his family could be with him, he in the mean time
boarding with Mr. Hunt. Giles' cabin was about 10 x 12, built on the bank of the slough, under a spreading oak. The
material used was of the roughest, and the cabin most rudely built. Upon the completion of his domicile, Mr. Gile,
accompanied by L D Crandall started for Dixon to receive his family and goods, having two canoes lasted together.
The difficulty of rowing against the current to Dixon being at length overcome, the family consisting of Mrs. Gile
and two children; and the goods were embarked and the voyagers started upon their returned, their destination
almost reached, when night having fallen, the canoes ran into a tree top and were overturned The youngest child was
downed. (Other settlers, in speaking of this incident, say dry goods boxes were lashed between the boats, one of
which floated away with two children, whom Mr. Crandall found upon his return asleep in the box which was drifting
with the current. Mr. and Mrs. Crandall saved themselves by clinging to the branches of the tree in a half drowned
and chilled condition. Only Mr. Crandall could swim, and he resolutely set about swimming to the shore, to a point
from which he must travel several miles for a boat to remove the other survivors. Every hour of his absence seemed
a day to the sufferers in the treetop, but at length he came, and the family were removed and taken to the cabin.
In the morning the body of the drowned child was rescued and buried. Part of the goods were recovered, but the
precious iron, as harrow teeth and chains probably lie at the bottom of the river to this day. Mrs. Gile had but
recently recovered front the measles, and her terrible experience of the night through her into a fever. There were
no sympathetic neighbors, nor physician to assist or prescribe in her time of need. Her husband cared for her as
best he could but in a few days death removed her from, her trials and suffering. Mr. Gile then taking his orphaned
boy upon his back traveled about five miles where he found assistance, and sent for Mrs. Cushman, who then lived
two miles west of Sharon. She came, and with her two other women, to prepare the corpse for interment. A shroud was
cut out, and then it was found that no needle could be procured, but the best preparations possible were made and
the body was buried in the southeast corner of what is now Esquire Weavers orchard - at that time prairie. Soon
after this John Freek, Joseph Fenton Orville Brooks and Wm P. Teats made claims. Mr. 0. Brooks built the first
house in the now village of Erie. His wife for three months did not see his face of a white woman. I came to Erie
in the fall of 1837. There was then three houses in Erie. George and Henry Steele came the same fall. Samuel Carr
had settled the year previous. Prior to this year, the nearest post office had been at Dixon, but then one was
established at Prophetstown. I visited the Prophetstown post office about three months after I had been in the
country, and received two letters from friends for which I paid fifty cents. The next spring, when five families
had come in, a local school house was built without bonds or subscription. A teacher was employed - Holly Ann
Sprague, afterwards Mrs. Reuben Hard. She was the first teacher in Erie. My wife died in the fall of 1840 and was
the first person interred in the Erie Cemetery."
The second school teacher in Erie was Mr. Horace Cole in 1840, a post-office was kept at Crandall’s Ferry by Lewis
P. Crandall. He had charge of the office until 1848 when Mr. L Crandall became postmaster. In 1849 he was succeeded
by Judge C. C. Teats and the office was removed to Erie village.
The sand burrs now so common upon the sandy land of Eric, are "old settlers,’’ but strangely enough did not appear
until some time after settlements had been made. When the peculiar grass that bears the burrs was first seen the
settlers cherished it, presuming it might prove of value, but all familiar with a sand burr will appreciate their
The settlers of Erie were very soon provided with religious instruction The mission preachers soon sought out the
new settlement. Elder Carpenter a Baptist, preached at Crandall’s house as soon as 1838, J. C. Hubbart stating that
he heard him at that time. The same ,minister preached the funeral sermon of Mr. Hubbarts’ mother at the Hamilton
school house, in Lyndon in 1839. He also preached in Arthur Putneys house. The Methodist ministers early made their
appearance and in 1830 regular services were enjoyed by this denomination.
The first marriage in Eric was that of Oliver Olmstead and Electa Hunt, and the next was that of James Hamilton and
The first white child born in Erie was Harriet Coburn, though many persons claim that Alfred Fenton was the first,
yet from the best evidence it would appear that Mr. Fenton was over the line in Fenton township.
Among the early settlers of Erie was James Cassen, who trailed a watch to Levi Fuller, now of Erie for a claim. Mr.
Cassen returned to the east and not coming back the claim was taken by David Martin. Claim jumping was frequent in
Erie, and a committee existed to regulate the matter. At the time there was much bitterness, and in the
neighborhood wars property was sometimes destroyed, but at last the differences were adjusted, and now are only
remembered as incidents of pioneer life.
In 1844 a destructive tornado swept across Eric, the whirlwind having crossed the Mississippi, pursuing a
souutheastly direction. No lives were lost in Erie, but several persons were killed in other parts of the county.
Large trees were twisted off like pipe stems, cattle blown a considerable distance, and farm utensils and household
furniture transported and never recovered. It is said when the hurricane passed over the river the water was parted
like the Red Sea of old, and fish and shells were afterwards found that had been carried some distance out on
During the civil war Erie made a splendid record, With a voting population never to exceed 120 previous to the
war, the town in August, 1862, had sent 70 men to the field. This fact was published in the Whiteside Sentinel of
August 28, 1862. Mr. Samuel Orcutt, a soldier of the 75th Illinois regiment, from memory recalls the names of 85
men from the township. Doubtless others volunteered later, which with re-enlistments would greatly swell the
number. Seven commissioned officers went from the town: F. A. Harrington - Colonel of the 27th Illinois, killed at
Stone River; A. B. Seger, Captain company I, 75th Illinois, died of disease; Sherman Person, Surgeon 74th
Illinois-killed in railroad disaster in Tennessee; Thomas Maloy, Captain in 54th Illinois- killed at Mobile; L. E,
Chubbuck, Lieutenant company I, 75th Illinois; Thomas Rhodes and John Rhodes, captains in United States colored
regiments. A number of soldiers from Erie were killed in action or died of wounds and disease, while a number of
the citizens of the town bear honorable scars made in the line of duty. Large sums of money were raised by the
citizens of the township to pay the heavy bounties and otherwise assist in prosecuting the war.
In accordance with the act of 1851, and in pursuance of vote of the Precincts of Whiteside county,
Erie township was organized in 1852 and defined by the Commissioners to divide the county into townships as "all of
town 19 north, range 4 east of the 4th Principal Meridian north of Rock river; and also all of town 19 north, range
3 east of the 4th Principal Meridian, north of Rock river." The first annual town meeting was held April 6, 1862,
at the Erie school house, James Early, Moderator, and Addison Farrington, Clerk. The voters were W. W. Hubbart, N.
K. Chapman, Daniel Morehouse, Charles R. Coburn, Charles W. Case, Alvin Brooks, John Freek, M. C. Wonser, A. J.
Osborne, Frank Campbell, .1. B. Goodrich, James McMillen, Nelson 1. Rouse, Thomas Freek, A. Broadwell, James
Hamilton, Samuel D. Carr, George Steele, John McLay, ,John Pinkney, James Earley, C C. Teats, A. Farrington,
Thomas .J. Phillips, Abner Bull, Alfred Wood, L. Crandall, Hervey Steele, Orville Brooks, The following officers
were elected Supervisor, Charles R. Coburn; Town Clerk, A. Farrington; Assessor, M. G. Wonser; Collector, James
McMillin; Justice of the Peace, Orville Brooks; Overseer of the Poor, John Freek; Commissioners of Highways, James
Earley, N. K. Chapman. L. Crandall; Constable, James McMillin; Ovcrseers of highways, Alfred Wood, T. J.
The proceedings of the meeting were certified to be M.G.. Wonser, as acting Justice of the Peace.
The Commissioners of Highways met April 22, 1862, and divided the township into two road districts, and defined
them as follows. All roads lying north of the north line of section 18 in Congressional township 19 north, of range
4 east, extending on said , north line of said section running east to Rock river, and west to the Marias DeOgee,
shall comprise district No, one; and all roads lying south of said line in said township shall comprise district
At the second annual town meeting it was decided by vote that "every man should he his own
poundmaster;" also ‘that hogs taken up shall he proceeded with as in Constable’s Sales." Twenty-two votes were
cast, and the appropriation for township expenses fixed at $25.00. In 1854, 39 votes were cast and laws adopted
regulating stock running at large. In 1855, 53 votes were polled, and a lawful fence defined as "three boards, the
fence four and a half feet high. If of rails to number four, the lower to be not more than eighteen inches from the
ground, the top rail to he not less than four and a half feet from the ground." It was also resolved "that each man
should he fined $1.00 per head for each hog allowed to run at large." In 1857, 62 votes were polled and a
resolution adopted to raise $100.00 to refund money subscribed by certain persons to build the Rock creek bridge.
In 1858 the hog law was re-enacted and it was decided that sheep should not run at large; $125.00 was voted for
township expenses; number of votes cast, 99. In 1860 it was resolved that bulls he free commoners, and ‘that line
fences he sufficiently built to protect hogs and sheep." A special meeting was held the same year when Ralph Sage
was elected Supervisor, and James Collins, Justice of the Peace- In 1861, 109 votes were cast, and at a special
election the same year C. C. Teats was elected Supervisor. Votes of 1866 125; of 1870, 132. It was decided by vote
in 1873 to build a town bail, and in pursuance thereof a substantial frame building was erected.
Supervisors/ 1852 , Charles R. Coburn; 1853-54, C. C. Teats; 1855, T. B. Whipple; 1856-57, Ralph
Sage; 1858-60, A. Farrington; 1861, F. A. Harrington; 1862, C. C. Teats; 1863-64, Wm. H. Allen; 1865, Thomas Freek;
1866, Samuel Orcutt; 1867, Thomas Freek; 1868-69, William H. Allen; 1870-71, A. M. Earley; 1872-73, C. C. Teats;
1874, M. H. Seger; 1875 ‘77, William H. Allen,
Town Clerks:-1852-54, A. Farrington; 1855, L. Barnum; 1856, M.G. Wonser; 1857 ‘59, Samuel Gordon; 1860, James
Collins; 1861-62 ,L.Barnnm; 1863, Porteus Barnum; 1864, 0. M. Crary; 1865, W. R. Davis; 1866, Seneca Teats;
1867-69, James 0. Brooks; 1870-74, H. K. Wells; 1875-77, L. E. Matthews.
Assessors:--1852, M. G. Wonser; 1853, A. J. Osborne; 1854, D. B. Henwood; 1855, A. J. Osborne; 1856, James C.
Hubbart; 1857-’58, L. Barnum 1859-62, James Collins; 1863, George Paddock; 1864, James Collins 1865-‘66, George
Paddock; 1867, John Freek; 1868-69, John P. Fenton; 1870-73, A. W. Capen; 1874-76, John D. Fenton; 1877, 0. H.
Colllectors.-l852-53, James McMillen; 1854, N. K. Chapman; 1855, A.E. Thomas; 1856, James McMillen; 1857, B.
F.Hubbart; 1858, William Frank; 1859. A. A. Matthews; 1860, Samuel Orcutt; 1861-62, Daniel Schryver; 1863, Henry
Paddock; 1864, Alexander Johnson; 1865, John P. Fenton; 1866, Alexander Johnson; 1867, Charles Smith; 1868-’70, 1.
E. Matthews; 1871, A. M. Crary; 1872, L. E. Matthews; 1873-74, 11. C. Fenton; 1875, 0. S. Martin; 1876-77, G. G.
Justices of the Peace:-1852, Orville Brooks; 1853, A. Farrington, N. G. Wonser; 1854, A. Farrington, L. Crandall;
1857, James Collins; 1858. A. Farrington, Joseph Weaver; 1862, William H. Allen; 1864, Joseph Weaver, William H.
Allen; 1865, Samuel Orcutt; 1868, Samuel Orcutt, ,John Freek; 1873, J. B. Fenton, M. H. Seger; 1877, M. H. Seger,
The population of Erie in 1870 was 695, and is, in 1877, estimated at 900. The vote of the township in November,
1876, was 165. The Assessor’s book for 1877 shows 3,294 acres of improved land, and 11,098 acres unimproved. In the
village of Eric 195 lots are enumerated. Number of horses in township, 276; cattle, 927; mules, 22; sheep, 96;
hogs, 990; wagons and carriages, 95; sewing and knitting machines, 76; pianos, organs, and melodeons, 24. The
assessed value of the property for 1877, is $198,447.