From Bent-Wilson History Book, 1877
Posted by Bob Mosher
The township now known as Hahnaman was originally a part of
Portland Precinct, then of Rapids Precinct, and so remained up to 1852, when its boundaries were defined and
name given by the Commissioners appointed by the County Commissioners Court, but owing to the small number of
inhabitants was attached to Hopkins township for judicial purposes until 1859, when the organization became
fully complete. The town is largely made up of what is known as swamp lands, fully four-fifths of the area
being such lands. Efforts were early made in the history of the township to have these lands drained, as the
soil was found to be exceedingly rich and fertile wherever it could be cultivated. Finally the county, in
1863-64, resolved to drain the swamp lands in all the towns where they were situated by proper ditching.
Previous to this action, however, the county had thrown these lands upon the market, and had realized from
Hahnaman alone about $26,000. The county ditch in this town commences about two miles from the east line of
the town, and runs about four miles, where it strikes the east line of Tampico. It has not proved a success
as yet, as far as Hahnaman is concerned, although by being deepened, and having branch ditches running into
it, as is now proposed, it is thought that every acre of the original swamp lands can be reclaimed and
brought under a good state of cultivation. At present over one-half of these lands remain unimproved. The
balance of the town is rolling, and of good soil, with the exception of a few sand ridges. On one of these, a
short distance north of the residence of Mr. Amos Reeves, is what is called the "little blow out" a basin
scooped out of the sand. A description of these "blow outs" is briefly given in the history of Tampico. The
crops raised in this town are those usually found in all the towns of the county.
The earliest settler sin Hahnaman were William Renner and family, who came from PA in
1841, and settled at Deer Grove. Mr. Renner died in 1859, at the age of 51 and was buried in Bureau County. He left
8 children, 5 boys and 3 girls. Two of the former died while soldiers in the Union Army. Lemuel Scott, a pensioner
of the war of 1812, came next in 1845. He came from VT, and also settled at Deer Grove and died at the house of Mr.
Renner in 1849. The widow Renner is still living in Hahnaman, a neighbor of Mr. Reeves. In 1854 the widow Ryder,
with several sons settled in the township and in 1855 came W M Halsted, James Chandler, Benj. Ackland and Martin
Clark from IN; Wm Johnson from NY, and Wm Humphrey from LaSalle County, in this State. In the following year, 1856,
came John Van Valkenburgh, from NY, Wm Brakey, George Brakey and Wm McNickle from PA; Peter Ford and Thomas Langan,
from Ireland and in 1857, Amos Reeves from NY, and Reuben Davis from OH. Dr. Davis originally settled in
Montmorency township as will be seen in the history of that township. During that year what is known as "Paddy's
Island" located in the eastern part of the town, was also pretty well settled. In 1858 a large number came and
settled in the town.
The first house, or rather cabin, was built of logs at Deer Grove, by William Renner
in 1841, and the few that were built previous to 1857 were of that material, or as near to it as could be had. In
1857 the first frame building were erected.
The first school house was built in 1857 in what is known as Brakey's settlement. It
was sixteen feet square and seven feet high. Mr. Amos Reeves, the present Supervisor of the town taught school
there in the winter of 1857-58 and was consequently the first school teacher in the town. He had an attendance of
22 scholars during that winter , some of them coming a distance of 5 miles. Now there are 5 school districts in the
town, each having a good school house, with an average of 45 scholars.
The first white child born in the town was a son of DeWitt and Catharine Ryder in the
fall of 1855. His name is Isaiah Ryder, and he is now a resident of KS. The first wedding was that of H V Hinman to
Miss Jane L Brakey, the happy event occurring in 1859. The wedded pair are now living in KS. The first death was
that of the widow Ryder, which occurred in 1855. She was 53 years of age and was buried in a private burial place
now on the farm of Cornelius Cunningham. No regular religious services were held in the town until about a year
ago, when a preaching place was established by the Methodists at Deer Grove, services being held in the school
house at that place. There being no meeting houses in the town, members of the different denominations attend
church either at Tampico, Sterling or Rock Falls.
The first election for town officers was held at the school house in District No 2 on
the 3rd of April 1860. Reuben Davis was chosen Moderator, and Amos Reeves, Clerk. 26 Votes were polled.
At the second town meeting held at the school house in District 1 on the 2nd of April
1861 a tax of $125 was voted to defray town expenses. Thirty cents on the one hundred dollars was also voted to be
raised for road purposes. 36 votes were polled at that election.
SUPERVISORS: 1860 Wm M Halsted; 1861 O H McNickle; Mr. McNickle resigned in September
and Wm Johnson was appointed to fill the vacancy; 1862 Wm Johnson; 1863 M A Myers 1864-65 Reuben Davis; 1866 Amos
Reeves; 1867-68 Reuben Davis 1869 -72 Edward Perkinson; 1873 John Conlon; 1874-75 John McCabe; 1876-77 Amos
TOWN CLERKS: 1861 Amos Reeves; Mr. Reeves resigned in 1861 to go to war and Wm M
Halsted was appointed; 1862-65 Wm Wm M Halsted; 1866 O H McNickle; 1867 J C Brakey; 1868 Wm M Halsted; 1869-75 Amos
Reeves; 1876-77 E L Halsted.
ASSESSORS: 1860 Geo. S Brakey; 1861 Thomas McCormick; 1862-63 Reuben Davis; 1864-65
Thomas McCormick; 1866 Geo S Brakey; 1867 J C Reeves; 1868 Thomas McCormick; 1869 Geo. Dee; 1870 Wm Caughey;
1871-73 Geo. Dee; 1874 John Cooney; 1875 W K Caughey; 1876-77 John Conlon.
COLLECTORS: 1860 Reuben David; 1861 W E Walter; 1862 Henry Humphrey; 1863 W J
Humphrey; 1864 Wm M Halsted; 1865 John McCabe; 1866 H V Hinman; 1867-69 A S Fee; 1870-71 W K Caughey; 1872-73 John
H Conlon; 1874 Patrick Fahey; 1875 John H Conlon; 1876-77 John Conlon.
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE: 1860 Reuben David, Geo. S Brakey; 1861 Geo S Brakey; 1862 Thos.
McCormick; 1863 M A Myers; 1864-68 John McCabe; 1872 Thos. Higgins; 1873 Amos Reeves, John McCabe; 1876 C L Dewey;
1877 Amos Reeves C J Burgess.
The annual election held in April was declared void by reason of alleged illegal
votes being polled. For that reason many of the officers then declared elected did not qualify and those who did
soon afterwards resigned, thus leaving the town without officers. A special election was therefore called, and held
on the 21 of May following and resulted in the re-election mainly of the officers chosen at the April
A special election was held on the 17th of Feb 1877 to elect a committee of 3 to
investigate the legality of the action of the Board of Supervisors of the county in turning the unexpended part of
the swamp land fund of the county into the school fund, the committee to employ counsel and take such other steps
as may be necessary to obtain information regarding such action and make a report at the next annual town meeting.
Amos Reeves, Manson Robbins and A S Fee were elected the committee and they reported at the appointed time that
according to the best legal authority they could obtain, the county had illegally transferred the swamp land fund
to the school fund before completing the draining of the swamp land under the act contemplating the drainage of the
One thing is due to the town of Hahnaman, and should be favorably mentioned. Soon
after the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion, the majority of the young men of the town enlisted as soldiers
in the Union service. The town was young then and sparsely populated, yet the inhabitants felt that they must bear
their share of the burden demanded by the crisis to maintain the unity of the States. Ten of these young men
enlisted with the Yates Sharpshooters in October 1861, viz; O H McNickle, H P Hinman, Thomas Harvey, Amos Reeves,
William Humphrey, Mahlon Humphrey, Crosby Ryder, H D Ryder, Henry May and one other. Hinman became afterwards 2nd
LT. Henry May was killed at the battle of Atlanta in 1864. Mahlon Humphrey died at Cairo in 1862 of fever. Lt
Hinman was wounded in the knee while on skirmish duty in front of Atlanta in 1864. John Renner enlisted in the 57th
IL Reg. and was taken prisoner near Corinth in 1863 and confined at Andersonville for 4 months. His sufferings were
so severe that he has not been a well man since. E L Halsted enlisted in one of the Chicago batteries in 1862.
Henry Fluck and Henry Pott enlisted in the 75th IL Vol. Pott lost an eye in the service. Patrick Fahey also
afterwards enlisted in the same regiment. J C Reeves joined the 9th NY Cav Reg in 1861. James Renner, Walter
Johnson, T B Davis, John Chambers, Albert McNickle, H S Humphrey and some others enlisted in different IL
Regiments, the names of which we could not ascertain. With the exception of Henry May and Mahlon Humphrey it is
believed that all came back at the close of the war.
The Assessors books of the town for 1877 shows 10,781 acres of improved land and
12,040 unimproved. The total assessed value of the lands is $132,350. Number of improved lots, 8; unimproved 24,
number of horses, 518; cattle 1,434; mules and asses 6; sheep 16; hogs 1825; carriages and wagons 154; sewing and
knitting machines 43; melodeons and organs 8; value of personal property $23,840; railroad property $26,814;
assessed value of all property $183,112.
The Population of Hahnaman in 1870 was 624, of which 423 were of native and 201 of
foreign birth. The estimated population of the town in 1877 is 800. Popular vote in November 1876 - 99.