History of Fulton Township
From Bent-Wilson History Book, 1877
Posted by Dana Fellows
Fulton was originally a part of Albany Precinct, and afterwards created a Precinct by itself, and so remained until 1852, when it was made a township by the Commissioners appointed by the County Commissioners' Court. It is described as fractional township 22 north of the base line of range 3 east of the 4th Principal Meridian. Where a part of the city of Fulton stands, and for a short distance to the north and northeast of it, the land is made up of high bluffs, overlooking the river (Mississippi) on one side and a wide expanse of country on the other. The balance of the town is low land, and a part of it, lying along the Cattail creek, subject to overflow during times of high water in the river. Most of this land, however, is very fertile, and in favorable seasons large crops are raised upon it. Some of the land, also, in the east and south parts of the town is sandy. The township includes a portion of the large island north of the city. Considerable quantities of wood are yet cut on this island, and brought down to the city and sold. Besides the great river which bounds it on the west, the town is watered by the Cattail and Otter creeks. Both city and township are also supplied with abundance of excellent wells. In the northern part of the city are some large quarries, from which an excellent quality of stone for building and other purposes is taken. The bluffs in the eastern and northern parts of the city also contain lead, but in rather limited quantities. When the town was first settled there were evidences of works having been used by the Indians for smelting the lead ore. A row of red cedar posts was also found extending from the river bank, at the street now known as Ferry street, all the way over the bluffs to the location of the present bridge over the Cattail creek. These posts were from twelve to fourteen feet high. Their uses are not known. The smelting furnaces just spoken of were situated in a slight depression of land in the northern part of the present city of Fulton, about six feet from the common surface. They were filled up when first discovered, but upon the ground being removed large quantities of smelted lead and lead ore in the natural state were found, besides Indian relics, such as spear heads, rude knives, battle axes, and several brass pots. The land sloping south was found to have been Indian corn fields, and the whole surface dotted with tumuli made by the squaws, in which the corn was grown. Evidences of an Indian town occupying the site of the present city of Fulton were also found, and from the great number of them it is conjectured that the town was one of considerable size. The Narrows appeared to have been a favorite crossing-place for the Aborigines. Leading to the river from the eastward was a path which had been worn to the depth of two or three feet by the ponies. There were quite a large number of Indians of the Winnebago, Pottawottamie and Fox tribes remaining in and around Fulton when the early settlers came in, who mingled freely with them. The Cattail slough was a great hunting ground for furs, and in the proper season the Indians would pitch their tents wherever they chose, over this ground, and hunt and trap the fur bearing animals. They were not troublesome to the settlers.
Some years ago the latitude and longitude of Fulton was taken by James HAUN, United States Government Surveyor. The place was found to be in latitude 41 deg., 52 min., 3 sec. north and longitude 90 deg., 11 min., 3 sec., west of Greenwich.
The first settler in Fulton , and consequently father of the place, was Mr. John BAKER, a native of Queen Ann's county, Maryland. Upon arriving at his majority he went to Washington City, but remained there only a short time, and then went to New Orleans and entered into business with the full intention of making that city his permanent home. He was driven from there, however, in 1832 by that dreadful scourge the Asiatic cholera, which raged there with fearful and fatal force during that year. On leaving New Orleans he concluded to follow the Mississippi river upward until he found a place which appeared to him to be favorably located for the foundation of a town, being fully impressed that it was better to be a pioneer, and suffer the hardships of a pioneer's life, than to dwell in a city whose very air was tainted with disease, although surrounded while residing there by all the conveniences and luxuries of life. Borne on the noble stream by such craft as were in use at that day, he came upward until he reached Rock Island, where he disembarked and pursued his way by land to what is now known as the Meredocia, a few miles below Albany. Here he was found in November 1833, by Norman D FRENCH (now of Carroll county), who was assisting United States Government surveyors at that time in running the meander line on the Mississippi river, and subdividing the fractional townships on the east bank of the river from the mouth of Rock river to the northwest corner of Whiteside County. He remained at the Meredocia but a short time, and then came further up the river, and made a claim and built a cabin on the bank of the Mississippi, a short distance above the present village of Albany. During his stay at this place he occupied his time in prospecting, as he felt sure that not far from there he would find a location such as he desired for the establishment of a town. It did not take him long to find this location, for his eye soon fell on the Narrows of the Mississippi, and his clear judgment told him that at no distant day they would become an important point in the commercial and business world of the great West. He consequently remained but one season at his temporary quarters near Albany, and in the spring of 1835 drew up a claim for the ground where the city of Fulton now stands, and also for a quantity of land east of the town. Upon this land, near the Cattail creek, he erected a small building, the site being now occupied by the far house on Mrs. R S SAYRE'S Farm. He lived alone at this place for the first year, as he had done on his claims at the Meredocia and near Albany. The Indians were quite numerous around him at the time, but, by his uniform kindness to an courtesy towards them, he won them over to be his friends, and they so remained until their final departure for their far-west reservation.
During his residence here he entertained numerous persons who were seeking the Mississippi river or the Territory of Iowa, for even at that early day the Upper Mississippi had become noted as possessing many advantageous locations for business purposes, and Iowa for the exceeding richness and fertility of its soil and the healthfulness of its climate.
The house, or cabin, as it was called, was a small one, boasting of only three diminutive rooms; yet those who came there of an evening always found a good supper, night's lodging, and breakfast in the morning. Mr. John W BAKER, the second settler, as will be seen hereafter, informs us how very large parties were entertained by Mr. BAKER. We will give one instance. Late in the fall of 1836, the steamboats became frozen in the rapids at Rock Island, on their way to Galena, necessitating the passengers to take the land route. One afternoon after this occurrence about twenty persons came to Mr. BAKER'S Cabin, and being wearied, wanted to stay all night. He told them he would keep them the best he could, and soon served them with a supper of beef, potatoes and coffee, using tin cups for the latter; and as there were more customers than cups, some had to wait until their more fortunate companions had finished quaffing their portion of the beverage. These parties had no sooner been supplied than twenty more came, and as it was dark, they could not go any farther, there being no house nearer than Savanna, twenty miles distant. The question arose. "What can we do with the last comers?" A supper could be given them, but where were they to sleep, as the first twenty had the preference of the house? It was finally decided to have John W BAKER go out into the woods just north of the house and build a big fire by the side of a huge log - for it was cold and there was snow on the ground - and by that fire the last twenty were to encamp, with such blankets and other covering as the family could afford. This was done, the first twenty being packed somewhere in the house, and the other encamped Indian fashion around the fire in the woods. At daylight in the morning all had their breakfast, and soon after started on their route as joyfully as though they had slept on "beds of downy ease" and fared at the table of a Dement house. There are many persons yet living who have pleasant recollections of Mr. BAKER'S hostelry near the Cattail. In 1850 Mr. BAKER went to California to seek relief from the asthma, a disease with which he had been afflicted for some time, and remained there for nearly three years. On his return, however, the disease again became troublesome, and on the breaking out of the gold excitement in Colorado he went thither, partly for its relief, and partly to reap a rich reward in the diggings of the new Eldorado. He finally ended his wanderings by settling down in the city of Fulton where he built a brick house on Broadway, now occupied by Justice T H SMITH, in which he died in December 1863 at the age of 63 years. Mr. BAKER was twice married. His first wife was Miss Maria ALLEN, whom he married at Port Byron, Rock Island County in July 1836. He was married to his second wife, Mrs. HUMPHREY at Elkhorn Grove, Ogle County in the spring of 1840. There was one child by his first wife, William BAKER who now lives in O'Brien County Iowa. His widow is still living, and resides with Mrs. John PHELPS, a daughter by her first marriage in the city of Fulton. Although at an advanced age, her recollection of early Fulton is still strong and vivid.
The second settler was John W Baker, now a well to do farmer, and resident of Garden Plain. John W also came from Queen Ann's county Maryland, and was attracted to the Mississippi by the glowing accounts of his uncle, the original John. He came in the fall of 1836 and brought with him his wife, three sisters and a niece. At that time there were no houses in Fulton, and for the first season all lived with John Baker in the little house near the Cattail and helped entertain the travelers and land seekers who were then flocking "Westward, Ho." Edward Rolph and Thomas Dale came the same year.
Quite a large accession was made to the infant settlement in 1837, the following being the arrivals: James McCoy, Henry C Fellows, Dr. Daniel Reed, R J Jenks, Jeremiah Humphreys, Alvin Humphreys, George W Kellogg, John B Jenkins, Robert Booth, John Redfern, Henry M Grinnold, John Grinnold, Jesse Johnson, William H Knight, David Ross, Hosea Jacobs, Isaac Wickson, Lyman Blake, Enos Herdman, J B Rhodes, Moses Barlow, Allen Graves, Jonathan Briggs, A Briggs, Thomas Baker, Edward Cowdrey and Alonzo Terrell. Among those who came in 1838 were Edward Church, Royal Jacobs Sen., Royal Jacobs Jr, A M Wing, Caleb Clark, and Rev. John Prentiss; and in 1839 Hollis Chenery, Augustine Phelps, Jacob Baker and Family, John G Colin, H H Fowler, William Grant and Thomas Sey. After 1839 the settlers came in more numerously.
Of those who came in the years above mentioned the following still reside in Fulton: James McCoy, Henry C Fellows, Dr. Daniel Reed, William H Knight, Lyman Blake and Caleb Clark. William Grant resides in Garden Plain.
The first white women who settled in the town were Mrs. John W Baker, Misses Rosena, Frances and Martha Baker and Elizabeth Skinner. The latter died in 1837 as mentioned elsewhere. Mrs. Baker is still living. Rosena Baker married Jacob Parker of Garden Plain; Francis Baker married Edward Rolph, and Martha Baker married John Lashell, now living in the city of Fulton. Mary and Ora Frost, and other white women, came soon after the above.
The first white child born in Fulton was a son of Robert and Phoebe Booth the birth occurring in the winter of 1838. He was named John Fulton Booth, and died about three years ago in Decatur County IA.
The first death and burial in Fulton was that of Miss Elizabeth Skinner, the niece of John W Baker who had come out with him from Maryland in 1836. She died of consumption in January 1837 at the age of 22 years. She had been suffering with this disease for several years, and thought by a change of climate the hand of the fell destroyer could be averted, but his grasp was too firmly fixed; and away from her old Maryland home and in the then far and almost uncivilized West, she yielded up her young life. The funeral was a very primitive one, the coffin being made from an old wagon box, and the remains conveyed to their last resting place in an open wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen. There was such a dearth of nails and other material for the proper construction of a coffin that John W Baker was compelled to sit in the wagon and hold it together, while John Baker and Edward Rolph drove the oxen on the way from the house to the burial place. The interment was made on the high bluff nearly opposite where Culbertson, Smith & Co's saw mill now stands, and on that bold point far above the beautiful river, on a bleak, cold day in midwinter, over forty years ago, the first white person in Fulton was laid to rest. The grave was made by the side of a young Indian child who had been buried a short time before. Not long after the burial of Miss Skinner, a Dr. Fowler, and a little German boy who been drowned in the river, were buried there. and we believe the spot was used as a burying ground until the present cemetery was laid out.
As faithful chroniclers we must not forget the first marriage which occurred in the town. Although there were no marriage bells to merrily peal forth an announcement of the happy event, yet we have no doubt the occasion was one of as great rejoicing, and the twain as supremely happy as though the bride's trousseau had been brought from Paris, the wedding presents costly and innumerable, and a thousand bells had rung out their merry peals of joy from a thousand towers. The fortunate couple were Edward Rolph and Frances Baker and the marriage took place at the house of John Baker in the fall of 1837, Moses Barlow, Justice of the Peace, performing the ceremony. Mrs. Daniel Reed supervised the culinary department for the occasion and made a bride's cake which called forth the wonder and astonishment of all. So highly pleased was the bride with its richness and ornamental beauty, that she called all of her friends, as fast they arrived , into Mrs. Reed's room to look at and admire it with her. Those who were present at the wedding, and are no living, say they could not conceive how Mrs. Reed could make such a cake with the limited material for so necessary an appendage to a marriage feast, then to be had. They can only account for it from the fact that Mrs. Reed possessed the skill of making the most toothsome viands from the scantiest larder - a skill which no other lady then possessed in this section of the country, and probably none since. Invitations to the wedding were extended to every man, woman and child for miles around, and it is said that everyone attended except a Mrs. Foote, who was detained at home on account of illness. It was in every sense of the word a pioneer wedding, and celebrated as only pioneers of that day could celebrate an event of the kind.
The following facts of interest relating to the Precinct and Township of Fulton are gleaned from the records on file at the County Clerks' office in Morrison.
At a meeting of the County Commissioners held at the house of William D Dudley, in Lyndon May 16 1839, it was ordered that Road District No. 10 shall embrace all the territory in Fulton Precinct and that John Baker be appointed Supervisor. At the same meeting it was ordered that Hosea Jacobs be appointed Assessor of the Precinct. The books afterwards show that Mr. Jacobs received $8 for four days work in assessing.
On May 11 1839, the following petition was received by the County Commissioners from several of the citizens of Fulton.: Fulton City Petition vs. License and Ardent Spirits. To the County Commissioners of Whiteside county: We the subscribers, respectfully petition your Honorable Court that no license be granted in Fulton Precinct for retailing ardent spirits by the drink. Signed: Daniel Reed, William Ross, Richard L Mills, Elijah K Webb, John K Prentiss, Hollis Chenery, A Phelps, W H Knight, W Y Ives, Henry Bond, Lewis Graves, H F Rice, Moses W Jenks, Reuben S Rhodes, Nathan Scott, John Morgan. Four of the signers still reside in and near Fulton, to wit: Dr. Daniel Reed, W Y Ives, William H Knight and Henry Bond. The petition was not favorably received by the County Commissioners.
On the 2nd of July 1839 the County Commissioners were asked to lay out a road from Fulton to Lyndon, by the way of Delhi, and John Baker, C G Woodruff and Wm Farrington were appointed road viewers. The viewers were to serve without pay to the county.
At the meeting of the Commissioners in December 1839, it was ordered that Caleb Clark be licensed to keep a public house in Fulton City by paying $25 into the Clerk's office.
On the 1st of Jun 1840 James McCoy entered a complaint before the Commissioners against Daniel Reed, A M Wing and Caleb Clark for neglect in keeping a ferry boat across the Mississippi at Fulton. Upon appearing before the Commissioners Court the defendants counsel made a motion to quash for variance between the summons and complaint. The motion was overruled, but after a hearing the case was dismissed.
On the 8th of Jun 1841 it was ordered that Royal Jacobs have three additional months in which to complete the horse ferry boat then in progress of building at Fulton.
On the 7th of Sep 1842 a writ was issued by Guy Ray, Clerk of the Count Commissioners Court, by order of said court, to the sheriff of the county, upon application of James McCoy commanding him to summon twelve good and lawful men of the county to meet on the 30th day of September 1842 on the se 1⁄4 of SW 1⁄4 of Section 11 Township 22, north of range 3 east of 4th principal meridian, the property of said James McCoy, and then and there set apart by metes and bounds so much land as will be sufficient to erect a mill dam in the stream of Johnson's Creek on said land to propel a saw mill and such other mills or machinery as the said McCoy or his assigns may erect thereon, and also view and assess the damages that others may sustain by reason of the overflow of any land or lands of any other person or persons by reason of the erection of said dam and report the same to the County Commissioners Court at the text term thereof. The writ was duly served by Henry C Fellows, Deputy Sheriff. The jury reported in favor of the writ, and proceeded to set apart by mets and bounds land sufficient to build a saw mill, or such other mills and machinery as James McCoy my deem meet to erect; also to erect a dam in the stream of Johnson's Creek to propel such mill, mills or machinery. The jury also allowed by their inquest that the dam e raised 12 feet provided it does not flow the water over the natural bank at the junction of Otter and Johnson's Creeks; but if it should do so, then it is not to be raised higher than to raise the water to the top of said creek bank. It was found that about six acres of lands of Joseph Fowler , at the junction of the two creeks, would be overflowed, and it was therefore adjudged that the sum of $8 should be paid to said Fowler.
At the election held on the 3rd of April, 1849, upon the question of the removal of the County Seat, Fulton Precinct gave 11 votes for Sterling and 71 for Lyndon.
The records of the Town Clerk show that the first meeting under the township organization law was held at the house of Wilson S. Wright, on the day of April, 1852. Charles J. Johnson was chosen Moderator, and James F Booth, Clerk proterm. Forty-one votes were polled, and the following officers elected: Supervisor, Wilson S Wright; Town Clerk, Orlando Sprague; Justices of the Peace, Elias Sage and Charles J Johnson; Collector, E. Humphreys; Assessor, G H Rice; Overseer of Poor, James F Booth; Commissioners of Highways, G H Rice, John Masters, Elias Sage; Constables, Warren Bond, N R Boon.
At that town meeting it was voted to let hogs run at large; that $100 be raised by taxation to defray the expenses of the town for the ensuing year, and that a lawful fence be four feet six inches high, the first two feet the opening not to exceed four inches, and the next two feet not to exceed ten inches.
On the 29th of the same month Orlando Sprague resigned his position as Town Clerk, and James McCoy was appointed by the Justices of the Peace to fill the vacancy. Sterns Ostrander was appointed at the same time Commissioner of Highways, in place of John Masters who failed to qualify.
At the second town meeting held at the house of Wilson S Wright on the 5th of April 1853, only 26 votes were polled.
The following is a list of town officer to date:
SUPERVISORS: 1852-53 Wilson S Wright; 1854-55 A W Benton; 1856 W C Snyder; 1857 H C Fellows, 1858 C N Wheeler; 1859-60 H C Fellows; 1861-62 I G Gates; 1863-64 H C Fellows; 1865 John Phelps; 1866 I G Gates; 1867 John Dyer; 1868 - 69 B Robinson; 1870 H C Fellows; 1871 Richard Green; Mr. G resigned and H C Fellows was appointed; 1872 H C Fellows; 1873-74 A R McCoy; Mr. McCoy resigned during the year having been elected a Representative to the Legislature, and J C Mitchell was appointed; 1875 John Dyer; 1876-77 W Y Wetzell
TOWN CLERKS: 1852 Orlando Sprague; 1853-54 Jas. F Booth; 1855 L R Warner; 1856 J F Booth; 1857-58 Geo. S Phelps; 1859 N F Webb; 1860-61 J T Wiswell; 1862 J F Booth; 1863 J B Peabody; 1864 W E Bassett; 1865 Wesley West; 1866-67 Daniel Reed; 1868-70 E Summers; 1871 A R McCoy; 1872 Wm C Green 2nd; 1873 John Exley; 1874-75 Thom. H Smith; 1876 L F Puffer; 1877 S V Boyer.
ASSESSORS: 1852 G H Rice; 1853 E Summers; 1854-56 H C Fellows; 1857 John Phelps; 1858 B S Gerrish; 1859 Orlando Sprague; 1860 J P Jacobs; 1861 Oralando Sprague; 1862 H C Fellows; 1863 Daniel Reed; 1864 I G Gates; 1865-66 D E Dodge; 1867 E Summers; 1868-71 C B Mercereau; 1872 G W Padelford; 1873-76 J C Mitchell; 187 Fred W Pearson.
COLLECTORS: 1852 E Humphreys; 1853 R M Rockwell; 1854 R E Benton; 1855 Austin David; 1856 J F Booth; 1857-59 W C Snyder; 1860 John Dyer; 1861-62 Richard Green; 1863-64 W West; 1865-66 E Summers; 1867-68 John N Baird; 1869 J C Mitchell; 1870-72 J W Smith; 1873 Wm C Green 2d; 1874-76 E D Chapman; 1877 C L Marcellus.
JUSTICES OF THE PEACE: 1852 E Sage, Chas. J Johnson; 1854 H C Fellows, E Summers; 1856 J M Brown, R Patrick; 1858 R M Rockwell E summers; 1859 H C Fellows, E Summers; 1860 E Summers, Wesley West; 1864 E Summers, Wesley West; 1866 Daniel Reed; 1868 E Summers, J N Baird; 1869 A W Plumley; 1872 H C Fellows, John Dyers; 1873 Abner Ustick, J C Mitcehll; 1876 Thomas H Smith, N E Wheeler; 1877 Thos. H Smith, George Terwilliger
School District No 2 is situated in the northeast part of the Township near where Norman E Wheeler resides. The school building is a large one and supplied with good seats and apparatus. Being the only school district out of the city, the attendance of scholars, especially during the fall and winter months is sufficient to demand the services of 2 teachers. The present teachers are Mr. James Kirk, Principal and Miss Jennie Linn Assistant.
The township consists of 4191 acres of improved lands and 7936 of unimproved. Of improved lots there are 360 and of unimproved 750. The number of horses in the town as shown by the Assessors book for 1877 is 324; cattle 619; mules and asses 14; sheep 8; hogs 524; carriages and wagons 190; sewing and knitting machines 176; piano fortes 29; melodeons and organs 29. Total value of lands, lots and personal property $486,909; value of railroad property $51,747. Total assessed value of all property in 1877 $333.370.
The population of the township outside the city in 1870 was 287, of which 196 were of native birth - 91 of foreign birth. The present population estimated at 400.