History of Mt. Pleasant Township
From Bent-Wilson History Book, 1877
Posted by Bob Mosher
Mt Pleasant is the name of township 21, range 5 east of the 4th principal meridian. It was organized in 1852 from Union Precinct and denominated "Mount Pleasant" by A.C. Johnson, the name having been previously applied to a small school house, situated upon a little knoll near Morrison, by one of the early teachers of the township. It contains 36 sections of land - 23,040 acres. The land is principally undulating prairie and of exceeding fertility. Rock creek, which flows in a general southerly direction throughout the western part of the township, presents, along its course, a series of small bluffs covered with timber. The stream furnishes a number of valuable mill sites, and excellent quarries of sand and lime stone are found along its banks. The principal groves of forest trees are in the immediate vicinity of Morrison. The productions of the township are mainly corn, cattle, hogs and horses. The quantity of pork produced is very large. The yield of corn is excellent, and of a superior quality. Latterly wheat has not been produced to any extent; but formerly the yield was large, as the following extract from the "Whiteside Sentinel" of September 1, 1857, will shows:
"In the spring of 1856, Mr. George D Brown purchased eighty acres of prairie land in Mt. Pleasant township. This land was immediately broken up, and this spring was sowed to wheat. The crop (just harvested) has paid for the land, expenses of breaking, fencing, harvesting, etc., and ten percent on cost of purchase. This land has since been sold for $30.00 per acre - clearing to Mr. Brown, in the space of about one year the neat sum of $2,400."
The first settlement made on the territory now embraced by Mount Pleasant township was in the latter part of 1835 by Wm. H. Pashcal, John D. Paschal, James J. Thomas , and Felix French. These gentlemen selected claims in and near the timber just east of the present City of Morrison. Jonathan Haines, of Tazewell county, visited the section now known as Jacobstown, in 1835, and the next year settled there and erected a small saw mill on the east side of the creek. After sawing one log a freshet carried off the mill. Subsequently Mr. Haines erected a grist and saw mill which rendered service for a number of years, and proved of much value and convenience of th settlers. About the year 1837 Mr. Haines laid out "Illinois City" just west of Jacobstown. Ten acres were included in the "city" and lots offered without money and without price to all who would improve them. The lots were not improved, and "Illinois City" never was graced by blocks of buildings and a great population, with a directory and City Council. On the older maps the "city" is marked in larger letters than the State Capital, and emigrants traveling westward prior to 1840 often heard of "Illinois City."
The earliest settlers were not favorably disposed to locating upon the prairie, and usually made their claims in the timber or its immediate vicinity. The timber growth found by the pioneers was large and of good quality. Trees that would produce three rail cuts were abundant.
In November, 1835, William H. Paschal completed a log cabin which was occupied during the winter by W.H. and J.D. Paschal, Felix French and James J. Thomas. The next spring prairie land was broken and planted with corn, the crop being known as "sod corn." This was doubtless the first farming in Mt. Pleasant township. At this time the Winnebago Indians were numerous, peaceable, but natural thieves and very filthy. This tribe disappeared in 1838 after having nearly exterminated the game. Wolves abounded and were very bold, causing the settlers much trouble. At one time a pack of them made an attack on Mr. Paschal's dog when tied within ten feet of the cabin, and but for prompt interference the canine would have furnished a supper for the hungry brutes. Wolves infested the country inpacks for some ten or fifteen years afterwards, and were destructive to pigs and poultry, until the county became more generally settled, and liberal bounties were paid for their destruction. The scalps became a circulating medium and stood at par, while the "wild cat" and "red dog" money of those days was at fifty per cent discount.
In 1836, George O. James settled in the north part of the township, and the same year, J.B. and Pardon M. Dodge located near where Morrison now is. Jonathan Haines, Horace Heaton, Henry Boyer, and Samuel Love also made settlement this year.
William Heaton and family settled in 1837. He with those of his sons who were grown up made claims in the north part of the township. A.C. Jackson in 1837 purchased a claim from Pardon Dodge and became a resident. Soon after John W. Stakes and James Knox with his family of boys moved into the settlement from the Rock river country in the south part of the county. Anthony M. Thomas, and his sons John R., G.W., and Wm. C., and John M. Bowman, Pleasant Stanley, and John James, came into the township this year. In those early days but few of the pioneers were "visionary" enough to think the surrounding prairies would, in a score of years, be converted into cultivated farms and dotted over with fine residences. In common with others of the county the pioneers of Mt. Pleasant experienced great privations. Before they produced grain they were compelled to pay as high as $1.00 per bushel for poor corn to subsist upon. After they commenced raising grains and pork they were obliged to transport it many miles, sell it for a very small price, and "take pay in trade." As the community increased in population and resources, roads were viewed and established, and all the elements of civilization brought into use.
One of the first cares of the settler was the establishing of schools. In 1838 Oliver Hall was employed by the handful of pioneers, by subscription, to conduct a school in a little log structure in Mr. Paschal's timber. The "windows" of this primitive "temple of learning" were made by stretching greased paper over openings in the logs. For his services Mr. Hall was paid $10.00 a month and "boarded 'round". He was succeeded as teacher by Mr. Benjamin Burns, now a resident of Union Grove Township. Mr. Oliver Hall, the first school teacher in Mt. Pleasant, was born in Charlton, Wooster county, Massachusetts. He resided in that State until 1838, when he emigrated to Whiteside county, Illinois. After a residence of three or four years he returned to New England where he remained fifteen years, then came back to Whiteside county, and is now a resident of Morrison.
The settlers were not deprived of gospel services. The Methodist Episcopal Church had pushed far out into the wilderness and upon the prairie, and the pioneers had the benefit of the mission services. Rev. James McKean, a missionary, held religious services at Elkhorn, and in the grove in Mt. Pleasant, preaching at the house of James J. Thomas. In 1836 he formed a "class" composed of James J. Thomas and wife and George O. James and his wife, the first religious organization in Mt. Pleasant. A Rev. Mr. James and Rev. Barton H. Cartwright frequently conducted services after Mr. McKean. Mr. Cartwright was then upon the circuit and reached Union Grove, as the timber about Morrison was called, once in four weeks. Through other works the readers of the History have all become familiar with the description of the itinerant preacher upon his circuit. Gospel services were conducted afterwards by D.B. Young, Samuel Slocumb of Albany, and Thomas Freek, who resided not far from Erie; also a young gentleman from Fulton. These religious laborers were known as "local preachers." The gospel was preached in this way from 1836 to 1842 or '43, when stated services were held at the school houses, then springing up, and also at Unionville. Previous to the school house preaching, the cabins of the settlers had been required to do duty as churches, and the "neighbors" from Winchell's Grove, now Kingsbury Grove, in Newton, counted it no hardship to drive to Mount Pleasant to listen to the gospel.
In January, 1843, the "land came into market" and it was necessary to pay for the claims, the Government price being $1.25 per acre, payment to be made in gold or silver. The settlers had come to the country poor in purse, the finances were in a distracted condition, and the products of the land commanded but a small price, therefore the men who had made claims met with great difficulty in securing the money necessary. Mr. J.D. Paschal relates that he sold his hogs for $1.50 a hundred, and other products at similar figures, and with much labor and tribulation paid for the land. His experience was that of nearly all the settlers. Previous to the purchase of the land the settlers were annoyed by "claim jumping" - that is , locating on lands previously claimed, and for mutual protection the farmers of this vicinity formed themselves into a society to prevent claim jumping. A.C. Jackson was at one time President. In this township little trouble was experienced, but in other portions of the county there was considerable difficulty. The man who had the temerity to jump a settler's claim was frequently assisted to "jump off" in a manner more vigorous than pleasant. The whip, rope and gun being readily brought into requisition when necessary.
As nearly as can be ascertained, the first funeral in Mt. Pleasant township occurred in 1836, being that of James Heaton, who was buried in a grave yard near Jacobstown. The first child born in the township was in June 1836 and named John French, a son of Felix French.
The first wedding celebrated in Mt. Pleasant township was in 1836, at the house of Henry Boyer, who then resided near where Jacobstown now is, at the spring on the Morrison and Jacobstown road. The contracting parties were John Powell and Miss Campbell, afterwards Mrs. Russell, who died about two years ago in Morrison. J. T. Atkinson, a Justice of the Peace, performed the ceremony. Mr. J.D. Paschal, who was then a singing master, was to have a singing school at Mr. Boyer's house, and this was chosen as an auspicious time for the ceremony. A large party of the settlers assembled, and were thoroughly surprised and delighted by the novelty of a wedding. The ceremony was followed by good old-fashioned singing and an excellent meal. There of rare occurrence until several years later. representatives of the fair sex was not so numerous in 1836 in Mt. Pleasant as at the present day, and weddings we
The pioneers of Mt. Pleasant suffered for the bare necessities of life during the first year of their settlement. Mr. J.J. Thomas relates that food was so scarce that it was divided so closely that a spoon was necessary to make an equal division. During the winter, owing to lack of hay and absence of other feed, many cattle starved to death. In the spring Mr. Thomas only had four head left out of twenty-two he had driven from the south part of the State. In the spring in company with Mr. James Heaton, he visited Milledgeville, where there was a "corn cracker," to secure food. They purchased a few bushels of frosted corn from a Mr. Ankeny, at $1.00 a bushel. This they shelled and carried upon their backs three miles to the "corn cracker," where they gave a third to have it ground. Mr. Heaton had a pair or weak, starved oxen, at Ankeny's , with which they started for Union Grove with their precious food, but so feeble were the cattle that it was two days before the journey was accomplished.
The settlers suffered to a considerable extent from ague and other diseases peculiar to new countries. Physicians were few and at great distances, so that the medicines were principally furnished by Nature, reinforced by "Ague and bilious specifics," brought from the former homes of the emigrants.
The following is the first record of school meetings obtainable; "pursuant to public notice, the citizens of township 21 north, range 5 east, county of Whiteside, Illinois, met at the house of A. M. Thomas, on January 1, 1846 and elected Wm. Knox, A.C. Jackson and Jonathan Haines, Trustees of said town. The trustees met at the house of A.C. Jackson, and appointed Jonathan Haines Treasurer of said Board." April 13, 1846, "The Trustees, with the County Surveyor, proceeded to survey section 16. The section was divided into eight lots, and prices fixed at $1.25, $1.50, $1.75 and $2.50 per acre." October 2, 1847, the school fund of the township was reported to be $412.74; the number of all white children under the age of 20 years 118, of which number 17 were in district No. 1; it was also ordered that wood for schools be purchased at $1.00 a cord. April, 1848, the school fund was $1.171; money in the Treasurer's hands subject to distribution, $35.25; it was "ordered that the Treasurer pay himself from the above sum $3.22, and $19.75 to the School Commissioner for selling school lands, and the balance to A.P. Young, School teacher, except so much as will be necessary to purchase "a pail and cup for the school." April 19, 1856, the township was divided into school districts; District No. 1 to consist of Sections 17, 18, 19 and 20; District No. 2, sections 1,2,3,4,9,10,11, and 12, and the north one half of sections 13 and 14; District No. 3, sections 5,6,7 and 8; District No. 4, sections 29, 30,31 and 32; District No. 5, sections 23,24,25,26,35,36, and south half of 13. District No. 6, sections 27, 28,33 and 34; District No. 7, sections 15,16,21 and 22. In 1857 District No. 2 was divided, sections 3,4 9 and 10 remaining as No. 2, while sections 1,2,11,12 and the north half of Sections 13 and 14, were erected into District No. 8.
Round Grove, a railway station in the eastern part of Mt. Pleasant, was surveyed and laid out in January, 1856, by W.S. Wilkinson, at the direction of and for John A. Holland, Chas. D. Sanford, Jedediah I. Wonser, and James McCoy. Considerable shipping is done at this point by the farmers. There is a post office, store, etc, at the station. An excellent school house is located here, and also a Methodist church in which services are maintained by the Methodist Society, and occasionally by other denominations.
In the early history of the country small collections of settlers were usually made in the vicinity of the mills where people came from great distances to have their grain ground, and thus the little hamlet of Jacobstown came into existence. The place was named for Royal Jacobs, who managed the mill. At one time there was a store in the place that had a large trade, a blacksmith and cooper shop, etc. A heavy business was done at the mill, but now the shops and stores are gone, and Jacobstown exists as a town and trading point only in name.
The records of the first township meeting in Mt. Pleasant read as the annexed: " Annual town meeting of legal voters of Mt. Pleasant convened at the Mt. Pleasant school house, April 6, 1852 and Ward P. Lewis was chosen Moderator, and John W Staketems elected Clerk pro . Officers duly sworn in by an acting Justice of the Peace, after which the meeting proceeded to the election of township officers for the ensuing year by ballot. On the canvass of the votes the following officers were declared duly elected; Supervisor, Aaron C Jackson; Assessor, Alfred Haines; Collector, Cyrus P. Emery; Overseer of the Poor, John James; Commissioners of Highways, William H Paschal, R. K Hiddleson and Horace Heaton; Justices of the Peace, G H Dimick and R K Hiddleson; Constables, Cyrus P Emery and A.C. Pratt. Six overseers of Highways were elected - J M Lenhart, Henry Wyman, Alson Knox, H H Jacobs, George O James and J Kennedy.
April 5, 1853, it was "resolved, that a lawful fence for this town for the ensuing year shall be of rails, posts and rails or posts and boards, and shall be four and a half feet from the top to the ground, and sufficiently tight to turn cattle, sheep and hogs running at large." An effort was made to prevent hogs running at large, but failed. It was decided to prevent calves under one year of age from running at large; also "that every man be his own pound-master for 1853". April 4, 1854 it was ordered that all hogs be shut up. April 1856, it was ordered that all owners of bulls, over six months old, found running at large, be fined $5, the fines to be applied to roads and bridges; also decided by vote "that pigs and hogs be confined, and all legal voters authorized to take them up when found running at large, and to be entitled to 25 cents for hogs and 12 1⁄2 cents for pigs, animals to be advertised and if not claimed to be sold, the seller to be responsible to the owner for the money received, above expenses of taking up, advertising, etc." April 1857, at a town meeting held in Johnson's Hall, A C Jackson, H A Johnson and John E Bennett were appointed a committee to frame a hog law; swine and sheep were prohibited from running at large, under a penalty of $5; 40 cents road tax was levied upon each $100 worth of property. April 1859, a road tax of 40 cents on each $100 was levied; dogs were taxed, the proceeds to be devoted to road and bridge purposes; J.A. Fisher was appointed Poundmaster. April 1860, a resolution was adopted by which a fine of $1 shall be assessed for scouring plows upon public highways; the road tax levied was 20 cents upon each $100; one-half of funds arising from fines for violation of stock law to be turned into poor fund for the benefit of widows and orphans. In 1865 it was resolved to give each volunteer who is credited, or may be under the last call, to the town, $110.00
Since the township organization of 1852 the following have been officers of Mt. Pleasant:
Supervisors: 1852 - 56 Aaron C Jackson; 1857-58 Ward P Lewis; 1859-63 S H McCrea; 1864 -70 Henry R Sampson; 1871-73 Addison Farrington; April 7 1874 Winfield S Wilkinson was elected and resigned September 3 1874; Dewitt C McAllister was appointed to fill the vacancy; 1875-77 Dwight S Spafford.
Town Clerks: 1852-56 Ward P Lewis; 1857 Wm W Houseman; 1858-60 H P Roberts; 1861-63 Henry R Sampson; 1864-65 E L Worthington; 1866-71 Frank Clendenin; 1872-77 J M Burtch
Assessors: 1852, Alfred Haines; 1853, John W Stakes; 1854, Gilbert H Dimick; 1855 V V Vedder; 1856 Cyrus P Emery; 1857 Wm Knox; 1858 A C Jackson; 1859 Wm Knox; 1860 Ezra Finch; 1861 D K Lincoln; 1862-64 Thomas Steere; 1865 George D Brown; 1866-68 DeWitt C McAllister; 1869-72 Ward P Lewis; 1873 Meril Mead; 1874-76 Ward P Lewis; 1877 Dewitt C McAllister
Collectors: 1852 -55 Cyrus P Emery; 1856-57 ALfred Haines; 1858-60 Bela C Bailey; 1861-62 John E Duffin; 1863 John S Gillett; 1864-65 Erastus B Humphrey; 1866 Wm H Judd; 1867-68 Thmoas Allen; 1869 M Y Lewis; 1870-71 Wm H McInroy; 1872 Edwin J Congar; 1873-74 A P Young; 1875-77 John N Baird
Justices of the Peace: 1852 Gilbert H Dimick, R K Hiddleson; 1856 Simon Fellows, Henry S Vroom; 1857 Hiram Olmstead, H S Vroom; 1860 James Cobleigh (County Seat Justice), Hiram Olmstead, Simon Fellows; 1864 William Lane, Simon Fellows, Sewel Smith; 1868 Addison Farrington, Geo. H Fay, James Cobleigh; 1872-77 George H Fay, John N Baird.
The following is assessed value of the different kinds of property in Mt. Pleasant township, including Morrison, as shown by the Assessor's book for 1877. The assessed value is about two fifths of the actual value; No. Acres improved land, 21,723; acres unimproved land, 588; valuation of improved land, $417,773; value of unimproved land, $6,903; improved lots, 431; unimproved lots, 68; value of improved lots, $197,045; value of unimproved lots $2,112; number of horses 581; cattle 1474; mules and asses 19; sheep 390; hogs 1999; fire and burglar proof sales 28; billiard and similar tables 11; carriages and wagons 278; watches and clocks 485; sewing and knitting machines 291; piano fortes 28; melodeons and organs 73; value of merchandise $36,865; value of material and manufactured articles $1975; value of manufacturing tools, credits other than banks, $47,250; value of household and office furniture, $11,023; value of shares of national bank stock $40,000; value of all personal property $203,368; value of railroad property $28,000; assessed value of all property $855,698.
The population of Mt Pleasant township, including Morrison, according to the census report was in 1870 - 2,553 persons. In November 1876, the township polled 624 votes, which at the usual estimate would show the population of the township to be 3,120. The census of School district No. 1, which embraces Morrison, showed a population of 2,031. The inhabitants of the township and city of Morrison are principally American, the census of 1870 enumerating only 378 persons of foreign birth and ten negros. The population of the township in 1877 is about 3200.