History of Genesse Township
From Bent-Wilson History Book, 1877
Posted by Dana Fellows
The Township of Genesee comprises Congressional township No. 22 north, range 6 east of the 4th principal meridian. Previous to Whiteside county completing its full organization, Genesee formed first a part of Crow Creek Precinct, then of Elkhorn Precinct, and afterwards was laid off as a Precinct by itself, and called Genesee Grove Precinct and in 1852 was made a township by the Commissioners appointed by the County Commissioners' Court to divide the county into townships and give each its name and boundaries, under the township organization law. The township is divided into timber and prairie land. A grove in the northwest part, called Genesee Grove, is about 6 miles long and 3 miles broad. The balance is a beautiful, rich, rolling prairie. It is watered by Spring creek, which has its rise on the lands of W. Wetzell, on section 10 and also by branches of Rock creek on the west, and a branch of Otter creek on the north. The government survey of the township was made in 1842, by Mr. Sanderson, and now in 1877, it is all in cultivated fields and pasture land. The lands were brought into market and sold at public auction by the Government, at Dixon in 1843.
Among the early settlers of Genesee, Jesse Hill Sr, Adam James and John James, came in 1835; John Wick, William Wick, Eli Redman, Mark Harrison, Joseph Mush and Samuel Landis, in 1836; Ivory Colcord, Pleasant Stanley, Isaac Brookfield, James McMullen and Jacob Huffman in 1837; Levi Marble, Edward Richardson, Mr. Carr, Harvey Summers, John Thompson Crum, Martin D McCrea, William Crum and Henry H Holbrook, in 1838. James Scoville, R Tilton Hughes, Ezra R Huett, Rensselaer Baker, Israel Reed, Marvin Chappell and Watson Parish in 1839.
The first school taught in what is now the township of Genesee, was in the house of William Wick and the sessions held during the evening, Ivory Colcord being the teacher. This was in the winter of 1837-38. Some of the young men of that time commenced there to learn their alphabet, and afterwards obtained sufficient education to enable them to conduct business. Following this was a school taught by Dinsmoor Barnett, near the residence of Mr. Wick. It is related that at this school, just before one Christmas, the scholars, following the usage of primeval days, barricaded the door and kept the teacher outside until he agreed to treat them with apples and pies. After the compact had been entered into, the door was opened and the teacher came in and resumed his authority, when the school work went on as though there had been no interruption. At the appointed time the apples and pies were forthcoming as per stipulation. Another instance of the same kind occurred at a school near the Grove. Here the doors and windows were barred, and the teacher denied admittance unless he would promise to furnish cake and pies for a Christmas Treat. Unlike the other teacher, he protested against the extravagance of the demand, contending that he was unable to purchase the pastry for the reason that his pay was only ten dollars per month. He finally effected a compromise, however, by agreeing to supply whiskey and sugar. The result was that some of the pupils became intoxicated, and had to be taken home to their mothers in a lumber wagon drawn by oxen. A school was also taught about this time by Nelson Fletcher, near Prospect Grove. Mr. Fletcher afterwards resided in Carroll county, and for a portion of the time was County Superintendent of Schools of that county. Log school houses were built in the township as soon as four or five families settled near each other. in those early days the school house was used for holding religious services, and was free to all denominations alike. The first school house was erected in 1837, near the creek north of William Wicks's residence, and within a few rods of Walter Doud's. Soon after another was built on the north side of the grove, near the Hill residence. Genesee now boasts of her fine, commodious structures for school purposes.
The first church society organized in the town was that of the Methodists. This was about 1838. The next was by the Christians in 1839 and consisted of twelve members. The first Church edifice was erected by the United Brethren.
During the winter of 1835-36, grist had to be taken to Morgan county 150 miles south, to be ground, and all the other necessaries of life had to be brought from that place. There were no bridges, and but few ferries across the streams, so that the crossings had to be mainly made by swimming or wading. Early settlers were therefore, obliged to live frugally. Pork was worth only from 75 cents to $1.50 per hundred; corn 8 to 15 cents per bushel, and wheat 30 cents per bushel. Boots, shoes and clothing had to be bought on long time, and paid for out of the products of the farm, and when the prices were low, or the crops failed, the constable's fees would often be added to the debt. Sometimes the store bills had to be closed up by giving promissory notes at a high rate of interest.
All the north half of the timber and the adjoining prairie of Genesee Grove, were in early times claimed by the Hill family, and the south half by the James brothers and their assignee, William Wick, hence every settler who came to the grove was compelled to purchase timber and prairie claims from one or the other of these land jobbers. Some plucky settlers, however, refused to buy claims. This being a violation of the claim laws, messengers, young men mostly, were dispatched on swift horses to convene the members of the Claim Association, and in great emergencies the members of other Associations. Upon coming together the members would proceed to hear the proofs and allegations on both sides, and then decide the matter by a vote. If the decision was in favor of the "jumper" he was secure in his title, but if adverse a semi=military organization, properly officered, would be effected, whose duty it was to proceed at once to the cabin of the trespasser and remove his goods and family there from, and then either tear the building down or burn it. In all these contests about claims the alleged trespasser always had friends, and sometimes they would constitute the majority of the meeting. In such an event victory would perch upon his banner. As an instance of how the matter worked at times, we give the following which occurred in Genesee: Three brothers went to the land office at Dixon, and entered claims upon which four of the actual settlers had built cabins and made improvements. As soon as this was ascertained a meeting of the members of all the adjoining Claim Associations was called, the number present being variously estimated at from two to three hundred. The first thing decided upon at the meeting was, to turn out with axes and wagons and cut and haul the timber from the lands of these brothers to the land belonging to other parties. This was done, but the "jumpers" did not budge. A subsequent meeting was then held and the brothers arrested. This time a demand was made of them to convey the lands to the first claimants, but plucky still, they refused to comply. The question then arose as to the kind of punishment which should be inflicted upon them, three modes being discussed, to wit: drowning, shooting or whipping. After mature deliberation the whipping method was adopted, and two members of the Association were selected to carry the verdict into execution. The decree was that two of the brothers should be punished, the third one being let off as an innocent party. The number of blows was not to exceed thirty-nine and an umpire selected to decide as to the number each of the parties could endure. Two stakes were driven into the ground, and the brothers tied to them. The first one whipped exhibited pluck, and did not flinch, although he received nearly all the blows before the umpire interfered, and prevented further punishment. The second one received only a few blows when he was taken with palpitation of the heart, and they were stopped. All the parties have long since left this county. To prevent these claim disputes and their attendant consequences, the Legislature of the State, at the session of 1837-38, passed an act limiting claims to 160 Acres of timber, and 320 acres of prairie, but order was not finally restored until the lands had been purchased at the Government land sales.
The Winnebago Indians remained to hunt and fish in and around Genesee until 1839, and were generally quiet and peaceful, although they would occasionally steal horses and provisions. During that year, a party of them borrowed some of the equines without consent, and were followed and overtaken by the settlers. They were so indignant at this procedure that they threatened to scalp every white person in the settlement before morning. The alarm was soon carried to every family on the north side of the grove and with the word to hasten to the house of William Hill, where a general headquarters would be made, and after all had assembled there, the men barricaded the doors and windows inside and outside. After finishing the work outside, they entered the house through the gable window by means of a ladder and upon being safely entrenched, drew the ladder up after them. Their weapons of warfare included everything from a rifle to a pitchfork. One man, a Methodist Minister was armed with a table fork, having heard that there was a tradition among the Indians that a stab from such an instrument always proved fatal to them. During the night one of the settlers in the neighborhood came home from the mill, and finding his cabin deserted went to the residence of Mr. Hill, but was unable to arouse the inmates. After laboring a long time he finally tore down the barricades, entered the dwelling and found the garrison asleep on their arms. In the morning it was found that the Indians had all decamped during the night, but their trail was followed by some of the more adventurous settlers, and they were overtaken on an island in the Mississippi River, near Fulton and the stolen horses secured. When this had been effected they were promptly punished by receiving a sound whipping.
In early times the prairie rattle snakes were plenty, and always expressed a willingness to bite by rattling. On one occasion, when some of the pioneers of the township were reaping wheat on the land of one of their number as was the custom then, one of these "sarpints" was discovered, and sounding the tocsin of war, threw itself into a coil ready for a strike. The reapers fell back in good order, and suggested various modes of attack, but before a determination was reached, Mr. Parish came to the rescue and cried out in a stentorian voice" Boys, stand back, and I will how you how we kill snakes in Tennessee." The order being promptly obeyed, he approached the enemy and when within three feet of the snake spring into the air with the intention of landing on it with his feet close together, thereby crushing it, but he made his calculations wrong, and came down on the opposite side. In his attempt to save himself he fell flat on his back across the snake, very much scared, as was also the snake. The unengaged parties came to his aid, and separated the belligerents without either having received any injury. The snake was finally killed with a club.
The first Postmaster in what is now Genesee township was Edward Richardson, who received his appointment in 1839. Shortly afterwards a post office was established at Prospect Grove and called Prospect post office, James Hankie, an Englishman, receiving the first appointment as Postmaster, who was succeeded by Ira Scoville. This office has long since been abolished. The post office at New Genesee was established a number of years ago, William Taylor being the present Postmaster.
The first birth in the township was that of a daughter of William Wick, which occurred in 1836. She was named Louisa Wick.
The first prize obtained by the grim destroyer was the life of Mrs. James, mother of George O James, now of Mt. Pleasant township. Mrs. James died in 1838. The rider of the white horse commenced holding his fairs early in Whiteside county, and tied the ribbon on the door of many a cabin. The doomed ones were rudely, but sacredly, buried in the grove or on the prairie, and the summer winds sang as soft a requiem over their lowly graves as it would have done had the elegant tombstones and imposing monuments of today marked their last resting place.
Unhappily we have been unable to ascertain the name of the lady who first shuffled off the coil of single blessedness and entered into the blissful state of matrimony. The first marriage in a new settlement is always blissful, and for miles around the happy couple are congratulated. In more senses than one it is an era for the neighborhood. The name of the fortunate groom, however is preserved, and it is written George Huffman. The hope at the wedding undoubtedly was that many little Huffmans would grace the theater of action, and that if of the male persuasion they would have more of the man than the huff. Among the first marriage licenses issued after the organization of the county in 1839 one was granted to Harvey Preston, of Grant county, Wisconsin Territory, and Jane Hall of Genesee Grove Precinct, who were married at that time.
The first town meeting under the township organization law, was held on the 6th of April, 1852, when the following officers were elected: Ivory Colcord, Supervisor; Abram H Law, Town Clerk; John S Crum, Collector; William Crum, Assessor; John W Lowery and James D Law, Justices of the Peace. The following have been the Supervisors, Town Clerks, Assessors, Collectors and Justices of the Peace from 1852 to 1877 inclusive;
Supervisors: 1852-53 Ivory Colcord; 1854-55 Andrew S Ferguson; 1856-57 Charles Lineroad; 1858 - 59 C W Sherwood; 1860-63 Andrew S Ferguson; 1864-66 Ephraim Brookfield; 1867, David Anthony; 1868-70 Andrew S Ferguson; 1871-72 Wm H Colcord; 1873-74, Cephas Hurless; 1875-77 Ira Scoville.
Town Clerks: 1852 Abram H Law; 1853 John Yager; 1854 Abram H Law; 1855-58 William Crum; 1859 R B Colcord; 1860-62 William Crum; 1863 David Anthony; 1864 R B Colcord; 1865-66 David Anthony; 1867-70 William H Colcord; 1871-73 A S Ferguson; 1874 S S Cobb; 1875=77 A S Ferguson.
Assessors: 1852 William Crum; 1853 R B Colcord; 1854-56 J M Griswold; 1857 James Rodman; 1858 John Clark; 1859 Cephas Hurless; 1860 E S Colcord; 1861 John Yager; 1862 J D Lineroad; 1863 John Tumbleson; 1864 O C Sheldon; 1865 J D Lineroad; 1866 P Hurless; 1867 Ira Scoville; 1868-70 John Tumbleson; 1871 Cephas Hurless; 1872-73 John Tumbleson; 1874 Wm H Colcord; 1875 John Tumbleson; 1876 Wm H Colcord; 1877 John Tumbleson.
Collectors: 1852 William Crum; 1853-55 Darius Gould; 1856 Charles W Smith; 1857 Darius Gould; 1858 J T Crum; 1859 Darius Gould; 1860 Pleasant Stanley; 1861 H C Parish; 1862 A R Hurless; 1863 J N Springer; 1864 Isaac Lineroad; 1865 C Overholser; 1866 J D Lineroad; James W Fraser; 1871 E J Ferguson; 1872 Ephraim Brookfield; 1873 D C Overholser; 1874 D G Proctor; 1875 Alfred Barnes; 1876-77 Abram Calkins.
Justices of the Peace: 1852 John W Lowery, James D Law; 1855 Thomas J Stanley; 1856 Charles Sherwood, Abram H Law; 1860 Abram H Law, Ephraim Brookfield; 1864 William Taylor, Ephraim Brookfield; 1866 S H Kingery; 1868 C Overholser, William Taylor; 1873 Cephas Hurless, W M Law; 1877 R T St John, Cephas Hurless.
Genesee township contains 18,683 acres of improved land and 4267 of unimproved. The Assessor's book shows that the number of horses in the town in 1877 was 525; the number of cattle, 970; mules and asses, 10; sheep, 11; watches and clocks, 253; melodeons and organs, 37. Total assessed value of lands, lots and personal property, $396,330.
The population of the township in 1870 as appears by the US census reports was 1271 of which 1081 were of native birth and 190 of foreign birth. The population in 1860 was 1157. The estimated population in 1877 is 1500.
The town of Coleta is laid out on the corners of sections 9,10,15 and 16, in township 22, range 6 east of the 4th Principal Meridian. The first building erected was the store of John Thompson Crum, on the corner of section 10. After occupying it for a number of years, Mr. Crum purchased an acre of land on the opposite corner, on section 9 and moved the building to that corner, where he used it as a dwelling and store room. He afterwards sold out to Ephraim Brookfield, who in turn sold to Henry S. Wickey, the present owner. The forty acre lot on the southeast corner of section 9, and the southwest corner of section 10, were owned at first by David Wyman, who afterwards sold it to Azariah Wick. Mr. Wick sold it to Alestis S Smith who in turn sold to C. Overholser. Mr Overholser sold to Samuel H Kingery, who afterwards sold back again to Overholser. In the plat of the village this 40 acre lot was laid out into town lots. In 1856 Mr. Crum purchased four acres on the northeast corner of section 16, and laid them out in lots. A lot of fourteen acres was also sold by Wick to A S Smith who sold to Mr. Crum. This ground was also laid out into village lots. The next owner of them was Samuel Haldeman, who sold lots to David Horning, Dr. E M Winter, Barrett M Burns and the balance to Hiram Reynolds. The latter afterwards sold one lot to Andrew Griffith, one acre to the Methodist Episcopal Church and the balance to John Yager. Wick sold an acre on the northwest corner of section 15 to Wm. Pierce who soon after sold one lot to Hiram Reynolds, and the other to Henry Kennedy. On the road leading west, lots were sold by A T Crum and William Harrow - one, a two acre lot to Cephas Hurless. Mr. Hurless has since sold one village lot to Seth Knapp and one to Catharine Fenton.
The place was first called "Crum's Store," and then Clayton. The people seemingly not being satisfied with either, called a meeting, at which a majority voted to call it Coleta. This name was suggested by Miss Nora Porter, now Mrs. E R Ferguson. The first school house in the village was built in the summer of 1858, Ephraim Brookfield being the first teacher. The number of pupils on the roll then was sixty, now it is over one hundred. The first church erected was the Methodist Episcopal in 1868. The Society then numbered twenty members; now there are sixty-six. The building is a large frame structure, well finished and furnished, to which is also added a neat parsonage. Rev. H F Clendenin is the present pastor. The Sunday school has 50 scholars, with J W Tumbleson as Superintendent. The United Brethren built a church in 1869, the membership of the Society being then about one hundred, but has been reduced by emigration since to about seventy-five. Rev. Mr. Gardner is the pastor. The Sunday school has 50 scholars, and David Overholser as Superintendent. The Christian Church edifice was erected at an expense of $2,500. Nearly the whole amount was furnished by John Yager. The church has no settled minister at present, but services are held every Sabbath by either John Yager or Thomas Stanley. The Sunday School numbers one hundred and twenty-five scholars, with Thomas Stanley as Superintendent. Besides the three church buildings and school house, all finished in modern style, there is a hall over Wickey's store, called "Brookfield Hall" which is used for all public meetings. There is also a flourishing Masonic Lodge in the village. Coleta contains twenty-eight dwelling houses and eighteen business places, including stores, shops, etc., making in all fifty.