Submitted by Trudy Rhodes

 

WETHERSFIELD TOWNSHIP

Wethersfield, your home, my home, With soil so rich and deep,

Where fields of waving grain

For miles the prairies sweep.

Its pastures and its fields, Beneath our flag unfurled,

Raise many useful products

For the markets of the world.

A gem within the bosom

Of the greatest land on earth;

Where of noble men and women There has never been a dearth.

Of this township, Wethersfield, Let us ever then be proud;

Let us ever, ever love it,

Let us sing its praises loud.

For a township, like a state,

Will be great, or will be small,

As they think and live within it, One by one, its people all.

Frank H. Craig

HISTORY

The delegated agents of the colony which located here, E. Goodrich and Col. S. . Blish, entered land in township 15 north, range 4 east, for the colonists, May 12, 1836 .William and Samuel Carson entered lands in the same vicinity, August 8, and Ed. C. Delevan August 12th following. The next spring Jacob Keiamerling settled in the neighborhood, and he raised the first crop in this township. The Carsons had gone outside the township to raise their first crop. These first improvements were made along the eastern side of the township, skirting the timber or in it.

In 1841, Dr. David Norton commenced an improvement in Round Grove, to be devoted to dairying purposes. His father was widely known in the East as "Old Connecticut," and he made cheese in large quantities, but he never knew the secret of the proper coloring matter to give his cheese the rich yellow appearance, and therefore, though his cheese was the purer and better, he was at a disadvantage in the market, and had to content himself with a lower price. He eventually gained this col­ oring secret, however, and to this was due the world­ wide famous Goshen cheese and butter.

In 1843, Dr. Norton got his log dairy building up, and was ready for operations. As an explanation of the then advanced state of the country, it may be stated here that he had to get his help to raise his log house from a distance of fifteen miles. But the range for his cows was unlimited. He was soon producing more cheese than he could find a remunerative market for. He wagoned it to Chicago and there found great trouble in selling it for enough to pay for hauling it. And again, two or three good sized cheese would be liable to overload the market. To stand now on the side of the tracks of any road from the south, and see the daily trains con­ taining hundreds of cars loaded with strawberries, and still the market is never overstocked, and all this change in a short life time, is like a fairy dream.

The Doctor shipped to St. Louis, hauled it to Peoria, Rock Island, Galena, and tried to peddle it out, when finally he branded it " Goshen cheese," and he then could readily sell all he could make. He abandoned the business in 1851.

In 1851, there were three families in Round Grove,—Seller's, Norton's and Charles. Dr. Norton removed to Galva when that place was started, and built the finest block of business houses in that place.

Concerning the Wethersfield Colony, a member of that organization says: " The Protestant Christians of our country were in a ferment about the years 1834-5 and 6 over the probable expansion of Roman Catholicism in the Valley of the Mississippi, and that earnest efforts were made to preoccupy with Christians of the right stamp that vast field for human industry and development Several colonies in this county, including that of Wethersfield, owed their origin principally to this feeling. Mr. Pillsbury and his associates, Slaughter and Pike, as stated elsewhere, had been commissioned by the New York Association, in 1835, to select a location for the " Andover Colony.'" Upon the return of Mr. Pillsbury in the fall of '35, he was written to by the Rev. Caleb J. Tenney, of Wethersfield, Conn., upon the possibility of locating another colony in the region of the Andover Colony, and an interview requested. The interview induced the Doctor to project another colony in Henry County, to be styled the " Wethersfield Colony. "

Dr. Tenney was an eminent divine and well acquainted with the prominent men of that region who would be likely to favor an enterprise by which the Papacy might be thwarted, addressed many of them in relation to the matter he had then at heart and in hand, urging various substantial reasons for supposing a colony could be formed, religion and education in the West promoted, and the projectors of the enterprise secure a liberal return for the money in­ vested.

The efforts of the Doctor led to a meeting in the Conference room of the Congregational Church in Wethersfield, somewhat late in the fall of 1835. At this meeting the project assumed a tangible shape, and another meeting was appointed to be held in the same place soon after, at which an organization was effected for the purpose of locating a colony in Illi­nois, by means of which/the mental, moral and re­ligious growth of that part of the country might be promoted and their own means for doing good increased.

Following is a complete list of the original company :

Rev. Caleb J. Tenney, Selden Miner, Roger Wells, Martin Kellogg, John Francis, Chancey Coleman, Weltha Willard, Rev. John Marsh, Ann Marsh, Joshua Goodrich, George Wells, Horace Blane, Henry Robbins, Sylvester Blish, Rev. Samuel Redel, William Butler, Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, Miles Adams, Elizur Goodrich, Samuel Galpin, E. Porter, Rev. Horace Hooker, Wm. Tenney, Geo. P. Shipman, Russell H. Nevins, Timothy Stillman, Allen Talcott, Rev. Geo. Calhoun, Francis Loomis, Rev. Edward Payson, Rev. Geo. Stebbins, Rev. John Woodbridge, Gershom and George Bulkley, Rev. Gardner Spring, Merritt Butler, Osmond Harrison, Rev. JHarvey Talcott, Norman Hubbard, Jonathan Hubbard, Sullivan Howard, George Richards, Jasper Gilbert, Rev. Alpha Miller, Nathan DeWolf, J. L. Belden, Nathan Kelley, Stephen Topliff, Dr. A. Welch, Geo. B. Holley, Rev. Chancey Booth, Richard T. Haines, Rev. Ralph Emerson, Robert Gipson and a few others not now known.

The company was styled the " Connecticut Association." The stockholders in the concern resided at different points, from Maine to New York. Some of them were quite wealthy and others occupied prominent positions in the religious world. The great Temperance Agent will be recognized in the Rev. John Marsh. Dr. Payson in his day was a distinguished Christian minister, and Gardner Spring an eminent divine in New York, at the head of one of the most aristocratic Presbyterian Churches in the nation.

The stock of this Association was valued at $250 a share. During the winter of 1835-6, 100 shares were taken and $25,000 paid into the treasury. As early as February, 1836, Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, Col. Sylvester Blish and Elizur Goodrich were appointed a " committee of purchase, " to proceed to Illinois and select the land.

The first named gentleman was appointed because he .had already performed the same duty for another colony and was supposed to be familiar with the details of such an enterprise. The last named got his appointment because he was a competent surveyor and could " run out" the lands, when necessary to determine boundaries, without additional cost to the company. Col. Blish was appointed on account of his eminent fitness for the post as a man of energy and prompt business habits.

The route of the committee was through Baltimore, over the mountains to Wheeling, down the Ohio by steamboat, up the Mississippi to the mouth of the Illinois River, and up that to Peoria; thence to Knoxville, Henderson Grove and Andover, where was a house or two, but none of the colonists had yet arrived, nor did they till .in July of that season. At Andover neither feed nor horses could be obtained, and the party had to foot it, a distance of 20 miles over to " Barren Grove " (with only a deserted cabin on the route, in Sugar Tree Grove) along the south side of which they commenced at once to select the company's land. They camped out during the several nights they had to remain. It will be borne in mind that Mr. Pillsbury had been out the preceding fall and assisted in "locating" the lands for the colony at Andover, and had been on and over the ground they now proposed to select from, his " prospecting " at that time obviating the neces­ sity now of protracted examination of different localities.

As they were sent out to enter lands for the company, some, of course, had to be purchased, but he looked upon the enterprise as chimerical to a very great extent, and advised that the bulk of the money be taken back, because the land would not be set­ tled up even along the grove, for one hundred years to come.

The despondency of the surveyor affect­ ed neither the clergyman nor the soldier, and they compelled him to trudge around, compass in hand, till they, at different times, succeeded in selecting and entering 99 quarter-sections of land, in townships 14-5 and 15-5, the first entry being made May 7, 1836. The following month of March, another quarter section was purchased, which made the entries a round hundred. $5,000 of the purchase fund was returned to the treasury

. Mr. Pillsbury declined having his name appear upon the entries, and the purchase was made of the Government by Goodrich and Blish, who deeded the laud in trust, for the purposes of the association, to the secretary and treasurer, Chester Bulkley, who afterwards deeded to individual members, or to those who purchased of the company.

The Committee of Purchase having returned and reported their doings, a committee of three other gentlemen was appointed to survey and layout a town plat, and to divide up the timber land into lots of twenty acres each. This committee consisted of Rev. Joseph Goodrich, John F. Willard and Henry G. Little. Mr. Goodrich had but recently returned from a missionary expedition to the Sandwich Islands where he had spent several years, and returned to his native land in broken health, to assist in securing Protestant domination on the fertile and almost boundless prairies of the West.

November11, 1836, the committee to survey and plat the town Rev. Joseph Goodrich, John F. Willard and Henry G. Little arrived on the ground. The timber was divided into lots of 20 acres each, John Kilvington was the only one living neat the colony's location. He lived north towards where Kewanee now stands. He came in the spring of 1836. The committee made their home at Kilvington's. The party wintered at French Grove, Peoria County.

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