History of China Township, Il.
From: Encyclopedia of Illinois
and the History of Lee County
Edited by: Mr. A. C. Bardwell.
Munsell Publishing Company
Chicago 1904.


When township organization was adopted in 1850, this town was named "Fremont" Later the present name was substituted at the solicitation of Russell Linn, an early settler whose native town in Maine was of that name. The following were the first officers of the town of Fremont: George R. Linn, Supervisor; Josiah Wheat, Clerk; Christian Lahman, Assessor; Moses Curtis, Collector; Jesse Hale, W. C. Robinson, Nathan Whitney, Highway Commissioners; Robert B. Sproul, Justice of the Peace; Moses S. Curtis and W. C. Robinson, Constablea The highest number of votes cast for any one office at this election was 46.

According to the most reliable information, Cummings Noe built the first cabin in China Township, in 1835 or '36. It stood about eighty rods north of the W. H. Hausen place. James Holly and his father-in-law, Charles Harrison, built in 1836. The "Minor House" was one of the early buildings. It formed the western part of the old "Bishop Hughes Hotel." Nathan Whitney came in 1835, as did Cyrus Chamberlain and Lockwood Miner the same year. The latter's father, Cyrus R. arrived in 1836. Mr. Whitney seems to have returned to his New York home, and to have made trips back to Lee County in 1836 and 1837, his family arriving February 8, 1838. In 1850 he introduced one of the first, if not the first, threshing machines in the country. He built, probably in 1838, the house which afterwards became the "vinegar house" at the nursery. In 1838 Amos Hussey arrived with his family and located on the south side of the grove.

In 1845 Christian Lahman and family and his father-in-law, Mr. Emmett, from Pennsylvania, were added to the meager settlement. Edward Morgan and family came in 1836. His son, John Wesley, was born the next year, and his is believed to have been the first birth in the grove. Edward Morgan built a double log cabin north of the timber. Jeremiah Whipple and family located near the "cave" which bears his name, in 1837. Hugh Moore and his brother Rufus landed in 1836, and their brother James the year before. They settled near Grand Detour. Silas Tolman and family reached Inlet in 1837 and joined the Franklin Grove colony early the next spring. Henry and Harrison Hausen, with Philip Stahl, came in 1838. The father, Charles Hausen, Sr., followed in 1840, leaving his son Charles at their Maine home to bring the mother and younger children later. The family in charge of the young son Charles, reached Franklin in December, 1840.

As early as 1840 Whipple's mill, on Franklin Creek near "Whipple's Cave," was sawing logs cut from the near by woods, into lumber for building purposes.

E. C. Thomas and family arrived in 1839 and Nathaniel Yale and family came still earlier, in 1836. D. M. Bradstreet came in 1844. James Dysart arrived in 1846 and, by 1849, had secured land enough to provide each of his several children with a half section.

The northeast portion of the northwest quarter of Section 34 was known as Temperance Hill. Here, on the tract now owned by W. F. Wolcott, lived John Cross, a Presbyterian minister, who gave the "hill" the name "Theoka," but this early gave way to the more suggestive one connected with sobriety. Cross was an anti slavery fighter and a recognized and selfconfessed conductor on the Underground Railroad. Indeed, he once boasted to Chester Badger that, in one load, he had sent twelve slaves on their way towards freedom. His home was one of the stations on the underground road. In 1848 Mr. Cross moved to Wheaton and became Principal of Wheaton College. Next east of Cross, Sylvester Frisbee settled, and still east of him, Mr. Hannum and family were living in a sod house as early as 1842, when Martin Eastwood and wife came into the neighborhood. Eastwood made a business of breaking prairie, and built a small house which could be hauled from place to place wherever his work happened to be. Nathaniel Lewis and family took up their abode here in 1843. Frisbee and all the settlers in the vicinity were zealous temperance people, and this fact is supposed to have suggested the name for the locality now marked by a row of hardy venerable pines. The school house hard by perpetuates the name.

In 1871 the west half of the town of China was set off to form the town of Nachusa.

In the year when short horn cattle (Durham) were considered the best breed, China was made prominent by its successful breeders. As early as 1854-5 Christian Lahman introduced high grade short horns, anti in 1867 Samuel Dysart and Henry Hausen went a step further with thoroughbreds from Central Illinois. Mr. Dysart exhibited his stock at many fairs, at none of which he suffered defeat He was awarded thirty five first premiums and eighteen second premiums. Twice he was victorious in Iowa State Fairs. In 1870 he introduced the first pure bred Berkshire swine.

For a considerable time the Whitney nursery was one of the leading tree distributors in this part of the State. It was established by Nathan Whitney in 1843, and was for many years continued by his son, A. R. Whitney, under whose management it became a large and prosperous institution. Mr. Whitney's failing health necessitated its abandonment some years ago. To those who are disposed to question the fitness of our soil and climate for fruitgrowing, the fact may be recalled that, in 1871, W. H. Hausen sent from this town to the Iowa State Fair ninety seven varieties of apples and fifteen varieties of pears.

Franklin Grove.- This name is said to have been given to the grove after the youngest son of Father Dixon.

In 1853 Christian Lahman, who owned the tract south of the railroad, platted about ten acres, now constituting the extreme south west portion of the village, and christened it "Chaplin." What are now Main and Hughes Streets were its only thoroughfares, and the lots were numbered from 1 to 35. The plat was recorded in the Recorder's Office April 23, 1855. In 1851 George W. Pense started a blacksmith shop. In 1852 Charles Bill put up the first shoe shop. Charles Ambrose opened the first store in the fall of 1851 or spring of 1852. In 1854 H. I. Lincoln came with a stock of goods from Kendall County and continued in trade until a few years ago.

The first postoffice was opened about 1848, with Abram Brown as postmaster and A. R. Whitney mail carrier. Dr. Clark was the second postmaster and, during his term, the name of the office was changed to Chaplin. In May, 1854, Dr. George W. Hewitt located here, and in 1855 John C. Black came.

The town, as it at present exists exclusive of additions, was platted by Adrastus W. Tolman, Christian Lahman, P. D. Robertson and John Dement in 1853. In 1854 the railroad was completed and the regular train made its first trip December 3d of that year. A. B. Fitch was the first station agent of the road. The station being located in the new part of the town, drew business in that direction and changed the trade center. W. Leake started the first harness shop. The first elevator was built in 1854 by one Williams. S. J. Smith & Co. and L. M. Blaisdell opened lumber yards and Rufus Covill started a furniture store. Conrad Durkes, hailing from Oregon, Ogle County, was first to open a dry goods store in the new section of the town. Mix & Losey followed soon after in the same line. In 1855 Jonas Clisbee built the hotel building north of the truck, and Josiah Hughes put up the two story stone hotel in the old town, which was still known as Chaplin.

Village incorporation was effected in 1857. Josiah Hughes, Jonas Clisbee, L. M. Blaisdell, S. J. Smith and A. W. Tolman were the first Trustees, Blaisdell being President and Smith Clerk. The village was again incorporated under special charter in 1865, the first officers under this organization being C. Durkes, President; Josiah Hughes, J. J. Lichty, Joseph Williams, Jonas Clisbee, George W. Brayton and Geo. H. Taylor; Councilmen. Under the general law it was once more incorporated in 1872.

Churchs.- The first class of the Methodist Church was formed by Rev. Jas. McKean, a missionary, probably before 1840. Cyrus Minor was leader. The first Methodist church building was erected in 1863 during the pastorate of C. W. Wright. Prior to this the services had been held at the homes of the members and in school houses. Ministers having other charges officiated for a number of years. In 1853 and 1854 R. R Bibbins, of Light House Point, preached every fourth Sabbath evening, and in the fall of the latter year, Henry Martin reorganized the class with James Welsh as leader. In the fall of 1855 M. Decker, of Lee Center, supplied the pulpit. Following him came A. D. Field, H. Richardson and Penfield. In 1860 W. T. Harlow, principal of the Seminary at Mt. Morris, drove twenty miles to fill appointments here. Other pastors have been: C. Webster, L. M. Anderson, H. T. Giles, John Williamson, A. P. Hatch, S. T. Snow, Jas. Bush, A. J. Scott, J. Wardle, J. C. Cooper, A. H. Schoonmaker, Revs. Stire, Stuff, Satterfield, Bassett, Harris, O'Neal, Slaughter and Honeywell, the present incumbent In 1902 this society tore down the old church and built a new one on the same spot, at a cost of $8,100. It was dedicated October 6, 1902.

January 1, 1861, Franklin Grove Presbyterian Church was organized. The first Board of Trustees consisted of G. W. Brayton, G. W. Hewitt, G. W. Pitcher, G. H. Brewer and Jeremiah Ketchum. W. W. Harsha, the pastor at Dixon, also acted as first pastor of this society. W. L. Lyons was the second pastor. Following him have been: W. Hare, A. F. Morrison, Spencer Baker, S. N. Vail, W. C. Cort, F. C. Cochrane, H. S. Jordon (May, 1881, to December, 1882); A. L. Sarchet (March, 1883, to March, 1884); William E. Holyoke (April, 1884, to April, 1885); W. H. McKee (April, 1885, to April, 1886); C. W. Anthony (December, 1886, to December, 1897); R. F. Cressy (May, 1898, to June, 1901); W. J. Manifold, the present pastor, from September, 1902. In 1865 this society built a church conjointly, with the German Lutherans, which was used in common by the two denominations. In the fall of 1887 the Presbyterians built their present church, the lot and building costing $4,000 and the furnishings $995.

The German Lutheran Church was organized by Rev. William Uhl, of Dixon, but at what date we are unable to state. George Engel, George Fishback, George Kreitzer and John Genk were the first board of Trustee. A church was built but in what year we have not ascertained. The pastors have been: William Angelberger, Charles Young, C. A. Reuter, H. Stauffenberg, Rev. Stolle. The writer has beeh unable to learn the names of any other, or to fix the date when these served.

The German Baptist Brethren Church, fanilliarly known as "Brethren" or "Dunkards," are very strong, both financially and numerically, in this section. The first families of the faith to settle here were the Lahmans and Emmerts, who came in 1843. The following year came the Riddlesbargers. Father Emmert was the first preacher. Christian Labman was also a minister of the church. Their first, house of worship was a small grout house on the Dixon road in the present town of Nachusa. It has been remodeled and enlarged. The society's cemetery is in the same inclosure. They also built a meeting house in Ashton and, in 1879, erected their Central Church building a little northwest of Franklin Grove. This denomination has no officiating pastors, but the office devolves on bishops and elders.

A Society of the Universalist Church flourished in Franklin Grove at an early day, and built a church here in 1856. The Hausens, John Fish, Jonas Olisbee, John C. Black and Isaac Twombly were early members. T. J. Bartholomew was the first preacher, J. O. Barrett, C. F. Dodge, Chase and Cook were pastors.

Schools.- The first and only school house in Franklin Grove was built in part in 1856. In 1867 it was enlarged and, in 1894, a new brick building costing $9,000 took its place. The first principal was T. W. Scott assisted by his wife. The school was soon graded into four departments one primary, two intermediate and one high school. Five teachers are now exuployed.

In the early years school was kept during alternate weeks at Morgan's double log cabin and at Whipple's Cave.

About the year 1840 Lorenzo Whiting taught a school near "Tolman's Timber," a short distance from the present site of Franklin Grove. Miss Sarah Edmonds, who married James Nettleton, was also one of the early teachers, her service being in a school house east of the Amos Hussey homestead. Harry Godger is named among the very early instructors.

Cemetery.- In September, 1863, the Franklin Grove Cemetery Associatioa was formed with Isaac Twombly as President, Conrad Durkes, Secretary, Joseph Williams, Geo. H. Taylor and W. S. Thompson, trustees, its purpose being to take care of and improve the then existing cemetery. This has been admirably done. There is no record in the County Recorder's office showing the incorporation of the association. The burial of Mrs. Holly, in 1839, is said to have been the first in these grounds.

Factories.- The Cheese Factory Association of Franklin Grove was organized in February, 1881, with A. H. Schoonmaker as President; N. Hausen, Vice President, H. A. Black, Secretary and Treasurer, and A. R. Whitney, C. L. Anthony and Chas. Wertman. Directors.

The Wind Grist Mill was built in 1874 near the southeast limits of the village, by J. L. Strock, J. C., J. D. and D. F. Lahman, at a cost of $13,261. The wheel was 80 feet in diameter and, at its top, was 105 feet above ground. The enterprise did not prove to be profitable. The property changed hands several times, and was finally converted by J. L. Strock into a tile factory, which was successfully conducted for a number of years until his death in 1888, and afterwards by F. D. and C. W. Lahman and F. A. Dow. A succession of dry seasons reduced the demand for tile and, in 1900, the machinery was exchanged for western land and the buildings sold.

In 1875 the copartnership known as J. D. Lahman & Company was organized for the manufacture of the Great Western Seeder, with J. D. and J. C. Lahman and J. L. Strock partners. A year or two later J. C. Lahman retired from the firm and D. F. Lahman became a member. J. L. Strock was the business manager. In 1889 J. D. Lahman bought D. F. Lahman's in. terest. To simplify natural complications that arise on the death of a copartner in conducting an industry of this kind, J. D. Lahman bought the J. L. Strock estate's interest in the factory and unsold goods, and closed the business in the two years following. H. N. Bratton & Company manufactured and sold a few machines for several years succeeding. The business grew from a small beginning to a brisk little enterprise, as many as 2,400 seeders being manufactured in a single season.

Camp Meeting.- On July 12, 1881, the Dixon District Camp Meeting Asociation was organized with the following officers: Rev. Luke Hitchcock. President; Isaac Rive, Vice President; Rev. I. E. Springer, Secretary; Rev. A. H. Schoonmaker, Treasurer. Executive Committee Revs. Schoonmaker, F. P. Cleveland, R. M. Smith, G. W. Carr, F. G. Petrie and Messrs. R. B. Sproul and James Brown. Ten acres of ground in the timber just outside of the village was bought and suitably fitted up for camp meeting purposes. The first meeting opened August 31, 1881, and successful sessions have been held yearly since then. It soon became recognized as one of the established institutions of the county.

Banks.- For a number of years Conrad Durkes furnished banking facilities for the community as an adjunct to his mercantile business. At different times other merchants- Henry A. Black, P. C. Rooney and possibly others did the same. Having retired from trade Mr. Durkes, in 1889, organized the "Franklin Grove Bank" under the State law with a capital of $25,000, and with J. D. Lahman, President; C. Durkes, Vice President; W. C. Durkes, Cashier. The organization stands the same today except that, on the death of C. Durkes, his son Warren C. succeeded him as Vice President and another son, Stelzer A., was made Cashier. The deposits the first year averaged about $20,000. They now average about $150,000 yearly.

Newspapers.- The only newspaper now published in the village is the "Franklin Reporter," which was started by John Blocker August 14, 1869. Dr. D. H. Spickler succeeded him in the proprietorship, September 7, 1871. May 8, 1875, T. W. Scott became its owner and John Blocker acquired an interest with him September 4, 1875. They sold out to D. B. Senger, August 5, 1876. October 16, 1886, E. E. Manning became publisher. June, 1889, T. W. Scott again became proprietor. W. P. Tuttle iollowed him March 13, 1891, and September 1, 1894, G. W. Gayer, the present proprietor, took the helm.

Other papers have appeared from time to time, but soon went out. The "Franklin Grove Gazette," printed at Dixon, the "Enterprize" and "Electric Light" were of this class.

The population of China Township, including Franklin Grove, according to census, was 1,361 in 1890, and 1,315 in 1900. The population of Franklin Grove was 736 in 1890, and 681 in 1900.

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