History of Buckeye Township, Stephenson County, Il
From: History of Stephenson County, Illinois
A record of its settlement, oragnization
and three quarters of a century of progress
By: Addison L. Fulwider, A. M.
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago, 1910


Buckeye Township is located in the north central part of the county, and is second to no other township of the county either in fertility of soil or in political importance. It is traversed from north to south by Richland Creek, one of the swiftest streams of the county, and second in size only to the Pecatonica River. Richland Creek flows through the villages of Buena Vista and Red Oak, and has in the past afforded excellent water power for turning a number of mills. Most of the mills are now abandoned, and those which are still operated in various portions of the county are doing only a meagre business, hardly sufficient to warrant their continuance. Cedar Creek, which rises in Dakota Township, pursues an uneven and eccentric course in a general westerly direction, and joins Richland Creek a short distance south of Red Oak. It is itself joined by Coon Creek, a very small stream, which rises in the northern part of Buckeye Township, is joined by a multitude of little brookiets, and flows into Cedar Creek just east of Cedarville.

As far as can be learned, John Goddard was the first permanent white settler in Buckeye Township. He came to these regions in 1835. and settled in the southern part of Buckeye Township, near the present site of Cedarville. This was in the spring of the year. Before fall, David Jones and Levi Lucas came and settled near him, the former making claim to a large tract of land surrounding the present village of Buckeye Center. Here he built a log cabin and began housekeeping. In time the population was increased by the arrival of George Trotter, Richard Parriott, and William Hollenback.

In 1835, William Robey had made a claim in Buckeye Township, but did not come to take possession until the following year. In 1836 there came also Jehu Pile, Andrew St. John, Ira Holly, Job Holly, Daniel Holly, and a number of others. Jehu Pile and Richard Parrioft settled near the present town of Cedarville, while the others for the most part laid their claims in the northeastern part of the township.

In 1837, a large number of families came to settle. In that year also, in the month of May, occurred the first death in the township, that of Richard Parriott, Sr. Among the settlers of '37 were Dr. Thomas Van Valzah who bought the mill claim of John Goddard and Barton Jones, built what was afterward known as the Cedar Creek Mills, and afterward put up a log cabin for his family. This mill continued in operation, under the management of one John Fisher, from November, 1837, to January I, 1838. That year Cedar Creek overflowed its bank and the dam was destroyed. Since that the present dam has been constructed. At the time of Dr. Van Valzah's immigration a large company came, including J. Tharp, G. W. Clingman, Jackson Richart, Lazarus Snyder, Jacob S. Brown, Joseph Green, arid others. In 1838 occurred the first marriage solemnized in Buckeye Township. Robert Jones and Mary Harlacher were united by the Rev. Mr. McKean, the first Methodist preacher of the county, the ceremony being performed at the residence of Dr. Van Valzah. The bridegroom built a rude log cabin for his new bride, and thither he escorted her, without the preliminary convention of a bridal tour. On the 23rd of June following, David Jones was born to the couple, the first recorded birth of the township. Among the arrivals of the year were Benjamin Bennett, John Murdaugh, Adrian Lucas, and James McGhee.

In 1840 the increase of population still continued, in spite of the fact that Indian camps in the district menaced the settlers. Life was hard, and the Pottawatomies and Winnebagoes were near by with their settlement at the mouth of Richland Creek, on the banks of the Fecatonica. But from 1840 dates the prosperity of the Buckeye settlers. In that year came J. B. Clingman, Philip Reitzell, George Reitzell, who settled near the present site of Buena Vista, Henry Wohlford, John Fryebarger, Richard Parriott, Jr., Franklin Scott, George Ilgen, who afterward became the founder of Cedarville, and a number of others.

After 1840, farms were opened and cultivated, new homes were built, and the old log cabin began to disappear. For a time it was hard to make a living. The early Buckeye settlers depended mainly on their guns for meat, and created great havoc among the flocks of prairie chickens and herds of deer which were to be found in the timber. Flour was difficult to obtain until the various mills were started, but from 1840 on, the conveniences of life became more accessible.

Previous to 1838, Buckeye Township was a portion of the district known as Central Precinct, which comprised the present towns of Buckeye, Dakota, Harlem, and Lancaster. About that time the present division was made. Within the next ten or twenty years, the various villages of the township were established. There are today in Buckeye a larger number of villages than in any other township of the county. In 1849, Cedarville was founded and laid out by George Ilgen, and in the same year Buckeye Center came into existence. Buena Vista was platted and settled on September 19, 1852. Later on Afolkey was settled in the northeastern portion of the township on the town line. Buckeye Township is today one of the most prosperous sections of the county. It has a population of about 3,000 inhabitants, most of them located on the farms of the the township. Buckeye is one of the larger townships of the county, containing thirty six square miles. It is traversed by the Madison and Dodgeville branches of the Illinois Central Railroad, which pass through Red Oak, formerly known as Cedarville Junction, and Buena Vista.


Buckeye Center is no longer a postoffice, and since the removal of that institution there is nothing at the cross roads to attract the attention of the passing traveller. Formerly a large number of farmers came to Buckeye Center for their mail, and the settlement which sprang up about the postoffice supported a general store. However, the advent of the Rural Free Delivery system put Buckeye Center postoffice out of service, as it did so many others. With the withdrawal of the postoffice the store discontinued its business and the village is now merely a group of farm houses.

Buckeye Center does, however, contain the town hall of Buckeye Township, where the township meetings are held. There is also an Evangelical church, the oldest now in existence in the county. It is the same building which was originally built, and presents an exceedingly dilapidated appearance, many of the windows being broken in, and the whole property abandoned and out of repair. Services have long since been discontinued in the church, and the building is now of interest only to the lover of the antique.

While Buckeye Center is hardly a village in the strict sense of the word since the removal of the postoffice, the settlement is most picturesque, being located in a wooded hollow at the foot of a considerable hill. The main buildings of the settlement are occupied by the Maple Spring Dairy, whose trim dwelling house and outbuildings, and neat, well kept, sweet scented dairy bespeak a prosperous and well conducted business.

Red Oak is the newest town in Buckeye Township. It was not a natural settlement, but sprang into existence at the time of the building of the railroad to Madison and Dodgeville. In 1888, the two northern branches of the Illinois Central were put through. They ran over the same tracks from Freeport to Scioto Mills, and thence to a point in the southern part of Buckeye Township. Here they divided and the Madison branch went north through Buena Vista and Orangeville, while the Dodgeville line ran in a northwesterly direction through the towns of McConnell and Winslow.

At the point of divergence in the southern part of Buckeye, there was originally no town, but a tiny settlement quickly grew up about the railroad station. The station was originally named Cedarville Junction, from its proximity to that village, but the postoflice which was presently established, assumed the name of Red Oak, and the railroad name of the village was also changed.

The first settler of Red Oak was W. R Bender, who founded the village in 1888. He opened a grocery, and general store, and became the first postmaster. The settlement grew slowly for a time, when the influx of several farmers raised the population to about one hundred, which it still remains. For thirteen years, Mr. Bender conducted his grocery and general store, until the advent of another grocery in 1901. At that time he closed the doors of his general store, and reopened soon after with a hardware and farmers' supplies establishment.

In addition to its two stores, Red Oak also boasts of a creamery, which is one of the oldest institutions of the town. It was built and organized in 1892, four years after the coming of the railroad. The Red Oak Creamery is now in the hands of the Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, and is operated by William Waite. It is doing a large business, and is one of the most prosperous of its kind in the county.

Red Oak possesses two lodges, one a camp of the Modern Woodmen of America, and the other an organization of the Mystic Workers. There is one church, a Methodist organization, which was founded soon after the building of the town. The church edifice, which is a handsome brick structure, was erected in 1891. The pastor now in charge is the Rev. W. M. Kaufman, of Orangeville, who has Red Oak as part of his circuit. The several church societies are all active organizations in their various lines of activity, but aside from them, the social life of the community is necessarily limited. The last census numbered the population of Red Oak at about 125, and the village has grown little, if any at all, within the past ten years.


A typical village of the prairie is Buena Vista, located on Richland Creek in the northwestern corner of Buckeye Township. The site has been appropriately named Buena Vista, for it is located on a slight natural eminence, the prospect from which is most beautiful. Outside of the natural beauty of the surroundings, there is little within the town to attract the visitor or speculator.

Buena Vista was platted and laid out September 19, 1852, by Marcus Montelius, who acted as surveyor. Philip Reitzeli was the real founder of the town, inasmuch as he contributed forty acres for the town site, and took charge of selling them. But Buena Vista never grew very rapidly. When the railroad came through in 1888 there was an influx of population, which, however, never amounted to a "boom." Unfortunately, Buena Vista has never offered any inducements to settlers. There is no church in the village, and has never been one. Bellevue church, one and one half miles east of the city is a Lutheran church, and offers facilities to the members of that church. Aside from the Bellevue church, the places of worship are, in general, at a considerable distance from Buena Vista. As far as schools are concerned, the village is fairly well provided for. There is a very satisfactory district school, but no high school opportunities are offered, and the aspiring youth is obliged to journey either to Orangeville, or, as is usually the case, to Freeport.

Buena Vista possesses a creamery, which was established about thirty years ago, and has been in operation almost constantly since that time. It is operated by a Farmers' Mutual Benefit Association, and is managed by B. Jonely, who has been in charge for the last four years. There is also a large lumber business, which, however, is not a home industry, but is conducted by Meyers Brothers, of Scioto Mills.

The old Whitehall Mills, long since burned to the ground, were for a long time the only mills of the vicinity, and enjoyed a large business. In 1839 or 1840 the old mills were erected by Philip Reitzell and Ezra Gillett, the former building the grist mill and the latter the saw mill. Mr. Reitzell purchased the saw mill from Mr. Gillett, and operated the business until his death, when his sons succeeded to the business. They continued in possession until 1869, when the venture failed and the mill was sold under foreclosure proceedings to the Northwestern Life Insurance Company for $22,000. In 1870 Jacob Schaetzell and Jacob Rumel bought the business and sold it to Samuel Wagner. Mr. Wagner disposed of the business to Jerry Wohlford, for $18,090, and the latter continued in operation until the burning of his mill. After a short season on operation, Mr. Wohlford discontinued the grist mill and continued to operate the saw mill alone. In 1887, the place was visited by fire, and the mill burned to the ground. No attempts were ever made to rebuild the structure.

At the present time, Buena Vista patronizes one store, which carries a general stock of groceries, dry goods, hardware, books, drugs, etc. W. M. Gift who is proprietor of the store has only owned the venture for a few years. Mr. Gift is also postmaster at Buena Vista. The last census gave Buena Vista a population of 30 inhabitants, and there are small prospects for further growth or development.


Cedarville is a beautiful village six miles south of Freeport in the valley of Cedar Creek. About the village along the creek that cuts its way through the outcropping Galena limestone, are some of the most picturesque scenes in the County of Stephenson. The absence of railroad or trolley gives the village many characteristics peculiar to the towns of earlier days.

The first settlements were made in 1837. That year Dr. Van Valzah, the pioneer of that long train of immigrants from Pennsylvania, built a cabin and bought the claim to the mill site. The same year came the Chicagoans. Josiah Clingman had visited the vicinity and picked out a claim in 1836, and then brought his family in 1837. His wife, Mrs. Maria Clingman, is still living in Cedarville having passed the century mark, Dec. 12, 1909. She says there was just one log shack in the present limits of Cedarville when her family arrived in 1837. Levi Lucas had a log house north of the village, and here the Clingmans stayed until Mr. Clingman put a roof on his log house. John Goddard and Barton Jones had marked the mill claim which they sold to Dr. Van Valzah.

The village was laid out in 1849 by George Ilgen, the surveying being done by Marcus Montelius. About 185o, James Canfield set up a brick kiln about two miles west of the village. The present store and postoffice building was built about the same time by Samuel Sutherland. Other houses were built around 1851 by Francis Knauss, James Benson, David Clements and Dr. Bucher. John H. Adams built a handsome residence in 1854, and put up the mill in 1858.

The village grew slowly until it reached a population of 400 or 500. Its citizens of the early days were among the most progressive people of Stephenson County. Schools and churches have been maintained and in all the greater movements of the county, Cedarville has been represented by earnest and able men and women.

John C. Pepperman is president of the village board and Henry Richert is clerk.

Mr. Frank W. Clingman is president of the board of school directors, and Geo. Kryder and Clinton Fink are members. The first school was three miles north of the present village in 1836. In 1846, through the influence of Hon. John H Adams and the Clingmans, a one story frame building was put up by subscription, near the old cemetery. A. Mr. Chadwick and a Julia Putnam were the first teachers.

In 1853 the basement of the Lutheran church was used as a school room, till a two story brick building was completed in 1855. The lower room was for school purposes while the upper room was a public hall. In 1857, a Miss Gorham conducted a private school in the upstairs room. This school was conducted by Colonel H. C. Forbes till 1865. In 1880 the directors were John H. Adams, Joseph P. Reel and Jacob Sill. The present school building was erected later and is now being equipped with a steam heating plant. Many students have gone out of the Cedarville schools to achieve success and fame in the world.

Cedarville has four church buildings, the old Methodist church being built of brick in 1849; the German Reformed and Lutheran in 1854; the Evangelical in 1859 and the Presbyterian in 1876.

The first Methodist meetings were held in the log schoolhouse and at the homes of Methodists and were conducted by the occasional circuit riders. The present pastor is Rev. B. C. Hollowell.

The Evangelical church at first worshipped at the schoolhouse and in the homes of the members. The church was built in 1856 at a cost of $3,000. Prominent among the founders of the church were the families of Benjamin Hess, Christine Auman, David Neidigh, Benjamin Levan, Robert Sedam, William Yore, Henry Mark, Jacob Sills, etc. It is claimed that the first services were held by Rev. Levi Tobias.

The Lutherans organization has been abandoned. Among its pastors were Rev. G. J. Donmeyer, E. Miller, J. Stoll, A. B. Niddlesworth, B. F. Pugh and Rev. Mr. Shimpf.

The following is the history of the Presbyterian church of Cedarville taken from the Historic Manual published in 1906: The first meeting that we have any record of was one held in what was known as the Richland schoolhouse, situated midway between Cedarville and Buena Vista, now known as the Belleview schoolhouse.

An affidavit setting forth what was done at the meeting was found by John G. Bruce, December 13, 1893, amongst the papers of Adrian W. Lucas in his possession, to-wit:

"State of Illinois, Stephenson County, ss: - We, the undersigned, do hereby certify that on the twenty ninth day of December, A. D., 1845, the German Presbyterian Society of Richland, in said county, met at the Richland schoolhouse and elected viva voce the following named persons for the term of one year from the first Saturday in January, A. D., 1846; Adrian W. Lucas for the term of two years from the same time; and John H. Addams for the term of three years from the same date. That the name and style of said church or corporation is and shall be "The German Presbyterian Society of Richland," in said county.

"In testimony whereof, we have hereunto set our hands and seals this second day of January, A. D., 1846.


"State of Illinois, Stephenson County, ss: - Henry Ault, one of the above named trustees, after being duly sworn according to law, deposes and says that the facts set forth in the foregoing certificate are true.
"HENRY AULT. ......

"Subscribed and sworn to before me this 5th day of January, A. D., 1846.

"Clerk of the Circuit Court of said County.

"Filed and entered for record this 5th day of January, A. D., 1846, at half after 11 o'clock a. m. Liber B, pages 437 and 438.

"JOHN A. CLARK, Recorder.

"Members - Henry Ault, Adrian W. Lucas and wife, Elizabeth Lucas (Mr. Lucas' mother), Levi Lucas, Thos. Pollock and John Pollock."

How long this organization lasted or who were members other than the above named, we have no way of finding out. We have another record of later date that was also found with Mr. Lucas' papers, which reads as follows:

"BUCKEYE, ILL., January 27, 1851.
"At a meeting held pursuant to public notice for the purpose of organizing a Church of Christ, a sermon was preached by Rev. J. C. Downer, of Freeport, from Acts 20:24, after which Rev. A. Kent, of the Presbytery of Galena, was appointed moderator and Rev. J. C. Downer, clerk, Adrian W. Lucas and wife and grandmother, Elizabeth Lucas, Levi Lucas, Robert Boats, Mrs. Margaret Boal, Thomas Boal, Mrs. Catharine Jenkins, Miss Jennie Boal, Miss Sarah Boal, John Wilson, Mrs. Rosana Wynkoop, and Mrs. Sarah Young presented a joint letter of dismission from the First Presbyterian church of Freeport, and requested to be formed in the church."

The following resolutions were passed unanimously, viz:

"Resolved, that we now form a Church of Christ, which shall be called the First Presbyterian church of Cedarville, and be under the care of Presbytery of Galena, etc.

The session met after adjournment, with the following as members: A. W. Lucas, elder; Rev. A. Kent, moderator; and Rev. J. C. Downer and John N. Powell, of the Galena Presbytery, as members.

At this meeting the following members presented themselves and were admitted on profession of faith, viz: Andrew Wilson, Mrs. Mary Boal and Miss Letitia Boal.

July 12, 1851. -At a meeting of the session held after preparatory services, the following members were received into the church, viz:

A. W. Lucas, Henry Ault, Levi Lucas, Thomas Pollock and John Pollock,

The services of the congregation were held in the Reformed church during the years 1867 to 1875 inclusive, and during the year 1876 in the M. E. church.

At a congregational meeting held January 21, 1876, it was decided to buy lots from Charles Duth and build on them a church. With this end in view, Jacob Latshaw, John Wright and J. Weber Addams were elected as a building committee, with full power to act

At this time Mr. W. Lucas (familiarly known in this community as Aunt Betty Lucas) offered to give $1,000 toward the erection of a church. With this splendid offer the committee went to work and built a fine church, 36x56 feet, gothic in style, with a 98 foot spire (a part of the spire was taken off) costing $3,400. The church was dedicated free of debt on Sunday, October 29, 1876. Rev. T. C. Easton, of Belleville, Illinois, assisted the pastor, Rev. L. H. Mitchell in the services. Many were turned away who could not find even standing room in the church during the service.

It was decided to celebrate the sixth anniversary of our church on December 29, 1905, and, with this object in view, a committee, consisting of Rev. R. Nexwomb, Mrs. J. K. Benson and C. W. Frank was elected, with power to act. The committee went to work with a will, and prepared a fine program.

The committee to build a parsonage reported to the congregation that Morgan Gandy was the lowest responsible bidder. On motion the contract was awarded to him, and a building committee consisting of Jacob Latshaw, John H. Addams and John Wright was appointed. All the buildings were completed, costing $1,022,000, and committee discharged April 10, 1880. The following named are the present officers of the church:

Minister - Rev. A. W. McClurkin.

Elders - F. W. Clingman, C. W. Frank Elias D. Baker, Henry Richart. Trustees - J. K. Benson, Mrs. S. B. Barber, Jr., Alma Richart, Oliver P. Cromnley, T. Hutchinson Rutherford, E. D. Baker.

Supply Pastors - Calvin Waterbury, 1845; J. C. Downer, 1851; John N. Powell, 1851; A. Kent, 1851; Robert Colston, 1853; Matthew B. Patterson, 1866; B. Roberts, 1867.

Pastors - John M. Linn, 1867-1871; Louis H. Mitchell, 1874-1878; John C. Irwin, 1879-1882; James McFarland, 1883-1884; J. W. Parkhill, 1884-1885; J. H. Dillingham, 1886-1889; Thomas Hickling, 1890-1892; Henry Cullen, 1892190o; Emmett W. Rankin, 1900-1901; Charles P. Bates, 1901-1902; James T. Ford, 1902-1904; Ozro R. Newcomb, 1905-1907; A. W. McClurkin, 1907.

The Cedarville Cemetery Association was organized in 1855 by John H. Addams, Marcus Montelius, Josiah Clingman, Peter Wooding and John Wilson. Josiah Clingman was elected president and John H. Addams secretary and treasurer.

The Cedarville Library was established in 1846. The first board of trustees consisted of John H. Addams. A. W. Lucas, Josiah Clingman and William Irwin. For years the library was located in the home of John H. Addams and was accessible to all. This library probably contained a higher proportion of books of real value than the libraries of today.

The Independent Band of Cedarville was organized in 1873. In 1880 the officers were: President, Henry Richert; Secretary, J. B. McGammon; Treasurer, W. B. Clingman, and George W. Barber, leader.

At present, Cedarville maintains one of the best bands in northern Illinois and is in great demand to play at public gatherings.

The first postmaster was George Reitzell. He was followed by William Irwin, Robert Sedam and Johnathan Sills. Jackson Richart began in 1856 and the present postmaster is Henry Richart.

From 1835 to 1855 the people of Cedarville had faith that the village was to grow to be a city. Mills and factories were established, many of which did a big business for that day. But a few factors which the people could not control determined otherwise and the place is a village still. One factor was the perfection of steam power. Another was the decline of the available water power, with its intervals of uncertainty. Another was the failure of the village to secure a railroad, and the fourth is that modem phase of industrial life that has gathered up the little shops and factories into great corporations with almost unlimited capital. One by one these irresistible forces undermined the prospective industries of the village until the last dream of a city has been dissipated, and left Cedarville with the great opportunity to be a model village In this it may still easily become great. Among the early business enterprises were Reel & Syler's Purifier Manufactory, which did a $30,000 business in 1880; J. B. McGammon's Carriage Factory, a $10,000 business in 1880; John Shaffer's Carriage Factory, established in 1859; the J. W. Henny Carriage Factory, which moved to Freeport; and the Cedarville Mills. The first mill was a God send to that portion of the county. Dr. Van Valzah conducted it until 1840 when it was sold to David Neidigh. Conrad Epley and John W. Shuey bought it of Neidigh and sold it to Hon. J. H. Addams in 1844 for $4,400. In 1846 Mr. Addams rebuilt the mill and in 1858 built the mill that now stands as one of the land marks of the county. It was three stories high, 36x54, had three run of stones, and cost $10,000. Its capacity in 1880 was too barrels of flour daily.

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