ROCK GROVE TOWNSHIP.
Rock Grove Township is the home of a group of the most thrifty and prosperous farmers that can be found anywhere
in Stephenson County. The farms are under high cultivation, and each and every one is provided with the most up
to date machinery and farm appurtenances. The number of new circular barns which have been erected within the last
few years in and about Rock Grove exceeds that of any other township of the county. Corn, wheat, oats, rye, and
barley are grown in abundance, and hogs, sheep, and cattle are raised in large numbers, and the whole township
from one corner to another presents an appearance of thrift, peace, and plenty, which is exceedingly beautiful
to the eye.
There are two townships in the county which are not entered by any railroad, and Rock Grove is one of them. There
has been talk at various times of connecting Freeport and the village of Rock Grove by an electric line. Such a
line would possibly prove a paying venture as it would supply the long felt want of transportation facilities to
the dwellers in the village and especially the farmers of the surrounding country. The prospects of an immediate
completion of the venture are, however, exceedingly vague.
Rock Grove is traversed by a number of small creeks, notably Rock Creek, which flows south to join Rock Run in
Rock Run Township. There are also a number of other small streams which have their sources in this township and
flow down to swell the tide of the Pecatonica. The ground is slightly rolling, and the surface of the township
is well wooded. There are large groves of valuable timber at Walnut, Linn, and Rock Groves, suitable for building
and other mechanical purposes. The water supply is admirable; there are a number of artesian wells of delicious
drinking water scattered throughout the region.
No permanent settlement was made in Rock Grove Township earlier than 1835, although many transients and prospectors
had passed through on their way westward long before that date. In the summer of 1835, Albert Albertson, accompanied
by Johnathan Corey, came to the township, and, having pitched their tents in the vicinity of the present village
of Rock Grove, they were so delighted with the aspect of the country that they decided to remain permanently. They
entered their claims in Section 36 of the present township and there took up their permanent abode. In December
of the same year, Albertson and Corey were joined by Eli Frankeberger, who came with his family from Champaign
County, Ohio, and settled in the present village of Rock Grove. In the same month of their arrival, the first white
child born in the township, was born to Mr. and Mrs. Frankeberger, and straightway christened "Louisa Frankeberger."
The following winter was one of sore trial to the new settlers, owing to insufficiency of food and supplies. In
the course of the winter they were joined by Josiah Blackamore, and later by one or two others. But the recruits
were few, and it was only the enthusiasm and courage of the new settlers that kept them from a disgraceful retreat.
That they did remain in their chosen habitation is greatly to their credit, and that they never regretted it is
shown by the fact that most of them spent the rest of their lives within the bounds of Rock Grove Township, and
their descendants are living there today.
In 1836 few new settlers came to Rock Grove Township, but in 1837 they began to come in large numbers. Previous
to this year, the settlers had laid their claims in and about the future village of Rock Grove. Some of the newcomers
went farther out in the country, as Joseph Musser, who settled in Sections 19 and 20, Thomas Chambers, Samuel Chambers,
William Wallace, and a few others. They all clung close to the grove, however, and did not go up into the northern
part of the township. In the same year came Mr. Moon, who laid his claim in Sections 31 and 32, east of the grove,
Joseph Osborn, who opened a farm in Section 35, and laid claim to timber lands in Section 3o. In Section 31, in
the future village site, Samuel Guyer and Daniel Guyer came to take up their claim, and later founded the village
The first marriage occurred during the winter of 1836-7, and the contracting parties were Josiah Blackamore and
Miss Wallace, a daughter of William Wallace, an early settler. This marriage did not take place in the township
itself, however, but in Green County, Wisconsin - hence many of the old settlers disclaim it as the first marriage
in the township. It is said that Josiah Blackamore, who was one of an army of volunteer soldiers, who had been
sent by the government to aid in driving back the Indians, became smitten with the charms of Miss Wallace and on
his return from the Indian wars. he wooed and won her.
In 1838, the first marriage within the bounds of the township itself occurred. Albert and Lavinia Albertson were
united in marriage by Eli Frankeberger, who was justice of the county in addition to his farming duties. On April
19, 1839, Elijah Clark and Harriet Hodgson were united at Walnut Grove by Squire Kinney.
In the fall of 1839, Solomon Fisher and Jacob Fisher came to Rock Grove Township and laid claim to 600 acres of
ground in Sections 25 and 26. The claim had previously been entered by Drummond, a transient miner, who erected
a 16 by 16 cabin and dug a well. Drummond did not stay long and sold out to the Fisher brothers upon his departure
from the locality. In 1839 and 1840 the immigration was large. Among those who came at this time were Peter George,
John Fisher, Calvin Preston, J. S. Potter, John Kleckner, John and Reuben Bolender, George and Jacob Maurer, Joseph
Barber, Levi, Adam and Michael Bolender, and others. By this time the population of the township was very well
distributed. The settlers were not altogether gathered about the grove, but had spread out and taken claims even
up in the northern part of the township near the state line.
The first death in the history of the township occurred in 1842, although some say it was 1843, and took place
under very tragic circumstances. William Wallace, one of the earliest settlers of the region, became violently
insane, and going out into the woods on the edge of the grove, he hung himself to a tree. He was buried in the
vicinity of the village of Rock Grove, where the tragic event occurred. Along in 1843 another tragedy occurred,
this time a tragedy of mysterious and inexplicable nature. A man named Boardman, who was employed on the farm of
one Daniel Noble near Walnut Grove, was shot to death by the hand of an unknown assassin. Nothing was ever learned
either of the assassin or the possible motives for his deed, and, although the event transpired nearly seventy
years ago, it is still shrouded in the deepest mystery.
After 1839, prosperity began to be apparent in the township. Supplies were easier to obtain, and the founder of
several mills in the nearby county, viz: the Van Valzah Mills at Cedarville, the Curtis mills at Orangeville, and
various smaller mills on Rock Run, placed the inhabitants of Rock Grove Township in a safe and comfortable position.
From about 1841 dates the modern history of Rock Grove Township. In 1844 occurred the sale of government lands
at public auction, and thereafter the inpour of settlers was very great. In 1846 the first school was established
in the township, in Section 36, near the village site, and the educational facilities of the township have since
been on the steady increase. At present no section of the county is provided with better conducted schools. In
1850 the township was set apart and formally organized as Rock Grove Township. In the same year the village of
Rock Grove, first known as Guyer's Addition, was founded.
Rock Grove Township comprises a territory of thirty three square miles, or nearly that area. It contains but one
village, the Rock Grove mentioned above. Located in the far northeastern corner of the county, it is farthest of
any township from the county seat, but is well provided with schools and churches and is one of the pleasantest
spots of the county for permanent residence, both from a farming standpoint and as a place of retreat, where joy
and comfort can be the prime factors in life.
Rock Grove village although not formally platted out until as late as 1850, was one of the oldest villages in
the county. It was in reality founded by the first settlers who came to the township, inasmuch as they located
their claims in the immediate vicinity of the grove, and many of them in the very town site itself. The land on
which the town was later located was originally owned by C. W. Cummings, who afterward sold out to Peter D. Fisher.
Fisher himself had also owned some land in the neighborhood and Samuel Guyer owned extensive property just to the
west. In 1850 Samuel Guyer laid out the village and sold lots, but the whole settlement was re-platted and re-surveyed
by Benjamin Dornblazer in 1855. In 1856, on the 29th of August, J. D. Schmeltzer set apart, surveyed and platted
nine acres in the southwest quarter of Section 36, and called it by the name of Schmeltzer's Addition.
In 1852 Fisher's Addition, which had never been settled thickly enough to deserve the name of village, was abandoned,
and sold to Solomon Hoy. Thenceforth it was never used for village purposes, but on April 22, 1869, Samuel H. Fisher
laid off four acres south of Schmeltzer's Addition in village lots and a settlement quickly sprang up there. The
village is today as it was then, occupying for the most part only four or five streets, with one main street on
which the stores and all the principal residences of the village are located.
Rock Grove possesses three churches, schools, two stores, a telephone exchange, a hotel, and several lodges, which
meet in the Woodmen's Hall. There are also two cheese factories, one of them operating about a half mile north
of Rock Grove, the other some distance west.
Churches. Of the three churches, only the Evangelical and Reformed churches are at present holding divine worship.
The third, an Evangelical Lutheran congregation has temporarily disbanded, and no services are being held in the
Evangelical Church. The Evangelical adherents of Rock Grove have had a church and held services for a very long
time, but for some years after establishing the congregation, no church edifice was bought or built. The congregation
held services and worshiped in the church belonging to the Lutheran congregation, located about a half mile west
of the center of the village.
In 1878 the congregation had increased to such an extent that it seemed advisable to put up a church building.
Under the direction of a building committee consisting of George Meyers, Jere Swartz, Jacob Sullivan, William Alexander,
and A. Bolender, an edifice costing $2,300 was put up and paid for by subscriptions from among the farmers of the
township and village. The church was dedicated on the 27th of November, 1878, and has been in use ever since that
The Rock Grove Evangelical church is in the same charge with the Oakley church, and both are presided over by the
Rev. G. Eberly, who has been in residence since about a year ago, when he came here from Anna, Illinois. Both churches
are in a prosperous condition. The Rock Grove church is the larger of the two, having a membership of eighty six
and a Sunday school of one hundred and twenty. The Oakley church has a membership of sixty two and a Sunday school
of about sixty. The church owns a parsonage, beautifully located in the village of Rock Grove, and valued at about
$1,600. The Rock Grove church is estimated at about $1,600, and the Oakley church at a slightly smaller amount.
Reformed Church. The Reformed church holds its services in the Lutheran church building west of town. The membership
is very small, having a congregation of about fourteen, with a Sunday school of twenty. The pastoral duties are
performed by the Rev. G. W. Kerstetter, pastor of the Dakota church, and services are held only occasionally. The
Rock Grove charge was only established in 1908.
Evangelical Lutheran Church. The Evangelical Lutheran church holds its services at intervals in the above mentioned
church west of the village of Rock Grove. At the present time the church is without a pastor, the Rev. Mr. Delo
having left some time ago. It is probable that services in the Rock Grove church will be altogether discontinued.
Lodges. Rock Grove boasts of two lodges, the Rock Grove Lodge of the I. O. O. F. and the Rock Camp, No. 142 of
the Modem Woodmen of America. The former has been in existence for many years, having been founded about thirty
years ago. The membership at present is extended to about sixty members. G. Frankeberger is noble grand and Henry
Long is secretary. The M. W. A. Lodge was established twenty years ago and has a membership of about forty. Both
of these organizations meet in the M. W. A. hall on Main street.
The Kaup Hotel and feed barn has been conducted for some years by F. S. Kaup on East Main street. Mr. Kaup intends
to move to Orangeville, where he will conduct the Central Hotel. He has kept a most excellent house in Rock Grove
and his departure will be deeply regretted. There is no rival institution, nor has any provision been made for
a new hotel as yet.
There is one general store, conducted by D. L. Thoren, also a Bell telephone exchange. The present population of
the village is estimated at about three hundred, with no prospects for any great increase in the near future. Rock
Grove is one of the most picturesquely situated villages in the county, and affords quiet and rest for a large
number of prosperous retired farmers, whose comfortable and well kept homes line the main street of the village.
Although not on any railroad line, Rock Grove is easily accessible, being only a few miles from the C., M. &
St. P. station at Rock City, and about eighteen miles from Freeport.