Waddams township is six miles square, and contains twenty three thousand and forty acres of rolling prairie.
It is crossed by the Pecatonica River, which receives a large number of tributaries within the confines of the
township. The most important is Waddams Creek, a small but swift current, which rises in the southwestern corner
of the township and flows northeast into the Pecatonica. In addition, there are numerous other creeks and streamlets
which cover the township with such a system of water courses that water power is never lacking. The township, it
is believed, was surveyed by William Hamilton, son of the great secretary of the treasury in Washington's cabinet,
who had settled in the lead mine regions at Hamilton's Diggings and who also was an Independent Ranger during the
Black Hawk War.
The first settlement was made by Levi Robey in 1835. His nearest neighbor was William Waddams, seven miles to the
west. He built a log cabin on the Pecatonica, and began a "clearing," which was the first farm in Waddams
township. The same year Nelson Wait, Hubbard Graves, Charles Gappen, Alija Watson, John and Thomas Baker and William
Willis joined the settlement. These earliest settlers got their mail and supplies at Galena and went on a two or
three days' journey to mill on Wolf Creek. Indians and wild animals abounded in the wilderness and the settlement
of the township was accompanied by the usual frontier dangers and privations.
The settlement was made strong in 1836 by the new arrivals, mostly from the east. That year came Thomas Hawkins,
John Boyingtan, Lydia Wait and family, N. Phillips, Pells Manny, John Lobdell, Barney Stowell, Lewis Griggsby,
Nicholas Marcellus, John Dennison and a nam named Velie. The first birth in the township was William Robey, son
of Levi Robey, September 21, 1836.
Within recent years Waddams township has taken a place of great importance in the politics of Stephenson County.
It is one of the few Democratic townships of the county outside of Freeport, and, as such, is an interesting factor
in all county elections.
McConnell is a pleasant little village on the Pecatonica River and on the Dodgeville branch of the Illinois
Central Railroad. Besides several stores, hotel, blacksmith shop, two churches, a school house and the postoffice,
there is an excellent creamery run by Peter Danielson, an expert butter maker. The surrounding farmers find excellent
market for milk. The creamery puts out from nine thousand to twelve thousand pounds of butter daily. West of McConnell,
about one mile, is a cheese factory that does a good business. McConnell has a number of fine residences that are
The old house, the oldest now standing in McConnell, was built by Robert McConnell and is yet in good repair. There
is nothing left of the old mill but a remnant of the dam. Two old settlers, who have been citizens for more than
fifty years and who know the history of the community, are Mr. A. C. Martin and Charles Graves.
In 1836 John Dennison entered one thousand acres on the present site of McConnell. He had the town fever and his
idea was to lay out and build up a town on the Pecatonica. He was joined by John Vanzant and built a saw mill north
of the grove in 1836. The next year, Dennison and Vanzant, the latter being a surveyor, laid off the land in town
lots and made such improvements as they could in order to attract settlers.
In 1838 Robert McConnell arrived from Pennsylvania and purchased the land and improvements and called it "McConnell's
Grove." He established a store at once and brought his stock from Galena. The town did not build up rapidly
and the land was secured by the Illinois Central Railroad Company, which sold it to John Kennedy after the best
timber had been removed. Kennedy sold lots and farms to settlers, including Charles Webster, George Buck, John
Ault, Lewis G. Reed and other about 1855.
In 1880 McConnell had a population of about one hundred and fifty, a hotel, two wagon and blacksmith shops, a harness
shop, two stores and received mail three times a week. The school house was built in 1849. The first teachers in
the vicinity were Fayette Goddard and Adeline Hulburt, with an average of seventy students for many years. The
school district was divided, because of the increased number of settlers, in 1868 and 1871. The present school
building was erected in 1889. Talk of building a new three room school is persistent, but the majority of the taxpayers
are not yet convinced that they want to build so large a school.
McConnell Lutheran Church. The Lutheran Church was organized in 1850, October 19, with nineteen members. The first
pastor was Rev. G. J. Donmeyer. Services were first held in the school house, and in 1869 the church building was
erected. It was built of brick, 30 x 45, had a steeple and cost $2,200. In 1880 there were fifty members, and G.
J. Donmeyer was still pastor. His connection with the church had not been continuous, however, and for a time Rev.
J. Stoll and J. K. Bloom had served as pastors. Rev. Mr. Barr is the present pastor.
Lutheran Church. Three miles to the west of McConnell is another Lutheran Church, which was organized also by
Rev. G. J. Donmeyer in 1851 with thirteen members. In 1871 the organization built a church building valued at $1,890.
In 1880 Rev. J. W. Fritch was pastor.
Rev. W. G. Metzker, of Orangeville, is pastor of the United Brethren Church. A small Methodist congregation, under
the pastorate of Rev. Charles Briggs, is making excellent headway.
The village of Damascus is one of the oldest of the county. It is not a large settlement, and has never been
platted out as a village site, but all of the farmers within a radius of a mile or more call themselves residents
of Damascus. The population gathered about the store and blacksmith shop, which form the nucleus of the village,
numbers about one hundred and fifty.
Damascus was founded and given its present name in 1837 by Norman Phillips, who became its first postmaster after
a while. In three or four years the postoffice was established and Damascus continued to have a postoffice patronage
of five hundred or more until the rural free delivery system came a few years ago, and Damascus postoffice ceased
to do business.
Damascus is largely settled by members of the Phillips family, descendants of the man who founded the village,
and for many years the postoffice was conducted by members of the Phillips clan. The one break in the link was
the post mastership of W. K. Bechtold, who for a while ran the general store, and held the office of postmaster
at the same time.
The village contains a general store, owned by G. W. Phillips, a blacksmith shop, of which James Albright is proprietor,
a school, a church, and a creamery. In years gone by, Damascus was a very important point. Being situated on the
Pecatonica River, at one of the few points where the stream was crossed by a nridge, it drew a large number of
transients to its population. These gradually departed upon the building of more bridges, and the establishment
of ferries, and today the place is of very little commercial importance, except for its creamery. Tradition says
that when the controversy concerning the establishment of the county seat was in progress, Damascus was an active
factor in the struggle, and was finally defeated by the small majority of one vote. Freeport, Cedarville and Damascus
were the candidates for the honor, and, as is well known, Freeport eventually won out. Nevertheless, both Cedarville
and Damascus were lively competitors. They had the advantage of a more central location and at one time it seemed
as if they were the logical candidates for the court house. But Freeport backed up its claims with a large sum
of money, and the battle was to the strong.
Damascus Creamery. The creamery is operated by a farmer's stock company, of which J. A. Phillips is president.
It does a large business, and, outside of Freeport, is by far the most important creamery in the county.
First Baptist Church. The Damascus Baptist Church has been in existence for about twenty years. It was founded
in 1890 by the Rev. C. E. Wren, pastor of the Lena Church, and has since been attended by the pastors who do service
for that congregation. The charge is a student charge, and the pastor at present in charge is the Rev. Hervey Gilbert,
who resides at Lena. The membership of the church is about thirty. The church building was build very soon after
the founding of the church society in Damascus.
Damascus lies on the road between Lena and Cedarville, about an equal distance from both of these points. It is
situated on the town line between Harlem and Waddams townships, and the postoffice has at various times been located
in Harlem Township. At the time of the advent of the rural delivery, it was established on the addams side of the
road, and the greater part of the village is on that side. The last census gave the village a population of about
one hundred and fifty, and there has been hardly any increase since that time.
Waddams Center, as the name indicates, is the central spot of Waddams township. The site is not marked by a
village of any consequence, and the main object of interest is the district school, known as the Waddams Center
School. The settlement embraces a territory of three or four square miles, the inhabitants of which designate themselves
as "Waddams Center people." Waddams Center does not support a church, but there is a church at McConnell,
only a short distance away, which is attended by the farmers of the region. There is no general store, nor has
there ever been a postoffice. The population of the whole settlement at Waddams Center is about fifty.