History of Florence Township, Will County, Illinois
From: History of Will County, Illinois
By: August Maue
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1928

Florence Township is a full Congressional town, containing thirty six full sections, and is described in the survey as Town 33 north, and 10 east of the Third Principal Meridian. It is bounded on the north by Jackson Township, on the east by Wilton, on the south by Wesley, and on the west by Wilmington. It is watered by Prairie Creek flowing through the northwestern part, and by Forked Creek and its branches flowing through the southern portion. These furnish excellent stock water to the farms lying adjacent. Stone, adapted to foundations for houses and for making lime, is found in some parts, and quarries are worked for these purposes. Some dispute as to who was the first settler of this township has arisen in consequence of the nearness of some of the first settlements to the northwest corner, across the line from which other early settlements were made in adjoining townships. We have no doubt, from close investigation, that Lewis Linebarger is justly entitled to that honor. Several others of the Linebarger family came to Jackson Township in the year 1832, and, as we have seen in the history of that township, returned to Indiana on the appearance of the Indian troubles. The next spring, Lewis moved out and settled at what has since been known as Starr's Grove, though the neighborhood was then really considered a part of Reed's Grove. Perhaps, from this circumstance, Linebarger has been incorrectly accredited to Jackson Township. Linebarger built a log cabin, which was the first and made other improvements. He did not enter the land, but subsequently sold his claim to Arthur Potts, and removed to Oregon.

Arthur Potts, though not the next to make his appearance as a settler, was yet in the township of Westley in 1834, and moved on the claim purchased of Linebarger a year or two later. Potts was a native of Indiana. He lived here until 1854, and then removed to Iowa, having sold his farm to Duncan McIntyre.

Another of the Linebargers also settled in here in 1834. He, too, moved to Oregon. Henry Moore was here in 1834. He was a native of Indiana, a good farmer, and removed to Iowa many years ago.

In 1835, the township received an addition to its population that proved to be an addition, not only as to numbers, but in worth, in energy, in industry, and in general benefit to the community. Henry Althouse is a native of Prussia. He came to this country in 1819, landing in Baltimore that year. All that he had in the world, when he stepped ashore, was the clothes on his back, plenty of energy and a thorough knowledge of the baking business. In the business of baking he engaged, working at the trade in Maryland, Virginia and Ohio. In 1835, he concluded to turn farmer, and, with that intent, came to this place and laid claim to a piece of land. To this he added, by the utmost energy and industry, until, at one time, he owned 1,500 acres. Having a view to the comfort and welfare of a large family, he divided it up and gave to each of the nine surviving children a good farm and other property of value. He moved to Wilmington, where he occupied the fine residence of the former banker, Daniels. He lived beyond four score, retaining his faculties to the last.

John Kahler was also one of the earliest citizens of this vicinity, having settled here in 1835.

James Martin came in 1836. He was a native of Ireland, and proved to be a first class citizen of this community. When he first came to the neighborhood, he assisted in the building of Dr. Bowen's mill at Wilmington. The school records show him to have been one of the first school trustees, in 1842. His son William occupied the old homestead until his death. James W. Martin, another son, was a successful farmer, acquiring several good farms in Florence and Wesley townships. Later he became interested in politics and became a leader. He disposed of his land and removed to Joliet where he acquired considerable real estate. He was elected County Treasurer for two terms and served his county well. Four sons survive, Robert, an attorney in Joliet, who was State's Attorney for the County; Walter, who is also an attorney associated with his brother, Charles, of Wilmington, who is mayor of that city, and John who is a prosperous farmer in Wesley Township.

About this time came Walter and Thomas Monteith. They were from New York. They lived here about ten years, and then removed to Oregon. Since their removal to that State, report says they have become very wealthy. David Bell was one of the next to settle here. He was a native of New York, and came first to Wilmington, where he earned a little money working at the trade of carpenter, bought a little land in the southwest part of the township, and by constant industry and good management became wealthy.

In 1837, Duncan McIntyre and Daniel Stewart came from New York. McIntyre took a claim on Section 28, the farm later owned by Selah Morey, and built a cabin. Being unmarried at the time, he took to live with him Nelson Wright and family, who had emigrated from New York with him. Subsequently, Wright removed to Oregon, and McIntyre sought elsewhere for a housekeeper; and in the connection a little romance is related. Some years before, McIntyre and some friends, while on a tour of inspection in the neighboring township of Wesley, were suddenly surprised by seeing coming toward them a man leading a little girl, then a mere child. The man informed them that they were emigrants from Michigan, and had just arrived at the place; that their wagon, with the balance of the family, had been left a little way behind, and they were seeking a place to spend the night. The man was Joseph Hadsel, and the little girl was his daughter. All of the gentlemen were struck with the quiet and simple beauty of the little girl; but no one dreamed that this was to be the future Mrs. Duncan McIntyre. But when Mr. McIntyre's tenants, the Wrights left his place, he then brought to mind the modest, intelligent face of Joseph Hadsel's daughter, who was then living with her father in the adjoining township. An opportunity was not long in presenting itself for McIntyre to renew the acquaintance of the now young lady, and his estimation of her growing as their acquaintance increased, and her regard for him being of an equally high character, they were married in 1840. Three years later, McIntyre and his wife returned to New York, where they lived fourteen years, and then returned to Florence, where he died some years later. Mrs. McIntyre resided at Starr's Grove, with her mother, the former Mrs. Hadsel until her death. She was one of the oldest residents of this part of the county when she passed away.

Daniel Stewart, mentioned in Wilmington Township, was one of the staunchest and most honorable citizens of this neighborhood. In his line of business he was most successful, and accumulated a large amount of property.

Walter W. Monteith, cousin of the Monteith before mentioned, came about the year 1841, and worked for a time in Gov. 1VIatteson's woolen mills at Joliet. On coming to this township, he settled near the center. He was one of the most popular (and deservedly so) citizens. He was the first Supervisor of the township, and held numerous other positions of honor and responsibility, in all of which he discharged the duties of the same in a most satisfactory manner.

Charles Starr, after whom the little grove on Prairie Creek was named, was a native of Nova Scotia. He was the father of Judge C. R. Starr, of Kankakee. Mr. Starr came to this country and to this township in 1842. He died in 1874 at a very advanced age nearly 100 years old. In the same year, William Van der Bogert arrived from New York. He was elected, the same year, a Trustee of Schools in the township being one of the first three.

Isaac Jackson also arrived in 1842. He was a native of Nova Scotia and came with his family to Starr's Grove, having purchased 100 acres of land at that place. Mr. Jackson was a Quaker preacher, though in some points he differed from the orthodox Quakers. Before removing from Nova Scotia, he had built, at his own expense, a church, in which he preached his peculiar doctrines to all who desired to hear him, free of expense to his auditors. On leaving that country, he donated the house of worship to the congregation. After coming to this country, he frequently held religious services at school houses throughout the county. Mr. Jackson was a most profound mechanical genius; and whether the circumstances called for the shoeing of a horse, the framing of a house, the building of a carriage in all to its parts, or the transforming of a piece of iron into the delicate hairspring of a chronometer, he was always found equal to the occasion. At his son Delancy's may be seen some of the instruments manufactured by him for his own use, which are pronounced by experts to be of the very finest character. He died here in 1875, at the advanced age of 90 years, his wife having preceded him in 1856. Enoch Jackson, a son of the above, served for eighteen consecutive years as Justice of the Peace in this township, during which time not a single one of his decisions was ever reversed by the higher courts.

By the year 1848, quite a number more permanent settlements had been made, so that the population had become nearly one hundred. Among the principal ones who arrived during the years 1842-48, are remembered John Jordan, Rufus Corbett, George A. Gray, Adam White, Edward Gurney, the Baskerville family, Selah and Leonard Morey, William Barret, Dr. E. H. Strong, Adam White and sons John and James, C. G. Jewell, R. H. Nott, Andrew Layton, Henry Hand and Hezekiah Warner.

The first move looking toward the organization of a means of educating the youth of this township originated with Henry Althouse, the next Winter after arriving here. The school consisted of only his own children and a child or two belonging to one of the neighbors. The school was taught in a room of Althouse's dwelling, by a young lady employed by him, and was more on the nursery style than conforming to the strict rules of the modern public school, the young lady being employed as much for the purpose of taking care of the children as for instructing them. In 1841, the first steps were taken to establish a school for general and public instruction. A petition was prepared, and at the meeting of the Board of Trustees of Wilmington Township, in the Spring of the next year, presented to that body praying to be admitted as a part of the Wilmington District. The petition was considered favorably, and a school was established within the bounds of Florence, during the winter of 1842-43. The attendance was only six scholars, and the term lasted but thirty five days. Sarah Fisher is entitled to the credit of being the pioneer educator of the public school system of this township; and for her services, as Principal of this Florence Academy, or Starr's Grove institute, or whatever it was called, she received $11.50.

In 1845, the number of scholars in the township, living near Starr's Grove, had increased to twenty four, and Town 33, Range 10, was set off as a separate district. No schoolhouse had yet been erected, but schools were held in such rooms of private houses as could be spared. The first schoolhouse was erected in 1849, and was built by Selah Morey, for $250. James Martin, John Kahler and William Van der Bogert were the first trustees.

Florence Township is entirely agricultural. One village is found on the Wabash in the southeastern part, village of Symerton. This is an important grain center and affords a market for the farmers of that area.

All of the land is prairie with the exception of a few acres of timber on Jordan Creek in section 22. This group is composed of scattered trees and it does not appear that very many have been cut away. The entire township is under cultivation. The land is well drained and easily tilled. It produces good crops of corn, wheat, oats, barley, and rye. For some years previous to the World War very little if any wheat was raised. Since that time, however, cultivation of winter wheat and spring wheat has been revived and this crop now is a considerable portion of the grain crop of the township. Thus far no Chinch bug has appeared to interfere with the wheat. Indications are that no trouble will arise from this source for some years to come. Grain farming is almost universal throughout the township. During the last year some dairying has come in. The lack of sufficient good roads hinders the advancement of this line of farming.

The concrete road running south from Joliet strikes the west side of the township at the north edge of section 7 and follows along the township line of sections 18 and 19 and half way across section 30 where it turns west through Wilmington. A good stone road is maintained along the central line of the township from north to south. A stone road is maintained also on the south side of sections 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24. This east and west road continues eastward until it intersects the concrete road, Route 22 from Joliet to Kankakee. A stone road runs north from this east and west road through the village of Symerton northward one and one half mile and thence westward to the stone road along the central line. The remainder of the highways are graded dirt roads. They are maintained in good condition during dry weather but in wet weather it is very difficult to travel over them with an automobile because the land is so nearly level.

Nine good schools are maintained in the township. Eight years ago a movement was started looking to the consolidation of the rural schools. The farmers feared an added cost as well as difficulties in transporting the pupils over mud roads. It was abandoned because the people thought that it would not be successful. Attendance at the schools has been uniformly good.

No churches are maintained in the township. The people worship in the churches of Wilmington and other nearby towns.

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