History of Lee County, Illinois

In presenting the History of Lee County to the public the editors and publishers have had in view the preservation of certain valuable historical facts and information which without concentrated effort would not have been obtained, but with the passing away of the old pioneers, the failure of memory, and the loss of public records and private diaries, would soon have been lost. This locality being comparatively new, we flatter ourselves that, with the zeal and industry displayed by our general and local historians, we have succeeded in rescuing from the fading years almost every scrap of history worthy of preservation. Doubtless the work is, in some respects, imperfect; we do not present it as a model literary effort, but in that which goes to make up a valuable book of reference for the present reader and future historian, we assure our patrons that neither money nor time has been spared in the accomplishment of the work. Perhaps some errors will be found. With treacherous memories, personal, political and sectarian prejudices and preferences to contend against, it would be almost a miracle if no mistakes were made. We hope that even these defects, which may be found to exist, may be made available in so far as they may provoke discussion and call attention to corrections and additions necessary to perfect history.

In the writing of the general county history Dr. Cochran has had the advice and constant counsel of many of the early settlers of the county, to whom the manuscript was submitted and by them approved; and while there may be some mistakes, it is thought that it would hardly be possible, after so many years with nothing to depend upon for many of the facts but the memories of the early settlers, that it is as nearly correct as it could possibly be made. Certain it is that at no time in the future could such a work be undertaken with circumstances so favorable for the production of a reliable record of the early times of Lee county.

The township histories, by E. S. Ricker, Prof. J.H. Atwood, C.F. Atwood, and others, will be found full of valuable recollections, which but for their patient research must soon have been lost forever, but which are now happily preserved for all ages to come. These gentlemen have placed upon Lee county a mark which will not be obliterated, but which will grow brighter and broader as the years go by.

The biographical department contains the names and private sketches of nearly every person of importance in the county. A few person, whose sketches we should be pleased to have presented, for various reasons refused or delayed furnishing us with the desired information, and in this matter only we feel that our work is incomplete. However, in most of such cases we have obtained, in regard to the most important persons, some items, and have woven them into the county or township sketches, so that, as we believe, we cannot be accused of either partiality or prejudice.


List of Portraits.

John Dixon {Frontispiece).
J. A. Wernick... 43
Abijaii Powers... 61
C.C. Hunt... 79
Abram Brown... 97
J.N. Hills... 115
Alexander Charters... 133
Joseph Crawford... 151
W.W. Bethea... 169
W.H. Van Epps... 187
H.T. Noble... 205
John Dement... 223
James A. Hawley... 241
E B. Stiles... 259
Riley Paddock... 277
George Ryon... 293
Lewis Clapp... 311
Alvah Hale... 327
James H. Preston... 345
Chester S. Badger... 361
Isaac Edwards... 379
John B. Wyman... 395
W.E. Ives... 413
Volney Bliss... 429
Ira Brewer... 447
C.B. Thummel... 463
John H. Page... 481
George H. Page... 497
E.H. Johnson... 515
A.P. Dysart... 531
John Yetter... 549
Isaac Thompson... 565
G.W. Hewitt... 583
U.C. Roe... 599
S.F. Mills... 617
N.A. Petrte... 635
Walter Little... 653
David Smith... 671
William McMahan... 689
J.H. Braffet... 707
W.M. Strader... 725
George M. Berkley...743
William J. Fritz... 761


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In sketching the history of Lee county we must take the reader back to the early days of the northern part of the State of Illinois, embraced in the great territory lying northwest of the Ohio river. This territory, embracing northern Illinois, was discovered by Jacques Marquette, and Louis Joliet in 1673. Marquette was a French Jesuit missionary, and Joliet was a Quebec fur-trader. These men had penetrated the wilderness of Canada to the upper lakes, each engaged in his appropriate occupation. The French, missionary, while at La Pointe, received information through the Illinois tribes who had been driven by the Iroquois from their hunting grounds on the shores of Lake Michigan to a region thirty days' journey to the west, that there existed a "great river " flowing through grassy plains on which grazed countless herds of buffaloes. The same information had been received by Dablon and AUouez, two missionaries, who were exploring Wisconsin from the Miamis and Maskoutens. This information resulted in the appointment, by the governor of Canada, of Joliet to explore the "Great River. " Pierre Marquette was chosen to accompany him, "for in those days religion and commerce went hand in hand. " Joliet fitted out the expedition, which consisted of "two canoes and five voyageurs, and a supply of corn and smoked meat; and May 27, 1673, the little band left St. Ignace for their perilous voyage through an unknown country, preoccupied by wild beasts, reptiles, and hostile savages. " Coasting to the head of Green Bay, they "ascended the Fox river; crossed Lake Winnebago, and followed up the quiet and tortuous stream beyond the portage; " launched their canoes in the waters of the Wisconsin, and without their Indian guides they swept down this stream until they caught sight of the hills which bound the valley of the "Great River, " and at nightfall landed, to eat their evening repast on the banks of the broad Mississippi, for which they launched their canoes one month before. They floated down the mighty current to the Arkansas, where they were compelled to return because of the hostility of the Indians, who on the lower Mississippi were furnished with rifles by the Spaniards.