The History of Winnebago County, Illinois

Less than fifty years ago, the Rock River country, now so replete with all the more advanced accomplishments of civilization and intelligence, was an unbroken and undisturbed Indian wild the hunting grounds of that tribe of red men from whom the County of Winnebago derives its name. The only, white man known to have had a home here, previous to the Fall of 1834, was Stephen Mack, a son of Vermont, who, with that spirit and love of adventure peculiarly characteristic of the pioneers of the Great West, appears to have drifted into the valley of Rock River, and found a home within the limits of the County of Winnebago, as early as 1829. Five years later, in the month of August, 1834, two other sons of the Eastern States, Germanicus Kent and Thatcher Blake, born and raised in almost adjoining states Connecticut and Maine but never knowing each other until they met at Galena, both en route for the same objective point, anchored their light canoe at the mouth of a small creek that now bears the name of one of these men, (Kent,) and stepped ashore to consecrate the grove-besprinkled and flower-bedecked prairies to the uses of the white man.

The lapse of time in the intervening years since the date of these events, the changes that have followed, have not been without their history: a history full of important events, and fraught with interest to the sons and daughters of those who followed in the footsteps of Stephen Mack, Germanicus Kent and Thatcher Blake from the old homes in the New England States to the haunts of the Winnebagoes, and whose energy, enterprise and industry have made the fertile valleys, prairies and grove-covered hillsides of half a century ago to abound with modern acquirements, intelligence, wealth and prosperity.

To preserve this history to the literature of the county, and thus hand it down to posterity as a completing link in the history of that great country of which Winnebago County is an integral part, has been the object of this undertaking. And while the publishers do not arrogate to themselves a degree of accuracy beyond criticism, they hope to be found measurably correct in their compilation and arrangement of the almost innumerable incidents that have been swallowed up in the Past, and that enter so largely into the Present of the community in whose interest this volume is written.

Without the aid and assistance of the survivors of the pioneers of 1834-5, or of their immediate descendants, and numerous notes from their carefully written and well preserved diaries, our task would have been far more arduous and difficult. To the patriarchs of the Past, who have so favored us, as well as to the representative men of the Present, we tender our grateful acknowledgements. Among these we take especial pleasure in mentioning the names of Thatcher Blake (the only male survivor of the settlers of 1834), James B. Martyn (of Belvidere), Thomas D. Robertson, Selden M. Church, Goodyear A. Sanford, H.R. Enoch, Esq., Editor of the Rockford Journal, John H. Thurston and A.I. Enoch, whose retentive memories have added largely to whatever of interest may be accredited to this volume.

The undertaking of the publishers completed, it only remain for them to tender to the people of Winnebago County in general their obligations and acknowledgements for the uniform kindness and courtesy extended to them, and their representatives and agents, during the preparation of these annals, as well as for their liberal patronage, without which this history would have been left buried beneath the debris of time, unwritten and unpreserved.


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When the Northwestern Territory was ceded to the United States by Virginia in 1784, it embraced only the territory lying between the Ohio and the Mississippi Rivers, and north to the northern limits of the United States. It coincided with the area now embraced in the States of Ohio, Indiana, - Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and that portion of Minnesota lying on the east side of the Mississippi River. The United States itself at that period extended no farther west than the Mississippi River; but by the purchase of Louisiana in 1803, the western boundary of the United States was extended to the Rocky Mountains and the Northern Pacific Ocean. The new territory thus added to the National domain, and subsequently opened to settlement, has been called the "New Northwest," in contradistinction from the old "Northwestern Territory."