Lee County Illinois
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Bradford Township, Lee County, Illinois

Bradford! Another subdivision of Inlet! In Bradford the best and sturdiest of Lee County's population was started, the Norwegians, now so populous and prosperous; the Germans too started in Bradford.

John Hotzell came here about 1842, and he and Ommen Hillison kept bachelors' hall (separately) a long while before marrying. Christian Reinhart's daughter, Catherine, married Ommen Hillison and later John Aschenbrenner. The mother of Henry W. Hillison and Reinhart Aschenbrenner and Andrew Aschenbrenner came in 1845. Reinhart Gross came in 1847.

The history of the Germans is identical with that of the Norwegians. Friends back home desiring to come to America came directly to the home of their old friend Hotzell. The latter was hospitable and he cared for them all as one by one and more came over. A day or two was all that was needed; then they sought work and later lands, always under the guidance of Neighbor Hotzell whose counsel was always good. Thus early, Bradford took on its reputation for solidity which ever since has characterized the place. When one speaks of Bradford, he is known to indicate the township where lands always are rising in value until perhaps Bradford is the highest priced land in the county.

At the last session of the board of supervisors, Bradford was honored in the selection of one of its strongest citizens, John J. Wagner, for the office of chairman.

Bradford was settled very early and Inlet was the point from which the settlers scattered into what now is Bradford.

For a long time Bradford contained its present six-mile square area and the present township of Ashton as well, and so it remained until 1861, when Ashton was set off as a township by itself. Bradford obtained its name from Bradford, Pennsylvania, whence many of its population came.

In 1850 the town was organized at the home of Ralph B. Evitts. At the town meeting Elisha Pratt was made chairman, Thomas S. Hulbert, secretary and Charles Starks, moderator; George E. Haskell, justice of the peace, swore them in.

At this meeting Charles Starks was elected supervisor; Ira Brewer, town clerk; E. W. Starks, assessor; Samuel S. Starks, collector; Ralph B. Evitts, overseer of the poor; Sherman Shaw, Stephen Clink and George Yale, highway commissioners; Samuel S. Starks and Daniel Barber, constables; Elisha Pratt and Lafayette Yale, justices; Jesse Woodruff was put in charge of the town's litigation.

Meetings were held in private houses till 1856, when the schoolhouse in Ogle Station, now Ashton, was used.

As in Inlet, Sherman Shaw was of the very first to build in Bradford, and Mr. Whitman in 1838. In 1840 Mr. Shaw built a frame house on the northeast 31. Egbert Shaw has the distinction of being the first white child born in Bradford. Ommen Hillison built a house about 1840. In 1838 Charles Starks came to Inlet and in 1839 laid his claim on east ½ northwest 32 and the west ½ northeast 32. The Whipple brothers came in about the same time. Starks began work immediately on his claim and in 1842 moved on it.

George and Milo Yale claimed the northwest 6. In 1842 their father, N. C. Yale, settled on section 1; Jesse Woodruff settled on 32; R. B. Evitts on 29 and C. Bowen settled on 29. Stephen Clink built a stone house.

In 1842 Elias Hulbert claimed south 14 southeast 19 and very soon thereafter moved upon it. John Owen moved in at about this time.

At the very earliest period Lewis Clapp of Lee Center, firm in his regard for Bradford, took an interest in pushing the welfare of settlers and he furnished money for fully two-thirds of the early settlers to enter their land from the Government. Others moved in rapidly; William Ross, Reinhart Gross, Conrad Reinhart (already named), Conrad Hotzell.

Ira Brewer reached Lee Center Township in June, 1843. That same year he bought west Yo northwest 32 and east ½ northeast 31, Bradford. In 1845 he built a house, 19x24. He became a very large land owner in this and Lee Center Townships. He was one of the fiercest enemies of the banditti which infested Inlet and his son, George W., owns the very compact which was signed by the regulators of those days.

Among the old settlers not already named were: William S. Frost, 1838; Lorin T. Wellman, 1848; David Wellman, 1853; Harlow A. Williamson, 1850; Philip Runyan, 1850; Peter Eisenberg, 1852; Luther Baldwin, 1852; Edwin Pomeroy, 1844; Frank and Nelson DeWolf, 1837; Berghardt Albrecht, 1855; Edward W. Pomeroy, 1845; C. Bowen, L. Shumway, Samuel Cobel, William, Warren and Stephen Clink, 1841 to 1843; Ralph B. Evitts, 1842; Sherman Shaw, 1839; Elias Hulbert and Ebenezer Whipple, 1842. The Germans which have predominated in this township ever since they began settling here predominate today, and the descendants of those pioneers are today rich, almost to the last man. It may be said of them too, that the fortunes of the first settlers have been preserved down to the third and fourth generation.

The homes of Bradford are down-to-date, steam-heated, electric lighted, and automobiles may be found in nearly every family in Bradford. The people are enterprising to an unusual degree and in no greater manner can this enterprise have been exhibited than by the exertions of Reinhart and Andrew Aschenbrenner, sons of Catherine Aschenbrenner who have put over forty thousand dollars into the construction of the Northern Illinois Electric railroad. Only the other day when it went into the hands of a receiver, Andrew Aschenbrenner was made that receiver by the court. This road taps a fertile country and it is the only road in the world which affords the farmer along its line the opportunity to load grain and stock at his door.

Bradford was a pioneer in the formation of a mutual insurance company for members of a particular community and this company, ''The Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company,'' always has been a model. The incorporators were Ira Brewer, Ralph B. Evitts, Thomas S. Hulbert, Charles D. Hart, Valentine Hicks, C. F. Starks and George Hulbert. It was incorporated March 30, 1869. At its first meeting of directors, held in November, 1869, fifty-four applications were received and fifty-one were approved and signed.

For many years Ira Brewer was president of this company, Samuel Dysart, secretary; C. D. Hart, treasurer; William V. Jones, general agent. A million and a quarter dollars of risks have been written, and the losses have been remarkably few.

In the southeastern part of the township the land is low; it was the edge of Inlet swamp. But it has been drained perfectly, so that it now is valued as high as any other lands in the township.

The people of Bradford always have been of a religious turn, especially the Germans.

As early as 1850, meetings of the Evangelical church of Bradford were held at the house of John Hotzell, who built just over the line in China Township. Hotzell fitted up a room for the purpose and very soon a successful Sunday school was started. These were the first German meetings of Lee County. The preachers came from Perkins Grove in Bureau County. A man named McLean was the first; William Kolp was the next. Among the original members of the congregation were: Reinhart Gross, John Aschenbrenner, John Hotzell, the Conrad Reinhart family and the Conrad Hotzell family.

In 1859 a church was built on section 17 at a cost of $1,300. In 1874 an addition was made and a steeple erected at an additional cost of $2,700, making a total of $4,000. The membership today is very strong in both church and Sunday school. Until recently the services were held in the German language.

It may be interesting to know that Edwin Pomeroy introduced the reaper into this community and when he used it in the wheat fields, farmers from far and near came to see it operate.

In writing a history of things and conditions around Inlet, one cannot get away from the good works of Ira Brewer and good old Uncle (George) Russel Linn. There never was a crisis these sturdy pioneers feared to meet. Lighter affairs were managed with the same determination to succeed.

Mr. Brewer understood music. Singing schools were the common source of entertainment in every locality. One day Doctor Welch handed to Mr. Brewer a subscription paper with the request that the latter head it and then circulate it. Mr. Brewer did and very presently Mr. Brewer found himself teaching in six school-houses. The tuning fork used, he fashioned on the anvil of a blacksmith shop.

In 1843, when $40 had been raised by Daniel Frost and Russel Linn, with which to hire a teacher, it was tendered to Mr. Brewer for a winter's work and he accepted it. He also taught night school.

On one occasion when members of the ''Grove Association'' had been called together to settle a claim jumping case, Mr, Brewer responded. The case was over on Temperance hill, where a man deliberately jumped a settler's homestead and when the association decided he must leave ''at once,'' he refused.

Uncle Russel Linn rose and said, ''Gentlemen, we have come here to make homes for ourselves and our families. The Government has held out inducements for us to come, and we have made our homes, and we intend to defend them if we die on the defense. Then, we hope we have boys that will arise and avenge our death.''

The claim jumper saw Uncle Russ and his seven boys and he declared that if he had to kill Uncle Russel and his seven boys before he could obtain possession of the land he would give it up and he did.

Lee County Townships


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