Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Marion Township, Lee County, Illinois

Although under the title of Marion Township, this wealthy township can date back to 1854 only. Nevertheless Marion's history began with the day when O. W. Kellogg drove across Lee County in the year 1825 to make his trail to the lead mines. The trail ran through this township and the stages on its successor, the Peru and Peoria road, ran through this town until the Illinois Central railroad ended forever the usefulness of the stage coach in Lee County. The Cleaveland toll gate was located on that road in this township and the early scenes thrillingly and truthfully related elsewhere were enacted in this and East Grove townships. But because Chicago grew so rapidly and outbid Peru and Peoria and even St. Louis for business, population along this trail did not settle so thickly as along the trail called the Chicago road, and therefore it is we have heard so little about Marion in the books. The first permanent settler whose name I am able to secure was David Welty, who started for the West in the year 1838, from Buffalo, New York, accompanied by Aaron L. Porter, subsequently sheriff of this county, and other friends. They rode horses all the way. He came west to benefit his health. All who came with him were robust men and yet he outlived them all.

He reached Dixon's Ferry and tarried until his wife and oldest son, John, could join him, which they did the following year. Mr. and Mrs. Scott, mother and father of Mrs. Welty, came with them. In the year 1840 Mr. Welty and the family moved to the land, on section 34, he had preempted on Inlet (Green) River, after building a double log house, the doors, sash and flooring for which were hauled from Chicago. The floors were covered with Brussels carpet, the first to come to Lee County and for a considerable time were a rare curiosity. The furniture was all mahogany and black walnut and contrasted strongly against the rough exterior of the unhewn logs. But those rugs, those carpets and that elegant furniture made the most luxurious home in Lee County, and after Mrs. Welty had her crying spell out for lonesomeness, she enjoyed the West so thoroughly that she never cared to return eastward.

For years this home was the social center of the whole county and it was no uncommon occurrence for neighbors for twenty miles around to hitch their teams to attend a social event at the Welty's. The old stages used to drive almost past the Welty door and travelers used to alight to take a good look at that marvelous home sitting alone in the wilderness. For many years there were but three houses between Princeton and Dixon, Dad Joe's, another south of Palestine Grove and the Welty house.

Among those who made up the sleighing parties in those days were Elias B. Stiles, Col. Silas Noble, Major Sterling, father of John M. Sterling of today; Aaron L. Porter, "Than" Porter; Father Dixon, James P. and John, Jr.;. Smith Gilbraith; James McKenney; Daniel B. McKenney; Henry McKenney; Lorenzo Wood; George Chase; William W. Heaton; Dr. Oliver Everett; Paul Gallup; Col. John Dement; P. Maxwell Alexander and one McBoel, who was a beautiful performer on the violin and a first class artist.

Later David Welty became probate judge of the county, a very prominent citizen and at his death a man of large means. At present his youngest son, Charles F. Welty, who is supervisor of the township, owns the same old home farm and he too is a very prominent citizen and a gentleman of large means.

John Welty, the oldest son, who went to live in Washington, D. C, where he held a fine position in one of the departments, was one of the brightest of all the bright young men who were raised in the county of Lee. For wit and high class humor, it is doubtful if any other community could produce a match for John Welty and Charles Stiles, son of Mr. and Mrs. Elias B. Stiles.

The father of E. H. and Charles Brewster, while not dating his entrance into Marion so far back as Judge Welty, came at an early date.

Marion has been peculiarly fortunate in its population. While not settling up so rapidly as other parts of the county, today it is filled by beautifully cultivated homes, splendid houses, large red barns, fine stock, and contented, happy people. If ever a township of land responded to the efforts of the home builder, Marion has done so.

Settled largely by the sons and daughters of old Ireland, the Marion of today is one of the best exemplifications of what toil, honesty and frugality linked with patience will do.

Those heroic Irishmen and Irishwomen reached this country without money. They yearned for a country which would present them with the opportunity to carve a home and a competency for their children. The Irish love their families and for those little boys and girls which came along to the early Irish of Marion Township, those parents toiled early and late, often denying themselves some of the necessities of life in order that the children coming on might have homes without the drudgery of wresting them from the earth, generous though it was.

Those parents came here penniless. In the old country, they had been ground down by the hand of tyranny. They never had been permitted to secure for their efforts enough to sustain life even tolerably and about the only way they could reach this land of promise was to club together, rob themselves of their last pennies to send over here one of their number, who in turn worked for wages and who by the same process of denial sent every cent of his money back home to bring over another. Thus in time, a neighborhood was landed and permitted the privilege of working out a home. I have in mind one such man. He worked almost slavishly as a section hand. Little by little he worked his way westward. Every dollar he earned went back to Ireland. When at last he felt he might be permitted to marry, he added to his long hours of labor on the railroad, the burdens of a garden to raise from it something for the family in order that he might save a few cents more with which later he might buy himself a home. That garden was made along the right of way of the Illinois Central. After a while the farm was bought. But at what a fearful sacrifice of health! From 3 o'clock in the morning until 10 at night! But with the home always possible and always before him, he cheerfully toiled on and on and today the town of Marion is populated with the children of those heroic men and women.

How they loved liberty! And how they loved the country of their adoption! If for a lengthy story of what their love was, you will turn to the records of the War Department, there in blood you will read what the Irishman of Lee County did for that country of his adoption. Read over the Adjutant-Generals Illinois reports and find the names of the men who composed the Thirteenth, the Thirty-fourth, the Forty-sixth, the Seventy-fifth, and you will see what the sons of old Ireland did for the United States and for Lee County!

Marion Township has done for the cause of religion what no other township in Lee County has done. Glance at the picture here of their beautiful church, dedicated last summer, and their parsonage and parish hall and see for yourself. And all were paid for by the farmers of that township. Thomas Dwyer, Edward Morrissey, $1,000 each; the Lallys, the O'Malleys.

St. Mary's Catholic Church, Walton

As you enter this beautiful church, the attention is attracted to a marble tablet, 5x5, to the left, facing west, with the names thereon of those who made it possible to build so beautiful a church, parsonage and parish hall.

The community is altogether rural and these contributions are nothing short of wonderful. Father Cullen contributed the tablet in appreciation of his regard for the unusual work done by the congregation.

Following are the names inscribed on the tablet, of those who furnished the funds to erect the church and other buildings:

Edward Morrissey, $1,400
Miss Mary A. Leonard, $1,400
James Cahill and family, $1,100
P. D. Fitzpatrick, $1,000
Thomas Dwyer and mother, $1,000
Patrick Lally, $700
Mary, Michael and A J. O'Malley, $600
Martin Whalen, $575
P. A. Morrissey, $550
J. J. Morrissey, $530
James McCoy, $510
James F. Dempsey, $505
Mrs. Ann O'Malley, $500
Edward Dempsey, $500
William Morrissey, $500
John C. Lally, $400
James McCaffrey, $400
Mrs. T. S. Healey, $350
E. J. Lally, $300
P. H. McCaffrey, $300
John Leonard, $300
P. F. Keane, $300
John Lally, $300
Thomas F. McKune, $300
Charles and Mary Keane, $300
Miss Rose Lyons, $250
Thomas and Bridget Morrissey, $200
Mrs. Kathryn Hoyle, $200
John H. Dempsey, $200
Austin O'Malley, $200
Mrs. J. Convoy, $200
Thos. Burke, $150
Rev. T. J. Cullen, $150
Mrs. Bridget and Frank Finn, $130
John Blackburn, $125
Owen Burns, $125
E. J. O'Malley, $125
Thomas P. Finn, $100
James D. Murray, $100
Joseph Grohens, $100
Lawrence Dempsey, St., $100
James Canfield, $100
Peter Campbell, $100
James Harvey, $100
M. J. Fielding, $100
Thos. Halligan, $100
Mrs. C. F. Welty, $100
Michael O'Malley, $100
Wm. Blackburn, $100
Henry and Edward Ullrich, $100
John A. Greenwalt, $100
William McCoy, $50
Mrs. E. Schmidt, $50
Mrs. Hugh McGuirk, $50
E. H. Jones, $50
Sarah McCoy, $50
P. H. Dumphy, $50
Carl Acker, $50
Henry O'Hare, $50
John Finn, $50
August Grohens, $50
Edward Campbell, $50
Thomas Blackburn, $50
B. J. Bushman, $40
Anton Douvier, $30
Charles McCoy, $25
Patrick Patterly $25
George Healy, $25
George Welty, $25
D. T. Fitzpatrick, $25
Thomas McCoy, $25
Frank McCoy, $25
A. M. Head, $25
Bernard Feely, $25
John Dumphy, $25

 The rectory is 30x34 feet, of red pressed brick, two stories, basement and attic, heated by hot-air furnace. Water from a large tank in the attic is afforded all over the house, and a splendid sewage disposal system has been supplied.

The furniture is solid mahogany of the Mission style. Hard-wood floors have been laid throughout. The cost was $8,500.

The church is of the Spanish Mission style, 40x80 feet, with belfry. It is made of red pressed brick. The pews, of massive dark oak, will hold 346 people.

Steam is the heating medium. The altars and communion rail are of white marble. Over the sanctuary are ten Roman arches, the main ones, over the altars, rest on massive pillars. The vestry is of brick and may be used as a chapel.

The main altar was contributed by Miss Mary Ann Leonard; the Virgin's altar by Patrick, Thomas, Bridget and John Morrissey; the St. Joseph's altar by Patrick and John Lally; the communion rail by William Morrissey. The contributions by the Morrisseys make $3,200. The sanctuary lamp was the gift of the Cahill sisters. The large candlesticks were given by Martin Whalen; the ostensorium by Mrs. Mary O'Malley; the three marble crucifixes for the altars by Mrs. Bridget Finn.

In 1854 a petition was presented to the board of supervisors, to organize a new township out of what then composed Amboy and Hamilton. The petition was granted and the first town meeting was held in April, 1855.

The first supervisor was Alfred Wolcott; first assessor was Sherman W. Caldwell; first justices of the peace, Abram Morrison and A. S. Phillips; first town clerk, Simon Dykman; first collector, David Morrison.

In 1838 W. H. Blair located on section 24. In 1841 J. C. Haley, a native of Pennsylvania, settled there. In 1846 R. Scott, a native of Scotland, settled on section 15.

When the Kinyon road promised to go through Marion town-ship, its managers desired the township to bond itself for $50,000; but the proposition was defeated almost unanimously. But the road was built just the same; and largely through the influence of Messrs. McCrystal, Conderman and Jones, the station was located about in the center of the township, and it was named Walton, and it is the only station in the township.

Today, besides the beautiful Catholic Church, the parsonage, and the parish hall, there is one general store, a blacksmith shop, an agricultural implement store and warehouse and a grain elevator which does a very large business, the average amount of grain being about two hundred thousand bushels per annum, shipped from the elevator. Marion raises a great deal of live stock.

Some of the biggest men of Lee County in all lines of endeavor have come from Marion Township. Mr. Hiram A. Brooks, now of Dixon, one of the ablest lawyers and one of the best trial lawyers of the state, was born there and so was his brother and partner, Clarence C. Brooks. Charles B. Morrison, at one time United States district attorney for the Chicago district, was raised there. Edward and Charles Brewster, two of Dixon's able lawyers, were born and raised there. County Judge Robert H. Scott is a Marion boy, born and raised there, and son of a pioneer. George O'Malley, the clothing merchant, and Charles E. Slain, of the undertaking establishment of Jones & Slain, are Marion boys. Thus all over Lee County the boys from Marion have rendered a good account of the stock which made it the rich and populous township that it is.

Marion has had its tragedies of the air and of the earth. The tornado of 1860 passed right through the middle in its eastward race through the county. It picked up here and there a few little items of lumber, but no damage to speak of was done. In the year 1912, however, a windstorm came along which blew down the passenger station, and nearly every other building in Walton.

In the early part of January, 1870, an unfortunate tragedy occurred which shocked the countryside. Francis Marion Spangler shot and killed one Timothy Keane. Both were prosperous farmers and residents of Marion and both were men of high standing in the community. It seems Keane ^s cattle broke into Spangler's field. The latter shut them up and kept them until Keane came over and demanded their release. In anger hot words passed and Keane then attempted to drive them away. Spangler then shot and killed Keane with a gun, after which he surrendered himself to the authorities in Amboy and was brought to jail.

This became one of the most famous trials in the history of Lee County. Leonard Swett of Chicago defended Spangler and after a terrific battle, he succeeded in getting an acquittal for his client.

Lee County Townships


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