Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Melugin's Grove Township, Lee County, Illinois

The first settlements of this county were made in or on the fringe of groves, hence we find Melugin's Grove, Guthrie's Grove, Franklin Grove, Inlet Grove, Twin Grove, Paw Paw Grove, Palestine Grove, Gap Grove, etc., and for that same reason the sections of Lee County dotted with groves were settled long year before the beautiful prairie country which generally offered much better soil. The wealth of timber for fuel of course was the first consideration of the settler and so the groves were selected.

The Black Hawk war, which brought thousands of men from all over the state to Lee County, then in Jo Daviess County, made strong friendships for the locality and for John Dixon. Among the number were two men who had much to do with Melugia's Grove, Zachariah Melugin and his brother-in-law, John K. Robison.

Through the influence of Mr. Dixon, Zachariah Melugin settled at the grove subsequently given his name and that point became the second in Lee County to be settled.

In 1832 Mr. Melugin lived near Springfield. When the Black Hawk war broke out he was on Rock island and on the arrival of the troops at the mouth of Rock River, he enlisted. The country around Dixon's ferry pleased him so well that after settling his affairs back at Springfield, he returned to Dixon's ferry in 1833.

Believing the new stage road between Galena and Chicago would open many possibilities, Mr. Melugin, at the suggestion of Mr. Dixon, selected the grove, twenty miles distant, for a stage station, and when on Jan. 1, 1834, the first stage traveled the route, Mr. Melugin took passage and stopped off at the grove and built his log cabin on what afterwards became the northeast quarter of section 4. The Indians were numerous but friendly, and without molestation, he kept house all alone the first winter. The long evenings were generally spent visiting with the Indians who called.

In the spring his sister, Mary, came from Sangamon County and lived with him until Oct. 12, 1834, when, at Ottawa, he was married to Mary Ross, of Ross's Grove, DeKalb County. During that summer of 1834, Miss Melugin was alone many days, in the midst of Indians who dubbed her a ''brave squaw.'' The spring from which water was procured for the stage house was eighty rods away in the timber, but never was she annoyed by Indians. That spring played an important part in another particular. There were no churns, so in order to be busy when going to the spring, the empty pail was balanced on her head while with both hands the cream was shaken in a coffee pot until the butter ''came."

During this summer Miss Melugin paid a visit to Mrs. Dixon at Dixon's Ferry. There she met John K. Robison. He too had served in the Black Hawk war, from Hancock County, although he enlisted at the mouth of Rock River, and at the close of the war he remained with the Dixon family in the capacity of teacher for the children. On Sept. 10, 1835, Miss Melugin and Mr. Robison were married at the home of Zachariah Melugin by the Reverend Harris, a Methodist circuit rider, and that was the first wedding ceremony performed at Melugin's Grove.

Mr. Robison built his house half a mile from Melugin's, of unhewed logs, chinked with pieces of wood and plastered over with a mortar made of clay. The shakes used for a roof were made of split trees^, the same as the floor. The shelves for pans and dishes in this house were made by boring holes in the logs, driving in long pins and laying a board across the pins.

In this house the ménage was exactly as in every other pioneer cabin. The fireplace warmed the room and served for a cooking stove; bread was baked in iron kettles with iron covers, the kettle being placed in one side of the fireplace and covered with coals and hot ashes; potatoes were roasted also in those same ashes. Gourds played a very prominent part in the array of cooking utensils. They were used for baskets, basins, cups, dippers, soap dishes, etc. Hollow trees, sawed, were used for well curbs, beehives and storage receptacles for housing grain. Troughs hollowed from trees were used to contain sugar sap, and during a rain storm they were used to catch water under the eaves and to store it, and they were used for milk pans. Sometimes the troughs were used as cradles to rock the babies to sleep. Butter bowls, ladles, rolling pins, brooms, etc., were made by the husband from wood with implements of the rudest sort. So, too, the husband mended his own harness and cobbled the household shoes. In the absence of clocks and watches certain marks on the doors or side of the house indicated the time of day and the position of the Big Dipper indicated the same by night. The well or the water trough reflected the features for hair-dressing and shaving, and with but one change of clothing for each, the same was washed and ironed while the child slept. And such indeed was the house and the manner of housekeeping with that same John K. and Mrs. Robison.

Brooms in those days were made from young hickory trees about three inches through, peeling off the bark, then with pocket knife the men-folks commenced on the end of the stick intended for the brush part and peeled the stick in narrow strips or splints about a sixteenth of an inch thick and about eighteen inches long. The heart of the stick would not peel and that was cut off, leaving a stick about three inches long in the center of these splints. The splints being dropped back over this stick they then commenced on the handle end and stripped splints toward those already made, and long enough to cover them. When the stick was stripped, the splints were all tied together around the stick left in the center of the splints first stripped, and the remainder of the handle was then stripped to complete the broom.

Flint and steel were used to kindle fire, but ''borrowing fire'' when learned, was much more common and much easier, when there were neighbors from whom to borrow.

The nearest grain and live stock market for Melugin was Chicago and to go and come seldom took less than seven days. In a muddy season, the time consumed was more.

The nearest gristmill then was Green's mill near Ottawa. A woolen mill there scutched and carded wool into rolls fit for spinning back at home by the women.

John K. Robison brought to the grove from Nauvoo the first currant bushes; he carried them on horseback. The fashion of the day was for husband and wife to ride the same horse when they went a distance together, the man sitting ahead and the wife behind.

Mr. Robison was not only the first teacher in Lee County, both at Dixon and Melugin, but he was the first justice of the peace at Melugin. He taught school in his own house until the first school-house was built, in 1837; at that time he had eight pupils.

The first tailor to locate at Melugin was Henry Vroman. The first postmaster was Abram V. Christeance; he also was first constable. Charles Morgan and son were the first merchants, and kept millinery. Doctor Bissell was the first physician. Cornelius Christeance was the first white child born, John Melugin and W. W. Gilmore followed; all born in the year 1835.

Church services were held at private houses when the circuit rider appeared, until church buildings or schoolhouses were built In the Grove, the first church to be organized was the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1837, at the house of Melugin, and the first Sunday school to be organized was in 1847 or 1848, by Reverend Haney of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Zachariah Melugin being from Sangamon County and in the Black Hawk war became intimately acquainted with Abraham Lincoln, and when Mr. Melugin returned there, Lincoln visited him at his father's home.

So near as I can learn, A. V. Christeance was the next settler here at Melugin. He took a claim in 1835, the month of June, on the south side of the stage road and used his house as a tavern. He and Mrs. Christeance traveled with an ox team from Schenectady County. New York. By the time they reached Melugin, Mrs. Christeance was so tired she declared she would go no further. That spot happened to be the Grove. Their son, Cornelius, born in 1835, was the first white child born there.

Indians were numerous and many times they covered the floor of the tavern, sleeping. The prophet, Joe Smith, who seems to have been a familiar figure in Lee County history, also stopped there upon one occasion.

Although Mr. Christeance would be gone a week or ten days at a time, to market, in Chicago, Mrs. Christeance never was molested by Indians nor by members of the ''Banditti of the Prairie,'' who, then unknown, stopped many times at their tavern.

John Gilmore came along at about the same time as Mr. Guthrie, in 1834. These gentlemen selected their claims and returned Mr. Gilmore for his family and Mr. Guthrie to settle business affairs. Mr. Gilmore paid Melugin $50 for part of his claim, the, northeast quarter of section 3, while Guthrie took up a claim further east, known as Guthrie's Grove and later as Little Melugin Grove.

The trip of the Gilmore family was almost identical with that of the Christeance family, only the Gilmores came west in a wagon drawn by horses. About three miles east from Melugin's house, the horses gave out; they could travel no further. It was June 4, 1835. Mrs. Gilmore and her five children had been riding; Mr. Gilmore and Mr. Guthrie had been walking beside the team. Rain had been falling steadily all day. After a consultation it was decided that Mr. and Mrs. Gilmore and the children should push forward to Melugin's house, three miles west. Mr. Guthrie remained with the team. Late that night the Melugin house was reached by the tired and bedraggled Gilmores. The following day help was sent back to Guthrie and he and the team were conveyed easily to the Melugin home. Mr. Guthrie too had been a Black Hawk soldier.

Very soon Mr. Gilmore had built a log cabin twelve feet square, with a puncheon floor, shakes for a roof, held in place by weight poles. A stick-and-mud fireplace was added as well as a door, and the Gilmores were permanent, and in this house W. W. Gilmore was born Nov. 8, 1835.

The only work to be had at that time was twenty miles away at Ross Grove in DeKalb County and the payment for it was made in provisions. To this point then Mr. Gilmore and William Guthrie walked forth and back; the first of the week eastward to work; Saturday night backward with their wages on their shoulders.

During one of these absences that winter, near Christmas, the mud and stick chimney took fire and if permitted to run would consume the house very soon. In her stocking feet Mrs. Gilmore rushed to and from the now frozen spring, twenty rods away, carrying water; but she made no headway. The nine-year-old son, A. P. Gilmore, was sent a mile distant through the woods, at midnight, to the house of Mr. Christeance for help. The fire was put out, but the damage to the building had been considerable. That perilous night was stormy and bitter cold, but the pioneer woman of Lee County feared nothing.

Later Mr. Gilmore added to his house and opened a tavern and stage house. All who did so prospered and Mr. Gilmore was no exception to the rule. The Galena-Chicago highway became a thoroughfare as important for those days as the great Northwestern is today for our community.

In the fall of 1836 William Guthrie was married to Miss Ross of Ross Grove, where he had worked most of the winter before. Mr. Gilmore made a great event of it for his old friend Guthrie. Mr. Gilmore hooked up his best yoke of oxen, took his wife and the younger children, Mr. Guthrie and two lady friends and by constant urging the oxen made the trip that day. The Rosses were great people in those days and Mr. Guthrie made a great catch, and so that wedding day was made one of the greatest days the township of Paw Paw in DeKalb County ever saw.

Troy Grove was a place of consequence those days and it was the custom at times to go there for provisions. On one of those trips Mr. Gilmore met a Methodist preacher named Lummery. The latter was invited to come to Melugin Grove and hold a meeting. Accordingly in six weeks, the succeeding round of the circuit, the preacher came and held services in the Gilmore cabin, which every soul at Melugin attended and still there was room to spare. A church and a class were organized and ever since that early date the church and the class have continued without interruption.

Among those early settlers was O. P. Johnson, who located at the west end of the grove and opened a tavern. He married Ehzabeth Ross, one of the historic Ross family of DeKalb County.

Ezra Berry was another of the 1835 pioneers to settle at the grove. He married Miss Eleanor Melugin, sister of Zachariah.

Some have said the first schoolhouse was built on the farm of Mr. Christeance in 1838, but investigation has proved conclusively the year was 1837, and that Zachariah Melugin was the first teacher succeeding Mr. Robison. Mr. Melugin was a man of superior intellect and ability. So early as the year 1836 or 1837 he composed a poem published in the Rock River Register, the first paper published on Rock River. He died in 1842 and his widow married William Atkinson.

The first funeral in Brooklyn Township, I believe, was that of a Mr. Little, a Scotchman, whose body was the first to be buried in the cemetery.

Melugin's Grove became, for a little place, a place of importance. A Masonic lodge was organized at the house of O. P. Johnson, in 1858, of which John C. Corbus was the first master; John Gilmore was the first senior warden; S. H. Finley, first junior warden; Jonathan N. Hyde, senior deacon; Oliver P. Johnson, junior deacon; J. R. Bisbee, secretary; William Guthrie, treasurer; and Robert Ritchie, tyler.

In those halcyon days Judge R. S. Farrand taught school at Melugin and it was from Melugin that he came to Dixon to act as deputy sheriff under Jonathan N. Hills, elected from Melugin. Jonathan N. Hyde was elected clerk of the circuit court from Melugin; and Melugin, under Doctor Corbus and others of the old guard, became master of the political game and bossed county politics more or less.

Until 1873 Melugin's Grove prospered. Then the Kinyon railroad went through Brooklyn Township, about a mile to the south, and Joel Compton platted the town of Compton, a mile away, and all the glamour and tradition of the old grove and the stage route and stage coach days disappeared. One by one the Grove people moved over to the railroad and Compton. One by one the buildings were moved over to Compton. Love for the old place was strong and the ties were hard to break, but the last had to give way, and to this day the entire population of prosperous Compton are descendants of the old Melugin's Grove stock, and so closely intermarried that nearly every family is related to every other family. The sturdy old times established fortunes which the younger ones of today are enjoying.

Compton today is a bright, wide-awake, beautifully built and more beautifully kept little village of about three hundred and fifty people. It seems as though every resident of the place owns an automobile. It contains a garage, 80 feet long and 40 feet wide, operated by Sam Argraves, a son of one of the old settlers. There is scarcely an hour of the day this garage is not filled. There is not a town lot but has its cement sidewalk. The Illinois Northern Utilities gives it day and night electric light and power service.

Beautiful homes predominate. It supports one of the best hotels in the state, under the management of Mr. Card. The Compton Mercantile Company store, owned by Joseph Kaufman, Edward A. Bennett and John L. Clapp, is one of the commodious stores of the county. It carries a big stock and transacts an enormous annual business.

John Archer, just across the way, enjoys a splendid business.

W. H. Dishong is the hardware man. H. A. Bernardin has as fine a furniture store as you will find outside of a big city.

The First National Bank enjoys a splendid business.

But the important enterprise of Compton is the Chandler Hospital. This institution, built by a young physician named Dr. A. W. Chandler, has sprung into national fame, and Doctor Chandler has become one of the most noted surgeons in the country. Patients from the Atlantic to the Pacific have come to the Chandler Hospital for treatment. In a little town, with but one railroad. Doctor Chandler, by sheer ability, has made himself and his hospital famous. In his work, Mrs. Chandler has been a tremendous help. She is one of the most superior women one can find. When in Ms earlier years it became necessary to have the services of one skillful and helpful enough to administer anesthetics, Mrs. Chandler stepped into the breach and supplied the Doctor's greatest need. As a surgeon's support and counselor, Mrs. Chandler has no superior. More delightful, intellectual, attractive and companionable people than Doctor and Mrs. Chandler are not to be found.

Recently they purchased in Dixon one of the most beautiful homes in Lee County, situated on the bank of Rock River. Here during the summer months they delight in entertaining their friends.

Chandler Hospital is one of the big institutions of Lee County, and for successful amelioration of human suffering it outranks any institution in the land. The institution has a reputation extending far and wide. Nothing in Lee County has so extensive a reputation and it is doubtful if any other spot in northern Illinois is as well known.

Compton and West Brooklyn are splendid grain markets and in both places at least 750,000 bushels of grain are marketed annually.

When in 1873 the Kinyon road was built through Brooklyn Township, the people voted to bond the town for $50,000 to help build it. The bonds were issued and sold, and by reason of non-performance of promises made by promoters of the road, payment of the bonds was contested for years; but in the end the courts ruled for the bonds and, with a compromise, they were paid.

Between West Brooklyn platted on section 8 and Compton platted on section 11 a fierce rivalry existed from the first and only until recent years has the old feud died down. Compton was platted by Joel Compton on his farm. West Brooklyn was platted by Demas L. Harris, O. P. Johnson and R. N. Woods. Believing that the factional warfare would ruin both places, Andrew J. Carnahan conceived the plan of building on his farm, the northeast quarter of section 9, midway between the rivals, another town and on June 19, 1873, he platted Carnahan and built thereon a grain elevator. But the other two places prospered and survived and after serious financial losses, Mr. Carnahan abandoned his plat. The big elevator, unused, stands today, a monument to recall the fiercest town site fights which Lee County ever witnessed. The first church, Methodist, was organized in 1837 at the house of Zachariah Melugin and Rev. S. R. Beggs became the first pastor, a circuit rider. Until about the year 1850, church services were held in the school-house; then a church was built. Later, in 1860, another building was erected and that was moved to Compton, and considerably enlarged, is used today.

The United Brethren occupy the other church.

There is a Masonic lodge in Compton.

Mr. John W. Banks, the supervisor of Brooklyn, operates the only grain elevator in Compton. The place is a famous grain center and Mr. Banks has marketed as high as 400,000 bushels of grain in a year.

The Chicago, Burlington & Quincy is the only road running through Compton. For a time it was expected the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul would extend its north and south branch through Compton, but for reasons best known to railroads, it ran a mile to the east and established the Roxbury station and built an elevator. There are no stores in Roxbury, which is in Wyoming Township, but a large amount of grain which found its way to Compton formerly now is marketed at Roxbury.

Only recently, Compton installed a complete water and sewer system. Its fire protection facilities are as nearly perfect as possible. The Yocum telephone system has its central office in Compton.

Clemons & Clemons do a fine business in blacksmithing and wagon making and general repairing.

Mr. Harvey A. Cook tells me as high as forty thousand dollars has been received by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy road at that station for freight in a year.

Compton and West Brooklyn are in the midst of one of the best of farming sections. Lands run in value about two hundred dollars per acre. There is a voting precinct at each place. West Brooklyn is heavily democratic, while Compton in largely progressive, with republicans and democrats running along close together. When Mr. Compton platted this village, he reserved a block of ground for park purposes which he planted to trees. In this he erected a pagoda and there the Compton band gives summer concerts.

The residences are kept up beautifully and there are many of them. Doctor Carnahan, the venerable first physician of the place, still resides at Compton, retired. Back in the dawn of things at Melugin Grove he practiced.

Many retired farmers live there; while others have gone to Dixon, others decline to break old home ties, and all of them are rich.

West Brooklyn
By Oliver L. Gtehant

The village of West Brooklyn was laid out and platted in the month of August, 1872, on lands belonging to Oliver P. Johnson, Demas L. Harris and Reuben N. Woods. These three gentlemen were large land owners in the west side of Brooklyn township, hence the origin of the name, West Brooklyn.

At the time the present branch of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy railroad was built through the township, there seems to have existed an agreement between the prominent citizens and land owners of the town of Brooklyn that the station, which was agreed upon with the railroad company was to be located within the township as a part of the consideration of $50,000 paid through bonds issued by the town in favor of the railroad project. The site of the new village was to be at Modoc, commonly called Carnahan Station, the place being almost, if not exactly, in the center of the township, east and west.

Then, as well as now, officials were sometimes actuated by selfish motives, and the agreement was disregarded. The railroad officials located the station on the site that is now occupied by the village of Compton in the east end of the township. This action was the cause of the founders of West Brooklyn taking the initiative and planning a village to suit their own ideas.

Among the first to engage in the mercantile life of West Brooklyn we find H. H. Carnahan, who conducted a general store on the comer of Second and Woods streets, in connection with the post-office. Hoerner Brothers, later succeeded by William Hoerner, engaged in the general merchandise business on the comer of Second and Johnson streets, and A. Nichols & Sons soon followed in the same business on the south side of Johnson street, between First and Second streets. Dr. G. F. Schrieber of Chicago located in the new town shortly after its establishment and remained a resident of the village for many years. Daniel Barr was put in charge of the grain elevator erected by the West Andrus & Co. of Chicago, being succeeded after a few years by George McCormick. The latter continued in this occupation until about twelve years ago, when C. F. Guffin, one of the leading business men of the town today, took charge of the business.

Messrs. Albert Bieschke, Sr., and Joseph Kesel, both of Chicago, soon established shoe shops in West Brooklyn. Mr. Kesel retired from business many years ago, but Mr. Bieschke is still in the same occupation at the old stand built by him thirty-eight years ago. Gruss Brothers, after a few years, followed and engaged in the manufacture of wagons and buggies in connection with their general blacksmith shop. They succeeded Thebiay Brothers and were in turn succeeded by Martin Gruss, one of the firm. Mrs. Cheney was the first to operate a hotel in the new town, her first location being on the corner of First and Water streets. Wesley Hyde succeeded Mrs. Cheney, but after conducting the business for a time sold out to Mrs. Henry Wigum. She continued in the hotel until her death, when Mrs. Katie Tressler, her oldest daughter, became proprietor, and under her management the place soon enjoyed a very good patronage. She erected the excellent Hotel Tressler, which adorns the comer of Second and Johnson streets, and which is recognized by the traveling public as among the best equipped hotels in the county.

Of the early men who were identified with the up-building of West Brooklyn, very few are still with us. Albert Bieschke, Sr., and Martin Gruss appear to be the only survivors. The founders of the village, Messrs. Johnson, Harris and Woods, have long since passed away. Dr. G. F. Schrieber removed to Chicago about twenty years ago and was succeeded by our very efficient physician and surgeon. Dr. E. C. White. He has also served in the capacity of postmaster for the past sixteen years. John Gruss, general black-smith, returned to Chicago, where he too passed to the Great Beyond. Herman Knauer has been in charge of the local shop for a number of years and under his management an up-to-date equipment has been installed and first-class workmanship is turned out. H. H. Carnahan discontinued the store thirty years ago and removed to Iowa and engaged in farming.

Messrs. A. Nichols & Sons disposed of their mercantile interests about the same time to Derr Brothers, and then moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where they engaged in the wholesale industry. Derr Brothers quit business at this place some twelve years ago. Joseph Kesel, one of the pioneer settlers, is residing at Aurora. Daniel Barr died about twenty-five years ago, while his successor, George McCormick, died five years ago at his home in Mendota, where he moved after retiring from the grain business here. C. L. Smith, painter and decorator and one of the early settlers, passed to his reward within the past year. William Hoerner sold out his mercantile business twenty years ago and, together with his family, moved to Mendota. He was succeeded by Henry F. Gehant of Viola Township, in September, 1893.

From this date a new epoch for West Brooklyn was soon to be realized. This young farmer filled with zeal and ambition to do and to dare, began to take the necessary steps to inaugurate a movement which was intended to promote better conditions commercially and socially in this village, which had after nearly twenty, years existence, less than one hundred and twenty-five inhabitants. He established up-to-date business methods at the outset, and the best merchandise that money could purchase was placed upon his shelves. A good, live advertising medium. The West Brooklyn News, was founded by him and a new era for the town inaugurated. Through his energy and untiring efforts the village was incorporated under the laws of Illinois, in September, 1894. The blind pigs, which had thrived uninterrupted for years, to the annoyance of the county court and the disgust of the law-abiding citizens of the village, were wiped out. The celebrated Richelieu was closed and law and order established. From that time West Brooklyn has taken her place in the front ranks of the municipalities of Lee County.

Henry F. Gehant was the first mayor of the new incorporation, continuing in that capacity for six years. O. P. Johnson was the second mayor, serving for two years and was succeeded by Henry F. Gehant, who served six years more or twelve years in all. F. D. Gehant followed his cousin into the mayor's chair and was at the head of village affairs for four years. F. W. Meyer, our present mayor, is serving his second year and is the successor of Mr. Gehant. At the conclusion of Mr. Meyer ^s administration, West Brooklyn will have been incorporated twenty years.

In the meantime two grain elevators had been erected to care for the vast harvests each year in the vicinity. Both original structures were burned to the ground, but were rebuilt at once. One is owned and operated at the present time by Charles F. Guffin, while the other is owned by the Farmers Elevator Company, a corporation consisting of the farmers of the vicinity. This corporation has a capital of $15,000 and has been in existence since Dec. 3, 1907.

The village has a prosperous banking institution known as the Henry F. Gehant Banking Company, founded June 1, 1897, by Henry F. Gehant. At that time it boasted a capital of $10,000 and deposits of $50,000, but during its sixteen years of existence has developed wonderfully and today its statements show $25,000 capital and deposits ranging from $150,000 to $200,000. It not only serves the community in a banking capacity, but meets the demand in matters of insurance, real estate and farm loans.

West Brooklyn has reason to feel proud of its city waterworks plant, which is owned by the municipality and which supplies water to the entire town by means of a system of water mains extending to every part of the village. As a result of the water supply there has developed the West Brooklyn Volunteer Fire Department, which utilizes the great water facilities at their disposal to protect the town against the fire fiend. On several occasions they have demonstrated their worth and their ability as firemen and saved the town from total destruction. Cement sidewalks and cross walks are to be found in every part of the town. The remarkable fact concerning all these improvements is that they have been accomplished without the assistance of a corporation tax and still the town is without debt. Not until the present year has a corporation tax been levied in West Brooklyn. The only debt which the people owe is an appreciation to those who have handled its affairs for the past twenty years in such an able manner and nursed its financial income in such a way as to develop the most possible benefits there from for the people and municipality in general. Their work has been remarkable when taking into consideration the small income of a few hundred dollars each year with which they had to work. The streets are lighted with electricity, this last convenience coming to the village during the past year, by granting a franchise to the Illinois Northern Utilities Company to enter into the town with its system.

Perhaps two of the best general stores in Lee County are at West Brooklyn. Both have fine stocks and are well kept up by a practical management. F. W. Meyer, who is the proprietor of one of these establishments, came to this village eleven years ago and has been very successful since that time. The other store is conducted by M. J. Bieschke and although a more recent arrival than his competitor, he has proven himself successful. He is a member of the village council and has also served his people as village clerk.

Other mercantile establishments in West Brooklyn are two hardware and implement stores, a meat market, a restaurant, a plumbing shop, a barber shop, a drug store in connection with Dr. E. C. White's office, a cement block factory, a tile factory, a hotel, two saloons, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop, a garage, a lumber yard, two coal yards, a paint shop, a furniture store, a livery, an opera house, a public school, and two churches.

The schoolhouse was erected in 1874 at a cost of $1,200. This structure was removed and replaced by a more modern building in 1900. Three teachers are employed and the school has long been recognized as one of the best in Lee County. The first church to be erected in West Brooklyn was the Methodist, about thirty-three years ago. The Catholic Church was built a little later, its congregation consisting of only a few families, as follows: Francis Gallisath, Modest and Laurent Gehant, Frank and William Halbmaier, William Hoerner, Xavier Chaon, Joseph Huibsch, Leopold and Joseph E. Henry, Delphan and Polite Bresson, Eugene Vincent, Martin Gruss and Albert Bieschke, Sr. The first church was of simple construction, but as the congregation grew and prospered larger quarters were found necessary. In 1902 they erected a splendid church at a cost of $18,000. It was 48x98 feet in size and built of brick, with a spire 125 feet high. Just previous to the erection of the church a parsonage was built at a cost of several thousand dollars, so that the congregation had expended at least twenty-five thousand dollars with the completion of the church edifice. In 1908 a disastrous fire swept away the beautiful church, but a new and better structure arose in its place, which today stands as a monument to a faithful congregation. Its interior walls have recently been decorated and new altars have been installed at a cost of $3,000. The main altar is a donation by the local court of Foresters, who presented the pastor. Rev. M. B. Krug, with a subscription of $1,000 raised among its members for the purpose of purchasing this altar and having it serve as a gift of the local court of the society to the church.

The Catholic Order of Foresters is the largest and strongest fraternal organization in town, have an up-to-date club room, and an active membership, who are always boosting their order, church and town. During the past year the court reached the one hundred mark in number of initiations and nearly all of these are still loyal Foresters. The Modern Woodmen of America are the next largest organization in town. This society has their own meeting place but no club rooms. The Knights of Columbus, the Woman's Catholic Order of Foresters, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and several other societies have many members in West Brooklyn, but none of them have a local organization and the members must go to neighboring towns to attend meetings and to take an active part in the work of their respective orders.

West Brooklyn is a village of music. Many of its people are noted for their musical talents and as a result we find two important organizations having their home in this town. The older of the two, Barr's Orchestra, has been recognized throughout the entire county as the peer of any of its orchestras. During the dancing season they furnish the music for the vast majority of the dances and parties in the vicinity of their home town and are also in great demand in many parts of the comity. The younger organization, the West Brooklyn Comet Band, has perhaps acquired fame more recently than their sister organization, the orchestra, and is without question the best band in Lee county at this time. Their work the past season has won this title for them and so popular have they become that they now have engagements booked for an entire year ahead Barr's Orchestra has been in existence for the past ten years while the band was organized in September, 1908.

The F. M. Yocum Telephone Company is another great institution having its main offices in West Brooklyn. This concern, started by the present proprietor, F. M. Yocum, is a great aid towards the up-building and convenience of the community and is of vast good to the village.

West Brooklyn has been visited by several fires since its founding. One of them already has been given considerable mention in telling of the burning of the Catholic Church in 1908. Also the elevators, burned previous to this, have been touched upon. It was during the fire which destroyed the west end elevator, now the Farmers elevator, that the biggest fire and the most destruction resulted. The creamery occupying the west end of the same block was burned during this fire as was likewise a hardware store, a meat market, an implement building and several other minor structures occupying over one-half of the block. It was only the heroic efforts of every man, woman and child in West Brooklyn that conquered the fire and prevented the whole of the town from burning. It was immediately after this terrible fire that the Volunteer Fire Company was organized. The Pollack department store was a later fire but with the efficient work of the fire company was prevented from spreading and confined to the interior of the building where it had started and where it ruined everything. Many minor fires have been recorded, but as they are of little importance we will pass them by. Several residences have been a fire at different times and a few have burned to the ground.

West Brooklyn's population is not large, perhaps an estimate of four hundred is too much. However in considering its makeup, it measures up to the standard of the medium-sized towns of our county and were it to be suddenly wiped away, would be missed immensely. It still occupies the territory covered by the original plat of the incorporation and has but a single addition to mention. We refer to the recent Gehant addition on the south side, which was the work of F. D. Gehant, who bought and platted seven acres adjoining and fronting upon Berniger Street and where he is erecting the first home, a handsome building, to be occupied by himself and his family as soon as completed. Many of the lots have already been disposed of to people who will erect residences within the next year or two. On this account we can expect a more rapid growth in the number of our population than ever before, for it was not due to undesirable conditions at West Brooklyn that the moderate growth of the past has been made, but because of the fact that there were no lots to be had for the erection of more homes, to permit all those who desired, to come here and settle. Taken in this respect, the new addition is one of the greatest accomplishments that has ever been made for the betterment of West Brooklyn.

Lee County Townships


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