Lee County Illinois
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Nelson Township, Lee County, Illinois

Superficially, Nelson is a small township; but in everything that makes for progress, good citizenship and home making, Nelson is of the largest. Always intensely loyal to its neighbor, Dixon, much of its history is so closely identified with Dixon's that I fear, one must look into Dixon's history to get Nelson's history.

While referring to Nelson's loyalty to Dixon, I should say that when it became necessary to enlarge the old first courthouse and make it over into our second courthouse, the burden as usual fell upon Dixon to meet the expense. The county board refused to consider the proposal of enlargement. Amboy always awake to its opportunity to wrest from Dixon that county seat opposed and so it became necessary for Dixon to shoulder the expense. The burden was heavy and in a manner superbly generous, Nelson township cheerfully consented to assume responsibility for part of the debt incurred in the enterprise. Accordingly a tax was voluntarily spread and collected. The Northwestern road passes through Nelson Township in a southwesterly course, entering section twelve and leaving through section nineteen. On section twenty the village of Nelson was platted. For years it remained contented with the ordinary routine of village life. No aspirations for big things ever appealed to its few substantial citizens, but when the cut off was made between Nelson and Nachusa, Nelson took on considerable commercial importance, because before that time a few years, the branch southward from Nelson to Peoria had been built and the two roads made of Nelson a center of importance. Recently when the Northwestern pushed its road farther into the coal fields. Nelson as a railroad center was placed in a commanding position. Into Nelson there come for distribution over the entire system, over 800 carloads of coal per day to say nothing of the other cars of general merchandise.

The first settler of Nelson Township was Luther Stone who came in 1836 from Erie County, New York, and made his claim on section 29, His sons; Burrill and Samuel Stone came with their father and shared all his hardships. Abner Coggswell settled there in 1843. Charles F. Hubbard came there in 1837. Lewis Brauer, Nathan Morehouse and Charles Noble, father of Charles H. and Col. Henry T. Noble were among the other early settlers of Nelson. Mr. Charles F. Hubbard, one of the most conspicuous, like many others came to Lee County through an accident.

In company with his brother-in-law, William Graham, he started for the Rocky Mountains. These two young men went from New York to Pittsburg, thence down the Ohio River to Cairo; thence up the Mississippi to St. Louis which was to be their point of debarkation for the mountains. But upon reaching there they found the Sante Fe wagon train had gone and no other train would depart for a long while. The Rock River country had a great reputation at the time and so they turned their course northward and came to Dixon. Buying a claim from John Dixon, they settled on the south bank of Rock River and there Mr. Hubbard lived until the day of his death, on the northeast quarter of section 11, the bluff of which overlooks the river for a long distance.

The Hubbards and the Grahams and the Bayleys and the Lawrences, living on opposite sides of the river were people of rare intelligence and education. They all were people of means. I suppose one might not offend the truth to style them aristocrats. In point of breeding, gentility, refinement and culture, they certainly were citizens of the very first rank. No better ever entered the confines of Lee County. Nelson being originally a part of Dixon precinct, I must ask the reader to consult Dixon history to secure very much of Nelson's history.

Luther Stone erected on his claim a large log house and in that he kept tavern for many years.

The first supervisor of the township was Abner Cogswell. The first justices of the peace were Daniel Uhl and George Jones. The first assessor was Michael Troutman. The first collector was R. Henry Heaton, all of whom were elected in 1860 the year the township was set off and organized.

Nelson was the home of Grandma Weed, who while alive enjoyed the distinction of being the oldest of the five generations of Heatons, living at one time. She was 105 years old. Following came Grandfather Heaton; his son, Judge William W. Heaton; his son, Dwight Heaton and his son, Charles.

The leading and I may say the only church in Nelson Township is Zion's Evangelical Church, Lutheran, which was organized Feb. 23, 1867, with fifty-eight members. The first elders were Conrad Hartman and Daniel Uhl; the first deacons were Lewis F. Long and Gerhart Missman. The first pastor was Rev. A. A. Trimper, the Dixon Lutheran minister. The second pastor was Ephraim Miller, who assumed his duties there in 1871. In 1875, Rev. J. P. Sanderson followed. In the year 1877, Rev. J. W. Henderson assumed charge and in 1879, Rev. J. B. Kast became pastor.

In 1880 a new building was erected costing $3,500 on the land of Conrad Hartman.

The Sunday school of Zion's church always has been a gratifying success.

Lee County Townships

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