Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Norwegians, Willow Creek Township Lee County Illinois

But by far the most numerous are the Norwegians of Willow Creek and neighboring towns, which make up one of the very largest Norwegian settlements in the United States. It is about eight or ten miles long and about six miles wide.

As stated in another chapter concerning the Norwegians of Lee County, Sublette got many Norwegians first. Subsequently they left and most of them came to Willow Creek. The first was Amund Hilleson, who as a single man went to Sublette in 1851. From his first year's wages he bought from the Government, in 1852, the northeast quarter of 15. In the spring of 1855, after having saved some more money, he settled on that land. In the early part of 1856, Lars Larson Risetter, who too had gone to Sublette, followed Hilleson into Willow Creek and settled on the southwest quarter of 15. When he died, he was one of the richest men in Lee County. He bought land extensively, cheap, and it rose rapidly, and of him it was said, 'No man made so rapidly and so fairly as Mr. Risetter.'

Other Norwegians coming to Willow Creek were Jacob Edwards, Haakon Risetter, Newton Boyd, S. M. Maakestad, T. T. Eide, Thomas Nelson, and Ole J. Prestegaard, the richest Norwegian in northern Illinois, who as a poor sailor came to Lee in 1864. Without a possible exception, these Norwegians came from Hardanger, Norway. Last summer, 1913, over two thousand, from all parts of the United States, assembled at Lee, in this township, to hold their second annual fest. It was one of the noted events in the history of Lee County. For two days those Hardangers visited and sang, and in the great tent just northwest of town, they assembled to bear tidings from one to another and arrange for attendance of the Hardangers at the home coming, back at the old childhood haunts in the fatherland. Without the slightest inconvenience, that vast multitude was cared for in and around the little village of Lee. During the two days' session not one boisterous word was uttered. Not a single police officer was detailed to care for the crowd. It was the best behaved crowd that ever met in Lee County.

These Norwegians are industrious, frugal and hard-working. Without exception they are people of means. Not a saloon can be found in this township. At one time a blind pig attempted to foist itself upon the community, but by the time those Norwegians got through with the proprietors, a lesson had been taught which has not been forgotten to this day.

Every Norwegian out here sings beautifully and the concert given the first night of the fest was a rare treat to all.

In 1866 the Norwegian parochial school was established as a part of the Lutheran church system, having for its object the teaching of the catechism in the native tongue. The Norwegians all teach the children the mother tongue.

First, sessions were held in private houses; next in various schoolhouses during the vacation periods. Alto and Willow Creek townships were divided by the Lutheran church into three districts for select school purposes. Six months' school were held each year, three of them in the spring and three in the fall.

Those in Alto and part of those in the north end of Willow Creek, nine families, constituted the Alto district and held their school in Union District, No. 10.

The third or south district occupied the schoolhouses of districts 5 and 7 and the one in Lee. The school was organized by Rev. C. G. Peterson and while waiting for a teacher, Rasmus Rasmussen taught for a month. Then Thomas Nelson, the first regular teacher, came. Subsequent teachers have been Messrs. Hendricksen, Christopherson, J. Gossendel, Iver Fanebust, E. Teffre, S. W. Weeks, J. J. Maakestad, and another, a student, S. V. Tveit, of Rochester, Minnesota, president of the Hardanger Society, was another teacher. These same scholars are presumed to attend the English public schools.

In 1881 , the south district built a private schoolhouse, 18x26, on the southeast comer of section 15, at a cost of $500. Holden Risetter donated half an acre of ground for the purpose.

The present council of Lee is composed of the following members: S. M. Maakestad, president, or mayor; Barney Jacobsen, George Beels, Sr., Marshall Edwards, L. A. Plant, Oliver Halsne and Robert G. Nowe. Kinnie Ostewig is clerk and F. A. Bach is treasurer.

Lee has its own electric lighting and power plant which gives an all-night service. This independent plant is owned by J. E. Malmsberg. Power is generated by a 20-horsepower engine and I am told five gallons of kerosene will rim the plant fifteen hours.

T. T. Eide is the oldest merchant of Lee. He has been located in one spot thirty years and has amassed a fortune there.

S. M. Maakestad has a very large general store, a handsome two-story brick of two rooms and filled with a very large stock of goods. Mr. Maakestad enjoys one of the largest business incomes in Lee County.

The opera house is a very commodious room, 60 by 90 feet I should judge. It is well lighted, well ventilated and surrounded by ample exits in case of fire. During the winter season a course of entertainments is always maintained. The merchants guarantee the amounts needed to support them and invariably the people patronize them liberally. In this auditorium the Norwegians held their banquet last September 18th, at their Hardanger Lagets, at which nearly one thousand were fed. This is called the Nelson opera house.

Three blacksmith shops do a thriving business in Lee; they are owned and run by Lars H. Jordal, John Malmsberg and John Touch.

The garage and machine shops of Swan Ostewig & Co. are the largest of the kind in Lee County. In all the country round, this is the only shop in which yielding can be done and in vulcanizing, Mr. Ostewig does all of it for neighboring cities and villages. His welding apparatus generates 6,300° of heat. In the immediate vicinity of Lee, over 150 automobiles are owned by farmers and citizens.

The Lee State Bank runs its deposits up over $200,000. It was organized Nov. 14, 1903. Its capital stock is $25,000 and its loans now aggregate $175,000. The officers are Henry Johnson, president; O. A. Johnson, vice president; F. A. Bach, cashier. The directors are Ole J. Prestegaard, O. A. Johnson, H. W. Johnson, J. E. Johnson, T. O. Berg, J. M. Herrmann, H. L. Risetter and W. E. Prichard.

G. P. Peters is proprietor of the large harness shop.

William Brown, Olaf C. Brown and Thomas G. Brown compose the firm Brown Decorating Company, which does a heavy business for twenty miles around.

Nels G. Johnson does an extensive paper hanging business.

Robert G. Nowe has one of the largest hardware stores in Lee County. I doubt if there is a larger one in the county. He issues handsome annual catalogues and does a large mail order business.

Charles B. Wrigley is the present postmaster. Besides his post office he keeps a stock of groceries.

Lee does an enormous grain business and the men who in the past have bought grain in Lee had made independent fortunes. Six hundred thousand bushels were marketed this year of short crops by the Neola elevator and that of Mr. J. E. Johnson. This Mr. Johnson buys live stock extensively, too. William Minnehan runs the local meat market.

George Edwards and A. A. Colby operate restaurants, and R. C. Flint and son operate the hotel.

A. R. Rogde, now eighty-five years old, is the only member left of the old first guard of Norwegians who came to Willow Creek in the '50s. He lives today on the same farm on which he settled. It lies partly within the village of Lee.

This village has a splendid volunteer fire company, of which Henry Eide is the chief.

Lee was incorporated about the year 1875.

The Norwegians of this big Norwegian settlement educate their children. The public schools of Lee are of the very best and after the children have finished the high school, they are sent to the university. In one family, three brothers are professors: one at Yale, one at Northwestern, and another in the East, I have forgotten where.

The Lutheran church called the Southwest, has a pipe organ which cost nearly two thousand dollars. Rev. D. J. Borge is the pastor. Twenty voices comprise the choir, out of which a glee club has been organized. This church has a membership of 300. The Lutheran Church Northwest, though not quite so large as the other, exerts just as commanding an influence in the community and its musical exercises command the same talent and the same numerical strength. The Norwegians of this colony are a temperate, happy, industrious and prosperous people and the settlement is said to be the largest in the United States. Gradually extending, it has reached over into Shabbona and Milan Townships of DeKalb County and over into Alto and Wyoming of Lee County.

And only think! A few years before, these Norwegians were so scattered that no more than four church services could be held in the year.

The first school of the township was held at Allen's Grove in 1848 and was taught by Miss Martha Vandeventer, sister of Christopher Vandeventer, in one of Israel Shoudy's log houses. Shoudy had several log houses and was a tavern keeper at the time. A little later Miss Nettleton and Miss Laura Brace kept school in the same place.

In the spring of 1849, a frame schoolhouse was built by subscription on nearly the site of a later one, Shoudy donated the land and the next winter Miss Clara Price taught there. Miss Smith of Shabbona Grove was an early teacher in this school and so was John Colvill, later of Paw Paw.

Over at Twin Groves the first school ever taught was in a log cabin belonging to James Thompson. The first teacher is thought to have been a widow named Mrs. Stubbs, who was an early teacher in those parts. Miss Maria A. Holton, later Mrs. B. F. Ellsworth, taught here in the summer of 1853. The Twin Groves schoolhouse was built in 1854, by subscription, and in the fall of 1857 was bought by the district at auction. In the winter of 1863-64, it was burned down; another was built the following summer and Miss Mary J, Fisher taught in it the first term. Now the beautiful school building built by Miss Ida Durin is used at this point, Scarboro.

The Ellsworth school was built in the spring of 1855, and Mrs. Ellsworth taught the same that summer. The finished lumber and shingles used in its construction were hauled from Earlville by Joseph McCoy. Religious exercises were held here regularly.

The Vroman schoolhouse was built about the year 1855, and Miss Helen Vroman was a teacher there for several terms.

Allusion has been made once or twice to the beautiful school-house built at Scarboro by Miss Ida Durin. While upon the subject of Willow Creek schools, I might just as well tell all about this famous school. At this moment, it is the only school denominated ''perfect'' or, technically speaking, ''superior,'' in the county, and at its dedication it was the third in the state to receive from the state educational department a diploma. On Saturday, the 17th day of May, last, with a splendid program, this beautiful building was dedicated by Mr. U. J. Hoffman, a representative from the state superintendent's office. Mr. L. W. Miller, superintendent of Lee County's schools, was present too, and it may be said in this connection that he has done a vast amount of work in bringing to their present high standard the schools of Lee County.

This Scarboro school cost $2,200. It contains a distinct library room, and it is filled with useful books. Its lavatory is conveniently arranged with reference to the two wardrooms and its mountings are of the best nickel.

The schoolroom is about 25 by 40. The seats are graduated with reference to the size and ages of children from the primary to the eighth grades. Cement sidewalks lead from the street to the doors of the school opening to the east. The very latest model of heating apparatus has been placed on the first floor. Mrs. Maria Ellsworth, the first teacher to teach school in that district, in 1852, was present and told the story of the first school already mentioned, and for her services she received the sum of $1.25 per week and boarded round. How beautifully she contrasted the perfect school in which she was seated to the little affair way back in the fifties!

The program for this momentous occasion was as follows: Vocal duet, Misses Mishler and McCosh; male quartette; invocation, Reverend Schweitzer; vocal solo. Misses Mishler and McCosh, Miss Newcomer, pianist; reading. Miss Olive Yetter; address of welcome. Prof. L. W. Miller, county superintendent; vocal solo, Misses Mishler and McCosh, Miss Newcomer, pianist; address and presentation of tablet and diploma, TJ. J. Hoffman; vocal duet Misses Mishler and McCosh, Miss Newcomer, pianist; History of the School District, George T. Noe; Experiences of an Early Teacher, Mrs. Maria Ellsworth. And this was a rare treat.

Male quartette, ''Illinois.''

Placing ''Superior'' doorplate on the front of the building and photographing the new building.

Refreshments were served in the open air to a very large number who were present to witness the interesting services.

If I remember rightly, Mrs. Ellsworth said that her first school, taught in 1852, burned down in 1868 or 1869. About two years afterwards a more pretentious affair replaced it, which by the bye, is used to this day in the village of Scarboro in the form of a store. The present is the third. I had almost forgotten to mention that the lighting arrangements proceed from the rear and left of the pupils, and in order to secure the most possible of sunshine and daylight, the windows bow somewhat.

Miss Eunice Fisher, daughter of Jacob Fisher, is the present teacher in charge. Besides manual training which Miss Fisher teaches, sewing is taught by her.

Willow Creek had two country post offices before Lee and Scarboro were platted. The first was the Willow Creek post office called by the people ''Twin Grove," where it was established about 1849. The early maps, however, designate this as Willow Creek post-office. Robert Blair was the first postmaster. He moved away, however, at the time and never handled any mail. It was actually established at the house of one of the Goffs, who had it for a short while, and until Blair removed in 1850. Gilbert E. Durin took it then and kept it until 1853, when it passed into the hands of William L. Smith. After keeping it for a while, he deputized a man named Beckwith to run it, who went wrong and then Mr. Smith took it back to his own house. James Harp followed and Ira Durin followed him. William Moore, B. F. Ellsworth, A. H. Knapp and Adam Miller successively followed.

The South Willow Creek post office was established in the sixties sometime, on section 34, and was kept until about 1873, by Hiram J. Abrams, when it was abolished.

The first preacher we can locate was Elder Baker, an itinerant Presbyterian, who held meetings at Allen's Grove in the Shoudy house. Reverend Canfield and Elder Wood from Earlville came occasionally. An exhorter named Olmstead is said to have preached in the various settlements of Willow Creek even before Baker preached there. Rev. James Price also preached there in the early day.

The first sermon at Twin Groves was preached by a Methodist minister from Rochelle. Rev. Richard Haney was the first circuit rider who came there with any sort of regularity. It has been said of Mr. Haney that he delighted to join in the wolf hunts and that upon one occasion he dug from the ground seven wolves. Reverends Davids and Roberts also preached there prior to 1860.

In 1855 Willow Creek was taken from Wyoming and made a township and to it the present township of Alto was joined.

The first annual town meeting was held at Twin Groves school-house, District 3, on April 3, 1855. Ira S. Durin was made chairman of the meeting; A. N. Dow was made moderator, and G. Bishop, clerk; and E. Woodbridge, justice of the peace, swore them in.

In 1861, Willow Creek was reduced to the regulation Government Township, six miles square, by the organization of Alto.

Until 1860, the elections were held at the Twin Groves school-house. The next two or three meetings, including two special meetings, were held at the Vroman schoolhouse. After that they were held at Allen's Grove. In 1865, they were moved back to Twin Groves. In 1867 and 1868 the Vroman house was used for the polling place and in 1869, the Center schoolhouse; for the next two years, the polling place went back to Vroman place and in 1872, to the Center house. In 1874, the election was held at the red school-house and the next year at Adam Miller's. At the town meeting in 1874, C. M. Bacon presented a resolution instructing the town board to take initiatory steps towards buying a lot in the center of the township and building thereon a town hall. It was adopted. John Yetter, supervisor, L. G. Durin, assessor, Dwight Davenport, town clerk, and Robert Thompson and H. G. Howlett, justices of the peace, reported that one acre in the southeast comer of section 16 could be bought for $150 and that a building 24x34, with 12-foot posts, would cost about eight hundred dollars. A vote on the proposal to build was carried, fifty to forty-seven. That same season the building was erected and the total cost was about one thousand, one hundred dollars.

On Oct. 16, 1869, a vote was taken on the proposition to bond the township to aid the proposed Rock River railroad, but it was voted down, twenty-four to one. On March 26, 3870, another election was held to vote on the proposal of bonding the township in aid of the Chicago & Iowa railroad, for $50,000, on condition the company should run within one mile of the center of the township, and that was carried by seventy-five to fifty-one. But the road ran through the corner of the town in 1871, and so no bonds were issued.

The first supervisor was Robert Smith; the first town clerk was G. E. Durin; first assessor. Prince Stevens; first collector, William Byrd.

When during the Civil war it was feared Illinois might be invaded, a Union League was organized with a membership of about seventy, of which Nathaniel Nettleton was captain-president and Andrew Stubbs was marshal. The organization met at Allen's Grove and the Vroman schoolhouse and was drilled by John Edwards, of Paw Paw, a Mexican war veteran.

When towards the end of the war recruits enlisted slowly. Willow Creek voted a bounty of $600 to every volunteer who should enlist and be credited to Willow Creek township after that date. No draft followed.

This little rural community did its full duty in the long struggle.

As near as may be learned, the following is a list of those boys who enlisted from Willow Creek Township:

N. Chandler Allen
Alonzo Allen
Harrison Allen who was in the Mexican war as well
David Anderson
Dewitt Abrams
Devalson Abrams
Sylvester Bidwell
John Baisley
George Baisley
William Baisley
G. S. Briggs
Adin Briggs
John Britton
Alpheus Beemer
Charles Bennett
Reuben Bactil
Joseph Barnhard
Bigelow Barnhard
Lewis P. Boyd
Orin Cisco
Levi Cashner
Robert Donaldson
Alexander Donaldson
Frederick Erbes
John Edgar
John Ellsworth
Lewis M. Fairchild
George W. Girard
Ehrhart Gehrig
James C. Howlett
George Hollenback
Edward Hollenback
Charles E. Hall
Moore Hess
Santee Hess
Edmund W. Holton
Densla Holton
Chandler G. Holton
George Hochstrasser
Orlando Jones
Andrew Jackson
Sivert Johnson
Morris Johnson
Joseph Kengular (or James Keghtlinger)
Zephaniah Kengular
Nelson Larson
S. S. Linton
Jonathan F. Linton
F. C. Mason
Peter Mittan
Chauncey Mittan
James Miller
William Miller
Merritt Miller
Clement Miller
Frank Mills
Francis Mills
William Mills
Amos Noe
William Noe
Hamilton Nichols
Thomas Nickelson
William Nettleton
Benjamin Nettleton
Nathaniel Nettleton
Jacob Schwab
Alexander Schwab
Jacob Smuck
Charles Steinbrook
George Seymour
William Steele
Thomas Steele
John Shoudy
John Smith
James B. Smith
Bayard Smith
Alexander Smith
John linger
David Vroman
Robert Vroman
Abram Van Patten
Irwin Vandeventer
William Vandeventer
Christopher C. Vandeventer Jr.
Robert Wells

In 1868, a Methodist Episcopal Church was erected on the southwest comer of section 16, jointly by the Methodist, Congregationalist and United Brethren societies, and today is called the Twin Groves Methodist Church. James and Amanda Thompson donated the ground. The trustees for the Methodist church were James Thompson, L. G. Durin, Henry Lewis, Aaron Smith and M. A. Rice. The building was 30x40 with a high spire, and it cost $3,500. Besides the lot donated, James Thompson gave $1,000 and his wife, Amanda, gave $630 towards building. It was dedicated Nov. 9, 1868; Revs. F. A. Hardin and A. P. Beach conducted the services.

By the arrangement governing this church, made at the time, it was agreed to permit each other denomination to use it; that if at any time the Methodists desired to control it exclusively, they might do so by returning to the donors of other societies the money these members had contributed.

The first regular Methodist preacher to occupy this pulpit was C. C. Combs, while Reverend Brewer officiated for the Congregationalists. Reverend Wendell was the first preacher for the United Brethren.

Among those who have followed are Reverends Young, Bender, two Lewises, for the United Brethren. Following Combs, are Curtis, Farmiloe, Stoddard, Davis, Hoffman, Tibbals, Record (1879).

In the winter of 1869, a protracted meeting was held here, lasting seven weeks, during which 130 conversions were made. Reverend Combs conducted it. Over one hundred united with his society. When he reached this circuit, the Methodists had only nine members, all women.

The Congregationalists and United Brethren have nearly all of them left the community.

The Congregational Society was formed about 1859. Among those who were original members were Ephraim Durin, Mrs. Durin, Mr. and Mrs. Harper B. Davenport, Woodbridge, Rev. and Mrs. James Brewer, Mr. and Mrs. Simon (or Simeon) Cole. Caleb M. Bacon became a member later. Reverend Brewer was the first preacher. Rev. Henry Buss the second, and the third and last was Reverend Breed. A salary of $200 was paid the preacher and the services were held in the Twin Grove schoolhouse until the erection of the church.

In the spring of 1864, Rev. Jacob Fowler revived the Episcopal Church, which had been in existence formerly, and he brought together about fifteen communicants. Under the fostering care of this gentleman, the church grew and prospered until about forty communicants attended regularly in the Ellsworth and Beemerville schoolhouses. Among the number of communicants were Winfield Argraves and Mrs. Argraves, Adam Miller, Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Argraves, Mr. and Mrs. Abram Rosenkrans, Lydia Miller. Mr. and Mrs. Joseph McCoy, Henry Abrams, Jephtha Mittan, Mr. and Mrs. Nathan Koons and Mr. and Mrs. Alexander Beemer. This mission was attached to the Shabbona mission. In 1866, the vestry, with some outside help, built a church, 30x40, for $2,600. This was dedicated Sunday, Aug. 6, 1866. Rev. Madison Handy became the second minister and he continued to keep the flock together. But when Rev. A. C. Wallace came along, the beginning of the end appeared. He lost his congregation. When it owed him, in arrears, $500 for salary, he obtained judgment against the church, sold the place to make his debt, bid it in himself and when the redemption ran out, he sold it to the United Brethren Society. As a matter of fact the church stands over the line into Wyoming Township on the northwest of section 6. This society, which lived exclusively in Willow Creek, was organized in 1857 with twelve original members. The first pastor was Reverend Adams; the first class leader, Cummings Noe, and the first trustees were R. Hall, Cummings Noe and H. Lewis.

A German Lutheran Church was organized in Willow Creek Township at the Byrd schoolhouse by Rev. William Halleberg, in 1870. The families of the following persons became members: George Erbes, Ehrhard Hochstrasser, George Hochstrasser, Godfried Gehrig, Louis Gehrig, William Hackman, Henry Schultz, Jacob Rubel, Jacob Schoenholz and John Schoenholz.

Revs. William Halleberg, Charles Weinsch, John Feiertag, H. H. Norton, W. O. Oeting and W. Krebs have been ministers for this pulpit.

A society of Dunkards was organized in the Byrd school-house in 1863, after meetings had been held around at various houses. The original members were John and Margaret Toft, Alva R. and Amanda Harp, William and Elizabeth Vroman and D. C. and Catherine Vroman. Rev. John Fillmore settled in the township soon after and he held services around at the Beemerville, Byrd and Twin Groves schoolhouses.

Allen's Grove had preaching of some kind from 1844. About 1848, the Presbyterians organized a society and maintained an existence for several years. Reverends Baker, Breed and another were the preachers.

A Methodist and a Baptist society were organized there too.

The Zion Church of the Evangelical Association was organized by Rev. John F. Schnee, who continued as the first pastor. Some of his successors have been Revs. G. M. Young, John Schweitzer, A. Gotschel, A. Strickfaden, C. Ghestatter, J. K. Schultz, and J. J. Lintner.

At first, for six years prior to the organization in 1868, at the Byrd schoolhouse, regular preaching was had every two weeks by Rev. J. M. Sindlinger, Henry Messner or L. B. Tobias. Some of the original members were William Dunkelberger and Mrs. Dunkelberger, John G. Yetter, Mr. and Mrs. John Yetter, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Yetter, Mr. and Mrs. Gotlieb Hochstrasser, George Hochstrasser, Julia Yetter and Mary Hochstrasser. William Dunkelberger was first class leader. The first trustees were John Yetter, William Dunkelberger and J. L. Lutz. John Yetter was superintendent of the Sunday school for many years before his removal to Steward and later to Mount Morris.

On the southeast corner of section 5 a church building was erected in 1875 at a cost of $3,000. Its dimensions are 32x46 and the same was dedicated by Bishop Jacob J. Escher.

The first services of the Catholic Church were held at the house of Peter Kimbler about 1863. Father Westkam said mass. The first communicants were Peter Buchholz, Peter Schneider, John Herrmann, Joseph M. Herrmann, Frank Herrmann, Frank Bates, Thomas Down, Frank Bates, Jr., Peter Kimbler and six other families.

Father Westkam, who came over from Mendota, advised the building immediately of a church and almost $2,000 was subscribed at once. The next year a church was built on the northwest comer of the southwest quarter of section 16. The main building was 26x40, with an addition which at times has been used as a parochial school. John Herrmann donated four acres of ground for cemetery purposes. The first priest who celebrated mass in the new church was Father Nigg of Mendota. Fathers Goldsmith, Gobbles, Anthon Butter, Frank Schreiber, Fralich, Joseph Baenak, and Charles Hahn have been subsequently installed in this parish.

By far the largest societies in Willow Creek Township are the Norwegian Evangelical Churches. One is Southwest and the other Northwest.

This church was organized in the autumn of 1858, by the Reverend Didrikson, who made one visit to Bradford Township. At first, the members were scattered widely apart; some in Sublette, others in Bradford, Lee Center and Willow Creek and meetings were held four times a year, around in the four different townships. After the church had been put into good working order, Rev. A. C. Preus, came and meetings were held more frequently and the members assembled at the Byrd and Twin Groves schoolhouses. After a little while, the Norwegians left their old settlements in the other townships and came to Willow Creek and Alto to live, and in 1864, over twenty families had gathered here to live. Among those who were first worshipers in this church were Amund Hillison, Lars Larson Risetter, Lars Salmonson, Jacob Oleson, Haldor Nelson, Jacob Peterson, Holden Peterson, Lars Oleson, William Oleson, C. Christopher, Edwin Winterton, Lars Hillison, Haakon Risetter, Thomas Hillison, Christian Hillison Sexer, Amund Oleson Cragvick and the Boyds. Reverend Preus remained a year or two when he was succeeded by C. J. P. Peterson, under whose charge the church was built and the parochial school was established.

This beautiful church building, located in the northeast of section 11, arrests the eye from a long distance. It cost $3,500. It is 35x60 with a fine spire. A parsonage with twenty acres of ground surrounding belongs to the church and is located on the northwest quarter of section 2. In 1870 it was bought for $40 per acre. This latter building cost about $1,700 and was built in 1875. A bam has been added.

First, Chicago was the market for Willow Creek farmers. With the completion of the canal to LaSalle and Peru, the latter places were patronized. Seven days were consumed in the Chicago trip with horses.

The gristmills were at Dayton on Fox River, Dixon and Binghamton.

In Willow Creek buffalo bones were especially thick over the ground when the earliest settlers came in. It was thought that inasmuch as they were more numerous in low places, the animals must have been driven there for forage during the cold winter of 1830-31, and unable to get out of the blinding storms, were frozen to death in great numbers. This, however, is not true. In 1825 no buffaloes were seen in Northern Illinois by the settlers or the suckers going to and from the mines at Galena.

''The tornado of Sunday, June 3, 1860,

This chapter should not be dismissed without recording the little beginnings of things in the village of Lee, now so prosperous.

The Chicago & Iowa railroad was completed to this point in the autumn of 1871. The county line between Lee and DeKalb Counties runs north and south through the middle of the principal street in Lee although the major part of Lee is located in Lee County, including the post office.

It is built on the southeast quarter of section 1, which brings it right up in the northeast corner of the town of Willow Creek. Norwegians today dominate its affairs just as they did when the place was platted. The first little building put up was by Christopher & Jorgens and was used for a grain office and grocery. At about the same time J. Cheasebro built an office and began buying grain and dealing in coal, and lumber. Both offices were completed before snow fell, but they did no business until after New Years day. R. J. White built the first' store in the spring of 1872 on the northeast comer of Main and B streets, and soon after, when the post office was established, he was appointed post-master. He had a partner named Knight who sold out his interest to one A. B. Trask, who sold out to Henry Moore and he in turn sold out to W. H. Bryant. The new firm then added a line of farm machinery to their stock. In 1874 White retired and Bryant received the appointment of postmaster. After three years of trade he sold out the store and thereafter dealt only in agricultural implements.

Next after White, J. Johnson started a general store on the west side on Main Street, between A and B streets. In July, 1872, the railroad switch was finished and freight began to move in and out and Lee began to boom. Abel Downer opened the third general store which included a stock of drugs, on the southwest comer of Main and B streets. During the same season, Ostewig and Leyder started a hardware store.

James Minnehan built the first dwelling in 1872. The next March W. H. Emmett erected the second, and in 1874, others went up rapidly, including that of Mr. Christopher, east of the track.

Frank Bacon built a hotel on B Street in the early winter of 1872-73. In 1874 A. B. Trask built the second which has outlived the first one. Trask 's was called the Clifton House.

The North elevator was built by J. Cheasebro in the fall of 1872, and immediately following, Christopher & Jorgens erects another to the south. The first butcher shop was opened on B street east of the track, in 1872. Next year, William Finton moved it over onto Main Street, north of B.

Miss Margaret Edsall was the first milliner and dressmaker and opened her rooms in 1873. Lars Helland erected a wagon shop and Iverson & Espe a blacksmith shop. These were built on the east side.

In 1873 N. D. Schoenholz built a harness shop, Lars Larson Risetter built a store and dwelling on the southeast comer of Main and B streets, Lars Midnes a notion store, Knudt Tyler stalled a photograph studio and Trask, a store and dwelling, first occupied by C. H. Rathbun.

Stevens & Prestegaard built a hardware store on Main Street in 1875. In the same year, B. H. Skoyles began the erection of a gristmill which was finished next year. In 1879 Christopher & Jorgens enlarged their elevator, put in a stationary engine and added wood-working works. On the northeast comer of Main and B streets, Sardis Vosburgh built in 1881, a handsome brick store, the first one built in Lee.

In 1874 the village was incorporated and the first board of trustees were James G. Boardman, Arthur McLane, William R. Baumbach, A. B. Trask and W. H. Bryant. On Aug. 11th they held their first meeting. McLane was chosen president and John Johnson clerk of the board.

The first school in Lee was opened in the Dyas building in December, 1874, with W. H. Emmett as teacher. In the summer of 1875, Miss Eva Bryant taught the school in the Midnes building. In the spring of 1876, Miss Margaret Edsall taught it in the shop she had occupied formerly as her millinery and dressmaking establishment. In that summer the schoolhouse was built. In this new school building, Miss Hampton taught the first school or term. J. L. Johnson, Miss Mary Griffin, J. W. Shanks, William H. Hallet and Mrs. George Lattin followed. Henry E. Daniels, Charles Childs and A. B. Trask were the first directors.

The first public talk made in Lee was given by a Jew, who bad changed his name to Professor Ryder, in the Dyas building. On the same day a union Sunday school was organized in the same room. This room had formerly been used for saloon purposes and when Ryder spoke, planks were placed across the heads of some beer kegs which never had been removed and right across those same seats this first and very successful Sunday school was organized. At this same time, preaching was begun in Lee by Reverend Nicholson of Shabbona for the Methodists and Reverend Clouse from the same place for the Baptists. The next summer the religious meetings and the Sunday schools were removed to the Midnes building and there they remained until the schoolhouse was erected in 1876. There the two denominations, Methodists and Baptists, held alternate services until the Methodists built a church and in that the same alternate services were held for some time. Elder Clouse preached there until 1879 for the Baptists. He was succeeded by Rev. E. W. Hicks. The Methodist ministers have been: Pomeroy, A. B. Mettler, A. B. Dickens and W. H. Records.

W. H. Emmett was the first Sunday school superintendent. Then it lapsed for a while, and Samuel Henderson revived it.

The Methodist Church was built in 1877 and was dedicated Dec. 30th, of that year. Its cost was about two thousand dollars. It is a building, Gothic in style, 28x42, with a spire. It stands on the DeKalb county side of the village.

The Catholic Church, built at Lee, stands just to the west of the business part of the village. It is a fine building, 40x60.

Before this church was built, Twin Groves to the west was the only place at all nearby, where services were had and there they were held but once a month. At Rochelle, thirteen miles north; at DeKalb, eighteen miles to the northeast, and at Sandwich, twenty miles to the east, were the nearest Catholic churches. In the spring of 1878, M. P. Harris, John Kennedy, James Kirby and Bernard Malloy began an active campaign for building a church suitable for the many communicants of the neighborhood. Kirby was designated to act as treasurer and Harris as secretary, to see the Catholics and enlist their cooperation. Cash in those days was not plentiful, but those who desired a church, were financially good in every way. In three days $3,000 in good notes bearing 10 per cent interest, were secured. John Kennedy, James Kirby and Stephen Kirby divided these notes equally as collateral and each advanced the sum of $1,000. Then the men first named went forward and built the church. John Kennedy gave one acre of ground and $500 in money which constituted the largest contribution made by any one individual. The church cost $3,200. In the fall of 1878, it was dedicated by Rev. Father Verdin, vice president of St. Ignatius College, Chicago. Father Edwards was the first priest in charge. At first, services were held there but every other Sunday. Now the parish has a resident priest and regular services are held and the congregation is a very large one.

Six years ago, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company, desiring to enter the coal fields to the southwest, in order to supply the needs of the company, determined to run a line of road through Lee County for the purpose. Under a leasing agreement with the Burlington, they were permitted to run over the Burling-ton line from Steward to Rochelle. From Steward southerly, the St. Paul road directed its course. It has been said that the promoters of the road desired to penetrate Compton and we are told that overtures were made to that village with a view to secure the right of way.

Like so many other places, contented with the present and under the impression that they are secure in their trade without other roads to establish other villages near and thus divide trade, those citizens, so the story runs, declined to assist the road. On the contrary, some resistance was manifested to the plans of the company. Just how true these rumors are, I cannot state. But they are so characteristically human and have been repeated unprofitably so many times in history that color at least may be given them.

At all events, the company went in its course just about a mile and a half to the east and established the station of Roxbury where grain is bought and shipped in large quantities, and all at the expense of Compton. I must say, however, in justice to Compton, that the company also established a station about six miles north of Roxbury, called Scarboro and this little station has picked up an enormous trade, especially in grain and coal. Topographically, Scarboro, in Willow Creek, is so situated that from the east at least, it is so easy to haul downhill to Scarboro, that farmers almost from the doors of the Lee elevators bring grain to Scarboro to market. From the rich Viola Country to the west, of course, it attracts all the grain raised there and Steward, for so many years a million bushel point, has decreased at least 40 per cent on account of the inroads made by Scarboro. And this charming little village now markets something like half a million bushels of grain every year.

P. J. Schoenholz operates the first and oldest store, a general one, and Carl C. Fisher, the other. My genial old friend, H. D. Riley presides at the anvil and forge of Scarboro's solitary black-smith shop and it pleases me to note that he is doing a prosperous business.

The freight receipts at this station are said to be as large as those of any other village in the county of twice its size. Mr. William H. Webber, one of Viola's biggest farmers, tells me that as a live stock shipping point, it does a splendid business. Two large elevators here care for the grain. Shearer Brothers of Steward, forseeing the inroads Scarboro was likely to make in their Steward business, promptly built an elevator in Scarboro. The Neola people have the other.

The Evangelical church about which we have read in other pages found itself located right in the midst of the village when Scarboro was laid out. This is a beautiful church, built with every arrangement for comfort. A perfect kitchen has been built in the basement which also includes the added features of a dining room and in this admirable room suppers are given frequently. Last Fourth of July, when the Scarboro folks held a big celebration, the ladies of the church fed large numbers and did it in a manner altogether astonishing. And a better dinner never was served. The Scarboro school stands just to the south. About half a mile, farther to the south, one of the beautiful Twin Groves stands. Through it Willow creek runs and there picnics and gatherings just like the one on the last Fourth, are held. It is an ideal spot

In this beautiful little bit of a village, you will find the very highest specimens of the builder's art, improved with every modem convenience. Electricity, steam heat, baths, hot and cold water, in the houses; cement sidewalks; and all the village surrounded with lands which can hardly be valued. Only a little while ago, Mr. Henry B. Cobb, of Viola, living just a little way to the west, learned that a certain farm might be bought. It lay near his big tract of Viola land and he bought it without regard to price. Three hundred dollars per acre was the price; over fifty thousand dollars and the money, cash in hand, was paid down. Verily prosperity dwells around Scarboro, possibly the smallest village in the county. At all events, the youngest, yet one of the richest and prettiest. And it is located in Willow Creek Township; old Twin Groves!

Enlistments from Willow Creek Township
Willow Creek Township Tornado

Lee County Townships


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