Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Reynolds Township, Lee County, Illinois

Leaving the township of Alto, one enters to the immediate west, the township of Reynolds, a beautiful body of land peopled by a splendid class of farmers. Here one is in old Inlet still. By this time, the vastness of old Inlet should be fully comprehended and the troubles of many of the people in traveling so far to vote must also be comprehended by this time, although in Reynolds nobody yet had settled when this territory was a part of Inlet. Reynolds like Ashton and Alto, being off the thoroughfares, did not settle until along in the fifties. At first Reynolds was part of Brooklyn. At the present time every inch of this township is under cultivation, with the possible exception of the stone quarries of fine stone lying just a little to the east of the west line of the township. Here, in the early day, the builder was compensated for the lack of timber from which to build a cabin, by the presence of stone which he was permitted to quarry and carry away without thought of compensation. Later, however, when its value became better known and stone became in demand, large quantities of it were sold and considerable quantities of it were shipped. After cement began to be used for building purposes, and the demand for stone fell off, the stone became useless and once again this stone may be had for the asking almost. Thus does the staple become the refuse and thus does the good of one day fluctuate and decline into uselessness! Robert M. Peile, one of the old settlers, owned this stone quarry. At another time the Illinois Central railroad sent experts to it to test its qualities for building piers and abutments; but after careful experimenting, its quality was found to lack the ingredients wanted for great durability.

The first history of Reynolds has been neglected sadly. We know who some of the first settlers were, but the dates of their settlement never have been recorded and so in a general way only, can the history of this township be given.

Sewell Reynolds, Thomas Minier, Jonathan Whitehead, John Herrington, Dudley C. Whitehead, Daniel Brink, Jr., and Charles Gooeh were among the older settlers and most of them moved to other parts before their deaths. However, Sewell Reynolds, who afterwards moved to Rochelle, was the first settler, locating in what was known as Brush Grove, about the only grove in the township and in his honor the township was named. Simeon Reynolds was the first child born in the township and Nelson Morgan's was the first death.

On April 5th, 1859, the voters of the township met at the school-house in district No. 1 and organized by choosing Peter Mills as moderator and Robert M. Peile, clerk. At this meeting, Thomas Minier was elected supervisor; John C. Piper, town clerk; Thomas Minier, assessor; Dudley C. Whitehead, collector; Daniel Brink, Jr., overseer of the poor, and E. F. Gatten, John Whitehead and David Douthett, highway commissioners. The constables were Dudley C. Whitehead and John C. Piper. The justices of the peace were Peter Mills and Robert M. Peile. At tins same meeting the voters then appointed E. F. Gatten, John Herrington and John C. Piper a committee to divide the town into road districts.

This meeting was held in a little cabin, 12x16, 6 feet high, built and owned by Horace Steams for a residence; it stood for many years thereafter on section 10 and was used as a corncrib and then as a pig pen. There were not many persons present at that meeting; the names known today are J. C. Piper, R. M. Peile, C. N. Reynolds, Simeon Reynolds, Silas Shippee, W. M. Hawkins.

The low ground, for many years a part of the great Inlet swamp, was not cultivated, but with the big ditches dug since that time, that land is of the very richest. It is known as the Flats.

Previous to the building of a Methodist Church, a meeting for organization was held in the house of C. W. Ament, in the autumn of 1875, with the following attendance: C. W. Ament, F. F. Farmlow, C. F. Van Patten, John A. Edgar, Daniel C. Miller and B. F. Parker who were elected a building committee. Very soon thereafter the church at the Flats was built, a building 32x42, 16 feet high to the eaves with a seating capacity of 200, was made ready for use.

In my haste however to erect this church building in Reynolds, I must not forget to state that that first meeting was opened with prayer, after which resolutions were passed for the organization proposed. F. F. Farmlow was chosen chairman and C. W. Ament secretary. C. W. Ament was made clerk and treasurer and he, with F. F. Farmlow, C. F. Van Patten, John A. Edgar, Daniel C. Miller and B. F. Parker were elected a building committee. Soon after the building was occupied, A. N. Dow was chosen treasurer, C. F. Van Patten, secretary, and John A. Edgar, C. W. Ament, A. N. Dow, C. F. Van Patten and B. F. Parker, were elected trustees. Sunday school was held there every other Sunday for many years; as many as forty members attended regularly.

Another very strong church in Reynolds is the Emanuel church, German, situated about a mile east of the Bradford line and four miles south of the Ogle county line. On January 5th, 1872, a meeting was held in the schoolhouse for district 4, for the purpose of organizing a church. C. Gagstetter was made chairman of the meeting and Ernst Wiener, secretary. At the same place the committee appointed, met on Jan. 20, 1872, and reported favorably. A building committee was then appointed consisting of John Kersten, George Sandrock, George Boley, Martin Wagner and Ernst Wiener. At this meeting the following trustees were elected: Ernst Wiener, George Kersten, John Neuman, George Sandrock and George Boley, Mr. Wiener was made treasurer, George Boley was made secretary of the building committee. The building built was 34x50, 18 feet to the eaves, with a steeple about 18 feet high and a bell. The seating capacity is 400. The cost was about $4,000. Since erecting, the building has been remodeled somewhat and improvements to the value of at least another one thousand dollars were added. On Oct. 13, 1872, the church was dedicated, clear of debt, the sum of $1,100.82 being raised at the time. Unto this day, this church is in a flourishing condition.

Mr. Peile of this township was one of the first, and probably the very first man to introduce the herding of cattle in Lee County. He commenced by herding something like 900. Subsequently he had 2,700 under his care at one time. At this time it is almost in-conceivable how such vast herds could be cared for, yet they were cared for comfortably and Mr. Peile never sustained a loss out-side of the June tornado of 1860 mentioned in Willow Creek and Lee Center histories. During that fearful hurricane, many cattle and other stock were killed outright.

Mr. Peile seemed to have incurred the enmity of windstorms because in the year 1880 and the month of June too, his large bam, 50x100 was blown down. Nowhere can I find the date of Mr. Peile's arrival in Reynolds, but by calculating from 1850 when he landed in this country, adding a stay in the East; two years teaching near Mendota, he could not have settled in Reynolds before 1853. At the time of his settlement, the township was called Brooklyn Township.

Martin Wagner located first at Lee Center in 1854 where he entered business as a tailor. Seven years later he moved to Reynolds. John Trotter settled here in 1860. While Ernst Wiener came to Lee Center, then Bradford as early as 1858, he did not reach Reynolds until 1864.

Thus it will be noticed that most of the first to settle in this beautiful township, settled first in nearby townships, and Reynolds was almost the last township to attract permanent settlers in numbers. But at this moment, Reynolds contains farms as high priced as any in the county. It was not so very long ago that Michael Sullivan sold his farm for over $200 per acre and bought another for almost $300 per acre.

Reynolds is peopled today very largely by the descendants of those rugged old pioneer Germans who settled in Bradford and China at first and then when the prices of their lands advanced, they crossed over into Reynolds and by remaining, they have been made rich to the last man. From the inquiries I have made concerning Reynolds I find that every person there is rich in worlds goods.

Lee County Townships


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