Lee County Illinois
Part of American History and Genealogy Project

Sublette Township, Lee County, Illinois

Here is one more township carved out of old Inlet. It joins Lee Center on the south and its inhabitants took active part and stood up against the common enemy, the banditti, with the same courage.

Sublette in the very earliest days was inhabited by the sturdiest of settlers and to this day the sons and daughters of those old pioneers are just as sturdy, industrious, thrifty, intelligent and honorable as the old forefathers who lie buried in the two or three cemeteries down there. Sublette village was platted as Soublette. Many have thought it took its name from the circumstance of that particular section of the railroad being sublet. But as every other section of the road, almost, was sublet in parts by the original contractor, the suggestion should have no consideration. The name of the original plat, Soublette, should regulate the name. As to who the individual, Soublette, was, the oldest inhabitant cannot tell. He must have been a non-resident.

The eastern terminus of Palestine Grove will be found in this township on sections 5, 6 and 7. Knox Grove is almost exclusively in this township, along Bureau creek. The old Chicago road running from Princeton ran through Sublette Township. A part of another old state road running from LaSalle to Grand Detour in the halcyon days of the latter, may be traced through the township to this very day, through sections 17 and 18. The old Black Hawk trail made by the army in 1832, on its trips to and from Ottawa, and to and from Fort Wilbourn, the old telegraph and stage line between Dixon and Peru, entered the town at the northwest comer of section 30 and left near the center of the south line of the same section.

It seems agreed that the first permanent settlement began here in the year 1837. Jonathan Peterson came over from Ottawa in October, 1836. He had come originally from New Hampshire. He spent the winter of 1836-37 in Ottawa. In February, 1837, he started for Lee County. During the summer he made his claim on the northwest quarter of section 4. He built his cabin just over the line in what became Lee Center Township subsequently. Then he returned to New Hampshire where he married and in 1838 he returned to Sublette.

In 1837, the month of June, Sherman L. Hatch reached Dixon. To him, Inlet appeared more promising and to Inlet he went, to the house of C. F. Ingalls, who had settled there the year previous. That autumn he made his claim on the southwest quarter of section 7, where he built a log house. As though imitating the example of Peterson, he immediately returned to Vermont, was married, and the next year he returned.

In the autumn of 1838, Thomas and William Fessenden, with their families, came into Sublette from New Hampshire. They claimed land in sections 6 and 7, built a log house on the northwest quarter of 7, and moved into it in December. This is called the first real settlement in the township.

In 1838, Joseph Knox settled in the south end of the grove which took on his name. The same year, Sylvanus Peterson moved onto the southeast quarter of 5. Sometime before the year 1840, John Morton, R. E. Goodsall, settled. In 1839, Daniel Baird settled on the Grand Detour and LaSalle road.

In this same year, 1839, Phineas Rust built the first frame house in Sublette Township, on section 30. Philo Stannard and Thomas S. Angier were there in 1840. Thomas Tourtillott was there too in 1840 and built a frame house 16x20 on section 31, and O. Bryant settled on the old Chicago road, on section 35.

Hiram Anderson, the man whose claim was jumped and with which claim Bull of Dixon was mixed up, lived in Sublette, and the exact description of that celebrated claim is the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of section 33, and 1843 was the year during which Anderson settled on it.

About this time came Ephraim Reniff, 1843; Alpheus Crawford, 1844; Daniel Pratt; Levi Camp; Prescott Bartlett; Silas Reniff; Mr. Rogers; John and Hezekiah McKune. At this period, the year 1844, the immigrants who came to Sublette were to throw the character of the settlers from New England to Germany, and to this day Sublette bears the imprint of Jacob Betz, the first German settler of Sublette. He took up a claim, the southeast quarter of section 33, near the timber known as Perkins Grove. He erected a log house and without loss of time began breaking up the virgin prairie. Like John Hotzell of Bradford, he became the pole star of old and young German friends back home. He wrote them his experiences and his views and the next year, 1845, Mathias Reis came there to live, finding with Mr. Betz a hearty welcome. He spent the summer and fall with Mr. Betz and in the winter time he split rails for Mr. Betz all winter for 50 cents per day.

Mr. Reis was made of manly stuff. Splendidly built; erect; a stout heart and afraid of nothing.

The country furnished many surprises for him who never had seen a new country. One day when Mr. Reis was busy at work splitting rails, he lifted his eyes from his work and there opposite the log he was splitting, stood a deer. Instantly he lifted his axe and threw it, but the deer darted aside and out of sight. After splitting several thousand rails that winter, Mr. Betz gave him a raise of 10 cents per day. During the following year, he continued in the employ of Mr. Betz. By the hardest kind of work and by the exercise of the closest kind of economy he saved enough money to buy 120 acres of land.

I may say that with the entrance of these two gentlemen I may begin my work on the Germans of Lee County, so far as they concern Sublette. In Sublette and Bradford the Germans predominated and do to this day. Now, the children have spread over into China, Ashton, and the population is made up very largely of German people, though of course younger; some of them belonging to the fifth generation.

In the year 1852, May the 6th, Mr. Reis married Miss Catherine Theiss, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Bartholomai Theiss. He built a house on his land in section 28 and began that successful life which became his.

Chicago in those days was the market place, and in common with all others who were compelled to go there, bad roads, sloughs and swamps played havoc many times with their journeys. One of the remedies applied to prevent miring down was to place sacks of grain ahead of the wheels; drive over them and after a long and tiresome effort, the other side was accomplished and much good grain was spoiled. Groceries generally were all that could be brought back in exchange for the grain. One of Mr. Reis's trading places was very near the present site of the courthouse in Chicago and there for a long while was posted the sign, 'Beware! No Bottom,'' Later, Peru became the market center for the people of that part of Lee County. Travel was invited that way and greatly accelerated by the laying of a plank road for several miles. That plank road was regarded with the same feelings of superiority over their neighbors as settlers in a favored locality regarded the rail-road when it came along and superseded the plank road. This plank road was called the toll road and for a considerable while it made Peru famous.

At the time of his death, Mr. Reis had raised his landed possessions to 360 acres and on Oct. 7, 1894, the date of his death, he still owned the original 120 acres on which no mortgage nor transfer ever had been made. Surviving were his widow and G. M., Paul, and F. C. Reis of Sublette, and Carolina Schumacher, of Carroll, Iowa; Lizzie Walz and Mary Reis of Perham, Minnesota, and P. H. of Joplin, Montana.

I have mentioned the name of Bartholomai Theiss. This good old soldier came with his family, consisting of four sons and two daughters, John, Jacob, Godfrey, George, Margaret and Catherine, to Lee County, May 5th, in the year 1846, and located in Sublette. Mr. Theiss possessed great will power, courage and the endurance of the man who always has lived properly. For many years he served under Napoleon Bonaparte in the latter's campaigns in Italy, Prussia, Austria and Russia. He had won such distinction that he was made one of the great Napoleon's bodyguard. Mr. Theiss never tired of repeating his experiences during the great retreat from Russia, which was so fearful and so disastrous. He has the distinction of being the only soldier under Napoleon who lies buried in Lee County, and it is doubtful if there is another in the limits of the State of Illinois.

In the early '50s, the members of the Theiss family built the first Catholic church in Sublette Township, known ever since as the Perkins Grove Catholic Church, or as St. Mary's Church. The old church still stands as well as the cemetery in which Mr. Theiss was buried on his death. Both the church and the cemetery are kept beautifully to this very day by the descendants of the original Theiss.

Bartholomai Theiss died Sept. 16, 1861, full of years; rich in lands and safely and securely lodged in the affections of his neighbors and family. On his monument there have been inscribed appropriate references to his years of experience as a soldier in Europe and some of the many battles he engaged in have been mentioned. This notable grave should be marked and kept forever green in the memory of the people of Lee County, especially the Daughters of the American Revolution,

Three of his sons have passed away and were laid to rest in the Theiss cemetery. They are: John, who died Jan. 9, 1899; Jacob, who died Sept. 20, 1893; Godfrey, who died in 1904, and one daughter, Mrs. Mathias Reis, who died Oct. 14, 1897. George, the other son, now the oldest settler in Sublette, still lives in the enjoyment of peace and plenty.

George Hoffman and his family, consisting of his wife and three sons and two daughters, came to Sublette in the summer of 1845. They too were old friends of Jacob Betz and they settled near Perkins Grove. Henry, the oldest son, married, and by consistent work and economy he accumulated 600 acres of as good land as there is in Lee County. The father, George Hoffman, died in 1909, leaving surviving him his widow and seven sons and three daughters. He was a republican in politics.

Just as the Germans settled other parts of the county, so the Sublette Germans continued coming and settling and raising up families and these included the Malachs, the Lauers, the Wolfs, the Stengers, the Dinges's, the Haubs, the Stephenitch's, the Bettendorf's, the Biebers, the Letls, the Koehlers and so many others, all so industrious, faithful, honest, and now all so rich. The big farms of the fathers, under the management of the sons and grand-sons have increased in size and value until the Germans of Sublette township are the richest people in Lee County. No piece of land in Sublette Township needs to be advertised. The moment it is known that a piece of land can be bought, a purchaser appears on the scene with the ready money to buy it. Not so very long ago by reason of death, one piece had to be sold to close up the estate. There were no children. It sold for $300 per acre and the buyer stood ready to bid higher had it become necessary.

George Bieber landed in Sublette Township in the summer of 1852. He was a shoemaker by trade and worked at his trade until the year 1858 when he returned to Germany to be married. He returned with his wife and bought a lot in the village of Sublette and built a house thereon, one room of which he used as his shoe shop.

One day a land agent came into his shop while he was working on a pair of boots; an agent from the land department of the Illinois Central railroad. This agent succeeded in interesting him in a piece of land, about seventy acres, which a little later he bought for $14 per acre, payable yearly.

The next year he had it broken and rented it for one-third of the crop. Carefully conserving every cent, he soon had it paid for and in time he added a quarter section near Odebolt, Iowa, to his possessions. This he sold and with it bought 130 more acres in Sublette Township. At the time of his death, July 3, 1894, he still owned the 200 acres which was worth a fortune. So it was with those settlers. They knew what the great possibilities of this country were and to the last one they put their moneys into lands.

Two sons and one daughter were born to Mr. Bieber, George and Paul, both of whom live still in Sublette village. They buy grain and sell coal and lumber and do an enormous business. Like the father they have put large sums into Western lands and they are very rich. The daughter is Mrs. Kate Leffelman, also of Sublette village.

Paul Lindstrom, another of the old time settlers came along with Bartholomai Theiss. His was quite a romantic career. The ocean journey of Mr. Theiss consumed forty-five days, during which ample time was afforded the passengers to get well acquainted. Paul Lindstrom was a sailor on that sailing vessel, and, attracted to Miss Margaret Theiss, he lost no time in making her acquaintance. Before the voyage had been concluded, M. Theiss had consented to the marriage and Paul came west with the family and later was married to Miss Theiss.

Mr. Lindstrom was a splendid carpenter. He built the Bartholomai Theiss house, which gave him a tremendous reputation, and immediately he had more demands for his services than he could fill. It was he who built the Catholic Church at Perkins Grove, the interior finish of which always has been made so interesting. All the beautiful carving about the finish, particularly the altar, was done by him with an ordinary pocket knife.

He built the first hotel in Sublette and very soon he and his good wife had the best known tavern between Chicago and the Mississippi River. In the management of that hotel they were very successful and made money rapidly.

When the Cripple Creek discoveries agitated the country and the stories of the fabulous sums to be made with the pick reached here, Mr. Lindstrom determined to seek his fortune there. Accordingly he joined a party and bought a claim in the Cripple Creek country.

The Indians bothered them more or less, but the party was so amply equipped to meet them, the Indians soon retired and troubled them no more. One afternoon when Mr. Lindstrom was doing picket duty, he noticed unusual wavings of the grass some distance away. He raised his rifle and fired and an Indian jumped up and fell dead. That was his final experience with the Indians.

Mr. Lindstrom sold his claim, built a brewery in Georgetown and with it a ranch, and now he is one of the wealthy men of the State of Colorado.

In a general way the Sublette Germans are democrats. They largely dominate the commercial interests of Sublette. In fact, I may say that with the exception of Mr. J. J. Barton, the post-master, son of the old settler, Jacob B. Barton, all the business men of Sublette are Germans.

The Bettendorf brothers operate one of the two grain warehouses and do an enormous grain trade. Close to seven hundred thousand dollars has been paid out in the little village of Sublette in one year for grain. All of this business goes over the counters of the Exchange Bank of Sublette, so that one may infer readily that the bank is an exceedingly prosperous one.

While George Lauer was in the grocery trade there, his sales were enormous and he amassed a fortune. Paul Stephenitch, in hardware and agricultural implements, does a famous business.

Dr. B. H. S. Angear, of Sublette, next to Dr. A. W. Chandler, of Compton, is a pioneer in providing for his patients a hospital. Dr. Angear's, is engineered entirely by his own private means and is a marvel. It is justly the pride of the countryside. Provided with the very latest appliances this hospital cares for the comforts of its patients in a manner which has evoked astonishment from visiting physicians from abroad.

Doctor Angear is a physician of great ability and his faith in Sublette, by providing his hospital with every scientific appliance, has not been misconceived. Two trained nurses are in constant attendance. The operating room is a model. This hospital attracts patients from all points of the country.

Every one of those old Germans was a good Christian man or woman. During life they gave generously to their beloved church and in death rich gifts have been left it.

The Catholic Church of Sublette, by all odds, is the most beautiful and the most costly in the county and but very few in the large cities are at all comparable to it. The cost has been something like sixty thousand dollars. It was built five years ago.

The magnificent pipe organ cost $1,800, the raised pulpit has built over it a sounding board which so controls the voice that every word is heard easily in every part of the large room.

Not long ago when Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Michels realized they must soon die, it was the wish of each that their large property should go to the survivor during life, after which they wished to give it to the church. Mr. Michels died first and Mrs. Michels, to whom the property was willed, enjoyed it during her life. Just how to fix it she did not know, so she consulted her friend and counselor and the friend and counselor of her late husband, and appointing him executor of her will, she gave him absolute authority to spend the property as he, Joseph Bettendorf, thought best. With beautiful fidelity, Mr. Bettendorf carried out the intention of the testatrix. In Germany he bought the beautiful stained glass windows of the church. Those windows are burnt colors; eighteen months were consumed in the task. When they arrived in this country, the Government collector sent a deputy out to Sublette to see that they were used for no other purpose than for church windows. A Milwaukee firm came down and set them.

At a cost of $1,800 Mr. Bettendorf installed the beautiful altar. He also purchased the rare vestments which the church now owns, and by the time he had executed his trust, he had spent between seven and eight thousand dollars.

There still lacked one item; only one and that was a chime of bells. So in order to complete the intention of the father and Mrs. Michels, Charles E. Bettendorf, son of Joseph Bettendorf, bought a beautiful chime of bells, and last summer Bishop Muldoon christened the bells.

Beautiful homes and surroundings those Germans built. They raised families of patriotic, law-abiding citizens, some of the best in the world, and all over the township the influence of the fathers is felt by the children and grandchildren.

The first post office established was that of Broomfield, maintained at the house of Daniel Baird. This was about the year 1840.

In the year 1841, O. Bryant burned a kiln of brick and like his Maytown neighbor, he succeeded.

Just over the line in Maytown, taverns were kept by men named Richardson, Daniel Baird, Thomas Tourtillott and another named Morrison.

The only Indians ever known to Sublette people were the Shabbona Pottawatomies, who used to ride to and from the swamp near Walnut Grove along the Chicago-Princeton road.

Greene's mill at Dayton, on the Fox River, for a long while was the milling market for the settlers.

Some little time after Lee County was set off, Maytown and the west half of Sublette was known as Bureau precinct and the polls were held at the house of Daniel Baird. The east half of the township was incorporated with Brooklyn Township.

In 1849 the county was divided into townships instead of precincts, and this township was named Hamo. The railroad named the village Sublette. In order to secure harmony, and to get the name of the township changed to Sublette, a petition was sent to Hon. John V. Eustace, who during the winter of 1856-57, represented this district in the Legislature, and the latter secured the desired change.

The first town meeting was held on the second Tuesday in April 1850. Alpheus Crawford was chosen moderator and Daniel Baird was made clerk of the meeting. A tax of 12½ cents was voted to be assessed on every hundred dollars of taxable property. At that election Daniel Baird was elected supervisor; Henry Porter, clerk; Whitlock T. Porter, assessor; Silas D. Reniff, collector; Daniel Pratt, overseer of the poor; Hiram Anderson and W. H. Hamlin, highway commissioners; Samuel Averill and Thomas S. Angier, constables, and Alpheus Crawford and Andrew Bertholf , justices of the peace.

Note: For much of this valuable information the author is indebted to Paul Reis, associate editor.

Lee County Townships


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