Rush Township

Jo Daviess County, Illinois

In the month of August, 1828, a Mr. Kirker erected the first house that was ever built in the township of Rush on the old Sucker Trail, running along a branch of the Apple River. Mr. Kirker built the house for the purpose of keeping a tavern, but as there was no travel in Winter, the business did not pay, and the would-be landlord left the house to take care of itself. In 1830, he sold his house to Hiram Imus, Jr., who with his wife moved into it.

In the Summer of 1831, Charles Imus, a brother of Hiram, and Henry Rice and his wife, came from Galena and settled at the mouth of Wolf Creek. The claim of Henry Rice was, at the time of the Township organization, included in Stockton Township. The next Spring they were driven back to Galena for protection by the Black Hawk War.

In the Spring of 1833, these families returned to the homes from which they had been driven by the Indians, and became permanent settlers. They were accompanied by Philip Rice and wife, who settled there. At this time Hiram Imus, Sr., with wife, son, Alfred, and daughter, Nancy, lived in Galena. In 1834, Nancy, while visiting her brother Hiram, died; this being the first death in Rush Township. In 1835 the balance of the Imus family moved to Rush Township, where Alfred died in the same year. In 1845, Charles Imus, with a son of Hiram Imus, Jr., also named Charles, went to California. In 1849 they were followed by the remainder of the family, and the Rice family.

In 1835, Thomas Burbridge and his two brothers, Rollin and Jackson, accompanied by John R. Smith, built a house on Apple River, at a place afterwards called Millville, and moved into it. In the Spring of 1836, they built a sawmill at that place, which was the first sawmill built on Apple River, with the exception of one built by Mr. Craig, at a place then called Wappello, but now known as Hanover. In this sawmill the Burbridges cut a vast amount of lumber, which they sold very readily to the new settlers who were then coming into the country. The Burbridges were all young men. Their mother kept house for them many years. She was a type of the pioneer women of America, and was highly respected by all who knew her. She died in 1874, in the 97th year of her age.

In 1835, Mr. Absalom Power settled about two miles west of Millville, near a Mound, which in honor of him was called Power's Mound. He had a large family -- some eight or nine boys and two or three girls. The old gentleman and his wife died at their residence near the Mound.

In the Spring of 1836, George N. Townsend, Ira L. Townsend and Holstead S. Townsend, settled in the Township of Rush, about four miles south of Millville, near the Bald Mound. They built houses that Summer, purchasing their lumber of the Messrs. Burbridge. In the Fall they moved on and became actual settlers of the town. They quite naturally settled near together, and the place was known as the Townsend Settlement for many miles around.

The following extracts are from a paper written by H. S. Townsend, one of the oldest settlers:

"At this time the tide of emigration had fairly set in. Mr. Asher Miner came on in the Fall of 1836, from the State of New York, his family following him in the Fall of the next year. They settled in the Township of Rush, in what is known as Miner's Grove, about one and one half miles below Millville. Mr. Miner lived in the Townships of Rush and Nora for many years, and died in Nora in 1867, very much respected.

"Ranson Miner, son of Asher Miner, moved in at the time his father's family did, and settled in the Townsend Settlement, where he lived until his death in 1855. His wife yet lives on the old homestead.

"In 1837 Jasper Rosencrans moved into the Township of Rush, and settled in Townsend's Settlement, where he lived until 1850, when he went to California. Mr. Ira L. Townsend also went to California the same year. In September, 1850, they started home together, but were never heard of afterwards.

"Mr. Ira Bowker moved into the Township of Rush in 1837, and settled in Townsend Settlement, at what was known as Brushy Grove. He also went to California in 1850, and died on his journey home, in Green County, in this state. His wife and most of his family are now living in Rush Township.

"In 1837 Seth Post came to this county from New York, and in company with Charles Imus, erected a saw mill on Apple River, about two miles above Millville. This mill did a great deal of work, until the lumber was exhausted, but it has now disappeared. Mr. Post returned to New York for his family, and was on his way back by way of the Ohio River, when at Cincinnati himself and wife were killed by the blowing up of the steamboat Mozelle, upon which they had taken passage. His two sons came on and resided here a number of years, when they sold their mill and removed to the State of Wisconsin. Joseph, the younger son, entered the army during the great Rebellion, and was elected Captain. He was wounded at the battle of Shiloh, from the effects of which he died. Lorenzo, the elder brother, is still living at Wayouaga, Wisconsin.

"Mr. Adam Arnold moved into the township in 1839, and settled near the old Kirker place, then occupied by the Imus family, where he died in 1850. He had a large family, most of whom yet reside in the Township of Rush.

"In 1839 Mr. George Renwick came on from the State of New York, and settled in Townsend Settlement, Brushy Grove. He died in 1871, leaving quite a large estate. The widow yet resides at the old homestead. He was highly esteemed and raised thirteen children, most of whom yet reside in this town.

"Such were the early settlers of Rush, and we might, even now, profit from the contemplation of their humble virtues, hospitable homes, and spirits noble, proud and free.

"Settlers were now coming in quite numerous, too much so to attempt to make special mention of them.

"Various as may have been the objects of our people in emigrating, no sooner had they come together, than there existed in each settlement a unison of feeling. In their intercourse with each other and with strangers, they were kind, beneficent and disinterested, extending to all the most generous hospitality which their circumstances could afford -- their latch-string was always out. They were kind for kindness' sake, and sought no other recompense than the neverfailing reward of an approving conscience.

"At the time of the first settlement of this township, the Indians were here, and for a time shared the country with us. They were of the Winnebago tribe, were generally friendly and did us but little harm.

"Game was plentiful, such as deer, turkeys, and a few bear. The game was all that brought the Indians here, and soon both disappeared.

"Mills were scarce and of rude construction, but we had no use for them until we had something to grind. If you had visited one of these settlers, you would have been made heartily welcome, and would have been received in the most friendly manner. In their log cabins a bountiful meal would have been set before you, of venison and corn bread, or mush, the meal for which was ground on a tin grater. This was the best that could be had short of Galena. To purchase luxuries, we needed money, and that was an article we did not possess.

"At this day fancy fashions and foolish pride had not reached us. Then we had no regular mail in this part of the country. We received our mail from Galena, Shullsburg, or wherever we went to trade. We received a newspaper about once in two weeks, and such was the interest produced by its advent that no one would think of sleep until every word of the paper had been read aloud.

"Galena was the largest place in northern Illinois, and Jo Daviess County the greatest county. The county was divided into election precincts soon after -- the precinct embracing the whole of the northeastern part of the county, including what is now the Towns of Thompson, Apple River, Warren, Nora, Stockton, Ward's Grove and Rush. Elections were held at the house of Hiram Imus, at the old Kirker place. At that time the elections were held on the first Monday in August; but for many years they were lightly attended. Other matters occupied too much time and attention.

"The business of the county was done by three men called county commissioners. Those three men appointed three others in each election precinct, who managed the elections. But in 1838 there were two justices elected in the precinct. One lived in the Town of Rush. His name was Jedediah P. Miner. (He was a brother of Asher Miner, heretofore mentioned.) He came into the country about 1837, and on the first Monday in August, 1838, he was elected a Justice of the Peace in what was afterward the Township of Rush. He was the first justice ever elected in the town, and we all felt that we were rising in the world -- and truly we were, for we then had a court of justice in our own town. However, we had but little use for our newly-elected justice. Any difficulty was generally settled by arbitration; there were no deeds to be made out, for our land was not yet in the market. As for marrying, there was very little of that to be done, for marriageable parties were about as scarce as money in old Jo Daviess County.

"What we needed most just now was a post-office, as we had become tired of receiving our mail but once in two or three weeks; so we got up a petition, directed to the Postmaster General, asking him to appoint John R. Smith Postmaster, and give us mail once a week. Our worthy Postmaster General granted our petition, but required us to furnish a name for our post-office -- a thing we had not before thought of. But that was easily supplied, and as there was but one mill in the town, with a strong probability that more would soon be built there, we named our post-office Millville; a name that the place yet bears. The post-office was of great value to us; we all began to take the weekly papers, and began to look a little into the affairs of our county, state and national government. With the increase in knowledge, came an increase in population and wealth. We had opened up our farms; our land produced bountifully; we raised cattle and hogs in abundance."

But now other wants were pressing upon the people. Children were growing up uneducated, and it was necessary to have school-houses.

In 1838, near the late residence of G. N. Townsend, the first school-house in the eastern end of the county was built. Pupils came to it from long distances. The late Gen. John A. Rawlins attended school here, also Joseph Moore. The second school-house built in the Township of Rush was erected in 1842. Miss Abigail Tyrrell -- afterwards Mrs. Benjamin Parker -- was engaged to teach the pupils of this school, which consisted of the three children, each, of Henry Rice, Philip Rice and H. S. Townsend and two of a Mr. Duncan. Both schools were continued for a number of years, or until the settlement demanded a larger house and different locality. At that time there were no school laws, or at least none were in force.

In April, 1847, the public land sale took place at Dixon. Until that time the people were but "squatters" on the public domain. There was, of course, considerable trouble among the settlers to procure enough ready money to purchase the lands to which they had laid claim. But those who were able to secure money sent it to a committee composed of Ira L. Townsend, Ira Bowker and Halstead S. Townsend, to Dixon, where the committee purchased the lands.

As there had been no surveys made there were many disputes as to the boundaries, so that the people of the township appointed a committee consisting of John D. Brown, George N. Townsend and John R. Smith, who were chosen arbitrators to settle such disputes.

In 1847, a grist mill was built in Millville by the owners, Messrs. Burbridge and Smith, and the old saw mill was torn down.

April 14, 1846, Millville was laid off on the southeast and southwest quarters of section 4, township 28, north of range 4, east of the 4th principal meridian, and a bid fair to become a large town. A Mr. Dean built a blacksmith shop; John W. Marshall started a dry goods store; Mr. Eldridge Howard erected quite a large house, and opened a very good tavern there. Frink & Walker ran their stage line through the place, and Millville became quite a thriving village. Major Davenport and a Mr. Easley also started quite an extensive store in the place; a Mr. Dorn also had a store there for a short time.

Millville was on the shortest route from Galena to Chicago, and considerable travel passed through the town. For a number of years it was the only town of any importance between Freeport and Galena. But when the Illinois Central Railroad was completed, the trade all went to towns along the line of the railroad, giving to Millville a stunning blow, from which it never recovered.
"But now the sounds of population fail;
No busy murmurs fluctuate the gale,
No busy steps the grass-grown footway tread,
But all the blooming flush of life is fled.
Only one master grasps the whole domain,
And half a tillage stints the smiling plain."

It is said that the love of money is the root of all evil; Be that as it may, we know that men will run greater risks for it than they will for anything else, and as proof of this we need only refer to the discovery of gold in California, which was made in 1848. Quite a large number of people went there in 1849, but in 1850 the tide seemed to break loose, and everybody appeared to have contracted the gold fever. A great many went, and the Town of Rush furnished at least her full share of gold-seekers. The number of men who went from the Township of Rush can not now be given, nor the amount of money it took to fit them out. It was a great detriment to the township and county in general. As a rule the gold hunters did not get as much of the precious metal as it had cost to buy their outfits. Many returned to their homes broken down in constitution from the hardships they were forced to endure. The worst of all was the loss of life. The Township of Rush lost three of her best citizens, all of whom left families, and two of them leaving large families of children to mourn their loss. They were Ira Bowker, Ira L. Townsend, and Jasper Rosenkrans.

When George N. Townsend came to Rush Township in 1836, his half brother, Sherod B. Townsend, aged fourteen years, came with and lived with him until he was twenty-one years of age. On attaining his majority he bought a tract of land and made a farm in the neighborhood of his brothers. September 14, 1846, he was married to Miss Matilda Durnan. Industrious and economical, they acquired a handsome property, but not being blessed with children, in the Spring of 1863, Sherod B. concluded to go to Montana and try his luck in the gold mines, but before going he made a will, dividing his property equally between his wife and an adopted son. He did not find things in the mines as he expected, and at once determined to return home. He sold his team and provisions, bought a light wagon, a pair of mules and a riding-horse, and started for Illinois. He came as far as Nevada, Iowa, in safety, but there he was murdered by a man named McMullen, the murder being committed in November or December, 1863. The murderer was a man whom Sherod B. Townsend had found destitute about the time he was starting home from Montana, and had given him free passage to Nevada, Iowa, where the murder was committed. He was subsequently arrested, indicted, etc., for the murder, and, we believe, was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to be hanged, but died in jail, before the time fixed for his execution.

Sherod B. Townsend's widow remained single until 1871, when she married Ambrose Campbell, and still lives on the old homestead.

But those days are numbered with the past, and although the country has outgrown the loss of life and money, yet the memory of the dead will never be forgotten until the present generation shall have passed away.

The Legislature had provided that the county might adopt Township Organization, provided a majority of the people would vote in favor of it. In 1851 the question was brought before the people of the county, and by vote decided against Township organization. The following year G. N. Townsend and H. S. Townsend attended a Whig convention held at Elizabeth, where a resolution was passed favoring the Township organization, and at the next election the system was adopted. Hence the Township of Rush was organized by the committee appointed, in January, 1853.

On the first Monday in April, 1853, the Township meeting was held in the Township of Rush, when Halstead S. Townsend was elected Supervisor, and was re-elected for a number of years afterwards.

In 1870, the Township of Rush had a population of 1,037. It is out of debt, and the total assessed valuation of property in 1873 was $534,020. The assessed value is always below the real value.

In 1858, the Township of Rush had the honor of furnishing a Representative in the State Legislature -- Hon. H. S. Townsend being that Representative.

In 1861, our country was thrown into that terrible Rebellion which filled the land with widows and orphans. For that war the Township of Rush furnished 116 men, and the blood of many of her sons watered those Southern battlefields. At the close of the war it was ascertained that the Township had furnished thirty-seven more men than had been required by law or the rules of war.

In 1853, George N. Townsend was appointed Postmaster at Rush, and retained that office until his removal to Warren, in 1875. Mr. Chas. McCowen was appointed in his place.

In 1872 or '73, J. L. Cox and brother erected a very fine flouring mill about one half mile north of Millville, an enterprise deserving the patronage of the entire community.

At present the Township is one of the foremost, agriculturally, in the County. Its public interests are maintained in keeping with its development, and its people are continuing in a course of steady, even prosperity and happiness.