Osco township school


The first symptons of the tremendous financial revulsion of 1837 were beginning to be felt in the city of New York as early as 1835. There was a crop failure, and prices began to climb toward high and impossible figures for many of the poor in the cities. Shrewd business men began to dimly forecast the se- rious outlook, and there were not a few who promptly began to furl their sails before the coming storm. Every movement of this kind touched to the quick the sensitive nerves of the laboring people, and early in the spring of 1836 the cry of "Bread! Bread!! " rang out upon the streets of New York, and the mob gathered in front of the flour store of Eli Hart & Co., and gutted the building from cellar to roof, because, as the hungry people said, they had bought up the flour of the country and were putting up the price to $10 and $12 a barrel, out of the possible reach and means of the poor. Fortunes began to topple, and many men, who a short time before had supposed they were on the top wave of financial prosperity, suddenly saw but little else before them than pinching poverty.

It was largely the class of men who turned their eyes Westward, and gave to Northern Illinois that stream of immigration that marked so strangely the settlement of this portion of the State. They were intelligent, educated in the avenues of business, energetic, hopeful and determined upon the full realization of that sublime watch word that has peopled this continent—"Homes for the homeless, land for all. " This was the grand idea in American civilization. It bore rich fruits, especially in the Mississippi Valley —that garden and granary of the world.

In the winter of 1835 a notice was published in the New york papers calling " a meeting of all persons interested " at Congress Hall, to organize a colony of those interested or desirous to emigrate to Illinois. So few people responded to this first call that a second notice was published, and at this meeting an organization called the " New York Colony " was formed, and between 40 and 50 members were enrolled.

Charles Oakley, at one time Fund Commissioner of Illinois , was the prime leader in this movement. He had previously traveled West and had examined the Prairie State , and gave glowing descriptions of all that he had seen in this portion of Illinois . The members signed an agreement, and Charles Oakley and C. C. Wilcox were made Trustees and authorized to go to Illinois and locate for the Colony about a township of land, the general idea being to locate some where near the Illinois River. Oaklev had in his mind when he started on his Western mission a point now in Bureau County , but when he reached this place he found it already taken up by the Provi­ dence Colony, and he pushed on West; and to this fact the welfare of Henry County is indebted to the Colony coming here, and the selection of the land in townships 16 and 17 north, ranges 1 and 2 east, covering at the time about 30 sections.

It would be very interesting to posterity could we procure and print a copy of the original agreement of the Colonists, but this remarkable document seems to be hopelessly lost. Substantially, the terms were: Each individual in the Colony bound himself to erect within two years a building to cost about $200 on his tract of land. In case he failed to do so, then the land reverted to the Colony, with this unfortunate condition,the Colony thus taking reverted lands was to pay therefor at the rate of $3 per acre, this tempting offer of 100 per cent, was enough to make a great many neglect to build and let their lands be forfeited. This and the fearful panic of 1837 overloaded the Colony, and it was wholly unable to comply with its agreements or pay anything for the forfeited lands, and hence the entire sales thus soon were made void and worthless.

Oakley and Wilcox were to receive for their services 25 cents an acre for locating and superintending the business; this was also to pay for the surveys and platting a town near the center of the Colony's land. The lands and town lots were to be put up at auction, where members could bid for preference in selections. Eight lots went with each quarter-section of land. This distribution took place in the fall of 1836 (the lands were entered in June of that year). Between $7,000 and $8,000 were paid at the sale for preferences, some of the first choice quarter-sections selling as high as $400. This preference money was a fund for the benefit of the Colony, as follows:

First. To have a Colony house built for the members to live in until they could provide their own homes. This house cost $3,000.

Second. To build a mill, school-house, or other­wise appropriated as the Colonists might determine.


Only a few of the Colonists came in the summer of 1836. Charles Oakley and C. C. Wilcox did not remain long. Wilcox finally settled in Chicago and Oakley died some years ago. Arba Seymour surveyed the land. A log house was put up in Morristown ; afterwards a Colony house was erected by R. R. Stewart, of Geneseo.

It was a large two-story building and was well finished, at the time the most pretentious building in the county. By mistake the building was on a lot belonging to Oakley, and by this error Oakley laid claim to the building, which he sold to Joel Wells.




The Osco and Western Mutual Fire Insurance Company


Portrait and biographical Album of Henry County,Illinois

Picture from 1918 Prairie Farmers Directory

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Illinois Ancestors