Stark County, Illinois and Its People: A Record of Settlement
Organization, Progress and Achievement, (1916)

Chapter VII 

ESSEX TOWNSHIP

Transcribed by Gaile Thomas.


     Essex is the middle township of the southern tier and includes Congressional Township 12, Range 6. It is bounded on the north by Toulon Township; on the east by Valley; on the south by Peoria County, and on the west by the Township of West Jersey. The Spoon River enters from the north about two miles west of the northeast corner and flows in a southerly direction across the township, and the western part is watered by Indian Creek, which forms a junction with Spoon River in Section 33. In the southeastern part Camping Run and Mud Run flow westwardly through a small section of Essex, their waters finally mingling with those of the Spoon River. Along the streams the surface is slightly broken, but by far the greater part of the township consists of a gently undulating surface, with a fertile soil, and there is very little waste land.
     This township was named for Isaac Essex, the first white settler in what is now Stark County. Prior to the inauguration of the township system in 1853, this portion of the county was known as Massillon Precinct. Between the years 1817 and 1820 land entries were made in this township under the old Military Bounty Act as follows:

     Section 1, William Ely and John Trask;
     Section 2, John McCloud and Abram Walton;
     Section 3, Aaron Graham and John Newkirk;
     Section 4, Joseph Cox, Peter Lawrence and Ralph Tucker;
     Section 6, William Lloyd and James McCray;
     Section 7, John Meeks;
     Section 8, Gardner Herring and Gilman Smith;
     Section 9, Nathan Bennett, Jarville Chaffee, John A. Newhall and James Zings;
     Section 10, Benjamin Davis, Robert King, John B. McKenny and John Wortsbough;
     Section 11, Tryon Fuller, Solomon Libby, John Odam and Joseph Wright;
     Section 12, Roswell Post, Harvey Sperry and Joseph Woodmansee;
     Section 13, John H. Martin, James Reed, James Selah and J. H. Winney;
     Section 14, John Baptiste, Benjamin Lovell and John Lovell;
     Section 15, John Bruce and Rufus Stanley;
     Section 17, Samuel Banner, George Blanchard, Aaron Scott and Joseph Elliott;
     Section 18, Thomas Hamilton and Jacob House;
     Section 19, John Union and George W. Woods;
     Section 20, Thomas Briggs and Jacob Yost;
     Section 21, Henry Harmon, Cornelius Overlock, Abram Parker and Abram Prior;
     Section 22, Timothy Green and John Miller;
     Section 23, Taylor Hardin, John Murray, D. A. Myers and Israel Towle;
     Section 24, David Bell, Charles Cain and Henry Smith;
     Section 25, Michael Colebrough, Herman Fisher, Edward Keough and Jeffrey Worthington;
     Section 26, John Francis, Abraham Lucky, George Miller and Amos L. Smith;
     Section 27, Orra Bardsley, J. V. Feagles, George Phipps and Peter Pilgrim;
     Section 28, John McLaughlin, Joseph Lutz and Samuel Little;
     Section 29, Edmund Deady and John Dickaman;
     Section 30, Abraham Birch and Jeremiah Hillers;
     Section 31; William Hollings, Joshua Nelson and Tyre Nelson;
     Section 33, Charles Austin, James Coleman and Thomas Merritt;
     Section 34, John J. Dunbar, Silas Hodson, Ezra Hutchings and Consider Yeames;
     Section 35, John Hyatt, Charles Maynard, Francis Morrow and Reuben Rowe;
     Section 36, Richard Ford, Charles Frost, William Goodman and Andrew Gott.

     Most of these entries were for a quarter section each, hence it will be seen that more than fifteen thousand acres of the land in Essex Township were claimed on land warrants by the veterans of the War of 1812. A few of the claimants afterward became actual settlers, but the greater number sold their titles, which caused considerable trouble to those who came in later years.
     Isaac Essex, the original Stark County pioneer, located upon the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 15, a short distance west of the Spoon River, about two miles south and one mile west of the present city of Wyoming. Here he built his cabin in the spring of 1829, cleared a few acres of ground, and raised that year the first crop ever grown by civilized man in Stark County. Compared with present day conditions it was not much of a crop, but it marked the beginning.
     In the fall of 1829 John B. Dodge located a claim and built a cabin in Section 14, directly east of Isaac Essex. His cabin was the second house in the county. The following spring Benjamin Smith, Dodge’s father-in-law, settled in Section 14. His son, Greenleaf Smith, came a little later and located in the same neighborhood. The three cabins of Essex, Dodge and Smith constituted the only habitations in the county at the close of the year 1830. In 1831 came William D. Grant, Thomas Essex, David Cooper, John E. Owings (who occupied the cabin built by Dodge), Sewell and William P. Smith, and a few others, all of whom settled in what is now Essex Township.
     An election was held at the house of Benjamin Smith in August, 1831, when John E. Owings was elected justice of the peace. He held the office until in 1834, when he sold out to Moses Boardman and removed to Canton, Fulton County.
     Between the years 1831 and 1835 a number of immigrants came in and established homes within the present township limits. Among them were the Leeks, father and son, who came from Tazewell County early in 1832 and built a saw and grist mill on the Spoon River, a short distance southwest of where Wyoming now stands. The mill was away by a flood about four years later, but while it stood it was a great convenience to the settlers. Samuel Merrill settled in the northwestern part of the township, about a mile south of the City of Toulon, and a little farther south was the house of Elijah McClenahan, Sr., where the first election was held after Stark County was created by the act of March 2, 1839. Stephen Worley settled south of McClenahan and in 1834 Thomas Winn came from Indiana and built a cabin in Section 16.
     Jarville Chaffee, who laid claim to a part of Section 9 under the Military Bounty Act of 1818, came from Michigan in May, 1834, and stopped with one of the settlers until he could build a house of his own. Concerning that house, Leeson’s History of Stark County says: “Thinking to get up something extra he split the logs, white-washed the inside, and had an upstairs reached by a ladder.”
     To Essex Township belongs the distinction of being the site of the first post office and the first schoolhouse in Stark County. A weekly mail route was established from Springfield, via Peoria, to Galena in 1833 and the same year an office was opened in the “Essex Settlement,” with Isaac B. Essex as postmaster. The neighbors took turns in bringing the mail from the “office under the bluff” in Peoria County. Mrs. Shallenberger says: “The office was an old boot box, set upon pins driven into the wall, high and dry, and above the reach of the children in the cabin of Mr. Essex. In 1833 only two newspapers were taken in the county --- one by Mr. Essex and the other by Benjamin Smith. At this date two weeks were required to get a paper from Springfield, and a proportionately longer time to get intelligence from Washington or the East.” The office was at first called Essex, but after the Town of Wyoming began to grow it was removed to that place and the name changed to Wyoming.
     By the act of March 1, 1833, Isaac B. Essex was appointed commissioner of the school fund in his settlement and authorized to sell section 16. The section was sold on February 4, 1834, for $968.70. Madison Winn, in a paper read before the meeting of the Old Settlers’ Association in 1886, says:
    “On the fourth day of July, 1834, the people came together for the purpose of building a schoolhouse. The site chosen was near the northeast corner of section 15, in Essex Township. The building was planned to be twenty feet square and all went to work with a will, some cutting, some hauling, some making clapboards and others building. By noon it was built up waist high, and there coming a shower we arranged the clapboards over the wall and underneath ate our Fourth of July dinner. The first day the walls were built up to the roof, which was soon covered, and from Leek’s Mill slabs were brought for seats. A post was driven into the ground and a slab laid on it for a teacher’s desk, while mother earth was the floor. Adam Perry commenced school about July 15th, with about thirty scholars, out of which number I am the only living.”
     From that humble beginning the school system of Essex has developed until in 1914 the township had ten public school buildings, valued at $26,750, and employed sixteen teachers. One of the school buildings is in the City of Wyoming.
     Two lines of railway ---the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy --- furnish transportation to the people living east of the Spoon River, the stations being Duncan and Wyoming, and those living in the northwestern part of the township find their railroad accommodations at Toulon.
     The population of Essex Township in 1910 was 1,131, which included the Third Ward of the City of Wyoming, and in 1914 the property was valued for tax purposes at $872,440.


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Updated June 6, 2007