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

Chapter VII 

PENN TOWNSHIP

Transcribed by Gaile Thomas.


     This is the middle township of the eastern tier and embraces Congressional township 13 north, range 7 east. It is bounded on the north by Osceola Township; on the east by Marshall County; on the south by Valley Township, and on the west by the Township of Toulon. The surface is moderately diversified and originally a large part of the township was prairie land, with a soil above the average in fertility. Coal deposits underlie the township and in a few places have been found beds of a good quality of fire clay, but they have not been developed. The only stream of any consequence is a tributary of Cooper’s Defeat Creek in the northeastern portion. Captain Haacke, one of the early settlers of Peoria, several years ago told the story of how this creek received its name. His account is as follows:
     “The winter of 1831-32 was the winter of the deep snow. The weather before Christmas being pleasant a party of four men was equipped by a trader by the name of John Hamlin, then of Peoria, who was buying furs for the American Fur Company. Fitting them out with an ox team of two yoke and provisions for their journey from Peoria to the Winnebago swamps, with goods to trade to the Winnebago and Pottawatomi Indians, they started on their journey. Soon snow commenced to fall, the air grew colder, and continued to grow more so as they went along, until they were compelled by the fierce cold and driving snow to abandon their team. In fact the snow was so deep that the cattle got swamped and they were left to their fate. With Boyd’s Grove in view, the men started, guided by a large tree and a light at the grove. A man named Ridgeway was the only one of the party who succeeded in reaching the grove. The other three, two of whom were William and Jerry Cooper (the other name forgotten), perished on the prairie near a stream southwest of Boyd’s Grove. The bones of the men and the cattle were seen in the spring following, also the sled, as the soldiers of the Black Hawk war were marching, all mounted, 260 strong, to make battle with the Sac and Fox Indians. The stream where the men perished has since been known as ‘Cooper’s Defeat.’”
     Township 13, range 7, seems to have been a favorite field for the veterans of the War of 1812, as nearly one hundred land warrants were located in what is now Penn Township. Following is a list of entries made between the years 1817 and 1820:

Section 1, William Y. Knapp, Elizabeth Leonard (soldier’s widow) and James Rogers;
Section  2, Daniel Robertson;
Section  3, Francis Cook and James Scandling;
Section  4, John and William Owen;
Section  5, William A. McLane and Samuel Tyler;
Section  6, Benjamin Howard;
Section  7, Peter Kerns and Job Price;
Section  8, Charles Brewster, William H. Fann and John Hoagden;
Section  9, Samuel Earl, Samuel Ellis, William Kelly and Levi Pratt;
Section  10, George Coates, Ebenezer Cobb, William Loomis and Stephen Newburg;
Section  11, Richard Carver, William Gordon, Philip Phelps;
Section  12, George Kindle, Elijah Loveless, Moses Taylor and Thomas Tyler;
Section  13, Patrick Freeman, John W. Ingersoll and William Trottenberger;
Section  14, Daniel Bennett, John Connor, John J. Jewell and William Sheets;
Section  15, John Beals, John Cook, Mathias Boyd and Robert McIntosh;
Section  17, Ira Holman, Thomas Johnson, Henry Parker and George Suter;
Section  18, Nathan Convers and Aaron Woodworth;
Section  19, Abiezer Washburn and Asa Winslow;
Section  20, Richard Bayard, Jonathan Drake, Shelby Hobbs and Nathan Shepherd;
Section  21, Alvin Dillingham, Samuel Lane, Joseph McFarlin and James Parks;
Section  22, Benjamin Brown, Samuel Lewis, William Stewart and Joseph Windell;
Section  23, Moses Heath, Archibald McCrary and Christian Right;
Section  24, Amos C. Babcock, John W. Ingersoll, Bernard McMahon and John Mason;
Section  25, John Norfleet and Jacob Skinner;
Section  26, James Giles, Paul Green, Thomas McCoy and Joshua Register;
Section  27, Timothy Dixon, Richard Embley, Joseph Morse and Warren Sartwell;
Section  28, William Briggs, John Adams, Thomas Dennis and Richard Edmunds;
Section  29, Giles C. Dana, George Decker, Joseph Dockham and John Nichols;
Section  30, Horace Clark and Harvey Gaylord;
Section  31, Adonijah Ball and Peter Ricker;
Section  32, John Brandon, Christopher Brockett and Jacob Trishour;
Section  33, Peter Brown, Robert Devine, Jeremiah Gillilan and William Matthews;
Section  34, Adam Sufford, Nathaniel Varnum, Thomas Walden and Horace Witheville;
Section  35, Moses Aldrich, John Messing and Jenks Waite;
Section  36, Thomas Lee and John W. Ingersoll.

     The actual settlement of the township began before the organization of the county. One of the earliest settlers was James Holgate, who was born in Philadelphia, Pa., July 26, 1804, and when sixteen years of age went to Luzerne County, in his native state, where he learned the miller’s trade. In 1833 he left Pennsylvania and came to Illinois, locating in section 19, in what is now Penn Township. He held the office of county judge for eight years; was justice of the peace and a member of the Legislature; was one of the democratic leaders in Stark County, and was an energetic and useful citizen. He died about 1885.
     Henry Seely, another pioneer of Penn, was a native of New York State, but came west while still a young man and was married in Indiana. Soon after his marriage he came to Illinois and acquired 320 acres of land in what is now Penn Township. His place was long known as “Seely’s Point” and is located in sections 27 and 28. He was elected to several offices on the republican ticket and was an active member of the Methodist Church. His death occurred in March, 1876.
     Others who settled or entered land in this township in the ‘30s were Dexter Wall, Benjamin and David Newton, John T. Phenix, Henry Breese, Lemuel S. Dorrance, Sylvanus Moore, Elisha C. and Nehemiah Merritt. Then came the Averys, the Bunnells, the Snares, the Bococks and other families, many of whose descendants still reside in the township.
     Prior to the introduction of the township system in 1853 the territory comprising Penn Township was included in the “Spoon River Precinct.” After the people of Stark County had voted to adopt the township organization, Henry Breese was appointed one of the commissioners to divide the county into civil townships. He was from Pennsylvania, as were a number of his neighbors, and suggested the name of “Pennsylvania” for his township, but the other two commissioners thought the name too long, so it was shortened to “Penn.”
Castleton, a little northwest of the center of the township, is the only town. It is located on the line of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, which runs from northeast to southwest through the township.
     Penn reported a population of 931 in 1910, which was a slight decrease from the census of ten years before. In 1914 the property was valued for taxation at $885,501. The nine schoolhouses are valued at $9,350, and ten teachers are employed in the public schools.
 


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