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

Chapter VII 


Transcribed by Gaile Thomas.

     This township is situated in the southwest corner of the county and includes Congressional Township 12 north, range 5 east. The surface is gently undulating and the only stream of consequence is Walnut Creek, which flows in a southerly direction through the western half. Some coal and fire clay deposits have been found in the township. With the exception of a small tract of sandy land called the “Barrens,” the entire township is well adapted to agriculture and produces fine crops of corn, wheat, oats and other farm products suited to this section of the state. Fruit growing has received considerable attention in recent years and West Jersey boasts some of the best orchards in the county.
     For some reason the Walnut Creek Valley was not looked upon with favor by the veterans of the War of 1812 and comparatively few military “floats” were located in this section.

Solomon Marshall entered by military land warrant the northeast quarter of section 1;
Daniel Trash, section 4;
Hezekiah Adcock, section 17;
Charles Davis, section 20;
Benjamin Sherman, section 21;
Nicholas Walsh, section 22;
George Dearborn, section 25;
Sheldon Clark, section 28;
Charles Higgins, section 29;
Charles Hoover, in the same section;
Elijah Smith and Ebenezer Nichols, section 32;
John Scott and Peleg Tupper, section 33;
Robert C. Jackson and Edward Stewart, section 34;
Cromwell Bullock, Cato Bunnell and Henry S. Hunt, section 35;
David Bowen and John Phillips, section 36.

     The first actual settler in the township was Jacob B. Smith, who came from Fulton County, Ill., in February, 1836, entered the southeast quarter of section 35, built his log cabin and began the work of building up a home in the wilderness. George Eckley came soon afterward with his wife and five children from Seneca County, Ohio, and located in section 25. Before the close of the year 1836 Philip Keller, Michael Jones, Washington and Stephen Trickle, Ephraim Barnett, John Brown and a few others settled in various parts of the township. The year 1837 witnessed the arrival of William W. Webster, Nehemiah Wykoff, Newton Matthews, John Pratz and some others. Joseph Palmer came about this time and on July 4, 1838, a “celebration” was held at his house, near Walnut Creek. Forty-six persons took dinner with Mr. Palmer, Caleb North delivered the oration, and the affair wound up with a dance, William Mason furnishing the music. George A. Clifford says Mr. Mason lived near the present City of Toulon and that he received nine dollars on this occasion, “the first money he ever took in for music.”
     Joseph Palmer, at whose house this celebration was given, was a native of Brattleboro, Vt., where he was born in 1802. When about twenty-five years of age he decided to “Go West and grow up with the country,” and located in Ashland County, Ohio, where he married a Miss Mary Slocum. In 1837 he came to Stark County and purchased 320 acres of land in what is now West Jersey Township. In 1844 he was elected a member of the old board of county commissioners and served one term. After the Civil war he removed to Galesburg, Ill., where he passed the remaining years of his life.
     Jacob B. Smith, the original pioneer of West Jersey, was born near Reading, Pa., in 1801. He afterward went to Ashland County, Ohio, where he married Mrs. Maria Murphy, nee Trickle, and in 1835 came to Stark County as above stated. His first dwelling here was a log cabin sixteen feet square. After a residence of several years in Stark County, he removed to Galva, Ill., and died there in September, 1884.
     When Stark County was organized in 1839 the territory now comprising the Township of West Jersey was included in justice’s district No. 3, which afterward became known as Massillon Precinct. Between 1836 and 1850 several families from New Jersey settled in this part of the county. Among them were the Bodines, Boyds, Hazens, Wileys, Youngs and some others. When the township system was introduced in 1853 these people requested that their township be called West Jersey, which request was granted and in that way the township was named. Some say the township was named after the village of West Jersey, but that is a mistake, as the village was not platted until three years after the townships of the county were organized and named.
     Washington Smith, a son of Jacob Smith, was the first white child born in the township. The first frame house was built by Washington Trickle in 1838. The first school was taught by Miss Columbia A. Dunn, a sister of Rev. R. C. Dunn, and the first schoolhouse was built in 1837 or 1838. In 1915 there were eight public schoolhouses in the township, valued at $8,200, and one teacher was employed in each district during the preceding school year.
     West Jersey is one of the two townships of Stark County without a railroad. The people living in the northern half of the township find railroad accommodations at Toulon or Lafayette, and those living in the southern part are within reach of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which runs through the northern part of Peoria County.
     In 1910 the population of West Jersey Township was 818 and in 1914 the property was accessed for taxation at $735,851.

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Updated June 6, 2007