Annuals of Knox County, Illinois

typed by Ann Maxwell the whole book for publishing here at American History & Genealogy Project



From a Sketch of J.A. Beals

The northwest township of Knox County is and will be, because of its location and environment, a township of farms.  In the early days some effort was made to attract the merchant and mechanic to a point on the south line, called Centerville and (afterward platted as Milroy), but it failed of success, and there has never been a post office, a church building or a village within the limits of Lynn.

Great is the contrast between the landscape of today, dotted with well-improved farms, with their commodious dwellings and barns, and that of 1828, when Michael Fraker, with his family, came to Section 23, to find the tract of land he had purchased in Kentucky in the possession and occupancy of the Indians.  The braves were away hunting, having left only the old men, women and children to contest his claim.  So the white man made himself at home. But the returning hunters disputed his title, claiming that theirs came from the Indian God and was long prior to that of the new settler.  Mr. Fraker thought diplomacy was better than valor.  He was adroit; he had tact and genius, and was kind and helpful.  He was a blacksmith, and could mend their guns.  They took him to their hearts and helped him build his cabin, but could see no necessity for his making tight joints between the logs.  But his trust in his new-found friends was not wholly without reservationóbullets had a better chance where the cracks were large.  They finally left him their wigwams and council house, and made new homes at Indian Creek, seven miles east, returning yearly as friends at the sugar season.  A granddaughter of Mr. Fraker says she has heard her grandmother say that the only white women she saw for four years were those of her own family, and those who came with them.  A fair-sized band of Indians lived and roamed from Spoon River to the Mississippi, their trails being distinctly perceptible long after they had left the country. A clear, flowing spring on the east side of Frakerís Grove had trails from all directions centering there.  Some of the early settlers long afterward remembered the friendly visits of the Chief Shaubena after the Black Hawk War.  Mr. Fraker was a middle aged man when he came from Kentucky.  He buried two wives and was living with his third and was the father of twenty-four children.

George Fitch, a son-in-law of Mr. Fraker, settled near by soon after the Frakers, and was the first school teacher and Justice of the Peace in the settlement.  His son, Luther, is reported to have been the first white child born here.  The first marriage was that of William Hitchcock and Julia Fraker.  John Essex was the first settler on Walnut Creek, in 1830.  His wife was the daughter of Jacob Cress, who, with his family, settled on Section 24, in 1831.  These were the only persons living in Lynn before the Black Hawk War.  During that struggle they went to Forts Clark and Henderson for safety.

About 1834, William Dunbar bought the improvements of one of the Frakers on a portion of Section 13, and entered the land, going to Galena by wagon, with two yoke of oxen, to do so.  He came from Kentucky, and, being a hatter by trade burnished fur hats to the neighborhood, peddling them on horseback.  Mrs. Theodore Hurd says that when she, a girl of twelve years, came here with her father (Luther Driscoll in 1836) they found twelve families here, settlement being known as Frakerís Grove; not all of it in Lynn, however, as the east township line ran through the middle of it.

In 1836, on Walnut Creek there were only John Lafferty, on Section 36; the Montgomery boys, on Section 35; Samuel Albro (who was a soldier of the War of 1812 and settled on land patented to him for his military service), on Section 34; John Essex and the Talors, south of the creek near Centerville; and Hugh and Barney Frail, on Section 31.  Mrs. Hugh Frail was the pioneer sister of the Cravers and the Collinsons, who followed, from time to time, settling that corner of the township.  By 1838 the population had increased considerably.  Jonathan Gibbs came then, and purchased the Montgomery property on Section 35, where he lived until his death.  He was always a leading man in the township, a Justice for twenty-five years and Supervisor for half that period.  About this time also came Elison Annis, who settled on land patented to him for service in the War of 1812; Solomon Brooks, John Sison, Ralph Hurley and Elder Shaw, all from Ohio, and originally from Maine.  They were old neighbors, and were members of the Free Will Baptist Church.  Soon after coming they organized the Walnut Creek Baptist Church.  Elder Shaw and Luther Driscoll for years acting as pastors.  It is now extinct.

Peter Hagar, Simeon Collinson, the Sniders and Edward Selon were early.  Mr. Selon had been a mate on an ocean vessel and in one of his last voyages across the ocean the Charles family were passengers on his ship.  One of them he soon after married.  Another daughter is Mrs. Ira Reed, of this township and Mr. Charles of Round Grove, Henry County, who was the first man married on the Stark County side of the Fraker settlement, is a member of the same family.  In 1836, there was a rather large immigration from Goshen, Connecticut, for which Goshen Township in Stark County was names.  Captain Gere and William and Ira Reed were among these settlers.  In 1840, came a considerable number of Mormons, but most of the latter remained only a short time.

The first tavern opened was that of Mr. Dunbar, who so used his own home, but in 1846, Nathan Barlow opened the ďTravelerís Home,Ē on Section 24.  It was on the Chicago trail and the stage road, and hence afforded accommodations much needed at the time.

Population increased slowly until the railroad was projected.  That was the ending of the old, and the beginning of the new era in the history of Lynn.   J.A Bealís relation to the township began in this transition period.  Proximity to the railroad influenced his selection of a small piece of land for a future home, on the then unbroken prairie.  The following spring his wedding trip from the home in Vermont was begun by rail and finished by stage at Victoria.  The ending was a little analogous to the overturning of the old by the new.  It was a frosty March morning when the stage stopped at Victoria, with two newly wedded couples, the destination of one of which was Galesburg.  The wife whose journey had ended and the husband who had yet to reach Galesburg both stepped out.  The driver had dropped the reins and was at the boot, removing the baggage.  The horses, impatient with cold and excited by their drive, suddenly started on the run and made a short turn to the Reynolds barn.  In a momentís time the startled travelers were standing on their heads (to judge from the way they felt and looked afterwards) inside the coach.  The shock was but for a moment, though the impression was that they were being dragged, and that something was yet to happen; the side door was above them and open; the hind wheel was revolving; and the head of the young wife was soon at the opening inquiring if ďwe were hurt in there.Ē  The stage had uncoupled in the overturn, and three horses had dragged the fourth and the front wheels to the barn.

The first physician at the Fraker settlement was Dr. Nicols; at Centerville, Dr. Spaulding.  Mr. Leek built the first sawmill, in 1837, at Centerville, and later Jonathan Gibbs put up a second.  The first log school house, used also for meetings, was built prior to 1836, by volunteer labor, near the home of the Dunbars, in the edge of the grove.  Squire Fitch and Maria Lake were the earliest teachers.  Later, a school house was built near Frakerís.  Dr. Nicols is said to have been one of the first teachers.  One of the early pedagogues at the Centerville school was a boy of eighteen, who, in 1863, became General Henderson, and afterward was a member of Congress. Anna Shaw, Betsy Smith and Catherine Annis were early residents, the last named teaching for a time in a log house near the Frails.  In 1841, James Jackson was appointed school trustee, and made two districts of the township, which till then had formed but one.  There are now 1899; eight frame school houses, worth about nine thousand dollars.  None of the schools is graded, and the aggregate attendance at that time was about one hundred and seventy-five pupils.

Besides regular services provided at Centerville by Revs. Shaw and Driscoll, there were circuit ministers, who had regular appointments to meet the people.  Jonathan Hodgson, one of the earliest settlers at the Grove, became a local Methodist preacher.  He was a man of influence in the settlement, a Probate Justice while a resident of the State, and a radical anti-slavery man.  At the time of the Kansas struggle he cast in his lot with the free-soilers.  He became so much interested in the work of Jonas Hedstrom, at Victoria, that he learned enough of the Swedish language to preach to people of that nationality in their own tongue.  Edward Selon also became a minister, and Rev. Alba Gross preached as well as farmed, until called to the Baptist Church in Galva in 1857.  Though there has never been a church building in the township the school houses have been freely opened to Sunday schools and religious meetings.

In the presidential election of 1840, the polling place for both Lynn and Walnut Grove was at Centerville; four years later at the school house near the Frailsí, Squire Ward being one of those in charge.  The practice of betting on elections dates back at least to this time, for James Jackson lost and Dr. Nicols won a pair of trousers on that election.

The grist mill and the market involved much labor and forethought for the early settlers. The first grist which William Dunbar sent away went as far as Tazewell County, and in 1838 the nearest points of shipment were Canton and Moline.  After getting the mill one often had to wait for two weeks for his turn to grind.  It can be imagined what a convenience was even the little hand mill of Mr. Fraker.

One winter Jonathan Gibbs contracted to deliver a drove of hogs at Peoria on a certain date.  Deep snow came, and in order to fulfill his agreement he made a snow plow, of two planks, set on edge and wedge-shaped.  A yoke of oxen was hitched to this and driven ahead, making a path in which the pigs could walk.

Recreation was not entirely neglected.  Social life, where there were so few, perhaps meant more than it does now.  A wolf hunt took not only the men with their guns, but the women with their kettles, chickens and potatoes, to make chicken pies for the tired hunters.  The pies were baked out of doors in the twenty-five gallon kettles, set over the coals.

Lynn was organized in 1853, by the election of Jonathan Hodgson, Supervisor; I.S. Smith, Clerk; William A. Reed, Assessor; a. Gross, Collector; Erastus Smith, Overseer of the Poor; S.G. Albro, John Lafferty, and H.A. Grant, Highway Commissioners; John Hodgson and John Gibbs, Justices; John Snider, Constable.


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