Geographically, Akron Township occupies the middle ground in the north tier of townships in Peoria County. Its surface ranges from high rolling land to the level, flat, corn-producing soil. Originally it was covered with prairie grass, excepting a narrow strip of timber along the western border. Two small streams, one in the eastern, the other in the western part of the township, constitute the principal water-courses.
At present no town, village or city stands wholly within Akron. On the west side of the township the corporate limits of Princeville include a strip one-fourth mile wide, and one mile long. Within this territory are found two grain elevators, two lumber yards, the Rock Island & Peoria Railway Company stock-yards, and a number of good residences. The public highway on our east line serves as the principal street through the village of West Hallock. On the Akron side stand the church (Seventh Day Baptist), parsonage, village store kept by E. Wheeler, and Post Office, the cheese factory and a number of residences. The original settlers of West Hallock were largely from the state of New York and were remarkable for their industry, intelligence, sobriety and thrift. Their descendants are maintaining the reputation of the fathers. The new station named Akron, on the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad, will be wholly within the township, unless its growth greatly exceeds the expectations of its founders.
HISTORICAL AND POLITICAL
The first permanent settlement made was on Section 7, in the year 1831, by Hugh Montgomery. During the same year Daniel Prince and James Morrow settled on Section 31, and Thomas Morrow built a cabin on Section 18. For some years following, the growth in population was not rapid. The new homes were confined to the western part of the township, near the belt of timber. Gradually the pioneers ventured on to the open prairie and opened up farms, where clearing off forests was not the first step in farming. Others seeing the advantage of fields without stumps, and that the prairie farmer survived the winters, there was a more rapid advance in settlement, but it was not until well toward 1860 that all the land was occupied and improved. In fact the census of 1860 gave a larger population than has ever been reported since. The war of 1861-65 called many of our young men from their homes, and when their term of service closed they went west to make homes for themselves. The activity in railroad extension westward at the close of the war opened up thousands of acres of rich farming lands, and many of our farmers who had settled on forty or eighty-acre farms, saw a splendid chance for selling their small farms to their prosperous neighbors, and going on to cheaper land west of the Mississippi. This disposition to sell the small farm at a high price and move on to western land that could be bought at much less per acre, is responsible for the gradual decrease in our population from that time to the present.
During the earlier years of our history, but little interest was taken, or activity manifested, in political matters. Up to the time of the adoption of Township Organization, the doings of this people were a part of the county records and are not available for this article. The first town meeting under Township Organization was held at the house of Ebenezer Russel on April 2, 1850. Simon P. Chase served as the first Moderator, and Richard Kidd as Clerk. At this election 16 votes were cast, and all but three of the voters were elected to fill some township office. Benjamin Slane was elected Supervisor, and to him belongs the honor of being Akron's first representative on the Board of Supervisors. The following year there were two tickets in the field, both having the name of Benjamin Slane for Supervisor, the remainder of the tickets being political. In the town meeting of Apr, 1854, a move was made for building a town house of the following dimensions: "26x18, 11 ft. high, said building to be located near the center of the township." The same year the house was built, and, until 1866, served the double purpose of school house for District No. 5, and for town meetings. In 1865 the voters of the town, feeling the need of a larger house, voted to join with District No. 5 in the erection of a two-story building, the lower part to be used for school purposes, and the hall above for public gatherings. This arrangement continued until June, 1900, when the town bought the interest of School District No. 5, and moved the building on to another part of the lot.
In politics, Akron has been nearly evenly divided between the two parties, the tenant population ever holding the balance of power. The annual changes in
this class of inhabitants account for the victory and defeat of first one and then the other party, as shown by the election returns. Akron is one of the townships where political forecasts are uncertain. During these forty-five years of political history, the general elections have always been quiet affairs, but many of the town meetings have been veritable political battle-grounds. In the early part of the year 1868, unusual interest was taken in elections, when, between January 25 and April 5, seven elections were held to vote upon many different propositions to aid in building certain proposed lines of railroad. The first six met with a negative vote, but, on the latter date, the result stood: For subscription, 124 votes; Against, 122 votes. As soon as the vote was announced a company of the property holders organized to contest the election. This action threw the case into the courts, and, from the latter part of 1868 to February, 1873, this case, in some form, was to be found in the Circuit or Supreme Court. During this time the Akron Railroad Case was entered on the docket of the Circuit Courts of Peoria, McLean, Woodford and Schuyler Counties, and in the Supreme Court at Ottawa. After more than four years of waiting, the Supreme Court handed down a decision that the election was illegal, and that the Supervisor could not be compelled to issue the $30,000 in bonds voted at that election. In the progress of this trial many distinguished men appeared as counsel. Among these were Judge John Burns and George C. Barnes, of Lacon, Judge Hezekiah M. Wead, Henry B. Hopkins and Robert G. Ingersoll, of Peoria, and Hon Adlai E. Stevenson, of Bloomington. While this case was pending, political lines were wholly disregarded. The issue was Bond and Anti-Bond,
-the latter being always victorious by large and increasing majorities at each town meeting. In a short time after this decision was rendered, peace was restored, and party tickets and practices were resumed.
The present officers of the township (1902-03) are as follows: H. C. Stewart, Supervisor; Charles A. Timmons, Town Clerk; Alex. Gray, Assessor; James P. Byrnes, Collector; William Pullen, Frank Kraus and George W. Gruner, Road Commissioners; George Rowcliff and Charles A. Timmons, Justices of the Peace; Peter Currey, Constable; George Rowcliff, M. D. Potter and G. L. Runner, School Trustees; Henry C. Houston, School Treasurer.
EDUCATIONAL AND RELIGIOUS
At an early period in our township history the sturdy pioneers set about to provide such educational facilities as their means and situation would permit. The first building for this purpose was built a short distance southeast of the Rock Island & Peoria depot at Princeville. This was used on Sunday as a place of worship, and the remainder of the week as a school room. A few years later this building was burned, and the next school house to be built was near where the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway crosses the public road, one mile east of the west line of the township.
Soon after, the township was divided into three school districts. District No. 1 commenced on the west side, two miles from the north line, thence east in a zig-zag line to the southeast corner of the township. The school house referred to above was in this dis-
trict. District No. 2 and District No. 3 were six miles long and from one to three miles wide. In some of these districts school was kept, for a few months of each year, in some farmer's home. As soon as the township was fairly settled, it was redistricted into nine districts, each two miles square, in which condition they remain at present, excepting where a small amount of territory adjacent to some village has been taken to form a Union District. We now have nine frame school houses, in good condition, with seating accommodations for at least thirty scholars each. Two of these buildings have been erected within the past three years. The bonded indebtedness of these districts amounts to $1,020. Wages of teachers increased steadily from $10 to $12 a month, with board among the patrons in early days, to $65 per month in 1876. Since then the wages have declined to the present time, when the highest monthly wages reported are $45. The largest enrollment and attendance was between 1870 and 1880, when there were 345 pupils enrolled out of 409 persons of school age, or 87 per cent of the total. In the report of 1901, 344 pupils are returned between the ages of six and twenty-one, and a total enrollment of 216, or 60 per cent. This falling off is largely due to the superior advantages offered by schools in the city or large towns.
Only two church buildings stand upon Akron soil. One, the property of the Seventh Day Baptists, is located on the east line of Section 24. The other is owned by the Apostolic Christian Church (commonly known as "Amish") and is situated on the southwest corner of Section 3. The Seventh Day Baptist Society was organized September 3, 1852, through the efforts of the late Anthony Hakes and a few others of like
faith and zeal. In 1870, under the leadership of Rev. Wardner, the Society, having become strong in membership and means, decided to build a suitable house of worship. The move met with universal favor, and ere the close of the year they had completed and paid for their present church building, which cost between $5,000 and $6,000. Rev. R. B. Tolbert is at present serving this church as pastor. This society has a Christian Endeavor Society and a Sabbath School in connection with its church work.
The Amish church was organized about 1870, and. for a number of years, their services were held at the homes of the members in geographical rotation. In 1880 they erected the building now used as their place of worship. This house is provided with vestibule, audience room and a large and commodious kitchen fully equipped with range, dishes, tables and chairs. Two services are held each Sabbath and between these a simple meal is served in the kitchen. One thing worthy of mention and imitation is the splendid provision made for the comfort of teams driven to church. They have more expensive and a greater number of horse-sheds than are to be found around any other public building in the county. Christian Streitmatter served as pastor from the organization to 1895. Since then the pulpit has been filled by Ludwig Herbold and Frank Wortz, the latter filling that office at present.
The scarcity of church buildings in the township is not a true index of the religious character of our people. Many of our citizens are regular attendants and supporters of churches near the border line in adjoining townships. With two churches at Lawn Ridge, two at Edelstein, three at Dunlap, three at Princeville and one at Stark, our people are well sup-
plied with church privileges, and as large a percentage of our inhabitants are church-going as those of any other country township.
The last half century has witnessed a wonderful transformation in public and private improvements. The sod house and log cabin of the pioneer have given place to comfortable and commodious residences. Around these are to be found large, well-built and well-kept buildings for the protection of farm animals and storage of products. All of the ponds and swamp land that formerly produced nothing but bull-frogs and ague, now annually yield large crops of grain. The mud-road and log-bridges have been, in a great measure, replaced with gravel roads and steel bridges or culverts. At present all the principal water courses are spanned with iron bridges or supplied with steel or cement culverts. We now have fifteen miles of gravel road and the mileage is annually increasing. Our township expends about $2,000 annually for road repair and improvement.
Our mail facilities have kept pace in the march of improvement. Up to 1859 our people were dependent upon Princeville and Southampton for post office accommodations. These offices were first supplied with a weekly mail, then with a tri-weekly. About 1860 a post office, named "'Akron" was established four miles east of Princeville, and T. P. Burdick was the Postmaster. Three years later the office was moved one-fourth mile farther west, and William Saunders was appointed Postmaster, which office he held until 1866,
when the office was discontinued. In 1870 this office was re-established near the center of the Township, with Mrs. Deming serving as Postmistress. About one year later she resigned and William Houston was appointed her successor. This position he held until the office was discontinued. Mail for the Akron office came by stage, which made three trips a week between Peoria and Toulon. After re-establishment the mail was carried daily over the Princeville and Southampton star-route. We now have a rural delivery route from Princeville, covering eighteen miles of road and supplying a large number of our people with daily mail at their doors.
In 1871 the first railroad, the Peoria and Rock Island, entered the township. Since then the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway has been built through the township from east to west near the center. Last year the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad ran a line across our town a half mile west of the eastern border. This road has located a station named Akron near the southeast corner of the township. There are now seventeen miles of railroad in the town, and all but one school district has the benefit of railroad property to help pay school expenses.
Nearly all our inhabitants are engaged in agricultural pursuits, many of them owning the land which they till. These people are industrious, intelligent and enterprising. Very few, indeed, are the persons who call upon the county for aid. Although our voters are loyal to party, they are in no way office-seekers, for, during the past thirty years, not one of our citizens has held any County, State or Federal office. In rich, fertile soil and tillable acreage, in substantial and convenient farm buildings, in intelligent, indus-
trious and peaceable people, in good roads and bridges, in railroad mileage, in Sabbath observance and church attendance, in freedom from litigation and paupers, Akron Township stands second to none in the county.