© 2000, Lori Laird for ILGenWeb.


This township was given its name by the commissioners in 1853. The prairie character of the soil and its location at the foot of the highest divide in the state, as that from Lawn Ridge to Wyanet is said to be, suggested the name "Valley." The streams of the township are small and have comparatively few trees along them. This perhaps accounts for the fact that the early settlers, who were always seeking the timber, did not settle this township as early as the neighboring one of Essex by some fifteen or twenty years. Mud Run courses through the south side of the township and Camp or Camping Run is farther north. Camp Run received its name because it started in the grove of trees now Camp Grove, which used to be the "camping grove" of the Indians. These streams form at once a good water supply and drainage system. Deep wells afford a never failing supply of excellent water and this in connection with a most fertile soil, tend to render Valley one of the finest agricultural townships in Illinois.

The township was organized for school purposes in 1847, and on July 17th, five voters assembled at David Rouse's house and elected David Rouse, William Cummings and Z. G. Bliss, trustees. At this time there were only nine families, comprising forty-one children, in the township. In 1851, twenty-three of the twenty-seven voters then in the township, petitioned for the sale of the school section, which was granted. On January 21, 1856, the trustees organized by appoint-




ing Charles S. Payne, president; W. D. McDonald, treasurer; J. S. Hopkins, secretary, and Wesley King. In March, 1856, the large districts were subdivided into six school districts, each two by three miles. In April, 1864, R. S. Kilgore and Peter W. Van Patten petitioned for the formation of two new districts; and a ninth district has since been added. The southeast corner of the township also furnishes part of the land for a union district with Marshall county. In pioneer days this district was a part of Spoon River precinct. The first town meeting, under the law of 1851, was held on the 4th day of April, 1853, at the brick schoolhouse in what now is school district No. 7. Z. G. Bliss was chosen chairman and James H. Hathaway clerk of said meeting. Charles C. Wilson (later Judge Wilson of Henry County) was chosen supervisor, George Marlatt, town clerk; J. S. Hopkins, assessor; Harry Hull, collector; Paul Rouse, Jr., overseer of the poor; E. C. Stowell, Joseph Eby, James M. Rogers, commissioners of highways; David Rouse, overseer of roads; P. Chase, Z. G. Bliss and D. Whiffin a committee to divide the town into three road districts.

About 1869 $30,000.00 aid was voted to the Peoria and Rock Island Railroad. Here began a controversy that has continued to the present time, the rivalry between Wady Petra and Stark villages. The story is told differently by different parties, and the writer cannot undertake to decide all the points between them. Some say that the depot was to be located "as near the center of the township as practicable;" others that it was to be in the south part of the township, anywhere provided it were not nearer than one-half mile to the county line. The east and west road at the first mile north of the county line had not been extended through,



because it would have to cross Mud Run several times. It had instead been run one-half mile north (through what is now Stark), and the topography of Camp Run had thrown the next road one and one-half miles north of that.

Some claimed that the logical point for the depot was at the last named crossing, just north of Camp Run, exactly in the center of the township from north to south. The residents there at that time, however, were largely renters who had no particular interests to make them get out and hustle, while the land owners at the Stark crossing claimed theirs to be the logical point, and thought the depot coming to them. Mr. Philander Chase did more hustling than any of them, however, and got the depot located on his farm, midway between the south one of the two crossings and the county line.

The east and west road through Wady Petra was petitioned for a number of times, but always refused by the road commissioners, who lived in and sided with the northern part of the township. The road was opened by Mr. Chase and adjoining land owners voluntarily, however, and in the course of time accepted by the township as a public highway.

Be these matters of history as they may, the first depot was at Wady Petra and the farmers north of that were not contented. In the course of a few years the railroad, being financially weak, fell into the hands of a receiver, Mr. J. R. Hilliard. He was favorable to the Stark project, and proceeded to build a switch and depot as soon as he could, and to assist the new town as much as possible. C. T. Newell and John Dawson were the chief local promoters. A company elevator was built and run by Joseph Anderson. Adam Seed



came from Princeville and put up the first dwelling, that now owned by Richard Gorman. John Berg built the second house and Joe Anderson the third, now the Ella Hull property. John Brumbaugh moved some smaller buildings from Wady Petra about this time, then Thomas McConn built a house, the one known as the Sam Schiebel place recently destroyed by fire, and Erastus Morrow built the post office dwelling. The first depot at Stark burned; a new one was completed in October, 1886, and that having since burned, the present -one is No. 3. The first elevator also burned, soon after it was built, and Mr. Anderson built another.

Stark village was never platted, but Wady Petra was platted and surveyed by Edwin Butler, for Mrs. Anna K. Chase (widow of Philander Chase) in 1875. At this time an osage orange hedge formed the northern and southern boundaries. Twenty acres were included in the plat, with Chase and Front streets running north and south, and Main and Hamilton stretching east from the depot grounds.

Mr. Heber Chase's father, Philander Chase, was for many years a missionary preacher in Peoria and Stark counties, and in November, 1852, he settled with his family in Valley Township where, with one or two intervals of absence elsewhere, he raised his large family and resided until his death. He was the youngest son of Bishop Chase, the first Episcopalian bishop of Illinois, who had founded Jubilee College in Peoria county.

All of the building stone in this region was procured at this time from what is now Fred Streitmatter's "Chase eighty," a half mile south in Akron Township. Philander Chase needed



considerable stone, and not wishing to take from this quarry without knowing to whom the land belonged, hunted up the owners and bought the eighty-acre tract in question. Having thus assured himself of a supply of building material, which was scarce in those days, he built his residence, that now owned by John Nickolls, of this material. In 1854 he gave forty acres of land to the Episcopalian church, and with money donated in different localities and the East, started to build the stone church which stands yet, near the southeast corner of Section 31. This building was never finished because of lack of encouragement, and partly because Mr. Chase realizing the need of good schools for his children, moved about that time to Wyoming.

The Congregational Church of Stark originated in a series of meetings, which from 1880 to 1885 were held in various places in the vicinity. The first effort to organize a meeting was made by holding services in the warehouse of Simpson & Smith, but subsequently held in an unused cheese factory. Here a Sunday school was started in 1883, which, in connection with regular services, continued until it was proposed to build a church. The enterprise was to be known as the Union Church, and on the evening of February 19, 1885, many citizens of Stark and vicinity met to complete arrangements.

M. S. Smith presided, with W. F. Speers, secretary. A committee of five, consisting of M. S. Smith, H. Blood, W. F. Speers, Charles Hampson and L. Dixon, were elected as a financial committee. By February 26th, $620.00 was subscribed, and April 19th a meeting was called to consider the question of organization. A committee to call a council to organize a Congrega



tional Church, comprising H. F. Blood, M. S. Smith and L. E. Brown was appointed April 28th, and a Congregational Church was organized. On May 31st, Rev. J. Mitchell of Wyoming was called as pastor to preach once each Sunday for the consideration of $300.00 per annum, and H. F. Blood, William Peterson and William Simpson appointed a committee to solicit subscriptions. On September 20, 1885, the church, which in the meantime had been erected and finished at a cost of about $2,000.00 was dedicated, the sermon being preached by Rev J. K. Tompkins of Chicago. On the day of dedication, $334.78 was collected to liquidate all the indebtedness of the church, and from its foundation the church has continued to grow.

In Valley Cemetery, known also as the Fox Cemetery (the only one in the township, as the Lawn Ridge Cemetery is in Marshall county,) are interred the following old settlers: W. Down, died in 1878; James Jackson, 1871; Jane Hodges, 1859; Margaret Jackson, 1882; Lovina Ann Eby, 1870; Harry Hull, 1878; Sally Hull, 1862; Carlton A. Fox, 1872; Wm. Marlatt, 1886, At Camp Grove, Lawn Ridge, Wyoming and other resting places for the dead in the vicinity, many old settlers are at home, while throughout the West others have found the end of life's journey.

The neighboring settlement of Lawn Ridge in Marshall county, dates its settlement back to 1845, when Charles Stone made his home there. He was followed by "Deacon" Smith and Joshua Powell, the deacon being the first blacksmith. Alden Hull settled in the township about 1845, and shortly after the United Presbyterian Church was organized there. In 1846 the Congregational Church of Blue Ridge was founded, and in 1850 the Methodists organized at the Center. On Octo-



ber 5, 1864, Lawn Ridge Lodge No. 415, A. F. & A. M., was chartered.

In the summer of 1901 the Peoria branch of the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad crossed Valley Township from north to south, locating its station on the Captain John Speers farm. The new town named Speer, has developed a thrifty growth, furnishing an outlet for the corn and corn-fed hogs and cattle of the productive townships of Valley and La Prairie. Land values have gone up in Valley as in other parts of the corn belt, and many farm owners realize that it would not be safe to price their land at $150.00 to $200.00 per acre.