created May 2003        

Thursday October 13, 2005 12:44:24 PM



Swan Township

Warren County, IL

            Swan Township was organized April 4, 1854.  A full account of the meeting cannot be given as the records were destroyed by the tornado.  Absalom Vandeveer was elected the first Supervisor; A.B. Sisson, Clerk, and Wm. G Bond, Assessor and Collector.  Swan lies in the southern tier of the townships and is numbered 6 north, of range 2 west, of the 4th P.M.  Roseville Township lies on the north, Greenbush on the east, McDonough on the south, and Point Pleasant on the west.

            The first settlers in this township were Mrs. Lively Cayton, widow of Abel Cayton, with her children, and George Simmons and family.  They came in the fall of 1832, Mrs. Cayton locating on section 11, and Mr. Simmons on section1.  All were from Kentucky.  Mrs. Cayton had four children—Nancy, George, Andrew J., and Miranda.  She died at the old homestead in the spring of 1871.  Her son Andrew J.., is living still on the old farm (see biography).  George and Nancy are dead.  Miranda was married to John Rayburne and is living in Monmouth.

            A.B. Sission from Albany Co., N.Y., came to the township in 1836.  The following year, his father and all the family, including eight children, arrived, locating on the northwest quarter of section20.  A. B. Sisson located on section 29.  Joseph Sisson died in 1851, in Greenbush; his widow died in May, 1882, in Page County, Iowa, at the age of 92 years.  The children, C.F., R.K., Augustine W., died in 1851.  M.F. died in 1882; A.J., Ann, Mary E., are living.  Anna married Matthew Hammond, and is living in Iowa; Mary E., married George Welty, and is living with her husband in Kansas.   In 1833, Peter Scott, Daniel R. Perkins, and Elijah Hanon with their families moved in.  Mr. Scott located on section 18.  Mr. Perkins and Elijah Hanon on section 1.  Peter Scott subsequently moved to Oregon, where he died.

            To this small circle of pioneers, Rev. Chas. Vandeveer and his family were heartily welcomed in 1834.  His family consisted of wife and five children; John, William, Absalom, Syntha, and Maria.  They located on section 2.  This acquision to the neighborhood made the howl of the wolves less disagreeable and lonely and life on the prairies of the West more attractive.  It gave them hope for the settlement, and brightened up their hearts.

            Surrounded as this present generation is with numerous population and all the comforts that wealth and civilization can bring, they cannot appreciate the joy that comes to the lonely heart on the prairie or in the wilderness, from the visitation of a human soul.  Here, away from strife and discord, away from the trappings and conventionalities of society, away from the trappings and conventionalities of society, away from fashion, more deadly to the natural born instincts of the soul than the presence of the Upas Tree, the human heart asserts itself; here, the Divinity in man manifests itself, and here man is seen truly after God’s own image.

            Cyntha Vandeveer was married to John Armstrong, both of whom are now dead.    Charles Vandeveer  died in 1854, and his faithful partner followed him a few years afterward.  These pioneers were soon followed by Richard Orr, Reece Perkins, and Wm. Talley with their families.  They located in the timber on sections 1 and 18.  Clement Piece with his young “Yankee” wife, as she was called, (see bio) came in about this time.  In the spring of 1835 Joseph Ratekin, wife and nine children—Samuel, George, Polly, Fountain, Lafayette, Berlinda, Lucinda, Edward, and Joseph S., from Morgan Co., Ill. Moved in and located on section 19.  This family was originally from Kentucky.  Jonathan Ratekin, another son, came in soon after.

            Joseph Ratekin was an active and prominent citizen, and not only himself but his children contributed largely to the development of the township.  He died Jan. 30, 1867, and his widow, Feb. 9, 1875.  Joseph S. Ratekin resides at the old homestead and is one of the leading pioneers of the township.  James Tucker came in soon after the Ratekins, locating on section 4.  Some years later he removed to Roseville, where he still resides.   

       At the first land sale of the Military Tract held June 16, 1835, at Quincy, Ill., Mr. Tucker, Peter Butler, Daniel R. Perkins, Louis Vertrees, Jess W. Bond and John Riggs all met at Quincy, for the purpose of purchasing their homes, and all came home together.  Having secured their lands they felt well, and the future looked bright before them; but they had only five horses to ride and the journey was long.  To be neighborly, charitable and obliging was the notable feature among the early settlers, and they arranged to” ride and tie”, and in this way they reached their new homes without much fatigue.  Of this party Mr. Tucker is the only one living.

            From this time on the settlement increased rapidly and this territory became on of the leading points of the county. 

            Mr. Hendricks taught the first school in the township, in the spring of 1833.   It was  held in a log cabin, without any floor, and no windows except loop holes in the walls.

            Sally Simmons, niece of Rolla Simmons, was the pretty maid who carried off the first matrimonial prize in the township.  David Young was the lucky man to be captured.  The event was celebrated in true pioneer style.  Mrs. Young is still living in Greenbush, but her husband is dead.

            The first death in the township was that of Isabella, daughter of Jon Long, which occurred at the farm now owned by Joseph Pitman.  The first child (or children ) born was in 1854—a son and daughter (twins) of Joel and Lovisa Bond.  They are now living in Kansas.

            Rev. Silas Cartwright was the first expounder of the Gospel in this township, in 1834.  To the worshipers it was a great religious treat.  It was like manna to the soul, like the gentle dew to the withering flower.  Mr. Cartwright was a circuit rider, and the service was held in the school-house on section 6.  Ashel B. Sisson taught the second school in the winter of 1837-8, in a log school-house on section 17.

            The first postmaster was Peter Scott, who was commissioned in 1837.  The post-office was located on the northwest quarter of section 18.  Mr. Scott held the office until he moved to Oregon, when Joseph Ratekin was appointed.  George W. Worden succeeded Mr. Ratekin, and held the office west of where the depot now stands.

            In 1870 the Rockford, Rock Island (now the St. Louis Branch of the C.B.&Q. RR, completed its line through the township.  It enters on section 6, running south through sections 7 and 18, then southeast across the northeast corner of section 19, then through sections 20, 21, 27, and 35.  The first train steamed into the township July 4, 1870.  This road was of great advantage to the people as it furnished them ready means for the transportation of their products.

    On the 27th day of May, 1872, this township was visited with a tornado.  It came from the northwest and struck the township about four o'clock in the afternoon, two miles and a half northwest of Youngstown on Swan Creek.  Its path was some 80 rods wide, and its line of destruction extended several miles.  Its power was terrific and irresistible, demolishing everything within its course; killing cattle, hogs and poultry, the latter flying through the air like snowflakes.  During the passing of this tornado it was almost as dark as night.  Young George Vandeveeer was killed; his father had his arm broken, and was otherwise injured;  Mrs. Perry died from the effects of her injuries.  Mrs. A. J. Cayton had her arm broken, her shoulder put out of joint, and was other wise so injured that she has never fully recovered.  Mr. Cayton, who was out of the house at the time, was taken up and carried about 100 yards, and was dropped down, unconscious, with a badly injured neck.

    Swan is watered by the middle and southern branches of Nigger Creek and by Swan Creek, which meanders easterly through it.  The nature of the land is rolling, except in an northeasterly portion, which is somewhat broken.  It is adorned with many beautiful groves, and adjacent to the streams are some fine bodies of timber.  This township is well cultivated and the farms, all with good dwellings and other buildings, are above the average.  There are a few farms here that are unsurpassed for their beauty and unexcelled in their productions anywhere.

        It has two thriving little villages, Swan Creek and Youngstown, where the people do most of their trading, secure their mail, and dispose of their products.

    The population in 1880, according to the census at that time, was 1,137.  It is estimated that there has been some gain since that period.

        According to the County Superintendent's report for the year, ending June 30th, 1885, there were nine school districts with nine schools.  The school property was valued at $2,795; the buildings were all frame.  Of persons under 21 years 9of age, there were 546; of whom 358 were of scholastic age, 275 being enrolled.  The highest wages paid teachers was $40.00, and the lowest $25.00 per month.  The tax levy for the township was $2,141.94.

        The Assessor's report for 1885, contains the following items:" Number of acres improved land, 1,657; number of acres of unimproved land, 5,080; value of improved land, $251,140; value of unimproved lands, $52,225; total value of lots, $11,125; number of horses, 823; cattle, 1324; assess and mules, 18; sheep, 386; hogs 2,631; steam engines, 1; carriages and wagons, 231; watches and clocks, 114; sewing and knitting machines, 110; pianos, 4; melodeons and organs, 34.  Total cash value of personal property, $62,356.


Abasalom Vandeveer.............1854-7                    G.W. Beckner................1873

Hezekiah Simmons........................1858                       A. Vandeveer........................1974

William G. Bond....................1859-62            G.W. Beckner.............1875--77

A. Vandeveer...........................1863-4            J.P. Higgins.........................1878-8

R.R. McKinley.............................1865            A. Vandeveer...............................1862

A. Vandeveer...................................1866-70            A.A. Cornell............................1883-5

Jacob Miller.....................1871-2                                                                                            


Any contributions, corrections, or suggestions would be deeply appreciated.

Submitted by your host Foxie Hagerty.


Typed and emailed to me by my assistant,  Kitty Smith,  edited and reformatted by Foxie Hagerty, you host and webmaster.



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