Sumner Township, Warren Co., IL


A meeting was held at Little York, April 4, 1851, for the purpose of establishing a township organization.  Thomas Graham was chosen Moderator, and George Black, Clerk.  The polls were then opened to receive the votes of the citizens.  Upon counting the ballots, the following officers were found to be elected:  J. P. McGaw, Supervisor; Thomas Graham, Collector; John E. McGreg, Assessor; John Porter, John Martin and John Nealy, Commissioners of Highway; A. A. Allen and T. J. Caldwell, Justices of the Peace; George Gibson and Hugh Brownlee, Constables; William Preston and Samuel Graham, Overseers of Roads.  The vote for Clerk was a tie, and the Justices of the Peace appointed Thomas Brownlee to take the place.

         It was organized first as Union Township, and they changed it to Sumner in 1855.  It is situated in the northwest quarter of the county, in township 12 north, of range 3 west, and is bounded on the north by Mercer County, on the east by Spring Grove, on the south by Hale, and the west by Henderson county.

         The territory that is now embraced by Sumner, was settled as early as any other part of the county.  Matthew D. and Adam Ritchey, and Otter Craig, came into the township in 1828.  William McCoy, Jonathan Buffun and L. P. Rockwell, moved in, in 1830.  Hugh Martin, Sr., with wife and seven children, came in the fall of 1832, locating on section 28.  Mr. Martin, who first located in Fulton County, had, previous to moving into the county, been in and secured his land.  William McCoy and L. P. Rockwell bought Adam Ritchey's claim of 160 acres, which included a block house that he had erected upon the hill and used as a fort.  This house was the first building in the township.  Among others who came in, in 1832, was Chester Potter and David Maler.  Mr. Potter located with his family at Rockwell's Mill, on Cedar Creek.  He moved from here in 1833, and located in Kelly Township, on section 22, where he died, Oct. 19, 1851.  Cecilia, his daughter, who married to Hiram Ingersoll, is the only one of the Potter family now living.


The first child born in this township, was Henderson, son of Adam (Sandy) Ritchey, who was born Dec. 23, 1828.


The first death was that of William Martin, in the fall of 1832.  The second death was that of a young man by the name of Moffit, who was killed by falling off a fence, the fall breaking his neck.  They were buried by the side of each other in Sugar Tree Grove Cemetery.


William Martin, as is well known, was killed by the Indians, soon after the close of the Black Hawk War.  This occurred Aug. 9, 1832.  He was out in the field, mowing some grass for his horses, near the old town of Denny, southeast of Hugh Martin's residence, when some half dozen Indians rushed out to him from the timber, shot him and then fled to the woods.  One of the shots was fired so close to him that the powder burned his hair.  It is reported that after shooting him the Indians took his scalp, but this denied by some old settlers who are good authority.  The murder was supposed to have been done by Indians who had been detached from the main band, and were prowling about seeking some subject for their vengeance.  This sad affair was witnessed by the McCoy girls who were not very far from the old fort.  The killing of Martin threw the entire settlement into great consternation, and it was feared that another Indian war would be inaugurated.  The families in this vicinity gathered into the fort, bringing with them their provisions, where they remained for some weeks, until all apprehensions from any further trouble was removed.  Happily there were no further attacks from the Indians.


The saddest events of life often have amusing features.  It was so in this unhappy affair.  This fort, which was located west of Cedar Creek, near the old town of Denny, section 27, had been used at times during this period for the holding of religious meetings.  At the time of this tragic event religious services were going on in the fort, attended by the settlers living in the vicinity, particularly the women, and presided over by Mr. Miles, a Methodist preacher.  While Miles was preaching, a man rode swiftly into the fort, and with bated breath announced the murder of Martin by the Indians.  The preacher, it is reported, did not wait to close his sermon, nor even pronounce a benediction; nor did he "stand on the order of his going," but mounted his horse, which had been hitched near by, and away he flew, trusting more to the speed of his animal than he did to the protecting hand of God.  He did not stop his horse until he reached Yellow Banks, on the Mississippi, and it is stated that the last that was seen of him, he was swimming his horse across the Illinois River.


James Kendall opened the first store in the township in 1833.  It was located in Little York, and he had for his store house a little log cabin.  He died soon after, and William, his brother, took the store, and subsequently sold it to Arthur McFarland.


The first post office was established at Little York, in 1838, and J. F. Pollock was the first Postmaster; held the office about 16 years, when he moved to Oregon.  Mr. Pollock came in 1837, and located on section 28.


Peter Terpening, son of Ezekiel and Olive Peake Terpenning, taught the first school, in 1837.


P. L. Rockwell and Jonathan Buffun put up the first saw mill.  It was erected at the Cedar Fork of the Henderson, generally called Cedar Creek, a short distance east of the old town of Denny.  They worked on the mill during the winter of 1830-1, and had it ready with the opening of spring for operation.  This was also the first saw mill in the county.  A stockade was put up near this mill, upon the west bank of the creek, for protection against Indian raids.  In 1832 Chester Potter took charge of the mill, and, having had some experience in the grist mill business, in Ohio, where he came from, he concluded he would try this hand in the far West.  After some geological prospecting, he succeeded in finding a granite boulder ("nigger-head, as Mr. Potter called it"). From which he cut two burrs, 12 inches in diameter, and set them up in the saw mill for grinding corn.  With these stones, grists were ground for the neighboring families and others in different parts of the county.  As this was the first and only mill at that time in this county, it was largely patronized.  The proprietors of this enterprise were truly benefactors.  While it was not equal to the mills of the present day, yet it was undoubtedly appreciated more, for to it the early pioneers looked for the meal with which to make their bread.  These old burrs can yet be seen in the township;  Mr. Potter remained here one year and then moved into Kelly Township.  It may be as well to close the history of this mill, at least up to the present time, though we travel ahead of the developments of the township.  In 1837 Mr. Rockwell formed a partnership with D. G. Baldwin and erected, on the site of the old pioneer mill, a new and large flouring mill.  With the exception of shutting down a few days for repairs, this mill has been running pretty constantly ever since.  It has been enlarged and its machinery improved, which includes two French burrs.  It is now owned by A. H. Rockwell, son of L. P.   Their brand of flour is called the Eagle Mill Brand.  Water-power is still used, with a double Laffell turbine wheel.


The first post office in the township, and one of the first in the county, was located at this mill, with Jonathon Buffun as Postmaster.  Mr. Buffun held the office for about a year, and then L. P. Rockwell was appointed, and held it for nearly 20 years.


The first religious society organized in Sumner Township was the Cedar Creek Church, July 4, 1835.  It was called the Associate Reform, and was organized by Rev. Dr. Blakie, now of Detroit, who was a Missionary sent out to the new settlement of the West, to gather into an organization those who had been members of this society in the East.  It was also called the Sharon Church.  A few families made up the first organization, of which the Giles family seemed to predominate.  There was John Giles, who was the ruling Elder, and who probably succeeded to that distinction by virtue of a large kindred constituency; John B. Giles, Susanna, Nancy, Prudence, Margaret, Susan, Jane and Mary L.; Hugh Martin, James Campbell, John Williamson, James and Mary Findley, Nancy Robinson, George and Mary A. Jay, constituted the remainder of the congregation.


Some years before Dr. Blakie came, Rev. John Wallace, a Missionary from Virginia, was her preaching, in private houses, to the people.  He was finally employed by this congregation, after it had organized, as a stated supply, preaching pretty regularly here from 1835 to 1840.  Rev. James C. Porter came out in 1840.  He was liked by the society, and was installed in 1841, and continued in the service of this congregation until about the time of his death, November 15, 1863.  He was a man of considerable ability and largely increased the membership of this Church.


It was during the latter part of his pastorate that this Church joined in the Union with the Associate Presbyterians and became United Presbyterians.  Rev. John C. Reynolds succeeded Mr. Porter, and remained until July, 1872, when he gave place to J. M. Atchison, who was installed Dec. 1, 1872.  Mr. Atchison served the congregation several years, and was followed by the Rev. J. A. Gherett, who retired in the spring of 1885, and was their last pastor.  This congregation had a long and prosperous life.  Their first house of worship was built of logs and was located about two miles northeast of Little York; it was built in the summer of 1836.  In 1845 they erected a larger building of frame near the old log one.  In 1866, the congregation outgrew this building, and they erected and larger and more commodious edifice, at a cost of about $4,000; later on a good parsonage was put up.  The church building is beautifully located, about three miles northeast of Little York, and the parsonage about a mile north of the church.  All of the original members are either dead or have moved away.  The widow of Rev. John Wallace is yet living, in Little York.  At the present time they have no service, but the Sabbath-school is still kept up.  Last 4th of July, it celebrated its semi-centennial anniversary.

This township is well watered by the Middle Henderson and its branches and Cedar Creek.  At one time it was one of the best timbered townships in the county, and fine bodies of timber are still standing, particularly along the borders of the streams.  The nature of the land is undulating; in the southwestern and southeastern portions quite broken in places, while the northeastern part is very little undulated.  The soil is rich and easily cultivated.  The township is dotted over with grand farms, which are ornamented with fine dwellings and farm buildings.  Some of the houses are elegant in construction.  There is a station at Denny and Little York, where the people of the township do most of their trading and get their mail.  The Iowa Central Railroad was completed through the township in the spring of 1883.


The population, according to the census of 1880, as 948.  It is estimated that there has been a gain since then.


According to the County Superintendent's report for the year ending June 30, 1885, there were seven school districts, in all of which there were frame school buildings.  The school property was valued at $4,000.  Of persons under 21 years of age there were 427, of who 324 were school age, 211 being enrolled.  The highest wages paid teachers was $50 per month, and the lowest was $28.  The tax levy was $2,155.19.


From the Assessor's report for the year of 1885, the following items are obtained:  Number of acres of improved land, 21,772; number of acres of unimproved land, 800; value of improved land, $282,355; value of unimproved land, $4,535; total value of lots, $8,635; number of horses, 870; cattle, 1661; mules and asses, 35; hogs, 2,318; carriages and wagons, 248; watches and clocks, 25; sewing and knitting machines, 57; pianos, 4; melodeons and organs, 29.  Total cash value of personal property $63,535.




John P. Mc Gaw………………..1854           R. C. Stewart………………..1870-1

John Porter……………………...1855          R. W. Porter…………………1872-7

Frank Brownlee………………...1856-7       Thomas Brownlee…………..1878

H. C. Maley…………………….1858-60     R. W. Porter…………………1879-81

John Atchison…………………..1861-4       J. J. Ivy………………………1882-3

H. C. Maley…………………….1865-7       J. E. Pine……………………..1884-5

H. Rockwell…………………1858-9


Little York


This thriving village has been a very pleasing and a very healthy location.  The immediate town and the land adjacent is well drained by Cedar Creek.  This is an old town and one of the oldest in the county.  A store was opened here as early as 1833, by James Kendall, which was the first in the township.  This ambitious town was platted in 1836, and the papers were filed Aug. 25 of the same year.  William C. Butler was the surveyor, and the owners of this then valuable town property were Wm. McCoy, M. D. Ritchey and McCallon & Hogue.  It was located on the southeast 20 of the northwest 21, in township 12 north of range 3 west of the 4th P. M.  In 1838 the post office was established here, and J. F. Pollock was appointed Postmaster.  The establishment of a post office forms quite an event in the history of a town, and so the good people of this hamlet considered it in that pioneer day.  Mr. Pollock held the office about 16 years, when he resigned.  We are not informed that he resigned with a fortune made in the service of Uncle Sam.  He was succeeded by William Munsey, who held the office two years, and then Isaac Hopper had charge.  Mr. Pollock returned to Oregon in 1856, and the Government again honored him with the post office appointment.  In 1863, Mr. Williver was appointed and held the place for about three years.  He was succeeded by Wm. Munsey, who died in the service, and left the commission to his son Milton.  In 1876, Mr. Henry was appointed and held it until 1883, when M. M. Palmer assumed charge, and is the present Postmaster.


Little York has had its ups and downs, its bright and its cloudy days, like all other towns.  Through the long years it has held its own, and if the fine business houses that border its streets are any indication, it has made a gain.  The Indian that 50 years ago was prowling around these grounds would have to tax his memory very much to recognize it, or call up any familiar objects.  The Central Iowa R. R. was completed to this place, Feb. 22, 1883, and the first regular train came in April 5th of the same year.  It was built up from Monmouth.  The first mail by railroad arrived July 1, 1883.


Unlike most towns through which railroads pass, Little York instead of going down, has increased its population, and its business.  The buildings are all bright and new, and there is not an old rookery in it.  The people, too, are fresh, smiling, full of hope and common sympathy.  They look upon the bright side of life and keep the dark in the background.  It has a population now of some 300 souls.


M. M. Palmer has a drug store here that would do credit to any town.  He also keeps books, stationery and jewelry.  Hardware and furniture by Birdsall & Pollock; harness and saddlery by T. D. Gordon; general merchandise by Chas. Rodgers and boots and shoes by Hans Jochnk; groceries by E. B. Wallace and general merchandise by Bowers & Morris.  Z. D. Dorothy has a hotel and restaurant; J. W. Leeper, carries on blacksmithing; and Julius Poerschman supplies the people with a market.  Schuckman @ Graham manufacture wagons and buggies; B. S. Dodson has a livery and feed stable.  There are two large elevators at the depot owned by Harvey & Son, and John Brownlee, grain dealers.  Drs. C. Sherrick and A. R. Graham look after the health of the village or more properly speaking, the sick.  Little York has a very interesting school, which is taught by J. Brock.  They have a nice little school building with an average attendance of 45 pupils.


The United Presbyterian Church.  This society was organized here 1863, by Rev. John Scott of Monmouth, with some 40 members.  The congregation was formed mostly of the Henderson Sugar Tree Grove, and the Cedar Creek Churches.  The building was constructed this year, and subsequently a parsonage was added, the whole costing about $5,000.  The Rev. W. H. McMillan was the first regular pastor, who was installed Oct. 4, 1864, and remained until April 1870.  Rev. W. P. Campbell took charge in June, 1871, and remained until December 1874.  In February, 1876, the society secured the services of Rev. David Anderson, who remained until Oct. 1878.  He was succeeded by Rev. G. H. Hamilton, who is still serving this church, the membership of which is about 90.


Little York was first settled in 1829, and was among the earliest in this county. Among those who first came here were: Matthew D. Richie, Otho W. Craig, William McCoy, Hugh Martin, Sr., and others. Much fear and some trouble was experienced from the Indians by the early settlers. A Roving band of those desperadoes were skulking along the timber on cedar Creek, on the 9th day of August, 1832, when five of their number rushed out, shot and scalped William Martin, who was at work alone putting up hay. A Block house had been built as a kind of fort, where persons and families resorted in time of suppose danger. Several woman and children were at the fort at this time, and heard the shots, saw Martin fall, and the Indians run to him, shoot again, and scalp him. The news spread rapidly, and caused great alarm among the inhabitants. Martin had been at the fort but s short time previous, was cautioned by the women about working alone, though it was not known that any Indians war eon the vicinity. He returned to his work singing a favorite tune.

The block house stood a few rods east from where now stands the pleasant of Hugh Martin, brother of William, and he was killed about eighty miles north. His body was not recovered until the next morning, and when examined, it was found that the last shot was made so near as to burn his clothing.


A Company of Rangers followed the trail of the Indian as far as New Boston, where they were just in time to see them in their canoes, nearly across the Mississippi river. They fired upon them, but did not avail to stop them.

    An account of the trail of these murderers is given in another part of this work.

     The village of Little Rock was laid out in 1835 by William McCoy and M. D. Ritchie. James Kendall opened the first store in this vicinity, at the block house in 1833, and after his death, in the next year, his widow moved the goods to a building on the site of the village, and continued the trade. This she sold to Arthur McFarland, who soon sold to J. F. Pollock, and he had a prosperous trade there for many years. He was the first P. M. for nearly twenty years. The First school was in 1837, taught by Peter Turpening, Foxie's Great-Uncle. surname is misspelled.

     At the present time there is a good school house and a good bell, with pleasant grounds ornamented with trees. The principal merchants are Messrs. Wallace & Morrison, general merchandise. There are two harness shops, three blacksmith shops, one wagon shop, and a boot and shoe shop.

     This village is located in a thriving and industrious farming community, and is in Sumner Township, twelve miles northwest from Monmouth, Warren county, Illinois.

     The U/ P. Church of Little York was organized April 19th, 1863, by Rev. John Scott, D. D., of the Presbytery of Monmouth. At the formation of this church there were forty-one members from the U. P. churches of Cedar Creek and Henderson. the first pastor was Rev. Wm. H. McMillan, ordained and installed Oct. 4, 1864, who continued his labors for six years. The next pastor was Rev. W. T. Campbell, ordained and installed June 13, 1871 and continued four years. The present pastor is Rev. David Anderson, who began his work here in October, 1875. This congregation own a pleasant and commodious house of worship, which cost $4,00 and a convenient parsonage, recently built at a cost of $2,00. The present number of members 130.


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