Bainbridge Township History

This township deserves mention in the history of Schuyler County, from the fact that it was within her borders that some of the first blows were struck toward civilization. Nearly sixty years ago the woodsman's axe was heard to resound through the timbers of Crane creek; few there were to bear the burdens of pioneer life, and encourage one another in paving the way for civilization and the future generations. What a transition! In little more than fifty years, it has been changed from a howling wilderness to a populous and finely improved country. The present generation can scarcely imagine the trials and hardships endured by those hardy men and women, who braved the danger of pioneer life, cleared the forest, broke the stubborn glebe, and laid deep and strong the foundation of our present happy condition. Many have gone to their last resting place, and the silent grave holds well the secrets of the past. From the few gray-haired veterans that still linger with us, we have been able to gather information found in these pages. The township is situated in the extreme southern portion of the county, bounded north by Rushville, east by Frederick, south by the Illinois river and Crooked creek, and west by Woodstock. It contains the whole of what is known as congressional township, 1 North, Range 1 west, and a fractional part of township 1 South, Range 1 west. The surface is generally very broken, and was originally covered with a heavy growth of timber, more than two thirds of which has been cleared, and is now in a fine state of cultivation. The prairies, where they occur are small. The soil is fertile and produces large crops of corn, wheat, oats, hay, etc. The principal streams that water and drain the lands are Crane creek, and its tributaries, which flow southeasterly across the northwestern and central portion of the township. There are also small affluents of the Illinois river and of Crooked creek, that assist in carrying off the rain fall.

Early Settlers

The first settlement of Bainbridge, began in the same year of the earliest arrival in the county. The pioneers, and first settlers were Thomas McKee, and Willis O'Neal, who located in the township in the fall of 1823. Thomas McKee was a native of Kentucky, and was a very early settler in Illinois, having lived in the state for some time before his advent here. He settled on the N. E. 1/4 of section 20, on the place now owned by James W. Lawler; O'Neal located near him, and together they made the first settlement in Bainbridge township. This was at least six miles south of the Hobart settlement in Rushville township, and they were their nearest neighbors. Each of them erected for their families, the same kind of rough unhewed log cabins that all the pioneers enjoyed. There was but one way to build them, and nearly all were alike. It is true they were rude affairs, but the souls within their walls were happier and more joyous than many of those who reside in the palaces of to-day.

Mr. McKee was an excellent mechanic, and followed gunsmithing and blacksmithing, and also manufactured spinning wheels. He was the first mechanic in the county, and was a very valuable man in the new country. The Indians with their broken guns, came from a great distance to have him repair them. He cleared some land and made some improvements, having planted a small nursery, from which came many of the trees of the first orchards in the county. There are yet standing several old trees around the improvement. About 1830 or '31 he sold out and removed north of Rushville on the prairie, where he resided until he was killed while digging coal a short time afterwards. O'Neal also moved in the vicinity of Rushville and became quite prominent in the early history of the county. His name will be found in many places through this work. Nathan Eels, an eastern man, settled near McKee, and these three families remained together in this settlement nearly two years. Eels was the first to leave it. He moved and located in or near the Hobart or Chadsey settlement, where he remained for a few years and migrated to the northern part of the state. He sold his property to a new comer, James B. Atwood, an Englishman.

The next arrival was probably Thomas Blair, from Ohio. He came with his family soon after those above mentioned, and located in section 3, and remained there until 1831, when he sold his claim to Zephaniah Tyson, and subsequently moved to Iowa. It was about the same time also, that George Naught immigrated here and settled on N. E. 1/4 of section 31, on the place where Charles W. Davis now lives. He and his wife were hardy pioneers, and remained toiling on their place until death overtook them, many years ago.

In November, 1826, Abraham Lemaster and his son-in-law, Charles Hatfield, crossed the Illinois, at Beard's Ferry, and traveled in a northeasterly direction to what is now Bainbridge township, halting at Willis O'Neal's vacant cabin, in which the two families took up winter quarters. James B. Atwood, was then the only family residing in the northern or central part of the township, the others having moved away as above stated, and McKee being absent. In the spring Lemaster purchased McKee's improvements on section 20, and raised a crop, but was compelled to leave there on account of the millions of mosquitoes. He lived for a few years upon the prairies and again returned to his place. About 1846, he went to Kentucky on a visit, and while there died. His wife died in the township. His descendents are still living in the county. Mr. Hatfield first located on the prairie north of Rushville, where he lived about five years, and then moved into Bainbridge, where he has ever since continued to reside. His house is on section 20, and he and his wife are still happy together, having lived a wedded life for nearly sixty years. Hugh E., his son and his daughter, the wife of John Dodds, are living in the county. William Gordon, a native of Kentucky, came here from Indiana, with his mother-in-law, Nancy Taylor, and her family in 1827, and settled in the S. E. 1/4 of section 22, where they purchased land and improvements of John A. Reeves, who had been here a short time. They all left this part of country. Reeves was a New Yorker, and while here his wife died. He went to Indiana, where he was again married, and returned to Illinois. One son, Simon A. Reeves, still lives in the township. William Mitchell, a brother-in-law of Reeves, was here early and remained only a short time. Moses and Jonathan Billing settled in the northern part of the township as early as 1827, and both died in this county. Enoch and James Edmonston came here about 1828, and took up their abode in the western part of the township, and also spent their days here. Some of their families are living in the neighborhood. Rev. Joseph Bell, who was an early Baptist minister in this part of the state, located in Bainbridge, under the bluffs, in 1828. He died at this residence here several years ago. Isaac Briggs and George Butler were also very early arrivals. Jacob White was here very early, and stopped until 1829, when he moved across the creek, and settled in Cooperstown township, Brown county. It was he who furnished the county with the money to purchase the original land for the county seat. Peter De Witt was also among the early settlers, and sold out to Samuel Jackson, a North Carolinian, who came with his family in 1829. He reared a large family. His son Edgar, residing in Rushville, is the only one of the family now living in the county. Sanford Close, Elisha Hudson, and Jerre Jackson, a nephew, came with the Jackson family. They were single men, and married and reared large families here. Jerre Jackson is still a resident of Bainbridge. Allen Persinger was also an early settler. He first located under the bluffs, and afterwards moved up on the bluffs near the center of the township, on the line dividing it from Woodstock. He was the first surveyor elected in the county. Among other old settlers were Daniel Matheney, Jonathan Reddick, Harvey Phinney, John Jacobs, the McCormicks, John Bowling, John Doughery, James Lawler, Jonathan Patterson, Ebenezer Grist, and Apollos Ward. Prominent among those now living not before mentioned we will name Aaron V. Harris, Solena Dawson, Samuel Tomlinson, Thomas Howell, who came here from his native state, Guilford county, North Carolina, in 1829, John H. Lawler, Jacob Howell and others.

Early Industry

The earliest mill built in the township was erected by Ephraim Eggleston, on section 19. It was located on the banks of Crane creek, and was propelled by its waters. Just after it was completed in 1827, a flood came and washed it away together with his cabin, nearly drowning his wife and children. He was awakened in the night by the rushing of the water, and upon getting up he found the water waist deep in his cabin. He had settled here in 1825.

Zephaniah Tyson built a horse mill on his place in 1835. William Clark constructed a water, saw and grist mill where Newburg now stands in the same year, which was in operation for some time.

Early Schools

The first building for school purposes was built on section 15 [22], and was known as the Lemaster school-house. It was a small log cabin. John Parker, Joseph Bell and William Burnsides were among the first teachers.

Military Patents

In T.1 N., R.1 W.:
October 6, 1817 - John Trask Jr., S.E. 1/4 of Section 1 - Solomon Lovegrove, S.W. 1/4 of Section 5.
October 21, 1817 - Thomas Davis, N.W. 1/4 of Section 7 - A. T. Van Bockel, N.E. 1/4 of Section 7.
November 18. 1817 - George Wintz, N.E. 1/4 of Section 11.
December 1, 1817 - Peter Brush, S.W. 1/4 of Section 11.

Board of Supervisors

Allen Persinger 1854 (2)
Isaac Black 1856 (3)
George Strong 1859
Allen Persinger 1860
Isaac Black 1861
Simon S. Griest 1862
Isaac Black 1863 (2)
Simon J. Grist 1865
George Strong 1866
George W. Campbell 1867 (2)
Adam Briggs 1869
Adam M. Briggs 1870
George W. Campbell 1871 (2)
John H. Lawler 1873
Adam Briggs 1874
Samuel Dodds 1875
Charles W. Davis 1876
Samuel Dodds 1877
Adam Briggs 1878 (4)
Charles M. Dodds 1879


Newburg is situated on the northeast quarter of section 20, Town 1 north, Range 1 west. It was laid out by Joseph Newburg, after whom it is named, and surveyed and platted by Francis E. Bryant, county surveyor, April 24, 1840. At one time there was a store and blacksmith shop there, and some business was done, but at this writing there is nothing but a few houses collected together as a settlement.


Center is a point near the geographical center of the township, where there is a town house and post-office.

According to the census of 1880 Bainbridge has one hundred and eighty-three farms and 1205 population.

Excerpted from the Combined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen for Schuyler County ILGenWeb.

Copyright 1999, 2000 Robin L. W. Petersen; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.

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