Birmingham Township History

The farthest outlaying township in Schuyler County is Birmingham, located in the extreme north-west corner. It is bounded on the north of McDonough County and on the west by Hancock County, and its business is largely tributary to Plymouth, the nearest shipping point. This township is almost equally divided between undulating and fertile prairie land in the south and north, and heavy timber land along the water courses. The farms are well improved and the land valuable for grain farming and stock raising.

Brummel Sapp was the first settler in Birmingham Township. He was a neighbor in North Carolina of the Manlove family, who first settled in Schuyler in 1824. Their glowing accounts of the new country fired his enthusiasm and, in the early fall of 1831, he started on the long journey to the frontier in Illinois. His family consisting of his wife and children, Harmon, Jefferson, Jacob, Adam, Newell, William, S. R. and Sarah, accompanied him, and they reached Rushville in early winter of that year. Here the family remained until the spring of 1832, when they once more packed up their household belongings and began the journey westward. Far removed from all other settlements he located on the southwestern part of the northwest quarter of Section 3 in Birmingham Township, and there in the solitude of the forest built his home, and his after years were spent on the old homestead and his descendants are today numerously represented in the population of the township.

Soon after Mr. Sapp settled in Birmingham his old neighbor in North Carolina, David Manlove, removed there from the Rushville settlement. He was followed soon afterward by Moses and Jonathan D. Manlove, who settled nearby. Other settlers who came in 1832 were Peter Popham from Kentucky, and a man named Haggard, also Edward and David Wade. Isaac Pigeon was a near neighbor of Mr. Sapp in 1833, and William and Jesse Bodenhammer and Adam Wier came from North Carolina in that same year. In 1834 the settlement was further increased by the arrival of three brothers, Alexander, John and Charles Bilderback, who came from Adams County, Ill., where their father had arrived from Kentucky some years before. William H. and James Bilderback, the remaining brothers, followed in the fall of that year. About this time James G. King and David Graham settled in the township. Thomas Twidell and Simeon Morris, from Virginia, were among the settlers of 1834, settling in Round Prairie. In 1836 James and Harrison Graham and John L. Carden and family made the long journey west from Virginia, in response to letters that had been sent home by David Graham. William Edwards, John T. Gash, Col. Geo. H. Briscoe, John L. Ewing, William Noel, S. S. Walker and Edward Whipple were others of the early pioneers who settled in Birmingham Township in the thirties.

The early home-seekers in Birmingham were men who had faith in the future development of the rich country of Illinois, and as soon as they had reared their cabins and planted their crops, they turned their attention to developing the resources nearest at hand. In 1835 Robert Wilson, a practical mill-wright came to the settlement, and in partnership with David Graham, began the construction of a water will on the northeast quarter of Section 11. They built a dam across Crooked Creek at this point, and the first grist was ground in 1836. The mill was a two-story frame building, and the power was obtained from an undershot wheel. It remained in service until 1882 when, on May 5, a spring freshet undermined the wheel and it was carried down stream.

The building of the mill was an incentive to greater effort in the development of the country, and on July 1, 1836, the village of Birmingham was platted by Allen Persinger for David Graham, David Manlove and Moses Manlove, the proprietors. The prospectus issued by the town-site promoters, and published in all the eastern papers, was a most glowing one, and the new town-site was heralded as a thrifty manufacturing center at the head of navigation on the La Moine River. Like many other of the boom towns of 1836, Birmingham failed to fulfil the expectations of its enthusiastic promoters, but is today a pretty little country village along whose boundary flows the waters of Crooked Creek.

The first school in Birmingham was taught by William Noel in a log cabin in the village. In 1839 Birmingham was made a government postoffice and William Noel was named as Postmaster. The first church erected in the township was built by the Protestant Methodists in the village in 1852.

Population of the township in 1900, according to the United States census, 894.

Excerpted from Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, edited by Howard F. Dyson.
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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