BainbridgeTownship History


Bainbridge,by reason of its location near the Illinois River was one of the firsttownships in the county to be settled and, during the year 1823, it wasinvaded by the pioneers who built their cabins and made a clearing in thetimber for the cultivation of their crops.

Boundedon the south by the Illinois River and Crooked Creek and traversed fromnorth to south by Crane and Coal Creeks, it naturally follows that theland surface of the township is broken and rugged. Along all these streamsthere is a rich alluvial soil that yields tremendous crops in seasons whenthe land is not overflowed by water. Much of the land that was consideredunfit for cultivation twenty years ago, and carried each successive yearon the delinquent tax-roll, has now been reclaimed and a large portionof it is in cultivation.

Alongthe Illinois River a tract of land embracing 7,000 acres has been takeninto a drainage district and, by a system of levees and lateral drainageditches in the enclosed portion, an effort is being made to reclaim theland. Another reclamation project was started in 1908 when the Crane CreekDrainage and Levee District was organized, and 5,000 acres will be reclaimed.

BainbridgeTownship is the only section of Schuyler County that does not show an outcroppingof coal veins of sufficient thickness for mining purposes. But while thismineral vein is lacking, there are others present that may prove more valuable.In the neighborhood of Newberry a well marked deposit of zinc has beenlocated, but whether it is present in sufficient quantity to work profitablyhas never been determined. In the same neighborhood specimens of lead havebeen found, but the surface indications are not so favorable for this mineralas for zinc.

ThomasMcKee and Willis O’Neal were the first settlers in Bainbridge Township.In the fall of 1823 they came to Schuyler County from Kentucky and builttheir cabins six miles south of the Hobart settlement, where the entirepopulation of the county, numbering perhaps a score of people, was centered.Thomas McKee built his cabin on the northeast quarter of Section 20 andWillis O’Neal located on Section 16. McKee was a trained mechanic and,as soon as he had erected a home for his family, he constructed a workshopand this was the first blacksmith shop in the county. His coming was avaluable addition to the little settlement, for he was a natural mechanicand gunsmith, and in his little log shop he did a good business for thosepioneer times. Willis O’Neal later moved from Bainbridge and settled onthe present site of Rushville, and took a prominent part in the affairsof the county in the early years of its history. He afterwards removedto Brown County.

In1824 David and Thomas Blair and Jacob White settled on Sections 2 and 3,and in that same year George Naught, who had come from Whiteside Countywith his brother Isaac and settled on Section 36, Woodstock, removed toBainbridge where he afterwards made his home.

JonathanReno and John A. Reeve were among the newcomers in 1825 who settled inBainbridge. In November, 1826, Abraham Lemaster and his son-in-law, CharlesHatfield, moved into the township and purchased Willis O’Neal’s improvement.James B. Atwood, William Mitchell, Moses Pettigrew, Archibald Parris, JamesEdmonston, James, William and John Evans were among those who came In 1827.Rev. Joseph Bell, a Baptist minister, Isaac Briggs, George Butler, PeterDeWitt, Samuel Jackson, Sanford Close, Elisha Hudson, Jerre Jackson andThomas Howell were all residents of the township prior to 1830. Among otherearly residents were: Allen Persinger, Daniel Matheny, Jonathan Reddick,Harvey Phinney, John Jacobs, John Bowling, John Dougherty, James Lawler,Jonathan Patteson, Ebenezer Grist and Apollos Ward.

Thefirst mill in the township was built by Ephriam Eggleston on the bank ofCrane Creek on Section 19. The mill was erected in 1827 and was barelyin operation when there came sudden flood on this now famous erratic stream,that carried away the improvement downstream. Zeph Tyson built the secondmill in 1835 and it was operated by horse-power.

Thefirst school building in the township was on Section 15, and John Parker,Joseph Bell and William Burnsides were among the first teachers.

Thereis not now a town or post office in Bainbridge Township, the postofficeat Center having been discontinued in 1904, when the rural free systemwas extended to the township. The town of Newburg, now commonly known asNewberry, was founded by Joseph Newburg and was surveyed and platted byFrancis E. Bryant, County Surveyor, April 24, 1840. There was once a storeand blacksmith shop there, but all semblance of a town has long since disappeared.

Thepopulation of Bainbridge Township, according to the census of 1900, was1,210.

Excerptedfrom Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County,1908, edited by Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribedby Karl A. Petersen for Schuyler County ILGenWeb

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