Bainbridge Township History

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

Bounded on the south by the Illinois River and Crooked Creek and traversed from north to south by Crane and Coal Creeks, it naturally follows that the land surface of the township is broken and rugged. Along all these streams there is a rich alluvial soil that yields tremendous crops in seasons when the land is not overflowed by water. Much of the land that was considered unfit for cultivation twenty years ago, and carried each successive year on the delinquent tax-roll, has now been reclaimed and a large portion of it is in cultivation.

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

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

Thomas McKee and Willis O'Neal were the first settlers in Bainbridge Township. In the fall of 1823 they came to Schuyler County from Kentucky and built their cabins six miles south of the Hobart settlement, where the entire population of the county, numbering perhaps a score of people, was centered. Thomas McKee built his cabin on the northeast quarter of Section 20 and Willis 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 workshop and this was the first blacksmith shop in the county. His coming was a valuable addition to the little settlement, for he was a natural mechanic and gunsmith, and in his little log shop he did a good business for those pioneer times. Willis O'Neal later moved from Bainbridge and settled on the present site of Rushville, and took a prominent part in the affairs of the county in the early years of its history. He afterwards removed to Brown County.

In 1824 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 County with his brother Isaac and settled on Section 36, Woodstock, removed to Bainbridge where he afterwards made his home.

Jonathan Reno and John A. Reeve were among the newcomers in 1825 who settled in Bainbridge. In November, 1826, Abraham Lemaster and his son-in-law, Charles Hatfield, moved into the township and purchased Willis O'Neal's improvement. James B. Atwood, William Mitchell, Moses Pettigrew, Archibald Parris, James Edmonston, James, William and John Evans were among those who came In 1827. Rev. Joseph Bell, a Baptist minister, Isaac Briggs, George Butler, Peter DeWitt, Samuel Jackson, Sanford Close, Elisha Hudson, Jerre Jackson and Thomas Howell were all residents of the township prior to 1830. Among other early 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.

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

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

There is not now a town or post office in Bainbridge Township, the postoffice at Center having been discontinued in 1904, when the rural free system was extended to the township. The town of Newburg, now commonly known as Newberry, was founded by Joseph Newburg and was surveyed and platted by Francis E. Bryant, County Surveyor, April 24, 1840. There was once a store and blacksmith shop there, but all semblance of a town has long since disappeared.

The population of Bainbridge Township, according to the census of 1900, was 1,210.

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

Bios & Family Histories Page

Return to Home Page