Littleton Township History

Littleton may well be referred to as the "Prairie" Township of Schuyler County, and, with a location on the watershed between Crooked and Sugar Creeks, its wide expensive prairies make it one of the most populous and wealthy townships of the county. It is one of a tier of four townships which forms the north boundary of the county, lying adjacent to McDonough County on the north. The south part of the township is more broken, where flows Horney Branch and Brushy Creek, but even this land has now reached a high price on account of its close proximity to the rich level lands that surround it.

The first pioneer settlers in Schuyler County were attracted by the richness of the virgin fields of Littleton Township, and as early as 1825, David Trainor located there and built his cabin on the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 27 and put in his first crop.

The following year Thomas McKee and his son-in-law, Garrett Wycoff, moved from Bainbridge Township to their new home on the southeast quarter of Section 35. Another of the first settlers of Schuyler County, who was attracted to Littleton Township, was John Ritchey, who had located in Buena Vista Township in 1824 and, two years later, removed to Littleton. He purchased the claim of Garrett Wycoff on the southeast quarter of Section 35 and his travels in search of a home then ceased, for he was an honored resident of the township up to the time of his death.

Among other early settlers in the township were David Snyder, who entered the north half of the northeast quarter of Section 33 in the fall of 1830; Elijah M. Wilson, who came from Kentucky in 1831; James Thompson, also a Kentuckian, located in Littleton the same year. Mr. Thompson had come to the county in 1826 from Kentucky in a spirit of adventure, but was impressed with the possibilities of the country and, in the fall of 1831, returned to his old home, where he was married to Miss Catherine Crawford, and they soon afterwards took possession of the cabin he had built in the wilderness.

The Littleton settlement was further increased in 1832 by the arrival of Richard P. Applegate, who made the long trip overland with his wife and two children. The following year William H. Crawford, wife and five children were attracted from their Kentucky home to Schuyler County and settled on the southeast quarter of Section 20.

By this time Littleton Township was well known among the settlements of the county, and the rush of immigration makes it difficult to follow the settlements in their natural order. But among the settlers who came to the township in those early days, and made it their permanent place of abode, we may mention the following: Randolph Rose, Drury Sellers, Michael Matheney, Joseph Logan, Col. Samuel Horney, George Garrison, William Lambert, James DeWitt, John S. Walker, Samuel Dodds, Joseph W. Snyder, Adam Walker, John Seward and D. C. Payne.

Hon. L. D. Erwin, one of the few pioneer residents of Littleton now surviving, in conversation with the writer, says he well remembers when deer and prairie wolves were plentiful in Littleton Township, and gray wolves were occasionally seen. Mr. Erwin has also given us some interesting facts regarding the early elections in the township. It was customary to hold the elections at the cabin of one of the settlers, and in the early 'forties the cabin of Richard Applegate was chosen on account of its central location. This was before the county was divided into townships, and the residents of that precinct agreed upon Oregon as an appropriate name and it so appears on the early election records. But when a postoffice was first established in the township, Dr. W. H. Window filed with his petition to the Postmaster General a request that the postoffice be named Littleton, in honor of his father-in-law, James Little, and this was done and the township was so named when it was organized in 1854.

The first school in Littleton Township was taught by Thomas Bronaugh in the summer of 1835, in an old deserted log cabin on the southwest quarter of Section 21, and the first building erected for school purposes was built in 1838 on the southwest quarter of Section 19.

The first marriage in the township was that of James Trainor and Miss Mary Shields, which was celebrated on Christmas Day, 1828, Thomas McKee, a Justice of the Peace, officiating.

The village of Littleton is located in the geographical center of the township, and was platted by Leonidas Horney, County Surveyor, July 31, 1849. James Little and his son-in-law, Dr. William H. Window, were the townsite promoters, and the latter had built the first house in the village in 1847. He also kept the first store and, in 1847, was appointed postmaster. The first school building in the village was erected in 1849, and was replaced in 1856 by a two-story brick building. On October 26, 1856, Littleton was devastated by a destructive tornado, particulars of which are given in another chapter of this history.

By reason of its location in a rich agricultural country, Littleton has always been a commercial center for the country round about, but with the coming of the Macomb & Western Illinois Railroad, which made the village its southern terminus, new vigor was enthused and, in late years, many extensive improvements have been made. The old frame business houses have been replaced with substantial brick buildings; a bank, elevator and newspaper have been started, and a coal company, with a capital stock of $25,000, is making an effort to develop the mineral wealth of the locality. In 1907 a handsome new and modern church was erected by the Methodist Episcopal congregation, and a four-room, two-story school building, of concrete block construction, replaced the old frame building that had done service for many years.

The village of Doddsville, located on the northern boundary of Littleton Township, lies partly in Schuyler and partly in McDonough County. It was laid out by Samuel Dodds and Paris Wheeler, July 6, 1836, and was platted by Allen Persinger, County Surveyor. Samuel Dodds built the first house and kept the first store in the village. Since the inauguration of the rural free-delivery system, Doddsville has lost its identity as a government postoffice, and its business is tributary to adjacent towns.

The population of Littleton Township in 1900, according to the census of that year, was 1,092.

Excerpted from Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, edited by Howard F. Dyson, pp. 703-5.
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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