Situated in theextreme Northwestern part of the county is Birmingham township, its nearestrailroad station and town being Plymouth a few miles distant from its Northeastcorner, in Hancock county, on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway.It is bounded on the North by McDonough county, on the East by Brooklyn,on the South by Huntsville, and on the West by Hancock county. Enteringthe township, between sections 3 and 4, from McDonough county on the North,Crooked creek winds it course through the Northeastern portion of its territoryand passes into Brooklyn near the Southern line of section 13. Along itswhole route affluents pour their waters into it. The principal tributaryis Flower creek, which traverses the township from west to east, and receivesnear the cental part, the water of Flower branch. Farther south and flowingin a northeasterly direction, are Harrison and Lewis branches, tributariesof considerable size and of great value as reservoirs and for drainagefor that portion through which they flow. The township is nearly equallydivided between undulating and fertile prairie land in the south and north;and heavy timber land along the water courses, though much of which wasformerly forest, is now cleared. The entire township is well supplied withtimber, and well watered, and is sufficiently rolling to drain well, andthroughout the township are well improved farms, with pleasant houses;and prosperity on all sides is the result of many years of toil and privation.
The first patents of landin Birmingham Township were issued October 6, 1817, to James Whitney forthe N. E. 1/4 of section 12; Abraham Mulett for the S. W. 1/4 of section28; and Patrick McGinness for the S. E. 1/4 of section 28; October 14,1817, to Winthrop Dodge for the S. E. 1/4 of section 25; November 29, 1817,to Elias Duly for the S. W. 1/4 of section 3.
The first to seek a homeon the hills of Crooked creek in Birmingham, was Brummel Sapp, an old friendand neighbor of the Manlove family in North Carolina, some of whom hadleft their homes in that state and arrived in Schuyler county as earlyas 1824; and had written back glowing descriptions of the richness of thesoil and the beauty of the county, which information scattered among theirold neighbors induced many to seek homes in this and adjoining townships,throughout the county. Brummel Sapp was born in North Carolina in 1790,where he grew to manhood and married. Hearing, through the Manloves ofthe beautiful country, which offered to all a home, almost free of charge,in the early fall of 1831, he loaded his few household effects into a one-horsewagon, drawn by an old, worn-out blind horse, began his long and tiresomejourney, accompanied by his wife and children, Harmon, Jefferson, Jacob,Adam and Newell (twins), William P., S. R., and Sarah. After many weeks’travel, he reached Rushville late in fall of 1831. It being late in theseason, and the necessaries of life being scarce, he thought it wiser toremain in the settlement, until spring, than to attempt a settlement inthe wilderness at the beginning of winter. He remained in the settlementat Rushville until the spring of 1832; and then moved direct to Birminghamand in the timber within a half mile of Crooked creek, on the S. W. 1/4of the N. E. 1/4 of section 3, on which he subsequently built his cabinand cleared his fields. He was the first settler in the township; and awayfrom friends and neighbors he toiled day after day. He sowed the firstwheat in the township, a field of three acres, which produced the bountifulyield of onw hundred and sixteen bushels. On his old homestead he spenthis declining years, surrounded by a large family of children, having witnessedthe transformation from a wilderness to a thickly settled and intelligentcommunity, many of whom had shared with him the hardships and privationsof the same frontier life, and assisted in making nature the servant insteadof the master of man. Mr. Sapp died on the 31st day of March, 1872, atthe ripe age of eighty-two years, and left a large family of children,many of whom are highly respected citizens of the township. David Manlove,an old neighbor of Mr. Sapp, was the first to follow him into Birmingham,only two months later. He had left his home in North Carolina, with hisfather, and arrived in Schuyler county, in the fall of 1824, and had beenliving in what is Rushville prior to his removal to Birmingham. He broughthis effect, and a wife, and his children, Elizabeth, Annie, William andFranklin in a one horse wagon, and selected for his home the N. W. 1/4of section 3, which he subsequently entered, and upon which he continuedto reside, until be bought an interest in a mill and moved to Birminghamvillage. Moses Manlove, a brother of David, with his wife and family, cameinto the township and settled on the N. E. 1/4 of section 5, where he builthis cabin and made his home for some years. He came to Birmingham at thesame time as David; and an elder brother, Jonathan D., also came with hisfamily and made an improvement on the N. W. 1/4 of section 9, where hisson, William B., still resides. This same year Peter Popham, a bachelor,with his father, came from Kentucky in the summer and settled on the N.W. 1/4 of section 29. A man named Haggard with family took possession ofthe N. W. 1/4 of section 30. He was a practical wheelwright, and came in1832. Among the number moving into and assisting in the development ofthe country in 1833, was a man named Renshaw, who arrived with his wifeand a family of children and settled on the N. W. 1/4 of section 31, andEdward Wade and family, from Morgan county, residents of Tennessee. Wadebuilt his cabin on the W. 1/2 of the N. W. 1/4 of section 4, bought theland and lived there for many years. He was a soldier of the war of 1812;and participated in the battle of New Orleans. He is now residing at Plymouth,Hancock county, Illinois. David Wade, a brother of Edward, with a wifeand family, came from the same place as Edward, and made his home on theS. E. 1/4 of section 5. Isaac Pigeon and family were near neighbors ofMr. Sapp in 1833, and improved an adjacent farm. William and Jesse Bodenhammer,brothers, old neighbors of Mr. Sapp and the Manloves, came from North Carolinawith their families in the spring of 1833. William Bodenhammer selectedthe S. W. 1/4 of section 3, built his cabin, and by years of unceasingtoil died possessed of a fine farm, on which some of his descendants nowreside. Jesse Bodenhammer at first lived with William but afterward movedto the N. W. 1/4 of section 9, made some improvements and then sold andemigrated to Arkansas. The father-in-law of Brummel Sapp, Adam Wier, withhis children, Jacob, Daniel, Barbara and Margaret, and Bernard and Samuel,two married sons, arrived from North Carolina, in the spring of 1833. AdamWier bought the forty acres in the southeast corner of the S. E. 1/4 ofsection 3, and there spent the remainder of his day. Bernard rented a farm,while Samuel improved the S. 1/2 of the N. E. 1/4 of section 15, wherehe continued to reside until his death. The Wiers left many descendantsin the township, George H. Wier being one of the number.
The following year (1834)witnessed the arrival and settlement of a large number of families in differentparts of the township. Among the number were three brothers, Alexander,John and Charles Bilderback, who came from Adams county, where their fatherhad arrived from Kentucky some years previously and settled in this county.They came in the spring, and located land, building their cabins and improvingtheir farms. Alexander settled on the northwest quarter of section 28;John on the southwest quarter of section 29, and Charles on the southeastquarter of section 28. All have children living in the township. Thesethree brothers were followed in the fall of the same year by two otherbrothers, William H. and James Bilderback. William H. selected the southeastquarter of section 29, and James built his cabin and made improvementson the adjoining quarter. James G. King also settled in the township thesame year, on the southwest quarter of section 4, where he now resides.Alpheus Oliver, a young unmarried man, whose parents resided in Adams county,improved the southwest quarter of section 31. Jonathan Thorp, a nativeof North Carolina, and a relative of the Manloves, moved into Birminghamin the spring of this year. He had been in other parts of the county since1829, and when he came here he had a wife and family of children. He madea pre-emption of the southeast quarter of section 6, but did not remainlong, moving back to Rushville. David Graham, a native of Virginia, wasanother arrival this year; he was a young unmarried man of considerableeducation and much energy. He came from Rushville in the spring of 1834,where he had been living the previous year. He squatted on the northeastquarter of section 11, where he built a cabin, and afterwards married awidow lady, Mrs. Frances M. Stout, in January, 1835, and then moved tothe site of the present village of Birmingham, and built a mill. He livedin the village the remainder of his days, and reared a large family ofchildren. Robert Wilson, unmarried, a practical millwright, arrived a shorttime after Mr. Graham, and noticing the superior facilities for a mill,suggested them to David Graham, who was favorably impressed by them. Mr.Graham and Wilson at once made preparations to build the mill. Mr. Wilsonsold his interest to Moses and David Manlove in 1838, and went furtherwest. Two families from Virginia made settlements in the northern partof the township in 1834. They made the journey in an ox cart. One was ThomasTwidell, with a wife and large family of boys, and settled in Round Prairie;the other was Simeon Morris. John T. Gash and family came from Kentuckyat the same time that Col. H. Briscoe and John L. Ewing, of Huntsville,arrived in 1835, settled in Birmingham township, built his cabin, and cultivatedthe southwest quarter of section 33. His family was composed almost entirelyof boys. He moved to Macomb, Illinois, some years ago, where he died. WilliamEdwards and family followed their old neighbors from North Carolina, andcame into the township in the spring of 1835, improved a farm, after buildinga cabin on the southwest quarter of section 6, where they spent many years;subsequently sold out, moved to Hancock county, and finally returned tothe village of Birmingham, where the old gentleman died. The communitywas still further increased in 1836 by the arrival of James and HarrisonGraham, brothers of David Graham, who brought their mother, and made theirhomes in the village with their brother. They came direct from Virginia,and were accompanied by Jonathan Tucker, a Methodist minister and a nativeof Kentucky, who also made his home in the village. John L. Carden andfamily also came with the Grahams from the same place, and after buildinghis cabin, he purchased the southwest quarter of section 14, which he madeone of the finest farms in the county. His son, John S. Carden, now ownsand occupies the old homestead, with his family. The old gentleman hasbeen dead several years. Among those who found homes in this romantic andfertile section of the township in 1837 was a well-educated young man,Willian Noel, who was single when he came to the village of Birmingham,but soon afterwards found a wife in the person of Sarah Graham. He boughtand improved the south half of section 11, and spent his days in enrichinghis home. His widow survives him and resides upon the home-place, withher son, C. C. Noel. S. S. Walker and Edward Whipple were in the countyas early as 1838, and may be classed among those known as old settlers–thepioneers who struggled with nature and improved the township.
The marriage of David Grahamand Mrs. Frances M. Stout, on the 15th day of January, 1835, was the firstwedding ceremony in the township. An infant daughter, born to Mrs. BrummelSapp, was the first birth, and by the subsequent death of the child, whilea mere babe in 1834, together with its burial upon the home-place, waschronicled the first death, and the location of the first graveyard, inthe township. Peter Borin, a Methodist minister, preached the first sermonat the house of Mr. Sapp, in the summer of 1833. Revs. W. Pitner and JohnP. Richmond, both Methodists, were the pioneer preachers; and the firstphysician to practice were: Drs. North, John P. Richmond and Hubert Grizzle.David Manlove was the first justice of the peace, and dealt out justiceto all in a fair and even-handed manner. Austin Wheeler had the first forgein the township, where the village now stands, as early as 1834. We havepreviously alluded to the first mill in the recital of the arrival of RobertWilson. Upon the acceptance, by David Graham, of the proposition made byRobert Wilson to build a mill, work was at once commenced on the dam. Itwas vigorously prosecuted, and by the spring of 1836, the first grist wasground. The mill was a neat two-story frame building, the first erectedin the township, and the motive power was obtained through the medium ofan undershot water-wheel. The burrs were brought from St. Louis. When firstcompleted, the mill was purely a grist-mill, and at a later period a saw-millwas added. After serving the people of this township for nearly half acentury, the high water of 1882 undermined it, and on the 5th day of May,it was carried down Crooked creek, and the only vestige that now remainsis the dam, over which the waters roll, singing a requiem of the past.The roads of the township at the present day are in a good condition, andconveniently located. The numerous streams are spanned by substantial bridges,making it convenient in getting to all parts of the township. Outside ofthe village there is a handsome frame edifice belonging to the United Brethrenorganization. It was built in 1857, on the northwest quarter of section18, but has since been removed to the northwest quarter of Sec. 17. Itis worth about $500. Rev. John Carr is the present pastor. The buildingis known as Mount Harmony Chapel.
The schools of the townshipare eight in number, all provided with neat and comfortable frame buildings,well supplied with furniture and the necessary apparatus for their successfuloperation. The annual term is six months. The financial condition is ofthe most flattering character. The timber of the township is of the mostvaluable species and abundant in supply, while building stone of all kindsis plentiful along the banks of Crooked creek. A quarry has been openedon the northwest quarter of section 11, from which a superior quality oflimestone has been taken, and of which the piers of the bridges over Crookedand Flower creeks were constructed, and they have withstood the erosionof the waters for many years without perceptible effect. A portable steamsaw mill now situated on the northeast quarter of section 9, belongingto and operated by George W. Smith, is now the only manufacturing establishment.The citizens of Birmingham are social, courteous and progressive, respectingthe laws and observing the Golden Rule. Nature has bestowed her bountiesupon them liberally. The census report of 1880 gives the number of improvedfarms as 201, and places the population at 1,074.
Board of Supervisors
The township has always beenrepresented in the board of supervisors by some of its most intelligent,progressive and representative men, whose influence has been felt in everywork of a substantial and beneficial character. The following is a listof supervisors from the time that the county adopted township organizationto the present time:
1854 – Col. James G. King
1857 – Solomon Twidell
1858 – Col. James G. King
1859 – Solomon Twidell
1861 – William Dron
1867 – William T. McCreery
1868 – John T. Wycoff
1869 – William T. McCreery
1871 – Edward Whipple
1872 – William T. McCreery
1875 – Marcus Whetstone
1876 – William T. McCreery
1877 – A. L. Beard
1879 – Marcus Whetstone
Excerpted from the CombinedHistory of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Robin Petersenfor Schuyler County ILGenWeb.
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