Brooklyn is in thenorthern tier of townships that border on McDonough County and, thoughfar removed from the first settlement made in Schuyler County, not manyyears elapsed until the homeseeker had reared his humble cabin within itsborder. This was due, perhaps, to the fact that Crooked Creek flows throughthe town from north to south, for the early pioneer followed the watercourses in his search for a new home, and the earliest settlements wereusually made not far from the stream. The timber country was always firstchoice of the early homeseekers, and Brooklyn afforded many choice locationsof this kind, for all the country adjacent to Crooked Creek abounded inthe finest kind of timber. When Brooklyn Township was first settled CrookedCreek was known as La Moine River, and was regarded as a navigable stream,and great things were expected from the development of the water poweralong its course. While these expectations were never realized. BrooklynTownship has made great progress as an agricultural country and its peoplewere prosperous as a result thereof.
William Owens was the firstsettler who made a home within the bounds of Brooklyn Township. Rearedin Kentucky, he was married In 1828 to Miss Helen Swan and, in the fallof the year following, the young couple decided to follow the bride’s parentsto Illinois. They made the trip on horseback and were six days in the saddle,and, on reaching Schuyler County, found a warm welcome at the home of Mr.and Mrs. George Swan, who were then residents of Buena Vista Township.There they spent the winter and, in the spring of 1830, pushed on fartherwest and built a cabin in Brooklyn Township. After putting in his cropMr. Owen returned to Kentucky to get his household goods, and, on his return,sold his pre-emption right in Brooklyn and returned to Buena Vista Township.
William Manlove, who cameto Schuyler from North Carolina in 1895, was attracted by the rich prospectsof Brooklyn Township and, in 1832, settled with his family on the northeastquarter of Section 7. He was accompanied by his brother-in-law, WilliamHuff, who with his family settled on an adjoining quarter. About this timeJohn E. Rigsby settled on the east half of the southeast quarter of Section7. He referred to his claim as “Guinea Prairie,” and the neighborhood is,to this day, known by that name.
William C. Ralls will alwaysoccupy a conspicuous place in the history of Brooklyn. He was a man ofenergy and determination, and had unbounded faith in the ultimate developmentof a great manufacturing center in the wilderness of Illinois. On December6, 1831, he was granted a mill site on Crooked Creek on the southwest quarterof Section 20, and was authorized to build a dam not to exceed nine feetin height. Before his improvement was completed came the call for volunteersto fight the tribes of the Indian Chief Black Hawk, and Mr. Ralls enteredthe service of the State as Captain of a volunteer company. He did notforget his pet project of developing the water-power on Crooked Creek,however, and in 1832 returned to his claim and resumed work on the dam.
Another of the prominentBrooklyn settlers of the early day was Rev. Samuel Dark, a BaptistMinister who labored in the Lord’s vineyard for more than fifty years,and whose name is yet honored and revered not only in Brooklyn, but inall the adjacent country. Samuel Dark was a native of North Carolina. butremoved to Tennessee when a child. Accompanied by his father, Samuel Dark,and two cousins, Horace and Samuel Dark. Jr., and a brother-in-law, HughHays, he came to Schuyler County in February, 1830. The little party firstlocated in Buena Vista Township, where Robert I.. Dark had builded a home,and in the fall Samuel L. Dark moved to Brooklyn Township and settled onthe northwest quarter of Section 5.
William Lewis was one ofthe pioneers in Brooklyn and, for more than fifty years, one of her mostprominent citizens. Mr. Lewis was a native of Philadelphia, where he wasborn March 7, 1801, and was a grand-son of Francis Lewis. one of the signersof the Declaration of Independence. In early life he was admitted to thebar in Philadelphia and planned to follow a professional career, but camewest in 1829 for the benefit of his health. He spent three years in Rushvilleand, in 1832, in company with Samuel Oliver, who had accompanied him fromthe East, he located on the northwest quarter of Section 19, in BrooklynTownship. The rugged life of a pioneer restored his health and he livedto a ripe old age, his death occurring in 1889.
Dr. James S. Blackburn, oneof the pioneer physicians of the county, first located in Rushville in1830 and there erected the first tannery in the county. He afterwards studiedmedicine and in 1836, removed to Brooklyn, where be achieved success andhonor.
Philip Chipman, a nativeof North Carolina, located in Brooklyn in 1836 and he served as a volunteerin the Mormon and Mexican wars, and enlisted in the army of the North inthe Civil War, but was discharged on account of illness. Mr. Chipman isquoted as saying that he often hauled produce to Quincy, where be soldwheat for 30 cents a bushel and pork at $1.25 per hundred, and in paymenttherefor took calico at 25 cents a yard, and bull skin boots at $8 a pair.
Jackson Higgins, one of thefew surviving old pioneers, accompanied his father, Daniel Higgins, toBrooklyn in lS38. Mr. Higgins, Sr., was a tailor and made into clothesthe cloth the wives had woven from carded and spun wool. Jackson
Higgins, in conversationwith the writer says the old camping grounds of the Indians were clearlydiscernible when they first located in Brooklyn. At the time Mr. Higginsand family took up their abode on Section 9, which is only a short distancefrom their present home, there was a class of rough characters living alongthe creek, who made their livelihood by hunting and fishing. They werenot a desirable class of citizens and, as the country settled up, theymoved away to other frontier points, and Brooklyn has never since beentroubled by such as their kind.
The town of Brooklyn hasfor its founder William C. Ralls, who as early as 1831 planned to therebuild a city that would rival any in Northern Illinois. The first stepin the realization of this plan was the erection of a mill, which was builton the northeast quarter of Section 20, in the year 1832. To assist inthis work Richard Redfield moved from Rushville, where he had located in1830, and he operated the first blacksmith shop in the township.
With the establishment ofthe mill accomplished, Mr. Ralls unfolded his plans for the establishmentof a manufacturing center near by. Thus it was that, on October 26, 1836,on the south bank of Crooked Creek, on a rolling piece of ground slopinggradually towards the stream, Allen Persinger platted the town of Brooklyn.The proprietors were William C. Ralls, Joseph Duncan, Benjamin Clark andDr. Green. They did not sit idly by and wait for the town to grow–thatwas too slow a proceeding for those stirring times. Instead they spreadabroad the news that there was to be a sale of town lots, and it was advertisedin every paper of prominence in the United States.
Brooklyn, like many othertowns of that time, fell short of the promised greatness. Fate did notdeal kindly with the village when the great railroad systems girded thecountry and, in a day, made towns where before there had been a wilderness.But Brooklyn is, today, a thrifty inland town, surrounded by a rich. agriculturalcountry and, in its long history, no disastrous storms, fires or pestilencehave marred its serene prosperity.
The first school in the villagewas taught by Miss Dodds in 1844. Brooklyn was made a Government postofficein 1840, and William Horney was the first postmaster. On the site of theold mill, erected in 1832, there stands a mill today, the only flouringmill operated within the bounds of Schuyler County.
The census report of 1900showed a population for Brooklyn Township of 1,173.
Excerpted from HistoricalEncyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, editedby Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersenfor Schuyler County ILGenWeb
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