1918 Annals - Copley Township

From Sketches by J. W. Temple

The surface of Copley Township, so named from a prominent family of that name at one time residing in it, consists chiefly of fertile prairie land, just sufficiently rolling to ensure good drainage, though in its southern part there is some broken ground, probably one-fourth of its area having been originally timber land.

The first settler in the township was a Mr. Berry, who, in 1836, located near the present village of Victoria, which lies partly in this and partly in Victoria Township. Mathew Herbert and Larkin Robinson followed, the next year. In 1839, the first members of what soon became a thrifty Scotch colony began to settle on some of the best lands; and the descendants of these sons of "Auld Scotia" are now men of wealth and high moral standing in the community. The Gordons, Cooks, McCornacks, Taits, McKies, Leightons, McClymonts, McMasters, McDowells, Stevensons, Milroys, McQuarries and others, with their numerous and thrifty progeny, were among the most prominent citizens of the township. Later, its rich lands have attracted a large number of Swedes, whose thrift, industry and probity have made of these first immigrants wealthy farmers and landholders. Their descendants, by intermarrying with the native population, are fast becoming homogeneous, as they are a patriotic body of American citizens, while their success is due to brain no less than to brawn.

When the first settlers arrived, a small tribe of Indians still inhabited a grove, now known as Foreman Grove, near the northern limits of the present township.

The first child born in Copley was a son of Mathew Herbert, in 1836. The first death was that of Harriet Foster, in 1842. Rev. Charles Bostwick and Mrs. Hurr were the first couple to be married, and Rev. Mr. Bostwick preached the first sermon in 1840, in a log school house.

The first school was taught by Miss Mary J. Smith, afterwards Mrs. John Becker, in a log cabin, one and one-half miles northwest of Victoria.

There are few townships where the value of an education is more genuinely appreciated than here, the result being shown in the exceptional intelligence and culture of its citizens.

The first saw mill, that of Jeremiah Collinson, operated by horse power, was put up in 1850. Mr. Berry was the builder of the first frame structure, on Section 9, in 1840. Now some of the finest residences in the county are to be found on its prairie farms.

Copley Township has lacked railroads, and by reason of that want has no large towns. In 1894, however, to reach the extensive coal fields of this and Victoria townships, a railroad was built from Wataga, on the line of the Burlington and Quincy Railroad, running through nearly the center of the township, to a mining village called Etherly, located on the eastern boundary of Copley. This village was laid out on the southeastern quarter of Section 35, on August 10, 1894, by Samuel Charles. Owing to legal complications, which prevented for a time the operating of the road, the village is yet, (1899), without many inhabitants. It is believed, however, that, under altered conditions, a thriving mining town will soon be built up to develop the rick, unworked coal deposits which underlie nearly all the southern part of Copley. This railroad has been since extended into the village of Victoria, which, with its natural advantages of situation, has heretofore only lacked railroad facilities to become one of the most prosperous villages in the county.

The first town officers elected in 1853, were: J. Stanley, Supervisor; N. Kelsey, Clerk; J. M. Perkins, Assessor; Austin Gaines, Collector; Isaac Copley and A. W. Buckley, Justices; A. A. Smith, S. McCornack and J. Sirie, Commissioners of Highways, and J. Collinson, Overseer of the Poor.

Its population in 1860 was one thousand and ten; in 1870 it was twelve hundred and nineteen; in 1880 it had fallen to one thousand and seventy-six and in 1890 was nine hundred and ten.

Extracted 14 Dec 2017 by Norma Hass from Annals of Knox County: Commemorating Centennial of Admission of Illinois as a State of the Union in 1818, published in 1921 by the Centennial Historical Association, Knox County, Illinois, The Board of Supervisors, pages 64-65.

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