1918 Annals - Maquon Township

From Sketch by Dr. J. L. Knowles

In 1827, ten years subsequent to the original survey of this military tract, William Palmer and family, consisting of his wife and five children, located on the southwest quarter of Section 3, about forty rods southeast of the present limits of Maquon Village. This was doubtless the first white family to settle in Knox county. Mr. Palmer's cabin, made of black hickory poles, stood in the midst of Indian gardens, which were usually deserted by the savages in early spring in favor of better hunting grounds farther west. They returned every fall to remain during the winter, until the year 1832, when, as a result of the Black Hawk War, they took a final leave and that neighborhood knew them no more. Mr. Palmer lived here five or six years, planted an orchard and cultivated the gardens, or patches vacated by the Indians, and, as his cabin stood on the old Galena trail, it afforded a stopping place for the miners going to and from their homes in the southeastern part of the state. A few years later Palmer sold his cabin to Nelson Selby and removed to St. Louis.

The following year Simeon Dolph, the pioneer ferryman of Spoon River, settled on Section 4, building his cabin of logs where the Rathbun house now stands. Owing, however, to a suspicion of his having been implicated in the death of an unknown traveler, he left the community a short time afterwards.

In 1829, Mark Thurman, with his family, settled on Section 25, and one of his daughters, Mrs. Hughs Thurman, of Yates City, is recalled as one of the oldest residents of the county. The next year the families of William Darnell, William Parmer, Thomas Thurman and James Milam settled on Sections 24 and 25. They all came from Highland county, Ohio. Subsequently a small, but regular and ever-increasing stream of settlers took up claims in the township, until in 1837, it was thought a favorable opportunity had arrived for laying out a village, which was called Maquon. This is of Indian origin, signifying spoon. Sapol means river, and as the stream bearing this name assumes somewhat the shape of a spoon from source to mouth, it was called Maquon Sapol, or Spoon River.

This township was one of the chief Indian settlements in the state, and here were congregated families of the Sacs and Foxes and Pottawattomies. Their principal village was located on the present site of Maquon as here the Indian trails centered from all directions in pioneer days. A vast number of Indian relics have been and are still being unearthed in the vicinity, and there are a great many mounds scattered about the neighborhood, the most prominent being the Barbero mound, which is supposed to have been built by the Aborigines and to contain human remains. Maquon is well drained by Spoon River and the many small tributaries that flow into it, fine timberlands abound throughout the township, and about one-half of the surface is underlaid with an excellent quality of bituminous coal. The township organization was completed in 1853, by the election of James M. Foster as Supervisor; Nathan Barbero, Assessor, and James L Loman, Collector.

The first school house in the township was built of logs in 1834 on Section 23, or, to locate it more accurately, about eighty rods west of where James Young's dwelling now stands. The first teacher in that building was Benjamin Brock. The next house to be devoted to educational purposes was erected in 1836 or 1837, and was situated about fifty rods south of Bennington. The first school north of Spoon River was conducted by Miss Mary Fink in a shed adjoining the residence of Peter Jones, a father of John Jones, at one time postmaster. The only reading book at that time was the New Testament. It is claimed by some of Miss Fmk's pupils, that she could read and write, but could not "cipher." However, notwithstanding this defect in her education, it was said that her labors were most commendable and satisfactory.

The township at first contained the three villages of Maquon, Bennington and Rapatee. Bennington was originally laid out in the center of the precinct in 1836 by Elisha Thurman, but it failed to develop sufficient importance to be called a village, although it was the township's polling place until 1858, when the name was changed to Maquon.

The township is justly proud of its unbounded patriotism some of its residents having taken part in three of the nation's most important wars. Among the early pioneers of the township were Philip Rhodes, John W. Walters and John M. Combs, who were soldiers in the War of 1812. Avery Dalton, who lived to a great old age and who has furnished much information of the early history of Maquon township, and Madison Foster, deceased were members of the Fulton County Rangers in the Black Hawk War, The rifle carried by Mr. Foster while in service is now owned by his son, Albert, and is in a good state of preservation, the old flint lock having been replaced by one of more modern manufacture. A full quota of two hundred and fifty soldiers was furnished during the Civil War, many of whom died on the field of battle fighting for the Union, while others still survive and occasionally live over again one of the most exciting epochs in the history of the country.

The first birth and the first death to occur in the township was that of Rebecca, a daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thurman, in 1831. The first marriage took place on Christmas, 1834, the contracting parties being Elisha Thurman and Anna Hall, and the first postmaster was William McGown, who held that position in 1837. The first bridge across Spoon River built in 1839, by Jacob Conser, but it subsequently collapsed by its own weight and was re-built by Mr. Conser the following year. It was located almost directly south of the village of Maquon. The second bridge was erected by Benoni Simpkins, in 1851, a few rods below the site of the present structure, which was built in 1873. The stone work was done by J. L. Burkhalter and John Hall, the wood work by Andy Johnson, and the iron work by Mr. Blakesly, of Ohio. The first distillery in Knox county was situated in Maquon and it furnished the cargo for the first shipment from Galesburg over the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Maquon township is known for its excellent schools and its history is of large interest.

Note: The positive statement by Dr. Knowles regarding the William Palmer family seems definitely to fix Palmer as the earliest settler in the county.

Extracted 15 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 131-133.

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