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1877 History of La Salle County Illinois

Sketch of the Pioneer Settlers - Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids and Fall River, till 1863, were one town, named Grand Rapids, from the Grand Rapids of the Illinois, which washed its northern border. It now embraces the Township 32 N., R. 4. There is a grove of timber along the creek on Sees. 6 and 7, called Ebersol's Grove; the remainder of the town is prairie. Covell creek rises near the southeast corner, and, running northwest, passes out on S. 6. The high land or divides on the east and west sides of the town are quite elevated, and have con. siderable descent to the creek and its branches, in the center of the town, giving good drainage, a diversified surface, and a more than ordinarily picturesque view to a prairie landscape.

The early settlements were nearly all on the only grove in the town, on Sees. 6 and 7.

Henry Hibbard came from Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1827, and made a claim on S. 5, in 1829, on what has been called the Ebersol farm. John McKernan bought the claim of Disney, in 1831, who must have purchased of Hibbard. McKernan settled there in 1831, and sold to Ebersol in 1834.

Joseph Ebersol, with Elizabeth Shuey, his wife, and family, came from Harrisburg, Pa., and in August, 1834, purchased of Mrs. McKernan, her claim on S. 5, and made that his home, till he died in 1873. His wife died in 1870. He was a blacksmith by trade, though a farmer most of his life; he brought his anvil and other tools to Illinois. Improvement was made on his farm in 1828; orchard set in 1830. He left seven children: A. M., (see Fall River); Daniel, (see Ottawa); Albert, in Grand Rapids; Catharine, married Michael Budd; Louisa, married Geo. H. Rugg, now of Ottawa; Helen, married Edward Reed, of Grand Rapids; Samuel was thrown from a horse, and killed, when 33 years old.

Eleazar Hibbard, came from Cincinnati, married a sister of Darius Reed, and settled on S. 6. He separated from his wife, and either abandoned or sold his claim and went to Putnam County.

Benjamin B. Reynolds, and wife, Elma Scofield, from Mifflin County, Penn., in 1835; settled on S. 6. His father. Judge David Reynolds, came with him and assisted in opening his farm, and then returned to Pennsylvania. He still occupies his old farm on Sees. 5 and 6, part being the claim of Hibbard. His children are, Mary A., David, Pascalena, Eleanora, John P., Sarah E., James C, Benjamin B., Jr., and Washington.

Luke Rugg, with his wife, Salome Patch, and family, from Lancaster, Worcester County, Mass., settled on S. 23, in 1839. He was one of the Worcester colony, started by Geo. W. Lee, John D. Thurston, Pyam Jacobs, and others. Mr. Rugg, at the time of settlement, was four miles from timber and three miles from neighbors, and after a residence of ten years neither timber nor neighbors had approached any nearer, except a grove of locust about his place, known over the county as Rugg's Grove.

Sick of seclusion from society and despairing of the settlement of that region, Mr. Rugg moved to Ottawa in 1849, where he died. His children are: Lewis, who came with his father's family in 1839; married Sophia Dimmick; lived a few years in Ottawa, and is now in Pontiac. George H., lived with his father, till he moved to Ottawa, in 1849. He invented and manufactured Rugg's Harvester, for several years a popular and successful machine. He is now manufacturing furniture in Ottawa. Charles went to Iowa.

John Anderson, a native of Ireland, came from Clinton County, N. Y., here in 1837; settled, with a family, on S. 6. . In 1849 he mysteriously disappeared, and was never heard from afterward.

The prairie region of Grand Rapids, after 1850, rapidly settled, and the region so long occupied by Mr. Rugg, and him alone, was, soon after he left it, teeming with an active and well-to-do population. It is related that the settlement of that town commenced at the north end and progressed south. The town was soon made a school district, and a schoolhouse built in the northwest corner. Soon after, that district was limited to four sections, named No. 1, and the remainder made district No. 2, and a good house built; that district was then limited to four sections in the northeast corner, and the balance of the town made district No. 3, which at once voted a tax to build a school-house. This process was continued till the last four sections in the southeast corner of the town, having helped build all the school-houses in the other eight districts, had to build their own without outside help. The houses were all very fine ones. They were built by a tax on the real estate in the district, and by a vote of the people who lived in all those instances mostly in the four sections, which in the end composed the district, and as the remainder of the territory taxed was nearly all owned by speculators, with no one residing on it, the voters were very generous in voting a tax, or as some called it, "salting the specu lators."

One of those speculators who owned three sections in the last district, complained of being legally fleeced. He said, " I have paid a liberal tax to build nine different school-houses, better ones than are usually seen in older sections of the country, and now three men settled on the one section I do not own, vote a tax of ten or twelve hundred dollars, three-fourths of which I have to pay. These Western men are ardent supporters of education." This last statement of the building of school-houses may have been an exaggeration in this instance, but similar cases did occur, and forcibly show the nature of the contest waged between the settlers and those called land speculators. And where the settlers made the laws and executed them, they frequently had the advantage.

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