The first habitation for civilized man in the neighborhood of Hennepin, or anywhere in Putnam Co., was erected at a very early day—probably before 1825—by Gordon S. Hubbard, a trader in the employ of the American Fur Company, which at that time had trading posts among the Indians in many parts of the Western country. His rude log cabin stood on the river bank near the head of the island, some two miles above Hennepin. Mr. Hubbard was not a permanent resident there, his business requiring him to travel frequently from point to point; and it was soon afterwards occupied by a Frenchman named Robinson, also an Indian trader, with a native wife and half-breed children. In 1829, Mr. Thomas Hartzell, a Pennsylvanian of German descent, who had been trading up and down the river for several seasons, built another log cabin near the bank within a little distance and north of Hennepin, and resided there for several years. In a year or two a house was built about a quarter of a mile above him by Thomas Gallaher, Sr., and a mile east of him was the residence of Nathan Skeel, another early settler.— Wm. H. Ham, George Ish, George B. Willis, and one or two others, were also residing in the vicinity when Putnam county was organized.
The steps which led to the selection of the present site of Hennepin for the county seat have already been mentioned. It was surveyed by order of the County Commissioners in August and September, 1831, by Ira Ladd, Sr., on Congress land. Twelve blocks only were laid off at first, but eight additional blocks on the south side were shortly after ordered surveyed.* Sales of lots took place the same year, the County Clerk being instructed to advertise them in the newspapers of Springfield, Galena, and Terre Haute, Ind., and also by handbills, if expedient. A considerable number were sold, at prices varying from $11.68 to $87.86 each. Reservations were made for a "Centre Square" and "Court Square."
*Additions have been made to Hennepin as follows: 16 blocks Jan. 1st, 1834, by the County Commissioners; Ware's addition, by Ralph Ware, May 2d, 1836, with a reservation of "Hanover Square" for school or church purposes; one 16th May, 1836, by Wm. M. Stewart and Joel Hargrove; Durleys' addition, May 17, 1836, by James Durley and Williamson Durley, (vacated July 17,1841,); Southern addition, a large one, May 21, 1836, by B. M. Hayes, G. T. Gorham, James Davies, John Ware, and Lewis Durley, (vacated in part 1847-8,); Western addition, a small one, by Thos. Gallaher, Jr., and Eliza Ladd, Nov. 30, 1837.
In July, 1831, Messrs. J. & W. Durley came to Hennepin from St. Louis with a small stock of goods, and built the first house upon the town site, which they moved into the following winter.* Several houses, most of them log cabins, were put up during that year and the next, including the block-house on the east side of Front street, erected during the Black Hawk war, which stood for nearly ten years after. By the close of 1838 the place contained eleven families, and about as many houses. Included in the population were more than forty single men—bachelors and widowers. Several small stores were kept there by J. & W. Durley, Thos. Hartzell, Gardner T. Gorham, and others; and taverns, by Rosswell Blanchard and Josiah Seybold.**
*Hennepin Herald for June 14th, 1845.
**The rates for tavern-keepers in Putnam county, established about this time by the County Court, were as follows: Horse, one night, 25 cents; same, one feed, 12 1/2; same, twenty four hours' keeping, 37 1/2. Man, one meal, 18 3/4; same, one night's lodging, 6 1/4. Whiskey, one gill, 6 1/4, one half pint, 12 1/2, one pint, 18 3/4. Brandy, rum, wine, and gin, one gill, 12 1/2, one half pint, 25, one pint, 50. These rates were raised a little, and the price of liquors left unprovided for, in 1835.
Hennepin was the head-quarters of the Putnam county rangers during the Black Hawk war, where they met for enlistment and discharge; and was once appointed by Gov. Reynolds a place of rendezvous for a portion of the Illinois volunteers. Such incidents of its history as relate to this period will be found under a preceding head.
The town progressed slowly., as the surrounding country filled up with settlers. In 1836 its population numbered not far from two hundred and fifty. On the 13th of February, 1837, the town was incorporated under the general act, twenty-six voting in favor of incorporation, and three against it. Jos. J. Holt was the first President of the Board of Trustees; Hugh N. Schooler, Clerk.
Hennepin participated to some extent in the speculating mania of 1836-7. A number of additions to the town were laid off, and a "Bridge Company" was formed, which was incorporated March 2d, 1837, being "authorized and empowered to erect a bridge over the Illinois river, at Hennepin, which shall be of sufficient elevation to freely admit the passage of steamboats and other vessels navigating said river at any stage of water." This project totally failed.
In May, 1837, the "Hennepin Journal," the first newspaper in Putnam county, made its appearance. It subsisted until December of the following year, when its valedictory was made. About this time the first number of the sixteenth volume of the "Genius of Universal Emancipation," an abolition sheet which had been published in several States, was printed in Hennepin. Owing to certain threatening indications, it was thought advisable to issue no more numbers there; and it was thenceforth printed in Lowell, La Salle Co. Several papers have since been published in Hennepin, but generally for limited periods. The one now existing is the "Putnam Co. Standard."
In 1844, Hennepin had a considerable commerce, over 200,000 bushels of grain being shipped that year. A heavy capital was invested in the various branches of business then engaged in.*
In 1856, the citizens of Hennepin were much exercised by a project for a Railroad from Bureau Junction to Fort Wayne, Ind., crossing the river at their town. The matter was agitated in various way; but carried to no practical result. Hennepin was also expected to be a point on the Illinois River Railroad, incorporated 1853, but not yet constructed.
In June, 1857, the population of Hennepin was 711 — 393 males, 313 females, 5 colored. Increase during the previous eighteen months estimated at 200. The amount of capital invested by prominent business men was $579,500. There were two public schools, with 80 or 90 scholars; two select schools, with 45 scholars ; five dry goods, seven grocery, and three drug stores; two hotels; a distillery in operation, and another going up; with a number of brick stores, a flouring mill, and other buildings in progress.** The town has since advanced but little.
West Hennepin was laid off in February, 1836, by Lewis Durley, Anthony S. Needham, and G. T. Gorham, on the bank of the river opposite Hennepin. It once contained several large warehouses and dwellings; but is now almost deserted, most of the town property being in "water lots" at certain seasons.
*Hennepin Herald, June 14, 1845.
Magnolia is situated in the extreme south-east corner of the county, 13 miles from Hennepin. It is the oldest settled town in Putnam. In the fall of 1826, claims were made within a mile north of the site, by Capt. Wm. Haws, James W. Willis, and Stephen D. Willis, who are believed to have been the first to penetrate that part of the wilderness with the intention of settling. The next year John Knox arrived, and located upon the site of Magnolia. His second house, built in the summer of 1829, is still standing. The town was laid out by Thomas Patterson May 23d, 1836, by which time the settlement in its vicinity had become somewhat dense. It received its title from the beautiful Southern tree of that name, so called from its large leaves (magna folia.) A large addition, extending almost around the original plat, was made in December of the same year by Mr. Patterson, who made reservations for a burying-ground, church, and school house. Another addition was made Aug. 16th, 1842, by Wm. Boman and Thos. Patterson; and a moderately large one on the 28th of July, 1857, by Capt. Haws.
The progress of the town has kept pace with the improvement of the adjacent country. By the opening of 1859, it had attained sufficient size to make an organization for local government advisable; and it was accordingly incorporated as a town, a large majority voting in favor of the measure. On the 22d of January, Elias Wright, John F. Thornton, N. H. Letts, Geo. W. Ditman, and A. Reynolds, were elected Trustees. At the first meeting of the Board, Mr. Reynolds, was elected President, and K. E. Rich, Clerk. A prohibitory liquor law was early adopted. Magnolia has exhibited considerable enterprise in the manufacture of agricultural implements, which was commenced in 1844. It is claimed that the first reapers made in the State were manufactured there. Threshers, reapers, and corn-shellers in large quantity are now turned out by the establishments in operation at this point.
Granville was surveyed April 7th, 1836, for Felix Margrave. A small addition was made Oct. 18th, 1858, by Thos. Ware, James Parr, Wm. Smith, Clarissa Ware, Andrew E. Hayslip, and Margaret Hayslip. The town has a beautiful prairie site, five miles east of Hennepin. It was named from Granville in Massachusetts, at the suggestion of Mr. Thomas Ware, who was the first settler in the place, having emigrated thither in 1833, and built the first house there the next year. At that time the prairie westward was an unbroken wilderness for many miles.— A few cabins were put up in the vicinity in 1834, and during the summer after the town was founded, two more houses were erected upon the site—one by Mr. Ware and one by Jas. Laughlin. The town has since made steady progress in proportion to the increase of population in the farming region about it; and is now a flourishing village of several hundred inhabitants. It was incorporated under the general act on the 17th of March, 1859, and an election for town officers held in April, when John J. Delatour, Thomas Ware, Hiram Colby, Harvey B. Leeper, and Wm. McKnight, were chosen Trustees. Under the new organization, the corporation limits enclose a tract of land a mile square.
Movements were very early made in behalf of religion and education. Ground was broken for an Academy building in the spring of 1836, to erect which a subscription had been started a year or two before. A charter was obtained from the Legislature during the following winter, in which Thomas Hartzell, Daniel Shepherd, William Paul, Nathan Gould, James Mears, James G. Laughlin, Ralph Ware, Felix Margrave, and Benj. R. Shelden, are named as Trustees of the institution. The building went on to completion without serious delay; and the school was set in operation in December, 1837. Rev. Otis Fisher was the first teacher. The Academy organization was continued with success for many years, until 1859, when the property was transfered to the school district. The building is now occupied for a public school, on the graded plan.
The first church in Granville was organized by the Baptists, in 1837. The Presbyterian church dates from April 27th, 1839, when it was organized by Revs. Elliot of Lowell, Dickey of Union Grove, and Spaulding of Peoria. It began with 27 members, and there were many admissions during the year. Rev. H. G. Pendleton was the first Pastor.
Mount Palatine occupies a situation on the eastern border of the county, six miles north of Magnolia. Its buildings form a prominent object upon the prairie, and command a wide view in every direction. Improvement was commenced at this place by Christopher Winters, in 1839, when the country for miles around was still unbroken prairie. He began the cultivation of a farm; and about the same time, being desirous to have a seminary of learning in his neighborhood, and believing that an eligible location, he donated eighty acres of ground for educational purposes. Upon this tract Mount Palatine was laid off in 1839, and a number of lots sold. The unsold property, however, was held by Mr. Winters until an act of incorporation was obtained, (March 3d, 1845,) and the Academy became empowered to hold property, when it was transferred. By this time, many settlers had arrived, most of them emigrants from the towns of Leverett and Wendell, in Massachusetts. Among the early comers were Elders Otis Fisher and Thomas Powell, Isaac Woodbury, James Curtis, Hiram Larned, Ephraim Reynolds, William Johnson, Joel Reynolds, George and Nathan Kingsbury, and others. The town grew at first with some rapidity, and, being located on the State road from Peoria to Ottawa, it enjoyed for a number of years a considerable income from travelers and visitors, as well as from students. The construction of the Illinois Central Railroad diverted the travel; and the school having gone down also, Mount Palatine has made little progress for several years past. The charter of incorporation named Isaac Woodbury, Thomas Powell, Otis Fisher, Hiram Larned, Christopher Winters, Wm. Johnson, Wm. Johnson, Jr., Nathan Kingsbury, and Peter Howe, Trustees of the Academy, which was under the auspices of the Baptist denomination. Subscriptions were promptly set on foot, and a large building was erected in 1845 and the ensuing year, at an expense, of over $3,000. A school was begun therein in December, 1846, under the instruction of Rev. Otis Fisher. It was continued as an Academy, attracting at times a large number of students from different sections of the country, until the winter of 1850-1, when the Legislature granted a new charter, giving the institution collegiate privileges, and changing its title to that of "Judson College." In 1853, Rev. Chas. Cross was elected its first President. A few years after, it fell into difficulties, and was sold under the hammer of the Sheriff. It is now in the hands of the Catholics, from whom the people of Mount Palatine are making a vigorous effort to set it free.
Caledonia is a small country town on the Ox Bow Prairie, between three and four miles west of Magnolia. It is in the midst of an old settled region, and the first post-office in the county existed in this vicinity. There were three houses upon its site in July, 1836, when the town was laid out by Asahel Hannum, Jervis Gaylord and Obed Graves.— Several blocks in the town-plat were vacated in 1841, by Legislative enactment. It reached its present size about fifteen years ago, with the exception of two or three houses. A small Methodist church was erected near it in 1854, and a Baptist church in 1857. The town now occupies about ten acres of ground, and contains a population of some seventy-five persons, with two stores, a blacksmith's shop, and a wheelwright's establishment. The Ox Bow post-office is located there.
Florid was founded by Wm. M. Stewart and Aaron Thompson, on the 10th of December, 1835. It is situated about three miles south-east of Hennepin, where there is the smallest prospect of ever building up a considerable town. It attained some growth, however, at an early day. In 1841, there were 27 buildings in it (more than are now standing upon its site), and a number were in progress. It had a tavern, a store, steam-mill, and six or eight shops for manufacturing. At present it is much dilapidated, and exhibits no business activity. One of the handsomest and best country school houses in the county stands in the immediate vicinity. A small addition was made to the town many years ago, by W. White.
Putnam was the name of a "paper town" staked off Sept. 3d, 1835, on the prairie two miles northwest of Magnolia, and about the same distance from Caledonia. A whole quarter Secwas laid off, the streets being named after Washington, Lafayette, Madison, La Salle, and other heroes of history. It once contained a house or two, which have long since been removed; and nothing remains to mark the site of this thing of speculation.
Snachwine.—About a dozen lots have been surveyed within a few months at Snachwine Station, on the Peoria and Bureau Valley Railroad, in that strip of the county west of the river. A number of buildings, including two stores and a post-office, stand upon the lots or in the vicinity; and a town will no doubt grow up at this point.
Source: History of Putnam and Marshall Counties authored by Henry Allen Ford, published in 1860