Town 9 north, range 8 east, took its name from the creek which flows through it. Kickapoo is an Indian term and signifies red bud. The stream was so named from the abundance of that shrub that grew along its banks. The township dates its settlement from 1834. John L. Wakefield, now of Radnor, claims to have been the first settler, in that year. Francis Pond. George O. Kingsley, came to the township in the Fall of 1834, and kept bach, and shook with the ague in a cabin on the farm where Mrs. Mary Kingsley now lives. John Coyle and Israel Pinckney came the same Fall. The former settled on the farm now owned by Joseph Voorhees, and was afterwards one of the proprietors of Kickapoo village. Mr. Pinckney built his cabin on S. E. of Sec. 12. He came from New York city. The Kingsleys were natives of Vermont. They both married and reared families, and died in the township, George in 1869, and Francis in 1873. Others soon followed these first pioneers. Samuel Dinnon came from Connecticut in 1838 and located on Sec. 10, where he still resides. Gideon Thomas, father of John A., came to the township in 1844 and settled where J. A. Thomas now lives.
Sale's Mill. -
In 1834 William Hale, then sheriff of Oswego county, N. Y., being-West on official duty, visited the Kickapoo valley and selected a mill site at what is now the upper end of Pottstown. He returned home, resigned his office, and in the Spring of 1835 came back accompanied with George Greenwood, John Easton, and Waldo Holmes, and erected a saw mill on the site that year. The following Winter material was prepared, and in the Spring of 183b' a flouring mill was raised. He brought the necessary machinery and his family by wagon from Albany, N. Y., that Summer, and the mill was completed and set to running in the Spring of 1837. It was visited by settlers for a radius of thirty miles, and was crowded with business. The water supply giving out in 1848, steam was substituted, and Mr. Hale controlled the property until his death, in 1859. The mill was converted into a distillery, which was destroyed by fire in 1867.
Mr. Hale donated a tract of land for burial, religious, and school purposes, and erected a small house thereon. A Rev. Mr. Beggs was one of the first preachers to visit the Hale's Mill settlement. He held services there and organized a Methodist society, which flourished a number of years, and at one time contained one hundred and fifty members, but is now extinct.
The village plat was laid off in July, 1836. The plat was entered for record in the name of John Coyle. The town site is in the southwest quarter of Sec. 6. About one-half of this quarter section was laid off in town lots with a public square in the center. The first house on the village site was erected by Mr. Jenkins on the site now occupied by Valentine Schlenk's hotel property, long known as the Kickapoo House. The original building is included in the hotel building. It was designed for a storeroom, and was used for that purpose for a short time by Mr. Jenkins, when additions were made for hotel purposes.
The honor of opening the first store is generally accredited to Richard F. Seabury, now of Peoria.
At one time, until the railroads surrounded it, there was a good trade at this ancient village.
This is a mining and railway station on the Peoria and Galesburg division of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, and is located on section nineteen. By rail it is fourteen miles, and by wagon road, ten miles, west from Peoria. It is not a regularly laid out town, but more of a mining hamlet. The houses are built with but little regard to the points of the compass. The first man to settle here was Isaac Jones, who built a cabin on the side of the hill, very nearly where Wilkinson & Wantling's coal shaft is operated. He died in 1840.
The next house on the ground covered by the Station was built by Conrad Beck, in 1851.
The school-house was built in 1865.
E. D. Edwards opened the first store, in 1851. He died in 1857. In 1876, Wilkinson & Edwards opened a general store which still continues.
In 1853, two years after he commenced business at the Station, E. D. Edwards built a steam flouring mill here, which was successfully conducted until 1866 or '67, when it' was destroyed by fire. It has never been rebuilt.
In 1860, Dr. Wilkinson commenced buying coal bearing lands in the vicinity of the Station. He bought from time to time, as such lands were offered, until he now owns nearly 1,000 acres of coal bearing land adjacent to the Station.
In December, 1876, Dr. Wilkinson had completed arrangements for a thorough development of his mining interests, and associated Isaac Wantling, an experienced miner, with him in their management. Active operations were commenced in January, 1877, and successfully prosecuted; they possess a capacity for supplying twenty car-loads of coal per day, which can be indefinitely increased. There are two drift veins of four and five feet in thickness that are easily accessible, on the Wilkinson lands, the extent of which is unknown. Each one of these drifts, as far as worked, will yield 1,000 bushels of coal to each square rod, or 40,000 tons to the acre.
Temperance Reform Club.-
The Red Ribbon Reform movement was inaugurated in February, 1879, and at the close of the year the membership numbered about one hundred.
The population of the place is about one hundred and fifty. School is maintained from six to nine months each year. S. S. Edwards, postmaster; A. W. Thayer, railroad and express agent.
In 1851, Miss Sarah Smith taught the first school at Hale's Mill, occupying a cooper shop as the school-house. Previous to that what pupils there were went to the Kingsley school-house some distance west. A few locust trees are now the only relic. to mark the location of the old school-house.
In 1840, Mr. Samuel Dimon, who came to the county and neighborhood in 1838, hauled the logs for the first school-house erected in what is now district No. 1. Miss Harriet Hitchcock is believed to have been the first teacher in that first school-house.
Mr. Dimon subsequently wielded the birch and ferrule as teacher for two or three quarters in the same building. A fine brick structure now takes in its place.
Besides this school-house, the school-houses at Kickapoo, Edwards Station and Potts-town, which are elsewhere mentioned, there are four other districts, making a total of eight districts in the township.
The first school-house in district No. 5, was located on the northwest quarter of Sec. 9, a frame structure, was erected in the Spring of 1851, at a total cost $260. The first school in this building commenced in the Fall of 1851, H. Gregory teacher. This school-house served the purposes of the district until 1877, when the present frame structure was erected on the same ground at a cost of $510.
The school-house in district No. 6 is situated on the southeast quarter of Sec. 16. It is a frame building and was erected about August, 1860, at a cost of $300. The first school commenced in the Fall of 1860 - a man named Pehamer, teacher.
The school-house in district No. 7, is located on the northeast quarter of Sec. 33. It is a frame building, was erected in the Summer of 1867, and cost $500. Miss H. Pritchard taught the first school that Winter.
The school-house in district No. 8, is a frame building and located on the northwest quarter of Sec. 13. It was erected in the Summer of 18H7, at a cost of $528. The first school was taught in the Winter of 1867-8, by Miss Hattie C. Hamison.
Coal Mines and Mining. -
At the site of the old mill there is now quite a village, whose inhabitants derive their subsistance from mining the coal that abounds in such measureless profusion beneath the hills of the Kickapoo.
The first coal mining done at that point was by Jacob Darst about 1849 or '50. In miner's parlance, he began "stripping" about that date and continued it about five years. Frederick Ruprecht and John Woolenscraft purchased from him some bluff land and commenced "drifting" the same year. In 1851, Ruprecht bought his partner's interest and operated the mine two years, when he sold out to Anderson Grimes and Judge Bryant; they in turn sold out to Samuel Potts, who has been the heaviest operator since that time. By reason of his large mining interests, the place has become generally known as Pottstown. Henry Vicary operates a mine which was opened about 1850, and known as the Vicary lower vein. Mr. Potts and Mr. Vicary, who represent the leading coal banks, are both Englishmen and had mining experience in their native country. Until within the past two years the product of these mines was exclusively sold at the Peoria market, and hauled by wagons; but having constructed a tramway to his mine, Mr. Potts ships by rail to various points abroad. The supply is thought to be inexhaustible. Parker & Clifford operate a mine, employing eight men to whom they pay $5,184 per annum.
has been chiefly quilt up by Mr. Potts for the use of his operatives and their families, since 1869. In 1875 Mr. Potts began the manufacture of brick, which has since been quite an important business in the hamlet. William H. McLaughlin opened the first store in the place in March, 1872. Having changed hands several times, the business is now conducted by Joseph Middleton.
The Red Ribbon Club. -
The temperance reform movement reached Pottstown in August, 1878. It met with a hearty encouragement by nearly all the most influential citizens; a club was organized and is in a healthy condition.
The Patrons of Husbandry-
have two quite flourishing lodges in Kickapoo. No. 446 was chartered May 16, 1873, and was organized with thirty members. In the Fall of 1S79 the membership was thirty-five and the lodge in active working order. It holds stock in the Peoria grange store.
Orange Grange, No. 848.-
this grange was organized, with about forty members, January 10, 1874. It now numbers over fifty. The lodge owns a hall in school district No. 1. Meetings are held weekly - Saturday - in the Summer, and semi-monthly in Winter.
The Big Hollow Butter and Cheese Factory Company -
was organized in 1878, with a capital stock of $15,000, and erected a building 30 by 60 feet. It began operations in May, 1878, and has a capacity of 10,000 pounds of milk, or 1,000 pounds of cheese per day.
Source: The History of Peoria County, Illinois, Johnson & Company, Chicago, 1880.