Black Hawk Township, Illinois

Black Hawk Township, Illinois

Derives its name from the noted chief of the Sac and Fox Indians, who for many years had his home within the present limits of South Rock Island Township. This township originally was full six miles square, with the exception of a few hundred acres cut off from the northwest corner by the Mississippi River, and with Rock River flowing from the east- nearly through its center. Afterwards the township was divided and Rock River became the northerly line of Black Hawk Township, and that part of the original township north of the river was named South Rock Island Township. The first marriage license in the township was issued on August 22, 1833, to Benjamin Goble and Barbara Vandruff, both now asleep in the beautiful Chippiannock Cemetery. They lived for many years on Big Island. Joshua Vandruff was an early pioneer and lived on what was then called Lowell Island. His sons, Joshua, Jr., John, Henry, Jacob and James, all had farms on Big Island, where they lived for many years. Other early settlers in the township were William Dickson and Col. John Dickson, the latter for many years justice of the peace; James Johnston, G. W. Heflin, James Dickson, Ira Whitehead, N. D. Bradley, Wm. Young, Daniel Pinkley, David Brownlee, Garret Davis, John Bulley, Morgan Fergurson, A. L. Buck and N. Bruner. The township has an abundant supply of coal and wood and is traversed by two railroads-the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific to Peoria, and the Cable and Mercer County Branch. The Peoria line was built in 1854. It also has an electric car line, connecting Milan, Black Hawk’s Watch Tower, Rock Island, Moline and Davenport. The celebrated Hennepin Canal, connecting the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River, is completed through this township. It also has one of the finest water powers in the state and some time it will, no doubt, be more largely utilized. At one time there were three paper mills on Rock River and two large flouring mills, one owned by James Johnston and one by the Sears company. All were consumed by fire. There are now two churches in this town-ship and eight school houses. No other township has better educational facilities. Martin Whistler was the first merchant to open a general store in the township. The stars and stripes were first hoisted here in the summer of 1805, by Lieutenant Pike. The first land entered was on October 19, 1829, by William T. Brasher, covering the location now occupied by the cemetery. Black Hawk Township comprises a section noted not only for the beauty of its landscape, but also for being an exceedingly prosperous farming community. The bottom land is very rich and produces immense crops of corn, hay, potatoes and small grain, while the finest apples, peaches, grapes and berries are raised in large abundance, and all find ready market close at hand. It is not surpassed-perhaps not equaled by any other section of the state, or the great west. Farmers, as a rule, are well-to-do, prosperous and happy, and a happy home amidst such surroundings means an extension of life. The south side of the township has a line of beautiful bluffs and are made practical from being underlaid with a vein of most excellent coal, from four to six feet thick. With rich soil, beautiful scenery, cheap fuel, clear running streams, extensive water power, transportation by rail, both steam and electric, by river and canal; nearby markets and a healthful climate; what more can be desired, and what is there lacking to make it an ideal farming community? With farms paid for, and carrying an unquestioned value of $100 to $120 an acre, and with good health, why should not our farmers be contented and consequently happy.

Lowell Was located on the north shore of Lowell Island-now Vandruff’s Island. It was surveyed in June, 1844, and plat approved by county commissioners the second of September, 1844, and filed of record the 16th of October, 1844. The plat was executed for Joshua Vandruff, Zadoc Kalbaugh and Thomas Patterson, and was four blocks long, east and west, and three blocks wide, facing north on the main branch of the Rock River, about where the first present north wagon bridge crosses the river. Regularly named streets were Kalbaugh, Patterson and Mill running north to the dam. Lemuel Andrews kept the first store. It was short lived. An old canal was built here in the early forties, to surmount the Rock River rapids; for the construction of which the government appropriated $100,000 in gold. Foot prints still show where it existed.Village Of Milan On the south shore of Rock River, in Black Hawk Township, stands Milan, deriving a thrifty trade from her adjacent farming country. Cheap coal and abundant water power make Milan essentially a manufacturing point, though sad to relate, a nemeses has apparently pursued every establishment ever erected there. Milan was originally called Camden, and was laid out by William Dickson in 1843. In 1848 the name was changed to Camden Mills, on account of there being another Camden in Schuyler County. In 1870 the name was changed to Milan. The place was incorporated as a village in 1865. When white settlers first arrived here, the famous Sac village of Black Hawk stood on the opposite side of the river. A colony of Kickapoos occupied the south shore below the town. In 1828 Rinnah Wells came here and settled among the Indians, who did not leave their village till 1831. Joshua Vandruff came the year following. For two or three years these pioneers and Indians lived together, and had their friendly intercourse and their disputes and quarrels. Mr. Vandruff built where Sears’ Mill now is, and lived there until he built his house on the island which bears his name, and where he died and was buried about 1859. His remains were afterwards taken up and removed to Chippiannock Cemetery. Mr. Wells died suddenly in 1852, being found dead in his buggy on the road. William Dickson, the founder of the town, was the father of Colonel George Dickson, for many years justice of the peace in Milan. He was born in Newburg, N. Y., March 27, 1783. His father was a Captain in the Revolutionary war. His grandfather and grandmother were murdered by the Indians and Butler’s Rangers in the famous Cherry Valley massacre. After the Revolution the father of William Dickson moved to Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, where William was brought up till he was eighteen, when he moved to a farm in Erie County, Pennsylvania, near the shore of Lake Erie. Here he was married and became quite a noted man of his time, being at one time a member of the Board of Canal Commissioners of the State of Pennsylvania. He raised a family of nine children, seven sons and two daughters. In the spring of 1834 he visited this portion of Illinois on horseback, and returned home in the fall. In 1836 he returned here, and was one of the proprietors of the famous “Rock Island City” scheme. In the spring of 1837 he brought his family here, and resided on the site of the old Sac town till 1867, when he sold to D. B. Sears and moved to Milan, where he died November 25, 1869. Colonel John Dickson was born in Erie County, Pennsylvania, February 6, 1813, and came to Milan in 1844. The Dickson and Brunot Flouring Mill was built in 1843 by James Dickson and Felix R. Brunot. In 1846 Howard and Weeks built a saw mill just below the above. In 1848 it was converted into a flouring mill and carding machine by James Dickson and N. D. Bradley. In 1843 Joshua Vandruff and Zadoc Calbaugh built a saw and flouring mill at the north end of the dam on Vandruff’s Island. The flouring mill was struck by lightning and burned in 1857; the saw mill became dilapidated and fell into disuse, and finally rotted down about 1870. Today Milan has no manufactories to speak of, and serves simply as a village trading point for the farming community. The glory of her earlier days, the immense investments and the rugged and active life which once made for Milan a reputation long to be remembered, the factories and shops which once represented upwards of a million and a-half of dollars-all have become a memory and constitute a ground for reminiscence only.


Township Organization 


Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

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