Port Byron, Illinois

Port Byron, Illinois

In the year 1826 two brothers, Robert and Thomas Syms, located on the present site of Port Byron, and established a wood yard for supplying cord wood to steamboats on the Mississippi River. Their location soon came to be known as Syms’ Wood Yard. They were among the first white settlers in this locality, other residents being principally Sac and Fox Indians. During the year 1828 Archibald Allen, Conrad Leek, George W. Harlan and others came with their families and settled in this township. Archibald Allen traded with the Indians, buying skins and furs. He was afterwards appointed supervisor of roads, was elected to the office of constable, and from 1833 to 1834 was United States mail carrier between Fort Armstrong and Galena. He was also postmaster, the office being kept in his own house, which was located just north of Syms’ Wood Yard. Prior to its removal in 1836 it was known as Canaan. Mr. Allen built the first frame house between Quincy and Galena. In 1830, Thomas Hubbard, H. East and Britton arrived and became residents of the new settlement. During this year a son was born to Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Leek, which was the first white child born in the township. In the year 1831 a son of Geo. W. Harlan died, this being the first death in the township. During the year 1832 Edmund A. Philleo was killed, the result of a quarrel over claims and possession of land. Mrs. A. Allen was the first adult person to die. The first school was taught in 1833. New settlers who came in 1834 were Walter Phillips, Geo. R. Allen, H. M. Smith and Presley Quick. The next year, 1835, Samuel Allen, William McKenney and a Mr. Hathaway came with their families. Samuel Allen kept a tavern in a double log house. His wife, Aunt Candace, as she was known, was a good cook, and they were well patronized. This year the government surveyed and subdivided the public lands. In 1836 the arrivals were Moses Bailey, Rufus B. Chase, Nathaniel Belcher, Jeremiah H. Lyford, Addison N. Philleo, Astimus Philleo and his daughter Lucretia. R. B. Chase manufactured the first white lime, for which Port Byron became noted. About this time a town was platted and Port Byron became a point of considerable business activity. George S. Moore erected a store building; the post office at Canaan was closed and opened at Port Byron, with Nathaniel Belcher postmaster. Mr. Belcher built a hotel and the first frame dwelling. Dr. Jeremiah H. Lyford, a graduate of Dartmouth College, was the first physician; his practice extended over a large territory, both in Illinois and Iowa. Colonel Eads was a resident here for a time, living with Archibald Allen prior to taking up his residence on “The Heights,” at this time known as LeClaire, Iowa. His son was the famous Jas. B. Eads, also living at LeClaire during the late forties and early fifties, removing from there to St. Louis. He became widely known as a builder of boats for the United States government, constructor of the St. Louis bridge and the jetties at the mouth of the Mississippi River. On August 1, 1836, the first election was held for the selection of representatives in the state legislature and in congress. On November 7th the first presidential election was held, at which eleven votes were cast, all for Martin Van Buren. This is a school town. The Port Byron Academy is a flourishing institution, under the management of the Congregational church; it has close relationship with Beloit College. The public schools are on a high order and are recognized for their good work.

Village Of Port Byron

The village of Port Byron was incorporated in February, 1856. The village was laid out in 1836, by Samuel Allen, Dr. P. Gregg, Nathaniel Belcher and Moses Bailey; the land was held in common by them. On the land was but one log house and a small log store. The store was started by Walter Phillips. Shortly after the site was laid out Nathaniel Belcher built a frame store, and put in a stock of general merchandise, associating with him Mr. Hambaugh. The first grist mill was erected in the spring of 1849 by T. G. Temple and N. Dorrance. It was run by steam, and had one set of burrs for wheat and one set for corn. The first school was held in the old log store of Samuel Allen in 1838, Harriet Dodge being teacher. The first school house was of brick, and was built in 1864. In addition to the public school, an Academy was erected in 1883, and is in a flourishing condition. The village is situated on the Mississippi River, and its railroad facilities are the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railway.  


Township Organization 


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

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