There are several reasons that have named towns and cities shown in our nation’s maps. It could have been some event or action that had occurred there, a picturesque landmark, a railroad or a company executive labeled a stop. If locals had participated in a war’s battle it was commemorated with its name. Such was the Village of Buena Vista in Buckeye Township in Stephenson County, Illinois.
There are many beautiful views, pretty scenery in our Prairie State, and the rest of the world as a regiment from Buckeye Township could tell you.
Imagine, if you will, the first quarter of the 19th century when Easterners and immigrants decided to strike out for the then “Far West,” now the Mississippi Valley to discover what they experienced. Here, ready to put to use rolling grassy hills interspersed with thick timber, laced with clear springs, winding streams and convenient large rivers for transportation, commerce, mill power, out croppings of limestone waiting for use as building material. It was as if an Eden had been spread before the adventurer, businessman, farmer, settler. That corner of Stephenson County was just one convenient buena vista.
It wasn’t just the pretty view that enticed the established, a town site to which to be drawn. It was that mid-nineteenth century style. It was a familiar, a common thing to plat out a town site that could develop into a formidable business center; in this case water power was the lure.
It was laid out September 19, 1852 by Marcus Montelius who also acted as surveyor although Phillip Reitzell had charge of directing sales and etc. The latter had donated forty acres and would sell the lots. Despite the name chosen for the site, Buena Vista, lots did not sell rapidly nor did business or trade gather. The White Hall Mills took precedence as far as trade was concerned and there was a general store near the mouth of Richland Creek where the saw and grist mills had been situated.
Richland entered Cedar Creek where in 1837 settlement had occurred by an impressive group of Pennsylvanians arrived to set progress in motion because of their money and intellect.
Cedarville and Freeport profiting most. Cedarville’s charming location gave it a picturesque site about which will be told in future.
Near the confluence of Richland and Cedar Creeks there had been a sizeable Indian camp of Potawatomie and Winnebago Native Americans as late as 1840 but report was that their presence never deterred the influx of white settlers who by 1840 began a steady increase in numbers. Neither mill town became prominent.
In the meantime, events as they do were gathering momentum to affect the United States as a whole not just one little corner in the remote far, far west.
Mexico had been making stirring advances here and there on the frontier for some time. It claimed that the Nueces River divided the two nations while America’s President Polk and Texas insisted that the Rio Grande was the boundary. A group of Americans were killed in ensuing turmoil so Polk sent General Zachary Taylor and 2,500 men to avenge the skirmish.
“American blood spilled on American soil,” was Polk’s war message, a battle call for enlistments.
Illinois was committed to send three regiments.
An enthusiastic patriotic rally was held at the courthouse in Freeport. Mass meetings were held to drum up spirits to increase enlistments to commit the country to annex territory Mexico had claimed was theirs.
Buckeye Township enlistees exceeded demand—twenty-five alone from there helped fill the enrollment. They were mustered July 2, 1846. Taking part in the Battle of Buena Vista in Mexico and other battles, the local group returned to Springfield, Illinois June 24, 1847. The war ended that year following the capture of Mexico City.
It wasn’t just any prize that the United States won in the war with Mexico. There was the annexation of Texas and California, New Mexico and Arizona, part of Nevada, Colorado and Utah.
It “rounded” out our southwestern border, reference says, gave us vital harbors on the Pacific coastline while confirming the entire country as English-speaking! The “spoils” of war were unrivaled.
We hear or see little about our Mexican War veterans but surely they are scattered in burial grounds in the neighborhoods they came home to. To tell tales of the western lands or Mexican sights and sites they’d likely never see again. Acknowledge them up there in Buckeye Township!
The mills at Buena Vista, Illinois that persisted or exchanged ownership until 1869 when the business failed and went into foreclosure to an insurance company for $22,000.00 then to a private individual for $18,000.00 when in a few years, the saw mill only standing, burned in 1887. It had been a prestigious trade at one time. And so had Buena Vista at a point in time as echoes of far away battles that had inspired the name of the “pretty view” seen up there in Buckeye Township.