“Top Priority, Our early history is dominated by the specific needs for wood and water, the people striving to make a living in hopes of opportunity and to expose their philosophies of life. From 1835 to the 1850’s they needed wood and water therefore they took to the wooded areas or groves which were near small streams or springs…….”
Groves in Genesee and Clyde townships in Whiteside county were numerous which was told in part in last week’s PDQ Me, much in the words of the late Fay Landis and Wayne Bastian who compiled a county history in 1967, Landis’ reminiscences of that neighborhood confirm that fact that wood and water, indeed, were vital. And though groves no longer are essential for survival, they remain in our consciousness by the remaining place names, and are a reminder of the past...Chambers Grove, Franklin Grove, Hickory Grove, Cherry Grove, Round Grove, Union Grove, Prospect Grove (once called Sight Grove!) Maple Grove and many more.
Whiteside county has a wide variety of landscapes such as the low rolling prairies, rocky bluffs, peat beds, some wetlands that were always enumerated in the early histories, rocky soils where, as Landis remarked, were often the site of Indian camps and their burial mounds.
Once when he was a boy he and his father and a neighbor, Mr. Stinemeyer, were hunting ginseng and came across four burial mounds and two altars. They were recognized because they were not natural features of the terrain, the mounds being built up layer by layer as deaths occurred. Mounds instead of beneath the earth. Some of these can be seen at Albany, Illinois. Fay Landis did not tell of the locations where he saw those in the upper tier of townships because he did not want them rifled or relics scattered or stolen as they’ve been at the Thomson Causeway mounds a while back.
An altar, pointing to the native American spiritual life, was much smaller than a mound, only six by four feet wide. As he took a picture with his camera, he claimed there was definitely a hazy cloud adrift over the altar, the afterlife manifesting itself, as important to him as his own worship.
Wood and water, the essential needs of early settlers were answered in beautiful Whiteside County. And, although we didn’t nearly cover all the groves nor can we tell all the important water benefits, we will give you a few here.
A good sized stream, Rock Creek, that rises in central Carroll County which also has a township named for its source, winds its way through Carroll into Whiteside where it empties into Rock River, an important stream in northwest Illinois. Wayne Bastian claims there are three branches of Rock Creek, one of the Elkhorn and Spring Creek whose fountain-head appears in section 10, Genesee township. One branch of Rock Creek was later renamed Little Spring Creek.
Numerous large springs were/are a feature of Whiteside, some of them being mineral springs, several of them exploited for their “healing characteristics.” Spring Valley Road, cross county, reminds us of the past where a resort was constructed and used for health concerns and for entertainment. A large spring at the east edge of Sterling became the site of a popular, fashionable resort that not only was a place to go and relax and “be seen” but also where people with problems with addiction concerns, emotional problems or stress were taken care of. PDQ Me has told briefly its story in the past. A mineral spring, sec. 26, Clyde, was never developed. Among the amazing springs that dot Whiteside is the once identified, Reecher Spring Little Spring Creek, formerly called Figi Creek, emanates from a hillside in Genesee township forming the Reecher Spring which flowed heavily at three hundred fifty gallons per minute, the flow being as large as a “field tile.” Samuel Reecher, arrived in Genesee in 1839, from Maryland at age twenty four. He bought two hundred acres, section 17 and built a house over the spring that ran through the basement-constantly.
Practicality and efficiency drove the project so that it was directed towards a holding tank for cooling milk. The basement was about sixteen feet wide and the length of the house so it was roomy to take on other developing ideas such as meat processing. A scalding tank with water heated to steam by a boiler, provided the hot water to carry out the butchering, as many as twenty hogs a day. A chute and pen was added to the house in which to run hogs into the basement when necessary. Cold spring water, always flowing, provided sanitary conditions and the coldness needed for refrigerating the room. The rushing water carried away the waste products, too! When Samuel’s sons, Isaac and Aaron, took possession of the meat processing business they went from town to surrounding town selling meat.
The spring water flowed on outside the house, under the road to the opposite side where in the 1880s a dam was built to fill ponds, another unique feature of the township. It took over three years to complete, they finished in October, of 1869 at which time there was to be a grand exhibition for friends and neighbors to witness the addition of a large shipment of fish to stock the ponds. They came and waited in anticipation but no government caravan with hundreds of rare and, then exotic German carp never arrived and at least three hundred guests went home disappointed.
Of course, they came when unexpected and with no fanfare. However, the Sterling newpaper blaringly announced that a Sam Hendricks had caught a nine pound German carp above the dam at Sterling on the Rock River. That certainly took away the notoriety that the Reechers’ hoped to garner with some sort of event.
But from where had that carp come? How had the rare species (then) gotten in the Rock River? Upon investigation, it was discovered that a farmer near Polo had also formed some farm ponds, stocking them with the new fishy-wonder. Two thousand of them had escaped into Pine Creek then swimming into the Rock River surprised the inhabitants of Whiteside and taking the edge off the Reechers’ big do!
In 1943 Burton Frankfother bought the old Reecher place and made improvements on the house, etc. About six years later the Illinois Conservation Department requested buying a little over eleven acres around the ponds and leasing the water rights for ninety nine years. The state improved the three ponds and began stocking them annually with trout every spring. Opening day, the ponds are lined shoulder-to-shoulder with fishermen but as days pass they dwindle in numbers. After all these years, the Coleta ponds still lure the fishermen and the curious to another unusual feature of the neighborhood.
Other outdoorsy activity was added just down the road when in 1965 the organized Coleta Sportsmen’s Club bought eighty acres from Alfred Habben and a clubhouse was constructed with various other sports venue to entice the sports-minded to come shoot and enjoy the many wonderful characteristics of Nature. Changes and improvements have been accomplished through the years since. A spring there in section 8, Genesee, is thought to be as large in volume as Reechers’ Spring. Yes water sources are plentiful in that upper tier of Whiteside county townships and were almost immediately exploited for their water power, etc. As early as 1838 two gents developing Fulton City, saw potential in this neighborhood too. They platted a town, Genesee City, and began staking out lots for potential settlers. For some reason no one bought, but plenty of stakes blew in the wind. Only a sawmill in section 13 on Rock Creek was built. Hiram Barthell took over the site and replaced the sawmill for a grist mill which was improved in ensuing years. In 1838 also Butler Marble and son, Levi, built a dam of brush and logs which, naturally, was easily swept away in the first freshet that came along. It is claimed to have been the first dam in the township, such as it was, and the grist mill, only a “corn cracker”— type, meaning flimsy and hardly better than pounding the grain with a mortar. People later turned up their nose at such devices so its a wonder it was even noted in history. But every step forward is valuable, no matter how small.