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History of Andover Township

Source: Portrait and Biographical Album of Henry County Illinois, 1885

Copied by Linda Lang; Transcribed by Susie Martin-Rott


This was one of several experimental colony enterprises in which prospective hard cash and piety lurked at the base of the original idea.  It was proposed to build a splendid city on the wide prairie plains and reap the profit that would arise from converting crawfish chimneys and the trysting places of the festive "greenheads" into valuable corner lots; and where, on the Lord's day the grand peal of the great, widemouthed bells would ring out the command from on high, "Come, let us worship!"  But worship meant probably singing nasal psalms strictly according to my doxy:

"Lord have mercy On me and my wife, My son John And his wife, Us four And no more."

William S. and Jesse Woolsey, Ithamar Pillsbury, Noah T. Pike and Archibald Slaughter came to Henry County in September, 1835. The last three named were agents for the Andover Colony. When starting West, thier objective point was Knoxville. They crossed the mountains in stages to Pittsburg, then down the river and up to St. Louis, and then up the Illinois River. Pillsbury had been out the year before. Abel K. Woosley, brother to the above, came in the spring of 1837, in company with his brother William, who had returned to his old home, married, and the two brothers and their families came to Illinois. Pillsbury was the prime leader in authority for the colony. He was authorized to buy land and control matters generally; he put up buildings, and soon commenced a mill on Edwards River, the first in the county. Among the patrons of this mill were people all the way from Prophetstown.

The three Woolsey's settled in Andover. William and Abel K. were mechanics inwood, and Jesse opened a tavern. When these parties arrived on the ground they found a man named Campbell already there in his hut. He was engaged in building a bridge across the Edward's River. Pike and Slaughter soon returned to their old homes.

The nearest settlement to Andover then was Henderson Grove where lived William Riley, two families of McMurtrys--James, William and Samuel--and Reece Jones. The nearest post office was Knoxville, distant 30 miles. The venerable Eben Townsend bought Campbell's claim. Townsend lived to be a very old man, and when he died he was buried in the Andover graveyard, with no stone to mark the resting place of the old pioneer.

Rev. Pillsbury was buried in the same graveyard. He left a widow; his son, Edward P., is a lawyer in Macomb; Nettleton is in Florida, Frank in Dubuque, and Ithamar in Macomb; the daughters, Mary is in Macomb; Sarah and Elizabeth in Minneapolis; Jesse Woolsey died, leaving two children--Gilbert R., a physician, and Mrs. Buck. Albert K.'s children are in the West; one daughter lives in Jersey City. The agents of the colony entered about 30,000 acres of land, and provided for a section to be laid out into town lots.

No member could hold more than four quarter-sections; he was entitled to five acres of timber land, and in business meetings each owner had one vote for every quarter-section of land he owned. The south half of section 17 were platted into town lots. The town was intended to be patterned, after New Haven, Conn., and one of their rules was that no buildings should be erected within less than 30 feet of the street without special permission.

Ample provisions were made on paper for the building and endowment of a splendid seminary of learning, and also for spacious and costly edifices for the worship of God. But neither the seminary nor the church materialized under the auspices of the colonists; but in 1853 Jenny Lind appropriated $1,000 to build a Lutheran Swede Church in Andover. At first the Presbyterians dominated, and eventually, under Rev. Pillsbury, a very modest, plain little church was erected.

It soon divided on the question of the Old and New School, and as early as 1839 the colonists got to wrangling among themselves, and the courts were invoked to settle their differences.

So utterly did the Utopian designs of the colony fail that in a few years all the original parties moved away until William J. and Jesse Woolsey were all that were left of them. As already stated, Jesse died, and William removed to Cambridge, where he now lives in comfortable retirement.

It was long confidently asserted and believed that Dr. Baker was the first settler in Andover Township; but it will be remembered that Dr. Baker settled first in the northwest part of the county, not far from the mouth of Green River, and then, after living awhile in his wagon, he removed south and then again went back to the northern part of the county. At an old settlers' meeting in 1877, B. W. Seaton read a paper and discussed this subject pretty thoroughly, and it was then pretty well settled that a man named Butler was the first settler in this township.

Judge Tillson said that Butler was living on section 19 in the early summer of 1835, and that he entered his tract in August of that year. He sold his land to the New York Colony. Judge Tills said: "In June, 1837, I found Mr. E. Buck and family living in a log cabin 60 or 80 rods southwesterly from Capt. Mix's place, near the timber, but not in it. The cabin was there when Mr. Buck arrived. Mr. W. S. Woolsey says he and William Potts used the cabin for a carpenter shop in the summer of 1836. The cabin was moved across Edwards River some years later and occupied by Swan Nelson. Capt. E. A. Mix, who came from New Haven Conn. built the first frame house in Andover in 1836".

The account closes as follows: "The preponderance of evidence goes to show that Butler, not Baker, was the first settler in Andover Township; but as neither remained permanently, it does not matter which was there first."