History of Cropsy, Illinois
Cropsey Township embraces the south half of Town 25, Range 6 east of the Third Principal Meridian, is three miles by six, and is territorially the smallest in the county, being only one-third the size of Gridley. which is the largest. During most of its political history. it has been attached to the present town of Anchor (24, 6) and in school affairs is attached to, and forms a school township with Belle Prairie, in Livingston County.
The township is entirely prairie; and, as a consequence, had no early settlements. Probably the first to settle here was Col. A. J. Cropsey, from whom and by whom the town was named, in 185S. Col. Cropsey came here from Will County, Ill., where his parents had long resided in Plainfield, and commenced farming operations in 1854. He had entered two sections of land, and built a house in or near the center of Section 22. He was a man of enlarged views, having enjoyed the excellent advantages which the son of an intelligent and prosperous farmer in Will County would even at that day receive. He was at once looked up to as a leader among men. He was ardently attached to the M. E. Church, of which he was a member, and a local preacher of considerable note. He did not remain here long, however. He became interested in the building of the new village of Fairbury, the nearest railroad point to his farm, ten miles north, and, in 1860, was elected the first Representative in the Legislature from Livingston County, the first resident of that county who was ever elected to the Assembly. He was chosen Major of the One Hundred and Twenty-ninth (a Livingston County regiment), and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel, serving till the close of the war. He became interested in a large tract of land where Lincoln, Neb., now stands, and went there soon after the close of the war, and was largely instrumental in securing the removal of the capital to that place; was elected State Senator, and was a prominent candidate for the nomination for Governor. He recently went to Texas to make his home. Such is a short and imperfect sketch of one who will ever be held in kind remembrance by all who knew him when he commenced his active, useful life here.
The general topographical description of the township is, that the high ridge of land which runs through Lawndale at the west, runs across Cropsey from northwest to southeast, but is wider, spreading into an undulating highland, shedding off toward Indian Creek at the north, and at the southern side of the town toward the Mackinaw, which is only one mile from its southern boundary. The land is excellent and is easily drained. The farmers present a gratifying appearance of thrift, and distance to market seems to be about the only drawback to the .comfort and convenience of the inhabitants. Fairbury, which is ten miles away from the township, is the nearest railroad point.
G. W. Freshcorn, who is now one of the oldest residents of Cropsey, came here from Chester County, Penn., in 1856. There were then living in what is now Cropsey, so far as his recollection serves (which he admits is at this age somewhat treacherous), A. J. Cropsey on Section 22 ; Alonzo and Levi Straight and father on Section 13 ; Stephen and Nathaniel Stoddard, and Edward Ward, still living here; James Darr, James Harkness on Section 23, and Henderson Crabb on Section 20. Mr. Freshcorn bought land on Section 20, and still lives on the same farm. The largest farm, and, in some respects one of the very best, is the one owned by Moses Meeker, of Tazewell County, and worked by his sons, E. B. and D. B. Meeker. The farm consists of 840 acres in Sections 22 and 27. The buildings are large and good, suitable for so large a stock-farm, well stocked and well managed. The Meckers feed about two car-loads of cattle at a time, and keep a large stock of cattle and bogs. John Straisser has a good firm of 480 acres in Sections 24 and 25. He raises grain and feeds some cattle. J. Hinshaw works a fine farm of 244) acres lying in Sections 28 and 33. Esbon Merrill has a large firm in Section 29, keeping about half in pasture, and the remainder in meadow and under plow. He also feeds some fat cattle, though none of these farmers carry this branch to the extent they did a few years ago. Edward Ward, one of the first settlers, has a fine farm and excellent buildings. He is recognized as one of the best and most successful farmers. J. C. Arnold has 120 acres in Section 34, which is well and nicely managed. The farmers here seem to have paid better attention to their hedges than in many other places, and one sees here some of the finest hedges in the county, unfortunately in too many localities entirely neglected.. In the division of the township which took place in 1877, all that portion of the old town lying in Town 24, Range 6, was set off into a separate political organization with the name of Anchor. The official record before 1877 covers the two towns until that time, but for the years 1877, 1878, it is only for the present town.
D. S. Cram, Esq., is Treasurer for Town 25, Range 6, and lives in Belle Prairie. From his last report the following figures are taken: Number of districts, 9 ; whole number of children under twenty-one years, 618 ; number between six and twenty-one years, 425 ; number enrolled in schools, 380 ; amount of township school fund, $7,000, about one-half of which is loaned on real estate.
The Belle Prairie Agricultural Society is jointly supported by the two towns. It originated in the Belle Prairie Grange, and was organized in 1874, and has held three annual fairs-that in 1878 in the new hall belonging to the society, which is 28×40, and on the land of D. S. Crum, Esq. The Society pays no money-premiums, but awards blue and red ribbon premiums. No fees for admission are charged. A track, upon which the only a purely agricultural horse-trots ” known in this part of the country take place, is one of the feature of the exhibition. No racing is permitted, but it is doubted whether any horse could carry off the blue ribbon unless lie made something better than a snail’s time around that agricultural track. The society is largely social in its tendencies and aims, and is worthy of study with a view of extending to similar localities a like institution. Ira C. Pratt is President; H. L. Terpenning, Vice President; William Stickler, Secretary ; D. S. Crum, Treasurer.
The Belle Prairie Mutual Insurance Company, a farmer’s company of these towns, together with Indian Grove, is in successful operation. There arc 126 policies outstanding, covering an insurance of $103,000. H. L. Terpenning is President ; C. H. Benson, Secretary.
Lodge No. 631, A., F. & A. M., was organized in 1869, at Potosi. It consists of eighteen members. H. L. Terpenning is Worthy Master, and Dr. A. W. Green, Secretary.
During the preparation of these pages, the death of John Thomas occurred at the residence of his grandson, H. A. Thomas, Esq., one-half mile southeast of Potosi, in the 98th year of his age. Father Thomas was born in Halifax, Windham Co., Vt., March 5, 1782. He enlisted in the war of 1812, and served until its close. He was a cloth-dresser by occupation, and worked on the farm summers and at his trade winters. He was three times married, and was the father of twelve children, nine of whom survive him. In 1852, he went to live with his son, at Adams, Jefferson Co., N. V., where he assisted, for a number of years, in carrying on a dairy. In 1868, he came to Illinois, and has since made this place his home. He bad, for many years, been a pensioner of the Government. Nearly thirty years ago, a cancer made its appearance on his left cheek, which slowly made its way until the time of his death, The cavity was about four inches in diameter. Though this was not the cause of his death directly, still it may have hastened it somewhat. For some years, he has gradually lost strength, but was only confined to his bed about four months. During his helplessness, he was kindly cared for by his son and grandson, and the wife of his grandson. Think of the changes time has wrought in this county during only half of the lifetime of this aged soldier!
There is no church in the present town of Cropsey, though the Belle Prairie Methodist Episcopal Church is just across the line.