Bradford Township and Oman Hillison

From the Dixon Evening Telegraph

October 29, 1948

Bradford township is another subdivision of Inlet and it was in this township that the best and sturdiest of Lee county’s population was started – the Norwegians, now so populous and prosperous; the Germans too started in Bradford.

John Hotzell came here about 1842, and he and Oman Hillison kept bachelor’s hall (separately) a long while before marrying. Christian Reinhart’s daughter, Catherine married Oman Hillison and later John Aschenbrenner. The mother of Henry W. Hillison and Reinhart Aschenbrenner and Andrew Aschenbrenner came in 1845. Reinhart Gross came in 1847.

The history of the Germans is identical with that of the Norwegians. Friends back home desiring to come to America, came directly to the home of their old friend Hotzell. The latter was hospitable and he cared for them all as one by one more came over. A day or two was all that was needed; they they sought work and later lands, always under the guidance of Neighbor Hotzell whose counsel was always good. Thus early, Bradford took on its reputation for solidity which ever since has characterized the place.

Bradford was settled very early and Inlet was the point from which the settlers scattered into what is now Bradford.

For a long time Bradford contained its present six-mile square area and the present township of Ashton as well, and so it remained until 1861, when Ashton was set off as a township by iteslf. Bradford obtained its name from Bradford, Pa., whence many of its population came.

In 1850 the town was organized at the home of Ralph B. Evitts. At the town meeting Elisha Pratt was made chairman, Thomas S. Hulbert, Secretary and Charles Starks, moderator; George E. Haskell justice of the peace, swore them in.

At the meeting Charles Starks was elected Supervisor; Ira Brewer, town clerk; E.W. Starks, assessor; Samuel B. Starks, collector; Ralph B. Evitts, overseer of the poor; Sherman Shaw, Stephen Clink and George Yale, highway commissioners; Samuel S. Starks and Daniel Barber, constables. Elisha Pratt and Lafayette Yale, justices; Jesse Woodruff was put in charge of the town’s litigation.

Meetings were held in private houses til 1856, when the schoolhouse at Ogle station, now ashton was used. As in INlet, Sherman Shaw was one of the first to build in Bradford, and Mr. Whitman in 1838. In 1840, Mr. Shaw built a frame house on the northeast 31. Egbert Shaw has the distinction of being the first white child born in Bradford. Oman Hillison built a house about 1840. In 1838 Charles Starks came to Inlet and in 1839 laid his claim on east one-half northwest 32 and west one-half northwest 32. The Whipple brothers came in about the same time. Starks began work immediately on his claim and in 1842 moved on it.

George and Milo Yale claimed the northwest 6. In 1842 their father, N.C. Yale, settled on section 1; Jesse Woodruff settled on 32; R.B. Witts on 29, Stephen Clink built a stone house. In 1842 Elias Hulbert claimed south one-half southeast 19, and very soon thereafter moved upon it. John Owen moved in at about this time.

At the very earliest period Lewis Clapp of Lee Center, firm in his regard to Bradford, took an interest in pushing the welfare of settlers and he furnished money for fully one-third of the early settlers to enter their land from the government. Others moved in rapidly; William Ross, Reinhart Gross, Conrad Reinhart and Conrad Hotzell.

Ira Brewer reached Lee Center Township in June, 1843. That same year he bought west one-half northwest 22 and east one-half northeast 31, Bradford. In 1845 he built a house, 19×24. He became a very large land owner in this and Lee Center townships. He was one of the fierest enemies of the banditti which infested Inlet and his son George W. Brewer owns the very compact which was signed by the regulators of those days.

Among the old settlers not already named were; William S. Frost, 1838; Lorin T. Wellman 1848; David Wellman 1853; Harlow A Williamson 1850; Philip Runyan 1850; Peter Eisenberg 1852; Luther Baldwin 1852; Edwin Pomeroy 1844; Frank and Nelson DeWolf 1837; Berghardt Albrecht 1855; Edward W. Pomeroy 1845; C. Bowen, L. Shumway, Samuel Cobel, William Warren, and Stephen Clink, 1841 to 1843; Ralph V. Evitts 1842, Sherman Shaw 1839; Elias Hulbert and Ebenezer Whipple, 1842.

The Germans which have predominated in this township ever since they began settling here, predominate today, and the descendants of these pioneers are tody rich almost to the last man. It may be said of them too, that the fortunes of the the first settlers have been preserved down to the third and fourth generation.

Bradford was a pioneer in the formation of a mutual insurance company for members of a particular community and this company, The Farmers Mutual Fire Insurance Company has always been a model. The incorporators were Ira Brewer, Ralph B. Evitts, Thomas S. Hulbert, Charles D. Hart, Valentine Hicks, C.F. Starks and George Hulbert. It was incorporated March 30, 1869. At its first meeting of directors, held in November 1869, 54 applications were received and 51 approved and signed. For many years Ira Brewer was president of his company, Samuel Dysart secretary; C.D. Hart, Treasuer; William V. Jones, gneeral agent. A million and a quarter dollars of risks were written, and the losses at that time were remarkably few.

As early as 1850, meetings of the Evangelical church of Bradford were held at the house of John Hotzel, who built just over the line in China township. Hotzell fitted up a room for the purpose and very soon a successful Sunday school was started. These were the first German meetings of Lee county. The preachers came from Perkins Grove in Bureau county. A man named McLean was the first. William Kelp was the next. Among the original members of the congregation were Reinhart Gross, John Aschenbrenner, John Hotzell, the Conrad Reinhart family, and the Conrad Hotsell family.

In 1859 a church was built on Section 17 at a cost of $1,300. In 1874 an addition was made and a steeple erected at an additional cost of $2,700, making a total of $4,000. The membership today is very strong both in church and Sunday school.

It may be interesting to know that Edwin Pomeroy introduced the reaper into this community and when he used it in the wheat fields, farmers from near and far came to see it operate.

In writing a history of things and conditions around Inlet, one cannot get away from the good works of Ira Brewer and good old Uncle George Russel Linn. There never was a crisis these sturdy pioneers feared to meet. Lighter affairs were managed with the same determination to succeed.

Mr. Brewer understood music. Singing schools were the common source of entertainment in every locality. One day Dr. Welch handed to Mr. Brewer a subscription paper with the request the latter head it and circulate it. Mr. Brewer did and very presently Mr. Brewer found himself teaching in six school houses. The tuning fork used he fashioned on an anvil of a blacksmith shop.

In 1843, when ?? had been raised by Daniel Frost and Russel Linn, with which to hire a teacher, it was tendered to Mr. Brewer for a winters work and he accepted it. He also taught night school. On one occassion when town members of the Grove association had been called together to settle a claim jumping ?? Brewer responded. The case was over on Temperance Hill, where a man deliberately jumped a settler’s homestead and when the association decided he must leave it “at once” he refused.

Uncle Russel Linn arose and said “Gentlemen we have come hee to make homes for ourselves and our families. The government has held out inducements for us to come, and we have made our homes, and we inted to defend them if we die on the defence. Then, we hope we have boys that will arise and avenge our deaths.”

The claim jumper saw Uncle Russel and his seven boys and he declared that he had to kill Uncle Russel and his seven boys before he could obtain possession of the land he would give it up and he did.

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