County History

History of Stephenson County

Stephenson County (Plat Map) was named in memory of Colonel Benjamin Stephenson. He served as a Colonel in the War of 1812 in the Illinois Militia. In 1813 he was appointed adjutant general of the territory. In 1814 Colonel Stephenson was elected delegate to Congress, where he served until 1816. He was married to Lucy Van Swerington in 1803. His son, Captain James W. Stephenson moved to Galena, Jo Daviess County, in 1828.

Before the first white men visited the area, it had long been the hunting grounds of the Sac and Fox Indians. The valley of the Pecatonica River was allotted to the Winnebago Indians. Their chief, Old Winneshiek, had his village at the mouth of Spring Creek which is in the present site of Freeport. Their cornfields extended across the plain on the opposite bank.

In 1826 Col. E. H. Gratiot, with one companion crossed the county on his way from Jacksonville to Gratiot's Grove, Wisconsin. Another man, by the name of Kirchner, came to the county that same year. Mr. Kirchner built a cabin at Burr Oak Grove. This in most likely the first dwelling of a white man on Stephenson county soil. In the autumn of 1826, Oliver W. Kellogg arrived and found the cabin deserted. He lived in it until he could build a larger home. Kellogg sold his cabin to a frenchman named LaFayette, and like Kirchner, moved on. LaFayette was frightened away by the indians. Then Mr. Greene owned it and in the spring of 1835 he sold to Mr. James Timms. Mr. Timms became the second permanent settler in the county. The house remained until 1862 when it was demolished to make room for a larger dwelling.

In the fall of 1832 William Waddams, from Jo Daviess county brought his two sons and staked a claim three miles northwest of Lena. The following summer he built a small log house and cleared four acres of timber without the use of a team. After the Black Hawk war, Mr. Waddams' family enjoyed the distinction of being the only citizens of Stephenson County for two years.


"Portrait and Biographical Album of Stephenson County" 1888
"In the Foot-prints of the Pioneers of Stephenson County, Illinois" 1900
"Kent for a Century and a Quarter" 1952
"Postscript to 1970 Stephenson County History" 1976




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