ORGANIZATION - SURFACE - NATURAL CONDITIONS - SKETCHES OF PIONEERS - POSTAL FACILITIES.
Like most of the county, the town of Sylvan has a pleasing and diversified surface, being made up to alternate ridges and valleys, both of which are very productive when brought under the dominion of the plow. The town is well watered, Mill creek running along its eastern border, and the west branch of the same along the southern border. Elk creek rises near the center and traverses half of the town, running in a general northwesterly course. These water courses, together with the numerous rivulets and springs-and some of the latter are quite large-furnish an abundant supply of water for all farm, dairy and household purposes. There are in some localities bold rocks cropping out from the points of hills, that have pillars of rock on them that rise to a height of twelve or fifteen feet above the level of the hill, from which a view of the surrounding country can be had, which is delightfully picturesque. There is a locality known as the big rocks, on section 16, which is very singular. The ground rises gradually from the north for about thirty rods, when it abruptly breaks and forms a perpendicular wall of about 100 feet in height, then runs to the south in a gentle slope, forming quite a valley. There are, in the southern part of the town, several caves of considerable size, one of which has been explored to the distance of a third of a mile, and all are beautifully hung with stalactites, while the floors are covered with rising stalagmites of all sizes.
The town is fairly well supplied with well kept roads. In the early days, the territory of Sylvan was a popular hunting ground, the heavy timber in portions of it affording excellent cover and favorite resorts for all the larger game found in the country. Even after the general settlement had progressed for some years, large game was plentiful and hunters were well rewarded for the time spent in their favorite sport. Heavy timber of the usual varieties found in the county covered a good portion of the town, this being relieved by only small patches of prairie.
It is known that E. B. Tenney and William Ogden were the first white settlers within the limits of the town of Sylvan. They selected their home there in the spring of 1853, coming from Grant county. Animated by the true pioneer spirit, as they must have been, they bravely penetrated into an almost undisturbed wilderness in western Richland county, and commenced to make homes for themselves and families. Their faithful and untiring industry, privations and hardships, were largely instrumental in converting a primeval wilderness into a flourishing and enlightened community. They came with their families in the morning of life, possessed of little else than willing hands, stout hearts, and sincere and honest desires. These families endured trials and dangers, sorrows and tribulations, unknown to the later settlers, because they were alone in the wilderness with no thought save to grapple with their dangers and adversities.
One of the earliest settlers of the town of Sylvan was William Wood, an eastern man, who came in 1853 and entered 120 acres of land on section 30, and he remained a resident of the town until the time of his death. Lyman Mathews came to Sylvan in 1853 from Kinsman, Ohio, and located on section 27. A number of years later he sold his place and went to Richwood, and later he removed to Minnesota. Definite information as to the date of settlement of many of the early pioneers is not obtainable. The first school teacher in the town was Olive Mathews; Oliver Guess built and operated the first saw-mill.
Oliver Guess, who is thus mentioned as one of the pioneer settlers of the town of Sylvan, was born in Columbiana county, Ohio, in 1825, and resided there until the year 1854, when he moved to the town of Sylvan, in the second year of its settlement, and entered 160 acres of land on section 11. He was a member of the Twentieth regiment of Wisconsin volunteer infantry, enlisting in the year 1862, and was discharged the year following on account of illness. He afterward reenlisted in the Forty-sixth regiment of Wisconsin volunteers and served until the close of the war. He was a member of the board of supervisors of the town for six years, and a justice of the peace about eight years. His widow now resides in Reedstown, Vernon county.
In April, 1854, Silas Benjamin, a native of new Hampshire, came and entered eighty acres of land on section 20. He remained only a few years when he removed to Rock county, and later to New York state. Asahel Savage came during the same year and entered 120 acres of land on section 19. Mathias Merrill, a native of Ohio, came in 1854 and entered land on section 14, where he lived until the time of his death. He was a Disciple preacher and held the first services for the people of that denomination in the town. His sons, Thomas and William, came at the same time and settled on section 24, where they lived for some years. Jacob C. Chandler came a little later in the same year and entered eighty acres of land on sections 19 and 20, but afterward removed to Grant county. Aaron Shepard came from Ohio in 1854 and entered 160 acres on sections 2 and 3. John Guess also came from Ohio during the same year and entered an eighty acre tract of land on section 11. In 1857 he returned to Ohio, and when the Civil War broke out he enlisted and died in the service. Isaac White, another pioneer of 1854, came from Ohio and entered eighty acres on section 24, then lived in the town until his death. Harvey Bacon, a Vermonter came at about the same time and entered eighty acres of land on section 19. He lived there a number of years and finally removed to Sauk county, where he died. Hezekiah Slayback came from Indiana with his large family in 1854, and entered 160 acres of land on sections 32 and 33. About 1872 he removed to Kansas and died there. Jacob Glick came in 1855 and entered eighty acres of land on section 33.
George Aldrich came from Keene, N. H., in 1855, and located on section 29. He was a man of fine attainments, a school teacher, and for a number of years was identified with educational matters in that vicinity, as a teacher. He remained several years, then sold his place and returned to New Hampshire, where he engaged in the insurance business. Joseph McDaniel came in the fall of 1855 and settled on section 11, where he lived until the time of his death.
George Hillberry, another of the pioneers of the town of Sylvan, was born in Huntington county, Penn., in December, 1807. There he grew to manhood, being reared upon a farm. About 1834 he moved to Ohio and settled in Monroe county, where he purchased land and improved a farm, which was his home until 1856, when he came to Richland county and located in the town of Sylvan. He bought land on section 21, built a log house and improved a farm, but in 1864 he sold his farm and went to Colorado. He remained here but a short time, however, and then returned to Richland county and purchased the northwest quarter of section 30, town of Eagle. He improved a farm, built a neat frame house, and made it his home until his decease, in May, 1878.
George H. Babb was born in 1815 in Clinton county, Ohio, where he resided until the year 1840. He then moved to Delaware county, Ind., where he was engaged as a farmer and millwright, and remained there until 1856. He came to Richland county in that year and settled in the town of Sylvan, entering 160 acres of land on section 14. Mr. Babb was one of the county commissioners for three years, chairman of the town board five years, assessor one year, justice of the peace one year, and served as census taker in 1880. Besides farming he was a minister of the gospel for thirty years in the Christian church. He was the father of John H. Babb, who served four years as county treasurer and who represented Richland county in the assembly of 1901.
Nathaniel Grim was one of the pioneer settlers of the town of Sylvan, as well as one of its successful farmers. He was born in Jefferson county, Ohio, Sept. 6, 1826, and there lived until 1832, when his parents moved to Harrison county, and in 1842 to Monroe county, where they engaged in farming. Nathaniel went to Elkhart county, Ind., in 1851, but the following year returned to Monroe county, Ohio, where he remained until 1856. In that year he moved to the town of Sylvan and bought a farm of 120 acres on section 21. Mr. Grim was a member of the Eleventh regiment of Wisconsin infantry, entering the service in 1865, and was honorably discharged the same year. He served as chairman of the town board three years, member of the side board four years, and school clerk twenty years. Upon his removal from Ohio to Richland county he came by railroad to Freeport, Ill., and the remainder of the way by team. When he arrived he camped out one week, during which time he had built a snug log cabin, into which he moved his family. There they lived about eight years, then moved into a hewn log house, which was a considerable improvement on the old one. Like all farms in that section, his was covered with a heavy growth of large timber, which he commenced clearing at once upon his arrival, and continued to clear until he had about 100 acres of good land under cultivation. That part of the country now presents an appearance of thrift and enterprise, which state of affairs is due to the industry and energy of such men as Mr. Grim during those early days, and all honor is due those men and women who thus contributed toward the development of this county.
James Twaddle came from the northern part of Ohio in 1857 and located on section 15. George Ohaver came from Indiana in 1856 and settled in the southern part of the town, where he remained a number of years, and then removed to the town of Eagle. Emanuel Taylor came from Indiana in 1856 and located in section 17. In June, 1857, Ephraim Williams came with his family from New Lexington, Ohio. He first came to Sylvan in 1853 and entered about 320 acres of land on sections 22 and 28. He then returned to Ohio, and in the summer of 1857 again started for the far west, accompanied by his family, with ox teams. They were unfortunate on the way, one of the children being run over by the wagon near Chicago, and some of the oxen took sick and died. The trip consumed six weeks, and when they arrived in Sylvan they lived under the wagons until a log cabin, twelve by fourteen feet in size, was erected on section 28. Mr. Williams remained upon that place about fifteen years, when he moved about three miles east and purchased the mill property afterward owned by Oliver Guess. He ran the mill about four years, when he sold the property and removed to Vernon county, where he was killed by an accident. In September, 1857, Fred Mathews, a native of Pennsylvania, came from the town of Forest and settled on section 20, where he at once put up a dwelling house. In December of the same year he was married to Hattie E., a daughter of Ephraim Williams, and they settled on section 20. They remained there until 1873, and then removed to Richland Center. Simon Laffer came to the town at an early day and located upon a farm, half a mile west of Sylvan Corners.
Few postoffices, possibly not more than one or two, have ever been established in the town of Sylvan. But the "star route" system of distribution has been superseded in recent years by the admirable system of rural free deliveries, and the need of country offices is no longer felt.
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