Winnebago is a village in Winnebago County, Illinois, United States. It is part of the Rockford, Illinois Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 3,000 at the 2000 census.
The community was first settled in 1835. In 1849, the community adopted the name Elida, but later renamed itself Winnebago. Winnebago was incorporated as a village in 1878, having the a population of about 9.
The first settlement was actually at Westfield corners because that was where the stagecoach route passed through. The first settler in the Winnebago Township was David Adams Holt in 1835.
Most of the early farmers were Irish imigrants from New England and New York, with some coming from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
Roads of the time were dirt tracks, with the ‘State Road’ from Rockford to Freeport passing through the northern tier of sections of Winnebago Township.
The first school in Winnebago Township was established at Westfield in 1839. The school house was raised in 1844 at Westfield Corners.
The organization of the Methodist church at Elida, (Winnebago), was also at Westfield corners.
Elijah Holt built the first house in 1840 and it is still standing in Winnebago Township on Montague Rd. which is now part of the Severson Dells Forest Preserve, a marker was placed there by the D.A.R. in 1981.
Most of the first land claims for that area was $1.25 an acre in the south end of the township, because it was wooded instead of prairie land. In July of 1841, the first two purchasers of land in Winnebago Township where Henry Schoonmaker and Joseph Folsom. Mr. Folsom was a veteran of the 1812 war. Both men purchased this land from the Galena Land Office .
In July of 1846 the organization of the First Congregational Church of Winnebago met at Westfield.
In 1849 Winnebago was officially named Elida. In 1850 there were 499 residents, most being farmers. However, Winnebago could boast 1 minister, 1 molder, 2 blacksmiths and 4 mechanics.
The Chicago & Galena Union R.R., encouraged by Chicago merchants in all the urban communities, arrived in Rockford on the east side of the Rock River in August, 1852. Each town at the west end of the line as it continued west became a magnet of growth, motivated by the massive leverage of farmers arriving with their livestock, or wagonloads of produce ready for delivery to market.
Most of the site of the future village of Winnebago was sold at $80 per acre to a group of men who then laid out where the railroad would pass.
In 1853, then the Chicago & Galena Union railroad extended to the west from Rockford to Freeport. This track forged through both Elida, (Winnebago), and Pecatonica, igniting local growth.
In October of 1854 the villages train station was laid out, and by rights was the center of attention. The depot attracted commercial development, warehouses and stockyards emerged near the tracks.
Also at this time, the Old Stone Church building was being used by the Congregational church and is now the present site of the Winnebago Cemetery.
In January 1855 Joseph D. Warner, who was the first railroad station agent, finished his house on South Elida Street.
Six months later in June, the Middle Creek Presbyterian church was built for around $2100 at Montague and Kendall Roads. By the time fall rolled around the first store was up, running, and owned by N.D. Warner, and the first school class met in the Winnebago village at the Methodist Church. Last but not least the Westfield M.E. church was having services in their own building as well. The first Physician to arrive in Winnebago was Dr. Wesley Rush Gearhart; who practiced medicine here for 30 years.
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