Black Hawk
Black Hawk

The First Inhabitants
The relocation of Indian communities from the Northwest Territories did not occur in a single year. Tribal remnants from this region were still being relocated to the trans-Mississippi West as late as the 1840s. Completion of the Erie Canal and the extension of mining and agricultural settlements in western Illinois and Wisconsin in 1825 accelerated the Americanization of the vast tracts in the Old Northwest. Within ten years after the signing of the Prairie du Chien treaties (1829 – 1830) virtually all Indians had been cleared from this portion of the Northwest. The Sac and Fox, Winnebago, Sioux, and most Potawatomi bands had been colonized west of the Mississippi River although it is known that the Potawatomi lived and traveled in the area of Willow Creek Farm during this period and even later.

Galena Trail Map
Galena Trail Map

The Europeans and Westward Migration The Galena Trail and Coach Road
Lured by glowing testaments of agricultural and mineral wealth in Illinois, thousands of immigrants flooded into north central and northwestern Illinois between 1825 and 1855.  A great many of them followed the Galena Trail and Coach Roads extending from Peoria to Galena, to the Lead Mines and prairie farms, where, instead of wealth and happiness, many found an early death for themselves and their children.   

Early American settlement along the Trail came in two phases. In 1825, the Lead Mine Region of northwestern Illinois and southwestern Wisconsin was occupied primarily by seasonal miners and smelters from southern Illinois and Missouri who worked on leased Federal lands. This seasonal occupation continued until after 1835, when public lands could be purchased and agricultural settlement began.

Boardman Family Cabin
Boardman Family Cabin – date unknown

The FarmThough not the first family to live on the property (Nathan and Nathan S. Willis families were first), William and Mary Boardman were an integral part of the land’s history. William B. Boardman (1802-60) and his wife Mary Stubbs (1803-63) sailed separately from England reaching the port of New York in 1827 and 1829 respectively. It’s probable that William and Mary met while both were in New York City but there is no documentation to support this. What is known is that the both of them appeared in St. Louis in 1830 where they were married.  Whether they traveled together to Missouri from New York without being married is also unknown though there is no indication that any other member of Mary’s family ever lived in the area, making solitary travel by an unmarried woman in 1830 highly unlikely.

There’s no information on what William and Mary did over the next five years but it is believed that their first child, Martha, was born in LaSalle County in 1836, though there is no record of her birth. There were other Boardmans living in neighboring Lee County with two daughters, Mary and Margaret, which might indicate a family relationship but that is merely guessing. There’s no other known reason for why the Boardmans went from New York City to St. Louis to northern Illinois, but it’s clear that they did and likely was associated with the federal government making land in the west available. Mary, their second and last child, is thought to have been born in Winnebago County in 1837 but, as with Martha, there is no birth record found as of yet; Illinois did not require birth records until 1877 though many counties collected them as early as the 1840s.

On January 7, 1854, 17-year old Martha married 24 year-old Thomas Holmes, a recent immigrant from England joining his older brother and sister who had immigrated a few years before. Three months later, young Mary, just 16 years old, became pregnant and, unmarried, delivered a son on December 27, 1854. Though family stories claim she was raped by a red-headed traveling salesman, this seems a bit unrealistic as the child was given the name, William B. Barnes.   It is doubtful that a child would be given the surname of either a rapist or even that of a father living in the area but choosing not to claim the child as his own. Exactly nine months to the day after William was born, Mary married Thomas Holmes’ older brother, 26-year old David. It was David and Mary who built the house in 1878 that fronts on Spring Valley Road. Of their 12 children only 4 survived. The Boardman and Holmes families are buried in Spring Valley Cemetery formerly known as Leonard’s cemetery about ¼ mile east of the house.

Farm History by CP Genealogy
Freeport, Illinois