The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

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September 27, 2013

Historic Albany, Illinois



John Baker settled Fulton, IL and his friend Elijah Buell settled the Iowa side just after the Blackhawk War (1832-1835). Buell came from Utica, New York, and lived in Albany with his family for a time. He and Baker chose the best “high spot” on the river… a good distance from Albany and Camanche. This pretty much completed the settlement of the river from the south, as the upper Mississippi had already been settled from the north by the French and others.


That Blackhawk War wasn’t really very much of a conflict, but it signaled the opening of Iowa to farmers who could then legally cross the river to homestead a farm. Tough, hardscrabble times ensued and many died of cholera, especially during 1851.


Albany was a pivotal point for the growth of America to the west. It was a key spot for riverboats to stop, too. Had roads and trains come a different way, the little towns of Lyons, Sabula, Camanche, and Albany would have had a tremendously different histories.


The tornado which touched Albany and Camanche on

June 3, 1860 severely impeded the growth of those towns. Prior to that time, the biggest significant event was the Beaver Island War (for wood), in 1842. It was only a blip on the screen of history as the two communities began to progress. Cool heads prevailed though, and the “armies” led by Clinton’s Sheriff Deputy Aiken against forty armed stalwarts from Albany decided to compromise and let Albany receive 400 valuable acres of timber-land on Beaver Island.


One reputedly strong inhabitant of Albany was Captain Stephan B. Hanks, a first cousin to Abraham Lincoln. His family, like many of the time, moved from Kentucky to the western regions of Illinois. He came to Albany as a teenager with the Slocums (he was their cousin) and helped to lay out the new town with Surveyor Charles Rood. He even plowed the first furrow. Oddly, settlers hadn’t realized that this area had such superb soil until they started turning the sod for their gardens.

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