Useful Links

TheRockFallsProject.com

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The Rock Falls Project documents businesses and their locations throughout the history of Rock Falls

NIU Digital Library

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In addition to Lincoln Facts, the Northern Illinois University has a wealth of information on history of Illinois

Illinois Genealogical

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Genealogical/Historical 

Societies & Libraries

Whiteside County Genealogical

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Our goal is to help you track your ancestors through time by transcribing genealogical and historical data and placing it on our websites for the free use of all researchers.

Sterling Park District

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The home is available for weddings and other events. Unlike any other venues in our region, the manicured, spacious grounds, fountain, and towering two-story enclosed porch will be the perfect setting for any special occasion.

Illinois Digital Archives

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A service of the Illinois State Library and the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State. Vintage photos of the area.

Early Sterling/Rock Falls History

Prior to the 1830's, this area was the territory of the Sauk and Fox Indians. It was not until after the Black Hawk War of 1832 that settlement began in earnest, making this one of the last settled areas in Illinois. Hezekiah Brink was the first settler in the Sterling-Rock Falls area, coming from Indiana.


The area Brink settled in became known as Harrisburg, while a rival community grew up just to the west known as Chatham. After a few years the rival towns united under the name of Sterling in an effort to obtain the position of county seat. Though Sterling was successful in its quest, the glory was short-lived as the county seat was moved to Morrison after a few years.


As Sterling grew, the water power of the Rock River was put to use by industries built on the north side of the river. In 1867, a local businessman, A. P. Smith, bought the rights to the water power on the south side. Smith began industrial development there and platted the town of Rock Falls.


Local industries soon made their mark on the national scene. The Charter Gas Engine Company developed the first practical gas engine (illustration). Both the Eureka Company and Rock Falls Manufacturing sold hearses from coast to coast. Four major manufacturing facilities had strong growth in the mid to late 20th Century, including Frantz Manufacturing, Lawrence Brothers Incorporated, National Manufacturing, and Northwestern Steel and Wire, along with a host of others. All can trace their beginnings to the perseverance of local entrepreners of the past.

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