Three Men and a Dream

Elementary schools and local creeks share hidden history that many of us may not have knowledge. From Lewis Lemon Elementary to Kent Creek, our beloved city is a vast swimming pool full of information and forgotten memories of what path we have taken to become who and what we stand for today. Empty woods and scant roadways is where we started; but this soon changed.

Germanicus Kent and Lewis Lemon arrive in Rockford in 1835, along with Thatcher Blake, and the beauty of the Rock River is first devoured by their inquiring eyes. Kent had heard of this beauty; he had heard that the rocky ford was accompanied with ample opportunity for industrial development. Residents of Galena, which was the 2nd biggest business center at this time, had journeyed into unknown territory to fulfill new aspirations for future generations. Mr. Kent, his servant Lewis Lemon, and Thatcher Blake were the first men to envision what the area we now know as home could become.

The dark times our country experienced at the time of slavery has made me conclude that our own city was not built on the evil of free labor as was true in the South, but that Rockford was built on freedom. Lewis Lemon had been purchased by Kent from a cotton farmer in Alabama. Upon wanting to travel to Galena, Kent had plans to sell Lewis Lemon, but was convinced otherwise. Lemon would travel with Kent and Blake and would help begin the building of what later would be called ‘Rockford’. According to the above link, four years and four months later Lewis Lemon would be freed by Kent and he then was able to practice the same actions all men should have been able to throughout America. He made a living by growing produce and was a member of the Old Settler’s Society.

Through the actions of these 3 men; Kent, Blake, and Lemon, Rockford’s foundation was laid so that in our own lifetime, the people who are reading this, had the opportunity to grow and become men and women themselves. Over 150 years into the future I would be attending a school named after one of these men, Lewis Lemon Elementary. To me, the name had seemed a bit funny. Only when I was able to conquer my child like attitude was I able to realize that every name has a story.

Next time you’re Greenwood Cemetery, pay your respects to one of the men who was responsible for giving us a chance at life in a remarkable place in America. This is where Lewis Lemon was buried; his gravestone reads “Born Slave – Died Free”.

If you have any more information about our founders, PLEASE post a comment and let other readers know.

*Note: Lewis Lemon bought his own freedom from Kent for $800 + 10%


Categories: History

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6 replies

    • I suppose you’re right, Jenny. It seems horribly odd that a man should have to buy his own freedom. My point however was that Lemon eventually became free and was able to make a living on his own accord.

  1. great post, I’m going to try to go see the gravestone this summer.

  2. I could add this information about Germanicus Kent
    “In 1834, Germanicus Kent extended an invitation to some frieds to come to “Midway,” a settlement between Chicago and Galena, to a place called by the Indians Rocky-ford. Here the New Yorkers came to ‘Illini,’ signifying ‘Superior Man’
    “Peeketolika’ (Pecatonia), which was settled in 1835, comprised Seward, Burritt, and Pecatonia; here Zebulon Swift and family settled, and are buried at Hulse Cemetery.”Past and Present of the City of Rockford and Winnebago County, Illinois Chicago; S.J. Clarke Pub.Co., 1905 -Family Records page 290
    Also at that time two brothers William and Charles Billick ( who’s wife was Zebulon’s daughter)came and settled there with their family. William and Polly are buried in the Hulse cemetery.


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