History - Hampton, Illinois

There are several histories published and numerous articles on our Historical Society's website detailing the arrival of our first founders in 1828 up until the centennial celebrations in 1938. The Village, first named McNeal's Landing, then Milan and finally, Hampton, was founded by two young men who arrived by river to harvest the dense forests of hardwood trees. Hampton became a regular steam boat stop. The saw mills that sprang up provided fuel, raw material for household items and building materials for the pioneers heading west using the Hampton ferry to get across the river to new territories.

Enormous growth took place in the mid-1800's as settlers passed through after shopping for their basic needs. Some settled to open stores, build grist and lumber mills, farm the rich soil and fish the river.

Hampton boasted many firsts: A ferry that would take wagons, livestock and families to the Iowa side after stopping at the first large, mercantile store (now the Brettun & Black Museum). In the Brettun & Black store was the first elevator in the Midwest. By 1852, the first doctor and pharmacy had located near the waterfront.

In early days, west-bound pioneers had no place to purchase provisions or replace household items after leaving DeKalb or between Galena and Hampton. Here, pioneers could visit a barber (who probably also did duty as the Village Dentist), saloon, blacksmith and wagon repair shops, pottery and barrel maker before traveling on. The only place to shop was, at first, the Brettun & Black store. Seeds, provisions, plows, fabric, tools, dishes, barrels of salt pork and whiskey were offered to travelers, steamboats, miners and their families. After harvesting their crops, farmers would return via ferry and have their grains ground to flour or corn meal at one of Hampton's grist mills. Many of the grinding stones are yet to be found here.

Congregational, Methodist and Catholic churches served early visitors and the community. A hotel accommodated land or steamboat passengers plus the specialty riverboat pilots who were hired to navigate the 11 mile stretch of rapids that ran from Campbell's Island to Rapids City, Illinois.

The railroad arrived in the late 1850's. A legal settlement of a dispute with the railroad provided the funds for the classic Village Hall, currently in use on first avenue. The riverboat traffic tapered off as the railroad began to flourished as coal mines began operations above the town on the bluffs. For a short time, the river road was on the route of the stage coaches running between Rock Island and Galena.

Hampton was a prime location for "clammers" to camp on the beach and harvest millions of the native mussels looking for Mississippi Pearls. The clam meat was sold to area farmers to fatten their hogs. Westward bound pioneers purchased barrels of salted pork to supplement their food supplies until harvest. Boats stopping at the Brettun & Black store took supplies down river to union soldiers.

Hampton's Civil War ratio of soldiers to citizens was the highest in the country. Subsequent conflicts saw Hampton volunteers in every branch of the service. Patriotism is still a prominent characteristic of the community which built and maintains two veteran's memorials plus holds a well known annual Memorial Day service on First Avenue.

The soldier's monument next to Village Hall was built on the site of the first log cabin and birth place of the first non-native child born in Rock Island County. The GAR memorial, located in Hampton Cemetery has recently been refurbished and a list of veteran's names encased in a podium there.

Steamboats, railroads, stage coaches and "hard roads" brought pioneers and settlers to the Hampton area. The scenic beauty, convenient location and small community friendliness have made Hampton a very desirable place to stay.

Hampton's Historical Society is very active and always welcomes inquiries and new members. The Society also runs the only museum on the QCA Bike Path, Brettun & Black's Mercantile Store Museum.