Andover is Henry County's oldest community. It was started in 1835 by the visionary Presbyterian minister Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury. The fledgling colony was patterned after New Haven, Connecticut, as its founder envisioned it to be a seat of learning, religion and commerce.

The English pioneers had a mill which attracted many early settlers to the village. The mill, which was constructed in 1836, was Henry County's first industry.

Swedish folk discovered Andover in 1840 when a Swedish seaman, Sven Nelson, became a "landlubber" and settled to enjoy the beautiful prairie land and the scenic Edwards River.

Folks from Nelson's homeland learned about Andover and sailed the Atlantic Ocean, traveled by canal boat and covered wagon, and even walked long distances to settle here. These early settlers met with Andover hospitality which exists in the village today.

Andover, of English and Swedish history, has preserved this heritage for visitors. The past is joined with the present in a pleasant Illinois rural atmosphere. There are 25 information signs located throughout the Andover area telling about special sites.

Andover's Sister City - Kristdala, Sweden

During the latter half of the 19th century, some 2,000 persons (approximately one-half of the entire population at that time) left Kristdala and immigrated to this part of Illinois. Many of them settled on small parcels of land between the communities of Andover and Woodhull, which came to be known as Kristdala Backa (hills). Today, Kristdala, which is located in Kalmar County in the province of Smaland, has a population of about 1,000.

The Underground Railroad in Andover

References about the Underground Railroad in Andover are found in the Illinois State Historical Society Transactions published in 1905; a book written by Mike & Mary Otto, "Our Future Is In Our Heritage - Andover, Illinois;" a speech recorded in 1973 by W. D. "Bud" Olson, former editor of the Cambridge Chronicle;and an article in the Moline Dispatch on June 10, 1984 (including photos), by correspondent Mary Otto.

There are four known locations of the Underground Railroad "stations" in Andover (the Edwards River Mill located south of Andover, the Colony Brick House located at 1st & Ash Streets, the Woolsey house at Beech & 6th Streets, & the Mix-Lobeck house located at Pine & 8th Streets). While only one building remains today (Colony Brick House), all of the sites have historical markers. Andover's early English settlers were very active in the abolitionist movement in the 1830's; & when the Swedes started coming in the 1840's, many of them also became involved with this movement.

Mary Otto noted, "The slavery issue was being debated in the state by more people than Abraham Lincoln & Stephen Douglas. And there was an underground railroad, a system by which escaped slaves were whisked to freedom in Canada." In the 1830's & 1840's, many of the slaves came from Galesburg through Andover to Geneseo & Princeton. Bud Olson stated, "When they (fugitive slaves) came to the Andover Mill, they (conductors) had to cover these slaves (or disguise them) as something in sacks so people would not discover them."

When the 170-year-old Woolsey house was torn down in 1984, two trap doors were found in its floors. The first door opened to an old-fashioned dugout basement. The other, opened to three steps that led to a crawl space, which could house two slaves at the most. A brick-lined hole next to the crawl space was thought to be the start of a tunnel. Because of the historical significance of this house, parts of it were donated to the Andover Historical Museum to show how houses were built in that period (the wainscoting, a cupboard, windows & doors are used in the summer kitchen located back of the Andover Historical museum, & parts of a beam were cut to show how beams were fastened together with pegs & pins).

A tunnel ran approximately one mile across Andover from the Colony Brick House to the Mix-Lobeck house for slaves to use. Approximately 50 years ago, the owner of the property just back of the Colony Brick House found the entrance to this tunnel. For safety reasons, he had it completely sealed with stone & soil.

The Andover Terrible Swedes Baseball Team

For more than the first half of the 20th century, Andover had a baseball team, which became known as the "Terrible Swedes." They played on ball diamonds with no fences, where collections were taken up to pay for bats and baseballs. In 1911, one of the team’s pitchers, Franklin Johnson, signed as a pitcher for Davenport in the old Three I League, and then played for the Saint Louis Cardinals. One of the interesting stories about Franklin was when he lost his wedding ring on the Andover ball diamond around the turn of the century; and, some 50 years later a little league player found the ring and returned it to him.

At a game played in Davenport Municipal Stadium (now Modern Woodmen Stadium) in 1939, with a crowd of 4,000 in the stands, Andover lost to Davenport Maroons 5-4. One of Andover’s players, “Doc” Johnson, hit a 380 foot home run. Then on July 4th of that same year, the Swedes beat Davenport 5-1 at the Andover ball diamond, with “Doc” hitting a homer in the lake! One time, an Andover player hit a ground ball past second base, and it went into a gopher hole in the outfield - so he got a home run! The team won a state championship in 1929. In 2007, the ball diamond was named in honor of the Andover Terrible Swedes, and a marker was erected back of home plate recognizing the team.

The Andover Terrible Swedes in 1920

Former Andover Terrible Swedes being honored in 2007 at the Andover ball diamond. Pictured, from left, bat boy Russ Anderson, age 73; and players Vergene Samuelson, 83; Ben Johnson, 83, Gene Carlson, 84; and Glenn Moody, 80.

Other Interesting Information

A. Butler, the first settler in Andover, built his log cabin in May of 1835. To reach Andover in 1835 you either had to come by horses (or oxen) and a wagon through the wild states of Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, or come by boat down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi River to the Fort Armstrong area (now Rock Island) and then by team overland. One had to travel over 160 miles from Andover to find any sizable community - Chicago became a city the year after Andover was founded.

In 1839, The Rev. Ithamar Pillsbury, Andover's founder and pastor of the Andover Presbyterian Church, was scheduled to organize the First Presbyterian Church in Davenport, IA. Since the man who had borrowed his horse had not yet returned it, he walked the 26 miles to do his duty.

When he came to the Mississippi River, he saw the ferry tied on the other side and the ferryman nowhere in sight. He shouted to no avail, removed his shirt and waved it, and finally sang the "Doxology" as loudly as he could. The waiting congregation heard him and said, "That's the minister!" They rounded up the ferryman and finally heard the good cleric's sermon on the text, "Go ye into the world and preach the gospel to every creature."

In 1849, one of Andover's blacksmiths, Alfred Anderson, met Abraham Lincoln in Galesburg and received some tobacco from him. In exchange, Alfred gave Abe an iron foot scraper, which he had made in his shop.

A cholera epidemic raged through Andover for three years in the early 1850's. A 16 year old boy drove a farmer's horse & wagon to pick up the dead cholera victims, who were buried in open trench graves the day they died. Their families and friends in Sweden never knew what happened to them.

In October of 1867, Edward Berg, was the first orphan to live at the Andover Orphans Home. The Home served over 1,000 children in its 100 years of existence.

In 1877, a project was on foot to build a school house at the Andover Orphans Home. Also that year, P. J. Hammer, miller at the Andover Edwards River Mill, said people can get the lowest wholesale rates by coming to the Mill for their flour. He wants to buy all the buckwheat that is raised.

In the early 1900's, a concrete jail was built in what is now the Andover Lake Park. This was to replace the first jail built in Henry County in the late 1830's. One of the colorful stories told about this jail was when the town constable and prisoner both became locked in the jail by accident, and spent the night there! In 2016, the jail was repaired and painted by the Andover Tourism Council. Ripley's Believe it or Not reported that it is the only jail house in the United States located in the outfield of a ball diamond!