In 1863, Osborn Tuttle, a Norwegian by birth, donated five acres of ground to the Chicago & Northwestern Company on condition that the new town should bear the name of his native country. During the following year, Mr. Tuttle laid out a town site north of the railway track, which he had recorded as Norway; but in the course of a few years the inhabitants of the town secured a change of name, and it was given the name of the township — Florence. The station, however, is still called Norway.
The first settler was 0. B. Button, of Masonville, who took charge of the station business. He lived in a freight car while his house and store were building. Mr. Dutton was also the first merchant.
The next settlers were Joseph Myer, a blacksmith, and W. L. Harper.
Another store was erected by Mr. Atkinson in the Spring of 1865, and during the same season several dwellings were erected.
The first death was a little son of 0. B. Dutton, and the first birth was Margaret Harper.
The shipments from Norway in 1870 were: 71,102 bushels of wheat, 31,400 bushels of corn, 4,318 bushels of barley, 5,424 bushels oats, 11,420 pounds of pork, 81,710 pounds butter and eggs, 2,027 live hogs, 543 head of cattle.
Thomas McGranahan, living six miles north of Norway, was gored to death by a bull on the 30th of September, 1876.
April 8, 1871, Mr. Bockeder, living near Florence, who was ill in bed, discovered that his stable was on fire. He rose, slipped on his trousers and ran to the stable to save his horses. Before he could get them out, the flames burst out all round him, and he was forced to crawl out on his hands and knees, but was so badly burned that he died the following day.
The village has a large two-story school house situated on the high bank in the northwest part of the town.
There is a steam flouring-mill, and the various branches of trade are well represented by large and well stocked stores.
The population of the town and vicinity consists of Norwegian, German and native born.
A recent attempt was made to incorporate the village, but without success.
Presbyterian. — This society was organized about ten years ago. Rev. Mr. Witter is Pastor, and Will Taylor is Superintendent of the Sabbath school.
Baptist. — This Church was formed in 1872. The erection of the church was begun in 1873, but was not completed till 1878. It cost about $3,000, The first Pastor was Rev. A. V. Bloodgood.
The church, which has a membership of about twenty, is now without a Pastor.
H. C. Beeves is Superintendent of the Sabbath school, which has an average attendance of about fifty pupils.
New Jerusalem Society. — This body, otherwise known as Swedenborgians, was formed in March, 1874, by Rev. J. J. Lehnen, with a membership of fifteen families. Meetings are held in Florence every Sunday by Rev. Mr. Lehnen, the settled Pastor. Justus Kimm is Superintendent of the Sabbath school.
Methodist Episcopal. — The first class was formed in the Winter of 1873-4, with H. B. Harradon as leader. The members are: Mr. King, William Clark and wife, James Saul and wife, John Weston and wife, G. Wilkins and wife, George Webb, wife and daughter, Mrs. E. Taylor, Mrs. C. Henry and Mrs. Younglove.
There are now about sixty members; Rev. T. Simmons is Pastor.
W. J. Taylor is Superintendent of the Sabbath school; Miss Susan Rogers, Librarian.
The society is now constructing a church, which will be completed in September, 1878, and will cost $2,000. It is 32x50 feet in size.
St. Clair Lodge, No. 165, A., F. & A. M. — The dispensation for this Lodge was issued in 1862, and the charter was granted June 3, 1863. The first officers were: James McQuinn, M. W.; Charles G. Turner, S. W; Samuel Springer, J. W.; W. Alspaugh, Treasurer; Thomas H, Springer, Secretary; Jacob Springer, S. D.; L. W. Stocker, J. D.; J. Wheeler, Tiler. There were three other charter members.
Two deaths have occurred since the formation of the Lodge — L. E. Watrous and J. C. Jensen.
The officers for 1878-9 are as follows: James Jensen, W. M.; J. J. Messenger, S. W.; F. E. Babcock, J. W.; E. G. Brown, Treasurer; E. M. Calkins, Secretary; James H. Reese, S. D.; T. H. Brown, J. D.; D. Morey, Tiler.
The Lodge has a membership of thirty-six. Meets Friday evening on or after full moon.