The first town settler arrived in August of 1851 and built a small cabin in Northwest Rockford along the South bank of the Winnebago River.
By 1855 the area boasted of thirty settlers mainly occupying the area where the Winnebago and Shell Rock Rivers meet. Robert Mathews came to Rockford that year and purchased most of the current day town site. In 1856 he sold it to a group of men who called themselves “the Rockford Company.” The Rockford Company was formed of six men: John Platt, E.G. Bowdoin, S.P. Brittan, Dwight Johnson, George Wyatt, and R.N. Mathews.
After Rockford was platted, two water-powered sawmills, and a steam sawmill in 1857, provided early pioneers with their lumber. George Wyatt built the first frame house in 1856, while John Furgeson built a small general store, and Ransom Knapp built “the Rockford House,” the first hotel, the same year. By 1858 the town had one hotel, three stores, two sawmills, one lath-mill, one shingle-mill, one blacksmith shop, one school house, and 26 dwellings. And, by 1860 Rockford grew in population to have over 150 settlers.
Dwight Johnson and Harmon Mitchell established a brewery in 1864 that supplied towns within a 40 mile radius. In 1865 a Howe Truss bridge was laid across the Shell Rock River, and in October of 1871 the Burlington, Cedar Rapids, and Minnesota Railroad completed work to included Rockford on their line. Our key industry, the brick works, finally started in 1878 under the support of Lord Melborne Harris. But it wasn’t until 1910 when a local corporation bought the brick works that it began to prosper.