Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group

Clark County Illinois
Genealogy and History


Chapter 20


The History of Crawford and Clark County
W. H. Perrin, O. L. Baskin & Co., 1883

Transcribed by Kevin Ortman and Barbara Z.


Johnson Township lies in the extreme southwestern part of Clark County, embracing an area of 23.010 acres, or thirty-six square miles of territory, and in the congressional survey was designated as town 9 north, range 14 west. It is bounded on the north by Casey township, on the east by Orange, on the south by the counties of Crawford and Jasper, on the west by Cumberland County, and received its name in compliment to Thomas Johnson, a man prominently identified with its early growth and development. The surface in the northern and central portions is pleasantly situated, being principally a fin« rolling prairie, in some places almost level, but nowhere without sufficient slope to drain the surface water. Elsewhere throughout the township the land is more undulating, the principal irregularities being in the eastern part along the North Fork of the Embarras River, where for several miles on both sides of the stream the country is considerably broken and in some places precipitous bluffs are to be seen. This creek which affords the principal drainage of this region is the only stream of note in the western part of the county. It enters the northern boundary of the township in section 1, flowing a southwesterly direction, passes out of section 34, and receives in its course a number of small tributaries, which are not designated by any particular names. The current is very sluggish, having a fall of but three and a half feet per mile, and during the spring freshets and rainy seasons is not sufficient to carry off the water which flows into it.

As a consequence the bottom through which the creek runs is frequently overflowed, and entire crops sometimes completely destroyed. Many persons have abandoned farming on these lowlands altogether, and use them for grazing purposes only.

This township is very well timbered, fully two-thirds of its area being woodland. The best timber is found in the eastern and western parts and along the various water-courses, and consists principally of the following varieties: walnut, hickory, poplar, maple, ash, linn, some beech, and several different kinds of oak, elm and sycamore grow along the streams, and sometimes attain gigantic size.

Much valuable timber was ruthlessly destroyed by the first settlers in clearing up their farms, which, if standing to-day would be worth more than double what the lands would bring at the highest market price. A number of saw-mills were erected on the North Fork in an early day, and for years the lumber business was an important industry in this part of the country, consequently but little walnut and poplar are left standing. The woods skirting the North Fork were at one time the rendezvous of and hiding place for all kinds of wild animals, and early attracted the attention of the hunter and trapper, several of whom made temporary settlements along the banks of the stream for the purpose of hunting their favorite game. A diminutive cabin with a small patch of cleared ground surrounding it was the extent of this transient settler's improvement, the greater part of his time being spent in the woods, where he led a wild free life in his favorite pursuit.

As game became scarce, and as population increased these hunters left their rude homes and moved further west, all the time keeping in the van of civilization. The first actual settler in Johnson was one John Burris who came to the township in the year 1833, and entered land in section 32, which he improved, and on which he lived until the year 1848.

He appears to have been an intelligent and public spirited man, and accumulated during the period of his residence here, a handsome property which is at present owned and occupied by John D. Bennett. In the fall of 1833 a man by name of Ingraham settled in the northeastern part of the township near where William How now lives, but made no entry of land. He was a noted character in the little community, a great hunter, and was widely known throughout the county for his many eccentricities. In one of his hunting tours, he discovered a salt spring near the North Fork from which he afterward manufactured salt, not only for his own use, but in quantities sufficient for the entire neighborhood, trading it to the settlers for meal, groceries, articles of clothing, etc. He sawed the first lumber ever made in the township with a small whip saw and furnished the material out of which much of the furniture used by the early settlers was manufactured. One clay while sawing lumber with Burris, the platform on which the log rested, and under which he was standing, gave way, and fell, and crushed him beneath its weight; from injuries thus received he died a short time afterward. Conspicuous among tiic pioneers of Johnson was Daniel Doughty, a Baptist preagher, who came to Illiiiois from Indiana in the year 1836. His native State was Kentucky which he left in early boyhood and had rambled over much of the western country before settling in Clark County. He conducted the first religious services ever held in the township, at his own residence and assisted in the organization of many of the early churches of his denomination throughout the county. He was a noble type of the pioneer, tall, vigorous, endowed with unusual physical powers, and fotid of all athletic and out-door sports, particularly hunting, in which he was a great adept. He subsequently moved to Jasper County, where, after a long and useful life, he died about four years ago.

Jacob Janney made the second entry of land in the township in the spring of 1834, and selected for his home eighty acres of land, lying on the east side of North Fork in section 7, where the remains of his old log cabin can still be seen. He did not move onto this land, however, until about the year 1837, though a number of acres had been cleared and put in cultivation before that time. Janney was a man of more than ordinary intellectual ability, a shrewd trader and prominent stock dealer, in which business he amassed considerable wealth while a resident of this township. He met with a violent death in the year 1843 by being thrown from a horse.

No other settlements appear to have been made within the present limits of Johnson until the year 1836, when the following entries of land were recorded: James Alexander in section 3, John L. Mount, James C. Mount and James Megeath in section 4. The first named was never a resident of the township but lived near Darwin. The Mounts were a prominent family in this part of the country, and figure rather conspicuously in the early history of the township. They came to this State from Kentucky, and unlike many of the first settlers in a new country, were men of means and made extensive improvements on their respective farms. John resided here but one year, when he sold his place to his brother and moved to Indiana. James Mount was the first justice of the peace, in the precinct of which Johnson Township at that time formed a part, shaving been elected in the year 1838, and served in that capacity until his death, which occurred in 1841. Several descendants of this family are living in the county. The place where James C. Mount lived is now owned by his grandchildren, Ed. Stevens and sister. James R. Geddes, was among the early settlers of Johnson, having come here in the spring of 1837. He entered land in section 3, and afterward was joined by David How and John Cole, both of whom made entries in the same section. Geddes came from Indiana and lived here until the year 1855, at which time his death occurred. How came from Indiana also and was one of the prominent citizens of Johnson. His son, Joseph How, who now owns the old place, is the oldest living settler of the township. He came here in company with his father when eighteen years of age, and has resided on the same place ever since. Cole moved to Illinois from Ohio, but originally came from Maryland. He earned the reputation of being an energetic, intelligent, and wide awake business man, and was well respected by all who knew him. He died about twenty-two years ago. One daughter, Mrs. Kline, is now living in Casey Township. The year 1838 was signalized by the arrival in Johnson of William D. Crouch, Zachariah Davee, William Hilburn, and Henry W. Owings. Crouch settled in section 11, where Mrs. Williams now lives. He was a native of Ohio and for a number of years after coming to this State was extensively engaged in farming and stock raising. He died in the year 1866 leaving a widow and one son, both of whom are still living in the township. Davee settled in section 13, where he entered land on which he afterward built a mill. This mill stood on North Fork, from which it received the power that operated it, and was run by Davee about fifteen years and afterward sold to F. Johnson. The latter added several improvements and operated it about five years longer, when the building was ruined by an overflow of the creek. Davee moved to Missouri in the year 1853, and afterward to California where he died a few years ago. The place where he settled is now owned by a Mr. Adkins. Hilburn came to this county from Indiana and entered land in section 17, which he sold about seven years later to D. Albright, the present owner.

Owings came from Ohio in company with John Cole and entered land in section 30, which he sold ten years later and moved back to his native State. Entries were made in the same year by Andrew Hardway, section 12; James Brooks, section 18; Ira Prevo, in 18; and Lewis Huckabee in section 23; none of whom were ever residents of the township.

Prominent among those who came to Johnson in an early day was Henry King, afterward a noted physician both in this State and Oregon. His youth was spent chiefly in the employ of William How, with whom he lived a number of years, working on the farm, driving oxen, etc., and utilizing his intervals of rest in the study of his favorite profession. In this he was encouraged by his employer who advised him to quit the farm and devote his attention to study, which King did, although he was not what would now be termed an educated physician.

For a number of years he had an extensive practice in Johnson and adjoining townships, but thinking there was a more remunerative field for his talents elsewhere, he left this part of the country and located in a thriving town near St. Louis, where for some years he carried on an extensive mercantile business in connection with his profession and became quite wealthy. He subsequently moved to Oregon and died in that State about the year 1850. The following incident, which he said was not to be told until he had been out of the country twenty-five years, is related by Mr. How. At one time he was called to a neighboring: community to see a colored lady who was taken very ill, and twenty minutes after his arrival the woman was a. corpse. That evening he met How, who inquired after his patient. " Oh," says the doctor, " I tried an experiment on the old lady by giving her an entirely new medicine." " With what effect? " said How. " Why, by G—d, it killed her in less than five minutes, but remember my reputation is at stake and this must be kept mum for twenty-five years at least."

Another character deserving of particular mention was James Henderson, an Irishman, who entered forty acres of land in section 2 in the year 1839. He was a man of brilliant attainments and had been educated for the priesthood in his native country, but for some reason never took holy orders. He was one of the first school teachers in Johnson, and was considered the ablest instructor in the county, at that time. During the later years of his life he became very dissipated and died a mere wreck, about the year 1858.

Hawley Childs was a character in the early history of Johnson also, though the exact date of his arrival was not learned. He was the possessor of fifteen large hounds, and did valuable service to the country in ridding it of the wolves, which at that time were very numerous and troublesome.

Childs moved to Iowa a number of years ago where he is still living. The entry book shows that the following persons selected lands in this township in 1839: Robert Mount, section 5; Priscilla Jennings, section 10; Jeremiah Dunham, section 18; James Thomas, in the same section; Barnett Thomas and William Wilson in section 21; Noah Peters. William James and Jessie Burris in section 23. Robt. Mount was a brother of John and James C. Mount, already alluded to, and resided in this township until 1853, when he moved to Terre Haute, his present place of residence.

Dunham settled where a man by name of Weaver now lives, and died in this township in the year 1813. James Thomas came to this State from Indiana and died ten years after his arrival. His son Barnett Thomas, now living in Edgar County, was second justice of the peace in Johnson. Wilson was an Indianian also and lived on the place he settled about six years, when he sold the farm and moved to Iowa.

Noah Peters improved the farm where James Fessler lives, and erected a saw and grist-mill on the North Fork, about the year 1811. He operated this mill a numl)er of years and did a very remunerative business as it was patronized by the country for many miles around. It disappeared long since and no vestige remains to show where the building stood. William James entered the land now occupied by Robert Johnson and lived there ten years when, he disposed of the place and went back to Indiana, his former home. Jesse Burris was the father of John Burris, the first settler, of whom mention has already been made, and was induced to immigrate here by reason of the glowing description of the country given by his son. He was a good man and did much in a quiet way to advance the interests of the country. For twenty-three years he lived here an honored and respected citizen, and died in the year 1802. The foregoing list comprises the most prominent settlers in Johnson down to the year 1810, though there were a number of transient residents whose names were not learned. Since 1810, the population has steadily increased; all the available lands have been put in cultivation by a thrifty class of farmers; schools and churches established and various industries inaugurated, and at the present time Joiinson occupies a prominent place in the galaxy of townships forming Clark County.

The first death in the township was that of David Ingraham, who was killed as already stated, about the year 1837. The second death occurred one year later, when the wife of James R. Geddes departed this life.

John Burris, son of John and Elizabeth Burris, was the first white person born within the present limits of Johnson. This gentleman is now forty-six years old, which would carry the date of his introduction into the world back to the year 1836.

Cupid's first victims in this township, were Amos Carian and Amanda Brewster, whose marriage occurred in the year 1838, and in the latter part of the same year, their laudable example was imitated by Noah Peters and Mary Ann Peters, who were joined in holy wedlock by Squire Jacob Janney. Among other early marriages were those of George Janney and Eliza Williamson, Joseph How and Letty Foster. In the year 1838, a small log school-house was built near the northern boundary of the township and occupied the winter of the same year by Isaac Schaffstall, who taught a three months term with an attendance of about fifteen pupils. The following year a second building for school purposes was erected near the southwestern part. This was a rude log structure also, about twelve by sixteen feet and was first used by Isaac Hughes, who taught in it for several consecutive years. The first frame school-house in the township was erected in the year 1850, and stood near the western boundary in the neighborhood of the Union Mount church. Here the first public school was taught the same year by Isaac Shaffstall. There are at present a number of good school-houses in the township, the majority of which are substantial frame buildings, well finished and furnished.

The Old School Baptists and Methodists were the pioneer religious denominations of Johnson. The first meetings were held at private residences and in groves, and were attended by the neighbors for many miles around. At these early meetings all met on a common level, worshiped the same God, irrespective of dogma or creed, and the question, "What church do you belong to?" was never asked. Among the pioneer preachers were Daniel Doughty, Richard Newport, John Shields and William Wilson, of the Baptists, and William Blundell of the Methodists. The first church was organized by Richard Newport in the eastern part of the township with a small membership, and continued with varied success for a number of years, but was finally disbanded.

William Blundell was a circuit rider and conducted services at the residence of James C. Mount as early as 1838. He preached regularly at this point for about two years but did not organize a class.

The oldest religious organization in the township at the present time is the Mount Olive Christian Church. It dates its history from the year 1857, at which time the organization was effected by Elders R. Metheny and R. Bates, the former of whom is the present pastor.

The original membership numbered about twenty, which was afterward increased to more than twice that number. Elder R. Bates was the first regular pastor, in which capacity he served the church about two years, and was succeeded by Elder Thomas Mattox, who preached for the congregation the same length of time. In 1862 Elder Metheny took charge of the church and has preached regularly ever since. The building stands in the east side of the township and was erected the same year the church was organized. It is a log structure, hut very comfortable and convenient, and will seat 250 persons. A flourishing Union Sunday school is maintained at this place during the entire year

and has an average attendance of more than one hundred scholars. It is at present under the efficient management of Joseph Jones, superintendent.

Mount Moriah Christian Church was organized about nine years ago by Elder Metheny with an original membership of sixteen. Their house of worship is a log building and was erected in the fall of 1873. Many large meetings and interesting revivals were held at this house, and in time the church grew to be a strong organization, but from some cause not learned, there has been a considerable falling off in the last four years until now there are only twenty-three names on the records.

Elder Metheny is still pastor, in which rapacity he has acted ever since the organization. Jonathan Brewer is superintendent of the Sunday school, which is large and well attended.

A society of Missionary Baptists was organized at the Mount Moriah church, in the year 1876, by Rev. William Bridgeman, with a membership of ten persons. Bridgeman preached for the congregation two years, and was succeeded by Rev. Thomas Reynolds, who ministered to the church one year, and was in turn followed by Rev. Bratton, the present pastor, under whose care the society has grown rapidly in numbers and influence.

About two years ago Elder McCash, of the Reformed Christian church, or as they are more familiarly known, Disciples, organized a flourishing society at the Mount Moriah church, which, at the present time, is in good condition.

Services are conducted regularly by Elder McCash, the pastor, who is assisted in his work at intervals by Elder Williams.

In the year 1881 a small society of the Southern Methodist Church was organized at the How school-house by Revs. Jones and Cross, and a movement set on foot by them to erect a house of worship. A lot for that purpose was obtained near Union Mount, and work on the building was pushed rapidly forward. It had not proceeded far, however, before a very disagreeable fact stared the projectors in the face, namely, that the funds collected were far from being sufficient to complete the edifice, and as the organization numbered but few members the project was finally abandoned and the building sold.

None of the community desired to see the property abandoned in this summary manner and William How, who was abundantly able to do so, was urged to buy the building when offered at public sale. This he consented to do, and a number of the citizens, but few of whom belong to any religious denomination, contributed to its completion, and furnishing for church purposes, an organization was effected and the business" placed in the hands of a board of trustees who were instructed to allow it to be used by an}' religious denomination which would keep in repair. The result is, that each denomination now hears the Gospel, " each in his own tongue," the Baptists, Christians and Universalists alternating in holding services.

The building is frame, cost about $1,500, and is the most commodious audience room in the township.

The Winebrennarian, or Church of God, sect have a place of worship in the southern part of the township, known as Oak Point. The society was organized about 1876, and for some years had a vigorous existence. The society built a neat frame place of worship soon after its organization, at a cost of some $1,200, where regular worship and Sunday school is still maintained. Rev. Mr. Sandoe is the present pastor.


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