Finding Ancestors wherever their trails led


Clay County

Genealogy and History


Harter Township History

From Clay County Plat Book
Flora Record Publishing Company
unknown date

The following articles were taken from the "History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois 1884 "
CHAPTER IX.—Harter Township and Flora
as written by G.W.Smith

Early Settlers
Appearances indicate that from the earliest settlement of the county, Harter Township, or that part of the county which now forms Harter Township, was destined to take the lead. The old State road leading from Vincennes to St. Louis, was the great highway by which many reached this part of the State to make their future homes. This, coupled with the advantages of soil and climate, gave us a class of settlers, who for sobriety, industry and intelligence is not excelled anywhere.
The first permanent settlement within the present limits of Harter Township dates back to the year 1818. If any were made previous to this time we have been unable to ascertain the fact. In the above year, Thomas Elliott, a brother of the venerable Isaac Elliott, came here with his family from Washington County, Ind. and settled on the southwest quarter of Section 27, where he erected a log house which is believed to be the first dwelling house built in the township. In 1822, he built a two-story brick adjoining the log house, where he kept a country hotel or tavern, as they were popularly called in those days.
Being situated on the old Vincennes & St. Louis State road, the house was a convenient stopping place for the large number of travelers who passed along this road in an early day seeking homes in the far West, as Illinois and Missouri were then called. The buildings are still standing where they were first built, and are now owned and occupied by John A. Gerheart.
In the same year and in company with Thomas Elliott, came Matthias Misenheimer, who settled on what is now known as the Seth T. Hinkley place. He first built a log cabin, and in 1820 he erected a hewed-log house. This house now stands on the hill just east of Raccoon Creek bridge, where it was removed a few years ago by its present owner. Mr. Misenheimer was a prominent citizen of the county, and was highly respected by all who knew him. He died in 1845 on the farm he first settled. His sons Levi and John I., and his daughter, Elizabeth, wife of Thomas Golden, still live in this county.
There seems to have been but few additions to the residence of the township until about 1829-30. In the former year Russell T. Logan settled in the north part of the township, on Buck Creek, and Johnson Furr, who came with him from Indiana, made his home just west of where Flora now stands. They both married daughters of Thomas Elliott. In 1840, Furr left this county, and finally went to Texas. Soon after this Logan settled on Section 21, on the farm which afterward was the home of Allen Landreth and is now owned by E. J. Bowen. Logan was a good farmer, and traded extensively in cattle and hogs.
In an early day, probably in about 1836, Robert Bryant settled on the old State road west of Flora, near where the flax mill now is. He was particularly noted as a horse-thief catcher. It was a very common thing for those who had horses stolen to go for old "Bobby " Bryant, and it is said that he scarcely ever failed to get the horse or thief, one and frequently both.
In 1839, James Jacobs came to this country from Indiana, and settled in Songer Township, near the line, and in 1842 his son Isaac married Abbey Colclnsure arid settled on Section 18, in this township, where he lived till a few years ago he moved to Flora, and is now one of the Justices of the Peace. In 1840, Ephraim Jenkins settled in the north part of the township, and is still one of our most respected citizens. Another of the old pioneers was William Nichols, who settled on the old State road between the Elliott and Misenheimer farms. Later came the Andersons, the Whites and many others who are still living and are among our wealthiest and most honored citizens.
The township was not closely settled at an early date, but the entries of the public lands were quite rapid as the following partial list will show, and had each entry represented a settler the population would have been quite large.
In 1820, entries were made by Matthias Misenheimer on Section 5, and by Thomas Elliott on Section 27. In 1836 by James McGrew on Section 16; on Section 12, by Isaac Halfacre; on Section 13, by Russell T. Logan; and by Jeremiah Vincent on Section 35. In 1837 by Robert Skuggs on Section 1, and by Elizabeth Halfacre on Section 12. In 1838, the following entries appear: Abraham Colclasure on Section 8, Micajah Brooks on Section 7, Silas G. Carter on Section 12 and Jacob Calclasure on Section 17. In 1830, Martin Delaney entered land on Section 5, David Golden on Section 7, Thomas Golden on Section 17, John Thompson on Section 18, Merrit Young on Section 27, Harmon Mills and William Nichols on Section 31, and Robert Bryant on Section 34. In 1840, by McKendree Thropp on Section 6, by John M. Griffith on Section 18, by William Young on Section 19, and by Ephraim Jenkins on Section 1. In 1841, by Thompson Miller on Section 1, by John Pettyjohn on Section 13, by James Jacobs on Section 17. and by Isaac Misenheimer on Section 32. In 1843, entries were made by James Sheller on Section 2. and by James Cook on Section 13. In 1844, by George Harter on Section 12, and by Moses Kerr on Section 13. In 1845, by Henry Furgeson on Section 27, and by James H. Sorrey on Section 31. In 1846, entry was made on Section 5 by Thomas Anderson, and on Section 11 by Peter Harter. In 1851, Daniel Gregory made a large number of entries in the township, and William Topping made an entry on Section 11. In 1852, John Hitch, Allen Landreth, Samuel White, Wyatt S. Berry, Jones Talafora, Samuel J. Kinaman, Joseph Anderson and many others made entries in different parts of the township. In 1853, entries were made by Colson Chandler and N. B. Russell, and a large slice of the township seems to have been gobbled up by John S. Hayward and Robert H. Ives.

Early Businesses
The original town of Flora was laid out, surveyed and platted in February, 1854, by Ethelred Nixon. County Surveyor John Brown, Trustee for Songer, Camp & Co.. and Samuel White, and embraced eighty–five acres of the west half of Section 25, Township -3 north. Range 6 east. White, who had entered and still owned the land, deeded one half interest in forty acres of land to John Brown, Trustee, with a view of securing the town and depot, as an effort had already been made to establish a town one mile west called Mooresville, where over 100 lots had been sold and some building done. After the collapse of this town, the principal business house was removed to Flora, and is now known as the "Commercial House."
Messrs. White & Brown sold their lots at private sale, and among the first purchasers were Sol Finch, George Harter and George Gunn. One of the members of the firm of Songer Camp & Co. had a very lovely daughter named Flora, and this name was suggested for the infant town, and as the town was almost completely taken by the large number of wild flowers, the name seemed to be appropriate, and was readily adopted, hence we have the name which is applied to our city. White's cabin, which stood upon the forty acres, may be called the first house in flora. It has long since disappeared. The old frame building adjoining the bank, and now occupied by W. C. Chaney as a residence and meat market, was the first house erected after the town had been laid out. White soon after put up a shanty, long since removed, in which he placed a stock of goods of general merchandise, which was the first of this kind in town. He soon after sold to Sol Finch, who took George Harter in as a partner. They continued in business till the death of Finch, when White became a partner in the store with Harter, with whom he did a successful business till the war.
Their first opposition was John Sheaffer; next, the firm of Gunn & Sons, Kenner Brothers, and later, Robert Medley, who kept the first exclusive grocery store. The Gunns did business on the corner now occupied by Warner & Luse, in the frame building standing just west of there, used now as a carpenter shop, in which the first protracted meeting Flora ever had was held. In about 1855, the old Major House was built by Mr. Samuel White. It was first kept by Dr. Rinard, who was succeeded by Alex Dye; then Jeff Murphy had charge of it for awhile, and next Press Turney, and in 1859 it fell into the hands of the Majors, who kept it till 1872, when they built the large three-story brick which is now known as the Major House, where the hotel business is still carried on by Mr. S. J. Major and his sister, Mrs. M. A. Graham. Their business increased so that in 1882 they were compelled to build a large addition. The Whites kept the first boarding house and livery stable in Flora; they also own the first blacksmith shop.
The town of Flora was incorporated under the general law in about 1857, and in 1867 it received a special charter from the Legislature, by which the town has been governed since. In 1857, a small mill was built by N. A. Eddy, which supplied the wants of the people who were compelled to go to Louisville previous to this. In 1866, A. K. Tate, James Join, J. F. Adduddell and P. J. Raymond formed a partnership, and built the brick mill now owned by Mr. C. T. Johnson; owing to recent improvements and additions, this is now one of the best mills in Southern Illinois.
In 1866, a small flouring mill was built by the Pearce Brothers, and in 1880, Messrs. Cook & Chidister purchased the mill from Pearce Brothers, and ran it successfully till July 24, 1882, when it was totally destroyed by fire. Mr. Cook went to work with his well-known energy, and on January 28, 1883 the Farmers' Mill was in full operation on the ground formerly occupied by the Pearce Mill, and under the management of Cook & Snyder has been making money ever since.
In 1872, Mr. T. E. Hayward built the Oak Mills, and they have been under the management of him and his son, L. R. ever since. It has been a profitable investment to the owners. When the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad was finished, Flora became the principal shipping point for the country both north and south, the merchants of Fairfield, Jeffersonville and Johnsonville on the south, and Louisville, Bible Grove and Hord on the north, receiving nearly all their goods from this place. The building of the Springfield & Illinois Southeastern Railway brought the country on both sides of us in direct communication with the railroad, and the effect was noticeable among our merchants in decreased sales.
What Flora lost, however, in the country trade was amply made up in railroad business. When the Ohio & Mississippi took control of the "Branch," the train dispatcher's office was moved to this place, and all trains are now run on orders issued from this office. When Flora was made a "station", George Harter was appointed the first agent. He was succeeded by H. G. Gunn, who had been the Adams Express agent, for some time. The office of agent at that time was a responsible one, as the depot was scattered all over the prairie, freight was unloaded wherever the train happened to stop, and the agent might find it if he could.
The next agent after Gunn was A. R. Kenner, who was succeeded by J. F. Adduddell. Adduddell did not have store room sufficient to store all the freight, whereupon he conceived the idea of building a depot. This was done by subscription, and what is now used for the freight house was Flora's first depot, and was built by the liberality of her citizens. It was afterward purchased by the company. Adduddell was succeeded by W. G. McCollough and he by the present popular agent Del Beecher.

Early Schools
It has always been one of the characteristics of the American people in going into a new country to provide for the education of their children as soon as possible. This our people did to the full extent of their ability. In 1840, a small log house was built in the west part of the township for school purposes. This is believed to be the first schoolhouse in the township. Caleb McDaniel was the first teacher.
About two years after this, a school house was erected on the State road this side of the Hinkley farm. Adam Curry taught the first school in this house. In 1846, a log schoolhouse was built on Section 18, where Felin Poe, who combined the two professions of teaching and preaching, taught the first school. He was a Kentuckian by birth, was considered a good educator, though a man of not much education. He believed, however, more in concussion than discussion, and did not spare the rod when necessary. The first schools were generally subscription schools, and the teacher " boarded around " as part pay.
In 1852, a frame building took the place of the log schoolhouse in Section 18, which was the first schoolhouse in the township heated with a stove. In this house our honored citizen, Judge R. B. Henry, wielded the birch for several terms. This house soon became too small for the rapidly growing district, and was replaced by what is now known as the Golden School, which, owing to the liberality and intelligence of its inhabitants, has for several years been recognized as one of the best schools in the county. From this small beginning our public schools have grown till, to-day, we have eleven schools in the township, employing twenty-one teachers, an average daily attendance of nearly 1,000 children, and school property valued at $50,000.

Nothing contributes so much to the life and prosperity of a place as good schools. This Flora has, and her energetic, liberal minded people will always maintain to its fullest extent. The first schoolhouse (in Flora) was built in 1856, on the lot just west of the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was a small frame building, and the first pedagogue who presided there was Claib Brashew.
School facilities were very limited till the old brick schoolhouse was finished. May 20, 18(35, a contract was entered into between the Board of Directors and John J. Simons, to build this house at a cost of $7,000. The contract to plaster and paint the house and fence the lot was made with Isaac Dye for $4,500. This building was a monster piece of rubbish and but few schools were taught in it before it was condemed by the directors.
For several years the schools were almost entirely neglected; occasionally a room was rented and school was had for a short time. May 29, 1875, an election was held to vote on the proposition to build a new schoolhouse. It was carried by a good majority, and after considerable squabbling, which is very common upon such matters. The contract was let to L. L. Leach. Work commenced about the middle of August.
Our present magnificent school building was completed and received about the middle of November. It is one of the finest school buildings in the State, and is one of the first objects that attracts the attention on coming into town from any direction.
The first week in December, 1875. Mr. C. C. Hutchinson organized the first school. He was ably assisted by A. H. Moore. Mr. Hutchinson was followed after one year's work by Mr. B. F. Conner, who in time was succeeded by Mr. J. T. Hall.
The following have completed the course of study, and now hold diplomas as graduates of the Flora High Schools.
Class of 1879—Frankie Presley, Mary Nields, Mary E. Wright, Edward L. Howett, William L. Howett.
Class of 1880—Mary Lowrey, Welland E.Walcott.
Class of 1881—Luell Noel. Hannah Martin, May Hinkley, Mamie Wilson, Martin T. Snyder, Adda M. Stevens.
In 1882. another year was added to the course of study, and hence there was no class of 1882.
Class of 1883—Florence A. Staples, Agnes Howett, Tena Williams, Emma Shadwell, Will Richey.
The school is now in a prosperous condition, under the management of Mr. D. Edmiston.

In 1867, Dr. B. F. Cunningham commenced doing a banking business in Flora. This was called the Savings Bank, and in 1868 George Harter was taken in as a partner. These gentlemen, in their business, owing to their well-known integrity and financial standing, had the confidence of the community. They did a successful business for six or seven years, when Harter died. Dr. Cunningham continued the business for about a year, and then wound up the affairs of the bank, which were in a most satisfactory condition, and returned to his farm near Flora to enjoy the rest and recreation which a long and successful business career required.
In about 1869, our estimable townsmen, Messrs. Kenner and Rider, commenced doing a general banking business, and in 1871 they sold their business to L. F. Wilson & Co., who started the Clay County Bank. This was organized as a National Bank, and received its charter in April, 1872. The following well-known citizens were its first stockholders:
William Hopkins, A. W. Bothwell, M. H. Presley, A. R. Kenner, Rufus Cope, W. W. Stewart, Robert Durland, T. P. Vandaveer, D. M. Smith, W. J. Moore, S. Webster, L. F. Wilson, Morris Brissenden, J.K. Bothwell, John L. Moore and Sylvester Rider. The capital was $75,000, divided into 750 shares of $100 each. Among the largest holders of stock were L. F. Wilson, who had 260 shares; William Hopkins, 150; and Hon. Osman Pixley had 100.
At the first meeting of the stockholders, Hon. Osman Pixley was elected President ; Capt.William Hopkins, Vice President ; L. F. Wilson, Cashier; and the following as the first board of directors: Osman Pixley, William Hopkins, W. H. Presley, Rufus Cope, W. W. Stewart, A. R, Kenner, L. F. Wilson, Sylvester Rider and Morris Brissenden. .March 31, 1878, the stockholders bought the interest of L. F. Wilson, reduced the capital to $50,000, and elected Randolph Smith Cashier. There has been no change in the office of President or Vice President since the first organization.
This bank is one of the soundest and best managed financial institutions in Southern Illinois. The directors are among the wealthiest and safest business men in the county. Its surplus is now over $15,000; the deposits exceed $150, 000; and has total assets of over $260,000. It is strongly conservative, and has by its fair and straightforward dealings increased its business more than 200 per cent in the last six years. No better evidence of its strength and usefulness can be had than the universal good name given it by its patrons and the community at large.

Secret Societies
October 7, 1856, Flora Lodge, No. 204, A. F. & A. Masons was constituted with A. B. Morgan, Oliver P. Vail, Samuel J. Kinaman, Peter Auspach, John J. Hill, Lafayette White and James Johnson, as charter members. Bro. A. B. Morgan was the first Worshipful Master, O. P, Vail the first Senior Warden, and Samuel J. Kiniman. Junior Warden. The first lodge meetings were held in a second story room of the residence of- Mr. N. B. Russell, who then lived in the residence now owned by Mr. John Kenner, in the western part of the town. The meetings were held here for some time, when the lodge was moved to the second story of the brick building now occupied by Mr. J. C. Ely and known as the D. M. Smith property. In 1865 it was located in the Vandaveer building, where it has remained ever since.
The lodge has always been in a prosperous condition, and numbers among its members some of the best men in the county. H. G. Gunn is now the oldest member of the lodge.
October 4, 1872, Flora Chapter. No. 154, Royal Arch Masons, was organized with the following constituting the charter members: Peter J. Raymond, O. H. Clark. George T. Saxton. Charles James. Joseph F. Wilcox, Andrew Lebus, Matthew Law. W. W. Sawhill. John F. Barr, Edmond C Park. John F. Shadwell, Mills B. Fletcher, James M. Williams and William Westerman. The membership has grown steadily till now it is one of the largest chapters in this part of the State.
Among the many good secret societies, the Ancient Order of United Workmen ranks with the best. This order is maintained for the purpose of furnishing to its members life insurance. March 21. 1877, a lodge was formed here with J. H. Gunn, M. G. Durland, C. H. Vandaveer, E. H. McPheters. W. M Campbell, A. Nichols. Alfred Conley, H. V. Russell. Edward Pindar, J. F. Eastman and William Locke as charter members. The order has paid $10,000 since its formation here to deceased members families, and has been the means of doing much good, and no doubt saved the poor farm inmates. The lodge now has forty-seven members.
In 1880, a Grand Army of the Republic post was organized in Flora with ten charter members, and was called Alexander Post in memory of Col. James F. Alexander, of the Twenty-first Illinois Volunteers, who was killed at Chickamauga. It now has a membership of eighty.
The various temperance societies have been organized and for a time maintained, but at present none are in existence.

March 12, 1854, a council consisting of Elders Joseph H. Odell and Stephen Blair, met at the residence of William White and organized the first Baptist Church of Flora. Previous to this, missionary work had been done by Elders I. H. Elkin, Joseph H. Odell and Stephen Blair—three good men. Twenty-four members constituted the first society, and they called as their first pastor Rev. Jesse Kenady, who preached one year. He was succeeded by Rev. M. C. Blankenship, who did much good work for the church. At the church session in October, 1854, a site for a church building was selected and preparations were immediately made for the erection of an edifice. Owing to the small number of members and none of them being incumbered with worldly goods, much difficulty was experienced in raising the necessary funds, and it was not till 1859 that the building was completed and ready for occupancy. The church was dedicated to the service of God on the first Sunday of April, 1859, by Elder I. H. Elkin. It has a seating capacity of about 400. Rev. I. H. Elkin was the first pastor in the new church. His work was very successful and the membership has gradually increased till now it is about eighty.
The congregation of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. H. W. Eagan November 30, 1863, with the following charter members: John W. P. Davis, Elvira P. Davis, Oliver H. Myers, W.B. Wilson, Margaret I. Wilson, Martha Vandaveer, Arabella J. Weed, Catharine Medley, Anna Williams, James M. Williams, Carrissa Eddy, Sarah Hawkins, Mary Chamberlain, Louisa Maria Beekman. At the organization, John W. P. Davis and Dr. W. B. Wilson were chosen Ruling Elders, and James M. Williams and Oliver H. Myers were elected Deacons. All were ordained by Revs. H. W. Eagan and J. H. Nickell. Soon after this organization of the congregation, a church edifice was erected. The membership of this church has never been large, but it has always been noted for the earnestness and devotion of its members. Rev. C. C. Young is now the pastor.
The first Presbyterian Church was organized at Xenia. Ill., by the Presbytery of Kaskaskia, April 21, 1858. Rev. R. M. Roberts and P. R. Vanatta and Elder T. W. Sweeny officiating. It commenced with eleven members, viz. : William Townslev. J. M. Haines Eliza Taliafero, Nancy J. Henderson, Margaret Walker, Amelia Townsley, Henry S.Watson, E. Jane Maimagh, Jane Belding, S. J. Holman and Belinda Haines, and William Townsley was the first Elder. The church was ministered to occasionally by Revs. P. R. Vanatta, F. H. L. Laird and D. R. Todd. The majority of the members and the only Elder having moved to Flora on the 28th of May. 1864, Rev. John Crozier and Elder Thomas Buchanan, a committee of the Presbytery of Saline, met at Flora and re-organized the church, and April 15, 1867, the Presbytery, then in session at Flora, changed the name of the church of Xenia to that of Flora, and received it under their care by that name. The first regular pastor was Rev. R. C. Galbraith.
In 1870, two lots, on one of which was a building suitable for a manse, and the other suitable for a church building, were purchased. The house was erected, and on the third Sabbath in May, 1871, dedicated. Rev. William Reed was the pastor from 1874 to 1875: Rev. M. V. B. Van Ausdale from 1875 j to 1876. The last regular pastor was Rev. Allen McFarland, who died in 1883, after a lingering illness of several months. He was a useful man in the church and in society, and was greatly beloved by all who knew him.
The Christian Church was organized in 1855,by Father Schooley in an old log schoolhouse which stood about one mile west of Flora. Nine persons composed the first congregation, among whom were Walter Kinaman, Henry Kinaman and wife, Felin Poe and wife, James Moore and wife, and Samuel Kinaman and wife. The meetings were held at this schoolhouse, at Henry Kinaman's residence and at the houses of other members till the frame schoolhouse was built in Flora, where the meetings were held till 1861, when the present church building was erected at a cost of about $2,000. This building, which is one of the neatest and best arranged churches in the county, was used for several years with only boards placed on blocks for seats. Among the first preachers was Father Schooley who preached occasionally,Rev. Felin Poe was the first Elder. Rev. John Tinkler was also an occasional preacher. Rev. John Flick wasthe first regular minister. From the beginning, the congregation increased rapidly in numbers, and when the church was completed numbered nearly three hundred. The congregation has always been prosperous, and has had some of the best preaches in the State for its pastors. Rev. M. T. Hough is now the pastor having been unanimously retained for the second year.
During the construction of the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad, a large number of Catholics were residents of this place, and it is one of the cardinal principles of that faith to not let their people go without religious instruction, a priest occasionally visited them, and mass was said at Louis Valbert' s residence south of town; Father Fisher, of St. Mary's, was the visiting priest. The next place where mass was said was at Jerry Hagarty's where S. T. Hinkley now lives. The society was visited once a month by the jwiest from Olney. For about a year before the church was built mass was said at S. Rider's. After the completion of the church Father Day, of Olney, visited them ohco a month. Father Shagle was the first resident priest; he remained about eight or ten months, and was succeeded by Father Rasin, who had been with the church since 1878. Louis Valbert, Jerry Hagarty, Dennis Whalen and Tim Buckley were among the first members, and Jerry Hagarty and Sylvester Rider were the first trustees. The congregation now numbers fifty-five families. They have been visited at different times by Bishops Junker and Baultes, of Alton.
The Flora Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Southern Illinois Conference, was formed in the fall of 1860; Rev. Jacob S. Moore was the first pastor. In the spring of 1861, when our country was calling for defenders, he resigned his charge, raised a company of volunteers and went to the war. The circuit was without a preacher for some time. The place was finally supplied by Rev. Richard Randall: owing to the small number of members this circuit was in 1862 connected with the Mt. Erie Circuit, and the different societies had preaching once in about every four weeks. In 1864, the two charges were disconnected, the Flora Circuit had then about 150 members, and Rev. R. H. Peter was the pastor. During his pastorate, an effort was made to raise funds to erect a church building; about $3,000 was subscribed and $1,000 paid in. In 1865, Rev. S. L. Rea was the pastor, and the church building was completed at a cost of $2,600. In 1866, Flora was made a station with about 200 members, and Rev. W. H. Corrington was the pastor. The following have been stationed here since: Revs. A. B. Morrison, Asa Coho, A. B. Nesbitt, O. H. Clark, Dr. John Van Cleve, W. D. Mabry, B. R. Pearce, M. N. Powers and J. B. Ravenscroft.
During Rev. Clark's work here, he began to build the parsonage, which was completed soon after he left Rev. Mabry improved the church property materially, adding a new brick front and tower, and a room above the entry for a pastor's study. The present pastor is Rev. J. B. Ravenscroft, who is now on his second year's work. He was born in England in 1836; came to this country with his parents in 1839; settled in Indiana, where he grew to manhood; he entered the ministry in 1852, and for several years sustained the relation of a local preacher. In 1867, he became an active member of the Southern Illinois Conference, and is now recognized as one of its most effective and popular preachers.

"With this we close our part of the history of Clay County. In a work of this character, in which so much depends on early traditions or somewhat incoherent records, it is but probable that some errors will occur and many things be omitted; we have tried to guard against these, and to give such matter as will aid the future generations in getting at least a partial knowledge of our past history, and if this has been accomplished we shall be satisfied."



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