History of Coles County, Illinois
By Charles Edward Wilson
Coles County In Development
PROMINENT PIONEERS AND EARLY PREACHERS - THE PARKERS, HUTTON AND HANSON - DRS. APPERSON AND ALLISON -- COMING OF THE LINCOLN FAMILY -- OTHER NOTABLE HISTORIC CHARACTERS -- ORLANDO B. FICKLIN, USHER F. LINDER AND COL. THOMAS A. MARSHALL -- EARLY POST OFFICES, POSTMASTERS AND STAGE LINES -- FIRST SCHOOLS AND SOME OF THEIR TEACHERS -- EARLY INDUSTRIES AND MANUFACTURING -- PRIMITIVE METHODS IN MANUFACTURE OF BREAD STUFFS - SAW AND GRIST MILLS -- AGRICULTURE -- THE BROOM-CORN INDUSTRY -- FRUIT-GROWING AND STOCK-BREEDING.
A brief allusion will be made to some of the most prominent of those first settlers, and I regret that the space allowed in this work will not permit more extended reference to hose mentioned, and necessitates leaving out many others who really deserve some notice.
Prominent Pioneers - Early Preachers -- John Parker, the head of the little party which made the first settlement here, was a preacher of the Predestinarian Baptist faith, commonly called "Hard-Shell Baptists," and he and his son Daniel were the first preachers in the county. They were earnest, determine men in all the pioneer walks of life, and thoroughly practical. Daniel, it was said, would go out upon an occasional Sunday, if his family were short of meat, and lay in a supply of deer and other game to last for some time. His weekdays were devoted to strenuous physical labor. He represented Crawford County as State Senator (1822-26) before the organization of Coles County, and for a part of the time before settling within the limits of what is now Coles County. He was a man of strong character and above the average in general intelligence. John PARKER, the father, had the same practical ways and recognized the stern necessity to care for the physical well-being of the wife and children. He had, by some means, received the sobriquet of "High Johnny" - probably not,however, because of any "High Church" proclivities - and during the season when bee-trees could best be found (for honey was one of the food necessities to give variety to their simple bill of fare), he is said to have occasionally announced after a sermon that there would be preaching upon some specified following Sunday, "if it was not a good bee-day". In this announcement he showed his shrewd recognition of the fact that, even if he were willing, himself, to allow a good day for finding honey to pass in order to preach, the probabilities were that, on such a day, he would be without a congregation.
John HUTTON, another pioneer, has said that he was present at the first sermon preached in Coles County; that all the population of the county were in the little log cabin where the meeting was held, and that there was abundant room; that Daniel PARKER preached the sermon, and his father, "High Johnny," in a few remarks at the close of the service, made the impressive statement, "Brethren, we have wandered far into the wilderness, but even here death will find us." John PARKER was a soldier of the Revolutionary War and applied for and received a pension as such under the Act of Congress passed in 1832.
John HUTTON, for whom the town of Hutton was named, assisted the PARKERS, already named, to move to this county in 1824, and spent some time here with them then, removing here late (in 1834) from Crawford County. He was a volunteer in the Black Hawk War from that county and was a prominent, enterprising and public-spirited man. He kept a pack of hounds, as did many others of the pioneers, for fox-hunting, and was a skilled hunter.
The other family of PARKERS who settled Parker's Prairie, were a numerous and thrifty family who came from Ohio to Crawford County, and thence here.
Rev. John ADAMS, John C. DAVIS, the EVINGERS, the INGRAMS, George GOODMAN, the JOHNS, the RENNELS, COTTINGHAMS, William BEAVERS, Joel CONNOLLY, John WALTRIP, Stephen STONE, Anthony COX and others named in the preceding list as settlers of the southeastern part of Coles County, and their descendants, have all been prominent, some of them holding important public offices, and in many ways, leaving their impress upon the community.
The earliest preachers in this part of the county were: Stanley B. WALKER, a United Baptist, Matthew BAKER, a Free-Will Baptist; Charles PENNINGTON, a Baptist, and Samuel PEPPERS, a preacher of the Disciples or Christian Church.
In the southwestern part of the county there were, at Wabash Point and vicinity (including Dry Grove). many men of high intelligence and fine character whose lives were devoted to making Coles County a worthy place of abode. George M. HANSON, a Methodist preacher, was a man of much public spirit, and displayed great energy and intelligence in his efforts in behalf of the young community. HE drafted and, with Joseph HARVEY and Andrew CALDWELL, circulated the petition for the new county of Coles, and was made the bearer of the petition to the State Capital, then Vandalia. While there, with the assistance of Colonel William B. ARCHER, member of the Legislature from Clark County, he obtained the passage of the bill and returned home inside of two weeks, bringing with him a copy of the bill as passed. He also circulated a petition for, and obtained the establishment of the first post office in Coles County, which he named Paradise, and became its first Postmaster. He was a member of the first Board of County Commissioners and later served in the Legislature, from 1842 to 1846 as Representative and 1846-48 as Senator. He was a preacher of much power and force and, in every sense, a leader.
Dr. John APPERSON, one of the first physicians in the county, was born in Virginia in 1794 and died in the town of Paradise in 1877. He became prominent at once after his arrival in 1829, and practiced his profession within a circuit of 25 or 30 miles, often being called to visit a patient 25 miles from his home, and never failing to answer such a call, when possible to do so. He continued his practice until old age compelled his retirement, and even then his old friends would send for him when sick, and would suffer no new doctor to prescribe for them.
An Example of Pioneer Sympathy -- As an instance of the straits to which the first settlers were sometimes reduced for the actual necessities of life, and in illustration of the helpful good fellowship among the pioneers, the following is related: Silas HART, one of the numerous family of HARTS, who had preceded Dr. APPERSON here, rode by soon after the Doctor had moved into his cabin and stopped to make his acquaintance. HE found Mrs. Apperson in tears. Upon inquiring, he learned form the Doctor that his wife was fearful that they would starve, as they had no meat and only a little meal left. MR. Hart looked thoughtful and turned his horse and rode away. In speaking of it afterwards the Doctor said he thought, as Hart left, that he was rather an unsympathetic man. But they soon heard the shot of a rifle in the woods, and then, a little later, Mr. Hart appeared bearing upon his horse a fat doe, which he tumbled off at the Doctor's cabin door and rode away. Thus began a friendship that lasted unbroken through many years, and only death at last had the power to step between them.
James T. CUNNINGHAM was a man of much intelligence and force. He was active in all matters pertaining to the improvement and advancement of the community, was elected to various local offices, served in the Legislature as Representative four terms (1834-42) and ran as the Whig candidate for Congress at one time, but, as the district was Democratic, he was defeated by Hon. J.C. ROBINSON, of Clark County.
Rev. Hiram TREMBLE, a pioneer preacher of the Methodist father, was another man of prominence, universally respected and looked upon as a leader in matters pertaining to the public welfare.
Wabash Point was settled by a high class of pioneers, in fact, and it is hardly fair to make special mention of a few and leave out others. Among the early settlers here were the CURRYS, GRAHAMS, Elisha LINDER, Charles W. NABB, Richard CHAMPION, the SAWYERS, YOCUMS, HARTS, Dr. William ALLISON, Jefferson COLEMAN, the RADLEYS, SLOVERS, H.B. WORLEY, Clemme GOAR and the preachers, besides those named in the preceding paragraphs, who were numerous in that locality (and nearly all of them Methodists, as this was a Methodist settlement), such as Barton RANDALL, Daniel THOMPSON, Thomas E. MORRIS, Daniel BRYANT and Thomas B. ROSS. Samuel PULLEN was the first Baptist preacher and Reuben COY was an early Christian preacher there. Dr. APPERSON and Dr. William ALLISON were also Methodist preachers, as well as physicians. These all left their impress upon the young community, and many of them and others have descendants still living here who are among the best people in the county.
In the Muddy Point settlement, which, for the purposes of this history must include the contiguous localities of Indian Creek and Goose Nest Prairie, had a large settlement at a very early day of men of high average in character. Just let the reader look over the list of those early settlers in what is now the town of Pleasant Grove, and he will find few names which do not remind him of some descendants here who are the best of Coles County's citizens.
William R. JEFFRIES was an early Sheriff and a man who had the confidence of his neighbors to the utmost - a sold, reliable and charitable man. Thomas JEFFRIES, his brother, was a Justice of the Peace for many years, and his decisions and acts, as such, stamped him as a man of judgment and good sense.
Joseph ALLISON was form Tennessee. His wife had been born in North Carolina. After their arrival here, by the death of her father she inherited some money from the sale of her father's slaves. She and her husband consulted about it. They were in full accord as to the wickedness of slavery. She called her inheritance "blood money," and it was agreed between them that she should receive the money, but every dollar of it was to be devoted tot he furtherance of the "underground railroad." It was so done. Mr. Allison, besides being a strong Abolitionist, was a leader in the cause of temperance and all measures that tended to the elevation of the morals of the young community. He was sincere, earnest and practiced what he preached.
But space forbids further personal mention of those in that locality, as the limit placed upon me by the extent of this work will not allow me to dwell upon the lives and qualities of such pioneer men and families as the BALCHES, CAMPBELLS, DRYDENS, GAMMILLS, GLENNS, NICHOLSON, FARIS, the RODGERS, BREWSTERS, GORDONS and many others.
Coming of the Lincoln family -- It would not be right, however, to leave this settlement without a short statement in regard to pioneer Thomas LINCOLN. He came from Kentucky to Indiana, thence to Macon County, Ill., and thence to Coles County in 1831. His son Abraham, a well grown boy, drove the wagon for them in their removal to Macon County and John J. HALL says he also drove for them in their removal to this county, and then immediately left to care for himself. The family first settled near Buck Grove, then, a few months later, removed to Goose Nest Prairie, where they lived until death took Mr. Lincoln in 1851. Mrs. Lincoln, who was a second wife and the stepmother of Abraham, lived some years after her husband's death, and at her death she was buried by his side in the Gordon Graveyard, on the Goose Nest Prairie.
Thomas LINCOLN was always poor; his cabin was of the most primitive sort, his wants few, his life simple, his disposition peaceable; he was a peace-maker among his neighbors; he had no education - could barely read and write - but the son, born into his humble home, made the name LINCOLN second to none in the world's history, and Coles County is proud to be the shrine of the mortal remains of Thomas Lincoln.
Other Notable Citizens --- Among early preacher sin this locality, the first one here was Rev. Daniel BARHAM, a Primitive Baptist. Rev. John MCDONALD and Rev. Isaac BENNETT were pioneer preachers here of the Presbyterian faith, whose efforts in building up the early churches were earnest and successful. Mark W. CAMPBELL was an early preacher of the Christian Church. The Reverend BENNETT was born in the East, and had received a college education. He was soft-voice with a refined manner, and was the only one of those early preachers who manifested annoyance at improper noises in church. He at first couldn't bear the presence of crying babies. He soon, however, met his affinity in the person of a daughter of Amos ASHMORE in the northeast part of the county. She was a fine looking girl with a strong voice and abundant vitality and animal spirit. "After he had lived with her a few years and several young Bennetts had gathered about his feet, he could preach right along in the stiffest kind of a squall."
Among the early settlers of Kickapoo Point and vicinity, in what is now the town of LaFayette, we find names of many who were always active and earnest supporters of good government and examples of good citizenship. This vicinity was a Baptist settlement at first, and Rev. Thomas THRELKELD was its first exponent in that part of the county. He was a man of many sterling qualities of mind and heart, worked on his farm through the week and preached on Sunday.
William EWING, William L. WILLIAMS, Katherine VANMETER (widow), Richard GRAY, William R. JONES, David HANCOCK, Stephen FERGUSON, I.J. MONFORT, Joseph VANDEREN, the WOODS, and John TRUE, the projenitor of all those Trues who developed into such excellent citizens, were among the earliest of that fine neighborhood.
William EWING, son of pioneer William EWING, just named, tells of the coming of Mrs. Katherine VANMETER from Kentucky, with her family (among whom was the boy Samuel, who later became Dr. S. VANMETER), and says that the neighbors gathered soon after to raise a cabin for her to live in, somewhere near that of William L. WILLIAMS.
Mr. WILLIAMS was a widower with considerable family, and, when they all gathered for the house raising (among them the widow VAN METER) he took an early opportunity to have a few words with her in private. The result of that private conversation Mr. WILLIAMS then announced to the company, stating that no special cabin was needed for Mrs. VAN METER, as she had just consented to occupy his own with him, and the raising might be adjourned, sine die. The announcement was received with shouts of approval and congratulations; but there was no adjournment until the good things provided to eat and drink had been abundantly sampled.
The locality in and about Charleston has, among its first settlers, many names still very familiar to the younger generation, by reason of the number of their descendants who live in the county. A name that is not so generally familiar now, was that of Dr. John CARRICO, one of the first doctors in that locality, and who must have been a man of intelligence and character, as he was Coles County's first Representative in the State Legislature. The pioneers were more particular to send men of good character and good personal habits to represent them, than is always manifested in these latter days. No suspicion of corruption and "boodleism" was attached to the names of Coles County's first State Senators and Representatives.
Alexander P. DUNBAR, Charleston's first lawyer, was prominent early. He was in the Legislature in the later 'thirties ('36-38) and afterwards in 1845-47. During the former session he was a desk-mate of Abraham Lincoln in the House. He was commissioned a Colonel in the Black Hawk War and rendered valuable service in recruiting and forwarding troops.
Orlando B. FICKLIN was a man of unusual parts, and was often honored by election to high offices. He was engaged in the Black Hawk War, and became prominent before his removal to Coles County in 1837. He was a Democrat in politics and served in several sessions of Congress from the district of which Coles County was a part, and also in the Legislature. He was intimately associated with Lincoln, Douglas and other men of national reputation while in Congress, and also as a lawyer in the practice of his profession over the circuit in which Coles County was located. He was a member of the convention which nominated James Buchanan for President; was a member of the convention at Charleston, S.C., in 1860, which split into two factions, and later attended the convention at Baltimore and assisted in the nomination of Stephen A. Douglas. He helped as a delegate, to nominate McClellan in 1864, and was a member of the State Constitutional Convention of 1862. Many stories of his ability and shrewdness are told, which the writer regrets that he cannot embody in this brief history.
Dr Aaron FERGUSON, who, with Dr. CARRICO, was one of the first physicians at Charleston, practiced his profession through many years and died there at a good old age. He was a man of education and ability. His wife was a daughter of Charles S. MORTON. His life was retiring and quiet, and he sought no public office. His practice extended for many miles around.
Usher F. LINDER was an early lawyer at Charleston, a man of considerable ability and one who, if he had possessed more stability of character, might have become a statesman. He was large, fine looking, quick at repartee and full of resources as a lawyer. He was in the State Legislature from Coles County several terms, was Attorney General of Illinois, rode the same circuit with Lincoln and others prominent in the practice of law, and, when at his best, was an orator of no mean ability. Be he could not always be depended on, and had traits that injured his reputation as a citizen.
Charles S. MORTON, for whom Charleston was named, was a man of character, He had the first store there, built a horse-mill, and otherwise assisted greatly in building up the young community. He is said to have erected a row of pole cabins just west of where the court house now stands, and they were let to new comers until they could provide houses of their own. This row of cabins was designated by the settlers by various euphonious names. Some called it he "Penitentiary", others "Smoky Row."
Mrs. MUNSON, of Lerna, now an aged woman and a daughter of John GORDON, a "Goose Nest" settler, told the writer that she went to Charleston when a child about 1834, to the first and only show she ever attended in her life. It was called an "animal show," She did not hear it spoken of as a "circus." They had an elephant and some monkeys, and various other animals in cages, such as the menageries no exhibit. Aside from the show, the only other impression she retains of the looks of things there, was that "Smoky Row" of 18 or 20 pole cabins, each of which contained one family and some of them two.
Thomas A. MARSHALL came from a prominent Kentucky family. When he came to Coles County in 1839, he purchased about 800 acres of land in the Dead Man's Grove, lived there two years and then resumed the practice of law at Charleston. He naturally (as lawyers often do) drifted into politics, and was one of the organizers of the Republican party in 1856. He was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1847-8, served one term (4 years) as State Senator, and in 1861, in consequence of the accession of Lieutenant Governor John Wood to the governorship after the death of Governor Sissell, was elected President pro tem of the Senate, serving for a short time as Acting Lieutenant Governor. He was the cashier and manager of the first bank in the county. During the Civil War he assisted in the organization of the First Regiment Illinois Cavalry, in which he served as Colonel. He held other prominent official positions, and was a man who, by reason of his tall, portly figure and striking countenance, attracted attention wherever he went.
Dr. Thomas B. TROWER studied medicine in Kentucky, came to Coles County in 1836, and, after trying the mercantile business awhile in Charleston, resumed the practice of medicine. He was later in the field than Drs. FERGUSON and CARRICO, but built up a large practice and was popular personally. He was a colleague of Col. Thomas A. MARSHALL as delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1847. He became wealthy and lived to a good old age. His widow, "Aunt Polly" TROWER, took up the management of the estate, displaying much business acumen, and died recently.
Dr. Byrd MONROE and his brother, Dr. John MONROE, both from Kentucky, were men of great prominence. They were both physicians but did not practice in this county. Byrd MONROE served one term as State Senator (1838-42). John MONROE lived many years after his brother's death, was a merchant of great enterprise, and a man whose opinions on public matters were much sought for and highly respected. He accumulated quite a fortune and died at the age of 66 years.
I have referred briefly to those early settlers of Charleston who were, in a sense, public men -- that is, men who were for various reasons in the public eye, or who filled some more important than mere local offices -- and I am compelled to stop there. I could fill a large space in this book with stories of the lives and services of many others, whose names are in the list of first settlers of Charleston.
Among settlers upon the east side of the Embarras, in what is now the town of Ashmore, no names stand out more prominently than those of the very first comers there - Laban BURR, JAMES, GUILFORD and Moses DUDLEY. Mr. BURR was said to have been originally from New York and the DUDLEYS from New Hampshire. They were men of exception intelligence, and took hold of the business of building up the new settlement with characteristic Yankee energy. They were bachelors for some time after they came, and, before taking to themselves wives, kept "bach" in their cabins' so that the settlement was often referred to as the "bachelors' settlement."
It is related that they brought with them many "down east" customs. One of these was the old usage, mentioned in "McClellan's History of Gorham, Maine," of christening a newly built house in the same manner as the naming of a ship when it is launched, by simultaneously breaking a bottle of wine on the prow. This old eastern customer of "naming the frame," as it was called, was carried out by climbing upon the ridge-pole and breaking the bottle, at the same time repeating some rhyme, or sentiment suitable to the occasion.
The first frame barn in the county was erected by the DUDLEYS, and a neighbor from Edgar County, named MCCRACKEN, performed the ceremony upon the ridge-pole, with all due solemnity, pronouncing the words, "The bachelor's delight, and the pride of the fair," as he struck the frame with the bottle -- a sentiment that doesn't seem entirely relevant, for while the barn might have been the "bachelor's delight," it is hard to comprehend how it could have been the "pride of the fair."
In looking over the names of other early settlers in that part of the county, there are few who might not be referred to at length as splendid citizens, and almost all of them still have descendants who are among the best people in the county.
Of the settlers prior to 1840 in the northeastern part of the county were Samuel ASHMORE, the BERRYS, Martin ZIMMERMAN and others; in what is now Morgan Township, the ADKINS, KENNEDY, MCALLISTER, the WINKLEBLACK families and others' and in the North Okaw settlement, the ELLIS, FULLER and HOOTS families and others.
All deserve special mention and more extended notice than can be given them in these pages.
Early Post offices and Mail Routes -- Mail facilities were very meager here in those early days. The mails were carried on horseback through this county from Paris to Vandalia. Samuel FROST is said to have been the name of the first mail carrier. Postage was at first 25 cents on each letter payable at the office of delivery.
Letter paper was unruled, pens were made of goose-quills, and ink was usually home made, by boiling some bark of the jack oak or maple tree in a little water, and then dropping some copperas in the decoction. This is said to have made a good, durable, nearly black ink. The ink was dried by scattering over the sheet very fine sand. Blotting paper was unknown. the letter, when written, was folded and the edges sealed together with sealing wax or "wafers." These latter were small, flat and circular shaped things, which, when moistened with the lips, became adhesive. They were considered quite a luxurious addition to a pioneer's "writing desk," when they were invented. The address was then written upon the outside of the folded sheet, envelopes being a later luxury.
The first post office in Coles County was called Paradise. The first Postmaster was George M. HANSON, who was appointed February 18, 1830, and kept the office at his own house in the northeast part of what is now Paradise Township. Later it was kept at SLOVER's store and there were probably other changes as to location before the village of Paradise was started, and the office finally located there. The second post office was Bachelorsville, located in the "Dudley Settlement," and its first Postmaster, Laban BURR, was appointed May 14, 1830. The third post office, of which Charles S. MORTON was appointed Post master on Match 31, 1831, was "Coles Court House." This was located at what later became the village of Charleston, but the post office retained the name first given to it until April 29, 1843, when it was changed to Charleston. Edmund ROACH was, on the day last mentioned, made the first Postmaster at this office under its new name. The fourth post office was Oakland, and on July 26, 1833, Whiffield W. MORRISON was made the first postmaster. About the time stages began running through Coles County, Hitesville was started by James HITE, and he was made the first postmaster for that place on August 24, 1835. On March 15, 1836, John TRUE was made the Postmaster of another post office called Bethsaida.
The names Bachelorsville and Bethsaida seem to have passed from the memory of most people now living, although both of them are mentioned in Peck's "Gazetteer of Illinois" of 1837, and are shown on maps of Illinois, published by J. H. Colton & Co., of New York, and others as late as 1836-which was their last appearance, the railroads then having caused the discontinuance of both these offices, as well as the one at Hitesville.
Bachelorsville was described (and shown on maps) as about eight miles east of Charleston, and was therefore, as stated, in the settlement of "bachelors' known as "Dudley's Settlement," at or in the vicinity of Section 12-12-10. The Post master had a little store in connection with the post office and Guilford DUDLEY later kept a store there. At these stores were sold cakes and pies that became famous, and the name "Pietown," given to that neighborhood then, clings to it to this day.
Bethsaida was described as a "post office eight miles west of Charleston." It was located in Section 21-12-8 on the north side of the State Road, just across from the church now there, about where is now the residence of A. G. HILDRETH, being the location at that time of the residence of John TRUE, Bethsaida's first Post master.
The post office of Campbell was started in what is now the town of Pleasant Grove, by the appointment of Eugenia CAMPBELL, Postmaster, on December 22, 1838. This completed the list of what I call "early post offices," and the dates of later post offices will be given in another chapter.
It is not certain what the east and west termini of the first stage routes were, which were started through Coles County about 1835. But, for several years prior to the coming of the rail roads, there was a regular line carrying passengers and mail from Indianapolis to Springfield. At different dates in those years the locations of the stops, or "stands," for the stages varied. Upon the east side of the county, we learn of no other stands than Hitesville and Bachelorsville. But upon the west side those stands were located at different times as follows:
At John FUDGE's, on the State road in the north west part of Section 18-13-9 (Fudge also kept a tavern there); at John TRUE's (Bethsaida), at Richmond, and at LANGSTON's west of the Little Wabash, about where the state road strikes the middle of Section 32-12-7. Coming west through central Coles County on the stages, up to 1855 the stops were at Hitesville, Bachelorsville, Charleston, Bethsaida and Richmond or Langston, in the order named. When the railroads came, Kansas, in Edgar County, swallowed up Hitesville, Ashmore abolished Bachelorsville, and Mattoon did away with Bethsaida. A post office by the name of Doty was established, in 1885, on the "Clover Leaf' Railroad, near the southwest corner of Section 29 in Charleston Township with James S. DOTY as Postmaster. Fare on the stages was usually six cents per mile, and meals at the stage stands were three "bits" or 37 1/2 cents.
School History.---- As has been stated heretofore, the first schools in the county were private, a small tuition being charged by the teacher. The first school houses were built by the contributions of the settlers in a neighborhood, in the form of labor. One settler would donate a site for the building. Others would come with the ax, the frow and the auger-those implements of necessity and the only ones actually necessary, in the building and furnishing of a pioneer house of any kind. When the school-house was built with an extra wide fireplace to enable all to get warm it was provided with windows made by sawing openings through the logs and covering them with white cotton goods or oiled paper. The first regular log school house in the Wabash Point or Dry Grove settlements, must have been the one built about 1829-30, on land that be-longed to Van Nort and was located on the north part of Section 11-11-7. The first teachers there were the man Banker, heretofore referred to, David Campbell, William Moffett, Eli Thayer, 0.H. Perry and later T. D. P. Henley, father of Judge L. C. Henley.
Mrs. Lurana Graham, who recently died at the age of ninety-two years, and who was a daughter of pioneer Charles Sawyer, said that some woman named Green had a school of six "scholars" in a cabin that had a dirt floor, about 1828-29 in Wabash Point. Her sister, Mrs. Spencer, who recently died at about ninety years of age, said the first school teacher there of whom she had any recollection was John Graham. A man named Drake is said to have taught awhile at an early date. James Waddill taught there in the early 'thirties. Nathaniel Killim who was the victim of the first murder in the county, taught a short time very early at the "Point." One George Kellar taught in various parts of the southwestern corner of the county. Ebenezer Alexander also taught there at an early day.
In Muddy Point and vicinity I find no one who has recollection of the first school house. A man named McCLELLAN, perhaps, taught the first school there, and later teachers there were Hull TOWER, Theron J. BALCH and Hezekiah BATCH. The two Balches are heard of as early teachers in Kickapoo Point also, and Daniel BARHAM, the preacher who settled on Goose Nest Prairie, also taught there.
Mr. James PHIPPS, whose father came about 1827, tells of a log school-house at a place known as the Sulphur Springs in the Kickapoo Point, where a man named Watson and others after wards taught, beginning about 1830 to 1832.
Little can be learned of early schools in the southeastern part of the county. The LeBaron History of 1879 tells of a log school-house being built about 1832-33, "on the hill near the Pole Cat Bridge." The location is given with the usual indefiniteness of that work. We, who are living a quarter of a century later, can easily find several bridges on the Pole Cat which might fill that description. Old settlers say, however, that the school-house referred to, was probably that on the south side of Pole Cat Creek near the bridge south of Ashmore and between that village and the "Pietown" neighborhood. William Crocker is believed to have been the first teacher there.
In what is now Hutton Township, a log school house was built about 1833-34, on Section 5. In that, Hezekiah MACON, John TINCHER and Thomas FOWLER taught. James RENNELS was also an early teacher there.
It seems well-nigh impossible to get any reliable information about early schools in what are now Morgan and East Oakland Townships. Also very little can be learned in that respect in reference to the northwestern part of the county.
School-houses, so far as can be learned, were not built in the north central part of the county until sometime after 1840, and those matters will be covered in the separate histories of the townships.
Early Industries.----As to early industries, aside from farming, as well as stores and manufacturing, definite and absolutely reliable information is hard to obtain. The first settlers had to go a long way to stores and to mills. They generally went south to Darwin, in Clark county, or Palestine, in Crawford County, or east to Paris, in Edgar County - whichever was nearest to them or easiest of access - and, when unable to go to mill, they resorted to several of the world-old methods of grinding, one of which was, when sheet iron or tin was obtainable, to punch the sheet full of nail holes, thus forming a "grater," and fastening this upon a board, take an ear of corn, which had been softened by soaking in water, and rub it up and down upon the grater, reducing it to a coarse meal. Another was grinding the grain by hand with stones, where suitable stones could be obtained for that purpose. Still another method was that which James PHIPPS says was practiced in his father's family and by other early settlers. This was to cut out or burn a bowl-shaped hollow in a good sound stump, then rig up over it a small pole-sweep similar to that used in raising a bucket from a well; in place of the bucket was attached a large stone hung directly above the stump. The shelled corn was placed in the stump, and, by manipulating the pole up and down, the stone was made to pound the corn until reduced to various degrees of fineness, which was then silted, the finer being used for bread, and the coarser part made into hominy.
Indian corn was the staple production of the first settlers. Very little wheat was planted until several years after the pioneers came, and it was not an easy matter to grind wheat by these primitive methods on account of the smallness of the grain and its adhesive character; so that wheat bread was a rare luxury until the establishment of good mills. In the southwestern part of the county Jacob SLOVER started a store about 1830, near the south part of Section 2-12-7, and soon thereafter Isaac SLOVER built a horse-mill nearby, and just north of the store Tobias SPECK located a blacksmith shop. One BALDWIN had, a little earlier, a blacksmith shop near by. These were the earliest industries of the kind in that section. John RADLEY was skilled in making wool hats. In the early 'thirties Charles W. NABB started a store at Richmond, and one ECKLES started one on the State road just west of the easternmost bridge over the Kickapoo Creek. Richmond (so named by pioneer HOUCHINS, who owned the land, because he came from near Richmond, Va.) was located about the junction of the State road with the south line of Section 27-12-7.
The PARKERS had previously started a mill on the east side of the Embarras near where their first settlement was made. This mill was sold to a Mr. SHAW and, later, to NORFOLK & BAKER; and then, after being moved to the west side of the river and rebuilt and enlarged in the later 'fifties became the property of a Mr. Eben BLAKEMAN who made it one of the best mills in the country. It was run for a large part of the time both day and night until the early 'eighties. Mr. BLAKEMAN also had a saw-mill nearby his grist mill, which turned out the lumber for many a Coles County building.
As heretofore stated, Charles S. MORTON started the first store and first horse-mill, at or near Charleston, about 1830-3 1.
John ROBINSON started a mill on the Kickapoo, in LaFayette, but it did not run long.
John TRUE later (about 1836) built a horse-mill in that vicinity, and James GOBIN had a mill at an early day on Kickapoo Creek.
John TULLY started a water-mill at the south edge of the county near Johnstown, about 1831-32. It was then converted into a horse-mill, and still later into a tread-mill. There was a distillery attached which Tully bought from Robert DIXON, who started it, and the two industries made it a popular grinding place for the settlers in that section. Thomas FARIS had an early horse-mill a mile northeast of Lerna. William R. JEFFRIES had a horse-mill, and, being a public-spirited man, besides his mill, had a distillery and a tan-yard.
George TIFF and Gideon SATTERLEE had mills on the Pole Cat in the early 'thirties. Mr. Tiff's mill was not far above the mouth of the Pole Cat, and in connection with it he had a distillery. This mill did the grinding for many settlers in
Hutton and Ashmore Townships.
James NEES started a horse-mill about 1832, near "Dogtown" (now Diona), in Hutton.
Enoch SEARS started a horse-mill three miles southeast of Oakland, about 1833, and James REDDEN had one quite early. Several early attempts were made to erect water-mills on the Ambraw west of Oakland, but the floods swept them away. One started by Mr. CHADD, however, ran for several years.
The first settlers along the Okaw patronized a mill at Old Nelson, in what was then Shelby, but is now Moultrie County. Hawkins FULLER, however, started a horse-mill in the 'thirties on Whitley Creek.
The first lumber manufactured here was by means of "whip-saws" operated by two men, one above and one below the log. This was a slow process, and frame houses were not built until some years after the first settlements were started, or in the later 'thirties, when a few horse-power saw-mills were started. A whip-saw mill was run in the early 'thirties on the north part of section 2-11-7.
David WEAVER and George OLIVER started a water-power saw-mill on the west side of the Ambraw early, and one of their industries was to send lumber and hoop poles down the river on flat boats, to the larger settlements.
The use of steam in operating mills began with the one erected by Miles W. HART and Clemme GOAR, at Paradise, about 1837-38. The boiler and engine, and the burr-stones for this mill, were brought from Cincinnati on wagons by James SEXSON, Hugh COWAN and H. B. WORLEY.
To show how rapidly Coles County was progressing, it may be stated that, in 1831 (six years previous), there were only ten mills in Illinois operated by steam. Some of them were for grinding and some for sawing, and most of them located along the Mississippi River. The nearest one to us was a saw-mill in Clark County.
A few attempts were made to burn brick in the 'thirties. The first, perhaps, was by "Jack" HOUCHIN, in 1831, at a point just a little south of the present old "Camp Ground" cemetery, on the east bank of the Little Wabash. This first attempt was a failure, as the fires were made too hot and the brick melted and ran together. Later more successful attempts were made and, by many trees in my boyhood days that bore the great red Indian (clingstone) peaches, and also several varieties of yellow free-stone peaches, all large and full of juice. The most common kinds of apples were those called the "jenneting" and "milam." But many splendid apples in the early orchards were produced upon trees that were grown from seed, and were of unnamed varieties.
Young trees had to be carefully wrapped with straw, or cloth, or heavy paper, to a height of about two feet each winter, to protect them from rabbits, which loved the taste of the tender bark.
Red clover was introduced pretty early and timothy, Hungarian and other grasses experimented with. The value of blue grass was early recognized. At first, however, some of the pioneers looked upon it with suspicion. One Muddy Point settler, noticing its facility to spread, became uneasy lest it should take the place, so at odd times he went about with a spade digging up and turning over every clump of blue grass.
For many years, Indian corn was the principal product, but oats, clover and timothy for hay, as well as pasturage, were largely produced, and Hungarian rye, wheat, barley and buckwheat were extensively planted. Sorghum cane came in the 'fifties, and many farmers raised it largely from about 1860 on for many years, and manufactured from it a species of molasses that was universally consumed here. With the cheapening in price of Southern cane syrups, its growth and manufacture were gradually discontinued.
Domestic Industries .- The women took the wool after the shearing, and it was picked, cleaned, carded, spun and woven into the garments and bedding right at home. The women made pickles and preserves, and kept them in jars and crocks through the winter. They had no cans for sealing up fruits. They made cheese also, and no such cheese is ever tasted in these latter days.
As late as in the early 'sixties cheese was brought weekly to the store of my father, T. J. WILSON, at Ashmore, by the good women in the country thereabout, and I remember nothing that appealed more strongly to my boyhood taste than that cheese.
The Broom Corn Boom. - In the early 'seventies broom-corn came in as an extensive crop, although it had been planted in a small way from about 1863. R. A. TRAVER, of Charleston, may be said to have been the pioneer in its production on. a large scale. He started a broom factory in Charleston, and rented a large body of land which he planted in broom-corn, and from year to year, its production increased, until a few years ago it reached the culmination as probably second only to Indian corn in the value of its annual production.
At one time over three-fourths of all the broom-corn produced in the United States was raised in Coles and three or four adjoining counties, and Mattoon, Charleston and Humboldt were large markets for its sale and shipment.
Considerable quantities are still handled at those points, but, for the past three or four years, its production has been gradually declining owing to the competition caused by its extensive planting in the cheap new lands of Kansas and Oklahoma, and the difficulty in getting the large number of hands required to harvest and care for it.
Thomas FARIS early began to ship in fruit-trees for his neighbors, and had a nursery of his own just northeast of Lerna for many years.
James DUDLEY, in Ashmore, started a nursery in the early 'thirties, which was afterwards sold to John T. OLMSTED by whom it was continued until 1864. People came a distance of fifty miles to obtain trees, shrubs and small fruits from that nursery. James RENNELS, in Hutton, was skilled in grafting and budding trees, and started a small nursery there in the 'thirties.
Live Stock..- Thomas FARIS probably brought into the county the first lot of Berkshire bogs. He also early began the improvement of other stock, by importing better blood. CUNNINGHAM, NABB and DEJARNETT, of the Wabash Point settlement, all brought in Durham bulls from Kentucky in the later 'thirties. John T. OLMSTED, of Ashmore, brought in improved breeds of hogs and cattle. So also did John HUTTON of Hutton. These men, by their example and their talk, encouraged others in their desire for better breeds of all stock, and the later stimulus given by the County Fair soon began to have a gratifying effect in the general improvement of breeds. One of the first importations from Europe, of the draft horses that were to do so much for us in building up the quality of Coles County horse flesh, was Richard STODDERT's purchase of the iron gray Percheron stallion, "Prince," in the early 'seventies. This animal became the sire of many superior colts, and was the forerunner of very many other most excellent importations.
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©2003, Transcribed by Kimberly Torp