By Charles Edward Wilson
The town of Morgan (named for pioneer David Morgan) is a very irregular shaped tract, nine miles long from north to south, a little over four miles wide at its north line and about one and a half miles wide at its south end. It extends from Douglas County on the north to Charleston Township on the south. Its west line coincides with the east line of Seven Hickory and the winding channel of the Embarras River is its eastern line.
The township contains from twenty-five to twenty-six sections of land, and has within its borders some of the best soil in the county and some of the poorest. Its western part is upon the prairie, and the broken, hilly country borders the river. It is drained in the north part by Greasy Creek and Dry Branch, and in the southern portion by smaller tributaries of the Embarras.
Some First Events - The first death in the borders of the township is thought to have been that of the wife of pioneer Aaron Collins.
The first marriage was that of a daughter (Clara) of Mr. Collins to Mr. Thomas Creighton, the ceremony being performed by David Morgan, the first Justice of the Peace.
The first Supervisor was Nathan Thomas.
The first school house was built in 1839-40, but the name of the first teacher cannot be learned.
The earliest attempt to start a village was the establishment of a store and blacksmith shop, etc., in the south part of Section 30, Township 14, in the 'sixties, and called Curtisville. No land was platted there, but a post office was started in 1867.
Greasy Creek is said to have received its queer name from the fact that certain early settlers on its borders had a habit of poaching their neighbors' hogs, and, after cleaning their carcasses, threw the entrails and other refuse into the creek, causing its waters to become greasy.
Morgan contains two villages, started after the building of the "Clover Leaf" Railroad - Rardin and Bushton. Both were surveyed and platted in 1881. The former was named for John H. Rardin, one of the owners of the land upon which it was located, and the latter for David and John Bush, who owned the land upon which it was platted.
Villages - Rardin has today five stores, a grain elevator and about 225 population. The elevator was the work of George Wyeth, who, about 1895, purchased a warehouse there and converted it into an elevator.
Church History - Its one church, the Rardin Cumberland Presbyterian, was organized some time about 1843-45, about one and three-fourths miles south of Rardin. Rev. James Ashmore was its first minister, and John W. Woods and Robert Hill, early Cumberland Presbyterian preachers, often visited and preached to its congregation. The church was removed to Rardin about 1884, and about eleven of its first members were still associated with it, among whom were: William Morgan and wife, Aris Galbreath, Nancy Johnson, J. L. Rardin, Mary A. Rardin and Catherine Golladay. It is now without a regular minister, but has a good organization, with over 140 members. Its elders are: J. T. Taylor, Wm. Foley, A. J. Morgan, J. F. Davis, J. A. Covert and T. P. McAllister.
Rardin's one Lodge is No. 861, I O. O. F., which was instituted October 16, 1902. Its first officers were: J. F. Davis, N. G., and Thomas Collins, Secretary. The present officers are Jacob Long, N. G., and W. T. East, Secretary.
The lodge has over sixty members, is out of debt, and has several hundred dollars in the treasury.
Bushton has two churches, two stores, two elevators and a restaurant, and in the neighborhood of 200 population. The first elevator was put up there by George Wyeth about 1883. The Farmers' elevator was erected in 1902.
The Pleasant Valley Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the town of Seven Hickory in 1881, and built a house on Section 31, Township 14, about 1882, which was dedicated by Rev. H. H. Adams. Its first Trustees were: William Stites, Jackson Gerard, David Bush and Conrad Burgner, and its first pastor was Rev. S. H. Huber. This church was removed to Bushton in 1901, and its present pastor is Rev. M. C. Hull.
The Bushton Christian Church was organized there in 1886, with Rev. Isaac Lamb as its first minister. Among its first members were the Perishos, Fraziers, O'Hairs and Powers, all prominent families of that vicinity.
Its present pastor is a Rev. Mr. Smith.
Bushton has a lodge of the Modern Woodmen (No. 4019), organized in 1901.
Frank Blizzard is the present G. C. and R. X. Rankin is Clerk.
There are two churches in Morgan Township besides those in Bushton and Rardin.
The Cumberland Presbyterian, known as Union C. P. Church North, was organized about 1842 by Rev. James Ashmore. It is located in what is known as "Greasy Point," near the Union Cemetery. The present building was put up in 1904. The old one stood about half a mile southwest. They have no regular preacher at this time.
A building is now under way in Rardin which is to be used as a parsonage, and, when completed, a minister will be employed to serve as pastor for both this and the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Rardin.
The Salem Missionary Baptist Church was organized about 1860, and a building was erected in 1862, somewhere in the southern part of Section 19-13-10. Rev. James Walker was its first regular preacher. Among its first members were: Isaac and Nancy Roberts, Fielden, Martha and Susan Banks and W. D. Roberts. The last named was made a deacon. The church was moved to about the middle of the southwest quarter of Section 30-13-10, some time from 1886 to 1888 and about 1888-89 a new building was erected at the last named location, which was dedicated as the Union Baptist Church, the former name being abandoned. The name "Union" was adopted because it was intended that both denominations of Baptists (Missionary and Primitive) should have the privilege of using the building. There is no record, however, of any regular organization of Primitive Baptists there. The first pastor of the new Union Baptist Church was Rev. Joseph Payne. Rev. D. M. Stiles of Charleston now holds regular services there. The two Union churches in Morgan Township are distinguished colloquially as "Union North" and "Union South."
The voting place of the township was at the California school house until the town hall was erected in Rardin in 1886. This hall is unique in respect to the fact that the money to build it was derived from the old dog-tax, which was imposed many years ago upon dogs, for the purpose of reimbursing owners of sheep that were killed by dogs. As Morgan Township dogs became civilized, they ceased killing sheep and the accumulated money was used to build a town hall. It is facetiously referred to as Morgan's "dog-house."
Schools - A year or two prior to 1840 the first school house was built somewhere in the timber along the Embarras River, but the location and the name of its first teacher cannot now be learned. It must have been somewhere in Greasy Point, as it was there that David Morgan and other prominent pioneers settled. The first school district was probably the California District, started in the later 'forties, which included pretty much the whole township.
In 1879 the township contained only three districts, the other two being called the Hazel Dell and the Winkleblack districts. It has been subdivided since into several more districts.
The present building, which is the third one erected in the California District (No. 12), is located in the northeast corner of Section 17, Township 13, and its last school was taught by Miss Stella Robertson.
The Winkleblack School (No. 13) is the successor of an old log school house, built in the 'forties. A frame house succeeded that in the 'sixties, and the present building succeeded that. It is located in the northeast part of Section 30, Township 13. An early teacher in the old log building was William Cory. The last school was taught by Miss Luada Fort.
The Rardin School (No. 6) is the successor of the old Hazel Dell, which was located one and a half miles northwest of its present location in the village of Rardin. The early teachers of the Hazel Dell School, beginning about 1861-62, were: J. B. Williams, Sarah E. Breeding, I. W. Perisho and S. M. Foulger. The present building is a comfortable structure of three rooms. J. T. Taylor, Samuel Rardin and W. E. Worsham were probably the first directors. The last term was taught by W. H. Crispin and Miss Adelia Christian.
The Bushton School (No. 11) was originally commenced about 1883 in an old store building on the west side of the California district, and moved from there to the old Grange Hall. The district was divided in 1900, and in that year the present comfortable building of two rooms was erected in Bushton. An early teacher was Miss Laura Jennings. R. P. Barr taught first in Bushton and the last school was taught by W. E. Cottingham and Miss Minor Duvall.
Contrary School (No. 10) is located in the northeast part of Section 31, Township 14. The building was erected about 1876. J. J. Collins was one of its earliest teachers, and the last session was taught by O. C. McGahey.
Busby School (No. 126) is located near the northeast part of Section 21, Township 14. Among its early teachers were: Thomas Creighton, Alfred Flohr, J. B. Williams and Joseph Nesbit. The last session was taught by Hubert Hill.
North Okaw Township derives its name from the Okaw (Kaskaskia) River, which, entering at the extreme northeast, courses in a southwesterly direction through the northern portion of the township. It was called North Okaw to distinguish it from Okaw Township, to the south in Shelby County. It is bounded by Moultrie County on the west, Douglas County on the north, Humboldt Township on the east and Mattoon Township on the south. It comprises all of Township 13 and the southern half of Township 14, Range 7 East, and contains fifty-four square miles.
Timber, Streams, Etc. - The heavy timber of walnut, white oak, hickory, maple and other varieties which once covered the northern portion of the township, has almost entirely disappeared; only a remnant of its sylvan glory, bordering the river, marks the location of the vanished forest. The north central part of the township is drained by the Okaw River and its tributaries. The river is spanned by four iron bridges, the one at Jackson's Ford, built in 1873, costing $3,400; the Humboldt bridge, built in 1879, costing $1,000; Cook's Mill bridge, built in 1886, costing $5,300, and Flank bridge, one and one-half miles north of the Humboldt bridge, built in 1903, costing $4,000. At the south, flowing west through the township, is Crab Apple Creek, which drains that portion of the township, but in addition to all these natural water-ways, it has more drainage districts than any other township of the county.
Soil and Agricultural Characteristics - Its prairie soil is a rich, black loam, and its farms are among the most valuable in the county. The principal products are Indian corn and broom-corn, the latter having been raised to some extent as far back as 1865, the original planters being Thomas Senteney and Mr. Faulkner. The amount cultivated from 1880 to 1900 averaged 10,000 acres annually. Since then the acreage has diminished, and in 1904 only about 2,500 acres were planted.
First Officers - The first Supervisor of the township was John Hoots, and among the county officers furnished by the township were two Sheriffs - James Hamilton and William Checkley. The former loosened the trap for the first legal hanging in the county, that of Thomas Chapman, in January, 1885.
During the 'seventies the Farmers' Grange flourished, several organizations having been formed in North Okaw Township. They were the forerunners of the Farmers' County Institute, which, in 1905, is active and strong, with Harvey N. Ames, of North Okaw, as Secretary.
Land values have kept pace with the progress of the township. Much of the land which, in 1853, was entered in North Okaw at $2.50 an acre, in 1905 is valued at $150 per acre.
Coles Station - At the extreme southwest corner of the township, where four townships - North Okaw and Mattoon of Coles County, East Nelson and Whitley of Moultrie County - join, is located the hamlet of Coles. There cutting across the corner of North Okaw, is the Peoria Branch of the Illinois Central, the only railroad in the township, and in that corner of the township are a general merchandise store, built in the early 'seventies, two residences and the railroad depot. The plat for the village of Coles was made in 1872.
Fuller's Point - The Fuller's Point post office was the earliest in the township, established in 1849 at Henry Fuller's house, one mile west of the present site of Cook's mill. Previous to the establishment of this office the people of that section got their mail from the Paradise post office. About 1848 Dr. J. T. Johnson was appointed Postmaster and the office was moved to his house, one mile west of Henry Fuller's. About 1860 it was again moved, this time to the home of Martin Price, one mile farther west, directly on the line now separating Coles and Moultrie Counties. It was here that the village of Fuller's Point sprung up. It consisted for years of one store, the post office and a couple of dwellings, and now consists of two stores, a blacksmith shop and two dwellings. In 1904 the post office was discontinued and Fuller's Point now receives its mail from Sullivan by Rural Route No. 1.
About two miles south of this point is the line of the old "Archer Road," sometimes called the "South Springfield Trace." It ran to Springfield from Marshall, through Charleston, and was partly surveyed by Ebenezer Noyes in 1836 under Commissioner Timothy Young. After the establishment of the Fuller's Point post office in 1842, its mail was received and distributed by means of this road until the post office was started in Mattoon in 1855. It was also a stage road and a relay station was maintained at the William Harrison Smith farm, now owned by Thomas Smith in the northeast corner of Section 22-13-7.
Cook's Mill - In the midst of heavy timber about four miles wide on the Okaw River, a saw-mill was erected in 1861 by McGee & True. A year later it was sold to Elam Cook, who built a house for himself and a number of houses for his mill-hands. This furnished the nucleus for the town of Cook's Mill. In 1862 Robert Gilland built and furnished a general merchandise store, and a year later sold it to Elam Cook. It was in this store that the post office was established in 1870, Elam Cook being Postmaster, the mail being carried by way of a "star-route" from Mattoon. Cook was succeeded in turn by D. A. Crum, John Wilson, H. T. Crum, D. F. Hoots, Robert Morgan and the present Postmaster, Jesse Webb. The office is now located in Daniel John's store in the Odd Fellows' building, and serves about 300 people.
The town now has four general stores, two restaurants, one blacksmith and wagon shop, one barber shop, one undertaking establishment and a molasses factory.
The village has one school, known as the Cook's Mill School, built about 1865 on land donated by Elam Cook. Among the early teachers was the late Dr. R. A. Pickering. In the summer of 1902 a larger building took its place.
Churches - There are also two churches at Cook's Mill. One is the Missionary Baptist, known as Pleasant Grove Church, established in 1866. It is a strong and nourishing church, with a well-kept five-acre cemetery adjoining. In 1900 a larger and more commodious church was built at a cost of $1,500. The present pastor is Reverend Sharpe.
The other church is a later organization, the church edifice having been built in 1901. It is a Separate Baptist Church, called Webb Chapel, and the present pastor is Rev. Jacob Busch.
Secret Organizations - There are four secret societies in the village, of which Bluff Lodge, No. 605, I. O .O. F., was the first to be organized. Its charter was granted in February, 1876, the first principal officers being James Hamilton, N. G., and Joseph Perry, V. G. The lodge had twenty-five charter members, its present membership being sixty-three. It has suffered twice by fire within the past ten years, the last being in the summer of 1901, when a large part of the village was burned. The lodge now owns a two-story building, the hall being in the upper story, where the K. of P. and M. A. F. O. also meet.
An auxiliary is the Cook's Mill Rebekah Lodge, No. 571, organized August 26, 1902, by Mrs. Anna Patterson, of Mattoon, with twenty-two charter members. The present membership is thirty-seven. Among the first officers were: Mrs. Ettie Webb, N. G., and Anna Wilson, V. G., who are yet serving the lodge, with John Wilson as Secretary.
In February, 1902, Pythagorean Lodge, No. 617, K. of P., was organized in I. O. O. F. Hall, with twenty-six charter members. The present membership is eighty. It meets weekly. Among the present officers are: Thomas McKelvie, C. C; F. M. Hortenstein, V. C; E. A. Wellbaum, K. of R. & S. It is numbered among the strongest lodges in the county.
April 1, 1905, a Modern American Fraternal Order was organized, with Mrs. Daniel Johns as President. It has 107 members and is prospering.
The township hall is at Cook's Mill. It was built in 1892 at a cost of $500. Here all political elections are held.
Schools - Outside of Cook's Mill there are ten schools in the township. The first school house built in the township was that at Fuller's Point, built of logs about 1848. It was also the earliest public school, and among its early teachers was James Hamilton, now of Mattoon. One of the earliest boards was Dr. J. F. Johnson, John Turner and Pleasant Ellis. In 1865 the school house was torn down to make way for a frame building, which stood until 1884, when it, in turn, gave way to the present frame building in District No. 90, two miles west of the present site of Cook's Mill.
The next school in point of age was that known for years as the Wade School. It was built about 1850 and was also of logs. It was the outgrowth of subscription schools taught in homes of the neighborhood. Joel Martin was one of the earliest teachers, and one of the earliest boards was made up of Jackson Wade, James Martin and William Osborne. In 1860 it was supplanted by a frame building. In 1888 a larger school became necessary and the present building was erected. Owing to the largeness of the district it was divided in 1897, and one and one-half miles southeast, in Section 33, the Hoagland School, No. 95, was built. The first teacher was Miss Carrie Barr and the first board consisted of James Hoagland, Frank Dole and James White.
In 1852 the Smith School was established in the kitchen of Widow Payton's log house, where William Finley and Harrison Smith wielded the birch. Two years later a log house was presented to the district (then known as No. 3), by Mr. Drexel, which was moved to the center of the district to be used as a public school. The first teachers were Frank Odell, Harrison Smith and Mark Ashworth, and the first board, Amos Rice, Sr., Dudley Hopper and William Cree. In 1863 a frame building took the place of this school house. The latter served until 1890 when it was supplanted by the present structure in District No. 94 on Section 22.
The Ames School was established in 1859 in a small house belonging to Mr. Dodd, and a year later a frame school-house was built nearby in Section 26, then District No. 5. Early teachers were M. S. Ashworth, Eliza Voris and Riley Bales. First board: N. W. Ames, C. C. Ashworth, Morris Cramer. In 1893 the school-house burned and the present structure was built in the present District, No. 95.
The Hoskins School, established in 1862, was a frame building. It was on the Lowry Hoskins land. Mr. Hoskins was on the first board with John Hoots, and John Hoskins was the first teacher. A new school-house was built in place of the old one in Section 12 in 1893, in present District No. 92.
In District No. 91 (Section 93, Town 13) is the "Little Red School." It is a frame building and was built in 1864. An early Board was composed of David Thomas, William Jackson and James Ellison.
In the northern part of the township are the Senteney, the Hobart and the Columbia schools. The first was built in 1862 by private subscription, the money being furnished by Jacob Webb, Allen Campbell and Henry Duncan, Thomas Senteney gratuitously erecting the building. John D. Daugherty, Irving Graham and Hiram Campbell constituted the first board. Early teachers were James Hoskins, William Bails and William Hendricks.
A new school-house was built in 1886 in place of the old one in Section 26, Town 14 - present District No. 88. The first teacher in the present building was E. E. Senteney.
The Hobart School, a frame, was built in 1870. In 1884 it was moved to its present location in Section 32, Town 14, District 89.
The Columbia School, District 120, on Section 23, Town 14, a frame building was erected in 1893. The first teachers were Lulu Eck and W. M.. Easton.
During the winter of 1904-05 there were seven women and four men teachers in the township. The salaries range from $35 to $60 a month, while in the early days of public schools teachers received from $20 to $35 a month and "boarded 'round." In 1904 there were, in the North Okaw schools, 249 male and 216 female pupils.
Churches - The oldest church in the township is the Mt. Zion Separate Baptist, in Section 18, two miles west of the old iron bridge. It was built in the early 'forties and was then known as the "Clap-board Chapel." It was rebuilt in 1860, during the pastorate of Col. Vaughn. Its present pastor is Rev. Harry Blythe. It has a cemetery adjoining.
One mile northeast of Mt. Zion church, in Section 17, on the Fuller's Point road, is the Zoar Predestinarian Baptist Church. It was organized in 1860 and its first pastor was G. W. Dalby, now of Mattoon. In 1865, the present church was built at a cost of $1,000. It is now under the joint pastorate of Elders R. E. and E. D. Elder. It also has an adjoining cemetery.
Quinn Chapel, a Methodist church, is located two and one-half miles north of Cook's Mill in Section 33, Town 14. The original building was erected in 1865, at a cost of about $800, and was dedicated in 1866. Early pastors were Revs. W. H. McVey, William Mitchell and D. E. May. In 1894, under the pastorate of Rev. A. J. Ives, the old building gave way to the new, and the present $1,300 church was built. The present pastor is Rev. J. B. Martin. It has eighty members, a flourishing Sunday School established in 1864, and an Epworth League. The nearest cemetery is at Cook's Mill.
In 1871, Zion Methodist Episcopal church was built in Section 24, southeast of Cook's Mill, near the township line, at a cost of $1,400. Rev. E. D. Alay was the first pastor. Among the first trustees were Dudley Hopper, J. W. Farrar and Z. J. Baird, all of whom afterward moved to Mattoon. Other prominent members moved out of the neighborhood and, in 1901, the church was abandoned.
Directly west of Pleasant Grove and south of the town of Mattoon, bordered on the west by Shelby County and on the south by Cumberland County, lies the town of Paradise. It contains only the north twenty-four Sections of Township 11 N., R. 7 E., and is the smallest township in the county. It received its name from the village and that took its name from the post office previously started within its territory, while the post office was so named by George M. Hanson, because he came from near Paradise, Va., now West Virginia. Its territory was included in what was known as the Wabash Point Settlement, and that, with the Muddy Point Settlement, contiguous on the east, constituted the two most populous and important settlements in the county at an early day. After the township was organized its first Supervisor was Adam W. Hart.
The Illinois Central Railroad cuts through the township from Section 3, at the north, to Section 21 at the south, where it crosses the county line. Almost paralleling the railroad, and one and one-half miles west of it, is the Little Wabash River, which, with its tributaries, drains the western part of the township, while Buttermilk Creek, with its branches, drains the eastern portion. The woodland - once dense and trackless, save for the Indian trails - has almost disappeared, there remaining only a single grove and a narrow belt of trees on each side of the Little Wabash. Crossing the southeastern portion, in snake-like form, as in Pleasant Grove, can be seen the terminal moraine.
The earliest village platted in the township was Paradise. It was laid out in 1837 by Joseph Fowler, and comprised about seven blocks of land. The first industry established was a steam grain mill erected by Miles W. Hart and Clemme Goar, being the first of its kind in this part of the country. A year later, the fire-fiend, in high carnival, leveled it to the ground. It was rebuilt and ran till 1847, when it was moved to Charleston by Byrd Monroe. Charles Sawyer had the previous year platted some of his land lying in Section 33 on the State road, and called it "Paradise," but nothing came of it. The location of the mill in Section 8, by Hart & Goar, brought the village there.
The first school in the village was taught in 1839 by David Campbell in his home, and the first church - a Baptist, long since abandoned - was erected in 1840, Rev. Samuel Pullen being its first pastor. No post office was regularly established at Paradise until 1844, at which time Stephen Cartmell was appointed Postmaster. His duties were not arduous, as the stages delivered mail but once a week. With the coming of the Illinois Central the stage line was abandoned and, in 1856, Paradise became a "star route" office out of Etna. Thus it continued until 1902, when the post office was suspended, since which time the village has received its mail from rural route No. 2 out of Mattoon.
In 1854 Paradise had three thriving general merchandise stores and two churches - one a Baptist and the other a Methodist. The latter, of brick, was erected in 1853. In 1869 it was torn down and the material used in a larger structure, built at a cost of $3,000, just west of the village. The anvil had rung for years beneath the brawn of "the village blacksmith," and a tannery, another necessary enterprise, contributed its products to the needs of the community.
On May 23, 1854, Wabash Lodge, No. 179, A. F. & A. M., was organized under dispensation, the charter being granted October 2, 1854. The meetings were held bi-monthly in what was known as the "mud-house," tallow candles furnishing light. A. H. Chapman, N. W. Chapman and A. W. Waller were the first three officers.
The glory of Paradise was now departing. The ribbons of steel which marked the line of the Illinois Central Railroad, coursed their way one and one-half miles distant and, on the line to the south and east, the village of Etna sprang up, and today sixteen houses and one general store are all that remains of that once prosperous and promising village of Paradise.
Etna - The village of Etna, consisting of nine square blocks, was platted in 1860 on the line between Sections 16 and 21 east of the railroad. Lots were sold at private sale at about $10 each, and were greedily purchased. The dwelling house of Daniel R. Bland was the first erected. During the fall a store was built, into which, a few months later, Isaac Hart & Son moved their general merchandise stock from Paradise. About the same time a stock of groceries, hardware and liquors was installed in another building by Robert S. Mills.
In 1860 a Baptist church was built by a general contribution. It was open to all other denominations of the village.
The Masonic Lodge, which was moved the same year from Paradise, held its meetings in the upper room of the church. In 1891, the Disciples (or Christian) church was reorganized, and a building erected at a cost of $1,600 under the pastorate of Rev. Isaac Lamb. The present pastor is Rev. H. H. Harrell.
In 1880 the Methodists of the village formed a church organization and held their meetings in the Baptist church until 1888, when they built a house of worship at a cost of $1,300. It was dedicated in July of that year. Rev. Durham was one of the early pastors. The church burned in 1901 and in 1902, during the pastorate of Rev. G. E. Burton, a new and more modern edifice was erected. This was dedicated July 13, 1902. The present pastor is Rev. E. L. Darley. The church has a Sunday school and an Epworth League, both flourishing.
Wabash Lodge, No. 179, A. F. & A. M., also outgrew its quarters and in December, 1888, moved to its present hall in the second story of the Hamblen building, B. H. Lawson being Master and A. G. Apperson, Senior Warden. At present, the lodge has an enrollment of forty members, with W. M. Deckard, Master, and William L. Campbell, Senior Warden.
The Modern Woodmen also have a thriving lodge, which was organized in the winter of 1896 with twenty charter members. Meetings are held in the A. F. & A. M. hall, and at present the lodge has a membership of fifty-five, the three first officers being Frank Wilson, V. C.; John Bingaman, Clerk, and Jos. Goar, Advisor.
A Court of Honor was organized in 1900 by George Storm. It met semi-monthly for two years. Since then meetings have been suspended, but the insurance branch is kept up.
Etna has two grain elevators, each doing a large business. One, owned by Thomas Ferguson, has a capacity of 12,000 bushels. It was built by Ferguson in 1901; the other, owned by Frank Lowe has an equal capacity and was built by Mr. Lowe in the same year. Previous to the erection of elevators, cribs furnished grain storage for buyers.
Etna has one school. The first school building was erected in 1868, and James Richardson was the first teacher. Thirty years this building served the needs of the district. In 1898, a commodious school house was built, which is still the educational center of District No. 108.
The township hall, located at Etna, was built in 1899 at a cost of $300, and there all township elections and political meetings are held. Etna also has one hardware store, three general merchandise stores and one blacksmith shop.
Rural Schools - Outside of Etna, there are in the township five schools. In the extreme southwest, in District No. 109, is the Union School (in Section 19). The original building was frame, erected on Adrian Higgins' farm, in 1850. Among the early teachers were T. D. P. Henley, Daniel Tremble and John Reynolds. In 1885 the first school house was replaced by a new and larger building. North of this and within three-quarters of a mile of the town of Paradise, is the West Paradise School in District No. 104, on Section 8. It is the outgrowth of a little log building erected in 1837, where private schools were held until funds provided by the public school act of 1845 were appropriated for public school purposes. This building, which served the double purpose of both school and church, was not abandoned until 1862, when the present frame building was erected one-half mile to the south. Three-quarters of a mile east of Paradise, in what is now District No. 105, in Section 9, was erected in 1865, and opened August 7th of that year, East Paradise school. Two years ago it was replaced by a larger and more commodious building. Among the early teachers were Leon Lipman, R. J. Gannaway and Isabel Beverly. About two miles east, in District No. 106 (Section 11), is the Dry Grove school. The first building was erected in 1868 on the Dry Grove road, and was replaced in 1899 by a more commodious structure. Among the early teachers were Joseph Glenn and Joseph Cavins.
Two miles south, in District No. 107 (Section 13) is the Buttermilk School, named for the neighboring creek. The building was erected during the troublous times of 1863, and among the early teachers were three women - Jane Swingel, Lizzie Balch and India Buchanan. In 1904-05 there were enrolled in the schools of the township 130 boys and 119 girls.
Churches - Outside of Etna and Paradise there are but two churches in the township. One, the Methodist Protestant, built eighteen years ago, is close to the north line and west of the center in Section 4. It was organized in 1887 by Rev. S. S. Safford, of Paris, Ill. For a time it flourished, but fortune changed, and six years ago it was abandoned. The other is the Dry Grove Methodist church, built in 1883 in Section 12, under the pastorate of Rev. Ewers. Rev. E. L. Darley is the present pastor.
The earliest place established for divine services in what is now Paradise Township was in the woods in what is now Section 3, midway between the present Camp Ground Cemetery and Dry Grove Church, It consisted of a heavy wooden pulpit under a clap-board roof, surrounded by wooden tents. From 1831 to 1833 it served the Methodist pioneers as a place to sing and preach and pray, A few years later a wooden tabernacle was built about one and one-half miles northwest. It was 50 feet square, with a log house adjoining. Here, also, wooden tents were built. Nearby God's Acre was established, which is now known as the Old Camp Ground Cemetery, about midway of and near the north line of the township, in Section 4, Here, until 1855, thousands came annually to worship from early spring till winter. Just across the ravine on the west is the site of a second camp ground, which for several weeks every year from the laying out of the town Methodist Church.
As the needle turns to the magnet, so did the face of the white man turn to the west in the seeking of home, fame and fortune. The caravan and canoe brought him across the boundaries of Illinois, and gradually, with the course of empire, he followed the path of the sun. In the footsteps of "poor Lo," he blazed his way to the territory now embraced in Coles County. Close to the timber belts he clung, the territory now known as Pleasant Grove became a most attractive home site. Here the settlers colonized, ever planning and building for their children and their children's children.
Pleasant Grove, with its forty-four square miles - eleven miles long by four miles wide - is the west center of the south tier of townships in Coles County. It consists of the north twenty-four sections of Township 14 N., Range S. E., and that part of the north twenty-four sections of Township 11, Range 9, lying west of the Embarras River. It is bounded by Paradise, Lafayette and Hutton Townships on the west, north and east, respectively, and by Cumberland County on the south.
Streams - Mineral Springs - It is through this township that the zigzag terminal moraine marks its way. Who suggested the name is not known, but the name Pleasant Grove seems to have been a favorite, as there were several Pleasant Groves in Illinois. The township has within it the headwaters of four streams: Little Muddy, Indian, Clear and Dick's Creeks. The prairie section remained much under water until the laying of tile in the 'seventies. Through these underground channels ponds were emptied, and today these portions are the richest of agricultural sections. The woodman, with his ax, made inroads on the forests, and the heavy belts of timber gradually disappeared until, today, only fringes of trees remain.
The natural wonder of the township is the cluster of ten mineral springs on a half-acre tract about two and a half miles south of Lerna, near the middle of Section 23, known as the Coles County Mineral Springs, whose properties vary. Each of these springs is different in quality, one being impregnated with sulphur, another with chloride of sodium, another with iron, etc.
A post office was established here under the name of Springville, with Henry Wilson as Postmaster, in 1847, but was later moved to a store which was started about 1852 by James Milton True and Thomas A. Marshall, near the middle of the south line of Section 10, Town 11 N, R. 8 East, on land owned by Thomas Jeffries. This store was quite a prominent trading point, and was sold about 1853 by True and Marshall to George Diehl and Isaiah H. Johnston.
Here, from 1836 to 1840, a general merchandise store was conducted by John Whetstone, who was also a mender of clocks. In 1857 a saw-mill was established in the neighborhood by William Ewing. It was in operation when the townships were organized and was not abandoned until after the war.
It was about this time that the health-giving properties of the springs led Dr. Halbrook to build in the neighborhood, and it was he who popularized them as a resort. It was in his home that patients were treated by the use of the waters, many cures being effected. In the early 'eighties a hotel and cottages were built by Mr. Kaywood and, for a number of years, the resort was widely known, drawing hundreds from the surrounding country. In 1892 Dr. Henry Megeath erected a new hotel, but the pendulum of success soon started on its backward swing. In a few years the springs were abandoned and, today, they are in an open pasture, shorn of their past glory, save by the deserted hotels and a nearby residence occupied by a farmer.
A post office was established in 1879, under the postmastership of W. L. R. Funkhouser, near the railroad on the northeast quarter of Section 4-11-18. After being carried on for a few months it was discontinued.
Farmington Village - The first village in Pleasant Grove Township was Farmington. It was laid out in 1852 and is situated in Section 16. It never grew beyond four stores, a blacksmith shop, a carriage shop and a steam flouring mill. It was at the height of its glory in 1875. The first post office of the township was established in this locality at an early date, with Eugene Campbell as Postmaster, and, when Farmington was laid out, it was moved to the town. In the 'fifties it had three mails a week from Charleston, but in February, 1863, the service was reduced to one mail a week. It is now served by a rural route.
The village has two churches - Methodist and Presbyterian - the first congregation of the former holding its services in a brick school house, erected in 1853 and known as the Farmington Seminary. In 1857 the Presbyterians, aided by the Methodists, built a church in the west part of the village, in which services were held until 1866, when a new and larger church was built. Rev. Mr. Caldwell is the present pastor. In 1866 the Methodists also built a church in the village, Rev. I. H. Aldrich, of Mattoon, being one of its earliest pastors. Rev. C. E. Bennett, of the Lerna circuit, now serves the congregation.
The brick seminary was finally turned over to the Township School Board, who transformed it into a public school. A few years later, the capacity became insufficient, it was sold for store purposes and the present school house, known as the Campbell School, in District No. 61, was built. The prosperity of Farmington began to wane with the establishment of Janesville, and its business diminished until, today, it can hardly be called a hamlet.
Janesville - With the coming into the county of the Grayville & Mattoon Railroad, in 1877, the site for Janesville was established, and in 1879 the town was laid out, one half being on the Cumberland County side of the line and the other on the Coles County side. The two-hundred population is about evenly divided, and on the Pleasant Grove side is located a church, built in 1895. where three denominations - the United Brethren, the Disciples and the Baptists - worship.
Lerna - A post office by the name of Selina was established at the residence of George B. Balch about two miles southeast of the present village of Lerna in June, 1878, but was discontinued when Lerna was started on the railroad in December following. The following year Ralph H. Osborne, a Methodist minister, was appointed Postmaster, and it was at his home that the mail was received and distributed.
In October, 1880, the "Clover Leaf" was surveyed across the line of the Peoria, Decatur & Evansville Railroad, and the rails were laid the following spring. In 1882 the present town of Lerna was platted. The town grew rapidly and today its population numbers 475.
In 1883, the first school house was built - D. P. Todd being the first teacher - and it was from this school that the first class (six young ladies) graduated, receiving their diplomas April 13, 1897 - the occasion being the first annual commencement of the Lerna schools. In 1889, the present four-roomed school house was built, the first Principal being A. Skidmore.
Lerna has two churches, a Methodist and a Cumberland Presbyterian. The former was moved thither from Kickapoo Point in 1884. It was dedicated in 1885 by Rev. Robert McIntyre, the noted lecturer and pulpit orator, who then lived in Coles County. The first pastor was Rev. Mr. Durham and the present pastor is Rev. C. E. Bennett. The Cumberland Presbyterian church was erected in 1888. Its first pastor was Rev. Girard and its present pastor is Rev. S. M. Teague. The building cost $3,000, and it was dedicated September 6, 1892.
Lerna was incorporated November 25, 1889. The first Village Board was Dr. R. N. Leitch, President; Oscar Harris, Clerk; John Rodgers, William Kincaid, William Ewing, James Bidle, Trustees: F. F. Freeman, Treasurer. The present officers are: George Gordon. President; William Morrison. Clerk; W. N. Rumley, T. B. Osborne, L. E. McGinnis, William Wooldridge, William Highland, Irwin Goble, Trustees, and William Williams, Treasurer.
The original town just east of the crossing of the two roads consisted of about two and one-half acres. Additions were soon platted. William Ewing's to the west, Hackley's first and second to the north, Jeffries' first and second to the east, and Todd's first and second to the south.
The Lerna bank opened for business in 1901 with a capital stock of $20,000. Its first officers were R. C. Willis, President, and C. H. Faris, Vice-President. In 1902 President Willis resigned, and C. H. Faris was elected in his place, and R. G. Hall was made cashier.
The only newspaper in Pleasant Grove Township was established in 1895 as the "Lerna Enterprise." In 1902 it was purchased by G. Lay Wolfe, and its name was changed to the "Eagle." It is a bright and newsy weekly, and is now edited by H. W. Dill.
Lerna has three secret order lodges: Lerna Lodge, No. 788, A. F. & A. M.; Lerna Camp, No. 1473, M. W. A., and Lodge of Royal Neighbors. The former was organized under dispensation. December 10, 1888, and the charter was granted October 3, 1889, with an enrollment of thirty-six members. The first officers were N. S. McDonald, W. M.; T. A. Endsley, Secretary; J. M. Hackley, Treasurer. The present officers are W. L. R. Funkhouser. W.M.; L. D. Eldridge. Secretary; Robert Wooldridge, Treasurer. The present membership is forty. The lodge rooms are over the bank and were dedicated January 1, 1901. The M. W. A. Lodge was organized in Freeman Hall and charter was granted September 2, 1890. The principal officers were: T. C. Ewing, V. C: and F. Roswell Voris, Clerk. At present they are George Gordon, V. C. and Charles R. Diehl, Clerk. The lodge has a membership of 140, the largest of any organization in the township. The Lodge of Royal Neighbors was organized in 1902, and meets once a month in the M. W. A. hall. Its head officer is Oscar McGinnis.
A thriving enterprise is the Lerna Creamery organized in 1902 by its present proprietors, John and Charles Faris.
J. M. Haddock, the undertaker, is originator of the Lerner Burial Association, organized in 1902. It was reorganized March 28, 1908, as the Charitable Death Benefit Association of America, a chartered institution. Mr. Haddock having the right of the State.
There are also two grain elevators, one on the Illinois Central Railroad, established in 1890 by Taylor Arterburn, and now owned by John H. Snowden, capacity, 20,000 bushels. The other one, the Clover Leaf, was established about 1891 by W. L. R. Funkhouser and is now owned by E. L. Champion, capacity 12,000 bushels. Aside from these enterprises Lerna has one two story brick business block, five stores, two barber shops, two restaurants, and four blacksmith shops and a hay-barn. The latter was built in 1904 by J. H. Snowden and has a capacity of 300 tons.
The town has one and one-half miles of concrete sidewalks and is a fine grain center, being at the heart of a rich agricultural territory, as was evidenced in the displays at the one-day street fair held in Lerna October 6, 1904.
It also has a telephone service, the first installed in the township. In 1897 the Coles County Telephone Company's line wired into the village and established a central office, and two years later - September, 1899 - the Farmington Citizens Mutual Company also connected with Lerna. In the fall of 1903 the Lerna Mutual Company was organized and a local service instituted which, at the present time, has in operation about forty instruments.
The post office, which was opened up with the survey of the town, was for twelve years located in stores; but in 1893 it was moved to an independent building by the Postmaster, James Jeffries. On March 1, 1903, rural service was inaugurated, the one route covering 25 miles and serving 450 people. William Greason is present Postmaster.
Pleasant Grove has no town hall, and in Lerna, when the elections are held, a store or a shop in each of the two precincts is selected as a polling place.
Trilla - The village of Trilla is on the line between Cumberland and Coles counties, and is also on the Clover Leaf Railroad, the building of which, in 1882, dates the platting of the town. The original site was laid out by Jacob Fickes, a log house owned by him being the only residence on or near the site. It gave way to a two-story frame house, the first in the village, after which other residences and store buildings sprang up. The original plat was enlarged by a Fickes Addition at the east and a Hart Addition at the west, and now the village has about forty houses, three general merchandise stores, two restaurants, one barber shop, one livery stable, two blacksmith shops and two grain elevators. One elevator, built in 1885. with a capacity of 5,000 bushels, is owned by F. D. Voris of Neoga. The other, built in 1900, capacity, 5,000 bushels, is owned by John H. Snowden, one of the most enterprising men of the township, who also owns a 500-ton hay barn, built in Trilla in 1888. The barn is in the heart of a hay-producing district, and from it 3,000 tons of select timothy hay are shipped annually.
The Trilla post office, which is fourth class, was established in 1882. Henry McPherson was the first Postmaster. He was succeeded in turn by C. E. Marlette, J. W. Brown, and others. The present Postmaster is D. F. Jones. The annual revenue of the office is $300. It has one rural route of twenty-five miles, which serves 600 people.
It has a telephone office, established in 1895, in Henry McPherson's store, with two country lines, the Baughman and the Farmer's, and the Coles County Companys' line, which connects with Mattoon.
In 1886 a one-room school house was built in the village - now District 110 - Mrs. H. M. Ozee and Henry McPherson being early teachers. The rapid growth of Trilla necessitated a larger school building and, in 1893, a two-room structure was built. Hiram Landrus was one of the first principals and Miss Grace Chapman a teacher.
There are three churches in Trilla. One, a Missionary Baptist, built in 1888 at a cost of $1,300, was abandoned in 1904. The church once accommodated a flourishing congregation, and among the early pastors were Revs. Mr. Payne and Mr. Griffiths. In May, 1905, it was purchased by the United Brethren, who now hold regular services there. The Methodist Episcopal church was erected about 1894 at a cost of $1,200. An early pastor was Rev. N. H. Gowan. The present pastor is Rev. Mr. Beatty. In 1887 the Cumberland Presbyterian people moved the two-story Beals church to Trilla from Boneset, where it stood on the Jesse Beals land, just north of the county line one and one-quarter miles east in Section 20, Range 8. It was built about 1865 and its earliest pastor was Rev. Mr. Goodnight. It took the place of a log church, 20x36 feet, which was built between 1844 and 1846 and dedicated in the latter year. It was the first church of that denomination in the township. George Fickes, now living in Mattoon, was one the pioneers who helped to raise it. Its first pastor was Rev. James Ashmore. The pastor now in charge of the church at Trilla is Rev. Z. M. Wyckoff, and the new church was built in 1890, at a cost of $1,500.
There are three lodges and a G. A. R. Post in Trilla. The Muddy Point Lodge, No. 396, A. F. & A. M., was organized in the old Muddy Point school, in 1863, by a committee from the Wabash Lodge at Etna. Among the first officers were Jesse Beals, W. M.; Joshua Landrus, S. W.; C. L. Williams, Secretary.
In 1865 a second story was added to the Anderson school in Boneset, into which the lodge moved. In 1879 the school-house burned and during the same year the lodge built a second story to the Beals church, one-half mile south. Here it again fitted up quarters where it remained until 1887, when it was removed to Trilla, occupying a room over Brown & McPherson's store. In 1901 the lodge again lost its equipment by fire. Another building took the place of the one burned and the lodge again installed itself in the upper room, with new furnishings, where it still burns the light of Masonry. In 1888 a dissension arose among the members, which resulted in a number withdrawing and organizing the lodge at Lerna. now known as Lerna Lodge No. 788.
In 1892 the sisters and wives of the Muddy Point Masons organized an Eastern Star Lodge, which is still flourishing and which holds its meetings once a month in the Masonic Hall. It was organized by Hallie Brady and among its present officers are: Mrs. C. A. McPherson, W. M.; Henry McPherson, W. P.; Dora Schee, Secretary.
In 1893 Trilla Camp, M. W. A., was organized. It has a membership of fifty and meets twice a month.
In 1885 the Veterans of the Civil War met in the Masonic Hall of the Beals church and organized Trilla Post, No. 305, G. A. R., with twenty-three charter members. Lewis W. Brown was first Commander. At present it has but eleven members and still meets once a month in the Masonic Hall at Trilla. Among the present officers are: Lewis W. Brown, Commander; Henry McPherson, Vice-President.
Rural Schools - Outside the villages are eight schools in the township, Muddy Point School being the oldest. In the early 'thirties Theron E. Balch taught the first school, in a pole-cabin located near the Folger Cumberland Presbyterian church now stands, in Section 16, Range 8, East. Ten years later a log school house was built nearby or in place of the pole-cabin, and there "Young American" was taught the "Three Rs" by early wielders of the birch. In 1859 this school was abandoned for a frame building that year erected in Section 8, Range 8, nearly a mile to the northwest. Early teachers in the school were Mary Reynolds and James Crume. In 1885 the force of progress brought about the building of a larger school one half-mile east and in Section 9, Range 8 East, the present Muddy Point school in District No. 65 was erected, among the first teachers being Oscar Cavins and Miss Lou Snowden. The first Board was L. E. McGinniss, A. H. Odell and Thomas Snowden.
Another old school is that at the head of Indian Creek, in Section 12, Range 8 East, known as the Indian School. It was first taught in the early 'thirties in some of the settlers' claims. In 1836 a school house was built on the Indian Presbyterian church ground. Among the first teachers were Theron Balch, I. J. Monfort and Eli Thayer. In the early 'fifties a frame structure took the place of the log building and there Jane Linn, Mary Kelso, Nannie Bovell and Mary McDonald taught. The present school was built about 1880 on the George T. Balch land in District 63. The present Board is Robert L. Best, O. L. Gibson and T. B. Endsley.
The Buck Grove or Jeffries School in District No. 66, was originally built in 1861. It was a frame building erected near the center of Section 7, Range 8 East. An early Board was Jacob Dornblaser, George Diehl and William Thomas. Among the early teachers were Margaret Diehl, D. A. Lyle and George D. Jeffries. In 1890 a more modern structure was built on the opposite side of the road to the southwest to take the place of the first building. The present Board is W. R. Knight, Ed Connell and T. J. Diehl.
The Rodgers School, in District No. 62, was originally built in 1868, in the southeast corner of Section 18, Range (. The first Board was composed of Bennett Nicholson, J. Baker and John Rodgers. Among the early teachers were Lucinda Hickell, William Campbell and Lavonna Rodgers. In 1892 a new building, which yet stands, was erected one-half mile north of the former building. The present Board consists of Robert Balch, James Phipps and John W. Baker.
The Balch School, in District No. 115, Section 22, Range 9, was build in 1869. An early Board consisted of Jacob Phipps, John White and F. Harwood. Among the early teachers were George Balch, Alpha Balch and Warren Butler. Time has dealt gently with the building and it still stands in a grove of native trees not far from the Embarras. The present Board is composed of J. L. Harwood, W. S. Werden and W. T. Phipps.
The Wright School, in District No. 114, is the outgrowth of a little building erected in the timber on the Riley land in Section 15, Range 8, about 1865. Early teachers were Rebecca Clancy and John Alison. In 1875 a new building was erected on the John Jeffries land, in the northern part of the section. Ten years later the building was torn down and the material was used in the building of the school which stands one and one-quarter miles south, in Section 22, Range 8. The present Board is composed of William Nichols, Robert Brady and D. G. Greer.
The Leitch School, in District No. 60, is in the northeast part of Section 10, Range 9, near the eastern boundary of the township. It was built about 1866, where it now stands. An early Board consisted of Charles Leitch, H. Cecil and Henry Edmond. Among the early teachers were Warren Butler, James Parkinson and W. H. Werden.
The Ooley or Mineral Springs School, in District No. 113, was built in 1874 at its present site in the middle east part of Section 23, Range 8. An early Board consisted of E. P. Gordon, John Brown and John Schee. Earl teachers were Izatus Whitacre, James Dunn and Lizzie Gray. It was built on Dr. Halbrook's land while he had charge of the once famous springs but one-half mile distant to the west.
The number of pupils enrolled during the winter of 1904-05 in the township were 712 - 373 boys and 339 girls. The teachers employed were nine men and five women.
Churches - Outside of the three villages there are five churches in Pleasant Grove two Cumberland Presbyterian, one Presbyterian and two Methodist Episcopal churches.
The Folger Cumberland Presbyterian church, near the Glover Leaf Railroad, in the west part of Section 16, Range 8, is the outgrowth of a big revival in 1837. In 1843 J. W. Woods, later of Mattoon, organized a church, the members of which met in neighborhood houses until 1854, when a building was erected, S. K. Gammill, John Van Meter and W. L. R. Funkhouser being among the first officers. An early pastor was Robert Hill. Religious services were held here until 1882, when the present church was built at a cost of $1,600 on the site of the old edifice. It was during the pastorate of Rev. John W. Woods. The present pastor is Rev. S. A. Teague. Among the officers are J. Will Walker, Mark Wortham and J. H. Gammill.
The Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the north part of Section 19, Range 98, was built about 1867 near the old Gordon graveyard where lie the remains of Thomas Lincoln, the father of the martyred President. The late Rev. John W. Woods, of Mattoon, was also the organizer of this band of Christian worshipers, and Rev. Benjamin Hill was an early pastor. The old structure gave way to a larger and more modern one, which was built about twenty years ago and is yet a stronghold for religious worship.
Indian or Pleasant Prairie Church (Presbyterian) was organized August 30, 1830, with fourteen members, by Rev. B. F. Spillman from the General Assembly. Two years later a log church was built by the members who gave their work and the material free. For two summers meetings were held there, although the floor, the siding and windows were not added until 1834. Early pastors were Isaac Bennett, James H. Shields and John McDonald. Among the early members were Theron E. Balch, James Ashmore, Thomas McCracken, Mary Wayne and Elizabeth Logan. In 1839 the congregation divided into old school and new school factions, but both congregations held their services alternately in the same church. In 1852 the dual congregation erected a new church and in it, as before, both congregations worshiped until 1857, when the new school organization built a church at Farmington.
In 1866 the old school faction built a new church one-quarter of a mile east in Section 12, Range 8 East, and abandoned their former place of worship, where, in 1868, Prof. T. J. Lee first established his academy, which was afterward located in Loxa. The new church was the magnet which drew again into one fold the two congregations, and, in 1871, the church at Farmington was abandoned and the Indian church again resounded with united harmony of songs of praise. Among the early pastors were Revs. Nathaniel Williams, James Allison and Ellis Williams. The present pastor is Rev. Caldwell. One of the early and most earnest elders was George B. Balch. a local poet of distinction. Among his poems are many that will live as long as the history of Pleasant Grove lives, especially "The Hand of God in American History," "The Address to Old Settlers" and "The Grave of Thomas Lincoln."
The Mount Tabor Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1858 by Rev. John Adams, the church originally consisting of five members, John Irwin, Dorothy Irwin, Robert Leitch, Jane Leitch and Hettie Swicher. The first meetings were held in a log church belonging to the United Brethren, which had served the latter congregation for a number of years. For twenty-eight years the Methodists held their meetings in this temple of logs, but the advance of time drew them from their primitive abode in 1860. when the Leitch school was built, and there services were held until 1892. In that year, during the pastorate of Rev. James Tull, the present church was built in the southern part of Section 4, Range 9. Rev. C. E. Bennet is present pastor.
The Muddy Point Methodist Episcopal Church is located in the west part of Section 9, Range 8, and at the west side of the Muddy Point cemetery, one of the best kept in the township. In the beginning the little congregation met alternately with a neighboring Cumberland Presbyterian body. In 1866 the Methodists completed a church for themselves on ground donated in 1858 by Joseph Glenn, a pioneer who was one of its first members and most ardent worshipers. Rev. I. H. Aldrich was the first pastor and the dedication services were held August 29, 1866. In 1887 the frame church was moved about 600 feet to its present location west of the cemetery, where it was remodeled and made as new. Rev. C. E. Bennett is the present pastor.
The town of Seven Hickory is nine miles in length from north to south, extending from Douglas County to Charleston Township, and almost six miles wide extending from Morgan to Humboldt Townships. It contains 54 sections, but the tier of sections on the west are fractional, containing each a little less than five-hundred acres. It is located mainly upon the crest of a water-shed on which streams head that flow east and west and south. There is hardly an acre of untillable land within its borders, and its soil is of the blackest in color and richest in quality.
The township received its name from a cluster of seven hickory trees which, in pioneer days, stood in the northeast corner of Section 20, in Town 13. Because it was "out upon the prairie," it was the last land to be settled upon by residents, and no permanent settlement is known upon it prior to about 1850. Cattle were grazed upon it, and wolves and deer were hunted on it prior to that time, and even for some years after. But its black soil was gradually encroached upon with the plow and tested, from year to year, with splendid results. In all this prairie region trees were planted by the settlers and no idea of how it first appeared can now be obtained by passing over this land so dotted and decorated by orchards and groves and rows of splendid shade trees, all of which have been placed there by the hand of man.
The southwestern part of the township was first settled upon, and Samuel and John Rosebraugh, William and Jack Coons, Abner Brown, Benjamin McNeal and Milo Mitchell are said to have been the first settlers there. They built their houses of sawed lumber instead of logs, and though small, their dwellings were made comfortable. Jesse O'Hair is given as authority for the statement that there were about a hundred families in the township when it was organized in 1859.
The first voting place for the township was at the Nickles School House, which was in the northwest corner of Section 16-13-9; then later at the Center School House, which was south and west of the present one of that name in Section 10, and continued there until a town hall was built in 1885, close to Fair Grange on the southwest, just over in Section 14.
The first school-house was erected about is 1855 or 1856, in the southwestern part of the township. It was a comfortable frame building.
Subscription schools, such as were first taught in the earlier settled parts of the county, were unknown here, the free-school system having just been well established in the county when the schools began to be opened in the township. The Le Baron History, published in 1879, gave the number of schools in the township at that time as thirteen, the length of school terms as six months, and the average wages paid to male teachers $44.79 and to female teachers $28.19 per month. The value of its school property at that time was $5,800 and the principal of its township school fund was $3,847.
Prior to the building of the Clover Leaf Railroad - which now enters the township at the northeast corner of Section 12 and, after running southwest for a little more than a mile and a half, goes due south to Charleston - there was no village within its limits.
One John Mason started a general store in the township some time about 1872, seven or eight miles north of Charleston, which did a good business until about 1880, when Mason was murdered by parties unknown.
One J. H. Davidson started a blacksmith shop in the 'seventies, and aside from these there were no other enterprises of that kind until Fair Grange was platted on the line of the "Clover Leaf" in the fall of 1883.
A post office called Rural Retreat was started in 1853, which was first located on the Springfield Trace near the north line of the township and was continued for several years not far from the present Rural Retreat church, sometimes in Coles and sometimes in Douglas County, its location depending on which one of the settlers was willing to be bothered with the care of the office.
Charleston is - and always has been - the place where the most of the population go to trade, although many in the northern part go to Arcola, Hindsboro and other points north. It was to gain and hold all the trade of the township at the general History of the county.
Railroad History - About 1871 the people of Seven Hickory, having learned of an enterprise to construct a railroad between Tuscola and Charleston, voted bonds in aid of the road to the amount of $40,000, which were issued bearing ten per cent interest annually. One General Ayres, a railroad promoter, got possession of these bonds for the purpose of furthering the enterprise, and the next heard of them was that they were in the possession of Eastern parties who claimed they had bought them, and the people of Seven Hickory Township were up in arms.
In the meantime, the plan of building to Tuscola through Seven Hickory - which would have taken the road through the whole length of the township - was changed, and it was decided to go north from Charleston for three or four miles into Seven Hickory, and then northeast to Danville. This plan was violently opposed by the people in the north part of the township who felt that the change was to their disadvantage.
The collection of the bonds and interest was resisted by the people and litigation began and continued several years, until the total amount of bonds, interest and costs is said to have reached about $90,000. A compromise was then effected, and the people at an election held July 10, 1884, voted for an issue of $60,000 to liquidate the whole matter. Seven Hickory, however, without the aid of these bonds in any way, got the railroad according to the last plan, which was to build to Danville.
About 1880 the "Clover Leaf," which was at first a narrow-gauge road, was constructed from Charleston north in Seven Hickory to a point about four miles north of the south line, and thence northeast. The first freight out of Charleston was a carload of lumber taken to Fair Grange in April, 1881, for J. W. Frazier, who was building a new house on his farm. The township has taken up and paid all the bonds except $30,000, which were refunded into four and one-half per cent bonds upon their maturity, July 10, 1904. The new issue was made payable at the rate of $6,000 per year for five years, the purchaser of the bonds paying a bonus of $175 for them. This sale illustrates the change in financial conditions since 1884, when, in order to float the bonds at par, it was considered necessary to make the rate of interest ten per cent.
Grange Organization - In the 'seventies the farmers in many parts of the West felt that their interests would be benefitted by organization, and what was called the "Grange" movement developed in the town of Seven Hickory to a greater extent than elsewhere in the county. Mr. John Salmons was perhaps the most active in the matter, although many others were as much imbued with the spirit of the organization as he was. A grange hall, for the purpose of holding meetings, was built near the Rural Retreat church, and doubtless the Seven Hickory farmers received much benefit from their activity in that direction.
Fair Grange - The post office started on the railroad in the spring of 1883 was first called Arena, but within a few weeks the name was changed to "Fair Grange" as more suited to the sentiments of the people. The village, which was not platted until the fall of the same year, adopted the same name.
Fair Grange has a grain elevator owned by Wyeth & Harding, which was built in 1890. Two general stores are kept, one by Clarence Hersey, and the other by Job W. Massey. The latter is an old settler of the county, and one who has helped develop its resources.
The population of the village is estimated at about one hundred.
The only lodge of a secret order in the township is that of the Modern Woodmen (No. 3124) at Fair Grange. It was organized August 6, 1895. John E. Connelly was the first V. C. and Edward Craig is now V. C. Mr. C. F. Kilgore has been its clerk from the start.
Churches - Rural Retreat Christian Church was organized about 1856. Among early members were William Coombs, Phillip Moyer, James Breeden, Mrs. James Wheatley and others. Mordecai Cole was an early preacher. The building was erected in 1866. The building committee was Thomas Wyeth, Harmon Gregg and John Parr.
Prof. W. F. Black is said to have had something to do with the church about that time, and is given credit for much of its early growth and prosperity. The church is said to have been the parent of those of the same denomination in that vicinity - the Hindsboro, Bushton, Walnut Grove and Kemp Churches. Removal of members and decline in church interest caused the church to be without services for two years prior to August, 1904. At that time Rev. Charles R. Scoville, an evangelist, revived and reorganized the church. John Parr, M. Murphy, James Shields. M. Eversole, William Johnson, John Henry and M. Walters are now officers of the church. The minister is Elder Melnott Miller. The building is located near the southeast corner of Section 22-14-9.
Olive Branch Methodist Episcopal Church was organized 1865-66, holding meetings in residences or school houses until 1869, when a frame church was erected. A Rev. Mr. Wallace was active in its organization and dedication of the building. Among its first members and officers were Henry Nickles, Z. B. Jones, Jack Foreman and J. R. and Levi Salmons. The church was remodeled in 1901, and its first preacher then was Rev. William Mitchell. Its present pastor is Rev. F. M. Harry.
Walnut Grove Christian Church, in Section 31, Town 14, was the outcome of meetings held in school houses for about two years, and conducted by Elder J. E. Steele. About 1895-96 the building was erected and dedicated by Elder Steele. Isaac Moler, R. J. McAllister and A. A. Honn were among its first officers. The church has no regular preacher now.
The Pleasant Valley Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in Seven Hickory Township, but removed to Morgan, and the history of the church is given in connection with that township.
Another early Methodist Episcopal church that was started, probably a little after 1860, was that known as the Bradshaw Chapel, about a mile east of Rural Retreat church. Rev. Bradshaw was the first preacher. Nathan Wyeth, Nathan Thomas, John Cofer and Alanson Burson were prominent early members and Rev. David Shirley was a later preacher there. The church was removed to Douglas County about 1868.
Schools - The O'Hair School (No. 39) was first built in Section 27 in the later 'fifties, the present building was put up in 1870 in Section 35, Township 14. An early teacher was Aaron Balch. Miss Golden Knight is now in charge as teacher.
Bunker Hill (or Emhuff) School (No. 40) located on Section 37, Town 14, was previously on land of Samuel Wyeth's. The building erected on Section 27 in 1871 was replaced in 1903 by the one now in use. Sarah Burns taught early. The school is now taught by Miss Ella Miner.
Martin Box School (No. 41) was built in 1871 on Section 30, Town 14. James Rosebraugh taught there early. Miss Daisy Miner is the present teacher.
Shiloh School (No. 123) is located in Section 20, Town 14. and the present building was put up in 1887. An earlier building was erected in 1871.
Eversole School (No. 124) is now in Section 21, Township 14. It was first on Section 16. The first building was erected in 1870, and the last one in 1902. Thomas Payne taught early. The school is now taught by Miss Celia Carroll.
Wheatley School (No. 125), built in 1870 on Section 23, Township 14, had F. E. Hobart, John Favorite and James Wheatley for early teachers. That building burned in 1901, and in 1902 the present one was put up, in which Miss Anna Knapp taught the first term. No school held here this year.
Grant School (No. 42), known at first as the old Gray School, was built about 1868. Its first teacher was David Braddock. The district was divided, and in 1894 this school was located on the Grant farm. The present teacher is Clarence Huffman.
Center School (No. 43) was started in l8_9, not far from its present location in Section 10, Township 13. It was moved to its present site in 1868, and the building now used was put up in 1888. The first teacher after it was moved in 1868 was W. T. Foreman, and the first teacher in the present building Clara Osborn. The present teacher is Minnie E. Taylor.
Fair Grange School (No. 44), in Section 14, Township 13, was built in 1864, and James W. Craig taught the first school. The new house built in Fair Grange in 1902 cost $1,800. The present teacher is D. C. Carson.
Seven Hickory School (No. 45) was in a district organized from the old Gray and Glassco schools, and the building was erected in 1892. V. Goff was the first, and Claude Christeson is the present teacher. It is in Section 20, Township 13.
Glassco School (No. 46) is in Section 30. Township 13. The first house was built in 1858, and the present one in 1885. Miss Hulda Oliver taught at first and Miss Maggie Reat teaches now.
The Dice School (No. 47) was built about one-fourth of a mile north of the present location in 1860, and in 1884 the present house in Section 28, Township 13, was built. W. H. Crispin taught its first and Elmer Smith its last school.
Marshall School (No. 48) in Section 22, Township 13, was started with the building of a house in 1867-68. The present building followed about 1886. Joseph Heath and Nettie Decker taught the first and second schools, respectively, in the old house, and Miss Dovie Sellars taught first in the last house. R. L. Montz now teaches there.
Mullen School (No. 49) is in Section 30, Township 13. and the first house was put up in 1865, with Miss Addie Carney as first teacher. That house was burned about 1878, being replaced the same year by the present building, in which J. C. Babbs first taught.
BACK -- HOME
Copyright ©Kim Torp and Genealogy Trails