The County of Cumberland, thus organized and named, lies in the southern tier of what is arbitrarily called Central Illinois, on the border of that illy-defined section popularly known as Egypt. It contains eight full and four fractional townships, making a total area of 336 square miles, and is bounded on the north by Coles County, on the east by Clark, on the south by Jasper and Effingham, and on the west by Effingham and Shelby counties. The central portion of the county, along the Embarrass River and its tributaries, is well timbered, while the eastern and western portions are mainly prairie. The bottom lands along the river are usually from half a mile to a mile or more in width, and heavily timbered with the usual varieties found growing upon the bottom lands in Central Illinois. The prairie lands are from 71 to 100 feet above the level of the river, and are generally rolling, though occasional tracts of level prairie are found. The general trend of the water courses is southward. The Embarrass, the French pronunciation of which has degenerated into the local name of “Ambrau,” traverses the county from north to south, and with its affluent is the only stream within the county. This stream rises three or four miles northeast of Tolona, in Champaign County, and enters Cumberland County about nine miles from the eastern line. From this point it flows, save one or two abrupt and somewhat extensive bends, directly south to Greenup, and then bearing to the southwest, it passes over the southern boundary about twelve miles from the eastern line. Its branches in this county, beginning on the eastern side of the county, are: Crooked Creek, which rises in the southeast corner of the county, and flowing directly south, becomes a stream of some importance in Jasper County, and finds its way to the Embarrass, east of Newton; Range Creek, which rises in the northwestern corner of Clark, and, passing diagonally across Cumberland, joins the Embarrass in the northern part of Jasper; Lost Creek and Hurricane Creek are smaller tributaries that flow diagonally southwesterly across Union Township and find their rise and outlet Within its borders; Muddy River, which is the principal tributary on the west side of the Embarrass, takes its rise in the southern part of Coles County, and the northern part of Cumberland County, and flowing much the same course as the larger stream, takes its course southward about five miles distant, until it nears the central part of the county, when with a bold sweep to the southwest it suddenly comes to the east and joins the “brimming river” about a mile from the southern boundary of the county. The Cottonwood is properly a branch of the Muddy, and flows a regular course between the Muddy and the Embarrass, uniting with the former some five miles from its mouth. Mule Creek heads in the northwest corner of the county, and joins the Muddy from the west some four or five miles above the Cotton­wood. Spring Point Creek rises in the southwest corner of the county, and flows a generally easterly course to the Embarrass between the points of contact of the other two.


        The superficial deposits of this county comprise the alluvial bottoms of the Embarrass and its tributaries, and a considerable thickness of gravely clays and hard pan which increases in depth to the northward. In the southern portion of the county the drift deposits range from twenty to forty feet in thickness, consisting mainly of brown or buff gravely clays with numerous bowlders; but to the northward this thickness is increased to fifty or seventy-five feet, the lower portion being a bluish-gray hard pan similar to that seen in Clark. Bowlders of considerable size are not uncommon and native copper and also specimens of the sulphuret of that metal are said to have been found in the drift gravel in this county. A bed of potters clay of fair quality is found in the drift days in the vicinity of Greenup from four to six feet in thickness, from which a Lair article of stoneware is made.
        All the rock formations of this county below the drift belong to the upper coal measures, and include the beds intervening between the Quarry Creek limestone of Clark County and the Shelbyville coal of Shelby County, making an aggregate thickness of 200 to 250 feet. Not more than one-half of these beds are exposed in the county, and reliance is had mainly upon borings made at Greenup, and a general acquaintance with out-crops in adjoining counties, for a full description of the strata

        The following is a record of the bore made just north of the town of Greenup by Messrs. Dunlap & Co., in 1866  for oil:

1. Shale 51 feet
2. Sandstone 11 feet
3. Shale 102 feet
4. BIk. bituminous & gray shale 17 feet
5. Very hard rock (limestone shale) 5 feet
6. Gray shale and sandstone 69 feet
7. White sandstone and shale 45 feet
8. Sandstone 85 feet
9. Total l885 feet

        The very hard rock, No.5, which was found here at the depth of 181 feet is probably the Quarry Creek limestone. Another boring was subsequently made by Mr. Talbot near his mill at the railroad depot, for coal, and the following is his report given from memory:

1 Soft sandstone15 feet
2 Grayshale65 feet
3 Black shale2 feet
4 Hard sandstone8 feet
5 Shale, dark colored toward bottom20 feet
6 Hard sandstone5 feet
7 Shale8 feet
8 Dark hard rock4 feet
9 Shale13 feet
10Hard rock, probably limestone3 feet
11Shale17 feet
12 Black shale5 feet
13 Coal3 inches
14 Clay shale20 feet
15 Black rock1 foot 8 inches
16 Dark shale8 feet
17 Black slate8 feet
18 Coal3 inches
19 Fire clay4 feet
20 Shale with pebbles16 feet
21 Total223 feet 2 inches

        As this boring was made especially in search of coal, it is probable that closer attention was given to the character of the beds passed through than at the other, and the section reported corresponds much better with the out-crops in Clark County. The hard rock, which probably represents the Quarry Creek limestone, was found in the Talbot boring at a depth of 140, while at the Dunlap well it was reported at 181 feet, although the latter well was commenced at a level at least ten to fifteen feet below the former; hence it may be inferred that the reported depth of the boring was no more reliable than the character of the strata that were penetrated. Both these borings commence below the Fusulina limestone which out-crops in the bluffs of the Embarrass from the bridge west of Greenup to the north line of the county.
In the bluffs of the Embarrass, one mile west of Greenup the following section at the bridge on the old National road is found

1Gravely drift clay, buff, yellow, ash gray32 feet
2Thin bedded micaceons sandstone6 feet
3Argillaceous shales, with a streak of coaly matter16 feet
4Impure ferruginous limestone1 foot 6 inches
5Thin bedded sandstone15 feet
6Slope covering shales to riverbed12 feet

        A mile north of the bridge the limestone thickens to three feet or more, and is a nodular gray argillaceous rock, rather more calca­reous than at the bridge below, nodular and thin bedded, but containing a few fossils. This is the only limestone found in the county, and varies in thickness from eighteen inches to eight or ten feet, or more, at the different out-crops examined. It is usually too argilla­ceous to slack freely when burned, and too nodular and irregularly bedded along the Embarrass to furnish a good quality of building stone.
The sandstone underlaying the limestone in the above section affords layers from six to eighteen inches in thickness and was used in the abutments for the bridge at this point; but not being carefully selected, the shaly layers soon gave way, endangering the whole structure, so that it had to be abandoned.
        On the branch north of the town of Greenup where the oil-well was located, the following beds outcrop in the bluff on the south side of the stream:

1 Yellow drift clays10 to 12 feet
2 Nodular, brown impure limestone to the creek bed1 1/2 to 2
3 Sandy and argillaceous shales, with thin layers of sandstone80 to 40

        A short distance above Ryan’s ford, and about two miles below the north line of the county, this limestone is well exposed, showing a
bench of rough, irregular bedded, brownish-gray, nodular, argilla­ceous limestone, from 8 to 10 feet in thickness, outcropping just above the bed of the river. The upper part of the bed is of brownish-gray, and the lower part a greenish-gray color. Numerous small fossils are found here. The limestone is underlaid here by a greenish clay shale, of which not more than two feet in thickness were visible above the bed of the river. Descending the river from the ford towards Greenup the limestone gradually rises in the river bluff, and four miles below Ryan’s it is found about twenty feet above the river level associated with sandstone and shale.
        On Mr. Cullum’s land southwest of Jewett, the southeast quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 26, Township 9, Range 8, a quarry was opened in a hard bluish-gray micaceous sandstone, of which some eight to ten feet are exposed. The rock is very hard, and affords a durable building stone. A quarter of a mile below this quarry on the main creek, sandy shales form the main portion of the bluff, overlaid by a hard, brittle argillaceous limestone, which was seen only in tumbling blocks, indicating a thickness of about eighteen inches. Following down the creek these lower shales appear at intervals in the bluffs of the stream nearly to the bridge south of Jewett. North of the bridge towards the town several quarries have been opened in the same bed of sandstone that appears on Mr. Cullum’s place.
        On Long Point, a tributary of the Embarrass, which enters the main river from the eastward six miles south of Greenup, no outcrops of rock were found, the bluffs of the streams being composed, so far as could be seen, of drift clays from 30 to 40 feet or more in thickness.
        On Webster Creek, Section 33, Township 9, Range 8, a thin coal is found from 4 to 6 inches thick, associated with the following beds:
1Blue and brown argillaceous shales3 feet
2Band of brown argillaceous iron ore, with fossils6 to 8 feet
3 Shaly clay4 feet
4 Coal6 feet
5 Bituminous shale2 feet
6 Clay shale, partially exposed10 to 15 feet
7 Concretionary sandstone and sand shale12 to 15 feet
8 Gray and brown impure lime2 feet
9 Dark gray shandy shales20 to 25 feet

        The band of argillaceous iron stone, or more properly speaking an argillo-ferruginous limestone, contains numerous fossil shells in a fine state of preservation. The impure limestone, No. 8, of the foregoing section, is probably identical with the Fusulina bed, although the characteristic fossils could not be found in it at this locality.

        This limestone thins out in the south part of the county, and the most southerly out-crops observed contain few or no fossils, but the out-crops are so continuous on the Embarrass and its western affluents that there seems to be no doubt that they all belong to the same formation.
        In Coles county this limestone continues along the valley of the Embarrass at least as far north as the mouth of Brush Creek, where it overlays a seam of coal, No. 16 of the Illinois section, while the six-inch coal in the foregoing secti on most probably represents the thin coal, or highest seam of the general section.
        Professor Cox reports a coal seam about a quarter of a mile west of the county line in Shelby County, which from its thickness and general character agrees very well with the Shelbyville coal, or No. 15 of the general section. About 200 yards west of the point where the coal was opened, on a branch of the Little Wabash River, there were ten feet of blue argillaceous shale above the coal, which further down the stream gives place to a thick bedded sandstone. He also reports the Fusulina limestone or Bear Creek, Section 22, Township 10, Range 8, where the bed is four feet thick, overlayed by twenty feet of sandstone. At Prairie City the limestone was passed through in sinking the well at the mill, and found to be four feet thick, with shales above and below it.
        The trend of the strata in this county is evidently very nearly north and south, as the course of the Embarrass is on nearly the same geological level through this county and Coles for a distance of twenty-five to thirty miles or more, and the dip, if any, is apparently to the westward.
        There are no streams in either county that intersect the general out-crop in an east and west direction, and no connected section of the out cropping formations could therefore be made. The small streams do not cut through the heavy drift deposits, and hence exposures of the coal measures are only to be met with on the Embarrass and the lower courses of its main affluents


        No workable coal out-crops in this county, unless the seam mentioned above as occurring on the waters of the Little Wabash just over the line in Shelby County may be found in the northwest corner of Cumberland. The coal below the Fusulina limestone in Coles County seems not to have been developed in Cumberland, and the seam above the limestone is too thin to be of any practical value. For deep mining in this county a shaft would have to be carried down from 600 to 1000 feet to reach the main coals of the lower measures. This would require an expenditure of capital that the present demand for coal in this county would scarcely justify, and hence it will probably be some years before any serious effort to reach the lower coals will be made. In the counties lying west of this, including Bond, Fayette, Montgomery and Shelby, it is about 600 feet from the Shelbyville coal (No. 15) down to the Danville seam (No. 7?), which would be the first one of the main coals that would be reached here, and if that failed to be well developed, about 100 feet more would have to be penetrated to reach the next workable seam below.
        The best building stone met with in this county is the sandstone south and southwest of Jewett Station, and that quarried in the vicinity of Greenup, in the bluffs of the Embarrass. The former is a hard, gray, micaceous sandstone, that stands exposure well, and may be relied upon for bridge abutments and culverts, as it will probably resist successfully the influence of frost and moisture. The other is rather soft, brown sandstone that will answer well for dry walls, but liable to crumble on long exposure to the elements. The Fusulina limestone, where sufficiently thick bedded, will also furnish a fair quality of stone for rough walls, and several quarries have been opened in it in the northern and western portions of the county.
        The limestone just mentioned, which is the only rock of the kind found in the county, is too impure to make good lime; yet attempts have been made to burn it, though with indifferent success.
        At some points it looks as though it might possess hydraulic properties, and it is quite probable that by burning and grinding a very good water lime might be made from it.
        Bands of kidney ore or carbonate of- iron of a fair quality were found, at several points in the shales over the Fusulina limestone, but in too limited quantities to be of any practical value for smelting purposes.
        Clays suitable for making brick may be found almost anywhere in the sub­soil of the uplands, and sand for mortar or cement occurs abundantly in the valleys of the streams.
        But this is destined always to be an agricultural county, and its chief resource is its soil. In the southern part this is rather thin, with a sub-soil of light drab colored clay, but in the northern portion it is darker colored and more productive, and has a sub-soil of yellow clay. Much of the prairie and a portion of the timbered land is rather flat, and requires thorough drainage to make it productive. The bottom lands on the Embarrass are from half a mile to a mile or more in breadth, and were originally covered with a heavy growth of timber, but portions of it have been cleared and brought under cultivation, and are very productive, though sub to occasional overflow. The varieties of timber embrace white, red, black, pin and water oak, hickory, beech, poplar, black and white walnut, maple, elm, linden, cherry, locust, red birch, etc., etc. Water may usually be obtained from the gravely drift clays above the hard pan, but at some localities it can only be had by boring or digging through the hard pan to the quick sands below.

Image of an Original Letter p.1
Image of Original Letter p.2
Original document
Letter and document contributed by Bill Wylde

        Originally, a large part of the territory of the county came under this classification. By a general act, dated September 28, 1850, congress ceded to the several States of the Union all wet and overflowed lands within their borders, not otherwise disposed of, for drainage purposes. The legislature of Illinois accepted and ratified this act of congress, by complying with the special requirements, and subsequently, in furtherance of the objects, as aforesaid, granted to the counties the lands lying within their boundaries. Between the years 1850 and 1856, much of this land was entered of the general government through the United States land office at Palestine, at $1.25 per acre, with “swamp land scrips,” “land warrants” and cash, the commissioner of the general land office issuing patents therefor. Under the act of congress, where land was selected and paid for with “scrip” or” warrants,” the State was entitled to receive an equal quantity of United States land, subject, however, to the approval of the Department of the Interior. The Secretary of the Interior in construing this act of congress has decided that the lands intended to be given in lieu of those which were entered with “scrip” or “warrants” must be United States land unoccupied, and lying within the State claiming the same and cannot be located elsewhere. The United States lands in Illinois has long since been entered, hence the county in its claims for reimbursement for such lands, can re-­receive indemnity for such as has been entered since 1850, only in cash at $1.25 per acre. The county has made several efforts to secure its rights in this matter, and has recently entered into contract with an attorney to collect the indemnity due from the general government under the provisions of this act. Some revenue has been received from these lands, and claims are being prepared which will probably bring several thousands of dollars to the county treasury.


        Cumberland County is strictly an agricultural county. Though possessed of good water power and timber, and situated within the region of the coal measures, manufacturing interests have not yet assumed any particular importance here, and beyond the few mills that local necessity demands, manufacturing enterprises have received little encouragement. The chief resource of the county is its soil. The bottom lands of the principal streams have a rich alluvial soil, and when cleared and brought under cultivation, produce large crops of corn, to which they seem best adapted. The soil of the prairie region is principally a chocolate colored clay loam similar to that of the adjoining counties, and produces fair crops of corn, wheat, oats and grass. On the timbered uplands the soil is somewhat variable. When the surface is broken the soil is thin, but on the more level portions, where the growth is composed in part of black walnut, sugar tree, hack berry etc., the soil is very productive and yields large crops of all the cereals grown in this latitude.
        The prevailing system of agriculture practiced here may properly be termed mixed husbandry. Specialties find little favor with the farmers. The custom is to cultivate the various kinds of grain and grasses, and to raise, keep and fatten stock. Though organized into a county in 1843, and settled considerably as early as 1830, the development of the county has been slow. Until about 1860, the larger part of the county was not in the hands of actual settlers, and the farming community has not felt able to indulge in any scientific theories of cultivation. So far, the main object has been to gain a subsistence and make sufficient returns to pay for the land, and make some of the most urgently demanded improvements. In many sections of the county the appearance of thrift and advanced improvement is marked, and the farmers may be said to have passed the experimental point. The need of studying the principles of such branches of learning as relate to agriculture, however, has not yet been felt and it will probably be some years before the “scientific farmer” will be found here.
        Wheat has been considered a reasonably sure and remunerative crop, and is cultivated to a large extent. Some failures in this crop, however, have admonished the farmers that this is not to be depended upon solely, and other grains are dividing the attention of the farming community. Oats and corn are prominent products, and the failure of any one crop is not counted a fatal calamity. Corn perhaps, rather than any other grain, is the leading product of the county, and large amounts of it are annually shipped. A large part of the county is still uncultivated, and a considerable area is practically waste land. There is a great demand for intelligent under draining which has scarcely yet attracted sufficient attention. Much of the land is low and wet, and yet seriously affected by continued dry weather. This subject is beginning to assume considerable importance, and with good tile accessible, a good deal of draining will be done.
        Fruit culture may safely be said to be in its infancy in Cumberland County. The first settlers deprived for a time of its use, and. realizing the great demand in every family for this important article of food, early set about planting fruit trees. There was little opportunity for judicious selection of varieties, and but little care was bestowed upon orchards when once well set. Up to within the last ten years the cultivation of fruit has but little improved over the primitive methods, and taking into consideration the value of good fruit as a substantial element of food, as a valuable agent in preserving and promoting health, and as a luxury which all classes may enjoy, this subject has not received the attention which its impor.. tance merits at the hands ‘of the agriculturist. The orchard culture of apples has only of late years begun. to command the serious attention of some of the leading farmers. The product is barely enough to supply home demands, but each year now marks an increase in this fruit. The southern part of the county seems to be more favorable to fruit growing, than other sections, and here more care is being used in its culture. Peaches rank next to apples, and are found quite extensively planted in this favored locality. The peach is a short-lived tree here, however, both the winters and hot summers proving destructive. Care is used to replant orchards, and of late years the trees have been planted closer together that the foliage may afford protection to the bark from the scorching heats of the summer sun. Pears succeed here but are not cultivated in orchards yet; the same is true of cherries. Grapes are a prominent feature of the fruit interests of the county, almost every farmer having vines enough for his own supply.
        Stock-raising has always been an important part of husbandry in this county, but of late. years is attracting a larger share of attention. Grass never fails save in exceptional years, the moist nature of the ground rendering the crop a sure and luxuriant growth. Until some ten or twelve years ago but little wheat was grown, and now it requires so large an expenditure of time and labor, that it is being seriously debated whether a larger proportion of stock raising would not yield greater returns. Cattle and hogs are already an important source of income to the farmer, the latter animal showing rather the most care in breeding. A few Shorthorn Durhams and Jerseys are found in the county for domestic purposes only, but there is considerable talk by several of stocking up with registered cattle for breeding purposes. In hogs the Berkshire and Jersey Reds seem to be the favorite varieties. Sheep, though not so generally kept by farmers, are still found in considerable numbers, in the aggregate. There are no large flocks, but most farmers keep a few head, sometimes reaching a hundred or more. Dogs prove a great hindrance to this class of stock. On the subject of horses there is considerable interest manifested. Oxen have been superseded here for some years, but the average farm horse has not been greatly improved over the original stock. The taste of the farmers inclines to the “all-purpose” class of horses, and the principal improvement in breeding is toward the heavier class of animals. One or two horse fanciers pay considerable attention to speed horses and roadsters, but the farmers are rather inclined to the Norman and Clydesdale horses.
        Mules are bred and used to some extent, and the practice is becoming more general. These animals command a readier sale, and at higher prices than horses, which qualification added to their hardier constitution and easy cost of maintenance makes them more profitable than horses.

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