HISTORY OF DOUGLAS COUNTY, IL
F.A. BATTEY & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1884.
BY H.C. NILES
REPRODUCED FROM THE ORIGINALS AND CONTRIBUTED
LARRY M. BURMEISTER,
“Agriculture is the base of all wealth and prosperity.”
NAME, AREA, BOUNDS, ETC.
Squire Benjamin Bowdre, one of the oldest settlers and the first Supervisor, loaned the use of his name for the christening of this township. Before Douglas County was made, in the old Coles County days, the greater part of the present area was a portion of “Collins Precinct,” and the part which remained in Douglas, after the partition, went by the name of “Deer Creek,” and was so known as a voting precinct, up to the township organization in 1868. The old Deer Creek subdivision was bounded on the south by the county line. It occupied the northeast quarter of Township 14 north, Range 9 east, and the southeast quarter of Township 15 north, Range 9 east; was bounded on the north and east by the Embarrass River, and contained about thirty square miles. The river appears to have been made the boundary in those days, because of the scarcity of bridges, they not being frequent enough for the convenience of voters, at the time of high water. Upon the adoption of township organization, the present shape was given it, and it was named “Deer Creek” as before, but upon a report of this name, with those of all the townships, to the Secretary of State, it was discovered that a township of that name had already been established in Tazewell County; it being unlawful to have two of the same name in the State, a change was necessary, and the present name was adopted.
This township now contains four miles east and west, by three miles north and south, in the northeast corner of Township 14 north, Range 9 east; four miles east and west by five miles north and south, in Township 15 north, Range 9 east; two miles east and west by five miles north and south, in
southwest corner of Township 15, Range 10, and the six westernmost sections in that part of Township 14, Range 10, which is in the county, the whole comprising an area of six miles east and west, by eight miles north and south. It is bounded on the north by Camargo and Murdock, on the west by Tuscola and Arcola, on the south by the county line, and on the east by Sargent Township. It contains 48.24 square miles, and according to the United States survey 30,875.82 acres, being the fourth township in the order of acreage. This district is about two-thirds prairie, the timber being for the greater part in the north end.
THE DRAINAGE OF THE TOWNSHIP
depends measurably upon the Embarrass River, Scattering Fork and Deer Creek. The Embarrass has its real head some twelve miles north in Champaign County, and in this neighborhood, like all streams in the prairie, is wet and dry, according to the seasons. It will often, after plentiful rains, obtain a width of four to six rods, and again be nearly dusty. The improvement of it here, principally in removing obstructions, is very important, not only to the township itself, but to the lands to the north and west. Scattering Fork, which enters it near northwest corner, and runs into the Embarrass, in Section 14, Township 15, Range 9, is the natural drain for almost all of Tuscola and Arcola Townships, their lowest point being very near the northwest corner of Bowdre, at what is known as the old “Ficklin Pool,” in the northeast corner of Arcola, which, though formerly almost a permanent lake, is now being rapidly filled with the debris brought down in the recently constructed ditches of the last-named townships to this lowest point in Douglas County, with the exception of the very bottom of the river.
Scattering Fork is a tortuous, over-charged stream, the straightening, widening and clearing of which is of vital importance to the lands lying northwest and southwest in adjoining townships. In this connection we state that the county has at large $2,000 which came from the Government as indemnity for ancient swamp lands, and which by law is to be expended for drainage only, and an effort being made by public-spirited persons, in 1883, to have half of it devoted to the improvement of this watercourse was only half successful, in that it resulted finally in giving the $2,000 to all the townships “pro rata,” in proportion to their actual present acreage. This
money will be paid out by the Township Auditing Board for drainage purposes, and it is supposed that Tuscola and Arcola will devote their money entirely to the improvement of Scattering Fork, that being in their case an absolute necessity.
Deer Creek is a good natural drain so far as it goes, and, counting the artificial help it has, divides the township east and west at about the middle; it enters by public ditches on the west side of Section 33, Township 15, Range 9, and runs easterly for about four miles by artificial drains, where it strikes Deer Creek proper, and continues east till it becomes an affluent of the Embarrass River in Sargent Township, on Section 33, Township 15, Range 10. As to drainage under the statute, a district has been recently established in the fall of 1883, in the west part, containing some 4,000 acres, at a cost of about $3,000, in which ditches and drains under the control of the Highway Commissioners will be made as soon as the season will permit. The organization was made under the direction of C. G. Eckhart, the attorney for the district, and the Commissioners employed Mr. I. Davis to do the surveying.
The benefits arising from the system are great, and being better understood by the people from year to year, will be further sought in all wellregulated communities.
This township is intersected by the Illinois Midland Railway, running generally east and west, entering it near the northwest corner of Section 4, Township 14, Range 9, running thence east along the congressional township line for about two miles; thence southeasterly, leaving the township about the middle of the east line of Section 8, Township 14, Range 10, then making a decided large curve to the north, and back again.
This extra length and curvature was caused by a demand on the part of the citizens that the road should pass within a mile of the center of the township, upon which conditions the township, by a vote of the people, subscribed township bonds in aid of the road to the amount of $30,000. These bonds were never paid. It was shown that the issue was illegal, there
being no authority whatever for holding the election. The tax was enjoined,
and proper steps taken to abrogate the whole proceeding, which obtained.
The bonds found their way into the hands of innocent parties, who purchased
them as a permanent investment.
EARLY LAND ENTRIES AND EARLY SETTLERS.
As to the first entries of land in this township, the earliest date is found to be the entry of June, 1833, by Samuel C. Gill, who took the east half of northeast quarter Section 2, Township 15, Range 9, and other lands. John Davis, in October, 1833, entered west half of northeast quarter, same section. In 1836, in February, the northeast quarter of northeast quarter of Section 11, Township 15, Range 9, was entered by the Barnets, and as in other parts of the county, the great bulk of the lands were entered in 1852 and 1853. Isaac Davidson arrived in 1838. James A. Breeden settled, in 1853, upon Section 9, Township 14, Range 9, and built the first house on the prairie, between the old “Wallace Stand,” near Hickory Grove, and the Okaw timber, which was eight miles to the west.
The “Wallace Stand” was the residence of A. G. Wallace for some years. Mr. Wallace is noticed elsewhere in this book. John Davis, who entered his land in 1833, arrived in the State from Brown County, Ohio, in September, 1834. He died in March, 1865. A residence of thirty years in the township had gained him the respect and confidence of all. Shiloh Gill arrived in 1852, and settled on the land entered by his father in 1833.
John Barnet, called “Jack” by everybody, came from Kentucky to the Little Vermillion in 1832, and to Coles County, since Douglas in 1842. The life partners of several prominent citizens were his daughters.
Section 16, Township 14 north, Range 9 east, the “school” section, was purchased from the State in the first instance of its occupancy, each Section 16 having been set apart by law for the use of schools. The sales were made in 1856. John Cofer took 400 acres, and W. D. Martin 240 acres. It was surveyed and lotted as required by law. Lot 1 is northeast quarter of the northeast quarter, 40 2/3 acres; Lot 2 is southeast quarter of the northeast
quarter, 40 2/3 acres; 3 is west half of northeast quarter, 81 acres; the east half of northwest quarter is Lot 4, 77 acres; northwest quarter of the northwest quarter, 38 1/2 acres, is 5; and southwest quarter of the northwest quarter is 6, which also contains 38 1/2 acres.
The south half of the section corresponds in position and area. This lotting was arbitrary, through the surveyor ostensibly preserved the original areas. In this case, the east half of the section is found to contain seventeen acres more than the west half. It is fair, then, to suppose that the quarter section corners on the north line and on the south line must have been found as originally surveyed much too far west.
Section 16, Township 15, Range 9, another school section in Bowdre bounds, was lotted in 40 and 80 acre lots, and found to come out exactly even all around; perrhaps it was surveyed in the house. It was aparted into ten lots; East half of northeast quarter was 1, and west half was 2 and 3; east half of northwest quarter was 4, and west half of northwest quarter was 5 and 6; the south half of the section was made into four lots, of even eighty acres each.
These school lands were sold all too soon, and consequently almost sacrificed, bringing in some instances as low as $2 per acre. It was not believed in those days that the prairie would be settled. The high grass and weeds, and the absence of roads added to the blank, dreary lookout generally, and forbade the idea that homes would ever have a place there. As late as 1851, John Davis offered to sell Lot 2, southwest quarter of Section 6, Township 15, Range 10, 84 acres, for the entry money he had paid for it, viz., $1.25 per acre; this was seventeen years after he had entered it. It was in Camargo Township.
A fair average rate for unimproved prairie in the county is to-day, 1884, about $30 per acre. This rate differs, of course, with the exigencies; inclosed prairie without any buildings has brought $60 lately.
H. L. Thornsbrue is the oldest living person born in Douglas County; Mrs. Mary West, relict of Thomas West, is the oldest resident, and settled
here in 1834. She died March 3, 1884, aged seventy-nine, after a residence of half a century in the county. Issachar Davis is the oldest male inhabitant, his residence here dating from October 3, 1834. Mr. Davis is a farmer and land surveyor, and has followed the latter business for about forty years. He was elected County Surveyor in 1863, 1867 and 1875. As to acquired ability and “postedness” he stands in the front rank of his profession in the county. This front rank consists of three: Enos S. Siler, of Newman; Issachar Davis, of Bowdre, and Henry Niles, of Tuscola. There are no more ranks, and which is the “head end” of the front rank, is a matter that “no fellow can find out.” So the anxious inquirer “pays his money and takes his choice.”
In the southeast quarter of Section 16, Township 15, Range 9, is situated Mt. Gilead Methodist Church, which offers conveniences to neighboring church-goers. At Hugo is Antioch Church. The Methodists have a church in Section 14, Township 14, Range 9, and the Christians and Methodists one each in Hindsboro.
The village of Hindsboro is situated in the southwest quarter of Section 6, Township 14 north, Range 9 east, and was laid out by the Paris & Decatur Railroad, since called Illinois Midland, upon the lands of the Hinds brothers. The plat covers about sixty-two acres.
The town was laid off in 1874, being surveyed by H. C. Niles, from plans furnished by the railroad, which plans, by the way, were changed by the proprietors, before the town was surveyed, but after a map of the town had been engraved and published in an atlas map; this, unforunately makes the printed map worse than useless. The lots and blocks were laid off parallel, and at right angles to the railroad, which here runs about southeast, and consequently had “point” lots occur all around the borders of the plat. In a country where the cardinal points are almost universally used in metes and bounds, a village plan not “square with the world” has many inconviences for which there is generally no necessity. The village is improving rapidly and has claims as a shipping and trading point, which are rapidly growing in importance.
Lodge No. 571, I. O. O. F., was instituted April 12, 1875, the first officers of which were: J. Gerard, N.G.; B. F. Strader, V.G.; J. M. Dwinnell, Secretary; and James Stites, Treasurer; J. Gerard, D.G.M.
Bridgeport is situated in Sections 12 and 13. It has a post office known as Hugo, which point is the scene of about the last appearance of Indians in the county, a trading store having been kept there by one Vessar and Hubbard.
Issachar Davis relates that at about the center of southwest quarter of southeast quarter of Section 12, Township 15, Range 9, and on the northeast quarter of northwest quarter of Section 13, near the old trading post, several Indian graves have been discovered and examined. Human bones were found in each, as well as beads and a silver brooch, by William Wiley and John Welliver. A large silver crescent, five or six inches in diameter, and about two and one-half inches wide at its broadest part, was also secured. Samuel Cheney, a former resident, now living near Humbolt, in Coles County, saw the departure of the last band of Indians, in April 1833. He was a son of James Cheney, who came to the neighborhood in 1830, and the first wife of Issaachar Davis was a sister of his. She had a quantity of trinkets, which she had procured from the Indians by trading provisions, etc. At another time, the corpse of an Indian was found leaning against a tree, near the Embarrass, and not far from the mouth of Scattering Fork. The body was fenced in by parts of trees and logs, from which a plain road had been blazed out to the river. Upon the body was found a large pair of spectacles, which were afterward worn by the mother of Davis’ wife, for some years.
“Lo,” however, at his best, never was [the Indian] conspicuous in the area of Douglas County. He seems to have shunned the prairie as uninviting, in which he was imitated by his immediate successors. He came and saw, repacked his “lares and penates” if he had any, “folded his tents like the Arabs and as silently stole away,” having merely looked in upon the spot where we shortly lie.
A CHRISTIAN CHURCH.
A Christian Church “Antioch,” is situated here on the southwest quarter of Section 12, Township 15, Range 9, which was built in 1881, at an expense of about $1,200.
A peculiar “detour” in the Embarrass River occurs near this point called the
formed by the stream running about northwest out of Section 13, into Section 12, returning in a southeasterly direction, doubling upon itself and passing in its course about 100 yards from the first part of its bed. Cutting through this short distance has been discussed for fun, but would be of no practical utility, and perhaps the land owners in the bend value the water privilege to some extent. Near this bend, the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 13, Township 15, Range 9, was entered by Robert Matteson, of Kentucky, in 1835, and in 1840 he came upon the land accompanied by his slaves, some twelve or fifteen in number. His neighbors, being for the most part from the Free States, entertained the idea that a residence of one year in a Free State would free the slaves. For various reasons Matteson was not pleased with the country, and proposed to return to Kentucky with his hands, and to that end made arrangements for departure in their company.
Maj. Samuel Ashmore, who had settled near the mouth of Bushy Fork in 1830, and others of the same mind, had agreed that they would endeavor to prevent the return of the slaves. The result of the controversy was that a few of the men stuck to their owner, but many of them, by one means and another, were left behind and scattered; some finally went to Liberia. One of them, at least, Simeon Wilmont, remained in the county, and is still a citizen. A suit at law grew out of the matter, in which Abraham Lincoln and O. B. Ficklin were opposing counsel. Mr. Ficklin was formerly a large land owner in the county, but disposed of a part of his farms. He now lives in Charleston, Coles County; he was in the Illinois Legislature in 1833-42, and subsequently served in Congress from 1842 to 1850. He is yet a large land owner in the county.
Bowdre is the scene of the second murder committed in the county, Arcola
City having the first and third. At the February term, 1871, of Douglas County Circuit Court, O. P. Greenwood was indicted for the murder of George Mussett. He met him in the woods near Hugo and shot him with a rifle. Greenwood was tried at Charleston, Coles County, on a change of venue, and sentenced to the penitentiary for twenty-one years. Having surrendered himself to the officers, and as there was some probability of selfdefense, as well as some supposed justification, domestic difficulty being the cause of the quarrel, and some other extenuating circumstances, a petition was circulated for his pardon, which prevailed after Greenwood had served about seven years. He was defended by Hon. Thomas E. Bundy and Hon. James A. Connolly. Hon. J. G. Cannon was employed to conduct the prosecution by several citizens who made up a purse for that purpose. Greenwood afterward lived awhile in Tuscola, and removed South, leaving some female descendants in the county who were somewhat conspicuous.
The Supervisors who have represented the interests of this township at the county seat are, first, Benjamin Bowdre, for whom the township was named; he was elected in 1868, and returned in 1869. He was succeeded by Capt. O. P. Hunt in 1870, who was elected in 1871, in 1872, again in 1879, 1880, 1881, 1882, 1888 and 1884, making eighteen years of service in this capacity. Mr. Coykendall was sent in in the year 1878, also in 1874 and 1875. F. M. Reeds served in 1876, succeeded by J. B. Eversole in 1877, who was sent back in 1878. Capt. Hunt is the present Supervisor. Issachar Davis was elected County Surveyor in November, 1863, and again in 1867, and the third time in 1875, the first two being two-year terms only, under the old regulations. Under the constitution of 1870, it became a term of four years. Lines L. Parker was elected County Treasurer in the fall of 1881. He was elected Sheriff of Vermillion County in 1866, removing to Douglas in 1868. Mr. Parker is the largest man in the county, his present fighting weight being 408 pounds, but he is notable for physical vigor. He served as a commissioned officer in Company D, Twenty-fifth Illinois, in the war of 1861.
The population of this division of the county, was, per the ninth cenus, 1870, 1,313, and at the tenth census, in 1880, had increased 316, equal to 1,629, at the last date. It ranks number six of townships in the order of population. The personal property tax list of 1883 gives 416 names, which multiplied by 4 is 1,664, as the probable present number of inhabitants; four to the voter is rather low, the State rates being over five to the family.
Predominate politics are indicated by an average Democratic majority of about say 90 to 100 votes, and can always be depended upon to give about that figure whenever the weather is such that they can get out, and the usual precaution taken of printing the tickets in a big, round hand.
The Assessor’s valuation of personal property for 1883, in Bowdre, is $111,682; lands are valued at $269,765. The tenth census was taken by James R. Cox. He found the number of people in the township of his own family name to be thirty-five.
AND SO FORTH.
The compiler of these veracious chronicles has a most sincere desire to merit and receive the approval of all fair-minded men and women, for this effort to “give the facts in the case,” within the limits of time allotted for this occasion. Objections have been made to former attempts, in that they were simply dry statements, as much as to say that “opinions” were wanted; for what purpose it is impossible to say, unless for the fun of opposing them. When opinions are to be printed, experience shows that those of leading modest men are hard to get, and those of most of us should be reserved for our best friends and not printed, unless, indeed, the laws of supply and demand make them a merchantable commodity, in which case he should do his best, even if he doesn’t always give us “English as she is wrote, and English as she is spoke.”
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