HISTORY OF DOUGLAS COUNTY, IL
F.A. BATTEY & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1884.
BY H.C. NILES
REPRODUCED FROM THE ORIGINALS AND CONTRIBUTED TO Illinois Genealogy Trails
LARRY M. BURMEISTER,
“Liberty and labor have given us all.”
IN years, area and population, compared with the other political subdivisions of Douglas County, Murdock Township ranks number nine and last, having been created at the December meeting of the Board of Supervisors in 1882.
The petition for the new township was closely followed by a counterpetition in the shape of a remonstrance leading to a warm discussion of the “pros and cons,” it being held and strenuously maintained that the board held jurisdiction only of the inhabitants of the proposed new territory, and not of those out of whose area the new township was to be made. This nice distinctin evolved from the ingenuity of the attorneys, did not, however, prevail; the matter was taken to the Circuit Court on appeal, and at the October term, 1883, the action of the board being confirmed, Murdock proceeds to take her place among the nations of the earth.
The object of the prime movers in the scheme was primarily the attainment of a more convenient and more accessible place for voting and transacting business generally; the more especially as the village of Murdock had already been laid out, and was becoming a trade center, which was rapidly increasing in importance. It is distant about five miles, on either side, from Camargo and Newman, the former business points, and time was when a few hours more or less make little difference to the average business farmer; but growing industries, more sudden modes of perfecting contracts and a general desire to attend to business at once, ever the ruling passion in the heart of the enlightened Republican (I mean American), called for another organization, and so it was done.
THE NAME OF THE TOWNSHIP
was given in compliment to John D. Murdock, an old resident and large farmer in the neighborhood.
The area is made up from twenty-two square miles of territory, which were generously donated by the township of Camargo on the west, and about seven from Newman, which lie upon the east side. It includes the west twenty-four sections of Township 16 north, of Range 10 east, of Third Principal Meridian, and Sections 2, 3, 4 and 5, of Township 15 north, of Range 10 east, comprising twenty-eight regular sections, containing, according to the United States Government Survey, 30.65 square miles, the same being 19,617.61 acres, being the smallest township in area. While it is almost altogether prairie, Brushy Fork timber barely touching upon the southeast corner. The central parts of its area consists of much beautiful rolling prairie. The general character of the extreme north and south ends is quite level, easily, however, susceptible of good drainage, the surface being of the character of high table land, which lies upon an average some sixteen to twenty-four feet above the bottoms of the nearest natural drains.
TWO DRAINAGE DISTRICTS.
Two districts have been established, under the statute, one in each end, and before the township was created, in each of which a fall of about four feet per mile has been obtained. Murdock, in its north end, is traversed by artificial drains which, when completed, will be an important affluent of the Embarrass River through the stream known as the “Jordan” or Longpoint Slough (see Newman Drainage).
The St. Louis Branch of the I., B & W. Railroad runs east and west along about the center of the township, in the south tier of Sections of Township 16 north, of Range 10 east, at a distance of about twelve rods south of the
middle of the sections. The original intention of the builders of the road was to keep upon the half-mile line, and why the plan was abandoned after leaving Camargo Village is not explained.
The railroad debt which formerly belonged to the township of Newman and Camargo is shared pro rata by the property holders in this township, and is distributed accordingly upon the tax books. A full history of this road in its relations to the county will be found in its proper place in this volume.
FIRST ENTRIES OF LANDS.
While there were some very early entries, most of the lands, being all prairie, were taken up along about 1852-53, which years seem to have been at the close of a period in which the Government lands were temporarily withdrawn from sale pending the location of the Illinois Central Railroad and its selections of lands within the six-mile limit, which limit was afterward extended to fifteen miles to enable the road to supply the quantity of lands not found in the first limit. The latter extended limit takes in all of Murdock.
In 1853, William Cline, February 23, entered the east half of the southeast quarter of Section 2, Township 15, Range 10. This is the extreme southeast eighty acres in the township. The first entry made was by James Brewer June 18, 1847; he entered Lot No. 2 of the northwest quarter of Section 31, Township 16, Range 10, and Samuel Roderick took the southeast quarter of Section 30, Township 16, Range 10, in 1849. J.Y. Campbell entered several tracts, as also John Tenbrook and the Baileys, 1852 to 1855.
THE SCHOOL SECTION
is Section 16, Township 16, Range 10; every sixteenth section was by law devoted to the use of schools, being presented by the United States to the State of Illinois, the proceeds of the sale which was made by the Township Trustees of Schools going to the support of the school system, being an average of one section of land out of every thirty-six.
This section was, according to law, made eight lots, but preserving the original sub-divisions. Lot No. 1 is the east half of northeast quarter; Lot
No. 4 is west half of northwest quarter; Lot 5 is west half of the southwest quarter, etc. The entire section was bought by John Tenbrook in 1855. No regular record evidence of the surveys is extant, the only guide to the lotting being the various conveyances, which, however, give the number of the lot, as well as the subdivision of the section as shown by the Government survey.
All of these school sections were sold too soon, at a time when prairie land generally was not considered a very good investment; some sold as low as $2 per acre.
An enumeration of the inhabitants has not as yet been taken, except in the matter of a personal tax list furnished by the Assessor, which comprises 160 names of owners of taxable personal property. Mr. Smith, the first elected Supervisor, received 100 votes, and 50 more were polled which he did not get. It may be fair to state that there are 200 votes, which would give a population of 800 to 1,000 at the present writing, at which one-fourth may have been acquired from Newman; the balance of course from Camargo.
THE POLITICAL COMPLEXION
is not indicated by the first election, a Union ticket having very properly been nominated. The Republicans claim a majority of about ten, which is probably correct, the present Supervisor is a pronounced Republican, and was elected over a prominent Democrat by about eighteen majority.
THE VILLAGE OF MURDOCK,
established and named before the township was made, is situated generally on the north side of the railroad, and between it and the east and west halfmile line of Section 33, Township 16 north, Range 10 east. It consists of about ten lots and blocks, having been laid off by the Murdocks in September, 1881. It was shortly afterward followed by an addition made by R.F. Helm on the north side of the east and west public road. The railroad has a reserve on the north side of its track, about eighty rods long and 125 feet wide, and a right-of-way on the south side of fifty feet; a roomy side track is
established which gives ample facilities to shippers in the vicinity, of whom many are of the heaviest cattle dealers in the county. The railroad company has erected a neat and substantial station house and passenger waiting-room.
Mr. S. Baxter purchased a few acres directly east of the village, where he erected several neat tenant houses which assist in giving Murdock the air of quite a busy place; this is further assisted by the elevator erected by the Murdocks in 1878, having a capacity of about 4,000 bushels.
with their proverbial zeal, erected a substantial church here, and finished it in October, 1882, about as soon as the town was laid out. It has a steeple and a $90 bell, the cost of the structure being in all about $1,850.
THE FIRST OFFICERS
were: Supervisor, David Smith; Assessor, W.C. Whallen; Collector, R.F. Helm; Justice, S. Baxter. And in the distribution of county officers Murdock has had a share. Among those who live within the present bounds, Mr. John D. Murdock, from whom the township was named, was elected in 1859 one of the first two Associate Justices of the county, and was re-elected in 1861.
This was of course prior to township organization. The County Board consisted of a Judge and two Associate Judges. Mr. M. served his first term with James Ewing, of Arcola, as Judge, the other Associate being Robert Hopkins, of Newman. In his second term, he was with F.C. Mullen, of Garrett, as Judge, and Caleb Bales, of Arcola, as the other associate. It was under the care and management of the last-named board that the court house was contracted for and begun. A large part of the business of this day, the early days of the county, was the location of new public roads. The board would appoint three Commissioners, one always the surveyor, to view the road, and report at next term. There was quite an epidemic of roads these times.
James H. Shawhan, now of the new township, formerly of Sargent, was elected Sheriff in 1871, and also served several years with credit as Highway Commissioner.
The Assessor’s valuation of the personal property of the township for 1883 is $68,833; lands are valued at $196,480.
The southwest corner of this township was the scene of one of the most important “commission surveys” which ever obtained here under the law authorizing the Circuit Court to appoint three surveyors to adjust lines and report their conclusions to the court at next term. The survey in these cases was not final, but subject to trial and review by the courts. Every surveyor in the country had more or less of a whack at it, and, to their credit, generally agreed as to the main facts, notwithstanding that one old resident appeared on the ground and said, “I can take a gray wine and a swy glass and beat all their surwain.”
The surveyors appointed by the court in October, 1871, were Edmund Fish, of Arcola, H.C. Niles, of Tuscola, and A.H. Guy of Vermillion County. They worked a week at it, and reported to court. The case was tried three times for various reasons, and finally settled down to the lines made by the Commissioners. Mr. Issacha Davis, surveyor in the neighborhood, gave the board valuable and willing assistance. The confusion mostly arose originally from a proven mistake of the original Government Surveyors, they having left two corners on the range line, which they recorded as twentytwo rods apart, while, identified, they proved to be only six rods apart. The writer has seen the original figures made by the Government Surveyor, and the proof on the ground. The controversy arose from the situation of a thirty-five-acre piece belonging to John Brown, which the surveyors in their report dubbed the “John Brown tract.” This whole controversy was conducted by the interested parties with a manly and fair spirit, much superior to the temper usually manifested on such occasions; though Shiloh Gill says that he and Brown had worn out a certain fence four times in trying to conform to the various opinions of its true place. Each moved the fence every time the other fellow get a new wrinkle from anybody, and the surveying business in the close neighborhood was good till them fool commission surveyors came along and spoiled the job.
The productiveness of the soil, and the easy tillage, from the absence of timber and rock, with the comparative remunerative value of all farm products, have made agriculture the leading interest here, to the exclusion of manufacturing enterprise. At the same time, the facilities for manufacturing are not great, from the absence of home coal and water-power. These remarks apply equally to all parts of the county, however. Railroads, railraods alone, made possible the cultivated fields, the villages and the civilizing influences of churches and schools in Grand Prairie, and if Douglas County ever merits the distinguished consideration of the world at large for large manufacturing cities and their corresponding wealth, it must be brought about by the further agency of the iron highway, which is emphatically the exponent and the institution of our modern civilization.
From the institution of the county in 1859, up to this 30th day of June, in the year of our Lord, 1884, at precisely 24 o’clock, when these papers are finished, these changes, which we have been trying to keep the run of, have come to pass. Many a one of us has tried his “prentice hand,” on one or more of a thousand schemes for honorably winning bread, with no other capital than a brave and willing heart. Some are rich, some have failed, and some have gone away, mayhap voluntarily, to a more promising field of labor, or, we have tenderly gathered what we could find of him and quietly and reverently laid him down to “sleep the sleep that knows no waking.” He may have been rich in worldly goods and a failure; he may have been poor, and a grand success.
In the struggle for bread, the poor fellow is often wounded and sometimes thrown; then he goes home disheartened and discouraged, and after a fitful fever sleep, arises in the morning and thanks God that he lives to try it once again. Let us “call no man a failure till he is dead,” for a few final years of success may well atone for half a lifetime of baffled hopes; his work, his children are with us and of us, his name is on our records, and we may not wash it out.
“No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode,
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.”
Perhaps heaven was as kind to him as he was to himself. If he had not all he wanted, he gave perhaps all he could.
Why is it that men and women who have been blessed (?) with a liberal education find themselves distanced in the race for wealth by those who have learned to write their names, only through the necessity of signing bank checks? Why, so often, the man whose knowledge of social ethics and political economy is only equaled by his familiarity with the eternal fitness of things, is intrusted with the accumulation and distribution of the Nation’s wealth?
“Why do some have to walk despondently through the deep valley of poverty, while others fare sumptuously every day, and why are some of the most talented deprived of the pleasures waiting on those who toil, while children and babies sow and reap?”
Why is the golden calf set up in all public places for the worship of independent American citizens, and why is the homage paid?
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * * * Yet, in his humble and unobtrusive way the money-maker has moved quietly along and accummulated the means that improve farms, build houses and establish banks and railroads, part of which he has more or less cheerfully dispensed in the employment of the muscle and brains of his less fortunate, but not less worthy fellow-workingman. He has rights which the simple worker is bound to acknowledge, and we may well conclude that when Dame Fortune began the distribution of her financial favors in this part of the world, she might have done far worse than she did, when she piled so large a part of them upon the broad shoulders of a majority of the pioneers of Douglas County.
from County of Douglas, Illinois : historical and biographical
SAMUEL BAXTER, farmer and trader, is a native of Clark County,
Ind.; was born October 30, 1835, and is the only son of William and Sarah (King) Baxter, of English-German descent.
His father was born in Louisville, Ky., and his mother in Pennsylvania. The father of Mr. Baxter died in
Indiana in 1880, at seventy-six years of age. He was one of the first settlers of Louisville. The grandfathers
of Mr. Baxter were soldiers in the 1812 war. At about eighteen years of age, Mr. Baxter began the labors of life
for himself. His marriage took place in 1852, to Miss Susana Mull, who is a native of Indiana. To this union
have been born five children, viz.: William, John, Sarah, Samuel and Mary. In 1872, Mr. Baxter came to Douglas
County, Ill., and settled on Section 17, which he now owns. He has in all about one thousand acres of well-improved
land. Three years ago he removed to Murdock, where he now resides and is doing a hardware and grocery business,
and also has a hay barn. This business is in charge of his son. He has $6,000 invested in business at Murdock.
Mr. Baxter took an active part in the formation of Douglas County's new township. He is one of the leading
traders of the county, and one of its principal men.
W. C. CAMPBELL, farmer, was born in Hawkins County, Tenn., June 9, 1836, and is a son of James, and Margaret (Young) Campbell. He is the eldest in a family of nine children, and is of English descent. The father of Mr. Campbell was born in Tennessee, and his mother in Virginia. His great-grandfather was Robert Campbell, a native of England. He came to America prior to the Revolutionary war. His grandfather was James Campbell, a native of Tennessee, and died in Illinois in 1869. When our subject was about ten years of age, he, with his father's family, emigrated from Tennessee to Vermillion County, Ind., and there the family remained one year, and then came to what was then Coles County, Ill. In the spring of 1849, the family settled where Mr. James Helm now resides. The parents of Mr. Campbell now live in Kansas, having removed to that State in 1865. Mr. Campbell was married in 1856 to Miss Sarah A. Helm, daughter of George W. Helm. Mrs. Campbell is a native of Owen County, Ind. To this union have been born seven children, viz.: James Y, Elizabeth J., Lydie M. (deceased), George W., Samantha E., John S. and Anna B. In 1856, Mr. Campbell settled where he now lives. He owns 320 acres of well-improved land. Politically, he is a thorough Republican, and cast his first Presidential vote for Lincoln. He is a Mason, made such in 1864. The family is connected with the Methodist Episcopal Church. He is one of the pioneers of the territory that now composes Murdock Township ; a man of enterprising spirit, and has been Superintendent of the Sabbath school for twenty years.
WILLIAM H. EWIN, farmer, was born in Augusta County, Va., November 27, 1831; is the son of Elijah and Amanda (Hunter) Ewin. He is the eldest in a family of six children, and is of Irish origin. The parents of our subject were born in Virginia. When Mr. Ewin was eight years of age, he came with his parents from Virginia to Ohio, and remained a short time, and in 1840 the family came to Coles County, Ill., where it resided until 1859, when it removed to the territory that now composes Douglas County. Mr. Ewin, in 1870, married Miss Elizabeth Wishard, who was born in Vermillion County, Ind. To them have been born seven children. Those that are living are as follows: Mary A., James M. and Lydia M. In 1878, Mr. Ewin bought his present farm, which is well improved. He is a Republican, and cast his first Presidential vote for Lincoln. In 1861, Mr. Ewin enlisted in the United States Army in Company E, Fifty-seventh Illinois Infantry, for three years; was honorably discharged December 25, 1864, at Savannah, Ga. He was at Fort Donelson, Shiloh, Corinth and with Sherman to the sea. Mr. and Mrs. Ewin are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Ewin has been successful as a farmer, and has made his own way. He is one of the first settlers of the county, and a most honorable man.
B. B. HELM, farmer, was born in Owen County, Ind., February 11,1844; is the son of John T. and Permelia (Palmer) Helm; he is the eldest in a family of seven children, and is of English descent. The father of Mr. Helm was born in Kentucky, and his mother in Indiana. When the subject of our sketch was eleven years of age, he removed with his parents from Indiana to Webster County, Iowa, and there remained until 1859, and then went to Kansas, and in the fall of 1860 the family came to Douglas County, Ill. In July, 1862, Mr. Helm enlisted in the United States Army, in Company E, Seventy-ninth Illinois Infantry, for three years. He was taken prisoner September 19, 1863, at Chickamauga; was a prisoner of war eighteen months — twelve months in Andersonville, and six months in other prisons; he was honorably discharged in August, 1865; his marriage took place in March, 1871, to Miss Margaret Reed. Mrs. Helm is a native of Douglas County, Ill. To this union have been born six children, four living—Ora M., Rosa B., Mary P. and Permelia. In 1869, Mr. Helm purchased his present place of residence; he now owns almost a section of well-improved land. In 1880, he began tile-draining. Politically, Mr. Helm is a true Republican, and cast his first Presidential vote for Grant. Mr. and Mrs. Helm are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church; he was a good soldier, is a leading farmer and prominent citizen of Douglas County, and began life with what money the Government saved for him while he was a prisoner of war.
R. F. HELM, farmer and dealer in blooded horses, was born in Owen County, Ind., April 15, 1852, and is a son of George W. and Elizabeth J. (Beaman) Helm; he is the youngest in a family of nine children, and is of English lineage. In an early day his father emigrated to Tennessee, then to Kentucky, thence to Indiana, and finally to Illinois. The subject of this sketch was about two years of age when the family landed in the territory that forms Douglas County. The marriage of Mr. Helm took place in January, 1873, to Miss Mattie E. Murdock, who was born in Douglas County, Ill. To this union has been born one child, viz., Maud E. In 1873, Mr. Helm settled at Murdock; here he has 160 acres of well-improved land; his residence was destroyed by fire January 6,1884. In the spring of 1883, Mr. Helm began devoting some attention to blooded horses, and he now has three imported Norman stallions, and also the "Young Regalia" trotting stallion, purchased of Powers & Son, at Decatur. This horse is one of the best in Eastern Illinois. Politically, Mr.Helm is a Democrat, and cast his first Presidential vote for Tilden. In 1880, he was elected Commissioner of Highways in Camargo Township ; he is one of ihe popular young men of the county.
SAMUEL A. HOWARD, farmer and stock-raiser, was born in Vermillion County, Ind., June 16, 1833, and is a son of Elkanah and Mary (Denton) Howard. The parents of Mr. Howard were born in Washington County, Tenn.; his paternal grandfather was John Howard. In his father's family were ten children, of whom he is the third, and is of Ger-man descent. In 1828, his father came to Vermillion County, Ind. where he resided until 1856, when he removed to Putnam County, Mo., and there he resided until his death, which occurred in 1873; his mother also died there six years later. When the subject of this sketch had gained his majority he began life's labors for himself, and for some time he worked by the month on the farm; he was married, in August, 1859, to Miss Susan E. Brown, also a native of Vermillion County, Ind. To this marriage were born ten children, viz., Parmelia A., Francis M. (deceased), Mary S., Elkanah J., Perlina, Samuel A., Nancy J., Herman C, Arthur I. and Tillman O. Mrs. Howard died in 1881. and Mr. Howard was married next, August 31, 1882, to Miss Matilda McMillian, a native of Pennsylvania. In 1856, Mr. Howard left his native State and went to Putnam, Mo., where he remained five years, and then came to Douglas County, Ill., and settled where he now resides. He began life in almost destitute circumstances, but he now has 440 acres of well-improved land, and has a life's competence. He is a Republican, and cast his first Presidential vote for Fremont. For thirty-three years he has been a member of the Christian Church. Mrs. Howard is also a member of that church. Mr. Howard is one of the leading farmers of the county.
ABRAM JONES, farmer, was born in Monroe County, Ohio, October 16, 1826, and is a son of Samuel and Cisna (Hamilton) Jones. Mr. Jones is the third in a family of ten children, seven boys and three girls, and is of Welsh-Irish lineage; his father was born in Virginia, and his mother in Ohio; his paternal grandfather was Ephraim Jones, a native of Wales, who came to America prior to the Revolutionary war, and was one of the "minutemen" in that war. In 1853, Mrs. Jones left his native State, and came to what was then Coles County, Illinois, and settled three miles southeast of Tuscola. His marriage took place in August, 1855 to Miss E. A. Eagler, who was also born in Ohio. To this marriage have been born six children, viz., Anna B., William W., Mary F.(deceased), Owen E., Carrie, and Lula I. In 1882, Mr. Jones moved to Murdock, where he now resides; he owns eighty acres of good land northeast of Murdock. He is a Mason, a member of Newman Lodge, No 369. Mrs. Jones is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Jones is a self-made man, and has been successful in life. Through is own energy he has succeeded. The parents of Mrs. Jones are residents of Pennsylvania. Mr. Jones is a prominent man, and an honorable citizen. [p. 556/557 - Submitted by Source #44]
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