Welcome to Illinois Genealogy Trails

THE PIONEERS.

Source: "Historical and Biographical Record of Douglas County, Illinois"
By John M. Gresham
Compiled by John M. Gresham
Published by Press of Wilson, Humphreys & Co., 1900

Submitted by K. Torp

The open prairie country of Douglas county greatly retarded the settlement of this section of Coles county. A few came here previous to 1850, but the great bulk of the public lands was occupied by actual owners subsequent to that date.

The first settlement in Coles county as originally formed was about 1824, and subsequent additions to the white population found homes at widely separated points, from the Cumberland road on the south, to Camargo on the north. The original pioneer of Douglas county was
John Richman, who, in 1829, settled in Camargo township. He was a native of Greenbrier county, West Virginia, and came with his father when a lad of sixteen years to Vermilion county, Illinois . The journey was made over the tedious roads of the frontier in wagons accompanied by a drove of sheep, horses and cattle.

Here the family lived on and worked a rented farm for two or three years. In the meanwhile the father, accompanied by a friend, made a visit to the Embarrass timber in quest of honey. Here in eight or ten days they secured several barrels of honey, and in the course of their rambles became so enamored with the country that Mr. Richman determined to remove to this region. In May of the following year, 1829, the family removed and took up their residence a mile and a half from the present site of Camargo village in the timber skirting the Embarrass river. At this time there was not another white family within the present limits of Douglass county, and none in Coles north of Charleston. For upward of a year the Richmans lived in this solitude, when they were joined by
Harrison Gill, and perhaps some six months later by Isaac Moss, who settled about a mile east of the present village of Camargo.
The Indians were in the neighborhood for three years after the advent of these pioneers, their village occupying the present site of Bridgeport. The savages came in the fall for hunting, and stayed through the winter, and in the spring went north to their cornfields.

The first summer, the Richmans lived in a temporary camp built of logs split in twain, while the male portion of the family devoted their efforts to breaking the prairie, and securing a harvest, but they soon found their team power inadequate for the undertaking, and resorted to the timber. The work of clearing and putting in the crop consumed the time until the Ioth of July, when they had the satisfaction of seeing fourteen acres planted in corn. Their next care was to protide a permanent shelter from the rigors of the winter. Logs were procured and partly hewed, when the grim terror of pioneer life, the ague, laid seven of the eleven members of, the family prostrate. For several months the family were obliged to give up further work on their improvements, and the winter found them still occupying the original cabin.

On the following year the hewed-log house was finished and occupied, and still remains a landmark of the olden time.

Harrison Gill, who may be noted as the first purchaser of land in Douglas county, was a native of Kentucky, and belonged to the family noted in that state. Other branches of the family came to Palestine in Crawford county about 1812, and found refuge in old Fort La Motte for some time. At the pacification of the Indians, the Gills settled on the Sandy Prairie, but James Gill a few years later moved further north and settled on the Embarrass, near the northern lines of the present Cumberland county. On reaching the age of twenty-one, Harrison Gill found himself possessed of a few hundred dollars, and upon the advice of his father proceeded to Illinois to invest his capital in land. Visiting his family relatives in the state, he found his uncle in Cumberland county busy in shingling his first permanent cabin, and at once engaged to assist in completing the job. This done the two made a tour northward in search of lands for investment.

The first point above Charleston where a settlement had been made was at the mouth of Brushy Fork, where
Maj. Ashmore had begun an improvement. He was pleased with the appearance of the country, and selected land in the northwest quarter of section 35, and the west half of the southwest quarter of the same section, in township 15 north, range 10 east, and at once repaired to the land office at Palestine, where the entry was properly recorded. The patents, which are still retained as a souvenir by the family, were signed by Andrew Jackson, as President, on the 8th of March, 1830. Mr. Gill has not been a citizen of the county, having returned to Kentucky soon after his purchase of the land. John Hammet was scarcely second to Gill in his entry of land in this county; he visited Illinois in 1828, and entered eight hundred acres of land north of the present site of Camargo village, in company with Gill. Mr. Hammet was a native of Virginia, from whence he moved to Kentucky, where his son, James R., was born. It was not until the fall of 1830 that he moved to his new purchase. The household goods were brought from Kentucky by teams of horses and oxen Mrs. Hammet and smaller children coming in a carriage. It was November before the family reached the site of their new home, and before the cabin could be erected winter was at hand. The family was therefore obliged to find shelter in a tent with a large fire before the opening to keep off the cold. The under bed ticks had been filled with blue grass seed in Kentucky, and upon these the feather beds were placed and drawn near the fire. This winter was very severe, as was the following one, which is known as the season of the great snow, and many of the Indians in the vicinity made frequent visits to this new addition to the white settlement. At the time of the arrival of the Hammets, there were only two families of permanent settlers in the territory of Douglas county, though some squatters had taken up their residence in the southern part and who removed soon afterward. The family suffered great privations during the first years. No provisions had been brought from Kentucky, and everything during the first winter was only to be procured at a point on the Vermillion river, near the present site of Indianola. Their milling was afterward done at a still greater distance, at how great a debt the country owes to its pioneer women.

Eli Sargent was a settler in Douglas county in the same year. He was a native of Maryland, but had subsequently emigrated to Ohio where his children were born. Anxious to avail himself of the cheap lands in Illinois, he made a journey here, accompanied only by his son, Snowden. They left home on the 18th of March, and proceeded clown the Ohio river to Evansville, Indiana, on a flat-boat. Here they continued their journey overland, crossing the Wabash at Vincennes and directing their course to Paris. Mr. Sargent's original intention was to seek a location in Buffalo Heart Grove in Sangamon county, a point he had greatly admired when he passed through it, returning from a trip to Missouri two years before. Coming through Walnut Prairie, some fifteen miles below Marshall, Clark county, Illinois, he learned of Walnut Point, on the Embarrass river, where Ashmore had made a settlement. The favorable reports of this location determined him to visit it, and so pleased was he upon examination, that he entered four hundred acres here when he returned to Palestine. The household goods were promptly brought forward in wagons, and arrived at the new location in April, 1830, Mrs. Sargent arriving soon afterward. A wigwam in the Indian fashion was the first erected, and later the usual cabins which served the family as homes for several years.

Maj. Ashmore was the only settler in this township (Sargent). In 1834 Mr. Sargent died, leaving his son township 16 north, range 7 east. He arrived at this point in June and erected a cabin, returning then to bring his family, consisting of his wife and four children. He returned to Illinois in the following September, and cultivated his farm for about a year, when he removed to the farm which is known as the old homestead For several years he was the only resident of what is now Tuscola township.

Jacob Taylor was probably the first settler in Garrett township. Soon after him came James Drew, who came to the territory of Douglas county in 1839, having, with his father, a job to split rails for Taylor. Land was cheap here at that time, and Drew being only eighteen years of age, thought it a favorable opportunity to secure a start by entering land. He first entered eighty acres, borrowing one hundred dollars of Taylor to make the purchase, and contracting to discharge a portion of the debt by day's labor. He put up a split-log house in 1840, and lived with his brother-in-law. At this time, for thirty miles west in the direction of Decatur, there was not a single house. Jacob Mosbarger was among the earliest settlers in Garrett township. He was a native of Ohio, settled subsequently in Indiana, and in 1845 started with the intention of settling in Iowa. He found it impossible to reach his proposed destination in time to secure a crop before the coming winter, and therefore stopped here to raise one crop, proposing to continue his journey the next season. He was so favorably impressed with the country, however, that he gave up his idea of proceeding to Iowa. He first settled in the edge of the timber on Lake Fork, and rented land. Two years later he settled on Congress land, pre-empting one hundred and sixty acres, which still remains in the family.

Nathan Garrett was another early and prominent man in Garrett township; he was newly married when he came here in April, 1845, and began life on a capital of forty dollars in cash, and two horses and a wagon; he began by renting land until 1852, when he entered eighty acres, and has been successful in amassing considerable property. Benjamin Ellars, a native of Ohio, came to Illinois in 1835. In 1849 he rnoved to Douglas county, and settled on the west side of the east Okaw timber, just south of the Campaign county line. The family was one of the first to locate in that vicinity. To the west of their improvement on the prairie there was not a single settler. John D. Murdock, for whom a township in Douglas county was named, was a prominent settler in that section of the county; he was a native of Ohio, but had made a settlement in Fountain county, Indiana, but, dissatisfied with the health of the section, he sought a home in a prairie country. His attention was called to this region in 1853, and in July of that year came here to "spy out the land." Pleased with the outlook he would have purchased land, but did not meet with a satisfactory opportunity. On returning home he sold his farm, and in January, 1854, returned, coming to Georgetown, and then by way of Hickory Grove, following the ridge to Camargo. At this time he met with a man of whom he bought some three hundred and forty acres at eleven dollars per acre. In the following April he brought his family. A split-log house stood upon the tract at the time of its purchase, Ibut being insufficient for the accommodation of his family, Mr. Murdock prepared a frame house in Indiana, and hauled it to his new purchase where he put it up in readiness for his family.

William W. Young came to Douglas county in the fall of 1853, and was one of the earliest settlers in Newman township. He was a native of Indiana, and lived for a few years after his marriage on rented land in his native state. He then came to Douglas county, accompanied by two of his wife's brothers. After entering one hundred and sixty acres of land he returned to Indiana, and a year later came with his family to the place chosen for his new home. On their arrival they boarded for a week in the neighborhood, while Mr. Young erected a frame dwelling into which the family moved directly it was completed. J. M. Cooley, one of those accompanying Mr. Young, took up one hundred and sixty acres on a land warrant in November, 1853. B. C. Nelson came to Douglas county three years later, and bought three hundred and twenty acres of railroad land on section 4, township 16 north, range 8 east. With the exception of one or two families there were no neighbors nearer than Okaw timber, and the site of Tuscola was a wild prairie covered with tall grass and resin weed. There was nothing in the character of the country or in the history of the emigrants to this section to lead to the early formation of villages or thickly settled communities. The pioneers of Douglas county came singly or by twos and threes, and fixed upon an eligible site for farming, and there pitched their tabernacle. Up to the coming of the railroad influence in 1850, Camargo was the only village even on paper, and there was therefore no disturbing influence to divert the even settling up of the country.

Camargo dates earliest among the townships of the county in settlement, and counts among the early settlers the
Richmans, Hammets, Gills, Braggs, Watsons and Mur- docks. Tuscola claims William Brian, the Hacketts, O. J. Jones, J. W. Smith, G. P. Phinney, B. F. Boggs, B. C. Nelson and others. Garrett claims the Garretts, Otters, Mullens, Lesters, Goodsons, Mosbargers, Drews, Howes and Ellars. Newman incudes among its early settlers Enoch Howell, the Winklers, the Hopkinses, Cooleys, Youngs, Skinners and Shutes. Sargent numbers the family from which it took its name, Ashmores, Gwinns, Reddens, Allisons, Maddox, Casebear and others. Bowdre claims Isaac Davidson, Breedens, Davises and Barnetts. Arcola, the Shaws, Henrys and McCanns; and Bourbon the Moores, Deharts, Weltons, Nelson Shaw, the Drews and others. In the latter township are quite a number of Germans who came in about 1852 and the years immediately following, and in 1864 the first of a considerable number of the same nationality generally known by the "Amish," a name commonly bestowed upon this sect of religionists



The new county was now born and christened, and being admitted, the next thing in this case was to see that she was properly clothed, and to this end the first nominating convention for the selection of county officers was held in a board shanty on the McCarty farm, two and one-half miles east of Tuscola. The men put in nomination were selected without regard to party, and the officers who were then elected were :

County judge
James Ewing, still living in Arcola, and the associates were John D. Murdock, now a large land owner in Camargo township, who was again elected in 1861. He filled the position for six years, and had been active in the formation of the new county. And Robert Hopkins, one of the pioneers of Newman township, who was, at the birth of the new county, an associate justice of Coles. Mr. Hopkins died in the spring of 1863, leaving a large unincumbered estate. The first county clerk was John Chandler, who was a good officer. He was re-elected in 1 86 1, serving in all about six years. Mr. Chandler was one of the most active in the partition, and by reason of a large experience in public business was altogether depended upon for statistics in the interest of the new county. He served in the war with Mexico. The circuit clerk and recorder, elected at this time, was Andrew G. Wallace, who was re-elected in 1860, 1864 and 1868, holding the office by re-election for over twelve years. Mr. Wallace was one of the first settlers, having arrived in Coles county in 1834, and was one of the first in Tuscola. He died in Tuscola in 1877. Samuel B. Logan was the first sheriff. Mr. Logan is now a resident of Bourbon, Illinois, and is a large land owner. He was a captain in the Fifty-fourth Regiment, Illinois Volunteers, in the war of 1861.

The office of assessor and treasurer was taken by
William Hancock, of Newman township. Mr. Hancock was engaged in banking in the city of Newman, and was a large farmer in Sargent township. He came to this vicinity in November, 1839.

The first county surveyor was
Henry C. Niles, who was re-elected in 1861 and again in 1871. Mr. Niles came from Baltimore in 1857. The first meeting of the county court, as it was called, was held in Camargo, so that the minds of the people might not be prejudiced as between Arcola and Tuscola.

The selection of the county seat, as was to have been expected, was the occasion of much excitement. The cities of Tuscola and Arcola, from their comparatively central position, and both being situated on the only railroad in the county, were the leading contesting points.

The village of Camargo had claims to the honor which were strongly advocated, and the well known Hackett's Grove, not far north of the geographical centre of the county, was also talked of. The aspiring embryo cities of Tuscola and Arcola, at the first election, polled probably ten times their legal vote, and the count in these two places being so glaringly preposterous, neither was considered at this time, and the unwritten history of this canvass for county seat will probably remain unwritten during the present generation. At this first meeting of the county court a special term April 28, 1859, it was ordered that a special election be held May 30, 1859, to choose a [text missing]

Camargo was made county seat pro tern, and
Mr. W. H. Lamb was appointed commissioner to transfer from Coles county records those necessarily belonging to Douglas. Mr. Lamb had arrived in Camargo in 1853; was a merchant there until 1862, when he became adjutant of the Seventy-ninth Illinois Volunteers in the war of the Rebellion. He was elected county clerk, or clerk of the county court, in 1865, and at the .expiration of his term accepted the cashiership of the First National Bank of Tuscola, but now resides in Santiago, California.

The people having, at an election held in November, 1867, decided to adopt township organization,
Lucius McAllister, of Arcola, Jos. B. McCown, of Camargo, and Henry B. Evans, of Tuscola, were appointed Commissioners to divide the county into townships, which duty they performed by making the sub-divisions as they now stand. Jos. B. McCown served honourably in the war with Mexico, as also in the Civil war of 1861, when he was colonel of the Sixty-third Illinois Infantry. Col. McCown stood high in the estimation of the people and consequently exercised considerable influence in politics and public business generally. He possessed all the attributes of good citizenship, and his death, November 21, 1869, was much lamented. H. B. Evans was elected assessor and treasurer in 1865 and re-elected in 1867; as assistant United States marshal in 1870 he procured the Douglas county data for the ninth census, and was postmaster of Tuscola for a number of years.

[text missing]
supervisors were:
Caleb Garrett, of Garrett; Lemuel Chandler, of Bourbon; Asa T. Whitney, of Arcola; Oliver C. Hackett, of Tuscola; Geo. W. Henson, of Camargo; Benjamin W. Hooe, of Newman; Isaac W. Burget, of Sargent, and Benjamin Bowdre, of "Deer Creek" township, but upon being informed by the state auditor that there was a "Deer Creek" township in Tazewell county, the name was changed to " Bowdre," in honor of its first representative. In September, the same year, a petition to the board of supervisors was circulated, to which a great many signatures had been obtained, wherein the petitioners endeavored to show their belief that a majority of the voters of the county desired the abolition of township organization.

Camargo township was formerly called Albany precinct, Newman was once Brushy Fork, Garrett township was a part of Bourbon, Bourbon was once North Okaw, Bowdre, once called Deer Creek, was a part of Collins precinct, and Sargent belonged to Oakland precinct.

Joseph G. Cannon came to Tuscola in 1859, the year of the new county ; was elected state's attorney in 1861 and again in 1864. He was elected to congress in 1872 and is there now. He resides in Danville.

The first session of circuit court was held in the then just finished depot building of the Illinois Central Railroad, and the first civil case on the docket was
Button vs. K. B. Johnson, default of defendant and judgment for three dollars and twenty cents. This was an appeal from Dr. J. T. Johnson, a magistrate in the village of Bouron. Dr. Johnson removed from Bourbon to a point south of Newman, and after a few years went west.

Afterward court was held over
J. M. Maris' store, on northeast corner of Parke and Sale streets, in which building Mr. Wallace had his office as recorder; at that time this was the largest available room in Tuscola, and after that, until the present permanent court house was built, in the large two-story wooden building which stands opposite the court house on the north. Judge Harlan presided and heard all cases, whilst busily engaged in carving curious toys from soft wood, a habit he rarely laid aside during business hours.

For a while the county clerk's office was in the east end of the hotel, burned in 1864, which occupied the site of the "Stanley House." The original hotel was built by the Town Company, and there seems to be good authority for the statement that the Illinois Central Railroad Company had agreed to put the depot about opposite the site of the court house, say Houghton street, but under a mistake of the person in charge, it got its present location.

The court house was begun under the administration, as a county court, in 1864, of
Judge Francis C. Mullen, of Garrett township, assisted by John D. Murdock, of Camargo, and Caleb Bales, of Bourbon, as associates. Judge Mullen was the second county judge of Douglas county ; was born in Delaware and came to Garrett township in 1850. Mr. Bales was elected in 1861 associate justice, and in 1872 represented his township as supervisor.

The court house was a brick building of two stories and basement, and contained the jail and living rooms for the sheriff or jailer. It was situated in Block "C," a roomy enough plat of ground, 216x320, in about the centre of Tuscola. The plat was deeded to the county by the original Town Company for the consideration that "a court house of a substantial character should be erected upon it within four years from March 7, 1864. The grounds to be used exclusively for county buildings, and also conditioned that when it ceased to be used for such purposes it should revert to the grantors."

The architect of the building was
O. L. Kinney, of Chicago. The original accepted bid for the masonry was fifteen thousand dollars, and the carpenter work was offered for seven thousand and seven hundred dollars. The contractors for the masonry failed to perform their agreement, even after two or three extensions of time, and an advance of twenty per cent, on their contract, which advance was also made to the carpenter. The county board finally took charge of the work and in conjunction with Mr. J. M. Smith, of Tuscola, employed the same builders and others, and brought the work to a conclusion. The entire original cost of the building and furniture was forty-two thousand dollars, the painting, glazing and iron not having been included in any of the bids.

COUNTY OFFICERS OF DOUGLAS COUNTY FROM ITS ORGANIZATION IN 1859.

COUNTY CLERKS.
John Chandler, elected April, 1859; re- elected 1861.
William H. Lamb, elected November, 1865.
John C. Parcel, elected November, 1869.
Daniel O. Root, elected November, 1873.
D. A. Conover, November, 1880, died in office February 2, 1899.

CIRCUIT CLERK AND RECORDER.
A. G. Wallace, elected April, 1859.
P. C. Sloan, elected November, 1872.
John N. Outcelt, elected November, 1882.
R. F. Helm, elected November, 1886.
J. W. King, elected in 1890.
C. A. Hawkins, elected in 1898, the present incumbent.

ASSESSOR AND TREASURER.
William Hancock, elected April, 1859.
George W. Flynn, elected November, 1861.
V. C. McNeer, elected November, 1863.
Henry B. Evans, elected November, 1865; re-elected November, 1867.
After township organization the office was called collector and treasurer.

COLLECTOR AND TREASURER.
James T. Walker, elected November, 1869; re-elected November, 1871.
James M. Cox, elected November, 1873.
Henry R. Ingraham, elected November,
1875 Lines L. Parker, elected 1879.
T. S. Wyeth, elected 1886.
L. E. Root, elected 1890.
James Jones, elected 1894.
Henry C. Jones, elected 1898, the present incumbent.

SHERIFF.
Samuel B. Logan, elected April, 1859.
William T. French, elected November, 1862
Isaac L. Jordon, elected November, 1864.
Henry C. Carico, elected November, 1866.
N. Rice Gruelle, elected November, 1868.
Newton I. Cooper, elected November, 1870.
James H. Shawhan, elected November, 1871.
Francis G. Cunningham, elected November, 1872; re-elected November, 1874; re-elected in 1876, and died in office.
Col. Wesford Taggart, elected 1880.
T. S. Wyeth, elected 1886.
John L. Goff, elected 1890.
J. C. Cutler, elected 1894.
F. D. Bagley, elected 1898, died in office May 20, 1898.
F. T. Spies, M. D., then coroner, served out Bagley 's time until the next general election.
C. A. Moon, elected 1898, the present incumbent.

SUPERINTENDENT SCHOOLS.
Wm. H. Sipple, elected April, 1859.
S. S. Irwin, elected November, 1861.
J. Frank Lamb, elected November, 1863.
W. W. Monroe, elected November, 1865.
Samuel T. Callaway, elected November, 1869; re-elected November, 1873.
C. W. Woolverton, appointed September, 1875
J. W. King, elected November, 1875. Mr. King resigned to accept post office appointment at Newman and was succeeded by appointment of F. E. A. Starr.
Joseph R. Burres served from 1882 to 1886.
Nora Smith, 1894.
Mamie Bunch, 1898.
Thomas M. Wells, a most worthy young man, who was elected by an overwhelming vote in 1898, and was killed in a railroad wreck two weeks after being sworn into office. On March 9, 1899, Blanche Caraway was appointed and is the present incumbent.

COUNTY SURVEYOR.
Henry C. Niles, elected April, 1859, re- elected November, 1861.
Issachar Davis, elected November, 1863.
Enos C. Siler, elected November, 1865.
Issachar Davis, elected November, 1867.
Edmund Fish, elected November, 1869.
Henry C. Niles, elected November, 1871.
Issachar Davis, elected November, 1875.
H. C. Niles, elected 1883.
Wm. E. Price was elected in 1883 and is the present incumbent.

MASTER IN CHANCERY.
Andrew J. Wallace, 1859 to 1880, and was also Circuit Clerk during the time. After his death, in 1880, A. B. Powell served six months, when, in 1881, H. C. Niles was appointed and has since filled that office satisfactorily.


HOME

©Genealogy Trails