HISTORY OF DOUGLAS COUNTY, IL
F.A. BATTEY & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1884.
BY H.C. NILES
REPRODUCED FROM THE ORIGINALS AND CONTRIBUTED
LARRY M. BURMEISTER,
“The world advances by the assistance of all laborers, and all labor is under obligations to inventive genius.” THE compiler of the township histories has for many years tried to keep the run of important events so far as they come within his purview, and which were not to be found in the public records; in the which, he is much indebted to friendly, public-spirited men and women, who have kindly given him “pointers.” Some things are, of course, omitted, which are of interest, but that is no reason for rejecting such facts as are available, for the simple relation of “something that happened” calls up in the reflective mind, interesting, if not always pleasant, memories, and naturally suggests kindred themes.
DERIVATION OF NAME, BOUNDS, AREA, ETC.
Sargent Township takes its name from that of one of its oldest settlers and most prominent business and cattle farmers—Snowden Sargent. In the old Coles County days it was a part of “Oakland Precinct,” set off for election purposes, and that part which remained in Douglas, after the formation of the new county, took the name of Sargent Precinct, and was very small, having only about twenty-three square miles. It was bounded on the east and south by the county line, on the north by a line from corner of Sections 16, 17, 20 and 21, running east to Edgar County, and it had a southwest boundary at the Embarrass River, which separated it from Deer Creek, since Bowdre Township. Sargent at the time of township organization, in 1868, was made into its present shape, and is bounded on the east and south by the county line, on the west by Bowdre and on the north by Murdock and Newman, the north line beginning at the northeast corner of Section 9, Town-
ship 14, Range 14 west, and running thence west on the section lines about seven miles to the northwest corner of Section 9, Township 15, Range 9 east, and thence south on the section lines eight miles to the south county line. It contains fifty-two sections of land, which includes, however, only 46.45 square miles, and consequently comprise 29, 728.94 acres, and inarea ranks No. 5 in the county, the discrepancy between the number of sections and the number of square miles being accounted for by the fact that many of the sections are very small—those in what is called Township 15 north, of Range 11 east, running from 200 to 350 acres, their surveyed width being little over one quarter of a mile. The smallest Government section of land in the county is in this township—Section 7, Township 15, Range 11— and has only 198.38 acres. This narrow range is explained thus; The Government Surveyors who laid off townships, worked east from the middle of Illinois and laid off ten townships. Those who operated in Indiana laid off the townships to the westward till they had surveyed fourteen. The work of the two did not come together in this region by about an average of 100 rods. It is quite probable that if the Township Surveyor had known that he was that near to the other work, he would have closed up the gap by attaching this space to his Range 14, west of Second Principal Meridian, and this opinion is strengthened by the fact that he finished his west tier of sections (6 to 31), with a width each of only about three quarters of a mile, and had he used Range 11 east, and attached it to his Range 14 west, he would have had this west tier of sections just about full. There it is, however, and perhaps the only harm it works is the inconvenience to non-experts.
A large part of the township is prairie, say two-thirds; the balance is the usual proportion of timber land along the borders of the creeks, of which “Brushy Fork,” an affluent of the Embarrass River, comes in on the north line, and flows southwesterly toward the west side, when it joins the larger creek, the Embarrass, in Section 28, Township 15, Range 10, and their mingled waters then run southeasterly till they leave the county at the south side of Section 1, Township 14, Range 10, running two or three miles in
Coles County and re-entering Douglas on east side of Section 15, Township 14, Range 10. “Deer Creek” comes in from the west, and also joins the Embarrass in the north part of Section 33, Township 15, Range 10. Several other natural water-courses of smaller dimensions flow into these creeks at various points, and in the west part provide ampe drainage. The southeast part being somewhat level, a drainage district is in process of development, under the statute, which, as soon as the advantages are realized, will be followed by others, as is always the case. The highest point in the township, if not in the county, and at least rivaling in elevation the “Ridge” in Newman Township, is upon the farm of Andrew Gwinn, Esq., where the Government has erected an observatory. This is a wooden structure of a height of about 100 feet, from which to take instrumental observations for the connection of the triangular survey of the great lakes with that of the Mississippi River and the Gulf coast. The powerful telescopes used enable the engineers to take very long sights. The nearest tower to this one, which has been seen by the writer, is situated in Champaign County, in the southwest part of Township 18 north, Range 10 east, being about eighteen miles northwest. This triangular surveying is founded on the principle of determining the position of a point by the intersection of two known lines. On this principle a farm can be surveyed by actually measuring only one line, and calculating all the other desired distances which are made sides of a connected series of triangles, whose angles are carefully measured. Somewhere in this extensive work a base line, as long as possible—five or ten miles—is measured with extreme accuracy. From its extremities, sights and angles are taken to the most distant objects visible, such as steeples, signals or structures built for the purpose, etc. The distances between these are then calculated, the instrument is then placed at each of the new stations and angles taken to still more distant stations, the calculated lines being used as new base lines. One side of the last triangle is so placed that its length can be obtained by measurement as well as by calculation, and the agreement of the two proves the accuracy of the whole work. These first and last bases, in a survey extending over 500 miles, have been known to agree within less than two
feet, and our United States Coast Surveyors have in some instances claimed even great accuracy. Observations are sometimes taken at night, using the best lights obtainable, some of which have been plainly seen and used at a distance of sixty-six miles. On the same principle, your land surveyor can measure across the river more accurately than the chainmen can.
Among the most prominent of the earliest settlers was Snowden Sargent, for whom the township was named. He made his first visit to the State in 1830, and entered 400 acres of land at the office at Palestine, and passed through all the usual vicissitudes and privations of pioneer life, and became eventually one of the largest land owners in the county; dying in 1875, he left a large estate to his discendants.
Andrew Gwinn settled here before 1836, from his last location in Indiana, and visited the Richmans in Camargo (who were the first settlers in the county, 1830). His lands adjoining Mr. Sargent’s and together occupying so much territory, made the establishment of a school district quite a problem. He has the largest farm in Douglas County—3,100 acres.
I.W. Burgett lived in this township for more than forty years, and controlled about 1,400 acres of land, all of which has been accumulated since his residence here. He represented his township for about six consecutive years as Supervisor, and afterward for four years more. Mr. Burgett died of typhoid fever February 13, 1884. He was fifty-five years of age, and had resided in the State forty-five years. He was a man of fine appearance and large business ability. His descendants occupy prominent business positions. Other early settlers were the Reddings, Samuel Allison, —Casebeer, B.F. Coykendall, William Hancock, and W.F. Murphy. Josephus Redding was born in Edgar County in 1829, and came to this region in 1831, when two years of age. Samuel Allison arrived in 1853, since deceased. Coykendall arrived in 1847, and I.W. Burgett in 1839. W.F. Murphy bought his first land here in 1850, and has a large 1,200-acre farm upon which valuable
improvements have been made.
The first entries of land were made in 1830. We find that in this year lands were entered by Eli Sargent, I. Ashmore, Amos Leslie, Joseph Redding, Jr., David Sears, Samuel Moore, Pharmer Leslie and Hez. Rhoades. North half of the northeast quarter of Section 1, Township 14, Range 10, was entered in this year by Sargent, who also took large bodies of other lands in the vicinity. In 1831, June 1, John Laughlin took Lot 2, northwest quarter of Section 2, Township 14, Range 10, and other lands. In the same year Stanton Pemberton covered several tracts in Section 10, Township 14, Range 10. Pharmer Leslie, October 29, 1830, entered the west half of southwest quarter of Section 23, Township 15, Range 10, and east half of the northeast quarter of Section 34, Township 15, Range 10. In 1834, S. and R.S. Williams entered large bodies of land, taking all of Section 9, Township 14, Range 10, and the school section. Joseph P. Winkler, March 11, 1835, took northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of Section x, Township 15, Range 14. Daniel Landers, 1836, November 30, northwest quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 14, Township 15, Range 10. Snowden Sargent, 1835, November 13, northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 1, Township 14, Range 10, and other lands. Daniel Miller, May 24, 1837, entered east half of the southwest quarter of Section 11, Township 15, Range 10, and other lands. Reuben Donalds [Donnals], 1837, February 22 and May 29, northeast quarter of the southwest quarter of Section 1, Township 14, Range 10, and east half of the northeast quarter of Section 6, Township 14, Range 14. Henry H. Potts settled in this township in 1856; Robert Matson, 1835, April 20, entered northwest quarter of Section 22, Township 15, Range 10; in 1837, the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 27, Township 15, Range 10, and in 1839, May 27, the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 21, Township 15, Range 10. There is some account of him in Bowdre Township, (q.v.). In 1837, June 28, Isaac Wells, north half of the southeast quarter of Section 23, Township 15, Range 10. Same year, June 1, John Hopping, southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 33, Township 15, Range 10.
Jonathan W. Powers entered, in 1849 to 1857, the south half of the northeast quarter of Section 5, Township 14, Range 14, and other lands. Cornelius Hopkins took the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 7, Township 15, Range 14, and other lands, August 23, 1849; and Robert Albin, on March 4, 1850, entered the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 7, Township 15, Range 14, and subsequently other lands. There are few if any entries in the years intervening between 1840 and 1849. Much interesting matter pertaining to public lands may be found in the general history of the county.
There are three “school” sections in Sargent Township. The law required that Section 16, in every Congressional township should be sold, and the proceeds devoted to educational purposes, the title being derived from the State. They were all surveyed and lotted. Section 16, Township 14, Range 10, in the southwest corner of Sargent, was all taken in 1853 by “Williams.” Section 16, Township 15, Range 10, was divided into eight lots, the same being the original eighty-acre subdivisions all lying east and west, No. 1 being south half of the southwest quarter, thence north to Lot 4, and thence east to No. 5, and south to Lot 8, which was the south half of the southeast quarter. W.F. Murphy, Daniel Jones and Howell bought about all of it.
A third school section in Sargent is Section 16, Town 15, Range 14; its subdivisions show eight lots, and is a very large regular section containing in the aggregate 656 acres, sixteen acres larger than the average section. The purchasers were Winkler, Ogden and Taylor in 1852. Lot 1 is the north half of the northeast quarter, eighty-two acres; Lot 2 is in the north half of the northwest quarter; Lot 3 south of the last, etc., up to Lot 8, which is the south half of the southeast quarter.
In referring to Douglas and Coles Counties, Prof. Worthen, the State “Geologist, says, p. 110, that “the limestone on the Embarrass River is too argillaceous to be successfully used for making quick line Some other region must be depended upon for a supply of this article.”
The writer having, while surveying, noted a large limestone on the east half of the northeast quarter of the southeast quarter of Section 10, Township 14, Range 10, applied to Dr. H. Rutherford, of Oakland, who in return kindly furnished the following: “The quarry is on the south bank or bluff of a branch, which branch at that point is probably thirty feet below the general level; about twenty-five or thirty feet square of this rock has at times within the last forty-five years been exposed, lime burnt from it, and foundations obtained. So far as explored, it appears in seams, from one inch to a foot in thickness. How thick the ledge is is unknown, several feet have been worked off its top. It dips with the bank to the south, at about one foot to eight; as it is the distal part is covered by ten feet of clay. How far it goes into the bank is unknown. Many years ago I used some of the lime; it was of the ordinary character, as dark as the “Delphi” and like it contained probably 90 per cent of pure lime. Borings near this place on the same branch proves that the underlying limestone is forty or more feet below this ledge. To unravel the history of this isolated rock, is a subject for the geologist. Perhaps in the ice age it may have been torn from its bed in the Canadian wilderness, beyond Lake Superior, and floated and borne in a great glacier, with clay, mountain rock and other debris, south, till it met the warm waters of the gulf, and sank where it lies, to remain how long nobody knows, till the drainage and erosion of the branch brought a fragment of its great mass to the light of day, a fit subject for conjecture and profitable reflection.”
The Illinois Midland Railway crosses the southwest part of the township,
entering at the west side of Section 9, Township 14, Range 10, and leaving
at the east side of Section 15, same township, where it crosses the Embarrass
River on a substantial bridge of some 600 feet in length. The road got
no subsidy from the township. The Toledo, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad
crosses the southeast corner in Section 4, Township 14, Range 14, having
been constructed along here in 1881. It is a “narrow gauge” road, the track
being only three feet wide, the standard gauge, four and two-thirds feet
being most generally used. This road passes through Oakland, in Coles
County, and its next important point northeast is Metcalf, in Edgar County,
which is about ten miles east of Newman. The road will doubtless before long be changed to the standard gauge, an adherence to the three-foot track requiring an independence which few roads possess. Routes for several “proposed” railroads have been surveyed across this territory, but have not lately been heard from, and Sargent enjoyed the distinction of being the only township in the county which had no public railroad debt, when all others had them; but since the bonds of the P. & D. Railroad have been declared void, the same may be said of the townships west.
There is no trading point of comparative importance in the township, the business of the people, with regard to shipping points and post office, with the exception of “Brushy Fork,” being about equally divided between Newman on the north and Oakland, in Coles County, in the south, which latter in its adolescent days was fondly called “Pin Hook.” Brushy Fork, the only post office, was early known as “Nipantuck,” and is situated in Section 22, Township 15, Range 10.
A proposed city called “Columbus” was regularly laid out in February, 1841, on the land of James H. Hicks, on the west side of the east half of the northeast quarter of Section 35, Township 15 north, of Range 10 east, and contained about forty acres, on the land now owned by Seidenstricker. It had a nice public square in the middle, which was surrounded by regularly laid out blocks and lots. As this embryo city has not of late years been at all conspicuous, a history of its rise and progress is not available at this particular juncture. The land was entered by Eli Sargent October 29, 1830. The town was surveyed by S. Sconce, Coles County Surveyor, for Hicks, who does not appear to have had any deed to the land.
COUNTY OFFICE HOLDERS.
Residents, both former and present, of this township have had much to do with the public business. William Hancock, now of Newman, was the first Assessor and Treasurer of the new county, having been elected with the first corps of officers in 1859. James H. Shawhan, now of Murdock, was elected Sheriff in 1871, to fill the unexpired term of Cooper, of Bourbon
Township, who had disappeared in company with township funds (see Bourbon). I.W. Burgett was the first Supervisor and was elected and held the office during the years from 1868 to 1873, being succeeded by S.M. Long, who was again returned in 1875. W.F. Murphy was in the same office in 1876, after which Mr. Burgett was again called and served 1877-80, making ten years of service in all. James Routledge was elected in 1881, and also in 1882 and 1883. He died while holding the office, and was succeeded by Lawrence E. Root, who was appointed to fill the place, and was duly reelected in 1884.
The Assessor’s valuation of personal property in 1883, for this township, is $127,557; lands are valued at $335,775.
of Sargent in 1870, the ninth census, was 1,035, which in 1880 had become 1,126, showing an increase of 91; as to the present number of inhabitants, the personal property tax list of 1883 shows 256 names, which, multiplied by five, is equal to 1,280, the probable present enumeration. The State ratio is about five to the voter, say five and one-third; some of the townships run as low as four.
The tenth census was taken by John Daniels. Amongst some of the “numerous” names were the Ashmores, 28; and the Allisons were 23 in number.
The Republican party generally shows up with majority of about sixty, which has usually been maintained.
This part of Douglas County offers superior inducements to good men of every grade, who desire permanent homes, where they can educate their children as conviently as in any other farming community in the State, and notwithstanding the rapid increase of wealth, as evinced by many handsome residences erected within a few years by self-made men, the tenden-
cies of the people are decidedly democratic, intelligent workingmen receiving as much consideration socially, as the professional, though the latter had the riches of Croesus, combined with the bluest blood.
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