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Edwards County

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Illinois Genealogy and History

Edwards County
First Settlers



Tradition relates that the first white men to penetrate the wilds of Edwards county, were three brothers by the name of Daston, as early as 1800. They were great hunters, and spent most of their time in hunting and trapping. They made little or no improvements, and all that is known of them by the pioneers who made permanent settlements, is that their cabins were left standing in sections 10 and 15, in township 15, 1 north, range 14 east, when the first permanent settlers came to the county. From whence they came or where they went, tradition is silent. The first families to make a permanent settlement in the county were those of Jonathan Shelby, Thomas Carney, John Bell, Lot Sams, and Isaac Greathouse; these all made their advent here in 1815. Shelby and Carney came together with their families and located near each other in township 1 north, range 10, now Shelby precinct. They were from Tennessee, and made the long journey to Grayville with their families overland, in wagons, the only method then for traveling. They halted at Grayville, where they remained one year, when they remov. d to the northern part of the county, as above stated. Mr Shelby located in the northwest quarter of section 34, where he erected a cabin and commenced the life of the pioneer in the wilds of Edwards county. He was an active and energetic man

and in a few years had under cultivation several acres of land, and was surrounded with the comforts of a good home. In 1831, he moved to section 18, on the Little Wabash, and four years later constructed a water grist mill on this stream, it being the first water-mill in Shelby precinct. He was one of the first justices of the peace in the county, which office he held for many years. He died about 1838. Mr. Carney also located in section 34, and subse-quently became one of the leading farmers of the times He had the confidence of the people, and in 1832, he was elected to the county commissioners' court, which position he held until 1838. Mr. Carney was always a public-spirited man, and to him belongs the honor of constructing the first mill in his neighborhood. This was in 1832. The mill was propelled by horse-power, but it answered the wants of his neighbors. About 1844 he moved with his family to the Slate of M:ssouri, where he died a few years ago. John Bell was of German descent, but was born in South Carolina. In an early day he moved to Ken-tucky, and from thence to Tennessee. From this State he enlisted in the war of 1812, where he served about one year; and in 1813 he moved with his family to Illinois and settled in section 27, township 1 north, range 10 east, where he resided until his death. He was a plain, unassuming man, and a good neighbor.
One son, H. C. Bell, resides in section 10.

Lot Sams was a native of North Carolina, but had been a resident of Kentucky and Tennessee. He came with his family to Illinois in 1815, and located in sec-tion 35, township 1 north, range 10 east. His mode of travel to this State was by pack horses; upon these he made the whole distance with his little family. In 1821 he located in section 25, where he died in the fall of 1863. At his death he had accumulated considerable property, and the little hamlet of Samsville, in Shelby precinct, has the honor of bearing his name. Isaac Greathouse came from Kentucky in 1815, and with his family, located in this part of Illinois, where he followed the pursuit of farming for a short time; but the Indian depredations drove him into one of the forts. Being tired of the Indian warfare on the frontier he returned to his native State, where he remained several years. Again, in 1821, he moved to Illinois and settled permanently in the S. W. 1/4 of the N. W. 1/4 of section 13, Salem precinct. He was a plain farmer, never aspiring to office of public trust. He died at the old homestead. Enoch, the eldest of the pioneer children, is a wealthy farmer residing in section 18, township 1 north, range 11 east, Francis, another son, lives in section 13. The father of Isaac was one, if not the first English settler in this part of the State, west of the Wabash river, a sketch of whom will be found in the chapter of Mt. Carmel precinct, and pioneer history of Wabash county.

In 1816 a settlement was formed in the southwest part of the county on or near Big Creek, the first of whom as "Captain" Jeremiah Birk, who came from one of the Southern States, and located in the edge of Big creek timber, where he erected a small cabin and cleared a patch of land on which he raised a meager crop of corn sufficient for the wants of his family. His cabin was erected just in the margin of the timber overlooking quite a prairie belt, which subsequently received the name of Birk's Prairie. His family consisted of his wife, four sons and three daughters, and their mode of living was of the most primitive character. Their cabin contained but one room, which served the purpose of kitchen, eating and sleeping room. The family remained here butirbout three years, or until about the time of the Engfish colony settlement, as Mr. Birk was of the pure type of the backwoodsman and could not tolerate civilization. To use his own language as related by one of the pioneers, "He did not wish to live where neighbors were so plenty ; that to see three neighbors within a day's ride was sufficient for him."
Walter Anderson, who came about the same time, located in section 30, township 2 south, range ten east. He had the honor of planting the first orchard in the county, on his little clearing, in 1817. He remained but a few years, when he moved to some other portion of the State. John Hunt located in the same settlement and remained here uutil his death ; but one of his descendants is now living in the county, a grandson, James T., who resides about a mile from his grand-father's old home.
Others who lived in this settlement were, Hugh Collins, Rollin and Joseph Lane, and William Ham. They were all natives of some of the Southern States, and remained only a few years after coming.

In the fall of 1816, quite a sensation was created among the few settlers of this part of the country, caused by the killingand mutilating of the body of one Joseph Boltinghouse. He was a single man, the family then residing in White county. In the fall, Joseph drove to the Big creek timber, quite a quantity of hogs to feed and fatten from the mast, then so plenty in this part of the county. He built him a camp, a little south of the creek, on what is now the Churchill land. While here a band of Shawnee Iodiaus prowling through the country espied his camp, and finding that he was alone, took him by surprise, and murdered him upon the spot. When found his body was lying close to his camp in a mutilated condition, and his head, which had been severed from the trunk, was suspended upon a pole near by. Tradition relates that the murderers suffered dearly for the crime. They were captured near the Wabash river, stones were lashed to their bodies and they were sunk in the river. The following spring, James and Daniel, brothers of the above, moved to the county from Gallatin, now White county, and located in Section 26, township 2 south, range 10 east, a little south of Big creek, in the edge of the timber, overlooking the prairie that subsequently took their name. Daniel was a man of family, and his brother James resided with him.
They cleared and improved a good farm, and became prominent citizens of the county. In about 1837, they all moved to the State of Arkansas.

Thomas Riley, a native of Ireland, settled near the Boltinghouse's, the same year, 1817. Mr. Riley was then a single man, but subsequently married Sarah Morris, a daughter of one of the pioneers. He improved a good farm, where he resided until his death, which occurred about 1852. His father-in-law, Isaac Morris, came from the south and settled in section 3, township 8 south, range 10 east, in the same year as the above. He had a large family, and was a genuine backwoodsman. He spent the most of his time in hunting, and was noted for his exaggerated tales and hair-breadth escapes while in the woods. He remained in the county until his death, which occurred many years ago. His children are scattered to the many points of the West, none of his descendants being now residents of this part of the county.
Another pioneer of 1817, was Clem Martin, who located in section 33, township 2 south, range 14 west. He came from the southern States, partaking of the spirit of emigration to the new Eldorado, then so popular with the poorer class of the south and southwest. Mr. Martin was what would be termed to-day, a man of eccentric for peculiar ways. He was outspoken and fearless in character, somewhat rough and uncouth in manners, and thus made enemies when he might have had friends. For some reason the family stood in rather bad odor in the new settlement; this was undoubtedly due to the wild, unpleasant ways of his children. He died in the county many years ago. It is said that some of his descendants are living in White county. About this time, in 1817, a new era dawned upon the settlements made in what is now Edwards county. Morris Birkbeck and George Flower, both well-to do Englishmen, made a tour of the west in search of the "beautiful prairies" they had heard and read about, in the new world, with the view of establishing a colony of their countrymen within the same, should the reports given meet their expectations. Mr. Flower crossed the Atlantic, landing on American shores in the spring of 1816. He spent one year in making inquiries and be coming acquainted with the people, country and insti tutions of our republic. One year later Mr. Birkbeck and family came to the United States, and in company with Mr. Flower, they made a tour of the west. The country pleased them, and it was agreed between Mr. Flower and Mr. Birkbeck that the former should return to England and induce immigration to their chosen spot, Edwards county, while the latter was to attend to procuring the necessary lands, aod otherwise to prepare for the inception of their countrymen. Of the first emigrants their names, time, and manner of coming, we quote from the account as given by Mr. Flower in his history of the English settlements in Edwards county. He says, "Early in March, 1818, the ship Achilles sailed from Bristol with the first party of emigrants, destined for our settlements in Illinois. Mr. Charles Trimmer, of Yeatly, Surrey, a young farmer, and a neighbor and acquaintance of Mr. Birkbeck, with forty-four men and one married woman, sailed in this ship. The men were chiefly farm laborers and mechanics from Surrey. Many of them had for years worked for Mr. Birkbeck, others were from his neighborhood, and were personally ac quainted or knew him by reputation. This party was under the special care and leadership of Mr. Trimmer. About an equal number, composed of Loudon mechanics and tradesmen from various parts of England, formed, another party that sailed in the same ship. These were under the guidance and direction of Mr. James Lawreuce, merchant tailor, of Hatton Gar den, London. Mr. Lawrence being a man of property, a resident of the city, and well acquainted with the usages at the docks, custom-house, shipping, etc., became actually the head of the whole party." Another pro minent party in this ship's company was Mr. Hugh Ranalds, from Hammersmith, near London. He was then a single man, but subsequently married Mary C Flower, a sister of George Flower.
According to the account given by Mr. Flower, the emigrants landed at Philadelphia early in June, 1818. They made their way to Edwards county overland, some in wagons, others on horseback over the mountains to Pittsburg, then descended the Ohio river in flat boats to Shawueetown, and from thence on foot, in wagons or on horseback, to Mr. Birkbeck's cabin, situated on Boltinghouse prairie, the place being subsequently named Wanborough, after Mr. Birkbeck's old home in England. He had received notice of their coming and had made the best preparation possible for their reception. A square of rough log houses had been erected, each cabin being supplied with two doors with a small sash window in each door. This hamlet was subsequently denominated "The Barracks," and was open to all new-comers. It was here that the first ship's company— eighty-eight in number— were accommodated, all men, excepting three women. Mr. Flower, in his reminiscences, says of this novel state of affairs in the newfound land, "I must leave to imagination the various feelings of its motley in mates, some of whom were used to the refinements of civilized life; all to the comforts of a home however humble; some without money, and all for a time, with-out occupation; without vegetables; corn bread and salt pork their only diet; whisky their sole luxury and consolation, and some not able to get that. It was for a time a fermenting mass. Strange and conflicting emotions exhibited themselves in ludicrous succession. Some laughed and joked, some moped and sulked, while others cursed the fates that brought them there. All things worked out right in time. The activity and energy of the national character soon displayed itself, and all be-came fairly satisfied with the condition of things."

Mr. Birkbeck had laid out the town of Wanborough in five-acre lots, and on these were built cabins, rented by some, and bought by others as the means of the immigrants would permit. In a short time an ox mill was erected for grinding their corn, and the necessary black-smith shop was added to the village. This formed the nucleus of the new-founded colony.

In April, 1819, another ship-load of emigrants swelled the numbers of the already prosperous little community. Of this accession Mr- Flower says, "My own immediate family and friends occupied the cabin, and my domestic servants and other emigrants going out to join us, filled the steerage; my live stock of cows, hogs and sheep from the choicest breeds of England, took all the spare room on deck." Among those who came in this ship were, Mr. and Mrs. Flower, parents of George Flower, the latter's two listers, his brother William, a mere lad his two sons, Miss Fordham and the servants of Mr. Flower. These constituted the immediate family party of Mr. F. Prominent among others seeking the promised land were Francis Rotch and brother, friends and acquaintances of Mr. Birkbeck; an elderly gentleman of means, Mr. Fil?er; Dr. C. Pugsley and family; Adam Corrie; John Wood, then a single man ; John Ingle and family ; David Bennett and family ; Mr. White and family ; a carpenter and builder fnm London, and Cap-tain Stone and family. These, with some others, formed an emigrant party of upwards of sixty, who were bound for the prairies of Illinois....

[pgs 58-61 - "Combined history of Edwards, Lawrence and Wabash Counties, Illinois : with illustrations descriptive of their scenery and biographical sketches of some of their prominent men and pioneers." Philadelphia: J.L. McDonough & Co., 1883; - Submitted by K. Torp]

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