Genealogy Trails

Jackson County, Illinois


First published in the Jackson County Era on June 15,1877, reprinted in the Southern Illinois Herald in 1897. Starting from Golconda and traveling through what was then a dense wilderness I do not remember seeing but two houses on the way until we reached Big Muddy River. John PHELPS had settled in Phelps Prairie close to where the town of Marion now stands, and John GRIFFIN lived in what is now known as Eight-Mile Prairie. At night while in camp in Eight-Mile Prairie we had four horses stolen by Indians, or white thieves, leaving us with only one; but being within fifteen miles of our estination, the balance of the journey was accomplished without serious difficulty. Upon arriving at the end of his journey father (William GILL) bought and settled upon a piece of land which is now the farm of W. B. WILL in Somerset Township on Beaucoup Creek. At that time, 1813, very few settlers were here. Two white men, Robin (Robert) MARSHALL and Henry NOBLE, had settled upon a farm near where the town of DeSoto now is, and which farm is now known as the Chauncey KILMER Farm. Below, on Muddy, Francis THOMPSON lived, near the present farm of R. A. BEASLEY. The farm on which George G. WILL now lives was also settled by Francis THOMPSON. One mile north lived James HALL, whose wife was the first person buried in the Hall graveyard in 1813. South, on Muddy River, on what is now known as the HOLLIDAY farm, lived Nathaniel DAVIS and the LEWISES, and I think the wife of Thomas LEWIS was the first person buried in the Holliday Graveyard, in 1813, followed soon after by the father of George and John BUTCHER, who were well known to all the old settlers of the county. Lower down the river lived Joseph FRANCH upon the present site of the city of Murphysboro. FRANCH owned slaves, and after Illinois was admitted as a free State he sold his farm to Dr. John LOGAN and moved to Missouri where he could hold slaves.

Conrad WILL lived at the salt well, since known as Brownsville, William BOON, father of Benningsen BOON, had settled at Sand Ridge. James DAVIS, Alexander COCHRAN and James GILL were living close to grand Tower. Thomas TAYLOR lived at that time on the south band of Big Muddy, just south of where the Illinois Central Railroad bridge now crosses. Still further south lived the PYLEs, WILLs, VANCILs, BUTCHERs, and SORRELs, who were about the only settlers of the county when we came in 1813 except a man named COX, who lived in Cox's Prairie. Another by the name of JACKSON lived in the south part of Nine- Mile Prairie close to where DuQuoin now stands, and whose farm was afterwards owned by Professor B. G. ROOTS. At the time we came to this country all the lands lying north of the Big Muddy River, and more especially the prairies, were very wet and muddy. At certain seasons of the year it was almost impossible to travel through them. The lands were at the time considered of very little value, other than for pasture. We arrived here on the 25th of December, 1813. That year James Madison was inaugurated president and Eldrige Gerry vice-president. About that time some very interesting events occurred in the history of the United States = the capture of an English squadron on Lake Erie by the Americans under Commodore Perry; the seizure of the city of Washington by the British and the burning of the capitol and other public buildings; the battle of Baltimore and the treaty (made) with the Indians by General Andrew Jackson. At this time the Kaskaskia Indians and the Shawnees were here in great numbers, though very peaceable. Game was here in great abundance, such as black bears, deer, turkeys, and a few elk upon the prairies. In 1818 the state was admitted as a free state, which turned southern immigrants beyond the Mississippi River. A great many of the old settlers who lived near the river died with what is since called the "mild sick", which gave the country the reputation of being very unhealthy, and from that time to 1836, the country was settled very slowly. In 1836, the Pennsylvanians started coming and settled up the country, and with their wealth and industry have added greatly to its prosperity. In 1864 the Illinois Central Railroad was complete through the country since which time, immigration has come in so rapidly from all parts of the world and has so much improved the country that I feel I am almost a stranger in my own land.------ John M. Gill.

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