Genealogy Trails
Jackson County, Illinois

BIG HILL TOWNSHIP  

1878

Big Hill township is situated in the south western part of the County.  It was laid off by William RECTOR in 1806, at the time of the formation of all Townships in Jackson County, and was sectionized by Elias BARCROFT, deputy under RECTOR and John MESSINGER, in 1810.   It is bounded on the North by Sand Ridge, on the south by Grand Tower, the Mississippi River, Island Number 18 and the County of Union, on the west by Grand Tower, and on the east by Ridge Township.  "Big Hill" gave its name to the township, and has attracted wide spread attention from geologists on account of its formations.  Its great size merits more than a passing notice at our hands.  Its' length is about 7 and its average width is about 2 miles.  The north and west ends lie respectively in Sand Ridge and Fountain Bluff Townships.  The north end of this remarkable formation consists of a solid wall of rock, varying from 150 to 250 feet in height, and it one and one half miles in length.  The G. T. and C. R. R. funs for a portion of its way along its foot, and the view never fails to call forth exclamations of surprise and admiration from the passenger who gazes upon its grandeur for the first time.  The south face of Big Hill also is a wall of rock, rather less abrupt than on the north, and is from 150 to 200 feet in height, and is robed in a beautiful garb of evergreens.  This hill is an outlying spur of the "Grand Chain" which, under various names, wends from west to east, and links together the Rocky and Appalachian systems of mountains.

It is entirely unsettled, except in two places, viz: on a rolling ridge, and the bottom land of a small creek.  The hill affords a fine quality of sandstone, and also an excellent grade of limestone.  It is covered with timber of good quality.  It is the opinion of geologists that the great river once poured its mighty volume of waters along a channel east of the Big Hill.  Many are the evidences of the correctness of this theory.  The situation of the lakes north of the hill, their relation to each other and to the river, the growth of the timber, the kind of soils in the swamps, are cited in support of this supposition.  Further evidence is afforded: when a well is dug to a certain distance river sand is struck.  In one well a piece of timber was found at a depth of 40 feet.

On the east side of the hill is found as fine a quality of farming land as exists in the entire valley of the Mississippi.  About 1500 acres are in cultivation, which yield in corn from 50 to 75 bushels per acres, or if in wheat from 15 to 30.   Oats and potatoes produce abundantly, and all other cereals and products of our latitude.

Big Hill township is justly celebrated as a very fine grazing country.  The grazing section is about 3 miles long by 2 wide.  This is a swampy region, and produces luxuriantly the best of wild grass for stock.  Animals only need to be fed for a short time during the year.  The swamp-lands lie southward from the lakes, and northward from the farms which lie along the north face of the Big Hill.  Of the wild grass, much hay is made.

East of Big Muddy River, on high and rolling land, rather thin and poor of quality, is found a soil admirably adapted for fruits, which are much cultivated, though some wheat and corn are produced.

The kinds of timber are oak, white, red, black and chinkapin, and overcup, hickory, walnut, boxelder, sugar maple, sycamore, etc.

Among the first permanent settlers were Jacob LONZADDER and family, who settled in 1805 or 1806, on what is now known as the "Berry Whitson place".  He built the first mill, which was driven by water power, furnished by two fine springs.  This mill was on the S.E. 1/4 of Section 6.  Mr. Lonzadder was of Portuguese extraction, and was an energetic man, a good citizen and farmer.

Joseph FRENCH came shortly after and settled just below Bald Rock, on the east side of Big Muddy River.  He was a native of Kentucky, and owned the first slave in the Township.

In 1807 or 1808 came Thomas and John MORROW, with their father, and located on what is now known as the Henson place, in Section 18.  John sold his share to William McROBERTS in 1817 and Thomas in 1823 or 1824 disposed of 20 acres of his to Marble HENSON.

Allen HENSON cane in 1808 and settled on the place now belonging to the heirs of William B. JENKINS.  Mr. Henson emigrated from North Carolina to Tennessee and from thence to Illinois.  He was about 60 years of age at the time of his arrival.  His family was large.  The oldest daughter became the wife of William GASTON, the next was married to Robert R. GORDON, while his son Marble, took to wife Patsey DAVIS.  Mr. Henson brought with him from Tennessee a Negro man slave.

In 1810, in the north-east corner of the Township, in Sec. 6, on what is known as the WORTHEN place, settled a man named FLEMMINGS.

The next settler, Jacob THOMPSON, came the same year.  He was a single man, but thinking it, "not good to be alone", he proposed to a daughter of Jacob LONZADDER and was made happy by her acceptance.  He then opened a farm, now owned by the heirs of Aaron EASTERLY.

Then came Reuben REDFIELD in 1820, who also married a daughter of Mr. LONZADDER, --who seems to have been a benefactor of his race in furnishing so many girls as wives for the settlers, -- and located at the Berry WHITSON place.

It should have been stated that Aaron DAVIS and family came in 1816 or 1817 from Kentucky, and located on the Thomas JENKINS place.  He was a skillful hunter, and also was a farmer; raised a family who settled around him.  He bought his place of Capt. BOON, and lived on it till his death in 1826.

The place passed into the possession of Thomas JENKINS in 1844, who resided on it till his death in 1873 at the great age of 91 years.  Mr. JENKINS became a citizen of Jackson County in 1824.  In 1826 he moved to the site of Grand Tower, and kept an extensive wood-yard for 12 or 13 years.  Mr. JENKINS was native of South Carolina, where he was born in 1781.  When he attained his majority he emigrated to Georgia, where he married.  He served under General Jackson during the war of 1812 and fought gallantly at the Battle of New Orleans.

The distinguished Capt. William BOON, who was one of the earliest settlers of the County, and whose son, Benningsen BOON, was so prominent in the County, and who yet survives, settled at Big Hill in 1826, whither he moved from Sand Ridge.  He was a man of note, of worth, and very popular.  He represented Jackson in the hall of legislation ably and well, and was their protector and shield in the hour of danger.

He rented his farm in this township to Milton LADD, and removed to the DUNCAN place, on what is now known as the "Duncan Hill slough," where he remained but one year, when he again moved, this time to the Mississippi River, where he kept a wood-yard until his death in 1833, aged 56 years.

His son, Benningsen BOON, was born in this County in 1807, and when between 21 and 22 years of age was united in wedlock to Elizabeth WILL, a daughter of Dr. Conrad WILL, who was so distinguished in the early history of the County.  Mr. B. BOON  is a man of natural talent; and though educational facilities in his youth were vastly inferior to those of this day, he managed to make himself a well-informed and very useful man.  He has been a member of the County Commissioners' court; in 1833, Agent of the County for the sale of the Saline lands' was for many hears a successful practitioner of medicine.  He was elected a Justice of the Peace in 1836, and held the office for sixteen years.  He served against Black Hawk in the war of 1832.  He was under Capt A.M. JENKINS in a cavalry company.  Nicholas D. HENSON was a comrade in the same company.  In 1855 he was appointed Postmaster for Big Hill by President Pierce.  He was a School Officer for many years.  In all offices he has conducted himself in such a manner as to merit a reputation for capability and honesty of which any one may be proud.  In another part of this work will be found a more complete biography of this upright, useful man.

William W., B.F., and Jessie C. HENSON served in the Black Hawk war.

Giles HENSON settled on what was denominated the "O'HARA Land" in about 1820, and his oldest daughter wedded Joseph GOODBREAD.  

William McROBERTS, previously mentioned, was near 60 years of age when, in 1817, he bought out John MORROW.  His family was a large one, viz.: Charles, Polly, Charlotte, Samuel, Lucretia and James.  Some of the children lived to raise families, and the entire family was respectable.

The place now owned by the WORTHEN heirs was first entered by St. Clair MANSON on or about 1814.  In 1818 he sold out to Matthew DUNCAN, brother to the DUNCAN who represented Jackson County in the State Senate at Vandalia, and was afterwards Governor of Illinois.  

Mr. DUNCAN came from Kaskaskia to this county, where he had held the office of State Printers.  He first settled in Fountain Bluff township.  He had a mill, which he managed till the arrival of his brother, Joseph DUNCAN, in 1818-1819. Matthew DUNCAN built the first distillery in Big Hill.  He had negroes that he had brought from Kentucky to the then Territory of Illinois.  He mortgaged his farm to the First State Bank of Illinois.  The mortgage was foreclosed and the place sold, Thomas WHITSON becoming the purchaser.

The portion of Big Hill lying east of Big Muddy River began to be settled up where James HARRELD and others built a saw and grist-mill near 1838. Mr HARRELD ran the mill till his death in 1844, memorable as the year of the "Great Flood'.

David CRIPPS, in 1835 or 1836, settled in the eastern part of the township on Pine Hill.  he sold at his house dry-goods for the convenience of the people.  He was our first merchant.

Big Hill township is divided into two school districts, and has (1878) a population of about 400 inhabitants.  The first school was taught by Lee. D. WOOD in 1826.

The first sermon was preached by Rev. Richard LEE, a Methodist divine in 1814 or 1814.  LEE lived for some time in this township.  The first school-house was on the McROBERTS place, and served also as a church-house.

The first white  child born was George LONZADDER, son of Jacob.

The first marriage was that of William GASTON to Nellie HENSON in 1812-13.

The first death was that of James DAVIS, who was killed by the falling of a tree blown down by the wind.  He was the son of Aaron DAVIS.

The water is impregnated with lime from the limestone foundation. The northern portion of Big Hill township, owing to the great amount of moisture, is less healthful than other parts, and malarial disease abounds.

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