Jasper County, IL in 1888

A description of the land, mail facilities, material resources, churches, schools and agriculture

as reported in the Newton Press on March 14, 1888
©Transcribed by Kim Torp




A Rich Soil, Good Water and Healthy Climate

lnteresting Descriptions of the Rivers, Railroads, Schools, Churches, People, Etc.

Jasper county is situated in that part of Illinois popularly known as Egypt - a name given this section of the state on the failure of crops many years ago in the north and the abundance of corn and wheat here which was hauled away by our less favored brother farmers of central and northern Illinois. It is 22x22 miles and a fraction,containing something over 484 square miles.

The Jasper County History says that about one-third of the country was originally timbered land, the remainder being prairie, the latter occupying the broad areas of upland between the valleys of the streams, and elevated from sixty to eighty feet above the water courses. From Robinson to Liberty, the country is rather low and comparatively level, seldom rising more than twenty or thirty feet above the beds of the small streams. Cultivation has somewhat altered the proportion of timbered land, so that timber land and prairie are about equal in extent, a strip of each in varying widths alternating through the county.


The value of water courses to a country cannot be over-estimated. They furnish water-sheds for the gathering and distribution of rainfall, outlets for the over-flows in wet weather, enrich the soil at every rise, break the monotonous level of the landscape, promote the growth of forests on their banks and back far away in every direction, enable the mills and manufacturing establishments to be successfully operated along them, supply the country through which they wash their way and the towns near them with water for stock and other domestic purposes without the vast expenditure of time and money necessary in going down into mother earth and striking the subterranean lakes and rivers that are beneath. Those who have lived here during the hot dry months of summer, as well as in the extreme cold of winter, are qualified to speak of the great advantage our river is to the people of this county. When wells failed and stock
were almost perishing for water, farmers came for miles to the Embarras with horses, cattle and sheep and took them away with ample supplies for house use in barrels every day. During the winter the ice is one of the most profitable crops harvested, furnishing employment for many persons and putting a cheap article of consumption on the market that of late years has become as much of a necessity as sugar or coffee.

Jasper county is most fortunately situated as regards its water-courses. The Embarras river, the largest and most important stream, rises in Champaign county near Toledo, enters Jasper west of the center of the north line, flows nearly south to Newton when it makes an abrupt bend and runs east and then southeast, leaving the county at or near the southeast corner. The oldest inhabitant cannot remember when it ever failed to furnish an abundance of pure, wholesome water. The long and almost unbroken droughts of '81 and '87 never checked its ceaseless flow.
Year after year its waters go onward toward the Wabash, into which it empties near Mt. Carmel, thence into the Ohio, then the Mississippi, reaching the Gulf of Mexico. The bottoms and uplands for miles on either side are covered with dense forests of the finest timber in America. Mills are located every few miles, and the annual output of lumber, ties and other railroad and building timber reaches away up into the millions of feet, furnishing steady and profitable employment a large number of men at all seasons of the year and adding thousands of dollars every month to the wealth of the county. The land along near the river is a deep, rich sandy loam and its productive capacity is almost without limit when properly cultivated. On account of the annual winter and early spring overflows it is not generally sown in wheat. Innumerable small streams running from all directions and sections flows into the Embarras. At Newton is a dam, built many years ago, which has had the effect of creating a great reservoir, backing the water for several miles up the river, in many places being from ten to twenty feet deep. When not frozen over good sized steamers can float on the water for several miles up the river. Fish of almost every description known to fresh water are lifted from its placid bosom and game enough for a hunter's paradise is found along its banks. The scenery is unrivaled in natural beauty. Picnic parties from surrounding towns may be seen idly in summer while in winter the ice is covered with skaters. The Embarras has five bridges in the county, three railroad and two for wagons, viz: the P.D&E., I&I.S. and wagon bridges at Newton; and C. & O.R. and wagon bridges at Ste. Marie. There are a dozen or more good fords and one ferry at Raeftown.

The North Fork rises in Edgar county, flows south through Clark, entering Jasper in Granville township, near the east line of the county, and emptying into the Embarras below Ste. Marie. It is a good sized stream, bridged several times, well stocked with fish, shaded by heavy timber and waters the eastern part of the county. it winds in and out and is sometimes in Jasper and sometimes in Crawford county. Granville, Willow Hill and Ste. Marie townships are largely benefited by it.

Muddy Creek drains a large territory in the western and southwestern part of the county. It rises in Grove township and flows south and southwesterly through North and South Muddy townships, emptying into the Little Wabash in Clay county.

Sandy Creek, which rises in North Muddy township in the western part of the county, Laws creek and Long Branch which have their sources in from three to four miles west of Newton, flow into Muddy. They are of considerable local importance and drain a large extent of country.

East and West West Weather creeks run through Smallwood.

Fox creek rises near Boos station, meanders through the southern part of the county, winds around near to Olney assuming considerable importance by reason of the fact that it supplies that city with its system of water-works, and finally empties into the Little Wabash.

Range Creek heads up in Cumberland county and runs into the Embarras river in Crooked Creek township.

Crooked Creek has its source in Cumberland county, one branch flowing through Granville and the other in Crooked Creek township. They unite and empty into the Embarras east of Newton about five miles.

Painter Creek runs through the center of Granville township and drops into the North Fork.

Turkey, Brush Creek and Rock Branch are feeders of the Embarras in Wade township.

Hill, Mint, and Island creeks are outlets for the surplus rainfall of Grove township and run into the Embarras.

All of these creeks, large and small, are lined with timber. In some places the bottoms are from one to two miles in width and unsurpassed for fertility. Timber enough grows on them to supply the county as long as time lasts, if not wastefully cut down. No other county in the state can show a better drained county.


The railroad advantages that Jasper county can offer to the homeseeker are of a superior character and grow better with the advancing years. Three roads cross the county and are in operation, viz: The P.D.&E. and C.& O.R., north and south lines, and the I.& I.S., running east and west. The first and last up the center at right angles and the second the eastern part of the county.

Those who lived here prior to 1876 will remember the lumbering old stage coach of those days. It furnished the best means of conveying travelers and the transmission of mail and express matter to and from points in the county to the railway stations. The shrill blast of the driver's bugle or the sharp clatter of the star router's horse's hoofs notified the waiting public that the evening mail was coming. Soon an eager throng gathered in the post office lobby and in due time the city papers, from one to three days old, brought the intelligence of the busy world's doings elsewhere. Long caravans of teams, loaded with fruit, grain and lumber going and with merchandise on the return trip was a common sight.

These good old times, as we are wont to call them, are gone. Elegant railway coaches and finely equipped mail cars have taken the place of the stage and star router. Telegraph offices at convenient points flash news over the wires and the occurrences of the remotest part of the earth may be heard within a few hours. The merchant orders his goods by wire today and sells them across the counter tomorrow. The morning's Chicago or St. Louis paper is delivered at three p.m. The traveler boards a car in the morning and leaves it before sundown at St. Louis, Chicago or Indianapolis.

Trains loaded with the produce of our farms, factories and forests go out and are returned with interchangeable commodities of other countries.

Everything moves with greater rapidity. The man of business crosses the street with a quicker step, the farmer has less time to loiter about and whittle goods boxes while the politician grasps your hand in a closer grip and then hurries on to see the next man. Everybody seems to have caught the inspiration and business is done with a rush. The slow-goer of a few years ago has gone to a more congenial clime and his place is filled with the restless, active business man of modern times.

There are in the county twelve railway stations at which all trains stop, as follows: Newton, Willow Hill, West Liberty, Ste. Marie, Hunt City, Yale, Advance, Rose Hill, Hidalgo, Falmouth, Boos and Wheeler. Three of them - Newton, Willow Hill and West Liberty are at crossings. In addition a number of flag stations not here enumerated are scattered along at convenient shipping points. Two other lines are surveyed through the county and will be built at no distant day, the T.T. & R.G. and the T.H. & S.W.


The mail facilities are splendid. Newton is a sort of a general distributing office and from here the mail is carried by rail and horse to other offices throughout the county, except through matter. Sixteen post offices enable the people to send and receive their mail within the least possible time. The offices by townships are:

Wade: Newton and Falmouth

Ste. Marie: Ste. Marie

Fox: West Liberty and Boos Station

Smallwood: Bogota

South Muddy: Silverton

North Muddy: Wheeler and Latona

Grove: Gila

Crooked Creek: Rose Hill and Hidalgo

Granville: Yale and Advance

Willow Hill: Willow Hill and Hunt City


The church going privileges are all that could be desired. Church societies and Sunday schools flourish in every neighborhood. The number of buildings used exclusively for religious purposes is not known, the statistics not being at hand, but they are probably near fifty. The denominations having the largest membership are those of the Methodist, Catholic, Baptist, Missionary Baptist, New Light, Christian, United Brethren, Presbyterian and Universalist. Several other denominations are represented and the greatest tolerance exists. The ministry is composed of an exceptionally intelligent, educated class of gentlemen. Most of the churches and hundreds of homes are furnished with organs or pianos. Handsome paintings, elegant mottoes and comfortable furniture attest the love of adornment.

There is a county Sunday school organization which is composed of dependent organizations in the several townships.


The county officials are:

James P. Jack, county judge

Ben. F. Harrah, state's attorney

H.K. Powell, county clerk

J.B. Harris, circuit clerk

Wm. Trainor, treasurer

Howard F. Ross, sheriff

J.F. Arnold, superintendent of schools

Wm. Kilgore, surveyor

J.W. He_ler, coroner

James M. Hicks, master in chancery


The schools of the county are the pride of our people. Under the supervision of J.F. Arnold, superintendent, great progress has been made in the manner of imparting instruction and the grade of teachers employed. The laws of Illinois require every district to maintain not less than five months of school in order to draw the proportional share of the state fund at the annual distribution. Most districts do more than the law requires. From a glance at the superintendent's last report we are enabled to give the following interesting facts.

There are in the county children under 21 years of age: 9,669

Children between the age of 6 and 21 years: 6,190

School houses: 103. Frames, 98 and bricks, 5.

Teachers, in actual work: 113

Highest wages: $90 a month

Lowest wages: $25 a month

Average wages: $35 a month

Money spent for schools last year:

Taxation on district levies: $22,391.00: state fund: $4.485.26; total: $26,876.26

Paid to male teachers: $12,213.54; female teachers: $9,231.38; total amount paid to teachers, $21,444.90

Value of buildings, furniture and supplies: $88,260

The value put on school property is probably too small. The Newton building cost nearly or quite $15,000.

During the summer a normal enables the teachers to study the best methods of instruction

In the winter the annual examinations call into active play the energies of several thousand pupils and puts on record the result of their labors.


In Newton and some of them at other towns in the county, the following orders are found: Masonic (Blue Lodge and Chapter) Odd Fellows, Knights of Honor, Knights of Labor, Catholic Knights of America, Improved Order of Red Men, Ancient Order of United Workmen, Knights and Ladies of Honor, Modern Woodmen of America, Grand Army of the Republic and Good Templars.


A limited supply of coal may be obtained from the beds out-cropping near Newton and Willow Hill. Coal is mined at Newton and in several other places in the county. In this city it constitutes one of the important industries. It is found near the surface and for home use answers every purpose satisfactorily.

Building stone of good quality is found in abundance at various points in the county. The foundations of the court house and Newton school building are of native stone. They have stood the test of several years exposure and are today harder than when first used.

Sand and clay are abundant, and good brick and tile may be made at almost any point on the uplands, where they may be required. Sand for mortar and cement, occurs at many points along the bluffs of the Embarras; and may be found in beds of most of the small streams, in nearly every part of the county.

The chief resource, however, of the county, is its soil. The bottom lands of the Embarras have a rich alluvial soil, and when cleared and brought under cultivation, produces large crops of corn, to which it seems best adapted. The soil of the prairie region is a chocolate-colored, clay loam, similar to that of the adjoining counties and produces large crops of corn, wheat, oats and grass. On the timbered uplands the soil is somewhat variable. When the surface is broken the soil is thin, but on the more level portions, where the growth is composed in part of black walnut, sugar tree, hackberry, etc., the soil is exceedingly productive and yields large crops of all the cereals grown in this latitude. The varieties of timber found here are the common species of oak and hickory, black and white walnut, white and sugar maple, slippery and red elm, honey locust, hackberry, ash, etc.


Land that will grow any grain usually cultivated in this latitude can be purchased in the raw state for from $10 to $15 if prairie and near a railway station; timber land can be bought for less money. Good improved farms occasionally sell at from $15 to $20 an acre. These prices can not last many years and those who fail to take advantage of the present prices may not have the chance again.

The prevailing system of agriculture practiced here may properly be termed mixed husbandry. Specialties find little favor with the farmers. The practice is to cultivate the various kinds of grain and grasses, and to raise, keep and fatten stock; the latter business is rapidly growing in favor with a majority of the wealthier farmers. Though organized in 1834, the development of the country was slow, and until 1880, the larger part of the county was not entirely in the hands of actual settlers. The farmer, therefore, has not yet felt able to indulge in any scientific theories of cultivation. Of late there is more improvement noted, and, while the farming community may be said to be in limited financial circumstances, the character of later improvements are of the best kind. Houses and barns of improved architecture and the higher order of comfort and ornament are going up everywhere and a new era of prosperity is marked.

Wheat has been considered a reasonably sure and renumerative crop, and is cultivated to a large extant. Oats are corn are prominent products, and the failure of any one crop is counted a fatal calamity.

The orchard culture of apples has only of late years begun to command the serious attention of farmers. The product is scarcely enough to supply the home demands, but each year marks an increase in the acreage devoted to this fruit. Peaches rank next to apples in the number of acres devoted to their culture. The region is ordinarily favorable to their culture, and a good yield is generally had here. Pears, plums, and cherries are not as yet grown to any great extent except for domestic consumption, but interest is being manifested. They are hardy and produce well. Small fruits are not yet cultivated to any great extent, save for private use. There is a growing market for all these products, right at home, and there will be an improvement in this direction as soon as this demand is recognized. In matters of stock, the farmer is being generally attracted toward the profit of stock-raising. Grass never fails. The moist nature of the ground renders the crop a sure and luxuriant growth. Cattle and hog are already an important source of income to the farmers, and a considerable numbers are improving their stock by the use of thoroughbred animals. Short-horns, Jersey and Devon are made a specialty by a number of stockmen in the county, and their influence on the grade of stock here is quite marked. In hogs, the Poland-China and Berkshire are represented by several stock-breeders. On the subject of horses, there is considerable interest manifested. Just now this class of farm property has felt the impulse manifested in every county interest, and a number of fine horses are in use for breeding purposes. These are principally of the Norman and Clydesdale blood. Mules are bred and used to a great extent. Besides the argument used in favor of their economical keeping and hardy characteristics they are found to be more salable at good prices than prices.

Multum in Parvo

Jasper county has:

Three railroads.

103 public schools.

Sixteen postoffices.

A healthful climate.

Divers sporting men.

One incorporated city.

Two large creameries.

Excellent mail facilities.

Numerous water courses.

Two incorporated towns.

Three railway crossings.

A great many old fogies.

A couple of tile factories.

Cattle on a thousand hills.

A good prospect for wheat.

A big Democratic majority.

Twelve important railway stations

some citizens who could be spared.

Splendid hunting grounds for sportsmen.

Rich farming land awaiting cultivation.

Forests of the finest timber in the west.

Orchards that never fail to bear fruit.

Fine farming lands to be bought cheap

Churches to enable everybody to attend.

The cleverest set of county officers in Egypt.

As beautiful prairies as a crow ever flew over.

Splendid quarries of excellent building stone.

A number of large, fine mercantile establishments.

Swift running, clear water streams filled with fish.

The livest set of merchants in southern Illinois.

A Republican party that is dying with the dry rot.

An occasional farmer who "is too poor to take a paper".

As tolerant a class of people as can be found anywhere.

Sawmills located at convenient points all over the county.

Lots of pretty girls of a marriageable age who, like Barkis, are willin'.

Coal of a quality good for fuel at or near the surface found in a score of places.

Several hundred dogs that have no owners - when the assessor or collector comes around.

A number of fine horses imported at great expense county and state fair premium getters.

Two finely equipped newspaper offices - the PRESS, Democratic and Mentor, Republican.

A bonded debt of but $76,000 drawing 5 per cent interest and decreasing at the rate of $4,000 a year of the principal.

Jasper County wants:

Fewer grumblers.

A couple of good crops.

The TT & RG railroad.

The cultivation of more clover.

Several thousand good farmers.

Men of capital to locate among us.

A better system of grading the roads.

The registered pedigree law enforced.

More attention given to improved farming.

Fewer men to do their farming on goods boxes.

A stock law when it affects the other fellow.

Game and fish protected according to the spirit and letter of the statute.

A better understanding among farmers of the advantages of tile draining.

Farmers to learn how to care for their machinery, when the season's work is done.

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