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The History of Bunker Hill

Picture of Bunker Hill
East side of Washington St, Bunker Hill, IL
Contributed by Crystal Jensen

The site of the present day town of Bunker Hill was once a prairie, known in the early settlement of Macoupin County as Wolf Ridge, from the fact that it was much frequented by wolves, and contained their dens and breeding places.

The earliest inhabitants of the country, of whom we have any knowledge, were the Peoria, Kickapoo and Winnebago Indians, who had a camping ground near the Creamery, northeast of Bunker Hill. On their journeys north and south they were accustomed to stop here near a large spring of water. But with the advent of the white settlers the red men disappeared, and the last seen of them was the year 1826, when the five wigwams which stood at the head of Wood River were pulled down and the savages left for a country farther west, where their haunts were less likely to be disturbed by the advance of civilization.

The first entry of land dates back to July 31st, 1827, when William Jones entered eighty acres in section 33. Howard Finley entered eighty acres in section 21, January 25th, 1830; and Alexander Conlee 160 acres in section 29, March 17th, 1830.

One of the earliest settlers of the township was John Cooper, a native of Tennessee, who built a house on the edge of the prairie, in section 28, a short distance west of where the railroad now runs. Cooper died in Madison County , and all vestiges of his pioneer cabin have long since disappeared.

In the year 1825, Howard Finley and Daniel Branscomb settled on the east side of the East Fork of Wood River. Finley was a Tennesseean. The second house which he built, and in which he lived for a number of years was on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 21. He died in Greene County of this state. The year 1827 witnessed the coming of James Breden and his family.

Breden was the first justice of the peace in the township, and held that office more than 20 years. Two sons, Wiley Breden and John F. Breden and a daughter, the wife of Edward Baucon, are now living in the township. John F. Breden and his mother reside on the same place where James Breden settled. Simeon Jones was also an early settler of the township. He was born and raised in Madison County, his father having emigrated to this state at an early day. For a number of years, Simeon Jones was school treasurer of the township. Jonathan L. Wood came in 1830. In the year 1830, also, Benjamin Davis and his sons, Jefferson, Isaac, Alfred and David Davis made a settlement in the northwest corner of the township. The Davis family was originally from North Carolina, but came to Illinois from Tennessee. James Wood in 1831, settled the farm in section 30, now owned by his son, David Wood. He was born in Loudon County, Virginia. He had five sons, three of whom, Samuel, David B., and James E. Wood, are now living in the township. A Tennesseean, named William McPike, settled in section 30, in 1831, and died there after a residence of a number of years. Mrs. Millie Bayless and her sons, Reese, John, George, and Daniel Bayless, became residents of the township in 1831. Reese Bayless and John Bayless were prominently connected with the old militia, Reese holding the position of colonel, and John that of adjutant. Both were in the Black Hawk War. In the vicinity of the Corneilson mound, or as it was sometimes called, “Tickey Mound”, in section 29, the early settlers were Daniel Littrel, Alexander Conley, John Murphy snd John Corneilson. Charles Colyer was also an early resident of the township, as were also Finleyjones and Moses Jones. John T. Wood came in 1831.

In the neighborhood of the Springfield road, settlements were made by William Wood, Isaac Wood, Alfred Wood, Ephraim Wood, Anthony Linder, George Howland, Elijah Lincoln, Dr. Budden, Samuel Buell, and Charles Goodnight. The Woods had been raised in Madison County. Dr. Budden was the first physician to reside in the township. In 1833 the town of Lincoln was laid out two miles south of Bunker Hill, on the present farm of J. V. Hopper, by Messrs. Tuttle and Lincoln, but a log cabin and a frame house marked the farthest progress to which the town ever attained. A post office was established in 1833, and called “Lincoln” and Anthony Linder was appointed post-master. He was succeeded by Mr. Cook. Samuel Buell took charge of the office in 1837, and in November of the same year the post office was transferred to Bunker Hill. Josiah Richards acted as assistant post-master. Nathaniel Phillips was the post-master appointed after the removal of the office to Bunker Hill. There has been a post-office at Woodburn since 1837.

On the east side of Wood River, in Section 33, the first mill in the township, propelled by ox power, was put in operation by Moses Jones. Dr. Budden erected another mill soon afterward, on the prairie, about a mile southwest of Bunker Hill. The first schoolhouse in the township stood on section 21, and was afterward moved to section 22. Mr. Richardson was the first teacher, and he was succeeded by Josiah B. Harris. About 1831 a schoolhouse was built on section 20, on land belonging to john T. Wood. John Wilson, Jesse Wood, and Aaron Leyerly were also early school teachers in the township.

In the schoolhouse which stood on section 21, the first sermon was preached in the township by Elder William Jones. He was a member of the Baptist denomination, with which a great part of the early settlers of the township were connected. Elder Alexander Conley was the first minister to reside in the township. The Rev. Mr. Gimlin was another of the pioneer “Hard Shell” Baptist preachers. The first church was built by the “Hard Shell” Baptists, and stood on section 33. The second was the Congregational Church at Woodburn. The first couple married in this township were Finley Jones and Mary Conley; and the second Daniel Branscomb and a Miss Gregg. John Finley was the first child born.

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© by Anne Stinnett and Debbie Quinn 2004