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Washington County, Illinois
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Excerpts from :
and Select Overripe Wild Persimmons
Furnished by and used with permission of
Dr. Francis L. McKenzie

from : rear cover of book
THIS HUMOROUS BOOK is by a new American author of Scots-Irish ancestry ( if you can be new at the age of seventy). He recounts part of the history of his family of McKenzies, touching eight generations, from the settling of the American Midwest in Southern Illinois, through the Civil War era in which four of his great grandfathers fought (North and South). He takes you from his birth in Ashley, IL. during the Great Deptression through WW II, in which his father served, into the recovery of the nation and beyond. Mixed with the historical facts are humorous "family tales," many told "out of school" by this small-town farmboy. Also included are some of his aunt's poems and some of his juvenile verses. There are numerous photos that tell a tale of their own. If you enjoy Humor and the History of Rural America, you will enjoy reading these McKenzie Family Tales.
  Dr. Francis L. McKenzie
Dr. Francis L. McKenzie

M c K E N Z I E     FA M I L Y     T A L E S
and Select Overripe Wild Persimmons

by : Dr. Francis L. McKenzie ©
Excerpts pertaining to Washington County, Illinois


A town that boasts inhabitants like me
can have no lack of good society.

Henry Wadfsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882)
    The WOODROMES were the first settlers of this precinct which is bounded on the north by Richview, on the east by Jefferson County, on the south by DuBois, and on the west by Nashville precinct. The WOODROMES came in 1825. In the autumn following, William and Burton NICHOLS from the state of Georgia came and settled on section twenty-three in this precinct. Soon after these followed Elijah SMITH, Thomas HOWELL, and the widow McMILLIAN. She had a very large family, who have all long since passed from earth, except one daughter, the widow, I. T. WHEELIS, who yet resides in the township.
    The following were the persons who settled in the precinct previous to 1828: James VEACH, William GREEN, Stephen McKENZIE, David McKENZIE, John STEELE, John WOODROME, William WOODROME, Joel WOODROME, David WOODROME, Jordan WOODROME, all sons of James WOODROME, the first settler in the precinct. They all settled in the same locality, and it was known as the "WOODROME Settlement." About that time, (1827 or soon after), James LOCK and the widow SMITH, mother of James SMITH, Esq. came. Mrs. SMITH settled on the farm where James SMITH has lived now for more than fifty years.
    This precinct was formerly called Beaucoup, and the village of Old Beaucoup was for a long time the voting place for the citizens. At that
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time there were only three voting palces in the county. The name of the precinct was afterwards changed to Hickory Mound. The voting place was then near the center of the precinctat the residence of C. BALL. The next change in the voting place was made to the old town of Richview and afterwards to Ashley where it has since remained. The Central Railroad was built through the precinct in 1854. The Saint Louis and South Eastern was built in 1870.

    The first school in the precinct was in a log building, James WOODROME had occupied it as a residence. Upon the death of his wife, he lived with his sons, and his home was converted into a schoolhouse. This was in 1829. The first teacher was Jarvis JACKSON. School was taught in this building . . . until 1936, when the WOODROME sons converted the house into a stable. From that time until 1840, school was taught in the residences of various citizens of the precinct and in the horse mill owned by Benjamin HEYERMAN. In 1840 the settlers "clubbed" together and erected a small log schoolhouse on the site of the present town of Ashley. the lumber used in the building was sawed by hand with a "whipsaw", and its roof was covered with clapboards. William H. BLAIR was the first teacher in this building, [which] was also used for . . religious services by the members of the M. E. Church.

    The first preaching was by the Methodust Espiscopal denomination at the house of James WOODROME, in 1826 or 1827. The first regular presching was by the same society at the residence of James JACKSON. Built in the precinct was a log house on section twenty-four in about the year 1840. It was burned down, and in 1846, the citizens replaced it with a brick structure. the first church built in the town wa in 1856, by the Methodists . . . [By 1879, churches included]: The M. E. Church, M. E. Church South, Baptists, Christains, and Universalists.
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    Situated at the crossing of the Illinois Central and the Saint Louis & South-Eastern railroads, was laid out on the west half of the north-east quarter of section twenty-seven, in township two, south range one west, May 10, 1854, by Darius GREENUP, county surveyor. The plat of said town was recorded on May 27, 1854. The original proprietor was Dr. J. M. LUCAS. J. Condit SMITH, James SMITH, and the DUCKERMANN heirs made additions. Dr. LUCAS opened and ran a small drug store on the palce before it was legally and formall laid out as a town in 1853.

    Truman GILBERT sold the first goods in Ashley in 1854. E. MANSFIELD opened a general store in the spring of 1855. Later in the same year, T. H. HOBBS & Co. opened a general store; some time during the same year Elias GILBERT opened a general stock or goods. In the year 1854, P. M. and E. McNAIL built the first mill in the town of Ashley. It was at first only a sawmill, but in 1855 a small gristmill was attached, and later they erected a regular flouring mill with two run of burrs. They also attached a woolen card mill. A. M. CUNDIFF kept the first blacksmith shop in 1850. The first boarding house was kept by L. B. MORROW in 1855. W. J. STEVENSON, opened the first regular hotel in 1856. In July 1877, PACE Bros. opened a bank. The firm [was] composed of W. C. PACE and C. E. HAMMOND. HOSMER & PACE established the Ashley Gazette newspaper in 1857

    During the war of the Rebellion, there was an order that all persons whose fortunes had been destroyed by the contending armies and who desire[d] to leave their destroyed homes in the South and make their homes in the North, would be furnished free transportation for one hundred miles into a free state. Ashley was situated ninety-eight miles north of Cairo. So they were put off there in great numbers. This taxed the benevolence of the citizens. But, in all occasions they proved themselves equal to the emergency. Notwithstanding, it was regarded a great drawback to the place; all was done that was possible to relieve their suffering
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condition. "Old John ROBINSON" of circus fame, upon one occasion while in the place "showing" gave the refugees $200.00. A. J. HOSMER, who fell in the war . . . at the battle of Stone River, was the first lawyer who resided in the town.

    Mention has already been made of the log schoolhouse, the first in town, and of the first teacher, Mr. BLAIR. He and John M. HUNTER taught alternately in this building for a number of years when a frame building with three rooms was built on a lot near the residence of Dr. WELCH. Among the teachers who taught in this building as principals were : Mr. Lewis NEWTON, E. WAY, Peter A. SMITH, James H. CRAIG, T. W. BATES, and J. W. HUDSON. The school building erected in 1866 [was] a two- story, brick building having five departments. Edwin A. HOYT was the first principal in [that] building, and the first assistants were Misses Lydia A. CARTER, Siddie, Nance, and Cynthia C. LACEY.
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    Frank M. HARRIS was principal in 1879. His assistants were Miss Nannie C. ANDERSON, Mrs. R. W. RIDGEWAY, Miss F. C. PACE, and Miss Ella McCOURTNEY. Members of the Board of Education in 1879 were Col. E. C. PACE, Dr. E. WELCH, and E. C. CLARK, Esq. (1)
    The picture at the left is the only picture of this school building that the author has ever seen. He attended school here in part of the sixth grade, seventh and part of the eighth grade. The picture is taken from the Class of 1950 Fiftieth Anniversary Album furnished by the author's cousin, Marie LAMBERTI. (2)
    1. Information for The history of Ashley was sent to me by Jennifer Lofgren and was originally taken from The History Of Washington County Published by Brink, McDonough & Co. of Philadelphia, (1879), History Of The Town and Precinct Of Ashley.
    2. Ashley Township High School, Class of 1950 Fiftieth Anniversary Album, Ken Conley Editor, May 5, 2000, Nashville, Illinois.

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