Jefferson County
Illinois

THE EARLY SETTLERS

The Early Settlers of Jefferson County

The Caseys, the Maxeys, the Johnsons, the Watsons, the Paces, Baughs and Others
 

"Life's more than breath,
and the quick round of blood;
'Tis a great spirit and a busy heart,
We live in deeds, not years,
In thoughts, not breaths,
In feelings, not in ligures on the dial,
We should count time by heart-throbs.
He most lives who thinks most,
Feels the noblest, acts the best;
It matters not how long we live, but how."

In speaking of the first citizens of Jefferson county as being men and women of stalwart character for honesty and integrity, we do not mean to convey the idea that they were without their faults, for by tracing their history we find that they had "weak spots," like the rest of mankind. Neither would we lionize them because they lived to a "ripe old age," but because they had for their motto: "What's brave, what's noble, let's do it." And because, as one of them expresses it:

"It's nothing against you to fall down flat, 
But to lie there, that's disgrace."

And this is the class of people we are writing about in this chapter-such as the Caseys, the Maxeys, the Johnsons, the Watsons, the Paces, the Baughs, etc. Mr. Johnson alludes to a general fight that took place in New Mount Vernon in 1820, in which nearly everybody took part. It seemed that somebody said that the Caseys and Maxeys were going to rule the county. John Abbott wanted to refute that idea and threatened to thrash the first Casey or Maxey he met-which happened to be Elihu Maxey. At it they went and soon the entire population was interested, excited and even "Uncle" Jimmy Johnson threw his straw hat high in the air and invited any other man who wanted to fight to come forward. Jim Abbott said, "'Anyone that whips John Abbott will have to thrash me. The whole outfit had their coats off, ready for the fray; but in a few minutes the storm blew over and "peace reigned in Warsaw --or rather, where they "war saw" a short time before. It was no unusual thing for part of the population to settle their differences by fist-i-cuffs, but this was the first outbreak among the better citizens.

Aunt Suky Johnson in her memoirs fifteen years later, also gives Mount Vernon a black eye, when in her account of her new home she says: "We found Mount Vernon a 'hard place.' There were only five professors of religion in town-two Baptists and three Methodists, and the same number of groceries-five. There was no church; two blacksmith shops, three stores and a half a dozen log houses; not a fence in town except crooked rail fences, and these were buried under a luxurious growth of elder, polk and jimson weeds. Saturday was always a lively day. The Moores, Jordans, the Long Prairie and Horse Creek gangs, came to town, and from two to six fights took place, and that A had his nose bitten off, or B had his jaw-bone broken, or C had his eyes blackened etc., etc., were the items that went to make up the gossip of the day. Races and shooting matches, open groceries on Sunday and the fence corners full of drunken men, were part of the exercises."

But all this was the "other side" of the story of our first settlers. The Christianity of the Caseys, Maxeys and Johnsons and others soon began to tell on the town and county, and has progressed through the succeeding generations until now we find the entire county equal in civilization and refinement to any part of the country, and as to Mount Vernon, it may very appropriately be termed the Athens of Southern Illinois.

SOURCE: Walls History of Jefferson County 1909
SUBMITTED BY: Misty Flannigan


 
 
The Baugh Family
The Casey Family
The Johnson Family
The Maxey Family
The Pace Family
The Watson Family

 
 
 
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