THE PRAIRIE HISTORIAN
VOLUME 2 NUMBER 2
ANNOUNCEMENTS AND SPECIAL INFORMATION
THE JUNE MEETING WILL BE AT MILLIE'S CAFE AT 7:30 P.M. JUNE 20TH, 1972. TUESDAY AS USUAL.
It will be a sort of a share your history party, or a Historical Show And Tell in which
everyone may take part. Bring your favorite family heirloom or other historical item. Each
will take turns showing and telling the story of the specific item he has brought, or items.
The map of Winfield in the March issue of The Prairie Historian was drawn from the
official map of Winfield furnished by Mr. & Mrs. Kirby Rogers. The buildings were located by
Mrs. Melissa Wells as she remembered them when she was a girl Mr. & Mrs. Julius Baker
are both charter members. Mrs. Baker's name was accidently omitted from the list.
The map of Williamsburg on page 14 is a composite of an official copy furnished
by Mrs. Nina Dees, and a map drawn by Mrs. Maude Williams in 1969.
Mrs. Nina Dees quite often presents us with a copy of some delightful historic
goodie that she has found in the records at the Court House. Such as the official description
of Williamsburg and the map.
Our heartfelt thanks goes to Mrs. Rose Hodge for typing the master carbon from which
this bulletin was made.
Thanks to Beatrice Tuttle for the use of her very interesting and superbly written
articles. Thanks to Frankie Mathis for the picture of Williamsburg School.
President: Jerry Elliston
Vice-President: Ileta Philp
Secretary-Treasurer: Estelle Holloway
Librarian: Dorothy Knight
Directors: Willard Fairchild
Betty Borowiak Louis
Editor: Jerry Elliston
Assoct Editors: Margie Elliston
Hattie Fairchild, Louis Norris, Betty Borowiak, Hildred Roberts.
Although every effort will be made to screen the material presented on the pages of
The Prairie Historian, neither the editor nor the Prairie Historians assume
responsilibilty for errors in fact expressed by contributors.
Comments and criticis, are welcome, but so is help. Therefore each member should
also be a reporter, shoud he discover information of historical value.
2 map of Milltown-Williamsburg area
3 early roads and trails
4 The Broom Maker by Beatrice Tuttle
5 The Rock Quarry by Beatrice Tuttle
6 The Tuttle Quarry (editors note)
7-8-9 Mill Town
14 Map of Williamsburg
15 Gleanings from The Waltonville Searchlight by Betty Borowiak
16 Williamsburg School 1894
EARLY ROADS AND TRAILS
In the early days trails were marked by a blaze hacked into a tree and were called
one, two, and three hack roads. One hack marked a foot trail, two hacks marked a bridle
path, and three hacks marked a wagon road.
The way trails came to be established in the early days was very simple. A path-
finder went thru the wilderness in the general direction of his destination
hacking or blazing a mark on an occasional tree as he passed as a guide for less experienced
trailblazers to follow. Thus it became a foot trail, or a one hack road.
Then one day a man tried it on horseback, slashing back the branches that impaired
his progress and adding another blaze to each marked tree, and so it became a bridle path
for travel of horse and rider, or a two hack road.
Later some teamster had freight for the end of the trail and so he took ox carts
or wagons and cleared a path that allowed them to pass and added still another blaze to
each marked tree, and so it became a full fledged wagon road marked by three hacks on
Zadok Casey, who came to the Mt. Vernon area in 1817 was a politician, and he probably
hurried so fast he never let his shirt tail touch him until he had blazed a trail to the
capitol at Kaskaskia, crossing Knob Prairie en route, and so the old Kaskaskia Trail
was born early in the history of the county. With the help of that old trail and what was
at the end of it Zadok Casey finally became Lt. Governor.
In 1814 the Territorial Legislature had given the Shawneetown Land Office jurisdiction
over all the land east of a line from about Cairo to Greenville, so a great
many people from the Washington county settlements had to go to Shawneetown to buy land
and settle title claims. Heading in the general direction of Shawneetown they hit
the Old Goshen Trail in Moore's Prairie and thus the Shawneetown Trial was born. There was
salt to be had at the U. S. Salines near there so it became known as The Shawneetown-Equality
We don't know just when it became a Three Hack Road, but the Gilberts, Newells,
and Places came over it with ox-carts and wagons loaded with plunder in the fall of 1839.
Washington County history saysit was the second trail laid out in Washington
county. The first being The Vincennes-Kaskaskia Trail over which a mail route was
traveling in 1800. It is very likely that people from the Washington county settlements
were traveling over the Shawneetown Trail before settlers arrived in the Mt. Vernon area
as Washington county was settled first.
Knob Prairies, then, was served by two important highways even in the early days.
Over the years several committees were sent out to view the Shawneetown Trail
by the Officials of Washington, with the idea of making it into a public
road, but none ever reported in so it kept the status of a trail in Washington county
until the township form of government was adopted in 1869.
Most early writers agree that it was much better to travel at will and avoid the
bad places in the trail than to try to travel the official route of a poorly
maintained public road. Nevertheless it was an opportunity for the taxing politicians
to get their hand into the public pocket and somehow they managed to convince the people
that the very thing they needed most was a tax supported public road, no matter
how poor the service they got from it.
And so in 1845 the settlers in Knob Prairie started paying taxes to use the Old
Kaskaskia Trail, or Pinckneyville Road as it was known then. A privilege they had
enjoyed for free ever since they had come to this country.
Mr. & Mrs. Mac Hirons have a tax receipt from Jesse A. Dees, Supervisor of the
Second Division of The Pinckneyville Road, to B. L. Hirons for .55 cents
tax on the Pinckneyville Road for the year 1845.
It came to be a public road in this way:
In 1835 Isaac Casey, A. Buffington, and Jesse Green were sent out to view a road
toward Pinckneyville, but they failed to make a report, and the next year
it was assigned to John Dodds, I. A. Davenport, and William Hicks.
They located it by John Dodds' house, through Rhodan Allen's field across Knob
Prairie, and on to the Brownsville Road, and thus it remained until the
year the Gilberts, Newells, and Places came.
Then A. Melcher, I. Osborn, and J. A. Dees were sent out to see if it were not
useless. They found that it certainly was for anybody but John Dodds
and Rhodan Allen, and so there it died.
As you can see everybody wanted it to go by his house regardless of the inconvience
to the travler.
After the changing routes several times it was finally laid out in 1845 by Sam
Boswell, Sid Place, and Jesse A. Dees on a route suggested by Eli Gilbert
and J. R. Allen. As most of these already lived on the old trail it followed that route
for the most part and everybody was happy except that now they had to confine their travels
to a strip 18 feet wide no matter how bad the mud holes got.
The Nashville-Shawneetown-Equality Road had been laid out following the old trail
in 1838 under the direction of George Lee, Thomas Thompson, and George
McCarey. NO doubt they all three lived on the road to start with.
So, by 1845 Knob Prairie was served by 2 public roads. Most people admitted that
they, then, had some very expensive roads, but hardly any good ones.
So says William Henry Perrin, a very reliable historian.
THE BROOM MAKER
by Beatrice Tuttle
In the early 1900's when my sister Ruby had started her first year of school at
Williamsburg, she remembers the following happening.
At home she wanted to use the broom. The ones in those days were heavier than our
modern brooms. She wished for one her size, so father planned to
have one made for her.
Many farmers planted small amounts of the kind of corn to make the supply for
their families. The Broom-Maker, Elmer Murray, was an expert in this
seasonal sideline. That year when the crop on our farm was ready to harvest, Ruby
was taken to the shop to have measurements made for a proper sized broom.
Equipment for the work was simple and hand operated. As Mr. Murray was fastening
the straw to the handle, a device for winding the wire firmly was used.
Then a small metal clamp was placed across the wire and the ends were driven into the handle
to fasten the straw securely in place.
The most fascinating step in the process was a piece of equipment (hardly a machine)
which he used to sew through the straw to add rigidity.
The last tool was a knife much like a paper cutter. To operate, the knife was lifted
and the bottom edge was made straight when the knife was pressed down. The handles used for
the brooms he made were unpainted. Ruby didn't know whether they made the handles or
Elmer Murray resided in Waltonville for a long time after the village was established.
Later he moved to the Springfield area where he continued to work in the broom making industry.
THE ROCK QUARRY
by Beatrice Tuttle
To locate the quarry, one travels westward from old Williamsburg to the first cross-
roads. The house south of this corner was the home of Alva &
Inez Gilbert. Turn north and the homestead (destroyed by a tornado) was that of Charlie & AManda
Gilbert. The next house north was the family home of Waldo & Helena Gilbert. Later the
Henry Tuttle family, of Guernsey county Ohio, became the owners. It was finally sold to the
son, Will Tuttle, my father. The last family who lived there was that of Leslie Rober son.
Across the road from the house was located the Rock Quarry. There was a rock bottom
branch with a bluff of almost solid rock bordering the small stream. It was there that my
father blasted huge pieces to be dressed down and made into blocks suitable for the following
purposes: to line cisterns and wells, to make stepping stones, and to form blocks for
foundations of houses and other buildings.
The tools were made in the Willie McAtee Blacksmith Shop. A long crowbar, which was
shaped for easy handling and sharpened to the end, was used as a drill. There were two of
these, one much longer than the other. Several wedges were used on the huge rocks to break
them into adequate sizes.
The tool for fashioning and finishing the correct form of the blocks was a short handled axe.
The axe made it possible to trim and shape. All tools had to be sharp and my sister and I were
given the task of turning the grindstone so our father could keep the tools usable.
It was one of the most fascinating experiences of my life to go with my father to the quarry.
To watch the process from beginning to end intrigued me. He first used the big drill, which by
hand he lifted up and down, up and down, until the hole was bored deep into the large rock area.
My task then was to keep water poured on that spot as he worked. When a proper depth was reached,
a fuse was placed from the top outside opening. Dynamite was poured into the part that had been
drilled. The most exciting climax came when the fuse at the top was lighted. My father would grasp
my hand and run, taking me along exceedingly fast to a place of safety. Then securely located I
would hold my hands over my ears until the blast ended.
The finished blocks were of three sizes - small, medium, and large. The selling price according
to this was fifteen, twenty and twenty-five cents each.
The larger stones were used at corners, and placed at strategic places to make a firm foundation.
Not all houses had solid foundations. Sometimes wide boards or weather boarding filled the opening
between stones. At other times, brick was used, to complete a solid structure.
No doubt that in this general area of the quarry, there could be found remnants of
foundation stones from there. Improved methods came in the form of concrete blocks which
replaced hand tooled stones for buildings of all types.
Herbert Newell is the present owner of the land where this old time handwork was
created from the natural elements.........
THE TUTTLE QUARRY
Doubtless the earliest industry
in the Knob Prairie area (aside from hunting) was the, then well known, Knob Prairie Sandstone Quarry.
Then the Gilberts, Places, and Newells, first came into this country searching for suitable land in
the fall of 1838 they stopped at the home of George and Jerusha Rightnowar on the Old Kaskaskia Trail
about 3/8ths of a mile south of where Long Prairie Church now stands, and stayed all night. There they
found a deep well filled with cool, sweet, water. The well was walled with sandstone from the Knob Prairie
quarry and there was a fireplace built of this same material.
The stone had come from a bed in the southwest quarter of section 26 in what is now Blissville Township,
about 3/4 mile west of the spot where Mr. Gilbert finally settled.
Sandstone from the Tuttle Quarry is found as far away as Wolf Prairie. It was quarried and shaped at
considerable expense of hard labor, and many of the hand hewn monoliths are still around to mark the
passing of the old industry. Some huge old stones, once used for the bases of chimneys are so massive
they cause one to wonder how they were loaded onto a conveyance and transported.
Even the walling of a well must have required several loads of the heavy stones and it was no small task
to lower them into place, doubtless some sort of winch was used.
A great many barns, and some houses in Prairie Historian Land still rest upon sandstones quarried and shaped
by WIll Tuttle and his predecessors at the Knob Prairie Sandstone Quarry.
It is very likely that the area once served by Mill Town, Williamsburg, and not
Waltonville received its first settlers from the Washington county settlements,
as many early settlers in Washington county were of the same family name as those
who settled in the Grand Arm Area of Blissville Township.
Perrin's History says some of the early settlers in the Knob Prairie - Mill Town
area are: Sherman Ross, Jesse Green, Jesse P. Dees, John Hailes, John Finch, Will Linsey,
Reuben Green, Lewis Green (Jesse A. Dee's step-father).
So very many Green's came into the area about the same time that it makes one
wonder whether they were not related and may have settled near each other
for that reason.
Others were a Mr. Herron, Peter Sibert, Erastus Fairchild, Thomas Bagby, Samuel
Hunter, James Welch, Joseph Laird, H. Hackett and others.
The very first settlement in Knob Prairie, however, was made by David Fairchild,
but he soon sold out to Benjamin L. Hirons who came in 1822 and may have
been the second settler. He lived just west of the old part of Knob Prairie Cemetery.
Fortunately for the historians Mr. Hirons was a record keeper, as was his father, and so we
have a great many records of their doings.
Eli Gilbert moved into his new house in Knob Prairie in December 1839 after coming
from Ohio by flatboat to Shawneetown and overland by ox cart. It was the first frame house
west of Mt. Vernon, the first house with glass windows, also the first 2 story house, and
he set out the first apple trees.
Perrin says he opened a store in Knob Prairie in 1840, and that was no doubt the
first such enterprise in the southwest quarter of Jefferson county.
It was also the beginning of the little Hamlet of Mill Town.
Eli had ran a sawmill and gristmill in Ohio and before dismantling the mill had
sawed enough lumber to build a mill, a house and a store. He had hauled this lumber
from Ohio, too.
He dammed the Big Muddy just north of the fork where the Shawneetown Trail crossed
the river and built a waterwheel to run the mill. Here he again ground grain and sawed
lumber, but the dam washed out so many times that he finally abandoned the waterwheel
and moved the mill to Knob Prairie where he ran it with a long sweep pulled
by horses, and it too became a part of the little community.
So the store, the mill, and later, a blacksmith shop together with three or four
houses made up the first village in this part of the county. It was generally called
Mill Town, but was sometimes referred to as the Knob Prairie settlement,
or just Knob Prairie. Sitting astride the old Kaskaskia Trial it was no doubt
visited by a great many travelers.
All the old timers who were familiar with old Mill Town are now long gone and
it lives only as a memory of a twice told tale.
The late Edd Hicks and Happy Newell told the writer about the little community
that existed in Knob Prairie long before the Civil War.
In 1867 Williamsburg was laid out only a quarter mile away and the little community
perished. Just 2 years before that the 2 acre "Mill Lot" had sold for $800.00 but with
brick buildings going up a stones throw away, it sold in 1867 for $75.00
Striving to learn about Mill Town was a seemingly hopeless task until a beautiful,
sunny afternoon in late winter when Mason Newell and Jerry Elliston undertook
to search the ground for evidence.
Going a quarter mile west of the Williamsburg corner they walked north across a
wheat field. About a third of a quarter north of the road the wheat
played out into a corn field that had been combined, and scattered upon the ground and the stalks
and other debris was the remains of a chimney.
Searching the area carefully they found that they could almost delineate the very
outlines, where buildings had once stood. It was familiar ground to Mason as he had plowed
the land with a walking plow when he was just a lad many years before and could remember
seeing the debris from the old houses when it was much fresher.
They found that there had been a row of at least three buildings about seventy
five feet east of the fence row. One must be the store, but which one? They searched care-
fully for a clue. Amid the debris they found scraps of crockery, china, bottles, and other
glass, some home made bricks, both whole and broken, and a great amount of sandstone. In
the debris from the southernmost building, they found four buttons, a part of a kerosene
lamp burner, a part of an old harmonica containing 2 reeds, and the stem portion of an old
clay pipe, still new and shiney. It had never been smoked. But most important they found
mini hand wrought, square, nails. Nails meant lumber and the store was supposed to have
been made from the lumber brought from Ohio on the flatboats. Doubtless the other buildings
were log houses. They found neither nails, buttons, burners or pipes in the ruins from
To the northeast, could be seen a clump of bushes. Deep in the middle they found
an old well. It had a concrete platform with a square hole in the middle which was
covered with a slab of steel. Mason said his father had placed it there fifty years before
when he had cleaned out the old well so he could use the water. He had hired Dick Earls
who had a pump pulled by a gasoline engine to pump the old well dry.
An interview with Dick evoked the following information.
After pumping all day there was still about 40 feet of water left in the well and
they quit for the night. Next morning they found the well lipping full again, so they
cranked up the engine and began pumping again. The pump had a 1 1/2 inch outlet pipe and
enough force to squirt the water several feet before it hit the ground, but when evening
came again, there was still about four feet of water left in the well and it was at a
stand still. It was running in as fast as it was being pumped out.
Planning to use a hand pump as well, they went to the old blacksmith in Waltonville
to have some irons made and the Smithy (Willie McAtee) told them that he had always heard
that the well was dug to a sandstone bottom then a hole was jobbed through the sandstone
with an old hand drill and the water started pouring in. In order to pump it dry they would
have to plug the hole. So they sharpened the end of a long pole and after much searching and
prodding, the hole was plugged and they pumped the well dry in a very short time.
In the debris removed from the old well was more than a dozen old wooden buckets
which had slipped their bails and been lost in the well during its near hundred year history.
Also recovered was about forty feet of old scoop type, hand cranked, pump chain.
After leaving the well they went north to where the old granary had stood. (Mr.
Newell and moved it to his own barn lot about 1920 and build sheds on three sides of it.)
They visited it later and found that it was of the old mortice and tenon type of construction,
held together with wooden pins. They soon found the exact location where it had been so many
years ago and carefully drew a map of all that they had found.
Crossing what was once the old trail they soon found pieces of brick that were
apparently from a blacksmith's forge as they had been subjected to such intense heat that
some were glazed, some had a rounded, throat like, shape. Also found was an ancient file
and several pieces of grindstone.
Farther north there was evidence of a large building, but scant material regained
to mark the spot. They assumed that this was the site of the mill. They made a carefully
drawn map of all that they had found and later made a sketch showing how the little commun-
ity may have looked in 1850.
On a subsequent trip Mason and Kathryn Newell discovered the ruins of still another
A search of the land records revealed that the land was first bought by Eli Gilbert,
at Shawneetown, on March 7, 1839 and a 2 acre patch called "The Mill Lot" had been sold to
Waldo Gilbert in 1853. It was sold to S. S. Mannen in 1859 and to W. A. Bay in 1866. When he
sold the land to Andrew J. Reynolds, later that same year, he reserved a quarter of an acre.
which would no doubt make an interesting story if we knew the reason. For the quarter acre
was reserved in subsequent deeds and was fenced off for many,many years. Reynolds sold the
land to McAtee who owned it for a long, long time.
"The Mill Lot" is described as "Commencing 26 rods north and thence 20 rods east
from the S. W. corner of the S. W. 1/4 of the S. E. 1/4 of Section 26, then north 20 rods,
east 16 rods, south 20 rods, and west 16 rods, containing 2 acres." Thus we now know quite a lot
about the old hamlet known as "Mill Town."
There was a Post Office named Knob Prairie from May 30, 1860 until July 1, 1862
which we strongly suspect, was located at Mill Town. The Postmasters were John A. Shipley-
May 30, 1860 until March 24, 1862. Jacob A. Taylor, March 25, 1862 unitl July 1, 1862 when
it was closed. Postal records do not show the exact location of the site, nor do they show
how it received its mail. The map that accompanied the Application for a Post Office at
Williamsburg in 1871 shows the location of Mill Town.
Old invoices in possession of Mac Hirons which show large purchases of lumber from
Eli Gilbert by Benjamin L. Hirons in the 1840's prove that the mill was a lumber mill as
well as a grist mill and was a much larger operation than was formerly suspected.
"At the request of Mr. James Peavler I did on the 17th day of December 1867
survey and establish the streets and lots of one square of ground to be known as the
Town of Williamsburgh. Said square beginning at the NE corner of section 35t. 3S. R.
1E. 3rd PM running thence south 660 feet to stone at south east corner, thence west 620
feet to stone at southwest corner, thence north 660 feet to stone at northwest corner,
thence east 620 feet to stone at place of beginning. South street is on the east side
of said square and is 60 feet wide by 660 feet in length. Pine street is 260 feet west
of South Street and is 50 feet in width by 660 feet in length. Main Street is on the
north side of said square and is 30 feet in width by 620 feet in length. Green Street
is 250 feet south of Main Street and is 50 feet in width by 620 feet in length. And
Union Street is on the south side of said square and it is 30 feet in width by 620 feet
in length. Lots 1 to 11 inclusive front South Street and are 50 feet in width by 110
feet in length. The remaining 16 lots between Main and Green streets are 50 feet in
width by 125 feet in length. The remaining 16 lots between Green and Ohio Streets are
50 feet in width by 150 feet in length. The said square contains in all 43 lots and is
situated in the NE 1/4 of the NE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 of section 35 T 3S R 1 S 3rd PM.
Signed J. D. Williams, Surveyor
Jefferson County, Illinois
And thus was born the town of Williamsburg, did J. D. Willliams the surveyor, have
any connection with the naming of the community Williamsburg? He spelled it Williamsburgh.
This was not the whole story, however, for on July 29, 1885, Kirby Smith, County
Surveyor for Jefferson County, Illinois, laid off an addition to the village
of Williamsburg for J. ?. Jeffries, consisting of 12 lots on the east side of South Street
beginning at the northwest corner of section 36 and extending south for 600 feet, each
lot being 50 feet wife by 165 feet long east and west. This would include the
old Jeffries house, now empty and owned by Pete Ochap.
Because business and industry deserted the town of Williamsburg with the building of
W C & W railroad, nearly eighty years ago, and the dwellings dwindled away until it was
abandoned as a town site, it is very hard for the present generation to assiess the
importance of the little community as it existed for the first 25 years of its life.
In 1870 it was a thriving little settlement, located very near the junction of 2
important highways. The Mt. Vernon and Pinckneyville Road, which carried traffic to all
the towns in the direction of Chester (the very route which the W C & W Railroad would
later take) and the Nashville and Shawneetown Road, which carried all the traffic heading
in the direction of McLeansboro, Benton, Galatia, Harrisburg, and Shawneetown. Thus it
was an important way stop for travelers going to any of these places.
Combination stage and freight lines passed through and served Williamsburg going
to many of these places. Mostly they were served by a wagon which was called a Stage
Wagon as it hauled passengers (mostly Drummers) as well as freight and mail. No doubt
some housewife furnished accommodations for travelers and boarders.
Among the earliest memories of the writer are tales of Williamsburg area in the
1870's as his father Melvin Elliston was born and raised a few miles northwest
Capt. Laur ran the stage line from Ashley to Spring Garden delivering freight and
express that came in on the I C Railroad to merchants along the wya. Melvin said he got
his forst pair of boots off Old Capt. Laur's Stage Wagon. HIs father had taken him to the
cobbler at Ashley who had placed his foot upon a piece of stiff insole leather and drew
a line loosely around it, he then showed him models from which he must choose a style, then
they came back home. He was about 6 or 7 years old at the time. Several days later he was
riding to the woods on the running gears of a wagon, behind his father, when they met Capt.
Laur's stage wagon. Mr. Laur said, "Sonny! I've got something for you", and handed him a
shiny little pair of red topped, copper toed, boots. The wood's were forgotten and they
went back home to try on the new boots. At first they were a way too big, then for a long
time they were just right, then they grew smaller and smaller until one day when no amount
of tugging and stomping would get them on and they were handed down to a younger brother.
Would you believe that the circus was almost an annual visitor to Williamsburg?
It is true. Circusses visited Williamsburg quite often, probably stopping to garner what-
ever money they could while enroute to some place else.
Again memory recalls a childhood tale. Somehow word had gone ahead and the rail
fence on each side of the road were lined with people who came to watch the circus go by.
The road was muddy and deeply rutted, but as the procession neared the community, a 4 or
5 piece band strutted ahead beating on drums and blowing on horns, strange instruments
to a fiddle and guitar conscious backwoods society. They were followed by 3 wagons with
cages. Each was pulled by 4 bespangled horses. Monkeys chattered and frolicked on top.
Sometimes scrambling down and stuggling through the mud to retreive a tidbit offered
by a fence sitting spectator, and fastidiously cleaning their feet when they got back
aboard the wagon, to the delight of the natives. Behind came 3 elephants and a bear.
The elephants placed their heads against the wagons and pushed them out when they became
mired. In the cages were a lion, a tiger, and a wild man from Barneo.
The countryside was densly populated in those days so they probably drew quite
a crowd and the little town of Williamsburg was no doubt crammed with sight seers and
shoppers (in those days stores stayed open until nine o'clock of later).
Sometimes there was more excitement than just the shopping and the show. One
fine summer day when Dr. J. W. Wells and Raleigh Newell were barefoot lads
a circus came to Williamsburg. Neither boy lived very far away, so they hurried
to the village to see the sights. While gawking about they wandered into the tent where
the performing bear was kept. As soon as their eyes became accustomed to the dim light they
noticed that the bear had gotton loose from his chain. Fearing they would be blamed f or
turning the bear loose if it were known they had been in the tent, they sneaked out and barefooted
it for home. It wasn't long until the bear sauntered out and started wandering up and
down the streets of Williamsburg, among the milling crowd. Needless to say there was
excitement aplenty and some people got their fill of the circus before the show even got started.
Many people living today can remember when the circus used to travel through the country
in horse drawn wagons on our old dirt roads. Neva Elliston told of a time when she was very
young girl, a circus came down the road and one of the elephants was very tired and thirsty.
Smelling the water in the horse trough it insisted upon stopping for a drink. The trainer asked her
father if he could water his elephant and they led it to the trough and pumped and pumped
until its thirst was sated. Still it did not want to leave the nice cool water so the trainer
began prodding it to get it to move. Finally, it sucked up a snoot full and squirted it all over him
then it turned and hurried after the rapidly vanishing circus train.
When they made application for a Post Office in 1871 they found that there was
already a Post Office named Williamsburg, Illinois, in Lee county so they decided to call
the Post Office Laur for Captain Joseph Laur who had commanded a company of men from the
area during the Civil War, and was to carry the mail of Star Route 11799, from Ashley to
Spring Garden on his stage line.
On May 28, 1871, David J. Hicks and Edward McAtee made application through Cynthia
C. Lacey on a document replete with the beautiful penmanship for a Post
Ofice. The application was approved and the office opened on July 10, 1871 in David
J. Hicks' Drug Store on South Street. Thereafter settlers came for miles to get
their mail twice per week.
When you search through old records and find that a person's address was Laur,
Illinois, it does not necessarily mean that that person lived in close proximity to
Williamsburg for people all over Long Prairie had Laur as a mailing address as did many
people living just as remote in other directions.
Although countless thousands of letters were mailed at Laur, Illinois, very few
letters with the Laur postmark remain in the area today.
Postmasters at Williamsburg were: David J. Hicks, 7-10-1871, Clark S. Foucher
8-19-1874, O. P. Norris 4-21-1875, Isaac (Wilse) Robinson 4-18-1889.
Wilse Robinson moved the Post Office from his drug store on the north east corner
of Pine and Green Streets in the center of Williamsburg on November 11,
1892 to a wooden building just east of the old jail in Waltonville. That morning the
mail pouch was unloaded from the W C & C passenger train.
We do not know where they cut the ice, but their was an ice-house in Williamsburg.
No doubt the first ice-cream in this part of the country was made there.
The first soda pop was sold there also, in Wilse Robinson's Drug Store.
The first breech-loading shot gun and rifle shells as we know them today were sold
there. All these things were concocted while Williamsburg was a thriving
The first barbed wire in this part of the county was sold there also. There is
an old take that Capt. Laur would haul barbed-wire, but would not load
or unload it. One day he had some for a merchant in Williamsburg and he couldn't find anyone
to unload it. When it came time to go Capt. would'nt wait and drove off with it still
in the wagon. He sold it to a man in Spring Garden and came back with the money. No
doubt he was promptly unloaded after that.
Mrs. Elsie Hodge said that most of the people in the surrounding area would gather
at Williamsburg on a Saturday and shop and visit all afternoon.
The noon meal could be had for only a few cents, but most people brought a lunch
in a basket under the buggy seat. A child with a penny was a big spender and could buy
many wonderful goodies.
The following is from a paper called, "Early Jefferson County, Illinois
by Beatrice Tuttle.
John Hagle built the first store-house and David Hicks the first residence.
His son opened a Drug Store and built a residence into which Thomas Westcott
moved. The Lannings came a little later, then the Places, Henry Willis erected the
first brick buildings, Anderson built a mill, and sold it to Boswell and
Boswell sold it to John Dare. A good school house was built. J. D. Norris had a General
Store; I. W. Robinson and William Hicks had Drug stores. Two churches were established
- the Universalist and the Methodist.
The Universalist Church was organized by Eli & Susannah Gilbert, who had migrated
from Washington County, Ohio, in 1839. They had been charter members of a Universalist
Church in Rockland, Ohio. The church at Williamsburg had about 40 members. No list of
ministers at Williamsburg was available, but one recalled by early residents was Jonathan
Mattox. The last minister, Rev. R. G. Harris, came from Jackson, Missouri, in 1870. He
married Rebecca Jane Gilbert in 1871. Their daughter was Mrs. D. E. Hicks, who resided
in Waltonville. Rev. Harris died in 1876, and is buried in the old part of Knob Prairie
When Waltonville came into existence, the Universalist church was moved, in 1895,
to the new village. That building burned as did the one which replaced it. The second
building which burned in 1964, was replaced by a modern structure and dedicated
on October 30, 1966.
The Methodist people had services from about 1857 until late 1870 in the home of
Jacob R. Watkins, who had migrated from Guernsey County, Ohio. A son Thomas C. Watkins
was converted at a camp meeting in Robinson's Grove, near Woodlawn, and later became a well
known minister in the Eastern States. The following trustees purchased a lot for fifty
dollars: Jacob R. Watkins, John H. Moore, Joseph Laur, Ranson Boswell, and Josiah Tuttle.
The building was dedicated on Christmas Day, 1870. The church was flourishing about 1883,
but almost quit in the late 1880's. In 1890 Rev. J. C. Kinnison found this condition and
started services. The only remaining members in the community at the time of reorganization
were: Anna Gilbert, Laura Baldridge, and Mary (Polly) Daniels. Henry Tuttle, who had
recently moved from Guernsey County, Ohio, Ida E. Newell, and Hattie B. Hicks were the
first 3 members received. The church was prospering in the early 1890's when Waltonville
was founded. The coming of the Wabash, Chester and Western Railroad started the new town.
The Methodists held services in the school house at Waltonville and built a parsonage (north
of the present building) before moving the church from Williamsburg.
It was brought in sections on hay frames across the fields and set in place under the
supervision of Ichabod Newell and George Baldridge. The main part of Waltonville church is
at present (1972) that structure.
Several houses were moved from Williamsburg to Waltonville, two of which were the
William McAtee and the I. W. Robinson houses. At present (1972) these homes are occupied
by the Emil Norris family and Mrs. Clara Johnson respectively.
GLEANINGS FROM THE WALTONVILLE SEARCHLIGHT
September 28, 1915
by Betty Borowiak
Harry Green has moved the telephone exchanges across the street to the building
just west of Atkins Blacksmith Shop.
Mrs. Neal (can't read) of Mt. Vernon visited relatives here first of the week and
attended the funeral of her Aunt J. W. Hicks.
Miss Nellis Conlee is assisting at the Waltonville Bank at present.
Grange Hamilton spent a greater part of last week in Mt. Vernon and while there
attended the Conference.
J. D. Dodds wife and daughter Anna called on relatives last Sabbath enroute to H.
Mannena in Grand Prairie where they spent the day.
Notice: Dr. R. R. Blanchard, Dentist on second floor of Waltonville Bank Building
acorss the hall from Dr. Well's Office - There on Wednesday - does all
kinds of dental work.
"What has become of old-fashioned girl who wanted a man with mustache?"
Queen Taste Coffee - now 25 cents sold in 1 lb. cans only. Ask your grocer.
July 13, 1916
Mr. Ben Laur Sr., celebrated his sixty-ninth birthday at his home in Bald Hill
Township. Only those present were the immediate family and J. Hicks.
A good time was reported.
J. D. Hirons spent Sunday at the A. J. McConnaughey home at Makanda, IL.
A. E. Willis rural carrier on route three is taking his annual vacation and mail is
being carried by his deputy G. W. Fairchild.
Mr. Isaac Place of Palmer, Nebr. who came to attend the funeral of his sister, Mrs.
Emily Gilbert, departed Monday to visit his brother Luther at St. Francis, Mo. He expects
to return here before returning home.
Henry Cameron is grading the streets and putting them in fine shape.
H. H. Davis motored over to Tamaroa Sunday.
Submitted by: Abby Newell
Sept 9, 2002