Elk Prairie Township lies in the south tier of townships in Jefferson County, and
contains considerable fine farming lands, though it is rather rough and broken
along the streams. The township is bounded on the north by McClellan Township,
on the east by Spring Garden, on the south by Franklin County, on the west by
Bald Hill Township, and by Government Survey is Township No. 4. south of the
base line, and is in Range 2 east of the Third Principal Meridian. Big Muddy Creek
flows south nearly through the middle of the township, receiving numerous small
streams in its course. Casey's Fork touches the east portion, flowing in a southerly
direction between this township and Spring Garden. Along these streams was
originally heavy timber, and there is still considerable of it left, principally oak,
hickory and walnut. The land is rather hilly and rough along the streams, but back
from them some distance it becomes of a more even surface, and has some small
prairies. Elk Prairie, from which the township derives its name, is an excellent body
of land, though of rather small extent. It takes its name from the number of bones
and horns of elk found here by the early settlers. Some very excellent farms may
be seen in this township.
Of the early experiences of Elk Prairie, there is little to be said. There was nothing
out of the usual, every-day pioneer life to individualize the community. It settled up
much as other portions of the county did. and as other settlements were made. As to
the name of the tirst settler in this division of the county. where he came from and the
spot whereon he settled, we can say little, for we failed to learn anything definitely.
Among the early settlers we can mention the Stephensons. William King, the Whitmans,
Ezra Lanier, James and Martin Teeters, John D. M. Cockram. Willis Holder, the Picketts
and some ef the Wilbankses. and others whose names are not now remembered.
The Stephensons John, Edward and Isham came from Tennessee, and settled here in
an early day. William King first settled in Gun Prairie, but afterward came here. He
was not very strict in his moral characterstics, and followed Solomon's lead in a
plurality of wives. He finally sold out to Uriah Cornpton took his brother-in-law's
wife, leaving two or three of his own behind, and left the country. Cockram first
settled here, but afterward moved into Spring Garden and settled near the village of
that name. Teeters first settled in Moore's Prairie. Martin Teeters was James' father, and
they came form Alabama originally. The old man did not come here until some fifteen
years after James Teeters had settled here. But we can not follow the settlement of the
township further. So much has already been said in preceding chapters of this work,
of the coming, the settlement and life of the pioneers, that anything further can be little
else than repetition.
The experiences of the people here were similar to other pioneer settlements, as we
have said. They lived in log cabins, wore home-made clothing, subsisted upon game
and the products of the soil, and indulged in the recreations common to the rest of the
county. With all the growth and activity, which assumes larger proportions in the recital
than in actual experience, the community which gathered in what is now Elk Prairie
Township, was essentially on the frontier at that time, and the people experienced all
the hardships and discomforts incident to frontier settlements. For the first few years,
supplies were brought from a distance; mills were built rather early, but owing to a lack
of power or adequate machinery, most of the meal and Hour were obtained only by going
long distances and enduring tedious delays. The general settlement was of slow growth,
but sure; here and there the smoke curled upward in the air from the scattered log cabins,
as the busy pioneer protracted the clearing-up of his farm long into the night.
Deer were shot in largo numbers, while wolves and panthers, "Congress hogs," a few
bears and the whole class of small game found in this section,and afforded wholesome
meals or rare hunting sport. The distance from any market was long felt among the farming
community, and did much to retard growth and prosperity. But these inconveniences
were lived over.and as civilization increased, comforts and luxuries increased also.
Elk Prairie Township suffered from the same inconveniences in the lack of roads and
mill facilities. The first settlers used the mortar and pestle to pound their corn, the
finest of which was used for meal and the coarser for hominy. A few years later,
horse mills were built. These were a great improvement on the mortar and hand mills,
but we of today would think it a poor way to obtain bread. Some of the pioneers,
doubtless, still remember the bustle and preparation for "going to mill." The shelling of
the corn the day before, the rising long before day in order to make the trip in one day
if possible, the careful wrapping up in cold weather, "he cautions about the creek or
branch crossings, and the anxiety felt at home if " the boys " were gone much longer than
was expected. But as settlements became more numerous, mills were built at shorter
intervals, and the inconveniences in this respect passed away. The first roads were
only trails through the township from one neighbor's to another's, or to the horse mill.
But these also were improved and increased with the demand for them, and the settle
ments were soon well supplied with good roads. Bridges of substantial build now
span the streams where all the important highways cross them, thus rendering travel
comparatively safe and pleasant.
The early educational history of Elk Prairie Township is involved in considerable
obscurity, and it is not definitely known now when or by whom the first school
was taught, nor where the first pioneer schoolhouse was erected. At the present
day the township devotes as much attention to educational interests as any portion
of Jefierson County. There are eight good, comfortable school houses, all well and
commodiously furnished in the most approved style. These schoolhouses are located
respectively on Sections 6, 10. II, 13, 15, 20. 27 and 32, and in them good schools
are annually taught for the usual terms by competent teachers.
Christianity in the township dates back to its first settlement by white people. Many
of the pioneers had been active members of different churches in the States from whence
they came, and this soon led to the organization of religions societies here. Meetings
were held in private houses, and in the summer time in the groves until the building of
schoolhouses, when they were utilized for religious worship as well as for school
purposes. Thus churches were organized by these simple pioneers in an early day.
There are now two church buildings in the township. A Methodist Church near Mr. Dare's,
which is a neat and substantial frame edifice. East of it is a Campbellite or Christian
Church. The building was originally put up for a schoolhouse, but a few years ago the
township built a new schoolhouse in the district, and sold the old one to the
Christians. They repaired it, and have made quite as neat and tasty church building
of it. It has a good membership for a country church.
This township was originally Elk Prairie Election Precinct. In 1869. the county
adopted township organization, when this became what it is now
Elk Prairie Township. Since then, the following is a complete list of township
Supervisors.óG. W. Evans, 1870-72; J. R. Knowles, 1873-74: G. W. Evans. 1875;
J. H. Crosno, 1870; G. W. Evans, 1877; J. R. Knowles, 1878-80, L. M.. Cole, 1881-82;
S. H. Dolby, 1883, the present incumbent.
Township ClerksóJ. G- Gee, 1872-74; William P. Hamilton, 1875; B. S. Bowenmaster,
1876-77; J. H. Wheeler, 1878; L. B. Kelso, 1879; T. R. Fox, 1880; J. B. Boswell, 1881-83,
now holding the position.
AssessorsóLewis M. Cole, 1872; G. G. Dolby, 1873; L. M. Cole, 1874-75;
H. H. Hartiy, 1876; William Dodds, 1877-78; L. M. Cole 1879: William Dodds.
1880; H. H. Hartly, 1881; J. D. Dodds. 1882: S. Kirk, 1883, now in office.
CollectorsóJ. R. Knowles, 1870-72; A. J. Sweaton, 1873; C. C. Brown, 1874;
William Graham. 1875; J. R. Knowles. 1876-77; G. G. Dolby, 1878-79;
J. Stansberry. 1880; J. D. Dodds, 1881; S. P. Sheaton, 1882; J. B. Dougherty,
1883, the present incumbent.
School TreasurersóEli Gilbert. 1874: S. A. Block, 1875-77: Isaas Ward, 1878;
J. W. Wells, 1879; S. A. Block, 1880-81; H. Wells, 1882; J. Loman. 1883, now in office.
Justices of the PeaceóA. J. Sweaton, Eli Gilbert, W. Hampton, A. J. Sweaton, Eli Gilbert,
H. R. Dare, A. J. Kelly. L. T. Coffman. H. R. Dare.
Constablesó W. T. Dare. L. T. Coffman, S. P. Shelton. J. Sulcer. J. H. Hestley,
D. G. Peterson.
Highwav CommissionersóJ. J. Fitzgerrel, John Dodds, T J. Wilbanks, J. G. Gee,
John Doyle, J. Wilbanks. J. G. Gee, S. P. Shelton. S. H. Dolby, S. Hirous, J. Rowe.
W. T. Peterson.
The village of Winfield was laid out by A. M. Grant for J. J. Fitzgerrell, the owner
of the land. It is situated in Horse Prairie, in the northwest quarter of the northwest
quarter of Section 32 of Elk Prairie Township, and the plat is dated March 26, i860.
The original survey (which is all there is of the town) consisted of four blocks of
four lots each. The first store in the village was opened by Isaac Boswell. Some
years later the Wards opened a store. A Mr. Graham also opened a store. A mill
was built by Isaac Clampet. It afterward passed into the possession of John Knowles,
who operated it several years, and finally it became the property of the Wards.
They greatly improved it, and made it an excellent mill. Dr. Gee came to the place
in 1867, and afterward married Mr. Fitzgerrell's daughter. Dr. White was also a
citizen for some years, and then moved to his farm. A good schoolhouse with a
hall above was built some years ago. Also a church building has been erected.
The town is not as large as Chicago perhaps it never will be perhaps it has
already attained its full growth. It is in the midst of a good farming region,
however, and ought to be quite a prosperous place.
This comprises a brief history of Elk Prairie Township, from its settlement by
the pale-faced pioneers to the present time. It is one of the tine agricultural
townships of the county. and its citizens are an intelligent, industrious and
prosperous class of farmers. No more need be said of them.
Source: The History of Jefferson County, Illinois
by William Henry Perrin
Published by Globe Pub. Co. in 1883)
Submitted By: Cindy Ford