Grand Prairie Township is situated in the extreme northwest corner of Jefferson County.
It has Washington County on the west. Marion County on the north, Rome Township on
the east. Casner Township on the south and in the Government survey it is known as
Township 1 south, and Range 1 east of the Third Principal Meridian. Perhaps as much
of this township is prairie as any one township in the county. It takes its name from the
preponderance of prairie land in it. The surface is generally level or slightly rolling and
undulating, and drains well without artificial means. The timber is the same as in other
portions of the county. The principal streams are a branch of the Big Muddy and Rayse
Creek, with a few smaller brooks and branches, which drain the land well and afford an
abundance of stock water. Grand Prairie is a fine farming and stock-raising region, and
can boast of some of the best farms and some of the most prosperous farmers in the county.
Among the early settlers of what is now Grand Prairie Township were Abram Casey,
James Ray, the Baldridges, William Fulton, the Breezes, Stephen Cameron, James French,
John Roberts, J. A. Taylor, Green Depriest, Peter Bingaman, Alfred Woods.Isaac Reilley.
John C. Poston. Clark Casev and others. Abram Casey is considered the first white
settler in this township, which, however, was not settled up as early as some other
portions of the county. Casey settled, previous to coming here, near Mount Vernon.
He was a brother of Gov. Casey, and moved about a great deal, finally moving to
Missouri, where he died in 1841-42. James Ray bought him out in the township.
On Christmas morning, 1828, Mr. Ray accidentallly shot and killed his uncle,
Elijah Joliff. near Mount Vernon. The circumstance is related in another chapter of this
work, and need not be repeated here. The Baldridges were from North Carolina and
came previous to 1827. Daniel and William came with their families and still have
descendants living here. Fulton came from the East somewhere about 1826, and settled
in the north part of the township. The Breezes came from Orange County, Ind., but the
family was originally from Pennsylvania. Robert Breeze used to boat down the river.
He once went down the Lower Mississippi with a boat, and when he sold out he came
back to St Louis and walked from Kaskaskia across the State to Vincennes, where
there was not a house on the trail lying between the two places. He and John Breeze
came here about 1826 or 1827, and their descendants are still numerous in the county.
Cameron was also from Orange County. Ind., and has descendants still living. French
and Roberts came from the same neighborhood. Roberts was French's son-in-law, and
they both had large families when they came to the country. Taylor settled in the
southeast portion of the township.
Green Depriest, who settled originally in the vicinity of Mount Vernon, came here
about 1832. He finally went to Missouri. In 1828, Peter Bingaman settled where
Richard Breeze now lives. Alfred Woods settled here in 1829 on Section 22. He
engaged in making sugar, and also devoted much time to hunting bee trees.
He once cut down a bee tree, and in its fall a limb struck him, killing him instantly.
Isaac Reilly settled afterward on the place occupied by Woods. Poston came about
1831, and had an early mill. Clark Casey also settled in the township about 1830,
on Section 28. The people were now coming in rapidly, and the tine country of
Grand Prairie was soon all occupied.
The pole cabins, the homely fare of wild game and hominy and ash cake of grated or
pounded meal, the old wooden mold-board plows, and other rude pioneer tools,
implements and hardships were common here, as in other newly settled portions of
the State. The people lived hard; their comforts were few and their luxuries fewer still.
They had to struggle hard to keep the wolf from the door, both figuratively and literally.
The wolves were plenty in the forests and prairies, and the wolf hunger, often stalked
abroad by day as well as by night But we are told that time, patience and perseverance
will accomplish all things;" so they did in this, and with the passing years came peace
The mortar and pestle as a means of procuring meal finally gave way to an ox
treadmill, put up by D. Baldridge. on the place now owned by his son, James
Baldridge. Joseph Baldridge afterward bought it and moved it to another locality,
but continued the ox tread-wheel power as the means of running it. John C. Poston
put up a horse mill soon after he came in 1831, near where Richard Breeze lives.
Jacob and Owen Breeze operated a circular saw mill near Big Muddy, which was
run by horse-power, but it proved a poor investment, and they retired from the
business some time before the war.
The first road that ever passed through Grand Prairie Township was the old
Vincennes and Kaskaskia trace, which touched the north part of the township.
It was improved, as the country settled up, and made a road. In 1827, this was
the only road except the Mount Vernon road. The township has as good roads
now and as many of them as any portion of the county. The first death which
occurred in this section, or the first one recalled, was Joseph Baldridge, Sr.,
but the date is not now remembered. One of the first marriages was Clark Casey to
Polly Bingaman, and the ceremony was performed by Gov. Casey. The first birth is
lost among the multitude of events that have transpired.
For the first few years after settlements were made here, the people voted in Mount
Vernon, but afterward a precinct was formed including Grand Prairie, and the
voting place was at Poston's mill. Since the adoption of township organization, the
following is a complete list of township officers:
Supervisors.—Jacob Breeze, 1870; Henry Breeze. 1871; Henry Breeze. 1872;
Jacob Breeze, 1873; John W. Hails. 1874; John W. Hails. 1875; Henry Breeze, 1876;
T. L. Ratts, 1877; Henry Breeze, 1878; W. L. Fisher, 1879; Henry Breeze; 1880;
I. G. Carpenter. 1881; I. G. Carpenter, 1882; Henry Breeze. 1SS3, the present incumbent.
Town Clerks.— Samuel Copple, 1872; Samuel Copple. 1873; J. M1. Gresamore,
1874; A. J. Hartly, 1875: W. A. Hartly, who took a mortgage on the place, and has
held fast to it from 1876 to the present (1883) writing.
Assessors.—H. M. Bogan. 1872; W. Gaston. 1873; A. J. Hartly. 1874: E. S. Noleman,
1875-76: L. H. Breeze. 1877; E. S. Noleman, 1878; J. H. Fisher, 1879; E. S.
Noleman. 1880; A. J.. Hartly. 1881; J. W. Fisher, 1882; and T. L. Ratts, 1883, now in
Collectors.—J. W. Fisher. 1872; E. S. Noleman. 1873; W. T. Fisher, 1874;
Samuel Copple. 1875; T. Beadles. 1876; W. D. Baldridge, 1877;
A. J. Hartly, 1878; G. P. Baldridge, 1879: R. W. Gaston, 1880;
W.E. Beadles, 1881; W. E. Beadles, 1882; E. S. Noleman, 1883,
at present in the office.
School Treasurers.—Jacob Breeze, E. Copple, J. Baldridge. Charles Mills,
T. B. Moore, Sr.. H. W. Beal. J. W. Hails, T. B. Moore. Sr., T. L. Ratts and
J. W. Hails, the present incumbent.
Highway Commissioners.—W. M. Galbraith. Essex Payne. T. L. Ratts,
I. G. Carpenter, W. C. Pitchford. Thomas Baldridge, Ira G. Carpenter,
W. C. Pitchford, Thomas Baldridge. William Galbraith, J.W. Hails and
Justices of the Peace.—Franklin Cruzen, Henry Breeze, T. B. Moore, Sr.,
H. Breeze and T. B. Moore. Sr.
Constables.—N. Rogers, J.W. Due, W. C. Pitchford. O. P. Moore. S. J. Shaw,
J.H. Dickinson, W. C. Pitchford and J. Sprouse.
Grand Prairie Township, as we have said, is a fine section of country, and has many
fine farms. In addition to raising large quantities of com, wheat, oats, grass, etc.,
etc., much attention is paid to stock-raising. Here we may see in all their glory and
beauty some of the finest specimens of the Norman horse. Jacob Breeze and Eli Copple
imported three of these animals, the first ever brought to this township. Much attention
is now given to the breeding of these magnificent draft horses. Considerable fruit
is also raised in the township. In the north part. Mr. Galbraith and Ira G. Carpenter
make a specialty of strawberries, and raise and ship large quantities annually.
Richard and Jacob Breeze have a verv fine sugar camp, which is worked every year.
There are several other "camps" in the township, and hence a good deal of maple sugar and
molasses are made: sugar cane is also raised to some extent. This diversity of crops and
farming is seen in the thrift and prosperity of the farmers over those in sections where
an entire neighborhood is devoted to a single crop, as wheat, for instance, which every
year is becoming more and more uncertain in this latitude.
The following incident was related to us. which we give as we heard it, and without
any comment. Somewhere about 1840. one John Switzer came here and settled the farm
now owned by R Breeze. Here he lived until some time during the war. perhaps about
1863. One night three masked men came to his house and claimed, to be looking for
refugees. There was a man named Timmons at his house who was'a deserter, or
supposed to be, from the Confederate army. This man the maskers took away with them,
but soon two of them came back and robbed Switzer of all the money he had about the
house or all that the rogues could find. So far as we could learn, no clew to the
perpetrators was ever unearthed. Switzer soon after sold out and left the neighborhood.
The first school, or one of the first, was taught by a man owning the uncommon
name of Smith. He boarded with R. Breeze, but ran away before his school was finished
without even remunerating Mr. Breeze for his board. The first schoolhouse built was
on the Poston farm, and was a log cabin sixteen feet square, with slab seats, a
puncheon floor and stick chimney. The township now has six good, comfortable
schoolhouses, located in Sections 2.7, 9, 13, 26 and 29, in which first-class schools
are taught each year.
The first religious meetings were held at the people's houses, and were attended by
everybody in reach. The organization of the first church society was at the Widow
Gaston's. Rev. Samuel Walker, a pioneer Methodist minister, was the organizer of it, and
among the first members were the Gaston family. Clark Casey and family, and others
of the early settlers of the neighborhood. The first church was built as a schoolhouse
on the farm now owned by Mr. Hails, and was a log cabin. It was used both for
school and church purposes. Mrs. Gaston's house was finally burned, and as the
church had been organized at her house, this old church and schoolhouse was now
given her as a residence. The first building put up for a church exclusively was a
Methodist Church called Pisgah. It was a frame edifice, and was built about 1852.
It is still standing, but has been purchased by the township and converted into a
schoolhouse. Gilead Methodist Episcopal Church on Section 5, in the north part of
the township, is the only church building, but several of the schoolhouses are used
more or less as places of worship. A good Sunday school is kept up in the township,
at the voting place near the center, under the superintendence of Mr. E. S. Noleman.
There is not a railroad nor a town or village in Grand Prairie Township. It is decidedly
an agricultural region. The people however, do not need towns, as they have a
number in close proximity on the Illinois Central Railroad, which passes near them.
Richview and Irvington are near by, and even Centralia is but a few miles distant,
and thus they have town facilities without the expense of them in their own midst. At
these neighboring towns they do their trading, shipping, and even get their mail at
them, as there is not even a post office within the limits of the township.
Source: The History of Jefferson County, Illinois
by William Henry Perrin
Published by Globe Pub. Co. in 1883)
Submitted By: Cindy Ford