McClellan Township lies southwest of Mount Vernon, and is bounded north
by Shiloh Township; east by Dodds; south by Elk Prairie; west by Blissville; and is
designated as Township 3 south, Range 2 east It is diversified between woodland and
prairie, and somewhat rough and broken along the streams. The prairies are all
small, and are Town Prairie, named for the county seat; Wolf Prairie in the southwest
part, together with a portion of Elk Prairie which extends into it. The timber is
mostly hickory, oak. ash, wild cherry, walnut, etc. Along the streams the timber
originally was rather heavy. but much of it has disappeared before the woodman's ax. The
principal water-course is Big Muddy Creek,which flows in a southward direction almost
through the center of the township, and Rayse Creek, passing through the southwest
corner, and emptying into Big Muddy a half mile north of the township line. A few small
and nameless branches feed this stream and contribute their share to the drainage of
The first settlement in this township was among the first in the county. Isaac and
William Hicks settled in the northeast part in the fall of 1817. The Hickses were
natives of South Carolina, but had been living down on the Ohio River for some time
before coming here. Isaac Hicks had a son Thomas born soon after he moved here, and
supposed to have been the first child born in the county. He (Isaac Hicks) was an
exemplary man and a member of the Baptist Church. John Lee came in 1819. and was
from Tennessee, but was a native of South Carolina. He settled where his son. John
Lee, now lived, and had a large family of children. Israel Lanier was, perhaps, the
next settler in the township to the Hickses, but of him we learned little beyond his
settlement. A man named John Stillwell came about 1821 and settled in what is now
McClellan Township. He is described as quite a sociable sort of a man. one who cared
little for the world's wealth and took but little pains to accumulate property. He was
fond of hunting, and to range the woods with his gun upon his shoulder was the sum
total of his earthly happiness. But once upon a time he took his last hunt. He and the
Abbotts went into the woods one day in pursuit of game in the vicinity of John Lee's,
and during the day he became separated from them. This caused no uneasiness, as he
was an experienced woodsman, and they expected him to make his appearance at any
time. But a heavy snow storm came on, and when his prolonged absence had excited
strong apprehensions of his safety, search was made. He was never found, however,
and the supposition was that he became confused in the snow storm, lost his course
and wandered about until he perished with the cold, or else fell a prey to wolves.
Several years after, a gun barrel was found in Elk Prairie together with a few bones.
These were always believed to be poor Stillwell's. After search for him was given up,
a little fund was raised by the neighbors for his wife, and she returned to Indiana,
whence they had come.
James Dickens settled here about 1821-22, in Section 12, and was a cooper by trade.
He started a cooper shop in 1825-26, and did a considerable business in that line. He,
too, was quite a hunter, and spent much time in the woods. He afterward moved up and for
some time had charge of Tunstall's mill. His death is described as novel and peculiar. He
was at the house of one Harlow, at some kind of a public gathering, and while at dinner
choked to death with a piece of pie. It seems he was a rather rapid and hearty
eater, and having his mouth well filled with pie, something amusing occurred, when
throwing back his head to laugh, the pie went the wrong way, choking him, and he
died at the table in a very few minutes.
William and Jonathan Wells came into the township in 1823 and settled in Wolf
Prairie. Jonathan was a blacksmith and had the first shop in the township. He did
the work for the entire ccmmunitv for several miles around. William Wells, Jr., still
lives in the township and is in good circumstances. Simon McClellan settled here in
1823, on the place now owned by Samuel Jones, and it is said the township was named
for him He has a son now living in Texas. Other additions to the settlement of the
township were James Quinn, James Bodine, Philip Osborne, Joseph Hays, Solomon
Ford, Thomas Porter, and perhaps others, whose names we have failed to obtain.
Quinn came in 1820 and settled in the north part of Elk Prairie, where his son
Washington now lives. Bodine settled near Quinn and is still living.
Osborne first settled in Dodds Township, but moved into this about 1830 and settled
in the north part of Elk Prairie. Hays settled on the place where Dickens had lived.
His death is supposed to have been the first to occur in the township. He was among
the early pioneers laid away to their last sleep in Old Union Cemetery, Ford settled
in the western part of the township and is still alive, and one of the old landmarks of
the couuty. Proctor came in 1830; he was a plain farmer and lived well.
The pioneers lived what we would term, in this fast age, a hard life, but most of the
few still left will tell you that times generally were better than they are now; that
peopie were more social, more disposed to help one another, far more honest and
confiding than in the present degenerate times. A neighborhood was a kind of
brotherhood a mystic band of Freemasons, ever ready to lend a helping hand to
the needy. They were brave, generous and strictly honest, and despised meanness
in any shape it might present itself. It was true there were neighborhoods with a
rough element, in them always ready for a disturbance. These, upon the slightest
provocation, would get up a tight, and in the old rough-and-tuinble knock-down-
and-drag-out style. Yet, the fight once over, they were ready to drink friends, get
roaring drunk and savagely friendly. The bill of fare was often meager, and
consisted of coarse and homely food. The pioneer's rifle supplied the meat;
bread was provided often from meal pounded in a mortar. In summer, there
were plenty of berries on the prairies and in the woods, and crab apples and
wild plums were abundant. Crab apples were gathered and buried in the ground
for winter use. These, cooked in honey, made delicious preserves, and wild
honey was plenty and to be had for the finding. Thus the life of the pioneers
passed, if not always in peace and plenty, at least enjoyable to a certain degree.
Among the pioneer improvements of McClellan Township were roads and mills. The
first roads were merely by-paths through the forests and over the prairies. As the people
increased in wealth and provided themselves with wagons and teams, roads became
necessary, and were made by cutting out the timber along these trails where they passed
through the forests. At first and for a number of years there were no bridges over the
streams, but as 'the people could afford it, bridges were built and travel thus rendered
more safe. There are now some three or four substantial bridges spanning the streams
in the township.
One of the first mills was a little horsemill built by Jonathan Wells, which had a
capacity of only a few bushels of corn per day. Prior to this.some of the early settlers
used to go to the Ohio River near Barker's Ferry to mill. A. number of neighbors would
join together, and with teams and pack horses take the corn of the neighborhood and
get meal in return. It took about three weeks to make a trip, and while they were
gone the men who were left in the settlements would visit every family daily to see
that they were not molested by Indians or wild beasts. This means of procuring the
"staff of life" was resorted to until mills at home rendered it no longer uecessary. A saw
mill was started in the township a few years ago, and sawed up considerable of the timber,
which was used mostly by the people on their farms.
John Lee put up a distillery in 1866, which he used exclusively in distilling fruit.
It closed business in 1878, and. to the credit of the township be it said, it is the
only enterprise of the kind ever within its limits.
To educate the masses is the grand aim of this great country of ours. That every child
shall have a chance to obtain an education is the great object of our excellent common
school system, and the times are near at hand when every child will not only have a chance,
but will be compelled to attend school. Many of the States are passing compulsory
educational laws, and soon these laws will be enforced. This is as it should be, for, while
education leads to enlightenment and prosperity, ignorance is a direct road to crime
and all sorts of lawlessness.
The people of McClellan Township took an early interest in educating their children.
When the settlements were still very sparse, schools were established. These were rude,
when compared to our present system, but they were better than no schools at all. The
first teacher, or one of the first to wield the birch in this section was Judge Baugh He
taught in a small log cabin on J. W. Lee's farm. It was of small round logs, about 18x20 feet
in dimensions, and had been built by the Christian Church for a temple of worship in
1837. A second schoolhonse was built on Silas Rogers' place very early. At present
there are six schoolhouses in the township, conveniently located, comfortable in
arrangement and well furnished. They are located respectively on Sections 1, 8, 14,
17. 24 and 20. In these, schools are maintained each year for the usual terms.
There are not many church buildings in the township, but it does not follow that the
people are not religiously inclined. Several of the schoolhouses are used for church and
Sunday school purposes The first church edifice erected was the one already referred
to as having been used for school purposes. It was, as already stated, erected by the
Christian denomination, and among the early members were John Lee and wife. Rev.
William Chaffin and family they were from an adjoining township and John Scott and
family, from what is now Dodds Township. The Christians now have a church in Wolf
Prairie a frame building about 40x60 feet. Services are held in it every Sunday, either
by the Christians, Baptists, Methodists or Universalists. A Sunday school is carried
on, which is attended and supported by all denominations.
John A Merrill was a clerical fraud in the early days of the township. He came
into the community early and represented himself as a Baptist preacher. He stopped
at Isaac Hicks', and held meetings in the neighborhood for several days. While this
was going on, he stole Hicks' books, passed several dollars of counterfeit money, and.
instead of making himself the exemplary shepherd of a flock, he turned out to be one
of the very blackest sheep.
McClellan Township is thoroughly an agricultural region. The people are beginning
to pay some attention to stock and to fruit It was for many years that sheep could not
be raised on account of the wolves, and even now the worthless dogs of the county
prey on them nearly as fatally as the wolves used to do. The early settlers invented
many devices for ridding themselves of the wolves that infested the country in
the early days, and trapping wolves and wolf hunts were among the most exciting
sports of the pioneer. After a premium was offered for wolf scalps, the animals began to
disappear rapidly. As the dangers from them were lessened, farmers paid more
attention to sheep raising. Were they to carry it still further, it would be so much the better
for them. There is but little question that Southern Illinois is better adapted to
sheep than wheat raising. The sooner the farmers here turn their attention to stock and
fruit, tho more remunerative they will find their farms.
As a matter of some interest to our readers, we append a list of township officers
since township organization, which took place in 1869. The first officers, however,
were elected the next year. The list is as follows:
Supervisors.óW. A. Davis, 1870; D. C. Jones, 1871 to 1873; L. Allen, 1874;
S. Ford, 1875; S. Allen, 1876 to 1878; W. A. Davis, 1879-80: D. C. Jones, 1881;
W. A. Davis, 1882; and E. Collins, 1883.
Town Clerk.óW. A. Davis, 1872-73; J.M. Hays, 1874-75; D. Millner, 1876;
R. A. Dale, 1877; T. B. Ford, 1878-79; R. A. Dale. 1880-81; J. M. Hays, 1882;
and R. A. Dale, 1883.
Assessors.óJ. W. Bradly. 1872; J. P. Downer, 1873; W. A. Davis, 1874;
J. W. Robinson, 1875; J. M. Hays, 1876; V. G. Rosenberger, 1877;
G. W. Bodine, 1878; J. M.Hays, 1879-80; J. M. Davis, 1881;
G. W. Bodine, 1882; J. M. Hays, 1883.
Collectors.óJ. E. Farthing, 1872; J. C. Quinn. 1873: V. G. Rosenberger, 1874
to 1876; G. W. Bodine, 1877; G. W. Dickerson, 187S: G.W. Bodine, 1879;
A. Barrister, 1880: G. W. Bodine. 1881: J. E. Gilbert, 1882; J. W. Davis. 1883.
School Treasurers.óJ. W. Maytield. 1872 to 1878; Thomas Gray, 1879;
J. W. Mayneld. 1880 to 1883.
Highway Commissioners. óBenjamin Parsley, 1872; Samuel Lacy, 1873;
S. E. Gilbert. 1874: J. E. Farthing, 1875: Samuel Lacy, 1876; H McLaughlin, 1877;
J. D. Quinn. 1878: J. M. Rutherford, 1879; S. Ford, 1880: J. M. Hicks, 1881; E. Collins,
1882; and G. A. Lambert, 1883.
Justices of the Peace.óJohn W. Hagle and S. Reeves. 1870: Peter A. Bean and
S. Reeves. 1872; E. W. Gilbert and D. S. Gray, 1874 to 1870: W. A. Davis and D. S. Gray,
1877 to 1880; J. M. Rutherford and W, A. Davis, 1881 to 1883.
McClellan Township is without villages, towns, manufactories or railroads. Its
shipping point is Mount Vernon, which is but a mile or two from the northeast
corner of the township, and by hauling to that city railroad facilities can be
obtained for all the best markets of the country. To sum it up, the farmers of
McClellan Township have a prosperous future before them, and they only
need to be true to themselves and to guard their interests faithfully to reap a golden
harvest at no distant period. They have good lands and valuable farms, and must
sooner or later attain all else that is desirable, if they only work to their own
advantage. To this end, then, they should look more to stock-raising and fruit
growing and less to grain.
Source: The History of Jefferson County, Illinois
by William Henry Perrin
Published by Globe Pub. Co. in 1883)
Submitted By: Cindy Ford