Rome Township lies in the north tier of townships in the county, northwest of Mount
Vernon, and is bounded north by Marion County, east by Field Township, south by
Shiloh, west by Grand Prairie, and is known and designated in the Congressional survey
as Township 1 south, and Range 2 east. The surface is generally level, or slightly
undulating, and divided between prairie and woodland, the latter predominating, and
covered originally with oak, hickory, walnut, sassafras. wild cherry, etc. The principal
stream is a branch of Big Muddy, which has its source in the north part of the township.
No railroads intersect it, but the country is thoroughly a farming one, and is occupied
by a set of thrifty and industrious farmers. Corn, wheat, oats, hay, etc., are the principal
crops. But little attention is paid to stock raising, except horses.
The first settlers in what is now Rome Township are supposed to have been the
Maxwells. Mr. Johnson says there were three brothers, viz., Robert, William and
Archibald Maxwell. Another authority, however, says that Robert and Archibald
were the sons of William Maxwell, and that the latter came about 1816 - 17, locating
on Section 7. He was from Bourbon County, Ky., and sold out and left here about
1824. He is described as a man somewhat wild, dissipated and reckless, and
when under the influence of whisky, a little dangerous. His boys would have
choked him to death on one occasion, for some of his devilment, but for the
interference of the neighbors. He was a good kind of man when sober, but, like
hundreds of others, even at the present day, he let whisky steal his senses and then he
was almost ungovernable. His sons, Robert and Archibald Maxwell, came soon after him,
and Robert Maxwell entered the first tract of land in Jefferson County, and paid the full
price in cash for it. He lived in Section 11, northwest of where Mr. Bruce now lives.
Archibald Maxwell died in the county, and had quite a large family; Robert had no
family but a wife. He left his property with M. D. Bruce, and went back to Kentucky
about 1848 - 50. where both he and his wife died. Mr. Bruce settled up his estate by
order of the court, and after paying Maxwell's debts, turned over the residue to the
William Goins was an early settler here, and kept a tavern, one of the first kept in
the county. Ho had a bad reputation, and was accused of being connected with
horsethieves, counterfeiters, and all sorts of lawless characters. He finally left,
for the good of the community, as detailed in a preceding chapter. His tavern
was the head - quarters of a band who committed, as was supposed, many dark
deeds. Even murders were attributed to them. But as the country settied up, a
better class of people came in, and the lawless band who frequented Goins'
tavern were cleaned out. and. like their kingbee. Goins. were forced to leave
for the good of the country.
Davis and Philip Whitesides, brotners - in law of Thomas Jordan, settled in Jordan's
Prairie very early. They were noted fighters, and considered the bullies of the
neighborhood. Billington Taylor, originally from South Carolina, was also an early
settler in this township, as well as his son - in - law, Nelson. The latter, however,
finally went to Salt Lake and joined the Mormons. A Mr. McDaniel settled in the
South end of Jordan's Prairie, and died there. Mr. M. D. Bruce came in 1835, with
his father, and were from Tennessee. The elder Bruce was known as one of the
best farmers in the county. James Lewty settled early, but sold out and went to
Texas. He afterward returned to this county and died. Arba Andrews located in
this township, and built the first horse mill in this purt of the county. Thus the
township was settled, and the wilderness reclaimed from its wild and natural
state, and converted into a tine agricultural region. But the labor required to do
this was great, and required many years to accomplish. When we consider the rude
simplicity of the times, and the few and inferior implements the people had to work
with, we find ourselves wondering that they succeeded in their great work. Their mill
facilities were meager, and as rude as the implements they had to work their farms
with. The latter consisted of bull - tongue and shovel - plows, and the old "Cary," with
the wooden mold - board These were made by Arba Andrews, who was the first black -
smith, as well as the proprietor of the first horse mill. He is said to have been quite
a "mechanical genius." He made plows and stocked them for the farmers. He
built a horse mill, the first mill in the township, an institution largely patronized for
miles around, and a great accommodation to the people. He also made all sorts of
agricultural implements, such as plows and harrows, and even essayed horse - power
threshing - machines. He put up the first steam mill in the township - but previously operated
a horse - power circular saw mill, and earlier had a wind - power mill for grinding corn,
and earlier still, a common horse mill. This steam mill stood a little south of Rome
Village, and Squire Carpenter now has the original engine in his mill. Several other
horse mills were put up in the township in early times, but the history of one is the
history of all.
The educational history of Rome is similar to that of other portions of the county.
So much has already been said upon the subject, that but little can be added here.
The first schoolhouse in the township was a log cabin. is still standing. The first
school in it was taught by Mahulda Martin, who came here with her parents from
Kentucky. Other early teachers were William Dill, S. Andrews, now a merchant in
Centralia, and C. Andrews. The township now has eight good, substantial schoolhouses,
and supports good schools.
The township is well supplied with churches, and if the people are not religious
it is their own fault. Among the churches are Pleasant Hill Baptist Church, Ebenezer
Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Methodist Episcopal Church at Rome Village.
Pleasant Hill Baptist Church was organized about 1850 - 52. and among the original mem -
bers were Freemen and Mary Walker, B. B. Harvey and wife. James Ward and wife, Levi
Williams and wife, and R. Whitlock and wife. It was formed in a log cabin, and the first
preacher was Elder James Keel, now dead. The present church was built in 1867. is a
frame 34x40 feet, and cost $1,375. It has 122 members, under the pastorate of Elder
W. W. Hay. of Mount Vernon. It has a good Sunday school, with an attendance of
eighty to ninety, of which Andrew Riley is Superintendent.
The Methodist Episcopal Church South was organized in 1863. Among the first
members were Elijah Wimberly and wife. S. W, Carpenter and family. The present
membership is about ninety, under the pastorate of Rev. C - M. Whitson. A Sunday
school is kept up, under the present superintendence of J. M. McCormick. The
church is an excellent brick edifice, built about 1865 - 66, and is 34x50 feet in
The Methodist Episcopal Church in Rome Village was built about 1867. is 36x40 feet,
and cost about $3,000. It has some fifty members, and Rev. Mr. Boyer is pastor. A
18x18 feet, on the land of M. D. Bruce, and Sunday school is maintained, of which
William Ayers is Superintendent.
Originally, this portion of the county was embraced in Grand Prairie Precinct but
when the county, in 1869, adopted township organization, it became Rome Township,
and received the name from the village. Since township organization, the following is a
complete list of township officers:
Supervisors. - G. L. Cummings. 1870: William Wood, 1871 - 72; W. A. Boggs. 1873: G.
L. Cummings, 1874; Robert White, 1875; Robert White, 1870; G. L. Cummings, 1877;
J. V. Bruce. 1878; Matthew Tilford. 1879; Matthew Tilford, 1880; Matthew Tilford,
1881; W. Snow, 1882; A. J. Riley, 1883.
Town Clerks. - J. D. R. Brown. 1870 - 73: J. M. Thompson, 1874; A. J. Riley. 1875;
A. J. Riley. l876; J. M. Thompson, 1877: A. J. Riley, 187S; W. Cobb, 1S79; J.H.
Rupe, 1880: J. H. Rupe, 1881; G. W. Lee, 1882; G. W. Lee, 1883.
Assessors. - J. V. Bruce. 1870 - 73; T. W. Self. 1874; T. W. Self, 1875; R. Casey, 1876;
J. H. Claybnrn. 1877; Matthew Tilford, 1878; B. J. Hawkins. 1879; W. Cobb, 1880;
J. 31. Thompson. 1881; R. White, 1882; M.Jennings, 1883.
Collectors. - R. White, 1872; R. F. Casey, 1873; J. D. Bruce, 1874: Matthew Tilford.
1875: J. D. Bruce. 1876; J. D. Bruce, I877; J. M. Kellogg, I878; J. N. Brown. 1879;
J. N. Brown, 1880: M. Jennings, 1881; W. Talbott 1882; F. W. Purcell, 1883.
School Treasurers. - W'. S. Hodges. 1872 - 73: B. P. Maxfield. 1874: W. P. Fizer, 1875:
W. P. Fizer. 1876: W. P. Fizer, 1877; Edwin Puffer, 1878; J. M. McConnick. 1879:
B. P. Maxtield. 1880: B. P. Maxiield. 1881; J. T. McConnell, 1882; B. P. Maxfield, 1883.
Highway Commissioners. - W. P. Fizer. J. R. Ward. J. Saunders. R Milburn, William Snow,
E. D. Puffer. Hiram Williams, R. Tate, M. D. Bruce, R. BaltzelL T. Patton, R. White.
Justices of the Peace. - R. M. Breeze, J. M. B. Gaston, William Snow, John Tilford,
W. S. Rupe, J. M. B. Gaston, J. H. Ward, J. M. B. Gaston, J. Roberts.
Constables. - F. M. Purcell, D. Copple, J. F Caldwell, S. T. Caldwell. J. N. Hawkins,
S. N - Dakes. J. N. Hawkins.
Politically, the township is pretty evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans,
while the Greenbackers hold the balance of power. In old times, this section was large -
ly Democratic. The first voting place was at James Bates house, but was afterward
moved to Rome; the vote polled was small from 130 to 140 - and the precinct was a
good deal larger in extent than Rome Township now is. The township has always been
patriotic, and turned out soldiers in the Black Hawk. Mexican and late civil war. M. D.
Bruce and S. W. Carpenter are old Black Hawk soldiers. Indians were plenty in this
section when the first whites came, and there are those living who still remember the noble
red men, and saw them often as they hunted the wild game of the woods, without the
benefit of soap and breeches. Mr. Bruce well remembers the noted chief Whitefeather.
He was a rather intelligent Indian, and spoke very good English.
Village of Rome. - Rome, not the mistress of the world, seated upon her seven hills,
but the little, unpretentious village in this township, was laid out March 14, 1849, by
Arba Andrews, and the survey made bv L. F. Casey. It is situated on the east part of the
southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 13. and comprised four blocks of
five lots each. Andrews afterward made an addition (December 15, 1857) on the west,
nearly equal in extent to the original town. The first house was put up by or for John
Bostwick for a grocery, as saloons were then called. He occupied it about three years,
and then went to Mount Vernon, and while absent from Rome John Caldwell sold goods
in his house. He afterward returned and occupied it again himself. Since his day,
Dr. Hart, Lakin & Branson, Swain, Thomas Pace. Harlow and others have used it as a
business house, but it is now the reception parlor of a stable. The next house erected
was a hotel, built by Andrew Harmon, and the third was put up by J. R. Brown, a
mechanic. William Parker was the village blacksmith. Hiram Milburn built a store -
house in 1853, and the next year built a hotel. It is related of this house, or the
frame of it. that it blew down with two men on the joists, and fell all in a pile, but no -
body was hurt. Milburn and West bought Lewty's Mill, which stood about a mile from
Rome, and movod it into the town. Isaac Pierson added a carding machine to it. James
Sursa opened a grocery store, and in 1854 - 55, Henry Blalock built, a house at the south
end of town, and opened a stock of goods, but in a few years later sold out to Dr. Jones.
A schoolhouse was built in 1854, and some years later (during the war) a church, and in
1869 the brick church was built, and thus the village became quite a moral little place.
The Doctors of Rome have been Jones, Booth, Murphy, Darter & Burns, Burns &
Ayres, Ay res & Darter, Skillings, Yonng, Nichols, Mabry, Clark, Bradford, et al.
The town was named for Rome, N. Y., and not for the capital of the Roman Empire.
Mr. Andrews, the father of the place, came from near Rome, N. Y., and named it
in honor of that place. When the post office was established at Andrews' house in
1830, it was called Jordan's Prairie Post Office. But when Rome was laid out, it
was moved to town, and it was then found that there was another Rome in the State,
and some other name must be selected. Dr. Jones, who believed in "shooting on the spot"
any man who would " haul down the American flag,"' named the post office for Gen. Dix,
the author of that patriotic injunction, and Dix Post Office it has since remained. Rome
became the voting place of Jordan's Prairie in 1852. and when the township was formed
in 1869, it remained the polling place.
Rome was incorporated in 1866, and S. W. Carpenter, Hiram Milburn, Hayworth,
J. J. Maxey and Dr. Nichols were the Trustees. An Odd Fellows Lodge was instituted
June 12, 1869, and the following were the tirst officers: James Robinson, N. G.; L.
Leffingwell, V G.; J. N. Maxey, Secretary, and C. Douchet, Treasurer. The membership
at present is twenty - three, and the officers are George Watson, N. G.; S. Davis.
V. G.; Hays, Secretary, and J. D. McMeens, Treasurer.
A Masonic lodge was organized October 4. 1874. and the first oflicers were John F.
Robb, W. It; Robert F. Casey, S. W.; G. L. Cummings, J. W.: John C. McConnell.
Treasurer; Thomas W. McNeeley, Secretary The present roll of oflicers are as follows:
R. F. Casey, Master; F. M. Purcell, Senior Warden; S. B. Bogan. Junior Warden; H. H.
Hutchison. Treasurer: G. W. Lee. Secretary, and the records show thirty - six members.
The present business of Rome is: R. F. Casey, dry goods; Dr. W. E. Bradford, drugs
and dry goods; H. Williams, groceries; S. W. Carpenter & Son. grist mill; David
Thompson, wood shop; Miller & Shinning, blacksmith shop; Rachel Bruce and
daughter, millinery store; William Kyser, furniture store; James Fields, boot and
shoe shop: one schoolhouse, in which two teachers are employed; two churches,
and Drs. Tucker, Bogan and Bradford, physicians. The town, though old in years,
has never grown to very large proportions, and never will, but it is quite a business
Source: The History of Jefferson County, Illinois
by William Henry Perrin
Published by Globe Pub. Co. in 1883)
Submitted By: Cindy Ford