HISTORY
OF
MENARD & MASON COUNTIES, ILLINOIS
1879

Chicago: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street
Chicago

EARLY SETTLEMENT

Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.

Page 376

Few, indeed, in the county antedate the first settlements made within the limits of this precinct. An apparent mist of doubt appears to gather about the answer to the question, "Who was the first settler in Sandridge?" Jesse Armstrong, William Sampson and Royal Potter were the first to make permanent settlements, but just which of these three pioneers was first on the ground is a matter not very readily determined. All were in the precinct in 1819. If there be a preponderance of evidence in favor of either, it points more clearly to Armstrong than either of the others, and, for this reason, we are inclined to confer upon him the honor of making the first improvement. Armstrong was from Tennessee, and laid a claim in the southeastern part of this section on land now owned and occupied by Grady Rutledge. After a few years, he moved to Arkansas, and thence to Texas, where, some years later, he died. William Sampson was from Kentucky, and made an improvement not far from where John A. Clary now lives. He kept bachelor's hall for a time, but was married as early as 1821-22, to Hannah Schmick. After living and making improvements at various points in Sandridge, he finally crossed the Sangamon and settled in Greenview Precinct, where he died. Some of his immediate family are still citizens of this section. Potter was from Tennessee or Kentucky, and made an improvement on land now owned by Henry B. Shipley. This he afterward sold to Sampson and he to Reason Shipley. George and Jesse Miller were here not later than 1820, and established themselves in the northeast corner of the precinct. They kept the ferry across the river known to this day as Miller's Ferry. The town of Huron, the history of which is given in the general history of Mason County, was located at this point. Bannister Bond came from Tennessee and made an improvement on what is known as the Dolman place, in 1821. Here he lived but a short time, and next located in Clary's Grove. He finally moved to Iowa, and, at last accounts was living. If still an inhabitant of terra firma, he is not far from his centennial birthday. He was a man of powerful muscular development and great physical endurance. He would cut his timber and manufacture rails by day and then carry them upon his shoulders and make them into a fence by night. George Kirby and William Watkins became citizens the same year, Kirby came from Madison County. His father, Cyrus Kirby, was a native of Kentucky, and came to this State in 1811. The first Settlement of the family was at Clary's Grove. The exact year of removal to Sandridge we have not been able to ascertain. Watkins, who by way of distinction is known as "Fiddler Bill," acquired his citizenship by birth, and is the oldest living native-born citizen of Menard County. His finely improved farm and the large accumulation of this world's goods by which he is surrounded, afford abundant evidence that life with him has been a grand success. George Hudspeth, from Monroe County, Ala., came in 1823, and though now quite feeble, is till an honored and highly esteemed citizen of the precinct. Elias Hohimer, Reason Shipley, Jacob Short and his sons Obediah, James and Harrison, were added to the settlement during 1824. Hohimer and Shipley were from the "dark and bloody ground," and became permanent settlers of this section from the time of their first arrival. Short and sons were from Madison County, and settled in Petersburg Precinct, whence they came to this section. The elder Short died the year following his removal to this section. Of his sons, Obediah died at Nauvoo, James in Iowa, and Harrison here. Jacob Short, as were a number of the other early pioneers of this part, was a ranger in the war of 1812, and did good work in the service of his country. The year 1825 brought in a large number of settlers. John Clary, who had settled at Clary's Grove in 1819 with his sons, John A. and Hugh, still citizens of the precinct, came in at this date. William Armstrong and his brother Pleasant, Isaac Colson, William and James Rutledge, John Cameron, Charles Revis and his sons Isham and Alexander, Absalom Mounts and his son James, Robert Davis, and doubtless some others, were here before the close of 1825. The Armstrongs were from Kentucky, and had settled prior to coming to Sandridge on Indian Creek. Pleasant, who maintained a state of celibacy, died here a number of years ago. William moved to Fulton County, and is still living. Colson was from Maine, and settled in the northwest corner of the precinct. The Rutledges and Cameron were originally from South Carolina, but they lived some time in White County before coming here. Cameron was a brother-in-law to William Rutledge, and, with them, settled in the southeastern part of this section. They remained citizens till removed by death, and many of their descendants are yet to be found here. The Revises were from Tennessee. Alexander became an early citizen of Crane Creek Township; Mason County. Absalom Mounts, whose name has become inseparably connected with pioneer milling in Menard and Mason Counties, came into the precinct during the year. He finally moved to Arkansas, where he engaged in his favorite pursuit, and, during the late civil war, lost his life at the hands of federal soldiers. James Pantier and his son David M., came in the winter of 1826. The elder Pantier was a native of Kentucky, and was the second male white child born in the State, his father having accompanied Daniel Boone in his earliest adventures in hunting and warring with the savage red-skins on the "dark and bloody ground." He settled near the site of old Concord Church, purchasing a claim of William Armstrong. Here he continued to reside till near the close of his earthly career, when he made his home with his son. He died in 1859, and, with many of the other pioneer settlers, lies buried in the cemetery, on land owned by W. Goodpasture. Among the arrivals of 1827, we note the names of Thomas Dowell, John and James Yardley, Solomon Norris, James Runnels, George Bowman and John Braham. Dowell was from the South, and settled on the Sangamon bottom not far from where the village of Oakford now stands. The Yardleys and Norris soon crossed into Mason County, and a notice of their early settlement is found in the history of Crane Creek Township. James Hudspeth, Mathias Young and John B, Colson were here prior to the "deep snow." Hudspeth and Young may possibly have come as early as 1827, but Colson did not locate prior to 1829. The fall and winter succeeding the "deep snow," quite a large settlement was made in and around the site of the present town of Oakford. Julius Simmons, Legrande Winton, Amos Ogden, Isaac White, William Edwards, Alvin Smith, Matthew Lownsberry and sons Jonathan and Matthew, Jacob and Lee Brown were among the arrivals. Nearly all the early settlers before mentioned were from the South. These, however, were from the Northern and Eastern States, and the settlement made by them was termed "Yankee Settlement," by way of distinction. They were a thrifty, industrious and energetic class of citizens, and many of them acquired a competency for themselves and family. Most of them have followed the beckoning hand across the "dark waters," while a few yet linger on the shores of time. During the two decades immediately succeeding the first settlements, many were scattered here and there throughout the length and breadth of the precinct; some became permanent fixtures, while others improved a small claim, sold out at first offer, and moved farther out on the borders of civilization. As was the invariable custom, the first settlers reared their cabins in and near the timber. The rich prairie lands out of which farms could be made in a day, were left for those coming at a later date. Passing down through the years, we find the list already given increased by the names of William B. Cloe, Samuel Lownsberry, Isaac Ogden, Hayden Thomas, John Waldridge, John Kirby, Milton G Combs, James Altig, George R. Watkins, J.L. Short, James Potter and E.C. Stith. These were all here prior to 1840, and many of them settled in the prairie. Many of these yet remain citizens of the precinct, and some of the very farms on which they began life's battle forty-odd years ago. Passing now from the early settlements, we come to notice some of the inconveniences and disadvantages with which the pioneer was forced to contend.

Some one has asserted that the pioneer settlers of almost every section have been men of a roving disposition, given largely to hunting, fishing, and such like amusements, with strong aversions to agricultural pursuits. While many an old pioneer refers with a just pride to the gala days of yore, when all was "fun and frolic," when hunting and trapping was his daily occupation, we must not forget that the comfort and welfare of the family depended largely upon the skill and prowess of the huntsman. Most of the pioneers of every section are men of limited means, and, in opening up their farms, underwent many hardships. It is related of Mr. Kirby that he planted his first crop of cereals by digging up the ground with a common mattock. The "wooden mold-board plow" which merely rooted up the surface was a luxury at that period that was not within the reach of many. Farming, in those days, we are assured, was comparatively a slavish occupation, and when we take into consideration the indifferent implements with which they were compelled to labor, we can pardon much of the evident aversion of the hardy pioneers to farm labor. Reaping wheat with a sickle, threshing it with a flail, or tramping it out with horses, winnowing it with a sheet, and grinding it in a hand-mill, or, in the case of corn, beating it in a mortar, were not operations in and of themselves that were calculated to impress the early farmers with a fondness for agricultural pursuits. In those early days the women dressed almost exclusively in home-made woolens, cottons and linens of their own manufacture, and wore moccasins (when they wore anything) on their feet. Men wore leather shoes considerably, with pants of buckskin, and generally a hunting shirt. Dandies affected a blanket coat and a fox-skin cap, with the tail turned up over the top. We mention these incidents that the youth who con over these pages may understand something of the habits, customs and inconveniences to which the first settlers were subjected, and that those who read may, by comparison, more fully appreciate the grand strides that have been made in our civilization within the last half-century. While the senior members of our population, against whom we jostle in our daily walks, are, for the most part, unskilled in "Book larnin," they have a fond of wisdom gathered from experience and observation which would do credit to the head and heart of many a book-worm of the present day. They were scrupulously honest, and had not learned the "tricks of the trade." When the Rev. Thomas Plasters was called upon to recommend a horse which his son-in-law had for sale, he said to the would-be purchaser, "The horse has two pints about him that well nigh spiles him in my estimation. The first is, he is very hard to ketch, and secondly, when you have ketched him he is of no earthly account." It is needless to add that his brilliant recommendation, coming as it did from the reverend old gentleman, completely put an end to the trade.


1879 Index

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