HISTORY
OF
MENARD & MASON COUNTIES, ILLINOIS
1879

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

THE HISTORY OF THE PAST

Transcribed by: Ellen Booth.

Page 347

The winter of the “deep snow” {1830-31} is an era of the past that is vividly remembered by the few survivors of that gloomy period. The snow began to fall about the middle of December, continued until nearly four feet deep on a level, and remained on the ground until the following March. Much of the game in the country starved to death, and many people came near sharing the same fate. We were informed by Joseph Walker that, in his father’s family, the snow caught them without meal or flour. They had laid in their winter’s supply of meat, and this, with corn pounded into hominy, sustained them for six weeks. Their corn was standing in the field in shocks, and every day they would shovel away the snow to a shock of corn, in order to procure their supply of hominy and to feed their limited amount of stock. The sudden freeze of 1837 is another event that will be remembered by all who were of a sufficient age to note such an occurrence. It was in the month of November, and several inches of snow had already fallen. The weather had become rather warm, the snow was melting, and, aided by drizzling rain, it was a perfect mass of slush, when, without premonitions of its approach, a great “Manitoba wave” swept over the country, and apparently in the twinkling of an eye, the slush congealed, and in the language of the song of Hiawatha: “As hard as stone became the waters.”

The suffering was great. We have heard of no loss of human life in this section; but in other localities where our duties have called us, people were not so fortunate. In this “cold snap” much stock perished from the sudden change and the intensity of the cold. Another event of the past history of this part of the country was the great hailstorm of 1851. It came in the month of May, and we were informed by one old settler that they had plenty of it to cool their mint-juleps on the 4th of July. In its course, it left the trees with the appearance (in their nakedness) of midwinter, and all vegetation was literally beaten into the ground. It was destructive to stock, where exposed to its fury, and many animals, hogs particularly, were killed outright.

In further illustrations of past history, we will take a glance at the early mills of this section. James Meadows built a small grist-mill on his place {where Marbold now lives}, which was the second or third mill in the eastern part of Menard County. This was in 1831, the year following the “deep snow.” He was a millwright by trade, and built this mill himself. It was of the old-fashioned treadmill style, but was much better than pounding corn into meal in a mortar, as many an old settler can testify. It continued in active operation about eight years, when mill facilities were much improved by water-mills, and this primitive affair became obsolete. The mill at “Old Salem” received most of the patronage from this section after its erection, but even it had its inconveniences of low and high water, etc. Many people went to Springfield to mill after the erection of a steam mill at that place, and when a mill was built at Petersburg it brought accommodations to their doors.

The pedagogue and the Methodist circuit-rider were in the field in an early day. Robert Rayburn taught the first school in Irish Grove. He had taught in Kentucky before coming to this section. It was a subscription school and taught in a little log cabin in the grove, before the building of regular schoolhouses, or before the adoption of the present system of free schools. Greenview Precinct has now six schoolhouses besides the elegant building in the village. Four of these are comfortable frames, and the other two are brick. In these temples of learning, schools are conducted for the usual period each year by competent teachers. No precinct in the county pays more attention to education, nor has more extended educational facilities than Greenview.

That old Methodist pioneer, Peter Cartwright, is supposed to have preached the first sermon in Irish Grove, at an early period of the settlement, probably as early as 1830. He used to preach at the cabin of Mr. Stone, not only before the building of churches, but also before there were any schoolhouses in the neighborhoods. Many stories and anecdotes are still told of the eccentric old preacher. The following, related to us a few days ago, is characteristic of the man: He was present at the dedication of a certain Methodist Church in the county, and preached one of his peculiar sermons. At the close of it, before taking up a collection (the church was not quite paid for), he said: “The people of the country are excited over the erection of a monument to Abe Lincoln at Springfield (it was about the time that move was on foot) and are contributing liberally of their means for its completion. This is all very well; but, my friends, I am engaged in building a monument to the Lord Jesus Christ. This monument is the house in which we are assembled, and I want you to contribute enough to complete it.” Revs. Hargus and McLemore were also Methodist itinerants, and were early in the field.

Rev. John G. Burgin, of Springfield, organized the Old School Presbyterian Church in Irish Grove, about 1831-32, in a little log schoolhouse built about that time. The society thus organized is still in existence, and worships in the brick church located on Section 23, in the midst of which the early settlements were made. The present brick edifice was erected in 1865, and cost from $2,500 to $3,000. It has about one hundred members, and is under the pastoral charge of Rev. Mr. Braden. The Church supports an excellent Sunday school of which Robert Gilmer, the last survivor of the Gilmer family, is Superintendent. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church is on Section 24, about one and one-half miles from the church mentioned above, and was built about 1850, at a cost of $1,000 or $1,200, and is a neat frame edifice. It was built at a time when labor and material were as cheap as they are now. Ten or twelve years later, it would have cost nearly twice as much. It has a large congregation, of which Rev. Mr. May is Pastor; and a flourishing Sunday school is maintained during the summer season. Charles Reed is its present Superintendent.


1879 Index

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