Transcribed by: Jeanie Lowe.
This ancient village of Menard County, now a pile of moldering ruins, was once the center of business for a large scope of country. Before the birth of Petersburg, it was the principal trading-point in the present limits of the county. It is, or was, situated on the "Heights of Abraham," some hundred feet or so above the level of the raging Sangamon, and about two miles from Petersburg. It was surveyed and laid out on the 13th of October 1829, by Reuben Harrison, for Rutledge & Cameron, the owners of the land. The first dwellings erected were a couple of cabins built for John Cameron and James Rutledge. The first storehouse was put up by Samuel Hill and John McNamar, in which they opened a stock of goods, probably the firs store within the present bounds of the county. The next store opened was by George Warburton, who, in a short time, removed to Petersburg, and became one of the original proprietors of that town, as noted in this history. It is said that he was man of fine business qualities, an excellent scholar, and without an enemy, except his appetite for strong drink. At Salem he sold out to two brothers named Crisman, who came from Virginia. After remaining a short time, they disposed of their possessions and moved away.
A post office was established at Salem, and was the first (or the second) in the county. John McNamar was the first Postmaster. He was succeeded by Abraham Lincoln, who held the office until his removal to Springfield. The following store is told of this pioneer office. There was a man who lived in the settlement, who was ever known to get a letter, or mail-matter of any kind, and was in the habit of coming to the office very day and, to annoy the postmaster, inquiring for letters. One day Hill and some others prepared a letter, couched in the most endearing terms, to which they appended the name of a swarthy female of "African descent," living in the neighborhood, and when he again inquired for letters, it was given him in the most matter-of-fact way. He was never known to ask for mail-matter at that office afterward.
Dr. John Allen, as noticed in the history of Petersburg, first located this place; a brother also came here with him. Dr. Allen was the first practicing physician in the village. Dr. Duncan was another of the early practitioners of this section. Joshua Miler was the first blacksmith. Edmund Greer, "learned in the law," dealt out justice to the guilty as the first magistrate, and when "law business" was at a low ebb, he filled in the time teaching school, and was the first pedagogue, as well as the first Justice of the Peace. A hotel was opened by John Kelso, and within its hospitable walls were entertained the wayfaring men who chanced to pass through the village. Rutledge & Cameron built a mill here at an early period, which was patronized by the people living within a circuit of fifty miles. This is the mill over the dam of which Abraham Lincoln piloted the flatboat, and, with a display of tact and ingenuity wholly astonishing to those who beheld the operation, relieved the boat of water by a new style of pump not much in use on board of vessels at that day. The story, however, is so familiar to the people of Menard County that we will pass over it in this chapter. The Old Salem mill was known far and near, and, as already stated, was patronized by a large district. It was a very rude affair, and stood just under the bluff upon which the town was located, and is thus described by a local writer of the period; It consisted of two or three log pens, anchored with rocks, upon which was erected a platform, where a pair of rough stones were placed, and driven by a water-wheel attached to an upright shaft." It was, however, considerably improved before Salem became extinct, and, in 1852, was purchased by Abraham Bale. He set in to repair it, but died before accomplishing his purpose. His sons finally put it in order, and one of them. T.V. Bale, still owns and operates it.
This is a synopsis of the early history of Salem, except the connection with it of Abraham Lincoln. And upon this point there has been so much written that we will not dwell upon it now. With a brief notice of him and his residence here, we will close the chapter. Mr. Lincoln was a native born Kentuckian. Stuve, in his history of Illinois, says: "Abraham Lincoln was born in La Rue (now Hardin) County, Ky., about two miles south of the village of Hodgensville, February 12, 1809. Here his father had taken up a land claim of 300 acres, rough, broken and poor, containing a fine spring, known to this day as the "Linkum Spring." Unable to pay for the unproductive land, the claim was abandoned, and the family moved from place to place in the neighborhood, being very destitute. These removals, occurring while Abraham was scarcely more than an infant, have given rise to different statements as to the exact place of his birth. It is said that in that part of Kentucky, four places now claim the honor.
"Thomas Lincoln, the father of Abraham, moved to Spencer County, Ind., in 1816. Here he remained until 1830, when he came to Illinois, and settled in Macon County, on the north fork of the Sangamon River, ten miles southwest of Decatur. In 1833, he removed to Coles County, where, years later, he died. There, in a quiet little cemetery, known as "Gordon's Graveyard," he sleeps, without stone or lettered monument to mark the spot. As appropriate in this place, we give a poem, written by a citizen of Coles County, on his death, which went the rounds of the press at the time, and appeared in several leading magazines, entitled the "Grave of the Father of Abraham Lincoln:"
"In a low sweet vale by a murmuring rill,
The pioneer's ashes are sleeping:
Where the white marble slabs so lonely and still,
In silence their vigils are keeping.
"On their sad, lonely faces are words of fame,
But one of them speak of his glory:
When the pioneer died, his age and his name,
No monument whispers the story.
"No myrtle, nor ivy, nor hyacinth blows
O'er the lonely grave, where they laid him:
No cedar, nor holly, nor almond-tree grows
Near the plebeian's grave to shade him.
"Bright evergreens wave over many a grave,
O'er some bow the sad weeping-willow:
But no willow-tree bows, nor ever-greens wave,
Where the pioneer sleeps on his pillow.
"Some are inhumed with the honors of State,
And laid beneath temples to molder;
The grave of the father of Lincon the Great,
Is known by a hillock and bowlder.
"Let him take his lone sleep, and gently rest,
With naught to disturb or awake him,
When the angels shall come to gather the blest
To Abraham's bosom they'll take him."
While engaged in writing the history of Livingston County, we met a gentleman, Hon. A.A. Burton, a native Kentuckian, who was a great admirer of Mr. Lincoln, and who was a Lincoln Elector, in Kentucky, in 1860, for the State at large, a position that at that time required considerable grit to assume. Judge Burton had a rail draped in mourning, carefully preserved in his library, to which was attached the following certificate:
Decatur, Ill., June 1, 1860
I do herby certify, that the piece of rail this day delivered to Dr. G.W. McMillan, to be by him sent to A.A. Burton, of Lancaster, Ky., is from a lot of 3,000 made by Abraham Lincoln and myself in this county, and that I have resided in this county ever since that time.
Attest: R. J. OGLESBY his X
It was on this place, settled by his father in Mason County, that Lincoln spent his first winter in Illinois, and "from this place," says Mr. Stuve, "the rails which played so important a part in the campaign of 1860, were procured." In the following spring, having attained his majority, he came to Sale, where the history of h is residence is familiar to every school-boy in Menard County. His employment as clerk, and with a partner, his succession to the business, their subsequent failure, are so well known as to require no repetition. After the failure of his firm as merchants, Lincoln turned his attention to surveying, and, as stated elsewhere in this work, surveyed much of the lands, both in Menard and Mason Counties. When the Black Hawk war broke out, in 1832, Lincoln volunteered his services, and was elected Captain of his company. The same year, after the close of the war, he became a candidate for the Legislature, and from that time, his life, until terminated by the assassin's hand, was closely intertwined with State and national history.
With the laying-out of Petersburg, the glory of "Old Salem" began to wane, and the location of the county seat at that place sealed its doom. The leading businessmen removed to the new metropolis, and Salem became another edition of Goldsmith's "Deserted Village." But little remains to designate the spot where it once stood. The mill is still there, but improved, renovated and changed, until it is a very different establishment from that which Old Salem knew, and which used to "crack corn" for the pioneers of the Sangamon bottom.
Tice's Station is on the Springfield & North Western Railroad, about four miles from Petersburg. It consists merely of a shipping-point for grain, a post office, depot and small store, together with a schoolhouse and church. The place has never been laid out as a village. It is located on the old Tice farm, and at Oak Ridge Post Office. This office was established about twenty-five years ago, with Hampton Woodruff as Postmaster. He was succeeded by Seneca Winters, and he in turn by A.W. Tice, the present incumbent, and who is a brother of Judge Tice, of Petersburg. The first and the only store at the place is kept by Mr. Tice. There is considerable grain bought here, and shipped from this little station. The present buyers are Fischer, Gault & Conover, of Petersburg and Low & Foster of Havana. A sawmill is in operation near the station, owned by Seneca Winters, a prominent businessman of the neighborhood. A large and flourishing school is located near the station. The teacher, for the present year, is Prof. W.H. Berry, formerly County Superintendent of Schools. The school has increased to such an extent that it is thought that an assistant teacher will be required for the year just beginning.
Within sight of the station is the Methodist Church, built about 1849-50, on land given for the purpose by Judge Tice. It is a frame building, and cost, perhaps, about $1,000 or $1,200. Rev. Mr. Eckman, of Athens, is the present Pastor, the Church being included within the Athens circuit. A Sunday school is maintained during the summer season, of which Senecca Winters is Superintendent. The Rev. Mr. Curry, the veteran Baptist Minister of Menard County, resides in this immediate neighborhood.