Considerable settlements were made in other parts of old Sangamon County before any were made in the limits of what is now Menard. The reader will bear in mind that this county had no existence till 1839, hence the history of the early settlement and development of the county is connected with the history of Sangamon.
Although the white man had frequently visited the "Sangamon country," as it was called, and had traveled over the beautiful prairies, and explored the deep woods of this locality, yet we have no evidence that any one ever settled in the area of the county prior to April, 1819. The first settler, according to the best evidence we have, was Mr. John Clary, who came with his family at the date just named. He settled in a grove in the southwestern part of the county, n ear the present site of the village of Tallula. This grove was ever after known by the name of its first settler, and is today noticed on the maps and known far and near as Clary's Grove. Mr. Clary settled on the southwest quarter of Section 32, Town 18, Range 7, the land being now owned by George Spears, R. Mr. Clary built what was known to the pioneer settlers as a "three-faced camp," this is, he erected three walls, leaving one entire side open. These walls were built about seven feet high, when poles were laid across at a distance of about three feet apart, and on these a roof of clapboards was laid, and these boards were held on by weight-poles laid on them. These boards were some four feet in length, and from eight inches to a foot wide, and were split out of oak timber with an instrument called a froe. No floor was laid in the camp, nor was there any such thing as a window or chimney connected with the structure; neither would you see such thing as a door-shutter in all this edifice. Now, these are facts, and we doubt not that the young men, who are now growing up, wonder what the people did for light, and where their fires were built, as well as how they found ingress and egress. The one side of the structure that was left out answered all these purposes. Just in front of the open side was built a large log heap, which served to give warmth in the cold weather, and for cooking purposes all the year round. Abundance of light was admitted by this aperture, while on either side of the fire were ample passage-ways for passing in and out. We describe this camp thus particularly, because in such as this the early settlers spent the first few years of their sojourn in the new country. Mr. Clary had a family when he first came.
Judge Robert Clary, recently deceased, was six weeks old when t he family settled in the grove. The large and respectable family of Clarys, now living in the county, are the descendants of this pioneer. Not long after Clary settled in the grove, Mr. Solomon Pratt, with his family, took up t heir residence in a cabin on Section 3, Town 17, Range 7, this being in the vicinity of Mr. Clary. During the fall of 1819 and the spring of 1820, emigration came in pretty rapidly, and, there being no record kept of the order in which they came, and the names of some being forgotten, it is impossible to get the detail correct. About this time, the Armstrongs, Greens and Spears came, a more detailed account of whose settlement will be given in another place.
It was before stated that the first settlement in the county was in Clary's Grove; this we believe is true; however, there is a great diversity of opinion on this subject among the oldest citizens now living. Amberry Rankin, of Athens, is of the opinion that Judge Latham was the first white man to take up his abode in the limits of the county; and it is a known fact that Sugar Grove, in the northeast part of the county, was settled very soon after Clary's Grove, if not at the very same time. From a document left by Charles Montgomery, deceased, and from the statement of Alexander Meadows, now living in Greenview, we learn some important facts. These statements are fully reliable, as the gentlemen named were members of the first party that settled on the east side of the Sangamon River.
Jacob Boyer and James Meadows, who were brothers-in-law, came to Sugar Grove, from the American bottom, in the spring of 1819. They had lived a year or two on Wood River, in the American bottom, two and a half miles from Alton meadows, brought one wagon drawn by two horses, and, in addition, one milk cow, a yoke of yearling steers, that had been broken to work when suckling claves, and some thirty head of hogs. Boyer brought three horses, two milk cows, and perhaps a yoke of oxen. About the same day that Boyer and Meadows came, the Blane family, consisting of four brothers, one sister and the mother, came to the same grove. This family was of Irish blood, and it was from them that the "Irish Grove," in the east part of the county, received its name. The Blanes brought two two-horse teams and six or seven yoke of oxen. Boyer and Meadows erected a cabin on the south side of the grove, which was occupied by Boyer, and Meadows put up a "three-faced camp" on the ground now occupied by the "Sugar Grove Cemetery." Before the Blanes settled there, they had been camped for a few days in the "Irish Grove," as it had since been called; it is therefore very probable that they were camped in the county when Clary settled at Clary's Grove.
The Blanes also "took claims," erected cabins and began business in earnest. These were the first settlers on the east side of the Sangamon River.
Before giving an account of the future settlement of Sugar Grove, it may not be amiss to relate an incident in the early history of this settlement, illustrating the fact that human nature is ever the same, and that even in this early day men had need of civil courts. It will be necessary to explain that although the trouble began when but few families had settled there, it was some time before it culminated in a lawsuit, as there were no courts of justice in reach till some time later.
As stated above, Meadows brought two horses, thirty head of hogs and two yearling calves with him to the grove. Not many months elapsed until both the horses were missing, and the hogs were all strayed away and lost. Not a great while after these misfortunes, one of the little oxen was found dead in the woods. Diligent search was made in every direction for the missing stock, as they could not be replaced without great trouble and expense, owing to the distance from any other settlement. In his anxiety, Mr. M. applied to a fortune-teller, who strolled through the new settlement, practicing his art, as the ancient troubadour used to stroll from village to village, to rehearse the deeds of his heroes. This seer told Mr. Meadows that the horses were in the possession of the Indians, and that he would recover them after awhile, though but one at a time. Sure enough, the horses were found in the hands of the Indians, who said they had traded for them from a Frenchman. The horses were so jaded that they were of no service, and soon after died. The hogs, he was told, had gone down the Sangamon River, where one-half of them had been eaten by a "squatter," and the rest he would recover. Meadows followed the directions given, found the cabin of the suspected settler, but found none of the hogs. He, however, traded for a frying-pan from the worthy citizens, the one, he supposed, in which his hogs had been fried; but the remainder of the hogs were found as had been predicted. The fortune-teller further said that the ox came to its death at the hands of one of Mr. M.'s neighbors, in the following manner: The neighbor was making rails in the timber, his coat lying on a log near by, when the poor calf came browins along, and, spying the coat, he determined to make a meal of it. The laborer, seeing his coat about to be swallowed, ran and stuck the brute on the loins with his maul, and the blow proved sufficient to kill it on the spot.
Although this was only the statement of a superstitious fortune-teller, yet it was believed strongly enough to induce Mr. Meadows to begin a suit against the accused party, which was in the courts for several years, cost a vast sum of money, and created a feud between two families, which lasted to the second generation. This is spoken of as the first lawsuit of any importance in the county; and also as illustrating a superstitious belief in fortune-tellers that at the time was almost universal.
Not long after the settlement of Boyer, the Blanes and Meadows, another caravan of immigrants came to the grove. John Jennison, Mr. Hill, William McNabb, his wife, son and daughter were of his company. James McNab, son of William, above named, was surveyor, and taught the first school in the grove. A few years later, he was drowned in trying to swim the Sangamon River with his compass tied on his head. It is said that he had been drinking or he would not have made the attempt. A few months after the arrival of those last named, others came, among them Roland Grant and family. Benjamin Wilcox and Ward Benson. About the same time, a Mr. Pentecost came from Kentucky, bringing his family of four sons and three daughters. He settled near the present residence of Judge Marbold, near Greenview. Cavanis, for whom Cavanis Creek, running near Greenview, was named, came about this time. He also was from Kentucky. The next to find their way to this grove was a company from Deer Creek, Ohio: it was composed of the Alkires and William Engle. No party of weary travelers ever entered a new country that was destined to exert a stronger influence on the future growth and prosperity of community that this little band. Leonard Alkire brought considerable means with him, and invested it largely in "claims," which he afterward entered. He purchased the claims of Meadows, Grant, Wilcox, and the Blanes. This was the beginning of a change among the early settlers of this grove. Hill, who was spoken of above, moved to St. Louis. John Jennison, farmed a year or two in the grove and then removed to Baker's Prairie, three miles southeast of Petersburg. Meadows moved to the lower end of the grove, and bought the claim of Pentecost. McNabb and Wilcox also moved to Baker's Prairie, where they took claims, which they entered as soon as the land came into market. There they reared families, and many of their descendents are still in the vicinity. Not long after the arrival of Alkire and Engle, Matthew Bracken came with a large family; after him came Nicholas Propst; then Wall and William Sweeney, Milt Reed, Thomas and William Caldwell. From this time the tide of immigration constantly grew deeper and wider, pouring in a host of earnest, industrious and enterprising men to develop this most highly favored body of country.
While the settlement was being made, of course other localities were not neglected. It is rather a remarkable fact, however, that no settlers were found on the prairie for several years, but each grove of timber contained a settlement, and was the nucleus of a community. Of the more important of these, we will speak farther in the proper place. It may be of interest to the reader to know that the first marriage on the east side of the river was John Jennison to Patsy McNabb; the second was one Henman to Rosina Blane; and the third, William Engle to Melissa Alkire. The last-named couple were married by Harry Riggin, J.P.
The first death was an infant son of Jacob Boyer named Henderson. The second was James Blane, and the third was Joseph Kinney, who was thrown from a horse. He was brought home but soon died. Some say that he was the second person who died in the grove, and the first adult buried in the burying ground; but Charles Montgomery, in a statement written some years before his death, says that James Blane was the second, and Kinney the third who died. Kinney was buried in Sugar Grove Cemetery, and an elm came up immediately out of his grave, and it is now a large, wide spreading tree; and although its roots and stem have obliterated all signs of a grave, yet it is a verdant monument to the memory of Joseph Kinney.
The first schoolhouse was built in Sugar Grove in 1822, by Meadows, Boyer, Wilcox, McNabb and Grant. It was constructed of split logs, and was about sixteen feet square. This house was furnished on a par with all the schoolhouses in the early settling of the country. Covered with boards held in their places by "weight poles," the floor of "puncheons" made of split logs, the seats the half of a log 10 or 12 feet long, with four pins set in with a large auger for legs, a log left out along one side for a window, beneath which a slab was laid on two large pins in a slanting position to serve as a writing-desk. The text-books were few in number, and the teacher made all the pens of goosequills. The books used were the New Testament for a reader, with occasionally a copy of the old "English Reader," Pike's or Smiley's Arithmetic, but few of the pupils ever advanced farther than the Single or Double Rule of Three (i.e., single or double portion), geography was seldom studied, and English grammar was totally unknown in the schools here for several years. Uncle Minter Graham, who has taught school longer than any other man in Central Illinois, perhaps, tells an amusing anecdote about teaching grammar in an early day here, and he vouches for the truth of the statement, as it came under his own personal knowledge. A certain teacher, whose aspirations were considerably in advance of his acquirements, felt himself called upon to teach English grammar. He accordingly organized a class in that science, and very kindly assisted them in preparing the first lesson, which was the four general divisions of grammar; these he pronounced for them, with a gusto, as follows: Ortho-graph-y, Et-y-mo-lo-gy, Swine-tax and Pro-so-dy. The text-books used when grammar began to be taught in the schools, were Murray's and Kirkham's Grammars. The above books, with Webster's old Speller, or the Elementary, and a "horn-book" - a wooden paddle with the alphabet pasted on it - for the little fellows, were the entire outfit of school-books. The schools at this time were all on the subscription plan, which is fully explained under the head of Education in this volume, and seldom were for a longer term than three months, and that in the middle of the winter. James McNabb, who, as the reader will remember, was drowned in the Sangamon River, was the first teacher in Sugar Grove; he was followed by Daniel McCall, and soon by others. Perhaps, on Templeman was the third teacher in this settlement. The first preaching in Sugar Grove was in the cabin of Roland Grant, by on Henderson, a preacher of the "New-Light" faith, as it was then termed. The New Lights and the followers of Alexander Campbell afterward united, forming what was at first denominated the Church of the Disciples, but afterward changed to the Church of Christ, sometimes called Campbellites. Of this a more extended account will be given under "Religious Denominations."
When the settlement was first begun at Sugar Grove, and for some time after, the nearest physician was in Springfield, then a mere village. Dr. Allen of that city was the first practitioner of the healing art that was called to visit the community at the grove. Not a great while elapsed, however, till Dr. Winn settled near Indian Point, and began the practice of medicine.
Having thus glanced hastily a the early history of Sugar Grove, we turn now to other localities, where settlements were made in an early day, as New Salem, two and one-half miles from Petersburg, up the river; the vicinity of Indian Point, the Concord neighborhood, three miles north of Petersburg. The Indian Point settlement includes that of Lebanon and Athens, while that of New Salem is associated with that of Rock Creek. These, with Clary's and Sugar Groves, before mentioned, were the more important of the early centers of civilization; indeed, all the others may be regarded as offshoots of these. About 1820, the settlement of Indian Point began. The first settler was Robert White, who settled on the farm on which his son Franklin now lives, adjoining the ground on which Lebanon Cumberland Presbyterian Church now stands. With him came James Williams - father of Col. John Williams - and family, consisting of two sons and four daughters. Archibald Kincaid, Jacob Johnston and Dr. Charles Winn came about the same time, with those named above, and, soon after, John Moore also settled in this vicinity. William B. Short was also among the earliest settlers in this part of the county. These were all intelligent, earnest, enterprising people, and by their industry and economy laid the foundation of the wealth and development of that part of the county. The descendants of those named above make up a larger part of the population of Indian Creek neighborhood at the present time. Indeed, we are not surprised at this, when we reflect that these people held in high regard the Divine command, to "multiply and replenish the earth," as is proven from the fact that James B. Short ventured no less than five times into the bonds of matrimony. About 1820, Joseph Smith, from Kentucky, and his brother-in-law, William Holland, from Ohio, came and settled in the south side of Indian Point timber. Matthew Rogers, of Otsego County, N.Y., came the same year and settled one mile northeast of the present site of Athens. From this time the stream of emigration grew deeper and wider, and the numbers were such that but little can be given of the order of their arrival. Having thus sketched these three centers of early settlements, viz., Clary's Grove, Sugar Grove and Indian Point, we will now turn to the most important locality, so far as early settlement is concerned, in the county: we refer to "New Salem." This was the first town or village laid out in the county. At a point some two and a half miles above Petersburg, the Sangamon River washes the foot of a high hill or bluff, whose precipitous sides and level summit were, at an early day, covered with a thrifty growth of forest trees. The country, back from the crest of the hill, is almost perfectly level for miles to the west. The timber continued back from the river in a dense forest, for the distance of half a mile. From this the prairie continued in unbroken sameness for many a mile. At a distance of perhaps three miles farther up the Sangamon, the little stream - for it is hardly worthy the name of a creek - of Rock Creek, mingles its waters with those of the "St. Gamo," as the Sangamon was sometimes called by the early settlers. Rock Creek, rising in the western part of the county and flowing almost due east, enters the Sangamon at almost right angles. It borders on either side were covered with a fine growth of timber, making a body of, perhaps, a mile in average width, and five or six in length. The land on both north and south of this stream was neither flat nor broken, but gently undulating and of the richest and most productive soil. Taken altogether, there is no more attractive or more productive section of country in Central Illinois than Rock Creek and New Salem. Just on the brow of the bluff, above described, in years long gone by, was situated the village of Salem. This locality, though not so at present, will in time become almost as historic as Mt. Vernon itself. Although Nature has not been so profuse in the gorgeousness of the scenery here as in that of the Old Dominion, nor is the quiet Sangamon to be compared with the majestic Potomac, yet, in many respects, Salem is as sacred t the lover of human liberty as Mt. Vernon in all her historic glory. Many a visitor seeks the spot where President Abraham Lincoln spent the years of his early manhood; where he studied the law, wrestled, foot-raced, romped and sported with the young men of his age, and where those principles were imbibed and matured, which, in after years, made him the idol of a great mass of the American people, and wrote his name in tablets more enduring than granite, brass or bronze-but they are ever disappointed at finding no vestige of the village of Salem. At the foot of the bluff, just at the brink of the water, stands an old water-mill, a broken dam stretches across the stream, and through its countless chinks and crevices that water murmurs, making sad music to the seeming desolation, which seems to reign all around, for there is not a building of any kind, save the old mill, nearer than a fourth of a mile to the old town site. Settlements had been made in t his vicinity several years before the laying-out of Salem. Green had settled southwest of there, Potter, Jones, Armstrong and others settling near there, with Lloyd and others farther up the Rock Creek timber. Somewhere about 1824 to 1826, John Cameron and James Rutledge erected a rude and primitive mill near the site, perhaps on the very spot, of the present mill. Two or three log pens were built and filled with stone to prevent their being washed away by high waters; upon these was erected a platform, and shaft attached to a rude breast-wheel gave motion to a small pain of "home-made" buhrs on the platform. Notwithstanding the extreme simplicity of this mill, it was a "big thing" in that early day, for m ills were so scarce, as we shall see in another place, that people came from a distance of fifty and even one hundred miles in every direction, to have their grain ground in this mill. Such was the patronage given to this enterprise, that the proprietors determined to lay out a town adjoining the mill property. Accordingly the surveyor, Reuben Harrison, was employed, and on the 13th day of October 1820, the town of Salem was duly and legally laid out. The first improvements in the town were made by the proprietors, John Cameron and James Rutledge. Each of those gentlemen at once began to improve a lot by erecting a log cabin.
We may here remark that the town was destined to a short life, for in less than a decade it had run its course; but the cabin of John Cameron long remained as a monument to the memory of Salem. Until a few months ago, it stood in desolate solitude, but lately it has fallen down and has been removed, and there is nothing now to mark the locality of this first town in the limits of Menard County, save the scattered debris, barely indicating that buildings of some character once stood there.
The third building erected was a store-room, which, when completed, was occupied by Samuel Hill and John McNamar. These were probably the first merchants in the county, except Harry Riggin and A.A. Rankin, of Athens.
At the time that Salem was laid out, there had never been a post office in the limits of what is now Menard County, the people getting what little mail matter they received from Springfield, then a mere village. A post office was established at Salem, and Col. Rogers was appointed the first Postmaster. His duties, however, were not very arduous, as newspapers were then scarcely known in the West, or in the East, for that matter, and but a few persons were ever in receipt of a letter. The youth of to-day can scarcely imagine how people lived in those days. To illustrate this postal system, it may be stated that, while Illinois County was under the government of Virginia, Col. John Todd was appointed Lieutenant Commandant of said county, with instructions to report to Gov. Patrick Henry, of Virginia, each month, and, although Todd lived in Fayette County, KY., yet his reports were often one month in reaching Gov. Henry.
Hill and McNamaar were followed in the mercantile business by one, George Warburton, who soon became addicted to hard drink, and ended a wretched existence by committing suicide by throwing himself into the Sangamon River. Warburton was a shrewd businessman, possessing a fine education, and of a genial, friendly turn, so much so that he had but one enemy, and that was alcohol.
Warburton was succeeded in t he store by two brothers from Virginia, by the name of Chrisman, who remained a short time, and followed the "start of empire." Going Westward.
About this time, W.G. Green, from Kentucky, and Dr. John Allen and brother, from the Green Mountain State, came to Salem. Dr. Allen was a thorough Christian gentleman, and stood very high in the medical profession. It was through the influence of Dr. Allen that the first Sunday school and first temperance society were formed. The meetings of both these were held in a log cabin south of Salem, across the ravine that ran just at the south limit of the village. Dr. Allen died in Petersburg some seventeen to twenty years ago, and his brothers, after remaining here a number of years, removed to Minnesota, and at last accounts were in the lumber regions, running factories, stores, banks and mills, giving employment to three or four hundred men. Dr. Duncan came some time after Dr. Allen, and after a few years removed to Warsaw, Ill., where he built up a flourishing practice.
In the summer or early fall of 1831, Abraham Lincoln came to Salem, on his return from a trip with a flat-boat to New Orleans. This was his first visit directly to the village, although he had passed down the Sangamon River early in the preceding spring. And here we cannot refrain from relating an anecdote often repeated by the old citizens, illustrative of the peculiarities of this eccentric though celebrated statesman. The story is told of Lincoln's boring a hole in the bottom of a sunken flat-boat, in order to set her afloat by letting the water run out of the hole, and it is literally true. It happened as follows: Before Mr. Lincoln's father left Indiana for Macon Co., Ill., the youthful Abraham had made a successful flat-boat trip to New Orleans, via the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Some time after their settlement near the Sangamon, in Macon County, a gentleman came to the younger Lincoln, desiring him to assist in running a flat-boat to New Orleans, the gentleman having heard of the Mr. Lincoln's success in a former trip. A bargain was soon made, and soon the boat was partially loaded with salt pork in barrels, and a small number of live hogs, the supercargo intending to complete the burden by the purchase of more live hogs on their way. All went well and "merry as a marriage bell" till the craft reached the dam erected across the river at Salem, by Cameron & Rutledge. Here they were doomed to trouble, for, coming to the dam with speed accelerated by the draw of the fall to such a degree that the boat, striking prow first, ran far enough upon the dam to extend the prow several feet over. This, of course, elevated the forward part of the boat, and the result was, the water came over the stern till that part of the boat settled to the bottom. In this dilemma, the owner of the flat proposed to get the freight ashore as best they could, and abandon the boat. No so with Lincoln. A canoe was secured and the freight principally removed to a place of safety. Lincoln then said that he would get an auger and bore a hole in the bottom of the boat and thus set her afloat. Some smiled incredulously, some laughed outright, while all thought it the act of a dolt. Nevertheless, an auger was procured, a hole was bored in the bottom of the boat near the bow where it projected over the dam. The bow was then lowered, when of course, the water in the stern ran to the front, and, as the bow extended over the dam, it ran out, and, in a very short time - a pin being driven into the hold - the boat was again afloat. By a little care, the "flat" was gotten safely over the dam, reloaded, and they pursued their course down the river. It was on this trip, some four or five miles below the present site of Petersburg, that, they having bought a lot of hogs, which refused to go on the boat, Mr. Lincoln convinced the novel idea of sewing up their eyes. A needle and thread was procured, and the eyes of the stubborn porkers duly stitched up, when, being unable to see, they quietly and calmly marched on the boat, when the stitches were cut, and the swine restored to sight. Having completed the cargo, they reached their destination without accident, and Mr. Offutt, having purchased a stock of goods, he determined to ship them to Beardstown, and thence remove them by wagon to Salem, where he intended to open a store. He also engaged the young boatman, Lincoln, to serve him in the capacity of clerk in the store. It was on the return from this trip that Abraham Lincoln made his first appearance on the streets of the village of "new Salem." The writer is aware that it is claimed by some that Lincoln had resided in Salem prior to this visit to New Orleans; but after a careful examination of all the testimony, he is fully convinced that this visit, in autum, 1831, was Lincoln's first residence in Salem, and, in fact, his first knowledge of it, except that he passed down the river early in the preceding spring.
The goods having come, Lincoln was soon duly established in the Salem store as clerk. It may not be amiss, in this connection, to state that the chare has often been made that Lincoln "kept a saloon" while in Salem. Now, while the writer was never a political admirer of Mr. Lincoln, yet truth and justice demand that this matter be stated correctly; and, after diligent search and inquiry, he is obliged to state it is as his deliberate conviction that this was, indeed, a store in which dry goods and groceries were kept. It is a truth, however, that in that early day, perhaps nearly all the stores kept liquor to sell by the pint, quart and gallon. In the joint discussion between Lincoln and Douglas, in 1858, Mr. Douglas sneeringly spoke of Lincoln having engaged in "keeping a grocery." In reply, Lincoln said Mr. D. was "woefully at fault," for he had never kept a grocery, anywhere in the world."
Offutt's mercantile business soon increased to that extent, that he found it necessary to engage another clerk; William G. Greene, now one of the wealthiest farmers of Menard County, was engaged for this position. Here Lincoln and Greene formed a friendship that lasted long as life.
In the fall of 1831, Mr. Lincoln was appointed Postmaster at Salem, which position he held several years.
In the summer of 1832, the Black Hawk war began, and Gov. Reynolds issuing a call for volunteers, a company of 100 men was soon raised in the section of country around Salem. Mr. Lincoln went in as a private soldier, but, soon after the company was organized, it became necessary to elect a captain. Mr. Lincoln and one Kirkpatrick were the aspirants, the former being chosen by a large majority. The company reported at once at Beardstown, whence they marched to Oquawka. The soldiers soon became dissatisfied, as they had no opportunity to engage the Indians; and, in some regiments, the dissatisfaction ran so high, that two or three times it threatened to break out in open mutiny. At the end of the time for which Lincoln's company had enlisted, they were honorably discharged and returned to their homes. Mr. Lincoln re-enlisted in another command and remained till the total defeat of Black Hawk and the ratification of peace. Mr. L. then returned to Salem, where he continued the study of law in the idle moments snatched between waiting upon customers I the store. This study had been begun soon after his first settlement in Salem, and, though his opportunities were of the very poorest, yet, during his stay in Salem, he laid the deep and wide foundation of his future brilliant career in the legal profession. Mr. Lincoln was doubtless born to be a leader. He was possessed of all those peculiar gifts and traits which caused him to be looked up to for counsel and direction, even when a mere youth. During his stay at Salem, especially the first few years of it, t here was a kind of feud or rivalry between the "Clary's Grove boys" and the "River timber boys." Perhaps, in the entire State there was not a harder set to be found than those Clary's Grove lads, for there was no rowdyism or revelry in a circuit of twenty miles that they were not in some way connected with. Occasionally they would repair in force to Salem to drink their grog and settle old scores. On such occasions, I the early stage of their reels - that which may be termed the social and friendly state - they talked, laughed, told yarns, cracked jokes, wrestled and ran foot-races; during this stage, Lincoln was always umpire, arbiter and judge, all having the most implicit confidence in his honor and ability. During the second, or combative stage, when the fiery juice of the grain or fruit, had worked its way into their noddles, and made each one consider himself a hero, the war began in earnest. And then, such scenes of fisticuff and ground tussle were scarcely ever seen. Lincoln was still arbiter, and his decision was the end of all dispute. When the third or stupid stage came on, the boys from the Grove - often with battered pates and depleted pockets, wended their sullen way back to the timber, to bind up their bruises and condole with one another over the cruel fate that ever awaited them at Salem. Lincoln soon became Surveyor, and in the discharge of the duties of his office, he visited every part of the county, for by him the land of the entire county was surveyed. Almost his last work as Surveyor was laying out the present town of Petersburg.
Some time near the time of the Black Hawk war, Mr. Lincoln, for the first time, was pierced with the cruel darts of the little blind god Cupid. The "beautiful Anna Rutledge," as she was called, was then just ripening into lovely and perfect womanhood, and he felt the force, as Lytton says, of "the revolution that turns us all topsy-turvy - the revolution of love," for "Love, like death, Levels all ranks, and lays the shepherd's crook Beside the scepter."
From the few old settlers who could remember these scenes distinctly, we have gleaned some facts concerning this event in the life of Mr.Lincoln - an event which affected his whole after-life. Anna Rutledge was not a beauty in the modern sense of the word; for, brought up in this rural district, and in total ignorance of the conventional follies of fashionable life; accustomed from early childhood to cut-door exercise, and the rough, wild pastimes of the day in which she lived - she was stamped with a beauty entirely free from art or human skill - a beauty all the result of Nature's handiwork. That the young clerk was captivated is not surprising. It is not our purpose to invade these hallowed precincts by detailing their many strolls along the margin of the river, or over the rugged bluffs in the vicinity of Salem. Suffice it to say that his affection was fully reciprocated, and the two were doubtless pledged in the indissoluble bonds of love. But in 1835, disease laid its cruel hand upon the young girl, and, in spite of the love of friends, and the skill of the ablest physicians, on the 25th of August 1835, death came to her relief, and, as Mr. Herndon expresses it, "The heart of Lincoln was buried in the coffin of Anna Rutledge." Be this literally true or not, one this is sure, from that time a dark shadow seemed to be cast over him, from which he never fully emerged. It is said by those having the means of knowing, that ever after this, whenever an opportunity offered, Lincoln would wander alone to the little hillock raised above her ashes, and sit and ponder in sadness, doubtless living over in memory the happy hours spent at Salem. Notwithstanding his tall, ungainly form, and the readiness of his humor, there was hid in his breast a heart as tender and full of sympathy as a woman's - a heart touched by every tale of sorrow, and full to overflowing with the milk of human kindness.
Before the close of the first decade after Salem was laid out, the citizens of the village were all scattered and gone. John McNamar settled four miles north of Petersburg, in Sand Ridge Precinct, where he reared a respectable family. He was respected in the community where he lived. He died on the old homestead, on the 22nd of February 1879, at the ripe age of seventy-eight years. Mr. Hill, partner of Mr. McNamar, was the last to leave Salem; he afterward became a prominent merchant and manufacturer in Petersburg. Had we space, we would be glad to detail the entire history of this little town, giving an account of each citizen. We can, however, mention in passing a few more characters, as Jonathan Dunn, the millwright; Henry Onstott, cooper; Edmund Grier, Justice of the Peace and school-teacher; Minter Graham, who still lingers on these "mortal shores," living at present in Petersburg, the man who, perhaps, has taught school a greater number of months than any other man in Illinois. He has taught constantly over fifty years, having taught over one hundred terms of from three to nine months in length. When Lincoln first came to Salem, Mr. Graham gave him instructions in English grammar, when Mr. L. had leisure from his duties in the store. "Uncle Minter," as he is familiarly known, taught the first school in Salem.
We would mention John Herndon, who was for awhile a merchant there, and who accidentally killed his wife while taking a loaded gun from the loft of his dwelling: John H. Kelso, tavern-keeper; Martin Waddel, hatter; William Berry, Reuben Radford, Allen Richardson, and several others whose names have escaped the memory of the few remaining citizens who knew the village in the days of its prosperity.
Of the company of Capt. Lincoln in the Black Hawk war, but few still survive. We can only learn of a few individuals who are still living here or elsewhere. Of these are Hon. W.G. Greene, David Pantier, Samuel Tibbs, Travis Elmore, Sr., and Royal Clary, the latter recently deceased.
Speaking of the Black Hawk troubles brings to mind an anecdote so characteristic of Lincoln, that we beg the reader's indulgence while we relate it. In 1848, while Mr. Lincoln was in Congress, the Democrats were striving hard to make a military hero of Hon. Lewis Cass, of Michigan, in order to increase his chances for the presidency of the United States, and Mr. Lincoln, in a speech in Congress, thus playfully referred to the fact:
By the way, Mr. Speaker, did you know I am a military hero? Yes, sir, in the days of the Black Hawk war I fought, bled and - came away. Speaking of Gen. Cass's career reminds me of my own. I was not at Stillman's defeat, but I was about as near it as Cass was to Hull's surrender, and, like him, I saw the place very soon afterward. It is quite certain I did not break my sword, for I had none to break, but I bent a musket pretty badly on one occasion. If Cass broke his sword, the idea is, he did it in desperation; but I bent the musket by accident. If Gen. Cass went in advance of me in picking wortleberries, I guess I surpassed him in charges upon the wild onions. If he saw any live, fighting Indians, it was more than I did, but I had a good many bloody struggles with the mosquitoes; and, although I never fainted from loss of blood, I can truly say I was often very hungry.
Mr. Speaker, if I should ever conclude to doff whatever our Democratic friends may suppose there is of black-cockade Federalism about me, and thereupon they should take me up as their candidate for the Presidency, I protest they shall not make fun of me as they have of Gen. Cass, by attempting to write me into a military hero.
The reader will pardon this rather lengthy account of the settlement and subsequent history of Salem, but, as Lincoln's early history is so interwoven with this community, it seems that loyalty to truth demands this account. And, while we are not giving a history of "Honest Old Abe," and while the writer was never a political admirer of him, yet, history demands the statement of a few other facts regarding him.
In 1834, when he was elected to the Legislature, he walked to the seat of government, and one suit of home-spun jeans was his outfit for the entire session. At present, it takes three or four "Saratogas" to carry the wardrobe of the average legislator. An appropriation is now made of $50 per member, to pay for stationery; but, at the session of the Legislature of Illinois, in 1817-1818, a committee was appointed to contract for stationery for the members during the session. The committee reported that they had purchased the necessary amount at a total cost of $13.50!
Lincoln was popular with all classes. At one time, his compass and chain were sold for debts, and were bought by Mr. James Short, who at once handed them over to Mr. Lincoln, who gladly accepted them, remarking, "I'll do as much for you some day." Firm and true to his word, after he became President of the United States, he did repay it, by tendering Mr. Short and appointment to a lucrative office.
As an illustration of the popularity of Lincoln, it may be stated that when Clay and Jackson ran for the Presidency, Mr. Lincoln was of course a Clay man being a life-long Whig. That year his friends brought him out for the Legislature. The whole Whig ticket was of course defeated, but in his own precinct, out of 284 votes polled, he received 277.
Such is a brief account of the settlement of Salem, rendered historic by being the home of Abraham Lincoln.
The next center of the early settlements in the limits of the county, aside from those we have named, is Concord, four miles north of Petersburg. An account of the early settlers in that community will be found given tin the history of Sand Ridge Precinct. The early settlements were all made in the timber, and it was many years before the prairies were cultivated to any extent, and settlements were not made on the larger prairies till a comparatively recent date. It is an amusing fact that the early settlers, instead of opening their farms in the prairies, ready cleared by the hand of nature, and ready for the plow, would "squat" in the heart of the most dense forest, and by the most tedious and laborious process would "grub out" a farm. The first settlers in Clary's Grove opened fields of from twelve to thirty acres in this way, cutting down and burning up the most valuable timber in large amounts. The result of this was to settle up the timber along the streams, and the groves, long before the country was generally covered with improvements. The reader will thus understand us, when we speak of the nuclei of early settlements. Clary's Grove, Rock Creek and the river timber on the west side of the river, and Sugar Grove, Indian Point, Athens and the river timber on the east, were thus the localities were the firs settlements were made. Gradually the settlements extended farther and farther into the prairies, till at present all the land of the county is under fence, and nearly all in cultivation.