Transcribed by: Jeanie Lowe.
The first school in the grove was taught by James Fletcher, in a little log cabin erected on the land of George Spears, about 1824-25, for school purposes. Fletcher taught a school in this cabin the first winter after it was erected, and which was the first in Clary's Grove, as noted above. He was not an efficient teacher, according to the standard rules of the present day, but we are informed the he could spell in two syllables, and read a little, by jumping over the hard words. He was the best, however, to be obtained in those early times, and with him the people were forced to be satisfied. This log cabin served the grove as a temple of learning several years, when it was burned t the ground. The people then erected a hewed -log house, which was used many years for church and school purposes. Now the precinct has some half-dozen neat frame schoolhouses, besides the elegant brick one in the village of Tallula, in which good schools are conducted by accomplished teachers for the usual period each year.
The first church organized in what is now Tallula Precinct was the Clary's Grove Baptist Church, and is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, church organization in Menard County. In regard to this venerable Church, we make the following extract from the "County Atlas," which Mr. Spears informs us is a correct as is possible to get its early history, after the lapse of so many years:
This Church was organized on the 25th of December (Christmas Day) 1824, the Ordaining Presbytery consisting of William P. Crow, William Rollin and James Bradly. The constituent members were thirteen in number, Sr., Jane Combs, Ezekiel Harrison and wife, Mr. Houghton and wife, Elijah Houghton, Catherine Houghton, Robert Conover and Hannah White. The first Pastor of this now venerable Church was Rev. Jacob Gum, with Robert Conover as Clerk of the Session. The first church-book was made of foolscap paper, and bound with pasteboard. The early meetings of the society were held, for the most part, alternately at the residences of George Spears, Sr., and Robert Conover. From a period a few years after its organization until 1845, a log schoolhouse (the one referred to above) was used by the society as a place of worship. During the year last mentioned, the society erected a substantial frame building, thirty by forty feet in dimensions, which was used as a church building until 1871. This building is thought to have cost about $2,000, and was built under the contract with W. T. Beekman, who did the principal part of the carpenter work."
After the building of the new brick church, the old frame building was sold to Mr. Bell, of the village of Tallula, who converted it into a residence. The new church will be noticed in connection with the village, as it stands within the corporate limits. The Rev. Mr. Berry was also an early preacher in this vicinity, and of the Cumberland Presbyterian faith. He lived in what is now Rock Creek Precinct, but preached in Clary's Grove occasionally.
A Christian Church was organized in the grove in October, 1834, with the following members: John Wilson, William G. White, Jane White, Jesse L. Trailor, Obedience Trailor and Lydia A. Caldwell. Services were held in private residences until 1847, when a comfortable little church was built on the farm of William Smedley. In this house they worshiped until 1864, when they sold it and erected a church in the village, as noticed in that connection.
The Methodist circuit riders used sometimes to pass this way, but seem never to have obtained a foothold, as there is no Methodist Church, nor ever has been, in the present limits of the precinct. We believe there is a society of "sanctified" Methodists, or some members of that peculiar faith, but of them we know nothing. They have no church building.
Tallula Precinct is Republican in politics; in fact it is one of the Republican strongholds. During the war, and for some time after, there were but eighteen Democratic votes in the precinct. It was, as a natural consequence, and as one would judge from the color of its political faith, loyal to the core, and furnished many soldiers to the armies of the Union. Failing, however, to get credit for all of its recruits, it was subjected to a draft before the struggle was over, though we understood that but one man was drafted, and he, with a loyal devotion to this country, furnished a substitute. In addition to the rank and file from this precinct, we have the names of the following commissioned officers: J.W. Judy, Colonel of the One Hundred and Fourteenth Illinois Infantry; R.V. Black, Captain of Company H, same regiment; J.T. Workman, Lieutenant in Company F, same regiment, and J.F. Wilson, Assistant Surgeon of the same regiment. Also, Capt. Gibson of the Sixty-first Regiment Illinois Infantry, but the letter of his company could not be obtained. The Fourteenth as well as the One Hundred and Fourteenth drew many recruits from this precinct. What the history of these regiments was during the war, it is not our purpose to give in this connection. We have not taken the trouble to look it up, but doubt not it was glorious as that of all Illinois soldiers.
This precinct originally embraced a part of Petersburg and all of Rock Creek, extending to the Sangamon River, with the voting-place at Old Salem. But the voting-place being remote from some of the inhabitants, after the laying out of Tallula, boundary lines were changed, the precinct of Rock Creek laid off, and the voting-place of this precinct established at the village of Tallula. The fact that Old Salem, the venerated spot where once lived the martyred Lincoln, was embraced in this precinct is still cherished by many of the citizens. But as Salem is more particularly referred to elsewhere, we will not dwell upon it here.
The Jacksonville Division of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, as already noted, passes through this precinct, and was completed during the war. As stated in our general county history, this road was begun under the title of the Tonica & Petersburg Railroad, but was afterward leased or bought by the Chicago & Alton Railroad Company. A full history of the railroads of the county is given under another head, and for full information on the subject the reader is referred to that chapter. This road has been of much benefit in developing this section of the county, and, during the last years of the war, much grain and forage was shipped over it to our army. In building the road, in addition to the stock voted by the county, the people individually took considerable stock, some subscribing for as much as twenty shares.