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settlers there sent wagons for the party; but
Captain Smith died before reaching Log City,
and was the first to be buried in the colony
cemetery. Soon after Mr. Lyman and Mr. Mills
also passed away.

Notwithstanding the difficulties, discourage-
ments, and illness, the trip had its bright side.
All were good-natured aiJd ready to help one

.'K N O X C U U N T 'i


another. On Saturday afternoons, they would
tind a good landing place and tie up the boat for
over Sunday. If near a town, they would look
up a school house and hold service in it, invit-
ing the neighboring residents to attend. There
was one object common to them all, and that
was to establish the Christian religion in the
new country, and it was this thought that made
them so companionable and gave them fortitude
to endure the hardships that accompanied their
journey of eleven weeks.

[Taken in part from an article read by Mrs.
George Avery at the semi-centennial of the Old
First Church.]


Early Knox County settlers found little diffi-
culty in traveling for want of roads. There
were no high hills, and the streams were ford-
able, during ordinary stages of the water, at
points near each other. The deepest valleys
were easily reached through the swales. The
marshy margins of streams were covered with
thick turf which, with tall grass, furnished sup-
port in crossing. When continued travel cut
this up, it was only necessary to turn to either

As settlement and travel increased, roads
were laid out, the most important of which ran
from the county seat to the principal points in
other counties. As early as 1835, Knoxville
was the center of a network of such roads;
some were laid out by commissioners appointed
by the Legislature, to be changed only by act
of Legislature, others by the County Board,
subject to alteration by the same. The roads,
as nearly as possible, ran straight to the ob-
jective point with but slight variations made
by the character of the ground, avoiding all
difficult work and respecting the property of
actual settlers, but paying little attention to
the interests of non-residents. When settle-
ment increased, the regard for occupants and
consequent following of property lines — section
and half section — the roads were less direct,
and often diverted from their original course
for the convenience of the new land-owners.
Prior to 1853, the County Commissioners (who
were, from 1849 to 1853. the County Judges)
managed the roads and bridges, giving as much
as three-fourths of their official time to this
business; for in the early days, when wagon
roads were the only means of communication,
their making was an important undertaking.
In accordance with the law of March 1, 1827, the

Commissioners divided the county into road
districts, appointing a road supervisor in each,
who reported annually to the County Court at
the December term, when they were appointed
tor the ensuing year. In 1S32, there were two
road districts, one comprising the county south
and east, the other all north and west of Spoon
River; in 1837, the number of districts was
sixteen, and by 1S19, it had reached sixty-three.

Bridges were built as soon as they could be
afforded, the first ones being constructed in
1836, one each over Pope and Court Creeks, two
over Haw Creek, and one over the Henderson,
five in all, at a total cost of $671. In 1839, the
first Spoon River bridges, one at Coleman's
Ford, Section 30 of Truro Township, and one
near Maquon, about half a mile south of the
present Maquon bridge, were contracted for and
finished by September, 1840, at a cost of a little
more than ?1,500.

Upon the adoption of township organization,
the town authorities were given control of all
the roads in Knox County, including the State
roads, excepting the streets of incorporated
cities and villages. In each township, three
highway commissioners are elected for three
year terms, one being chosen each year. They
collect and apply the land tax and a poll tax
on every voter, unless, as has generally been
done, the voters at the town meeting abolish
the poll tax. County aid is authorized under
certain conditions and has been extended to
the partial construction of bridges over large

Knox County has throughout a mellow soil
almost without gravel or sand, with little ma-
terial for road building. The conditions have
been fairly met. The difficulties, fortunately
not great when people were few, have In-
creased with the population, and as the growing
travel came to be confined to highways enclosed
by fences, the necessary bridging, grading, and
draining have increased. The roads are reg-
ularly worked, culverts are made for the sloughs,
and over the streams are good bridges, often
built with stone abutments and iron girders.
Except in the city of Galesburg, there are no
paved streets. Knox County farmers do not
favor to any great extent the "good roads
movement." They do not care "to trade their
farms for a road to town." But careful drain-
age and the judicious use of scrapers and plows
have made the roads fairly good except for a
short time in the spring and fall. These occa-
sional inconveniences are mitigated by the


splendid system of railroads spreading out from
the county seat and bringing every farm within
a short distance of the station.


This stream is said to have received its name
from the circumstance that a party of spoi'ts-
men, in the early days, lost their spoons while
fishing on its waters, near the present site of
London Mills.

It enters Knox County from Peoria County,
near the northern line of Section 12, in Truro
Township, and leaves it at about the central
part of Section 34, in Chestnut, after winding
more than forty miles through Truro, Haw
Creek, Maquon, and Chestnut townships, and
for a little way on the edge of Elba and Persifer
townships. It is by far the largest stream in
the county, four-fifths of which it drains. Once
it was thought possible to make it a navigable
stream, but the decadence of river traffic stopped
effort in that direction. It is a tributary of the


Besides Spoon River, only two streams in
Knox County are of sufficient size to merit any
detailed description— Pope and Cedar Creeks.
The others are small tributaries of these, or of
the Henderson, a river rising in Henderson
Township and flowing into the Mississippi, but
becoming important only in counties west of

Cedar Creek flows for a few miles through
Sections 30 and 31 of Indian Point. It is a
tributary of Spoon River, and nearly as large
as the Spoon, at their junction a little way
south of London Mills, in Fulton County. It is
sometimes called the South Fork of Spoon, and
is formed by the union, in Warren County, of
several smaller streams. It drains a little of
Galesburg and Chestnut Townships, and most
of Cedar and Indian Point. "Rock House," a
peculiar rock formation on Cedar Creek, in
Warren County, is a favorite picnic ground for
many Knox County people.

Pope Creek rises in Ontario and flows west to
the Mississippi, into which it empties near
Keithsburg, leaving Knox in Section 6 of Rio.
It drains about half of the township last named
and a little more than half of Ontario.

Among the more important of the minor
streams is Cedar Fork, running in a westerly
course through Galesburg Township and unit-
ing with the Henderson in Warren County.
Court CreeK rises near the east line of Knox

Township and flows east about twenty miles to
join Spoon River in Persifer, just below
Dahinda. The two branches of Haw Creek rise,
one near Knoxville and one in the northwestern
part of Haw Creek. They unite near the south-
western corner of Orange, and then flow nearly
due south, emptying into the Spoon in Section
24 of Chestnut

Brush Creek, the largest branch of Haw Creek,
rises in Section 34 of Galesburg, and after
draining a little more than the eastern half of
Cedar, the western half of Orange and north-
western quarter of Chestnut, joins Haw Creek
near the line between Sections 1 and 2 of Chest-
nut. Willow (Litter's) Creek runs west through
Salem and Maquon, emptying into Spoon River,
on Section 25 of Chestnut. French Creek rises
in Peoria County, drains the greater part of
Elba, and parts of Haw Creek and Salem Town-
ships, and empties into the Spoon on Section 20
of Maquon. Walnut Creek is formed by the
union, in Walnut Grove, of several small
streams. It drains all of Lynn and Walnut
Grove and part of Ontario, Sparta, Copley and
Victoria, and joins Spoon River in Peoria
County. The Kickapoo i^ a small tributary of
the Illinois River, and flows about five miles
to the southwestern portion of Salem.

This attractive body of water lies about two
miles east of Galesburg, and the first house upon
its banks was built about fifteen years ago by
George W. Brown. It is three-fourths of a mile
long with a width of from ten to thirty rods.
It is fed by springs and its greatest depth is
about twenty feet. A driveway runs around
it, and there is a pleasant park here. A little
steamer carries passengers on it, and row boats
are kept for hire. There is also a natatorium,
and the street cars from Galesburg run close
by. It is a favorite resort for Galesburgers.
Soangetaha, the society club of Galesburg, has
its house, open only to members, on the north-
west side of the lake, and the clubhouse has
been the rendezvous for most delightful picnic
and dancing parties.

Of mining and building stone there is but little
in the county. From Section 16, in Township 11
North, Range 2 East, a fairly good quality of
sandstone has been obtained and there is also
found there a conglomerate stone, that has
been largely used in laying foundations through-


out the county. In some places, noticeably just
south of Yates City, the limestone ledge lies
just above a coal vein. A quarry in Section G
has been worked for commerce. It is from one
to four feet thiclt, and yields a fairly good
building stone.

There is accessible coal in nearly every town-
ship in the county. In the northeastern and
southeastern portions, vein No. G is the surface
vein. It is of good quality, and four and one-
half feet thicli. The other veins range from
two and one-half to five feet in thickness. In
Henderson and Rio Townships, the surface vein
is extensively worked. .\11 the coal veins in
the county have been located save the opening
of No. 5 and, perhaps, of No. 1. There are,
however, comparatively few extensive mining
operations conducted, owing to the fact that in
most instances the mines are remote from the
railroads. Consequently there is not enough
coal mined in the whole of Knox County to
meet the needs of the larger towns, which are
in no small measure supplied from mines in
neighboring counties, where better railroml
facilities afford cheaper transportation to
market. The time is coming, however, when
the large resources of this county will prove
valuable. The ease with which coal can be pro-
cured by the farming community from the
numerous small local handlers, at low cost,
forms one of the most promising features in the
present outlook.

The following list shows the estimated orig-
inal coal acreage of the county: Rio, 4,000:
Sparta, 6,000: Walnut Grove, 2,000; Truro.
2,000; Henderson. 6.000; Knox, 2,000; Copley,
7,000; Elba, 1,000; Cedar, 2,000; Orange, 2,000;
Maquon. 6,000; Salem, 1,000; Indian Point,
2,000; Chestnut. 2,000; Victoria, 7,000. Total
acreage, 52,000.

There is also some coal obtainable in tho
other townships.

More or less limestone was formerly burned
on Section 24 of Township 12 North, Range 2
East, but the industry is now dead.

To a limited extent, brick were made in Knox
(bounty at an early date. They were certainly
made in Rio Township as early as 1836. but
there could have been only a small demand, for
few homes could boast of a chimney or hearth
of better material than clay. The available
materials were not good; and as the yellow
clay underlying the prairie surface soil, or ex-

posed in broken tiniljcr laud, was used, the
product was from very poor to barely fair.

In 1S67-8, Joseph Stafford and his friends
found in the upper Court Ci-eek valley, on the
west line of Knox Township, a large exposure
of shale, which seemed to be a good material
for roofing, when mixed with tar. A not very
successful attempt was made to bring it into
extensive use for that purpose, but in working
it, it proved to be well suited for the making
of drain tile. With further treatment, an ex-
cellent quality of building brick was made, but
difTiculties were met in its profitable use for
that purpose, and its proper adaptation was
ultimately found in the production of paving

There was some demand in Galesburg for
I his commodity, and soon its value came to be
known in other localities. A gradually growing
market was found, notwithstanding that the
works were experimental and the facilities for
tiansportation were not the best, the works
being nearly three miles from a railroad. The
construction of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa
Fe liua through Court Creek valley was
promptly followed by a branch from the Chi-
cago, Burlington and Quincy road, and ship-
ment of the product was rendered far easier.

With the improvement in transportation
facilities new companies were formed anrl
large additional works constructed, whose
product, being found unexcelled by that of any
other locality, and equalled by the output of
only a few, soon gained a wide and extensive

Brick were made in Uniontown, Salem Town-
ship, in 1841, where the industry was continued
for ten or fifteen years. Very early, also, they
were manufactured in Knoxville. Galesburg and
l)erhaps at other points.

The first biick made from shale, the old
yards using potter's or prairie clay, were made
in the Court Creek valley by the Galesburg
Pressed Brick and Tile Company in 1883.

In 1875, F. P. Folz and C. Piester started a
tile and brick works about two miles west of
the city of Abingdon, using potter's clay. In
1884. Reed, Duffield and Sons established a plant
which was cnnvtited into a paving brick
manufactory by Frank Latimer, in 1885. An
excellent quality of shale is found just north
of the city, at a depth of about fifty feet. In
1892, the business was put in the hands of a
stock company— the Abingdon Paving Brick and
Tile Company— which now continues it.



In recent years brick making has become one
of the great industries of Knox County. In
several places, notably in the Court Creek val-
ley, a peculiar shale is found, which makes a
most excellent quality of paving brick; so good,
in fact, that "Galesburg Brick" are now the
standard mentioned in paving contracts west
of Indiana. This shale is a fine-grained, slaty
rock, somewhat resembling soap stone, and it is
chiefly (almost exclusively) used for the manu-
facture of paving brick, for which it has been
found best adapted. The brick are generally
large, measuring two and five-eighths or three
inches, as this size seems most desirable for

It is impossible to determine the precise extent
«f the shale beds. They are found near
Abingdon, Knoxville and Wataga; but the larg-
est deposits are in Knox Township, along Court
Creek. The so-called Galesburg Brick are made
in the valley of this creek by four Galesburg
companies. The Galesburg Brick and Terra-
Cotta Company, the Purington Paving Brick
Company, the Galesburg Paving Brick Com-
pany, and the Galesburg Vitrified Brick Com-
pany. These four factories have a total capacity
of 450,000 to 500,000 brick per day. The last
named has its plant in Sparta Township, near
Wataga, the other three being located in Knox
Township, near Randal! ; but all are in the
valley of Court Creek or its branches. The
pioneer concern in this locality was the Gales-
burg Pressed Brick and Tile Company, which
was incorporated April 4, 1883. It had a capacity
of about 45,000 brick per day. For a number of
years it was successful, but finally met with
reverses, and was closed in 1894.

The Purington Paving Brick Company was
incorporated May 15, 1890, for the manufacture
of paving brick. The organization of this con-
cern was primarily due to the perseverance of
Asa A. Matteson, who had great faith in the
superiority of the deposit of shale in Court
Creek valley. Mr. D. V. Purington, who had
for many years been one of the largest manu-
facturers of brick in the United States, becoming
acquainted with Mr. Matteson, joined with him;
the result being the formation of a company,
with a capital stock of $200,000. The first offi-
cers were D. V. Purington, President; W. S.
Purington, Vice-President and General Man-
ager; Asa A. Matteson. Secretary and Treasurer.
The officers and stockholders of the company
caught the fever of enlargement, and a new
corporation, called the St. Louis Paving Brick

Company, was organized in January, 189.3, the
stockholders of which were largely those of the
Purington company. When it was completed a
consolidation of the two was effected, with a
capital of $500,000. The works of the present
corporation are the largest in the United States.
Its plant covers seventy-five acres, gives em-
ployment to three hundred and fifty men and
has a capacity of 300.000 brick per day.

The Galesburg Vitrified Brick Company was
organized in 1891, and has a capacity of 25,000
to 40,000 brick per day.

In the process of manufacture the shale is
first ground and then thoroughly mixed with
water. It is then pressed by machinery into the
desired shape, and the green brick, thus made,
are dried for a certain length of time in drying
houses, heated by hot air. They are next put in
kilns and burned until vitrification takes place.
They are then impervious to moisture and with-
stand any degree of heat or cold without crack-
ing, which is the feature which renders them
so durable for pavement.

Brick were made at Knoxville from prairie
clay at a very early day. The present plant
has been in existence for many years, and for a
short time paving brick were made. The works


It is only just to Knox County that we should
perpetuate in history the fact that it furnished
the first steel plow in America. This inven-
tion alone increased the material wealth of the
Mississippi Valley many millions of dollars an-
nually; for the same steam power can now do
the work better in one day than in two prior
to 1842, the year the steam plow was invented.
Before that time, except along some water
courses and strips of sandy soil, all plowmen
had to stop about every ten rods and scrape
the dirt oft" the moldboard.

Mr. Harvey Henry May, the inventor of this
valuable agricultural implement, was horn in
Washington County, New York, and moved
with his family to Galesburg, Knox County, Illi-
nois, in 1837, thus becoming identified with the
interests and advancement of the town from its
earliest settlement. Almost immediately on his
arrival in the West, he commenced experiments
in making a plow that would scour bright in
the prairie soil, and after many disappoint-
ments he finally discovered that plow shares of
fine steel, instead of cast or wrought iron,
would adequately answer this purpose. Mr. May

K x

Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 131 of 207)