pub Chas. C. Chapman & Co..

History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws online

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Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 17 of 79)
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To remedy our scarcity we slaughtered one of our cows, thereby
obtainina: what would subsist us till we could reach the forks of the
Sangamon, where resided Jacob Scraggs, and where we rested. The
next day we reached our destination. We were among strangers,
but they were kind, generous and hospitable. AVinter was draAving
near, and we had no shelter of any kind in which to stay, no feed
for our stock, and my wife the only person among us who had not
been sick on the road, and yet we succeeded in passing our first
winter in Illinois, as best we could, and without losing much stock.
In passing, I will note that at the time of our arrival there was in
Springfield a very low, one-story court-house, twenty feet square ;
a jail, not so large, built of round logs ; a tavern, kept by a Mr.
Price, and a store, kept by John Taylor, who was also sheriff of
the county.

The summer following much sickness prevailed, and in the fall
we lost two children, which discouraged us veiy much, — made us
home-sick, and almost induced us to return to Ohio. Hearing, how-
ever, a good account of the Mackinaw country to the north of us,
we determined to visit it ; and accordingly, accompanied by my
brothers Jesse and AValter, and AVilliam Hays, we set out on a jour-
ney to explore it. We struck the stream at Mackinaw Town, and


after visiting Deer Creek, Walnut Grove, White Oak and Stout's
Groves, our provisions failed us, and we went over to Fort Clarke (as
Peoria was then called), but on arrival found neither provisions nor
people, except Abner Eads and Jesse Ogee. But we managed to
catch some iish, and on them, with some prairie chickens Ave killed,
we subsisted until we returned to Elkhart Grove.

On our return we passed through Pleasant Grove and Delavan
Prairie. We made selections for future homes near Dillon Creek,
and the next fall, having put up cabins, we prepared to remove to
our new home, got ready, and set out. On our journey, when a
short distance from where the village of Delavan noAv stands, we
were overtaken bv a heavv thunder storm. We hurried alono- as
fast as possible until sundown, when the wind changed to the north-
west, and in fifteen minutes' time our clothes were frozen hard, our
horses mired down, and my wife and children had to get out of the
wagon into the bleak wind. Then we unloaded the wagon and moved
it out of the slough by hand, the water half-leg deep, and reloading,
hitched up the horse and moved on about a quarter of a mile fur-
ther, when the same accident occurred again. It was now quite
dark, the wind blowing, the weather freezino; cold, -wolves howlino-
in every direction. We concluded to start for the timber, which
was about three miles off; so, packing wife and children on horse-
back, w^e started against the wind : it Avas to do that or freeze on the
prairie. We were in a truly desperate condition, — no fire, and all of
us wet, cold and hungry. AYe had to have fire or perish ; so on our
arrival at the timber it devolved on me to strike a fire, for my broth-
er was so near chilled through he could do nothing, as he had been
riding and driving a four-horse team. In those days we had no
matches, and were compelled to strike a fire by a flint-lock rifle,
which was a bad job, as the whole ground was flooded and nothing
could be found dry. I at length succeeded in getting a fire, and we
piled high the wood and stood around and thawed out and dried our
clothes ; and when my wife went to look for the provisions to get
some supper, the dogs had found where it lay, and eaten it all up ;
and we went supperless to our wet beds.

The next morning we started by sunrise for the wagon. It was
frozen fast, and we had to cut it out and take it back the way it
came in. We had left our cattle on the previous night, and they
had started ofl". I took their trail and followed them several miles
when the ground became so frozen that their hoofs made no impres-


sion ; so I gave them up as lost and returned to camp. By this time
I was very hungry ; and wife, with provisions brought from the
wagon, had prepared a good meal, and we all did it ample justice, as
we had not eaten anything for nearly two days.. At the beginning
of the second day we mustered all force, determined to reach our
destination that day. When we arrived at the MackinaAV the ice
was running in large quantities, and the stream hardly fordable ; but
with much labor and difficulty we got across, and that evening ar-
rived at our cabin. There was no door or chimney to it; not a
crack stopped, and situated so the north wind came through at a
sweeping rate ; but having plenty of bed-clothes, we kept ourselves
comfortable, and opened a place in the roof to let the smoke escape,
prepared a good suppar, slept in the cabin, and felt ourselves at
home. We went to work on the cabin, and in a few days had it
warm and comfortable.

Brother Walter returned to Sangamon county for a load of corn
and meal. While he was gone it rained a great deal, and he was
twelve days in coming from Springfield. Wm. Davis came with
him with a drove of hogs. When they arrived at Mackinaw the
water overflowed the banks, so they left the team on the other side,
and with the men with them, made a raft and crossed over, and ar-
rived at home late the same night. The next morning we started
for the teams, prepared to make a raft large enough to bring across
wagon, provisions and horses. The weather was extremely cold,
and the work occupied two days. We got our wagons and pro-
visions across, but were compelled to swim the horses. Brother
John was mounted on one of them, and in plunging round in the
mud and Avater he got dismounted and thrown in the water, and
when he got out had to ride near three miles with frozen clothes on,
and almost perished ; but a good fire and hearty supper made us all
feel comfortable. But the horses had a hard time of it, as they had
to stand out in a cold wind tied with a halter all through the cold
freezing night.

So passed the winter at our cabin with wife and children. Occa-
sionally my brother was with us, but my wife never saw a white
woman from the month of December to the following March ; but
there were plenty of Indians, and they were quite troublesome, and
could not be trusted. In the month of May following (1824) I
was compelled to go to the settlements after provisions, and John
Dillon accompanied me. The night we arrived it commenced rain-


ing, and continued, so that on our return the streams had raised to
a fearful height. When we came to Salt Creek it was a sea of water
from hill to hill, and we were compelled to cross as best we could,
by ferrying our load in a small boat, and swimming our horses.
Kickapoo was in the same condition, and we crossed in a small ca-
noe, taking our wagons apart in order to get them over. The next
was Suffar Creek, where Robert Musick then lived. Here we were
one whole day in crossing. The night after we lay out on the big
prairie, without fire and but little to eat. If such toils and priva-
tions would not try men's souls, what Avould? We had no more
ferrying until we reached Mackinaw, but our team broke away, and
we had to follow them some eight miles before we overtook them.
On our return we foiuid Benj. Briggs, who was on his way to Peoria :
had been as far as Mackinaw and could not cross, and was returning.
We returned to that stream and spent a lonesome night on its banks,
and in the morning found an Indian canoe, and with its aid swam
our horses over and reached home. Brothers Walter, Absalom, and
others started for the stream and brought our wagons over.

In concluding this narrative I will speak of the other first settlers
that came to this section of country (Dillon Grove, Tazewell Co.).
In the month of March, 1824, brother Absalom moved here; soon
after John Summers, William Woodrow, and Peter Scott came and
made improvements. My brothers Jesse and Thomas came out the
fall following, and the year after my father and brother William
came, and from that time the country settled very fast with an
industrious population.


In 1824 Nathan Dillon was followed by his brothers with their
families, who settled on the creek around him. Then came George
and Isham Wright to Hittle's Grove, Esau and William OrendorflF
to Sugar Creek, Isaac Perkins, Hugh Woodrow, William Woodrow,
Samuel Woodrow, John Summers, Jacob and Jonathan Tharp, Peter
Scott and others, came into Sand Prairie in 1824. In the northern
part of the county came William Blanchard, L. Andress, Elias
Avery, John Parker, Thomas Camlin, and William Holland. Mr.
Holland came from Peoria in the spring of 1825 and located on the
site of the present city of Washington, of which he was the founder.
He was formerly from North Carolina, and was employed by the


United States Government as a blacksmith for the Indians who in-
habited this portion of our State at that time. For several years
after settlino; here Mr. Holland continued to work for the natives.
He was also a gunsmith, and as such his services were in great de-
mand by both the Avhite and red men. His was the only house, and
his the only family living in the vicinity of Washington until 1826.
At the time he came to Washington his nearest neighbor was Thos.
Camlin, who lived on Farm Creek, some three miles east of Peoria,
in Fond du Lac township. Camlin was a genial, clever pioneer, and
always ready to entertain his guests with spicy stories and thrilling
incidents of his personal adventures with the Indians, whom, he
would claim, he used to shoot at a distance of one-half to three-
quarters of a mile, — a second Daniel Boone.

Holland often visited at Camlin's, and passed many pleasant eve-
nings in his society. Had we a pioneer of this type in our midst
to-day, living as he then lived, with his experiences of frontier life,
what a curiosity he would be ! What a thrilling, blood-curdling
story would the simple narrative of his life make.


One of the earliest settlers of the county was William Davis.
He came in the year 1823 with the Dillons. He brought his family
the following year, and located on section 27, Elm Grove toAvnship.
The widow of Mr. Davis lives at the old homestead, the laud never
having been transferred since first entered by her husband. Previ-
ous to his coming to this county Mr. Davis had been in the employ
of Major Langley, who had the contract from the United States
Government to survey the southern part of the State. Mr. Davis
was a noted hunter, and with his faithful and unerring rifle supplied
the surveying party with abundance of the choicest game the coun-
try afforded.

In this connection we will relate an incident in Mr, Davis' life
worthy of commemoration. To him belongs the honor of buying
the first article of merchandise ever sold in Springfield, the State
capital. It was under the following circumstances that the purchase
was made : When the surveying party reached the site of the city
of Springfield his shoes had completely given out, leaving him bare-
foot. Some parties by. the name of Isles were putting up a place
in which to open a stock of goods at that point. The building was
made of bark and was simply intended as temporary quarters. At


Mr. Davis' solicitation they opened a box of shoes and sold him a
pair, being the first sale they had made.

Thomas Davis, a son of William Davis, and who now resides in
Tremont township, has in his possession the rifle his father carried
while connected with the surveying ex})edition. This gun was also
the property of William Davis' father, and is over one hundred
years old.


The same year that Mr. Holland came to Holland's Grove, Amasa
Stout and Matthew Stout came to Stout's Grove, and Daniel Seward,
Benjamin Briggs, Alexander McKnight, and James Scott, to Plum
Grove. Jesse, Absalom and Jacob Funk, Jacob Wilson, Jacob
Hepperly, Morgan Buckingham, Horace Crocker, Abraham Brown
and Jeiferson Huscham came and settled on the river bottom above
and opposite Fort Clarke.


Tazewell county was organized by an act of the Legislature Jan-
uarv 31st, 1827, with the following boundaries : Beginning at the
northeast corner of township twenty, north of the base line, axid
range three east of the third printnpal meridian, thence north on
said line to the north line of township twenty-eight north, thence
west to the middle of the Illinois river, thence down said river to
the north line of township twenty north, thence east to the place of

In the act organizing the county January 31, 1827, an error oc-
curred in describing the boundaries. This error was corrected by an
act re-establishing the boundaries, passed January 22, 1829..

The territory comprising the county of Tazewell formed part of
the counties at the dates named in the several subdivisions of the
State prior to the organization of the county, as follows :

1809 — At this date Illinois Territory was organized, and was
subdivided into the counties of Randolph and St. Clair. Tazewell
was included in the county of St. Clair.

1812 — Tazewell formed part of the county of Madison.

1814 — Tazewell was included in the counties of Madison and
Edwards : west of the third principal meridian in Madison, east of
the meridian in Edwards.

1816 — Tazewell was included within the boundaries of Madison


and Crawford counties : east of the meridian in Cra^vford, west in

1817 — Tazewell formed part of the eounties of Bond and Craw-
ford : west of the meridian in Bond, east in Crawford.

1819 — Tazewell was included in Clark and Bond counties: west
of the meridian in Bond, east in Clark.

1821 — Tazewell formed part of Fayette and Sangamon counties:
west of the meridian in Sangamon, east in Fayette.

1827 — Tazewell organized January 31st: boundary defective.

1829 — Tazewell boundaries defined, and error in law of 1827
corrected as above given. County originally created from territory
then comprising part of the counties of Sangamon and Fayette :
west of the third principal meridian taken from Sangamon, east of
the meridian, comprising 24 townships, taken from Fayette.

1830 — McLean county was formed by taking off the three ranges
east of the meridian and range one west of the meridian.

1839 — Logan county was created, taking off three townships on
the south.

1841 — The counties of Mason and Woodford were organized, and
Tazewell reduced to its present boundaries.

The commissioners to locate the couutv seat were Thos. M. Neale,
Wm. L. D. Ewing and Job Fletcher. They were by the act of or-
ganization required to meet on the third Monday of March, 1827,
or within five days thereafter, at the house of Wm. Orendorif, for
the purpose of locating the county seat, which, when located, was
to be called " Mackinaw." Until county buildings were erected the
courts were required to be held at the house of Wm. Orendorff.
Election for county officers at the house of said Wm. Orendorif on
the second Monday of April, 1827.

All that part of Fayette lying east and north of Tazewell was
attached to Tazewell for county purposes.

In the year 1825 the Legislature created Peoria county, and at-
tached to it for all county purposes all of the territory north of
town 20 and west of the third principal meridian, thus including all
the present county of Tazewell. Nathan Dillon, William Holland
and Joseph Smith were chosen County Commissioners for the new
county. The former two resided in this county. They held their
first meeting at Peoria March 8, 1825.

When the population of Tazewell was thought to be sufficiently
large to regularly organize, an election was held in April, 1827, and


Benjamin Briggs, George Hittle, and James Lotta were chosen
Countv Commissioners. The Commissioners at once proceeded to
hold a meeting and consummate the organization. This they did
at the house of William Orendorff, April 10, 1827. For an account
of the labors of the Commissioners we refer the reader to the follow-
ing chapter.

The county at this time was very large ; even in 1829, when a
new boundary was formed, it contained 79 townships. It has been
divided for the formation tif other counties so often that it has finally
been reduced to 19 townships.

The county was named in honor of Hon. John Tazewell, United
States Senator from the State of Virginia. There is a county in
that State which also bears the same name, these being the only two
in the United States.


One of the greatest difficulties encountered by the early settlers
was in having their milling done. By a liberal application of enter-
prise and muscle they experienced but little trouble in producing an
abundance of the cereals, but having it converted into brcadstull
was a source of much hard labor. As to the establishment of the
first mill in the county we quote from the pen of Nathan Dillon :

" Now let me tell you how we got along about mills. There were
three or four horse-mills in Sangamon, at 40 or 45 miles distance.
Sometimes we went to them ; sometimes to Southwick's, situated at
a distance of 60 miles. We did not mind the journey much, unless
the streams were swollen with rains, in which case the task of going
to mill was severe, as there were no bridges and ferries in those
days. By and by, to remedy our wants, Samuel Tutter erected a
small horse-mill in the neighborhood of Peoria ; and a few years
after William Eads put one up at Elm Grove, a public improvement
which made us feel quite rich. In those early times we took only
corn to mill, paying one-sixth or one bit per bushel for grinding.
The meal obtained was of an inferior quality when compared with
what we now have. Our millers were good, honest fellows, and the
somewhat heavy tariffs they laid on their customers not at all wrong,
for their income was small. Times are changed. The reader who
now looks at the fertile prairies of Illinois, what does he behold?
Large cities and flourishing towns. Behold the prairies, then wild
and untrodden, now covered with fine farms and dwellings ; behold


the travel of our railroads and rivers, visit our county fairs and be-
come acquainted with our intelligent farmers, and the vast and val-
uable amount of products derived from the soil they till ; behold on
every hand our numerous churches and school-houses, our court-
houses and seats of justice, spread all over the wide territory which
French, Philips and myself early governed as humble justices, and
tell me, has not the changed improvement been both great and


As related above, the first cabin built in the county was by Nathan
Dillon, on Dillon creek, Dillon township, in 1823. He moved into
this rude structure before a door or window was put in. He built
a fire in one corner and tore up the clapboard roof to make an
opening for the smoke to escape. Here Aug. 2, 1824, was born
Hannah Dillon, daughter of Nathan Dillon, the first white child born
in the county. Stephen Woodrow was the first white male child
born in the county. The first improvement introduced in the county
aside from the cabins of the pioneers, was a grist-mill erected by
William Eads and William Davis. This mill was built in 1825, in
Elm Grove township. It wa^ generally run by four horses, and
would not crack over three bushels of corn in an hour. It was
what was called in those days a " band mill." Being geared to run
by horse or cattle power, the customers, on all occasions, had to fur-
nish their own power. About the asme time Elisha Perkins erected
another band mill in the neighborhood of Circleville. Previous to
the erection of these important improvements the nearest mill was
at Elkhardt, ten miles northeast of Springfield. Perkins' mill was
afterwards stockaded and used as a fort during the Black Hawk war.

The first water grist-mill built in the county was erected on Farm
creek, in 1827, by a man named Leak. It had one run of stones.
The bolting was done by hand.

The first water mill in the southern part of the county was built
in 1831 by Summers, on Lick creek west of the town of Groveland.
It was a common hand mill run by water. It was so constructed
that it would drop but one grain at a time in the mill, thus consum-
ing much time to grind a grist. The mill was built of logs roofed
with linden bark, and was about ten feet square.

The first cotton gin in the county was built by William Eads in
connection with his grist-mill.


Theodorus Fisher built the first wooleu factory ever operated in
Tazewell county. It was built in 1832, on section 34, Elm Grove
township. It was run by ox power. An inclined wheel was used
upon which they trod to make the motion. This was an extensive
concern for the time, and settlers came from Knox, Peoria, and
Sangamon counties to get their wool carded.

The first school-house in the county was erected on section
27, Elm Grove township, in 1827. Samuel Bentley was the first

The first camp-meeting held in Tazewell county was by Petei
Cartwright, in a grove on Dillon creek, Elm Grove township, in

The first postoffice of the county was kept by Thomas Dillon,
Dillon townshi]), in 1825.

Absalom Dillon kept the first store in the county, first at Dillon
in 1826, and then at Pekin in 1830.

The first marriage celebrated in the county was that of Daniel
Dillon to Martha Alexander. The ceremony took place in Elm
Grove township, the license having been procured at Peoria.

The first marriage that occurred after the county was organized,
and the first marriage license issued, were under the following ro-
mantic circumstances: Mordecai Mobley, the first County Clerk,
happened at old Father Stout's to stay all night. Mr. Stout lived
about five miles from Mackinaw. Mr. Mobley says he noticed a
boy and girl around but thought they were brother and sister. Soon
the " old gentleman " called him aside and told him that " that ar
boy had been comin' to see his darter for a long time, and they want
to o-et married. Now," continued Mr. Stout, " we are liviii in a new
country and we don't know what's to be done, and we thinks as
how you can tell us. They have to get some kind of a permit, don't
they ? " Mr. Mobley told him they did, and that he could not only
tell them how to get married, but that he was the man to issue the
permit. This i)leased Mr. Stout, and no doubt the young cou})le
were delighted to think that the great obstacles that prevented them
from being one — for they were both willing and so were the old
folk — were about to be removed. INIr. Stout wanted the license
immediately. Accordingly, Mr. Mobley told them if they would
get him pen and ink and some paper he would write the license.
Not a sheet of blank paper could be found in the cabin. At last,
Mr. Mobley asked them if they had a book. Mr. Stout thought


they had, "as they used to have one." Finally an old book was
found which happened to have one whole unmarked fly-leaf. Being
thus provided with paper they found they had no pen. A pen was
soon made, however. Mr. Mobley told them to go and catch the
biggest chicken they had. This was done and a large feather pulled
out of its Aving and a pen made of it. Again they found themselves
in a dilemma, but out of which the ingenuity of Mr. Mobley soon
brought them. After being provided with paper and pen they were
minus ink. He, however, took some water and gunpowder and
made some writing-fluid that answered the purpose. With this ink
and pen, and upon the fly-leaf of the old book, the first marriage
license issued in Tazewell county was written.

The couple for whom such seemingly insurmountable obstacles
were overcome were John Stout and Fanny Stout. They were mar-
ried on the 25th of June, 1827, by Rev. William Brown.

The marriage of the celebrated Peter Cartwright was among the
very first to take place in Tazewell county. He was married to
Temperance Kindle, Oct. 14, 1827, by George Hittle, County Com-
missioner. His was the sixth marriage license issued after the
county's organization.

The first death of a white man occurring in the county was that
of a Mr. Killum in the month of December, 1823. He left Sugar
creek, in Logan county, to go to Peoria. Being compelled to wade

Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 17 of 79)