William Henry Perrin.

History of Jefferson County, Illinois online

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shells — were the pioneers of religion. But
here the Methodists got the start. We have
said elsewhere that Jefferson County was a
stronghold of Democracy; it was also a
stronghold of Methodism. Several of the
very earliest settlers were not only Method-
ists, but were Methodist preachers. Among
these were Zadok Casey, Edward Maxey and
Lewis Johnson. John Johnson, another
pioneer preacher, came in later. As pioneers,
these men are noticed in other chapters.
They were the old-time ministers we have
already described, plain and unvarnished, and
preached the Word of God, not for "the
world's di-oss," but from a sincere conviction
of riffht and a desire to benefit their fellow-
men. Next to the Methodists, the Baptists
were the strongest in numbers and earliest in
settlement. Elder Harris was one of their
early preachers. The first sermon preached
in the county is said to have been delivered
by Zadok Casey. It was preached in the fall
of 1817, in a house that had been just
erected by Isaac Hicks, and we have the au-
thority of Johnson, the historian, for stating
that every man, woman and child then within
the present limits of Jefferson County was pres ■
ent. The first house iised for church purposes
was the one already mentioned as the one in •
which Joel Pace taught the first school. It
■ was used until the fall of 1820, when it was
destroyed by tire.

In the spring of 1819, or thereabouts, the
first religious oi-ganization in the county was
effected. It was at a meeting held at Edward
Maxey's cabin, and the society thus formed
comprised Edward Maxey and wife, William
Maxey and wife, Burchett Maxey and wife,
Fleming Greenwood and wife, James Davis
and wife and Zadok Casey. In the fall of
1820, a house was built at Union, and in the
fall of 1821, that at Shiloh. These were
used both for school and church purposes.



We cannot, however, go into details of or-
ganization of the different churcheH in this
chapter, but in the history of the towsnhips
shall devote considerable space to each of

Rev. John Johnson. — A more fitting con-
clusion, perhaps, could not be given to this
chapter than to append a sketch of the Rev.
John Johnson. No minister of his day stood
higher in Southern Illinois. Rev. G. W.
Robbins, who preached his funeral sermon,
only -ipoke the unanimous verdict of all who
knew him best, when he said " John Johnson
was no ordinary man." He was born in
Louisa County, Va., Januaiy 7, 1783. Born
in poverty, he was left an orphan when less
than two months old, and sank to the ex-
tremes of poverty more trying still. When
her sons had grown to manhood and had
gained sufficient wealth to own a cart and
yoke of rattle, the mother moved to Sumner
County, Tenn. There Mr. Johnson, slender
and feeble in his youth, lived to the age of
twenty-eight, developing a strength of frame
that would be deemed almost gigantic at the
present day. With increasing strength, there
came a desire for improvement. By the help
of a slave, he learned the alphabet, and by
the help of a piece of an old song book, con-
taining songs he knew by heart, he learned
to read. He was converted, and felt himself
called to preach before he could yet read so
as to be understood. By the light of pine-
knots, lie studied at night, after his hard
day's work was over, and on Sundays, at
some little cabin on the hillside, he would
proclaim the Gospel, with little of man's
learning but with a pathos and a power that
always carried the hearts of his rustic hear-
ers by storm. He applied for admission into
the old Western Conference, but even that
primitive body, looking at his uncouth garb
and listening to his stammering e£fort to

read, rejected his application and kindly ad-
vised him to abandon his design of trying to
preach. He was not humbled by this — he
was as humble as man could be before. He
returned to his home, his studies and his toil.
The next year, the Conference admitted him
on trial, but seemed curious to see how 'much
hardship he could bear. They sent him to
the Sandy River, where climbing mountains
and swimming unbridged streams was his
daily work. Two hundred times he had to
swim in the course of the year. He then
traveled two years in diiferent parts of Ohio
— then the frontier — and was next sent to
Natchez, in Mississippi, a jpoint it required
1,500 miles' travel by the zigzag routes to
reach, most of this distance being by paths
and trails, 600 miles of it through the " In-
dian nations."

We have not space to follow Mr. Johnson
through his various experiences of trial and
toil. August 10, 1814, he married Miss
Susannah Brooks, who showed herself a
worthy helper for such a man, and who still
lives, one of the most aged and venerable of
the few survivors of her generation in Jeffer-
son County. Without a trace of ambition or
a suspicion of self-seeking, but by the over-
powering weight of mind and character alone,
Mr. Johnson rapidly made his way to the
very front. In the palmiest days of the
Kentucky Conference, when it contained
many such men as Peter Cartwright, Peter
Akers, Thomas A. Morris, Jonathan Stamper
and Henry B. Bascom, it was asserted by a
writer of that day that " Bro. Johnson was
the most poj)ular and effective preacher in
the State." An evidence of his standing is
found in the fact that, in 1822, when the con-
ference sat at Bells' Camp Ground, near
Lexington, Mr. Johnson was unanimously
chosen to preach the funeral of that great
and saintly man, Valentine Cook, to one of



the largest and most august assemblies that
had ever met in Kentucky. After filling
nearly all the most important positions, hav-
ing been stationed at Nashville, Maysville,
Louisville, Hopkinsville and other points,
and Presiding Elder for several years on the
Hopkinsville District, Gum River District,
etc., he located and came to Mount Vernon
in 1834:, and here, on the 8th day of April,
1858, he passed away.

In person, Mr. Johnson was of medium
height — about five feet eleven inches — his
weight 170 to 180 pounds, complexion dark,
hair black as the raven. His movements
seemed slow, but, he pushed forward what
ever work he had to do with an energy that
never tired. In his labors, whether on the
circuit or the farm, he seemed incapable of
fatigue and had physical strength sufiicieut
for all demands. But with all his rugged
vigor he had a heart as tender as a woman's,
and a sympathy that extended even to the
insect under his feet. He had a voice of
most unusual power. Even when speaking
in tones so loud that he could be heard two
miles away, he seemed to speak with ease,
and his voice never lost that peculiar quality
that melted the hearts of all who heard. His
profound learning and his masterlj' intellect
commanded the respect of all; but it was
more, perhaps, by the tenderness and inten-
sity of his emotions that he swayed the mul-
titudes. Yet his discourses were short, sel-
dom over twenty or thirty minutes. A camp
meeting was once held near his home; he
returned fi-om a business trip on Satm-day
evening; the meeting was dragging on,
heavy and cold; he jsreached on Sunday, at
11 o'clock, and it was as if a cyclone had
struck the congregation, carrying saint and
sinner alike before it. The uproar after ho
closed lasted longer than the sermon. One

evening in Hopkinsville, the sexton was ab-
sent with the church key, and Mr. Johnson
talked a few moments to the group that was
shut out, and when he closed, all were in
tear.s, and they went shouting along down
the streets in every direction. Perhaps there
never was a man who could open a shorter
way to the heart. At a love- feast at old
Union, he once spoke not more than half-a-
dozen words, but everybody's cup seemed to
run over at once, for a general shout was the
result. He was not fond of debate, but
when it was forced upon him showed him-
self a David ready for any Goliath he might
meet.. While stationed at Nashville, Tenn.,
the Methodist Episcopal Church was as-
sailed, and defiance thrown out by a Mr.
Vardiman, distinguished alike for polished
manners, learning and skill as a debater.
Mr. Johnson accepted his challenge. When
the appointed day came, Johnson walked
humbly in, alone, and soon Vardiman strode
in, with Felix Grundy on one arm and An-
drew Jackson on the other. The contest was
to last three days. On the second morning
Vardiman failed to appear, and he never was
seen in Nashville again. It may be that there
was what some ministers term a divine power
about his ministry; for he was one of the
most fully consecrated of men, and there was
a solemn gravity about the man such as is
very rarely seen. It may have been this that
made a certain man declare that it "made
the cold chills run over him to see Mr. John-
son walk down the aisle to the pulpit." It
is, no doubt, largely owing to his influence
that the Methodist Church has grown from
D. Baugh and wife, the only members at the
time he came, to 400 members now. His
remains, with those of his youngest son, who
died in 1853, repose in Salem Cemetery.





The people of Southern Illinois generally

" Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,

Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bowed the woods beneath their sturdy
stroke." — Oray.

THE advantages of science, a superior
soil and the use of machinery will al-
ways render agriculture the most attractive,
manly and profitable branch of industry in
which the people can engage, contributing,
more than any other pursuit to individual
comfort, and proportionally adding to the
prosperity of the country. The cultivation
of the soil, in all ages, has furnished employ-
ment for the largest and best portion of man-
kind; yet the honor to which they are en-
titled has never been fully acknowledged.
Though their occupation is the basis of na-
tional prosperity, and upon its progress,
more than any other branch of industry, de-
pends the march of civilization, yet its his-
tory remains, to a great extent, unvirritten.
Historians duly chronicle the feats of the
warrior who ravages the earth and beggars its
inhabitants, but leaves unnoticed the labors
of him who causes the desolated country to
bloom again, and heals, with the balm of
plenty, the miseries of war. When due worth
is recognized, instead of the mad ambition
which subjugates nations to acquire power,
the heroism which subdues the soil and feeds
the world will be the theme of the poet's
song and the orator's eloquence.

« By W. H. Perriu.

have not fully comprehended the natm-al ad-
vantages of their soil, and its agricultural
advantages. Hence, they have worked in the
dark, so to speak, for many years, and the
development of the country, as a conse-
quence, has fallen behind what was its just
due. The farmer will take his place among
the best and noblest of the earth, only when
he forces his way there by the superior in-
telligence, culture and elegance, with which
such a mode of life is capable of surrounding
itself. Each branch of the science of prop-
erly cultivating the earth is dignified and
ennobling, if the farmer himself will exert
his abilities to make it so. It is worthy of
the devotion of the greatest intellects, and
offers a field for the finest powers of the best
endowed of mankind. A great need of the
times is to make rural life so attractive, and
pecuniary profit in it so possible, as to hold
the boys and young men on the farm, that,
not by mistaken ideas of gentility, of ease
of life and opportunities for winning
fame, so large a percentage of them may be
drawn into the so-called learned professions
or into trade. With proper surroundings,
education and administration of the econ-
omies of the farm, with a sufficient under-
standing of the opportunities for a high
order of intellectital and social accomplish-
ment in the rural life of the coiintry, this
need not and would not be so. A bright.



high-spirted boy is not afraid of labor, but
he despises drudgery, ile will work hard to
accomplish a liue end, when the mind and
heart both work together with the muscles;
but he will escape from dull, plodding toil.
Let the boys learn that rural life is di'udgery
only when the mind is dull; that the spade
and the plow are the apparatus with which
he manipulates the wonderful forces of the
earth and sky, and the boy will begin to rank
himself with the professor in the laboratory
or the master at the easel. The farmer
should be educated to feel that there is no oc-
cupation in life that leads the educated man
to more fruitful fields of contemplation and
inquiry. The scientific mind finds every
da)% in the fields and orchai'ds, new material
to work upon, and the cultivated taste end-
less opportunities for its exercise.

Agriculture, then, should rank first among
the sciences, for vvithout it life itself would
soon cease. All important interests, all thriv-
ing industries and all trades and professions
receive their means of support, either directly
or indirectly, from it, a ad, therefore, are but
secondary to it in actual importance.

It is too often the case that farmers do not
pay the attention to their lands necessary to
keep them in a highly productive state, but
through excessive cultivation exhaust their
vitality while yet they should only be in
their prime. Johnston, in his " Chemistry
of Common Life," gives the following des-
cription of the system of farming commonly
adopted by the first settlers on this continent,
and the truths uttered apply with as much
force to a single county or community as to
the country at large. He says:

" Man exercises an influence on the soil
which is worthy of attentive study. He lands
in a new country, and fertility everywhere
surrounds him. The herbage waves thick and
high, and the massive'trees sway their proud

stems loftily toward the sky. He clears a
farm in the wilderness, and ample returns of
corn repay him for his simple labor. He
plows, he sows, he reaps, and the seemingly
exhaustless bosom of the earth gives back
abundant harvests. But at length a change
appears, creeping slowly over and gradually
dimming the smiling landscape. The corn
is first less beautiful, then less abundant, and
at last it appears to die altogether beneath
the scourge of an unknown insect or a para-
sitic fungus. He forsakes, therefore, his long-
cultivated farm, and hews out another from
the native forest. But the same early plenty
is followed by the same vexatious disasters.
His neighbors partake of the same experi-
ence. They advance, like a devouring tide,
against the verdant woods; they trample
them beneath their advancing culture; the
ax levels its yearly prey, and generation after
generation proceeds in the same direction —
a wall of green forest on the horizon before
them, a half desert and naked region behind
them. Such is the history of colonial cult-
lU'e in our own epoch ; such is the history of
the march of Euroiaean cultivation over the
entire continent of America. No matter what
the geological origin of the soil may be, or
what the chemical composition; no matter
how warmth and moisture may favor it, or
what the staple crop it has partially yielded
from yeai' to year; the some inevitable fate
overtakes it. The influence of long-continued
human action overcomes the tendencies of all
natural causes. But the influences of man
upon the productions of the soil are exhibited
in other and more satisfactory results. The
improver takes the place of the exhauster and
follows his footsteps on these same altered
lands. Over the sandy and forsaken tracts
of Virginia and the Carolinas he ^spreads
large applications of shaly marl, and the
herbage soon covers it again with profitable


crops; or he strews on it a thinner sowing of
gypsum, and, as if by magic, the yield of
previous years is doubled and quadrupled; or
he gathers the droppings of his cattle, and
the fermented produce of his farmyard, and
lays it upon his fields, when lo! the wheat
comes up luxuriantly again, and the midge.
and the rust and the yellows all disappear
from his wheat, his cotton and his peach
trees. But the renovator marches much
slower than the exhauster. His materials are
collected at the expense of both time and
money, and barrenness ensues from the early
labors of the one far more rapidly than green
herbage can be made to cover it again by the
most skillful, zealous and assiduous labors of
the other. "

There is a great deal of truth in the above
extract, and we see it illustrated in every
portion of the country. The farmer, as long
as his land produces at all plentifully, seems
indifferent to any effort to improve its failing
qualities. And hence, the land, like one who
has wasted his life and exhausted his ener-
gies by early dissipation, becomes prema-
turely old and worn out; when, by proper
care and timely improvement, it might have
retained its rich, productive qualities thrice
the period.

The agricultural history of Jefferson Coun-
ty is but little more than a repetition of the
history of almost every county in Southern
Illinois. The area of the county is 576 square
miles, and the greater portion of it is suscep-
tible of cultivation. But little of this is
prairie — perhaps about one-fifth. These
prairies occiipy the more or less elevated
lands between the creeks ajud water- courses,
and are generally very productive. The
white under-clay, which is such an unwel-
come feature of some of the prairies farther
north, hardly anywhere extends into Jeffer-
son County. The land outside of the prairies,

is mostly well adapted to the cultivation of
grain and all sorts of fruit.

For the first twenty to forty years of settle-
ment in the county, there could be little
incentive to grow crops there was no market
for. Each settler raised corn and potatoes
and " garden sass" enough for his own use
and no more. The implements of agricult-
ure consisted of a small bull-tongue plow,
an old " Cary " plow and a hoe made by the
blacksmith. The main [point in farming, in
those days, was to have a herd of wild hogs
in the woods, corn enough for bread and to
feed the pony — when the settler was so fort-
unate as to have one — and a few ears to toll
the hogs home to mark them.

When spring came, the crop time was
rather a hard life to live. About all the
revenue that could be counted on was hens'
eggs — after these domestic fowls 'had been
introduced — ^to buy the small luxuries, such
as coffee, sugar, salt or anything in that line ;
and if the hens failed to come to time on the
" lay," the old man and the childi-en would
strike out to the woods to dig '' ginseng."
This was after game began to get a little
scarce. A large sack of the then staple
article of ginseng could be dug in a few
days, and, when dried, would bring ?3 or $4
— a sum that would help out the family
finances in gootl shape. There was but little
provision made for the cattle, as they could
almost live through the winter in the woods.
But very little wheat was grown here then,
as there were no mills to grind it, and no
market for the surj^lus. Indeed, the early
settlers were at great inconvenience to get
their corn ground; there were but few mills,
mostly run by horse power. But all this is
changed now. The coming of railroads has
produced a wonderful revolution in the mode
of farming. Saw mills have cut the timber
off, to a great extent, and much of the land



has been brought under cultivation. From
the sickle and old-fashioned scythe and
cradle, the wheat is now mostly harvested
with self-binders. The hay crops are of
great value. Timothy, red -top and clover
flourish as finely here as in any part of the

In the early history of the county, the
pioneers were favored by the mildness of the
climate, the abundance of wild game and
the fertility of the land when brought into
ctiltivation. Step by step, the hardy settlers
made their inroads into the heavy forests, en-
larged their farms and increased their flocks
and herds until they found a surplus beyond
their own wants and the wants of their
families. There was then but little outlet
for the products of the farms, and far less of
the spirit of speculation than at the present
day. The result was that after a few years
the farmers had plenty at home; they
handled less money, it is true, but they lived
easier. They did not recklessly plunge into
debt; they lived more at home with their
families, and were far happier. There was,
too, much more sociability, neighborly feel-
ing and good cheer generally among them.
There was not such a rush after great wealth,
and hence fewer failures among farmers.
The accumulated wealth of farm products di-
rected attention to the question of markets,
which had hitherto been confined to a kind of
neighborhood traffic among the farmers them-
selves. Until the openingof railroads, markets
were mostly reached by hauling on wagons
to St. Louis, Vincennes, Shawneetown and
Cairo. Much of the surplus produce was
hauled to Shawneetown and Cairo, and
shipped from those places to New Orleans.
But the opening of railroads changed all this,
and the best markets of the country are now
easily accessible.

The following statistics, compiled from

the last report of the State Board of Agri-
culture, show something of the products of
Jefferson County, and will, doubtless, be of
interest to many of our readers:

No. of acres of corn cultivated 37,231

No of bushels produced 577,016

No. of acres of wheat 63,458

No. of bushels produced 678,633

No. of acres of oats 8,853

No. of bushels produced 133,344

No. of acres of Timothy 8.601

No. of tons produced 7,353

No. of acres of clover 845

No. of tons produced 161

No. of acres of prairie 1,534

No. of tons produced 1,293

No. of acres of Hungarian and millet 114

No. of tons produced 123

No. of acres of sorghum 109

No. of gallons of sirup 8,677

No. of acres of pastures 18,07'5

No. of acres of woodland 93,835

No. of acres of uncultivated 13,341

No. of acres of city and town real estate . . 383

No. of acres not included elsewhere 10,373

Total number of acres reported for the

county 258,574

No. of fat sheep sold 1,766

Gross weight of same — pounds 159,140

No. of sheep killed by dogs* 490

Value of same $1,170

No. of pounds of wool shorn 33,736

No. of fat cattle sold 1,713

Gross weight of same — pounds 1,418,364

No. of cows kept 3,661

No. of pounds of butter sold 53,539

No. of pounds of cheese sold 300

No. of gallons cream sold 100

No. of gallons milk sold 370

No. of fat hogs sold 6,985

Gross weiglit of same — pounds 1,320,165

In I860, an agricultiu-al association was
organized, which, with some changes, is
still in. existence. Its first officers were J
R. Allen, President; Jeremiah Taylor, Vice
President; J. S. Bogan, Recording Secre-
tary; Dr. E. E. Welborn, Corresponding
Secretary, and Joel Pace, Treasurer. Direo-

* From these statistics, it will be seen that one-fourth as
many sheep were killed by dogs as were sold, and yet farmers
still persist in keeping worthless dogs.



tors, F. S. Casey, William Woods, Jesse A.
Dees, John Dodds, James J. Fitzgerell. John
Wilbanks, Dr. "W. Adams, Benjamin T.
Wood, S. W. Carpenter, Joseph Baldridge,
Charles McClure and S. K. Allen. Forty-
acres of land, the site of the present fair
grounds, were bought on a credit from A. M.
Grant. The sura agreed on was §800, with
10 per cent interest until paid. On motion
of Judge Tanner, a Committee to solicit sub-
scriptions for the association was selected,
as follows:

Jordan's Prairie Precinct — Samuel Cum-
mins, J. F. Caldwell ,and Hiram Williams.

Grand Prairie Precinct — J. C. Baldridge,
Lemon Fouts and Henry Breeze.

Blissville Precinct — H. Creet, Thomas
Bagby and Andrew Welch.

West Long Prairie Precinct — James Smith,
J. Q. A. Bay and Isaac Hicks.

Knob Prairie Precinct — John Hagel,

Online LibraryWilliam Henry PerrinHistory of Jefferson County, Illinois → online text (page 30 of 76)