William Henry Perrin.

History of Jefferson County, Illinois online

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! essaries of life, turned their attention to the
erection of a school house. In 183S, the
pioneers of Jackson Precinct, now Dodds
Township, erected a log cabin on Govern-
ment land, which is now the property of W.
T. Sanders. Some one took the initiatory
step by notifying the settlers within a radius



of three or four miles that, on a certain time
at a designated place, they would meet for
the purpose of erecting a schoolhonse.
Punctual at the time and place, armed with
their " working tools, " they assembled, and
in a short time, considering the disadvan-
tages under which they labored, their work
was consummated. The structure would not
compare with the excellent [temples of learn-
ing of the present day, but it aiforded them
an accommodation for their early schools.
This building was about fourteen feet
square. The walls were made of rough
round logs from the forests; the chimney
was of earth and sticks, and the roof of
clapboards. Slabs split from trees, the
rough edges smoothed with an as, consti-
tuted the floor. The windows were made by
cutting out a log and pasting a greased
paper over the aperture, which admitted all
the light that was afi'orded the pupils. The
furniture consisted of " benches " made from
large " puncheons;" " desks " or writing
tables were formed by placing against the
wall at an angle boards or " puncheons."
Could the pupil of this early school have
entered the spacious and elegantly furnished
school rooms of today; could he have sat in
the easy patent seat; could he have gazed
upon the modern school apparatus and have
listened to the sound of the " school going
bell," he would, doubtless, have imagined
that ho had been magically transported to
another sphere. After this cabin was finished
and furnished, a school was the next thing
in order. Some one of the settlers canvassed
the neighborhood and determined how many
pupils would attend the school at a stated
sum per capita.

It is thought that W. T. Sanders taught
the first school in this cabin, and it is not
remembered that he went through any ex-
amination. The qualifications required in

those days were that the teacher possessed
the physical ability to govern the school and
be sufficient scholar to teach reading, writing
and ciphering, especially the latter, as far as
the " double rule of three. " Mr. Sanders
was very successful. From the beginning of
this school, a new impetus was given to edu-
cation, and each succeeding yeaf" the advan-
tages have improved in this direction. About
the year 1850, A. G. Johnson taught a school
at a private residence, and not far from the
same time a log cabin, similar in construc-
tion to the one mentioned above, was built
on the line between Sections 10 and 11. In
this schoolhonse Moses Smith and A. C.
Johnson taught. As we have already stated,
the interest in education began to grow. It
is true there were some who thought educa-
tion was not essential to farm life, but they
were few, and the masses were warmly in
favor of schools. There are now six good
frame school buildings in the township, and
the best teachers are employed to instruct
the young.

In the pioneer cabins of the township,
Revs. Rhodam and George Allen, two early
ministers, held meetings and added cheering
words to thcise gathered from near and far.
Services are now held in almost every school-
house in the township, besides in two fine
frame church buildings. The Lebanon Mis-
sionary Baptist Church is located at the in-
tersection of Sections 2, 8, 10 and 11. E.
M. Knapp and Isaac Garrison are the present
Deacons, and Rev. C. Richardson is pastor.
The organization has an enrollment of about
140 members. A good Sunday school is kept
up, with an attendance of more than fifty.
Samuel Meadows is Superintendent, and
through his efforts the interest is gradually

A Methodist Episcopal Church was organ-
ized in the township at an early date, but



the precise spot and time we have been un
able to learn. That kind-hearted and good
old pioneer, Joseph Pace, was an early mem-
ber of this church, and during his life its
financial interests were not allowed to suffer
through his influence. John Eogers, Will-
iam Edgington and James Bradford and
their respective families were members of
the iirst organization. Some time subse-
quently, a large frame building was erected
at considerable cost on Section 7, and is
known as " Bethel OhurcH." The member-
ship of the same is very large, and regular
services are kept up during the year. Like
the most of the Methodist Churches, it keeps
up a lirst-class Sunday school.

The Iirst voting place in the precinct was
the old James Dodds house. The ballot bos
used then is the same one that now on elec-
tion days holds the vote of the determined
Democrat, the ardent Republican and ag-
gressive Greenbaoker. The present voting-
place is the "Hebron Schoolhouse," situated
on the line between Sections 10 and 11. The
township polls about 250 votes, of which
nearly 103 are Republicans, 110 Democrats
and the remainder the Greenback and Inde-
pendent votes.

John Baugh and Henry Gorham were the
two Iirst Justices of the Peace in the pre-
cinct. George W. Bliss succeeded one of
them, and no other change was made until
the township was organized. The following
is a list of ofiBcers since township organiza-

Supervisors.— R. D. Roane, 1870; W. H.
Smith, 1872-73; M. C. Garrison, 1874; S.
Gibson, 1875; R. D. Roane, 1876 to 1879;

A. Newby, 1880; S. Bumpus, 1881 to
1883, the present incumbent.

Justices of the Peace. — G. AV. Bliss and
W. Adams, 1870; S. Gibson and W. Adams,
1873; J. B. Bradford and W.Adams, 1874-76;
J. W. Bradford and S. Gibson, 1877 to 1883
the present incumbent.

Township Clerks. — None 1870; Ambrose
Adams, 1872; J. M. Frizell, 1873; A. Adams
1874-75; J. Mills, 1876;" J. W. Estes, 1877
to 1883, and now in office.

Assessors.— W. M. Hicks, 1872-73; J. G.
Daniels, 1874; A. Newby, 1875; J. G. Dan-
iels, 1876-77; A. Gibson, 1878 to 1880; T.
J. Mills, 1881; J. W. Estes, 1882; A. C.
CuUie, 1883, present incumbent.

Collectors.— F. E. Patton, 1872; N. F.
Meredith, 1873; F. E. Patton, 1864; J. D.
Downer, 1875 to 1877; W. S. Bumpus, 1878
to 1880; A. Gibson, 1881; S. T. Pace, 1882;
E. Roane, 1883, now in office.

Highway Commissioners. — -Isaac Garrison,
1872; S. Duncan, 1873; J. M. Frizell,
1874; A. D. Harper, 1875; N. F. Meredith,
1876; J. M. Frizell, 1877; Isaac Garrison,
1878; S. Duncan, 1879; William Hicks,
1880-81; C. Jenkins, 188^-83, at present in
! office.

School Treasurers.— S. T. Pace, 1872-73;
J. A. Johnson, 1874-75; G. M. Bliss, 1876;
S. T. Pace, 1877; S. Duncan, 1878; R. D.
Roane, 1879; S. Duncan, 1880; R. D. Roane,
1881; J. L. Hinkle, 1882; S. T. Pace, 1883,
! now holding the office.

Constables.— T. J. Mills and W. T. Hicks,

j 1874 to 1876; W. Blythe, 1877; Thomas

Mills, 1878 to 1881; M. Bradford and J.

E. Gibson, 1882-83,the present incumbents.







"A song for the early times out West,
And our green old forest home.
Whose pleasant memories freshU' yet
Across the ocean come."

Blissville Township, which forms the sub-
ject matter of this chapter, is one of the west
tier of townships, and is situated southwest
of Mount Vernon. It lies south of Casuer
Towsnhip, west of McClellan, north of' Bald
Hill, east of Washington County, and is des-
ignated as Township 3 south, and Range 1
east. The surface is rather broken, and

" Nothing so dear as a tale of the olden time."

TRANSCRIBING recollections of the
aged, wavering memory, we do not seek
to reconcile discrepancies, but to embody
here the names and deeds of those whose like
can nevermore be seen. We dimly outline,
from our signal-point, the history which
meets our eye, and steer our course between
extremes of dates and happenings, but more
often than otherwise the greatest incomplete-
ness marks the narrative.

The most of those pioneers who came here
half a centuty or more ago have passed to their
reward, while upon the few still left the roll-
ing years have written their record and left
them trembling on the brink of tlie tomb.
They left friends and civilization behind
them and came here to build for themselves
a home. Ah, a home! Home, celestial home
of the world-weary, laboring heart, the sa-
cred asylum of the wandering soul! It is the
only type and symbol left on earth since the
portals of paradise closed on our riiined race.
And to make them a home in this wild waste,
these people exposed themselves to the dan-
gers of "flood and held," of savages and wild
beasts and perils before which we, their
successors, would quail. The history of
their lives is one of noble heroism, by the
side of which that of the warrior and the
statesman pale with insignificance.

* By W. H. Perrin.

diversified between prairie and woodland.
An arm of Grand Prairie extends into the
township. There are also several other small
prairies — notably Knob Prairie, in the south-
east part, which receives its name from the
elevation of the ground, it being about as
high as the site of Mouut Vernon. In the
timbered section are found black, white and
post oak, wild cherry, black walnut, hickory,
sassafras, together with hazel and other
shrubs. The principal stream is Rayse
Creek, or the west fork of Big Muddy. This
passes through the northeast corner of the
township and is fed by a few small brooks
and branches which form the natural drain-
age of the township.

The settlement of Blissville Township
dates back to 1822-23. About that time
Sherman Ross and Jesse Green, Sr. , came
and settled in the northeast corner. Jesse
Green died in the township and left a large
I family. Ross moved to Shelby County, tak-



ing his family with him. He was a thriftless
sort of a fellow, with but little energy, but
not of real bad habits. Green was fond of
hunting, and participated freely in all kinds
of baciiwoods sports and pastimes. John
Hailes settled in the timber along Big Mud-
dy, and was among the first comers in that
section. He was a good, easy, harmless man,
who never did much for himself or for any
one else. He cleared a small " patch " of
' ground, and put up a cabin of poles. About
two years afterward, he sold his improvement
to Jesse P. Dees, an uncle of Judge Jesse A.
Dees, of this township, and moved up to Gun
Prairie. Jesse P. Dees, however, soon settled
in another part of the township, where he
died. He made an extensive improvement,
and opened quite a large farm for that early
day, and was in good circumstances at the
time of his death. John Finch bought the
first improvement of Jesse P. Dees, and set-
tled here about 1S26. but afterwai-d sold out
and moved to Missouri. He was a fanner and
gunsmith; a rude, rough fellow, of the true
frontier type, but finally professed religion
at a camp meeting in Washington County,
and was afterward licensed as a preacher by
the Methodist Church. William Linsey was
an early settler in the neighborhood of Jesse
P. Dees. He was a good, honest man, and
sold his improvement to Reuben Green and
moved back into Washington County. Reu-
ben Green, who bought his improvement,
raised a large family, who settled around

An early settler was Mr. Herron, on Grand
Prairie. He afterward moved into Washing-
ton County. Peter Sibert afterward settled
on the place where Herron first located.
Erastus Fairchild settled in Grand Prairie,
near the north line of the township. He was
a common farmer, and sold out to Thomas
Bagb}'. The latter occupied it several years,

and then sold out and moved into Washing-
ton County, and afterward to Texas. Samuel
Hunter also settled in Grand Prairie about
184:0, and is living there yet. James Welch
settled in the same neighborhood about the
same time. He was from Ohio, and was a
large land owner. He lost part of his fami-
ly here in 1844 and returned to Ohio, but
afterward made several trips between Ohio
and Illinois, and was finally lost on the Ohio
River in a steamboat disaster. A son of his
had come here in 1839, and is still living in
the township.

JessG A. Dees, one of the prominent and
wealthy farmers of the township, came to Jef-
ferson County in 1824, with his mother and
step- father, Lewis Green. They settled in
what is now Casner Township, where James
Wood lives. Mr. Dees is one of the oldest
living settlers of the county, having been
here almost sixty years. Joseph Laird came
in about 1840, and settled in Grand Prairie.
Knob Prairie was settled by David Fairchild,
who sold to B. L. Herrous, who came here
about 1822. He was from Ohio, and was a
brother of Erastus Fairchild, already no-
ticed. H. Hackett was here^some time, but
was a kind of a transient character. Eli Gil-
bert settled in Knob Prairie about 1840, and
was from Ohio. He opened a store soon af-
ter settling here, and sold goods for several
years; he died here and left a large family.
Another Ohio family was the Places — Isaac
and Sidney —who settled in Knob Prairie in
1840-42. The latter is still living here.
Henry Bushou came in about 1845, and set-
tled between Knob and Grand Prairies.
Such wore some of the settlements and the
people who made them in this particular di-
vision of the county. When we ponder on
those olden times, rude and rough as they
were, we almost wish for their return. Those
good old days when the girls rode behind



their sweethearts to church or dance, and
when the horses always " kicked up, " and
the girls held tightly on (then the girls
hagged the boys — now the case is reversed);
when husband and wife visited on the same
nag, and the wife carried her babe snugly
cuddled up in her lap. Those good old days
when the hypocrisy, shams and selfishness
of modern society were unknown; when the
respectability of men and women was not
measured by their bank accounts, nor by dis-
play of shoddy finery, but by the simple
standard of worth and merit, by their useful-
ness in the community, by their readiness to
aid the suffering and to relieve the distressed;
when there were no social castes or distinc-
tions, and when honesty and uprightness
were the livery of aristocracy. Ah! those
were the times of free-heartedness and gen-
uine honesty.

The pioneer's first thought is something
for his family to eat, and hence a mill in a
new country is an object of supreme interest.
One of the first institutions of this kind was
a tread mill owned by Maj. Herron on land
now the property of Samuel Johnson. It
was a rude affair, but was much better than no
mill at all, and the settlers used to come fi-om a
considerable distance to it to get their corn
ground. Eli Gilbert had a mill very early.
He built a water mill on Big Muddy, but it
was never much of a success and soon disap-
peared altogether. He found it impossible
to dam the stream, and so he damned the
whole thing and gave up the enterprise. A
grist and saw mill, operated by steam, was
put up near Williamsburg. It passed
through different hands, and was finally
moved to Saline County.

Blissville Township was named in honor
of Augustus Bliss, who settled in Casner
Township and made an attempt to lay off a
village, which never improved. He started

to California during the gold fever excite-
ment, and died of cholera on the way, leav-
ing a wife and five children. The first vot-
ing place was an old house on the place
where Samuel Johnson now lives; the regu-
lar voting place at present is at Locust
Grove. The following is a list of the town-
ship officers since the county adopted town-
ship organization:

Supervisors— S. R. Johnson, ISTO-VS; J.
A. Dees, 1874; Samuel Johnson, 1875-6; T.
H. Mannen, 1877; S. Johnson, 1878-79; O.
P. Norris, 1880; A. Welch, 1881-82; J. D.
Norris, 1883.

Town Clerks— J. R. Dunbar, 1871-73; J.
Lemmon, 1874-75; L. E. Denslow, 1876;
E. Bagsby, 1877; J . D. Norris, 1878-80;
W. D. Hicks, 1881; J. Perry. 1882; W. D.
Hicks, 1883.

Assessors— D. T. Campbell, 1872-73; W.
H. Norris, 1874; William Robinson, 1875-
76; E. Green, 1877-79; J. W. Robinson,
1880-81; J. Hicks, 1882; E. Green, 1883.

Collectors— D. J. Hicks, 1872-73; H. P.
Daniels, 1874-75; W. Gilbert, 1876; W.
Norris, 1877; M. F. Norris, 1878; W. Gil-
bert, 1879; Isaac Hicks, 1880-81; J. D. Nor-
ris, 1882; W. Gilbert, 1883.

School Treasurers — Edwin Green, 1872-73;
E. Fairchild, 1874; L. E. Dunbar, 1875;
John. Gaddis, 1876; J. Tuttle, 1877; J. M.
Gaddis, 1878; J. M. McConneoughey, 1879-
81; J. V. Wingard. 1882; G. A. Baldridge,

Highway Commissioners ^W. M. El listen
J. B. McConneoughey, J. P. Anderson, J. B.
McConneoughey, W. Gilbert, A. Welch, D.
P. McConneoughey. A. Snider, A. J. Shurtz,
D. H. Keller, J. Jones, R. Green, C. Gil-
bert. W. B. Elliston, James Reed, R. Gil-
bert, A. J. Shurtz.

Justices of the Peace — A. J. Shurtz and B.
L. Bowmaster, 1870-72; A. J. Norris and J.



R. Dunbar, 1873-74; J. McConneoiighey and
J. K Dunbar, 1875-76; S. Johnson and H.
P. Daniels, 1877-80; S. Johnson and E. j
Green, the present incumbents.

Constables— Cyrus Gilbert, 1870-72; E.
Green, 1873-76; A. J. McConneoughey,
1877-79; T. McAtee, 1880; J. Land, 1881;
J. Wingard, 1882; J. Lemmington, 1883.

The first public highway in the township
was called the Mount Vernon & Nashville
road, or Jefferson County & Washington
County road. J. A. Dees made the first trail
where this road was laid out. There were
nothing but a few paths and trails before
this road was made, ^jood, substantial
wooden bridges now span the streams where
they are needed.

Among the prominent stock-dealers are
Joseph Mannen, Josiah Tuttle, Andrew
Welch, Jesse A. Dees, A. Gilbert, etc., etc.
They buy and sell and deal in cattle, mules
and hogs. Mr. Dees has some very tine cat-
tle, and deals largely in mules; he has on
Land at present some sixty odd head of
mules. Mr. Gilbert also has a large number
of mules.

Williamsburg. — The village of Williams-
burg is situated in Knob Prairie, on the
northeast quarter of Section 35. It was
laid off by Drs. Moore & Peavler December
17, 1867, into four blocks, one of eleven
lots, one of twelve lots, and two of ten lots
each. John Hagle built the first storehouse,
and David Hicks the first residence. His
sons opened a drug store, and also built a
residence, into which Thomas Westcott
moved. The Mannings came a little later,
and then Place. Henry Willis erected some
brick buildings, the first in the village.
About the year 1864, Anderson built a mill,
but soon afterward sold it to Boswell, and
Boswell sold it to James Dare. A good
schoolhouse has been built in the town. At

present, J. D. Norris keeps a general store,
J. W. Robinson a drug store and William
Hicks a drug store. Dr. O. P. Norris is
Postmaster. The usual number of shops are
operated. The place has about one hundred
inhabitants. The town is called Williams-
burg, but the post office bears the name of

Blissville Township was not backward in
educational matters, and schools were early
established and schoolhouses built. One of
the first schoolhouses in the township was
built near whore Eli Gilbert settled. It
stood on the farm now owned by Cyrus Gil-
bert, and was of logs 16x18 feet, the cracks
daubed with mud. The first teacher was of
the name of Bellis. Another pioneer school-
house was on the land now owned by R. Gil-
bert, and A. Welch was one of the early
teachers here. A schoolhouse was built on
the land of G. J. Hoyt, in Grand Prairie,
and another on the land owned by the heirs
of Reuben Green, Jr. The township has at
present six schoolhouses, conveniently locat-
ed on Sections 7, 10, 16, 18, 24, 28. In
these, schools are taught for the usual term
each year by competent teachers.

The church history of Blissville Township
is extensive, and dates back to an early
period of the settlwrnent of the country. A.t
first, meetings were held in dwelling-houses,
and in the woods in summer. The Grand
Arm Methodist Church was the first church
built in the township. It was put up about
1840. Among the early members were Abner
Minson and wife, Jacob Freeman and wife,
Susan Eubank, Jesse P. Dees and wife, Nao-
mi Dees, John Freeman and wife, and per-
haps others. Among the early preachers here
were Simeon Walker, T. W. Williams, James
Johnson, Files and J. Barnes. The organ-
ization is still kept up, and the society has a
good frame building. A graveyard is adja-



cent, in which slumber many of the early
members of this pioneer chm-ch. The mem-
bership of the church is about sixty, and an
excellent Sunday school is maintained dur-
ing the summer, of which J. Tuttle is Super-
intendent. Rev. Mr. Root is pastor of the
church at the present time.

Mount Zion Church is located in the north-
ern part of the township, and has but a small
attendance. Pierce's Chapel now has no reg-
ular attendance or organization.

At Williamsburg, there ' is a Methodist
Church with an interesting membership of
about forty. Rev. Root is the pastor. A
good Sunday school is maintained.

There is also a Universal ist Church at
Williamsburg, with some forty members, under
the spiritual supervision of Rev. Mr. Maddox.

Blissville Township has no railroads, nor
no manufacturing intwrests. It is decidedly
an agricultural and stock-ra sing region. Its
nearest shipping point is Woodlawn, on the
Louisville & Nashville Railroad, located a
couple of miles from the northeast corner of
the township. This road, though not touch-
ing the township, has been of great benefit,
by increasing the value of property and real
estate, as well as in affording the farmers
transportation facilities.

With all the growth and activity, which
assumes larger proportions in the recital than
in the actual experience, the community
which gathered in this township was really
on the frontier at the time of which we have
been writing. While not so completely iso-
lated as some of the other earlier settlements
in Southern Illinois, the people experienced

many of the hardships and discomforts inci
dent to frontier settlements. Mills were
early built near by, but from lack of power
or adequate machinery most of the dour and
much of the meal was procured at Carmi and
other and even more distant points, enduring
long, tedious delays. As a farming district,
the settlements in what is now Blissville
Township were of slow growth; the village
of Mount Vernon, some ten miles distant,
seemed to absorb the floating population.
Here and there the smoke curled upward in
the air from the scattered log cabins, and the
busy pioneer protracted the day long into the
night in clearing up his farm.

Deer were plenty, and were shot in large
numbers, while wolves, panthers, wild cats
an occasional boar, and the whole class of
small game that was found in this section in
early times, afforded wholesome meals and
rare sport to those fond of hunting. Most
of the early settlers were from the Southern
States, and brought here with them many of
their social characteristics. Saturday after-
noons, as they are still, were a general holi-
day, and the farmers repaired to the neigh-
boring village. But few in the community
had very strong scruples then against the use
of whisky, and strong potations tended to
make fun lively, aud^not anfrequently caused
rough-and-tumble fist lights.

Thus time passd in the early years of the
country, the people enjoying themselves in a
rough kind of way. They were rude, but
generous to a fault, and always ready with
their time and labor to assist a new comer
or a friend in his time of need.







been imperceptible, but nevertheless it has
been made.

Bald Hill Township is situated in the ex-
treme southwest part of the county, and com-
prises a full Congressional township. It is

Online LibraryWilliam Henry PerrinHistory of Jefferson County, Illinois → online text (page 52 of 76)