Buena Vista Township History

The second settlement in the county, was made in this township, and from the solitary family which invaded its solitude in 1824 it has steadily increased in population and wealth until it now ranks second in the county in population. Upon its entire surface are found valuable and highly improved farms, occupied by thrifty farmers. Neat and pleasant homes greet the eye of the traveler as he passes over its roads.

The location is near the geographical centre of the county, its boundary upon the north being Littleton, on the east, Rushville, on the south, Woodstock, and on the west, Camden. Its surface is gently undulating, and that portion lying between the water courses, a strip extending diagonally across the township from the southwest to the northeast, is rolling prairie, while the portions along the streams are more broken, and were formerly covered with a dense growth of timber, nearly all of which has long since yielded to the axe of the sturdy pioneer yeoman, and is now transformed into fertile and productive fields. The soil is rich and highly productive, yielding large crops of the cereals, and hay, and excellent pastures. It is strictly an agricultural township, though much attention is paid to grazing, and much valuable and fine blooded stock of all kinds add to the wealth of its inhabitants. Access is had to all sections by well-kept roads and bridges, which span the streams in all directions. Its citizens are moral, well educated and intelligent, and are surrounded by all the accessories necessary for comfort and happiness. All this has been accomplished in less than sixty years, and the former abode of the red man, the deer, and other beasts of the forest, is now one continued seccession of fertile and beautiful farms, with handsome residences, commodious barns, improved machinerym and valuable stock. Stony Branch and Brush creek enter the township from Littleton on the north. The former enters in two distinct branches, one in section one, the other in section eight, both meeting in the northwest corner of section nine, and keeps the same southwesterly direction in which they enter, and pass west in Camden, through sections nineteen. Brush creek enters through section six, flows south and west, and passes out in section seven. Green Branch rises in three distinct branches in sections twenty-two, twenty-three, and twenty-four, all flowing southwest and uniting in one, in section thirty-two, then bears due west, and passes out through section thirty-one. The streams furnish a plentiful supply of water for stock, and afford the necessary drainage for the surface water, and are greatly aided in the latter by tiling, to which much attention has been given of late.

Land Patents

The first land entries or patents to the heroes of the war of 1812 were issued to Dennis Owens, for the S. E. quarter of section one, October 6, 1817; to James McArthur, for the S. E. quarter of section seven, October 13, 1817; to Robert Reynolds, for the S. W. quarter of section three; and to Joseph Sealey, for the S. E. quarter of section three, both bearing date of November 19, 1817; to John Hutchinson, for the S. W. quarter of section four, December 6, 1817; and to Nathan Lake, for the N. E. quarter of section eight, November 29, 1817.

Early Settlers

About the 1st day of November, 1823, Levin Green, a Methodist local preacher, made his appearance at the cabin of Calvin Hobart, in Schuyler county.  He met with a hearty reception, such as was common only in pioneer times, and the next morning his host started with a team to bring his visitor’s family to the settlement, as well as that of George Stewart, his brother-in-law, all of whom were camped sixteen miles north of where Frederick now stands. These families passed the winter in a vacant cabin, which had been built by two young men, James and Samuel Turner. Green and Stewart were natives of North Carolina, but had been living in Missouri, from which place they had just come.  In the early spring of 1824, Henry Green, Jr., arrived at the Hobart settlement with a wife and two children, and the Greens went into Buena Vista township, built their cabins, and then moved their families. Levin selected for his  home the S. E. ¼ section 23, Henry Green, Jr., the S. E. ½ of N. E. ¼ of section 20; and some time in 1825, George Stewart, the S. E. ¼ of section 18.  Stewart’s family consisted of a wife and two children, and Levin’s family consisted of four persons, making eight human beings in the settlement. Levin Green and George Stewart moved to what is now Missouri township, in 1829, and they, and Henry Green, Jr., subsequently emigrated to Texas. John Ritchey arrived shortly after Levin Green, and with his wife and three children took up a pre-emption right to the S. E. ¼ of section 25, which he sold to Samuel Turner, and went to Littleton. This early settlement was augmented in March, 1825, by the arrival of two brothers, Samuel and Manlove Horney, with families, consisting of a wife and one child.  These pioneers were natives of North Carolina, but came from St. Clair county, Illinois, where they had been living since 1818. They settled in Buena Vista, Samuel, on the S. W. ¼ of section 14, and Manlove, on an adjoining quarter. They both resided here until 1834, when they moved up into Littleton. The settlement was further increased in numbers by the arrival on the 2d day of May, 1825, of Philip Spohnamore and family of eight persons; George Green and family of wife and six children; John Spohnamore, a nephew of Philip, wife and two children; Henry Green, Sr., and wife, parents of Levin; John Green, wife and three children; James Robinson, Levin’s brother-in-law, with a wife and three children, making in all an increase of thirty-four in the population. All came from Missouri, and all relations of Levin, being brothers, or relatives by marriage, and it was through Levin's importunities that they came. Philip Spohnamore built his cabin on the S. E. 1/4 of section 24, and died in Rushville at the age of eighty-four years. George Green made improvements, and built a house on a portion of the same quarter in 1827, living in the meantime about a mile north, and died in the township. John Spohnamore lived on the land with his brother-in-law, George Green, until 1827, when he took possession of the S. E. ¼ of section 20, upon which he spent the remainder of his days.  Henry Green, Sr., and his wife made their home with their son, John, on the N. E. ¼ of section 23, where the old people died, and John followed his brother Levin. James Robinson, the brother-in-law of the Greens, selected the S. E. ¼ of section 29, as a squatter, made limited improvements, by building a cabin and clearing a small patch of ground. He subsquently returned to his old house in Missouri. Samuel Turner, the young man mentioned as having built the cabin in the Hobart settlement, returned in the spring of 1825, and found his cabin occupied. He sold his interest in the improvement, and commenced a new one on the S. E. ¼ of section 25, where he married in 1830, and continued to live until 1834, when a claimant with a superior title appeared. He then moved to to S. E. ¼ of section 11, which he purchased, and upon which he died at the ripe old age of seventy years. Charles Teas arrived in the fall of 1826, with a wife and family of children, and made improvements on the N. W. 1/4 of section 23, building a cabin, and continuing his residence there until the fall of 1829, when he sold to Lemuel Sparks, and moved to Rushville, where he remained until March, 1831, when he parted with his interest, and went to McDonough county. Alexander Ross, of Kentucky, with a wife and six children, was also one of the early settlers, having arrived in the summer of 1826, when he built his cabin, and took a settler’s claim to the N. E. ¼ of section 16, where he improved a farm, subsequently purchased the land, and spent his declining years in the enjoyment of the home made with his own hands. In the spring of 1827, William Boyd, with a large family of children, arrived from Missouri, and made a home for his little ones on the S. W. ¼ of section 23, which he subsequently purchased, and after living here a number of years, until his neighbors became to numerous to suit his pioneer disposition, he disposed of  his farm, and moved to Iowa, where he died at a ripe age.

We next invite the attention of the reader, to the settlement made in the extreme northeastern portion of the township. In the spring of 1827, Joel Tullis, with his family of wife and one child came into the township April 26th, 1826, accompanied by William McKee his father-in-law, whose farm in Rushville township was their point of departure. With McKee he spent the first year.  He took possession of the N. W. ¼ of section 2, built his rude log cabin, and began the toilsome life of the hardy pioneer.  He subsequently bought a tax title to the property, and continued his residence there until 1847, when the country becoming too thickly settled to suit him, he sold his home, and with a family of wife and twelve children, in an ox wagon, he undertook an overland journey to Oregon, where he arrived, after great suffering and the loss of six of his children.  He returned in 1851, and bought the farm upon which he now resides, hale and hearty, and over eighty years of age. Joel Tullis had the first distillery in the township, upon the N. W. ¼ of section 2, as early as 1833. In the spring of 1827, Charles Hatfield and family made their home on the S. W. 1/4 of section 2, but subsequently returned to their former home in Bainbridge township, where they had been living prior to making their home in Buena Vista, and where they both now reside, upon the land, which they first improved. For neighbors, Joel Tullis had James Thompson, a single man, and John his brother, with his wife and three children, who came with Tullis and William McKee in a pirogue in 1826.  They moved into Buena Vista, shortly after Mr. Tullis, and built a house on the N. E. ¼ of section one, which they purchased together, December 4th, 1827.  James subsequently sold his interest to his brother John, moved into Littleton as one of the early settlers, where he died.  John died upon his home place, and his widow became the wife of Randolph Rose, who was one of the early settlers of Littleton. Drury Sellers, a native of Kentucky, with a large family, moved into this settlement in the spring of 1828 and bought the claim of Charles Hatfield on the S. W. of ¼ section 2, and afterwards moved into Littleton.  Robert L. Dark, a son-in-law of Sellers, and a wife and one child came with his father-in-law, and resided in the same place, until he moved to the N. W.  ¼ of section  where he built a cabin and then went into the north-eastern portion of Littleton. The year 1829 witnessed the arrival of George Swan, William Owens, Lemuel Sparks, Thomas Bronaugh and others.  In the spring of this year George Swan, with a large family, arrived from Kentucky, and purchased the S. W. ¼ of section 13, and built his cabin and made a home, where he lived until his death. He was followed in the fall from the same state by his son-in-law, William Owens, who brought his wife with him. They came on horseback and spent the winter with him. The next summer they spent in Brooklyn, and in the fall returned to Buena Vista and purchased the N. W. ¼ of section 24 from Samuel Horney, paying two hundred dollars therefor. Mr. Owens died some years ago, and his widow survives him, living upon the old home place. Lemuel Sparks, a native of Maryland, arrived with his wife and six children, from Indiana, on the 17th day of September, 1829, and purchased the improvements of Charles Teas, the N. W. ¼ of section 25. He died some years ago, and many of his children are now residents of the county. With him came a young man named Ephraim Haines, who died at his house. Thomas Bronaugh, a single man, arrived from Kentucky in 1829 and made a home on the N. W. ¼ of section 4. He was among the first teachers of the county. He moved into Littleton. In 1830, Hosea Tullis, a brother of Joel, and John Boggs, arrived from Ohio, built cabins in the Tullis neighborhood but returned to Kentucky in less than a year, becoming alarmed by the Indians. Both had families.

On the 31st day of May, 1827, John R. Skiles was married to Eleanor Spohnamore, and at once took possession of the N. W. ¼ of section 14, upon which he built a cabin, and made some improvement, but neglecting to purchase the land he was ousted and moved to Browning, where he now resides. Among the early settlers may be mentioned the Doyles, John McCreery, Robert McCreery, the Parrotts, Moores, Henry Kirkham, the Hughes, Hales, Hares, Lesters, Kings, Snyders, Cunninghams, Coxes, Smiths and Youngs. We have been compelled to mention the early settlers briefly, for want of space, and for a fuller account of the first settlers the reader is referred to the chapter on the Pioneers.

The improvement of the first farm and the building of the first house may be unquestionably accorded to Levin Green. The first wedding was that of William Hobart Taylor and Miss Elizabeth Spohnamore, which was celebrated on the 27th day of November, 1825, at the residence of the bride’s father, Philip Spohnamore.  Rev. Levin Green officiated and performed the ceremony. The whole neighborhood was present. The bride was attired in a calico dress and store shoes, and was bedecked with gay ribbons, a garb seldom seen in those olden times. The groom had laid aside his everyday clothes and wore a suit of home-made jeans. After the ceremony, the guests sat down to a table spread with wild turkey, venison and other game, corn bread, honey and sassafras tea. The groom being a professor of religion at the time, the old time fiddle was not present and the merry dance was not indulged in. The first birth was a little daughter born to Levin Green. The first death occurring among the early settlers of the township, was that of a little four-year-old son of Henry Green, Jr., in the summer of 1827, and his body was buried on the northeast quarter of section 20. This was the beginning of the first grave-yard. While attending the funeral, the old white headed grandfather, Henry Green, Sr., who had been a soldier in the Revolutionary war, selected a place, where he requested to be buried, and his wishes were complied with, after his decease, which occurred May 1st 1835.

The inhabitants of the early settlements for many years sent their children to the schools in the western edge of Rushville township, they being very convenient, and no school-house was built until 1828, when a small log building was erected on the northwest quarter of section 1, in which Robert Sexton was the first teacher for a short time; but the first that might be called a school was a session of six months, commencing on the 10th day of May, 1825, in an old log cabin, on the norteast quarter of section 22. In May, 1825, Levin Green came to the house of Col. Samuel Horney, with the request that he would make him a pair of shoes, as the people were getting hungry for preaching, and stated that he could not preach without them.  The shoes were made and towards the close of the month the whole neighborhood gathered in the humble cabin of the pioneer preacher and listened to his rough, though eloquent appeal. Levin Green was the pioneer preacher, and among those who preached in early times were:  Peter Cartwright, Asa West and James Bankston. The first building ever erected in the township, exclusively for church purposes, was a small frame building, situated on the southeast quarter of section 15.  It belonged to the Methodist Episcopal congregation, was built about the year 1832, and was known as Spark’s Meeting House.  Rev. Henry Somers preached the first sermon in the building.

Levin Green was the first justice of the peace, his commission being the first one issued after the organization of the county. Drs. B. V. Teal, Crosset, James Blackburn and Adams Dunlap were the first physicians in the county. Joel Tullis had the first mill as early as 1831.  It was at his home on the northeast quarter of section 2, and was the old fashioned tread-mill; horses or oxen furnished the motive ower.  It was liberally patronized, being in constant use by some of his neighbors.  Col. Clark, an Englishman, also had a horse-mill, the burrs being made of what were known as “nigger-head” rock, found on the prairie, on the northeast quarter of section 17, as early as 1835.  John Green had a cotton gin at his house as early as 1827.  The first steam grist mill in the township was built by George C. Clark, in 1857, on the southeast quarter of section 14.  It was first a saw-mill, and two run of burrs were afterwards added.  With the site of ten acres, it was valued at $6,000.  It was burned in January, 1880.  Another mill was built just south of the site of the old one, by Alexander Young, in the summer of 1880, at a cost of three thousand dollars.  It is provided with one three-foot burr stone for grinding wheat, and one of like dimensions for corn. Its capacity is fifteen barrels daily, and is kept almost constantly employed in grinding on the shares; it being strictly a custom mill.

A fine quarry of building stone was opened upon the southwest quarter of section 13, on the farm of Joel Tullis, about twenty years ago. The township is well supplied with schools, which are in session six months in the year. The buildings are all neat, comfortable frames, conveniently located, and well attended. There are two chruches in the township, the Methodist Episcopal, of which Rev. Lyon is the pastor, and the Protestant Methodist supplied by Rev. Bryden Mayall. Both buildings are frame. In 1880, the population of the township was 1,728, and there were 162 improved arms within its boundaries.

Board of Supervisors

The township has had the following named representatives in the board of supervisors, since township organization was adopted in the county:
1854 - John Mitchelltree
1856 - Thomas J. Wilson
1858 - Simon Doyle
1861 - John L. Moore
1862 - John A. Young
1863 - Samuel S. Benson
1864 - Simon Doyle
1866 - John F. Davis
1867 - Simon Doyle
1868 - G. B. Sharp
1869 - Isaac Lindley
1870 - A. L. Noble
1871 - Charles Ryan
1872 - Simon Doyle
1873 - William R. McCreery
1874 - John Tullis
1875 - John H. Tullis
1876 - John N. Roach
1877 - Thomas Cunningham

Excerpted from The Combined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Carol Longwell Miller for Schuyler County ILGenWeb

Copyright 1999-2006 Judi Gilker; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercial use of the information contained in these
pages is strictly prohibited without prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with the information.

Return to Buena Vista Township index