Oakland Township History
Oakland township is located in the northeastern portion of the county. It is bounded on the north by McDonough county, on the east by Fulton county, on the south by Rushville, and on the west by Littleton. Entering the township from Littleton on the west, at the centre of section 7, the West Branch of Sugar creek winds its way across the township, finally discharging its waters into Sugar creek in section 24, while along its entire course it receives numerous tributaries from the north and south. Sugar creek enters the township from the east at section 13 and flows through the sections immediately south, making a wide horse-shoe curve in sections 25 and 36 and passes out of the township near the half section line of the latter, to the seat. These streams furnish an ample supply of water for stock, and afford excellent drainage for the entire township, while Sugar creek furnishes a water supply for manufacturing purposes not excelled in the state. The whole township was formerly covered with a forest of heavy timber of the most valuable species, with the exception of the southwest corner which is prairie of a very good quality. The surface is much broken, though rich and fertile, and what were originally heavy forests in the northwestern portion have been converted into finely improved farms by the sturdy and energetic citizens. A somewhat wonderful freak of nature occurred in the latter part of last April, on the north half of section 27. A portion of a large hill in one night sank straight down into the earth to a depth of forty-five feet, carrying with it the heavy timber growing upon its surface, and leaving the walls as perpendicular and smooth as though excavated for a cellar. The portion that so suddenly sank is not less than five acres, and the trees which were carried down with it remain upright, many of their tops just reaching to the surface of the surrounding country, while upon the topmost ledge stands one half of a tree while the other half leans against the side of the wall at the bottom of subsidence, as though split off with an axe. The bed of a creek some distance south was subjected to an upheaval of some five feet and the channel of the stream diverted from its course, and a valuable bridge some distance below was left standing high and dry, perfectly useless. This phenomenon can not be called a land slide, as no portion of the surrounding country is covered with any earth, but remains the same as before the subsidence.
The township is the same in area with Congressional township 3 north, of range one west, of the fourth principal meridian, and contains thirty-six full sections, and takes its name from the fact that the principal timber was oak. Many fine farms, handsome residences, commodious barns are scattered throughout the township. The Rushville branch of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railway, enters the township, from the east, in section 13 and traverses the eastern and southern portions, leaving it through section 34, affording direct communication with Chicago and also shipping facilities.
The first land disposed of by the United States, in this township, by land warrants to the soldiers of 1812, were as follows:
To Charles Rowe for the S. W. ¼ of section 2, October 6, 1817
To Amos Brown for the N. E. ¼ of section 8, October 25, 1817
Jacob Frier for the S. E. ¼ of section 8, November 8, 1817
Abraham Willman for the N. E. ¼ of section 9, November 28, 1817
Robt. M. Wilson for the S. E. ¼ of section 14, December 13, 1817
George Maun for the N. E. ¼ of section 3, December 27, 1817
The first to enter the forests and hew out a house was Richard Ashcraft, a sturdy pioneer from Kentucky. He there married a Miss Margaret Burress and then came to Indiana, and started in a one-horse wagon for Illinois. He brought his all in this small wagon. His family consisted besides his wife, of William, Abner and Abisha, his children. When he reached Beard’s ferry, he had only thirty cents in money, and this he parted with, to be landed on this side of the river. He moved onward, and reached what is now Oakland township in November, 1832, and selected a home on the S. W. ¼ of the N. E. ¼ of section 25, where he built a log cabin and made his family as comfortable as he could. The forests at that time were free from underbrush, though the trees were large and closely set. During the winter his trusty gun furnished the meat for his table. Being the first winter after the deep snow the game was very poor and ofttimes scarce. Besides procuring food for his family, he cleared six acres of land by deadening the forest trees. In the spring he broke up his ground with his own horse and the old-fashioned wooden mould board plow, planted his corn and garden, perfectly content with what little he possessed, and buoyed up with bright hopes for the future. He struggled along through the summer, continuing his labors about house and farm. From want of food and proper protection his horse died before the next spring. He left his wife and children alone, and went down Cedar creek to work for William McKee at digging a mill-race. His object was to get money to buy another horse. On the opening of spring, William McKee loaned him a horse to put in another crop, and also furnished him with food and clothes for his family and took his pay in work. From this time forward he was more successful, and lived to see the wonderful change from an unbroken forest to a succession of well kept farms. Some time after his arrival, he became a professor of religion, and served the Lord as a Baptist minister until his death which occurred in the township, where his son Abner now resides. Daniel Matheney with his family, soon moved into the township, and became a neighbor of Mr. Ashcraft. He came from Woodstock township, where he had been living for some years, and settled on the N. ½ of the N. W. ¼ of section 25. He made an improvement upon which he continued to reside for several years and then emigrated to Iowa. William Burress, of Kentucky, a brother of Mr. Ashcraft’s wife, arrived in December, 1832, bringing a wife and one child direct from his native state, and lived with his sister until he built his cabin on the E. 1/2 of the S. W. ¼ of section 25, where he continued to reside until his death. Josiah Downen, with a wife and one child, arrived in the neighborhood in the spring of 1833. He came in a wagon, built his cabin and commenced an improvement right on the E. 1/2 of the S. E. ¼ of section 23, which he subsequently bought. He is now living at an advanced age, feeble both in mind and body. Joseph Logan and family further increased the number of settlers in this neighborhood, in the spring of 1834. He came from the Hobart neighborhood, in Rushville, where he had been living since the fall of 1831, and settled on the S. E. ¼ of section 23, built a cabin and commenced an improvement right, which he sold in the fall of 1836, and moved to Camden. His family consisted of nine persons. The population was further increased in the spring of 1834 by the arrival of William Lamb and family, six persons, from Indiana. He settled on S. E. ¼ of section 26, built his cabin and afterward moved away. Caleb Houston and family arrived in the fall of 1834, took possession of the N. W. ¼ of the N. W. ¼ of section 27, and built his cabin in the midst of the forest. He afterwards entered the land and died at his original home in the township. In the fall of 1835, Ephraim Hills and family came from the vicinity of Rushville, where they had been living several years, and settled on the S. W. ¼ of section 31. His relative, Israel Hills, now resides on the N. W. ¼ of section 1, and may also be recognized as one of the pioneers of this township. A man by the name of Preston settled on the S. E. ¼ of section 22, made an improvement and remained about two years. He came in the spring of 1835. Frederick Noble and family were also amoung the early settlers, coming in the fall of 1834, and settled on the N. W. ¼ of the S. W. ¼ of section 24, building a cabin and taking possession of the land under a settler’s claim. He died upon the place, and his wife moved away. Thomas Pemberton and family arrived in the fall of 1836 and took possession of the S. W. ¼ of section 11, where he lived until his death. His sons, Judge E. J. Pemberton of Rushville and H. C. Pemberton of Oakland, are prominent citizens of the county. Nicholas Pittenger of Va. with a large family, arrived from Fulton county in the summer of 1837, entered the S. W. ¼ of section 13, built his cabin of round logs and spent his days in the arduous toil of improving a farm on which his aged widow and children now reside. When Richard Ashcraft entered Oakland township his nearest neighbors were living either in the Hobart settlement, in the Black Woods of Fulton county, or where Astoria now stands.
The first marriage was that of John McGlothing and Mary Lamb, at the residence of William Lamb, the bride not being yet fourteen years of age. The first birth was that of James Ashcraft, September 3, 1833, to Richard and Margaret Ashcraft, who also suffered the first bereavement by death, that of their son, Abisha, who died in the spring of 1833. He was the first burial in the first cemetery within the township, now known as the Pittinger Graveyard, on the northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 25. The first school was taught in the summer of 1835, in the cabin which had been built by Frederick Noble, on the southeast quarter of section 24, by the Mr. Preston before mentioned. The pupils in attendance were Abner and William, sons of Richard Ashcraft; Harriet, daughter of William Burress; Rebecca and Nancy, children of Josiah Downen; Benjamin, Martha Ann, Sarah Jane and Joseph S., children of Joseph Logan; and three children of the teacher. The term was three months, and the subscription was $1.50 per month. Rev. Thomas Kane, a Free Will Baptist minister, preached the first sermon, at the house of Richard Ashcraft, in the fall of 1834. Revs. John P. Fast and Richard Ashcraft, Free Will Baptists, and Rev. Deacon Brown, Methodist, were the pioneer preachers. The first church built in the township was a frame building, known as the “Houston Church.” Richard Ashcraft was the first Justice of the Peace elected in the township, his commission being dated February 10, 1840. The first physicians to practice in the township were Drs. William H. Nance, from Vermont, Rogers and Hall, of Rushville. The first post-office was established in 1867, at the store of James Skiles, on the northeast quarter of section 34, and was known as Oil Hill post-office. James Skiles was the first postmaster, and he also sold the first goods in the township. Joseph Billingsby had the first forge and did the blacksmithing for the early settlers. The first crime committed in the township was the killing of a man by the name of Ashbrook. His slayer was David Haines, with whom he had been gambling and drinking, and the deed was done in a broil, the instrument being a large club. Haines was sentenced to a term of eighteen months in the penitentiary, upon a plea of guilty of manslaughter, at a term of the Brown county circuit court, at Mt. Sterling. The first mill in the township was a saw-mill, water-power, built by John Houston, on the west branch of Sugar creek, near the Oil Hill post office. The roads are kept in good condition, considering the broken surface of the country, and the numerous streams are spanned by substantial bridges, making travel safe and convenient. Neat school-houses are distributed over the township, and the education of the young receives proper attention. A neat frame church is located upon the southeast quarter of section 30.
Board of Supervisors
The township has had the following representation in the board of supervisors:
1854 - Nicholas Pittenger
1859 - John Young
1860 - Stephen Walker
1862 - Samuel Hickam
1863 - Enoch Gillham
1864 - Enoch Gillham, Chairman of the Board
1865 - Stephen Walker
1866 - Israel Hills
1868 - Richard Ashcraft
1869 - Israel Hills
1870 - Stephen Walker
1871 - George Wheelhouse
1873 - William Baxter
1873 - Henry J. Foster
1874 - Henry E. Pemberton
1875 - Henry J. Houston
1877 - Israel Hills
1879 - William H. Baxter
1880 - Henry C. Pemberton
1881 - James P. Clarke
1882 - Edward J. Jones, present incubent
The population census of 1880 is given as 1261, and the number of improved farms as 180, showing more farms and a greater population than either of the other townships of the northern tier.
Excerpted from The Combined History of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Carol Longwell Miller for Schuyler County ILGenWeb
Copyright 1999, 2000 Robin L. W. Petersen; 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.
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