Browning Township History

Browning township was so named in honor of O. H. Browning, of Quincy. It is situated in the southeastern part of Schuyler county along the Illinois river, and is irregular in shape. The surface is much broken, consisting along the Illinois bottom of rugged bluffs. It was originally timbered, and it contains but a small quantity of prairie. The streams and water-courses are still well-wooded with oak, hickory, ash, walnut, sycamore, linden, maple, etc., sufficient for building purposes, fuel and fences. The soil is quite productive, and in some parts, especially in the fertile bottom, yields bountifully to the hand of labor. The township is well supplied with streams, sufficient for water-power and for cattle. Sugar creek, the principal stream tributary to the Illinois river, enters the township through the northern boundary toward the west and flows south forming a portion of the boundary line between this township and Frederick. The township is traversed throughout its entire extent from its northern, southwesterly through its southern boundary by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

Early Settlers

The first settlement in the township was made in the year 1826, by William Robertson; he was a native of North Carolina; he came to Schuyler county from Kentucky, attracted by the quantity of game that then abounded here, and settled on the southeast quarter of section 16.  His nearest neighbor was six miles distant in the Chadsey settlement.  After he had built a cabin in the wilderness, by an excellant of spring of water, which is still there, he engaged principally in the pursuit of hunting, of which he was very fond.  Honey was very plentiful, and Mr. Robinson [sic] could stand in the doorway of his cabin and point out a dozen bee- trees.  This article of traffic, together with the venison hams, he used to carry to St. Louis in an Indian bark canoe.  The Indians were quite numerous in those days, and he used to hunt with them, frequently stopping in their wigwams.  By his intercourse with them he became quite familiar with their language; he was a short, stout man and his great strength and endurance enabled him to bear the hardships of the hunter’s life which he loved so well; he was  married to Elizabeth Kirklin,  Esquire Isaac Lane officiating.  Nine children were reared as the fruit of this marriage, five of whom are now living--George in Texas; Alexander in Browning, on a portion of the old place; Joel on the old homestead; Sarah, wife of William E. Walton, in Missouri, and Malcomb in Macon county, Illinois.  He died in the year 1866; his wife following him on life’s last journey in 1872. It was not long after William Robertson had settled, until Alexander and Daniel Robertson came.  They were not related to each other, being of entirely different families, and the two latter named did not remain more than a year in this vicinity.

In August, of the year 1828, four brothers, Thomas T., William, Henry, and Hartwell Lancaster, natives of Kentucky, came to Schuyler county and settled in Browning on section 22.  They all worked together and cleared a small quantity of land.  In the year 1829 they were followed by their brother Gabriel and their mother Elizabeth.  The brothers, after marrying and rearing families, all died except Hartwell and Thomas T., both of whom reside in the township, the latter on section 10, where he has been since 1832.  On March 1st, 1831, he was married to Elizabeth Jackson, by Esquire Isaac Lane.  Ten children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Lancaster, seven of whom are still living.  In his younger days he was a skillful and successful hunter.  In the fall of 1829, he gathered a barrel of strained  honey and peddled it out in Morgan county; he is now (1882) seventy-five years old, hale and hearty, and made this year a full hand in the harvest field.  When they came William Robertson was the only man residing in what is now Browning township, Alexander and Daniel Robertson, above mentioned, having left.

Isaac Lane, the next settler, was a Kentuckian, and came with his wife to the township in the fall of 1828, and settled on the southwest quarter of section 16.  Here was born to them the first child ever born in the township.  Its name was Sarah, and it died in infancy.  Isaac Lane was a large, muscular man, weighing about two hundred pounds; he was an early justice of the peace; his father, Adrian Lane, lived with him for a short time; he left this place for California about the year 1850, and died on the way.

Shelton Luttrell settled on section 16 in 1828, where he reared a large family and where his widow still lives; he came from Tennessee, and was an old pensioner of the war of 1812; he died in March, 1882, at the age of eighty-seven years, at the old place on section 16. George W. Justus and his wife came from Tennessee in 1828 and settled in the vicinity of Ridgeville.  Of his children there are living F. M., M. L., Martha A., widow of William Chatman deceased, G. C., J. O. and T. J. Justus.  George W. Justus died in 1866; his wife, whose maiden name was Susan Bates, died in 1864.

 John M. Campbell, in the fall of 1829, came from North Carolina, and settled on section 14; he brought with him a wife and children; he was twice married, and one of his family is known to be still living, Charles Campbell, who resides in Texas; he held the office of bounty commissioner for a number of years, and died several years ago on the section where he first settled, at the age of seventy-five. In the same year came Stephen Robertson and his wife from Kentucky and settled in the township.  In the spring of 1831, they moved to Macoupin county. John Baker came from Tennessee bringing his family with him, and settled on section 23, in the same year.  Some of his descendants are yet living here, but he moved to Morgan county, where he subsequently died.  George Garrison, a native of Ohio, came and settled on the south half of section 29, where he bought a pre-emption right from Larkin Baker, who had been there long enough to fence in about twelve acres of land and to build a log cabin and a stable.  He came to the county by wagons drawn by a team of horses and a team of oxen.  The value of his entire personal effects at that time did not, perhaps, exceed $350.  His family consisted of his wife and two daughters; Mary is the wife of David Cox of Kansas, and Emma the wife of Ebenezer Vail, of McDonough county, Illinois.

George Skiles was a native of Maryland, and arrived in the county December 2d, 1826, settling on the sixteenth section of Rushville township; he had lived in Tennessee, and from that state he was with General Jackson at the battle of New Orleans.  In the fall of 1816 he went to Indiana; subsequently he removed to Kentucky, where he remained till 1819, when he went to Missouri.  From this state he came to Schuyler county, bringing with him a family of eleven children, seven of whom are still living, four daughters and three sons; John lives in the town of Browning, James R. in McDonough county and William C. in Nebraska.  All three are ministers of the gospel.  George Skiles held the first coroner’s inquest ever held in the county; he held it over the body of George Everett, shot and killed by James Morgan. Jonathan Reno, a native of Tennessee, came in the fall of 1825 to Schuyler county, and settled first in Bainbridge township, where he lived a year; he next settled on section 16 of Rushville township, and in the year 1830 moved to McDonough county.  After the lapse of some time he returned to Schuyler county, and remained about three years; he finally went to Missouri, where he died.  He had ten children, only one of whom, Jonathan, became a permanent settler in the county.  Jonathan settled on section 22, of Browning, in 1849; he has seven children, all living in Schuyler county. David Wallace, a native of Tennessee, in 1825 settled on the northeast quarter of section 21, of Rushville township, where he lived for five years; he then went to McDonough county.  After his roving disposition had led him to many changes of residence he died in Schuler county.  Of his eight children, Alfred, Moses, James, Oliver, Thomas, John and three daughters all are now living except Moses; Alfred is now living at an advanced age in Browning; he was born in Tennessee in the year 1805.  He came up the river on board the “Red Rover,” in June, 1828, on one of the first trips ever made up the Illinois by steamer; he has ever been an active man, and assisted in building one of the first water-mills constructed in the county in 1828.

The first school was taught in a small log cabin, by Nathaniel Glover, a teacher from Tennessee.  This was in the year 1835.  The first building erected exclusively for school purposes was built at Ridgeville.

The pioneer perhaps suffers less from almost every other cause than from insufficient mills to grind meager harvest won from the primitive soil.  The subject of mills, therefore, engaged the early attention of the first settler, and George Skiles, David Wallace and Alfred C. Wallace set to work vigorously and erected the first mill in the year 1829, on Sugar creek, in section 20.  It was a rude log structure and was at first merely a saw mill.  Two run of burrs, one for wheat and one for corn, were added in 1831.  The dam was constructed of logs and dirt, and a portion of it yet remains to remind us of those primitive days. About the same time Benjamin Chadsey and a man named Jordan, built the same kind of a mill a little below on the stream.  In the spring of 1829, Thomas Justus, brother-in-law of George Skiles, built a combined saw and grist-mill above the Skiles mill.  And above the Justus’ mill, a little later, a mill was started by William McKee.  Wilcox and Teal built a mill just above the point where the bridge crosses the creek on the Frederick and Browning road.

The first marriage in the township was celebrated between William Robertson and Elizabeth Kirklin.  The first birth was of Sarah Lane, daughter of Isaac Lane. She died in infancy. The first Justice of the Peace was Isaac Lane, whose official presence seems to have been much sought after by wooing swains and love-sick maidens.

Land Patents

The first patents to land were issued November 20, 1817; John Miller for N. E. ¼ of section 1; October 6, 1817, to G. S. Douglass for N. E. ¼ of section 3, and to Lemuel Latenion for N. W. 1/4 of section 3; December 22d, 1817, to Michael Howell for S. E. 1/4 of section 4; October 24, 1817, to Isaac Harrison for S. W. 1/4 of section 6, and October 23, 1817, to John A. McDonald for S. E. ¼ of section 6.

Board of Supervisors

The county was placed under the township organization in the year 1854.
1854 - John Bogue
1855 - John M. Campbell
1856 - Thomas J. Kinney
1858 - John M. Campbell
1860 - John Parish
1861 - John M. Campbell
1864 - Benjamin Walton
1865 - Stephen Strong
1866 - Jonathan Reno
1868 - John M. Campbell
1869 - Jonathan Reno
1870 - William C. Ventors
1871 - William C. Reno
1872 - A. R. Marshall
1874 - Sherman B. Dray
1876 - William C. Reno
1877 - Mark Bogue, resigned
1877 - William C. Reno
1881 - William Bader

The farming industry of Browning Township is quite important, and notwithstanding the brokenness of much of the surface it has some very productive farms. The total number of farms in the township is 155. The population including towns is 1529.

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 Browning Township index