OaklandTownship History

Oakland is one ofthe four townships in Schuyler County bounded on the north by McDonoughCounty, and it is bounded on the east by Fulton County. The land surfaceof the township is broken and in early days was covered with heavy timberthat has long since been cleared away on the uplands where we now findexpansive and fertile farms.

Sugar Creek and its tributariesdrain this wide scope of country and the stream flows the entire widthof the township, entering on the west in Section 7, winding its coursesouthward and east to Section 36. The stream is now an insignificant one,with the bluffs towering high above it, and from whose sides there arenumerous outcropping of coal veins that are worked profitably, even thoughthe coal is but thirty-six inches in thickness.

In the month of April, 1892,a natural phenomenon occurred on the north half of Section 27 that is worthyof note. In one night a portion of a hillside sank deep down into the earth,carrying with it the large trees growing on the surface. This sunken areaincluded a tract of land five acres in extent, and in a night it sank toa depth of forty-five feet and the big trees were left intact with theirtops waving, where only a short time before was the level of their roots.The walls of the depression were left as perpendicular as the walls ofa house and all the lateral fissures were the same. A creek running atthe foot of the hill was made higher than the surrounding ground, and anew channel, fifty yards away, was cut by the stream. The coal that waspushed out with the mud and gravel, and into the creek bed, showed thatthere was a cave or chamber in the coal vein that had been formed whenthe coal was made, probably centuries ago.

The first settler in OaklandTownship was Richard Ashcraft, a pioneer of Kentucky. In 1832 he droveto Illinois from Indiana in a one-horse wagon, and brought with him hiswife and three children, William, Abner and Abisha. Crossing the IllinoisRiver at Beard’s Ferry he pushed northward and, in November, 1832, settledon the southwest quarter of the northeast quarter of Section 25, wherehe built his cabin and prepared to make his home. Mr. Ashcraft afterwardsbecame a licensed preacher of the Baptist denomination and resided in Oaklanduntil his death.

Daniel Matheney moved toOakland from Woodstock Township soon after Mr. Ashcraft settled there,but later left the county. William Burress, a brother of Mrs. Ashcraft,came from Kentucky in December, 1832, and, together with his wife and onechild, lived with his sister until a house could be built. In the springof 1833 Josiah Downen located on Section 23, and the following year JosephLogan settled on the same section, but afterwards removed to Littleton.

Prominent among the otherearly settlers were Caleb Houston, who located on Section 27 in 1834; EphraimHills, who removed from the Hobart settlement to Section 31 in 1835; ThomasPemberton, who arrived in the fall of 1836 and took possession of the southwestquarter of Section 11, and Nicholas Pittenger, who came from Virginia in1837 and located on the southwest quarter of Section 13.

The first birth in the townshipwas that of James Ashcraft, September 3, 1833, son of Mr. and Mrs. RichardAshcraft. The first death also occurred in this family, their son, Abisha,dying in the spring of 1833.

The first school was taughtby a man named Preston in the summer of 1835, in a cabin erected by FrederickNoble, on the southeast quarter of Section 21. Mr. Preston remained inthe township only two years.

Rev. Thomas Kane, a Free-WillBaptist, preached the first sermon in the fall of 1834 at the home of RichardAshcraft. Rev. John P. Fast, Richard Ashcraft and Rev. Deacon Brown wereother pioneer ministers.

James Skiles was the firstmerchant in the township and he opened a store on the northeast quarterof Section 34. In 1867 a postoffice known as Oil Hill was established there,and Mr. Skiles was first postmaster.

When the Chicago, Burlington& Quincy Railroad built its line through Oakland Township, a town wasfounded on the southeast quarter of Section 26 by William Seachrist andnamed Oakland, but was afterwards renamed Ray by the Railroad Company.The town was platted by J. W. Watts, County Surveyor, and lies along theedge of the bluff. After the town was established James Skiles removedhis store from Oil Hill and the postoffice was transferred at the sametime.

Township population in 1900,1,192.

Excerpted from HistoricalEncyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, editedby Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersenfor Schuyler County ILGenWeb

Copyright 1999, 2000 RobinL. W. Petersen; all rights reserved. For personal use only. Commercialuse of the information contained in these pages is strictly prohibitedwithout prior permission. If copied, this copyright must appear with theinformation.

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