Oakland townshipis located in the northeastern portion of the county. It is boundedon the north by McDonough county, on the east by Fulton county, on thesouth by Rushville, and on the west by Littleton. Entering the townshipfrom Littleton on the west, at the centre of section 7, the West Branchof Sugar creek winds its way across the township, finally discharging itswaters into Sugar creek in section 24, while along its entire course itreceives numerous tributaries from the north and south. Sugar creek entersthe township from the east at section 13 and flows through the sectionsimmediately south, making a wide horse-shoe curve in sections 25 and 36and 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 creekfurnishes a water supply for manufacturing purposes not excelled in thestate. The whole township was formerly covered with a forest of heavy timberof the most valuable species, with the exception of the southwest cornerwhich is prairie of a very good quality. The surface is much broken, thoughrich and fertile, and what were originally heavy forests in the northwesternportion have been converted into finely improved farms by the sturdy andenergetic citizens. A somewhat wonderful freak of nature occurred in thelatter part of last April, on the north half of section 27. A portion ofa large hill in one night sank straight down into the earth to a depthof forty-five feet, carrying with it the heavy timber growing upon itssurface, and leaving the walls as perpendicular and smooth as though excavatedfor 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 theirtops just reaching to the surface of the surrounding country, while uponthe topmost ledge stands one half of a tree while the other half leansagainst the side of the wall at the bottom of subsidence, as though splitoff with an axe. The bed of a creek some distance south was subjected toan upheaval of some five feet and the channel of the stream diverted fromits course, and a valuable bridge some distance below was left standinghigh and dry, perfectly useless. This phenomenon can not be called a landslide, as no portion of the surrounding country is covered with any earth,but remains the same as before the subsidence.
The township is the samein area with Congressional township 3 north, of range one west, of thefourth principal meridian, and contains thirty-six full sections, and takesits 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, entersthe township, from the east, in section 13 and traverses the eastern andsouthern portions, leaving it through section 34, affording direct communicationwith Chicago and also shipping facilities.
The first land disposed ofby the United States, in this township, by land warrants to the soldiersof 1812, were as follows:
To Charles Rowe for theS. 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 theN. E. ¼ of section 9, November 28, 1817
Robt. M. Wilson for theS. 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 forestsand hew out a house was Richard Ashcraft, a sturdy pioneer from Kentucky. He there married a Miss Margaret Burress and then came to Indiana, andstarted in a one-horse wagon for Illinois. He brought his all inthis small wagon. His family consisted besides his wife, of William,Abner and Abisha, his children. When he reached Beards ferry, hehad only thirty cents in money, and this he parted with, to be landed onthis side of the river. He moved onward, and reached what is nowOakland township in November, 1832, and selected a home on the S. W. ¼of the N. E. ¼ of section 25, where he built a log cabin and madehis family as comfortable as he could. The forests at that time were freefrom underbrush, though the trees were large and closely set. Duringthe winter his trusty gun furnished the meat for his table. Beingthe first winter after the deep snow the game was very poor and ofttimesscarce. Besides procuring food for his family, he cleared six acresof land by deadening the forest trees. In the spring he broke uphis ground with his own horse and the old-fashioned wooden mould boardplow, planted his corn and garden, perfectly content with what little hepossessed, and buoyed up with bright hopes for the future. He struggledalong through the summer, continuing his labors about house and farm. From want of food and proper protection his horse died before the nextspring. He left his wife and children alone, and went down Cedarcreek to work for William McKee at digging a mill-race. His objectwas to get money to buy another horse. On the opening of spring, WilliamMcKee loaned him a horse to put in another crop, and also furnished himwith food and clothes for his family and took his pay in work. Fromthis time forward he was more successful, and lived to see the wonderfulchange from an unbroken forest to a succession of well kept farms. Some time after his arrival, he became a professor of religion, and servedthe Lord as a Baptist minister until his death which occurred in the township,where his son Abner now resides. Daniel Matheney with his family, soonmoved into the township, and became a neighbor of Mr. Ashcraft. Hecame 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 yearsand then emigrated to Iowa. William Burress, of Kentucky, a brother ofMr. Ashcrafts wife, arrived in December, 1832, bringing a wife and onechild direct from his native state, and lived with his sister until hebuilt his cabin on the E. 1/2 of the S. W. ¼ of section 25, wherehe continued to reside until his death. Josiah Downen, with a wife andone child, arrived in the neighborhood in the spring of 1833. Hecame in a wagon, built his cabin and commenced an improvement right onthe 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. JosephLogan 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 familyconsisted of nine persons. The population was further increased in thespring of 1834 by the arrival of William Lamb and family, six persons,from Indiana. He settled on S. E. ¼ of section 26, built hiscabin and afterward moved away. Caleb Houston and family arrived in thefall of 1834, took possession of the N. W. ¼ of the N. W. ¼of section 27, and built his cabin in the midst of the forest. Heafterwards 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 ofRushville, where they had been living several years, and settled on theS. W. ¼ of section 31. His relative, Israel Hills, now resideson the N. W. ¼ of section 1, and may also be recognized as one ofthe pioneers of this township. A man by the name of Preston settled onthe S. E. ¼ of section 22, made an improvement and remained abouttwo years. He came in the spring of 1835. Frederick Noble and familywere also amoung the early settlers, coming in the fall of 1834, and settledon the N. W. ¼ of the S. W. ¼ of section 24, building a cabinand taking possession of the land under a settlers claim. He diedupon the place, and his wife moved away. Thomas Pemberton and family arrivedin the fall of 1836 and took possession of the S. W. ¼ of section11, where he lived until his death. His sons, Judge E. J. Pembertonof Rushville and H. C. Pemberton of Oakland, are prominent citizens ofthe county. Nicholas Pittenger of Va. with a large family, arrived fromFulton county in the summer of 1837, entered the S. W. ¼ of section13, built his cabin of round logs and spent his days in the arduous toilof improving a farm on which his aged widow and children now reside. When Richard Ashcraft entered Oakland township his nearest neighbors wereliving either in the Hobart settlement, in the Black Woods of Fulton county,or where Astoria now stands.
The first marriage was thatof John McGlothing and Mary Lamb, at the residence of William Lamb, thebride not being yet fourteen years of age. The first birth was thatof 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 firstcemetery within the township, now known as the Pittinger Graveyard, onthe northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 25. The firstschool was taught in the summer of 1835, in the cabin which had been builtby Frederick Noble, on the southeast quarter of section 24, by the Mr.Preston before mentioned. The pupils in attendance were Abner andWilliam, sons of Richard Ashcraft; Harriet, daughter of William Burress;Rebecca and Nancy, children of Josiah Downen; Benjamin, Martha Ann, SarahJane and Joseph S., children of Joseph Logan; and three children of theteacher. The term was three months, and the subscription was $1.50per month. Rev. Thomas Kane, a Free Will Baptist minister, preached thefirst sermon, at the house of Richard Ashcraft, in the fall of 1834. Revs. John P. Fast and Richard Ashcraft, Free Will Baptists, and Rev. DeaconBrown, Methodist, were the pioneer preachers. The first church builtin the township was a frame building, known as the Houston Church. RichardAshcraft was the first Justice of the Peace elected in the township, hiscommission being dated February 10, 1840. The first physicians topractice in the township were Drs. William H. Nance, from Vermont, Rogersand Hall, of Rushville. The first post-office was established in1867, at the store of James Skiles, on the northeast quarter of section34, and was known as Oil Hill post-office. James Skiles was the firstpostmaster, and he also sold the first goods in the township. JosephBillingsby had the first forge and did the blacksmithing for the earlysettlers. The first crime committed in the township was the killing ofa 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 abroil, the instrument being a large club. Haines was sentenced toa term of eighteen months in the penitentiary, upon a plea of guilty ofmanslaughter, 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 JohnHouston, on the west branch of Sugar creek, near the Oil Hill post office.The roads are kept in good condition, considering the broken surface ofthe country, and the numerous streams are spanned by substantial bridges,making travel safe and convenient. Neat school-houses are distributed overthe 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 thefollowing representation in the board of supervisors:
1854 – Nicholas Pittenger
1859 – John Young
1860 – Stephen Walker
1862 – Samuel Hickam
1863 – Enoch Gillham
1864 – Enoch Gillham, Chairmanof 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 of1880 is given as 1261, and the number of improved farms as 180, showingmore farms and a greater population than either of the other townshipsof the northern tier.
Excerpted from The CombinedHistory of Schuyler and Brown Counties, Illinois, 1882
Transcribed by Carol LongwellMiller for Schuyler County ILGenWeb
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