From the time that SchuylerCounty was first visited by civilized men to the date of actual settlementthere elapsed a century and a half, and this period is forever a hiddenmystery, so far as the historian is concerned. Situated as it wasupon the great natural waterway between the lakes and the Mississippi River,the county was first visited by Louis Joliet and Father Marquette in theirmemorable voyage of exploration in 1673 and, long before the land trailscrossed the prairie, Schuyler’s border land was familiar to the hardy Frenchvoyageurs and the ever-zealous friars, who penetrated deep into the wildernessto carry the gospel to the savages. No palisaded forts were built in SchuylerCounty by these early French explorers, and there is no more record oftheir coming than of the migratory birds that come for a season and aregone.
The first authentic recordof white men in Schuyler County is furnished through the government survey,which was begun in 1815 and completed two years later. And, even then,the only record is the work that was accomplished and the names of thehardy pioneer surveyors who braved the danger of the trackless wilds tolay out land boundaries in this portion of the Military Tract. For yearsafterwards very little was known regarding Schuyler County and the dateof actual settlement did not begin until 1823.
Early in February of thatyear Samuel Gooch, Orris McCartney and Samuel Bogart crossed the IllinoisRiver on the ice at Downing’s Landing (now Beardstown), with about threehundred hogs, to give them the benefit of the range which was very abundant.They had come from the Swinerton neighborhood, six miles west of Mt. Pleasant(now Jacksonville) and brought with them only such things as were essentialfor their camp. Gooch and McCartney remained to look after the hogsand built a camp of logs with walls on three sides and open in front, onthe southeast quarter of Section Sixteen in Rushville Township. They remainedin the county during the summer of that year tending their hogs and gatheringhoney, and in this they were assisted by Thomas Beard, who had previouslybuilt a cabin on the present site of Beardstown. As a result of their bee-huntingduring the summer of 1823, they sent to St. Louis, then the nearest marketpoint, twenty-seven barrels of strained honey and several hundred dollars’worth of wax, and counted the season’s work a profitable one. Gooch,McCartney and Beard afterwards became permanent residents of Schuyler County,and took a prominent part in the administration of affairs in the earlydays.
While these men were firstto arrive in Schuyler County, the first actual settlement dates from February19, 1823, when Calvin Hobart came with his family from the bleak hillsof New Hampshire, to build for himself a home in the West. Even in thatfar-away State he had heard of the richness of the Illinois Country, wherecrops could be grown without laborious effort and cattle and hogs wouldfatten and thrive on the range. And so it happened that he sold his farmin St Albans, N. H., in 1820, and bought three quarter-sections of landin the Military Tract. In the month of August, 1821, he loaded his familyand property possessions into a wagon and started westward. Thence theroute led to Buffalo, N. Y., and along the shore of Lake Eire to PortageCounty, Ohio, where the winter was spent. Here the journey was delayeduntil September, 1822, on account of illness, when the little caravan oftwo teams again moved westward. William Hobart Taylor, then a young manof twenty-one, joined the party here and, in addition to Calvin Hobartand his family, there were his aged parents and their granddaughter, RuthPowers. On to Cincinnati, and then west to Terre Haute, Ind., theytraveled, and Illinois was entered near where Paris, Ill., has since beenbuilt. Crossing the Sangamon River north of Springfield, they camped at”Job’s Settlement,” in what is now Cass County, where they found a colonyof four families consisting of Archibald Job, Thomas and David Blair andJacob White, and of these all but Mr. Job afterwards became residents ofSchuyler County.
Six miles beyond “Job’s Settlement”at the foot of the Illinois bluffs and six miles east of the Illinois River,they came to the cabin of Timothy Harris, beyond which no settler had venturedwestward. The hospitality of the home was tendered them and, in additionto Mr. Harris and his wife, and a Mr. Brown, Ephraim Eggleston, his wifeand six children were quartered there and, two days after their arrival,Nathan Eels, wife and seven children appeared. Mr. Harris’ cabin was onlytwelve feet square, but it afforded shelter for the women and men sleptin the wagon. Other cabins were built and, while the family rested, CalvinHobart set out to find the land he had purchased. Three months were spentat the Harris settlement and on the morning of February 18, 1823, the wagonswere again loaded and a start made for the new home in what was afterwardsto be Schuyler County. The Illinois River was crossed at Downing’s Landing,and from there the little party journeyed to Section Sixteen in RushvilleTownship. It was here, on the southwest quarter of the section, that thefirst home was erected in the county. Calvin Hobart, wife and children,Samuel Gooch and William H. Taylor were the first occupants of the rudelog-cabin erected, and they were joined two weeks later by Mr. Hobart’sparents and Ruth Powers, who had remained in the Harris settlement untila home had been provided for them.
On the first arrival of thislittle colony of homeseekers, they set to work to build a cabin and itwas completed within three days; and, it goes without saying, that no timewas wasted in ornamentation. After Mr. Hobart’s parents arrived anothercabin was built, more pretentious than the first, and in the years to followit served as home, school house and sanctuary. While yet a resident ofthe Harris settlement, Mr. Hobart had planned for the making of a homein Schuyler County, and had gone down the State some fifty miles to anolder settlement, where he traded a wagon, watch and other things broughtfrom the East for a yoke of oxen, plow, chains, two cows and seven hogs,and enough grain and meal was laid in store to last until mid-summer.
As soon as the weather permitted,ground was broken with a plow drawn by a team of oxen, and that year theHobarts cultivated fifteen acres of timber land and about twenty-five acresof prairie soil, which produced a bountiful crop of corn, pumpkins, melonsand turnips, In April of that year Ephraim Eggleston and family of sixchildren arrived in the settlement and located near the Hobarts, wherethey broke land and planted a crop. Samuel Gooch, Orris McCartney and IsaacM. Rouse–all unmarried men–settled on Section 27 that same summer, butdid not get their crop planted until June, and before harvest time it wasnipped by the frost.
Following closely after theEggleston family came Samuel and James Turner, who migrated from St. ClairCounty in the southern part of the State. They had traveled northward tofind more healthful climate, for while residents of the American bottomdeath had claimed all the remaining members of their family. They builta cabin, but never occupied it, returning to St. Clair County with theexpectation of returning the succeeding spring. While there James Turnerdied and, in the spring of 1825, Samuel returned alone and located on thesouthwest quarter of Section 25, Buena Vista Township, and he ever afterwardsmade his home in this neighborhood, where his children and grandchildrenstill reside.
Late in the fall of thatfirst year of settlement in Schuyler County, a stranger appeared at thehome of the Hobarts. He was attired in the garb of the backwoodsman,with deer-skin moccasins and coon-skin cap, and carried a rifle with theease of an experienced hunter. This stranger was Levin Green, and his comingbrought keen joy to the hearts of the settlers, for he was a licensed Methodistpreacher, and the Hobarts, who were a deeply religious people, looked uponhis coming as a direct response to earnest prayer. Green had happened uponthe settlement while on a hunting expedition, and volunteered the informationthat his family and his brother-in-law, George Stewart, and his familywere camped on Dutchman Creek, sixteen miles above on the Illinois River,and that they were looking for a location. They had traveled by canoe frombelow St. Louis and, after the chance meeting with the Hobarts, the entireparty joined the settlement and took possession of the cabin that had beenbuilt that summer by the Turners.
On the first Sabbath afterLevin Green’s arrival, it was planned that religious services should beheld at the cabin of Calvin Hobart. Of that meeting Rev. Chauncey Hobart,in the “Recollections of his Life,” says: “On that first Sabbath, in November,1823, the whole settlement of thirty souls turned out, and we had a warm,earnest, pointed sermon. This was the first sermon preached westof the Illinois River. I well remember, that my heart was much moved underthat sermon, and when after it Levin Green began to sing, ‘There is a fountainfilled with blood,’ and pass around, shaking hands with all in the house,I ran out of doors, fearing that my emotions would overcome me should Iremain.”
The only other settlers toarrive in Schuyler County in the year 1823 were Thomas McKee, who erecteda cabin on the northeast quarter of Section 20, Bainbridge Township, andWillis O’Neal, who settled near by on Section 16. They were both Kentuckiansand had come to Illinois from Indiana. McKee was a fine mechanic and gunsmithand, soon after building his cabin, he erected a workshop, and this wasthe first blacksmith shop in the county. He remained in Bainbridge until1826, when he removed to Littleton and was one of the first settlers inthat township. Willis O’Neal was later a resident of what is now the cityof Rushville, and built a cabin just east of the square on the south sideof East Lafayette Street. He later removed to Brown County and was oneof the early pioneers in that locality.
Early in the spring of 1824the settlement was still further increased by the arrival of Nathan Eelsand family, who had been living on the east bank of the Illinois River.Mr. Eels’ family consisted of six boys and two girls, and they were givena most cordial welcome, especially by the youngsters of the settlementwho found life rather monotonous with so few playmates. Accessions to thesettlement were now becoming more numerous and. during the summer of 1824,the following named persons took up their abode in the county: David andThomas Blair, Jacob White, Riggs Pennington and his nephews, William, Joeland Riley; Henry Green, Jr., John Ritchey, John A. Reeve, George and IsaacNaught. Some of these made their home near the Hobart settlement, whileothers located in Bainbridge and Woodstock Townships.
The year 1825 marked thearrival of a number of men who were afterwards to take a prominent partin public affairs. In February of that year Jonathan D. Manlove, the firstSurveyor of the county, became a resident of Rushville. Soon afterwardscame Samuel Horney, one of the first County Commissioners. Mr. Horney wasa native of North Carolina and had served as a volunteer in the War of1812. He had moved to Illinois in 1818 and, until coming to Schuyler County,had made his home in St Clair County.
John B. Terry, the firstCounty Clerk of Schuyler County, came that same year, as did also HartFellows, who was the county’s first Recorder and Rushville’s first Postmaster.Richard Black settled on what is now the site of Rushville in 1825, butwas “entered out” of his improvement by the county and was forced to seeka new location, and he removed with his family to Woodstock Township. Hisson Isaac, who was a babe when the family first arrived in Schuyler, everafter made his home in Schuyler County and died in Rushville, October 2,1907.
Benjamin Chadsey, who wasone of the three Commissioners appointed to select the location of a county-seatfor Schuyler County, was one of the pioneers of 1825. His arrival in thecounty is thus described in an article which appeared in the Schuyler Citizenof February 5, 1880:
“Late in the summer of 1824two men (Benjamin Chadsey and his father-in-law, Mr. Johnson) started fromthe neighborhood where the city of Danville now stands, on a journey westward.One, Benjamin Chadsey, had been a soldier in the War of 1812 and had receivedas his bounty from the Government lands laid off in 1816, and set apartas a military tract for the soldiers of that war, the southeast quarterof Section 17 (now Rushville Township). His business was to findthe land and see if it would make a home for him and his little family.They traveled west, following an Indian trail, until, not far from Bloomington,on the Mackinaw, they found an Indian village, where they rested a night.The next day they followed the trail until they reached the Illinois River,opposite Fort Clark, now Peoria. After another night spent in the hospitablecabin of a settler on the bank of the river, they struck out on a trailleading to the southwest. They finally reached Sugar Creek, where theylost their bearings, but at last came out of the timber on the prairienear the center of Rushville Township, and near there found rest and refreshmentin a cabin recently built, in which lived one of the thirteen familiesconstituting the entire population of the county. With the early morningthe young man hastened further west over the prairie, and soon rejoicedin the rich, luxuriant grasses that waved in all their primitive wildnesson the beautiful piece of land that was to be his future home. After hehad resolved to locate permanently, he hastened back to Eastern Illinoisand, in the spring of 1825, settled on the farm, where he lived to a haleand hearty old age.”
The first family from a foreigncountry to take up their residence in Schuyler County was that of HughMcCreery’s, who had come from Ireland and, in 1828, ascended the IllinoisRiver on the first steamboat to traverse that historic waterway. The familyconsisted of Hugh McCreery and Sarah McCreery, his wife, and their children–William,the oldest, and his wife, Mathew, John, Margaret, Sarah and James. On reachingRushville Mr. McCreery took possession of the old log court-house on thenorth side of the square in Rushville, for a temporary home, and his sonWilliam built a log cabin that now forms part of Mrs. John Ruth’s residenceon North Congress Street, the only one of the pioneer homes that has escapeddestruction and oblivion from natural causes of decay or the ever ceaselessmarch of progress.
William McCreery was thefirst person in Schuyler County to take out naturalization papers and claimhis rights as a citizen of the United States. His first papers were takenout in Morgan County, Alabama, in 1826, and it was therein stated thathe had landed in New Orleans on February 7, 1825, and had renounced hisallegiance to the King of Great Britain and declared his intention of becominga citizen of the United States. On June 14, 1830, his application for citizenshipwas approved by the Circuit Court of Schuyler County. Mr. McCreery andhis parents died during the cholera scourge of 1834.
During the early years ofsettlement in Schuyler County the Indians were frequent visitors, and wehave noted in a previous chapter that their greeting was a pleasant one,and that no barbaric outrages marked the history of the county. Theonly clash between the settlers and the Indians is recorded by JonathanD. Manlove, who, in writing of early times in Schuyler, says: “Itis recollected by the pioneers that there were wild hogs in the county,and that the Indians and their dogs were very troublesome, running hogsas any other game; therefore, about the commencement of 1826, nineteenof the boys–and that was about all there were in the county–wentto their camp on Crooked Creek, near the mouth, and ordered them off, givingthem a certain time to do so, under the penalty of having their goods wetwith Illinois River. There were some things done that did not meet withthe approval of all, to-wit; two of them were slightly sprouted and severalof their dogs were shot. But few of them visited us afterwards. Ourprincipal object was to remove the traders–white men who were encampedon the Illinois, just below the mouth of Crooked Creek, and traded themammunition and whisky for furs and peltry–and the threatenings were moreparticularly to and for them. They left soon afterwards and never cameback.”
In concluding this chapteron the early pioneers of Schuyler County, we will add a few disconnectedfacts of interest pertaining to this period:
The first birth in the countywas that of a daughter born to Mr. and Mrs. Ephraim Eggleston, in the spring1824.
The first death was thatof a son of Jonathan Reno, in the summer of 1826–a lad some nine or tenyears of age. The first death of an adult was that of Solomon Stanberry,who died of typhoid fever in the winter of 1827, at the home of John Ritchey,north of Rushville. In reviewing the events of pioneer time, Jonathan D.Manlove writes that he rode to Jacksonville to secure a physician to attendMr. Stanberry, but that he was dying when they returned.
The first child born in Rushvillewas Anna Fellows, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hart Fellows, who now residein Bloomington.
The first marriage was thatof Samuel Gooch and Miss Ruth Powers, which was solemnized by Rev. LevinGreen, at the Hobart cabin in November, 1824. This was previous to theorganization of Schuyler County, and the record of the marriage is in PikeCounty, where the groom had to journey to secure his license to wed.
Excerpted from HistoricalEncyclopedia of Illinois and History of Schuyler County, 1908, editedby Howard F. Dyson.
Transcribed by Karl A. Petersenfor Schuyler County ILGenWeb
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