SETTLEMENT OF ILLIOPOLIS TOWNSHIP (Taken
from the Centennial History of Illiopolis 1956)
first settlements in the township were made in the timberland bordering the
Sangamon River in the southwest part. Here
grew every variety of native hardwoods and wild fruit trees: the plum,
crabapple, cherry, mulberry, and persimmon.
Wild honey could be taken from bee trees.
Game was plentiful and there were deer and bear in the woods.
Hogs could feed upon acorns and other nuts.
region, rather than the rich virgin soil of the prairie lands, was the site
chosen by emigrants, coming here chiefly from Virginia by way of Kentucky, where
they had been accustomed to living near the streams.
From the forests they could get material to build and furnish their
cabins, fuel for their fireplaces, and much of their food.
Also the rivers were their easiest method of transportation.
1826 the first settler, Mrs. Anderson, a widow, arrived with her family and hers
was the first log cabin. Soon after
her came John and James Hunter, Mr. Allen, Joel Watkins, Samuel and Chesley
Dickerson, William Gragg, James Hampton, John Churchill, Josiah Kent, William
Bridges, and others.
little farming was done, but there were patches of corn and cane grown enclosed
by stake and rider fences. Sorghum
and gristmills were built and there was a sawmill, though most of the logs for
the cabins were hand hewn of walnut. Fishing
was done with lightweight poles cut from hickory or papaw, which were dried
during the winter and peeled. No
glass rods or reels were needed. From
the fruits and berries, (elder, spice, and serviceberries) jam or preserves were
made and stored beneath the floors in stone jars covered with wax. Mechanicsburg was the nearest place where these early
settlers might go to do their trading.
the village of Illiopolis had been built, the later settlers, who were truck
farmers, brought some of their products in to sell to the stores or to
housewives. Mr. Tom Disney would
walk to town carrying a pail of blackberries in each hand, refusing to ride lest
the berries be jolted down. These
he sold for forty cents a gallon and, on the return journey he might be seen
shouldering sacks of flour or sugar.
first settlers were the ancestors of the early farmers and residents of the
village. James Hampton was the
grandfather of Mrs. Archibald Boyd. James
Hunter, who married Rachel Scott, was the grandfather of Scott Hunter, owner of
a meat market, and the great-grandfather of Mrs. T. 0. Rule, A. E. Hunter,
Elizabeth Hunter, and J. L. Hunter. Mrs.
Alta Peters, Mrs. W. S. Mussenden, Russell Johnston, Elizabeth and A. E. Hunter
are great, grandchildren of William Bridges, a veteran of the War of 1812.
Edwin Dickerson is the great-great grandson of Samuel Dickerson.
flower-fed buffaloes of the spring
the days of long ago,
where the locomotives sing
the prairie fires lie low.
Return to Centennial History Index