Hamilton County
1887 County History

The following is a transcription of the Hamilton County history section of The History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin, and Williamson Counties, Illinois (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887).

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HAMILTON COUNTY is situated in the southeastern portion of Illinois and is bounded on the north by Wayne County, on the east by White County, on the south by Saline County and on the west by Franklin and Jefferson Counties.  It is in the form of a rectangular parallelogram, and it twenty-four miles from north to south and eighteen miles from east to west, thus containing 432 square miles or 276,480 acres.


     The surface of this county is generally rolling, and, with the exception of two or three small prairies, was originally covered mainly with timber.  There are no streams of any considerable size in the county, the largest being the North Fork of the Saline River, which has its origin in Section 8, Township 6, range 7 east, at the junction of Wheeler's Creek and Lake Creek, and runs southerly into Saline County.  In the southwest portion is Rector Creek and in the west is Macedonia Creek, in the north are Auxier and Haw Creeks, the latter being a branch of Skillet Fork, which intersects the extreme northeast corner of the county.  A glance at the map shows that all these strams have their origin within the limits of the county and run to the four points of the compass, thus indicating that Hamilton County is more elevated than any of its immediate neighbors.  The alluvial deposits are confined to the valleys of the small streams, and are generally less than a mile in width.  The drift deposits in the uplands vary from ten to thirty feet in thickness, and consist of buff and yellow, gravelly clay, with small boulders interspersed from a few inches to a foot or more in diameter.  Beneath this <pg. 242> gravelly clay and hard pan of the drift are sometimes found stems and branches of trees in the ancient soil in which they grew.


     The rocks of this county belong to the upper coal measures, ranging from Coal No. 10 to No. 13, the rock strata being from 150 to 200 feet in thickness, but the coal is seldom thick enough to work.  In early days the coal on Hogg Prairie was worked to some extent by stripping to supply the blacksmiths, but upon opening up the thicker veins in Saline County, the work in Hamilton County was abandoned.  Beneath this coal is a layer of limestone from thirty to forty feet in thickness.  This is a fine, grained, grayish rock, turns yellowish drab upon exposure, and when burned yields a strong, dark colored lime.  Sandstone is quarried southwest of McLeansboro for building purposes.  It dresses easily and hardens on exposure.  Clay suitable for brickmaking is abundant in every locality, as is also sand for mortar and cement.  There are a few mineral springs in the county, one a mile and a half east of McLeansboro, one north of, and one in McLeansboro.


     Alluvium bottoms of various widths exist all along the main branch of North Fork and on some of the smaller streams.  Here the soil is very rich, usually a sandy loam.  The prairies are small and occupy the highlands between the sources of the streams.  The soil is of medium quality and produces fair crops of oats, wheat, corn, grass, etc.  The oak ridges have a thin soil with a stiff clay subsoil and require artificial stimulus or the plowing in of green crops to retain their productive qualities.  Generally speaking this county compares favorably with other portions of southeastern Illinois.
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     It may be of interest to many to know that Rector Creek was so named from the fact that John Rector was killed near or in this creek by Indians, while engaged in the original survey of the country in 1805.  The following entry on the field book of Saline County has reference to this murder:
     "John Rector died May 25, 1805, at the section corner of Sections 21, 22, 27 and 28; buried from this corner, south 62°, west 72 poles, small stone monument, stone quarry northwest, 150 yards."  This was in Township 7, Range 7.
     Moore's Prairie was so named from a man named Moore whose Christian name can not now be recalled, but who was killed by Indians.  The same is the case as to Knight's Prairie.  Hogg Prairie was named after the father of Samuel Hogg.  Eel's Prairie is said to have been named after Eli Waller, though the connection is not obvious.  Beaver Creek was named from the presence of large numbers of beavers in and near the creek.  Allen Precinct was named after a Mr. Allen, it is now Twigg Township named after James Twigg.  Griswold Precinct was named after Gilbert Griswold, it is now Flannigan Township named after a Mr. Flannigan.  Shelton Precinct was named after Joseph Shelton, Crouch Precinct after Adam Crouch, and Mayberry Precinct after Frederick Mayberry.


It is not easy to state with certainty who was the first settler within the present limits of Hamilton County, but the following are among the names of the early settlers:  David Upton, who located about six miles southwest of the present town of McLeansboro, in 1816, on what is known as Knight's Prairie.  Charles Heard came in a few weeks later from Rutherford County, Tenn., near Stone River, and purchased the improvements of David Upton, consisting mainly of a small log cabin.  Mr. Heard brought <pg. 244> with him his wife and five children – James M., John H., Charles H., Elizabeth and Polly.  Other early settlers were John Bishop, John Hardister, William Hungate (the latter having a family of four of five children), Jacob Coffman, Gilbert Griswold, Samuel Hogg, John Townsend, Jacob Braden, Abram Irvin; John Schoolcraft and his four sons, James, John, Hezekiah and Almon, and three daughters, Nancy, Margaret and Susan; William Christopher, and Jesse Hardister; John Daily and his family of six sons and four daughters, viz.: Anderson, William, Vincent, John, Levi and Harvey, and Nancy, Jensie, Mary and Elizabeth (Nancy married Benjamin Hood, Jensie married Daniel Tolley, Mary married Job Standerfer, and Elizabeth married John Bond); Frederick Mayberry and his sons, Frederick, Jacob, George and Solomon; Samuel Biggerstaff and his sons, Hiram, Wesley and Alfred; William Hopson and Jesse Hopson, brothers; Richard Smith and his sons, Samuel and John B. Smith; William B. McLean, brother of John McLean, of Shawneetown; Freeman McKinney, brother-in-law of William B. McLean; Thomas Smith and Randolph Smith, each with a large family; Townsend Tarlton, one of the members of the first county commissioners' court; Robert Witt; Richard Lock and his sons, John, Jonas, William and Samuel; Mastin Bond, father of John Bond; Andrew Vance and family; Adam Crouch; John Buck, son of Frederick Buck, of Gallatin County, and his sons, John and William; John Ray, John, James, Caleb and Matthew Ellis; Jesse C. Lockwood, brother of Judge Lockwood, of the Illinois Supreme Court; Chester Carpenter, a Baptist preacher, and his son, Milton Carpenter, also a Baptist preacher, and afterward State treasurer; Dr. Lorenzo Rathbone, and John Anderson, whose daughter married Dr. Rathbone; Gabriel and Edmund Warner, A.T. Sullenger, John Willis, Merrill Willis, Hardy C. Willis, Elijah Burriss; John Moore, father of Mrs. Charles Heard, and his sons, James, Alfred and Green; Levi Wooldridge, in the southeastern part of the county, and John <pg. 247> Wooldridge, near the present site of Hoodville; Job Standerfer, William Denny and James Lane, Sr., the latter coming into the county in 1818, from Sumner County, Tenn., with his family, consisting of his wife and sons, William, Leaven, Thomas, James, Jr., (afterward county judge), and L.B. Lane and daughters, Sadie, Lavina, Elizabeth and MaryLewis Lane, another son of James Lane, Sr., came at the same time as the head of a family, bringing his wife, Mary, and two children, Joel P., and Eliza (who is now living as the widow of Lewis Prince, her second husband, the first having been a Mr. Biggerstaff.)  Mr. Grimes and his sons William and "Don," came in 1818, probably from Kentucky.  John Biggerstaff, a brother of Samuel, was also an old settler, and a Mr. Billings and his sons, Henry and William, came in 1817.  Robert Wilson, with his wife and daughter Eliza, came from Kentucky.  William Allen and his sons, John and Jacob, and Thomas Garrison were also early pioneers.  Some of those who settled in the northeast part of the county in early days were Mr. Rador, Adam Thompson and sons, William Porter, Hiram and Eli York (brothers from Kentucky), Thomas White and sons, Hugh and Thomas; James Hopson, John Palmer, Michael Smithpeter; Langston Drew and his sons, John and William, and daughters, Elizabeth, Frances and Nancy; Samuel Martin and wife and two sons, and two daughters, Lewis Thomas with his wife and two daughters, from White County, Tenn., Hiram Thomas, wife, and sons, and Mrs. Lewis F. Peter and Samuel, and two or three daughters, John Davis, Jesse Moore, from Tennessee, with his wife and four sons and four daughters; a Mr. Sexton and his son Harvey, Edward and William Compton, and Lewis Thompson (who married a Sexton, and became very wealthy).  In the southern part of the county were James Twigg, who came in 1822, from Rutherford County, Tenn., after whom Twigg Township was named, and who is still living at the age of eighty-three.; Henry Hardister came as a yound man; John Burnett and family, <pg. 248> Isaac Johnson with a large family; Robert Johnson and his sons, John L. and G.W.; Samuel Wilson and Charles and three daughters; Jacob Braden, in 1819, with five or six sons; Jesse C. Lockwood, Charles Phelps, Gilbert Griswold; Richard Waller, with wife, three sons and three daughters; John Douglass, from Tennessee, with wife and sons, James, Hezekiah and Hugh, and three or four daughters; "Hal" Webb, David Keazler; John and John S. Davis, from South Carolina; Mr. Young, with his wife; Hugh Gregg; Samuel Flannigan, with a large family; Uriah Odell and two brothers, and William, Charles and Christopher Hungate.  Some of those in the vicinity of Knight's Prairie were Robert Page, from South Carolina, with three sons and some daughters, Capt. Hosea Vise and Nathaniel Harrison; Nimrod Shirley, with a large family; John Hall, grandfather of the present lawyer, John C. Hall, of McLeansboro; Richard Maulding, William James; William Lane, wife, two sons and three daughters; Lewis Lane, grandfather of Gov. Henry Warmoth, of Louisiana, who was born in McLeansboro about the year 1840; Martin Kountz, John Griffey, John Shaddock; Robert Clark, wife, three sons and three daughters; Thomas, Hiram and John Barker, from Kentucky; Samuel Beach, who afterward moved to Wayne County; William Hall, father of the present sheriff of the county; Elijah, John, William and Robert Kimsey, each with a large family; Jeremiah McNimmer, William P. Procter, David Procter, Reuben Procter, Isaac McBrown, and Hazel, Calvin, John, Henderson and Robert McBrown, Joseph Shelton, Nathan Garrison; Mr. Stull, wife and son James, who is still living; William Stearman, Martin Stearman, Mr. Lowery and son John Lowry, Elliott W. and Young S. Lowery, all from Tennessee; Hazel Cross and family, Pleasant Cross and family, Mr. Whitewell and family, Isaac Going and family; Thomas Burton and family, consisting of wife, four sons and five daughters; Reuben <pg. 249> Oglesby; William Johnson, wife and two sons, Jesse and Eli; Ephraim and Thomas Cates, both with families; Philip Bearden and family; a portion of the above in the northwest part of the county.  Samuel McCoy and O.L. Cannon, from Ohio, settled in the vicinity of the present Dahlgren, and also Henry Runyon and George Irvin, in 1822, in the same part of the county.  A.M. Auxier settled in the northern part of the county, or in Wayne County.  Auxier's Creek and Auxier's Prairie were named after him.  His son, Benjamin Auxier is well remembered from a difficulty he had with a man named Grant, occasioned by jealousy of the latter with reference to some woman whose name is not to appear in this history.  In connection with the affair Grant swore he would kill Auxier, and Auxier, wishing neither to be killed nor to kill Grant, caught him in the woods, bound him to a log with a strong withe across his neck, and put out both of his eyes.
     Crouch Township was named after Adam Crouch.  In this township were the following as early pioneers:  William Ellis, William Rowls, wife and three or four sons, John Warfield, wife and three sons and three or four daughters, all from Kentucky; Jarrett Trammell, wife and sons, Nicholas and Philip; Francis Lasley, Phelan Woodruff, Charles Crissell, David Garrison, Sr., Abram Peer, Samuel Close and family, James Hall, Charles Tarter, Robert Van Devener, Samuel Deets (first tailor in McLeansboro), who came from Logan County, Ky.; John Irvin (first hatter in McLeansboro); John White and family, from Tennessee; George Saltman and family, Martin Sims, James Hunter, James and David Barnes; Mr. Lakey, who lived on the "Jones tract," after whom Lakey's Creek was named, and who was killed by his son-in-law; Moses and Abraham Hudson, Andrew Peck, Mason Morris, Edward Gatlin and Lofty Nichols (the latter lived near McLeansboro), William Vickers, Samuel Crouse, James Hughes, Thomas Howard, and several others whose names can not now be ascertained.  The first white settler <pg. 250> whoever he was, has left no posterity to perpetuate his name.  George McKenzie is said to have settled here about 1810.
     Mastin Bond has been mentioned above as one of the ancient pioneers.  His son, Richard Bond, related to Thompson B. Stelle the following incident relative to "Indian Charley," the last of the Shawnee Indians to leave the happy hunting grounds of this county.  This Shawnee was a "medicine man" of great reputation among his race.  He lived on Opossum Creek, near Joseph Coker's farm, where he remained until 1823, about one year after his wife had gone away.  He said he felt sad to leave his happy hunting grounds and the graves of his fathers, but that he believed the Great Spirit had given the country to the "pale face," and he was, in that view of it, content to go.  On the day before his departure he told Mastin Bond and John Dale of a great secret.  There was a small herb growing in their midst that would ruin the country some day if it were not destroyed.  There was a small patch of it in Eel's Prairie, on Big Creek, and one near Auxier's Pond, on Auxier's Creek.  The noxious weed was known to all the Indian doctors, but its ravages had not then commenced; so the old pioneers lost an opportunity to know and to destroy the deadly "Milk Sick."
     The only other Indian story for which there is space in this sketch is one told in a short history of pioneer life in Hamilton County, by William Bryant.  He says: "We left Mr. Ivy's place this morning, January 1, 1810," but he does not tell us where Mr. Ivy's place was.  Prior, to leaving, however, there was a general hand-shaking all around, and the best wishes were bestowed upon all.  The squaw then put in.  Drawing a couple of French pipes from her bosom, she filled them both with the dried leaves of the sumac, then lighted each with a live coal.  She put the stem of one in her mouth, drew three whiffs of smoke and handed the other to Mr. Ivy, raising three of her fingers near his face saying, "Good heart, smoke."  When he had taken three <pg. 251> draws she lowered her fingers, took hold of his pipe and handed it to Mr. Bryant's uncle, going through the same performances, then offered the pipes to the married ladies, and so continued to all the company, but for the young people she filled the pipe with the pulverized leaves of the plant know as "Adam and Eve."
     There was a young couple present who wanted to get married and the squaw performed the ceremony in the following manner:  Filling two pipes she handed one to each of the couple, and when each had taken three draws she had them change pipes and smoke them empty.  She then laid both pipes on the ground, side by side and declared the couple man and wife.  A grand march then followed with the squaw in the lead uttering tremendous yells.
     It was stated above that the first white settler in Hamilton County, whoever he was, left no posterity to keep his name alive after his demise.  This was not, however, by any means generally the case with pioneers.  Judge Thompson B. Stelle, in his historical sketch of the county elsewhere quoted from says:
     Our good old grandfathers were always proud when the day would come that they like Jacob of old could name their twelfth son Benjamin.  This is illustrated by the story about the good old matron who when asked by a friend, how many children she had, replied that indeed she did not know, that she and the old man kept count until they had a dozen whopping boys and girls, but that since then they had paid no attention to the matter.
     In another place Judge Stelle says in substance:  The mode of living in pioneer times was much different from what it is at the present time.  Meal was made in a "hominy mortar," a block of wood with a hole burnt in one side into which they put the corn and crushed it with a pestal attached to a spring pole.  After separating the coarse from the fine, the former was called hominy, and the latter fine meal.  The fine meal was baked into bread for breakfast and the hominy boiled for dinner.  The separation of the hominy from the fine meal was effected by means of a buckskin sieve, a piece of buckskin stretched over a hoop, with holes punched through it with an awl.  The common <pg. 252> varieties of corn bread were "hoe cakes," "Johnny cakes," and "dodgers."  A dodger was cooked by being roasted in hot ashes, a Johnny cake by placing the dough on a board near the fire, and when cooked on one side turned over and cooked on the other, and a hoe cake was cooked by placing the dough on a hoe which was placed on the fire and heated.  The main reliance for flesh food was bear meat and venison.
     Buckskin was the most common article used in making wearing apparel.  Buckskin dresses by the women.  Their natural charms were not set off, as are those of the young ladies of the present day by yard upon yard of ribbons, laces and flounces, and it is said of the pioneer women that they were courted as assiduously and as honestly, and were withal far more sensible than are their fair granddaughters, for they did not then court for pastime.

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Michael L. Hébert
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Last updated on Friday, 07-Mar-2008 05:25:56 PST.