History Of Coles County Illinois
Title Page
General History of Coles County223
Charleston Township289
Mattoon Township324
Ashmore Township391
Pleasant Grove Township407
Hutton Township430
East Oakland Township443
Morgan Township456
Seven Hickory Township463
Humbolt Township469
La Fayette Township478
North Okaw Township489
Paradise Township496
Biographical Sketches of Prominent Citizens.511
Tax-payers of Coles County657
Business Directory693
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HISTORY is the camera through which we view the events of countries and people. It records the noble deeds of the soldier and the statesman, and stands the proud monument of a country’s greatness. It is history, sacred though it be, that tells us of the glory of Eden, and the purity and happiness of the first pair in its Elysian fields, and likewise of their transgression and fall. And through the sixty centuries that have passed since the world’s dawn, it is history that presents to us, whether in types, in hieroglyphics or in tradition, all that we know of men and things past. The events which constitute the annals of a country are matters of at least some local interest, and be that country ever so “beautiless, barren and bleak,” it contains something of sufficient importance to be engraved upon the pages of history. How much more important, then, that the fertile region of which we propose to treat in these pages should become a matter of record, and form a part of the history of a great State and a great country.
A history of Coles County is a part of the history of America. Every portion of a thing goes to make up and becomes a part of the whole. The population of this county constitutes a part of the forty millions of American citizens who people this country, and their absolute wealth and prosperity make a part of our national wealth and material greatness. The intelligence of its people form a part of our intelligence as a nation. The patriotism and self-sacrificing devotion of its sons, the gallantry and prowess of its soldiers on a hundred battlefields, are no mean part of the pride and glory of this great American nation.
The age of Coles County (as such) is two years less than half a century, but the date of its settlement extends back nearly a decade beyond. its organization as a county. Within that time, the events that have transpired and the scenes that have been enacted upon its soil, will be the subject-matter of these pages. Taking it from the time of its occupancy by the Indians, we will endeavour to trace its progress from that wilderness state to the present period of its wealth and prosperity. Its growth has been rapid and wonderful beyond the wildest dreams of the pioneers who first set foot within its borders.
The present territory of the county was formerly a part of the State of Virginia, and ceded by her to the United States in 1784, and was called the Northwest Territory. Virginia was the home of the “Father of his Country,” and prides herself still on being the mother of the nation’s best Presidents so; Coles County comes of no ignoble ancestry. In 1778, Virginia organized what is now Illinois into one county, which, some years later, received the name of St. Clair, from the then Governor of the Northwest Territory. In 1809, Illinois was organized into a separate Territory, and was composed at the time of two counties—St. Clair and Randolph. After this, Madison was set off from St. Clair, and Crawford was afterward set off from Madison. When Illinois was received into the sisterhood of States, in 1818, there were but fifteen counties, of which Crawford was one. This county was named for Hon. William H. Crawford, who was reputed an honest man, and a safe custodian of public money ; for under the administration of Madison and Monroe he was Secretary of the Treasury, and also a candidate for the Presidency in the Adams and Jackson campaign of 1824. During the year 1819, Clark County was set off from Crawford. It then embraced a large extent of territory running up the valley of the Wabash, and far beyond, even to the Canada line, or British possessions. Clark County was named in honor of Gen. George Rogers Clarke, a native of Virginia, and a pioneer warrior of considerable celebrity. In 1779, more than a quarter of a century before the organization of Illinois into a separate Territory, he organized an army in Virginia, and marched it across the Alleghany Mountains to the Ohio River. A few years later, the world rung with the mighty achievement of Napoleon crossing the Alps with a great army, but to our mind, the deed no more than equaled that of Clarke in crossing the Alleghanies and traversing a wilderness with his little band of soldiers, beset and harassed by hostile savages. He had never seen a steamboat nor heard of a railway-train, but he understood war and the trans- portation of an army. He built rafts, and on them shipped his soldiers down the Ohio to the spot where Shawneetown now stands, and then by forced marches through swamps and marshes filled with water, often knee-deep to his men, he moved them across the country to Kaskaskia and captured that important post from the British. But all this belongs to State history.


Coles County was set off from Clark in 1830. It then embraced in its territory what is now Cumberland and Douglas Counties. Upon its organization, it was christened Coles, in honor of Edward Coles, the second Governor of the State, and elected to that position in 1822. As a general rule, it is not safe to name a child or country for any man while he is yet living, though he be a very Solomon, for we know not how soon he may fall. There is no security for a good reputation but in the tomb. This side of that “bourn” the proudest name, the most exalted reputation may totter and fall to pieces. In this respect, however. Coles County’s namesake died with a name untarnished. Edward Coles was a man eminently fit to give a name to any country. He was a native of Virginia, rich, and a large slave-owner, and when he emigrated to Illinois he brought his slaves with him. A man who loved liberty, its fires lighted up his soul, and its benign influence dictated his action and inspired him with pure purposes and prompted him to noble deeds. Of all other men, he demanded respect for his rights, and to the rights and personal liberty of all other men he accorded the same profound respect. On reaching Illinois and becoming a citizen of the State, he set his slaves all free, and, in addition, gave each head of a family among them 160 acres of land. Such was the law at that time, that a man setting a slave free in Illinois, must give a bond that it should never become a public charge. To this very unsavory requirement of the law. Coles failed to yield obedience, for which little delinquency his case was adjudicated by the courts, and he was fined $2,000. This fine he was never required to pay, and the cause which gave rise to it will never give rise to another of a similar character in Illinois, in the civilized ages to come.
Coles County, at the time of its organization, was some twenty-eight miles east and west, and about fifty miles north and south, but at that time, as already noted, it included Douglas and Cumberland Counties. At present, it is bounded on the north by Douglas County, on the west by Shelby and Moultrie Counties, on the south by Cumberland, and on the east by Clark and Edgar Counties. It embraces twenty-four sections of Township eleven north, and all of Townships 12 and 13, and eighteen sections of Township 14 north, in Ranges 7, 8, 0, 10 and 11 east, and a part of Range 14 west. Range 11 east in this county is fractional, being only three-fourths of a mile wide. In the south-east part of the county there is a “jog” in the east line of three sections wide east and west, in Range 14 west, and seven sections long north and south, in Townships 11 and 12 north. When Coles County was set off from Clark, the latter was unwilling to give up that portion of its territory and inhabitants to a new county. The reason of this is found in the fact that it embraced the best portion of that county, and a settlement of energetic and intelligent people. In the north line of the county, there is also a “jog” of two miles north, in Ranges 11 east and 14 west. This was made to retain the village of Oakland in this county, when Douglas County was created. That village was then regarded as having great room for outgrowth and development. This county was unwilling to give up that portion of its territory, and the people of that village were unwilling to be given over to a new county organization. Coles County is situated in latitude 40 north and in longitude 11 west from Washington, and embraces about five hundred square miles. Its general surface is undulating; not so level as to be regarded flat, nor so broken as to be considered mountainous or even hilly. It forms a beautiful plateau or table-land, and is about eight hundred feet above the level of the Gulf of Mexico. It is largely prairie, and constitutes a part of what is known as the Grand Prairie. This prairie is perhaps as large in extent, as rich in soil and as magnificent, originally, in nature’s waving fields as any in the Mississippi Valley.
In the topography of the county, the prairies form rather a notable feature. The origin of these great plains has been a source of much speculation. One theory is that the soil resulted from the decomposition of vegetable matter under water, and that the attending conditions were incompatible with the growth of timber. According to this view, prairies are at present in process of forming along the shores of lakes and rivers. During river freshets, the heaviest particles settle nearest the channel, and here, by repeated deposits, the banks first became elevated above the floods. These natural levees becoming sufficiently high, are overgrown with timber, and enclose large areas of bottom lands back from the river, by which they are frequently inundated. The waters on these flats, when the flood subsides, are cut off from the river and form sloughs, frequently of great extent. Their shallow and stagnant waters are first invaded by mosses and other aquatic plants which grow under the surface and contain in their tissues lime, alumina and silica, the constituents of clay. They also subsist immense numbers of small mollusks and other diminutive creatures, and the constant decomposition of both vegetables and animals forms a stratum of clay corresponding with that which underlies the finished prairies. As the marshy bottoms are, by this means, built up to the surface of the water, the mosses are then intermixed with coarse grasses, which become more and more abundant as the depth diminishes. These reedy plants, now rising above the surffice, absorb and decompose the carbonic-acid gas of the atmosphere, and convert it into woody matter, which at first forms a clayey mold, and afterward the black mold of the prairie.”*
As we have said, the prairies form a notable feature in the topography of the county, the soil in them being invariably deep, rich and productive. The original prairie grass grew very rank, often higher than a man’s head. As a rule, the prairies occupy the high land and the timber the low land, though there are some exceptions to this. Timber abounds in the county, but is mostly confined to the valleys of the water-courses. The varieties consist of all the kinds of oak, hickory, walnut, elm, maple or sugar tree, cottonwood, hackberry and perhaps some others. There are still some very fine sugar orchards in the valley of the Embarrass River. Speaking of these sugar orchards and the excellent timber of the county calls to mind a stanza from the compositions of a local poet of Northern Illinois on a similar subject:
“ The timber here is very good—
The forest dense of sturdy wood;
The maple-tree its sweets affords,
And walnut, it is sawn in boards;
The giant oak the axman hails—
Its massive trunk is torn to rails;
And game is plenty in the State,
Which makes the hunter’s chances great.
The prairie wolf infests the land.
And the wildcats all bristling stand.“
*Davidson’s History of Illinois.

As fine poetical thought, the above effusion is of rather limited merit, but as descriptive of this country fifty year’s ago, the picture it presents is a very true one. Many years ago, in the settling-up of this part of the country, timber was regarded as quite an object. Every land-owner was of the opinion he must have a piece of timber-land. It was believed that the settlement and improvement of the country would render it eventually scarce. At one time, timber-land sold more readily, and for a higher price than prairie. Such, however, is not now the case, and a half-century of experience finds still an abundance of timber for all practical purposes.
Beautiful lakes, high mountains and large rivers, are not characteristic of Coles County. But two streams entitled to the name of river, enter its borders, viz., the Embarrass and the Kaskaskia. The latter is better known in this section of the country as Okaw, but nearer its mouth it is called Kaskaskia altogether. The Embarrass, or Ambraw, as it is almost universally pronounced, is a beautiful stream. It rises in Champaign County, flows through Douglas and this county from north to south, and makes a tributary of the Wabash. It is the dividing line between Morgan and Oakland Townships, Charleston and Ashraore, and Pleasant Grove and Hutton Townships. Before the days of railways and lightning news-carriers, this river was navigable, for an early statute of Illinois so declared it to be. During the time the law was in force, numer- ous vessels were built on this river, at a point near what is now known as Blakeman’s Mill, and which went by the high-sounding name of the “boatyard.” Some of these vessels went down and out of the Embarrass, and down the Wabash, Ohio and Mississippi to New Orleans, and others foundered in the “ Dark Bend,” a spot where the sun never shines, except at high noon. These vessels were called flatboats, and were usually loaded with the surplus products of the country, consisting of such articles as would be of small loss if they never reached a market. This stream abounds in fine varieties of fish, viz., bass, cat, buffalo, pike and many others. The Okaw meanders through the township of Okaw, in the northwest part of the county. It is a dull, sluggish, running stream. The water is muddy, has not sufficient action to clear and purify itself of “wiggle-tails,” and other such “ vermin.” Under the law, it, too, was a navigable river for shallow water-craft, and is a tributary of the “Father of Waters.” There are two other streams which have their source in this county, both of which are too small to be called rivers, and rather large to be styled creeks. They are the little Wabash and the Kickapoo, and each takes its name from powerful tribes of Indians once dwelling in this region of country. They begin or “head” in the immediate neighborhood of each other, but the Wabash runs to the southwest and the Kickapoo to the east. There is also a small stream in Morgan Township, rejoicing in the oily appellation of Greasy Creek, which possesses some notoriety, by reason of the peculiar manner it acquired its name. In the pioneer days, hogs were “mast” fatted altogether, and in that neighborhood many hogs were stolen and butchered. It was the custom of the people, before turning their hogs on the “mast,” to give them certain ear-marks, by which each man was enabled to identify his own hogs. To destroy the evidence of ownership, the thieves would cut off the heads of the hogs stolen, and throw them into this creek. The decomposition made the water greasy, hence the name Greasy Water or Greasy Creek. On one occasion, these pioneer pork-packers were overtaken in a deep ravine in the woods killing hogs. When discovered, they were in the act of “scalding” a lot, but their heads had been cut off as usual. When asked why they took the heads off at so early a stage of the proceedings, they answered that they “never could get a good scald on a hog while his head was on.“ In Ashmore Township is a creek that bearing the perfumed name of Pole Cat, so called from the great numbers of popular feline pet, to be found in an early day, in its immediate vicinity. This classic stream, like Greasy Creek, also has its legend. The following story is told in connection with the origin of its name: A new-comer to the neighborhood, encountered one of these little monsters on the banks of this stream. In the combat that ensued, he learned through practical demonstration the startling power of “this kind of a cat” to defend itself when assailed by an enemy. The new-comer was so overwhelmed with the success of the animal’s defense, that he buried his clothes on the battle-ground, and returned home in the costume of the Georgia Major, minus the spurs and the paper collar, and there-upon christened the stream by the name of Pole Cat. In the township of Hutton there are two small streams called respectively Whetstone and Hurricane; in Pleasant Grove are also two little streams, Indian and Clear Creeks, and in East Oakland, Brush Creek.
In the county are numerous groves, or small bodies of timber, isolated from the main timber. What circumstances gave rise to their growth, or how long they have been growing, is not within the knowledge of those now living. Dodge Grove is in Mattoon Township, about two miles northwest of the city, and takes its name from this circumstance: In the early days, there lived a family near it, of the name of Whitley, and they owned a race-mare, known as the “Dodge Filly.” On a notable occasion they took her to Springfield to the races. These races took place twice a year, called the spring and fall meetings. They staked the filly on a race, and lost. Being loath to give her up, they run her off and concealed her in this grove for three weeks. The party winning the mare came in search of her, and had the officers of the law to scour the country, but they failed to find her. Thus the filly dodged capture, and the grove captured the name of Dodge. Dead Man’s Grove is in La Fayette Township, on the north branch of Kickapoo Creek, and was formerly called Island Grove. It took its present name from the fact that a man was found dead in the grove in March, 1826, supposed to have frozen to death. There was snow on the ground at the time, and, when found, the corpse was “sitting at the root of a tree with a bridle thrown over the shoulders.“ The man’s name was Coffman, and he lived in the Sand Creek settlement. He was carried by Samuel Kellogg on horse-back, without coffin or escort, to the Parker settlement, on the Embarrass, for inquest and burial. Seven miles north and west of Charleston, in Hickory Township, standing out in the open prairie, are what is called the Seven Hickories. They acquired that name because formerly there were just seven hickory trees constituting all there was of the grove, and what seems somewhat singular is, that hickory is a species of timber that never grows in the prairies. The original trees have paid the debt of nature, but a numerous progeny still survive. In Humbolt Township near the village of the same name, on a little stream called Flat Branch, is the Blue-Grass Grove. It was formerly a camping-place of the Indians, and their ponies ate out the wild grass, when the blue-grass, as it invariably does in this country, sprang up spontaneously in its place. It thus became the first blue-grass “patch ” in the county, and hence the name of Blue-Grass Grove. The Dry Grove and Buck Grove are near neighbors, and are about four miles south of Mattoon. The great number of deer, of the antlered sex, killed by the pioneer sportsmen gave rise to the name of the Buck Grove. Dry Grove has borne that name from time immemorial. It is supposed to have been named by the “first man,” and that, too, in a dry time, otherwise its name would have been different, and more appropriate. In the south part of the county, in the town of Pleasant Grove, is a prairie called Goose-Nest Prairie. The inhabitants have always been proud of the title, but the rest of the world seem amused at the novelty of the name, and the people’s peculiar pride of it. About the year 1827, a pioneer, named Josiah Marshall, was looking at the country, and coming into this prairie from the summit of a knoll in its midst, observing on one hand trees literally dripping with wild honey, and on the other, nature’s waving meadows, and beneath him a soil, deep, rich and productive, and probably having in his mind’s eye the peculiar richness of a goose egg, in an ecstacy of delight exclaimed in an uplifted voice, “ this is the very goose-nest.“ It has since borne the name. Just west of this prairie, in the the same township, is a point of timber known as “Muddy Point,“ but has no significance in history, save the peculiar appropriateness of the name. In the east part of the county is a portion of a prairie called Parker’s Prairie, so-called from George Parker, its original settler.
Prior to 1824, what is now Coles County was a wilderness waste, uninhabited by civilized man. If any pale-face before that time had ever come within its borders as an actual settler, it is not known whence he came, who he was or whither he went. The red man of the forest held high carnival over the land, his camp-fires were seen in the distance, and it was his war-whoop and his death-song that broke the stillness, while his wigwam was the only specimen of a habitation made with human hands. Old Bruin reigned king of the wild beasts ; the panther screamed, the wolf howled, and the gray-eyed owl hooted without the presence of civilized man to “molest or make them afraid.“ The forest was undisturbed except by the blaze of the tomahawk, and the soil untrodden, save by the wild beast and the savage and his pony. A half-century or more, white people have witnessed the grand march of civilization over this land, and to-day scarce a trace is left of the former presence of the aborigines of the country. In 1824, the first settlement was made in Coles County, by men whom God made white, and blessed with the light of civilization. Of the first emigrants, but few remain. Most of them have paid nature’s last great debt, and the memories of those remaining are so impaired by age that but few facts can be obtained. The first settlers came from Crawford County on the Wabash River, where they had lived many years, building and dwelling in forts, and skirmishing with the Indians. As pioneers, they possessed an extensive experience. They were John Parker and his sons, among whom were Daniel, Benjamin, Silas, George and James Parker and families, and Samuel Kellogg and his wife Mary, in all fourteen souls, the latter of whom alone is living. The Parker’s were formerly from Tennessee, and were good old-fashioned people. They dressed plain, lived rough and seemed to love the hardships and to delight in the adventures incident to the settlement of a new country. The soldier who leaves his home, sunders the ties of affection and bids adieu to loved ones, to do battle (or his country, deserves well of its people. So, too, the pioneer, who goes out from the home of his childhood, leaving behind him the hallowed associations of youthful days, and the cherished objects of love and affection, hewing his way into the wilderness, and there settles down to build up a new country, and open a highway for civilization, is also worthy of credit among his fellow-countrymen.
Benjamin Parker built the first log cabin, and thus became the first actual settler in Coles County, fifty-five years ago. That cabin was built on the east bank of the Embarrass River, just opposite the place where Blakeman’s mill was afterward erected, and was in what is now Hutton Township. It was a rude affair, and a fair sample of pioneer strength and awkwardness, but nevertheless turned the rain, broke the force of the sun’s burning rays, resisted the chilling blasts of winter, and kept out the cold, damp air of night. It also answered the purpose of a dwelling-house, and consisted of parlor, dining-room, kitchen and bed-rooms enough to sleep fourteen persons. The walls were of unhewn logs, and floor of puncheons, neither hewn nor “ planed.“ It was covered with clapboards, weighed down with poles in lieu of being nailed; the chimney was made of sticks and clay, and the “back walls ” and “jambs ” of the same material, except the quantity of clay was increased. The help to “raise” this cabin came from Crawford County, a distance of sixty miles. In those days, a house-raising was regarded as a “big thing ” and were usually accompanied with a quilting, wool-picking or sewing “bee,” to furnish an excuse for the women to come together for a little quiet gossip, though not perhaps, as at the present day, to talk of Mrs. Jones’ new bonnet, or Mrs. Smith’s old dress made over, or the way Mrs. Brown had her back-hair “fixed last Sunday.” Those little gatherings were occasions for much good eating and drinking, the latter, however, being indulged in by the men only. And the best wrestler, the furthest jumper, and the swiftest runner were the heroes, and the best fighter wore off the belt, for at that early period fighting was always included in the popular amusements of the day.
John Parker, familiarly known as “High Johnny” Parker, and the progenitor of all the Parkers (of this early settlement) was a soldier of the Revotionary War — one of the heroes of that long and doubtful struggle that finally resulted in the independence of the “greatest country the sun shines on.” Samuel Kellogg, mentioned as one of this little colony, was a soldier in the Black Hawk campaign of 1832, and has since died, but, as already stated, his widow is still living, and at present a resident of Charleston. But of the pioneers of this early settlement further particulars will be given in the township histories.
In the fall of 1824, Seth Bates and his sons, David and John Bates, and his stepsons, Levi and Samuel Doty, came to the county, and in the summer of 1825 made a settlement on Kickapoo Creek, in the present town of La Fayette, These were the first inhabitants in that region, and the settlement was made on what is now the Doctor Monroe farm. John Bobbins and William Wagner came in a year or two later. The former put up a mill in the neighborhood, and the latter started a tan-yard. Samuel Frost came the next year after Robbins and Wagner, and was one of the first merchants in this settlement, as noted elsewhere, and also carried the first mail through from Paris to Vandalia. In 1826, Van Eastin settled in this neighborhood; in 1828, his brother John M. Eastin came, and their father, Charles Eastin, in 1830. The following story is told of the Eastins, as illustrative of the proverb that “fine feathers make fine birds,” or at least are supposed to do so. John Eastin, just prior to coming to this county, had married Miss Jennie Reed. The first Sunday they spent in the wilderness of Coles County, they attended church rigged out in their “wedding toggery,” and their “new store clothes” created quite a sensation in this then backwoods settlement, and elicited remarks from everybody. The next morning before breakfast, six men came to see him to borrow money for the purpose of buying land, supposing from his extravagant style of dress, that he must be rich and have money to loan, when he really had but $6 to his name. In 1828, James Phipps settled in this neighborhood. As early as 1828 or 1829, James Ashmore, William Ewing and William Williams came in and settled on the south side of Kickapoo.
A settlement was made in the present township of Ashmore as early as 1825. The first white people in this section were the Dudleys and Laban Burr, all bachelors, thus forming a kind of second Eden, as Eden was before its quiet was disturbed by Mother Eve. To trace the genealogy of the Dudleys, it would be necessary to go back to Dudley Castle, Staffordshire, En- gland, and begin with Earl Dudley, in the fourteenth century, following it down through a long line of nobles, of whom one of the most powerful was Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, and figured conspicuously during the reign of Elizabeth, the Virgin Queen of England. Their published genealogy is authentic, giving the descent of the Dudleys here mentioned from this noble family. The first one in the United States was Thomas Dudley, Governor of “ Massachusetts Bay Colony.“ Many of his descendants held important positions in colonial times, and are to be found in almost every State of the Union at the present day. Many of them figured prominently in our struggle for independence, and their survivors and descendants are leading citizens of the country. The original settlers in this section were James and Guilford Dudley, and there are still sons of these pioneers living in the township of Ashmore, and are more particularly mentioned in that chapter. James Wells, Christopher Sousely, Joseph Henry, John Mitchell, William Austin, H. J. Ashmore and John Carter were also early settlers in this section. From them have descended some of the solid and substantial men of the county.
The first settlement was made on “ Goose-Nest“ Prairie in 1829. Rev. Daniel Barham and sons John and Nathan, and Thomas Barker, put up the first cabin in this little paradise, in the spring of the year mentioned above. This settlement was in what is now Pleasant Grove Township, and embraced as fine a body of land as may be found in Coles County. Michael Taylor and his son Elijah, John and Patrick Gordon, and Dow Goodman, came in the same year, and found shelter in the same nest. Zeno Campbell, the Balahes and others, also came during this year and entered claims on “Goose-Nest“ Prairie, or adjacent thereto. In the fall of 1830, John J. Adams, Mark Baker and William Wayne settled in the neighborhood. The Muddy Point settlement was likewise in Pleasant Grove Township. The first squatters here were Isaac Francher and Buck Houchin, who pitched their tents in this locality in 1827. Jack Price came in 1828 Joseph Glenn, Daniel Edson (not the inventor of the phonograph), Daniel Beals and his sons, in 1829, and William Dryden and Alfred Balch in the same year. In the fall of 1830, William Gammill and sons, his sons-in-law, A. Balch and Isaac Odell and Abner John- ston, came in and settled in this neighborhood.
A settlement was made on the west side of the Embarrass River, south of Greasy Creek, in the territory now embraced in Morgan Township, in 1829-30. Daniel McAllister, Benjamin Clark and William Shattun were the pioneers of this settlement. They were men of strong arms and brave hearts, well calculated to brave the dangers of a wilderness. They went to Big Creek (Edgar County) to mill, and sent their children four miles to school, and were thankful for even such conveniences as those. The widow of Benjamin Clark was the last survivor of these pioneers and three years ago (we do not know whether she is still living) was a hearty and hale old lady for her time of life. She spent eight weeks among the wolves and panthers during the winter of 1830, with six small children, while her husband had gone back to the settlements for provisions. There are few ladies of the present day but would shrink from such an undertaking, and it is with no disparagement to the sex that we make the observation. Our women are as true and noble, and capable of as great sacrifices when necessity demands them, as at any other age of the world, even that heroic period when they severed from their heads their “golden tresses“ and wove them into bow-strings for their fathers, brothers and husbands to defend their hearths and homes. But think of living in a wilderness for two long, weary months alone with half a dozen helpless children, beyond the reach of help. The bravest woman might well shrink from it.
The territory now embraced in Oakland Township contained settlements as early as 1829. In this year Samuel Ashmore settled in this region. Soon after his settlement, his sons H. J. and W. C. Ashmore came to the neighborhood. Samuel Hogue and James Black, sons-in-law of Samuel Ashmore, settled here also about the same time as those above mentioned. Where Oakland village now stands, settlements were made by Enoch Sears, Eli Sargent, Asa Redden and others. David Winkler and the Hoskinses settled on Brushy Fork. At the time of these settlements, the aborigines of the country were in possession of it, and had a village or trading-post in this vicinity. They were friendly, however, and lived with their pale-face neighbors in peace and harmony. In 1831, Stanton Pemberton and his sons came to the Ashmore settlement. A mill was built here at an early day by a man named Stevens, and a few years later another was built by Redden.
The first settlement made in what is now Charleston Township was in 1826. In that year, Enoch Glassco and sons, and J. Y. Brown, came to the county and settled about a mile north of the present city of Charleston. In 1827, the Parkers came from the Embarrass River Settlement and located on what is now Anderson’s Addition to Charleston. About the same time, Hiram Steepleton and Isaac Lewis were added to the settlement. In 1829, Michael Cossell, Jr., came to the place, and the next year his father, and brothers Isaac and Solomon Cossell came in and made settlements. In the same year, Charles Morton and family settled in the little community. He was an energetic and enterprising man. He settled on what is now the Decker farm, and built a horse-mill, upon which many a pioneer ground the meal for his “corndodgers.” Mr. Morton is mentioned in another chapter of this work as the first merchant, and one of the prominent business men of the county. Jesse Veach also settled in the present town of Charleston. He came first to Illinois in 1824, and to Coles County in 1825. After this, he returned to Crawford County, where he “took unto himself a wife,” and, in 1831, came back to Coles County, where he still lives, enjoying the fruits of a well-spent life.
John Hutton came to Illinois in 1816, and, in 1824-25, settled in what is now Hutton Township. Says Capt. Adams, in his Centennial Address, he “made a hand building the first cabin, heard the first prayer made and the first sermon preached, and mourned at the first funeral in the present territory of the county.“ In 1826, a settlement was made by the Parkers on what was known as Parker’s Prairie, and which lies partly in Hutton Township. George Parker and his sons Joseph, Daniel and Jephthah were the first in this immediate neighborhood, and from them this beautiful prairie received its name. Joseph Parker killed a large bear, in 1828, near Buyess Berkley’s, and many other members of the Bruin family were slaughtered in an early day by the pioneers. In the fall of 1826, there was a settlement made at a place called ’Dog Town,” which was also in the present town of Hutton. James Nees was the first settler in this section, but was very soon joined by Charles Miller and William Cook. Joshua Painter, Hugh Doyle, James Ashby and John C. Davis soon after made settlements in the same neighborhood. Anthony Cox, William Waldruff and Joel Connelly settled, also, in what is now Hutton, in 1828, and Daniel Evinger soon after. The latter put up a carding-machine on what was known as the John Flenner farm.
About 1826, a settlement was made at Wabash Point, in the present township of Paradise. The first white settler was Daniel Drake. In 1827, Thomas Hart and his sons settled in this neighborhood, and in July, 1828, Silas and Adam Hart and others of the same name came to the settlement, so that if there was any part of the country that had a heart, it was this Wabash Point settlement. These people were a law unto themselves, and tolerated no lawlessness in their midst. When one committed a misdemeanor, Judge Lynch came to the front and gave to the culprit but a short shrift. In illustration of his peremptory manner in disposing of the cases upon his docket, the following instance is given: On a certain occasion, a man living in the settlement was caught in the act of appropriating to himself another’s cowhide and potatoes. A court was at once organized, with Thomas Hart, Jr., as Judge. Silas Hart was appointed attorney for the defendant, and William Higgins and others, jurors. The trial resulted in a verdict of guilty, and the punishment fixed at twenty-nine lashes and banishment from the settlement. After the lashes had been administered, the defendant was shown a star, in the direction of his “Old Kentucky Home,” and bade to follow it, as did the wise men of the East. He waited not for the advice to be repeated, nor stood upon the order of his going; he went.
In 1826, Charles Sawyer made a settlement in the southern part of what is now Mattoon Township. His family came on the next spring; but a short time previous to their arrival, a man named Nash came to the settlement and occupied Sawyer’s house. He injured himself one day, “carrying a log, to make a bee-gum,” from the effects of which he died. This was the first death in the Wabash Settlement, which was principally in what is now Paradise Township, as already stated, but extended into Mattoon Township. John Sawyer was another of the pioneers of this settlement. These are said to have been without bread in their families as much as three weeks at a time. They went five miles beyond Springfield to mill, and blazed the trees on the route, in order to find their way back home, and swam the Okaw River into the bargain.
About 1833, a settlement was made in the present town of Okaw. John Whitney and four sons, William Bridgman and Jesse Fuller were the first squatters in this section. Henry and Hawkins Fuller and Nathaniel Dixon came in 1835. The year previous, however, the settlement was increased by the arrival of P. M. Ellis, the Elders and Fred Price, these people used to splice teams and go a day’s journey to a horse-mill. In wet weather, they would go to San- gamon River, near Decatur, or to Parker’s Mill, on the Embarrass River.


Thus we have taken a brief glance at a few of the first permanent settlements made in Coles County. We have passed over the settling of the county in this brief manner, in order to avoid, as much as possible, repetition. In the township histories, which follow, the settlement of each will be taken up and considered separately, and everything of interest will be fully and faithfully given, while in this chapter, matters pertaining more particularly to the county at large will be noticed.
The pioneers of a country are always subjected to many inconveniences, and live a hard and rough life. When immigrating to a new country, one leaves behind all the comforts and luxuries of civilization, to endure hunger and cold, and most of all, to brave the dangers of a wilderness. At the time of settling this country, it was inhabited by wild beasts, and wild men but little less savage than the wild beasts themselves. They came here poor, and for years the struggle with poverty was a hard one. Think of a family without bread for three weeks, and living on wild meat, potatoes and parched corn! As we look around us to-day, at the waving fields of “golden grain, ripening for the harvest,” the droves of cattle grazing on the rich pastures, and the almost innumerable car-loads of grain and stock shipped to distant points, it is hard to realize what it was fifty years ago, and what the pioneers of that day underwent to produce this grand transformation. In the Centennial Address of Capt. Adams, already referred to, he says: “ The early settlers were generally poor, and lived on Congress land. Considerable improvements were often made on land before it was entered. The custom not to enter each other out was the local law of the neighborhood. It sometimes occurred that entries were made of lands by others than the actual occupants. This invariably stirred up the righteous indignation of the settlement, and a meeting would be called, resolutions adopted and a plan of operation laid out. They at once went to work, tore down the house on the land and hauled it off, filled up the well, gathered the crop, pulled up the fruit-trees and garden stuff, and removed the fences and other improvements. And then, if the party entering another out made a fuss about it he had lo climb a jack-oak or ride a rail.”
Not only were the people hard run to live, to “keep soul and body together,” but when we consider the tools and implements they had to work with, we wonder in our minds how they managed to live at all. The old “bar share“ and “Cary“ plows would be objects of great curiosity to the present generation, in this age of magnificent plows—plows that will almost turn the soil, if put in the field, without team or driver. An old farmer told us the other day, that for years after he settled in the neighborhood, there was but one wagon in the settlement, and one grindstone “and upon the latter,” said he, “we used to grind our Gary plows when they become too dull to plow well.” And yet we complain of hard times I Why, we don’t know the meaning of the word, as compared to these early settlers, who broke down the barriers between the wilderness and civilization. Again, quoting from Capt. Adams, “They hauled hay eight miles in winter on hand-sleds, sold their horse-collars to buy bread for their children; rocked their babies in sugar-troughs, and stood guard over them to keep the wolves off, and fed them on venison and wild honey.”
Nor is the credit all due to the “lords of creation,” in the privations endured in these early days. Noble women lent their presence to “gild the gloom” of wilderness life, and cheerfully shared the toils and cares met with in their new homes. Figuratively they put their hands to the plow, and, in cases of emergency, did not hesitate to do so literally. They drove oxen, assisted in planting, cultivating and harvesting the crops, besides attending to their household duties; and these last were much more onerous than at the present day. Then they included the spinning and weaving into cloth, flax, cotton, and wool. The wool was carded into rolls at the carding mill or machine, spun by the wives and daughters, woven into cloth and into yarn on the “big wheel” manufactured into garments by the same busy hands, for the family wear. If a lady was so fortunate as to possess a calico dress, she was the envy of her “set,” just as the “lady of the period,” who robes in satin and a “love of a bonnet,” is the envy of her less fortunate sisters at the present day. But the half-century that has passed has made many changes, and brought us many improvements. We have grown much older in many respects, if not wiser, and become more extravagant in our desires and more luxurious in our tastes. We cannot think of living on what our fathers lived on fifty years ago. Our very appetites have changed. The “corn-dodgers“ and fried bacon our parents were glad to get, if set before us at the present day, would cause us to elevate our “Grecian noses“ to an angle of ninety degress. But this is as it should be. We live in an age of improvement, and it is but just that all should move on together. It is not in a spirit of grumbling or dissatisfaction that we have fallen into a moralizing mood, but by way of contrasting the past and present, and of showing the grand march of improvement for the past fifty years. When we look back over the years that are gone, at the changes and improvements wrought in the land, we are almost ready to attribute it to the power of Aladdin’s wonderful lamp. As a cap-sheaf to the reflections we have been indulging in, we give the following gem from the “poet laureate” of Coles County:
“The old log cabin with its puncheon floor —
The old log cabin with its clapboard door!
Shall we ever forget its moss-grown roof,
The old rattling loom with its warp and woof?
The old stick chimney of ’cat and clay,’
The old hearthstone where we used to pray ?
No! we’ll not forget the old wool-wheel.
Nor the hank on the old count-reel;
We’ll not forget how we used to eat
The sweet honey-comb with the fat deer-meat;
We’ll not forget how we used to bake,
That best of bread, the old Johnny-cake!“

W. E. Adams

When the first white people came to Coles County, there were plenty of Indians in this portion of Illinois. They were the Pottawatomies, Kickapoos and Winnebagoes. From Davidson and Stuve’s History of Illinois, which contains the most complete history of the aborigines inhabiting this country, that we have ever read, we make a few extracts with reference to the tribes that once occupied this section of the State: “ The early traditions of the Winnebagoes fixes their ancient seat on the west shore of Lake Michigan, north of Green Bay. They believed that their ancestors were created by the Great Spirit, on the lands constituting their ancient territory, and that their title of it was a gift from their Creator. The Algonquins named them after the bay on which they lived, Ween-ni-ba-gogs, which subsequently became anglicized in the form of Winnebagoes. They were persons of good stature, manly bearing, had the characteristic black circular hair of their race, and were generally more uncouth in their habits than the surrounding tribes. Their language was a deep guttural, difficult to learn, and shows that they belonged to the great Dacotah stock of the West. Anciently, they were divided into clans distinguished by the bird, bear, fish and other family totems. How long they resided at Green Bay is not known. * * * * Coming down to the era of authentic history. Carver, in 1766, found them on the Fox River, evidently wandering from their ancient place of habitation, and approaching Southern Wisconsin and the northern part of Illinois and Iowa, where portions of the tribe subsequently settled, while others wandered further south. * * * * In the war of 1812, they remained the allies of England, and assisted in the defeat of Col. Croghan, at Mackinaw, Col. Dudley at the rapids of the Maumee, and Gen. Winchester, at the River Raisin. In the Winnebago war of 1827, they defiantly placed themselves in antagonism to the authority of the General Government, by assaulting a steamboat on the Mississippi, engaged in furnishing supplies to the military post on the St. Peters.
“The Kickapoos, in 1763, occupied the country southwest of the southern extremity of Lake Michigan. They subsequently moved southward, and at a more recent date, dwelt in portions of the territory on the Mackinaw and Sangamon Rivers, and had a village on Kickapoo Creek, and at Elkhart Grove. They were more civilized, industrious, energetic and cleanly than the neighboring tribes, and, it may also be added, more implacable in their hatred of the Americans. They were among the first to commence battle, and the last to submit and enter into treaties. Unappeasable enmity led them into the field against Gens. Harmer, St. Clair and Wayne, and they were first in all the bloody charges at Tippecanoe. They were prominent among the Northern nations, which, for more than a century, waged an exterminating war against the Illinois Confederacy. * * * * When removed from Illinois, they still retained their old animosities against the Americans, and went to Texas, then a province of Mexico, to get beyond the jurisdiction of the United States. They claimed relationship with the Pottawatomies, and perhaps with the Sacs and Foxes, and Shawnees.
’The Pottawatomies are represented on early French maps as inhabiting the country east of the southern extremity of Lake Michigan. At the mouth of the St. Joseph, falling into this part of the lake, the Jesuits had a missionary station, which, according to Marest, was in a flourishing condition as early as 1712. Here, an unmeasured distance from civilization, for more than half a century, the devoted missionaries labored for their spiritual welfare. These years of toil and self-denial were, however, little appreciated; for, in Pontiac’s war, they proved themselves to be among the most vindictive of his adherents. Disguising their object under the mask of friendship, they approached the small military post located on the same river, and, having obtained ingress, in a few minutes butchered the whole of the garrison except three men. From this locality, a portion of the tribe passed around the southern extremity of the lake into Northeastern Illinois. Time and a change of residence seem not to have modified their ferocious character. Partly as the result of British intrigue, and partly to gratify their thirst for blood, they perpetrated, in 1812, at Chicago, the most atrocious massacre in the annals of the Northwest. After their removal from Illinois, they found their way to the Indian Territory, and, in 1850, numbered 1,500 souls.“
The foregoing extracts give a pretty authentic history of the tribes that claimed this county fifty years ago as a part of their hunting-grounds. There is much in the nature of the Indian to loathe and abhor, and there is, too, much to pity and deplore. They claimed this great country, originally, by right of possession, if not of discovery, and it was no more than human nature that they should maintain their right to it to the last extremity. From a lack of civilization, they committed acts of barbarity shocking in the extreme, but, to a certain extent, excusable through ignorance of the “higher law” of humanity; and even their deeds of cruelty, barbarians though they were, were often equaled by their more civilized but little less barbarous white neighbors. In an early day, we are told, they had a trading-post near where the village of Camargo now stands. In was established by two French Canadians, we believe, named Vesor and Bullbery. They also had a cemetery, or burying-ground in this vicinity, and, once a year, a grand powwow was held within its precincts. They were friendly toward the whites then sparsely scattered through the country, and, in their limited and ignorant way, religious. Says Capt. Adams in the address several times referred to in these pages : “ Their ideas of heaven and hell they represented on dressed deerskins. On one side was painted a huge fire, and toward it some Indians going with bottles in their hands. This was a representation of hell, or the bad hunting-ground. On the other side were painted beautiful woods, abounding with deer, looking pleasant, and Indians going that way, dressed finely and seemingly happy. This was heaven, or good hunting-ground.” The following legend belonged to the Pottawatomies, and formed the basis of their theology and origin: “They believe in two Great Spirits—Kitchemenedo, the good or benevolent spirit, and Matchemonedo, the evil spirit. Some have doubts which is the most powerful ; but the great part believe that the first is — that he made the world and called all things into being, and that the other ought to be despised. When Kitchemonedo first made the world, he peopled it with a class of beings who only looked like men; but they were perverse, ungrateful, wicked dogs, who never raised their eyes from the ground to thank him for anything. Seeing this, the Great Spirit plunged them, with the world itself, into a great lake and drowned them. He then withdrew it from the water and made a single man, a very handsome young man, who, as he was lonesome, appeared sad. Kitchemenedo took pity on him and sent a sister to cheer him in his loneliness. After many years, the young man had a dream which he told to his sister. ’ Five young men,’ said he, ’will come to your lodge-door to-night to visit you.The Great Spirit forbids you to answer or even to look up and smile at the first four ; but when the fifth comes, you may speak and laugh and show that you are pleased.’ She acted accordingly. The first of the five strangers that called was Usama, or tobacco, and, having been repulsed, he fell down and died; the second, Wapako, or a pumpkin, shared the same fate; the third, Esh- kossimin, or melon, and the fourth, Kokees, or the bean, met the same fate; but when Tamin, or Montamin, which is maize, presented himself, she opened the skin tapestry door of her lodge, laughed very heartily, and gave him a friendly reception. They were immediately married, and from this union the Indians sprang. Tamin forthwith buried the four unsuccessful suitors, and from their graves there grew tobacco, melons of all sorts, and beans and in ; this manner the Great Spirit provided that the race which he had made should have something to offer him as a gift in their feasts and ceremonies, and also something to put in their akeeks, or kettles, along with their meat.“ *


Davidson, in his history of Illinois, speaking of the psychology of the Indians, says: “ Prominent among these was the idea that every natural phenomenon was the special manifestation of the Great Spirit. In the mutterings of the thunder-cloud, in the angry roar of the cataract, or the sound of the billows which beat upon the shores of his lake-girt forests, he heard the voice of the Great Spirit. The lightning’s flash, the mystic radiance of the stars, were to him familiar displays of a spirit-essence which upheld and governed all things, even the minute destinies of men; while the Indian attributed these to the Great Spirit, an antagonistical deity was created in his theology, whom he regarded as the potent power of malignancy. By this dualty of deities, he was careful to guard his good and merciful God from all imputations of evil by attributing all the bad intentions and acts which afflict the human family to the Great Bad Spirit.“
The Indians, it is said, never killed a wolf. Old pioneers say that they held that the wolf, like the Indian, made its living by hunting, and, therefore, it would be wrong and cowardly to kill it. Even their dogs would not molest a wolf, and the ravenous little savages would follow a band of Indians for hours to pick up any dead or wounded game left by them along their route. Mr. Brown, of Ashmore, relates a circumstance that occurred near his father’s, of an Indian who, in a frenzy of religious excitement, shot and killed a warrior. He was, by the tribe, considered crazy, and taken to a grove near by and tied to a tree (rather a novel insane asylum, and as it proved an ineffectual one), from which the Indian succeeded in making his escape. The incident is more particularly referred to in the history of Ashmore Township.
Coles County claims its Indian battle-grounds. Though she can make no pretensions to any such memorable battles as Tippecanoe or the River Raisin, there is a tradition (but somewhat dim and misty) of two battles with the Indians fought on the “sacred soil“ of Coles County, at or very near the same place. As the story goes, the first occurred in 1815, between a corps of Government surveyors, protected by a sufficient guard of armed men, and a large band of Indians. The whites were encamped on the Embarrass Hills, a little distance west of Blakeman’s Mill, and, in addition to being well armed, were protected with artillery. The Indians, in their usual style of battle-array, attacked them upon the flank, and with blood-curdling war-whoops threw the engineers and their guard (for a time) into confusion. They soon rallied, however, and ascertaining the enemy’s position, formed their line of battle and opened upon them with their artillery. A general engagement followed, which continued some time with great severity, finally resulting in the defeat of the Indians, with considerable slaughter. This is the prevailing tradition, but how much of it is true, we are unable to say.
The other battle referred to occurred in 1818, between the “Illinois Rangers,” under command of Gen. Whiteside, a pioneer Indian fighter, who figured conspicuously in his day in the Indian wars of Illinois, and a large band of Kickapoos, Pottawatomies, and Winnebagoes. The Indians had collected in force in the Upper Embarrass country, and proceeding to the Kaskaskia settlement, committed many depredations among the scattered settlers. Among other things, they stole and drove off a large number of horses and cattle. Gen. Whiteside, then in command of the Illinois Rangers, as they were called, followed their trail to the site of the Blakeman Mill, where it crossed the Embarrass River. Near this point, the Rangers came up with the Indians, and at once prepared to give them battle. Skirmishers were thrown out, and a line of battle formed. A charge was ordered, and a shout from the Rangers was answered by one from the savages, and the neighboring hills soon echoed with the roar of battle. For some time the fight raged fiercely, but the Indians were defeated and the captured property retaken. How many were engaged on both sides, and the losses sustained by each, are not known. Like the account given of the battle with the Government surveyors, it is traditional. The trees in the neighborhood, however, show signs of war, we have been told, and the scars made upon them with fire-arms have been seen by many living witnesses. But these little “scrimmages ” between the white and red races on the soil of Illinois are long past, and in a few years more there will be none left who remember the red man’s wigwam within the borders of the State.


It has been said by a late writer that “the native American mind tends as naturally to self-government as the duck takes to the water.” The organization of new counties into corporate bodies with legal existence, while yet there are but a few hundred voters within their limits, is proof positive of the trite remark. In 1830, the population of this part of the country had increased to such an extent (for a wilderness) that the people began to think of forming a new county. What is now Coles County was then a part of Clark, as we have already stated, and Darwin, the county seat, was remote from the settlements of this region. In the year above mentioned (1830), a petition to the Legislature to have Coles set off from Clark County, was circulated by Joseph Henry, George Hanson and Andrew Caldwell. During the session of 1830-31 the act was passed by the Legislature creating the new county, which em- braced in its limits, as mentioned in the beginning of this history, the pres- ent counties of Coles, Cumberland and Douglas. The following is the act of organization:
Section 1. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That all that tract of country within the following bounds, to wit: Beginning at the northeast corner of Section Four, in Township Sixteen north, in Range Fourteen west of the second principal meridian; thence west on the line dividing Townships Sixteen and Seventeen, to the eastern boundary of Range Six, east of the third principal meridian thence south on said line the line dividing Ranges Six and Seven, the eastern boundaries of Macon and Shelby Counties, to the southwest corner of Clark County, Township Nine north, Range Six; thence east on the line dividing Townships Eight and Nine, to the southeast corner of Section Thirty-one, the east boundary of fractional Range Eleven east; thence north on said line, which is the division between fractional Range Eleven and Range Fourteen, to the northeast corner of Section Nineteen, in said Range Eleven, in Township Twelve north; thence to the northeast corner of Section Twenty-one, in said Township Twelve, and Range Fourteen; thence north on sectional lines, the center of said range, to the place of beginning, shall form a new county, to be called Coles.
Sec. 2. For the purpose of fixing the permanent seat of justice of said county, the following persons are appointed Commissioners, viz.: William Bowen, of Vermilion County, Jesse Essarey, of Clark County, and Joshua Barber, of Crawford County; which Commissioners, or a majority of them, shall meet at the house of Charles Eastin, in said county, on the fourth Monday in January next, or within five days thereafter, and being duly sworn before some Justice of the Peace of the State, faithfully and impartially to take into view the convenience of the people, the situation of the present settlement, with a strict view to the population and settlements which will hereafter be made and the eligibility of the place; shall proceed to explore and carefully examine the country, determine on and designate the place for the permanent seat of justice of the same: provided, the proprietor or proprietors of the land shall give and convey by deed of general warranty, for the purpose of erecting public buildings, a quantity of land, in a square form, or not more than twice as long as wide, not less than twenty acres. But should the proprietor or proprietors of the land refuse or neglect to make the donation aforesaid, then and in that case the said Commissioners shall fix said county seat (having in view the interest of the county) upon the land of some person who will make the donation aforesaid. If the Commissioners shall be of the opinion and decide that the proper place for said seat of justice is or ought to be on land belonging to Government, they shall so report, and the County Commissioners shall purchase one-half quarter-section, the tract set forth, in their name, for the use of the county. The Commissioners appointed to locate the seat of justice shall, so soon as they decide on the place, make a clear report to the Commissioners’ Court of the county, and the same shall be recorded at length in their record-book. The land donated or purchased shall be laid out into lots, and sold by the Commissioners of the county to the best advantage, and the proceeds applied to the erection of public buildings, and such other purposes as the Commissioners shall direct; and good and sufficient deeds shall be made for the lots sold.
Sec. 3. An election shall be held at the several places of holding elections as now laid off by Clark County, in said Coles County, on the Saturday preceding the first Monday in February next, for one Sheriff, one Coroner, and three County Commissioners, for said county, who shall hold their offices until the next general election in 1832, and until their successors be qualified. And it shall be the duty of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of said county, and if there be none, then the Recorder or Judge of Probate, to give at least fifteen days’ notice previous to said election, and who shall appoint the judges and clerks of said election, who shall be legal voters; and the returns of said election shall be made to the Clerk of the Circuit Court, Recorder or Judge of Probate, as the case may be, and by him, in the presence of one or more Justices of the Peace, opened, and they jointly shall give to the persons elected Commissioners, certificates; and that of the Sheriff and Coroner to forward to the Governor; which election in all other respects be conformable to law.
Sec. 4. All courts shall be held at the house of Charles Eastin in said county, and continue to be held there until public buildings shall be erected for the purpose, unless changed to another place by order of the County Commissioners’ Court, who shall make the same a matter of record.
Sec. 5. The Commissioners appointed to locate the county seat, shall be allowed $2 per day each, for every day necessarily employed in locating the same, to be paid by said county.
Approved, December 25, 1830.

This act gave to Coles County a legal being, and steps were at once taken to put the machinery of existence into operation. According to the provision of the act creating it a county, an election was held in February, 18-31, at Ashmore’s, the only voting place in the county, and about sixty votes were cast. At this election, George Hanson, Andrew Caldwell and Isaac Lewis were elected County Commissioners, and constituted a County Court for the transaction of county business; a system which continued in force until the adoption of a new State Constitution in 1848. The Commissioners mentioned in the foregoing act to locate the seat of justice, viz., Bowen, Essarey and Barber, met, and after a thorough investigation of all eligible points suggested, decided on the present site of Charleston. Charles Morton and and Benjamin Parker owned the land, and each donated twenty acres for town purposes, as provided in the act of organization. In February, 1831, the survey was made by Thomas Sconce, first County Surveyor, and in April of the same year, the first sale of lots was made. The Commissioners gave the name of Charleston to the county seat, in honor of Charles Morton, one of the men who donated twenty acres of land to the county. Feeling under some obligations to Mr. Morton for the assistance he rendered them while engaged in locating the town, they told his wife that they had determined to call the place Mortonville, when she offered an amendment to their proposition, saying that if they desired to compliment her husband in that way, to add the last syllable of Morton to Charles, and call their town Charleston. They accepted her suggestion, and thus the capital of the county received its name.
During the year 1831, the first Court House of Coles County was erected down on the “town branch,” as the murky little stream is called. It was built of hewed logs, covered with “clapboards,“ floored with sawdust and provided with wood benches for seats. This served as a temple of justice until 1835, when the brick building, still in use, was erected. Originally, it was an old-style edifice, of the pattern still to be seen in many of the counties of Illinois but has been modernized, remodeled and transformed into quite an imposing structure, with an altogether attractive appearance. It stands in the center of a handsome square, thickly planted with maple-trees, and surrounded by a substantial iron fence. In a few years more, when the trees get their growth, the public square of Charleston will be a beautiful spot, and an ornament to the city.
The first Jail was a little log cabin, in the south part of the town, which, in an early day, perhaps, served the purpose of a prison ; but in this enlightened age, when crime has become a science, and criminals a band of professional experts, would prove but a frail barrier between them and liberty. The present Jail is in the Court House building.
The first Circuit Court was held at the house of Col. Flenner, three miles west of Charleston. Hon. William Wilson was the presiding Judge. This session of Court is thus described: “ The Judge sat on a log, the lawyers on rotten chunks, and the parties engaged in litigation swung to the bushes.” James P. Jones was Circuit Clerk, and was appointed by Judge Wilson at this session. Jones was a resident of Clark County, and his appointment to the office of Circuit Clerk excited the just indignation of the Coles County people. They felt themselves competent to fill any office in their county, and well qualified to receive the salary pertaining to it; and to have an outsider step in and relieve them of the responsibility of trying the experiment was a blow to their pride not to be forgiven. The first records of the Circuit Court are non sunt inventa, and hence, few particulars of the sessions for two or three of the first years can be obtained now. The first record-book in the Circuit Clerk’s office begins with the April term, 1835, Hon. Justin Harlan presiding.
As we have said, George Hanson, Andrew Caldwell and Isaac Lewis were elected the first County Commissioners. They held the first session of their Court in 1831, at the house of Charles Eastin, in the Kickapoo settlement, and appointed Nathan Ellington Clerk, who thus became the first County Clerk of Coles County. In 1832, Isaac Lewis, Andrew Clarke and James S. Martin were elected Commissioners, and, in 1831, were succeeded by Stephen Stone, Nathaniel Parker and Eben Alexander, who, in turn, were succeeded in 1836, by A. N. Fuller, Alex. Miller and James S. Martin, and they by F. L. Moore, H. J. Ashmore and James M. Ward in 1838. The records here show a change in electing the Commissioners; electing one each year, instead of three every two years, and that in 1840, John Wright succeeded Ashmore; James Gill in 1841, succeeded Moore, and William Collom succeeded Moore in 1842. In 1843, Isaac Gruell and H. J. Ashomre succeeded Wright and Gill. In 1844, John Cutler succeeded Ashmore, F. L. Moore succeeded Collom in 1845, John M. Logan succeeded Gruell in 1846, and F. G. Frue succeeded Cutler in 1847.
The Constitution of 1848 provided that the County Court should consist of a County Judge and two Associate Justices. Under this new regime, W. W. Bishop was the first County Judge, and John M. Logan and H. J. Ashmore were chosen the first Associate Justices. This branch of the Court continued, with frequent changes of officers, until the adoption of township organization, which went into effect in the spring of 1860, as will be noticed under another head. As a matter of history, and for the benefit of the reader, we append a list of the different officers from the organization of the county, the date of their election and the terms of their official service, as compiled by Capt. Adams, and published in his Centennial Address. The list was prepared with great care, is said, by those well posted, to be substantially correct, and presents a valuable record to all who are interested in such matters, or have occasion to refer to it. The list is as follows:
Sheriff.—At the February election of 1831, Ambrose Yocum was elected the first Sheriff of the county, and re-elected in 1832, but died before his term expired. William Jeffries was elected in 1834, and held two terms, when he was succeeded by Albert Compton in 1838, who continued in office until 1846. L. R. Hutchason was then elected, and served two terms, and was succeeded in 1850 by Richard Stoddert; he was succeeded by Thomas Lytle in 1852 Lytle, by John R. Jeffries in 1854, and he by H. B. Worley in 1856. Worley was succeeded by M. Jones, in 1858 he by I. H. Johnston in 1860; John H. O’Hair succeeded Johnston in 1862, and James B. Hickox succeeded him in 1864, and, in turn, was succeeded by G. M. Mitchell in 1866, when C. C. Starkweather was elected in 1868, followed in 1870 by A. M. Brown, who was succeeded in 1872 by Owen Wiley, and Wiley by George Moore in 1874; James M. Ashraore succeeded Moore in 1876, and he was succeeded by John E. Brooks in 1878, the present incumbent.
Probate Judge.—James P. Jones was the first Probate Judge. At the time of the organization of Coles County, this office was filled by appointment of the Governor. In 1834, Jones was succeeded by John F. Smyth, and in the same year, Smyth was succeeded by S. M. Dunbar he by William Collom; in 1835; Collom by Reuben Canterbury in 1837; he by John W. Trower. Robert S. Mills succeeded Trower in 1843; W. W. Bishop succeeded him in 1847, and filled the office until 1857, when he was succeeded by Gideon Edwards, who died in office in 1864. J. P. Cooper was appointed to fill the vacancy, and, in 1865, McHenry Brooks was elected, and was succeeded in 1869 by A. M. Peterson, who was followed by W. E. Adams in 1873; and, in 1877, J. R. Cunningham, the present Judge, was elected. County Clerk.—As before stated, Nathan Ellington was the first County Clerk, and filled the office until 1839, when he was succeeded by Loran D. Ellis, who soon after fled the country, and Ellington was appointed to fill the vacancy. Ellington was followed, in 1840, by Enos Stutsman, who resigned his office, and Samuel Huffman was appointed to fill the vacancy. Tn 1853, James McCrory succeeded Huffman, and held the office until 1861, when he was succeeded by Jacob I. Brown. Brown was succeeded by W. E. Adams in 1865; Adams by Richard Stoddert in 1873, and he, in 1877, by the present Clerk, W. R. Highland.
Coroner.—Robert A. Miller was the first Coroner, and, in 1836, was succeeded by Ichabod Radly, who canvassed the entire county on foot for the office. (He deserved it.) Preston R. Mount followed Radly in 1838; A. G. Mitchell followed Mount in 1842, and William Harr followed Mitchell in 1844. Stephen Stone was elected in 1846, and was succeeded by James W. Morgan in 1858, and he by S. F. Crawford in 1860; he, in 1861, by Dr. Samuel Van Meter, who was succeeded by D. P. Lee in 1862, and he by A. G. Mitchell in 1864; Mitchell by 0. D. Hawkins in 1868; he by Joel W. Hall in 1870; Hall by D. H. Barnett in 1872, and he by Lewis True in 1874.
Circuit Clerk.—James P. Jones, as stated, was the first Circuit Clerk, and was succeeded by Nathan Ellington, who held the office until his death in 1855, when his son, James D. Ellington, was appointed to fill the vacancy. In 1856, George W. Teel was elected, holding the office two terms, and, in 1864, was succeeded by H. C. Wortham, and he by W. N. McDonald in 1872. He died in December following his election, and A. H. Chapman was appointed Clerk pro tempore, and was succeeded in June, 1873, by E. E. Clark, who was succeeded, in 1877, by the present incumbent, W. E. Robinson.
Recorder.—James P. Jones was the first Recorder of Coles County. He was succeeded in the office, in 1834, by John F. Smyth, and he by S. M. Dunbar in December of the same year. Nathan Ellington received the office in 1835; John W. Trower in 1843; Ellington again in 1846, and Enos Stutsman in 1847, who held the office until the adoption of the new Constitution of 1848, when the office of Recorder was consolidated with that of Circuit Clerk.
Treasurer.—A. G. Mitchell was the first County Treasurer, and was succeeded by Richard Stoddert in 1843, who held the office until 1849, when he was succeeded by Thomas Lytle, and he by Jacob I. Brown in 1851; Brown by D. C. Ambler in 1855 he by A. Y. Ballard in 1857; he by Abram Highland in 1859; he by D. H. Tremble in 1863; he by H. M. Ashmore in 1869; he by George Moore in 1871; he by W. B. Galbreath in 1873; and he; by J. F. Goar in 1877, the present Treasurer of the county.
Surveyor.—The first Surveyor of the county was Thomas Sconce, who was succeeded by Joseph Fowler in 1835; he by Sconce again in 1839. Lewis R. Hutchason was elected in 1843, and was succeeded by Thomas Lytle in 1847; he by John Meadows in 1852; he by William A. Brun in 1855; he by Lewis B. Richardson in 1859; he by Thomas Lytle again in 1861; he by James S. Yeargin in 1864; he by George A. Brown in 1867; he by John H. Clark in 1869, and he by the present incumbent, John L. Aubert, in 1875.
School Commissioner.—Charles Morton was the first School Commissioner of the county, and held the office until 1841, when he was succeeded by James Alexander, and, in 1845, he was succeeded by James B. Harris; he by H. Mann in 1849; he by Gideon Edwards in 1851; he by James A. Mitchell, and he by W. H. K. Pile in 1861; he by Elzy Blake in 1865; he by Rev. S. J. Boveli in 1869; he by Rev. Allen Hill in 1873, and he by Prof. T. J. Lee in 1877, who is now in office.
State’s Attorney.—In 1860, J. R. Cunningham was chosen State’s Attorney for the judicial circuit of which Coles County was a part. This position he held for four years. The new Constitution, adopted in 1870, gave to each county an attorney. The first appointment under this new order of things, was Col. A. P. Dunbar, who was succeeded by J. W. Craig. Robert M. Gray is the present State’s Attorney.
Legislators.—The first Representative of Coles County in the General Assembly of the State was Dr. John Carrico, in the session of 1832. In 1834, James T. Cunningham was a member of the Legislature from this county. He also served in the sessions of 1837 and 1840; was a candidate for the Constitutional Convention in 1848, and was the choice of his party for Congress in the campaign of 1860. He came from Kentucky to Coles County in 1830, and was a man of good judgment, liberal views, and skilled in the details of finance. In the sessions of the Legislature of 1836-37, and in 1844, and in 1855, Col. A. P. Dunbar represented the county, and served with Lincoln and Douglas. He gave to Douglas the name of Little Giant; introduced the bill for moving the capital from Vandalia to Springfield; also a bill allowing fees to jurors, which position had before been honorary; also a resolution asking Congress to reduce the postage on mail matter,* and Illinois thus became the first State to move in that direction. In the General Assemblies of 1838 and 1842, Hon. 0. B. Ficklin represented the county. He is a native of Kentucky, but in an early day settled in Wabash County, and afterward in Coles. He was appointed, by the Legislature, Prosecuting Attorney for this Circuit, and, in his official capacity, once prosecuted a colored woman here for murder. She was poor, and the other attorneys in attendance volunteered to defend her. Mr. Ficklin closed the case in a vigorous speech, and after he sat down, the woman observed, that she “believed in her soul dat Massa Ficklin had done her as much harm as good in his speech.“ Mr. Ficklin has served several terms in Congress, and for a long term of years as a delegate to the Democratic National Conventions, and is at present, together with Hon. H. A. Neal, a man of fine ability, member of the State Legislature.
In 1838, Dr. B. Monroe was elected State Senator. He was from Kentucky, and came to this county in 1833, and possessed fine business qualifications. In the sessions of the Legislatures of 1836 and 1846, U. F. Snider represented Coles County. He was born in Elizabethtown, Ky., and came to Charleston in 1838, where he lived until 1860, when he went to Chicago. Under the administration of Gov. Duncan, he was Attorney General of the State. As a lawyer, he was eminent in his profession, and as a public speaker had few if any peers in the Western country. Joseph Fowler in 1842, W. D. Watson in 1852, W. W. Craddock in 1858,*^ Dr. John Monroe in 1862, Col. J. M. True in 1866, and Hon. G. W. Parker in 1868, have all, honorably to themselves, represented Coles County in the Legislature of the State. In 1870, Hon. James A. Cunningham and Hon. A. Jeffries were the representatives; were wise law-makers and watchful guardians of the rights of the people. In 1874, Hon. C. B. Steele and Hon. James A. Connolly represented the county, and were able legislators. In the Congress of the United States of 1864 and 1866, Hon. H. P. Bromwell, now of Denver, Colo., but for many years a resident of Coles County, represented this Congressional District. He was a man of brilliant talents and a lawyer of fine ability. Dr. Thomas P. Trower and Thomas A. Marshall were delegates from this county to the Constitutional Convention of 1848. Col. Marshall was also State Senator in 1858, and during his term, by right of seniority, was Lieutenant Governor.
Thus, we have noted the formation of the county, together with the different branches of county offices and government, and the names of the incumbents of these offices down to the present time, with a brief glance at the county’s law-makers and counselors. Before passing from this part of our work, it may be of some interest to say a few words of township organization. When the county was formed, it was divided or laid off into a number of civil townships or election precincts. The names and boundaries of these precincts we are unable to give, as the first record of the County Commissioner’s Court cannot be found. When the county adopted township organization in 1859, the fall of which year the vote was taken, there were three Commissioners, viz., John Hutton, John Monroe and James T. Cunningham, appointed to lay off the county into townships. They accordingly divided it into twelve civil townships, as follows: Hutton, Ashmore, East Oakland, Morgan, Seven Hickory, Milton (now Humbolt), North Okaw, Mattoon, Paradise, Pleasant Grove, Charleston and La Fayette, their boundaries and names still remaining the same to the present time, as may be seen by reference to the map in the front part of this work, except Milton, the name of which has been changed to Humbolt. The first Board of Supervisors were John Hutton, Hutton Township; John Hoots, North Okaw; Joseph Edman, Pleasant Grove; Milton W. Barnes, Ashmore; William R. Jones, La Fayette; Richard Stoddert, Charleston; James Monroe, Mattoon; A. R. Sutherland, Milton; Samuel Rosebrough, Seven Hickory; Nathan Thomas, Morgan George W. McConkey, East Oakland, and Adam W. Hart, Paradise. The Board held its first meeting May 7, 1860, and organized by making George W. McConkey temporary Chairman, but, afterward, James Monroe was elected permanent President of the Board. The county is still under township organization.

* Postage on letters was twenty-five cents, payable at the office of delivery,
† 1836, he was living in Greenup (now Cumberland County).


In opening up a new country, one of the first enterprises inaugurated for the public good is a mill, for with all the inventions of the age there has been no discovery as yet made to enable the human family to get along without eating. We have it upon good authority that in the early times people were sometimes without bread for three weeks in succession, but there is no evidence that they were destitute of all other kinds of provisions at the same time. Mill facilities, fifty years ago, were very limited in this section of the country. The first mill of any note in the county was what is now known as the Blakeman Mill, on the Embarrass River, and was built in 1829 by the Parkers, just fifty years ago.* To this mill, we are informed, men came forty and fifty miles on horseback, with a bushel and a half of corn, and it frequently was frost-bitten. “This mill,” said an old gentleman. “ run all the year, except when cows came along and drank the river dry.” It may have been this thoughtless act on the part of the cattle that suggested the introduction into the country of horse-mills. They were a dry-weather mill, and during the dry season were kept pretty busy. Charles Morton built one of these dry-weather mills in the neighborhood of Charleston, in an early day, which was of benefit to a large scope of country. One of the early mills was built on Kickapoo Creek, by a man named Robbins, but it was a frail structure, and could only grind one grist of a bushel and a half of corn from Monday morning to Saturday night. A man named Stevens built a mill in what is now Oakland Township, very early, and soon after, Redden built one in the same neighborhood. Redden’s mill is said to have been a curiosity in its way, in this, that it had a buckwheat bolt attached. Chadd built one a few years later, on a new plan, but without a buckwheat bolt. If the stories told of it be true, it was a very remarkable mill, and far superior to the mills of the present day. The proprietor boasted that on a certain occasion he ground a bushel of wheat on his mill and bolted it on Redden’s bolt, and the one bushel turned out one hundred pounds of superfine flour, and two and a half bushels of bran. (It may have been that the mill was no better than those of the present day, but a better quality of wheat was grown then.) But these mills were a “big thing” in their day, as well as a useful institution of the country.

*It was subsequently moved to the opposite side of the river and became the Blakeman Mill.

The first store opened in the county was by Charles Morton. When he came to the county in 1830, he brought a stock of goods with him, and opened them out in a small pole cabin, near the present city of Charleston, and, upon the laying-out of the town, moved within its corporate limits. He established his store upon one of the eligible corner lots, and thus the mercantile business was begun, not only in the county, but in its metropolis. Other stores were opened a few years later at Kickapoo, Hitesville and other points in the county. Morton was not long allowed a monopoly of the mercantile trade of Charleston, but on the principle that “competition is the life of trade,” soon had plenty of company. Mr. Morton was also the first Postmaster in the county. This fact is disputed by some, however, who claim that George Hanson established a post office at Wabash Point some time before there was one at Charleston. Samuel Frost carried the first mail through the county. The route was from Paris to Vandalia, then the capital of the State.
Tan-yards were among the enterprises of the pioneer days. People then were not ashamed to wear, but were glad to get, shoes of home manufacture. Many of the pioneers were sufficiently versed in the lore of St. Crispin to make shoes, and their genius was called into question at the approach of winter. To satisfy the demand for “shoe-leather,“ tanneries were established where the peoples’ “cowhides” and deerskins were made into leather. One of these early tanneries was established by William Wagner in the Kickapoo settlement. Another was established at Charleston by David Eastin, which afterward became the property of the Stodderts, and was operated by them for years, in fact, until tan-yards went out of fashion. Carding machines were also included among the early industries of the county. As we have stated in another page, the pioneer ladies manufactured the family clothing. Nearly every family raised a few sheep. The wool produced by these useful animals was carded into rolls by these machines, when they were taken in hand by the women, spun into yarn on the “big wheel,” and then woven into cloth on the old “rattling loom.” One of the first carding machines in the county was established or built by John Kennedy in Charleston soon after it was laid out as a town. Daniel Evinger built a carding machine on Parker’s Prairie, about 1828, which is supposed to have been the very first institution of the kind in the county. But these machines, tan-yards and horse-mills have long ago become obsolete, the latter have been superseded by fine steam-mills, the tan-yards by “brought-on ” boots and shoes and the jeans and “linsey-woolsey” by store goods.
Among the first blacksmiths in the county were two men of the name of Owens and Harman, who had the first shop in Charleston. John Carter, of Ashmore, was another of the early blacksmiths, and also P. K. Honn, who for many years kept a shop at Hitesville. (For a beautiful tribute to this class of mechanics, the reader is referred to Longfellow’s poem entitled “The Village Blacksmith.”) Other mechanics and trades-people came in, the settlements flourished and grew prosperous upon the products of their own enterprise. In this small and humble way, the foundation was laid for the power and greatness enjoyed at the present day.


As to who was the first white child born in the present territory of Coles County, it is not possible to state definitely. As is usually the case, we hear of a great many first ones—so many, indeed, that it is hard to decide to whom the honor belongs. The child of Daniel Drake, whose wife has been mentioned as, at the age of 54 years, giving birth to a child about 1826-27, was probably the first birth in the county. Drake was one of the pioneers of the settlement at Wabash Point. Another of the first births was a son of James Nees, born in March, 1827, in the settlement now known by the poetical name of Dog Town. Probably there are other first ones, but we have no time to look them up. Suffice it, many have been born to take up the trials and troubles of earth.

“ Angels weep when a babe is born,
And sing when an old man dies.“

In 1824, the year that the first settlement was made in Coles County, a Mrs. Whitten died in the settlement on Parker’s Prairie, and was the first death of a white person in the county. James Nash, who settled at Wabash Point in 1827, and soon after fatally injured himself carrying a heavy log of wood, as noticed on another page, was the first death in that neighborhood. Daniel Drake and Charles Sawyer cut down trees, split out puncheons and of them made the coffin in which Nash was buried.
Among the early marriages may be noted that of James Jeems and a Miss Bates, which occurred in 1827, and is said to have been the first wedding solemnized in the present territory of the county. Jeems went to Darwin, on the Wabash River, then the county seat of Clark County, for the marriage license, as did also Levi Doty, who married soon after to a Miss Phipps. Apropos of weddings, the following anecdote is not inappropriate to the subject. We wish to state, however, by way of preface to the story, that should the participants in it take offense at having their old jokes resurrected and recorded upon the pages of history, we warn them to vent their rage upon Capt. Adams. He furnished us the facts, and we take shelter behind his elephantine proportions. In early times, there lived in Charleston a Justice of the Peace named H. C. Dunbar, and a well-known business man—Richard Stoddert. These two worthy individuals were in the habit of playing practical jokes on each other, and rather serious ones sometimes, as the sequel will show. One bleak, dreary day, in the month of March—as disagreeable as March days can sometimes be— Mr. Stoddert told Squire Dunbar that a friend of his in the north part of the county, some eighteen or twenty miles from town, was to be married on that day, and had requested him (Stoddert) to send Dunbar up to perform the ceremony. Dunbar, nothing doubting, mounted his horse and rode up to the designated place to tie the knot, but upon arriving, discovered that it was one of Stoddert’s jokes. He said nothing, but, indulged internally, perhaps, in a few pages of profane history, returned home through the March blasts, taking it all good-naturedly, and bided his time to pay off Stoddert in his own coin. An opportunity was soon presented. It was a custom at that day, at parties and gatherings of young people, by way of giving zest to the evening’s entertainment, to get up a sham wedding of some couple who had been “keeping company,” or were particularly sweet on each other, and have a sham ceremony performed with all due solemnity by some sham official or sham clergyman. Soon after Dunbar’s “fruitless trip” above mentioned, one of these social parties came off in Charleston, and, with the design of retaliating upon Stoddert, Dunbar went to the County Clerk’s office and procured a marriage license for Stoddert and a certain young lady, with whom he had been keeping company for some time. Armed with this document, he repaired to the party, and so engineered matters as to get up the usual sham wedding between Stoddert and his sweetheart. As a Justice of the Peace, he was, of course, called on to perform the (supposed) sham ceremony. Confronting the pair with all the solemnity he would have used had it been a prearranged wedding “for keeps,” he asked the usual questions required by law, and was answered satisfactorily, winding up by informing them that, as they were aware, he was an officer, authorized by law to perform the marriage ceremony, and asked if it was their “desire to be united in holy wedlock.” They answered in the affirmative, and, holding the license in his hand (which they supposed was but a piece of blank paper, used for the sake of appearance), he went through the marriage ceremony in full, received the responses, and solemnly pronounced them “man and wife,” turned away and made out the certificate with the usual witnesses, went over to the Clerk’s office, made a return of the license and had the certificate recorded that night, without a hint to the pair of the genuineness of the proceedings. The next day, however, the matter leaked out, and so many of Stoddert’s friends joked him about being married in the novel manner described, that he went to the Clerk’s office to investigate, and found it true—the papers in the case returned and recorded in due form. He then went to the girl and told her what had occurred, when quite a little excitement arose. She cried and Stoddert —swore (perhaps), not that they objected to each other, but to the way they had been inveigled into it. At last, Stoddert told her that they had better make the best of a “horrid joke” and call it genuine. She responded that perhaps she would never be able to do any better in the selection of a husband, and so the sham wedding was turned into a genuine affair. Before leaving the subject we will add that, if all reports be true, Charleston never knew a happier couple than the one united in this romantic manner. Long years of wedded life were passed in the greatest harmony, and when, a few years ago, the good woman passed from earth, she was most sincerely mourned by the partner of her sorrows and joys. He is still living, an honored citizen of Charleston. ’Squire Dunbar is living in Texas, or was at the last known of him, enjoying the reflection, doubtless, that he paid Stoddert for his joke, with interest.
The first practicing physician in Coles County was Dr. John Apperson, His practice extended over a large scope of country, and his office was usually on horse-back. Often when he slept, his saddle was his pillow, the soft side of a puncheon or the green earth his bed, and the blue sky his covering. Dr. Carrico was another of the early practitioners in the healing art, and was fol- lowed soon after by Dr. Ferguson, who doctored the people of Coles County for more than forty years. Col. Dunbar was the first licensed lawyer of the county, and for some time had an open field for the exercise of his legal talent. A more minute history of the professions is given in the township histories.


In 1878, the idea was conceived of forming an association of the old settlers of Coles County still surviving, for the purpose of keeping up the old associations of the pioneer days, and preserving the reminiscences of the wilderness, in which they long ago planted their homes. With this object in view, a meeting assembled in the city of Charleston, on the 19th of October last, and was called to order by Hon. 0. B. Ficklin. Col. A. P. Dunbar was chosen Chairman of the meeting, and Capt. W. E. Adams was appointed Secretary. Col. Dunbar briefly stated the object of the meeting to be “ the renewal of old acquaintances, and giving brief sketches of the early history and settlement of Coles County, and the organization of a society to be known as the Coles County Old Settlers’ Society.&Rdquo; I. J. Montfort, Isaac N. Craig and Thomas G. Chambers were appointed a committee to report a plan for the organization of such a society. The following is their report: “This association shall be known as the Coles County Old Settlers’ Society. The object of this Society shall be to keep in lively remembrance the hardships and privations incident to the early settlers of new countries, and especially of this county, and thereby promote the same economy among the rising generation as was practiced by them. The officers shall be a President, and a Vice President for each township, a Secretary and five Directors. The duties of the officers provided for as above shall be the same as performed by such officers in all deliberative bodies and societies. It shall be the duty of the Board of Directors to call annual meetings of this society on the last Thursday in August of each year, and make necessary arrangements for such meetings. The officers shall hold their positions for one year.” A committee, consisting of 0. B. Ficklin, Richard Stoddert and Dr. S. Van Meter, was appointed, to define what an old settler is, and who shall be members of this society. Following is their definition: “ Whosoever shall have lived in the State of Illinois thirty years is considered an old settler by this association, and shall be eligible to become a member of this Society.” At this meeting, Thomas G. Chambers was chosen President of the association for the ensuing year, and W. E. Adams, Secretary. The following gentlemen were chosen Vice Presidents: Albert Compton, Charleston; Thomas E. Woods, Mattoon; Adam W. Hart, Paradise; J. K. Ellis, Okaw; James Shoemaker, Humbolt; James McCrory, La Fayette; I. J. Montfort Pleasant Grove; Ely B. Adams, Hutton; Peter K. Honn, Ashmore; J.J. Pemberton, Oakland; Yancey E. Winkler, Morgan; and Isaac Perisho, Hickory. J. W. Frazier, Abram Highland, Dr. S. Van Meter, Col. A. P. Dunbar and George Birch were chosen Executive Committee.
The Charleston Plaindealer closes its account of the proceedings of this meeting of the old settlers as follows: “Brief speeches were made by Col. J. J. Adams,* who has lived in the county for forty-eight years, and has heard the scream of the panther and the war-whoop of the Indian, and by Isaac Perisho, who had been a resident of Illinois since 1825; and by William Rigsby, who had seen the Court House built and sowed the blue-grass seed in the Court House yard; and by Uncle John Bates, who came here in 1824, and has seen the wilderness blossom as the rose; and by Dr. Van Meter, who has been in the country for fifty years, and carried his corn to mill on his back and hired the miller to take his oxen and grind his grist for him; and by Aunt Polly Kellogg, who came here in 1824, saw the first mill built, and heard the first sermon preached, and attended the first funeral in the county. Job W. Brown, P. K. Honn, George Birch, Y. E. Winkler, Jeptha Parker, Michael Hall, Isaac Craig, and many other old settlers were in attendance. The Vice Presidents are requested to enroll all old settlers in their respective townships. The last Thursday in August, 1879, was fixed as the time for the next annual meeting.” We would add that it is the intention to keep up the meetings, and to maintain the association permanently.

* A soldier of the Mexican war, and recently deceased.


Some modern sage, imbued with a poetical view in his composition, has very wisely declared:

“’Tis education forms the common mind,
Just as the twig is bent the tree’s inclined.”

And when our forefathers declared in their ordinance of 1787, that knowledge in connection with religion and morality, was “necessary to the good government and and happiness of mankind,” and enjoined that “schools, and the means of education, should forever be encouraged,” they suggested in that ordinance the very bulwark of American liberty and freedom. The first free-school system of the State was adopted thirty years before the present one. Schools flourished in almost every neighborhood, says Gov. Ford in his history of Illinois, and “ the law worked reasonably well.“ Gov. Coles, in his Message to the Legislature of 1824-25, directed attention to the liberal donation of Congress in lands for educational purposes, asking that they be husbanded as a rich treasure for future generations, and, in the mean time, to make provision for the support of local schools. During this session, Hon. Joseph Duncan, subsequently Governor (then Senator), introduced a bill, afterward passed, to which the following is the preamble: “To enjoy our rights and liberties, we must understand; them their security and protection ought to be the first object ofa free people; and it is a well-established fact that no nation has ever continued long in the enjoyment of civil and political freedom which was not both virtuous and enlightened. And believing that the advancement of literature always has been, and ever will be, the means of more fully developing the rights of men—that the mind of every citizen in a republic is the common property of society, and constitutes the basis of its strength and happiness it is, therefore, considered the peculiar duty of a free government, like ours, to encourage and extend the improvement and cultivation of the intellectual energies of the whole.” Stuve, in his history of Illinois, speaking of this act, says: “ It was provided that common schools should be established, free and open to every class of white citizens between the ages of five and twenty-one; and persons over twenty-one might be admitted on such terms as the Trustees should prescribe. Districts, of not less than fifteen families, were to be formed by the County Courts, upon petition of a majority of the voters thereof; officers were to be elected, sworn in, and their duties were prescribed in detail. The system was full and complete in all particulars. The legal voters were empowered at the annual meeting to levy a tax, in money or merchantable produce at its cash value, not exceeding one-half of one per cent, subject to a maximum limitation of $10 to any one person. But, aside from this tax, the best and most effective feature of the law, in principle, the great stimulant of our present system, was an annual appropriation by the State of $2 out of every $100 received into the Treasury, and the distribution of five-sixths of the interest arising from the school funds, apportioned among the several counties, according to the number of white children under the age of twenty-one years, which sums were then redistributed by the counties among their respective districts, none participating therein where not at least three months’ school had been taught during the twelve months preceding. In this law were foreshadowed some of the most valuable features of our present free-school system. But it is asserted that the law of 1825 was in advance of the times; that the people preferred to pay their tuition fees, or do without education for the children, rather than submit to the bare idea of taxation, however it might fall in the main upon the wealthier property-holders, for the benefit of all; and the law was so amended, in 1827, as to virtually nullify it, by providing that no person should be taxed for the maintenance of any school, unless the consent was first obtained in writing, and the continuance of the State appropriation of $2 out of every $100 received into the Treasury, being its very life, was denied.“ In the foregoing extract is portrayed something of the first school laws of Illinois, and their virtual abolishment developed the rude system of schools of the pioneer days in Coles County. The school fund was not sufficient to support the schools, and the people obviated the difficulty by some one, specially interested, taking a paper, going to the parents and having them sign as many scholars, at $1.50 apiece (that was the standard price), as they could send to school. If a sufficient number were subscribed they had a school, if not, the children ran wild and unrestrained as the prairie winds, at least, so far as pertained to schools. Nor were schoolhouses built then by general taxation, as they are now, but by gratuitous contribution. This contribution usually consisted in a man taking his ax and cutting- logs, or taking his team and hauling them from the timber to the building-site, or carrying the hod while the chimney was in process of erection, or of “riving” boards to cover it, etc., etc. These schoolhouses were built of logs, often without hewing, raised one story high, and, as an old settler informed us, “ whitewashed inside and outside with original Illinois mud, floored with rude puncheons, and cracks between them through which the small children sometimes fell.” With a fire place extending across one end of the room, benches made of trees split, open, and wooden pins put in for legs, the half of two logs cut out, and white domestic tacked over it (the pioneer glass window), completes the picture of the original schoolhouse. In these rude temples of learning the pioneer’s child acquired his education. There were no grades then, and but few classes, for in a school of twenty or thirty pupils, there would be found as many arithmetics, geographies and readers as there were extant in the English language. But the adoption of the free-school system, entered upon in 1855, marks the turning-point in the history of common-school education of the State, and abolished forever the rude and imperfect system hitherto in force. The donation by Congress of the Sixteenth Section of every Congressional Township, or, if sold, lands equivalent thereto, as contiguous as might be, for the use of the inhabitants of such township for school purposes, amounted to over 998,000 acres, and which, had it been properly managed and husbanded, would have given the people such an ample school fund as would have saved them from any local taxation. At the session of the Legislature of 1854, that august body took the first step in the right direction, by the enactment of a law separating the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction from that of Secretary of State, and creating it a distinct department of the State government, the incumbent to receive a salary of $1,500, and Gov. Matteson appointed the Hon. N. W. Edwards State Superintendent of Common Schools. This most important office, at that juncture, was bestowed upon Mr. Edwards on account of his long experience in public life, and from the conviction that he would carry into effect the hopes of the people and the designs of the Legislature in creating it. In January following, he submitted to the General Assembly a full report upon the condition of the public schools throughout the State, ably urged the education of the children of the State at the public expense, and presented a well-drawn bill for a complete system of free schools, which, with some alterations, became a law. The act bore date February 15, 1855, and embraced all the essential principles now in force.”* But, however interesting our school history may be to the friends of education, we cannot follow it through all of its mutations, but have already trespassed upon time and space, and will only add, that there is not a State west of the Alleghanies whose educational interest and common-school system is so well developed, so well protected and so well adapted to the wants of the people and the spirit of the age, as the State of Illinois.

* Stuves History of Illinois

Referring to the qualifications of teachers. Prof. Lee says: “Shortly after coming into office, I deemed it best to reduce, gradually, the number of certificates by raising the grade of qualifications, and adopted the following rules concerning certificates: “1. Scale: 5, very poor; 6, poor; 7, tolerable; 8, good; 9, very good; 10, perfect. 2. For First Grade—Average of 8, with no branch below 7. 3. For Second grade—Average of 7, with no branch below 5. After twelve months teaching, same mark as for First Grade. 4. Only bona-fide applicants to teach in this county will be examined. 5. Reference of good moral character required of applicants unknown to Superintendent. 6. In addition to above, aptitude for the business of teaching will be required. 7. No re-examination under three months after rejection. No certificate now held will be renewed or another issued instead, except on personal application for reexamination. 9, All examinations must be begun and completed on the same day; therefore applicants should come to the office early in the day. 10. No certificates will be issued except at published time and place.“ Prof. Lee closes his report as follows: “ Our common school system is yet an experiment. Give it time to grow, and it may yet unfold into that perennial blessing, and those beneficent propositions dreamed by its founders. Its growth cannot be hastened but retarded rather—by certain Utopian ideas that now, unhappily for it, seem to be gaining ground. Let us call a ’halt’ and wait. Let all who are ’called’ to help administer the system strive in every good way to bring it up equal to the provisions already made for it, before attempting new excesses.”

James T. Cunningham


The sound of the Gospel in Coles County is coeval with the first settlement made in its limits. John Parker, the old patriarch of the Parker family was a Baptist preacher of the “hard-shell” or “ironside” persuasion, and used to proclaim the word of God to the pioneers on the Sabbath—when it was not a good day to hunt bees. Daniel Parker was also a preacher of the same denomination, and, as the Parkers were the first settlers in the county, so were they the first preachers. “High” Johnny Parker, as the old man was familiarly called, preached the first sermon in Coles County in 1824, the year the first settlement was made. He was a plain, old-fashioned man, hewn out of rough timber, and “preached salvation by election, without money and without price.” This sermon (the first in the county) was preached in a small log cabin in the Parker settlement, and it is said that every inhabitant of the county was there, and had abundant room, for eleven souls constituted the entire adult population. Father Parker closed this original religious service of the county in these words: “ Brethren, we have wandered far into the wilderness, but even here death will find us.” The Rev. Mr. Newport was another of the “hard-shell” divines who figured prominently in the early religious history of the county. The early settlers were a conscientiously religious people. Even prior to the era of schoolhouses and churches, they had meetings under the shade-trees on the river-banks, and in private houses, dedicated by common usage to religious services. Says Capt. Adams in his Centennial Address: “We have seen one of these private houses, not exceeding twenty feet square, containing three or four beds and all the household and kitchen furniture of a large family, hold a big congregation of zealous worshipers. In the early days, the old, young and even small children went to church. During the services it sometimes occurred that a half-dozen of these little ones, all with one accord, would raise their plaintive cries; nevertheless, the services proceeded without any apparent disturbance. The occasional manifestations of some of these people were strikingly singular. Some would shout and some would pray and others scream at the top of the voice. Some would clap their hands until blistered, and others faint away, but all seemed happy, recognizing it as the Lord’s doings.”
An early minister of the Presbyterian Church was Rev. Isaac Bennett. “He dropped down among us,” says one, “as softly as the morning light, and could not brook any religious excitement, or even the music of a child during his discourse.” Rev. Mr. Martin was another of the early preachers of Coles County. But we have not space to particularize each of these pioneer soldiers of the cross. Without the hope of earthly reward, they preached the glad tidings to perishing sinners, and sought to gather them into the fold of Christ. Reverently asking the blessing of God upon all they did, their lives were simple; their wants few and easily satisfied; their teachings plain and unvarnished, touched with no eloquence save that of their daily living, which was seen and known of all men.
In what year the first church-building was erected in the county is not known, but subsequently to 1830, as at that date, we are informed, there was not an edifice which had been erected purposely for a temple of worship. Before the building of schoolhouses, the cabin of the settler was used in winter, and in summer, “the groves, God’s first temples,” served their humble wishes. But now, some sixty-five church-buildings may be enumerated in the county. Not only in the towns and cities, but in every village and hamlet, their lofty spires “pierce the clouds.” Even in many neighborhoods in the country are neat and commodious church-houses.
In connection with the church history, it may not be out of place to say a few words of the benevolent institutions existing in the county. Freemasonry and Odd Fellowship follow close in the wake of the Christian church, and, in their way, exert almost as great an influence for good as the church itself. They teach a belief in God, the immortality of the soul and the resurrection of the body. Gathered around their altars, their votaries can subscribe to their simple articles of faith, and join in one united prayer and praise to the great Architect of the universe. These institutions have organized bodies in Charleston, Mattoon, Etna, Ashmore, Muddy Point, Oakland, Paradise, Hutton and Milton. In the city of Charleston are Charleston Lodge, No. 35, A., F. & A. M.; Keystone Chapter, No. 54, Royal. Arch Masons; Charleston Lodge, No. 609, I. 0. 0. F.; Kickapoo Lodge, No. 00, I. 0. 0. F.; and Coles Encampment, No. 94, I. 0. 0. F.; in Mattoon—Mattoon Lodge, No. 260, A., F. & A. M.; Circle Lodge, No. 707, A., F. & A. M.; Mattoon Chapter, No. 85, Royal Arch Masons; Godfrey de Bouillon Commandery, No. 44, Knights Templar; Harmony Lodge, No. 551, I. 0. 0. F.; Coles County Lodge, No. 260, I. 0. O: F.; Mattoon Encampment, No.    , I. 0. 0. F. also, Mattoon German Lodge, No. 414, I. 0. 0. F., and Eureka Lodge, No. 13, Colored Masons; in the village of Etna, Wabash Lodge, No. 179, A. F. & A. M., and Etna Lodge, No. 519, I. 0. 0. F.; in Oakland—Oakland Lodge, No. 219, A. F. & A. M., and Oakland Lodge, No. 545, I. 0. 0. F.; in Milton—Milton Lodge, No. 275, A. F. & A. M., and Humboldt Lodge, No. 636, I. 0. 0. F.; in Ashmore—Ashmore Lodge, No. 390, A. F. & A. M.; in Muddy Point— Etna Lodge, No. 396, A., F. & A. M.; in Milton Station—Elwood Lodge, No. 589, A. F. & A. M.; in Paradise—Miles Hart Lodge, No. 595, A. F. & A. M., and in Hutton—Hutton Lodge, No. 698, A. F. & A. M.’


An association entitled the Coles County Agricultural Society was formed at Charleston on the 24th day of May, 1841, and held three successive fairs, the first, October 1, 1841, the second, October 1, 1842, and the third, September 27, 1843. The permanent officers of the Society for 1841 were as follows: James Hite, President; B. F. Jones, H. J. Ashmore and M. Ruffner, Vice Presidents; T. A. Marshall, Treasurer, and J. F. Whitney, Secretary. The officers for 1842 were: Thomas Monson, President; Michael Ruffner, Isaac Gruwell, Vice Presidents; L. R. Hutchason, Treasurer; D. J. Van Deren, Secretary; and for 1843, James T. Cunningham, President; George H. Nabb and Fountain Turner, Vice Presidents; L. R. Hutchason, Treasurer; D. J. Van Deren, Secretary; Laban Burr, John A. Olmstead, John Hite, Joel Connelly, John Apperson, B. F. Jones, Thomas Monson, Thomas Farris, R. A. Miller and William Frost, a Board of Directors.*
The following extract is from the records: “From 1843 to 1855, the Society appears to have been entranced in a sort of Rip Van Winkle sleep, a “masterly inactivity” of eleven years’ duration, until the passage of the two acts of the Legislature of Illinois, February 14, 1855, and February 15, 1855, the first to encourage the formation of county agricultural societies, and the last, a general act of incorporation of agricultural and horticultural societies and associations for improving. the breeds of domestic animals, whereupon the Society appears to have awakened from its lengthy slumber, and recommenced its labors with more of vigor, comeliness of proportion and hope to its friends than prior to that wise legislative aid by the State, and accordingly, in the spring of 1855, a re-organization was effected, and a constitution and by-laws adopted, as was then supposed, in conformity with the acts above referred to. The records under the new organization are said to be lost, so that the present Secretary is unable to give a history of its proceedings for 1855. Certain it is, however, the Society held a fair in the fall of that year, but what was contained in its list of premiums, who were judges, who competitors, to whom and for what premiums were awarded, is enshrouded in darkness. Nor is the present Secretary able to give a full list of the officers elected for that year, but as far as informed, the following is believed to be correct: James T.Cunningham, President; D. J. Van Deren, Secretary; B. F. Jones, J. K. Decker, M. F. Hackett, a portion of the Board of Directors; Thomas G. Chambers, Treasurer. The present Secretary is informed that the Society, having complied with the act of February 14, 1855, received from the Treasurer of State the sum of $50, as authorized by that act. Before the election of the present Secretary, but at what time he is not informed, the Society had purchased seven and three-fifths acres of land for the use of the same for its fair grounds, and had paid the sum of $100 in part payment for the same, the title to which remains yet unperfected.“
The act of February 14, 1855, referred to in the foregoing records, is as follows:

An Act to encourage the formation of County Agricultural Societies.
Section 1. Be it enacted by the people of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That whenever the President and Treasurer of any County Agricultural Society shall certify that the sum of (at least) fifty dollars has been collected, and is in the hands of the Treasurer for the use of said society, the Treasurer of this State shall, when called upon for that purpose, pay to the said Treasurer or fiscal agent or officer of said society, the sum of fifty dollars; and the receipt of said Treasurer of such society therefor shall entitle the said Treasurer of this State to a credit for that amount in the settlements of his account as such State Treasurer.
Sec. 2. The said sum of fifty dollars, thus appropriated, shall be expended in the purpose of premiums, to be procured and distributed under the direction of said societies respectively in the manner prescribed in the constitution, by-laws, or other regulations of said societies.
Sec. 3. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.

The act of February 15, 1855, also alluded to in the extract from the minutes of the Society, provides for the incorporation of such societies, the mode of forming them, who shall be members, etc., and gives the usual privileges of all corporate bodies. But its great length and lack of interest to the general reader, are sufficient excuses for omitting it here. Under these acts the Society revived, as already stated, took new lease of life, and commenced business in earnest. The minutes, however, of the first meeting, under the new dispensation, being lost, the proceedings of that fair are “as a sealed book.” The proceedings of 1856 are given in full, together with the premium-lists, officers and all matters of interest occurring during the year. At a meeting of Society held in the Court House, June 2, 1856, the following officers were elected for the ensuing year: John Cofer, President; William Miller, Vice President; H. J. Keeler, Secretary; Thomas G. Chambers, Treasurer B. F.; Jones, J. T. Cunningham, J. K. Decker, M. F. Hackett and James Hammett, Executive Committee. At a meeting of the officers, held soon after their election, they met and made out a list of premiums, also a list of what should be exhibited.
At a meeting held August 2, 1856, the Board passed a resolution to adopt the list of premiums , and appointed a committee to prepare the fair grounds for the forthcoming exhibition. At a subsequent meeting, an agreement was made with D. J. Van Deren and H. J. Keeler to inclose the grounds. At a meeting September 13, it was ordered that a well be dug and curbed upon the Society’s grounds; badges were ordered for life members, and for the officers. Robert Leith was appointed Marshal; E. W. True, J. R. Jeffries, James Shoemaker, William Jones and Richard Champion, Deputy Marshals, together with some other unimportant matters pertaining to the fair soon to take place, were arranged.
The fair came off on the 24th and 25th of September, and, from the entries made in the different classes, seems to have been a very interesting and successful meeting. Particularly were the stock classes well represented, and a number of entries made in each class. The Secretary published a report which is copied in the records, showing the list of Judges for the articles and stock adjudged, and the names of those to whom premiums were awarded, but its extreme length forbids its insertion in this work, however interesting it might prove to our readers, especially those who are engaged in stock-raising.
But it is impossible to follow the Society through all the years since its re-organization in 1855. Suffice it, that at the present time it is in a flourishing state, and the people of the county are justly proud of their association. The last meeting took place in September, 1878, occupying five days, the 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st; the premium-list embraces ten pages of closely printed matter in a pamphlet printed for gratuitous distribution. The grounds of the Society comprise twenty-four acres well improved, substantially inclosed, with stock-stalls and all necessary buildings, and of a total value of about $6,000. The present officers are as follows, viz., S. D. Dole, of Mattoon, President; James Shoemaker, of Loxa, I. J. Montfort, of Charleston, T. G. Chambers, of Charleston, M. B. Valodin, of Oakland, Vice Presidents; E. R. Connely, Samuel Van Meter, C. E. Wilson, Adam Millar and Isaac Flenner, Board of Directors; R. S. Hodgen, Secretary, and J. K. Decker, Treasurer.
The farmers of Coles County have for years past devoted considerable attention to the improvement of their stock, and many of them are at present engaged largely in breeding blooded horses, cattle and hogs. Of horses, the Norman stock is being introduced in the county, and as draft horses are popular, while other blooded horses are receiving some attention. W. A. Whittemore, H. M. Ashmore, J. W. Wright and I. N. Gibbs are specially engaged in breeding fine horses. Blooded cattle are being more extensively raised, as this section of the country is more favorably adapted to cattle than horses. S. C. Ashmore, William Millar, Ambrose Edwards and Isaac Flenner make a specialty of Short Horns. R. L. Reat, of Herefords and Jerseys, and R. S. Hodgen, of Jerseys.
Shepard &, Alexander are known, not. only over the State of Illinois, but throughout the entire country, for their fine breed of Poland-China hogs. Their fine specimens of this famous stock of hogs have been exhibited at Chicago, St. Louis, Indiana State Fair, Illinois State Fair, Kansas State Fair, and all the surrounding county fairs, where they have been invariably awarded the highest prizes. But we shall refer more particularly to this subject in the history of Charleston Township.

*These fairs were held on the commons, we are told, the Society having no grounds of its own.


“The poor ye have with you alway.” Originally, the mode of taking care of the poor of the county, was through an officer in each township or election precinct, styled “Overseer of the Poor,” who looked after the welfare of the poor and needy, supplied their wants and, at a regular meeting, brought his bill before the County Board. But this system was found to be rather expensive, the county, it is said, having paid out as much as $12,000in a single year for the benefit of its poor. So this mode was changed to a county farm. Some time during the war the county purchased a small tract of land in Pleasant Grove Township, but becoming dissatisfied with this, from some cause or other, probably its location at the very edge of the county, it was sold in 1865, and forty acres bought in La Fayette Township. After using this a few years in the capacity of a county farm, it was sold and 258 acres purchased in 1870, in Ashmore Township. Upon this farm substantial buildings have been erected, and all necessaries and conveniences prepared for taking care of the poor comfortably. The main building is a substantial two-story brick, and will accommodate about sixty persons. This farm, at the time of its purchase by the county, was well improved, having a comfortable frame residence, barns and all necessary outbuildings, so that the only additional expense to the purchase of the land was the erection of the brick building above referred to. Upon a written request to the Superintendent of the farm, Joshua Ricketts, Esq., we received the following, which we give in full, as it contains much of general interest, as well as some valuable hints: “ The number at present in our County Poorhouse is thirty-three. This is about the average for the year. There are twenty-one females and twelve males. Four of the inmates are over eighty years of age; two of them are white and two black. One of these blacks is supposed to be at least 100 years old. The blacks are both females, and were slaves until freed by the emancipation proclamation of President Lincoln. Old John Golliday, well known to many of the citizens of the county, having been a resident for over forty years, was once the lawful owner of 400 acres of good land in Morgan Township, but by not doing right, he lost it all, and now has to betaken care of at the expense of the public. I am convinced that fully nine-tenths of all pauperism in this county may be traced either directly or indirectly to the use of intoxicating drinks. Not that there were that number who were drunkards, but the sin of others has, in many cases, visited the children to the third and fourth generations. It is but a few days since a poor, degraded creature left the house to return to his old haunts, where he can again wallow in the ditch, steeped in the fire of the still. This same man said that he felt as if could drink fully three inches of whisky, so anxious was he to get back to his old rum-holes. I am thoroughly satisfied that there would be no real necessity for poorhouses if intoxicating liquors were banished from the land.
“As to the mode of conducting the house, we have a set of rules for the government of inmates, which are hung up in the house so that all can know what is required of them. The Supervisors of the various townships are ex-officio Overseers of the Poor of their respective townships, and by their order the Superintendent receives and takes under his care those who are dependent and helpless. The county owns some two hundred and fifty-eight acres of land, about two hundred acres of which is plow and grass land: the remainder is principally timber-land. On the farm is a brick building 38x58 feet, two stories high, and a kitchen attached to the main building, extending some 28 feet in length and 16 in width, with a large porch facing the east. There is also a very comfortable dwelling for the Superintendent and his family and a large barn, with some smaller buildings. There is an orchard of about one hundred and fifty bearing trees, consisting of apples, peaches and cherries. In the summer time, the paupers are employed some portion of the time in cultivating tobacco, of which weed they are, as a rule, very fond.“
The Superintendent has to enter into a contract with the Board of Supervisors, and give a heavy bond, obligating himself to take care and treat kindly and humanely all who may be placed under his care, stipulating the kind and variety of food that shall be furnished. It is now nine years since the county bought the farm where the Poorhouse is now located, eight miles east of Charleston, immediately on the Indianapolis & St. Louis Railroad. There were twenty-seven paupers moved from the old house, four miles west of Charleston, to this place, October 25, 1870, of which number there are remaining on hand at the present time seven—two men and five women. There have been thirty-two deaths at the house, out of some two hundred and fifty persons who have been received and cared for. The attending physician (A. T, Robertson), says it is remarkable what cures have been effected. Most of those who have died were far gone when received. The oldest person who died was Mrs. Anna Higgenbotham, a cousin to Gen. Winfield Scott.


To obtain an accurate idea of the railroads of Coles County, one must go back before the day of railroads and note briefly their causes.
The first railways in the world began in the collieries in England, and were simple tramways—wooden rails— on which the cars were hauled by mules. As in many places the way from the collieries to the coal-yards was up an inclined plane, the cars were hauled by the mules up the plane, and allowed to return by their own gravity. “Bylittle and by little,” as Charles Dickens would say, the tracks were extended to the shipping points, and, finally, to the chief markets. Then the laborers began to ride to and from their daily tasks; then others rode; then a car made to carry only laborers and those desiring to ride was placed on the track; steam began now and then to be recognized as an important factor among the immense motive powers of the world, and, about 1825, George Stephenson invented and placed in successful operation an engine that drew a train of cars over a wooden railway, protected by an iron covering, at the rate of twelve miles an hour. This road ran from one town to another, over vale and hill, up-hill and down, astonishing the incredulous English, who prophesied only dire disaster and distress would attend the operating of such a monster. Soon the railways, operated by steam, and carrying a train of cars that “annihilated both time and space,” were coming rapidly into use in the mother country. The American nation, not to be outdone, had caught the contagion, and, in 1830, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad commenced active operations to open a similar line, extending westward from that city. In 1826, a tramway was built from Quincy, Mass., the home of the Adams family, to the granite quarries, a few miles away—the pioneer railroad in America. On this primitive affair only mules or horses were used, and it was never put to any other purpose than the hauling of granite from the quarries.
From 1830 to 1835, railroads in the East received a considerable impulse. Improvements of all kinds were being made, a speed of twenty and thirty miles an hour was attained, and the benefits of their construction and use were becoming more apparent.
About this time, it began to occur to the denizens of the Prairie State that their domain was the best place in all the world for such enterprises. “For,” argued they, “have we not a rich, productive soil, an even country, requiring but little preparation, and needing no expensive grading, filling or costly bridges. Does not our land bring forth plenty, and, if we had proper means for transporting our products away and bringing money and settlers back to us. what a country we would be!”
A desire always finds a favorable argument and some way to accomplish its ends.
True, there was no money to build such works, and Pennsylvania and other Eastern States which had entered on such schemes had invariably been the losers; for “rings ” would form and steal what they could not get honestly. Yet Illinois soon found a way, and the attempt was made. In his message to the General Assembly, at the session of 1885, Gov. Joseph Duncan urged the Legislature, now ripe for action, to the furtherance of schemes that were so brilliant in their prospects. That body responded by such subsidies and grants to internal improvements as to astonish even the sanguine Governor himself. Before they stopped, so infatuated were they with the glorious future so enchantingly spread out before them, they had entailed a debt of more than $14,000,000, all confidently expected to be paid by the improvements themselves and by the consequent increase in property.
The Utopian scheme dazzled the eyes of the Governor, the Legislature and the people. They saw nothing but the most prosperous times ahead, and began at once a system of financiering that in the end well nigh impoverished the State. Gold and silver, the money of the world from its infancy, could, of course, not be had for the fulfillment of the plans, and a system of bonds was instituted, based on the faith of the State, redeemable in a series of years, and payable in coin in the banks in New York. It was confidently predicted that the bonds would not only sell at par, but would command a premium. They were to be paid from the proceeds of the canal and railroads, and were advertised as the best securities to be had. The first installment went off easily but; human greed began to exhibit itself, and “rings ” were formed, and, before any one was aware, the bonds of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio—for these States were in the meshes of the same visionary scheme—began to decline. When work began on the Illinois and Michigan Canal, on the Illinois Central Railroad and a few other such enterprises, laborers flocked to the State, prices of everything advanced, and the day of prosperity so confidently predicted in the early stages of the “plan,” seemed now at hand. The men of the day, blinded by the apparent success of the scheme, like men of this day, seemed to overlook the fact that every article of trade, whether food, labor or merchandise, advanced with the influx of currency issued by the State banks, brought into life by the scheme, and that in this respect things were no cheaper than before. Now, at first $1 would buy but little less than before. Soon it took $2 to buy what $1 would before, and so on, till, when the system collapsed, $100 of State money would buy only as much as $16 in gold.
The projected works were simply marvelous in extent. Almost every county in Illinois was to have a railroad, and in those where none were projected, $200,000 was to be distributed. Work was to begin at both ends of the rail- roads and the canal, and in any other places where heavy grades were encountered. Among the projected routes was one from Cairo to the northern limit of the State, especially to meet the southern end of the canal, this was to run through or near Coles County. Another was projected from Terre Haute, Ind., west- ward to Alton, Ill. It was stipulated by the “Alton interest,” as that faction was known in the Senate, that no road should terminate at St. Louis. That city was a rival to Alton, which confidently expected to overtake and pass her opulent neighbor, and, in time, completely overshadow her. Hence, no favors were to be shown the foreign rival. She must be put down some way, and that way could be aided by refusing all means of ingress and egress, save through Alton. For this reason, the road from Terre Haute westward, must stop at Alton, and all business coming from the East must center there. That the railroad was to be built no one for a moment doubted. It was to be known as the Terre Haute & Alton Railroad, and contracts for its construction were let early in the life of the Internal Improvement system. Work began at both ends and progressed centerward. Grading and filling was done at each extremity, the route determined on, and for a short time progressed favorably. As the bonds of the State declined in value, and its currency fell in a like ratio, the demands of the laborer, unskilled in finance, and caring only for their pay, became more and more exorbitant, and when the failure of the system came, they abruptly abandoned the State, with all manner of maledictions cast upon it. The work on the railroad did not reach Coles County. That on the Illinois Central suffered a similar fate, and no signs of railroads appeared here, save in the surveyor’s lines and stakes, and in the losses some of its people suffered from the collapse, and return to a specie basis.
The hard times that followed have almost an unequaled history. The decline in fictitious values, the distress of many people who had caught the contagion of suddenly growing rich without giving an equivalent for the prosperity, the fall of real estate, the high price of produce, and, more than all, the dread of emigrants, who feared to link their lives with a commonwealth whose taxes for the future seemed unbearable, gave the State a reputation any- thing but agreeable.
It was young, however, full of resources, and confident in its powers. Able men took the helm; a series of redeemable, long-time bonds was issued, the canal, through additional loans, was completed; and by the time the Mexican war began to agitate the minds of the American people the bonds of Illinois had risen, first to forty, then fifty, then seventy, and now to ninety cents on the dollar. To its everlasting credit it must be recorded, all were paid; and to-day the debt of the State is only a nominal sum, which could be paid at any time. Whatever may be said of the system of Internal Improvements, it must be recorded that the people learned a lesson, dearly, too, that it does not pay municipalities to assume the construction of such works, and that it is always disastrous to entail a debt in expectation of future greatness and ability to discharge it. Where such a course succeeds once, it will fail a hundred times; and even if succeeding, it is only by unnatural methods.
The reverse of the system was so great that no attempts were made to complete any of the unfinished roads for over twelve years. Of all the grand system of internal railroads in Illinois, but one, the Northern Cross Railroad, was the only one that reached practical results. Of that, in the spring of 1837, some eight miles were built, and, on November 8, the first locomotive that ever turned a wheel in the Mississippi Valley was placed and made a trial-trip, running out and back on the eight miles of the old flat bar track. The road was finished on to Jacksonville, and, in the spring of 1842, to Springfield, where it terminated. The little locomotive, minus a spark-arrester and cow-catcher, was a terror to cattle and buildings, throwing the one ruthlessly from the track, and burning the other with its sparks. It was, after running a year or so, run off the track by a drunken engineer, and sold to Gen. Semples, of Alton, who nearly bankrupted himself in a fruitless endeavor to make a steam road-wagon of it. Mule-power superseded the engine on this road until about 1847, when the track was sold (being worn out, and the strap rails stolen for sled shoes by the surrounding populace) to a company of capitalists, for $100,000, one-tenth of its cost, and by them remodeled, equipped, completed and the beginning of the present Wabash Railway was the result.


In 1850, the next railroad was made in Illinois. By February of that year, the Chicago & Galena (now Chicago & North-Western) was finished as far as Elgin, and an excursion-train ran between the two cities. A great revival in railroad interests sprang up. Among those sharing in the awakening was the old Terre Haute & Alton Road, which a second time comes into the narrative.
Work began under a new corporation in 1851. The old route was determined on, as much of it at either end could yet be used. As has been stated, no grading had been done in Coles County. The Illinois Central, whose early history is analagous to that of the Terre Haute & Alton, was surveyed while work was being done on the latter road, and an agreement made between the two roads stipulated that whichever got to the place of contact last should bear the expense of crossing. Work went vigorously on through 1853, 1854 and 1855, and, in order to accomplish the feat, the Terre Haute & Alton Road hastily graded their route and reached Mattoon first. This was accomplished in the winter of 1855. As fast as either end of the roads was completed, cars were put on, the intervening links being traversed by stages which carried passengers who desired to travel in the then incomplete condition of the roads. This road completed its bed and ran a train of cars through from Terre Haute to Alton a little before the holidays in the winter of 1855-56. The grading was very incomplete, many places the engine being unable to pull but few cars at a time. When “stuck,” as the natives called it, fence-rails were used as an assistant motive power, or neighboring horses or oxen borrowed to help haul the engine over the incline.
About the time of the building of this and the Central road, a policy arose on the part of the residents of Central Illinois known as the “State’s Policy.” It more particularly affected those on the line of the Terre Haute & Alton Road, whose terminus was Alton, which by the people of that city, always a rival of its great foreign neighbor, was considered as one of the public corporations that would in time enable her to become what she sought to be the emporium of the Mississippi Valley. This policy party sprung suddenly into existence when the Ohio & Mississippi, and the Vandalia—then known as the Brough—Road attempted to get charters. They must not center at a point opposite St. Louis; they must come to Alton or not be built. No track was allowed to be laid from Alton to the river on this side of St. Louis, and for two years this “policy“ threatened the serious failure of these two corporations. It was extremely narrow, selfish and bigoted, and was handled without gloves by the foreign press and by the people on the line of these two roads striving to get a crossing in Illinois. Not until 1852-53, did the party lose its power in the State Legislature, and not till a new body was elected from the people, who, by this time began to see its narrowing effects, were the desired charters allowed.
Senators Douglas and Young wrote letters to prominent men in Illinois urging them to abandon the idea, and pointing out to them the fact that the grant to the Central Railroad could not have been obtained, had such a “policy” been known to exist.
Owing to this feeling, mainly, the Terre Haute & Alton Road was built from the city on the Wabash to her aspiring neighbor on the Father of Waters; and, owing to this same policy lurking then in the minds of the citizens of that place, was the road for a number of years compelled to transfer its freight and passengers to boats, and float them to the mighty emporium on the western bank of the same mighty stream. It was finally overcome, however. A track was built to the east side of the river, opposite St. Louis, where, until the erection of the present grand bridge, the ferry-boat transferred them over the river.

John Gordon

With the change of terminus, a change of name occurred, and when the connection was effected with the road leading eastward to the capital of Indiana, the name assumed its present form.
Now it connects with the “Bee Line,” eastward, and forms a continuous route from the cities of the Mississippi Valley to those on the Atlantic seaboard.
Mr. E. B. McClure, the General Superintendent, is a citizen of Coles County, residing at Mattoon. Here is what what may be termed the “Half-way House,” and here are some of the principal offices. The car-shops of this Company were removed from Litchfield, in 1870, and erected on a lot of ground donated by the residents of the northeast part of town, where they are placed. They were secured through a donation of $60,000 on the part of Mattoon, in whose history a full account of them may be found.


Like the Indianapolis & St. Louis, the Illinois Central had its rise in the Internal Improvement system of 1835, and, like that road, went down in the collapse of the system in 1840. Some work was done on the road during this period, chiefly at the northern end—its connection with the canal. It was intended to connect the canal and the junction of the rivers at Cairo by means of this road; and from published statements of the late Judge Sidney Breese and letters of Stephen A. Douglas, we learn the idea originated as early as 1835, the commencement of the system referred to.
The revival of railroads and the consequent improvement in property received a great impulse in Congress by the grant of 3,000,000 acres of land to the State of Illinois for the construction of the Central road. A more munificent grant of land could hardly be imagined at that date, and to the Senators and Representatives in Congress of that session is the grant due. The provisions of the grant were that the road was to be completed in ten years. In case of failure, the unsold lands were to revert to the General Government, and for those sold the State was to pay the Government price. The. belt of land was to include each alternate section for a width of twelve sections, the odd-numbered sections to be the property of the railroad, the even-numbered ones to be the property of the Government, and to be sold at not less than double the ordinary price ($1.25 per acre), i.e., $2.50 per acre.
The lands in this belt not already sold were to be withdrawn from market and to remain so until the location of the road was permanently decided upon. The State found itself in possession of the grant of land at the session of 1850, and 1851, and as the act of Congress had passed the September previous, the intervening time had been assiduously taken up by the press and stump of the State in advocating and discussing plans for carrying out the project. It may be remarked here that every plan brought forward was secretly fed by private interests as much or more than by public good. Each town on any line from Cairo to La Salle knew it was destined to be the one the road should pass through. The session of the State Legislature was harassed by various monopolists, who saw in the brilliant prospects an easy way to secure wealth, and who, for a time, seriously crippled the enterprise. Many persons were strongly in favor of the State engaging in the work as it had done twelve years before, and advocated the payment of the State indebtedness by means of the sale of the lands and profits from the lands.
The maxim that “ A burnt child dreads the fire” was exemplified here. The State did not care to repeat the experiment it had so disastrously attempted a few years before; especially so when an unexpected solution of the problem of how to best build the road presented itself.
Robert Schuyler, George Griswold, Governor Morris, Jonathan Sturgis, George W. Ludlow and John F. A. Sanford, of New York City, and David A. Neal, Franklin Haven and Robert Rantoul, Jr., of Boston, came before the Legislature, represented by one of their number, and offered, if the State would give them the grant of land, they would build and equip the road, and have it in running order by the year 1854; that by the 4th day of July, in that year, the road would be completed. There was a speedy, unlooked for solution of the whole question. A company of capitalists step forward, propose to complete and equip the road in a given length of time, much shorter than the State could hope to—to, in fact, relieve them of all care in the matter, and, when done, to pay annually into the treasury 7 per cent of all its gross earning in lieu of all taxes. State and municipal. It is said, in their eagerness to obtain the road, the capitalists would have bound themselves to pay 10 per cent as readily as 7; but that that was engineered through the Assembly by a prominent citizen of Illinois, who was secured for this purpose by the company. After a little delay in getting the Commissioner of the Land Office, at Washington, to convey the land to the company, work was begun. At the outset, much strife was engendered over the route the road should take, several towns vying with each other in their efforts to obtain not only the road through their midst, but the commencement of the branch to Chicago. The question was finally decided by the State selecting a route as direct as possible, through a region containing as much unsold land as possible, thereby gaining all the land she could. The main line ran from Cairo north to Central City, where the Chicago branch diverged in the direction of that city, taking in its route Coles County. The main stem continued north through Decatur, Bloomington, La Salle, where it encountered the southern end of the canal, and on northward, ending at Galena. Thus, by rare sagacity, a company of capitalists found themselves in possession of a magnificent railway, built from the proceeds of bonds issued by them secured by the lands, without the outlay of a dollar of their own money. They set aside a certain part of the lands, the proceeds of which were to be applied to the interest on the bonds. The prices realized for all these lands ranged from $5 to $55 per acre, and as the road opened, an immense region of hitherto unproductive lands, the sales on the part of both the road and the Government were simply enormous. The Government was the real gainer, for much of the lands had been in the market over thirty years and had not found a purchaser. Now, the railway promised a speedy outlet for farm produce; towns and villages sprung into existence with Western-like prodigality, and before a decade of years had passed, the enterprise had yielded a hundred-fold. It was the first subsidy granted any railroad by the Government—a practice which, we are prone to say, has, in a measure, been somewhat abused.
The Illinois Central Road was completed and in full running order by the winter of 1856, a year and a half from the time the memorialists agreed to make it, they having been delayed in getting the grant of land properly deeded to them by the Commissioner of the Land Office at Washington. Construction-trains were running that winter, and on January 1, 1856, says Mr. Frank Allison, of Mattoon, a passenger-train made the first run from Chicago to Cairo.
This railway is one of the longest in the West, and from the 7 per cent of its earnings a revenue accrues to the State amounting now to over a half-million dollars annually. This, the Company has at various times endeavored to reduce or change; but the people have set their faces against it, and, not long since, have placed it beyond the reach of the Legislature, by a constitutional amendment to the organic law of the State.


In addition to the two extensive lines of railway crossing the county, three others have been added since the war; none, however, so great or having such history as their predecessors.
The close of the late rebellion threw upon the country a large force of unemployed men, and a vast amount of capital. This latter was used in opening new enterprises, and, as the States had learned to let such affairs alone, men with tact and energy stood ready to enter upon them. A railroad from Mattoon to Danville; from Mattoon to Grayville, thence to Evansville; from Charleston to several other towns in the State, was proposed, while roads in various directions across the county were projected. Of these enterprises we will mention none save the successful ones: the Grayville & Mattoon, the Decatur, Mattoon & Southern, and the Illinois Midland.
The Grayville & Mattoon Railroad began to be talked about as early as 1866. One effort brought on another, and in the columns of the Mattoon papers, from that time down to 1872 and 1873, large-headed articles appear every week or so, all prophesying great results. Townships along the line of the proposed road gave liberally in bonds and private subscriptions, as those along the line of the Indianapolis & St. Louis had done, and a speedy completion was expected. Only twenty-eight or thirty miles of grading were completed, however, and that in Richland County, and for four or five years the road lay dormant. In 1874, a new company was formed, and by two years had the grading completed to the south line of Coles County. Work was continued on up through the county, at first running the line to intersect the Illinois Central about a mile south of Mattoon. The grade was made here but afterward changed, and brought directly into the town. It was all completed and the track laid by July 4, 1878, and on that day a grand excursion, under the care of J. H. Herkimer, the Receiver, was inaugurated, and a hilarious day made along the route. The road has been operating since then, and has had a good local trade, the freight business especially being quite heavy. A. short time ago, Mr. Herkimer and his associate officers resigned, from various causes, and were succeeded by E. B. Phillips, Receiver; M. H. Riddell, General Traveling Agent; S. C. Anthony, General Clerk, and S. M. Henderson, Roadmaster. This road received $75,000 in bonds from Mattoon Township and the city; from the former, two-thirds, and from the latter, one-third. The vote on this question was held in Mattoon, Tuesday, February 9, 1869; 444 votes were cast in favor of the tax, and 7 against it. Whether the town and township are justified in such a heavy debt, in addition to several others of a similar character, i.e., the $60,000 for the shops, is a serious question, and one which conservative citizens are inclined to doubt.
The Decatur, Mattoon & Southern Railroad was begun in 1871, and completed to Hervey City, seven miles from Decatur, by 1873. Here, this Company was allowed a joint use of the Illinois Midland Company’s track to Decatur, which the courts afterward decided they were entitled to, and which they yet use.
January 16, 1874, the road passed into a Receiver’s hands, and the name changed to the present one, it being formerly known as the Decatur, Sullivan & Mattoon Railroad. Since that date, the Receiver has been managing it. It is run in connection with the Indianapolis & St. Louis Road, and is under the care of Mr. E. B. McClure as Manager. Mr. W. H. Lewis is the General Agent. Both these gentlemen reside at Mattoon, and are connected with the Indianapolis & St. Louis Road.
The remaining road, the Illinois Midland Railway, runs through but a small part of Coles County. It crosses the township of Oakland from east to west, passing through the village. The road runs from Terre Haute to Peoria, and is in three divisions, which originally were separate roads; when consolidated, the present name was adopted. The part running through Coles County was built from Decatur to Paris, under the name of the Paris & Decatur Railroad. It was completed in 1871, and, for a time, used the track of the Indianapolis & St. Louis Road from Paris to Terre Haute. When the Paris & Terre Haute Road was completed, in 1875, it formed a junction with that road, and, soon after, consolidated with it. Only about six miles of this railroad passes through Coles County, and that in the extreme northeast part, in Oakland Township, in whose history it is more fully noticed.
While on the history of railroads, it might not be amiss to say something about telegraphs. They were, in their infancy, regarded as somewhat supernatural, as all things are apt to be when we cannot understand them and, when; a line was brought through Coles County in advance of the railway, it is related that it was not uncommon for some of the worthy citizens to hourly gaze upon it to see the news flash along. Their desires were, however, not gratified. They couldn’t see the news; but they thought they could hear it, especially when they stood near a post and heard the ring caused by the vibration of the wires, with the air passing over them. The supposition lasted very satisfactorily until they found out better, and was as harmless as deceptive.
The first operator in town was Fred Tubbs, and was succeeded by W. W. Craddock. They were here in 1850, at the time the railways of the State began their second era of construction, and have since been prominently known in the county. Other lines were added to the one running east and west across the county, as the railways were built and the utility of such inventions became apparent. Now, they run in all directions, and one can talk with another, even though a continent be between them. Should the telephone supersede the telegraph, as it bids fair to do, those of the future will see a result almost beyond our conception.


In the days of Whigs and Democrats, Coles was a Whig county by several hundred majority, in contests where party lines were closely drawn. Upon the organization of the Republican party, a change came over the color of its politics, and for a number of years it was Democratic; but, eventually, the Republicans gained the ascendency, and for several years carried the day in all important elections. At the present time, the political question is toned down to a point, that both of the great parties claim to be the dark horse. At the last Presidential election, the county was carried by the Hayes Electors by a small majority. In the local elections of the last few years, the spoils have been pretty equally divided between Democrats and Republicans. The present county officers and their political faith are thus represented: Hon. J. R. Cunningham, County Judge, Democrat J. F. Goar, County Treasurer, Republican; William R. Highland, County Clerk, Democrat; W. E. Robinson, Circuit Clerk, Republican. The latter was elected by a small majority, and his election contested by Mr. Clarke, his Democratic competitor for the office. The case was tried in the County Court, and occupied the spare moments of Judge Adams, of that august tribunal, from December until the June following, when it was decided in Robinson’s favor. Clarke, still unsatisfied, appealed to the Supreme Court, which body confirmed the decision of the County Court, and thus Mr. Robinson’s title to the office was settled. The other county officers—J. E. Brooks, Sheriff; T. J. Lee, Superintendent of Schools; and John L. Aubert, County Surveyor— are Democrats. Such is the political record of the county. It is probable, however, that, in a State or national contest, with a full vote on both sides, the Republicans would carry the day.
Coles County’s war history is written in characters of blood upon a hundred battle-fields. Citizens of Coles have figured in every war, from the Revolution down to the great rebellion that shook the republic to its very foundation. In many of the Indian wars of the times, they have borne an honorable part. Upon the records of the County Commissioner’s Court of 1835, we find the certificates of Elisha Hadden, John Parker, Joseph Painter, John Hart and Griffin Tipsoward, made under oath to the Commissioners’ Court for the purpose of obtaining a pension under an act of the United States Congress passed in 1832. These parties made oath to their services in the armies of the United States during the Revolutionary war and the wars with the Indians of those times. Hadden stated on his oath that he was in the battle of King’s Mountain, in North Carolina, “against the British and Tories;” and that, in a battle soon after with the Cherokee Indians, he was wounded, and for three months lay in the fort helpless, and was then carried home to North Carolina on a litter. Painter testified that he was in the Revolutionary battle of Eutaw Springs, and several skirmishes in North Carolina. Hart, that he entered the service of the United States in 1776, and served under Gen. Clarke, and was in several battles with the Indians. Griffin Tipsoward, that he entered the service in Virginia, in 1775, and at the close of the war was discharged by Gen. Washington.
In the war of 1812, many of the pioneers of this county had participated, as elsewhere noticed, and some are still living who took part in that struggle with Johnny Bull. In the Black Hawk war of 1832, an entire company from Coles County (then in her infancy) responded to the call of the Governor for troops. Many of them are still surviving. The officers of this company were: James P. Jones, Captain; Thomas Sconce, Isaac Lewis and James Law, Lieutenants. In the Mexican war, notwithstanding it was considered a Democratic issue and Coles was a Whig county, a full company was raised and participated in many of the battles, among which were those of Vera Cruz and Cerro Gordo. The officers of the company were: W. W. Bishop, Captain; J. J. Adams, First Lieutenant; H. C. Dunbar, Second Lieutenant, and Charles Jones, Orderly Sergeant. Bishop and Adams are dead, Dunbar lives in Texas, and several of the rank and file are still living in the county.
In the war of the rebellion. Coles County furnished quite a little army. The Seventh and Eighth Regiments of three-months men, each drew a company from the county; the Seventh a company from Mattoon, and the Eighth a company from Charleston. The Twenty-first (Grant’s old regiment) contained many men from Coles, as well as the Twenty-fifth, Thirty-eighth, Fifty-fourth, Sixty-second and One Hundred and Twenty-third Volunteers and the Fifth Cavalry. The One Hundred and Twenty-third Regiment contained seven companies that were called Coles County companies. In a history like this, however, it is impossible to give a complete and correct record of a county’s participation in the late war. Space will not permit. Besides, from the records that have been kept, it is not an easy matter to obtain the names of all who deserve mention. Therefore, we shall make no attempt to particularize any one, but will add that the record of Coles County soldiers is above reproach. Their deeds are engraved upon the hearts of their countrymen, and their reward is found in the happy reflection that the old flag still floats over all the States. And for those who laid down their lives to maintain the Union, and whose lone graves are fanned by Southern winds, we know of no better meed to their bravery, no sweeter tribute to their memory, than the beautiful lines from the pen of Col. Theodore O’Hara, of Kentucky, and dedicated to the heroes of that State who fell in the Mexican war, when their bones were collected and interred in the State Cemetery at Frankfort:

“The muffled drum’s sad roll has beat
The soldier’s last tattoo!
No more on life’s parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few;
On Fame’s eternal camping-ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead!“

These beautiful lines, written for the Kentucky dead of the Mexican war, have been adopted by Massachusetts and inscribed upon a splendid monument erected to her dead heroes of the late war. They are a touching tribute to the soldier who lays down his life for his country and sleeps the eternal sleep, never more to heed the call to arms until the last reveille shall sound from the battlements of heaven. Peace to their ashes.


There are few individuals, and perhaps few countries, but have some dark pages in their histories. To err is human nature, and to say that the people of Coles County, or certain classes of them, have sometimes erred is but to pro- claim them human—not divine. The murder of Nathan Ellington by Adolph Monroe, in October, 1855, was a horrible affair, and, considering all the circumstances, peculiarly distressing. Ellington is said to have been a man of most excellent character, and highly respected by all who knew him. Monroe was his son-in-law. He was a young man of commanding appearance, fine address, and had once stood high in the community, but had fallen a prey to intoxicating drink. A family feud was engendered, and one day, in an altercation with his father-in-law, he drew « revolver and shot him dead. For this crime he was tried by a jury of his peers, found guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hanged. The day of execution came, and though in midwinter (the 14th of February, 1856;, and the ground white with snow, a great multitude gathered at the county’s capital to witness the fulfillment of the law. The heavens were dark, as if draped in the “gloom of earthquake and eclipse,” and the elements seemed poisoned with the spirit of vengeance, as manifested by the immense crowd which had assembled, not only from this, but from adjoining counties. In the mean time, a respite of thirty days was granted by the Governor to the doomed man. This produced a terrible commotion in the multitude, now changed into a howling mob, and threw it into the most insane excitement. It swayed back and forth from the Court House to the prisoner’s cell, and resolved and re-resolved. The death of the fated man, in violation of law, was determined upon. His prison was assaulted by the mob, the officers of the law intimidated and overcome, and Monroe taken out of jail by ruthless hands. He was dragged to the valley west of town by the infuriated people, where a gallows was speedily erected, the doomed wretch lifted into a wagon, the rope adjusted, his limbs pinioned, the wagon moved from under him, and, without shrift, hurled into eternity. Monroe said to one man at the gallows: “I die, and if I go to hell, you will go to the same place, for you it was that sold me the whisky that has brought me to this terrible fate.” What a haunting memory to cling to one through life! It is scarce necessary to add that all the best people were universal in their condemnation of the disgraceful affair.
Another dark page in the history of Coles ’County was the riot which took place in Charleston during the stormy scenes occasioned by the late war, and the diversity of opinion with which the people regarded it. It is a fact much to be regretted that, with a record for patriotism second to no county in the State (as reckoned by the number of soldiers furnished), that such an event should have occurred to tarnish that glorious record. Doubtless both parties, the citizens and soldiers, were more or less to blame for the collision which took place between them, and in like manner responsible for the melancholy result. Of all the wars that have scourged the earth, a civil war is the most deplorable. In England’s war of the roses, we have an illustration of the direful results of such a strife, and in our own internecine war we equaled, if we did not excel, the rival houses of York and Lancaster. It may be that the high-wrought excitement of the times presented an eligible excuse for the scene enacted in Charleston on the 29th of March, 1864, between the same people (brothers as it were) who saw the cause and object of the war through different glasses. The death of several persons in the streets of Charleston was the sad consequence of that difference of opinion. The feelings engendered by the war, which culminated in bloodshed, have long since toned down, and the participators in the deplorable affair (to call it by its mildest name) doubtless regret the part they acted in it. So, in no spirit of censure beyond a condemnation of mob violence on general principles, we will pass from the subject, flinging over the sad occurrence the spacious robe of charity.
In his Centennial Address, Capt. Adams narrates a melancholy occurrence in the township of Hickory, at or near Hickory Grove. In the winter of 1830-31, which is characterized in the history of Illinois as one of unusual severity, three men froze to death near this grove. They had undertaken to cross the prairie on horse-back; the ground was covered with snow to a considerable depth, and the air piercingly cold. In their last extremity, they killed their horses, and, taking out their entrails, crawled into the warm carcasses, but before relief reached them they succumbed to the “Icy King of Terrors.” The following is from the same source of information: “ In 1831, three men of the name of Ellis were killed by lightning, in the southwest part of the county. The accident occurred on Wednesday, and they were not found until the Saturday following. When discovered, their bodies were as limber as that of a living person, and never stiffened like a body that meets death from natural causes. It was supposed that the lightning had broken the bones without rupturing the skin.”
Passing from the grave to the gay, from the sad to the ludicrous, it becomes our duty, as a faithful historian, to chronicle an event that took place in Coles County in 1834, which, while it had a somewhat ludicrous termination, was begun in earnest, by one of the parties engaged in it, at least. The circumstance referred to, was a duel fought in Charleston, by Peter Glassco and John Gately. A difficulty had arisen between them, which blood alone could satisfy or settle, and, accordingly, they resorted to the code of honor to avenge their wounded dignity. A challenge was sent and accepted, seconds were selected and the weapons (big “hoss“ pistols) were chosen. The hostile parties met, with ten paces between them, and proceeded to wipe out their wrongs in the most approved style. The seconds loaded the pistols with blank cartridges, without Glassco’s knowledge, however, who, it seems, was the most belligerent of the two, and the most deeply grieved. Finally, when all was ready, the principals were placed by the seconds, one, two, three, were called, and both parties fired. Gately fell, and his second, who had provided a bottle of pokeberry-juice for the purpose, ran to him and dexterously saturated his clothes with the contents of the bottle, thus giving him a most ghastly appearance. Glassco, petrified with terror, gazed at his bleeding victim, and, horrified at the “ruin he had wrought,” exclaimed, “My God, I have killed him,”, threw away his pistol and fled. About a year afterward, he was apprised of the fact that the duel was a “put-up job,” and that Gately still lived, when, with the horror of murder removed from his soul, he returned to the county. He never fought another duel.
That scourge of the human race, the Asiatic cholera, one of the gifts of the Old World to the new, made a visit, in 1851, to Coles County. For a time “it made itself exceedingly odious and repulsive,” says one, “and old and young alike were the victims of the fell disease.” As is usually the case, it visited certain localities only, Charleston and Pleasant Grove Township being the sufferers. In these sections, many cases occurred; some of them proved fatal, while others recovered. The greatest consternation and excitement prevailed. Those not sick became panic-stricken, and fled in confusion and dismay. How many died of the disease cannot now be ascertained. Distressing as was the ordeal and melancholy in its result, yet it had its humorous side. A very amusing anecdote is told of Hon. 0. B. Ficklin’s grim fight with the awful disease. He was attacked in the harvest-field, rushed home and went to bed, sent for all the doctors in town, called his wife and children to his bedside, bade them good-by, and kissed them one by one, concluding with his old colored cook, and prepared to die with the cholera. He dropped off to sleep, from which he awoke, a few hours later, completely restored. Having slept off the natural exhaustion(!) of the harvest-field, “Richard was himself again.”
We spoke of a murder and a lynching, a little space ago. Charleston can boast of several other murders within her time. But we shall not go into details concerning them. Such incidents are better forgotten than perpetuated upon the pages of history. We will, therefore, pass them without further remark in this connection.


Thomas Lincoln, the father of the martyred President, was among the early settlers of Coles County. He removed from Kentucky (where the future President was born) to Spencer County, Ind., in 1816, when Abraham was but seven years old. Here he remained until 1830, when he removed to Macon County, Ill., and located on the North Fork of the Sangamon River, ten miles southwest of Decatur. He came to Coles County about 1832-33, and settled in what is now Pleasant Grove Township: but Abraham, having in the mean time attained his majority, and commenced the battle of life on his own responsibility, did not come with the family to this county. In after years however, when he became a pratcicing lawyer, he often attended the courts of Coles County, in which cases he never failed to visit his father in Pleasant Grove, and, it is said, always purchased as many presents (generally of a substantial character) as he could stow in his buggy, and conveyed them to the family, who were in indigent circumstances. Stuve’s History of Illinois gives the following of President Lincoln’s family: “Abraham Lincoln was born in La Rue (now Hardin) County, Ky., about two miles south of the village of Hodgensville, February 12, 1809. Here his father had taken up a landclaim of 300 acres, rough, broken and poor, containing a fine spring, known to this day as the ‘Linkum Spring.’ Unable to pay for the unproductive land, the claim was abandoned, and the family moved from place to place in the neighborhood, being very destitute. These removals occurring while Abraham was scarcely more than an infant, has given rise to different statements as to the exact place of his birth. It is said that in that part of Kentucky four places now claim the honor.“ Thomas Lincoln, the father of Abraham Lincoln, finally removed to Indiana, and then to Illinois, as above stated, and died years ago in Pleasant Grove Township. There, in a quiet little cemetery, known as “Gordon’s Grave-yard,” without stone or “lettered monument” to mark the spot, sleeps the old pioneer. We give below a poem, entitled the “Grave of the Father of Abraham Lincoln,” written by G. B. Balch, Esq., of Pleasant Grove, and published in many journals throughout the country, from Lippincotts Magazine to the county papers:

“ In a low, sweet vale, by a murmuring rill,
The pioneer’s ashes are sleeping;
Where the white marble slabs so lonely and still,
In silence their vigils are keeping.

“ On their sad, lonely faces are words of fame.
But none of them speak of his glory;
When the pioneer died, his age and his name.
No monument whispers the story.

“No myrtle, nor ivy, nor hyacinth blows
O’er the lonely grave where they laid him
No cedar, nor holly, nor almond tree grows
Near the plebeian’s grave to shade him.

“ Bright evergreens wave over many a grave,
O’er some bow the sad weeping-willow;
But no willow-trees bow, nor evergreens wave,
Where the pioneer sleeps on his pillow.

“ Some are inhumed with the honors of State,
And laid beneath temples to molder;
The grave of the father of Lincoln, the great.
Is known by a hillock and bowlder.

“ Let him take his lone sleep, and gently rest,
With naught to disturb or awake him,
When the angels shall come to gather the blest
To Abraham’s bosom, they’ll take him.”


The geological deposits and formations of Coles County possess but little interest or importance, as compared to many other sections of Illinois. The soil of the prairies is of considerable thickness, of a deep black, or dark brown color, and very rich and productive. Beneath this soil, according to the geological survey of the State, is a loamy clay, which also produces well with proper cultivation. The most important feature of the geology of the county, however, is the coal-deposit, which is supposed to underlie the county. A man of the name of Owens, years ago, discovered coal, and a very good quality, too, near where John Mickleblack now lives. Recent investigations, we are informed, have developed the fact that not exceeding five hundred feet below the surface, coal abounds in great abundance. Doubtless the time is not far distant when these coal-fields will become a source of industry, as well as of great value to the country. According to geological survey, three-fourths of the surface of Illinois are underlaid by beds of coal, and consequently have a greater area of this valuable fuel than any other State of the Union. A scientific writer speaks thus upon the formation and discovery of coal: “The vast accumulation of vegetable matter from carboniferous plants, either imbedded in the miry soil in which it grew, or swept from adjacent elevations into shallow lakes, became covered with sediment, and thus were transformed into coal. It has been estimated that eight perpendicular feet of wood were required to make one foot of bituminous coal, and twelve to make one foot of anthracite. Some beds of the latter are thirty feet in thickness, and hence 360 feet of timber must have been consumed in their production. The process of its formation was exactly the same as practiced in the manufacture of charcoal, by burning wood under a covering of earth. Vegetable tissue consists mostly of carbon and oxygen, and decomposition must take place, either under water or some other impervious covering, to prevent the elements from forming carbonic-acid gas, and thus escaping to the atmosphere. Conforming to these requirements the immense vegetable growths forming the coal-fields subsided with the surface on which they grew, and were buried beneath the succeeding deposits. Nova Scotia has seventy-six different beds, and Illinois twelve; and consequently, in these localities, there were as many different fields of verdure overwhelmed in the dirt-beds of the sea. Thus, long before the starry cycles had measured half the history of the unfolding continent, and when first the expanding stream of life but dimly reflected the coming age of mind, this vast supply of fuel was stored away in the rocky frame-work of the globe. Here it slumbered until man made his appearance and dragged it from its rocky lairs. At his bidding, it renders the factory animate with humming spindles, driving shuttles, whirling lathes and clanking forges. Under his guidance the iron-horse, feeding upon its pitchy fragments, bounds and tireless treads over its farreaching track, dragging after him the products of distant marts and climes. By the skill of the one and the power of the other, the ocean steamer plows the deep in opposition to winds and waves, making its watery home a highway for the commerce of the world.
Beyond the coal-beds underlying the surface, the county, as we have said, is not very rich in geology. There are, we believe, some stone-beds along the Embarrass River, but the quality of the stone is poor and of but little value for building purposes. With this brief glance at the geological features, we will leave the subject, referring the reader to the Geological Survey of the State for further information on this interesting point of history.


The first newspaper was established in Coles County in 1840, and was called the Charleston Courier. But as the township history will contain a more complete account of the press, we shall have little to say on the subject in this chapter. We wish, however, to leave on record our impression of the value of the files of county papers as sources of history. Their pages give a picture from week to week of both national and local events, which can be found nowhere else. Even the advertisements give much history, and we think there ought to be a provision made for keeping such files in the county and city offices.
There are at present in Coles County six newspapers, viz.: the Courier and Plaindealer, of Charleston; the Commercial, Journal and Gazette, of Mattoon; and the Herald, of Oakland. These are live, energetic newspapers, well filled with the news of the day (this is not an advertisement), and deserve the liberal support of the people of the county.

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