About Cass County, Illinois

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Cass County, Illinois - Then and Now

   Cass County is located in west central Illinois. The western line of Cass County boarders the Illinois River. Adjacent counties include Mason, located northeast of Cass County; Menard, located to the east; Sangamon, located southwest; Morgan, located south; Brown, located west; and Schuyler County, located northwest of Cass County. Named for Lewis Cass, a general who served during the War of 1812, Cass County, Illinois was formed from the northern part of Morgan County in 1837. An additional three mile strip of land was added to Cass County, taken from Morgan County. In 1809, Cass County was originally part of St. Clair County and in 1812 it became part of Madison County. In 1818, three years after Illinois became a state, Cass County was part of Sangamon County.
   Communities in Cass County, in 2006, include Arenzville, Ashland, Beardstown, Chandlerville, and Virginia. Townships include Arenzville, Ashland, Beardstown, Bluff Springs, Chandlerville, Hagener, Panther Creek, Philadelphia, Sangamon Valley, and Virginia. The town of Princeton was laid out and platted in 1833. According to Cass County, Illinois Sesquicentennial History, "the plat was vacated on April 13, 1875." New Richmond, a voting precinct that was formed after Cass County was formed in August of 1837, platted by Thomas Wynn, along the Sangamon River. Only one house was erected on the platted town. John Scheffer hired Johnston Shelton to survey land to create the settlement of Monroe on June 26, 1836 in Morgan County, before Cass County was formed. The town was nearly abandoned by 1850. The plat of Lancaster was recorded May 6, 1837 and was surveyed by William French for John Dutch, consisting of 100 acres of land. The town of Newmansville was platted by Rev. Wingate Newman in 1858. The post office, known as Hagley, was changed to Newmansville in 1859.

   The village of Arenzville was named for the Prussian immigrant who planned the town, Francis Arenz. History of Cass County, Illinois by William Henry Perrin, states that the first lots were surveyed by J.A. Arenz in 1839. He made a survey of the town and the plot was recorded August 3, 1852. Later additions were recorded October 20, 1876. Francis Arenz was elected as President of the town trustees.

   Ashland is located on the south east portion of Cass County. According to Cass County, Illinois Sesquicentennial History, "In 1857, shortly after the Tonica & Petersburg Railroad, since known as the Alton, was surveyed, a company was organized for the purpose of laying out a town and speculating in the sale of lots. The company consisted of Elmore Crow, James L. Beggs, William G. Spears, Richard Yates (the famous war-governor of Illinois), and others whose names were not able to be obtained."

   The city of Beardstown was named after settler, Thomas Beard and is located on the Illinois River. The town was originally laid out and platted by Beard and Enoch C. September 9, 1829 and was recorded in Morgan County, Illinois in Book B, p. 228. Several additions were made to the town after 1829.
   Beardstown is famous for the "Almanac Trial" which took place is 1858. Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer, defended Duff Armstrong during a murder trial. Lincoln disproved the testimony of a key witness for the prosecution. The witness had stated that he saw the attack during the light of a high moon. Lincoln used the Almanac to prove that the moonset had occurred an hour later than the attack was supposed to have taken place. Beardstown was also the home of several Indian burial mounds which stood near the banks of the Illinois river. They were destroyed in about 1853.

   Bluff Springs is located on highway 125, between the cities of Beardstown and Virginia, Illinois. The 2000 Illinois census reported a population of 856. The town was surveyed and laid off by J.S. Lynch at the request of J.H. Hammer, owner of the land where the town was platted in 1874.

CASS SIDING was primarily a railroad stop. The imprint of a building can still be seen near the one time residence of the late Elmer Frederick and Mazo Olive (Coldwell) Timian. According to Roger Whitaker, who grew up in the house where his great-grandparents lived, portions of the foundation of the grain elevator still exists. There was also a general store, located closer to the home, that closed in 1923. Roger suspects the reason for the name Cass Siding may have been because there was a rail siding, serving the elevator. The house remains, but was damaged by a fire February 21, 2007.

   The village of Chandlerville was named for its founder, Dr. Charles Chandler. The village, previously known as Panther Creek, was laid out by Dr. Chandler and was renamed Chandlerville after it was platted in 1861. According to Cass County, Illinois Sesquicentennial History, "The present village was laid out in 1848 when the lots were first sold. The town was first incorporated in 1858, under the General Act, and under a more special act in 1861." According to Cass County Farm Directory, issued in 1931, Abraham Lincoln helped to survey the village.

   The 2000 Illinois Census reported the population of Hagener Township as 406.

   About 1830 Little Indian was first started. It was located about four miles south and a little east of Virginia, the county seat. It was never "laid out" as a village but was considered a very important place for shipping out grain and livestock. Of course this was made possible by the building of a railroad about 1869, then known as the Peoria, Pekin and Jacksonville. It was a branch of the Wabash system. When they were constructing this railroad, they found an old burial ground here. Human bones were taken up from the place where they built the water tank for the railroad. The bones were removed to Zion Cemetery about a mile east of there. Zion Church and the cemetery are still there. The church has now been sold and will probably be torn down. In early days Little Indian comprised a railroad station, a shipping point, one store, and a Swedish church. A number of other buildings were added in later years.
   Jacob Epler, in 1830, was the first white man to locate here. He became a successful farmer and also took part in the banking business. His son, John Epler, made one of the most important improvements in the community. He built a grinding mill of very crude construction and run by horse power. It was not only of great benefit to the Little Indian community, but also to people from Sangamon County. Many of them came and camped overnight, in order to get the first turn the next morning. If the team was a good one, they could grind one or two bushels of corn per hour.
   James Stevenson was the first railroad agent. He also became well known as a livestock farmer. His herd of Shorthorn cattle was one of the finest in all the surrounding country. Levi Conover, my step-father's grandfather, came to the vicinity about 1841 and purchased a farm about one and one-half miles east of Little Indian. All of these pioneers had formerly lived in the East, moved to Kentucky, and later came to settle near Little Indian, Illinois.
   About 1869 John Asplund, an immigrant from Sweden, settled at Little Indian. He had a wagon, blacksmith and repair shop. He made the bricks and built his own home, which is still standing. The house had two rooms on the first floor, two on the second, and a room above this which could be reached only by ascending an outside ladder. There was a little cellar under the house. He also built a store and sold merchandise.
   When I was a child there were two stores, two elevators, a railroad station, and several homes, besides the Swedish Church about a half a quarter of a mile to the east. The railroad became known as the C. P. and St. L. or Chicago, Peoria and St. Louis. They had a shipping yard for livestock, and a great deal of grain from miles around was sent out by train. In two different fires, the stores and one elevator were destroyed. The stores were both rebuilt and carried on some business until sometime in the 1930's. Later the railroad was discontinued and one store was sold and moved away. The other store, formerly Mr. Asplund's, is now owned by a farmer who uses it for an implement shed.
   Another old landmark known as the Stevenson cemetery or sometimes called the Swedish cemetery, is still being cared for. It is in the middle of a field adjoining our place. Several of the early settlers are buried there. One of the first to be buried there was James Stevenson who died in 1851. A negro slave, who was born in Georgia, was also buried there. This slave belonged to the grandfather of one of my classmates in high school - Maxine Ward.
   The Swedish church was moved away many years ago to a place east of Virginia and made into a home. Mr. Asplund's house is standing but it is in a delapidated condition. This house and the old store are all that are left of what was once Little Indian. Old residents coming back to visit the community never know when they pass through it.
Written by Gertrude Wright Winhold in 1986, a teacher for Virginia, Chandlerville and rural schools of Cass County

   The 2000 Illinois Census reported the population of Panther Creek Township as 365.

   A farming community, the 2000 Illinois Census reported the population of Philadelphia Township as 235. Philadelphia was laid out and the plat was recorded on July 11, 1836. Philadelphia had a large grain trade, but the town dwindled when the railroad went through Virginia. Business was drawn towards Virginia and away from Philadelphia.

   The 2000 Illinois Census reported the population of Sangamon Valley Township as 328.

   Located in the central part of Cass County, the city of Virginia is the county seat. Virginia was founded in 1836 by Dr. Henry H. Hall, laid out from land that he owned. The land was surveyed by Johnston C. Shelton May 17, 1836, with additional lands, surveyed by others, added July 1, 1837, June 1, 1838, May 15, 1839, June 26, 1856, August 29, 1859, and March 5, 1866. According to Cass County, Illinois Sesquicentennial History, Dr. Hall was from Ireland, and for a time, served as a surgeon with the British navy. He built the first house in Virginia before it was platted, and opened the first store in 1836.

According to Wikipedia - "Sylvan is a former settlement in Cass County, Illinois, United States. Sylvan was southwest of Newmansville. A photo of this ghost town was briefly shown in the movie Silent Hill. Most that stands in this ghost town is old farmhouses. The town was populated during the mid 1800's by mostly Irish immigrants."