In the settlement of a new country as was the case in Illinois, the population moves first toward a center and later away from such a center. To understand this matter let us recall some centers of population in Illinois in an early day.


       The first centers to which our minds go were Kaskaskia and Cahokia. From these there grew up in the American Bottom the villages of New Chartres, St. Phillipe, Prairie du Rocher, and Prairie du Pont. St. Clair county, whose lands lie partly in the American Bottom, was early settled, and the wonderful fertility of the soil was at that time as well known in western Europe as in the New England states. When General Clark came to Kaskaskia in 1778, he had with him something like a hundred and seventy-five men. Many of these were men of excellent character and of clear intellects. They were with Clark at Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and the neighboring regions more than a year. In that time many of them became quite well acquainted with the topography of the country. When the war was over and they returned to their homes in Kentucky, the Carolinas, and Virginia, they remembered the unsurpassed fertility of the soil in the American Bottom, and the grandeur and beauty of the Father of Waters. And the understanding that eventually Virginia was to give to each soldier a grant of land in this western country in payment for his services, induced many to return to St. Clair and Madison counties.

       When the settlements began to spread into the adjacent regions as early as 1802, settlers from Kaskaskia had already gone over on the Big Muddy river, and by 1807, it is said there were twenty-four families in that immediate vicinity.

       By 1814, Conrad Will, a very noted pioneer, was making salt on the Big Muddy river and had laid out the town of Brownsville at the salt works. This became the future capital of Jackson county and here was chartered a branch bank as early as 1820.

       From Kaskaskia and Cahokia also the settlements spread into what is now St. Clair and Madison counties. Ephraim O'Connor settled Goshen six miles southwest of Edwardsville in 1800. He was followed P 173 by Col. Samuel Judy who lived in the Goshen settlement till about 1840. This locality was situated on Cahokia creek and near the bluffs. It was a widely known settlement. By 1812 quite a number of families had come to this region and when the war broke out Fort Russell was built near the present site of Edwardsville.

       The Badgley settlement is one of the oldest in St. Clair county outside of the French settlements. It was settled about 1810. In 1815 two German families by the name of Markee settled in Dutch Hollow, a canyon in the bluffs and thus laid the foundation for that large German population which St. Clair has always had. Rock Springs, eight and one-half miles northeast of Belleville, was settled by the Rev. John M. Peck in 1820. It was at a spring on the old trail from Vincennes to St. Louis, For many years this was an important center of influence.


       Shawneetown, the place of debarkation of the Ohio river travel, destined for Kaskaskia or St. Louis, was a center from which radiated north and west movements of population. There was a ferry here as early as 1800 or 1802. This accommodated the Kentucky people who patronized the salt works at Equality. At this place was also a center of population from which people. went into adjacent localities to settle.

       Mt. Vernon, in Jefferson county, was settled by Zadoc Casey in 1817, and from that time on it was a center from which the population spread. It was on one of the trails from Kaskaskia to Vincennes and a great many people passed here even in an early day. One road from Fort Massac to Kaskaskia. passed through Franklin county; and Frankfort, now called Old Frankfort, was settled at a very early date.

       Albion, in Edwards county, has already been referred to. Vandalia was laid out and became the capital in 1820. It was far to the north of any settlement at that time but the location of the capital there and the general notion that this would eventually be an important city were the causes of its rapid growth. Vandalia soon became an important center around which settlements grew up in increasing circles.

       The Sangamon country has already been spoken of and we need not speak of it again at this time. Morgan county as we know it today was a portion of what, in a very early day, was called the Sangamon country. Diamond Grove Prairie and vicinity, some two or three miles southwest of Jacksonville, was the center of the settlements in this county, although it is said that Elisha and Seymour Kellogg were the first white settlers in the limits of the county, and they settled on Mauvaisterre creek in 1818. In 1820 there were about twenty-one families in the county.


       This included originally all the lands between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, and was limited north and south by latitudes 38 degrees 54 minutes and 41 degrees 20 minutes. That is, on the south by the junction of the rivers, and on the north by the parallel of 41 degrees and 20 minutes. This tract was set aside as the land out of which the gov­ernment was to pay the soldiers who fought in the War of 1812. A very P 174 large share of this bounty land was granted to soldiers who never came to settle on their claims, and often did not keep the taxes paid and the lands shortly fell to the state. Many sold their certificates to speculators and thus large quantities of the land were held by companies. However, as early as 1817, a Frenchman by the name of Tebo settled on the Illinois river on the west side about where the Griggsville landing is. In 1820 several located in what is now Atlas township. In 1821 the county was organized with perhaps fewer than one hundred white people in the territory, In the vote on slavery in 1824 Pike county cast one hundred and eighty-four votes which indicates a population of probably eight hundred or more. Prior to this vote the county of Fulton had been cut off from Pike. Fulton cast sixty-five votes in 1824, showing a population of three hundred souls.


       Another center from which radiated a great many settlements was Peoria. This point was first occupied by Indians. When La Salle came down the Illinois the first time in the winter of 1679-80, he found here a very large encampment. Here he built Fort Crevecour. Probably there were whites here at different times from that date till the date usually given as that of the permanent settlements, but they were traders, trappers, hunters, and voyagers. The first permanent house was built about the year 1778. The place was called La Ville de Maillet, and was afterwards changed to Peoria, The village occupied by the French was burned in 1812 by Captain Craig, and the French inhabitants brought to a point below Alton and landed in the woods—men, women, and children, without food or shelter. United States troops occupied the place in 1813 and built a block house and called it Fort Clark. This now became a nucleus around which settlements began to cluster.

       In 1819 Abner Eads, Josiah Fulton, Seth Fulton, Samuel Dougherty, Thomas Russell, Joseph Hersey, and John Davis arrived at Fort Clark from the vicinity of St. Louis. Mr. Eads soon brought his family, and the other pioneers boarded with Mr. Eads. The first store was erected by John Hamlin, who was agent for the American Fur Company. As late as 1832 there were only twenty-two buildings in the town.

       By reason of the location of Fort Clark at Peoria and the presence of United States troops, there was security of life and property in this military tract. Adams county was settled as early as 1820. John Wood, who afterwards became governor, and Willard Keys settled in what is now Adams county, in that year. In 1822 Wood commenced laying off the city of  Quincy. Adams county was organized in 1824. Quincy was made the county seat; four men and two women constituted the entire adult population.

       Lead was discovered in Jo Daviess county as early as 1700. Article III. of the grant by Louis, King of France, to M. Crozat in 1712, September 24, is as follows:

       "We permit him to search for, open and dig all sorts of mines, veins and minerals throughout the whole extent of the said Louisiana, and to transport the profits thereof into any part of France during the said fifteen years; and we grant in perpetuity to him, his heirs, and others claiming under him or them the property of, in and to the mines, veins and minerals, which he shall bring to bear, paying us, in lieu of all claim P 175 the fifth part of the gold and silver, which the said Sicur Crozat shall cause to be transported to France and the tenth part of what effects he shall draw from the other mines, veins, and minerals, which tenth he shall transfer and convey to our magazine in the said country of Louisiana.

       This shows that the notion was abroad that this Louisiana country was rich in minerals. Crozat brought with him “the necessary miners and mining tools, some slaves from the West India islands and other laborers and artisans and pursued more or less diligently his explorations for the precious metals.” His search for minerals and metals was a failure, and in 1717 he surrendered his grant to the king. The whole territory was then regranted, this time to the Company of the West. This company made Phillip Renault director general of mines. He left for America with two hundred mechanics; laborers, and assayers. On his way he purchased five hundred negro slaves for working the mines. It was the current belief in France at this time that the Mississippi region was a vast, rich, but undeveloped mine of all the useful and precious metals. There can be little doubt that the explorers connected with Phillip Renault’s expedition knew that lead was to be had on the upper parts of the Mississippi river. Possibly the lead mines of Jo Daviess county were worked by this company.

       The first white settler in the region of the lead mines of Jo Daviess was a man named Bouthillier, who settled about where Galena is, in 1820. About this time John Shull and Dr. A. C. Muer established a trading post. A. P. Van Meter and one Fredericks came in 1821. The government sent Lieutenant Thomas to have charge of the mines, and in 1823 one James Johnson arrived from Kentucky with sixty negro slaves to work in the mines. By 1826 the locality had one hundred and fifty inhabitants, and from this time forward the growth was very rapid.

       We thus see that as early as 1825 and not later than 1830 there were as many as fifteen or twenty centers from which there were spreading settlements in nearly all directions. With the spread of settlements came the opening of roads, the erection of grist and sawmills, the building of blockhouses, courthouses, and jails.


       As has been previously stated, the Catholic religion was the prevailing belief from the earliest settlement of the French in the American Bottom to the coming of Gen. George Rogers Clark. This faith did not spread into the interior of the state in the earlier days. In fact the members of this faith decreased following the occupation of Illinois by the British in 1765. Large members of the French Catholics left Illinois upon the coming of the British. French immigration ceased and nearly if not quite all of the early immigrants were Protestants.

       The expansion was not only in the matter of making new settlements but along with this went a steady growth in all the lines of the life of a pioneer people. Churches were organized everywhere. Houses of worship were not always built where congregations were organized, but services were held more or less regularly. P 176


       As early as 1820, April 20, a Presbyterian church was organized at Turkey Hill, a settlement four miles southeast of Belleville. This was said to be one of the oldest American settlements in St. Clair county. As early as 1798 William Scott, Samuel Shook, and Franklin Jarvis, settled this locality. The Kaskaskia Presbyterian church was organized May 27, 1821, with nine members. The organization was later moved to Chester. While in Kaskaskia it was a very flourishing organization and contained some of the best people in the locality. The leading spirit in that church seems to have been the Rev. John M. Ellis. He was consecrated to the cause of missions and education. In 1828 he wrote from Jacksonville, Illinois: “A seminary of learning is projected to go into operation next fall. The subscription now stands $2,000 or $3,000. The site is in this county.” A half section of land was purchased one-half mile north of Diamond Grove, which was probably intended to serve as a source of support for worthy students. This movement later attracted the attention of seven young men in Yale University, and resulted in the raising of $10,000, in the east and the coming of Theron Baldwin and Julien M. Sturtevant, and the founding of the Illinois College.

      The Rev. John Mathews, a Presbyterian preacher, arrived in Illinois as early as 1817. He organized a church in Pike county soon thereafter, with eighteen members. He was known all over Illinois and Missouri and lived to the ripe age of eighty-four years. He was an active preacher for fifty years.

       The Presbyterians under the leadership of the Rev. David Choate Proctor, organized what was known as the Wabash church, in Edwards county. Thomas Gould and family came to the “Timbered Settlements,” which was in the northeast quarter of what is now Wabash county, ten miles from Mt. Carmel, in 1816. He was followed by Cyrus Danforth, Stephen Bliss, and George May. The first Sunday-school in Illinois was held in the home of May and Bliss April 11, 1819.

       In Greene county, as early as April 30, 1823, a Presbyterian church with twenty-one members, was organized in the court house in Carrollton by the Revs. Oren Catlin and Daniel G. Sprague. Several of these members lived north of Apple creek some five miles, so that eventually another church was organized in White Hall, The Carrollton church worshiped in the court house or in a blacksmith shop, and frequently with members in their own homes. Paris, Edgar county, had a church as early as November 6, 1824. The membership numbered twelve. The Rev. Isaac Reed, a Presbyterian minister from Crawfordsville, Indiana, preached. Methodist preachers had visited the settlement and had preached, but had not tried to organize a church.

       The Rev. Elbridge Gerry Howe traveled over the state in 1824 and 1830 and preached as he traveled. The Rev. J. M. Peck says he saw him in 1825 and that he was a green Yankee, and that his wife was the smarter of the two. He contracted to minister to all the Presbyterian churches in Greene, Morgan, and Sangamon for $300 a year. He could not collect his money, and in a short time was in destitute circumstances in Springfield, where the women of the town ministered to his wife’s necessities. P 177


       Shawneetown, one of the oldest towns anywhere on the east side of the state, was very early visited by missionaries and traveling preachers. It was the point where the overland journey began on the way from the Upper Ohio to Kaskaskia or to St. Louis.

       Or if the travelers came overland from Kentucky or the Carolinas, they crossed the Ohio at either Golconda or Shawneetown as the only ferries that crossed the river were at those two points. This town was begun in 1800 as nearly as can be ascertained. The cabins were of a very inferior grade. The land had not been surveyed and the settlers “squatted” wherever their choice of a building site led them. The houses were probably of the character built by the Indians and early French—walls of sticks, grasses, and mud, while the roof was thatched with the swamp grasses which grew in abundance near.
       In 1812-13 the government surveyed the town and there was quite an adjustment of claims to lots. Tradition says they burned their old log school house for a bonfire when they heard the news that Jackson had whipped the British at New Orleans. It is very certain that after the survey by the government they erected better houses. But the newer ones were not very substantial homes. A Mr. Low was in Shawneetown in January, 1818, and of the moral and religious aspect he writes: “Among its two or three hundred inhabitants there is not a single soul that made any pretensions to religion. Their shocking profaneness was enough to make one afraid to walk the street; and those who on the Sabbath were not fighting and drinking at the taverns and grog-shops were either hunting in the woods or trading behind their counters. A small audience gathered to hear the missionary preach. But even a laborer who could devote his whole time to the field might almost as soon expect to hear the stones cry out as to expect a revolution in the morals of the place.” Mr. Thomas Lippincott, who was for some time editor of the Edward.sville Spectator, and who later was one of the trustees of Illinois College, passed through Shawneetown with his wife in 1818, and says of it:

       “We found a village not very prepossessing; the houses, with one exception, being set up on posts several feet from the earth. The periodical overflow of the river accounts for this.”

       Mrs. John Tillson passed through Shawneetown in November, 1822, and was very observing, as the following shows:

       Our hotel, the only brick house in the place (evidently the Rawlings House,) made quite a commanding appearance from the river, towering, as it did, among the twenty—more or less—log cabins and the three or four box-looking frames. One or two of these were occupied as stores; one was a doctor’s office; a lawyer’s shingle graced the corner of one; cakes and beer another. The hotel lost its significance, however, on entering its doors. The finish was of the cheapest kind, the plastering hanging loose from the walls, the floors carpetless, except with nature’s carpeting—with that they were richly carpeted. The landlord was a whiskey keg in the morning and a keg of whiskey at night; stupid and gruff in the morning, by noon could talk politics and abuse Yankees, and by sundown was brave for a fight. His wife kept herself in the kitchen; his daughters, one married, and two single, performed the agreeable to strangers; the son-in-law putting on the airs of a gentleman, presided at the table, carving the pork, dishing out the cabbage, and talking big P 178  about his political friends. His wife, being his wife, he seemed to regard a notch above the other branches of the family, and had her at his right hand at the table where she sat with her long curls, and with the baby in her lap. Baby always seems to be hungry while mammy was eating her dinner, and so little honey took dinner at the same time. Baby didn’t have any table-cloth—new manners to me.

       The first organized church began its work December, 1823, it is said, with six women as the congregation. They first met in the Seabolt property—the site of the Riverside Hotel.

       Jacksonville was laid off in 1825. In 1827 the Rev. John Brich organized a Presbyterian church. The place of meeting was in a barn belonging to Judge John Leeper, a mile southeast of town. The Rev. John M. Ellis was settled as pastor in 1828. This church is said to have been a great center from which radiated far reaching influences in the spread of the gospel.

       The same Rev, John M. Ellis organized a Presbyterian church in Springfield in 1828. The settled pastor was the Rev. John G. Bergen, formerly of New Jersey. This congregation built the first brick church home in the state in 1829-30. It was dedicated in November, 1830. The pastor organized the first temperance society in the state in Springfield. The Rev. Mr. Ellis organized a church in Hillsboro in 1828, with two members, John Tillson, Jr., and Mrs. Margaret Seward.

       In 1828, the Rev. Solomon Hardy organized a church in Vandalia, of eight members. This church built a modest building and placed therein a bell, the gift of Romulus Riggs, of Philadelphia, The Illinois Monthly Magazine of December 30, 1830, says: “The bell was hung November 5, 1830, it is the first public bell introduced into the state by American inhabitants.” Several years ago the bell was given to the Brownstown church, eight miles east of Vandalia.

       Within the limits of Illinois there had been organized, up to 1830, twenty-eight Presbyterian churches. There were also at that date sixteen Presbyterian ministers located in the state.


       Methodism made its advent into Illinois at a very early date. We have in a previous chapter called attention to the work of a number of early preachers of that faith.

       The regular work of this church did not begin until the beginning of the past century. This religious body has a somewhat different plan of work from the Presbyterian church and for that reason we cannot fix dates so easily as in a study of the latter. The class leader in the earlier Methodist organization supplied the lack of a regular pastor.

       The Reverend Beauchamp, a much loved minister in the Methodist church, was located in Chillicothe, Ohio, in 1816. He was induced by the people of Mt. Carmel to come to their town, to which he removed in 1817. He labored here faithfully for about four years when he was obliged to give up his preaching and retire to a farm. While in the active work of preaching in Mt. Carmel he announced the services by the blowing of a trumpet instead of by the ringing of a bell.

       The work of the Rev. Jesse Walker of the Methodist church has been noted in a previous chapter. He came to Illinois in 1806 and organized churches in various places. In 1807 he organized a church on the P 179 Illinois river of some sixty members—all the people in the settlement. He died in Chicago in 1834.

       Where two or three families could be found who were of the Methodist persuasion, a class leader would conduct the public devotional service. From this fact a church may be spoken of when there had been no regularly organized church machinery set in motion.

As early as 1817, Zadoc Casey emigrated from Sumner county, Tennessee, and settled on a farm near the present city of Mt. Vernon, Jefferson county. He founded the town of Mt. Vernon in 1818 or 1819. He was a member of the Methodist church and was an active worker in that organization. He was a local preacher in Jefferson county for forty years, and was a man of widespread influence.


       This church had many earnest preachers in Illinois in the early years of the nineteenth century. Among them was one Rev. John Clark. He had for two years been connected with the Methodists but becoming dissatisfied with some of the methods of that body he withdrew his membership from that organization. He came to the settlements on the American Bottom in 1797 and from that date till 1833, when he died, he was a tireless worker in the church. He taught school and was generally called Father Clark. He was the first Protestant preacher to cross the Mississippi into the Spanish territory. This he did in 1798. He eventually took up his residence in Missouri, but carried on his work in Illinois with great success.

       Elder William Jones came to Rattan’s Prairie, near Alton, in 1806. He was very active in building local Baptist churches in the vicinity of Alton, till his death in 1845.

       Another early Baptist preacher was Rev. James Lemen. He was indebted to Father Clark for both his education and his religious fervor. He was a staunch opponent of slavery and was bold enough to express his opposition in the pulpit, which gave offense to some.

       By 1807 there was a Baptist Association in the region around Alton and Edwardsville. It included five well organized churches: New Design, four miles south of Waterloo; Mississippi Bottom; Richland, in St. Clair county; Wood River, in Madison county; and Silver Creek, in Bond or St. Clair. There were three ordained preachers for these five churches, and sixty-two members. In 1809 six more preachers were ordained and there was a proportionate growth in membership.

  History Table of Contents

  Biography Table of Contents

  Name Index

  Memorial Library Illinois Selections - First & Only 501(c)3 Host for Genealogical & Historical Sites

Livingston County Michigan Historical & Genealogical Project

  American History & Genealogy Project


© 2006~ Pam MARDOS Rietsch