Probably the most conspicuous physical feature that adorns the landscape of Logan County is Elkhart Hill. Covered with virgin timber, on its summit and every side, it entrances the vision of the passerby, as it majestically towers above the- surrounding plain. Since time immemorial, it has been known to the hunter and the explorer, to the- settler and the scout, to the white man and the red. When the crystalline fleets of glacial times carried their rich cargoes of fructifying soil over Illinois, Elkhart Hill marked the extreme limit of one of the prehistoric moraines. When the Indian careened in native freedom over his extensive hunting ground, Elkhart Mound was known to the chiefs and warriors of every Illinois tribe. Closely seconded by the settlement on Sugar Creek, it was the site of the first attempt of a white man to found a home on what is now Logan County soil. A location so picturesque, a situation so historic, since the birth of time, fitting and appropriate it surely was that when the tide of immigration turned northward to the generous heart of Illinois, it found one of its initial footholds on the sunny slope, beneath the umbrageous shade and by the never-failing springs of Elkhart Hill and Grove.
In 1819, Frederick Ernst, a gentleman of wealth, education and literary taste, came from the Kingdom of Hanover, to locate a German colony, in the newly admitted State of Illinois. While in this portion of the habitable world, he took occasion, at this very early date, to explore the Mississippi Valley and visit regions, which, by the white man, had never been explored before. Returning home, he wrote a monograph of his trip, which was published at Hildesheim, in Hanover, in 1823. This monograph, he called his "Observations made upon a Journey through the Interior of the United States, in the year 1819." It was not translated into English until 1903. It has already been referred to in this work, and it is still more valuable for reference here, for it is the only statement of an eye witness of scenes being enacted in Logan County, almost a century ago, — a statement as reliable as it is unique, as interesting as it is old, and as conclusive of the matters, of which it speaks, as if inspired.
Ernst left Edwardsville in the month of July, 1819, and turned his face toward the country of the Sangamon. He crossed the Sangamon, "between the mouths of Sugar and Spring Creeks," in a canoe which he there found, letting the horses swim alongside. Continuing, his narrative, he says: "As soon as we had left the timber of the Sangamon, upon the other bank, we came into another large prairie, where a not insignificant hill, covered with timber, attracted our attention. It was ELKHART GROVE. This place is renowned on account of its agreeable and advantageous situation. A not too steep hill, about two miles in circuit, provided with two excellent springs, is the only piece of timbered land in a prairie from six to eight miles broad. Its forest trees. show the great fertility of the soil. I found on it sugar trees, from three to four feet in diameter, and the farmer settled here, Mr. Latham, had thirty acres enclosed by the wood of the blue ash. This hill is lost to the Sangamon, as well as northward toward the Onaquispasippi (Salt Creek), in alternating hills without forest, which, to me, judging from the kinds of grass they bore, seemed very well adapted to sheep grazing or vineyards. Eastward, at the foot of the hill, is a level, rich prairie. Here, Mr. Latham had planted thirty acres of corn, this spring, which thrived beyond all expectation. From this soil, I took a small sample, which seems to consist of loam, and an insignificant admixture of sand. In the surrounding prairie, the two springs reappear, which were lost in the ground, at the edge of the forest. Toward the south, there are several springs in the prairie, some of which form little waterfalls, often three or four feet high. All these circumstances make the Elkhart Hill not only a beautiful, but, from an agricultural point of view, a very valuable possession. For whoever owns the woodlands of the Elkhart, controls at the same time the greater part of the large and rich prairie surrounding it, where on account of the scarcity of wood, it would be difficult to establish a farm. This farm is, up to the present time, the one situated farthest north in the whole State of Illinois, except, perhaps, in the military lands on the other side of the Illinois River."
This farm, described by Mr. Ernst, as the "farthest north in the whole state of Illinois," was undoubtedly the first white settlement in Logan County, twenty years before Logan County was formed. The corn, described by him, as planted that spring, was unquestionably the first corn planted by a -white man on Logan County soil and the Mr. Latham referred to in his narrative, was none other than James Latham, who settled at Elkhart Hill in the spring of 1819. It seems hardly credible that ninety-two years — a century, less eight years — have elapsed, since the coming of the white man to this portion of Central Illinois. Mighty have been the changes since that time. When Mr. Latham first settled at Elkhart Hill, James Monroe was President of the United States, George the Fourth was King of England, Mexico was an Empire, Louis, the Eighteenth, had been restored to the throne of France, and Napoleon was in exile at St. Helena, Illinois had just been admitted as a state, Kaskaskia was its capital and Shadrach Bond was playing the 'role as first governor. Railroads, telegraphs, telephones, electric lights, sewing machines, photographs and the thousand inventions of modern life were unknown. Flint and steel were used to strike fire, and mail came on horseback, once a week. Central Illinois was many days' journey, by stage coach, from the East and the usual path of the emigrant was by stage to Pittsburg, down the Ohio River on a boat, up the Mississippi and the Illinois to Peoria and then across the country, to place of destination.
James Latham was born October 25, 1768, in Loudoun County, Virginia, and was of English descent. He emigrated to Kentucky, when a young man, and was there married, June 21, 1792, to Mary Briggs, also a native of Virginia, and who was born Feb. 3, 1772. Their family consisted of ten children, all of whom were born in Kentucky, as follows: Elizabeth, better known as "Betsey," the eldest child, born Nov. 25, 1793, and married in Kentucky, May 9, 181o, to James W. Chapman; Lucy, born Aug. 18, 1797; Fanny, who died quite young; Richard, born Dec. 23, 1798; Mary L.; Philip C., born Jan. 25, 1804; Nancy; Maria, born Nov. 14, 1809; John, born Sept. 9, 1812; and Robert B., born June 21, 1818. In the early part of the year 1818, the Latham family resided in Union County, Kentucky. Rumors had frequently reached their ears of the great fertility of the country on the Sangamon. Travelers who had passed through, reported it to be a veritable garden of Eden. Somewhat familiar with the hardships of the frontier, and more or less imbued with the spirit of the pioneer, the Latham family, after due consideration, decided to try their fortunes in "the Sangamo country" of Illinois. Therefore, early in the autumn of 1818, James Chapman and his wife, Elizabeth Latham Chapman, together with her brother, Richard Latham, left Kentucky for Illinois. The first spot which attracted their attention was a location on the north side of the Sangamon, near the mouth of Fancy Creek and near where the Chicago and Alton railroad now crosses the Sangamon River, about a mile below the present town of Sherman. Here they settled and staked out a claim, and here Mr. Chapman established a ferry, near Bogue's Mill. Later in the year, James Latham also came from Kentucky and joined his son and daughter and son-in-law, on the banks of the Sangamon, and with him also came Ebenezer Briggs, a near relative of his wife. At that time, there were very few other settlers in the Sangamon country. Springfield was then unknown and one of their nearest neighbors was John Kelley, whose cabin was the only one on the site, where the capitol of the state was yet destined to be.
Considerable snow fell in the early part of the winter of 1818, and in January, came the usual thaw. The Sangamon bottom was overflowed and with it the site of the Latham home. This not being very promising for future agricultural returns, Mr. Latham, his son, Richard, and Mr. Briggs decided to start northward, in search of a location, on more elevated land. Having been familiar only with timbered country, like all the early settlers of Central Illinois, they did not consider the prairie worth their while, and were on the lookout for a suitable location by some stream. They traveled past the present site of the town of Williamsville, and while skirting the minor streams, saw, in the distance, the wooded hill of Elkhart. Bending their steps that way, they were entranced with the vision as they nearer approached.
On arrival, they explored the timber, and finding on its northwest slope, a bountiful spring of water, decided to make this site their home. Here in April of 1819, they built a cabin, the first ever built in Illinois, north of the Sangamon River. They journeyed again to Mr. Chapman's place, brought back some farming tools, and immediately began to prepare the crop, which Frederick Ernst saw. After the crop was cultivated, they proceeded to build a commodious double log cabin on the edge of the grove. This house was one of the best cabins erected in pioneer days. It was roomy, had a covered porch between the two parts, and was the temporary home and abiding place for scores of weary emigrants, who later came into this section, seeking homes, and who were welcomed to the cabin with Kentucky hospitality.
As soon as the double cabin was completed, James Latham returned to Kentucky and brought back his wife, and family, as well as his household goods, in several large wagons, and installed them in the new home. They arrived at Elkhart Hill, in the month of September, 1819. The site of this cabin was on the first rise of the hill, on the northwestern slope, about half way between the foot and the brow of the eminence, not far from what is known as Crohurst Station, on the Interurban. The site, along with the adjacent lands, was sold to Frances Thompson about 1850, who built a modern residence upon the same. The property passed into the hands of Gue F. Thompson, by descent, who sold it to Governor Oglesby, in 1885. Here Gov. Oglesby erected a*fine residence, which later caught fire and was entirely consumed, with most of the contents, entailing much loss. After the fire, Gov. Oglesby did not rebuild on the old site, but selected a new site farther to the south on the brow of the hill. The site of the old Latham first settlement is now bare of buildings, but the exact spot can still be pointed out. Standing there, one can see the magnificent landscape, spreading out to the north, east and south, a most entrancing view. The spring still bubbles near by, not as strongly as in pioneer days, but sufficiently strong to create a constant stream. The ruts of the old stage coach, which made regular trips from Springfield, past the Latham home, over McClure's ferry on Salt Creek and Robert Musick's on Sugar Creek, to Fort Clark, can yet be traced out clearly and distinctly through the timber, and on the brow of the hills. The old scars, made by the wheels, are now covered with nature's verdure, but they are not hidden nor lost, many though the years have been that intervene.
Sangamon County was created by the Act of the Legislature, approved Jan. 30, 1821, and it included then all of what is now Logan County. Seeking for a man of honesty and ability to fill the responsible office of Probate Justice, (an office similar to County Judge), the early settlers selected James Latham, for that position. He held the first term of Probate Court, at Springfield, June 4, 1821, and was therefore, in effect, the first County Judge, not only of Sangamon County, but Logan County as well. He held this position one term. In 1823, Mr. Latham and his son, Richard, built a horse mill at Elkhart, which was the first mill built north of the Sangamon River. It was an ordinary horse mill, but it required four horses to run it, and it was a great convenience to the early settlers. Prior to the building of this mill, they had been compelled to go to Edwardsville, for their grinding, a distance of over a hundred miles. When the Latham Mill was completed, many came a great distance to Elkhart, and often would camp out, while waiting their turn.
The government land office was not established in Springfield until 1823, the first sale of lands in Central Illinois taking place in the latter year. Mr. Latham filed his claims with the land office in 1824, and received patents to about 620 acres in What is now Elkhart township, including nearly all of section seven, and eighty acres in section eighteen. In the first year of Mr. Latham's settlement, John Hamlin, an influential citizen of Fort Clark (Peoria), came on a prospecting tour and remained all winter with Mr. Latham. The next spring he made an improvement near Elkhart Hill, but not long afterward, abandoned it, and returned to Fort Clark. Mr. Latham was the first to cultivate prairie soil, in Logan County. In 1824, Mr. Latham was appointed by President John Quincy Adams, to the position of Indian Agent, at Fort Clark, since called Peoria. Upon this appointment he removed his family to Fort Clark, in order that he might have them with him, in his new field of labor. In this position, he became well acquainted with the prominent Indian chiefs of the state, who came to him to receive their annuities from the government. A letter written by him at that time, to President Adams, indicates the difficulties met with, in those days, in the reception and delivery of mail. He says: "I have written a letter and expect to have a chance to send it to Chicago, in four or five weeks." He afterwards added a postscript: "As no opportunity has offered during the past five weeks, I shall send this by a messenger." James Latham remained with his family, at Fort Clark, for two years, when he was taken ill, and died June 5, 1868, in his fifty-eighth year. His remains were brought back to Elkhart, where they were interred in the old cemetery, on the brow of the hill, above the old home site, and there they rest today undisturbed. The family returned, after the father's death, and took up their residence again at Elkhart Hill. James Latham's widow, Mary, lived at Elkhart, for nearly twenty years, after her husband's decease, passing away Aug. 11, 1847, and being also laid away in the old cemetery on the hill.
James and Elizabeth Chapman, whom Mr. Latham left on the Sangamon, in 1819, remained there until the Spring of 1820, when th6t came to the mouth of Lake Fork, built a cabin and made an improvement. Two years later they sold this place to Jeremiah Birks, and removed further down Salt Creek, near Rocky Ford. Later they removed to Tazewell County, but returned again to Logan County, settling at Elkhart Hill. Elizabeth Chapman died Feb. 14, 1835, and James Chapman died Oct. 21, 1865, in his seventy-seventh year. Both are buried in the old cemetery, on Elkhart Hill. Of the other children of James Latham, Lucy married Grant Blackwell and returned to Kentucky in 1827, where both died, leaving one child. Mary L. married John Constant, of Springfield, and died at that place, May 3, 1841, leaving four children. Maria married Archibald E. Constant, of Springfield, who also had settled in Sangamon County as early as 1819. They resided in Springfield, until 1863, when they removed to Elkhart, Mrs. Constant dying there, Nov. 13, 1868, and Mr. Constant, Jan. 19, 1875. Mr. Constant entered land in Logan County, near Elkhart, in the early thirties, and is said to have built the first brick house in Logan County, making his own brick and hauling his lumber from Springfield. The house was burned in 1870. John was married in Sangamon County to Lucy Bennett, a native of Kentucky, and they had two children Philip C. was married in Springfield, May 15, 1831, to Catherine R. Taber, who was born Feb. 25, 1812, in Ohio. He was killed by lightning, near Shawneetown, Ill., May 25, 1844.
Richard Latham, who came with his father to Logan County, ahead of the rest of the family, in 1819, entered land for himself, in section eighteen, of what is now Elkhart Township, on the south brow of Elkhart Hill, later known as the Gillett homestead, and received letters patent for the same in 1828. Here he kept what was known as the old "Kentucky House." This was the stopping place for early settlers in the twenties and later on, the lawyers who traveled the circuit, Treat, Logan, Stuart, Baker, Edwards, Matheny, the immortal Lincoln himself, and scores of others, stopped for awhile on their journeys from Springfield to Postville, Bloomington and other towns, and partook of the hospitality of the home. In about 1821 or 1822, Benjamin Briggs came from Kentucky and settled at "the grove," on Richard Latham's place. With him came his wife and his wife's sister. Mr. Briggs was a dealer in furs and accompanied the famous John Jacob Astor, on his trip from Fort Clark, now Peoria, to the Pacific Coast, which trip, it will be remembered, laid the foundation of the Astor fortune. Later, he served in the Black Hawk war.
The name of Mr. Briggs' sister-in-law was Emily Hubbard, and on Sept. 16, 1824, she and Richard Latham were made man and wife, this being, if not the first marriage, at least one of the first marriages, solemnized in the county. They had one child and mother and child died at Elkhart about 1825. Richard Latham was married a second time, Nov. 27, 1828, to Mrs. Margaret Broadwell, of Springfield, whose maiden name was Stephenson. She was a daughter of John Stephenson, who came to Sangamon County in 1820, his daughter, Margaret, and her two brothers, John and James, all coming to Sangamon County in 1820, with their father. James Stephenson was the first County Surveyor of Sangamon, when it included Logan County. Her first husband was William Broadwell, and their oldest son was William B. Broadwell, who laid out the Village of Broadwell, in Logan County, and for whom said village was named. William Broadwell was killed at the old town of Sangamo, Nov. 22, 1824, while assisting in raising a barn. After Mrs. Broadwell's marriage to Richard Latham, in 1828, she came to Elkhart to live. In 1853, Richard Latham and family moved to Springfield, where he died, June 5, 1868, and where his widow died in 1886. Both are buried in the old cemetery at Elkhart, on the hill.
Robert B. Latham, the youngest member of the Latham family, who came to Elkhart Grove in 1819, was closely identified, from his years of maturity to his death, with the history of Logan County, and the history of the county is, more or less, a history of his life. He was one year old, a babe in arms, when his father, the family and their household goods came across the country, from Kentucky to Illinois. After his father's death, in 1827, he attended school for awhile at Morgansfield, Kentucky, returning to Elkhart. At the age of 16, he entered the high school at Springfield and after a few years there, returned to Elkhart, and engaged in farming at the old Latham place. He was married Nov. 5, 1846, to Georgiana Gillette, a native of New Haven, Conn., and a daughter of John Gillette, Sr., who had previously moved into the country and settled at Bald Knob. Previous to his marriage Mr. Latham had built a house on the site of the old: cabin, which his father had raised. In 1850, he sold the place and moved to Mt. Pulaski, the then county seat, where he engaged in the real estate business. In 1852, in company with John D. Gillette, he entered between six and seven thousand acres of Logan County land. He was employed to secure the Chicago & Alton railroad right of way and was one of the founders of the City of Lincoln. He was elected to the Legislature in 186o, and in 1862 was appointed Colonel of the 106th Regiment of Illinois Volunteers. He was instrumental in bringing the Peoria, Lincoln Decatur, as well as the Champaign & Havana, railroads through the county. Mrs. Georgiana Latham, his first wife, died at Mt. Pulaski in 1853. He was remarried, July 24, 1857, to Savilla Wyatt, daughter of William Wyatt, a native of Morgan County. Colonel Latham departed this life, April 16, 1895, in his seventy-seventh year. His wife still survives him. The City of Lincoln will ever be a perpetual monument to Col. Latham's unselfish service to the people among whom he lived.
As has already been suggested, while the James Latham settlement, at Elkhart Grove, was undoubtedly the first white settlement in what is now Logan County, the Robert Musick settlement, on Sugar Creek, was a very close second. James Latham and Robert Musick both located in Logan County in 1819, the difference being that the former came in the spring, about April loth, and the latter in the fall, about October 22d. Ferdinand Ernst, in his narrative, where he makes the statement that the Latham farm is "the one fartherest north in the whole state of Illinois," also adds. "However, it will not remain so much longer, since fifteen miles farther, some cornfields have been laid out and a farm will be established there toward spring." Fifteen miles north of Elkhart was the Musick farm, to which Mr. Ernst unquestionably referred. Ernst was at Latham's in the fall of 1819. He then saw standing corn and thirty acres in cultivation. At the Musick farm, the cornfields were only "laid out," as he states, and the farm was to be "established there toward spring." Mrs. Lucinda Carlock, now of Bloomington, a daughter of Robert Musick, in a letter to the writer says: "My father and mother were married in Kentucky. My mother's maiden name was Sarah Roach and she was born in Virginia. My father was born in Kentucky and lived there until after he was married. They moved to Illinois in the fall of 1819. There was one family came with them, but they became discouraged and moved back. My father and his family lived six weeks with no white people nearer than Elkhart and with Indians for nearest neighbors. Father settled seven miles north of Lincoln, at the south side of the Sugar Creek timber, where he lived and died."
Robert Musick was born April 14, 1792, and Sarah Musick, his wife, was born Oct. 3, 1794. When they came to Logan County in 1819, there came with them the following children: Mary, aged seven; Esther, aged five, familiarly knowh as "Hettie," and Berry, a child in arms. Seven other children were born to them in Logan County. As was customary with the early pioneers, Mr. Musick sought a location in the timber, along the banks of some stream. After skirting Sugar Creek, for some distance, he finally decided upon a location, near that stream, in the northeast corner of what is now West Lincoln township, where the same corners with East Lincoln, Oran and Eminence townships. Here, Mr. Musick erected a small cabin, which was partly constructed of boards, sawn with a whip-saw. He soon made friends with the Indians about him. These Indians were remnants of the Kickapoo, Pottawattomie and Delaware tribes, who had combined their interests in an Indian village in McLean County, and hunted along Sugar Creek. Mr. Musick was well acquainted with Jim Crow, White Eyes and Big Bull, all well known Indian Chiefs. Mr. Musick had lost a toe from one foot, and his four-toed foot was a great curiosity to the Indians, who called him "Man-withouta-toe." He was a good marksman and frequently challenged the Indians to shoot at a mark, usually discomfiting them, and they respected him highly on that account. Some of these Indians talked English fairly well. They would kill scores of deer and then when becoming tired of venison, they often came to Mr. Musick's to exchange it, for what they called "hogee meat." For the first few years, Mr. Musick had great difficulty in securing supplies. About 1823, a settlement was made at Pekin, and this was the Musick trading point from that year until Postville was laid out, in 1835.
"Robert Musick's on Sugar Creek" was one of the old landmarks in this section of Illinois, by reason of its early settlement. It, was probably not far from the "old Edward's trace," which marked the path of Governor Edward's military expedition against the Indians in 1812, and which passed Carlinville, Elkhart Hill, west of the present site of Lincoln, thence north through what is now Logan County to Fort Clark, now Peoria, for the records of the County Commissioners of Sangamon County show that, in 1825, a county road was laid out beginning at Springfield, past Chapman's Ford and Phillip's old store, "thence by the old trace to Judge Latham's, thence the old road to McClure's Ferry on Salt Creek, thence to Robert Musick's on Sugar Creek, thence to the County line, in a direction to Fort Clark." The road viewers of this road were Robert Musick, Robert McClure and John Buckles. In 1828, another county road was laid out from Rocky Ford to "Robert Musick's on Sugar Creek."
Of the Musick children, who came with Robert Musick, in 1819, the oldest, Mary E., was born Nov. 20, 1812. She was married April 3, 1829, at Sugar Creek, to Jacob Judy, this constituting the first marriage solemnized in this settlement and to them eleven children were born. Jacob Judy was born Jan. 9, 1804, and came from Ohio, to Tazewell County, in 1825. Mr. and Mrs. Judy lived in the latter county until 1862, when they came to Logan County, in Eminence township. Here Mrs. Judy died Dec. 9, 1885. Mr. Judy remarried in 1887 and died in September, 1903, lacking four months of being a century old. He was, for a while, one of five living generations and at his death was the ancestor of 117 grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Jacob Judy, during his lifetime, was a prominent attendant at all Old Settlers' gatherings, and on one of these occasions, stated that in 1830, Pekin was called Town Site and Peoria, Fort Clark; that the former consisted of three cabins and the latter, ten or twelve. He said: "We had to go to Springfield for a doctor and when my uncle was sick, he died before the physician could get to him, as it was a journey of thirty-six hours. We went to Chicago with grain, and brought back salt, taking three or four weeks for the trip. I once killed two deer before breakfast. We could have taken up any amount of prairie land, but every one in those days preferred timber." The second daughter, Esther Musick, known as "Het-tie," was born Nov. 1, 1814, and was married to Joseph Ewing, son of Samuel Ewing, who came to the county in 1827. Joseph Ewing died before his wife, Hettie, and in later years, she was married to John W. Hawes. The latter came from Kentucky, with his father, John Hawes, in 1835. She died in Eminence township, March 17, 1869. Berry Musick was born Dec. 14, 1818, and was thus less than a year old when he came, with his parents, to this section of Illinois. He was married to Lucinda Bruner in 1840 and lived in Logan County until the day of his death. He died Jan. 10, 1893, leaving seven children. Of the children, who were born in Logan County, James was born Jan. 9, 1821, and died Jan. 8, 1853. He was married to Sarah Jane Warrick. John Musick was born Jan. 15, 1823, and died Nov. 28, 1851. His wife's maiden name was Sarah Shores. Henry Musick was born May 6, 1825, and died Aug. 6, 1884. He was first married to Jane Ewing and some years after her death, was married again. The maiden name of his second wife was Martha Folsom. George Musick was born Oct. 28, 1827. He was engaged in the mercantile business in Postville and was one of its leading citizens in the palmy days of that town. Later he was identified with the political history of the county and with the growth of the City of Lincoln. He was married to Ange Minier. He was elected Sheriff of the county, in 1856, and served in that capacity one term. He is now a widower and owns large property interests in the city of Lincoln, but resides, most of his time, at Eldorado Springs, Mo. Lucinda Musick, now Carlock, was born Feb. 1, 1830, and now resides in Bloomington, Ill. Robert Musick, Jr., was born March 9, 1833, but died in infancy. Fielding Musick was born July 31, 1836, and departed this life, March 25, 1904. He married Hannah Simpson, who survived him, and who now resides at Eureka, Ill.
Shortly after the arrival of the Lathams and the Musicks, in what is now Logan County, James Turley and wife settled on Lake Fork. The exact date of Mr. Turley's settlement in the county is not well fixed, but he seems to have been the first white settler in the Lake Fork Valley, and the Latham settlement at Elkhart Grove, the Musick settlement on Sugar Creek and the Turley settlement on the Lake Fork were all close together in point of time. James Turley was born in Virginia, where he married Agnes Kirby. They first removed to Kentucky, carrying their two first born children, in baskets, one swung on each side of a steady pack horse. Later, hearing about the "Sangamo Country" and its great possibilities, Mr. Turley came to Illinois. Re picked out a location in section thirty, of what is now Mt. Pulaski township, of Logan County, the same being what was afterwards known as the William R. Buckles farm. Here he staked out a claim and proceeded at once to erect a double log house, which was the first cabin ever built in the Lake Fork Valley. Some time after the death of his first wife, Mr. Turley married Mrs. Sarah Hoblit Lucas, widow of Thomas Lucas. Mrs. Lucas was a sister of John Hoblit, who came to the county in 1826, and Thomas Lucas came to the county in 1829. James Turley was the father of fourteen children, seven of each sex. His sons were — David, Samuel, William, Charles, George W., Thomas J. and John. Charles Turley was born and reared in Kentucky, and his wife, Elizabeth (Chatham) Turley, was born near the Blue Mountains, in Virginia, being a native of Greenbriar County, but reared in Kentucky. Charles Turley and family came to what is now Logan County, in 1823, settling in what is now Elkhart township. The children who came with him were Osben, the eldest, who was born in 1812; Marshall, who removed to Iowa; Grisenda, who married Anthony Ridgeway; Sanford; Eranda, who married G. C. Wright; and Charles, Jr. Two children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Turley, after coming to the county, Perry, who died, aged about twenty years, and David K. Turley, who was born April 11, 1825. Charles Turley, Sr., died about the year 1836. George W. Turley was born March 5, 1798, near Mount Sterling, Ky. He was one of the most prominent public men in the early history of the county. He was continuously Justice of the Peace, in the county, from the time of its formation, to the time of his death, which occurred Feb. 28, 1865. He also held that office, When Logan County was part of Sangamon. He was a teacher at an early date and was an authority in legal matters among the old settlers, in the years before the lawyers came. He was one of the three promoters of the City of Mt. Pulaski and built one of the first houses in the town. He first entered land in Mt. Pulaski township, in 1828, near where his father located. He was married to Margaret Scott. Among his children were Mrs. M. L. Beam, Mrs. E. A. Parks and Richard E. Turley. The latter, his only son, was born July 27, 1827, and married Anna Baxter in 1869. He died Oct. 25, 1885. He platted several additions to the City of Mt. Pulaski. Thomas J. Turley was born May 7, 1802, in Montgomery County, Ky., and came to Logan County with his parents, being the youngest son. He as married to Mary Trotter, Sept. 27, 1827, and moved to Sangamon County, in 1828, settling five miles east of Springfield. They were the parents of ten children. Thomas J. Turley died Sept. 7, 1852. James Turley, ancestor of all, was a sort of arbitrator in his day among the Indians, who called him the "Big Chief," and by reason of his influence with them, prevented a proposed general Indian onslaught upon the white settlers. Mr. Turley is buried in Carlyle Cemetery, west of Mt. Pulaski.
There were quite a number of prospective settlers, who came to the county along about 1820, who did not remain permanently. Ezekiel Hopkins was one of these. He remained for two years on Sugar Creek, near the Musick's, and then returned to Indiana. John Porter also came about this time and while it is said he became a permanent settler, there is no record of any entry of land by him. John Stephenson also came with his family, but afterwards went to what is now Sangamon County. Aquilla Davis and family located near Elkhart Hill in 1820. Mr. Davis had been a Revolutionary soldier. He was born in Maryland in 1756, and went to Virginia when a young man, where he married Isabella Briggs. They had six children in Virginia, namely: Edward; William B.; Alexander B.; Thompson, Hezekiah and Marion. Mr. and Mrs. Davis emigrated to Kentucky, where they had two other children, Benjamin F. and Judith. All came to Elkhart Hill, in 1820, but moved to near Williamsville in Sangamon County in 1823. Several years afterwards, they returned to Elkhart Hill, where Mr. Davis laid out the town of Elkhart. His daughter, Judith, married Oramel Clark, an officer in the war of 1812 and a resident at one time of Kaskaskia, Illinois' territorial and first state capital. Benjamin F. Davis was a Baptist preacher and one of the first ministers in the county. He removed to Norwood, Kansas. Aquilla Davis died Aug. 23, 1832 and Mrs. Davis died Jan. 23, 1833, both near Elkhart.
Some time in November, 1821, Erastus Wright came to Elkhart Grove and taught school there, at James Latham's, during the winter of 1821-2. He was therefore the first school teacher in Logan County. He came of an old line New England family, was born Jan. 21, 1779, in Massachusetts and went with his family to Vermont, when he was three years old. In the spring of 1821, he and his brother Charles, started west. They travelled as best they could, principally by stage coach, to Buffalo, N. Y., then by schooner to Fort Dearborn, now Chicago, then on foot, making a preliminary survey of the route now occupied by the Illinois and Michigan canal, touching the Illinois River, near where LaSalle now stands. They then descended the Illinois River to Fort Clark, now Peoria, then to James Latham's, at Elkhart Grove, and then to Springfield, arriving there Nov. 21, 1821. On their way south, they stopped at Fancy Creek, near Williamsville, in what is now Sangamon County, at the house of John Dixon, who afterwards laid out the city of Dixon, Ill. Springfield had just been selected as the county seat, in the preceding April, but no town had as yet been laid out. A log court house had just been completed. Mr. Wright described the new town, in the following words : "Elijah Iles had about $5oo worth of goods in a log cabin, ten by fourteen; Charles R. Matheny and John Kelly lived in log cabins, not a quarter of a mile distant; the Indians, Kickapoos and Pottawattomies, often came along in squads, and when others had built cabins near by, the Indians called the place Log-town." After a few days in Springfield, Mr. Wright came back to Elkhart Grove, and taught school for the Lathams, as before stated. He afterwards went to Sangamon County and was elected school commissioner, which office he held for ten years. He also built the first frame house in Springfield. Later he laid out the town of Mineral Point, Wis., using a bed cord for a chain. He was engaged in the real estate business during most of his life, having an office in Lincoln, as well as in Springfield. He laid out the "town of West Lincoln," now Lincoln Hill addition to the City of Lincoln. He first married Jane Gardner, of New York, the marriage taking place in Fulton County, June .15, 1831. They had three children: Eliza Ann, born July 2, 1833, married Oct. 20, 1858, to Rev. John A. Hamilton; James G., born March 20, 1835, married Sarah A. Wilbourn, died in Lincoln, Nov. 16, 1858; Maria Jane, born Nov. 14, 1837, married Dec. 23, 1856, to Robert P. Johnston. Mr. Wright's first wife died Jan. 24, 1841. He married Lucy Barrows, who 'died without issue, April 22, 1867, and was again married in Lincoln, March 23, 1868, to Mrs. Lucy F. Carpenter, nee Johnson. Mr. Wright was crushed to death, by being run over by a passenger train, at the C. & A. depot, in Springfield, Nov. 21, 1870.
The spring of 1822 marked the simultaneous advent, in what is now Logan County, of the progenitors of two well known and numerous Logan County families, the Buckles and the Birks. John Buckles, the ancestor of the former family, was born in Virginia, in 1772, while Virginia was still a colony of England and George the Third was King. In 1795, he married Anna Vandeventer, and sometime after, they moved to Tennessee. While Illinois was still a territory, and about the year 1812, they moved again, this time, to what is now White ,County, in the State of Illinois. There were born to Mr. and Mrs. Buckles, nine children, the eldest of whom was Robert, who was born April 29, 1796, in Tennessee. About the time, that John and Anna Buckles moved to White County, Illinois, there came to the same county, Jeremiah Birks and wife, from the State of Georgia. In 1818, Robert Buckles, son of John Buckles, married a daughter of Jeremiah Birks, Mary Birks, better known as "Polly." Soon after this marriage, the Birks moved to Arkansas, and in 1822, Robert and Mary Buckles decided to join them there, and did so, making the trip on horseback, each carrying a small child, (Jeremiah and William R.), over the uninhabited prairies of Illinois, across the almost impassable swamps of the Mississippi Valley and, through the timber of Missouri, to the then wilds of Arkansas, a distance of 800 miles. Not being attracted by that country, they all decided to try the country "along the Sangamo," of which they had heard. Robert Buckles and wife made the -trip back to Illinois, in the same manner in which they had made the trip to Arkansas, Jeremiah Birks and family coming along in a two-horse wagon. Reaching the Sangamon, they crossed it and came north, locating at the mouth of Lake Fork in May or June of 1822, where Mr. Birks bought out James Chapman's claim and improvements, as before noted, the "improvements" being a log cabin. Mr. Birks began, at once, pioneer life in Illinois, but Robert Buckles and wife returned to White County, coming back, however, to the Lake Fork country, in the fall of the same year, where Mr. Buckles built a very small log cabin, near the Birks' home. Mr. Birks moved farther over up Lake Fork, that fall, however, and the long dreary winter was passed by Mary Buckles, in a log room, ten feet square, floored with puncheon, windowless and with a mud chimney. The roof of the cabin was of stakes, riven from the forest timber. The family lived on game and fish. In the spring of 1823, Mr. Buckles moved to the farm where he died, upon which there was a log house, which was an improvement on the one above described, and in this, the family lived several years. Soon after, Robert Buckles' parents, John and Anna Buckles, came to what is now Logan County, remained about ten years and then moved to. McLean County, near the village of Leroy. Here they lived the remainder of their days, John Buckles passing away in 1842, and Anna Buckles in 1857.
For more than a quarter of a century, Mary Buckles did without a cookstove, doing all the cooking in an open fire place. Many a day did she walk over a mile to her father's house, spin and weave all day, walk home and repeat it next day and so on, meanwhile caring for a large family. Both cotton and flax were raised by the early Logan County pioneers, the cotton being ginned by hand, by being placed before a fire, until the seeds would fall out. Then it was carded, spun, woven, colored and made into garments wholly by hard labor and about the same tedious method was taken with flax. In 1826, Mr. Buckles enlisted in the Winnebago War, doing good service. On his return, he devoted his time to raising cattle and driving them to distant markets, Galena, St. Louis and Chicago. He drove cattle to the latter place, when it was a small trading post in the swamp. On these trips, he frequently slept nights on the open prairie. He often met Indians, who, at times, caused him uneasiness and trouble. The following letter written to the Logan County Old Settlers' Association, in 1880, by Mary Buckles, will be of interest. She says:
"When I first started out to find a home, I rode 800 miles on horseback. We moved out here in 1822 and lived that winter by the mouth of the Lake. The house we Jived in, was made of logs split, and notched at the end, and laid together. The way we got our bread in those days, was to beat the corn into meal and then make our bread and boil our hominy. We came to Illinois, in October, and I never saw the face of a white woman until in March, except my step-mother. We moved in the spring, up on the Lake, where Jerry Buckles now lives. We lived in the frontier house, until my husband died. I have seen as many as a hundred Indians camped together down where William Buckles lives. The Indians used to stop at our house, when they were out hunting, and wanted something to eat. Sometimes my husband would be away from home and just myself and the little children there. It would make my very heart ache, but I always gave them something to eat, to get shut of them. When we came through Springfield, there was but one store and that was Major Iles'. We got our first grindings at Buffalo Hart and Elkhart. It was ground by a horse mill. My husband volunteered and went to the war, to fight the Indians, in 1826, and I was left alone with five little children, — not a man on the place. Elizabeth Ann Copeland was the first child I had born in this county. I had an aunt who died in March, 1824. The way they made her a coffin, was to cut down a walnut tree, on the place, where we lived, and dig it out and bury her in it. She was interred at William Buckles' graveyard.
"We raised a large family of children, and, for fourteen years never had a doctor in the house. I had fifteen children and raised fourteen, until they were grown and married. In those days, we clothed our children by spinning and weaving. We wove coverlets, blankets, jeans, flannels and everything we wore. Instead of pianos, organs and sewing machines, we had looms and spindles. We did all our own coloring. Children had no chance to get an education in those days, and we only had three months school in a year. We had no preaching for a long time after we came here, and the first preaching I ever heard was at old Grandfather Turley's. Then we next opened our doors for a meeting. Bob Foster was the first who held a three days' meeting at our house; then A. J. Kane, of Springfield, had a three days' meeting, out under the shade trees. Folks were not as particular then, as they are now, for they would come from Buffalo and Sangamon and from all around. We couldn't set as fine a table then, as we do now, but we always had plenty to eat. I haves-had from eighteen to twenty persons to stay all night with us, when they came up to meeting. Now if I were young again, and had a family to raise and knew there was such a country as this, I would be willing to go through it all again. Although I had a very hard time, I never regret it, on account of my children."
Robert Buckles died Feb. 18, 1866, in his seventieth year. Mary Buckles, who was born in Georgia, May 26, 1803, survived hers husband over twenty years. She died Oct. 19, 1888. At the time of her death, she had been the ancestor of 15 children, 138 grandchildren, 125 great-grandchildren and 7 great-great-grandchildren, nearly all of whom were living at that time, 285 in all. Both Robert and Mary Buckles were interred in the Steenbergen Cemetery. William R. Buckles, their oldest son, was born in White County, Ill., July io, 1819, being three years old, when he came, with his. parents, to the Lake Fork. He was one of the most sucecssful hunters among all the early settlers. He located on the farm where he died. He was married Oct. 12, 1841, to Mary A. Scroggin, daughter of Carter T. Scroggin. To them were born six children. William R. Buckles died Feb. 11, 1885, and his wife died in 1891. They were buried in the Carlyle Cemetery. Jeremiah Buckles was born in 1820, also in White County and came, with his parents, to Logan County, in 1822. He was married at the age of 22, to Mary Copeland, and to this union, ten children were born. He died Oct. 11, 1885, and is buried in the Steenbergen Cemetery.
John Buckles was born Oct. 7, 1822, in White County, Ill. When only three weeks old, he came with his parents to what is now Logan County. When 24 years of age, he was engaged by John Slaughter, an extensive stockman, to aid in driving cattle to New York. He made two trips, one in 1846 and another in a year later. It consumed one hundred days in going and thirty days returning. Mr. Buckles' job was to lead the leading ox and he made this distance, from Illinois to New York on foot. He was married in December of 1847, to Esther Jane Scroggin, another daughter of Carter T. Scroggin. A few days following the marriage, they moved to a frame house, three miles southwest of Mt. Pulaski, built entirely by Mr. Buckles, the timbers being made by his own hands. John Buckles died July 6, 1909, his wife, Esther Buckles, having preceded him to the other world, some five years before. Elizabeth Buckles was born in 1824 and was married to S. M. Copeland. Levina Buckles was born in 1826 and married in 1840 to Leonard K. Scroggin. She died in 1863 and was buried in the Steenbergen Cemetery. Andrew Buckles was born Dec. 20, 1829, and married Elizabeth Whitesides in 1857. Peter Buckles was born in 1829, and died when nine years of age. Chalton C. Buckles was born in 1832 and married Elizabeth Turley. In 1879, while hunting in the woods, he sought shelter from a storm, under a tree. Lightning struck the tree and he was instantly killed. His wife died in 1876, and both are buried in the Steenbergen Cemetery. Mary Buckles was born in 1834 and was married to Caleb Lucas. He died some years after, leaving the widow and one child to survive him. Mary Buckles was married a second time, her second husband being Abner Copeland. Robert Buckles was born in 1836, and in 1865 married Lucy Turley. Wiley Buckles was born in 1838. Two years after returning from the war, he married Sarah Phillippe. Three years later, in 1870, she died, leaving no children. He remarried several years after. He died in 1888 and is buried at Champaign, Ill. Henry H. Buckles was born in 1840, married Emily Sams and moved to Kansas. Elmira Buckles was born in 1844, married W. R. Sams and also moved to Kansas, where she died in 1895. Sarah Buckles was born in 1842 and married Henry Freeman. Lucinda Buckles was born in 1846 and married D. D. Handlin.
The circumstances connected with the arrival of Jeremiah Birks in Logan County, have already been recited. His first wife was Elizabeth Brown, by whom he had eight children: Mary, Rial, Riley, Levina, David, Rolland, Sarah and Betsy, all of whom came with him to Logan County in 1822. His second wife was Rhoda Collins, a daughter of Hugh Collins, the latter having also settled on Lake Fork, in the twenties. To this union were born six children: Isom, Sarah, Riley, Ann, Permelia and Richard. Jeremiah Birks was one of the first to break up prairie land in Logan County. He was also one of the greatest deer hunters in early Central Illinois. His first claim was at the mouth of the Lake Fork, but he sold this and moved to near the present site of Lake Fork station. Later, he moved to the Steenbergen farm, which he bought of his father-in-law, Hugh Collins, and on which he built a two-story, double log house, 20 by 24, with kitchen addition. Mr. Birks was a prime mover in laying out the cemetery on this farm, ever since known as the Steenbergen Cemetery, and which is now his own final resting place. The history of his oldest daughter, Mary, otherwise known as "Polly," has already been given, she having been the wife of Robert Buckles. Rolland Birks was born in White County, Ill., Dec. 23, 1814, and was first married to Mary Vandeventer, who died Aug. 20, 1876, leaving five children. His second wife was Mrs. Elizabeth Montgomery, widow of John Montgomery, of Knoxville, Tenn. Isom Birks was born March 12, 1820, in Missouri. He was married in 1839, to Mary Lucas, daughter of John Lucas. David and Richard Birks moved to Iowa. All of the children of Jeremiah Birks are now dead.
About the same year that the Birks and Buckles located on the Lake Fork, the Downings are said to have settled on Salt Creek. They consisted of John and Hannah Downing, and their sons, Robert and James. John Downing was a native of Pennsylvania, where he married Hannah Frakes. Later they moved to Ross County, Ohio. The oldest son, Robert, was born in Pennsylvania, Dec. 3, 1793, and moved with his parents, to Ohio. Here, he was married to Jane Morrow, a native of New York. In 1822, he decided to prospect for a new location in Illinois. He and his wife, his father and mother, and his brother and family all embarked in covered wagons and crossed the then wilderness of Indiana. They came to what is now Logan County, and settled in the extreme northeastern corner of what is now Mt. Pulaski Township, locating a claim. Prior to coming here, Robert Downing had enlisted in the War of 1812, serving seyeral months in that early conflict. After coming to Illinois, Robert Downing began pioneer life in an unhewn log house, floored with puncheon and roofed with clapboards. During the first year, the cornmeal they used was "pounted" on a log by means of a spring pole and a wooden pestle. In 1824, he hauled a load of oats and a quantity of butter to Chicago, receiving three "bits" for the oats and one "bit" for the butter. In 1826, he went to the "lead regions" of Galena, where he spent two years and where he found pork worth $18 and flour $12 per barrel. One pair of boots lasted him all this time and those he made himself, from a rudely cut and sewed cow-hide. He died June 14, 1887, at the residence of his son, Lorenzo D. Downing, aged over ninety-three years. His wife, Jane Downing, died in May, 1882, aged eighty years. Of their children, John M. was born September 22, 1822, and died in McLean County fifty-seven years later; Hannah was born March 3, 1825; Mary was born August 3, 1827, married George Roberts, and moved to Iowa ; Lorenzo D. was born December 27, 1829, and his first wife was Angeline E., daughter of John Shoup, who died a few months after the marriage; Alexander was born February 26, 1832; Melita was born March 26, 1834, and married Thomas Downing in 1853 ; Henry C. was born August 30, 1836, and died from injuries received in the Civil war; Elizabeth was born February 24, 1839, and married Samuel Downing; Delilah was born February 10, 1842, and married David Shellhamer; Robert Hardin was born August 9, 1844: James Downing, brother of Robert, also came to Logan County with the family in 1822. He was born in Madison County, Ohio, in 1805. He married Ruth Morrow, who was a native of New York. She died in November, 188i. In October, 1882, James Downing moved to Sumner County, Kansas, to live with his son, Josiah, at which place he died in 1884. His family consisted of six children: John E., a Mexican war veteran, who was born June Jo, 1826, and who married Elizabeth Roberts; Mary E., who married Thomas C. Fletcher; Martha J., who married George W. Ripley and moved to Kansas; Hannah, who married David Bowles and also moved to Kansas ; and Melita, wife of John Syke, who moved to Nebraska.
This page is "Earliest Settlers" on the Logan County, Illinois, ILGenWeb site. The address of this page is http://logan.illinoisgenweb.org/earliestsettlers.html.