Other Events and Incidents
The greater part of the early history of this township is so closely interwoven with that of the city of Havana, that it will be given under that head. Indeed, there is very little, aside from the settlements made within its limits, to write about. The notice of early settlers, both in the city and township, is given in the preceding pages, so as to avoid repetition in the chapter devoted to the city of Havana. The first schools, churches, stores, post office, etc., etc., were at Havana, and will be more fully noticed in that connection. With a brief sketch of some incidents belonging more particularly to the township history, we will turn our attention to a review of the county's metropolis.|
One of the first mills in Havana Township, outside of the city, was built on the opposite side of Quiver Creek, from the present McHarry Mill. It was put up by Charles Howell, Julius Jones and William Pollard, in 1842. It was a saw-mill only. About 1845, they sold it to McHarry, who erected a grist-mill on the south side of the creek. The building of this mill was an event of great interest to the people, and Mr. Hurley, who helped "raise" the edifice, informed us that men came eighteen and twenty miles to lend their assistance, in order to have a mill nearer home than those in Fulton or Menard Counties. This mill was afterward burned, when Mr. McHarry put up his present mill upon the same site. It is one of the best mills in Mason County; is a three-story frame edifice, with four run of buhrs, and is driven by water-power, which does not fail through the entire year.
The first preachers in this section of the country were the Methodist itinerants, Peter Cartwright and Michael Shunk. The following incident is related by Mr. Dieffenbacher, of the organization of the first church society in the county: "He spent a few weeks in the cabin of Jesse Brown, until he could get his own ready for use, and one day, while at work in the yard, a man rode up and asked him if they ever had any preaching there. He told him he had heard none since he left Pennsylvania. He was then asked if he would allow him to preach there. Dieffenbacher pointed to Mr. Brown (who was a very profane man), and told him that was the owner, that he had no house as yet. The man then asked Brown if he might preach there, and Brown told him that the women were getting dinner; if he would wait till after dinner, he might preach, and in the mean time he would feed his horse. That man was Michael Shunk, and, after dinner, he preached to the four families (Dieffenbacher's, Brown's, Eli Fisk's and Charles Howell's), who then composed the neighborhood. He left an appointment to preach there again in eight weeks. Soon after this, several families arrived from Pennsylvania, among them Judge McReynolds, who built a residence, in which he set apart a large room for church purposes, and which was so used until the erection of Dieffenbacher's Schoolhouse. This schoolhouse was used as both church and school edifice until 1871, when Mr. Dieffenbacher moved into the city of Havana, and other members united elsewhere.
Pleasant Point Methodist Church is situated about two miles from McHarry's Mill, and was built in 1859-60. It is a frame building, and cost about $2,000. There have been no services held in it for some ten years, owing to the fact that the roads leading to it have been fenced up, and its communication with the neighborhood cut off. A law suit has been instituted for the purpose of reopening them. Much of the early school history belongs also to Havana. Probably, the first school in the township was taught by a daughter of Mr. Dieffenbacher's, in a board shanty put up by him for the purpose, and was patronized by children living four and five miles distant. This was finally superseded by the schoolhouse already mentioned as being so long used as a church. The township has now some ten or twelve comfortable schoolhouses, besides the elegant brick in the city of Havana, so that there is no lack of school facilities, and a good common-school education is within the reach of all alike, both rich and poor.
The first white child born in the township, and perhaps, in Mason County, was a child of Hoakum, who kept the ferry (Hoakum, not the child) for Ross, and occurred about 1829-30. The first deaths and marriages are not remembered. The little mounds in the graveyard show where many pioneers sleep, but do not give the date of their demise. The present population would indicate that not only has there been a first birth, but many others have succeeded it. The early justices of the peace, doctors, blacksmiths, etc., are mentioned in the city's history.
The railroads of Havana Township are the Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville; the Champaign, Havana & Western, formerly known as the extension of the Indianapolis, Bloomington & Western, and the Springfield & North-Western. The last two mentioned terminate at Havana City at present, but all necessary steps have been taken to extend the line of the Champaign, Havana & Western to the Mississippi, and the work, we are told, will be commenced this fall. In addition to these roads, there are two or three contemplated narrow-gauge roads working this way, and will, doubtless, in time, reach this point. But as the railroad history is thoroughly written up by Gen. Ruggles, in another department of this work, we will not repeat it.
Politically, Havana Township and City are Democratic. In the days of Whigs and Democrats, it was very closely divided in politics. During the war, the town was truly loyal and patriotic, and turned out many soldiers, not only "high privates," but officers to lead them to glory and to victory. A full history of their exploits will be found in our war record in another page, to which the reader is referred. The name Havana was given this city and township in honor of the city of Havana, in the Island of Cuba. Our forefathers, otherwise the early settlers of this section, seem to have had a penchant for famous names, as we have in this immediate vicinity Havana, Bath, Matanzas, Moscow, Liverpool, Point Isabel, Long Branch and lastly, the Island of Cuba itself. This is the island just above the steamboat landing, which presents now a kind of barren waste, but at the time of the early settlement of the country, was covered with a magnificent forest. Mr. Low and Mr. Krebaum informed us that when they first knew Havana, there were burr-oaks on the island, five and six feet in diameter, and cotton-=woods a hundred feet in height, besides many other species.