1879 History of Menard & Mason Counties
Chicago
Published by: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Mason County

Early Settlement
Page 589

As has already been stated, the timbered area of Manito Township was of limited extent. Black Oak Grove in the northeast, Coon Grove on Sections 31 and 32, together with the outskirts of Long Point Timber on the extreme western boundary, comprise the timbered district, with the exception of a small grove on Section 30, not exceeding six acres in extent, called Walnut Grove, from the character of the timber found there. And as in other portions of our Western country, the earliest settlements and improvements are found in and along the outskirts of the timber, so, likewise, the earliest settlements were made here in the groves of this township. No matter how unproductive the soil along the timber line, nor how rich and fertile the broad acres of out-stretching prairie might be a few miles away, the early pioneer built his rude log cabin near the timber and began the work of opening up his farm, leaving for those who should succeed him after the lapse of a decade or more of years, the most productive and finest farming lands in all his section of territory. Among the earliest, if not the earliest settler of the township, was one William Herron, who settled as early as 1838 or 1839, just east of the present village of Manito, on the farm now owned by John Woodworth. He had emigrated from Ohio to Mackinaw, Tazewell County, some years earlier, and from Mackinaw to Mason County, and settled in the edge of Black Oak Grove, as before stated. A maiden sister kept his house for him. He lived the life of a bachelor and, dying, was buried on the farm on which he settled. Few, if any now living, can point out the exact spot where repose the mortal remains of Manito's earliest settler. To him may be applied most fittingly the words of the poet:
"Not in the churchyard's hallowed ground,
Where marble columns rise around.
By willow or by cypress shade,
Are thy poor mortal relics laid.
Thou sleepest here, all, all alone-
No other grave is near thine own.
'Tis well,' tis, well, but oh, such fate
Seems very, very desolate."

At or near the same time came Setphen W. Porter, accompanied by his wife, and settled near the edge of the pond now included within the corporate limits of the village of Manito. Porter was a nephew of Herron's, and came here from Mackinaw. He continued to live in this section of the county up to the date of his demise. A man by the name of Ray came from New York and settled in Coon Grove, or rather between Coon Grove and Long Point timber, on the farm now owned by W. H. Cogdell, as early as 1840. He built a log cabin and was the third permanent settler in the township. Soon after coming, he planted a quantity of appleseeds, and from the seedlings thus raised put out the first apple orchard made in this section of the county. The line of the P., P. & J. R. R. passes through this orchard a short distance northeast of Forest City. There yet remain a few of the trees planted by the hands of the early settler nearly forty years ago. After a few years' residence, he sold out his possessions and started back to the Empire State, but sickened and died on the way. As an evidence that labor was cheap and money scarce with the early settlers, it may be stated that the making of rails could be contracted for two bits or 25cents per hundred, and the pay was taken in meat at 12 cents per pound, two pounds paying for the labor of making one hundred rails. Of settlers in the township as early as 1845, the following names occur: Abel Maloney, Layton Rice, George Baxter, John Davis, King Hibbard, James Green, Thomas Landreth, Zeno Ashmon, William Mayes, Douglas Osborne, Alexander and Wesley Brisbaur. Maloney came originally from the old Dominion and settled in Menard in 1838. In 1841, he came to Manito Township and settled in Coon Grove near the location of Union Station, on the P., P. & J. R. R. He was in poor circumstances when he came, but accumulated means rapidly and was considered wealthy at the time of his death, which event occurred in 1849. His son William and his daughter, Mrs. Robert M. Cox, at present reside in the village of Manito. Rice came from Kentucky and first settled in Menard, but, in 1842, came to Coon Grove and began the improvement of a farm. George Baxter was from Kentucky, and "squatted" in the edge of Long Point timber as early as 1843. He was somewhat noted among the early settlers but not by any means popular, as his preconceived notions of the eternal fitness of all things had led him to form a matrimonial alliance with one of Kentucky's ebon daughters, whom he made the sharer of his sorrows and the doubler of his joys. He had come to this great and growing State, where he might enjoy the society of his loved companion and the comforts of his home unmolested, where, figuratively speaking, he might worship beneath his own vine and fig-tree, but soon it seems the red hand of persecution was raised against him. Robert Green entered him out in 1845, and he next located west of Simmond's Mills, in Quiver Township. Green followed him up, and, a few years later, he moved with his fair bride to the State of Missouri, and was seen no more in this goodly land. The year 1843 brought into the settlement Davis, Hibbard and Green. Davis was from Virginia, and had first settled in Menard before coming to Mason County. He settled the farm now known as the Randolph farm, and had, at the date of his settlement, a family of four girls and three boys. He is remembered among the old settlers as the man who never was seen wearing a pair of gloves or mittens. No matter how inclement the weather, his labor was always performed bare-handed. Hibbard came from Mackinaw, and settled at the north end of Black Oak Grove. After a residence of a few years, he sold out, purchased three yoke of oxen from Thomas Landreth and started by the overland route for Oregon. As he was never heard of afterward, it is presumed that both he and his family fell victims to the unerring rifle or tomahawk of the noble red man of the forest. James Green came from Menard County to Coon Grove, but, a few years later, returned to his former residence. About the same date, Indiana furnished to the population Zeno Ashmore and a brother named Calvin, the latter popularly known far and wide as "Jefunky." The Ashmores are represented as being rather shiftless in their dispositions. Zeno settled and lived for a time on what is known as the McHarry place, a part of which is included in the present limits of the village of Manito. "Jefunky" lived around promiscuously for a number of years and finally located in Washington, Tazewell County, where he died some eight or ten years ago. Thomas Landreth came from Virginia and settled at Mackinaw, Tazewell County, as early as 1824 or 1825. In 1844, he came to Coon Grove, Mason County, where for $200 he purchased the claim of Layton Rice. Rice returned to Menard County, and now resides not far from Mason City. Landreth became a permanent settler, remaining until his decease. At the date of his coming, he had a family of six children. He was twice married and was the father of twenty-two children. His son, John S. Landreth, is now a citizen of Manito Village. William Mayes and Douglas Osborne were from Kentucky, and the Brisbaurs from Mackinaw. These came in during the year 1845. Mayes was familiarly known as "Hame-Legs" Mayes, a name applied to him on account of his excessive bow-leggedness. Of the Brisbaurs, it may be stated that in quite an early day, Alexander removed to Texas and Wesley to Oregon. While this portion of the county did not rapidly increase in population till some years later, nevertheless there was annually a steady, healthy increase. As early as 1850, we may add to the list of names already given, those of Jacob Jacobs and family, James Overton, Amos Ganson, William and Nult Green, and that of Col. Robert S. Moore. Jacobs was from New York and Overton from Kentucky. Amos Ganson settled in Egypt, southeast of Manito, and opened a blacksmith-shop, the first in the township. Col. Moore was originally from Kentucky. His parents settled in Sangamon (now Menard) County, in 1837. He was a soldier in the Mexican war, and participated in the battles of Vera Cruz, Cerro Gordo, etc. He located his land warrant in Manito Township, and became a resident of the county in April, 1849. He was the founder of the village of Spring Lake, a village established at the head of a small lake of the same name, near the boundary line between Tazewell and Mason Counties. He built a grain warehouse here as early as 1850 or 1851, and engaged in buying and shipping grain. John Pemberton, Emery Hall, Matthew Langston, James M. Langston, M. W. Rodgers, James K. Cox and his son Robert M. Cox, Riley Morris and John O. Randolph were citizens of Manito Township as early as 1851. Pemberton and Hall may possible have come as early as 1849. The others all came in 1850, except the Coxes, who came in 1851. The Langstons came from Tennessee to that part of Morgan County afterward included within the limits of Scott County, and from Scott to Mason. Rodgers was from Kentucky. The Langstons and Rodgerses purchased the pre-emption rights and improvements of James McCoy, who had settled just across the line in that part of Tazewell County lying east of Manito Township. Matthew Langston had served in the war with Mexico, and laid his land warrant in Section 1, Manito Township. James M. Langston located in the same section, and Rodgers just north of the Langstons, on section 35. These were among the earliest settlements made on the prairie any considerable distance from the timber. Joseph Leese settled in the immediate neighborhood in the summer of 1850. He came from England, and, after a residence of fourteen or fifteen years, sold out and returned to his native land. James K. Cox was a native of Virginia. In 1810, he emigrated to Tennessee, thence to Madison County, Ill., in 1819. From there he removed to Morgan County in 1822, and, in 1851, to Mason County, locating on the site of the present village of Manito. During the years 1851, 1852, 1853, 1854 and 1855, the prairie portion of the township settled up very rapidly, so that any attempt to give the names of settlers and the order of their coming in would be utterly vain. With this somewhat hasty glance at the early settlements of the township, we will proceed at once to note, somewhat, the general appearance of the country as it appeared to the early pioneer, and some of the many difficulties with which he had to contend in procuring and establishing a home for himself and those dependent upon him.

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