Scraps Of History
The first "messenger of glad tidings" in the young settlement was Rev. Moses Ray, mentioned among the early settlers. He was of the "Hardshell" Baptist persuasion and used to sing out his sermons to the tune of Old Hundred. His peculiarities are still remembered by the old settlers, how, when well warmed up to his work, and making what he thought a good point, would slap his hands down on his "bow-legs," then fling them aloft in Talmagian style, and sing out, "And my dear bretheren and sisteren, what do you think of that, ah?" Rev. Elisha Stevens and Rev. M. Shunk were Methodist preachers, and the next laborers in the Master's Vineyard. Rev. Mr. Shunk used to preach at the people's cabins, long before there were any churches or schoolhouses. One of his regular preaching places was at Mr. Aaron Scott's, who is alluded to as one of the early settlers of Sherman Township. The first, and the only church edifice in Kilbourne Township is New Lebanon Church, on Section 13, in the east part of the township. It was erected by the Missionary Baptist, during the war, probably in 1863, and is a frame building. The present Pastor is Rev. Mr. Curry. Alexander Dick was the first pedagogue, and taught the first school, in the spring of 1840, in the first schoolhouse built in the township. The house was built by individual contributions of the neighbors, Dr. Field contributing the logs and boards. It will be seen from the material used, that it was the genuine pioneer schoolhouse. Mrs. Blakely mentions a school taught by an old gentleman named Lease, in a cabin built for a residence, but had been vacated, and thinks it the first in the neighborhood. I. A. Hurd was also an early teacher in this section. There are now seven comfortable and commodious frame school buildings in the township, in which schools are maintained during the usual period each year. Kilbourne is full up to the times in its school facilities.|
The first Justice of the Peace in the town was Albert J. Field, and Aaron Ray was the first Constable. The early courts of these gentlemen abounded with incidents sometimes very ludicrous. But as our space will not admit of their repetition here, our readers are referred to Dr. Field, who is a regular walking encyclopedia of early facts and fancies. The first marriage that can be called to mind in the neighborhood was that of Jacob Clotfelter, of Bath, to Mary Garrett, in 1839. They were married by Albert J. Field, Justice of the Peace. Death entered the community the same year, and his victim was "old Becka," the negress before referred to. She was buried not far from the present village of Kilbourne. An old gentleman named Lease, mentioned as an early school teacher, was another of the early deaths. The first birth is believed to have been in the family of John Pratt, though it is not asserted with any degree of certainty.
The first post office was established about the year 1859, near Mr. Gum's residence, and was called Prairie. Albert J. Field was the Postmaster, and the mail was brought by the stage-coach, running between Springfield and Havana. The first effort at merchandising was by William Gore, who kept about a wheelbarrow load of goods in a little cabin some three and a half miles from the present village, and several years before it was laid out as such. This comprised the mercantile trade until the birth of Kilbourne. Dr. Willard Mastick was the first regular physician in the township. In early times the settlers went to Jacksonville, Salem, and Robinson's to mill. Dr. Field says, when they wanted wheat ground they went to Jacksonville, when they wanted it only mashed, they went to Robinson's mill. Absalom Mounts built a little mill on Crane Creek, in the southeast part of this township, very early. It was so constructed that when the water failed in the creek during the dry season, it could be run by horse-power. This mill Mounts finally sold to Sidwell, who added considerable improvements, in fact almost wholly reconstructed it. Under his administration it is thus described: "The buhrs were but a foot in diameter, and the lower, instead of the upper, turned round. When they wanted dressing, Sidwell would take them up, and with them resting on his arm, as a mother would carry her babe, he would dress them off in going to and from the mill. When the mill was running at full speed, he would put a "turn" in the hopper in the morning, go home and work on his farm until afternoon, and then go over to the mill to see how it was getting along. He knew its capacity, and just how long it would take it to grind out a "turn."" But some years later, when a mill was built at Petersburg, no further trouble on this score was experienced.
As stated in the commencement of this chapter, the township of Kilbourne was formed in 1873, from Bath and Crane Creek Townships. Bath comprised nearly three Congressional towns, while Crane Creek embraced about one and a half; and so for the accommodation of the inhabitants in the extreme parts of the towns, this new town was created. Dr. Harvey Oneal, who was active in getting the town laid off, was its first Supervisors by J. M. Hardin; James Conklin is Town Clerk, and J. M. Hardin, School Treasurer. Kilbourne is very nearly divided on the political issues of the day. First one party carried the election, and then the other, with but a few votes difference. During the late war, it was very patriotic, and furnished its full complement of soldiers in advance of all calls for troops. Some of the officers credited to Bath Township rightfully belong to Kilbourne, as they were from that portion of Bath now embraced in this township. Capt. Houghton and Lieut. Raymond were cases in point, but as they are already mentioned in Bath, we will not make any change. Kilbourne Township was named for Kilbourne Village, and Kilbourne Village for Kilbourne Township, and each for the other and both for Edward Kilbourne, of Keokuk, Iowa, one of the principal men engaged in building the Springfield and North-Western Railroad. This road was completed, and trains put on over this part of it, in 1872. As the town was not organized until the road was well under way, or, in fact, nearly completed, no stock could be taken by it. Individual citizens contributed liberally, taking stock ranging in sums from $100 to $4,000. The enterprise of building this road was opposed, and with good grounds, by the people of Bath Township, who saw in its completion a loss of trade to themselves. And while it has benefited a narrow belt of country, it has also been of more or less injury to other sections; a proof that what is the gain of one, is the loss of another.
When the first settlers came to this section, it abounded in deer, prairie wolves, wild turkeys and all other kinds of game. Dr. Field says he has seen one hundred and fifty deer on the prairie at one time, and Mrs. Blakely says it was almost as uncommon then for the people to be without venison in their houses as to be without bread now. Prairie fires were of frequent occurrence, and often of a destructive nature, although no instance of loss of life is remembered to have occurred from them in this immediate vicinity, but narrow escapes were nearly as common as the fires themselves. Dr. Field relates a circumstance of a couple of men who were out hunting deer and wild honey. They had two wagons with them and two horses to each wagon. On the prairie near the Sangamon bottom, the day being calm and but little breeze stirring, they thought to set the grass on fire, and, perhaps, scare up a deer. They had already a considerable quantity of venison and some five hundred pounds of honey in their wagons. They had scarcely fired the prairie when the wind sprang up, veered round, and they were forced to cut their horses, but their wagons, honey and venison were burned. The winter of the sudden freeze (1836-37), is remembered by many and much distress was the result of it, but no one in this neighborhood, so far as we could learn, froze to death. In other portions of Illinois, where this great Manitoba wave swept over, people were less fortunate, and, in our capacity as historian, we have more than once recorded death from its effect. Dr. Field remembers a hailstorm that occurred in 1845, that far exceeded anything of like character that has ever occurred in this latitude. When it was over, the ground was covered several inches in depth with hailstones, many of which were nearly as large as a man's fist. It made a terrible havoc among stock, cattle and hogs being killed by scores. Even trees bore the appearance of having been run through a huge threshing machine. The more timid thought the last day had arrived, that the world was about to be blotted out amid the confusion and thunders of Sinai, and, therefore, fell to praying. (It may be that this saved it.) It passed, however, without any loss of human life, so far as we could learn, notwithstanding much stock was killed.
Mrs. Blakely says, in those days of early privations, there was no money in the country-nothing to sell to bring money, and nowhere to sell it if they had ever so much superfluous produce, except, now and then, a chance to sell something to movers. They went to Springfield to buy their clothing and groceries, when they had anything to buy with. There was a little store in Havana, but it sold goods beyond their reach. As an instance, it sold coffee at "two bits" a pound, and in Springfield it could be bought for "a bit." And yet people, she says, were just as happy then, apparently more so, than at the present day, and far more sociable. "Neighbor" had something of the broad meaning given to it by the Savior of the world eighteen hundred years ago.
Kilbourne has borne the reputation of having been the most quiet, peaceable and order-loving community in this whole section of country. Within the last decade or so, however, it has retrograded somewhat in this respect. Quite a severe blow to its good name occurred in the assassination of a man named Hughes, last October a year ago, just outside the limits of Kilbourne village. Hughes was a perfect desperado, his death a public benefit to the country and richly merited by him, yet no less a stain to those who administered it. He had made threats to the effect that he would kill three men of the neighborhood before quitting it (He was intending to move away on the Sunday after the occurrence). A day or two before that set for his removal from the town, he was found with twenty-two shot in him, and any one of seventeen of them we were informed, would have proved fatal. It may be that the perpetrators of the deed are known, or could be pretty closely guessed at, but, from the character of the murdered man, no one felt disposed to even try to ferret out the assassin or assassins, or to make an effort to bring them to justice. We were told that, during the four years that he lived in the neighborhood, he had fifty-four rows, and it is altogether probable that the people felt a relief when they knew that he was dead.