Illustrated Atlas Map of Menard County, Illinois 1874
Published by W.R. Brink & Co., of Illinois

Athens Precinct
Page 18

Matthew Rogers and family were among the very first settlers of this precinct. He made a claim and built a cabin in 1819, about a mile a little east of north of where Athens now stands; into which he moved his family the following year. Three of his children yet reside in the precinct: Henry C., now its oldest citizen, Mrs. (Amberry) Rankin, and Mrs. (Harry) Riggin. The same year (1819), Robert White and William B. Short made claims on which they located, in the same settlement. About the same time, this settlement was increased by Thomas Primm. This was the first settlement north of the Sangamon River. In a very short time a very interesting addition was made to this little pioneer community in the person of Rev. Mr. England, a New Light preacher, who preached the first sermon.

In 1821, another minister, Rev. John Overstreet, a Methodist, cast his lot in with this little community. He proved a valuable citizen--putting up a band horse-mill and a dry goods store, and in 1829 proceeded to lay off the town of Athens. The store, however, was not put in operation till the spring after the "deep snow." Mr. Oromel Clark made a claim and entered it, and put up a blacksmith-shop on the grounds now occupied by Athens before Mr. Overstreet took possession.

From 1821 to 1825 further settlements were made by Abner and Elisha Hall, Abram Tice, Fleming Hall, John N. Moore, William Stanley, Joseph Smith, James Haynes, Benjamin S. Rollins, and John Turner. From 1825 to 1832 there came Elijah Scott, Francis Rayborn, William McDougal, Jacob West, John K. Kincaid, Dr. Charles Winn, and John Moore. Dr. Winn was the first physician. Included in this period is also Mr. Amberry Rankin, a prominent citizen of the County, who came in 1827. Up to 1840 the country lying between the Sangamon and Illinois Rivers was called the Sangamee Country, and afforded, at the time of which we write, such a profusion of vegetation that, as a rule, out-stock needed but little attention in the winter. The people had plenty of everything but money. The postage on a single letter was then twenty-five cents; and people who lived well frequently could not raise the amount required to lift a letter from the post office.

Religion was one of the first interests which occupied the attention of our forefathers, and the first religious society formed in this neighborhood was upon the voluntary basis, to meet the existing spiritual wants of the period. Proud are we to make the record that, as early as 1820, Joseph Smith and wife, James Haynes and wife, and William Holland and wife organized themselves into a class of the Methodist order, under the leadership of Mr. Holland. This was the first religious society formed within the Sangamon country, and constituted the basis of the First M. E. Church. In a short time Rev. James Simms, the first "circuit rider," took charge of this interest. Mr. Simms settled in Rock Creek, and was the first representative of Sangamon County.

The Cumberland Presbyterians organized a church about 1824, the Rev. Mr. Dodds, Rev. John Berry, and Rev. Mr. Campbell assisting. Matthew Rogers built the first barn, in 1826. This was the first frame building, and is yet standing on the farm of Henry Rankin, Esq. Robert White and William Short opened the first farms. Matthew Rogers was the first justice of the peace, and also first postmaster. The first death was Captain Hathaway, in 1822. J. A. Mendall taught the first school. Marain Higgins was the first constable. John Jennison and Martha McNabb were the first married.


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