Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
Settlements were first made in Sangamon county before any white settlement was made in the bounds of Menard county, and Menard was a part of Sangamon until 1839. There are conflicting statements as to who was the first settler. John Clary claims to be the first as far back as 1819, just as it became a state. He settled near Tallula, and Clary's Grove takes its name from him. He built the first house in the grove and a number of houses were built soon after. The houses built by the first settlers were very rude affairs. Not a nail was used, nor a pane of glass. Directly after Clary settled in the grove the Armstrong's, Green's and Spears' settled west of the Sangamon. Soon after Sugar Grove was settled. About the same time Charles Montgomery and Alexander meadows were among the first settlers east of the Sangamon river. James Meadows and Jacob Bozer came to Sugar grove in 1819. They came from the American Bottom above Alton. Meadows had one wagon drawn by two horses, one milk cow, and a yoke of yearling steers and thirty head of hogs. Bozer brought three head of horses, two milch cows and a yoke of oxen. The Blaine family came next. This family were of Irish blood and Irish Grove was named after them. The Blaines brought two span of horses and six yoke of oxen. They soon built cabins and were probably in the grove when Clary settled in Clary's Grove.
The Blaine's took claims, erected cabins, and began to grow up with the country. As above stated, Meadows had brought two horses and thirty head of hogs and a yoke of yearling steers with him to the grove. In a few months the horses were missing and the hogs strayed away and were lost. In a short time one of the calves was found dead. Search was made, as it was difficult to replace the stock without a great deal of expense. Meadows applied to a fortune teller to learn what had become of the horses and hogs. He told Meadows that the horses were in the possession of the Indians and that he would get them back one at a time. Sure enough, the horses were found in the possession of the Indians who claimed to have traded for them with a Frenchman. The horses were so worn out that they soon died. The hogs, he told Meadows, had gone down the Sangamon river and one-half had been eaten. Meadows followed his directions. He finally found and recovered part of his hogs. The early settler put a great deal of confidence in fortune tellers. Soon another caravan of emigrants came to the grove, among whom were John Jennison and William McNabb. James McNabb, son of William, taught the first school in the county. He was also a surveyor. He was drowned while trying to swim the Sangamon river with his compass tied to his head. Soon after Ben Wilcox and others came from Kentucky. Mr. Pentacost settled near the place where Marbold now lives. I was born on Henry Marbold's farm. My father moved to Sugar Grove in an early day. The house used to be owned by Alex. Meadows. Marbold told me that the house stood there till about twenty years ago. The Indians had their camps along Salt Creek and they used to come out to Sugar Grove to get milk. William Engle and Leonard Alkire moved to the grove in an early day. They were prominent farmers and their descendants still exert a great influence to this day. Bill Engle was an all-around man. He kept a store at Sweet Water for many years. He was also a great politician, an old line democrat of the Jacksonian style. Engle and Alkire being men of means, soon began to buy out claims. John Jennison farmed a year or so in the grove and then moved to Baker's Prairie. The tide of emigration now began to flow in, bringing in a host of a hardy and industrious class of people, forming a thrifty class. The first marriage was John Jennison to Patsy McNabb. The second was Mr. Hennar and Rosina Blaine. The third, William Engle and Melissa Alkire. The first death was an infant son of Bozer. The second death was James Blaine. The third was Joseph Kenney, who was buried in Sugar Grove cemetery and an elm tree grew up out of the grave and is now a large tree. The first school house was built in Sugar Grove in 1822, and was built by Meadows, Bayer, Wilcox and McNabb. It was built of split logs and was sixteen by sixteen, covered with clap boards held to their place by weight poles; the house was as good as any in the country. The seats were a log split and four pins for legs, a log left out for a window, the pens all made of goose quills, and the scholars kept the teacher one-half the time making or mending goose quills, and the teacher always carried half a dozen quills behind his ear. The books were the old English readers or the testament. In arithmetic the scholars hardly ever got past the single rule of three. Grammar was a dead language for a number of years till the advent of Mentor Graham in the country. A grammar teacher organized a class and assisted the scholars in their first lesson. The first reaching in Sugar Grove was by the Campbellites. William Engle was a preacher of that order and most of the settlers were of that order. Peter Cartright used to say that they had a way to heaven fifteen hundred miles shorter than any other sect and all the way by water. The nearest doctor was Springfield. Dr. Winn was the first doctor. He settled near Indian Point and practiced medicine in an early day, but finally moved up near Waynesville.
Indian Point, about half way between Sugar Grove and Athens, was the center of a lot of emigrants. This was settled in 1820. The first settler at Indian Point was Robert White. Near his house was the Lebanon camp ground. Old Robert White was a brother of James White, who settled near Tallula. Soon came James Williams. He had two sons. Jake Williams, a blooded cattle raiser, was the first man to introduce the short horn cattle. Another son, Col. John Williams went to Springfield and was identified with important improvements. Among his daughters were Canedy Kincaid's wife and Abraham Goodpasture's wife. The Moore's and the Scotts' were a numerous family. Old Billy Short came in an early day. He sometimes practiced law before the lower courts. He was a man of limited education and when in controversy on some limited point would call for his opponent to show the statutes. The settlement at Indian Point was one of the most important made in the county, and many descendants of the pioneers still live in the fame of their ancestors. Perhaps there is no locality in Menard county where as many of their children and even to the third generation live, as at Indian Point.
Having thus sketched the centers of the three first settlements in the county, the most important locality was what was called in an early day New Salem. This was the first town laid out in the county. This town was laid out where the Sangamon river washes the foot of a hill or bluff whose sides and level summit were at an early day covered with a heavy growth of white oak timber. The country back from the crest of the hill is level for miles. To the westward the timber continues back from the river for a mile in a dense forest, beyond which the prairie continues unbroken for miles.
On the south, Rock Creek, a small stream, but large enough for the rude water-mill of an early day, comes into the Sangamon from the west. This creek was also covered on its sides with a fine growth of timber. Just on the brow of the bluff, in years long gone by, was situated the village of New Salem. This deserted village will in time become as historic as Mt. Vernon. Although the Sangamon will not compare with the Potomac, yet Salem is as sacred to the lovers of liberty as Mt. Vernon in all her historic glory. Many visitors from Kentucky and Tennessee come to the spot where Abraham Lincoln spent the days of his early manhood, where he studied law, wrestles and romped with young men of his age, and were he imbibed principles, which in after years, made him the idol of the American people, and where he wrote his name high on the scroll of fame in tablets more enduring than granite, brass or bronze. They are disappointed in not finding any vestige of Salem. Even the old millet the foot of the hill is gone and scarcely a vestige of the dam remains. Only one land mark remains. This is Jacob's Well. This well was made by Jacob Bale and is still walled up with rock. It appears indestructible; covered with a lot of old railroad ties it remains as a reminder of old Salem sixty years ago. Settlements had been made in the vicinity a few years before Salem had been laid out. William Green, Ned Potter, the Jones' and Hugh Armstrong had moved southwest a few miles, while Tarleton Lloyd had settled up farther to the south on Rock Creek.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson