Pioneers of Menard & Mason Counties|
Including Personal Reminiscens of
Abraham Lincoln & Peter Cartwright
By T.G. Onstot, 1902
The village of Athens is situated in the southeastern part of the county, and next to Salem and Petersburg is the oldest town within the bounds of Menard county. The village side is a level plain and the country around it is the most prosperous land in the state. Wood and coal are found in inexhaustible quantities. The coal lies within one hundred feet of the top of the ground. The town of Athens was surveyed and platted. In laying out the town forty acres were platted and additions from time to time have been made. Two cabins were built. One for a residence, the other for a blacksmith shop, by a man named Clarge. Col. Matthew Rodgers built the first house of any importance. John Overstreet was the first merchant of the village, having purchased the stock of Harry Riggins. Jonathan Dunn was the second merchant of the village. In 1833 Harry Riggins and Amberry Rankin opened a store, but soon sold out to Martin Morgan. James D. Allen and Simon Clark were the next merchants. In 1839 Sebastian Stone became a partner of Allen's and remained in business for some time. The goods in those days were all hauled from St. Louis by ox teams and it took several days to make the trip. The arrival of a few loads of goods was a great event of the day. The people came from far and near to see these new goods. Athens had from the start to compete with Springfield in competition with the trade. It was not until the opening up of the coal interest that Athens began to leap forward in the race for mercantile supremacy. In the year of 1834 Overstreet ground up a flat-boat of flour and in company with Jesse and David Hunt shipped it to New Orleans. In early days Athens was noted for its pottery factories. Crocks and jugs were manufactured and sent in peddler wagons all over the state for sale. All kinds of produce were taken in exchange and farmers all around Athens when the wanted to raise a little money they would go to Athens and get a load of crockery and return with the produce and trade. Money was scarce and trade and barter were the order of the day. So the pioneers of early days, while they had to submit to many privations, were a happy people and contented wit their lot.
Up the Sangamon river, south of Miller's Ferry, K. Watkins holds the fort. While on the east of the road to Petersburg lives Squire Masters and George Kirby, both well up to ninety years old, Reason Shipley lived near the river. A little farther south was the old Concord Church, around which lived James Pantier, William Rutledge, Samuel Berry and a score of Clarys, while on the Sangamon river lived Anno Ritter. Here is where my father would buy a dozen white oak trees in the spring for stave timber and cut them in the spring when the bark would peel and get enough bark off the trees to pay for them. Anno Ritter was surveyor of Menard county for one term and died on his farm as was a respected citizen.
Gregory Lukins lived in the "forties" between Ritter's and Petersburg on the Harris place.
Transcribed by:Brenda Hamilton Johnson