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Early Explorers & Settlers

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[Source: "History of Calhoun County and its people up to the year 1910"]
by: Carpenter, George Wilbur


The first white men to visit the soil now incorporated in the boundary of Calhoun County were Father Marquette, Louis Joliet, and their companions. Their expedition crossed what is now the state of Wisconsin early in the summer of 1673. On June 17, they reached the mouth of the Wisconsin River and started down the Mississippi. The main purpose of the trip was to determine whether the river emptied into the Gulf of Mexico or the Pacific Ocean. They continued down the river and may have stopped on the western side of what is now Calhoun County, but if they did, they made no note of it in their journals. On the 17th day of July, they reached the mouth of the Arkansas River, and here they learned from the Indians that the Mississippi flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. They then started back but found traveling difficult because of the current of the river.


Both Marquette and Joliet kept a diary on the trip, but most of writings of Joiet were lost when one of the canoes was overturned. The diary of Marquette, part of which is written in French and part in Latin, has been preserved and from it we get much valuable infor- mation concerning the landings of the party. The town of Grafton. in Jersey County, has erected a statue, just above the town, to mark the place where Marquette and Joliet are supposed to have landed. They base their claims upon the fact that Marquette mentions that they entered the mouth of the Illinois River early in the morning, which would mean that th'e party had camped somewhere below the mouth during the previous evening. The territory about Grafton is high and a desirable place to camp, while the land opposite, on the Missouri side is low and swampy and would have made an undesirable camping place.


The next place marked by local historians as a stopping point of the expedition is a place now called "Perrin's Ledge", located sev- eral miles above Kampsville. Their claims seem to be much better. Supported by facts than those claims relating to the previous stop in the Grafton region. From Marquette's diary we get several facts of importance. He says: "We entered the mouth of the Illinois River very early in the morning", and further on he says: "We spent the night with some friendly Indians." From other parts of the diary we find that the party was traveling about twenty -five miles a day up the Mississippi River, but it is likely that they made better time on the Illinois River because there would be less current. If they were traveling at a rate of slightly better than twenty-five miles a day and entered the river early in the morning (this was the last week in August) they would have been in the Kampsville neighborhood by evening.

At the place now called "Perrin's Ledge" several large Indian mounds are to be found and the first settlers in this part of the county found evidences to show that a small Indian village had been located here. Again the place marked by the monument is much better as a camping place than the opposite side of the river. Here at the ledge, the bluff is very near to the water and the rocks project themselves in such a manner that they can be seen for miles down the river. From -a distance they have the appearance of the walls of a castle. There can be little doubt that it was at this place that the Marquette-Joliet party stopped for the night.


The visit of LaSalle and his party of explorers to the southern part of the county in the fall of 1680 has already been mentioned. Thus Calhoun can claim the distinction of being visited by three of the most famous of French Explorers in America.


About 1800 a Federal Government Expedition passed through the county, exploring and surveying. Some of the men were so impressed with the land lying between the two rivers, that they later returned to make it their permanent home.

Major Stephen H. Long, on a trip down the Mississippi River in August, 1817, said he "took an excursion across the peninsula" and reported to the government the number of settlements that he found


The first white settler to make his home in what is now Calhoun was a man named O'Neal. He came in the year 1801 and settled in Point Precinct at the Two Branches. Although his name might lead us to think otherwise, one account says that he was a French trapper and had made his way there from Acadia.

He lived in Point Precinct a number of years before any other settlers came to that region, and when they did come he refused to mingle with them. He lived in a small cave which he had dug, and which was located about a quarter of a mile from the Mississippi River. He continued to live in this cave until his death in 1842, and after that he was referred to as "The Hermit" due to the fact that he would not visit the other settlers or allow them to come to his place. In 1850, Soloman Lammy, who then owned the farm upon which the cave was located, dug up the boards of the floor and leveled the sides on which large saplings were then growing.


The next settlers were French trappers and some half breeds, who started a colony about a mile above the Deep Plain Ferry, on the Illinois River, in the southern part of the county. They remained until about 1815 when they were driven out by the very high water.

Another French settlement was located at Cap au Gris (which means Cape of Grit or Grindstone). This place was located at the present site of West Point Ferry, in Richwoods Precinct. The French settlers who lived here came sometime after 1800 and by the year 1811 there were 20 families, who had a small village on the bank of the river, and cultivated a common field of about 500 acres. This field was located on the level land about a mile from the site of their town. One writer said that these families were driven away by the Indians in 1814, but there is some doubt as to the accuracy of the statement as John Shaw who took part in battles near the place and who mentions all attacks made on Missouri people makes no mention of any harm coming to the settlers at Cap au Gris.


In the year 1811 Major Roberts arrived and settled near the present site of Brussels, on -a farm later known as the "Henry Kiel place". He made the journey from Ohio in a keel boat, and landed at the present site of Bloom's landing, on the Illinois River.

Picture of Kiel House

John Shaw arrived in 1821. He had taken part in the Indian wars -along the Mississippi River and had become acquainted with all of the territory between that river and the Illinois. He purchased much land in the county in the neighborhood of Gilead, Guilford, Belleview, and Hamburg. His decision to come to Calhoun was quite an important one, as will be explained later.

Picture of John Shaw House(Still standing today - just north of Hamburg)
Picture of John Shaw

Joshua Twichell arrived in May, 1822, with a large family. He came in a keel boat and landed at Coles Grove (now called Gilead). He had been a blacksmith in New York state and after coming here he engaged in his trade at Coles Grove for about a half year and then moved to the present site of Brussels where he started a shop. His son, Chesley, brought iron from St. Louis in a canoe and this iron was afterwards used in making the first iron plow that was ever used in the county. Mr. Twichell also ironed the first wagon used in the county. This wagon was made by Mr. Twichell for his son-in-law, Major Roberts.

Samuel Smith emigrated from Pittsburg in 1822 and built a house in a field that was later owned by Marion Todd, and which was located near the Point Pleasant School, in Point Precinct. About the same time the Mettz family moved into the county and settled at the present site of Brussels. Mr. Mettz cleared w, patch of land and con- structed his home near a large spring.

In 1826 Robert Andrews, the grandfather of Thomas Andrews, came from Detroit where he had been one of the first settlers. He settled in what was known as the "Cresswell Settlement." Nathanial Shaw came in 1821 and settled where the old Schulze homestead is now located, southeast of Brussels.

Captain Nixon and Ben Carrico settled along the Mississippi, near the Jacob Auer farm, in Point Precinct. Asa Carrico settled on the farm now owned by Mrs. Agnes Carpenter at Deer Plain. Another influential citizen of early Calhoun was Captain Marcus Aderton who owned a large tract of land near the Robert Andrews place. Some of the other families that settled in the Brussels neighborhood in the early days were the Roys, Marshalls, Stiles, Lates, Clines, and Greambas.

Judge Ebenezer Smith arrived in Calhoun on the I0th day of May, 1819. He said there were only five settlements in the county at the time. He settled south of the present site of Hardin, and he is said to have been the first man to set out an orchard in the county. The small orchard was started a short time after his arrival in the county

Mr. Smith found a trading post in the neighborhood which was kept by a French-Canadian. In order to be free from the danger of drunken Indians in the community, he bought the trading post, and then destroyed it.

John Ingersol arrived in the county about 1823 and settled at Guilford, five miles south of the present site of Hardin. A few years later he moved to the spring south of the A. C. Squier place. The Ingersol home was one of the first places in the county that was used as a place where church services were held. Jacob Pruden arrived in the county in 1829 and bought the farm that is now owned by the Mortland family. A Mr. Still, who sold the farm to Piuden, was afraid to stay in the neighborhood saying "the place was full of wolves and rattlesnakes". Charles Squiers came to the county in 1833 and in the spring of 1834 Pruden and he built a school house in Mortland Hollow.

There were other early settlers who came before or shortly after 1830, hut most of them will be mentioned in connection with the founding of certain villages and communities.

Picture of the Mortland Farm


The territory between the Mississippi and the Illinois Rivers was known to the early settlers as the "Military Lands" or the "Military Tract'. The government of the United States set aside three and a half million acres of land lying between these two rivers, the land to be given to soldiers who served in the War of 1812.

The soldiers who enlisted before December 10, 1814 were given 160 acres of land, while those enlisting after that date were given 320 acres.

Most of the land was surveyed in 1816 and 1817 but the rush of settlers did not begin until 1823. Much of the land in this section of the state wa.s owned by speculators and other people living in the east and this hindered the settlement of the region.

Many of the soldiers who fought in the war, claimed the land that was due them, but immediately sold the land to speculators.

In 1833 there were 139 pieces of land in Calhoun County that were to be sold for taxes, and 34 of these pieces of land wore then owned by the people to whom they had been assigned.

By studying the lists of the early settlers end the lives of the parents of the people who lived in the county at a later time, we find that very few of the first settlers were men who had taken part in the War of 1812. But due to the fact that the government had set aside this land for the soldiers, it became well known and caused other settlers to know about the region and finally settle in it themselves.

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