and CASS COUNTY
By Mrs. T.J. Schweer
Cass County was originally a part of Morgan County, but in April of 1837 a vote was taken to divide the county and form a new county to be called Cass, with the county seat at Beardstown until the people should permanently locate the county seat by election.
On the 14th day of August 1837, the county commissioners met and organized Cass County. At the first meeting of the board the new county was divided into six precincts, which were named: Beardstown, Monroe, Virginia, Sugar Grove, Richmond and Bowens.
When this county was organized there was not a house, built exclusively for religious worship, in it and not one in all Morgan County outside of Jacksonville. Physicians were scarce, and fever and ague quite common. Game was plenty. There were wolves and once in a while a panther was seen. The wolves very seldom did violence to any human being; but when the weather was stormy and cold, and the ground frozen, they were so bold and threatening that nobody cared to risk himself out alone at night. It is said that once a man was returning home from town carrying a quarter of beef on his shoulder. A gang of wolves attacked him, took the beef and ate it and it was only because he happened to be near a cabin that he himself was saved from being devoured.
Therewere a few grey wolves also, and they were much feared. This is another story told about a grey wolf. One bright cold night, there was a great fuss with the dogs outside a cabin door here in Beardstown. The man opened the door to see what was happening and his favorite little black dog pounced into the cabin, and the largest grey wolf he had ever seen was after him and tried to get in the cabin. The door was open and there was no time to get a rigle. So he grabbed a stick of fire wood and threw it at the wolf. The wolf was driven away, but in a short time a loud noise was heard over at a neighbors and crack went a rifle and then in a short time all was still. It was found the next morning that the wolf had been killed. He was the largest wolf ever seen around her and measured 9 feet, 9 inches from his nose to the end of his tail.
In 1836-37, old settlers tell us about what we call a sudden change in the weather. It was the most remarkable of any we had ever seen, heard or read of. On a Saturday morning there was snow on the ground. The following Sunday was a very warm day, and Monday, until about four o'clock in the afternoon was still warmer, and on both of these days there was considerable rain. The snow had melted to slush and water, which was standing in ponds on the level ground. At that hour the weather turned suddenly very cold. In four hours after the change began the slush and water was frozen solid; and in two hours from that time the men were hurriedly crossing the river on ice. A vast amount of cattle, fowls, and game and may persons were frozen to death. One man who was crossing the prairie on horseback, killed his horse, took out the entrails, and crawled inside for protection and was found frozen to death.
Money was very scarce in the early days of Cass County and it was hard for farmers owning good farms to get money to pay their postage. It was not necessary then to prepay postage. Domestic letters cost from 5 to 25 cents a piece, according to the distance they had come; and foreign letters were still higher.
What was worse they must all be paid for in silver and it often happened that a letter would lie in the post-office for weeks before its owner could get the silver to redeem it. If the farmers wished to get goods from the store, they were forced to buy on credit, and pay in grain or other produce, or take butter, eggs, poultry, game, honey, wood or other articles, to exchange for skin goods.
Produce continually changed in price, even in store pay. Corn was known to sell at 6 cents often and farmers thought 10 cents in cash was probably all that corn ought to, or ever would bring and that farmers could get rich at that price. Wheat was sold in Beardstown at 35 cents per bushel and pork often at 1 1-4 cents per pound.
Cass County has many fertile lands and has always prospered. But the people had to develop this wealth. There were just a few farmers at first and the little town of Beardstown was all. But now it has many cultivated lands and beautiful farm houses. Wheat and corn are easily grown. And the sand-ridges scattered along the river bottoms are good to grow melons, sweet potatoes, beans, etc. The towns of the county are properous. We have the Illinois river for navigation and several reilroads.
Cass County is bounded on the north by Mason county, on the east by Menard County and on the south by Morgan and on the west by the Illinois river.
The surface of the county is for the most part gently slooping. Some pretty big hills, like the Chandlerville hill and then some broad flat prairie lands.
The soil is very productive.
Different kinds of trees, oak, hickory, elm, sugar maple, black and white walnut. Then in the bottom lands willow, soft maple, sycamore, cotton wood, pecan.
There is some coal found in the hills.
The principal towns of the county are Beardstown, the largest and
oldest, Virginia, Chandlerville, Ashland, and Arenzville and Bluff
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