Illinois Genealogy Trails History Group

Clark County Illinois
Genealogy and History


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Chapter 21

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The History of Crawford and Clark County
W. H. Perrin, O. L. Baskin & Co., 1883

Transcribed by Kevin Ortman and Barbara Z.

CHAPTER XXI. PARKER TOWNSHIP—
SURFACE FEATURES—THE FIRST SETTLERS—PIONEER INDUSTRIES AND IMPROVEMENTS—CHURCHES AND PREACHERS—EDUCATIONAL FACILITIES, ETC.

TOWNSHIP 11 north, range 14 west, is one of the western range of townships in Clark County, and is bounded on the north by Westfield, on the east by Dolson, on the south by Cumberland and on the west by Cumberland County. Its lines coincide with those of the congressional survey and include thirty-six sections. Originally its surface was divided between prairie and woodland, the latter covering about one third of the town-ship on the east side bordering the North Fork of the Embarras. The balance of the township was occupied by a fine rolling prairie that bore the name of Parker, from George Parker, an early settler here, and subsequently gave the name to the township.

Parker is so situated between the settlements of Westfield and Cumberland town-ships as to lose any strong marks of individuality which it might otherwise bare had. The National Road, and later the railroad, drew such material as goes toward a village growth to the latter town, while to the north Westfield, inspired by the activity of the northern thoroughfare and aided by public-spirited enterprises, added its influence to keep Parker to the level of an agricultural community.

The first settlement was made by Hezekiah Martin in 1827. Coming from Crawford County he settled in the eastern part of the township on section 6, where he erected a cabin, and cleared twelve acres of timber.

He made no attempt to secure the land, and made no permanent improvements which the necessity of the situation did not demand. So far did he carry this policy that he lived in his cabin three years without a window or a floor. At the end of this time he sold his property to Samuel Brown who, in 1831, entered the land. In 1828, George Parker came to the northern part of this township. He came originally from Butler County, Ohio, by wagon to Crawford County, but dissatisfied with the aspect of the country there he traveled over a large part of the settled portions of the State in quest of a home, but failed to find a place suited to his taste until he reached this locality. Here he settled, entered land, and spent the rest of his life where his son John now lives. Mr. Parker became a prominent man in the community which gathered here, and giving name to the prairie eventually gave his name to the town-ship also.

In 1830, John G. Morrell joined the settlement thus begun. Originally emigrating from Kentucky to North Carolina, after a short residence in the latter place he came to Indiana and three years later to Coles County. After two years residence there, Mr. Morrell came to Parker and settled on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 4. Here be improved a good farm and by his intelligent activity became an important factor in the growth of the community in which he lived until 1856. Lewis Walker came in of Kentucky and first emigrated to Indiana, but dissatisfied with the country there he soon after came to Clark County, building his cabin on section 6, where he subsequently entered land. Mr. Walker was a man of marked piety, of good education and remarkably public-spirited, taking a lively interest in the laying out of roads, establishing schools, churches, etc. John Pence came the same year direct from Kentucky. He settled on section 2, and improved a good farm where he lived until his death in 1851. His place is now owned by Benjamin Perry. Isaac and David Stark came about the same time and settled on section 11, where they bought about forty acres. They were noted, however, as hunters and trappers rather than farmers, and gave more attention to the pursuit of game than to improvement of their land. As the land settled up and game grew scarce they became dissatisfied with the country here and a few years later left for newer lands further west.

In 1832, the settlement received several accessions, among whom was Morris Carruthers. He came from Indiana and, settled on section 4, and while not marked for his high moral character, was an energetic citizen and a useful member of the community. He was a great hunter but when the game grew scarce, turned his energies to farming, making stock raising something of a specialty. Stanley B. Walker was also an immigrant of this year. He was a native of Kentucky, a preacher of the Old School Baptist Church and divided his time and efforts between his farm and church work. He preached far and near wherever a cabin was opened to give him a hearing and assisted in the organization of nearly every Baptist church in the county. Thomas Lamb located in this year on section 3, where he lived for twenty years, finally selling his property to a man by the name of Grant, and removing to Texas. David Easton came here from Kentucky about this time and settled on section 4. He was an adventurous character, spending much of his time in hunting, and finally sold his place to a Mr. Elkin and went west. In 1833 came William Lee and John Johnson, both locating their cabins on section 4. The latter came from Indiana, and lived here but a short time. Charles Menary settled on the same section in the following year. He made his way from Kentucky by wagon, built a cabin and made improvements on a^mall farm. Though an active man he gave more of his attention to hunting than farming. Another settler on section 4, was Calvin Boyd. He was a man of some power and an enthusiastic conversationalist, his favorite topics being politics and religion. He made a campaign for a position in the Legislature but was defeated.

In 1836 there were several additions to this settlement. Of these the family of Timothy Terrell was, perhaps, the earliest. They came from Indiana and settled on section 12 but they stayed only about two years. In the meanwhile Mr. Terrell made some slight improvements, and served as constable, an office to which he was elected soon after his arrival, and the duties of which he seemed peculiarly fitted to discharge. He sold his property in 1838 to Vincent Lindsey and removed from the township. On the same section with Terrell another settlement was made a little later in the year by Isaac Bean. He came from North Carolina, and was elected one of the earliest justices of the peace in Parker. He spent the remainder of his life here, and at the time of his death was the oldest man in the county. In this year the township received an important accession in the coming of Levin D. Robinson, who settled on section 33. When a babe he rode in his mother’s arms on horseback from Tennessee on the road to Indiana. Arrived at Darwin, the family migration came to a halt, and Mr. Robinson stayed here for some time, but subsequently removed to Edgar County. In 1836 Levin D. led the migration of the family to this locality, his father, who was an old man, coming with him. Mr. Robinson early took a prominent place in the community, and amassed a large property. His brother, James C., came to Parker at the same time, and was soon afterward elected justice of the peace. He subsequently took up the study of law with such success as to be numbered among the few leading lawyers of the State. He served three terms in the Lower House of Congress, and in 1864 was a candidate for Governor, but was defeated by Ogelsby. He still owns a large farm in section ,6, though he no longer resides in the township. William and T. H. Connolly came with their father, Josiah, about 1836, and have since been identified with the township. The latter son was four years sheriff of the county, and the other the first justice of the peace, after the township organization was effected.

In 1837 Messrs. J. J. Houghton, Chriss and Shook came to this township. The former settled on section 9, and is still living here. Isaac Chriss came from Kentucky to Martinsville and thence here. He sold out in 1859, and died on his way to California, in the same year. William Shook was a native of Kentucky, from whence he moved to Indiana, moving to this locality a little later, and subsequently moving to Dolson.

The early life in the settlement was not different from that of other early communities in the county save that it was some of many of the privations which they experienced. The markets and means of communication, though not so conveniently placed as now, were not so meagerly afforded as to amount to a real hardship. The Grandview and Martinsville road was the first one established through this township, and was laid out as early as 1833. Two years later, the Auburn road, passing across the northeast corner, was laid oat, and in 1840 the York and Charleston road was run through the central portion.

The first mill in this settlement was built on section 11, by Ferguson Johnson He came from Edgar County in 1836, and at once set about erecting a single-geared horse mill. It was a rude affair and was run night and day to meet the demands made upon it. This served the public fifteen years before it was superseded by more modem machinery. Another early mill was erected by Hibbard on the North Fork in the south part of Parker. This was a water mill in a log building, and was afterward sold to the Johnson brothers. It continued doing business for some ten years, when it was abandoned. Clark Nichols also constructed a water mill on the North Fork in the southern part of the  township. It served the purpose of its construction for about five years. A saw and grist mill combined was erected in 1870 by C. W. Hammond and a Mr. Barbee in the eastern part of Parker. In 1878 this was burned down, but it has since been replaced by a steam mill two stories high, by C. & F. Hammond. This is provided with improved machinery and does a fair business.

There has been nothing in the situation of Parker to develop any considerable business which the community centered here could not itself support. Considerable towns on either side of it have prevented the development of any similar growth in Parker, and even the coining of the railroad has failed to develop any unusual business excitement. The discovery of petroleum for a time promised to do what other advantages had failed to accomplish. Wells were sunk and some oil secured, and in the height of the excitement the beginning of a village was started near the well on the farm of T. H. Young. A large hotel was erected, and a large name devised for the town which was to grow up now only a memory and a name. There is no doubt as to the character and quality of the oil, but the business was brought to an untimely stop by the breakage of a drill which the workmen were unable to recover, and which not only stopped the work, but prevented the flow of oil to any paying extent. Efforts are now being made to push the prospecting until the “find” is a demonstrated success or failure.

The first school was held about 1840, in a small log house on the northeast corner of section 11, where Samuel Hoskins held sway over about twenty pupils. The second was held a year later in a log house on the Hammond farm in section 13. Among the early teachers are remembered Burns Harlan, R. C. Robinson, Reuben Warner and Isaac Johnson. The first public school was inaugurated in Parker about 1850. Frame buildings for school purposes were not erected, however, until about 1865. There are now six districts all comfortably provided with, frame buildings and modern appliances.

Church influences were early introduced by Rev. S. B. Walker who was one of the early settlers of Parker. He began holding services in the cabins around the neighborhood as early as 1836, but as he belonged to the Baptist denomination, his own cabin, or that of Josiah Connolly was generally the scene of his labors. Among the early Methodist itinerants were William C. Blundell and James Martin. Services were usually held in the Hammond School-house, and the latter minister succeeded in organizing a class which had an existence, for some ten years. No regular place of worship was erected, and the organization was finally abandoned. Thomas Sparks, of the United Brethren Church, preached in this settlement, holding services in the various cabins. He organized a class at the residence of David Downs where services were maintained for several years, but the organization was finally abandoned. In 1873, a “ Church of God ” was organized with a small membership, which still survives. It has about twenty members and a regular pastor. In the following year a Union place of worship was erected on section 12, to which the whole community contributed, and which is used by the United Brethren, Methodist, and "Church of God.” This is a hewed log building and the only church edifice in the township.
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