The division of Clay County known as Oskaloosa Township is a regular Congressional town, described by the Government Survey as Town 4 north, Range 5 east, and lies between Louisville Township on the east and Marion County on the west. Its north boundary in Larkinsburg Township and the south boundary is formed by Songer Township. The only streams of consequence are Skillet Creek and Cooked Creek. The former has its source in the west part of the township, and flows southeast, thus traversing the southwest portion of the township. Crooked Creek with its tributaries furnish the northeast part of the township with sufficient drainage, the surface in that region being generally broken, and in places, precipitous. A very large portion of the farming land is owned by non-residents who have left their farms and gone to try "city life" in the villages of the three railroads— the Illinois Central and the two lines of the Ohio & Mississippi—which, by their intersection, form a triangle around the township.
The grant of every alternate section of land to the I. C. Railway Company has done much, we think, to retard the growth of the township; the liberal terms of sale offered by the company inducing many to risk the purchase of land, who, after paying two or three payments, were compelled to cover their farms with a mortgage, from which in many cases they have never been redeemed.
In the search for the first actual settlers of Oskaloosa Township, the best authority within our reach points to three men named Smith, Romines and Eaton. They were here and had made a small improvement in Section 28 when John Sutton came in 1829. When they came and from where we are not informed, only knowing their names, and that they sold their claims to John Sutton in 1829. Mr. Sutton was a Kentuckian originally, though, like most of the early settlers of this part of the county, he came here from Indiana. He was a man of more than ordinary energy, and just such a man as was most needed to lead the van in a new and undeveloped country. He proceeded to enlarge his improvement, and to surround his home with what comforts were in his reach. After other settlers had reached the vicinity, he erected a horse mill on his place, which early took the name of Sutton's Point. John Sutton has long since died, and his son, Elijah Sutton, living in Section 20, is now the "oldest settler " in Oskaloosa Township.
The next to make settlement in this township was Levi Rollins, who came in 1830. and located in Section 18, where J. S. Phillips now lives. He was a brother-in-law to John Sutton, and came from Kentucky; he was a good farmer, a pious man, who did much toward establishing infant Methodism in this part of the country. In later years, he moved into Marion County, where he died. John Griffith, mentioned in the chapter on Xenia Township, and who was also a brotber-in-law to John Sutton, came to the township soon after Levi Rollins, and in the same year. He remained but a short time, however, removing thence to Xenia Township.
Two very valuable additions were made to the settlement in 1831, in the families of Levi Daniels and John Craig. Daniels settled in Section 14, on land now owned by W. Jeffers. Craig located in Section 10, near the present residence of his son, John W. Craig, and died about 1S56. The Bishop settlement was an early fi-ature in the history of the township. This settlement comprised several families of that came, and was first represented by " Old Bennie Bishop " as he was familiarly known. Wash Jones and Joseph Bishop—the latter now of Iola—were early in the township. Robert Smith came from Henry County, Ky.,to Oskaloosa Township in 1838. R. N. Smith, an old settler living in Section 9, is his son. Samuel Dillman, in 1834, settled where he now lives in Section 10. He, too, came from Henry County. K'y., and is regarded by all as an honorable man and good farmer.
About 1843. the families of Samuel Turner and — Jones came to the township, settling near Sutton's Point, in Section 28. Jeremiah Fleming came soon after, making a residence of some years in the township, but afterward removed to Texas, where it is supposed he died. James O'Neal was an early man, and settled in Section 32. where James Rutter now lives. Jacob Stipp came from Indiana to the township, settling in the southern part, in 183S. He was a man of more than ordinary scholastic ability, and an experienced school teacher. His coming was therefore hailed with more than usual delight. His connection with the children of the early settlers makes him especially remembered by many who enjoyed the benefits of his instruction in their childhood. These recollections are, in the main, of the most pleasant character, though mingled occasionally with a stinging sensation, the natural result of his administrations of justice, which were always tempered with mercy. Henry Oweno and Joshua Nixon were very early in the township, as was also Enoch Sceife, who located in Section 4, near where his son Alfred now lives, and where he died about 1870. Jephtha Allen settled in Section 5, and has been dead many years, leaving no descendants in the township.
Michael Hockman settled in an early day in Section 33. He came from Indiana, and died about the close of the late war. Edmund and William Hockman are his sons, and are residents of the township. Henry Cox. who now lives in Section 20, on the old Vandalia road, is among the oldest settlers ol the county now living.
Samuel Delong settled in the same section about 1848. He served as a soldier in the war of 1812, participating in much of that decisive conflict Mr. Delong, it is said, never grew old, but. until the time of his death, which occurred in St. Clair County in 1875, maintained much of his boyish love for the popular amusements. While a resident of Clay County, he followed farming, with which he combined merchandising and general trading. He was an expert fifer and drummer, took especial delight in fast horses and cards, but withal was a man of unquestioned honor, and regarded as a good neighbor.
Joseph Higginbotham, a colored man and an ex-slave, settled in the west side of the township near Skillet Creek very early, perhaps about 1835. He was a thrifty, hardworking negro, and possessed a degree of intelligence far in advance of the average of his race for his time. He soon made for himself a comfortable home, and in time became the owner of a large amount of land—it is said about eight hundred acres. Notwithstanding this fact, he remained a modest, unassuming man, and a marked contrast with his immediate descendants, who, for a time, flourished upon their father's accumulations. They drove their gay teams to still gayer vehicles, themselves the gayest of all the gay, dressed in their purple and fine linen. A few years, however, sufficed to reduce them to a level with their less favored white neighbors. At the present time, there are no traces left of the thrift that was so noticeable in the life of " Uncle Joe." His presence in the township soon attracted other colored families, who located in the same settlement, which has ever since been known as the " Nigger settlement." With but slight exception, they are considered honest citizens. They have a " colored school," which is supported by the public tax. " Uncle Joe Higginbotham " came from Kentucky, and died in Oskaloosa Township in 1800. A half century has produced vast changes in the appearance of the township in many respects, but in no instance is that change more noticeable than in the education of the mind. Then the entire county afforded but few men who could, with any degree of credit, fill the office of Justice of the Peaco, to say nothing of the more important offices of the county. The result was that those who were elected were but poorly qualified for the duties of office. A case in hand will fairly illustrate this point. The following extract is an exact copy of an entry taken from the records of the county, and is a failsample of hundreds that may be found by reference to the old books of the county:
Taken up by Jessee Bishop in the north west part of Clay County sixteen miles from Maysville. One yoak of cattle drove up out of the settlement one is Black with white back and belly with a lump on its gaw the other is a read and white pied marked with a crop hole and split in the left ear a crop hole and split in the others ear judged to b 8 or 9 years old no brands percewable large and likely appraisd to 30 dollars before 8. L. Hetlin J. P, the 11th day of decern 1835.
If any one should be pining for amusemeut, it may be obtained by supplying the above notice with punctuation, this essential being overlooked by the original writer, so that you are left to study your own taste. In 1853, Henry Smith bought the land of John Sutton, known as Sutton's Point, and conceived the idea of a town. As a result, he laid off and platted seventy- four lots and proceeded to sell them, at both public and private sale. To the new town Mr. Smith gave the name of Oskaloosa in honor of a beautiful town in Iowa of that name, near which he had formerly lived. As has been previously stated, Sutton had already a horse mill here, and soon four or five buildings were erected. John Todd acid William Gammon erected the first of these, which was used by them for a general store. The horse mill was then superseded by a steam grist and saw mill, which was erected by Henry Smith. It was a very important annex to the town, as was proved by the large business which it did, until other mills at competing points were built.
Hardin Cox, Elijah Sutton and Elijah Dillman erected the first residences, and for a time hopes were entertained of a great city. Several conditions have combined to defeat these expectations, the most fruitful of which was the surrounding towns that sprang into existence as a cousequence of the coming of the railroads.
Whisky and its advocates have not been without their influence to operate against the development of a town. Until late years, it was always cursed by saloons, often four or five of them, and many and varied were the fisticuffs and cutting affrays which were engaged in, much to the satisfaction of the hoodlums as well as to the utter disgust of a few order-loving citizens.
This latter class, to operate against evil influences, early conceived the idea of the erection of a church house. There were in the neighborhood a respectable number of Baptist people and a corresponding number of Methodists, and in 1857 a "union church " was begun with brilliant prospects of success; but our fondest hopes are often doomed to blight, and the truth of this was painfully felt in this case. No sooner had the good work attained a fair beginning than some one with more contrariness than contrition, sowed the seeds of discord which soon germinated and rapidly grew into an irreparable rupture. A complete separation was the result, and the Baptists began the erection of a house wholly under their own control, the Methodists meantime falling heir to the first. Though their number was flattering, their financial strength was very limited. They thus soon found themselves unable to complete their buildings, which were never finished, and their dilapidated remains still stand as a fit monument to the memory of their departed glory as well as to the supreme stubbornness of their projectors.
The politics of Oskaloosa Township has always been strongly Democratic, and now polls about 240 votes, of which about onefifth are Republican. During the late war, excitement of a political nature ran very high, there being those of each party who, as is too often the case, allowed their party zeal to greatly exceed their judgment. As a legitimate result, many tonguey altercations ensued, ill feelings were engendered, and friends were then alienated, never to be re-united; at least this is true to the extent that an unbiased observer can note in their musings the burnings of the old fire.
The village of Oskaloosa has had one homicide, which, by some, is said to have grown out of this political strife, while others claim it to have been the result of a family grudge of long standing. Henry Richardson had married a daughter of John W. Nichols. Both were residents of Marion County, both were political agitators, and, unfortunately, arrayed on opposite sides with reference to the issues of the war. In the course of time, Nichols removed to Oskaloosa, meantime inducing Richardson's wife to desert him, and she again took up her residence with her parents. Richardson afterward presented himself at the house of his father-in-law, armed with a warrant and accompanied by an officer of the law, for the purpose, as he claimed, of searching for goods which the wife had unjustly taken. While the official was searching the house, Richardson remained seated on the woodpile, and while thus seated was shot in the back by some unseen foe, and from which he almost instantly expired. Nichols is supposed to have been his murderer, but no positive proof of his guilt was ever sustained. Besides the absence of such proof, he had the warm sympathy of a majority of citizens, who were ready to justify the deed. Such procedure, however, only tends to demoralize a village, and this proved no exception. Rowdyism and riot ran high, and for a time the name of Sutton's Point might with propriety have been changed to Satan's Point.
The drafting of several men for the United States service had no mitigating influences on the already agitated public sentiment. Of those who were drafted are remembered the names of Edmund Hockman, Elijah Dillman, James Dillman, Robert McCully and Stephen Robinson. The last named, not desiring to place himself iu the range of rebel bullets, nor to place a substitute in a position so unenviable, decided to " visit" his wife's relation in "Ingeany," and with all possible dispatch departed for the Hoosier State. He was there apprehended by an officer, but his adaptability enabled him to turn his greatest calamity to such account as to prove the one great blessing of his life. His wife was a victim of epileptic fits, and so familiar had he become with their effects, that he could perfectly imitate the actions of a person affected with them; even to the minutest details was this true, and when the officer saw him fall in all the agonies of a fit, subjected to the most frightful contortions, he hastened to the nearest house to secure assistance for the unfortunate (?) man, but on returning, what must ha\e been his surprise and chagrin to find that his bird had flown.
Robinson never again allowed himself to be surprised, but placed himself on the comfortable side of danger, where none dared molest or make him have fits. The following-named men have served the township officially: Justices of the Peace—J. B. Turner, Warren King, Hiram Green, James Hacked, Enoch Sceife, James Riley, S. C. Dayton, D. M. Laswell, Harris Gammon, Wm. H.Hackett and R. N. Smith,tho present incumbent. Supervisors—A. H. Bryan, G. W. Harrail, William Krutsinger, J. L. Hortenstine, R. N. Smith, Samuel Dillman, Jesse Montgomery. William Colclasure, with Lewis Dillman, present incumbent.
The first physician to locate in Oskaloosa Township was Dr. Hines. He came in an early day from Wabash County, 111., and located in Section 20. He was much fonder of whisky than of women, and consequently spent a life of bachelorhood, and died in Xenia, of delirium tremens, about 1857. Amos P. Finch was the next resident physician, followed by Dr. Ramsey in 1855, who with Dr. Picthall are the only physicians in the township.
The only organized religious societies are the Methodist and Old Baptist. Of the former we have previously spoken, and to say that Methodism has flourished in this township would be a statement unwarranted by the truth. They however maintain regular preaching, which is held in the village schoolhouse. The Missionary Baptist society was organized about 1855, by Rev. Canady, and was composed of James Laswell and wife, Zadock Lovelace and wife, A. H. Barker and wife and William Finamore and wife. Their efforts in building a church house have already been alluded to. " Ichabod " has been indelibly written upon their efforts as a society, and as such they have ceased to have an existence since 1875. Among their ministers have been I. H. Elkin, now a resident of the township, Rev. Pearson, of Marion County, Rev. Wharton and Rev. McKay.
The first religious society formed in the township was that of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Their first meetings were held at the house of Levi Rollins, in the west part of the township, where they met regularly for several years, and near where they set apart a portion of ground for a burying ground. Rev. Joseph Helmns was their preacher for some years, assisted occasionally by John Griffith. The original society was composed of Levi Rollins and wife, John Sutton and wife, Scott Smith and wife, John Craig and wife, and others whose names are forgotten.
The Old Baptists, among whom were Enoch Sceife and wife, Jephtha Allen and wife, Levi Daniels and others were early organized by Rev. Whiteley. They built their first church house near the center of the township on Crooked Creek. This house was burned, and they erected another near the north line of the township, which is still standing, and where they continue to hold occasional service.
The first school ever conducted in Oskaloosa Township was taught in the house of Levi Rollins, by his sister, Mrs. Elizabeth Meeks, in the year 1833. Of the few who attended this school are remembered the names of Elijah Sutton, Elizabeth Sutton, John Dunham, Sarah and Elizabeth Rollins, the last named being now the widow of —
Webster, and lives near Flora. A Mr. Chyle taught the next school in the township, which was kept in the kitchen of Scott Smith, living in Section 20, on the Vanalia road. Chyle was also a Methodist preacher, but was not a permanent resident of the township. Benjamin Nixon was also among the first teachers in the township, and we believe is still living in the county.
The first house built for school purposes was erected in the south part of the township, near where the village stands, but has long since ceased to exist The township now supports eight public schools.
[Source: "History of Wayne and Clay Counties, Illinois 1884"]
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