Crawford County, Illinois
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Chapter 18 - HONEY CREEK Township

Honey Creek Township - Description And Topography - Advent Of The Palefaces, And Their Early Struggles - Pioneer Improvements - Religious History - An Incident - Schools And School-Houses- Villages - Parting Words, Etc., Etc.

HONEY CREEK Township, though an early-settled portion of the county, has advanced very little in some directions and its citizens of to-day stand where their fathers stood fifty years or more ago, clinging with a wonderful tenacity to the relics of a by-gone period. Here we still find the primitive log cabin, together with many of those pioneer customs and habits, which the few old grandfathers and grandmothers yet living delight to dwell upon.

Much of the land in Honey Creek Township is of a rather inferior quality, as compared to other of the county. It is mostly timbered land and a good deal of it seems to be a kind of oak flat with a light, thin soil. There is, however, some very good land in the township, but that of a poorer quality largely predominates. The original timber growth consisted of several kinds of oak, hickory, elm, gum, maple, walnut, etc., with a few other trees and shrubs indigenous to this section. The Embarras River just barely touches the southwest corner of the township, Honey Creek flows through the northwest corner, and Brush and Sugar Creeks through the southeast portion. These, with & few other smaller and nameless streams, constitute its system of natural drainage. Honey Creek is bounded on the north by Robinson Township, on the east by Montgomery Township, on the south by Lawrence County, and on the west by Martin and Southwest Townships. The Wabash railroad passes along the township line, and has improved the country to some extent. Several villages have sprung up since the construction of the road, which have added their mite to the growth and prosperity of the surrounding country, but there still remains vast room for improvement and enterprise.

Before the war-whoop of the savage had died away, the pale-faced pioneers were coming into this portion of the county. The first white men who located here were John and Samuel Parker, in 1816. They were genuine pioneers, and of that character of men who were fully able to cope with privation, and with danger in any form. John and George Parker, now living in this township, are descendants of these hardy old frontiersman. John and George Parker came to the township in 1820, from Kentucky, and settled on the "range road," near the present village of Flat Rock. They are of the true pioneer stock, like their progenitors, and are scarcely alive to and up with the age of improvement in which they live.

About the time John and George Parker came the settlement was further augmented by the arrival of the following families: The Seaney family, Seth and Levi Lee, Jesse and James Higgins, John Hart and Wm. Carter. These settlements were made about the time the land office was established at Palestine. After this there was quite a cessation in the arrival of emigrants, and several years elapsed before we hear of any more newcomers to this immediate vicinity.

Aaron Jones settled here about 1832. He was originally from Virginia but settled in Butler County, Ohio, and a few years later came to this county. He died in 1861, and his wife soon after followed him to the land of rest. Mr. Jones made his trip from Butler County, Ohio, with wagons and teams. The country was then very wild, and much of the distance was along Indian trails, and paths beaten down by hunters and emigrants, who had preceded him. Indianapolis was a straggling village of a few rude cabins, and the country for miles and miles was without a single habitation. Robinson had not yet arisen from the hazel thickets and prairie grass, and the phase of the country generally was not inviting by any manner of means. The first land entered west of the range road - a road running from Mt. Carmel to Chicago, was entered by Asa Jones, a brother of Mr. J. M. Jones. About the time he made his entry, one Jacob Blaythe wanted to enter a piece of land, and being unable to distinguish the comer, cut the number of the land from a tree, and carried the block to the land-office at Palestine. Richard Highsmith now living in Honey Creek assisted to build the fort at Russelville, and was one of the first who slept in it after its completion.

Another early settler was Leonard Simons. He came from Tennessee, and located first at Palestine, in the days when the people found it conducive to longevity to live in forts. Afterward he settled in this township. He died in the county about 1875, at an advanced age. Samuel Bussard came originally from Maryland, but stopped for a time in Ohio, and came from the Buckeye State to this county, and settled where his son now lives. He raised a large family of children, and died some twenty-five years ago. Peter Kendall, from Kentucky, settled where John Parker now lives. He moved away some years ago. Robert Terrill, also from Kentucky, settled in 1842, and lives now in Flat Rock. There were many other pioneers who deserve a place in these pages, perhaps, but we failed to obtain their names. Wolves, panthers, wild-cats, deer, etc., etc., were here in the most plentiful profusion when the first settlements were made. The rifle of the pioneer supplied his larder with meat, but bread was not so easily obtained. Wolves and other ravenuous beasts rendered the rearing of hogs and sheep a very uncertain business for a number of years—in fact, until the country was somewhat rid of the troublesome animals. Milling is usually a serious task to the early settler in a Wild country, and in the settlement of Honey Creek, the people went to Palestine and other places until they had mills built in their own neighborhood. The first roads were merely trails through the forest.  These were cut out and improved as population increased and demanded more and better highways. Silas Tyler, of this township, is the oldest free mason in the county, or perhaps in the State. He was initiated in the ancient and honorable fraternity in 1818, in the State of New York, being at the time 22 years of age. He afterward served as master of the lodge in which he took his degrees. Mr. Tyler, though not as early a settler of the township as some others, is certainly as early a mason. He was in his masonic prime at the time of the Morgan excitement, and remembers something of that stormy period to the fraternity.

Of the first school-house in Honey Creek township, and the first teacher, but little was learned. The first schools here, as in other parts of the county, were taught in any cabin which might happen to be vacant. The first school-houses were built of logs, after the regular pioneer pattern, and the first teachers were as primitive as the buildings in which they wielded their brief authority. The township is now very well supplied with temples of learning, in which good schools are taught for the usual term each year. Religious meetings were held in the pioneer settlements of this section, almost as early as the settlements were made. The first meetings of which we have any reliable account were held in the old Laraotte school-house, and the first sermon in the township is supposed to have been preached by Elder Daniel Parker, of whom reference has been made in preceding chapters, and who was of the "Hardshell" Baptist persuasion. He was one of the early ministers, not only of the but of the surrounding counties, and was considered a powerful preacher in his day. It is told of him, that he would never accept pecuniary compensation for his ministerial labors, but deemed it his duty to preach salvation to a "lost and ruined world," without money and without price. In this he differed from his clerical brethren of the present day.

Mr. Seaney relates the following incident of one of Elder Parker’s meetings: Mr. Seaney started out one Sunday morning to look for some calves that had strayed away from him, when upon nearing a church or school-house, he encountered a group of young men, barefooted, dressed in leather breeches and tow-linen shirts. They were patiently awaiting the arrival of the minister, and whiling away the time in "casting sheep’s eyes ” at a bevy of young ladies who had just arrived upon the scene, gorgeous in "sun-bonnets and barefooted." This seems on a par with the costume of the Georgia major, which, we are told, consisted of a paper collar and a pair or spurs, out whether this was the extent of the young ladies' ward-robe or not we can not say, but no other articles of wearing apparel were mentioned. The preacher finally made his appearance, clad, not like John the Forerunner, with a leather girdle about his loins, but in a full suit of leather. He walked straight into the house, and as he did so he hauled off his old leather coat and threw it upon the floor. Then after singing a hime and making a prayer, he straightened himself, and for two mortal hours he poured hot shot into the world, the flesh and the devil." John Parker, a brother of Daniel Parker, was a preacher of the same denomination, and used to hold forth among the early settlers in their cabins, and at a later date in the school-houses.

Thomas Kennedy, well known as one of the early county officers, was also a pioneer Baptist preacher. Bethel Presbyterian Church was organized in 1853, by Rev. Joseph Butler. Among the early members were A. D. Delzell, Mrs. M. E. Delzell, Wm. Delzell, Mrs. M. J. Delzell, L. B. Delzell, John Duncan and Mrs. S. M. Duncan. Rev. Butler visited them a few times and then left the society to die, which it lost but little time in doing. Some of the members united with the church at Palestine and some aided in founding the church at Beckwith prairie a few years later. Beckwith Prairie Presbyterian Church was organized by Revs. E. Howell and Allen McFarland, and Elder Finley Paul, with twenty-eight members, mostly from Old Bethel church above described. The first elders were James Richey, Samuel J. Gould and Wm. Delzell. The ministers, since its organization, have been Revs. A. McFarland, J. C. Thornton, Aaron Thompson, Thos. Spencer and John E. Carson. The house of worship, a neat white frame, was erected in 1859, at a cost of $1,300, and stands on the southeast quarter of section 23, one mile from Duncanville, in a southwest direction. Good Hope Baptist Church was organized in a very early day. Among the early members were George Parker, Hiram Jones, Samson Taylor and wife, W. F. Allen, Wm. Croy, S. Goff and Wm. Carter.

The first church was a log building, erected about 1848. The present church is a handsome frame recently completed, and the membership is in a flourishing condition, and numbers about eighty, under the pastorate of Elder John L. Cox. A good Sunday-school is carried on, of which Hiram Jones is the present superintendent. The Methodist Episcopal church at Flat Rock was built about the year 1871. They had previously held meetings a half mile south of the village near James Shaw’s. We failed to receive fall particulars of this church. The United Brethren church at New Hebron was built in 1855-56 by individual subscription. Rev. Mr. Jackson was among the first ministers. Before the erection of the church, meetings were held in the school-houses throughout the neighborhood, and were participated in by all denominations - the Methodists at that time being the most numerous. Samuel Bussard and the Gear family were among the early members of the church.

A Methodist Episcopal church was organized here about the time the building was erected, but the exact date was not obtained. From this it will be seen that the people of Honey Creek Township have never lacked for church privileges. If they are not religions, it is certainly their own fault, and they can blame none but themselves for any shortcoming charged to their account. Villages.—The township can boast of several villages, bat all of them are rather small, and have sprung up mostly since the building of the railroad. Hebron, or New Hebron, as it is now called, is an exception it was laid out July, 1840, by Nelson Hawley, and is located on section 21 of township 6 north, range 12 west, or Honey Creek Township, and was surveyed and platted by Wm. B. Baker, the official surveyor of the county. The land was entered by Dr. Hawley in 1839 and the year following he laid out the town. He practiced medicine in the neighborhood until 1850, or thereabout, when he opened a store in Hebron, the first effort at merchandizing in the place. He was from Ohio, and was a local preacher, as well as a physician, and administered to the soul’s comforts as well as to the body’s inhrmities. After establishing a store at Hebron, he ceased the practice of medicine except in cases of emergency, when he was found always ready to lend his assistance in relieving suffering humanity. He eventually moved to Olney, where he devoted his time wholly to the ministry. He was the first postmaster at Hebron, as well as the first merchant and physician.

Leonard Cullom opened a store in the old Hawley building after Hawley had moved to Olney. Cullom came to the county when a boy and lived for a time in old Fort Lamotte. He remained in business in Hebron but a short time, when he moved his goods back to Palestine. A man named Newton was the next merchant, and about 1860 John Haley opened a store. He has been in business here ever since. He keeps both the hotel and store, and is also the present postmaster. The first house in New Hebron was built by Thomas Swearingen. A tread-wheel mill was built by Dr. Hawley at an early day, most probably the first mill in the township. It was afterward converted into a steam-mill; a saw-mill now forms a part of it. The boards for the original mill were all sawed out with whip-saws. Hezekiah Bussard was the first blacksmith; Wm. Gates was the next, and J. S. Bussard and S. EL Preston now follow the same business. A school-house, the first built in Hebron, was erected about the year 1842, and has long since passed away. It was constructed of logs and was used for all purposes. A brick school-house was built to take its place, about 1858, situated in the south part of the town. It is also gone, and the neat frame was built about ten years ago.

The village of Flat Rock was laid out April 20, 1876, by J. W. .Tones. It is the old town of Flat Rock somewhat modified, and moved to the railroad. It is situated on the east half of the southeast quarter of section 6, township 5 north, range 11 west, and was surveyed by John Waterhouse for the proprietor. The first merchant was J. W. Jones, who kept a grocery store and sold whisky. He commenced business in a small way, and has been very successful. In 1876 he built a large store-house, fronting the railroad, where he still does a prosperous business. S. P. Duff was the second merchant, and started a store soon after the railroad was built. To sum up his history as it was given to us - he eloped with a neighbor’s wife, and his store was closed out by creditors. I. Groff next started a dry goods store, but did not continue long in the business, when he closed out and rented his store-house to J. W. Jones. Dr. A. L. Malone established the next store, but after operating it a short time removed his stock to Palestine.

A drug store was established in Flat Rock by Dr. H. Jenner and S. R. Ford. James Kirker had started a drug store sometime previously, and sold out to Jenner and Ford, who continued about eighteen months, when they sold out to Bristow & Barton; the latter sold to A. W. Duncan who still carries on the business. Other lines of business have been opened, and Flat Rock is justly considered one of the best trading points in the county. A masonic lodge has been organized in the village, but of its history we failed to learn any particulars.

Duncansville is located on the northeast quarter of the northwest quarter of section 24, township 6 north, range 12 west, and was laid out September 6, 1876. for R. N. Duncan, the owner of the land. Its existence may be accredited to the building of the railroad, as its birth has been subsequent to the completion of the road. The first store was kept by T. L. Nichols. He was succeeded by A. S. Maxwell, who is still merchandizing in the place, and doing a thriving business. A saw-mill, with a shop or two, and a few residences constitute all there is of the town. Port Jackson is situated on the Embarras river about ten miles south of Robinson. It was laid out May 22, 1855, by Samuel Hanes, and years ago, was a place of some importance, a point from whence shipping by flat-boats on the Embarras River was carried on to a considerable extent. Hanes built a mill here and opened a store, and did a rather lucrative business for several years. A distillery was built and operated until the beginning of the war. Hanes finally moved away, and the town went down. The building of the railroad, and the laying out of other towns, has buried Port Jackson beyond the hope of resurrection.

Parting Words. - This brings us to the close of the first part of this volume, the conclusion of the history of Crawford County. "How dull it is to pause, to make an end, yo rust unburnished, not to shine in use! As though to breathe were life." The writer has appeared in the roll of historian to this community probably for the last time. The task of rescuing from oblivion the annals of the county, and of preserving on record the deeds of the pioneers who have made it what it is, though an onerous, has been a pleasant one, as well from a love of the work, as that he once considered himself a part — though a very small one - of the been permitted to discharge this duty affords him no little satisfaction. While the work may be somewhat imperfect in minor details, it is believed to be, on the whole, substantially correct. And now that it is finished, the writer strikes hands with the old pioneers, with whom his stay has been so pleasant, and with his many friends throughout the county, with a kind of mournful and melancholy pleasure, conscious that their next meeting will be beyond the beautiful river, for the pioneers still left, who constituted the advance guard—the forlorn hope of civilization in the Wabash Valley, must pass to that "bourne whence no traveler returns." It is not probable, then, that we shall I meet again, and the writer with many kind remembrances of the people of Crawford County, bids them farewell. [History Of Crawford And Clark Counties, Illinois; Edited By William Henry Perrin. Chicago: O. L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers, Lakeside Building, 1883]  




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