Genealogy Trails

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, ILLINOIS

HISTORY OF EARLY DAYS

About 1831, the Government authorized and employed surveyors to lay off the state into townships and sections so that every part of it could ,be individualized, identified and described. Then the Congress voted money for and authorized the building and extension of the National Road from Cumberland, Maryland to St. Louis, Missouri.
This National Road, frequently called “The Cumberland Road and from which the County was named, was of immense and immediate importance to that are of the state contiguous to it, and indeed to all the country further vest. It was built, one might say, by the inch, as the road was graded up and packed in all low places and sufficiently wide for two coaches to pass everywhere; the drainage culverts which were numerous were provided with dressed stone nicely fitted, cemented and arched; the creeks and rivers were spanned by enduring bridges built on hued stone piers and abutments erected with such skill they seemed able to stand for ages. The bridges were in­deed marvelously constructed of timbers and planks which were pit sawed by manpower, usually of trees standing near by. They were double tracked and held together with wooden pegs, even the sidings were held on by wooden pegs not an iron bolt nor banding the structure; nor a nail unless possible on the roof. So it is not surprising that when it was finished as far as Vandalia in 1840, where it was stopped, it had cost the Government nearly several million dollars.
As soon as these events were accomplished the Government established a land office in Vandalia, although the State capital had been moved from there to Springfield in 1836 Then the country was thrown open to settlers, and the once for all Government land was fixed at one dollar and twenty five cents per acre.
About the same time the Congress passed a law giving to each surviving soldier a Land Warrant for forty acres of land. These Warrants were full
payment for the amount of any unoccupied Government land, and were issued to each soldier by name so that if he did not want to use it himself he would make it transferable by signing his name on the back of it. The utmost cash value of a forty acre Warrant was fifty dollars. Nearly all the first settlers had procured land warrants before starting for the great unknown West
So in 1838 when Phillip Shiplor and Wm. E. Smith; my father, arrived from Ohio, in what was then and for several years afterwards, Coles County Illinois, they made their selections side by side helped each other build Their cabins and then went to Vandalia and became the first purchasers of land in that vicinity,. (John Armer was also there about a mile up Cottonwood Creek)
At that time there was much prejudice against the prairie land, especial1y by persons from the heavily timbered eastern states where the farms had to be made by grubbing and clearing off the timber. These people though out the prairie Could not be productive or there would be timber on them. So for this and other reasons the cabins were built in the timber and the timber lands were taken first. Mr. Shiplor’s land was nearly all timber, my father selected his 160 acres so the east half was in the prairie and the west half was in timber. His land was about one half mile north of the National Road and his west line about a quarter of a mile east of the Cottonwood Creek. Within a few years several other pieces of land were entered by persons who had children and in the fall of 1840 they all came together and decided to build a school house. My father gave a spot of ground near his south-west corner and all necessary timber and the cabin 12 feet by 16 feet was built in one day. It was made of round logs, chinked and daubed and covered with clapboards with logs on top to hold them down. It had a puncheon floor, and benches were also of puncheons and the door was hung with wooden hinges. This was the first school house west of Greenup. Although there was not a legal school district established there, my father taught the school for three winters, 1840 -’4l -’42. The patrons paid him what they could spare generally “chips and whetstones”, he said, but as he spent the time of the recesses and noon hour in riving clapboards from timber near by for his outbuildings, he did not lose much, it was in this, school house in 1841 that the first religious meetings were held and the first Methodist Society organized, with, the following charter members: Phillip and Nellie Shiplor, Wm. S. and Nancy Smith, Joseph and Mary Russell, John and Sarah Smith, Mrs. Hamilton, Thomas and Mary Smith, John Green and his wife, Henry Shiplor and George and Sarah Smith.
By the year 1844 the school house before mentioned became too small to accommodate the children who wanted to attend school and the people who came to the church services. It was therefore considered advisable to build a meeting house large enough for both purposes. My father gave a larger pact of land sufficient for the meeting house and a graveyard also.
The site chosen for the house was about fifteen rods west from the school house, and it was a really beautiful one for that purpose; there were large oak trees here and there with a grassy sward beneath them; the ground sipped down to the westward into the creek bottom; the front end of the house faced southward and stood about fifty feet north of the new section line road which had been opened eastward to Greenup, and to the west across the Cott­onwood Creek and on to where the Morton settlement sprang up later. It became a very important road joining the east and west settlements of the county.
When it became known that a meeting house was to be built there all the men in the settlement, even those who were not church members came and vol­unteered to help prepare the timbers. When a sufficient number of these had been cut and hewed on two sides and hauled to the place, a day was appointed for, the erection. That was a great day, an event, the first meeting house in the western part of the county was to be erected. Men came from far and near there were twenty three of them and all were enthusiastic to help in such a good cause.
Four of the most skillful were selected to carry up the four corners they cut the saddles and shaped the ends of the logs so that the hewed sides were placed in a vertical position; other men selected to logs that matched and shoved them up on skids until the house was about three times the height of an ordinary house, Then  the roof was made and the cracks between the logs were covered with clapboards and fastened by wood pins; the ‘floor and seats ‘ were at first made of puncheons and the door hung with wooden hinges; the pulpit enclosed on three sides  Was placed at the further end and was ascended by three steps. A merchant in Greenup donated enough nails for the roof, another merchant furnished three windows for each of ‘the two sides’and a third merchant donated a large box stove and sufficient pipe to reach through the roof.
 When it was finished everyone praised it saying, “It is about the nicest Meeting House I have ever seen”.

The Dedication

When everything was ready a. Methodist Preacher Rev. H.B. Hascombe of. Kentucky was sent for and he came and conducted the dedication services and named it “The Salem Meeting House". From that time on regular preaching services were held once a month by a circuit rider who with the and of other preachers also held a protracted meeting for two or more weeks once a year. A Sunday School was established which taught reading, writing and arithmetic as well as religion On those Sundays when there were no preaching services a class meeting was held by the leader, Phillip Shiplor at first,  and later by Joseph Russell, When I was a small boy I liked to attend these meetings. The men came in earlier than the women, each dressed in his Sunday best consisting of buckskin pants and vest, a warmus and a coon-skin cap. As they entered their guns were stacked in the corners and on them were hung the shot pouches and powder horns. In-the winter time, as wood was abundant and free, they made a roaring fire drew the benches around, the big-stove and spent a half hour or more before meeting time in recounting their adventures during the previous week and the previous years and how they had shot a deer or a turkey that morning as they came, or went they, intended to do on the way home after the meeting. They told many marvelous stories new ones each Sunday the supply seemed inexhaustible.
The First Death Soon after the dedication of the house, a day was appointed and the settlers came together again and grubbed and cleared a part of the graveyard. As the ground had been donated to the public, there was never a charge for burial lots and so the yard.was kept in order by these annual volunteer labors.   
The first one to be buried there was George Smith, aged about about 45 years, whose home was about two miles northeast of the meeting house. His grave was dug about two hundred feet north from the building and was to be seen for many years covered by a rail pen. As there was no preacher near  the funeral was conducted at the side of the grave by the Class leader...........

( This was taken from the January 8, 1920, issue of The Toledo Democrat. Dr. Clark Smith was born in the Salem neighborhood, three,miles south and a little east of Toledo,Cumberland County, Illinois. At this writing he was living in Berkeley, Calif., as a practicing physician. There was evidently more of the articles but we were unable to find them)

"Originally transcribed by Dr. Dick Smith and published in the Cumberland County Historical Society Quarterly on July 1973 and transcribed here for Genealogy Trails by Barb Z."


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