Genealogy Trails

CUMBERLAND COUNTY, ILLINOIS

NEOGA 'S EARLY HISTORY

Before Neoga Was


For many years, Miss Mary Fellows taught her pupils at Neoga Grade School to locate Neoga, Illinois, accurately on the big globe at 39 degrees north latitude and 88 degrees west longitude. When the geography class could spot it easily in relation to the known universe, she would proceed to explain how it happened to be there. She doubtless never failed to capture the immediate attention of the seventh grade when she started the history of Neoga with Indians, Until about the year 1823 the Kickapoo Indians were in full possession of the territory where Neoga now stands, Their numbers gradually grew less until the Black Hawk War in 1832 drove them west to greater security from the white men. Traces of their civilization are occasionally found by jubilant children, but their principal legacy is, very likely, the name Neoga.

The white settlement of Cumberland County came close upon the retreat of the savages. In 1832 the work on the National Road through the county began, and settlements developed along the route. Early settlements wore made at high points of timber that skirted streams. The prairie was covered with joint grass, which at times reached the enormous of ten or twelve feet. There was little natural drainage, and the rainfall saturated the soil until the prairie land became almost a marsh at times. The frontier settlers believed the open land could never be tilled successfully; there fore they chose the timber sites for their farms.

In 1842, Coles County the territory now embraced by Douglas, Coles and Cumberland Counties. The area was broken up into three counties as of May 1, 1843, In 1855 an election established Prairie City (Toledo) as the county seat of Cumberland and the county was  divided into voting precincts. Wabash precinct, later called Neoga precinct, was the northwest corner of the county, five miles wide east and west, and seven miles long from north to south, In 1861, the county was reorganized on a township plan. Neoga precinct and Clear Creek precinct were combines to form what is now known as Neoga Township.

In 1843, when the county of Cumberland was formed, there were less than 500 people living within its allotted boundaries. From this time to 1950, immigration almost ceased and the growth of the population remained at a standstill. In 1845, cholera proved fatal to many, and a considerable number joined the rush to California in 1849, About 1650, however, the land warrants issued to soldiers of the Mexican War brought about a change. These warrants got into the hands of persons seeking new homes, and from 1850 -1853 almost every acre of public land was entered. A large part of this land was entered through the United States land office at Palestine at $1.25 per acre.

The early wagon ways in Cumberland County were scarsely more than trails. One led from Greenup to the Johnstone settlement; another connected Woodbury to Johnstown, and a third led from Greenup to the Glenn settlement in Coles County. These first routes of travel led along the edge of timber, as the greenhead flies made it impossible for animals to pass through the prairie during the larger part of the day. Streams were forded, sloughs were plunged into or avoided by circuitous routes. As lands were entered and these found to interfere with private interests, they were changed to run on section lines. An inter-county road from Greenup to Charleston was established in 1835.

Some early settlers in Neoga Township: Neoga’s first merchant - Ludley Keen Johnson, born in Anderson County, Kentucky, October 2, 1815; died in Neoga December 8, 1869; Jackie Young, progenitor of all the Youngs of that vicinity; Jackie Spain, postmaster; the Allen and Wagner families; Roger Cross, the Good and Blystone families, Others in Cumberland County were the McCartney family; Mitchell Lockhart, who had a saw mill near Concord Church; Castevens family; Andrew Gray, James NcNutt, James Morrison, Wm, Allison, John and Garrett Buchanan, James Ewing and James Wilson.

Taken from the Neoga Centennial Program 1856 - 1956.
"Originally transcribed by Martha Greeson and published in the Cumberland and Coles County Historical Society Quarterly on April 1973 and transcribed here for Genealogy Trails by Barb Z."

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