SOCIAL DEVELOPMENT

Transcribed from the Book
"Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois"
Originally published in 1884
by F.A. Battey & Co.  Chicago, Ill.

    The pioneers of Cumberland County, with limited exception, came from Kentucky. The larger number reached this point of the State after some temporary stay elsewhere, in Indiana or in Illinois. A few years later a large accession to the settlement was received from Morgan County, Indiana. In 1850 the gold excitement attracted a considerable number of men from this county to California, but the smaller part, of this number found their way back to Cumberland, and to this extent the “old stock” was depleted. On the whole. however, the community found here are the descendants of original pioneers, while enough of the fathers are left to trace back the ties which bind the present to the past. With the people came the customs and prejudices of the section from which they came. Whisky was a prominent factor in all social matters. Distilleries were found in every part of the county, and their product was seen and used in every cabin and at every gathering. A citizen of the county describing the difference between the product of that day and this, said that the present liquor was stupefying, and had not more than one fight in a gallon. That of forty years ago had at least ten fights to the gallon, and was of that exhilarating sort that leads a man to think he might move mountains. A natural result of the general use of this beverage was the frequency of pugilistic encounters. At every ordinary gathering there was a tendency to quarrel, and few passed where many were brought together that a fight did not occur. Saturday afternoons were regular holidays, in which the male portion of the community came together at the various villages, and indulged in pitching quoits, wrestling, shooting at the mark, or running their horses on a wager. In most of these contests gambling in one way or another was a prominent feature. To one accustomed to different customs, such amusements seemed to betray a vicious character and a ruinous tendency, and it would be generally conceded that, continued to this day, such practices would greatly retard the prosperity of the community. But these practices had their origin in the customs of an older society. Brought here in contact with other customs, transferred from other sections, new forms of amusement and new customs were developed, and with the change of circumstances and surroundings society invented new modes of amusement. The early law allowed the voter in general elections to vote at the county seat or elsewhere in the county, and such occasions and the opening of court brought a large proportion of the male population together. Subsequent changes broke the larger community into smaller ones, where the more thoughtful ones had greater influence, and this boisterous conviviality has gradually been done away with. Another powerful influence toward the social development of a community, is its contact with others. A profitable emulation springs up, business interests become involved, and orderly habits become a necessity. In this early stage of development, therefore, the first highways played an important part. They were the great arteries that touched the lines of the various minor communities, and linked their prosperity together.
    The Cumberland or National road was laid out about the time, or before, of the earliest settlement here. It was subsequently completed sufficient for general travel as early as 1832. This was of great influence upon the community, bringing, as it did, persons from all parts of the older settled portions of the east in contact with the community settled in the southern part of the county. From this road, at different points, the early roads led back on either side to the remoter settlements. Of the earliest wagon-ways in Cumberland County, scarcely more than trails, one led from Greenup to the Johnstown settlement; another led from Woodbury to Johns­town, and a third led from Greenup to the Glenn settlement, in Coles County, by way of “Cutwood Gap.” These were at first the only regular routes of travel. These led along the edge of the timber, as the green-head flies made it impossible for animals to pass through the prairie during the larger part of the day. These roads were not officially established, nor regularly laid out, nor worked. They were simply the routes from one point to another, which the people generally agreed, under all the circumstances, were the most direct. Streams were forded, sloughs were avoided by circuitous routes, or plunged into and through by the dint of horse power and endurance. Often the teamster was forced to relieve his team by unloading a part of the burden in the midst of the slough, if his prudence had not led him to do so before entering, and then this portion of the load had to be transferred to the wagon again upon the shoulder of the man. Thus it frequently occurred that the day was spent in making a comparatively short distance, and the teamster would find himself worn out with his exertions and covered with the mud in which he had been obliged to work. In 1835 the road from Greenup to Charleston was established, connecting with a road that passed southward through Jasper County. In 1839, a road from Charles­ton, via Johnstown, was laid out to Louisville, Clay County. in this State; in 1846, a road from Greenup to York, in Clark County, and a little later, the State road, which runs northward through the center of the county. These were the principal inter-county roads. In the meanwhile, scarcely a session of the County Court passed without action was taken on. some of the neighborhood roads. These at first were constructed upon the most available direct route from one neighborhood to another. As lands were entered, and these routes were found to interfere with private interests, they were changed to run on section-lines.
    But with all this multiplication of roads it was found difficult to reach a profitable market by means of wagons. St Louis was the principal market for produce in this section, and the National road was a great advantage to this county, but even by this way the cost of transportation nearly consumed the value of the load. Along the larger waterways large flat boats were constructed, laden with grain and pork, and then floated to New Orleans. The Embarrass River was available for this purpose along its lower length, and under the supposition that it could be used in Jasper, Cumberland and Coles counties, the legislature passed an act, in 1847, authorizing these counties to levy a tax for clearing out the drift-wood and other obstructions from the channel and banks. This county did levy one tax, and in 1848 Wiley Ross was appointed to superintend this work. Debris was removed, overhanging trees cut away at considerable expense, but the river was never found available here. Two flat-boats started down from Coles County, only one of which got into the Wabash River. The numerous streams in the county added a serious difficulty to the early travel, and gave no little trouble to the County Court, which was embarrassed by a very limited treasury. The only important bridge in the county, until about 1860 was the bridge on the National road, built across the Embarrass by the government. This was built about 1832, and was a good specimen of workmanlike skill and patience. It served the public well, but the constant wear of travel and weather reduced it to a wreck in about thirty years. Warped out of shape and in a dangerous condition, it was still used until its final destruction about 1865
    The destruction of this old bridge seems to have worked up a new era in the history of the Embarrass River, particularly in the locality of Greenup, for it seems the river had not been discovered to be navigable for boats, especially from bank to bank, until then. This is an epoch in the history of the Embarrass well remembered by some of the old Boards of Supervisors, who were so persistently assailed for ferry-boat licenses and charters, and price lists, along in 1866-67. After the destruction of the old bridge, Reuben Mattox established a ferry in 1866 at the point where the Cumberland road crosses the river. The charter of this ferry was granted by the County Board to Mr. Mattox, who run the boat until it passed into the hands of Abe Parker. This boat was first built with the intention of being kept up and sustained by the town of Greenup, but for some reason the enterprise failed and Mr. Mattox took it up. Mr. Parker was succeeded by Samuel Cisna, and he by Henson Bright. In June, 1865, Chas. Couzet, Jr. and Win. E. Workman established a ferry at the point where the Charleston and Greenup road crosses the river. They run this boat for some time and assigned it to Sam Cisna and Chas. Allen. The boat afterwards passed into the hands of Cisna alone, and afterwards back to Work­man, who owned the boat when he died, in 1871. R. M. G. Cleghorn run the boat for some time after the death of Workman. It then passed into the hands of John Hallett, whose almost superhuman appeals to the Great Boatman, who ferries people across the river Jordan, could almost make the boat glide without any other exercise or propellant power. It then came back into the hands of Sam Cisna, who succeeded Hallet. During the time Workman ran it, a small saloon was attached to the boat, the result of which was to make the head swim as well as the body, making a kind of double ferry and adding to the financial part of the arrangement. Although this saloon was a small affair, its liquors spoke as loudly in their workings as though drank in one of the dashing saloons of London, or New York. During Workman's last term (under a twenty years charter), he constructed a “pontoon bridge,” which rendered crossing more safe and convenient. But Workman has crossed the big ferry, and the pontoon bridge is gone.
    The business of conducting a ferry, even at that date, had its discouragement's. This route was considerably traveled, and while the Board had granted a very liberal list of charges, especially in the case of foreign travel, it did not prove highly remunerative. People did not seem to appreciate the private character of the enterprise, and it is said the irritated proprietor rushed before the Board, at one of its sessions, threw his hat upon the table before them, exclaiming, “Gentlemen, I want you to do something to compel people to pay, when they cross on the ferry ; for, by G—d! I have to keep a hired hand to run the boat for me, while I stand on the bank with my coat off and sleeves rolled up, ready to flog them if they don’t pay, d—d if I don’t, and I am getting tired of it, and want you to do something to make them pay, without my having to flog it out of them.” It is not recorded how the Board satisfied the irate ferry-man, but as a memorial of Workman, and of the skill of James Eaton in the use of a broad ax, the boat remained for years, serving a temporary substitute for the old bridge. A ferry is still used, about two months in the year, on the road leading from Toledo to Greenup.
    In 1862, the Board of Supervisors contracted for a bridge across the Embarrass River at Nees’ Ford, where the section-line crosses the river due east of the courthouse, and for the repair of the old bridge on the Cumberland road. The first was built at a cost of some $650, paid by the county, and a subscription of $380 by those interested. The repairs on the old bridge were carried forward very slowly, and the structure was carried away before it was finished. In this year, also, bridges were constructed over Muddy Creek, on the road from Toledo to Neoga, and over the Cottonwood Creek, on the road from Toledo to Greenup. These are unimportant structures, and were built at a cost of about $300 each. Under the township organization, the county central authority has but a limited control of the subject of bridge building, and in this county, the unusual fact was presented, of the Board of Supervisors willing to construct, and the township backward in building. The Board had made several attempts to secure a durable bridge over the Embarrass on the National road, but no practical result had followed when, in December, 1875, the following “whereas” was passed: “Whereas, the county of Cumberland is greatly deficient in bridges, and that a bridge is needed across the Embarrass River, at the National road crossing in Greenup; also, one across Muddy Creek, at the crossing west of Prairie City, in Sumpter Township; also one across Muddy Creek, at the National road crossing in Woodbury Township; and also, one across the Embarrass River, at the Ryan Ford, in Union Township; and, whereas, our county is out of debt and amply able to build good and durable bridges on easy terms; now, therefore, we, the said Board, would respectfully recommend to the Commissioners of Highways, that they take the necessary legal steps to build bridges at the respective places above mentioned; that we recommend the building of good iron bridges at the said crossings, and that they be placed on good iron abutments,” etc. The Board further recommended that contracts be made with the McKay & Nelson Iron Bridge Company, of Fort Wayne, Ind. This action on the part of the Board developed some activity among the township authorities, and contracts were let for three of these bridges, which were erected in the following year. The bridge at the Woodbury Ford was car carried out by high water in 1882. The repair of this bridge, including the cost of raising the grade, it is estimated will cost upwards of $4,000, and is now under consideration. The bridge at Ryan’s Ford was contracted for in August, 1883, for $6,700. The three bridges constructed in 1876, cost about $20,000, of which fell to the county something over $17,000. There was some difficulty in settlement with the contractors, and the Board finally compromised on $16,087.95 as its share.

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