The surface of this county is generally rolling, and, with the exception of two or three small prairies, was originally covered mainly with timber. There are no streams of any considerable size in the county, the largest being the North Fork of the Saline River, which has its origin in Section 8, Township 6, Range 7 east, at the junction of Wheeler's Creek and Lake Creek, and runs southerly into Saline County. In the southwest portion is Rector Creek and in the west is Macedonia Creek, in the north are Auxier and Haw Creeks, the latter being a branch of Skillet Fork, which intersects the extreme northeast corner of the county. A glance at the map shows that all these streams have their origin within the limits of the county and run to the four points of the compass, thus indicating that Hamilton County is more elevated than any of its immediate neighbors. The alluvial deposits are confined to the valleys of the small streams, and are generally less than a mile in width. The drift deposits in the uplands vary from ten to thirty feet in thickness, and consist of buff and yellow, gravelly clay, with small boulders interspersed from a few inches to a foot or more in diameter. Beneath this gravelly clay and hard pan of the drift are sometimes found stems and branches of trees in the ancient soil in which they grew.
The rocks of this county belong to the upper coal measures, ranging from Coal No. 10 to No. 13, the rock strata being from 150 to 200 feet in thickness, but the coal is seldom thick enough to work. In early days the coal on Hogg Prairie was worked to some extent by stripping to supply the blacksmiths, but upon opening up the thicker veins in Saline County, the work in Hamilton County was abandoned. Beneath this coal is a layer of limestone from thirty to forty feet in thickness. This is a fine, grained, grayish rock, turns yellowish drab upon exposure, and when burned yields a strong, dark colored lime. Sandstone is quarried southwest of McLeansboro for building purposes. It dresses easily and hardens on exposure. Clay suitable for brickmaking is abundant in every locality, as is also sand for mortar and cement. There are a few mineral springs in the county, one a mile and a half east of McLeansboro, one north of, and one in McLeansboro.
Alluvium bottoms of various widths exist all along the main branch of North Fork and on some of the smaller streams. Here the soil is very rich, usually a sandy loam. The prairies are small and occupy the highlands between the sources of the streams. The soil is of medium quality and produces fair crops of oats, wheat, corn, grass, etc. The oak ridges have a thin soil with a stiff clay subsoil and require artificial stimulus or the plowing in of green crops to retain their productive qualities. Generally speaking this county compares favorably with other portions of southeastern Illinois.
It may be of interest to many to know that Rector Creek was so named from the fact that John Rector was killed near or in this creek by Indians, while engaged in the original survey of the country in 1805. The following entry on the field book of Saline County has reference to this murder:
"John Rector died May 25, 1805, at the section corner of Sections 21, 22, 27 and 28; buried from this corner, south 62°, west 72 poles, small stone monument, stone quarry northwest, 150 yards." This was in Township 7, Range 7.
Moore's Prairie was so named from a man named Moore whose Christian name can not now be recalled, but who was killed by Indians. The same is the case as to Knight's Prairie. Hogg Prairie was named after the father of Samuel Hogg. Eel's Prairie is said to have been named after Eli Waller, though the connection is not obvious. Beaver Creek was named from the presence of large numbers of beavers in and near the creek. Allen Precinct was named after a Mr. Allen, it is now Twigg Township named after James Twigg. Griswold Precinct was named after Gilbert Griswold, it is now Flannigan Township named after a Mr. Flannigan. Shelton Precinct was named after Joseph Shelton, Crouch Precinct after Adam Crouch, and Mayberry Precinct after Frederick Mayberry.