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Illinois Genealogy Trails

 Jefferson County Illinois
Knob Prairie



There used to be a time when anything in print was accepted without question, and a clincher to almost any argument was to point out something in print and say, "Right there it is, in black and white." Times have changed, or rather we have changed and we are not so sure any more. Take the matter of a village called Knob Prairie for instance. It is shown on an 1872 map as being a village with more than one street and located in the middle of section 27 in Blissville township. That would put it on the old Nashville and Shawneetown Road (much of which can still be seen) between Eddie Lacey's place and the site of the Old Dees School. There is no evidence of any such town having ever existed there. Neither caved in wells, foundation stones, or legends nor records.

A mile east of there in section 26, however, is plenty of evidence to show that a town once existed there. There is a number of old caved in wells, foundation stones, and legends and stories to mark the site of the old village we know as mill town. It was located about a third of a mile northwest of the corner where old Williamburg used to be. It was on the Mt. Vernon and Pinckneyville Road, or Kaskaskia Trail. Is this the Knob Prairie that is shown on the 1872 map?
It could very well be, for a number of reasons.

No 1: Although the map was published in 1872 it was made from information gathered earlier, for it does not show Williamsburg which was established in 1867, five years before the map was published.

No 2: Are there any other errors in meps of this area? Yes. The 1926 Geological Survey Map shows Williamsburg as being a mile west and a quarter mile south of its true position, placing it somewhere near the old Alva Gilbert place.

No 3: Maps are made from information supplied by humans and humans make mistakes. It is very likely therefore, that the village of Knob Prairie, shown on the 1872 Atlas is the same settlement that grew up around the old Eli Gilbert horse mill and to which many early writings refer to as Knob Prairie, or the Knob Prairie Settlement. We are all aware that Knob Prairie was a voting precinct until the township form of government was adopted in 1869, and that the store at which we call Milltown was the voting place. There was also the Post Office called Knob Prairie from May 30, 1860 until July 31, 1862.

The little community which consisted of a mill, a store, and a blacksmith shop, together with the dwellings necessary to house the people who ran those establishments was the center of economic life in this part of the county until the I. C. railroad was completed in 1854 and the town of Ashley was established. Some of the merchants from this area, including some of the Gilberts from the Knob Prairie settlement went there and set up shop.
The little Knob Prairie community might have servived in spite of that, but shortly after in Civil War (in 1867) the town of Williamsburg was laid out only a third of a mile away and the old community was doomed. There was still a small store there, however, until well into the Seventies as one of the students who attended Four Corners School (Ida Elliston Place) told of running with a companion, during the noon hour, to the store at old Milltown where they bought two long strings of licorice, for a big penny, which the teacher cut into many fragments and divided it among the fifty or so students who were going there at that time. Little remains to mark the original site of the village of Knob Prairie now, Raleigh Newell removed the last remaining building (The Old MIll granary) and took it to his barn lot about 1920. It was in use until only a few years ago, but has since been torn down and burned.

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