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History of Hilyard

Transcribed from "The Story of Macoupin County 1829-1979
Submitted by Source #1

Early Settlers & History / Schools / Prairie Fires / Churches / Mail Delivery / Town of Plainview / History of Centerville - Schools
Royal Lakes Resort - Churches - Castor Bean Crop

Early Settlers & History

The township was named after the Hilyard family who settled near the center of the township in 1834.

In the spring of 1815, David Coop Sr., his wife, and several children settled a home on the banks of a small stream named after them - Coop's Creek. They were not only the first settlers in Hilyard Township but also the first to settle in the county. The home was not far from the center of Hilyard and near the northwest corner of section 27. The Coop family lived there about ten years, and in 1828 or 1826, moved away after losing four children during a scourge of cholera that struck the family. They moved to the mound six miles north of Carlinville, thereafter known as Coop's Mound. David Coop had the distinction of having the first mill while living on Coop's Creek. A small rude, horsepower-driven mill, it was capable of grinding eight to ten bushels a day.

By the early 1800's, most of the Indians had moved away from this area. The last Indian encampment was seen in 1826, although a few still returned to hunt a few years after that.

In the fall of 1817, the families of Abram Folk and John Powell settled in the northeastern part of the township. Between 1815 and 1817, Rev. Wm. Jones preached on Coop's Creek near where the Woodburn-Carlinville Stage Road crosses the creek. After 1817, people began to flow into the township at an increasing rate. Tom Smith settled in the southwest part of Hilyard in 1818, in an area just east of Shipman. In 1832, Wm. Jolley and Richard Skaggs settled in the northwest part of the township. By the time the Hilyard family settled in the township in 1834, there were 15 families totaling about 75 persons living in Hilyard. Among the other families were: the Grays, Pruitts, Maxwells, LeYorleys, Rays, Skaggs, Lemays, Millers, and Thomases.

In the early days, with no local grist mill, the Hilyards had to take their grain all the way to Belleville to be ground. They cut fence rails and hauled them to Belleville, selling them for 25 cents a hundred and purchased corn at $1 a bushel to be ground into cornmeal. Wheat flour was so precious that they ate biscuits only on Sunday mornings.

The first people to enter land with the government were: Pleasant Leurey, 80 acres in section 12 on December 15, 1830; Henry Rhea, 80 acres in section 12 on August 20, 1831; and Benjamin Edwards, 80 acres in section 1 on October 18, 1831.

When the early settlers first arrived, there were no markets for farm products in this area. Each family usually raised whatever was needed to survive. Corn and wheat were of little value because it was impossible to move these grains to a market area. Most of the corn, besides what was made into cornmeal to be used by the family, was fed to hogs and cattle. Livestock were of little value. Sometimes hogs were combined into groves and driven to Alton where they were sold to be slaughtered.

With the coming of the railroad in 1852, transportation opened up a market for the crops and produce from the inland. Livestock then became a profitable operation. Wheat could be milled into flour, packed into barrels, and shipped elsewhere. At this time, nearly every town developed a flour mill and cooper shop. After 1900, competition from the larger mills forced the closing of the small mills, and grain was sold to elevators or grain buyers and shipped by railroads to the larger processing mills.

Castor Bean Crop

The first valuable cash crop derived from the soil in Hilyard was earned from raising castor beans and having the beans pressed into oil. Castor bean oil was the principle lubricant in use until 1854 when petroleum oil was commercially taken from the earth in Pennsylvania. It became a cheap replacement for the costly caster bean oil. Between 1830 and 1855, there were seven castor bean oil crushing plants in the southern part of Macoupin County. Those who raised castor beans in Hilyard took their crop to either Woodburn or Bunker Hill to be processed. This oil was worth about $2 a gallon. After 1855, petroleum products took over the market and, as petroleum oil sold for a few cents per gallon, it was no longer profitable to raise castor beans.


The first school in Hilyard was held in the John Hilyard home where he taught his own children and some of the neighboring children. There had been some sort of a school earlier, because the David Coop children attended school somewhere before they moved away in 1825 or 1826.

The first schoolhouse was built among the timber near Coop's Creek in section 27. It was made of unhewn logs, the roof was sawed boards held in place by weight poles, the floor was dirt, and the window (a log left out) was covered with oiled paper. The total cost of the building was $10. The first teacher to teach in this school was Aaron Leyarly. It was in this building that he started a career of teaching school.

The first school at Centerville was built in 1846, and the present building was erected in 1866. After the rural schools consolidated in 1948, this building was sold and converted into a dwelling.

Prairie Fires

Prairie fires were frequent during the autumn months and, in a few instances, the fires burned dwellings and did considerable damage to property. During a prairie fire in the fall of 1833, a child of Aaron Leyarly was caught in the prairie and burned to death.


The first church in Hilyard was organized by John Powell in the northeastern part of the township, and Rev. Wm. Jones from near Alton was the first preacher. The services were held in individual homes until 1845 when the first church was built somewhere in section 1. Later, in 1871, this church was replaced when a new building was erected in section 35 in Polk Township; it was known as the Liberty United Baptist Church. When the church burned in 1917, part of the membership joined the Plainview Baptist Association.

The Episcopal Methodist organized a church in 1833 in the home of Wm. Jolley. Rev. Meldrum was the first minister. They met in homes until a church was erected in 1858 in the northwest corner of section 25; it was called the Corrington Chapel. In 1882, a new chapel was erected, and the old church building was moved across the road and converted into a schoolhouse. Shortly after the new church was in use, and following a Sunday night service as the lamps were being put out, one of the chandeliers fell breaking two lamps and spilling oil on one of the seats. Instantly it became a sheet of flame. The burning carpets were quickly torn up and the flames stamped out, leaving a blackened seat as a reminder of a near disaster. As families died or moved away, the church eventually closed and many of the remaining members became a part of the membership of the Plainview Methodist Church. The church building was sold to another church organization and was dismantled, the material being removed for use in that church in East Alton.

The Presbyterian Church of Plainview was organized in the home of Peter Brown, January 27, 1851. Rev. Platt was the first minister. It was known as the Union Church and, in 1855, it was changed to First Presbyterian Church of Plainview. In 1857, two lots were purchased in block 5 in the plat of Plainview, and the church was built near the north edge of Plainview. Around 1900, the church was disbanded; in 1901, the church building and lots were sold at auction with the funds distributed to the Presbyterian Society in New York. The church was purchased by the newly formed Plainview Baptist Association and had been in continuous use until it was torn down August 11, 1975, when the membership erected a new building and held the first service there September 14, 1975.

The Centerville Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church was organized March 5, 1851, when 13 members met at the home of Mrs. Elizabeth Bullman near Coop's Creek in section 27. Services had been held in homes in the Centerville vicinity since 1833, and land had been donated for a church in 1834. After the schoolhouse was built in 1846, services were held there until about 1851. Jacob Hopper was the first resident minister. The present church building was built in 1855. Since 1954, six additional rooms have been added to the church structure.

A Plainview Methodist class was first organized in 1865 and joined to the Shipman Methodist Church. A class was organized in 1868, and it met in a tenant house owned by John Shanner. In 1869, the house and grounds were sold to W.H. Otwell for a dwelling house, and it was moved over and added to his residence. Then they met in the Plainview schoolhouse until the Methodist Church was erected. It was an impressive building 28 by 36 feet with a spire reaching a height of 40 feet. The first service in this edifice was held February 1, 1880; after the service, Mrs. C.S. Morgan and Miss Mollie Boyle were married. In 1898, the Methodist parsonage was built on the site of the old schoolhouse located directly west of the Baptist Church. In 1948, the parsonage and lot were sold at auction to J.J. Sauerwein who tore down the parsonage and used the material in the construction of a new home. During 1968, the Plainview Methodist Church closed because of lack of attendance; the church and grounds were sold by closed bid and the church was dismantled.

Mail Delivery

In 1822, a stage wagon was advertised to run from Sangamon to St. Louis once every two weeks taking two days for the trip. This stage route, which passed through Carlinville, Lincoln, and Edwardsville, passed through Hilyard Township on the east, following closely what is now the Carlinville-Bunker Hill Road. A contract was given to carry mail from St. Louis to Springfield in 1833.

The State Road between Alton and Springfield was surveyed in 1833 and followed the same route from Springfield as the Sangamon-St. Louis road to section 3 in Hilyard, then turned southwest following an old Indian trail, passing through Centerville and Woodburn and Fosterburg towards Alton. In 1837, a contract was awarded to carry the mail between Carlinville and Alton.

The first post office in Hilyard was established June 8, 1846. Alfred Ellet was the first postmaster. It is not now known whether the post office was at Centerville or Plainview Station. Plainview Station was a small community of a few cabins situated around a stagecoach change station and tavern on the Alton-Springfield stage road. This station was located in the center of section 1 where the road makes a bend as it starts into the timber. There was a change station at Woodburn and another at Carlinville; the team pulling the stage was run from one station to the next where the stagecoach was then changed to a fresh team. With the completion of the Sangamon-Alton Railroad the stage line ceased operation.

Town of Plainview

In 1853, a town was plotted on the new railroad in sections 4 and 9 by Mr. and Mrs. David Gore. Several of the few residents at Plainview Station moved to what is now called Plainview. Samuel Brown was the first postmaster in the new town of Plainview, and he began his duties in 1854. The first store was erected and operated by David Gore, Samuel Brown and Samuel Welsh. The first resident physician, Dr. C. Murphy, located here in 1854. The telegraph was installed in Plainview on September 14, 1876. The first child born in Plainview was Forest Gore. The Plainview Masonic Lodge was organized October 22, 1866, and occupied the second floor of the Samuel Brown store until it was destroyed by fire November 21, 1883. A new store building was erected and the Lodge again occupied the second floor until May 1963 when a fire destroyed that building, and the Masonic Lodge then built their own building that same year.

Plainview soon became a prosperous center, reaching a peak in population about 1875 when the town had a population of nearly 400 people. The town at that time had two general stores, a grocery store, a blacksmith and wagon shop where wagons, buggies, and plow were built, a shoe shop, a carpenter and builder, two physicians, a post office, school, a stockyard, a sewing machine agent, a cooper shop, and a flour mill that could mill 175 barrels of flour a day. In 1912, a newly organized Plainview Bank opened. However, local business was not large enough to continue the operation of a banking house, and the bank closed in 1927.

In 1913, John Koehler built a large grain elevator on the north side of the railroad opposite the depot and milk dump. It was sold to E.L. Craw & Son who operated the elevator; in 1920, a group of local farmers purchased the elevator and operated it as a cooperative with James H. Meyers as manager. In the fall of 1924 when the railroad was being double tracted through Plainview, a spark from a steam shovel working on the railroad set the elevator on fire. Not only was the structure and contents destroyed, but also an ice house, ice cream parlor, and a home - all north of the elevator. Following the fire, a grocery store was erected where the destroyed home had stood, and operated by Robert Rhoads. A year later, it was sold to Mr. and Mrs. James Rhoads who operated a store and restaurant about a year until it closed. The building was then used as a dance hall and in 1934, Mr. Robert Leon operated it as a tavern for a short time until the township was voted dry. The building is now used as a home.

A general store stood on Center Street where the Woods home is now. Since 1900, it had been operated by Brassell Bros.; Tom, Mike, and Jimmy Collins; Bob and Jack Roach; and the last operator was Robert Rhoads. The general store on the south side of First Street was operated first by Otwell and Shanner. In the last fifties, the top story of the building was removed and the first floor made into a home. The store on the northwest corner of First Street was operated by Lemay and Sheppard followed by others until it burned in 1962. It was never rebuilt. In 1963, Mr. and Mrs. James Lambeth erected a store building on the hardroad at the west edge of Plainview. Operators of this store have been John Landreth, Julian and Mary Strater, Mr. and Mrs. Tex House, Mr. and Mrs Orvil Best, and Mr and Mrs. Del Burch.

An implement business and blacksmith shop was operated by Bob Roach until about 1920. He sold Studebaker wagons and buggies, and also operated an automobile agency selling Overland autos. About 1920, Rosso Newby erected a building north of the railroad crossing and operated a blacksmith shop. At about the same time, John Shanner operated a garage and pool hall on First Street. He later sold out to Herman Rodgers who ran the garage and was a salesman for Ford automobiles. Other businesses that have operated in Plainview since the turn of the century included a store, pool hall, and ice cream parlor owned by Kent Wadsworth. It was sold to and operated by Lester Armour who in turn sold it to Robert Rhoads; he operated it until it burned during the elevator fire in 1924. D.F. Wadsworth operated a hardware store. A butcher shop was operated by J.B. Rhodes where Mr. and Mrs. Jefferson Rhodes now reside. Harry Wadsworth operated a funeral home for a short period of time.

The doctors who practiced in Plainview at this time were Dr. M. Burwash, Dr. W.J. Donahue, and Dr. N. Jones. Barbers included Edward Gray, James Buzzan, and Happy Lutz. Garth Rodgers was a drayman and hauled freight and coal. Mr. and Mrs. Erschell Matthews operated a filling station and garage at the north edge of Plainview from 1955 to 1969.

In September 1856, a political rally was held in Plainview with most of the surrounding population in attendance. T.L. Harris and Capt. John Palmer, both contenders for the seat of U.S. Senator, were scheduled speakers. While addressing the crowd, Capt. Palmer made an unkind remark about T.L. Harris, and Harris became enraged and took a swing at Palmer. The men started fighting and had to be separated by friends. Capt. Palmer later became governor of Illinois.

History of Centerville

The settlement of Centerville, located at the corners of sections 27, 28, 33, and 34 in the southern part of the township, sprang up around the old stagecoach road. Centerville was so called because it was centrally located, bound to the north by Plainview, to the east by Dorchester, to the south by Bunker Hill and Woodburn, and to the west by Shipman. It is about five miles from each of these towns. Centerville was the scene of varied activities before its gradual decline which began after 1852 with the coming of the railroad. There was a stagecoach stop in front of the church, a livery stable, and mail service. Blacksmith services were performed by the families of Drake, Bullman and Edsall. The general store was run by the Barnes, the Taylors, and the Barkams. Part of the store was devoted to millinery. The village even had a veterinary, Wm. Hoover, at one time. It is told that Abraham Lincoln, while traveling the old State Road, stopped at the Bullman property north of the church and drank from the well - a well used by many travelers in those days. Today, all that is left of the village is the church and the old school building converted into a home.


In 1948, the local school districts were consolidated into a Unit School District, closing all the rural schools with the exception of the Plainview school which continued to operate as a primary (first to sixth grade] school until it was closed in 1956. The schools that were located in the township were: the Plainview school in section 6, a two room school and at one time taught through the tenth grade; Pleasant Grove in section 12; Snedeker Grove in section 15; Centerville in section 27; Carrington Chapel in section 23; Locust Grove in section 29; and Hopewell in section 5. All of these schools, with the exception of Hopewell, were made into homes after being sold by the new Unit Districts.

Royal Lakes Resort

In 1956, the Royal Lakes Resort Properties was plotted and laid out into lots in section 26 and 27. Three small lakes were constructed and named Shad, Shadrack, and Meshack. In 1973, the village was incorporated and took the name of Royal Lakes. It now has a population of 415 people.

The First Baptist Church of Royal Lakes was organized by seven members in 1961. They held church services in a converted chicken house on the Royal Lakes Property several years. A church building was erected under the leadership of Rev. Wallace and the first service was held May 24, 1968. The name was changed to the First Community Baptist Church when the church was erected.


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