1879 History of Menard & Mason Counties
Published by: O.L. Baskin & Co., Historical Publishers
186 Dearborn Street

Mason County

Settlement Of The Township
Page 567

The first dwellings reared by white men in the present town of Bath were built by John Stewart and John Gillespie in 1828. Gillespie erected his cabin on the old site of Moscow, and Stewart on Snicarte Island, a portion of which belongs to this township. They were from Tennessee, and though acknowledged the first actual settlers, did not remain long in the town, but in a year or two removed to Schuyler County. Gillespie left his claim "for better or worse," but Steward sold out to Amos Richardson, and he, in turn, sold it to John Knight, who had entered the land. This was the first land entered in what is now known as Bath Township. Knight was from the East, and was what was called in those early days, by the Southern people, who composed the majority of the settlers, a "flat-mouthed Yankee." Knight settled here in 1829-30, but in a few years removed to Fulton County, where he died soon after. He sold the place to James H. Allen, with whom he had an extensive law-suit. He sued Allen for the improvements made on the place, but, before the cause was decided, he died.

Henry Shepherd was the first settler in the north part of the township, locating on the spot where afterward rose the village of Matanzas.. He was from Eastern Pennsylvania, and is acknowledged to have been the first settler in this immediate neighborhood, though no one now can tell the exact time of his settlement. He entered his land, however, in 1832, and probably came but a short time prior to that date. It is related of him that he would never allow a plow in his corn, but cultivated it exclusively with hoes, a mode of farming that would be looked on at the present day as decidedly peculiar. His death was a singular one, but as we are not sufficiently skilled in medical technicalities to describe it in fitting terms, we will refer our readers for particulars to some of the old settlers (Charley Richardson, for instance), who still remember the circumstances.

From Kentucky, the "dark and bloody ground" of aboriginal story and song, the township received the following additions to its population: Joseph A. Phelps, F. S. D. Marshall, Col. A. S. West, Dr. Harvey Oneal, Maj. B. H. Gatton and his brother, R. P. Gatton, John S. Wilburn, C. P. Richardson, Rev. J. A. Daniels, James Holland, Thomas F., Samuel Laban and Richard Blunt, William H. Nelms, William, John G. and C. Conover, Samuel, Pettitt, and perhaps others.

Joseph A. Phelps settled in the township about 1840, but shortly after moved into the village of Bath. He was the first Circuit Clerk of Mason County, and was at one time Probate Judge, and for a number of years a Justice of the Peace. He finally removed to Nebraska, where he died in 1878. Marshall came from Cass County to this settlement, but was originally from Kentucky. He was a young lawyer when he came here, was elected the first Master in Chancery, and, in 1845, appointed Circuit Clerk by Judge Lockwood; was also elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1847-48. His death occurred in 1845-55. He married a Miss Berry, who taught one of the early schools of Bath.

Col. West first came to the State in 1827-28, and settled near the present city of Virginia, in Cass County, and in 1844 came to this township, where he still owns a large farm, though for some time has been living in Kansas. He visits his former home and old neighbors occasionally, and still vividly remembers the privations of early times in this section of the country. After the county seat was moved to Bath, and before a court house was built, Circuit Court was held at his residence. He was one of the early merchants of Bath; served also with distinction in the Winnebago war. Dr. Oneal, an old settler of this township, married his daughter. He came from Virginia, Cass County, to this township, but, as already noted, was from Kentucky, and settled here about 1842-43, but lives at present in Kilbourne Township, and will be further noticed in the chapter devoted to that town.

Maj. Gatton came to the State with his father, in 1824, and settled in Cass County (then a part of Morgan), when he was but sixteen years old. In 1831, having begun the battle of life, he located in Beardstown, where he resided until his removal to Bath, in May, 1841, soon after the formation of Mason County. When Maj. Gatton settled in the present village of Bath, there was but one little pole cabin then in the place, besides the house he had had built for his own use before his removal. His brother, R. P. Gatton, came on before him and attended to the building of it, that it might be ready for his brother's family. It was of hewed logs, and, with the exception of the pole cabin already alluded to, was the first residence in Bath Village. The body of this building is still standing, though moved from its original site, and modernized by being weatherboarded and lathed and plastered. R. P. Gatton lived in the village until his death, in 1873. Maj. Gatton is still living, enjoying fine health for a man of threescore and ten years. He has been on the solid business men of the place, one of the first merchants and grain-dealers, and still follows the latter business to some extent. To his active memory, we are indebted for much of the history of this township. He is noticed further in the history of the village. John F. Wilbourn first settled in Beardstown upon coming to the State, but came to Bath in 1843. He served as Circuit Clerk, and was the second Postmaster at Bath. He lives at present two and a half miles east of Mason City. Charles P. Richardson is one of the oldest settlers of Bath Township, now living, having settled here in 1836, and lived in the town ever since. He first settled on Grand Island, opposite Bath, and for ten or twelve years has been living in the village. He came to the State with his father in 1819, the next year after it was admitted into the Union, but did not settle in this county until 1836, as noted above. He was one of the chain-carriers to President Lincoln, when he surveyed the original village of Bath, as hereafter noticed. The surveying party made their home at Mr. Richardson's while engaged in the work, who, with true Kentucky hospitality, refused all offers of remuneration, but "honest Old Abe," determined to compensate him for the trouble his party had caused him, surveyed his land free of charge. Mr. Richardson is still living and in vigorous health, with a mind well stored with the history of the county and anecdotes of the pioneer days, some of which are given to embellish these pages. Rev. J. A. Daniels was born in Virginia, but removed with his parents to Kentucky when a child. He came to Illinois in 1835, and settled in Cass County, and, in 1845, came to this township, where he has resided ever since, most of the time in the village of Bath. He is one of the pioneer preachers of the Baptist denomination. James Holland was his father-in-law, and came to the town with Daniels. He died a number of years ago. The Blunts came here in the thirties. Thomas F. and Laban came first. Just here we give the following from A. A. Blunt, a son of Thomas F., as of interest to his family and old friends: "Thomas F. Blunt was born in Kent County, Md., and removed with his parents to Kentucky in boyhood. He married Miss Alderson, of Hart County, Ky., and of eight children born to them, four are still living. In the fall of 1831, he removed to Missouri, and, in 1833, to Illinois. He came to the territory now embraced in Mason County in December of that year. In 1849, unaided and alone, he built a schoolhouse, for school and church purposes, and provided a teacher for the ensuring winter. He was one of the original members of Mount Zion Baptist Church (mentioned elsewhere), and the only one now living in the county. He owned the first threshing machine and the first reaper ever operated in Mason County. In 1872, he was attacked with palsy in his right side, with which he is still a sufferer." A few years later, Richard Blunt, a brother to Thomas and Laban, came to the settlement. He and Laban died in the township. Samuel Blunt, one of the brothers, lives at present in Kilbourne Township. William H. Nelms first settled in Cass County, and came from Beardstown to Bath in 1842. He and Maj. Gatton had the first store in Bath, a business continued for some time, and a son of Mr. Nelms now lives in Havana, and is engaged in the grain business. The elder Mr. Nelms was one of the original proprietors of the village of Bath. The Conovers came to the township and settled within a mile of Bath, about the year 1841. There were three brothers of them-Combs, William and John G., and their father settled in Morgan County in 1821, where the family lived until the sons came here as above. All are dead except John G., who lives in another part of the county-Sherman Township, we believe. Samuel Pettitt settled here about 1848, and some years later moved to Missouri, where he died.

From Tennessee, the home of Old Hickory, we have the following recruits: Joseph Adkins, Joseph Wallace, William and James Dew, Manning and Thomas Bruce, Nelson R. Ashurst, John Johnson, Matthew Wiley and son, Patrick W. Campbell, and his son, George H. Campbell, and probably others, whose names we have failed to obtain. The Campbells were among the early settlers of Bath Township, were prominent business and professional men, and accumulated a large property. George H. Campbell, a son of Patrick W. Campbell, came to the township as early as 1838, then a youth of but seventeen years: his father came in 1840, and settled down in the southern part of the town near Smith Turner's. He was the first Surveyor of Mason County, an office he held for a number of years, and was one of the highly respected citizens of the town and county. George H., upon whose shoulders the father's mantle worthily rests, was elected to office in early life, that of Assessor and Treasurer of the county, soon after attaining his majority. He married a daughter of Maj. Gatton, and their eldest son, William H. Campbell, is an able lawyer of Havana, and the present Mayor of that city. George H. Campbell is a lawyer of ability and has served his country at the bar, in the legislative halls of the State, and on the tented field. His record as County Judge is well known and needs no comment. He was elected to the Legislature in 1858, and served with ability. During the late war, he assisted in raising the One Hundred and Sixth Regiment of Illinois Infantry, of which he was made Lieutenant Colonel, but resigned in about a year on account of ill health. At present he resides in Mason City, where he is further noticed.

The Dews settled here about 1842, and consisted of four brothers, viz.: Joseph, Wallace, William and James, the latter being the youngest, and not coming until several years after the others. Wallace and William are dead, but Joseph and James are still living. The Bruces settled here about 1846-47. Manning removed to Logan County long ago, and Thomas has been lost sight of. Joseph Adkins came in 1840, and lived in the town until his death in 1878. He died near Saidora, and owned the land on which that station is located. Nelson R. Ashurst was one of the early settlers and located here about 1839. He died of cholera many years ago, but has two sons still living in the township. John Johnson settled just east of the village of Bath, as early as 1837-38, where he resided for a time, and then removed into Lynchburg Township, and is there mentioned further among the early settlers of that town. Matthew Wiley was among the early comers to this section, but what year he located here we could not learn. He had a son named Matthew, who lived with him. The old gentleman settled in Stewart's house, already mentioned as one of the first built in the township. The family finally moved to Texas.

William F. Bunton is a North Carolinian, and came to Illinois in 1840, and to Bath in 1842. His brother, John N. Bunton, came to the town with him, but died June 23, 1861. W. F. Bunton is still living, one of the respected citizens of Bath Village. When the county seat was located at Bath, and a temple of justice erected, Mr. Bunton put the roof upon the structure. Arthur Morrow, with two brothers, Thomas and Allen, settled in Bath Township about 1838-39. All of them are now dead. They were from North Carolina, and were highly respected citizens. Arthur Morrow has a son living in the village of Bath, who though but a boy when his father came here, has a vivid recollection of the early times; and to his excellent memory we are indebted for many facts pertaining to the early history of the township. A man named Thomas Hubbard settled in the south part of the township among the earliest. He came from Greene County to this neighborhood, and after a few years returned whence he came. He was a son-in-law of Allen Morrow.

George A. Bonney came from the Empire State to Illinois, in 1833, with his sister, mother and stepfather, locating in what is now Cass County. His ancestors settled in Massachusetts, in colonial times, and his grandfather, a Colonel of the State troops commanded a regiment at Springfield, Mass., in an engagement during what is known as the whisky insurrection. Some years after coming to Illinois, he was licensed to preach, though quite young, and joined the Illinois Conference. He was transferred to Missouri, but remained but a few years, on account of poor health. After his return to Illinois, he engaged in agricultural pursuits. Among other objects of enterprise, he built a large grain warehouse on the Snicarte Slough, which flowed through his farm; but this was burnt by incendiaries. He did a few years ago, lamented by a large circle of friends and relatives.

Isaac Vail was a native of Ohio, and sprang from a solid old Buckeye family. He came to Illinois in 1843, locating in Vermont, Fulton County, and, in 1845, came to Bath Township. He was one of the energetic merchants and business men of Bath, and to him the village owes much of its prosperity. Having accumulated a large property, he retired from the cares of business, spending the last years of a busy life in comparative quiet, and died in February, 1878, upon the threshold of fourscore years. Warren Heberling, one of the leading citizens and stanch business men of Bath, married a daughter of Mr. Vail.

Smith Turner came to Bath about 1838 or 1839, and settled in the south part of the township. He married a daughter of Drury S. Field, an early settler of this section, and who entered a large body of land of the town. Mr. Turner was a lawyer of ability, and upon the removal of the county seat to Bath, he located in the village, where he practiced his profession, and was, for a term or two, Probate Judge. He finally removed to Missouri about the commencement of the war.

V. B. Holmes was one of the early settlers in the vicinity of Matanzas, and was a stately old Virginian. He entered 12,000 acres of land for Dr. Field, and for his services received a fourth interest in the land. He is remembered as a man of many peculiarities, but as he is more particularly mentioned in the county history, we will not speak of him further in this connection, but to note the fact that he moved to Tazewell County, where he died. He bought land near Matanzas from the elder Schulte, whose son, John H., lives in Havana at present, and is the Deputy County Clerk. Henry Wiggenton, also, was interested at Matanzas, with Holmes, but sold out and moved to Missouri prior to 1850.

Joseph F. Benner came from Ohio, and settled in this township. He assisted in building the Court House when the seat of justice was moved to Bath. Mr. Benner removed to Lincoln, Logan County, a good many years ago. Samuel Craggs came to this section in 1845 or 1846; was a carpenter by trade, and came from "Old Hengland." His wife was a sister to Smith Turner. Two brothers-William and Charles Craggs-at present live in Kilbourne Township. His father was also among the early settlers, but died many years ago.

William, Daniel, Francis and John Bell may also be numbered among the early settlers, though the exact year of their settlement is not remembered. After a few years they returned to Greene County, where they came from. They were a chime of Bells that were perfectly harmonious in tone, as we were told that all four of the brothers married sisters (Morrows), and soon little Bells began to jingle. They married sisters to Thomas Hubbard's wife. William and Daniel were preachers; William entering the ministry as soon as he reached manhood. J. P. Hudson came from Massachusetts to Illinois, and settled in Macoupin County in 1838, removed to this town in 1845, and located at Matanzas, where he resided several years, and then removed to his farm about five miles east of Havana, and afterward to the city of Havana. About 1866, he removed to Mason City. He claims to have introduced the first McCormick's Reaper into this county, and sold it afterward to William Ainsworth, of Lynchburg Township.

The Clotfelters settled in Bath Township in 1839-40. They came from Morgan County here, but were natives of some of the older settled States. The family consisted of Jacob Clotfelter, Sr., and his sons Jacob and Michael. The old gentleman has been dead some ten years, having removed to Kansas with his son Jacob, where he died. Michael lives in this township. Kean Mahoney came from the "auld sod" and was one of the early settlers in Bath. He owned land near the village, and made an addition to it known as Mahoney's Addition. He went to California in 1853, and as he has never returned, if living, is probably laboring with Dennis Kearney to compel the "Chinese to go." The Beesleys were from New Jersey, and finding plenty of sand here, like their own little State down on the Atlantic coast, located in Cass County, and in 1845 came to this township. The elder Beesley lives at present with his son Frank in Jacksonville, while John, another son, lives in the city of Virginia. They were prominent merchants and grain-dealers at Bath, and did an extensive business. D. B. Frost, a down-east Yankee, settled here in 1843, and afterward sold out and moved to Wisconsin.

Drury S. Field came from "Old Virginny," and settled in Mason County in 183--, on what is known as Field's Prairie, where he died in 1838. He was a physician, and said to be the first practitioner in Mason County. He was a man of wealth, and entered considerable land, or had it entered by V. B. Holmes, as already noted in this chapter. A. E. Field was a son, and, like his father, a "doctor," also a man of intellect and influence in the community. Mr. Field raised a large family of children, most of whom are dead. As they settled in that portion of Bath which was taken off to form Kilbourne, they are further noticed in the history of the latter town. Edward Field, the father of Dr. Drury S. Field, was a soldier of the Revolutionary war, and served through the long and desperate struggle for independence. Stokes Edwards came here among the pioneers, and still lives in this township, or on the line between this and Kilbourne Township. John A. Martin, another pioneer, from the sands of New Jersey, came here about 1846 or 1847. He first settled in Morgan County, but came to Bath, as recorded above, where he resided until his death, about four years ago. Thomas Howard, a brother-in-law to F. S. D. Marshall, came about 1845, and died some years ago. Thomas Hardisty came from Peoria to this settlement, but was originally from Kentucky, and used to regale his friends with many stories and anecdotes of that famous old State. He settled here in 1847 or 1848, remained but a few years, and then moved away. J. W. Northern was also an early settler, and removed to Kansas, since which little has been heard from him. Israel Carman and James Gee, brothers-in-law, came here together from New York, in an early day, and are both long since dead. John B. Renshaw came in 1845, and was one of the first blacksmiths in the settlement. He went to California, and whether living or dead his old associates do not know. J. A. Burlingame is from New Your, and came to Bath in the forties. He is the genial agent for the Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville Railroad, at Bath, and is a fixture in that position, which he has held since the completion of the road. S. S. Rochester came from Greene County, this State, somewhere in the forties, and is still living in Bath Village. He was a strong Democrat, but, at the election was over, the victorious party met in the saloon to glorify the result, which they did by drinking toasts. A Mr. Samuels, who was a zealous Republican, drank the following toast to Mr. Rochester, which, for years, was a byword among his friends: "Here is to 'Sydney Breese' Rochester, who voted the Republican ticket late in the evening," with a heavy emphasis on the last words. Many of Mr. Rochester's old friends will remember this with some amusement. A son, B. F. Rochester, also lives in Bath, and is one of the respected citizens of the place; another is mentioned as Lieutenant in the Twenty-seventh Illinois Infantry. Lewis Clarkson came in 1833, and was the first settler on Field's Prairie. He went to Missouri in 1837 or 1838.

Gen. J. M. Ruggles is a native of the old Buckeye State, and came to Illinois in 1837. He first came to Mason County in 1844, but did not locate until 1846. He settled in Bath in that year, and commenced the mercantile business with Maj. Gatton. He was elected to the State Senate in 1852, for the district composed of Sangamon, Menard and Mason Counties, Abraham Lincoln being a member of the Lower House. In 1856, he was appointed on a committee with Lincoln and Ebenezer Peck, to draft a platform and resolutions for the new party then forming upon the ruins of the old Whig party. The other members of the committee being otherwise engaged, the duty devolved on Ruggles, who drew up the first platform of principles of the Republican party. In 1861, Gov. Yates tendered him a commission as Quartermaster of the First Illinois Cavalry. He was soon promoted to the office of Major of the Third Cavalry, in which regiment he remained until mustered out of service in 1864, as noted in another part of this chapter. In all the positions held by Gen. Ruggles, whether civil or military, his duty has been discharged with faithful fidelity. He owns a fine lot of land in the county, mostly in Kilbourne Township, and resides at present in Havana. Franklin Ruggles, a brother of Gen. Ruggles, came to Bath in 1851, and took an interest in the flouring-mill then building by Gatton & Ruggles. A saw-mill was also built, which was operated by the same power as the flouring-mill, and did a large business for several years, under the superintendence of Franklin Ruggles. He finally wore himself out by hard work and exposure in his business, and died in 1855, leaving two sons, John and James, who now lie in the grave beside their father in Bath Cemetery. John was killed at the battle of Shiloh.

Isaac N. Mitchell is a native-born "Sucker." His parents were among the pioneers of Morgan County, and came there from Kentucky. When Isaac was seventeen years old, the family moved to Field's Prairie, in this township, where he worked on the farm until the age of twenty-one, when he came to the village of Bath. In 1867, he was elected Treasurer of Mason County, and, in 1869, County Clerk. He has held various other minor offices, in all of which he has given satisfaction. He is at present one of the respected citizens of Havana. Daniel R. Davis and Benjamin Sisson were from New England. The latter came to the settlement about 1842, and died several years ago. Davis was one of the first settlers on the prairie east of Bath, and came as early as 1838-39. He was an old sailor, and had been all over the world. In an altercation, one day in Bath, he was struck with a scale weight, from the effect of which he died. Leslie and George Lacy were from the old Quaker State of Pennsylvania and came to the settlement about 1842. Both are still living in the township. Henry McCleary was a jolly Irishman, and the life of the early settlers of Bath. He is recorded among the pioneers and many are the jokes traced to his authorship. One beautiful Sabbath morning about sunrise, he was slipping out with his gun, when some one asked him where he was going. With ready Irish repartee, replied, that he had an appointment to meet Messrs. Holland and Lefever (two very strict church members), down by the river and go hunting, and he was afraid he would be late." He was a carpenter, and when Dr. Oneal erected a new office in Bath, McCleary was engaged to do the work. Dr. Oneal had a partition put in the office, which seemed to puzzle the Irish man. One day he stopped work and told the Doctor if he would pardon his curiosity, he would like to ask "what he was having that partition put in for, anyhow?" The Doctor told him that a couple of young men, viz.: Toler and Atherton, were going to study medicine with him, and he wanted a back room where the young men would be secure against interruption. McCleary, scratching his head, replied, "Well, I don't know anything about Atherton, but that Toler boy is just-fool enough to make a doctor." Dr. John C. Calloway was an early settler of Bath and had a successful run of practice for several years, and then moved to Kansas. John R. Teney is an old resident of the county, living in Bath; also, B. C. Anton. James M. Robinson came about 1852, and was elected the first Police Magistrate of Bath. He had been in the Legislature from Menard County.

From "Bingen on the Rhine," the following sturdy citizens came to Bath Township: G. H. and J. H. Kramer, J. H. and Diedrich Strube, Peter Luly, Adolph Krebaum, John Havighorst, and two brothers, John Rudolph Horstman and John Henry Horstman. The Kramers came to this country together, and are both still living, highly respected citizens of Bath. They are among the prominent business men of the place, and have accumulated a good deal of the world's wealth. J. H. and Diedrich Strube were also brother, and came about 1844-45. J. H. Strube is still living, but Diedrich has been dead some time. Their father came to Illinois with them, but he too, died years ago. Adolph Krebaum was elected Circuit Clerk and moved to Bath in 1845, and remained there until 1851, when the county seat was moved back to Havana. Peter Luly is among the early settlers, but it is not known what year he came to the town. He went to Peoria and died there. John Rudolph Horstman came to Bath in 1836, and was a blacksmith by trade. His brother, John Henry Horstman, came about four years later. A peculiarity of these brothers was both bearing the name of John. They have been dead some time. Havighorst is among the early settlers, and located at Matanzas, but now lives in Havana, where the Havighorst family is more particularly referred to among the early settlers, as well as the Schultes and Krebaums. They have grown up with this great country, of which they had heard in their own land, and crossed the ocean to try their fortunes where all are free, regardless of the poet's pleading words to the contrary:

O sprecht! Warum zogt ihr von dannen?
Das Neckarthal hat Wein und Korn:
Der Schwarzwald steht voll finstrer Tannen.
Im Spessart klingt des Alpler's Horn.

Mason History Index
Every Name Index