Peoria County, Illinois Genealogy Trails
Est. Nov. 6, 1849
Limestone Township History [from "The History of Peoria County, Illinois; Johnson & Co., 1880. Transcribed by Karen Seeman]
Limestone Township History [From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.]
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The settlement of Limestone Township was almost contemporaneous with that of Peoria. But, reaching back many years prior to the advent of the American settlers, it has a history of its own. As early as the year 1723, while yet a part of the French dominion, one: Philip Francis Renault obtained a grant of a tract of land one league in front on the lake or river, and extending back five leagues on a stream claimed to have been the Kickapoo. If this claim has any solid foundation to rest upon, it may be inferred that Renault, whose principal business was the development of the mining interests of the country, and who had smelting furnaces not many mile's from St. Louis had made an exploration of the Kickapoo Valley, and, finding the hills filled with coal, had procured this grant to himself. It has been claimed for him that he had also discovered lead in this vicinity, but this claim has not been verified by more recent researches.
At a later period, about the year 1765, we find Jean Baptiste Maillet obtaining a grant from the authorities of Great Britain of 1,400 acres at the mouth of the Kickapoo, one mile in front on the river and extending back two miles into the country. This grant took in part of Limestone Township. It was sold in 1801 to Isaac Darneille, the first lawyer who ever lived at Peoria, and by him to Col. William Russell, of the United States Army, who made an effort to have the claim confirmed by the Government, but failed.
At a still later period, about one hundred years ago, it is known that several of the inhabitants of La Ville de Maillet had lands in cultivation on the Kickapoo bottom in this township, or very near it in Peoria Township. Thomas Forsyth, who was an American, had a field of twenty arpens; Simon Roi, Antoine Roi and Francis Racine jointly had a field of 30 arpens, adjoining one of Antoine Cicare; Hypolite Maillet had one of 15 arpens adjoining one of Francis Montplaiser—all situated on or very near the Kickapoo, which was then called the Gatinan (or possibly the Coteneau). These farms were all vacated during the war of 1812, when the village was destroyed.
It is said that Abner Eads, one of the first .settlers at Peoria, for a time resided in Limestone; but it seems that Joseph Moffatt and his three sons, Alva, Aquila and Benjamin, were the first settlers. They came in 1822. Alva and Aquila settled on Section 13, and continued to reside thereon, or in the immediate vicinity, during their lives. The Harker family came in 1829 and settled near the southwest corner of the township, giving the name of Harker's Corners to the vicinity where four townships met. Henry W. Jones came at an early day and settled in the north part of the township. From him, or members of his family, we have the name of Jones' Prairie and Jones' Spring situated on and along the Farmington Road. James Crowe also came about the same time as Jones; but, on account of Indian troubles in 1832, he went back to his home in Ohio, but returned in 1834 and settled in the
north part of the township. James Heaton came in 1834 and Pleasant Hughes in 1837.
This township can boast of having had the first, if not the first two flouring-mills in the county. George Sharp, one of the County Commissioners and a prominent business man of Peoria, died about the close of the year 1830. He was, at the time of his death, a partner in business with John Hamlin. He had an interest in two mill-sites (then regarded as personal property), one across the river in Tazewell County and one on the Kickapoo. That in Tazewell County was sold to his widow for $50, from which circumstances it would appear that no mill had yet been erected. He also had a bolting cloth appraised at $35, which was sold to his son John for $20. No sale is reported of the mill-site on the Kickapoo, which evidently went to his partner, Mr. Hamlin. It is not certain that the mill had then been erected on the Kickapoo, but it not then erected, it is very certain that preparations had been made looking to that event. In a biographical sketch of Mr. Hamlin, published some years ago, it is said that he, in connection with two young men named Sharp, had erected the mill known as Hamlin & Sharp's Mill. and this would seem probable from the fact that George Sharp had two sons, John and Francis, the former having purchased the bolting cloth at the administrator's sale. Be this as it may, it is evident the mill was erected and had been put in operation as early as the year 1831, and continued in the hands of the same proprietors, Hamlin & Sharp, until the year 1833 or 1834. The exact location of this mill had apparently been forgotten for many years; for Mr. Ballance, who, in 1832, had been one of the viewers to lay out a road past the same, says in his "History," that "a stranger might almost as well seek for the site of Nineveh or Babylon, as the site of these mills." The road
mentioned was one laid out by the County Commissioners .from the Knox County line to Peoria and, having followed the route by courses and distances to the Kickapoo at the mill, it there struck a straight course north 79 degrees, east 865 poles (2.7 miles) to the north corner of block 13 (corner of Madison and Main Streets), Peoria. The point where it crossed the Kickapoo was a little north of the center of Section 12, about one-half mile north of the present Lincoln Avenue (formerly Plank Road) Bridge. This is further shown by the following facts:
About the year 1833, Joshua Aiken and Robert E. Little, both men of wealth, came to Peoria and engaged in the mercantile business in partnership. Together or singly, they obtained title to about 1,000 acres of land in Horse-shoe Bottom and its immediate vicinity. They also purchased the Hamlin and Sharp mill, and at once proceeded to enlarge and put it in perfect order, so that it became a mill of high standard, capable of producing fifty barrels of flour per day. It had a very large custom, its patrons coming from the whole country within a radius of sixty miles. Much of the flour here manufactured was shipped to St. Louis by flat-boat. Aiken & Little had become possessed of the mill as early as the spring of 1834, possibly a year before that time. In June of that year, Rev. Flavel Bascom, a Presbyterian missionary stationed in Tazewell County, took his grist there and found Joshua Aiken, from whom he obtained information which afterwards led to the organization of a church at Peoria. They paid cash for wheat and, it is said that more money was paid for wheat at that point than in the whole town of Peoria. The money issued was that of the Quinnebaug Bank, an Eastern institution, which the Peoria merchants denounced as unworthy of credit because its issue would not go at the Land Office, but the Secretary of the Treasury, being appealed to, issued an order that its money should be received in payment for land, and its credit was at once restored. They borrowed this money and secured its repayment by mortgage upon a large amount of real estate, four thousand dollars of it remaining unpaid at the time of Little's death in 1842. Mr. Aiken, seeing the importance of capital in a new country, went East and formed a co-partnership with George P. Shipman. and, together with Hervey Sanford, Charles Monson and Eli Goodwin, purchased the northwest quarter of Section 9. 8 N., R. 8 E.. and proceeded to plat it as Monson & Sanford's Addition to Peoria. Although this plat was not recorded until August 13, 1836, yet it had been made, and lots had been deeded by it, as early as June 4 of the same year. First Street, on this plat, was afterwards adopted as part of a public road from Peoria to Aiken & Little's Mill. About the same time Robert E. Little, together with Orin Hamlin and Augustus Langworthy, laid out the town of Detroit above the Narrows. But that which most concerns the present narrative is that on April 9, 1836, Joshua Aiken, George P. Shipman and Robert E. Little laid out a town on the southeast quarter of Section 12, and the northeast quarter of Section 13, Town 8 N., R. 7 E., which they named "Peoria Mills." It covered nearly, if not quite, all of the southeast quarter of Section 12, one tier of blocks extending southward on Section 13 and overlooking Horse-Shoe Bottom. The Main Street ran nearly east and west, and was located a few rods north of the present Lincoln Avenue road. Fifth Street crossed Main Street at right angles.
In September, 1836, a road was ordered to be laid out from Peoria to Aiken & Little's Mill. It was surveyed by George C. McFadden, who laid down the lines so accurately they can be easily followed. Commencing at the bridge at Aiken & Little's Mill, the line ran by different courses until it reached the center of Fifth Street, thence to the center of Main Street, following it to its eastern end; it was there deflected southeast, twenty rods, to the section line between Sections 7 and 18 in Township 8 N., R. 8 E., which is now known as Lincoln Avenue. Thence it ran east to the corner of Sections 7 and 9, now the intersection of Lincoln and Western Avenues, thence northeast to the west end of First Street in Monson & Sanford's Addition, following which it reached the lower end of Adams Street, which was then at Franklin Street. By following these lines we reach, unquestionably, the location of the mill near the center of Section 12, which was at or near the northwest corner of the Town of "Peoria Mills," not far from "Rocky Glen."
Joshua Aiken died in the year 1840. Robert E. Little died in 1842 at Peoria. What became of the mill, in the meantime, does not appear. Mr. Ballance says Mr. Aiken added a saw-mill to it and ran both for some time, but finally, permitted the stream to undermine them and carry them away. In the files of the estate of Mr. Little in the Probate Court, there appears a lease for eighteen months, from him to Joshua and Henry S. Aiken. for the mill then in their possession, but from other data, it would seem this may have been only a saw-mill. One of the provisions of the lease was, that they should keep the dam and flume in good condition, but, if carried away by freshet, it should be optional with them to do so or not. It is probable the premises were soon afterwards abandoned as Hale's Mill had been established above and Hamlin & Moffatt's below it; and these two, with others at Peoria, may have cut off its trade so as render it unprofitable.
At the March Term, 1833, of the County Commissioners' Court, Orin Hamlin and Alva and Aquila Mortal obtained leave to erect a mill-dam on the southwest quarter of Section 13, past which a road was being laid out, which, on the old maps, bears the name of the "Middle Road." This was probably, at first, a sawmill at which the lumber that went into the Court House was sawed, as Hamlin & Moffatt had a contract to supply it. A flouring mill was, however, erected at that place, which afterwards became known and still lingers in the recollection of many citizens, as Monroe's Mill.
In the "Peoria Register and North Western Gazetteer" of April 8, 1837, it is said: "Some years since a flouring mill (probably Hamlin & Sharp's.—Ed.) was erected on that stream (the Kickapoo), which is in successful operation still, within two and a half miles of Peoria Village. Two saw-mills in the vicinity of the flouring-mill are in profitable business. There are two sawmills above and one grist-mill below." Here are two grist-mills spoken of, neither one of which could have been Hale's; for that mill was then in process of erection, and had not commenced grinding. These mills, and at least two of the saw-mills spoken of, must have been located within the present bounds of Limestone Township. From these facts we can judge of the importance of the Kickapoo Creek as a mill-stream at that time.
On June 10, 1837, Henry Jones laid out a town plat on the southwest quarter of Section 3 and the southeast quarter of Section 4, which he called "Summerville." It was located on what is now the Farmington road, just north of the County Farm. It has never become a place of importance, there being but a few scattered houses at that place, but a postoffice by that name is still maintained.
This township has also the credit of having had the first public bridge in the county—that erected by John Cameron on the Lewistown road. The bridge at Aiken & Little's mill was also erected at an early day; but it may have been erected by the proprietors, and not by the public. The township was also well supplied with both county and State roads—the State road running up the Kickapoo; that by the way of Farmington to Knoxville; that to Quincy by way of Canton, and that by Pekin—all passing through, its territory.
It also had one of the first rail-roads—the Peoria and Oquawka having been finished as far as Edwards in 1855. It now has five railroads in operation: the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy; The Toledo, Peoria & Western; The Iowa Central; The Peoria & Pekin Terminal, and The Chicago & North Western. These several roads, converging near the eastern line of the township, make that a point of great importance as a future suburb of the city.
This township also contains the County Poor Farm, of which a full account is given elsewhere. It has also an important State Institution, the Asylum for the Incurable Insane, which, after sundry reverses and delays, is now completed and received its first installment of patients on February 10, 1902.
The township contains no regularly organized village, but through sundry subdivisions of lands, especially along the Kickapoo Creek, divers centers of population have become known as villages, such as Bartonville, South Bartonville and Minersville, which may soon become suburbs of Peoria. The township also contains several man-
ufacturing plants, the most important of which are the Acme Hay Harvesting Company and the Cellulose factory of the Marsden Company, at South Bartonville. As these factories are owned and operated by Peorians, they will receive further notice among the industries of the city.
Coal mining is one of the most important interests, the whole township being apparently underlaid with that mineral. The first coal mining was done at an early clay, the first bank having been opened on the southeast corner of Section 24. The Moffatts also mined coal at the same place and shipped it by keel-boats to St. Louis. As at other places, the first mining was done either by "stripping" or drifting into the hill-sides, where the out-crop appeared. But, for some years, deep-mining has been carried on, not only along the river and creek bottoms, but on the up-lands. These mines give employment to a large number of laborers.
The population of this township is of a mixed character—there being many Germans, some Welsh among the miners, some Scotch, some Irish, an English community on the north side, and some Americans. Among the early German settlers were Conrad Bontz, who came in 1844, Christian Straesser and the Hallers and Beatty Johnson in 1848, George Ojeman in 1849, and the Roelfs in 1851. These men were, and their descendants are, among the very best and most prosperous citizens.
There being an extensive ledge of lime-stone rock in the north part of the township, the burning of lime for the Peoria market has, from an early day, been an important industry. There are also extensive quarries of sand-stone along the Kickapoo Creek, which yield a fairly good quality of stone for building purposes.
Churches.—The people of Limestone Township, at a very early day, began to supply themselves with the preaching of the Gospel, and have always maintained several churches. Christ Church (Episcopal) is located on the northwest quarter of Section 4, where there were a considerable number of people of English extraction. The first services were held at the house of the now venerable John Benton, and for some time meetings were held at the homes of some of the other settlers. Bishop Chase came to the county about the year 1836 and took the oversight of this incipient parish, after which regular services were held almost every Sabbath. After a time a house of worship was erected which still stands. It was at first a plain stone building, but in recent years, it has been enlarged and beautified by the addition of a tower and by putting stained glass into the windows. John Pennington donated two acres for a church site and cemetery, and, in May, 1844, the corner-stone of the church was laid. but the building was not finished until the fall of 1845, nor consecrated until December of that year. The original cost was about $1,500. Of this sum $1,100 was contributed by friends in England, of which the sum of twenty pounds sterling was the gift of Dowager Queen Adelaide, and twenty pounds the gift of Lord Kenyon, the friend of Bishop Chase, after whom he named Kenyon College established by him in Ohio. Some years ago Rev. John Benson, James Clark and Isabella Douglas conveyed to this church twenty acres of ground, just .across the public highway from the church, as a "glebe." for the use and benefit of the rector. Attached to the church is a small cemetery, in which the remains of Henry Wilson, who died September 17, 1838, were the first to be interred. A stroll through this cemetery, which many Peorians have enjoyed through the hospitality of Oliver J. Bailey, the
proprietor of the adjoining Wild-wood dairy farm, bring to mind more reminiscences of bygone days than probably any other spot in the county; for here are the stones which mark the final resting place of many of its prominent citizens.
Limestone Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1849 with twenty-seven members. Its first church building, located on Section 4, on the Farmington Road, was built in 1860 at a cost of $1,000. It was dedicated by the noted and venerable Peter Cartwright, D. D., on December 21, 1860. The preacher in charge, at that time, was Rev. John Borland. This church has always been supplied with the regular ministrations of Gospel services according to the mode prescribed by the denomination to which it belongs.
The Presbyterian Church was organized May 6, 1859, by a committee of the Presbytery consisting of Rev. Robert P. Farris, D. D., Pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church of Peoria, Rev. M. L. Wood, the minister in charge, and Ruling Elder James H. Patterson, of the Salem Church. There were fifteen members admitted, and John Cameron and William Jones were ordained and installed as Ruling Elders. This church has never been strong enough to support a pastor, but stated services have been regularly kept up by temporary supplies. Its present membership numbers about thirty, and it maintains a Sabbath-school of forty. Although numerically small, it contributes regularly to the benevolent work of the church. The church building is a neat frame structure erected on the northwest corner of Section 8, at a cost of $1.600. Rev. M. L. Wood. who was one of the committee to organize the church, was the first minister to this people, he having served as stated supply for two years. The church is at present without a pastor.
The German Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized in 1855 with eighteen members. The first house of worship was erected in the year 1856, at a cost of $1,000, but, after twenty years' occupancy, it became too small for the growing congregation, and a new one was erected in 1876, at the cost of $4,000. The church is located on the southwest quarter of Section 22, where it has three and a half acres of ground, in which is also located a cemetery. The first pastor was Rev. F. Warnke.
Schools.—Little is known of the schools prior to the introduction of the free school system. The first school was probably that taught in 1836 by Simeon Ward, in a log-house situated near the house where William C. H. Barton afterwards resided, at what is now South Bartonville. Since the adoption of the free school system, the township has maintained a creditable stand in the matter of public education. It is now divided into nine full districts, in each one of which is a good school house. There is also a union district at Harker's Corners.
From Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Peoria County, Edited by David McCulloch, Vol. II; Chicago and Peoria: Munsell Publishing Company, Publishers, 1902.
Limestone Township History
The first settlers in this township were Abner Eads, who first settled at Fort Clark, in April, 1819, and the Moffatts: Joseph Moffatt and three sons, Alva, Aquila and Benjamin F. The Moffatts came in June, 1822. Alva Moffatt settled on Sec. 13, and still occupies a home on that section.
In 1824, Aquila Moffatt made a claim on the northeast quarter of Sec. 13, and enclosed and broke five acres of ground, which, with the exception of about six years, he has continued to occupy. Benjamin Moffatt now lives near Hollis. The rest of the family removed to Jo Daviess county.
The settlement of this township was not rapid. The Harker family came to the county in 1829. Daniel Harker, now a resident of this township, was then a boy of fifteen. Henry W. Jones came very early, and built the first hewed log-house in the township.
James Crow and family came about the same time as Jones, but the Black Hawk Indian scare of 1832, frightened them back to Ohio, where they remained until after the close of the troubles. They returned in 1834.
James Heaton and Joshua Aikin came in 1834. Aikin settled on the Kickapoo creek and built a grist-mill. Pleasant Hughes came in 1837, and settled on Sec. 29, where his widow still resides. In 1837, Daniel Harker, who was married on the 10th of July of that year, occupied a house he had previously built on the southeast quarter of Sec. 31, and still lives on the same place. In 1838, his father moved over from Logan township, and settled on the southwest quarter of the same section, where he died June 16, 1849, at the age of seventy-five years.
There is a large German element in this township. The earliest settler of this nationality was Conrad Bontz, who came in 1844. Christian Straesser and the Hallers in 1847. The Beatly Johnson family in 1848; George Ojeman in 1849, and the Roelfs in 1851. The Straessers and Hallers were natives of Wurtemberg. The remainder were nearly all from the Kingdom of Hanover. Many of these people are largely engaged in grape culture, and some of them in the manufacture of wine. Ed. Roelfs, deceased in 1872, is believed to have planted the first vineyard, and to have also made the first wine. Before his vineyard matured he made wine from the wild grape.
With the rarest exceptions, these people are among the very best people in the community. They are industrious, energetic and honest, and rank high as successful farmers.
When the township organization system was adopted by the people of Peoria county in 1850, the township was named Limestone, because of the almost inexhaustible quarries of that stone that exist in the north part of the township.
Nearly the whole township is underlaid with coal, and the mines now worked extend four miles along the eastern tier of sections, and there are several hundred miners employed in the different mines. Peoria is largely supplied with coal from the Limestone mines.
The first coal mining in the township was done by a man named Warner. He opened a bank at a point on the south-east corner of section 24. The Moffatts mined coal at the same place soon after, and shipped it to St. Louis by keel boats.
Petrifactions -- At Secord's limekilns and stone quarry, on the south-east quarter of section, some rare petrified curiosities have been found. These curiosities consist of petrified timber, shells, etc., and are found all through the quarry, at a depth of from three to seventeen feet. Among those most worthy of note was an elk's head, with the horns attached, which was in a perfect state of preservation. It was found at a depth of seven feet from the surface, while quarrying rock for the County Infirmary. Every part of it was thoroughly petrified, and as solid as the stone from which it was taken.
A petrified turtle, with its form preserved intact, was found in the quarry from which stone is taken for lime, or what Mr. Secord calls the "North Quarry." Mr. S. and others who saw it say it looked as "natural as life." It was found in a crevice between the layers of rock.
Christ Church (Episcopal) -- The first services of this Episcopal community were held at the pioneer home of John Benson. Sometimes meetings were held at the homes of some of the other settlers. After Bishop Chase came, in 1836, regular services were observed almost every Sabbath. In time, the members so increased that a house of worship became a necessity, and in 1843, they began to cast about for ways and means to build a church. John Pennington gave two acres of ground in the north-west quarter of section 4, for a church site and cemetery, and in May, 1844, the corner stone was laid. The building was not fully completed until the Fall of 1845, nor consecrated until December of that year. The original cost was aobut $1,500. Of this sum, $1,100 was contributed by friends in England. Dowager Queen Adelaide gave L20; Lord Kenyon gave L20. Rev. John Benson is the officiating clergyman.
Some years ago Rev. John Benson, James Clark and Isabella Doublas deeded to Christ Church forever, a tract of twenty acres of ground just across the public highway from the church edifice. This is called a glebe, and is intended for the use and benefit of the officiating clergyman.
The first grave in Christ Church cemetery was that of Henry Wilson, who died 17th September, 1838.
Limestone M. E. Church -- This church society was organized in 1849, with twenty-seven members. The church edifice, a neat frame structure, is located on section 4, and was built in 1860 at a cost of $1,000. It was dedicated by Peter Cartright, D. D., on the 21st day of October, 1860. The preacher in charge at that time was Rev. John Borland. A Sunday school of twenty scholars is maintained in connection with the church; Henry Goodrich, superintendent.
Presbyterian Church -- The Presbyterian society was organized on the 30th day of April, 1859, by Rev. B. Farris, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at Peoria. The church building is a handsome frame structure, located on the Farmington road, on the north-west corner of section 8. It was erected in 1864, at a cost of $1,600. Rev. M. O. Wood was the first pastor.
The German Lutheran Church Society was organized in 1855 with eighteen members. The first church edifice was built in 1856 at a cost of $1,000. In 1876 this building became too small to accommodate the increasing congregation, and a new and more commodious one was erected at a cost of $4,000. The church is supplied with a bell which cost $400, and an organ costing nearly as much. The society owns three and a half acres of ground where the church stands, which includes the cemetery. The first pastor was Rev. F. Warnke. He remained three years. Rev. Mr. Banger is the present pastor.
North Limestone M. E. Church -- First class was formed about 1850. The original members were eleven in number. Rev. Humphrey was the first preacher. Under the pastorate of John Borland, the church was built in 1860; the cost was $800. Number of members at the present time, thirty-one. Connected with the church is a prosperous and large Sabbath school.
Schools -- Mr. Barton remembers that about 1836 he attended a school which was taught in a log house that stood on the ground just in the rear of his house. It was a subscription school, and the teacher was Simeon Ward. This was the first in the township. Limestone township is divided into ten school districts, nine of which have either a neat and comfortable frame or brick house, supplied with furniture and apparatus well adapted for modern school use. Schools are kept up from six to nine months during each year, and the best material obtainable is employed as teachers. The schools compare favorably with the public schools of the country.
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Peoria County, IL Genealogy Trails
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