Ghost Towns

Pike County Express - August 29, 2012, Pg 20
Contributed by Billie Browning
The Illinois River ports of Montezuma and Bedford were about one and one-half miles apart. In 1880 they each had a population of about 100. Montezuma was more extensively developed and riverboats routinely stopped there. They stopped at Bedford only if signaled. Montezuma flourished as a riverport through the 19th century, and had a church, school, warehouses, general store, grain elevator, blacksmith, photo gallery and saloon. But railroads brought big changes, and trucks brought even bigger changes. A railroad was built through the Pearl area, missing Montezuma and its inland partner, Milton. Much livestock was still shipped to market by boat, but starting in the mid-1920s most livestock was shipped in trucks. Montezuma rapidly faded. Although some vestiges of the town remain, the town plat, which projected a town three-quarters of a mile long, was not needed. Bedford is still around. It is a little cluster of recreational cabins.

Bayville was a village that flourished on Bay Creek about a mile southeast of the present site of Pleasant Hill. It had several stores, a mill, smithy, plow factory, the area's first doctor in Dr. Hezekiah Dodge, the area's first school, a cemetery, and a lot of business activity. It also had the Collard family, which produced a dozen teachers, most in the south Pike area. Most prominent was John J. Collard, an outstanding teacher and two-time county clerk. Coincidentally, Pikeland's current superintendent is Paula Collard Hawley, a descendant of that family. Bayville faded in the 19th century, leaving only the cemetery and a school as evidence someone had been there. Some moved to nearby Fairfield, which became Pleasant Hill sometime between 1845-47 when another Fairfield was discovered in the state. A school continued to operate in that area until the post-World-War-II school reorganizational period when it was closed and the building moved to the Pleasant Hill fairgrounds. Donna Hobbs, who graduated from eighth grade there in 1943, said she thought it closed in 1946.

The landing less than a half-mile south of Valley City was a very important port for 100 years, and had an unusual amount of business crammed into a small space. It included a hotel, livestock pens, warehouse, lumberyard, general store, post office and more. The Union Church, no bigger than a one-car garage, sat at the bottom of Church Hollow Road, an enchanting road that climbs sharply through the bluffs that stand close to the Illinois River there. No one apparently knows who created that road; it was there when settlers began using it in 1835.

Was Zelph real?
A large mound lies on a bluff near Griggsville Landing and the Mormon leader Joseph Smith claimed to have had a vision there. He had found many bones, including pieces of a skeleton he said would have been eight or nine feet tall. In a vision he learned they were of a great warrior named Zelph, killed in a battle between "Lamanites" and "Nephites". This occurred when a Mormon militia named Zion's Camp was marching west from Ohio to protect some other Mormons in Missouri.

This area is very important to Mormons. On two recent occasions groups of young Mormons, primarily from Illinois and Indiana and organized by Eldon Barrowes of Jacksonville, Illinois, have assembled at Church Hollow Road and cleaned it, removing trash that had been dumped there for years by irresponsible citizens. The Zelph Mound site has become the first of the region's many burial mounds to be marked by a state-authorized sign. It is a Hopewell Mound from the Middle Woodland Period, 100 BC-400 AD, technically named Naples-Russell Mound No. 8.

Another community that bloomed and died in just a few years was Mormontown east of Pittsfield. Most residents moved to Nauvoo in the mid 1840s and migrated with others to Salt Lake City in late '40s. Pike County still has among its citizens some direct descendants of those Mormons. A current map of Pike County shows some 30 communities - 18 incorporated and a dozen or so unincorporated, ranging from a church and three houses at Independence to mile-long Rockport. But an 1871 map of the county in Pleasant Hill genealogist Virginia Hart's study of a census survey of that era shows more than 30 other names that are gone, like little bits of debris, swept into the whirlpool of time, and sucked into the black hole of history.

Many more settlements, neighborhoods, railroad stops and trading posts existed. A map of 1880 shows, in addition to most of those above, Seehorn, Shepherd, Hadley, Douglasville, Alladin, Spenser, Shinn, Cincinnati, Carey, Horton Station, Gilgal Landing, Pike Station, Stebbinsville, Bayville, Strout, Black Oak, Highland, Independence, Chowrow, Bee Creek, Franklin, Middleton, Morrow, Keysburg, Philadelphia, Arden, Cool Bank, Mt. Carmel, Dutton, Worchester, Tempest, Woodland, Dexter, Perry Springs, Phillips Landing, Maysville, Portland and Bethel.

Big Blue Hollow, which was near Detroit, did not appear on this map, but in 1842 had three flour mills, a saw mill and store and was the second busiest place in the county.

Or how about Lexington, which was east of Detroit; Bloomfield, north of Detroit; or Velasko, near Phillips Ferry?

In 1880 you could stop trains at Magner, Munger, Arden, Quincy Junction, Algiers or Spenser, in addition to the railroad towns that exist today.

Pike County has many ghosts indeed.
The above information was compiled by Steve Bozefrom "An Introduction to Pike County, Illinois" by Thomas Coulson, editor of the Pike County Express