Perry Township

This township, which in many respects is second to none in the county, is in the northern part of the county, and is bounded upon the north by Brown county, on the east by Fairmount township, on the south by Griggsville, and on the west by Chambersburg township. When it was first settled there was but little prairie land within its borders; almost the entire surface was covered with timber, much of it, however, was of small growth. We now behold highly improved and cultivated farms throughout the township, the result of the well directed labor of the pioneers, their descendants, and those who came here in later years.

Among the early pilgrims who located here prior and up to 1835, we mention James H. Chenoweth, Robert Gregory, William Browning, James Ritchie, Matthew Dale, Gideon Bentley, Joseph King, David Johnson, B. L. Matthews, Nicholas James, David Gallia, John Bond, Chas. Dorsey, Joseph Cavender, John Hume, Abel Shelley, John Matthews, Mr. Lovelady and John Gillespie. The latter six gentlemen came to the county as early as or even before 1829. James Wells came in 1825, and his son, Stephen V. Wells, who was born the same year, was the first white child born in the township. George Bright, a veteran of the Revolutionary war, came in 1827. Only two or three of these pioneers are living in the township at the present time. Some have moved to other scenes of labor, but by far the greater number are dead. After 1835 settlers came in quite rapidly, and improvements were made throughout the township.

The following very interesting historical article was furnished us by Mr. A. Hinman, and is given in his own language:

"Go back with me 50 years and compare our condition then with what it is at present. Fifty years ago our inhabitants consisted of a few hundred hardy pioneers who settled along the river bluffs and around the edges of groves of timber, and were living in little log cabins and subsisting on corn bread, wild game and honey, with such vegetables as they could raise on their new improvements. We had very few roads then, only such as were naturally made by the settlers passing from one settlement to another. We had no bridges across streams, nor conveyance of any kind except by horseback or in an ox wagon; no railroads or steamboats in those days; what little transportation was done in those days was done with keel boats. We had no schools nor free school system, and when our little log school-houses began to spring up it, was by the individual effort of the poor settlers. Although these schools were of a very poor character, they were a great benefit to the children of pioneers, who were able to attend one or two winters. We had no churches, stores, shops or manufacturing establishments; we had no railroads in the State, or telegraph lines; but many of us have lived to see the wonderful changes that have taken place in half a century. From a few hundred settlers we have multiplied to many thousands. The land that was bought by the early settlers for $1.25 per acre has advanced in price until it is worth from $40 to $100 per acre. Public roads have been laid out, graded and bridged. The log school house has given place to fine frame and brick structures, which are supplied with competent teachers, good books, etc. Instead of horseback and ox wagon rides we have fine carriages, spring wagons, etc.; and instead of keel-boats we have magnificent steamers plying up and down our noble rivers. In the last few years over 100 miles of railroad have been built within our county, with two bridges spanning the Father of Waters, connecting us with our Western States and Territories. Fifty years ago our State had not a single rod of railroad: now she has 10,000 miles. The first of this grand system of railroads was commenced in 1837 or '38, at Naples, on the Illinois river, and was built to Jacksonville. A few days ago I was on this road at Naples and found still in use some of the old original ties upon which the road was first built. They are red cedar, and were brought from Tennessee.

" We have seen the time when our grand old county's credit was so poor that she could not borrow $200 to buy the 160 acres of land upon which to locate our county seat. I have seen the credit of our State so poor that the interest bearing bonds could not be sold for 25 cents on the dollar; but now these things are all changed; and I feel thankful to the Giver of all Good that I have been permitted to live one so nearly the time allotted for man's existence here. Among all those improvements for the good of our people none has given me more satisfaction than our free school system, where every child in the land has an equal chance to gain an education. I pay no tax more cheerfully than my school tax, although individually I never had the benefit of one cent of the public money for my education, for the reason that I lived a little too early in a new country to get an education at all."

The first school taught in the township was in 1830, in the southeastern corner; John Cavender was the teacher. He was one of the strict "old masters " who have lived their day of usefulness and have given place to the more modern teacher. Our free school system was not inaugurated until many years after this school was taught. So much per quarter was charged for each pupil. Evidently Mr. Cavender carried on an excellent school, at least in his own estimation, for his charges were high. Each pupil was required to pay $3.50 per term. Mr. Cavender was remarkably strict as to the deportment of his pupils. He would "blaze" the trees between the boys and girls, keeping them separate; and the one who dared overstep the bounds suffered for it. He made it a rule to " flog " at least one half the scholars each day.

PERRY SPRINGS: These springs are located in the east part of the township, and are greatly valued for their curative properties. We quote the following descriptive and historical article concerning these springs, published in 1872:

Perry springs have received a national celebrity, being the most noted resort in the West. They are situated most beautifully near a creek among the hills west of the Illinois river, and at the confluence of several deep ravines. The surrounding country is very broken, hills are steep, and covered with a beautiful forest growth. These springs have long been known by the Indians.

What is now known as the Magnesia Spring gushes through a rock in great quantities, and was called by them "spring in the rock." Its medicinal qualities were well known to them, and they brought their sick to it from great distances to be healed. Little cabins were used by invalids until 1856, when Zack Wade, who was attracted there for his health, erected a very good hotel building. To B. A. Watson, Esq., of Springfield, IL is due the credit of developing not only this spring but also others in close proximity, erecting another very large hotel,with many extensive improvements; and to his indefatigable energy and determination through numerous unforeseen obstacles, is to be given the praise of furnishing the country the finest natural resort in America. The water is strongly impregnated with magnesia, lime, iron, potassa, soda, salt, etc., etc. There are three springs within a few steps of the hotel building, called respectively Magnesia, Iron and Sulphur springs. Each not only tastes differently, but operates differently; and what a wise provision of Providence is here illustrated, three springs but a few rods apart, all strongly medicated and having each different medicinal properties; and of all the diseases that afflict the human family but very few of them but what one of these springs would relieve, if not wholly cure. It is a singular fact that these springs are not affected in their flow of water by dry or wet weather, or their temperature by either hot or cold weather. In the summer the water ranges at 50 degrees, and in the winter at 48 degrees Fahr."

The name of the township was derived from the town situated near its center, and the histories of the two are so closely identified that we pass from the history of the township to that of the town.

PERRY: This beautiful little village is situated on sections 21 and 28 of Perry township. It was laid out by Joseph S. King, Feb. 16, 1836, and first christened " Booneville," in honor of the famous Kentucky hunter. It was settled largely by Kentuckians, and a great many of these people and their descendants still reside here; but a majority of the population are Eastern people: the German predominate above every other foreign class. There is not a negro in the town. When one occasionally "strikes" the place the boys all gather around him, anxious to see this curious colored man, which annoys this dark-skinned gentleman not a little, and he consequently makes his stay brief.

As above mentioned, the town was first named Booneville, but was subsequently changed to Perry, in honor of Com. Perry, of lake Erie fame. This name was given by David Callis, with whom the honor of naming the town was left. Mr. Callis was the father of Mrs. Reynolds, wife of Thos. Reynolds, now living near Perry. Joseph S. King, who came to Perry in 1832, was its first merchant. Dr. Sutphin, who came in 1835, was its first physician. The town has enjoyed its season of prosperity as well as adversity, and is now quite a business point. It contains several good stores, three of which are quite large establishments. They carry a general line of merchandise, and a large and well selected assortment. Among the business men and the business houses are the following: Shastid & Cockill, A. S. Whittaker, and J. F. Metz, all general dealers; Dunn & Brengelman and Dana Ayers, druggists; three restaurants; one hotel, kept by H. J. Chenoweth; two barber shops; one livery stable; four blacksmith shops, and one mill. It also contains one school-house, six churches, and one newspaper.

The first school house in the town was built in 1835. It was a log structure and school was taught here by Hannah French. The present school building was erected at a cost of $4,000. It contains four rooms. There are in attendance at present an average of 200 pupils. Prominent among the teachers who have taught here are Mr. Freeman, Richard Noyes and Allen. C. Mason. Mr. Luce is the present teacher.

The Perry Cornet Band was organized in 1876. They have fine instruments, and the band is one of the best in the county. Geo. W. Ham, B. Hume, C. Norris and Frank Bright are all that were members when it was organized. A. Gregory was the first leader, and A. A. Hinman is the present leader.

CHURCHES: Methodist Church, A nucleus of the present church at Perry was formed by a few people who met at the house of David Callis about the year 1832. At that time a class was formed consisting of David Callis and wife, Ira Andrews and wife, Mr. Gillespie and wife, Margaret Matthews, G. W. Hinman and wife, Isaac Davis and wife, B. L. Matthews and wife, N. W. Reynolds and wife, and Susan Beard. From that time regular meetings were held at private houses, but principally at the residences of David Callis and J. B. Matthews. These meetings were held only once in four weeks.

Wilson Pitner was the first regular preacher employed by this Society, his circuit extending as far as Atlas and other points in the county. The first house of worship was built on sec. 28 in 1839. It was about 20 by 24 feet in size, made of hewn logs, and it had a seating capacity of about 100 persons. The first Trustees of this Church were Z. Wade, Isaac Davis, N. W. Reynolds, B. L. Matthews and John Mc Furland. The first Steward was Isaac Davis. The Society occupied this building for religious meetings until 1848, when anew house of worship was built. This structure was located in Chenoweth's addition, was 30 by 40 feet in size, and cost about $2,000. It has been remodeled at a cost of $1,000. Its present size is 30 by 50 feet, with sittings for 350 people. Among the early pastors were Revs. Wm. H. Taylor, Mr. Hunter, Mr. Piper, Isaac Kimber, James Matteson. Among others who served in that capacity in later years were Revs. W. F. Gilmer and J. C. H. Hobbs. The present Pastor is Wm. H. Wilson, and the present membership about 200. After the building was repaired the Society bought a good organ, which is still in use. The Trustees are, Dr. Harvey Dunn, Asahel Hinman, S. D. Fagin, Rufus Reynolds and Z. Wade. The Sunday-school has a regular attendance of about 100 scholars, and is superintended by Dr. R. F. Harris.

Christian Church: The first meeting for the organization of this Church took place at the house of Nicholas Hobbs, on the southeast quarter of sec. 29, about the year 1837. Nicholas Hobbs and wife, Abraham Chenoweth and wife, Gideon Bentley and wife, Samuel Van Pelt, Wm. Van Pelt and wife, Wm. Chenoweth and wife and others, met at that time for the purpose of organizing a Church. Samuel Van Pelt, Wm. Van Pelt and Nicholas Hobbs were the officiating Elders on this occasion. Religious meetings were held at different private houses throughout the neighborhood until 1839, when the congregation erected a house of worship. This building was a frame 18 by 24 feet in size, and was located on the southeast quarter of sec. 28, which was in the village of Perry. The congregation was supplied with traveling preachers for a number of years, among whom were Elders Wm. Strong and John Kearn. The first Elders elected at the organization were Nicholas Hobbs, Wm. Van Pelt and Wm. Chenoweth. The first Deacons were Abraham Chenoweth and Gideon Bentley. The principal preaching was done by the Elders for the first few years, when the congregation engaged Elder David Hobbs to officiate as Pastor. In April, 1843, the great revivalist, Elder Wm. Brown, of Kentucky, held a protracted meeting in this church, lasting over two weeks. The religious fervor produced by his efforts was very satisfactory, and some conversions were made. The old church building being too small to hold the immense crowds that were drawn to hear him, one side was removed and a large shed addition was built, which was capable of holding some 500 people. For the next few years meetings were held in the old building, at the schoolhouse, and occasionally in the Baptist church. In 1851 a more commodious house of worship was built on lot 4, block 1, Thompson's addition. It was 34 by 50 feet, with seats for 400 people, and was erected at a cost of about $2,000. The building committee were James H. Chenoweth, David Johnson and Charles Dorsey. Elder Alpheus Brown for a while previous to this had been regular Pastor. Being a carpenter, he in company with John Reed took the contract for and erected this church. Elder Brown continued his services with the congregation. This building was occupied until 1879, during which time the congregation employed the regular services, as pastors, of Elders Donan, Wm. Mclntyre, Samuel Johnson, A. G. Lucas, H. R. Waning, Clark Braden and others. During the labors of these worthy and able men, there was much good done, and many accessions were made to the ranks of the Church.

In April, 1879, the congregation commenced agitating the question of the necessity for and propriety of building a more modern and commodious house of worship. A building committee was appointed with full power to examine and adopt plans for the erection of a suitable building. This committee consisted of Jon Shastid, Alex. Dorsey, John S. Dorsey, Bennett F. Dorsey, Matthias Gregory, Jasper M. Browning, Dr. W. D. C. Doane and James Walker. Jon Shastid was appointed Treasurer of the committee, and Alex. Dorsey and James Walker executive officers. Plans were accepted, contracts made, the work vigorously prosecuted, and the building completed by the first of January, 1880. It is built in the Gothic style, is 38 by 04 feet in size, with an auditorium finely frescoed and furnished, and with a seating capacity to accommodate 500 people. It cost about $4,000,and it is a credit to the society and an ornament to the town. The present membership of the congregation is about 330. The Pastor is Elder J. T. Smith, who took an active part in. and was one of the main workers in collecting money for, the erection of the new building. The Elders are Jasper M. Browning, Alex. Dorsey and Bennett F. Dorsey. The Deacons are Wm. Love, Wm. M. Browning, Henry Mays and Edward Wade. Clerk, J. E. Smith, and Treasurer D. S. Rickart. The Sunday school is conducted by Superintendent J. B. Warton, and has an average attendance of over 100.

Zion Church is located on sec. 4, and was erected in 1852. It is a substantial structure, and meetings have been held in it since its erection every two weeks, with few exceptions. The society had held meetings years previous to the erection of this edifice. Rev. Smith was the first minister. The congregation numbered but 10 members when the house was built; at present the membership is 50. Since the erection of the building they have not missed a month without holding Sunday school in it.

LUTHERAN CHURCH:This Church was organized in 1859, and was the first church of that denomination in Pike county. The congregation met for the first 10 years in the Christian church, but in 1800 built a new church, at a cost of $2,200. The present membership numbers 80. Rev. Recker is the present Pastor.

(Source: History of Pike County - Charles M. Chapman 1880