Genealogy Trails - Pike County, Illinois
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The first white settlement made in what is now Spring Creek Township was by Silas Wilson in the year 1832 on Section eight, approximately two miles north of the present site of Nebo. He built a log cabin and made improvements on the land and lived there many years. Some of the other earliest settlers of the township were Benjamin Allison, David Scranton, Barnard Collins and J.P. Stark.
The first death was that of Joseph Collins in 1833. Rachel Collins was the first white child, born in 1835. Joel Meechem and Sarah Adkins were the first couple married, the ceremony being performed by the Rev. Levi Hinman (a Baptist minister, who also preached the first sermon) in the year 1833. F. A. Collard was the first Justice of the Peace, and John P. Stark was the first township supervisor when township government was established in 1850.
Records indicate that the first post office in Spring Creek Township was established on December 10, 1852. This seems to have been located in the Rock Hill area. It was called Monument and was discontinued in 1866. Nebo post office was established on September 16, 1857, about a mile south of the present village of Nebo. December 18, 1871 the post office was relocated within the village limits.
The name Nebo appears in the Bible fourteen times. It refers at various times to a city, a mountain, a Babylonian god and a person. There are a dozen Nebos throughout the United States. One of these, such as Nebo, Kentucky or Nebo, Pennsylvania could have been a factor in the naming of the village in Pike County.
The Chicago and Alton Railroad began construction of a railroad across south Pike County in the late 1860's. The railroad was completed in 1871, at which time the village was laid out along the railroad. Peter Windmiller, a native of Germany, and William E. Smith were the ones who laid out the original village. Incorporation for the village of Nebo was filed with the county court July 3, 1885. The articles of incorporation were filed with the Illinois Secretary of State June 29, 1894.
Main Street was located on the north-south street where the railroad built the depot. Around 1890 the railroad was relocated to make an easier grade over the spine of Pike County. This relocation caused the depot to be moved from Main to Union Street, one block west. By 1899, nearly all of the business houses of Nebo had migrated from Main to Union Street, and Main Street was primarily a residential area. The oldest house in Nebo, a frame house, with log construction beneath it, still stands today (2011) at the NE corner of Main Street and Smith Alley.
On September 30, 1899 a fire started in Collard's Restaurant, which was just south of the current Nebo Village Hall on the west side of Union Street. Dry conditions, wooden buildings, and the lack of any fire fighting equipment, caused the entire business area of Nebo (on Union Street) to be consumed by fire. The Bush Building (Opera House) at the NE corner of Union Street and Middle Street (often called Mill Street) was of brick construction, and was the only building on Union Street, north of Middle Street that was saved. More than 40 structures, including the Baptist Church, which was west of Union Street on what is now Franklin Street, were destroyed by the blaze.
The citizens of Nebo cleared the rubble and began to rebuild immediately. They did not request FEMA assistance or cry out for state and federal aid. The year 1899 is on the top front of the building south of the current post office, which was built by the Franklin brothers. The village board decided to widen Union Street by setting the new buildings back four feet on each side of the street. Most of the new buildings were constructed of brick or concrete blocks.
Nebo at the beginning of the Twentieth century was a thriving village of around 520 population. The village had two banks (the First National and the Minier State Bank), four or five physicians, one or two dentists, two hotels, six general stores, two hardware stores, one furniture and undertaker's establishment, three restaurants, three barber shops, one livery stable, two poultry firms, two mills, a vinegar factory, two blacksmith shops, three harness shops, one newspaper, one millinery store, one lumber yard, one veterinary surgeon and a good two-story frame school building.
Six passenger trains and numerous freight trains stopped in Nebo daily. Farmers from miles around came into town to trade and ship and receive goods by railroad. A big factor in the business of Nebo were the people from North Calhoun who used to come into town on Saturdays. Calhoun was the only one of the 102 counties of Illinois that never had a railroad. Strout, Pearl and Pleasant Hill also prospered because of their locations on the railroad.
Probably Nebo's biggest claim to fame occurred on October 10, 1911, when the Vin Fiz, the first airplane to fly coast-to-coast, landed just north of Hunter Cemetery on the east edge of town. Cal Rodgers, the daring pilot of the first flying machine ever seen in Pike County, circled the entire town, headed toward Hutton Hill, then turned back to land in the hayfield near the cemetery. The wind was out of the east, and favored his landing while heading east.
Literally everyone in the village of around 520 population heard and then saw the strange sight of a heavier-than-air flying machine. School children were let out, business owners, housewives—everyone—ran to the cemetery. One of the two banks was left unlocked with money in drawers, as tellers and clerks headed to see the Wright biplane landing at the very edge of the town.
"Nebo That Was"
By Kim Merryman - Pike Press Express November 19, 2014
If that is true then the citizens of Nebo could surely learn more than a thing or two from a group of graduates from Nebo's High School that get together once a year in the area, they are the 1941 graduates.
Originally in 1941 there were 18 youth that graduated from the combined elementary and high school building, now averaging 91 years old there are eight remaining with one classmate that they are uncertain of the whereabouts.
To get a full scope of what these residents lived through one must consider the times and what was happening around them. They would have been about 18 years old in the middle of The Great Depression, learning their life skills and outlook on life during the longest, deepest, and most widespread depression of the 20th century. Black Tuesday, October 29,1929 began the whirlwind that hit rock bottom in late 1933. The conditions would wind up lasting
Cities all around the world were hit hard, especially those dependent on industry. Construction was virtually halted in many countries and farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by approximately 60%.
While some economics started to recover by the mid to late 30's in many countries, the effects in the U.S. wouldn't really improve until 1940 and then in 1941 with the United States entering into WWII, which receded the unemployment rate to 10% (from the 25% between 1930 and 1940).
Looking around Nebo today might be an unfair comparison to the life of the town back in 1941 even though the area had suffered so heavily from the economic times. In fact, even 15 years later according to The Pike County Democrat Times Nebo was a bustling community with commerce and trade, a business district, and a strong respect for community spirit.
Located in the southern part of the county the original town was called Monument but was changed when the railroad was built through that area since there was already a town named Monument in Illinois. "Nebo" was adopted from a settlement in the Rock Hill vicinity (to be discussed in the Schools section of this feature) near the Applegate home site.
Nebo was laid out May 6, 1871 and after the train deport was moved and a post office built the business places were moved to Union Street. All those building were framed with the exception of one, the old bank building. The bank was privately owned by William Nevius and stood out in the street four feet until the bank was bought by C.L. Minier who had the building remodeled. It was later reestablished as a state bank.
In 1899 a fire destroyed the business district with the exception of the general store that had an opera house in the second story, however it only took a short amount of time before all the businesses to begin rebuilding.
The First National Bank was founded in Nebo in 1903 by Dr. R.R. Pollock and was the only bank in the area that paid accounts in full with 5% interest during the depression. It also absorbed the other bank's liabilities before being forced to close.
There were six doctors in Nebo, two dentists, and a variety of tradesmen including: eight carpenters and general contractors, two painters, a blacksmith, two beekeepers, four trappers, a fur dealer, and one commercial fisherman.
Businesses in the town included; the state bank, a dry goods store, two grocery stores, a coffee shop, a restaurant, a locker plant, three service stations, two garages (one under construction), a laundrymat, lumber yard, gas company, two swine corporations, appliance store, a barber, a post office, two real estate brokers, feed mill, slaughter house, feed store, ice cream parlor, three beauty parlors, newspaper offices, and three truck lines.
There were four churches in the community the Baptist, Nazarene, Christian, and Church of Christ, all except one employing full time ministers.
Not to mention the town had it's own volunteer fire department with one truck boasting of a good record having had only one house lost in 10 years.
The Nebo Community Club was busy improving the town and later with help of Nebo Baseball Association they built the Hack baseball park at the south edge of town.
Nebo's major problem was the lack of good roads with only a four-mile strip of blacktop to Pleasant Hill and other roads leading to the town either gravel or partially blacktopped. The township supervisor Bruce Boren stated Nebo need a state road connecting Routes 96 and 100. It would connect two main highways and provide a good road for residents benefit Illinois 54 by ridding it of some of its traffic congestion while providing a shorter route for White Hall travelers to Hannibal or Quincy.
The town was attempting to start several projects including federal housing to aid older residents and a grant had been applied for to build a sewage system.
In 1850 the Nebo School was built with no electricity or plumbing, with just a pump for water and a coal shed out back. The building housed both the elementary school for town kids and the high school for both town and rural area children.
There were eight schools scattered throughout Spring Creek Township including: Nebraska, Holford, Nebo School, Sideview, Old Baptist, Hackberry, Rock Hill (later the original site of the Mississippi Valley Church Camp), and New Union also known as Tick Ridge School.
Sometime before 1917 the "new" Nebo school was built to replace the original building using mules and horses attached to hoists and pulleys to get building materials to the higher levels. This building housed a gym/cafeteria that would serve it's purposes for the school until a new gym construction was began in 1938 with the facility, the same one standing today, was completed and opened three years later in 1941.
Nebo's school would end up making a 75-year run before the high school closing and consolidating with Pikeland Unit #10 in 1955, and the grade school closing in September 1992.
Reprint of "Nosing Around Nebo from The Pike County Democrat-Times"
Note: The following are some yarns, true stories, and anecdotes gathered from residents of Nebo.
It is rumored that the original name of Nebo stems from a poor crippled mule that was taken into town one day by his owner. When asked about the mule's problem, its owner replied, "Why, his knee's bowed," hence, the name Nebo.
Spring Creek, running under the swinging bridge, used to be the site of baptismal services. One Sunday as baptism was being held and a number of residents gathered on the bridge to watch, the cable broke and all fell into the water. The hang up was one poor woman who was left dangling by her skirt hem from the bridge.
The first child was born in Spring Creek Township in 1835. Her name was Rachel Collins. First death in the township was Joseph Collins, in 1833. First couple married, Joel Meechem and Sara Adkins in 1833, with Rev. Levi Hinman, Baptist minister officiating. The first schoolhouse, built of logs, was situated south of the depot on top of the hill, now known as Sideview Schoolhouse.
There was once an "opera house" above the oldest store in town featuring vaudeville acts, medicine shows and dancing.
Not too far from town there was a farmer who was plagued with groundhogs. He heard that if you poured water into the hole and then gasoline you could drive out the pests by setting a match to the opening of the hole. He did, and a flaming groundhog came streaking out of the hole and burrowed into the hay in the barn, result - no more barn.
One of the most exciting happenings in Nebo concerned C.P. Rodgers, who made the first transcontinental airplane flight from New York to California in 1911. The trip lasted 49 days and 82 flying hours. During his flight, Rodgers ran out of gas and was forced to land at Hunter Cemetery in Nebo. Rodgers survived the 16 crash landings in his frail plane, the Cole Flyers, now in the Smithsonian Institution.
Then there was the Boxer dog that lost a hind leg in a scrap and a front paw in another incident. He traversed the town on two left legs.
In one of the 1930 elections Spring Creek Township got out all the votes of those registered except one.
The 1960 census showed that Nebo's population was 438, an increase of 15 people since the census before it.
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