(Source: "History of Vermilion County, Illinois" By Lottie E. Jones)
Transcribed by Barb Ziegenmeyer
The first settlement made in Vermilion County was at the Salt Springs. This settlement was made while yet the springs were a part of Edgar County. Joseph Barren discovered the salt springs on the Vermilion and returned to Fort Harrison to take out necessary papers that he might immediate develop them. While he was gone, Truman Blackman, who had been one of his party organized another party and made an expedition to the same place that he might claim the discovery. When Blackman himself returned to make out his papers, he left two men to stay in possession until the third could come back with his family and make a settlement. Francis Whitcomb and the two Beckwiths, who were left at the springs were all single men and can not be counted as settlers until after the coming of Seymour Treat who was gone after his family. In the later part of November, 1819, Seymour Treat arrived at the Springs with his wife and family, bringing his household goods, the first settler of what is now known as Vermilion County. Seymour Treat had been here before, he having been one of the party who came with Truman Blackman, and returned to Fort Harrison for his family and tools to develop the salt works. He came up the Wabash river to the mouth of the Vermilion river and thence to the springs in a pirogue. This way had probably been the one taken by Barren, and avoided by the second exploring party, perhaps because of the fear of their expedition being discovered.
The first thing to be done upon the arrival of Treat and his family was to get some place where they could have shelter. The Beckwiths and Whitcomb were all good axemen and with their help it was not long before a good cabin was put up. This, the first house built in this section, was constructed of small logs. It was about fourteen feet square with one room. Thus the first settlement was begun and Seymour Treat, Francis Whitcomb, and the two Beckwiths were the first settlers. Treat afterward moved to the site of what was laterDenmark and building a mill there became the first settler of what, for a time, was a very important settlement and came very nearly being made the county seat.
These first settlers of what is now Vermilion County came from the South, Treat and Whitcomb from Fort Harrison and the Beckwiths from the North Arm Prairie, where they were living with Jonathan Mayo. These two young men came from New York State three years previous to this time, just as the Harrison Purchase was being surveyed, and located for two years in Vigo County, Indiana, coming to the North Arm Prairie in 1818. The two young men and Francis Whitcomb were better enabled to endure the hardships which they found in this part of the country than were the women and children. With their nearest neighbors on the North Arm Prairie some forty miles away, the loneliness was more than can be imagined. The men could hunt and fish and find adventure in the wild country surrounding them, but the women and little children were left to work as their only way of passing the time, or to the more wearing idleness which gave opportunity to grieve over broken home ties, in the more densely populated old home towns.
The year after the settlement was made at the salt springs, James Butler came to the point of timber near where the Catlin Fair Grounds were later located, and entered land. Two or three of his neighbors came with him from Clark County, Ohio, and also took up claims. Johnson built his cabin on the right hand side of the road leading west of Catlin and on the east side of the branch which was called by his name. Here he put in a crop and the next spring returned to Ohio to fetch his family to their new home. It was a lonely place to build a home and it took courage for a woman to take her little children into this wilderness. Their nearest neighbors were at the Salt Springs. Even at that place there were but few people. The men who first came out with Butler from Ohio lost courage and refused to return with him, preferring to stay in their old homes. Life in new settlements was bad enough when several families united in forming a colony, but when one family left their old home and settled in a strange place alone, it took great courage. A half dozen years previous to this time Butler had left his boyhood home in Chittenden County, Vermont, to locate in Ohio and had never been satisfied, so that this opportunity to go yet farther west pleased him. Illinois was a new country, having been a commonwealth but two years at this time. But the loneliness and uncertainty of a life among the Indians in this far away place beyond civilization, in spite of the treaty now in force, were more than the friends of Butler could face, so it was but the one family who made this settlement at Butler's Point.
Within two or three years Butler's Point became an important settlement. Robert Trickle, John Light, Asa Elliott and Harvey Luddington (the latter from the salt works) all came to this settlement before Butler had been here two years, and this settlement was conspicuous in the affairs of the earliest days of this section. About the time Asa Elliott came Francis Whitcomb moved from the Salt Works settlement to the nearby place where Catlin is now located, married and made it his permanent home, living there until late in life when he moved yet further west. About two years after the Butler's Point settlement was assured, a little clearing in the timber some six miles west of the Salt Workswas made by Lewis Bailey. Bailey sold this land to Harvey Luddington in a short time. The little stream nearby was known as Luddington's branch for years, but afterward, as Stony Creek. Later, when Mr. Walker opened a farm up the creek near the present town of Muncie, the place became known as Walker's Point, but was never a promising settlement. The same year James D. Butler built the first cabin which was the beginning of Butler's Point. Henry Johnson began a settlement two miles west of present day Georgetown by building a cabin on section 36 (18-12), afterward calling it Johnson's Point.
Henry Johnson was a man of sterling character and, as a neighbor always held out a helping hand. Absolom Starr, Henry Johnson's brother-in-law, joined him the following year. Also another brother-in-law by the name of Barnes came to this settlement. Jotham Lyons took up land just west of Johnson's and John Jordon settled a little to the east. Absolom Starr came from Palestine, Illinois, where the land office was located. He selected a piece of ground which he thought he wanted and went back to Palestine where he raised corn and wheat enough in the season of 1821 to last him and his family as flour and meal for a year. Few pioneers came into a new country better equipped for the first year's living. He brought his wife and four children to Johnson's Point and built them a little cabin. A letter written by Henry Johnson addressed to William Lowery, the member of the legislature from Clark County at that time, and yet preserved, fixes the date of the beginning of this settlement beyond a doubt. The letter is dated "Achilles Township, November 22, 1822." In it the statement is made that Johnson "had a knowledge of this township since October, 1820." This letter goes on to describe "Achilles township," which evidently embraced the, whole territory of Clark County watered by the two Vermilion rivers, and extending as far north as the Kankakee river.
John Hoag and Samuel Munnell began a settlement north of the Little Vermilion, the year Henry Johnson settled south of that stream. This settlement was just southwest of the present village of Indianola. William Swank came to this section in 1820 and his farm embraced a part of the present town of Indianola. Alexander McDonald came here in 1822. He, with his father-in-law entered much land around here and this place was long known as the McDonald Neighborhood. A settlement was begun at what was long known as Brooks'Point, the same, or the year following the beginning of Johnson's Point. Benjamin Brooks came from Indiana and chose a place on the Little Vermilion for his future home. Returning to Indiana for his family, a Mr. Spence took this land in his absence. Mr. Brooks was very much disappointed, and had it not been for Benjamin Canady, who had just come from Tennessee, he would have been in a sorry plight with his family and no land upon which to build a cabin. Benjamin Canady was a tinker and peddler and had land further north which he let Mr. Brooks have, and this point of timber became the well known Brooks Point during the first years of the life of Vermilion County. The site of old Brooks Point is now known as Kelleyville. While Benjamin Brooks was in Indiana, Bob Cotton and Thomas O'Neal came to this same section. Thomas O'Neal came from Nelson County, Kentucky, and lived at Brooks Point. His son James O'Neal was the first white child born in the territory that is now Vermilion County. It, however, was a part of Edgar County at that time,and for three years afterward. He lived in the Brooks Point neighborhood for three years and then entered 80 acres of land on the Big Vermilion, near where the Kyger mill was later a landmark. A neighborhood, first called Morgan's, and afterward McHenry, was settled south of Brooks' Point. Subel Ellis, James Ogden and John and Lewis Ritter, were in this neighborhood. Jacob Brazleton settled just north of them. Achilles Morgan, with his son-in-law, Henry Martin, came into what is now Vermilion County five years before it was organized as such, and after stopping at one or two points, located about three miles west of Georgetown. They came from Virginia and his other daughter with her husband George Brock visited them shortly and also located at the same place. The name of Achilles Morgan is associated with public affairs of the county in the '20s and '30s, and his descendants have left their impress upon its development. He was one of the first three county commissioners.
Soon after the first settlement at the Salt Springs, Mr. Starr, an uncle of Absolom and Barnett Starr, who were well known and pioneers of the county, bought land in the then northern part of Edgar County, but later he came to the southern part of Vermilion County. He bought eight hundred and eighty acres of land through which the Little Vermilion river flowed. Mr. Starr lived in Palestine where the land office was located and he bought much land for speculative purposes. This particular land he traded to John Myers for the eighty acres of land he had in Ohio. John Myers was better known in his day as "Injun John" and was, as may be inferred from his nickname ,a man of strong characteristics. On his way out here Myers offered his brother-in-law a quarter section of this land if he would come with him. This his brother-in-law Joseph Frazier agreed to do. The particular tract which Frazier received is now a part of the well known Sconce farm. A year later Simon Cox came to this section and took up land. This was in 1822. Later he and Myers commenced to build a mill. First they tried a water mill, and they put in steam, but as neither were practical millwrights, they did not succeed in this enterprise. Peter Summe assisted in building this mill. It was located about a mile south of what today is Indianola and formerly was Chillicothe. Moses Bradshaw came to this neighborhood about the time Myers and Frazier came. He stayed here but a short time, however. The Richmond family lived here one winter and summer and then moved on.
The beginning of the settlement of Vermilion, now known as Vermilion Grove, was the cabin built by John Malsby in 1820. To be sure he abandoned the house and returned to his old home in Richmond, Indiana, so that the following winter, when Mr. Haworth came with his young family he found shelter already provided. Mr. Haworth had left Tennessee three years before to get away from the institution of slavery which he hated, and had spent the interim in Union County, Indiana. He entered several hundred acres of land about Vermilion, but did not hold it for himself nor sell it at high price ; rather, when anyone came along whom he thought would be a desirable neighbor, he sold his land cheap and on time payments, if so desired. In this way he lay the foundation for a community of good people. His uncle, George Haworth, sooncame to this neighborhood, and together with his brothers and their descendants, have made the name a familiar and respected one in this part of Illinois.
Henry Canady with his five sons came from Tennessee in the autumn of 1821, the same year that Mr. Haworth came. But they became discontented and returned to their old home in the Spring. They did not stay, however, but by Fall they were all back this time to locate permanently. When land came into market Mr. Canady entered about two sections and sold it out at congress prices with interest. This selling of small tracts of land to different owners by such men as Mr. Haworth and Mr. Canady, cut a part of that section of the county into small farms which could be cultivated more thoroughly than larger farms, and opened that region more quickly than any other. These small farms were later bought up by John L. Sconce, John Sidell and other large owners who have turned them into vast estates. These first settlements in what is now Vermilion County, but which were made before the county was organized as such were few and all lay along the two Vermilion rivers, the Middle Fork and Salt Fork of the Big Vermilion and the two Stony Creeks. Along the Little Vermilion the points of timber running out into the prairie were first chosen, and Yankee Point, and Quaker Point, became well known settlements. The first named settlement, that of Yankee Point, was so named because Mr. Squires settled here at an early day and being from the east his "yankee" ways were more noticed since he was the only man who had not come from the South.
Quaker Point was settled by those who belonged to the society of Friends or Quakers. This settlement was also called Bethel. The early settlers clung to the timber for a decade. They were afraid of the prairie, were sure no one could live away from the timber, and that the prairie was fit only as a range for their cattle. The early settlements were all made about the same date, that is, in 1821, or 22, or 23. They were at the Salt Springs, Butler's Point, Johnson's Point, Brooks' Point, Vermilion, Elwood, Yankee Point and Quaker Point. The McDonald neighborhood, Morgan's and near what is now Indianola. The settlement at the mouth of the North Fork of the Vermilion river was not made until after the county was organized and a county seat was contemplated. There was not any settlement at this place but land had been entered, and the location of the county seat was desired and secured in spite of the fact that promising settlements had been made in other parts of the newly organized county. It was not until January, 1827, that the selection was made of the land donated at the mouth of the North Fork of the Vermilion river, as the future county seat of the newly formed Vermilion County and its settlement begun. This was two years after a settlement had been made to the north by John LeNeve, and a number from Ohio and Kentucky. The beginning of this settlement was made by Obadiah and John LeNeve, who came from Lawrence County (it was then Crawford County), Illinois, provided to make their future home in this section. Their first house was primitive in the extreme, being but a square laid up with logs and one half covered with puncheons, although the entire structure was chinked and well filled with pulled grass. This cabin was built in the winter of 1824 and 1825. In 1828 Samuel Copeland began a settlement west of here and the same year Mr. Partlow with his family of four sons came to the Middle Fork of the Big Vermilion river to make a new home. He came from Kentucky.The majority of the settlers of Vermilion County came from the South. Some came from Ohio and a few came from further east yet, but they were not many. Those who came first and settled Salt Springs developing them were from the North Arm Prairie, and those following and settling in other sections came from that section, and yet further South. Unlike many new countries the most of these pioneers were law abiding men and developed into good citizens. The large numbers of adherents of the faith of Friends made the material from which to secure the very best people possible for a growing country. Many of these pioneers came from Tennessee and North Carolina, because they were anxious to escape the hated institution of slavery. Many came from Ohio where they had paused for perhaps a generation on their way west from Virginia or some other eastern locality. Many others came directly from- Virginia. They came by way of the Ohio and Wabash rivers and they came through the country on horseback or with ox teams. The motives which brought themwere as various as were their direction from their old homes. Not all came to escape a hated institution in their old homes as did the Haworths and the Canadays who settled and developed the peaceful valley along the Little Vermilion river ; some saw a future through the salt industry or the fur trade and later in the fertile land that was theirs for little more than the taking; and yet others were filled with the passion for adventure alone. Such was the diverse material which went into the foundation of Vermilion County and made indelible impress upon its institutions.