Page images

Northern Illinois desire a dry article for early fall grinding, they send their purchasing agents to Mason county.

Garden vegetables of all kinds succeed well. No country can exceed this in its adaptation to rearing the finest fruits and fruitbearing trees. (We make an exception here of dwarf pears and the quince, and will give the causes in detail in the section on Fruits, in another part of this work.) Wild fruits and berries are, in many places, abundant, and on some of the prairies the strawberries are remarkably fine. In some localities grapevines indigenous to the country are abundant, and yield a fruit from which can be manufactured an excellent wine. Indigenuous vines are very prolific, and are found in every variety of soil, interwoven in every thicket, bordering on the prairies, and climbing to the tops of the tallest trees on the bottom lands. The French, in early times, made so much wine from our native grapes in Illinois, as to export a quantity to France, upon which the government of that country, in 1774, passed laws prohibiting the importation of wines from their dependencies in America, lest it might injure the sale of that staple of the French Kingdom.

The native plum is produced in great abundance, variety and flavor, color and size; are less subject to curculio than the tenderer varieties. Crab apples are abundant and prolific. Wild cherries are equally productive. The persimmon is abundant, and delicious when the frost has destroyed its astringency. The black mulberry is abundant and productive.

The gooseberry, the strawberry and the blackberry grow wild and in great profusion, proving from natural causes alone the beautiful adaptation of our soil and climate to the production of the improved and finer varieties of fruits.

Of nuts, the hickory, black walnut and pecan deserve notice. The later is an oblong, thin-shelled and delicious nut, that grows on a large tree of the same family as the hickory. (Carya-oliveformis.)

The pawpaw grows on the bottoms and rich timbered uplands, and produces a large, pulpy, and luscious fruit. The Kentucky coffee tree is a native of the lands bordering on the Illinois river, and a desirable tree for shade and ornament.

Of the domestic fruits, the apple, peach and the pear are principally cultivated, the latter, however, with variable success. Pears were successfully grown as seedlings by the early French settlers in the southern part of the State. Many of their earliest plantings still survive. The quince cannot be successfully grown in Central Illinois. Peach trees grow with great rapidity, and decay proportionately soon. Our variable winters render them precarious and uncertain.

ORIGIN OF SANGAMON COUNTY. Sangamon, which included within its limits a part of Mason county, was formed from Bond and Madison counties in 1821, and in 1837 was the largest and most populous in the State, being forty miles from north to south, and forty-two from east to west on its southern boundary, and upwards of sixty on its northern boundary; containing sixty full townships, or two thousand one hundred and sixty square miles. Previous to 1819 there was not a white inhabitant on the Sangamon river; in 1837 they amounted to over twenty thousand.

The whole territory watered by the Sangamon and its branches is an Arcadian region, in which nature has delighted to bring together her happiest combination of landscape and scenery. There is in this region a happy combination of timber and prairie land, the soil is of great fertility, being of a rich, calcareous loam, from one to three feet deep, intermixed with fine sand. The summer range for cattle in inexhaustable. All who ever visit this fine tract of country admire the beauty of the landscape which nature has here displayed in primeval loveliness and freshness. So delightful a region was soon selected by emigrants from New York, New England, North Carolina, and Canada, and more than two hundred families had settled themselves here before it was surveyed.

It constitutes several populous counties now, one of which is Mason, inhabited by thriving farmers, and prosperous commercial towns,

• Arcadian vales, with vine-hung bowers,

And grassy nooks beneath the black jack's shades,
Where dance the never ceasing hours

To music of the bright cascade.
Skies softly beautiful and blue

As Italia's, with stars as bright;
Flowers rich as morning's sunrise hue,

And gorgeous as the gemmed midnight.
Land of the west! Green forest land !

Thus hath creation's bounteous hand
Upon thine ample bosom flung
Charms, such as were her gift when the gray world

was young."

[ocr errors]

1 ing


[ocr errors]

The county of Menard was taken from the northwestern part of Sangamon county, in 1838, and includes within its boundaries about sixty miles of the lower part of the Sangamon river, and a part of Salt creek. It was bounded on the north by Tazewell county, on the south by part of Sangamon county, on the northwest by Schuyler and Fulton counties. It towns are Petersburg, New Salem and Athens.


[ocr errors]

From which the northern part of Mason was taken, was originally bounded on the north by Putnam county, east, by McLean, south, by Sangamon, and west, by Peoria and Fulton, from which it was seperated by the Illinois river. Its length from north to south was forty-eight miles, and from east to west, on its southern boundary, forty-five miles, and on its northen, ten miles. Its area is about twelve hundred and twenty square miles. Tremont was the county seat, about ten miles east of the Illinois river, and nearly the centre of the county. It was laid out in 1835, and in 1837 contained seventy houses, and about three hundred inhabitants. The other towns, in the original limits of the county, were Pekin, Wesley city, Havana, Mackinaw, Dillon, Bloomingdale, Washington, Detroit and Hanover.

Mackinaw was the original county seat, before it was removed to Tremont. The town contained about one hundred inhabit. ants.


Was the result of the union of the counties of Sangamon and Tazewell and Menard, and was born from the two latter, by an act approved January 20, 1841. Parts of Menard were used in its construction. The adjoining counties, or the territory now forming the adjoining counties, were all settled prior to Mason. In 1830 to 1835 there did not reside in the present limits of Mason county to exceed twenty-five families. Some years later, in 1840 to 1845, the tide of emigration and the progress of development was begun which has so rapidly increased, and placed Mason county in her present enviable position among the leading counties in the State of Illinois.

The best information now obtainable, indicates that Mr. Osian M. Ross was the first permanent white settler, and located at Havana, in the spring of 1829.

Where the city of Havana now stands was a wilderness at that time, and was long after known as Ross' Ferry. To illustrate the primitiveness of this region at that time, we will here note that the first Postoffice was established in the county in the fall of 1829, Osian M. Ross, Postmaster.

The present city of Chicago was then Fort Dearborn, and Cook county and its surroundings had no Postoffice in their limits. The first Postoffice in Cook county was established in 1831.

Two offices were in Fulton county in 1830. McLean had no office in 1830; neither had LaSalle county an office in her then extended territory. McDonough and Mercer were without Postoffices. Peoria county had an office at Peoria, Norman Hyde, Postmaster. Mackinaw, then the county seat of Tazewell county, had a Postoffice in 1830 and earlier. In that year there were but one hundred and thirty offices in Illinois.

The offices were mostly in the central and southern part of the State, where the earliest settlements were established.

Mr. John Williams, of Springfield, Illinois, informs me, that in 1825 he was a clerk in the office in that city. They received mails twice a week, and the surrounding regions were on hand for their mails at these arrivals. Though the first white settlers located here permanently in 1829, this region had been traversed by white men long before that date. Father Hennepin, with two companions, passed down the Illinois river in 1680. LaSalle and others, early explorers, traded with the Indians along the banks of the Illinois, and at various succeeding periods.

In 1833 a few other families settled in this vicinity. Dr. Chandler located where the town of Chandlerville is, in 1832. A man named Myers came to Havana, also, the Krebaum family, about this date. A Mr. Shepherd and Mr. Westervelt located at Matanzas about this time, and Mr. Barnes at the Mounds, north of this city. For the experiences and further details of the first settlers, we refer the 'reader to the Biographical department of this work. These early settlers were not troubled by the Indians to any

seri. ous extent, as in some other parts of the State, as nearly all had left prior to the arrival of the first white settlers. A couple of blockhouses, for defense, had been erected at Havana, previous to the Black Hawk war, and stood for many years.

The first school house, erected for the purpose of public instruction, was on what is now the Court House square. As population increased, these facilities were multiplied, to meet the wants of the pioneer. The first school houses in the eastern part of the county were built at Crane creek and Big Grove, and were known as the Turner and Virgin school houses. These were the voting places for the election preeincts in which they were situated, and supplied the place of church edifices for religious services. The log school house at Big Grove was built in the latter part of 1838. Mr. Lease, Sr., was the first teacher. A school was taught in the vicinity, however, at an earlier date, at the residence of Edward Sykes (see. Biography), by his daughter, Mary A., then a girl of fourteen, now the intelligent, talented and amiable wife of S. D. Swing, Esq., of Mason city.

Churches were not erected at so early a date, though religious services were not neglected, but were held at the residences of the settlers, or in the groves which were God's first temples. The first ministers transiently visiting this county were, Rev. Peter Cart

« PreviousContinue »