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History of Delhi, Jersey County, Illinois, by Julia Sunderland
There have been a great many mounds in Jersey County, and all were found in the portion of the county bordering on the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, and along the Macoupin, Otter and Piasa Creeks. These mounds came in different categories:
- House mounds are mostly extinct except on the bank of Otter Creek, and lately they have disappeared.
Sepulcher used for burial.
Signal mounds probably used with signal fires and distress signals.
Graves have been found that are entirely of rock. Many relics have been found: arrowpoints, axes, pipes, plummels shape of a plumb used to indicate a true perpendicular line, rock mortars, pottery, and even skulls. All this relates to pre-historic times.
There are many expeditions mentioned in regard to what is now Jersey County, which includes Delhi; the most important one was that of Father Marquette, who with his company of white men, came 245 years ago.
The next era concerned the period when land grants were made, and land sold for $1.25 an acre. These grants bear the signature of the President of the United States. Today the land across this road was included, and just think what it is worth today.
According to information which I received from the National Archives, and Record Service in Washington, D.C., Lurtons was the established name of July 5, 1833, but was changed to Delhi on July 27, 1836.
John W. Wilkins, in October, 1820, made first entry of Piasa Townships. He moved close to Delhi in 1829, and established a tavern, home, and stagecoach barn at the point below Mr. Householders home. His son was the first child born in Delhi, and his wife was the first person buried.
The town of Delhi was laid out May 6, 1868, by Sarah Lurton, Joseph N. Lurton, Jacob M. Early, Carolyn S. Early, William A. Scott, and Sarah Scott, and was surveyed, and plotted at this time.
In 1830 S. T. Kindall settled on part of the farm now owned by Mrs. Harry Breitweiser. This land, and over 300 acres was entered by Elijah Van Horne in 18??.
The first settlement, and building within the present boudnaries of Delhi was in 1831 when N. R. Lurton came, and erected a log cabin which served as a home, schoolhouse, tavern, post office, and store.
Nelson R. Lurton, whose son, Joe Lurton operated a tavern. Mr. Wilkins and Mr. Lurton had a thriving business. It was at this location that the stagecoach, and wagons stopped on their way from Jacksonville to Alton to change horses, rest the drivers, and indluge in a little tavern refreshments.
At the time of Mr. Lurtons death, records show that the now so-called garage sales were in operation, the sale of his personal property was one of the largest ever held.
William Barnhardt came in 1830, and was the first carpenter mentioned in the records, but there must have been others. The homes were made of logs, the windows were openings covered with heavy paper which was treated with some type of oil or grease, and candles furnished light at night. Large fireplaces furnished heat, and areas for cooking.
William Hackney, in 1830, opened a blacsmith shop, and operated the business until he became too old. Other blacksmiths were John Myers, and George Houser. In the early days children who stopped on the way to and from school were enteretained by the sight of fire, and sparks flying, and the clang of the hammer on the hot iron being shaped into horseshoes, plow shares, and new parts for broken machinery.
Henry Edwards, son of Andrew Edwards, born in 1837 attended local schools, then finished at McKendree College, and followed the profession of surveyor, and school teacher. In 1872, he bought store, and goods of E. Tilletson, and sold it later to take over the duties of station agent which is acquired in the same year.
Bartlett is another familiar name in Delhi history. Charles A. Bartlett, son of William Bartlett, attended local schools then went to McKendree College, and finished his law training at Michigan University. Because of ill health, he abandoned his law practice, and divided his time between teaching, and farming. Teaching must have been easier than it is today.
William H. Bartlett, at the age of 10, moved with his parents to Piasa Township where he farmed with his father. In 1866, he enlisted in Company C of the 12th Infantry, serving as bugler. At the close of the war, he returned to the farm and later moved to the house which now serves at parsonage of the Delhi Baptist Church. His last move was to Jerseyville where he spent his last days.
Another familiar name is Chappell. William Chappell, whose ancestors came from England and settled in New York worked by the day, and by closest scrutiny, and strictest economy saved $100. He came to Piasa Township in 1873, and bought 120 acres at $1.25 per acre. Eventually, he owned 610 acres. Some of this acreage is now owned by his great-granddaughters.
Other early settlers were Lewis Randolph (present home of Peter Breitweiser), Moore Stelle (home of Schafer Brothers), John Tunard, William Brumhead, Spencer Sycoff, and Mrs. Amund (now McIntyre home).
Joseph Lurton, a hunchback whose parents owned the present home of Mrs. Orville Breitweiser, owned horses which he would hire out to drovers who were driving cattle to Alton where they were loaded on barges, and shipped to East St. Louis. Farmers also hauled their grain in the same manner.
From this small beginning, his business grew into a source of supplies, a barn for hay, and feed, a lot for all his horses, and food, and shelter for the drovers. Delhi was located on the old State Road which was a direct route from Jacksonville, and Alton. Joes place was a resort for gambling. His mother, and Dr. Laugdon were not in favor of this practice, and the Dr. inquired if the men were shisters, but was assured that they were not, just busy men who had nothing to do while they, and their horses were resting or waiting for repairs they might need. They would gamble about anything; who would get the best price for their stock or grain, when it would rain, or what would be the sex of an expected calf or colt. They were just a bunch of youngsters with nothing better to do, so they made their own amusement to help the time pass.
I imagine I can hear you say, How did they make a living?
Hotel and Tavern accomodations
Cobbling (boots and shoes)
Stock buying & selling
Mail Service and Traveling by Railroad
The first post office was established as Lurtons on July 5, 1833. Name was changed to Delhi July 27, 1836, and discontinued November 30, 1948. Postage stamps cost 25 cents, and had to be paid by the addressee, and since money was scarece, much of the mail was delayed for weeks.
The first Railroad, C&A (Chicago & Alton) branch, through Delhi was established in 1845, and terminated at Godfrey. In 1872, it was extended to Alton from Jacksonville. In 1882, M.V. Hamilton was appointed first station agent; however, he was not a telegraph operator.
Livestock, especially hogs, were driven to the station, and corralled in stock pens to await the arrival of the freight train. In 1910, I came to Delhi to teach. At that time there were three passenger trains going each was from Jacksonville to St. Louis. Today, as you know, there is no passenger service.
Delhi has not been without its disasters. Two epidemics of Cholera hit the community. There seems to be a controversy as to the dates. My father-in-law, Daniel Sunderland, who came to Delhi with his parents at a very young age, told me of an outbreak when he was 16 years old how quick, and fatal the disease proved to be, the victims succumbing in a few house after the attack.
Later, in 1907 or 1908, some dynamite had been stored in a stove in a barn located on the lot now owned by the Delhi Baptist Church. Often a group of boys gathered there to play. One cold morning, they started a fire, which caused the dynamite to explode, which cuased a life long injury, and endless suffering for Thomas H. Edwards, who passed away two weeks ago at his home in Temple City, California, and was brought to Alton for burial.
Delhi sent boys to war. John Breitweiser, one of four sons of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Breitweiser whoc served in World War II, lost his life at Angeo Beach Head, Italy. Marion Best lost both legs in Herhshiem, Germany on January 10, 1945.
Dr. E. L. Barry came to Delhi in 1860, later moved to Jerseyville. William Scott, deceased husband of the former Edith Kuehnel, was his grandson. Mrs. Scott has loaned some of the doctors instruments.
Dr. W.O. Laugdon, a graduate of Missouri Medical College was advised to come to Delhi to practice his profession. When he alighted from the train May, 1870, the station agent greeted him, What can I do for you, boy? Dr. walked over to the store, and began to inquire about a place to board, and was directed to Jane and Billy Brumheads home. Robert and Jan Brundies home is located on this spot. On his way he observed the big white house with porches across front, both first and second floors, and observed two pear trees on the north side of the house in full bloom. This now is the home of Mr. and Mrs. McIntyre. Across the road was another white house, but so different more like a church, the windows were Gothic type with the upper part of leaded panes. This place was the home of Joe Lurton whose sister Caroline Lurton Early later became the Dr.s wife. When he reached the Brumhead home, Jane greeted him, Young boy I am busy and have no time for peddlers. By this time he began to think he should let the folks know that he was a Doctor sent to Delhi from the Medical College, so his first step was to start a moustache. He had very little money so agreed to do chores to pay board and lodging. The bargain was closed and he was accepted by the community which he served for eight years, when he moved to Carrollton, later moving to Texas.
Dr. Matt Watson no date
Dr. J.F. Gary, 1878
Dr. Giberson, who later moved to Alton to continue his profession
As early as 1841, Jacob Steele, Lewis Randolph, and others from both Delhi and Jerseyville held Sunday School on Sunday afternoons in the schoolhouse. There is no record of preaching services, but there must have been, because Mrs. Lurton told Dr. Laugdon, when church was out to come for dinner.
Later the need for a church was felt and members of the Jerseyville Baptist Church helped to organize and finance a building. The building site was donated by the before mentioned Joe Lurton.
The church was organized with a membership of a dozen or more. James parish was very active, physically and apiritually, and with the help of many others, the building was dedicated September 19, 1891, free of debt. The cost of the edifice was $3,000.
Through the years interested people encountered many obstacles, but never gave up hope. Through the years, additions were made. With the coming of Highway 267 in 1941, many families moved into the vicinity. The church membership outgrew the building. After much cooperation and prayer among the members, on May 11, 1966, ground was broken for a new church and $65,000 worth of bonds were sold. The brick structure has an auditoriuim with a seating capacity of 252, a nursery and eleven classrooms. Dedication services were held April 5, 1970.
Besides having two services on Sunday, Prayer Meetings on Wednesday night, missionary meetings once a month and program for the youth groups, the members are contributing to the support of eleven missionaries and many other activities.
Stores and Businesses
Dr. McClosky opened a store in 1831 which lasted for a short time. The next business was opened in 1848 when Edward Tyson operated a general merchandise business. His wife managed the store while he taught school. It was closed in less than a year. In 1857 Hamilton and Hixon opened a meat market which lasted about four years.
L.C. McNeil put in a stock of goods in 1854, but sold it a year later to William Eldridge, who in turn, sold it to William A. Scott, who was succeeded by J. N. Lurton, who operated for thirteen months when Elias Tillston took over the business with J. L. Compton as a partner. It seems that Mr. Tillston was ??? staid in his actions. Compton sold his interest ??? Tillston who in turn sold to Albert Hoyt who sold to Terrill and Clapp, then later it reverted to Tillston.
Later, H.D. Edwards bought it and in 1873 consolidated with M.V. Hamilton. In 1885 Dr. J.F. Gary and E.D. Greggs opened a drug store and stocked tobacco, candy and other sundries, where he operated until 1880.
William Brumhead came to Delhi in 1853 and learned the cobbler trade (not apple or peach, but boots and shoes) of John Hopkins. In 1884 John Schneider engaged in the cobbler trade.
In 1872 a saloon was opened by John Gregory, who later sold to Dr. Matt Watson. In 1876 William A. Gary merged the business into a drugstore which he operated until 1880.
Most of these businesses were conducted in a building located south of the match factory. Both buildings were on the west side of the road.
Later, merchants occupied a building built by M.V.Hamilton, which was burned. After the fire, Dan Sunderland replaced the building on the same spot, just north of the home of Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Telkamp.
Clarence Updike, D. Sunderland and Dixon Mudle, all deceased, and Clarence Sunderland, operated there until that building burned. In 1909 the unoccupied blacksmith shop was remodeled and converted into a store building and stocked with general merchandise and the Post Office was housed there.
Clarence Sunderland, in partnership with his father operated the store and received his appointment as Post Master in April, 1909 and continued his business until November 1, 1940 when he retired. Mrs. Ella Breitweiser bought the stock and rented the building. After her death January 26, 1971, the store was purchased by Mr. Stone, whoc in turn sold it to Ethel Gerbig November 4, 1971. Later the store was closed and merchandise moved to Stop and Shop. Mr. and Mrs. Donald Woolridge converted the building into a comfortable home. Delhi is now facing the first time in 142 years without a store.
The first school was taught in 1831 in a small room which was part of the log cabin mentioned earlier in my story. The New Testament was used as a reader. The next building was erected in 1840 and wasin use, as far as records show, until 1950.
With the increase of population and change of curriculum, more teachers and more room was needed. To help solve the problem, the Black Jack building and the Diamond house were moved to Delhi and three teachers employed.
First hot lunches were introduced when children were asked to bring a pint jar of food, which the teacher would heat by placing in a suitable kettle and heat the food on top of the good ol pot bellied stove. Not all children could participate in this arrangement.
During the Depression it was discovered that many children suffered from colds and insufficient nourishment.
There was quite a survey made among the children as to the cause of so many absentees. When some of the lunches were examined it was decided that inadequate nutrition could be the cause. This survey was state-wide. When this was brought to the attention of mothers of the more fortunate children, under the supervision of our Extension Worker in Home Economics, plans were made to serve each pupil with a portion of hot food. Mothers volunteered to be responsible for preparing the food for three days a week. There were not so many absentees on the days the food was served, which proved the survey findings were correct. Financial conditions improved and the hot lunch project was discontinued.
In 1950 the Mothers Club proposed to the Board of Education to supervise and manage a lunchroom if they (the Board) would furnish a building. They agreed and the civic-minded men of the community erected the room. The Mothers Club used many money-making projects to raise money to furnish equipment, buy the food and pay a small salary to a head cook who was assisted by volunteer mothers. The charge to the student was 15 cents a meal, which took care of all expenses.
In 1956 this building was erected. A principal, who also served as teacher and P.E. teacher, three teachers, a cafeteria supervisor and janitor were in charge. In 1969 four more rooms were added, thus providing a room and teacher for each grade through the sixth, a music director, a speech correctionist, and kindergarten teacher. The 7th and 8th grades are now bused to Illini Junior High.
There are several cemeteries in the locality.
The Edwards, a corner of the farm formerly owned by George Edward, now owned by Mrs. Ross Smith is fairly well kept and now is the final resting place of the Nelson Lurton mentioned earlier in my story.
One on the road past Gregory Gibbons home, at the top of the hill on the right going East. Neglected graves and stones which have fallen over and the place is almost a wilderness.
The Sunderland plot on the McClusky Road, east of the E. L. Pitchford home, was marked by cedar trees and stones, but some of the stones have been destroyed or taken away and there is no record of graves.
Above Delhi about two miles just to the right of Route 267 on a side road is the Van Horne Cemetery. Some bodies have been transferred to Oak Grove in Jerseyville. The spot is almost impenetrable.
The Chappell Cemetery is just off Route 167 to the right. It is a private family group and is well kept and a credit to the community.
The Marston Cemetery is located east of the railroad and the old State Road and is the resting place of many of the old settlers, and is kept in good condition.
If anyone is interested in any of these places, there is a map in Mrs. Lelia Blackorbys office in the Court House showing their locations.
Improvements of Later Days
The first tleephone line was erected in 1895.
By the financial help of three residents in the locality, the C.I.P.S. ran a line to Delhi, coming down from what is now Route 16. The power was turned on May 6, 1930. Now every home is supplied with electricity, even pigs and other animals are benefited. The last great improvement, when finished, will be the Jersey County Rural Water Company, when every home may be supplied with water from the Mississippi River.
Submitted by Dennis McGlasson.
Contributed by Marty Crull and his volunteers.