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Cheney MansionCheney Mansion

601 N. State St., Jerseyville

Diggers Discover Remains of Cavern From Old Jersey Home

2 June 1950 – Was First Frame House. Jerseyville – While workmen were engaged in repairing the foundation at the Prentiss D. Cheney residence on North State Street this week, their tools suddenly broke through into a large underground vault or cave which the owner of the place did not know existed.

Exploration of the vault and adjoining corridors had not been undertaken by Cheney up to Wednesday morning. The vault has however, been identified with the existence of the first frame dwelling, stage coach station and tavern of the locality which stood at the same spot in 1827.

In tracing the history of the first coach station and tavern, one must go back to the story of the first settler who came to Jerseyville. In 1822 John BALLARD settled near the middle of the west line of the northwest quarter of section 21 and built a cabin.

This cabin stood until 1835, when it was finally destroyed either by storm, fire or the ravages of time, for in 1885, a pile of stone which had formed the fireplace and chimney, and a little hillock marked the site.

When Ballard came to Jerseyville and for many years after, the locality was designated as Hickory Grove and was so recorded in Davenport’s Gazeteer of more than a century ago.

Wore Variety of Charms – It is said of Ballard that he was a typical pioneer, who was always edging away from the civilization of his time. He was reported as of a very superstitious nature, and was remembered by some of the early residents of the community for the various charms he wore or carried to ward off misfortune.

At an early day shooting match, he wore his vest wrong side out, and held tight to his gun all day. When questioned as to the reason for his actions, he replied that it was essential for him to shoot well enough to win a prize.

He left this location in 1826 for a point north of Jerseyville, on a creek which took the name of Ballard’s Branch for many years, but which today is known as D’Arcy’s Branch. What became of Ballard after he left the community for another wilder country is not known.

In 1826, James FAULKNER, who had been living on the section 31, in what is now Jersey Township, came here and bought Ballard’s Hickory Grove place in 1826, before Ballard left the country. He came up with his family and took possession of the cabin.

The First House – In 1827, he built the first frame house in the settlement known as the Red House. This Red House stood on the site of the present Prentiss Cheney residence on North Sate street. Faulkner and his family then moved from the Ballard cabin into the Red House, where he operated the place as a tavern and a stage coach station. The present North State street which passes the Cheney residence today was then a part of the old “State Trail” between Jacksonville and Alton.

In 1830 Faulkner sold the Red House to A. L. CARPENTER and moved to the vicinity of Quincy. From there he moved to a tract on the “Platte purchase” near St. Joseph, Mo., where he died in 1840. When Jerseyville was laid out in 1834, Carpenter was running the “Red House” tavern and keeping the stage station. Carpenter came here from Ohio and moved to Macoupin County in 1839.

Used as Residence – Local recrods show that the old Red House was built by two carpenters named James HAMILTON and Andrew SWEENEY. In 1839 the Red House was bought by Dr. E. A. D’ARCY and used by him as a residence. A daughter of Dr. D’Arcy married Prentiss D. CHENEY, grandfather of the present owner of the Cheney home on North State Street, and succeeded to the proprietorship of the property. When he built his new mansion on the same site, the old Red House was incorporated into the new house as a part of it. The house was used as a station for the underground railroad.

The late Dr. A. M. CHENEY, father of the present owner, resided in the dwelling many years before his death, and his son has now succeeded to the ownership.

The Old Red House during its existence as a tavern and stage coach entertained many of the famous travelers of its time. An itinerant artist made a number of paintings of the Red House, and several of these are still in existence in the community. The Jersey County Historical Society has one of the old paintings among its archives.

NOTE – It is assumed the first P. D. CHENEY commenced building around the “Old Red House” after his father-in-law Dr. E. A. D’ARCY died in 1863. Their heirship to the 5600 acres of top quality farm land funded the continued englargements. The new construction of the south wing, stairway tower, and basement was completed circa 1870. The north wing, hallway and safe room were completed in the 1880’s, later the kitchen and fruit cellar was added. The porte-cochere and portico were added in the 1890’s.

(Article printed with permission of Bob French via Marty Crull)

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