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History of Jersey County, a Thanksgiving Discourse
Published in Cooper’s History of Jerseyville, Illinois 1822-1901, pp. 1-27. Cooper added sentences occasionally. These are enclosed in parentheses. There will be typograpical errors.
A Thanksgiving Discourse
Delivered by Rev. L Grosvenor, in the Presbyterian Church, November 24,1853. Published by request of many of the older citizens.
And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now the place where we dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make a place there where we may dwell. An he answered, Go ye. II. Kings, 6th chap. 1st & 2nd verses.
In as humble circumstances as the old prophet Elisha and his young disciples, were the early settlers of our village. When they left their far-off homes, and their gray-haired sires and the fields where they had culled the first flowers of life, it was in the spirit of these children of the prophet. The places where they dwelt with the old folks at home, had become too strait for the sustenance of all; and when they talked of swarming, it was not to go to flourishing cities, to build palaces of wealth, glittering with gold. They bent their course toward a wild, rolling prairie, lying in its native beauty just as God had made it, skirted with forests of oak and hickory, where each could hew his own beam and build his own log cabin, as their prototypes did near the river Jordan.
But notwithstanding their humble means and limited ambition, they must have been men of good taste, and a quick eye for natural beauty. Among many pleasant sites for a village in this region, they sought and found the most charming. Among many high and luxuriant swells upon the prairies breast, they sought and found, the highest, the most beautiful, the most fertile.
Let us record their names and deeds. The time may be when the record shall have an importance, which, owing to its newness, it may not possess to-day.
To the older settlers, most of what I shall say will be familiar; but they will be . . . I trust, to have their minds stirred up . . . remembrance, and the younger may derive benefit from hearing about the fathers of Jerseyville.
The present town of Jerseyville stands mostly on Section 21, Township 8, North Range 11, West of the third principal meridian. The first entry was made by Joseph M. Fairfield, Oct. 20, 1823. He entered the West half of the N.W. quarter, Sections 21, the south line of which is on Hickory Street, i.e., the street bounding E. A. DArcys lots and unfinished edifice on the south, and the East line bounds the grave-yard on the East. Five years afterwards, Aug. 21, 1828, Lindsay H. English, a native of Kentucky, now residing in Greene County, Ill. entered the West half of the S.W. quarter, – the east line of which was partly on Main or State Street, extending South as far as the dwelling of Dr. Charles Knapp; (Widow Knapp lives) West as far as Mullhollands (A. W. Cross lives) North as far as Hickory Street before mentioned. On the 21st of September 1832, John Anderson, of Tennessee, entered the S.E. quarter of the S.W. quarter, and on the 10th of April 1833, Dr. A. H. Burritt entered the N.E. quarter of the S.W. quarter. In 1833, N. L. Adams, of Vermont, entered the N.W. quarter of the N.E. quarter of section 28.
James Faulkner, a native of Pennsylvania, was the first actual settler. He lived, in 1827, in a log cabin. This cabin was built by one Ballard, a squatter, who lived there for some time previous to 1827. His cabin was bought by Faulkner, which stood in the extreme North part of town, not far from the road leading to Kane, just beyond the house of Abijah Davis; but he erected in the same year, part of the building known as the old Red House, a present owned by E. A. DArcy (now the P. D. Cheney home). That house is the first frame house ever built on land now occupied by the town of Jerseyville. For several years it was a tavern by necessity, and under its hospitable roof some of my present audience have found the only shelter that was offered in the town that now contains two hundred houses; for besides this, there was, till 1833, only a small log cabin, built by John Ellis in 1830, on the corner of what are now known as Main and Mulberry streets. This floorless hut was about 12 by 15 feet measurement, and was used sometimes for a dwelling, and at other times for a corn crib. In 1833, John Anderson erected a building on the spot now occupied by the Croton House, at the corner of Main and Pearl streets. (Now Will Hanleys meat market.) This house was afterwards moved to Spruce street, two blocks East, and is the same now owned by Chas. S. Jackson. In the same year, Dr. A. H. Burritt built a log house on what is now Exchange street; the same house constitutes part of the dwelling now owned and occupied by E. S. Wells.
The inhabitants, at this time, were N. L. Adams, who, in 1833, built and lived in a log house on the spot where he now lives in the extreme South part of the town; Alfred Carpenter, who lived in the Red House; Murray Cheney, and John Anderson. Adams, Carpenter, and Anderson had families. Cheney was unmarried. These were all the residents here in 1833.
(Mrs. Griggsby came to Jerseyville in the winter of 1836, traveling all the way from North Carolina in a one horse cart, with six little children, her husband being dead. On the 20th of February, 1836, shortly after arriving here, she gave birth to a son in a log cabin, the home of N. L. Adams, which stood where now stands the C. P. & St. L. Depot. Mrs. Maria Ford, nee Adams, now living among us, says she dressed the child and took care of the childs mother in her fathers house. That settles it. That son she named Henry A., and was the first child born in Jerseyville, viz., February 20th, 1836. This man now lives in Lincoln Co., Mo., his post office being Moscow Mills. He was 65 years old 20th of last February. A daughter, older, that came from North Carolina with her, is also living in Moscow Mills, Mo. She is about 70 years old. For some reason Mrs. Griggsby lived with her little children in the night, in the old school house, but during the day had to vacate, to give room for the school, then in session, while she lived among the people of the town, returning to the school house for the night. She afterwards lived in a log cabin which . . . East Pearl street between where Robert Whitehead and George Van Horne now live.)
In 1834, Messrs. Lott & Daley built part of the store now occupied by the Messrs. Knapp, (now stands National Bank), and there established the first trading house ever known here. They built, also, in the same year, the house on Main street, now owned and occupied by Dr. Hutchinson. In that year, also they built the back part of the house now occupied by Mrs. Kimball, on Main street, in which R. Graham kept a store in 1834, and, in 1835, Samuel L. McGill added the front now used as a family grocery.
In 1834, Messrs. Lott & Daley bought the West half of the S.W. quarter, which English had sold Evans, who had a mortgage on the property. They also entered the quarter section West of the Red House Tract, now owned by Abijah Davis. Moreover, they purchased of John Anderson the S.E. quarter of the S.W. quarter, and of Carpenter, they bought the West half of the N.W. quarter; so that Messrs. Lott & Daley, were, in 1834, proprietors of almost all the land included in the village of Jerseyville.
In 1833, twenty years ago, all the houses between the town of Kane and Alton might be easily enumerated. The house where Mervine now lives, three-fourths of a mile north-west of the village of Kane, was then standing, and was the post office nearest to this place. Thither the early settlers in the township, for some years repaired to get news from the loved ones left behind. In 1833, the store now occupied by Z. H. Adams, of Kane, was erected, and the next house on the road was the old Red House before mentioned. Passing the few buildings on this spot, already enumerated, the next house was on the spot then and now occupied by Thos. Cummings, who is believed to be the only resident in this region, over 45 years of age, who is a native of Illinois. His age is about 55. There was not a house on the present site of the town of Delhi. The next house was Nelson Lurtons. The next, a mile south of Delhi, occupied by John Wilkins. There was a cabin near the Piasa crossing, since demolished. The next was a cabin on the place now occupied by Thomas Marshall. The next was a cabin on the place lately occupied by Old Job, whose cordial invitation to stop and see him, no longer greets the eye of the weary traveler. The next was the house of Debond; still standing beyond the Piasa. Below there, where lately stood a large, rickety, ghostly two-story building, burned down last winter, the road turned to the left, leaving the present Monticello half a mile to the right, and going through Scarritts prairie; but there was no Monticello then; that beautiful village, with its justly celebrated Female Seminary, was then unborn; and from Scarritts prairie there was not a single house till you reached Alton, then a village, at the highest computation, of some twenty buildings in all. Till 1834, the place called Jerseyville had been known as Hickory Grove, from time immemorial. This name was derived from the fact that the piece of oak forest intersprinkled with semi-occasional hickory trees, still standing in part on the land of Davis, Morean, Corbett and Burke, was then the only growth of trees on the ground belonging to Jerseyville. In 1834, for the purpose of establishing a Post Office here, the principal inhabitants of Jerseyville and vicinity met at the Red House, to give the new town a new name. Those who attended that meeting were, G. Patterson, Geo. Richards, J. E. Cooper, G. W. Lowder, J. Allen, R. B. Robbins, Isaac Darneil, E. A. DArcy, Alfred Carpenter, John Ellis, J. W. Lott, E. M. Daley, Murray Cheney, N. L. Adams, A. H. Burritt, N. Miner, Franklin Potts, and J. A. Potts. Dr. E. A. DArcy was chairman of the meeting. Several names were proposed for the new town. Major Patterson proposed that it be called Livingston. Carpenter, an old soldier, wished it to be called Liberty. Richards, a New Hampshire man, wished to immortalize the memory of that decaying state; by christening this promising town with the insignificant name New Hampshire. Cheney proposed that the proprietors of the town should give it whatever name they pleased. This proposition seeming to meet the views of the majority of the meeting, Dr. Lott, a native of New Jersey, was called on for a name. He arose and thanked the people, and with a characteristic expletive, and in the genuine Jersey dialect, cried out, Id like to have it called Jerseywille. The doctor, sharing the common fate of humanity, did not obtain the full accomplishment of his wishes, for the meeting voted to call the place Jerseyville, not Jerseywille, and then agreed on E. M. Daley for Postmaster, subject to the will of the higher powers. After this important matter was accomplished, the meeting adjourned, according to the Illinois liquor law of those times, to drink the health of the new town in flowing bowls of tanzy bitters. The people obtained their desire with regard to the Post Office and Postmaster; E. M. Daley being appointed the first Postmaster of Jerseyville.
In 1834, part of the town was laid off in Blocks and lots, by Lott & Daley, and some bargains were made at private sale. The two lots situated at the corner of Main and Pearl streets, now occupied by J. C. Darby & Co., Morean, Hinton, etc., which, with the buildings, are now owned by Wm. Yates, were sold in 1834 to Richard Graham for twenty dollars each. They are worth now, without the buildings, five hundred dollars each. The second store in the place was erected here by Richard Graham, in 1834.
The first public sale of lots took place in 1835. The prices of the most eligible, measuring 50 feet by 110, wre from $20 to $40.
Several additions to the original plot of Jerseyville have since been made. In 1839, G. W. Burke laid off an addition of nearly forty acres East of Lott & Daleys plot. In 1844, Shephard, administrator of Johnsons estate, made an addition South of Burkes, called Johnsons addition. In 1852, James C. Perry made an addition, in the Western part of the town. In 1853, N. L. Adams made an addition of eight acres East of Burkes.
The name given to the town was a fortunate one for the prospects of the place. It must, in fact, be considered as one of the most important causes of the prosperity of the town and country. It has been a means of settling the village and the fine country around it, with a population, the majority of whom are from New Jersey; a people well known for their industry and thrift, and, generally, for their sober and orderly character. From that time to the present, the waves of migration from New Jersey have continued to roll hitherward. When the places of the sons of the prophets in the ancient Jerseys become too strait, or the sand banks too deep and barren, for the support of the new and increasing families of the State, they at once get a map of Illinois, and sit down to study the topography of the country, and to decide upon the very spot of these wide prairies, whither they will urge their steps. The name of Jerseyville, Jersey County, smacks greatly of the old homestead and fireside. They judge, and judge rightly, that they will find a society similar to that they are leaving. They hope to find all the advantages they left, and none of the disadvantages. They believe they are coming to a NEW Jersey indeed; only that the soil is a black and rich vegetable deposit, instead of a yellow, bottomless sand drift, from which it has hitherto astonished them to be able to raise anything but watermelons, even by the most sedulous coaxing. Therefore, from 1834 to nearly the present time, Old Jersey has emptied itself with a steady and increasing current, into the New Jersey of Illinois. When persecuted in one Jersey, the inhabitants flee into another, shaking the sand out of the heels of their boots, as a testimony against it. This immigration has caused here a continual demand for land, and of course kept up a continual rise in the price of lands – so that, until quite recently, our lands have brought comparatively . . . rates. But railroads and plank roads . . . brought so much other land into competition with ours, that we, being yet without rail or plank, have been crowded into a corner, where we are likely to remain sometime. The Jersey and other people who come to Jersey County now, generally make but short halt. Macoupin, Sangamon and other lands invite them, and our country is too strait and too far from market, even for some of those who have dwelt here many years; so that, young as we are, we have already sent out new colonies, to the East, North and South.
The town of Jerseyville was incorporated in July, 1837. The first Trustees of the Corporation were J. W. Lott, G. H. Collins, Samuel L. McGill, Richard Graham and E. M. Daley. In 1839, it was made a county seat, and the new County of Jersey was set off from Greene, to which it formerly belonged. This was done against a strong opposition from interested persons. In 1840, the Court House was erected, at a cost of $6000; raised mostly by subscription. It was built on the block given by Lott & Daley to the town for a Public Square, and the Trustees of the town now deeded it to the County, for the public buildings.
I now proceed to give some account of the Literary, Religious and Benevolent Institutions of Jerseyville.
1st. The Literary Institutions.
It is unfortunate for Jerseyville, as it has been for most Western towns, that the early and subsequent settlers have had no very absorbing interest in the subject of education. Being men of limited pecuniary ability, they have been generally tempted to think more of the material than the intellectual interests of themselves and their children. The establishment and sustaining of schools has been rather an uphill business, ever since Irving Little, in the winter of 1833-4, started the first little school in the Old Red House. Mr. Little seems to have found the business rather an unprofitable one, for he speedily exchanged the birch for the hoe, which he continues to wield at this day, in the eastern part of the county, with considerable profit to himself and the rising generation around him.
The venerable John Adams, of Jacksonville, a man who has probably instructed more boys than any man in America, having been long a noted preceptor in several of the best academies in New England, taught school for some time in this village, in 1836. He was the first who taught school in the old school house, which in 1836, was built on land devoted for school purposes by A. H. Burritt. This house, measuring 20 feet by 24, still stands, though threatened with speedy extermination by the finger of time and the march of improvement. It was not built like the pyramids, for the admiration of future ages. In this weather-beaten edifice, the gospel was preached for several years, by ministers of various denominations, before the erection of any church edifice, and until this year, 1853, it has been the only public school-house. (Miss Virginia Harbert says it was a very common thing to meet the wild deer going to school from the old Red House, to the old school house, which stood in Cap. John Smiths yard.) But a good brick school house, erected by a tax, has been completed, measuring 24 x 36 feet, and is occupied by Mr. Corbett, who has taught in this village for many years. This is all that can be said about our public schools and school houses. Our best schools, hitherto, have been those which have been established and their whole expenses borne by the teachers themselves.
In 1849, Miss Mary Farley erected at her own cost, a large two story frame building for school purposes, and excellent private schools for young ladies and for small children have since been steadily kept there. the lower story of Temperance Hall was designed for a private school room, and has been used as such, early ever since it . . . A library Association was established in 1850, and the library contains now about three hundred volumes and periodicals, which are constantly though too slowly increasing. It is hoped that this institution will be cherished by all the present and future inhabitants, as one calculated more than any other to stimulate a desire for solid information, and to give to our ingenious and ambitious youth the opportunity to lay a broad foundation for future usefulness and fame. Many a statesman, crowned with the laurels of the senate; many a hero known in his countrys history; has referred to the village library of his native town, as giving him the first ambition to tread the worlds arena, and soil his sandals with the Olympic dust.
A Lyceum was commenced in 1839, and has been sustained during nearly every winter since that time. Here, in debate and lecture, the young and aspiring may find a fair and encouraging field to exhibit to themselves and others, the earliest signs of promise, and to win some bubbles of renown from no unwilling or envious auditors. Let this institution too be cherished, and better patronized than it has been, by the middle-aged and the old. Let parents be more anxious that their children should attend these debates and lectures, which cost nothing and are worth something, than that they should follow the strolling vagabonds of every description who honor us so often with their visits, which cost something and are worth nothing.
A brass Band, which deserves honorable mention among our literary institutions, was organized early in 1852, by numerous amateur musicians of this place, and has since discoursed elegant and gratuitous music wherever their services are demanded. Their instruments were mostly furnished them by the voluntary contributions of our citizens.
A Phrenological Society was organized this year, 1853.
An important Literary Institution is the Prairie State, a weekly newspaper established in 1849, by John C. Conklin, continued awhile after he left by A. C. Hinton, Esq., and now edited and published by Augustus Smith. Several other efforts had been made to establish newspapers here previous to this, but the papers all failed after a short-lived existence. This paper is well sustained, and bids fair to survive for some generations to come.
There might be a Reading Room in Jerseyville, but there is none. There might be an academy established on a firm basis, with funds sufficient for the salary of teachers of the first order; sufficient, also to furnish a good library, good philosophical and chemical apparatus, and a good mineralogical and geological cabinet; a school where the sons and daughters of Jerseyville might be sure to having a generous education without leaving home. But is the historian of Jerseyville yet born, who shall be able to say it was founded in his day. (Were Mr. Grosvenor living today, it might be said to him, yes, there was a boy then sitting before you, 14 years old, who is now the historian, recording the fact that Jerseyville has a library containing 3,623 volumes, and on an average of 2,000 visitors monthly, besides, with a well equipped high school, both with teachers and apparatus, where the sons and daughters of Jerseyville may be sure of having a generous education without leaving home.) If we had, in Illinois, or in the town of Jerseyville, an efficient and comprehensive system of public schools, such as they have in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and even in some particular towns of our own State, we could very well do without a Seminary, established by private funds. But is there a prospect that the general apathy with regard to public schools will give place to a zeal in their behalf, which will produce a system that will give to the children of Jerseyville anything like a thorough education? Yet he would infer from our indifference to the establishment of good schools, that our adult population are wanting in general intelligence, would fall wide of the truth. The general intelligence of the people is sufficiently manifest from the abundance of papers and other periodicals, which are regularly received at this post office. More than a thousand copies of various newspapers and magazines are regularly received and distributed here, besides our own village journal. Of the newspapers, there are some dailies, more tri-weeklies, and still more weeklies. Besides this evidence of intelligence, it must be added, that during the past year considerable feeling upon the subject of education has been excited in Jerseyville, and a Convention is about to be held in this place, to consult concerning the best means of improving the common schools of Illinois. At this meeting, the presence and counsel of eminent speakers is expected, and it is confidently hoped that the influence of that Convention will be felt, not merely in this town and county, but throughout the State, and more particularly in the capital of the State, when the next Legislature shall be in session.
2nd. The Religious Institutions.
It is believed that the Rev. Thomas Lippincott, still living in a green old age, is the first minister of any denomination who ever preached the gospel within the bounds of this village. He, with Rev. Mr. Breed, Rev. Elisha Jenney, now of Waverly, and Rev. Dr. Blackburn, who precious memory is embalmed in all the churches of this region of country, had several times, from 1833 to 1835, preached here in various private homes.
On the 15th of February, 1834, by appointment of the Presbytery of Illinois, Rev. Thomas Lippincott and Rev. Elisha Jenney attended in the south part of Greene county, near Hickory Grove, in the house of N. L. Adams, to organize the Presbyterian Church; which was the first church organized in this place. After sermon, by Mr. Lippincott, 18 persons were formed into a church, who elected three elders, who were ordained the next day. The records of the church do not give the names of these elders, but they were, A. H. Burritt, James Lumsden and M. N. Bosworth. It is believed that all these are still living, but only one of them, (Lumsden) continues connected with this church. The church was called, at that time, The South Greene Church, which name was changed March 3rd, 1839, by vote of church and presbytery, to that of the Presbyterian Church in Jerseyville. For a considerable time Mr. Lippincott preached here statedly. Rev. Amos P. Brown officiated as stated preacher from October, 1835, to February, 1837, and from August, 1837, to August, 1838. From September, 1839, to September, 1840, Rev. Joseph Fowler was the stated preacher. In September, 1839, and interesting protracted meeting was held, when Mr. Fowler was assisted by Rev. L. Lyons of New York State, and Rev. Hugh Barr of Carrollton. Mr. Lyons was invited to become the stated preacher, and commenced his labors in November, 1840. In March, 1841, a protracted meeting was held, which is said to have been very profitable to the spiritual interests of the church. The installation of Rev. L. Lyons, as pastor of this church, took place December 26th, 1843, by the Alton Presbytery, after he had been preaching here for three years. Rev. A. T. Norton preached the sermon on the occasion.
Till 1841, the Presbyterian Church had worshiped mostly in the school house, but on the 14th of October, 1841, this meeting house, which had been building several years, was dedicated to the worship of God. It was built on land given to the Church by Johnson & Daley in 1838 – its original dimensions being 40 by 48 feet, and its cost about $2,000. The sermon at the dedication was preached by Rev. Theron Baldwin.
In the month of January, 1842, a very interesting protracted meeting was held by Rev. James Gallaher, who spent two weeks here; preaching daily. February 1, 1842, an addition of more than fifty was made to the church. In September, 1839, there were but fifty-four members. On the list for 1842, more than two hundred names are found, being an increase of about one hundred and fifty in three years.
Rev. Mr. Lyons, after having labored here for four years, died January 11, 1845, greatly lamented by the large church, which, in his time, from a little one, had become a thousand. He was buried in the rear of the church, and a monument erected over his remains by the contributions of the members.
After his death the Church was without regular preaching for more than a year, viz., until March, 1846, at which time Rev. G. C. Wood commenced his ministerial labors. During his administration of four years, eighty-six members were added to the Church, fifty-four of them on profession. In the spring of 1850, Mr. Wood resigned his charge and is now laboring in Greenville, Illinois.
In October, 1850, the present speaker commenced his ministerial services in Jerseyville, since which time 37 members have been added to the church, 17 on profession, and 20 by letter. The whole number now in connection with this Church, and in good standing, is two hundred and seventeen; so that the Church is but little larger than it was eleven years ago. Nevertheless, it would be unfair to infer that the Church has stood still so long. Increase in mere numbers is not the best criterion of the prosperity of a Church. A Church may even be diminishing in numbers, and yet gaining in actual strength and influence. That the general intelligence of this Church, and its wealth, and its contributions to the various objects of religious benevolence, have vastly increased within a few years, is very certain, though there is ability, and great occasion to do still more. Their contributions last year to the cause of missions and other similar enterprises, were about $300.
In 1846, they purchased a house in the east part of the town for a parsonage. In 1852 they sold that property for $650, and purchased of William B. Nevius, for $800, the convenient property now occupied as the personage, corner of Main and Carpenter streets. In 1851 they added to the front of the church building 14 x 40 feet, surmounted by a neat belfry, adding a gallery and sixteen pews on the lower floor, at a cost of $825. In 1852, they added Venetian Blinds, at a cost of $105. In 1853 they purchased a bell, weighing 883 pounds, at cost of $363, and for chandelier and other conveniences, they have expended $85, more, making an expenditure of over $1,600 for Church purposes, in the three years, during which the present minister has resided here, and for which expenditures they are still in debt to the amount of $250, which they expect shortly to liquidate, by means of a legacy due the Church from the estate of the late Dr. Todd.
While giving to this Church the credit of expenditures, I by no means desire to ignore the liberality of other Churches, members of no Churches, who, to a considerable extent, have aided many of these improvements. It is indeed, an evidence of the mutual kindliness of members of the various Churches and congregations of Jerseyville toward each other, that they have ever been ready to assist each other in all useful undertakings, for the advancement of the material and spiritual interests of Jerseyville. The voice of party and denominational strife is always hushed when there is a demand for pecuniary aid. In one respect, it must be owned, this church has taken a step backward since its organization. It was organized on total abstinence principles. But, for some cause, the restriction with regard to the use of intoxicating liquors was taken off, and the church has since suffered considerably, in consequence of that unfortunate act.
This is at present the only Presbyterian church in the county, and I have been, until now, the only Presbyterian preacher, but Rev. Socrates Smith has just been employed to intinerate over the county, and preach in various places where preaching is needed, and it is confidently hoped, that through his instrumentality, other churches will spring up, some colonizing from this church, and others joining, who have as yet formed no connection with any other church.
The Methodist Episcopal church was organized in July, 1839, under the administration of Rev. M. Robbins, with seven members. The ministers who have succeeded Mr. Robbins are the following: Revs. Messrs. Allen, McMurray, Anderson, Dickens, Jones, Leaton, Anderson, Covington, Jones, Wood, Lewis, Culver, who was the first stationed preacher and remained two years, and Risley, who is the present incumbent. Under the zealous labors of those faithful ministers of the Word, the church has enjoyed several revivals, and now numbers one hundred and ten members; and in the county, the membership of the church has grown so numerous, that two circuit preachers have been employed this year, besides the stationed preacher.
The church building of the Methodists in this village was erected in 1846-7, on land given them by Major G. Patterson. The cost of the building was about $900. Its dimensions are 34 by 40 feet. They have also a very fine parsonage property, near the meeting house, purchased in 1851 for $900.
The congregation are thinking about enlarging their house of worship, – it having been, for some time, too small to accommodate the worshipers. It is believed that this church has lived in more peace and brotherly love than either of the other churches. No difference of opinion on collateral questions has ever taken their thoughts from the main question, or been permitted to sever the unity of the spirit or the bonds of peace.
The Baptist church was organized in 1841. The few Baptists here at that time invited Rev. Elijah Dodson to hold a meeting here for two days. He came and preached in the old school house and in private residences for seventeen days and nights. The result of the meeting was 25 hopeful conversions. On the 5th of September, 1841, the Baptist church was organized with thirty members, of whom one-third are still living here. The first deacons were Richard Graham and J. E. Cooper. The church was supplied with stated preaching by Rev. Messrs. Dodson and Moses Lemon till 1843, when Rev. Elihu Palmer was called to the care of the church, and remained till January, 1846. At this time there was a division of the church on the slavery question, and 18 members were organized into a new church under the care of Rev. E. Palmer. This church, however, soon expired, while the old church continued with Rev. Joel Terry for their minister till 1847. Rev. W. F. Boyakin was minister from that time till April, 1849, when Rev. J. Bulkley commenced his services. He continued till October, 1853, when he resigned and the church is now without regular preaching. Under the able and devoted ministry of Mr. Bulkley the church greatly increased in numbers and efficiency, so that now it numbers one hundred and sixty-three.
The church continued without a house of worship, meeting mostly in the court house, until July, 1849, when the present neat brick building, measuring 32 by 42 feet, exclusive of its portico, was erected at a cost of from $1,800 to $2,000. In 1850 they purchased a bell, weighing 525 pounds, for $200. In 1851 they added Venetian blinds at a cost of $80. This church has, for several years past, manifested a great degree of liberality in their contributions to the various objects of religious benevolence. There are two or three other small Baptist churches in Jersey county.
A Congregational church was organized in 1846, consisting mostly of seceders from the Presbyterian church, at a time of high excitement on the subject of slavery, and Messrs. Hulbut and Loomis preached here for six months each, but the church was soon dissolved, and those of the members who are left in Jerseyville mostly attend the Presbyterian church.
The Roman Catholics have no church building as yet, but with their usual superior judgment with regard to the localities of their public buildings, they purchased in 1852, of the Messrs. Barr, one-third of an acre of land in one of the most sightly and pleasant parts of the town. A handsome church edifice, with an elegant front and spire, built there, and fronting on Main street, would be visible almost from Kane, five miles distant, and certainly from the village of Fidelity, eleven miles distant, and would certainly be a great ornament to Jerseyville, standing, as it would, directly at the diverging point of the Main street and the road to Alton, and, like Grace church in Broadway, New York, presenting itself to all promenaders in the principal street of the town, as the most conspicuous object throughout its entire length.
The only cemetery in this neighborhood is a piece of ground, containing two acres, deeded to the county commissioners by Miss Arintha Conover, in 1841. Burials had taken place here for some years previous, when the land belonged to Carpenter, who afterwards sold the land with a reservation of these two acres for a public graveyard. It was never laid out in blocks and walks, and it is feared that a few years more will make it a place of inextricable confusion to those who wish to bury their dead, or find the remains of the long departed. Even now the mattock of the grave digger sometimes strikes a coffin, and he is compelled to desist and commence his labors elsewhere. Even now, the father visiting the graveyard after long years of absence, cannot, with any certainty, point to the spot that contain the relics of his child. The citizens of Jerseyville will never be able to claim the title of a fully civilized people till they have a cemetery worthy to be the depository of the precious dead. It matters not how many churches we may have, or literary or benevolent institutions, we shall forever be justly scandalized while our dead lie thus neglected and forgotten. The stranger of taste, cultivation and piety will always be shocked when be asks for your Greenwood or Auburn, to be informed that we have no bright spot with verdure, and shade and flowers, emblematic of immortal bloom, but only one bleak, sterile, gloomy Golgotha to be offered to his survey.
O, ye rich and prosperous men of Jerseyville! Purge yourselves from this too foul and melancholy disgrace. Give yourselves and give us one spot which shall be hallowed and blessed. Give us from your broad acres some extensive and lovely lawn, which you and we may beautify with long drawn aisles, arched by the branches of the forest; some piece of sequestered ground where the filthy swine shall no longer burrow into the graves of your wives and brothers and children, and where stray horses and cattle shall never more find pasture. Give us the spot, where every summer evening the aged and the young may go alike to weep and rejoice – the place where gentle hands shall plant the cedar and the willow, the rose and the myrtle, around the firm, well sodded grave, and from year to year shall watch the zephyr as it plays like a living spirit among the trembling petals, as it plays like the very fingers of the laughing child, whose little frame is mouldering there, while its spirit is smiling in the bosom of God. Give us where the thoughtless may go to be beguiled into lessons full of solemn warning, which they shall in vain endeavor to forget. Give us where the thoughtless may go to be beguiled into lessons full of solemn warning, which they shall in vain endeavor to forget. Give us where the aged and careworn may go to measure their last resting place; yes, to lie down upon the sod, and casting the eye of faith to heaven, cry, O, that I had the wings of a dove, that my spirit might fly away, and my broken body lie here in its serene, unbroken repose. (I am happy to add, that since this sermon was delivered, arrangements are making by Messrs. Adams, Morean and Blackburn for a suitable cemetery, just outside of the limits of the village.)
Let us now proceed to the history of the societies for mutual relief, brotherhood and benevolence.
The Jerseyville Division, No. 16, Sons of Temperance, was organized August 4th, 1847. Charter members, G. C. Wood, E. J. Palmer, N. L. Adams, A. P. Brown, Wm. B. Nevius, T. L. McGill, A. B. Morean, C. H. Knapp, P. C. Walker, F. Osborn, Geo. Wharton, A. P. Staats and W. J. West. Nearly 400 members have been initiated. The present number is 120. The division built, in 1851, a fine hall, two stories high, 22 by 50 feet, which was dedicated by G. W. P. Morean in September, 1851. The buildings and grounds cost between $1,800 and $2,000. G. C. Wood was the first W. P., N. L. Adams, W. A.
Franklin section, No. 9, Cadets of Temperance, was organized September 28th, 1848. The charter members were T. A. Boyakin, W. Leigh, D. Sunderland, D. S. Yates, P. D. Cheney, F. Potts, H. N. Wyckoff, W. Cook, R. J. Hill, E. Miner, C. H. Vandike, P. Updike, and W. A. Potts. Robert J. Hill was elected W. A., and D. S. Yates, secretary. The section has numbered as high as fifty or sixty. It now numbers twenty-three. It has not lost a single member by death since its organization.
Jerseyville Union, Daughters of Temperance, was organized April 21, 1853, with twelve members: Mary Combs, Sarah Hansell, Sarah Culver, Mary A. Smith, Mary Osborn, R. Maupin, Marilla Levine, Elizabeth Dunsden, Martha Nichols, Mary Snedeker, Miss Lorrance, and Elizabeth McGannon. Mary Combs was elected P. S., Sarah Hansell, S. A., and Sarah Culver, R. S. Present number of members 35.
These are all the temperance societies at present existing in this town or county. The first temperance society ever organized in this county was organized by Rev. Dr. Blackburn at Major Pattersons, several miles southwest of Jerseyville, as early as 1835. This society afterwards changed its quarters to Jerseyville and brought its records here. In the time of the Washingtonian movement, in 1840, a great reformation was effected in Jerseyville – some notorious drunkards were reclaimed and converted, and are still sober men and members of churches. When the order of Sons of Temperance was organized, all other societies merged into that, and gave the work into their hands.
The Jerseyville Lodge, No. 53, of Odd Fellows, was instituted May 5th, 1848. Charter members, P. C. Walker, A. C. Hutchinson, Samuel Cowen, James Bringhurst, and C. Roberts. Before organization several new members were admitted, viz., George E. Warren, Wm. Yates, Jonathan Plowman, W. Casey, N. L. Adams, James C. Perry, R. L. Hill, and P. Silloway. Wm. Yates was elected N. G., R. L. Hill, V. G., and C. H. Roberts, Scribe.
Odd-Fellows Hall was built by members of the Lodge in 1851, at a cost of $2,000. It is a handsome frame building, two stories high, measuring 25 by 50 feet. The hall is as commodious and as handsomely furnished as any hall of the Order in the State. The present number of members is 83.
The Jerseyville Encampment, No. 20, of Odd Fellows, was instituted in 1852. Charter members were W. Casey, C. H. Roberts, P. C. Walker, N. L. Adams, E. A. Casey, A. L. Knapp and L. Grosvenor. L. Grosvenor was elected C. P., E. A. Casey, H. P., and N. L. Adams, S. W. The present number of members is 15.
The Morning Sun Lodge, 94, of Free Masons, was organized under dispensation, June 25, 1850. Charter members, A. B. Morean, R. S. Holenback, Luther Cory, Solomon Calhoun, N. L. Adams, C. H. Roberts, B. F. Page, J. E. Taylor, Wm. P. Campbell and Asa Snell. B. F. Page was elected W. M., A. B. Morean, S. W., and Wm. P. Campbell, J. W. The present number of members is 46. The lodge has at present no hall of its own. It meets in a hall belonging to Wm. Yates.
Time will not enable me to trace, as I would like to do minutely, the gradual development of the material interests of Jerseyville, from 1833 to 1853. Few words on this subject must suffice.
In 1833, the Indian and the buffalo had long departed for the West, gone, according to Benton, as engineers, to survey and mark out the best track for a railroad to the Pacific; but the hungry wold still made night hideous, and the timid deer shook their antlers here, and galloped over the places of our present sanctuaries and homes. (Within the memory of Mrs. Ford Lewis, a wandering bear came too near Jerseyville to be healthy for him, when soon a posse of citizens, with guns and hounds, started in pursuit of Bruin, running him nearly where Wm. Whitworth now lives, finally capturing him some distance northwest of Jerseyville. Jerseyville was not; and even a year or two later, some of the officials at Carrollton sneered at the newly-broached idea of a county and county seat south of that ancient town. Disaster and defeat were prophesied for the new scheme on several grounds, one of which is said to have been that it was so near the city of Kane, that a business place here was a thing impossible. Another was, that it was so far from timber, that nobody would buy lots or undertake to build here. Today we number 1,000 or 1,200 inhabitants, many of whom have hauled vast quantities of lumber from Alton and Grafton, as well as from the neighboring woods; and if our mode of computing population were similar to the mode of the Eastern States, that is, by townships, rather than by villages, our population would not be less than 3,000, and might be considerably more.
The highest vote ever polled in this precinct was 628, and allowing but one voter to every five persons (and that is a small estimate in a Western population where the males outnumber the females), 3,140 would be the population of this precinct. We have certainly as good a right to reckon population by townships as New York or Massachusetts, and no special harm would come upon Jerseyville, if our town and county officers should conspire to take a census of the . . .
. . . uncalled for and arbitrary measure; no less than 28 persons being guilty of the absurdity of pledging themselves, in writing, never at any election to vote for any of those who were at that time Trustees of the town, nor of any of their abettors in said iniquitous act. The meeting unanimously passed five resolution of the most peppery description, and then adjourned for further reflection, which seems to have been attended with gratifying results. As most of these person have manifested repentance by subsequent works of righteousness, it would be dong them injustice to record their names. Forgiveness on repentance is a law of heaven.
Shade trees (mostly locusts) are plentiful here, and almost every citizen takes honorable pride in adorning his yard and the streets with them, so that what was twenty years ago a verdant prairie, is fast becoming literally, a leaf-clad town.
I have occupied so much time in this narrative, that little is left for reflections suitable to the subject and the occasion. I will close with the single remark that we have abundant reason to thank God today for the establishment and the progress of Jerseyville, in all its material and spiritual interests. For some years intemperance and immorality of various kinds threatened to entrench themselves immoveable in our midst. The first invoice of goods ever brought to this place, contained $1,700 worth of spirituous liquors. This, too, in 1834, when people were few and far between. Drinking, gambling, and horse racing were the chief amusements of the citizens. One of the greatest speculations in personal property ever made here, was the purchase and sale, in 1835, of a race horse, belonging to one of our citizens. The horse was sold for $5,000, and taken to Missouri, where it is believed he died by treachery and poison. The gospel seemed, for a long time, almost powerless against sin. Even so lately as 1837-8, the number of religious worshippers of all denominations at the old school-house did not average over 30, while the worshippers of tanzy bitters at the Red House, on the Sabbath, were twice that number. There were then three drunkard factories here, constantly in running order, the most notorious of which was the Old Bat House. But prayer and labor were not wanting in the darkest hour. At length, the seeds of temperance and christianity, which had been planted here, took deep root in the hearts of the people. Many of the stoutest sinners have been either destroyed or humbled under the power of God, and, on the whole, it may be said, that now we are a people as moral, sober, and peaceable as any other in the State.
Liquor selling, liquor drinking, and gambling are frowned upon by the vast majority of our people, and we are starving out the few remaining lawyers just as rapidly as we can. Little encouragement is afforded to the idle and vicious to take up a residence here, but on the contrary, every inducement is presented to the quiet and industrious, to cast in their lot among us. There has been a constant, though, comparatively speaking, not very rapid increase in the number of its buildings and people, and nine-tenths of its population are Americans; so that we are much more homogeneous in feeling and interests than the population of most other towns of similar or larger size in the State. Our people are almost all prosperous in business, and are rapidly surrounding themselves with varied comforts and luxuries, and are beginning to manifest the usual instincts of a cultivated people, an ambitious grasping after more and better things than their neighbors possess.
No extensive conflagration has ever visited our town, to lay waste in a single night the labor of years, and for this we are indeed bound to thank God with all our hearts – for, as for man, he as yet, has taken little care to prevent it. I cannot record the organization of any engine, hose, or hook and ladder company in Jerseyville, and I fear that nothing short of a disastrous fire, will produce that which ought to be in existence, and might be the means of saving a vast amount of property this very winter.
Citizens of Jerseyville! Thank God today for mercies past and present. Firmly resolve to give up no ground you have won. Take no steps backward. You have been for some time watchful on the subject of temperance, but considerably too bashful. Henceforth, present a solid phalanx of strong hearts and hands, to resist its desolating career. Maintain by precept and example, due reverence for the name of God and for the holy Sabbath, without which no town or country can be truly prosperous. Let the cause of education and the cause of true religion have your earnest endeavors. It is only by the cultivation and the practice of virtue and piety that Jerseyville can continue to grow in wisdom and moral stature, and in favor with God and man. Let this town be a moral lighthouse, standing as high above the billows of ignorance and vice, as her towers and roofs rise higher than the valleys in which flow the rivers and creeks that bound the territory of the county. Let all who cast their eyes hitherward from a distance, see, now and forever, your lantern burning, with no revolving, uncertain, or flickering glare, but forcing its strong, steady rays far down through the fogs of the early morning, and the thick darkness of Egyptian midnight – thus, and thus along, shall the influence of Jerseyville be what it may be, and ought to be, wide, happy, and everlasting.
(The citizen who reads this memorable discourse will naturally reflect back over the 47 years that have intervened, or such a part of it as they are familiar with, and compare the moral status of today with then; and ask, how have these piercing, but kindly spoken words, been obeyed. The all important questions every citizen should ask himself, is Jerseyville the better, or the worse, for having lived in it?
If honestly answered, both a negative and positive answer will be given. We have many things the loyal christian citizen has just reason to be thankful for, yet many things to make him blush with shame.
We have just reason to expect much by way of reform, and improvements from our new city officials, and as good and loyal citizens let us back them in every reform, and sharply reprove them for every neglect of duty, or steps backward.)