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History of Hamel, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


The area around what is presently Hamel Township remained unsettled until the early 1800s. The settlers found fertile land with abundant water, as well as virgin stands of timber. The first white man known to settle in the Hamel area was a man named Ferguson. He built a log cabin on Cahokia Creek in 1811, but abandoned it at the beginning of the War of 1812.

The first permanent settlers in about 1817 were a Robert and Anson Aldrich, George and Henry Keley, Mrs. Henry Keley, Mrs. Ann Young, and Henry T. and Harriet Bartling – all from Massachusetts. Henry Keley, aided by the Aldrich’s, selected a home site and built a log cabin. He was joined by his family in 1818, and the Aldrich’s boarded with them.

Shortly after, settlers from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and Carolinas began to settle in the area. The early economy was strictly agriculture. The first wheat crop was harvested in Hamel Township in 1818. In 1819, Henry Keley and Anson Aldrich bought some apple grafts from a nursery in St. Charles County, Missouri, and planted the first orchards in the area.

The first industry in Hamel Township was a band mill, erected by Henry Keley in 1820. The mill was operated with rawhide bands instead of cogs. It was not successful, however, and soon closed down. The next attempt to establish businesses was made by two men named Estabrook and Livermore. In 1829, they built a saw and grist mill on Cahokia Creek, which remained in operation until 1852.

In the 1830s, a large number of German immigrants began to arrive in America. Many of these immigrants settled in the Hamel area, and in 1861 they erected a Lutheran Church.

Hamel’s Corner
Hamel’s Corner was founded by Frederick Wolf in 1865. He built a general store and feed stable at the Edwardsville-Staunton and Alton-Greenville Frederick Wolf's Store and Salooncrossroads. Travelers stopped to eat, rest, and feed their horses. It was named Hamel’s Corner after Andrew Jackson “Jack” Hamel [also spelled Hammel], a farmer who owned all the land on the north side of the Alton-Greenville Road, near the crossroads. Hamel was born in Ohio in 1822, and immigrated to Indiana where he married Mary Mattocks or Mattlock. They had three sons – Squire, Joseph, and George. His wife, Mary, and two sons – Squire and Joseph – died in Indiana. Hamel remarried to Mary Wilson in 1853. He purchased two land grants in Madison County from veterans who served in the military with his older brother, Nelson Hamel, and moved to Madison County with wife, Mary (with whom he would have nine children), and his son, George. He became a land speculator and made many purchases and sales of land in the area. His original 160 acres of land was located where two old trails used to cross – the Kaskaskia and Peoria trace trail, and the Ranger trail. The Kaskaskia and Peoria was a trail cleared by buffalo and Indians long before the days of recorded history. Before 1800, it had been widened by two-wheeled ox carts of the French when they owned the territory. It became the Edwardsville-Staunton Road (Hwy. 157). The Ranger trail dated back to 1812, when Rangers cleared a trail from the Wood River [creek] to the Sangamon River, to facilitate their march to the Indian towns. This trail became the Alton-Greenville Road, and today is known as Rt. 140.

Hamel opened a general store at the crossroads in 1868, which provided travelers with food. This was in the days when droves of cattle, horses, and hogs were driven overland and ferried across the river to St. Louis. Near the northwest corner of the intersection, Jack Hamel, with John Handshy & Mr. Sparks, established a steam flour mill in 1869. This was wheat country, but the mill went out of business after four years – possibly because of the mills at Edwardsville gave too much competition. Jack Hamel sold his remaining land of 255 acres to Casper Gaertner and left Madison County. He died in 1876, but it is unknown where.

In 1867, Christian Traub opened a blacksmith shop, and soon after, C. A. Engelmann erected a wagon shop. In 1871, Jack Hamel sold his general store to George H. Engelmann, and moved out of the township. The name, Hamel’s corner, lingered on even after the Illinois Traction (now Illinois Terminal Railroad) came through. The extension of the Wabash Railroad came through the township in the 1870s, and was a stimulant for the local economy. Farmers began to ship their produce to distant markets. In 1877, the railroad built a station and installed a switch northeast of the village. This station was named Carpenter by the railroad company.

Two churches were built in the township during the 1870s – the Cumberland Presbyterian Church (1872), and the Evangelical Church (1873).

By 1880, the population of the township had risen to 1,222, and the village of Hamel’s Corner included a general store, two blacksmith shops, a wagon shop, and a shoemaker’s shop.

On February 24, 1955, Hamel was officially incorporated as a village. The village population at this time was 331. Wilbur Meyer was elected the first village president. In 1956, postal service was established in the village, and a new post office building was erected in 1959. A bank was established in 1957. Construction of the new Hamel Elementary School was completed in 1969, on Rt. 140 in the western section of the community.

Early Schools in Hamel
A school was built on the Robert Aldrich farm in 1825, but was used for only a short time. A more permanent log structure was built some time later and was used for church services as well as classes.


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