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History of St. Jacob, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


Looking Glass Prairie
The natural state of the prairie in St. Jacob Township was a most beautiful tract of country. It looked more like a beautiful park than a wild country. It was not like many other prairies, a monotonous level, where the eye can find no resting place, but was covered with luxuriant grass and flowers of all colors, with beautiful hills, many of which were covered with fine trees. Small streams, frequently embellished with fine willows, crossed the prairie in all directions. The east fork of Silver Creek was the principal stream. A number of small groves were made up of trees such as linden, oak, hickory, buckeye and locust.

The Village of St. Jacob
The first house in the future St. Jacob was built at a crossroads by Jacob Schutz, where he sold whisky by the gallon. In 1849 Jacob Schroth started a store. He purchased two and a half acres on the corner of Jacob Schutz’s farm and built a small house, which he later enlarged. This building was called the St. Jacob’s House. There he entertained travelers, and also had a wagon yard in connection with his saloon and store. In June 1851, Schroth got a post office established, and since his name was Jacob, and Jacob was the original owner of the land, and the blacksmith’s name was Jacob, they concluded to name the place St. Jacob. Mr. Schroth continued in business here until his death in 1860. His wife was then commissioned postmistress, and continued the business many years.

In 1850 Jacob Willi started a blacksmith shop. After several year he moved to a farm half a mile north of town.

The third house in St. Jacob was constructed by Louis Schiele. It later became the Pfaelzer Hof.
                               1861 Map of St. Jacob, Illinois
Mr. Schiele, in 1866, laid out the town of St. Jacob. The town was formally organized as a village on November 2, 1875. The first board was composed of G. W. Hays, president; Louis Schiele, clerk; John Schaefer, treasurer; and Christopher Moore, Jacob Schrodt and Melchior Fischer as members.
Depot of the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute Railroad
The village increased principally around the Schroth corner and on the St. Louis wagon road, until the construction of the St. Louis, Vandalia & Terre Haute Railroad. Since that time, the growth was primarily toward the depot. St. Jacob became an important shipping point for farmers there and in Marine, five miles away. There were about twenty houses in St. Jacob before the railroad was constructed. The census of 1880 gave it a population of four hundred and sixty-one. Dr. Buck was the first physician.

In 1866, Edward Dee and William C. M’Alilly built a sawmill a quarter of a mile north of town. They afterward put up a small grist mill, and took into partnership with them Charles Valier, who was a practical miller. The mill began grinding in 1869. The sawmill was abandoned, but the grist mill was in business for many years. The grist mill was improved from time to time, and was a substantial frame, four-stories high, with a basement. It had four run of burrs and a capacity of one hundred and twenty-five barrels per day. In 1882 it was owned and operated by Joseph Pecler and Jacob Willi.

A sawmill near the depot was erected in 1880, and was owned by John Bartle. The Independent Bucket Factory was opened in June 1881 bySt. Jacob, Illinois John Schaefer, employing six to eight men.

A village hall was constructed sometime in the 1800s, at the corner of Third and Douglas Streets. It was demolished in December 2017, and a new village hall constructed in its place.

St. Jacob Businesses in 1882
Physicians – B. F. Stephens, E. Miller, and H. R. Kirsten
Postmaster – G. W. Hays
Hotels – Henry Laengle – Laengle’s Hotel; Louis Wasem - Pfaelzer Hof; Henry Schmitt – St. Jacob’s House; Ernst Pahmeyer – Rail Road Hotel
General Stores – G. W. Searcy, Karges & Williams, F. Sohler
Lumberyard, Lime, Cement – E. N. Peterson
Hardware & Farming Implements – John Schaefer
Grain Dealer – Anderson & Wiseman
Drugstore – Charles Spies, H. F. Wood
Furniture and Undertaker – H. A. Reichenbecher
Harnes and Saddles – Theodore Schmidt, Fred Pfunder
Meat Market – Louis Schiele; J. Freys
Merchant Tailor – F. Gain
Blacksmith Shops – Fred Spies, Joseph Beckler, Leonz Buehlmann
Wagon Shops – Leonz Buehlmann, Henry Maurer
Wagon Maker – Fritz Graf
Bakery – H. Meyer
Barbers – Melch Hochul, Thomas Cannon
Shoemakers – Joseph Hilbi, C. M. Petry
Cigar Manufactory – W. Fisher

Early St. Jacob Schools
The first settlers of St. Jacob’s Township gathered together within the walls of an old fort in 1812-13, for safety against the Indians. There they maintained a school taught by David Smeltzer. As soon as peace had settled over the countryside in 1817 they erected a cabin between the homes of Parkinson and Anderson, for school purposes. When this cabin was abandoned, a new schoolhouse of logs was erected. In 1828 a new schoolhouse was constructed near the Uzzle Spring in 1828, and classes were first taught there by Alexander Trusedale. In the same neighborhood, a school was taught, prior to this, by Mr. Edmonds, in an abandoned cabin that stood near Dugger’s ox mill. John Kile was among the pioneer teachers of St. Jacob Township. By 1882, there were six schools in St. Jacob Township – three of whom were in the village of St. Jacob under the superintendence of J. W. Wells, a teacher. The two-story brick schoolhouse in St. Jacob (1882) consisted of four rooms, where three teachers were employed.

Early St. Jacob Churches
The Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church was erected near St. Jacob in 1844, with 25 members. Members included J. Lindly, W. M. Lindly, and T. Steele. Pastor of the church before 1883 were Joseph Lemen, M. Ely, C. J. Kelly, H. Thompson, J. B. White, J. H. Mize, W. D. Ross, and H. S. Deppe.

By 1882 there were two churches – the Lutheran (a brick structure built in 1869), and the Methodist (a frame building built in 1879). The Lutheran Church was destroyed by a tornado in 1905, and rebuilt the same year. A Catholic Church was organized in 1893, and a frame church constructed in 1894.


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