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History of Alhambra Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

Alhambra Township (Township 5, Range 6) is bounded on the north by Olive, on the east by Leef, on the south by Marine, and on the west by Hamel Townships. Silver Creek is the principal stream that runs through the township.

William Hinch, a hardy pioneer from eastern Kentucky, was the son of George Hinch. William was the first white man to make his home within the boundaries of Alhambra Township. He came to the township with the firm determination of making the township his permanent home. He brought his family (a wife and three children), in what was called a stage wagon. He arrived in the township on November 15, 1817, and located in the edge of the timbers, a short distance north and west of Silver Creek, on section 19. All winter he lived in a rude cabin built out of poles and clapboards. It had no door, and the fire was built on the ground on one side. The smoke escaped through the cracks of the cabin. On the inside were hung panther, deer, and wolf skins, to keep out the cold and drifting snow. The pioneers were used to hardships, and Hinch was no exception. During the winter Mr. Hinch built a cabin for his family. He broke up a small prairie field north of his house the following Spring. He lived there about four years, then erected a hewed log house north of the field. The house had a puncheon floor. Some years later, he erected a second hewed log house, one story and a half high. The lumber for the floors, doors, and loft was sawed by hand. He was very skillful with an ax and whip saw, and was a great hunter. He kept his table well supplied with wild meats and honey. During the first winter, Hinch killed seven panthers and a number of wild cats and wolves. He brought a large bulldog with him from Kentucky, and when in the woods, the dog always accompanied him. One day Hinch discovered a panther, about half grown, in a tree. He could easily have shot it, but concluded to have some fun. He cut a club of a length to be easily handled, climbed the tree, and frightened the panther until it jumped to the ground into the embrace of the dog. Fur began to fly, much to the amusement of Mr. Hinch, who wanted to test the grit of his dog. A hard struggle ensued between the dog and the panther, and Mr. Hinch had to assist with his club, and the panther was finally killed. That same winter, Hinch wounded a full-grown female panther. His dog attempted to kill the panther, but the panther fastened her claws firmly in the side of his neck, and held him at arm’s length. The dog could not free himself, so he began biting the panther’s leg. The panther withstood the severe punishment without a murmur, until Mr. Hinch sent a rifle ball through her head. A year or so later, the dog was killed in the woods by wolves. The wolves were numerous in the township at this time, and their howlings were so loud that sleep was utterly impossible. They not only prowled at night, but could often be seen skulking through a thicket or trotting cautiously along a path. Mr. Hinch lived on his homestead until his death in 1845. He left a widow and nine children: Joseph T., Mary H. (married Thomas S. West), Matilda E. (married John Harrington), William C., Susan C. (married James Williams), Jesse G., and Martha A. (married William Hulett).

William Hoxsey was a native of Rhode Island. He came to the county late in the Fall of 1817. For six weeks he lived in a tent in Pin Oak Township. In the meantime, he built a camp on the edge of the timber in section 18, where he moved his family the following January. During the winter he built a hewed log house, twenty square feet, in which he built a fireplace. The floor was of puncheons made from hickory logs split in two and placed evenly down and worked into a smooth surface. The red hardwood and the white oak sapwood of the hickory showed a beautiful contrast, and the floor was considered beautiful. Hoxsey raised a family of eleven children. John and Archibald, his sons, returned to Kentucky and returned with young wives. John married Mary Martin, and Archibald married Harriet Stephenson. William Hoxsey lived on the edge of the timber for about five years, then moved his cabin nearly a mile west, where he later built a substantial frame house. He lived in this house until his death on October 18, 1832, at the age of 66 years. His wife died October 5, 1850. John, James, Archibald, Tristram P., and Alexander were the sons of the family. Tristram P. was a prominent official of Macoupin County. The others owned large quantities of land in the township, and were successful farmers. The daughters were Jane (married B. Robinson), Ellen (married John Gray), Eliza (married Daniel Anderson), Mary (married John H. Weir, M. D.), Maria (married Edward Dorsey), Martha (died a young girl), Margaret (married Anderson Blackburn, a son of Gideon Blackburn who founded Blackburn University), and Lucy (married Michael Walsh). William Hoxey brought with him to the township a colored woman who served the family until after 1840. When quite an old woman, she went with the colored settlement of Pin Oak Township. “Old Aunt Tempey” was well remembered by the early settlers.

In the Spring of 1818, James Farris came to the township and settled in section eighteen. He had five children: Smith, George, Larkin, Margaret (married John Riggin), and Lucinda (married William Davis). George Farris built a band mill in early times that did good service for many years. James Farris erected the first frame house in the township. It had a brick chimney, made of the first brick brought into the township.

The first death of the township was that of the mother of James Gray, which occurred in 1818. She was buried on the Gray homestead in section 17, where many others have since been laid to rest. No tombstones marked their graves. The old settlers would bury a friend or loved one, build a log pen around the grave which would soon rot away, and leave no mark of the burial place.

The first birth in the township was that of a daughter of William and Anna Hinch, on February 10, 1819. It died in infancy. The first marriage was that of John Gray and Nellie Hoxsey. The young lovers were cousins, and their parents objected strongly to the marriage. The young couple was determined, however, so they rode their horses for St. Louis and married there. Of this union, four children were born. Mr. Gray died in the township.

In 1818, the Piper settlement was established on the east side of Silver Creek. The settlement was founded by John Piper, Richard Knight, Matthew Hall, and Jackson and Prior Scroggins. Piper settled on the edge of the timber in section 30. He lived on this section until his death in 1864. He had six sons and three daughters: William, James, Wesley, Holland, Oliver, Daniel, Jane, Nancy Ann, and Catharine. Richard Knight settled farther down in the timber, in section 30, where he lived and later moved farther south in the state. He entered the first tract of land (97 acres) in the township, on September 30, 1817. William Hinch entered the second tract of land, 160 acres, on November 15, 1817, and in December 1817, he entered 160 acres more in section 30. On November 18, 1817, James Farris entered 151 acres in section 18. On December 11, 1817, William Hoxsey entered 320 acres in section 8, and at the same time, Robert Aldrich entered in section 30. Mathew Hall located in section 31. He later moved to Macoupin County. The Scroggins brothers lived in the settlement a short time, then moved farther north.

Thomas S. West lived on section 18. He came to the township with his father in 1815 at the age of 2 years, having been born in Kentucky in 1813. He married Mary H. Hinch in 1838, and they had nine children.

Andrew Keown was born in South Carolina. In 1819, he visited Illinois, then went to Kentucky, where he married Sarah Goodwin. In the Spring of 1825, he brought his family to the county on pack horses, and located on section 2, where he improved a good farm. He lived there until his death in 1880, when he was 85 years of age. They raised five children: Elizabeth (married Benjamin Brown), John, Mary (married Henry Harnsberger), Calvin G., and Alexander. Mr. Keown was a soldier in the War of 1812, and participated in the battle at New Orleans, January 8, 1815. From 1871 until his death, he received a pension as a survivor of that war. “Uncle Andy,” as he was known, was much respected.

William Pitman, a brother-in-law of Andrew Keown, came to the settlement from Kentucky at about the same time. He brought his wife and all his worldly effects on one horse. It was said he walked, and carried his wife and axe. He made a comfortable home, where he died, leaving a widow, who never bore him any children.

William W. Pearce was born in Kentucky on June 20, 1815. His father, James Pearce, came to this county the same year. William W. married Barbara A. Vincent, daughter of Isem Vincent. He farmed in Olive Township the same year. In 1851 he became a resident of Alhambra Township. He was a natural hunter, and found a market in St. Louis for the fruits of his rifle. He entered 1,000 acres, and raised a family of ten children.

J. B. McMichael came to Madison County in 1826 from Tennessee at the age of 11 years. He indentured himself to Uncle Joe Bartlett, and remained with him until he was 21 years of age. He married a relative of his, Eliza Stinson, in 1846. They had twelve children. Mr. McMichael lived in Alhambra Township 37 years. From 1863 until 1867, he filled the office of assessor and treasurer of the county. He served as Constable, Deputy Sheriff, Postmaster, and Justice of the Peace.

Ephraim Harnsberger was born in Virginia. In 1812, he went to Kentucky with his wife, where he remained until 1832. He then came to Madison County, and located on the William Wiseman place, where he lived until his death on November 26, 1846. His wife survived him only a short time. They had eight children: Levy, Mary Ann (married James Hosey), Jane L. (married S. Aldrich), Henry, Martha (married P. Aldrich), Rebecca (married R. R. Cooksey), Lewis M., and Ephraim Jr. Ephraim was a prominent citizen, and was the first Justice in the township.

John Tabor came to Madison County with his family (wife and four children) in 1829. He located three miles east of Edwardsville. The following year, he came to Alhambra Township. He resided there until his death in 1881. They had ten children, four of whom were still living in 1882: Henry H. and James H. were farmers in the township, Thomas K. moved to Wisconsin, and Eliza J. (married Jacob Rimmer) moved to Jasper County, Missouri.

R. R. Cooksey, an early settler, improved a place on section 10. He was a successful farmer and member of the Methodist Church. He often preached to the early settlers. He was three times married, and raised eight children. He later moved to Worden.

David Martin came in 1831 from Kentucky, and improved a farm in Fork Prairie in the northern part of the township. He lived there until his death. John G., a son, was a farmer in the township.

Among the first in the southern and western part of the township, were Curtis Blakeman, William Highlander, Fred Mindrop, Joshua Thompson, and Mr. Gilmore.

The First Schools
Nutter Piper taught school in an abandoned cabin on the west side of Silver Creek as early as 1820. William Davenport taught in an empty cabin in the Hinch settlement prior to 1830. It was a subscription school, and he boarded among his employers. After teacher part of a term, he stopped the school, as it was a non-paying undertaking.

In 1832 a log schoolhouse was erected on section 19. George Denny was the first teacher.

School was taught at Andrew Keown’s and R. R. Cooksey’s, in out-buildings in the early years.

The first schoolhouse in the northern part of the township stood in the center of section 2. This building was erected after 1840. After four years it burned down. It was heated by a large fireplace, which caused the fire. Others said the teacher set it on fire by saving ashes in an old barrel for a lady in the neighborhood to make soap with.

The First Churches
Early preaching was held at the residences of William Hinch and Andrew Keown. Rev. Thomas Ray, a Baptist minister, was the first to preach here. Several years later he was assisted by Elder Thomas Smith. They organized the first church. The congregation never built a house of worship, and was finally disbanded. The Baptists, some time later, built the first house of worship in section 32.

The village of Alhambra
The village of Alhambra was laid out by Louis F. Sheppard in section 14. The plat was recorded November 2, 1850. William W. Pearce laid out an addition of three blocks in section 11. To read more on the history of the village of Alhambra, please click here.

 

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