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History of Godfrey Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

Coal Branch        |        Melville

Godfrey Township (Township 6, Range 10) is found in the extreme northwest of Madison County. It was named in honor of Captain Benjamin Godfrey, an early, distinguished citizen and founder of the Monticello Female Seminary. Godfrey was born in Chatham, Massachusetts on May 20, 1794. Most of his early life (he began the life of a sailor at nine years of age) was spent mostly on the sea. He spent some months in Ireland when a boy, and was connected with mercantile business during the War of 1812. He later became Commander of a merchant vessel. On his last voyage, he was shipwrecked near Brazos Santiago, and lost nearly all his property, and almost his life. Because of his business experience, he was soon the head of a mercantile house at Matamoras, Mexico, and laid the foundation of his fortune. He moved to New Orleans and carried on a business in partnership with Winthrop S. Gilman. In 1832, Godfrey, Gilman & Co. opened their operations in Alton, Illinois. Captain Godfrey became a resident of Godfrey Township in 1834, and purchased a stone residence built by Calvin Riley, to which he added a wing on the north side. He also built the home a half-story higher. With the exception of living in Alton for two years, his Godfrey residence was his home until his death on August 13, 1862.

The earliest settlements in Godfrey Township were made in 1826. Nathan Scarritt broke the first ground for cultivation, but the first cabin was built and occupied by Joseph Reynolds. Nathan Scarritt was a native of New Hampshire, and was a man of marked piety, who left a religious impression on the community. With his wife and four children, he immigrated from Lyman, New Hampshire, and reached Edwardsville in November 1820. He moved into a log house with a stick chimney. They had no chairs to sit on, and were in want of pure water. During the winter of 1820-21, he built a home of clapboards. After residing in Edwardsville for five years, Mr. Scarritt and his family made their home in Godfrey Township. He settled on the prairie which was later called “Scarritt’s Prairie.” He died in 1848. He was a member of the Methodist Church, and held the first religious services in the township in his home. Scarritt built the first brick home in the township. Ezra Gilman was raised in the family of Nathan Scarritt.

Early settlements were made around and on Scarritt’s Prairie, which was then three miles in length and two miles in width. Joseph Reynolds sold his land to Samuel Delaplain. Other settlers on the prairie were Henry P. Rundle, Simon Peter, James Dodsen, Hail Mason, Joel Finch, Zebedee Chapman, Ezra Gilman, and Rowland and Oscar Ingham. Later came John Peter, George Smith, John Mason, Zebedee Brown, James Meldrum, Richard Blackburn, Henry Waggoner, Samuel Waggoner, David Rood, and Joseph Whyers – all settling on the east side of the prairie.

Henry P. Rundle lived in a cabin on the prairie. He was a tailor by trade, and he carried on business for some time in Upper Alton. His wife was the daughter of Samuel, and sister of Benjamin Delaplain. Simon Peter came from Kentucky in about 1833. He was a leading member of the Methodist Church and a local minister. John Peter was his brother.

Hail Mason, who was born in Grafton, New Hampshire in 1794, became a resident of the county as early as December 1817, when he arrived in Edwardsville with his brothers – James and Paris Mason, and Rowland P. Allen, Theolphilus W. Smith, and others. He lived in Edwardsville a number of years, and was the Justice of the Peace. Mason issued an arrest warrant for Mike Dodd from Wood River Township, who came to Edwardsville intoxicated and disturbed the peace. Dodd and his friends resisted arrest, and Mason, although wearing his judicial robes, called on other citizens to assist in the arrest. Dodd brought suit against him, but Mason, who was defended by some of the best lawyers, was acquitted. Mason moved to Clifton, and after a year or two came to Scarritt’s Prairie. His home was a short distance northeast of the village of Godfrey. He served as Justice of the Peace and filled other public offices. Mason died in 1842. His second wife was the daughter of Joel Finch.

John Mason, brother of Hail Mason, was also an early resident of the township. He was born at Grafton, New Hampshire in 1780, and came to Illinois in 1837, when he settled on the farm a short distance northeast of the village of Godfrey. He died in 1867. His two sons, Aaron P. and John Mason, lived in the township for many years. Aaron P. died in 1880.

Joel Finch settled a short distance northeast of the village of Godfrey.  He died in 1846 at the age of seventy-two.

George Waggoner was a native of Maryland, and immigrated to Tennessee, and then to Cape Girardeau, Missouri. He became a resident of Godfrey Township in 1838. He had four sons – Henry B., Samuel H., William W., and Wesley F. Waggoner.

James Meldrum settled on the “Brighton Road” (Humbert Road) and married the youngest daughter of Rev. J. W. Caldwell.

George Debaun was born at Harrodsburg, Kentucky. He was of French descent. He immigrated to Illinois, reaching Collinsville on October 20, 1816. After living there two or three years, he moved to Upper Alton, where he lived on a farm until 1829, when he moved to Godfrey Township. He entered land on section 9, where William Scarritt had previously built a cabin nearby. Debaum moved his family into this cabin until he built a double log cabin on his own land. The nearest neighbor was two or three miles away. Debaum had eight children, and he employed Miss Abigail Scarritt, a niece of Nathan Scarritt, to teach them, as there was no school nearby. Other families took advantage of this and attended Miss Scarritt’s school. The school created so much noise at the DEbaum home, that the next year, 1830, it was moved to an old log cabin built by William Scarritt, a quarter of a mile away. Elizabeth Peter, a niece of Simon Peter, taught the school in 1830. The next year while Miss Scarritt was teacher, the old log cabin caught fire and burned to the ground. George Debaum resided at the place until 1849, when he moved to St. Louis. In the days of the gold rush in California, he left for the Pacific coast and died in the far West in about 1852. Two of his daughters resided in Godfrey Township – Elizabeth Debaun, and Jane, the wife of Isaac G. Howell.

In 1833, Judge James Webb became a resident of Godfrey Township and settled north of the village of Godfrey. He came from Syracuse, New York. He held the office of County Commission. One of his daughters became the wife of George T. M. Davis, an Alton attorney who later moved to New York City. Another daughter married Judge William Martin of Alton. Judge James Webb died in Alton.

The first improvement in Godfrey Township was made by Calvin Riley, who accompanied Judge Webb to Illinois from New York. He was the brother of Captain Riley, who endured a captivity in Africa, and published his story in a book called, “Riley’s Narrative.” Calvin Riley built a stone house north of the village of Godfrey. It was later purchased by Captain Benjamin Godfrey, who made additions. After selling his home, Riley engaged in the mercantile business in Alton. He also resided one year in Edwardsville, then returned to Godfrey Township and improved a farm on section 8. While on a fishing excursion in Michigan, the boat in which he was with two comrades capsized, and not knowing how to swim, he drowned. The first house south of the Riley/Godfrey home was built by Captain Riley, and in it George T. M. Davis lived for a time. It was later occupied by James Hamilton, who kept it as a hotel (Star Hotel). Hamilton was a workman who came from the East to help build the Monticello Female Seminary.

Captain Edward Fisher settled about 1834 in the township. In his early days he had been a sailor, and acquired the title of Captain. He was an Englishman, born at Battle, in Sussex, in 1793. He died in 1843. His youngest son, William H., was born in England in 1826. He enlisted in the 2nd Illinois Regiment during the war with Mexico, and died at Saltillo, Mexico in 1847 of wounds received at the Battle of Buena Vista.

Samuel Delaplain, who lived east of the village of Godfrey, was born in France and came with his father to America at a very early date. He lived for some years in Macon County, Kentucky, and came to Illinois in 1807. For a time, he was a resident of St. Louis, then Upper Alton. The settlers took refuge in the forts near Edwardsville at the begging of the Indian hostilities from 1812-14. His son, Benjamin Delaplain, later stated that when the family reached the fort, he was so frightened from the talk of an anticipated Indian attack, that he crawled into a flour barrel for safety, remaining there for hours. Samuel Delaplain moved to Godfrey Township where Benjamin was raised. He learned the trade of a carpenter, and for a number of years kept the Alton House in Alton. He moved to the farm in Godfrey Township, and died there in 1876. Benjamin married Elizabeth Reed in 1834.

Josiah Randle settled in the township in about 1834. He was born in 1800. His father having died, the mother moved with the children (eight sons and one daughter) from Tennessee, in 1814, and settled a short distance southeast of Edwardsville. Josiah lived some years in Edwardsville. In 1823 he became the owner of an old mill, built by his uncle, Josias Randle, at Edwardsville, in 1818. After coming to Godfrey Township, Josiah became one of its leading citizens. He was a zealous member of the Methodist Church. He died in Brighton in 1857, after an accident in a coal shaft he was visiting.

Don Alonzo Spaulding was born in Vermont in 1797. He acquired a good education and taught school. While teaching, he studied surveying. He left home in May 1818, and with a pack on his back, he journeyed on foot to Olean, New York – a distance of 370 miles. He met four othe4r young men, and joined with them in purchasing a flatboat. They floated and paddled down the river to Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, traveling 350 miles in 21 days. There his companions left him, and he joined a family going down the Ohio River who had a better boat. He landed at Massac. He worked as a surveyor for the county seat of Johnson County. He then made his way on foot by way of Kaskaskia, to Edwardsville, where he arrived in Jul 1818. He knew Hail Mason, then a resident of Edwardsville. During the winter of 1818-19, he worked surveying a tract of land 30 miles north of Alton. During that time he did not see a single white man, except the members of his party, and only 4 Indians. For 6 months in 1819, he taught school in Edwardsville. He was elected surveyor of Madison County in 1825, and held that office ten years. In 1828, Spaulding settled on section 29 of Godfrey Township, and 4 years later on section 28. In 1834 he took a surveying job southeast of Chicago; in 1838 and 1839 he surveyed public lands in Illinois; in 1844 and 1845 in Missouri and Arkansas; and in 1848 and 1849 in Wisconsin. From 1849 to 1853 he was the chief clerk in the surveyor’s office in St. Louis, and in December 1853 was appointed Surveyor General of Illinois and Missouri. In 1854 he received an appointment as clerk in the general land office at Washington, and was sent to Florida to adjust the accounts of the Surveyor-General of that state.

Joel D. Spaulding, father of Don Alonzo Spaulding, became a resident of Madison County in 1825. After living in Edwardsville, he moved to Rattan’s Prairie, and then moved to Godfrey Township in 1828. He died in 1844. Henry Spaulding, brother of Don Alonzo, became a resident in 1828. He served as Justice of the Peace for a number of years, and died in Macoupin County.

Major George W. Long was born at Hopkinton, New Hampshire in 1799. He entered the Military Academy at West Point as a cadet, in 1820, and graduated in 1824. He then served as an instructor at West Point for one year. He was then employed as a government engineer in Louisiana and Florida until 1836. From 183 to 1839, he held the position of State Engineer for Louisiana. In 1830, he entered land in sections 33 and 34 in Godfrey Township, and in 1831 and 1832 he built the large brick house which became his residence. It was occupied by his youngest brother, Edward Preble Long, for some years, and became the home of Major Long when he retired from the profession of engineer in 1839.

Dr. Benjamin F. Long, brother of Major George W. Long, became a citizen of Madison County in October 1831. He was born at Hopkinton, Massachusetts in 1805, received his medical degree from Dartmouth College in 1830, and came to Alton in 1831 during a visit to his brother, Deacon Enoch Long. He intended to enter his medical practice in Louisiana, but remained in Upper Alton and set up a practice there for twenty-one years. He assisted in the organization of the Illinois Mutual Fire Insurance Company, and served on the first Board of Trustees. He was the company’s President for nearly a quarter of a century. The Long brothers include Colonel Stephen H. Long, Deacon Enoch Long, Major George W. Long, and Edward Preble Long. Colonel Stephen H. Long was connected with the U. S. Engineering forces. He made several early explorations under the direction of the government of the West and Northwest, and earned a reputation for scientific achievements and engineering skill. He retired from active service in 1862. For some years he resided at Upper Alton. Deacon Enoch Long became a resident of Upper Alton in 1821. In 1844 he moved to Galena, and in 1863 moved to Sabula, Iowa, where he died.

Moses B. Walker was one of the first settlers on the Grafton Road (now W. Delmar or Rt. 3). He was a native of Tennessee, and came to Godfrey Township in about 1828. His wife was a sister of Samuel Thurston, one of the proprietors of the town of Clifton (now Clifton Terrace). Walker worked at the mill in Clifton, then entered land in section 29, on which he lived until his death. He filled the office of Constable for a number of years, while Henry Spaulding was Justice of the Peace.

Mr. Copley, a native of Massachusetts, entered land and settled in section 27. His sons, John and George Copley, lived on their father’s homestead. The farm adjoining to Mr. Copley’s was entered by Mr. Buckley. Parker Delaplain was also one of the settlers in this part of the township.

William Squire was born in 1814 in Devonshire, England. He came to American in 1835, and settled in Godfrey Township in 1838. He was an active member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and died on March 12, 1865. His sons – James, William, Frank, and Heber Squire – remained residents of the township. James Squire served as Justice of the Peace for 4 years, and in 1877 was elected to the Board of Supervisors, and served for many years. William Frank Squire served as township assessor for 12 years.

Elijah Frost became a resident of the township in 1840. He was born near Troy, New York, in 1812, and immigrated to Illinois in 1837. He lived in Kane, Greene County, until 1840, and then came to Godfrey Township, settling on Coal Branch. In 1841 he built the home where he lived many years. This land had been entered by a man named Emerson, but Mr. Frost bought it from Robert W. Finch. He was one of the original members of the Bethany Methodist Episcopal Church. He taught school at the Bethany Church in 1840. He served 18 years as township treasurer.

Among the early residents of the village of Godfrey was Timothy Turner, who was born in 1784 at New Haven, Connecticut. He became a resident of Godfrey in 1839. He opened the first store in Godfrey. When the post office was established in Godfrey in 1840, he was appointed post master, and held the office until 1869, when he resigned due to old age and debility. He died in August 1863. His son was Jarius B. Turner, who also lived in Godfrey.

Another early resident of the village of Godfrey was Abijah W. Corey. He was born in 1803 in Orange County, New York. He taught school in his early years, and intended to enter the ministry, but his health caused him to relinquish this purpose. From 1825 to the time of his death, he was an agent of the American Sunday School Union. He came to Madison County in 1837. While employed by the Illinois Temperance Society, he edited The Temperance Herald for five years, published at Alton. It was a journal devoted to temperance. He was appointed financial agent of Monticello Seminary in 1838. When he died in May 1880, he was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Seminary.

John Pattison was a native of New Jersey, and became one of the early residents of Godfrey Township. His son was Michael H. Pattison, and later lived on his father’s homestead.

Isaac G. Howell, Benjamin S. Howell, Henry Howell, Uriah Howell, and James Howell all came from New Jersey – Uriah and Henry in 1836, and the others in the Spring of 1837. They assisted in the building of the Monticello Female Seminary, and then settled in the township. Henry followed the carpenter business, and with his brother, Uriah, built the mill at Godfrey in 1857. Henry later moved to New Jersey, and Uriah moved to Jerseyville. Isaac G. Howell married the daughter of George Debaun.

Henry Caswell built a house at an early date, which was later the residence of Benjamin Webster. Later the home became the residence of Father Chamberlain, a Presbyterian minister.

The Hon. William F. De Wolf came Madison County in 1836, and was for several years a resident of Godfrey and Alton. He wrote his recollections and provided them to W. R. Brink, author of the History of Madison County, 1882:

“In November 1836, in company with my wife and brother, Fitz Henry De Wolf, now of Bristol, Rhode Island, I left our native state, and after a month’s travel, reached St. Louis. After a few days’ stay in that city, then containing about 12,000 inhabitants, started for Alton, our destination, on the steamer Alps. The steamer was a frail bark, and I remember that when we met the strong current at the mouth of the Missouri, it seemed as if the trembling vessel could hardly stem the rush of waters that came pouring from that mighty river. I remember having pointed out to me the widow Gillham’s farm on the Illinois side, as an old place. On this farm I could see from our deck, an orchard of apple trees, large and thrifty and in full bearing. The farm lay on the riverbank, while behind it the vast forest of immense trees stood intermingled with groves of smaller growth. Alas, ‘the orchard, the grove, and the deep tangled wild wood’ have all been swept into the Mississippi. We arrived at Alton after dark, and found shelter at the Alton House. Such a hotel in almost any town or village in Illinois, would now (1882) be considered very inferior. But, we had made up our minds to meet the deficiencies of the new West with the best grace we could, and soon came to enjoy the life about to be entered upon. In a few days, we removed to Liberty Hall, Upper Alton, kept by Mr. Randle. Here, we passed three weeks very comfortably, and then removed to the Piasa House in the ‘Lower Alton.’ This hotel had just been finished by the owner, Judge Hawley, and was well managed by Mrs. Elizabeth Wait, a motherly, kind-hearted old lady, whom I shall always remember with pleasure and gratitude. At the Piasa, my first child was born. Judge Hezekiah Hawley, referred to, was a native of New England who had passed most of his life in Kentucky. He was a gentleman of the Henry Clay period, and an enthusiastic admirer of the great Kentuckian. To Judge Hawley, Alton owed much of her early prosperity. Her enterprise was such that many thought she would be the successful rival of St. Louis. Indeed, in 1836, and for a time after, the great firms of Godfrey, Gilman & Co., Stone, Manning & Co., C. B. Roff & Co., Simeon Ryder, Lewis Kellenberger, and many others, compared favorably with the largest wholesale houses in St. Louis. But two large cities could not exist so near to each other, and the capital of St. Louis, together with the splendid location, won the day at the time spoken of. No county of the State could boast of better citizens that Captain Benjamin Godfrey, Benjamin Ives Gilman, George Churchill, Winthrop S. Gilman, Captain Simeon Ryder, Dr. Marsh, Cyrus Edwards, Robert Smith, Alfred Cowles, Dr. Benjamin F. Edwards, John T. Lusk, Judge William Martin, John Bailhache, Moses G. Atwood, and a host of others, not to mention the younger men then just buckling on their armor for the battle of life – Judge Joseph Gillespie, J. Russell Bullock, Newton D. Strong, Junius Hall, John W. Chickering, George T. M. Davis, Usher F. Linder, and the brilliant McDougal (later U. S. Senator for California). Among the clergy, I remember Graves, Norton, Depuy, and Father Rodgers of Upper Alton. In about 1842, I moved to Godfrey Township. Here among my neighbors I counted Major George W. Long, Don Alonzo Spaulding, the Mason and Scarritt families, and many others. Six of my eight children were born in Madison County. I take pride in saying two of my sons, both born in that county, served in the war for the suppression of the Rebellion (Civil War). The eldest entered the service as a Private at the breaking out of the war, leaving a lucrative position in the office of the President of the Illinois Central Railroad. He was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant, and at Williamsburg, Virginia, in his first engagement after his promotion, on May 4, 1862, he was mortally wounded while gallantly leading his men. He was taken to the hospitable residence of the Hon. Isaac Arnold, then a member of Congress, and after three weeks’ suffering, he laid down his life on the altar of his country.

In 1846, while living in Godfrey Township, I was elected to the State Legislature, my colleagues being William Martin and Curtis Blakeman. While at Springfield, I heard great things of the ‘coming Chicago,’ and in the autumn of 1846 moved to this city. Since then, I have pursued a quiet life, not aspiring to office or political preferment.” Signed by William F. De Wolf, Chicago, April 1882

Other early settlers in Godfrey Township include Richard Blackburn, David Davis, Rowland and Oscar Ingham, Larry Davis, and M. Jones.

Early land entries were made by Jacob Lurton on October 13, 1820 in section 6; Josiah Cumming on October 13, 1820 on section 6; Isaac Scarritt on January 17, 1821, on section 4; Joel Finch, D. Manrop, and M. Malary on January 28, 1822, on section 26; Joseph S. Reynolds on March 2, 1822 in section 23; and John Murray on May 24, 1822, in section 26.

The First Schools
The first school in Godfrey Township was taught in the barn of Nathan Scarritt. The barn stood a short distance north of is residence. His daughter taught the school, and the students numbered about sixteen.  A school was also taught in 1829 – 1831 at the residence of George Debaun. Abigail Scarritt and Elizabeth Peter were the teachers.

In about 1832 or 1833, a school was established at the Bethany church, and for some years after, was the only school in the township. A West Point cadet named Johnson taught this school in 1839. Elijah Frost took charge of the school in 1840, and taught for three years. This was still at that time the only school in the township, and students came from Clifton and Jersey County. Subsequent teachers were Mrs. Russell Scarritt, Mary Jane Scarritt (youngest daughter of Nathan Scarritt), and William Cunningham. The township was organized for school purposes in 1842.

The First Churches
The first Sunday School in Godfrey Township was taught in the barn of Nathan Scarritt. The first sermon was preached in the summer of 1828 by Rev. John Hogan, a Methodist minister. A Methodist class was organized at the time of the first settlement of the township, but no regular church existed until 1842, when on December 26, Bethany Church was organized. Among the original members were Hail Mason, Nathan Scarritt, Josiah Randle, Simon Peter, James Meldrum, John Mason Jr., Aaron P. Mason, Richard Blackburn, Elijah Frost, David Rood, and William Squire. The name of Bethany was suggested by Henry P. Rundle. Simon Peter donated the land on which the church was built. The Randles, Scarritts, and others were supporters of the Methodist Church, and on Wednesday nights, they drove a big wagon around the neighborhood, collecting a good number to go to Upper Alton and attend the weekly class. A Sunday School formed in the township in 1829, and had an irregular existence until 1841, when on May 6, a Sunday School was organized at the Bethany Church.

The Church of Christ in the village of Godfrey was organized on November 2, 1839, with 26 members. At the first meeting, Rev. Theoron Baldwin was moderator. Timothy Turner and Benjamin I. Gilman were appointed elders. Rev. Theoron Baldwin was installed as pastor on November 22, 1840. Abijah W. Corey was appointed elder in October 1841. Captain Benjamin Godfrey member a member of the church at Godfrey in 1844, and on October 5, 1844, was appointed an elder. In the Fall of 1842, a large addition was constructed. The house of worship was built at the joint expense of the congregation and Monticello Seminary, on land belonging to the Seminary. The church was organized on an independent basis. In 1854, the church became Presbyterian, and united with the Presbytery of Alton. In 1867, the church withdrew from the Presbyterian connection, and returned to its original independent basis.

The Baptist Church, on the south line of the township, adjoining North Alton, was built in 1858. There was also a Congregational Church at Melville. A church was erected 3 miles west of the village of Godfrey, known as the White Oak Church.

The Village of Godfrey
The village of Godfrey was laid out by Captain Benjamin Godfrey and Enoch Long. It was recorded May 30, 1840, and was originally known as Monticello. A town of Godfrey, adjoining the original Monticello on the northeast, was laid out in town lots by James Squire in 1882. To read the history of the village of Godfrey, please click here.

The Settlement of Melville
Melville is located less than a mile of Clifton, on Rt. 3 (or West Delmar). In 1882, there were about half a dozen houses located there. Mrs. Louis Schmidt had a small store and was in charge of the post office. A distillery was operated at Melville at an early date. There was a Congregational Church (now Harmony Baptist Church), with a cemetery next door.

In 1839, Major George W. Long located on section 33 in Godfrey Township along the Grafton Road (now W. Delmar). He named his farm Summerfield. He became interested in the education of the children, and donated land for a school, plus $120 for the construction of the schoolhouse. John Pattison of Godfrey was the builder. The oak for the schoolhouse was obtained from a neighboring sawmill. The original building was 18 x 22 feet, and was completed in 1844 or 1845. The school was named Summerfield, in honor of Major Long. The first teacher was Mr. Foster, and the next was Miss Virginia Corbett, a student from Monticello Seminary. She was succeeded by Miss Lucy Larcom, the poet of Beverly, Massachusetts, who was very popular. Her last term was in 1849. An addition was made, and a belfry and flagstaff were added. The schoolhouse also served as a community center, and was in use until May 12, 1912, when its doors were closed. A new schoolhouse was erected in 1912, and the old building was sold and torn down. This second schoolhouse was razed in June 1978.

Coal Branch
In the southern part of Godfrey Township along a small stream named Coal Branch, just east of Buck Inn (near Elm and Alby Streets), was a settlement comprising of about twenty families. The inhabitants were mostly engaged in mining coal. There was one store, owned by John and Hugh Pierce. Coal was mined by Joseph and Richard Whyer at an early date. They supplied the first coal used in the Alton State Penitentiary. The first pit was opened by James Mitchell in the summer of 1848. A few months later another pit was sunk by Thomas Dunford. Other coal miners included Dennis Noonan, Peter Robinson, Charles Crowson, William Watts, Henry Camp, Peter Taylor, Nathan Sydel, Henry Conlon, and John Rutledge. The coal was of superior quality, but the vein had only a thickness of thirty inches. The shafts ranged from fifty to one hundred and twenty feet in depth. Following the opening of the Chicago & Alton Railroad, considerable quantities of coal were shipped to Springfield, Bloomington, and Chicago. The vein is now exhausted.

In 1882, Coal Branch had one store, two blacksmith shops, and a few other business establishments. In the early days, a flour mill owned by Mr. Whyer stood at Coal Branch. David R. Jones established a hall and grocery at the corner of Elm and Alby Streets in Coal Branch. He and his family lived upstairs.

James Mitchell of Coal Branch
James Mitchell was born in Scotland on December 21, 1811 to parents Robert and Mary Mitchell. Robert Mitchell was determined to better himself, so he sought an American home, bringing with him his family of eleven children and three hundred colonists. James was the oldest. On July 4, 1829 they landed at Pictou, Nova Scotia. Not satisfied with Nova Scotia, they immigrated to American and made their way in 1834 to Pottsville, Pennsylvania. In 1835, James made his way to the salt works in West Virginia, and then to Kentucky and New Orleans, learning coal mining along the way. Returning to Nova Scotia, he met and married Mary Smith, a native of the Island of Cape Breton. Soon after, he returned to the States, moving to Missouri, and in 1848 settled in Madison County, Illinois. He opened the first coal mine in Coal Branch. By his first wife he had eight children. She died October 4, 1857, and James re-married Margaret Bird on November 3, 1857. Mitchell was largely responsible for developing the coal industry in the area. James Mitchell died May 1, 1889, and is buried in the Upper Alton Cemetery.

Early Churches of Coal Branch
In 1859 a church was formed at Coal Branch by seventeen members (including Thomas Dunford and wife, and Robert Mitchell and wife) from the Baptist mission school in Hunterstown (Alton). A house of worship was soon built on the land of Thomas Dunford, a pastor secured, a Sabbath school organized, and a good congregation gathered. Soon after, several from Coal Branch were baptized, and on March 21, 1859, the church was organized with 17 members. Rev. H. Gallagher, then a student in Shurtleff College, served as pastor for a considerable period. After Mr. Gallagher’s pastorate, greater prosperity was attained under the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Place. Then the darkest period of the church came under the Rev. Mr. Austermel, when the church became almost extinct. Joseph Bevan, a student in Shurtleff College, then begin to preach at the church, and prosperity was enjoyed once again.

 

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