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History of Hamel Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


Prior to township organization, Hamel Township (Township 5, Range 7) contained a part of Edwardsville, Worden, and Omphghent precincts. It is bounded on the north by Omphghent, east by Alhambra, south by Pin Oak, and west by Fort Russell Townships. The Cahokia and Silver Creeks run through this township.

Mr. Aldrich, a native of Worcester County, Massachusetts, was born January 4, 1794. In the Fall of 1816, he and his brother, Anson, started on foot for the Illinois Territory. On their way west, in the vicinity of Xenia, Ohio, they met some Massachusetts friends who had preceded them, with whom they remained with and worked until the following Fall, when they resumed their journey. At Cincinnati, they fell in with Henry and George Keley, brothers, who with the family of Henry Keley were on their way to Edwardsville, Illinois. The Rileys had a family boat, and the Aldrich brothers decided to go with them. The party floated down the Ohio River until they reached Shawneetown. This was in October 1817. Here the Keleys decided to disembark. They had brought three horses and a wagon. The little band of travelers decided to go first to Kaskaskia. Often the wagon was utilized as a ferryboat. Swimming the horses was easy, but the danger of getting their families across the streams was perilous. The whole party consisted of the two Keleys, Mrs. Ann Young, her two grandchildren (Henry T. Bartling and Harriet Bartling), Mrs. Henry Keley, and Robert and Anson Aldrich. After arriving at Kaskaskia, they rested their horses a few days. Henry Keley and the Aldriches mounted and rode to Edwardsville, leaving George Keley with the women and children. They arrived at Edwardsville in the early part of November, and put up at the public house of Colonel John T. Lusk. Henry Keley decided to locate in section 29 of Hamel Township. He built a cabin with the assistance of the Aldriches, and on January 4, 1818, his family having arrived from Kaskaskia, they began their new life, with the Aldriches boarding with them. With the exception of a small improvement made in 1811 by Mr. Ferguson on section 7, which was abandoned when the War of 1812 began, the home of Captain Henry Keley was the first dwelling erected in the township.

Thomas Barnet, a native of Gibson County, Tennessee, in 1817 started to immigrate to Missouri, and arrived at Edwardsville late in the Fall of that year. He had a wife and one child – Juliet (who later married William H. High). With winter coming on, Barnet remained at Edwardsville until Spring, when he would continue his journey. He rented a small cabin of John T. Lusk that stood near the old fairgrounds. He entered land on section 32 on October 28, 1817, and built a cabin and made other improvements. This was the third entry in the township. John Edgar made the first land entry on April 29, 1815, entering five tracts in sections 18 and 30. Joseph Smith made the second land entry on October 21, 1817, entering 240 acres in section 25. Thomas Barnet erected his cabin, and the following March, moved the family out of Edwardsville and intended to finish his journey to Missouri. However, after settling in Hamel Township, he concluded this was as good a country, and lived there until his death on April 2, 1852. His wife died June 25, 1846. They had eight children: Nancy B., Ruth, Samuel P., Thomas J., Kimbrough Tinsley O., Sarah M., Rufus C., and Alfred P.

Archibald Lamb began improvements in Hamel Township in 1818 on section 3. He lived there until his death. In 1818, Samuel Walker built a cabin on section 30. He lived there a few years, then moved away. In 1818, Samuel Walker built a cabin in which B. Bange later lived. Walker lived there a few years, then moved away. William Mize settled the Colonel Thomas Judy place.

Francis Roach was born in Fairfax County, Virginia. He was a Revolutionary soldier and Indian fighter in Kentucky, and came to the Illinois Territory in 1807. Twenty years later he came into Hamel Township, and settled on section 3, where he lived until his death in 1845, at the age of 106 years. He was a man of very small stature, but of great activity. When at an advanced age, he delighted to go out with the boys and “lay patterns,” as he called it, for them to jump to (possibly like out hop-scotch of today?). He would jump up and strike his heels twice together before coming down, and then laugh heartily to see them try again and again without success. His son, David, died near the old homestead. His daughter married John Armstrong, who was the first settler in the northern part of Shelby County, Illinois.

Robert Aldrich settled on the east side of section 29. The cabins of Captain Keley, Wilder, and Aldrich stood in a row, extending east and west on the same section. Keley and Wilder later moved away. Aldrich improved a good farm there, married, and reared a family. He represented the county in the State Legislature of 1842. He died on the old homestead. Aldrich stated “There was not an apple, pear, peach, or cherry tree in the township when I reached it in 1817. It was a wilderness. In 1819, Henry Keley and Anson Aldrich went to Griffith’s nursery at Portage Des Sioux and bought apple grafts. They wrapped deerskin around them, and brought them to our settlement. That was the start of my old orchard, 56 years ago, which bore fruit last year, 18874. In the same period of time, Archibald Lamb and Thomas Barnet set out apple orchards.”

Colonel Thomas Judy was a son of Colonel Samuel Judy. Thomas was born December 19, 1804 at the old Judy homestead in the Goshen settlement. He was three times married. His first wife, Lavisa Snyder, was the daughter of Jacob Snyder, one of the early settlers of Madison County, who he married March 23, 1826. The children of this union all died young except Margaret, who married James L. McCorkell. Colonel Thomas Judy married Nancy Hayes in 1833. She died eleven years later. His third wife was Mrs. Demaris Barnsback, widow of George Barnsback. Judy lived in the American Bottom until 1849, where he improved a large and valuable farm. In 1850, he came to Hamel Township, where he was a successful farmer and extensive land owner. In 1852 and 1853 he served on the State Legislature. He died October 4, 1880. His sons, Thomas and William, were prominent farmers of the county, and lived on parts of the old homestead – Thomas in Pin Oak Township, and William in Hamel Township.

John and Jefferson Fruit were among the first to improve farms in the prairie in the southern part of the township.

Judge H. K. Eaton was a native of Adams County, Mississippi. He was born April 4, 1811, and spent his early manhood in Kentucky, where he married Elizabeth Pomeroy. In 1836 he moved to Illinois, and located in Edwardsville. He was a cabinet maker by trade. He served as county commissioner and probate judge. He withdrew from public life, and retired to his farm in Hamel Township. He died there April 1, 1881. His son, W. P. Eaton, continued to live on the homestead.

In about 1820, Henry Keley built a band mill on section 29, where rawhide bands were used instead of cogs. It operated only a short time.

The first death in Hamel Township was that of Mrs. Harber.

Hamel’s Corner, named after A. J. Hamel, was started by Frederick Wolf in 1865. He built a large brick building, and opened a general stock of goods. He built a feed stable, and entertained travelers. He did quite a thriving business until 1874, when he rented his establishment to his brothers, Ernest and William. Ernest bought the building, and also bought his brother, William’s, interest. In 1867 Christian Traub opened a blacksmith shop, and G. A. Engelmann built a wagon shop. In 1869, A. J. Hamel, John Handshy & Sparks built a flour mill. In 1868, Hamel built a large, frame store building. Click here to read more on the towns of Hamel and Carpenter.

The First Schools
The first schoolhouse in the township was built on the land of Robert Aldrich in 1825. It stood near his residence. Mr. Carver and Joseph Thompson each taught a short time in it. Not far from the schoolhouse was another school – a log building near Archiband Lamb’s. It had a stone chimney. This schoolhouse also served as a church.

The First Churches
The Lutheran Church, a brick building in the center of section 1, was erected in 1861.

The Cumberland Presbyterian Church, in section 27, was built in 1872.

The Evangelical Church in section 22 was constructed in 1873.


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