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History of Jarvis Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

Jarvis Township, 3 North, Range 7 West, was named in honor of the Jarvis family – early settlers of the part of Madison County. It was surveyed in 1806.

The first settlers in Jarvis Township arrived in 1803. In the Spring of that year, the Greggs came from Kentucky, and Robert Seybold from Virginia. In an address delivered by Dr. John S. Dewey on July 4, 1876, he stated that “Jacob Gregg, the father, settled the Baird place and planted the old pear tree in 1804, which has done faithful service since, and in 1864 yielded a crop which sold in Dubuque, Iowa for one hundred and twenty-five dollars. Philip, Titus, John, and Herman Gregg all settled in the township. Robert Seybold made a settlement on section eight, not far from John Gregg, and near the head of Cantine Creek.

The above pioneers were soon followed by William F. Purviance, John Jarvis, Robert McMahan, Jesse Renfro, William Hall, James Watt, and others, all of whom arrived before 1818. The first land entries in the township were made on September 10, 1814, by Titus Gregg and John Jarvis. Robert Seybold entered one hundred acres on October 20, 1814. On September 23, 1815, David Gaskill entered seventy-nine and a half acres in section seven. On May 1, 1815, Pierre Menard entered one hundred and sixty acres in section one.

William F. Purviance, an early pioneer, was born in Cabarrus County, North Carolina, in 1783. He came to Illinois in 1809. He first worked at the trade of a wheelwright with Titus Gregg, who was a wheelwright and blacksmith. This business was conducted on the future farm of Ignatius Riggin, north of Troy. After visiting Tennessee, Purviance was married to Rebecca Seybold in 1811, and then settled two miles north of Troy in Pin Oak Township. In about 1816, he moved back to Jarvis Township, and settled on section seven, west of Troy. He lived there until his death in December 1870. Purviance was a member of the first grand jury convened at Edwardsville after the organization of Madison County. He was once appointed justice of the peace while Illinois was yet a territory. For many years he carried on a wheelwright shop on his farm. In the early days, he made spinning wheels for spinning flax and cotton. James Purviance, a son, was born in 1811, and William H. Purviance, another son, resided in Troy.

George Bridges and Daniel Semple settled southeast from Troy in 1808, and Walter Denny and William Skinner settled in a very early period. John Lamb became a citizen of the township in 1810. All of these were from Kentucky and Tennessee.

Robert McMahan settled on Ridge Prairie, two miles and a half southwest from Troy. He was born in Virginia, immigrated to Kentucky, and in that state married Margaret Clark. He moved to Illinois in 1793, settling near New Design. His wife and four children were killed by Indians, and he and his eldest daughter were taken prisoner. He married a second wife, and raised a large family. McMahan died in 1822 at the age of 63.

John Jarvis, a native of Virginia, became a member of the settlement on January 1, 1813. He moved from Turkey Hill, a short distance southeast of Belleville in St. Clair County, where he had settled in about 1806. The Turkey Hill settlement was the only American settlement made in St. Clair County previous to the year 1800, and prominent in the history of St. Clair County is Franklin Jarvis, brother of John Jarvis. Franklin was a member of the original colony which settled Turkey Hill in 1797. John Jarvis bought the Herman Gregg farm in Madison County, and on September 10, 1814, he made the first entry of land from Jarvis Township granted by President James Monroe. He kept a house of entertainment for the accommodation of the immigrant travel, and in 1816 built a band mill. This mill was a great convenience to the settlers, and became one of the most desirable places in the vicinity for the establishment of a store. Jarvis’ band mill may have been the origin of the town of Troy. Jarvis was a good and honest man, and although in his youth was accustomed to slavery, he became opposed to the practice, and sacrificed his own interests in slaves. He was the first practical abolitionist in Jarvis Township. He requested that his faithful old slave, Ben (who he freed, but refused to leave his companion), be buried near him. John's descendants carried out his wishes.  John Jarvis died on October 27 or 29, 1823, leaving three sons (by his second marriage) – John, Wesley, and Fletcher, who grew up and lived in Troy until their death.

George Churchill, who settled on section eight, west of Troy, was one of the most remarkable men who lived in the township. In early life he had learned the printing trade, and after coming to Jarvis Township, he, at intervals, went to St. Louis and worked in the printing offices there. He remained an eccentric bachelor, however was held in high esteem. Several times he was elected as a representative to the State legislature. As talent as a writer came into play, and he drafted a considerable part of the bills brought forward. Churchill was one of the most active opponents of the efforts to introduce slavery into the State in 1824. He and Nicholas Hanson, a fellow member of the assembly, were burned in effigy at Troy because of their anti-slavery beliefs.

Jesse Renfro was born in Lincoln County, Kentucky, in 1796. In 1810, when he was fourteen, his father, James Renfro, immigrated to Illinois. The family spent the winter of 1810-11 in Ridge Prairie, three miles south of Troy, a short distance from Downing’s Station – a fort erected for the protection of the settlers against the Indians in the edge of St. Clair County. In the Spring of 1811, the family moved to Collinsville Township. James Renfro died in the fall of 1814 while on a visit to Kentucky. In the Spring of 1814, Jesse Renfro, then not quite eighteen, enlisted as a mounted Ranger in Captain Samuel Whiteside’s company, which was engaged in the protection of the frontier settlements. He served a year as a Ranger, and six months additional in the militia service. In September 1817, he married Letty West, daughter of Isaac West, one of the pioneer settlers of Collinsville Township, and settled in section 11 of Jarvis Township. The marriage ceremony was performed by Joseph Eberman, a son-in-law of John Jarvis. Mr. and Mrs. Renfro lived quietly together for nearly 65 years, until the death of Mrs. Renfro in March 1882.

James W. Watt settled in the prairie two or three miles south of Troy in 1817. He came from Green County, Kentucky, and was the son of James Watt, a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Watt was a leading member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and died in December 1861.

Josiah Caswell came from Vermont in 1823, and after living for a time east of Troy, purchased a farm west of town. On the west edge of Troy he kept a store from 1834 to 1838. He than moved to Macoupin County in 1838, and later died in Greene County. His son, O. H. Caswell, remained a resident of Troy.

The first school of Jarvis Township was on the western line of section 8 in the year 1811. The teacher was Greenberry Randle, who agreed to teach the principles of arithmetic as far as the “Double Rule of Three.” In this school, the Kinders, Jarvises, Gaskills, and others received their first education. No school was established in Troy until the year 1824.

Among the early churches of Helvetia Township was the Gilead Methodist Church, which stood on section 14. This was the first building erected for religious purposes, although early Methodist meetings had been held at the house of John Jarvis. The church was also used as a schoolhouse, and Jesse Renfro taught there several years between 1830 and 1840. The old church was a plain, square frame building, weather boarded on the outside with clapboards. The interior was plastered. Logs split open with pins fastened in the round side formed the benches. Among the early preachers were Rev. Samuel H. Thompson, John Dew, J. H. Benson, and Washington C. Ballard.

On the southwest corner of section 14 was a Baptist Church, where preaching was only held a few years. In the northern part of section 14 is an old graveyard, in which the first interment was the wife of John Hagler. An Old School Baptist Church was established on section 16. The Methodists of the western part of the township founded the Zion Methodist Church on section 19. A Roman Catholic Church was established on section 27, with services in German.

Click here for the history of Troy, Jarvis Township.

 

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