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History of Leef Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


Leef Township (Township 5, Range 5) was wholly prairie, with the exception of a small area in sections 33 and 34, which was timber. Silver Creek flows through the township. The township is bounded on the north by New Douglas and Bond County, on the east by Bond County, on the south by Saline, and on the west by Alhambra Township.

James Pearce made the first settlement in Leef Township in 1818. On April 14, 1817, he entered land in section 34, and on January 16, 1818, he entered more land in the same section. Hugh A. Pearce, his son, on August 3, 1829, entered the east half of the southwest quarter of section 34. Mr. Pearce was born in North Carolina. His parents moved to Kentucky, where he grew up and married Lucy Allison. Three children were born to them in Kentucky – Hugh A., Robert, and William W. In 1815, Pearce moved to Madison County, and lived in the vicinity of Edwardsville. Six children were born to him by his first wife – Wiley, Joseph B., Alfred C., Melinda, Francis M., and James. His second wife was Frances Martin, whom he married in 1837. He had by his second wife five children – Mary (died in infancy), Mathias B., Thomas N., Sarah E., and Rachel. Mr. Pearce was the first Justice in the township. His house stood on the Vandalia and St. Louis Railroad, and until 1835, Pearce kept the stage stand. He lived in Leef Township until 1848, when he moved into Olive Township, where he lived until his death in 1864 at the age of 74.

Jesse Allison, Thomas Allison, and Thomas Johnson were other early settlers of Leef. Jesse Allison, a brother-in-law of James Pearce, settled what was later William Scrumpf place in 1824. Some years prior to his settling in Leef Township, he lived near the Biggs’ salt works, where he worked for Biggs several years. He lived in Leef until 1839, when he moved to Highland, and later to Missouri, where he died. Thomas Allison, his brother, built a cabin on the land of James Pearce at an early day. He lived there a short time, then moved to Missouri where he was killed during the Civil War by bushwhackers.

Thomas Johnson Jr. built a cabin in 1830, a short distance north of where the Salem graveyard is. His father, Thomas Johnson Sr., settled near the north line of Saline Township in 1818. Thomas Jr. lived in Leef Township about 30 years, then moved west.

Hugh A. Pearce settled a place north of his father’s in 1829, where he lived until he moved south in 1834.

D. Charter located in the forks of Silver Creek in about 1839, where he improved a good farm.

The first farms made north in the prairie were improved by G. W. Rockwell, A. J. Flinn, and Frank Housong. Rockwell lived on the northwest corner of section 16. He was born in Missouri, and came to Madison County in 1838. His wife was Catharine Peterson, who was born in Madison County in 1834.

Jacob Leef was born in Canton Schaffhousen, Switzerland. When the township was organized, it was named after him. In 1834, at the age of 19, he came alone to America, landing at New Orleans. He had just enough money to reach St. Louis, where he lived until 1840. He then came to Saline Township, and worked for S. H. Mudge for five years. He saved his money and bought a little farm in 1845 on section 33 in Leef Township. This land had originally been settled by Benjamin Furbee. Jacob Leef married on April 8, 1844, to Regina Reichet. There were eleven children born to this union. By his hard work and economy, he increased his possessions to upward of 300 acres of land. He became a well-respected neighbor and friend.

John Ambuhl was born in Switzerland, and came to Madison County in 1839. He settled on section 28, and became a well-to-do farmer. Francis M. Wagoner settled on 80 acres each of the village of Saline. He also became a prominent farmer.

The first death in the township was the infant child of Pearce’s (a seventh son), who died in 1824. The first born was Joseph B. Pearce in 1820. The first marriage was that of Hugh A. Pearce in 1859 to Susan Carson of Saline Township.

The Village of Grantfork
The village of Grantfork lies partly in Leef, and partly in Saline Townships. It was first called Fitz James, and was laid out in 1840 by Henry K. Lathey, James Carpenter, George Fulls, Jonas R. Gale, Z. Lowe, and William F. De Wolf. Later, it was called the village of Saline, but the postal department ordered the name be changed, and it was christened Grantfork. To read more on the history of Grantfork, please click here.


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