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History of Saline Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


Saline Township (Township 4, Range 5) is bounded on the north by Leef, on the east by Bond County, on the south by Helvetia, and on the west by Marine Townships. When the township was settled, it was divided between timber and prairie lands, but today, little timber remains standing. The Silver and Sugar Creeks flow through the township.

At the edge of the Silver Creek timber, on the east side of section 31, the first cabin was erected in 1809. It was built by the widow Howard, who immigrated from Tennessee with her family, consisting of several sons and daughters. Abraham and Joseph were the eldest of the sons. They selected for their home a beautiful location on a ridge in the edge of Looking Glass Prairie. According to the Hon. Solomon Koepfli, the cabin, in 1831, had been moved to another place, but Joseph Howard, one of the sons of Mrs. Howard, pointed out the place where in 1809 they had built their first home. A spring on the north side of the ridge furnished plentiful water. Their first meal at the cabin was made by beating corn with a club on a large oak stump. Joseph was 12 years of age when he arrived in the township with his mother. He later served as a Ranger in the war from 1812 to 1815. He killed several bears and panthers in the neighborhood. In 1820, Joseph married Jennie, the daughter of Samuel McAlilly, and built a cabin on a hill now called Sonnenberg. Joseph was a kind-hearted man, and if he heard of a neighbor’s sickness, he would be seen the next day in the neighbor’s field plowing his corn or attending to his harvest. When the earthquake occurred in 1811, which caused so much terror among the pioneers, the Howards thought that Indians were on the cabin roof with murderous intentions. Abraham and Joseph took up their rifles and opened the cabin door, and after peering around and seeing no Indians (while the shaking yet continued), they concluded that the Indians were on the house top, where they had no business. They walked backward cautiously out of the cabin with uplifted rifles ready to shoot. One of them went to the right, and the other the left, until they came in sight of one another in the rear of the cabin. No Indians were to be found. They then believed they had been made the victims of a practical joke by some lonely hunter that had passed by. Mrs. Howard was an elderly lady when the family moved to the township, and she only lived a few years after. Her death was the first in the settlement. Joseph and Abraham received 80 acres of land from the government, for services rendered in the War of 1812. Joseph reared a large family of children, and later went to Iowa, where he died. Captain Abraham Howard went to Fayette County in 1830, and settled east of Vandalia, now known as Howard’s Point.

In 1810, Abraham Huser, a German, married a Howard girl and settled a mile north of the Howard place, near some springs not far from the center of section 29. In about 1815, Huser and his wife moved south of Troy, and laid the foundation of the Huser settlement.

Archibald Coulter was the first settler in the north part of the township. He immigrated from Kentucky in 1816, and located where the widow Mudge later lived. About ten years later, he moved farther south in the state. On July 29, 1817, Robert Coulter entered land in section 4. Rebecca Brotherton entered 160 acres in section 8 on July 3, 1817. This was the first entry.

James East, a native of Kentucky, arrived in the township in 1816, having left his wife at home. He erected a pole cabin, and planted two acres of corn. He returned to Kentucky for his wife. He later built a good hewed log house. He was an industrious man, and accumulated a good deal of property. They had a family of eight sons and three daughters, and died in the township.

Samuel McAlilly was a native of South Carolina, and was of Scotch descent. He and his wife immigrated to Illinois with his family of four boys and three girls. At the time, his sons – John and Samuel – were married. The others were William, James, Jennie, Elizabeth, and Mary. Samuel arrived at the cabin of Archibald Coulter in the Fall of 1818, where his family remained until a cabin could be built. The cabin, when finished, stood in the southeast part of section 30, on the present site of the Highland Cemetery. Mr. McAlilly dug two wells, 60 feet deep, but could obtain no water. The place was abandoned after a few years, and he built a second cabin, where he lived until 1832, when he died of cholera. In 1818, Samuel, shortly after he arrived in the township, went to Coulter’s place one afternoon, and returning just after nightfall, discovered some dark object in a tree, where his dogs were barking. Having his rifle with him, he walked around the tree, but as it was quite dark, couldn’t see what it was. He drew up his rifle and fired, and whatever it was fell to the ground. After satisfying himself that the animal was dead, he tried to put it on his horse, but failed. He rode down to the Howard cabin and told of his adventure. Joseph and Abraham accompanied him back to the spot, and told him he had just killed one of the largest panthers ever slain in that settlement, measuring nine feet from tip to tip. The Howards assisted him in getting the panther on the horse, and gave him advice in regard to shooting panthers in the night when alone.

John McAlilly built a hewed log house near that of his father’s, where he lived a few years and then moved to Alabama. In 1826, he returned to the settlement, and located next in Fayette County, where he died in 1872, leaving two sons and four daughters.

Samuel McAlilly Jr. also built a cabin near his father’s, where he lived some years. He then returned to Kentucky, where William C, Elizabeth, and Matilda McAlilly were born. After three years, he came back to the settlement and rented a farm, to which he moved his cabin. Melinda and Mary McAlilly were born on this place. In 1835, he bought out the heirs of his father, and moved to the old homestead, where he lived many years. William C., the only son, moved to St. Jacob’s Township.

William McAlilly also lived near his father’s. His wife died after being married about two years, leaving one child – James J. – who later lived in Clinton County, Illinois. Mr. McAlilly later married the widow of Adam Kyle Jr., and lived east of Highland until his death, leaving three daughters.

James McAlilly married in Saline Township and moved to Indiana, where he operated a mercantile business until his death. Jennie McAlilly married Joseph Howard, and Elizabeth married Alfred Walker. Mary married John Journey.

Cyrus Chilton settled on the east side of Silver Creek in about 1822, in section 17. He lived there until the first State Assembly met at Vandalia, where he went to board the members of that body. He continued to live in Vandalia until his death. His widow later married Mr. McCullom, and returned to the farm where they resided for some time, then moved to Fayette County.

James Reynolds, who immigrated from Kentucky to Illinois in 1818, settled near the old Chilton fort. In 1830, he bought the land Abraham Houser had settled in 1810. He was an energetic and enterprising man, and began farming on large scale. He became a model for agriculturalists, and introduced new inventions as soon as they were available. Before his arrival, the only plows used were those with mouldboards of wood, and in some cases, of half wood and half iron. Mr. Reynolds was elected to the Twelfth Assembly of the State Legislature in 1840, and served the people as Justice of the Peace. After his death, he left four children: Reuben, William, Nancy, and Sarah. Nancy married Samuel Thorp, and later married his brother, David. Sarah married Curtis Blakeman Jr.

Thomas Johnson Jr. entered land in 1817 in section 4. His cabin stood a short distance southeast of Martin Buch’s store in Saline. He had a small farm, where he resided until his death. He planted an orchard, which was known as the best on Silver Creek. His son, Jackson Johnson, located about three quarters of a mile west. He resided on his farm until his death.

H. Carson, an older man, settled a place in 1829, a short distance southwest of Jackson Johnson’s. He lived there a short time, and then west to Arkansas.

Benjamin May was an early settled on the west side of Silver Creek. Benjamin Reimmer came in 1818, and located in the southern part of the township, where he resided until about 1830. He then moved into the west part, where he improved a good farm, which was part in Saline and part in Leef Townships. After the Civil War, he moved to Missouri.

McCullom was an early settler on the east side of Sugar Creek. In 1822 he moved to a place later called the Nancy Gillett place. William Pearce purchased the farm, and lived on it until an accident caused his death. He was reaping grain, when the horses became frightened and ran away, throwing him before the sickle, which cut off an arm and inflicting other injuries from which he died in about a week. Mr. Pearce was twice married and had a large family by his first wife. His second wife was the widow of Samuel McAlilly. Her first husband, Seth Gillett, died in 1811.

H. Lisenbee settled on the east side of Sugar Creek, on section 26. He died in about 1832.

James Pearce settled on section 7 as early as 1817. His cabin stood near a spring. He was called “Salty Pearce” by his neighbors, to distinguish him from another James Pearce who lived in the settlement. The name “Salty” was an allusion to the face that he was a laborer in the Biggs’ salt works. In about 1826, he sold out and moved to the southern part of the state, on the Big Muddy, where he lived for some time. The family were all murdered by Indians, with the exception of three – a married daughter and two sons. The daughter had moved south, and a son had gone to Texas to put in a crop and build a cabin for the family who were to follow. As the family was making the trip, the Indians surprised them and murdered the entire party except a young son. He slipped away during the massacre, but was captured again by the Indians. After many years of diligent search by his brother, he was found among the northwest Indians. He had lost his knowledge of the English language, and declined to return to civilization with his brother, who had paid a ransom of $1,000. He had to be taken away by force.

John Charter arrived in the township in about 1835. He bought the Archibald Coulter place from Robert Plant.

In 1823, William Biggs, a native of Kentucky, sunk a salt well near the banks of Silver Creek, in section 19. He then bored to the depth of 450 feet, when salt water began to flow. The creek has since changed its course, that now the old salt well is in the bed of the stream. Biggs invested a considerable amount of money in the works. He had 40 large kettles for evaporating purposes. Fifteen cords of wood per day were used in making six bushels of salt. About twenty men were employed in the works. Mr. Biggs was in the first General Assembly of the Territory, convened west of the Ohio after the Revolution. On November 25, 1812, the first legislative body elected by the people of the Territory assembled. Biggs was a member for two years. He was one of the gallant soldiers of General Clark, and acted as a subordinate officer in the conquest of Illinois in the years 1778 and 1779. Governor St. Clair, in 1790, appointed him Sheriff of St. Clair County. In 1826, Congress granted him three section of land for services rendered to the colonies in the Revolution. He was at one time take into captivity by the Kickapoo Indians, and severely mistreated. He paid a ransom of nearly $300, and obtained his freedom. In 1826, he published a narrative of his captivity. He died the following year at the residence of Colonel Judy, his brother-in-law.

Solomon H. Mudge, a prominent early citizen, came to St. Louis in 1835 from Portland, Maine, where he had been engaged in the commission and shipping business. He engaged in banking in St. Louis, and in the Spring of 1836, made a trip through Madison County, prospecting for a country home. He bought and entered 1,080 acres in Saline Township. In section 3, he built a comfortable summer residence and beautiful home. Two years later, he changed his business from banking in St. Louis to that of hotel keeping in New Orleans, where he made a reputation which extended through the Mississippi Valley, as “mine host of the St. Charles Hotel.” He died in the Spring of 1860, and his remains are buried at his country home. He left behind a wife, six daughters, and two sons.

Anton Suppiger was a native of Switzerland. He came to Madison County in 1831, and became a prominent farmer of the township, section 32. His wife, Monika, was a native of Baden.

Other early settlers include Bern’h Trautner and his son, Nicholas, John Spengel, and Charles A. Voegel.

The First Schools
The first school in the township was taught by John Barber in the camp of Captain Abraham Howard.

The First Churches
The first preaching in the township was at the cabin of Mother Howard, by the Barbers and Knights. As early as 1825, the Cumberland Presbyterians established a campground in the northeast quarter of section 31, where camp meetings were conducted for several years in succession. Some of the camps were substantial, and afforded good shelter during hard rains. The early preachers were John Barber, his son Joel, and John Knight.

The Village of Pierron
The village of Pierron was laid out by Jacques Pierron on September 1871. The village lies partly in Bond County. The post office was established in February 1870, with August Pierron as postmaster. To read more on the history of Pierron, please click here.


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