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History of St. Jacobs Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser


St. Jacobs Township (Township 3, Range 6) is bounded on the north by Marine, on the east by Helvetia, and on the west by Jarvis Townships. On the south it is bounded by St. Clair County. The principal stream is the east fork of Silver Creek, that flows through the northwest part in a southerly direction. A considerable amount of timber was located along this stream, but there was also a substantial amount of prairie which includes Looking Glass Prairie. One writer stated, “It looked more like a great park than a wild country. This was not like many other prairies, a monotonous level, where the eye can find no resting place; but out of this plain, covered with luxuriant grass and flowers of all colors, rose a great number of beautiful and shapely hills, all easy to ascend, and many covered with a growth of fine trees.”

The first settlements in St. Jacobs Township were made in 1810 along the timber’s edge on the east side of Silver Creek, by hardy pioneers from Kentucky and Tennessee. The families of John Lindley, William and Cyrus Chilton lived there in peace and quiet until the war with England broke out in 1812, and the Indians began to show themselves as hostile. The Chiltons and their neighbors built a fort and stockade for defense. The fort stood in the northwest corner in section 17, near where Augustus Chilton settled, and eleven families received shelter there the first winter. The fort was commanded by Major Isaac Ferguson and Captain Abraham Howard. It was never attacked by the Indians. According to Jesse J. Renfro, a citizen of Madison and a Ranger during the War of 1812, he and a dozen other Rangers were placed on guard at the fort under the command of Samuel Whiteside. At the time, the pioneers would live in their homes until they heard of a possible Indian uprising. The fort was constructed by picketing around four or five cabins. The pickets were logs, eight to ten inches thick, set on end close together, and eleven or twelve feet in height. On each corner of the picketing were log houses, projecting over so that the sides of the fort might be covered by rifles. It was related by an old settler during the early Indian troubles, a lone Indian committed some overt act near the fort. Captain Howard took his trail, riding a little bay horse. After a ninety miles’ chase in a northeast direction, Howard killed the Indian and brought his bleeding scalp to the fort. Within the walls of this old fort was the first birth in this part of the county – that of Thomas Chilton. The first marriage also took place, between Joseph Ferguson (a brother of the Major) and Virginia Smeltzer. Here was also the first death – Augustus Chilton. He was buried in the timber near the fort, where since many others have been laid to rest. No stone marks his grave. In about 1820, a town was laid out there, called Augusta, but the plat was never recorded. No lots were sold.

The Chiltons settled in the near vicinity of the fort, as also did the Harrison and Smeltzer families. Cyrus Chilton improved a place about half a mile west of Herrin’s Grove. John Lindley was a great hunter and successful beaver trapper. He first settled in the timber in the southwest part of section 18, near a spring. He later improved a farm on the prairie, where he died. His children were: John, Matthew, Lucinda, Hannah, Elizabeth, Ellen, and Mary.

Simon Lindley settled on Silver Creek in the north edge of St. Clair County in 1812. He was a native of North Carolina, and immigrated from Kentucky. He had three sons and four daughters. Simon was a man of good education, a pioneer Baptist preacher and surveyor. In about 1820, he moved north and settled in Sangamon County.

John Giger, a Pennsylvania German, entered several tracts of land in section 5 on November 8, 1816. He improved a farm and resided there until his death. He raised four sons and one daughter, who married Benjamin Reimmer. The sons were Jacob, John, Joseph, and Moses.

Gilmore Anderson, from Bourbon County, Kentucky, settled the southwest quarter of section 17 in 1816. He was accompanied by his wife and 4 sons and 2 daughters: William, Carroll, Robert G., James G., Nancy (who married John Penn), and Sarah (who married Mr. Flynn, and then Jacob Giger). Gilmore lived only a few years after settling in St. Jacobs Township. The sons all moved to other states, with the exception of James G. Anderson, who lived on the old homestead. He was the first blacksmith of the township, and in company with William Faires, a wood worker, made many wagons for the early settlers, and manufactured the old wooden mould-board plow. In 1831 James enlisted as a soldier in the Black Hawk War, and was promoted to Major. He died September 25, 1847.

William Faires, a native of North Carolina, was an early settler of the township. He located in section 31, and later improved a farm on section 34. He raised a family of nine children: Naomi (married Abner Pyle), Wilson, William H., Eliza (married Abraham Thomas), Sarah Ann (married John Barton), Elim (killed by lighting while working in a field), Mary (married George Cuddy), James (died when a young man), and Jane (married William Woods, living only a short time after). William Faires was a first-class wagon maker, and died on the farm in section 34.

Herrin’s Grove in section 16 was settled by John Herrin as early as 1816. His house stood on the old Goshen and Ohio Salt-Works Road, which was laid out in 1808. He entertained travelers and sold feed to immigrants. The Grove was filled with camps of the frontiersmen – their campfires glowing and white covered wagons filled with supplies.

Philip Searcy, from Tennessee, came to the township in November 1817. He improved a farm, where he lived until his death. Two of his sons, George W. and Edward, lived in the township. His daughter, Nancy, lived in Edwardsville.

Wesley Dugger, who was born in North Carolina on April 30, 1793, went to Tennessee, where he married Charlotte Young. In 1817, the immigrated to Illinois and settled on section 3 in St. Jacobs Township. He was a farmer and had a horse mill, and for some years kept a store, which was once destroyed by fire. He had been a soldier in the War of 1812-14, enlisting with the Tennessee troops, and served under General Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans. Duggar died February 14, 1850. His wife died April 23, 1846. They raised nine children. One of his sons, John C. farmed in the township and died there. Another son, Jarrett, erected an ox mill in 1828, then sold out to Mr. Zwilehenbart and moved into Macoupin County.

Henry Burton Thorp was born in Stratford, Connecticut on April 30, 1795. In 1819 he came to Madison County with Captain Curtis Blakeman, driving a four-horse team for the Captain. He returned to the east for his wife, who lived only a short time after her arrival, leaving a daughter, Hannah. Mr. Thorp returned again to the east for a second wife, and married Sarah Sheppard. They returned to St. Jacobs Township, along with one of his brothers – Samuel Thorp. Samuel returned east and convinced another brother – Nathan – to try his fortune in the west. Henry B. Throp had seven children by his second marriage: Harriet, Henry B., Eliza, Charles, Frank, William, and George. He and his brother, Samuel, built a distillery on their place. Henry B. died January 14, 1849.

John Howard, a son of the widow Howard who built the first cabin in the southeast part of Madison County, settled near the Augusta Church in an early day. He was a Ranger during the Indian troubles. He represented the county in the 1818 Legislature, and was the first Justice of the Township, serving until his death. He was honest and upright in the dealings. He had two sons – Abraham, who lived on the old homestead, and Riley, who moved to Iowa.

Nicholas Kyle, son of Adam Kyle, one of the early settler of Marine Township, located in St. Jacobs Township, where he farmed and built a substantial brick house. He was the first constable of the township. He had three sons and two daughters.

William Parkinson, a native of Tennessee, came to the township in 1816 and farmed near the old fort. On May 31, 1817, he entered his first land in section 1. After his family grew up, he sold out and moved to Wisconsin, where he died. Washington Parkinson, William’s brother, came to the township in 1820, settling in section 2. In 1846, Washington was assassinated. He was in his sitting room just after supper, when someone fired a shot through the window and made his escape. The murdered was never caught.

W. B. Bradsby was born in the township in 1846. He was the son of John Bradshy. In the Spring of 1804, William H. Bradsby located on Silver Creek, where they farmed. In the Fall of 1804, John Bradshy brought the balance of the family from Kentucky, and located on a farm. The Bradsby family were brave and energetic pioneers. The elder Bradsby taught school, and his sons were in the Ranging service. In 1814, William H. Bradsby represented St. Clair County in the territorial legislature. He became a physician and was prominent.

Dr. Henry C. Gerke was the first German to immigrate to St. Jacob Township in 1824. He located in Herrin’s Grove. His son, William H., settled in Marine Settlement. In 1842, William H. married Levina Blakeman, daughter of Captain Curtis Blakeman. Dr. Gerke was a classical scholar and was educated in law. He was the author of several volumes, published in Germany, relating to the history of North America. In 1836, he brought the remainder of his family to this country. He died in 1842, leaving a vast estate.

Theodore and Joseph Miller came with their widowed mother, three brothers, and three sisters, in 1835, from Germany. The mother died five years later. Theodore farmed in section 20, and served as constable. He was later elected magistrate, which he filled for twelve years. In 1870 he was elected a member of the General Assembly of Illinois. Theodore married Elizabeth Anderson in 1846.

Other pioneers of St. Jacobs Township include Samuel Frey, Henry Frey, Peter Frutiger, Jacob Leder, Rudolph Baer, Christian Hirni, Jacob Leutwiller, Henry Ritter, John Schmitt, P. Juckweiler, Jacob Schroth, A. Zwilchenbart, and Henry Laengle.

The First Schools
The first school in St. Jacobs Township was taught in the old fort by David Smeltzer. The first schoolhouse was a small log cabin, built about 1818, near the site of the fort.

The second school was erected in the Dugger settlement, near the Uzzle Spring. Alexander Truesdale was one of the first teachers. He was also a Presbyterian preacher. For several years prior to the building of this schoolhouse, school was taught by the Edmunds and others, in an abandoned cabin that stood near the Dugger ox mill. John Kyle also taught near Wesley Dugger’s place, before any schoolhouse was built in this settlement.

The First Churches
Augusta Church was the first house of worship, and was located near the site of an old log schoolhouse. It was built by the Methodists in about 1852. Before this church was built, the congregation met at the residence of John C. Dugger. Between the site of the old for, and the Augusta Church was the training ground for the militia. It was here also that the young athletes of the country gathered to exhibit their muscle. Each settlement would have its champion, and the athletes performed wrestling, running, and jumping.

To view the history of the town of St. Jacobs, please click here.


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