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History of Venice Township, Madison County, Illinois

Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser

 

Venice Township (Township 3, Range 10) is located in the southwestern part of Madison County. It is bounded on the north by Chouteau Township, east by Nameoki, south by St. Clair County, and west by the Mississippi River. It is mostly low and level land in the American Bottoms. Separated from the mainland is Cabaret (French tavern) Island, composing of 1,042 acres.

Venice Township was settled as early as 1804, but there is little history of those settlements. In about 1807, George Cadwell and George Richardson settled on section 13. Robert McDow, John Atkins, Daniel Lockhart, and possibly others, were located in the township prior to the War of 1812. George Cadwell was an enterprising Yankee, who combined the practice of medicine with farming. In 1815, he was appointed by Governor Ninian Edward as Justice of the Peace. Cadwell had three daughters and one son. In 1818, he was elected a Senator of Illinois. He then moved to Morgan County. George Richardson, a farmer and friend of Cadwell’s, also moved to Morgan County. Richardson drowned in Santa Creek near Jacksonville. Richardson’s daughter, Nancy, was married to Asher Chase. This was possibly the first marriage in the township. The second marriage was of Moses Seeds to Mrs. Mary Waddle, on October 10, 1818.

Robert McDow, a Kentuckian, had a large family. He erected the first horse mill on section 24. When he left the township and moved north, he sold his mill to Benjamin Merritt.

John Atkins settled on section 1, prior to the War of 1812. He and two of his sons served during that war, and were present at the treaty made at Portage des Sioux, a short distance above Alton. Other Atkins sons were William, John Jr., Charles, Everett, and James. John Atkins was from Kentucky, and he and his sons were all large, able-bodied men.

Daniel Lockhart settled on section 35, on an elevated ridge.

In perhaps 1815, John Anthony, an eccentric pioneer, settled in the township. He was of Pennsylvania Dutch stock. His was the first house build on the site of the old village of Venice, and was made of hewed cottonwood timber, with only one room. He kept lodgers and served meals to travelers. On a shelf was the bottle of “aqua miraculous.” He had a number of skiffs, in which he hired to parties wanted to cross the river, at a shilling a trip. On section 25, a family named Blum settled. They, too, were Pennsylvanians.

In 1818, Abraham Sippy, a young married man from Pennsylvania, decided to try his fortunes in the “far west.” His father came to American as a soldier under Lafayette. After the battle at Yorktown, he deserted, determined to remain here instead of returning to France. His name was Joseph Trimeau, but took on his mother’s name of Sippy. He became the father of seventeen children.

Matthew Kerr, a merchant of St. Louis (and for whom Kerr’s Island was named) opened a horse ferry in 1826. The ferry was named “Brooklyn.” In 1842, Lieutenant Robert E. Lee, commander in-chief of the Confederate forces during the Civil War, built a dike running from Kerr’s Island to the head of Bloody Island. This necessitated a change in the landing place of the “Brooklyn,” and the company operating the ferry received $1,600 damaged from the U. S. Government. This money was used for the construction of a bridge connecting Kerr’s Island with the mainland. The National Road – the great wagon route connecting the east with the west – terminated there, and across Kerr’s Island was the principal street of Venice. The “National Way,” as it was called, became the center of a large trade. Two hotels catered to the wants of travelers, and two livery stables supplied horses and vehicles. There were also three general stores and two blacksmith shops. One of the stores, kept by Peter Smith, was the first brick building erected in the township. The flood of 1844 swept everything away except the brick store, a livery stable (also brick), and part of one of the hotels. During high water, one of the blacksmiths, a German, in a fit of desperation, jumped from the bridge as it was being carried away, and committed suicide. His was the first smithery in the township, erected in 1837. As soon as the waters receded, repairs began. A new bridge was built across the slough, and business revived. Trade was represented by Peter Smith, James Morris, and Charles Pearce – all general merchants. In 1851, when flooding again came through, much of Venice was washed away, including much of the island. The bridge was not rebuilt. A solitary brick building remained on the once busy site of the village of Venice.

A post office was established in 1837 in the village of Venice, on section 13. It was first kept by Joseph Squire, the owner of a public house called the “Western.” This was the first established hotel in the township. It was a large, frame building, and was quite popular with stockmen from above Alton, who made it their headquarters. Large numbers of hogs and cattle were annually driven from the north to St. Louis, following what was called the slough road from Alton.

The first cemetery in the township was on Cadwell’s tract. His son, Bach, was the first to be interred there, prior to 1820.

The first land entries were by John Atkins on September 14, 1814, section 1; George Richardson on August 17, 1814, section 12; William Gillham on August 15, 1814, section 13; and John McDow on August 16, 1814, on section 24. Prior to the land entries, there were numerous land claims made. Among the first, was 400 acres by Alexis Bryalte in 1809; Nicholas Jarrott, 400 acres opposite Cabarat Island; and James Kinkead, on sections 25 and 26, two miles above Venice.

The First Churches
The first preaching was by Revs. Chance and Jones – two Baptist missionaries who preached at the home of Mr. Cadwell as early as 1812. A Methodist Episcopal Church was erected in 1870, and a Catholic Church was constructed in 1881-2.

The First School
A schoolhouse was constructed in 1868 a half a mile from the business district of the village of Venice. It was a two-story, brick building.

The Village of Venice
A village was founded on Cabaret Island soon after the establishment of the ferryboat, Brooklyn. The name of Venice was given by Dr. Cornelius Campbell in 1841. Twice the village on the island was destroyed by flooding. For years afterward, growth of a village on the mainland was slow. Finally, the village of Venice was incorporated June 28, 1873. To read more on the history of the village of Venice, please click here.

 

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