Montgomery County Illinois History

Memories of the Early Years of Montgomery County

By Henry Pyatt Published in the Hillsboro Democrat Feb. 15, 1873

I promised to write more on the subject of the early settlement of Montgomery county and the circumstances connected there with.  Hardly feeling myself adequate to the task knowing there are others that are older and more qualified to perform such a duty, knowing there at the same time at the early settlement and the emigration of our fathers and early pioneers that I hadn’t an existence in time.  Such being the case, I have to depend a good deal on my memory.  There is one thing I will state before I proceed.  I have in my possession the old church book of the Hurricane church; the oldest data that stands on record is March 19, 1820.  From the examination of the records we are well satisfied that the organization of the Hurricane church reaches still further back, but how much we can’t say.

The transaction of the first business that stands on record is on the date above mentioned, and in that it states that James Street and wife, John Norton and wife, Gilford Parish and wife, George Shipman and wife, Abel Fox, Rachel Currandell, John Wright, Margaret Wright, Deborah Viles and John Jourdin all received by letter.  We also notice in the records that on July the 20th, 1822, the above named persons were lettered off to constitute a church called Clearspring.  Joseph Wright was the first clerk of the church, George Shipman the first Deacon, James Street was the first pastor that stands on record.  I remember of hearing my parents speak of other preachers to-wit:  Thomas Ray, Badgley and John Jourdin were pioneer preachers.  Henry Scars was received into the church August 21st, 1822 by recantation, Dec. 20, 1823 was ordained to the functions of a bishop.  The officiating presbytery James Street, John Jourdin was chosen pastor of the church at the same time.  As there has been a great many of the old settlers names already mentioned it will supersede the necessity of mentioning them again.

I will give the names of a few more of the early settlers.  Newton Coffey, Colbert Blair and his son John Blair, Richard Freeman, John Beek, Simon and Henry Landers, Hardy Hinton, Smith Scribner, Joshua Renfro, James and Wm. Virdin, Benjamin Roberts and Easton Whitten, and Levi Casey; and many others.  I think Levi Casey was the first Justice of the peace in the county.

Joseph Wright, Benjamin Roberts and Easton Whitten, were some of the first justices of the peace.  .

The first lands were sold at a land sale at Edwardsville in Madison County.  My father and Joseph Wright bought 160 acres together. Then each one had to make each other a deed.  Israel Seward took the acknowledgement of the deeds.  I think the deeds were written and recorded by Hon. Hiram Rountree.

When my parents first settled on the Hurricane, they lived in a camp which was made by putting forks in the ground so as to make a shed.  I remember of hearing my mother speak of a circumstance that occurred while they were living in their camp.  There came some kind of warment one night, they had two or three very severe dogs; it chased the dogs into the camp and they couldn’t be made go any further.  My father was not at home and the children were all small, she had two of the Hill boys staying with her.  

At another time, in the day time, there came a bear close to the house and my father was not at home.  There were wolves to any amount; grey, black and prairie wolves.  The prairie wolves would very often run the sheep up to the house in daytime.  The sheep had to be put in a pen every night.  The rising generation are unacquainted with the hardships that attends frontier life.  The first settlers had to go to St. Louis for their salt, iron, sugar, coffee, and clothing that they did not manufacture themselves.  No market for any of their produce near than St. Louis.  We tanned our own leather, made our own shoes, bridle leathers, back bands etc.  For horse collars we made them of corn shucks and linn bark. 

I will here correct one error in the DEMOCRAT to January 15th, with regard to our first “school house”, standing between Easton Whitten place and Jacob Bosts.  The statement is correct in regard to where the house stands but it never was built for a schoolhouse, or ever was used as such.  It was the first church that was built, but was built on Easton Whittens’ land.  When the church built the second house, the old one was sold to Mark Mason.  The old house was burnt up when Henry T. Masons barn was burnt up, a little over two years ago.  We has built the third church which now stands near Mr. Thomas Whitten’s.



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