Early Days of Greenbush - Historical



Line Divider

The County of Warren in the State of Illinois was created by an act of the General Assembly approved January 13, 1825. At that time it was bounded as follows: Beginning at the point where the township line between seven and eight north touches the Mississippi river, thence east on said line to the Meridian; thence north on said meridian line to the northeast corner of township twelve north, range one west of the Fourth Principal Meridian; thence west on said township line to the Mississippi river, and thence down the river to the place of beginning.

Warren county then extended from the Fourth Principal Meridian to the Mississippi river. The General Assembly of 1841 passed an act detaching all the territory west of range three, forming a new county with the name of Henderson.

Greenbush township is situated on the southeast corner of Warren county, Illinois, being township eight north of the base line, range one west of the Fourth Principal Meridian.

James B. Atwood was the first white man that settled in what is now known as Warren county. He arrived in 1828 and located on section 27, now Kelly township. Adam Ritchie and family came the same year and located on the south end of Sugar-tree Grove on the farm afterwards owned by Mr. Quinn in Hale township. John B. Talbot with his mother and cousin, Allen C. Andrews, settled in the northeast corner of Monmouth township, on section one.

The first settler in Greenbush township was Rowland Simmons. He came from Warren county, Kentucky, to Morgan county, Illinois. In 1830, he moved from Morgan county to what is now known as Greenbush in Warren county, Illinois. Here he camped in the edge of the timber about one-half a mile west of where the village of Greenfleld (afterwards the village of Greenbush) was located.

He came in a covered wagon, driving three yoke of cattle. His mother, wife and one son came with him. This son was William Simmons, who was four years old at the time. Mr. Simmons brought in his wagon a few cooking utensils and household furniture; also a few tools. His chairs he tied on the outside of his wagon.

He immediately set to work building his cabin, which was thirty-six feet long and twelve feet wide. He used mostly hickory logs. This house could not be called a hewed log house, as very little hewing was done on the logs. It contained three rooms and was made comfortable by being chinked with blocks of wood and daubed with clay. He also built a huge fireplace in the west end of the building.

He found plenty of Indians here when he came. They were located on sections seven and eighteen; and spent their time hunting, fishing, making maple sugar and riding on their ponies about the country.

“Uncle Roley” Simmons was a hardy pioneer and a man possessed of considerable courage, but sometimes he felt a little ticklish or nervous in regard to those Indians. They were a little too numerous for him; so he always carried his old Kentucky rifle when he went any distance from his house. Sometimes a band of thirty or forty Indians would come hooting and yelling up to him on their ponies and, after dismounting and shaking hands, would ride away.

These Indians, however, proved to he peaceable. They left a few graves on the hill south of “Nigger” creek not far from a small stream called the Wash branch. Numerous flint arrowheads have been found in this locality from time to time. When the Black Hawk war broke out in 1832, they left the country.

Mr. Simmons continued to live in his cabin until the Indian trouble began in 1832. He then moved his family to Morgan county for safety and joined the “Rangers” engaged in the Black Hawk war until the Indians were driven west of the Mississippi river.

After Black Hawk, who was a chief of the Sacs and Foxes, was defeated, he was made the ward of Keokuk, another chief, which humiliation of his pride broke his heart. He died on a reservation set apart for him in Iowa, in 1838, aged 71 years. His body is said to have been exhumed nine months after death and his articulated skeleton is alleged to have been preserved in the rooms of the Burlington, Iowa, Historical Society until 1855, when it was destroyed by fire. After the Black Hawk war, Keokuk became the chief of the Sacs and Foxes. He lived on the reservation in Iowa until 1845, when he removed to Kansas where, in June, 1848, he fell a victim to poison supposedly administered by some partisan of Black Hawk.

After the Black Hawk war and the same year (1832), Mr. Simmons with his family returned to his home in Greenbush. An infant son of his (John W.) died about this time and was buried on the hill west of the village, it being the first grave in the Greenbush graveyard.

In the spring of 1833, Uncle Roley took possession of the sugar camp left by the Indians, they having left their sugar-making outfit consisting of kettles, many small troughs and a few large ones.

That same year James Simmons, a brother of Rowland’s, came from Madison county, Illinois. He drove three yoke of cattle to his covered wagon and had also one horse hitched to a light wagon, some cows and three dogs. One of these dogs was a famous hunter and was the leader in many deer chases in those days. Uncle Jimmy intended to kill one of his cows for his winter’s meat, but he found game so plenty that he did not need to. With his trusty rifle he was nearly always sure of a buck or doe when he went after them.

In the spring of 1834, he took possession of the sugar camp that had been used by his brother Rowland the year previous.

At this time it was difficult to obtain breadstuff. Rowland Simmons went to Morgan county for breadstuff at different times. His son William went with him to help yoke and unyoke the cattle.

In 1834 the Bond family came. This family consisted of Jesse W. Bond and wife and their children, John Crane, Benjamin, Joel, Ruby, William Barnet, Jesse W., and Nathan.

Paton A. Vaughn came in 1837; John Wingate and Thomas Moulton in 1838. Sarah Snapp and family, consisting of Franklin G., Robert M., William, Ezekiel M., George, Mary, Elizabeth, and Maria, came in 1837. Aaron Powers and Col. John Butler came in 1839.

Charles Stice came in from what is now known as Henderson county in 1834. The same year Amos Pierce and his son Clement came from Vermont. William H. Pierce came from Vermont in 1835. Alexander Willard and family came in 1837. For a more particular mention of these families, see biographical sketches elsewhere in these pages.

The village of Greenfield was surveyed and platted by Wm. C. Butler, county surveyor, April 14, 1836, and was located on the northwest corner of section five. The first plat contained a public square and sixteen blocks. Rowland Simmons and James Simmons were the owners of the land on which the town was located.

Afterwards Rowland Simmons added four blocks on the west and James Simmons four blocks on the east. The name of Greenfield was changed to Greenbush in 1843.

Jesse Blankenship had the first house erected in the village. John Sheffield was the carpenter and builder. It was a hewed log house containing two rooms. In the erection of the building, John Simmons notched and fitted one corner; or, as they called it then, he “took up” one corner. William Vandiver also helped on this building.

Mr. Blankenship moved into one of the rooms; the other room he used for a store house, it being the first store in the village. In after years this building was used for various purposes. Wm. H. Pierce used it as a residence and his son Almiron 0. was born there July 4, 1838. Woody Alexander kept a grocery in it at one time. Philip Karns finally purchased it and used it for a cooper shop for many years. When Dr. Wm. Randall came to Greenbush in 1858, he used the east room for his office for some time. The old building was pulled down a few years ago and moved to the Karns farm north of Greenbush.

Among the early merchants, or storekeepers as they were then called, were Crocker and Martin, and one Mr. McMahon.

Edwin A. Sheble came in the early ‘40’s and engaged in the mercantile business. His father, brother David, and his father-in-law Major McCormick came with him.

Mr. Sheble was an energetic business man and was well liked by the people. After leaving Greenbush he took to steam boating on the Mississippi river; became captain, and afterwards owner in different packet lines. During the civil war, he was engaged in conveying troops and supplies for the union army. He was with General Grant at the siege of Vicksburg, and with General Canby at the surrender of Mobile. During his career he built and commanded twenty-four steamboats. The last one owned by him was the “City of Alton.” He was at one time general freight and passenger agent for the Rockford, Rock Island and St. Louis Railway Company. After amassing a considerable fortune, he died at No. 4300 McPherson Ave., St. Louis, Mo., February 22, 1904. He was nearly eighty-four years old.

Major McCormick is still remembered by some of the old settlers. He kept fast horses and engaged in racing here. During the ‘40’s he owned the horse known as “Billy Woods” which ran against Dan Meek’s horse “Big Colt.”

The village of Greenfleld became quite a trading-point in 1839. Many newcomers had arrived and located in the vicinity. At that time coffee was 20 cents a pound; sugar, 121ŕ2; nails, 121ŕ2; starch, 25; tea, $1.50; saleratus, 25 cents; madder, 371ŕ2; alum, 25; sulphur, 25. Indigo was 20 cents per ounce; camphor, 25. Writing paper was 37 1/2 cents a quire; common andirons or “dog-irons,” $1.50 per pair. Almanacs were 121ŕ2 cents; calico was 37 1/2 cents per yard, whisky $1.00 per gallon and brandy, $2.00.

A list of the persons trading in Greenfield at that time is here given; and while it is not claimed to be a complete list, it will give names of many who then resided in this locality:

Pleasant Atkinson, Truman Allen,
John Armstrong, Jacob Bair,
Eli Butler, Joel Bond,
J. W. Bond, Jr., John C. Bond,
J. W. Bond, Sr., Wm. Barnet Bond,
Nathan Bond, Wm. G. Bond,
Benjamin Bond, Alanson Bostwick,
Isaac Bell, Wm. B. Blankenship,
John Butler, James Bay,
Stephen Babbet, Ezekiel Chambers,
Wm. Cutherd, James F. Chambers,
Lively Cayton, Asa Clevinger,
David Clevinger, S. D. Clevinger,
Joseph Craig, Walter Clark,
Otha Carr, Abel Chase,
Samuel Cochrane, James Carr,
Moses Doty, Peter Downey,
T. J. Defrice, Harvey Darneille,
Capt. John Darneal, Levett Emory,
John C. Foster, John Fisher,
Wm. A. Fish, G. Geer,
Wm. Gunter, Hiram Gray,
Jacob Gross, Francis George,
Thomas Gunter, Joseph Gunter,
Julius A. Hill, Elijah Hanon,
Wm. Hewett, Mahala Herrington,
Reuben Holeman, Ralph. Heath,
Levi Heath, Joel Hargrove,
John M. Hoisington, Reuben Hammond,
John Herrington, Peter Hedges,
Abraham Holeman, Stephen Howard,
Levi Hedges, Phebe Hedges,
Polly Hedges, J. E. Heath,
Edson Heath Sally Jones,
Jacob Johnson, Zack Jennings,
Wm. Johnson, Wm. Jared, Jr.
John Jared, Joseph Jared,
Thomas Jones, Ezra Jennings,
Aaron Jennings, Wm. Jones,
John Johnson, Edmond Jennings,
Wm. Jared, Sr., Sam. K. Kertley,
James Kelsey, Larnard Kidder,
Elijah Lieurance, Patrick Lynch,
B. W. Lewis, Abijah Lieurance,
John Long, Peter Lieurance,
Stephen Lieurance, Horace Mathews,
James Meadows, John Murphy,
Marlin McAdams, Wm. McMahill,
Henry McMahill, Thomas Moulton,
G. M. McCartney, Andrew Millstagle,
Samuel Morse, Henson C. Martin,
Elijah Meadows, W. R. Monroe,
John McMahill, James McMahill,
David Nickerson, John Plymate,
Daniel Perkins, Wm. H. Pierce,
Solon Powers, Stephen Pierce,
Aaron Powers, Amos Pierce,
Samuel Russel, Milton Powers,
Lauren Rose, Samuel Rodgers,
Jonathan Ratekin, Joseph Rodgers,
E.Roberts, Joseph Ratekin,
George Ratekin, Thomas Rogers,
Samuel Reynolds, John Riggs,
Wm. Reed, Abijah Roberts,
James Robinson, Thomas Reed,
Ephraim Smith, Joseph Robinson,
Joseph Sisson, Peter Simmons,
Wm.M. Sterling, James Simmons, Jr.,
Hasadiah Smith, George Simmons,
Robert M. Snapp, N. P. Swan,
Ashael Sisson, Samuel Simpson,
John B. Spinner, Samuel S. Smith,
Alexander Stanley, A. B. Smith,
Andrew Simmons, Rowland Simmons,
John Simmons, Francis Staat,
F. G. Snapp, James D. Smith,
James Simmons, Sr., Wm. Snapp,
Nathan Sutton, James Simmons (Stiller),
David Simmons, Sally Snapp,
David Smith, Peter Shoemaker,
Hiram Taylor, Ezekiel M. Snapp,
Wm. Tally, Charles Tinker,
Thomas Teeter, Wm. Trailor,
Charles Vandiver, Thomas Titus,
Wm. Vandiver, P. A. Vaughn,
Levi Wilder, John Vandiver,
Samuel Welty, Wm. Willard,
John Willard, Thomas West
T. J. Willard, Alfred White,
Alex. Willard, Edward White,
Jesse Wollard, Joseph Wilcher,
John P. Wood, Anna Walworth,
David Young, John Young,
John Young, Jr.-

The following named persons were also engaged in the mercantile business in Greenbush during the early days: F. G. Snapp, Cyrus Sisson, Hardin and Shreves, N. P. Tinsley, S. J. Buzan, Dr. Bailey Ragon, Merrill and Osborn (afterwards Merrill, Osborn and Merrill, a firm composed of Frederick H. Merrill, Alfred Osborn and Charles C. Merrill), Phelps and Shores (afterwards Wm. Shores), Wm. Snapp, Adams, Butler and Adams (a firm composed of David Adams, W. H. H. Butler and Riley Adams), James C. Johnson, John Terry, A. R. Harman, Wm. Randall, and John R. Snapp.

Of the early blacksmiths, Thomas Rodgers was about the first; afterwards Francis Staat, Amos Pierce, Thomas Darneille, Henzie Darneille, Milton Powers, Alfred Dowdy, Alexander McGrew, Connelius Hanks, Patrick H. Woods, Edward Taylor, Henry Hains, John Watson, Thomas Carroll, Noah D. Clark, Michael Carroll, and S. C. Irving.

The wagon-makers were James Fife, Joseph Parkins, Julius T. Lathrop, Lewis L. Ury, David Armstrong, Porter J. Jack, John Regan, John Brown, Isaac Fisher, James D. Simmons, Elijah Frampton, Stephen Lieurance, and Bennett Wood.

Some of the first doctors were Abel Chase, Bailey Ragon, Reamer A. Saunders, Thomas M. Luster, Dr. Lee, Dr. Agers, Richard Hammond, N. B. McKay, Dr. King, Wm. Randall, T. J. Shreves, Dr. Dow, John E. Alvord, Dr. Norris, W. D. Sterling, Dr. Randelson, and Dr. Campbell.

The following named persons kept hotel, or what was generally called tavern in those days: Charles Stice, Abner Walker, Jane Walker, Nathaniel Wilcox, Isaac Hanks, George A. Walker, Stephen Lieurance, David Young, Jacob Emrick, and A. R. Harman.

The shoemakers were Jacob Vosberg, Julius N. Hill, Wm. H. Pierce, Wm. Palmer, Wm. Glover, John C. McCall, Benjamin Swearinger, Jacob Lambert, Mr. McLaughlin, Jacob Long, Louis Lantz, Jacob Keneval, A. R. Louder, Andrew Bowman, and H. C. Brinckmeyer.

The following named persons worked at the cooper trade: Philip Karns, Lewis L. Ury, George Helterbridle, Wm. Shefler, Moses Romaine, and Thomas Kinney.

The harness-makers were Daniel Chapin, Oliver Crissey, Gad Chapin, James H. Crawford, Rodney Boone, James Perdun, James M. Frantz, Mathew Campbell, James Jenks, and Samuel L. Karns. Oliver Crissey learned the trade of harness-making of Daniel Chapin and was in the business in Greenbush in 1853 and 1854. Chapin sold to Crissey and bought a house and lot in Galesburg for two hundred dollars and then moved there. Rodney Boone and James H. Crawford worked for Crissey until he sold to Isaac Hanks. James H. Crawford then went to work for Hanks.

This man Crawford was a good workman and was considered honest and reliable, only he would take spells of drinking liquor. At one time he went to Burlington, got on a spree and was arrested, convicted and sent to the penitentiary at Ft. Madison, Iowa, for passing counterfeit money. It was believed by many that this counterfeit money was given him in change and that he did not know it was counterfeit. A petition for pardon with many signers was presented to the authorities in Iowa by Wm. May of Greenbush. Crawford was finally pardoned and came back to the residence of Isaac Hanks in McDonough county, where in a short time he died. This was in 1862. He was buried in the Bond graveyard on the north side.

The tailors in the earlier days of Greenbush were: James Francis, James F. Chambers, John Kramer, and Charles Rundlet.

The women of Greenbush and surrounding country cut and made the most of the clothing used at that time.

The carpenters and builders were: Archie Fisher, John Sheffield, Mr. Blackman, Levi Lincoln, Clinton Lincoln, Oscar Lincoln, John W. Nance, Henry Smith, David Armstrong, HenryKaufman, Wm. Thompson, Trumble G. Taylor, and John Bowman.

The following named persons were engaged in the business of selling drugs: D. R. Hamilton, Daniel Warner, Mr. Coleman, Dr. Pyle, and James M. Frantz.

The weavers in the village were Mary Almond, C. H. Raberding, and Sarah Young. In the township there were many looms and many families did their own weaving.

The old settlers passed through many hardships but they were generally stout, hearty, and rugged. They were also possessed of a kind, sympathetic nature. When any one was in trouble, his neighbors were sure to help him. Their dwellings were rude log-houses, chinked with blocks of wood and daubed with clay. The hearth was made of stone. The roof of these cabins was made of boards rived out with a fro. These boards were held on with weight poles. The door was hung on wooden hinges and had a wooden latch which was raised by pulling a string on the outside. The floor was generally made from logs split and hewed into what was called puncheons.

Very few nails were used in the construction of these cabins, as they were scarce and high in price. The wall plates were put on with wood pins. The lower part of the chimneys was built of sod the upper part of sticks and clay. Some of these cabins had one small window with 8 by 10 glass.

After the settlers had been here some time, some of them built double log-houses. These houses contained two rooms with chimney in center, thus making a fireplace in each room; the logs all being hewed, this was considered an extra house. The fireplaces generally had a pair of andirons or dog-irons as they were generally called. The fireplace used for cooking was sometimes supplied with a crane which was placed in the fireplace on hinges with a brace-bar running across on which was suspended hooks; on these hooks the kettles and pots were hung.

As a matter of fact these cabins did not always contain the same kind of household furniture, yet they generally had very much the same kind. When you pulled the latch string and went in, you found the bark-bottomed chairs; the water bucket hanging against the wall on a wooden peg and the gourd dipper near by, also the salt gourd; the bedstead with canopy top, curtains below, and a trundle-bed under it. This trundle-bed was pulled out every night and the children slept on it. The rifle hung in a rack over the door. There was a cupboard in the corner which contained some blue-edged plates, some blue and white cups and saucers, some tin plates with letters on them, a brown stone pitcher and some pewter spoons. The coffee mill was nailed to the wall. You also found a few crocks and jars.

The sop lamp was a very useful article. It was filled with lard or grease of some kind. The wick was made by twisting up a small piece of cotton cloth and placing it in the grease; it was then ready to light and stick in the wall. Those who had candles, used japanned tin candle-sticks and candle snuffers. Some families had tin candle-moulds and moulded their own candles from tallow. Families that did not have candle-moulds, often borrowed them.

Sometimes candles were made by dipping wicks in melted tallow; but these candles did not give good satisfaction. They were likely to go out and leave you in the dark; hence the saying, “Go out like an old-fashioned dip-candle.” The lantern was made of tin with holes punched in it to let the light out. You placed one-half of a candle in it, shut the door, and you were ready to go out in the dark.

It is claimed that Aaron Powers brought the first cook stove into the settlement when he came in 1839; but all of the old settlers for many years did their cooking on the fireplace. The women would put on their sunbonnet and pull it down over their face to keep the fire from burning them; set the iron teakettle on the fire, then put on the oven lid; and when it was hot, shovel some live coals on the hearth, set the oven on them; put in the dough, place the lid on the oven, then shovel some coals of fire on it; fry the meat in a long-handled skillet; and make the coffee by setting the coffee-pot on a bed of coals on the hearth. Coffee they did not always have. Milk was generally used during a meal. Sometimes they had Orleans or sugar-house molasses, but these were only used on special occasions.

It has been said that some of the storekeepers only kept one barrel of molasses, tapped each end of the barrel, and sold Orleans fromone end and sugar-house from the other.

There was nearly always a few bunches of yarn hanging on the wall in these cabins, it being the amount left over after weaving the jeans, linsey and blankets, and was used for stockings and socks. There were four cuts in each hank, and one hundred and twenty threads in each cut. Often the only books found in a house were Webster’s Spelling-Book, Aesop’s Fables, the family Bible, a hymn-book, and an almanac. These almanacs had Negro pictures in them and were on the comic order; they cost from ten to twelve and a half cents each.

The farmers had a breaking-plow, a one-horse “diamond” plow, and a single-shovel plow. After breaking up the ground in the spring, they marked it off both ways with the shovel plow for planting corn. The corn was dropped mostly by the girls and boys by hand from a small basket and then covered with hoes. These hoes were heavy and had an eye in them in which the handles were fastened. When the corn was weedy, they ploughed it with the one-horse diamond plow, running the bar next to the corn, then finishing with the shovel plow. The small grain was sown by hand, covered with a heavy “A” harrow or brushed in, was cut with a cradle and bound by hand. The threshing was sometimes done on a floor with a flail or tramped out with horses; later, by eight or ten-horse power threshers. The straw was dragged away from the tail of the machine by a horse hitched to a rail or pole, after which the straw was burned to get rid of it.

Occasionally a farmer would raise flax. This when ripe was pulled, stacked down, rotted, then broken with a flax-break, scutched, hackeled, spun and twisted into hanks. It was then woven into material for towels, table-cloths, ticking, and for various other uses.

Many farmers kept sheep and did their own shearing. The women picked the wool, carded it with hand cards into rolls, spun and wove it into flannel, linsey, and jeans. The men wore brown or blue jeans clothing-pants made with a flap in front, knit-yarn suspenders, and sometimes a coonskin cap. They also wore heavy cowhide boots or shoes. Overshoes were unknown at that time. The first overshoes that appeared were made from buffalo hides and were large and clumsy. They attracted considerable attention and were the talk of the neighborhood.

Some of the early settlers would buy leather and take it to the shoemaker who would measure the feet of the entire family and agree to make the shoes and have them done at a certain time. In this the shoemaker often failed and some of the family would have to wait.

Line Divider

Back Home Next