The St. Clair County Courthouse
completed in 1861
St. Clair County Genealogical Society (SCCGS)
Helping genealogists discover their Illinois roots since 1977.
More 1881 histories
Precincts were those areas of the county that later became townships in 1884. Precincts defined the boundaries of polling districts for local and state elections. Justices of the Peace were elected for each precinct and carried out some civil legal functions. For example, a Justice of the Peace could peform a marriage and hear legal disputes between two parties. While all marriages were to be recorded at the county level, the J.P. was only required to keep a docket of minor civil disputes, not a full record of the proceedings. Very few dockets survive to this day.
Early Settlers.–The first settlements were made in the northeastern part on the prairies overlooked by and contiguous to Turkey Hill. The sound of the woodman’s axe first sent forth its cheer, felling timber preparatory to the erection of a cabin in 1802. The axeman was Joseph Carr, who with his family came from Virginia to find homes in the west. They came by raft dawn the Ohio to Fort Massac, where they forsook their "broad wagon," as such means of transportation was called, and made their way via Kaskaskia, following. an old trail on horseback and all foot, to section 13, which Carr selected as an abiding place. With him were his sons Conrad; Abner, Jacob; and Henry, strong armed, stalwart pioneers, ready to meet and defeat hardship in whatever guise it came. Joseph Carr made yet merrier music in the ears of other pioneers than that of a hastily swung axe, by the changes he rung upon his anvil. He thought a blacksmith's kit of tools a good thing for a backwoods country, and brought a set with him. An aged pioneer, whose fourscore years have been numbered, says that Carr was as good a man as ever lived, although he had a disregard for religious services, as illustrated by his taking a hunt along the Okaw on Saturday and Sunday, whenever his son-in-law, James Garrison, a preacher from Monroe county, held services at his house, which he often did.
In the following year, 1803, David Phillips located near by, bringing with him a family of six sons and five daughters, leaving one son behind. His daughters found favor in the eyes of the young backwoods gentry, and two sisters were married shortly after their arrival to the brothers, Conrad and Abner Carr. As though that were not matrimonial duality sufficient, two others married two brothers, Henry and Crisley Stout. David Philips was originally from North Carolina, where he was born in 1755. He served with honor in the Revolutionary war; and having aided in wresting the colonies from British tyranny, he sought a fair spot whereon to rear his family, moved to Tennessee, thence to Kentucky, and when in the full vigor of manhood, he heard praises of Illinois, he once again took up his line of march, led his family through the wilderness found the Mecca of his hopes, and spent the evening of his life in happy repose.
The same year came Jacob Short from Kentucky, and settled in the same vicinity, a little to the south, He was a "six-footer,"
heavily built, athletic and defiant. Once he shot at, and wounded a deer, which went bounding away, the blood spurting from its side at every jump. Short followed up his game, and came upon an Indian leisurely "skinning his meat." What followed is a matter of conjecture. Short got his venison, and said "he made one Indian promise he would never take another deer from a white man." It was generally believed he killed the red skin. He was a member of the first Legislative body elected in Illinois. This Assembly convened at Kaskaskia, November 25th, 1812.
Children of these pioneers had the advantage of a school taught by John Bradsby on Turkey Hill, a little north of this precinct, as early as 1808. Then for a series of years no such facilities were offered. Indeed, it was not until 1824, that a school was regularly opened in this precinct. In the mean time additions had been made to the population by the arrival of the families of Higgins, 1818, Smiths, 1819, and Lamb, 1818. Timothy Higgins staked his claim to the west of the settlements already made, on Prairie du Long prairie, not far from the present site of Georgetown. He, as well as the Smiths, were regular down-easters, from far away Maine. Sturdy and vigorous as the old pine trees of their native state, they were well calculated to endure the hardships of pioneer life. Samuel Smith was a Baptist preacher and blacksmith. "He worked at blacksmithing for a living, and preached for a good conscience." Preaching brought him nothing-not even yellow-legged chickens for dinner-they hadn't come into fashion yet, nor did officiating at weddings replenish his exchequer extensively, as on one occasion a candidate for matrimonial honors proposed payment in coon skins for his services-and the coons had yet to be caught.
"Uncle" Billy McClintock (a name familiar to the old settlers) taught the first school in the precinct in 1824, or rather commenced doing so. Christmas time he found himself barred out, because he wouldn't treat to whiskey. He climbed upon the roof, displaced two or three clap-boards, with which it was covered, dropped down among the scholars, and offered to compromise by treating to cider. Robert and Benjamin Higgins (both larger than McClintock) stood out for whiskey, saying it had never been denied them in Maine. McClintock still pressed his compromise, whereupon the Higgins' boy picked him up and carried him out of the house. McClintock plead to be released to join his brothers and sisters, disclaiming his intention of going home, and of quitting the school, which he did. Benjamin Higgins often declared the breaking up of the school the sorriest day's work he had ever been guilty of.
The first marriages we have already mentioned. The first births were of girls, double cousins, both named Sarah Carr, and born respectively in the winters of 1803 and 1804. Sallie Carr, now Miller, born in 1803 is still living in the precinct. Joseph Chance, as early as 1806, preached the Baptist faith in this vicinity. His preaching places were at "every man's house." as he was always. welcome.
The Kickapoo Indians made friendly visits now and then, and yet under the guise of friendship still lurked the savage nature and many petty depredations were committed by them.
South from the settlement already mentioned in T. 2 S., R 8 W. [Township 2 South Range 8 West], there lived, as early as 1814, one Thomas W. Talbot, who was married to Hetty Scott the same year. To them Wm. S. Talbot was born, June 19, 1815, and Hillery S. Talbot, who yet resided there in 1816.
At this time two saw-mills were in operation, yet further south and west, one by James M. Davidson on Prairie du Long creek, and the other by Moses Quick, on Richland. Neither of these mills were run a great length of time. Moses Quick was of a speculative turn of mind, and preferred dealing in stock to sawing lumber. He and his brother Aaron were probably the earliest settlers in their vicinity, which was on the outskirts of the region of country protected by Whiteside's station. The early pioneers frequently had occasion to flee to this station as a safeguard against the Indians.
As early as September, 1815, a road was projected from Belleville to Quick's mill, and in February of the following year one from Belleville, via Davidson's mill to the county line, was viewed and ordered by Moses Short, Joseph Carr and James M. Davidson. An open roadway caused wagons and carts to come into vogue as a means of transportation of "plunder," as household goods were universally called. Usually these carts were provided with solid wooden wheels, without a vestige of iron. Their creaking could be heard across a section of land.
The early settlers showed great enterprise by repudiating the stick and mud chimneys and substituting therefor brick, which the opening of a brick-yard by the Carrs, Higgins and others in 1820, enabled them to do. The first brick burned for house building was at a much later date, by Ben. Smith, on land of Thouvernot, west of Georgetown, perhaps 1830.
A saw mill was built by Timothy Higgins, on the west fork of Richland creek in 1833. It had an upright saw run by water power. The first circular saw was used in a mill on Forcade field, about 1850.
John Smith, during a great scarcity of water which prevailed in the hot summer of 1821, whilst engaged in carrying it, fell dead. This was the first death of an adult of which we have any account.
A water-mill for grinding corn was built on Richland creek in T. 1 8., R. 9 W, by Billings and Taylor, in 1833.
Many of the descendents of these pioneers are yet living in the precinct surrounded by the comforts of life, the rightful inheritance of industry and earnest effort. Schools and churches abound; for fuller accounts of which see educational and ecclesiastical chapters of this work. [Not transcribed for this web page.] The precinct was organized June 5th, 1839. The first election was held at the house of Robert Higgins. Nathan Arnott. Edward Tate, and .John McCully were elected as judges.
FIRST LAND ENTRIES.(1)
The first land entries were by Samuel Scott, Sr., of 213.93 acres, in Secs. 22 and 14; by heirs of J. H. Moore 160 acres S. W. ½ Sec. 2, and 160 acres S. E. ¼ Sec. 3, December 3, 1814; by Hugh McClintock the S. E. ¼ of Sec. 10, the N. E. of Sec. 11, and S. W., ¼ of Sec. 11, in all 480 acres, Sept. 17, 1817; by Henry Carr, 160 acres, being the N. E. ¼ Sec. 10, Sept. 11, 1817; by Balser Null, 80 acres, being the W. ½ W. ¼ Sec. 14, Jan. 10,1817, and by Thomas B. Talbot, 80 acres, being the E. ¼, S. E. ¼ Sec. 15, Sept. 15, 1817, all the above being in T. 2, R. 8 W [Township 2 (South) Range 8 West] . and by John Reynolds, Senior, 160 acres, being the S. W. ¼ Sec. 24, Dec. 21, 1818; by James B. Moore, 80 acres, being the E. ¼ N. W. ¼, Sec. 23; Dec. 22,1818, and John Dunlap, 80 acres, being the E. ¼ of N. E. ¼, Sec. 12 July 26, 1830, all in T. 2 S. R. 9 W. Before any governmental surveys had been made, J. Edgar, the largest land owner in his day in Illinois, located claim No. 2209, and under his direction survey No. 667 was made, including 5968 acres (found by subsequent and more accurate surveys to contain 6325 acres) Nov. 20, 1798. Of this tract 5825 acres lay in this precinct, and is known as the Tamaroas prairie tract. Edgar obtained the claim by buying up headrights of 400 acres each and militia rights of men serving in 1790, by virtue of which they were entitled to 100 acres of land each. In all it is claimed that Edgar obtained near 40,000 acres of such lands, which were among the best in Illinois. In the north
eastern part of the township there are located several claims of like character, either wholly or in part in this precinct. They are claims 992, survey 390; claim 350, survey 382; and survey 772. These were selected in the years 1798 and 1799, and afterwards confirmed.
There are in this precinct several villages, named respectively, Georgetown, Smithton (which to all intents are one and the same, a street simply separating them), Flora, Paderborn, and Douglas. Georgetown was platted November 25th, 1853, by George Fischer. It comprised four blocks, one of which had already been purchased by Christian Melinda, John Drasur and George Storger. The two Georges, Fischer and Storger, being interested in the plat, concluded to name the village for themselves, and bestowed upon it their common given name, hence it was called Georgetown. To the original town Fischer made an addition of seventy-six lots, it being the east half north-east quarter section 33, T. 1, R. 8, October 4th, 1859.
Smithton (the post-office name) was laid off by Benjamin I. Smith, April 29th, 1854, in fourteen lots. It lies to the east of Georgetown. Several additions have been made, notably by the Franklin Mill Company, of the north-west quarter of the north-east quarter section 33, May 27, 1859; by Amos T. Barker, of 48 lots north of the above, July 29th, 1859; and by B. I. Smith, his fourth addition of thirty-two lots, April 27th, 1865; and by Christ. Gauch, of forty-eight lots, March 15, 1867. The population of the combined village is about 550.
The first house was built and used as a tavern by George Storger . In in 1853 Christian Melinda built the second, and used part of it as a shoe shop. The first store was kept by Ben. Smith, who also held the first appointment as post-master in 1853.
A reading club, organized in 1860, has a library of choice works numbering about five hundred volumes. Present officers are: Dr. W. H. Laeuffert, president, and Henry Henn, librarian. It is kept up by monthly contributions of ten cents each from its members.
A brewery, built in 1858 by George Schmidt, was operated until 1869, when it was converted into Farmers' Hall, which it still continues to be.
In 1868 a company was formed numbering sixteen or seventeen stockholders, to build a mill, which was done the same year at a cost of $17,000. Stock rapidly changed hands, and finally the mill passed into the hands of those enterprising millers, F. A. Reuss & Co. Its manufacture of flour, which is held in high esteem, is shipped direct to Europe in sacks of two hundred pounds each. It has the best improved machinery, and despite remoteness from market, does a large business. It has four run of stones having a capacity for the production of about a hundred barrels of flour per day.
A society called the High Prairie Debating and Literary Society was organized in 1835, and, singular to relate, it has held regular sessions ever since. There is in possession of its officers a written record reaching from January 29th, 1842, to the present time. At first the society held its weekly sessions, alternating between three school-houses, the Potter, the Nat. Smith, and the Thompson.
The first question debated after the adoption of a constitution in 1842 (it seems to have been kept up without such an instrument prior to that date), was: "Resolved, That the present tariff is oppressive to a majority of the people of the United States." Of the members of this society several have filled honorable positions in life-among them, Amos Thompson and B. J. Smith, members of the state legislature; Jacob Eyman, county treasurer; John McCulley, member of the state constitutional convention of 1847 ; Harbert Patterson, a leading Methodist preacher, and others.
Several coal mines have been operated in the vicinity of Georgetown, mostly from hill-sides, thus becoming banks in contradistinction to shafts.
A saw mill, three quarters of a mile south-east of town, built by Henry Sippert in 1878, employs five men. It is operated by steam power; it is provided with a circular saw of sixty inches diameter.
The business industries of the combined villages are as follows:
General Merchants..-Press and Daesch, George Stoerger, George Seibert.
Druggists.-George J. Eimer, J. C. Bock.
Physicians.- W. H. Laeuffert, J. C. Bock.
Hotels.-Franklin tavern by H. Keim, a stone building erected in 1853, by Geo. Stoerger, Adam Herold, Paul Boll.
Blacksmiths.-Leonard Schanz, Charles Frank, Jacob Sieben.
Wagon Maker.-John Brendel, Fred. Germann.
Books and Stationery and P. M.-Jacob Thress.
Agricultural Implements.-Eimer and Crossmann.
Saddler and Harness.- Daniel Klein.
Churches.-Catholic, built in 1868, cost $6000; Protestant Lutheran, built same year, cost $5000. There are seven saloons in the villages
was laid off by Frederick Horn, May 28th, 18 --, being part of the S. ½ of N. E. ¼ of section 11, T. 2 S., R. 9 W. in fifty lots. To the original village two additions have been made by the founder, April 23d, 1859, and August 30th, 1864. Its business is as follows:
Stores.-Christ. Horn, Henry Sensel.
Blacksmiths.-Andrew Franke, Henry Schneider. Post-master-C. Horn.
Saloons.-John Dill, Christ. Lindauer.
A Protestant (free) church is located here. Building is frame. Erected 1848.
was laid off. by Valentine Berg, August 18th, 1862, on the N. E. corner of the W. ½ of section 13, T. 2, S.,R. 9 W. It is a small village, having a Catholic church, a general store by Broess, and a half dozen dwelling houses.
Richland precinct was established June 5th, 1837; the first election was held at the residence of Robert Higgins. Nathan Arndt, Edward Tate, and Philip Creamer acted as Judges. It derived its name from the creek which passes through it, and this in turn from the richness of the soil which lay upon either side of it.
(1) These lands are the Public Domain Land Sales which began in 1814. Lands were granted before 1814 as preemption (squattors’) rights, grants, donations, and militia rights. The Illinois State Archives has an online index to all Public Domain Land Sales in Illinois and can also provide documentation for Preemptions.