Athens Precinct – 1881

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ATHENS is situated in the south-eastern part of the county. It is separated from Fayetteville on the north by the Kaskaskia river; on the east and north-east from St. Clair by Big Mud Creek, except that part lying along the line of Washington county; on the south it is bounded by Randolph county; on the west by Monroe county and Fayetteville precinct, from both of which it is separated by the Kaskaskia river. Geographically it embraces most of T. 3 S. R. 7 W. [Township 3 South Range 7 West]; T. 3 S. R. 6 W., and parts of T. 2 S. R. 7 W., and T. 2 S. R. 6 W., in all 44,470 acres. It is well watered by the streams which are its boundaries, and numerous small affluents among them. Dosa creek, which enters the township three miles south of Marissa, on section 34, flows a north­westerly course, then westerly and southerly, leaving the township on section 33, seven miles west of where it enters. Belts of timber skirt the streams, but it is principally a beautiful prairie, in a high state of cultivation. Passing through it, diagonally, from north. west to south-east, is the Cairo Short Line Railroad, which furnishes means for transportation of surplus products, stock, etc. The honor of having been the first settler belongs to John Lively, who came from South Carolina, and located on section 34, T. 3 S. R. 7 W. in 1805. On November 28th, 1816, he entered the S.W. quarter of section 34, where he lived for several years.  Back to top

A few years later, probably 1810, Nathaniel Hill, Joshua Perkins, Reuben Stubblefield, James and Reuben Lively and Richard Beasley, senior, located in the same neighborhood. As a protection against the Indians, they constructed a blockhouse on Dosa creek, near the present site of Hillstown, (named for Nathaniel Hill.) It was built in the prevailing style of such structures, two stories high, the lower one provided with port-holes to shoot through, and also with strong puncheon doors, securely barred against entering from the outside. The second story projected over the first, enabling parties secreted within it to shoot down upon Indians attempting to gain access into the lower story. It was to this block-house that a son of Lively, who had been murdered in Washington county in March, 1813, and a hired man, made their escape before blood-thirsty savages. An account of this terrible tragedy may not be here amiss. Lively had left his home in this precinct to make a new one near Covington, Washington county, in company with David Huggins, a brother-in-law. They made one crop without being molested, in 1812. In 1813 Huggins returned to Monroe county. Friends importuned Lively to give up his place and join them at the block-house. He resolutely declined, saying, he had no fear of the red skins. His wife seemed to have a presentiment of the terrible scenes that were soon to be enacted. An account of the massacre, in the History of Washington county, is as follows: Lively had an enclosure into which he had his stock driven at night, to protect them from marauding bands of Indians. For several nights previous to the night that witnessed the fearful tragedy, Lively and his family were greatly disturbed. The stock gave evidence of their alarm by their unusual conduct; the dogs barked continuously, and Lively began to realize the imminent danger of himself and family. He frequently, with rifle in hand, would go out and search for the cause of the alarm, but his efforts to discover the source were unavailing. He endeavored to calm his wife’s fears by telling her it was nothing but wolves or other wild animals that created the disturbance. This, however, did not suffice to quiet her feelings, and she labored more assiduously to convince her husband that their safety depended on their immediate removal to the fort. The last night before the massacre was so exceedingly noisy that Lively began to lose his composure, and agreed to accede to the request of his wife and go to a place of safety. He began preparations for moving about two hours before sundown. He directed his son, hired hand and his nephew, to get up the horses while his wife and daughters milked the cows, and got things in readiness to start to the settlements. The young man and boy started in quest of the horses, leaving the old gentleman in the cow-pen with his wife and daughters, who were milking the cows. He was on the stump of a fallen tree with. his loaded rifle across his knees ready for use, chatting with his wife and daughters, whose spirits were buoyant in anticipation of leaving that dreaded place. But alas! their fond hopes were never to be realized! The young man and boy had proceeded but a short

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distance in the direction of the horses, when they were alarmed at the report of fire-arms in the direction of the house. They hurried to the scene of the firing, and when they had come in sight, a scene met their gaze that was calculated to freeze their hearts! The premises were covered with Indians; the death-dealing tomahawk and scalping-knife were doing their work of destruction. All were found where they were slain, on the premises, scalped, and their. bodies horribly mutilated, except one boy, who was found by a party that followed the Indians, beheaded and with a hole cut through his body, with his buckskin shirt drawn through it.”

The young man and boy made their way on foot to the block­house, wading Little Mud creek, whose waters were so high, that they reached the boy’s chin. They gave the alarm, and all occupants of the fort able to bear arms followed the savages, some of whom they killed.

Upon the abandonment of the block-house its occupants scattered to various parts of the country, only two or three families remaining in the neighborhood.

There are yet living representatives of the Hills and Livelys in this county. These pioneers followed the usual avocations and endured the hardships incident to such life. One of the Livelys located on section 34, where he lived for a number of years. To him whilst living here was born Mary Lively, who first enlivened the humble cabin of the Livelys in the spring of 1816. Peace had spread her fair wings, and when bands of Indians of the Tamarois tribe occasionally stopped at the house, they admired the little pale face, and bestowed on her presents more brilliant than useful.

In the fall of the same year, a man of great enterprise, who entertained, what at the time were considered extravagant ideas of the future of the country, a man among men,–a man whose love of liberty was learned amid the mountains of Switzerland, wended his way from the city of Philadelphia, where he had landed, across the Alleghenies; across the states of Ohio and Indiana; across Illinois until he halted upon the banks of the Kaskaskia, and looked upon a country fair to behold, a fit habitation for himself and friends. He determined on its possession, and lost no time in making his way to Kaskaskia, where he laid claim to a number of sections of land, paying earnest money on the same. The following year he returned to his native land, doubtless with fairy sounding stories of the wondrous land of his adoption. In 1818 Bernhardt Steiner, for that was the name of the Swiss Pioneer, returned, bringing with him several families, among them Jacob Hardy, the Wildys and others. His operations were all planned on a liberal. scale. He commenced merchandizing on what is now called Dutch Hill. A great scarcity, of salt was complained of throughout the scattered settlement. He in 1820 went to Kaskaskia, constructed a raft, loaded it with salt and goods, and by the aid of others, poled it up the river. A stroke of enterprise highly commended by the early pioneers. In 1822, through his persuasion, a nephew, Peter Baumann, a scholar and a gentleman of means, came from Switzerland, it is supposed, to form a co-partnership with him. Before his arrival Steiner died, or was killed. As related by those most likely to be conversant with the facts, he had started with considerable money in his possession, on horseback for Kaskaskia, to complete his payment on lands he had already selected. On his way he was intercepted and killed, his body being found, some time during the night, near a cabin where a dance was going on. His relatives and friends knew not of his death for several days, when his body was obtained and buried on section 10, near by, a mile from the present site of Dutch Hill. Baumann heard of this tragic death while on his way hither. Among the pleasant dreams of Steiner was that of founding a city on the river near his home. His untimely death for a time checked the prospects of the Swiss settlement, although the arrival of Baumann gave it fresh impetus. It is yet firmly believed by many that Steiner buried large sums of money near Dutch Hill, for, which fruitless search has often been prosecuted.

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There were no schools in reach, so Mr. Baumann determined to make the best of a bad outlook, taught his own children, giving them fair educations. He was the scholar of the settlement; an adviser in trouble. To him all looked for guidance, or for drawing up any papers. Often did he wish he had never left his native land, and as often picked up fresh courage to surmount the difficulties which beset the pathway of a pioneer. To him was born Peter Baumann, Jr., June 23d, 1823, believed to have been the first born Switzer in the county. In 1825 he erected a horse mill, which was run for many years, each patron furnishing his own power for grinding his grist. He also was the first postmaster, appointed in 1840, to keep the office called Lively, which he did at his own house.

To the south of the Swiss settlement, in the immediate neighborhood of John Lively, already mentioned, there came a New Englander, direct from the” land of steady habits (Connecticut),” Chauncey S. Burr in 1820, after a sojourn of two years at Kaskaskia. His conveyance hither was a singular Yankee combination of carriage and boat. Upon reaching a river he took off the running gear, put it into the bed, and paddled or poled his way across the stream. It is related that on the banks of the Wabash he was thought by the inhabitants to be possessed of a spirit. So he was, but it was the indomitable spirit of enterprise which drives success before it. In his humble cabin, on sect. 27, he had a looking-glass, the first brought to the locality. Wyatt Stubblefield, then a lad, espied himself therein ,and rushed out of door to find” that other boy.” He was the first Justice of the Peace in his vicinity. The first wedding ceremony he performed was that of Jacob Hardy to Elizabeth Wildy, Aug. 2d, 1832. He was a conspicuous character at every sale that came off in his vicinity. His wife, Mrs. Permelia Burr, was the first elder of the Presbyterian church at Kaskaskia, to which point although it was twenty miles distant she rode horseback whenever the weather would permit. Norton’s Presbyterianism in Illinois, says, “In 1819 or 20 she became the owner of a colored woman. But she was illy satisfied with the relation and often plead for her freedom, but could not prevail. At length they parted with her. After being owned by another for a time the poor colored slave woman was murdered. Mrs. Burr says she could never think of it, but with horror.”

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Another and very eccentric pioneer, was Reuben Lively. He bought the Athens ferry of Ira Manville, Sr., who first established it, and kept it for many years. He also furnished entertainment for travelers. In this capacity he was known for many miles around. As parties would stop to ask for lodging he would insult them, sometimes even going so far as call to his son to bring him his shot gun, to drive away the intruders, then as they would start away he would doff his mask and say, “I guess the old woman has a crust of bread and a pile of straw in one corner for you, come in.” No matter how rough he was, or how much incensed travelers became, Lively never neglected to make all right. To him a son, William Lively, was born in Dec., 1816, the second birth in the precinct.

Among other early settlers were George and Jack Baggs, Robin McDonald, Thos. James and John Rainey.

As early as 1831 a school-house, better than pioneer school­houses usually are, in that, to use the expression of a pioneer who attended there, “They did make out to have a puncheon floor,” was

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erected in section 34. The teacher, Isaac Hill, contrary to custom had a regular boarding place at John Lively’s. Several pupils from abroad likewise boarded there. In all there were as many as thirty scholars. It was a subscription school at $2.50 per pupil for three months’ tuition. In the north-eastern part of the precinct in 1836 a school-house was built on Mud Creek, a primitive log affair without a floor other than that furnished by mother earth, and yet it was not “without its pretentions, as there were four or five small panes of glass fitted in between the logs, by Mr. Wilson, the husband of Mrs. Martha Wilson, the first teacher. As the neighbors said,” Mr. Wilson was a handy man.”

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A Scotchman named Kirkwood was claimed to have been the first preacher, resident in the precinct. He preached in his own house to the neighbors who gathered to hear him. He was an Old School Presbyterian. This was in 1829. Prior to this there had been occasional services by traveling preachers.

As illustrative of the faithfulness of some of these pioneers, it is said that Mrs. Rebecca Greene, wife of Sir Francis Burdette Greene, who located on Sect. 27, T. 3 S. R. 6 W., 1826, walked to attend church near Sparta, ten miles distant, carrying an infant in her arms, that too, when life was endangered by wandering bands of Indians.

As early as 1837 a steamboat, called the “Wild Duck,” steamed up the Kaskaskia as far as Carlyle, thus opening up a new era in the prosperity of this county. Athens, which had been laid out Sept. 21st, 1836, by Narcisse Pensoneau, took on city airs (on paper,) Plats of the” future great” showing churches, public parks, steamboats at the levee, and crowded thoroughfares were circulated through the eastern cities, and much property was exchanged for merchandise of various kinds.

The first Land entries (read note 3 re: land) were by Andrew White, 160 acres, it being the S. E ¼, section 33, September 29, 1814; Robert Morrison, 160 acres, being the N. E. ¼, section 34, September 11,1816; John Lively, 160 acres, being the S. W. ¼, section 34, November 28, 1816; Nathaniel Hill, 320 acres, it being the S. W. ¼, section 28, and S. E ¼, section 29, September 14, 1814; Thomas Nichols, 134 acres, it being the N. W. ¼, section, March 18, 1815; Daniel P. Cook, 160 acres, it being the S. E. ¼, section 27, July 26,1817, all in T. 3 S. R. 7 W.; and by Adam Henderson, 80 acres, being the W. ½ of the S. E. ¼, section 30, September 30, 1816, in T. 2 S. R. 6 W.; and by Henry T. Whitman, 160 acres, being the N. E. ¼, section 15, July 8, 1818; and by James Morrison, 160 acres, being the N. W. ¼, section 10, June 29, 1818, both in T. 3 S. R. 6 W.

The first threshing machine used in the precinct was that by Baumann Bros. in 1854. It was bought by them in Alton. It was a horse power.

Isaac Hil1 was licensed to keep a tavern at what is now the village of New Athens in 1816, paying into the County Treasury the sum of four dollars per annum for the privilege. This was the nucleus of the town itself. It drew to the vicinity other settlers, and trade demanded the location of the

Town of New Athens

NEW ATHENS, or Athens, as it was first called, was laid off by Narcisse Pensoneau in 1836. It consisted of forty-eight blocks, comprising 461 lots and a public square. Streets were of a uniform width of 66 feet, save Water, which was 99 feet wide. It is beautifully situated, and at times has seemed destined to become a city of considerable size only to lapse again almost into a series of farms. At first it grew rapidly, reaching as great a population, it is claimed, as 1,500 inhabitants. In 1851 there were only five inhabitants. The first business house was a general store of Narcisse Pensoneau. The first physician was Dr. A. Trapp in 1837, the second Dr. Edward Klinckhardt, who is still a resident. George Rock kept entertainment for travellers in 1838. During the same year the first mill (a saw mill and corn cracker) was built. John Irwin was the first teacher; he taught in 1836. William Brock burned the first kiln of brick in 1838 or 9. A house built of some of the brick still stands a quarter of a mile south-east of New Athens. It was built and at first occupied by Pensoneau. The prospects were bright, but reverses came, and in fifteen years the town was quite deserted, when a fresh impetus was given it by the opening of a store by Baumann Bros.

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Again it revived. The steamboat” Pearl” undertook to make regular trips, followed shortly after by the” Silver Lake.” In 1852 a post-office was established and William H. Bennett was appointed Postmaster. Was succeeded in 1856 by William Baumann, who continued as such until near the close of Lincoln’s administration. The Athens Mill Company was incorporated and mill built in 1857 at a cost of $18,000. The company also bought the steamboat” Wild Duck” to ply upon the river between Athens and Kaskaskia.

Great confusion resulted from the fact that there was another Athens in the State. Baumann Bros. had 14 case3 of boots and shoes and other merchandize shipped from Boston during the winter of 1855-6 which reached its destination the following spring, having wintered at Athens, Menard county. A change was made in the name from Athens to New Athens, in 1868.

In 1868 the Era was established and published by William Baumann.

In 1866 New Athens was incorporated by election, all residents excepting eight voting in favor.

The first Board of Trustees was elected December 8, 1866. It consisted of William Darmstetter, John Einge, Joseph Flach, H. M. Perryman and Gustav Huelbig.

In 1868 an effort was made to improve the navigation of the Kaskaskia, in which citizens of New Athens were quite active. A company was organized. Subscriptions were made but the locks and dams were never put in; the railroad superseded the movement.

The first train of cars on the Cairo Short Line from St. Louis crossed the bridge on New Year’s day, 1870.

The Methodist Church was built in 1869; the Catholic in 1870; the Lutheran in 1878; and the German Evangelical in 1879.

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New Athens, which a few years ago boasted from twelve to fifteen hundred inhabitants, had by the census of 1880 only 603. The destruction of the mill by fire in 1879, and competition with other railway towns have contributed to this result.

At present the leading business houses are:
Dry Goods Merchants-Joseph Flach, Isfried Probst, C. Stolz, F. H. Holst, William Wimer.
Druggists-Louis Schenck, Henry Dose.
Hotels-” New Athens,” by Peter Deichmann; “Bennett,” by Daniel Bert; “Tremont,” by Cristoph Heinnemann; “Illinois,” by Mrs. William Geiger.
Printing Office-Hauft Bros.
Machine Shops-Degen Bros. manufacture plows, wagons, cultivators. and do repairing.
Brewery-Jacob Hooss, built in 1853, original cost $3,000,

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enlarged in 1866 at an expense of $9,000, finds a home market for all its products. Capacity, 31,000 gals. annually.
Milliners-Mrs. Catherine Judd, Mrs. J. Lively.
Blacksmith-Gain Bros.
Elevator-Russell Hinckley, capacity, 5000 bushels. Built in 1880.
Physicians-Dr. F. Reder, Dr. R. J. Watts, and Dr. Klinckhardt.
Lumber Yard-Fritz Oberbek.
There are ten saloons.


New Athens Lodge, No. 588, I.0.0.F., was organized October 16, 1875, with ten charter members, R. J. Watts as N.G. Present membership, about thirty.


The village of Marissa was laid off by James Stewart, Dec. 12th, 1867, it being the east middle part of the west one-half of south­west quarter sec. 2 , embracing 39 lots. To the original plats additions have been made by John W. Hesker of 21 lots east of original plat, January 28, 1869, and by W. E. C. Lyons of 54 lots to the south, January 29th, 1870. It now has a population of about sixty inhabitants. It contains a general store by Henry Strassinger & Co.; blacksmith, Henry Hacket ; and two. saloons. To the north one quarter of a mile are Coulter’s mills, Henry Schlosstein, proprietor, built by Archibald Coulter in 1852; capacity 100 barrels per day; three run of stone; brick, with frame attachment. Original cost, $15,000.


one of the livest villages in the county, was laid out by M. E. and J. C. Hamilton, Jan. 5, 1871, on the Cairo Short Line Railroad, which divides into the north and south divisions. It occupies the central part of the north-west quarter of section 27. Originally there were 99 lots, 50 north and 49 south of the railroad. To these additions have been made at various times to meet the demands of growth, which have been quite regular and steady. Its population is about 300.

The name Marissa was selected by James Wilson, the first post­master appointed in 1846, who showed his love for ancient history by selecting a name preserved alone in Latin records. It was the name of a city destroyed and afterwards rebuilt by Gabinius, and is believed to be the only place in the world of the name. Messrs. Hamilton and Hayes opened the first store at the station in 1871.

John Hamilton, one of the founders of the town, a man of great energy, came to this county from South Carolina in 1834, and located on sec. 28. M. E. Hamilton built the first house, now used as a station-house. It was built for the storage of grain.


Marissa Bank.-By Hamilton, Kunze & Co.; A. H. Wells, cashier; was established Sept. 1st, 1879. First and only bank in the precinct.
Marissa Elevator.-By F. A. Reuss & Co.; was built in 1877; has a capacity of 32,000 bush.; Jacob Adam, manager.
Marissa Mill and Elevator.-A. J. Meek builder and proprietor, was erected in 1877. The mill has a capacity for turning out 65 barrels of flour per diem, has four run of stone, elevator; capacity 4,500 bushels.
Dry Goods.-M. E. Hamilton & Co.; M. W. Borders & Co. ; Wyllie Bros.
Druggists.-Lyons & Strassinger.
Hotels.-” Marissa House,” by J. R. Helbron ; “Hamilton House,” by James A. Coppedge; and” Globe House,” by Philip Kirchhoeffer.
Hardware.-J. H. Hamilton & Co.
Stoves and Tinware.–A. Wasem.
Gents’ Furnishing House.-J. W. Stewart.
Jeweler.-A. L. Blankenmeister.
The Marissa Monitor was established by John ‘Wells.
Livery and Agricultural Implements-S. J. Guthrie. Furniture-L. Vierheller, Jr. Agricultural Implements.-Robert Mearns.
Wagon Maker.-Charles Stewart.
Lumber Dealers.- W. M. K. Lyons, Francis ‘White. Saddlery.-H. E. Mitze.
Carpenters.-J. W. Elder & Co., M. M. Lively, J. K. Nelson, William Little.
Butchers.-John Hotz, A. Buser.
Post-master.-Daniel Zihledorf. .
Lawyer.-A. Lyons.
Physicians.-A. P. Coulter, J. G. Guthrie, W. O. Wilcox.
Justice of the Peace.-James A. Coppedge.
Churches.-Reformed Presbyterian, built in 1855; United Presbyterian, in 1871; and Baptist, in 1875.

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Marissa Lodge, No. 602, I.O.O.F., was organized Sept. 21st, 1876, with five charter members, M. M. Lively, N. G. Present N. G., E. D. McLean.
Evening Star Lodge, No. 654, I.O.O.F., was organized May 20th, 1878, with nine charter members; Philip Kirchhoefer, N. G.
Harmonia Lodge, No. 13, U. O. T. B., was instituted Feb. 6th, , with ten charter members.


Here, again, we have old and new towns, not a half mile apart. The old town was laid off by T. A. Schneider, November 7th, 1862, it being the N. W. ¼ of the N. W. ¼ of section 7, T. 3 S. R. 6 W., and the adjoining fraction of the S. W. ¼ of section 6. Since the iron horse has superseded the old-fashioned mail coach, the town has lost its trade to a great degree. It now has a general store by Adam Wesel, a blacksmith shop and saw-mill. The name was bestowed by Peter Baumann in honor of his native village, in Switzerland.


Population about 150, and rapidly increasing. Was laid off by P. J. Dreher, October 4th, 1876, on the S. E. ¼ of the N. E. ¼ of section 12, T. 3 S. R. 7 W., containing 81 lots. Its business is rapidly increasing.
Business houses are:
General Store, Peter J. Dreher.
Hotel, Hermann Heinike, Frederick Deutchmann.
Elevator, Henry Serth.
Wagon Maker, Charles Vogler.
Blacksmiths, David Haensel, Philip Keim.
Physician, Miles Hughes.
Lenzburg post-office was located in 1866, P. J. Dreher, P. M., who has ever since held the office. There is a neat German Evangelical church building, which was erected in 1879.

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Was laid off and named by Fred Griebel, March 16th, 1867, on the S. W. of the S. W. ¼ of section 11, T. 3 S. R. 7 W. A brewery had been established on the site by Edward Griebel, in 1844 or 5. Long since destroyed.


Was laid off by Jacob Frech, April 2d, 1855, on the east side of the S. E. ¼ of the S. W. ¼ of section 18, T. 3 S., R. 6. W., being the first town laid out in the congressional township.

The first coal mine in the township was opened by George W. Morgenthaler, near Lenzburg, in 1865.

The Covenanters, or Reformed Presbyterians, built a house of worship half a mile south of Marissa Station, in 1856.

Among additional industries in the township should be mentioned a saw-mill, owned by Hermann Yunk, on section 29, T. 3 S., R. 7 W.


On the 10th of July, 1844, there occurred, near Athens, the drowning of five persons. As narrated by Otto Huelbig, one of the party: “Seven of us started to attend a wedding. Before reaching theOkaw we had to cross a slough. The waters were much swollen. Unfortunately the wagon upset, caused by the ladies rushing to the front, where my father and myself were seated. My mother, three sisters and a Miss Lena Williams, found watery graves, whilst my father and myself escaped a like death.”


Was committed in the month of May, 1854, at the house of Henry

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Snyder, section 3, T. 3 S., R. 7. One Valentine Klaus, it seems, loved his step-daughter, or so professed, and feigning illness, had her come to his bedside at Snyder’s, where, after a short conversation, he shot her with a bullet that had been cast in a thimble; immediately he sprang from the room, climbed a ladder leading to the loft, and shot himself with a pistol. Death ensued at once.

This precinct was organized June 5th, 1839, and embraced within its limits the precinct of St. Clair, which was stricken off in 1870. The first election was held in the fall of 1839, at the store of James Turkington.. Reuben Lively, Adam McDonald and Isaac Rainey, were the first judges of election.

White Oak Mine, for the mining of coal, the second most extensive coal-shaft in the county, is located on section 35, nearly two miles south-east of Marissa. It is one hundred and seventy-five feet deep; the vein is about six and a half feet in thickness; gives employment to one hundred men; is operated by steam-power; its products are shipped to St. Louis. Proprietors are Donk, Tijou & Co. Shipments amount to nearly twenty cars a day.

Agriculturally, Athens is an excellent body of land, producing luxuriant crops. Dutch Hill, on an elevation, surrounded by a fine expanse of prairie, overlooks nearly all the precinct. Few finer views are anywhere presented than this. Farm-houses, neat and comfortable; barns good and substantial greet the eye on every hand. This precinct perpetuates a name handed down honorably for centuries as that borne by the Grecian capital and the world’s seat of learning. The projectors of the village on the banks of the river, and from which it directly derives its name, I had originally in mind to make it a seat of learning, as plats first named clearly show.
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