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   Early Settlers
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Land entry records show that prior to 1830, most of the land purchases were made by those early settlers who were venturing out from Beck and Cold Spring settlements. They were still wanting high ground so they could look out over the surrounding country, possibly for protection from the Indians. In 1822, john Depew purchased eighty acres in Section 31, 9N, 2E (Bowling Green Township). Also in 1822, John Wakefield purchase eighty acres in Section 26, 10N, 2E, and James Fruit purchased eighty acres in Section 27 (Cold Spring Township).

As the early settlers became established, the need arose for services and a government to administer those services. The following excerpts are taken from the records of the First County Commissioners of Fayette County which at that time still included Shelby county.

"April 16, 1821…Ordered that a tax of fifty cents be levied on each hundred dollars worth of taxable property…according to the valuation thereof, and that the following property be subject to taxation, to wit: town lots, carriages, clocks, watches, horses, and cattle three years old and upwards…"

"April 17, 1821…Ordered that Silas Bankson and Charles Wakefield, Sr. be appointed Overseers of the Poor…" "March 4, 1822…Petition received from John Depew, Hiram Beck, John A. Wakefield, Paul Beck, and others from a road north from Vandalia as far as the Lynn Ridge road north in Section 6, 8N, 2E, near Judge Beck's mill. Petition granted and John Depew, Peyton Bankson and Thomas Higgins appointed viewers." Authority was given to call and command all persons of lawful age within the area to work on the road.

"June 4, 1822…Levied a tax of fifty cents per one hundred dollars valuation of real estate and personal property…"

"September 2, 1822…Viewers of the road to run from Vandalia to Beck's mill reported they laid out the road starting from…Vandalia…along the bluff to the mouth of the hollow coming in from John Hall's, up the hollow through another hollow to Joseph Hall's, thence to Higgin's Creek below Hall's field, crossing the creek, then to Mr. Blankinship, thence to B. Jones, thence as it is marked to a corner post between Benjamin J. Wren and William Nichols, thence due north to Lynn Ridge…" (Lynn Ridge is north of Twin Churches.) As can be seen by these descriptions, the roads were laid out using the natural terrain of the land, generally following the ridges because that land dried first in the spring and after rains, and crossing streams and creeks in the most convenient places as there were generally no bridges until ten to twenty years later.

"June 2, 1823…Ordered that supervisor of roads be allowed to make returns of judgments obtained against persons who failed to work on the roads or to pay by the 10th of June…"

"April 4, 1825…Tax of 1% levied on all personal property to be used for roads…The following prices were set for the different kinds of labor on the roads: For each laboring hand, 50 cents per day; each yoke of oxen, 25 cents per day, each wheeled carriage or plow 25 cents per day, supervisors authorized to give such when necessary in the discharge of their duties…"

"June 6, 1825…Petition of Barnet Bone and other citizens for a road to begin and Mr. Wren's and Mr. Jones to extend to the southeast edge of Grand Prairie east of the Kaskaskis River to cross said river at or near Barnet Bone's (just south of Shelbyville)…"

"July 11, 1825…William Hall and a number of others of Wakefield settlement petitioned for a school district to be bounded as follows: From mouth of Beck's Creek, then up the Kaskaskia River to the mouth of Clear Creek (Robinson Creek today?), thence up to the mouth of Mud Creek, then to East Fork of Beck's Creek, then down said creek to the place of beginning. Granted…" There is no other creek emptying into the west side of the Kaskaskia River between Beck's Creek and Robinson Creek. Mud Creek empties into Robinson just north of Route 16 east of Tower Hill. Beck's Creek begins north of Tower Hill. This seems to be a very large school district, but there were not very many people.

"September 5, 1825…reported on road running as follows: Beginning at John Depew's (Twin Churches or Berryman Hill) to James Beck's (northeast of Myers Cemetery) thence to James Smith in Wakefield settlement (Cold Spring)" and then on to Shelbyville. This would have been the old stagecoach road from Vandalia past the west side of where Herrick is now located and on to Cold Spring. At the same time, a report was made on a road running "from Wren's in a northeasterly course dividing Paul and Guy Beck's farms, then marked to Beck's Creek, then marked to Ormsby Van Winkle's" (probably the Lorton Cemetery area) then on north to Shelbyville. It appears that the Twin Churches area was a main crossroads at the time.

The Fayette County Commissioners made all decisions affecting the public. The county commissioners consisted of three "judges". Paul Beck of the Beck settlement and John Wakefield of the Cold Spring area were two of the first commissioners. They were responsible for setting up new voting precincts when necessary, trying criminal cases, building county buildings, getting roads in the local areas as well as to far parts of the country, such as Vincennes, Greenville, etc., granting licenses to run taverns and dram shops and setting prices for them.

Another responsibility of the county commissioners was to keep a registry of marks and brands. The rail fences probably didn't keep the livestock from wandering wherever they pleased so the settlers used different marks in the ears of their cattle and hogs. Each settler had his own combination of following marks: crop, under bit, swallow fork, slit, hole, split, under slope and over slope.

By 1827, there were more and more people settling farther and farther north so that Shelby County was created by the state legislature. A later attempt to create another new county from parts of Fayette, Shelby, and Montgomery failed to meet voter approval in 1841.

There evidently were several people in the area, squatters who didn't yet have enough money to purchase the land where they were living and those who were just passing through on the way to someplace else.

The first official land purchase in the immediate area centering where Herrick would later be was in 1830 when James Beck, a Baptist preacher and brother of Guy Beck, purchased eighty acres in Section 10. In May 1831, Joseph Beck purchased eighty acres next to the first purchase. In August 1831, Robert Peebles purchased eighty acres in Section 14.

In November 1831, Peter Myers purchase eighty acres including the forty acres where Myers Cemetery is located and the forty just north. In May 1832, Myers added another eighty acres south of his first purchase. When Peter Myers died in 1856, the land passed to his son, T, Ewing Myers, later to Ewing's daughter, Mattie Myers, then to her niece, Frances Dixon, then to Mattie's grand-niece and nephew, Doris Bryant Roos and Lorton Bryant who still owned the land 152 years after their great-great-grandfather, Peter Myers, first purchased it in 1831.

After the Black Hawk War in 1832, most of the Indians left the land east of the Mississippi River. At that time, more and more white settlers began arriving and probably started a trend of purchasing land rather quickly after arriving before someone else beat them to it.

In 1833, William Whittington purchased the forty acres where the Ray Whittington house is located, one mile north of Herrick in Section 9. This land passed to William's son, Joseph C. Whittington, then to Joseph's son, W. Hestain, then to Hestain's son, Ray Whittington, and is now owned by Whittington Acres, a family partner-ship, the fifth generation of Whittingtons to own the land.

By 1840, land entries within four miles of present day Herrick included some names long forgotten, and many familiar names. Those familiar names include Austin, Beck, Black, Buchanan, Burrus, Chandler, Corley, Frailey, Ginger, Guthrey, Henderson, Jones, Miller, Moutrey, Myers, Price, Rhodes, Robertson, Sarver, Smart, Smith, Sphar, Walker, Wear, Whittington, and Williams.

With more and more settlers came the need for supplies. About 1831, Samuel Carson, Jr. first used a horse and light wagon to haul supplies to customers in the south part of the area. He later had a store building.

In July 1835, Bowling Jones platted the village of Bowling Green, named for the beautiful city in Kentucky by the same name. According to the 1878 Fayette County History, "It is located on Section 31, 9N, 2E, was surveyed and platted July 1835, by the county surveyor. The location was an excellent one; it lies in a strip of prairie, which is said to be the richest land in the county; and as you approach it from the south, it rises gradually, until you stand upon one of the highest points in the county; from its summit you have a grand view of the surrounding country, as it slopes off on every side, extending like a beautiful panoramic view before the eye. It now goes by the name of Bowling green Hill, and as a town is obsolete." A post office was established at Bowling Green May 9, 1836, and disestablished May 15, 1876.

Another village was that of Williamsburg, platted in 1839 by William Horsman and Dr. Williams, thus the name Williamsburg. It was located in Cold spring Township, Section 23, 10N, 2E. The house occupied by the late Fred Smith family once served as a hotel and stage coach stop at the southeast part of the town. It is said that Abraham Lincoln traveled the stage route and stayed at this house. There was a post office a Williamsburg, along with several businesses, and one of the first Masonic Lodges in the area.

Both Bowling Green and Williamsburg were on the old stagecoach route from Vandalia to Shelbyville. When the railroads were built through the area, neither village was on the route and the end came soon for each village. There were other scattered stores and trading posts. One was located in Section 12, 9N, 2E. Another was said to be located just north of Center School.

By an act of Congress in 1850, government lands were given to the Illinois Central Railroad Company for their line through Oconee and Ramsey. This included the actual right-of-way and even numbered sections of land extending six miles beyond each side of the right-of-way. If lands in these sections had already been sold to individuals, an agent appointed by the governor could select equal lands within fifteen miles of the line for the railroad. This land was used as a source of timber for the railroad ties and trestles and was later sold by the railroad. The 1875 plat maps show much land still owned by the Illinois Central Railroad.

In 1860, the township form of government came into being. Before that, the areas had been known as precincts or districts. The area north of the county line was Cold Spring Township until after the town of Herrick was founded. The first separate tax assessments for Herrick Township were in 1894. James Brownlee was the first elected supervisor representing Cold Spring Township on the Shelby County Board in 1860.

The area south of the county line was all Bowling Green Township until 1880 when Carson Township was formed from that part lying south of Beck's Creek. The first Bowling Green Township supervisor on the Fayette County Board was Jacob Austin.

The life of the early settlers was far from easy. Most clothing, food, and small tools were made at home. Everything was valuable; not much was thrown away. The store or trading post was probably several miles away, and money was scarce. A partial inventory of Selah Chamberlain's estate at his death in 1868 is probably typical for the time: "Yoke oxen $150, 'rone' cow and calf $30, two year old heifer $20, 11 head hogs $20, sow and pigs $6, black mare $20, 6 geese $1.50, 4 turkeys $3, 1 lot oats $17, 1 lot buck wheat $3, 1 lot seed corn $3, wagon $10, large breaking plow $4, cultivator $1, grind stone $1.50, grain cradle $1, 3 hoes $1, 4 axes $1, log chain and half bushel $1.25, cross cut saw $4, chisels $.75, auger $.25, nippers and hammer $.50, corn knives $.25, empty barrels $1, washing tub $.50, wash board $.10, churn $.50, jar and bowl $.25, kettle $3, bedstead and bedding $18, oil cloth and table $4.25, cookstove and cupboard ware $14, rocking chair $2, and many other similar items."

For those early settlers, it must have been hard to pack up and leave your family back east and come to the frontier. After mail service was established, there was a way to communicate with those back home. No doubt, letters and packages were gladly received some even contained bean and peach or other seeds for the homesteaders' use. Some letters brought news of new family members, weather reports, and descriptions of the home area for the benefit of the "Illinois in-laws" who had never been there. One letter from Virginia in 1887 says, "Mose and I are the oldest looking. We both wear spectacles and are getting very gray. We have one pair between us, Mose is using them today and I am writing without. I have gotten a new set of teeth and when summer comes I will have my picture taken for Eunice."

Some letters brought sad news, "Dear Brother, I have some sad news to tell you this morning. Mother is dead, she died on the morning of October the 26th at half-past 4 o'clock. Mother has been sick ever since July, has gradually gone down to the end. She was able to sit in her chair some each day until the last 4 days of her life when she became extremely feeble….Sam, death in the family is a sad thing under any circumstances but to be left alone makes me feel desolate and lonesome to the extreme…"

The lives of the early settlers contained many trying times as well as the happier ones. Sometimes diseases and epidemics took several family members at the same time. The life they lived was a demanding one - hard physical work and lacking all the modern conveniences that are available today. But the "pioneer spirit" and the faith in God carried them through so that today their many descendants can reminisce about the "good old day".

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