(Shelby County)

(Shelby County)





IS situated in the extreme south-east part of Shelby county. It is bounded on the north by Ash Grove, west by Prairie township, south by Effingham county, and east by Cumberland county, and is six by nine miles in extent. The township is about equa lly divided between prairie and timber. The Little Wabash river passes through its entire length from north to south; along this stream the land is quite broken. The other streams are Copperas, Drake, Bills, Brush, Hog, Rattlesnake and Clear creeks -- all tributaries to the Wabash.

The first settlers were: Fancher, Weatherspoon and the Daniels. B. Fancher settled the place where John Spain now lives, known as Big Spring Post-office, in 1827.

Samuel G. Weatherspoon settled about a half a mile south of Big Spring, in 1828, near the Wabash; and the following year he built a small water-mill on this stream -- ground corn only -- it was considered at that time quite an improvement upon the horse-m ills. In 1832 he began grinding wheat, and instead of a bolt be used a sifter, also run by water-power. Two years later he put in an upright saw, which was quite an acquisition to this part of the country at that time, as here the early settlers could get timber sawed out without the expense of so much labor. Prior to the putting in of this saw, the lumber, what little was used in the early settlement of the country, was sawed out by the use of the whip-saw, where two logs were laid across a deep ravine; cross-timbers were then placed on these, and the log to be sawed was rolled on--one man stood above and one below, and by the use of a long thin saw they could turn out some very nice lumber; but it was a slow business, and very hard work. The mill has lo ng since been washed away, and

(Page 230)

hardly a sign of it now remains. But the mill and its surroundings are still bright in the memory of many an early settler in the eastern part of Shelby, northern part of Effingham, and western part of Cumberland counties. Weatherspoon made the first land entry in this township, June 14, 1832. He entered forty acres, the north-west quarter of the northeast quarter section twenty-nine, where he had previously settled and started an improvement; it is now a part of the A. Quicksall estate. Weatherspoon afte rwards removed to Texas.

Bazel Daniel settled one-half mile north-east of Big Spring, about 1828.

William Daniel built a cabin near Fancher's in 1831.

Nathaniel Daniel built his cabin within half a mile of Big Spring the same year.

Fancher and the Daniels only held "squatter claims." They improved about four acres each, on which they raised a little corn. However, they spent most of their time in hunting. Fancher left this country in the fall of 1832 for the west, and was soon follo wed by Bazel Daniel and his son William; Nathaniel and Amon remarried. The Daniels were from Tennessee. Bazel Daniel was a native of North Carolina.

The second entry of land made in this township was by Francis Simpson, August 10th, 1833; he entered the extreme north-east forty in township, 10-6. The third entry was made by William Morgan, Feb. 8th, 1836; he entered the south-west quarter of the south -east quarter of section fourteen, in Copperas creek. The following November 30th, Preston Ramsey and Daniel Stuart entered forty acres each in the north part of the township. Ramsey's land was in section eighteen, and Stuart's in section five. Amon Danie l, son of Bazel, settled in the south part of the township, section five, in about 1835. Feb. 6th, 1837, he entered forty acres in this section the same day. Nathaniel Daniel entered forty acres in section eight. Amon Daniel raised quite a large family, a nd improved a food farm, where he resided until his death. Nathaniel raised a family of six children, and resided in the township until his death. Three of his children are now living. Paul Daniel in Prairie township, and the other two in Texas.

John Spain, a native of North Carolina, though from Tennessee, here came into the township in 1832. Eight years later he settled permanently at Big Spring, where he now resides. About thirty years ago he got a post-office established here, called Big Spri ng, and he has filled the office of post-master without intermission up to the present time. The mail route has been changed several times; when the office was first established, the mail came by the way of Cochran's Grove post-office. The mail now comes from Stewardson once a week.

John Young, who lives in the east part of the township, near Copperas creek, settled there in 1840. For fourteen years previous to his settlement here, he lived in Coles county, about ten miles distant from where he now resides. He was a soldier in the Bl ack Hawk war, and went from Coles county under Captain Ross. Mr. Young was born on the road, while his parents were emigrating from Georgia to Kentucky in 1804.

William Hart settled farther down the Copperas creek in about 1842. Thomas Robinson was the next to settle in this part of the township, and Charles Sawyer and John Waggoner soon followed. William Garrett settled in the north part of the township on the s ide of Wabash creek as early as 1841.

Joseph Baker settled first on Sand creek, in the year 1827, and in 1845 moved to Big Spring township, and located on section 2, town. 9, range 2. Jesse and James Baker settled near by the following year.

Among the first German settlers in the vicinity of Sigel were Harman Siemer, John Sankmaster, Joseph Luke, Henry Kateman and Joseph Werman. There is now a large German population throughout the township, so much so that the wooden shoe is in constant dema nd, and one of the prominent articles of trade in Sigel. The Germans here are a hard-working class of people, and are doing much towards the improvement of these lands. H. Siemer built a saw and grist mill about three-quarters of a mile northwest of Sigel in 1855; this mill had three run of burrs, and did a good business until about 1867, when it was moved into Effingham county. Siemer also had at this place a still house, where he made whiskey for several years, and until the high tax was put upon that a rticle, when he sold it out to one Zirngible, who carried on the business for about two years, when it became necessary for him to emigrate with his still, going to Missouri. The Swedes came into the township, and settled in the west and north part quite numerously about 1860. But in some way they became dissatisfied with the country, and the most of them have since left.

The first school built in this township was in an empty cabin on the place of John Spain, Thomas Bell being among the first teachers. This cabin was used for school purposes for a number of years.

Early preaching in the township was at the residence of John Spain, by the Baptists and Methodists. William Martin, Aaron Hood, and Thomas Frailkill were the first preachers.


WAS surveyed out on the line of the Illinois Central R. R. north, east quarter of section fourteen, by Charles R. Underwood, deputy county surveyor, June, 1863; for Theodore Hoffman, proprietor of the town.

The first house built was a business house, where Martin Gay opened up a small stock of general merchandize in the fall of 1863 he was also the first postmaster; the post-office was called Hooker until 1871, when it was changed to Sigel. The building Gay occupied at that time is now used by A. C. Rea, as a residence. In 1864 Gay sold out to John Hemman, who began merchandizing, which business he followed until 1875, when he was succeeded by his son, Hugo Hemman and E. F. Hoffman. They now occupy the corne r building. It was erected by G. A Huffman in 1872. The building on the opposite corner was built by Frank Zirngible, one of the early merchants, in 1863 and '64; it is now occupied by B. H. Kohlmeyer.

The second house was erected by Henry Berchtold, in 1863, for a hotel. His son, Henry Berchtold, jr., was the first birth in Sigel, January 13th, 1864. The City Hotel building, the largest in the place, was built by __________ Sherwood, in 1866 and '67. < P> John Perkins came to the place in 1864. He erected the building now occupied by C. Trager in that year, and opened a general store. The same year he built the mill now owned and run by John C. Knecht. It has three run of burrs, and receives a fair custom trade. Perkins built the store-house on the opposite corner, where he sold goods in 1866. He died the same year. His death was a severe blow to Sigel. He was a thorough business man, and did much in his short stay, towards building up and improving the to wn.

There are two churches in the place -- Catholic and Lutheran. The Catholic denomination are at this time just finishing a handsome church edifice, in place of one recently burned. They had the misfortune also of having their school-building burned in Octo ber, 1880. It was a commodious structure.

(Page 231)

The town commands the trade of an extent of good farming country. The building up of Stewardson on the Chicago and Paducah R. R., now Wabash, St. Louis and Paducah R. R., injured the place for a time quite perceptibly. But it has been fortunate in having for its business men, gentlemen of energy and enterprise, who have spared no pains to advance the interests of the place. The town is now represented by the following professional and business men.

Physicians. -- J W. Wilhite, P. E. Chapman, William Bartles.
General Stores. -- Hemman & Hoffman, B. H. Kollmeyer, H. J. Schneiderjon.
Drug Stores. -- T. G. Frost, P. E. Chapman.
Post-master. -- T. G. Frost.
Hardware and Farm Implments. -- F. W. Jaeger.
Hardware and Tin Shop. -- Christian Trager.
Grain Dealers. -- Hemman & Hoffman, E. Orr.
Boots and Shoes and Shoemaker. -- G. Schneider.
Blacksmith Shops. -- Henry Gier, Henry Schwerdts, Henry Mense, Jacob Krein.
Wagon Maker. -- Frederick Fincke.
Butcher Shop. -- E. W. Paxton.
Wooden Shoemaker. -- B. Ruschhoff.
Saloons. -- D. Widmeir, John Kirn.
Hotels. -- City hotel by E. Orr; Union hotel by Dr. J. W. Wilhite; Sigel hotel by Mrs. B. Berchtold.


IS a paper town laid off by Joseph Landis, Section 1, on the line of the Illinois Central Railroad.

Supervisors of this township: A. Blythe, elected in 1860: R. S. Tweedy, elected in 1861; E. Barrett, elected in 1862, re-elected in 1863, (Chairman) 1864; A. Blythe, elected in 1865, re-elected in 1866; John Spain, elected in 1867, re-elected in 1868; H. Storme, elected in 1869; E. Carey, elected in 1870; E. Houclins, elected in 1871, re-elected in 1872; H. Storme, elected in 1873; J. Steele, elected in 1874, re-elected in 1875; T. Dooley, elected in 1876, reelected in 1877; W. L. Cummings, elected in 187 8; Peter Allen, elected in 1879, re-elected in 1880, and is the present incumbent.



THE present supervisor of Big Spring township, was born in Chatham county, North Carolina, April 7th, 1832; his ancestors were of Scotch descent; his grandfather, Peter Allen, emigrated from Scotland and settled in Pennsylvania about 1760, and from there removed to North Carolina. It is said that this Peter Allen, who himself served in the war of 1812, was an uncle of Ethan Allen, celebrated for his daring deeds during the Revolutionary war.

John D. Allen, father of the subject of this sketch, was born in Chatham county, North Carolina, and in that State married Lucretia Fogleman, who was of German descent. Peter Allen was the fourth of ten children. He lived in Chatham county, North Carolina , till he was twenty-one. His early educational advantages were inferior, but he obtained a good business education by his own efforts. On coming west in 1854 he settled in Wayne county, Indiana, where he learned the carpenter's trade. In August, 1861, he enlisted for three years in the 33d Indiana Regiment, and on the expiration of his term of service re-enlisted as a veteran, and was discharged in August, 1865. His regiment formed part of the Army of the Cumberland, and after serving in Kentucky and Ten nessee took part in the famous march of Sherman from Atlanta to the sea and on to Washington. He was in the battles of Wild Cat, Mill Spring, Stone River, Lookout Mountain, Buzzard Gap, Marietta, Dallas Woods, Savannah, Goldsboro, and Raleigh; he was woun ded at Dallas Woods, Atlanta, and Buzzard Gap. He enlisted as a private and was promoted to be a sergeant. For six years after the war he had charge of the county asylum and poorfarm, in Park county, Indiana. In the spring of 1874 he settled on his presen t farm in Big Spring township; he owns a farm of 110 acres, and is also engaged in the saw-mill business, and other enterprises. He was married in Park county, Indiana, in 1866, to Elizabeth Nelson. His children are Minnie, Thomas, Clara, Rilda, John D., and James. He cast his first vote for president for Douglas, in 1860. Though he has been a republican in politics he has been independent in his political views, and has always voted for the man he considered best fitted for the office, irrespective of po litical affiliations. He is known as an energetic and enterprising business man; he was elected a member of the board of supervisors in 1879, discharged the duties of the position in a satisfactory manner, and was re-elected in 1880.


THIS gentleman, one of the representative farmers of Big Spring township, is a native of Shelby county, and was born on the headwaters of Sand creek, in Windsor township, on the 15th of May, 1830. The family to which he belongs is of English and Ir ish descent. His grandfather, Joseph Baker, was born in North Carolina, and moved thence to Tennessee. He was a soldier in the war of 1812. His father, James Baker, was born in Tennessee. About 1820, soon after the admission of Illinois into the union as a state, when the tide of emigration from the south was strong, the family emigrated to Illinois and settled in Gallatin county. In that county James Baker, who was a boy when he came to this state, married

(Page 232)

Margaret Emeline Patton, who was also born in Tennessee, and settled in Gallatin county about the same time with the Baker family. Soon after his marriage he settled on the head-waters of Sand creek, and was amo ng the early settlers of that part of the county, locating there in 1827. Evan Baker was the second of eleven children. When he was eleven years old his father moved to Richland township; afterward lived four years on a rented farm in the vicinity of Shel byville ; moved back to Sand creek one year, and then, after residing three years in Clay county, settled in Big Spring township, where James Baker died on the 31st of January, 1865. Mr. Baker obtained his education in the schools existing in the county in his boyhood. In those days only the simplest branches were taught. By dint of hard study he secured a good education, obtained a director's certificate, and one summer and fall taug ht school. He was married June 1st, 1853, to Francina Jane Ledbetter, who was born in Gallatin county, Illinois, and was a daughter of James Ledbetter. After his marriage he began farming for himself in Big Spring township, on the farm where he now lives. He is now the owner of about three hundred acres of land. His first wife died May 9th, 1859. His second marriage took place Feb. 29th, 1860, to Sarah Ellen Rentfrow, daughter of James M. Rentfrow. She was born in Effingham County. He has seven children - - two by his first, and five by his second marriage -- their names are: Elizabeth Jane, wife of F. M. Robinson, of Big Spring township; John Albert, who is farming on his own account; Alice Alvina, Oretta Arabelle, Florence May, James William E. R., and C harles Rinaldo J. E. Baker. He has always been a democrat in politics. His first vote for president was cast for Pierce in 1852, and he has voted the democratic ticket ever since on general elections; though he is a man of liberal and independent views, a nd in township elections has generally voted for the man whom he considered best fitted for the position, without regard to the party to which he belonged. He is a man who has enjoyed the confidence of the community, and has alwavs stood well as a citizen . He served four years as a justice of the peace, and has been township treasurer and collector. As one of the representative men of the south-eastern part of the county, his name here deserves mention.


ALFRED BLYTHE, one of the former residents of Big Spring township, was born in Lincoln county, Tennessee, February 29th, 1822. His parents were Thomas and Phoebe (Dawdy) Blythe. He went to school as he had opportunity, and secured a good common sch ool education. He was married on the 8th of September, 1839, to Nancy Webb, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Young) Webb. She was born in Tennessee on the 11th of February, 1822. In the fall of 1840, Mr. Blythe moved to this state and settled in Ash Grove township. After living on rented land about six years, he entered land in section six of township ten, range six. He afterward purchased additional land, and at the time of his death owned about four hundred acres. He was industrious, and full of enterpri se and energy. After having suffered from bad health for a number of years, he died on the 20th of February, 1871. The disease was bronchitis, which finally terminated in consumption. He was a man who sustained an excellent reputation in the community. In all his business transactions, his character for honesty and fair dealing, was beyond reproach. For about thirty-five years he was a member of the Separate Baptist church. He was one of the original members of the Hopewell Baptist church in Richland town ship, of which he acted as clerk. He was frequently called on to fill the township offices, such as collector and assessor, and several times served as supervisor. He had been a consistent democrat all his life. His death was lamented by a large number of friends and acquaintances. He had eight children: John Thomas residing in Ash Grove township; Phoebe G., wife of Levi Turner, living in Kansas; William Martin, who died at the age of four years; James Franklin, a resident of Polk county, Missouri; Berry T. Blythe, a resident of Windsor; George W. and Joseph I. living in Big Spring township, and Douglas, who died at the age of nearly six months.

|| Return to Main Site Index ||