SOUTH WHEATLAND TOWNSHIP Go To List of Patrons
The township of South Wheatland is bounded on the north by Decatur; east by Long Creek and Mt. Zion; south by South Macon; and west by Blue Mound township. It is well watered by several fine streams. Sand creek enters at the northern part, and flows in a southerly direction through the township. The Sangamon river enters at section twenty-five, and passes out in section twenty-six. Ward's branch and Smith's branch also rise in the northern part, and flow in a southerly direction.
The face of the country in the northern part is hilly and broken, particularly that portion bordering on and in close proximity to the Sangamon and Sand creek. As you travel south the country becomes more undulating, and in the extreme southern part, or lower tier of sections, is a beautiful rolling prairie. The southern portion of the township is as fine farming country as any in the county. The soil is a rich, black, deep loam, admirably adapted to the production of wheat, rye, oats, corn, and tame grasses. In the matter of improvements, it will rank with any township in the county. The greater portion of the farms are well improved, with good fences, and mostly under-drained, also possessing large and commodious farm-houses, good barns and ou-houses for shelter of stock and storing the products of the soil.
Its name, "Wheatland", was proposed in the county board by Robert Carpenter. No objection being made, it was so named. This township is among the older settled portion of the county. Being plentifully supplied with timber and good water, emigration was attracted to it before other and fairer parts of the county were settled. In an early day, emigrants to the "Great West" made settlements close to the timber, believing that such districts and places were more healthful, and, at the same time, afforded shelter for stock against the piercing, cold winds, and gave them easy access to fuel.
There were other reasons, also, that weighed against making settlements of the open prairie. Before the counry was settled, the green-headed fly, the prairie pest, swarmed in the summer-time, and no live stock could live in the open country during certain seasons of the year. Then again the flat, open country was filled with sloughs and swamps, and, together with the rank, decaying vegetation, sent forth the deadly malaria, which produced chills and fever and bilious attacks, that kept the old pioneer in a state of constraint and active agitation.
From the best evidence at hand and facts that are indisputable, it is believed that a man by the name of William Downing was the first settler in the territory now embraced in South Wheatland township. His coming dates back to the year 1822. He settled at a place now owned by the heirs of Jacob Libby. He remained here but a short time, and then moved to Bond coounty, Illinois. His departure was hastened, as he said, by the Indians, bands of whom visited this section on predatory expeditions. His stock was stolen, and family kept in a constant state of alarm by these marauding and thieving parties.
The first actual and permanent settler was a man by the name of John Ward. He was of a numerous and large family, and was a native of Logan county, Kentucky, and lived close to the Tennessee line.
He came to this section in 1825, and made a settlement on the place now owned by his brother-in-law, Joshua G. Perdue. A few months later, he was followed by his brothers, Thomas, Lewis, James, Jeremiah, and William. They all settled in the neighborhood, and in turn were followed by other members of the family. Elisha Freeman came in 1826. Hiram Robinson, a citizen of Bond county, came the same year. Then came Robert and Andrew W. Smith, and others from Tennessee.
Joshua G. Perdue came to the township in 1832, and is yet a resident, and lives on the same place where he settled nearly a half century ago. He was born in Mongomery county, Tennessee, and came with his father's family to Illinois, in 1820, and settled in Bond county.
The names of other settlers living in the township in 1832 wer Lambert Bearden, Ephraim Cox, Winkfield Evert, Wm. Wheeler, and Dr. Spears. John Ward, the first settler, kept a grocery and ferry at what was then known as the "Indian Bluff:, on the Sandgamon river. His stock consisted only of the staple and necessary articles in demand, which consisted of coffee, sugar, salt, tobacco, powder, and last--but by no means least--whisky. The last was a necessary adjunct, and an important factor in the first settlements of Illinois. The goods in those days were purchased in St. Louis and hauled in wagons to their destination.
John Ward died in 1831. His body lies near the spot where he first settled many years ago.
In 1834 Robert Smith and Wm. Cox ventured out on the prairie away from the timber, and built houses. They were followed by Perdue in 1835. Various were the speculations made as to what would be their probable fate, for their foolhardiness in going so far from the timber. But contrary to all expectation, this hazardous undertaking was attended with success, and soon others followed, and then commenced, in fact, the improvement and rapid development of the country.
The first land entries were made March 17th, 1831, by David Foster, lot 3 in section 1, 131.04 acres. Jeremiah Ward entered May 27th, 1831, lot No. 2, 80 acres in section No. 2. Wm. H. Brown entered lot No. 1, 80 acres, July 1st, 1831, in section 1, T. 15 N. R. 2 E. We find in township No. 16 N. R. 2 E., in that portion which belongs to South Wheatland precinct, Lewis Ward entered November 9th, 1827, 80 acres in section 31. Also on same day John Ward entered 80 acres in section 33.
The first physician to practice the healing art in the township was Dr. Reed. He was soon followed by Drs. Spears and Crissey. How skilled they were in the healing art is not positively known, further than they were death on "ager".
Rev. John M. Berry was the first preacher. He was a member of and expounded the doctrine as promulgated by the Cumberland Presbyterian church. In the absence of regular houses of worship services were held in the houses of the brethren in different parts of the township.
The first church building erected was at Gilead. There had been, however, church organizations a considerable time prior.
The first school was built in 1835, on John Wilson's land, and the second one near Mr. Wykoff's. They were both rough-hewn log, slab-seated school-houses, of the pioneer days of Macon county. Mr. Seward is credited with being the first teacher. He was followed by John Freeland, and the latter by a Mr. Lindsay.
The first mill in the township was built as early as 1829. It was then known as a horse-mill. It was owned and operated by Robert Smith. It did considerable work, and was a great convenience to the people for miles around.
The first death in the township were those of Mrs. Mangum and Mrs. Widick.
The surplus products of the farm were hauled to St. Louis, where they were sold, and such goods as were needed for the settlement bought. After Springfield settled up it became the market, and continued so until Decatur was old and large enough to supply the goods.
The grinding of grain into flour and meal for the settlement was done in Montgomery county until mills were started in Decatur. The township is well supplied with raw materials. The Illinois Central runs through from north to south. The St. Louis branch of the Wabash runs through the western part, and the Midland road through the eastern part.
The town of Elwin, on the Illinois Central, was laid out soon after the completion of the road. It is a small place, with several small stores, blacksmith shop, and post-office.
Supervisors-- I.S. Boardman was elected in 1860. Re-elected and held office til 1865. John Montgomery was elected in 1866. I.S. Boardman was re-elected in 1867, and held the office till 1870. Hiram Ward was elected in 1871, and, by re-election each year, has held the office ever since.
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