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1882 History - Chapter 13

[Page 129] Chapter XIII - Ripley Precinct

[Page 130] somewhat involved in obscurity, but prominent among those of whom anything is known was Anderson HILL, who came from South Carolina, in the time of the Indians, and settled upon the farm now owned by John DAVIS. His son, Anderson, HILL, Jr., then but a child, came with his father and afterward settled upon the farm now owned by William BROWN, where he lived until his death, which occurred in 1853. Moses FILE was also among the early settlers, coming from North Carolina and settling about seven miles west of Greenville in 1818. His son, John N. FILE, now owns the old home farm. The WHEELOCK Brothers came from the East, in 1812, and founded the town known as "Old Ripley", which in early times was quite a trading post, people coming from within a radius of fifty miles to do their trading. The town was founded upon a farm belonging to a Mr. LUST, of Edwardsville, now owned by William BROWN, and numerous signs are still visible, though the buildings have long since been torn down or moved away, the ruins of old blacksmith shops and several old wells alone remaining to mark the site of this once prosperous village. Dr. BAKER came about this time, and occupied the house now owned by the Widow JANDT. He was the first person buried in the old Brown Graveyard, where many weary mortals are now resting. Numerous descendants of the above-named early settlers still live in this precinct, and the farms of their forefathers, which were then a wilderness, have indeed been made to “blossom as the rose.” Other families continued to move into the community just described, until the war of 1812 put a slight check on immigration for a time, but after its close it commenced again with renewed vigor. Glowing accounts were carried back to the older settlements of the richness and fertility of this new country, which brought many of the sturdy backwoodsman of Virginia and North Carolina, accustomed from their earliest childhood to lives of self-dependence, and in whom had been generated a contempt of danger and a love for the wild excitement of an adventurous life. ...

In early times, the procuring of bread was a source of great anxiety to the settlers, and when the first white people came to this country they found none of the conveniences of today. An enterprising settler named LEE was the first to erect a mill. It was built on Shoal Creek, where Brown’s Mill now stands, over sixty years ago, and for many years supplied the settlers of Ripley Precinct with corn meal and a scanty supply of flour. All signs of this mill have entirely succumbed to the lapse of time, and where it once was there now stands a thriving grist-mill, which was erected in the year 1840, by Benjamin and Henry BROSN. When this mill was first built, it was used only for sawing lumber, but in 1847 William BROWN purchased the interest of Henry BROWN (his cousin), and he and Benjamin BROWN put in machinery for grinding grain, and for thirty-five years this vicinity has been filled with the merry din of the wheels of “Brown’s Mill.” A few years later a saw and grist mill was built on Shoal Creek, about three and one-half miles below Brown's Mill, by William HUNTER, which was afterward purchased by Wesley BILYEW who ran it for several years. No traces of this mill at present remain. At an early date a tannery was built on the farm now owned by William BROWN, though the builder's name

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could not be ascertained, and only an old vat, or two remain to mark the place where it once stool. A distillery, supposed to have been built by the WHEELOCKS about 1813, once stood near where Brown’s Mill now stands, though one looking at the place today would scarcely imagine it ever to have been the scene of an active industry.

One particular ...

The first bridge ...

For many years, an old tradition has been going the rounds in this vicinity to the effect that the Spanish, who lived here at a very early date, had buried three barrels of silver dollars in that portion of Ripley Precinct know an "Shoal Creek bottom", on land now owned by Thomas B. FILE. So much credit has been placed in this tale that the tree barrels of Spanish dollars have been often sought for, and numerous places give evidence of having been dug up, in the vigorous search for this mythical fortune. An old gentleman named BATES living near New Berlin, claims to know where this "hoard" is located, but the thinking portion of the inhabitants place no credit in it. It is also stated that the Indians who inhabited this region in an early day have been heard to say that "if the people of Shoal Creek bottom knew what they did, they could shoe their horses with silver".

The precinct of Ripley cannot boast of many churches. The first one erected was “Mount Nebo,” built by the Baptists, in 1835. The church was organized on the 9th of February, 1832, at the residence of John COYLE, on Round Prairie, by Rev. Peter LONG, assisted by Thomas SMITH, of Madison County, and with twenty-three members, several of whom were subsequently turned out for unfaithfulness. At a meeting in March of the same year, Rev. Peter LONG was chosen pastor, in which capacity he served for over forty years, and in 1874, in his seventieth year of age, on account of his enfeebled condition, he resigned his pastorate, though he is still a member of the same church. Since its organization, the membership has run up as high as 130, and during this time two other churches have been organized out of it. Since the resignation of Rev. Peter LONG, the pastors have been: Rev. W. C. HARVEY, A. J. SITTON, John H. JONES, who filled the pulpit for about three years, and J. B. WHITE, who is the present pastor, with a membership of about sixty. Their first church building was constructed of hewn logs, and was an enormous affair, said to have been the largest log building ever built in the county. About 1850, it was replaced by a frame house, which was destroyed by fire in 1852, by ashes being put in a keg and igniting. Late the same year, the frame edifice, which at present occupies the site, was erected. No other churches have been built in Ripley Precinct, until the present year (1882), when the Presbyterians, led by Rev. Thomas HYNES, erected a beautiful little church of brick in the village of New Berlin. This

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Organization is as yet quite small, but supports a very good Sunday school, and is in a flourishing condition. Quite recently, also, the Regular Baptists have built a frame church on the “Vandalia road,” about two miles east of New Berlin. Their membership only numbers about twenty souls, and their church is presided over by no regular pastor. For nearly twenty years the African Baptists, numbering about twenty members, have been worshiping in a little log church on “Shoal Creek Hill,” near New Berlin, but have never had a regular pastor.

The subject of education and the building of schoolhouses were paid very little attention to by the early settlers in Ripley Precinct. For many years school was had in a small way around at the houses of the settlers. The first schoolhouse erected in this precinct was built on the old "Lee WAIT farm", in 1830. For some time, it was taught by Thomas ARMSTRONG, and afterward, the tutorship was assumed by Peter Long. At present, nothing remains to show where this old pioneer schoolhouse was located. The instruction given the pupils at this time was of the most primitive character, embracing only the most common of the school branches, such as reading, writing, spelling and a knowledge of the rudimentary principles of mathematics. There are at present six schoolhouses in Ripley Precinct, namely Round Prairie Schoolhouse, present teacher, F. W. FRITZ; Ray's Schoolhouse, present teacher Henry DIXON; the Baker Schoolhouse, presided over by Miss BUNN; the Ripley Schoolhouse, teacher, George H. DONNELL; the Mount Vernon Schoolhouse, teacher, R. O. WHITE, and the Terrapin Ridge Schoolhouse, presided over by Millard DIXON. Of late years, the subject of education has received much more attention than it did in an earlier day; efficient teachers are employed at reasonable salaries and many of the higher branches are taught.

New Berlin, the post office name of which is Old Ripley, is the only village in this precinct. It was founded in September, 1850, by Charles PLOG and Mathias BROWN, and is located on a part of the south half of Section No. 8, Town 5 north, of Range 4 west, of the Third Principal meridian, near the old "Vandalia road.” The original plat contained twenty-four lots, 50x120 feet in dimensions, and, in June, 1866, H. G. JANDT made an addition of sixteen lots, of the same dimensions as those in the original plat. Mr. JANDT was among the first residents in New Berlin, and for probably twenty years kept a general merchandise store. I. V. LONG also was engaged in the general merchandising business about this time. William LYTLE built and ran the first tavern, and kept in connection with it a small stock of groceries, and retailed liquors. The monotonous quiet, which always exists about a small village, was relieved in New Berlin by the merry clanging of the hammer of Ferdinand GAUZER, the first village blacksmith, and every Sunday divine service was held in his shop, led by the Rev. Thomas HYNES. H. G. JANDT kept the first post office in the rear end of his store. The present Postmaster is R. O. WHITE, who is also engaged in teaching the “young idea how to shoot” at the Mount Vernon Schoolhouse. At present, New Berlin is a thriving little hamlet of about one hundred and fifty inhabitants, mostly Germans, and is considerable of a trading-point, the business enterprises consisting of two general merchandise stores, one brick drug store, two blacksmith shops, two wagon-makers’ shops, two shoe shops, two saloons, a steam grist and saw mill, owned by Mrs. Mary ARNOLD. No secret societies exist in New Berlin as yet, though a number of the inhabitants are members of organizations in the neighboring towns.

Transcribed by Norma Hass from the History of Bond and Montgomery Counties Illinois, published in 1882, Part I, pages 129-132.

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