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1882 History - Chapter 14

[Page 133] Chapter XIV – Mulberry Grove Precinct

Mulberry Grove Precinct is rather diminutive in size, and its citizens, as has been said of those of the State of Rhode Island, when they want to communicate with each other, do not write letters or send messages, but go out in the yard and call to them. ...

The first settlement or improvement made in what is now known as Mulberry Grove Precinct was made about the year 1826 by Zopher FOSTER, on the place now occupied by Rev. James B. WOOLARD. The next settlers after FOSTER were John BILYEW and Duncan JOHNSON, who came in about 1829-30, and were from Tennessee. Rev. James B. WOOLARD, from North Carolina, was the next permanent settler. He came to the country in 1831, and purchased the improvements of Zopher FOSTER, where he has resided ever since - a period of more than fifty years.

Mr. WOOLARD has lived an active life, and been closely identified with Bond County throughout a long period of time. From a published sketch of his life, we extract a few facts and incidents that will probably interest the reader, and without which a history of Bond County would scarcely be complete. He was born in North Carolina, but brought up principally in Tennessee, and, as we have said, came to Bond County in 1831, locating upon the place where he still lives. In the spring of 1832, the next year after he came here, upon the call of Gov. REYNOLDS for volunteers for the Black Hawk war, he enlisted as one of the fifty men comprising the quota of Bond County. For the money received for his services in the

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Campaign, he entered his first forty acres of land, being that upon which he lives, and to which, in a few years, by industry and economy, he was enabled to add, until he was the owner of 600 acres in a body. He was one of the Judges of the first election held in his part of the county, and when a post office as established in 1834-35, he was appointed Postmaster.

Of his religious life, much might be said which space will not permit. In the summer of 1823, he made a profession of religion, joined the Methodist Episcopal Church, served as class leader and licensed exhorter. In the fall of 1829, was licensed a local preacher; his first license was signed by Rev. Peter CARTWRIGHT, Presiding Elder. In 1834, was ordained Deacon by Bishop R. R. ROBERTS. ...

Other early settlers in Mulberry Grove Precinct were Richard MOODY, James DUNAWAY, James SPRADLING, Mark DUNAWAY, Joseph ARMSTRONG, Bennett SEAGRAVES, Arthur SHERARD, Drury PETTY, DURHAM, Henry INMAN, John PERKINS and others. DURHAM settled on Section 12, and was from Tennessee. He has a son and a daughter living in Fayette County. INMAN settled on Section 1, about the year 1830; PERKINS, about the same year, settled on Section 10, and has several sons living in the county. MOODY settled on Owl Creek, and was from the southern part of the State; the DUNAWAYs settled east of MOODY; also, PETTY. The latter sold out to SPRADLING about 1830. ARMSTRONG was a Tennessean, and bought out Mark DUNAWAY. SHERARD was also from Tennessee, and settled on Section 36, in 1833. In illustration of the healthfulness of the neighborhood, Mr. WOOLARD says that the first fifteen years he lived there, he did not pay $15 in doctors' bills, and although more than twenty different families have lived on the farm at different times, there has never been but one death on it since it was settled.

This comprises the sum and substance of

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what we have obtained of the early settlement of this portion of Bond County. The story of the early trials of the pioneers may be found in other chapters of this work. What applies to them in one section of Southern Illinois is common in all parts of the State. Their life for years was hard, and beset with dangers and difficulties, but patience and perseverance, coupled with an indomitable will, carried them over safe, and wafted them on to wealth and prosperity.

John BILYEW, who is mentioned as one of the first settlers of the precinct, and who built his cabin near where the village of Mulberry Grove now stands, erected a horse mill at a very early day, upon or near the site of the present Methodist Church, which he operated for a good many years. It was a great benefit to the neighborhood, and continued to do good service until enfeebled by age, and it had become so frail and rickety that the customers had to with in the cogs with hickory withes so that they could grind their corn. But it finally went “the way of all the earth,” and a good steam mill now occupies its place in the business of the community.

Everything must have a beginning, and in Mulberry Grove Precinct, the increase of population began by the birth of a daughter to the wife of Zopher FOSTER, the first settler, and was the first birth in the precinct. The first marriage was a daughter of Arthur SHERARD. She was married by Duncan JOHNSON, who was the first Justice of the Peace, but who she married we did not learn. The first election was held in the neighborhood under a tree, near the dwelling of Bennett SEAGRAVES, about 1833-34. Rev. J. B. WOOLARD and Drury PETTY were the Judges of this election, and John RUSSELL and William HUNTER were candidates for the Legislature. The first sermon preaches was by Rev. E. R. AMES, afterward Bishop AMES. The first post office was established about the year 1834-35, and J. B. WOOLARD was appointed Postmaster. From the great number of mulberry trees standing around his cabin in which the post office was held, he gave it the name of Mulberry Grove, a name it still bears and which has been given both to the village and precinct.

As soon as a sufficient number of people had settled in the neighborhood, a schoolhouse was built and a school established. This schoolhouse was of the regular pioneer type, being of the rudest architecture, and having the usual puncheon floor, stick chimney, and great, wide fireplace. The school was taught on the subscription plan, as was the custom then, but the name of the first teacher was not obtained. On Sunday, the building was used as a temple of worship, where the pioneers gathered to hear the word. Near this house a cemetery was laid out, and the first person who died in the precinct (Mrs. Margaret RILEY) was buried in it. Since then, many of the pioneers have been buried there. Arthur SHERARD was one of the early school teachers, but we do not know if he was the first one. There are now three schoolhouses in the precinct, besides that in the village of Mulberry Grove. Education has advanced considerably since the building of the rude schoolhouse described above, as the present handsome and comfortable houses now in use, and the excellent schools taught annually in them truthfully attest. ...

Bethlehem Baptist Church was originally organized July 10, 1830, on Hurricane Creek, in Fayette County. Among the first members were D. E. DEANE, James STREET, Willis DODSON, Larkin CRAGG and Henry SEARS. In a few years, a great many others united and it became strong in numbers. Elder DODSON preached the first sermon; the first Clerks were Joseph WILLIAMS and James FERRELL. The first meetings were held at the houses of the brethren alternately. The church was "dissolved" in Fayette County, June 11, 1835, and in 1837 the first meeting of the congregation was held

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in Bond County, the church to be called Bethlehem. The church house was built in the fall of the same year. Elder John CROUCH was the first minister; the present, Elder John LAWLER, and the present Clerk, J. H. TAYLOR; meetings, the second Saturday of each month.

The village of Mulberry Grove was surveyed and laid out April 28, 1841, by Asabel ENLOE, for Francis GILL, the proprietor of the land upon which it stands. It is the second largest town in the county, and from the records seems to have been first called Houston, but afterward changed to Mulberry Grove. It is situated on the Vandalia Railroad, about eight and a half miles from Greenville. Contiguous to it on the east (in Fayette County), and lying on Hurricane Creek, is a fine body of timber, while north, west and south is a thickly settled country, in a fine state of cultivation, rendering this an excellent shipping point for grain, stock and other products of the farmers.

The first house in Mulberry Grove was built by David HUBBARD several years prior to the laying-out of the town. In this house, he and a man named DEWELLY kept a store, the first in this part of the county. HUBBARD also built a steam mill in the fall of 1837, which succeeded BILYEW’s old horse-mill, already described. It was a custom mill, and did a good business. A saw-mill was added, and the two were carried on until about 1850. IN April, 1869, the present mill was built. It was first started as a saw-mill by E. W. and C. E. DEE, brothers. The saw-mill was sold in 1872, and moved to Fairview, flour-mill machinery having been put in by the DEEs in 1870. C. E. DEE is the present proprietor, having bought the remaining half-interest in 1873. The mill is operated by a twenty-five horse-power engine, has two run of buhrs, and makes “straight grade” flour only. The first blacksmith was David ELAM, just across the line. He did all the work for this neighborhood, as well as a large portion of Fayette County. The first school was taught by Arthur SHERARD, and the first church society was that of the Methodists. The town at present shows the following business: Three or four general stores, grocery stores and drug stores, blacksmith, wagon, carpenter and shoe shops, flour and saw-mill, several physicians, two churches, and an excellent school. The population is about 500 souls.

The Methodist Episcopal Church at Mulberry Grove was organized by Rev. J. B. WOOLARD, about the year 1830, with a membership of six, besides himself and wife; the others were Duncan JOHNSON and wife, John BILYEW and wife and Zopher FOSTER and wife; Duncan JOHNSON was the first class-leader, and Revs. William CHAMBERS and Wilson PITMAN the first ministers. This church has since grown to a large congregation from which several other churches have been formed. The old log schoolhouse, already mentioned, was the first place of worship, and served as a church for several years. The first church building was erected in 1841, on the site of the present church, and occupied by the congregation until 1866, when the present brick church was built at a cost of about $3,000. The present pastor is Rev. J. W. McGRIFF, and John RILEY, class-leader. The first Sunday school was organized by Duncan JOHNSON in 1834, and has been kept up pretty nearly ever since; the present superintendent is John RILEY, the school is well attended, and both it and the church are prosperous and healthy. This church was included in the first circuit ever traveled by Rev. E. R. AMES, afterward Bishop AMES, of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Christian Church, or "Church of Christ", as it is called, was organized in the year 1865, by Elder John A. WILLIAMS of Salem, Ill. The only two members living here at the time of the formation of the church were A. J. LEIGH and Elizabeth HENSLEY, but this did not deter them from organizing a society, on the Bible principle perhaps, that "where two or three

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are gathered together in my name", etc. Elder WILLIAMS preached for the church about seven years after it was formed, and is now preaching for it. The membership is about eighty, with a good attendance. A large and flourishing Sunday school is maintained, of which J. B. RODECKER is Superintendent.

Charity Lodge, No. 1,733, Knights of Honor, was organized in August, 1879, and has been in operation ever since. The meetings are held in Prather’s Hall on the first and third Saturdays of each month. The present officers are: C. ORMSWORTHY, Dictator; C. A. RAGLAND, Past Dictator; W. B. HUTCHISON, Financial Reporter; S. G. GILLIAN, Guide; C. C. SIMMONS, Vice Dictator; have about twenty-six members.

Mulberry Grove village is provided with excellent schools. The school has been graded for the past eight years. There are two school buildings – one brick and the other a modern frame, two stories high, costing about $2,600. Three teachers are employed, and the average general attendance is about one hundred and fifty children.

Transcribed by Norma Hass from the History of Bond and Montgomery Counties Illinois, published in 1882, Part I, pages 133-139.

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