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1882 History - Chapter 5

[Page 39] ...

In the early history of Bond County, whisky was considered as almost one of the necessaries of life, or at least “good in its place.” This “place” was nearly everywhere, embracing all occasions and applying to nearly every condition of life. Of course, no one presumed to uphold or advocate drunkenness, but a temperate use of spirituous liquors, was not only considered harmless, but in many cases absolutely beneficial. Hence, distilleries were erected, and the manufacture of whisky begun soon after settlements were made in the country.

The first distillery in what is now Bond County, was put in operation, in 1819, by George DONNELL, at a spring about two miles north of Greenville. Within a few years succeeding the erection of this one, several others were built in portions of the county, one of which was at Beck's Spring, near the graveyard (a very appropriate place for a distillery). The manufacture of whisky at these distilleries was not carried on to a great extent, nor for any considerable length of time. And to the honor of Bond County be it recorded, that there is not now an establishment within its limits for the manufacture of ardent spirits. At the time these distilleries were in operation, for several years after, intemperance prevailed to an almost alarming extent. It is not exaggerating to say, that whisky was in use, either moderately or otherwise, by more than one-half of the people in the county. On public occasions, drunken men were so common, that sober men seemed to be the exception. At any time between the years of 1830 and 1845, it was nothing unusual to see twenty or thirty men at one time, on election or muster day, in Greenville, drunk, swearing and yelling like Indians, the majority of them with coats off and sleeves rolled up, wanting to resent an insult which they fancied they had received from some one whom they were trying to find. Sometimes a fellow staggered against a tree, or post, or came in collision with another individual, and feeling the concussion, imagined that somebody had struck him. In an instant he would shed his coat and hat, and go rushing through the crowd, endeavoring to find his supposed enemy, and swearing that he was "a hoss", and could "whip his weight in wild cats". And woe be unto the luckless individual who was mistaken for the aggressor. Many an inoffensive, respectable citizen received rough treatment under such circumstances, and astonished his better-half by returning home from an election, or muster, with a smashed hat, black eye, or bloody nose, to satisfactorily account for which, required, in some instances, no ordinary amount of explanation.

At the time of which we are writing, all the voting at a general election was done in

[Page 40] Greenville. ...

[Page 41] ...

A great excitement was created here many years ago from a belief in the existence of the precious metals in Bond County. Both silver and gold were believed to be deposited at various points in the middle, western and southwestern parts. Tales were related by some of the old settlers, giving accounts of fabulous quantities of silver ore being obtained here by the French and Indians, more than a hundred years before. The people credited these stories and dreamed of future wealth and luxury.

Robert GILLESPIE, living on Shoal Creek, a few miles above Pocahontas, found shining particles in the sand of a spring near his house, and washing out a quantity, showed it to some fellow in St. Louis, who pronounced it pure gold. This was enough; the demand for GILLESPIE's "dust" was such, that small quantities of it were in the possession of various persons, in order to compare it with such as might be found on their own premises. About this time, a man by the name of GAYLOR, who was supposed to know something about minerals, being a

[Page 42] "water witch", astonished the neighborhood by announcing that he had discovered an inexhaustible mine of silver on the land of Samuel HUNTER, near Indian Creek, about four miles from Greenville.

A furnace was erected at the expense of Mr. HUNTER, and GAYLOR went to work manufacturing silver. The business was carried on for some weeks, producing but little silver, however, in proportion to the amount of ore smelted. Specimens of the metal had been tested by competent judges, and found to be silver, and men became almost insane with excitement, as they beheld the treasure issued form GaAYLOR’s crucible. Some individuals actually neglected their business, spending days in wandering up and down creeks, branches and ravines, and returning at night with their pockets crammed full of little pieces of the substance known as “horn-blende,” the shining particles of which they believed to be gold and silver.

Several of HUNTER’s neighbors, believing the whole thing to be a deception, went, one afternoon, to the furnace, where GAYLOR was at work, expressing a desire to see him smelt some ore taken form the mine in question. He did so, producting a small quantity of metal which was pronounced silver by all present. But while stirring the mass of pulverized ore, one of the men saw him drop a piece of silver coin into the crucible, which fact he communicated to the others. They then filled the crucible themselves with precisely the same kind of ore, and placing it in the furnace, told him that, after being thoroughly searched, he should smelt it, with his coat off and sleeves rolled up. He refused to do so, when they took him into custody and proceeded to melt it themselves. After heating and stirring the precious mass as he had done, they poured it out, but on silver was found.

GAYLOR was taken to Greenville and lodged in jail on a charge of swindling, but was soon after released. He left the country, and thus ended the gold and silver excitement in Bond County.

Strange as it may appear to the reader, slavery existed in Bond County in the early period of its history. A man named HOUSTON, from Kentucky, emigrated to this county and purchased a farm three miles west of Greenville, the place first settled and owned by Dr. PERRINE. He brought with him a number of slaves, among whom were a woman named Fanny and her two children, a boy and girl, Stephen and Charity. His family soon became dissatisfied, and he returned to Kentucky, taking all his negroes with him except Fanny and her children - she not being able at the time to travel. They were left at the residence of Thomas WHITE, two miles west of town, until her recovery, when she went to Greenville and hired to work.

According to the laws of Illinois then in force, she and her children were free, having been in the State longer than the time specified, sixty days. About this time, one MAGOON came to Greenville and stated that he had purchased those negroes from HOUSTON. He was informed that they were free and could not be removed without a violation of law. He then formed a conspiracy with two citizens of Bond County to kidnap them, which they carried into effect one Sunday while the people were at church. They were pursued and captured at PEARCE’s, on Silver Creek, in Madison County. After being all brought back, the negroes were released and the kidnappers placed under bonds for trial, but it appears were never brought into court.

MAGOON left the country, and remained away until the excitement subsided a little, when he returned and arranged with one of the BATEMANS, living on the Okaw, to steal the boy, Stephen, from a place north of Greenville, where he had gone to live. BATEMAN succeeded in kidnapping him, and carried him down into the neighborhood where he lived. He was kept

[Page 43] concealed in the Okaw bottom until MAGOON found an opportunity to escape with him.

The excitement was intense, and a crowd of resolute men soon started in pursuit. They followed on to the neighborhood of the BATEMANs, and spent several days searching in the woods. Failing, however, to find the boy, the pursuit was abandoned and the party returned home.

MAGOON succeeded in escaping south with the boy, where he sold him into slavery, in which condition he remained until liberated by the late war between the States. He was never heard from until near the close of the rebellion, when he was found in the southern part of Georgia, by a Bond County soldier, to whom he related the particulars of his capture and abduction. BATEMAN was one of the Okaw desperadoes and drunkards, who were wont to assemble in Greenville in the early history of Bond County, on public days, to drink and fight. He died not many years since, in a state of intoxication, uttering with his last breath the most horrible blasphemies.

Old Fanny’s husband, Stephen HUDLEY, was a slave in Missouri, and she, after years of toil, saved money enough cooking, washing and selling ginger cakes, to purchase his freedom, and thus had the proud satisfaction of re-uniting those sacred ties which had been sundered by the curse of slavery. At attempt, as we have seen, had been made to kidnap her and her little children, not by slaveholders, from whom nothing better could have been expected, but by citizens of a free state - the last men it would be supposed, who would commit such a dastardly act. But who can account for human depravity?

The health of the people of Bond County is much better now than in former years. This is attributable to the fact that there is less rain, less decaying vegetation, fewer marshes and stagnant pools, and a consequent diminution of the vapors thus generated, which have proved, in so many cases, fatal to the human family. In addition to all this, we live in more comfortable houses, are better clothed, and expose ourselves less to the inclemencies of the weather.

The first physicians who located here were Drs. William PERRINE and J. B. DRAKE, from New Jersey. Before this, when people became sick, they had to send to Edwardsville for a doctor. Both Dr. PERRINE and Dr. DRAKE were young men of talent and education, and well versed in their profession. They soon got a good practice, and became noted physicians.

Dr. PERRINE married a Miss TOWNSEND - the daughter of a Presbyterian preacher, residing in the northwestern part of the county, and a few years later removed with his family to Florida. During the Seminole war, he was murdered by Indians at his own house. Dr. DRAKE removed to Greenville, where he continued the practice of medicine for many years. He then engaged in the mercantile business, and, still later, married, residing in Greenville until his death.

As the county became more populous, other physicians of eminence located here and acquired considerable note as medical practitioners. During some of the sickly seasons, there were not enough well persons to take care of the sick. This state of affairs was not confined to Bond County alone, but extended over the southern part of the State. The year 1844 was, perhaps, the most unhealthy one ever experienced in this part of Illinois. Then, all the physicians of this county resided in Greenville, and, of course, their practice extended many miles. They were kept going night and day during the sickliest portion, not only of 1844, but of several years preceding, and after that time.

There was much sickness then of a serious and fatal character, yet there were some persons who would send for a physician for every trifling illness. When an individual mounted

[Page 44] a horse to go for a doctor, he generally “put him through,” no matter what the distance, nor what the disease, whether a sprained ankle, or congestion of the brain; the speed was about the same. A man living ten or twelve miles from Greenville was seen one day riding at a fearful rate toward town, his horse in a foam of sweat, and evidently going for a doctor in a desperate case. He was hailed on the way, when the following dialogue ensued: “Who’s sick?” “My brother.” “What’s the matter with him?” “He’s bleeding.” By this time he had got so far off as to render further questions impracticable. It was afterwards ascertained that his brother had only taken a spell of bleeding at the nose, from which he soon recovered.

[Page 45 - Portrait of A. G. HENRY]
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Transcribed by Norma Hass from the History of Bond and Montgomery Counties Illinois, published in 1882, Part I, pages 39-46.

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