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1905 Souvenir of Greenville

Bird's Eye View of Greenville, Illinois, as it appeared in 1905


In presenting this little volume to the critical gaze of the people of Greenville, the author fully realizes that there are many of her citizens who are better equipped by tenure of years and by ripe experience to lay bare the story of her life and growth.

The task of assembling the historical data has been a great one, but when once assembled, the work of confining it to a volume the size of this, without losing sight of the essential facts, was even greater. In order to confine the story of Greenville to a volume of this size it became necessary to treat the subject in a general way. This was never intended to be a biographical record, but a history of Greenville could not be written without frequent illusions to many of her citizens who have contributed materially to her growth, perhaps mention of some of these has been omitted. If so, it is unintentional.

The illustrating of this book has been conducted by Mr. Byron K. LeCrone, of Effingham, and Mr. Lon S. Matherly, of Vandalia. The people of Greenville have responded most generously in many ways to make this work a success. To single out any one individual, or, for that matter, any dozen individuals, as having given valuable assistance in this work, would be to overlook scores of others, who have done equally as much. Of course there have been some who have contributed vastly more than others in its compilation, but to the whole people we are indebted for whatever measure of success this little book attains and to them we wish to express our sincere appreciation.

Will C. Carson.
Greenville, Illinois, December 15, 1905.

Greenville's Carnegie Library
Erected in. the year 1905 at a cost of $11,000.

Bond County Soldiers' Monument
Unveiled September 19, 1903.

A Condensed History of Greenville, Illinois

Countless changes have taken place in the ninety years that have elapsed since a lone log cabin, on the brow of the hill at the west end of present Main Avenue, constituted the whole of Greenville. In those good old days of 1815, when Greenville was young, the public road ran past the cabin, and down the hill, and, crossing the creek at the Alton ford, was swallowed up by the forest.

Truthfully to relate how Greenville, from that rudely constructed log cabin, steadily advanced through the years and has earned her place on the map, and how she has been evolved from the forest primeval into a bustling city of twentieth century attainments, is to tell again the story of the unspeakable hardships of the pioneers, and of the determination of the settlers, who followed them.

It was ninety years ago that a sturdy pioneer, by name George Davidson, attracted by the rolling hills and clear spring water, set about to clear the forest and make himself a home, and, camping on the edge of the big ravine that yawns about the western confines of the town, he paved the way for a "Greater Greenville."

The history of Greenville, the third and present county seat of Bond county, is so closely interwoven with the history of the county itself, that a slight digression is here and now pardonable, that we may, at the outset, note the beginnings of the then new country of the Northwest Territory, of which Bond county, and by inference, Greenville, formed no insignificant part.

Wrested from the clutches of Great Britain by the indomitable will of George Rogers Clark, to whom we of today owe a mighty debt of gratitude, the Illinois country became a county of Virginia in 1778 and so remained until the deed of session of 1784, and from that time on the great territory of Illinois was pared down until it reached its present dimensions, and the great, overgrown county of Bond, that then extended to the shores of Lake Michigan, the fifteenth county to be formed, gave generously of its territory to the formation of Montgomery, Fayette and Clinton counties: in fact so liberally that it was finally compelled to borrow from Madison, in sheer self-defense, finding itself shaved down to its present unpretentious dimensions. Beyond a doubt the spirit of broad-mindedness and liberality that now characterizes the county and city was born of that period.

Bond county was organized in 1816 and was named for Shadrach Bond, the first governor of Illinois. It was one of the original fifteen counties represented in the Constitutional Convention of 1818. Thos. Kirkpatrick and Samuel G. Morse represented the county in the convention that formed the first state constitution. At this election for conventioners there were three candidates, Morse, Kirkpatrick and Martin, although but two were to be elected. The issue was slavery or no slavery. Morse and Kirkpatrick were against slavery but Martin was noncommittal. Some lively Tennesseeans concocted a scheme to ascertain Martin's views. They called him to one side and told him that they, as well as some of their friends in Tennessee, wanted slavery admitted so that they might bring their slaves here. Their plan was successful, for Martin said, "Boys, don't say anything, but I am for slavery."

The boys did say something, however, and Martin was defeated. George Davidson, founder of Greenville, was one of the clerks at this election.

In giving of her territory and in being represented at the first constitutional convention, Bond county is justly entitled to be denominated one of the corner stones on which has been laid the superstructure of present day prosperity of the great northwest.

Early Settlements.

Old Brick House which, until recently stood at the corner of Main and Sixth. It was the home of Samuel White and the first postoffice was kept therein. One of the first houses built in Greenville.

Cyrus Birge, Deceased.
Greenville Merchant in 1824.

Permanent settlement of Bond county was made prior to 1811, but the exact date is not fixed. Mrs. Elizabeth Harbour, who lived at Chatham, Illinois in 1890, declared that her family settled near Greenville in 1808, and that there had been white settlers before them. The lady named Isaac Hill, Tom Ratan, Billy Jones, John Finley and Henry Cox as having been here at that time. It is an established fact that settlement was made at Hill's Fort in the summer 1811. This fort covered an acre of ground and was situated on the present farm of John O'Byrne, eight miles southwest of present Greenville. The mother of James H. White, of Greenville, was an inmate of this fort, her father having taken her there for safety.

In early days the Indians made annual incursions into the country in and around Greenville. They usually came in the autumn, because they then could get game and corn on which to subsist. A mile and a half south of Hill's Fort was Jones' Fort, built about the same time. These two feeble bands of settlers, at that time, composed the entire population of Bond county. These forts were not only a place of defense but the residence of the families belonging to the neighborhood. The stockades, bastions, cabins and block house walls had port holes at proper heights and distances. The whole of the outside was made absolutely bullet proof and the fort was built without the use of a single nail or spike.

Some families were so attached to their farms that they remained on them as much as possible, despite the constant danger of an Indian attack. In the event of the approach of Indians, an "express" from the fort was sent out to arouse the settlers, who at once hastened to the stockade and thus it often happened that the whole number of families belonging to a fort, who were in the evening at their homes, were all in the fortress before dawn the next morning. During the succeeding day their household effects were brought in by parties of armed men sent out for that purpose. Some families were more foolhardy or adventurous than others and in spite of every remonstrance they would remain on their farms, or, if in the stockade, would return prematurely to their property, thus endangering their lives.

The Cox Massacre.

The Cox massacre is frequently confused with the killing of Henry Cox and his son, south of Greenville, by the Indians. Henry Cox and his son were killed and by Indians, but the Cox massacre, which is commemorated by a monument in the country west of Greenville, was the occasion of the death of another Cox, and the taking into captivity of a young woman.

The Cox family moved from near Alton and settled north of Pocahontas a distance of two miles. They had been there two or three years and were building a horse mill at the time of the murder, which was on June 2, 1811. Several Indians of the Pottawattomie tribe, having heard a considerable amount of money was in possession of the family went to the cabin while the father and mother were away. They killed the son, cutting out his heart and placing it on his head. They then threatened his sister, Rebecca Cox, who had been a witness of the terrible deed, with a like vengeance, unless she revealed the hiding place of the money. The girl went to a chest, and fumbling around in it, in order to conceal the principal packages, handed them a small parcel, which they accepted. The Indians then stole the horses and taking the girl prisoner, started north up the Shoal Creek timber. Rebecca was shrewd enough to tear strips from her apron and drop them along the trail as a guide for her rescuers.

As soon as the family returned and found the mutilated corpse of their son lying in the cabin, and the daughter gone, they went to Hill's Station, sent messengers to alarm the settlers in Bond and Madison counties and as soon as possible Captain Pruett, Davy White and seven others went in pursuit. The Indians, having had several days start, were overtaken near where Springfield now stands. The girl was tied on a pony. At sight of her rescuers, she loosed her bands, jumped from the pony and started to meet them. An Indian threw a tomahawk. It stuck squarely in her back and thus her saviours found her. The girl afterward recovered, married and moved to Arkansas, where her husband was killed by Indians. Three miles north of Pocahontas is the grave of Cox and above it stands a monument erected by the people of that community a few years ago.

Scene at the dedication of the Cox monument, west of Greenville, October 9, 1900. The monument commemorated the massacre of Mr. Cox, by the Indians, in 1811.

The killing of Henry Cox by the Indians is an entirely different story. Cox was an inmate of Hill's Fort but had built a cabin nearly a mile south of where Dudleyville now stands. One morning in August, 1815, Cox took his son, aged 15, and went, each on horseback, to his cabin. All appeared quiet when they rode up to the cabin. Cox told his son to ride down to the creek and water the horses, while, rifle in hand, he went to the door of the cabin. Pushing the door open, he saw an Indian in the house. Quick as a flash he raised his rifle and fired. He missed the Indian and his ball sunk in the log over the fireplace. At the same instant another Indian, concealed behind a tree, fired at Cox, the ball passing through his body and killing him instantly. Spattering the blood of Cox all over the door, the bullet imbedded itself in the wood. The Indians then ran to catch the boy with the horses and keep him from giving the alarm at the fort. In their attempt to capture him they became alarmed at the delay and finally shot him and buried him without going back to the body of his father. The boy was not, found and it was believed that he was taken prisoner until after peace was made, when the Indians revealed the fate of the boy. The bullet holes and the splotch of Cox's blood on the cabin door were seen years afterward, when the property was owned by Abraham McCurley.

There is a tradition, handed down by James Mc. Gillespie, who came to Bond county in 1816, and who, in 1860, made written report of his reminiscenses to the Old Settlers' Association, that one Benjamin Henson came to Bond sometime before the war of 1812. Living in a hollow sycamore tree in Shoal Creek bottom, he feared no man and was content. It is related that at one time during the war of 1812, the forts were all abandoned on account of the Indian hostilities and Henson alone was left in his 8 by 10 sycamore tree, the only white inhabitant of the county. When the hostilities were over the settlers returned to find Henson unmolested. Henson is said to have piloted people across Shoal Creek at the foot of Mill Hill, Greenville, until the state, in 1824, gave $200 for a bridge to be placed across the stream at that point.

Near Jones' fort, in those early days, an Indian concealed himself in the dense foliage of a tree and picked off five men before he was discovered and shot. In August 1814, Major Journey, in command of Hill's Fort, flung open the gates and marched forth to look for Indians, leaving the garrison absolutely defenseless and the women milking the cows. The Indians surprised them, killed the Major and three of his men, and wounded the fifth, Thomas Higgins, whose escape was almost miraculous.

These are some of the scenes that went toward the making of Greenville, and, though the .graves of the heroes, who fell at Hill's Fort and Jones' Fort, less than a hundred years ago, now go unmarked, the memory of their valorous deeds sticks deep in our minds, for they blazed the way for the founding, only a few miles to the northward, of the puny settlement, out of which our own fair city of Greenville has been evolved.

At the close of our last war with England, a treaty of peace was made with the Indians, the forts in Bond county were abandoned and straggling settlements began to form. The settlers came but slowly however, and in 1816 Bond county numbered but twenty-five cabins.

Seth Blanchard, Deceased.

Who came to Greenville in 1820, after selling the land where the St. Louis court house now stands.

Willard Twiss, Deceased.

A Greenville Merchant of the Twenties, who employed John A. Logan as a jockey on the farm now known as the A. J. Sherburne farm.

Mrs. Millicent Clay Birge, Dec'd.

Wife of Ansel Birge, Greenville's first postmaster, who lived in and near Greenville for 69 years. She died July 12, 1896.

George Donnell, Deceased. Who came to Greenville in 1818, and who was one of the pioneer residents.

Mrs. George Donnell, Deceased.

Samuel White, Deceased.
Who came to Greenville in 1818, and built one of the first houses here.

When Greenville was Young.

History bears evidence that great achievements are wrought through much tribulation, and so it was in the founding of Greenville, for be it known that milk-sickness in Madison county caused George Davidson to sell his farm there and move to Bond county in 1815. The records show that he entered 160 acres of land, where Greenville now stands, September 27, 1816. He obtained the patent from His Excellency James Monroe, President of the United States, April 29, 1825. This land is described as the southeast quarter of Section No. 10, Township 5, north, Range 3, west of the third principal meridian.

Mr. Davidson's cabin was built on the primitive style of logs with weight poles to hold the clap-board roof in place. The puncheon floor was made of slabs, split and hewn, and the carpenter had no use for nails, glass, putty, nor plaster. Mr. Davidson's cabin was located in the extreme western part of town, near the present residence of H. H. Staub. His family consisted of his wife, Jannet, two sons and two daughters. One son, Samuel, died of consumption, soon after coming here. One daughter, Mrs. Elizabeth Caroline Blundell, lived at Healdsburg, California in 1876, and in a letter to one of the Greenville papers stated that her brother and the Reverend Green P. Rice, who followed George Davidson here, laid out some lots in the western part of Greenville. This plat of the old town was never recorded and there is a story to the effect that George Davidson, one day, in a fit of anger, tore the plat up and watched it burn to ashes in the fireplace.

The existence of this plat afterwards made trouble for the people who purchased lots, when the town was finally laid out. This part of the town, then laid out, as the original town, is now Davidson's addition.

Not long after he built his first cabin, George Davidson moved to the lot at the southwest corner of Sixth Street and Main Avenue (as it is today) directly across the street south of the John Baumberger, Sr., homestead, and opened a tavern. In opening the first tavern in Greenville, Mr. Davidson again proved himself a public benefactor, for it was for many years a mecca for the wayfaring man, as well as a most convenient loafing place for those of the early gentry, who were wont to whittle and spit through the long winter evenings.

John Greenwood, Deceased.
Came to Greenville in 1838, and a few years later laid out Greenwood's Addition.

Seth Fuller, Deceased.
Who came to Greenville in the thirties; an early surveyor and trustee of Almira College.

James Enloe, Deceased.
Who came to Greenville with his father, Asahel Enloe, in 1818, and helped clear off the land where the court house now stands.

Isaac Enloe, Deceased.
Came to Greenville soon after the town was laid out and helped clear the land where the court house now stands.

About this time the Reverend Green P. Rice arrived from Kentucky. He bought a part of George Davidson, 's Ian i and, together with Samuel Davidson, opened the first store in Greenville. It is said that this store was only large enough to hold comfortably one wagon load of goods. The store was located on what is now Main Avenue and Sixth Street. Mrs. Blundell, in her letter, stated that Mr. Rice became involved in some trouble about some slaves he brought from Kentucky, and, selling his interests to Cyrus Birge, left the country.

James, Ansel and Cyrus Birge, three brothers, came to Greenville from Poultney, Vermont. Cyrus kept the store until 1824, when he sold his stock to his brother, Ansel. who carried on the business for eight years. Ansel Birge, during this time, married Miss Millicent Clay Twiss, a sister of Willard Twiss, to whom he sold the store in 1833, and moved to his farm one mile south of Greenville. This store was the chief public institution of the town, when Greenville became the county seat in 1821.

Seth, Samuel and Elisha Blanchard came to Greenville in 1820 and entered 1800 acres of land, a part of which is the farm now owned by Mrs. L. K. King, a mile east of town, at the top of "Blanchard's Hill," which derives its name from them. They built a cabin in town and opened a store. Seth managed the farm, Elisha conducted the store and Samuel traded to New Orleans, and they prospered. Soon after Mr. Blanchard opened the store, travel became more general and a tavern was opened in connection. A huge pair of antlers, erected over a sign made of a hewn board, printed with a coal from the hearth, announced the welcome news that here was the "Buck and Horn Tavern." This institution with a few other log cabins formed the original town of Greenville. David Berry later became owner of the tavern and then it passed into the hands of Thomas Dakin, who owned it many years.

There were no saloons in Greenville in those days, but the merchants all kept whiskey and treated the customers, who called for it.

Dr. J. B. Drake, Deceased,
One of the earliest Greenville Physicians.

The Drake House, Built by Dr. J. B. Drake in the early thirties, and dismantled in 1905.

Maj. William Davis, Deceased.
Who came to Greenville in 1831 and opened a tavern. He died in Greenville.

Mrs. Lucy Davis, nee Mayo,
Wife of Major Wm. Davis. Died in Greenville in 1891.

Judge Enrico Gaskins, Deceased.
Twenty years county clerk, eight years county judge of Bond. Came here in 1835. Died in 1879.

Mrs. Jane Williford, Deceased.
Who was born in Greenville March 17, 1822, and who resided here all her life. Died May 14, 1905, the oldest native born resident of Greenville at that time.

In the summer of 1818, many families, including Samuel White and George Donnell, moved here from North Carolina and Kentucky. The principal families in Greenville then were, in addition to those already mentioned, the Kirkpatricks, Camps, Goss, Rutherfords, Fergusons and old Father Elam, who lived where the old graveyard is now located. At his home were held the religious meetings, which always ended with the minister shaking hands with everybody during the singing of the last song.

Good Old Father Asahel Enloe was the singing school teacher and the school master, and many a time in early days, did the youngsters of Greenville willingly obey his dictum, as he stood in the doorway of the school house and cried, "Books, books, come to books." His copies were equal to Spencer's best copper plate and his chirography is still well preserved in the county records.

In a letter dated at Paola, Kansas, June 20, 1876, Mrs. Almira Morse, one of the best known women the city has produced, and for whom Almira College was named, stated that the first school house in Greenville was on the northeast corner of the public square. The square was laid out in 1821, and Samuel Blanchard assisted John Russell in making the survey. Mrs. Morse says:

"Once a year came 'Parade Day,' when Colonel Stout, accoutered in regimentals, epaulets and white cockade, mounted on a charger, was marshal of the motley company.

"There was one colored family in the place. Old Aunt Fanny, with her three children, bought her freedom of her master in Kentucky, and in Greenville earned a good living by washing and nursing. One day while she was washing at Mr. Blanchard's two men suddenly rode up on horseback, and demanded Aunt Fanny and her children, as runaway slaves. She declared she had her free papers at home, and with prayers and tears, besought them to leave her, but her entreaties were unheeded and Aunt Fanny was bound to a horse and with her children behind them, the men rode away. They were armed with rifles, pistols and knives and no one dared to interfere. When part way to St. Louis, however, a party from Reno overtook them. The family was rescued and returned home.

"Our town once had a visit from Lorenzo Dow, who stopped at the tavern, and old Mr. Twiss went over 'to argue him out of his religion,' but the eccentric old saint got the better of him. He preached upon the hill north of town. He sat in his chair, while preaching, for two hours or more."


Extractions from Historical Souvenir of Greenville, Illinois: Being a Brief Review of the City from the Time of its Founding to Date, by Will C. Carson, published in 1905, pages 1-12. Contributed 2021 May 20 by Norma Hass.

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