Second Quarter, 1972
This year's house tour, on Mother's Day, May
14th, was our most successful ever. A total of
1,370 tickets were sold, and, after expenses, a net
of $1,722.18 went into the foundation's treasury.
This is a great boost toward our goal of restoring
the Village Hall.
Tour chairman Robert Connell is to be highly .
complimented for the well organized and conducted
tour, as are his many helpers. In spite of a short
but heavy rain early in the afternoon, visitors all
seemed to have a good afternoon of investigating
houses and history.
Not only did Robert Connell organize the tour,
opened his house to visitors as well. Mrs. Frances
Grayson, who has made available her charming brick
home so many times on behalf of Elsah functions,
again opened it on this occasion. The apartment now
under the former Keller Store was opened by David
Schlitt, affording visitors a view of an area never
before shown. Mr. and Mrs. James Belote opened
their two -story stone house on LaSalle Street. Mrs.
Helen Armstrong's home on Valley Street, delight-
fully furnished, was also open. In response to a
last -minute change, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Holt opened
their home on Mill Street, much to the gratitude of
In addition, the Doll Museum, featured in our
last issue, was open, and the Christian Science
Church. Headquarters for the tour was the Village
Hall, where Charles Hosmer answered questions
about Elsah history and exhibited the collection of
historic panoramas of Elsah at different periods in
time done by Glenn Felch. In the hall publications
were available for sale, as well as other items, in-
cluding art work from the Frincipia Studio. The
Village of Elsah Civic Center, formerly the Elsah
School, housed a craft sale and refreshments under
the chairmanship of Mrs. Pat Farmer. So many
others helped very substantially with the tour that it
is not possible to name them here. But the founda-
tion is grateful for this community effort.
Bob Reilly, HEF member, interviews visitors
at the Elsah Village Hall during the tour.
The tour also benefited from considerable press
coverage, including mentions in the St. Louis Post-
Dispatch and Globe -Democrat, the Democrat -News
from Jerseyville, the Jersey -Greene -Calhoun Shop-
per , and the Alton Evening Telegraph . But as a
poll during the tour made by Principia College econ-
omics students showed, by far the greatest promo-
tional influence came from a full page in the Alton
Evening Telegraph written by Mrs. Nina Meszaros
and photographed by Robert Graul.
ELSAH HISTORY, published quarterly in Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter issues by Histor-
ic Elsah Foundation, Paul O. Williams, editor. Subscription is with membership. Send to P. O.
Box 117, Elsah, Illinois 62028. Rates: individual, $2; family, $3; sustaining, $10 or more. Sam-
ple copies available on request.
Second Quarter, 1972
Two members of Historic Elsah Foundation may
owe their lives, or at least their natures, to the fact
that a shoe pinched. But the shoe was on another fool;
that of Betty Cresswell's great -grandmother,
Hannah Bates Askew, who was the only survivor of
the small group of women and children who were the
victims in the Wood River Massacre of 1814.
The story of the family's coming to this area
goes back a little before that, to the arrival of Wil-
liam Bates in what is now Forkyville, east of Alton,
around 1808. The Department of the Army's Revolu-
tionary War records show that Bates enlisted in the
First South Carolina Regiment on April 14, 1776 for
the duration of the war. A later record, however, an
application for a pension before the Circuit Court of
Greene County, Illinois, in 1832, cites contrarily
that he enlisted for eighteen months in March or
April of 1781 in North Carolina, in a regiment under
General Greene. In his claim, Bates noted the fol-
"I will here observe that it is impossible for me
to remember the precise time that 1 entered the regu-
lar Service. For two years previous, 1 had been en-
gaged as a Spy, by Colonel Shepherd, in the militia
service, & when General Greene came to the South,
I enlisted for Eighteen months. But 1 well remember,
that I was in the Regular Service, at the time of the
Battle of the Cowpens or Shortly after, when General
Morgan commanded our force: and 1 shall never for-
get the Battle of Eutaw Springs: and lastly, I do re-
member, that we were marched to Wilmington /fTorth
Carolina/ at or after, the close of the Revolutionary
War, & there discharged. "
Bates cites also that "ever since the Revolution-
ary War, in which 1 lost many relations & property,
being poor, 1 chose the Western Frontier, wishing
more for revenge from the Indians, than a Pension
from my Country. '
According to Volney P. Richmond, whose account
of the Wood River Massacre, recorded in 1898, ap-
peared in the Transactions of the Illinois State His-
torical Society for 1904, and who knew Captain Abel
Moore and several of his children, who were involved
in the event, the massacre occurred on July 10, 1814,
in the southwest corner of section five, in Wood Riv-
Captain Abel Moore was married to Mary Bates,
a daughter of William Bates. Mrs. Rachael Reagan
and her two children had spent the fateful day at the
farm of William Moore, and returned home by way
of Abel Moore's farm with two of William Moore's
children. Here two children of Captain Moore's,
William and Joel, decided to go with the Reagans to
get some green beans, and Hannah Bates, who was
visiting there, started out with them. But for some
reason (Mr. Richmond calls it a presentiment, but
the Cresswell family tradition says it was a blister
on her heel), Hannah turned back. As it turned out.
according to Mr. Richmond's account, she did so
only two or three hundred yards from the place where
the scalped bodies of Mrs. Reagan and the six child-
ren were found.
Mr. Richmond's account recalls that the mas-
sacre was discovered separately by William Moore,
who had been absent for military duty at Fort Butler,
near St. Jacob, Illinois, and by his wife, who was
Mrs. Reagan's sister. Fort Butler and Fort Russell,
which was near Edwardsville, were aroused, and
seventy men pursued the Indians until they caught up
with them in northern Morgan County, killing nine of
the ten in the party.
William Bates moved to what is now Elsah Town-
ship, becoming its first European settler, in 1817,
taking up residence in section 25, near Piasa Creek,
in the area of the Lock Haven Country Club. He
lived there until 1835, when he moved to live with
Abel Moore in Upper Alton.
It was from the Piasa Creek farm that Hannah
Bates married Colonel Josiah Askew in 1821. ^ Ac-
cording to family, traditioni, her father opposed the
marriage, taking off his money belt and offering it
to Hannah if she would not marry Askew. Her reply,
the tradition says, was that she would have that much
and more if she did marry him. As it turned out, she
was right and her father wrong, as the Askew for-
tunes soared and William Bates fell on hard times.
Josiah Askew came to own a farm on what is now
Route 100, near the present William Wieland farm.
He became the original private owner of the upper
end of the Village of Elsah, buying the land stretch-
ing from Selma Square, in front of the Elsah Metho-
dist Church, northward, from the United States land
office in Edwardsville in 1836. Originally from Ten-
nesee and North Carolina, Askew was active in mili-
tary affairs as well as in the early Baptist societies
in the area. He died in 1845, leaving his widow well
provided for. In Elsah he left the name of Askew on
the creek that flows through the village.
Hannah's father hadn't done as well as she. In
his pension application of 1832, when he was seventy -
five, he listed his property as worth $216. This in-
cluded the following:
One horse, 10 years Old, worth $20.
One mare and colt 20.
One old wagon 20.
Four cows, two 2 year olds, 2 year-
lings & 1 Bull 40.
80 Acres of thin soil hill Land, (a small
parcel therof is fit for Cultivation) 100.
a few stock Hogs, worth 6.
House hold & kitchen furniture 6.
One Axe, 2 old ploughs, & 1 Hoe 4.
The deposition follows with this commentary: "I
Second Quarter, 1972
am a farmer by occupation; but by reason of age &
infirmities, particularly the Rheumatism, I am not
able to follow it, no, not able, many times to get
"The age of my wife is Thirty five years. The
name of the oldest child living with me, is Susannah,
aged 12 years; the next is named Joseph, aged 10
years; the name of the next is William, aged 8 years;
And the next is named Mary Ann, aged Six Months. --
Thus, while my wife has a sucking child to take care
of, there are none of the rest of my family that are
able to support themselves, in a frontier, where fe-
male labour, is of but little worth. Not one of my
children has any learning; and it gives me pain to
think of having to leave them on the cold charity of a
merciless world, without being able to read a Chap-
ter in the Bible; for in the course of nature, 1 can not
live much longer with them. "
This heartfelt plea was undoubtedly the produc-
tion of Bates's lawyer, as one would gather from the
comments of Isaac Newton Piggott, postmaster at
Eminence,^ who revised and corrected Bates's pen-
sion application in the next year, closing his letter
to the Secretary of War with the following remarks:
"I hope you will pardon me for imposing my Name in
his behalf, as it is the Best atonement I can offer for
So long neglecting to attend to this Business, for one,
who can neither read, or write^or_even Speak plain
English, But who, as I belive ^sic^/, has a just Claim
to a Pension. "
Hannah and Josiah Askew had six daughters, one
of whom, Martha Jane (1835-1890) married William
Allen. The Aliens, who owned a great deal of land
in the Elsah area, also had six children. Catherine
Allen (1865-195C^ , one of the daughters, married
Walter J. Cresswell (1865-1918) in 1886. He was a
dairy farmer who also rented horses and equipment
to the Elsah Quarry. When widowed, Mrs. Cress -
well ran the Riverview House as a tourist home, later
retiring to the present Helen Armstrong house, which
her son, Walter Cresswell, Jr., built for her.
Thus, in a roundabout way, two of our members,
Betty Cresswell, a daughter of Walter and Catherine
Cresswell, and her niece, Marie, daughter of Wal-
ter, Jr. , and Grace Barnal Cresswell, may owe their
heritage to a shoe that did not fit back in July of 1814.
Both are Elsah residents today, and represent a con-
tinuity of family that extends back nearly to the begin -
nings of European settlement in this area.
1 TTie text available seems corrupt here, though
apparently a xerox of the original handwritten docu-
ment. It would seem to mean either "revenge on" or
"refuge from," but either reading causes problems.
One doesn't seek refuge from the Indians by going to
the frontier. If seeking revenge, does one settle an
area with his family?
2 See the account in O. B. Hamilton, ed. The His -
tory of Jersey County, Illinois. Chicago: Munsell,
1919, p. 365.
^This is apparently Bates's fifth wife. A document
of January 13, 1825 refers to her as both "Bithy" and
"Bitha. " Both she and her husband signed the docu-
ment, a sale of land, with the mark X. Bitha could
well represent a phonetic spelling of Bertha. Or
perhaps it derives from Elizabeth.
"^Eminence, a short-lived village in Eminence Hol-
low, one mile east of Elsah on what is now the Prin-
cipia College campus, was started in 1828, when a
store was started by a man from Portage des Sioux
near the river. In this same year, Piggott opened
a post office near the head of the hollow, in a location
lost until an investigation of this spring has apparent-
ly recovered it. Piggott moved his post office to New-
burn in 1835, but for a time he served a variety of
purposes, as an educated man running the first post
office in what is now Jersey County.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The material in the above article
is substantially that gathered by Betty Cresswell in
her investigations of her family history. Much of it
was gathered into a genealogical study by Leslie
THREE LADIES ON A BARREL: Recently someone
who wishes to remain anonymous bought thirty -two
glass plates at the Grafton auction bearing the crayon
title, McNair plates. Learning that these plates had
a relation to Elsah history, this collector kindly al-
lowed HEP to make copies of them. Pictured here
are Dolly Barnal Pinney, and Nancy and Grace Milford
id Quarter, 1972
on a barrel on the Elsah waterfront. Behind them is
a warehouse with advertisements for 5 cent cigars.
To the right is a corner of the Odd Fellows' Hall.
The plates vary in quality from very poor to ex-
cellent. The one pictured lies somewhere in the mid-
dle. They include pictures of both people and build-
ings hitherto unavailable. Originally they were made
by the McNair family around 1900 to 1903. A great
many ot the people in the pictures were identified by
Miss Lucy McDow. Others await a further scrutiny.
Since the world in general will little note nor long
remember what happens in Elsah, it behoves some-
one to record our more remarkable events. One of
these was a severe hailstorm of Tuesday, April 11,
a storm heavy enough to produce the nearest thing to
a flash flood that the valley has had in some years.
Around 3:30 p. m. on that day rain and hail began
to fall so hard that in 20 minutes 1.75 inches had come
down. The hail was up to an inch in diameter, big
enough to riddle some roofs, dent the tops of light
cars, and break greenhouse windows.
With enough rain to float the hail, and enough big
hail to clog drains, the whole village was soon a rivei;
carrying sticks, logs, leaves, and mud down the
creek and the streets with devastating effect. Yards
were buried in debris so thick that three eighty de-
gree days later, in places, six inches or more of
hail could be found, unmelted, protected by the leaves
At Principia College, the rush of hail and water
broke a door and a large window, and filled the music
room of Davis Center to a depth of about four feet.
At Chautauqua some cottages were three feet or
more deep in hail washed down the streams. The
road was peeled up in many places. A herd of cattle
was washed down the adjoining Fern Glen Valley,
some of them left almost buried in debris.
Further upriver, at Powder Mill Hollow, the force
of the runoff filled a culvert (or whistle , as locally
named) ten feet or more in diameter, then undermined
it and lifted the whole thing right up through the two
westbound lanes of the McAdams Highway, blocking
that side of the road.
All in all, about 2. 5 inches of precipitation fell,
most of that in about an hour and a half. This was
sufficient to approximate the old flash floods that per -
iodically devastated Elsah in the old days, when the
surrounding hills were largely cut off and turned into
pasture, and there were no woods to retard quick
Spring flowers, especially the redbud and dogwood
displays, were greatly subdued because of the hail,
and it was some time before the mud and debris were
cleaned up. Today, however, almost no evidence of
the storm remains.
A VISITOR OF NOTE
Elsah was visited recently by Norman Greene
of Indiana, Pennsylvania. Mr. Greene is the grand-
son of Addison Greene, Elsah' s first known perman-
ent village settler, who reportedly built three log
houses in 1847 near the waterfront in what is now
the old village area. One of these comprises the
present livingroom area of the Riverview House.
Addison Greene sold wood from the Elsah hills for
steamboat fuel. He was also a partner of General
Semple's in a horse ferry from Elsah to Portage
des Sioux in 1853, the year of Elsah's founding. Mr.
Norman Greene thinks he has a picture of his grand-
and some other historical information and will check
when he returns home from his present trip.
A small article on Elsah, based on information
sent in by our editor, appeared this spring in the
Great River Road News , a quarterly promotional
magazine published in Cassville, Wisconsin by the
Mississippi River Parkway Commission.
This was the year of the thirteen-year cicada.
Emerging in mid -May, the new adults quickly dis-
carded their lastnymphal shells and began the loud
and frantic job of mating and laying eggs. Contrary
to popular notions, and the common misnomer of
"locust, " the adult cicadas do not eat. In fact, in
about a month, those who have survived the onslaught
of predators die of starvation. They lay their eggs
in incisions made in leaf and twig stems. These drop
off, carrying the eggs to the ground where they hatch
and burrow deep into the soil. Here they will remain
as larvae until May, 1985. Look for them then. One
of our stranger natural phenomena, the cicada hatches
are looked at with unnecessary fear by many, instead
of with the wonder these fragile and nearly harmless
During the Principia Summer Sessions, when the
annual house tours used to be conducted, limited guid-
ed tours will be conducted for students in these ses-
sions. There is always a demand for tours by those
who have enjoyed them in the past. Plans are now be-
A very big event in the fall will be the fact that
HEF will host the Missouri Historical Society fall
tour in the village and on the campus of Principia Col-
lege. This all day tour is scheduled for Saturday,
Second Quarter, I')72
October 7th. The support of our members is much
HEP has brought out its first two leaflets. The
first is a reprint, with two new pages, of the Prin-
cipia Pilot of November 19, 1971, devoted to the work
of Bernard Maybeck, the famous California archi-
tect, in building the Principia College campus. As
of now it constitutes the most extensive publication
available on this work of Maybeck' s, his largest
single commission. This leaflet is fourteen pages
long, and contains forty pictures and one full page
map. The cost is $. 65.
Leaflet # 2 is entitled Elsah Citizens: Some
Early Listings . Compiled by Ann Wheeler, HEF
student member, it consists of a number of listings
of citizen names for use by genealogists and other
researchers. These lists include the following:
A complete list of the stones in the Elsah Cemetery,
including names, years of birth and death when avail-
able, and location of the stone in the cemetery-- this
list compiled by Tom Gutnick, another student mem -
ber of HEF; the Elsah census for 1860; citizen infor-
mation listed on the Arnold map of 1862; the census
of 1880, which lists heads of households, numbers
their children, gives their occupation and birthplace;
a set of town clerk's records for monies dispersed
from November 1889 to December 1894; the Elsah
tax assessment list for 1899, which includes the
names of property owners and the Elsah property
they owned; the highway commissioner's orders for
1903 (April through November.); and an Elsah enumer-
ation of 1919. This leaflet includes thirty -one pages
of information published by xerox, and bound inside
a cover with photographs front and back. Cost $1. 50.
A FORTHCOMING LEAFLET
Currently in editorial stages is a fine essay by
Marilyn Bland on Mississippi Bluff Prairies. We hope
to bring out this leaflet this summer and think it will
be a strong contribution not only to our knowledge of
our unusual and historical surroundings, but to the
scientific knowledge of these unusual natural environ-
ments by many people not especially interested in
the history of our locale.
For a number of years the Principia College bi-
ology department has studied the unusual concentra-
tion of bald eagles that winters in the area. This
spring Randy Hale has completed a paper for HEF
which summarizes the history of many of these
studies. This paper is illustrated and is available
for study by members and interested persons.
RESTORATIONS, PRESENT AND COMING
The Riverview House, known recently as Rhoads'
End, was sold at auction in a colorful scene on May
6th. About half of Elsah was there to see Line
Rhoads dispose of his historic house. The highest
bidder turned out to be Principia. They are current-
ly looking for an adaptive use that will not only pre -
serve the historic quality of the building but enhance
it as well. HEF looks on this turn of events as a
very auspicious one for one of the most important
buildings in the village.
The Village Inn, which closed as an eating place
two years ago, was sold to Mr. and Mrs. Ned Brad-
ley, HEF members and longtime Elsah residents.
Currently they are working hard to restore and im-
prove the property, amid a snowstorm of old wall-
paper and other debris. This very big job will oc-
cupy their summer.
The Bates -Piggott House, Elsah's only surviving
Gothic Revival house, which has for years moulder-
ed unused across from the Keller Store, attracting
children and vandals, has been purchased by Alfred
and Inge Mack, HEF members, after a very long
search for the numerous heirs who owned a share
of the property. The Macks also plan a restoration
of this building which many had assumed would be
lost because problems in ownership seemed to ren-
der its sale impossible.
These are heartening events for Elsah, and we
wish the best for those people who have been willing
to undertake these restoration projects.
A COURSE IN LOCAL ARCHAEOLOGY
This past spring quarter eleven students from
Principia College, under the supervision of Carl
Becker, a recent graduate who has had much experi-
ence in Indian archaeology, enrolled in a special
project course in local archaeological research.
After a period of basic orientation, most of the
students settled on the project of locating the exact
foundations of Notchcliff, the grand estate on the El-
sah bluffs built by Lucy V. Semple Ames, the daugh-
ter of the founder of Elsah, General James Semple,
This house burned in 1911, and its stone walls
stood as a ruin until Principia finally bought the pro-
perty and took the remaining part of the house down.
The house was known to have stood somewhere on
a certain large lawn on the western part of the col -
lege campus, near the area known as Piasa Point.
Its exact location was not known until the class sur -
veyed the area, dug exploratory trenches, and
marked 'the location of the walls. Many puzzles re-
main, though, and others were turned up by the dig.
For instance, it seems as though the basement floor
DON'T FORGET. CONTRIBUTIONS TO HISTORIC ELSAH FOUNDATION ARE TAX DEDUCTIBLE NOW.
Second Quarter, 1972
was constructed of large sandstone slabs separated
by wood beams (now charred) running perpendicular
to the front wall. One rear section of the house has
intrusive garbage from the early days of Principia's
occupation of the area, confusing the Notchcliff evi-
Many artifacts were found during this dig. The
most interesting perhaps was a brass name plate
in the shape of a shield bearing the inscription, "Ed-
gar Ames, " the name of the late husband of the build-
er, as well as of one of their sons. Much glass,
crockery, hardware, and even some burnt paper
were turned up. These finds enabled the research-
ers to divide some parts of the house very roughly
into use areas. But further excavation as well as
further study of the artifacts is needed to add
to our knowledge of this house --one of the grandest
ever built in Jersey County.
The students were fortunate to have the aid of
Mrs. Annetta Cronin, of Elsah, who knew and worked
for Mrs. Ames, and was able to visit the site and
point oft the location of various buildings and discuss
life at the estate. Mrs. Cronin's family lived for a
time in a farmhouse near the end of Piasa Point.
NOTCHCLIFF as pictured below appears from the
saddle of the first notch in the bluffs downriver from
Elsah. The lawn in front of the house, and most of
the landscaping, have gone back to woods, and from
the spot the picture was taken it is hard to imagine
the grand estate on the hill.
.■itrangely enough, turtiier intormanon has turned
up about the house since the students have left. In
another history project, another student, Bob Orr,
was working on what records remained of General
Semple. He discovered that a large collection of
papers belonging to one of General Semple' s sons,
Eugene, who was the last territorial governor of
what is now the State of Washington, are housed in
the library of the University of Washington. The
James Belote family, HEF members, summer in
Washington, and have checked the nature of these
papers. They have discovered that a great many
photographs are included in them, including ones of
the house, its occupants, and interiors of various
Two students in the course mentioned above be -
came fascinated with the problem of locating the first
post office in what is now Jersey County, at Eminence.
(See page three above, column 2, note 4.) With the
aid of Henry Bechtold, they located a cellar hole near
the head of Eminence Hollow in the part of the Princi-
pia College campus known as Ewing Wood. Before
the quarter ended they began an exploratory trench,
and found in it pre -Civil War glass and a number of
other artifacts of interest. This work will continue
in the fall.
ON THE LEFT Tanner Girard, Fred Wienecke, Cy
Crandall, Chris Drake, Sara Huey, and Lynn Novak
work on a trench during the search for the foundations
Elsah: A Historic Guidebook , by Charles B. Hosmer,
Jr. , and Paul O. Williams, is now in its third edition
of two thousand copies. This edition is revised and
updated. Because of increased printing costs the
price has gone up to $2. 50.