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EARLY HISTORY OF PLEASANT HILL, McLEAN
By D. F. Trimmer.
Before there could be a Pleasant Hill, there had to be a
farming community to support Pleasant Hill, and in order to
have this, the Indian settlement, already early established
here, must be gotten away with, or crowded out. John Patton
and others, who settled here in 1829, did the crowding out,
these Kickapoo people moved from here to Indian Grove and
from there to Iowa, and later to the Far West. The Divine
command was to '.'multiply and replenish the earth." The
Indians multiplied but they did not replenish the earth, and, as
farmers, were failures.
It is the writer's opinion, the Creator never intended these
broad prairies and fertile fields to go uninhabited and untilled.
The squalid squaw, no doubt, did raise in the. old Indian field
here, some corn, squashes, and a few beans, but to the Pattons
belong the honor of being the first farmers of northern McLean
We have, from good authority, that Mr. Charles Lee, who
was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1790, that buffalo and elk,
which were running wild here, disappeared between the dates of
1805 and 1812. In the year of 1854, a Kickapoo Indian from
Kansas, visited Mr. Patton, at Pleasant Hill. This Indian was
raised near here and knew Patton and his family. He preached
one Sunday in the grove, and the entire community was in
attendance. He spoke of his father and mother buried in the
Indian cemetery, near-by, of his boyhood days spent in the
country round about and of the wonderful change that had
taken place in the twenty years that had elapsed since his
people were in the majority in this county. It was a day long
to be remembered by all who heard him. He was about fifty
years of age, and was a man of education and influence with
We have a record showing Indian children attended school
along with the white children; they came from Delaware Town,
which was situated on the Mackinaw, near Thompson's Ford.
The school was in the Henline Settlement, a few miles south-
east from Pleasant Hill. This was in 1830. Mr. Sheldon was
Pleasant Hill received its name as follows: Mrs. Smith,
who lived on a hill, said, "that it seemed odd to date a letter
from nowhere, when she wished to write her friends back in
the old Kentucky home; she must have a name to date from, so
she called her place, 'Poverty HilF ; and, as a woman was living
near-by on a hill, fairer to look on than her own, advised her
to call it Pleasant Hill." Later the postal authorities changed
it to Selma.
Isaac Smalley was one of the pioneer teachers, preachers
and farmers of Pleasant Hill. He came here from Joliet, Will
County, Illinois, and was prominent in the city for a period
of seventeen years, 1838 to 1855; he was a lover of his family,
his church and his country. He was a leader in all good enter-
prises of the Methodist church, a good preacher, a friend of
education, lower and higher, a valued counsellor in affairs,
private and public import, and a public spirited citizen. While
in Springfield, Illinois, where he had gone, hoping to get the
Chicago and Alton Railroad Company to build their line
through Pleasant Hill, but which he failed to get, owing to the
opposition of Gen. Gridley, Jesse Fell, and others, who had
interests in Lexington, Pontiac and other places, he contracted
the dread disease of small-pox, which was the cause of his
death, which occurred in 1855, and he is buried in the Pleasant
Hill Cemetery. His benefit to the community did not lie merely
in his active participation in public interests, but, by his simple
blameless life, an example of good citizenship, of his relation-
ship to individuals, to his family and community.
Mrs. Smalley was small in stature, but big in heart, and
what she lacked in size, she made up in spirit and energy, and
would discommode herself to accommodate a friend. It is said,
that, she at one time gave up the last bed-room for a short time,
that a new grocery store might be added to the town. Her
husband, her home, children, her church and her friends were
the supreme objects of her life, and received from her the fullest
measure of devotion. "She looked well to the ways of her
household, and ate not the bread of idleness, her children rise
up and call her blessed."
After the passing of Mr. Smalley, she was married again
to William Bratton, and, not unlike the first husband, he was
a Methodist minister. Mrs. Bratton was born in Ohio, in 1808,
and died at her home in Pleasant Hill, December 25, 1893. Mr.
and Mrs. Smalley were the parents of six children, Cynthia,
the youngest, and the only living, is the wife of Capt. Harry
Lawrence, and resides in Lexington, where they are owners
of valuable farm lands east and south of the city. Their
children are also farmers, or farmers' wives, and are leading
citizens of the community. Capt. Lawrence served through
the War of the Rebellion, and now has a grandson, Lawrence
VanDevender, who is serving in the World's War. Capt.
Lawrence has a framed rare relic, which he prizes highly, it
being seventy-five souvenir badges, one for each reunion
attended by him since the close of the war.
M. R. Bullock, a surveyor, made the plat of Pleasant Hill
for Mr. Smalley, in 1840, and Squire Jacob Spawr was the one
witness to the papers. There were very few transfers made in
the early days but what my uncle Jake did not have a hand in.
Why shouldn't he? Coming to this community as he did in
1826 and living to the extreme age of 101 years. He ran a hotel
or tavern, and was a great friend of Lincoln, Douglas and
Davis, as well as other noted men who rode the circuit at that
time. He took the first census, also kept the first postoffice
that is, kept it mostly in his hat, very few people who sold their
corn at ten cents per bushel or less, could afford to pay twenty-
five cents for a postage stamp. Mr. Spawr left no money, but
he left, what is worth more than all things else, a good name.
The Christian character and sterling business qualities of
Mr. and Mrs. Smalley, a fertile soil and beautiful landscape all
combined, attracted a good class of people in quest of land and
homes. We have no way in telling what the population of
Pleasant Hill was at any time, but we do know Bloomington's
population was but 180 in 1834. Mr. Smalley first lived in a
log house, 10 by 12 feet and near John Patton, which was in
the year of 1838.
In 1846, Absalom Enoch started Pleasant Hill's first store;
and in the year 1847, Enoch and Foster bought from Isaac
Smalley two lots, paying $15 each for them. Each put up a
small building and conducted a store. These lots being the
same lots now owned by Mrs. Johnson Jenkins, who has the
only store in the town at this date. It is quite convenient to
have this little store, but I am very sure Mr. Jenkins will not
be called upon to pay any income tax on the business transacted
through the year.
Mr. Smalley had many good things to his credit, but
nothing better than selling and delivering fruit trees over the
county, which he did in the year of 1840 and later.
In 1836 the log house began to disappear and it was at this
time John Patton had the first saw mill on the Mackinaw, one-
half mile south of the town. In 1847, Rant Jenkins sawed
lumber by horse power. The older buildings of the town are
all unpainted ; being constructed from hard, undressed lumber.
George Webster of Paris, Illinois, started a store in opposition
to Enoch and Foster, but was soon compelled to sell out to the
older firm. Pleasant Hill was now doing a big business, trade
came from Money Creek, Cheyney's Grove, Indian Grove, and
for miles around. Goods were sold mostly on time, and some on
eternity. The goods were brought in wagons from Peoria and
Some of Pleasant HilPs early merchants were: Isaac
Smalley, Enoch and Foster, George Webster, H. W. Underhill,
Olaggett and Mahan, G. M. Fox, W. D. Johnson, George Brad-
ford, Rant Jenkins, Absalom Bills, Newton Denning, Joseph
Patton, Milton Smith, Samuel Paul, H. Foster, Joseph Enoch,
Jacob Brown, Patton Wilson, Scott Arnold, GL H. Edwards.
Jacob Wright, a burly blacksmith, and who was exposed to
cholera in 1854, and being warned to be careful, said, "I am
unafraid," worked all day in his shop and was buried between
the setting and rising of the sun, accompanied by none, except-
ing the grave diggers.
In 1850, Coombs and Soule built a steam saw mill, the
first of the kind in Lexington Township. James E. Ewing, of
Bloomington, helped haul the machinery from Peoria. Joseph
Patton built a cabinet shop; Bills and Denning made wagons
and buggies, Jacob Brown, Wilson and Wright, were the black-
smiths. Scott Arnold was the owner of a carding mill, George
Bradford pegged away in his boot and shoe shop and sold
drugs. Isaac Smalley built a large building in the northeast
part of town, for a select school or a ladies seminary. There
were seven fire-places in the building. The first thing in the
morning before breakfast, Mr. Smalley would invite and urge
all to the assembly room for prayer service. The building being
made from walnut and oak lumber is in a good state of repair,
and is owned by Mrs. Harry Lawrence, the only living child
of Mr. Smalley. The old historic building has been the wedding
place of all the Lawrence children, and many of the older
people as well. The builder of the old building was Jonathan
Coon, one of the earliest and also one of the best carpenters in
Money Creek Township.
Matthew Adams, who early lived near Pleasant Hill, was
different from the Adams now days. He would loan money
occasionally, but charge no interest. He had a standard price
for corn, which was twenty-five cents per bushel, no difference
how high the price in the market was, anything over twenty-
five cents was considered by Mr. Adams exorbitant, and specu-
lators could not buy his corn at all. Ella Wheeler Wilcox must
have had Mr. Adams in mind, when she wrote the poem "Worth
While" for we find such people but once in a while.
Milton Smith came to Pleasant Hill from Kentucky in
1835. A shrewd land agent has aptly said, "A fortune in land
is a fortune in hand, and while the world stands solid, the
land stands safe, therefore buy land, good land." This is the
very thing that Mr. Smith did, bought large tracts of land and
held on to it. The elder son, Wm. A. Smith, who is a successful
farmer and cattle feeder, is farming some of these lands early
purchased by his father. George J., of the firm of Lindsay and
Smith, also owns part of the original homestead. Louis H.,
lives in Lexington and takes pictures for a pastime, but con-
ducts a dairy farm for a living; and has been the leader of the
Presbyterian choir and superintendent of the Sunday School,
farther back than the writer can remember, and he was, at one
time, a member of the school board for a number of years.
Milton Smith was a strict Presbyterian and meetings were
held at his home long before the church building was erected
in Pleasant Hill, which was about the year of 1850; the old
building was torn down and sold several years ago. Mr. Smith
was a firm believer in and practiced the old adage, "Bring up
a child in the way he should go and when older will not depart
from it." Mr. Smith's home was one of the stopping places
for Isaac Funk, who handled and drove thousands of cattle,
being on the direct route from the Funk Farms to Chicago.
There is value in working with the hands, in being com-
pelled by the stern necessity of poverty to earn one's way,
Moses Cochran was one of these, coming to Pleasant Hill when
about 21 years of age, and ten dollars was his total capital.
He worked in De Board's brick yard at twenty-five cents a
day. Here he earned $15.00, but failed to collect a single cent
of his hard earnings. He next engaged to Isaac Smalley at
$10.00 per month and board. While hauling wheat to Blooin-
ington, March, 1852, his wagon mired in the mud on North
Main Street, just south of where the Catholic Church now
stands, each of the heavy sacks of wheat had to be carried to
solid ground before the wagon could be removed; night was
coming on, and Mr. Cochran was far from home, wet, cold,
hungry and no money.
Young Cochran received for his year's work, $50.00 and
$70.00 worth of town lots in Pleasant Hill, which he after-
wards sold for $250.00, and invested this in land. He con-
tinued to buy land until he had accumulated almost four
hundred acres of land. One trip was made to Ohio on horse
back to borrow money to pay on land, it required four weeks
to make the trip. At one time Mr. Cochran lost heavily by
the failure of banks and money depreciations.
Mr. Cochran was of the Methodist faith and gave liberally
for its support. He pledged $15.00 for the building fund of
the United Brethern Church at Pleasant Hill, the crash of
1857 came, and in place of the money pledged, he gave three
weeks of hard work, hewing timbers for the frame with a
Mr. Cochran was much interested in the Pleasant Hill
Cemetery, its finances, and its well kept condition is largely
due to his efforts and influences. He attended Mr. Smalley
through his last illness with small-pox, but escaped the dread
disease himself. By industry, integrity and uprightness of
character, Mr. Cochran overcame every obstacle that obstructed
his pathway, leaving an honored family, a large bank account,
valuable real estate, and a good name.
The first Methodist Church in Pleasant Hill was not a
church at all. It was simply John Patton's log cabin, for here in
it was the first class in northern McLean County organized
in the year 1830. John Patton, his son-in-law, Aaron Foster,
Joseph Brumhead, Patton's family, eight in all, composed the
first church. In 1846 a suitable church building was erected
in the corporate limits of the town. Patton, Foster, and Isaac
Smalley were the leaders in the enterprise. The heavy frame
was hewn out with broadaxe, the siding and shingles from
everlasting lumber, black walnut. The present structure was
built in 1863 by Timothy Roberts of Lexington. In those
days people were much agitated over the music question, be-
lieving the organ should never take the place of the old time
tuning fork. At this time the prominent members were: C.
W. Matheny, William Bratton, T. E. Scrimger, William Berry-
man, J. B. Crumb, Isaac Windle, C. Bailey, D. T. Douglass,
M. V. Crumbaker, and the McCrackens. There has gone from
this church into the ministry, George McCracken, George
Scrimger, M. V. Crumbaker, Prank Foreman, J. A. Smith and
T. B. Adams. The early ministers of the church were Reverends
Maynard, Pickard, Webster, Begg, William Cummings, William
Royal, Morse, Pearce and Frank Smith. The old building is in
a fair state of repair and stands a mute witness of the by-gone
days, the membership being transferred to the Lexington con-
About the year 1847 the United Brethern Church was
erected, Mr. Smalley donating the ground, as he did for most
all the churches in the town. This was a large, neat building,
frame of course, hewn from hard wood, the outer pieces being
from soft pine.
The old church has been the scene of many stirring revivals
held by Elder Wimset and others, but as Lexington gradually
absorbed the membership, the building was sold ten years ago
to Tilden Patton for $100.00, and now does duty as a cow
barn. Conditions have changed, but the message once delivered
lives today in the hearts and homes of men and the childrens'
children. You may tear down or move away the old buildings,
but you can not destroy the characters whose foundations were
there laid for the realization of all that is good and noble in
In 1832, near the close of the Black Hawk War, the first
school house was built. It was situated at the northwest corner
of the town, just across the road from where Mrs. George Brad-
ford now lives. The house was built from logs, had a puncheon
floor and puncheon seats with four wooden pegs for supports,
and a board for a writing desk, which ran along the wall, and
a fire-place in one end. This all seems crude to us> and we
should appreciate our modern school buildings. The writer
knows of a school building of the pioneer days, near Alton,
Illinois, that had no floor, and the seats were blocks, sawed
from logs, and the desks, the same, except they were higher
than the seats.
Deliah Denham taught the first school that we have a
record of, which was in 1835; A. J. Flesher was the last to
teach in the log school house which was in 1842. Mr. Flesher
commenced teaching when but 18 years of age, he told the
writer when he applied for the Lexington school, the school
board asked him not a single question as to his qualification to
teach, and assigned as the reason, they knew not what to ask.
The text books used were any that happened to be in the homes.
Mr. Flesher was a banker, bookkeeper, teacher, farmer,
merchant, and an all-round good Christian man.
In 1843, a house was moved from Lexington to Pleasant
Hill, and converted into a school house. The pine lumber, with
which it was sealed, was hauled from Chicago by ox teams, by
Aaron Foster and Mr. Smalley. In 1847, Virginia Graves
taught, receiving $2.00 per week and "boarded 'round," some
days walking two and one-half miles to the school. The Hon.
Owen Lovejoy addressed the people in the old log school house
on different occasions; other teachers were W. R. Mahan, Miss
Lucas, in 1848, Mrs. Anna Ransom, in 1852, Mr. Burton, in
1855, Miss Hester Arnold in 1859. David Whitmire, Miss
Royal, D. G. Turner, Lucy Summer, Jefferson Smith.
A new two-story school building was built in 1857. The
frame was of oak, the seats of poplar and walnut. Milton
Smith donated the land, the building was known as the Pleasant
Hill Academy with Rev. John Dale, as principal, with a full
corps of teachers. The champion spellers of the early days
were, Miss Kate Hayes, Alice Combs, Selina Crumb, Miss Ar-
nold, Mary Pierson. Among the boys were Eugene Combs,
W. A. Smith, George Scrimger, G. H. McCracken. One of the
popular teachers was Ira Batterton; he enlisted in Co. K, 8th
Illinois Infantry, and was killed at Vicksburg in 1863.
Those teaching in the early Ws were W. N. Combs,
Eleanor Johnson, J. A. Laws, S. S. Allen, H. C. Reeves, W. G.
Collins. In 1864, William Catherwood. D. T. Douglass. Later
on J. W. Curtis, G. J. Ferguson, J. H. Crumbaker, Mrs. Sarah
Work, Minnie Loomis, F. P. Casey, Lyon Karr, Miss McGavac,
C. H. Pierson, J. B. Dooley, R. M. Grain, J. H. McFarland,
G. E. Williamson, Nellie Chalfant, Emmett Douglass. It has
been said school teaching is a stepping stone to something
higher. This proved true with A. J. Davis, who in 1893 farmed
the Scaper's farm and taught at Pleasant Hill, walking back
and forth. There were sixty-four pupils and the price was
$60.00 a month. Mr. Davis married, a neighbor farm girl, Miss
Ida Cassedy, went West, and is now a leading citizen and
capitalist of Pasadena, California.
We have told much about the rod and the rule, and that
"lickin' and larnin' " went together, and that a bundle of
switches were always in readiness for fractious fellows. My
experience and what I gather from older patrons of the schools
is that just the opposite is true. Boys and girls well know
the advantages of an education and that their school days were
limited on account of necessary work at home, and that they
were so eager and anxious to learn, it was a pleasure to teach
and help them.
The early doctors of Pleasant Hill were, Dr. J. W. Waters,
Dr. Dooley and Dr. D. T. Douglass. Dr. Waters had an ex-
tensive practice and became quite wealthy, having large tracts
of land near Lexington, and which are now owned by his only
son, Frank P. Waters of Shelbina, Missouri.
We have no record showing of any attorney ever practicing
in Pleasant Hill.
Fort Patton, so called, was nothing more than Patton's
log cabin, with port holes, so that rifles could be used from
within if it became necessary, on account of the Indian dis-
turbances in 1832. The neighbors, being far removed from
each other, would become unduly excited, and would come here
for protection, but nothing further happened. A short distance,
southeast, was the Henline settlement, and here a palisade was
built, by placing on end, in the ground, split logs, and it was
built in the form of a square, with log huts at the corners. This
was a safe retreat, but was never used for defense.
Fort Bartholomew was built in 1832 by Gen. Thomas
Bartholomew, a distinguished Indian fighter, and was located
five miles northwest of Pleasant Hill, in section 13, Money
Creek Township, on the land now owned by Mrs. J. B. Dawson,
just six rods southeast of the residence; nothing remains to
mark the historic spot. The fort was built of green logs from
the timber nearby, the upper story projected, so shots could be
fired from the top, should the enemy try to scale the walls or
kindle a fire. The fort, as means of defense was never made
use of. Gen. Bartholomew was a man of means and influence,
owning large tracts of land here, and to him we are indebted
for blazing the way in the community. He lies buried in the
Clarksville cemetery, west of Lexington, where a splendid
monument marks his resting place.
One of the prominent farmers, though not one of the
earliest settlers of Pleasant Hill, was James S. Pierson. He
was well and favorably known, and owned a valuable farm
and timber lands, and dealt largely in sheep. Arthur VanDyke
Pierson, his elder son, with the exception of the first four years
of his life, spent his entire life in and near Pleasant Hill. His
was an honored parentage, it is a great inheritance to come of
noble and worthy lineage. He was educated in the common
schools, but mostly in the school of experience. He was con-
nected with the schools of Pleasant Hill, either as a director or
the clerk of the school board for almost twenty-five years. Mr.
Pierson did, what was the common practice in the early days,
married a neighbor girl of the district school, Miss Carrie
Smith, a daughter of Milton Smith, whose farm adjoined the
Pierson farm. From an early date Mr. Pierson was much
interested in matters both historical and educational, and the
printed pages left by him, from time to time, are not only
appreciated, but of historic interest, and a value to the com-
munity, as well as to the State. Mr. Pierson was always ready
to lend a helping hand to all activities toward the community's
betterment. In the early days he was a member of the Pleasant
Hill Public Library, and at the time of his death he was the
president of the Lexington Public Library. He was a member
of the McLean County Historical Society, the State Historical
Society, the International Historical Society, and was a
member of the Sons of the American Revolution, and contri-
buted to these societies often with written articles, as well as
to the local and county papers He was also a member of the
Pleasant Hill Cemetery Association. Miss Anna Pierson, his
daughter, is not only keeping step, but is carrying on all busi-
ness activities of her father.
One of the Christian veterans, and pioneers of Pleasant
Hill is Mrs. Martha Bradford, who is hale and hearty at the age
of ninety-two years, and is now living on what is known as the
Joseph Enoch farm, adjoining the town on the Northwest. Mrs.
Bradford is, and has been a conscientious Christian and a mem-
ber of the Presbyterian faith from early womanhood. Her
people were Congregationalists, and this is why she has been
a reader of the Congregationalist through most of its history.
Her life is a splendid commentary of the most wonderful cen-
tury of human civilization. With her husband, George Brad-
ford, she came from Dedham, Massachusetts, in 1854. She has
lived a life of faith and Christian service, and she lives on with
an interest quick to the joys and trials of her fellowmen, until
it shall please her Master to call her home.
This brief sketch would not be complete, if I did not speak
of her only daughter, Miss Mary, who is the stay and solace of
her aged mother. Dr. Bradford chose the work of a missionary,
as her life work, and thoroughly prepared herself in the Wes-
leyan University of Bloomington, and then to the best medical
schools, for it was a medical missionary she was to be, and was
until her mother called her home. She was located in Tabriz,
Persia, and she was there in the work for many years, doing
the Master's work with all earnestness. To reach Tabriz, re-
quires 8,000 miles of travel, counting the homeward trip, which
was made on a furlough. Dr. Bradford has traveled 32,000
miles on land and sea. She gave seventeen of the best years of
her life to the Christian cause she well and wisely planned.
Nicholas Jesuman of Pleasant Hill, was one of the four
from McLean County, who received a Government Medal for
distinguished bravery on the field of battle, during the War of
Benjamin Patton "showed his faith by his works" and did
a gracious act when he deeded his 166 acre farm, east of
Pleasant Hill well worth $ 50,000, to the South African Metho-
dist Mission; for the poor black slave Lincoln freed, it was that
helped to win the war in 1861, that are helping to win the war
now, and it was they that donated their hard earned dollars
earned by free labor that helped to rear the marble shaft at
Springfield, Illinois, that marks the resting place of Lincoln^
and reveres his memory.
I have now hastily traced the manner, in which the quaint
old town of Pleasant Hill, was started, how the reign was
settled, where the work began, and the order in which popula-
tion spread. I have also referred to some of the men and
women, who undertook the laborious task of opening up the
highway, and have alluded to the predominating character with-
out which it were impossible for them to have succeeded in
their arduous undertaking; and now while all patriotic citizens
are concerned in solving the present problems before our
country, while every hand is stretched out to aid the suffering
in our own and foreign lands brought on by the World's War —
would it not be well and patriotic to pause a moment to pay a
living tribute to our forefathers and mothers, and to give a
grateful thought in acknowledgment of our debt to the men and
women who fought with Indian savages when need be to defend
their homesteads and villages from extermination, who went
cold and hungry, who faced pestilence and disease, that they
might bequeath to us, their descendants, a civilization, that is
so rich and so complete?
REMINISCENCES OF THE BLACK HAWK WAR. AN
INTERESTING LETTER FROM &BN. ROBERT
ANDERSON TO E. B. WASHBURNE— CONRIBUTED
BY SIDNEY S. BREESE.
Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber,
Secretary Illinois State Historical Society,
State House, Springfield, Illinois.
Dear Mrs. Weber :
The enclosure relative to the Black Hawk War was sent
to me by my cousin James B. Breese of Trenton, New Jersey.
This was given to him by a daughter of Robert Anderson,
whom he just met recently at Lakewood, New Jersey.
Of this lady (Mrs. Eba Anderson Lawton), he says, "The
lady who gave me this copy was a daughter of Robert Ander-
son. She was a very interesting lady indeed and knew many
of our family connections."
I am going to ask that you make a copy of the enclosure
and after doing so kindly return original to me, that I
may send it to my cousin, who requested that it be returned.
You will note that there is a postscript to this letter evi-
dently written by one General Vale, in which he comments on
These pages are evidently the original manuscript of some
book, or memoirs, or something of that sort.
Minister Washburne tells the story of this episode in his
career with a remarkable simplicity and modesty.
Very truly yours,
Sidney S. Breese.