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Full text of "Old Brownsville days. An historical sketch of early times in Jackson County"

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OLD 

BROWNSVILLE 

DAYS 



An Historical Sketch of Early Times 
in Jackson County 



WILL W. HUSBAND 



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OF THE 

UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 

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OLD 

BROWNSVILLE 

DAYS 



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•!♦ An Historical Sketch of Early Times >; 

♦|« in Jackson County ^* 

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'(• WILL W. HUSBAND f 



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y To th<5 memory of my dear companion of many ^1* 

♦!♦ years, \.-ho was ?. descendant of Jackson county v 

A pioneers, and who passed away suddenly, April 15. & 

X 1934, this pamphlet is lovingly dedicated. J* 

X —THE AUTHOR. 4 

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"OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS" 



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( HAPTER I. 

IT HAS BEEN one hundred twenty-three years since my maternal 
grandfather migrated from Virginia to the Illinois country with his father. 
Grandfather was then ten years old, having been born in 1800. The trip 
was made by flatboat down the Ohio river to Shawneetown, then an Indian 
trading post. From there they drove overland to Kaskaskia ("Kaskia," 
grandfather called it). Then, in 1815, the family moved to what is now 
Jackson county and settled near where Brownsville was established the fol- 
lowing year. Grandfather said when making the trip to Kaskaskia in 1810 
they passed only two clearings along the entire route of one hundred twenty 
miles. 

Grandfather died many years ago at the age of ninety, but I remember 
him distinctly. He was tall and lean, slightly stooped. He had keen, grey 
eyes, white hair and beard. Also, well do I remember some of the tales 
he told of the days when Illinois was young. 

The old gentleman used to tell of Doctor Conrad Will, "Father of 
Jackson county;" of Governor Joseph Duncan, "Father of Free Education 
in Illinois", who lived in a "white mansion" at the foot of Big Hill; of 
Captain William Boon, leader of the Illinois Rangers during the War of 
1812, and who settled at Sand Ridge in 1806; of Alexander Jenkins, the 
young carpenter who became Lieutenant Governor, and of his pretty sister. 
Diza Jenkins, the "Belle of Brownsville", who married Joel Manning, 
efficient and grouchy county clerk; of genial Jesse Griggs, first sheriff of 
the county, and proprietor of the Brownsville Tavern; of the Logans and 
other prominent pioneers who lived in the Brownsville community in those 
golden days of yore. 

Nights, when the wind moans through the trees — when the rain beats 
against the windows and the water drips from the eaves; or on cloudless 
autumn days, whon the distant, tranquil hills appear to be hazy and mys- 
terious, the thought seems to wander here and there like a zephyr and 
finally comes to rtst on those hardy men and women who conquered tha 
wilderness — those men and women who wore clothes of homespun and buck- 
skin and underwen: the most severe hardships on the wild Illinois frontier 



9797b2 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



For long, lon^ years their tired bodies have been resting — many in forgotten 
graves. 

And Old Brownsville, which a C2ntui*y ago was said to be the third 
largest town in Illinois; Old Brownsville, first seat of Jackson county, has 
vanished! Its site is now a wheat field and thei'e is scarcely a trace left 
of the town. And Kaskaskia, the scene of Colonel George Rogers Clark's 
brilliant military triumph in 1778, and which became the first capital of 
the great State of Illinois, too, has vanished. The waves of the mighty 
Mississippi now roll over the spot where the lights of "Kaska" used to 
shine. 

Colonel Clark v.as only twenty-six years old when he won an empire 
for the new American nation by the capture of Kaskaskia and Vincennes, 
thereby taking possession of the vast domain from which have been carved 
the States of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio. Colonel 
Clark was grandfather's hero, and he delighted to talk about that officer's 
campaigns againsc the Indians. 

You see grandfather's father ("Pap," grandfather called him) was one 
of Clark's boy soldiers when that intrepid leader captured the above men- 
tioned posts during the Revolutionary War. Grandfather had the very rifle 
his father used in this campaign. It was a long-barreled, heavy, flint-lock 
gun. In 1782 ho again carried it when a member of Colonel William Craw- 
ford's ill-fated expedition against the Indians when that officer was cap- 
tured and burned at the stake by the savages. 

How the story of Crawford's awful fate would chill my blood! And 
little did I think then that my future wife would be a descendant of the 
heroic Crawford! It has been only within the past few years that I learned 
that my father-in-law, the late William Crawford McCormick ("Uncle 
Billy"), was the son of Colonel Crawford's granddaughter, and was named 
in honor of the Colonel. 

The Crawford expedition left Pittsburg in May, 1782, with the object 
of punishing the Wyandotte Indians on account of depredations against the 
settlers. The expedition marched westward for ten days, but no Indians 
were encountei-ed. It was decided to continue the march one more day, then 
to return to Fort Pitt in the event the enemy was not encountered. In the 
afternoon of this last day's march, the expedition suddenly found itself sur- 
rounded by yelling Indians. It appears that Colonel Crawford (marched into 
a trap, as did General Custer nearly a hundred years later when his com- 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



mand was massacred in the battle of the Little Big Horn with the Sioux 
Indians in 1876. 

As soon as Col. Crawford realized his pi-edicament, he threw his men 
into battle formation and heaver fighting continued throughout the day. 
Fighting ceased at nightfall and was not resumed until next afternoon, the 
Indians in the .meantime having been heavily reinforced. As Crawford had 
only 500 men, some of whom had been killed and wounded in the engagement, 
he proceeded to i-et^eat. It was the second day of the retreat that he was 
taken prisoner by the Indians. 

"Pap was taken at the same time," grandfather would say in telling of 
the death of Crawford, "and witnessed the horrible affair; had he not made 
his escape, he v/ould have met the same fate." Here is grandfather's 
account of the tragedy as nearly as it can be remembered by the writer. 

"Pap always said that Simon Girty, the white renegade, could have 
saved Crawford's life, had he so willed, but did not do so because he held 
a grudge against Crawford. It seems it was because of a love affair. 
Girty wanted to marry one of the Colonel's daughters, and Crawford would 
not give his consent. Some years later Girty turned renegade and joined 
an Indian tribe, over whom he had a powerful influence and led thcim on 
many raids against the settlers in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Kentucky. 

"Crawford was taken to an Indian village, where he was beaten by 
the squaws and boys. He was then chained to a post about fifteen feet 
high. The chain which held him to the post was just long enough to permit 
the victim to circle the post twice, then he would unwind the chain by 
walking in the opposite direction. 

"A iarge heap of brush was placed around the post, just beyond the 
victim's reach, and set on fire. Before the flames got under headway, 
Colonel Crawford asked Girty to intercede for him, which the renegade 
refused to do. After the fire began to scorch the unfortunate man, he 
implored Girty to shoot him and put an end to his misery. Girty was 
seated on his hoi-se a few feet away, and replied 'Why, Colonel, don't you 
see I have no gun?' After hours of torture, the victim fell to the ground 
and his body was finally consumed by the flames. The Indians intended 
to bum Pap the next night, but he .managed to escape through the help of 
an Indian he had once befriended." The scene of the Crawford ti-agedy is 
in Wyandotte county, Ohio, and a monument now marks the spot. 

Then there was the story of a sad incident which occurred in the hills 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



near Brownsville when the pioneer period was drawing to a close, or about 
the time of the beginning of the Civil War. The story concerned a little 
girl who was lured to a lonely spot in the woods and killed by a panther. 
The child had been sent by her mother to borrow a: thimble from a neighbor 
living about half a anile away. She arrived at the neighbor's house safely, 
lingered a few minutes, then started homeward with the thimble. 

Full of life, the girl went skipping and hopping along the path through 
the forest. It was near the close of a serene day in autumn time, and all 
nature seemed calm and peaceful. There was nothing in the surroundings 
to suggest danger, even if the sun was getting low. 

But hark! What was that? It sounded just like a baby crying! For 
a wailing sound had reached the girl's ear. She paused. Again carnie the 
sound, seemingly from a clump of brush near the path. She went to inves- 
tigate, but on reaching the spot, the sound was deeper in the forest. Thus 
was the panther luring the girl to her death by its human-like cry. Again 
she followed the sound, unaware of the awful doom awaiting her. 

She peered here and there through the underbrush, but no one was there. 
Then suddenly there was a savage growl in the branches of a nearby tree. 
Looking upward, the girl was terror-stricken to see a large cat-like creature 
crouched on a low limb, ready to spring. Its teeth bared, its fierce eyes 
ablaze, its ears laid back, and the end of its tail weaving to and fro. 

Uttering a frightened cry, the girl turned to run. With an angry 
snarl the animal jumped on her, and as it crushed her to the earth, buried 
its cruel, sharp fangs into her soft, white throat. There was a sickening 
crunch, a gasp, a quiver, and the little form was stilled forever. As the 
warm blood gushed from the torn flesh, it was greedily lapped up by the 
panther. And that evening while the residents of the community were 
Seated at their supper tables, something too horrifying for words was 
taking place in their midst. For over yonder in the silent woods, a, little 
gii'l was being devoured by a ferocious wild beast! 

Meanwhile, the girl's parents were wondering why she did not return 
home and started to investigate the cause of her delay. Upon learning 
that she had left the neighbor's house a short time after arriving there, an 
alarm was sounded and a search party organized. This party was out all 
night, but no trace of the girl was found. The searchers confined their 
hunt along and near the path, thinking the child may have fallen and 
injui'ed herself. 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



Next imorning the search was resumed and more ground was covered. 
Then it was that they discovered evidences of the tragedy a considerable 
distance fi-om the path. Blood spots, fragments of her flesh and clothes were 
scattered about. Further search resulted in finding what remained of the 
unfortunate girl buried under leaves beside a log, whei'e the beast had 
secreted it. Grandfather said when the search party, all of whom were 
rugged pioneers, beheld the ghastly sight every man wept unashamed. 
Hunters scoured the woods for the animal and a few days later a panther 
was killed some miles distant from the scene of the tragedy which was sup- 
posed to have been the one that slaughtered the child. There are doubtless 
persons still living who remember this sad occurrence. 

Yes, indeed, grandfather could tell any number of pioneer-day stories — 
many from actual experience, and those he had heard told by his father and 
other old Indian fighters. He sei-ved in the Black Hawk war, which ended 
Indian troubles in Illinois. As a soldier in this caimpaign he carried the old 
rifle heretofore mentioned. "Old Trusty," he called it. He enjoyed telling 
of running a foot-race with Lincoln during the Black Hawk war. "I thought 
I was a swift runner," he would say, "but shucks, Lincoln could run as fast 
as a deer and finished the race before I got started." Then, with a chuckle, 
he would add, "but I got even with him; I beat him shooting at the mark!" 
Jefferson Davis also participated in this war as an officer in the United 
States Army, Years later, Abraham Lincoln was President of the United 
States, and Jefferson Davis President of the Confederate States, when thi> 
North and South were engaged in deadly combat over the slavei-y question. 

Grandfather's old rifle — the gun that had blazed at Kaskaskia and Vin- 
ccnnes in 1778 and 1779, as well as at numerous other places — the gun that 
had imade more than one redskin "bite the dust" always fascinated me. It 
had a deep dent in the stock where an arrow had struck it in some Indian 
fight. After all these years I remember how the old gentleman used to 
fondle the historic weapon. "Lad," he would say to me, 'Old Tiiisty' has 
been in many a hot scrap and has done its part in taming the wildemes.s 
and spreading civilization!" 

He had a wonderful memory. Important events made an everlasting 
impression on his mind; hence, it was an easy mattei' for him to relate of 
incidents that had happened many years before, and to give the exact dates 
of their occurrences. Having listened to his narratives of pioneer days, at 
an early age I became intensely interested in the history of Illihois, so full 



8 OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 

when a fair-sized crowd had assembled, Doctor Will mounted a stump and 
addressed the men something like this: 

"Fellow citizens, I am glad so anany of you have turned out as re- 
quested. As some of you have come a considerable distance, I will at once 
state the object of this meeting. It occurs to me that we settlers should 
take immediate steps to organize a new county. Kaskaskia is too far away 
for us to go to transact our business. We ought to have a county of our 
own, and a trading place nearer hotme. Captain Boon and I have been dis- 
cussing this matter for some time, and finally decided to call this meeting 
in order to get an expression from other settlers. By investigation it has 
been found that we have sufficient population in this region to form a new 
county." Turning to a man standing beside the stump, he asked: 

"Captain Boon, just how many white people live in this region?" 
"Nearly tv/elve hundred " was the reply. "Of course, you understand 
that this number includes all the settlers living within twenty miles or more 
«Df this spot." 

"Then there are approximately two hundred families living in this part 
of the country," stated the doctor. "That should be ^ sufficient number to 
answer our purpose. Well, fellow-citizens, what do you think of the idea?" 
"The idear is a crackin' good'un!" spoke up one. 
"Shore, we need a county all our own," said another. 

"Doc, how do we go about gittin' this here new county?" one wanted 
to know. 

"A petition will have to be submitted to the territorial authorities 
making a demand," explained the doctor. 

"What air we goin' to call our new county?" asked a pioneer. 
"That is a imatter that will have to be settled later." 
"Wal, responded the other. Us fellers that fit, bled and died with Old 
Hickory, want the county called Jackson." 

Others wanted to name the new county after their heroes and there 
was a heated argument for several minutes over this question. Finally, 
it was left to a vote, and the Jackson men won. 

"Three cheers for Old Hickory Andy Jackson!" shouted the Jackson 
leader. These cheers were given in a hearty manner. 

After the excitement had died down, Doctor Will again spoke. "I have 
the petition already drawn up," he said, "and it is now ready for signatures." 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



"Say, doc, hovv about us fellers that caint swing the quill?" 

"Make your mark!" 

After the petition had thus been signed by those present, Doctor Will 
addressed the assembled pioneers. 

"Fellow Citizens," he said: "We are making history here today. W^e 
have demanded a county of our own, to be called Jackson. While this 
region is now a dense wilderness I look forward to the day when smiling 
fai'ms and busy cities will dot this land. Illinois is one of the fairest 
countries I have ever seen and it will soon take its place among the great 
states of this nation. While it is still a territory, it will be admitted 
to statehood ere long. Big things are going to be done in this land during 
the next fifty years, for this wilderness is going to be transformed into a 
land of plenty. While we who are gathered here will all be gone when that 
has been accomplished, I am proud that we pioneers of today are the trail- 
blazers for those who are to follow. I am also proud that our children, 
grandchildren and their children will enjoy the full fruitage of the hardships 
through which we must pass in making Illinois the mighty state it is to be I 
Let us fondly hope that our sacrifices will not have been in vain." 

A hush fell over the assemblage, and the men stood leaning on their 
guns with a far-away look in their eyes. Like statues they stood as they 
caught the vision which the speaker portrayed, for every true pioneer must 
have vision. 

"Unless I am mistaken," continued Doctor Will, "Jackson county will be 
a reality before the spring flowers bloom again!" 

There was a triumphant note in his voice, and those of the audience who 
had been in deep reverie gailvanized to action. 

"Hoo-ray for Doc W^ill!" yelled one. "Let's give him three cheers, boys!" 

"Three cheers foi- Doe Will!" 

"Now, three cheers for Cap Boon!" 

"Three cheers for Cap Boon!" 

"Three cheers for Jackson county!" shouted Captain Boon. 

"Three cheers for Jackson county!" thundered the crowd. 

When all was quiet again, Captain Boon explained that he would take 
the petition to the homes of settlers who were not present, for their signa- 
tures. The crowd then dispersed and started toward their cabin homes along 
the streams and am.ong the hills. In due time the petition was presented to 



10 OLD BROWNSVI LLE DAYS. 

the authorities at Kaskaskia, and on January 10, 1816, the County of Jackson 
was created. Until the year 1795 it was included within the boundai'ies of 
St. Clair county. In that year Randolph county was organized, and for a 
period of twenty-one years Jackson county fonned a part of Randolph. At 
the time Jackson county was org-anized it included what is now the southern 
part of Perry county. Its present area is 538 square miles. On December 3, 
1818, Illinois was admitted to the Union, or almost three years after the 
organization of Jackson county. 

The act under which Jackson county was created specified that the capital 
should be called Brownsville. Doctor Will offered to donate twenty acres; 
near his salt works on the Big Muddy as a town site. His offer was ac- 
cepted; thus was Brownsville founded. It was not a favorable location for a 
town, being off the r^iain trail and difficult to reach. Nevertheless, regardless 
of this handicap, .it was a lively place for years. 

Many of the present generation do not know just where Brownsville was 
situated. By referring to a map of Jackson county, it will be noted that the 
Big Muddy river sv/ings northwestward at Murphysboro, flowing in that di- 
rection some two or three miles, then swerves slightly to the southwest for a 
considerable distance. It was on this stretch of the river that Brownsville 
was located, on the north bank of the stre?.m, on the dividing line of sectionb 
two and three, Sand Ridge township, about five miles west of Murphysboro. 
Route 144 now passes within a short distance of the historic spot. 

Brownsville was a raw, crude town and the majority of the houses were 
built of log. Even Doctor Will, who was probably the most prosperous citizen, 
lived in a log house. But, notwithstanding its crudity, it became one of the 
largest towns in the state, being exceeded in size only by Kaskaskia and 
Shawneetown. Of course, it must be remembered that neither of these towns 
were large. Grandfather estimated that Brownsville had a population of four 
or five hundred when at its best, about the year 1834. 

But the town attracted business from a large territory. It did a large 
shipping and receiving business by flatboat transportation. Its streets were 
crowded with pioneers, hunters, trappers and Indians. It had quite a large 
floating population. Pioneers coming to the county would make Brownsville 
their headquarters while seeking a favorable place for a home in the wil- 
derness. There were several business houses, carpenter shops, blacksmith 
and wagon-making shops, also a tannery. 

"Doc Will was the mainspring of the town," grandfather said. Doctor 
Will came to Illinois from Pennsylvania in 1814, locating at Kaskaskia. Hri 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. H 



made that place headquarters for several months while looking the country 
over. It was then he learned of the saline springs on Big Muddy. He 
bought up a large herd of cattle and drove them to Pennsylvania, returning 
to Illinois the following year with his family, making a permanent location 
at the springs, where Brownsville was established the following year. He 
deepened the springs, then went to Pittsburg in 1816 and purchased thirty 
cast-iron kettles from a foundry. Each kettle was of sixty gallons capacity 
and weighed 400 nounds. He brought these kettles by flatboat down the 
Ohio, up the Mississippi and Big Muddy rivers to Brownsville. 

The springs were then equipped with pumps operated by horse-power, 
which raised the water into the reservoir from which it was distributed to 
the evaporating kettles placed side by side on a long furnace fired with 
cordwood. The plant was then ready to make salt, which was done in the 
following manner: the heated water in the first kettle was ladled into the 
next one, then into the next, and so on until the salt was scooped out of 
the last kettle and put out to drip and dry. Grandfather said it required 
one hundred twenty-five gallons of water to make one bushel of salt. When 
ready for market, the salt was placed in sacks and shipped to Kaskaskia, 
St. Louis, New Orleans and other points. Salt was an important item in 
pioneer days, a product difficult to obtain, hence the Brownsville Salt Fac 
tory became famous. 

Doctor Conrad Will was a. unique character. He was a physician, salt 
manufacturer, merchant and also conducted a tannery. In addition to these 
activities, he was also a statesman, ser\ing in the state legislature more 
than 20 years. He was of a jovial nature and delighted to play jokes on 
his friends. Doctor Will and James Hall, Jr., were delegates to the Consti- 
tutional Convention at Kaskaskia in 1818, in which year Illinois was made 
a state, and from that time onward he took an active part in the destinies 
of the new state. His death, while a member of the State Senate, was a 
severe blow to Brownsville, one from which it never recovered. He passed 
away June 11, 1834, at the age of 56 years. "Many of his descendants and 
other relatives still live in this county. 

Laborers Avere scarce during the early days of Brownsville and Doctor 
Will was compelled to bring slaves fram Kentucky to operate his salt works. 
These slaves had to be returned to their owners every thirty days for identi- 
fication. There were also other slaves in the county at that time, having 
been brought from the South when their owners migrated to Illinois. Slaves 
were not permitted in the state, however, after the year 1823. 



12 OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



Grandfather use to laugh over a joke Doctor Will played on him when 
he was a boy. "One day," he said, "I was in Doc Will's store buying some 
ammunition. While I was making my purchase, Doc Will came out of his 
office and seeing I was buying ammunition, he told me he wanted some 
eagle gizzards for medical purposes; said he would give me a dollar for 
every eagle gizzard I brought him. I accepted the proposition and went 
home in high spirits. There were plenty of eagles and I figured I could 
earn a neat sum of money. Doc told me not to cut the eagles open, as he 
was afraid I would not do a very good job. Next day I went out and 
killed two of the big birds, and hurried to Brownsville with them. When 
I took them to Doc's office he proceeded to cut them open. 'Why, bub,' he 
said, 'these eagles have no gizzards!' Well, that made me feel disappointed. 
I had killed lots of eagles but had never cut one open, so did not know 
they had no gizzards. Doc noticed my disappointment, and gave me a big 
treat of gum-drops, saying, "Now, bub,' you have learned a lesson in natural 
history." All of Doctor Will's jokes contained a lesson and it was givfejn in 
such a way as to be remembered." 

It was the custoan in early days to have log rollings and house and barn 
raisings, on which occasions the settlers would gather from miles around.^ 
The women folk often attended these affairs to assist the house- 
wife. At the end of the day's work there would be a dance or play-party, 
participated in by old and young. Doctor Will often attended these social 
events and was always the life of the party, entertaining the guests with 
"wise cracks", or a comic song or poero. But if occasion demanded, the 
jovial doctor could also quote the classics as easily as he could those of a 
humorous vein. Life was harsh on the Illinois frontier a century and more 
ago, and a social gathering was a great event, one thoroughly enjoyed by 
those pioneer men and women who felled trees, grubbed stuimps, wove cloth 
and operated the spinning wheel. 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. IS 



CHAPTER in. 

Another energetic pioneer was Captain William Boone, who was captain 
of the mounted rangers during the War of 1812. Captain Boone first settlea 
in Jackson county in 1806, along the bluffs in Dcgognia township. The 
following year he moved to what is now Sand Ridge. There his son. 
Benningsen Boone, was born in the same year, the first white child born in 
Jackson county. Captain Boone originally came from Kentucky and was a 
relative of the famous iDaniel Boone. Captain Boone has a number of 
direct descendants living in Jackson county. He and Doctor Will were close 
friends and both worked unceasingly for the advancement of Jackson 
county. Captain Boone died in the year 1836 at a landing on the Mississippi 
river near the present town of Grand Tower, where he operated a wood 
yard to supply fuel to steamboats. He was a frequent visitor to Old 
Brownsville and trod the streets of the town that is gone. Captain Boone 
was the first state senator from Jackson county. 

Joseph Duncan, father of the Illinois free school system, located at the 
foot of Big Hill about the time Jackson county was created. He served 
several years in the legislature and was elected Governor of Illinois ia 
18.34. It M^as during his legislature days that he originated the free 
school bill. Until tliat time schools were few in the new county, as but 
few of the pioneers could afford to send their children to subscription 
schools. The first school in the county was taught in the home of Captain 
Boone, at Sand Ridge in 1806-1807, Captain Boone paying the teacher's 
.salary. 

Alexander Jenkins came to Brownsville with his father in 1817 and 
learned carpentry. One of his sisters, Diza, married Joel Manning, county 
dork; anothar sister imarried Doctor Logan and became the mother of 
the famous General John A. Logan. Alexander Jenkins was elected 
lieutenant-governor in 1834. Thus, the governor and lieutenantlgovernor 
were citizens of Jackson county. It was during the Duncan-Jenkins 
administration the state capital was moved from Vandalia to Springfield. 

Jesse Griggs, first sheriff of Jackson county, was an early comer, 
having settled in the county on the Big Muddy in 1804. He also conducted 



12 OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



Grandfather use to laugh over a joke Doctor Will played on him when 
he was a boy. "One day," he said, "I was in Doc Will's store buying some 
ammunition. "While I was making my purchase, Doc Will came out of his 
office and seeing I was buying ammunition, he told me he wanted some 
eagle gizzards for medical purposes; said he would give me a dollar for 
every eagle gizzard I brought him. I accepted the proposition and went 
home in high spirits. There were plenty of eagles and I figured I could 
earn a neat sum of money. Doc told me not to cut the eagles open, as he 
was afraid I would not do a very good job. Next day I went out and 
killed two of the big birds, and hurried to Brownsville with them. When 
I took them to Doc's office he proceeded to cut them open. 'Why, bub,' he 
said, 'these eagles have no gizzards!' Well, that made me feel disappointed. 
I had killed lots of eagles but had never cut one open, so did not know 
they had no gizzards. Doc noticed my disappointment, and gave me a big 
treat of gum-drops, saying, "Now, bub; you have learned a lesson in natural 
history." All of Doctor Will's jokes contained a lesson and it was givian in 
such a way as to be remembered." 

It was the custom in early days to have log rollings and house and barn 
raisings, on which occasions the settlers would gather from miles around.. 
The women folk often attended these affairs to assist the house- 
wife. At the end of the day's work there would be a dance or play-party, 
participated in by old and young. Doctor Will often attended these social 
events and was always the life of the party, entertaining the guests with 
"wise cracks", or a comic song or poem. But if occasion demanded, the 
jovial doctor could also quote the classics as easily as he could those of a 
humorous vein. Life was harsh on the Illinois frontier a century and more 
ago, and a social gathering was a great event, one thoroughly enjoyed by 
those pioneer men and women who felled trees, grubbed stumps, wove cloth 
and operated the spinning wheol. 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 13 



CHAPTER III. 

Another energetic pioneer was Captain William Boone, who was captain 
of the mounted rangers during the War of 1812. Captain Boone first settlea 
in Jackson county in 180G, along the bluffs in Degognia township. The 
following year he moved to what is now Sand Ridge. There his son. 
Benningsen Boone, was born in the same year, the first white child born in 
Jackson county. Captain Boone originally came from Kentucky and was a 
relative of the famous iDaniel Boone. Captain Boone ha.'; a number of 
direct descendants living in Jackson county. He and Doctor Will were close 
friends and both worked unceasingly for the advancement of Jackson 
county. Captain Boone died in the year 1836 at a landing on the Mississippi 
river near the present town of Grand Tower, where he operated a wood 
yard to supply fuel to steamboats. He was a frequent visitor to Old 
Brownsville and trod the streets of the town that is gone. Captain Boone 
was the first state senator from Jackson county. 

Joseph Duncan, father of the Illinois free school system, located at the 
foot of Big Hill about the time Jackson county was created. He served 
several years in the legislature and was elected Governor of Illinois in 
1834. It was during his legislature days that he originated the free 
school bill. Until tliat time schools were few in the new county, as but 
few of the pioneers could afford to send their children to subscription 
schools. The first school in the county was taught in the home of Captain 
Boone, at Sand Ridge in 1806-1807, Captain Boone paying the teacher's 
.salary. 

Alexander Jenkins came to Brownsville with his father in 1817 and 
learned carpentry. One of his sisters, Diza, mamed Joel Manning, county 
clerk; anothar sister married Doctor Logan and became the mother of 
the famous General John A. Logan. Alexander Jenkins was elected 
lieutenant-governor in 1834. Thus, the governor and lieutenantlgovernor 
were citizens of Jackson county. It was dunng the Duncan-Jenkins 
administration the state capital was moved from Vandalia to Spinngfield. 

Jesse Griggs, first shenfl of Jackson county, was an early comer, 
having settled in the county on the Big Muddy in 1804. He also conducted 



14 OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



the Bro\\'nsville tavern a number of years, duinng which time he sei'\''ed as 
sheriff. In early days, the county officers were appointed instead of beinc 
elected, and as Griggs served until about 1836, is evidence he was an 
efficient officer. He resigned office and moved to Missouri. 

A young man named Wilson was sent to Bi'ownsville from Kaskaskia 
to act as temporary clerk until the official clerk, a gentleman named 
Humphries, became familiar with the duties of the office. Wilson acted 
as clerk only a few months. Humphries served until his death in 1820, 
when Joel Manning was appointed to fill the vacancy. Wilson later became 
Judge of the Supr&me Court of Illinois. Very little is known of Manning. 
He was said to be of a positive nature and sometimes inclined to be 
somewhat "grouchy." After 'lerving as county clerk several years, he 
moved to northern Illinois and died there. 

Elections in pioneer days were simple affairs. When election day 
arrived, the citizens entitled to vote assembled at Brownsville and voted 
VIVA VOCO for candidates of their choice on national and state tickets, 
important issues were also voted on in this manner. As elsewhere stated, 
county officials were appointed to office. This custom prevailed many 
years. 

Election days and muster days were big events in Brownsville a 
century ago. Foi' a number of years after the war of 1812, the militia 
law required every able bodied man to perform military duty and to drill 
eveiy month of the year. The battalion drills, however, occurred only 
twice a year. Naturally, the drill ground for Jackson county was at 
Brownsville. Batallion drill days always attracted great crowds. It was 
then the old pioneers greeted friends and acquaintances, exchanged stories, 
swapped horses and dogs; in short, had a good time in general. A 
barbeque of venison was also one of the attractions of these occasions. 

While the barbeque was in preparation the military exercises were 
conducted. Fifes would shriek and drums would roll, while the men marched 
and counter marched. Muster days gave the company officers a grand 
opportunity to swell up with pride, strut and "bawl out" the awkward ones. 
Then came the feast! After the "inner man" had been properly taken 
care of, there would be foot races jumping and wrestling contests and 
various other sports. Sometimes, on these occasions, the pioneers would 
partake of a little too much hard cider during the excitement, and fights 
were not uncommcn. To take care of this .situation, those who wen- 
inclined to make ^ few fistic pt-.ssages at one another were taken to the 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 15 

astray pen on the river bank. Thei-e the belligerents would be allowed 
to fight it out, while the spectators sat on the top rails of the pen. 
Gr<>,ndfather said no weapons of any kind were used in these fights. The 
men stood up to one another and fought "fair and square." He said they 
went at it "hammer iind tongs'" until one man whipped. Then the fighters 
would shake hands and be friends. On one such occasion, while the victor 
was pouring watar for the vanquished one to "wash up", the latter romarked, 
"Well, you licked me all right, but your woman can't whip my woman!" 
Indians would attend these mustei- day exercises and look on with solemn 
dignity, grunting "ugh, ugh", instead of laughing at some comical sight. 

The pioneer boys had their company of militia. John A. Logan was 
captain, of this boy company. Even at that .early day he displayed the 
military genius which made him famous. Years later, many of Logan's boy- 
hood companions followed himi to victory through some of the bloodiest 
battles of the Civil W^ar. Doctor John Logan, father of the general camr> 
to Brownsville, in 1823, married Elizabeth Jenkins and settled five miles east 
of Bro-wTisville, now the site of Murphysboro. 

At the time Jackson county was organized, all the settlements in Illi- 
nois were in the southern part of the state, along the Ohio and Mississippi 
rivers. The central and northern portions of Illinois were occupied by 
Indians, as was also the interior of southern Illinois. The most formidable 
tribe was the Kickapoo. The "grand village" of this tribe was not far from 
the present city of Springfield. 

The Kaskaskia tribe was formerly the strongest in Illinois, but after 
they moved to the Mississippi river about the year 1700, they lost much of 
their former prowet;s. Shortly after they made this move, a Catholic mis- 
sion was founded near the Kaskaskia Indian village, which later became thit 
site of the town of Kaskaskia. Many of the Indians became converted under 
the teaching of Father Morest. who had charge of the mission. Fathei" 
Morest, like other pioneers, went through severe hardships and his situation 
was a most discouraging one. "Our life," he wiites, "is passed in roaming 
through the thick woods, in claanbering over hills, in paddling the canot 
through lakes and rivers, to catch a poor savage who flies from us and who 
we cannot tame neither by teaching nor caresses." 

Father Morest seems to have been highly successful, however, for he 
later made the following report: "Christianity has softened the savage 
natures, and they ai-c now distinguished by their gentle and courteous 



K; old BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



manners, so that many of the French have intermarried with their daughters. 
Moreover, wo find in them a spirit of docility and ardor for the practice of 
Christian virtue. The fervor with which these neophytes frequent the 
church at the different times of service is admirable. They break off from 
their occupations and run a long distance to arrive in time. They generally 
terminate the day by holding assemblies in their homes, where the imen and 
women, forming, as it were, two choirs, recite the rcsary and sing spiritual 
hymns to a late hour of the night." 

The Kaskaskia Indians had frequent fights with the Shawnees, who 
lived along the Wabash river. It was finally mutually agreed to have a 
fight to settle the matter, the victor to have possession of the hunting 
grcunds. A certain day was appointed in the autumn of 1802 when the battle 
was to occur. When the day arrived both tribes faced one another near the 
Big Muddy river in what is now Frankin county. After several hours of 
severe fighting, the Kaskaskias were forced to retreat. A running fight 
followed, which continued throughout the day. When they reached what was 
later known as Six Mile Pond, in the southern part of Perry county, the -once 
formidable Kaskaskia tribe of Indians made what was to be their last stand. 
A desperate fight ensued at this point, but the tide was against the Kas- 
kaskias. Realizing the seriousness of their situation, a runner was dispatch- 
ed to the town of Kaskaskia for reinforcements. But before the runner had 
time to reach town (it was later learned he made the run of more than 20 
miles in two hours) the Kaskaskias were again forced to flee. The Shawnees 
followed them up to within a few miles of Kaskaskia, killing many of thc^ 
retreating Indians. For years their bones could be seen along the historic 
Kaskaskia trail. The Kaskaskia tribe never recovered from this severe blow 
and declined frotm that time onward. Chief John Du Quoin was the leader 
of the Kaskaskia tribe in this conflict. 

Chief Du Quoin later lived near the present town of Du Quoin, which 
was named in his honor. When General Lafayette visited Kaskaskia in 1825, 
a daughter of Chief Du Quoin was introduced to the General, at which time 
she exhibited a medal which had been presented to her father by General 
George Washington during the Revolutionary War. Chief Du Quoin was 
well liked by the citizens of Kaskaskia, which feeling was reciprocated by 
the Chief. When he died a few years after making his last stand, he was 
buried in the whire cemetery at Kaskaskia. The young brave who made 
the famous run during the fight, lived at the Indian village on Kinkaid 
creek until the Indians were removed from Illinois to Indian Territory 
in the latte)' 1830's. 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 17 



CHAPTER IV. 

No wheat was raised in Jackson County at the time of its organization. 
Dui-ing those early years the majority of the pioneers ate corn bread or 
"pone". Much of the bread was made of meal made on the premises where 
the coi-n was grown, by pounding the corn in a mortar. Here is the way 
meal was Tnade before any mills wei'e in the county, as told by grandfather: 

"You first cut off a block from a big log, standing it on end like a 
butcher's block, only it had no legs under it. Then a fire was made on toi; 
of the block, burning it out dish-shaped until you got it as deep as you 
wanted it; then the charcoal was scooped out. You then put this corn in 
the hole and crushed it. A small maul was used for a pestle. This was 
made out of a pole about six inches in thickness, and for the first foot fuil 
sized; then the pole was whittled down so as to make a handle. With that 
pestle and mortar you then lit in on the corn and crushed it into meal. The 
meal was then sifted with a hand sieve, the coarse part put back and 
crushed again." 

Pioneers who did not do their own "milling" in the above described 
manner, were compelled to go to Kaskaskia for their meal. The mill at 
Kaskaskia, known as Edgar's mill, also made flour, as wheat was raised in 
that vicinity, it being a much older settlement. If the pioneers wanted 
flour to make a wedding cake, they could obtain it at the Edgar mill. 

Boys generally went to mill astride a horse, using a sack containing 
two bushels of corn for a saddle. The boys would fish or play games while 
waiting for their "turn". There would generally be several boys at the mill 
at the same time from different points in the county. The boys 
considered a trip to the mill as a pleasant holiday. The mill owner would 
deduct one-seventh of the corn as toll. 

General Edgar obtained possession of the historic Kaskaskia mill in 
17'),5. Before that it had been owned by a Frenchman, but had gone to 
wreck long bef'>re Gen. Edgar purchased it. The former owner, whose 
name was Paget, was killed by Indians. One day while engaged in operating 
tne mill, a band of Kickapoos attacked the place. A negi'o escaped 
through one of the windows and hurried to Kaskaskia to give the alann, 



18 OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 

(the mill being situated on the east side of the Kaskaskia river, opposite 
the town.) When reinforcements arrived, Paget was found on the floor, 
his body cut to pieces. He had been scalped, his head cut off and thrown 
into the hopper. 

One of the firsr mills in Jackson county was operated by John Bower, 
on Kinkaid cre.-'k, about three miles from Brownsville. This was a water 
mill. About this time, probably 1830, a little wheat was being i-aised in 
Jackson county and the mill ground both corn and wheat. It also had an 
up-and-down saw for sawing lumber. This was hailed as a great im- 
provement. A few years later a mill was built on Beaucoup creek and 
operated by Dillinger brothers. 

Five acres of wheat was considered a big crop and had to be cut with 
a mowing blade. A man received one dollar per day for supplying the 
power to operate this harvesting machine, while the binders were paid 
seventy-five cents per day. 

The cost of food did not cause much worry for the residents of Jackson 
county during Old Brownsville days. Grandfather said when fresh meat 
was needed, all one had to do was to take his rifle and go a short distance 
from the clearing and kill, a deer or wild turkey. If the appetite de- 
manded something different, there were thousands of wild ducks and geese 
on the lakes in the bottom. Wild pigeon also served as meat. These 
were so numerous that they hid the sun when in flight. They were not 
hunted with a gun, but were killed at night while on roost. They had 
certain roosting places and hundreds would be found on one tree, hence it 
was an easy matter to make a big kill. The pioneer produced most of his 
foodstuff and clothes, depending on wild game for meat. 

Brownsville continued to flourish until about 1835, when it began to 
decline. There were several reasons for this. Doctor Will, its leading- 
citizen, died the previous year and his various enterprises ceased operation. 
Again, settlers began locating in the northern and western portions of the 
county and they demanded a moi'e central county seat. While this matter 
was being discussed, the court house at Brownsville was burned on the 
night of January 10, 1843, the twenty-seventh anniversary of the birth of 
the county. But very few records were saved, and for this reason records 
of pioneer days are few. After the destruction of the court house Doctor 
Logan offered to donate twenty acres as an inducement to relocate the 
county seat on his farm, where Murphysboro now stands. His offer wk^ 
accepted and the new town was started. Many citizens of Brownsville 



OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 1» 

moved to Murphysboro, same of them wrecking their buildings and taking 
tjiem along. Other buildings were bought by various persons and removed. 
Thus, in a few years the town had vanished. 

When Brownsville was established in 1816 the population of Jackson 
county was about 1200; now it has a population of nearly 40,000. At that 
time not a bushel of wheat was grown in the county. In normal years it 
now produces approximately 500,000 bushels per annum, and greatly ex- 
ceeded that figure when the grain was more generally grown. In Old 
Brownsville Days it is doubtful if the county produced 25,000 bushels of 
corn; now in normal seasons it yields more than a million bushels. Also, 
|a great abundance of other crops is now produced which were not raised 
in pioneer days. For instance, in a recent year the total crop value of 
Jackson county amounted to nearly $3,000,000! 

Jackson county is also rich in natural resources of various kinds. It 
has long been a producer of an excellent grade of coal, and contains oil and 
gas. While the oil industry in this locality is now dormant, only a few 
years ago the Ava field was producing millions of cubic feet of natural gas 
per day, as well as considerable oil. 

A century ago "railroads were just coming into being, and there was 
not a foot of trackage in the entire state of Illinois; today Jackson county 
is traversed by the Mobile and Ohio, Illinois Central and Missouri Pacific 
railroads. It is interesting to note that the latter line passes through 
the site of Old Brownsville. 

When Jr.ckson county was being settled, pionoei's traveled over dim 
trails in ox-drawn wagons; now her people ride in luxurious trains, speed in 
automobiles along concrete highways, or fly over the country in airplanes! 

There was only one one newspaper in the whole of Illinois Territory 
when Jackson county was created in 1816 — The Illinois Herald, published 
at Kaskaskia; today there are five papers in Jackson county alone. 

One hundred years ago, when Brownsville was the business center of 
Jackson county, Chicago consisted of only a few huts; today Brownsville is 
gone and Chicago is the second largest city on the American continent, and 
as these lines are being written, is entertaining the whole woild with its 
magnificent Century of Progress Exposition! 

The telegraphy electric light, telephone and all other modern in- 
ventions now used by residents of Jackson county, were undx-eamed of back 
in the year 1833. What a change since Brownsville Days! 



20 OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS. 



A century is considered a long span of time when mentioned in con- 
nection with the age of a person, yet it is a brief period when considering 
the age of a state, nation and objects of nature. For instance, many forest 
trees are yet standing in Jackson county which were full grown long before 
Old Brownsville Days. This county is still young. 

But gone are the Indians! Gone are the pioneers! Gone is Browns- 
ville! The same hills are still there, and the same sun still shines that once 
smiled on the old town. The same moon sends forth its beams to play on 
the rippling waves of the same river, just as it did a century and more 
ago. But no longer does the gentle voice of the pioneer mother, singing- 
sweet and low, float out on the evening air. For the pioneers are gone! 
Nor do the candle lights gleatrn at night through the windows of the little 
cabin homes on Big Muddy, as of yore. For Old Brownsville is no morel 
Like a wild rose it bloomed and withered away. 

Not without thy thrilling story, 

Old Jackson, Old Jackson, 
Can be written the State's story, 

Old Jackson, Old Jackson, 
On the record of thy years. 

Old Jackson, Old Jackson, 
Gallant John Logan's name appears, 

Old Jackson, Old Jackson, 
Boone, Conrad Will and our tears, 

Old Jackson, Old Jackson, 
Boone, Conrad Will and our tears, 

Old Jackson, Old Jackson. 

Brave men and women of Old Brownsville Days, your descendants most 
lovingly salute you! 

(All rights reserved by the Author). 
END 



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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS-URBANA 

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OLD BROWNSVILLE DAYS BROWNSVILLE 




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