OLENA TOWNSHIP

The settlement of this township dates back to the arrival of John Gibson and family in the year 1833. His dwelling for the first summer. was a rail pen. In the fall, after getting his land broken and seeded, he built a log hut. Until the next spring his was the only family in township 9, range 5. He was originally from Tennessee, whence he had removed to Greene county, Ohio. He buried his first wife, and married Ann McNary, May 21, 1829. In 1831 he came to Illinois, and settled successively in Sangamon and Warren counties, remaining in each county one year. He then came to Henderson county, and located on the S. E. of Sec. 11, T. 9 N., 5 W., in the midst of an unbroken wilderness, inhabited by Indians and wolves, both, however, very neighborly. Moreover the necessities of life were not easily obtainable. Mills were so distant and difficult to reach that grain pounded up in a mortar constructed of a hollow stump, was their only meal. As in ancient temples, so in this rail pen the fire was never allowed to go out, but once, and the penalty paidwas a ride to Biggsville to borrow fire. Mr. Gibson died September 30, 1858. His son, Andrew, the first white child born in this township, still occupies the home farm.

During the spring and summer of 1831 there came into this section John H. Dunn, Jacob Mendenhall, Robert Kendall, John Shull, T. J. Fort, J. B. Fort, John Houchin, and James and David Laswell. John H. Dunn settled on the S. W. of Sec. 10, and lived there until his death in 1840. His was the first burial in the Watson cemetery. Jacob Mendenhall settled on the S. W. 4 of Sec. 3. He came from North Carolina, stopping for a short time in Indiana, and at Peoria, Illinois. In 1835 he returned to his native home, accompanied by his wife, to obtain a legacy left him by his father; making the entire trip in a buggy. The following year he removed to Dallas City, Illinois. Here he died, and here his sons still reside.

John Houchin built a mill on the east side of Ellison creek, opposite the present mill at Warren. This he sold to Hopper and Watson, and removed to Texas in 1836. He died there prior to 1860. Thomas Jefferson Fort came from Warren county, Kentucky, where he was born January 20, 1809. At the age of nineteen he left home, and, after a few years spent in farming near his native place, came to Illinois, settling successively in Warren, Fulton, and Henderson coun­ties. He had been married before leaving Kentu cky to Sarah Brown, daughter of Andrew Brown, a soldier in the British army at the time of its capture at Yorktown. Principally self-taught, Mr. Fort has been a friend of education, and to his intelligent observations and clear memory, we owe most of the early history of the count y, here presented,

Of the Laswells and. John Shull nothing was learned. The other first settlers will be mentioned elsewhere.

From this time on the township filled up steadily, but not very rapidly until after 1855. It is noticeable that up to this year the immigration was into Iowa, but from 1855 to 1860 there came a reaction; the tide turned and this section rapidly filled.

The township contains two villages, Olena and Warren. The former was laid out by Robert Kendall. It was located at first somewhat south of its . present site, and was moved where it now stands to adapt itself to the road when it was finally located. Julius Porter laid out an addition on the north side of the road, which bears his name. Robert Kendall opened the first store in the village, and, indeed, was foremost in developing it. He was from near Xenia, Ohio. He came to Henderson county in 1835, bringing with him considerable capital. He entered the land on which Olena stands, and built a double log cabin on the site of Mr. George Curry's present residence. The town laid out, he set about building cabins and getting settlers into them. His store was opened where the store of Mr. J. A. Stevens now stands. In 1843 he put up a two- story brick building, which was used alternately as a dwelling and as a store until it came into the possession of Ira Putney, Sr. It was then taken down and the brick put into the foundation of Mr. Stevens' store, then owned by Putney & Curry. Mr. Kendall died February 5, 1848, and his family removed to Washington, Iowa.

There is little of general interest in the history of this village aside from the men who at different times have lived here, and plied their various trades. Among these men, not mentioned elsewhere, is Ira Putney, Sr. He was born in Vermont in 1802. Here he married Sarah, daughter of Moses Copp, and afterward removed to Canada. In 1842 he again removed to Bloomington, McLean county, Illinois, where for a number of years he pursued his trade as a hatter. In 1851 he removed to Burlington, Iowa, and opened a provision store. Thence, in 1856, he came to Olena, and bought the general store of Marks & Porter. He continued in business until his son, Ira Putney, Jr., returned from the army, when he retired, retaining only the office of postmaster, which position he still filled at the time of his death, April 25, 1872. His early advantages we're very small, but he possessed such force and worth as made him successful in business, and gave him a positive influence in the community and in the church (Methodist Episcopal) of which he was a member.

Julius Porter came from near Chillicothe, Ohio, in the fall of 1848. He followed a variety of occupations in Olena, until his removal to DesMoines, Iowa, about 1859. Since 1880 his residence has been in Kansas.

William Marks, business partner of the above, left Olena about the same time as Porter. Since leaving he has been engaged in the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal church. Barton Davids came to Olena from Burlington. Iowa, in 1850 or 1851, and returned thither a year later. He built a large frame store and dwelling, on the site of Dr. I. P. Cowden's residence. The building passed into various hands, and in 1877 was burned to the ground.

Township 9, range 5, is chiefly given over for farmers and farming, and for this occupation it is admirably adapted. The surface is rolling and well drained by Ellison creek and its tributaries. This creek takes its name from a stranger named Ellison found dead upon its banks. Its principal tributary in this township is Wolf creek, so called from the great number of wolves that frequented the timber through which this stream flows. There are, however, various other important streams flowing into the Ellison, fed by living springs.

About one-fifth of township 9, range 5, is covered by timber. Formerly there was a large quantity of walnut, of burr, white and Spanish oak, and of hard maple timber. Little but oak remains; so completely have the mills worked up the large timber. The soil is for the chief part a sandy loam, with a porous clay subsoil, equally adapted to endure either a wet or a dry season. The exception to this nature of soil is found in the western tier of townships. Through these run a chain of sandy bluffs about one-quarter of a mile wide, covered with a scant growth of scruboak. At the foot of these bluffs, on the western side, is a narrow strip of black sand ver y fertile, but beyond this the soil is not productive. The land in this township came into the market in 1835. No trouble was experienced from claim-jumping and speculators. Land increased in value but slowly, the best selling for 810 to $15 per acre up to about 1860, while the present value of improved land is from $10 to $(15 per acre ; of timber from $20 to $30 per acre.

The chief products here as elsewhere in Illinois are hogs and corn. Considerable attention is given to fine cattle and horses. Mr. J. W. Brook has a herd of eighty shorthorn Durhams and some fine Clydesdale horses. Mr. George Curry also has shorthorn cattle and an excellent flock of sheep. Mr. Curry has also given attention to the introduction of a better grade of roadster horses. Not much care is given to fruit since the death of Mr. Joseph Watson closed his nursery. Mr. W. had been very active and successful in introducing various sorts of fruits, especially apples. Mr. William Ingerson is at present cultivat­ing Snyder blackberries and hopes to establish a quite extensive garden and fruit farm.

As has been remarked, the course of farming in this township has run ver y smoothly, and only at long intervals have the crops suffered seriously from storms and floods. The years 1851 and 1882 are the especially exceptional years. Both years were marked by constant and very heavy rainfalls and by frequent disastrous floods. Two of these storms will serve as illustrations. On June 2, 1882, there was a tremendous rainfall, lasting nearly all day ; the creeks overflowed their banks, covered the roads and undermined the bridges ; the fields were fairly inundated and crops seriously injured. Eight days later the heavens were again opened, the rain descended and the floods came, higher and more destructive than before known. The rain fell for an hour with the greatest violence. Two hours after the rain ceased the creeks had risen above all previous marks. Again fields were deluged, and many bridges were washed out or carried away bodily.

. Milling in a community such as we have described could hardly fail to be a profitable business. Very early in the history of this town ship, in the year 1835, John Houchin put up what was intended for both a saw-mill and a grist-mill on section 8, opposite Hopper's mill. He sold the year following to Lambert Hopper and Joseph Watson, who ran the mill only for sawing purposes. Mr. Watson retired a year later, leaving the entire business to Mr. Hopper. It was not until 1840 that a good grist-mill was put up by Mr. Hopper. Prior to this time settlers had been obliged to go to various points. They went principally to Ellisville, a distance of forty miles. The trip took from five to eight days, and not infrequently two weeks. By sending together the task of going to .mill was greatly lessened. Mr. Hopper continued to run the mill up to the time of his death. His widow bought the mill of the heirs and immediately sold it to Charles Rogers and Daniel Sweeney. In 1878 they in turn sold to Mr .. J. H. Shraeder, who still owns it.

Woolen manufacturing has been attempted at Warren, but unsuccessfully. In 1843 Lambert Hopper established a carding machine on. Ellison creek, a little down the stream from the mill, and ran it up to the year 1869. In this year he entered into partnership with William Baldwin to build a woolen. factory, Mr. Hopper to furnish the site and the building, and Mr. Baldwin the machinery. The mill was located yet farther down the stream than the carding machine, and the latter was removed to the mill. The machinery for the woolen factory came on, but Mr. Baldwin proved unable to set it up properly. Mr. J. M. Frill becoming interested, bought a .half interest in the machinery,. Wesley Hopper, son of Lambert, at the same time taking part of his father's share. Mr. Frill's experience enabled him to promptly get the factory into running order, but the work was not completed until July,. too late to secure that year's clip.

The following year, 1861, the mill was very successful, clearing several thousand dollars. But a dispute arose as to the relative value of Mr. Frill's labor as compared with that of the other partners. Unable to reach an agreement, Mr. Frill withdrew after about eighteen months' connection with the firm. Mr. Lambert Hopper had died prior to this disruption, and the business fell into the hands of Wesley Hopper and William Baldwin. They continued together but .a year, when Baldwin withdrew and removed from the village. The factory was rented for a time to J. M. & G.W. Davis, now of Carman, but for several years has not been run at all. These mills had been the life of Warren; consequently, with their decadence, the village has also sunk to a low point.

Of saw-mills there have been several, which have naturally fallen into decay. as the timber has been used up. The first one established was built by John Houchin in 1835, as has ..been remarked heretofore. Wilson Kendall, brother to Robert, built a saw-mill on the Ellison, in section 14 ; it went into disuse about 1848. The last saw mill in operation in township 9, range 5, was a steam mill, located on the west edge of Olena, on the farm of Cyrus W. Steele, Esq. Mr. Steele sold the proprietors, Nichols Hurst, four acres of land to secure the mill, and, though he never owned it, he ran it most of the time. The mill passed successively into the hands of John F. W oodsides, George W. Cowden, John Oglesby, J. L. Green, Abraham Carress, John Long, and Curtis 'Motord, and last, Robert Martin. He removed the mill to Gladstone, ten years after its first establishment. For eight years, until timber became scant, the mill did a profitable business.

A less commendable enterprise was started in 1842 or 1843 by Alexander and Samuel Strahan, namely, a distillery. They built a log building, covering it with split clapboards. Their still continued in successful operation for about three years, when both brothers removed to Iowa.

The early mails were much the same here as elsewhere, the route extending from Monmouth to Appanoose. The first office opened in this township was established at the house of Wm. Cowden. After the laying out of Olena, Robert Kendall became postmaster, and removed the office to his store.. The office has changed hands as stores have changed owners ; at present it is under the charge of Ira Putney, Jr.

The Honey creek postoffice was opened at the residence of Mr. Abner Davis, about 1842 or 1843, on the route from Burlington to Macomb. It was discontinued after a few years, and the mail taken to Warren.

The first hotel was opened by Wm. W. Kendall, only son of Robert Kendall. He also built the first frame buildings, a store and a dwelling, in Olena. These in 1841 were considered extraordinarily fine. The store is still standing, but long since fallen into disuse. The dwelling was used as a hotel ; it was about 16 x 24 feet, one and a half stories high. It was owned by various parties until in 1857 it came into the hands of Mr. Geo. Curry. He remodeled the house, and kept it till 1862, when he exchanged residences with his father. The latter occupied it until his death, in 1878. Mr. Lukins then kept hotel for a time, when the building passed into the hands of its present occupant, Mrs. Clark, who for several years before this had kept hotel in various buildings in the village.

Of secret fraternities only the I.O.O.F. is represented by lodges in this township. The Warren Lodge, Ko. 554, I.O.O.F., was organized in 1874, with the following charter members: Miles Sells, B. G. Phillips, Geo. W. Davis, Willis Anderson, John M. Davis, and J. S. Bennington. The first officers were: N.G., John M. Davis; V.G., Willis Anderson; treasurer, B. G. Phillips; secretary, J. S. Bennington. The present officers (June, 1882), are: KG., Wm. Shull; V.G., J. H. Scliroeder; treasurer, Miles Sells; secretary, William Ingerson. Since the establishment of the lodge over sixty have been enrolled as members.
The Olena Lodge, No. 662, I.O.O.F., was instituted July 1, 1879. The charter members were: Robert Eodman, T. J. Fort, John Harbinson, John H. Stevens, I. P. Cowden, J. S. Bennington, W. J. McElhiney, and Geo. W. Fort. The first officers were: N.G., J. H. Stevens; Y.G., I. P. Cowden; secretary, W. J. McElhiney: treasurer, T. J. Fort; deputy and representative, J. S. Bennington. The present officers are: KG., H. G. King; V.G., M. G. McKinley; secretary, W. J. McElhiney; treasurer. Eobert Eodman; deputy and representa­tive, W. J. McElhiney.

 

Matthew Findley Story

Early Settlers

 

 

History of Mercer and Henderson Counties.

 

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Illinois Ancestors