East Fork Township
Source: "1881 History of Marion & Clinton Counties, Illinois"
East Fork, so named in honor of the creek which drains the northern portion of its territory, is situated in the extreme north-eastern part of the county, and contains upwards of 23,000 acres. When the township organization was effected, in 1874, this precinct was named Morris, in honor of John MORRIS, one of its oldest and most respected citizens; but, on account of there being a town of the same name in the northern part of the state, it was changed to the name of East Fork, as stated above. It is about evenly divided between prairie and timbered land, the southern half comprising a part of what is known as Grand Prairie. East Fork, a tributary of the Kaskaskia, enters the south-east corner of section thirteen, meanders through the township in a north-westerly course, and passed out in section five, and finally empties into the Kaskaskia in the southern portion of Fayette county. The township is bounded on the north by Fayette county, on the east by Marion, on the south by the Meridian township, and on the west by Irishtown. According to the census of 1880, it contained 853 inhabitants.
The first to settle in the wilds of East Fork was James ALTOM, and known in those times as Bulger. He was a native of Tennessee, and came here with his family in the summer of 1818, and settled on section 1. He had a large family, consisting of a wife and eight children, five boys, and three girls, named as follows, in the order of their ages: Thomas, the eldest, Robert, John, Jesse, Spencer, Polly, Lucy, and Nancy. None of the family are now living, except Spencer, who resides in Texas. In 1838, Mr. ALTOM moved to Missouri. There is but one representative of the family now living in the township, Robert ALTOM, Jr., a grandson of James, the old pioneer. Robert, Jr., is now living on section 15, and one of the substantial citizens of the precinct.
Miles GIBBS, the next-to help pave the way to this unsettled country, came in the same year as Mr. ALTOM, 1818. He squatted on section 29. He had a wife and one child. In 1842 he left for the far West, and nothing is known of his whereabouts since that time.
Zachariah MORRIS, a native of Georgia, migrated with his family to the State of Illinois in 1812, and first settled near Lebanon, St. Clair county, where he remained until 1820, when he moved to Irishtown. He remained there until 1830, and removed to East Fork, where he bought and settled on what is known as the Pope land, in section 13. In the same year he, in conjunction with his brother-in-law, John ROGERS, constructed a water-mill on the East Fork. This was the first mill built in the township, as well s the first for many miles around. It contained one run of stone, and run a saw-mill in connection with it. The grist-mill is yet in operation, and is owned and conducted by J. L. CLENDENNING. Mr. MORRIS brought up a large family, the names being as follows: James, Salina, John, Mary, Lavina, Rachel and Joseph, - only two of whom are now living, John and Lavina. They live in the township, on section 13, near the old homestead, and are considered among the first citizens of the precinct. The old gentleman, Zachariah, and his wife both died in the same year, 1846.
In 1830, William KING, a native of Tennessee, came with his family and squatted on section 9. He remained only about four years, when he emigrated to Arkansas. None of his representatives are now living in this part of the country.
John CARTER, who was a native of Tennessee, migrated to this state in 1817, when he was a young man, and settled in what is now Meridian township. He afterwards moved to Green county, remaining there for some time, when he again returned to Clinton in 1834, and settled in East Fork. In the meantime he had married a daughter of Gibeon BURTON, the first settler of Meridian. From this marriage there was a large family of children, six girls and four boys. Three of the sons, James, Wiley and James, and one daughter, Mrs. Annie TABOR, are yet living in this precinct.
Abuer CLARK, Bennett BIGGS, John HAWKINS, James BREWSTER, Daniel CASEY, Boswell DRAKE, and Oliver and Fretus MADDUX are also among the old settlers.
The following, relating to the hardships and inconveniences undergone by the pioneers of this particular part of Clinton county, we glean from an article written by John MORRIS, and published by the order of the county board in 1876, centennial year. The early settlers all settled in the timber - believing the prairie land to be worthless, and cleared the little tracts they cultivated.
These locations have been abandoned long ago, and the people who now occupy the land have made improvements and built their houses on more sightly locations. Up to 1830, there was not grist-mill nearer than Carlyle, then fifteen, now eighteen miles distant.
It may seem curious to the younger generation to know how it could have been fifteen, and is now eighteen. One word will explain it. At that time one could ride entirely to the county seat, by taking a diagonal course to the town, as there were no fences or fields to prevent; now we are obliged to take the right angles, on account of the improved farms, and the manner in which roads are laid out to suit the improvements of the country. Then, to go to mill, and get back with the grist, occupied from two to four days, depending upon the number whose "turn" came ahead of yours. It was like the call of "next" in a first-class barber shop. Then, too, the people all lived on government land, there not being so much as a section of land taken up in the whole township.
One could travel from the Kaskaskia timber east to Salem, a distance of twenty miles, and not come within the distance or sight of a farm or house. At this writing the land is all taken up, and nearly all the prairie, and considerable of the timber land is cultivation. The prairie is all under fence from one end of the precinct to the other, mostly with rails - and still there is plenty of timber left for all purposes for the convenience of the people of the township. A thing the first settlers thought to be impossibility for only a short time.
In those early days there was but very little chance for school privileges, there not being a sufficient number of children to afford a school; indeed, there was not a public school in the county at that time. Now there are five good school-houses in the township, and all are well attended. The first school-house taught in, was a temporary little log cabin, situated on sec. 13, in 1828. It was what is called a private, or subscription school, each patron paying pro rata, or according to the number of pupils he sent. The house was built on a little hill near the creek called East Fork, and it is known to this day a few in the neighborhood, as "College Hill."
The first interments were made on the farm of John CARTER, on sec. 10. It is a neighborhood burying-ground, and many have been buried here. It is still used for this purpose.
Simeon WALKER was the pioneer preacher, and many are the encomiums given him by the old settlers for his piety, and the consistency of his life as compared with the doctrine he preached.
As early as 1855, there were two church-houses in the precinct - Methodist and Baptist. They were both unpretentious frame buildings. The former was situated on sec. 13, the latter on sect. 14. These were torn down some years since, and better buildings replaced them. The Baptist church was taken down about 1873, and a neat little commodious building placed upon its old site in sec. 14, and the Methodist was constructed in 1880, and situated in sec. 15.
The first justice of the peace was William COOLEY. Bennett BIGGS and John MORRIS were among the first after COOLEY.
Robert ALTOM, son of the first pioneer, was the first blacksmith. His shop was situated on sec. 3, the property now being owned by Robert JIMERSON. ALTOM, the blacksmith, killed a man in 1828. It created a great sensation in the neighborhood. He was afterward tried at Carlyle, and acquitted.
A country store was conducted by James MORRIS on sec. 13, as early as 1837, but did not exist but a few years, when it went by the board. Business sprang up at the county seat, and overshadowed such enterprises in the country.
First Land Entries
*The following are the first lands entered as shown on the records: June 25, 1818, Harvey WILTON entered the E. ½ of the S. E. ¼ of sec. 10, 80 acres; June 25, 1818, Nathanial POPE entered the N. E. ¼ of sec. 13, 160 acres; July 27, 1818, James ALTOM entered W. ½ N. E. ¼ sec. 1, 80 24/100 acres; March 15, 1833, Benjamin ALLEN entered W. ½ of the S. E. ¼ of sec. 20, 80 acres; March 9, 1833, John CLARK and F. MADDUX entered W. ½ of the N. W. ¼ sec. 20, 80 acres; Oct. 22, 1829, Samuel HUGHSON entered E. ½ of the N. W. ¼ of sec. 13, 80 acres.
A few years ago, corn was the staple product in this precinct, but at this time - 1881 - wheat is the leading crop, and it stands among one of the first in the county for the productiveness of its soil, and the amount of grain that it produces.
The following parties have represented the precinct as supervisors since township organization went into effect: - Abner CLARK, Jr., elected in 1874, and served two terms. John H. CARTER, elected in 1876, and served five terms. Abner CLARK, re-elected in 1881, and is the present incumbent. There seems to be but one drawback in this township. We have reference to the roads and bridges. By a little labor there is nothing to prevent it from being on of the most desirable territories in Clinton county.
*We are greatly indebted to John MORRIS for the data in this chapter.
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