Source: "1881 History of Marion & Clinton Counties, Illinois"
Irishtown is one of the northern tier of townships, and is bounded on the north by Bond county, on the east by East Fork township, on the south by Clement and Carlyle, and west by Wheatfield, and was formed as a township in 1874, when township organization took effect. It received its name from being first and principally settled by the sons of the Emerald Isle. It is mostly rich prairie land, Carlyle Prairie occupying the western half of the township. The eastern portion was originally timber, much of which is now improved, and contains some of the best wheat land in the county. The Kaskaskia river enters the township from the north-east in section four, and takes a south and westerly course through the entire precinct, and passes out in the central southern part in section thirty-three. It will thus be seen that the township has fair drainage facilities, besides plenty of timber for the wants of its people. It embraces about thirty-nine sections of land, and in 1880, contained a population of 886.
James BURNSIDE, a native of Ireland, was the first white man to make settlement here. This was in the spring of 1817. He came to this country in 1816, and first stopped in Indiana. Here he remained one year, when he came to Illinois and settled on section 28. He came to this country a single man, but married in Indiana before coming to this state. From this union there were six children born, John Samuel, Sarah, Robert, Thomas, and W. G. All of the family are now dead, except the latter, who is still living in the township on section 16, and has a family of six children. W. G. BURNSIDE is now one of the substantial citizens of the county. James, the elder, died on the old homestead in 1852. Mrs. BURNSIDE, his wife, died in 1832, twenty years before her husband.
Another pioneer, John STRODE, came in the same year as Mr. BURNSIDE -1817 - and located on section 32. He was a public-spirited man, and in an early day sunk a well and established a salt works on his premises, the land now being owned by Mrs. PERINE. The vein reached, scarcely yielded brine in paying quantities, and in sinking the well deeper, with the hop of reaching another vein, a large volume of fresh water came in, and finally the enterprise was abandoned. Some of the old kettles for evaporating purposes may yet be found in the neighborhood.
In 1823, quite a large colony made settlement here, from which time really dates the prosperity and progress of the township. Among the most prominent of these settlers were the following: James RUSSELL, who was a native of England, came in the year aforesaid, a single man, but soon afterward married and Irish lady for a wife. They brought up a large family, several of whom are yet living in the township. Mrs. RUSSELL, his wife a very old and intelligent lady, died only two or three years since. The old gentleman died about five years ago. Neilly MCNEIL, a native of Ireland, James BURNSIDE, Sen., father of James afore-mentioned, John BURNSIDE, brother of James Jr., the MARTIN's, Thos. NICHOLS, the HILL's, and the REID's all came in the same year with several others, which formed a permanent colony in this part of the county.
John JOHNSTON, a native of Ireland, came to the state with his family in 1839. He first settled in School Creek Bridge, and moved into this precinct in 1842. When he came to this county, he had but a wife and two children. They afterward had a large family grown up to them. But two of his children are now living, Elizabeth, who is living in Kansas, and Wm. G., residing in the township in section 16. The mother, Mrs. JOHNSTON, is yet living, and resides in the precinct. She was born in 1800, and is therefore, eighty-one years of age. The old gentleman died in 1878, only three years ago.
Land Entries. - The first land entered was as folllows: April 7, 1817, Samuel LINDLEY entered the N. E. ¼ of section 2, 158 63/100 acres. July 7, 1817, J. SLADE and C. BARNES entered the S. W. ¼ of section 15. September 25, 1817, James BURNSIDE entered the W. ½ of section 28. Jan. 29, 1818, James FETICK entered the N. W. ¼ of section 2, 157 52/100 acres. February 27, 1818, John STRODE entered the S. W. ¼ of section 32. March 10, 1818, Thomas NICHOLS entered the N. E. ¼ of section 3, being 156 28/100 acres. Francis CARR, March 16th of the same year, entered the W. ½ of the N. E. ½ of the N. W. ¼ of section 28. March 30th, same year, L. POWELL and N. LONGWORTH entered the S. E. ¼ of section 21, 160 acres.
Among the early preachers were Simeon WALKER, Andrew COLE, and a man by the name of WILLARS, Thos. KEYS and James RUSSELL were the first justices of the peace. The latter was a very prominent man in the precinct, and for a time served as county school commissioner.
Probably the first teacher was Mrs. John CLABAUGH, formerly Miss O. MELVANY. This was 1837. She taught in a private house in the neighborhood. The first to teach in a school-house was James MCKAY, in about 1840. The house was a small log cabin, situated on section 28, the remains of which passed away several years ago.
There are two churches in the precinct, both Methodist. One is a brick structure, situated at Keysport. It was build about five years ago. The other is a frame building, situated in the southwest corner of section 17. It was built in 1875. It has not pretensions to the fine architecture, but serves well for the wants as a place of worship for its neighborhood.
This is a little town situated on an elbow of the Kaskaskia, in section two, in the north-eastern part of the township. It was laid out by Thomas KEYS, in 1846, from whom it took its name. The surveyor who laid it off was F. D. TAYLOR, and it was placed on record July 26, 1847. There are four streets extending east and west named as follows: Washington, Lafayette, Adams, and Jefferson; and three extending north and south, with the following names: Democrat, Republican, and Whig streets; it therefore must be a national town.
The town contains about fifty inhabitants, and the following business: One steam grist-mill, formerly run by water power, and owned by PALMER & BURNER; a portable saw-mill, owned and conducted by OWENS & APPLE. It has two small stores, which carry a general stock; a post-office and a blacksmith shop.
The following gentlemen have represented the township board in this precinct since township organization: Wm. G. BURNSIDE, elected in 1874, and served two terms; Wm. G. JOHNSTON, elected in 1876, and served three terms; Samuel NORMAN, elected in 1879, re-elected in 1880, and '81 and is the present incumbent.
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