Source: "1881 History of Marion & Clinton Counties, Illinois"
This territory was formerly a part of what was known, when township organization took effect, as Crooked Creek township. In 1875 the latter was divided into two parts, and called Lake and Brookside. Lake constituted the western division, and is bounded as follows: On the north by Clement and Carlyle, on the east by Brookside, south by Crooked creek, and west by the Kaskaskia. It lies in the southeastern portion of the county, bordering on Washington, and contains about 16,000 acres of excellent prairie and timbered land, each being nearly equal in acreage.
Crooked creek forms the southern boundary, and flows in a westerly direction, when it empties into the Kaskaskia soon after leaving the township. Lost creek, a tributary of the Crooked, enters the township in section 2: it meanders in a south-westerly direction, and forms a junction with the latter in section 20. Prairie creek flows in from the east, and unites with Lost creek in section 10, where they spread out into a wide bottom-prairie about one-half mile in width to a mile and a half in length, which is then called "The Lake". This explains the origin of the name of the latter stream, that is, it is lost in forming the lake.
The surface is mainly flat or level. That portion of land known as Central Prairie, situated north-west of Lost creek, is interspersed with high groves of timber and beautiful rolling prairie land. This part of the county, however is better adapted to the raising of maize and for grazing purposes that for the cultivation of wheat, which considered the staple of the county.
From the best authority that can be gleaned at this time, that portion of the county known as Lake township was first settled in the year 1817.
One of the first to endure the hardships of pioneer life, and to blaze the way for the benefit of future generations, was Robert C. MCKEVER. He was a native of the state of Georgia, and migrated to this state with his family in the fall of 1816, and settled first at Shiloh, in St. Clair county. Their mode of conveyance for this long trip was a lumber wagon drawn by four horses, for it must be remembered that in those days steam locomotion was a thing of the future. His family consisted of his wife and four children, Lecy, Sarah, Robert C., Jr., and John. In the fall of the same year Mr. MCKEVER removed to near Lebanon, and the fall following, 1817, moved to what is now Lake township, and settled on the north-east quarter of section 3. Here he lived until 1835, when he moved to Arkansas, leaving several of the family living about the old homestead. He died in Arkansas in 1838, at the age of 61 years. Mrs. MCKEVER's maiden name was Seley WADSWORTH. She died in Arkansas in 1839, one year after the death of her husband. Ten children were born of this union, only one of whom, Robert C. Jr., is now living in the county. The latter resides at Clement, and is one of the oldest and most respected citizens of Clinton county. Both Robert senior and junior have held several offices of trust in the county. The name of Mr. MCKEVER, the elder can be found in many of the official records at the county seat, but with the name signed or written Robert C. MCEVER. His children, however, have seen fit to spell it with a K, hence the discrepancy of the early records as compared with the orthography of later date.
Dempsey KENNEDY located here in the same year as Mr. MCKEVER, 1817, and settled in section 6. He was also a native of Georgia. He only remained about two years, when he moved to what is now Washington county. Robert CARTER, a Methodist minister and a pioneer from Tennessee, came to this township in 1817, and located on section 6, and afterwards removed to Washington county in the company with Mr. KENNEDY. He was the pioneer preacher of this part of the country, and did much good by his vocation in southern Illinois. He departed this life many years ago, and it is said that his tomb may be shown in a little private burying-ground in the township of Lake. Hugh F. JOHNSON, a native, born in 1828, and son of D. M. JOHNSON, is yet living on or near the old homestead; his father, D. M., came from Kentucky in 1817.
Isaac and William DARNILLE, also natives of Georgia, settled here in 1818, and located in the western part of the township. The former was a resident until his death, which occurred many years ago. Sally, widow of William GIBSON, is yet living near the old homestead with one of her children, and is the only direct representative of the family in this part of the state. William and family moved to Missouri about 1850. Haden POSEY settled here in the same year as the Darnille's, and located his home in the southern part of the township. B. M. POSEY, a son of Haden, is now living near the pioneer home, and is one of the oldest and most substantial men of the county. Among the other old settlers were Wingate MADDUX, John WADSWORTH, Simeon and John WAKEFIELD, and John A. MOLTHROP.
The following interesting history of the customs, habits and hardships of the early pioneers, as given by B. M. POSEY, at the request of the County Board in 1876 (centennial year) is too good an article to be lost. We therefore take the liberty to embody a synopsis of it in this history, that it may pass down to future generations as a beacon of information of what their forefathers underwent. Being purely local, it will ever prove an interesting feature of this chapter.
The most of the first settlers of this township emigrated from the Southern states. They were generally of the poorer class, and had many inconveniences to encounter, a few of which I will here mention. For milling, they were obliged to go to St. Clair county, to what was then known as the "Padfield Settlement," until 1819, when Edward COLE built a horse-mill north of the present site of Clement in section 10, and on the farm now owned by Smyth MOORE. The next mill that was built in this part of the county was a tread-mill, and was constructed by Pomeroy EASTON, and situated two miles east of Carlyle on the Centralia road. Hence, the inconvenience of milling was so great that often the people were without bread, only as they made meal by pounding corn in a mortar with a pestle, or by boiling the corn until it was soft enough to grate with a grater. Often, for weeks at a time, they were reduced to living on rye hominy, and sometimes they were obliged to use dried venison (without sauce) for bread. Another inconvenience was the scarcity of salt. They were mostly dependent on the Saline Salt Works for this condiment, and it would sometimes take from three to five weeks to make the trip with an ox-team - the only mode of conveyance - to the works.
Yet, with all their hardships and inconveniences, they were a happy, lively, and hospitable people, ever ready and willing to help one another, especially in sickness or death, often going from ten to fifteen miles in order to administer to the wants of the sick or afflicted.
It seems that nature had bestowed her richest gifts on this part of the country in providing for the natural wants of man. There was a luxurious growth of grass and will pea-vine, which furnished a good range, so that with very little effort a person could raise all the stock he desired. In that early day, all a person had to do to successfully raise hogs, was to keep them tame, and prevent the wolves from catching the pigs. A few months' work in each year was all that was required to raise the necessaries of life - and with that, the early settlers were satisfied.
This township settled very slowly. In 1830 some of the old settlers had died, and many of them had moved away, until it was almost depopulated. At that date it began to settle again, until the hard times of 1837, to 1841, when it again stopped improving, until about 1856. Since which time, all the land susceptible of cultivation has been improved. No part of the county has excelled it in growth since that date.
There are many incidents and reminiscences of early days that now would seem almost incredible to the present generation. This town, perhaps, was not surpassed by any in this part of the state for the abundance and variety of its wild game, there being a large body of timber between the Kaskaskia river and Crooked creek, which afforded it a secure covert. In that early day there were many bears, among other wild animals, in the country. One incident of bear hunting I will here relate. Mr. Benjamin ALLEN, father of Mrs. Captain BOND, about the year 1820, at the commencement of cold weather, was out on a hunting expedition. Striking the trail of three bears in the snow, he followed them a short distance to some thick brush, when his dogs brought them to a bay, and after a severe contest between the dogs and the bears, he succeeded by the aid of his rifle in capturing the whole gang. This occurred near what is still known as "Bear Lake" - indeed, the lake took its name from this circumstance. It was no uncommon sight in the spring to see fifty or a hundred deer in a drove; nor was it a strange sight to see the wild turkeys come up to the feed yard in winter, when the snow was deep; nor the wolves to collect in gangs, and chase the dogs into the yard at night.
The first lands entered in this township as taken from county records, were made by the following parties: Sept. 16th, 1816, Wm. MORRISON entered the N. E. ¼ Sec. 4, 163.04 acres; Pierre MENARD entered the N. W. ¼ Sec. 4, 171.22 acres, Sept. 16th 1816: Jan. 22nd 1817, John WAKEFIELD entered the E. ½ of the N. E. ¼ Sec. 5, 80.42 acres; April 18th, 1817, Robert C. MCEVER entered N. E. ¼ Sec. 3; Jan. 29th, 1818, John BRADFORD entered S. W. ¼ Sec. 14; Feb. 26th, 1818, Livesay CARTER entered S. E. ¼ Sec. 7; March 9th 1818, Seborn WADSWORTH entered N. E. ¼ Sec. 12; May 21st 1818, Wingate MADDUX entered N. E. ¼ Sec. 24; June 14th, 1818, B. STEPHENSON entered for Bank of Edwardsville, 269.15 acres in Sec. 6; July 16th 1818, James MITCHELL, entered 277.26 acres in Sec. 6; July 27th, John A. MOLTHROP entered N. W. ¼ Sec. 9; Sept 22nd, 1819, John D. PATTON entered S. W. ¼ Sec. 15.
The first death that occurred in this township was in 1818. A man by the name of HULL was felling trees upon the land he had squatted on, and was cutting them in the old manner of clearing, that is by partially cutting one tree and falling another against it. By some means he became too careless, and was crushed to atoms by one of the trees. He was buried in what is now known as the Wadsworth burial ground.
This was the first place of interment in the precinct, and is situated on section three. The land is now owned by Mr. LEWIS. It was contributed for the purpose of a burial place in a very early day, by John WADSWORTH, to the neighborhood. In conveying the lands to the other parties, many years afterwards, Mr. WADSWORTH neglected to reserve the burial-ground in the deed. The result was, that the purchasing party claimed the ground, and the neighbors circulated a subscription list and obtained a sufficient amount to buy the land. It is still used for a neighborhood place of interment.
Jefferson DOW taught the first regular school in 1825. The school-house was situated close to the dividing line between Lake and Clement townships. It was only a temporary affair, and built for summer use only, as it contained nothing but the rough logs, devoid of the old-time chinking and mud cement. To use the language of one of the old-timers, who was a pupil of the school, "you could throw a cat through the crevices between the logs." The floor was made of puncheons, and the door swung on wooden hinges, the creaking of which might be heard throughout the whole district. The seats were constructed by driving four rude pegs into a puncheon, with the split side up. The desks were no better. They consisted of puncheons resting upon four pegs, driven into the logs in the sides of the house.
Church services in an early day were held in the private housed of the neighborhood. Among the early preachers were Noah WEBSTER, Robert CARTER, James HORSHEY, Wilson PITNER, Simeon WALKER, Zachariah MADDUX, and A. T. ROGERS. These were all Methodists; in fact, this denomination prevailed wholly in this section of country in those times. Posey Chapel, a neat little church-house, built by the Methodists about two years ago, is now one of the pleasant features of the growth and progress of this township. It is situated on the land of B. M. POSEY, which was donated by him for the benefit of the church.
The first to introduce blooded stock into this township, was John DAUGHERTY. This was in 1852. He brought sixty Durham cows from Ohio, and sold them out among the farmers. Since which time others have engaged in the business, and the stock of this portion of the county has materially improved. At this writing, Daniel COLLINS and Mr. LINDLEY are the prominent stock men.
The following persons have represented Lake township in the county board since township organization: H. F. JOHNSON was elected in 1875, and served until the spring of 1880; B. M. POSEY elected in 1880, re-elected in 1881, and is the present incumbent. We thus close the chapter of Lake township. With the wide awake people it has today, and the resources nature has given it will some day stand among the first of the county.
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