Richland County

1909 Reminiscent Sketch


These were the first soldiers to leave Richland county, for the Civil war: Company D, was organized by Bryant Higgins and John Lynch. Fort Sumpter was stormed Friday, April 12, 1861 . Higgins and Lynch sat up until midnight April 14, 1861, to get a copy of a little paper printed in St. Louis in the evening, to see if the President had issued his proclamation for troops. On getting the paper we went up Walnut street to a printing office managed by a deaf and dumb man, named Spurgeon. After knocking on the door and getting no response, we went around to the back of the office, pushed up a window and crawled in and struck a light, but finding the printer absent (it being Sunday night, April 14, 1861), we began trying to get into form, matter for handbills, with big wooden type. About that time the printer came in about I o'clock on Monday morning, April 15th. We showed him the paper, and it did not take him long to get the matter in form and ready for the press. Higgins worked the roller to ink the type and Lynch made a pot of paste. Lynch then wrote an enlistment paper and signed it. He was the first commissioned officer to enlist in this company; then I signed it, being the first private soldier to enlist in the company, of which act I am exceedingly proud. We went to the courthouse and rang the bell, woke up Reuben Kinney, sexton of the Methodist Episcopal church, and he rang the church bell. We posted our bills and by that time the whole town was up and men, regardless of political affiliations, signed the paper. By this time it was after daylight, and Lynch and myself started to the old Olney House for breakfast. We met Arch Spring, who signed the paper, being the sixty-third on the list in less than two hours. When we reached the hotel, William Harrah, of Vincennes, Indiana, who had just came in, said: "Boys, if you want to get your company in, one of you must go to Springfield at once, because when I came through Lawrenceville I saw old Dan Grass (an old Mexican soldier) drilling a company with a lantern." In those days a train left here for St. Louis at 7 o'clock in the morning. Lynch took the train for Springfield and I kept on taking enlistments. When Lynch reached St. Louis and changed cars for Springfield, a well dressed man with a silk hat and other clothes to correspond, took a seat beside him and the following conversation took place:

"Where are you going, young man?"

"Going to Springfield."

"What for?"

"To tender the governor the services of a company to help put down this rebellion."

"That is about what I thought; now young man, go home and attend to your own business."

Lynch being a very positive man, answered:

"Who the hell are you, anyway?"

"Look out, there, young man; do you see that big warehouse across the river?"


"See that name, 'D. A. January?' "


"See those two steamboats tied there?"


"Well, young man, that is my warehouse and those are my boats; now go home and mind your own business."

"Now, look here, I will tell you something," replied Lynch. "We will bring some cannon down here and just shoot hell out of you, your warehouse and your boats."

By this time the train reached Alton and the man of the warehouse and boats left the train. Lynch went on to Springfield, reported to the governor, who was much pleased with the patriotism of Richland county, Company D being the first to tender its services as a company except an organized company of militia in the city of Springfield. Lynch came back at once. In the meantime I had one hundred and twenty-three names on the roll. Then it became necessary to devise ways and means to get that many men to Springfield. There was a meeting called at once at the court-house, to provide means of transportation. In less than half an hour the money was raised. It took nearly one thousand dollars to pay the fare of one hundred and twenty-three men that far in those days.


We marched from Elliott's hall to the depot, lined up for the people to bid us good-bye. The whole county I think was there at 7 o'clock in the morning. Rev. John Crozier presented every man with a copy of the New Testament. Our best girls of course were there. I remember Jake Mushrush, who was like myself at that time, about as long as a bean pole and about as big around. His girl was rather short. When she came to him she took hold of his hand in both of hers and said, "Good-bye Jake, good-bye, Jake, good-bye." Jake was looking over the top of her head; finally he dropped her hand and kissed her good-bye. Poor Jake was fighting a harder battle than he ever fought afterwards. The stores in Olney did not open that day. The people sat and stood around on the streets all day, so I was told, and did not leave town until about night. You may think strange I received no office. Lynch and I had our plans laid higher up, and as Lynch has passed away and they were only known to us, it is not meet to divulge or tell them now; they miscarried.

We went to Springfield and were there sworn into the service, given a musket, and forty rounds of ammunition were loaded on a long train of freight cars and started for Cairo, Illinois. When we arrived there were no tents nor accommodations of any kind. We went into camp at the junction of the two levees. By this time there came a battery of artillery from Chicago and Benjamin M. Prentiss took command of all the troops there. The camp now began to look like war, sure enough. Orders were issued to the troops to let no more boats go down the river. I think I am safe in saying this was the first blockade of the war. Shortly after the order by General Prentiss, there came a boat down, the artillery men fired a blank charge. The boat kept on as though nothing unusual was at hand; they then fired a shot, skipping across the water in front. Still the boat kept on; then they fired two guns for damage. About a wagon-load of the upper part of the boat flew off and she began to whistle, came to the landing, and we took possession of her, I being one of the privates and William Bower was another; and the strange part of it was that this was one of the boats shown to Lynch about ten days before. She was loaded with munitions of war: twelve hundred stands of arms, hundreds of kegs of powder, tons of pig-lead and hundreds of thousands of percussion caps.


I have no doubt but this was the first act of confiscation of the war. When we were unloading the boat I remember hearing this conversation between Colonel Oglesby and General Prentiss:

Oglesby said: "General, is there any law for this?" Prentiss: "Damn the law; take the goods; they are contraband, then look for the law." At that time we were not as familiar with the word "contraband" as we were afterward.

We were then sent into Johnson county, Illinois, to guard a railroad bridge on the Illinois Central, across Big Muddy river. We then returned to Cairo and after doing camp duty we were duly discharged from the three months' service, I going into the infantry again and Lynch into the cavalry. Lynch, after serving one month as captain of the company, resigned and served the other two months in the ranks as a private. In the cavalry, after passing the different grades in promotion, he reached the office of colonel of the Sixth Illinois Cavalry. Lynch has passed into the other life. He was a very positive man, very strict military disciplinarian. He commanded, and no mistake, while on duty. At the battle of Nashville he commanded five regiments of cavalry. He was ordered by General Thomas (Old Pap) to take and hold a certain point. He took it, but that brought him in range of a Confederate fort, which opened on him at once. He ordered his men to dismount, draw sabres, and ordered the buglers to sound the charge. Away went the five regiments (less the horse holders) on foot; took the fort, turned the guns on the retreating enemy and turned the entire Confederate wing, changed the entire alignment of the two armies. Shortly after the Confederate rout was complete. After the battle was over Thomas sent for him and they had this conversation:

"General Thomas, my name is Lynch you sent for me."

"Thomas replied: "Are you Colonel Lynch, of the Sixth Cavalry ?"

"Yes, sir."

"Where is your uniform, Colonel?"

"I never owned one."

"Are you the man that took that rebel fort with cavalrymen on foot?"

"Yes, sir."

"What did you order a charge of cavalry on foot for?"

"That damned rebel fort was shelling hell out of my men, and I did not propose to stand there and take it and not fight back."

"Don't you know that nowhere on record is mention made of cavalry charging on foot?"

"Well, you can now put it on record."

And so ended the conversation. Of that one hundred and twenty-three men, Andrew J. Robinson was the first man killed. He met his fate at Fort Donelson. Some were killed at Pittsburgh Landing; some in front of Corinth; some at Corinth on October 4th and 5th, 1862; some at Raymond and Dalton; some at Champion Hill, at Big Beach, at Vicksburg, in front of Atlanta and on the March to the Sea. There is left of the one hundred and twenty-three only about fourteen.

During the war the writer was at home a short time on business. Olney was then the headquarters for drafting men of this district. There were some very dissatisfied men here and in adjoining counties, and other counties not adjoining. They organized a raid to destroy the enrolling papers for the draft. The command of that expedition was given to a man by the name of Isaac Gibson, who now (November 10, 1908) lives in St. Louis county, Missouri, or did a few months ago. The citizens were informed of the raid, and hastily arming themselves, put themselves under my command. The first thing to do was to preserve the enrollment papers. Myself and some others put the papers into wheat sacks and into a buggy and were driven by Jacob May out of the county. Mr. May long ago passed away. At that time there was a high picket fence around the old wooden court-house. We made the court-house our headquarters. William T. Shelby brought out the old flag I carried away from Olney in 1861 over the first company that left. I took it and climbed up into the cupola, knocked out a slat in the blind and let the flag float. I put pickets out on the roads leading to town, and gave them military instruction how to proceed.


In a few nights here came Gibson and his bushwhackers. At a given signal, firing of the anvil, all the pickets were to come in quick. Gibson and his gang surrounded the court-house, but when he sized up the crowd I had inside that picket fence, he found I had about two to his one, and he was like the officer who led his men up the hill and then led them clown again. He withdrew his forces. We heard no more of him. We guarded the enrolling office until the government sent five companies of cavalry here, and this ended the war in Olney as far as I was concerned. I went back to where there was trouble for sure. In the process of time. 1 like others, was mustered out of the service of my country. I saw many hardships and much hard fighting, but if I was of the proper age, and the same circumstances presented themselves, I would enlist again, knowing as I know just what it is to be a soldier.

The writer has a letter from the War Department in which, among other things, this language is used: "You were certainly a good soldier for the records show you were fifteen months in active hard field service before you took a dose of medicine; you was never in a hospital nor absent from duty."

In closing this military sketch, I wish to say, not boastfully, but in all sincerity, I tried under all conditions and all circumstances to serve my country honestly and faithfully to the best of my ability. Now I am living here in the place of my early manhood, in the enjoyment of the fruits of our labor. My wife and I have reached a reasonable, and I hope, an honorable old age. Let us say to all our friends and neighbors: We wish you well, and may the good Lord smooth the rough places in your life's uneven journey.


Richland county was part of Clay and Lawrence counties. At the organization of the county, there was no town here, what is now Main and Walnut streets and Whittle avenue, was a cross-road, called Lilley's crossing. The land was owned by Thomas Lilley and Hiram G. Barney, who proposed to give ten acres of land each, to be laid out in lots and sold at public sale, the money thus raised to be used to build a court-house and jail. The lots were laid out and platted by A. T. David, a surveyor, the 20th day of September, 1841.

Commencing on the north side of Main street, opposite Coen's Hotel, was the first lot west, and occupied by a saloon, owned and kept by Louis Sawyer, the first Sheriff of the county. The next was the residence of G. F. Powers, the next was a building occupied by the American Fur Company, where they dressed the pelts, put them into bundles and shipped them direct to Leipsic. Germany. The next was the residence of Joseph Harmon, the next was John Von Gunten's Bakery, the first regular bakery in Olney. Old man Ross, an old Revolutionary soldier, baked gingerbread before Olney was laid out. Mr. Von Gunten made "spruce" beer out of persimmons and some other truck unknown to the writer. The next was the residence of William Alkire, the next was a little building in which Dr. Ridgeway afterward had a "drug store" and his office, next came the hotel, kept by Thomas Lilley, next was a one-story building, planked up and clown, in which K. D. Horrall learned the tinner's trade, next was the drug store and office of Dr. Haynie, next was the store of Henry Spring. Redman's store is now on that site. Where Schultz's store is lived Jonas Notestine, a tanner by trade, where Elliott's Hall and Hyatt's Opera House now stand lived John H. Gunn; where the Metropole is now lived Dr. Graig; where Landenberger's buildings are now, "Uncle" Jimmy Briscoe conducted a small saloon and the post-office in the same building, next was the store of Newell and Darling; next was the store of A. L. and R. Byers, next was their warehouse, over the front of which was painted: Iron, Nails, Stores, Plows, Flour, Salt, Bacon, Castings and Whisky.

Castings here mentioned were skillets and lids, pots and other cast-iron utensils for cooking by the old fire-place. The next was their pork-house, about thirty feet wide by one hundred and eighty feet long, the next was the residence of John Garret, then a two-story building occupied below by P. Shaw as a book store and watchmaker's shop, the first in Olney. In the upper story was the "Olney Dollar Weekly Gazette" office, which was owned, edited and printed by J. J. Bunting, Milo Powers and James Nabb, The next was Tom Nettletor's store. Where the Sanitarium now stands lived Frank Heap, and the old Union Hotel was located on a part of the ground. Next was the residence of Thomas Ratcliff and his good wife. Where Dan Geatheart now lives lived William Newell; next was a long (about one hundred feet) low building, in which lived many families. It was called "Hugel Row," after the owner; next was the residence of William Kidd, and that is as far east as the town was platted at that time and from Walnut street east only one tier of lots deep. On the south side of Main street, opposite Mr. Kidd, lived "Uncle" Jimmy Briscoe, in a big-two-story house (going west), next was the residence of Michael Stauffer, also his tailor shop, the first tailor in Olney. Next was Mrs. Heifner, the first milliner in Olney.


In those days the ladies wore white Leghorn bonnets, which had to be "bleached" every spring and rebuilt. The bleaching process was performed by burning sulphur and sending the fumes through the straw by a process unknown to the writer, but if you were in the immediate vicinity of the "kiln" when it was opened you would think there was a fresh crack in the roof of hell. The next was the residence of Mr. Benclel, a very highly educated man; next was the building in which the writer and many others went to school to Mr. Bendel. The next was a large building where Frank Heap made furniture by hand. Then came Uri's blacksmith shop, where Tom Ratcliff learned his trade. Ashiel Powers painted a sign, for Mr. Uri, of himself, nearly as large as life and perfect in every particular as to Mr. Uri. He was represented as working on a plow on the anvil, and on the opposite side, on his hind legs, stood a big bear with the sledge drawn, and around his neck was an iron collar fastened with a padlock, a chain fastened to the collar, the end of the chain fastened to the collar, the end of the chain fastened to a tree just behind the bear. Now this picture, to the ordinary reader who was born later on, may not have much meaning, but to us old men it means something.

Mr. Powers was born and reared in Vermont. He was a humane man. In those days a boy was "indentured" that is, bound out to a tradesman for a certain number of years, the boss having the right to follow and bring back the "indentured," and in many cases the poor boy was treated very, very badly. The indentured to a trade was called a "cub." Now you can see what Mr. Powers represented in his picture of the bear, the collar, the chain and the tree to which he was firmly fastened. Mr. Uri's treatment of Mr. Ratcliff was good, which was rather an exception. The next was the residence of S. H. Gunn, whose widow is living there now; the next was Gunn's store. On Saturday, Mr. Gunn took a tub, put in about three gallons of whisky and two gallons of molasses and stired it up. He called the mixture "black strap." This was free for his customers.

The next was a small house in which the telegraph office was kept. The line was from Baltimore to Washington, to Pittsburg to Cincinnati to Louisville, to Vincennes, then along the old state road to St. Louis, Missouri. Reuben Gardner, now living in this county, helped to build this line. I think beyond doubt, he is the only man now living who helped to put it up. He is now over ninety years of age.

The next (where Cooksey is now was a harness shop, owned by John Allen. Where McShane and Meunch is now, was the residence of John M. Wilson, the founder of the Olney Republican in 1848. The next was the residence of Ashiel Powers, then Henry Springs's residence. Where Foskett & Gafner are now was the blacksmith shop of J. H. and Henry Johns; then a small room about twelve by sixteen in which K. D. Horrall began business in 1856; then the harness shop of Henry Barney, then a big low, one-story building in which Louis Hugel kept a clothing store, the first exclusive store of this kind in the county, back of which was a building originally built for a stable, but was remodeled by Hugel, and into which the "Olney Dollar Weekly Gazette" was moved, and there sold to William M. Beck, and by him moved into another building, and the name changed to "The Olney Times," and in 1859 Mr. Beck put at the head of his columns, "For President in 1860, Abraham Lincoln, of Illinois," the first paper to publicly announce Mr. Lincoln's name for the Presidency. He was elected November 8, 1860. Mr. Beck passed into the other life December 17, 1860. The next was the harness shop of W. P. Laird; then a little short street, called "Lilley" street, running from Main to Market, one block: A. Darling lived at the Market street end, then a building sidewise to the street in which G. F. Powers and Nelson Cobley made furiture by hand. Where the head of Whittle avenue is now, stood the saloon of Andrew J. Saulsbury. Where the first National bank is, was the store of William Alkire; then the old wooden courthouse, then the office of Horace Hayward, and that was as far west as the town was platted. South of Hayward's office lived Judge Alfred Kitchell, then Levi Notestein. Where the jail and stables belonging thereto are now, was the tanyard of Jonas and Levi Notestine, across the vats of which the wife of the writer jumped in her girlhood days. Where the four courts are now, lived Robert B. Mamey, the first Judge of the Probate Court of this county, and where the writer found his wife, now almost forty-seven years ago, south of the building and loan office lived M. B. Snyder, the Clerk of the Circuit Court, whose son, Samuel, was the first boy baby born in Olney.

North on Walnut, from Main at York street on the west side, lived George Lutz, whose daughter, Sarah, was the first girl baby born in Olney. Next Jonas Spanglor, next Jacob Hofman, Clerk of the County Court. On the east side was a big two-story house in which lived many families. North on Mulberry street from Main, lived Henry Spanglor; north of Butler street was the old log school-house in which the writer's wife and many others got their first rudimental knowledge of the English language. This house was used as a court-house until the first one was built. It was also used as a Methodist Episcopal church, until 1855, when the first Methodist Episcopal church was built here. Of all the people living in Olney at that time, there are only about ten persons living November, 1908.

Then came the building of the old Ohio & Mississippi (now the Baltimore & Ohio Southwestern Railroad, and Olney took on new life; then the old Peoria, Decatur & Eastern, now the Illinois Central; then the Cinncinnati, Hamilton & Dayton (old Danville & Olney). Olney has grown from a small village to a city of about six thousand five hundred people.


I remember some of the early lawyers of Olney, among whom was Lindes Usher Ficklin, of Charleston. Charles H. Constable, of Mt. Carmel; Judge Wilson, the first judge of this circuit, and Judge F. D. Preston, who was born in old Fort Barney, in Wabash county. Also I was personally known to Silas Bryan, of Salem, Marion county. He was the father of William J. Bryan. There is a good joke told on Silas. He was a very devout man, given to much prayer. He was elected to the State Senate from that district. I think he was a Presbyterian. Mortimer O'Kean was elected to the State Senate from this district. He was a Catholic. Salem, Mr. Bryan's home town, was the mecca for divorces, it being on the stage line, and about the center of the state, east and west, and for the purpose of getting a divorce a residence of three months was all that was necessary, and the geographical location of Salem was fine for all persons concerned, and that part of the law practice made much bread and butter for the lawyers of Salem. O'Kean being a Catholic, he was eternally opposed to divorces, and about the first thing he did was to introduce a bill requiring twelve months' residence. That was striking deep and hard at the flour barrel of the lawyers of Salem. When the bill came up in the Senate for passage, Silas made a long speech against it. As soon as he was through, O'Kean arose in his seat, to reply. He was a quickwitted Irishman. He said: "Misther Prisidint, I have been for a long time thrying to find out what church Brother Bryan belongs to; now I know; he is a Mormon," and sat down. Never before was there such a tumult in the Senate chamber, whooping, yelling and stamping so much so that the House members came in to see what the fun was and on finding out, joined in the hurrah. As soon as the president of the Senate could get quiet enough to be heard, he put the bill on its passage and there was but one vote against it, and from that day to this, one year has been the limit.


From the Olney Times of April 9, 1908.

"In the fall of '66 or '67 Bryant Higgins asked Wilson and Hutchinson for desk room in this office during the winter which request was granted. He was then always very busy, figuring and plotting. One day, when no one was in he asked if we wanted to know what he had been doing, and, expressing our curiosity, he read us what we thought to be the wildest, weirdest and most improbable scheme ever proposed or ever dreamed of by a sane man. He proposed that the Russian government should build a railroad commencing at Orenberg on the Ural river, which is the dividing line between Europe and Asia, thence east to Harbin, thence build a branch south to Pekin, China. From Harbin, east to Vladivostock, on the Pacific Ocean, a distance of six thousand miles. This road has been built exactly as mapped and planned by Higgins, except they ran the southern branch to Port Arthur, which at that time was unknown, and they ferry Lake Baikal, while Higgins mapped his road around the north shore.

"To meet this road he planned a road to start at Duluth, west to Seattle, north from Seattle to Cape Prince of Wales, north of the sixty-seventh degree, near the mouth of the Yukon river, along the trail now traveled to reach the Klondike; then across Behring Strait, either by ferry or bridging into Asia. He said this bridging should be done with concrete cassions for piers from island to island, like that now being done on the Florida coast.

"He had a chapter on isothermal lines by the trend of which the Japan current he claimed Alaska was destined to become thickly populated; that strawberries grew and ripened on the Yukon bottoms and that river did freeze until one hundred and fifty miles from the mouth. You who are old enough to remember if you look back forty years, can see how wild I deemed this when it was first read to me. After a few days, I said: 'Bryant, what are you going to do with your scheme?' He did not know.

"At that time S. S. Marshall was the representative of our district in Congress. I proposed we should send it to him to see what he could do with it. Marshall submitted it to the Russian minister at Washington and that part pertaining to Russia, I was informed was translated and sent to the government of Russia, and I have no doubt was the origin of the Trans-Siberian Railroad. Afterwards Marshall gave the papers to a member of Congress from New York. Shortly after Higgins received a long letter from Charles Villard, whom he had never heard of, and they had quite a correspondence. I read that Charles Villard demanded of his friends ten million dollars in ten days; no questions to be asked. He got the money and out of that grew the Northern Pacific, the Oregon Short Line, and later the roads running up into Alaska through British Columbia, and now building to Behring Strait. I had not thought of this matter for years until lately I met Higgins and asked him to allow me to record the article over again, when he informed me he had sent the only copy he had ever made with all his maps and figures to Marshall.


"This scheme of Higgins' contemplated the building of miles of railroad starting at Duluth, crossing Behring Straits, and connecting on the Asiatic shore with the Russian end, and thus giving an all rail route from any point in the United States to any point in Europe. Since then eleven thousand miles have been built and in a few years more Higgins' dream will be a reality by the completion of his entire proposition, even possibly of the bridging of Behring Strait.

"The best of prophets of the future is the prophet of the past. So far he has never been known as the originator of the idea, and it was a mere accident that brought it to my mind.


"Since the above was put in print, one thousand five hundred miles more of railroad in Siberia, running northeast from Vladivostock, has been opened up for traffic."


Fifty years ago the following persons held a May-day picnic on Fox river, at Watertown. (Watertown has long since faded out):

K. D. Horrall and Sarah Baird: Devius Baird and Rose McWilliams, Clark Richard and Lizzie Nesbit. Arch Spring and Mary Spring, J. H. Roberts and Manda Gunn, Frank Powers and Sue Hofman, S. P. Connor and Ella Hofman, T. W. Scott and Lib Hofman, Charles Hollister and Lib Corrothers. Dan Edmiston and Hetty Whitney, Bryant Higgins and S. E. Marney.

Of the above, Mr. Baird married Rose McWilliams, who is now deceased; Mr. Rickard married Miss Nesbit, both deceased; Mr. Roberts married Miss Gunn, the latter deceased.

Arch Spring and Miss Spring are living. Mr. Powers, now deceased, married Miss Hofman. He is dead. Mr. Connor married Ella Hofman. She is dead. Lib Hofman is dead. Charles Hollister was killed at Corinth, October 5, 1862. K. D. Horrall married Miss Baird. Dan Edmiston married Miss Whitney. Both are dead. The writer married Miss Marney, and of the couples here mentioned, eight married and of the eight, the writer and his wife, K. D. Horrall and his wife, are all that are now living, who were afterward married.

Extracted 21 May 2019 by Norma Hass from 1909 Biographical and Reminiscent History of Richland, Clay and Marion Counties, Illinois, pages 419-429.

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