Remeninceses of Bureau County,Bureau County,Illinois,1872
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Remeninceses of Bureau Co > Chapter V: Settlement of Leepertown & Hoskins' Prairie

Source: Reminiscences of Bureau County, IL.; By N. Matson; Published 1872, Republican Book & Job Office, Princeton, IL  Page 278

Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin, Tampico Area Historical Society.


Settlement of Leepertown and Hoskins' Prairie

It has already been stated that Amos LEONARD and Daniel DIMMICK settled on the Hoskins' prairie, in the summer of 1829, and were therefore, the first settlers with one exception, in the eastern part of the county. A few weeks after they came to the county, Timothy PERKINS and Leonard ROTH, (the latter a single man), came to Bureau, and built a cabin near the present site of Leepertown mills. In the spring of 1830, John HALL came in the settlement, bought the claims of LEONARD and DIMMICK, and on them he made a large farm. In the fall of the same year Wm. HOSKINS and John CLARKE made claims in this vicinity, and became permanent settlers. DIMMICK, having sold his claim, went to DIMMICK'S GROVE (now La Moille), where he lived two years, and then left the country. During the summer of 1830, Amos LEONARD, who was a mill-wright by trade, built a grist mill on East Bureau, about eighty rods above its mouth. This mill was constructed with round logs, twelve feet square, and all its machinery, with a few exceptions, were made of wood. The mill stones were dressed out of boulder rocks, which were taken from the bluffs near by, and the hoop they ran in was a section of a hollow sycamore tree. This mill, when in running order, would grind about ten bushels per day, but poor as it was, people regarded it as a great accession to the settlement, and it relieved them of the slow process of grinding on hand mills, or pounding their grain on a hominy block. Settlers east of the river, as well as those living near the mouth of Fox river, patronized LEONARD'S mill, and it is now believed that it was the first water mill built north of Peoria.

In 1831, Henry GEORGE, a single man who was killed at the Indian creek massacre, made a claim, and built a cabin, on the present site of Bureau Junction. In 1833, John LEEPER bought PERKINS' claim, and a few years afterwards built a large flouring mill, which received much patronage from adjoining counties. Quite a village (called LEEPERTOWN), grew up at this mill; but in 1838 the mill burned down and the village went to decay.

In 1834, a number of emigrants found homes in this locality, among whom were David NICKERSON, John MCELWAIN, James HOWE, Charles LEEPER, and Major Wm. SHIELDS. As early as 1832, a number of persons had settled in HOSKINS' neighborhood, among whom were Daniel SHERLEY and Gilbert KELLUMS. In 1834 the large family of SEARL came here, where many of their descendants continue to live.


In August, 1831, Roland MOSELEY, Daniel SMITH, and John MUSGROVE, with their families, came to Bureau, the two former were from Massachusetts, and the latter from New Jersey, haveing met by chance whle on their way to the west. The emigrants ascended the Illinois river in a steamboat as far as Naples, and finding it difficult toobtain passage further up the river, they left their families there, and made a tour through the country in search of homes. Hearing of the Hampshire Colony on Bureau, Mr. MOSELEY directed his course thither, and being pleased with the country, he selected a claim. At that time Timothy PERKINS claimed, for himself and family, all the timber and adjoining prairie, between Arthur BRYANT'S and Caleb COOK'S, be he agreed to let Mr. MOSELEY have enough for two farms, on condition of selling him some building material. A few months previous to the time of which we write, Timothy PERKINS and Leonard ROTH had built a saw mill on Main Bureau, a short distance below the present site of MCMANIS' mill. This was the first saw mill built within the limits of Bureau county, and with one exception, the first north of Peoria.

Mr. MOSELEY marked out his claim, cutting the initials of his name on witness trees, and contracting with Mr. PERKINS to furnish him, on the land, some boards and slabs for a shanty, after which he returned to Naples to report his discovery.

The three families, with their household goods, were put on board of a keel boat at Naples, and ascended the river as far as the mouth of Bureau creek. Soon after their arrival on Bureau, they were all taken down sick with the internittent fever, one not being able to assist the other. Although strangers in a strange land, they found those who acted the part of the good Samaritan. James G. FORRISTALL, although living twelve miles distant, was a neighbor to them, spending days and even weeks in administering to their wants. Daniel SMITH, father of Daniel P. and Dwight SMITH, of Ohio town, found shelter for his family in a shanty constructed of split puncheons, which stood on the DOOLITTLE farm. Here Mr. SMITH died a few weeks after his arrival, and he was the first white man buried within the limits of Bureau county. The widow of Daniel SMITH, being left with three small children, in a strange country, and with limited means, experienced many of the harships common to a new settlement. She made a claim where Edward BRYANT now lives, and with the assistance of friends, built a cabin and made a farm.

Mr. MOSELEY and Mr. MUSGROVE were men ofindustry and enterprise, improving well their claims, and lived on them until their death.


In the spring of 1827, James W. WILLIS and brother made a claim on the Ox Bow prairie, built  cabin, broke ten acres of land, and planted it in corn. On account of the trouble with the Winnebago Indians, which occurred tht summer, they fled from the country, but returned in the fall to find a good crop of corn which had matured, without fencing or cultivating. In September, 1826, Capt. Wm. HAWS explored the country east of the river, and selected a claim near the present site of Magnolia. Sometime afterwards, Capt. HAWS settled on this claim, where he continued to live, and he is regarded the oldest settler now living in Putnam county. Other pioneers came to that section of country a year or two later, among whom were J. STRAWN, David BOYLE, Daniel GUNN, HILDERBRANS, WILSONS and others.

In 1828, Thomas HARTZELL an Indian trader, occupied a cabin on the east bank of the river, a short distance below the mouth of Bureau creek. Three years afterwards, he established himself in Hennepin, and had an extensive trade with the Indians as late as the spring of 1836, when he retired from business after accumulating a fortune.

In the spring of 1831, Hooper WARREN was appointed by Judge YOUNG, clerk of the court, and he came to Hennepin to assist in organizing the county. For a number of years, Mr. WARREN was clerk of the circuit court, county clerk, recorder, judge of probate, and justice of the peace, all of which he held at one time. In 1819, Hooper WARREN was editor of Edwards' Spectator, one of the two papers then published in Illinois, and through it he carried on a warfare against the introduction of slavery, which was at that time contemplated.

In 1829, Smiley and Nelson SHEPHARD, James DUNLAVEY, Thomas GALLEHER, John E. WORNOCK, John LEEPER, Samuel D. LAUGHLIN, and others, settled at Union Grove, and in the vicinity of Florid. In September 1831, James and Williamson DURLEY opened a store in a log cabin opposite the mouth of Bureau creek; afterwards they built the first house in Hennepin., and moved their store thither. In the summer of 1828, Smiley Shephard, then a young man, explored the country along th Illinois river, and made a claim three miles east of the mouth of Bureau creek, where he now lives. His location is a romantic one, occupying a high knoll at the side of the grove, and overlooking the beautiful prairie which skirts the great bend in the Illinois river, and where its windings can be seen for fourteen miles. After making his claim, Mr. SHEPHARD returned to his home in Ohio, married a wife, and the next summer came back to Illinois, with theintention of making it his future home. From St. Louis the emigrants ascended the Illinois river in a keel boat as far as Peoria, and from there to the mouth of Bureau creek, in a small Indian traading boat. At that time no steamboat had ever ascended the Illinois river above Beardstown, and some believed that twenty years of more would elapse before they would be required on the upper Illinois. But two years had scarcely elapse, when on a bright May morning in 1831, Mr. SHEPHARD and his neighbors were surprised to hear the puffing of a steamboat, and for many miles they could see the smoke from her chimneys as she followed around the great bend of the river. This was the steamer Caroline, the first boat that ever came above Peoria. The Caroline ascended the river as far as CROZIER'S trading house, at the mouth of Big Vermillion, and from that day the landing was called Shipmansport. After cutting and taking some wood on board, and piloted by Mr. CROZIER, who was well acquainted with the channel, the boat ascended the river to Ottawa. In September following, the steamboat Traveler came up the river as far as CROZIER'S landing, and that time steamboats would occasionally ascend the river.

When John HALL, William HOSKINS, and others, living near the Illinois river, heard the puffing of the steamer Caroline, it caused great rejoicing among them, regarding it a harbinger of commerce and civilization.

A party of Indians were encamped on Negro creek, about one mile above its mouth, when the Caroline ascended the river, and on hearing the puffing the squaws and pappooses were greatly alarmed, never having seen or heard a steamboat before. Some of the Indians mounted their ponies, and put them at the top of their speed to learn the cause of the strange noise, and for some distance they galloped their ponies along the bank of the river, in order to get a good view of the monster. An Indian boy was the first to return to camp after seeing the steamboat, when the squaws gathered around him for an explanation of the strange noise which they had heard. The boy, who was much excited, said to them that the Great Spirit had gone up the river in a big canoe. This big canoe, he said, was on fire, and the puffing which they heard was caused by the Great Spirit being out of breath paddling it so fast up stream.


In the spring of 1831, Putnam county was organized, in accordance with an act of the legislature passed in January previous. By this act new boundaries were given to Putnam, which made it include territory on the east side of the river, that formerly belonged to Tazewell county.

At the time Putnam county was organized, all the country north and west of Bureau settlement, was a wild, unsettled country, without a permenant resident, except the miners about Galena. At that time Chicago was spoken of as a trading post, in the northeast part of Putnam county, and contained nothing but a garrison and a few Indian trader. Wit the exception of the Peoria and Galena road, there was not a mail route throughout the country; all other roads were scarcely more than Indian trails, and not passable for wagons. The only commerce of the country was carried on by Indian traders, who were located at various places along the principlal streams. Bureau post office, at Henry Thomas', was the only one in the new county, but a few weeks after the county was organized, David BOYLE, of Ox Bow prairie, obtained a grant and opened a post office.

In accordance with the provisions of the legislature. an election was held on the first Monday of March, at the house of William HAWS, near the present site of Magnolia, to elect county officers, at which only twenty-four votes were cast. Thomas GALLEHER, George ISH, and John M. GAY, were elected county commissioners; Ira LADD, sheriff; Aaron PAINE, coroner; Dr. N. CHAMBERLAIN was afterwards appointed school commissioner. Mr. GAY and Dr. CHAMBERLAIN were residents of Bureau settlement.

The act of the legislature of laying off Putnam county, provided that the county seat should be located on the Illinois rive, and called Hennepin. In May, the three commissioners appointed by the legislature met, and after examining a number of places along the river, located the county seat at Hennepin, whre it still remains. It is said that the town site of Henry was first selected, but through the influence of settlers on the east side of the river, it was changed to the present site.

The first commissioners' court was held in HARTZELL'S trading house, a short distance above the present site of Hennepin. One of the first acts of the commissioners was to borrow two hundred dollars, on the credit of the county, and send a man to Springfield to enter the land where Hennepin is located. But the land not being in market, it was not entered until some years afterwards. At the first meeting of the commissioners they passed a license act, fixing the tariff on the different kinds of of business, among which were the following; License for merchant or peddler, from six to sixteen dollars; for tavern keeper, from three to five dollars, and they were restricted to the following charges; For keeping a horse over night, twenty-five cents; one full feed, twelve and one-half cents; one meal for a man, eighteen and three-fourth cents; one night's loding, six and one-fourth cents; half pint of whisky, twelve and one-half cents; one gill, six and one-fourth cents.

The first circuit court of Putnam county was held in May, 1831, at the house of Thomas HARTZELL, R. M. YOUNG  was judge, and Thomas FORD, afterwards Governor, state's attorney. The judicial district at that time, extended from the mouth of the Illinois river to the northern boundary of the State, including Galena and Chicago. The records show that most of the early settlers on Bureau served either as grand or petit jurors at this term of court. The grand jury held its session on a log, under the shade of a tree, and the only indictment found was against a man for bigamy. The jury regarded it unfair for a man to have two wives, while most of them were without any. There was no civil business befor the court, and it adjourned, after being in session one day.

Putnam county was divided into four precincts, two on the easst side of the river, named Hennepin and Sandy, and two on the west side of the river, named Spoon River and Bureau. Bureau precinct included all that part of the county west of the Illinois river, and north of a direct line drawn from the head of Crow Meadow priarie to Six Mile Grove, thence northwets to the county line. This territory included all of Bureau, and part of Putnam, Star,, and Marshall counties. The first general election, after the orgainzation of the county, was held at the house of Elijah EPPERSON, on the 18th of August, 1831, when nineteen votes were cast,, whose names were as follows: Henry THOMAS, Elijah EPPERSON, Mason DIMMICK, Leonard ROTH, John M. GAY, Samuel GLASON, Curtiss WILLIAMS, Justus and John L. AMENT, J. W. HALL, Henry HARRISON, Abram STRATTON, Ezekiel THOMAS, Hezekiah and Anthony EPPERSON, E. H. HALL, Adam TAYLOR, Daniel DIMMICK, and Thomas WASHBURN.

At this election, John M. GAY and Daniel DIMMICK were elected justices of the peace; the latter did not qualify, but the former, John M. GAY, was the only acting justice of the peace on the west side of the river, for  number of years after the organization of the coutny.

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