Putnam County

1876 History

The following history of Putnam County was prepared by Rev. H. V. Warren of Granville, and read by him at the Centennial celebration at Hennepin, July 4th, 1876.

REASONS FOR WRITING. WHEREAS, Ulyses S. Grant, President of the United States and J. L. Beveridge, Governor of the State of Illinois, having recommended that the people of the several counties and towns of the State and Nation, cause a history of their respective localities to be prepared and read on the 100th Anniversary of our National Independence, and this method of observing the day being, in our view, eminently appropriate: Therefore we, citizens of Putnam County, Illinois, have procured the preparation of this History of our County.


The sources whence this history is derived, and first and chiefly the testimony of living witnesses who participated in the events described, original records, written narratives submitted to the historian by their authors or custodians, and "Ford's History of Putnam and Marshall Counties," published in 1860, at Lacon, Illinois.


In the year 1825 Illinois contained a population of less than one hundred thousand, located almost wholly in the southern portion. The northern part, embracing from one-half to two-thirds of its area, was a vast wilderness, its only population the roaming Winnebago, Potawatomie and other tribes of Indians, its only roads Indian trails, its only arts those of hunting and savage war, its only trade the barter of hatchets and trinkets for skins, by French adventurers.

The lead mines in the extreme northwestern corner had attracted a few miners and Chicago was an insignificant village of less than twenty houses and not over seventy-five inhabitants on what was then known as Chicago creek.


Ten years before this date, 1815, Congress had ordered the survey of the "Military Bounty Land Tract" located between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, extending due north 169 miles from the mouth of the Illinois to its great bend below Peru, thence west to the Mississippi.

This tract contained five million three hundred and sixty thousand acres, of which three million five-hundred thousand were appropriated to soldier's bounties thereby attracting a rapid immigration to this part of the state.


As the population increased county organizations became necessary and were furnished by legislative authority, twelve counties being formed during the first five years after the admission of the State to the Union in 1818.

In January (the 13th) 1825 an act was passed which provided for the formation of eight counties bearing the names of Schuyler, Adams, Hancock, Warren, Mercer, Henry, Knox, and Putnam — bright names, all in the annals of revolutionary fame.


By this act the boundaries of Putnam county extended from the northern limit of Peoria county, along the Illinois and Kaskaskia rivers to the Indiana line, lakeshore and Wisconsin boundary to a point only thirty-five miles from the Mississippi and thence south 105 miles to the Peoria county line, including nearly eleven thousand square miles, or the greater part of twenty-four counties as now organized. Chicago was the only village in Putnam county.

In 1830, five years from the passage of this act, Peoria, and Putnam counties contained but one thousand three hundred and ten white inhabitants, of which number it was estimated that seven hundred only were within the wide limits of Putnam.

So great an area, with so sparse a population rendered a reorganization necessary, hence, at the Legislative Session of 1830-1 an act was passed whereby Cook and La Salle counties and a new Putnam was created.

By this act the boundaries of Putnam were defined as beginning at the south-west corner of town twelve, range six east, running east to the Illinois river, thence down the middle of said river to the south line of town twenty-nine north, thence east with said line to the third principal meridian, thence north with said meridian line forty-two miles, thence west to a point six miles due north of the northwest corner of town seventeen of range six east, thence south in a right line to the place of beginning.

These boundaries included nearly all of what are now Bureau, Putnam, Marshall, and Stark counties, comprising thirty-eight full and thirteen fractional townships, or 1548 square miles.


By the same act Joel Wright of Canton, Isaac Perkins of Tazewell county and John Hamlin of Peoria were appointed commissioners to select the county seat.


On the sixth of June they reported to the county Commissioner's court then in session that they had permanently located the seat of justice where it now is.

Naming it Hennepin in obediance to instructions, thereby linking the name of one of the earliest French explorers with the goodly land whose wilds he was the first to penetrate.


The first election, as provided for by the act of legislature, was held at the house of William Haws, near Magnolia, on the first Monday in March ensuing, for three county Commissioners, a Sheriff and Coroner. The day was so inclement and the state of the roads so bad as to permit the casting of but a single vote.

Thomas Hartzell and Thomas Gallaher served as Judges of the Election and James W. Willis as Clerk.

The election resulted in the choice of Thomas Gallaher, George Ish, and John M. Gay, county Commissioners, Ira Ladd, Sheriff, and Aaron Pain Coroner. James W. Willis was appointed county Treasurer in June, giving a bond for one thousand dollars. Hooper Warren held the office of Clerk of the Circuit Court, Recorder, and Clerk of the county court. He was also Justice of the Peace. Bradstreet M. Hays was the first Surveyor appointed, and Nathanial Chamberlain the first School Commissioner.


Putnam county had been assigned to the fifth judicial district which extended from the mouth of the Illinois to Chicago and Catena. Hon. Richard M. Young was then upon the bench in this circuit, and Thomas Ford was Stale's Attorney.


The first Circuit Court in Putnam was held at the house of Thomas Gallaher, on the bank of the Illinois river, about one fourth of a mile above Thomas Hartzell's Trading House, north of Hennepin, in May, 1831. The place of convening was an old blacksmith's shop that had been used as a stable, which was cleansed and fitted up for the occasion.


The Grand Jurors for the term were David Dimmick, Elijah Epperson, Henry Thomas, Leonard Roth, Jesse Williams, Isreal Archer, James Warnock, John L. Ramsey, William Haws, John Strawn, Samuel Laughlin, (foreman) David Boyle, Stephen Willis, Jeremiah Strawn, Abraham Stratten, Nelson Shepherd, Thomas Wafer, George B. Willis, John Knox, ___ Humphrey, Jessee Roberts, and ___ Gaylord, of whom one, Nelson Shepherd, still lives.


The Petit Jurors were Sylvester Brigham, William Boyd, Hugh Warnock, William H. Ham, Lewis Knox, Samuel Patterson, Joseph Ash, James Laughlin, Christopher Wagnor, Joseph Wallace, John Whitaker, William Cowen, William Wright, Asahel Hannum, Anthony Turk, John Burrow, John Myers, Ezekiel Thomas, Eli Redmon, Mason Wilson, Smiley Shepherd, Justin Ament, and William Morris, one of whom, Smiley Shepherd, still lives.

At this term of Circuit Court the Grand Jury held its sessions upon a log under the shade of a tree. The only indictments found were against certain parties charged with bigamy, “a grave offence" a chronicler remarks, "in the eyes of a jury composed almost wholly of bachelors," one of whom declared that "a man ought to be indicted for having two wives when most of them had not been able to get one."

No business came before the Court at that term. It lasted but one day and adjourned to the September term, which was held in a house owned by George B. Willis, opposite the mouth of Bureau Creek.


The first Court House was a large building of wood erected in 1833, which continued in use until 1838 when the present building was constructed, at an outlay of fourteen thousand dollars, its cost being greatly enhanced by the monetary convulsions of that day.


In connection with the early legal proceedings of this county the old settlers remember Judge David Davis, now of the Supreme Court of the United States, who often rode on horseback from Bloomington to attend court at Hennepin, receiving as his fee the sum of five dollars. Judge John B. Caton also came from Chicago on an Indian pony, and Judge B. R. Sheldon, now one of the Judges of the Supreme Court of Illinois, and Thomas Atwater were among those who in like manner participated in the first administration of justice and law.


The first County Commissioner's Court was held in the house of Thomas Hartzell on the 9th day of April 1831. At the June term viewers were appointed to mark a road from Hennepin to the county line of Tazewell in the direction of what is now Washington in that county.


A tax of one-half of one per cent was levied on all personal property for the current year for county expenses. The first tax of one citizen was thirty-seven cents — his last in 1875 was over three hundred dollars. Either taxation has increased enormously or he is richer than he was; perhaps both are true.


At this term of Court the county was divided into four precincts for the election of county officers, viz.: Sandy Precinct, Hennepin Precinct, Spoon River Precinct and Bureau Precinct.

The following is "An abstract of the votes for representative to the Congress of the United States, given in the several precincts in Putnam county, Illinois, on Monday, the first day of August 1831, as returned to the Clerk of the county Commissioner’s Court by the Judges and Clerks of election in the respective precincts.

In Hennepin precinct, Joseph Duncan had 18 votes; Sidney Breese had 14 votes; Edward Coles had 6 votes.

In Sandy precinct, Ex Gov. Coles had 26 votes; Joseph Duncan had 13 votes; Sidney Breese had 2 votes.

In Bureau precinct, Joseph Duncan had 10 votes; Edward Pool had 6 votes; James Turney had 2 votes; Sidney Breese had 1 vote.

In Spoon river precinct, Joseph Duncan had 10 votes; Sidney Breese had four votes."


In December 1831 two of the Commissioners were authorized to contract for the building of a jail twelve feet square and seven feet high in the clear, with a window a foot square to be constructed, walls, upper and lower floors, wholly of hewn logs. The first prisoner confined in this structure made his escape, he being assisted by friends outside who removed one of the logs. This log jail, which cost eighty dollars, gave place, in 1833, to a larger one costing three hundred and thirty-four dollars, which in turn was pulled down when the present building of brick was erected.


The first Probate Court was held in August 1831, Colby T. Stevenson being Probate Judge. The next term was held in March 1833, John P. Blake filling the position of Probate Judge, in which office he continued several years.


As the population of Putnam increased and new centers of influence were formed, movements were made toward a division of the county. In the winter of 1836-7 Bureau was set off, and in January 1839 Marshall was carved from our southern half, while in March of the latter year Stark was formed of the part remaining west of Marshall, thus reducing Putnam from one of the largest to one of the smallest counties of the State, with an area of four townships and some fractions, embracing one hundred and sixty square miles. This is the Putnam county of to-day comprising the townships of Hennepin, Granville, Magnolia and Senachwine as organized under the township law in 1855.


On the eastern side of the great bend in the Illinois, where it changes from a western to a southern course lies a beautiful expanse of rolling land, several miles in extent, bounded on the west by the river and on the east by the thickly wooded bluff, and now known as Hennepin Prairie. At a point on this Prairie, opposite the upper end of the island, in the river, was erected the first building in this region by other than Indian hands.


It was a Trading House built in 1817 and first occupied by one Beaubean, a Frenchman in the employ of the American Fur Company.

In the year 1818 Gordon S. Hubbard, then 16 years of age was employed by this trader as his clerk. Beaubean being unable to read or write, besides, suffering further incapacity from age and sickness. Mr. Hubbard still lives, his residence being at Chicago, and gives by letter many interesting particulars of the time and place. He says: "Thomas Hartwell, who was a Pennsylvanian by birth, was at that time trading in the river below, in opposition to the American Fur Company. In 1824 or 1825 he succeeded Beaubean in the employment of the Company. There was a house just below, across the ravine, built by Antonie Bourbouvis also an opposition trader, but who, like Hartwell, went into the employ of the American Fur Company, under a yearly salary. My trading post after leaving Beaubean was at the mouth of Crooked Creek, till 1826, when I located on the Iroquois River, still in the employ of the Company and so continued till 1830, when I bought them out.

The last time I visited the place where the old trading house stood the chimney was almost all that remained. It was built almost wholly of clay, upon a frame-work of wood, being supported by stakes stuck firmly in the ground the whole daubed inside and out with clay mortar. The hearth was of dry clay pounded hard. It was the custom to keep rousing fires and this soon leaked and hardened the chimney and gave it durability. The roof was made of puncheons, the cracks well daubed with clay, and then long grass laid on top and kept in place by logs of small size. The sides of the house consisted of logs laid one on top of another, about seven feet high, the ends of the logs kept in place by posts sunk in the ground. The ends were sapling logs set in the ground upright to the roof. A rough door at one end and a window composed of one sheet of fool's cap paper, well-greased, completed the building. It was warm and comfortable and under its roof many an Indian was hospitably entertained."

A. T. Purviance Esq. to whom the letter so largely quoted is addressed, has identified the site of this historical structure, at a point a short distance north of his residence, and marked the spot with a boulder bearing the inscription.


Evidence of former Indian occupation still remains in the corn holes, or pits for the storing of grain, which are visible in 1876, while a point on the river bank, (the present site of Leech's warehouse) is identified as an Indian burying ground.


Thirty years before this the Buffalo was very abundant on both sides of the Illinois. Passing boats on the river were often delayed for hours by vast herds crossing from side to side, among which it was dangerous to venture. Indian tradition accounts for their disappearance in consequence of snow to an extraordinary depth. Deprived of sustenance the herds perished. The fact that the first settlers found patches of prairie white with Buffalo bones, and also the bones of deer and elk, tends to corroborate the tradition.

The tradition receives further confirmation from notices of damages sustained at the French settlement at St. Louis, from unprecedented floods caused by the sudden melting of the vast body of snow. According to Indian authority the bottoms, from bluff to bluff, were one broad expanse of water. Since the occupation of the country by white men no Buffalo have been seen east of the Illinois.


In addition to the traders mentioned, permanent settlers had located in the vicinity of Hennepin as early as 1828, in which year Smiley Shepherd arrived, and a year later brought his wife, Mrs. Catherine Shepherd, who was the first white woman to set foot on Hennepin Prairie, which she did, June 1829. Their son, Augustus Shepherd, was born February 7th 1830, being the first white child born in Hennepin township.

___ Patterson and Nathan Skeel were also among the first on the ground. The following summer, that of 1830, witnessed the appearance of six steam boats on the Illinois.


In 1831 James and Williamson Durley rented a cabin of George Willis, on the Illinois river, one mile above Hennepin, and opened a store — the first business house to succeed the system of barter carried on by the American Fur Company, and other adventurers, whose transactions were wholly with the Indian tribes.


It appears from the records that Hennepin was surveyed in the fall of 1831, twelve blocks being laid off, while portions were reserved for the public buildings and a center square. Lots were offered for sale in September of the same year, the first on Front Street being bid off by James and Williamson Durley at $60, the highest lot sold, where they built and opened their store in November of that year. William M. Stewart and James Dunlavy built the first house in Hennepin.

Other buildings went up, mostly of logs, and generally small, and the county seat of Putnam was fairly begun. The population of Hennepin in 1875 was 2144.


Granville was so called from the town of that name in Massachusetts, from which its first settler, Mr. Thos. Ware, came. The survey of the place was made in April 1836, Felix Margrave being the proprietor. Lots were sold, and the same year Mr. Ware and Jas. Laughlin built the first house in the town. James and Hugh Warnock, Roswell Blanchard, a Mr. Christwell, and George Ish, were the earliest settlers in this vicinity, the latter having located in 1829.

The situation of Granville was very attractive, being on the rolling prairie land, bordering the belt of timber that skirts the Illinois on the north and west of the town, and the vast expanse that stretches away to the east and south beyond the reach of sight. Being a magnificent farming region the land was soon occupied, and the village enjoyed a healthy growth. Provision was made for education, and churches were founded.

On the 17th of March 1859 the town was incorporated, its limits, originally forty acres, being at the same time extended so as to include an entire section. Population in 1875, 1668.


Magnolia, called after the well known tree of that name, was explored as early as 1826, by William Haws, James W. Willis and Stephen D. Willis, who made claims in that locality. It was at the house of Mr. Haws that the Commissioners met to locate the county seat of Putnam county. John Knox and Aaron Payne were the earliest settlers, the former locating at Magnolia in 1827, making that place the first settled in the present Putnam county. The rich rolling farming lands were soon taken up and the population of village and country around rapidly increased. Schools and Churches were founded. In 1859 the village was incorporated. Population in 1875, 1667.


Union Grove possessed rare attractions to the seeker of a western home. An outlook over green swells and gentle depressions, more beautiful than the prairie's dead level, shaded by charming natural groves of oak, bounded by thick timber on the west and the boundless grassy plain on the east, could not fail to win recognition as a spot of rare promise.

Stephen D. Willis and Thomas Gallaher were its first settlers and here the first church in this region was formed which became the religious center of the surrounding settlement.


Senachwine received its name from an Indian chief whose home and hunting grounds were in that township, on a stream also bearing his name. He was buried on a hilly point that juts out into the valley commanding a view of the scene of his earthly career. The town originated from a station on the Peoria and Bureau Valley Rail Road, upon the opening of that road the place was laid out, stores, shops and dwellings were erected, schools and churches followed, and it bids fair to become an important point, it being the only Rail Road station at this date in the limits of Putnam county. John and Curtis Williams and James R. Taliferro were the first settlers. Population in 1875, 801.


The town of Florid originated through the agency of Wm. M. Stewart and Aaron Thompson, in 1835.

In its early history its future appeared promising but it has since fallen into decay.

Several shops, stores, churches, a school house and Post office, grouped among a cluster of dwellings, the whole surrounded by inviting farms is all that comprises the Florid of to-day.


These early settlements met with a serious check, and were subjected to great inconvenience and loss by the Black Hawk War.

The lands on Rock river and elsewhere had been ceded to the general government by treaty in 1804, at St. Louis, a treaty twice ratified subsequently. Black Hawk, a brave and powerful chief, was dissatisfied, charged that the treaty was a fraud, and in the spring of 1831 crossed the Mississippi to repossess and maintain his hold on his old hunting grounds. In the following year, 1832, the conflict came on. The settlers were driven away, their stock was killed and stolen, and their improvements were destroyed.


The alarm spread, homes were abandoned, the plow was left in the furrow, all kinds of property was forsaken, the people fleeing from the murderous rifle and tomahawk. All the inhabitants on the west side of the Illinois crossed over to the east side where they fixed the frontier and made a stand.


Runners were sent in all directions calling for volunteers for the defense. Hennepin was the place of rendezvous for the Putnam county rangers, where fifteen hundred men were organized and from which point they took field.

To provide for the defense of the non-combatants, block houses were built of thick timbers, provided with loop holes through which to fire on an attacking enemy, and into these defences the women and children were gathered. One was erected on the east side of Front St. in Hennepin, the timbers of Hartzell's Trading house being used in its construction. Fort Cribs was near Florid on the farm now owned and occupied by Mr. Shering. (Sec. 19, 32 north, 1 west.)

Some of its old timbers still remain in the barn which occupies its site. It took its name from the corn cribs which it enclosed.

Warnock's Block House was on land now owned by James Moore (E. 1/2 N. E. 1/4 sec. 8) near Granville. At Caledonia also, and other places, houses were fortified for the protection of groups of families more remote from the thicker settlements.


In these times of alarm and danger Shab-ba-nee a friendly Indian chief secured the lasting gratitude of the white settlers by giving timely warning of the approach of war parties on their errand of death. Some of the settlers were over-bold and incredulous, and were almost driven from their exposed position by this faithful man. May the name of Shab-ba-nee be held in greatful remembrance.


A party of men going from Hennepin to Dover, 16 miles distant, to secure their cattle were followed and watched all night by Indians, and in the morning one man named Phillips was shot as he came out of the cabin in which they had passed the night. The Indians then fled, a boy named Dimmick rode to Hennepin and gave the alarm. It was the day of the disbanding of the rangers, many of whom were there. About thirty of them, as many as could be gotten over the river in time, responded and hastened to Dover where they found the body of Phillips lying as he fell and his companions still in the cabin. The Indians were followed but not overtaken. The company returned to Hennepin, bearing the remains of the unfortunate man, and Thomas Hartzell, J. S. Simpson, H. K. Zenor and Williamson Durley, selected a burying place, and assisted in burying the only man who fell by Indian hands within the limits of Putnam county, and the first to fill a grave in the burying ground of Hennepin.


Black Hawk met his final overthrow in July 1832, and from that time the Indian war-cry disturbed no more the growing settlements of the frontier. The people returned to their deserted homes, the weapons of war were laid aside for the implements of peaceful industry, and the work of subduing the wilderness went on.


In the earliest days the people of Putnam were so widely separated that the maintenance of schools was difficult, yet education received early attention. In the winter of 1830-1, George H. Shaw taught a school in a log house in the timber near Magnolia. The accommodations were very rude. The fire place occupied one entire end of the room. Writing desks were made by placing puncheons on pins driven into the wall. Windows were of cloth or oiled paper. "The teacher made his own fires, swept his house, pounded corn for his own bread and taught all day."

As no school laws existed the getting up of a school was wholly voluntary, a man who desired to teach went around with a subscription paper to get signers, each one agreeing to pay a certain sum for each scholar sent for the specified time, and the test of the man's fitness to teach was his ability to write his own subscription paper.


In the year 1830 Mrs. Ramsey taught in the log church at Union Grove, she being the first lady teacher employed in Putnam county.


At Granville, in the year 1836, steps were taken towards establishing an Academy. A building costing two thousand dollars, the money being obtained by voluntary subscription, was erected in that and the following years. Rev. Otis Fisher was the first teacher, which position he occupied five years. In consequence of a lack of support tills institution was soon made a public school, still retaining its high reputation.

In its earliest days students were attracted from the towns on Rock and Fox rivers from Lacon and Chicago to enjoy its advantages.

Among those who pursued their studies here may be named J. L. Beveridge, Governor of Illinois, Revs. Daniel Whitaker and Thomas Allen, both missionaries to Burma; Rev. Charles Button, Champlain of a regiment of Illinois volunteers, and Judge John Burnes and Berton C. Cook.


Mt. Palatine gave early promise of being a center of learning. Eighty acres of land were given by Christopher Winters, in 1839, to found an Academy. Upon a part of this land the village of Mt. Palatine was located. Lots were sold and the town had a promising growth.

A building costing three thousand dollars was erected in 1845-6, and the school, an enterprise of the Baptist Denomination, opened in December of the latter year. In the winter of 1850-1 a charter granting collegiate privileges, was obtained, at which time the institution took the name of Judson College. It soon met with difficulties, a fate common to new enterprizes, particularly at the west, and was sold to satisfy pecuniary demands. From that time it has been owned by the Catholics.

A people so imbued with educational aspirations, would be sure to take advantage of any privileges or powers which the law might give them for the furtherance of their desires. Hence the general school law of the state was quickly applied to the educational problem in Putnam county, and as a result of its workings the county Superintendent reports for the year 1875, the enrollment of 1790 children between the ages of 6 and 21. Of these 1424 are reported at attendants at school. The county contains 34 School Districts and the same number of School Houses and Schools, of which three are graded. The average wages paid to teachers per month was $43.80 — the number of months taught in each district 6 3/4. The total school fund derived from taxation and all other sources was $22,265.79, and the expenditures $17,339.25.


For the purpose of fostering Agriculture, Buel Institute was organized in 1846, thirty years ago. This is the oldest Agricultural organization in the state that has continued its operations from the date of its origin, often holding annual fairs in various localities. A permanent location was secured at Hennepin in 1867, by the purchase of nineteen acres of land situated on the bank of the Illinois, extending to the water's edge, and beautifully shaded by a young growth of forest trees, most admirably adapted in every way to the desired purpose. These grounds have been fitted up in the most attractive manner, every year adding some new improvement and furnishing annually line exhibitions of the products of our farms and homes. The present value of these grounds is $3000.

The leading minds in this organization, set in operation the train of causes which produced the system of Agricultural Colleges throughout the United States.

By invitation of Ralph Ware, Leonard Bullock, and others, Prof. J. B. Turner delivered an address at Granville, in November 1851, in the interest of Agriculture and labor, a convention for the consideration of those matters being then and there assembled.

Sixteen years later, at the inaguration of John M. Gregory, Regent of Illinois Industrial University, Champaign, March 11th 1868, Dr. Newton Bateman twice referred to that convention using in the latter instance this language. "I observe that the first tangible result of the widespread and extraordinary agitation of the subject of industrial university education, which began with the Granville convention of 1851, and soon pervaded the whole state * * * was a memorial to the General Assembly of Illinois, praying that body to invoke the powerful aid and resources of the National Government itself in furtherance of the object." (First an. rep. of the Ills. Indus. Univ. 1868. Page 158-9)


It will be seen therefore that the seed-thought of these great agricultural institutions germinated in Granville, in the minds of the founders of Buel Institute, and the great thought which then sprang to life is destined to a wider realm than even our own broad land, for at this writing commissioners, having examined the Agricultural institution at Amherst, Mass., are on their way to Japan for the purpose of introducing the same system into that distant empire.

We cannot fail to notice the early efforts of the founders of civilization in our bounds to secure the well being of society by means of a knowledge of and obedience to the word, of God. As early as 1829, forty-seven years ago, the Putnam county Bible Society was formed at the log church, at Union Grove, from which date it has continued in active service. At a meeting held January 24th 1830 the bounds of the Society were thus defined: — "On the east the Grand Prairie, on the north the Big Vermillion, on the west the Illinois river, on the south the northern limits of Tazewell county." At the same meeting it was resolved "to supply the destitute within our bounds (with Bibles) as soon as practicable." A depository of Bibles was established, the field divided into smaller districts, and the proposed work done.

One of the most energetic and persevering of these men was Stephen Willis, who alone canvassed Putnam county on horseback, with saddle bags filled with Bibles and Testaments. After some years, failing health induced him to remove to Oregon, where he still lives.

Many times since the field has been canvassed, and the needy supplied, those who are able to pay, buying Bibles, and those who are not receiving them without money and without price.

An aggregate of over six thousand dollars has been raised for this work, one-half of which has been donated to the American Bible Society, New York, tor the general work in our own and other lands, and the remainder has been expended on the home field.

From the first the Bible was read in all our public schools, and appealed to as the standard of religious truth and moral duty.


The religious character of the people of Putnam county has been marked from the beginning. Mr. William Haws states that as early as 1823, a Mr. Walker established a mission among the Indians at Ottawa, the influence of which long remained among the natives. It may have been a result of his efforts that
became a christian. This Indian Chief lived near the mouth of Clear Creek, in Putnam county, and gave evidence of a ready susceptibility to christian culture. He engaged a white settler to break up his ground for cultivation, in advance of the rude style of savage life. Though unable to read, he had a good knowledge of the Bible, obtained by listening to its reading in the cabins of the white men. He often visited the Indian villages in order to communicate to his red brethren the gospel truths which he had received. On the Vermillion, the scene of frequent visits, he reported "plenty good Indian." He suddenly left his early home, following the retreating tribes and was no more seen in his accustomed haunts. He was highly esteemed by his white neighbors.

It is a gratifying thought that the relation of the pioneers to the Red Men was not wholly that of antagonism. Occasionally the unity of human brotherhood found expression in a fellowship in Christ to which the barbarian was as sensitive as the more favored white man.


As regards religion among the new settlers, Smiley Shepherd says: "Religious meetings have been held regularly since I have been in the country, that is since 1828."

Alexander Holbrook, who came in 1827 says: "We went to meeting and had good meetings, which we all enjoyed because there was union and we loved one another."


The first sermon preached in Magnolia, and probably in the county, was by Father Walker, in September 1820. Jesse Hale was the first Methodist Episcopal preacher to preach in Hennepin, he having addressed the people there in the winter of 1832-3. Elias Thompson is also remembered as a pioneer exhorter.

As population increased churches were formed according to the needs or preferences of the people. The Presbyterian church of Union Grove was formed in 1830, the Methodist Episcopal Church of Hennepin in 1833, the Baptist Church of Caledonia in 1836, the Baptist Church of Granville in 1837, the Presbyterian Church of Granville in 1839, the Congregational Church of Granville in 1851, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church Clear Creek in 1854, the Protestant Methodist Church (German) of Granville in 1867. Congregational Church of Mt. Palatine in 1869, Congregational Church of Hennepin in 1874.

There is also a Christian and a Methodist Church at Senachwine, two churches at Florid, and a Catholic Church at Hennepin, formed in 1851. The Society of Friends held their first meeting in the year 1837 and in the year 1841 established a monthly meeting, making sixteen church organizations in the county, at this date.


The first newspaper published in Putnam county was "The Hennepin Journal," by Dr. Wilson Everett, from 1837 to 1839. "The Genius of Universal Emancipation" was published at the same place, by Warren and Eastman, edited by Benjamin Lundy, in 1842. This was followed by "The Hennepin Herald," Philip Lynch, from 1845 to 1848. Then came "The Hennepin Tribune," Burney and Duncan, from 1856 to 1859. "The Putnam County Standard," J. F. Grable, Dr. Thomas Stanton editor, 1860, "The Putnam Standard," W. H. G. Barney, 1861, and by Jerry S. Grable in 1863, AND "THE PUTNAM RECORD," by I. H. Cook, 1868, which still lives to record the proceedings of this day, having shown a vitality far more tenacious than any of its predecessors.

Besides these home enterprises, the plan that finally resulted in the starting at Chicago "The Herald of the Prairie," afterward "Prairie Herald," later and better known as the "Western Citizen," was first discussed and settled by Zabina Eastman, Hooper Warren, and James G. Dunlavy, in the log cabin of the latter at Union Grove. This was before 1844. It appears from the facts here gathered that from 1837 to 1876 inclusive a paper has been sustained eighteen out of thirty-nine years.

The changes that have come over Putnam in that lime, the cruel despoiling of her territory which she has suffered, and the springing up of rival centers of influence, have been disastrous to newspaper men. It is not easy to estimate the amount of faith, energy, labor, study and capital expended on these ventures, which we may judge paid so poorly on the investment. Patriotic home feeling ought to give such a support to a county paper as to enable it not only to survive, but be a vigorous gatherer, recorder and preserver of the facts that express our historic life.


The Patriotism of our county has never been appealed to without meeting a worthy response. Many of the pioneers were men who had participated in the dangers and privations of the war of 1812. In the Black Hawk troubles they rushed to the defense almost to a man. In the great rebellion that shook the nation in the closing years of the century, with convulsions as terrible as those through which it passed at the beginning, the records show that seven hundred and seven men responded to their country's call. The population of Putnam county in 1800 was five thousand five hundred and seventy-nine, showing that one man to every 788 of the population entered the field. A portion of these veterans re-enlisted, and so twice counted, but they are offset by an equal number who joined regiments recruited in other counties, to which counties they were credited. The tattered remains of the flag carried to the field by Co. E 4th Illinois Cavalry, now hangs in the Court House — the only flag brought home by the regiment.


The artesian well, an enterprise not yet appreciated as its importance demands, but surely destined to a better recognition, deserves mention here.

While the work was prosecuted by the corporation of Hennepin at a cost of $2,500, its existence is mainly due to the persistent energy of Jefferson Durley, who, more than any other man foresaw its value and believed in its practicability. The work was begun in September 1875 and finished after three months labor, it being interrupted by delays and accidents incident to such undertakings. The drill passed through the following strata: — Soil three feet, conglomerate 70 feet, fine sand 42 feet, coarse gravel 1 foot, blue clay 62 feet, soapstone 185 feet, limestone 440 feet, total 800 feet.

Specimens of these strata have been carefully preserved in the order in which they were taken from the well, with their respective thicknesses marked, by A. T. Purviance Esq., at his office in the Court House, where they will be an interesting study to the geologist. At a depth of 230 feet water flowed at the rate of 5 gallons per minute, at 555 feet the flow increased to 15 galls, per minute, at 765 the flow was 30 gallons, and at 800 it rushed up at the rate of 80 gallons showing as yet no sign of variation. The water rose 65 feet in a pipe affixed perpendicularly to the tubing, and ran over. It is slightly impregnated with saline and mineral substances and is considered by some medicinal in effect.


The people of Putnam county have been almost exclusively devoted to agricultural pursuits from the beginning, few manufactures having obtained a foothold among them except such as local wants require. Shops for blacksmithing, wagon and harness making, carpenter, joiner and cabinet work, coopering, tin and sheet iron work, shoe making and tailoring, manned by skillful workmen, are conveniently distributed throughout the county. Nurseries of fruit bearing and ornamental shrubs and trees are carried on at Florid. Flouring mills exist in sufficient capacity for the demand.

The staple productions of the county are from the farm, consisting of horses, cattle, sheep, hogs and grain.

Since the first planting of corn by William Haws at Magnolia, in the year 1826, 26103 acres of land have been brought under cultivation. Of this area 3086 acres were last year in wheat, 7047 acres in corn, 6494 acres in oats, 7656 acres in meadow, and 1877 acres in other farm products. In addition to this 1175 acres were in orcharding, leaving 28932 acres still occupied by timber. Of very many of our farm houses it may be said: Homes of greater comfort or containing more bountiful supplies of all the products of a prolific soil and genial climate need not be desired. The tendency toward order, neatness and ornamentation noticeable among our farmers, augurs well for the future of intelligent, happy and prosperous people.

These are such historic notes as we have been able to gather concerning the formative period of our existence. The men who were actors, their plans and purposes respecting themselves and their posterity, the scene of their activities and the circumstances of their day must ever be an interesting study to those who come after us, and all the more as these events recede in the distant vistas of time.

We pass no sentence of approval or disapproval upon their doings, and pronounce no eulogies upon their names or characters at this early date. We simply set down the things that were done, our object being to preserve the germs of a christian civilization as here planted, and observed in their first upspringing, for use in times when the beginnings of things shall more than now engage the attention of the student, the statesman, the philosopher and the christian.


A people characterized by an adventurous enterprise that chose its field of action on the uncertain frontier, a spirit of endurance that could court the self-denials of pioneer life, at the same time not contented with barbarism but aspiring to the ripe attainments of ancient communities; these qualities, joined with patriotism and valor in danger's hour, with patient labor in developing the resources of nature; with social instincts taking shape in well organized society founded upon intelligence and morality; the whole molded and directed by a religious life drawn from and conformed to the word of God; surely concerning such a people we need have no solicitude.

The considerate judgement of the future in their case we can safely trust.

May coming years witness the development of industrial, intellectual and religious life from these beginnings, on a scale in worthy keeping with the inexhaustible resources of this favored land, the boundless realms of knowledge so free of access and the purity and grandeur of character attainable by men transformed and guided by the word and spirit of God.


We place on record our devout thankfulness for our God, our fathers' God, the God of the Bible, for the manifold and abounding blessings we enjoy to-day; for a fertile land, fruitful in all that necessity can demand or luxury enjoy; for a climate stimulating and healthful to all who obey its behests; for a government the freest on earth, with the lightest burdens for society, peaceful, law-abiding, and secure; for intelligence diffused through schools, open to the humblest child; for religious freedom, permitting every faith unconstrained development, and we rejoice to utter it, a good hoi)e in the stability and perpetuity of our institutions, substantially as planted by tlie fathers, until coming centennials shall usher in a day of rejoicing over results before which the glories of the present shall be only as day-break compared with noon-day.

Standing as we are now, on the dividing line which separates a century past from a century to come of our nation's history, we are impelled by our own profoundest convictions to repeat as our own the words of President Grant to the youth of our land this centennial year. To all who inherit us we say: "Hold fast to the Bible as to the sheet anchor of your liberties: write its precepts in your hearts and practice them in your lives. To the influence of this book we are indebted for all the progress we have made in true civilization, and to this we must look as our guide in the future." "Righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people."

To the loving care and tender mercy of our God we commit ourselves, our children and all who succeed us to the end.

Done by H. Vallette Warren, at the solicitation of the Putnam County Centennial Committee, July 4th 1876, and of the Independence of the United States of America the One Hundredth.

Extracted 20 Oct 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Putnam County From its Earliest Settlement to the Year 1876 was written by Rev H Vallete Warren and published in 1877.

Visit Our Neighbors
Bureau LaSalle
Search Our Archives

Putnam County Archives