American History and Genealogy Project

   Warren County Illinois

Genealogy & History  



Early Days of Greenbush

by William L. Snapp

Was created on July 18, 2006







Cholera in Greenbush--The Early Days 11\

The killing of Sheffield

The Calf Market of 1840

Three Fatal Accidents



Patrick Lynch Created p33

William Patterson Killed.p34

Murder of Harvey J. Hewett



Original Greenbush Cemetery
Original Bond Cemetery
Original McMahill Cemetery
Original Holman Cemetery



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The Calf Market in 1840

     About the year 1840, John A. Butler, being thirteen years old, concluded he would like to work out for wages.  So he hired to F. G. Snapp for the sum of twelve and half cents a day, and worked for him up to harvest. He then went to binding wheat for David Bay at thirty-seven and a half cents a day. He afterwards worked in harvest at the same price for Elder Peter Downey.

     At this time John A. was the owner of two calves, having purchased one of them from his Uncle Harry Butler, paying him one dollar and twenty-five cents for it; the other he got of J. E. Heath, giving Mr. Heath an old ax and one dollar and twenty-five cents for it.

     About this time Charles Vandiver, who was a Baptist preacher living west of Greenfield, took a notion to sell a black yearling steer calf he had. So he told his son Absalom to take the calf to St. Augustine and sell him to Mattingley.

     Abs. placed a chain around the calf's horns and started with him. When he arrived at Greenfield, he stopped on the street to rest. John A. Butler saw him, went to him and questioned him about the calf, and finally asked Abs. what he would take for him. Abs. replied, "Father told me to take him to Mattingley and sell him for three dollars."

     John A. said, "I will tell you what I will do. I will just give you two dollars and a half for the calf and it is all he is worth." Abs. was not satisfied to take it, and told John A. he would take the three dollars or take the calf to Mattingley.

About this time Andrew Stice, Henson Martin, and Aaron Holeman came up and said, "Trade, boys, trade." Stice and Martin then proposed that they split the difference. John A. consented to this, but Abs. held off for some time.

     The price was finally agreed on at two dollars and seventy-five cents. Abs told John A. that the chain did not go with the calf. John A. said he must have the chain. So the matter was left to the by-standers who decided that the chain went with the calf.

The Killing of Sheffield

     In 1836 or 1837, in the village of Greenfield, Jerry Moles and his brother engaged in a quarrel and fight with Richard Ore and Roley Simmons. This Roley Simmons was a son of William Simmons, who was better known as "Old Billy" Simmons. Richard Ore was a son-in-law of Wm. Simmons.

     After the fight they separated, but the Moles brothers were not satisfied. About this time John Sheffield had come to town and was in the store, trading. As he went to pass out at the store door, one of the Moles brothers hit him on the head with a stone. Moles was mistaken in his man; he thought it was Richard Ore.

     Mr. Sheffield was taken to his home; he then resided in a cabin a short distance south of "Nigger" creek on lot 10, section 16, John C. Bond and Thomas Moulton with their wives waded through deep snow from Moulton's house to Sheffield's cabin.

    They found that Sheffield was badly injured. They washed the blood from his head and did what they could for him. In the meantime a doctor was called. Sheffield died a few days afterwards. It is alleged that he was buried in what is called the lost graveyard across the creek a short distance west of the Greenbush graveyard.

     Jerry Moles was arrested on a warrant issued by Moses T., Hand, justice of the peace. At his preliminary trial, Cyrus Walker appeared for the prosecution. He was bound over and sent to Monmouth jail. The Moles brothers looked very much alike and it was difficult for the witnesses to tell which one threw the stone that killed Sheffield. Moles was finally acquitted.

Three Fatal Accidents

     About three miles west of Avon on section 22 in Greenbush township, Warren county, Illinois on the public highway there is a covered bridge across a small stream. Up the hill a short distance east of this bridge, William Lloyd, was killed, January 21, 1862.

     On that day, James Marshall, who had been engaged in making a sleigh for himself, was going to Israel Spurgeon's to return some tools he had borrowed, and had put his shotgun in the sleigh thinking he would find some prairie chickens before he retuned.

     He met his uncle, William Lloyd, on the hill east of the bridge, and stopped to talk with him. Lloyd, thinking he would play a joke on James, reached for the shotgun; and as he took hold of it, the horses started and the gun was discharged, killing Mr. Lloyd--the whole charge striking his head and fracturing the skull.

     At the place where the covered bridge now stands, in October, 1885, Thomas Crabb was engaged in building a bridge. He had in his employ Stephen Balderson, who then lived west of Avon in the edge of Warren County.

    They were placing the stringers or girders across the stream, and Balderson had placed a prop under one end of a long heavy stick of timber; this prop slipped out and the timber fell on Balderson, injuring him so badly that he died the same day, in the evening.

    In the fall of 1888, Charles West was running a steam threshing-machine at Simon Sailor's, and on the eleventh day of September, 1888, he started from Sailor's to William Smith's to thresh for him. George Stuckey rode on the engine with West and Harvey Gordon; Edward Long and Joseph Balderson rode on the separator.

     When they came to the bridge across the stream where the covered bridge now stands, West got off the engine and examined the bridge. Stuckey and Gordon also got off and crossed over the bridge. West said the bridge was dangerous and told Long and Balderson to get off. He then mounted his engine alone and started across.

    When the engine reached the center of the bridge, bridge and engine went down with a crash, breaking steam pipes and other portions of the engine. West was caught between the engine and the tank wagon. He was immediately enveloped in steam, so that the men could scarcely see him.

     They found West's hands was clinched on the throttle and the other on the steering-wheel. After removing him from the engine, they placed him on bed quilts and carried him east, up the hill, to the residence of B. C. Welsh.

     Drs. Clayberg and Weaver were called who attended to his injuries. It was found that one leg was broken and his jaw was also broken; he had a bad scalp wound, and also injured by inhaling hot steam. This accident occurred about noon, and West died that night about eight or nine o'clock.

     It is said of Charles West that he had been a good railroad engineer, and was the man that placed the locomotive vane on top of the passenger depot of the C. B. & Q. R. R. at Galesburg, Illinois.

Interesting Story

Recalling the Days when Coal Oil was Manufactured Near Avon

     This reliable scarp of history, W. H. Rose, is taken from the Avon Sentinel:

     Before the discovery of all the oil wells in Pennsylvania, kerosene, or coal oil as it was more commonly called, was manufactured from cannel coal in several different places in the United States, and was a very profitable business, as the product sold at a fancy price, never less than $1.00 per gallon and sometimes as high as $1.50. On account of the high price, the oil was but little used and its sale was principally confined to the larger cities.

     Veins of cannel coal were considered very valuable and were much sought after. In 1857 a large vein of this coal was discovered along the creek north of town by some miners from Pennsylvania who were working in the neighborhood. It had been seen by many persons before, but they supposed it to be slate stone, which it much resembles. The news of the discovery spread rapidly, and attracted the notice of George R. Clark of Chicago, who formed a company of New York and Chicago capitalists, for the manufacture of oil, called the Avon Coal Oil Company. The capital stock was $50,000, which was afterwards increased. Mr. Clark, who was made superintendent of the company, came here and secured mining privileges and options on a large tract of land along the creek where the coal was discovered.

    In the spring of 1858, a mine was opened under the direction of James Timmons as superintendent, and the company proceeded at once to erect works for the manufacture of oil. The site occupied by the works was near the southeast corner of the northeast quarter of section 13, in Greenbush Township, now known as the Saunders farm. The entry to the mine started on the east side of the road and extended under the hill on which the Saunders house now stands. The entry was made large enough for mules to go in and haul out the cars of coal and extended under ground a distance of nearly 40 rods.

     The apparatus employed for the manufacture of oil consisted of fifteen large cast-iron retorts, each with its cover weighing more than four tons.  These retorts were set in a straight line on fire brick arches with furnaces under each and connected together by a large cast-iron pipe. Each retort held about three tons of coal, the oil being extracted by baking the coal until it became red-hot, by which time the oil had passed off in smoke and gases,  were condensed by being passed through cold water, the oil turning off the crude form. At first only crude oil was made, which was shipped in casks to a refinery in St. Louis. A ton of coal would make about 15 or 20 gallons of crude oil and it required about two days to work off a batch of coal.

    There was a certain amount of gas that could not be condensed and was allowed to escape through an iron pipe, and was kept constantly burning. At night the flames would light up the surrounding country. Many small dwellings had been erected near the works for the accommodation of the miners and other workmen; and at night the little village, brilliantly illuminated, presented a beautiful picture.

    The coal or coke, after being taken from the retorts, was used for firing the furnaces, a small amount of bituminous coal being mixed with it.

     The second year, a refinery was built near the other works. this was a large building, constructed of stone procured from quarries near by. After its completion the company did its own refining. The burning oil was much the same as the kerosene of the present day.

     In refining the crude oil many different products were obtained; namely, benzene, gasoline, kerosene, lubricating oil, paraffin, coal tar, and asphaltum.

     When the works were in full operation, they furnished employment for nearly 100 men.

     The works, however, did not prove to be a financial success, for about this time oil wells were discovered in Pennsylvania, which reduced the price of oil to a figure much less than that for which it could be manufactured from coal.

     When it was found by the company that the works could no longer be carried on successfully, they were abandoned and a large number of debts contracted by the company were left unpaid. The works were finally sold at sheriff's sale for the benefit of creditors. They fell into the hands of the Frost Manufacturing Company of Galesburg; and the outfit, comprising many carloads of old iron and machinery, was shipped to that city.

     The refinery building was used for a time by David Morse for a barn, but was finally torn down by Dr. Saunders and the stone was used for different purposes. Some of them may be seen at the present time in a wall along the road in front of the Saunders house.

     At the same time the Avon works were put in operation, similar works were constructed in Peoria county, and with like results.

    The work of mining the vein of cannel coal necessitated the removal of large quantities of fire clay underlying the coal. After the oil works had been in operation about a year, a large dump of clay had accumulated; and a company, composed of J. Kames McDougal, A. Horrock, and George R. Clark, was formed for the purpose of manufacturing it into fire brick.

     The company erected quite extensive works on the land now owned by the James Ming's estate, consisting of kilns, drying sheds, etc., and also installed the machinery necessary for grinding the clay. They manufactured a variety of wares, consisting of locomotive fire backs, cupola brick, flue tops and many different shapes of fire brick, nearly all of the product being shipped to Chicago.

     But their venture, like the oil works did not prove a success financially. The works finally passed into the hands of Jerome Goodspeed, then a prominent merchant in Avon. It proved a profitable investment for him. He ground the clay and shipped it to Chicago by the carload, where it found a ready sale. He continued the business until the dump was exhausted.

W. H. Rose

 Saturday, August 05, 2006 10:31:01 PMupdated.

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Saturday August 05, 2006 10:31:01 PM