1876 History - Camargo Township

“Antiqua Virtute et Fede”
Camargo Township enjoys the honor of being the oldest settled portion of Douglas county, the first comers of whom we have any account having arrived in 1829. The township derives its name from the city of Camargo in Mexico, and was suggested by Col. McCown. The first house built in Douglas county is yet standing on section 33, 16, 9, on the Iles' land, west of the railroad bridge at Camargo and north of the track. It was raised in 1829 by John A. Richman, the father of John Richman of our day, and well and familiarly known as "Uncle Jack." John A. Richman lived to be over 80, and even at that age would hardly deign to ride a horse, but would gird himself with knife and tomahawk and with gun on shoulder, would "step over" to the Okaw timber, twelve or fifteen miles and back, as coolly as a man of the present day would walk a mile. Mr. Richman came from West Virginia, in the year mentioned — some say, however, 1827 — and John Richman, then a lad, made a hand at the raising. This house was for a long time the headquarters for elections and military musters.
There was a small tribe of Indians camped a Bridgeport, now Hugo P. O., section 12, 15, 9, which was a trading point with them and a store or trading post was kept by Godfrey Vessar, a Frenchman, or perhaps Vessar & Bulbory.
Mr. John Hammet and his sons, Wm. S. and Jas. R., arrived in November, 1830. The family lived in a tent the first winter and were visited by large numbers of Indians who would call and sit around the fire. Their general conduct was such as to leave the impression that they were honest, and although the family of the Hammet's was at their mercy, nothing was stolen, and they had no fears for their personal safety. However one or two battles with Indians from the upper Embarras are spoken of as having occurred, 1815-1818; one with Government Surveyors, near the creek in Coles county. John Hammet and Harrison Gill, of Kentucky, were the first land owners in the area of the county, after the Government, having entered land on the same day. Mr. H. took several hundred acres north of Camargo village, and Mr. Gill entering 240 acres in section 35, east of Camargo. The Patents for these first entered lands were signed by Andrew Jackson, in March, 1830. Mr. Gill is still living in Bath county, Kentucky. Samuel Ashmore entered part of section 36, 15, 10, in 1830, also. Mr. Gill came from Kentucky on horse-back and in company with his Uncle Robert visited the Indians at Hugo. His Uncle told the "boss" Indian that Gill, being about to enter land, wanted a wife. Upon hearing the news the "ladies" at once gathered around the candidate for matrimonial honors as if they meant business. All of them wanted a white man, "if he could hunt." Mr. Gill only got out of the difficulty by informing them that, much to his regret, he was a "poor hunter," and so would make but a sorry husband. The two winters immediately succeeding the arrival of these early settlers, were the hardest known in the history of the State, that of 1831-2 being known as the winter of the great snow. The milling of the neighborhood was done principally at Eugene, Ind., a distance of forty miles.
Jas. R. Hammet was active in the interests of the new county of Douglas and also in those of the east and west railroad, of which he was one of the incorporators and a director for fourteen years. G. W. Henson, Charles Brewer, John Brown, Martin Rice, John D. Murdock, Alexander Bragg and the Watson's were also of the first arrivals. C. Brewer came in 1855. John Brown, who arrived in 1838, was elected Associate Justice of the county of Douglas in 1865. Mr. Rice has been a resident of the State since 1849, and of what is now Douglas county since 1853. He actively assisted in the movement of the new county, and was a member of the first political convention held in it. In the second year after township organization — 1869 — he was elected Supervisor of Camargo Township, re-elected in 1873 and every year since, being a member of the present Board. John D. Murdock was elected Associate Justice of Douglas county, as a member of the first County Board in 1859, and re-elected in 1861. Coleman Bright, a native of Virginia, came from Indiana to Camargo in August, 1850. He has been a merchant about ever since, and is now senior member of the firm of Bright & Jones, in Tuscola. Alexander Bragg came to the State in 1835, and served in the Mexican War, 1846. W. D. Watson, of this township, was in the State Senate at the time of forming the county. Geo. W. Henson arrived in 1844. H. L. Thornsbrue, of this township, is probably the oldest living person born within the area of the county — 1830.
The original part of the village of Camargo was laid off in November, 1836, by Isaac Moss, Jos. Fowler, Surveyor, and was called New Salem. When Moss' addition was made it was called New Albany, after which it received its present name. It is the most ancient village in the county, and in the long years pending the advent of the I. & I. C. Railway was considered "finished." The completion of this road, however, has given it an impetus that may end in distinction, it having been the place of residence of many of the most successful business men of the county. The first County Court of Douglas county was held here "under dispensation," pending the selection of a county seat. The town proper composes an area of about 80 acres, lying on the left bank of the Embarras river and upon the line of the I., D. & S. Railway.
The Methodists and Christians have each a church, the former being a fine brick building costing $5,000, and another brick block is the store of Carraway & Elfes.
Camargo Lodge No. 440, A. F. and A. M., was instituted October 18, 1865. The charter members were: Jas. T. Orr, A. Salisbury, R. E. Carmack, A. K. P. Townsend, Geo. C. Gill, Martin Rice, W. C. Campbell, R. C. Patterson, J. T. Helm, J. R. Henderson, H. G. Russell. The first officers were: Jas. T. Orr, W. M.; Geo. C. Gill, Secretary; R. E. Carmack, Treasurer. A commodious lodge room was dedicated October 2, 1875; R. A. Chapter was instituted U. D. November 9, the same year. The present membership is 66.
The township took stock in the I., D. & S. Railway to the amount of $15,000, payable in fourteen years, with ten per cent interest. The taxes paid by the road materially reduce the interest.
The Danville, Tuscola & Western is a proposed railroad, graded and partly bridged. It crosses the west and north part of the township in a northeasterly direction. The line was established in 1872.
The area of the township is fifty-six sections of land or about equal to 60-1/2 square miles, some of the sections having over 1,000 acres. The township contains 38,769 acres.
The notable high-handed and desperate robbery of Mr. Wm. S. Hammet and his household occurred on the night of June 8, 1870. The family had retired. Mr. H. was aroused by a knock at the door, and upon opening it was instantly seized by two armed and masked men, who demanded silence and money. Mr. H. being not only unarmed and partly unclothed, taken by surprise, with a loaded pistol pointing directly at and close to his heart, which might at any instant have been discharged by the trembling hand of his guard, after carefully weighing the chances concluded to surrender, a prudence that is commended by men who have been in the army. He was held strictly under guard until the villains had obtained watches and jewelry to the amount of $250 and a little money. They had taken care to fasten the door of a room occupied by some work hands, and, having accomplished their purpose with dispatch, released Mr. Hammet and disappeared with great haste in the darkness.
The town of New Boston was laid out by McDowell on section 35, 16, 9, in November, 1837, and vacated February, 1845.
Patterson's spring, a fine fountain of living water, is situated upon the farm of R. Patterson in section 33, 16, 9, on the Embarras and near Camargo. It has been for many years a favorite place for camp meetings and so forth.
The township, in the public service of the county, has contributed liberally of her citizens. John D. Murdoch, Associate Justice in 1859, re-elected in 1861. John Brown in the same position in 1865. Wm. H. Lamb, formerly a merchant in Camargo, was the commissioner to transfer from the records of Coles county those belonging to the county of Douglas, and was elected County Clerk in the fall of 1865. Parmenas Watson was made Sheriff in November, 1860, and S. S. Irwin was Superintendent of Schools from the fall of 1861, serving two years. Dr. John C. Parcel was elected County Clerk in November, 1869, serving one term of four years.
The Supervisors of the township have been: Geo. W. Henson, the first in 1868; F. Hesler, 1870; J. W. McKinney, 1871-72; Martin Rice in 1869-73-74-75-76, being the present Supervisor. The population of the township, per 9th Census, 1870, was 1,808.
Acres in the township cultivated - 36,670
Acres in the township not cultivated - 2,019
Town lots in Camargo about - 80
Total acres in the township – 38,769

Extracted 11 Dec 2016 by Norma Hass from History of Douglas County, Illinois, Compiled by Order of the Board of Supervisors for the Centennial Anniversary of American Independence, July 4, 1876, pages 54-57.

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