1876 History - Garrett Township

“Finis Coronat Opus.”
Garrett Township is situated in the northwest part of the county: has forty-eight sections of land, equal to 49 square miles, or about 31,344 acres. It receives its name from the Garretts, Isom and his sons, Caleb and Nathan. Isom Garrett is living and able to attend to business at the advanced age of 81 years. Caleb Garrett represented the county of Vigo in the Legislature of Indiana in 1842, at the age of 26 years, and was re-elected. He settled in Douglas county in 1847, and served on the first Grand Jury of the county: was Justice of the peace for some years and the first Supervisor of the township. He is the fit representative of a family of giants, being six feet in height and weighing considerably over 300 pounds.
Harvey Otter, Thomas Goodson, James Drew, Jacob Mosbarger, Dr. Meeker, William Howe and William Ellars were of the early settlers. Mr. Howe arrived in 1838; went to California in 1850, returning in 1853. He is the present Supervisor, having been elected in 1876. Wm. Ellars' family came from Ohio, settled on the Okaw timber near the north county line in 1849, at which time there was not a settler on the prairie to the west. He was the second Supervisor of the township, a position he held by re-election for four years.
Joseph Moore, or to put it more exactly, "Old" Joe Moore, arrived in Douglas, formerly Coles, county in 1832. He is the repository, as well as the authority, for all the jokes, good, bad and indifferent, illustrative of the manners and customs of the early days. He still lives at a hearty old age, and who, in the west end, knows him not, argues himself unknown.
In the early days a principal part of the living was venison. Thomas Goodson once killed two deer with a single ball, on what is now the large farm of William Brian. He also assisted in exterminating the last family of wild cats in the Okaw timber. He relates having cut a large tree for rail timber in the exact spot where he had cut a similar one thirty-six years before, as if the timber is holding its own notwithstanding the large quantities used for fuel and improvement. It is a notable fact, in this connection, that in those days the timber belonging to actual settlers remained in good condition much longer than that on Government or non-resident lands. Non-resident's lands were called ''speculator's lands." Whether the timber on such lands should be respected was considered a "moot case."
John Lester and his sons, Samuel and Sigler H., were of the most notable of the earlier settlers in this part of the county. The sons entered large bodies of land, leaving large estates which are now enjoyed, for the most part, by their numerous descendants. They were men of great natural force and decision of character, and anecdotes of them are not few. As illustrative of the times: John having cut a large bee tree converted it into a "gum," put a slab over it and left it for a more convenient time. Goodson, as it happened, had just killed three deer, and finding the "gum," not seeing the honey, he filled it up with tallow, this to preserve it from the ravens, for at that time ravens were plenty — larger than the common crow — since extinct in this region. Lester returned first and finding the tallow could not understand how anybody could rob him of his honey and leave tallow in exchange, the latter being much more valuable.
Another event of the times — one of our "causes celebres" — has been so often repeated to the detriment of the character of Sigler H. Lester, that it is desirable to give the facts of the case, even were the incident not a part of the history of the county. This was the well known assault with intent to kill, said to have been committed by Lester upon Samuel Johnson.
The facts seem to be that the trouble arose from a systematic plan of annoyance adopted, in pure mischief, by the "boys," they knowing Lester to be of a very excitable temperament. They robbed his hen roosts and wood piles, disturbed work he had laid out, hid his gearing, emptied his water jug, generally pursuing a plan of petty mischief, taxing their invention to the utmost, and then purposely threw themselves in his way to hear him express himself.
Upon the last occassion — for there was a last occasion — when the "boys" had played a trick of surpassing aggravation, they unadvisedly took occasion to be at hand. Mr. Lester, having by this time, a pretty good idea as to the identity of his persecutors, was so decidedly expressive that Sam. Johnson "lit" off his horse to fight, or at least to make a show of fight, for they thought there would be no fight. Each gathered a club, met and broke both, and "clinched.''' Lester had a knife in his hand with which he had been at work, and aggravated beyond endurance, not only at the persistent previous annoyances, but by the now almost certain knowledge that these were his tormentors, and moreover that this was a "set up" job, he, in what he really thought was self defence, reached around Sam. and nearly cut him in two.
Mr. Lester was tried, convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary, but, upon a proper representation of the facts, was promptly pardoned by the Governor. He was defended by Abraham Lincoln. No one regretted the affair more than Mr. Lester, and in a subsequent residence of many years, up to the time of his death in 1864, he established and maintained a character for uprightness and honor second to none. His brother Samuel died in September, 1860, and both left large estates.
The trial of Samuel Evans, for the murder of his wife, occurred in 1853-4. He was a farmer near the present location of the Hoots school house on the Okaw, section 1, 15, 7. It was charged that he killed her by beating, and, being tried in Clark county on a change from Coles county, he was convicted and sentenced to the penitentiary for eight years. After serving somewhat more than one year he was pardoned by Governor Matteson. Usher & Ficklin for the accused; Linder for the State. Drs. J. H. Apperson and J. W. McKinney having held a post mortem in the case, their evidence in the trial was important. This trial and the attendant circumstances caused the expression of much difference of opinion in the neighborhood, leading, in some cases, to enmity which time finally cured.
Francis C. Mullen arrived and entered land in section 28, 16, 7, in 1850. He was the second County Judge of Douglas, 1861. He came from Delaware.
About this time he was traveling towards his home from Vandalia, where he had been entering land, and upon reaching Sullivan, in Moultrie county, his traveling companion was urgent that they should repair at once to the hotel saloon and take a drink. Mullen preferred to first take care of the horses, and order dinner, and prevailed, which made some delay, and as they afterwards went toward the tavern and saloon they met a man who told them there had been trouble there; that William Campbell had been robbed of one hundred and fifty dollars in gold; that every man in the saloon, of whom there were many, had been searched, and the money not found. It is interesting to speculate as to what might have been the consequences to Mullen on this occasion had he not been fortunately delayed a little while, for he had just arrived in the country, was a perfect stranger to every body, and had upon his person just exactly "one hundred and fifty dollars in gold."
The timber which lies along the Okaw and its confluence occupies a large part of the area of the township.
The I., D. & S. Railway, traverses it from east to west, and the township aided in its construction with a voted subscription of $13,000. The bridge of this road, across the Okaw, was maliciously burned on the night of July 3, 1873. The fellow who committed the crime has, by withholding his name, lost the distinction of being Douglas county's greatest scoundrel.
The town of Atwood was laid out by the railroad company in 1873, on the lands of Harvey Otter and Geo. Nolind, in Douglas county, and on the lands of the Ritchie's in Piatt county. It is a thriving village with good surroundings and will eventually secure the trade of a wealthy neighborhood, which has hitherto been divided between Tuscola and Bement.
Mackville, in Piatt county, on Lake Fork, a branch of the Okaw, is a mile northwest of Atwood, and exercised some control over the trade of this region until the advent of the railroad, which passed half a mile south and made Atwood. The pet name of this village is "Lickskillet."
Goodson station, section 34, 16, 7, and Bowen's, in section 36, in the timber, are recognized as stopping places by the railroad.
Garrett is the fourth township in the county, with regard to population per 9th Census, 1870, the number of inhabitants being put down at 1,599. It contains an area of 49 square miles in 48 sections of land, several of the sections having considerably over 1,000 acres. Sulphur Spring, on the farm of Thomas Brian, on the Okaw, section 14, 16, 7, is a fine fountain of living water and a favorite resort for open air meetings.
Garrett has been represented at the county seat by F. C. Mullen, County Judge November, 1861; Isaac L. Jordan, an old resident, was elected Sheriff in the fall of 1864; Caleb Garrett, the first Supervisor, 1868, succeeded by Wm. Ellars, 1869, who was re-elected in 1870-1-2. He was followed by J. W. Hackett in 1873; Thomas Owen, 1874; Josiah Hoots, 1875, and Wm. Howe, 1876, the present Supervisor. All of these were old settlers at the time of the institution of the new county in 1859 and were active in its business and politics.
Acres in the township cultivated - 30,666
Acres in the township not cultivated - 608
Town lots in Atwood - 70
Total acres - 31,344

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 58-62.

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