THE PRAIRIE HISTORIAN
volume II Number I
THE PRAIRIE FIRE
by Alfred Brunson
A Methodist Circuit Rider traveling in Illinois in 1835
" The last 12 miles was traveled after sundown and by firelight over the prairie, it
being on fire. This was the grandest scene I ever saw, the wind blew a gale all day, the
grass was dry, & the fire being in the prairie at a distance.
Where we entered it some men were kindling a fire to burn it away from their fences
& then let it run - no odds who it burnt up. As the dark came on the fire shone more
brilliantly. A cloud of smoke arose on which the fire shone below, and the reflection
could be seen for miles, - in high grass it sometimes burns 30 feet high if driven by fierce
winds. By the light of this fire we could read fine print for 1/2 mile or more. And the
light reflected from the cloud of smoke, enlightened our road for miles after the blaze was
out of sight.
Till I saw this, I could never understand one part of the scripture, "the cloud
which overspread the camp of Isreal and kept off the rays of the sun by day, was a pillar
of fire by night." The reason why the cloud over the camp of Isreal gave light, was because
the glory of God which rested in the tabernacle, shone upon it. "
These bulletins were mass produced by the Business Education Department of
Waltonville High School, and we would like to take this opportunity to
express our thanks.
Sometimes typing errors, or ommissions, tend to change the meaning of a sentence.
Below are corrections for some of the errors in this bulletin.
On page 7, paragraph 2, line 5, should read, "has now been abandoned."
The words in brackets in paragraph number 4 should read, "now called Dareville."
Page 9 paragraph 1, line 5 should say, "a loaf of bread."
Page 10 2nd paragrah, line 5 should say "1 1/2 miles west of Big Muddy River."
Paragrah 5, line 4 should say, "The term Star Route got started because
the clerks in the Central Office used asterisks to designate contract routes. Soon
they were simply called Star Routes, and the name sticks today."
Errors in the census on page 13. Dean, Elmore, should read Elnora.
The first child of John Knowles should be Rosatta.
Page 15, there are 79 charter members, Count them.
Now for an ommission in the December Bulletin. The teacher on the picture of
Four Corners school is Bob Lacey. He is number 12 in the 4th row.
Issued by the Prairie Historians, an organization dedicated to the preservation
of things of historic interest. Centered in, but not limited to the
southwest four townships of Jefferson County, Illinois and contiguous regions without geographic
limitation. In this region lies Knob Prairie, Grand Arm prairie, Long Prairie, Elk Prairie, Horse Prairie,
Wolf Prairie, and a number of smaller prairies.
Membership fee per calender year
President: Jerry H. Elliston
Vice President: Ileta Phip
Secretary-Treasurer: Estelle L. Holloway
Librarian: Dorothy L. Knight
Directors: Willard Fairchild Betty Borowiak
Louis T. Norris
Editor: Jerry Elliston
Associate Editors: Margie Elliston
Hattie Fairchild, Louis Norris, Betty Borowiak, Hildred Roberts.
Although every effort will be made to screen the material presented on the pages of
The Prairie Historian neither the editor nor the Prairie Historians assume
responsility for errors in fact expressed by contributors.
Comments and criticisms are welcome, but so is help. Therefore, each member must
also be a reporter, should he discover information of historical value.
2-3-4 PIONERRS OF WALTONVILLE by Mamie Sawyer Pinckard
5 Gleaning from The Waltonville Searchlite by Betty Borowiak
13 Census of Winfield 1880
14 Map if Winfield Early 1890's
15 Charter members and more Gleanings from Waltonville Searchlite
"PIONEERS OF WALTONVILLE"
Mamie Sawyer Pinckard
Editor's Note (There was one error in the first part of Mrs. Pickards "PIONEERS
OF WALTONVILLE" which has been pointed out by several people.
Waltonville was not named for Mrs. Rob Mannen's people. It was named for Rob
Mannen's mother's people who were Waltons. Some say a Sim Walton
was a surveyor who layed out the town. The name was to be Walton until they learned
that there was already a Walton, Illinois in Lee County).
"The Methodist and Universalist Churches were moved from "Old Town." The
Methodist Church was organized in our home. Our parents were great
church workers. I remember many times church friends visited our home. It took the
place of a parsonage until the regular parsonage was finished. I remember two ministers
and their families. Rev. & Mrs. Groves and their neice, Della Gamble, lived there first.
Then Rev. S.A.D. Rogers & wife and children-Tom, Harry, Bernie, & Esther were there
The depot was finished and Mr. Joe Bruner was our first station agent. The
entire town, especially the children, mourned when their four year old
daughter, Lillian died. She was a little doll. Mr. Malone was section boss for the
railroad. The train's daily schedule and the train whistles were a curiosity to the people.
The children always waved to the trainmen, and we thought the Conductor, Ed Leslie was
"tops." A crowd usually gathered at the depot about train-time. It was exciting
to see the people coming and going, watch express unloaded, and the mail bag was the
most important. The Conductor holler, "All aboard," the train bell jingled and with a
whiff of steam, they were off. The crowd not followed the mail carrier to the Post
Office and stood around and talked until the mail was ready to be distributed.
This was a daily event, eagerly looked forward to by old and young, and come rain or shine
they'd be there.
A creamery was started and the Brown family became citizens of our town. Uncle Doll and Aunt
Til were great folks. He was our "Creamery Man." Mrs. Bill Herrin had a millinery Store and
her husband conducted a barber shop. Bill Green later had a barber shop. A Livery Stable was
also started. I remember when the feather renovators came to town. They stayed several days,
making over and reconditioning feather beds and pillows. The young men were sporty guys and
the girls liked that.
One girl eloped with her renovator beau.
In course of time we had three Doctors. Doctors - Jeffries, Norris and Baker,
who cared for the sick both in and around Waltonville. I believe Dr. Jim Robinson may
have been practicing also before we moved from town. Later Dr. Baker entered the service
of the U.S.A. and followed an army career the rest of his life. He & Mrs. Baker - the
former Maude Fairchild, had twin boys Herbert and Herschel, who followed in the footsteps
in their Dad and became Army officers, with high official standing.
The board walk extending from the top of the hill to the foot was quite elaborate
for the town. I can't remember another walk built our eight years there. We mostly used
paths beaten down by constant travel. There was a park between Main Street & the rail-
road. There was a deep well in the park. Many a time I drank water from the village pump.
"Our Creamery Man was a great fiddler. He and his daughter made "Big Music" - Lizzie
at the organ and her father with his violin. It was always a pleasure to visit the Brown
family. Lizzie sang soprano and her sister, Madie - alto. They sang at public gatherings,
accompanied by our mother at the piano. Their "Whispering Hope" duet was out mothers favorite.
One of the highlights of the years, an event eagerly looked forward to was, the
Bonnie Camp Meeting. The holiness people conducted the services in a large building called
"The Tabernacle" and their lodgings were grouped around it. They camped throughout the
season, which lasted several weeks. The camp ground was located in a shady grove. Sunday
was the big day. People came for miles, bringing lunches and spent the day. It was only a
few miles from home, so Waltonville was well represented.
For recreation, picnics, fishing and such, we went to Scheller Lake, a few miles
west. Mt. Vernon, the county seat of Jefferson county, was ten miles away. Our town
people traded there for articles our merchants did not supply. They liked to take in the
shows also. They called these trips "Going to Town."
One time a photographer came to Waltonville and set up his picture gallery in a
tent, near the Post Office. Mothers dressed their little darlings in their Sunday best
and called on the picture man. Our mamma took her three little "hopefuls" too. Both
old and young had their "pictures took." Bud and I went several times before the photo-
grapher had our pictures finished. We must have been little pests. We liked to watch
him at his work. It was very interesting. He printed his pictures in printing frames by
sunlight, and if the sun was not shining, the exposure was much longer. Then he used
a certain solution to make the image lasting. All this interested me. The "picture taking
Bee" must have stung me then, because twenty years later I was a photographer.
We had not lived in Waltonville long when a neighbor lady died. Mother went to the
funeral. There was no preacher, but Mrs. Parsley offered prayer before the body was buried.
We were young, the town was young, and as we grew up in this community, we made
The following is a list of people who lived in or near Waltonville while we "The
Sawyer Family" did.
1. Mr. & Mrs. Sid Hirons, Ruth, John, Hughes & Turpe.
2. Mr. & Mrs. Luther Hirons, Maude, Charlie, Florence, Aud, Roe,
Hollie, Addie, Mack & Aline.
3. Mr. & Mrs. Rob Mannen, Walton.
4. Mr. & Mrs. Jerome Mannen, Boydie, Ted, and Ollie Lovelady
lived with them.
5. Mr. & Mrs. Tom Manne, Tom, Sunie.
6. Mr. & Mrs. Leslie Mannen, Cora, Jim, Laura, Grace & Ethel.
7. Mr. & Mrs. Sid Mannen, Lela, Edith, Orville, Sona, & Ruth
8. Mr. & Mrs. John Mannen, Willie, Mattie, & Sid.
9. Mr. & Mrs. Joe Mannen, Jerome, Minnie, Ellen, Anna, Hardy,
Ray & Seburn.
10. Mr. & Mrs. Ned Norris, Gus, Edith, Lora, Alta, & Arletta.
11. Dr. & Mrs. O.P. Norris, Myrta, Lena, Vernor, Dick, Meda, Sadie,
12. Mr. & Mrs. Gus Norris, Stanton
13. Mr. & Mrs. Joe Norris, Claud, Clarence, Wayman, Fern, Phillip,
14. Mr. & MRs. Harrison Norris, Ora, Joe, Allan
15. Mr. & Mrs. Billy Dodds, Sina, Lou, Allan
16. Mr. & Mrs. William Davis, Earle, Lola
17. Rev. & Mrs. S.A.D. Rogers, Tom, Harry, Ester, Bernie
18. Mr. & Mrs. Dave Dodds, Myrta, Ruby, Alma, Gilbert, Ruth
19. Mr. & Mrs. Bode Baker, David, John, Cora, Mary, Rachel
20. Dr. & Mrs. David Baker, Herbert, Herschel
21. Dr. & Mrs. Jeffries, Maud, Ray, Mary
22. Mr. & Mrs. - Leon, Hollie, Mollie, Leon's children - Max, Nola
23. Mr. & Mrs. A. A. Brown, Lizzie, Madie, Leliah
24. Mr. & Mrs. Thompson, Ralph, Pearl, Eva
25. Mr. & Mrs. I. W. Robinson, Jim, Mattie
26. Mr. & Mrs. McConnaughey, Lela, Andy
27. Mr. & Mrs. George Parsley, Josie, Beulah
28. Mr. & Mrs. Joe Hicks, Will, Vesta, Lawrence, Vona
29. Mr. & Mrs. I. Newell, Raleigh, Jimmie, Elsie
30. Mr. & Mrs. Newbury, Dave, Arthur, Bert, Mattie, Hattie
31. Mr. & Mrs. Alvin Gilbert, Maggie, Maude
32. Mr. & Mrs. Brice Gilbert, Willie, Eli, Bertha, Lucy, Jane, Ida
(Clifford Ferguson lived
33. Mrs. Carrie Hirons, Pace, Vesta, Bryan, Ben, Nell, Sam
34. Mr. & Mrs. McAtee, Walter, Nelson, Roy, Edd
35. mr. & Mrs. Dees, Minnie, Maude, Jet
36. Mr. & Mrs. Ed Fairchild
37. Mr. & Mrs. Hodge, Walton, Guy
38. Mrs. Boswell, Maggie
39. Mr. & Mrs. Ed Hicks, her mother and brother, Mrs. Harris &
40. Mr. & Mrs. Andy Hagle, Christie, Iva, Walter
41. Mr. & Mrs. Walter Philp, Merritt
42. Mr. & Mrs. Charles Sawyer, Mamie, Roscoe, Ina, Mabel
And the little schoolhouse at
the foot of the hill will always be an important place
"down memory lane."
I will also remember "My teachers"
Mr. Hugh Whitlock
Mr. George McMeen
Miss Mattie Robinson
Miss Ollie Drennan
In the fall of 1949 a large slope mine opened south of Waltonville. We will hear
more of the "Old Home Town" later. I am proud to be one of its pioneers.
Mrs. Walter Pinckard
GLEANINGS FROM THE WALTONVILLE SEARCHLIGHT
of September 22, 1916
Patton The Healer of Mt. Vernon was in town Tuesday and will be back next Tuesday.
Mrs. G. W. Ragland and daughter Wanda were passengers to Mt. Vernon Wednesday.
D. M. Strickland and family motored to Salem Sunday and visited his sister and
family. They were accompanied home by his mother Mrs. M. M. Strickland,
who recently returned from Idaho.
J. S. Norris and family and Miss Alene Hirons motored up to Mt. Vernon last Sunday
J. D. Norris transacted business in the county seat Monday.
Ray Mannen is clerking for R.D. Flannigan.
Miss Blanche Fred is clerking for J.T. Fry and Son.
J.W. Hicks removed the remains of his wife from The Dryden Cemetery to Knob
Prairie Cemetery Monday.
Ham Freeman and family who have been visiting relative here departed Monday for
their home in California by the auto route.
Will Gilbert and family of Mt. Vernon and Mrs. J.D. Norris of this place motored
to Christopher and visited relatives.
Spangler Brothers of Woodlawn transacted business here Tuesday.
Clyde Hamons sold his fine driving mare to Earl Kimble for $145.00
Mr. William Norland will dispose of his household effects at Public Sale Saturday
afternoon. He will make his home with his daughter, Mrs. Hattie Shurtz.
Among those who attended the funeral of Mrs. Hester (Gertrude Dudley Hester)
from other points were Mesdames Francis Campbell, Florida Chaney, Will
Roeder, Miss Carrie Stephens and George Johnson of Pinckneyville, A.L. Hetherington
and family and Mrs. Grace Poole of Mt. Vernon, J.R. Hodge and family of Centralia.
Mr. & Mrs. R.N. Allen visited relatives in Oakdale a few days last week.
Sunday visitors at J.M. Hartleys were Vince Hamilton and family.
J.G. Hartley and wife visited J.E. Hartley after church Sunday.
Joe Allen went to Carbondale last week to attend school.
If you go east on the first road south of the entrance to Inland Steel Coal Mine
on State Route #148, you will be heading into an area of intense, early
historic astivity. Half a mile down that road you will come to a T. Turn right and you
will soon come to an old church which the founders called "The Horse Prairie Regular Baptist
Church" when it was established in May 1842. The building you see was erected
115 years ago, in 1857, in the north end of Horse Prairie.
Several pioneers had settled within a few miles of this spot in the 1830's and
1840's. Passing through the area was the well traveled road leading
from Brownsville to Mt. Vernon and points north. Brownsville was loacted about 3 miles
west of the present city of Murphysboro, and it was the most important community in
southern Illinois at that time. It was the site of the first public school
for one thing, and also was the first hugh school in the state, but what enticed the settlers
was the salt works. The Territory of Illinois had let the first contract to Conrad
Will for the manufacture of salt at the Brownsville Salines in 1815 and a network of
trails had developed in southern Illinois all leading to Brownsville. Salt was
a very important item in the lives of the pioneers, so The Brownsville Road was really a
Some of the early settlers in this area had worked in the Brownsville salines
before coming here, especially the Ridenours.
The settlers had come into the Winfield area in many ways. Some, like (Uncle Jack)
J. J. Fitsgerrell, had come leading a horse with his wife and all their possessions
on its back. Others came as Foot Padders, like Jim Chalfant, who came carrying a chopping
axe and a rifle. Those who came in wagons, like the Martins, the Wards, and the Hartleys
brought with them spinning wheels and looms, and choice pieces of furniture, some of which
remain in the possession of their descendents today. When they arrived they all had
one thing in common, however, they must plant a patch of corn they they expected to have
any bread. At first the corn was pounded into meal with mortars and pestles made of tree
stumps and a rock or a block of wood.
We do not know when the first people arrived in the Winfield area, nor who they were, but
the following names were recorded in the minutes of the Old Horse Prairie Regular Baptist
Church as having served in one capacity or another in 1842.
Charter members were Joseph Hartley, Mary Hartley, Sarah Hillman, Claybourn J.
Cash, John Fleener, Sarah Fleener, Fanny Clampett, William Miflin, and Anna Miflin.
Shown in the first minutes were
Henry Ridenour, Amy Ridenour, Jane Ridenour, John Ridenour, John Stewart, William Fitsgerrell,
Lewis Green, D. A. Mooneyhan, James Duncan, William Chalmer, William Graham, Thomas Derington, Meshac Hail,
Barnes Reeves, Jesse Hull, Walney Lucas, David Hull, John Binion, James Nash, John Martin,
Isaac Fleener, Isaac Clampett, Nathan Hall, Abner Cox, John Dodds, William Clampett, Susan
Stewart, Rosilla Duncan, Martha Lusk, Elizabeth Hull, Sarah Hull, Martha Nash, Sarah Martin,Sarah
Green, Mary Martin, Lucinda Fitzgerrell and Mary Clampett. There are a great many other people
in later minutes with many names barely legible.
Some of these people were settlers in the Winfield area before 1842. Old church segregated the men
and the women, even in the records of the members, so it is impossible to tell which were husband and wife.
Being members of the church doesn't necessarily mean that they were residents of the Winfield area,
as churches were few and far between in those days and people traveled long distrances to attend church
staying over night and sometimes three or four days with neighborhood residents, the men and boys sleeping
in the barn while the extra women and girls slept on pallets on the floor in the house. But, the majority
of the members were local residents or the church would have been located somewhere else.
Go east from the old church and you will soon come to a farmstead on the right with a long barn which has
been a landmark in that area for a long, long time. This is the old Dr. I. G. Gee place, now the home of
the Vince Kiselewski's.
East of the barn is a road leading to the house. This is part of the Old Brownsville Road, it used
to continue on South, but has now been abandoned.
Farther east you will come to an old school house on the right, it sets in the middle of a brush grown
lot bordered by a line of taller trees. The east line of those trees is in line with the west line of
the town of Winfield. Although nothing now remains to mark the site of the old community, along the
north side of the road, for the next 540 feet, or until you come to an old road leading north that is blocked by
a huge pile of earth, lies the area once occupied by the bustling town of Winfield. In 1881 it had 14 dwellings
housing 74 people, plus a flour mill, 3 stores, 2 blacksmith shops, a wagon factory and 2 Doctor's offices.
The old road leading north was also a part of the Old Brownsville Road. It continues on northeast and crosses
the Big Muddy about a third of a mile south of the Sub-Impoundment Dam. It then passes through the Elk Prairie
settlement, (not called Dareville), and continues on into Mt. Vernon. That part of the road passing along
the east edge of Winfield was somewhat neglected in the old days in order to encourage travelers
to drive through town.
The original town was made up of four blocks of four lots each, but an additional two
blocks of four lots each was added to the north end by J. J. Fitzgerrell.
The streets running between them were 60 feet wide. Very broad streets for a town in
those days. The town plat was dated March 26, 1860 and was laid out by A. M. Grant for J. J. Fitzgerrell
on land owned by him.
The lots were 60 by 132 feet, except that those along the south edge of town had
an additional 60 by 60 feet added for barns and stables. In those days everyone needed
a horse and a cow, for transportation and dairy products, plus a few chickens for eggs.
The only refrigeration was provided by cellars and wells. Most wells had a basket
or bucket of perishables hanging in them in the summertime which must be drawn up before
you could draw any water, unless you wanted to live dangerously. These vessels contained
butter, milk, and cream for the table, and sometimes a mess of freshly killed meat such as
a squirrel or a chicken that must be kept cool until time to prepare it for dinner. Many
a well had to be cleaned out because some unlucky person spilled the milk while trying
to draw a bucket of water.
The road running north marks the east boundary of Winfield, fifty yards up that
road and on the right you will see an old pond. This is the old mill pond, and like
all mill ponds it was "The Ol' Swimmin' Hole" to the boys of Winfield who spent many
happy hours there. Sometimes the women of the town objected to the little bare bottoms
parading around the pond bare and put a stop to their swimming for a while. Such was the
case when Tom Atkins, Dr. Harvey Ward, and Walter Baker were boys swimming there.
The 2 acre patch where the mill pond is located was once the site of a flour mill.
One of the first flour mills in this part of the country. There were a great many grist
mills, but few flour mills. This mill was finally abandoned about 1890 and the building
destroyed. (Some say it burned down and Mrs. Wm. Norris burned up in it, but we were not
able to authenticate this.) But the old steam engine remained. Sinking deeper into the
earth with each passing year while grinding out thousands of barrels of make-believe flour
for each new generation of children. Some of the more adventerous ones even crawled into
the firebos and made pretend repairs to the old boiler, according to Kirby Rogers who
spent many happy days playing around the old engine.
Old records say Isaac Clampett had the first mill, later a John Knowles acquired
it, and then William Norris owned it. Finally the Ward family bought it and made a great
Shortly after 1900 Arlie Lemons moved onto the 2 acre patch with a differenct kind
of mill. A sawmill, and he brought a big steam engine that really worked, and a great
many people benefited by Arlie's mill.
At that time some of the first timbert in the world was growing in the Big Muddy
Bottoms, and a hundred acre patch of huge oak trees stood right south of town. The
mighty giants of the forest were cut and sawed into structural timberts. They were then
hauled to Waltonville and stacked alongside the W. C. and W. railroad tracks where the
hard working Hagle family loaded them into cars for shipment to distant points. Thus the
timber industry of Winfield contributed to the construction of buildings, the high trestles
in amusement parks, railways, bridges and many other structures in all parts of the United
States, wherever strong timbers were needed.
Several people were employed in the cutting, sawing, and hauling in the timber
industry brought about by Arlie Lemon's mill. Harl Martin says he himself made many a
weary trip to Waltonville with a wagon load of large timbers from the saw mill at Winfield.
Flour mills and timbering were not the only industries to be located in Winfield.
One of the earliest industries was a wagon shop, or factory. The Wicks' who ran a black-
smith shop were also known as wheelwrights and built wagons. Many years ago the late John
Earls told the writer about going to the wagon shop at Winfield and buying a brand new
wagon. The Grandfather of writer also bought a new wagon there before 1880 says old family
The first store was opened by Isaac Boswell, the Ward's had the second according
to old records. In the early days there were 3 stores. One operated by William Graham
who was also the first Post Master. His store later belonged to Mathie Dunn. IN the
later days it was owned by Nathan Kelley who moved his stock of goods to Sesser when that
town was built in 1906, leaving Winfield without a store. He set up store somewhere near
where the Catholic Church is now and was the first merchant is Sesser.
Some say there were intermittant attempts to maintain a store in Winfield until
after WWI, but without success.
In those days, stores stocked such items as sugar, salt, soda, tobacco, coal
oil (kerosene), lamps, lamp chinmeys, (in large quantity), burners and wicks. There
might be a barrell of crackers, or one of rolled oats, also one of salt pork. There
was bound to be powder, lead, shot, and bullet molds, and probably some candy. It
would have been impossible to get a load of bread without making arrangements for some
housewife to bake it. The usual fare was biscuit for breakfast and Sunday dinner, with
vorn bread for dinner and supper. (you might call these meals luncheon and dinner now,
but most rural people still call these 2 meals dinner and supper.)
The first school in the area was located half a mile north of the site of Win-
field, across the road from the Hartley Cemetery. It preseced Winfield by several
years. A John Norris taught school there during the 1850's and many of the ancestors
of our present population attended school there.
The quality of the composition and penmanship of the records left by them
attest to the quality of the education received by them. School terms were short and
few pupils attended for more than four or five years, yet they acquired quite a lot of
"book learnin" just the same. Records in those days were all made in long hand and yet
they are easily read today unless completely faded away.
In 1883 school was being held in a two story building, with a hall on the
top floor, on the north side of Main Street in Winfield. Later a new schoolhouse was
built on the site of the present one on the south edge of town as shown by the accompanying
A very unfortunate tragedy once occured in the small community saddening and
creating much bitterness. Winfield folklore says there were once two well liked,
prankish, young men in the neighborhood, named John Cunningham and Dick Ragland. One
night, (probably Halloween) someone took an anvil from one of the blacksmith shops and
threw it in a well. To some it may have been amusing, but to the blacksmith, who must
retreive the heavy object from beneath several fett of water, it was not at all funny.
One night the 2 men met in front of Mathie Dunn's store and one accused the
other of the deed. A fight ensued in which Ragland grabbed a scale weight and threw
it at Cunningham. The heavy object struck him in the head, crushing his skull, and
killing him instantly. Ragland swore he had "pulled a knife" on him, and sure enough
they found an open knife at the scene of the fight, the next morning.
It was a very sober community for a long time after that.
Life in Winfield wasn't restricted to industrial activity. There was joy and
sadness and hapiness and pleasure, just as there are today. The pleasures and re-
creational activities were different from those of today, but they made up the good
things in life just the same.
Dell Wells says that the rural youth and young ladies from the surrounding area
used to gather in Winfield of an evening and buy candy and other condiments.
Sometimes, when there was a snow on, some one of the young men would hitch a spirited
sled, load on it a wagon box filled with hay and covered with blankets and drive through
the country gathering the young folk for a ride to Winfield, where they would
partake of such urban activities as the small community had to offer. Buying
candy and other goodies for the young ladies and courting their favor just as young folk
You must remember that Winfield was an isolated little community and it was a
long way to other towns using the transportation available in those days,
so it was the center of activity for a large rural area.
When they petitioned for a Post Office in 1874 they discovered that there
was already a Winfield, Illinois. Post Office in DuPage county that was established
22 years earlier, in 1852, which is still active today. They then chose the name
Fitzgerrell in honor of the town's founder.
The application, with William Graham as Postmaster, is dated August 17, 1874
and locates the Post Office thusly: "(It is situated in the town of Winfield in the
northwest quarter of the northwest quarter of section 32, town 4 south and Range 2
east of the third principal meridan. It is about 62 miles west of the Ohio river.
1 1/2 miles west of Big Muddy and a quarter mile north of Honey Creek. The nearest
Post Office is Elk Prairie which is located 6 miles northeast by the traveled road.
The name of the nearest Post Office on the same route is Spring Garden which is 10
miles east. It is located 12 miles from the Tamaroa station on the Illinois Central
railroad.)" An old map shows the route of travel of the Star Route Carrier running
in a direct line from Tamaroa to Spring Garden and passing through Winfield.
At first the mail was delivered to Winfield on a once a week star route
carried by Frank Willis. According to Willie Hannah there was a lot of snow in those
days and Frank sometimes made the route in a sled for weeks at a time, in the winter,
with sleigh bells ringing out his passage and alerting the people that the mail had
At that time a star route carried by Captain Joe Laur ran out of Ashely to
Spring Garden serving Williamsburg and Elk Prairie en route, so that if you mailed
a letter at Williamsburg addressed for delivery at Winfield, it would travel to
Spring Garden on Capt. Laur's route and back to Winfield on Frank Willis' route.
So you see, mail has always went to those out of the way places before reaching its,
destination, just as it does today.
IN 1887 the route changed to a daily loop route, out of Tamaroa, serving the
little Post Offices of Brayfield and Portland in Frnaklin county as well as Fitzgerrell.
By that time the route was known as U. S. Mail route #35168. (The term star route got
started because the clerks in the central came to be called Star Routes, and the term
sticks today). The records show that Portland was 5 miles southwest of Winfield and
Brayfield was 7 1/2 miles southwest. Brayfield was served on the way from Tamaroa to
Winfield and Portland on the way back.
This route was carried by Henry Martin for a long, long time. He lived in
Tamaroa and made the long route each day, crossing Little Muddy riber each eay, some-
times having to swim his horse as there were no bridges in those days. He arrived at
Winfield, which was about half way, about noon each day.
In 1900, while Moses B. Atkins was Postmaster, the little Post Office at Meso
was established and the route served it also. Meso was located 5 miles west of Win-
field, say the records.
In 1904 Willie Foreman obtained enough subscribers to establish a rural route
out of Waltonville which passed through Winfield. It was 2/3 as long as many auto
routes are today and traveled over roads that would mire a snipe most of the winter.
The star route out of Tamaroa was discontinued and Winfield began to receive
its mail by a locked pouch, still arriving there about noonn each day, but carried
in the back of Mr. Foreman's buggy. He carried the Fitzgerrell pouch for a long time
without incident then one day he pulled up in front of the Post Office at Winfield,
climbed out and reached under the seat for the pouch. Huh Oh! There wasn't any. It
was safe back in the Waltonville Post Office. He had to hurry back to Waltonville
and retreive it. It was way in the night ere he completed his route that day.
The Post Office at Winfield had 15 Postmasters before it closed under William
A. Willis on May 15, 1906. After that the area served by the Post Office known as
Fitzgerrell, was served by a rural route out of Waltonville.
The Postmasters are listed below. Each one served until relieved by the
William Graham: July 2, 1874;
Isaac Ward, January 3, 1876; William Hampton, February 14, 1876;
John R. Knowles, November 9, 1876; Isaac G. Gee, November 18, 1877;
Andrew J. Black, Mary 14, 1889; Matthew Dunn, June 12, 1889;
Andrew J. Black, January 4, 1890; Matthew Dunn, November 1, 1890; John B. Martin, June 14, 1893;
Joseph H. Dunn, June 29, 1897; Ellis A. Kelley, September 8, 1899, Wesley S. Walker, October
5, 1899; Moses B. Atkins, December 15, 1900; and William A. Willis, May 12, 1903
until May 15, 1906, when it was discontinued.
At first the settlers produced everything necessary for their welfare with their
own 2 hands, with the help of a bountiful environment. They had very little money and
small chance of getting any. There was a market for deer hides (we still call a dollar
a buck in memory of that period), but they had to be hauled to St. Louis.
Livestock reproduced at a rapid rate, and the woods was full of them. Occasionally
an enterprising drover would buy up a bunch and attempt to drive them to St. Louis losing
most of them on the way. Even then the settlers received due bills which were redeemed
when and if the drover returned with the receipts of the sale. Most trading was done with
due bills or script in those days, there was little hard money in circulation in that
With the completion of the Illinois Central railroad, in 1854, however, everything
changed. The people now had access to city markets. Livestock of all description was
driven to Tamaroa to be loaded into railroad cars for shipment to distant markets. A
very common sight was a drove of geese, ducks, turkeys, or pigs being herded by a man, a
woman, and a large family of children on their way to the railroad at Tamaroa.
Descendents of those people remember their grandparents telling about making such drives.
Sometimes the trip took more than one day, in which case they camped beside the trail
and continued the trip the next morning. These herds were paid for in cash.
There was also an insatable demand for railroad ties, and many people made a living
for the next sixty or seventy years hewing out railroad ties, while others spent their
lives hauling them to the railroad.
There was also a market for hoop poles for the barrel factories at Ashley and
Nashville, with an even greater demand for stave timver to make the side of the barrels.
With all this money available there was no stores or markets closer than Tamaroa
or Mt. Vernon. So the little town of Winfield was built, providing mills, blacksmiths,
harness makers, Doctors, and stores of staples needed by the residents of the area.
Railroads drew people and industries like superhighways do today, so the mer-
chants left Winfield and moved to Sesser with the building of that community in 1906.
Thus Nathan Kelley and Jim Fitzgerrell moved to Sesser with their stock of goods and
set up the first store there.
With the coming of industrialization fewer and fewer people produced more and
more goods, and transportation improved to such an extent that there was no longer
any need for such isolated little communities as Winfield, so the people moved away
and the buildings rotted down. The last house in Winfield (the Old John L. Wicks
residence) was torn down by a bulldozer after Inland Steel acquired the property.
With the mechanization of agrigulture most of the farm families were eliminated
so that even the school was closed and the few remaining pupils were bused to Waltonville.
Only the old school house now remains to mark the site of the former community and it
will soon join the other buildings as a pile of rubble.
We tend to belittle the efforts of our ancestors because their lives were not
automated as ours are today, but many scientist believe that, although there is a lot
less suffering today, there is much less happiness and a great deal less self esteem
than in the days of our grandfathers when most people were living in a state of sub-
sistance economy, providing everything they ate and wore with their own hands. They
point to the divorce rate, the suidice rate, and drug problems as proof of our unhappy
A map of Winfield showing the stores and houses as they were in the 1890's
follows, also the census as taken from the records of 1880.
Thanks to Mr. & Mrs. Kirby Rogers, Harl Martin, Tom Atkins, Willie Hannah,
Dell Wells, Glen Martin, John Hartley, & especially to Mrs. Melissa Kirkpatrick Wells.
Without their help this article could not have been written.
WINFIELD IN EARLY 1890'S
By Mrs. J. W. Wells
The town of Winfield, fives miles south, one and one quarter miles east of
Waltonville was a thriving town during this era. It had a mill, blacksmith
shop, two stores, a school and a Medical Doctor. It had no church but-The Regular
Primitive Baptist Church-was one half mile west of town.
The merchants in the early 1890's were Matthew Dunn, (the Post Office, Fitzgerrell,
was in his store), John B. Martin, during this time traded his store and
stock of goods to Smith Conlee for his farm which is now known as the late Dan Strickland
The blacksmith was John L. Wicks, probably the Atkin's still had a shop. Dr. Emza Ward was the Physician.
The stores were stocked with such staples as salt, flour, meal, and brown sugar in the barrel.
Occasionaly one could buy refined sugar, but it cost more than the brown. One could get hominy grits,
rice, rolled oats, in the bulk, it had to be weighed for each customer. Soda crackers in boxes of
several pounds, Oh Yes! Those three inch square, delicious, sweet crackers were always a treat to any
younster. One could get spices such as whole cloves, nutmeg in the nut cinnamon bark, cheese, lard,
side bacon, and sardines in oil, Lennox laundry soap, Merry War Lye, and bluing.
Available was Horse Shor plug tobacco, Hill Side sack tobacco, leaf tobacco, Bull Durham tobacco and
cigarette papers. Axle grease, oil cans, oil matches, lanterns, lamps, chimneys, and wicks. Fly paper
could be bought during the summer months.
CENSUS OF THE VILLAGE OF WINFIELD
Dwellings 14----population 74
Name Born Name Born
Atkins, Moses 1833 Kimmel, Joseph 1855
Pauline 1832 Josephine-w 1858
1-Parmelia 1862 1-Arthur 1879
2-Edward C. 1868
3-Van 1871 Knowles, John 1835
Brown, Luther 1870 1-Rosetta 1862
Crawford, John 1857
Little, Isaac 1836
Dean, Elmore 1863 w-Lizzie 1850
Dunn, Matthew 1835 Little, James 1841
w-Zilva 1838 w-Elizabeth 1845
1-Cora 1869 1-Alice 1865
2-Anna 1873 2-Bill 1872
4-Joseph 1876 Louck, Sarah 1853
Elder, Sarah 1824 McNeil, William 1843
Parson, Willie 1875
Gee, Isaac 1841
w-Elzinia 1850 Roberts, Asa 1836
1-Harl 1875 w-Patience 1845
2-Earl 1879 1-Charles 1874
Graham, Elizabeth 1849 3-Florence 1879
Haney, Samuel 1867 Rose, Martha 1817
Hicks, Joseph 1843 Smith, William 1857
1-Ada 1869 Thornton, William 1873
Wicks, John 1847
Isom, John 1852 w-Mary 1857
w-Susan A. 1854 1-Daisy 1877
1-John 1875 2-Elmer 1879
Wicks, Louisiana 1822
Kelley, Nathan T. 1831
w-Malinda J. 1832
1-Julia 1862 Wilderman, Charles 1844
2-Mary 1865 w-Henrietta 1845
3-John 1868 1-Logan 1871
4-Chas. 1877 2-Emma 1875
Willis, Francis 1852 4-Monroe 1879
Seventy-seven people joined the ranks of The Prairie Historians before the
close of the meeting January 25, 1972 and this became charter members.
The names are listed below.
Kermit Newell, Dorothy Knight, Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Borowiak, Jr., Mr. & Mrs.
Jerry Elliston, Pearl Brown, Hildred Roberts, Mr. & Mrs. Marion Newell,
Mrs. Ileta Philp, Mrs. Millie Kiselewski, Mr. & Mrs. Mason Newell, Eleanor Hodge,
Mr. & Mrs. Louis Norris, Mr. & Mrs. Willard Fairchild, Mrs. Lucille Laird, Mrs. Estelle
Holloway, Mr. & Mrs. William Menzel, Mr. & Mrs. Herbert Payne, Mrs. Dorothy Hirons,
Mrs. Audrey Merriman, Mrs. Melissa Wells, Judge & Mrs. Alvin Lacey Williams, Mrs.
Curtis Williams, Mr. & Mrs. Stanley Rosenberger, Mrs. Sylvia Robinson, Mr. & Mrs.
Maxey Holloway, Mr. & Mrs. Doug Ion, Mrs. Opal Elliston, Mrs. Lucille Hirons Bean, Julius
Baker, Mr. & Mrs. Roy Nichols, Mr. & Mrs. Nelson McCormack, Mr. & Mrs. Arthur Menzel,
Nina Ruth Laur, Beatrice Turrle, Tracey Dees, Lt. Col. Helen Wells, Mr. & Mrs. Orland Dees,
Maeryta Poole Minard, Neva Elliston, Mrs. Gerogeia Shurtz, Mildred Lacey, Mr. & Mrs. Joohn
L. Kiselewski, Myreta Presley, Mr. & Mrs. Vince Kiselewski, Mr. & Mrs. Lendell Panzier,
Mr. & Mrs. Mac Hirons, Mrs. Donald Zimmerman, Mr. & Mrs. Gary Hodge, Mr. & Mrs. Delbert
Hodge, A. Neil Sinks, John Colle, Jack Bicanich, Mr. & Mrs. Kirby Rogers, Mr. &Mrs. Jeff Rightnowar,
Mrs. Maude Lacey.
The nest meeting will be held at Millie's Cafe in Waltonville at 7:30 pm, Tuesday March 28, 1972.
GLEANINGS FROM THE WALTONVILLE
SEARCHLIGHT of September 22, 1916
by Betty Borowiak
Ray Dodge, Joe Frank Allen, Mary Loucks, and Ashley hargis left the first week to
enter Southern Illinois Normal University at Carbondale.
N. F. Hargis is in St. Louis this week buying fall merchandise.
Mrs. R. T. Wright and Mrs. Kit Johnson spent Sunday with Benton relatives.
J. G. Baker is spending the week with his brother in Chicago at the State Fair.
Mrs. Jane Green has moved from Williamsburg and is not at home in the building
vacated by Green's Barber Shop.
Arrangements are being made to put in some concrete crossings and sidewalks.
Every man had three characters: That which he exhibits, that which he has, and
that which he thinks he has.
Submitted by: Abby Newell
Sept 9, 2002