Jefferson County



Casner Township, to which this chapter is devoted, is situated west of Mount Vernon,
and contains some as fine farming land as there is in the county. The surface is generally 
level, with gentle, undulating swells, resembling the ocean after a storm. The western part 
of it, along the "Washington County line, is fine prairie land, while the remainder was 
originally covered with timber, among which were to be seen the varieties of oak, walnut, 
wild cherry, hickory, ash, locust, a good deal of hazel, sumac, etc. The township is bounded 
on the north by Grand Prairie Township, east by Shiloh, south by Blissville, west by Washington
County, and forms Congressional Township No. 2 south, and Kange 1 east. The principal 
stream is Rayse Creek, a branch of Big Muddy, and which flows nearly through the center 
of the township; a few unimportant branches flow into this stream, but they without names 
on the maps.

The history of the settlement of this township by white people is but that of the settlement 
of the entire county. The name of the very first settler of Casner Township is somewhat 
indefinite; but among the first settlers was George Casner, for whom the township was 
named. He settled on Section 19 or 20 about the year 1824. and was from Virginia. He 
had quite a large family of children, and was twice married. He died only a few years ago, 
and his widow is still living on the old homestead. Mr . Casner is described as a most 
estimable man, somewhat quick and loud spoken, but kind and affectionate in his family. 
He accumulated quite a little fortune, but through misfortune lost much of it. and died 
comparatively poor. About the time Casner came to the township, there came a man named 
Howell, and shortly after him Alva Clark. The latter settled near Casner and died in 1847. William
Burris also settled near by. He died, leaving a large family of children among them a son who 
died in the late war. Solomon Patterson came here from Monroe County, and settled in Section 31, 
about the year 1837. He lived here awhile, and then moved into Moore's Prairie, where he, later, 
died. Harvey Creel also settled here in 1837. He came from Clinton County, had a large family, 
but all or most of them have moved away. A. M. Daniels settled on Section 6, and died in 1845. 
T. B. Lacy came from St. Clair County with his father, in 1834, to "move" a man named John Holt, 
whose father, Robert Holt, lived in Shiloh Township. A man named Johnson was then living
on the place where Mr. Lacy now lives. Johnson has moved away from the township. The place 
was originally settled by Walter Bean, who was a regular Daniel Boone for hunting. He was 
also very fond of bees, and spent much time in hunting "bee - trees" and gathering wild Honey. 
Mr. Lacy first settled in Blissville Township, but afterward in this. William Champ was among the 
early settler's in the eastern part of the township. Other families came in. and the land was 
rapidly settled.

In illustration of pioneer life, we make the following extract from a sketch by Mr. Johnson.   
" Coffee was not much used, as it cost 50 cents a pound, and had to be brought from 
Shawneetown or Kaskaskia at that. Meat was plenty, but bread was scarce. Meal had 
at first, to be brought from the Wabash River. William and Isaac Casey constructed
a little hand mill that would grind a bushel or two in the course of a day, and they did
well.  But many of the first settlers had to beat their meal in a mortar.  One family had
a big kettle, which they used for a mortar; but generally the mortar was a stump with
a basin burnt in the top of it.  Over this was suspended, by a sweep, a huge billet of
wood.  This billet of wood was brought down upon the grain in the mortar, the sweep
raised it. and so thump, thump, the pounding went on till the grain was broken small
enough to make bread.  Another style of mortar was a huge block, and the pestle was
a maul with an iron wedge in the end of it. This was used in bad weather, as it could be
brought within doors. The meal was sifted and bread made of the finest, while the
coarser was made into hominy. In early autumn, meal was grated and bread made of
this meal was baked on a board or in the ashes, and was very delicious." What would
the young people of the present day think of such fare?  But even this was relished and
enjoyed by the people then. However, we would think ourselves on the eve of starvation 
were we forced to live on it now, in this fast age of the country.

As population increased, mills were built, and the mortar and pestlft were " laid on the
shelf." Severs had a mill near Muddy Creek, and a Mr. Carroll started a tannery about
1849 - 50, in the,western part of the township. He was finally killed in a saw mill. One of
the first roads through the township was the road from Shawneetown to St. Louis, 
passing through Mount Vernon and this township. Several good, substantial bridges span
the streams, thus rendering local travel safe and pleasant. George Casner was a black - 
smith, and started the first shop of the kind in the township.

Since the adoption of township organization in 1861). the following is the complete
list of township officers:

Supervisors - E. B. Harvey, 1870: W. H. Brooks. 1871: E. B. Harvey, 1872:' William
R. Champ. 1873; William Goaker. 1874; T. B. Lacy. 1875 - 76;  J. P. Morgan. 1877; 
T.: W. Harvey. 1878: J. H. Watkins, 1879. W.  B. Pickett, 1880; W. P. Champ, 1881 - 82;
W. J. Bledsoe, 1883, the present incumbent

Township Clerks - W. R. Champ, 1872; Thomas Kelly, 1873; J. H. Spiller, 1874;
W. J. Bledsoe. 1875 - 76; J. Fairchild. 1877: William J. Bledsoe, 1878; C. P. Schmidt,
1879: C. P. Schmidt, 1880; William J. Bledsoe, 1881; C. P. Schmidt, 1882; J. W.
Fuller, 1883, now in office.

Assessors - James Wood. 1872; J. H. Watkins. 1873 - 74; V. M. Wright, 1875 - 76; 
M. A. Bond, 1877 - 78; T. P. Champ, 1879; F. M. Wright, 1880; T. W. Harvey, 1881; 
M. A. Bond, 1882 - 83. now holding the position.

Collectors - Hiram Casey, 1872; A. J. Baldridge, 1873; W. R. Champ, 1874: W. R.
Champ. 1875; F. Champ, 1876; R. J. Burch, 1877 -  R. J. Burch, 1878; M. M. Clark,
1879; M. M. Clark, 1880; R. J. Burch, 1881; William Cobb, 1882; W. R. Champ, 1883,
the present incumbent

School Treasurers - William Gray, Hugh Flanagan, A. Carroll, Thompson Lacy, J. M.
Severs, Thompson Lacy, A. Hogshead, W. R. Champ, now in office.

Highway Commissioners -  - Henry Williams, A. W. Downs, T. J. Gaskins, S. P. Creel.
M. C. Knowlton, S. White, W. H. Edwards, H. M. Smith, H. H. Matthis, J. Watkins, 
J. C. Carson, H. Williams.

Justices of the Peace - W. B. Pickett. Joseph Turney, W. B. Pickett, H Wood, 
W. J. Bledsoe, T. Kelly, present incumbent.

Constables - Joseph Harvey, J. B. Moore, W. H. Gardner, John Severs, 
James P. Carroll, J. P. Morgan, William Rogers, J. H. Hicks, J. M. Severs, Byron Moore.

The voting place of the township is at Roachville. and the sturdy yeomanry poll a
large majority at all important elections for the Democratic party. Indeed, it is said
that many still vote for Thomas Jefferson and Gen. Jackson, and as for Stephen A. 
Douglas, he could be elected to any office in Casner, from Constable to President 
of the United States by an overwhelming majority.

The schools of the township are scarcely up to the standard. The log schoolhouse may
still be seen here, though there are several neat frame schoolhouses. There are in the
township six, all told, and in these schools are maintained for the usual terms each year.

The first religious meetings were held in a grove near Casner's. Preaching used to be
had at Mr. Patterson's before there were any churches built. Reynolds Chapel, a 
Methodist Church, was organized in 1876. It is a frame building, and has but a small 
membership. Samuel Reynolds made a profession of religion on his death - bed, and in
honor of him the church was organized and given his name. Elijah Lacy was among the
early ministers. Religious meetings were also held by the Methodists at the house of
Mr. Bean, on the farm where T. B. Lacy now lives. Rev. Mr. Striblin was also an early
preacher in this section. A flourishing Sunday school is held in the schoolhouse at

Roachville, on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, about ten miles west of Mount
Vernon, is somewhat larger - smaller, we mean - than Chicago. It was laid out April
6, 1870, by John D. Williams, for David Roach, the owner of the land upon which it
is located. The place comprised four blocks and forty lots. A storehouse was built by
Roach, in which Frank Pease, from Ashley, opened a store. He was followed by Mr.
Woods. Benjamin Cole opened a blacksmith shop. A Mr. Quackenbush built a mill and
sold it to Abram Severs; the latter afterward sold it to Mr. Fairchild. This, with a few
dwelling - houses, comprises all that has ever been of Roachville. It probably never will
be much greater, though it is surrounded by an excellent country, particularly on the

Casner Township ought to be one of the finest farming regions in the county. It has
considerable good land, that is well adapted to grain and fruit. Stock - raising, too. might
be made profitable. Energy and enterprise alone is needed to make Casner one of the
leading townships of the county.

Source: The History of Jefferson County, Illinois
by William Henry Perrin
Published by Globe Pub. Co. in 1883)

Submitted By: Cindy Ford


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