EARLY RECOLLECTIONS OF CLARK COUNTY
BY JOHN LITTLEFIELD, EDITOR
MARSHALL WEEKLY MESSENGER
Clark County is situated in the south-eastern part of the state,
bordering the State of Indiana. It is twenty four miles
long east and west and twenty one broad, bounded on the North by
Edgar County, east by Indiana State on the Wabash River, south by
Crawford and west by Cumberland and Coles counties. The
Wabash River, navigable for steamboats, flows along the
south-eastern margin of the county. Several smaller
streams flow through it, among which may be mentioned the North Fork
of Embarras River, in the north-west. The surface is
diversified with prairie and timberland. The climate is
good and the soil is adapted to wheat, corn, oats, ect.
The first settlement of Clark County was made on what
is known as Union and Walnut Prairies. It was made
principally by emigrants from Kentucky, North Carolina, New York and
Ohio. The first settlements were formed in 1815 and
1816. Among the first settlers, the following names are
prominent: Richardson, Prevo, Chester Fitch, David
Hogue, Neely, Bell, Evans, Crow, Blaze, Sharp, Catron, John Welch,
John Chenoweth, Poorman, Shaw, Stafford and Archer.
Evans was from North Carolina, was married three times and was the
father of 25 children. Crow was from North
Carolina. He introduced the first cotton Gin, which did
good work and was much needed among the citizens, for they all
raised cotton and made cloth for their own use. The only
water mill in the county was built on Big Creek near the upper
crossing, on the road from Marshall to Paris. The
settlers were very friendly and obliging; neighbor assisting
neighbor in everything, where assistance was needed proving in union
there was strength. Yet with all the friendship and love
exhibited among the pioneers, the old Adam occasionally showed
itself. A difficulty arose between a man names Blaze and
one named Sharp, concerning the mill spoken of, in which Sharp was
shot and killed instantly killed instantly by Blaze, who escaped to
Texas, a resort for thieves and outlaws. This state
being in a territorial court were few and far between and it was
difficult to punish crime. The state government was
organized in the year 1819. Zechariah Archer, with a
family of seven children settled on the Wabash in the year
1816. Col. W.B. Archer being his second son.
The elder Archer was of Irish descent and entered the army of the
revolution at the age of 17 and continued a soldier until the end of
the war. In 1818, almost the entire population on the
Wabash was sick and many children died. There was but
three men able for duty for miles around. The first
representative in congress was a man named Daniel P.
Cook. The first representative in the state legislature
was judge Lowery, who was elected about the year 1822.
He was a gentleman of sterling worth, but some of his official acts
in regard to the county line boundaries displeased some of the
citizens and they resolved to supercede him with William B. Archer,
who reluctantly left his work and consented to become an opposing
candidate. The contest was carried on with the best of
feelings on both sides, resulting in the defeat of Lowry and the
election of Archer by seven votes. Judge Lowry was a
Kentuckian by birth and education. At this time the county was
governed by three commissioners: Prevo and S. Ashmore were two
of the first three. These hardy settlers were subjected
to many hardships and privations unknown to the present
generation. The scarcity of mills, of proper farming
implements. Of schools, of churches, of comfortable dwellings, ect,
rendered it a life of excessive labor and privation. And
well did they act their part. A drone had no business in
this new country, at that early day. Hard work and rough
fare was invariably the portion of the pioneer. And it
is a note worthy fact that none but the bold, venturesome,
ambitions, enterprising and industrious ever seek to how out for
themselves a home in a new country. Perhaps the early
settlers of Walnut and Union Prairies underwent as many hardships as
did some of their fathers who first settled the wilds of Kentucky
and other states.
The personal appearance of these hardy sons of toil was
rough and uncouth, yet a warm and generous heart beat within that
rough exterior and no one was ever turned from their cabin doors
cold and hungry. Hard labor made a keen appetite for the
corn digger and wild game. (TO BE CONTINUED)
MARSHALL WEEKLY MESSENGER
In our last issue we gave the names of the first
representative in congress and the first representative in the
legislature. We will now give the name of one of the
first U.S. Senators from this state. His name was Elias
K. Kane. One object we have in giving the following is
for the encouragement of honorable ambition. Elias K.
Kane was a carpenter by trade and lived in the city of Washington,
D.C.; but feeling that the dull monotony of shoving the jack plane
did not fully satisfy the aspirations of his active and vigorous
mind, resolved to leave the city of Washington and carve a name for
himself in the far West. And as he left the home of his
early life, he turned big eyes toward the capitol and secretly
resolved never to visit Washington again. He made his
words good and the poor carpenter that left Washington a stranger to
honor, wealth and fame, came back the honored representative of the
great state of Illinois.
We were misinformed as to who were the first commissioners in the
county. They were Joseph Shaw, John Chenoweth and Samuel
Ashmore. They were elected in 1819. Isaac
Parker was the first sheriff and Charles Neely the first probate
judge. The first mill in the county was a horse mill,
located on Union Prairie, in the year1817 or 1818 and was owned by
Jacob Blaze. To this mill the people came from miles
around to grind their corn, for be it known every man was compelled
to hitch on his own team and grind out his own grist.
Stephen Archer informs us that his father arrived on
Walnut Prairie in a keel boat, unloaded his things in a double cabin
that stood on a piece of land now owned by Esq. Williamson. He says
he used lye hominy as a substitute for bread for six weeks, after
which they ground their corn at Blaze mill. He says he
and his father made a pilgrimage to the corn cracker in winter; the
snow was deep and the thermometer was ten degrees below
zero. Arriving at the mill the father took the horses
into custody and directed the youthful Stephen to go to the house
and warm, which he essayed to do but was met by a pack of hounds,
led by a massive bull dog, and before he could be beaten off he was
severely lacerate that he was compelled to go into winter quarters.
We also learned from Stephen Archer that Daniel Bright
was the first settler in what now constitutes this
county. He was a practical hunter and a man of great
energy and skill; manufacturing his own powder. John
Blake, John McClure and Cornell were among the first settlers:
William McKeen and Hugh Malone were early settlers.
John McClure was the proprietor of the town of
Darwin. The Richardson’s and the Fitches were the
proprietors of York which was laid out some time before Darwin.
Abraham Lincoln in company with one of his neighbors,
in an early day came to walnut Prairie and bought seed corn of
Stephen Archer and no doubt planted it in the fields encircled by
those celebrated rails of his own making. This was the
first visit Lincoln ever made to the county. A few years
later he came to Marshall electioneering for Gov. Duncan, the Whig
candidate and made a speech in the old corner building situated
On the north corner of the square. He was for two weeks a guest of
John Bartlett, the first resident of Marshall. His son
Archer claims the honor of beating the tall sucker in a game of
quoits during his sojourn in Marshall.
Col. William B. Archer represented this county in the state
legislature 18 years part of the time in the senate an no man ever
lived that was more devoted to the interest of his constituents than
The first term of the Clark Circuit court was held in
Aurora, on the Wabash River, the 17th day of Sept 1819.
Thomas C. Brown, judge; Isaac Parker, sheriff; John Welsh, corner
and William B. Archer, Clerk. John M. Robinson was the
first attorney qualified to practice in the courts. In
April 17, 1820, the second term was convened with the same officers
except William Wilson was judge instead of Brown.
The third term was convened at Aurora on the 18th day
of September, 1820, Judge Wilson presiding. The first grand
jury was: Samuel Prevo, Newell Leonard, Cornelius Lamb,
George W.Catron, William Lockard, John Stafford, John Handay, Joseph
Shaw, Zacheus Hassel, Jacob Long, Richard Armstrong, Louis Morris,
John Stratton, William V. Levay, William Murphy, Enoch Davis,
Abraham Snyder and Hugh Miller. The first witness for
the above grand jurors was James Coneway.
The witnesses claiming presence at this term
were: William Whitley, William Murphy, John Stratton, David
Boland, Lewis Murphy, Nineveh Shaw, Alden Winchester, Charles
Patrick, Joseph Owens, William P. Bennett and Johnathan Mays.
The first jury trial was held on the 17th day of Oct
1821. It was the people vs Clark McCabe, indictment for
assault and battery on Thoms Taylor, who pleaded not guilty when the
following jury was empanelled to try the case.
Johnathan Mays, James McGeath, Mark A. Sanders, Rezin
Bell, Joseph Shaw, Newell Leonard, Josiah Black, John Blake, Daniel
Lane, David Caldwell, William Perry, and Cyrus Sharp.
The witnesses were William Lockard, W.G.W. Fitch, Jr. and William B.
Archer. He was acquitted. John M.Robinson
was the first states attorney.
William P. Bennett, the father of William P.Bennett,
now proprietor of the Sherman House was one of the first settlers of
York and the first lawyer in the county and a very good one at
that. Capt. Thomas Handy, now a citizen of Melrose is
said to be the first white child born in the county and John A.
Whitlock, now of Wheaton, IL, the first child born in Marshall.
The early settlers were men possessing great
strength. It is a well known fact that William
Hollenbeck, one of the early settlers of this county possessed
remarkable strength. Milton Lake was a celebrated wood
chopper, William Haddicks and Stephen Archer as corn huskers and
Henry Taylor and Sinky as rail makers. Mr. Taylor told
us that he had split 400 good oak rails walking two or three miles
to work and back in the daylight. There are some persons
who claim Sinky made 600 rails a day but that fact is doubted.
Among the first settlers mentioned are John Bartlett,
Abraham Washburn, James Whitlock, James Pound, James B. Anderson,
Stephen archer, and Uri Manly. The first death was James
The county seat of Clark County (Marshall) is located
on a beautiful swell of land, 127 feet above Terre Haute, Indiana,
and is the highest point of land between that place and Vandalia as
determined by government surveys in locating the National
Road. The land on which it stands was purchased by
Governor Joseph Duncan and col. William B. Archer, in 1818, at
government prices of $1.25 per acre. Archer laid out the
town. The first log cabin was erected there in 1835.