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First Settlers of Wabash Precinct

Updated: Jun 12, 2020

What criteria would you use for selecting the land you would choose for a new home if you were moving? Likely the price and style of the home, distance from your job, access to good roads, a good school for your children, and distance from friends and family would be some of your criteria. But what if you are going to unsettled territory where there are few roads, no/few businesses, no schools, no churches and only a few scattered people? Your criteria begin to look much different.

The first settlers in Wabash Precinct of Edwards County in Illinois Territory were concerned with safety and the ability to have a livelihood: food, shelter and comfort for their families and the ability to improve their lot in life. The earliest settlers had to be industrious enough to make a life for themselves from the land with the few tools they brought with them from the east or the south and their own ingenuity.

Levi Compton and his brother-in-law Joshua Jordan (married to Rebecca Compton) had come together from Kentucky in 1802 and settled in northeastern Wabash Precinct. Both men had come to Kentucky from Virginia in the 1790s after the American Revolution. Both were Revolutionary soldiers. Levi had a wife, Rosanna Phinessee and they had six children,. Their son Joseph was said to be the first white child born in the county. Levi's first home was in Section 26, likely very close to the Wabash River on land now owned by the Buchanan and McFarland families. The Old Trace Road which ran from Vincennes, Indiana to Shawneetown was nearby and is still a well-known road, turning east just north of Patton and angling northeast for several miles, touching the east edge of Allendale before continuing on for several miles to cross the Wabash at the mouth of Raccoon Creek. More on that later.

Compton built a cabin and improved (cleared) a few acres, then becoming dissatisfied with the location, moved to Section 12, just east of present day Allendale. Joshua Jordon was already in Section 12. Perhaps they needed the assistance of each other. This land would have been either on the Old Wagon Trace or very close to it. The Compton family still owned this land into the 1970s. It stretched north of Allendale to Coco Creek, east to the Wagon Trace and west into Section 11. Compton built a mill on Coco Creek. Joshua Jordan eventually moved to Barney's Prairie where he lived until his death.

John Stillwell and his sons came from New Jersey in 1804 after a brief stop in Kentucky. He purchased land in the southeast quarter of section 12. He improved quite a bit of land and owned around 100 acres which was still in the family in 1915. This was most of the east half of the section.

John Stillwell and Levi Compton each built stockades on their property for safety from the Indians. Compton's Fort was quite large and would accommodate 100 families and had cabins, granaries and booths for people. A pre-arranged signal was given for local people to come to the fort if the need arose. The site of the fort was just north of present day Allendale, where the Allendale or Compton Cemetery is now located. Stillwell was said to be quite an eccentric man with many stories related about him. Could this be why he built his own much smaller fort? It was said to be near the Allendale School site.

When the settlers first came to Wabash Precinct there were good relationships with the nearby Indians. Joshua and Rebecca Jordan's son Caleb was said to go for the day with a group of Indians. Later the local Piankishaws and Shawnee tribesmen were incited to violence by the great chief Tecumseh.

Selby arrived in 1807. Little is written about him. William B. Smith, Sr. came to Wabash Precinct in 1811. He purchased the land in the southeast quarter of section 11. He married, as his second wife, Elizabeth Jordan. She was the daughter of Joshua Jordan and Rebecca Compton. This site would become prime real estate later when the railroad came through. It was purchased in total from the heirs to become the site of Allendale.

Spencer Wood came from Ohio in 1811 with 10 children. He settled in the northeast quarter of Section 14 (just south of Allendale). On his farm he planted an apple orchard, the first one in the county. He also set up a distillery for apple brandy,

The Banks, Pollard and Cross families arrived in the precinct in 1810 or 1811. The Cross family built a horse mill.

Frances Valle/Valley/Vallie was of French descent from St. Francisville and he had a ferry on the Wabash as early as 1810. It was large enough to carry two teams and a wagon. It was operated by oars and poles. At low water times this part of the river could be forded and it had the geographical name of Vallie's Ford. It was located at the mouth of Raccoon Creek were the river camp known as Pulleyville is now located.

John McIntosh, a native of Virginia of Scotch parents, immigrated to Kentucky as early as 1785 and then to Wabash Precinct in 1814. He had a family of six children and stopped at Compton Fort for a few months then moved to Section 23, went to Coffee precinct shortly afterward, then returned to section 23 where he made a permanent home,. His son-in-law Charles Garner also came from Kentucky in 1814 and settled in Section 23.

Other settlers coming in 1815 were Benjamin Hulbert, Henry Leek, Samuel Simcoe, John Armstrong, Joseph Gardner and Peter Keen. Benjamin Hulbert came from New Jersey and brought a large family with him. Hulbert settled in Section 13 (near Armstrong Cemetery). Henry Leek was Benjamin Hulbert's son-in-law and was noted as a great hunter and skilled mechanic. He remained but a short time then moved to other parts but his son Robert Henry Leek stayed after marrying Margaret Philpott, another early settler, and raised a large family with many descendants.

John Armstrong came from Tennessee in 1815 with six children and settled in the southwest quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 15. This property is north of Adams Corner and belongs to the Simmons family at this time. John's son Abner was appointed the sheriff of Edwards County. At the time, Edwards County was quite large and included Wabash County and points further north.

Joseph Gardner settled in Section 9, south of the Allendale-Lancaster blacktop road/County Hwy 11 and west from the S curve.

Peter Keen came from Ohio in1814 to "check out" the country He returned to Ohio and brought back his family the following spring, settling permanently in Section 14. This would be south of present day Allendale. When bringing the family here, he ascended the swollen Wabash River in a keel boat with extreme difficulty and was met by settlers who were expecting them. They were protected from any possible Indian attack as they left the boat.

The McBride's had previously settled there on the southeast part of the southwest quarter of section 27. This would probably be on property where the Allendale Gravel Pit was located. This area was known as McBride's Landing and was the spot where the Keen family was met in the keel boat.

The William Ramsey family had built a cabin on the northwest quarter of Section 26 and this was where Peter Keen spent his first days in Wabash Precinct. Keen had helped build the first house on the future site of Cincinnati, Ohio. His wife was Seth Gard's sister Jemima. More about the Gard family in the next article.

So many people were settling in the vicinity of section 23 and 14 that a town was laid out later on the wagon trace, called Timberville, It was not platted until 1866 but was a small thriving community until the railroad was built.

The Ploughs and the Trulocks settled south of the site of Timberville. Others noted to have settled in the precinct in 1816 and 1817 were the Vanderhoof, Goff, Buchanan, Philpott, Gould, Calhoun, Andrews, Wright, Smith, Anthis, Dubois and Hazelton families.

The criteria these settlers used to pick a home site seemed to take into consideration the available transportation on the Wabash River and the Old Wagon Trace, the availability of timber for building their homes and some of other materials they needed, the abundance of game for food and the presence of other settlers, some friends and family members,. The fertility of the soil was a factor and close proximity to the territorial capital, Vincennes.

Several of these early settlers were active in politics of the time and served as public officials: Abner Armstrong, the first sheriff of Edwards County; John McIntosh was appointed one of the three members of the County Court (now called County Commissioners) in 1816 and held the position several terms. He was also a Baptist minister. Levi Compton eventually moved to Coffee Precinct in 1817 and settled in the Rochester area where he spent the remainder of his days. He had the honor of being a member of the first Constitutional Convention in 1818 and served in the Illinois State Senate from 1818 to 1820. He died in 1844. A copy of Compton's signature and that of another early settler, Seth Gard, are on view at the Wabash County Museum on the timeline wall.

Two of the settling families brought slaves with them but they were freed after arrival. Levi Compton had several slaves which he freed before leaving Kentucky and he brought one man, Dennis Sayles, with him to Wabash Precinct. After Levi moved to Coffee Precinct, Dennis went along and was one of the charter members of the Coffee Creek Christian Church. John Stilwell had a Negro slaved named Armstead who was liberated in 1822.

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