(see note at bottom)
THE VILLAGE OF BATH.
Bath was laid out in 1836 for John Curtain, who owned the land. It was
surveyed by Abraham Lincoln, Deputy Surveyor of Sangamon County ; and
the plat of the original fifteen blocks, surveyed by the martyred President, is now in the possession of Maj. Gatton, but so defaced that little is to be
learned from the document. The plat was acknowledged before Thomas Moffatt (afterward Judge Moffatt, of Springfield), and recorded by Benjamin Talbot, Recorder of Sangamon County, under date of December 13, 1836. Maj.
Gatton bought out Curtain, and thus became one of the proprietors of the
town. There have been several additions made to the original fifteen blocks of
Bath, among which we may notice those of Dummer & Mahoney, Ross, Gatton, Bunton & Martin, and Ruggles’ Addition.
Mr. Lincoln and his surveying party, during their work at Bath, boarded
with Charley Richardson, who acted as one of the chain-carriers. The following good story is told as having occurred, while the surveyors were domiciled
at Mr. Richardson’s. A party of sportsmen from Schuyler County came over on a hunt, and, as the hotels were all full at the time (with Sunday-school and
temperance excursionists), they were ”
taken in ” by Mr. Richardson, and provided for as well as the nature of the case would permit. ”
Billy ” Brown, one of the Schuyler County” tads ” (who had partaken bountifully of deer
meat and wild honey), like John on the Isle of Patmos (Richardson lived then on Grand Island) had a vision during the night, in which he saw the world on
fire, an event he seemed desirous to evade. Rising from the soft side of one of
the puncheons of Mr. Richardson’s cabin floor, still half asleep, he looked
through a crack between logs of the wall, and saw the blazing furnace of an Illi- nois River steamer with her prow turned shoreward, near where the cabin
stood. Her shrill whistle, for the purpose of awakening the men at the woodyard, was mistaken by Brown for Gabriel’s trumpet. Dropping upon his knees,
he engaged in fervent prayer, much to the amusement of Mr. Lincoln and the
others of the party. Brown did not hear the last of his devotional exercises
while the hunters remained, and perhaps not for many a day after their return
The first house erected in the present village, deserving the name of dwelling, was built by Maj. Gatton, or rather he had it built. His brother, R. P. Gatton, came up and superintended its erection, and when it was completed
Maj. Gatton moved into it. When his house was erected, there was a little pole cabin standing in the precincts of the present village, which had been built
by a man named Carey. Gatton’s house was of hewed logs, as already noticed
in- the township history, and is still standing.
The first store was opened by Nelms & Gatton in 1842, and soon after them
Col. West began merchandising, and kept the second store in Bath. The first blacksmith is the same as mentioned in the township history. The mercantile
business steadily increased until Bath became a successful competitor of Havana,,
the oldest town in the county.
The first post office was established in 1842, and B. H. Gatton appointed
Postmaster. He carried the mail himself from Havana to Bath for six months,
for which Uncle Sam neglected to pay him, notwithstanding the old gentleman has always been considered good for his debts to his public servants. His
first quarter’s pay as Postmaster amounted to the rousing sum of 43J cents,
principally cash. John S. Wilbourn succeeded Mr. Gatton as Postmaster.
After various changes in this department, TJ. B. Lindsley has succeeded to the
office.Gatton & Ruggles built the first mill in Bath, about 1850-51, at a cost of
about $12,000, which had two run of buhrs. After several years’ operation, it became the property of a man named Robinson, who took out the
machinery and moved it across the river, and the frame was moved down on
the railroad and converted into a grain elevator, which purpose it still serves.- Craggs, noticed among the early settlers, built a saw-mill in the bottom, some
years after the one mentioned above, which was bought by Marshall, and was
afterward moved into the village. O He made several additions to it, changed it 7 O
into a flouring-mill, and finally made a fortune out of it during the war. He
sold it to Cameron & Fletcher. Some years ago, it was burned, and the present
“Bath Mills ”
built. The structure is a substantial frame, with three run of
buhrs, and cost about $6,000. The first tavern was kept by Col. West, in what
is now the Central Hotel, though it has been enlarged and improved since its first occupation as a place of public entertainment. It is now kept by Mr.
Barr, and is the only hotel in the village. Before it was opened by Col.
West, Maj. Gatton used to entertain the wayfaring men who chanced to come
The grain trade at Bath was, at one time, the most extensive in the county,
except Havana. . The first dealer was Maj. Gatton, who commenced the business very early. He bought grain here for about four years, when J. M.
Ruggles became his partner. This partnership continued at intervals from
1846 to I860. The first was under the firm name of Ruggles & Co., and
extended from 1846 to 1849, when Gatton had a violent attack of gold fever,
sold out and crossed the plains to Califoraia. On his return, business was
resumed with Ruggles, under the firm name of Gatton, Ruggles & Co., when
Gatton took a relapse of the gold fever, and again made an overland trip to California. When he again came back to Illinois, the old partnership was
renewed^ as Gatton & Ruggles. The first elevator was built by Gatton, but
the most of the shipping by him and his firm was by river, in barges and canal
boats. Barges were often loaded at their wharf and shipped direct to New York,
Boston and New Orleans. There are two large grain elevators and grain ware- houses on the railroad, with large storage capacity. Mrs. Simmons now owns
the one built by Gatton. The other is owned by the Havighorst estate. The
grain trade at present is carried on by Gatton,* Low & Foster, of Havana, and
Wilson, Garm & Co., of Beardstown. The latter firm do the largest business,
and ship by the river exclusively, owning their own boats and barges, and will,
eventually (Mr. Gatton says), absorb the entire grain trade of the place.
Before the completion of the Springfield & North- Western Railroad, the businessat this point reached an average of 500,000 bushels annually, but has been
diminishing ever since its completion, owing to the fact that those in the eastern
part of the township, who’ used to come to Bath with their grain, now ship over
CHURCH AND SCHOOL EDIFICES.
The first church erected in the village of Bath was by the Old School
Presbyterians, in the lower part of the town, assisted by all ”
and tongues,” with the understanding that it was to be free to all denominations. But no sooner was it finished than the doors were shut against them.
This denomination, however, at no time was very strong, and finally became
almost extinct by removals and death, when the church was sold to the authorities, moved into the public square, and converted into a town hall. The Methodist Church was built soon after the Presbyterian, on a lot donated by Gatton.
for the purpose. It is a frame building, and cost about $1,500. The membership is twenty-five, and Rev. Mr. Lowe is Pastor. A flourishing Sunday
school is maintained, under the superintendence of Warren Heberling. About
sixty-five is the average attendance of the school.
A few years later, the Christian Church was built, at a cost of about $1,500.
It is also a frame building, and was built on lots donated for the purpose by
Gen. Ruggles. The membership is small, and no regular pastor is in attendance. Rev. J. A. Daniels, a local minister of the Baptist denomination, fill* the pulpit occasionally, with now and then a visiting brother of their own
creed from some neighboring diocese. A Sunday school, somewhat limited in
attendance, is carried on, of which Stephen Brown is Superintendent.
The name of the first pedagogue in the village of Bath is not now remembered. The first schoolhouse was the building erected for a Court House,
when -Bath was the seat of justice of the county, and which reverted to the
proprietors of the town when the county seat was moved back to Havana. They
sold the building to the School Boerd, and thus it became a temple of learning
instead of a temple of justice. It was used as a schoolhouse until the erection of the present elegant brick, which stands in the old Court House Square,
and was built in 1872, at a cost of $8,000. It is a handsome structure, and
an ornament to the town. Prof. McKean was Principal for the term just closed,
with Mrs. McKean, Miss Norbury and Mrs. Hudnall as teachers.
Freemasonry and Odd Fellowship, those benevolent organizations that fol- low close in the footsteps of civilization, are represented by flourishing Lodges
* Since this was written, MBJ. Gatton has removed to Missouri and located in Gunn City, Cass County.
in Bath. The Odd Fellows were the first to establish a Lodge here. From
B. F. Rochester, Secretary, we received the following facts in regard to it: “Bath Lodge, No. 125, I. 0. 0. F., was instituted July 29, 1853,
by M. H. L. Schooley, D. G. M., assisted by the following gentlemen,
who represented the Grand Lodge : J. W. Naylor, Grand Marshal ; V. G.
Sims, Grand Secretary ; L. H. Doss, Grand Treasurer ; S. P. Guin, Grand
Warden ; Zachariah Gatton, G. G., and P. 0. Brien, G. C. The charter members were Harvey Oneal, R. P. Gatton, J. J. Taylor, George W. Pettitt, U.
B. Lindsley, G. H. Havighorst and John H. Havighorst. The first officers were : Harvey Oneal, Noble Grand ; J. J. Taylor, Vice Grand ; G. H. Havighorst, Secretary ; R. P. Gatton, Treasurer ; John H. Havighorst, Conductor ; G. W. Pettitt, Warden, and U. B. Lindsley, Inside Guard. A list of 138
signatures are attached to the roll of membership, and, at present, there are 15 active members, among whom is J. A. Burlingame, who was initiated A-ugust
15, 1853, and has ever retained his membership, is a Past Grand, and, we presume, the oldest member of the Order in the county. Within the past five years, the Lodge and its members have contributed nearly $800 for the relief of the members and their families. It owns real estate and lodge-fixtures
Talued at $1,000, and its warrants are regarded as cash. The officers-elect for
the term commencing July 1, 1879, are as follows, viz.: John F. Bond, N. G.;
John L. Ashurst, V. G. ; John M. Martin, Treasurer, and B. F. Rochester,
Secretary. The meetings of the Lodge are on the Monday evenings of each “week.”
Bath Lodge, A., F. & A. Masons, was organized under dispensation in June,
1866, issued by Jerome B. Gorin, Acting Grand Master. The charter members were William W. Turner, Charles Reichman, Charles W. Houghton, John
P. Foland, John H. Johnson, Thomas Webb and J. M. Beesley, of whom
Charles W. Houghton was named in tKe dispensation as Master, Charles Reichman, Senior Warden, and John H. Johnson, Junior Warden. October 3, 1866,
it was chartered as Bath Lodge, No. 494, and its charter signed by Most Worshipful H’. P. H. Bromwell, Grand Master. The first officers elected under
the charter were : Charles W. Houghton, Master ; Charles Reichman, Senior
Warden ; J. C. Wright, Junior Warden ; J. H. Johnson, Treasurer ; J. M.
Beesley, Secretary ; Warren Heberling, Senior Deacon ; T. P. Renshaw, Junior
Deacon, and W. W. Turner, Tiler. The present officers are : Warren Heberling, Master ; J. H. Dierker, Senior Warden ; M. Frank, Junior Warden ; B.
H. Gatton, Treasurer ; J. S. Duncan, Secretary ; G. W. Moore, Senior Deaeon ; J. S. Allen, Junior Deacon, and F. E. Shirtcliff, Tiler, with forty-four
names on the roll of membership. The Lodge is in a flourishing condition,
owns the elegant and handsomely furnished hall in which it meets, and its affairs are conducted by an efficient corps of officers.
THE COUNTY SEAT QUESTION.
It may be interesting to future readers of this authentic history, to know
that Bath was once the capital of Mason County. She not only aspired to that dignity but attained it, and for a period of eight years was the seat of
justice. As pertinent to the subject, we copy the following from the county
map. Speaking of the location of the county seat, it says: “There was much dissatisfaction on the part of the inhabitants of Bath, who, justly or
unjustly, thought that their town offered superior advantages as the seat of justice of Mason County. An agitation of the subject was kept up, and finally an act, approved January 19, 1843, was obtained from the Legislature, authorizing another election to be held on the second Monday of February of that
year. Polls were opened at three places ; at James Walker’s, in Havana, at Lynchburg and at Bath, where votes were received for the towns of Bath ami
Havana for the county seat. Bath received a majority of votes and was
declared the county seat. Its inhabitants soon had the satisfaction of seeing
the archives of the county removed to their town. The June term of the
Circuit Court for 1844 was held at Bath, the previous June term having been
held at “Havana. Entire satisfaction was not yet obtained. Havana still had
aspirations which could only be satisfied by another removal of the seat of justice, and, in February, 1851, legislation was obtained by which another election was held on the second Monday of March, 1851, at which the question was again brought before the people. The clerks of election opened two col- umns, one ‘For Havana,’ and the other ‘Against Removal.’ The election
resulted in again making Havana the county seat, which it has since continued
to be.” Thus Bath lost its hard-earned dignity, was shorn of its fleeting honors, and as a consequence, its “glory departed forever.” This county seat question, however, is more particularly referred to in the county history.
As stated in the above extract, the first session of Circuit Court was held
at Bath, in June, 1844, and, as no building had yet been erected, it was held at the house of Col. West. But a Court House was at once erected by the proprietors of the village. It was a commodious brick structure, two stories high,
with offices on the first floor and the hall of justice above. The building was 36×40 feet, and cost about $3,000. It was built as cheaply as possible, the
brick being manufactured near the spot, and the other material procured at the
lowest figures. When the county seat was moved back to Havana, the building was sold to the village for school purposes, as elsewhere stated.
The village of Bath was originally incorporated under a special act of the
Legislature, approved February, 1857. The charter was prepared by Gen.
Ruggles with great care, and is said to have been the best and most perfect
instrument of its kind in the State of Illinois. An election was held on the
first Monday in April of the same year, which resulted in the election of J,
M. Ruggles, Harvey Oneal, B. H. Gatton, Samuel Young and Richard Bigsby,
Town Councilmen. The Board organized by electing B. H. Gatton, President;
G. H. Campbell, Clerk and Treasurer; James M. Robinson, Police Magistrate,
and John H. Johnson, Town Constable. It remained under this style of government until 1876, when it was organized under the general law, and the
following Board of Trustees elected, viz.: Warren Heberling, F. S. Cogeshall,
B. H. Gatton, P. Perkins and J. S. Allen. This Board was organized with
B. H. Gatton, President, and L. Carpenter, Clerk and Treasurer. At present
the Board consists of John L. Rochester, J. H. Allen, A. Schaaf, M. Frank,
John R. Horstman and J. H. Daniels. John L. Rochester is President of the
Board; L. Carpenter, Clerk; H. Middlecamp, Treasurer, and G. W. Moorer Police Magistrate.
The cemetery on the southern limits of the village is a beautiful buryingground, inclosed by a handsome fence, and kept in most excellent order. The
first interment in its “silent shades” was a daughter of Col. West. She was
teaching school at Virginia, Cass County, at the time of her death, and her
father (Col. West) came to Gen. Ruggles and suggested the propriety of a
burying-ground being laid off, and remarked that he would like to bring his
daughter here for interment. Ruggles went and staked off the present cemetery, saw the parties who owned the land, and arranged for its purchase.
Having surveyor’s instruments, he surveyed it and laid off the lots before the
first burial in it. Since then, many of the pioneers of the village and township have been laid beneath its weeping willows, to take their last long sleep.
“Where are their spirits flown?
We gaze above their looks are imaged there ; We listen and their gentle tones Are on the air.” Although the business of Bath has been waning for several years, as other
villages have sprung up in its vicinity, yet it is the center of trade for a large
and rich scope of country. Its grain trade has always been its most valuable
branch of business. Its mercantile trade boasts of some able firms and energetic and wide-awake business men.. The following summary shows the present status of the business of the place: Two dry- goods stores, two drug stores,,
two tinware, one hardware, four grocery stores, one furniture, one hotel, with
blacksmith, wagon and shoe shops, grain dealers, etc. Several well-filled millinery stores furnish the fair portion of the population with all the fashionable
flummery and female toggery of the times.
Saidora Station, in the south part of the town, has scarcely attained to the
dignity of a village. It consists of a store, depot and grain elevator, but has
never, we believe, been laid out as a village. The station is located on the
land of Joseph Adkins, and the only store of the place is kept by a son of
Adkins, who also buys grain for Low & Foster, of Havana. Large shipments ‘are made from this point, considering its close proximity to Bath and Chandlerville. NON EST INVENTUS.
Among the early villages laid out in what is now Mason County, were those
of Matanzas and Moscow. But they have paid nature’s great debt, and no
trace of them remains at the present day to mark their site. Matanzas was
laid out April 10, 1839, by V. B. Holmes and a man named Watkins Powell r and was located on portions of Sections 28 and 33, of Bath Township, near the
northern part. When laid out, it was in Tazewell County, Mason not being created
until two years later.” J. H. Schulte, an early settler of Havana Township^
had the first store in Matanzas, and was followed later by one or two others.
Shops were established, a steam saw-mill was built, which did a large business
for several years. It became quite a point for grain-shipping, and, being
located on the river, it was confidently believed that its situation would be the
means of making a town of it. We believe, too, that it once entered into competition for the county seat, after the formation of Mason County. But
Havana on the one side and Bath on the other, soon blasted its hopes in that
direction, and, literally speaking, swallowed it up- Its streets, public parks
and pleasure gardens are now corn-fields, and the passing stranger would be
struck with wonder, that a lively town had once flourished there.
he fate of Matanzas will also apply to Moscow. It is another of the
villages of Bath Township that was and is not. It was laid out May 30, 1836,. on Section 24, by Erastus Wright, for Ossian M. Ross, and was, at one time, an enterprising little village. Joseph A. Phelps had a store here, perhaps the
first one in the place. Situated on the river, it, too, was a grain point of considerable note, Maj. Gatton being one of the most extensive operators here^
But in the zenith of its glory and prosperity, it never equaled in magnificence
its namesake the ancient capital of Russia. Since the day of railroads in
Mason County, Moscow has disappeared, and, like Matanzas, the site whereon
it stood is now a productive farm. Thus two lively villages of Bath Township
have been totally eclipsed by more fortunate rivals, and the places that once;
knew them will know them no more.
LAST ONE-NO MORE