c. 1834-1880 (it is here as is…from the book)
This township has considerable river-front, and, excepting Lynchburg, is the southwest town of Mason County. It has an area nearly equal to two Congressional towns, embracing about seventy sections, and is some twelve miles long by six to eight miles wide. It is bounded on the north and northwest by Havana Township and the Illinois River, on the west by Lynchburg
Township, on the south by the Sangamon River, and on the east by Kilbourne Township. The soil, like that of most of Mason County, partakes of a sandy
nature, but is exceedingly fertile, producing corn, oats and wheat in great abundance. At the time of its settlement, about one-third of the land included
in Bath Township was timbered, the remainder rolling prairie ; well watered by the numerous little lakes here and there, among which may be mentioned Wolf, Wiggenton, Swan, Fish, Goose, Bell, and, perhaps, others, while it is drained by the Illinois and Sangamon Rivers, White Oak Creek and numerous sloughs.
Artificial draining has also been added, by the opening of ditches at the public expense. One of these modern but valuable improvements extends
through the eastern part of the town, and is known as the Ruggles’ Ditch, car- rying off the superfluous water, through Jordan Slough, into the Sangamon River ; and another in the northeast, Black Jack Ditch, conveys the water, through White Oak Creek, into the Illinois. The “Main Branch” of the Illinois River, as it is termed, and which is the deeper channel, but the nar- rower, diverges from the broader stream about two miles north of the village of Bath, thereby forming an island west of the village, some six sections in extent,
called Grand Island, and containing several farms and residences, to which reference will again be made. The Peoria, Pekin & Jacksonville Railroad, more particularly noticed in the general county history, traverses the entire length of Bath Township, entering the north part through Section 26 and running, in a southwest direction, to the village of Bath, when it takes a course due south, on the section line, crossing the Sangamon River between Sections 29 and 30. This road has been of great benefit to this section in transporting the large quantities of grain produced, and, with the competition afforded by the river, the farmers are enabled to secure reasonable rates of freight. The stations in this town are Bath and Saidora, the history of which will be givenin another chapter.
SETTLEMENT OF THE TOWNSHIP.
The first dwellings reared by white men in the present town of Bath were built by John Stewart and John Gillespie in 1828. Gillespie erected his cabin
on the old site of Moscow, and Stewart on Snicarte Island, a portion of which belongs to this township. They were from Tennessee, and though acknowledged the first actual settlers, did not remain long in the town, but in a year or two removed to Schuyler County. Gillespie left his claim “for better or worse,” but Stewart sold out to Amos Richardson, and he, in turn, sold it to John Knight, who had entered the land. This was the first land entered in what is now known as Bath Township. Knight was from the East, and was what was called in those early days, by the Southern people, who composed the majority of the settlers, a ” flat-mouthed Yankee.” Knight settled here in 1829-30, but in a few years removed to Fulton County, where he died soon after. He sold the place to James H. ‘Allen, with whom he had an extensive law-suit. He sued Allen for the improvements made on the place, but, before the cause was decided, he died.
Henry Shepherd was the first settler in the north part of the township, locating on the spot where afterward rose the village of Matanzas. He was from Eastern Pennsylvania, and is acknowledged to have been the first settler in this immediate neighborhood, though no one now can tell the exact time of his settlement. He entered his land, however, in 1832, and probably came
but a short time prior to that date. It is related of him that he would never allow a plow in his corn, but cultivated it exclusively with hoes, a mode of farming that would be looked on at the present day as decidedly peculiar. His death was a singular one, but as we are not sufficiently skilled in medical technicalities to describe it in fitting terms, we will refer our readers for particulars to some of the old settlers (Charley Richardson, for instance), who still remember the circumstances.
From Kentucky, the ” dark and bloody ground” of aboriginal story and song, the township received the following additions to its population : Joseph
A. Phelps,^F. S. D. Marshall, Col. A. S. West, Dr. Harvey Oneal, Maj. B. H. Gatton and his brother, R. P. Gatton, John S. Wilburn, C. P. Richardson,. Rev. J. A. Daniels, James Holland, Thomas F., Samuel, Laban and Richard Blunt, William H. Nelms, William, John G. and C. Conover, Samuel Pettitt, and perhaps others. Joseph A. Phelps settled in the township about 1840, but shortly after
moved into the village of Bath. He was the first Circuit Clerk of Mason County, and was at one time Probate Judge, and for a number of years a Justice of the Peace. He finally removed to Nebraska, where he died in 1878. Marshall came from Cass County to this settlement, but was originally from Kentucky. He was a young lawyer when he caine here, was elected the first Master in Chancery, and, in 1845, appointed Circuit Clerk by Judge Lockwood ; was also elected to the Constitutional Convention of 1847-48. His death occurred in 1854-55. He married a Miss Berry, who taught one of the early schools of Bath. Col. West first came to the State in 1827-28, and settled near the present city of Virginia, in Cass County, and in 1844 came to this township, where he still owns a large farm, though for some time has been living in Kansas. He visits his former home and old neighbors occasionally, and still vividly remembers the privations of early times in this section of the country.
After the county seat was moved to Bath, and before a court house was built, Circuit Court was held at his residence. He was one of the early merchants of Bath ; served also with distinction in the Winnebago war. Dr. Oneal, an old settler of this township, married his daughter. He came from Virginia, Cass County, to this township, but, as already noted, was from Kentucky, and settled here about 1842-43, but lives at present in Kilbourne Township, and will be further noticed in the chapter devoted to that town. I Maj. Gatton came to the State with his father, in 1824, and settled in Cass
County (then a part of Morgan), when he was but sixteen years old. In 1831, having begun the battle of life, he located in Beardstown, where he resided until his removal to Bath, in May, 1841, soon after the formation of Mason County. When Maj. Gatton settled in the present village of Bath, there was but one little pole cabin then in the place, besides the house he had had built for his own use before his removal. His brother, R. P. Gatton, came on before him and attended to the building of it, that it might be* ready for his brother’s family. It was of hewed logs, and, with the exception of the pole cabin already alluded to, was the first residence in Bath Village. The body of this building is still standing, though moved from its original site, and modernized by being
weatherboarded and lathed and plastered.
R. P. Gatton lived in the village until his death, in 1873. Maj. Gatton is still living, enjoying fine health for man of threescore and ten years. He has been one of the solid business men of the place, one of the first merchants and grain-dealers, and still follows the latter business to some extent. To his active memory, we are indebted for much of the history of this township. He is noticed further in the history of the village. John F. Wilbourn first settled in Beardstown upon coming to the State, but came to Bath in 1843. He served as Circuit Clerk, and was the second Postmaster at Bath. He lives at present two and a half miles east of Mason City. Charles P. Richardson is one of the oldest settlers of Bath Township, now living, having settled here in 1836, and lived in the town ever since. He first settled on Grand Island, opposite Bath, and for ten or twelve years has been living in the village. He came to the State with his father in 1819, the next year after it was admitted into the Union, but did not settle in this county until 1836, as noted above. He was one of the chain-carriers to President Lincoln, when he surveyed the original village of Bath, as hereafter noticed. The surveying party made their home at Mr. Richardson’s while engaged in the work, who, with true Kentucky hospitality, refused all offers of remuneration, but ” honest Old Abe,” determined to compensate him for the trouble his party had caused him, surveyed his land free of charge. Mr. Richardson is still living and in vigorous health, with a mind well stored with ,the history of the county and anecdotes of the pioneer days, some of which are given to embellish these pages.
Rev. J. A. Daniels was born in Virginia, but removed with his parents to Kentucky when a child. He came to Illinois in 1835, and settled in Cass County, and, in 1845, came to this township, where he has resided ever since, most of the time in the village of Bath. He is one of the pioneer preachers of the Baptist denomination. James Holland was his father-in-law, and came to the town with Daniels. He died a number of years ago. The Blunts came here in the thirties. Thomas F. and Laban came first. Just here we give the following from A. A. Blunt, a son of Thomas F., PS of interest to his family and old friends : ” Thomas F. Blunt was born in Kent County, Md., and removed with his parents to Kentucky in boyhood. He married Miss Alderson, of Hart County, Ky., and of eight children born to them, four are still living. In the fall of 1831, he removed to Missouri, and, in 1833, to Illinois. He came to the territory now embraced in Mason County in December of that year. In 1849, unaided and alone, he built a schoolhouse, for school and church purposes, and provided a teacher for the ensuing winter. He was one of the original members of Mount Zion Baptist Church (mentioned elsewhere), and the only one now living in the county. He owned the first threshing machine and the first reaper ever operated in Mason County. In 1872, he was attacked with palsy in his right side, with which he is still a sufferer.”
A few years later, Richard Blunt, a brother to Thomas and Laban, came to the settlement. He and Laban died in the township. Samuel Blunt, one of the brothers, lives at present in Kilbourne Township. William H. Nelms first settled in Cass County, and came from Beardstown to Bath in 1842. He and Maj. Gatton had the first store in Bath, a business continued for some time, and a son of Mr. Neltns now lives in Havana, and is engaged in the grain business. The elder Mr. Nelms was one of the original proprietors of the vil- lage of Bath. The Conovers came to the township and settled within a mile of Bath, about the year 1841. There were three brothers of them Combs, William and John G., and their father settled in Morgan County in 1821, where the family lived until the sons came here as above. All are dead except John G., who lives in another part of the county Sherman Township, we believe. Samuel Pettitt settled here about 1848, and some years later moved to Missouri, where he died.
From Tennessee, the home of Old Hickory, we have the following recruits: Joseph Adkins, Joseph Wallace, William and James Dew, Manning and Thomas Bruce, Nelson R. Ashurst, John Johnson, Matthew Wiley and son, Patrick W. Campbell, and his son, George H. Campbell, and probably others, whose names we have failed to obtain. The Campbells were among the early settlers of Bath Township, were prominent business and professional men, and accumulated a large property. George II. Campbell, a son of Patrick W. Campbell, came to the township as early as 1838, then a youth of but seventeen years ; his father came in 1840, and settled down in the southern part of the town near Smith Turner’s. He was the first Surveyor of Mason County, an office he
held for a number of years, and was one of the highly respected citizens of the town and county. George H., upon whose shoulders the father’s mantle worthily rests, was elected to office in early life, that of Assessor and Treasurer of the county, soon after attaining his majority. He married a daughter of Maj’. Gatton, and their eldest son, William H. Campbell, is an able lawyer of Havana, and the present Mayor of that city. George H. Campbell is a lawyer of ability and has served his country at the bar, in the legislative halls of the State, and on the tented field. His record as County Judge is well known and needs no comment. He was elected to the Legislature in 1858, and served with ability. During the late war, he assisted in raising the One Hundred and Sixth Regiment of Illinois Infantry, of which he was made Lieutenant Colonel, but resigned in about a year on account of ill health. At present he resides in Mason City, where he is further noticed.