History of Southern Illinois

This county lies mainly on the south slope of the Ozarks, the main divide of the mountains running east and west through the northern tier of townships. The county contains slightly more than nine townships - Cache, containing a few sections from T. 14, R. 2, east. The Cache river drains the west side of the county, while Cedar Creek drains the east third. It is a picturesque region. The hills and valleys, the bluffs and gaps, beautiful farms, quiet homes nestling among the hills, cattle on a thousand hillsides, all give the visitor a surprise and interest from every angle of observation.
The county is one of the oldest, having been created by proclamation of Governor Edwards the 14th day of September, 1812.
And I do lay off a county or district to be called Johnson county, to be bounded as follows, viz.: To begin at the mouth of Lusk's Creek on the Ohio; thence with the line of Gallatin county to Big Muddy; thence down Big Muddy and the Mississippi to mouth of the Ohio, and up the Ohio to the beginning. And I do appoint the house of John Bradshaw to be the seat of Justice for Johnson county.
Done at Kaskaskia the 14th day of September, 1812, and the Independence of the United States the thirty-seventh.
By the Governor. Nathaniel Pope, Secretary. Ninian Edwards.
By tracing this boundary it will be seen that Johnson includes a part or the whole of Jackson, Williamson, Saline, Pope, Johnson, Union, Alexander, Pulaski and Massac counties.

It is not an agricultural county like the prairie counties of central Illinois, and yet agriculture and stock raising are the principal activities. The abundance of fine spring water, and fine grasses which are found on the hillsides, make stock raising a delight. Within recent years much attention has been given to fine grades of cattle and to dairying grades. The state has established an experiment farm just east of Vienna and the local farmers' institute is in a flourishing condition. The number of farms is put down in the census report as 1,962, which is a loss of 18 in ten years. The size of the farms averages 102 acres, but only 73 acres per farm is improved lands. The distribution of values of all farm property is 63.1% in lands; 17.5% in buildings; 2.5% in machinery; 17% in domestic animals, etc. This is a very interesting table. Only one county in the state surpasses Johnson in the percentage of value in domestic animals and that is Pope, with 19.5%. Pope also is the only county which has a smaller percentage in land 59.6%.
There are still good timber areas in Johnson county. All along the Cache river there afe good lumber forests. Cypress grows toward the south side of the county. Here are vast swamps that have never been drained, and in these the cypress trees flourish. These swamps are now in process of draining and within a few years we may see corn growing where now are the noted black swamps.
Johnson county has no coal. No coal is found south of the Ozarks. There is in this county a variety of building material in the form of sandstone, limestone and the clays. In many of the bluffs these stones are easily quarried, but there is not much demand for building material of this kind except for foundations. In many localities there are very large sink holes, which indicates the presence of caverns into which the land has sunk. These have the appearance of a funnel and are often several yards across and several feet deep. The native grasses are very plentiful and constitute a large share of the grazing lands.

The earliest settlers were located in the northwest and the northeast parts of the county. Elvira was settled in 1806, while Ray's settlement in the northeast corner of the county was made in 1803. In 1815 the county seat was at Elvira. It was later moved to Vienna. This town was begun about 1814 or 1815. It was located on the road from Golconda to Jonesboro and either at or near the crossing of the road from Fort Massac to Kaskaskia. A map published in Philadelphia in 1822 by the American Atlas Co. shows Vienna on the road from Port Massac to Kaskaskia. In 1837 the town contained not over 30 families. 130 to 150 people, three stores, and the court house.
Shadrach Bond, delegate in congress, writing to Governor Ninian Edwards under date of February 14, 1814, says he will try to get a bill through congress establishing a post road from Kaskaskia to the court house in Johnson county. And in a later communication to Governor Edwards he reports that the bill went through and the post road was assured.
In the contest which raged in Illinois from 1823 to 1824 over the question of making Illinois a slave state, Johnson county was evenly divided. When the votes were counted it was found that she had given 74 votes for slavery and 74 for freedom. At that time Johnson included the west half of Massac, as it is today, and a portion of the eastern part of Pulaski. It was so close to Kentucky that it is not strange that the slavery vote was so large.
Probably the most noted citizen of Johnson county, at least in the early 50's, was Major Andrew J. Kuykendall. He was a lawyer of great force and a patriotic citizen. When the war of the Rebellion came on he entered the service as major of the 31st regiment, whose colonel was John A. Logan. He was an ardent Democrat, but a loyal one. His influence for the Union was felt far and near. In 1863, when the legislature was passing resolutions demanding a cessation of hostilities, the Douglas Club of Vienna held a public meeting, which was largely attended by people of all shades of political belief. After a very free and frank discussion of the exigencies of the situation, the Douglas Club passed the following resolution:
"Resolved, That as citizens of Illinois and as Democrats, we are in favor of the continued and vigorous prosecution of the war until the supremacy of the constitution is acknowledged in every state in the Union; that we are in favor of the administration's using every constitutional means for the purpose of crushing the rebellion and restoring the Union; that the errors of the administration, while they should not be adopted by the people, form no excuse for any loyal citizen to withhold his support from the government. We are inflexibly opposed to the secession heresy of a northwestern confederacy, and will resist it with our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."
There can be little doubt that these resolutions reflect the influence of Mr. Kuykendall.
Johnson county is very proud of the fact that Gen. George Rogers Clark passed through its territory on his way from Fort Massac to Kaskaskia in 1778. A recent movement by some members of the D. A. R. under the leadership of Mrs. Pleasant S. Chapman of Vienna, looks toward the marking of the route at the point of nearest approach to Vienna. Recent communications with Dr. Reuben Gold Thwaites, secretary of the Wisconsin Historical Society, has confirmed the general impression that Clark passed near Vienna. As near as it can now be stated, Clark entered the county a mile east of where the Big Four crosses the Cache, or at the middle point of Section 32, T. 13, R. 3, east. From there, north and west over Indian Point, to the Mrs. Wright farm in Section 1, T. 13, R. 2, east. From here to the village of Buncombe, and thence north through Buffalo Gap and north by Goreville and on to Pulley's Mill, etc. Without doubt a monument or marker will be placed on the public road running west from Vienna to West Vienna at a point two miles west of the former town.

Extracted 10 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from 1912 A History of Southern Illinois, published in 1912, Volume 1, pages 492-496.

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