Early Towns

The towns or settlements located on the Ohio River within the original bounds of Johnson County were: Ft. Massac (see Clark's Trail), Wilkinsonville, Napoleon, Caledonia, Trinity and America.
Wilkinsonville, Reynolds says in his history written 1825 "General Wilkinson, who was a British Governor of the northwest territory, appointed in 1769, built cantonment Wilkinson." In the History of Union, Pulaski and Alexander Counties, quoted from Bradley, "General Wilkinson ascended the Ohio River about the close of the war of 1812, to the head of the Grand Chain, with a large body of troops, and built expensive barracks. When the troops were removed, it fell into decay and there is nothing left but graves to designate the place." Which statement is correct one cannot say. There is a plausible reason why the fort might have been built, if it had been 1806 or 1807, as General Wilkinson of the United States Army was understood to be connected with Burr's conspiracy and this fort would have been useful if Burr's plan had carried.
Joshua Copeland, born 1812, and whose father lived near the site of this old fort said, he remembered the drill grounds as a boy, but the buildings had all fallen into decay, which could hardly have happened if they had been constructed in 1812. Victor Collet, a Frenchman in his "Notes on a Journey in North America" describes Wilkinson as follows: "Wilkinsonville was about half way between Ft. Massac and the mouth of the Ohio. It stands upon a beautiful savannah of one hundred acres sixty or seventy feet above the river. It is a place of little or no trade and has sensibly declined since it lost the patronage of a government garrison."
Eli Clemson, father of James Y., was said to have been one of the founders of the town of Napoleon, not a vestige of which remains to tell where it stood. James Y. had a beautiful home and farm on the Ohio River just above old Caledonia the latter part of 1800.
Caledonia was known as the Block House before 1817. There is some tradition about the remains of an ancient circular fort or enclosure, with openings on two or more sides, on the site of or near old Caledonia. Those describing it say in the early part of the 19th century there were [page 283] large trees growing on the top of this wall, or mound, but if there are any remains of this fort at present they are invisible and no one living knows of such a place. Caledonia was at one time a very thriving town, being the seat of justice for Pulaski County, but when the county seat was moved to Mound City and the Big Four Railroad was built, Olmstead the station nearest Caledonia absorbed the population.
Trinity was built at the mouth of Cache River "and founded in 1817 by James Riddle, Henry Bechtle, Thomas Slough of Cincinnati, and Steven and Henry Rector of St. Louis. Dr. William Alexander and John Dougherty were their agents. In 1822, several buildings were erected, a first class store, a warehouse, a fine dwelling and tavern, including a billiard room. It continued to thrive for some time but a greater part of it was destroyed by fire in 1831. Captain Webb estimated his loss at $50,000. It was finally abandoned about 1835.
America was founded about 1821, a short distance from Trinity but was soon abandoned. But when the Big Four Railroad was built the station near its site took the name of America.
Tradition says the Russell settlement was located 11 or 12 miles north of where America is now, on Cache in 1812. Obidiah Russell had a ferry and mill on Cache in Johnson County in 1816 and this was probably the Russell settlement. Hughes had a mill in the county in 1816.
Elvira is only a neighborhood at present of about three or four farmhouses, and has not even a postoffice. It is situated northwest of Vienna, about ten miles, near Lick Creek, and the original town was settled about 1806. John Bradshaw and Isaac Worley were some of the early residents. Jacob Littleton was licensed to keep tavern there in 1818. It was made the county seat of Johnson at its organization, 1812, and our first courts were held there. Peck tells us that it had thirty or forty inhabitants in 1837 and evidently did not lose all its population and business at the time the county seat was moved to Vienna. The location of the first court house erected there more than one hundred [page 284] years ago can be plainly seen and the building, judging from the foundation was about thirty-five by twenty feet, built of hewed logs and had a large fireplace in each end. The foundation rocks for the chimneys are still in place, although a little ways under ground as this site is now in a cultivated field, but the roadway that ran through the town is still visible. The arch rock of one of these old fireplaces is used by a neighbor as a doorstep. The Daniel Chapman Chapter, Daughters of American Revolution of Vienna, have a bronze tablet to mark this old site. The nearby spring that supplied the residents, judges and lawyers, who frequented old Elvira more than a century ago, still sends its thirst-quenching stream, as freely to us now as John Bradshaw, Isaac and John Worley, Jane Morris, our first lady retail liquor dealer and all the eminent men who visited there. "Men may come and men may go, but it flows on forever.”
This was at one time, possibly about the latter part of the fifties, a flourishing inland village in Burnside township. It was one of the oldest community centers in the county and was first called Cross Roads. It was built on the farm of Wesley Reynolds, and a post office was established there which was kept by Mr. Reynolds, who also operated a large general store. The place took its name from the Reynolds family and the widow of T. B. Reynolds, son of Wesley, still resides on this farm. One of the oldest churches of the county is located at this place. T. J. Cook had a store there about 1860 and F. M. McGee another a little later. John Dupont operated a grain mill there and Charles A. McCoy was another old resident. Dr. Josiah Whitnel, who lived near, was the neighborhood physican, practicing there, throughout his professional life. The Reynoldsburg Masonic Lodge was organized in 1865, the (see Tunnel Hill.) When the Big Four Railroad was built the neighboring towns absorbed the business and population of Reynoldsburg, and there is nothing remaining of this once busy little place but the old church, which is situated on a hill with one of those wonderful views of which Johnson County has so many.
Goreville has been a voting and trading place since [page 285] before the sixties. John Gore settled there about 1850, and carried on a general store during his life. A postoffice was established soon after the Civil War and was named in honor of Mr. Gore. His first residence was a log house and is still standing although enclosed with weather boarding. Mr. Gore belonged to one of the oldest families of the county. As early as 1875 there was a store, a blacksmith shop; a postoffice and two or three dwellings, all stood on the left side of the road going north. Among the dwellings was the present residence of Mrs. Mattie Jones, (daughter of John Gore) and built by him. New Goreville is a short distance north of this old town, built in 1899 on the farms of Joel Hubbard and Mike Jones. Some of the founders were Ed. Hicks, Ebert Thulen, T. A. Bradley, J. U. S., Henry, John and William Terry, Isaac Simmons, Newlin and Hudgens. There is a tall frame building about midway between the site of the old village and the new. It was built soon after the Civil War, and is known as The Hall. The upper story is a Masonic hall and the lower one is used by different denominations for church service. J. H. Morphis, a Presbyterian minister says he preached there in 1875 and that they used candles to light the church. The Goreville Masonic Lodge is quite an old institution and was first held in the upper story of the residence of Dr. Tine Whitnel, where Charles Calhoun now lives, directly across the railroad from the new town. The new village was incorporated in 1900. The population then was 406, 1910, 554; 1920, 700. It had a very destructive fire in 1907. Goreville has maintained a weekly newspaper for a time at different periods, the history of which is found under "The Press." The First National Bank of Goreville was organized in 1905, with T. A. Bradley, president, M. M. Pickles, Vice-President, R. A. Parks, cashier. J. B. Hudgens was later made cashier and has filled this position for a number of years. The Citizens State Bank was opened there in 1917 by G. H. McMahan, with Evertt McMahan as cashier. John Grissom is now president, M. M. Terry, cashier. History of Goreville could scarcely be written without mentioning John H. Jones, as he was a resident in the vicinity for more than fifty years. Thomas M. Jones, a prominent educator of the county and a descendant of one of the oldest families, has been identified with the village in several ways, and resides in the community. At a patriotic day held at Goreville, June 5th, 1917, there was dis [page 286] played an old flag, which had belonged to John A. Logan's regiment, the 31 Illinois Volunteer. The flag was carried by John Burlison, who had borne it during the war. There is a modern brick school building where the two first years of high school are taught in connection with the grades. They have two church buildings, Methodist and Baptist, ten stores, two restaurants, with seven or eight brick business buildings, two grist mills, an elevator, a lumber yard, three garages, and three blacksmith shops. It is situated near the center of Goreville township and northwest of Vienna, about twelve miles, the second largest town in the county.
The Nipper and Gould, American Legion Post of Goreville, was organized in 1920. It was named in honor of Ray Nipper and Harvey Gould. The first commander was R. E. Wiggins, and M. M. Terry the first Adjutant. The charter members were: R. E. Wiggins, R. G. Benson, E. Y. Smith, M. M. Terry, J. C. Rushing, Jake and Henry Pritchet, Lawrence Chamness, Iva 0. Toler, John Royster, Frank Stevens, Everett and Harry Thornton, Clifford Webb Thomas Peterson, Oscar Walker. This Post has a membership of seventeen.
This progresive little town was named for Buncombe County, North Carolina, the name tradition says, was suggested by Levi Casey, a resident of the neighborhood, who had emigrated from that county and state. It was for many years an inland place with a post office, a store and a blacksmith shop, and the ever necessary country doctor. Caesar Cohn was one of the first merchants of this town, who later moved to Vienna. When the Chicago and Eastern Illinois railroad was built through the county it came direct to this location. Buncombe has grown into a population of about 400, in thirty-five years, and was incorporated into a village in 1916. It has one bank, with Calvin Mathis as cashier, seven merchants, two churches, a mill, and automobile sales store, a standard public school, with two years of high school and about a half mile of as fine hard road as one can find. It is about six miles northwest of Vienna and was built on the farm of W. J. Suit. W. J. and J. B. Suit and T. Proctor were some of the founders. The Buncombe mill and Elevator Co., was composed of J. J. Robertson, J. B. Suit, J. K. Elkins and other substantial [page 287] farmers, who built a mill and elevator there in 1905. This is now owned and operated by F. S. Kuykendall (recently sold to a Mr. Williams.)
Wartrace is a small inland community about six miles east of Vienna. It was first called Grantsburg and is still known as old Grantsburg. S. D. Poor was a merchant there for many years and was in reality its founder. W. J. Fern was physician there in the sixties and Dr. Lewis Walker was a resident physician there throughout his life where his widow still resides. When the Illinois Central Railroad was built it missed this place and the new town built on the railroad took the name of New Grantsburg and in looking around for a name for this place it is said to have taken its new name from the hanging of a horse thief by the farmers of that section. Soon after the war a bushwhacker came across the river stole a horse and killed the owner. He was hung by a mob. The inhabitants hoped this would be the last trace of war in that section, and it was. It has about 25 inhabitants.
Tunnel Hill is a village at the head of a short tunnel on the Rig Four Railroad, and was settled at the time the road was built. Captain J. B. Gillespie was a resident there in 1871. Dr. N. M. Hudson and brother owned a drug store there and Dr. Hudson practiced medicine there about that time. Sylvester Whitehead and J. F. Graham were in business there about 1873. D. F. Beauman of the firm of Beauman and Bunn located there about the same year. Dr. W. J. Fern was also an early resident. Abram Cover came there from Union County and built a flour mill some time in the 70’s. The Nipper family first resided at Sanborn, but later moved to Tunnel Hill. The Reynoldsburg Masonic Lodge No. 419 was organized at Cedar Creek church 1865, the charter members were; L. D. Fern, James Whitehead, Mike Emory, Josiah Whitnel and Lewis Yandell. This lodge was moved to Sanborn in 1875 and in the following year to Tunnel Hill, where it continues to thrive with a membership of thirty-seven. The business men of Tunnel Hill at present are: Robert Gilliam, D. E. Vurbel, S. H. Taylor. At present it has one restaurant, two churches, a [page 288] grade school and population of about 200. It is surrounded by tine orchards and good farmers.
Sanborn was a place of some business and a small population but has declined to two or three residences.
New Burnside is situated in Burnside Township in the north east corner of the county on the Big Four Railroad. It was laid out in 1872 from the farms of Newell Phillips and Thomas McMichael, Sr., and is named in honor of General Burnside of Civil War fame, who was president of the Cairo and Vincennes R. R. Company which constructed this road, and at the suggestion of Capt. Mark Whiteaker. The reason for the sudden development of this town was the discovery of coal at this place by George H. Huffman while digging out a spring in the year 1875. The mine was worked a short time by Huffman and James A. Smith, but later leased to Captain James A. Vial, in 1877 who worked the mine in paying quantities for about four or five years. The demand for coal in this section at that time was not so great as now and the usual shipments did not exceed twelve car loads per day, although the capacity of the mine was much greater. This coal was not of the highest grade, and after the discovery of the fine veins of coal at Harrisburg and the financial failure of the operator, this mine was abandoned, except for a little digging for local use.
J. F. Gray built the first residence on the site of G. W. Lauderdale's home, the first store building and opened the first store. Dr. W. R. Mizell was the first physician there and built the second residence, where he still resides. There were at one time, twenty business house in Burnside Among the men conducting businesses then were: F. M. McGee, David Shearer, T. A. Edmondson, John Caldwell, P. W. Redden, J. B. Gillespie, Beese Trammel, Will and Dave Harris; John DuPont built and operated a large flouring mill; James W. Heaton, Sr., Joseph and Albert Dugger, William Donahue, F. M. Jones and Robert Branum. Thomas M. son of F. M. and Ann Jones was the first child born in the town.
There were three churches, Methodist, Christian and Baptist erected in 1876, and a Catholic church built some time later. [page 289] The town was at its height in 1878-9. The population reached 1,200 and in 1883 still had 1,000 inhabitants. The mine store did a $35,000 business in 1880. Burnside began to decline in 1881 and by 1907 the number of residents had fallen to 400. At present there is a population of about 350, and seven stores. The first bank of the county was organized at this place about 1879, but was later moved to Vienna. There has never been any colored people in the town, nor a licensed saloon. In 1903, there were thirty-one pensioners of the Civil War, living in and near New Burnside, demonstrating that this locality had few slackers during one of the critical periods of our country's history. Since its settlement there has always been some fruit grown around New Burnside, but it was not until 1890 that the orchard business began to increase and by 1905 it had become the principal business. A local in the county paper in 1895 says, "There is about $600 paid out every week for green apples at New Burnside,"
A. M. Thompson, who was sent out by the Horticultural Dept., Washington, D. C, stated in his report of 1917 that New Burnside was the largest shipping point for early apples that he found in the United States.
New Burnside Lodge A. F. and A. M. No. 772 was chartered in 1884 with Mark Whiteaker as Master, James W. Hood as Sr. Warden and James A. Smith, Jr. Warden. Other charter members were : W. R. Mizell, J. A. and W. H. Whiteaker, W. F. Morris, J F. Casper, J. F. Gray, J. M. Beggs, T. A. Edmondson, W. VanCleve, F. M. McGee, J. M. and W. L. Keltner, O. J. and R. M. Wise, W. R. Little, J. F. Graham, J. B. Gillespie, W. J. Haley, J. C. Cadwell, G. W. Smoot, D. J. Wallace, J. M. Wright, J. H. Clymoore, H. S. Parsons, B. Belford, W. B. Lewis, J. N. Berry, John Dupont, B. F. Neeley and J. F. Blanchard.
The I. O. O. F. Lodge No. 625 was organized 1876 with the following members ; James L. Furguson, D. E. Shearer, S. C. Bradford, Mark Whiteaker, Thomas M. Cavitt, Robert H. Wise, W. H. McKinney, James M. Wright, W. P. Throgmorton, and Amos Burns, who is the only member now living in Burnside.
The Rebeckah Lodge, 121, was organized in 1883 with the following members: John Dupont and wife, D. C. Copeland and wife, W. R. Rodman and wife, T. F. Waters and [page 290] wife, John M. Keltner and wife, J. N. Berry and wife, James L. Furguson and wife and Albert Dugger and wife. Mrs. Dona Berry is the only one of the charter members retaining her membership in this lodge. It now has a membership of sixty-three.
The William Lawrence Post 794, G. A. R., was organized in May, 1900, with sixty members. In 1923 it has decreased in membership to seven. F. M. Taylor, J. A. Russell, J. J. Simpson Dr. W. R. Mizell, S. P. Snyder, William Killgore and H. C. Laybourn. The charter has since been given up.
New Burnside has the distinction of having a resident who has not missed attending a Sunday School in thirtytwo years, Mr. H. C. Laybourn. (Since died.)
Belknap like most of the other towns of our county sprang up with the building of the Big Four Railroad, perhaps a little later than those north of it. It is situated in the southern extension of Cache Township and near the Massac and Pulaski county lines. John Shadrick, W. D. Deans and J. P. West were possibly the first merchants there, established about 1874. W. L. Williams opened a store there in 1876 and has no doubt been a resident and business man there longer than any other person. There were several saw mills in and near the town in its early settlement. George Morgan operated a saw mill there in 1875. W. L. Williams and W. D. Deans built a flour mill in Belknap in 1877. Since the timber has been cleared and wheat is raised in such small quantities saw and flour mills are no longer profitable. W. P. Brown, L. L. Oglesby and J. C. DeWitt were business men in Belknap in 1881. James R. Evers was a resident there in 1889, also W. L. Currey, W. B. Carter and W. A. Burns. In 1900 Belknap had a population of 500. O. P. Martin was the doctor for Belknap and the surrounding country for many years. Other physicians located there, remained a short time, and moved elsewhere, but Dr. Martin was a part of Belknap. There are at present six stores, two restaurants, four churches, namely, Christian, Methodist, Baptist and Pentacostal; one modern brick school building in which the grades and two years high school are taught. The present population of this village is 400. [page 291] The Charcoal Chemical Co., is situated within a short distance of the town and operated by Berger Brothers of Chicago.
This miniature city is situated about ten miles east of Vienna, on the Illinois Central Railroad. It was built on the farm of J. M. Simpson in 1888, and took its name from the Simpson family which was without doubt one of the first to come to this county. Some of the founders of this thriving little place, were Thomas Veach, Dr. J. T. Looney Thomas W. and Frank M. Jones, Benjamin Williams, J. W. Browning, John Whiteside, John L. Mount, W. E. Jenkins, Dr. T. B. Kerley, L. H. and Authur Compton. A bank was organized in Simpson in 1910, with J. E. Canas president and Charles W. Lancaster as cashier. This bank was sold and in 1919 the State Bank of Simpson was organized with T. B. and D. R. Kerley and J. W. Reynolds as promoters. There was a fine, small flour mill which was built in 1890 and operated by J. B. Kuykendall and J. F. Wright. It was called the Daisy Roller Mill. It burned 1917. Simpson was incorporated as a village in 1893, and had a population in 1900 of 187. In 1910 it had reached 200, and now has 171 inhabitants. They have one church, Baptist in denomination, one hotel, five stores, a Ford Sales store and garage, and J. W. Reynolds has operated a monument factory there since 1890.
Cypress is a neat and thriving village situated on the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad, about seven miles southwest of Vienna, in the heart of the best farming country in the county. It was built on a portion of J. H. Lowery's farm, and began to develop about 1898. Lincoln Green Post Office which had been established near this place many years ago, and was first called Gray's Mill, was moved to Cypress. The town probably took its name from the tall cypress trees that grew near it in Cache bottom. It was the home of William Whitemore, Sr., who was a prominent citizen here during the Civil War. The population is about 500. There are many pretty homes in Cypress. They have two physicians, Dr. William Thompson and Dr. P. W. Rose, one bank, Farmers and Merchants [page 292] State, which was organized in 1908. They also have a splendid school with a two year high school course, housed in a modern brick building, one lumber yard, two churches, two hotels, several stores and restaurants. This is the junction of the Joppa Branch with the main line of Chicago and Eastern Illinois rail road.
Reevesville takes its name from W. and A. Reeves, who were first to see the possibility -of a town at this place. They built a box house there about 1888 and opened a dry goods store. They were instrumental in having the town platted. It was called Wellington in the beginning, but Reevesville being the name of the Post office, the town finally became Reevesville too. Reeves Brothers also operated a saw mill there for several years. In the year 1890 it had a population of 100. It is located on the Illinois Central railroad in the southeast section of the county and is the junction of the Golconda branch with the Paducah Division of this railroad.
Ozark is a small village in Burnside Township, located on the Illinois Central Railroad, and was founded about 1888. Some of its first settlers and business men were F. M. Barnwell, M. M. Sullins, Rev. J. L. Morton was the first Postmaster and James Haley was the village blacksmith. Hopewell Baptist Church was moved there in 1891 and is now known as the First Baptist Church of Ozark. It is not incorporated and has a population of about 125. Some of the present merchants are Dewey McCormick, J. W. Harper & Son, Green Sullins, J. R. Barker, C. C. Sullins and Walter Keener. The Bank of Ozark was organized in 1921 with Green Sullins, J. W. Burnett, W. S. Brim, L. M. Smith, Otto E. Stout, C. P. 0,Neal, R. F. Taylor, J. R. Barker, J. W. Rushing as promoters and J. O. Moore as cashier. Ozark is one of the main shipping points for fruit in this county, the Fruit Growers Co-Operative Warehouse is located here.
This little village is one of the oldest in the county having been a post office as early as 1819. The first post [page 293] master there was S. J. Chapman, who tradition says, tried to make it the county seat as it was near the geographical center of the county. Daniel Simpson kept tavern in Bloomfield, 1824. It was on the old Jonesboro and Golconda road, but it never had more than one store and a postoffice, and these may not have been exactly at the present location, as country post offices were moveable. Jonathan Waters who came here from North Carolina and settled on what is now the Bloomfield stock farm, owned by Mr. Rupert, laid out the town on his land soon after the Big Four Railroad was completed through that section. Francis Cooper kept the fiist store there. Hiram Worley erected a building and put in a store about 1875, which was first owned by the Grange, a farmers organization of the county. Worley finally took over the store and continued business there until his death. He also kept the postoffice. James Powell who was a chairmaker was another old resident. J. B. Morray, Jr., lived just west of the town on the old road. Some other business men were S. T. Williams, W. H. Mangum, N. G. Growder who kept a blacksmith shop there for many years. More recent merchants were W. G. Whiteside, T. C. Taylor and N. Davis. Some later residents were W. I. and W. D. Dill, W. H. Jobe, J. L. Pfleuger, resided there many years; P. F. Fitzgerald has also been a long time resident. There are about six or eight dwellings, one store, kept by W. G. Whiteside, a Methodist Church, and a public school building at present. The first resident physician was Dr. Wm. Thompson, who moved there about 1874 continuing his work for about twenty years. Dr. R. A. Hale who was a graduate of the Louisville Medical College, and of the Missouri Medical College at St. Louis, located there about 1895 and practiced there until his death.
Ridenhower was a settlement on the land of H. M. Ridenhower, Jr., where the Belknap road crosses the Big Four Railroad, consisting of a store, sawmill, and a few residences. It was given the name of Collinsburg, but the state department refused to allow this name used, it being so much like like Collinsville. This village has long been abandoned.
Ganntown is a neighborhood center in the southeast part of the county with a few nearby homes, a church, a [page 294] Masonic lodge and an Eastern Star Chapter. It took its name from William Gann on whose farm it is situated.
West Vienna is a station on the C. & E. I. Railroad, situated about four miles west of Vienna, and is the nearest point from Vienna to this railroad. It is the junction of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and the Chicago and Eastern Illinois Railroad. They have one school, a church, two stores and 75 inhabitants. The post office is named Boles from a family by that name living there several years ago. The village was settled about 1899.

Extracted 12 Apr 2016 by Norma Hass from 1925 History of Johnson County written by Mrs. P. T. Chapman, page 282-294

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