Calhoun County

1934 History of Calhoun County

Chapter 9 ~ Transportation and Industries


Calhoun County has the unique distinction of being the only county in the state to be without railroads. But a glance at a map of the county will show why this condition prevails. Due to the fact that most of the farms of the county were not far from steamboat landings on either the Illinois or the Mississippi Rivers, the boats were able to handle the crops of the county in a satisfactory manner. Railroad companies hesitated to construct a road because of the hilly and rugged nature of the county, and because of the cost of bridging either the Mississippi or the Illinois River. At the present time the trucks are giving the farmers better service than railroads could ever hope to, so it is not likely that a railroad will ever be built in the county.


Although steamboat navigation began on the Illinois River in 1828, yet we find no record or mention of boats along the Calhoun shore until 1831. It was probably because the early settlers were living back some distance from the river, and no large villages had started near the river. Twichell's Landing was the first stopping place for the boats. The "Utility" stopped there in 1831 after a three day trip from St. Louis. The account of the arrival of the "Argus" in 1833 is told by John Lammy in his short "History of Calhoun County". His account is as follows:

"In the summer of 1833, the Crader family, who were then living two miles north of the present site of Michael, in what is now called Crater Precinct, tell of hearing thundering noises from somewhere down the river, and they were very much alarmed. About the head of Hurricane Island they discovered what they thought to be a house coming up the river against the current. When it got closer they discovered that it was a steamboat by the name of the 'Argus'. The Craders helped the crew cut six or seven cord of wood. Young Jacob Crader hauled the wood to the river with a yoke of oxen and a cart. After 'wooding' the boat, the captain took the Crader family on the boat and took them about four miles up the river and back. The captain of the boat made arrangements whereby it was possible for him to get wood from the Craders each week. The price that they received was a dollar a cord."

In 1835 the "Don Juan" and the "America" began making trips. A few years later the "America" was sunk in the Diamond Island Slough (two miles north of Hardin) due to a collision with the "Friendship", a boat that started in 1836. The "America" remained in the water three or four weeks and was finally pulled out by forty-two yoke of oxen and sixty or seventy men. Most of the men were settlers from the neighborhood.

The freight on these boats consisted of cattle, hogs, corn, and wheat. In 1845 the first grain cradle was used in the county and in 1846 the threshing machine was introduced. After the introduction of these the farmers were able to increase the wheat production.

Until the coming of the hardroads and the trucks, the steamboats offered the only means of getting the produce to the market or of getting supplies from the city. Many of the farmers and their wives would go to the city when their grain or cattle were shipped, and buy supplies for many months to come. During and shortly after the Civil War, steamboating was at its height. Dozens of fine steamers would go up and down the river each day. When the railroads became more numerous, the steamboat business began to decline. Other counties along the rivers did not have to depend upon the boats, but as late as 1925, Calhoun people depended upon the steamboat nearly as much as did the people of twenty-five or fifty years before.


In the year 1834, J. M. Peck wrote a book in which he described all counties and towns of the state, In his article about Calhoun he tells of a canal that was being planned across the county. He says:

"A company has been organized to cut a canal near Gilead to the Illinois River at Guilford. The distance does not exceed three miles and by tunneling a short distance under the bluff, it is said the work can be accomplished at comparatively small cost. This communication would save fifty miles navigation from the Illinois River to the Upper Mississippi, and as the Mississippi is elevated considerably above the Illinois, it would create an immense water power project, which is one of the objects of the company.” None of the early county records or the writings of the early settlers mention this canal, so it is possible that the company was affected by the Panic of 1837, and all plans for the canal dropped.


In the early days of the county the oxen were used for farm work and for hauling grain and logs and wood. One pioneer said: "Ox teams were the rule as horse teams were not considered able to haul loads out of the hills, roll logs, or break new ground". Another said: "The wheels of the wagons used in those days were sawed off ends of large round logs, and nothing but ox teams were known." After the Civil War few, if any, oxen were used by the farmers.


For the first fifty years after Calhoun became a county, the principal industry was that of lumbering. Mr. Pooley in his book "The Settlement of Illinois", says:

"Calhoun at the extreme southern end of the Military Tract was never thickly settled. The lumbering industry in which most of the settlers were interested, tended to make the population an unstable one. Here we have an example of settlement which is an exception to the rule. Primarily the population was one aiming to exploit the lumber resources."

An early settler in speaking of this industry during the Civil War period said:

"Then nearly every man was in some way connected with or interested in the 'lumber business' as it was called. He was either buying, selling, cutting, or boating staves or cordwood or engaged in getting out and rafting logs. Even the well-to-do farmers would make some staves or cord wood during the winter to haul and sell during the summer and fall. By doing this he killed two birds with one stone; cleared the land and raised some money. Stores along the river usually had a sign reading thus: 'Cordwood on the Bank a Legal Tender.' "

Most of the farmers and early settlers had little money so they would take cordwood, poles, or staves to the merchants who would accept them and give the settler goods and wares in exchange. Thousands of cords of wood could be seen piled along the river bank, together with millions of staves and hoop poles. Sometimes the steamboats would take the cordwood and staves to the market, and sometimes smaller boats or barges would transport them to St. Louis or other centers.

When we read the biographies of the early settlers of Calhoun County we find that many of them worked in the lumbering business for several years and with the money that they saved, purchased land for themselves. They would continue to engage in the lumbering business until they had enough land cleared to begin farming. Others bought land immediately upon their arrival in the county and began to clear the land.


There is some doubt as to where the first orchards of the county were planted. John Lammy in his history says that Judge Ebenezer Smith started a small orchard in the year 1819 on his farm about eight miles south of the present site of Hardin. During the past year, a Graduate Student from the University of Chicago wrote his Master's Thesis on the Calhoun apple industry, and in this thesis he says that the first orchard was planted on the farm now operated by Robert and Albert Meyer, at Deer Plain. Another account, written by Mrs. Caroline Dewey, tells of the first orchard as having been planted in the early 40's. She says:

"Just south of us on the place now owned by C. W. Squiers, then owned by a man named Nailor, was an apple orchard, and I do not recall where there was another one in the county. I am informed that some of the old trees are to be seen standing there yet (1903), silent witnesses to the confiscation of lots of their luscious fruits; the original agitators of the warfare that some day in the future, was to be fought between the lumbering interests on one side and the combined interests of horticulture and agriculture on the other side. That orchard was the index of the future greatness of the apple in this county. In the settlement of that warfare, the lumbering interests were banished forever from the county, and the apple crowned king."

It is possible that the orchard mentioned by Mrs. Dewey was the first in that community, and that she did not happen to know about the other orchards which were located south of Hardin or at Deer Plain. Regardless of where the first orchard was planted, we know that many trees were planted before the Civil War, and by 1875 the orchard industry had grown to be very important.


There were a number of industries that had some local importance at different times in the history of the county. One of the most interesting of these was the making of brick in Point Precinct in the early 80's and 90's. A reporter of the Chicago Inter-Ocean visited these works in 1891 and gives us the following description:

"At a place in Point Precinct called Winneburg, is the Thomas Pressed Brick Company. Just as I reached the works, the "Dick Clyde" (a steamboat) was backing out into the current towing barges of pressed bricks, out of which were to be made the St. Louis Water Works. Five years ago, eastern capitalist found that about a small coal mine known as Thomas', there was to be found five excellent varieties of clay strata. A company was organized and there sprang into existence one of the finest brick works in the country. On account of the choice of shades and the excellence of the quality, an eastern market has been gained whose orders are now larger than can be filled."

For several years after the above account was written, the industry flourished, and then began to decline. This was probably due to a lack of a sufficient quantity of clay to supply the huge demands.


A coal mine was started in Point Precinct, near Golden Eagle, as early as 1840. In the year 1882 a mine was being operated in the same neighborhood. But at no time was the mining operations carried on on a large scale. Near Golden Eagle one can still see the small deserted village, once the home of the miners of the neighborhood. At several other places in Point Precinct, mines were opened, but were never successful because the coal was not present in sufficient quantities.


Near Gilead is located what is now known as the Great Salt Spring. In 1835, R. S. Quigley took possession of the spring with a view of utilizing it in the manufacture of salt. He erected a huge frame building and brought machinery from Ohio. In order to get a greater water supply, he bored to a depth of 250 feet. The method of boring, as described by a man who lived near the spring, is as follows:

"A platform wheel was built and placed on a shaft in an inclined position. A yoke of steers were placed upon it and tied by the heads. The wheel was then started and the steers would keep tramping. This kept the wheel fuming horizontally and that furnished the power that did the boring."

At the depth of 250 feet, Quigley struck water that contained little salt but much sulphur. This made the whole affair useless, and Quigley abandoned the place and moved away.


Although milling was not done on a large scale, still it was very important from the standpoint of the settler. The first mill in the county was owned by John Shaw and was located at Gilead. The next mill of any importance was the one built by John Metz, in 1828, at the present site of Brussels. Both of these mills were operated by horsepower.

In 1829, Jacob Crader, Sr., built a water power mill at Cave Spring Hollow, near the present site of Oak Grove. The Indian Creek mill was built in the same year by Samuel Crader and was also operated by waterpower.

The importance of the mills to the settler is told by C. C. Squiers, a pioneer settler:

"There were two or three corn crackers (sometimes called grist mills) and most of them were run by water power, if the ponds did not dry up, which, however they did in the late summer and fall. Then the settlers had some disagreeable experiences. Many a poor man who had a family to provide for, would shell a little corn, put it in a sack, throw over his shoulder, and carry it from three to five miles to one of these corn crackers, only to learn after his arrival there that there was no water in the pond and the mill had shut down. The next thing the man would ask the miller, 'Have you any meal on hand that you can swap for some corn?' Of course the miller would swap and take corn, if he had any meal to spare, but likely as not he could not accommodate the man. In that case the man perhaps could do no better than take his corn to a temporary mortar and pound his corn so that he would have an imitation of meal."


The first Calhoun bank to be established was the Bank of Calhoun County at Hardin. This bank was chartered as a private bank on December 19, 1898, and is was opened for business on February 22, 1899. Elmer E. Williams was the Cashier and is still serving in that capacity. Aloys Bullier and Wm. Fisher have served as assistant cashiers. M. A. Kamp of Kampsville served as the first President of the Bank of Calhoun County, and he was succeeded by Stephen McDonald of Hardin. F. A. Whiteside of Carrollton is serving as President at the present time.

From 1899 to 1907, the bank at Hardin was the only one in the county, but in the next year private banks were established in three other communities. E. E. Williams, the Cashier of the Bank of Calhoun County, was chosen to serve as manager of these three newly established banks. The following men were chosen to serve as Cashiers of these banks: Kampsville, William Suhling; Batchtown, J. F. Tribble; and Brussels, Paul Zigrang.

The Kampsville Bank was reorganized December 20, 1920. Charles Sutter was elected President, E. E. Williams, Vice-President, William Suhling appointed Cashier, and Harry Waldheuser as assistant Cashier. When the Batchtown Bank was reorganized and made a State Bank, E. E. Williams was elect President, and J. F. Tribble was retained as Cashier, with William Zigrang as assistant Cashier. E. E. Williams was also elected President of the Brussels Bank and retained as Manager. Paul Zigrang was retained as Cashier and George Gebben as assistant Cashier.

The Bank of Hamburg was organized May 21, 1907, and the charter is dated October 2, 1907. The first officers of the bank were: J. G. Kinder, President; B. H. Williams, Vice-President; Frank Dirksmeyer, Secretary; and Spencer Waldron, Cashier.

The Hamburg Bank opened for business on October 7, 1907, and closed January 28, 1932. The reason for closing was that the bank was carrying the farmers and apple growers, and the severe hail storm of July 23, 1931 ruined the crop to such an extent that the bank could not collect the notes.

Spencer Waldron served the bank as its Cashier from the date of organization, and Eay De Long served as the assistant Cashier for eleven years.

When the bank closed it had $108,000 on deposit, and loans that totaled $216,000.

Extracted 20 May 2017 by Norma Hass from History of Calhoun County, pages 67-72.

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