I came to Calhoun in 1844, the year of the highest water ever known by man on the Illinois river. I am the son of Isaac Whisman, my grandfather, Michael Whisman, was the first white settler of north Calhoun. In 1818 he built the first cabin between Hamburg and Kampsville, there was not a house between Hamburg and Kampsville, nor was there either a house in Hamburg or Kampsville and only five families living in the county. Major Roberts next settled in Point precinct in 1819. Next came Ebenezer Smith, father of Augustus Smith and two other families were John Shaw and Richard Dillon. A little later, about 1840, a Mr. Bushnell built the first house in Kampsville. It was a board shack located just west of where the old Jew-store stands, now occupied by Mr. Munzen-brock. The second man to build a house was Stephen G. Farrow and it was just west of where the elevator now stands in Captain Bird Farrow’s field. This use was a double log cabin. I had the honor of being at this house raising, there being only four men, namely, Stephen O. Farrow, Mr. Bushnell, Isaac Whisman and my grandfather, Michael Whisman. I remember seeing them roll the logs upon the building on skids by putting a rope over the building and hitching a yoke of oxen to the rope and the rest was easy.
William Farrow laid out the town of Farrowtown, now Kampsville. Esq. Jacob Ansell plotted the town and surveyed it into lots. A Mr. Ritter was one of the chain carriers this was about 1855 or 1856. Wm. Farrow kept the first store in Kampsville, the next was Benedict Sutter and then Phillip Ammott opened a store in 1866 during business in a flat boat but in 1867 he sawed the boat into and pulled it out of the river on the land using it for some time. A few years later, Capt. M. A. Kamp bought out Wm. Farrow and by his thrift and energy has built up Kampsville more than any other man in the town. Capt. M. A. Kamp is an old business man in north Calhoun. He conducted his first store on Silver Creek about 1863 and later turned over the merchandising business to his son, Jos. A. Kamp, who now conducts an up-to-date store in Kampsville.
The writer, Geo. W. Whisman, was early identified with the business of store keeping. I opened my first store on Silver Creek in 1860 but when the Civil War broke out in 1861, I sold out my goods and joined the army. I enlisted October 29, 1861, and was mustered out September 8th, 1865, the war being over, these facts, my military record which is on file in Hardin will show to be true.
Calhoun was much prairie as late as 1850. Grass was growing in the Illinois river. The first steamboat that went up the Illinois river was the Divernon. It sank one mile above Kampsville and was wrecked. My grandfather, David Nevius, Sr., bought the cabin and built a house out of it. The Indians that Mr. Totsell spoke about in the paper a few weeks ago were here sure enough. There were two small two small tribes of Indians here up to 1867. They camped at Silver Creek. My grandfather and settled on his first farm at Summit Grove this place is known by us as the “old home” and is now owned by Joseph Hayn of Kampsville and is known, at the present time, as the James Foiles farm. The writer opened up his second store on Fox Creek in 1880. In the early days of Calhoun the business was stave making and the teaming was done with oxen. I remember well seeing the Illinois river in front of Sutter’s store containing much growing grass – some of it four feet tall, I was helping John and Newton Farrow run the ferry and you could see grass for miles north of town.
Children of our present day will scarcely believe this bot is true nevertheless. My only motive in writing this is to give your young people some interesting history of Calhoun county. The facts I have stated are true and I can prove them. Probably I will follow with more.
About 1830-1835, there were only two families in the vicinity of Baytown, now known as Mozier, these two families came here and settled on the land known as Rutger Freesmeyer’s farm and the Dr. Southworth’s farm. Then came Wm. Earvin and his brother-in-law, Alford Walron. They being the first settled on Fox Creek, this county. Mr. Walton was a large land owner in his time, having owned all the land east of the Fox Creek School house, lying in township 8 and 9. He owned, in all, about a half section. About 1840 the first house was built on the Bay, being built on the present site of the Robert Ball’s place. The builder was John Bostie, he opened the first store on the Bay, having built his own store. It stood just where Mr. Garrett’s barn now stands. He quit business in 1846, having sold out to Uncle James Preston. Mr. Preston sold to his nephew, J. B. Rulon, he having conducted a store in Bosties old store, he was a fisherman, by trade, and also Bostie’s store building up to 1850. He was for many years postmaster at Baytown and was a stalwart republican. About 1800 two more gentlemen, namely Jos. Percentia and Chris Jennings, settled in this locality. They came up the bay in a trading boat. The former opened up a store on this boat and the latter purchased staves and cord wood. In 1866 Uncle Nick Pontarn came and settled in Baytown, he was a fisherman, by trade, and also a great and successful grape raiser. Today he has a large vineyard and manufactures wine from the grapes which he grows in his back. The next to settle in this locality was John and Frank Blackaton. These two brothers were considered the two best horsemen on the Mississippi river one time and today they can be found engaged in the same business. A little while later Uncle John Higham settled here and his son is now post-master at Mozier, besides being in the mercantile business at that place. Carry Clendenny, for many years, conducted a general store at this place but lately sold out to C. H. Foiles who now has one of the largest stores in Mozier. Besides this store there are two more here which are run by Mr. Echart and Neal Clendenny. The next to settle in the vicinity of Baytown was Samuel Quigley. He built a log cabin on Capt. John Reed’s farm, known as Uncle Sam Merida’s farm. He having settled here in 1836, in the greatest sugar tree grove in the county. Ye writer bought many a “saucer” cake from him at 15 cents a piece. In 1834 to 1850 Mr. Hitover and Mr. Jones settled here. They came from Vermont and settled at Hillover Springs, the biggest spring in the county. Mr. Hitover started a water mill but never completed it. These men’s remains now rests just east of Delbert Blackorby’s residence, in the old orchard. Uncle Henry Deen, of Ohio, Mr. Gibbs and my grandfather, David Nevius were the next to take up their abode in this locality. Mr. Gibbs settled on the farm now occupied by Uncle Dan Foiles. I have lived to see Baytown grow from a one “board shack” to its present condition and if any one in Calhoun county was to see the first house that was ever built in this vicinity can see the same by visiting the Dr. Southworth farm. It is located in the barnyard. This building was erected between 1880-1888.
In the year 1847 my father and I made our first trip to Newport, now known as Cliffdale, on the Illinois River as we were on our way to Seeley’s Mill on Apple Creek, Greene Creek, Greene County, with a grist of wheat. We had to come here to cross the river on the ferry. We had to come here to cross the river on the ferry. We found a man there who was the first settler and who owned a small flat boat which would only carry one small flat boat which would only carry one wagon at a time . His name was Row Hunnicutt. He ran the ferry for several years and his successor was Capt. Wm. Reed.
The next man to settle down there on the bluff a short distance, was Oliver Piper, John Piper’s grandfather. John now lives in Kampsville. The next settler was Montillman Beemer. His residence was half way between the high bluff, known as Buzzard Roost, which is the highest precipice in the county, and is now owned by J. Nick Perrin of Belleville, Ill. The next settler was Uncle Jordan Peacock. He settled about two miles of the creek and was a large land owner. He owned as good a farm as is on East Panther Creek. The next were Nathan and John White, who settled a little farther up the creek and built good houses.
The first store-keeper was John Retzer who is still conducting a good business in an up-to-date manner. He is also post master at Cliffdale and owns and operates the ferry there. I have voted many times at Newport in the early days, casting my first ballot for President. I lived several years in Carlin precinct. Matt Harlow, one of the oldest settlers, said he and his seven sons attended a presidential election at Newport and all of them voted for Tilden, the Democratic nominee president e for president. I will tell the president generation what a hard time our fathers had to get their wheat ground into flour. From 1840 to 1850 there were only two mills that made flour, one on Apple Creek and the other one at Eldred, Greene County, both water powered mills. The former was owned by Capt. Seeley and the other one by a Mr. Beale who was later succeeded by Henry Beckdol of the county. The people of this neighborhood all went to these mills to get their flour. The first corn meal mill was erected near Newport and was run by oxen. It was built in 1850 between Kampsville and the Silver Creek post office. The owners and builders were Terry Griffin and Tom Fox from Bluffdale, Greene County. This mill stood about 200 yards south of George Lukes’ present home. The next mill was built by Colvin Tinsley in 1854 and was a horse power. It was erected on Silver Creek on the Solomon Thirsten place, now owned by Joseph Benz. These were the only mills built in the vicinity.
In those days there was not much cake or wheat to be eaten. One good old mother would generally bake a short cake or biscuits on Sunday mornings or on Christmas and New Years. On these days we would usually have light bread and a few peach pies and a few “twisters” fried in coon oil, for the old “hazel splitters” were so poor on the mast that, we never got much lard out of them so we had to use oils from coons, and I must say it is the sweetest lard I ever ate, especially the young coons. I will say that the early pioneers had to live on “Ingen Meal” the balance of the time and were glad to get it, for bread in those days was quite an object. In the 30’s and 40’s game was so plentiful here that the people would hardly kill wild turkeys. Deer were plentiful and were much better. I have counted from 10 to 35 deer in one gang, and turkeys from 15 to 50. In the winter time when a big snow was on the ground, father would send me out to club the wild turkeys out of the feed lot to keep them from eating up the corn. The last wild buck that I remember of was killed by my brother Michael M. Whisman and James Dean in 1567. They both fired at the same time with double barrel shot guns, loaded with buck shot. The last bear, it is thought, was killed on the Wm. Sands farm on Crawford Creek now owned by Rep. Walthouser by Mr. Jones in 1846.
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