Early Settlers of Anchor Illinois

The oldest resident now living in town is John Sharpless. He came from Indiana with a family consisting of wife and five children, and worked a farm two years at Indian Grove. He made an arrangement, as he supposed, to work a piece for Capt. Johnson, at the Mackinaw timber, for the year 1863; but a misunderstanding occurred, and he left. It was late for renting, and the only chance be could get was a half-section of the Stackpole land on Section 18, and, very much against his will, he was obliged to take a prairie farm. He liked it so much better than he expected, that he lives near the same place, on Section 29, now. There was a farm lying near by that had been cropped in 1861, but had lain idle in 1862. The proprietor offered to take one-fifth grain rent for it, but he could not find any one to take. Sharpless gave the usual rent, one-third. There were plenty of deer and wolves at this time, but he did not give much attention to them. He found his time fully occupied on the farm.

After working the land two years, he bought of Jones, where he lives. Sharpless was and is an ardent believer in the Democratic party, and tells how he felt when he attended the first election in this town and put in his day for the good of the cause ; but it proved an up-hill business; for when the votes were all in and duly counted out, there were three Democratic votes to thirty Republicans. He has lived in the town to see it go the other way, however, and feels better. Dr. Sabin, the same year, or the one following, purchased the portion of the Stackpole property upon which the dwelling house stood, and has continued to live there until the present year. He has practiced his profession over this part of the country, and is greatly respected by his neighbors around him.

A. R. Jones, familiarly known as Abe Jones all over the county, commenced here his great farming and cattle-feeding enterprise in 1865.

The demands of the great army of the Union, together with a lively inflation of the currency, had for two years before made cattle-feeding the great rage in McLean County, and almost every farmer in the county had got rich by it. Jones had made some money and wanted to make more; lie bought some 3,000 acres of land, comprising Section 27, three-quarters of Section 28, five-eighths of Section 29, 520 acres in Section 24, half of Section 15, half of Section 10, one-quarter of Section 14, one-quarter of Section 34 and eighty acres in Section 26 ; a considerable portion of this was the Stackpole land.

Jones lived on Section 27, and there erected a steam-mill to grind feed for his cattle, and built two large barns 28×225 feet each, two stories high, sufficient to stall 300 cattle; these lie kept filled with cattle as long as lie could afford it on a constantly declining market. He sold his mill to John Shorthase, who removed it to Danvers. His barns were cut up into sections and sold off. He at one time sold all his land to persons at a contract to pay twenty-five bushels of corn per acre for ten years. The parties failed to fulfill, and he had to cancel the contracts. He afterward moved to Towanda, and died in 1878. His great farming operations did not entirely use him up financially, but must have crippled him considerably.

A. S. Dart came here the same year and built a house on Section 29. John Ingrain came here from Canada and bought forty acres from Jones in 1566, and Nathaniel Brinley bought the west half of Section 29, and built on it in 1867.

During these two years, the township pretty nearly all settled up. Henry Gilstrap came from White Oak Grove and settled on Section 6 : he afterward moved to Kansas. Moses H. Knight, a preacher of the Christian Church, also settled on Section 6, where he afterward died, much respected by all who knew him. R. H. Arnold, from White Oak Grove, and W. H. Anderson and F. M., his brother, came from Martin township and settled on the same section. D. B. Stewart; of Chicago, purchased Section 5, upon which is situated ” Cunningham’s Bunch,” the only natural grove in the township, and an adjoining section in Cropsey. He is largely engaged in the hay trade, running a press and shipping his hay to all parts of the country. “Side-Hill Dick,” a colored man, famous in this region as the only man in existence who is taller on one side than the other, is in Mr. Stewart’s employ. Mr. Stewart once sent a lot of hay to Providence. R. I., for which he failed to get any return. He thinks trusting Providence may have been a good thing at one time in the history of the country, but thinks times have changed-in Providence.

J. T. Tanner came here in 1869, and has a fine farm in Section 8. He is the present Supervisor and has been a Justice of the Peace. He is an intelligent man. Can show as good a farm as one need see. J. C. Swatsley, for many years Town Clerk, came here from Metamora, Woodford County, where he bad long been engaged in school teaching, and took up a farm in Section 11. He is a man of superior education. and his record as Clerk shows a careful man, so rarely found in the township offices, which often show a great lack of skill and care. He has an excellent farm.

Maj. J. B. T. Mann, an officer in the Mexican war, commenced to plant a nursery here on Section 4, in company with his brother W. 11. Mann, Esq., of Gilman. The hedge-plant business was a large one for a few years, and for a time the raising and selling of nursery stock was a good business.

J. B. Pierce came from Danvers to Section 28, about 1868, where he still resides. He is a man of large intelligence, and has taken a lively interest in the religious and educational affairs of his town.

John N. King commenced a farm in Section 22, about the same time. He is, as his place shows, one of the best farmers in the town. His buildings are neat and nicely painted, and his farm looks tidy and neat. The same year, John 1′. Worley .settle d on Section 14, where lie still resides.

At the first town meeting held in Cropsey Township, this town was divided on the half section running through Sections 4, !), etc., for some reason which does not now appear very plain, and on this line is the principal bridge over the Mackinaw, an iron one built by the county in 1570, the two post offices in the town, and the principal road of travel from Potosi on the north, to Saybrook on the south. There are five other bridges over this stream, and their early history is that of all bridges on Western prairie streams-having the habit of frequently going off when most wanted. Latterly, the citizens have learned by experience to build them more permanently. There is no store in town, Saybrook being the principal trading point, although those living in the northern part find Potosi a convenient point. No township debt oppresses the taxpayers of Anchor, although the record is evidence that it is not their felt that they have not now heavy railroad taxes to pay. They repeatedly voted to donate the Decatur & State Line Railroad all they asked, to build a road through the town, but the possibilities of that railroad were burned up in the Chicago fire. The citizens living in the northern portion of the town arc now, under the lead of Mr. Stewart, pushing forward the enterprise known as the Clinton, Bloomington & -Northeastern Railroad, with an anticipated station on Section 5.

Corn is the principal crop, and probably will remain so. The farmers feed their crop liberally to hogs ; a few feed cattle. A great deal of corn is drawn to Saybrook, which is the market for this town. A few have been raising flax, with good yield, and an occasional crop of wheat is raised. Oats are generally considered a good crop.

Until 1877, this town and Cropsey were together in political organization. A little unfriendliness had grown up ; there did not seem to be any convenient common center for holding town meetings, and a little strife was known to exist between the north and south ends on town affairs. In 1576, a petition was presented to the Board of Supervisors, signed by many of the principal citizens, asking to have the town divided. The Board granted the petition, and at the suggestion of George R. Back, who was then Supervisor, the new town was named Anchor. What small debts there were, were equitably divided, and the township ” property,” consisting of a record-book and Clerk’s desk, were parted between them, Cropsey taking the desk and Anchor the book. Since the setting-off of Anchor, the following township officers have been elected : Supervisors, G. It. Buck and J. T. Tanner ; Clerk, J. C. Swatsley ; Assessors, S. P. Howell, J. C. Swatsley; Collector, A. Claypool; Justices, J. T. Tanner, C. M. Grapes ; Commissioners of Highways, A. Crotinger, H. A. Thompson. The town has usually been Republican. .

No citizen of Cropsey or Anchor has ever been elevated to political or judicial office of the county or State. While this is not strange, and by the citizens themselves not regretted, as they have not been “seeking office,” and, with all the reforms which have been instituted, the time has not come yet when the office seeks the man in all cases, still it is a little singular that two of the local clergy who resided here, moved into adjoining counties to be soon sent to the Legislature. Mr. A. J. Cropsey moved to Livingston County, and was in 1862, elected to the Legislature, and Rev. J. I. Robinson, who, in 1869, moved to Ford County, was, in 1874, elected to that body by the Republicans of Ford and Livingston counties.

There are two post offices in Anchor, established about two years ago. Both are served twice a week by the mail carrier’s line running through from Fairbury to Saybrook. Garda Post Office, which received its name from the famous Italian lake, is at the house of C. W. Kingsley on Section 9, near the iron bridge, and Dart Post Office, at the house of Samuel Cary, on Section 33.

The farms show generally good management, clean culture and thrift. There are many which are worthy of special notice.

C. W. Kingsley has 180 acres in Section 9. When he came onto it, in 1868, it was raw prairie, and he has made it one of the finest in the town. He has good buildings, neat and tastefully arranged grounds, good hedges, a nice orchard and good stock.

A. Crotinger, on Section 32, has 240 acres under good cultivation, with nice buildings and comfortable surroundings.

I. N. King has a beautiful place of 160 acres, in Section 22; everything looks neat and pleasant.

Thomas Hargett, Samuel Carey and David Warren have each a quarter section, on Section 33, with large houses and good grounds.

James Parr has 240 acres in Section 35, which is a good farm, and with a fine house. It would seem that the farmers of Anchor have little to wish to make them contented and happy.


Le Baron, William., Jr. & Co. The History of McLean County, Illinois: portraits of early settlers and prominent men. Chicago. W. Le Baron, Jr., 1879.

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