Early Settlers of Arrowsmith, Illinois

So far as the facts in regard to the earliest settlement in this township are at hand. it seems that the sons of Jonathan Cheney were the first to take up claims and live in what is now Arrowsmith. The land around the head of the timber was attractive on account of its grass. All around the old Indian fort, the blue-grass had come in after the prairie-grass had been killed out. The first year of Jonathan Cheney’s residence in the county, he had driven his cattle here for late pasturage. Undoubtedly attracted by this fine pasturage, his sons, when they began to look out homes for themselves, looked this way, for, in 1533, two or three of them had taken claims in this township. Thomas lived for a while in Section 31, where he had a little patch of about ten acres fenced in. He did not remain on it long, however, as a few years after be sold it to Daniel Hall, and joined his brother Owen, in Padua, in building a mill. He afterward went to California. Cassel Bank,. father of Marks Banks, of Padua, rented this land one year.

David Hall came here about 1837, and settled on this land in Section 31. Here h e and his sons, Pryor and Daniel, built their cabins, and remained here until the old gentleman died. Pryor removed to California, and Daniel, Jr., died here, his children living around here. Their sister married Mr. Maurice. William Cheney took up the land in Section 30 about the same time, and, in 1835, Abijah Westover came from New York and bought Cheney’s claim, and, in 1839, married a daughter of Aaron Hildreth. About 1850, he went to California, and thence to Australia and returned, and finally settled down in Johnson County, Mo. His wife still remains here, and keeps the hotel at Arrowsmith, and is now the oldest resident of this township, having come here with her father in 1836. Her daughter married Mr. Cundiff, and lives on the Mackinaw, and her son Sherman is engaged in the grain and lumber trade at Arrowsmith.

Aaron Hildreth came here from Lewis County, N. Y., in 1836, and settled in Section 31. He had three sons and two daughters; one daughter married Abijah Westover, as stated above, the other married Hillery Ball, of Cheney’s Grove; both are still living. The sons went West, and Charles married Miss Owens, and remained on the homestead for many years, a prosperous and successful farmer. When he died, he had 600 acres of land. Aaron Hildreth died here in 1851, and his wife in 1849. A. C. Jones came here from Ohio, in 1839, and settled on the line between this town and Padua. For some years his residence was across the line on Section 25 of the latter; afterward he lived on this side of the township line. His daughter married Mr. Cline, who was the first one to engage in business at the station here, after the railroad was built, and still continues a prosperous merchant. Mr. Jones had five sons, who are all dead; two of whom died in the service of their country. He now lives in the village, a hale and hearty old man, enjoying the advantages of a frugal life commenced in the privations which are consequent on settlement in a new country. He has seen the wide prairie of Arrowsmith changed into productive farms. Samuel Arrowsmith, the father of the present race of that goodly name, came to this county with his three sons, Ezekiel, John and Henry, and made his home a little west of the present town. Ezekiel came here onto the farm he now resides on, in 1842, in Section 30. He has 2311 acres of land. He was the first Supervisor of the town, and is esteemed one of her best citizens. His house was early the place of religious meetings in this part of the township, and his early interest in the prosperity of religion has not been chilled by the increase of his worldly interests. All these were in the southwestern corner of the town, that being the first inhabited in consequence of the nearness of the woodland. St. Clairville was the voting precinct, and these worthies, that is, the masculine and mature portion of them, had to go there to develop the highest prerogative o£ the backwoodsman, to vote for “Tippecanoe,” or little” Van Van Van.” No one of them in this ” neck of the woods ” ever got a chance to vote for Jackson.

The handiest mill to the settlement was that built by Thomas and Owen Cheney. Others before them had put up mills, and used the common prairie boulders, yclept nigger-heads.” The Cheneys were progressive men, and would have nothing but the very best buhr stones. So they sent a team to St. Louis to bring them in. Chicago could not furnish any such material in those days.

Mr. John B. Thompson, after his marriage in 1541, made his home with his father-inlaw, and, some years after, his aged father gave up his home on the Mackinaw and came here, and spent his last days with hint. Mr. Thompson commenced selling goods at the place which was known as ” Nasby’s Cross Roads” about 1860, and for a time did a large business there, selling $ 20,000 worth per year. He also kept the Lenox Post Office, which had been kept by private families about there for thirty years. When Arrowsmith village was begun, lie moved his store and post-office here in 1873. Abram Stansbery was the old mail-carrier, who long supplied the Lenox office and carried the mail from Bloomington on horseback to Cheney’s Grove and thence on to Danville.

One of the Indian burying grounds of the Old Town was in Arrowsmith, and Mr. Thompson tells how, for a long time, people used to dig up the Indian remains to get the silver trinkets that were buried with them, such desecration being continued as long as there were any trinkets to be found. No law was supposed to exist against this resurrection, as under the old-time notion, this was the “white man’s country.” About this time, the settlement at Cheney’s Grove on the east began to swell over the township line. In 1838, William Arbogast commenced a farm on Section 13, where he lived until his death. Of his children, one, J. L. Arbogast, remains on the homestead which his father made into a farm, the rest having found homes in Kansas.

Jacob Smith, who has for more than thirty years been recognized as a prominent man here, having several times been elected Supervisor and frequently to other important township offices, came into this township to live in 1844, and took up the land in Section 24, south from and opposite the Arbogast place, where he now lives. He had wandered around a good deal. He came to the Mackinaw Timber in 1833, with his mother; went back the next year to Indiana. The next year, returned, and, a year after, made his home at Cheney’s Grove, where, for years, he worked the land of the patroon until he saved enough to enter a little land of his own, when he came to his present farm. He has been fortunate. rather it should be said. careful, in his matters; though not as greatly prospered in his family as many of those hardy old pioneers who can point to a dozen or more children and three or four score of grandchildren. Of his seven children, three only survive.

Garrett V. Wall came here from Vermilion County in the winter of 1845, and took land in Sections 19 and 20, in the west part of the township. He married here and lived there thirteen years, when he sold out and went to Kansas. He returned and has since lived at the village, carrying on his trade. He is a Mason. a man of large information and good abilities.

Elias Owens, from Ohio, in 1848, bought a house of Thomas Martin near Le Roy, and moved it to a farm east of Hildreth’s, and Thomas Fry and Gabriel Stein came into Section 19 in 1850. Owens is dead. Fry went to Old Town, and Stein to Missouri. By this time, 1851, the passage of the bill to build the Illinois Central Railroad through Bloomington, closed to market all land lying between the west line of this township and Bloomington, and, of course, every one who wanted to buy land near the latter, then a growing young town, rushed into the towns of Range 5 in a hurry. The entire town soon filled up. Its history from that time (except what refers to the village) is a continued story of prosperity. The hills and the valleys send forth the story of plenty, and the barns and houses show that the men of Arrowsmith have made good use of the natural resources of this goodly land. There are many excellent farms, a short notice of a few only can find room here.

John Marsh came here with little but energy and good judgment, about 1850. He owns 700 acres of land near the head of the Sangamon, with good out-buildings and one of the best houses in town. He keeps about five hundred sheep and trades largely in cattle, feeds a few, and raises grain. The farm is well watered and neatly and successfully managed.

S. T. Bane, joining him on the west, also along the river, running up to the township line, has about six hundred acres with good buildings. He feeds cattle, and is a good farmer, having as good a farm as one need wish for. He has been there about twenty years.

John Slingoff has half a section in Section 34. He is a grain farmer, and with several children whose help he uses, manages to work his broad acres well, and produces some few thousands of bushels each year to sell.

A. C. Hazele, on Section 34, has a good grain farm, fair buildings and good surroundings. He is a good farmer and good manager.

T. W. Maurice, on Section 21, has 240 acres. A nice grain farm with good barn and comfortable house. He is a good farmer, thrifty, intelligent and successful.

David Hileman has 260 acres in Section 22 and adjoining it. Has lived on the land from its first cultivation; is a clean, neat farmer; has good buildings, hedges, etc. He is a public-spirited man and good citizen.

Philip Hileman, on Section 20, has a fine grain farm of 280 acres, with fine house and good crops, almost universally.

Anderson Young lives in the village; his farm is just northeast of his residence. One-fourth of the village was laid out on his quarter-section. Good building and a good farmer. He has a very fine tract of land.

I.C., A. S. and T. P. Bane have 580 acres in Sections 3 and 10, fine rolling land, well improved and well cultivated. They are enterprising, thriving, industrious young men. They have been in the habit of working and trading together, but the former, now married, concluded to be satisfied with his more recent partnership, as it promises to be a success. They have dealt largely in cattle.

Sabina Sackett has a fine farm in and adjoining Section 17. He is a first-rate farmer, has a nice house and says he is bound “to have one of them ‘ere thing ” called a barn, and is putting up one of the best in town. He has fed cattle some, but does not make it the chief business.

Ezekiel Arrowsmith has 200 acres where he has so long resided, and is considered one of the best farmers.

M. Pemberton, in Section 27, has a large farm-grain and stock; is also engaged in buying and shipping.

James R. Cundiff has 136 acres in Section 27, with good building. He has five acres of black-walnut grove now growing. They stand about one rod apart. He considers them the best timber to raise on the prairie, especially on dry land, for the reasons they grow quick, nothing will kill them out, timber very valuable, and the nuts when people become accustomed to them-will find good market. Mr. C. is a good deal more than three-quarters right.


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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