Here are reminiscences of pioneer days in Jefferson County, Illinois, recorded when Dr. Gregory (my Great-Grandmother’s grandfather) was alive.
Just who was the first settler in what is now Farrington Township we cannot say, as settlements were made in many adjoining neighborhoods before this, and it is not easy to say just when the first man stepped over into Farrington and pitched his tent. But among the first settlers were the Wellses, Gregorys, Haynies, Abraham Buffington, William B. Johnson, Joseph Norman and others. Berryman and Barney Wells were, perhaps, the first of these; at least, they were here when the Gregorys came. They were from Tennessee, and Berryman Wells settled on Section 14, Barney on Section 8; they have long been dead, but have descendants living in the county. Of the Gregorys, there were Jonathan and Benjamin, who came about 1828-30, and Absalom Gregory, a brother came some two years later. They were all Kentuckians, and settled, Jonathan on Section 23, Benjamin on Section 24, and Absalom on Section 26. They are dead, but still have descendants living, among whom is Dr. L. B. Gregory, the Postmaster General of Logansville, and the model farmer of the township, whose barn is a pattern for all to follow after. The Doctor is quite a stock-raiser, and the extreme docility of his stock, particularly his domestic animals, show the great care and attention they receive from their owner. We have been there and witness that whereof we speak. Dr. Gregory owns some 1400 or 1500 acres of as good land as may be found in Farrington Township. He is one of the self-made men of the country, and deserves great credit for what he is. He began life, as he informed us, without a dime, and what he is he is, indebted to no one but himself. His mind is well stored with incidents of the early history of the county, many of which he regaled us with. He came here but a lad, and his busy life has extended through all the hard times, the trials and hardships to which early settlers were subjected. He delights to tell of the time when he collected nearly the entire revenue of the county in coon skins and deer skins, which were a legal tender. John Allen was then sheriff; the season had been a hard one; people had but small crops; but few had made enough to live on, and as to money, that was an unknown quantity. In this state of affairs Sheriff Allen employed Dr. Gregory to collect the county taxes. Gregory says every farmer in those days, who could raise $8 or $10, would buy a barrel of whisky to sell again (license to sell whisky did not then cost as much as now), and as there was no money, they would take coon skins for whisky. Hence, nearly every man had a large number of coon skins on hand, and these were nearly all these whisky sellers, who were able to pay their taxes. So he collected the biggest part of the taxes in coon skins and deer skins.***
The first road through the township was the Mount Vernon & Maysville road, and the next road leading from Mount Vernon to Xenia. The township is now blest with as good roads as any other portion of the county, and good, substantial bridges span the streams where the principal roads cross them.
As to the educational and religious facilities, not as much can be said as in some other localities. Church edifices are not plentiful, and most of the schoolhouses are a little dilapidated, though there are some new ones, and some that are used for church as well as school purposes.
Dr. Gregory says the first teacher he went to school to was a Mr. Joseph Price, and he thinks it was the first school in the township. The doctor’s description of that school and schoolhouse and his attendance at it is quite humorous. The house, he says, was a pole cabin about sixteen feet square, slab seats, and without any floor except the ground. The fire was built in the middle of the room, and around this “council fire” the pioneer boys and girls attained the wisdom and inspiration to fit them for after life. Dr. Gregory says he wore buckskin breeches and buckskin hunting shirt, and on his way to school of a morning through the rain and snow, his breeches, which were not very well tanned, would get wet and stretch out until they would be down under his feet. But, sitting around the log-heap fire in that old schoolhouse, they would get dry and draw up until they were nearly to his knees, thus displaying his “shapely shins”, which had stood exposure to the elements until they were about like young scaley-barked hickories.
The next schoolteacher after Price was probably Absalom Gregory, an uncle of the present Dr. Gregory, alluded to above. He was followed by elder R. T. Camp, a Baptist preacher, who, notwithstanding his holy calling, was as illiterate and unlearned as the fishermen of Galilee. William Johnson was also an early teacher. Another of the early schoolhouses was built on Horse Creek. It was also a rude log cabin. The next schoolhouse in this portion of the township was built at Farrington. There are now six schoolhouses in the township, some of them good, substantial buildings, and some of them badly needed to be replaced with better one. Farrington township is Democratic in politics. It is not so great a Democratic stronghold as it used to be, mainly through the influence of that old Republican wheel-horse, Dr. Gregory, who says he intends to make it Republican yet, if he lives long enough. According to the late Ohio election, he has an army contract on hand. In 1869, Farrington was made a township. Since then, the following is a list of the township officials. (List has Gregory elected Township Supervisor 1873, 1875, 1879, 1881, 1883; Collector 1872.)***
Logansville, a little northeast of Farrington, consists of the post office of that name and a small store kept by Dr. Gregory. He commenced selling goods here some fifteen or twenty years ago, and about the same time, through the influence of Gen. John A. Logan, then in the United States’ Senate, he got a post office, and honored the “swarthy Senator” by giving it his name. Although rejoicing under the high-sounding name of Logansville, there is no town, nor has there been a town laid out here.
Excerpted from The History of Jefferson County, Illinois, William Henry Perrin, 1883.