Monroe County, Illinois
This history was extracted from the following book on:
Combined History of Randolph, Monroe and Perry Counties, Illinois
Published by J. L. McDonough & Co.
In the year 1786 the first settlements at New
Design seem to have been made. The name is said to have arisen from the
circumstance that James
Lemen (click here to read funeral sermon of James Lemon), the founder of the colony, observed that
he had a "new design" to make a settlement south of Bellefontaine.
The New Design settlement, previous to 1800, contained the largest
American colony in Illinois. It
was the common rendezvous of the immigration from Kentucky and Virginia,
and with Bellefontaine, the head quarters of the whole American
population in the last century. Its
founders were attracted by the elevated and beautiful country, then
prairie, afterward overgrown with timber, from which the courses of both
the Kaskaskia and the Mississippi could be traced.
The settlement rapidly increased in size, and by the year 1790 a
considerable number of families had here made their homes.
In 1800 the population is estimated to have been two hundred and
fifty. The location of
James Lemen's house, on survey 395, claims 502, about four miles south
of Waterloo, nearly marked the centre of the colony.
James Lemen was born in Berkeley county, Virginia,
in the autumn of 1760. His
grandfather had emigrated to America from the north of Ireland. His father died when James was a year old.
His mother married again and he was raised in the Presbyterian
faith. In 1777, during the
war of the Revolution, he enlisted in the Virginia forces. He took part
in the battle of White Plains. He
served in the army two years, and then returned to Virginia.
He lived for a time in the vicinity of Wheeling, and there
married Catherine Ogle, daughter of Captain Joseph Ogle.
He came to Illinois in 1786, arriving in July, of that year, with
his family by a flat boat from Pittsburg, on the Ohio and Mississippi
rivers to Kaskaskia. After James Smith, a Baptist preacher, arrived and preached
in the New Design settlement, Mr. Lemen professed religion, and
thenceforth he was an active member of the Church.
He was an earnest opponent of slavery, and mere expressions of
his in a sermon preached in the Richland church in 1809, caused the
division that sprang up between the Baptist churches of southern
Illinois. He was Justice of the Peace for many years under the
Territorial government, and also acted as Judge of the County Court.
His first dwelling was a log cabin, and he afterwards built a
brick house, which is still standing, and which was the first brick
house erected within the limits of the present county of Monroe.
His house stands on the northwest part of claim 502, survey 395.
This tract was conceded to James Lemon in right of his militia
service. The building is
thirty by twenty feet, and contains four rooms, two above and two below.
Near by is the grave yard where rests the remains of several
members of the Lemen family and other pioneers of that settlement.
Elder James Lemen died on the 9th of January, 1823.
His wife died July 14, 1840, aged seventy-five-years.
James Lemen raised a large family of children; six if his sons
were preachers of the gospel; one, Robert, taught school a number of
years, and was of great benefit to the settlement.
James, who was born at the New Design, in 1787, was elected to
several important public positions.
He served several times in both branches of the State
Legislature, and was a delegate from St. Clair county to the convention
which framed the first constitution of the state.
Early in the present century Robert, Joseph, and James Lemen,
Jr., removed to the Ridge prairie, in St. Clair county, and there made
Captain Joseph Ogle was one of the pioneers of New
Design. He was born in
Virginia in 1744. He
commanded a company of Virginia troops during the Revolutionary war,
holding a commission as captain from Patrick Henry, then Governor of
Virginia. He came to
Illinois from the neighborhood of Wheeling, Virginia, in 1785.
With him came Joseph Worley, and James Andrews.
He was a man of untiring energy, and strong will power, in his
honor one of the counties of the State received its name.
He professed religion under the preaching of the Rev. James
Smith, at New Design in 1787, and was appointed leader, by the Rev.
Joseph Lillard, in 1793, of the first Methodist class ever formed in
Illinois. Members of the
Ogle family removed from New Design, and in 1796 made a settlement in
the American Bottom, near where the road from Bellefontaine to Cahokia
descended the bluff.
In 1802 Captain Ogle made one of the pioneer
locations in the Ridge prairie, near the present town of O'Fallon, in
St. Clair county, where he resided till his death, in 1821.
His descendants reside in St. Clair county.
In the year 1793 the most numerous colony Illinois,
so far, had received settled in and around, the New Design. This colony embraced families by the name of Whiteside,
Griffin, Gibbons, Enochs, Chance, Musick, and Going.
In it were many daring, enterprising, and influential men, whose
arrival was hailed with great satisfaction by the other settlers, who
were anxious to strengthen the colony against attacks of the Indians. The Whitesides were born and raised in North Carolina.
They subsequently settled at Whitesides' station, southeast of
Joseph Kinney also reached the New Design
settlement in 1793. He
raised a crop during the summer of that year and then returned to
Kentucky for his family, which he had left on Bear Grass creek, seven
miles from Louisville. From
the site of Louisville he descended the Ohio to Fort Massacre, from
which place he crossed the country to Kaskaskia, and from there came to
New Design settlement. He
lived on the Rock Horse creek until his death, in 1903.
He had seven sons and four daughters, who grew to years of
maturity. One of his
daughters married Mr. Demint, in Kentucky, in 1792. Dement came to Illinois, and made a farm southeast of New
Design. (In section eighteen, township three, range nine.) He was a pious man, and a good citizen. One Sunday morning, while bridling his horse, to go to
meeting, the horse kicked him so severely that he died.
This occurred in the year 1811.
Andrew Kinney, son of Joseph Kinney, built a water
mill on the site of Monroe city. The
youngest daughter married Joseph Lemen, 1809.
She had no education, whatever, at the time of her marriage, but
went to school afterward, learned to read and write, and became the
mother of a large and respectable family of children.
William Kenney was born in Kentucky, in 1781, and was nearly
thirteen when he came to Illinois with his father.
At nineteen he married. In
1803 he removed to a place a few miles northeast of the present city of
Belleville. In 1809 he
opened a store on his farm and at that time could barely write. He became interested in religion, was baptized in 1809, and
afterward became a member of the Baptist ministry. He was several times elected to, from St. Clair county, to
the State Legislature, and in 1826 became Lieutenant-Governor of the
State. He died in 1843.
Robert McMahan, a native of Virginia, came to
Illinois, from Kentucky, in 1793, and settled at New Design.
The next year he selected a location for a farm southeast of New
Design, in what is now known as the Yankee Prairie.
Here several members of his family were murdered by Indians on
the twenty-sixth of January, 1795.
The circumstances of this affair are elsewhere related. This massacre took place on the northeast quarter of section
nineteen, township three, range nine, about a mile west of Burksville
station. McMahan removed to
Ralls' ridge, in Randolph county, and thence to the vicinity of Troy,
in Madison County, where he died in 1822.
In the years 1796 and 1797 important additions were
made to the New Design settlement.
Solomon Shook and Mr. Borer arrived from Virginia in 1796, and
the next year witnessed the coming of a large colony form the country
adjacent to the south branch of the Potomac in Hardy county, Virginia.
A year or so previous David Badgeley, Leonard Carr, Daniel
Stookey, Abraham Eyeman, Mr. Whetstone and Abraham Stookey, made the
journey to Illinois from Virginia on horseback and thoroughly explored
the country with the view of selecting a good location for their
neighbors in Virginia. David
Badgeley, who was a Baptist preacher, held religious meetings in the
The summer of 1797 was uncommonly wet and rainy,
and the streams between Fort Massacre and Kaskaskia were all swollen
beyond their banks. After
arranging their wagons and horses and making all things ready for the
journey, they set out from Fort Massacre for New Design.
The ravages of disease carried off almost one-half of this
Virginia colony during the first summer and fall of their arrival.
The prevailing sickness was a malignant fever supposed to be
contagious. Scarcely a
household but mourned the loss of one or more of its members.
After 1797 the country was healthy, and that part
of the colony which remained did well, and furnished many valuable
citizens. The Carr, Stookey,
Eyeman, Shook, Mitchell, Clark, Badgeley, Teter, Miller and other
families left numerous and respectable descendants.
About 1800 many, among whom were Edward and Thomas Todd, moved
from New Design to the American Bottom.
The neighborhood of the present city of Belleville in St. Clair
county received a number of early settlers from this colony.
David Badgeley was one of the earliest Baptist
ministers in Illinois. During
his first visit in 1797 he preached in the settlement from he 4th
to the 30th of May, and baptized fifteen persons.
Among the settlers was Joseph Chance who had been set apart as a
lay elder in Kentucky. He
and Elder Badgeley organized, with twenty-eight members, the first
Baptist Church in Illinois. It
was called the New Design Church. James
Smith, a Baptist preacher from Kentucky, preached here in 1787, and
Joseph Lillard, a Methodist, in 1793.
John Clark, a Scotchman by birth, who had followed the seas in
early life, and in 1781 had been pressed into service on board a British
man-of-war, which lay off Charleston harbor, and had swam ashore at the
risk of his life, rather than fight the Americans, came to Illinois in
1797, and both preached and taught school at New Design.
He is said to have been the first preacher of the gospel to cross
the Mississippi and preach to the Americans west of the river, a
proceeding contrary to the regulations of the Roman Catholic Spanish
government of Upper Louisiana. Elder
Joseph Chance, who with David Badgeley, organized the pioneer Baptist
church in Illinois, was bon in Delaware in 1765.
He removed to North Carolina, thence to Kentucky, and in 1794
came to Illinois. One of
the earliest movements in Illinois toward forming a Bible Society was
made at New Design.
The first American school teacher in Illinois was a
resident of the New Design settlement, and there taught his first
school. This was John
Seeley. He first came to
Illinois in 1783. An early
physician named Wallace attended to the sick at New Design in 1797.
The Tolin family is one of the oldest in the
precinct, coming from Virginia, and settling near where Burksville now
stands in the last century. Isaac
Tolin, who was a small boy when he came to Illinois, married Susan
Demint. The oldest son by this marriage was Judge George Tolin, for
three terms one of the judges of the Monroe county court who died in
The farm on section seven of township three, range
nine, now owned by Valentine Schneider, was in early years, the house of
Joshua McMurtrey. He was
from Virginia. In 1818 a
number of families came from Ohio, chiefly from the vicinity of
Marietta. Some of them
settled in the Prairie, and from that circumstance it was called Yankee
Prairie. One of these
immigrants was Rev. Daniel Hilton, a minister of the Baptist church.
For many years he was pastor of the Fountain Creek Baptist
Church. Several of his
descendants reside in the county. Daniel
M. Barker, a native of Vermont, settled in the New Design prairie in
1818. In 1854 he removed to
Red Bud where he died. He
had nine children, Hiram, Lewis, Albert, Miron, Eveline, Melcena, Susan,
Eliza and Daniel Perry, of who Lewis alone now resides in this county.
Several became residents of Randolph county. Zebediah Barker, the father of Daniel M. Barker, settled a
mile and a half west of the preset town of Burksville, on land now owned
by H. Johanning.
With the Ohio immigration came the Norton and
Gilman families which settled on Dry run, south of Burksville.
Moses Varnum, born at Belfast, Maine, came from Ohio with his
family in 1818. Jewett and
Justus Varnum were his two sons and he had two daughters, one of who
married Daniel M. Barker. Jewett
Varnum made an improvement in the northwest quarter of section
seventeen, township three, range nine, and Justus on the southeast
quarter of section eighteen.
Among later settlers in the precinct were Eben
Alexander and John Durfee, who came about the year 1837, and entered
land on Horse Creek. They
built a saw mill on Horse Creek. Richmond
Durfee, a nephew of Alexander Durfee, started a store half a mile
northwest of the present Burksville station, the first store in this
part of the county. After a
year or two it was removed to the Horse prairie, near the county line.
He afterward started a store in Red Bud.
The Durfees were natives of Fall River, Massachusetts, and came
to Illinois from Ohio. Harrison
Drice, a native of the State of New York, settled where he now lives in
section sixteen, township three, range nine, in 1842. John Murphy and his son James settled near Cambria station in
1840. Soon after 1835 a
number of families of Irish descent settled in the precinct, among which
were they Sennot, McLaughlin, Burns, Dugan, Lunch, Donahue, Cooney,
Dwyer and Butler families. St.
Patrick's Catholic church was established in their neighborhood.
There are two stations of the St. Louis and Cairo
railroad, Cambria and Burksville stations, within the limits of the
precinct. There are three
post-offices, Burksville and New Design, at Burksville; and Tipton at
The commencement of the growth of the town of
Burksville as the starting of a store in 1851 by John G. Burkhardt and
John Mezlet, Burkhardt was a resident of St. Louis.
Napoleon Fitzpatrick was taken in as a partner in 1854, but in
about a year afterward disposed of his interest to the other members of
the firm. The store was
purchased in 1857 by Paul C. Brey, and the same year Jacob Miller,
subsequently a resident of Red Bud, was made a partner.
Afterward Mr. Brey became again the sole owner, and continued the
store until 1864, when Francis Schifferdecker obtained and interest,
which in 1866 he sold to Alexander Durfee who died in 1868.
The store was burned in 1872, and Mr. Brey then formed a
partnership with Anton Langsdorf, which continued until 1874, since
which time the business has been carried on by Mr. Langsdorf.
The second store was established in 1856 by Miron
Barker and Rudolph Kuederle. Frederick
Zimmerman and George Baum also carried on the mercantile business for a
time. The original town
site was owned by John P. Brown, who sold the lots in parcels.
The name of Burksville was given the place in 1857 in honor of
John G. Burkhardt.
An addition known as "Hendricks' addition"
was then made in 1858 by Gerhardt J. Hendricks, and one in 1868 by Fred
Burkhardt. A post office
was established in 1857 and Paul C. Brey appointed the first post
master. He retained the
office till his removal from the place in 1874, since which time the
position has been filled by Anton Langsdorf.
The town contains about twenty dwelling houses, and has a
population of about one hundred and twenty.