New Design

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.

Philadelphia 1883



Pages 330-332

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 prominent settlements.

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 Columbia.

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 American settlements.

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 1874.

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 Cambria.


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.

There is an Evangelical Lutheran church, and one of the same denomination two miles and a half south.  The business interests of the place are now represented as follows: merchants, Anton Langsdorf and Charles Boehne & Son; shoemaker, Frederick Zimmermann; saw mill and blacksmith shop, Frederick Meyer; Blacksmith, William Enrich; wagon maker, William Klein; harness maker, Jacob Blette; hotels, Fred Burkhardt and Anton Conrad.  Burksville is nearer than any other town to the geographical centre of the county.  At Burksville station on the railroad tow miles distant, a store is carried on by Jacob B. Berger.