Historical Articles - Omega Twp., Marion Co., Illinois

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“Brinkerhoff’s History of Marion County, Illinois - 1909” - by Prof. J.H.G. Brinkerhoff;  "Omega Township" and "Village of Omega"

“Brinkerhoff’s History of Marion County, Illinois - 1909”  by Prof. J.H.G. Brinkerhoff

  OMEGA TOWNSHIP (pages 206-208)

             Town 3 north, range 4 east, is known in the civil law as Omega.  Why the name of the last letter of the Greek alphabet was given to this township is hard to imagine, unless for its sound, for Omega is not the last place by any means.  It is a well watered tract, the streams being Skillet Fork, Dumbs creek, Bee Branch, White Oak creek and Mountain branch.  In this township Skillet Fork has made bottoms of low land, which often overflows and thus enriched there is no more fertile lands in the county than are found in Omega.  The township is well timbered, only one-fourth being prairie, but like the other townships, is largely cleared and where the native wood shaded the ground are now fine farms.

            Henry T. PYLES, of Tennessee, came to this county in 1820 and settled in Stringtown in Iuka.  In 1829 he married Rachael TINKLER and the next year settled in Omega township.  He raised a family of nine children, of whom three are still living: Josiah at Odin, Lidia JONES at Iuka and T.B., editor of a paper at Fountain, Colorado.

            Marcum C. LOVELL came from Kentucky with his father in 1829, and stopped at Walnut Hill Prairie, where he married Polly HENSLEY, daughter of Joseph HENSLEY, first settler of that section, in 1831, and moved to this township, where he died in 1879.  His wife, Polly, had died in 1873.  Four of their children still live in the county: Woodson and Mrs. Frances FARSON in Omega, Mrs. Julia LACEY in Meacham, and Mrs. Mary HAMMOND in Salem.

            Daniel LOVELL moved to this township in 1832, and David ENGLAND the same year; Thomas T. JONES in 1834, Thomas C. SMITH in 1837.  Henderson HENSLEY came in the same year.

            Nicholas VAN DUSEN, of Massachusetts, moved to Ohio, then to Illinois and in 1840 settled in this township.  The late Henry A. VAN DUSEN, the noted Christian preacher, was his son.  Andrew BEARD and his brother, John, came in 1840, and John WANTLAND from Tennessee, first settled in Red Lick Prairie in 1826, and in 1841 moved to this township.  Thomas CHAPMAN also settled in this township in 1841.  Blackburn BROWN, son of Alexander BROWN, who was living at Stringtown as early as 1831, came to Omega in 1845, and died here in 1908, about ninety years of age.  There are no railroads touching Omega and the township is strictly an agricultural one. Henry PILES built the first house in the township.

            John PORTER and Mary E. LOVELL were married by Squire Samuel HENSLEY in 1837.  This was the first wedding.  The first death was a young daughter of Richard PYLES.  She was the first person buried in the MILLICAN graveyard.  Small stores were opened by Charles O’NEAL, Wesley BEASLEY, Levi ROLLINS, and Captain ELDER.  They were small and kept only the necessaries.  Most of the business was barter.

            The first school was taught by William HADDEN in the Lovell school-house.  This was a log house with an opening on the north side to admit light.  It stood on section 20.  A log cabin with a dirt floor next served as a school-house.  It stood on section 27.  A subscription school was taught here two terms by Silas LITTERELL.  He charged two dollars per pupil per term of three months.

            The Presbyterians, Methodist Episcopal and Christians now have churches in the township and each has a large number of communicants in the township.  All of the early preachers of the county preached in this township, among them Doctor MIDDLETON, Joseph HELMS, Cyrus WRIGHT, John A. WILLIAMS, and David R. CHANCE.

            A small water mill was built on Lost Creek, and was the first in the township.  The next mill was on Skillet Fork, and was both grist and saw mill, and sawed the first lumber cut in the township.  Both are now only a memory.

            The first crime was that one so peculiarly attached to rural districts, horse stealing.  Reuben and Robert BLACK stole a horse from Richard CLAFIN.  They were caught, but one broke out of jail, and was retaken while trying to cross the Illinois River.  He had stolen a gun to pay the ferryman and this led to his re-arrest.  Both were sent to the penitentiary for eleven years.  This was as late as 1874, since which time only a few penal offenses have occurred in the township.           


             In 1856 Timothy BALDWIN laid out the village of Omega, and built the first house.  Dr. Lewis ROGERS was the first doctor and Captain ELDER the first storekeeper.  Ralph F. BALDWIN was the first postmaster.  He was appointed when the office was established in 1855, before the village was laid out.  A frame schoolhouse was built in 1856 and William DUNCAN taught the winter term and Kate ELDER the spring term.

            The village of Omega is a good point for a country store, two being there at present, but the village has not grown and has now less than one hundred inhabitants, but some day a railroad will be built through Omega, which will make it one of the good shipping points of the county. 

"BOOKER CORNER"-  (Footprints – Vol. XXI, No. 1, Summer 1996)

           "An interesting neighborhood in Meacham twp. was described by Marjorie (Keller) Walkington in the Fall 1976 issue of “Footprints in Marion County”.

          “At the crossroads of the northeast corner of Section 33 in Meacham twp. lived the family of Francis Booker.  Across the road was a one room country school built in the latter 1800’s.  This school served the community as the educational center for half a century.  It was called Booker after the family and the neighborhood was known as Booker Corner.

          Some of the teachers at this school around the turn of the century were Hattie Tate, Millie Long, Grace Shepherd (*DFM correction – my great-aunt’s name was Grace Shepard), Charles Keller, Anna Jett, Nora Hiestand and Miss Wainscott. 

          In the early spring of 1907, Mr. Keller started a country store, buying his first stock of goods from Hufman and Co. of Mattoon at a cost of $50.  In a few years, a store building of suitable size was built to accommodate the growing business.

          Country stores in those days purchased items in bulk in large quantities and weighed and measured the amount to suit the customer’s needs.  Sugar and coffee came in 100 lb. bags.  Lard came in 50 lb. cans and was dipped into containers brought by the customer for that purpose.   Candy came in large wooden tubs.  Stick candy was stored in jars.  Chewing tobacco, a popular item in olden days, came in large squares cut and had to be cut with a tobacco cutter.

          Often times customers brought eggs and chickens to barter for groceries, and in hunting season, rabbits were exchanged for shells and tobacco.  Then, Mr. Keller hauled this product by team and wagon to the market at Farina, a distance of six miles.  Also, some of the produce was shipped to Chicago commission houses.  On the return trip, he would bring back a load of groceries shipped into Farina by train.

          In three or four years, an addition was made to the store building and a grist mill, run by gasoline engine, was installed.  On this mill, corn could be shelled.  Another operation of the mill was the crushing of corn on the cob, which was fed to cattle.  But the most important function of the mill was the grinding of meal from corn with a set of French burrs.  Wheat was also ground into whole wheat flour.  A lot of this was used during World War I when white flour was rationed.

          During the time this store and mill were in operation, there was a blacksmith shop a short distance east of the school house.  This shop was owned and operated by Alva Lambird.  At this point, the writer is reminded of Longfellow’s ‘The Village Blacksmith’, for we, the Booker students, also liked to loiter at recess and watch our blacksmith working at his various tasks.

          This crossroads was a busy place in this period with the country store, grist mill, blacksmith shop and one-room rural school.  Many teams of horses could be seen on busy days, tied at posts and trees at these places.

          Charles Keller and wife, Josephine (Potter), ceased operation of the store and mill in the middle 1920’s, but lived on at this place until their deaths in 1959 and 1961.

          Other families living in this neighborhood were the Newt Copples, the Albert Hampstens, Phillip Shorts, Buck and Bill Simmons, John Gambills, D.D. Devines, George Van Cleves, John Bousmans, Tilf Coursons, Wm. Lambirds, Thomas Neals, Jasper Krutsingers, Robert Wilkinsons, George Emmitt, and the Dan Merritts.

          The James Burkett family settled here near the turn of the century, about one-fourth mile east of the Booker School and north of the present road on an old road which angled north and west through the woods to Kinmundy.  Many of the old roads were like this, following the path of least resistance.  The Burkett family later moved west of the corner.

          George Mayer, a well-to-do businessman of DuQuoin, Illinois bought a large acreage west and south of the Booker Corner and moved here about 1915.  They raised pure bred Jersey cattle and had quite a show place with fine buildings.  A number of blacks assisted with the farm work.

          Living east and south of the school was the John Fogerson family who came from Missouri near the close of the Civil War.  Their home in Missouri was raided and their fine horses taken by the Southern army.  They escaped at night, saving their lives.

          About 1868, Thomas Potter and family settled three-fourths of a mile east of the Booker Corner and since that time it was called Potter’s Corner.  In the early days, the Fourth of July picnics were held in the grove near Potter’s Corner.  The Potter family, consisting of five children, lived in a two-story log house built by Mr. Potter.  Thomas Potter was Justice of the Peace for several terms.  In those days many important civil and criminal cases were tried in such a court of justice with the court being held in the home of the Justice.  Many marriages were also performed in the home, often with family members acting as witnesses.”

“I enjoyed the last issue of “Footprints”, especially the article on the Booker Corner.  Although the businesses were gone when I attended when I attended there in 1935 and 1936, I can remember the old schoolhouse.  The porch was held up by iron posts, and when we flew out the door, we would grab one of those posts and swing out in the air, make a circle and come back again.  One time, we played on the porch and up above us was a big snake about to fall on us.  I can remember the Kellers and the dirt roads.  The dust was deep and hot in the summer, and the mud was deep and cold in the winter.

            I lived on my great-grandfather’s place (D.D. Divine) so it was ½ mile east and ½ mile south of the Booker School.  A long walk for a little girl.  The first year a Saline boy took me to school, but he graduated, so the next year I had to make it on my own.

            School was every day back then and my parents didn’t believe in letting you stay home for bad weather.  The year of the ice storm in February, my dad carried me on his shoulders for that mile, and at the end of the day, , he came and carried me back home.  I think now if he had fallen with me, we could have died out there and no one would have known.

            My mom, Ethel (Hays) Eastman, said we were poor, but everyone else was poor too so we didn’t notice.  I can remember I took lots of “tomato jelly sandwiches” to school.

(contributed by Mrs. Lula Vaugh, 506 E. Fayette St., Box 203, Bunker Hill, IL;

   Footprints – Vol. XXI, No. 3, Winter 1997





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