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Chapter 33 - Bushnell Township

The township of Bushnell consists of 18 sections of land, the most part of which is prairie, there being but very little timber within its borders. The land is as good for agricultural purposes as can be found in the Military Tract and has increased very rapidly in wealth and population since the completion of the first railroad. The thriving town of Bushnell is located on sections 27, 28, 33 and 34, and is the centre of three lines of railroad, furnishing the best railroad facilities for the shipment of the products of the soil of any township in the county.


The first to make a settlement within the limits of what is now Bushnell township was Matthew B. Robinson, who, in the fall of 1836, located upon section 30, where he put up a house and commenced to open up a farm. For several years he was there almost alone, when a few more came to his neighborhood. But sparsely settled at the time of the laying out of the city of Bushnell, its history is almost identical with the growth and development of that place.

The first birth in this township was that of Missouri E., daughter of M. B. Robinson, in the autumn of 1837. The first death, that of John W. Clarke, in September, 1847.

The first marriage took place in October, 1841, at the residence of M. B. Robinson, when Rev. W. K. Stewart solemnized the rite of matrimony, joining the destinies of Permenium Hamilton and Elizabeth A. Robinson.

David Robinson is said to have taught the first school in 1838, and about the same time the first religious services were held at the house of M. B. Robinson, by Rev. William K. Stewart, at that time a Presbyterian clergyman located in Macomb.

But little was done toward the settlement of the township until the completion of the Chicago, Burlington& Quincy railroad, when, in a short time, every quarter was taken up and occupied. The history of this township is so interwoven with that of the city of Bushnell and the residents of the city and township that it would but lead to repetition were we to place it in detail here. The reader is consequently referred to the places mentioned.


No township in the county can boast of a better class of people than can Bushnell. The following sketches are those of representative men of this township:

John C. Cadwalader was born in Vermont township, Fulton county, Illinois, January 5, 1834. His father, a native of Tuscarawas county, Ohio, was born August 18, 1806, and is still living. His mother, who is also living, was born in Pennsylvania, April 12, 1812. John C. resided with his parents until 21 years old. He was then married, January 11, 1855, to Eliza J. Miller, who was born July 16, 1833. After marriage he engaged in farming and trading in stock in Vermont township, where he resided till 1870. In that year he purchased and moved to the farm where he now lives, located on the northeast quarter of 28, Bushnell township. He has 120 acres of land which is in a high state of cultivation. His improvements are among the best in the township. Since his residence here he has been much of the time in office, holding the position of supervisor six and one-half years, commissioner of highways four years, and has been school director almost continuously. Mr. and Mrs. Cadwalader have had six children born to them—Charles L., living with his parents; Mattie H., wife of Jacob H. Gingle, living in Nebraska; Millie A., wife of William Osrum, of Bushnell township; Ella M., living with her parents; Adda and Lizzie dying in infancy. Mr. and Mrs. Cadwalader are members of the Presbyterian church. Politically, he is a supporter of the republican party.

Benjamin Tainter, deceased, a former resident of Bushnell township, was a native of the state of New York, born in 1819. He is a son of John Tainter, also a native of New York. He was married in 1859, to Minnie Stanton, of Ohio. They had three children Henry L., John N. and Benjamin, all now living with their mother in this township. Mr. Tainter owned a fine farm, comprising 360 acres of land on section 25, Bushnell township, where Mrs. Tainter and her sons now reside. John N., the second son, carries on the farm. Mr. Tainter died December 21, 1879. He was a member of the Free Will Baptist church, also the Masonic fraternity, and a man well deserving of the respect and esteem with which he was regarded in the community. Mrs. Tainter was born in Ashtabula county, Ohio, and was a daughter of Jas. Stanton, who was nearly related to Secretary Stanton, who came to this county, and settled in Prairie City, in July, 1859. She is, in her religious faith, a Congregationalist.

William H. Cowperthwaite, a prominent citizen of Bushnell township, settled where he now resides, in 1867. He owns 200 acres of well-cultivated land, located on section 25. He has good and substantial improvements, and carries on general farming. He was born in Fulton county, Illinois, November 10, 1839, and is a son of Samuel Cowperthwaite, a native of Pennsylvania, who came to Illinois in 1836, and who now lives in the city of Bushnell. William H. came to this county from Fulton county in 1859, and located in Bushnell township. October 2, 1862, he was married to Margaret Yant, of Ohio. They have three children—Charles C., Emma May, and Elizabeth E., all living at home. Mr. Cowperthwaite has acted as school director of his district for six years. He is a democrat in politics. He came to this county in limited circumstances, but by economy, industry and judicious management, has accumulated a comfortable property.

Jacob H. Wisherd, of Bushnell township, is a son of Jacob and Catherine (Stahl) Wisherd, and was born in Fulton county in 1858. He was reared in his native county, obtaining his education in the district school. In the year 1880 he was married to Eveline Blanchard, and by this union has two children--Jacob Lewis and Sheldon. He came to this county from Fulton county, and is engaged in farming. He is a stirring, energetic young man, and an enterprising farmer. His father, Jacob Wisherd, was born in Pennsylvania in 1823, and was a son of John and Elizabeth (Cole) Wisherd. He was married in 1842, to Catherine Stahl, of Franklin county, Pennsylvania. They had five children—John M., now in Missouri; David N., living in Quincy; Jeremiah, living in Vermont, Illinois; and Jacob H. Mr. Wisherd died April 22, 1863, and was buried in Virgil cemetery. He owned at the time of his death 480 acres of land, and was in prosperous circumstances. His widow, Catherine Wisherd, is still living upon the homestead farm. She is a consistent member of the Christian church.

Matthew Williamson is a native of Coshocton county, Ohio, born November 20, 1838. He lived with his parents in that county until he reached the age of 19 years, then went to Pennsylvania, where he was employed upon a farm. He then came to Illinois, and worked for a time at farming in McLean county, thence to Peoria county, where he carried on farming in partnership with William Fahnstock. He was married in the fall of 1873, to Sybilla Potter, who was born February 14, 1847. He continued living in Peoria county for one year after marriage, then removed to Knox county, and two years later to Fulton county, where he remained six years, still engaged in farming. From Fulton county he came to McDonough, and located on the northeast quarter of section 22, Bushnell township, where he still resides. He has fine improvements, including his residence, barn, sheds, corn-cribs, etc. He has upon his place about four miles of Osage hedge, and 300 rods of drain tile. He pays considerable attention to stock raising, particularly fine horses. He is the owner of a fine stallion, one half Clyde, one-quarter Norman, and one-quarter Copperbottom; four fine brood mares, and a pair of trotting horses that won the blue ribbon at the Bushnell fair in the fall of 1884. Mr. Williamson devotes his time entirely to the cultivation of his farm, and the care of his stock. He is politically, a republican. Mr. and Mrs. Williamson are the parents of four children—William H., now married to Mary Hood; Delbert H., Wardie E. and Jennie M.


According to the report of the county superintendent for the fiscal year, ending June 30, 1884, the township of Bushnell had 852 children, between the school ages of six and 21 years, 650 of whom were enrolled in the eight schools of the township district, two of which are classified as graded institutions of learning, seven months and a half being the average number taught annually. There are eight school buildings in the township, seven of which are frame, the other a brick structure. One school house was also built in the township during the year. The highest salary paid to any male teacher is $125 per month, and the lowest is $25, while $50 is the highest paid to females, and $20 the lowest. The estimated value of school property amounts to over $22,000, and the tax levy for the support of educational institutions, amounts to $4,800. Bushnell is free from debt, as far as educational purposes are concerned.


On the 12th day of June, 1866, the board of supervisors ordered Prairie City township divided, the north half to retain the name of Prairie City, and the south half to be known as Bushnell.

At the first township election, April 2, 1867, the following officers were elected: J. H. Smith, supervisor; Hiram Conover, collector; Pardon Wooley, assessor; E. Combs, clerk; E. Lincoln and P. Wooley, constables; D. M. Wyckoff, J. T. Spear, and J. D. Devor, commissioners of highway; J. H. Epperson, justice of the peace; A. S. Clark. overseer of the poor.

The present officers of the township are as follows: supervisor, Levi S. Mills; clerk, O. C. Hicks; assessor, N. Hey; collector, A. B. Sperling; highway commissioner, Albertson Moore; justices of the peace, R. W. McKinney and J. B. Spicer; constables, Samuel Long and C. C. Morse.

Source: The History of McDonough County, together with sketches of the towns, villages and townships, educational, civil, military and political history; portraits of prominent individuals, and biographies of the representative citizens, 1885, pages 821-824. Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen

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