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Chapter 30 - Prairie City Township

This township lies in the extreme northeastern corner of the county, and consists of but 18 sections of land. It was originally a full congressional township, but in 1865 it was divided in the center east and west, by an act of the legislature, the north half retaining the name of Prairie City, and the south half taking the name of Bushnell.

Prairie City is an excellent body of prairie land, there being no timber of any consequence within its borders, except beautiful artificial groves here and there, which surround many of the homes of its inhabitants. Two branches of the C., B. & Q. railroad pass through the township, and the flourishing village of Prairie City is located in the northeastern corner, the only town within its borders. But little was done in the settlement of the township until the completion of the railroad, when, in a short time, every quarter was taken up and occupied.


Prairie City township was organized in 1857.

The first township election was held April 7, 1857, at which time W. H. Oglesbee and J. R. Parker were elected justices of the peace, and Leonard Neff, constable.

R. H. McFarland was the first police magistrate, and ex officio justice of the peace, being elected January 15, 1858.

At the time of the organization, Prairie City was a full congressional township, but has since been divided, and the present township of Bushnell erected, as stated.

The present officers of the township are as follows: Supervisor, A. Mead; clerk, Robert Burden, Jr.; assessor, John W. Davis; collector, Robert Burden, Sr.; justices of the peace, C. S. Harris and J. R. King; highway commissioner, A. R. Long; constables, Wm. C. Rush and J. W. Cadwallader; school trustee, Z. A. Foster.


From the last annual report of the county superintendent, for the school year ending June 30, 1881, Prairie City township is credited with 459 children between the ages of 6 and 21 years, 341 of whom are enrolled in the six schools in the district township, three of which are graded institutions of learning. The average number of months of school taught is seven and a half. There was one new school building erected during the year, and at present there are six frame buildings in the township. There is also one district in the township which has a library of 157 volumes. The highest monthly wages paid any male teacher is $75, and the lowest, $40; while the highest wages paid female teachers is $33, and the lowest, $19. The estimated value of school property is $5,900, with $2,175 as the amount of tax levy for the support of the schools. The district township is also free from any bonded indebtedness. The schools are the pride of the people.


Though the first settlement in Prairie City township located here over half a century ago, still, nearly all the other townships were settled, to a greater or less extent, previous to that time. Its growth for a considerable time was not very rapid, but later, was all that could be desired, as the wonderful productive qualities of the soil could not always be left neglected; and to-day, no township in the county can boast of a better class of farms and improvements, or more enterprising citizens.

Henry Brink located on section 2, in 1835. He was well known among the early settlers.

John Griffin also located on section 2, on the present site of Prairie City, in 1835. His name occurs in connection with some of the first events in the history of Prairie City.

Edward Goldsmith was also a settler of 1835. He is mentioned at greater length farther on in this chapter.

Henry Thompson was also one of the pioneers of this township. He took up a location and built his cabin on section 13, in 1836.

As the history of this township is, to a great extent, identical with that of the town of Prairie City, all necessary details will be found in connection with the record of that place, in this chapter, or in the following sketches of prominent citizens.


John W. King was born January 9, 1820, in Jonesborough, Tennessee. He came to Illinois with his father, Rev. James King, in the year 1834. February 19, 1846, he was united in marriage with Emily T. McClure, who was born in Berksville, Cumberland county, Kentucky, July 19, 1820, and removed with her parents to Morgan county Illinois, about 1825, and to McDonough county in 1834. Both families, King's and McClure's, are of Irish and English ancestry. During the month following his marriage, Mr. King removed to Prairie City township, where he resided until his death, October 18, 1865. He was an earnest and sincere christian gentleman. He was much interested in the cause of education and in politics, was a conservative, yet staunch republican. By industry and economy he converted the wild unbroken prairie into a comfortable and pleasant home, and left at his death, an estate valued at $25,000.

J. Richard King, a farmer, was born in Prairie City township, October 29, 1857. He is a son of John W., and Emily (McClure) King. He grew to manhood in his native township, and received a good education, attending the district school, and later, Hedding college, at Abingdon, Illinois. He subsequently went to St. Louis, and took a course of instruction at the Mound City commercial college, of which institution he is a graduate. He is an experienced teacher in the public schools, and was for two years, principal at the commercial department at Hedding college. He is now engaged in farming upon his father's estate. In 1885, he was elected justice of the peace, by the republican party, to serve for a term of four years. He is a prominent citizen and held in much esteem by all.

James M. King, a prosperous farmer of Prairie City township, is a son of Thomas and Mary (Holden) King. He was born in 1838 near Colmar, in Tennessee township in McDonough county, Illinois. He lived in his native town until 10 years old, then moved with his parents to Warren county, Illinois, where he remained until the fall of 1855. At that date he went to Missouri, where he remained a few weeks, and returned to McDonough county, locating then in Walnut Grove township, where he resided 19 years, then removed to his present home on section 9, Prairie City township. He was married in the fall of 1858, to Mary Tracy, of Ohio, and by this union, has seven children—Oscar, living in Walnut Grove township; F. W., Laura, Nellie, Harvey, Maria and Joseph E., living with their parents. Mr. King owns 539 acres of land, all in cultivation, with fine improvements. He pays considerable attention to the rearing of fine horses, also sheep, cattle and other stock. He is at present acting as school director of his district, and is a member of the Anti-Horse-Thief society. In politics he is liberal, and not bound to any party. Mrs. King is a member of the Presbyterian church.

Samuel P. King, a well known farmer of Prairie City township, is a son of Thomas and Mary (Holden) King, and was born in Warren county, Illinois, in 1847. When five or six years of age, he came with his parents to McDonough county, where the greater part of his life has been spent. At the age of 17 years, he enlisted in the service of his country, joining the 47th Illinois infantry in 1864, and served until the close of the war, or about one year. He returned home from the army and remained with his parents until 26 years old, when he was married December 24, 1873, to Zerilda D. Paugh, of Brown county, Illinois. Their union has been blessed with two children—Edmund Eugene and Gertie Clover. In 1875, Mr. King removed to Union county Iowa, where he purchased and improved a farm of 80 acres. He resided upon the same five years, returning in 1880 to this county, and purchasing 80 acres of land in Prairie City township, upon which he has since lived. He has a good farm, all cultivated and improved. Mr. and Mrs. King are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. He is a member of the G. A. R. and the Anti-Horse-Thief association. In politics he is independent, and is a worthy and esteemed citizen.

Sanger S. Stearns, a well known farmer and leading citizen of Prairie City township, was born April 9, 1815, in Oneida county, New York. His parents were Phineas and Mary (Cooper) Stearns, the former a native of Massachusetts, and the latter of New Hampshire. Sanger S. Stearns removed to Illinois in 1839, and settled in Fulton county. He came to McDonough county, December 25, 1864, and located where he now lives, on section 9, Prairie City township. He owns 400 acres of valuable land, all under cultivation. His buildings were erected at a cost of $4,500, and are commodious and comfortable. He carries on general farming, and is in prosperous circumstance. Mr. Stearns was married in 1843, to Clarissa Foliatt, of New York. She died February 21, 1861, leaving him four children—Royal De Kalb, now a resident of Lincoln, Nebraska, engaged in the practice of law; Annette, wife of Luther Russell, a farmer in Iowa; Olive, who was married to Edwin Reagan, and died March 12, 1885; and Florence R., wife of Allen Hall, of Prairie City township. Mr. Stearns was married in 1861, to Sarah Laughry, by whom he has three children—Paul S., Clara M., and Josephine. Mrs. Stearns is a member of the Presbyterian church. He has been road commissioner two years, and school director seven years. He is, politically, a republican.

Francis T. Emory, son of John and Deborah (Towne) Emory, is a native of New Hampshire, where he was born July 24, 1811. His ancestors for several generations past, were of New England origin, his great grandfather having been in the French war of 1755 and '65. His grandfather was soldier in the war of the revolution, and lived with his wife 70 years. Francis T. began at the age of 16 years to earn his own livelihood, and at 25 gave to his father's family $600, all of his hard earning, and started again with nothing. He now owns a splendid farm of 560 acres, all under cultivation, and finely improved. He came to McDonough county in December, 1855, and settled where he now resides, on section 9, Prairie City township. He was married November 5, 1845, to Mary Smith, a native of England. Three children have blest their union—Homer and Warham, living in Prairie City township, and Francis F., living in Massachusetts. The latter is by profession, a mechanical engineer, and although but 26 years old, is a master mechanic, employed in that capacity by the Fitchburg steam engine company. Mr. Emory and his wife are members of the Congregational church. He has acted as school director of his district for a number of years, and is politically a republican. Mr. Emory's present prosperity is due entirely to his own industry and wise management, he having accumulated his large property without assistance from any one. He is one of the most highly respected citizens of this township.

John J. Serven was born in Cayuga county, New York, February 9, 1832. He lived with his parents until 16 years old. He was then hired out by his father to a man named Benjamin Gould, to work upon a farm 25 miles from home. He remained there 15 months, receiving eight and one-third dollars per month, his father taking his wages. He then returned home, and assisted his father upon the farm during harvest and haying, then went to Huron, New York, and began learning the carpenter and joiner's trade with A. M. Gurnee, with whom he worked two years, receiving $50 the first year, and $60 the second. The following year he worked as foreman, for $19 per month, then went to Seneca county, and remained three months, employed in a shop. The following summer he worked for $19 per month, then returned to his home and remained for a time. He next went to Kelloggsville, where he worked at his trade. In the fall of that year, 1854, he removed to Peoria county, Illinois, and soon after to Canton, Fulton county, Illinois; thence, a few months later, he worked for Mr. C. Willcoxen, of Fulton county, Illinois, where he lived three years, then moved to near Cuba, Illinois, and followed his trade, two years after which, he purchased, and moved to the farm, where he now lives, in Prairie City township. He has a large and well improved farm, which he manages successfully. Mr. Serven was married April 29, 1859, to Nancy A. Nebergall, and they have had 10 children—William H., born August 15, 1862; Mary E., born October 24, 1863; Aaron E., born March 15, 1865; James P., born June 23, 1869; Ephraim W., born April 5, 1871; Thomas C., born December 30, 1872; Aletha B., born September 23, 1874, and died June 28, 1877; Emma, born September 29, 1877; Hannah P., born May 14, 1880; and Perry, born June 28, 1883. Mr. and Mrs. Serven hold membership with the Christian church.

James H. Serven, farmer and stock dealer, of Prairie City township, is a son of Henry and Hannah (Myers) Serven, natives of New York. The subject of this sketch was born in Cayuga county, New York, in the year 1839. In 1855 he came to Illinois, and located in Fulton county, where he worked for five years at the carpenter's trade. He then moved to section 11, Prairie City, his present residence. He has a desirable farm, containing 227 acres, all in cultivation, with substantial and valuable improvements. He keeps thoroughbred short-horn cattle; also two Norman horses, besides other stock. He is a member of the Anti-Horse-Thief association, and politically, a democrat. When Mr. Serven settled in this county he was in comparatively limited circumstances, but has been successful in his undertakings, and is now in the enjoyment of financial prosperity. He was married February 23, 1863, to Mary J. Nebergall, of Cuba, Illinois. They have four children—Delia Etta, Leander Peter, Lillie May and Florence Elnora.

John H. Dunbar, a prosperous farmer of Prairie City township, is a son of Noah W. and Sarah (Hope) Dunbar, and was born April 4, 1826, in the state of New York. He came to Illinois in June, 1845, and settled in Fulton county, where he remained until 1853. At that date he removed to McDonough county, and located where he now resides, on section 13, Prairie City township. He owns 240 acres of land, which is well cultivated and improved. His residence was erected at a cost of $2,000, and is commodious and comfortable. His barn and other buildings are of the best class. Mr. Dunbar was married in 1851, to Nancy Hendricks, of Ohio, and by this union had one child—Henry, who is now a Nebraska farmer. Mrs. Dunbar died in the spring of 1852, and in June, 1853, Mr. Dunbar was married to Martha J. Rolle, of Ohio. They are the parents of five children—Maggie, wife of Milton Campbell, of Iowa; Elmer O., who is married and living on a farm rented of his father; Clarence S., Grace and Albert, deceased. Mr. and Mrs. Dunbar are members of the Presbyterian church. He is, politically, a democrat, and has served as school director nine years.

[25 Jul 2004 from Janeane Luby: "On the Prairie City page you have several bios, including one of John Dunbar, which includes this sentence: "on June, 1853, Mr. Dunbar was married to Martha J. Rolle, of Ohio." John Dunbar married Martha Jane ROBB, born in Ohio, living in Illinois at the time of their marriage. This marriage is listed on the Illinois Statewide Marriage Index. I saw a copy of it at the courthouse. I have also traced a lot of the Robb family (my ancestors) and have lots of evidence that Martha Jane ROBB married John Dunbar.]

William H. Martin is a son of Lucius T. and Elizabeth (Kreider) Martin. Lucius T. Martin came to McDonough county in 1853, and located in Prairie City township, where he resided until the time of his death, in 1867. His widow now resides upon the homestead with her son Benjamin Martin, and daughter Eva Martin. William H. Martin was born in Prairie City township in the year 1855, and was reared and educated in this county. In 1879 he was married to Hattie E. Leard, of Prairie City, and by this union has three children—Lucius T., Maggie Z. and Nora E. He has a good farm, comprising 180 acres of well-improved land, and is engaged in general farming. Mrs. Martin is a member of the Presbyterian church. Mr. Martin is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and politically, a republican.

F. J. Breiner is a native of Alsace, that province, at that time, being a part of France, but now belongs to Germany. He was born about the year 1815. At the age of two years he came to America with his parents, landing at Philadelphia, in August, 1817. His father was a weaver by trade, and followed that occupation in this country until the time of his death, September 19, 1839. He resided in Pennsylvania, where he died. His widow, mother of the subject of this sketch, died in that state in 1872. F. J. Breiner was married to Anna Oberbeck, and removed to Fulton county, Illinois, in 1852. Three years later he came to Prairie City township, and in 1857 moved to the farm where he now lives, on the northwest quarter of section 5, Prairie City township. He is by trade a carpenter, but for the past 25 years has been engaged in farming. On account of impaired health he has been unable to perform hard labor for four years. Mr. and Mrs. Breiner are members of the Methodist Episcopal church. They have had born to them 13 children—Joseph, born November 3, 1835, married to Anna Swigle; William, born September 6, 1839, married to Elizabeth Dunbar; Alfred A., born March 17, 1841, and died September 1, 1852; Lewis, born October 18, 1842, married to Mary King; George D., born August 28, 1844, married to Frances Alexander; Margaret C., born September 4, 1846, married to Hugh M. Kinkade; Eliza, born October 26, 1848, and died June 3, 1852; Jacob, born October 2, 1850, married to Ella Harris, who died in 1883, and he is now married to Jane Harris, a sister of his former wife; Mary E., born June 7, 1856, now the wife of N. P. Devaughn; and Frank, born August 28, 1859, married to Mattie Smith. Three children died in infancy.

Silas Houghton is a native of Massachusetts, and a son of Joel and Peggy Houghton. In early life he learned the carpenters' trade. In 1837 he emigrated to this state, and located at Quincy, following his trade as contractor and builder, until 1849, when he emigrated overland to California, with ox teams. There he was employed in packing and mining. After an absence of three years he returned to Quincy, Illinois, and followed his former occupation. He was married in 1852 to Lucy C. Tibbles, of Hancock county, Illinois, but formerly from Ohio. She died in 1857, leaving one child, named Eva. The mother was buried in the Bushnell cemetery. In 1861 he was again married to Lucinda M. Fuller, of Fulton county, Illinois, formerly from New York. He then moved to Bushnell, McDonough county, where his second wife died, in 1865, and was also buried in the Bushnell cemetery. They were both members of the Methodist Episcopal church. Since the death of his second wife he has resided most of the time on his farm, in Prairie City township. His daughter, Eva, was married in 1880 to Simeon Pigman, of Omaha, Nebraska, but they now reside at Ogden, Utah territory.

Jonah Lindsay, deceased, a former resident of Prairie City township, was born in Ohio, June 16, 1807. He was a son of Stephen and Rachel (Randel) Lindsay. He was married in Ohio to Anna Stoop, February 1, 1826, and by this marriage, had six children—Rachel, wife of C. Andrews, of this county; Ellen, who was married to Shadrack Overbay, and died in 1858; Margaret, who was married to David Barnhart, and died July 26, 1868; Nathan, living in Walnut Grove township; Stephen, who died in 1884, and Serena, wife of Edward Hunt, of this county. Mr. Lindsay owned 200 acres of well-improved land in Prairie City township, where he settled in 1856. Mrs. Lindsay died some time previous to this, and he was again married, in 1856, to Mrs. Mary (Sandidge) Clark, widow of Edward Clark, and daughter of Daniel and Permelia (Tate) Sandidge. Her first husband, Edward Clark, died November 19, 1854, leaving her with one child, Permelia, now the wife of E. T. Wolfe. Jonah Lindsay died January 29. 1873, at his home, in Prairie City township, where his widow now resides, with her daughter, Mrs. E. T. Wolfe.

William A. Posey, deceased, was born in Morgan county, Illinois, December 25, 1827, and was a son of William C. and Sarah (Rannells) Posey. William A. Posey was married November 4, 1851, to Mary M. Ward, of Bourbon county, Kentucky, and in 1853, came to McDonough county, and in the fall of 1854 settled on section 18, Prairie City township, where he resided until the time of his death, November 2, 1883. He owned 240 acres of land, a well-cultivated and desirable farm, upon which his widow now resides with her daughter. He was a consistent member of the Presbyterian church, and once belonged to the I. O. O. F. He was elected and served one year as assessor of this township, about 1870 or 1872. Mr. and Mrs. Posey were the parents of four children—-William Ward, now living in Las Vegas, New Mexico, and is a railroad conductor on the Hot Springs branch of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad; John A., who is engaged in farming, in Nebraska; Mary Olive, wife of Gilham Hall, of this township, and Martha Ida, who died at the age of two years.

William H. Tannehill, son of John F. and Althea (King) Tannehill, was born in Fort Madison, Iowa, in 1846. He came to McDonough county, and September 1, 1871 was married to Ettie J. Matthews, daughter of Rev. Jacob Matthews, a minister of the Methodist Episcopal church. Two children have been born to them—Anna M. and Harvey H. Mr. Tannehill owns a fine farm, containing 160 acres of land, all of which is improved, and is engaged in farming. He is a republican in politics, and ranks among the best class of McDonough county's citizens.

Enoch Hall came to McDonough county 1861, and located then in Mound township, where he remained till 1867. In that year he removed to Bushnell township. He has an excellent farm containing 200 acres of land, all under cultivation and well improved. He is a good farmer, everything about his place indicating thrift and comfort. Enoch Hall was born in Ohio, in 1832, and is a son George W. and Elizabeth (Gilham) Hall, the former a native of Virginia, and the latter of Ohio. Enoch was married in 1853, to Elizabeth Linton, of Ohio, and by this union has eight children—Mattie J., wife of Frank Leard, of Prairie city township; John P., in Bushnell township; L. Allen, in Prairie city township; Gilham F., in the same place; Dora Olive, William H.; Ed. H. and Minnie May living with their parents. Mr. Hall has been commissioner of highways, and is a republican in politics. George W. Hall died in Ohio in 1873. His wife, Elizabeth (Gilham) Hall, died in 1855.

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 757-764. Transcribed by Karl A. Petersen

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