Eppard’s Point Township History

            Eppard’s Point Township is located at Town 27 north, Range 5 east, which lies south of Pontiac and is one of the best irrigated townships in the county. Rook’s Creek traverses the western side of the township, Turtle Creek the center, and Hickory the eastern portion. These all find an outlet in the Vermilion River, which flows near the northeast corner. All these creeks are more or less skirted by timber and all of them were the scene of the first settlements in the township. The early settlers found here material for the erection of their cabins, fuel and a natural protector from the cold of winter.

            The timber grew along the banks of the streams and occasionally in groves, in the early days of its settlement and afforded a considerable source of revenue to those who cared to cut it, construct mills and saw it into lumber. A kind of general disregard exists in the minds of many people concerning the property of governments or of large corporations. This spirit was largely prevalent among those who despoiled the forests of their choicest trees, and who thereby rendered the life of the early actual settlers more difficult.

            The first settlers in the country were generally “squatters.” They were said to “squat” on any piece of land that suited their fancy. If they remained until the land came into market, and went to the land office to enter it legally, they were always allowed the first choice and chance in securing the claim they had chosen. It was unsafe for speculators to purchase and endeavor to hold such a claim. The squatters were a kind of law unto themselves, and dealt with such persons in a summary manner, seldom if ever allowing them to occupy a claim thus obtained. These measures, vigorous as they were, almost always secured them the homes for which they  had labored, and considering the time and the known greed and rapacity of the speculators, the measures may be looked on as just.

            The first residents of Eppard’s Point were the squatters. Of those known to belong to this class, living in this township, were the Eppard, Hayes, Pendle, Brock, Suttle and Anderson families. But one of whom now remains. Just when they settled cannot be accurately stated. It is known to be before the land came into market, and was probably about the year 1834 or 1835. When the township was organized in the winter of 1857-58 it received the name Eppard’s Point from one of these families, supposed to be the earliest settler here. Of the heads of the families named, Eppard, Suttle, Hayes and Tuttle have moved away.

            These persons were all squatters. Those who moved away sold their claims to others who have since improved them. When they came Pontiac was hardly known; Bloomington was a primitive frontier town; Ottawa was the principal trading point for this part of Illinois, while Chicago was one of its chief markets. They are all who are now known to have located prior to 1850; and many of them made but a short stay.

            In the fall of 1850, Judge Eli Myer located in the western part of the township on land previously entered by some of these squatters. He lived to become a very prominent man in the township, and held several offices of trust in it. He was one of the Associate Justices of the county several years before the present system of township organization was adopted.  The Judge gave $600 of his property to aid in the erection of the Ocoya Baptist Church. He was also the first teacher in the township and the first School Treasurer and Clerk.

            The next Spring, John Powell and Frank and Samuel Umphenour located. They, like Judge Myer, settled near the timber. Mr. Powell made his home on Section 29, near a fine spring. In 1852  came ‘Squire Payne, John Umphenour, Alexander and John Morton, Thomas B. Craycraft and Samuel and John St. John settled. During the year 1853, probably in spring or summer, D. W. Young, Washington Stafford, Addison Muzzy, Samuel Freeman, William Vickroy, William Griffith and J. H. Turman, joined the other settlers and became residents.

            The next year marks the opening of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad and a consequent rush to all parts of the county was the result. Eppard’s Point partook of the inflation of imigration, and filled so rapidly that to enumerate all who came would be a repetition of the biographies found on the list of pioneers found elsewhere in this website. Of those who came in 1853, Messrs. Young,  Vickroy and Griffith moved away. Muzzy and Stafford are yet residents and Freeman and Turman are dead.

            Among those who located in 1854, Asbury Minier may well be mentioned. 

            The completion of the railroad in 1854 gave the settlement a post office, near where the school house was built, just below where the railroad crosses Rook’s Creek, which name the office received and was continued until the establishment of Ocoya.  This village was laid out by Jonathan Duff and A. W. Cowan, then partners in the banking business in Pontiac. The land where the village is situated was entered by Peter A. Badeau in June, 1854. After passing through the hands of several owners, it was purchased by Charles Roadnight, then General Freight Agent of the Chicago, Alton & St. Louis Railroad, who soon after erected a small warehouse and depot. Part of the warehouse was used as a store, Alexander Martin generally attending to the business of Agent, Postmaster and Storekeeper. D. S. Shireman and E. M. Babbitt began about this time to buy grain and were owners of the stock of goods in the little store.

            It was during the winter of 1858-59, that Reuben Macy came to the “Corners,” as the village was then often termed and taught the school, and with others in the community began to discuss the feasibility of getting a town here. Nothing further was done, however, and the town remained at a stand-still nearly ten years. A few goods were kept in the little store, a few bushels of grain annually purchased and the mail was daily put off to the few who made this their post office.

            Leaving the village, if it may be called such, we will return to the other parts of the township, which we left just entering the year 1854.

            Soon after ‘Squire Payne’s arrival, sickness appeared in a malignant form among his children and before long four of them were consigned to an early grave. They were buried near the creek, on a beautiful knoll, which, in after years became a general burying ground, now called Payne’s Cemetery in Section 32.

            The year before the railroad, the settlers erected a school house. They all got together, cut and notched the logs and on an appointed day, met and raised the building. It was covered with “shakes” held on by weight poles, a strong wooden door, a good floor and for those days what was to many a luxury, had a good box stove, for warmth. Mr. Eli Myer taught school in this log structure.

About 1856 the other school we’ve already mentioned was built near the Rook’s Creek Railroad bridge. 

            In the northwestern part of the township, another school was built, about this date, for a few families had located here and had succeeded in getting a school house built.

            In this part of the township, Thomas Virgin, S. P. Garner, Thomas Carson and Nelson Guthrie were among the earliest settlers. Mr. Virgin remained here until 1865, when he sold his farm to W. H. Wagner and removed to LaSalle County. Wagner is still living on this farm. Garner has also removed, having sold his farm to W. T. Russell.

            During all these intervening years, the growth of the township had been decidedly onward.  At this time attention was given to laying out the roads on the section lines. Previously, they had gone stragglingly across the prairies in any and all directions.

            The growth of the township carried with it a steady improvement in the dwellings of the people. Now many fine residences are seen and many evidences of culture and ease appear.  From the 12x12 or 16x16 cabins of the early pioneers, which in some cases, like those of Judge Myer and Squire Payne, who each had large families and often were compelled to accommodate as many more travelers, for hotels were few then and far between. From these small cabins have grown fine, capacious farm houses, with its large, airy rooms and cool, shaded yard. Instead of hauling salt, sugar or other necessities from Ottawa, Chicago or Danville or rafting their lumber across the streams, they now enjoy the home market, the neighborhood post office and good bridges.  There was no starvation, however, or lack of generosity in these old-time days, for they tell us when their supply of corn meal gave out, they went to their neighbors just beyond Pontiac, eight miles away, from whom they could borrow meal for breakfast.