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Champaign County, Illinois

First White Settlers

"The honor of being the first white resident of the country now comprised within the limits of Champaign County, belongs of right to Runnel Fielder, though some have been inclined to ascribe it to William Tompkins. Runnel Fielder, "squatted," to use an expressive western phrase, about four miles northeast of Urbana. He built a cabin which was used for the double purpose of a dwelling, and a trading house for barter with the Indians, who at the time were the only inhabitants between the settlements around Danville and those of McLean County. Mr. Fielder did not enter the land where his lonely house was erected. On the 27th of June, 1828, however, he entered the eighty acres east of it, which entry was the first made in the 'Big Grove', as the area was then known.

"Mr. Fielder, about the year 1828, built a mill for the grinding of grain, which was in operation in 1832 when the Broomfields came. Its construction was primitive in the extreme. It was driven by a wooden horse-power with an axe and auger. It ground wheat and corn between burrs made from granite boulders such as were found upon the ground in all directions. The bolting was done by hand. Charles Fielder is said to have taught a school in the Broomfield neighborhood in 1829. The Fielders emigrated to Iowa in 1831.

"David Gabbert , another pioneer, was honest and red-headed , unprepossessing in appearance and eccentric in manner. He never owned any land himself, but was often employed by others to enter land for them at Palestine or Vandalia and secure the receiver's certificate of entry. At any hour of the day or night he would set out, usually on foot, and never stop until his errand was accomplished. Gabbert lived on an eighty acre farm. Matthew Busey wanted to annex it to his farm; so, one afternoon, he started for Palestine, with the specie, to enter the land. It chanced that Anderson Rice, also, wanted the same land; so Gabbert was placed upon a horse after dark and started for Palestine. "Uncle Mat" had ridden leisurely forward until evening, when he stopped for the night. Gabbert, however, rode all night, passed Mr. Busey, and by the time the latter reached the land office, Gabbert had the receiver's certificate in his pocket, and Anderson was owner of the land. In this way did the pioneer settle once and forever many land titles.

"William Tompkins, in 1828, settled in Urbana on the creek, and built a cabin and opened a small farm, which later came into the possession of Isaac Busey, and was the scene of the first Circuit Court held in the county.

"Ethan Newcomb and family came to the Sangamon Timber in 1828, to what was afterwards called Newcomb's Ford. They were great bee hunters, and found many trees. They moved to McLean county in 1835."


From History of Champaign County, Illinois with Illustrations, 1878.

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