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Champaign County, Illinois

History of Crittenden Township

This township formerly composed part of Philo, but was separated from that township in 1863, on motion of Woodson Morgan. The name was suggested by Mr. Morgan, in honor of an old friend in Kentucky, Gov. Crittenden. The township joins Douglas county, and is embraced in town 17, range 9.

The surface is somewhat varied, consisting of both prairie and timber land. The timber is principally confined to the south-east corner near the Embarras and Long Point slough. The Embarras river rises a short distance south of Urbana, and flows southward through the township from north to south near the centre, receiving near the line of Douglas county, the east fork of the same stream.

The timber along the Embarras early attracted the attention of the hunter and trapper, and as early as 1830 a hunter by the name of Bouse built his cabin in the grove, which has since received his name. He lived here with his wife for several years, with no neighbor but the Indians or the wild beasts that abounded in the surrounding forests.

Wolves were quite numerous in those days, and many thrilling encounters are related by those who first built their cabins in their midst.

A story is told of a narrow escape Bouse had from those voracious creatures. Going out on his usual rounds with his trap one evening, he was detained longer than he expected, and darkness overtook him before he reached home. All at once he found himself completely surrounded with a circle of shining stars. In a moment the woods resounded with the fierce howl of the wolf. Bouse kept the pack at bay as long us he could, but was at last forced to climb a neighboring tree. The wolves surrounded the tree, and after spending his last bullet the prisoner prepared to spend the night in his unique position, which he did midst the howls of the infuriated beasts. The next morning Mrs. Bouse, who had heard the firing the night before, took the dogs and a gun and went to the rescue of her husband, and succeeded in driving away his captors.

It is also related that two travelers were devoured by the wolves as late as 1850. The snow used to drift up in large banks, and people often lost their way on the trackless prairie, and were frequently buried beneath the driving storm.

In 1853 a wagon load of people were crossing the prairie, and becoming bewildered in the storm, lost their way and were forced to spend the night without shelter. Two of the party were frozen to death.

About twenty-three years ago a man was crossing the prairie during a snow-storm and was frozen to death. His body was discovered the next spring after the snow had melted.

Had we space we could relate many other incidents similar to the above to illustrate the vicissitudes of the pioneers.

The cabin erected by Bouse was well suited to keep out the fierce wolves or even the red men themselves. It was constructed of huge logs and covered with thick boards, over which were pegged large poles, as close together as they could be placed. The door was made of slabs and securely barred.

Bouse was soon driven farther westward by the tide of immigration, and a man by the name of Groendyke, from Indiana, entered a large tract of land in and around Bouse's Grove as early as 1836. This man erected several cabins in the grove for the purpose of placing tenants in them. The farm was afterwards divided into a dozen or more tracts and sold to as many different individuals, Alfred Bocock, another Indianan, buying the place where the Bouse cabin stood. This was is 1850. Spurgeon settled where W. R. Barrick lives in 1839, and sold to Barrick in 1852. Another Spurgeon settled where James Williams lives, and Nathan Spurgeon settled upon the Lemon place about this time.

Holms, Myers and Longs, are among the pioneers of Crittenden.

THE FIRST DEATH

in the township, was that of old Mr. Spurgeon, who died about the year 1852, and was buried in the Hammet burial ground, in Douglas county. During the same year his son Eli was married to a lady from Douglas county, which was, perhaps, the first marriage in the township. As soon as there was a sufficient number of children to justify them in so doing, a teacher was obtained and a subscription school opened in a cabin in Bouse Grove, Obadiah Johnson being the teacher. The first term was taught in 1852-3. A man by the name of Tompkins and a Miss Merry were also among the pioneer teachers. A schoolhouse was erected in 1857 by Alfred Bocock, on Sec. 14, and Martha Chapin, now Mrs. Christy, was employed to teach the first school.

A Baptist minister by the name of Elliot came into the neighborhood and held a meeting as soon as there was a sufficient number of people to form a small congregation. He was soon followed by Elder Shawhan of the Christian church. Revs. John Slater and Buck also preached in that vicinity in a very early day.

There are two M. E. churches in the township at present, one called Bethel, in the extreme southern part, erected principally by the efforts of James Williams and Henry Martin. The other, called Morris chapel, is situated near the centre of the township, and is a model of architecture.

A congregation of Disciples was organized in Belle Prairie school-house, in 1876, by Elder H. W. Williams. The church did not prosper, and services are but seldom held there at present.

The German Catholic church erected a building in Tolono, but as most of the members resided in the western part of Crittenden, the congregation abandoned the Tolono church and erected a building in their immediate neighborhood. They have a very good building, but already too small to hold the rapidly increasing congregation. The organization was effected by Rev. Mr. Kuchenbuck, in 1875.

THE FIRST BURIAL GROUND

The citizens began the work of internal improvement quite early, and in 1857 the public erected a substantial bridge across the Embarras. Roads were opened in various directions through the grove or across the prairie. Alfred Bocock erected a brick residence in 1859, which was the first of the kind in the township.

THE FIRST PUBLIC MEETING

was held in the old log school-house in Bouse's Grove, in 1857. No records of the meeting have been preserved.

Crittenden township is a very rich farming section of the county, and is well adapted to stock raising, and with its rich soil sloping gently toward the south, interspersed here and there by shady groves, through which flow the murmuring brook, it is destined to be one of the leading stock townships in the county. The western half of the township was settled by thrifty Germans who are rapidly rising in wealth and influence. The remainder of the township is inhabited by immigrants from other states, and from Ireland. Any person passing through the township would be struck with the rapidity with which the county is being improved. Almost every farmer who had sufficient time, has a nice orchard upon his farm, and generally of a choice selection of fruit. The first orchard in the township was planted by Mr. Bocock more than a quarter of a century since, and contains fruit of a very fine quality. Mr. Bocock also brought the first improved stock to the township, which consisted of some fine-blooded cattle. The township is at present stocked with some fine breeds of cattle, though the other domestic animals have by no means been neglected. Special attention should be given to the present condition of schools in this township. Some of the buildings are models of school architecture. No. 3, and College Corner, are both excellent buildings, while desks and other furniture in the former are of the best modern styles of workmanship. There are nine school-houses in the township, a few of which need better sittings. The Germans conduct a school in their language part of the year, thus giving their children the benefit of both languages.


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