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prairie grass had been killed out by cultivation, or by being very thoroughly tread over by man or beasts.
It is a well-known fact that prairie grass has not the quality of propagation, haring no seeds and no root power of procreation. In these respects it is anomalous. It is not known that any other plant lacks these two essential principles of preservation and propagation. Once kill the roots of a single square rod of prairie grass and to the end of time that particular piece of land will never be covered with a growth of prairie grass again. When in the course of events this destruction occurred at and around the old fort, blue grass came in and remained as long as the land was kept in pasture, which was till about the year 1867. This was famous grazing ground, and Isaac Funk selected and entered it as he did other such lands in this part of the county. It still remains in the family, it being the property of his son George. Until it was put under the plow, the remains of the fort were plainly seen. A recent visit to the ground, in company with Mr. S. H. West, shows that the plow has pretty nearly obliterated the last fading lines of this most important landmark. But the importance of its position as a strategic point, as such defense was understood by Indians, will never be effaced.
In another portion of this work, under its proper head, will be found a very full account of the military events which called this fort into being, and the results it effected; it remains here to describe only its exact locality and position.
In the timber were numerous breastworks behind which, with the friendly alliance of the trees, a last stand could be made in case the defenders of the Old Town rights stood in need of them, but just outside of the timber, fifty rods from the west line, and not more than fifteen rods from the north line of Section 5, stood the works of the fort proper. The land seemed formed by nature for this particular defensive purpose. So elevated as to command, in a clear day, before civilization bad dotted the country with hedges and groves, a clear view of from fifteen to twenty-five miles from the east clear around to the southwest, and north, northeast and northwest a somewhat less extended view. The earthworks themselves were about ten rods by fifteen, with the corners rounded, being longer from north to south, and having the western lines running past each other to admit entranee. A passage-way extended down the hillside west to a stream of water to prevent the cutting off of this needed supply. The works were about breast high. It is evident that the attack was expected from the way of the east, as no one would think of attacking the wily Indian through their natural covert, the timber. On either side, south and north, were the burying-grounds so long used by the Indians. These have in years past been ruthlessly dug over to secure the silver ornaments which were buried with their dead in great numbers. The ground was dug over and over, and hundreds of silver rings, bracelets, etc., were taken out, The bones are now lying on the surface, and at one time it was very common for the boys of the neighborhood, after each rain, to collect on the ground to find whatever of silver trinkets had been uncovered by the rain. In the dry, gravelly knolls around were buried their corn and provisions, for they never seem to have learned the habit of selling their crop before husking-time, and hauling it off to the nearest railroad, to enrich the "middle-man."
The first settlements in West were made in the northwestern and southeastern corners of the town. Henry West in the former, and John Weedman in the latter, are excellent samples of the educated, industrious, business farmers which the “second wave of immigration brought to these parts; men endowed with such qualities as to prove a success anywhere. The Crumbaughs, having reduced an “Empire" from wilderness to fruitful fields, went to “West," and verified the old saying, with slight variations6 Westward the Crumbaugh of Empire takes his way:" only in this particular case, Westward was toward the rising sun. James Love, James Spear, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Rice were the first settlers in West—Mr. Love near the north line, in Section 4, Mr. Spear near the west line in Section 6, and the other two near him.
Mr. Love came in 1848, and lives here still on the land he first took up. He has 160 acres, with fair buildings, and is comfortably fixed. James Spear came in 1849, from Ohio, and died in 1859, leaving a widow and five children. Mrs. Spear afterward married David Bean, who has a half-section in Section 11, and her children all, with one exception, are settled around her. James has eighty acres in Section 11; is a young man of sterling qualities and respected by all.
Henry West came to this county in mature manhood, in 1850, from Kentucky. He was at that time forty-six years old, and had, by the careful habits and strict business ways, for which he was so well known both here and there, acquired enough to buy him a comfortable farm, when he could find one that suited him. The reasons for leaving Kentucky were such as operated to induce so many of the pioneers of Illinois to come here. Land was getting too high there for men of moderate means to hope to put their children on good farms. He also had a strong desire to get his family out from the influences of the institution for which he had no admiration. After coming here, he looked around awhile. The
year 1851 was one of those rainy seasons which used to occur with considerable regularity every seven years. The years of floods, which are well-remembered by the present generation, were 1844, 1851, 1858, 1869. It will be seen that each seventh year was, for a time, the rainy one. It has been said that 1837 was a similar one, but no record of such has come under the observation of the writer, unless the financial flood may be taken as such, for it swamped more men than all the others combined. We know that the year 1830 was, but the heavy and long-continued flood came in the winter in the form of snow. This remarkable coincidence of the repeated seventh year of food and the enforced idleness of the land called to the minds of religious people and teachers the Levitical law laid down in Leviticus, chap. xxv, 4-7
wherein the Lord directed the children of Israel when they should have come into the land to which he would bring them ; that they should let their fields rest untilled and vines undressed each seventh year, and should not even gather what crops or fruit grew spontaneously on that year; that their teams, servants, maids, and, probably, women, too, should rest. The line of argument which would follow from these repeated seventhyear rainy “dispensations of Providence" can be so easily imagined or remembered that it need not here be repeated. It was boldly insisted that the law of the Lord was unchangeable, making wise the foolish, and that this country would never prosper until that law was fully obeyed. Probably it will not be doubted that, if, after coming into
this glorious county, which was literally flowing with a superabundance of milk and honey—the cows had only to be driven in from the boundless pastures, and the bee-trees to be hunted-the people had given each seventh year to the kind of rest, good works and missionary work, and the land and teams to such rest as the Lord had required of Israel, they would have lasted longer, lived more contented, and increased in those qualities which tend to higher and better life.
The rainy season warned Mr. West that he must look for high land, and, after a good deal of search, he found what suited him in the southeast quarter of Section 5, where Mr. Hedrick now resides, belonging to N. T. Brittin, a man of large wealth and acquisitive habits, living a few miles west, in Empire. He soon closed a bargain with the proprietor, but when he came to get his deed, Brittin “ kicked out," and wanted $50 more. This incensed West, whose notions of honor were of the highest Kentucky order, and he determined to have no more to do with Brittin, but could not find another place that suited him and he was obliged to pay the Yankee the price.
Mr. West continued to live here until 1869, buying land as he was able, until he had acquired 2,800 acres, lying in Sections 1, 4, 5, 6, 8, 17, 20 and 21. He was the first Supervisor of the township, and continued to represent it in the Board of Supervisors as long as he remained a resident.
The town received its name from him, but not by him. The naming occurred in this way: At the first town meeting, in April, 1858, Mr. Simeon H. West, then a young man, proposed to call the town Pottawatomie, from the Indians, whose fort still stood on the hill in that township. He explains this mistake by saying that, though the Indian residence was so well-known and so much talked about, there was an alarming ignorance in regard to them; that an old citizen bad informed him that it was that tribe which had its home here. The mistake was a very natural one, as will appear from the Indian history at the end of this sketch. When his proposition was made, he learned for the first time that it was the Kickapoos who lived here, and, on his motion, the name of Kickapoo was given to the township. At the first meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the Board was informed that there was already a township by that name in Peoria County, and, on motion of some member of the Board, it was named from the Supervisor from that town.
Mr. West was largely engaged while here in stock-feeding and driving. He never believed in selling grain. When he determined to marry again and reside in Bloomington, he gave each of his children a good farm. Mr. I. H. West, Mrs. Hedrick and Mrs. Cawby, still live on the lands their father thus provided for them. Henry West was a man of strong, robust constitution, firm will, fixed
and kind and affectionate in his family. This latter trait was the more marked, perhaps, than any other.
He still resides in Bloomington, but owns considerable land in this township. Simeon H. West lived here with his father a few years and spent some years in travel. He was traveling through Kansas when “Ossawatomie Brown,” Jim Lane and the Free State men were hunting the “Missouri Sheriff," and “ Border Ruffians," and " Atchison, Stringfellow & Co.” there, trying to overcome the “elections " which the Cincinnati directory had figured so largely in. He had been an Emancipationist in Kentucky, but a States' Rights Democrat in Illinois. He fell in with parties of both sides there, frequently, but was easily able to convince both that he was not there to interfere in the
Kansas war. He went twice to California, and spent considerable time there. His time was for some years after his return given to improving his place, since which he has devoted more time to attending to township and county affairs, having been for many years the Supervisor from this town. With enlarged information, he has taken a leading position on the Board, and has given much attention to the matter of delinquent taxes, one of the toughest questions which the present generation has to deal with. He lives on a fine farm near where his father first bought, with convenient buildings, well surrounded with groves, evergreens, orchards and well-kept fields. He has formerly run a heavy cattle business, but, like most of the farmers hereabout, now usually runs what cattle he has through the winter light, and grass-feeds for a fall market. For some years now he has thus fed about one hundred head each year. A public-spirited man, and one who seems well appreciated by his neighbors. Politically, he is decidedly independent, and never finds a party that holds him in traces long at a time.
Harrison Barnett settled on Section 3, in 1854. He died in 1863. 'His son lives on the farm, and has fine, perhaps extravagant, buildings for a 160-acre farm.
Daniel Barnhart came here in 1854, and purchased a farm on Section 10, and still resides there. He is a good farmer and has an excellent farm. J. T. and L. A. Crumbaugh, of the plethoric, progressive family in Empire, about the same time took up farms on Sections 7, 18 and 19, along the line of Empire, and still reside there. They are good farmers, energetic and public-spirited. Have driven a large cattle business and are still doing a safe one.
Father Thomas V. Warnsley, now of Heyworth, had a farm here about the same time. He semained here ten years, preaching around as opportunity offered, and then, in the absence of so many of the younger preachers in the arny, there were not enough to half fill the appointments, he accepted an itinerant appointment from Conference. He, while here, preached both in the houses, and by his daily walk and conversation. Mr. McFarland and Mr. Coleman each had farms along the western border, at that time. S. L. Bishop, M. M. Craig and Robert Rutledge, of Downs Township, each had small farms in Sections 17 and 20, which, some years after, they sold to J. G. Moore, who came here from Pike County, in 1872. Mr. Moore owns the south half of 17, and the northeast quarter of 20, in West, and about 900 acres in Belleflower, which is kept mostly in grass. He is a man of large capacity for business and work, and is regarded a successful one. He keeps from three hundred to four hundred head of cattle, but, like his neighbors, he prefers to grass-feed, stall-feeding being nearly abandoned.
G. W. Hedrick, whose father was one of the earlier settlers in Randolph's Grove, came here from Padua, about 1866, and lives on the West homestead. He has 520 acres, and has followed cattle-raising pretty extensively, and very successfully.
John Weedman, Sr., came into this part of country about 1844, from Randolph, and lived seven years at Hurley's Grove, now Farmer City, in De Witt County, with his three sons, John, Amos and Isaiah. In 1851, he entered 160 acres on the southern line of this county, where Weedman Station now is, and considerable in De Witt. In 1853, the different members of the family entered 1,000 acres more in West (21-5), along Salt Creek. This was among the first land entered in this corner of the county, and among
finest. The excellent living water of this stream makes the land desirable for cattle-farming; indeed there is none better in the county, though not taken 80 early as that in the northern part of the township. The little clumps of native
timber along its banks made a fine shelter. Amos Weedman built on Section 11, and remained there eight years, when he sold to John, and went to Hurley's Grove, and bought the Hurley farm for $80 per acre. He is now Sheriff of DeWitt County. In 1851, John Weedman, Jr., began farming operations here, built a house and commenced turning the sod. The first year he lost his team and all his cattle by sickness. It did not exactly break him up nor discourage him. He has been remarkably successful in his business, having now 1,000 acres of land, a considerable town property and his banking business at Farmer City. He has carried on stock-raising and feeding largely, formerly stall-feeding 200 head in a winter, but now prefers grazing, though from habit, perhaps, he thinks he must feed a couple of car loads. His house is a neat and commodious country home of modern build, with veranda nearly encircling it, with neat and tasty surroundings, and the farm well-fenced, well-tilled, well-stocked and well (stream) watered. About nine years ago, when the railroads which center at Farmer City were building, he engaged in banking business there, and laid out an addition to the town of 100 acres.
E. McCord came here in 1853, and commenced a farm on Section 11, but did not remain here long.
Isaiah Weedman owned considerable land in West, and lived here several years. He entered the military service and was killed at Holly Springs.
In 1854, Melvin Lowery and W. L. Drybread came from Indiana, and settled where the latter still resides. Mr. Lowery moved West some years after.
Dr. Cheney, of Le Roy, came here from Ohio, and entered land in 1851, where Mr. Hamilton now resides. He was a man of energy, and carried on his farm successfully, and attended to a large medical practice here for ten years. He then sold to John Hamilton and went to Le Roy, where he engaged in trade, and did much to build the substantial part of that young city. He met financial reverses, however, and saw the accumulation of many years of hard work swept away.
John Hamilton, since he bought the Cheney farm, has been largely engaged in stock-raising. He has kept from three hundred to twelve hundred sheep. For awhile he lived in Bloomington, to put his children in school while there. Mr. J. B. Lewis, now in the bank at Farmer City, was in charge of the farm.
Mr. Lewis was one of the most esteemed and useful citizens during his residence here; was continually called on to do the work of the town offices, being a good accountant, and a safe, accurate and faithful man.
West has been rather given to furnishing the surrounding cities with bankers, besides Mr. Weedman and Mr. Lewis at Farmer City. Joseph Keenan, who is probably the most extensive business man in Le Roy, was for years a resident of this town. He had a good farm on Section 31, upon which he resided before he began banking at Le Roy.
Mr. Clark, father of the Clark boys, came here from Morgan County in 1853, and bought the Lucas land, a half section in 27. He brought with him the first herd of thoroughbred short-horns ever brought into this part of the county. They were purchased of D. A. Brown, of Sangamon County, and were white, which was the prevailing popular color twenty-five years ago.
J. M. Moon came here twelve years ago from Mendota, La Salle County, whence he had formerly come from De Kalb County. He purchased the south half of Section