Gillespie township is bounded on the north by Brushy Mound, on the east by Cahokia, on the south by Dorchester
and on the west by Halyard townships. It was named in honor of Judge Joseph Gillespie by the managers of the Indianapolis
& St. Louis railroad. The soil is of yellow clay, mixed with sand near the streams but back from the streams
the soil is a deep black loam and very productive. The township is drained by the Dry fork and its branches and
along the streams in early times was found a heavy growth of timber, mostly oak. The southern and eastern portions
are mostly prairie, which are laid out in finely cultivated farms. The southeastern portion of the township is
drained by the Little Cahokia creek.
The first land entry was made October 28, 1825, by Michael Dodd, when he became the possessor of eighty acres on
section 15. Three years later, September 15, 1828, Dennis Davis entered eighty acres in the northwest quarter of
section 2. September 29, 1829, B. Nowlin and J. G. White each entered a tract of eighty acres on section 14.
The first house was built by John Wright on section 2. This was in 1828.
The year 1829 witnessed the arrival of several families, among whom were Alexander Miller and Abraham Huddleston,
Jr., who settled on section 3; and a widow by the name of McCafee, also Dennis Davis, both of whom settled on section
In 1830 Aaron Maxwell settled on section 22, while Gabriel Maxwell settled on section 21.
In 1831 James Robinson settled on section 29, Artery Taylor on section 5, and Giles Adams on section 17.
Daniel Huddleston arrived here in 1832 and made a permanent location on section 5.
In 1833 A. Jackson Rose settled on section 21 and Andrew Clark settled on the same section, while George Harlan
entered land on section 2.
Soon after coming here in 1833, George Harlan built a horse mill on section 2, which was the first in the township.
It is not known who was the first child born but it is known that in the fall of 1830 a child was born in each
of the homes of John Wright and Gabriel McKinzie.
In the year 1831 or 1832 Louisa Huddleston, daughter of Abraham and Judah Huddleston, aged eighteen months died
and was buried on section 3. This was the first death in the township.
The first schoolhouse was constructed of logs in the fall of 1835 and was located on section 3. Alexander Walls
and a Mr. Moore taught here in early times but it is not known which was the first teacher.
The first sermon in the township was preached in the home of Daniel Huddleston, on section 5, by Pleasant Lamay.
a Baptist clergyman. He preached in the different homes and in the schoolhouse until a church was erected, which
was in 1834, and was located on section 5. Rev. Lamay was the first to preach in the new church and continued to
hold religious services here until the time of his death. In 1854 a larger and more modern building was erected,
Alva Fluddleston and Nicholas Grimes doing the carpenter work. Rev. William Fitzgerald delivered the first sermon
in the new building. The first Sunday school was organized in 1848 and the superintendent was Henry Fishback.
Giles Adams was the first postmaster and the mail was kept in his home on section 17. This office was established
in 1854 and prior to that time the mail was carried by stage on the line running between Carlinville and Bunker
The first election was also held in Mr. Adams' home in 1835. The settlers considered this a great convenience as
they had formerly gone to Carlinville to vote.
The first blacksmith shop was erected by Daniel Adams, father of Giles Adams. in 1834.
The first store was opened in the summer of 1834 on section 3, by John Foster.
The first tavern was conducted by a Mr. Abrahams at Dry Point, on section 15, and was opened in 1833.
The town of Gillespie is located on section 24. The original proprietor was Philander C. Huggins and it was
surveyed by J. B. Meads in the spring of 1853. In 1855 an addition known as Huggins' first addition was made on
the north side and in the following year, 1856, S. H. Burton made an addition on the south side.
The first building in the town was erected in 1853 by B. F. Clark, the lower floor being used as a store room,
while the upper story was used as a dwelling.
In 1854 the postoffice was moved from Giles Adams' residence to the store of B. F. Clark and the first postmaster
here was Thomas Chandler.
The first hotel, a frame building, was put up by S. D. Martin in the spring of 1856 and was known as the National
The first mill was built by Settlemire, Rankin & Holmes in 1859. On January 14, 1864, William Robinson, engineer,
and Lewis Zinzer, miller, were killed
by the explosion of the engine.
The first blacksmith shop was built and conducted by McGoern & Berning. Dr. Isaac Osborn came here in 1855
and began the practice of medicine.
In 1855 Jacob Querbach built a wagon shop and in the same year a schoolhouse was erected and a Mr. Williams became
the first teacher.
The schoolhouse also served as a place of worship until 1863, when the Episcopalians built a church and Rev.
Dresser served as pastor for a time. He was succeeded by Rev. Mitchell.
The same year the Methodist denomination built a house of worship and Rev. Morrison served as their first pastor.
The German Lutheran church was erected in the fall of 1869. The first Sunday school was organized in the schoolhouse
in 1856. This church now has a beautiful pressed brick house of worship and a comfortable parsonage. The present
pastor is Rev. L. Krekler.
The records of the Methodist church, now at hand, would show that the church was organized about 1850. Abram Isaacs
and wife Mary, D. K. Campbell and a number of others were charter members. At the time mentioned it was a mission
in the Alton district, with an appropriation of $100 of missionary money. Rev. R. Randall was the first pastor.
Five years later the church numbered about ninety members, and its property was valued at about $500. In 1853 T.
D. Gilliam was pastor and the church numbered one hundred and ten members. Rev. Gilham was succeeded by T. M. Boyle
in 1858. He had increased the membership to one hundred and ninety. That same year the church was transferred to
the Litchfield district and T. W. Jones was the pastor. Among the early pastors of this church may be mentioned
Asa Snell. T. S. Morrison. W. F. Davis, George T. Weaver, C. J. Tolle. A. Bliss, S. Walker. N. D. Shackelford,
T. A. Eaton, S. T. English. S. R Grove and R. H. Massey. In 1864 a new church was built on the corner of Macoupin
and Spruce streets, which was used until 1910. The building, which was a frame, was then moved off its foundation
to its present location, a block east on the corner of Spruce and Madison, and now forms a part of a new building
of frame, constructed in the year last above mentioned, at a cost of about $8,000.
The membership of this church now numbers about 125. The attendance at the Sabbath school is 275. The present pastor,
C. H. Spragg, succeeded Rev. Samuel Thero, in 1911.
St. Catherine's and Gude's Catholic church has long been established at this place. In 1879 a commodious frame
building was erected to accommodate its members, which at that time numbered about one hundred. The church was
enlarged and improved in 1902 and in 1910 a rectory was built for the pastor. The value of the entire property
amounts to about $16,000. Rev. Thomas Crosson is the pastor.
There are a Christian and Baptist organization in Gillespie, both long established, but now weak in numbers. Services
are held at the Baptist church every other Sunday by J. M. Ginn. of Staunton. The Christians have no regular minister.
THE CITY DESTROYED BY FIRE.
January 29, 1905, Gillespie was visited by a destructive fire, which entirely wiped out the business section.
Nothing daunted, the citizens at once began to rebuild and today the main street of this pretty little city has
on each side of it modern and tastefully built brick structures that would be an adornment to any place. This main
thoroughfare, named Macoupin, is 100 feet wide. In the center is the track of the Illinois Traction System, one
of the greatest interurban railroads in the world. Early in the summer seasons for the past three years the main
street has been sprinkled with oil. The citizens have found this method to be preferable to sprinkling with water
and much less expensive.
In 1904 the population of Gillespie was 1,716. The federal census of 1910 gave it 3,075. Shortly after this
census was made public. a school census was taken, which increased the number to 3,100.
LARGEST MINES IN THE WORLD.
The chief industry of Gillespie and the section surrounding it is the mining of coal, and it is said that three
of the largest mines in the world are located at this point. They are owned and operated by the Chicago & Northwestern
Railroad Company which places none of its product on the market. It is therefore presumed that this great railroad
system uses the coal in the operation of its own rolling stock.
PROPOSED CITY HALL.
In the spring of 1911 the citizens of Gillespie voted on the proposition of issuing bonds to the extent of $8,000.
for the purpose of building a city hall. The proposition carried and bids were made on the structure, but rejected.
New plans for the improvement are now being made. The hall will be constructed of brick and two stories in height.
Provisions will be made for a council chamber, jail, fire department, and other public conveniences. The city has
a volunteer fire department. The paraphernalia consists of a chemical engine and hose carts. Of the police force,
there is a marshal and two night patrolmen.
ELECTRIC LIGHT PLANT.
The city is well lighted by an electric plant, built in 1890, by private parties. Frank Edwards of Benld is
president of the concern and C. W. Smith. of Gillespie, manager. The city has a continuous service.
Gillespie is without a water works, or sewerage system but the city is so prosperous and its people are so energetic
and enterprising that it is only a question of a short time before these necessary utilities will be installed.
However, the citizens here take great pride in their sidewalks. Within the last three years there have been laid
twenty miles of granitoid walks. Five years ago there were but two blocks of them. In 1897 a commodious and tastefully
built two story frame opera house was erected, with a seating capacity of 350, by H. F. Meinecke and others.
Gillespie can well pride herself on the appearance and construction of the company homes for miners. One does
not see here long, forbidding looking rows of shacks, without any shade trees or other comforts surrounding them.
On the contrary. there is a diversity in the appearance of the buildings. Each take on the cottage design, are
painted, and really look home like, as they should. In 1910 the Northwestern established repair yards at Gillespie
for its coal cars. Here 2.000 cars are used each day in handling coal. That means that many need repairs and seventy
five men are employed in the shops on that work.
Like all other progressive little cities. Gillespie has her societies, chief among which may be mentioned the
Masons. Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Woodmen, Red Men, Owls. Hibernians, and Foresters. There is a post here
of the Grand Army of the Republic, which was once quite strong in its membership, but at this time only five of
them answer to the roll call at its meetings.
The city of Gillespie has two strong financial concerns in the Gillespie National Bank and the Bank of Gillespie.
The first was organized October I. 1905, by H. H. Behrens, H. W. Rice, J. K. McDavid, Marvel Thomas. T. M. Rodiner,
G. W. Smith, Jr., P. H. Dorsey. Sr., Thomas Elliman, Edward Lane and others. H. H. Behrens was the first president;
M. Thomas, vice president; and W. J. Joyce, cashier. The bank was capitalized at $50,000. The present officials
are: President, J. M. Rodiner; vice president, Thomas E. Elliman; cashier, H. W. Rice; assistant cashier, W. E.
Cavanaugh. Directors, J. E. Barringer, Joe Querbach, J. P. Querbach, P. H. Dorsey, H. F. Bycroft, Sr., H. W. Rice,
J. M. Rodiner, Thomas Elliman, J. K. McDavid.
The Bank of Gillespie was established in 1894 by S. M. Grubbs and E. R. Davies, of Litchfield, under the firm name
of Grubbs, Davis & Company. About two Mr. Davis retired and E. I. Miller of the First National Bank of Litchfield
assumed his interest in the concern, which then took the title of the Bank of Gillespie. It took the firm name
of Grubbs, Miller & Isaacs, the latter gentleman having entered the firm in 1897. In 1906 this company erected
its bank building, which was the first new structure put up after the coal industry was established.