History of Chouteau Township, Madison County,
From: Centennial History of Madison County, Illinois and its People
Edited and Compiled by W. T. Norton, Alton
Associate Editors: Hon. N. G. Flagg, Moro
J. S. Joerner, Highland
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1912
This township lies wholly in what is known as the American bottom and possesses a rich alluvial soil composed
largely of a dark sandy loam. Chouteau is bounded on the north by Wood river, east by Edwardsville? south by Nameoki
and on the west by the Mississippi river. It is interspersed by a number of lakes and sloughs - the most important
of which are Grassy lake, in sections 2, 3 and 11, embracing some four hundred acres, and Long lake, which begins
in section 4 and ranges in a southeasterly direction entirely through the southwestern part of Chouteau and continues
into Nameoki township.
The honor of having the first white settlement in Madison county, unquestionably belongs to Chouteau township.
As early as 1750 the French established a settlement on Chouteau island.
EARLY LAND CLAIMS ENTERED
Following are some of what was known as Military Claims, which were entered in Chouteau by authority of an act of Congress, in 179o, granting a domain of 16o acres to each militiaman, in the district of Kaskaskia, enrolled and doing duty. Claim 1869; Jean Bougier, Nicholas Jarrot, 100 acres; claim 115, Charles Herbert, Nicholas Jarrot, same amount of land; claim 113, Joseph Ives; Nicholas Jarrot, also 100 acres. These claims were all placed adjacent to the Mississippi and are now in the river. The first land entered in Chouteau was by David Stockton, a small tract in section 4, on September 13, 1814. On September 14, 1814, James Gillham entered 200 75/100 acres in section 1 and entered an additional 160 acres in section 13, the same year. On September 17, 1814, he entered 63 37/100 acres in section 17.
PIONEER HARDSHIPS, PLEASURES AND DANGERS
The following is largely a copy of the reminiscenses of the late Samuel P. Gillham as given in "Brink's
History of Madison County," published in 1882. The writer well remembers Samuel Gillham (affectionately called
Uncle Sammie) and knowing his truthful natures, painstaking ability, and upright character, can safely vouch for
the accuracy of his notes: "In 1811 the Indians manifested a warlike spirit, giving evidence to the settlers
that it would be wise, on their part, to prepare for an emergency in case of any hostile demonstration on the part
of the Indians. Indeed, they had already murdered one of the settlers and wounded another near Hunter's Spring,
now in the city of Alton. This overt act threw the people into a fever of excitement, and they soon gathered together
and erected a block house situated on the farm now owned by P. S. Southard. It was understood by all the families
in the neighborhood that in case of any signs of Indian hostility the news was to be spread abroad in the settlement,
and all were to flee to the fort for protection. In after years this building was used for school purposes. No
signs of the old fort now exist.
EDUCATION AND RELIGION.
The first school was taught in the summer of 1813, by Vaitsh Clark. The school house was the little fort or
block house situated on James Gillham's farm, in section 1, which has already been mentioned The second teacher
was M. C. Cox, who taught in the summer of 1814. It seems that there was an interruption in the school until the
winter of 1817-18, when it was again revived, and taught by a man named Campbell, in the same old fort. He taught
at intervals for nearly two years, and here the young pioneers enjoyed their only school privileges.
FIRST MILL AND STORE
The first mill was built by a man named Dare about 1819 or 1820, located in section 32 on the William Sippy
farm. It was a rude affair, the power being furnished by oxen. About 1837, the property was purchased by Samuel
Kinder, who operated it but a short time, when it went to decay.
Abundant evidence exists that Chouteau was originally the home of various Indian tribes as far remote as the time of the Mound Builders. Several of these Indian Mounds yet remain. Some on the eastern border of Grassy lake, on the old Sebastian, now Hugh Poag farm, and others in the vicinity of Mitchell, in all of which have been found numerous Indian relics. Uncle Ben Wood, late of Nameoki township, who, in his day, was a noted hunter, informed the writer that, during the flood of "44," when the greater part of Chouteau township was under water, he landed his boat at the largest of the Indian mounds, near Mitchell, and killed several deer which were marooned thereon.
OLD SALEM CEMETERY
One of the old land marks closely connecting the present with the early settlement of Chouteau is the old Salem cemetery, in section 1. In 1834 Abner Dunnagan set apart two acres to be used as a public burying ground. The first interment therein was the body of Nellie Gillham, and one week later the body of Anna Dunnagan, both in 1834. Four soldiers of the Revolution, Thomas, James, John and Isaac Gillham, sons of Thomas the first, were buried in Chouteau township, each one on his respective farm, except John, who is the only soldier of revolutionary fame whose body rests in the old Salem - the present Wanda cemetery. In 1867 Sarah M. Dunnagan deeded the above mentioned two acres to the trustees of the Salem Methodist Episcopal church to be used as a cemetery.
For many years the cemetery, while used as a burying ground was sadly neglected, but in 1893 a society was formed
the duty of which was to care for and improve the cemetery. This "Mite Society" is still in active existence,
and since its formation the old cemetery, at all times, presents a fairly well kept appearance. Additional land
has recently been purchased from Harry Poag, the present owner of the original Abner Dunnagan farm, to enlarge
the cemetery. Since the formation of the "Mite Society," annually on or near the first Sunday in May,
the people meet in the cemetery and hold memorial services consisting of a few songs and a sermon.
THE OLD GILLHAM ESTATE
Perhaps the only tract of land in Chouteau township, now owned and occupied by a direct descendant of the original
owner is the farm in section 12, entered by James Gillham, a part of which is now owned and operated by Lemuel
Southard, Sr., soldier of Mexican war, now eighty eight years of age, whose wife was Martha, the youngest daughter
of James Gillham. The balance of the farm is now owned and occupied as follows: The west half by L. M. Southard,
and the east half, which contained the fort and block house, by P. S. Southard, of the third generation from their
grandfather; James Gillham. A tract in section tz, entered by R. C. Gillham in the early part of the Nineteenth
century, now a part of the late R. C. Gillham's estate, is farmed by E. L. Gillham, of the third generation from
his grandfather, R. C. Gillham.
Chouteau is strictly adapted to the farming industry has no mines, factories, incorporated cities or villages.
Old Madison, in section 17, was established by Nathaniel Buckmaster and John Montgomery in 183o. In the day of
its greatest glory it contained only a postoffice, a combined blacksmith and wagon shop, a store and saloon. In
1865 Old Madison was washed away and the same year another village, also called Madison, was settled one fourth
mile south of the old. Here Amos Atkins Gillhamstore house, purchased and placed a stock of goods therein and,
for a time, was proprietor of this general store.
OLD SALEM AND MITCHELL
Wanda postoffice, formerly Old Salem, is located in the northeast corner of section r. Near the present residence of E. K. Fahnestock, in a small building, used as a broom factory, a postoffice was established with Abner Fahnestock as postmaster in 1859. In 1874 J. K. Fahnestock built and opened a general store; to whith the postoffice was moved, in which building he acted as merchant and postmaster until his death in 19oo. His nephew, LeRoy Fahnestock, occupies the same building, somewhat enlarged, as merchant and postmaster at the present time. It is an interestii.g fact that since its first establishment, a Fahnestock, either as postmaster or assistant, has at all times had charge of the Wanda postoffice, Mitchell, situated in section 33 and 34, was laid out by the C. & A. railway and has several business houses. It enjoys the benefits of a good Catholic church and parsonage as well as a nice commodious, non sectarian, Protestant church. This little village possesses so many natural advantages that it may reasonably aspire to future greatness. It is located only a few miles from St. Louis, in close proximity to the Mississippi and is a splendid railroad center. The Chicago & Alton, Wabash, Big Four, Alton, Granite City & St. Louis Traction and Allen lines, the last two being electric - pass through Mitchell. These things, together with the fact that her level site and natural facilities for driven wells especially adapt this hamlet for the location of factories, give promise that, at no distant day, it will rise to importance.
THE DRIVEN WELL
There are few open wells in Chouteau. The strata of various grades of sand and substrata of gravel lying at various depths beneath the surface especially adapt this township to the more sanitary driven wells, which furnish unlimited supplies of purest water. These wells are formed by driving galvanized iron pipe, one and one quarter to one and one half inches in diameter, to depths varying from thirty to seventy feet. The first joint (the point) is from three to five feet in length, closed with a solid point at the lower end. The entire surface of the point is perforated with one quarter inch holes, which are covered with a fine gauze of copper wire through which the water percolates in entering the pipe. The pipe is driven to such a depth that the full length of the point rests in a stratum of gravel. A pump is then attached and the well is complete at a cost of a few dollars. These wells are not affected by drought and are absolutely inexhaustible, at least so long as Lake Michigan, the source of supply, remains. At Poag station, on the eastern border of Chouteau, the city of Edwardsville has established a pumping plant, which through these driven wells, of a larger magnitude, furnishes Edwardsville with a constant supply of pure water sufficient for all purposes.
COUNTY BOARD REPRESENTATION.
Chouteau has been represented, on the county board as follows: 1876-7, Amos Atkins; 1878, D. A. Pettingill; 1879-83, Amos Atkins; 1884, L. O. Gillham; 1885-7, Conrad Rath; 1888-1901, Frank Troeckler; 1902-4, L. M. Southard; 1905-12, C. W. Smith.
PROTECTION FROM FLOODS
Chouteau has had periods of adversity. The floods have at intervals made havoc with the products and improvements
of the people. The Mississippi has made serious inroads in sections II, 12 and 17. However pluck and energy have
been manifested by her people in their efforts to avert destruction from floods.