History of Collinsville Township, Madison County, Il
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


Collinsville township, T. 3, R. 8, is bounded on the north by Edwardsville township, on the east by Jarvis, on the south by St. Clair county, and on the west by Nameoki township. The city of Collinsville, from which it takes its name, is its principal commercial and industrial center. This township has the honor of being the first settled by white men in the county.


In the year 1800 Ephraim Connor journeyed through the wilderness and settled in section 5, T. 3, R. 8. He had no claim from the government and his improvement was purchased in 1801 by Col. Samuel Judy, who held claim 338, lying partly in T. 3, R. 8, and T. 4, R. 8. Colonel Judy became famous in border annals as a farmer, legislator and soldier. He erected the first brick house in the county in 1808. It is still standing and in a good state of preservation, although over a century old. It is located near Peters Station on the Clover Leaf. Peter Casterline settled in section 32 soon after 1800. A Frenchman named De Lorm, from Cahokia, settled in the same section in 1804. Other settlers followed these Pathfinders, attracted by the fertile soil and ample resources of the township, and many claims were made therein, soon after, by families whose names have since become historic in the county. The Whitesides, the Gillhams, the Wallaces, the Kellys, the McMahans; William Rabb, Sylvanus Gaskill, Michael Squiers and others, who first braved the dangers of the wilderness, were the forerunners of the hundreds who soon followed in their footsteps. Among them were numerous soldiers of the Revolution whose descendants still reside in the county.

During the years of border warfare with the Indians, from 1800 to 1815, the increase of population was necessarily slow, but with the close of the second war with England the settlements increased rapidly. The south boundary of the township was surveyed in December, 1807, by John Messenger; the east boundary in January, 1808, and it was divided into sections in 1810, thus facilitating and defining land entries.


Collinsville is one of the most fertile and productive townships in the county and has but little waste land. The uplands were originally heavily timbered, but now the forests are confined mainly to the lands bordering Cahokia and Cantine creeks, which water the township. Where once the panther and the wolf hid in the thickets and the deer wandered in droves, are now highly cultivated farms where herds of high grade cattle graze in the meadows. In place of the Indian trails are broad highways shaded by lofty poplars, and over the primitive roadways of the pioneers now flash the electric cars and the transcontinental trains of the steam railways. Between Collinsville city and the north line of the township lies as fair a land as the sun shines on, gently undulating in its topography and laughing with golden harvests in their season. On the south, adjoining the St. Clair county line, lies a strip of the American Bottom, famous for its fertility. The range of bluffs which leaves the river bank at Alton and deflects some five miles inland eastward therefrom, passes through this township. On the brow of this bluff range is located the handsome capital city of the township. Here, as a link between the present and the past, are certain old homes and structures of the pioneers, which have weathered the sunshine and storms of nearly a century. On this range of bluffs, also, is the noted Sugar Loaf mound, so called from its peculiar shape. It was once a signal station of the Indians, but is now a station of the United States geodetic survey and so designated by a tablet on its summit. In plait sight from the ridge, out on the open plain, is the celebrated Cahokia, or Monks' mound, and its surrounding tumuli. Sugar Loaf, like Monks' mound, is believed to be of artificial origin. The first coal mined in the state was discovered in this range of bluffs by the monks of La Trappe, who gave their name to the Cahokia mound. Not only is the township of Collinsville rich on the surface, producing great crops of cereals and other staples, but beneath the surface are limitless deposits of coal and shale, which are described elsewhere, and which make Collinsville not only a great mining but an industrial center of boundless possibilities. The township looks back upon a prosperous past and so prodigal has Mother Nature been in her gifts that it can look forward to a development of boundless possibilities. The hardy pioneers who first felled its timber for their rude cabins and turned its rich soil with their crude plowshares little dreamed of the storehouse of wealth lying beneath its smiling surface. They were a contented and happy people, grateful for the good things of the present, but unmindful of the fabulous heritage they were leaving to their descendants.

According to the census of 1910 Collinsville township has a population of 10,607, ranking as the third township in the county in number of inhabitants. Of these 7,478 are in Collinsville city, and 789 in Maryville, a mining village. The census of 1890 gave the township a population of 5,224, and that of 1900, 5,812, a gain of 588, but the census of 1910 showed a wonderful transformation, the gain in the decade from 1900 being 4,795, or nearly too per cent. The township is coming into its own, thanks to the development of its latent resources now in progress. The city of Collinsville rose from 4,021 in 1900, to 7,478 in 1910, a gain of 3457.


To revert to old times. According to Mr. H. J. Marshall the first settler of Collinsville, city, was John Cook. Mr. Marshall has his biography and a picture of his cabin. The founders of the city were the Collins family from Litchfield, Conn., who arrived in 1817 and purchased the holdings of Mr. Cook, on which the city is now located. The members of the family who first arrived were Augustus, Anson, William B. and Michael Collins. Five years later their father, Deacon William Collins, their youngest brother, Frederick, and the remainder of the family joined them. The settlement was at first called Unionville, but when a postoffice was established in 1825 the postmaster general changed the name to Collinsville, there being already a postoffice in the state called Unionville. The Collins brothers were active, energetic business men. They were possessed of ample capital and proceeded to the erection of a distillery, a saw mill and a flour mill. The distillery was built of logs and stands to this day, but has been metamorphosed, weatherboarded and converted into a dwelling house. They also erected a storehouse later, which was the first frame building in Collinsville.


The Collins brothers were prosperous. Their flour, lumber and whisky' found a ready market, and they established a warehouse in St. Louis. But in the midst of their prosperity they were not forgetful of the religious interests of the infant community, and in 1818, aided by other settlers, they built a Union meeting house, which was the first frame church erected in Illinois. It was open to preachers of all denominations. This building is still standing and is occupied as a dwelling. Their next care was the building of a fine two story frame house in preparation for the coming of their parents and the remainder of the family. This was built in 1821 and still remains a handsome, well built residence. It is occupied by Mrs. R. S. Reed, daughter of William B. Collins, and her husband. At the time the brothers built their distillery the making and vending of whisky was considered as reputable as any other vocation. However, in the height of their prosperity, sometime subsequent to 1825, the echoes of the great temperance reform that swept over New England reached their ears. Their old pastor, Dr. Lyman Beecher of Litchfield, published his notable sermon, "Six Temperance Sermons," which, with other literature and their own reflections, convinced them that the business they were engaged in was morally wrong and they decided to give it up, although to do so involved heavy financial loss, the rupture of the partnership in which the father and five sons were interested, and the scattering of the family. Instead of selling out at a good profit as they might have done, they destroyed the stills, sold the huge tanks for cisterns and the grain bins for storage to the farmers. Rev. Thomas Lippincott writes: "A temperance society was then organized and the owners of real estate entered into bond to sell no lots within the limits of the village without a clause in the deed of conveyance by which the property was forfeited to the original owners if ardent spirits were ever made or sold upon the premises."

I do not know what became of that reservation in the deeds of that day, but times have changed since then and Collinsville, with a population of 7,478, has now thirty nine saloons, which gives one for every 191 inhabitants, or one to every 38 voters at the ratio of five persons to each voter. The names of the saloon keepers sound like the roll call of an emigrant ship just arrived from the Mediterranean.

After abandoning the distillery business the Collins family separated, locating in different places, William B. alone of the brothers remaining in Collinsville. Deacon Collins, the father, died in 1849, aged 88 years. His wife died in 1834. Of his sons, Augustus died in 1828. Anson and Michael located in Naples and Frederick in Quincy. Both Anson and William B. died in 1835. One daughter, Almira, married Rev. Salmon Giddings of St. Louis. Michael married a daughter of Capt. Blakeman, and Frederick a daughter of Capt. Allen, both of Marine. William B. married a daughter of Joseph Hertzogg, who conducted a large flouring mill originally erected on Cahokia creek by William Rabb in 1813. Prior to their separation the Collins family took a prominent part in the Anti Convention campaign of 1824. The election took place in August of that year. The Edwardsville Spectator of Sept. 14, 1824, following, has this comment: "On the 2nd inst. Augustus Collins & Co. gave a dinner to the Anti Convention voters of Unionville precinct (Collinsville), who met to celebrate the success of the friends of freedom in the late election. At one o'clock a procession was formed and marched under the command of Ezra Post to the meeting house, where the ceremonies were opened with prayer and the singing of two appropriate odes, after which an address was delivered by Augustus Collins. The procession then marched to the house of the Collins brothers, where 120 persons sat down to a sumptuous dinner at which Curtis Blakeman was president and William Otwell vice president. After dinner a number of toasts were drunk, accompanied by martial music and the discharge of cannon. It is worthy of note that while in accordance with the custom of the times an abundance of liquor was served, there was not an instance of intoxication, profane swearing or angry conversation during the day."

This celebration was prior to the conversion of the Collins brothers to the temperance cause. It is likewise evident that the whisky of those days was different from some modern brands, which are potent enough to "make a rabbit spit in the face of a bull dog."

To resume: The first interment made in what is now Collinsville cemetery was that of Michael Squiers, who was buried there in 1816.

The oldest church society in Collinsville is the Presbyterian. It was organized May 3, 1823, by Rev. Salmon Giddings of St. Louis, with eleven members. Seven of these were members of the Collins family. The others were Oriel and Susan Wilcox, Horace and Emma C. Look. This church society is still in existence and is the oldest Presbyterian organization in the county, in continuous existence, and the building it originally occupied (still standing) is the oldest frame church in the state. This church is singled out for special mention because of the historic record of its original members in connection with the founding of the place and the establishment of its earliest industries.

The first industry in Collinsville, city, except those located by the Collins family, was an extensive tannery established by Oriel Wilcox in 1820. He continued the business for several years and then sold out to H. L. Ripley. Horace Look came west in 1818 and located in Collinsville in 1821. He was postmaster for upwards of thirty years. Some of his descendants still reside there.


The town plat of Collinsville was laid out by the representatives of William B. Collins, James L. Darrow and Horace Look. Just when this was done does not appear, but it was recorded at Edwardsville May 12, 1837. Its incorporation was recorded in the office of the secretary of state Feb. 15, 1855. (Doubtless a misprint for 1850), and organized as a city Oct. 1, 1872, under the general incorporation law. The town records from 1837 to 1850 are missing up to the election of Nov. 25, 1850, when the following trustees were elected and organized on the 30th of that month: D. D. Collins, president; J. J. Fisher, H. L. Ripley and Horace Look; Almanza Tufts, clerk. The last president of the town, board, according to the record the writer examined, was O. C. Look. Mr. H. J. Marshall says it was I. C. Moore. The first mayor was John Becker, elected Nov. 11, 1872, who is still living at the age of 85. The present mayor is R. Guy Kneedler. His immediate predecessors were J. C. Simpson and Dr. J. L. R. Wadsworth. Without making any invidious comparison it is but just to say that no name in Collinsville is more indelibly impressed upon its history than that of Dr. Wadsworth for the last fifty years. A minister of mercy in the abode of sickness, a leader in the social, moral and educational uplift of the place, and public spirited and progressive as a civic official, his name will live in the annals of the place as does that of the Collins family of the early days. It is a singular coincidence that both the Collins and Wadsworth families hail from Litchfield county, Connecticut.

Joshua S. Peers was for many years a prominent citizen of Collinsville. He came from New York in 1832.


Lying in the center of the coal mining district, the shipments of that product from Collinsville are immense and are more fully spoken of in Chapter XXIV. Hon. Louis Lumaghi is one of the leading operators. His father, Dr. Octavius Lumaghi, was one of the pioneers of this industry. In 1875 Dr. Lumaghi erected works for the smelting of zinc at his coal mine. This smelting business passed through various hands and has developed into the principal industry of the city, operated by, the St Louis Smelting & Refining Co. It operates a $2,000,000 plant and employs 1,500 hands with a pay roll of $25,000 every two weeks. Other important factories are the Chester Knitting Mill, the Triumph Pickle Company, the Luker Bros. creamery and last but not least the Stock Bell factory. This unique enterprise was established years ago by I. C. Moore, who was succeeded by O. B. Wilson, and is now operated by F. C. Blume. The tinkle of a cow bell is now seldom heard in this county but its cheerful sound still echoes in many remote sections of the south and west, where thousands of the bells are shipped annually.

Collinsville has many miles of brick paved streets; a fine system of water works; a model fire department, electric lights and other metropolitan utilities. It has two lines of the East St. Louis and Suburban Traction Co. It has but one railroad, the Vandalia line, built in 1868.


The earliest schools in Collinsville were taught in the Union church spoken of above. Several academies were opened later. Of these, one established by Philander Braley, and a later one taught by Rev. Charles E. Blood, were noted educational institutions. They were succeeded by the public school system. The city is now provided with three spacious public school buildings. The first of the three, erected in 1873, is a three story building with twelve rooms. The only township high school in the county is located here. It is a handsome edifice, modern in all respects, costing $50,000. Professor Charles H. Dorris is the efficient superintendent of schools. There is also a large and flourishing parochial school.

Collinsville is a city of handsome churches and costly private residences. Its churches, lawyers, physicians, bankers and newspapers are spoken of more minutely in previous chapters and likewise some of its early industries.

At the present time Collinsville has two newspapers, the Semi Weekly Herald, edited by B. W. Jarvis, and the Advertiser, published by Schimpff & Stucker. Both are enterprising journals and successful moulders of public opinion. Collinsville has a reputation as a graveyard of newspapers, but the present occupants of the field have no intention of ever allowing their enterprises to seek rest under the daisies.

James N. Peers, an old time journalist, resigned the editor's uneasy chair some years ago, and is now devoting his energies to photography and poultry raising. He is a talented artist in the first named pursuit and a great success in the latter.

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