History of Collinsville Township, Madison
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.
FIRST SETTLERS 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.
PROSPEROUS AND HISTORIC
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.
UNIONVILLE, NOW COLLINSVILLE
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
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.
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.
COAL AND INDUSTRIES
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.
SCHOOLS AND NEWSPAPERS
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.