FORT RUSSELL TOWNSHIP
STATISTICAL VIEW - RAILROADS - PRODUCTS, TOWNS AND POSTOFFICES - SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES - EARLY SETTLERS - TOWNSHIP
By Norman G. Flagg
No spot in the Madison county of 1812 was of greater interest historically, or of greater importance in the military
affairs of that day, than was Fort Russell, and it was highly proper that this township (5-8) should be named for
this noted frontier post. It occupied a half-acre in the northeast quarter of section 34, being in the northwest
quarter of the southeast quarter of the above named quarter section, the site being the property, in 1912, of the
heirs of Mrs. Nellie (Burroughs) Wiseman. Quoting from Davidson and Stuve's History of Illinois (1874):- "The
most notable, as also the largest, strongest, and best appointed in every respect, of the stockade forts, was Fort
Russell (named after Col. William Russell), established by Gov. Edwards early in 1812. The cannon (five) of Louis
XIV., which' had done service in the ancient Fort Chartres, were removed hither and placed in position. This stockade
was made the rendezvous for the militia and the regulars, and the main depot for military supplies. Gov. Edwards
here established his headquarters, during the perilous times of 1812, and gathered about him the beauty and chivalry
of those days. Within the protecting walls of this stockade were attracted and found shelter much of the talent,
fashion, and wealth of the country, and here his Excellency presided with a courtly grace and dignity, well befitting
his fine personal appearance and his many accomplishments." Quoting again from the reminiscences of the old
settler, Solomon Preuitt: "Fort Russell was a stockade, with huts inside, half an acre being picketed in."
This township is the largest in extent of any of the, twenty three townships of the county, comprising 23,359.24
acres. In the north tier of sections some quarter sections contain as much as two hundred acres.
The census returns of 186o give the prairie (improved) and the timber (unimproved) lands as about equally divided,
but this proportion has since changed largely, until, the proportion of improved to unimproved lands was in 1912,
probably three to one. By the census of 186o again, taken by Deputy Marshal W. B. Dorsey, the township is given
a population of 796, a real estate value of $277,336, and a personal property value of $90,729. The 1910 census
gives the township a population of 1067. The total assessment of the township in 1911, on a one third basis, was
$648,125, exclusive of railroad, telegraph, etc.
Three streams are found in Fort Russell township. Cahokia creek passes through the southeast portion and after
a protracted storm or a heavy thaw of snow is a veritable river and can not be crossed for several days. Indian
creek traverses the entire length of the township from north to south, running from section 4 to 31. Paddock's
creek is a smaller stream, entering in section 3 and running southeast into Cahokia creek.
There are four lines of railroad in this township, with only one depot, - at Bethalto, in the extreme western
edge of section 6. The Big Four (New York Central lines) has two lines, the old railroad running through section
6, one mile, (formerly called the Alton & Terra Haute,) and the new "cutoff" built in 1904, traversing
the south half of the township from southwest to northeast. The Wabash has two tracks here, one being the old Madison
county coal road, formerly running to the river west of Edwardsville crossing, now used by the Illinois Terminal
railroad; the other Wabash line runs through the southeast corner of the township, being formerly known as the
Toledo, Wabash and Western.
In early days two main wagon roads ran through this part of the county; the "Alton and Greenville road"
entered the township in section 7 and ran almost due east, and the "Springfield road" ran practically
north and south from section 3 to Edwardsville. On this latter highway, on May 8, 1822, was established a U. S.
mail route in connection with the stage service between St. Louis and "Sangamon Courthouse." Many other
roads and crossroads have since been opened, and Fort Russell has now about sixty miles of public highway.
PRODUCTS - TOWNS - POSTOFFICES
The soil of this township is much varied. With the exception of a belt of rich soil, a mile or more in width
and extending from sections 6 and 7 northeast, most of the good soil of the township is found in the middle and
western portions, south of the Greenville road and west of the Edwardsville-Prairietown road. Wheat, corn, hogs,
and cattle are the leading products; much fruit is raised for home consumption, and the housewives reap an amazing
harvest from poultry. Wherever railroad facilities are within reach, dairying is becoming a much practiced industry
and is much needed to conserve soil fertility. Splendid timber is found along the water courses.
No towns are within the limits of Fort Russell, save one fourth part of the village of Bethalto, in which are located
a custom mill, a creamery, a hotel, a four room school and four churches. About 1850 quite a village flourished
in section 9, known as "Libertyville" or "Gooseville," where were a tavern, store, and blacksmith
In 1838 a postoffice, "Paddock's Grove," was established, with Volney P. Richmond as first postmaster,
at the Paddock settlement on the Springfield road stage coach line. When railroads superseded the stage coach,
the mails came to Bethalto, Edwardsville, Moro, and Wanda. A "star-mute" mail was run for many years
between Edwardsville and Bunker Hill, through the eastern part of the township, and on this route was established
"Liberty Prairie" P. O., located first at the F. Gaertner residence, in section 23, and later moved to
J. Russell Newman's home, opposite Liberty Prairie school house, where he and his successor E. A. Lanterman, kept
the postoffice until the township was granted R. F. D. service in December, 1902.
SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES
The first schoolhouse was built in section 20 in 1819, although Rev. William Jones conducted a school one year
earlier, in the blockhouse in section 18, Another of the pioneer school houses was located on the John Estabrook
farm, in the extreme northwest corner of section 14. After many years of meager school facilities, the present
division into school districts was made, whereby almost all pupils are within reasonable distance of a school.
In 1842 the first church was built, in section 23, by the German Lutherans, west of the Gaertner cemetery. In 185o
the Methodist Episcopal church on the John Estabrook farm was erected, in section 15. In 1871, the Cumberland Presbyterian
church of Liberty Prairie, the successor of the Omphghent church, was built. In the northwest corner of Fort Russell
are found six churches - the Presbyterian near Moro, the German Evangelical southeast of Bethalto, and four in
the village - the Methodist Episcopal, Catholic, Presbyterian and Baptist. In pioneer days there was a strong congregation
in attendance at "Bethlehem" church, located in the extreme southeast part of section 18; the old building
has in recent years been removed to the premises of Z. B. Owens, a descendant of the pioneer Jones family.
Isaiah Dunnegan, a native of Georgia, was Fort Russell's earliest white settler, so far as known. He made his
home in section 31, very near the present Wanda, in 18o3, erecting there a log cabin for his small family. Two
boys, Joshua and Thomas, were born before the Dunnegans came to Illinois, and later were born four more children
- Louisa, Abner, Joseph and Isaiah, Jr. He died in 1814 and his widow survived him twenty years. Before her death,
she entered forty acres of land for each of her children in sections one and twelve of Chouteau township.
In 1804, Joseph Newman, a Pennsylvanian, settled in section 34, bringing a wife (maiden name Raab) and four children:
Zadock, Maria, John and Andy. One daughter, Emily, was born after the family moved here. Joseph Newman died about
1825. His eldest son, Zadock, was married, in 181o, by Rev. William Jones to Martha Ewing, to which union six children
were born, among them John Russell and William E. Newman, lifelong residents of this township. At one time Joseph
Newman owned several sections of land in the south central part of Fort Russell township. The first frame house
was built by a Mr. Pemberton for John Newman, in section 14 on the Hill place.
Maj. Isaac Ferguson came in 1806 to section r8, and here his son John L. Ferguson, the first white native child
of the township, was born; but this family soon left for the Marine settlement, selling out to the pioneer Baptist
minister, teacher and legislator, Rev. William Jones. The old blockhouse, erected on Martin Preuitt's farm in section
18 (north part), was moved in 1817 to Rev. Jones' place, and in this blockhouse home was born James Jones, a lifelong
resident of this neighborhood. Rev. Jones died in 1844, and is buried in the old "Pioneer" cemetery in
section 24 of 5-9. Ephraim Woods (brother-in-law of Rev. Jones) and John Finley were other pioneers in this neighborhood,
- then called "Rattan's Prairie," after Thomas Rattan, a pioneer of Wood River township. William Montgomery,
a native of Kentucky, was another pioneer of this vicinity, coming in 1814. A carpenter by trade, he wedded Sarah
Rattan and later moved to Wood River township.
John Springer, the pioneer head of a most worthy family, settled in section 3o in 1814; where he built a hewed
log house, said to have been on the exact site of the Thomas O. Springer homestead, now owned by Mrs. E. Gusewelle
John Springer and wife were victims of the cholera epidemic in 1849, and were buried in one grave.
No account of early days in Fort Russell is complete without prominent mention of Maj. Solomon Preuitt, who with
his father Martin Preuitt came in 1806 to the sand ridge prairie, a few miles east of Alton, and in 1818 moved
to section 18 of this township. Maj. Preuitt served in the Ranger companies during the Indian disturbances of 1812
and following years, and was also a Black Hawk veteran. He died in 1875, at the age of eighty five. He was said
to be "a history within himself of the pioneer times of Madison county" and many of the most valuable,
because reliable, portions of "Hair's Gazetteer of Madison County" (published 1865) had their source
and authority in Maj. Solomon Preuitt.
John Estabrook, Gaius Paddock and Gershon Flagg came to this township in 1818, all of them from New England and
all of them making their homes on the "Springfield road," theirs being the first homes erected on that
road in this county north of Edwardsville. Mr. Paddock had a large family and had come first to St. Charles, Missouri,
then to St. Louis and lastly to section 3 in Ft. Russell, where he spent his declining years. He was a Revolutionary
soldier, and participated in several important battles. He died in 1831 and was buried in Paddock cemetery.
Next to John Newman's frame house, the Paddock house, still standing (1912), was the first frame house erected
in this part of the county. John Estabrook put up a log cabin on his land in section 14 or 15, and kept bachelor's
hall until his marriage, in 1820, to Nancy White. A large family of children were born to this union, and many
of Mr. Estabrook's descendants live in different parts of the county and state. Gershom Flagg, also a bachelor,
settled in the southeast quarter of section 3, where he paid special attention td starting an orchard of grafted
apple trees. He served several terms as justice of the peace in the twenties and thirties. In 1827 he married Mrs.
Jane (Paddock) Richmond, daughter of his neighbor, Gaius Paddock. He died in 1857, leaving one son, Willard C.
In 1819 Daniel A. Lanterman, a Kentuckian, came to Fort Russell, having settled in St. Clair county the year previous.
He taught schoo many years, and later bought the farm of Jacob Linder in section 19. He died in 1865, leaving a
son, William A., a justice of the peace for many years.
The Robinson homestead in section 11 was settled in 1832 by William S. B. Robinson, father of Sidney Robinson,
and a son of Joseph Robinson, who had come from North Carolina to Madison county in 1815, settling in Ed. Edwardsville
township. In the 'forties came the C. P. Smith family, which has large interests in the south central part of Fort
Russell. Philip and Mary (Mueller) Smith came from Hesse-Darmstadt, Germany, with their three children, He purchased
an eighty acre tract in Fort Russell, upon which had been erected a cabin, seventeen by twenty feet. The son, Christian
P. Smith, conducted a steam saw mill in section 33 and became one of the largest landowners of this county.
Hon. John C. Burroughs should be mentioned in any history of Fort Russell, being one of the most public spirited
and energetic of her citizens. Coming from Maryland in 1857 and first teaching school at the "Progress"
schoolhouse, and later studying law, he turned to agriculture, making a specialty of stock. raising, and lived
in section 27 until his untimely death in 1876, in his 38th year. In the same neighborhood lived another prominent
resident, F. Gottlieb Stahlhut, who after working by the month for Gershom Flagg in the 1840's went to California
at the time of the gold fever in 1849; on returning to Madison county, he settled in section 22 and amassed a very
A sketch of this township would be incomplete without mention of its first supervisor under township organization,
John B. Gibson, a former resident of St. Louis and a citizen most highly esteemed by all who knew him. The first
township ticket (1876) read as follows:- Supervisor: John B. Gibson. - Town Clerk: C. Lanterman, S. L. Miller.
- Assessor: Jacob Bayer, V. P. Richmond. - Collector: Wiley Preuitt, Wm. A. Lanterman. - Comm'r. High ways: J.
R. Newman, C. P. Smith, J. M. Miller, Edward Jones, F. G. Stahlhut, J. D. Hutchins. - Constable: R. D. Lake, Wm.
Baker. The polling place of this township has been the "Grove" schoolhouse (district No. 74) ever since
the township was organized in 1876. Prior to that time, the north half of the township, east of Indian creek, was
in Omphghent voting precinct, with the polls at Omphghent schoolhouse; all of the voters living west of Indian
creek voted in Bethalto precinct; and the remainder of the township was in Edwardsville precinct.
In January, 1808, John Messenger surveyed the south boundary lines of 5-8 (see Vol. 12, U. S. Records); the boundary
lines on the west were run by Gilbery Marshall in March, 1812 (see Vol. 57); and the east and north boundaries
and the subdivision were surveyed in March and April, 1814, by J. Milton Moore (see Vol. 44). The 9oth degree of
longitude west of Greenwich approximately divides the eastern two thirds of Ft. Russell township from the western
The public officers of the township in 1912 were: Supervisor, Z. B. Owens; town clerk, John Jinkinson; assessor,
John Helmkamp; collector, Charles Wiemers; highway commissioners, S. Tuetken, H. A. Hellrung, Charles Knoche; justices
of the peace, Wm. H. Lanterman, Michael Neunaber.