History of Pin Oak 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


Pin Oak township, taking its name from a grove of Pin Oaks in section sixteen, a former militia training ground, comprises all of congressional township T. 4, R. 7. It is bounded on the north by Hamel, east by Marine south by Jarvis and west by Edwardsville. Although one of the earliest settled townships in the county, and near the city of Edwardsville, it is the least populous. In 1890 it had a population of 1,119; in 1900, 1,026; in 1910, 933. Its surface is an undulating plain dotted with groves of timber. In early days about half the land was timbered and all would have been but for the frequent prairie fires. With the increase of settlers, and the consequent checking of the fires, new groves of timber sprang up and flourished. The township is watered by Silver creek and its branches. It is strictly an agricultural township covered with fertile farms and with little waste. land. It is a beautiful country to look upon in summer with its broad acres of waving grain shimmering in the sunshine. It is adapted to all the staple crops and to stock raising, dairying being an important industry. The main county roads from Edwardsville to Highland and Marine pass through Pin Oak.


Joseph Bartlett and pioneers Lockhart and Taylor were the reputed first settlers in the township. They came in 1808 and began improvements in 1809. Descendants of Joseph Bartlett still reside in the township. Thomas Barnett, who came to the county in 1815, settled in section 5. Two of his grandsons, Edward Barnett, a prosperous lumber dealer of Edwardsville, and J. A. Barnett, the genial circuit clerk, are among the most popular residents of the county. Col. Thos. Judy was an early settler in section 4. Sylvanus Gaskill was a pioneer, and the first sermon in the township is said to have been delivered at his house by Rev. Knowland, in 1808. The first school was taught the, same year by Mr. Atwater in a log cabin on a farm later owned by Jubilee Posey. Joseph Bartlett became a prominent citizen and was the first assessor and treasurer of the county. He served in the war of 1812 and also in the Black Hawk war. Service in these two wars, however, was general among the pioneers. They had to defend their new homes or lose them. Paul Beck located on section 5 prior to 1812 and built a block house and established a horse mill. This improvement 'was later purchased by George Coventry, an Englishman, who came from Kentucky in 1813. This place and other lands adjacent were subsequently purchased by Gov. Edward Coles. The site of an old block house is now occupied by a flourishing apple orchard. Gov. Coles retained this property during his lifetime. He died in 1868 and willed it to his daughter, Miss Mary Coles of Philadelphia, who still survives. In 1870 she sent an agent to the county, in the person of former Mayor Prince, of Boston, who, on her authority, sold the lands to Wheeler & Prickett of Edwardsville. They, in turn, disposed of the lands to others. The eighty acre tract in section 4 on which Gov. Coles had improved was purchased by K. T. Barnett. The eighty acre tract south of the main road is now owned by Mrs. Mary Miller and the north tract in section 4, by M. M. Buchta. Another tract of the governor's land, in section 5 was also purchased by K. T. Barnett, father of Edward and uncle of J. A. Barnett of Edwardsville. A second tract in section 5, understood to have been once the property of the Governor, is owned by R. Buckley. The tract in section 4 purchased by Mr. Barnett was subsequently sold by him to F. W. Tunnell. Gov. Coles in his autobiography says that his buildings and improvements, including a young 'orchard, were destroyed by prairie fire shortly before his removal to Philadelphia in 1833, but, in the memory of persons still living, a gigantic apple tree stood in the yard surrounding the present tenant house on the premises and was probably one that survived the fire spoken of by the Governor. An old well, doubtless sunk by Gov. Coles' direction, was also near the present tenant house. In later years it became choked up by the sides caving in, and a new well was dug fifteen feet distant, and the earth taken therefrom was used in filling up the old well.

Jubilee Posey, a native of Georgia, came to the county in 1811, when a youth, and became a prominent citizen. He lived to an advanced age. Other early citizens who came in territorial days or soon after, were George Hutton, Laban Smart, James Tunnell, James Pearce, Alvis Hauskins, John Minter, Jacob Gonterman, Matthias and George Handlon, Samuel McKittrick, Edmund Fruit, Robert McKee, James Keown, Thos. J. Barnsback, Col. Thos. Judy and others. Reference to many members of these old families will be found in the biographical volume of this work.


In a certain aspect Pin Oak is one of the most interesting townships in the State as the scene of a historical incident. It will be remembered that in 1819 Edward Coles of Virginia, having freed his slaves, brought them to Madison county and settled them on lands he purchased in Pin Oak township, from three to four miles from Edwardsville. He gave each adult male a quarter section. The colony of freed slaves thus established prospered and, as time passed on, other colored settlers joined them and the original holdings were subdivided. The settlement at one time numbered about 300, but subsequently diminished, a number of families moving to Montgomery county. The settlement is in the centre of the township, mainly in sections 14, 15 and 16. Two main county roads run through it and it is bisected by Silver creek. Among the early settlers were Robert Crawford, Michael Lee, Samuel Vanderberg, Henry Daugherty and Thos. Sexton.

There were several preachers among the colored people in different decades. They supported two churches, Baptist and Methodist. The original colony was a success in establishing the ability of the emancipated slaves to support themselves when afforded the opportunity and vindicated the judgment as well as the philanthropy of Gov. Coles. One of the churches referred to seems to have died out as Supervisor Fred Tegtmeyer informs the writer that there is now but one church in the township, the colored Baptist.

The most notable colored man in the township, but not connected with the original colony, was Henry Blair. He was born a slave in Tennessee in 1816. After his master's death he was set free by his mistress and made his way to the fertile land of Illinois. He engaged in farming in Pin Oak township. By industry, perseverance and native intelligence he made rapid progress in securing a competence, and eventually became the owner of nearly a thousand acres of choice land which he farmed at a profit. The homestead of the family, in section 9, stands on a sightly knoll and is visible from a long distance.


Pin Oak township is, well supplied with means of transportation, both the Clover Leaf and the Illinois Central passing through it. Fruit, a station and postoffice on the Clover Leaf, is on the line between Hamel and Pin Oak townships. It takes its name from the pioneer family of that name. The writer recalls a volunteer soldier of the Civil war, by the name of Fruit, from this neighborhood, who was very fleshy. The officials sent him home from Camp Butler because on drill his breadth covered any two men in his company and spoiled "the count." However, he was a good man and a patriot.

The population of Pin Oak is now largely German or of German descent, many of the descendants of the original American settlers having moved away. They are frugal and industrious, and have made the township a garden of productiveness.

The first supervisor of Pin Oak, atter the adoption of township organization, was James B. McKee, in 1876. Since then a long line of prominent citizens have filled the position.


The Edwardsville Democrat of August I, 1912, has contained the following article by its editor, Captain A. L. Brown, than whom no one is better posted on the history of Madison county:

"Last Tuesday W. T. Norton, inspected the site of Gov. Coles' farm homestead, where the latter lived in the '20s. The 80 acre tract where the house stood is in Pin Oak township, S ½ SW. of Section 4, now owned by Mrs. Frank Tunnell, and lies on the north of the road running directly east from Edwardsville through north part of Town 4, Range 7.

"The Coles plantation originally embraced nearly 400 acres. It was in that vicinity that Gov. Coles planted his colony of freed slaves that he brought from Virginia and which caused him so much legal persecution afterward. Among those slaves was 'Uncle Bobby' Crawford, who was an able preacher, renowned as a Christian among whites as well as blacks. There are a very few people now living in Edwardsville who recall 'Uncle Bobby' and his wife. They moved to Montgomery county in the '50s and died there many years ago.

"In the days of camp meetings at Silver Creek, on the Edwardsyille Marine road, `Uncle Bobby' was a foremost figure thereof. Days when it was announced that he would preach, scores of white people were there from neighboring towns."

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