History of St. Jacob 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


Settlement of this township began at about the same time as the eastern part of Helvetia township, and almost as early as in any other part of Madison county. Being a part of the extensive Looking Glass prairie region, the description of Helvetia and Saline townships regarding the beautiful parklike landscape, fertility of soil, and consequent attraction for settlers, applies to it as well, and need not be repeated here.


Like in the adjacent townships, the first settlements were made along the timber's edge, on the east side of Silver Creek, by hardy pioneers from Kentucky and Tennessee, in 1810. The first were the families of John Lindley; of Augustus, William and Cyrus Chilton, and the Harrison and Schmeltzer families. They lived in peace until the Indians in 1812 became hostile, when the settlers built for their protection a fort or stockade (described elsewhere), where eleven families from this and adjoining townships found shelter. The fort (in the n.w. corner of section 17) was commanded by Major Isaac Ferguson and Captain Abraham Howard. It was never attacked. During the winter of 1814 Jesse J. Renfro, a ranger during the war of 1812, and a dozen other rangers, were on guard there under the command of Samuel Whiteside. It is related that during the early Indian troubles an Indian committed an overt act near the fort. Captain Howard daringly pursued him alone and after a chase of ninety miles in the wilderness and among savages, succeeded in killing the. Indian and bringing his scalp back to the fort.


Within the fort occurred the first birth, that of Thomas Chilton, also the first marriage, of Joseph Ferguson, brother of the Major, and Virginia Schmeltzer. The first death, that of Augustus Chilton, also occurred in the fort. He died of old age and was buried near the fort. The first school was taught in this fort by David Schmeltzer, and in 1818 the first school house, a log cabin, was built near the fort. Alexander Truesdale and John Kyle (who later settled in Helvetia township) were also among the first teacher's. The first church was built by Methodists about 1852, a brick building, called the Augusta church, near the site of the old log school house. Prior to the building of the church services were held at the residence of John C. Dugger.

John Giger (Geiger), a Pennsylvania German, entered land in section 5, Nov. 8, 1816, where he improved a farm. Gilmore Anderson, from Kentucky, settled in section 17, in 1816. His son James G. Anderson, was the first blacksmith of the township, who, with Wm. Faires (a woodworker), made wagons and the wooden mould board plow for the early settlers. He had served as major of a regiment in the Black Hawk war, was a respected citizen and a member of the County Commissioners Board at the time of his death in September, 1847. John Herrin settled Herrin's Grove, section 16, in 1816. His son, G. W. Herrin, improved a farm in section 11, and died in 1880. Phil. Searcy came from Tennessee in 1817, and improved a farm adjoining Giger's. George W. Searcy was constable and justice, and had a store in town up to his death years ago. Wesley Dugger came from Tennessee and settled in section 3 in 1817. John C. Dugger improved a good farm, and"Jerrett Dugger started an ox mill about 1828, which he, after several years, sold to A. Zwilchenbart, a Swiss settler, who ran it for a long time. Henry Burton Thorp came from Connecticut in 1819, having previously (1817) entered 15o acres on which he started an improvement. His brothers, Samuel and Nathan Thorp; also came to the township some years later. Henry Burton and Samuel ran a distillery for years. David Thorp and Albert Judd also built a distillery on the Silver Creek ford. John Howard, son of the widow Howard of Saline township, settled near the Augusta 'church.. He was a ranger during the Indian troubles, member of the Legislature of 1818, and the first justice of the township. Nicholas Kyle (son of Adam Kyle, one of the first settlers of Marine township) located 'at the edge of timber northwest of St. Jacob, where he improved a large farm and built one of the first brick houses in this part of the county. He was the first constable of the township. Win. Parkinson came from Tennessee in 1816, lived on the original Chilton place, and entered his first land in 1817. Many years later he moved to Wisconsin, where he died. His brother, Washington Parkinson, entered 8o acres in 1816, but came here two years later. His son, Alfred J. Parkinson, born in Tennessee 1816, became one of the most prominent farmers of the township, on the well known beautiful location in the eastern part of the township. He was a member of the Senate in the state legislature in 1882. He and his wife died many years ago. One of his sons, Prof. Daniel B. Parkinson, is president of the Southern Illinois State Normal University. Several of his children died, the others moved away, leaving only one grandson as farmer in this township. Among the other prominent early settlers were. Elam Faires, E. Ellif, N. Burnham, E. Traver, F. S. Pike, G. W. Herrin, E. Ellis, E. C. and G. W. Searcy, W. M. Giger (Geiger), the Andersons, Jeff. Virgin, the Pyles, and others.


Dr. Henry C. Gerke, Of Hessen Cassel, Germany, was one of the first Germans coming to this county in 1824. Having left his family behind, but after visiting Germany several times, he finally located with his family (which he had brought over at that time), on the Herrin place in 1834. He had previously traveled for years extensively throughout North America for observation and study of the institutions and conditions of the country, gathering material for his books on the history and conditions of North America and especially the Mississippi valley, several volumes, published at Hamburg in 1833, and widely circulated in Germany, influencing in a large measure the German immigration to this part of the state. His eldest son, Wm. H. Gerke, settled in Marine township in 1831. The late Judge Hy. C. Gerke, of Marine, who later lived and died in Edwardsville, was a grandson of the old doctor. Dr. Gerke was a classical scholar and able lawyer, who studied the political and other conditions of the United States so thoroughly that his works on the new world were rightfully held as authentic. John P. Gerke, his other son, who came over with the family in 1834, was an artist of considerable fame, who died in St. Louis in 1847.

The influx of other German settlers, who became prominent farmers, began about 1835, when Theodore and Joseph Miller arrived. The others, who followed from year to year, were: Henry, Samuel and Valentin Frey, A. Zwilchenbart, Jacob Leder, Peter Frutiger, J. A. Kirri, Henry Ritter, Rudolph Baer, Chr. Hirni, Jacob Leutwiler, John Schmidt, E. Pah, meyer, Martin and Chr. Branger, M. and F. Noll, G. Gaffner, Jacob Widicus, Conrad Meyer, F. Sohler, G. W. Schoeck, P. Zuckweiler, Jacob Zobrist, E. Pahmeyer, F. Becker, Phil and Louis Wasem, Chr. Reusser, Henry Laengle ( farmer and hotelkeeper), and others. Most of these pioneer settlers have passed away, but the names of nearly all of them are perpetuated here by descendants.

The township is bounded on the east by Helvetia, north by Marine, west by Jarvis, and south by St. Clair county. Silver creek is the principal stream flowing through the northwest part in a southerly direction, with considerable timber along the stream, but otherwise the township is substantially prairie, the landscape being similar to that of Helvetia township, the description of which also applies here. The old Oak Grove school house, half way between Highland and St. Jacob, was completely destroyed by cyclone in 1903 and rebuilt the same year.


Was started as a crossroads place when Jacob Schutz built the first house, where he sold whiskey by the gallon. In 1849 Jacob Schroth bought several acres of land off the corner of Schutz's farm in section 16 and built a small house, which he afterwards enlarged and operated therein a store, saloon and tavern (called the St. Jacob House). In June, 1851, a post office was established, and because his name and that of the original owner of the land and the blacksmith's was also Jacob, they agreed to name the place St. Jacob. When Mr. Schroth died in 1860 his wife was am pointed postmistress and continued so for many years. Jacob Will (deceased), one of the leading men of 'the township and owner of a fine farm just north of town (now in possession of his son, Supervisor Ed. Willi) started a blacksmith shop in 1850. Louis Schiele, who built the third house, laid out the town of St. Jacob in 1866, at which time there were about twenty houses in the village, mostly near the Schroth place on the St. Louis wagon road. At that time Joseph Somm, one of the most corpulent men to be seen, also conducted a tavern opposite to Schroth's. Dr. Buck was the first physician, and Isaac Anderson started the first drug store.

When the Vandalia railroad was completed in 1868, passing the old place a distance of about six blocks on the north side, the town grew rapidly in that direction, and has since developed to a progressive village of about 55o inhabitants, with the various lines of human endeavor well represented, the surround. ing country, being one of the most fertile agricultural regions, settled by prosperous farmers, securing for the town a good trade.

Louis Karges, for very many years a prominent merchant of the town, died in 1905. F. Sohler, another old time successful storekeeper and grain dealer, died about five years ago. E. N. Peterson, who started the first lumber yard in 1866, and was a leading man of the town, also died about 11 years ago. G. W. Searcy, the old time constable, justice and storekeeper, passed away some years ago.


St. Jacob was formally organized as a village on November 2d, 1875, the first board being composed of G: W. Hays, president; Louis Schiele, clerk; John Schaefer, treasurer; and Christopher Moore, Jacob Schrodt and Melchior Fischer as members. The present members of the board and officers are: Fred. Sohn, president; Fred. Spies, John Weidner, E. N. Michael, J. L. Noll, and Jacob Kirri, members; F. J. Buehlmann, clerk; John Hochuli, treasurer; W. P. Sweeney, justice of the peace.

The school building is a two story brick of four rooms. The Lutheran Church, a neat brick structure, was built in 1869, destroyed by cyclone in 1905 and rebuilt the same year. The Methodist church is a frame building, erected in 1879. A Catholic congregation was organized in 1893, and a frame church built in 1894. A Turnverein was organized Sept. 1, 1875, and a fine hall built in 1884. The lodges are: Odd Fellows, Modern Woodmen, Court of Honor, Eastern Star, Royal Neighbors, and Rebeccahs.

Present business, General Stores: Hochuli & Co., Widicus & Co., and Chas. Grueneberg. Hotels: Commercial (Oscar Appel), Rail Road Hotel (Fred. Schmidt), Alpine, formerly Pfaelzer Hof (Walter Sackett). Lumber, Hardware and Implements: Val. Liebler, and Schwarz & Blumer. Blacksmiths and Wagon Makers: Becker Bros., Fred. Spies, and F. Maurer. Tin Shop: L. Schaefer. Furniture: Writ Baer & Co. Drug Store: John Gaffner. Also a branch of the St. Louis Dairy Co.

The State Bank of St. Jacob was organized in 1903, with a paid up capital of $25,000. Its resources are $200,000, surplus and undivided profits $10,500, and deposits $184,600. The directors are: Charles Valier, L. A. Valier, Daniel Widicus, L. W. Adler, and Robert Valier. Frank Pike, cashier:

In 1866 Ed. Dee and Wm. C. McAllily erected a saw mill a short distance north of town and sawed the timbers for a small grist mill which they built and put in operation in 1869. Chas. Valier, a practical miller, became a partner. After it had been improved and run for a number of years under several different owners it burned down. Rudolph Baer & Sons then erected a large new mill on the south side of the railroad in 1882. In 1889 it burned down entirely, but was rebuilt on a larger scale by the Valier & Spies Milling Co., and is now one of the best modern flouring mills of large capacity, still owned and operated by the firm that built it.

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