Piasa History, Macoupin County IL
©Mrs. Howard Reno 1976-2008
With written permission given by Mrs. Howard Reno to use on the Macoupin County IL page. Thank you, Mrs. Reno.
Thanks to Chuck Courtwright for bringing the article to my attention and thanks to Mrs. Reno's daughter, LuAnne Mundy, for sending the copy to me.
History of Piasa
Material compiled by Mrs. Howard Reno April, 1976
In 1830, Joseph Andrews built a home on section 6 of Brighton Township.
This was about two miles south of Piasa and near a state road, which ran
diagonally across the prairie from the Piasa Creek to Brighton. This was
the Jacksonville-to-Alton road and many of the early settlements were near
this road. At this time, there were the Brown at Brighton, a Simmons family
about three miles southwest of the present village of Piasa in Jersey County
and the Rhoads family of Medora. These were the only inhabitants between
Rockbridge and Godfrey.
The first settlement in Shipman Township was made by Rev. William Peter who settled land on section 31. He died in the winter but Mrs. Peter had a cabin erected the spring of 1831 and moved her family there.
In the year 1833, a group of people from Hardin County, Kentucky, moved to Shipman Township and started the Haycraft settlement. Records indicate that this was about three miles northeast of Piasa. The families of James Haycraft, Samuel Haycraft, Joel Parker, and Mrs. Cleaver constituted this group. Mrs. Parker was one of the Haycrafts and Mrs. Cleaver is thought to have been a sister.
The first settlement in what was to become the village of Piasa was made in 1835 by George Parker who came from Greyson County, Kentucky, with his wife and baby daughter. He filed claim for land on section 29 and his home was located on the east side of the Alton road a few hundred yards south of Piasa Creek.
Several English families came into the Piasa area in the mid thirties, three of them locating on Piasa Creek. In 1835, Thomas H. Wilson moved from Alton to Section 19 of Shipman Township. Descendants of this Family have lived on that land continuously for one hundred and forty years. The next year Robert Meatyard located on section 20, where later the village of Piasa was to be established. A son, Edward, who was born in 1839, became an inventor, securing patents on about twenty inventions. He also published a volume of papers on the " Transportation Problem". These dealt with all phases of railroading. The Samuel Trible family came here directly from England also settling on section 20. The parents died within a year and young Samuel Trible was left to care for his brother John who was four years younger. Mr. Trible became a large landowner and he was famous as the owner of the celebrated Mad Stone, which was exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. In 1885, he moved into a large home across the road from his farm and an unusual feature was a pipe organ, which he had installed. This he had brought back from a visit to relatives in England.
A little later, the Beeby families came from England. They have been an important part of Piasa history. The Paul Odell family is the only descendants who still live in the community.
In the 1840's and 50's several families from the state of Delaware came to Piasa, many of them from the area just outside of Wilmington known as Brandywine Hundred. Some of them were of Swedish extraction. The first postmaster in 1849 was Charles L. Talley and first blacksmith, H. H. Talley, both of whom were from Delaware. There were also the Justinsons, the Kellams, the Harkers, the Forwoods, and the Dennys.
Charles Justinson was the first person to be buried in the Piasa Cemetery in 1850. A few years later the Methodist Church was built on the same hill. One and one-fourth acres of land was given by Samuel Trible for the church and cemetery. The church was organized in 1849 but the building was completed and dedicated in 1856. Some of the early members were the Dennys, Meatyards, Justinsons, Jolleys, Wilsons, and Yeatmans.
In May 1867, the village of Piasa was surveyed and divided into twenty-eight lots, most of them on the north side of the Shipman road. The population was said to be about 200 in 1879.
In 1849 the first frame school house was built at Piasa. The cost was $250. Later schools were built in the surrounding countryside. Two miles south of Piasa was the Maple Grove School. A few miles southeast was the Prairie Dell school and northeast was the Hill Grove School. Piasa had two years of high school until 1933. Students completed their high school courses at Shipman, Brighton, or Medora at this time. In 1949, Shipman, Medora, Brighton, and Piasa became Unit District #9. The Southwestern High School for this district was built at Piasa in 1956 and an addition for junior high in 1969.
The Baptist church was organized in 1870 and a church was built the next year on land given by George Parker. Some of the charter members were the Clowers, Arnolds, Rhoads, Parkers, Clarks, Forwoods, and Shannons.
By the year 1879, several business houses were located in the village of Piasa. These included two general stores, a drug and hardware store own by C. B. Wilson. The stores were owned by John Denny and W. F. Bateman. There were also a blacksmith shop, wagon shop, and a stove maker. Some of these businesses were probably located in the large two-story building on the northwest corner of the crossroads, as Mr. Denny is known to have had a store there at one time.
Dr. John Ash moved to Piasa in 1852 but stayed on a few months, moving to Brighton the next year. Dr. Thomas Horine came in 1883 and stayed until 1890 when he, too, moved on to Brighton. But he continued to minister to the people of the community by having a private telephone line from his home to the general store in Piasa.
Sometime after the railroad was built through the western edge of the village, an elevator was built nearby. Mr. Darnielle, Clarence Still, and Lloyd Travers were some of the early operators. In 1949, John Stone took ownership and seven days later, on July 4, it was destroyed by fire. He rebuilt and is still serving the community.
The Post Office in Piasa was established November 19, 1849 and has been located in several places. The first Postmaster was Charles Talley. In later years there was a Mr. McStay, John Denny, Mr. Hiscott, George Clark, Lawrence Ketchum, Paul Craig, and Muriel Schulthes who held the position from 1937 to 1963. Our present postmaster is Mary Blotna.
The first party telephone line was stung in the early 1900's from the store in Piasa to the Monroe Forwood residence east of town, on to the Thomas Forwood home a little farther east and then north to the Edmund Forwood home. Mr. Edmund Forwood built this first system and a switchboard was operated from the general store. Gradually other lines were added and the Piasa Mutual Telephone Company came into being, and later became a corporation. Pauline Reno, a granddaughter of the founder, was an operator when the old switchboard became obsolete and we were on our way to the dial system.
An organization which did much to improve the village by building sidewalks and oiling the roads a short distance out of town was the Piasa Fish Fry. This was begun about 1904 and continued until 1928. It was a great community effort. The annual event took place on the north side of the road just west of the railroad tracks on land owned by the Trible family. The Piasa creek runs through the area used for the picnic and it sometimes caused problems. A dynamo furnished electricity and was housed in a permanent building. There was also a permanent building from which the fish was served all-you-could-eat free. Of course, there were other places you could spend your money, such as the carnival rides, and food stands. Other forms of entertainment were dancing, bowling, and pitching horseshoes.
There was a bank of Piasa from 1913 to the mid thirties. This was started by Jack Beeby and David Wycoft. Others involved during the years were T. M. Wilson, Roy Odell, Paul Craig, George Waggoner and Edwin Ewin, Tommy Haycraft, Herb Ruyle, Wallace Haxel, Aline Waggoner, Martha Schaefer, and Orville Lahr.
There are now two garages in Piasa. Howard "Perry" Reno has been in the garage business in Piasa since the late 1930's except for four years during the war when he served his country. Bob Barnett has operated a garage since shortly after the war.
Several other families who have made tremendous contributions to Piasa and the local area should be mentioned. The Lowis family who lives northwest of Piasa live on land that has been in the family for more than one hundred years. The Schaefer families, whose father Samuel came from Germany many years ago, are living in and near Piasa. The George Gwillims came from England on their honeymoon and eventually located two miles north of Piasa, where they raised several sons. The Waggoners were involved in church and community affairs for many years, although none live in Piasa now. There are many other families who have been an important part of the community, some for a short time and others for many years. All have left a mark in one way or another and have added to the history of Piasa.
Asst County Coordinator Kathleen Mirabella
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