Woodburn History, Bunker Hill Township - Macoupin County IL
©1997 Larry Clark

Woodburn Macoupin County IL History

contributed by Mary McKenzie

Bunker Hill Gazette, July 6, 1876, page 2.

A Sketch of Woodburn

The sketch historical of Woodburn necessarily will be brief and incomplete at the time I have to prepare it is entirely too short for so an important an undertaking, and in the facility to give (illegible) lacking in need, and a few simple facts in reminiscences will have to suffice.

Woodburn, at present the capitol of the township, was laid out in 1834 by Dr B F Edwards. The doctor was very modest in his ideas of what would be required for a town, and laid out only nine blocks, four of them 300 feet square, each divided into twelve lots, 50 by 150 feet. Four of the blocks were 240 by 300 feet, and divided into 10 lots; and one block (the centere) was dedicated as a public park, and has been used by the public ever since for every conievable purpose except as a park. The streets were all 60 feet wide, and were 8 in number--Wood street on the south, Cherry on the east, Walnut on the north, and the blocks north and south, and Carrollton and Edwardsville streets lay between those east and west.

Elder Elijay Dodson hauled the first timber into the town to build with, but a store for E. J. Miner was the first building put up, and was on block 7 near where Albright's residence is. Elder Dodson occupied his dwelling first on April 5, 1835, and his wife Mrs. Nancy Dodson who was the first woman to live in the town is still living at the advanced age of 86 years.

Daniel Luttrel built in 1835; also Enos Grandy; and the same year Dr. Edwards, in order to prepare for convenience of the traveling public built the tavern now occupied Willey Breden. To show that the Dr. had faith in the town his building was 28 by 40 feet, with kitchen 12 by 14 feet, two stories high, with three large rooms with attic, and with cellar underneath, which was a monster building in that day. James and William Hamilton were the first landlords.--Many of the first buildings were erected by James and R. R. Tompkins who came to this place Feb. 13, 1835 from Virginia. In 1836, Dr. Edwards and John Adams commenced building here the first steam mill in the county but before they completed it they sold their interest to Moses Jones who afterwards sold to Mudge who finished the saw mill part of it. In 1841 T. J. VanDorn bought the mill and put in the a large engine and two run of burrs, which set Woodburn ahead of anyplace in this county in the way of conveniences. Sometime previous to 1840 Daniel Luttrell built a mill for grinding corn, that motive power of horses, mules, oxen or anything that could be hitched to it. This was a big thing for a large section of the county, but was soon laid aside when VanDorn's steam mill got into operation. About 1837 the Perry Brothers built and operated a blacksmith shop, but whether they or Alford Davis was the first I cannot find out; but the best authorities give it to the Perrys.

The first church organized was the Baptist Church, June 24, 1835, with 11 members and supplied by Elders Starkweather and Dodson for about one year when Elder Dodson was settled as first regular pastor. March 15, 1842, the church took steps towards building a house of worship, 24 by 36 feet, 12 foot (?); and completed the same in 1843. In 1867 an addition was built surmounted by a steeple in which was hung a bell. After several preliminary meetings, the first of which was held Dec. 29, 1837, the Congregational church was organized March 25, 1838, with about 40 members and Robert Blake as pastor, who served until his death, March 21, 1842. In January, 1840, the name was changed to the Congregational church of Woodburn and Bunker Hill, and in September 1842 the church was divided and the Woodburn church reorganized on the original basis. In 1838 they built a house of worship 20 by 26 feet, which was used for many years as a place of worship for the different denominations; also the Baptist church was built in 1843. In it was organized the first sabbath school of the place in 1843, Dea. E. B. Goderd, superintendent. They built their present house of worship in 1853. It is 34 by 42 feet, the largest building in the place. There is a cupola in which was put the 2nd bell brought to the place from (Prairietown ? illegible). The earliest records of the Methodist church are lost, but it was probably organized about 1838. In 1850 they built their present house of worship, 26 by 38 feet, with a bellfrey in which they hung the first bell that was put up in town. This was quite a step in our civilization and we began to put on city airs and kept the bell busy with meetings, funerals, etc.

About 1858 the Campbellites or Christians organized a church and built a house of worship. Most of the old members have moved away from the place, and the place has gone down.

The Seven-Day Adventists church was organized in 1869, and occupied the house built by the Christians.

Dec. 11, 1843, was organized the first permanent Bible Society in the county. The meeting for organization was held at the Congregational church, Dea. Justus Rider, president, and Dea. Wm. Bailey, secretary. Woodburn has always been proud of taking the first steps in the Bible cause in the county that resulted in a permanent organization.

The old church building was used for school purposes, but in 1852 the school trustees, and some of principle citizens, took steps to build a school house. To raise the necessary amount by taxation was slow work, as a per cent was limited by law. But the people were equal to the emergency, and appointed R. R. Tompkins, Henry Burton and A. L Sturges as building committee, put on as heavy a tax as they could, and raised the rest by subscriptions. The necessary amount (over $500) was raised within two days after being started.--This was in addition to the amount raised by taxation. The contract for the brickwork was let to I. Long and Son, and for the woodwork Jas. (now Sheriff) and Phil. Pennington.--The house was 22 by 34 feet, two stories high and finished in the spring of '53. In the year 1836 Moore and Kellum, looking far into the future, and having a desire to prepare for the same, laid off over 80 acres in town lots as an addition to the town of Woodburn, giving a large block as a public square, thus preparing the town as a capitol not only for a township, but for a county, and in case of necessity, the State might use on of the town squares for a State-House, or the capitol of the township might be built at Bunker Hill or some other of the smaller towns.

About 1837 the post-office was established, with Corey as postmaster.--Geo Gordon carried the mail from Alton to Carlinville.

In 1837 Wm. West made the first kiln of brick. Dr. Edwards offering two acres of land to anyone who would establish a brickyard. West also established the first grocery, but in this he was more unsuccessful than in brick making. As the citizens manifested the same stern virtures than the place has ever been noted for, and West was forced to close his grocery, and sell out his brick yard and leave the place.

Dea. I. Long came in 1837, and furnished brick for Woodburn and vicinity for many years.

In 1846 the steam mill of T. J. VanDorn (illegible); and in 1848 the Tompkin Bros. commenced running the present mill, starting it as a saw mill, and grinding corn, and in 1852 they put in the fall (?) burrs and bolts.

In 1845 Jona. Huggins started the Woodburn Nursery, from which so many trees have been taken to beautify this and neighboring towns.

The towns has always been strickly in favor of strict temperance; although there were in 1850 three groceries, and at other times there have been groceries, and many times attempts have been made to establish groceries, still they have all fared like West's grocery, and for the last ten years there has been no attempts to start one. The last of the three mentioned above died out because as some of his customers said, when they went there for their early morning dram, they had to wait so long for the barkeeper to heat the poker to thaw out his whiskey they had rather go to Bunker Hill than to wait.

Among the first settlers of this vicinity was James Wood, who settled in 1832 on the mound one and one-half miles south of town. J. L. Wood entered 80 acres of his present farm in 1830, and settled on and improved it in 1832. J. T. Wood, afterwards representative in the legislature, entered and improved about the same time. Richard Wood, from New Jersey, entered 160 acres south of town in 1834 and improved it by building a one and one-half story hewed log-house on it at the same place that Mrs. Trabue's house now stands. Rev. Robert Blake settled on the Blake farm in 1835.

The state road from Alton to Springfield was surveyed in 1833.

In 1870 the Rockford and Rock Island Railroad company surveyed two routes through the place, and the town voted to subscribe ten thousand to have the road run through, and we might have subscribed a hundred thousand if we had known how as well as Brighton did.

The Town was incorporated in 1867 under general the law and in 1869 the legislature gave us a special charter under which we are now working. In 1867 a cemetery association was organized and took charge of our cemetery laying off and setting out trees, etc., and in 1870 they gave up the care of the same to the town authorities who the next year purchased the four acres between the old cemetery and the public road and propose to improve them soon.

In conclusion, I would say that while Woodburn is a good place to emigrate from, still Woodburn need not be ashamed of the majority of the sons she has sent out. Many of her former citizens occupy positions of honor and trust in other communities, and they still look back to their residence in Woodburn with pleasure. (?) J. P.Pennington who has been sheriff of the county eight years and will be the democratic nominee for the next term. Henry Burton was ours for a long time and Judge Huggins, who perhaps has done more for the improvement of Bunker Hill than any other man was first a resident of Woodburn and who can tell how much of his enterprise was installed during his short sojourn with us. In fact, it is this constant draw on our town to supply the necessities of surrounding towns that keeps Woodburn from being a large place. R. R. Wood.


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