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Daughter of Samuel Lewis May Have ...
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Daughter of Samuel Lewis May Have ...
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Who was the first white settler within present Pike county is shrouded in impenetrable obscurity. Certain it is that white men abided here long prior to the coming of the first settlers at Atlas. There is evidence that a white child was born in the region that is now Pleasant Hill township as early as 1815, in the days of the territory.

It seems reasonably certain that Samuel Lewis, descendant of Irish John Lewis who settled Augusta county, Va., moved his family from St. Charles county, Mo. in 1814 or 1815 and abided for a time in the Bay Creek country in what is now Pleasant Hill township. It seems equally certain that a daughter, Martha Damaris Lewis, who married Felix A. Collard and settled in Oregon Territory in 1847, was born in present Pleasant Hill township, April 2, 1815. The Lewis family later in 1815 returned to St. Charles county, Mo., settled still later in Lincoln county, Mo., thence returned in 1832 to Pleasant Hill, where Samuel Hardin Lewis died in December of that year. The birth of Martha Damaris Lewis was seven years before the birth of Nancy Ross at Atlas, credited by an early historian as the first white birth in the present county.

That white men lived in what is now Pike county at or near the beginning of the war of 1812 is attested by Col. John Shaw, founder of Pike’s first seat of justice, who, while aiding the whites against the Indians in the Missouri frontier settlements, told of men from across the river (in what are now Pike and Calhoun counties) enlisting in Howard’s Rangers, for whom he was scout and guide.

Tobias Hornback, a soldier of the 1812 war, is known to have been in what is now Derry township through the year 1818. Jean Baptiste Tibault, a French-Canadian who trapped and hunted along the Illinois river and operated a rude ferry where later was Philips Ferry, near present Valley City, was here as early as 1817, in which same year Abraham Scholl (veteran of the famous battle of the Blue Licks) explored the region that is now Griggsville. Tibault (generally known as J. B. Tebo) was killed at Milton in 1844. Both Hornback and Tibault were here in the closing days of Illinois Territory and were still abiding here when Illinois became a state.

In 1819 came Ebenezer Franklin and camped for a time south of present Milton, on the prairie that still bears his name. Franklin returned east but came again in the early spring of 1820, bringing with him his family. He settled near present Atlas in March, 1820, where he was joined a month later by the Daniel Shinn family, from Batavia, Ohio. Franklin has been regarded by some of the county’s historians as the first permanent settler.

It seems certain that a Frenchman or French-Canadian by the name of Ezekiel Romine lived in the Bay Creek country in what is now Pleasant Hill township at the time Illinois became a state, Dec. 3, 1818. In the northeast part of the county is a lone grave, that of a child, who, according to a bit of rudely engraved headstone, died in 1818.

So it is that the identity of the first white settler within the region that is now Pike county is shrouded in obscurity.

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Submitted: 01/26/08

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