Highland News Leader

Brothers, both veterans of the Revolution, were early settlers of Illinois near Highland

Roland Harris
Roland Harris

James A. Ramsey was a Revolutionary War veteran who came from North Carolina to eventually settle near Highland.

James A. Ramsey’s brother, John Ramsay, who was also a Revolutionary War veteran, settled in Clinton County in 1818, just south of present day Helvetia Township. John’s two sons, Norris W. and and James Ramsay (as they spelled their name), came into Helvetia Township at an early date.

Don Rogier, in his 2004 book, “History of Sebastopol, Illinois,” wrote: “The chain of title on this Ramsey farm is, ‘United States to James Ramsey, with Certificate of Entry, dated December 23, 1816." This was two years before Illinois became a state in 1818.

James A. Ramsey was titled, “The Northwest Quarter of Section 22, Township 3 North, Range 5 West, Containing 160 acres,” Rogier wrote. Today, that is Helvetia Township in Madison County, but at that time, it was called the Sugar Creek Precinct.

Rogier continues: “Norris W. Ramsay was married early in life and raised a family of 10 children, but only four reached maturity, and only two were living when Norris died in 1863. They were his son, William S. Ramsay, who was living on the home place, and his daughter Rachael Ramsay Lessley of Sparta.

"Norris had been a great worker, starting with 40 acres, breaking the prairie land, making 4,000 fence posts and rails, then was able to buy his first horse. Norris was also the road supervisor when the Carlyle and Edwardsville Road was laid out, and he and his workers opened the road from the east line of Helvetia Township into Highland. Norris Ramsay, at the time of his death in 1863, owned 1,016 acres of land and quite an amount of personal wealth.

"His brother, James Ramsay (not to be confused with James A. Ramsey), came at the same time, as records show that, ‘James Ramsay had bought 160 acres in 1816." (They were sons of John Ramsay, who settled in Clinton County in 1818.)

“James A. Ramsey, held divine services, after the Presbyterian Creed, on Sugar Creek, in a private log cabin," Rogier wrote. "Elder James A. Ramsay did not marry until he was of middle age and raised no family.

"By 1824, George Ramsay also taught school in the log cabin. It seems that James A. Ramsey caused a school and meeting house (church) to be erected about 1825 or 1826. It stood near the Craig’s improvement, was constructed of hewn logs and was known as the Ramsay Church (Presbyterian). Subsequently, the congregation built a church on Section 28 of Helvetia Township. Later, this church was bought by R.N. Ramsay and was used as a tenant house.

"James A. Ramsey succeeded George Ramsay as teacher in 1828, and John Shinn taught starting in 1830. James A. Ramsey died in 1832 at age of 89 and is buried at Gullick Cemetery, south of Sebastopol."

(I will continue next week, or as soon as I have the Revolutionary War records of James A. Ramsey for the War Veterans Cabinet at the Highland Home Museum.)

“In 1814, Joseph Duncan, Gilbert Watson, James Good and Jonathan L. Harris made their settlement permanent, with J. Duncan and J. Good, owning most of Section 15, just one section north of Ramsey, all of this laying east of Sugar Creek. The first post office was called, ‘Pleasant Hill,’ located in Joseph Duncan’s home, and in 1817, Duncan was also made the justice of peace, a job he held for 40 years. About this time, townships 3-4 and 4-5, formed an election precinct, and the elections were held in Joseph Duncan’s residence.

“Joseph Duncan’s nephews, John Cuddy, came about 1818, and his older brother, Joseph Cuddy, came about the same time. John Cuddy had settled on the north half of Section 11, until 1835, when he went to Hancock County. Joseph Cuddy, also cleared a small field in the same Section 11 but sold his improvements to Alexander Forister in 1829.

“Joseph Duncan’s brother-in-law, Lee Cuddy, brought his younger family of four additional children to the area in 1823, but he settled on the west side of Sugar Creek, now known as the Bellm place.

“Alexander Forister came to Helvetia Township in 1829, purchasing the Joseph Cuddy farm. They came from Sumner County, Tennessee, with Thomas Carr, intending to start a tanning yard. This plan was soon abandoned, because tree bark was scarce, and lime was to high.

"After 3 years, Carr returned to Tenneesse and Forister remained. Forister then enlisted in the service during the Black Hawk War. (You will also find this information in the War Veterans Cabinet, in the Black Hawk War binders.)

"After the war, Forister then joined a Ranging Company on an expedition West, where the company had to act as guards to traders freighting across the Plains, west of the Mississippi River. This Ranging Companing was enlisted out of Madison, Bond and Fayette Counties. It was 100 men strong and commanded by Capt. Matthew Duncan of Vandalia, Illinois. After serving an additional 11 months, they were discharged and sent home.

"Then, in 1833, Alexander Forister purchased the Joseph Gracey’s improvements and married Sarah H. Duncan, daughter of Joseph Duncan. Alexander now went to work in earnest to improve his place. After the first year, he moved to the edge of the prairie. Forister had been married three times and had 10 children, some of them are buried in the Gullick Cemetery. At the age of 80, he was hale and hardy enough to make a trip on horseback to Edwardsville and return, about 50 miles, in one day. It was sport to the old gentleman."

Hope to see you this Saturday at the Highland Home Museum. Tours start at 1:30 p.m., with the last tour of the day at 3:30.

(Thanks to Don Rogier.)

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