Highland News Leader

Here’s how St. Jacobs became St. Jacob

Roland Harris
Roland Harris

St. Jacobs becomes St. Jacob in 1875

Just over a mile west of St. Jacobs, (which is the correct spelling, it wasn’t until 1875 that it was spelled St. Jacob.) is the old area called ‘Chiltons Fort’, established in 1812 and the old ‘Augusta Settlement’ that was laid out about 1820, the plat was never recorded and no lots were sold. The first death recorded in the area was Augustus Chilton, at an old age and was buried in the timber, which is now Augusta Cemetery but no stone marks his grave. Today all that remains is the ‘Augusta Cemetery’, located just south of Route 40 and just west of Route 143.

“The first house in the area that was called ‘St. Jacobs’ was built by Jacob Schultz, where he sold whiskey by the gallon. Schultz built a small home, then enlarged it, calling it the St. Jacob’s House. Schultz entertained travelers, had a wagon yard in connection, with his saloon. In 1849 Jacob Schroth started a store, buying 2 ½ acres off of Schultze’s Section 16, 40 acres. In 1850 Jacob Willi started a blacksmith shop. In 1851, Schroth got a Post Office established at his store and needed a name, so ‘St. Jacobs’ was decided, as Jacob Schultz was first in that area, then Jacob Schroth and then Jacob Willi, so they concluded to name the little Post Office, St. Jacobs.”

“In 1860, Jacob Schroth died and his wife then was Commissioned Post- mistress and continued the Post-office and store for many years.”

“In 1866, Edward Dee and William C. McAlilly (McAlilly, formerly of Saline Township, Highland, is buried at Dugger Cemetery, in Section 3, of St. Jacob Township.) Dee & McAlilly built a saw-mill north of the original town of St. Jacobs. (In 1867 when the ‘St. Louis, Vandalia & Terra Haute Railroad’ was completed, the location of the saw-mill remained the same but was just south of the railroad tracks.)“

“In 1869, Dee & McAlilly afterward put up a small grist mill and commenced grinding ‘Wheat & Corn’ and had a mill siding to load and unload rail cars. Then still later, took into partnership with them, Charles Valier. who was a practical miller. The mill later was owned by Valier and he also had the mill in Marine. (The 1882 History of Madison County, has more to say about this mill.)“

“The 1866 mill has been greatly improved from time to time and in 1882 stands as a substantial frame building, 4 stories high, with basement. The mill having 4 runs of burrs and a capacity of 125 barrels of flour per day and owned by Joseph Peeler and Jacob Willi, the old blacksmith”. Since that time the mill has been owned by John Bartle in 1880 and later called Enterprise Flour Mill and still later by several different parties. The old saw- mill has long since been abandoned and the original mill was replaced by concrete.”

“The village of St. Jacobs, was changed to St. Jacob, on September 8, 1875 and the first President of the Village Board was G.W. Hayes; Louis Schiele, Clerk; John Schaefer, Treasurer; with Christopher Moore, Jacob Schroth and Melchior Fisher, as board members. (It wasn’t until 1950, that the name of President, was changed from President to Mayor. The census of 1880, gave St. Jacob a population of 461.)“

“The Lutheran Church was built in 1869 and they built a neat brick structure, (Today called the St. Jacob United Church of Christ at 207 W. Main.) then the Methodist Church, a frame building was built in 1879, (Today called the United Methodist Church at 407 Jacob Street and later St. James Catholic Church was started at 305 Washington.)“

“John Schaefer started the ‘Independent Bucket Factory’ in 1881 and it employed from 6 to 8 people. The State Bank of St. Jacob was started on N. Douglas and is now at 102 W. 4th, with their newer building and drive-up. The St. Jacob Village Hall had been at 213 N. Douglas and are now in their new building. Blumer Lumber Co. had been on N. Douglas, just south of the railroad and Greenberg Junkyard was on Old Route 40, previously owned by his father and then Muryle Greenberg.”

“Dr. Buck was the first physician in St. Jacobs, next was Dr. Henry C. Gerke. Dr. Gerke was the first German to come to what we now call St. Jacobs. He was from Laar, in Hessen Cassel, Germany, coming directly to Madison County, Herrin’s Grove, in 1824. He left his family behind him and afterward crossed the ocean, several times. On his second trip, in 1830, he brought his oldest son, William H. The doctor located his son, in the Marine settlement. In 1842, his son, William H. Gerke married Miss Levina Blakeman. a daughter of the Sea Capt. Curtis Blakeman. (My fourth-great grandfather.) Mrs. Levina Gerke died young, leaving 1 child, who later became, Judge Henry C. Gerke, later of Edwardsville. In 1836 Dr. Gerke brought to this country the remainder of his family, consisting of his wife and son. John P. Gerke.”

“Dr. Gerke was a classical scholar, besides being educated to the profession of law. He was the author of several volumes, published in Germany, relating to the history of North America, and especially to that of the Mississippi Valley. These works were largely distributed throughout Germany and it was through their influence, that this part of the State has become so largely populated by the Germans. He was thoroughly democratic in his views of government and political economy; in fact the very cause that induced him to come to America, was on account of the free institutions.”

“The Doctor Gerke lived on his place near St. Jacobs until his death in 1842. He left a vast estate, and a wide circle of friends. His second wife survived him until 1871 and died at Marine, at the residence of her grandson, Judge Henry C. Gerke.”

“John R. Gerke was married to Bertha, daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Stoffelbach of Helvetia township, in 1843, and had 2 daughters. At his father’s death he fell heir to the property in St. Jacobs. He was an artist of considerable celebrity and produced many valuable paintings, now greatly admired. (Does anyone have a copy of Dr. Gerke’s books? Or John’s Paintings? Please call or bring to the Highland Home, to be copied for our Museum. Thanks.) John resided mostly in St. Louis, where he died in 1847. (Quotes from “1866 Gazetter of Madison County, 1882 History of Madison County”, the book, “St. Jacob, 1875-2000”, given to the Highland Home Museum by Curt Libbra, our museum number 627 and my files.)“

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