Important byways of old Edgar County

By Roger Stanley rogerstanley769@yahoo.com
Posted 2/17/20

Many of the first major roads and villages of Edgar County in its founding years are different than what we see today.

As settlers needed roads in the 1830s to get to Paris and other important …

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Important byways of old Edgar County

Posted

Many of the first major roads and villages of Edgar County in its founding years are different than what we see today.

As settlers needed roads in the 1830s to get to Paris and other important cities such as Vandalia, the state capitol, Chicago, a growing center of commerce, and Charleston in Coles County, paths had to be established.

Many inns sprung up along the wayside at appropriate places. In the 1840s, Abraham Lincoln stayed at several of them, which we today think of as being significant. Back in those days there were not hard surface roads and as the traffic increased the roads were rarely fit for easy travel.

Bloomfield was a town north of Paris and at times it was hard to get a stagecoach through because of the ruts and mud. The Tremont House sprang up in that town laid out about 1830 and it had sleeping quarters, meals and a change of horses to pull the stage. A story told by Jonathan Gaines, the father of Mrs. Henry Woodyard, is about how one day he was hauling wood to Paris and stopped at that inn and his feet were almost frozen. This was around 1850 and Lincoln saw his plight and rubbed snow on his feet and stayed near to watch over him until he recovered.

To help travelers, one method was laying logs on the thoroughfare and covering them with dirt. Later improvements were gravel roads and the gravel was hauled for several miles because larger streams of water had better gravel. It was found local gravel from nearby creeks had too much silt and washed gravel was much better. This was a time before the railroads were laid out in the county and roads were important.

Another important route was crossing the Wabash River near Terre Haute, and the pioneers made their way west crossing Sugar Creek and going up the hill to what later became Elbridge and heading on west to just north of Nevins and then heading southwest along Big Creek. The road went on west and crossed through Grandview as it was

growing and winding along until it crossed the Coles county line and ended up in Charleston by way of Hitesville.

Grandview was also an important stopping place for visitors and Lincoln knew the stage stop in that community as the Barnett Hotel.

A mile west of Nevins, pioneer Hall Sims established an inn known mostly by the sign he posted out front. It read “The house of internment for man and beast.” The family of Hall Sims shortened their last name from Symmes to Sims, but we still have Symmes Township named after him.

Matt Wayne, originally from Paris, established a roadhouse south of Catfish Creek and had a license to sell liquor. In that 1830 era, he sold whiskey to the travelers for 12 ½ cents, a meal for 18 ¾ cents, a night’s lodging for 12 ½ cents and if he boarded the horse for a night, 17 ½ cents. He evidently did well because he later went to Wisconsin a well-to-do man. There was also an inn about three miles west of Paris, of which a picture still exists. Phil Winans formerly lived there.

Another forward-looking pioneer, Robert Shields, arrived east of Logan in Brouilletts Creek Township in 1837. A better road was being built in that area so he tried to establish a village named Brouillettsville, but it never amounted to anything although it can still be found on some maps.

Much of this information comes from the Beacon News, May 23, 1928 written by Dr. Floyd Davis, a prolific writer of historical events.