On the Horace-Brocton Road, about six miles west of Horace there is a big pile of gravel on the south side of the road, but it hasn’t always been so.
Many years ago a Methodist Church and Garland School stood there. In that same neighborhood, there were a few homes, a general store and a blacksmith shop in the early 1900s.
So let’s follow the development and the demise of this area in Shiloh Township.
In the early 1800s, this area was inhabited by the Indians and was known as Mulberry Grove. The name derived from a forest of 1,500 acres with the general shape of a mulberry fruit, not because of mulberry trees. A little west and north of this area was a swampy area called Goose Lake. There is only an area of trees left in what was the lake. These locations were true landmarks for a township that was almost wholly covered by rolling prairie.
The first settlers coming from the forest areas of the south and east chose the lands adjoining Mulberry Grove to build their log cabins and start their farms. Although most settlers did not arrive in Shiloh Township until after the Civil War, Jerry Myers located in the Mulberry Grove area in 1848. He found George Bailey and Archibald Meyers living nearby.
The settlers at that time went to Paris to get the mail, mill grain and for general trading.
D.D. Wood arrived in 1855 and became the fourth pioneer to settle in the area. He built what he called a Jackson log cabin because it was made of hickory logs, and he was a friend of Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson. Wood knew the former president in Tennessee.
The first school in the area was built in 1856 near the William Kile farm. Although this was first a school for the Mulberry Grove area, it eventually became known as the Garland School Dist. # 47. It was the only school in Shiloh Township until after 1861.
A church was not built in the area until 1870. It was originally called the Shiloh Methodist Episcopal Church and was later known as the Mulberry Grove Methodist Episcopal Church. It was first built on the Ed Perkins farm about two miles from the school. Perkins was born in England in 1830 and came to the Mulberry Grove area by 1860.
Around 1890, the congregation decided to move the church to land purchased in 1831 by William Morris. The men of the church moved it across the fields and through the woods to make its final stand next to the school. A 1904 windstorm destroyed the church and a new one was built in 1905.
The small settlement had a general store operated by John Randleman supplying almost everything. Subsequent owners were men named Foster, Sperry and Colvin, with Colvin being the last known storekeeper between 1910 and 1922.
Frank Skidmore established a blacksmith shop in 1895, and Bud Mershon had the smithy from 1910 until 1934.
Earl Winans bought the shop and the old store and relocated them close to his home. Winans was also the custodian of the nearby Garland Methodist
Church for many years.
In 1900, an effort was made to locate a post office at Mulberry Grove, but the U. S. government rejected the plan because there was already a post office in Illinois by that name. A committee of three neighborhood ladies met and decided on the name of Garland for the settlement. The school and church names were also changed to Garland. A post office went into service at Garland, but it was only used until 1910.
The school, located just west of the church, burned in 1899. Only a few of the school’s contents were saved by the daring exploits of Cara Skidmore. According to an account by Bernice Winans, Skidmore was a student who, “had presence of mind enough to gather up her skirt and empty her desk.”
A two-room school was soon built on the east side of the church. It held students from 1-10 grades. At the same time, a small barn was built for the students to house their horses and also a coalhouse was built near-by. The school served until 1949 when the buildings and all contents were sold. There were several reasons for its closing: it was the era when consolidation took place in the county; it was much easier to transport students; and some believed the school systems of the nearby towns served the students more completely.
In September 1970, a centennial celebration was held at the Garland United Methodist Church. It was an all day Sunday service that included a basket dinner and a reunion of church members and friends of the community. A souvenir centennial booklet noted more than 40 pastors served the church up to that time, including the Rev. Dean Wright who was the pastor then.
A church continued standing in that location until 2005, but it was in disrepair. It was later demolished and replaced with only memories and maybe with some of the family names of Mulberry Grove: Wood, Long, Dresbach, Myers, Poor, Perkins, Bell, Higgins, McNutt, Rogers, Blackburn, Meadows and VanSickle.