Clear Lake Township
4260 Old Route 36
Springfield, IL 62707

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Source: “Sunrise Over Clear Lake A Sesquicentennial Review December 1, 1937 to December 1, 1987” by James A. Woodruff

The township of Clear Lake, lying immediately east of Springfield Township, comprises all the area (36 square miles) within governmental township 16 N., R. 4 W., and receives its name from Clear Lake in Section 22, near the banks of the Sangamon River. The township is about equally divided between prairie and timber, and as the Sangamon River flows diagonally through it from the southeast to the northwest corner, the surface is rolling and, in some cases, quite broken. As it includes Riverton, the largest village corporation within the county outside of Springfield, it has, next to Capital Township, the largest population of any rural township in the county.

As already indicated by the course of the Sangamon River through it, the township is well watered. Sugar Creek and the South Fork of the Sangamon from the south enter the North Fork (or main branch) of the Sangamon near the central part of the township, while there are other smaller tributaries of the main stream. Clear Lake is a narrow sheet of water about half a mile in length, on the east of the Sangamon and running parallel with that stream. Buildings have been erected for the accommodation of visitors as resorts, and it is the center of numerous picnic parties from Springfield and vicinity during the summer months. It is reached by a suburban car-line, and during the past few years a series of successful Chautauquas have been held there.

The first settler in what is now Clear Lake Township was Hugh McGary, who had been a soldier under Gen. William Henry Harrison and who came in 1820 and settled on the banks of Clear Lake. His brother, Harrison McGary, came about the same time, but remained only a short period, when he returned to Indiana. Samuel Danley came about the same time as the McGarys and settled about a mile from Hugh McGary.

Others who came still later, but at an early period, were: John Smith, who formerly occupied the place belonging to Thomas A. King; Benjamin Cherry, from Tennessee; Thomas J. Knox, came and settled on the King farm, served as County Treasurer and Collector for one or two terms, and Justice of the Peace for several years, finally dying in Springfield; Samuel McDaniels and Philip Smith came before the period of the “deep snow”.

Archer G. Herndon, who was a native of Culpeper County, VA., born February 13, 1795, and father of the late William H. Herndon of Springfield, was an early settler in what is now Clear Lake Township, coming from Madison County, Ill., in 1821, and settling in German Prairie five miles northeast of Springfield. He was a prominent merchant in Springfield from 1820 to 1836, during that time erecting the first regular tavern in Springfield, and for two terms was State Senator from Sangamon, including the session of 1836-37, and being one of the “Long Nine”, who were instrumental in removing the State Capital from Vandalia in Springfield. A strong Jacksonian Democrat, he was Receiver of Public Moneys in the Land Office at Springfield from 1842 to 1849, and died in Springfield, January 3, 1867, his wife, Rebecca Herndon, surviving until August 19, 1875.

Larkin Bryant, born in Woodford County, Ky., November 2, 1800, married Mrs. Harriet Chapman in 1820, and after spending about a year in the Missouri lead mines, in the fall of 1821 came to Sangamon County, Ill., settling in the vicinity of A.G. Herndon.

John Shinkle was born in Berks County, Pa., in 1873, came as a boy with his parents to Brown County, Ohio, there married Mary M. Shinkle and, in 1826 came to Sangamon County, Ill., and settled in the Clear Lake Township region. Mr. Shinkle died the year after coming to Clear Lake, but his widow reared their family on the site where they had first located, surviving until past ninety years of age.

John Hoover, Mr. Howell, Solomon Blue and Uriah Blue settled on the south side of the Sangamon River in 1824 or 1825, and being of German descent, gave to that neighborhood the name of German Prairie.

Valentine R. Mallory, who was born near Paris, Ky., December 16, 1708, and served as a soldier in the War of 1812, married Nancy Dawson of Bracken County, Ky., June 28, 1821, and in October, 182, came to what is now Clear Lake Township. They were accompanied by Mrs. Mallory’s brother, John Dawson, who was born in Fairfax County, Va., served in the War of 1812, being wounded and captured a the River Raisin. After being held as a prisoner in Canada by the Indians, his release was obtained by ransom, and in 1871 he married Cary Jones in Nicholas County, Ky., in 1827 accompanying his brother-in-law, V.R. Mallory, to Sangamon County. Mr. Dawson was Captain of a company from Sangamon County in the Black Hawk uprising of 1831; a Representative in five sessions of the General Assembly, including that of 1836-37, when he was one of the “Long Nine”, and was also a Delegate from Sangamon County to the State Constitutional Convention of 1847. The ball he received in his lungs at the Battle of River Raisin, was never extracted, and was the final cause of his death, November 12, 1850.

Samuel Ridgeway was a native of Berkeley County, Va., born May 10, 1777, was taken to North Carolina and about 1799, there married Elizabeth Caton, and after spending some years in Kentucky, came to Sangamon County, Ill., settling in Clear Lake Township, where he died in 1847.

John Blue, born in South Carolina, in 1777, the son of a Revolutionary soldier, was taken by his parents in boyhood to Fleming County, Ky., and after spending about seven years in Greene County, Ohio, came to Sangamon County, locating in what is now Clear Lake Township. William Fagan, a native of North Carolina, born in 1777, married Peninah Fruit, lived for a time in Virginia and then in Kentucky, in 1819, came to Southern Illinois and thence in 1820 to what is now Clear Lake Township. He moved the next year to Buffalo Hart Township, later lived in Springfield, but died on his farm three miles west of that city in 1843.

James Frazier Reed was born in County Armagh, Ireland, of Polish ancestry, November 14, 1800, came with his mother in youth to Virginia and at twenty years of age went to work in the lead mines in Illinois, where he remained until 1831, when he came to Springfield, Ill. He served in the Black Hawk War of 1832, then engaged in mercantile pursuits for a time, and later established a furniture factory on the Sangamon River at what was first called Jamestown, later Howlett, and now Riverton. In 1846 Mr. Reed and his wife went to California, located at San Jose Mission, made investments in land and become very successful. He was a man of enterprise and high character.

Uriah Mann was one of the historic characters of Clear Lake Township. Born in Bracken County, Ky., September 17, 1810, he came to Sangamon County, Ill., with his sister Anna, the wife of Thomas A. King, an early settler in the vicinity of Clear Lake, arriving in October, 1831. He was a soldier of the Black Hawk War in the same regiment with Abraham Lincoln, of who he was an intimate friend. He married Elizabeth King, January 6, 1832, developed a farm by his own enterprise and industry, and became one of the most successful farmers and honored citizens of Sangamon County.

The first house of worship in the township is said to have been erected by the Baptists, in 1820, although the Methodists, as usual, were among the earliest evangelists in this region. Aaron Vandever is said to have been the first Baptist minister, while Peter Cartwright, James Sims and Rivers Cormack were early Methodist Itinerants.

Camp Butler, which was the military center for a large portion of Central Illinois during the Civil War, and the place at which a number of regiments were mustered in during the Civil War, and where scores were mustered out at the termination of their period of enlistment, was located in Clear Lake Township about one mile south of Riverton, and some seven miles northeast of Springfield being named in honor of William Butler, then State Treasurer. It was the place for the confinement of rebel prisoners during a considerable portion of the war, about 7,500 being there about the time of the “Camp Douglas Conspiracy” in July, 1864, and as a consequence, a large force of Union troops had to be maintained there for guard duty.

The Camp Butler National Cemetery, in the vicinity of old Camp Butler, is located on the lines of the Wabash Railroad and the Illinois (Interurban) Traction System, about six miles east of Springfield. The cemetery contains about six acres and is in care of Maj. George W. Ford, whose commission as Superintendent bears date of November, 1878. The remains of 729 Union and 866 Confederate Soldiers lie buried there. The well kept lawns and general appearance of the grounds at all times furnish evidence of the efficient care taken by the Superintendent in the discharge of his duties and the protection of the cemetery.

Riverton Village – Riverton is the principal village of Clear Lake Township, also having a larger population than any other village in Sangamon County. It was laid out and platted December 1, 1837, its location being then described as “the south half of the northeast quart of Section 9, Township 16, Range 4 West”. The plat was recorded under the name of Jamestown, in honor of James F. Reed, whose history is referred to in an earlier portion of this sketch of Clear Lake Township. The village grew but slowly until after the arrival of Mr. P.L. Howlett, who erected a distillery and a mill adjoining, and also there opened up the first coal mine in Sangamon County. The town stands on the east bank of the Sangamon River, which has been utilized for furnishing water and steam power.

There being another Jamestown in the State, the name was changed to Howlett, after the name of its principal promoter. Later this name was changed to Riverton, and Jesse Sweatman became the first Postmaster. A large proportion of the population is made up of employees in the mines, the distilleries and the mills, but population has developed rapidly, and there are a number of good business houses.

The discovery of coal was made through the enterprise of Mr. Howlett who, in 1865, employed some experts from the Pennsylvania oil region to prospect for the discovery of oil by boring with the result that a vein of coal, six feet in thickness, was reached at a depth of two hundred feet, and this marked the beginning of the mining industry which has developed to such immense proportions in Sangamon County.


1881 Copy from Woodruff Files

The township of Clear Lake comprises all of township sixteen north, range four west, and is so named from the lake of that name, in section twenty-two.


The township is almost equally divided between timber and prairie, and is quite rolling. The soil is of good quality, and large crops of corn and wheat are raised.


Clear Lake Township is well supplied with streams of living water. The north fork of the Sangamon River enters on section thirty-six, and the south fork enters on section thirty-three, the two uniting on section twenty-seven, and flowing northward, emerges from the township from section five, but returns within a quarter of a mile, flows westward, and enters Springfield township from section six. Sugar Creek enters the township on section thirty-one, and flowing in a northeasterly direction, unites with the Sangamon River on section twenty-eight. Clear Lake is a beautiful sheet of water, about one half mile in length and an average width of two hundred yards. On the banks of this lake, many picnic parties are held each summer, and boats are provided for sailing and rowing upon the lake.


Clear Lake township is traversed by two railroads, the Wabash and the Springfield & Northwestern. The former enters from Springfield on section nineteen, runs in a northeasterly direction through the village of Riverton to section ten, when it runs due east into the township of Mechanicsburg. The latter from Springfield enters on section eighteen, and runs northeast, enters Williams township from section two.


The township was first settled in 1820, Hugh McGary was the first settler. He settled immediately upon the banks of Clear Lake. He was an old soldier under Harrison, and was a man highly respected, being a high-minded honorable man.

Harrison McGary, a brother of Hugh, came about the same time, and settled upon the farm where Thomas King now lives, He was dissatisfied, and returned to Indiana, from whence he came.

Samuel Danley came about the same time and settled about a mile from McGary. He was a rough man, but with a large heart, and was always a friend to the poor. He became a Christian some years before his death and lived conscientiously up to his profession.

John Smith came also quite early. He was possessed of considerable wealth, but run through with it all and sold out to Thomas King.

Benjamin Cherry came from Tennessee. He was a good man and ultimately died a Christian.

Thomas J. Knox came and settled on the farm now owned by J.F. King. He was County Treasurer and Collector for one or two terms, justice of the peace for several years. He died in Springfield.

Valentine R. Mallory came about the same time with the others already mentioned. He served in the War of 1812. He died several years ago.

Samuel McDaniels came previous to the deep snow, as did also Philip Smith.

John Wilcox was born in Maryland, on the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. His parents died when he was quite young, and to keep from being found out, he ran away, embarked on a sailing vessel, and went to the West India Islands; returning to Maryland, and when he was sixteen or seventeen years old, went with a family to Virginia, and from there to the vicinity of Danville, Kentucky. He was married in Oldham county, Kentucky, to Lucinda Oglesby. She was born in Loudon county, Virginia, and her parents moved to that part of Shelby which afterwards became Oldham county, Kentucky. Her father, William Oglesby, was a soldier in the Revolution. John Wilcox moved to Davidson county, Tennessee, then moved to Logan county, Kentucky; died in 1823. In 1818, the family moved to St. Clair county, Illinois, and from there to what became Sangamon county, arriving in the fall of 1819, about six miles east of where Springfield now stands, and settled between the mouths of Sugar creek and the south fork of Sangamon river.

Archer G. Herndon was born February 13, 1795, in Culpepper county, Virginia; went to Greensburg , Green county, Kentucky, when he was about ten years old, and was there married, in 1816, to Mrs. Rebecca Johnson, whose maiden name was Day. Her father was a Revolutionary soldier. Mr. and Mrs. Herndon had one child in Kentucky, and they moved to Troy, Madison county, Illinois; from there they moved to Sangamon County, Illinois, arriving in the spring of 1821, settling on what is now German Prairie, five miles northeast of Springfield.

Archer G. Herndon, Sr., was engaged in mercantile pursuits, from 1825 to 1836, in Springfield, and during that time erected the first regular tavern in town. He was one of the “Long Nine” who were instrumental in having the Capital removed from Vandalia to Springfield, having been elected State Senator in 1836. He was receiver of public moneys, from 1842 to 1843, in the Land Office, in Springfield. A.G. Herndon, Sr., died January 3, 1867, and Mrs. Rebecca Herndon died August 19, 1875.

Larkin Bryant was born November 2, 1800, in Woodford county, Kentucky. He was married there in 1820, to Mrs. Harriet Chapman, whose maiden name was Thornberry. They moved to the Missouri lead mines, and from there to Sangamon county,in the fall of 1821, and settled five mies northeast of Springfield.

John Shinkle was born in February 1733, in Berks county, Pennsylvania, and when he was a boy his parents moved to Brown county, Ohio. Mary M. Shinkle was born November 12, 1784, in Berks county, Pennsylvania. In May, 1805, her parents moved to Brown county, Ohio. John Shinkle and Mary M. Shinkle were there married November 7, 1805. They had ten living children in Brown county. The family moved to Sangamon county, Illinois, arriving December, 1826, in what is now Clear Lake township, north of Sangamon river. John Shinkle died August, 1827, in Sangamon county, less than one year after his arrival in the country. His widow raised her family on the farm where they settled, and now resides there. It is three miles southwest of Dawson, Illinois. She is ninety-two years old, and has been a widow nearly half a century.

Valentine R. Mallory was born December 16, 1798, near Paris, Bourbon county, Kentucky. He was a soldier in the War of 1812, and was at the battle of river Thames. Nancy Dawson was born September 20, 1802, in Fairfax county, Virginia, and in 1804, was taken by her parents to Bracken county, Kentucky. V.R. Mallory and Nancy Dawson were there married, June 28, 1821. They had three children, and in March, 1827, united with the Baptist Church. They moved, in company with her brother, John Dawson, (see his name) to Sangamon county, Illinois, arriving October 22, 1827, in what is now Clear Lake township.

John Dawson was born November 24, 1791, in Fairfax county, Va. His parents moved to Bracken county, Kentucky, in 1803. He enlisted in Bracken county in the war against England in 1812, and was wounded and captured at the battle of River Raisin. After being held as a prisoner in Canada by the Indians who captured him, his friend paid a ransom for him, and he returned home. Cary Jones was born May 22, 1801, in Nicholas county, Kentucky. John Dawson and Cary Jones were married in Nicholas county, October 9, 1817. They moved to Bracken county, and then the family moved to Sangamon county, Illinois, October 24, 1827, north of the Sangamon river, in Clear Lake township. John Dawson died November 12, 1850, in Sangamon county. His widow resides on the farm where they settled in 1827. It is three miles southwest of Dawson. Mr. Dawson was Captain of company from Sangamon county in the Black Hawk war of 1881. He was elected to represent Sangamon county in the State Legislature of 1831, and ’32. He was again elected in 1835, and continued by re-election, to represent the county until 1840, and was consequently one of the “Long Nile” who secured the removal of the State Capital to Springfield at the session of 1836-‘7. Mr. D. was also a member of the convention that framed the State Constitution of 1848. The ball received in his lungs at the battle of River Raisin was never extracted, and was the cause of his death.

Samuel Ridgeway was born May 10, 1777, in Berkley county, Virginia, and was taken by his parents to the valley of the Yadkin river, North Carolina, when he was quite young. He was there married, about 1799, to Elizabeth Caton, who was born August 25, 1775, in Berkley county, Virginia, also. Shortly after marriage Samuel Ridgeway and wife packed all their worldly goods on one horse, and each rode another. Thus equipped, they set out for Kentucky, and settled near Stanford, the capital of Lincoln county. The family moved to Sangamon county, Illinois, arriving in November, 1829, in what is now Clear Lake township, west of the Sangamon river, and five miles northeast of Springfield. Died in 1847.

John Blue was born September 9, 1777, in South Carolina. His father was a soldier in the Revolutionary army, and was taken prisoner by the British the very day of his birth. His parents moved to Fleming county, Kentucky, when he was quite young. Elizabeth McNary was born in South Carolina, and taken by her parents to Fleming, county, Kentucky, also. They were there married about 1806. About 1823 they moved to Green county, Ohio, then moved to Sangamon county, arriving in the fall of 1830, in what is now Clear Lake township.

William Fagan was born in 1777, in North Carolina, was married there to Peninah Fruit, who was born January 29, 1774, in the same State. They moved to Virginia, and from there to Christian county, Kentucky. In 1819, they emigrated, with four children, to southern Illinois, thence to Sangamon county, arriving in what is now Clear Lake township, in 1820. They moved next year to Buffalo Hart Grove, and from there to Springfield. In 1831 they settled on a farm three miles northwest of Springfield. He died in 1843.

Uriah Mann was born September 17, 1810, in Bracken county, Kentucky. He came to Sangamon county, with his sister Anna, and her husband, Thomas A. King, arriving the first Sunday in October, 1831.

He was a soldier in the Black Hawk war, in 1832, in the same regiment with Captain Abraham Lincoln, with whom he had many a wrestling match. Uriah Mann was married January 6, 1832, in Sangamon county, to Elizabeth King. He hauled all the rails and timber for improving his farm, on a wagon constructed by himself, without any iron, the wheels being hewn each from a single piece of timber, from the largest tree he could find. His house was built by himself, of round logs. His tables, cupboard and other furniture were made from wild cherry lumber. In the absence of saw-mills he split the timber into broad slabs, fastened them into a snatch block, hewed them to a uniform thickness, and after waiting a sufficient time for them to season, worked them into his household furniture. The first meal he ate in his own house, the meat was hog’s jowl, and the bread made from frost-bitten corn. He hauled the first wheat he raised for sale to St. Louis, and sold it for thirty-five cents in trade. He is now among the most successful farmers of the county.

James Frazier Reed, was born November 14, 1800, in county Armagh, Ireland. His ancestors were of noble Polish birth, who chose exile rather than submission to the Russian power, and settled in the north of Ireland. The family name was originally Reednoski, but in process of time the Polish termination of the name was dropped, and the family was called Reed. James F. Reed’s mother’s name was Frazier, whose ancestors belonged to Clan Frazier, of Scottish history. Mrs. Reed, and her son, James F., came to America when he was a youth, and settled in Virginia. He remained there until he was twenty, when he left for the lead mines of Illinois, and was engaged in mining until 1831, when he came to Springfield, Sangamon county, Illinois. He served in the Black Hawk war, and at its termination returned to Springfield, where he engaged in mercantile pursuits, made money, and bought a farm near the latter city. Mr. Reed was for several years engaged in manufacturing cabinet furniture at a point on the Sangamon river, seven miles east of Springfield. He employed a large number of men, and a village grew up there, which, in honor of his first name, was called Jamestown. It has since been twice changed, first to Howlett and then to Riverton, the present name. He was married, in 1834, to Mrs. Margaret W. Backenstoe, whose maiden name was Keyes, a daughter of Humphrey Keyes. Mrs. Reed had one child by her first marriage. In April, 1846, Mr. and Mrs. Reed, with many others, started overland for California; Mr. Reed settled at San Jose Mission, California, and invested in land from time to time. He was among the first who tried their fortunes at gold hunting, in which he was very successful. Of Mrs. Reed’s child by a former marriage-Mrs. Virginia E. Murphy writes me, in December, 1875, that she never was taught or made to feel, during Mr. Reed’s lifetime, that she was a step-child or half-sister, and that he was the most loving and indulgent step-father that ever lived. So thoughtful was he of her feelings that he took occasion, after the death of her mother, to assure her of his continued affection, and that he knew no difference between herself and his own children, as she came to him with her mother, a little babe. He made no distinction between Mrs. Murphy and his own children in his will.

John Hoover, Mr. Howell, Solomon Blue and Uriah Blue, settled on the south side of the Sangamon river in 1824 or 1825.  They all being of German descent, gave to the neighborhood the name of German Prairie.


The recollection of the first school in what is now Clear Lake township, by the “old settlers” of 1881, dates back to 1828. About this time there were two school houses built, one on the north, and the other on the south side of the river. Riley Jones taught the one on the south side of the river in the winter of 1828. This school house was similar to all others built in the county at the time, being of logs.

Time has changed the course of things. There are now no log school houses, but instead, the township has two brick and five frame edifices for school purposes, the total value of which is $6,600.


The first house of worship erected in the township was by the Baptists, in 1829, though the denomination was not the first to be represented in the preaching of the gospel. The Methodists were here previously, represented by that trio so often spoken of in these pages-Revs. Peter Cartwright, James Sims, and Rivers Cormack. Aaron Vandever was the first Baptist minister. There are now four church edifices in the township, Mount Zion Methodist Episcopal, on section twenty-four;    the Christian, on section twenty-one; and the Methodist Episcopal and Catholic, in the village of Riverton.


Coal was first discovered in this township at the very early date, and for many years surface mining was carried on, though none of the early settlers, and few of those that came at a later date, every imagined that underneath their feet would be found thick veins of coal that would be almost inexhaustible. P.L. Howlett, an enterprising citizen of the village, that for some years bore his name, but was subsequently changed to Riverton, in 1865, conceived the idea that there was an immense bed of superior coat at a great depth below the surface. Accordingly, he employed experienced men from the Pennsylvania oil region, to erect the necessary machinery, and bored down two hundred feet into the earth, which resulted in striking a rich vein of coal about six feet in thickness. This test was made a few feet from his distillery, about eighty rods from the railroad. In order to make this matter sure, he moved his boring machinery up near the railroad switch, and bored down again with the same results. In the spring of 1866, he sunk a shaft from which he began to take a superior coal to any heretofore mined. This was the first attempt at mining coal in Sangamon county.

Clear Lake Township Officials: Past - Present





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