Marion County

First Settlers

In 1818 Marion County had not been created; it was still part of Jefferson and Fayette counties. The first permanent settler in the county had arrived seven years before statehood. Late in December 1811, Captain Samuel Young and his 9 year old son, Matthew, made their way from Kaskaskia to Vincennes along the trace. A heavy snow was falling. The two decided to make camp for the winter near a band of friendly Indians. They built a camp of poles and brush against the trunk of a fallen tree leaving the south side open. A fire was kept burning all winter before the open front. The camp was located six miles southwest of Salem on Crooked Creek.

Samuel Young was born in Virginia. During the Revolutionary War he served as private in Campbell's Virginia Regiment. He removed "at an early day" to Tennessee. Young again moved in 1803 to near Shawneetown, Illinois; later he moved to New Madrid, Missouri where his home was completely destroyed by the great earthquake of November 16, 1811. After the terror of this quake which created Reelfoot Lake, Tennessee, and caused the Mississippi to run wild, Young determined to go back to Shawneetown. He and his son decided to do some exploring of the Illinois country on the way back.

Little is known of Mrs. Young except that she bore Samuel six children and died either before her husband moved to or from Shawneetown.

Samuel Young liked the land around the camp site. (At that time Salem Township was half timber and half prairie.) He decided to return to Tennessee and bring the remaining part of his family to Illinois Territory.

The Young family arrived in Marion County August 1813. In the party were James Young and his brother-in-law, Robert Snodgrass, as well as the other children. They came by wagon in which was loaded "all such conveniences and necessities as the time afforded or demanded: a few farm implements, spinning wheel, seed, provisions and salt." They also brought with them some stock which was driven on foot.

The family camped on the ground now occupied by the city of Salem and built their campfire where the courthouse stands. This location was on the timber break; everything to the west was prairie. This prairie was infested with green-headed flies which were a constant torment to horses. In order to get rid of these pests Young and his sons set fire to the timber. This fire spread over several hundred acres of prairie and timber.

Matthew Young, recalling in 1880 that summer of 1813, tells of a hail storm of two hours duration. Hail stones were the sized of hen's eggs, and damage to the timber was extensive. (He doesn't say if this was before or after the fire.) Some of the horses were crippled. After the storm there were several inches of ice on the ground.

Samuel Young squatted on Section 16 of Salem Township along Vermilion Creek, better known today at the "death valley" creek. He built a small log cabin with a puncheon floor. But Young did not keep his squatter's rights to this land and it was entered by others. Samuel Young did not hold legal title to any land until 1837 when he entered 40 acres in Section 43.

The family did not plant any crops in 1813. They lived off the products of the forest...jerked venison, bear bacon and wild honey. They had to buy what corn they needed in St. Louis.

Matthew Young says that the winter of 1813-14 was severely cold. Streams were frozen solid and the stock suffered from the lack of water. In the spring Samuel Young and his sons planted the first crops in Marion County.

Samuel Young died in 1846. A military marker has been erected on his grave in an ill kept family cemetery south of Young's Chapel Church.

Taken from History and Families ... Marion County, Illinois

Visit Our Neighbors
    Fayette Clay
Washington  Jefferson
Search the Archives