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History of Education at Prairie du Rocher Illinois

Since they were rather uniform in pattern, it will doubtless yield a clearer picture if the common points of the pioneer schools are given rather than giving short references to each one. Nearly all of the first school houses were built of unhewed or round logs and had roofs made of clapboards that had been split from some convenient oak of large size. These boards were generally two feet or more long, about eight inches wide, and were often laid without the use of nails, poles being used on each course to hold them down. These weight poles were fastened by pegs or tied bark and withes. Altogether it was a serviceable and durable roof, even though one could “see daylight” through it. Heat came from a large fireplace. Where stone was convenient, the fireplace might be built of it. More often it was built of logs with a clay or stone lining. The chimneys, generally “stick and clay”, were double walled pens thoroughly plastered, inside and out, with clay. Weathering often caused this clay to crumble away, exposing the sticks. It was not an unusual thing to see where this had occurred, and fire had burned holes in the chimney. Both fireplace and chimney were outside the building proper. These fireplaces were not in anywise puny affairs – – – they often accommodated cuts of wood four feet or more long. In many cases, the teacher agreed, as part of his work, to cut the necessary fire-wood. The hearth was of stone or filled-in earth. When not of earth, the floors were generally of puncheon construction. In making...

The Conner Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

There are few citizens of American blood, native born in Randolph County, who date their birth back as far as does Mr. W. S. Conner, a resident of the southern part of Township five — eight. He was born within a quarter of a mile of his present residence, in the year of 1815. He was the son of Henry Conner, who was born in Maryland and moved to Kentucky when ten years old, about the year 1795. The Conner family is of Irish extraction. The name was formerly spelled “O’Connor,” in which form it will be easily recognized as belonging to a numerous family in Ireland. Henry Conner was about twenty-two when he came to Illinois from Kentucky in the year 1807. He located at Kaskaskia then the central point and commercial emporium of the Illinois settlements, and for three years worked for Colonel Pierre Menard. While here he married Miss Elizabeth Barnet, a native of Madison County, Kentucky. Henry Conner then moved to Monroe County, and settled on a farm in the American Bottom, at a point four miles south of what is now known as Chalfin Bridge. He continued farming here till about the year 1812, when a fire swept away his buildings, whereupon he returned to Randolph County, and settled on the farm now owned and occupied by William Phegley. Here on the twenty-first of October, 1815, William S. Conner was born the third of a family of seven children. Five of these, three sons and two daughters reached maturity. All are now deceased with the exception of Mr. Conner, who is therefor the sole...

The Blais Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

The old town of Prairie du Rocher has undergone, perhaps, fewer changes than any other locality of Randolph County. Its foundation dates back to the early part of the previous century. Its growth has not been rapid. The French population of which, its inhabitants were at first entirely composed, has here retained its distinctive character more closely than elsewhere, and a considerable proportion of the present residents of the village are descendants of the families who were identified with its history a century ago. The Blais family is one of the oldest in the town. The first of the name to make his residence in Prairie du Rocher was Blais, a Frenchman whose ancestors had emigrated from France to Canada, sometime before coming to the Illinois country. He devoted himself to the quiet pursuit of farming, the common occupation of the inhabitants, and was a leading man of the village. He reached an extreme old age, and died in the year 1783. One of his sons was Antoine Blais, who married Teresse De Choche, Gabriel De Choche, the father of the lady in question, and the grandfather of the present Antoine Blais, was a native of France, and an old resident of Prairie du Rocher. Antoine and Teresse Blais had been born and brought up in Prairie du Rocher. They had six children, of whom only four grew to maturity. Antoine, who received his father’s name, was next to the oldest in birth, and is now the only surviving one of the family in his generation, all his brothers and sisters being dead. Antoine Blais Antoine Blais was born...

The Grassinger Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

Mr. John Grassinger of Prairie du Rocher, was born July 6, 1836, in Bavaria, Germany, and came to America in 1850. Coming first to St. Louis, he remained there until his father died, in the same year, and left him an orphan. He worked as a gardener until 1865, when he bought the farm which is now owned by his son-in-law. He owns his present home in the town, whither he removed on his retirement from farming. In 1856 he was married to Miss Mary M. Chapen, who bore him four children, Henry J., William P., Lucille and Lizzie. Mrs. Grassinger died in 1908. Mr. Grassinger is a Democrat, a member of the Catholic Knights of America and of the school board. He enjoys perfect health and is a familiar figure in the...

The Didier Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

Our country, which has been called the melting-pot of nations, has received citizens from every quarter of the known world. All races and peoples have sent their representatives to swell the numbers of our population. And of all these nations none has done more for America than France. Who can ever forget that it was the courageous Frenchmen who first penetrated the wilds of the new world, and, not content with a mere sailing along the coast, ascended its rivers and explored the interior of an unknown and dreaded wilderness? They settled vast areas such as the Mississippi Valley, which was for centuries a New France. Nor could the subsequent waves of emigration from the eastern states entirely obliterate this French civilization, which survives to this day in many names and customs found throughout the Middle West. Mr. Paulin Didier was one of those Frenchman who came to Illinois during the last century. He was born in France on December 26, 1845, and emigrated with his parents in 1847. The family settled in Cahokia, then a thriving city. With the decline of importance of Cahokia, the elder Didier left that place in 1854 and secured a farm in the vicinity of Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. Here they remained, and here the parents died in 1888. The son, who had lived with his parents all this time, now came into possession of the farm, which consisted of 85 acres. Under his care the soil yielded plentifully, and as a result his prosperity increased, until he became known as one of the most successful farmers of the district. He died a...

The Louvier Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

The oldest resident in the town of Prairie du Rocher is John N. Louvier, who was born in the village, in the year 1802, and has since lived in the town or in the vicinity. His father was Antoine Louvier, a Frenchman, who came to Illinois country when a boy. Antoine Louvier was born about the year 1767, and was ten or fifteen years of age when he came to Randolph County. He married Louise Langlois. The Langlois family was one of the earliest and most influential in the community, the first of which to come to Prairie du Rocher was Etenne Langlois. Antoine Louvier was a farmer, and lived a short distance to the south of Prairie du Rocher. Here on the old homestead four children were born and raised. The fourth of these was John N., the subject of this sketch. Only two of his brothers, Cyprian and Benjamin, are now living, both near the town of Prairie du Rocher, John N. Louvier was born in the year of 1802, on the second day of March. There were few schools at that day in Prairie du Rocher. The population then was almost entirely French. Subscription schools were held whenever anyone could be obtained to teach. Mr. Louvier only went to school three months of his life. This was to a French school, and for his English education he was compelled to look out for himself. His father was a man of good circumstances, in fact what would be called a rich man in those early times, when little wealth was known in comparison with the present, and...

The Blow Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

Among the prominent inhabitants of Prairie du Rocher who are natives of the locality is Mr. W. A. Blow. He was born September 9, 1860, on a farm near the town. He finished the public school and then became the right-hand man of his father, a place which he occupied for twenty-seven years. Finally, in 1887, he rented his own farm. This land became his property in the short space of six years, in 1893, and included 70 acres, but was not large enough to satisfy the ambitious owner, who in the course of time more than doubled it. At the present time he is the proprietor of 155 acres of splendid farm land, situated on the bottom, on Rural Route #4. His parents are now dead, his father having died in April 1912 and his mother in April 1914. On May 15, 1889, Mr. Blow was married to Miss Lucy Gressinger, a daughter of the widely-known farmer John Gressinger. She was born on August 5, 1868, near Prairie du Rocher, and lived at home until her marriage. Her most prominent characteristic is her activity in behalf of the Church. The children are Perry W., Edgar G., Augusta E., and Rosa A. Blow. Mr. Blow has lately become interested in stock raising, which is beginning to supplant general farming on his grounds, and spends his leisure time in his automobile. He is a familiar personage for many miles about his home. The Church has often had occasion to show him gratitude for his faithfulness. Mr. Joseph Blow was an emigrant to America, although he came to our country at...

The Kribs Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

The best teacher, it is said, is experience. C. J. Kribs, circuit clerk of Randolph County, has had varied experiences. He was born February 19, 1867, in Belleville, Illinois. He attended the parochial and public schools, after which he learned the trade of harness maker in St. Louis. After a residence of five years in this city he went to Chicago and worked for four years as assistant store-keeper in the Illinois Steel Works. Then he went to Prairie du Rocher, and after a short stay went to St. Louis, working for the Metropolitan Insurance Co. He was promoted and made superintendent of the Alton district. It was in Alton -that he met his wife, then Miss Susan Elizabeth Bissinger, to whom he was married November 10, 1892. Later they moved to St. Louis and in 1894 to Prairie du Rocher, where he opened a harness store; then added a full line of farming implements and general merchandise. In 1904 G. A. Reifel became a partner, the firm being named C. J. Kribs & Company. In 1912 he was elected circuit clerk and a year later moved his family to Chester, the county seat, where the family, Mr. and Mrs. Kribs and four sons – Harold A., Lewis J. A., Charles A. and William Kribs reside. Mr. Kribs was elected on the Democratic ticket as circuit clerk, and was mayor of Prairie du Rocher for four years. In social and fraternal societies he was honored, being president of the Prairie du Rocher Commons; a member of the Knights of Columbus, Modern Woodmen, Mutual Protective League and Chester Fishing Club....

The Shea Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

John Shea, farmer, of Red Bud, Illinois, Rural Route #3, was born June 20, 1858, in Randolph County, near Prairie du Rocher. He attended the public school and then worked for his father, Michael Shea, until 1880, when he rented a farm near Prairie du Rocher, and in 1885, he moved to the present location, where he still resides. On September 25, 1883, he was united in the holy bonds of wedlock to Miss Katherine Faherty. Six children came to bless the family ties – two sons, William M. and Harry J.; four daughters, Mary C., Julia A., Ellen S. and Gertrude C. Shea. Mrs. Shea died April 21, 1915. Mr. Shea was a trustee of the Ruma Church for nine years. He is well known through-out this section and is very...

The Wierschem Family of Prairie du Rocher Illinois

One of our literary geniuses has remarked that the history of any locality is but the history of its great men. The destinies of splendid empires are shaped by the personalities of their rulers, and a whole people sometimes owes its prosperity to the energies of one man, who stands at the head of the state. And in a community this principle is even more forcibly demonstrated, for here the thoughts of a few leaders permeate to the farthest boundaries and shape the thoughts of the masses. Viewed in this light, how significant do the biographies of prominent men become! The subject of our sketch was born in Madonnaville, Monroe County, on August 3, 1868. He was one of a family of fourteen children, whose father was John Wierschem, a known farmer. He attended both the parochial and the public schools, and then remained at home, assisting in the work of the farm until the death of the father in 1892. In that year Mr. Wierschem decided to become master of his own farm, and accordingly bought the farm of 65 acres situated on Rural Route #3, Prairie du Rocher, Illinois. This has been his home up to the present time. On November 30, 1893, he was married to Miss Zoe Thuillier. She was born in September 1872, a daughter of the widely- known farmer, Emil Thuillier of Prairie du Rocher, and lived at home up to the time of her marriage. Her life has been notable for great devotion to the Church, which she is constantly helping. She belongs to the Altar Society. The four children of their...
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