Bunker Hill Historical Society
Bunker Hill, IL  62014
Early Bunker Hill History

Our Town History

The following was extracted from pages 359-366 of the 1911 Edition of History of Macoupin County

Bunker Hill Township

The site on which the present town of Bunker Hill is located was once a prairie known as Wolf Ridge, from the fact that it was frequented by wolves.  The earliest inhabitants of this section were the Peoria, Kickapoo, and Winnebago Indians, who had a camping ground northeast of the present town of Bunker Hill.  In 1826, the last of these tribes left here and moved farther west.

The first entry of land of which we have any record was made by William Jones.  He secured 80 acres on Section 33 on 31st of July, 1827.  Howard Finley entered 80 acres on Section 21, January 25, 1830 and Alexander Conley entered one hundred and sixty acres on Section 29, March 17, 1830.

Among the earliest settlers here was John Cooper, a native of Tennessee, who built a house on Section 28, and here developed a farm.  In the year 1825 Howard Finley and Daniel Branscomb settled on the east side of the east fork of Wood river, and as above stated, the former entered land here in 1830.  Mr. Finley was a native of Tennessee.  He built a cabin on his land and later erected a more modern dwelling on the southeast quarter of Section 21 in which he made his home for many years.  His death occurred in Greene County, this state. 

The year 1827 witnessed the arrival of James Breden, who was the first Justice of the Peace in the township, holding the office for more than twenty years.  Simeon Jones may also be classed among the first settlers in this township.  He was born and reared in Madison County, this state, and after coming to Bunker Hill Township, served for many years as school treasurer. 

In 1830 Jonathan L. Wood also settled here, as did also Benjamin Davis and his sons Jefferson, Isaac, Alfred, and David.  They came to this State from Tennessee but had formerly lived in North Carolina. 

James Wood settled here in 1831, establishing his home on Section 30.  His sons, Samuel, David B., and James E. eventually became prominent residents of this section of the County.

William McPike, a Tennesseean by birth, came here in 1831 and became a prominent citizen.  His death occurred after a residence here of many years.  Mrs. Millie Bayless and her sons, Reese, John, George, and Daniel, came here in 1831.  Reese and John and prominently connected with the old militia, the former holding the position of Colonel, while the latter attained the rank of Adjutant.  Both served in the Black Hawk War.

In that locality known as Corneilson mound, or sometimes called "Tickey" mound, on Section 29, the first settlers were Daniel Littrel, Alexander Conley, John Murphy, Charles Collyer, and Finley and Moses Jones.

In the vicinity of the Springfield road, the first settlements were made by William, Isaac, Alfred, James, and Ephraim Wood, Anthony Linder, George Howland, Elijah Lincoln, Dr. Budden, Samuel Buell, and Charles Goodnight.  Dr. Budden was the first man to practice medicine in the township. 

In 1833, Messrs. Tuttle and Lincoln laid out a town two miles south of the present site of Bunker Hill and named the place Lincoln.  However, a log cabin and a frame house marked the farthest progress to which the town ever attained.  This was later converted to a farm by J. V. Hopper.

In 1833 a Post Office was established and called Lincoln, the first Postmaster being Anthony Linder.  He was succeeded by a Mr. Cook, while in 1837 Samuel Buell took charge of the office.  In November of the latter year, the Post Office was transferred to Bunker Hill.  Nathaniel Phillips was the first Postmaster appointed after the removal of the office to Bunker Hill.  Josiah Richards acted as assistant.  In 1837, a Post Office was established in Woodburn.

Moses Jones built the first mill in the Township on Section 33 on the east side of Wood river.  It was operated by ox power.  Dr. Budden shortly afterward erected the second mill on the prairie, a mile southwest of Bunker Hill.

The first schoolhouse was erected on Section 21 but it was later moved to Section 22.  A Mr. Richardson was the first teacher and he was succeeded by Josiah B. Harris.  In 1831 a schoolhouse was erected on Section 20 on land belonging to John T. Wood, John Wilson, Jesse Wood, and Aaron Leyerley were among the earliest teachers of the Township.

Elder William Jones, a Baptist, preached the first sermon in the schoolhouse which stood on Section 21.  Alexander Conley was the first resident minister in the Township.  Rev. Gimlin was also a pioneer minister here.  He was also of the Baptist faith.  The first church was erected by the "hard shell" Baptists on Section 33, while the second in the Township was built by the Congregational people at Woodburn. 

The first couple to be married in the Township was Finley Jones and Mary Conley and the second was Daniel Branscomb and a Miss Gregg.  John Finley was the first child born in Bunker Hill Township.

Bunker Hill

  The city of Bunker Hill lies in the eastern part of Bunker Hill Township which is one of the southern tier of the townships.  In March 1836, Messrs. True and Tilden employed Luke Knowlton to lay out and plat the town.  This was only seven years after the first settlement was made in the Township.  Mr. True set out the first tree, a Locust, in the town, and he, with Mr. Tilden at once commenced the erection of a hotel, which later became a part of the Richards block.  In the summer of 1837 Mr. True enlarged his hotel and in the succeeding fall Josiah Richards, who had come here from Boston, purchased the goods in the store that had been opened by Mr. True.  In 1838 Mr. True retired from the hotel business and N. H. Flanagan, from New Jersey, became proprietor. 

Moses True Home located on Franklin St.

Dr. Ebenezer Howell settled in the town in the spring of 1837 and for many years was the only practicing physician here.  His son George was the first child born in the town.

In the spring of 1839 J. W. Cummings, G. Parmenter, Charles Burnham, R. Califf, Nathaniel Burnham, D. E. Pettingill, and Joseph and Edward Burton settled in the town and vicinity.  John A. Pettingill arrived in April 1839, and conducted the first nursery in the Township.  He also became one of the early school teachers in this district. Charles Johnson came here in May 1839 from Medford, Massachusetts.  S. H. Davis, A. B. Davis, R. Ridgeley, James Hamilton, I. Southworth, and Charles Cavender were early settlers here.  Frances N. Burnham settled northeast of the town and taught the first school in the town of Bunker Hill.  His marriage to Miss Harriett Phillips was the first consumated in Bunker Hill.

In 1840, Judge P. C. Huggins moved here from Woodburn where he had conducted a mercantile establishment and purchased the store here from Josiah Richards.  For many years, he was the only merchant in the town.  In November 1847, John A. Pettingill opened the second store.

Some first things in Bunker Hill

The nearest sawmill to Bunker Hill was on the Cahokia, north of Edwardsville.  The first flour used in the new hotel came from Carlinville.  The first sermon preached at Bunker Hill was by elder Kimball from Upper Alton.

George Lee's Livery Stable in the 1890's

(pictured: left-Lee & Tom Payne, center-Bill Hutson, right-John Payne & Abe Turk)

Bunker Hill Central Telephone Office (abt. 1910)

(pictured: Operators-Mabel Tipton Scroggins & Clara Mamie, seated-Ted Bruhn, Jennie Prem...?)

Centennial History

John A. Pettingill, who established the second store in Bunker Hill, in his Centennial History wrote the following:

The 4th of July 1839 was the first anniversary of the "day we celebrate" ever observed in due and ancient form in this township.  The day preceding was all bustle in securing and raising a liberty pole and making a leafy bower to cover the extended tables.  The glorious fourth ushered in a terribly hot day, but despite the heat the whole community turned out, some sixty souls.  F. Burnham was master of ceremonies and M. H. Flanagan orator of the day.  Dr. Ebenezer Howell read the Declaration of Independence, and H. B. A. Tappen made some cogent remarks.  After dinner J. W. Cummings called the assemblage to order and read the toasts.  The ground on which the gathering assembled was that south of Huggins block, now covered with stores.  The political campaign of 1840 brought the Democrats to Bunker Hill and the Whigs assembled at Woodburn and celebrated the 4th of July.  The former were presided over by M. H. Flanagan and Rev. Arnold, of Alton, orator.  The Whigs listened to Abraham Lincoln, John Hogan, and Judge Davis. 

As early as 1834 a military company was organized with John Wilson as Captain succeeded by Washington Bilt and afterwards Wiley Breden.  The first muster in this township occurred on the 27th of September 1839.  A regimental organization existed in southern Macoupin with R. Bayless as Colonel and P. C. Huggins as Major.  The muster in question was the stated parade of the Battalion which made its headquarters at Bunker Hill.  The Bunker Hill company mustered forty men.  Captain Van Tyle was in command.