Bolton History

Bolton grew into a village about 1847 in the southeast corner of what was then Saline precinct, now Stonefort Township, but entirely within Williamson County. It did not grow very fast nor very far, but it had a log house where the Joyner brothers kept store. There were only three dwellings at the time the second village was surveyed. These three residents were Wesley Trammell, J. M. Barber, Sr., and Ira Keel.

But old Bolton was a post office, established February 22, 1849. David Buckner was the postmaster until his death in 1859. Postmaster Buckner never let the duties of his office interfere with the business of life. One day he was out fishing, when someone inquired for mail. The postmaster could not answer offhand, but offered to look. Handing over his rod, he took off his hat, drew out the recent Bolton mail, found none for the waiting patron, and went back to his fishing.

Wesley Trammell, who married Cynthia Ann Buckner, inherited the post office upon Mr. Buckner’s death, and in 1861 moved into the house vacated by Mrs. Buckner. The post office was discontinued December 28, 1864. Wesley Trammell (1818-1892) was one of a family prominent in the earliest days of the Ohio River country. Colonel Philip Trammell was a member from Gallatin County of the first and second Illinois territorial legislatures in 1812 and 1814, and a resident of the United States salines (salt works) at Equality. Wesley Trammel’s own sons became the founders of the new town of Bolton, while he went to Springfield in 1879 as a member of the legislature.

Elijah Cross came to old Bolton from Sarahvillle where he had been clerking in the store. He was a native of Tennessee, and was counted an educated man by residents along the Saline. With Mr. Cross as cashier, the bank of Bolton was organized in 1858. This was probably the first bank in the county, and was familiarly known as a “wildcat” bank, in honor of the dubious currency then in circulation. A cigar box sufficed for a bank vault.

But when the bank had only $6.70 on band in 1859, a check for $12 was presented, ending this financial chapter. Mr. Cross moved on to old Stonefort, where he was justice of the peace.

When the Cairo and Vincennes railroad was incorporated by the legislature in 1867, great activity resulted all along the route, although train service did not begin until January, 1873. A new Bolton was surveyed and the plat filed October 29, 1872 by James W. (“Wint”) Russell, the Saline county surveyor. The owners of the town site were J. Van Trammell and Burgess S. Young (son and brother-in-law of Wesley Trammell), Alexander Vickers, and Calvin S. Blackman. J. Van Trammell was county treasurer at the time.

Part of the original town lay in section 25 of Stonefort Township, but the greater part lay in the adjoining section of Saline county. James M. Trammell, another son of the old postmaster, soon platted an addition to the west. Other additions, made chiefly by the Trammell family, increased the Williamson county share of the town until it is the larger. Much confusion arose from the town lying within the jurisdiction of two counties, and the citizens decided that any appeal from the village court would be taken to Marion, even though the offense occurred within the Saline county part of the town. The schoolhouse built in 1873 stood in Williamson county, and was under the care of that county’s superintendent.

Bolton was laid out at nearly a forty-five degree angle with the cardinal points. The streets ran parallel or perpendicular to the railroad. The names of native trees were given the streets, Mulberry, Poplar, White Oak, Cedar, Chestnut, and Walnut. The railroad station was on the Saline county side, and great rivalry began between the Williamson and Saline county residents.

Further complications arose when the citizens of old Stonefort, a Saline county village one mile east, began to move to the new town site on the railroad. They brought Stonefort post office, established February 15, 1858. The railroad named the station, within the plat of Bolton, Stonefort. The village of Bolton, with 350 residents, was incorporated June 21, 1875. Another town and post office in northern Illinois had taken the name Bolton since the old town’s post office was discontinued in 1864. But Van Trammell was born a Bolton man, son of the Bolton postmaster, he had paid for a town of Bolton to be surveyed and platted, and he intended to live in Bolton. He continued to make out deeds for lots in Bolton. Not until 1936 was the difficulty ended, when the village council chose Stonefort.

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(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)