Chamness, the village in section 4 of Southern township, was established as a post office January 24, 1889. Marshall E. Chamness was the first postmaster and kept the office in the store he built a few years earlier. Mail was brought from Marion twice a week.
Postmaster Chamness was a fleshy, jovial man, familiarly known to his patrons, most of them his relatives, as Uncle Doc. Because he was a seventh son, the old wives credited him with the poser of healing. Children with the thrash were brought to him to touch and breathe upon.
Wiley Berry Chamness (1811-1882) was the father of seven sons whose homes were scattered around Chamness. His widowed mother brought her children to the neighborhood of Chamnesstown School in 1825, but the youngest son made his home south of Crab Orchard Creek when he married Sarah Krantz. He was licensed to preach June 1, 1839 by authority of the Crab Orchard Missionary Baptist Church at Chamness, but was earlier located farther west and called Grassy Church. The same church ordained him to the eldership in 1857.
The elder sons of Wile B. and Sarah Chamness were George B. who opened the second hotel at Creal Springs and Thomas W. “Wilce” Chamness who followed his father in the ministry. The latter married a daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth McIntosh who opened a farm just east of Chamness store in 1818. Widow Elizabeth McIntosh (1802-1883) entertained the preachers so regularly and sumptuously with such delicacies as dried apple pies that Crab Orchard Church was familiarly known as McIntosh Church during her life.
T.W. and Marshall E. Chamness were among the first trustees when Creal Springs Seminary was chartered as a college. The elder joined Crab Orchard Church in 1853, and retained his membership and home there throughout his pastorate of many churches in the county, beginning at Bainbridge. Mr. and Mrs. Josh Chamness were living on the farm in 1939 that was the home of Mr. Chamess’ McIntosh grandparents and his parents.
Marshall E. Chamness turned over the store to his sons, Austin and Albert. His daughter became the wife of James H. Felts, a member of the Illinois general assembly. The Chamness sons sold the store to Ab Bracy, whose wife was a descendant of Joseph Chamess of the Chamnesstown School neighborhood. Mr. Bracy sold the store to Joe Mouser, whose name sticks though Joe Minton was running the Mouser’s store in Chamness in 1939. Mail service there was discontinued on April 30, 1902.
The first Chamness in America was kidnapped from London bridge as a ship set sail for the new world. The boy was sold for his passage and his services bought by the Quakers. When his time was out, he remained among that sect in North Carolina and married a relative of William Penn. A child of that marriage was John Chamness (1749-1825), first of the name in Illinois. Contact with the Lemen family in St. Clair County probably turned the Chamness religious ideas from Quaker to Baptist, but Wiley Berry Chamness retained the wide black hat and the address “thee” throughout his services in the Baptist churches of the county.
Notes: The village of Chamness and most of its related homes, churches, schools and cemeteries were all purchased by the government in the mid to latter 1930’s for the Crab Orchard Impoundment project which resulted in the construction of Crab Orchard Lake and then in 1941 for the Illinois Ordnance Plant called Ordill. For a list of Ordill property acquisitions see the post, Ordnance Plant Property Acquisitions.
(Extracted from Pioneer Folks and Places, Barbara Barr Hubbs, 1939, on sale at the Williamson County Museum)