Crab Orchard Creek & Township History

Crab Orchard Creek took its name from the area it watered, known from earliest time as the Crab Orchard. This name was applied to almost the entire central and southern portion of the county, where thickets of wild crab trees furnished the Indians and then the settlers with fruit. An excellent mincemeat was made by the pioneer women from the less tender portions of venison, such as the neck, wild crab apples, and maple sugar.

George Rogers Clark observed the crab thickets on his march to Kaskaskia in 1778. But an earlier record mentions the Crabtree plains, obviously the later Crab Orchard. This phrase appears in a deed recorded September 2, 1773 at Kaskaskia. An association of English traders called themselves the Illinois land company and purchased two large tracts from ten chiefs of the Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Peoria tribes. The first was bounded, with distances measured in French leagues, “from the mouth of the river of Mary northeast to the Hilly Plains, thence to the Crabtree Plains, thence east to the Ohio, down the course to the Mississippi, thence upriver to the place of beginning.”

June 11, 1839 a Crab Orchard road district was set up by the Franklin county commissioners’ court, who appointed Jonathan Chamness the supervisor. Bounds were “Beginning one mile and a half west of Phelps prairie on the Brownsville road, Thence south West to the Crab Orchard Creek, Thence down said Creek to the mouth of Grassy Creek, Thence up said Creek to the old mill near Oliver H. Wiley’s, Thence East with the old road to Chitty’s old Bridge on Crab  Orchard, Thence up said Creek to the Cash pond, thence on a straight Line to Allen Bainbridge’s, Thence West along the South Edge of the Brownsville road to the Beginning.” This area is in the western part of the county. The road commissioner appointed for what we know as Crab Orchard Township in the eastern part of the county was Manning Campbell, charter member of Mount Zion Church.

“Chitty’s old Bridge” was that over which the Jonesboro post road crossed Crab Orchard in the southeast part of Carterville Township. It was built under the supervision of Benjamin Chitty, who lived near Chittyville School.

Crab Orchard voting precinct was also provided for at the June 1839 session of the Franklin County Commissioners’ Court. William Norris or North, Thomas Scurlock, and Warrenton K. Spiller were appointed judges of the general election. The three served at the polls in Bainbridge September 1, 1838 when an election was held for county surveyor. The clerks were John Bainbridge and John P. Cardwell. Each judge and clerk was paid $1 for his services.

The eastern part of the county asserted its claim to be Crab Orchard precinct in the sixties, when parts of East Marion and Crab Orchard townships were formed into a voting district. Then the congressional township nine south, range four east was given the name.

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