Odum Ford History

Odum Ford provided a means to cross the Big Muddy River near the mouth of Pond Creek where they join in the northeast part of Blairsville Township. Some stories relate that George Rogers Clark made the crossing late in June 1778 on his way to capture Kaskaskia. But the traveled road at that time crossed the river a short distance downstream at Humphreys’ ford.

Americans named Jay and McCIure settled at the ford in 1811. They were among the pioneers who built the blockhouse on Phelps prairie as a protection against Indian depredations that year.

A murderer was captured at the ford in 1814. John Hicks killed one of Thomas Griffith’s workmen during a fight, and ran away from Griffith’s place near Ward’s Mill. Some Indians wanted to track him, but Captain Griffith waited until morning and enlisted John Phelps’ aid. They came up with Hicks at the ford, his gun snapped without firing, and he was captured. The nearest justice of the peace, at Kaskaskia, sentenced Hicks to be “whipped, cropped, and branded.” This was the first sentence of law to be pronounced on a resident of the county.

The name Odum came to the county in 1815, with the brothers, Dempsey, Moses, and Thomas Odum. Moses Odum settled in what became Odumburg school district, Thomas Odum near Jeffersonville.

When the census of 1818 was taken, Dempsey Odum said he lived on Big Muddy river. But he was listed then and in 1820 with neighbors who were residents of East Marion Township where he made his first land entry.

Mr. Odum became a member of the legislature. His entire family’s cooperation was needed when he prepared for the horseback trip to Vandalia. Every man’s white shirt was requisitioned and freshly laundered, so “Demse” could cut a proper figure among his fellow lawmakers. Adjournment of the legislature meant redistribution of shirts to their owners in the Odum family.

Whenever he established his family at Odum ford, it was after his legislative service that Mr. Odum bought from the government the land around the ford. In 1854 and 1855 he and his son James K. Odum made land entries for the northeast quarter of section II, Blairsville Township. One forty acre tract was sold cheap as swamp lands.

Odum ford was paved with poles laid across a low place in the banks of Big Muddy river. These mud bridges were a common means of fording streams. A canoe was kept for use during high water.  Mr. Odum died in 1860, and the ford was no longer used.

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