Poor Prairie History

Poor Prairie lies on either side, and about the center, of the township line between East and West Marion Townships, its greater length being east and west. The 1834 gazetteer of Illinois described it as a “wet, level tract.” William Benson built a cabin about the center of the prairie in 1826, and soon after Richard Tyner built another. The former bought out the second, who moved back to his relatives on Eight Mile prairie.

Samuel Aikman brought his family to the west side of the prairie in 1837, where he bought 640 acres, each acre priced at $1.25. With that heritage and their sturdy Scots blood his sons became leading citizens of the county. One son died, and a grave was made on a knoll under the forest trees. Four years later the father died. The graves of John A. Aikman (1823-1845) and Samuel Aikman (1794-1849) formed the nucleus for the Aikman family burial ground. Neighbors lay their dead nearby, and when Marion grew into a city, more land was added for the first city cemetery. Now the plot is known as the old Marion cemetery.

Business came to Poor prairie on December 11, 1838. The Franklin county commissioners’ court granted “Abraham Davis license to vend, sell, …. any goods and merchandise at his house in the Poor Prairie in the county for one year.” He paid a $5 fee to the county, and fifty cents to the clerk.

Poor prairie road district was bounded: “beginning at the Branch West of John Duncan’s old place, thence to the Brownsville road one mile and a half west of Phelps prarie. Then with or along the South Edge of said road to Allen Bainbridge’s. Thence south to the cash pond Creek on the Crab orchard Creek, Thence up said Creek to where the range line dividing 2 & 3 crosses said creek. Thence North with said line to Phelps prairie road district. Thence along said line to the North East Corner of section no. 16, thence North West to the Beginning.”

William Benson had charge of the roads within this area in 1838. Samuel Aikman was appointed to the place, June 11, 1839 and continued after Williamson county was organized though the road district was changed to coincide with West Marion Township.

Now roads cross and re-cross every few feet in that old road district, for the city of Marion has grown up on the land that early settlers regarded as of so little value that Poor was their only name for it.

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