Ward’s Mill History

Ward’s Mill stood in section 17 of Creal Springs Township, where the earliest road in the county crossed the Saline, the French Grande trace from Massac to Kaskaskia. It was blazed during the first decade of the eighteenth century, and in the first decade of the nineteenth century the road from Lusk’s ferry (Golconda) made the same crossing. Joseph and Thomas Griffith made the first settlement in the neighborhood about 1811.

Ezekiel Ward’s old place, upstream from the road crossing, was used as a landmark when the Franklin county commissioners’ court laid out road districts in 1839. John and Dickson Ward both enrolled as mounted volunteers in Captain Obediah Wests company for the Black Hawk war, but they evidently tired of being soldiers, for they were absent on furlough when the company was mustered out after seven weeks’ service. Dick Ward owned the old mill at the time his neighbors made up a petition for a post office.

Service was opened August 11, 1874, the day his appointment reached Postmaster Daniel M. Lewis (1821-1894). Dan and Harriet (Cash) Lewis had a four year old son, born on their farm one mile south of the mill. Philip N. Lewis grew up to teach school, open a bank at Herrin, and died in 1937 as farm superintendent of the prison at Menard.

Postmaster Lewis handled the mail for his neighbors many years. The office was closed October 24, 1887.

The first settler at Ward’s Mill was Thomas Griffith, a man of prominence whose personality is but little dimmed by the years that have passed. His character is amply illustrated by the first anecdote told of him. He saw a bear in a tree where the first courthouse later stood, and aimed at the meat supply. But before he pulled the trigger, he noticed an Indian pointing his gun at the same bear. Griffith changed his target and shot the Indian dead. The Kaskaskias never ventured near the Saline, though it was good hunting ground: Their explanation was: “Griffee live there; he kill Indians.”

When the Illinois territorial militia was raised to combat the Indian troubles incident to the War of 1812, Governor Ninian Edwards appointed Thomas Griffith captain of the third regiment. That appointment was registered August 2, 1810, and the captain’s services were so valuable that he was promoted major of the regiment June 15, 1815. In the meantime the governor had increased his duties by naming him justice of the peace for Johnson County on December 2, 1812. At that time the part of Williamson County southwest of Miles’ trail was included in Johnson County.

Part of Captain Griffith’s duties, were the governor’s instruction to build blockhouses and see the neighboring settlers retired to them. The blockhouse built in 1811 by the settlers on Phelps prairie was one of these, and old maps show a similar blockhouse on Saline River that may have been Captain Griffiths home. But no local record refers to the Saline blockhouse.

After the war, Thomas Griffith continued to live on the Saline. When the Franklin County census was taken in the summer of 1818, he had a family of seven, none of them men over twenty-one. Before the federal census taker came in 1820, Thomas Griffith was dead and Patsy Griffith was doing the best she could to keep her family of six provided for.

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