By LINDA MAYFIELD
What is the most southeasterly township of the 22 in Adams County? It's Beverly (population +/-400), and its largest town is also named Beverly.
Illinois was originally surveyed into townships six miles square, divided into 640 acre sections. Straight sides were sometimes altered by geographic features, but Beverly Township is square. To visit both Beverlys, take Broadway/Ill. 104 east past the airport and the town of Liberty. Turn right at the sign for Kingston, then left on East 2553rd. You will drive right into the unincorporated town.
Less than two miles beyond the town are beautiful Mound Prairie Church and Cemetery, out in the middle of the corn fields. They occupy the corner where the farms of the first two settlers in Beverly Township met. Izariah (one of several spellings in various records) Mayfield emigrated from Lincoln County, NC, by way of Kentucky and Missouri, to settle on 160 acres and build the first cabin in the township in 1834. The next three settlers were the Sykes, Richardson, and Robertson families who bought adjacent acreage south of the Mayfield property. Sykes descendents still own the land the Mayfields and Sykeses settled.
James Richardson Sr., and James Sykes Sr., were friends in Brooklyn, N.Y., who dreamed of a better life in the "far west." They came to Quincy in June 1834 to assess the prospects, went out to see where the Mayfields had settled, returned to Quincy and bought nearby land for $1.25 an acre, then went back to New York to bring their families and friends west. J. B. and Thomas Robertson and George Wood came with the Sykes family. They crossed New York on the Erie Canal, sailed Lake Erie to Cleveland, floated across Ohio by canal, then took steamboats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to Quincy.
With Izariah Mayfield's help, James finished building two cabins on his land and the family occupied them in early December, staying with the Mayfields until they were finished. James's son recorded in his journal that when the women caught their first view of the bare cabin they were to inhabit on the prairie and remembered the nice homes they had left in New York, they burst into tears.
The Richardson family, along with Mrs. Wood (the women were sisters), sailed from New York to New Orleans, took a steamboat up the Mississippi to Quincy, and arrived Nov. 5. The Wood family decided to stay in Quincy, where George opened a cabinet shop. Robertson built his cabin and was able to bring his family to their new home in April 1835.
More settlers arrived in the township and built log cabins. As families and prosperity grew, some cabins were torn down and replaced with larger houses, but some were just incorporated into the next addition, sided with boards and finished inside. Except for the thickness of the walls, that part would look just like the rest of the house. Eunice Funk, now a Quincy resident, was born in a beautiful ten-room house her ancestors built around an original log cabin on the Sykes farm.
In 1836, the town of Beverly was platted west of the original settlers' 160 acre farms, and named for one family's hometown in Massachusetts. A lot would be given to anyone who would build a permanent house on it, and four frame houses and a school were soon built. A town cemetery was designated north of the square. Izariah Mayfield had begun raising pigs his first year on his land (wolves took some), and soon other settlers did, too. With the construction of a cooper's shop in town to make barrels, a prosperous meatpacking industry soon followed. Farmers fed hogs their corn, salted the pork, packed it in barrels, and shipped it on the stage road between Springfield and Quincy that passed through Beverly. Mail also traveled via that road. John B. Robertson was appointed the first postmaster in 1837, and served for 40 years. A town hall, built in 1851, was used for all church services and other gatherings -- except dances. Beginning about 1885, those who wished to indulge in dancing could travel north to the Forest Hotel in Siloam Springs, and the young people did, to the dismay of their elders.
In 1864, the Congregationalists and Methodists built a church they shared south of the cemetery -- it's still used today. The Mound Prairie Christian Church was organized in 1894 and built east of town, adjacent to the land James Sykes Sr. had designated as the family cemetery on the original farm. After Adaline Mayfield died in 1889, Izariah moved in with their son, John, in McKee Township, the next one to the north. He died there in 1898 in the winter, and after a temporary burial, in the spring his body was moved to the Beverly cemetery where Adaline was buried--but no one is sure which of the two cemeteries that was! A modern marker in the Mound Prairie Cemetery commemorates their lives.
For many years, James Sykes Jr. wrote a weekly column about Beverly in the Barry Adage under the pen name "Uncle Pete." After he scolded them in his April 30, 1888, column, residents made improvements in the Beverly town square. Neighbors stopped grazing their cattle there, planted elm trees, and began using it as a community park. By that time, the big Huffman house was east of Mound Prairie Cemetery, the large Richardson house to the north, the Dr. Sykes mansion at the west edge of town, the large house of orchard-grower Emmett Kelly nearby. Two doctor's offices, three grocery stores, and a hat shop eventually served the thriving community. The post office was in Ray Rhoades's store. Woodman Hall, a large two-story building, housed the local lodge. The first telephone switchboard was in Nelle Kelly's house. Electricity came in 1939.
Time brought change, but highways and railroads bypassed Beverly. The one-room school with the big bell burned in the late 1930s and a modern building replaced it. The township's country schools were phased out until all students attended in Liberty, then most grew up and moved away. But Beverly's treasures include the archives of the Barry Adage and the historical records its citizens have preserved in journals and memoirs that might not have caught others' attention: the earthquake Jan. 4, 1843; the tornado April 22, 1844; the murder on the town square more than 80 years ago. Weddings, funerals, births, deaths, laughter and tears, commendations and scandals…the fabric of a community. Beverly's population may not exceed 50 now, but its rich history lives on in Adams County.
Linda Riggs Mayfield retired from the associate faculty of Blessing-Rieman College of Nursing. She is a researcher, writer, and an editorial consultant for academic researchers, writers, and authors. Seven generations of Dr. Mayfield's family have lived in Adams County.
Asbury, Henry. Reminiscences of Quincy, Illinois. Quincy, IL: D. Wilcox & Sons, 1882.
"Adaline Lee Mayfield." Find a Grave [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.findagrave.com/cgi/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=fr&FRid=36160746. Reproduced from The Banner Press, Marble Hill, MO, September 21, 1888.
Funk, Eunice M. Our Tree Grew in Beverly. Self-published: Quincy, IL, 1995.
Funk, Eunice M. Personal interviews by the author. July, 2012.
"Mayfield Ancestor Family Line." RootsWeb.com. Retrieved from http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/MAYFIELD/2002-2006/ 1023644121.
"Seventy-ninth Birthday of Christopher Basim." Barry Adage, November 5, 1891. Newspaper Abstracts [Website]. Retrieved from http://www.newspaperabstracts.com/link.php?action=detail&id=9652.
Tillson, Gen. John. History of Quincy. In Past and Present of the City of Quincy and Adams County, Illinois I. Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1905.