Duck Hunting for Sport
THE MEREDOSIA ISLAND
Past to the Present
Written by Mr. Howard Edlen for the Meredosia Bicentennial History Book
This large tract of wooded and farming acres is located north of Meredosia. The Illinois river, Meredosia Bayou and Indian Creek is its boundaries. Much history goes with the passing of years. Notes taken from History of Brown Co., Ill from 1842-1882, the vast area, later to become Versailles, Ill. was inhabitated by Indians only. They made camp along the river and near the bluff. This is known as Kamp Creek. Just across the river is the Island. Further up stream is Indian Ford and Indian Creek territory. The Indians crossed the river at Kamp Creek, hunted the then, dense wooded acres. The first white settler to locate in the Versailles (North) territory and not far from Kamp Creek - Bluff - was 1824. History tells an Indian met with an accidental death on Eagle Island, later to become Chi. Meredosia Gun Club hunting grounds. Later years finding of numerous Indian Artifacts about the Island, especially in Indian field and ridges, gives reason to believe Our Indians might have lived, roamed and hunted the Island. When and whom the first white man to settle and clear some of the acres of the Island remains a questions here.
Prior to the early 1920's many families of Meredosia and elsewhere resided here and cleared more acres for farming. The passing of years have seen numerous renters and land owners about. Whose livelihood was made from hunting, trapping, fishing, farming. At one time ducks were killed for the market; however this was but a short time. There were many beautiful and abundantly giving Pecan trees. Yearly, bushels of pecans were gathered by local folk then sold to Steinberg pecan factory in Meredosia as were the furs trapped and sold to Kappal Bros. Furriers in town. The devas[ta]ting flood of 1926 killed the majority of these stately trees. Which was a great loss to folks, the woods and wild life. Natures delicacy - mushrooms - were in abundance all about until the recent past years of early to late spring flooding, such flooding, made the find near to none! Travel to and from the Island was by ferry and private boats, cometh winter skating and walking the ice was a way of travel. A wagon bridge located south in the chute area was much used. Grain harvested was barged or ferried to the Meredosia elevator or to one located at Phelps beach, later called Honey Point. Residents and their needs were often ferried by Joe GasKill and John Raisor Ferry service. High waters often forced residents out, but for short duration - usually they could return in time for crop planting. The small school house was located at about the center of the Island, at a place called school house prairie, in Cass Co., was yearly in session and of average attendance. This school burned, later replaced by a lovely new one. It was one of the first standard schools in Cass Co. - The Cass and Morgan Co. line is just north of then the Stone house which became Anderson Club. In the early 1940's country schools were required to have seven or more students in order to keep in session. There being but five, the once serving school closed. In mid 1940 it was auctioned to the highest bidder and moved to the Arenzville area, thus ended years of service of a little country school. Following are names of teachers serving the Island School and Its children. (If they all could have been interviewed or had left records and notes, no doubt an interesting chapter could be written). Mrs. Minnie Schaffer Steinberg, May Sapp, Vera Upp, Prof. Clark, Mrs. Bernice Paulegroff, Geog. Cole, Mrs. Hilda Waddell Bennett, (Mrs. Muriel Bennett Thompson), Mrs. Hazel Ashcraft Winston, Mrs. Nora Winegar Yeakel, Percy Edlen, Mrs. Raymond Lewis Surratt and Miss Alta Barker both of Brown Co. were the last two teachers. They would live in the school until Friday eve. then be boated across the river to spend the week end at home. Perhaps others could be added to the list who taught here.
There was a small graveyard east of the Raisor home. Time and elements brought it's disappearance. A log cabin once stood at the foot of Big Ridge; it, too, left with the passing of years. Following is a partial list of early residents: The John Raisors, Garretts, Brooks, Stones, Henry Alhorns (Henry and Walter were born there) Millers, Clarks, Otha Boss, Isaac Bennetts, Mrs. John Henderson Yeakel and her parents, Doug Reining, Dewitts, Chas Dawsons, Goffage, Moldhars, Richard Surratts, Ickes, Chas. Holidays, Oral Robison, Sweet Bros., Hinderlighters (Owners of numerous acres), Grover Summeys, Art Crews, John Reinings, John and Geog. Lerch families, John Dickmans, Hyatts, John (Glick) farmed there, but traveled to and from in his prized "Red Wing," his son was a small lad but remembers going with Dad. The upper end of the island was heavy timber until about 1930. It became the property of Curtis Logsdon and Mr. Neibolt - they farmed and had duck hunting areas. During PWA reign the workers cleared and made a road from Indian creek to just west of the Raisor home - near the school house. Curtis laid the bridge across the creek, which is still being used but repaired several times.
In the early 1920's much of the middle and south acreage became the property of Roy and Charlie Phelps. They in turn sold a portion to three brothers from Chicago. The Wares, Ralph, Walter and Robert, thus the Chicago-Meredosia Gun Club was born. In time others became members of this growing club. It was located along the Illinois river across from Kamp Creek--in a large home already erected. An addition was later added to make a spacious building. John Lerch family moved from Hancock Slough house to the club. John became the first caretaker. A new era had begun and continued until 1971. The newly organized club was amid beautiful natural surroundings of woods, ponds, the river, bay, acres of waving corn, wild life, thousands of ducks, geese, all made relaxation and serenity--truly duck paradise for ducks and the ardent hunters. A beautiful large white boat "The Campion" was soon purchased. It served well and long for the hunters and employees. Going in the Champion was the best way of travel until in the thirties when the road was made. The Pilots were John (Bunts) Edlen, who was employed for a number of years, Mr. L. B. Lucas and L. G. VanDeventer--maybe there were others.
In the late 1920's Mr. James R. Anderson of Kenosha, Wisconsin, a long time member of the Chi. Meredosia Club purchased sections of land from various owners, thus began another club. The Anderson Gun Club, the Stone located just south of the Morgan--Cass County line was the chosen house. At the present house--1976, it is home for L. G. and Dorothy Vandeventer--other old homes yet standing--but not occupied, are the Raisor, Alhorn or Hancock Slough homes and the Chi.-Meredosia Gun Club house. The vast area of Anderson Club was known not only for the great sport of hunting waterfowl, but also for the protecting of the fast diminishing population of ducks and geese. "Rest Pond" the forbidden area was haven for returning migrating flights in the spring to the north and in autumn, north to south. Hunting seasons of the past gave awe inspiring sights--thousands of ducks in flight come dusk and again cometh dawn. Often there were large numbers of geese in similar flights, such as we don't see too often today. Protection of the waterfowl from inside made good hunting for the many area hunters. Many ponds about the hunting area had the distinction of being given names. Interesting names, Rest Pond or Lower Twin, Middle and upper Twin, North Pond, Buck Brush, South-Eighty, Peters Pond, The Annex, Crappe Pond, Billings Lake-Moss Pond, Brier Ridge, Cornfield Hole, Goose Pond, Hancock Slough, approx. a mile long.
Mr. and Mrs. L. B. Lucas, Mr. and Mrs. L. G. VanDeventer, Mr. and Mrs. Voley Fisher were employed by Mr. Anderson. Mr. L. B. Lee was chef for a number of years. After the 1943 flood the Vandeventers moved into the Anderson house and were caretakers until 1971. Farming was their lively hood. Many Meredosians were employed during annual duck seasons and farming time. Rebecca Gail VanDeventer was the only child reared there after 1935. Before the Bridge and road were built, the grain was hauled across the ice covered Bayou. We walked, drove the cars across or went by sled for the weeks outing, going into town for the afternoon. Fred Vance family lived just north of the Anderson Club area, known as the Raisor property. He was caretaker for the Rock Island-Moline Club. His son, yet there, is employed by the Meredosia Farms Club. There are several other small hunting ponds on the North Island and the far South end. Several different ones are the owners of various areas. A book could be written of the many years of beauty, givings, acquaintances, abundant harvest, loss of crops due to floodings, moving out when our Illinois river goeth out of its boundaries, being brave in moving back (and wanting to), our annual duck seasons, the fun time of the year, also busy time, travel on ice frozen Bayou, riding the waves due to an unexpected wind, beautiful nature surroundings and serenity. It's home.
The passing of time brought changes, many members gave up their membership, others passed on. There was much change in duck hunting and a noticeable decline in the duck population. In later years Mr. Anderson became owner of both clubs and the acreage. In 1971 at his death the entire area of several hundred acres was willed to the National Wild Life of Game and Fisheries for the protection of our rapidly diminishing wild life and trees. It was heart warming to learn the name given the area "Meredosia National Wild Life Refuge," Meredosia, a very beautiful name. This is the chosen name now, and we hope forever. 1971 brought the ending of a great era of approximately fifty years. It also saw the beginning of a new era. A Sanctuary protection for wild life and acres of wooded area, stately beautiful trees, serenity, givings, a wealth of memories not to be lost or forgotten.