Welch owned mill on Pepper Mill Branch

Francis Marion Bolt was born in southeast Ramsey Township, and in his early years was a school teacher in the neighborhood schools.

His family had come into the county early from the Old Dominion (Virginia), and included brothers, Elias, Louis and Hiram Bolt.
For a time, F.M. was editor of the Ramsey News-Journal, and in the 1920s contributed articles for publication in the newspaper under the title of "Reminiscences."
With Mr. Bolt being of an earlier generation and blessed with a wonderful memory, many events, people and places of old Fayette County have been preserved for us through his articles.
One of these, written from his home in Clayton, Mo., on June 1, 1928, told how he had returned to his old neighborhood and visited with several old acquaintances, including Hiram Nichols and Robert Hunt  Jr.
He told that Hunt owned the former home of his brother, Calvin Bolt, well known for the Big Spring, which is the headwater supply of the Pepper Mill Branch, which finds its way winter and summer to the Okaw (Kaskaskia) River.
“A short distance from where it empties into the Okaw, there was in an early day a water mill, its propelling power being a big master wheel, which received the water and set the machinery in motion – chiefly a mill for grinding corn.
“In connection with the mill, there was a machine which manufactured wool into rolls, which the good women of that day spun, and with cotton “chain” made the “jean” (not jeans as many called it) for almost everlasting clothing.
“John A. Welch was the owner of the mill and carding machine. In addition, there was a distillery 75 to 100 years ago in the vicinity of the Dean Hills.”
The last two bits of information were new to me. The Beck mills are often mentioned in the histories of the township, but that John A. Welch owned and operated one can be added to the history.
John H. Welch was born Jan. 7, 1812, in Cumberland County, Ky., and came to Fayette County with his father, Richard, soon after the death of his mother in 1827.
At age 20, he volunteered his service in the Black Hawk War, mustering out in St. Louis in 1833 after serving for 14 months; 11 as a ranger. John and Elizabeth Smith were married in Fayette County on Sept. 20, 1840,  and were parents of six children, four dying in infancy.
In 1862, he with George Bolt and a Mr. Ray, raised a company of which he was captain. This company was organized into the 97th Illinois Infantry.
The History of Fayette County, from 1878, tells that the first death in Bowling Green Township was Hiram Hill, son of Jonathan Hill, followed shortly by his two younger brothers. They were buried in a cemetery in Section 17, the first burying ground in the township.
By 1878, John H. Welch owned this land and gave a deed for the cemetery, hence the name, Welch Cemetery.  Most of the first settlers are buried here.
With these two new tidbits of history added to what was previously known, I can only imagine what is awaiting me in the annals of F.M. Bolt’s, “Reminiscences.”

John H. Welch

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