Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Lost Towns of Illinois - Chamness, Illinois.

Chamness, the village in section 4 of Southern township, was established as a post office on January 24, 1889. 
Chamness, Illinois.


The first postmaster, Marshall E. Chamness. The post office was inside the store he had built a few years earlier. Our mail was delivered from Marion twice a week. Chamness was a big, jovial fellow. He was known to his patrons, mostly his relatives, as "Uncle Doc."

Because Marshall was the seventh son, the old wives' tales credit him with the power of healing. Children with the thrash (a fungal infection) were brought to Chamness so he could touch and breathe upon them.

Wiley Berry Chamness (1811-1882) was the father of seven sons whose homes were scattered around Chamness. His widowed mother brought her children to the neighborhood of Chamnesstown School in 1825, but the youngest son made his home south of Crab Orchard Creek when he married Sarah Krantz. He was licensed to preach on June 1, 1839, by the authority of the Crab Orchard Missionary Baptist Church at Chamness but was earlier located farther west and called Grassy Church. The same church ordained him to the eldership in 1857.

The elder sons of Wile B. and Sarah Chamness were George B., who opened the second hotel at Creal Springs and Thomas W. "Wilce" Chamness, who followed his father in the ministry. The latter married a daughter of Benjamin and Elizabeth McIntosh, who opened a farm just east of Chamness store in 1818. Widow Elizabeth McIntosh (1802-1883) entertained the preachers so regularly and sumptuously with such delicacies as dried apple pies that Crab Orchard Church was familiarly known as McIntosh Church during her life.

T.W. and Marshall E. Chamness were among the first trustees when Creal Springs Seminary was chartered as a college. The elder joined Crab Orchard Church in 1853 and retained his membership and home there throughout his pastorate of many churches in the county, beginning at Bainbridge. Mr. and Mrs. Josh Chamness were living on the farm in 1939 that was the home of Mr. Chamess, McIntosh's grandparents, and his parents.

Marshall E. Chamness turned over the store to his sons, Austin and Albert. His daughter became the wife of James H. Felts, a member of the Illinois general assembly. The Chamness sons sold the store to A.B. Bracy, whose wife was a descendant of Joseph Chamness of the Chamnesstown School neighborhood. Mr. Bracy sold the store to Joe Mouser, whose name sticks though Joe Minton was running the Mouser's store in Chamness in 1939. Mail service ended on April 30, 1902.

The first Chamness in America was kidnapped from the London bridge as a ship set sail for the new world. The boy was sold for his passage, and the Quakers bought his services. When his time was out, he remained among that sect in North Carolina and married a relative of William Penn. John Chamness (1749-1825) was a child of that marriage, the first of the name in Illinois. Contact with the Lemen family in St. Clair County probably turned the Chamness religious ideas from Quaker to Baptist. Wiley Berry Chamness retained the broad black hat and the address "thee" throughout his services in the Baptist churches of the county.

Note: The village of Chamness and most of its related homes, churches, schools and cemeteries were all purchased by the government in the mid to latter 1930s for the Crab Orchard Impoundment project, which resulted in the construction of Crab Orchard Lake and then in 1941 for the Illinois Ordnance Plant called Ordill. For a list of Ordill property, acquisitions see the post, Ordnance Plant Property Acquisitions.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

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