HELL’S HALF ACRE: THE HISTORY OF THE LEGENDARY GHOST TOWN OF CHRISTIAN COUNTY. (1855 TO 1880)

Source: Christian Co., IL. Genealogical & Historical Societies

HELL’S HALF ACRE:  THE HISTORY OF THE LEGENDARY GHOST TOWN OF CHRISTIAN COUNTY.  (1855 TO 1880)

            Much speculation has went around present day Christian County about the location, history of and the demise of the village of Half Acre, better known as Hell’s Half Acre.  To the present day little still exists documenting the now ghost town of Christian County. …..

            Half Acre’s reputation gained its notoriety as being known as Hell’s Half Acre when criminal and unsavory types of persons took residence in and/or frequented the village, both before and after the Civil War. In the 8/21/1903 edition of the Decatur Daily Review, it was reported that during the Civil War, it was rumored to be the headquarters for a band known as the Knights of the Golden Circle and a known location to harbor deserters of the Army.  The article further mentions that an old resident travelling thru Half Acre was so impressed with the reputation of Hell’s Half Acre and all that he witnessed that he wrote an article to a Chicago newspaper about the village, but to date this writer can find no evidence of such an article.  Per an accounting in the 7/28/1927 Breeze Courier, Major Vandeveer related that the saloon, located on the widely traveled road, attracted all types of persons with the promise of liquor, women and gambling; including gamblers, robbers, killers, and deserters from both sides of the Civil War.  The village was known for the types of persons who gathered there as the unsavory persons frequenting the village would often lay in wait for passersby or ride into Taylorville causing uneasiness and fear among the travelers and residents of Taylorville with their unruly actions and shooting sprees.  “No man was safe on the roadway or dark’ stated Major Vandeveer.  Major Vandeveer’s and the witness referenced in 1903 accounting’s claims that deserters of the Civil War were known to frequent Half Acre were given credibility by my father’s finds of the Civil War uniform button.  This Civil War button could also have belonged to Edward Bradley himself as Mr. Bradley’s Civil War Draft Registration was found dated September 10, 1863, but no other documentation of his actual enlistment, or muster papers could be found, to actually place him as fighting for either side. …..” (CCGS, 2014).

Source: Illinois Genweb

“From: Sally Hathaway
Date: Mon, 29 Mar 1999 14:12:43 EST
Subject: Another Famous Legend from the Pioneer Days In My Backyard

(HELLS) HALF ACRE

One of the noted places of Christian County bore the name of Half Acre, and
was on the bank of the Sangamom River on the public road which runs between
Taylorville and Bear Creek, in the northeastern part of Johnson Township.
Edward Bradley, and Irishman, bought a half acre of land, and on it founded
the town, which bore this peculiar name.  Mr Bradley opened a grocery, and
according to the custom of the times, obtained a license to sell liquor.  The
town obtained the location of a sawmill, owned by Bell and Christian, and
several log cabins grew up about the little settlement.  Unfortunatley the
lawless element gained supremacy, and the place became known by the highly
objectionable title of “Hell’s Half Acre.”  During a storm the nucleus of the
town, the saloon was struck by lightning, and burned, and with it gone, the
place declined, and now nothing remains to mark the spot.
Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois  Christian County IL  Vol II  p 768

FYI:  I have personnaly walked and looked through the place for years when I
lived back there.

William Kerwin and Stephen Kerwin, and a couple of others, now own land next
the river and to that old town in Illinois.  My family.  It is beside the
South Fork Branch River under R 48;  with another legend of the old bridge
there….

There has been articles about this place over the last 50 yrs, The Breeze-
Courier Newspaper, Taylorville, IL.  It is also seen in many various books
about the area and in many sites online.  GhostBusters even had a little note
about it .  This is a very common and well known little story in the past 100
years, even could call it it folk legend.

We have watched people through the years go out with metal detectors and
search for old coins, guns, bullets, harness wear, etc.  Some have been found
through the years. ”

Source: Breeze Courier

“1855 – The town of Half Acre on the banks of the Sangamon River in Johnson Township is established. The settlement becomes known as a “notorious place of dissipation and rowdyism,” giving rise to the name Hell’s Half Acre. ”

Does anyone else have more information?

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