Duncan Family History

A collection of articles and items about the Duncan family and Duncan Mills area. If you have articles or items you would like to add, please forward them to ttrimpe@sciencespot.net.
Duncan Family History
Isabel- Entryway of Fulton County
Charles Duncan's Military Record (Coming soon!)
George Duncan - Education Certificates
Last Will and Testament of George Duncan
Last Will and Testament of Flora Duncan
Last Will and Testament of Maud Duncan
Last Will and Testament of Alice Duncan
Obituary Pages


Duncan Family History - Copied from an essay by Alice Duncan

George Duncan was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, 1787. He was educated as a physician in Glasgow, but gave up his profession for coming to America. In 1816 he was first located near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At one time he lived in Pottstown, PA. He helped to survey the Erie Canal. In 1835, he moved to Shawneetown, IL, but soon after moved to the picturesque and beautiful spot on Spoon River, now known as Duncan’s Mills. At this spot there were rapids, suggesting to him that the erection of a dam and flouring mills. Thus came into being the family Duncan Mill- completed in 1836. Mr. Duncan had able assistants in his sons, John and Thomas.

The mill became famous for 50 miles around. In that large area at that time, this was one important and reliable mill. Winter ice nor summer drought ever stopped its wheels. Only a great flood that overflowed the bottom could make it silent. It was the bad fate of this widely popular mill to be burned by an incendiary in March of 1870. When rebuilt the great expense threw Thomas Duncan into bankruptcy and the mill and dam disappeared years ago. In the days of the mills prosperity, that spot was Lewistown’s summer resort for fishing and lathing.

George Duncan was one of our most remarkable pioneers. He died November 14, 1864, at an age of 77 years. He built one of the first good houses any where near here; nearby all were log homes at that time. When they moved into the new house, the log house was used for a school house.

George and Elizabeth Primrose were married in Scotland. On the trip over here someone on the vessel got hard up for money and George Duncan bought the Grandfather’s clock. It has pictures on it of Queen Mary’s escape from Lochlever Castle, but does not have a date. It can be found chiming the time in the home of great-great-great grandson Charles Sherman Duncan of Duncan Mills, who also has George’s medicine bay and survey equipment.

George Duncan had a brother, Henry Duncan. He remained in Scotland caring for their aged “other”. In a letter he wrote from Leitte, Scotland on November 15, 1833 stated that he planned to come to America in the next year (1834) and make his home with George and his family. He never married. George and Henry are buried just across from the home in Duncan Mills, Illinois.
John H. Duncan (born December 6, 1816) was from near Philadelphia, PA. He lived with his father and mother, George and Elizabeth, his brother, Thomas, and his sister, Margaret, until he grew to be a young man. In the year of 1835, he and his father started to look for a location. They left their home in the spring in a one horse spring wagon, formerly called a Dearborne. On their way the passed through the states of Ohio and Indiana to Chicago, IL.

The following story is by John H. Duncan. The personal account indicates that John may have written the paper of their travels to Illinois.

“We forded the streams that chanced to be on the road; among some of them was the Susguehanna, the Maumee, and the Fox. We saw two bark canoes filled with Indians which my father motioned to. They at once came to shore and inquired if we had any whiskey. When told no they seemed to be disappointed. My father asked them if they had any venison. They had none. Father gave them 25 cents and they were pleased. We met Indians every day on the road. They were all friendly. After crossing the Maumee we went up the river into Indiana. We stopped at Fort Wayne all night. After leaving Fort Wayne, we started in a north westerly direction. We crossed several large prairies, among them was the Dorr. We got our board as we traveled from place to place. Sometimes we found the houses where people lived by noticing the blazed trees as we passed along. But on the Dorr Prairie we traveled along until nearly night. Finally we met a man and inquired of him where we could stay all night. He directed us to the edge of wood in the distance. When went where we directed, but to our sorrow the house was vacant. We thot the next best thing to do was to look for another house in which to shelter for the night. Finally darkness overtook us and we were obliged to camp in the woods without supper.

In the morning we started out to look for a house where we could get refreshment, of some kind, as we had been without food since breakfast the day before. On the way out we met quite a few Indians with guns. They had been to the pigeons roost. The number of them was something wonderful. There were thousands and thousands of them. This roost was about 10 miles long. We traveled about halfway through before we found a house where we could get our breakfast. We came to the Lake about 40 miles above Chicago, which was then Fort Dearborn. The road we traveled along the lake was sandy and most of the time two of the wheels of the wagon was in the water. We found Fort Dearborn a small place. There were soldiers there. (Chicago was only a small village at that time. It was so low, wet and swampy no one would have thought of what it is now.) My father could have bought any amount of land any place near Chicago for very little money, but he never dreamed of what it would be. After staying all night in Chicago, we started east the next morn, or started towards home.

We arrived at our home again in Philadelphia some time in the summer. I do not remember how long we was out on this journey. In the fall of the same year (1835) my fathers family, one of his brothers, and Isaiah Wallace and family started with household goods, horses, and cattle to look for a location for a grist mill. We traveled by wagon until we reached Pittsburg, there my father bought a flat boat 80 feet long and 17 feet wide. here we loaded all our property on the flat boat and started down the Ohio River. We boarded ourselves while coming down the river when we wanted some eatables we would stop at some town along the bank of the river and get a supply. On the way down the river at night we ran the boat on a snag in the river. We tried to get off but without success. We saw a light on shore and called for help. They came, but said there was no use, trying to get out at night. So we went ashore with a small boat we made a purchase and by working and pulling we finally freed the boat and started on once more.

We landed at Shawneetown where we sold our boat, and started into Illinois by wagon driving our cattle. We traveled to Fairfield in Wayne County. Here we lived for the winter. In the spring of 1836 we started for Fulton County. We reached Fulton County sometime in April. We crossed the Illinois River at Havana on a ferry boat. Our journey from Wayne County to Fulton County was a dreadful one. The mud was so deep in places that we were obliged to draw one wagon aways with the team, then unhitch and take them back to the other wagons. So it made it very unpleasant.

My father, George Duncan, seeing Spoon River just the thing to run a mill. He concluded to settle where I now live. He built a house of logs. The land was Government land, but father bought this claim from Alex Shaver. He then built a barn after which he began the erection of a dam and saw mill. The saw mill had burrs for grinding wheat. The saw mill was just west of the bridge on the Lewistown Road. After a while he built the mill which burned in 1870. My brother, Thomas, and I helped my father in the mill.

Shortly after we got settled in our new home a friend and I went on horse back to Philadelphia on business from Duncan Mills. We was on the road about 30 days. I remained in Philadelphia until spring. I came home on a boat. In 1840, I was married to Jane Branson of Woodland Township. I brought my wife to Duncan Mills to live and where we have lived ever since. Born to my wife and I nine children, six of whom are living. They all live near us. Seven years ago, this eleven of June our children and many friends made a surprise for us to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary. It was a complete surprise. There was four present who was at the wedding, namely  Charles and Calvin Branson of Ipava, Mrs. Mary Schenk, wife’s sister, and my sister, Mrs. Margaret Dilworth. The mill is a thing of the past. The town which was named for my father is still dotted down on the classic Spoon River. It improved very slowly. My wife and I live with our three daughters in the story and half frame house which my father built about 50 years ago. I also own a farm but my family days are over. At this time, there was only a few homes. Near Solomon Winchell lived on the farm now known as the Tom Brown farm and later belonged to Warren Hendee. Moses Meeker lived on the farm mow owned by Harry Strouse. East of us was the Farrises, our nearest neighbors was over a mile away. Our post office was Lewistown. There was but a few woods. the woods were mostly along the river. It was no uncommon thing to look south from our home and see deer bounding over the hills. I shot my first and last deer in Spoon River bottoms. Wild turkeys were also plentiful.”

The following information is provided by W.J. Scott after he read the sketch about John H. Duncan.
“In 1857, I built the first store room in Duncan Mills. John H. Duncan had held several township offices, such as assessor, collector, and town clerk. He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1856. Shortly after receiving his commission, he was called on to marry Dave Comingore of Summon to a Miss Shawgo. And that ended it. He immediately resigned his commission as JP at once. In the spring of 1858 he went to St. Louis for a stock of goods suitable for a country store. By the time the goods arrived at Havana, the Illinois and Spoon was on a rampage and the entire bottom land was overflowed and teams could not get to Havana. Tom Duncan and myself built a flat boat and together with John and William Wallace floated the goods up the raging Spoon to Duncan Mills - making the trip in one and half days. That is historic, as the wet season the grist mill only ran about three months of the year. John H. Duncan had been appointed Postmaster with Tom as assistant. The post office and mill together with the store brought quite a good many people to the little city. Frank Paul platted the town of Duncan Mills about the year of 1867. Thomas Boyd wanted to call it Duncannon, after a town of that name in Old Scotland, but it was given the name of Duncan Mills, which is the name it still bears.” W.J. Scott also helped build Charles and Henry Duncans’ houses. Charles’ home was built in 1868 and Henry’s in 1869.


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Isabel, Entryway to Fulton County by Georgia Skiles (Local teacher and historian)

Isabel Township was the entryway for most of the very early Fulton County residents. In fact, the “hermit”, and first Fulton County settler, Mr. Davidson, made his home on the south bank of Spoon River. It takes it’s name from Point Isabel, the jut of land just south of Spoon River, where these people crossed the Illinois River.

Fast of the heels of John Eveland and Oasian Ross came the Gardiner brothers, James and Charles. They brought with them the nucleus of an orchard which later flourished. Their home was the first stop of the old stage line from Springfield to Quincy and when James built the lovely old home which still stands, it became the hub of social life for miles around. Part of the eastern portion has been torn away, but the grand old ballroom still remains on the second floor. To the north rises the lawn where on lazy summer afternoons, plays and entertainments were given and on the south stretches a porch the length of the house from which may be seen four counties. This home is not readily accessible for viewing as it is situated off Route 100.

Duncan Mills is still in existence. One house remain at Otto - the others are only memories. The old hotel was torn down in 1947 by Harry Hagney. The little hamlet was situated just west of the present bridge on Route 24 over Otter Creek. This is a lovely and picturesque spot which is well kept by the present owner, Donald Bucy. On this road, too, is the Otto Cemetery containing the graves of many of the early families.

Duncan Mills, which is joining the Spoon River Drive this year, was platted in 1867 and took its name from the mills built here in the 1830’s by George Duncan. At that time there were rapids in the river and Duncan built not only a saw mill with burrs, but also a grist mill soon afterwards. Farmers came many miles because of that fact. It was such a lovely cool spot that it became a favorite picnic grounds and on Sundays was a merry place.

The mill was burned by an arsonist in March of 1870, but was rebuilt in 1871, probably late March or April. The expense threw Thomas Duncan (George Duncan’s son) into bankruptcy and the mill ran only for a few more years. Almost as late as 1880 there was a little steamer plying between Duncan Mills and Havana, carrying the output of the mills and farm products to be loaded on larger vessels for market.

There are several cemeteries in Isabel Township. Besides the aforementioned Otto Cemetery, there is the Rose Cemetery northwest of Duncan Mills, overlooking the valley of the Spoon. Here lies Major Samuel Hackelton, who figured in building a bridge, store, and mill on the Spoon just north of where he now sleeps. he fought in the Black Hawk war and also in the Mexican War where he met his death. He was the thirteenth Speaker of the House in Illinois.

The Foutch Cemetery off Route 100 is situated above the old Foutch Homestead and is a lovely, quiet country cemetery. It contains the graves of the Gardiner family and many other early families. Going on south on Route 100 you will find the Kearney Cemetery, the only Catholic cemetery in South Fulton. This cemetery is noted for its panoramic view of the Illinois River bottom lands.

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Last Will and Testament of George Duncan

My last will and testament is that I bequeath to my Grandson Charles Duncan the notes of hand I hold against Caleb Dilworth.

I bequeath to my daughter Margaret Dilworth five dollars.

I bequeath to my son John all my instruments connected with surveying, the Clock, all the books including the encyclopedia, the globes, and the one horse buggy.

In case my son Thomas holds to his Mill bargain then there is to be land off ten acres of land for a mill yard so located that it will embrace all the upper houses and Post Office, but if he fails to make full settlement on the first day of August next ensuing, if he fails in his bargain in the Mills property, the two thousand dollars in notes that I hold against him is to be appropriated to any claims that may come against me and the surplus to be equally divided between my sons John and Thomas.

All of the land on Sections eight and six in Township four North of Rang three east, County of Fulton, State of Illinois, except that which I have let my daughter Margaret and son Thomas have.

I bequeath my son John at my decease words there is to be no appraisement or sale. The Mill and water power is to be common property between my sons John and Thomas, share and share alike.

I hear also appoint my son John executor of this my last will.

Witness my hand seal this fifth day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand, eight hundred and sixty four.
Witnesses at signing: David F. Stansbury and Isaac N. Downs
Signed: Geo Duncan

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Last Will and Testament of Flora Duncan (Daughter of John H. and Jane Duncan)

I, Flora Duncan, of the Township of Isabel, Fulton County, Illinois, of the age of Fifty-three (53) years, being of sound mind and memory do make, publish, and declare this to be my last will and testament.
FIRST: It is my will that all my just debts and funeral expenses, including debts, be by my executor hereinafter named, fully paid as soon after my decease as my be found convenient and proper.
SECOND: After the payment of all such debts and funeral expenses, I give and bequeath to my sister, Maud Duncan, all the personal property of every kind and description, wherever located, which I may own or be entitled to at my death, to have and to hold the same to her absolute use and enjoyment forever.
THIRD: I give and devise to my sister, Maud Duncan, all the real estate of which I may die seized, and wherever situate, to have to hold the same in fee sample as an absolute estate, to her, her heirs, and assigns forever.
FOURTH: I hereby nominate and appoint W.M. Fike to be executor of this my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills, by me at any time made.
Dated at Lewistown, Illinois, the 17th day of November, A.D. 1910.
Signed: X (Flora Duncan)

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Last Will and Testament of Maud Duncan (Daughter of John H. and Jane Duncan)

I, Maud Duncan, of the City of Lewistown, in the County of Fulton and State of Illinois, Spinster, being of sound and disposing mind and memory, do make, publish and declare this to be my last will and testament, hereby revoking all former wills by me, at any time, made.
As to my worldly estate and all the property, real, personal, or mixed of which I shall die seized and possessed or to which I shall be entitled to at the time of my decease, I devise, bequeath and dispose thereof in the manner following, to-wit:
FIRST: My will, that all my just debts and funeral expenses shall, by my executor hereinafter named, be paid out of my estate so soon after my decease as shall by him be found convenient.
SECOND: I give and bequeath to my niece Alice Duncan, the sum of Three Hundred ($300) Dollars.
THIRD: I give and bequeath to the Trustees of the Isabel Union Church Association, the sum of Fifty ($50) Dollars.
FOURTH: I give and bequeath to the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Lewistown, Illinois, the sum of Fifty ($50) Dollars.
FIFTH: I give and bequeath to my nephew Victor Duncan, my old Scotch Clock.
SIXTH: All the residue of my household effects of every kind and character I give and bequeath to my niece Alice Duncan, and my nephews, Frank Duncan and Victor Duncan, share and share alike; they to divide the same as near equally among themselves as possible.
SEVENTH: I give and devise my Homestead in the City of Lewistown, to my niece Alice Duncan, to have and to hold and enjoy for and during her natural life; with the remainder over in fee, to the then living children of my nephews Roy Duncan, Frank Duncan, and Victor Duncan, per Stirpes, in three equal parts, or in case of death of all living children of one part, then by the laws of descent, to have and to hold in fee simple forever.
All the rest, residue, and remainder of my estate, real, personal, and mixed, of which I shall die seized and possessed, or to which I shall be entitled at the time of my decease, I give, devise, and bequeath in the following manner, to-wit: the equal one-fourth to my niece Alice Duncan; the equal one-fourth to my nephew Victor Duncan; the equal one-fourth to Frank Duncan; the equal one-eighth to my nephew Roy Duncan, and the equal one-eighth to my nephew Bruce Duncan, to be their estate and property forever.
And lastly, I do hereby nominate and appoint my friend P.E. Bailey, to be sole Executor of this my last will and testament, and to act as such without being required to give any bond; and I hereby authorize and empower him as such to close my estate within two years after my decease, by making sale of all real and personal property of my estate not otherwise disposed of herein at public or private sale of the same, and to execute all necessary deeds or acquittances necessary to so to do.
In witness whereof, I, the said Maud Duncan, have to this my last will and testament consisting of two typewritten sheets, subscribed my name this 25th day of October A.D. 1934.
Signed: Maud Duncan

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Last Will and Testament of Alice Duncan (Daughter of Charles and Mary Jane Duncan)

I, Alice Duncan, of the Town of Isabel, in the County of Fulton and State of Illinois, being of sound mind and disposing memory and being mindful of the infirmities and uncertainties of this earthy existence, so hereby make, publish, and declare this to by my last will and testament, hereby expressly revoking all other wills by me at any time made:

1. It is my will, and I so direct, that my Executors hereinafter named pay all my just debts and funeral expenses as soon after my deceased as is convenient;
2. It is my will, and I so direct, that my hereinafter named Executors erect or cause to be erected on my grave a marker of monument similar to the other monuments now on the family lot;
3. I hereby direct that out of the proceeds of my estate, or out of my estate that my Executors hereinafter named pay to the Trustees of the Isabel Church the sum of Fifty Dollars for needed improvements;
4. I hereby bequeath to the Trustees of the Presbyterian Church of Lewistown, Illinois, the sum of Fifty Dollars, to be used for such church purposes as they may see fit’
5. I hereby give and bequeath unto Charles, Phillip, Willis, Robert, John, and Elizabeth Duncan the sum of One Hundred Dollars each, payable by my Executors out of my estate, as in the case of the bequests in Paragraphs three and four above;
6. I hereby give and bequeath unto Frank Duncan the secretary desk that belonged to Great-Grandfather; I hereby give and bequeath to my niece Elizabeth Grandmother Duncan’s chest; I hereby give and bequeath to Bruce Duncan of Prague, Oklahoma the walnut stand in my sitting room formerly belonging to his Mother;
7. I hereby direct that as to the walnut cradle and cedar churn formerly belonging to Mother, I do wish them sold, and I direct that my Executors, hereinafter named, give first choice of them to any member of my family, being my brothers or their wives or my nieces and nephews as shall desire them; if no members of my family wish them, it is my wish that they be given to the proper department of the State of Illinois having charge and custody of State parks and museums, for display in the New Salem State Park, or such other state park or museum as the head of the said department shall direct, and to insure that there shall be no question raised concerning any gift within the family, I direct that any delivery made by my said Executors to anyone within said family as a gift shall be final and not subject to criticism or challenge;
8. The rest of my furniture and keepsakes, I give unto Frank Duncan and Victor Duncan, my brothers, be divided equally among them;
9. The rest, residue and remainder of my estate, both real, personal and mixed, of which I may die seized and possessed, or which I may hereafter acquire or over which I may have my power of disposition, I give devise and bequeath unto my brothers, Victor Duncan, Frank Duncan, and Roy Duncan, but as to the shares of Roy Duncan, it is my desire that, and I so direct, should he be predecease his wife, then his share go to his son in fee; as to the share of Frank and Victor Duncan, should either or both of them be deceased at the time of my death, leaving Alice and Elizabeth Duncan as their wives, respectively, and also descendants, then the said named wives and the descendants of the said brothers are to take the share or shares of either of them as may be deceased, meaning that the wife and descendants (named wives) shall take the share of each brother only, and not the other brother.
10. I hereby nominate Victor Duncan and Frank Duncan to be the Executors of this last will, and request that they be permitted to serve without bond.

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