The surface of this township was originally about one-half timber, known as the Okaw belt, much of which has been cut and sawed into lumber by local mills. The greater part lies on the western boundary, and a narrow strip along the river to the east line. The general surface is slightly undulating, excepting along the river and minor streams, where the bluffs rise several feet in height. The Okaw river enters the township on section 24, and meanders in a north-western direction until it reaches the line dividing sections 8 and 9, when it changes its course south-westerly, and passes out of the township near the north-west corner of section 19, and re-enters it in the south-west corner of the same section, and finally leaves the township at the S.W. 1/4 of section 30. The principal tributaries are Jonathan's creek, which empties into the river on section 17; and Coon creek, which heads at the edge of the timber in section 27, and empties into it on section 16.
This township includes the whole of congressional T. 13, R. 6, and is bounded on the north by Jonathan creek township, east by Coles county, south by Whitley township, and west by Sullivan. It contains 22,995 acres, valued at $173,822; 3018 acres of which is unimproved, and valued at $12,778. The soil, like adjoining townships, is rich and productive. The Peoria, Decatur and Evansville railroad enters on section 7, and runs south-easterly through the township passing out in the south-east corner.
In this township we find the first land entries were made as follows; May 10th, 1830, Jesse Ellis entered the W. 1/2 of the S.E. 1/4 of Section 12, T 13, R 6 E. 80 acres; Nov. 12, 1830, James Purvis entered the W 1/2 of the S.E. 1/4 of Section 17, T 13 R 6 E. 80 acres; September 26th, 1834 Jonathan E. Graham intered the W. 1/2 of the S.E. 1/4 of Section 24, T 13 R 6 E. of the 3d P.M. containing 80 acres.
The first settlers were Joel and Peter Freeman, brothers, with their families, and James and George Purvis, who arrived early in the spring of 1830. The Freemans were natives of North Carolina, and several of their descendants are among the best citizens of the county. They settled on Coon creek, a little south of the present site of Nelson.
James and George Purvis came April 1st, 1830, and built a cabin of rough hewn logs on section 7, where George Purvis still continues to live. They broke the first prairie and put in a crop, and in the following month their father, John Purvis, his wife, and daughter Malinda came from Sangamon county. They all lived in this cabin one year, after which the elder Purvis moved to the "Mill Seat" at the bend of the river, where he lived with his sons John and James G., who had also arrived and built a cabin. The bend in the river is nearly the shape of a horse-shoe, and is three and one-half miles around, and at the neck it is only seventy steps between the streams. At this point is is said there is about nine feet fall The eighty acres, including the bend, was entered by James Purvis in 1829. He, in company with his brother, John G., built a water mill on this neck in 1833, and it has ever since been known as the old "Mill seat." It was a grist and saw mill, and was operated for several years by the Purvises and others, and finally washed away.
Maj. James Poor settled a half mile west of George Purvis in the fall of 1832. He had a family of five children, many of whose descendants are still living in the county. At one time Maj. Poor was owner of the Mill Seat. He died in 1850. Alfred Wood settled in 1833. Frederick Price, Thomas Purvis, a Mr. Sims, Absolun Brown, Mr. Fox, Boswell, Thomas, Isaac and William Purvis, John Spencer, John Bracken, Milton Cox, Isaac Munson, John Goldsby, Samuel Martin, Joseph Lilly, Samuel Hughes, William Snyder, Alfred G. DeBruder, the Elders and Lauders, were all early settlers. Grandfather Purvis, who died in January, 1833, was probably the first death in the township. The first marriage was that of George Purvis, to Cassie Waller, in 1833. School was taught here as early as 1834 by Joseph Rodgers, on section 4, where the first school-house was erected of logs. Parnell Hamilton was also an early teacher. The Elders, Hostetler and Grider, and Rev. Hughes were early preachers. The first house used as a church was a school building erected at Nelson. Doctors Slater, Dodson, B.B. Everett and Montague were the earliest physicians. The first post-office was established at Nelson.
Old Nelson, laid out by Philip Vandakin in 1835, was the first village in the county. Dr. Montague, Joseph Rodgers and Samuel Martin erected the first buildings, and the two latter kept the first stores. Hugh M. Elder built a store and stocked it with general goods and kept the first post-office; A. Richardson also kept a store, and a man by the name of Dobbs had a blacksmith shop. This village was located just south of the "Mill Seat" in section 17. Mr. Vandakin failed to get a deed to this tract before James Purvis, the owner, died, and the heirs being minors, could not convey; hence the place became extinct. Soon after the death of Mr. Purvis, his brother, John G. Purvis, Dr. Montague and Jonathan Dazey, laid out a tract a half mile east, into lots and blocks, and called it
It contained 40 acres; 20 in section 17, and the same number in section 20. All the buildings were moved from Old Nelson into the new village, and in addition to these J.S. Gordon, James Elder, Samuel Egbert, Whitney & Morton, Joseph Duncan, Ewing &Prentice and William Snyder, erected storehouses and became merchants. Felix Landers had a tan-yard here for a number of year. When Moultrie county was organized in 1843, some of the early courts were ehld here=--Judge Treat presided,--but when the county seat was located at Sullivan, many of the merchants and residents of East Nelson moved there or to other points, and it virtually died. When the railroad came through they made it a station, and a post-office named Farlow, was established. At present there is but one store and wagon shop kept by Newton Farlow, and a blacksmith shop occupied by William Farlow, in the once noted place of East Nelson.
was a small village laid out by Thomad Purvis, about 1836, in section 3. John Patterson and Samuel Martin, were its merchants, and Purvis ran a horse mill. The land upon which it was located has long since been cultivated, and now forms part of a beautiful farm.
was laid off into lots and streets, surveyed and platted, by Abraham Jones, county surveyor, for Robert Armentrout, the original proprietor, April 5, 1872, and filed in the office of county recorder, September 28, 1872. It is situated in the extreme south-east corner of the township, and contains about a half dozen residences, two store, kept by James Powers and Joseph Fleshner, and a blacksmith shop by James Powers. There is also considerable grain shipped from this point.
is a station half the distance between East Nelson to Coles Station.
There is a tile factory, owned and operated by the sons of John Martin (deceased), situated a little south of East Nelson, that is doing a large business both in the manufacturing of brick and tile. There are also saw-mills in operation. The schools are in a flourishing condition, and each of the districts have neatly constructed and well-furnished school-houses. The Methodist Episcopal church, located on section 23, is the only house of worship in the township. Many fact relating to the history of Nelson may be found in the civil and pioneer chapters.
James T. Taylor, elected in 1867. J.T. Taylor, elected in 1868, served until 1870. Thomas Wiley elected in 1870. A. McPheeters elected in 1871. Reuben Daughtery elected in 1872. Isaac Fleming elected in 1873, served until 1875. George Purvis elected in 1875. John Henton elected in 1876. Rodham Miller elected in 1877. Charles Shuman, elected in 1878, re-elected in 1879 and 1880. The census of 1880 gives East Nelson township a population of 1,241.