Independence Pioneer Village History


Samuel Ashmore, and his family, arrived in this area in 1828, bringing with them a carriage and two wagon leads of belongings.  They were the first white settlers in the region living among the Indians who remained for several years.  When Mr. Ashmore first came to this area, the vast prairie was very swampy, forcing him and other early settlers to clear land near streams and creeks on which to build their cabins.


The first community of Oakland was about two miles east of the present town of Oakland, it being on the trail from Paris to Decatur.  The Oakland Post Office was established July 26, 1833 near the little Embarrasriver.  The post office was most likely located in a store.  Mail service was provided on a weekly basis byhorseback between Paris and Decatur.


The town of Independence was surveyed and platted by Reuben Caterbury May 12, 1835.  Later is was found that another Independence was in existence so the Coles County Independence received their mail through the Oakland Post Office for many years.  By the early 1850’s the little community by the Embarrasriver no longer existed so the Illinois Legislature passed a bill that permitted Independence to become the town of Oakland.


In 1988, Robert Lee worked for Young Radiator Company in Mattoon.  The company moved to Lexington, Tennessee.  Robert and his brother Gary transferred to the Tennessee plant.  While there they became interested in some log cabins located in the Darden Tennessee area near Lexington.  Robert purchased on of the cabins with the intent of bringing it to Illinois and locating it on his 26 acre farm just north of Oakland.  While dismantling the cabin they also had the opportunity to buy other cabins located nearby.


Helen Parkes, a local Oakland historian, suggested that the Lees start a ‘Pioneer Village’ and suggested the name Independence Pioneer Village due to the fact that Oakland was once named Independence.

They purchase and reconstruction of the log cabins increased until there were eleven original hand-hewn log structures located in Independence Pioneer Village.  Each structure has its own history.  Soon other buildings were acquired and a General Store and carriage house were built.  Next a building was acquired and moved into the village to be used as a village bank, although that building has yet to be restored.  Finally a bandstand and covered bridge were built.


The log structures currently in the village include:

  • A Bartholomew dog-trot cabin, originally erected about 1828
  • The village jail – originally part of the Bartholomew homestead
  • The log barn – originally a part of the Bartholomew homestead
  • The summer kitchen – originally a part of the Bartholomew homestead
  • The Mattie Welch cabin, purchased by the Welch family about 1844
  • The Blacksmith shot – originally part of the Mattie Welch homestead
  • The Larson Cabin, started in 1860 and completed after the Civil War
  • The Barksdale Cabin, from about 10 miles north of Salem, Illinois and built around 1837
  • The Log church/school – original date unknown but originally located in the woods known as Smith Chapel, near Darden Tennessee.  The way it was built, it was thought to have been built as a church.  In the 1930’s in had been moved and occupied as a family home by Mr. and Mrs. Ray Miracle.
  • The Charleston Cabin, reconstructed from logs thought to have been the 3rd cabin built in Illinois.  Originally located about 2 miles south of Lake Charleston it was purchased from the Gary Johns family.
  • The Mills cabin was originally located north of Martinsville, Illinois.  It was partially reconstructed in the village but moved off its pillars by a tornado in 1999 and never reconstructed.


A souvenir booklet is available with a more detailed history of the structures of the village. Beginning in 1991 Civil War Reenactments were held each year in the village until 1996.  Due to operating costs, today the village is open from May-Oct by appointment and for special events such as weddings, church outings, company picnics, retreats, and historical events.

For more information or to book for events see the Village's website.