The following is taken from “The Significance of the Village of Maeystown, Illinois” by Gloria Bundy.)
The picturesque village of Maeystown, nestled in the hills and among the spring-fed streams in one small spot of Southern Illinois was founded in 1852 by Jacob Maeys, who was born in Oggersheim, Bavaria, in 1828.
Although the village was founded in 1852 and settled entirely by German immigrants of the Forty-Eighter movement, its historical significance begins in 1782, at the time of the Moore settlement at La Belle Fontaine, at what is now Waterloo, Illinois.
Captain James Moore, a native of Maryland, was a soldier under George Rogers Clark and was with him at Kaskaskia when he captured the Illinois Country for Governor Patrick Henry, making it a county of Virginia. Having seen the advantages of the Illinois Country, he returned with his family and four other pioneers and their families and spent the winter of 1781 in Kaskaskia. In 1782, Moore and his party moved northward on the Kaskaskia Trail and settled at a place the French called La Belle Fontaine because of the beautiful spring there. This was the first permanent American settlement made in the Illinois Territory. Other pioneers subsequently followed, stopping briefly at the Moore settlement until they staked claims for themselves elsewhere.
One such young pioneer was James McRoberts, a Revolutionary War Soldier, who joined the Moore party and then staked a claim of 100 acres (Survey 704; Claim 316), which he received for an improvement right. He left his claim, went to Tennessee, where he married Mary Fletcher-Harris and came back to Monroe County in 1797, receiving another 100 acres, presently owned by Mr. and Mrs. Dan Mueller (Survey 703; Claim 315), from the government as a militia donation. This claim was about one mile north of the first one. It was on the second claim that he built his dwelling out of cedar logs. Here his ten children were born. Samuel, the eldest, “was the first native-born Illinoisan elevated to the United States Senate.”
Following the elder McRobert’s death in 1844, his Survey 704; Claim 316, now known as the McRoberts’ Meadow, was sold and re-sold in rapid succession. It was a hilly, wooded tract of land, not suitable for cultivation. It contained three streams and a large spring, with limestone deposits protruding out of the hillsides and along the creek banks.
In 1848, Jacob Maeys purchased the Meadow from James O. Hall because of the large spring upon it. Young Maeys intended to use the water power from the spring to run a saw mill. Here he built his log house to which he brought his bride, Barbara Fischer, also a native of Germany.
Purchasing this 100 acres was very timely, as it was just when the Forty-Eighters were coming up the Mississippi River from the port of New Orleans, stopping briefly at St. Louis and then spreading by the thousands into the surrounding areas of Missouri and Illinois.
For more information about Maeystown, contact the Maeystown Preservation Society, P.O. Box 25, Maeystown, IL 62256 or by calling 618-458-6660. Group tours are also offered.