Figuring Out the Flat Branch Bunch


Flat Branch, Illinois

The two-to-three generations of families who lived in the Flat Branch Township area, Shelby County, Illinois, from about 1830 to 1870 are almost hopelessly, confusingly interwoven with marriages among the families. Outsiders have little hope of understanding all the connections to be found within the families of this community. However, I think it’s worthwhile to make the effort to comprehend the connections, for no other reason than to try to understand how deeply connected these families were to one another. The community of Flat Branch wasn’t unique in its web of connections. What played out here in this small area of Illinois was mirrored in thousands of small farming communities at this time throughout the country.

There were several families who were in the Flat Branch area early on, which in this case means by the 1830s. I call these people the Patriarchs and Matriarchs. The P&M’s of the Gordon family were Eli Gordon (1772-1847) and his wife Rebecca Caldwell (1775-1854). The Gordons were possibly the earliest residents of the Flat Branch area, in Shelby County as early as 1823. The P&M’s of the Denton’s were Jonathan Denton (1773-1828) and his wife Susannah Conlee (1775-1849). Jonathan and Susannah were my 4x great grandparents. Jonathan died in Montgomery County, Ill. before the family moved to Flat Branch, but Susannah moved there with several of her grown and teenaged children. She was in the area certainly by 1840 and was probably there several years earlier. The P&M’s of the Campbell family were Jeremiah Campbell Jr. (1797-1851) and his wife Hannah Stone (1800 to c.1870). Jeremiah and Hannah were my 3x great grandparents who moved to Illinois from Carter County, Tennessee. This family was in Flat Branch by 1842.

Here’s an example of what I mean by interconnected families. This is a chart of the Gordon family, including the three Gordon brothers, Levi, Abraham, and Benjamin, all sons of Eli Gordon. The Gordon’s are a critical connection in my family, not because I’m directly related to any of them, but because they married many of my female ancestors.


The Gordon Brothers of Flat Branch. The red 3-digit numbers next to the names at the bottom of the chart are the family numbers designated in the 1860 Flat Branch Twp., Shelby Co. federal census. Clearly, these families lived very close together, at least in 1860.

I started by assuming that Levi, Abraham, and Benjamin Gordon were brothers. I don’t have any direct proof for that family connection, but I do have a preponderance of evidence that points in that direction. What I want to highlight in this post are some of the connections among these three families, the Gordons, the Dentons, and the Campbells.

to be continued. . .

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