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Early County Government
From History of Greene and Jersey Counties, Illinois, Springfield, IL: Continental Historical Co., 1885, pp. 84 – 92. Not a complete transcription. There will be typographical errors.
In 1821 the court laid the county [Greene] off into military districts for militia purposes; these were called company districts. The first district comprised what are now the townships of Quarry, Elsah, Rosedale, Otter Creek, Mississippi and Piasa, and an election for officers – one captain, one lieutenant and one ensign – was ordered, and John D. Gillham, John Waddle and Samuel Kinkead were authorized to act as judges of election. The second district was also in this county and embraced the present townships of Richwoods, English, Jersey and Fidelity, and Gershom Patterson, William Adair and Nathaniel Rowdon were appointed as judges of election. At the same time Ira Kelly, Samuel Kinkead and Jehu Brown were recommended to the governor, Shadrach Bond, as suitable persons for the offices of justice of the peace. Jurors were also selected at this term of the county court, to serve as such at the next meeting of the circuit court, and among those drawn were the names of the following residents of what is now Jersey county: Ezekiel Gilham, William Davidson, Gershom Patterson, John D. Gilham, James Whitesides and Philip Grimes. The first probate judge of the double county was John G. Lofton, who received $30.12 1/2 for his services, and $5 for recording deeds. Among the jurors for the spring term of 1822 were the following residents of what is now Jersey county: Edward Carroll, Joseph White, Robert Avery, Joseph Piggott and John Gunterman.
The first commissioners of the county [Jersey] were Thomas Cummings, Solomon Calhoun and Amos Pruitt, and the first court held by them was a special term which met on Oct. 4, 1839 at Jerseyville, when all three of the commissioners were present. The court appointed Robert L. Hill as clerk pro tem., to hold the same until the duly elected clerk should file his bond and be sworn in, whereupon Robert Hill filed his bond and entered upon the discharge of his duties. His bond, which was ordered to be recorded, was for the sum of $1,000, and was signed by Edward M. Daly, John Brown and Joseph Crabb as sureties. The first business brought before the court was the appointment of trustees for the townships, and a county agent, Joseph Crabb, being the gentlemen selected to fill the latter position. Robert L. Hill was instructed to buy a stove, and Edward M. Daly the books, seals, papers, etc. necessary to carry on the various offices of the county government. It was also ordered:
“That Solomon Calhoun and Robert L. Hill be appointed to contract for and superintend the erection of a building to be located on the public square in Jerseyville, for the use of the county of Jersey, and to obtain from the trustees of Jerseyville a lease of the said square: the said building to be 18 feet square, and one story high, and to be built in a strong and workmanlike manner, and to be paid for out of the county treasury.”
The second meeting of the county commissioners’ court was also a special one, held Oct. 28, 1839, when John R. Black, the newly elected county treasurer, filed his bond for $15,000 and qualified. His sureties were Joseph Crabb and E. Van Horn. At this meeting of the court the following were appointed as road supervisors of the various road districts of the county: John Utt, Jospeh Duncan, Pollard Kirkland, John Gilworth, H. N. Belt, William Tompkins, George Stamps, John Cowan, Joseph Crabb, George Settlemiers, Perley Silloway, Henry Ripson, William McDow, Thomas Cresswell, William Williams, Ezekiel Gillam, John Simmons and Jacob Lurton.
Richard Graham, who had been elected to fill the office of clerk of the commissioner’s court, came forward at this meeting, filing his bond for one thousand dollars, with John Anderson and R. H. Van Dike as sureties, was duly qualified, and entered on the discharge of his duties.
The first regular session of the commissioner’s court was held in December 1839, commencing on the 2nd of that month. The house, contracted for by Messrs. Calhoun and Hill for the use of the county, having been finished by the contractor, Peyton C. Walker, it was received from his hands by the commissioners, and the clerk ordered to draw warrants for the sum of $220 in payment for the same.
Thomas Cummings having, with Chilton Smithe, been appointed a committee to confer with the county commissioners of Greene county, and to adjust the claim of Jersey county to apportionment of the internal improvement fund, at this meeting presented a report stating that they had secured the sum of $6,000 and an agreement to make a final adjustment “under and after the census of 1840.” Thomas Vance was at once appointed as an agent to loan this fund at a rate of 10 percent per annum, payable in advance, he entering into a bond with the conty for the faithful performance of the same.
On Thursday, December 5, 1839, James C. Perry, a native of England, came before the court, and having taken the oat of allegiance, was duly naturalized a citizen of the United States, the first in this county after its organization as a separate county.
At a special meeting of the county commissioners, held on January 13, 1840, the following preamble and order was made:
“Whereas, Elijah Van Horn, Solomon Calhoun and Thomas L. McGill, a committee appointed by a meeting of the citizens of Jersey county, to superintend the erection of the public buildings for said county, this day presented to the court a draft of a plan and explanations thereof, of a building for a court house and jail for said county, which plan and explanations are ordered to be filed. And it is further ordered that if the citizens of Jerseyville and its vicinity will build, at their own expense, a building according to the said draft and explanation, the said building will be received by the commissioners’ court of Jersey county, for the use of said county, as a good and suitable court house and jail for the said county of Jersey.”
But little was done by this court beyond the usual routine work, laying out roads, building bridges, auditing claims, etc. In March 1840 however, they appointed John Kimball, assessor for the county, and George W. Lowder, collector.
The county commissioners’ court that met on Sept. 7, 1840 was composed of Amos Pruitt, Chauncey Brown, and Cyrus Tolman, the latter two of whom produced their certificates, and after duly qualifying, took their seats.
The court which met at the regular September term in the year 1842 was composed of Chauncey Brown, Cyrus Tolman and William Palmer, the latter taking the place of Amos Pruitt. In September 1843 Thomas Carroll became a member of the county commissioner’s court in place of Chauncey Brown, whose time had expired. In September 1844 Maurice Armstrong became a county commissioner, the court for this year consisting of Armstrong, William Palmer and Thomas Carroll. At the June term 1845 of this court they appointed Thomas L. McGill as the agent of the county for the collection of the subscription of the citizens to the fund for the erection of the court house and jail in the town of Jerseyville. In the fall of 1845 Ambrose T. Wyckoff became a member of the court in place of William Palmer, whose term had expired.
At a special session of this court held on Monday, Oct. 13, 1845, the following order was placed on the records:
“Ordered that Samuel R. Perry, of the county of Greene, and state of Illinois, be and he is hereby allowed the sum of $900.00 in full payment for a certain farm situate and being in the county of Jersey and state of Illinois, containing 166 acres; it being the same tracts or lots of land heretofore owned by Thos. Vance, and conveyed by the said Vance to the said Samuel R. Perry, which said farm the court has this day purchased for the purpose of establishing a poor house thereon; and it is further ordered, that the clerk deliver to the said S. R. Perry, the aforesaid sum of $900, in Jersey county orders, upon receiving the and of conveyance of said premises.”
In December of the same year the county commissioners established a county poorhouse, on this farm which is located several miles northeast of Jerseyville, on which was a house already for occupancy; it was at once used for the purpose intended.
Maurice Armstrong, Ambrose S. Wyckoff and Benjamin Cleaver constituted the county commissioners’ court for the year commencing Sept. 7, 1846. On September 6, 1847, when the court was duly opened, James McKinney, who was, on August 2, 1847, elected county commissioner as the successor of Maurice Armstrong, presented his certificate of election, and after due qualification took his seat. James A. Piggott, James McKinney and Ambrose S. Wyckoff comprised the county commissioners’ court, from Sept. 1, 1848, and on account of the change in the mode of government, consequent on the adoption of the state constitution of 1848, held over until the following December 1849, when the county commissioners’ court gave place to the county court.
The first meeting of this court [county court] was held on Dec. 3, 1849, presided over by George E. Warren, county judge, assisted by Jacob Lurton and James McKinney, associate justices. At the January term, 1850, the contract for superintending the poor-house for the term of one year from the first of March following, for which proposals had been invited, was awarded to Ira Moore, who had offered to do it for $235.
In December 1852 Jasper M. Terry became associate justice of this court in place of Jacob Lurton, entering on the duties of his office at once. On Dec. 5, 1853, the term of the office of judge and associate justices having expired, George E. Warren having been re-elected to the position of county judge, and Jasper M. Terry to that of associate justice, together with Cahrles H. Bowman, the other newly elected associate justice.
It now became necessary to have larger accommodations for the paupers, the court looked around for a proper and suitable place. In September 1854 the court purchased of James C. Graham, 20 acres of land off of the west side of the farm owned by the said Graham, lying east of Jerseyville, on the Carlinville road, and including the house fronting on said road, together with the orchard and other improvements. The sum paid was $2,000. This was used as the poor-house as soon as possession was had.
At the meeting of the county court held in December 1856, J. Murray Bacon succeeded C. H. Bowman as associate justice. At the December session of the county court for 1857, there was an entire change in the composition of the same. At that time O. P. Powel, county judge, Richard R. Ely and William Williams, associate justices entered on the discharge of their duties. With the December term of 1861, came a new county court consisting of Richard I. Lowe, county judge, Jacob Lurton and Larkin Richardson, associate justices.
On Sept. 22, 1864, at a special session, the following was spread upon the records:
“Whereas, upon the representation of many of the citizens, who are large tax-payers in the county, that by the offering of a bounty of $50.00 to encourage enlistments, a draft to fill the required quota of Jersey county may be averted, and at the earnest request of such citizens, a special term of the court is called on this day. . . . It is ordered that the sum of $10,000 be and the same is hereby appropriated by the county court of Jersey county, for the purpose of paying a bounty of $50.00 to each person who shall volunteer from Jersey county on or after the 19th day of September, 1864, until her quota shall be filled.”
A committee consisting of William Shepard, John S. White and H. O. Goodrich were appointed to inquire into and report to the court the names of the parties entitled to the bounty, who, on December 10, 1864, made the following report:
“Your committee appointed to ascertain who were entitled to receive the bounty appropriated by your honorable body for such as would volunteer in the service of the United States and be credited to the various precincts of Jersey county, thereby relieving the county from the hardships of the recent draft, would respectfully beg leave to report that in their opinion all members of the 144th regiment, stationed at Alton, who are credited to the county, are entitled to and should receive said bounty of $50.00 each, the names of all, or nearly all so credited are herewith submitted, and credits certified to by the adjutant-general of the state.
“We would further recommend that the same bounty be paid to the following parties, who have enlisted since the issuing of your order, in the 61st regiment; and been credited to the county, as shown by accompanying certificate.” (Here follows the list of volunteers.) There were 249 names on the list, all but five being in the ranks of the 144th Reg. of Ill. Inf.
The court in Dec. 1865 was composed of O. P. Powel, county judge; Phineas Eldredge and William H. Allen, associate justices. On December 6, 1869 J. M. Hurd, county judge; Caleb Novle and G. W. Gorin, associate justices had been elected to their offices at the regular election in the fall. Robert M. King succeeded J. M. Hurd as county judge at the December session, 1852, the associate justices being Caleb Noble and William A. Scott. This was the last county court held as the county government, the constitution of the state adopted in 1870 making the change in the form of government and originating the rule of county commissioners.
The first meeting of this board was held in Jan. 1874, the board comprised of William H. Allen, Edwin Colean and Isaac R. Ely. Isaac R. Ely was declared chairman. The boards of county commissioners for the succeeding years were:
1875: Isaac r. Ely, chairman; Edwin Colean and G. S. Compton. 1876: G. S. Compton, chairman; Isaac R. Ely, William H. Fulkerson. 1877: G. S. Compton, chairman; W. H. Fulkerson, John W. Evans. 1878: Prentiss D. Cheney, chairman; W. L. Ruyle, John W. Evans. 1879: W. L. Ruyle, chairman, J. W. Evans, S. B. Foree.
In 1879 the following county subdivisions were adopted:
Piasa, all of township 7 north, range 10 west.
Fidelity, township 8 north, range 10 west.
Ruyle, fract’l township 9 north, range 10 west.
Jersey, township 8 north, range 11 west, and fractional township 9 north, range 11 west.
Mississippi, township 7 north, range 11 west.
Elsah, fractional township 6 north, range 11 west.
Grafton, fracational township 6 north, ranges 12 and 13 west.
Otter Creek, township 7 north, range 12 west.
English, township 8 north, range 12 west.
Illinois, fractional township 7 north, range 13 west.
Richwoods, fractional townships 8 and 9 north, ranges 13 and 14 west.
On March 25, 1879 the court of county commissioners adjourned sine die and were succeeded by the Board of Supervisors. The following have been the various boards of supervisors of Jersey county for each year. 1879: Walter E. Carlin, chairman, Henry J. Hoffman, Lewis Elliott, William A. Scott, Addison Greene, Samuel B. Foree, E. Meysenburg, C. C. Buzby, S. W. Rogers, J. L. English, J. G. Erwin. 1880: W. E. Carlin, chairman, J. L. Reed, B. F. Kelly, I. R. Ely, M. V. Hamilton, James R. Livingstone, C. C. Buzby, Addison Greene, S. W. Rogers, J. G. Erwin, E. Meysenburg. 1881: W. E. Carlin, chairman, P. D. Cheney, a. M. Slaten, C. B. Eaton, W. H. Allen, Jr., B. F. Kelly, John A. Cory, M. V. Hamilton, Archie Craig, Elias Palmer, J. G. Erwin, C. C. Buzby. 1882: W. E. Carlin, chairman, M. J. Richey, M. V. Hamilton, C. B. Eaton, Archie Craig, Milo Landon, N. M. Lurton, J. K. Cadwalader, Elias Palmer, C. P. Stafford, B. F. Kelly. 1883: W. E. Carlin, chairman, M. J. Richey, Ephriam Chappel, James Seagraves, M. V. Hamilton, Archie Craig, Chas. Ruyle, Milo Landon, Isaac N. Moore, A. J. Thompson, C. P. Stafford, J. K. Cadwalader. 1884: Walter E. Carlin, M. J. Richey, M. V. Hamilton, Andrew J. Thompson, J. M. Seagraves, C. P. Stafford, Geo. W. Reed, H. V. Vorhees, N. T. Rogers, V. L. Dodge, Lloyd T. English, Isaac N. Moore. 1885: W. E. Carlin, chairman, W. H. Bartlett, B. F. Kelly, V. L. Dodge, H. V. Vorhees, Geo. H. VanHorne, N. T. Rogers, Lloyd T. English, C. P. Stafford, John L. Reed, W. E. Carlin, F. J. Mains, John A. Kraus.