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Historical Sketch of Jersey County
B. B. Hamilton, Historical Sketch of Jersey County, Illinois. Delivered at Jerseyville, July 4, 1896, Jacksonville, IL: Courier Steam Printing House, 1876, pp. 1-36. There will be typographical errors.
Acknowledgments. In the preparation of this sketch reference has been made to the following authorities : Western Annals, Reynolds History of Illinois, History of Illinois, by Davidson & Stuve, Atlas of Greene and Jersey Counties, Records of the Circuit and County Courts, and the History of Jerseyville, by Rev. L. Grosvenor, 1853. And the writer desires to mention valuable assistance rendered him by Messrs. L. R. Lakin and F. M. Roberts, of Carrollton , M. E. Bagley, T. J. Selby, Hon. R. M. Knapp, O. B. Hamilton, J. H. Buffington and Wm. McDow, of Jersey County. Imperfect as the sketch is, it would have been still more so without their help.
Within the current year, an editorial in the Christian Union expressed some surprise at the idea of the great West participating to any great extent in the rejoicings of our Nation’s Centennial, because the West had only been settled and developed within the last fifty years. It would, perhaps, excite a smile to assure the learned writer, that on the score of antiquity Illinois is but very little behind Plymouth Rock, and that the smoke of Saratoga had barely settled when a conquest for the American arms was achieved, without shedding a drop of blood, which added territory as great in extent as the inhabited area of the original thirteen colonies. Ninety-eight years ago to-day, Col. George Rogers Clark, with one hundred and fifty-three men, acting under commission from Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, captured Fort Gage and the village of Kaskaskia from the British, and thereby ended forever the rule of England in the Valley of the Mississippi. It is not my purpose to dwell on the particular incidents of this expedition. When I think of the audacity of the design, the small means at command, the hardihood displayed, with the splendor of the result, I can sympathize fully with the sentiment of Joe Daviess, when speaking of Clark and his achievements: “When I think of this I feel like Moses at the burning bush, Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ ” Kaskaskia, Cahokia, and Vincennes fell successively into the hands of the conqueror, and an empire was redeemed from the baleful influence of British rule.
True, Vincennes, while held by a sergeant and one private, was recaptured by Lieut.-Gov. Hamilton – the British hair-buyer,” as he was called by the long-knives; but in February following, Clark marched across the country and retook the post, and Lieut.-Gov. Hamilton with it. And this was the end of the Revolutionary War, so far as Illinois was concerned; for Clark, by a master stroke of diplomacy, had succeeded in attaching the French population and their Indian allies to the fortunes of the colonies. If the means had permitted Clark to have pushed on and taken Detroit, and thus ended British domination on this side of the lakes, it is probable that the defeat of St. Clair, the death of Crawford, and the closing expedition of Mad Anthony” would have been unnecessary. So important were Clark’s achievements considered, that on the 23d of November, 1778, he and his brave officers and men were voted the thanks of the Virginia House of Delegates for their extraordinary resolution and perseverance in so hazardous in enterprise, and the important services thereby rendered the country.” “In October, 1778, the Virginia Assembly erected the conquered country, embracing all the territory northwest of the Ohio claimed under this conquest and otherwise, into the county of Illinois. – a pretty extensive county, which has since been converted into five large States, containing a population now exceeding 10,000,000. Col. Clark continued to be the military commander of all the western territory, both north and south of the Ohio, including Illinois. Col. John Todd, then residing in Fayette county, Ky., who, under Clark, had been the first man to enter Fort Gage, was appointed lieutenant-commandant of the county of Illinois.” In the spring Of 1779 Col. Todd visited Kaskaskia, and began at once to organize a temporary government for the colonies.”
On the 15th of June he issued the following proclamation:
JOHN TODD’S PROCLAMATION, JUNE 15,1779.
Illinois (County) to-wit:
Whereas, From the fertility and healthy situation of the lands bordering upon the Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and Wabash rivers, the taking up of the usual quantity of land heretofore allowed for a settlement by the government of Virginia, would injure both the strength and the commerce of the country; I do, therefore, issue this proclamation, strictly enjoining all persons whatsoever from making any settlements upon the flat lands of said rivers, or within one league of said lands, unless in manner and form of settlements heretofore made by French inhabitants, until further orders herein given. And, in order that all the claims to land in said county may be fully known, and some method provided for perpetuating, by record, the just claims, every inhabitant is required, as soon as conveniently may be, to lay before the person in each district appointed for that purpose, a memorandum of his or her land, with copies of all their vouchers; and when vouchers have been given, or any lost, such depositions or certificates as will tend to support their claims; the memorandum to mention the quantity of land, to whom originally granted, and when, deducing the title through various occupants to the present possessor. The number of adventurers who will shortly overrun this country renders the above method necessary, as Well as to ascertain the vacant lands as to guard against trespasses which will probably be committed on lands not on record.
Given under my hand and seal. at Kaskaskia, the 15th of June. in the third year of the Commonwealth. 1779. JOHN TODD, JR.
Three hundred family boats arrived at the Falls of the Ohio in the spring of 1780, mostly destined for Kentucky. Among the immigrants to Illinois we note the names of James Moore, Shadrach Bond, James Garrison, Robert Kidd, and Larkin Rutherford, the two latter having been with Clark. They were from Virginia and Maryland. With their families, they, without molestation in those perilous times, crossed the Alleghanies, descended the Ohio, stemmed the Mississippi, and landed safely at Kaskaskia.” “James Piggott, John Doyle, Robert Whitehead, and a Mr. Bowen, soldiers in Clark’s expedition, also shortly after settled in Illinois.” In 1785 came Joseph Ogle, Joseph Worley, and James Andrews, all from Virginia, and each with a large family.” In the following year the settlement was further augmented by the arrival of James Lemen, George Atchinson, and David Waddell, with their families, beside several others.” Col. Todd was killed in the battle of Blue Licks, Ky., August 18, 1782, and was succeeded in command of Illinois county by a Frenchman named Timothy de Montbrun, concerning whose administration, either as to acts performed or the time it continued, we have no certain account.The ordinance of 1787 was passed on the 13th of July of that year, and up to 1790 there was literally no civil government in Illinois; although on the 5th of October of 1787, Maj.-Gen. Arthur St. Clair had been appointed by congress governor of the Northwest Territory. In the summer of 1788, the governor and judges (Samuel Holden Parsons, James Mitchell Varnum, and John Cleve Symmes) met at Marietta, the first seat of government, and adopted and promulgated a code of laws for the whole territory. While some counties were laid off in Ohio, nothing was done for Illinois until February, 1790, when the. governor and his secretary (Winthrop Sargent) arrived at Kaskaskia. The country within the boundaries of our present State, extending northward to the mouth of Little Mackinaw Creek, on the Illinois, was organized into a county, which was named after his excellency, St. Clair, and may be called the mother of counties in Illinois.” It was divided into three districts, with three judges – John Edgar, of Kaskaskia; John Baptiste Barbeau, of Prairie du Rocher; and John D. Moulin, of Cahokia; each to hold court in the district of his residence. Court was to be held every three months in each district. Wm. St. Clair, brother of the governor, was appointed clerk and recorder of deeds, and Wm. Biggs, sheriff. The county-seat was located at Cahokia. There was only one lawyer (John Rice Jones) in Illinois. Isaac Darneille came into the territory before the year 1800.”
The wars with the Indians retarded the settlement of the country from 1790 to the treaty of Greenville, August 3, 1795. After this the tide of emigrants began to flow steadily into the territories. In this year the governor divided St. Clair county by running a line due east to the Wabash, through the New Design settlement in the present limits of Monroe county, naming the county south of said line Randolph, in honor of Gov. Randolph, of Virginia. On the third Monday of December, 1798, an election, was held for a delegate to a territorial legislature, which was convened in Cincinnati on the 22d of January, 1799. Shadrach Bond was elected delegate from Illinois.
By act of congress approved May 7, 1800, the Northwest Territory was divided, and the western part was called Indiana, with the seat of government located at Vincennes. Wm. H. Harrison was appointed territorial governor, John Gibson, secretary, Wm. Clark, John Griffin and Henry Vanderburgh, judges. January 3, 1805, the governor ordered an election for a territorial legislature, to meet on the 7th of February; and Shadrach Bond and Wm. Biggs, from St. Clair, and George Fisher, for Randolph, were elected delegates.
By act of congress approved February 3, 1809, all that part of Indiana Territory lying west of the Wabash river should, after the first of March following, constitute a separate territory, and be called Illinois. The population was estimated at about 9,000. Ninian Edwards, chief justice of Kentucky, was appointed governor. April 24, 1809, and Nathaniel Pope, secretary; Jesse B. Thomas, Alexander Stuart and Wm. Sprigg, judges. Secretary Pope arriving first in Illinois, appointed Elias Rector attorney general; John Hay, sheriff; Enoch Moore, coroner, and seventeen justices of the peace. On the 11th of June following, Governor Edwards assumed the duties of his office. Some changes took place in the appointments. John Hay was reappointed clerk of St. Clair county, an office he continued to hold until his death, in 1845. In the place of Rector, Benjamin H. Doyle was appointed attorney-general; but he resigning, John J. Crittenden was appointed; but after a few months he in turn resigned, and his brother, Thomas L. Crittenden, was appointed. By the census of 1810, the total population was found to be 12,282, Of which 168 were slaves, “a gain of about 400 per cent in the preceding decade.” At this time Wood river was the northern boundary of settlements in Illinois. The Indian title to the land’s lying northward had never been relinquished. Not long after this the Indians became exceedingly troublesome, stirred up by Tecumseh, the worthy successor of Pontiac. Still further aroused by the battle of Tippecanoe – in which Illinois, like Kentucky, lost some of her best men – followed by the massacre at Chicago, August 15, 1812, and at a still later period by the massacre at Wood river in 1814, there was ample employment for the ten companies of rangers, as well as for all the regular troops which the government could supply. During the war period but small additions were made to the population. Forts and stockades were built, and the people were in a state of constant alarm. Still, in the way of law-making, the territorial legislature was equal to the emergency, and some of the most astounding statutes may be found in the doings of that period.
Let us look back a little. On the 16th of September, 1812, Gov. Edwards, by proclamation, organized the counties of Madison, Pope, Gallatin and Johnson. An election was called for members of the territorial legislature on the 8th, 9th and 10th days of October, and by another proclamation the legislature was to convene on the 25th of November. The members of the council were: Pierre Menard, of Randolph, president; Wm. Biggs, of St. Clair; Samuel Judy, of Madison; Thomas Ferguson, of Johnson; Benjamin Talbott, of Gallatin. John Thomas was chosen secretary. The house of representatives consisted of Wm. Jones, of Madison; Joshua Oglesby and Jacob Short, of St.. Clair; Geo. Fisher, from Randolph; Philip Trammel and Alexander Wilson, of Gallatin; and John Grammar, from Johnson county. Their clerk was Wm. C. Greenup. Edwards county was organized at the session of 1814. At the session of 1815-’16, the counties of White, Monroe, and Jackson were organized.
The enabling act for Illinois to form a State government became a law April 18, 1818. The convention met at Kaskaskia in July, 1818, and closed its labors on the 26th of August following. Fifteen counties were represented, as follows: St. Clair, Jesse B. Thomas, John Messenger and James Lemen, Jr.; Randolph – Geo. Fisher, Elias Kent Kane; Madison – Joseph Burroughs, Benjamin Stephenson, Abraham Prickett; Gallatin – Michael Jones, Leonard White, Adolphus Frederick Hubbard; Johnson – Hezekiah West, Wm. McFatridge; Edwards – Seth Gard, Levi Compton; White – Willis Hargrave, Wm. McHenry; Monroe – Caldwell Carnes, Enoch Moore; Pope – Samuel O’Melveny, Hamlet Ferguson; Jackson – Conrad Will,, James Hall, Jr.; Crawford – Joseph Kitchell, Edward W. Cullom; Bond – Thomas Kilpatrick, Samuel G. Morse; Union – Wm. Echols, John Whittaker; Washington – Andrew Bankson; Franklin – Isham Harrison, Thomas Roberts. Jesse B. Thomas was chosen president, and Wm. C. Greenup secretary of the convention. The State was admitted on the third of December, 1818.
On the 30th of July, 1817, (the year is not certain in authorities – I have examined some placing it as late as 1819), Auguste Chouteau and Benjamin Stephenson, on the part of the United States, bought at Edwardsville, of the Kickapoo Indians, ten millions of acres of land, lying between the Illinois river on the northwest, the Kaskaskia on the southeast, the Kankakee on the northeast, and the Mississippi on the southwest.” And on the 20th of August, Benjamin Parke bought for the United States, of the Kickapoos of Vermilion, all the lands on the Wabash. In consequence of these purchases, the richest lands of the State were thrown open to settlement. A year prior to this, certain. persons had made small settlements south of the Macoupin creek, but at the request of Gov. Edwards they removed to, Madison county, and remained till after the Indian treaty at Edwardsville.. The first settlement made in the present limits, of Jersey county, is given as June 10, 1817, by David Stockton and James Whitesides; but this date is exceedingly doubtful, From Hon. L. T. Whiteside, of Whitehall, I learn that his father, James Whiteside, made in this prairie two improvements; one afterward sold to judge Brown, and the other is known to us as the John Brown farm; and that he moved to Morgan county in 1821. Samuel Thomas made the first permanent settlement north of the Macoupin, in 1818. Next to these we locate the settlement near the Piasa, in 1819, though some claim that it should date from 1818, as this is given as the time when the Carrolls, Cumimings, and others came into that portion of the county. So nearly as can be ascertained, judge John G. Lofton, John D. Gillham and others came into the county from Madison (it was all Madison then) in 1819. Joseph White and his son-in-law, Orman Beeman, came about the same time. Judge Hinton tells me that he saw Col. John R. Black here in the same year. In the year following, John Brown and others came from St. Louis county, Mo. The oldest entries of land I find to have been made January 5, 1821, by Jehu Brown, John Evans, John Thornton, and Gershom Patterson; Silas Crain on the 22d, and Philip Grimes on the 23d of January, 1821. These were all in township 8 north 12 west of the third principal meridian. Entries were made by John Evans in town 6-13, on January 15th, and George Finney on February 26th of that same year. Col. John R. Black is probably the oldest continued resident now living, dating from 1819; and Wm. McDow stands next, dating from 1824. Thos. McDow, familiarly known as the “Squire,” came and settled in 1823, and resided there (in 7-11) until the time of his death. The first settlement on Otter creek was in 1818, by Thomas White, Jasper Terry, and others. The first entry at Jerseyville was made by Joseph M. Fairfield, October 20, 1823; the second, five years afterward, by Lindsey H. English (August 21, 1828), now of Sangamon county. A man named Ballard built the first cabin, and sold it to James Faulkner in 1827. It was in 1821 that the counties of Greene, Fayette, Montgomery, Lawrence, Hamilton, Sangamon and Pike were laid off, and Carrollton was made the county-seat of Greene. The present county of Macoupin was included in the limits of Greene until the year 1829. Joseph Russell and Silas Hamilton made large entries of public lands in the present limits of Jersey county in 1830. The settlements made in this county were of the same character as of the southern portion of the State – very largely from Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee; although many of them had resided for a few years preceding their location here in the older settled portions of Illinois, especially in that part now known as Madison county. In due time North Carolina, Ohio and South Carolina contributed a respectable part of the volume of immigrants. The reason of this will be obvious on a moment’s reflection. Every pioneer coming into the wilderness left relatives behind, who, being charmed with die reported fertility of soil and beauty of the prairie landscape, desired in due time to follow and share in the advantages so easily secured. At a later period this was emphatically true of those who came from Ohio, and at a still later period, of those who came from New Jersey. And the same remark is true, in a limited degree, of those who came from Vermont. Hence, while so many were relations, all were neighbors, and all within the limits of the county were friends. Hospitality and sociability prevailed everywhere, both from necessity and choice.
We come now to the civil jurisdiction of Greene county, which was organized by act of the legislature in the winter of 1821. The first court held was a called session of the circuit court, on the 26th day of April, 1821, with the late Gov. John Reynolds as circuit judge. Thomas Carlin, for one term governor of the State, was sheriff; Samuel Lee, Jr., clerk, and Jacob Waggoner, coroner. Of the first grand jury called, Gen. Jacob Fry is the sole survivor – Cyrus Tolman, another member, having died the present year.
The first session of the county commissioners’ court was held in Carrollton on the first day of May, 1821, and there were present John Allen, Jehu Brown and Seymour Kellogg as commissioners, and Samuel Lee, Jr., was appointed clerk. At this session the commissioners to locate the seat of justice reported, under date of February 20, 1821. This report was signed by Thomas Carlin, John Allen, Thomas Rattan and John Huitt. Of these, John Huitt is the sole survivor. The county-seat was located at Carrollton, on land donated ‘to the new county by Thomas Carlin. At this session John Wilkins was licensed to keep a tavern on the Piasa, about one mile south of Delhi. In later times Mr. Wilkins was known to many. of the citizens of this county as the father-in-law of Perley Silloway, one of our early sheriffs. Twenty lots owned by the county in the town of Carrollton were ordered to be sold. At the regular June term of this court, held on the 4th of June, 1821, the county was laid off into military districts. The first district is described as follows: Beginning at the southwest corner of the county, thence north and east with the county line to the southeast corner of township 7, range 10 west; thence north to the line between towns 7 and 8; thence west to Otter creek and down the same to the Illinois river; thence down the river to the place of beginning. It will be noticed that this company district included the present towns of Grafton, Otterville, Newbern, Delhi and Brighton – a large field from which to gather a militia company. The second company district to consist of township 8 north and ranges 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14 West (including the present towns of Fidelity, Jerseyville and Fieldon – the most populous parts of Jersey county). Elections were ordered in each of the company districts for one captain; one first lieutenant and one ensign. John D. Gillham, John Waddle and Samuel Kinkead were appointed judges of that election, which was ordered to be held at the house of Thomas G. Lofton. Gershom Patterson, William Adair and Nathaniel Rowdon were appointed judges of the election in the second district, and this election was to be held at the house of John Thornton.
At this session Ira Kelley, Samuel Kinkead and Jehu Brown were recommended to the governer (Shadrach Bond) as suitable persons for the office of justice of the peace. On the 6th of June, the court proceeded to lay off all that part of the county lying south of the line between townships 7 and 8, with the attached parts, into one township, to be called Otter Creek; and all south of the Macoupin and north ‘of Otter Creek, with its attached parts, into one township, to be called Macoupin township. John Findley and John Wilkins were appointed overseers of the poor in Otter Creek township, and Abiram McKinney and Joseph Piggott were appointed overseers of the poor in Macoupin township.
Jurors were selected at this term for the ensuing term of the circuit court, and I find the following named residents of what is now Jersey county: Ezekiel Gillham, Wm. Davidson, Gershom Patterson, John D. Gillham, James Whitesides and Philip Grimes. All these I have known personally, though some of them passed long ago from the scenes of earth, and none of them are living to-day.
At a special term of the county court, held on the 13th of -June, Gershom Flagg, father of the Hon. W. C. Flagg, of Madison county, was allowed six dollars for surveying the town, of Carrollton.
During the summer, or the preceding one, a bold and daring robbery was committed in the night time, at the house of an English family by the name of Dixon, then residing where Addison Greene, Esq., now lives. Wm. B. Whitesides, then sheriff of Madison county, and Maj. Robert, Sinclair, were identified as principals, and the sum taken was something over $1,200. An alarm was made, pursuit was instituted, and the robbers were apprehended. But, through the assistance of friends and confederates, the supposed guilty parties ultimately escaped. Sinclair was tried, found guilty and escaped before sentence, at Carrollton, at May term of the circuit court in 1822. The people’s witnesses were Win. Dixon, John G. Lofton, James Barnes, Thomas G. Lofton, Wm. Davidson, Ezekiel Gillham, John Findley, Wm. Pinkard, Henry Hopkinson, Charles Gear and Joab White. Wm. B. Whitesides forfeited bail, but his securities afterward bringing him into court, he was discharged without trial. He had worn out or bought off the principals in the prosecution, and so was allowed to go scot free.” Sinclair was afterward heard of in Arkansas, a member of the territorial legislature. This affair created an intense excitement at the time, and was the talk of the country for ten years after.
Hon. Joseph Philips was judge of the circuit court at the spring term of 1822. At the October term of that year Thomas Reynolds was judge, and again at the spring term of 1823. In the September term of 1823, and then until the May term of 1825, John Reynolds was judge. From the latter date until the April term of 1827, John York Sawyer was judge. From this date until Jersey county was organized, Samuel D. Lockwood was judge. John G. Lofton was the first probate judge, as I find an allowance made him of $30.12 1-2, in full for his service as judge of probate until he went out of office, and $5 for recording deeds. This was at the December term of the county court in 1822. He had been in that year a candidate for lieutenant-governor. Among the jurors for the spring term of the circuit court in 1822, I find the names of Edward Carroll, Joseph White, Robert Avery, Joseph Piggott and John Gunterman, who resided in the south part of the county. In August of that year I find that Joseph Piggott, Thomas Arnett and Charles Gregory were elected county commissioners. Their first term commenced on the second day of September, 1822. At the March term of 1823 Joseph White and Benjamin Brown were appointed overseers of the poor for Macoupin township, and John D. Gillham and Joab White for Otter Creek township. In September, 1824, Jehu Brown, Abraham Bowman and Charles Gregory were present as commissioners. March, 1825, Josiah T. Askew and ??? ????? were appointed over-seers of the poor for Otter Creek township, and Major Dodson and Alexander Smith for Macoupin township. June, 1826, Otter Creek election precinct, John G. Lofton, John McDow and Thomas Cummings, judges of election, and the election to be held at the house of John G. Lofton. Elections for Macoupin precinct to be held at the house of Francis Colean, with Samuel Gates, Nathaniel Rowdon and Alexander Smith, judges. Joseph Piggott, Jeremiah Smith and Jehu Brown appear as cornmissioners at the September term of 1826.
In June, 1827, the south part of Greene county was redistricted, as follows: Otter Creek district includes all that part of Green county lying south of the line dividing townships 7 and 8 north, elections to be held at the house of Samuel A. Lofton. The judges of election were John McDow, John G. Lofton and Walter Cresswell. Richwood’s district is bounded as follows: Beginning at the southeast corner of township 8 north, range 12 west; thence north to the northeast corner of said township; thence west to Macoupin creek, and down said creek to the Illinois river; thence down said river to the line between 7 and 8; thence east to the place of beginning. Elections to be held at the house of Abraham Borer, with Gershom Patterson, Daniel Cox and Dennis Carrico as judges. Macoupin district to include all the rest of the territory south of the Macoupin creek lying in Greene county. Elections to be held at the house of Lewis Means, with C. J. Gardiner, John Green and Alexander Smith as judges.
At the September term of 1828, John Barnett, Alexander King and Charles Gregory appear as commissioners. This left the territory south of the Macoupin without a representative in the county court. In the next election this was rectified, for in September, 1830, Cyrus Tolman, Thomas Cummings and Cavil Archer appear as commissioners.
At the June terms 1831, the following persons were appointed judges of election: Otter Creek precinct – Jasper Terry, John D. Gillham and John McDow; Richwood’s precinct – Gershom Patterson, Matthew Darr and Francis Colean. Ordered, that Otter Creek District for the election of justices and constables be divided as follows: Commencing at the corner between sections 36 and 31, from thence on a direct line to the southwest corner of T. 7 N. R. 11 west; from thence due north to the southwest corner of section 16, in town 8, N. R. 11 west; thence due east to the county line; thence south to the southeast corner of said county; thence due west to the place of beginning; and that the foregoing bounds shall constitute a separate district, to be called the Piasa district; and it is further ordered that the election be held at the house of John Wilkins, in said district, and John Wilkins, William Draper and James Simmons were appointed judges of election. Woodbury Massey was licensed to sell goods for one year from April 27, 1831. Elections for Otter Creek district to be held at the house of George Slaten. These items are given to show who were living here, and to show how thinly the land was settled.
In September of this year occurred one of the vilest murders ever recorded in the annals of the county. Samuel Lofton, son of John Lofton, now residing near Fieldon, in this county, a young lad, was sent from the Macoupin to Mills’s store, on the Mississippi river, to collect a small sum of money, which he did. On his return he fell in, at Carroll’s tan-yard, with an Irishman who went by the name of James Sullivan, who got up to ride with him; and on the way, when fairly out of sight, the boy was killed and the money (fifteen dollars) was taken from him. The murderer escaped. This was Saturday evening. The boy’s parents supposed be had stopped with friends near Gillham’s Mound, and were not uneasy about him until the days, wore away and no tidings came; then search was made, and the vultures guided to his remains. I was present when the inquest was held by Coroner P. N. Rampey, and saw the burial which followed. The next spring Sullivan was apprehended in New Orleans, brought back to Carrollton, tried, convicted and executed, giving as his true name Patrick Cavenaugh. He was the first man hung for murder in Greene county.
The county clerk having died, Edward D. Baker was, at the June term, appointed clerk pro tem. Roads from Eminence and the mouth of the Illinois river ordered viewed. Woodbury Massey and George Finney were severally licensed to sell goods. James Mason was authorized to keep a terry, S. 15, T. 6, R. 12In December Gregg McDaniel and George Smith took out merchants license. In June, 1833 Hugh McGill paid merchants license, and Thomas Barnett was allowed to erect a mill on Otter creek; and in September, 1833, J. Daggett, Evan Blair and T. W. Whiting were appointed trustees of school lands in T. 6, R. 12 W.
The year 1834 brought in Thomas McDow to the county court in place of Thomas Cummings, and Cavil Archer in place of Alex. King; and these were continued as commissioners until 1838 – a term of four years. It was during this period that the principal industry of the country became the laying off of paper towns and speculating in corner lots. The wildest schemes were advocated with impunity, and fortunes were made or lost as men could be found to contribute to the general mania. This was the case not only in Jersey county, but all over the State. I have not the dates before me of but a very few of these towns. Camden, at the mouth of the Illinois river, is probably the oldest, having been surveyed March 11, 1832, but prior to that I. N. Piggott had begun a town called Eminence, on the Mississippi river. I am not certain that it was ever laid off and the plat recorded. We have seen that James Mason had established a ferry at Grafton, in 1832. From small beginnings the land was cleared and the town of Grafton was surveyed – the atlas says in April, 1836, while, if I had testified from memory, I should have given the date at least two years earlier. At the session of the legislature in the winter Of 1834, a charter was procured for the Grafton Manufacturing Company, with James Mason, Silas Hamilton and others as corporators. This company was not organized during the lifetime of the corporators. Jerseyville was laid off by Lott & Daley, October 1st, 1834, and having the county-seat established here probably saved it from the death of the rest of the paper towns. As a matter of curiosity, I may be permitted to name a few of these speculative ventures. Beginning at the southeast corner of the county, we have Randolph; next a multitude of additions to Grafton; Newbern – not the Newbern of to-day, but another lying somewhere near two miles to the southwest. Upper Grafton, Hartford, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Teneriffe, Salisbury and Delaware are now recalled as being the outcropping of this branch of industry. The United States Bank was about winding up, and the other banks issued floods of paper; prices of labor rose, and along with it all the commodities that go into trade, including clothing and subsistence, until, instead of being producers, we became importers of bread. Prudent people foresaw the result, and kept out of debt, but the speculators were almost universally crushed. Corner lots became a drug in the market, the paper towns dried up, and with a few exceptions have so remained unto this day. If there had been gas and moonshine in the time of speculation, it was not so in the result. The distress was real. And in the breaking down of these speculative fortunes many good people were carried away in the wreck. The crash came in February, 1837. This ended town-making and town speculations, so far as Jersey county is concerned.
But during this period of speculation there had been some substantial progress made. Farms had been commenced, new and better houses were going up, barns here and there were visible; still there was not, after the crash, much money, and the little in the hands of the people was of very uncertain value. Then followed the days of internal improvement by the State; and because Greene county was not on any of the projected lines of road, she took her share of the spoils in money, and prudently loaned it out. One-third of this came to Jersey, and was by her carefully expended, upon the three principal thoroughfares within her own borders. By the side of present taxes it is only a drop, but in the day of which I speak, $6,000 was a very considerable sum of money.
The vote on the separation of Jersey from Greene occurred August 5th, 1839, and is thus entered on the records.
Vote for the erection of Jersey county: 1239
Vote against the erection of Jersey county: 714
Majority for: 525
But what of religious culture and of education at this time? At this date the religious element gathered only in two churches, with a single exception – the Methodists and Baptists. I have not the dates for the organization of the Methodist classes, but presume, from the families who came here, that there must have been a Methodist class in the neighborhood of the Gillham camp ground in 1820. The first Baptist church south of the Macoupin was organized at the house of judge Jehu Brown, in November, 1823, and this is now known as the Kane Baptist Church. A second Baptist church was organized at the house of Judge Lofton, on the 25th of February, 1827, known as the Salem Baptist Church. At a somewhat later day a Baptist church was organized on, Borer’s creek, but it became extinct, and so remained until rallied by Elder J. V. Rhoads, about 1839, and this church is now known as the Lebanon Baptist Church. Among the preachers of an early day were the brothers Joseph and I. N. Piggott, C.J. Gardiner, ??? Miles, ??? Otwell, and Phelps, for the Methodists; and Elders John Clark, Sears Crane, Major Dodson and his sons Elijah and Fletcher, for the Baptists. On the 15th of February, 1834, Revs. Thomas Lippincott and Elisha Jenney organized, at the house of the late N. L. Adams, a Presbyterian church, with eighteen members. And these were all the organized churches in the present bounds of Jersey county, at the date of the organization of said county in 1839. But there was not a meeting-house, a building erected exclusively for public worship, in the whole county. Of course croakers bewail the lack of sociability and the hospitality of the pioneer times, but they would hardly be willing to go back to the sermons in private houses, with the auditor seated on a rail or slab bench through the time of a two-hours’ discourse, and yet these were among the luxuries of the good old pioneer days. We say nothing of the preaching, as to style or quality, save that it was adapted to the culture of the times.
But what of education, and where were school-houses then? Very few were they. At Grafton a modest frame building of one story, another at Jerseyville, another in Lofton’s Prairie, with perhaps a half-dozen more in prairies round about, and in the woody regions log houses of most primitive style in point of construction. And all these had been erected by the voluntary labor and contributions of the people. No tax had then been levied – the common school system of Illinois had then no existence. To this general statement there was one exception. The late Silas Hamilton, dying in November, 1834, left $4,000 for the benefit of his friends and relatives in his neighborhood, $2,000 for the erection of a school-house large enough for a place of public worship, and $2,000 for the endowment of a primary school. This building was erected by his executors upon the ground selected by himself, in the summer of 1835, and in June, 1836, the first school was begun, sustained in part by subscriptions and in part by the interest of the endowment fund. Hence this school is now forty years old, and has been, until the establishment of graded schools under the common school law, the foremost school of the county.
Having thus given a slight survey of the situation, let us now return to the history of Jersey county, beginning with its organization in the fall of 1839, Jerseyville had been incorporated as a town for about two years, or from July, 1837.
October 14, 1839, the county commissioners’ court met. Present – Thomas Cummings, Solomon Calhoun and Amos Pruitt, commissioners. Richard Graham not having filed his bond, R. L. Hill was appointed clerk pro tem. George H. Jackson gave bond as recorder, Joseph Crabb as school commissioner. J. N. English had been elected sheriff and John R. Black treasurer; N. R. Lenton, coroner. E. M. Daley was authorized to buy books for the county, R. L. Hill to buy a stove for the office, and Solomon Calhoun and R. L. Hill to build a clerk’s office on the square. Two weeks thereafter, (October 28), Richard Graham filed his bond, and was duly installed as clerk.
At the regular term, December 2d, Thomas Cummings drew the short term, one year, Calhoun two years, and Pruitt three years. Peyton C. Walker built the clerk’s office for $220, to be paid for in eleven orders. At this time the grand and petit jurors were allowed 75 cents per day each, and the Backwoodsman office received $5.50 for printing blanks. Thomas Vance was appointed agent to loan internal improvement fund. The county was divided into seven precincts: Phills Creek – David Myers, Josiah Jackson and Elijah Barnes, judges of election; Jerseyville – John Anderson, Robert B. Robbins and George H. Collins, do.; Richwood’s – Thomas Vance, Stephen M. Richey, and Reuben S. Spencer, do.; Delhi – Wm. Draper, Wm. Hackney and James Cummings, do.; Mississippi – John D. Gillham, David A. Thompson and Chancey Brown, do.; Otter Creek – Thomas Hamilton, James Dougherty and Coe Edsall, do.; Illinois – David Utt, Thomas Johnson and Samuel Hoye, do.
The circuit court held a special session on the ?? day of ???; Hon. Win. Thomas, judge, and Robert L. Hill, clerk. The following served as grand jurors: Elijah Van Horne, foreman; Wm. Draper, John D. Gillham, Thomas Hamilton, Samuel L. McGill, James Davis, John Corson, George Hoffman, Josiah Rhoads, John Hawkins, Henry Coonrod, Mebane Anderson, John Kimball, George Smith, John Brown and Robert B. Robbins. This session was for one day only. Judge Thomas remained on the bench until the spring Of 1841. He was succeeded by Hon. Samuel D. Lockwood.
At a called session of the county court held on the 13th day of January, 1840, Elijah Van Horne, Solomon Calhoun and Thomas L. McGill were appointed a building committee for the new court-house, and the plan submitted to the court was approved, but on the 4th of June following the plan was withdrawn and a new one substituted.
In the August election of 1840, Chauncey Brown and Cyrus Tolman were elected commissioners. John N. English was reelected sheriff, George W. Lowder was elected collector, arid Aaron Rue, coroner; and in March following it was entered of record that the court was satisfied with the action of Jerseyville on the court-house question. At this session Joseph Crabb was removed from the office of school commissioner, and R. L. Hill was appointed, but refused to serve. On the 21st of June Joseph Crabb was reinstated.. At this session Grafton was made an election precinct, and John Keyes, Paris Mason and William Williams were appointed judges. August 14, 1841, George H. Pigues filed his bond and took the oath as school commissioner; September 8, 1841, he resigned, and James Harriott was appointed, gave bond and took the oath of office. Solomon Calhoun was assessor, and George W. Lowder was collector.
The first five marriages recorded are as follow: John P. Allcorn to Mary, Hawkins, Oct. 17, 1839, by David Myers, J. P.; Thos. Jackson to Rebecca Cowan, Oct. 17,1839, by David Myers, J. P.; David Arnspiger to Jane Stephens, Oct. 20, 1839, by David Myers, J. P.; Nathan C. Swann to Mary Ann Patton, Oct. 3 1, 1839, by John Keyes, J. P.; James G. Swann to Elizabeth A. Rallston, Oct- 31, 1839, by John Keyes, J. P.
In September, 1842, Win. Palmer appeared as county commissioner, James Harriott filed his bond as collector, and Coe Edsall as assessor. September 25th, 1843, Thomas Carroll was sworn in as county commissioner, Thomas L. McGill was elected recorder, and Coe Edsall assessor, and George W. Lowder was elected county clerk and took the oath of office. August, 1844, Maurice Armstrong was elected county commissioner; August, 1845, Ambrose Wyckoff, do.; August, 1846, Benjamin Cleaver; do.; August, 1847, James McKinney, do.
The election for members of the constitutional convention was held in April of this year, and Dr. A. R. Knapp and Win. Bosbyshell were elected for Jersey and, Calhoun, over David E. Brown, Benj. F. Child and E. A. D’Arcy. On the accession of Judge Lockwood, R. L. Hill was reappointed as clerk of the circuit court, and at the spring term of 1841 J. A. Chesnut was appointed prosecuting attorney pro tem.
In August, 1842, Perley Silloway was elected sheriff, and John Brittain, coroner. In August, 1844, they were re-elected, and in August, 1846, Jonathan Plowman was elected sheriff, and George Hoffman, coroner. In 1848 Plowman was re-elected, and Wm. Loy, coroner. At the September term of, that year Judge Lockwood retired from the bench, and the bar called a meeting and expressed regret; and in May, Hon. David M. Woodson went on the bench as judge of the circuit court. In the following election, Murray Cheney was elected sheriff, and Thomas L. McGill, clerk of the circuit court. In August, 1852, Smith, a murderer, moved his case to Scott county, and was there convicted and hung. In 1852 Thomas L. McGill was re-elected circuit clerk, and J. M. Hurd, sheriff. In 1854 Jonathan Plowman was again elected sheriff, and Benjamin Wedding, coroner. In 1856 Benjamin Wedding was elected sheriff, T. L. McGill, clerk, and Felix Burney, coroner. In 1858 Charles H. Bowman was elected sheriff, In 1860 Marcus E. Bagley was elected circuit clerk, Wm. H. Cummings, sheriff, and Lewis Johnson, coroner. In 186,., C. H. Bowman was again elected sheriff, and James L. Beirne, coroner. In 1864 Marcus E. Bagley was again elected clerk, Thomas J. Selby, sheriff, F. W. Besterfeldt, coroner. M. E. Bagley was appointed master in chancery in April, 1867. In June, 1867, the Hon. Charles D. Hodges was elected judge of the circuit court. In the preceding election (November, 1866) C. H. Bowman was again elected sheriff. In 1868 James Henry Belt was elected sheriff, Sidney Noble, coroner, M. E. Bagley, circuit clerk, and a reappointment made for him as master in chancery. In 1870 Stephen H. Bowman was elected sheriff, and E. L. Herriott, coroner. In 1872 C. H. Bowman was re-elected sheriff, E. L. Herriott, coroner, and M. E. Bagley, circuit clerk. Charles H. Bowman dying on the ?? day of ???, Stephen H., his son, was elected to fill the unexpired term, on the 15th of February, 1873. In November, 1874, Augustus H. Barrett was elected sheriff, and is the present incumbent of that office.
Turn we to the records of the county court, and resume with the adoption of the constitution in 1848. In the election of that year James A. Piggott was chosen commissioner, and served until December, 1849, when George E. Warren entered upon duty as judge, with James McKinney and Jacob Lurton as associates. This court continued until the close of 1852, with Geo. W. Lowder is clerk. In 1853 judge Warren was re-elected. Jasper M. Terry and Charles H. Bowman were elected associates, In 1856 J. Murray Bacon was elected associate in place of C. H. Bowman. In 1857 O. P. Powell was elected judge, and R. R. Eley and Wm. Williams, associates; Andrew Jackson, clerk, and J. F. Smith, treasurer. In 1861 Richard I. Lowe was elected judge, Jacob Lurton and Larkin Richardson, associates, Andrew Jackson, clerk, and John E. Van Pelt, treasurer. In 1865 Judge O. P. Powell was again elected judge, William H. Allen and Phineas Eldridge, associates; Andrew Jackson, clerk. In 1869 J. M. Hurd was elected Judge, Caleb Noble and G. W. Gorin, associates, and Thomas J. Selby, clerk. In December, 1872, Robert A. King was appointed and commissioned by the governor to fill the unexpired term of J. M. Hurd. In 1873 Wm. H. Allen, I. R. Eley and Edward Colean were elected commissioners; Robert A. King, judge; Thomas J. Selby, clerk; James M. Young, treasurer. In 1874 G. S. Compton was elected commissioner, and in 1875 Wm. H. Fulkerson was elected commissioner, and John Stout, treasurer. This brings the list of county officers to date.
The first session of the circuit court was held in the old schoolhouse; the second session was held in the First Presbyterian church, which at that time was neither plastered nor seated. The court-house was built in 1840, and cost about $6,000. Among the records I find a second subscription, made in 1840, because the first had not been large enough to cover the cost of the building. Additions, repairs and improvements have been made from time to time, until, without being extravagant or pretentious, it presents an appearance of neatness and comfort unsurpassed by any county building of the same age, within the circle of my acquaintance. Some sixteen or seventeen years after the court-house was built, the county erected two fire-proof offices for the records of the two courts. And while these improvements have been going on about the square, it must be borne in mind that the general average of farm buildings, school-houses and churches have more than kept pace with the county buildings. When I came into this county, in 1831, there were only two brick buildings in it – one belonging to Maj. Patterson, which was blown down by a tornado in that same summer; the other, built by John D. Gillham, in the summer of 1830, is still standing, and is now forty-six years old. There were very few frame houses and still fewer frame barns in the whole county.
No one of the present generation can imagine the beauty of this wilderness, who did not pass over it in that early day. There can be no doubt, I apprehend, that still greater changes will be manifest in the forty-five years to come, when, instead of one railway, you will have them reaching out from your beautiful county-seat in every direction.
The fiscal statement of June, 1848, after the county had been organized nearly nine years, shows the following footings:
Amount of orders issued during the fiscal year, $4,538.80
Amount of orders paid, including cash in treasury, 4,538.80
Of course the cash on hand was but a small part of this latter amount. But seven years later a very considerable advance had been made, as the following will show. In 1855 the levy stood:
For State purposes, $7,485.29
For County purposes, 6,073.48
For Special purposes, 2,350.86
To show the advance in the science of taxation, I now give the list for 1857. Total value of real and personal, $2,374,735, of which lands and town lots were $1,725,295. On this valuation the state tax was $11,161.25; the county, $9,498.94; school, $4,749.27, and special tax, $17,227.67, making a total Of $42, 637.33 – nearly a three-fold increase in the space of two years. Eight years later we find the wealth still increasing, for in 1865 the levy made this showing: For state, $18,581.06; county, $34,104.30; school, district, etc., $13,459.28, making a total of $66,144.64 – a gain of over fourteen thousand in eight years. At this time there were 29,802 acres of wheat in cultivation, 20,785 acres of corn, and 4,771 of other field products. But in four years a large advance was made. In 1869 the account stood: State taxes, $39,751.97, and the county $50,848.99, making a total for the year of $90,600.96 – a gain of nearly $24,000 in four years. However, the account for 1872 shows that the capacity for taxing had not been exhausted; then the state tax was $24,731.70, and the county levy was $77,829.96 – making a total of $102,561.67.
The services of judges of probate were for the following times:
Joseph G. Scott, from October, 1839, to September, 1847.
J. M. Hurd, from September 1, 1847, to December, 1849.
Geo. E. Warren, from December 1849, to December, 1857.
O. P. Powell, from December 1857, to December, 1861.
R. I. Lowe, from December 1861, to December, 1865.
O. P. Powell, from December 1865, to December, 1869.
J. M. Hurd, from December 1869, to December, 1872.
Robert A. King, from December 1872, to the present time.
There have been five county clerks since the organization of the county, viz.:
R. L. Hill, whose term of service was 2 Weeks, October, 1839.
Richard Graham, whose term of service was 4 years, or until 1843.
George W. Lowder, whose term of service was 14 years, or until 1857.
Andrew Jackson, whose term of service was 12 years, or until 1869.
Thomas J. Selby, whose term of service was 7 years, and is the present incumbent.
Since 1839 there have been but three clerks of the circuit court – Robert L. Hill, Thomas L. McGill, and Marcus E. Bagley. The latter is the present incumbent, and will doubtless be his own successor.
Jersey county, at the time of its organization, was a whig county, having a majority in favor of that party of about one hundred and fifty. But while this was true, the democrats always had a fair proportion of the offices, elected generally in consequence of the personal popularity of the candidates. On the disruption of the old whig party the democracy came into power, and have uniformly carried the elections ever since. An exception to this occurred two years ago, but that was a division on purely local questions. The following, copied from the election returns, will give a fair idea of the status of parties and of the growth of population at the same time. I give the vote of Jerseyville in 1837:
July 1 – E. M. Daley, Milo Bennett and Murray Cheney, judges, and Jos. G. Scott and Joel Corey, clerks.
John Shaw, for representative, had 64 votes.
John Greene, for representative, had 50
Total, 114 votes.
August 6, 1838 – Milo Bennett, Thos. Cummings and George H. Collins, judges; Peter Perrine and John Linberger, clerks.
Cyrus Edwards, for governor, had 88 votes,
Thomas Carlin, for governor, had 78
Total, 166 votes.
Stephen A. Douglas, for representative in congress, 80 votes.
John T. Stuart for representative in congress, 85
Total, 165 votes.
October 7, 1839 – John Anderson, Geo. W. Lowder and Geo. H. Collins, Judges; R. L. Hill and Peter Machener, clerks.
John N. English, for sheriff, 164 votes.
George W. Lucas, for sheriff, 141 votes.
W. D. F. Slaten 20, Irwin Little 7, and Joseph Piggott 7 – 34 votes.
Total, 339 votes.
Joseph G. Scott, for judge of probate, 197 votes.
Isaac Darnielle, for judge of probate, 142 votes.
Total, 339 votes.
1840 – John Anderson, Geo. H. Collins and Penuel Corbett, judges; J. C. Graham and James Harriott, clerks.
David M. Woodson, for representative, 228 votes.
A. W. Cavalry, for representative, 143 votes.
Total, 371 votes.
Wm. H. Harrison, for president, 230 votes.
M. VanBuren, for president, 150 votes.
Total, 380 votes.
To impart an idea of the growth of the county, I will now give, by precincts, the votes for two, years, with an interval of thirty-two years between:
|Jerseyville, first poll||119||80||Jerseyville, east||221||387|
|Jerseyville, second poll||63||115||Jerseyville, west||352||266|
|Philo Creek||11||42||Jersey Landing||111||96|
|Total vote for governor||973||Total||1520||1343|