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Jersey County HistoryFrom the Jersey County Democrat, August 1, 1889. None of the information has been verified. Transcription will contain typos.
Contains 232,000 acres of land with the central and eastern portion prairie, while the remainder is prairie and timber combined. It is watered by the Macoupin, Otter, Piasa and Phills creeks, and sometimes these creeks water it too much for the comfort of the inhabitants. There are three railroads in it. The C.&A., the St. L., A.&S. and the C.B.&Q.
In digging the artesian well in Jerseyville it was demonstrated that there is no coal in paying quantities in the county except perhaps in the extreme eastern part. Few people know that it was from the bluffs near Grafton that Father Marquette, the discoverer of the Mississippi river, first saw where the Illinois and Mississippi merged into one, and on the 2nd day of July, 1673, after a long voyage down the Illinois, they landed and climbed the bluffs. In 1680 Father Hennepin landed on the bluffs near Elsah, and set up a sign to inform his lieutenant Tonti, who had been lost, to come to the lakes. In 1682 La Salle and Father Hennepin again ventured here, landing on the bluffs at Grafton and camped a week, and then started to explore the giant Mississippi to its mouth. In the fall of 1815, six men, Daniel ALLEN and his three sons, John, James and Daniel and two other, Paul and James HARRIFORD, came to this county and located on Section 13. Their nearest neighbors were 20 miles south of them. The next year Daniel, Sr., and two sons moved north to what is now Greene county, and the Harrifords went to Missouri. Thus we see that Mother Greene really is an offspring of daughter Jersey (a paradox). In 1818 Phillip Grimes came here and erected a cabin on Section 2 in English township. Here, on the 20th of January 1820, Jarrett T. was born, the second white child born in the county. The first was a girl, daughter of James and Julia Moffit, who was born in 1819, but died shortly after.
In 1819 Philemon HIGGINGS settled on the banks of what is now called Phills Creek, which was named for him. The first death in the county was that of Thomas CARROLL, August, 1819, seventy years ago, and the body was placed in a skiff and taken to his former home, St. Louis. The first store was built by Henry MILLS near Elsah in 1829, and the second in English township by John HART. The first postoffice was established at Eminence near Elsah, with Isaac N. PIGGOTT as postmaster. The second postoffice was at Newbern, with Jacob LURTON, Sr., as postmaster. William KELLY was the first person married by a priest, which occurred in 1830, Rev. Father HAMILTON officiating. James REDDEN and Nancy BATES were the first couple married, who were residents of what is now the county. There was no court in this (then Greene) county, and Redden went to Edwardsville, got his license came back here, got Nancy on a horse and traveled with the Justice of the Peace till they thought they were in Madison county then dismounted and were married in the shade of a large tree. For a wedding tour they returned to Bates house.
In 1820-21 Greene county was organized, and comprised the present counties of Greene, Jersey, Macoupin, Morgan and Scott. It was named Greene county in honor of General Nathaniel Greene of revolutionary fame. This vast section was laid off into military districts in 1821, and the townships of Quarry, Elsah, Rosedale, Otter Creek, Mississippi and Piasa formed one district, while Richwoods, English, Jersey, Fidelity and Ruyle formed the other. The first Probate judge of this double county or district, was John G. LOFTON, whose salary amounted to the magnificent sum of $30.12 1/2 and $5 extra for recording deeds. On Aug. 5th, 1839, a vote was taken which resulted in the division of Greene, and the establishing of Jersey county by a vote of 1,239 for, to 714 against. The first commissioners were Thomas CUMMINGS, Solomon CALHOUN and Amos PRUITT and they held a special term of Court Monday, October 4th, 1839. Robert HILL was appointed clerk and his bond fixed at $1,000. In 1849 the commissioners court was succeeded by the County Court under the constitution of 1848, and George E. WARREN presided over it, the first session being held Dec. 3rd, 1849. Jacob LURTON and James McKINNEY were associate judges. The expenditures exceeding the income, the credit of the county was injured and Judge Warren suggested paying six per cent interest on orders which strengthened the credit greatly. In 1852 the county voted $50,000 towards building the Jacksonville and Carrollton railroad (now the C.&A.), and issued bonds drawing six per cent interest payable in 1875. In 1854 the County Court bought the land east of Jerseyville of James C. GRAHAM for $2,000 and used it for a poor farm.
In 1853 C. H. BOWMAN was elected one of the associate judges, and in 1856 J. Murray BACON was elected. In 1857 O. P. POWELL, R. R. ELY and W. WILLIAMS were elected, and in 1861, R. I. LOWE, Joe LURTON and L. RICHARDSON were elected. In 1863, William EMBLEY submitted plans for an addition to the court house, and the contract was let to Embley & Coddington for $2,400 (the first court house was built in 1840 by the citizens of Jerseyville). On Thursday September 22nd, 1864, $10,000 were appropriated to buy substitutes to fill Jersey countys quota and prevent a draft and $50 dollars was to be paid each person enlisting. Out of 249 men thus paid, all but five belonged to the 144 Ill. Inft. In 1871, William SHEPHARD bought the $50,000 shares of railroad stock owned by the county paying therefore $12,750. The first marriage in Jersey county was Oct. 17th, 1839, between James P. ALLCORN and Mary HAWKINS, David MYERS J.P. performing the ceremony. The first treasurerss report shows $2,214.44 collected in 1841.
The first courthouse was built in 1840, Peyton C. WALKER and Aaron RUE doing the carpenter work, and Peter PERRINE, the brick work. January 6th, 1884 the jail, which was attached to the court house, caught fire from a defective flue, and there being no fire department burned the courthouse and smothered four persons confined in the jail. Their bodied were recovered however before they were burned any. At the November election in 1884 the people voted by 426 majority to build a new jail which was done according to the plans of William EMBLEY architect, and cost $15,000. It is one of the handsomest and best jails in the state. In 1867, the new poor house was built and it burning last year another was built, now under the charge of Charles CAMPBELL. In 1840 the first election for President was held, resulting in W. H. Harrison, whig, carrying the county by 226 plurality over Martin Van Buren, democrat. At his election John N. ENGLISH, whig, was elected sheriff over Samuel T. KENDALL, democrat, by a majority of 4. The first Circuit Court in this county convened, Nov. 25th, 1839, with Judge William THOMAS presiding. It was held in a small school house on the Morean place where Capt. J. M. SMITH now resides.
The first newspaper printed in Jersey county was called the Backwoodsman, and was started in Grafton in 1837 by Paris MASON. John RUSSELL edited the paper and was a very intelligent man. In 1839, when Jerseyville was made the county seat, the type and material were moved here, with A. S. TILDEN as editor. In 1840,he was succeeded by Fletcher & Parenteau as proprietors, who changed the name to The Newspaper. This paper lived only about four months. During the year 1854, the Democratic Union was started by Thomas WRIGHT, and was the first democratic paper ever published in the county. Its publication was continued till 1856, when it suspended. In 1857 Henry H. HOWARD renewed the Union and was succeeded by J. C. DOBLEBOWER, who published it till 1865, when he was bought out by a stock company, and issued it as the Jersey County Democrat edited by Augustus C. SMITH. In 1866 T. J. SELBY bought out the stock company, and 1869 sold it to L. L. BURR (son of Judge Burr) and A. A. WHEELOCK. In 1870, Wheelock and Burr sold out to J. A. BIRDSALL and J. I. McGready, and in 1871 Mr. Birdsall sold his interest to Mr. McGready of whom the present proprietor bought it in 1880. In 1857, the Prairie State was started and was continued till the campaign of 1860, when a stock company bought it and A. C. CLAYTON installed as editor till 1862, when Lanbsen WILLIAMS was placed in charge and continued it till 1864 when it died. In 1878 the Examiner was started by the Jerseyville Publishing Company of which W. H. POGUE, J. A. BARR, H. N. BELT, W. McBRIDE and M. R. LOCKE were stockholders. It was edited by J. Sterling HARPER, who stayed with it till December, when he retired and M. R. LOCKE took charge and he continued the paper till Sept. 10th, 1880, when it was merged into the Republican. In 1865, Frederick S. HOUGHAWOUT started the Jerseyville Register, but it failed and in 1867 he sold it to L. WILLIAMS, familiarly known as Yank, so afterwards moved to Kansas and sold it to the Jacksonville Journal. Out of this wreck started the Republican by Frank M. ROBERTS and W. H. EDGER was placed in charge, and in 1869, Chapin and Glover, proprietors of the Jacksonville Journal became owners till Aug. 25th, 1870 when W. H. EDGER bought it. He continued editor and proprietor till Sept. 10th, 1880, when he consolidated with the Examiner, and the new paper was edited by Edgar and Locke. This firm continued till January, 1885, when F. M. ROBERTS now of the Litchfield News, bought out Mr. Lockes interest. In Marach, 1885, Mr. Edgar sold his interest to Will H. HEDLEY and retired after 16 years work as newspaper editor in Jerseyville. In 1886 Roberts and Hedley sold the paper to M. R. LOCKE, and W. H. EDGAR was again placed in charge as editor, when he remained till 1887, when he retired and Abe D. LOCKE became editor. The latter retired last year and Col. Edgar was again placed in charge and is now editing the paper.
In 1877, Col. Edgar established the Grafton Independent and R. R. CLARIDGE, now of the Texas Stockman, was placed in charge. It was published at Grafton till 1880, when it was removed to Jerseyville, Mr. Claridge having bought it in 1878. In April 1882, Mr. Claridge sold out to Lyman T. WAGGONER and in June of the same year A. M. SLATEN bought a half interest in the paper, but soon became sole owner. Becoming tired of the editorial business, Mr. Slaten sold the paper in July to J. M. GIBERSON and C. H. KELLY of Elsah, and the latter bought out the former in August. He continued its publication till the fall of 1885, when it stopped for want of patronage. The wreck was bought by E. T. LURTON and R. E. SMITH, but finally fell back to Mr. Kelly, who sold it to J. A. WALKER and J. A. BLENNERHASSETT, and May 25th, 1885, they started the daily Times. They finally dissolved partnership and Mr. Walker ran it till 1887, when he sold out tot Mr. C. CAMPBELL of Anna. Mr. Campbell did not continue the daily but a few months, and after about a years trial suspended. A few weeks ago the outfit was sold to a party who formed a stock company, and are now editing a daily called the Call. When the Independent left Grafton, it left that village without a paper, and in 1882, J. A. McCLINTOCK started the News. In August 1884, this was changed to the Prohibitionist, and Mr. McClintock still edited it. In 1884, C. B. EDSALL became editor and in 1887 the paper ceased to exist.
On April 13th, 1868 the Great Jersey County Fair was organized, the committee reporting $9,855 raised. David E. BEATY was elected president, Samuel W. DAVIS secretary, William KIRBY treasurer and William Shephard, H. N. Cross, J. H. Simmons, L. L. Kirby, Jeremiah Beaty, J. H. Belt, J. M. Terry, J. E. Starr, Arch. Craig and C. A. Post directors, and the fair began Oct. 13th, 1868. On Saturday Oct. 7th, 1871, the Old Settlers Society was organized. Of the 36 persons present at the organization, but 9 are now living to celebrate the birth of the county. George E. WARREN, Geo. H. JACKSON and J. G. SCOTT were a committee to draft the constitution and By-laws. Judge Warren is the only one of the three now living. Cyrus TOLMAN was elected president and Geo. H. Jackson secretary. Jersey county has furnished a United States Senator in the person of Hon. James SEMPLE.
The first white child born in the village of Elsah was John B. REINTGES, June 8th, 1853. The first grist and saw mill in Otter Creek township, was erected by Gregg McDANEL in 1828. The first house built in Grafton, was erected by James MASON in 1832. The first newspaper in the county was started in Grafton in 1836 and the first mill in that village in 1855 by Judge W. H. ALLEN. The first school taught in Piasa township was taught by a daughter of Horace LANDON, now the widow of Dr. SNELL. The first school house was built in 1840. The first school in Delhi was held in a log cabin 16 feet square in 1838, which stood within the present limits of that village. The first school in English township was taught by Galen McKINNEY in 1823 in a log cabin. Daniel McFAIN settled west of Fieldon in 1819 and the lake near there was named for him. The first school house in Richwoods township was made of logs, had a dirt floor and bark benches. Here Sophia, wife of Zed REDDISH, first learned to read. William LaRUE was the first settler in Rosedale township, going there in 1818. In 1836, the village of Tenneriffe was laid out, but the store and house have long since been removed, and not a vestige remains of the town site. James SIMMONS was the first permanent settler in Fidelity township, coming there in 1830. The first marriage was between R. J. SIMMONS and Maria CUMMINGS, and was performed by Simon PETER in 1832. The first religious revival was held in Mr. Simmons cabin in 1831. John SULLIVAN (not John L.) Was the first to locate in the village of Fidelity, and the first store was run by Hill & Cheney. Judge J. G. LOFTON and John D. GILLHAM settled in Mississippi township in 1819. Josiah CUMMINGS also came to this township and entered the farm where his children now reside. The first marriage was that of William GILLHAM and Martha MUNSEY in 1826. The first sermon was preached by Rev. Jacob LURTON in 1820. Newbern was laid out by Jacob LURTON in 1832. McClusky was laid out under the name of Howe by Hiram McCLUSKY in 1883(?). East Newbern was known as Chambers Corner till 1866, when it was laid out as a village. The village of Dow was laid out by J. H. McDOW in 1883, but it is now called Newbern. Ruyle township was named for Col. W. H. RUYLE. It was first settled by John W. HUITT in 1816. Kemper was laid out in 1870 by W. W. H. KEMPER. Kemper Lodge I.O.O.F. was first organized in Fieldon in 1876, and was removed to Kemper in 1880. From the foregoing you see that Jersey county has a history full of interest, and every resident should come out on the 5th and hear the stories and yarns the old settlers will tell on that day.