George Washington Smith.

A history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) online

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The fourth section of the act of congress of February, 1809, dividing
the Indiana territory, provided that so much of the ordinance of 1787
as applied to the organization of a legislative assembly, should apply
to the government of the Illinois territory whenever satisfactory evi-
dence should be given to the governor that it was the wish of the ma-
jority of the freeholders, though there might not be 5,000 legal voters
as provided in the ordinance.

By 1812 considerable interest was manifested relative to the change
from the first to a second grade territory.

The Ordinance of 1787 permitted only freeholders to vote, and so
when Governor Edwards called the election in the spring of 1812, to
determine the wish of the voters on the proposed change to a territory
of the second grade, there were fewer than 400 votes cast, but they
were nearly unanimous in favor of the proposed change. In May fol-
lowing this vote, congress enfranchised all white male persons over
twenty-one years of age, and advanced Illinois to the second grade.

On September 16, 1812, the governor and judges acting as a legis-
lative body created three new counties. The two old ones were St.
Clair and Randolph, and the three new ones were Madison, Gallatin,
and Johnson. On the same day an election was ordered in these five
counties for five members of the legislative council, and for seven mem-
bers of the house of representatives, and for a delegate in congress.
The election was held October 8, 9, 10.

Those chosen were, for the lower house, from Madison, Wm. Jones;
St. Clair, Jacob Short and Joshua Oglesby; Randolph, George Fisher;
Johnson, John Grammar; Gallatin, Philip Trammel and Alexander
Wilson. Those chosen for the council were, from Madison, Samuel
Judy; St. Clair, Wm. Biggs ; Randolph, Pierre Menard; Johnson,
Thomas Ferguson ; Gallatin, Benjamin Talbot.


This general assembly met at Kaskaskia November 25, and proceeded
to organize by choosing Pierre Menard president of the council and
George Fisher speaker of the house. Reynolds says the whole of the
assembly boarded at one house and slept in one room. The work before
this first session was to re-enact the laws for the territory which served
while the territory was of the first class, to adopt military measures
for the defense of the people against the Indians, and to provide rev-
enue for the maintenance of the territorial government. The legislature
was in session from the 25th of November to the 26th of December, fol-
lowing. This legislature elected Shadrach Bond as delegate to con-
gress. He took his seat in the fall of 1812. During his term of office
in congress Bond secured the passage of the first pre-emption law of
Illinois. This law provided that a man who settled upon a piece of
land and made an improvement while it was still government land,
should have the right to buy the tract so improved in preference to
any one else. This law prevented persons from buying lands which
some one else had improved to the detriment of the one who made the

The laws which were in force in Illinois as a first class territory
were all taken from the laws of some older state. Those passed by the
legislature while the territory was in the second grade were usually
of the same nature as those in use under the first grade. It will be
very interesting as well as quite instructive for us to know some of
these laws. A few are given in substance :

For burglary, whipping on the bare back, thirty-nine stripes. Lar-
ceny, thirty-one stripes. Horse-stealing, fifty lashes, and one hundred
for second offense. Hog-stealing, twenty-five to thirty-nine lashes. Big-
amy, one hundred to three hundred stripes. Children or servants who
were disobedient could be whipped ten lashes by consent of the justice.
If a man were fined and could not pay, his time could be sold by the
sheriff. Standing in the pillory was a common mode of punishment.
Branding was authorized in extreme cases. There were five crimes for
which the penalty was death by hanging they were treason, murder,
arson, rape, and for second conviction of horse-stealing. "For revel-
ing, quarreling, fighting, _ profanely cursing, disorderly behavior at
divine worship, and hunting on the Sabbath, penalties by fines were

The laws providing for the collection of debts were all quite favor-
able to the creditor. No property, real or personal, was exempt from
judgment and execution ; and if the property did not satisfy a debt,
the debtor could be cast into prison.

By an act of December 24, 1814, entitled "To promote retaliation
upon hostile Indians" we see to what ends the settlers were driven to
defend themselves against the savage redmen. It was enacted that
(abridged) :

1. When the Indians make incursions into any locality and kill or
commit other depredations, any citizen shall be paid $50.00 for killing
or capturing such Indian. If killed or captured by a ranger, $25.00.

2. Any person receiving permission from a commanding officer to
go into the Indian territory and who shall kill an Indian, shall be paid

3. Rangers in parties of fifteen who make incursions into the coun-
try of hostile Indians shall receive $50.00 for each Indian killed, or
squaw taken prisoner.


Shadrach Bond was the first delegate from Illinois to sit in congress.
He was elected in 1812. During his term as delegate in congress he
secured the enactment of the first pre-emption law ever put upon the
statute books in the United States. This law will be better appreciated
when we understand some of the practices of frontier life.

The wave of immigration often traveled westward faster than the
surveyors did. In such cases the settler never knew just where his land
would fall when the region was platted by the surveyor. And again,
after the surveyor had done his work it often happened that the sur-
veyed land was not placed on the market for a number of years. The
settler usually selected his lands and made improvements with the ex-
pectation that he would buy the land when it came on the market.
Unprincipled men would watch and would often step in ahead of the
settler at the land office and buy the improved land at government
prices. This often resulted in violence and bloodshed.

Bond's pre-emption law recognized the settler's equity in the im-
provements, and prevented anyone else from buying the land without
the consent of the one who had improved it. This was legislating in
the interest of the pioneers who had borne the burden and the heat
of the day.

There was a rapid increase in the population of the territory of
Illinois from the day it became a territory of the second grade. New
counties were added to the five previously named. The new ones were
Edwards and White in 1815; Monroe, Crawford, Jackson, Pope,
Bond, in 1816; Union, Franklin, and Washington in 1818.

It should be kept in mind that some of these counties were organized
with very few people. However, the population was greatly multiply-
ing, for by 1818 there were nearly 40,000 people within the state.

The territorial legislature of Illinois held three general sessions
one in 1812, one in 1814, and one in 1816. This last legislature held
two sessions on account of the extra work in admitting Illinois as a state.

Our neighboring states of Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri
had each a system of banking which furnished an abundance of money ;
indeed very much of this money found its way into Illinois. The legis-
lature of 1816 passed a law chartering banks at Shawneetown, Kaskas-
kia and Edwardsville. We shall speak of these more fully in a later

There was a charter issued by the legislature of 1817-18 incorporat-
ing the city and bank of Cairo. At this time there was nothing in the
nature of a town or city where Cairo now stands. The lower part of
the peninsula was claimed by several brothers by the name of Bird.
The company called the City and Bank of Cairo consisted of John G.
Comyges, Thos. H. Harris, Charles Slade, Shadrach Bond, Michael
Jones, Warren Brown, Edward Humphries, and Charles W. Hunter.

They proposed to sell 2,000 Cairo city lots at $150 each, put $50
out of each sale into levees, and a hundred dollars into a bank. The
bank was opened in Kaskaskia in a brick building adjacent to the land
office. The bill seen on a preceding page bears date January 1, 1841.
This bill was issued to J. Hall and was signed by T. Jones, cashier, and
D. J. Baker, president. David Jewett Baker was a prominent lawyer
in Illinois from 1819 till his death in 1869. The charter of this bank
was for twenty years, but in 1837 its charter was extended another
twenty years, but in 1843 it was annulled and the bank closed its doors
and wound up its business.



The year 1818 was a notable one in the history of Illinois. In this
year was realized an event which many had looked forward to with
great interest ; this was the year when the state became of age. Its his-
tory reached back to the discovery by Marquette and Joliet, nearly a
hundred and fifty years. It had actually been settled by whites for
one hundred and eighteen years.

Its people had lived successively under three governments the
French, the English, and the American. Immigration had reached it
from three sources the north, the south, and the east. Each of the
three quarters brought its own peculiar people. No other district of
equal area created such widespread interest in Europe as the Illinois
country. The fame of its rich soil, its noble rivers, its wide stretching
lake, its abundance of wild game, its famous wealth of mines, and its
geographical situation was spread abroad by every traveller who
chanced to traverse its boundless prairies or to thread its silvery streams.

For a century after the planting of the first permanent settlement
the growth of institutional life was very slow. The people for a large
part, were unambitious, thriftless, and lived without purpose. Those
who were responsible for the continuous ongoing of the settlements
looked upon them as a means only to an end, which end was not within
the grasp of those who were building more wisely than they knew.
The French settlements on the Mississippi could never have lived
through the century following their founding, had it not been for the
strong arm of the royal government, and the equally strong support
of the church. How different from the Anglo-Saxon settlements on the
Atlantic coast which prospered in spite of both royalty and ecclesias-

At the beginning of the nineteenth century there were probably less
than 3,000 souls in the territory. They were distributed chiefly along
the Mississippi, a few being on the Ohio, and a few along the Wabash

The chief lines of industrial life were farming, commerce, trading,
manufacturing, lumbering, fishing, etc. Wheat was raised in large
quantities in the American bottom. The harvesting was done with the
old fashioned sickle. Reynolds says there were no cradles in those days.
The wheat was threshed with flail or tramped out by means of horses^
The wheat was ground at water mills or horse mills.

In 1806 the nearest gristmill to the people south and east of Kas-
kaskia was John Edgar's mill near Kaskaskia. Corn was raised but
not so extensively as wheat. Hogs were fattened by allowing them to
feed upon the mast which in that early day was abundant. The corn
was used to make "lye hominy" and "samp;" whiskey was distilled
by some of the settlers who had come from Tennessee, Kentucky, or
the mountainous districts of Virginia. Considerable whiskey was
drunk, especially on public days. Fruits were plentifully grown. The
French villagers usually had a few fruit trees in their back yards. Flax
was grown in considerable quantities. Reynolds says that half of the
population made their living by the chase, as coureiirs de bois, or keel
boating. The lead mines in the northwest part of the state and in
southwestern Wisconsin furnished an excellent market for the surplus
food products of the Illinois settlements. The transportation of this
provision to the mines and the return with lead down the river, gave
work for a large contingent of river men.



Lumber was not extensively used. But there were a few mills for
making lumber. The whip saw was the chief dependence for sawing
boards, but in about 1800 a water mill for both sawing and grinding
was erected on Horse creek. The lumber was used quite largely in
building flat boats for the river trade. Some of it, of course, was used
in the construction of houses.

Among the limited kinds of manufacturing, the making of flour
was perhaps the most general. This flour was marketed in St. Louis,
in the lead mines, in New Orleans, in the eastern states, and some of it
is said to have been shipped to Europe. Salt was made at the salines,
in what is now Gallatin county, also in Jackson county on Big Muddy,
in Monroe, seven or eight miles west of Waterloo, in Bond, and possibly
in other localities. There were few tanneries, though Conrad Will had


one in Jackson county as early as 1814. It is said that the French
women did not take kindly to such work as making butter, spinning,
weaving, etc. Blacksmiths were scarce, and so the wagons of those
early days were made chiefly of wood, as were also the plows.

Schools were scarce. It is said that the Jesuits had a school in
Kaskaskia in the middle of the eighteenth century. Samuel J. Seely
is said to have been the first American school teacher in Illinois. He
taught school in New Design. He came there as early as 1783 and
taught in an abandoned squatter's cabin. The school was continued
the next year by Francis Clark, and he was followed by an Irishman
named Halfpenny. Reynolds calls Halfpenny the "School Master Gen-
eral of Illinois," because he taught in so many localities. He built a
water mill on Fountaine creek, not far from Waterloo, in 1795. Mon-
roe had schools as early as 1784. Randolph had a school as early as
1790. The teacher was John Doyle, a soldier with Colonel Clark in
1778. A Mr. Davis, an old sailor, taught in the fort in Baldwin pre-
cinct in 1816. John Bradsbury, "faithful but not learned," taught a
school in Madison county near Collinsville as early as 1804. John At-
water opened a school near Edwardsville in 1807. St. Clair county


had for a pioneer teacher John Messenger, who was also a surveyor.
Schools were opened at Turkey Hill in 1808 by John Bradley, and at
Shiloh in 1811.

The school furniture was as primitive as the school house. The
seats were made of puncheons, with four legs set into auger holes.
Often the seat was too high for the little fellows; and they could
amuse themselves by swinging their legs vigorously. There were no
desks except for the older pupils who took writing lessons. Stout
pegs of sufficient length were set into auger holes in the wall, so as to
slope downward ; on these supports, at convenient height, was fastened
the smoothed puncheon. Thus the writing pupils sat or stood facing
the wall. A pail or a "piggin" of water with a gourd instead of
tumbler or mug, was an essential part of the furniture. It was a re-
ward of merit to be allowed to go to the spring or well to fill the
bucket or piggin.

In an earlier day the Catholic church was the only religious organ-
ization. At Kaskaskia was the mission of the Immaculate Conception.
This mission is said to have been founded by Father Marquette as
early as 1675 near the present town of Utica. It was moved to Kas-
kaskia about 1700. About the same time a mission was founded at
Cahokia, and later one at Fort Chartres. The mission of those early
days served two general purposes one to serve as a mile stone in the
wanderings of the voyagers and explorers, and as place for spiritual
invigoration ; the other as a center around which the natives could
be gathered for religious instruction. The value of these early mis-
sionary efforts from the point of view of the conversion of the In-
dians has probably been overestimated. Marquette reports only the
baptizing of a dying infant at the end of three days' hard preaching
among the Kaskaskia Indians. Father Marest says, "Nothing is more
difficult than the conversion of these Indians. Religion among them
does not take deep root, as should be desired, and there are but few
souls who from time to time give themselves truly to God." Father
Membre says, "With regard to conversions I cannot rely upon any.
We baptized some dying children and two or three dying persons who
manifested proper dispositions." Father Vivier, a Jesuit, said, "The
only good they (the missionaries) can do them is the administration
of baptism to children who are at the point of death," etc. But it
must not be thought that the work of the Catholic church in the Illi-
nois country was wholly fruitless. The godly life of the priests ex-
erted its influence upon the savages whenever the two came in con-

There were three leading Protestant churches represented in Illi-
nois prior to the admission of the state into the union. These were
in order of their coming, the Baptists, the Methodists, and the Presby-
terians. The Baptists were represented in Illinois as early as 1787. In
that year the Rev. James Smith, from Lincoln county, Kentucky, came
to the New Design settlement and enffasred in evangelistic work. Smith
was followed by the Rev. John K. Simpson and his son, they by Rev.
Smith, who had previously returned to Kentucky. Rev. Josiah Dodge
came from Kentucky to visit his brother, who lived at St. Genevieve,
and visited the settlers about New Design. Reynolds says that in
February, 1794, they cut the ice in Fountaine creek, and Rev. Dodge
baptized James Lemen, Sr., his wife, John Gibbons and Isaac Enochs,
and that these were the first people baptized in the territory. The


Rev. David Badgley organized the first Baptist church in the Illinois
territory in the summer of 1796. The greatest representative of the
Baptist faith in the early days of the state was Rev. John M. Peck,
but he did not arrive till 1817 and we shall speak of his labors later.

The Methodists came into the territory as early as 1793. They
were first represented by the Rev. Joseph Lillard, who came from
Kentucky. He was a circuit rider in that state. He organized a
church at New Design and appointed Joseph Ogle as class leader.
Ogle had been converted by a Baptist preacher in Kentucky, and had
attached himself to the Methodists. The Rev. Hosea Riggs came iu
1796 and he was followed by Benjamin Young who was the first cir-
cuit rider with a regular appointment in Illinois. Probably the most
noted of the early preachers was the Rev. Jesse Walker, who came
from Kentucky by appointment from the "Western Conference."
The Western Conference, held in 1806, appointed Jesse Walker cir-
cuit rider for the Illinois circuit which at that time was one of eight
circuits of the Cumberland district. The Rev. William McKendree,
afterwards Bishop McKendree, was the presiding elder of the Cum-
berland district, and so earnest was he that Jesse Walker should get
started that he came with him to the Illinois territory. They swam
their horses across seven different streams, camped out at night and
cooked their own meals. They finally arrived at the Turkey Hill
settlement near the present city of Belleville. The winter of 1806-7
the Rev. Walker preached in the homes of the people in and around
New Design. In the summer of 1808 he held a campmeeting which
was doubtless the first effort of the kind ever made in the state.
Walker soon had two hundred and eighteen members in the Illinois
circuit. He afterwards established a church in St. Louis.

The first Presbyterian preacher to visit the Illinois territory was
the Rev. John Evans Finley. He reached Kaskaskia in a keel boat
from Pittsburg in 1797. "He preached and catechised, also baptized
several of the redmen." Although the Rev. Mr. Finley fully intended
to settle in the Illinois territory, he and his companions decided to
leave when they learned they would be obliged to do military duty.
Two licentiates of the Presbyterian church, F. Schermerhorn and
Samuel J. Mills, were sent by the New England missionary societies
into several of the western states in the year 1812. They made care-
ful observations, preached, and made frequent reports of their work.
''In the Illinois territory containing more than twelve thousand
people, there is no Presbyterian or Congregational minister. There
are a number of good people in the territory who would be glad to
have such ministers among them." These two missionaries stayed but
a short time in Illinois and went on their way, reaching Nashville the
winter of 1812-13. The same Mr. Mills came again in 1814. On this
trip he says, "This territory is deplorably destitute of bibles. In
Kaskaskia, a place of eighty or one hundred families there are, it is
thought, not more than four or five. We did not find any place in the
territory where a copy of the scripture could be obtained. ' ' On Janu-
ary 20, 1815, he writes " Shawneetown on the Ohio has about one
hundred houses. Six miles from Kaskaskia there is an Associate Re-
formed congregation of forty families." He says he heard of no
other Protestant preachers or members in all the region around Kas-
kaskia. But a Methodist preacher from near New Design told him
that formerly there were several Presbyterians in that locality but


they had now all joined either the Methodists or the Baptists. No
Presbyterian preacher was settled or preached for any length of time
before the coming of the Rev. James McGready in 1816. He organized
the Sharon church, in what is now White county, in September of
that year. To the Associate Reformed church mentioned above, Rey-
nolds says there came in 1817 a reverend gentleman by the name of
Samuel Wylie.

He had a very prosperous congregation of Covenanters in Ran-
dolph county. He and his people became very noted throughout
Southern Illinois.

The social life of Illinois prior to 1818 was certainly not of a very
high order. We do not mean there were no good people and that
there were not those of culture and refinement, for indeed many of the
people who became permanent settlers were from localities in the older
states where the agencies of culture, learning, and religion were
abundant. However, in any newly settled region there is always
found a very rough class of people, and while not necessarily in the
majority in numbers, to the casual observer they stand out promi-
nently and give character to the community at large.

In dress the early pioneers were content with the homemade prod-
uct. The men often wearing breeches and shirt of the tanned hide of
wild animals, and the cap of fox hide or of raccoon skin. This gave
them a very rough appearance. Their homes were very crude and
not always comfortable. The household utensils were such as could
be manufactured by each head of the family. There were no stoves,
cooking being done on the fire-place hearth.

Swapping work was quite common. The particular kinds of work
referred to were wood chopping, corn gathering, harvesting, house-
raising, and road-making. Some of these gatherings were very en-
joyable to the pioneers for they would often spread their meals upon
the ground and gather about in modern picnic style. Dancing was
a very common amusement and since there were very few preachers,
there were few others to object. The French settlers especially were
fond of dancing. Horse-racing was another very common recreation.
The horse-races usually came off on Saturdays or on public days.
Race tracks were common features of many localities. At these races
other amusements were indulged in ; fighting was no unusual thing.
The "bully" was a man of notoriety. Swearing of the hardest sort
was heard and while there were laws against it, still the people in-
dulged. "Swearing by the name of God, Christ Jesus, or the Holy
Ghost," as well as Sabbath breaking, was finable from fifty cents to
two dollars.

Perhaps one of the most characteristic customs, and one that still
lingers in many localities, was the "shooting match." A farmer's
wife who had been quite lucky in raising turkeys, would dispose of

Online LibraryGeorge Washington SmithA history of southern Illinois : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests (Volume v.1) → online text (page 18 of 65)