pub Chas. C. Chapman & Co..

History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws online

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Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 19 of 79)
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thing could be done to save his hay it was converted into a black-
ened mass.

The first winter J. M. Roberts came to this county, he, with his
father and brother, made 9,000 rails and laid them up around their
fields. A hunter set fire to the grass in November to find a wounded
deer. The fire spread and swept off all their fences ; their 9,000
rails, 16 acres of corn, their main crop, and only by great efforts
were their house, barn and hay saved.

The great conflagrations were caused either accidentally, or design-
edly from wantonness, or with a view of bewildering the game.
The fire often spread further than it was intended it should. Where-
ever were extensive prairie lands, one-half was burned in the spring
and the other half in the autumn, in order to produce a more rapid
growth of the naturally exuberant grass, destroying at the same time
the tall and thick weed stalks. Violent winds would often arise and
drive the flames with such rapidity that riders on the fleetest steeds
could scarcely escape. On the approach- of a prairie fire the farmer
would immediately set about "burning back," — that is, burning off
the grass close by the fences, that the larger fire upon arriving would
become extinguished for want of aliment. In order to be able, how-
ever, to make proper use of this measure of safety, it was very es-
sential that every farmer should encompass with a ditch those of his


fences adjoining the prairie. AVhen known that the conflagration
could cause no danger, the settler, though accustomed to them, could
not refrain from gazing with admiration upon the magnificent spec-
tacle. Language cannot convey, words cannot express, the faintest
idea of the splendor and grandeur of such a conflagration during the
night. It was as if the pale queen of night, disdaining to take her
accustomed place in the heavens, had despatched myriads upon my-
riads of messengers to light their torches at the altar of the setting
sun until all had flashed into one long and continuous blaze.

" O, fly to the prairies and in wonder gaze,
As o'er the grass sweeps the magnificent blaze:
The earth cannot boast so magnificent a sight, —
A continent blazing with oceans of light."

The following graphic description of prairie fires was written by
a traveler through this region in 1849 :

" Soon the fires began to kindle wider and rise higher from the
long grass ; the gentle breeze increased to stronger currents, and
soon fanned the small, flickering blaze into fierce torrent flames,
which curled up and leaped along in resistless splendor ; and like
quickly raising the dark curtain from the luminous stage, the scenes
before me were suddenly changed, as if by the magician's wand,
into one boundless amphitheater, blazing from earth to heaven and
sweeping the horizon round, — columns of lurid flames sportively
mounting up to the zenith, and dark clouds of crimson smoke curl-
ing away and aloft till they nearly obscured stars and moon, while
the rushing, crashing sounds, like roaring cataracts mingled with
distant thunders, were almost deafening; danger, death, glared all
around ; it screamed for victims ; yet, notwithstanding the imminent
peril of prairie fires, one is loth, irresolute, almost unable to with-
draw or seek refuge."




THE FIRST meeting of the County Commissioners' Court of
Tazewell county was held at the house of William Orendorif,
April 10, 1827. Mr. OrendoriPs cabin stood in the edge of the timber
just south of the present village of Hopedale. Jas. Lotta, Benjamin
Briggs and George Hittle, the Commissioners, were all present.
They seemed to have had the county's interest solely at heart, and
their proceedings attest that they were judicious, honest and upright
officials. They were sworif in on the previous day by William Oren-
dorff. Justice of the Peace. Who it was that administered the oath
of office to him we are unable to learn, but all things must have a
beginning, and we surmise that after 'Squire Orendorif had admin-
istered the oath to them, he in turn was sworn to faithfully perform
the duties of his office by one of the Commissioners.

The records of this Court open with the simple statement that the
Court held a "special term April 10, 1827." It gives us no inform-
ation whatever concerning its organization or previous history, but,
like the Holy Scriptures, begins with unqualified statements and
records its acts with greatest simplicity.

The first order of the Court was, "that Mordecai Mobley be
appointed Clerk." Bonds for the faithful perfijrmance of the duties
of the office were immediately demanded, whereupon William Oren-
dorif and William H. Hodge stejjped forward as his surety. The
second order was to the effect that the Court be held at the house of
Ephraim Stout, in Stout's Grove, until public buildings could be
erected. This grove is located in the northern part of McLean
county, but at the time was a portion of Tazewell.

Another special term of the Court, being the second meeting, was
held Wednesday, April 25, 1827, with all the above named Com-
missioners present. John Benson was appointed Treasurer, William


Orendorif and Absalom Funk going on his bond. At a meeting
held the following day, William Orendorif was allowed $7 to replace
the money expended by him for advertising for the formation of
Tazewell county.


The commissioners appointed to locate the permanent seat of
justice made the following report:

"Be it remembered that we, the undersigned, Commissioners
appointed under the authority of the ' act creating Tazewell county,'
to locate the seat of justice for the aforesaid county of Tazewell,
agreeably to the provisions of said act, having satisfactorily explored
and examined the county with that view, do unanimously agree upon
and select the northwest quarter of section number seventeen,
township 24, north of range 2 west of the Third Principal Meridian,
as the seat of justice of said county, — the court-house to be situated
at or near the spot where the said Commissioners drove down a stake,
standing nine paces in a northeastern direction from a large white
oak blazed on the northeastern side.

"Given under our hands and seals this 22d day of March, 1827.

"Job Fletcher,
"AViLLiAM Lee D. Ewing,
"Tom M. Neale."

The site selected was that of the present village of Mackinaw.
It was christened with the Indian name of the river near which it was
located. Neale and Fletcher each received $13.50 for their labor of
locating the county-seat, while, for sqme cause unknown to us,
Ewing was paid more liberally, he receiN^ng $19.50.


Thursday, April 26, 1827, the Commissioners again convened in
official capacity. A revenue to defray the expenses of the newly
organized county must be raised. Accordingly a tax of one-half of
one per cent, was "laid on the valuation of the following description
of property, to-wit : On slave or indentured negro or mulatto ser-
vants; on pleasure carriages, distilleries, stock in trade; on all
horses, etc., etc." There was not at that time any levy made upon
real estate.




William H. Hodge, County Surveyor, was ordered "to survey
and lay off the town of Mackinaw." This was to be completed by
May 20th. The Clerk was ordered to have an advertisement inserted
in the Sangamon Spectator for three weeks, to the effect that on the
second Monday in June, 1827, a public sale of lots in Mackinaw
would be had. He was also ordered to have 100 handbills of the
same nature printed. Thus we see the pioneer fathers appreciated
the good results of advertising.


According to the time specified, June 11, the settlers gathered
from all parts of the county upon the site of their proposed
town and county-seat. No doubt they looked forward with fond
expectation for a bright and prosperous future for their capital.
This, however, they peacefully enjoyed but for a short season, for
soon the public buildings were removed elsewhere, and the flattering
prospects of Mackinaw were overshadowed. Lots were sold on a
credit of four, six and eight months, and we should judge at unu-
sually large figures.

Mathew Robb was appointed "cryer," — for which service he
received $1.50 — William Lee, clerk, and the great sale began. Abra-
ham Funk bid in the first lot, being lot 1 of block 1, for which he
gave the handsome sum of $51. The sale went on, evidently with
considerable animation, for good prices were obtained and ready sales
made. The following is a full and complete list of lots sold, with
name of purchaser and amount paid :

Name. Lot. Block. Price.

Abraham Funk 1 1 $51 00

Thomas Dillon 2 1 29 50

John Funk 3 1 15 25

William Gilston 4 1 9 00

RobertMcClure 35 00

Mathew Robb 4 6 15 25

Mordecai Mobley 2 6 45 00

Richard Latham 6 6 23 00

EH Redman 8 6 20 00

Abraham Dillon 1 7 85 00

Thomas Dillon 2 7 42 50

J. B. Harbert 3 7 30 00

Daniel Dillon 4 9 83 00

Name. Lot. Block. Price.

Hugh L. Welch 3 9 46 75

Isaac Funk 2 9 34 50

James Lurley 1 9 35 00

Joel Hiatt 4 10 35 00

William Council 3 10 23 00

Abraham Funk 6 11 44 25

Martin Porter 5 11 15 00

Jonas H. Hittle 8 7 25 00

Jacob Judv 7 7 20 50

Thomas Briggs 5 9 11 00

Henry Stillman 1 .... 6 85 00

Samuel Judy 6 9 15 00

The aggregate amount received for the twenty-five lots was




A meeting of the Court was held at Stout's Grove, Monday, June
4, 1827, Commissioners Hittle and Lotta being present. William
H. Hodge brought in his bill for surveying 93 lots in Mackinaw,
which, amounting to $35.50, was ordered paid, although we are at a
loss to know where the funds came from, as we have no record of
any being raised previously.

For several years the petitions for roads occupied a very large
proportion of the Court's time and attention, and consumed more
space to record than all other proceedings. They are similar in con-
struction and it would be useless, and worse, to speak of them as
often as they occur. We give, however, as a fair sample, the first
one presented, which was at this session. It was oftefed by George
Hittle, and was " for a road from Mackinaw, the county seat, the
nearest and best route to where Christopher Orendorif is building a
mill on Sugar creek, thence as near as practicable on a direct route
to the bridge over Kickapoo creek. Which was read and ordered
that said route be viewed, marked and staked, and that Robert
McClure, Mathew Robb and Mara Stout be appointed to view, mark
and stake the same." These gentlemen viewed the route and
returned a favorable report, and were allowed for the three days'
labor it took, $2.25 each. Rob't McClure was given 75 cts. extra
for " furnishing wagon to haul stakes in for three days."


At the regular term in June, 1827, the Commissioners divided
the county into election precincts as follows : That part of the
county east of the third principal meridian and north of township
22 composed Blooming Grove precinct ; all south of township 23,
east of the third principal meridian and including also one range
west of the same line, to the southern boundary of the county,
comprised Kickapoo precinct ; all lying west of range 1 west of the
third meridian and south of township 23, composed Sugar Creek
precinct ; all west of the third meridian and north of township 22
and east of range 3 west, composed Mackinaw precinct ; all west of
range 2 west and south of the center of township 25, and north of
township 22, composed Sand Prairie precinct ; all west of range 2
west and north of the center of township 25 north, composed Ten
Mile precinct.



Election was ordered to be held in Blooming Grove precinct at
the house of John Benson, and William Orendorif, Henry Vamickle
and Ebenezer Rhodes were appointed judges.

In Kickapoo precinct at Michael Dickeson's house, with George
Hand, James Burleson and Isaac Funk, judges.

In Sugar Creek precinct at the house of a Mr. Walters, with John
Judy, George Miles and Walker Miller, judges.

In Mackinaw precinct at M. Mobley's house at the county-seat,
with Eobert McClure, Abraham Stout and Paton Mitchell, judges.

In Sand Prairie precinct at the house of Samuel Woodrow;
judges, Isaac Perkins, Xathan Dillon and William Eades.

In Ten Milo- ' /u-ecinct at the house of Thomas Camlin. Austin
Crocker, Jacob Funk and Hezekiah Davis were appointed judges.

For many years there was a constant change going on in regard
to election precincts and road districts. At almost every meeting of
the Court some alteration was made.


Tuesday, June 26, 1827, H. Warren, editor of the Sangamon
Spectator, brought in his bill for advertising the sale of lots at
Mackinaw, which, for six insertions, and 100 blank notes, 100 blank
bonds and 100 handbills, amounted to $16.62J. This the Court
deemed just, and directed the Clerk to draw an order on the Treas-
urer in favor of Mr. Warren for said amount.

On the same day the Court proceeded to let the contract for build-
ing the court-house. The following specifications of this structure
are spread upon the court records :

"The body of the house to be of hewn logs 24 feet long and 18
feet wide ; the logs to face at least one foot ; one story and a half
high, nine feet to the story. The roof to be of joint shingles well
nailed on ; two batten doors of black walnut plank, one inch thick,
to be hung with three-inch butts. The doors to be well cased with
good timber. Two twelve-light windows in the first story, and one
four-light window in the end of the house in the second story. The
window lights to be 8 by 10 inches ; the windows to be well cased,
glass put in and put in the house, A lower floor of puncheons well
hewed and jointed. A floor overhead of sawed plank one inch and
one-quarter thick. Ten joists to be put in the house, 5 by 7 inches,



County Clerk.


to be sawed or hewed. The house to be well chinked and daubed,
and the corners sawed down. The gable ends to be weather-boarded
with shaved boards. Each window to have a shutter made of one-
inch plank, and the same to be hung with two and one-half inch
butts. A chimney place to be sawed out at one end of the house,
say the four lower logs seven feet wide. The whole to be completed
in a workmanlike manner on or before the first day of October next."

The bid for the construction of this building was " cried off to
Amasa Stout," he being the lowest bidder and agreeing to erect the
house for $125. Evidently the contract was let in the manner of
the present mode of selling goods at auction, save it was " knocked
down " to the lowest instead of highest bidder.

This court-house was rather an imposing structure for the time,
being a story and a half in height, with glass windows. True, the
architecture was not of ancient grandeur or elegance, nor of our
more modern style ; but we doubt not, when the building was com-
pleted, it was looked upon with as much pride as the people of
to-day view the showy structures built after the latest and most
improved plan. The site selected was lot 1 of block 11.


George Hittle, one of the Commissioners, was allowed $1.50 for
helping lay off the town of Mackinaw. He was also allowed $1.25
for money expended for whisky on the day of the sale' of lots, — thus
evincing that the Commissioners were liberal and hospitable. They
would not invite the settlers to a wild, uninhabited place to attend
the sale without providing refreshments. John Benson, County
Treasurer, was given $24.50 for taking a list of the taxable property
and assessing the taxes for 1827.


The following are the names of the gentlemen composing the first
grand jury. They were appointed in June, 1827, to serve at the
October term of the Circuit Court :

William Orendorff, John H. Rhodes, William Walker, Sandy
Hurst, Peter McCullough, William Gilston, Thomas Rutledge,
George Hand, Robert Guthrie, William Johnson, Robert Stubble-
field, John Judy, Walker Miller, INIathew Robb, Ephraim Stout,
Nathan Dillon, James B. Thomas, Thornton Dillon, James Scott,
Seth Williams, Jacob Funk, William Holland, and Horace Crocker.



William H. Hodge returned into court, during the month of
August, 1827,«the amount of taxes he had succeeded in collecting,
which was $100.67. He was allowed for his services seven and one-
half per cent, of this sum. Thus we see the compensation for riding
over what is now five or six counties, and collecting the yearly tax,
was but a little over $7.50.

At the March term, 1828, the County Treasurer came into court
and settled his account with the county, handing over to the Com-
missioners county orders to the amount of $4.81J, and $15.00 in
money collected on fines. Mr. Benson then retired from the arduous
duties of a public official to the humbler sphere of private life.

Another Treasurer must be selected, and a very singular method
was adopted for choosing Benson's successor. The office was let to
the lowest bidder. The man who would agree to accept the position
for the least amount was the one selected. The record puts it in the
following terse language : " The Commissioners proceeded to let out
to the lowest bidder the office of County Treasurer for the present
year, 1828, which was purchased by Isaac Waters at $21. 87^."
There was evidently close figuring for the office, caused, perhaps, by
competition, for we see that Waters even divided a cent on his bid.
What remarkable changes half a century has wrought in the manner
of choosing public officials as well as in every thing else.


At this meeting Jacob Funk petitioned the Court to revoke the
ferry license of John L. Bogardus for non-attendance to his duties.
It appears that the fault-finding Jacob looked with covetous eyes
upon Bogardus, and by pure selfishness was prompted to thus peti-
tion the Court. Bogardus was contentedly ferrying the people with
their goods and chattels across the Illinois opposite Peoria, while
Funk sat upon the bank and sought to find fault that would rob
Bogardus of that right, which he would then himself seize. After
summoning Bogardus before the Court and a careful investigation of
the charges the petition was refused. Unable to gain his point in
this way Funk applied for a license at or near the same point where
Bogardus was engaged, but the Court desired no competition and so
refused the application.



At a meeting March 17, 1828, J. C. Morgan was appointed Clerk
in the place of Mordecai Mobley. Whether Mordecai resigned, un-
ceremoniously left, his term expired, or was removed, the records do
not say. We only know the change was made. We often wished,
as we feel confident all who may undertake the arduous, difficult
task of reading these records will also do, that the change had not
been made, for Morgan's chirography is not to be compared to
Mobley's for correctness or legibility, nor is his orthography nearly
so good, and as for punctuation, that is an art Morgan evidently
was entirely unaquainted with. We may add that Mr. Mobley has
not yet lost the art of writing a clean legible hand and of composing
well. After an elapse of just 52 years, lacking three days, from the
time he opened the first records of this county, he sends us a speci-
men of his handwriting in the shape of a letter. Though over a
half century of time — the destroyer of all things — has elapsed since
he first recorded his name in the Commissioner's Court records, yet
he writes quite as clearly and evenly to day as he did then.


The first "tavern" license was granted at this term of the Court.
A tavern in those days was a combination of an inn and a saloon.
The proprietor, however, did not expect to derive any great revenue
from the hotel, but looked to his liquors for an income. Many of
these " taverns " were the smallest of log cabins. Here and there all
over the country, sometimes miles from any other cabin, they might
be found. Some of them were indicated to be such by signs nailed
to a post, tree, or to the side of the cabin. These were of the
rudest make and design. Some simply had the word "entertain-
ment" scrawled upon them, while others, more explicit, read "enter-
tainment for man and beast." Some were still more definite, and
said simply, "whisky and oats." The storms of a half century, the
advancement of civilization, the culture of the age, have all combined
to transform these rudest of signs, scribbled by an uncultured pioneer
upon hewn boards, into gilded and glittering letters artistically traced
upon French-plate glass.

The name by which the place was known where liquor was vended
was shortly after this changed from "tavern" to "grocery" or
" groggery " and subsequently assumed the appellation of " saloon,"


and finally, that coming into disrepute, many have adopted the more
modern title of " sample room," " halls," "gardens," etc.

On the 3rd day of March, 1828, Rufus North, Jacob Funk and
Jonas Hittle applied for tavern licenses, which, upon filing good and
sufficient bonds, and paying into the county treasury the sum of
$2.00, were granted. They were restricted by the following rates
established by the Court immediately thereafter granting said
licenses :

For each meal 18f cents.

Lodging each person 6^

For each horse fed all night on grain and forage 25

For each single feed 12^

For each half pint of whisky ]2|

For each half pint of brandy 25

For each half pint of rum and cordial. 25

For each half pint of wine 25

For each quart of cider or beer 12^

These as will be seen were moderate charges, and evidently the
tavern keepers thought the rate established for lodging was too mod-
erate, for we find it was soon raised to 12 J cents.


It now appears that while Funk was providing entertainment for
man and beast, his neighbor Bogardus had his ferry license, which he
had obtained from Sangamon county, proved and spread upon the
records here. He also secured the passage of an act prohibiting any
one to establish a ferry within one mile of his own.

Bogardus was evidently an old and extensive operator in the ferry
business, for we find he held his license granted while Tazewell
county was under the jurisdiction of Sangamon, and further, we find
on Sept. 5, 1828, he made application to this Court for another ferry.
He selected, as the most remunerative place for his branch ferrj',
the Illinois at the mouth of Fox river. It must be remembered
that Tazewell county at that time spread over a vast extent of terri-
tory. The entire northeastern part of this great State was under
their control. Old settlers have told us they well remember when
Tazewell county constables were dispatched to Chicago to summon
men to appear at the courts of this county.

Yes, though unlearned in law and unacquainted with science and
literature, the Commissioners held jurisdiction over a large district,
and that they conducted the public affairs rightly, and built a firm
and solid foundation upon which the future prosperity and greatness


of this portion of our beloved State should rest, can not be gainsaid.
This is plainly evident from the unparalleled strides made in agricul-
tural and mechanical progress ; from the hundreds of thousands of
busy inhabitants now dwelling within this territory ; and from the
vast stores of wealth accumulated solely from resources within it.
Those great and unconcealed wonders reflect honor and credit each
day upon their founders ; and as days and years multiply, when the
same territory over which they presided shall be teeming with mil-
lions of earnest and energetic people, then will greater honors and
more exultant praise and adoration be expressed for the brave, sturdy
pioneers who explored and opened up a region so prolific, and founded
a community that for genius, enterprise and wealth will in the near
future out-rank many older settled countries, and indeed will vie
with many kingdoms of the earth. Then these vast prairies will be

Online Librarypub Chas. C. Chapman & Co.History of Tazewell county, Illinois ; together with sketches of its cities, villages and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history; portraits of prominent persons and biographies of representative citizens. History of Illinois ... Digest of state laws → online text (page 19 of 79)