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 20 of 79)
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cultivated as a garden. Every forest tree and woodland will be util-
ized, and populous cities with numerous factories and vast stores of
commerce may be numbered by the score. Then will the modes of
travel be superior to the remarkable railroad facilities of to-day, and
transport the increased products with greater facility. Indeed, every-
thing shall then be as different and as superior to what they are at
present as the things of to-day are as compared with those of fifty
years ago. Our readers may regard this as wild and unreasonable
speculation — as wholly visionary ; but they are only the conclusions
deduced from a careful study of history — of a comparison of what
has been accomplished, with certain advantages, with the results that
the superior advantages now enjoyed will as certainly accomplish.


The May term, 1828, was convened in the new court-house.
Whether or not the Commissioners were pleased with the work we
do not know. They spent no time in passing wordy resolutions
commending the architect's skill, or otherwise expressing their opin-
ion of the work, but immediately proceeded to their official business.
We fear, however, that at the present time, if a court was convened
in such a structure w^e might look for resolutions, emphatic and
strong, condemnatory of it. The building rested upon piling a few
feet from the ground, and beneath it many stray hogs found shelter.
From the continued wallowing quite a basin was formed, which was
often filled with water. From the burning rays of summer's sun
hogs Avould seek this cheerful spot and lazily roll around, enjoying


in fullest measure the refreshing bath. The floor, having been laid
of green oak, soon shrunk, leaving large cracks between puncheons.
Through these winter's chilling wind whistled, while in summer the
contented hogs grunted a melodious accompaniment to the eloquent
appeals and oratory of the pioneer lawyer.


Necessarily, as faithful historians, we are compelled to mar the
pleasant progress of this chapter by reference to prison bars. It
seems as the county advanced in wealth and population the evil
principle kept pace with it; and, as immaculate and good as the
pioneer fathers undoubtedly were, even among them there were
wicked and vicious characters. Accordingly, June 28, 1828, after
due notice, the contract for building a jail was " cried oif to Robert
McClure, he being the lowest bidder." It appears that Mathew
Robb was a partner of McClure' s in this contract.

Robb was a native Kentuckian, and came to Stout's Grove,
McLean county, in 1827. That place at the time was the county-
seat of this county, and Hon. Mathew Robb was the noted man
of the place. He was Justice of the Peace for many years. A
couple by the name of John Pore and a Miss Brown concluded
to live together for better or for worse, and accordingly Pore called
upon 'Squire Robb to perform the marriage rites. The former
crossed Sugar creek for the purj)ose of taking Robb over ; but as
the weather had been rainy, the creek was high and inconvenient to
cross. Pore crossed it on a log while the 'Squire sat on horseback
on his side of the stream. Mr. Pore brought his bride down to the
creek ; as it was now about eight o'clock at night torches were lit.
It was raining at the time, but they paid no attention to that.
'Squire Robb rode a little distance into the water in order to distin-
guish the bridegroom and bride on the opposite bank, and the inter-
esting ceremony was performed. McClure was born in Kentucky
in 1792 and came to Stout's Grove in 1827.

They agreed to erect the building for $325.75, almost three times
the amount paid for a court-house. It was to be completed before
the first Monday in September, 1829. It was a two-story structure,
16 feet square, made of solid hewn timber, and was one of the strong-
est and most costly jail buildings erected by the pioneers throughout
Central Illinois. Nevertheless, the very first prisoner incarcerated
within its heavy walls took flight the same night. This individual,


whose name was William Cowhart^ is also noted for being the first
horse-thief in Tazewell county.


It was a horse that belonged to James Willis that Cowhart pur-
loined. Of all bad characters horse-thieves were the most hated by
the pioneers, and as soon as it was noised around that a horse had
been stolen the settlers set about determined to bring speedy retri-
bution upon the head of the offender. He was soon found and
brought back to the settlement and turned over to the Sheriff. This
was before the completion of the jail. The prisoner was chained to
one of the men and sent into the field to work. At night he was
chained to the bedstead. In this manner he was kept for some two
weeks. The jail being completed he was carried thither and
ushered into the new prison, no doubt with much satisfaction on the
part of the injured settlers. The heavy hewn door swung to leav-
ing Cowhart the first and only inmate. What must have been their
chagrin when on the following morning they found their prisoner
had flown. With the aid of a helper he bid them adieu during
the night.

We subjoin the following interesting and detailed account of this
affair from the pen of the venerable Nathan Dillon, the first settler
of the county. It also very strongly illustrates some of the charac-
teristics of the pioneers. This reminiscence first appeared in the
Bloomington Pantagraph in 1853.


" James Willis and his brother were the first pioneers on Sandy,
in the neighborhood of where the flourishing village of Magnolia,
in Marshall county, now stands, they having located there as early
as 1827 or '28, their nearest neighbor at that time being William
Holland, who had already settled at Washington, Tazewell county,
where he still lives. One cold Friday in the winter James Willis,
who had been boarding at William Hall's, in Dillon settlement on
the Mackinaw, started on a trip with a young man calling himself
by the name of Cowhart, whom he had hired to go and work for
him at his new location. The distance was fifty miles and Hol-
land's the only family on the road. Willis was mounted on a fine
horse, well equipped. The day was very cold and when they got to


Crow creek, eighteen miles north of Holland's, Willis dismounted
and let Cowhart have his horse, overcoat and equipage, and took the
gun belonging to Cowhart, supposing it to be loaded.

" Cowhart mounted, but instantly took the other end of the road.
Willis, thinking that a shot from the gun might bring the rogue to
a sense of duty, brought it to bear upon him, but upon trial found
that the touchhole had been plugged with a green stalk, and so the
man, money and equipage disappeared without any hindrance.

"Willis was quite unwell eighteen miles from any house and it
was snowing, but he beat his way back to Holland's. It happened
that Abraham Hiner, a neighbor of mine, was there, and Willis
made out a description of the robber and sent it by Hiner to me,
with the request that I should do what I could for him.

" We immediately called our neighbors together and it was agreed
that Daniel Hodson, my brothers Daniel, AValter and Joseph, and
myself Avould give him a chase, though it still remained cold and it
was thirty-six hours after the commission of the robbery, which
occurred forty miles away.

" The next morning (Sunday) we started out destitute of any
knowledge which way the rogue had taken, struck across the head
of the Mackinaw stream through a country all wilderness, and
stayed all night at Money creek. It blew up colder in the night,
and the next morning the weather was as sharp as it ever gets. We
were on the way again by sunrise ; went on to the head timber land
of the Mackinaw where we found a little settlement. The good
woman where we stopped assured us that the object of our pursuit
had eaten his dinner there just about that hour two days before.
The ground was bare in places and covered with drifted snow in
others ; we were good trackers and took the trail and followed him
to Cheney's Grove, where he had stayed over night. Remaining
with Cheney till morning we started early and pursued him to
Fielder's (near where Urbana now stands). There he had spent the
night forty-eight hours previous. The cold Monday, however, al-
ready spoken of he had traveled only ten miles, laid by the remain-
der of the day, disposed of the horse and plunder, and resumed his
journey on foot, being one day and ten miles' travel ahead of us. It
was in this part of the country that he struck out upon the great prai-
rie, without path or track of any kind. The snow was still deeper
and enabled us to keep his track to Georgetown, where he had passed
the night previous. We here procured a pilot and pursued him to


Newport on the Wabash. Arriving there at about one o'clock at
night Ave put up our horses. We had expected to take him in bed
here, but he was up and off. We renewed the pursuit on foot, it
snowing all the while ; we soon procured fresh men and horses, and
assisted by a good tracking snow, overtook him near Rockville, In-
diana. It seemed a hard turn for the poor wretch to right about
face, but with a sneaking smile on his countenance he returned with
us to the Wabash, where a fine-looking old man approached us with
a cup of whisky in his hand, and in a bold, open manner said :
' You have caught the villain.' He made some other remarks and
we passed on, Cowhart being betAveen my brother Joseph and my-
self We observed to him that such talk must be very disagreeable,
at which he burst into a loud cry, and the blood gushed from his
nose at a greater rate than I had ever seen it flow from the nose of
any man. It seemed as if he would bleed to death, but after apply-
ing snow pretty freely he recovered and became calm ; but instead
of that sneaking smile his face Avore a very solemn air. The first
AA'ords he said Avere : ' Had it not been for my old father I should
not ha\^e been in this fix ; said he had persuaded him about three
years before, and they had agreed to undertake the business, but this
AA^as the first time he had A^entured or been caught in such a fix.'

" When issuing out of the Wabash bottom we ascended a steep
point Avith deep raA'ines on each side. We noticed him slyly in-
specting the grounds. His countenance lighted up as if he Avas
about giving us the slip. We told him that if he made such an at-
tempt Ave Avould surely shoot him. He pretended to regard as
strange Avhat we said, but afterAvards confessed that he had intended
to run doAvn the steep, covered as it Avas with thick vines, and es-
cape by running along the trackless ice in the stream.

" When Ave arriA^ed at the taA'ern at NcAvport it Avas some time be-
fore sundown, and as Ave had slept none the prcA'^ious night we con-
cluded to rest the balance of the evening. The bar-room was full
of men gathered in to Avitness our movements. Brother Joseph and
myself obtained leave of the landlady to take the prisoner into her
room until Ave could dry our feet, AAdiich Avere excessively Avet from
AA'alking in the snoAV. After some time the landlord came into the
room and Avhispered to the prisoner, at Avhich the good lady of the
house took umbrage, saying that he had better speak aloud so that
we could hear. He then said there Avas a man in the other room
that Avished to see him, and I remained a moment to inquire of the


woman what was the prisoner's real name. When I repaired to the
bar-room I found a young man there writing. I ordered our friends
to get our horses, beginning to mistrust the house was no, place for
us. About the time we were ready to start the man at the writing-
desk proved to be a lawyer, and presented a petition to our prisoner
to sign, praying for a writ of habeas corpus. I snatched the peti-
tion from the prisoner's hand, saw what it was, gave it to the lawyer
and told him to keep it to himself or I would give him trouble ;
whereupon he grew saucy, but went back when I walked towards
him until he reached the end of the room ; told me, I believe, that
I was ' out of order ;' not to touch him. I told him plainly that if
I heard another word from him I certainly should slap his jaiv, then
left him pale as death and turned to the prisoner and took him by
the collar. He attempting to get away, some of the men took hold
of me to assist him, exclaiming that there should be no dragging
out. I gave him a stout jerk, at the same time Hodson and my
brothers Daniel, Joseph and Walter assisted him with a shove, and
he went out in short order. AVe set him astride of one of our
horses just as the landlord and another man approached, and said we
had no business to come there in such a way. The prisoner begged
for help. We told him that if he attempted to get off the horse, or
if any man attempted to assist him, we would ' blow him through.'
With that we left them and got into our own State the same night.
Next day we started for home, which we reached with our prisoner,
after being out nine days, some of which were as cold as I ever

"Willis recovered all that Cowhart had robbed him of except
two dollars and fifty cents.

"It was the same winter that the jail at Mackinaw was being
built ; and the prisoner was guarded by old Jimmy Scott, Deputy
Sheriff, until it was deemed sufficiently strong to keep him safely.
Soon after he was put into it, however, somebody Mas friendly
enough to let him out, and he escaped trial and the penitentiary.

"Now I will just say to my friends: I have shown you in this
chapter the way to bring in the boys who steal your horses ; if they
are stolen imitate the grit of the deep-snow men, and never give
them up until you have them safe."

At the April term, 1829, the Commissioners offered a reward "of
$20 for the apprehension and delivery of William Cowhart who was
let out of jail, and also the person who let him out." Cowhart


proved to be an expensive settler to the county, for, we find the
Court gave James Scott $68 for keeping him. For guarding
Cowhart, John Hodgson, William Davis, John Ford, A. Wright,
William Sampson and F. Seward each received $2, Nathan Dillon
$33.68 ; Daniel Hodgson $5, and Martin Porter $1, making a total
of $119.68, Avithin $5.32 as much as the court-house cost, and it
would have paid the County Treasurer's salary for three years.


At the December term, 1829, the first fine received for a violation
of the peace was recorded. This was a case wherein Isaac Storms
assaulted James Brown. For many years the only cases before the
justices of the peace were for assault and battery. The pioneers
enjoyed a "free fight" and entered into sport of a pugilistic nature
with great interest, seldom resorting to knives or pistols. But when
it came to administering law from the justice's bench it was con-
demned and a fine imposed, however, simply because the law read
thus and so.


One of the curious provisions of the law in the times of which
we are now writing was, that stock was permitted to run at large.
The Supreme Court of the State reversed the common law idea
prevailing almost universally in regard to stock running at large.
In consequence of this every man was compelled to fence his entire
farm to protect his crops from wandering herds. The decision of
the Court required stock to be fenced out instead of in. It would
have been much less expensive for each man to have protected him-
self from his own stock.

Each settler had recorded in a book kept by the County Clerk,
certain ear-marks and brands adopted by him for marking his stock,
and by which he could identify his cattle and hogs. The vast prai-
ries were then in their native condition, free from fences, cultivation
or any sort of improvements. By many they were thought to be
worthless for all practical farming purposes, except to furnish graz-
ing for stock. Horses and cattle often wandered into adjoining
counties. There were, however, means by which such stock might
be recovered. In each county seat was an estray pen wherein all
unclaimed and unknown stock was confined. Notice was quite often
made of the number, kind and marks of the stock taken up. In


1829 a contract for building an estray pen at Mackinaw was award-
ed to J. C. Morgan and Jonah Hittle. The pen was 30 feet square
and cost the sum total of $13.


During the year 1829 the Commissioners pursued the even tenor
of their way, granting petitions for roads, ferries, tavern licenses and
election precincts ; appointing and removing officers with an inflexi-
bility of purpose that is really amusing. When they investigated a
matter there were no palliating circumstances to screen the delinquent.
But the judicial guillotine cut off official heads with a refreshing im-
partiality. Negligent officers feared the power of the " tripple C "
more than Damocles feared the hair-suspended sword. They simply
and plainly said " go," and the official hesitated not but went at once,
and that was the end of it.

The Commissioners commenced the year's labor by decapitating,
officially, all the road supervisors of the various districts. Then
Abraham Carlock was appointed Treasurer to succeed Isaac Walters,
and at a salary of $40, which shows an increase in the emoluments
of the office of nearly 100 per cent.


In March, 1830, George W. Hinch applied for a saloon license
to retail liquors in Pekin. This was the first saloon in that city.
The petition requests that " George W. Hinch be allowed to sell all
kinds of spirituous liquors by the smaul. "


William Walter was desirous of contributing to the comfort of
his fellow settlers in the way of manufacturing boots and shoes. To
this end he desired the Court to give him lot 8 in block 8 in the
town of Mackinaw. The enterprising Commissioners granted the
request, providing he would improve and occupy said lot for at least
one year.


The citizens of Sand Prairie election precinct petitioned the Court
to move the place of holding elections to Pekin, as the "present
place of holding elections is inconvenient and oppressive to many
citizens. "



Sarah Stout has the honor of being the first pauper in Tazewell
county. At the July term the Court gave her to the care of Nathan
Dillon for three months, after which time the Court again took her
in charge and let her out to the lowest bidder.

clerk's OFFICE.

In July, according to a previous notice, a clerk's office of the fol-
lowing description was cried ofi* to the lowest bidder : " Building
to be frame, 14 feet square, one story high, 9 feet between floors,
weather-boarded with planks or boards well shaved ; with one door
and two windows ; a plank floor laid down with green plank with-
out nails. Covered with shingles." On the records, but marked
over, are the words, " with brick chimney put in it." The judi-
cious Commissioners evidently concluded they could not aiford such
a luxury as a brick chimney, and repealed that clause of the speci-
fications. The contract was let to Jonas H. Hittle, for $100.


In August, 1831, an election Avas held, when Nathan Dillon,
Timothy Hoblit and Isaac Blaken were chosen County Commissioners.
The Clerk, seemingly endeavoring to gain the good will of the newly
elected dignitaries, addressed them as the Honorable Nathan Dillon,
etc. They had scarcely received the reins of government into their
hands before they began a system of improvement truly enterpris-
ing. The Clerk was immediately ordered " to contract for the build-
ing of a good stick-and-clay chimney to the court-house on the most
advantageous terms." The next order was to Isaac Baker to procure
a good table for the use of the Court. On reconsidering, the whole
system of repair was placed exclusively in the hands of Jonas Hit-
tie. Contractor Hittle received the following specific instructions :
" On the first floor a bench to be erected in the west end, for the use
of the Judge, to be reached on either side by good steps. In front
of this bench [which was simply a platform] a bar to be raised con-
sisting of good banisters, and plank arranged for the witnesses'
seats. On either side of the Judge's bench to be good seats for the
jury, and two movable scats for the Clerk.

"A stairway to be built in the northeast corner reaching the sec-
ond story. The upper floor to be laid and divided into two rooms
by a partition, these rooms to be used as jury rooms. A good 14-


light window to be placed in the east end, and the chimney place to
be closed up. A cheap cast stove to be purchased and put up in the
northwest corner of the room. All the work to be completed by
April 10, 1831."


The Court convened in the court-house at Mackinaw in March,
1831, when it transacted its usual routine business of granting
road petitions, liquidating pauper's bills, settling up with public of-
ficials and attending to various matters; after which the Court
packed up their bag and baggage, shook the dust of Mackinaw from
their judicial feet and turned their faces westward. They brought
up at Pekin, June 6, 1831, in the old school-house on the corner of
Elizabeth and Second streets, subsequently known as " the Doolittle
school." Just why the Court left their pleasant quarters at Macki-
naw, especially after so recently making such extensive improve-
ments in and around the court-house, the records do not state. But
from other sources we learn that by an act of the Legislature passed
Dec. 25, 1830, the county of Tazewell was divided and McLean
county formed therefrom. To further carry out the design of some
of the leading spirits in procuring this division, a committee con-
sisting of William Porter, John T. Stuart and Milton Chilton was
appointed by the same body to re-locate the county-seat. By the
same act appointing the committee, which was passed Feb. 16, 1831,
the courts of the county were moved to Pekin, where they should
remain until the seat of justice was permanently located.

Thus in obedience to the mandate of higher authority the Court
submits with becoming resignation, and not one word of growling
or grumbling does it utter so far as we glean from the records.
Considerable dissatisfaction was displayed, however, on the part of
the citizens of I^Iackinaw at this desertion. They had indulged
themselves in the fond hopes of making a great and prosperous city.
These hopes and expectations were based solely, almost, upon the
influence and advantages of being the county-seat.

The Clerk's office in Pekin was located " in the upper room of
William Haines' corner building, occupied by William M. Farns-
worth." The Court paid as rental for this room, where it also sub-
sequently convened, |2 per month. These quarters were retained
until Oct. 1, 1831, when the office was moved to Gideon Hawley's
room, where it remained for a month ; after which the Court was


held for a time, as far as we can learn, in D. H. Holcomb's tavern.
Thus we have a very striking and altogether significant contrast —
a court of justice and a groggery in the same cabin.


If the Court thought to escape the importunities of their old
petitioner, Jacob Funk, on making the move to Pekin, they soon
found they were sadly mistaken. No sooner had they found a room
wherein to convene in official capacity than the indomitable Jacob
appeared and again importuned the Court to revoke Bogardus' ferry
license, A citation was immediately issued commanding the said
Bogardus to appear and show cause why his license should not be
taken from him. Promptly at the convening of the Court at the
September term. Funk was on hand and requested that attention be
given to the citation issued against Bogardus. The Court, however,
let other matters tak*e the precedence until Sept. 8, when Bogardus
appears before the Court and is confronted by Funk and Eads,
and, in the language of the record, the " trial is gon into." After
hearing the evidence pro and con the Court gravely decided " that the
ferry license issued to John Bogardus by the Sangamon county
Commissioners and confirmed by this Court is hereby revoked."

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 20 of 79)