S. B. (Simeon Baldwin) Chittenden.

History of Henry county, Illinois : it's taxpayers and voters; containing also, a biographical directory, a condensed history of the state; map of the county; a business directory...etc online

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Online LibraryS. B. (Simeon Baldwin) ChittendenHistory of Henry county, Illinois : it's taxpayers and voters; containing also, a biographical directory, a condensed history of the state; map of the county; a business directory...etc → online text (page 14 of 78)
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at the August election, 1838, amounted to just seven, and perhaps the
Commissioners hoped to cover up the feeble condition of the seat of jus-
tice by compelling the people to vote at this point only. This order was
repealed 17th of June following. It was during this term of the Court
that it was ordered that the representative from this district be
requested to inform the state legislature that this community, and Henry
County particularly, has suffered very materially in consequence of there
not being any circuit court held since its organization. It will be per-
ceived at once that Henry County did suffer materially on that account,
when we state that at the court held the Spring following there were
just ten cases on the docket. One of them, however, was a criminal case,
the principal in which, a counterfeiter, had to be guarded day and night,
or else sent to another county to prison. In view of such cases it was
ordered that propositions to build a jail be received January 1, 1839. On
that day the proposals were all too high, and the court adjourned with-
out making a contract. The next day, however, a bargain was struck
with Geo. W. Harris, who was to have it completed by September
following. It was never built. Circuit court was held in April, 1839 ;
Thos. Ford, Judge ; James M. Allan, Clerk. The prisoner above referred
to took a change of venue to Ogle County. Soon after the adjournment
of court, while this and another prisoner were being kindly cared for at
Mr. Harris' public house, by having their ankles ornamented with iron,
and a keen lookout for them kept by the family, the house caught fire
and was soon in a blaze beyond control. The court-house was in close
proximity, and the fire reaching it, the two buildings were destroyed.
Soon after the alarm, the two prisoners went to the wood-pile, and with
the ax relieved each other of their ornaments, and then bent all their
energies to saving the movables in the house. Porter, the counterfeiter,
who was a small man, attempted to take down the coats hanging in the
bar-room. One of them, belonging to Abram Miller (of the Geneseo
House now), he found he could not get off the hook without tearing the
loop. This he thought was a pity to do, and ran out to get a stool to stand
on, so as to reach the hook. When he returned the coat was in a blaze. He
succeeded, however, in carrying to a place of safety a small stand, in the
drawer in which was the complimentary document which afterwards
enabled a jury of twelve men to order him cared for at public expense in
Alton for the term of one year. Neither prisoner tried to escape. The
court-house was not yet completed, and Harris wanted his pay as far as '
he had gone with it. This the Commissioners hesitated to grant, but
ordered an election to be held upon that and other matters, so as to
decide what was to be done. The result of the election was that Harris
got $30 in addition to what he had received, and gave up the contracts
for building both court-house and jail. The election took place July 9th,
and the arrangement with the County Commissioners the day following.
The town of Richmond, with the exception of the stable, having
been reduced to ashes and " thin air,'' immediate steps for reconstructing
the public buildings seemed imperative. All parties agreed as to the
necessity of getting up new buildings, but the point at which they were


to be erected was at once the subject of earnest dispute. Meetings were
called at different points to discuss this, at that time, all-absorbing ques-
tion. At a meeting held at a school-house on Rock River it was resolved
that we are in favor of removing the 'county seat from its present loca-
tion. Then followed petition to the Commissioners' Court asking for a
convention of the people to take action on this momentous affair. The
entire document is brief and to the point, and the insertion of the last
resolution entire will doubtless be tolerated here, as it indicates the exist-
ence of a very strong conservative and anti-progressive policy (to use no
harsh terms) among the citizens of Rock River. It reads:

" It is further resolved at this meeting, by an unanimous vote, that
we concur with the majority of legal voters of the county (when they
shall be taken) for the re-location of the county seat of said county ; and
we further disapprove of the minority REMONSTRATING against any loca-
tion that may be made by the majority.

[Signed] GEO. COLBERT, Chairman.

Saturday, June 1, 1839. GEO. TYLER, Secretary."

A meeting called at Andover, June 13th, to consider the same topic,
memorialized the Commissioners to call a convention of the people to
take the sense of the county on several topics of importance, among
which are : 1st. The Revenue Law. 2d. The Internal Improvement
System of this State. 3d. Adjusting the accounts of Geo. W. Harris.
4th. The removal of the county seat. On the last named subject we
suggest the following considerations in favor of a removal : 1st. There
have been strong objections from the first to the present location; that it
is remote from timber ; that it is destitute of water power, of facilities
for steam power; that it is not on the direct route of travel ; the difficulty
of obtaining suitable persons to hold office at the town of Richmond.
This memorial was signed by fifteen citizens, among whom appear the
names of I. Pillsbury, Wm. Ayers, Joseph Tillson, and others.

The memorials were presented at the June term of the court, and an
order passed recommending the people to convene at Geneseo " to com-
pare views and consult on such matters of immediate importance to the
county as may be then and there proposed." As stated before, the con-
vention met 9th July. The court, on the 10th, passed an order for the
settlement with Harris, as before noticed. The terms of the court subse-
quent to the June term were held at Geneseo because houses were more
plenty. The inhabitants of Richmond had been under the necessity of
lodging in the stable, and the court held one session in the same building.
At the December term, 1839, the court petitioned the legislature to
legalize acts during the sessions at Geneseo, that officers might be per-
mitted to hold their offices at their own houses to January 1, 1841, and
that the courts might be directed to sit at Geneseo. At the session of
the legislature of 1839-40, an act was passed re-locating- the seat of jus-
tice for the County of Henry, and Alexander Turnbull of Warren County,
M. W. Conway of Rock Island County, and Harmon Brown of Knox
County, were appointed Commissioners to Jocate and name the town.
This matter was postponed by the Commissioners till after the August
election of 1840, and then summarily disposed of. Andover does not
appear to have struggled a second time for the location ; Geneseo and


Morristown were the principal, if not the only, competitors. The popula-
tion of the former place, no less than its location, pointed to it as the
inevitable seat of justice. This led to more confidence than liberality, if
the opposite party can be relied upon, and Morristown overbid her
largely for the coveted honor. Geneseo, it is stated, offered the county a
respectable portion of the village, as a bonus, while Morristown, or
Charles Oakley and Joshua Harper, who represented that interest, offered
an entire quarter section, sixteen town lots and one thousand dollars in
cash. This settled the matter, and Morristown was a seat of justice. The
Geneseo party claim to have made a more liberal offer than did Oakley
& Co., but the offer came after the Commissioners had made their decision.


The first marriage within the present limits of Henry County was
that of James P. Dodge and Samantha Colbert, daughter of Rev. George
A. Colbert, before the county was organized, Feb. 7, 1836. The license
was issued from Kuox County, where the record is also entered.

The first recorded marriage in the county was that of Mr. Louis Hurd
and Miss Caroline W. Little, of Wethersfield, August 22, 1837, Rev. Itha-
mar Pillsbury officiating. That notable event seemed to inspire the
reverend gentleman, for we find his marriage with Miss Caroline E. Miller
of Andover, December 18, 1837, Rev. Enoch Mead officiating. December
24, just six days after the Rev. Mr. and Mrs. Pillsbury's marriage, Win. B.
Goss of [Savannah, Jo Daviess County, was married by the aforesaid Rev.
Ithamar Pillsbury, to Miss Ellen Baldwin of Cleveland. During the year
1838, there were five marriages in the County ; in 1839 six marriages are
recorded. This year Geneseo witnessed the first wedding within her
limits : James M. Allan and Susannah D. Stewart were married by the
Rev. Jairus Wilcox, March 6, 1839. In 1840 there were ten couples
united. In this year Morristown enjoyed her first wedding in the persons
of Mahlon Lloyd, Esq., and Miss Amelia L. Davenport, December 30.
During 1841 there seemed to be a very sudden increase of marriages,
there being twenty-two recorded, of whom James Knox, afterwards
representative to Congress, found a wife in the person of Miss P. H. Blish
of Wethersfield, January 20, 1841. In 1842 there were twenty-three
marriages; in 1843 fifteen; in 1844 eighteen; in 1845 twenty-one; in
1846 twenty-five ; in 1847 twenty-three ; and they gradually increased
till 1851, when there were sixty-three marriages in the county.


The first physician was also the first settler, it is believed Dr. Baker,
who settled on Rock River in 1835. We have no extensive record of
his ^Esculapian performances. The presumption is, his well known lack of
adipose material was a constitutional bar to active practice, and he was
not much known as a physician. Dr. Maxwell, who settled on Rock
River in what is now Phenix township, in the Winter 1836 - 7, is
said to have been a man of another cast, possessing a great deal of activity
and promptness ; he has been represented as an eminent physician, very
complaisant and agreeable in personal address. Dr. Pomeroy came in
1837. He had a very extensive practice, and is still resiling in Grja3i;j,


an active and highly respected citizen. In 1845 Dr. S. T. Hume made
his debut as physician of Henry County in Geneseo ; he is still a
practicing physician in that place. About the year 1840, Dr. Geo.
Shipman, a Homceopathist, settled at Andover and built the house after-
wards owned by Mr. Ayres ; he soon moved to Chicago.


Fortunately for the people of all new countries, lawyers find little
encouragement at first to settle among them. Henry County was no
exception. We have no data for an account of lawyers at an earlier date
than 1845, unless we include an early settler of LaGrange, who has since
practiced in the courts of California, but who left no record of his legal
performances if there were any in this region. Nearly all who are
now in the county have either moved into it since 1850, or have been
admitted to the bar since that time. Our earliest information of attor-
neys in the county is connected with two brothers, Wm. H. and Samuel
P. Brainard. They were young men of promise ; Samuel P. holding at
one time the clerkship of the county and circuit courts. Neither the
law nor the offices, singly or jointly, afforded that gentleman an income
sufficient to satisfy him immediately or prospectively, and upon the break-
ing out of the gold fever in 1848-9, he suffered from a lingering attack
of it and appointed a deputy to fill his post, while he went to California
for gold which he never got. Wm. H. also filled the office of clerk of
the circuit court, and was ex-officio recorder. He was also school
commissioner at a time when most of the school lands were sold, and sold
for a large price, from which office he reaped a rich harvest. It is not
possible to follow up the attorneys of the county individually and
expect a narrative of them.


Among the provisions for the settlement of Morristown was one that
a public house should be built out of the general fund, and that within a
certain time (one year), each of the colonists should erect a dwelling-
house upon his land. A very " considerable " building for those times
was erected out of the funds proposed to be applied in that way, and a
few, very few (three or four), dwelling-houses were built as per contract.
The town plat was just one mile square ; large enough in all conscience,
and if it could have been peopled the county would have been much the
gainer. In the center of the plat was a public ground of 440 feet square.
The lots were 45 feet front and varying in length from 155 to 270 feet.

When the settlement first commenced the prospect seemed very fair
for a rapid increase of population ; this was anticipated by a Mr. Crocker,
who, just before the Morristown entry, had entered what is known as
Crocker's Grove (sometimes called Brown's), as well as a large tract of
prairie, all of which was near by the lands soon after entered by the New
York Company and named Morristown. He had bought for the purpose
of farming with an abundance of elbow room, and expressed his regrets
that range for his cattle would so soon be limited by the improvements of
that company. It turned out, however, that little or no improvement,
beyond the few farms at first commenced, was made.


This, then, was the extent of the improvements in and about Morris-
town when it was the county seat. It was in better condition to accommo-
date courts, etc., than was Richmond at its inauguration as seat of justice
for the county, and the public could look for better accommodations than
at the last named point. But dissatisfaction with the locatipn grew apace,
and it was soon a fixed fact that a contest for the removal and a re-loca-
tion of the county seat was unavoidable. In fact it began as soon as the
decision of the Commissioners was known. As Geneseo was the -only
point that competed with Morristown for the honor conferred, it is
natural to suppose that that was the point at which the great body of the
disaffected would endeavor to establish their county town. But it was
soon ascertained that there were several candidates for that honor. General
dissatisfaction prevailed on account of the location as it then stood ; four
men out of five probably being anxious to remove it on account of the
great distance to which they had to travel to attend courts. The site
itself was delightful, and those principally interested in its property were
enterprising, intelligent and popular. Other sites, however, equally as
eligible for beauty and salubrity, and much more central, could be picked
out of every third section in any of the more central townships ; and to
one of these points the people determined to take it.

The county courts were held at Geneseo till the Summer or Fall of
1841. The first circuit court held in Morristown was in May, 1842, the
last in May, 1844. As stated before, the legislature authorized the hold-
ing of courts in Geneseo till suitable accommodations could be prepared at
the county seat. The public house at Morristown was conveyed to the
county, and a contract for " improving " it was made with David Gove
and Nathaniel Walters, an order for seventy dollars being issued for their
benefit December 9, 1840. On June 28, 1841, a contract was made with
Thos. W. Corey and George Brandenburg, for the erection of the COM-
MODIOUS court-house, 18 by 24 feet, one and a half stories high, and also
for the building of a jail, according to specifications and contract made
with another party for building one at Richmond. The public house,
now (then) the county house, was rented to Corey and Brandenburg for two
years for the sum of one hundred dollars, they to furnish a suitable court-
room for the use of all courts of the county during the two years, in
which time they were to complete the public buildings. The court-
house was built. The jail was a mere structure on paper ; the uncer-
tainty of there being any use for it in that place causing the court to
postpone its erection.

The dissatisfaction with Morristown as the county town was so
extreme that some of those who had been most determined to honor
Geneseo with it, expressed a willingness to have it located at some other
point than that of their choice, even at Sugar Tree Grove, rather than
have it remain at Morristown. Commissioners had twice been appointed
by the Legislature to locate a seat of justice for the county, and were
sworn to study the interests, immediate and prospective, of the population
in determining the site. The first selection it seems was a judicious one.
But the people were dissatisfied with it, and a change was effected. The
second was judicious or not, just as the parties might think. We can
imagine no good reason for the choice save the liberal donation for the
county. That it was liberal is certainly true, but the loss to which the


citizens of the county would have been yearly subjected on account of
the remoteness of the site from the center would have counterbalanced,
four times over, the extra liberality of the enterprising proprietors of
Morristown. This the people knew, and while determined to effect the
removal of the county capital, they were very generally determined to
designate the point at which it should be located. It is believed that this
feeling of distrust in Commissioners possessed nearly every citizen of the
county, and during the greater part of the agitation of the question no one
proposed a resort to the old process ; the reasonableness of the demand
for a removal was acquiesced in by the citizens of Morristown themselves.
Indeed, Joshua Harper, one of the donors of the county, and principally
interested in the prosperity of Morristown, was, in 1842, a candidate for
the legislature, and if he had shown the least disposition to oppose the
wishes of the people he could have got no support. He distinctly stated
that if elected representative, and a majority of the voters of the county
sent a petition for the county seat to be removed into the Winnebago
swamps, into the swamps it should go. At least his influence should not
prevent it. He was elected, and no man was ever more faithful to the
interests of his constituents.

Geneseo was the point to which the majority in the northern part of
the county wished the seat of justice removed. A point near Sugar Tree
Grove was selected by the southern. Some maneuvering was resorted to
to get an admission from opponents that a site on Section 7, 15, 3, was
an eligible point for the location. All that was done, however, in the
way of manosuver was to get the admission before the name of the owner
of the property should be known. The owner was Rev. Ithamar Pills-
bury, of Andover. He was active in his efforts to secure the first location
at Andover, but the position of J. M. Allan was too strong for him up to
that time, and after there was feud between the two points Andover and
Geneseo, and it was thought best by the Pillsbury party that he should
not be known in the transaction till suitable admissions had been made
by the other party. We have said the " Pillsbury party," but the prime
mover, the great laborer in behalf of the point near Sugar Tree Grove
was Joseph Tillson, Esq. The "Judge," as he is usually called, was an
early settler, and an active man in some important matters of the county.
Canvassing for signatures to a petition locating the town near Sugar Tree
Grove at what is now Cambridge progressed steadily, though with
very variable results, as different localities were entered. The petition
was drawn up in Wethersfield, by Col. Wells it is believed. John Kil-
vington circulated it at Wethersfield, about Barren Grove, on Spring
Creek, and obtained a few signatures in Geneseo, after which the Judge
took charge of it. When it was ascertained that a majority of the voters
of the county had signed the petition to have the county seat located on
'Section 7, 15, 8, a remonstrance was got up at Geneseo against the location,
with a petition added that Commissioners be again appointed to locate a
county seat. It is believed J. M. Allan, whose home was then at Geneseo,
was the most active man in behalf of his locality. The contest was
warm. The Judge sent the petition north of Green River for signatures,
and it was returned with a single additional name affixed. He took it
himself, went over the same ground, and obtained forty signatures,
Brandenburg leading off. He also re-canvassed the settlement at Andover.




The petition was sent to Oxford, where a friend promised to circulate and
return it. The time for its reception arrived, but no petition came ; the
Judge was in a flurry ; time was getting precious ; Wm. A. Ayers volun-
teered to look up the missing paper, and get such signatures as had not
been appended ; he found it shut up in a chest, where it had been placed
for safe keeping, with a very few additional names on it. Mr. A. pushed
the matter along, and without difficulty obtained the signature of every
man he met in that locality. It was extensively signed throughout the
southern part of the county. A few residents on Spring Creek who
signed the petition to locate at Cambridge, it is known, afterwards signed
the remonstrance.

The petition to have Cambridge the new seat of government of the
county was forwarded to Colonel John Buford, of Rock Island, who then
represented this district in the Senate. A bill was brought before the
Senate re-locating the county seat of Henry County. It passed both
houses on petition of a majority of the citizens of the county.

The bill locating the county seat of Henry County was approved by
the Governor February 21, 1843. It provided that the courts should be
held at Morristown till accommodations should be provided at the new
location. It also required the re-conveyance of all property that had been
deeded to the county at Morristown, and the refunding of money donated.

The difficulty of pleasing the citizens of Henry County in the
location of their county town was a matter well known outside. The
truth is, there was very little in the immediate vicinity of the location
except a fine grove of timber to demonstrate the wisdom of fixing the
seat of justice at that point. There was no house north of Sugar Tree
Grove nearer than those immediately about Geneseo. West there were
but two or three until within a mile of Andover. In the grove, and at.
the " East End," a-settlement had fairly commenced. South of what is
now the Town of Cambridge, Red Oak, nearly six miles distant, was the
nearest settlement. There was no Bishop Hill Colony, no Galva, and no
one in that township but James Bonham, at Hickory Grove, and two or
three in the northeast corner of the town. A good settlement existed
at Wethersfield and along Barren Grove in the southeast corner of the
county ; but at Wethersfield an anti-Cambridge feeling existed to a small
extent, which grew out of a desire of those malcontents, or the most of
them, to be annexed to the County of Stark. At Oxford, in the south-
east corner of the county, and about Richland Grove, west of Andover,
a few families had collected. The settlement at Andover was one of the
most flourishing in the county. Ten miles northwest was a cluster of
three or four houses, and a respectable settlement a few miles further, on
Rock River. All the settlements in the southern part of the county
(except the slightest opposition at Wethersfield), favored the location,
but how was a town to be built ? Men and money were required. There
was but little immigration to the county or state, and where were
numbers and dollars to be obtained, was the question of the hour.


In the Winter of 183;V6, a notice was inserted in several of the
New York city daily papers, calling a meeting of persons interested in West-
ern colonization. This was held in Congress Hall, and at a subsequent


meeting to further consider this matter, a colony was formed and organ-
ized under the name of the New York Colony. At these meetings some
forty or fifty persons became members of the colony. Charles Oakley,
Esq. (now deceased), once Fund Commissioner of the State of Illinois,
took a leading part in all these transactions. He had been prospecting
out West, and gave a glowing description of the wonderful " prairie coun-
try." At the close of these meetings an agreement was drawn up and

Online LibraryS. B. (Simeon Baldwin) ChittendenHistory of Henry county, Illinois : it's taxpayers and voters; containing also, a biographical directory, a condensed history of the state; map of the county; a business directory...etc → online text (page 14 of 78)