Warren County, Il History
From: The Past and Present of Warren Co., Il
Published: Chicago, H. F. Ket & Co., Cor. 5th Ave. and Washington St., 1877

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In the winter of 1822 and 1823 the Legislature of the State of Illinois laid out the "Military Tract," situated between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers, into counties, giving to each a name, and at the same time formed several other counties. At an earlier day the "Military Tract," and, indeed, all north and west of the Illinois river, including the country about Galena, was attached to and formed a part of Madison county, for judicial purposes. At that session, however, Pike county was formed, and the records of lands, patents, &c., situated on the Military Tract, were thereafter recorded at Atlas, then the county seat.

A subsequent Legislature organized Adams, Schuyler, Fulton and Peoria counties, attaching to Schuyler county the new county of McDonough, for judicial purposes. During the session of 1824-25 the county of Warren was formed, comprising all that part of the Military Tract lying west of the fourth principal meridian, extending to the Mississippi river, and including what is now Henderson county. It was named in honor of General Joseph Warren, who so gallantly defended the country at the commencement of the Revolutionary war, and who was the first officer to shed his life's blood in that struggle which gave America her independence. He was killed by a musket ball at the battle of Bunker's Hill. As every school-boy knows, the Americans were enabled to "hold the fort" while their ammunition lasted; that giving way, they slowly retreated, Gen. Warren being the last to go. As he retired he turned to look at the foe, and just at that instant received a ball in his forehead, and sank dead to the earth. He was thirty-five years of age at the time.

The Legislature met at Vandalia, then the capital of the State, and in the Act forming the county attached it to Pike county, for judicial purposes, until a sufficient number of inhabitants were within its borders to enable it to take active existence. This did not occur until June, 1830.

Late in the spring of 1827, some pioneers made their way into the county limits, and the following year the first ground was broken by a plow.

The Talbot family were the earliest settlers in Warren county. Mrs. Talbot, mother of John B. Talbot, was some eighty years of age when she came. She was born in New England, but came to Kentucky when John was born. After the death of his mother he married and removed to Oregon.

Allen G. Andrews, a nephew of Mrs. Talbot, came about the same time. He had been several years in the West Indies, and was quite a good Spanish scholar. He died some years ago on his farm, just north of Cedar creek. James B. Atwood settled on his farm in 1828. In June of that year he claimed to have broken five acres of prairie and planted it in corn. He afterwards went to Texas. Andrew Robinson settled on the farm afterwards owned by old Mr. Terpening. He located again on a farm about seven miles north-east of Monmouth, where he, in after years, died. Adam Ritchie ("Sandy") settled near Sugar-Tree Grove in May, 1828. His son, Rev. Henderson Ritchie, born December 28, 1828, was the first white child born in Warren county. Mr. Ritchie afterwards went to Quincy, then to where Nanvoo was built, at which place he died of cholera. J. Buffum and L. P. Rockwell located where Rockwell's mill was afterwards built.

Daniel Harris, a quite, peaceful man, erected a cabin near where the village of Ellison now stands. He was basely murdered, while eating, by a gun-shot through the window. His was the first death in the county.

It is somewhat strange that the first deaths in the region were violent. Shortly after the killing of Mr. Harris, Mr. James Moffitt went out one morning to find his cattle, which had strayed away on the unbounded prairies. Getting upon a fence surrounding some choice garden or field, he unexpectedly fell and dislocated his neck, so that death resulted soon after. Afterwards, William Martin, son of Hugh Martin, was killed by Indians. An account of this and the trial of the murderer will be found further on in this narrative. Adam Ritchie (Black," as he was called on account of his dark color) located here about the same date as that of his cousin Adam (called "Sandy" on account of his sandy complexion, and to distinguish him from the other), but afterwards removed to Iowa, where he was a pioneer in the organization of the first Seceder church in that State.

Dr. Isaac Galland, or Garland--the latter is probably the correct name--erected, in 1827, the first house on the site of the lower Yellow Banks, now Oquaka, Henderson county. The Dr. afterwards related that it took him nearly a week to lay up the logs of his house, eight rounds high. There were no white men to help him, save his teamster, and in the emergency he hired six or eight Indians, who were then encamped at the point of woods below. He had to pay them for each log as it was rolled to its place, and give them a drink around. As they were unused to such labor, and particularly after imbibing two or three drams of liquor, thereby becoming unsteady in their movements, they were unable to perform heavy work. Often at this stage of the labor, the logs, which were unhewn, and of the black-jack variety, would give a lurch, and coming down on their bare arms and breasts, would tear off the skin in great flakes. They would give an ejaculatory "ouch," and at once quite for the day. Their love of the "fire-water" was so great, however, that they would always return on the following day, thereby repeating the process until the house was complete. A few other houses were probably built this year--1827. In 1828 and '29, quite a number of settlers came and located in different portions of the county. James and Rolla Simmons settled at Greenbush; John C. Bond shortly after, a little south of them; a family (name not now known) at the head of Swan creek; Field, Jarvis and Col. Redman at the head of Ellison creek; Samuel G. Morise, Thomas Pearce, Solomon Perkins and Shelden Lockwood near the present town of Berwick; Stephen S. Phelps at the Lower Yellow Banks; James Hodgens at Hodgens' Grove, just north-west of the present city of Monmouth; Samuel James on and sons, and James Ryerson south of the Yellow Banks.

Stephen S. Phelps purchased the improved claim of Dr. Garland, and removed his family to their new home in the summer of 1828. He was soon joined by the families of Bratty and Jeremiah Smith, in addition to several already mentioned. Mr. Smith erected a saw and grist miss on Smith creek, in 1829, and before a few summers had passed quite a settlement was established at this place.

In the Autumn of 1829, Elijah Davidson, So., William Whitman, Peter Butler and others located on the south side of Cedar creek. By this time the entire territory comprised in Warren, Henderson and Merger counties contained only about thirty or forty families; but others were constantly coming, so that by the spring of the latter year it was thought proper to send to Peoria and secure an order for a county election from Hon. Richard M. Young, Judge of the Circuit Court, and so well known in after years throughout the State.

By the census of 1830, there were that year in the territory included within the three counties 860 inhabitants. Other reasons urged this step. They were compelled to go to Peoria for all legal purposes--for all marriage licenses--or publish a notice ten days before the event, and young people then, as now, did not at all times care to make the happy affair so public a matter; they were compelled to adopt the former course.

The citizens desired to assess and collect their own taxes, and to manage affairs their own way. Petitions to this effect were freely circulated and freely signed.

*Daniel McNeil, Jr., who then lived at Lower Yellow Banks, was appointed to go to Peoria to meet the Judge and present the petition. Judge Young was then holding court in a building sixteen by twenty feet in dimensions, situated upon the bank of the river, just where the latter leaves the lake.

*This man was more generally known than any one of the early settlers. He held almost every office in the county at one time and another, and did more to advance its interests than any one else. He was born in Hillsborough, N. H., March 24, 1792; he emigrated to Phelps, N.Y., in 1805; to Louisiana in 1810. He returned to N. Y. again in 1814, and went to Wabash county, near Vincennes, Indiana, in 1819. In 1824 he removed to Fulton county, Illinois. In 1830 he came to Warren county, where he remained until 1852, when he went to De Witt, Iowa, where he died Feb. 28, 1859, aged seventy-six years.
It was then more than fifty miles from any part of Warren to Peoria by the most direct route. The Spoon and Kickapoo rivers were to be crossed between the two places, and they were often unfoldable by reason of overflows. The Judge saw the necessity of the people, and being satisfied there were enough within the prescribed limits of the county, issued the following order:

State OE Illinois,
Fifth Judicial Circuit,} sct.
The People of the State of Illinois, To all who shall see these presents,
Greeting:
Whereas, By the ninth and eleventh section's of the Act entitled "An Act forming new counties out of the counties of Pike and Fulton, and the attached parts thereof," approved January 13th, 1825, it is made the duty of the presiding Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois, whenever it shall be made to appear to his satisfaction, that either of the counties of Hancock, Warren, Merger, Henry, Putnam and Knox, contain three hundred and fifty inhabitants, to proceed to organize the same, and to grant an order for the election of county officers preparatory thereto: and whereas, it has been made appear to my satisfaction, that the county of Warren contains three hundred and fifty inhabitants and upwards; and inasmuch as the greater part of the qualified voters of the said county have requested, by petition, that the same should be organized with as little delay as possible, I do, therefore, in pursuance of the power vested in me, by virtue of the above recited Act, order and direct that an election be held in and for said county of Warren, at the house of Adam Ritchie, Jr., on Saturday, the third day of July, A. D. 1830, for the election of three county Commissioners, one Sheriff, and one Coroner, to serve, when elected and qualified, in and for the county of Warren, respectively, until they shall be superseded by persons who may be elected at the general election, to be held on the first Monday in August next; and for the purpose of having this order carried into execution, I do hereby appoint John B. Talbot, Adam Ritchie, Jr., and Robert K. Hendricks, of said county, judges of said election, whose duty it shall be to set up written or printed advertisements or notices of said election in at least six of the most public places in said county, inclusive of the place at which the election is hereby directed to be held (having a due regard to the situation and population of the different settlements), at least ten days previous to the said election, to the end that all persons may have timely notice thereof. The election to be held viva voce, between the hours of nine o'clock in the forenoon and seven 0'clock in the afternoon of said day, and conducted, as far as may be practicable, in conformity with the Act entitled "An Act regulating Elections," approved January 10th, 1829; and, lastly, the said judges are to certify the result of the said election to the office of the Secretary of State, as soon thereafter as may be convenient, in order that the persons who may be elected, may be commissioned and qualified with as little delay as possible, and after the election of said county officers, I do hereby declare the said county of Warren to be organized, and entitled to the same rights and privileges as the other counties in this State.

L. S. Given under my hand and seal, at Peoria, this 8th day of June, A. D. 1830, and of the Independence of the United States, the fifty-fourth.
Richard M. Young,
Circuit Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois.

Mr. Ritchie lived near the center of the population, and early on the morning of the day appointed for the election the voters assembled. Thirty-seven votes were polled, three voters being absent. The persons named in the order of Judge Young declining declining to serve as judges of election, the people appointed Robert K. Hendricks, Sheldon Lockwood and Peter Butler in their place, and Stephen S. Phelps and Daniel McNeil clerks. On counting the votes at the close of the balloting, John Pence, John B. Talbot and Adam ("Sandy") Ritchie were found elected Commissioners; John Rust, Sheriff, and John Ritchie, Coroner. Knox county, immediately east of Warren, and McDonough county, in the south, were each organized by order of Judge Young, on the same day, and at their elections each gave about the same number of votes as Warren.

On the Monday following the election in Warren, the Commissioners met at Lower Yellow Banks, at the house of Stephen S. Phelps, and organized as a Board of County Commissioners. They appointed Daniel McNeil their clerk, divided the county into two election precincts and two Justice's districts, the divisions being marked by the range line between three and four west. The western was called Precinct No. 1, and Yellow Banks Judge's District, the place of holding elections being the temporary courthouse. The eastern was called Precinct No.2, and the place of holding elections was appointed at the house of Isaac Hodgens, at Hodgens' Grove, one mile north-west of the present county seat. An election was ordered to be held at these places on the first Monday in August following, that being the general election day throughout the State. It was also ordered, that in addition to the State officers elected, there should be chosen three County Commissioners, one Sheriff, one Coroner, two Justices, two Constables in each precinct; and as the District Count was expected to hold a session before this election, the Commissioners selected a Grand and Petit Jury, which took every eligible man in the county.

The county being now organized, It was necessary that the laws of the State be put into force. Judge Young issued the following order:

"State of Illinois,
Fifth Judicial District.}sct.:
To all whom it may concern,Greeting:
"Know Ye, That I, Richard M. Young, Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit of the State of Illinois, north of the Illinois river, and presiding Judge of the Circuit Court, in and for the county of Warren, and State aforesaid, in pursuance of the power vested in me by virtue of the 10th section of the Act entitled 'An Act supplementary to an Act regulating the Supreme and Circuit Courts,' approved January 19, 1829, approved January 28, 1829, do hereby order and appoint, that Circuit Courts be held in and for the said county of Warren, at such places as may be selected and provided by the County Commissioners' Court of said county on the fourth Mondays in June and the first Mondays in October, until I shall make another order to the contrary.
"Signed, Richard M. Young,
Judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit."

This order was given at Galena on July 5th, preceding the general election, and on the same day the Judge gave the order for the organization of the county; he gave to Daniel McNeil the appointment of clerk, pro tem., for the Circuit Court, dating it at Peoria, on October 1st, 1830, where he held court, at the house of John B. Gunner. At the general election in August, votes were cast for Governor, Lieut.-Governor, Representative to the General Assembly of the State, and for the county officers, as ordered by the Commissioners. Forty-seven votes were cast, forty-three being the greatest number of one candidate received, and every voter in the county was present save three. Hon. John Reynolds received thirty-four votes for Governor, and William Kinney eleven. Hon._____Wright was elected Representative; and for the county offices, the following persons were chosen; John B. Talbot, Peter Butler and John Pence, Commissioners; Stephen S. Phelps, Sheriff, and John Ritchie, Coroner. At the Yellow Banks District, John Pence and Daniel McNeil, Jr., were elected Justices, and James Ryerson and William Causland, Constables. At the Hodgens' Grove District, John B. Talbot, ("Sandy") Adam Ritchie were elected Justices, and David Findley and _____ _____Constables. Daniel McNeil having been appointed Clerk of Circuit Court, the county was now in complete running order. For some reason no preparation was made for holding the Circuit Court, and the Judge met with the Clerk at the house of John B. Gunner, at Henderson's Grove, and after performing a little formulatory business, each returned to his home.

It was customary in these days to have something to "take" at all elections, and the "take" was pretty generally indulged in by all. At the election in August, already referred to, a bucket was filled with whiskey, and a sufficient number of tin cups placed therein, and all who desired could freely imbibe. The Indians were present at the time in a strong representation and indulged in their favorite "fire-water" to their full. Approaching the successful candidate at the close of the election, they congratulated them in a series of grunts and approving gestures, using in many cases their only English sentence expressive of their ideas--"You big chief, big chief, me little chief, so high" measuring a short distance from the ground. Or "Keokuk, big chief, big chief," measuring with extended arm as high as they could reach.

The county being now fully organized, it became necessary to have a seat of justice, and as the inhabitants residing therein could not decide upon the location, they petitioned the Legislature to select it. This the body did, by appointing three commissioners to perform the duty. They were Major Hazen Bedel, of Hancock county, John G. Sanburn, of Knox county, and John McNeil, of Fulton. The Act appointing these persons as Commissioners to locate the county seat passed the Legislature, and was approved January 27, 1831. The Act directed them to meet at the house of Stephen S. Phelps on the first Monday of the following April, and being duly sworn by some judge or justice in the county, they were “faithfully to take into consideration the convenience of the people, the situation of the settlements with a view to the future population of said county and the eligibility of the situation, shall proceed to fix upon a place for the permanent seat of justice for said county, and give to it a name.”

On the day appointed these persons met and were duly sworn before Daniel McNeil, Jr., a justice, and at once proceeded to select a location. Yellow Banks, Hodgen’s Point, Center Grove and Ellison’s Creek were all contestants for the place. In order to ascertain what the future population might be, the commissioners made a plat of the county and placed in each township the probable number of towns, varying from four to forty-two.

On April the 7th they completed the work assigned them, and sealing and directing a package containing their decision to the “County Commissioners Court of Warren County, Illinois,” they departed to their homes.

At a called meeting of the latter court, on the 11th day of the same month, the package was opened and was found to locate the seat of justice on section 29, in township 11. The reader will find their decision given at the commencement of the history of Monmouth, in their own words.

In choosing the name of the new county seat, each commissioner selected the names; from these, three were drawn, which proved to be Isabella, Kosciusko and Monmouth. These were thrown together, and it was agreed that the one drawn should be the name. Kosciusko was drawn, when it was suggested by the commissioner who first selected it, that very few of the inhabitants could spell it correctly, and he moved a drawing of the other two names be made. This was done, and resulted in the name the city now bears.

The summer of 1831 was remarkably cold. Dark spots were plainly seen by the naked eye to cover the sun. The crops were almost a failure, and an early winter set in. Snow fell on the 4th day of October, but the skies clearing off, a fine spell of weather came in, which lasted a few weeks and enabled the settlers to gather their corn. The winter began again with a storm of rain which lasted until the prairies were covered with water. It then changed to snow, and became in a few hours bitterly cold. Within twelve hours after the change, the prairies were a complete glare of ice, and neither man or beast could move with safety. Men were known to go five miles or more to get horse-shoes and nails made, and returning home would set the shoes with a common drawing-knife and hammer. By such means only were they able to obtain fuel. The ice lasted six weeks, and about the 1st of February, 1832, a snow fell to the depth of nine inches. This lay on the ground nearly six weeks and furnished excellent sleighing, which was greatly improved by the residents in transporting any articles needed.

The spring of 1832 opened rather late, the weather was cold, and, like the previous spring, but little corn came up. the settlers had taken the precaution, however, to procure a species of Indian maize, known as ”squaro corn,” which matured much earlier than the common variety, and that season a very good crop was raised.

Their crops had hardly been planted when they were disturbed by news of an Indian war. Black Hawk and his band were becoming troublesome, and on the first of May Governor Reynolds encamped at the Yellow Banks with a large number of volunteers to aid in the subjection of this famous Indian chief. There was no one in Warren county skilled in the manual of arms, and great fears were expressed by the people least, on the Governor’s absence, the savages would come from beyond the Mississippi River and destroy them. To allay these fears and give the citizens an opportunity to show their patriotism, the Governor issued the following special commission:

”Camp at Yellow Banks,
May 4th, 1832
I do hereby appoint Daniel McNeil to give notice that an election for a major of militia, composing an odd battalion in Warren county, will be held at Monmouth, at some convenient time, within ten days from the date of this appointment. And I do further authorize the said McNeil to conduct said election according to law, and to give the person elected major a certificate of his election, which will authorize said major to cause elections to be held for company officers, so that said militia be organized with speed to defend their lives from Indian depredations; and in case of necessity, the said McNeil is authorized to call on one or more companies to range the frontier for its defense.
(Signed,) John Reynolds.
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Ill. Militia.”

In accordance with the above order, notice was given and an election, which resulted in the choice of Peter Butler, as major of the odd battalion, who forthwith ordered elections to be held at different points, for company officers, in certain districts of the county, and the organization of the militia was complete.

Governor Reynolds passed on to Rock River with his troops, and the citizens becoming alarmed for their safety, being without a patrol, or body of rangers, for protection, petitioned McNeil to all volunteers. He complied, and on the 31st of May issued a call, to meet at Monmouth on 4th day of June. At this latter date a company of thirty men, three commissioned, and five non-commissioned officers was formed, and reported for duty at the War Department at the City of Washington and to the Governor of the State.

For the entertainment of the readers of these pages, a copy of the muster roll of this company is herewith given:

“A copy of Captain Peter Butler’s company of Mounted Volunteer Rangers in the service of the United States, ordered out by Daniel McNeil, Junior, Agent of John Reynolds, Commander-in-Chief of the Militia of the State of Illinois, from the 4th day of June, 1832, the day of its enrollment, to the 15th day of its disbandment and discharge at Fort Gumm, fifteen miles from the place of its enrollment.

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