Circuit Court-1866

County History-1816

County Sheriffs

Did You Know?

Egyptian Chapter DAR

Harrell's Lecture, 1875

Jail Inspection

Poor Farm

Post Offices--Past and Present

Postmaster Appointed


How Southern Illinois Came To Be Called Egypt, Jan 9, 1866

1937 Tamms CCC Camp

More CCC News

THIRD DAY—November Term
    Present:  Hon. Wm. H. Green, Judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit, presiding
    George W. Wall, Esq., Prosecuting Attorney
    Charles D. Arter, Esq., Sheriff of Alexander County

    John McKinney was put on trial after the usual morning motions had been disposed of, for stealing a hat from the store of Isaac Mooney, valued at $8.  The proof was that at an early hour in the morning, about two weeks ago, accused came into the store and inquired for drawers.  While the clerk was in the rear of the store, in search of the drawers, McKinney passed out, taking from a hat rack near the front door a black silk, plush hat worth $8, leaving in its stead, his own.  The clerk, Mr. Scharff, saw the theft, pursued McKinley, who made no attempt to escape, snatched the hat from his head, and returned to the store.  The accused followed to recover his own hat, and was arrested.  He was, it was proven, under the influence of liquor.  The prosecution was conducted by S. P. Wheeler, the defense by D. W. Munn.  The jury returned a verdict of guilty, fixing the term of imprisonment at 18 months.
    The case of Mrs. Mary Keyon was then taken up.  She having on a previous day of the term entered a plea of not guilty, but at the suggestion of her attorney, withdrew that plea, plead guilty and threw herself on the mercy of the Court.  B. F. Parker was sworn—testified that Mrs. Keyon took away from the possession of his wife, two silk dresses, of the aggregate value of $50; that one of them was found in her possession, and the other found elsewhere by her direction.
    The court impressed upon the prisoner the enormity of her offense, but would not, on the presumption that this was her first offense, punish her to the extent of the law.  The sentence was that she should be confined in the penitentiary for twelve months, nine months of the time at hard labor and three months in solitary confinement.
    The next case taken up, and perhaps the most important one of the term, was that of the People vs. Riley H. Mansfield and Robert S. Gibbons, on the charge of larceny.  This case is brought to Alexander County by a change of venue from Union.  It is widely known as the“Hartline Robbery” and has not only excited the attention of the neighboring people but the comments of the local press.
    About two hours’ time was consumed in securing a jury, and not until about the hour of 3 o’clock p.m., was Court ready to receive testimony.
    Five witnesses were sworn on part of the prosecution and twenty-six on part of the defendants. The witnesses for each party were then separated, and Isaac Hartline, the complaining witness placed upon the stand.  Mr. Hartline is an old man, evidently honest, but ignorant.  His testimony was substantially as follows.  He resides in Union County, about 3 ¼ miles from Jonesboro.  His residence is a two-story building with two rooms above the two below, stands north and south and has a kitchen in the rear.  The prisoners came to the house after night, knocked at the door and were admitted.  Said they had come over from Missouri—wanted supper.  They were told that the old lady was sick and there was no one in the house to provide supper.  Elijah Hartline, a half hour before this time, not feeling very well, went upstairs to bed.  The accused insisted on having supper.  Old woman finally yielded and set them a cold supper.  They ate sparingly, returned to the room they had at first entered, paid fifty cents each for their suppers and then applied for lodgings, which they were refused.  Two guns were sitting behind the door.  These then accused seized, shut the door leading to the kitchen, drew their revolvers and seized the old man and tied him to the bed post—they tied also the old woman, who was lying in the bed sick of fever.  They then demanded of the old man his money; took from a coat hanging up, the sum of $65, from the old man’s pantaloons’ pocket about eight dollars; from a pocket book in the pocket of another coat in the room took $100 or more.  One of the accused then went upstairs, brought the young man Elijah down and tied him.  Gibbons then went upstairs to plunder, the other remaining downstairs.  As to the amount of money they obtained upstairs, or altogether, they witness was very uncertain.  He said Phillips had paid him $500; that they got that; that he had given paper for $231 in gold, which he had in a chest upstairs, and that the thieves got that.  They also got three bills of “premium money,” two of $100 each, and one of $50.  He had two or three other $100 United States notes, which were taken.  The gold taken was all in twenty dollar pieces, except one ten and one five dollars piece.  Besides these sums, $10, $15 or $20 in change, made up of 10, 25 and 50-cent coins, was taken from a trunk.  The aggregate amount taken (which, however, was not made up by the details recited) amounted to $2,800 or $3,000.
    The accused were engaged about one hour or hour and a half plundering.  While accused were out of the room, old woman said, “I’m loose,”—witness told her to lie still, accused would come and kill ‘em—finally they took money and went off.  Soon saw smoke from south room upstairs, cried to old woman to get knife and cut witness and Elijah loose, which she managed to do; witness then carried two buckets water upstairs, threw it on fire.  This we believe to be the substance of the old man’s direct testimony.  It has been extracted from an immense mass of unimportant detail, and will furnish perhaps an intelligent idea as to the character of the crime committed.
    On cross examination, conducted by Judge Mulkey, the old man was somewhat confused and showed an uncertainty about matters of time, clothing, distances, &c, which may, possibly, have considerable weight in the outcome.  As the additional facts drawn out were of no public importance we omit them.  Mr. Hartline pointed out the prisoners at the bar as the men who committed the robbery, and declared that he recognized them after the robbery, on the platform at the Anna Station.  He could not be mistaken, he said, as to the men.
    Elijah Hartline—Pointed out the defendants; saw them first on the 16th of Nov. 1865, at the house of Isaac Hartline; had gone to bed; heard the rattling of dishes, supposed they were eating supper.  Mansfield came upstairs with pistol and candle in his hand and ordered witness down stairs.  Gibbons had a rope—they tied me and demanded my money. Gibbons then went upstairs.  Isaac got loose from bedstead to which he had been tied, ran out doors, hands tied behind him—they brought him back, retired him to bedstead—mother had her hands tied before he got loose and cut Isaac and me loose; they then said we could stand tied very well until morning; can’t ay how long we were tired.  Saw prisoners next at Jonesboro; and recognized them, at sight.
    The cross examination brought out the further facts that prisoners were then dressed differently.  Gibbons had no whiskers, Mansfield had whiskers.  Did not tell Mr. Keller that the tall prisoner had a white hat, but wide brim—nor that tall man had goatee, not that small one was smooth-shaved.  When Isaac got loose Mansfield brought him back and fired pistol through floor.  Each prisoner went upstairs trice.  Did not state they were in house two hours—they got there about eight o’clock—not positive as to time.
    Mr. Kelly examined—Am acquainted with defendants; saw them at 5 ½ or 6 o’clock Nov. 16, 1865; was keeping salon in Anna; Gibbons and others came in while I was lighting lamp; played billiard with Gibbons; said he had other business tonight; about 6 or 7 Mansfield came in; they conferred together and went away; saw Mansfield next morning; he came to town in buggy; Hartline gave description of robbers; I at once suspected defendants; I was at Jonesboro when Hartline recognized them.
    (The balance of the testimony as drawn out will appear tomorrow.)
--Source:  Cairo Daily Democrat, Thursday, 22 Nov 1866.

FOURTH DAY—November Term
    Present:  Hon. Wm. H. Green, Judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit, presiding
    George W. Wall, Esq., Prosecuting Attorney
    Charles D. Arter, Esq., Sheriff of Alexander County
    John Q. Harman, Circuit Clerk

    The evidence in the case of the People v. Gibbon and Mansfield; charged with the commission of the notorious Hartline robbery, was at once resumed after the opening of Court:
    Mr. Keller—Cross examined.  Elijah Hartline came there about twelve or one o’clock, and gave a description of the men—one had a stiff-brimmed hat, others had wide brim, thought it white, but not certain.  Hartline did not state that tall man was dark complexion and wore goatee; but did say tall man was clean shaved.  Small man had Burnside whiskers, not goatee.  I at once recognized the defendant from the description of Mr. Hartline.
    Dr. Condon—Lived in Jonesboro.  Elijah Hartline described defendants—objected to by defense—objection sustained, and witness reserved for rebutting testimony.
    Mrs. EweryDefendant Mansfield boarded with us Nov. 16, 185, took supper about 7 o’clock, after others had supper.
    Cross examined—Mansfield left immediately after supper.
    Alonzo Bohannon—Am acquainted with defendants—saw them on the night of the Hartline robbery, at my father’s saloon in Anna.  I think between 7 and 8 o’clock.  Robert Gibbons was playing billiards.  I had no time piece, but think it was 7 or 8 o’clock.  I left them in saloon.  Recollect time by arrival of train at 8 o’clock.  Did not see trains, but heard.  Did not see defendants after train left.
    Thomas Perrine—Know the defendants, saw them on the night of the Hartline robbery in billiard saloon, saw Robert and James Gibbons first time about 7 o’clock.  I remained and looked on while Robert Gibbons (defendant) played two or three games—left them playing or standing—at least left them in saloon about 8 o’clock—did not look at watch, suppose it was about 8—left there few minutes after freight train came up—soldiers’ train had arrived early in evening and left before arrival of freight train.
    Cross Examined—Didn’t go to train—did not see it—know nothing about starting of soldier train, but am positive two trains passed up; was not deceived by switching of cavalry train—nothing but train’s fixed time of evening in my mind.  Defendant Mansfield came in saloon after train left—don’t recollect that he remarked to Gibbons, “We had better be going.”
A. W. Robinson—Lived in Anna and am acquainted with defendants—saw them on the 16th November, 1865, in billiard saloon about half past 7 o’clock p.m.—my time may be wrong—they were playing billiards.  Robert Gibbons played a discount game with me afterwards—consumed probably 15 or 20 minutes.  I played a game or two after defendants left saloon.
Cross Examined—Saw defendant Mansfield come in saloon; he held no conference with them that I noticed. He, Gibbons and others left together, talking.
Written testimony of J. D. Perryman was introduced.  It was to the effect that he saw defendants on the night of the robbery in Anna, about 8 o’clock.
J. E. Johnson—Live in Anna, am acquainted with prisoners.  I left them in Bohannon’s saloon about 8 o’clock—looked at not time piece; guess was about 8 o’clock.
I. N. Hunter—Saw defendant Mansfield at Hammond’s saloon between 6 and 7 o’clock evening of robbery.  Saw him again at Mr. Bysinger’s saloon about 10 or 11—he was in company with Robert Gibbons and others.  They left before I did.
Mrs. Mary Williams—Keep hotel—know Gibbons, he boards at my house, took supper there with Ferguson and others on the night of Nov. 16, 1865—supper by lamp light, hardly 6 o’clock.  Can’t say Gibbons slept in house that night—heard, however, steps of persons on stairs about 11 o’clock, and found his bed tumbled next morning.
Amanda Martin—am employed by Mrs. Williams—saw defendant Gibbons at supper table on eve of Nov. 16th, 1865, supper at 6 o’clock.  He took breakfast next morning.  Heard some one go up stairs about 10 or 11 at night—don’t know who as saw no one.
Dennis Kaufman—(this witness is about 15 years old and appeared considerably agitated.)  I am in Brown’s employ—Brown keeps a livery stable in Jonesboro.  I help about the stable—know the prisoners—Saw Mansfield in Hammond’s Grocery between 6 and 7 on the evening of the robbery—didn’t see him afterwards.  Gibbons returned with buggy about 15 minutes before 9 o’clock, on evening of 16th November.  Know the time because generally went to bed about 8, and was waiting for buggy to come—always notice the clock.  I put up buggy, saw no more of Gibbons that night—defendants were in habit of getting horses and buggies and going out at night.  Cannot be mistaken as to time; cannot be mistaken as to Robert Gibbons.
Cross-examined, rigorously—Don’t recollect swearing in Union Court that it was five minutes before nine when the buggy was brought back.  Don’t recollect what I wore.  I know better now than I did then.  Two horses and a horse and buggy were cut that night.  One of the two horses was Brown’s; the other Mr. Gibbons had taken up.  Gibbons got the buggy between sundown and dark.  He has got horses and buggy before.  It is not unusual to get two horses and a buggy.  Don’t know any other time, however, can’t say anything about it.  I know the clock was running.  I know it run regularly.  Saw Mr. Mansfield in saloon; he spoke to me about 6 or 7.  I left first.  Brown had not come home when I went to bed.  Had no talk about this case.  Nobody told me what to say.  I don’t know who rode the horses that were out that night.  Hired boy came after horses.  Don’t know who took out buggy.  Don’t recollect whether moon or stars were shining.  Knew Robert Gibbons’ voice.  Kimmel and James Gibbons were outside.  Heard them talking.  Robert Gibbons handed me the reins, and me and the boy Riggs put away buggy.
William A. Brown—Lived in Jonesboro ten or twelve years.  On the 16th of November, 1865, was keeping livery stable there—carried mail to Anna—run hack connecting to cars.  Know the defendants.  Gibbons in the tombstone business.  I saw Mansfield with Ferguson the night of the Hartline robbery—came to my stable to return horses they had been riding.  I put up Mansfield’s horse about 9 o’clock.  I had been at home, when they arrived from three to five minutes.  Knew it was 9 because always set an alarm to get up by.  Defendants had hired horses before that—was not present when Gibbons returned the buggy.  I made connection with train next morning by being governed by same clock by which I timed the return of horses the previous evening.  The boy Kauffman was upstairs in bed—I spoke to him—asked if buggy was returned—boy was in bed and awake.  Looked at clock when put horses away, it was 9 o’clock.
    Elijah Phelps—Am engineer on Illinois Central railroad.  From Dongola to Jonesboro is nine miles; Jonesboro to South Pass five miles.  Freight trains make former distance in about 45 minutes latter in about 20 minutes.  Person could jump off train at Section 30, but not between Jonesboro and South Pass without great danger.
    Mr. Hammond—Lived in Jonesboro since February 1865.  I saw defendants on 16th November, 1865.  Defendants came into my saloon, asked for a deck of cards—told them I had no cards, and would not allow playing if I had.  I have no recollection of the time.  Might be 6, 7, or 8 o’clock.  Paid no attention to the time.
    Edward Bysinger—Live in Jonesboro—was there on 16th November, 1865—keep a saloon—saw defendants at my house that night about 9 o’clock, I guess.  My saloon is 200 yards from Brown’s livery stable—they stayed in my saloon from 9 o’clock to 10 minutes of 11.  I shut up saloon and stayed in saloon with business man from St. Louis.  Defendants asked to come in to get something to drink—for that reason I remember the time.  The two Gibbonses, Kimmell, Mansfield, and others were there drinking beer and having fun—singing and giving toasts.  I looked at clock before they came in and when they left.  John Gettinger came in about 10 o’clock.  Was there an hour.
    Cross Examined—Keep (?)onen all time; never shut up; can’t say who was in saloon at 6 except St. Louis gentleman; can’t say who was in from 7 to 8; several Dutchmen there, Mike Fittig and couple more—John Gettinger and Hursch came in saloon together, from cotton gin, between 9 and 10.  When they returned defendants and others were in saloon; Hursch came a little before and Gettinger a little after—I was just going to shut up at 10 minutes before 9 when defendants and some others came to get in.  Hursch came in 10 or 15 minutes after defendants; defendants called first for beer, “make a toast” and turn round and drink again—“took more as two drink”—they all treat and all drink—can’t tell how often.
    Mr. Shore—Was in Jonesboro on 16th November, 1865—saw defendants on night of Hartline robbery about 11 o’clock, with others, on street between two saloons.  Spoke to Gibbonses as I passed.  They were going toward hotel.  When I went into saloon it was 20 minutes to 11.  I looked at the clock—noticed it particularly as I had to work until 12.  Did not see defendants any more.
    Cross Examined—When met crowd on street defendant Mansfield turned back with me and went into saloon—was in saloon about 3 minutes.  I work at cotton gin until midnight.  Hursch of St. Louis and Gettinger were at gin in fore part night.
    H. H. Williams—Am son of Mary Williams who keeps Jonesboro Hotel.  On night of Hartline robbery saw Robert Gibbons and Mansfield in company with Kimmel—saw Gibbons in Bysinger’s saloon and Mansfield going in as I stepped out.  By Bysinger’s clock it was 20 minutes to 11—I had been working with others at cotton gin.  Three others went with me from gin to saloon—all went in together—am certain saw Ferguson and Mansfield there at 20 minutes to 11. Stayed there about 5 minutes, drank and returned to cotton gin.
    Cross-Emanined—Don’t recollect seeing Gettinger or Hursch in saloon.  Can’t say who was with Bysinger when we went in.  Saw Mr. Robert Gibbons at counter when I went in.  Mansfield stepped in as I went out.  Judged of time by Bysinger’s clock.  Do not know that these men went to Hartline’s that night—heard not a word about their going.
    Robert Smith—I live in Jonesboro—know defendants—saw Mansfield night of Hartline robbery, at Bysinger's saloon—I was in company with Shore and others.  Saw a crowd pass by as we were going to saloon.  Mansfield was standing at the door as we passed in—was in the saloon about 10 minutes.  It was about 11 o’clock—lacked 20 minutes to 11 by Bysinger’s clock—took  a drink of whisky—noticed clock just as I started.  I returned to cotton gin—John Shore remarked, “We have got just 1 hour and 20 minutes to work.  Mansfield went in with us—he left before we did.  The crowd we met were going in direction of Mrs. Williams hotel.
    Cross-examined—Came from Missouri.  Lived in Jonesboro eighteen months.  Four went together from gin to saloon.  Think moon was shining.  Don’t know as anybody spoke to crowd we passed.  Didn’t notice.  Don’t know who crowd were.  Bysinger was in saloon; no one else.  Mansfield was at door, and went in just after us.  This was about ten minutes after we passed the crowd.  Think I should have seen anybody else in room besides Bysinger if they had been there.  There is a backroom, with door to saloon.
    John Gettinger—Know the prisoners.  Saw them on night of Hartline robbery at Bysinger’s.  Mr. Hursch was there.  He and I and Surgeon had been to cotton gin.  Mr. Mansfield, Gibbons and his brother and others were in the saloon.  Mr. Ferguson, I think, was there also.  I know defendants were in there drinking beer, making little speeches, toasts, and talking.  Think I left saloon before defendants.  Think it was near 11 o’clock when I left Bysinger’s—I had no time piece—I went to gin with Hursch and other gentleman and came back with them.
    Cross Examined—Went to Bysinger’s with Hursch between 10 and 11 o’clock—think defendants came in afterwards—not long afterwards, as wasn’t there long myself.  Several persons went in saloon as I walked out.  Defendants were drinking beer and were merry.
    James R. Gibbons—I am brother to prisoner, Robert Gibbons—lived in Jonesboro in November, 1865, was in business of marble cutting in employ of Ferguson & GibbonsMansfield was engaged in selling tombstones for that firm.  Don’t know where Mansfield was on 16th of November—he was out selling stones.  During night of 16th went to boarding house, took supper, Robert and myself went in horse and buggy to Anna.  Robert sent German for horse—at Anna tied up horse to tree and went up street to see Ferguson if Mansfield had come home.  Robert and I then went into Keller’s saloon, took glass beer, went out met Ferguson—went back to Keller’s and got another drink—then went to billiard saloon of Mr. Nantz in Anna, formerly the Bohannon saloon.  On arrival game of billiards was going on—waited for table –then played two games with Robert, and after that Robert and Mr. _____ played a game—after that Robert and myself got in buggy and went to Jonesboro, leaving buggy at Brown’s.  Mansfield and Ferguson rode horse over—met in Jonesboro, went to Bysinger’s saloon, stayed there awhile and then went home.  Don’t know positively when we went in.  Left Bysinger’s saloon at about half past 10 o’clock.  We went from saloon to Mrs. Williams’ Hotel, passing by Hammond’s saloon, where we slept in room No. 7—Robert Gibbons, myself and Mr. Keller entered hotel at the same time, Mr. Ferguson sleeping during the night with Robert Gibbons.  We went to bed about 11 o’clock.  When awoke in morning saw all that had gone to bed there the night previous.  When parted with Mansfield night previous, he went to his boarding house.  We arrived at Anna about 7 o’clock.  Left the saloon in Anna at half past 8; saw a soldier train arrive at Anna before we went to saloon.  Mr. Mansfield was there, don’t know what time he arrived.
    Cross Examined—Am brother of Robert Gibbons.  Started to Anna about half past 6—after dark.  Kimmel and Ferguson played billiards—brother sent for horse—horse and buggy came together—brother and self went to Anna in buggy, Ferguson and Kimmel on horseback.  Don’t know how Mansfield went to Anna—don’t know his business there.  Night star light—no moon.  Think I saw Mr. Mansfield in the saloon—he made a remark soon after he came, “It’s time to go home”  had no private conversation—went to bar took drinks, then I went out—went up to corner, waited for Mansfield and Robert to come up, then went over to Jonesboro.  About 15 minutes past 8 when left saloon—stayed at corner 5 minutes, then Mr. Kimmel, my brother and self got in buggy and started.
    Mr. Ferguson—Know the defendants—I boarded at Mrs. Williams’ in Jonesboro, at time of Hartline robbery.  Mr. Ferguson proceeded and corroborated the testimony of James Gibbons as to the trip to Anna, the game of billiards there and the return to Jonesboro.  He also detailed the manner in which defendant’s time was employed after they returned to Jonesboro, adding nothing of consequence to the testimony already elicited.  Robert Gibbons went to bed at Mrs. Williams’s Hotel and was there in the morning.  Mr. Mansfield arrived at the Anna billiard saloon about 6 o’clock, and I conversed with him there on business.
    Cross Examined—Engaged in business conversation with Mansfield about fifteen minutes.  The cross examination was pushed to a great length, but varied the direct testimony but little, and called out no additional facts of consequence.
    Other witnesses remain to be examined on the part of the defense, but as all the prominent facts have been drawn out we here close our report of the testimony.  At the time our report was being put into type the arguments in the case were being presented to the jury.
--Cairo Daily Democrat, Friday, 23 Nov 1866.


FIFTH DAY—November Term
    Present:  Hon. Wm. H. Green, Judge of the 3rd Judicial Circuit, presiding
    George W. Wall, Esq., Prosecuting Attorney
    Charles D. Arter, Esq., Sheriff of Alexander County
    John Q. Harman, Circuit Clerk

    In the case of The People vs. Riley H. Mansfield and Robert S. Gibbon (the evidence in which has been furnished to our readers), the jury returned a verdict of not guilty.  The case was ably argued by Dougherty and Webb on the part of the People and Mulkey and Jones on the part of the defense—the Court remaining in session until about midnight for that purpose.
--Cairo Daily Democrat, Saturday, 24 Nov 1866.


Cairo Daily Democrat, 05 Dec 1866

Submitted by Darrel Dexter
The Hartline robbery continues to excite discussion in Union County.  The Jonesboro Gazette says, most truly, that for heartlessness and shocking depravity the crime stands without a parallel in the history of the county.  The isolated residence of an old man was entered by two robust villains, and not only robbed of $3,000 or $4,000, but the old man, a woman confined to her bed by sickness, and a relative of the family were tied, hand and foot, and then, as if with the hope of wiping out every trace of their guilt, these fiends set fire to the building.  Providentially, as it were, the old lady was not securely tied, and released herself and the others from what otherwise would have been a certain and awful death.  Two persons, Riley H. Mansfield and Robert S. Gibbons, were, through a change of venue, it will be remembered, lately tried for this robbery in the Circuit Court of this county.  The old gentleman and his nephew identified them most positively, but a chain of evidence made perfect by the testimony of the employee and a brother of one of the accused, established an alibi.  They were, of course, acquitted.  That three will, however, ever continue to be a diversity of opinion as to their innocence, is most evident.  The Gazette, referring to the general exasperation that succeeded the crime, says, “It aroused the people, and had there been proof sufficient, the court of Judge Lynch would have been assembled, and the villains hanged higher that Haman.”


In 1816 the settlement of Trinty was established just below the mouth of the Cache River. America was laid out in 1818 by James Riddle, Henry Bechtle and Thomas Sloo and Stephen and Henry Rector. William M. Alexander was an agent and physician of great eminence. The county is named after Dr. Alexander. Dr. Alexander represented Pope County in the Legislature from 1820-1822 and Alexander County from 1922-24 when he was Speaker of the House.

The legislative act under which Alexander County was created was entitled, "An act forming the detached part of Union County into a separate county" and was approved March 4, 1819. America became the first county seat. It was located on the Ohio River and was laid out in 1818. The county seat was removed to near the center of the county in 1833 to a place called Unity, where it remained until the county was divided and Pulaski County was formed. Unity was the second county seat from 1833-1845. Thebes was county seat from 1846-1859 and Cairo from 1859 to the present. The court house in Cairo was completed in 1865. --Source: Excerpts from HISTORY OF ALEXANDER, UNION AND PULASKI COUNTIES, Edited by William Henry Perrin, Chicago: O. L. Baskin and Company, Historical Publisher, 183 Lake Street, 1883.

Alexander County, the extreme southern county of the State, being bounded on the west by the Mississippi, and south and east by the Ohio and Cache Rivers. Its area is about 230 square miles and its population in 1890 was 16, 563. The first American settlers were Tennesseeans named Bird, who occupied the delta and gave it the name of Bird's Point, which at the date of the Civil War (1861-65), had been transferred to the Missouri shore opposite the mouth of the Ohio. Other early settlers were Clark, Kennedy and Philips (at Mounds), Conyer and Terrel (at America), and Humphreys (near Caledonia). In 1818 Shadrach Bond (afterwards Governor), John G. Comyges and others entered a claim for 1800 acres in the central and northern part of the county, and incorporated the "City and Bank of Cairo." In 1818 (on Comyges' death) the land reverted to the Government; but in 1835 Sidney Breese, David J. Baker and Miles A. Gilbert re-entered the forfeited bank tract and the title thereto became vested in the "Cairo City and Canal Company," which was chartered in 1837, and by purchase, extended its holdings to 10,000 acres. The county was organized in 1819; the first county-seat being America, which was incorporated in 1820. Population 1900, 19,384. --Source: Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois, Chicago: Munsell Publishing Company, 1909, p.14.


1829--David H. Moore/James S. Smith
1830--Wilson Able
1832--Franklin Hughes
1834--Solomon Parker
1836--Solomon Parker/Joshua McRaven
1837--Joshua McRaven/Jesse J. McLenden
1839--J. J. McLenden
1845--Alexander W. Anderson
1848--Green Massey
1851--Coventry Cully
1852--William C. Massey
1853--James L. Brown
1857--C. C. Cole
1858--N. Hunsaker
1860--John Hodges
1863--O. Greenlee
1864--Charles D. Arter
1872-74--A. H. Irvin
1878-1882--John Hodges
1911--A. S. Fraser

(This article appeared in an area paper, probably the Cairo Citizen, date is unknown.  It was contributed by Melvin Hazelwood.)

Did you know that Dogtooth Bend was the scene of the first settlement in this section of Southern Illinois?
Four families who came to the area in 1809 were named Harris, Wade, Crane and Powers.  This group built the first schoolhouse in this section.
The Wilson Able family came to the area about 1812 and located about 12 miles north of what later became Cairo, where they established their home, a landing for boats and a store which furnished commodities to early settlers and flat-boatmen on the river.
After the advent of the first steamboat, which burned wood for fuel, Able's Landing became an important place of business in furnishing the wood for the steamboats, as well as receiving merchandise shipped from the east to supply the local families.
The families of Jospeh Harvil and Henry Sowers settled just north of the Able Store and were prominent in the early development of this area.
Cliff Hazelwood came to America from England in 1758 and to Illinois in 1812.  The Hazelwood Precinct was named in honor of this family and Cliff's grandson, Salmon, was the first postmaster there in 1870.  James McCrite came to Illinois in 1813 and settled near Sandy Creek.
The earlist mail carrier recorded was Levi Hughes, who came to the Illinois Territory in 1812.  He carried mail from Elvira (later named Jonesboro), to Unity, Sandusky, Goose Island, Santa Fe, Thebes and East Cape Girardeau.  Traveling on horseback, he followed Indian trails and made this trip twice a month.


By Illinois State Charities Commission, December 31, 1911; contributed by Candi Horton

Reports of Inspections of County Jails Visited During 1911

 A. S. FRASER, Sheriff.

 The Alexander county jail is an insanitary place of detention in the court house basement. Part of the jail-rooms are so dark that the electric lights  are turned on during the day; all of the rooms are very damp.  There are two sections for men. One is a jail-room which has no cage; only men who are unlikely to want to get out of jail can be restrained here.  The room is dark, wretchedly ventilated. At the time of inspection, nine men — colored and white — occupied this section. The beds consist of hammocks  and blankets. An inadequate number of windows is provided.  The other section for men has an iron cage with a central corridor and four cells, arranged in two rows. These cells are ventilated by means of lattice backs and lattice doors. As there are but four small windows, insufficient air is supplied, especially when, as at the time of inspection, seventeen prisoners  are confined in the cage. One of these prisoners is a minor of seventeen years; one, a minor, of sixteen years. The statute provides that minors shall not be confined with notorious offenders; although several prisoners in the cage were held for murder and several for larceny, these minors were placed with them, as the county furnishes no separate department. The seventeen prisoners shuffle up and down a corridor about thirteen feet long, dark, damp and ill-ventilated; this is all the exercise afforded them.  Quantities of disinfectant are used, but as the county provides the men no change of clothing, no bathing facilities and neither washes the bedding  nor equips the men to wash them decently; vermin of all kinds infest the place.  Mosquitoes swarm through the unscreened windows.  Two separate cells are provided for women. They are dark, damp, ill-ventilated, the toilets are insanitary, the bedding is dirty.  Insane are placed in the jail with other prisoners, unless one of the cells for females is unoccupied.  Little reading matter is supplied. Prisoners are given but two meals a day.  The jail is condemnable as insanitary and for failure to provide separate cells for minors.  The bad conditions reflect in no way upon the keeper, as-it would be impossible to render the present quarters sanitary
 Probation Officers: Volunteers


Reports of Inspections of the County Infirmaries of Illinois in 1911

NOVEMBER 14, 1910

Contributed by Candi Horton

 WM. J. CHILDERS, Superintendent, Beech Ridge.
The Alexander county farm is located about two miles from Beech Ridge.  The farm contains about five hundred and eighty acres, but only one hundred and eighty acres are profitable for farming. Enough vegetables are usually produced to supply the inmates, but there is no fruit on the place, save apples. The residence building is a one and half story frame structure, without a basement. The inmates' building is a two story frame building,- without  a basement. The length, of this latter and larger building, extends east and west so that each room has either a northern or southern window. The rooms on the north are very gloomy and very cold in the winter as there is no stove in the building except in the kitchen and the sitting room, which are at the extreme east and west ends of the house.  The rough, old floors, with large cracks between the boards, and the loose plastering, render the house extremely uncomfortable. At the time of inspection, the windows were very dirty and the walls were grimy. The floors were fairly clean but a part of the mattresses and some of the bedding  were very dirty.  As there are but nine inmates at present the second floor is not being used.  Three of the inmates are colored and five, white. Only two inmates are able to do anything about the farm; both of them have very weak eyes.  Men and women eat in the same dining room. There is but one crippled woman at present; she may lock her door whenever she wishes to.  Insane, crippled, feeble-minded and aged, inmates share the same conditions. There is no bath tub which can be used. They have no light at night and their clothing is very ragged and patched. There are no rocking chairs in the place. The men sit in their stiff, old, broken chairs all day long, with nothing to do. None of them are able to read.

Additional information and census provided by Paula Haas and Janice Rice

William J. Childers was born October 1852 in Proctor Township, Crittenden County, Arkansas. He died October 10, 1915 in Cache, Alexander County, Illinois.  He is buried at Diswood Cemetery.  He married Mary E. Miller, February 2, 1873, by C. B. Sullivan, Minister of the Gospel.

1900 Federal Census--Goose Island--Alexander County, Illinois
Childers, Wm. J., head, white, male, born Oct 1852; age 47; md. 26y; place of birth: AR; Place of birth-father: TN; place of birth-mother: MS; farmer; rent.
Childers, Mary E., wife
Childers, Harry F., son
Childers, Mattie E., daughter
Childers, Ella A., daughter
Childers, Vida A., daughter
Childers, Wm. S., son
Childers, Gertie J., daugher
Childers, Vergie E., daughter

William and his family lived at Cache, Illinois, where he was the caretaker of the Alexander County Farm, better known as the "Poor Farm."
1910 Federal Census--Beech Ridge--Alexander County--April 25, 1910.
Farm Labor Home
Childers, Wm. J., head, b. 1852 AR; Father b. TN; Mother b. AL
Childers, Mary E., wife, b. 1833 IL; Father b. NC; Mother b. NC
Childers, Gertrude, daughter, age 15, b. IL; Father b. AR; Mother b. IL
Raina, Beck (Ronnebeck), (John), head, age 24; m-w-md1-0
Raina (Ronnebeck), Vida, wife, age 23; md1-0.
Burkhart, Sarah-pauper-F-W-58-md.1-wd-IL.
Chism, Maude-pauper-F-W-33-single-1 child-b. IL.
Pirtes, James-pauper-M-Mulatto-40-single-b. IL.
Darnels, Jeff-pauper-m-black-44-single-b. IL.
Hudyeation, Joe-pauper-M-W-52-S-England.
Malander, Wm-pauper-M-W-53-S-VA
Brown, Grant-pauper-m-w-42-m1-IL.
Brooke, Lula-pauper-f-w-49-wd-0-0-US
Lire, Harry-pauper-m-b-23-s-MO.
Clark, John-pauper-m-w-51-s-IL.
Johnson, Charley-pauper-m-w-60-s-Germany.
Mullins, Guss-pauper-m-w-30-s-LA.

(Note:  The Poor Farm was located just north and west of the intersection of Route 3 and Route 127.)


Alexandria (1855-1859)
America (1820-1835) 
Beech Ridge (1879-1914) 
Cache (1914-1986) 
Cairo (1839-Date) 
Caledonia (1835/1876) 
Camp Defiance (1861-1861) 
Cash River (1826-1827) 
Clank (1901-1914) 
Clear Creek Landing (1836-1887) 
Commercial Point (1879-1893) 
Delta (1900-1920) 
Diswood (1895-1917) 
Dogtooth (1854-1863) 
Dunning (1901-1901) 
East Cape Girardeau (1874-1913) 
Elco (1878-1998) 
Fayville (1906-1928) 
Gale (1902-1976) 
Goose Island (1859-1911) 
Hazlewood (1870-1874) 
Helena (1875-1876) 
Hodges Park (1876-1893) 
Hullens (1870-1876) 
Idlewild (1883-1900) 
Klondike (1898-1908) 
Mc Clure (1895-Date) 
Mill Creek (1840/1894) 
Miller City (1911-Date) 
Mouth Of Ohio (1837-1839) 
Olive Branch (1876-Date) 
Sandusky (1876-1923) 
Santa Fe (1838-1906) 
Smithfield (1838-1842) 
Tamms (1900-Date) 
Thebes (1845-Date) 
Toledo (1874-1878) 
Trinity (1827-1840) 
Unity (1) (1834-1876) 
Unity (2) (1884-1964) 
Unity Rur. Sta. (?-Date) 
Vick (1895-1900) 
Wheatland (1887-1895) 
Willard (1890-1911) 

Source: Used with permission from Jim Forte


Executive Mansion. December 11. 1893.

To the Senate of the United States:

I nominate M. J. Howley to be postmaster at Cairo, in the county of Alexander and State of  Illinois, in the place of John Wood, deceased.

Grover Cleveland

Source - Journal of the Executive Proceedings - 1909; contributed by Tina Easley.


Alexander County is divided into precincts instead of townships.

011 Cache Precinct
015 Cairo Precinct
017 East Cape Precinct
020 Elco Precinct
025 McClure Precinct
030 Miller Precinct
035 Olive Branch Precinct
040 Sandusky Precinct
050 Tamms Precinct
055 Thebes Precinct


Cairo Daily Democrat, Jan 9, 1866

Submitted by Darrel Dexter

    We have seen several explanations as to the origin of Southern Illinois being called Egypt.  Owing to its strong proslavery proclivities, it has been generally supposed to have received the appellation from the darkness and political ignorance that prevailed, while different explanations have been given by various writers.  We have received the following letter from one of the oldest residents of this county.  His explanation seems to us the most probably of any we have yet seen, and he assures us of his personal knowledge of the facts as stated by him.  He informs us that it was written for publication twelve years ago, and it bears date of December, 1853, but it got mislaid, and has never been published:
Mr. Editor—I have never seen the right reason assigned why Southern Illinois came to be called Egypt.  Some of the Chicago papers say it was in consequence of the heathenish darkness and ignorance that prevailed among the people.  This is not so.  I will tell you how it came by that name.  In the early settlement of Sangany country, as it was then called, before the counties of Sangamon and Greene were organized, there were several families who emigrated to these counties from St. Clair.  Among the number there was an old man named Levi Day.  Every spring he returned, in company with several others, in this county, to get seed corn.  For three or four years after these counties were settled the insects and frost so injured the corn that it would not answer for seed.  The third year that Levi Day came down, he stopped at my father’s house over night and to get his seed corn.  The same night, Governor Ford, John Mears and David Blackwell stopped at my father’s home.  During the evening, Mr. Day remarked that he had to come down to “Egypt” to buy corn every year.  That idea so pleased Ford and Blackwell that they published it, and Southern Illinois has gone by the name of Egypt ever since.  I well recollect hearing these men having the conversation some thirty-five or six years ago (now about forty-eight years) long before Chicago was thought of as a city.  Egypt is remarkable for the longevity of its inhabitants as well as for the fertility of its soil, and the variety of its productions.  No section of the country within my knowledge can compare with this part of Egypt.  There are several families living in this section who have lived here for from fifty to seventy years.  Elder James Lemen is upwards of seventy.  He was born here and has five brothers living, one over seventy-five.  The Phillips family, several in number, all alive, the oldest seventy-eight, and the youngest fifty-eight.  Then there is the Wilderman family, six of them alive, the oldest eighty-four, and the youngest fifty-six.  Both these families have lived here fifty years or more, besides other families I might name that  have been here as long or longer.  --(From the Belleville, Ill., Advocate)

(From the Illinois State Teacher)
    I send the following as the origin of the term “Egypt” as supplied to Southern Illinois, with its correct boundary.  The National Road, a macadamized turnpike stretching westward in early days, at government expenses, to enable congressmen from the remote West to travel in fast coaches ten miles an hour to reach the Capital, was to cross the State a little south of the line of the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad, the western terminus being Alton.  The stone was cut for a few culverts in Illinois, beyond which little was done in this state before the government changed its policy.  About thirty years ago was a winter remembered by the old settlers as the time of the “deep snow.”  There were few settlers in Northern Illinois then, but Central Illinois had important places and Southern Illinois had a comparatively large population.  The deer were driven by starvation to the farmyards, or perished in vast numbers.  The wolves could glide along upon the snow, while the deer, sinking and impeded, were an easy prey to the ravenous beasts.  The summer following was quite cold, so that corn did not mature in Central Illinois, and the settlers went, south of the National Road, to procure breadstuffs.  The errand of Jacob’s sons suggested the name for the fruitful region of modern times.  The Indian was still in the north part of the state when the name “Egypt” was applied to the south part, and in these days it will be well to see that the region so long looked upon as dark does not outstrip the part which has prided itself on being more enlightened.  Steam, Free Schools, and active Christianity, are as powerful influences in fruitful Egypt as in the supposed favored land of the north.
Yours truly,
James H. Blodgett
--The Cairo Evening Bulletin, January 12, 1869.

Joab Hardin was a fair representative of an old family in Kentucky, that was pioneer in the commonwealths of Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Illinois and Arkansas. The expedition of George Rogers Clarke took many Kentuckians into Illinois, who afterward made that State their permanent place of residence. When General William Rector surveyed Illinois under the land laws, soldiers from all parts of the Union, especially from North Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky, entered Illinois, and located their claims. This made Illinois Democratic during all the earlier years of its history, especially the southern part, which on this account was called by the abolitionists who flocked to the northern (Southern Illinois) part, Egypt. Some of the most thrilling history of the United States from 1820 to 1860 was fought out in southern Illinois by these Southern emigrants, who carried with them into their new homes their peculiar ideas as to slavery and other things. Along with these went soldiers from the Northern States, equally as pugnacious as their Southern friends, who created contests most bitter and lasting. Some of the greatest names of modern Republican history spring from men and women of southern Illinois, who up to the beginning of the war were Democratic in political faith. Generals Grant and Logan were Democrats until the exigencies of the war made them Republican.  
Source:  Pioneers and Makers of Arkansas, 1908; transcribed by Tina Easley. 

Return To The Main Page

©2005-2013 Anna Newell, Illinois Genealogy Trails