History of Cumberland County

From "The Counties of Cumberland, Jasper and Richland, Illinois"
Historical and Biographical, ©1884
Origin of the County


    The region of country now contained within the limits of Cumberland County, Illinois., was subject to the legal jurisdiction of various seats of justice before it became the home of citizens. Its earlier allegiance was paid to Darwin, the early county seat of Clark County. Crawford County was organized in 1816, and originally comprised the territory included between the Wabash and Kaskas-kia rivers, and from its present southern line to the northern limits of the United States. In the following year, Clark County was formed, including all the territory of Crawford north of its present northern boundary, between the two rivers. The first white settlers in this region found it tributary to Darwin and a part of Clark County. In 1821, Fayette County curtailed the original extent of Clark on the west, and in 1823 by the formation of Edgar, in 1827 by Shelby, and in 1831 by Coles. The inhabitants of this region at this time were too few and scattered to exercise much influence upon the formation of its parent county, Coles, and it seems to have been formed in accordance with the natural law of development of the State. Darwin, the center of trade, as well as governmental influence, proved so inconveniently distant for so many that the growing population demanded better facilities, and the new county was formed. The records of Cumberland County show, of course, no account of this early separation from Clark County, nor, in fact, of the separation from Coles. Although some movement was early made to transcribe the records pertaining to the original history of Cumberland, nothing of this was effected. With the increase of population and the construction of the great National road, the people here became dissatisfied with the remoteness of the county seat, and anxious to build up private interests which early clustered along the great thoroughfare, the leading men moved for the erection of a new county. It was generally agreed that Coles County, which included Douglas and Cumberland as well, was too large and would necessarily be divided sooner or later, and a contest, mainly supported by various towns ambitious to serve as the seat of justice, early sprang up over the method of division. The people of Charleston desired the territory to be divided into three counties so as to leave that point the central place in the county, and hence the inevitable county seat of the new county of Coles. Other localities desired an equal division of the territory into two counties, and the two propositions were known respectively as the " crop " and " split" plans. This topic was the great overshadowing issue in at least three campaigns, the candidates for the legislature announcing themselves on the stump as favoring the one plan or the other. Twice were candidates elected to favor the division of the county, but in each case the opposition mustered so strong an influence that no division was made. In 1842, Starkweather announced his position as first for a " split," second for a " crop," but in any event for a new county, and on this platform he was elected. The effort culminated in an act of the legislature, which was approved March 2, 1843. This act provided: " That, from and after the first day of May next, all that part of Coles County lying south of a line beginning at the northwest corner of Section 30, in Township 11 north of Range 7 east of the third principal meridian line, running thence east along the several section lines to the western boundary line of Clark County, shall form a new county to be called Cumberland County.

" Sec. 2. An election shall be held on the first Monday of April next, at the town of Greenup, and at the town of Woodbury, at the house of James Grill, at Beni White's, Berry's Mill, at Ruffner's, at Long Point, for the election of a Sheriff, Coroner, County Recorder, County Surveyor, Probate Justice of the Peace, Clerk of the County Commissioners' Court, County Treasurer, School Commissioner, and three County Commissioners for the said county of Cumberland, at which said election any number of legal voters not less than fifteen, who shall be present, may choose from among themselves a sufficient number of persons to act as judges of said election, who, after being sworn, as also the clerks, shall proceed to open and hold said election according to the rules and regulations prescribed by law for conducting general elections in this State, at which said election all persons, entitled by law, residing in the boundaries prescribed for Cumberland County, to vote for members of the General Assembly, shall be entitled to vote at said election.
    " Sec. 3. After the said election shall be closed, it shall be the duty of the judges and clerks holding the same to affix to each of the poll-books a statement of the names of each person voted for and the office he was intended to fill, and the number of votes such person received, and certify the same; one of which said poll-books they shall seal up under an envelope, directed to John Wolf, Judson Holley, and Alexander Magrew, and it shall be the duty of one ot the said judges or clerks to deliver the same to the said persons on or before the third day after the close of the said election; and it shall be the duty of said Wolf, Holley and Magrew, or any two of them, to meet at the town of Greenup on the third day after the close of said election, and if the polls of said election shall be delivered to them, or either of them, to proceed to open the said election returns, and after comparing the returns of said election, they shall make out a written statement thereof, and shall transmit a copy thereof, certified by them, to the Secretary of State, and it shall be the duty of the Secretary of State to make out commissions to such of the persons as shall appear to be elected, who are entitled by law to be commissioned by the Governor, and transmit the same to the persons so commissioned; provided, however, that contested elections for any of the above named officers shall be determined according to the principles contained in the laws of this State concerning contested elections.

" Sec. 4. The seat of justice for Cumberland County shall, for the present, be at the town of Greenup, and shall, hereafter, be permanently located in the following manner, to-wit: At the general election, to be held on the first Monday in August next, a poll-book shall be opened for the different points to be run for the county seat; provided, however, that no place shall be voted for unless its proprietors or friends shall, at least twenty days previous to said election, execute a -bond with sufficient security, designating the quantity of land patented by General Government and free from legal encumbrances, setting forth the metes and bounds of said land, or the number and location of town lots, or the amount of money, work, or labor, or materials to be used in erecting the county buildings which the proprietors or friends of any point may propose to give, which said bond shall be subject to the approval of the County Commissioners' Court, and be filed in their office; and at said election a column shall be opened for each point whose friends shall have executed bond as aforesaid, and all persons qualified at the time for holding said election to vote for a member of the General Assembly shall be entitled to vote for the location of said seat of justice, and the point, if any, receiving the majority of the legal votes cast at said election, shall be the permanent seat of justice for said Cumberland County. When the votes of said election are compared by the proper officers, if it shall appear that neither one of the points voted for shall have received a majority of the whole votes cast, then it shall be the duty of the County Commissioners' Court to appoint a day within three months thereafter for holding another election, and shall publish written notices thereof in at least six of the most public places in the county, for one month, and a column shall be opened at each election precinct, for the two points having received the highest number of votes at the preceding election, and the point receiving the highest number of votes at said second election shall be the permanent seat of justice; and if changed from the town of Greenup the offices shall be removed to said new seat of justice so soon as public buildings can be prepared therefor.    If any shall desire to contest the election in regard to  the seat of justice, they shall, within thirty days, thereafter, give notice that they will proceed before a Justice of the Peace of the county to take depositions that certain persons (naming them) who voted at said election were not qualified voters, or that fraud or unfairness (stating in what such fraud or unfairness consisted) was practiced in said election; at which time and place all the testimony on both sides shall be written down, and the matter in controversy shall be decided by the County Commissioners' Court, subject to an appeal to the Circuit Court at any time within twenty days after the decision of the County Commissioners' Court; provided, that the notice in regard to the contested election as to the seat of justice shall be posted up in six of the most public places in the county.    It shall be the duty of the Commissioners' Court of Cumberland County to cause public buildings to be erected at the permanent seat of justice when located in the manner provided in this act, and for that purpose they are hereby authorized to lay off any land that may be donated to, or acquired for the county, into town lots, and may sell and convey all or any part of such land or town lots, so donated or acquired, and appropriate any money, work or labor, or materials owned by or due to said county in the construction of county buildings as aforesaid.

" Sec. 5. All Justices of the Peace and Constables residing in Coles County, and in office on the first Monday of May next, shall continue in office and exercise all the duties required of them by law in Cumberland Gounty until their successors shall be elected and qualified according to law, and shall be liable to the same penalties for omission of duty as if no change or division of Coles County had taken place under this act, and be entitled to the same emoluments for their services.

" Sec. 6. That at the next biennial election for Representatives to the General Assembly, and until another apportionment of Representatives shall be made, the County of Cumberland shall be entitled to elect one Representative separate from Coles County, and Coles County shall separately be entitled to elect two Representatives, and no more, and, until a new apportionment of Senators shall be made, the county of Cumberland shall vote with the counties of Coles and Clark for the election of a Senator, and the Clerk of the County Commissioners' Court of Cumberland shall attend at the Clerk's office of Coles County to compare polls, at the same time now provided by law for the Clerk of the County Commissioners' Court of Clark County to attend, and compare the votes for Senator, and to join in making a certificate thereof to the person elected.

"Sec. 7. At the election to be held on the first Monday in August next, for county officers for Cumberland County, the person receiving the highest vote for County Commissioner shall be entitled to hold his office three years; the person having the next highest, two years; and the next highest, one year, according to the provisions of the law concerning the election of County Commissioners.

" Sec. 8. The county of Cumberland when organized according to the provisions of this act, shall be deemed and considered, from and after the first day of May next, one of the counties of this State, and entitled to all the rights and powers generally conferred upon and allowed by the constitution and laws to other counties in this State, and to the officers thereof.

" Sec. 9. It shall be the duty of the Auditor of Public Accounts to make out and transmit to the County Commissioners' Court of Cumberland County, on or before the first day of June next, a list of all lands within the boundaries of Cumberland County subject to taxation, for State and county purposes, and annually thereafter, as required by law; and the County Commissioners' Court of said county shall direct the assessment and collection of taxes in said county for the year one thousand eight hundred and forty three, according to the provisions of the revenue laws of this State, and direct the collection and appropriation thereof, as required by law in other counties.

" Sec. 10- All taxes assessed and uncollected in Coles County for the year one thousand eight hundred and forty two, and previous thereto, of persons residing in Cumberland County, after the first of May next, and all judgments, executions and fees due to officers in Coles County, against any person or persons residing in Cumberland County, may be collected and accounted for in the same manner as if no division of the county had taken place by virtue of this act.

"Sec. 11. It shall be the duty of the County Commissioners' Court of Cumberland County, after the organization thereof, according to the provisions of this act, to certify the same to the judge or justice required to hold Circuit Courts in Coles County, and it shall be the duty of the said judge or justice to fix the time of holding Circuit Courts in Cumberland County, until otherwise provided by law, and it shall be his duty to hold the said courts accordingly.

" Sec. 12. It shall be the duty of the County Commissioners' Court of Coles County to ascertain from the State census taken in the year one thousand eight hundred and forty, as near as they can, the amount of school, college and seminary funds which the inhabitants residing within the limits of Cumberland County were entitled to receive as a part of Coles County, for the year one thousand eight hundred and forty two, and how much, if any, is due and unpaid to the township treasurers or to teachers, and also what would be the proportionable part of the school, seminary and college funds for the year eighteen hundred and forty three, and certify the same to the County Commissioners' Court of Cumberland County, and direct the School Commissioner of Coles County to pay the same over to the School Commissioner of Cumberland County, and also to deliver over all notes, money, bonds, mortgages and papers, properly appertaining to school lands in the boundaries of Cumberland County, and it shall be the duty of the School Commissioner of Cumberland County to receive, keep, collect, pay out, and account for the same according to law.

" Sec. 13. That Cumberland County is hereby attached to and shall form part of the same congressional district in which Coles may be placed."

Under the provisions of this act an election was held on the first Monday in April, 1843, which resulted in the choice of Thomas Sconce, for Sheriff; Hiram Buell, for Coroner; Judson F. Holly, for County Clerk; E. H Starkweather, for Probate Justice of the Peace; Otis Perry, for County Recorder; Abram Trease, for Treasurer; Daniel C. Decius, for School Commissioner; and James Gill, Charles P. Chowning and David T. Wisner.

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