Matters and Things in Illinois in the Early Days
Taken From The Henry Republican
January 24, 1878
OLD ILLINOIS NEWS
Matters and Things in Illinois in the Early Days.
I have before me a file of the Chicago American for the years 1830 and 1840. From it I glean some interesting facts and incidents of the early history of Illinois.
Chicago's first frame house was built in 1831. Seven years later there was "a bustling little city of 6000 inhabitants."
The editor give some notes of a trip he had just made (1839) down the Illinois river. He passed through the following towns:
Enterprise, with 4 houses; Webster, 5 houses; Henry, 6 houses; Lacon, 25 houses; Chillicothe, 30 houses; Allentown, 3 houses; Rome, 25 houses. He speaks of a catfish caught in Peoria lake weighing 150 pounds.
"The new state capitol at Springfield is nearly finished (1839) costing $250,000. The corner stone was laid July 4, 1837".
The people were all going crazy over the cultivation of Morus Multicaulus or mulberry trees, with which to feed silk worms, there being a great mania at that time for raising silk, but it soon, like all other manias of speculation, subsided as suddenly as it had arisen. The American speaks of a man down east who refused $5000 of one mulberry tree, and afterwards sold one quarter of it for $10,000. Buds from it sold for $5 each.
October 28, 1839, Chicago had its first big fire - eighteen buildings were destroyed on Lake street.
Elijah Lovejoy, the noted abolitionist and editor, was mobbed and shot dead at Alton, November 7, 1837, by proslaveryites.
General Lafayette had visited Illinois in 1825, and the people hadn't got over talking about the great event in 1839.
The total vote of the state at the presidential election in 1824 was 4707.
The first paper ever printed in Illinois was the Illinois Herald, at Kaskaskia in 1809.
Sangamon county in which there then only a few log-cabins, embraced the entire northern part of the state in 1821. The county had nine representatives in the legislature in 1836, and they were called the "long nine," measuring in the aggregate 54 feet, Abraham Lincoln was one of the nine.
The year 1836 was one of feverish speculation in Illinois, followed in about a year by a general smash-up.
Illinois was admitted into the union as a state in 1818. Shadrach Bond being elected the first governor. There were about 40,000 inhabitants.
Hon. Ninian Edwards was the only territorial governor Illinois ever had. The territory, then containing 9000 inhabitants was organized in 1809, and continued such for nine years. Governor Edwards being kept in office all that time, by presidential appointment and re-appointment. Ninian Edwards was a prominent Kentuckian, and a devoted friend of Henry Clay. He resigned the office of chief justice of the Kentucky state court of appeals in order to accept the proffered appointment as governor of the territory of Illinois. When the territory became a state, he was the first to be chosen United States senator, but resigned in 1824 in order to accept the governorship of the state to which he had just been elected. Hon. Daniel P. Cook, after whom cook county was named, was Governor Edwards's son-in-law. Cook county was organized in 1831. Mr. Cook represented Illinois in congress consecutively from 1819 until 1826, the state at that time being entitled to only one representative.
There were several hundred negro slaves and some Indian slaves held in Illinois while it was a territory, and a strong effort was made by these slave-owners and their sympathizers to make a slave state of this. Slaves were first brought here from San Domingo in 1720 by the early French pioneers. These Frenchmen indulged the confident belief that "the wealth of the western world consisted of pearl fisheries, gold and silver mines, and the wool of wild cattle."
The first steamboat to ascend the Upper Mississippi was the General Pike. She reached St. Louis August 2, 1817. The first steamboat ever seen on the Ohio river (in 1811) created a tremendous sensation. A great comet was visible that year, and the ignorant, superstitious settlers, when they saw the steamer in the night, really believed that it was the comet, with its great fiery tail.
The territory of Indian was organized in 1800, and included the area now embraced by the states of Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana. General William Henry Harrison was appointed territorial governor. The entire territory contained a population of 4875 whites, 135 slaves and about 100,000 Indians. Louisiana was annexed to this territory in 1804.
The Indian tribes located in Illinois in 1816 included the Pottawatomeis, Kickapoos, Ottawas and Chippewas. Among the notable chiefs at that time were Pepper, White Hair, Great Speaker, Bull, Toad, Pipe Bird, Blue Eye, Sunfish, Yellow Lips and White Dog.
The name of Chicago is of uncertain origin. It (spelled Cheeaqua) was the name of a long line of governing Indian chiefs, and it is variously interpreted to mean "the voice of the Great Spirit," thunder,skunk and wild onion.
During the first four years of the territory of Illinois, the governor was really the only law-making power, there being no legislative body. The first territorial legislature consisted of five senators and seven representatives, and there were only five counties.
Some queer modes of punishing criminal offenders were in vogue those days, among which were whipping on the bare back, confinement in stocks, standing in the pillory and branding with hot irons. Burglary was punishable with 39 strips on the bare back; perjury and larceny 31 stripes, horse-stealing form 50 to 100 stripes; hog-stealing from 25 to 39 stripes; bigamy from 100 to 300 stripes; children and servants, for disobedience, on conviction before a justice of the peace, not exceeding 10 stripes. When offenders who were fined were unabled to pay their fines, the sheriff was required to hire them out for wages until the amounts were earned and paid into the public treasury. Sitting on a gallows with a rope around the neck was the novel punishment awarded in some cases. "Profanely cursing," hunting on the Sabbath day, disorderly behavior at divine worship, reveling, quarreling, fighting, etc., were finable offenses, as also was the keeping of gambling tables. In a fatal duel, the aiders and abettors, as well as the one who fired the fatal shot, were alike declared guilty of murder. Imprisonment for debt was also lawful.
The total revenue raised in the territory for the three years - 1812, 1813 and 1814 - amounted to $4875, about half of which was in the hands of delinquent sheriffs.
The first county organized in Illinois was Edwards, named after the territorial governor.
During the territorial condition, voting by ballot was abolished, because "the ignorant and those in embarrassed circumstances are thereby subject to be imposed upon by electioneering zealots."
The "medical doctors" were incorporated in 1817, with headquarters at Carmi and Kaskaskia, and no new-comer could practice medicine unless able to pass an examination, and thus secure permit, paying a fee of $10 therefor.
As late as 1817, the pelts of deers, racoons, etc., were too(to) a great extent the currency of the country, there being but little money afloat.
In 1840 there was great complaint in Chicago of wolves destroying poultry in the city.
At the Chicago charter election in March 1840, 1013 votes were polled. Thomas Drummond was announced to address "a democratic-whig meeting: at Galena in 1840. This is the same Drummond who is now so ably presiding as United States circuit judge. March 25, 1840, the whigs of Sangamon county nominated Abraham Lincoln for a member of the legislature. Hon. E. D. Baker, afterward United States senator, was at the same time nominated for the state senate.
In the fall of 1840, bears and deer were still found in the region where Kankakee county now is. Venison was quoted "a drug on the market."
March 18, 1840, winter wheat was quoted at Chicago t 56 cents per bushel, and spring wheat 40 cents; whisky 40 cents a gallon; oats 20 cents per bushel; corn 38 cents; beef $4 per 100 pounds; lumber $18 for clear and $12 for merchantable; oak wood $3.25 per cord; hickory wood $4; potatoes, 20 cents a bushel; butter 15 cents per pound; flour, $2 pe cwt. There was no coal used hereabouts in those days.
In 1830 Chicago had 100 inhabitants, Michigan City, 10, Milwaukee 10, Toledo 30.
In 1839 freights by steamer from Buffalo for Chicago were quoted 87 1/2 cents per 100 pounds for light, and 62 1/2 cents for heavy.
In 1840, Elgin, which was originally laid out by James T. Gifford, in 1836-7, had 200 inhabitants. It was named after Elgin, Scotland, its first settlers being natives of the latter city.
Abraham Lincoln was one of the whig presidential electors in 1840. The party's motto at that time was: "One presidential term - the integrity of public servants - the safety of the public money - the general good of the people.
Wilmington was originally named Winchester. It was laid out in 1836, and in 1840 had a population of 100. -- Correspondent Chicago Journal
KNOW ILLINOIS --- From 1932 Newspapers:
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