Jackson County, Illinois
Excerpts from W. W. HUSBAND's memoirs:
"On a Saturday in the late summer of 1815, a crowd of men congregated on the Salt Spring of Big Muddy River. They were clad in shirts of home-spun material and buckskin breeches, and moccasins on their feet. Most of them wore heavy beards and long hair, their heads covered with caps made of coonskin or the skin of the wildcat, and on some of the caps the tails of the animals were still suspended; others wore eagle feathers in their caps. Each man was armed with a rifle and carried a big hunting knife in his belt. It was a wild looking assemblage and many of the men who composed it appeared to be as savage as the Indians.
There was one man present, however, who was dressed in "store" clothes. He was a low, heavy-set man of florid complexion; he had "sandy" hair and merry blue eyes. This personage was middle-aged and "cracked jokes" with those present while waiting for the other pioneers to arrive. This man was DR. CONRAD WILL, who had settled there the previous year for the purpose of manufacturing salt from the saline water in the spring. It was at DR. WILL's request that these pioneers had settled on this particular day.
These picturesque men were mountaineers from Pennsylvania, Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky and Tennessee. Some had been in Illinois Territory several years, while others were recent arrivals. There were men in this crowd who had been with GEORGE ROGERS CLARK, with "MAD" ANTHONY WAYNE, with DANIEL BOONE, with SIMON KENTON and HARRISON in various Indian campaigns. Some of them had been with GENERAL ANDREW JACKSON at the Battle of New Orleans only a few months before. Indeed, they were some of the very riflemen who had put an entire British Army to flight with their deadly marksmanship, for be it remembered that the American pioneer has never been equalled as an expert with the rifle. Finally, when a fair-sized crowd had assembled, DOCTOR WILL mounted a stump and addressed the men something like this:
'Fellow citizens, I am glad so many of you have turned out as requested. As some of you hav come a considerable distance, I will at once state the subject of this meeting. It occurs to me that we settlers could take immediate steps to organize a new county of our own, and a trading place nearer to home. CAPTAIN BOONE and I have been discussing this matter for some time, and finally decided to call this meeting in order to get an expression from other settlers. By investigation it has been found that we have sufficient population in this region to form a new county." Turning to a man standing beside the stump, he asked, "CAPTAIN BOONE, just how many white people live in this region?" "Nearly twelve hundred" was the reply. Of course, you understand that this number includes all the settlers living within twenty miles or more of this spot.
"Then there are approximately two hundred families living in this part of the country", stated the Doctor. "That should be a sufficient number to answer our purpose. Well, fellow-citizens, what do you think of the idea?"
"The idear is a crackin good un!", spoke up one.
"'Shore, we need a county all our own", said another.
"Doc, how do we go about gettin' this here new county?", one wanted to know.
"A petition will have to be submitted to the territorial authorities making a demand", explained the Doctor.
"What air we goin' go call our new county?", asked a pioneer.
"That is a matter that will have to be settled later".
"Wal, responded the other, 'us fellers that fit, bled and died with Old Hickory want the county called Jackson".
Others wanted to name the new county after their heroes and there was a heated argument for several minutes over this question. Finally it was left to a vote, and the Jackson men won. After the excitement had died down, DOCTOR WILL again spoke. "I have the petition already drawn up", he said, "and it is now ready for signatures".
"Say, Doc, how about us fellers that ain't swing the quill?"
"Make your mark".
After the petition had thus been signed by those present, DOCTOR WILL addressed the assembled pioneers.
"Fellow citizens, we are making history here today. We have demanded a county of our own to be called Jackson. While this regionis now a dense wilderness, I look forward to the day when smiling farms and busy citizens will dot this land. Illinois is one of the fairest countries I have ever seen and it will soon take it's place among the great states of this nation. While it is still a territory, it will be admitted to statehood ere long. Big things are going to be done in this land during the next fifty years, for this wilderness is going to be transforemd into a land of plenty. WHILE WE WHO ARE GATHERED HERE WILL ALL BE GONE WHEN THAT IS ACCOMPLISHED, I AM PROUD THAT WE PIONEERS OF TODAY ARE THE TRAILBLAZERS FOR THOSE WHO ARE TO FOLLOW. I AM ALSO PROUD THAT OUR CHILDREN, GRANDCHILDREN AND THEIR CHILDREN WILL ENJOY THE FULL FRUITAGE FO THE HEARDSHIPS THROUGH WHICH WE MUST PASS IN MAKING ILLINOIS THE MIGHTY STATE IT IS TO BE! LET US HOPE THAT OUR SACRIFICES WILL NOT HAVE BEEN IN VAIN."
The petition was presented to the authorities at Kaskaskia, and on January 10, 1816, Jackson County was created. Almost three years later, on December 3, 1818, Illinois was admitted to the Union as a State.
The act which created Jackson County stated that the county seat should be called Brownsville. DOCTOR CONRAD WILL offered twenty acres near the salt works for the site of the town. Thus Brownsville which became a lively pioneer settlement was founded. It's location was approximately one mile west of Murphysboro on present Route 144.
County officers were named, and contracts were let for the building of a courthouse and jail. It's early pioneers had come in wagons, carts and many on pack horses to a region where the soil was rich and game abundant. Log rollings, house and barn raisings were the great social occasions of their pioneer life. Election days and muster days were eagerly anticipated. Elections were simple affairs. All the citizens entitled to vote assembled at the county seat and voted viva voce for all candidates for office on national and state tickets or on important issues.
After the War of 1812, the militia required every able-bodied man to perform military duty and to drill every month. Battalion drills occurred twice a year, and these were occasions for a general good time. One of the attractions of the occasion was a venison barbeque, which MR. HUSBAND has also described:
"While the barbeque was in preparation, the military exercises were conducted. Fifes would shriek and drums would roll, while the men marched. Muster days gave the company officers a grand opportunity to swell up with pride, strut and "bawl out" the awkward ones. Then would come the feast! After the "inner man" had been properly taken care of there would be foot races, jumping and wrestling contests, and various other sports. Sometimes on these occasions the pioneers would partake of a little too much hard cidar during the excitement and fights were not uncommon. To take care of this situation, those who were inclined to make a few fistic passages at one another were taken to the astray pen on the river bank. there the belligerents would be allowed to fight it out, while the spectators sat on the top rails of the pen. No weapons of any kind were used in these fights. The men stood up to one another and fought "fair and square". They went until one man whipped. Then the fighters would shake hands and be friends. On one such occasion, while the victor was pouring water for the vanquished one to "wash up", the latter remarked, "Well, you licked me all right, but your woman can't whip my woman!". Indians would attend these muster day exercises and look on with solemn dignity, grunting "Ugh! Ugh!", instead of laughing at some comical sight."
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