Jasper County's Unsavory Frontier Days
Excerpted from the book "Frontier Illinois" by James E. Davis, 1998
©Transcribed by Kim Torp
"Residents of Jasper County drank and fought at horse races. Bets of whiskey facilitated fighting in which "a great many peeled heads, bloody noses, black eyes" and more serious injuries abounded. Alcohol-induced troubles stigmatized Newton, in Jasper County: "The village was in moral quarantine. Its reputation was known far and near. Settlers avoided it, and even travelers avoided it on their journeys so far as possible." Degenerate, emboldened toughs, led by Lewis Jordan, the county sheriff, accosted unwary travelers, demanded they treat in saloons, and threatened those who refused. This behavior ended when a traveler, not amused by this custom, nearly killed the sheriff, who finally slithered away, along with some of his confederate toughs. Civilized townsfolk surfaced and the villains quieted down."
"On the other hand, Jasper County did not "lose its early reputation of lawlessness and low standards in morals" until after railroads arrived. According to some, infusions of outside influences brought mixed results."
"Nettlesome counterfeiters, whose sideline was horse-thievery, infested Jasper County (est. 1831). Victims followed the trail of Cornelius Taylor, a ferry operator in Lawrence County who made wagon trips to St. Louis, after which bogus coins and paper money circulated."
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