Washington County, Illinois
|Return to : Washington County|
|Washington County, Illinois' County Seat of Government|
|County Seat 1
By the same act of the Legislature that formed the original County of Washington, three commissioners were appointed, viz : Jacob Purman, Reuben Middleton, and Leaven Maddox, who were authorized to examine and locate a seat of government for the county. They met at the house of James Bankson, on Shoal creek, in what is now Clinton County, March 2d, 1818. Their report says : "And considering the importance of said site being located on the margin of a navigable stream, as near the center of the present and future population of siad county as is consistant with expediency and justice, do, upon mature consideration, pronunce that a part of the north-east: north-west; a part of the south-west of section thirty-three, and a part of south-east of section thirty-two, in township one, north of range three west; and a part of the north-east quarter of section five, and a part of the north-east quarter of section four, township one, south of range threewest, combine more advantages, in our estimation, than any other site in said county. We therfore affirm and declare by the power vested in us, that the permanent seat of justice for sid county shall be established thereon." This was on the site of the old town of Covington, -- the name applied to the county-seat, -- which was situated on the Kaskaskia River, about three miles, northof the present county-seat. Covington remained , in fact, the county-seat until 1831, when the seat of justice was removed to Nashville.
When the county of Clinton was detached from the territory that comprised Washington in 1837, Covington was so near the dividing line of the two counties that the removal of the county-seat was provided for by the appointment by the Legislature of Campbell Gilmore, William Farris and another man man whose name is not known, as commissioners to permanently locate the "seat of justice" of said county. Gilmore and Farris met, and located the seat of government for said county, "on sections 19 and 20, township two south, range three west, centering near the lines of said sections, at a pole put up about forty-five yards east of two wells on section 19." Provide always that Tilghman H. West, who owned the land, who give not less than twenty acres for public buildings. Should West refuse to give the twenty acres, then the county-seat was to be located on the south-west quarter of section 17, township two south, range three west, belonging to John Hutchings, who had promised to deed the required twenty acres. West refused to give the land, and the site was located on Hutchings' land, he, however, refused to make the deed until the town had been laid out, surveyed and the lots sold. The commissioners employed Wm. Moore, a surveyor, of St. Clair County, who surveyed the town and laid it out in regular order. The lots were sold on the 13th day of September, 1827, after which Huitchings appeared before the commissioners' court in Covington, March 3d, 1828 and delivered his deed. The sale of lots, as shown by the records, realized one hundred and sixty-eight dollars.
The court-house, or other public buildings, were built here; and when Judge Smith came to hold court, in March, 1829, he found no traces of habitation or civilization save a pole standing solitary and alone, and the wells before mentioned. He abandoned Georgetown forever, and nothing more was ever heard of it as the county-seat.
The Georgetown location never did please any considerable number of the inhabitants, and the "county-seat question" was a disturbing element between the "East" and "West settlements," as Beaucoup and Elkhorn were then known. It entered laregly into political contests: aspirants for office, like the imitable Davy Crockett, being often called upon to define their postion on the "county-seat question." Whether the politicians of this county, at that day, were successful in playing the non-commital policy as the great bear-hunter was, is not a matter of record. From 1828 to 1830, the contention was great about a re-location. The land upon which Nashville is located belonged to the government; and the people who favored the location of the county-seat upon this site were too poor to raise the ready money to purchase the land. David Pulliam, a farmer and a large stock raiser, who lived about three miles south of Nashville, was the only man of the "Nashville party" who could raise a hundred dollars in cash whenever he desired to do so. To him a deputation of the friends of Nashville went, and urged him by all means to proceed to Kaskaskia, and purchase the land. So strongly and persistantly did they apply arguments and appeals to him, that he became so irritated the annoyance that he pilled off his old white hat, threw it on the ground and said: "I would not give that old hat for all that town will ever make." Two men of St. Clair County, of considerable means, viz. : Robert Middleton and Wm. G. Brown, were finally induced to purchase the land.
In March, 1831, the town was laid out, plotted and surveyed by A. W. Casad, a surveyor, and declared by the commissioners, David White, Livesay Carter and Joseph Whittenberg, the permanent seat of justice of Washington County.
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
|Georgetown Versus Nashville 2
When Clinton County was seperated from Washington in 1827, it was decided to move the county seat nearer thecenter of the newly-mapped county. The commissioners chose a spot about four miles west of Nashville, to he called Georgetown. But all the new "town" ever had was a flagpole, two wells and some platted lots. The county seat continued at Covington.
By this time the county was fast being settled and this inauspicious effort to create a new town created a lot of dissatisfaction. It seems that the landowners at Georgetown expected to make a killing, but only produced a fizzle. There also arose a heated rivalry between the two largest settlements. Beaucoup and Elkhorn, and politicians had to tread warily on the county seat issue. Here the enterprising settlers of the central section proposed they lay out a town and make it the county seat. The first to settle were Tennesseeans and they proposed the name. New Nashville. Their problem was: how to raise enough money to buy the government owned land. The stupendous sum needed was $100., almost as much as was collected in taxes in the county's first year of existence.
When a money-raising delegation journeyed south three miles to the cabin of David Pulliam. who was reportedas a man with cash on hand, perhaps the men got too insistent in their entreaty for financial help. For at last Pulliam threw his old hat on the ground, exclaiming: "I wouldn't give my old hat for all Nashville will ever be!"
Pulliam didn't help, but Robert Middleton and Wm. G. Brown of St. Clair county did. They journeyed to Kaskaskia, purchased the ground from the government, and had a surveyor. A. W. Casad lay out the town. The date was June 8, 1830. Twenty acres was donated for county use. and a free lot was offered to the first man who would build a home. Sam Anderson hauled in an old log cabin from the woods, but the judges ruled him out and gave the prize to the Rev. Orcenith Fisher who in the meantime threw up a two-story dwelling. Sometime later he opened the first store, on the site of the present William Motor Sales building.
The county commissioners then moved the county seat from Covington to Nashville, and contracted with Thomas Moore to build a courthouse, which lasted ten years. A little later, N. Mitchell began another store which he soon sold to John Wood. Later. Wood with fifty other men from the county, were mustered in to help fight the Black Hawk War. He returned as Major Woods.
Remainder of article concerns the courthouse and the development of Nashville.
See : Courthouse
|- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -|
1 1879 History of Washington County, Illinois
Brink, McDonough & Co.; Philadelphia; Corresponding Office, Edwardsville, ILL.; 1879
2 This Is Washington County -- 1818 - 1968 -- Illinois Sesquincentennial
by the Sesquincentennial Committee of the Historical Society of Washington County
Return to : Washington County