Celebration of Woodford County, Illinois

Woodford County Historical Society: Celebration of Ninetieth Anniversary of Admission of Illinois, December, 3, 1908
Source: Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society [1908-1984], Vol. 1, No. 4 [Jan., 1909], pp. 17-19.
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Illinois State Historical Society

The annual meeting of the Woodford County Historical Society was held on the ninetieth anniversary of the admission of Illinois into statehood, in the circuit court room of the court house at Eureka, Dec. 3, 1908.
It was an occasion of more than ordinary interest. The election of officers for the coming year was held at half past one o'clock, and L. J. Freese was chosen president, I. B. Hammers, of El Paso, vice president, J. F. Page, of Eureka, treasurer, Miss Amanda Jennings, of Eureka, secretary and J. C. Tomb, of Eureka, trustee, and then, after the transaction of other business, a Lincoln and Douglas program was rendered before an intelligent and interested audience. The society had secured Col. Clark E. Carr, of Galesburg, to deliver an address before the society at this time. Notices of the meeting had been published in all the newspapers of the county. The court room and adjacent space was full to overflowing. A large number of those in attendance were from out of town. Although the room was crowded the .test of order prevailed. 'The program began at two o'clock with the selection of music, "Star Spangled Banner." by the Ladies Glee Club, of Eureka College, all dressed in white, followed by prayer by Prof. B. J. Radford.

G. W. Anthony, Prof. B. J. Radford and Col. B. D. Meek, all members of the society, made short speeches of a reminiscent character. Each gave an account of his acquaintance with Lincoln and Douglas. They related many interesting thing's coming under their observation fifty years ago.

The Ladies' Glee Club sang. "Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean." This was followed by the introduction of Col. Clark E. Carr and his address on the "Lincoln and Douglas Debates." A brief synopsis of his address may not be out of place here.

Douglas had served his second term in the U.S. Senate. He had returned to Illinois to conduct his campaign for a third term. He had won many a victory on the floor of the senate, one of them being the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, and put in its place his favorite doctrine of Popular Sovereignty. When Kansas asked to be admitted as a state, politicians with the influence of the administration at Washington supporting them, desired to force the pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution on the people. To defeat this scheme Douglas used his great eloquence and influence. Kansas was admitted as a free state under the Leavenworth Constitution, framed by the people. This placed Douglas in the front ranks as a statesman. Lincoln, comparatively unknown, was arrayed against Douglas. Lincoln was opposed to the extension of slavery. In a speech "at Springfield he stated that, "this government can not exist permanently half slave and half free," etc. This declaration startled the politicians. For the purpose of securing the attention of the people, he challenged Douglas to a joint debate. There were seven debates, in all, held at different places in the State. In the mean time the Supreme Court handed down what is known as the Dred Scott decision, by which it was made practically lawful for an owner of slaves to carry them into another state or territory. Lincoln held that this decision nullified Popular Sovereignty advocated by Douglas. Lincoln challenged Douglas to say how, under this decision, the people of a territory could keep slaves out, to which Douglas could only reply by saying: "Unfriendly legislation." This was displeasing to the people of the south. All hope of the Presidency in 1860 was gone. It made Lincoln the acknowledged leader in the Republican party.

Col. Carr portrayed with skill and fairness the characters of the two men, at one time imitating the voice of Lincoln, at another, that of Douglas. His address, truly, was a treat, and the occasion will be long remembered.

The address of Col. Carr was followed by the singing of "Illinois," by Miss Augusta Kirchner, of Secor. The words were slightly changed to suit the occasion.   They ran as follows:

By the rivers gently flowing.
Illinois, Illinois,
On thy prairies verdant growing,
Illinois, Illinois,
Comes a message on the breeze.
Rustling thru the leafy trees
And its mellow tones are these.
From a wilderness of prairies,
Illinois, Illinois,
Straight thy way never varies,
Illinois, Illinois,
Still upon the inland sea,
Stands thy great commercial tree,
Turning all the world to thee.
Not without thy wondrous story.
Illinois, Illinois,
Can be writt the Nation's glory,
Illinois, Illinois,
On the record of thy years.
Many a noble name appears.
Douglas. Lincoln, and our tears,

After a word in explanation of the large pictures of Lincoln and Douglas gracing the front part of the court house, the Ladies' Glee Club sang "My Country Tis of Thee." the audience joining in on the last stanza, and the meeting closed with prayer by Dr. C. H. Tichnor, of the Presbyterian church.

The display of mementos that had been announced was an interesting feature of the meeting. The people lingered for some time viewing the exhibit, which consisted of the following:

Negative of Lincoln found in an old gallery in Tazewell county, made in 1858.   Loaned by L. J. Freese.
"New York Herald," April 15, 1865, containing account of assassination of Lincoln.   Loaned by Mrs. C. M. Brasfield.
"Chicago Tribune," Sept. 10, 1863, containing two letters of Lincoln's, one written to Springfield, Illinois, convention, the other to A. G. Hodges, Esq., Frankfort, Kentucky. Loaned by Mrs. Brasfield.
Paper containing the presidential vote from 1789 to 1876. Loaned by Mrs. Brasfield.
Photo of sycamore trees which grew from the cellar where Lincoln's store stood at New Salem, near Petersburg. Loaned by Miss Laura C. Brasfield.
Photo of the Lincoln mill on Sangamon river. Loaned by Laura C. Brasfield.
"Vicksburg Daily Citizen," July 2, 1863, copyrighted April 16, 1885. Loaned by J. P. Darst.
Speech of Douglas in the senate, on the Lecompton Bill. 1858, Loaned by Miss Amanda Jennings.
"Woodford County Sentinel," Metamora, April 20, 1865, containing account of the death of Lincoln.   Loaned by J. F. Page.
Badge of Douglas and Johnson.   Loaned by John W. Tomb.
Medallion of Lincoln and Hamlin.   Loaned by J. F. Page.
Large oil painting of Stephen A. Douglas. Loaned by Peoria Public Library.
Large portrait of Lincoln.  Loaned by Col. B. D. Meek.
Relief picture of Lincoln, presented to the society by L. J. Freese.
Photos of Stephen A. Douglas and wife. Loaned by Mrs. Long, of Washington, Ill.
L. J. Freese, President Woodford County Historical Society. Eureka, Jan. 19, 1909

Celebration, by the Woodford County Historical Society, of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Formation of Woodford County, Illinois.
Source: Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society [1909-1984], Vol. 4, No. 1 [Apr., 1911], pp. 101-105.
Published by: University of Illinois Press on behalf of the Illisnois State Historical Society

Woodford county was formed Feb. 27, 1841. Our local historical society on deciding to celebrate the seventieth anniversary of this event, asked the Board of Supervisors for an appropriation of fifty dollars with which to carry out our plans for the celebration and other work the society has under contemplation. The board willingly made this appropriation. We then advertised the meeting in all the newspapers of the county and neighboring towns, requesting those living, who were residents of the territory when the county was formed, to send their names to the secretary, and also to give any items of interest they remember relating to the early history of the county. Ninety-six names were handed in, the oldest person being one hundred and two years old. The list of names was published twice before the celebration. Much to our pleasure there are more of the "charter members" of the county living than we anticipated. Doubtless there are others whom we have not reached.

February 27 was a beautiful day. A large and interested audience gathered in the Presbyterian church to help celebrate the seventieth birthday of the county. Thirty-three of the settlers of 1841 were present. Quite a number came from a distance. It was home coming to them. After enjoying a short reception in the auditorium of the church they gathered in front of the court house where a picture was taken of them in a group. Re-assembling in the church the rest of the program was given. The invocation was pronounced by Rev. D. W. McMillin of the Presbyterian church. Excellent music was furnished by Miss Ada Holbrook, Austin Kershaw and the Eureka College Quartet- Messrs. Reichel, McGuire, Higdon and Carr.

Prof. B. J. Radford of Eureka, gave an address on "The Beginnings of Woodford County." The Professor was a mere boy when the county was formed, yet he remembers the stirring events incident to the steps taken for the formation of the county. He knew the men who took the leading part in securing names on the petition asking the legislature that the territory be formed into a county, the party who went on horseback to Springfield to place the petition before the legislature and the men who signed the petition. He stated that at the time the county was formed considerable territory now in the county was taken from McLean and Tazewell counties. Large areas of it were uninhabited. Government land could be bought for $1.25 per acre, now worth $250 per acre. He traced the growth and development of the county and recounted the movements leading to the formation of the county; the location of the seat of justice at Versailles; the removal of the county seat from there to Hanover, now Metamora; and later to Eureka. A considerable portion of his address was devoted to social conditions and general government. According to the census of 1850 the population of the county was 4,415. By the census of 1880, 1890 and 1900 the population was little more than 21,000. In 1910 it fell to 20,506. The settlers of Woodford county were of a high type of citizenship. They early devoted themselves to the development of their spiritual and intellectual natures by the location of churches and school houses in their midst.

Hon. J. A. Ranney of Cazenovia, gave an address on "The Early Settlers of Woodford County."  It was a masterly address. Mr. Ranney was interested in his subject. The audience was in sympathy with the speaker. He was one of the early settlers and grew eloquent in describing the simple life of early times. The settlers came from New York, New England, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky. The philosophical Dutchman was here, the wide awake Irishman, who is always present where there is anything good, the F. F. Vs from Virginia. They came from everywhere. Brought up under different conditions they possessed dispositions peculiar to themselves. They mingled and became neighbors, living in peace and harmony and were Americans in the true sense. It took courage those days to leave home, friends and ties, traveling on horseback or in a covered wagon, the trip requiring six months, to make a home in this wild western country, never expecting to see their home people again. These people were masters of the situation. They made homes, though the log cabin was the rule. It was home. The good house-wife spun, wove, cut out, made clothing for the family and cared for her home. She was queen, and there was happiness and contentment in the one-roomed log house with the mud and brick fire-place for both cooking and heating purposes. This one room was given up for school at times. We of to-day do not know how it was done, but our heroic mothers did it. Churches too were built to purify their homes. Schools were built to make their homes intelligent. They did not grab for all the territory in reach, but were satisfied

"To make a happy fire-side chime
To wean and wife,
That's true pathos and sublime
Of human life."

Abraham Lincoln was given as a type of the pioneers of Woodford county. They did what was at hand to do, and they did it in a brave, masterful way, not to get their names in the paper, but that it was the doing of things that produced results, homes, settlements, county and state. We are to-day enjoying the fruits of the labors of our fathers and grandfathers, the sturdy pioneers of Woodford county.

Mrs. Jessie Palmer Weber, Secretary of the State Historical Society, Springfield, by her presence and address added interest to the celebration. She spoke of the good work the State Historical Society is doing and the help it is giving the local historical societies. Its publications are full of interesting matter relating to the early history of the State. Copies are sent to all the local societies. Encouragement was given to the Woodford County Historical Society. Mrs. Weber then gave an instructive address on "The Beginning of Illinois."

After a few minutes intermission Mrs. Rowland Evans, of Bloomington, Illinois, gave briefly some recollections of her early life in Woodford county. Her father, S. S. Park, was the first surveyor of the county. In appropriate remarks she presented to the society her father's commission signed by the Governor. Mrs. Evans also presented to the society an old deed to a quarter section of land in Woodford county, made in 1846; consideration $250, now worth $250 per acre. Mrs. Evans thought that the Woodford County Historical Society was entitled to these historical documents.

Many of the early settlers had sent greetings to the society with regrets that advanced age would not permit them to make so long a journey to attend the celebration. Three letters of considerable length and full of early history of the territory and county were read, one from Aaron A. Richardson, Wellington, Kansas, another from Mrs. Jennie Mitchell Bullock, Cleveland, Ohio, and another one from J. J. Davenport, Sturgis, South Dakota. All these letters expressed deep regret that the writers could not be present to enjoy the celebration and see the faces of those whom they have not seen for forty, sixty,and in some cases seventy years. We keenly felt this disappointment for them.

The meeting was a grand success. In the words of some of these old people: "It is growing better each year." Several have asked: "Why we can not have another celebration soon!"
After a brief prayer Prof. B. J. Radford dismissed the audience.
L. J. Freese, Eureka, Ill., March 20,1911.

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