Monday, January 15, 2018

Gurdon Hubbard, a true Chicagoan, arrived well before the Town of Chicago was incorporated in 1833.

Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard (1802-1886) was born in Windsor Vermont.

Hubbard became an entrepreneur in 1813 at the age of eleven when his father moved the family to Montreal. Gurdon borrowed twenty five cents from a friend and began buying “the remnants of (farmer’s) loads of poultry, butter, cheese, etc. and peddling them… realized from eighty to one hundred dollars, all of which went into the family treasury.”

While his early life in the fur trade was filled with high adventure and feats of daring and strength, Hubbard was always focused on improving and expanding his businesses. 

Prior to his arrival in Chicago, he had made the acquaintance of Morris Kinzie, who gave Hubbard a letter of introduction to his father, John Kinzie. 

As a young man, Hubbard became friends with a Kickapoo chief, Waba, who adopted him as his son. Hubbard also went on to marry a Potawatomi woman, Watseka. The two divorced after two years and she went on to marry Noel LaVasseur.

Hubbard settled in Danville, Illinois in the early 1820s. Beginning in 1822, Hubbard began moving his trade goods by pack ponies from his 80 acre farm on the Iroquois River north of Danville, south along an old buffalo trace, known as the Vincennes Trail.  He took his hogs and cattle to sell at the population, transportation and market center of Vincennes, Indiana on the Wabash River.
At one point, upon learning that a band of Indians were planning a raid on Danville, Hubbard walked 75 miles to Danville in a single night, earning the nickname “Pa-pa-ma-ta-be,” or “Swift-Walker.” As stories of his feat spread, a local Indian tribe questioned the veracity of the story. According to legend, Hubbard challenged the tribe to put up a champion and succeeded in beating him in a race by several miles.

Following that he would use the trail to carry traded goods from Chicago to the south, and to bring his furs north.  He established trading posts every forty to fifty miles.  Over the following years traffic increased as settlers from the east moved into the Indiana and Illinois farmlands.  Hubbard’s livestock, and their wagons, widened and hardened the trail into a road. It began to be known as "Hubbard’s Trace 'or Hubbard’s Trail.

While serving in the Illinois General Assembly in the 1830s, Hubbard lobbied to have the Illinois & Michigan Canal built to connect the Chicago River to the Illinois River, defeating a competing proposal to build the canal from the Calumet River to the Illinois. Hubbard would eventually go on the serve as a director of the I&M Canal Board.

In 1834 the state legislature designated the Hubbard Trail as the first State Road. It was marked with milestones from Vincennes to Chicago. On most of the old trail’s route through Illinois today it is still marked as State Route 1. At its northern end in Chicago, Hubbard’s old trail is known as State Street.
Seeing the vast potential of Chicago's location, Hubbard and his second wife Eleanora moved from their Iroquois River farmhouse to Chicago on January 4, 1834. It took them six days to travel up Hubbard’s Trail to Chicago in a procession of cattle, hogs and horse drawn sleighs. Winter weather made travel over the frozen trail, and passage over the frozen rivers, easy.

After moving to Chicago in 1834, Hubbard opened a land office and began reaching out to East Coast investors. 

Hubbard built a three story brick warehouse in the winter of 1843 while his freshly killed hogs were preserved on the ice of the Chicago River. In the spring his building was finished. It had a large insulated room for keeping meat cold through the warm months with ice cut from the river and nearby marshes  It was the first brick warehouse built in the small town and detractors labeled it “Hubbard’s Folly." Within a few years his businesses had outgrown the building on the north side of the Chicago river, near modern-day LaSalle Street, and in 1836 he built an even larger warehouse (for $44,000) on the north bank.

To his meat packing business he added warehousing, freight forwarding and “lightering" (moving cargo and passengers between shore and ships anchored in the lake). In 1860, one of his ships, the Lady Elgin, sank off the coast of present-day Highwood.

Hubbard was elected as an alderman for the 7th Ward in 1860. He began writing his autobiography, which had grown to more than 800 pages when Hubbard lost his manuscript in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. 

Building his fortune in meats and furs allowed Hubbard to enter into the insurance business, and he was the first underwriter in Chicago. Following the Great Chicago Fire in 1871, he was nearly bankrupted by the insurance payments he had to make, but he was able to survive the setback.

Following the fire, he began to recreate it, but only managed to get to 1829 when he died (although the manuscript has since been published).

With Chicago destroyed by fire, Hubbard set out for the East Coast, where he drew maps of Chicago from memory to interest backers in helping to rebuild the city. His success meant that he was able to rebuild his fortunes before his death.

Hubbard married three times. His second wife was the former Eleanora Berry of Urbana (married from 1831-1840) and his third was his cousin, Mary Ann Ellis Mills Hubbard (married from 1843 until his death). He had one son, Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard, Jr., with Eleanora (b.1838).

Hubbard recovered from his financial setbacks following the Great Chicago Fire, but his health began to deteriorate. In 1883, he became ill and in 1884, he had his left eye removed. The following year, his right eye was removed. Hubbard died on September 14, 1886 and was buried in Graceland Cemetery in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago honors 
Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard by naming the street, Hubbard Street for him, as is Hubbard High School and Hubbard’s Cave, the nickname given to a section of tunnel on I90 and I94 highway (the Kennedy Expressway).

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

At a time when men of virtues were desperately in short supply, the story of Illinois pioneer Gurdon Hubbard is a compelling one. It reaffirms the conviction that integrity, faith, loyalty, courage and a moral sense of responsibility are virtues worth cherishing.

Two books written by Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard are available in PDF format from my Digital Research Library of Illinois History®

1) Autobiography of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard; pub:1911
2) Incidents and Events in the Life of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard; pub:1888 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Philippe de Rocheblave, a Military Opportunist in the Illinois Country.

Philippe de Rocheblave
Philippe-François de Rastel de Rocheblave (1727-1802) (commonly known as Philippe de Rocheblave), was a military officer and fur trader in present-day southwestern Illinois in the eighteenth century. His story reveals much about the history of the Illinois Country in the years surrounding the Revolutionary War.

Born in Savournon, Hautes-Alpes, France, Rocheblave came to North America duing the Seven Years War also, known as, the French and Indian War. In 1760, he was a lieutenant with the Royal French Marines at Fort de Chartres (which is about 4 miles west of the Village of Prairie du Rocher), in the Illinois Country. He also established a fur trading business at Kaskaskia, another French settlement on the Mississippi.

After the British took control of Kaskaskia in 1763, he switched allegiances and took command of Fort Sainte-Geneviève, in the Illinois Country for New Spain. In 1774, he switched allegiances once again and took command of Kaskaskia for the British.

In 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, Colonel George Rogers Clark, commander of the Illinois Regiment, Virginia State Forces, captured Kaskaskia for the Americans and took Philippe de Rocheblave prisoner. Rocheblave was sent to Virginia, where he eluded parole and fled to the British forces in New York City.
Philippe de Rocheblave, the commandant of Fort Gage, captured while asleep with his wife, by Colonel George Rogers Clark and the Illinois Regiment, Virginia State Forces, in 1778, who seized the lightly guarded British outpost, of Kaskaskia, in the Illinois Country.
After the American Revolutionary War ended, Philippe de Rocheblave brought his family to Montreal; they later settled at Varennes in 1789. He became involved in the fur trade in the Detroit region. In 1796, Rocheblave was elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada for Surrey and was re-elected in 1796 and 1800, serving until he died on April 3, 1802, in Quebec City, Lower Canada.

Rocheblave's story presents a quandary. Was he an opportunist who owed his allegiance to whomever was winning at the time? Was he, alternately, astute in his allegiances, reacting to the often shifting nature of politics on the frontier? Whichever you lean towards, his story is an interesting chapter in the history of Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Saturday, January 13, 2018

The Lincoln–Douglas Debates; the First was Held on August 21, 1858.

Abraham Lincoln, the Republican candidate for the United States Senate from Illinois, and incumbent Illinois Senator Stephen A. Douglas was the leader of the Democratic Party, and their candidate.
Portrait photographs of Abraham Lincoln in 1860 and Stephen A. Douglas in 1859.
Did You Know? After moving to Illinois in 1833, Stephen A. Douglas briefly courted Mary Todd, who went on to marry his future rival, Abraham Lincoln.
At the time, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures; thus Lincoln and Douglas were trying for their respective parties to win control of the Illinois legislature. The debates previewed the issues that Lincoln would face in the aftermath of his victory in the 1860 presidential election. Although Illinois was a free state, the main issue discussed in all seven debates was slavery in the United States.

In agreeing to the official debates, Lincoln and Douglas decided to hold one debate in each of the nine congressional districts in Illinois. Because both had already spoken in two — Springfield and Chicago — within a day of each other, they decided that their "joint appearances" would be held only in the remaining seven districts. The debates were held in seven towns in the state of Illinois:
  1. Ottawa on August 21st
  2. Freeport on August 27th
  3. Jonesboro on September 15th
  4. Charleston on September 18th
  5. Galesburg on October 7th
  6. Quincy on October 13th
  7. Alton on October 15th
The debates in Freeport, Quincy and Alton drew especially large numbers of people from neighboring states, as the issue of slavery was of monumental importance to citizens across the nation. Newspaper coverage of the debates was intense. Major papers from Chicago sent stenographers to create complete texts of each debate, which newspapers across the United States reprinted in full, with some partisan edits. Newspapers that supported Douglas edited his speeches to remove any errors made by the stenographers and to correct grammatical errors, while they left Lincoln's speeches in the rough form in which they had been transcribed. In the same way, pro-Lincoln papers edited Lincoln's speeches, but left the Douglas texts as reported.

After losing the election for Senator in Illinois, Lincoln edited the texts of all the debates and had them published in a book. The widespread coverage of the original debates and the subsequent popularity of the book led eventually to Lincoln's nomination for President of the United States by the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago.

The format for each debate was: one candidate spoke for 60 minutes, then the other candidate spoke for 90 minutes, and then the first candidate was allowed a 30-minute "rejoinder." The candidates alternated speaking first. As the incumbent, Douglas spoke first in four of the debates. Stephen Douglas was first elected to the United States Senate in 1846. In 1858, he was seeking re-election for a third term. During his time in the Senate, the issue of slavery was raised several times, particularly with respect to the Compromise of 1850. As chairman of the committee on territories, Douglas argued for an approach to slavery termed popular sovereignty; electorates at a local level would vote whether to adopt or reject a state constitution which prohibited slavery. Decisions about whether slavery was permitted or prohibited within certain states and territories had been made previously at a federal level. Douglas was successful with passage of the Kansas–Nebraska Act in 1854. Abraham Lincoln, like Douglas, had also been elected to Congress in 1846. He served one two-year term in the House of Representatives. During his time in the House, Lincoln disagreed with Douglas and supported the Wilmot Proviso, which sought to ban slavery in new territory. Lincoln returned to politics in the 1850s to oppose the Kansas–Nebraska Act, and help develop the new Republican party.

Before the debates, Lincoln said that Douglas was encouraging fears of amalgamation of the races with enough success to drive thousands of people away from the Republican Party. Douglas tried to convince, especially the Democrats, that Lincoln was an abolitionist for saying that the American Declaration of Independence did apply to blacks as well as whites. Lincoln called a self-evident truth "the electric cord ... that links the hearts of patriotic and liberty-loving men together", of different ethnic backgrounds.

Lincoln argued in his House Divided Speech that Douglas was part of a conspiracy to nationalize slavery. Lincoln said that ending the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery in Kansas and Nebraska was the first step in this direction, and that the Dred Scott decision was another step in the direction of spreading slavery into Northern territories. Lincoln expressed the fear that the next Dred Scott decision would make Illinois a slave state.
U.S. Postage Stamp issued in 1958 commemorating the Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Both Lincoln and Douglas had opposition. Although Lincoln was a former Whig, the prominent former Whig Judge Theophilus Lyle Dickey said that Lincoln was too closely tied to the abolitionists, and supported Douglas. But Democratic President James Buchanan opposed Douglas for defeating the Lecompton Constitution, and set up a rival National Democratic party that drew votes away from him. The main theme of the Lincoln–Douglas debates was slavery, particularly the issue of slavery's expansion into the territories. It was Douglas's Kansas–Nebraska Act that repealed the Missouri Compromise's ban on slavery in the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and replaced it with the doctrine of popular sovereignty, which meant that the people of a territory could decide for themselves whether to allow slavery. Lincoln said that popular sovereignty would nationalize and perpetuate slavery. Douglas argued that both Whigs and Democrats believed in popular sovereignty and that the Compromise of 1850 was an example of this. Lincoln said that the national policy was to limit the spread of slavery, and mentioned (both at Jonesboro and later in his Cooper Union Address) the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, which banned slavery from a large part of the modern-day Midwest, as an example of this policy. The Compromise of 1850 allowed the territories of Utah and New Mexico to decide for or against slavery, but it also allowed the admission of California as a free state, reduced the size of the slave state of Texas by adjusting the boundary, and ended the slave trade (but not slavery itself) in the District of Columbia. In return, the South got a stronger fugitive slave law than the version mentioned in the Constitution. Whereas Douglas said that the Compromise of 1850 replaced the Missouri Compromise ban on slavery in the Louisiana Purchase territory north and west of the state of Missouri, Lincoln said that this was false, and that Popular Sovereignty and the Dred Scott decision were a departure from the policies of the past that would nationalize slavery.

There were partisan remarks, such as Douglas' accusations that members of the "Black Republican" party, such as Lincoln, were abolitionists. Douglas cited as proof Lincoln's House Divided Speech in which he said, " I believe this government cannot endure permanently half Slave and half Free." Douglas also charged Lincoln with opposing the Dred Scott decision because "it deprives the negro of the rights and privileges of citizenship." Lincoln responded that "the next Dred Scott decision" could allow slavery to spread into free states. Douglas accused Lincoln of wanting to overthrow state laws that excluded blacks from states such as Illinois, which were popular with the northern Democrats. Lincoln did not argue for complete social equality. However, he did say Douglas ignored the basic humanity of blacks, and that slaves did have an equal right to liberty. Lincoln said he himself did not know how emancipation should happen. He believed in colonization, but admitted that this was impractical. Without colonization he said that it would be wrong for emancipated slaves to be treated as "underlings," but that there was a large opposition to social and political equality, and that "a universal feeling, whether well or ill-founded, cannot be safely disregarded." Lincoln said that Douglas' public indifference to slavery would result in the expansion of slavery because it would mold public sentiment to accept slavery. Lincoln said Douglas "cares not whether slavery is voted down or voted up," and that, in the words of Henry Clay, he would "blow out the moral lights around us" and eradicate the love of liberty.

At the debate at Freeport, Lincoln forced Douglas to choose between two options, either of which would damage Douglas' popularity and chances of getting reelected. Lincoln asked Douglas to reconcile popular sovereignty with the Supreme Court's Dred Scott decision. Douglas responded that the people of a territory could keep slavery out even though the Supreme Court said that the federal government had no authority to exclude slavery, simply by refusing to pass a slave code and other legislation needed to protect slavery. Douglas alienated Southerners with this Freeport Doctrine, which damaged his chances of winning the Presidency in 1860. As a result, Southern politicians would use their demand for a slave code for territories such as Kansas to drive a wedge between the Northern and Southern wings of the Democratic Party. In splitting what was the majority political party in 1858 (the Democratic Party), Southerners guaranteed the election of Lincoln, the nominee of the newly formed Republican Party, in 1860.

Douglas' efforts to gain support in all sections of the country through popular sovereignty failed. By allowing slavery where the majority wanted it, he lost the support of Republicans led by Lincoln who thought Douglas was unprincipled. By defeating a pro-slavery Lecompton Constitution and advocating a Freeport Doctrine to stop slavery in Kansas where the majority were anti-slavery, he lost the support of the South.

Before the debate at Charleston, Democrats held up a banner that read "Negro equality" with a picture of a white man, a negro woman and a mulatto child. At this debate Lincoln went further than before in denying the charge that he was an abolitionist. While denying abolitionist tendencies was effective politics, the African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass remarked on Lincoln's "entire freedom from popular prejudice against the colored race." In spite of Lincoln's denial of abolitionist tendencies, Stephen Douglas charged Lincoln with having an ally in Frederick Douglass in preaching "abolition doctrines." Stephen Douglas said that "the negro" Frederick Douglass told "all the friends of negro equality and negro citizenship to rally as one man around Abraham Lincoln." Stephen Douglas also charged Lincoln with a lack of consistency when speaking on the issue of racial equality, and cited Lincoln's previous statements that the declaration that all men are created equal applies to blacks as well as whites.

Lincoln said that slavery expansion endangered the Union, and mentioned the controversies caused by it in Missouri in 1820, in the territories conquered from Mexico that led to the Compromise of 1850, and again with the Bleeding Kansas controversy over slavery. Lincoln said that the crisis would be reached and passed when slavery was put "in the course of ultimate extinction." At Galesburg Douglas sought again to prove that Lincoln was an abolitionist. At Alton, Lincoln tried to reconcile his statements on equality. Lincoln contrasted his support for the Declaration with opposing statements made by the Southern politician John C. Calhoun and Senator John Pettit of Indiana, who called the Declaration "a self-evident lie." Lincoln said that Chief Justice Roger Taney (in his Dred Scott decision) and Stephen Douglas were opposing Thomas Jefferson's self-evident truth, dehumanizing blacks and preparing the public mind to think of them as only property. Lincoln thought slavery had to be treated as a wrong, and kept from growing. Lincoln used a number of colorful phrases in the debates, such as when he said that one argument by Douglas made a horse chestnut into a chestnut horse, and compared an evasion by Douglas to the sepia cloud from a cuttlefish. Lincoln said that Douglas' Freeport Doctrine was a do-nothing sovereignty that was "as thin as the homeopathic soup that was made by boiling the shadow of a pigeon that had starved to death." The October surprise of the election was the endorsement of the Democrat Douglas by former Whig John J. Crittenden. Former Whigs comprised the biggest block of swing voters, and Crittenden's endorsement of Douglas rather than Lincoln, also a former Whig, reduced Lincoln's chances of winning.

On election day, the Democrats won 40 seats in the state house of Representatives, and the Republicans won 35. In the state senate, Republicans held 11 seats, and Democrats held 14. Stephen A. Douglas was reelected by the legislature, 54-46, even though Abraham Lincoln won the popular vote with a percentage of 50.6%, or by 3,402 votes. However, the widespread media coverage of the debates greatly raised Lincoln's national profile, making him a viable candidate for nomination as the Republican candidate in the upcoming 1860 presidential election. He would go on to secure both the nomination and the presidency, beating Douglas (as the Northern Democratic candidate), among others, in the process.

Lincoln also went on to be in contact with editors looking to publish the debate texts. George Parsons, the Ohio Republican committee chairman, got Lincoln in touch with Ohio's main political publisher, Follett and Foster, of Columbus. They published copies of the text, and titled the book, Political Debates Between Hon. Abraham Lincoln and Hon. Stephen A. Douglas in the Celebrated Campaign of 1858, in Illinois. Four printings were made, and the fourth sold 16,000 copies.

The Lincoln–Douglas debate format that is used in high school and college competition today is named after this series of debates. Modern presidential debates trace their roots to the Lincoln–Douglas Debates, though the format today is remarkably different from the original.

The first photo is composite image of portrait photographs of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, Lincoln in 1860 Douglas in 1859. The second photo is U.S. Postage, 1958 issue, commemorating the Lincoln and Douglas debates.

By Project Gutenberg 
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

James Semple is a Classic Example of a Prairie Entrepreneur.

Prairie Entrepreneurs followed opportunities where they led, carving winding paths through our state's history. James Semple is a classic example of this phenomenon.

James Semple
James Semple was born Jan. 5, 1798 in Green County, Kentucky. He received some private instruction and attended the common schools. He enlisted in the Army in 1814 (War of 1812) at age 16, and became an ensign in the Kentucky militia two years later. Semple studied law in Louisville, Kentucky, and was shortly admitted to the bar. He came to Edwardsville in 1827 and continued to practice law.

In 1828 Semple was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives, serving as Speaker four years. During the Black Hawk War (May 1832 to August 1832) he served variously as a private, adjutant, and Judge. In 1833 he was appointed attorney general of Illinois. After an unsuccessful effort as a Democrat to win election to the U.S. Senate in 1836, he moved to Alton at a place he called Semple Town. From 1837-1842 he was Charge d' Affaires to the nation of Columbia, appointed by President Martin Van Buren. In 1842 he was appointed to the Illinois Supreme Court and became Chief Justice.

Gen. Semple was also a land speculator and became involved in the real estate business. He and a relative named Bagsby, in 1837, seeking a suitable town along the projected Alton-Mt. Carmel Railroad, chose a site east of Edwardsville for a new town. He did this after conferring with several prominent local residents, including Joseph Suppiger and Dr. Koepfli.

Semple suggested the name Highland because it reflected both the geography of his native Scotland and that of Switzerland. Naturally, he bought tracts of land in Madison County close to where he thought the railroad would go through in the hope that he might hit a future town site and be able to sell at a big profit. Semple and Bagsby, with the cooperation of local men, laid out the town of Highland, sometimes known as Little Helvetia (Little Switzerland). A large steam gristmill was built by Suppiger. A sawmill and a store quickly followed. Jacob Eggen's pottery mill was started in 1835. Town lots were sold on Sept. 16, 1837, but the water was high on Silver Creek and Shoal Creek and, there being no roads or bridges, few could come from those areas. Less than 100 men attended the sale but few lots were sold because they were there mostly for curiosity's sake, having very little money.

The quaint town of Elsah (Jersey County), situated on the bluffs north of Alton, was originally platted by Gen. James Semple in 1853 and named for the Scottish town of Ailsah, his ancestral home. The spelling was changed when a post office was established. At Elsah, he offered lots to settlers who would build with stone, ensuring durability. Semple was also instrumental in founding the town of Tamaroa.

Yet Semple's most intriguing brainstorm was an idea he had to build a steam locomotive that could cross the prairie without traveling on railroad tracks. Illinois' first passenger railroad, the Northern Cross, was completed in 1840, and it stretched from Meredosia to Jacksonville. Two years later it reached Springfield. The railroad's name came from the fact that it was part of a vast internal improvements scheme by the state legislature in the northern part of the state. There was also to be a Southern Cross in the lower part of the state, but the railroad, canal, and plank road scheme, coupled with the Panic of 1837, bankrupted the state by 1841.

The Northern Cross had strap iron fastened to wood rails. Unfortunately, they had a tendency to curl up and stab the cars - and sometimes the passengers. Called "iron horses" by the Indians, the railroad's two engines (Rogers and Illinois) had to stop often for more wood and water. The two engines soon broke down for lack of spare parts. After that, what little traffic remained was pulled by mules. The state's first railroad project ended in failure; its crude rail lay deserted and rusting, its steam engines abandoned along the right of way.

Semple came up with a better idea. What about a prairie schooner that could navigate without the expensive construction of a roadbed with ballast and rails. Semple's train would also be cost effective since it didn't need to purchase right of way for the tracks. Semple worked nearly six years devoting time and money to his scheme. He approached the project in a scientific manner, corresponding with railroad experts and carefully examining steam engines. He decided to replace the skinny wheels on his locomotive with broad wooden cylinders that would support the heavy weight of the engine, and it was less likely to get stuck in the mud. Semple made a drawing of the wheels and chassis for his locomotive and applied for a patent from the U.S. government.

Semple quickly realized that he lacked sufficient funds for building a locomotive so he decided to obtain his cab and boiler from one of the abandoned engines of the Northern Cross. In August of 1844 he hitched a team of mules to the chassis of his "prairie car" and took it to the site of an abandoned engine, west of Springfield. After a few trials and adjustments, Semple discovered that his invention actually worked, but it was too large for practical purposes.

After a redesign and modifications, he came up with a new schematic that called for a model that was only nineteen feet long and eight feet wide. The wheels were about four feet in diameter. The new vehicle was rather uncomplicated, consisting only of a boiler, a water tank, a coal bin, a large smokestack, and drive pistons. The engineer stood on a small platform and steered with a large wheel, similar to that on a ship. In 1847 the state legislature granted Semple a charter for the Illinois Transportation Company. He printed detailed pamphlets and distributed them widely in an effort to secure financial backing. But in the end, there was only one man interested enough to risk his money. Commodore George DeKay.

By the summer of 1848 Semple was ready for a test run of his metal behemoth. On several occasions Semple's engine easily pulled a car loaded with nearly a dozen people. In another test, near Lick Creek, the vehicle traversed prairie soil that was covered with several inches of water. But Semple ran into financial problems when DeKay, his benefactor, died. Semple's land schooner made its final run from Alton to Edwardsville, traveling along the existing plank road. Near Carlinville, on his way to Springfield, the smoke-belching vehicle fell into a hole and broke an axle. It was abandoned on the side of the road, and the rusting hulk became derisively known as Semple's Folly.

Semple died at Elsah in 1866 and was interred in Bellefontaine Cemetery in north St. Louis. Semple is best known for helping to establish the town of Elsah. Today it is a quiet place that attracts tourists because of its quaint name, antique shops, and bed and breakfast offerings. But if you find the right old-timer in that town, he'll tell you the story of a man who once tried to conquer the Illinois prairie with a contraption that puffed black smoke and traveled across the land on wooden rollers.

By Bill Nunes
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

One Man's Story of "Indian-Hating" in the Illinois Country Frontier.

As more settlers filtered into the Illinois Country in the years after the Revolutionary War, the local tribes cast a suspicious eye on these newcomers. Sometimes, this tension erupted into violence, violence that hardened and scarred many an early settler.

Here's one man's story. John Moredock (1776-1830) [alternate spellings: Murdock, Murdoch, Moredoch] was the son of a woman who was married several times, and was as often widowed by the tomahawk of the savage. Her husbands had been pioneers, and with them she had wandered from one territory to another, living always on the frontier. She was at last left a widow, at Vincennes, with a large family of children, and was induced to join a party about to remove to Illinois, to which region a few American families had then recently removed. On the eastern side of Illinois there were no settlements of whites; on the shore of the Mississippi a few spots were occupied by the French; and it was now that our own backwoodsmen began to turn their eyes to this delightful country, and determined to settle in the vicinity of the French villages.

Mrs. Moredock and her friends embarked at Vincennes in boats, with the intention of descending the Wabash and Ohio rivers, and ascending the Mississippi. They proceeded in safety until they reached the Grand Tower on the Mississippi, where, owing to the difficulty of the navigation for ascending boats, it became necessary for the boatmen to land, and drag their vessels round a rocky point, which was swept by a violent current. Here a party of Indians, lying in wait, rushed upon them, and murdered the whole party. Mrs. Moredock was among the victims, and all her children, except John, who was proceeding with another party.

John Moredock was just entering upon the years of manhood, when he was thus left in a strange land, the sole survivor of his race. He resolved upon executing vengeance, and immediately took measures to discover the actual perpetrators of the massacre. It was ascertained that the outrage was committed by a party of twenty or thirty Indians, belonging to different tribes, who had formed themselves into a lawless predatory band.
Moredock watched the motions of this band for more than a year, before an opportunity suitable for his purpose occurred. At length he learned, that they were hunting on the Missouri side of the river, nearly opposite to the recent settlements of the Americans. He raised a party of young men and pursued them; but that time they escaped. Shortly after, he sought them at the head of another party, and had the good fortune to discover them one evening, on an island, whither they had retired to encamp the more securely for the night. Moredock and his friends, about equal in numbers to the Indians, waited until the dead of night, and then landed upon the island, turning adrift their own canoes and those of the enemy, and determined to sacrifice their own lives, or to exterminate the savage band. They were completely successful. Three only of the Indians escaped, by throwing themselves into the river; the rest were slain, while the whites lost not a man.

But Moredock was not satisfied while one of the murderers of his mother remained. He had learned to recognize the names and persons of the three that had escaped, and these he pursued with secret, but untiring diligence, until they all fell by his own hand. Nor was he yet satisfied. He had now become a hunter and a warrior. He was a square-built, muscular man, of remarkable strength and activity. In athletic sports he had few equals; few men would willingly have encountered him in single combat. He was a man of determined courage, and great coolness and steadiness of purpose. He was expert in the use of the rifle and other weapons; and was complete master of those wonderful and numberless expedients by which the woodsman subsists in the forest, pursues the footsteps of an enemy with unerring sagacity, or conceals himself and his design from the discovery of a watchful foe. He had resolved never to spare an Indian, and though he made no boast of this determination, and seldom avowed it, it became the ruling passion of his life. He thought it praiseworthy to kill an Indian; and would roam through the forest silently and alone, for days and weeks, with this single purpose. A solitary red man, who was so unfortunate as to meet him in the woods, was sure to become his victim; if he encountered a party of the enemy, he would either secretly pursue their footsteps until an opportunity for striking a blow occurred, or, if discovered, would elude them by his superior skill. He died an old man, and it is supposed never in his life failed to embrace an opportunity to kill a savage.

The reader must not infer, from this description, that Colonel Moredock was unsocial, ferocious, or by nature cruel. On the contrary, he was a man of warm feelings, and excellent disposition. At home he was like other men, conducting a large farm with industry and success, and gaining the good will of all his neighbours by his popular manners and benevolent deportment. He was cheerful, convivial, and hospitable; and no man in the territory was more generally known, or more universally respected. He was an officer in the ranging service during the war of 1813-14, and acquitted himself with credit; and was afterwards elected to the command of the militia of his county, at a time when such an office was honourable, because it imposed responsibility, and required the exertion of military skill. Colonel Moredock was a member of the legislative council of the territory of Illinois, and at the formation of the state government, was spoken of as a candidate for the office of governor, but refused to permit his name to be used.

Moredock's tragic story and insatiable thirst for revenge mark him as a complex character shaped by the hard realities of pre-statehood Illinois.
John Moredock is buried in the Miles Cemetery, Monroe County, Illinois.
From "Sketches of History, Life, and Manners, in the West."
By James Hall, Published in 1834
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Pierre Menard House at 4230 Kaskaskia Road in Ellis Grove, Illinois.

The Pierre Menard House, located in Ellis Grove, Illinois, was the home of Pierre Menard (1766-1844), a successful trader who became the first lieutenant governor of Illinois from 1818 to 1822. Menard was born near Montreal, Canada on October 7, 1766. The third of ten children, Menard sought to make his fortune by trading furs in what was then "Illinois Country."
Having become a successful businessman by the age of thirty, Menard went on to become a successful U.S. political figure, eventually becoming the first lieutenant governor of Illinois, after having served as the presiding officer of the Illinois Territorial Legislature. Despite his various political accolades, including delegate to the Indiana Territorial Legislature, regimental Major, and being one of the select few chosen to help draft Illinois' first constitution, Pierre Menard is still remembered to this day for his good-natured will and for his generosity towards the poor.

The house itself is believed to have been constructed around 1815. It is an illustration of the Southern French Colonial (sometimes referred to as "Creole") and has various features which highlight this, including its beautiful veranda that wraps the building’s front façade and gable ends. The house is located within only a few hundred yards of the Mississippi River during certain periods of the year. Due to the annual flooding and erosion, the rest of the original town of Kaskaskia, Illinois' first capital, has been washed away.

The Pierre Menard House now stands as the only testament to where the first state capital once stood. The house was placed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1970. Also preserved by the state as the Pierre Menard Home State Historic Site, it contains a museum which includes audio-visual program. The museum is devoted to the Menard family, as well as local history, and is governed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

The two-story home is an unusually fine example of French Creole-style architecture and features early 19th-century period furnishings. The rooms on the main floor include the entry hall, parlor, master bedroom, dining room, two additional bedrooms, maid's room and a nursery. Behind the home is a period stone kitchen.
The grounds include a poteau sur solle (post-on-sill) privy, a reconstructed smokehouse and springhouse, and an historic herb and vegetable garden that is located near the kitchen.
Pierre Menard State Historic Site.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Eads Bridge is the world's first steel-truss bridge and an engineering marvel spanning the Mississippi river between East St. Louis, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.

After the Civil War and the expansion of the nation's railroad system, it became apparent that for St. Louis (the Gateway to the West) to survive, a bridge across the Mississippi River was essential. In 1867, the St. Louis Bridge and Iron Company, made up of a group of City bankers and businessmen, hired James Buchanan Eads (1820-1887) to build one. Eads was a self-educated engineer and had never built a bridge before. But during the Civil war, he had been called on by Washington to construct several Ironclad gun ships and completed his contract in an incredible 65 days.
The construction of the bridge began in 1867. Giant granite-faced piers support three graceful arches and two decks. Eads Bridge was the first bridge to carry railroad tracks, the first to use tubular cord members and the first to depend entirely on cantilever construction for its superstructure. Pneumatic caissons were used for the first time in the U.S. in the construction of its piers, which were sunk to the unprecedented depth of 123 feet.
This new design is a testament to Eads' brilliance as an engineer, but it is also evidence of the grueling fight that the builders had to wage against the ferry and shipping interests. These powerful companies had controlled the crossing of the Mississippi since Capt. James Piggott started the first ferry across the river in 1795. His company sold out to the Wiggins Ferry Company, who came to dominate the riverfront on the Illinois side of the river.

These interests lobbied for restrictions and specifications on the height, construction, and span of the bridge that they thought could not be surmounted by any engineer. Unfortunately for them, James B. Eads was one of the best engineers of his age and he found "work-arounds" for all of their artificial obstacles.
The Eads bridge spans the Mississippi River between East St. Louis, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri. At 6,442 feet long, it was the longest arch bridge in the world. It first opened to foot traffic on May 29, 1874.
This chromolithograph shows the construction of the bridge and the finished product as it would have looked in 1874. It was published by Compton and Co. in St. Louis in 1874.
The bridge was completed for a cost of nearly $10 million, and dedicated on July 4, 1874. In recognition of this unparalleled engineering achievement, Eads Bridge was named a National Historic Landmark, the highest designation given by the National Park Service, in 1964. It was made a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1971 and designated a City Landmark the same year.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Seymour Paisin Ladies Apparel on Devon and Talman Avenues in Chicago, Illinois.

The Seymour Paisin Ladies Apparel (also known as Seymour Paisin on Devon, Inc.) was located at 2629 West Devon and Talman Avenues in Chicago. Seymour Paisin (1912-1987) and his wife and co-founder Ruth (1914-1977), opened Seymour Paisin Ladies Apparel in 1950 and the shop closed in 1980.

The Paisin's began quarter-page advertising in the Chicago Tribune in September of 1951.

Not much information is available about the store or Seymour. It was "THEE" place to shop for high fashion, second only to Chicago's Downtown.
My mom shopped there, a lot! We lived 2-1/2 blocks away and she would take me out for a walk when I was very young. I can remember sitting in one of their big chairs and looking out the windows watching traffic go by and people walking on Devon Avenue, while my mom tried on dress after dress.
Chicago Tribune, September 13, 1951
Dress Label
Ruth & Seymour Paisin

Visit our Souvenir Shop

By Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Late Eighteenth Century Illinois Counterfeiter, John Duff.

In the early nineteenth century, money followed the waterways in Illinois. Trade routes developed along the state's rivers, connecting Illinois to the rest of the fledgling nation. In southeastern Illinois, along the Ohio River, something else followed the waterways - criminals. Preying on the burgeoning river trade, these shady characters took advantage of the seclusion of the frontier to ply their illegal trade.

One such scofflaw was named John Duff (or just Duff, or John Michael McElduff, or John McDuff, or Jean Michel Duff, or one of several other assumed names). To many, though, he was known simply as Duff the Counterfeiter.

John Michael McElduff (commonly known as John Duff) was born sometime between September 1759 and August 1760 in South Carolina, according to his court testimony in August 1781, where he claimed to be 21 years old

Duff served in the American Revolutionary War in the Illinois Campaign (1778-1779); Capture of Kaskaskia and Cahokia (1778); Siege of Fort Vincennes (1779); and in the Battle of St. Louis (1780).
Private John Duff served in the, ranks of, George Rogers Clark's Illinois Regiment, walking through chest-high, icy water, on the march to Vincennes, January 1779, in a painting, by Frederick Coffay Yohn.
Around 1778, Duff was living in the Illinois Country, later referred to as the "American Bottom." While leading a group of longhunters (a longhunter was an 18th-century explorer and hunter who made expeditions into the American frontier wilderness for an extended period of time) returning to Kaskaskia, Illinois, John Duff, John Saunders, and the rest of the hunting party were intercepted by Colonel George Rogers Clark's soldiers and his Virginia frontiersmen soldiers, near the ruins of Fort Massac (Metropolis, Illinois). Suspected of being British spies, they immediately took an American oath of allegiance, where Duff and his men joined Clark's Illinois Regiment, Virginia State Forces. Duff enlisted into Captain John Williams' Company in Cahokia and rose to the rank of sergeant in the Illinois Regiment.

In 1780, while Duff was posted with the garrison in Cahokia, the British attacked St. Louis, which was under colonial Spanish rule, and American-held Cahokia in 1780, with a motley army of French-Canadians, fur traders, and their Indian allies. McElduff and other soldiers were on reconnaissance, for General Clark, observing the British movements, near the Mississippi River. The group was attacked by an Indian war party, barely escaping with their lives. The combined American, French, and Spanish forces successfully repelled the enemy assaults. In the George Rogers Clark Papers and Illinois court records, Duff was referred to both as "John McElduff" and "John McDuff."

In the mid-late 1780s, Duff was living in Kaskaskia, Illinois and was in business with two brothers of the captain of the Ohio County, Virginia Militia and Revolutionary War Patriot, Samuel Mason who later became the notorious river pirate. According to the French Kaskaskia records, the Duff name was recorded as, "Jean Michel Duff" and "John Michael Duff." In 1786, John, Daniel, and another son of Thomas McElduff sold land tracts for two different property deeds. There was a Daniel McElduff and McDuff who was also at Kaskaskia in the 1780s and was likely the brother of John Duff.

When the McElduffs first arrived, the pre-American Revolution, British-controlled, French-speaking settlement of Kaskaskia was not recorded. Daniel McDuff owned slaves while residing in Kaskaskia, as was the custom of transplanted Southerners and the French creole population in the Illinois Country. After the departure of the bandit John Dodge, who lived in the area from 1784-1790, John McElduff was elected, in 1790, as one of six judges, to the Kaskaskia town court. According to the French records, on February 6, 1794, John McElduff and Seddy, his wife, sold a dwelling and grounds in Kaskaskia Village, to J.R. Jones for $200; this Jones may have been John Rice Jones, an Illinois Regiment veteran, noted politician, and the first lawyer in the Illinois Country.

After 1790, John Duff was associated with the South Carolina counterfeiter, Philip Alston, the Virginia river pirate, Samuel Mason, and the North Carolina serial killers the Harpe brothers, at Cave-in-Rock, in the U.S. Northwest Territory, where he learned the illicit business of counterfeiting, known as "coining," where he could make a lot money in criminal pursuits.
The Spanish silver peso (Silver Eight Royals Coin of Charles III of Spain, 1776) was the, most common, currency found on the American frontier. Counterfeiters, John Duff and his associate, Philip Alston were "coining" this type of money, at Cave-In-Rock. The "Spanish milled dollar" was minted in México and considered legal tender, in the United States, until the Coinage Act of 1857.
Philip Alston was a South Carolinian of polished manners and good education who early in his life learned the art of counterfeiting, His specialty was not bogus notes so much as bogus coins.

It must have been from Alston that Duff learned "coining" and Alston probably furnished the tools and dies for this manufacture, since Duff would hardly have the skill. Duff was spurred to this new activity by his discovery of a mine containing lead with a certain amount of silver in it, on the banks of the Saline River, in Illinois, which flows into the Ohio river not far above the Cave-in-Rock.
Cave-in-Rock, Illinois.
A coinind die, for the making of counterfeit half dollars, was found in the cave years later, which may have belonged to Alston and later to Duff.

By this time, he had left the historical record and from this point on, he was referred to in folklore as, just Duff or "Duff the Counterfeiter." Even as a counterfeiter, John Duff was not a violent man by nature and he was never known to have killed anyone.

There is an account of Duff blindfolding a woman to show her his stash of counterfeit silver clad lead coins in dozens of chests. 

Whether or not John McElduff and his wife left Kaskaskia permanently after 1794 is not known, but folklore mentioned John Duff, as owning a slave named Pompey and tales of his miraculously avoiding numerous attempts at capture and death from local regulator vigilantes and the U.S. Army.

The story of his death? That's not so clear. There are at least three acounts of how Duff died. Here are two of the most probable:

1) According to Revolutionary Soldiers Buried in Illinois, Duff was murdered in 1805,  while he was drunk, at the Island Ripple near the Great Salt Springs in Gallatin County, Illinois. The mouth of the Tradewater is on the Kentucky side and is used to describe the site of Flynn's Ferry, an early crossing point. The road from Flynn's Ferry ran to the Great Salt Spring. Later it became known as Ford's Ferry Road. The road from Shawneetown to the Great Salt Springs intersected the first road on the west side of where it crosses the Saline River. That crossing point or ford is called Island Ripple, or "riffle" as the local dialect pronounces it. The Saline River empties out into the Ohio just a few miles above the Tradewater. Duff was buried near the local salt springs.

2) For nearly, a decade, Duff had become a scourge along the lower Ohio River region. On June 4, 1799, a group of three Shawnee Indians and a French courier du bois guide were hired by U.S. Army Captain Zebulon Pike, Sr., (and the father of the namesake of Pike's Peak) father of the explorer, who was the commandant at the frontier outpost, of Fort Massac, which is now Metropolis, Illinois. This mercenary party was given orders to kill John Duff, which they did, at his house which, was located either at Battery Rock, according to the newspaper account, on the Illinois side of the Ohio River or across the river at what would later, become Caseyville, Kentucky as, recalled in the History of Union County, Kentucky.

Shrouded in mystery, Duff's life and death stand as a reflection of the seamier side of life on the frontier in Illinois. In years since there have been many searches for "Duff's treasure" in caves and other places along the Saline River, but all have been fruitless, at least as far as any records show.
John Duff Signature
Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Illinois 'River Pirates' in the Northwest Territory in the 1790s.

The "Wild West" image that comes to mind is that of the western United States in the decades after the Civil War. In the late eighteenth century, the Wild West was a bit further east, so to speak. In its pre-statehood days, Illinois had its share of ne'er-do-wells, confidence men, thieves and murderers.
Samuel Ross Mason

One such man was Samuel Ross Mason (also, spelled Meason). Born in Virginia in 1739, Mason served in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Revolutionary War. Mason stole provisions in Virginia, robbed houses in Knoxville, Tennessee, and killed a constable in Kentucky.

This final act led him to move his headquarters further downriver to Cave-in-Rock (now the Cave-in-Rock State Park in Hardin County) on the Illinois shore in 1797. By this time, he had gathered a number of followers who openly based themselves at Cave-in-Rock. 

The Ohio River in the 1790s was a teeming inland highway of commerce and emigrants.

Here, Mason and his men would warmly welcome river boat travelers to rest and eat. However, while these visitors were enjoying the hospitality, Mason's men were checking their supplies and goods for anything of value. If they found something, they would wait until the next day and when the visitors continued on, would rob them as they made their way around the bend of the river.

Philip Alston was a South Carolinian of polished manners and good education who early in his life learned the art of counterfeiting, His specialty was not bogus notes so much as bogus coins. A coinind die, for the making of counterfeit half dollars, was found in the cave, which may have belonged to Alston and later to John Duff.
Cave-in-Rock, Illinois.
Cave-in-Rock was the most famous of the counterfeiting caves, and one of the first of the "coiners," John Duff, was the probable brother-in-law of Samuel Mason, seems to have operated in the Cave while Mason and his robbers were still there, and began those operations even before Mason moved in.
While at Cave-in-Rock, Mason and his men briefly harbored the notorious Wiley Harpe and his brothers, who were on the run from the law. The Harpes were the most brutal outlaws at the time and distinguished themselves as being America's first serial killers. Though the Mason Gang could be ruthless, even they were appalled at the actions of the Harpes. After the murderous pair began to make a habit of taking travelers to the top of the bluff, stripping them naked, and throwing them off, they were asked to leave.
Cave-in-Rock, Illinois, view on the Ohio River (circa 1832).
In the summer of 1799, the Mason Gang was forced to leave Cave-in-Rock when they were attacked by a group called the “Exterminators.” This group of vigilante bounty-hunters was led by Captain Young of Mercer County, Kentucky. Mason then moved his operations downriver and settled his family in Spanish Louisiana and became a highwayman on the Natchez Trace in Mississippi, robbing and killing unsuspecting travelers. It was on the Natchez Trace that Mason received his most infamous nickname. He would leave a message after each crime (often in the blood of his murdered victims) proudly stating, "Done by Mason of the Woods."

In April, 1802 Mississippi Governor William C. C. Claiborne was informed that Samuel Mason and Wiley Harpe had attempted to board the boat of Colonel Joshua Baker between Yazoo and Walnut Hills, now Vicksburg, Mississippi. The governor responded by ordering Colonel Daniel Burnet, with 15-20 volunteers to track down Mason and his men. A reward of $2,000 was offered for their capture.

Though there were dozens of men searching for the Mason Gang, the outlaws continued with their evil deeds along the Natchez Trace, striking one caravan with horrific brutality. In response, another posse of local residents and a few bounty-hunters was raised to go after them. Learning that Mason and his men were hiding out less than a mile west of the Trace near Rocky Springs, Mississippi, the posse quickly pursued. When they came upon the camp, they found it had been hastily abandoned. Though the outlaws' trail was fresh, most of the posse chose not to follow, instead remaining at the camp searching for any hidden loot that may have been left by the outlaws. A few men; however, continued the pursuit, but when they lost the trail, they abandoned the search.

Months later, Spanish officials were more successful. In January, 1803, they arrested Mason, four of his sons, and several other men at the Little Prairie settlement, now Caruthersville, in southeastern Missouri. Mason and his family members were taken to the colonial government in New Madrid, Missouri, where a three-day hearing was held to determine whether Mason was a pirate. Although Mason claimed he was simply a farmer who had been maligned by his enemies, the presence of $7,000 in currency and 20 human scalps in his baggage convinced the Spanish he was guilty. Mason, his family, and the other men were then boarded on a boat to be taken to New Orleans, where where they would be handed over to the American governor in the Mississippi Territory. However, while being transported, Mason and Wiley Harpe, who was using the alias of John Sutton, overpowered their guards and fled. Though Mason was shot in the leg, he made good his escape.

Governor William C. C. Claiborne immediately added an additional $500 reward for their recapture, making the total reward $2500. This staggering amount prompted Wiley Harpe and another man to bring Mason's head in an attempt to claim the reward in September, 1803. Whether they killed Mason or he died from his leg wound is unknown. However, rather than collecting a reward, the two pirates were recognized, arrested, tried in federal court, found guilty of piracy. They were hanged in Greenville, Mississippi in early 1804.

Rivers hold many legends and stories. Mason's is one of the few stories of river pirates in Illinois that can be substantiated. It speaks to Illinois's days as a part of the wild frontier.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.