Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Augustus French, the Ninth Governor of Illinois, Eliminated the Entire State Deficit and Adopted a New Illinois Constitution among his other Successes.

When Augustus Chaflin French moved into his brand new house on Belleville Street in Lebanon, Illinois in 1855, he had already retired from a long sucessful career in Illinois' public service.

French was born on August 2, 1808 in Hill, Merrimack County, New Hampshire. His father died when he was a child, and he struggled to obtain an education, finally leaving Dartmouth College due to lack of funds. Studying at home, he was admitted to the bar in 1823 at the time, law school graduation was not a prerequisite for becoming a lawyer). He then travelled to Albion, Edwards County, Illinois but soon moved to Edgar Courthouse (later renamed Paris, Illinois) in the newly established Edgar County, where he acquired a successful law practice. On his mother's death, he assumed responsibility for his younger siblings.

French entered politics, at 29 years of age, in 1837, first serving a term in the Illinois legislature, then becoming the Receiver of Public Monies (i.e., the receiver of money paid to the U.S. government for land) at Palestine in Crawford County, Illinois, where he took up residence.

In 1844 he was a presidential elector for James K. Polk (the winner in that election), and became popular in Illinois politics through his advocacy of a war with Mexico.

French was nominated for governor by his party and won the election for governor, taking office as the ninth Governor of Illinois on December 9, 1846.

French immediately pushed for the funding to retire the state's debt, an attitude that characterized his entire tenure in office. He saw many of the Mormons leave Illinois in February of 1846 after their city charter at Nauvoo had been revoked the previous year.

Two events significant to the growth of Chicago occurred during French's term of office: the Illinois and Michigan Canal was completed, and the construction of the Galena and Chicago Union Railroad had begun. The canal connected the Illinois River (and thus, the Mississippi River) with the Great Lakes, while the railroad connected Chicago with the lead mines in Galena, Illinois (it would be completed in 1853).

A new state constitution was adopted in 1848, and among its changes from the 1818 constitution were new provisions for the election and terms of office for the state governor. French was unanimously renominated for the office by his party, and easily won re-election. He continued his efforts to reduce the state's debt, and by the time he left office on January 10, 1853, the entire deficit had been eliminated.

After his retirement from government, French taught law and would continue his public service as a bank commissioner (appointed to that position by his successor, Governor Matteson), and then relocated to Lebanon in St. Clair County, Illinois, where he became a Professor of Law at McKendree College (thus the new house in Lebanon).

In 1858 he ran for State Superintendent of Public Instruction as the nominee of the Douglas wing of his party, but was defeated. He was a delegate to the unproductive Illinois Constitutional Convention of 1862, which became known as the "Copperhead Convention" for its anti-war stance during the Civil War.

Augustus French died September 4, 1864 in Lebanon, Illinois and was buried there in College Hill Cemetery.

The Augustus French house still stands today at 1213 Belleville Street, Lebanon, Illinois. It received a Landmark Award from the St. Clair County Historical Society in 1984.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Lost Towns of Illinois - Griggsville Landing, Phillips' Landing, Phillips' Ferry, and Phillipsburg, Illinois.

Griggsville Landing was later known as Phillips' Landing or Phillips' Ferry or Phillipsburg, then the landing for Valley City, which was located in Flint Township on the Illinois River in Pike County.
Pike County, Illinois, was surveyed by the United States government in 1817-1819. In 1822, Garrett Van Dusen, the second settler in Flint Township, started a ferry using a canoe, ferrying footmen and swimming horses.

The town was a steamboat stop that began sometime in the mid-1820s. Mr. Van Deusen sold his claim to Mr. Nimrod Phillips, many of whose descendants are still residents of Pike County. By 1832, the site was referred to as Phillips' Ferry.
Steamboat at Griggsville Landing. Photograph by O.W. Taylor 1915.
The great Erie Canal, 365 miles long, completed in 1827, linked the Hudson River with Lake Erie at Buffalo; the Ohio & Erie Canal (1830) took the passenger from Lake Erie at Cleveland to the Ohio River at Portsmouth; and a canal at Louisville, Kentucky, circumvented the rapids on the Ohio River where river pirates had been such a bane to flatboatmen. The route continued down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi and Illinois to Griggsville Landing. What had been a torturous land route over the Appalachians was now a pleasant boat ride by river, lake and canal with plenty of room for household and farming equipment. This water route from Boston to Griggsville in 1834 cost $119 (today; $3,000) for two people and took forty days. It took about 12 days from New Orleans by river steamboat to Griggsville Landing.

Griggsville (4 miles to the west) was platted by David R. Griggs in 1832-33. Phillips' Ferry was used by Hyrum Smith and his family during the Mormon migration from Missouri eastward to Illinois in 1838-1839.
Griggsville Landing Lime Kiln was built around 1850.
The town at Griggsville Landing was home to a boat yard, a lime kiln, a grist mill and a hotel. James McWilliams owned the lumber yard in the early 1840s. In 1844, Captain Samuel Rider designed and built the Olittippa, a paddle­wheel boat of shallow draft (10") powered by horses on deck. The Timelian and Prairie State, steam-powered, were also designed by Captain Rider and built in 1847.

The Griggsville Landing Lime Kiln was built around 1850. Local traditions hold that English stonemason William Hobson used the Griggsville Landing kiln. It is said Hobson used the kiln in conjunction with the construction of homes, barns and stone arch bridges in the area during the 19th century.

The first and only church ever built in the township was erected at Griggsville landing in 1871 and was known as Union Church.

Griggsville Landing was eventually abandoned by the late 1870s.

The little village of Valley City, the only one in Flint township, was founded close to Phillips' Ferry by Wallace Parker in the year 1877. Wallace Parker also ran steamboat ferries from where Griggsville Landing used to be. The post office at Griggsville Landing changed its name to Valley City. The village of Valley City contained one store and post office. Valley City was incorporated in April 1956.

The book "Past and Present of Pike County, Illinois" (1906) states that "Valley City is the only town in the township and is on the Wabash Railroad."

The town was eventually abandoned, rendering it a ghost town due in part because, by Congressional mandate, the United States Army Corps of Engineers constructed levees along the Illinois River, leading to flooding of lower elevation settlements along the river. The annual floods were due to the levees wreaking havoc on Valley City, leading to the decimation of the town's businesses, abandonment of homes, and the eventual death of the town.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

Michael Kelly Lawler Saw Action in Two Nineteenth Century Wars; The Mexican-American War and the Civil War.

Michael Kelly Lawler was born in Monasterevin, County Kildare, Ireland, on November 12, 1814, Lawler and his parents, John Lawler and Elizabeth Kelly, moved to the United States two years later and settled initially in Frederick County, Maryland. In 1819, they moved to rural Gallatin County, in southern Illinois. On December 20, 1837, he married Elizabeth Crenshaw.
General Michael Kelly Lawler
Lawler received an appointment in 1846 by the governor of Illinois, Governor Thomas Ford, as a captain in the Mexican-American War and commanded two companies in separate deployments to Mexico. He first led a company from Shawneetown Illinois that guarded the supply route against Vera Cruz to General Winfield Scott's [1] Army. After the fall of Vera Cuz, his company was discharged. He made a visit to Washington after which he was asked by Governor Thomas Ford to organize a company of riflemen. He served in the campaign to take Matamoros, Tamaulipas [2] during the Texas Revolution in 1835-36.

Lawler was a huge man, weighing 250 pounds, usually fought in his shirt sleeves and is said to have sweated profusely. His sword belt was not long enough to go around his waist so he wore it by a strap from one shoulder.

He then returned to his farm in Illinois, where he established a thriving mercantile business, dealing in hardware, dry goods, and shoes. He studied law, passed his bar exam, and used his legal license to help Mexican War veterans claim their pensions. Then in 1861, the Civil War broke out. It's little wonder that he volunteered to command the recruits being mustered from his local Illinois region.

In May 1861 he recruited the 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry Regiment, and was initially commissioned a Colonel, Lawler did not suffer fools and had even less patience with his men’s poor discipline. His 18th Illinois Volunteer Infantry unit, training locally at Camp Mound City, developed an unwanted reputation for drunk and disorderly behavior. Lawler, no doubt growing impatient with army procedures, decided to take matters into his own hands.

In August 1861, Lawler introduced supervised fist fighting into the regiment as a manner of resolving disputes and was often heard to threaten to “knock down” any miscreants under his command. He sent a “present” of whiskey laced with a nausea-inducing chemical to some of his men who were in prison for drunkenness. Lawler also appointed a Catholic priest as Chaplin to the regiment despite protests from the majority of his men who were of Protestant persuasion. Probably his most controversial act occurred in October 1861 when he withheld any objection to the summary execution of a soldier in his ranks who had shot dead a colleague in a drunken rage.

Lawler was court-martialled for these acts and convicted but was soon restored to command after he successfully appealed the decision. Mike Lawler had many friends in the military that stood as character references, Ulysses S. Grant included. While not condoning his unorthodox methods, there seems to have been an understanding of his motives among many fellow officers.

Nevertheless, by the time his Illinois men went into combat, Lawler had formed an infantry unit that would become renowned for their fighting capabilities, equally matching the reputation of their commander. At the Battle of Fort Donelson in 1862, Lawler was wounded in the arm and deafened, some say permanently, by an exploding shell. However, within two months, he was back leading from the front and later directed his men during sustained and prolonged attacks on Vicksburg, a Confederate-controlled fortress city.

Having again narrowly missed death on May 16, 1863, the next day was to be Lawler’s finest moment as he led his men in a gallant and rapid advance on Rebel entrenchments. Too overweight to run, Lawler rode on horseback in advance of the charge; he and his men moving with such speed that they broke the entire Confederate line resulting in a famous Union victory. The fight, called the Battle of Big Black River Bridge, sealed Vicksburg’s fate.

Lawler was promoted to Brigadier General but illness plagued him. By 1864, he was declared unfit for duty and returned home to southern Illinois. He spent his retired years buying and selling horses before he died on July 26, 1882, at the age of 68. Kelly Lawler is buried in Hickory Hill Cemetery near Equality, Illinois.

A memorial to Michael K. Lawler stands in Equality, Illinois. 
Dedicated to the memory of MICHAEL KELLY LAWLER
Born in Monabiern County Kildare Ireland. Nov. 12, 1814. Came to Illinois 1819. Served as Captain in 3 "Ill" Inf and as Captain of a Company of Cavalry raised by himself in the Mexican War. Raised 18 "Ill Inf" in April 1861. Being commissioned Colonel on May 20th -- Promoted Brig "Gen" in April 1863. Was wounded at Fort Donelson. Led the assault on Vicksburg on May 22, 1863. Brevetted Maj. "Gen" on April 27, 1866. Died July 26, 1882.

Cerro Gordo Mex.,
Ft. Donelson,
Champion Hills,
Big Black River,
Assault on Vicksburg

Vera Cruz Mex.,
Lawler also was honored with a marble bust in Vicksburg National Military Park in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Chicago named Lawler Avenue after Gen. Michael Lawler and Lawler Park, near Chicago’s Midway International Airport, is also named for Lawler. There is also a large memorial of stone and bronze erected to his memory near his home in Equality, Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

[1] General Winfield Scott - In 1832, President Andrew Jackson ordered Winfield Scott to Illinois to take command of the Black Hawk War conflict. General Winfield Scott led 1,000 troops, to Fort Armstrong, to assist the U.S. Army garrison and militia volunteers stationed there. While General Scott's army was en route, along the Great Lakes, his troops had contracted Asiatic cholera, before they left the state of New York; it killed most of his 1,000 soldiers. Only 220 U.S. Army regulars, from the original force, made the final march, from Fort Dearborn, in Chicago to Rock Island, Illinois. Winfield Scott and his troops likely carried the highly contagious disease with them; soon after their arrival at Rock Island, a local, cholera epidemic broke out, among the whites and Indians, around the area of Fort Armstrong. Cholera microbes were spread, through sewery-type, contaminated water, which mixed with clean drinking water, brought on by poor sanitation practices, of the day. Within eight days, 189 people died and were buried on the island.

By the time Scott arrived in Illinois, the conflict had come to a close with the army's victory at the Battle of Bad Axe. Also known as the Bad Axe Massacre it was a battle between Sauk (Sac) and Meskwaki (Fox) Indians and United States Army regulars and militia that occurred on August 1st and 2nd of 1832. This final battle of the Black Hawk War took place near present-day Victory, Wisconsin.

[2] Matamoros, Tamaulipas: Matamoros, officially known as Heroica Matamoros, is a city in the northeastern Mexican state of Tamaulipas. It is located on the southern bank of the Rio Grande, directly across the border from Brownsville, Texas. 

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Edward Coles, the Second Governor of Illinois, Patrician Emancipator, Fights an Attempt to Change Illinois' Original 1818 Constitution to Pro-Slavery.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias creating a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. I'm well aware that historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and members instigating arguments and fights.

The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN
or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED, are explained in this article.



An observer of the political scene in Illinois in the 1820s may have concluded that its days as a free state were numbered. Factions were coming together that wanted to alter the original 1818 constitution to allow slavery in the state. The effort to fight this growing tide of pro-slavery agitation was led by a group of legislators and influential citizens. None was more pivotal to Illinois remaining free as was Edward Coles.

Edward Coles
Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois, was born on December 15, 1786, at his father's plantation in Albemarle County, Virginia. The Coles family boasted connections to the most prominent Virginians in American history. Col. John Coles, Edward's father, was brother-in-law to Patrick Henry. John's niece, Dolley Payne Todd, married James Madison. Slaves tended the opulent plantation Edward knew as a child, surrounded by luminaries like Thomas Jefferson, whose estate was nearby.
Coles was educated by private tutors and at a modest local academy before briefly attending Hampden-Sydney College in 1805. Finding the latter was not to his taste, Coles turned to the College of William and Mary. He fell under the influence of Bishop James Madison, the college president, who, though an Anglican bishop, encouraged his students to read and learn the texts and ideas of the Enlightenment. Madison believed that the young American republic was unique in human history, a fragile experiment in self-government whose longevity depended upon a virtuous citizenry. Only virtuous citizens would vote in a disinterested manner and be immune to the corrupting inducements of politicians. He considered slavery a violation of natural law as expressed by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence. For Madison, slavery was morally indefensible, but also a problem that lacked a clear solution.

Coles devoured the good bishop's lectures on moral philosophy and Enlightenment ideas. He concluded that owning slaves was not consistent with natural law; man was not property and could not be treated as such. Further, Coles worried that slavery brutalized both races and had a corrupting effect that threatened the creation of a virtuous citizenry upon which depended the health and continuity of the republic. "I could not consent to hold as property what I had no right to, and which was not, and could not be property, according to my understanding of the rights and duties of man; and therefore determined that I would not and could not hold my fellowman as a slave," Coles recalled. He left William and Mary before his final exams, probably because his father needed help with the harvest. He never officially graduated, but he had taken a momentous decision and so informed his family. When Coles's father died in 1808, he inherited a nine hundred-acre plantation and twenty-three slaves. It was his irrevocable intention to free them.

The Coles family greeted the announcement of his emancipation convictions with surprise and concern. A number of serious problems immediately presented themselves. First, the manumission of his slaves threatened Coles's financial solvency. Without the slaves, it was impossible to work his plantation. Also, once freed, the value of the slaves would be a total loss. Virginia law required that freed slaves leave the state; Coles would have to foot the expense. Finally freeing his slaves created problems for his relatives and neighbors. Coles's slaves had relationships with slaves on other plantations. Forced by law to leave the state, the separating of these family ties might create ill will among the slave workforce. Further, Coles's act of releasing them from slavery might create unrealistic expectations among slaves on neighboring plantations that they too would be freed. Again, when those expectations were not fulfilled, anger and resentment might result. Negative feelings could also be generated in the elite social circles that the Coles family inhabited. At the very least, some resentment could be directed at the Coles family.

Given the problems associated with freeing his slaves in Virginia, Coles considered leaving the state for the Northwest Territory where slavery had been banned by the Ordinance of 1787. Coles was well-liked by family and friends who were unhappy both at the prospect of his departure and releasing his slaves. In an effort to dissuade him from that radical course, Coles's brother Isaac suggested Edward replace him as secretary to President James Madison. Isaac had been anxious to leave the post, and this seemed an ideal solution to several problems. Edward hesitated, but James Monroe, a future president, and Coles's benefactor, ultimately persuaded him to take the job.

Coles worked as a private secretary to James Madison for six years, from 1809 to 1815. He found his duties, which involved much copying of the president's official correspondence, somewhat onerous and uninteresting. He had a good relationship with Madison, with whom he could speak with "perfect candor." He developed a lasting admiration for the president, whose granite-like resolve kept the United States government from utter dissolution after British troops burned the Capitol in 1814. Coles did not abandon his antislavery convictions. While out with the president one day, the two men saw a slave coffle[1]. Coles told Madison that the savagely cruel sight was an embarrassment to the ideals for which the republic stood. The episode suggests that Coles probably tried to enlist the president in endorsing gradual emancipation, though without success. Indeed, despite Coles' urging, Madison did not emancipate his own slaves in his will, leaving them to his wife Dolley.

With Madison unresponsive, the idealistic Coles wrote to Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and one of Coles' idols. "My object is to entreat and beseech you to exert your knowledge and influence in devising and getting into operation some plan for the gradual emancipation of slavery," he wrote in 1814. Coles believed the task was so difficult that only a revered Founding Father possessed the moral grandeur to change public opinion in an antislavery direction. He urged Jefferson to think of his future reputation. Even if a Jefferson-endorsed emancipation plan was rejected in 1814, a statement by Jefferson might awaken later generations to slavery's moral opprobrium. Coles also announced his intention to leave Virginia with his slaves as the only course for emancipation open to him.

In his reply, Jefferson complimented Coles on his idealism and endorsed gradual emancipation as a worthy if challenging endeavor. He urged Coles to remain in Virginia as a humane master to his slaves, thereby setting a good example while advocating the end of slavery as an institution. But Jefferson begged off leadership of such a crusade, or indeed any role at all beyond interested observer. "This enterprise is for the young; for those who can follow it up; and bear it through to its consummation. It shall have all my prayers, and these are the only weapons of an old man," Jefferson wrote. In his response, Coles mildly rebuked Jefferson for using age as an excuse for inaction. He reminded the great sage that Benjamin Franklin had undertaken arduous duties at an older age. Coles depressingly reiterated that only an elder of Jefferson's influence could lead public opinion in such a fashion that emancipation would be palatable.

Coles could not rest without acting to free his slaves, and removing to the Northwest Territory seemed his only option. He did not feel he possessed the talent or influence to lead an emancipation crusade; his only recourse was to leave "the scene of.... oppression." Deciding finally to relocate, Coles traveled to the West in the summer of 1815. He found land in Ohio prohibitively expensive and Indiana too rough in country and people. He went to Illinois and found acceptable the bottomland (American Bottom) along the Mississippi River near present-day St. Louis, Missouri. He purchased six thousand acres in Madison County. Back in the East, Coles could not disengage himself from the Madison administration. The president appointed his young secretary as a special envoy to Russia. Coles was charged to restore friendly relations with the czarist regime, strained after a Russian diplomat was imprisoned for rape in Philadelphia. Coles accepted and arrived in Russia in September 1816. His mission was a success, the czar was appeased, and Coles traveled through Europe enjoying the sights.

After his return to the United States, Coles secured an appointment as a land registrar from the new president, James Monroe. He traveled to Illinois again in the summer of 1818 and made final arrangements for his relocation. In April 1819, Coles started his slaves on the road to the new state of Illinois. He purchased flatboats, and the party drifted down the Ohio River. Coles excitedly believed that the time had arrived to carry into effect the plan his conscience had so long desired.
Future Illinois Governor Edward Coles freeing his slaves on the Ohio River below Pittsburgh while en route to Illinois in 1819.
He gathered his slaves together on deck in the sunlight of a beautiful spring morning. He announced that the slaves were free and could go with him to Illinois or not as they saw fit. "In breathless silence they stood before me, unable to utter a word, but with countenances beaming with expression which no words could convey, and which no language can now describe. As they began to see the truth of what they had heard, and to realize their situation, there came on a kind of hysterical, giggling laugh," Coles remembered with pleasure. The newly freed slaves thanked Coles for his kindness and with the extraordinary generosity of spirit, insisted that they accompany their former master to Illinois to get Coles's new farm in working order. Once in Illinois, Coles gave each of his former slaves 160 acres of land on which to begin their lives anew as yeomen farmers.

Coles worked as a land registrar in Edwardsville for three uneventful years before he turned to politics. In September 1821, Coles declared as a candidate for governor of Illinois; the election was to be held in August 1822. At the time, politics in Illinois was organized into factions gathered about certain political figures, men like Ninian Edwards and Shadrach Bond. Coles was not a member of any faction. He simply announced his candidacy in the fashion of the day. His opponents included two justices of the Illinois Supreme Court, Thomas C. Browne and Joseph Phillips, and a somewhat obscure military veteran, James B. Moore. Phillips was identified with Bond, Browne with Edwards. Coles was elected with a total vote of a little more than half the combined vote of Phillips and Browne.

Once in office as governor, Coles quickly faced a movement to call a constitutional convention to rewrite the Illinois constitution, approved only four years previous. The not-so-veiled purpose of the effort was to make Illinois a slave state. Slavery had been introduced into the territory that became the state of Illinois in the eighteenth century. It had continued to exist in the nineteenth century despite the Northwest Ordinance's prohibition against it. The successful salt works near Shawneetown had even spurred the introduction of additional slaves into the state. A harsh black code had been instituted in 1819 to govern the black population, a set of laws as odious as any promulgated[2] in the slaveholding South. In his inaugural address as governor, Coles had bluntly called for an end to slavery in Illinois and for a humane revision of the black code. His bold announcement may have prompted the proslavery forces in Illinois to work for the convention. It required a two-thirds majority in the state legislature to enact a referendum on whether to convene a constitutional convention. In order to secure that majority, a substantial amount of arm twisting occurred in the legislature, including the unseating of an anti-convention representative with a convention supporter. Coles remarked on the "extraordinary malevolence of party spirit" the issue engendered in Illinois.

Coles recognized that he was at the center of intense controversy on the most difficult political question of the age. He ruefully reflected: "Whatever may be the result of this question, it will certainly have the effect of giving me a very stormy time of it as long as I shall be at the helm." Coles's assessment was accurate. He became the de facto leader of the antislavery forces in the state who opposed the convention movement. In consequence, he was roundly abused in the press and on the stump. Proslavery ruffians marched to his home and shouted insults in the middle of the night. Coles was sued for allegedly violating Illinois law in the release of his slaves. Though the suit was eventually dismissed, Coles had to endure lengthy litigation.

For two long years, the convention question gripped the Illinois populace. Coles was deeply engaged in the struggle. He concluded that it was "necessary that the public mind should be enlightened on the moral and political effects of slavery." He wrote to his Philadelphia friends for antislavery tracts and then distributed them in Illinois at his own expense. He did his own research and writing on the issue, publishing antislavery articles under pseudonyms in the Illinois newspapers. He purchased a part interest in a newspaper to get his message out. He sent antislavery pamphlets and information to others for their use in writing antislavery letters to the press and public. Coles's efforts were successful. In a statewide vote on August 2, 1824, the convention was defeated.

For the remainder of his gubernatorial term, Coles advocated internal improvements, sound banking, and reform of the Illinois Black Code. After retiring from office, he became active in the colonization movement, an effort to relocate freed slaves to Africa. He ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 1830, his campaign hampered by the perception that he was not a permanent resident in Illinois. He confirmed the accuracy of that assessment by moving to Philadelphia. He became a Whig and an opponent of the Jackson administration but took little active part in politics. Coles married Sally Logan Roberts in 1833. He died in Philadelphia in 1868.

Coles County, Illinois is named for Edward Coles.

By Dan Monroe
Edited by Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

[1] Coffle: a line of prisoners or slaves chained and driven along together.
[2] Promulgated: to make known by open declaration; publish; proclaim formally or put into operation.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Mary Ann Ball Bickerdyke known as "Mother Bickerdyke," a woman from Illinois who became one of the most influential and celebrated veterans of the Civil War.

Mary Ann [Ball] Bickerdyke "Mother Bickerdyke" was born in Ohio in 1817. She enrolled at Oberlin College, one of the few institutions of higher education open to women at this time in the United States, but she did not graduate.

Upon leaving Oberlin, Ball became a nurse at the age of 20. She assisted doctors in Cincinnati, Ohio, during the cholera epidemic of 1837. Ball married Robert Bickerdyke in 1847, and the couple moved to Galesburg, Illinois in 1856. Robert Bickerdyke died two years later. Mary Bickerdyke continued to work as a nurse to support her two young sons.
Mary Ann [Ball] Bickerdyke "Mother Bickerdyke"
Early in the war, a friend of 45 year old Bickerdyke's, a Dr. Woodward, wrote home describing the poor conditions at the military hospitals in and around Cairo, Illinois. The letter was read to Bickerdyke's church congregation and they took action. They collected $500 worth of supplies and chose Bickerdyke to deliver them.

When she arrived in Cairo, Bickerdyke found appalling conditions. She used the supplies to establish a hospital for the Union soldiers. She stayed on in Cairo, helping to organize and clean up the field hospitals. This caught the attention of Ulysses S. Grant, who appreciated her efforts.

Ignoring rank, protocol, and allegiance, she pursued fearlessly and with inexhaustible energy her mission to care for the sick and wounded. Rebel, Union, and Negro soldiers all received the same attention.
Bickerdyke followed Grant's army. She risked enemy fire, especially through Grant's Western Campaign, Sherman's Georgia Campaign, Vicksburg, Shiloh and Atlanta. During battles, Bickerdyke commonly risked her own life by searching for wounded soldiers. Once darkness fell, she would carry a lantern into the disputed area between the two competing armies and retrieve wounded soldiers. She eventually served on nineteen battlefields.

Both Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman admired Bickerdyke for her bravery and for her deep concern for the soldiers. She also earned a reputation for denouncing officers who failed to provide for their men. To assist the soldiers, Bickerdyke gave numerous speeches across the Union, describing the difficult conditions that soldiers experienced. She also solicited contributions from the civilian population. The soldiers nicknamed Bickerdyke "Mother Bickerdyke" because of her continuing concern for them. Gen Sherman woukld say to staff who grumbled about her unorthodox methods and forceful personality: "She outranks me! I can't do a thing in the world about it!"

With the help of the U.S. Sanitary Commission, by the end of the war, Bickerdyke had helped to establish over 300 field hospitals.

When the victorious armies of the North were in Washington, Sherman requested that she ride at the head of the Grand Review, "Mother Bickerdyke" road her faithful white horse beside the generals and colonels. Veterans along the line of march gave her the loudest cheers.

With the Civil War's conclusion, Bickerdyke continued to assist Union veterans. She provided legal assistance to veterans seeking pensions from the federal government. She also helped secure pensions for more than three hundred women nurses. Bickerdyke herself did not receive a pension until the 1880s. It was only twenty-five dollars per month. Bickerdyke moved to Kansas following the war, where she helped veterans to settle and begin new lives. She secured a ten thousand dollar donation from Jonathan Burr, a banker, to help the veterans obtain land, tools, and supplies. She also convinced the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy Railroad to provide free transportation for veterans hoping to settle in Kansas. Due to Bickerdyke's efforts, General Sherman authorized the settlers to use government wagons and teams to transport the belongings of the veterans to their new homes.

Bickerdyke remained in Kansas for most of the rest of her life. She settled in Salina, Kansas, where she opened a hotel. She continued to fight for the rights of veterans. She moved briefly to New York, before returning to Kansas with her two sons. Bickerdyke moved later to California, hoping that a change of climate would restore her declining health. She settled in San Francisco, where she accepted a position at the United States Mint. Bickerdyke eventually returned to Kansas, where she died on November 8, 1901. She was buried in Galesburg, Illinois.

Compiled by Neil Gale, Ph.D.

Free PDF Book in my Digital Research Library of Illinois History®
Mother Bickerdyke, Her Life and Labors for the Relief of Our Soldiers. published:1886 

The History of the Charles Dickinson Inn and Tavern in Today's Portage Park Community of Chicago.

The Chicago Portage Park community was once the site of an American Indian portage used for transport from the Chicago to Des Plaines Rivers. The land in this area would flood easily when it rained, creating this shallow portage navigable by canoe.

In the 1816 Treaty of St. Louis the Nations of Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawatomi Indians (the Council of Three Fires) ceded a 20 mile wide and 70-mile long strip of land to the United States, which connected Chicago and Lake Michigan with the Illinois River, which including the portion now known as Portage Park.
Indian Boundary Road in the Rogers Park Comunity of Chicago.
Though the land was originally intended to be used for a canal and military road, the government opened the land for "settlement" in 1830. After the completion of a government land survey in 1837, land sales began in earnest. In 1841, E.B. Sutherland built one of the first permanent structures along the Northwest Plank Road, now known as Milwaukee Avenue, where Milwaukee Avenue intersects with Belle Plaine Avenue.
The Chester Dickinson Inn and Tavern was located at the current intersection of Milwaukee and Belle Plaine Avenues in the Portage Park community of Chicago.
In the late 1840s and early 1850s, a private company had run this wooden plank road for  distance of 23 miles, making formerly impassable roads somewhat more navigable for new settlers. 

In 1845, Chester Dickinson purchased Sutherland's Inn. Dickinson's Inn and Tavern was also home to the local post office and interim town hall. The tavern served as a central hub of activity for Jefferson Township after it formally formed in 1873. Despite the preservation efforts of local residents, the Dickinson Tavern was razed in 1929.
It is said that both Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas were frequent guests of the Dickinson Inn and Tavern in their travels through the area.
Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D. 

The Monk and the Earthquake at Cahokia Mound in the Illinois Territory, 1811-1812.

The story of Father Urban Guillet in the Illinois Territory started when his group of Trappists[1] left Kentucky to move further west in 1809. Having been unsuccessful in establishing a self-sufficient community near Bardstown, Kentucky, they received an offer of land and buildings in Florissant, Missouri by John Mullanphy. Mullanphy was an Irish immigrant and a successful St. Louis entrepreneur and philanthropist. In the meantime, the superior of the Trappists received another offer of land, this time from prominent Cahokia citizen Nicholas Jarrot. Jarrot offered 400 acres of land, situated nine miles north of Cahokia, completely free of charge. The Trappists took Jarrot's offer and began to establish their settlement at the foot of the long-abandoned pre-Columbian temple mound of the Mississippian culture. It was this settlement that led to the site's current nickname, Monks Mound.
An artist’s depiction of the Monks Mound is found within the interpretive center at Cahokia Mounds State Park, (Collinsville, Illinois, today).
Although Guillet and his colleagues established farms, built buildings, and opened a school for boys, the monastery of Notre Dame de Bon Secours (as they called it) never flourished. Bad weather, recurrent waves of disease, and crop failures made the Trappist ideal of a self-sufficient community difficult to pursue. Unclear title to the land, furthermore, led to problems with squatters. It seemed clear that the effort to establish a community of self-sustaining religious brothers at the foot of Monks Mound would not succeed."

It was amidst this backdrop of struggle, on December 16, 1811, that the earth shook and perhaps, for Guillet and his confreres, served as another signal of the fate of their errand into the wilderness.

Fr. Guillet corresponded regularly with Jean-Octave Plessis, the Bishop of Quebec. While not his superior in the Trappist order, Plessis was an important figure in French-speaking North America, and Guillet sought his counsel and assistance.

Two of these letters, written on February 18, 1812, and March 14, 1812, discuss the terrifying events surrounding the earthquake that would come to be known as the New Madrid Earthquake of 1811-1812.

In his letter of February 18, 1812, Guillet tells Plessis that “an almost continual earthquake which lasted from the night of 15-16 December until now, helped much to bring people back to their religion. Earthquakes, long harbingers of evil in the Christian tradition, might have been seen as a sign from the beyond. Guillet also describes the destruction wrought by the quake, which damaged houses and "opened the earth in many places.”

The earthquake that Guillet was describing did indeed begin on the morning of December 16, 1811. A series of three earthquakes, measuring between 7 and 7.5 on the Richter scale, shook the entire eastern portion of the United States. Centered in northeastern Arkansas and southeastern Missouri, these earthquakes caused damage and fear over half a continent. Another significant earthquake occurred on February 7, 1812, destroying the town of New Madrid, Missouri and toppling buildings in St. Louis.

In his March 14, 1812, letter to Plessis, Guillet again describes the destruction in the wake of the earthquakes. He writes that the damage locally was minor, but that he was nearly crushed by a falling chimney." He mentions the destruction of New Madrid and relates a story about the supposed source of the earthquakes: a volcanic eruption in North Carolina. This story, while likely credible, passed through many hands before it got to Guillet in the Illinois Country and may have been exaggerated.


The struggles to eke out a living from the unforgiving environment of the American Bottom, coupled with the shock of the 1811-1812 earthquakes, may have finally convinced Fr. Guillet that the mission at Notre Dame de Bon Secours was doomed to failure. In 1813, the Trappists gave up their effort, abandoned the monastery, and returned to Europe."

While it would be speculation to suggest that the earthquake drove Fr. Guillet and the other Trappist Monks away, it would be fair to conclude that the earthquake was another major factor in the decision to abandon the mission.

Fr. Guillet's account of the earthquake is one of many that exist, and this account cannot be considered without attention being paid to the context. If the many accounts of the earthquake are compared, a picture of the earthquake emerges. If, however, one account of the earthquake is set in its historical context, a deeper rendering of the meaning of the event to the lives of those who lived it arises. In considering historical sources, one must always consider the context along with the source itself if an understanding of the past is to be had.

The memory of the earthquakes of 1811-1812 doubtless lived on in the unrecorded memories of those who lived through it. The recorded accounts, like that of Fr. Guillet, are a small sample of the widespread experience of the event. The past, in its totality, may be unknowable. We can come to understand it, though, through what remains from it.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.

[1] Trappists - The order takes its name from La Trappe Abbey or La Grande Trappe, located in the French province of Normandy. A reform movement began there in 1664, in reaction to the relaxation of practices in many Cistercian monasteries. Armand Jean le Bouthillier de Rancé, originally the commendatory abbot of La Trappe, led the reform. As commendatory abbot, de Rancé was a layman who obtained income from the monastery but had no religious obligations. After a conversion of life between 1660 and 1662, de Rancé formally joined the abbey and became its regular abbot in 1663. In 1892 the reformed "Trappists" broke away from the Cistercian order and formed an independent monastic order with the approval of the Pope.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

The Intertwined History of Rogers Park and the West Ridge Communities of Chicago.

On April 29, 1878, Rogers Park was incorporated as a village in Illinois governed by six trustees. At one time, West Ridge was adjoined with neighboring Rogers Park, but it seceded to become its own village in 1890 over a conflict concerning park districts (known as the Cabbage War) and taxes. Rogers Park was annexed to Chicago on April 4, 1893, along with West Ridge, each becoming one of Chicago's 77 communities.

Rogers Park originated when the 1816 Treaty of St. Louis was signed by the tribes of the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi Indians, stating they were to cede a 20 mile wide and 70 miles long strip of land to the United States, which connected Chicago and Lake Michigan with the Illinois River. The northern Indian Boundary Line ran west by southwest, from what is now Rogers Avenue from Lake Michigan through what is now Indian Boundary Park in the West Ridge community and eventually to the Des Plaines River.
Map of the Rogers Park and West Ridge Chicago communities showing Indian Boundary Road. Interested in the 'LAKE' at Pratt and Kedzie? Click Here.
Between the late 1830s and his death in 1856, Irishman Phillip Rogers purchased approximately 1,600 acres of government land, part of which formed the basis of Rogers Park. 

During the 1830s and 1840s German and Luxembourger farmers settled in the area. A small community known as Ridgevill (encompassing parts of Rogers Park and Evanston) grew up around the intersection of Ridge and Church Road. (Church Road was the original name of Devon Avenue before being renamed in the 1880s by Edgewater developer John Lewis Cochran who named it after 'Devon Station' on the Main Line north of Philadelphia.)

The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 brought a wave of people to the Rogers Park area, looking for new homesteads. In 1872 Rogers' son-in-law, Patrick Touhy, subdivided part of Rogers Park and sold 225 acres of land east of Ridge to a group of businessmen.

The Chicago and North Western (CNW) Railroad's Milwaukee Line came through Rogers Park in 1873, and the Rogers Park Building & Land Company was also organized the same year. The waterworks system, fire department, school, and an active business district were located at Lunt Avenue and Market Street (Today's Ravenswood Avenue) at the CNW Railroad station.

Several hundred people lived in the area, many still farming, but many others were commuting to jobs in Chicago. Rogers Park extended west to the larger of two geological ridges running relatively parallel with Lake Michigan's shoreline. The smaller Ridge is known today as Clark Street, while the larger is Ridge Boulevard. 

The village of Rogers Park was incorporated in 1878 by original members of Rogers Park Building & Land Company; John Villiers Farwell, Luther Greenleaf, Stephen Purrington Lunt, Charles H. Morse, and the brothers Paul Pratt and George Pratt, all of whom have a street named after them.

As early as 1886, some farms gave way to buildings and two-story homes; others continued into the 1900s, with fields and greenhouses "neighboring" comfortably with newer brick buildings.

Rogers Park residents increased steadily, reaching about 3,500 in 1890.

West of Rogers Park was unincorporated land. While considered an extension of Rogers Park, "North Town" (not the current Nortown) didn't have an identity and remained relatively rural throughout the 19th century. St. Henry's Roman Catholic Church served as the community's religious and social center. West Ridge (inaccurately called "West Rogers Park" by some today, which is a neighborhood within the West Ridge community), as it's named, was home to Rosehill and St. Henry's cemeteries and the Angel Guardian Orphanage. Truck farms, greenhouses, and the open prairie characterized much of the area. 

Disagreements with Rogers Park about taxes for park districts (known as the Cabbage War) led to the incorporation of West Ridge as a village in 1890.

Chicago annexed Rogers Park and West Ridge on April 4, 1893. Unlike in Rogers Park, annexation did not bring rapid growth to West Ridge. The number of residents remained under 500 until after 1900. No prominent business districts existed, as community members relied on either Rogers Park or Evanston for their goods and services.
On August 8, 1894, at 9:30am, the fire wiped out an entire block of Rogers Park. 

J.P. Goodwin's Livery Stable was located on Market Street (now Ravenswood Avenue), between Clark Street and Greenleaf Avenue. The fire started in the stable and quickly spread to the surrounding buildings, destroying a total of 14 buildings in one square block. The fire was caused by a spark from a passing train, and it took firefighters several hours to bring it under control. No one was injured in the fire, but several families were left homeless.

Besides J.P. Goodwin's Livery StableThe Town Hall, John Lindley's Store, Phillips Mill, Sharp Bros' Store, Drug Store, and Foote's Grocery, along with factories and dwellings, fourteen in all burnt to the ground.
The property loss was estimated at $34,550 ($993,410 today), but during the excitement, many persons narrowly escaped injury while five were hurt.
During the rebuilding process, West Ridge and Rogers Park split over a public park permit issued to Rogers Park in 1895. The West Ridge farmers opposed the permit because they did not wish their tax money to be used to improve the lakefront property. They subsequently applied for a license for their own park district west of the Chicago and North Western tracks. Notably, at this time, there was no unified Chicago Park District, and it was common for local communities to create separate park authorities, which would sometimes compete for tax dollars to develop and maintain parks.

In 1896 a bitter fight called the "Cabbage War" ensued, with the West Ridge farmers called "cabbage heads." The West Ridge district won, and in 1897, Ridge Avenue Park District was born. Thus Indian Boundary Park and Potawatomi Park are in West Ridge.
The Birch Forest extended from about Birchwood Avenue south to Touhy Avenue, about 1/2 mile, and west to about Ashland in the Rogers Park community of Chicago, 1900

At the rate the native white birch trees are dying out on the east side where formerly such fine groves existed, it will not be a great while before all will be gone. —Rogers Park News-Herald, June 29, 1900

The construction of Sheridan Road led to some development, but the area's population was sparse until 1906, when the Jesuits founded Saint Ignatius Parish and Loyola University. Developments in 1908 inspired the real transformative year for Rogers Park. The city of Chicago extended the Red Line from Wilson to Evanston, adding four stops in Rogers Park.

The pace of growth quickened in West Ridge after 1900. Brickyards, formerly located along the North Branch of the Chicago River, moved into the area of present-day Kedzie Avenue to take advantage of the sand and natural clay deposits. The construction of the North Shore Channel of the Sanitary District of Chicago in 1909 increased the amount of clay available. Scandinavian and German workers moved from other parts of Chicago to find jobs in the expanding brickyard operations, and workers' cottages appeared in the western part of the community. Real-estate interests began to market West Ridge both locally and nationally.

On May 5, 1915, Chicago annexed the area north of Howard Street, east of the "L" tracks, and south of Calvary Cemetery, known as "No Man's Land." The South Evanston area became known as 'Germania' and became home to well-off German and Jewish residents and brought Rogers Park and Chicago a new northern boundary. No Man's Land was identified by the United States Geological Survey as being a variant name of the Howard District.

Just after the "L" was extended, between 1910 and 1930, the demand for townhouses and apartment buildings skyrocketed. Rogers Park was able to stand as a neighborhood of its own as the "L" made nightlife activities easily accessible, and the construction of theaters gave Rogers Park dwellers constant entertainment. Industry throughout the area meant workers could work close to home, and Catholic and Protestant churches and the Jewish synagogues accentuated the neighborhood with religious diversity.

The end of World War I triggered a real-estate boom in West Ridge. Brick bungalows and two flats became the dominant residential structures in the neighborhood. Apartment buildings also appeared, but relatively poor transportation facilities in the area before 1930 limited the demand for large multiunit buildings. By the end of the 1920s, Park Gables and several Tudor revival apartment buildings clustered around Indian Boundary Park. A tennis club built in the Tudor revival style opened at 1925 West Thome Avenue. A business district along Devon Avenue (Cool photo from 1914 looking east on Devon from Western) also developed during this period as the area's population swelled from about 7,500 in 1920 to almost 40,000 by 1930, and local residents looked to their own community for goods and services.

Unlike many Chicago communities, West Ridge grew steadily during the 1930s. However, population growth and economic development did not alter the overwhelming residential character of the community. The area has no manufacturing establishments, and its economic base remains primarily commercial. Population growth necessitated more housing units, and larger, multiunit structures appeared. One of the most significant residential construction projects in Chicago during the 1930s, the Granville Garden Apartments in the 6200 block of Hoyne Avenue, was built in 1938 to help meet the need for housing.

West Ridge continued to draw families. In 1949, Hollywood Kiddieland opened on McCormick Boulevard and Devon Avenue. The mid-1950s saw Bounceland, a trampoline park, open on Devon Avenue just east of Lincoln Avenue. Beginning in the 1950s through the late 1970s, there were 15 Bakeries on Devon Avenue (◄─ names and addresses) between Kedzie and Ridge Avenues, under two miles in the distance, in West Ridge. 

Lots of restaurants sprouted up, then changed owners. Some changed names but continued to draw people from Chicago's northside and the north and northwestern suburbs. Some of the community's favorites were Hot Dog Joints like; The Red Hot Ranch, Ruby's Hot Dogs (Rockwell and Devon at the alley), Fluky's, Wolfy's, Gilly's Hot Dogs (California & Devon at the alley), DanDees, Paul's Umbrella (Touhy & California NE corner), Terry's Hot Dogs (Touhy & just east of California) and Dewey's Hamburger & Chili to mention just a few.
The Red Hot Ranch, 3118 West Devon Avenue, Chicago, Illinois. (1952-1985)
Restaurants like; Randl's then Bon Ton on Devon (SW corner of Devon & California), Kofield's Restaurant then Four Corners Restaurant (NE corner Devon & California), Little Louies (California & Devon at alley), Louies (California & Touhy at alley), The Gold Coin (SE corner Devon & Western), Kow Kow (Devon & Rockwell), P&S Diner, Pickle Barrel (Howard & Western), Sally's Bar-B-Q then Sally's Stage (Western & Devon at alley), Villa Palermo, Pekin House, Miller's Steak House, Seven Hills Restaurant, and the Lincolnwood Coffee Grill and Fountain Shop were all great places. 
Lincolnwood Coffee Grill and Fountain Shop, located just South of the CTA bus terminal turn-around and Thillens Stadium. It was on the NW corner of Devon and Kedzie, Chicago, and is now just a small grassy field.
Rogers Park and West Ridge were also home to quite a few Movie Theaters and Bowling Alleys that entertained kids and adults alike.

A small part of West Ridge's West Rogers Park neighborhood was known as the "Golden Ghetto." The boundaries were Pratt Boulevard to the north, Western Avenue to the east, Peterson Avenue to the south, and Kedzie Avenue to the west. The name came from the thriving Jewish Community from about 1930 to the mid-1970s when the Jewish migration to the northern and northwestern suburbs in the mid-1960s became noticeable.

NOTE: Chicago NEVER referred to its communities or neighborhoods by "Parish" names.