Chapter III - 1832-1834
During the years 1832 and 1833 but few matters of importance transpired in the county. The seasons came and went--a few families moved into the county, a few others moved out of it, becoming dissatisfied with the hard life of the pioneer. And it was indeed hard. Very few of the immigrants were possessed of any considerable property; there was no market for what was raised; money was held at a high rate of interest, and the securities offered were poor. Those who remained in the county were of two classes, those who were too poor to get away, and those who believed there was "millions in it."
Up to this time no place had been provided for the confinement of prisoners, there being but little necessity for any. The want now began to be felt; accordingly, at the March (1833) term of the Board of County Commissioners, the subject was fully canvassed, and it was agreed that a jail should be built. The order was made in the following terms:
Ordered, That the building of a jail for said county be let to the lowest bidder on the second Monday of April next, and that the Clerk advertise the same, to-wit: Twenty feet square, with three rooms at least nine feet between the floor and ceiling; the walls built of hewed logs, twelve inches square, laid close, dovetailed together and pinned, each log at the corner, so as not to admit of anything passing through the inside of said rooms; to be lined with plank two inches thick, of white oak, spiked on across the logs, laid close; with the floor of said sized timber of two thicknesses, crossing at right angles, with a ceiling; and as a floor, of the same said plank, and spiked over, as on the walls, of the following description: The walls planked are to be spiked in diamond form, four inches square on all the walls, ceiling and floors, with a clapboard roof nailed on, the boards to be three feet long, and of good width; all of which to be done in workmanlike manner, &c.; with three doors covered with sheet iron, with a place left so as to open on hinges; a small grate in the center of the two inner doors, and to be so fixed as to be as strong when done as though they were solid; with three grates, two large enough to admit a pane of glass ten by twelve, with a sash swinging on hinges on the inside of each room, and one window large enough to contain six panes of glass; in each window to be placed two grates of iron bars only four inches square from center to center of the bars; and two outside doors to the criminal rooms, hanging on the outside, opening into the debtor's room, and that the bar to be of iron three inches breadth bar, and crossing through the center with bars one inch square; the house to be placed on a stone foundation, built at least six inches above the highest point of the ground, and to set into and under the surface at least two feet, two feet thick, and the space filled with stone to the lower part of the floor; and the whole to be completed in a workmanlike manner, &c.
The contract was let to James Edmondson, who, in due time, completed the work to the satisfaction of the Commissioners. The building yet stands, and has been used for over twenty years by the city of Macomb as a city prison, going by the name of the "old calaboose."
This building has always been considered a pretty strong one, but we are informed "by one who knows" that, when first built, a man by the name of John Seward was incarcerated in it for assault on one Devonshire. Not liking his quarters, he kicked a log out, and was soon a free man. He was evidently good on the kick.
The following rather strange order was spread upon the records at this term of the court:
Ordered, That the Treasurer assess a tax at the rate of one-half per cent, on town lots, provided that Congress has repealed the law exempting public lands sold from taxes for five years, and that he govern himself according to law; and on slaves, registered or indentured negro or mulatto servants; on pleasure carriages, on distilleries, on all horses, mares, mules, asses and neat cattle above the age of three years, and also on all horses, mules, asses and neat cattle under three years of age; on watches and clocks, and their appendages, on wagons and carts, on hogs and sheep.
But one slave was known to have been held in the county, and it seemed to be the determination that none should be allowed unless duly taxed.
The Court House erected in 1831 becoming too small, it was determined to erect one of brick, "two stories high, and not more than forty-six feet square." An advertisement was inserted in the Jacksonville Patriot in March or April, 1833, for plans and specifications for such a building, and in answer plans were furnished at the May term of the Board, and one adopted, as follows:
Ordered, That the following be the plans of a Court House in and for the county of McDonough, viz: The foundation walls of stone, forty-six feet four inches square, and two feet thick and three feet high; one foot above the surface of the earth; which foundation shall be made of stone, range work above the ground, and to show a smooth face or front, nicely hewed, and laid in lime and sand mortar; also two division stone walls (of the same as above) twelve by twenty feet in the west end, that being the northwest and southwest corners of said building, which walls are to be eighteen inches thick, three feet high, one foot above the surface of the earth; there will be a wall extending from the corners of each of the jury or small rooms to the east end of the building, at parallel lines with the outside foundation wall, same depth in the ground, and only to come to the surface of the earth, eighteen inches thick, laid in lime and sand mortar; walls made of first rate brick and other suitable materials, forty feet square, lower story eighteen inches thick and fourteen feet high, upper story to be thirteen inch walls and twelve feet high; the small rooms, inside walls, to be thirteen inch walls; on the outside an oval and round cornice of brick; one circular top door frame four feet by eight and a half feet in the clear, with pannel work, and glass on each side and above, placed in the north, south and west centers of the walls of the house; a window placed six feet above the Judge's seat, and thirty-six window frames, sixteen of which in the lower story and twenty in the upper, each to contain twelve panes of glass twelve by eighteen inches, at equal distances, to be proportionate, and to have above each a double arch (thirteen inches) finished off smooth. The frame of the cupola to be run up through the center of the house-top; in the corners of the house, on the lower floor, will be a fire place of convenient size, and above, in the jury rooms, in the northwest and southwest corners, a small fire place, and in the northeast corner, above the gallery, will be left a space and flue for a stove pipe; chimneys to be run out five feet above each corner of said building; the short joist will be three by ten inches; the long joist four by ten inches; making a round foundation for a circular cupola ten feet in diameter, three feet above the roof, and closed in so as to make a roof to keep out the rain; a square roof, with an eave all around, sheeting jointed, and laid close, and with good and sufficient and suitable jointed shingles eighteen inches long, and to show six inches; all of which work shall be done in worklike manner; and the timber of said building shall be of the most suitable kind; the sills of the windows and doors are to be of black walnut, three inches thick, and of sufficient width; the walls to be jointed and penciled; which shall be advertised by the Clerk in the Jacksonville paper (Patriot) three insertions; to be let to the lowest bidder on the first Monday of June next; which building is to be completed according to the contract on or before the first day of November, 1834.
An advance of one-fourth of the bid will be made to the undertaker so soon as commenced, in order to carry on the building, one-fourth to be paid when the contract is half done, one-fourth when the contract is completed and received, and one-fourth at the expiration of nine months from the time the contract and work is received by the County Commissioners' Court. Bond, with approved security or securities, will be required to be given in a penalty of double the amount of the undertaker's bid, which penalty will be required as a forfeiture in case the contract is not complied with in every respect.
James Clarke, Moses Henton and Benjamin T. Naylor were appointed by the court as a committee to superintend the erection of the building. George Miller and John T. Bishop were awarded the contract for the stone and brick work for the sum of two thousand four hundred and ninety-eight dollars. They immediately entered upon the work, and in due time completed their undertaking to the satisfaction of the court.
In the month of September, 1835, a further contract was made by the county with Morris Roberts and David F. Martin to complete the inclosure of the building for the sum of one thousand three hundred and thirty-four dollars. This part of the work was finished and accepted in the spring of 1836. A further contract was made with Benjamin T. Naylor and Robert A. Brazleton for the completion of the wood work, painting, etc., for one thousand dollars. Their part of the work gave satisfaction, was accepted by the court, and McDonough county had a Court House in which her citizens felt a just pride. It was built at a total cost of four thousand eight hundred and thirty-two dollars.
By permission of the contractors, Circuit Court was held in the building in the fall of 1836, and all other courts immediately thereafter. It was used for all county purposes thenceforward until the year 1869, a period of thirty-three years, save during the years between 1860 and 1866. In the former year, while Hon. C. L. Higbee was making a political speech in the court room, the walls of the building began to crack, and there was a general stampede of the crowd. In a moment's time the Judge had naught but empty benches to address. Campbell's Hall was then secured for court purposes, and was so used until the spring of 1866, when the walls of the Court House were patched up, and the building used again. It was never regarded safe, however, and the crowds assembled there were always in fear the walls would give way and destruction would be their doom. In consequence of this state of affairs the Sheriff and his bailiffs could never keep order, and the patience of the Judge was sorely tried. On the least noise being heard, the timid would precipitately retire from the room. The Judge could stand it no longer, so, in 1868, he publicly declared that McDonough county must have a new and better Court House. The Board of Supervisors immediately acted upon the suggestion of the court, and, as a result, we have the present magnificent building.
The expenses of the county up to this time were very small indeed, nearly all being incidental to its organization. The county was organized July 3, 1830, and for the six months remaining in that year, paid out $78 25; for the year 1831, the sum of $436 42 1/2; and in 1832 was paid $510 01 1/2. From this it appears that our public officers were as economical as are those of the present day. A little seeming extravagance may be manifest (at least it would so seem to the present generation) in this account allowed James M. Campbell for clothing, opium and tobacco furnished certain paupers. The two latter articles are now hardly considered among the necessaries of life, however they may have been regarded then. Other equally strange matters are upon record, as for instance, in 1831, the rate for tavern license was $6 50 per year, and for mercantile license $5. In 1833 tavern license was reduced to $3, and mercantile license raised to $15, which was again, in 1835, raised to $25, while tavern license remained about the same. Would not saloon keepers of the present day be happy if they could obtain license for the small sum of $3 per year, and by it enjoy the protection of the law?
At the April term (1834) of the County Commissioners' Court, William Willis was appointed County Treasurer, his bond being fixed at $2,500. He only retained the office one month, when Resin Naylor was again reappointed.
In June, 1832, a battalion of men was raised in this and Warren counties, under call of the Governor, for service in the Black Hawk war. The organization was effected at Macomb, the Warren county men coming to this place for that purpose. Samuel Bogart, of McDonough, was chosen Major; Peter Butler, of Warren, Captain; --- McAllen, of Warren, First Lieutenant; John Wilson, of McDonough, Second Lieutenant. They marched to the town of Oquawka, and they were there stationed for the purpose of guarding the frontier. They were out eighty-six days, but performed no special service. They drew their rations regularly, ate heartily, played euchre, and visited the friendly Indian camps on the opposite side of the river. At the expiration of their term, they all returned to Macomb, and received their discharge.
The following were among the number serving in this war: Major Samuel Bogart, Lieutenant John Wilson, David Clarke, James M. Campbell, Abraham Dover, J. L. Russell, Larkin Osborne, Jefferson Pennington, Mr. Shannon, William Tetherow, Asa Cook, Mr. Langley, Solomon Osborne, Orsamus Farrington, David Tetherow, Iraby Job, Andrew Calhoun, Berry Jones, Uriah Cook, Daniel Campbell, Shadrack Goens, John McFadden, George Tetherow, William Southward, Lacy Jones, Samuel P. Lewis, James Tetherow, Lewis F. Temple, James C. Head, Isaac Morris, Nicholas Campbell.
The battalion was mounted, each man furnishing his own horse, and, as remarked, were out eighty-six days, and received therefor the remunerative sum of eighty-six cents per day for self and horse. Afterward the general government was kind enough to give to each participant a bounty of eighty acres of land.
A number of instances are related of the sudden change in the temperature of the weather from comparative warmth to extreme cold. On the sixteenth day of March, 1832, David Clarke and William Carter were returning from Frederick to Macomb, each with a wagon load of goods. On the morning of this day they left the residence of a man living near Doddsville, and proceeded about one mile when it became so cold they could go no further. Unhitching their oxen from the wagons, they broke for the nearest house, barely reaching it alive. On this same day two men left Blandinsville for Fort Madison, the weather at starting being comparatively pleasant. They had gone but a short distance when they discovered they were freezing. One of the party hurried off for help, which was obtained, and, on going back, the other party was found but a short distance from where he was left frozen to death. Again on the morning of the same day, a man left Macomb for his home near Blandinsville, or Job's settlement, and had reached the prairie on the north when the change in the weather occurred. Unhitching his oxen, he started them toward the timber, at the same time catching hold and holding on to their tails. The oxen brought up at a house not very far distant, and the man endeavored to loosen his hands, but was unable to do so, and the inmates of the cabin were compelled to pull him loose, the entire skin of his hands coming off in doing so.
Source: History of McDonough County, Illinois, It's Cities, Towns, and Villages with Early Reminiscences, Personal Incidents and Anecdotes, and a Complete Business Directory of the County, by S. J. Clarke, published in 1878, pages 33-38.