Knox County Annuals
By Fred R. Jelliff
Knox County was named after General Henry Knox and was established as a county, January 13, 1825.
Knox county has had several and varied shapes. Under the division of Illinois, made in 1790, more than the east half of that part of the State south of the Illinois River was known as Knox County. Changes and further subdivisions were made in 1793, 1801, 1803, and 1809. Then the name drops out. In the subdivisions of 1801, 1803, and 1809, its territory was included in St. Clair County. In 1812 and 1813, the subdivision covering much the same ground, was called Madison County, and in this the Knox territory was included until 1821, when that part of the State lying between the Illinois and Mississippi River was called Pike County. In 1823, Pike County was cut down, and Fulton County was laid out so as to include the south four townships of Knox. The rest of the land comprising Knox County and the territory north and east was attached to Fulton County for judicial purposes.
January 13, 1825, Knox county was formed by act of the legislature, covering the same territory as at present (the four townships at the south being accorded it), save that the four north townships were attached to Henry County. This gave Knox sixteen townships. In 1831, however, the row of townships on the north was restored to Knox and two on the east were added. March 2, 1839, these two east two townships were allotted Stark County. This change in the boundaries of the county occasioned interesting incidents of travel, business and politics in the early history of this section.
The land comprising Knox County has been under ten territorial jurisdictions, two of them being under extinct races, one under the Indian race, one under France, one under England, one under Virginia, one a territory of the United States, one the territory of Indiana, one the territory of Illinois and lastly, the State of Illinois.
The history of Knox County is one that reflects honor on Illinois for it has been marked by devotion to high ideals. Illinois was originally a part of the Norwest territory which by the ordinance of 1787 was made free soil. As a county of the State, Knox has shared this blessing. Illinois was admitted to the Union in 1818, and the issuance of this book is to commemorate the centennial of that event. By the act of June 30, 1821, Pike County was created, including the area north and west of the Illinois River. By the act of February 10, 1826, Knox County was attached to Fulton County for Governmental purposes. May 15, 1830, a public meeting was held at the store of S.S. White, in Henderson, to consider that question of county organization. Dr. Hansford and John G. Sanburn, were authorized to address a petition for the organization of Knox County to Richard M. Young, judge of the Fifth Judicial Circuit. This petition was presented to Judge Young at Lewistown by Pennington, Hansford, Stephen Osborn, the first sheriff and Phillip Hash, and the judge was convinced that the county contained 350 inhabitants, the number required by law. And on June 10, 1830, he declared the county organized, and fixed the date of the first election at July 3, 1830. This was held at the home of Jacob Gum, four miles northwest of Galesburg, the whole county forming one election precinct.
The First Government
Under the constitution of 1818, county government was committed to three commissioners. On July 3, 1830, when the county was organized, Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash, and Charles Hansford were elected, to serve until their successors were elected the following month. They first met at the home of John B. Gum, appointed him clerk, but he, declining to serve, two days later they again met and appointed John G. Sanburn clerk, and Mr. Gum treasurer. On July 17th, the commissioners met again and divided Knox County into two precincts for the coming election, one precinct being known as the Henderson and the Spoon River district. At the election on August 2, 1830, the first board of commissioners for a stated term was elected, the successful candidates being Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash and Alexander Frakes, while Stephen Osborn was elected sheriff. Thus Knox County, organized and empowered to choose its own officers and collect its own taxes, started on its political career. The commissioners had general supervision of the affairs of the county. By the same law which defined its boundaries and located its purposes and so remained until 1837. It was an economical and judicious system. The county was then in its primitive sate, and roads had to be laid out and constructed, bridges had to be built, a jail and court house had to be provided and other large works undertaken, all of which seems to have been efficiently done.
Government by Judges
By the constitution of 1848, the offices of county commissioners and probate justice were abolished, and the office of county judge created. On him and two associate judges was the power previously exercised by the commissioners in county government, conferred. George S. Lanphere was elected county judge, and Alfred Brown of Henderson and James M. Hunter of Salem were elected associate judges, November 6, 1849, and they serve four years. Their last meeting was held on March 4, 1853. The county on April 5, 1853, adopted township organization and elected supervisors. It has since remained under this system. There had been two previous attempts to change the county government, one on November 6, 1849, and one on November 5, 1850, but as the majority secured was not a majority of all the votes cast at these elections, the proposition failed to carry.
It was shortly after the election of 1849 or on January 14, 1850, that the people of the townships met to select the names for their respective townships. The present names were adopted save these of Cedar, Haw Creek, Copley and Elba. The names chosen for these were respectively, Cherry Grove, Ohio, Ritchfield and Liberty, but these the Secretary of State refused to register and they were accordingly changed to the names they now bear.
The first members of the board of supervisors, twenty in number, met June 5, 1853, and elected Daniel Meek as chairman. Following are the names of the members of the historic First Board:
Honor is due the memory of this first board for building so well the foundations on which the business of the county has been conducted.
Growth of County Business
The business of Knox County is now conducted from Galesburg, the county seat, and its place of business is the stately Court House Square with its beautiful embellishments of lawn and trees. And still John B. Gum’s log cabin on Section 32 in Henderson Township was the first seat of justice in the county and was so designated by the commissioners on July 9, 1830. It was a one-story, two-room log structure and was used for county purposes until January 15, 1831. By a law passed January 15, 1831, the county seat was fixed in Knox Township, where the commissioners platted a village, that they first called Henderson, and which afterward was changed to Knoxville. March 12, 1831, the commissioners contracted with William Lewis to erect a log court house and with Parnach Owen to finish it. The total cost was $395.43. This lumber structure was twenty-eight feet long, twenty-five feet wide, and two stories high. It was occupied in October, 1832. It was soon outgrown and on March 14, 1838, Zelotes Cooley and Alvah Wheeler took the contract for the erection of a new building at Knoxville which was completed May 1, 1840. At the time it was regarded as one of the handsomest buildings in the State, and it is still attractive because of its classical lines. It was the scene of many noted legal battles, and men, who subsequently became famous in State and Nation appeared in cases there. A crude jail was built in 1832 and in 1840 another was erected by Alvah Wheeler. Also on the court house ground at Knoxville was built in 1854 a fire-proof building containing two rooms.
County Seat Contest
Meanwhile Galesburg, due to its railroad facilities, was in population outstripping Knoxville, and there grew up a demand for the removal of the county seat to the larger city. A long and acrimonious contest ensued that lasted for years. The real battle started with the passage of a bill introduced by W.S. Gale, of Galesburg, then a member of the Legislature, for the removal of the county seat. This bill became a law. The election under it was held in April. 1869, but the issues were not settled until January, 1873, when the Supreme Court of Illinois upheld the contention of Galesburg. Through the efforts of friends of Knoxville another election was called and was held on November 11, 1873, which resulted in favor of Galesburg by a vote of 3,785 to 3,309. This ended the controversy.
Under the stipulations by Galesburg, the county was to furnish a place for holding court for ten years, a site for court house to be constructed in the future, a site for a jail and $20,000 toward its erection, to provide a site and fire-proof building for a clerk’s office, and to pay the expenses of transfer of the county to Galesburg, all of which conditions were honorably and satisfactorily met.
The Court House
The movement for the erection of a court house on the park site provided began in 1883 with the appointment of a committee to report a resolution. A building committee was appointed, consisting of W.S. Gale, A.G. Charles, William Robson, John Sloan, M.B. Hardin and William H. Leighton. The next year the place of Mr. Charles, who was no longer a member of the Board, was filled by R.W. Miles, and a year still later, L.A. Townsend succeeded M.B. Hardin. The plans of E.E. Myers of Chicago were preferred, bids were finally passed on October 3, and the contract was let to Dawson and Anderson of Toledo, Ohio, for $114, 3311.52. The corner-stone was laid June 24, 1885, under the auspices of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Illinois. The edifice was completed January 26, 1887. The cost all furnished was $156, 261, and when completed it was practically paid for. The building is of Berea sandstone, of a pleasing and impressive style for architecture, and contains all rooms necessary for the conduct of all phases of the county business.
The jail was built earlier by Ira K. Stevens in 1874, for $34,900, and Hon. A.W. Berggren was the first sheriff to occupy it.
The County Home
Another fine institution that the county was maintained for over sixty years is the County Home at Knoxville. For twenty-five years after the organization of the county paupers were farmed out to the lowest bidders. With the adoption of the township system, the board of supervisors bought and almshouse site for $3,000 of M.G. Smith. The farm house was converted into an almshouse but proved a wretched makeshift. In 1866 the Board of Supervisors determined to erect a new almshouse and R. W. Miles, L. Conger and Cephas Arms were appointed a committee on building. After some competition between Galesburg members and Knoxville, the present site, adjoining the old poor farm and comprising then 69 acres,was purchased for $5,340. The contract was let to William Armstrong for $26,000 and its equipment and stocking of the farm brought the total to $39,037.21. Parry & Stevens built the east wing for $17,400. An insane annex was erected in 1890 for $26,459 by Peter Munson, and in 1899 an insane annex for females was built by Munson & Tingleaf at a total cost of $32,000. A new laundry building was built in 1899 by F.W. Hawkin for $16,000. The entire group of buildings is one of the handsomest in the state and the grounds have been developed along artistic lines. Many improvements on and in the buildings have been made from time to time, so that they are supplied with modern facilities.
Growth of Population
The Indians were in Illinois before the Whites and the early settlers of the county were not unmindful of their presence. The Foxes, Sacs, Kickapoos and Pottawatomies roved over the prairies and their trails were used by the early settlers. In the vicinity of Maquon another tribe lived. The flint implements of the Aborigines are still found in many parts of the country. There are traces of a still earlier race supposed to be identified with the mound builders.
Daniel and Alexander Robertson and Richard Mathews, who came to the county and settled in the edge of Henderson Grove in February, 1828, are credited with being the first permanent settlers, although there is a report that a man named Palmer, a bee hunter, lived in Maquon Township in 1826-27. It is certain that the first considerable migrations came from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia, and that they were a substantial and worthy element. The tide of immigration from the east set in in 1836 and with the coming of the Galesburg colony in 1836, the movement of population was accelerated.
Meanwhile in the early annals of the county, the Black Hawk War from 1831 to 1833, growing out of the belief of the Indians that they had been unfairly dealt with, was the outstanding event. In this county a company was raised, to assist in the war, and several forts were erected, one known as Fort Aggie, on Section 27, in Rio Township; Fort Lewis, on Section 33, Henderson Township; an unnamed fort on Section 10, in Henderson Township, and one in Orange Township. No harm came to the settlers, although the period was one of much stress and many alarms.
In addition to the immigration from the South and East following the founding of Henderson, Knoxville and Galesburg and the founding of Knox College, the establishment of government, and the improvement of highways, there came groups of foreigners. The Swedes appear to have been first on the field, John Hedstrom arriving in Victoria as early as 1838. But the steady stream did not set in until the completion of the C.B. & Q. Railroad to Galesburg in 1854, from which time for several years the growth was rapid. This transportation enterprise with the branches soon afterward constructed from Galesburg and making access to markets easy, gave a tremendous impetus to agriculture, to the building up of towns, and to industrial interests. Settlement, before desultory, now became rapid. Educational and religious growth kept pace. The large Swedish emigration was augmented by sturdy colonists from Scotland, by the warm-hearted and eager companies Ireland, and by the quotas from Germany and England. The following figures speak eloquently of the growth of the country:
This shows that for two decades between 1870 and 1890 the population was nearly stationary. The building of the Santa Fe late in the 80’’s and other causes again produced a steady growth in population.
The fact that in the county there was previous to the Civil War a strong anti-slavery sentiment caused a movement of Negroes this way, and this continued after the Civil War, resulting in a large Negro population, especially in Galesburg, where the Negroes have their own churches and where they have proved an industrious and useful element.
Of later years the character of immigration has changed. That from Sweden, Ireland, Scotland and England has become negligible, while that from the southern part of Europe predominates. In Galesburg, more than in any other part of the county, these concentrate. Italians, Hungarians, Rumanians, Greeks and many others not listed in the census. Mexican laborers have in considerable degree supplanted other races on the railroads. It is this large need of common labor that is in great measure responsible for this draft on Southern Europe. The fact that they are proving a worthy element is dissipating the prejudice first created.
Following are the dates of platting and founding of the municipalities of the county:
The influence of railroad construction is clearly evident in the foregoing.
Statistics of Population
The following figures of the population of the county and townships as given in the census returns of 1890, 1900, 1910 and 1920 will be found interesting.
These figures show that in 1890, there lived in the municipalities of the county 22,166 people, and on the farms, 15,586; in 1900, there lived on the farms 16,700 and in the municipalities, 27,412 in 1910, the municipal population was 30,933 and the farm 12,679, and in 1920, the municipal population is 32,347 and the farm population is 14,363.
The Religious Growth
The early settlers of Knox County, no matter what their origin were religiously inclined, and in an early day the movement for the establishment of churches gained momentum. According to some, the Methodists were first in the field and organized a society in the neighborhood of Abingdon in 1829 and 1830, from which the Methodist church at Abingdon developed. In 1836 and 1837, the First Presbyterian church was organized by the Galesburg colonists and this afterward grew into the Old First Church, with Congregational tendencies. The county within the next twenty years became a field for active missionary effort and by 1860 the religious work of the county was fully organized. Some of the early pioneer churches no longer exist, but there is no denying that the county is well supplied with all needful agencies for effective religious work.
As many as sixty-five churches have done Christian work in its confines and nearly all of these are in operation at the present time. In addition in some communities, there have been occasional services and Sunday schools have been maintained in many communities where there were no churches.
The Knoxville Presbyterian Church was organized in 1835. The Lutherans began their fine work in 1851, when the first Lutheran Church of Galesburg was organized. The first Episcopalian church was that in Knoxville, organized in 1843. The first Catholic parish in the county was formed at St. Augustine in 1844. The Baptists organized a church in Galesburg in 1848. The Universalists formed a congregation in Galesburg in 1857. Christian Scientists organized in Galesburg in 1886. The Abingdon Congregational Church dates back to 1835 and the Victoria to 1841. Among the later comers are the United Brethren, the Jewish Church in Galesburg, the Salvation Army, the Seven Day Adventists and the Latter Day Saints.
The Methodists probably lead at present in the number of congregations in the county, with the Congregationalists next.
The coming of the railroad gave added impetus to the organization of religious work in the county, and many churches dated from about that time.
There have been during the nearly ninety years since Christian work began in Knox County many revivals, some of them of great magnitude and large results.
It is a matter of historical interest that the first Swedish Methodist church in the United States was organized in Victoria.
The educational facilities of Knox County are equaled by but a few in the Central West. Colleges, academies, high schools, community schools, township high schools and the county schools, all combine to furnish close at hand the means of mental growth and acquisition. All this has taken place since Franklin B. Barber taught school at Henderson Grove in 1830. The real development began with the appointment of William McMurtry as commissioner to sell lands in this county for school purposes under the act of 1831. The first school district land formed was that of 1837 at Log City, the second was the Hague district, south of Galesburg. Indian Point district was the third.
The system of public schools was created by the Act of 1855. More direct supervision of the schools began that year under P.H. Stanford, afterward county judge. At the present time this office of county superintendent of schools is ably filled by Walter F. Boyes.
The first high school in the county was that established in Galesburg in 1867 and it was in that early day regarded as a remarkable achievement.
The following shows the present status of the schools of the county:
Knox County School Facts
District - Galesburg, Knoxville, Abingdon
Township - Altona, Gilson
Community – Oneida, Wataga, Williamsfield, Yates City
In Non-high School district – Maquon, Victoria.
Community Consolidated districts are being organized around Victoria, Rio and Rapatee.
Supplementing this fine and developing system are the following colleges and academic institutions, with the dates of their charters or origin:
Knox College - Galesburg, 1837
Lombard College – Galesburg, February 15, 1851
Hedding College – Abingdon, 1851
St. Mary’s School – Knoxville, 1868
St. Alban’s School, Knoxville, 1890
St. Martha’s School – Knoxville, 1914
Brown’s Business College - Galesburg, 1864
St. Joseph’s Academy – Galesburg, 1879
Corpus Christi College – Galesburg, 1893
St. Mary’s School – Galesburg, 1907
In addition the Galesburg Lutherans have maintained from an early day a parochial school.
The group of Episcopal institutions at Knoxville, St. Mary’s, St. Alban’s and St. Martha’s were founded by Rev. C. W. Leffingwell, D .D.
Three Catholic institutions of Galesburg were promoted by the Rev. Father Joseph Costa.
The Railroads of Knox County
The first railroad in Knox County was that extending from Chicago to Galesburg and completed in 1854 and developing later into the C. B. & Q. For years subsequently railroad development was confined in this county largely to the construction through it of the branches of the Burlington, for all of which Galesburg became a division point. In 1882, there reached here from Havana, the Fulton County Narrow Gauge, afterward acquired by the Burlington. In 1887-8, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe completed and began operating its line from Kansas City to Chicago. The county is thus traversed by two great trunk railroad lines. In addition the Iowa Central built in 1879-80, extends through the southwestern part of the county and the C. R. I. & P. through the northeastern part.
Knox County in War
Knox County has had a glorious part in the wars in which this country has engaged. It is believed that in its cemeteries repose the bodies of soldiers of every war from the Revolutionary down. For years this city was the headquarters of the meetings of the Illinois Mexican War veterans.
In the Civil War, according to a careful compilation made by the late Albert J. Perry, Knox County furnished 4,200 men, distributed among 190 companies and 82 regiments. Of this number 123 were killed, and 168 wounded, 344 died and 96 were incarcerated in rebel prisons. In bounties and aid to the families of soldiers, the county contributed $400,000.
To the war with Spain, the county sent two companies of the Illinois National Guard, Company C, of Galesburg, commanded by Captain T. L. McGirr and Company D, of Abingdon, in charge of Captain Frank W. Latimer. These companies served in the Porto Rico campaign. Subsequently captain McGirr and a number of men from this county took part in the Philippine Campaign.
The War with Germany
The war with Germany is a recent memory and Knox County’s part will in every detail be found treated in a volume edited by S.A. Wagoner, and having the assistance of a committee of citizens. Briefly, as nearly as can be ascertained the county furnished 2,200 of its young men for this war, about one-half of whom volunteered, and the rest saw service under the selective conscription act. Many of these engaged in active warfare. Galesburg’s Company C was one of the first of the Illinois National Guard organizations to respond. Some of the soldier boys paid the supreme sacrifice. A good many sustained wounds, and many were in the thick of the fighting. The county feels great pride in their patriotic achievements.
The county by its response to the call of the government for funds also gave its soldiers the most substantial backing. This is indicated by the following tables showing the total contributions to each of the four Liberty Loans and the Victory Loan:
One must add to the foregoing the large sums contributed to the YMCA, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the other lines of work to get the full measure of the county’s willingness.
It’s Political History
Knox County has had an honorable history in the politics of the districts with which it has been affiliated and in the State and Nation many of its residents have held positions of prominence. Its citizens have served abroad in diplomatic capacities, in Congress, in influential State positions and in the State Legislature. The service rendered has been of a high type and has reflected honor on the county.
At the present time Knox county is in the Forty-third Senatorial district, comprised of Fulton and Knox counties, and in the Fifteenth Congressional district, composed of Adams, Schuyler, Fulton, Knox and Henry counties.
Following is a list of Knox County men who have served in Congress:
John H. Lewis, Knoxville, 1881-1883.
P.S. Post, 1887-1889; 1889-1891; 1891-1893; 1893-1895; reelected but died January 6, 1895, when entering on fifth term.
George W. Prince, 1895-1897; 1897-1899; 1899-1901; 1901-1903; 1903-1905; 1905-1907; 1907-1909; 1909-1911; 191-1913. Nine terms.
Stephen A. Hoxworth, 1913-1915.
Edward J. King, 1915-1917; 1917-1919; 1919-1921
In Constitutional Convention
Joshua Harper represented Knox County in the Constitutional Convention of 1847.
W. S. Gale was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1862.
Alfred M. Craig was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1870.
George Candee Gale is a member of the present Constitutional Convention.
In the Legislature
At various times Knox County has been hitched up in Legislative districts with Fulton, Mercer, Warren and Henderson counties, but since the last re-appointment it has been united with Fulton and the district has been well satisfied. The changes in the number of the districts are due to the reapportionments from time to time.
The following shows the Knox County men who have served in the Legislature:
Tenth General Assembly, 1836-1838, Peter Butler, represented Warren, Knox and Henry counties; William McMurtry from Knox in House.
Twelfth General Assembly, 1840-1842, Member of House, John Denny.
Thirteenth General Assembly, 1842-1844, Senator, William McMurtry; Member of House, Julius Manning.
Fourteenth General Assembly, 1844-1846, Senator, William McMurtry; Members of House, H. Hardie, Julius Manning.
Fifteenth General Assembly, 1846-1848, Senator, John Denny; Members of House, Ephriam Gilmore, Charles Hansford.
Sixteenth General Assembly, 1848-1850, President of Senate, William McMurtry; 19th District Senator, John Denny; 41st District, Member of House Henry J. Runkel.
Seventeenth General Assembly, 1850-1852, President of Senate, Wm. McMurtry; 19th District Senator, John Denny; 41st District, Member of House, Henry Arms.
Eighteenth General assembly, 1852-1854, 41st District, Member of House, Thomas McKee.
Nineteenth General Assembly, 1854-1856, 58th district, Member of House, Samuel W. Brown, Knox.
Twentieth General Assembly, 1856-1858, 58th District, Member of House, David H. Frisbie.
Twenty-first General Assembly, 1858-1860, 58th District, Member of House, Rufus W. Miles.
Twenty-second General Assembly, 1860-1862, 58th District, Member of House, A.A. Smith.
Twenty-third General Assembly,1862-1864, 15th District, Member of Senate, Albert C. Mason; 34th District, Member of House, Joseph M. Holyoke.
Twenty-fourth General Assembly, 1864-1866, 15th District, Member of Senate, Albert C. Mason; 34th District, Member of House, Joseph M. Holyoke.
Twenty-fifth General Assembly, 1866-1868, 34th District, Member of House, John Gray.
Twenty-sixth General Assembly, 1868-1870, 34th District, Member of House, W. Selden Gale.
Twenty-seventh General Assembly, 1870-1872, 15th District, Member of Senate, Henry J. Vaughn; 68th district, Members of House, O.F. Price, Joseph F. Latimer, Patrick H. Sanford.
Twenty-eighth General Assembly, 1872-1874, 22nd District, Senator, Patrick H. Sanford; Member of House, Jacob S. Chambers.
Twenty-ninth General Assembly, 1874-1876, senator, Patrick H. Sanford; Members of House John, H. Lewis, Curtis N. Harvey.
Thirtieth General Assembly, 1876-1878, Members of House, Alfred S. Curtis, Joseph F. Latimer, Abraham M. Brown.
Thirty-first General Assembly, 1878-1880, 23rd District, Members of House, Rufus W. Miles, Joseph F. Latimer, John Sloan.
Thirty-second General Assembly, 1880-1882, 22nd District, Senator, August W. Berggren; Member of House, Hannibal P. Wood.
Thirty-third General Assembly, 1882-1884, 22nd District, Senator, August W. Berggren; Members of House, A.S. Curtis, F.A. Willoughby.
Thirty-fourth General Assembly, 1884-1886, 22nd District, Senator, August W. Berggren; Member of House, Orrin P. Cooley.
Thirty-fifth General Assembly, 1886-1888, 22nd District, Senator, August W. Berggren; Member of House, Orrin P. Cooley.
Thirty-sixth General Assembly, 1880-1890, 22nd District, Members of House, Orrin P. Cooley, George W. Prince, James W. Hunter.
Thirty-seventh General Assembly, 1890-1892, 22nd District, Members of House, James W. Hunter, George W. Prince.
Thirty-eighth General Assembly, 1892-1894, 22nd District, Members of House, Jay L. Hastings, Frank Murdock.
Thirty-ninth General Assembly, 1894-1896, 35th District, member of House, Frank Murdock.
Fortieth General Assembly, 1896-1898, 35th District, Member of House, Frank Murdock.
Forty-first General Assembly, 1898-1900, 35th District, Senator, Leon A. Townsend; Member of House, Charles C. Craig.
Forty-second General Assembly, 1900-1902, 35th District, Senator, Leon A. Townsend; Member of House, Charles C. Craig.
Forty-third General Assembly, 1902-1904, 43rd District, Senator, Leon a. Townsend; Member of House, Wilfred Arnold.
Forty-fourth General Assembly, 1904-1906, 43rd District, Senator, Leon A. Townsend; Members of House, Wilfred Arnold, Michael J. Daugherty.
Forty-fifth General assembly, 1906-1908, 43rd District, Senator, Charles F. Hurburgh; Members of House, Edward J. King, Michael J. Daugherty.
Forty-sixth General Assembly, 1908-1910, 43rd District, Senator, Charles F. Hurburgh; Member of House, Edward J. King.
Forty-seventh General Assembly, 1910-1912, 43rd District, Senator, Charles F. Hurburgh; Member of House, Edward J. King.
Forty-eighth General assembly, 1912-1914, 43rd District, Senator, Charles F. Hurburgh; Members of House, Edward J. King, W.B. Elliott.
Forty-ninth General Assembly, 1914-1916, 43rd, District, Members of House, Owen B. West, James E. Davis.
Fiftieth General Assembly, 1916-1918, 43rd district, Members of House, Owen B. West, James E. Davis.
Fifty-first General Assembly, 1918-1920, 43rd District, Members of House, A.O. Lindstrum, O.B. West.
On State Commissions
The following are serving at the present time by appointment of Governor Lowden as members of State commissions:
On Tax Commission – Charles C. Craig.
On Industrial Commission – Omer N. Custer.
Col. Clark E. Carr, deceased, served as ambassador to Denmark during the term of President Harrison.
On Supreme Bench
Knox County has given three judges to the Supreme Court of Illinois as follows:
Charles B. Lawrence, June, 1864 to June, 1873.
Alfred M. Craig, June, 1873 to June, 1900.
Charles C. Craig, October, 1913 to June, 1918.
On Circuit Bench
The record in Circuit Court Judges follows, going back to 1873:
Eighth circuit, Created in 1873 – Arthur A. Smith elected in 1873.
Tenth Circuit, Created in 1877 – Arthur A. Smith, re-elected June 16, 1879; re-elected June 1, 1885; re-elected June 1, 1891; resigned November 15, 1894.
Ninth Circuit, Created in 1897 – George W. Thompson, elected June 18, 1897; re-elected in 1903, 1909, 1915; still on bench.
Judge Thompson also served for years as a member of Appellate benches of the Second and Third Districts.
Mention of Others
Among the early Lieutenant-governors of Illinois was William McMurtry, and he in this capacity served the Senate as its president during the Thirteenth and Fourteenth General Assemblies.
In addition to serving his district as State Senator, A. W. Berggren was for a number of years warden of the State penitentiary at Joliet.
Townsend, for two terms State Senator, was appointed United States Marshal.
Many other Knox County men have served on various State Boards.
Banking in Knox County
The first regular bank in Knox County was a private on founded by Cornelius Runkle in Knoxville, with himself as president and John Babbington as cashier. In 1863, the bank was nationalized. Since that day there has been a great development, until at the present time there are twenty-three banks in the county, including all three types, National, State and private, representing a capitalization of several millions and a large total of deposits. These institutions all appear to be substantial and well established. In addition there are in Galesburg four Homestead and Loan Associations, representing a large investment.
The agricultural development of the county was accelerated by the inventive genius of its citizens. H.H. May turned out the first steel mould board plow. George W. Brown invented the corn planter. The first threshing machine put in an appearance in 1842 and the first reaper in 1847. In close succession came other implements down to the present time that made production and farming on a large scale possible.
The following statistics relate to the farms of the county:
Since 1910 the value of land in the county has materially increased. Agriculture is by all odds the largest single interest in Knox County.
During the last few years there has been a marked change in farm methods, equipment and facilities. The tractor is now finding its place among the implements. The telephone is found in most farm homes and in many there are now electric appliances. Modern treatment of soils to increase and preserve fertility is being employed. In years past, farmers had their granges and other organizations and their institutes. The most important agency for promoting crop increases and farm interest is the County Farm Bureau, having the support of the National and State governments as well as of the membership. The Knox County Farm Bureau, which was organized February 28, 1918, now has a membership of 1,936, and is one of the strongest in the State. The fee of ten dollars a year for each member provides ample funds for a large work. A central office is maintained in Galesburg. The officers of the Bureau follow:
President – Henry C. Gehring, Altona.
Vice President – W.B. Elliott, Williamsfield.
Treasurer – George A. Charles, Knoxville.
Advisory Council – Oliver Nelson, Altona; C.B. Griffith, Galesburg; Elias Hughs, Maquon; E.U. Shumacher, Hermon; Frank Gamel, Rio; M.F. Shea, Henderson; George Bond, Abingdon; C.M.C. Brown, Oneida; Winn Wilmot, Wataga; Marion Shives, Yates City; H.S. Breece, Knoxville; Edward Moon, Williamsfield; William Beals, Altona; Ben Bjorling, Victoria; Ed Taylor, Rapatee; John Stevens, Gilson.
Executive Committee - H.C. Gehring, Altona; W.B. Elliott, Williamsfield; Ray M. Arnold, Galesburg; George A. Charles, Knoxville; C.E. Hartsook, Maquon; J. Harry Shumaker, Abingdon; Willard Miller, Rio; Willaiam Beals, Altona; Charles M. Hunter, Abingdon.
Farm Advisor – E.M.D. Bracker.
Associate Farmer Advisor – Floyd R. Marchant.
Associate Farmer Advisor – Ralph E. Arnett.
This bureau is linked up with the State and National bureaus and is a thoroughly efficient organization, whose work through bulletins, community meetings and institutes, reaches every part of the county.
The County Officers
The list of county officers serving at present follows:
Since the foregoing was written, those whose terms expired in 1920, were re-elected for a four year term.
The Present Board
Of the present Board of Supervisors, 1920, C.H. Upp is chairman. The personnel follows:
Following is a list of the present township officers, 1920, furnished by the county clerk:
Elected April 6th, 1920. Term Expires April, 1922
Elected April 6, 1920, for Term January 1, 1921 to December 31, 1922
COMMISSIONERS OF HIGHWAYS:
Elected April 6, 1920 – Terms Expire April, 1922
JUSTICE OF THE PEACE
Term Expires First Monday in May, 1921
Term Expires First Monday in May, 1921
By Fannie Wright Bliss
In 1827 four sturdy young men from Sangamon County made a tour through this part of Illinois in search of hone, as large trees often containing a barrel of it frequently were found by bee hunters. They pushed ahead until two well filled trees were found in the timber afterwards known as Henderson Grove of Knox County. They camped for one wee on what is now the line between Knox and Warren counties, but met no other person. These were the first white men to cross the prairies of our county of whom we have knowledge. Two of them, Mr. Gaddial Scott and Mr. Andrew Olson, subsequently returned here to live.
In the following year, 1928, a number of families came to this county to found homes, all settling in what became Henderson Township. Daniel Robertson was the first permanent settler of the county. In this group were many family names familiar to us because of their descendants, therefore they are mentioned: Robertson, Mathews, Gumm, Pennington, Osborn, Nance, Coy, Fraker, Greenwell, Sheldon, Voiles. Vaughn, Reynolds, McKee.
During the next year, 1829 came the McMurtry brothers and Reed, Lewis Davis and Maxwell. In that same year a widow, Mrs. Elizabeth Owen and children settled in what became Haw Creek Township, the first settlers to locate outside of Henderson. In 1830 the population increased rapidly. Fraker, Owen and Fitch settled in Lynn Township in the edge of a beautiful grove, still known as Fraker’s Grove, the first white settlers in the northeast part of the county. Mr. Fraker found an Indian village on the land he bought from the government. The Indians disputed his right to the land as they said theirs came direct from the Great Spirit. They finally removed to Indian Creek, seven miles east and built another village, but made friendly visits to the Frakers and acquired the habit of coming to the grove in the spring to make sugar and raise “squaw corn”
There was only one traveled road in the county, the Galena trail or State road from Galena to Peoria, through Victoria and Walnut Grove townships.
The law required three hundred and fifty legal voters to live in a county before it could be organized as such, yet there was scarcely that number of individuals within the boundaries of Knox county. When Illinois became a state in 1818, the land now comprising Knox County was apart of Madison County. In 1821 it was placed in the boundaries of Pike County, the oldest county in the Military Tract. In 1826 its present boundaries were determined and it was attached to Fulton County for judicial and recording purposes. In July, 1830, Knox County was formally organized as at present except that two townships were included which, when Stark County was organized in 1837, were severed from Knox and became a part of that county. The town of La Fayette is located in that section.
The first business meeting of the county and the elections of county commissioners were held at the residence of John B. Gumm, Henderson Township, about four miles northwest of Galesburg’s present site near the south edge of Henderson Grove. This house was a one-story double log cabin, each division containing but one room. The building served as dwelling, hotel, post office, also temporary seat of justice until the log court house was later built at Knoxville. I am told that this same historic building or at least one part of it is still used on a farm in the county in sufficiently good condition to serve as a corn crib in spite of its being nearly one hundred years old. How appropriate it would be if the county could purchase and restore it to its former condition and place it in Lincoln Park near its first location, to burnished with mementoes of those early days, so that the descendants of the pioneers might have some idea of the way their ancestors lived!
During this same July, 1830, the county of Knox was divided into two districts for election of justices of peace and constables in each. The first, or Henderson District, included fourteen townships north of a line separating Galesburg Township (as known at present) from Cedar Township. The second or Spoon River Township, included all south of the same line and contained eight townships.
The citizens of the county soon aspired to the erection of a court house and the building of a town. They therefore, in 1831 procured from the State Legislature an act defining the location of the county seat and authorizing commissioners to lay off the town which was on the S.W. Quarter of Section 28, Knox Township. This county seat was christened “Henderson” by the Legislature but renamed Knoxville by that same body two years later in honor of General Knox. The county bought the land on which the business and much of the residence portion of Knoxville now stand for $200, at one dollar and a quarter an acre, being government or congress land, as it was called. In the spring of 1831 lots were staked out and publicly auctioned off, seventy-nine lots being sold, varying in price from two dollars to sixty, aggregating $1,256.
The portion of Illinois known as the Military Tract includes all land between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers south of the north line of Bureau and Henry counties. It was given to the soldiers of the War of 1812 in quarter sections. When it was laid off into counties most of them were named after military heroes of the nation. Our county was named for the statesman-general, Henry Knox, Secretary of War under Washington and a warm personal friend of his.
If a line be drawn from Galesburg through Vincennes, Indiana, and extended to Kentucky, it will penetrate the heart of the “Blue Grass Country.” Along that line as a main channel poured the tide of emigration from Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.
Up to 1832, the year of the Black Hawk War, Knox County settlers came mainly from these states or from temporary homes in southern Indiana and Illinois. Emigration from the Eastern states started in full force in 1836, the year of the arrival of the Galesburg Colony at Log City. From that time southern emigration began to decline and New England, New York, Pennsylvania and Ohio supplied the majority of the emigrants. The first considerable European accession was in Copley Township. Later influenced by Rev. Jones Hedstrom, a Methodist clergyman, who came from Sweden and then lived in Victoria, a large number left the Bishop Hill Colony of Swedish settlers in Henry County and settled on farms near Victoria. Steady immigration from Sweden followed the descendants of whom form a large and valued part of our population.
The Irish first appeared in numbers much later, in 1854, with the advent of the railroad, and now occupy large holdings in the county.
After the founding of Galesburg with its strong anti-slavery sentiment, the town became known as a prominent station of the “Underground Railroad,” and so many colored people received help and kindness on their way farther north to freedom that when it was no longer necessary for them to cross the border into Canada to insure safety, it was not strange they came in increasing numbers, largely from Missouri, to make their homes in a neighborhood in which public sentiment had always been favorable to them. However, they have not been widely scattered through the county, evidently preferring to live near their churches in Galesburg.
But before many more years pass, Knox County can celebrate the centennial anniversary of her settlement. How great have been the changes in conditions during the tree generations embraced in one hundred years! It may be interesting to consider some of the prominent characteristics of pioneer life as the old settlers of this county knew it.
They universally settled in the timber or along its edge, the trees furnishing not only material for their cabins, but that protection from the driving storms which was greatly needed, as many of the homes were hastily built and not finished thoroughly at first. The timber also sheltered stock until sheds and outbuildings could be put up. Here, too, was nature’s lumber yard, where the settler could find material for home-made furniture to add to the small stock he had brought with him. The fuel supply also was close at hand. And two kinds of sweetening were secured from the timber; the sap which when boiled down furnished maple syrup and sugar, and the wild honey found in the bee trees containing many gallons, sometimes a barrel or more. The same natural storehouse supplied casks for it, made from hollow basswood logs, sometimes three feet long, one end of which was plugged up, and the casks were used for years. A similar method was used in making the hand corn mills used by many of the original settlers; these were made by boring a hole in the top of a large stump, then burning it out in the shape of a mortar. Attaching a pounder to a long, bent spring-pole, they pounded their grain and corn, making unbolted meal or flour. This when mixed to dough was place on a smooth board or piece of iron, placed slanting towards the fireplace. When lard was abundant the well-shortened bread was called “Johnny Cake.” Sometimes the dough was baked in lumps called “Corndodgers.” If the dough was raised with yeast and baked in a “Dutch oven,” it was called “Pone.” Hominy, roasted corn and mush and milk were eaten commonly also.
The timber gave shelter to many wild animals which made good eating for the settlers. Wild fruits and nuts and acorns formed no small part of the food for the hogs they raised.
There being no mills to grind the grain of the first crops those who could grind by hand power did so, while others grate corn in the ear before it became quite hard on tin graters made from old buckets or pans closely perforated and nailed on a board. Mr. Fraker, whose settling in Lynn Township has been mentioned, made a hand mill for grinding grain which stood in the living room and had burrs about two fee in diameter, made from stones, which were called “hardheads.”
But not all the labor and privations of the early settlers were a series of unmitigated toils and sufferings. They had their times of fun and enjoyment and managed to break the monotony of their daily life with “quilting bees,” “apple parings,” when the fruit was pared, cored and quartered, strung like bead chains and festooned on the walls to dry’ “cornhuskings,” when both sexes gathered, chose sides, husked fast and furiously to see which side finished the allotted work first, variety being furnished by the occasional finding of the covet red ear with its osculatory reward.
Regarding the pioneers’ schools it may be readily understood the accommodations were not good at first, as the homes were not, but they felt the education of their children could not wait for better buildings. A “mud-and-stick” chimney in one end of the building, with earthen-hearth fireplace, wide and deep enough to take in a four foot backlog and smaller wood to match, served for warming the school house in winter. For windows, part of a log was cut out on either side and the hole was filled with a few small panes of glass or maybe greased paper. Writing benches were made of wide planks or else puncheons, resting on pins driven into tow-inch auger holes, bored into the logs beneath the windows. Everything was plain and rude, but many of America’s greatest men have gone out from just such schoolhouses, who have become an honor to their country.
In the summer of 1833, in Section 14 of Henderson Township, the first school in that vicinity was taught and second in the county. It has some peculiar characteristics; there were no regular hours for recitations, but the teacher began school with the arrival of the first pupil, closing about sundown. The boys “made their manners” and the girls mad a “curtsy” on entering and leaving. This was known as a “loud” school because all studied aloud. When studying arithmetic they were permitted to go into the woods, where it was more quiet, to get their lessons.
No mention of the public schools of Knox County should omit the name of Mary Allen West as being inseparably connected with them. Born in the county in 1837, truly a child of the Galesburg Colony, educated entirely in the Galesburg district schools and in Knox Seminary, she was in a position to realize the deficiencies in the earlier system of public instruction and later devoted her influence as an instructor prominent among state and national educators to up building and improving the system of county schools. In this work her efforts were second only to those of Professor George Churchill and Dr. Newton Bateman.
Those who are seeking homes will always select those communities in which the school house and the church find a special recognition, rather than those in which they are not found. It has been said that the early establishment of religious institutions in new settlements is a prominent feature in the history of this county. With the very first settler came good old Elder Gumm, who preached almost every Sunday in some of the cabins at Henderson. The oldest religious organization in the county was known as the “Henderson Church,” organized at Henderson Grove in 1830, under the Old School Predestinarian Baptists. The church building being in Rio Township.
Knoxville was made an appointment on the Henderson Mission of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1831. Abingdon M.E. Church was organized in 1833, with seven members. Abingdon Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized at Cherry Grove in 1835. The history of the old ”First Church of Christ,” founded by the Galesburg Colony is unique, having passed through no period of infantile growth but being strong from the time of its organization. More than thirty families were located in cabins on the south side of Henderson Grove in the fall of 1836 in what they called Log City, waiting for the following spring when they were to begin the erection of buildings on the prairie site bought and platted by them as Galesburg. Before the arrival of their regular minister one or another of the men of the company read a sermon in one of the most commodious homes each Sabbath to a crowded house, as the congregation included colonists not only, but also the earlier Southern settlers along the edge of the grove. The following spring the Galesburg Colony began to build and occupy their prairie city homes and in 1837 their church was declared organized as a Presbyterian body though it became known as a “Mother of Churches” from the number of other denominations that have become outgrowths and offshoots from the parent body.
This brings this introductory sketch to a close, as the object of the writer has been to give a brief outline of those pioneer settlements which preceded the advent of the large Eastern colony, as after that time the “course of empire” took its way westward with rapid strides. Also as others have written more particularly of other townships of Knox County, the object of this article is to make especial mention of the early settlements of Henderson and Knox Townships.
No more fitting expression of the spirit tht actuated the early settlers of this county could be given than is found in the following beautiful sentiment:
“With the widening vision in the plain they stood,
And gazed with eager eyes the country o’er;
Beheld her prairies and pronounced them good,
And rested, satisfied to seek no more.
For them the sowing and the toil, the tear,
Where others reap with laughter and delight,
So cooling springs refresh the desert drear
From sources hid in some far mountain height.”
(From The Pioneers by George Candee Gale.)