The earliest settlements of the country were so thoroughly French that up to the beginning of the nineteenth century only one American settlement was to be found within the limits of the present St. Clair County. This was the Turkey Hill colony, numbering about twenty people. A little later a number of American families settled in Ridge Prairie, west of O'Fallon. Soon the log cabin of the pioneer made its appearance beyond Silver Creek and in a few years more every part of the county was brought under the domain of the adventurous frontiersman. It seems appropriate to mention some of these valiant leaders who did their share in taking the country for civilization. Turkey Hill is a beautiful eminence a few miles southeast of Belleville. Tradition says that the Tamaroa Indians once had a large town on this hill, and that the Great Spirit sent an old Indian, a wise and good man, with seeds of all good vegetables, such as corn, beans, peas, and potatoes, and that he taught the Indians how to plant them. He also advised them to be peaceful and never to go to war. As long as this counsel was followed, the Tamaroas did well and were a happy and prosperous people. But at last they disregarded the sage instruction and disaster followed.
William Scott, the first American settler in Turkey Hill, was born in Virginia of Irish parents, in the year 1745. He grew up and was married in his native state. All his children, six sons and one daughter, were born in Virginia. He then moved to Kentucky, and in 1797 he moved with his family to Illinois and became a permanent resident. The family included, besides his six sons, his daughter, Elizabeth and son-in-law, Franklin Jarvis. They made the journey by wagon from Fort Massac on the Ohio River to the New Design settlement, where they arrived late in the fall. About Christmas they located at Turkey Hill and made the beginning of what afterward became a prosperous community of white people. Scott located several claims in the present counties of Monroe and St. Clair, one of which included Turkey Hill, where he established his home. Jarvis, the son-in-law settled a little further north, at the foot of the hill. At the time the Scotts came to Turkey Hill the Indians were numerous in the vicinity. Some of them hunted and lived near him for most of the year, but exhibited only a friendly spirit. The Kickapoos were the nearest neighbors. Mr. Scott's large family of sons were of assistance in enabling him to sustain himself in a location so far in advance of other white settlers. Eventually they all married and settled in the neighborhood and the family resided together for many years in that part of the county. He was known far and near as "Turkey Hill Scott." He was a man of high character, and for many years a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. He possessed sound judgment and much practical experience, and was ambitious for neither wealth nor worldly distinction. He served some years as Justice of the Peace. Toward the close of his life, after the business of making a living ceased to occupy so much of his time, he turned his attention to books and study and passed his advanced years in the pleasures of meditation and reflection. He was intelligent and communicative, and was fond of discoursing on philosophical subjects. He died in Shiloh Valley in the year 1828, at the age of eight-four. His sons became useful citizens, and many of his descendants still reside in the county.
Joseph Scott, one of the sons of William, began the manufacture of powder in the year 1809, four miles and a half east of Belleville. For many years he furnished the best powder made in the west. He supplied the rangers in the War of 1812. He procured the nitre which he used in its manufacture from the caves on the Gasconade River in Missouri. He spent much time during the winter months exploring that country, then filled with Indians, with Joseph Dixon as his sole companion. The next year, after William Scott and family started the Turkey Hill settlement, Hosea Rigg, Samuel Shook, and some others joined them there. By 1800 there were about twenty persons living in the settlement.
Hosea Rigg came from Kentucky and settled first in the American Bottom in 1796. But after two years he moved to Turkey Hill. He was born in West Virginia in 1760 and had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He was deeply interested in Methodism. He was an exhorter and later a local preacher in the Methodist Church. In 1803 he went to Kentucky to attend the Western Conference and solicit a preacher for the Illinois country. Rev. Benjamin Young was sent. Rigg lived in St. Clair County until his death in October, 1841, at eighty-one years of age. At that time he was said to be the oldest man in the county. Among the other American settlers were Samuel Shook, George Stout, Moses and Jacob Short, and Joseph Carr.
The Shook family was from Virginia. They located about a mile from the home of William Scott. Samuel Shook was a good farmer and a useful citizen. He died in the year 1827.
The Short brothers were sons of John Short, who came from Kentucky and died soon after settling in Illinois. Jacob Short was a man of some influence. He was captain of a company of rangers during the War of 1812, and was also elected to the Legislature under the territorial government. In his later years he moved to Morgan County. Moses Short for a number of years held the office of Justice of the Peace, and also served against the Indians in his brother's company of rangers. He is said to have built the first hand mill in that part of the country.
The Carr family, Joseph, Henry, Conrad, and Abner, settled in Turkey Hill Prairie, two or three miles to the southeast of the original settlement, in 1803. They were from Virginia, and before coming to this locality had lived for a time in the New Design settlement in Monroe County. Joseph Carr died in the year 1817 and his sons lived in the same neighborhood for many years after.
David Phillips became a resident of the county in the year 1803. He was born in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1755. After serving thru the Revolutionary War, he moved with his family to Kentucky in the year 1800. After three years he emigrated to Illinois and settled on Richland Creek, a short distance south of the present city of Belleville. He was a natural mechanic and possessed great genius for working in wood. It was said that he could make anything that was to be made of wood from a "fiddle" to a farm wagon. He supplied his neighbors with furniture and implements of many kinds. A chair made by him over a century ago is still in the possession of one of his descendants now living in Belleville.
In the year 1806 the settlements were increased by the arrival of the families of Elijah Rittenhouse, Isaac Quick, and John Woods. The Rittenhouse family settled on Turkey Hill, which up to that time had been occupied only by William Scott. There were four sons in the family, Cornelius, Peter, William, and Elijah. The elder Rittenhouse entertained the idea that his location would be an ideal place for the county seat when its removal from Cahokia was agitated. He laid out his farm in town lots and invited the cooperation of the county authorities, but eventually the site of Belleville was chosen instead. He served as constable and was a good and loyal citizen.
Isaac Quick had a son, Moses, who was an enterprising young man. In company with Major Jacob Short he built a flat boat, below the present town of New Athens, which was loaded with beef cattle and successfully floated down to New Orleans. This is said to have been the first flat boat that ever navigated the Okaw River.
John Woods and John Jarvis, a brother of Franklin Jarvis, both settled in the Turkey Hill community, in the year 1806. After that year there were no considerable additions to the settlement for some time. It was considered one of the best in the country and was generally composed of good, honest and industrious citizens. The Scott family was connected with the Methodist Church, while the Shorts and Carrs were Baptists. Baptist meetings were held one month at the home of Squire Moses Short, and the next at Joseph Carr's house. One of the earliest Baptist preachers was the Rev. Joseph Chance.
In the years 1801 and 1802, settlements were made southwest of Belleville by John Teter, Abraham Eyman, William Miller, Martin Randleman, and Daniel Stookey. The founders of this colony were of Pennsylvania Dutch descent, and were industrious, moral upright citizens. Stookey and Eyman, in company with some others, came to Illinois in 1796 to explore that country, with a view to selecting a future location for their families. Traversing the country in the vicinity of the present city of Belleville, Stookey and Eyman selected the locations where afterward they settled in the prairie west and southwest of Belleville. Abraham Eyman brought his family to Illinois the next year. He first lived in the American Bottom, near Piggott's Station, then moved to New Design, and in the spring of the year 1801 settled four miles west of Belleville. He was a good citizen and once represented the county in the Legislature. He died in the neighborhood where he settled. He was preceded a few months by John Teter, who had a house already built when Eyman arrived. Teter once served as County Commissioner. Daniel Stookey, who was a brother-in-law of Eyman, came to the county in 1802 and settled on what is now the Stookey farm, two miles west of Belleville. He died in 1835, leaving nine children.
John Primm, a native of Stafford County, Virginia, came to Illinois in the year 1803, and about a year afterward settled seven miles west of Belleville. In 1817 he moved to a new location three miles southwest of the county seat. He died in 1836, at the age of eighty-seven. For a time he carried the mail between Cahokia and Edwardsville. In August, 1814, one of his sons, while carrying mail from Cahokia to Clinton Hill, was struck by lightening in the Derush hollow. He and his horse were both instantly killed. His body was burnt black by the electricity. Mr. Primm had been a soldier in the Revolutionary War and was present at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. During the latter part of his life he received a Federal pension. The year 1822 was marked by general prosperity of the colonists in Illinois. Accessions were made to the population and new settlements were formed.
Benjamin Ogle, his oldest son, took part in several of the early Indian contests, in one of which he was wounded. He lived on a farm near the present town of O'Fallon, and died at a good old age.
Another son, Joseph, married Lucinda Pulliam, daughter of John Pulliam, in 1804. They lived on a farm east of O'Fallon. He served in the Blackhawk War. In died in 1846.
Still another son, Jacob, married Elizabeth Teter and settled west of O'Fallon. He was a man of considerable intelligence and popularity and served for a number of years as Justice of the Peace. He and the Rev. James Lemen built a mill for grinding wheat and corn. This mill was situated on Ogle's creek, three miles north of O'Fallon and was run by water power. Owing to the scant supply of water, the milling business was carried on for only a short time. Later he had a mill on his farm which was run by horse power.
Of the daughters of Captain Ogle, Nancy married Larkin Rutherford, Prudence was the wife of Peter Casterline, Drusilla married William Porter, Polly became the wife of General James Moore, and Jemima married the Rev. Charles Matheny, a resident of St. Clair County and a member of the Methodist ministry. He afterward moved to Springfield, where he occupied several responsible public positions.
Among the settlers in Ridge Prairie were Robert, Joseph, and James Lemen, sons of the Rev. James Lemen, one of the pioneer Baptist preachers of Illinois.
James Lemen, Senior, was born in Berkley County, Virginia, in the year 1760. He served two years in the war of the Revolution, after which he went to the vicinity of Wheeling, West Virginia, where he married Catharine Ogle, an older daughter of Captain Joseph Ogle. He came to Illinois in 1786, the year after his father-in-law. His trip to the new country was an eventful one. He came down the Ohio River with his family and household goods on a flat boat. One night while the boat was tied to the shore, the river fell consdierably, and the boat lodging on a stump, was overturned and sunk, and thus all his provisions and goods were lost. His oldest son, Robert, then three years old, floated out in the stream on the bed on which he lay. By strenuous effort he was rescued and his life was saved. Notwithstanding this discouraging misfortune, the family proceeded on their journey, and arrived at Kaskaskia, July 10, 1786, and shortly afterward settled at New Design, in the present county of Monroe. In after years he was a citizen of prominence and usefulness. He served in the office of Justice of the Peace and County Judge. He was also a prominent religious leader among the Baptists. His religious labors are referred to elsewhere.
Robert Lemen, the oldest son of James, was reared at New Design. In the year 1805 he married Hester Tolin, and settled in Ridge Prairie, about four miles north of where O'Fallon now is. Under the administration of John Quincy Adams he acted as Marshall for the State of Illinois. He also served as Justice of the Peace. In early times he acted as clerk of the Richland Baptist Church, and he was an original member of the Bethel Church, organized in 1809, of which he was clerk until 1845. He died in 1860.
Rev. Joseph Lemen was born in September, 1785, and was less than a year old when the family came to Illinois. He became a minister of the Baptist Church and settled in Ridge Prairie, north of the site of O'Fallon, and near his brother, Robert. His wife was Mary Kinney, the youngest daughter of Josephy Kinney, and a sister of William Kinney, who was once Lieutenant-Governor of Illinois. It is said that she went to school and learned to read and write after she was married, but these educational effots did not hinder her from rearing a large and respectable family. Joseph Lemen was active in ministerial labors. He travelled over this part of the country extensively, and organized a number of Baptist churches. He died in 1861.
Rev. James Lemen, Jr., was born in the New Design settlement, in 1787, and received a good education for that time, under the instruction of Rev. John Clark, who was one of the most active and useful of the pioneer preachers of Illinois. Mr. Lemen was said to be the first ordained preacher in Illinois, born in the territory. He married Mary Pulliam in 1813, and settled in Ridge Prairie. He was a member of the Territorial Legislature at Kaskaskia, and also filled the same office after the organization of the state government. Twice he was a member of the state senate. He was also a member of the convention which framed the first constitution of the state. He died in February, 1870.
It should be mentioned that one cause of the removal of the Ogle and Lemen families to Illinois was their opposition to slavery. This was also the case with a number of other prominent families of the county who came at a later date. At that early day, half a century before there was any general agitation of the question, they became opposed to the system, liberated their slaves, and moved to a place where they believed they would be forever free from the curse of slavery.
Soon after 1800, Rutherford moved to St. Clair county and settled north of Belleville. He was a good citizen and a zealous member of the Baptist Church.
Soon after the close of the war he went back to his old home in the east and married a wife who formerly lived in Virginia. Soon after his marriage he, with his two brothers, emigrated to Illnois and settled at Bellefontaine. In the spring of 1788 he and a neighbor named Vallis started one morning on horseback to take a supply of beaver fur which they had caught to Cahokia to market. They were proceeding along the road which is now route three of the Illinois road system, but at that time much of the way was a trail through the wood, tho the main road to Cahokia. When they were near Piggot's Fort in the Bottom, they heard the report of two guns. Biggs supposed the shots to be fired by some hunters, but in a few minutes they saw sixteen Indians armed with guns. Biggs and Vallis immediately whipped up their horses, but it was too late. The Indians fired a volley at them and several of the bullets took effect, tho it might have been expected that both the men and the horses would be killed immediately, yet it did not so happen. Vallis' horse carried him to the Fort with a severe wound of which he died after lingering six weeks. Biggs' horse was shot dead and four bullets went thru the rider's coat but he himself did not receive a single wound. Abandoning his horse and his furs he started to run. But with his winter over coat and boots he was not equipped for racing and the Indians soon caught him and made him prisoner. When Vallis reached the Fort, signal guns were fired to alarm the community, and the Indians hearing it began a hurried march to get away with their prisoner. They started on a run and kept their prisoner going at that gait for five or six miles. They were Kickapoos and started at once for their village called Weastown on the Wabash river, a long distance above Vincennes. They travelled about forty miles the first day and that seems a good record for travellers on foot with no well-established road. They must have passed near where the towns of Belleville and Lebanon are now, but at that time there was not even a settlement at either place. The whole distance was somewhere about three hundred miles but they reached the village in ten days, with their prisoner. One of the Indians tried to kill Biggs, but the others seeming to have in mind a large ransom which they hoped to obtain kept the prisoner safe and killed the Indian who seemed to want to deprive them of the benefit of their successful capture. The Indians were rather severe in their treatment of him and tied him at night so securely that he had no chance of escape. Biggs was a fine specimen of physical manhood and unusually handsome. His manly beauty had its attraction for the feminine portion of this group of untutored savages. He claims that several of the Indian Belles of the Wabash offered him their hearts in wedlock, but he, hoping to return some time to his family remained true to the wife who was suffering the agonies of uncertainty as to the fate of her husband for she only knew that the Indians had carried him off and she had no means of knowing whether he was dead or alive. But he had been in the camp only a short time when negotiations were begun at Vincennes for his ransom. These negotiations were carried on partly by John Rice Jones, who is mentioned elsewhere in this history and was then living at Vincennes. An agreement was finally reached by which the Indians received the equivalent of two hundred and sixty dollars for the freedom of the prisoner, besides which Biggs had to promise thirty-seven dollars more for the means necessary to accomplish the journey back to Bellefontaine. He went down the Wabash in a canoe to the Ohio and thence to the Mississippi and up that river to Kaskaskia, whence he had only a few miles to travel overland to reach his home. His return to his family can better be imagined that described. They had mourned him as dead. At that day there was no way of sending word that he was coming so he walked unannounced one day into this grief-stricken home and brought hope and happiness and restored lasting-good cheer to his loved ones who had been sitting in the shadow of a great sorrow. Years afterward Mr. Biggs wrote an account of his experiences in captivity and had it published in the year 1826. In 1790 when St. Clair county was organized, Governor St. Clair appointed him sheriff, and he held the office for many years, as the records testify. He had received a common school education which had been supplemented by much experience including the dangers of war and pioneer life. He was popular with his fellow citizens and was twice elected to represent St. Clair County in the Legislature of the North West Territory. At the time when he and Shadrach Bond were serving together in Clark's expedition they said in a joke one day that they would like to represent this country in the legislature. Twelve years later their dreams were realized for they were both members of the first General Assembly of the North West Territory. Biggs also served as Justice of the Peace and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, for many years and made a safe and acceptable officer of Justice. In 1808 he was elected to the Legislature of the Indiana Territory, and helped to secure the division of the Territory which was effected in the following year. In 1812 Biggs was elected to the Legislature of the Illinois Territory and held the office for four years. He made a solid and useful member of the Legislative Body as long as he was a member. Few men have had the good foretune to live in an age when they had so many opportunities to serve their fellow-men as he had. But in all these years of public service he did not allow his private interests to interfere with his duties to his country. He was never wealthy, but possessed only a reasonable competence. Towards the close of his life he engaged in an enterprise of manufacturing salt on Silver Creek within the present limits of Madison county. He died in 1827, at the home of Colonel Judy, aan aged and well-respected pioneer of the first county of the great state of Illinois.
A farming community was started near the mouth of Silver Creek when Abraham Teter, his sister, Mrs. Shook, and Peter Mitchell settled there in 1804. Mitchell afterwards served as Justice of the Peace and County Commissioner. Another settlement on Silver Creek was made by the Bradsby family about three miles north of the present town of Lebanon, at the edge of the Looking Glass Prairie. Willliam H. Bradsby, the oldest son, came from Kentucky with two other young men and raised a crop of corn in the spring of 1804 on the land which they entered. The rest of the family followed them from Kentucky in the fall. Mr. Bradsby taught school for several years. In 1806 he had a school in the American Bottom, almost west of the present town of Collinsville. The next year he taught in the Turkey Hill settlement. His two sons, William H. and James, were in the ranger service during the War of 1812, and made good soldiers. William H. returned to Kentucky and qualified himself for the practice of medicine and then came back to Illinois. He was elected to the Territorial Legislature in 1814. He was a resident of Washington County when it was organized and filled a number of public offices in that county. Among the settlers on Silver Creek was Thomas Higgins. His name deserves a place in history for his heroic adventure with the Indians in 1814 at a block house on Shoal Creek, about eight miles south of the present town of Greenville. This story is told in another chapter. Higgins was related to the Bradsbys and settled near them north of Lebanon on coming to Illinois.
Abraham Varner settled east of Belleville about the year 1804. He established himself in the blacksmithing business on the main road leading from Vincennes to Cahokia and St. Louis. His shop was four miles east of Belleville.
Mr. Moore was a man of strong religious faith. He was a Methodist and during his sixteen years of residence in Illinois was a member of the church at Shiloh, which was organized five years before he came to Illinois and has maintained a continuous existence up to the present time. Both he and his wife found their last resting place in the beautiful Shiloh Cenmetery. In 1925 the Daughters of the American Revolution erected a tablet to his memory, which was unveiled with suitable ceremonies and an address by Hon. Charles S. Deneen, who is one of the direct descendants of this remarkable man.
William Moore ws the eldest son of Risdon and carried on well his father's reputation for service, efficiency, and loyalty. He was a soldier in the Blackhawk War, with the rank of Captain. He also served in the Legislature and was a local preacher in the Methodist Church. When he died in 1849 he was the President of the Board of Trustees of McKendree College. Another son of Risdon Moore was Jonathan, who married Elizabaeth, daughter of George Lunceford, and for some time resided on the "Sugar Loaf" farm, south of Cahokia. In 1833 he purchased his father's farm east of Belleville, and in 1850 he moved to Lebanon. He also served in the Blackhawk War and was an officer in the same company of which his brother was Captain. One of his sons was Colonel Risdon Moore, who was Professor of mathematics in McKendree College at the opening of the Civil War and was the Commander of the McKendree Regiment. A further acount of him is given in the History of McKendree College. One of the daughters of Jonathan Moore, Mrs. Mary Fitzgerald is still living at an advanced age at her home in Lebanon.
Another Risdon Moore, very distantly related, if at all, to the one before mentioned, came to St. Clair County in 1817, and settled in the east side of the county, not far from the other Moores. This family were Baptists, instead of Methodists, and like the others, furnished some of the leaders in the community, both politically and religiously. One of the sons, Atlas Moore, was for many years a Missionary Baptist preacher, while another, Daniel T., represented St. Clair County in the Legislature.
Among the settlers who came about the time Illinois became a state were the Mitchell brothers, Edward and Samuel. They were born in Maryland, served in the Revolutionary War, lived in Virginia for a time and were among the early Methodists of that region. They both became Methodist preachers. Samuel settled about where Rentchler Station was afterward located, and Edward at Turkey Hill and lived there till his death in 1837, at the age of seventy eight. Samuel later moved to Galena and lived to a good old age. It is said that he still sometimes preached after he was eighty years old. Three of his sons were preachers. When the brothers came to Illinois they found religion much neglected, so they, with the help of a few neighbors, built a house of worship that was used for many years both as a church and a school house. Here the ordinances of religion were administered without money and without price. Edward Mitchell brought with him to Illinois his two sons-in-law, John Henry Dennis and Major Washington West, and a number of negro slaves, the whole group constituting a colony of fifty-seven people. Dennis settled in 1883 on a farm three miles south of Belleville. He was a gentleman of the old school and had obtained a thorough education at Hampden-Sidney College, in Virginia. He abandoned his farm in 1824 and moved to Belleville. At the request of Governor Ninian Edwards, a great patron of learning, he engaged in teaching, to which profession he devoted the remainder of his life. Many of his pupils attained distinction at the bar and in different walks of life. The school which he started in Belleville in 1824 was the first in the state in which there was opportunity for the study of Hebrew, Greek, and Latin languages and the higher mathematics. In this it antedated McKendree College by four years. For a number of years it continued to draw students from St. Louis, and as far east as the Wabash, but it was only a private school and never became permanently established. Mr. Dennis later served as County Superintendent of Schools.
Major West, who settled in what is known as West Prairie, a mile south of Belleville, was the son of Benjamin West, a native of Maryland and for seven years a soldier of the Revolutionary War. After the Revolution the family moved to Virginia. On coming to Illinois, Major West was accompanied by his parents, then nearly eighty years of age. He had acquired his military title by service in the War of 1812. He commanded a company of Virginia troops stationed for a while at Norfolk. He died in 1863, at the age of eighty-five. Several of his descendants have since been prominent citizens of Belleville. Joseph McClintock, a native of Bourbon County, Kentucky, reached St. Clair County with his family, including eight children, in November, 1818. He settled four miles south of Belleville and died there in 1846. Among his sons, William and James have held office in St. Clair County, and were always well-respected citizens. The southeast part of the county was settled in 1810 by the families of Hecox, Stubblefield, Perkins, Beasley, Nat Hill, and James and Reuben Lively. When the Indian troubles began during the War of 1812, they built a block house for protection against the dangers of Indian warfare. Other early settlers in this part of the county, who came about the year 1817 were William Pendleton, Andrew Free, and Isaac Rainey. The Lands, Dials, and Cooks came about the same time. Isaac Rainey laid out the town of Darmstadt, made his home there while he lived and died there in 1871. Jefferson Rainey, born in this county in 1820, was elected to the State Senate in 1875. A number of families came from the East and settled in the county in 1817 and 1818. Among them were those of Caleb Barker, William Fowler, Abel Thompson, Timothy Higgins and Deacon Samuel Smith. Caleb Barker settled in what is now West Belleville, and William Fowler on the east branch of Richland Creek, three miles south of Belleville. He afterward engaged in the carpenter's business and did the wood work for the first brick Court House at Belleville. Later his health failed and he moved to California. Deacon Samuel Smith settled on Richland Creek, and lived and died there, leaving numerous descendants in the county. In the year 1817 the English settlement of Prairie du Long was formed by the families of Bamber, Winstanley, Threlfell, Coop, Newsham, and others. The Woods came to that part of the county in 1806 and the Wildermans in 1808. Samuel Ogle, the father of David and Joseph Ogle, settled in 1819 four miles northwest of Belleville, purchasing an improvement first made by George Blair. The farm which he improved is now along the paved road leading from Belleville to St. Louis. For several years he served as County Commissioner.
When Illinois became a state in 1818 the settlements were still sparse. There were barely forty thousand people in the territory, which was the number necessary for statehood. Indeed, it is claimed that in some cases transients passing thru were counted in order to make up the required number, so anxious were the people for Illinois to become a state. It was not always easy for the immigrants to become acclimatized sufficently to maintain good health in the new country. Many of the people from Virginia and Kentucky had been accustomed to abundance of cold spring water and the invigorating air of the mountains. To them the change to the indifferent water from shallow wells, or sometimes stagnant pools was neither agreeable nor healthful. In summer the suffocating heat, and especially in the American Bottom, the air laden with malaria from the decay of the season's growth of exuberant vegetation caused sickness to hold its enervating sway in almost every household till the frosts of autumn and the snows of winter could restore the conditions of good health. The best physicians had difficulty in dealing successfully with the malarial malady known as "fever and ague." For years parts of Illinois had the reputation of being unhealthy regions.
But later science solved the problem and now malaria is almost unknown, even in the American Bottom. The prairies that were still unsettled were of vast extent, and in the summer season were covered with native prairie grass, which often grew as high as the head of a man on horseback. When the frosts of autumn had followed the bleaching rains and heat of summer, the prairie fire often swept over vast areas with the speed of the wind, leaving them black and desolate. Often the wild animals and sometimes people had their lives endangered by the raging death-dealing prairie fire. But that danger, too, has disappeared. Wild game was still abundant. In fact, some of the early settlers came to the country chiefly that they might enjoy the pleasures of hunting. Altho there were very few, if any, buffaloes east of the Mississippi, bears had not entirely disappeared, and deer sometimes in droves of half a hundred could be seen in the Spring, feeding on the luxuriant wild prairie grass. Wild turkeys were plentiful and grouse or prairie chickens were evident in such countless numbers that when they would fly into the fields of an evening, in lighting or rising they would produce a sound like distant thunder. Also in the autumn wild pigeons in countless myriads would visit the settlements. Sometimes flocks in their flight could be seen extending more than five miles long, as they passed to other feeding grounds or to their nightly roosting places. In those days the settler who was so inclined could easily furnish meat for his table the whole year thru, with no other implement than his gun and a little of his time both used in a way that the modern resident would regard as the finest kind of sport. In fact, the city man of these days has been known to travel thousands of miles and spend hundreds of dollars for the privilege of shooting a single deer or bear and thought it was well worth the outlay. This is merely one of the changes that a century of development has wrought.
He came to Illinois in 1794 and lived with his uncle, Shadrach Bond, senior, for some years, and then purchased a farm for himself in the American Bottom and improved it well. By his example and influence he was a leader in a movement for the improvement of farming and social conditions among the farm people, that began about 1800. He labored on his farm with his own hands, with such help as he could obtain in that early day. He felt an honest pride in being dependent on no one for support except Mother Earth and "God that giveth the increase." He spent the happiest part of his life on the farm. He possessed warm and ardent feelings and when in the society of his friends around the festive board he was not only happy himself but made all around him happy also. In personal appearance he was large and portly, six feet tall and weighed over two hundred pounds, erect and symmetrical, in manner and bearing noble, dignified, and commanding; his features were regular but strong and masculine, his hair a glossy jet black, he had large brilliant hazel eyes, his forehead was prominent and his countenance indicated superior intellect. Such was the person of "Farmer Bond." In early life he was a member of the Gernal Assembly of the Indiana Territory, which met at Vincennes and he was a good, substantial member. In 1812 he was the first delegate to our national Congress. There he secured the passage of a law to grant the right of preemption to early settlers so that they might acquire a clear title to the land they occupied, and thus secure the improvements they had made upon it. This proved a great stimulus to the settlement of Illinois lands. When the settlers felt that they could hold the immprovements they made, they were encouraged to make more. This brought public lands into market and started a stream of immigration which was strong, deep and constant. It was the keystone to the arch of prosperity in Illinois. This one achievement entitles Bond to the lasting gratitude of his fellow-countrymen. He remained in Congress only one term. In 1814 he was appointed Receiver of Public Moneys at Kaskaskia. He then moved from his farm in the American Bottom to Kaskaskia and established a farm near that town. In 1818, when the first state officers were chosen for Illinois, he was elected Governor without opposition. The office of Governor was especially important during that first term in the time of transition from Territorial to State government. He performed the duties of the office in a satisfactory manner and retired with the good will of the people. Some time later he was appointed Registrar of the land office at Kaskaskia, in which office he continued till his death in 1830.
Mr. Edgar was the owner of a splendid mansion in Kaskaskia, where the traveller and the stranger always found a hearty welcome. No one ever displayed more real hospitality than he did in his home. For many years he was the wealthiest man in Illinois. He held real estate in many quarters and paid more taxes than any man in the territory. But with all his wealth he was kind and benevolent. Nor did it ever change his deportment from that of a true American gentleman.
He was elected from Illinois as a member of the Legislature of the Northwest Territory. This General Assembly convened at Chilicothe, Ohio, and was held under the administration of Governor Arthur St. Clair. At home he served as Justice of the Peace and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. Edgar County, Illinois was named in his honor.
CHAPTER I - Under French Rule
CHAPTER II - Under British Rule
CHAPTER III - The Transition to American Rule
CHAPTER IV - Settlers of the Early Period