10/02/1997 NOTES From The White County Historical Society Library

White County Historical Society Library
by Charlene Shields!
This article appeared in THE CARMI TIMES
October 02, 1997


THOMAS, COTTON--Wanda Thomas, Box 625, Mooreland, OK 73852 would like to correspond with anyone who is researching the William Thomas and/or Priscilla Cotton families.

Last week this column carried a Christmas letter written by Thomas I. Porter in 1920 to his young relative, Fred Porter. The name of Porter has long been connected with the ghost town of Roland, and some of the Porters have had distinguished careers.
According to the 1883 History of White County, Illinois, Thomas I. Porter was born in 1846, the son of Samuel Porter and Melvina Harvey, who came to Indian Creek Township from Kentucky.
He enlisted in the Civil War when 16 years old.
He was taken prisoner, later exchanged, and finally returned home in 1865 to find his parents deceased.
He clerked in a store, taught school and painted houses. He found his niche when he was elected sheriff in l874.
Fourteen years after the murder of Augustus Stewart, Porter located the murderer in Colorado, arresting him and bringing him home.
He later arrested and handcuffed three men who had escaped from the Henderson, Ky. jail.
"He followed a forger to California and brought him back; followed two murderers, Thomas Pickering and his son, William, to Texas, and arrested them; followed a criminal to Washington Territory and arrested him.
He has made more arrests than any other man in Southern Illinois, and has had many narrow escapes.
" He was a partner in Barnes Store (in Sacramento) when he heard some burglars trying to get into the store one night.
The burglars stole some tools from a nearby blacksmith shop and returned to try to get into the store.
As Porter awaited to nab them when they came out, one thief shot him, but a small book in Porter's side pocket saved him. Mr. Porter shot and wounded the fleeing thief.
Years later, Thomas I. Porter became an important man in the U.S. Secret Service, heading the Chicago branch of that organization for over 30 years.

No doubt there are some old-timers in the Indian Creek area who remember this legendary man.

We continue to be comfortably busy with letters and visitors to our Genealogy Library. We're open from 11 to 5 on Wednesdays. Come join us.

Posted with permission from

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