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Edwardsville History

 

List of Registered Voters for the Precinct of Edwardsville, for the Year 1872

 

The Beginnings of Edwardsville

From the Gazetteer of Madison County by James T. Hair, 1866

(Book in Public Domain)

 

           Edwardsville, the seat of justice for Madison County, Illinois, was settled by Thomas Kirkpatrick in 1805. The early settlers of the West were obliged to resort to block houses for protection against Indians. One of the first in the West was that built by a military company, of which John G. Lofton was captain, and William Jones first, and Daniel G. Moore second lieutenants. It was built on the south bank of Cahokia Creek in 1811. In 1816, Kirkpatrick laid out the town called Edwardsville, which was selected as the County Seat. At this period, Madison County embraced all of Northern Illinois. An act was passed by the State Legislature, February 23, 1819, appointing Benjamin Stephenson, Joseph Bowers, Robert Latham, John Todd, Joseph Conway, Abraham Prickett and Theophilus W. Smith, a Board of Trustees for the town of Edwardsville.

 

          Among the earliest settlers of Edwardsville and vicinity were:

 

James Gillham, 1793

John Gillham and sons, 1802

William Gillham, 1803

Charles Gillham, 1803

Bryant Mooney, 1803

John T. Lusk, March 5, 1805

Samuel Judy, 1801

Abraham Prickett

Thomas Good, May 20, 1808

Thomas Kirkpatrick

James Mason

       

 

          The first marriage was probably that of James Gillham and Polly Good, January, 1809. John Crocker and Cynthia Moore were married soon after, and John T. Lusk and Lucretia Gillham on the 22nd of August, 1809. George W. Prickett, now of Chicago, was the first child born in Edwardsville, October 1816. Alfred J. Lusk was born on July 23, 1814, a short distance from the town. The first death of a grown person in Edwardsville was that of Mrs. Sally (Good) Moore, sometime during 1809.

 

          One of the first schools was kept by Joshua Atwater. Atwater emigrated from Massachusetts to Madison County in 1817. He brought with him his New England education and habits, and was perhaps the founder of the first charitable institution organized in the Illinois Territory. This Society, organized March 1, 1809, was called the "Charitable Society," and members agreed to make quarterly payments into the Treasury. The Constitution of the Society was signed by Jesse Walkier, William Scott, Benjamin M. Piatt, John Everett, David Everett, William Barton, Thomas Kirkpatrick, Robert McMahan, and Gilless Maddux. The contributions were used for the relief of the oppressed and afflicted of all ranks and colors, without discrimination or prejudice.

 

          The first store was opened by Abraham Prickett, and the second by Benjamin Y. Stephenson, about 1815 or 1816. The first hotel was opened by John T. Lusk in 1816. The first brick house of Edwardsville was built for the use of Mr. Stephenson by Colonel N. Buckmaster. The person who had made the brick used street dust instead of sand, in moulding them. A few years after its being built, this house crumbled again to dust.

 

          One noticeable fact is that the earliest settlers chose the poorest land for locations. This was owing, in part, to their coming from a timbered country, and hence they doubted the practicability of living on, or cultivating the prairies. Another reason was that the settlers felt constrained to nestle together for protection against the Indians. Cotton was extensively and regularly cultivated by the early settlers. Thomas Good built a cotton gin about 1817, and carried on an extensive business. Indigo was also frequently raised.

 

          At the close of the war with England in 1815, the U. S. Government selected a part of Northern Illinois to be distributed amongst the soldiers engaged in that war. The lands thus selected were known as the "Military Bounty Lands," and most of the deeds from the Government and from subsequent purchasers of these lands were recorded at Edwardsville. Benjamin Stephenson and John McKee were the first officers appointed by the Government to discharge the duties of Register and Recorder. An Indian Agency was about this time established here, called the "Kickapoo Agency," which attracted great numbers of Indians to the place for years. Ninian Edwards was agent, and Jacques Mettie interpreter. Mettie piloted the detachment of troops that set fire to the old village of Peoria.

 

          Among the most prominent of those who immigrated to Edwardsville were:

 

Jesse B. Thomas, Sr., Congressman

Daniel P. Cook, Congressman

Emanuel J. West

Jesse B. Thomas, Jr., Judge

Theophilus W. Smith, Judge

Samuel D. Lockwood, Judge

Thomas Ford, Governor

George Forquer

Ninian Edwards, Governor

John D. Reeves, Senator

Chester Ashley, Senator

Edward Coles, Governor

Benjamin J. Seward

James Semple, Judge

Benjamin Mills

Henry Starr

James D. Henry, Black Hawk War hero

     

 

          In 1866, the population of Edwardsville was 2,000, about one-half were German. There were three flouring mills, two breweries, one distillery, one steam furniture manufactory, several dry goods, grocery and general stores, two newspaper offices, and carriage, wagon, plow and other mechanical shops. The Court House existed with fire-proof offices, and there was a school house, recently built, with five hundred students. The County Hospital was located on the County Farm adjoining the southern limits of Edwardsville.  The first organization of the M. E. Church in Edwardsville was in December 1827, under Rev. William Chambers.

 

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