Welcome to Madison County ILGenWeb
Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser
BRIEF HISTORY OF MADISON COUNTY
Named after James Madison, the fourth President of the United States and father of our Constitution, Madison County was established in the Illinois Territory on September 14, 1812 from Randolph and St. Clair Counties. At the time it was established, Madison included all of the modern state of Illinois north of St. Louis, as well as all of Wisconsin, part of Minnesota, and Michigan's Upper Peninsula. In 1814, the formation of Edwards County removed almost half of the eastern part, and the final boundary change came in 1843, when a small portion on the northeast corner of Madison County became part of Bond County.
On September 19, 1812, Illinois Territory Governor Ninian Edwards appointed Isam Gilham as the first Sheriff of Madison County, with William Rabb, John G. Lofton, and Samuel Judy as judges; and Josiah Randall as Clerk of the Court of Common Pleas. Josiah Randall was named Recorder, and Robert Elliott, Thomas G. Davidson, William Gilham, and George Cadwell were appointed Justices of the Peace.
Edwardsville, the county seat, was laid out in 1815 on the site designated by Governor Edwards in his proclamation organizing the county. It was named in his honor, and later became his residence.
Edward Coles, the second Governor of Illinois, was one of the
most remarkable men of his time, and one whose memory should be
gratefully perpetuated by this commonwealth. He was the Chief
Executive of this State at the most critical period in its
history, and to him is due the honor of saving Illinois from the
withering curse of slavery. We have read with great pleasure a
sketch of his life by Hon. Elihu B. Washburne, a book of 250
pages, and propose to give a brief resume of a career which
crowned this State with the material growth and prosperity which
make it today the Empire State of the West. Elected when only
thirty-five years old, after a three years’ residence in the
State of Illinois, removing to Philadelphia six years after his
term expired, and being before the public but a brief time, his
great services have never been fully appreciated.
Edward Coles was born in 1786 in Albemarle County, Virginia. His father was a Colonel in the army of the Revolution, and belonged to one of the most distinguished families of the old Dominion. His father was a friend and associate of Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Monroe, and other leading Virginia statesmen, and it was in this atmosphere of greatness that young Coles was brought up. Fitted for college by private tutors, he completed his education at the college of William and Mary. After leaving the institution, he spent two years in the study of history and politics, and from his own reading and observation, became imbued with views and principles antagonistic to the prevailing opinions in his native State. He came to regard human slavery as antagonistic to humanity and to material prosperity, and as a foul blot on the national fame. Possessed of a polished education, fascinating manners, and fine personal appearance, his prospects for preferment were brilliant. His father, dying in 1808, left him a plantation and many slaves, but the result of the young heir’s study and reflection was the profound conviction that he could not reconcile it with his conscience to hold slaves or live in a State which upheld slavery. While debating in his own mind what course to pursue ....... READ MORE