Madison County ILGenWeb

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Madison County ILGenWeb Coordinator - Beverly Bauser



Madison County in IllinoisNamed 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.


March 9, 1858

On March 9, 1858, a prisoner in the Alton State Prison by the name of Hall, from Chicago, was serving a second term for murder. After eating breakfast, no other guard was in the hallway surrounding the cells except for Clark C. Crabb, a family man living in Alton who worked as a prison guard. Hall knocked Crabb down and hit him in the head, stunning him insensible. Hall then dragged Crabb into one of the cells, tied his hands behind his back with strips of his blanket, and fastened the cell door closed with a piece of wood. Hall was armed with a large knife.

Colonel Samuel Buckmaster, warden of the prison, and some of the other guards, went to talk with prisoner Hall, who threatened to kill Crabb if any attempt was made to open the door. For over an hour, Colonel Buckmaster and his guards watched for an opportunity to shoot Hall, but there was only one small opening in the door, and Hall kept Crabb between him and that opening. When Crabb rose tried to get up to open the door, Hall cut him severely on the hand.

Hall demanded that he be given a revolver and ammunition, a full suit of clothes, $100, and to be driven out of town in a closed carriage, accompanied by Crabb. Buckmaster refused to give in. The warden obtained a pardon for Hall from the Governor, to be used at his discretion. All day and all night the guards were on watch to shoot Hall if they got the opportunity. The entrance to the cell was very narrow, and the door was made of plate iron, with a small grating at the top for ventilation. The door opened inwards, and was strongly fastened, so it was impossible to break it down.

At 9:00 a.m. on March 10, 1858, the State Prison Superintendent, Colonel Friend S. Rutherford, and Warden Colonel Samuel Buckmaster, came up with a plan. They brought breakfast to prisoner Hall, but in larger containers than normal. Hall refused to open the door until the hallway was cleared, however Rutherford, Buckmaster, and a few guards were on each side, out of sight and motionless. Hall slowly opened the door just enough to grab the food containers, and when he did, the hidden guards used a crowbar to block the door open. They shouted out for Crabb to fight for his life, and he sprang towards the opening. Crabb was eventually dragged through the door, but not before he was stabbed by the convict nine times in the back and twice on the arm. Hall immediately barred the door once again. The warden gave Hall a few minutes to reflect on his situation, and when he refused to submit, Hall was shot by Warden Buckmaster. The ball struck the skull just below the left ear. Hall’s body was drug out of the cell while he was yet alive and talking, and placed on a mattress in the hallway. Two knives were found on him – one eight inches long and doubled-faced, and the other four inches long. He exhibited no regrets or remorse, but that he hoped God would forgive him. He sent for one of his fellow-prisoners, and advised him to behave and not do as he had done. He was attended by a physician, but died later that day in the prison.

Prison guard Crabb was taken to the hospital and treated by Drs. Williams and Allen. The left lung had been perforated twice by the knife. His wife came to visit him, and he talked freely. It was doubtful that he would survive, given the severity of his wounds, but he did recover. Crabb later worked as a guard at the Joliet, Illinois, prison.

In July 1912, fifty-four years later, during the process of cleaning up the cellar at the George A. Sauvage cigar store on Piasa Street, a skull was found. It was determined to be that of prisoner Hall, the six-time murderer who tried to escape from the Alton State Prison by abducting prison guard Crabb. John Buckmaster formerly owned the cigar store, and inherited the skull from his father, Colonel Samuel Buckmaster, who was warden of the penitentiary at the time. Buckmaster kept the skull as a memento, and for years it served as a container for balls of twine. George Sauvage, when he purchased the cigar store, put the skull in the cellar. It is unknown why the skull was separated from the body of Hall, where the rest of his body was buried, and what happened to the skull after its discovery in 1912.



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