Township Organization


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From the organization of the county in 1839, up to November, 1849, the management of county affairs had been under the control of three county commissioners. The law under which they were elected provided that one of them should serve for one year, one for two years, and one for three years, so that one commissioner only should be elected annually. At the first session of the County Commissioners Court, terms were drawn for in the manner following: Three tickets were prepared, on one of which was written "one year," on another one "two years," and on a third on, "three years." These slips of paper were put into a hat or box, and passed to the commissioners, when each one of them would draw out a ticket. The one who drew the "one year" ticket would serve one year; the one who drew the "two year" ticket was entitled to serve two years, and the one drawing the "three year" ticket would hold his office for three years. Under this law there were always two member of the court familiar with the routine of business and the condition of the county.
Elijah M. Haines, in his "Laws of Illinois, Relative to Township Organization," says, the county system "originated with Virginia, whose early settlers soon became large landed proprietors, aristocratic in feeling, living apart in almost baronial magnificence on their own estates, and owning the laboring part of the population. Thus the materials of a town were not at hand, the voter being thinly distributed over a great area. The county organization, where a few influential men managed the whole business of the community, retaining their places almost at their pleasure, scarcely responsible at all except in name, and permitted to conduct the county concerns as their ideas or wishes might direct, was moreover consonant with their recollection or traditions of the judicial and social dignities of the landed aristocracy of England, in descent from whom the Virginia gentlemen felt so much pride. In 1834, eight counties were organized in Virginia; and the system, extending throughout the state, spread into all the Southern States, and some of the Northern States, unless we except the nearly similar division into 'districts' in South Carolina, and that into 'parishes' in Louisiana from the French laws,
"Illinois, which, with its vast additional territory, became a county of Virginia on its conquest by Gen. George Rogers Clark, retained the county organization, which was formally extended over the state by the constitution of 1818, and continued in exclusive use until the constitution of 1848. Under this system, as in other states adopting it, most local business was transacted by three commissioners in each county, who constituted a county court, with quarterly sessions. During the period ending with the constitutional convention of 1847, a large portion of the state had become filled up with a population of New England birth or character, daily growing more and more compact and dissatisfied with the comparatively arbitrary and inefficient county system." It was maintained by the people that the heavily populated districts would always control the election of the commissioners to the disadvantage of the more thinly populated sections-in short, that under that system "equal and exact justice" to all parts of the county could not be secured. The township system had its origin in Massachusetts, and dates back to 1635. The first legal enactment concerning this system provided that, whereas, "particular towns have many thins which concern only themselves, and the ordering of their own affairs, and disposing of business in their own town," therefore, "the freemen of every town, or the major part of them, shall only have power to dispose of their own lands and woods, with all the appurtenances of said towns, to grant lots, and to make such orders as may concern the well-ordering of their own towns, not repugnant to the laws and orders established by the General Court." "They might, also (says Mr. Haines) impose fines of not more than twenty shillings, and 'choose their own particular officers, as constables, surveyors for the highways, and the like." Evidently, this enactment relieved the *General court of a mass of municipal details, without any danger to the powers of that body in controlling general measures or public policy. Probably, also, a demand from the freemen of the towns was felt, for the control of their own home concerns."
Similar provisions for the incorporation of towns were made in the first constitution of Connecticut, adopted in 1639; and the plan of township organization, as experience proved its remarkable economy, efficacy and adaptation to the requirements of a free and intelligent people, became universal throughout New England, and went westward with the emigrants from New England, into New York, Ohio, and other Western States, including the northern part of Illinois.
Under these influences, the constitutional provision of 1848, and subsequent law of 1849, were enacted, enabling the people of the several counties of the state to vote "for" or "against" adopting the township organization system. The question was submitted to the people at an election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 1849, and was adopted by all of the counties north of the Illinois River, and by a number of counties south of it.
February 12, 1849, the legislature passed a law creating a county court. Section one of this law provided "that there should be established in each of the counties of this state, now created and organized, or which may hereafter be created or organized, a court of record, to be styled "the County Court,' to be held by and consist of one judge, to be styled the "County Judge." Section seventeen of the same act [see pp. 307-10, Statutes of 1858] provided for the election of two additional justices of the peace, whose jurisdiction should be co-extensive with the counties, etc., and who should sit with the county judge as members of the court for the transaction of all county business and none other.
Tuesday, September 4, 1849, the county commissioners

Ordered, That the question of "town organization" be submitted to the voter of Carroll County at the next general election, to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November next, and that a vote by ballot be given for or against a "town organization."

At the general election on the "first Tuesday after the First Monday in November," a majority of the votes were cast in favor of "a town organization," and in April, 1850, the township organization law went into effect.
The last meeting of the county commissioners was held on Saturday, December 1, 1849. The board at that time consisted of H. Smith, D. L. Bowen and J. Bartholomew. Their last business was the examination and allowance of sundry bills to judges, clerks of election, etc. The three last orders were in these words:

Ordered, That two dollars and fifty cents be allowed Henry Smith for one day special term.
Also, that David L. Bowen be allowed the same for the same.
Also that Jared Bartholomew be allowed the same.

These orders were numbered respectively 1327, 13328, 1329. The "Court adjourned without Day." And thus passed away and out of practice the old system of managing county affairs.
At the election held on the "first Tuesday after the first Monday in November," 1849, under the provisions of the law creating the county court, George W. Harris was elected County Judge. Turning to the records, we find the following entry:
"MT. CARROLL, CARROLL Co., ill., Dec 3, 1849.
"The County Court of Carroll County, Illinois, this day convened at the court house, according to law, for the transaction of business. Present: George W. Harris, County Court (Judge?) and Norman D. French and G. W. Knox, associate justices of the peace, when the following orders were made:
"The commission of George W. Harris, County Judge, was presented and ordered to be placed on file." This commission bore the signature of Aug. C. French, as governor, and H. S. Cooley, as secretary of state , and was dated at the City of Springfield, November 19, 1849. On the back of the commission was the prescribed oath of office, and was subscribed by Mr. Harris before Thomas T. Jacobs.
Reuben W. Brush, having been elected to the office of county clerk, at the same election, also presented his commission as such officer from Gov. French, and was sworn into office by Leonard Goss, probate justice of the peace. His official bond in the sum of three thousand dollars, with Aaron Belding and John Irvine, Sr., as bondsmen, was also presented, approved and place on file,
The court then proceeded to business, taking up and disposing of petitions for roads, passing upon claims against the county, etc., and in a general way discharging nearly the same duties as those confided by law to the county commissioners. Among the other business transacted, R. H. Gray, John Wilson and Rollin Wheeler were appointed commissioners under the "act to provide for township organization, passed and approved February 12, 1849," to divide the county into towns or townships and make their report according to law.
The county court remained in session two days, and then adjourned until the next term in course, which, by law, was the first Monday in March, 1850, that day being the fourth day of the month. This term the court remained in session only two days, adjourning on Wednesday, the 6th of March. During this session of the court a large number of orders were passed, sundry accounts examined and ordered to be paid, etc.
The following month-April-the first board of supervisors was elected. The first record under the new order of county management is as follows:

MOUNT CARROLL, April 8, 1850.
In pursuance of an act approved February 12, 1849, authorizing "township organization in the several counties of Illinois," the board of supervisors of Carroll County met on this day, at the court house in Mount Carroll, as provided in the second section of the sixteenth article of said act, to-wit: Jared Bartholomew, Henry L. Lowman, and Daniel P. Holt. A quorum not being present, the board adjourned, to meet on the 15th inst. (Monday), at 10 o'clock A. M.

R. W. BRUSH, Clerk.

Monday, the 15th, pursuant to adjournment, the first active session of the board was commenced. There were present Jared Bartholomew, Daniel P. Holt, Ryllin Wheeler, Sample M. Journey, George Sword, Monroe Bailey, Henry F. Lewman, John Donaldson-8.
Jared Bartholomew was chosen chairman of the board.
At this meeting of the board the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved. That a committee of three be appointed as commissioners to locate a quarter-section of land, out of the funds raised by a tax for that object on the taxable property for 1849, for the purpose of erecting a poor-house.

The chairman appointed Henry Smith, R. M. Brush, and Porter Sargent as such committee.

Tax Levy.-Ordered by the board that a tax of four mills on the dollar's worth of taxable property in the county be assessed, for the year 1850, for county revenue; also, that a tax of five and eight tenths mills be assessed on the same as a state tax.

At this meeting of the board of supervisors, the commissioners appointed to divide the county into towns or townships made their report, establishing the townships as follows:

Commissioners' Report Showing the Boundary Lines of the several Towns laid off in Carroll County.-We, the undersigned, commissioners appointed by the County Court of Carroll county, under and by virtue of an act of the legislature of the State of Illinois, approved February 12, 1849, entitled "An act to provide for township and county organization, under which any county may organize whenever a majority of the voters of such county, at any general election may determine," do hereby establish the following-named boundaries for the following described towns in Carroll County, laid off by us in pursuance of the act aforesaid, to-wit:
Lost Grove-W. T. 25, R. 7, and, for the time being, added to T. 25, R. 6.
Cherry Grove-T.wt, R. 6, including, for the time being, the W. of T. 25, R. 7.
Freedom-T. 25,R.5.
Woodland-T. 25, R. 4.
Bush Creek-Fractional T. 25, R. 3, added to fractional T. 24. R. 3, for the time being.
Portsmouth-Fractional T. 25, R. 2, for the time being, added to fractional towns 24 and 25, R. 3.
Savanna-Fractional T. 24, R. 3, including, for the time being, T. 25, ranges 2 and 3.
Mount Carroll-T. 24, R. 4.
Salem-T. 24, R. 5, and, for the time being, the W. of T. 24, R. 6, and the N. E. of T.23, R.5.
Rock Creek-T. 24. R. 6, and, for the time being, the W. shall be added to T. 24, R. 5; the E. to T. 24, R. 7.
Lima-W. T/ 24, R. 7, including the E. T. 24, R. 6, for the time being.
Elkhorn Grove-W. of T. 23, R. 7.
Enterprise-T.23, R. 6, and, for the time being, including the S.E. T. 23, R. 5.
Harlem-T. 23, R. 4, including, for the time being, the W. of T/ 23, R. 5, and fractional T. 23, R. 3.
Bluffville-Fractional T. 23, R. 3, and, for the time being, added to T. 23, R. 4.
In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands and seals, this 12th day of February. A. D. 1850.
R. H. GRAY, [Seal.]

Changes, etc.-Lost Grove continued a part of the town of Cherry Grove until Sept. 13, 1864, when, by the action of the board of supervisors, it was erected into the present town of Shannon, named from the village of Shannon, within its limits. Its separate life commenced April 1, 1865.
In 1855, the territory designated for the town of Rush Creek was erected into the town of Washington, including, also., the territory of Portsmouth.
Enterprise lost its name, and Wysox was substituted, at the time the report of the committee was acted upon.
Harlem was changed to York upon motion of Mr. Bailey, supervisor of that town, on the 14th day of November, 1850. Subsequently it was changed to Argo by the Legislature, but was re-christened York at the next meeting of the board of supervisors after the change. This second change to York was through the influence of the same Mr. Bailey.
Bluffville has never had an existence as a town, its territory having always constituted a part of York.

The first committee appointed to locate a quarter-section of land for a poor farm do not appear, by the records, to have made any report, so, on Monday, Dec. 24, 1851, another committee, consisting of Messrs. R. W. Brush, David Becker and David Emmert, were appointed to that duty, and "authorized to view out and purchase a suitable tract of land on such terms as they might deem expedient, and to apply the money then in the treasury, and that to be collected that year," to the payment thereof. February 12, 1852, this committee reports that they have purchased the farm formerly owned by Samuel S. Bayliss, containing two hundred acres, for the sum of eleven hundred dollars. "The money in the treasury appropriated to that object, and that to be collected in 1851 (amounting in all to about five hundred dollars) is to be paid on the execution by said Bayliss of a sufficient deed, and the remainder in county orders, to be issued, bearing interest at the rate of six per cent per annum from the date of purchase,"
February 13, Henry F. Lowman, Jesse Rapp and David Becker were appointed a committee to contract with some person to take charge of the poor farm for one year, and to direct such improvements as the committee might deem necessary to the reception of paupers, etc. March 1, this committee reported a contract, signed by themselves and Jacob Strickler, for the term of one year from that date, which was accepted and placed on file. The same day the board of supervisors ordered that "the house purchased of Samuel S. Bayliss be established as a poor house" from that date. The house referred to was a kind of double concern-half frame and half log. Improvements were soon after commenced, and continued from year to year, as the county had means, until in 1872 a handsome, commodious and convenient brick house, of two stories and basement, was commenced and completed. In the basement are three rooms a cellar. On the first floor there are five rooms and two cells. On the second floor there are seven rooms-all well ventilated, and sufficiently roomy for all practical purposes. The contract was originally awarded to Karn & Rhinedollar, carpenters and builders at Mount Carroll The sub-let the masonry part of the building to Mr. James Hallett, also of Mount Carroll. The contract price was $6,050, but by the time the building was completed extra work had been done that increased its cost to about $6.200.
When the poor farm was first purchased, R. W. Brush was appointed a special "agent to put into operation, and take a general supervision of the poor house in Carroll County for the ensuing year."

For several years after the management of the affairs of the county passed from the commissioners to supervisors, a good deal of their time was taken up in road and bridge matters. New roads were laid out, old ones straightened and re-located to conform to the greater interest and convenience of the people. March 7, 1853, a bridge was ordered to be built across Plum River, near Savanna, on the road leading southeastwardly to the Town of York, and Monroe Bailey, Reuben H. Gray and Norman D. French were appointed a committee to act with the road commissioners of Savanna to locate and superintend the building of the said bridge. Previous to the erection of this bridge, the only means of crossing Plum River at that point, in times of high water, was by ferry. In June, 1851, the supervisors granted license to Wade H. Eldridge to keep a ferry there for three months, on the condition that he would not obstruct the ford, give bond in the sum of fifty dollars, and pay into the treasury of the county the sum of one dollar-all of which requirements were filled. The rates of toll were:

Footmen, 5c.; do, going and returning the same day. Man and horse and horse and buggy, 10c.; do, going and returning same day, 25c.; wagon and four horses, 25c.; do, going and returning same day, 20c, each way.
These rates were established by the board of supervisors and may be found under their proceedings of June 3, 1851.
May 6, 1853, the board passed an amended order directing the commissioners appointed March 7, 1853, to superintend the building of the bridge, not to exceed the sum of $2,000 in all their charges against the county for that purpose. September 13, 1853, Supervisor D. P. Holt offered the following resolution:
That the ordered heretofore passed in relation to building a bridge across Plum River, near Savanna, be sustained and approved, and that the sum, not exceeding $2,000, be appropriated for that purpose.
The ayes and nays were called for, and C. Van Veghten, E. Brock, David Becker, G. Denny, D. P. Hoplt and H. B. Puterbaugh voted in the affirmative, and James Linke, Joseph Steffins, R. J. Tompkins and H. B. Loman voted in the negative.
The records do not show very clearly to whom the contract for building this bridge was awarded, but, from the following entry in the supervisors' records, under date of Thursday, January 12, 1854, we are led to conclude the D. P. Holt was the builder. The entry reads:
That the clerk of the supervisors be and is hereby authorized to issue a county order to the amount of three hundred and sixty-nine dollars, to D. P. Holt, as balance on his cont5ract for building Plum River Bridge, on his filing an order of the committee of the acceptance of the said contract.
Then there comes a subsequent entry, in the course of the proceedings of that meeting, wherein the board is petitioned by the supervising committee to direct the clerk to issue an order for one thousand five hundred dollars to D. P. Holt, in part payment for the Plum River bridge, on his filing his bond, with good and sufficient security, etc.-from all of which it appears that Mr. Holt was the contractor and builder of the first bridge across Plum River at that point.
This bridge and the one at Bowen's old mill, on Plum River (now Wood & Kitchen's), were the largest and most costly in the county. They were wooden structures, and went down from time,, before floods and constant use. But at last they are succeeded by strong iron bridges, that defy the force of floods and ravages and decay of time. There are other bridges in the county, but they are wooden ones and of minor importance. These bridges are kept up and repaired from time to time by the several townships in which they are situated.
From the time of the permanent location of the county seat at Mt. Carroll, and the removal of the county offices from Savanna, in 1844, until the breaking out of the war, in 1861, there was but little to disturb the industrial pursuits of the people. As a rule, the people were of a sober, industrious character who had come to the county to secure homes they had not the means to secure in their native states, and possessed but little money to help them in their new location. But "where there is a will, there is always a way," and, careful and prudent, and, by education and force of circumstances, economical, they succeeded in conquering the hardships incident to pioneer life. And, although they were sometimes "hard run" for the necessaries of life, they kept up brave hearts, and in two or three years had reduced their claims to remunerative farms-at least, they had been made to produce enough to support their family occupants, and something to spare. As the years increased, the productions of their farm and stock increased, and the memories of the scanty meals and scanty wardrobes, physical hardships, etc., of their pioneer days were sweetened in the contemplation of farms and houses and barns and other surroundings of comfort their industry and perseverance had brought forth from the prairies and forests, that but a few years ago had been the grazing places of the buffalo,* the elk, and other animals natural to the wilds of the northwest, and the undisturbed hunting grounds of the red men.
Nature seems to have designed certain localities of our common country for certain purposes. The rock-bound rivers and creeks of the new England stated pre-eminently suit that part of the country for manufacturing purposes. But the Great Architect that unfolded the beautiful prairies and reared the grove-covered hillsides of Carroll County seems to have intended it for agricultural and stock-growing purposes, and to these ends the people directed their energies and their industries.

*R. G. Bailey was Major Hawk's immediate predecessor, and had made great improvements in the management of the records. The real fault belongs to the early county clerks, and the carelessness of county judges, prior to Judge Patch, in not enforcing order.

*The New England colonies were first governed by a "general court," or legislature composed of a governor and a small council which court consisted of the most influential inhabitants, and possessed and exercised both legislative and judicial powers, which were limited only by the wisdom of the holders. They made laws, ordered their execution by officers, tried and decided civil and criminal causes, enacted all manner of municipal regulations, and, in fact, did all the public business of the colony.

SOURCE: The History of Carroll County Illinois, Containing A History of the County -- Its Cities, Towns, Etc. A Biographical Directory of its Citizens, War Records of its Volunteers in the Late Rebellion, General and Local Statistics, Portraits of Early Settlers and Prominent Men, History of the Northwest, History of Illinois, Map of Carroll County, Constitution of the United States, Miscellaneous Matters, Etc. Illustrated. Chicago: H. F. Kett & Co., Times Building. 1878.