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
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
Ordered, That two dollars and fifty cents be allowed Henry Smith for one day
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
"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
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
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,
Lost Grove-W. ½ 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. ½ of T. 25, R. 7.
Woodland-T. 25, R. 4.
Bush Creek-Fractional T. 25, R. 3, added to fractional T. 24. R. 3, for the time
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
Mount Carroll-T. 24, R. 4.
Salem-T. 24, R. 5, and, for the time being, the W. ½ of T. 24, R. 6, and the N.
E. ¼ of T.23, R.5.
Rock Creek-T. 24. R. 6, and, for the time being, the W. ½ shall be added to T.
24, R. 5; the E. ½ to T. 24, R. 7.
Lima-W. ½ T/ 24, R. 7, including the E. ½ T. 24, R. 6, for the time being.
Elkhorn Grove-W. ½ of T. 23, R. 7.
Enterprise-T.23, R. 6, and, for the time being, including the S.E. ¼ T. 23, R.
Harlem-T. 23, R. 4, including, for the time being, the W. ½ 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.
In witness whereof, we have hereunto set our hands and seals, this 12th day of
February. A. D. 1850.
ROLLIN WHEELER, [Seal.]
JOHN WILSON, [Seal.]
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.
POOR FARM REDIVIVUS.
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
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.