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First Events in Calhoun County

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[Source: "History of Calhoun County and its people up to the year 1910"]
by: Carpenter, George Wilbur

The first election was held on February 2, 1825 at the homes of James Gilman and John Bolter. The following officers were elected: James Nixon, Ebenezer Smith, and Asa Carrico, County Commission- ers; Bigelow Fenton, Sheriff. James Levin, Coroner; A. M. Jenkins, Circuit Clerk; A. M. Jenkins, first Notary Public. Mr. Jenkins was also appointed County Clerk.

The first act of the County Commissioners was to confirm the selection of Gilead as the County Seat. They also accepted the eighty acres of land and the twelve lots in Gilead which was given to them by John Shaw. The first meeting of the County Commissioners was held on March 8, 1825, at Gilead, and two of the Commissioners, James Nixon and Ebenezer Smith were present.


On March 24, 1825 the first marriage license was issued, the con- tracting parties being Samuel Cress wall and Eliza Hewitt.

First Ferry

The Commissioners Records for the same date show that Samuel Still received permission to run a ferry across the Illinois River at the mouth of Apple Creek. The rates are to be as follows:
Single person, 12^
Single horse, 12^
Cattle, under one year, 12^
Each hog, 3$
Two-wheeled venicle, 37#
Four-wheeled vehicle, 50^

During the same year John Shaw received permission to operate a ferry across the Mississippi River opposite Clarksville, Mo., and John Bolter, received permission for a ferry across the Mississippi at Little Cap au Gris, near the present site of the Golden Eagle ferry

Another one of the first acts of the Commissioners was to let the contract for the building of a jail at Gilead. The building was to be twelve feet square, eight feet high, and to be made of hewn timber. The contract was let to Daniel Church for forty dollars, and the county to furnish the materials. The contract also stated that the building was to be completed by the first Monday of June, 1825.

First Liquor License

At the same session, Levi Roberts made an application to run and operate a tavern at Gilead. He was granted a license, the fee being two dollars. The following rates were to be followed:
Meals, 25 f
Keeping horse overnight, 25^
Lodging, 6$
Whiskey, V 2 pint, 12f

First Animal Shelter

In the period of 1825 to 1840 we find a number of unusual entries concerning different departments of the county government. One of these has to do with the keeping of a, stray pen. Such a pen was erected, in Gilead in 1834, as a place to keep stray animals that were going about the county doing damage.

They were kept in the pen until the owned called and identified them. Each farmer had a certain brand or mark that was registered in the office of the County Clerk. By means of these brands the farmer could prove ownership to the animal. If no one claimed the animal, it would be sold, the expenses of sale and feeding would be deducted, and the balance turned over to the Treasurer of the county. The stay pen was usually in charge of the Sheriff. One record shows that John McDonald, the Sheriff, had charge of the pen and received $1.75 a week for the work.

First Jail

Another interesting and amusing fact is that the first two jails that were built at Gilead were not strong enough to keep the prisoners from escaping.

We find dozens of records in the period before 1846 where persons were paid so much a night to guard the jail. In 1845, a runaway negro, probably a slave from Missouri, was captured and placed in the jail. The county had to pay a guard fifty cents a night to watch the jail, during the period of forty days that the negro was kept there. The county officials and the citizens probably kept watcn over the jail in the day time, so no regular guard was maintained.

First Court House

In 1830, the county decided to build a brick court house at Gilead. The contract was given to Benjamin Munn, and he completed the building in 1832. The total cost of the building was $1,600. In 1835 a new jail was constructed by John Huff. He received $299 for his labor and for the material that he used in the building.


The first census that was taken after Calhoun became a county was in 1830. The population at that time was listed as 1,092 of which number 1,090 were free white people. This same census mentions that there were no colored people in the county, so the other two people included in the first figures were probably indentured servants. The county records of the 30's mention the presence of several in the county.

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