Genealogy Trails Calhoun County, Illinois

Calhoun County, IL, Established January 10, 1825
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"History of Calhoun County and its people up to the year 1910"
by: Carpenter, George Wilbur


In the year 1822, Pike County included all of the territory from the mouth of the Illinois River up to the present Wisconsin line, and to Lake Michigan. At the election of that year there were just three places where the inhabitants of that vast strip of territory might vote and one of those places was Coles Grove.

As has been mentioned before the first court in Pike County was held here. In 1823 when the county seat was moved to Atlas, Coles Grove remained a voting place.

When the town was choson as the county seat of Calhoun County in 1825, the name was changed to Gilead.

One of the principal reasons for its importance in the early days was because it was the home of John Shaw, who was probably the best known Calhoun citizen in the days before the Civil War.

Shaw had taken part in the Indian wars in 1813 and had settled in Gilead in the early days.

In speaking of his coming to Calhoun, Shaw said:
"In the early part of 1821, I commenced clearing and setting up a farm between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, at a point where Gilead is now located. Year after year I extended my farming interests until I cultivated 1200 acres of land in one year and had nearly 400 head of cattle."

Shaw lived at Gilead for some time, started a ferry across the Mississippi River at Clarksvlle in 1825, and about 1830 he settled at the present site of Hamburg.

He had been a member of the Legislature before Calhoun was organized as a county and he probably used his influence in having Gilead made the county seat.

Gilead became a town of importance when it was made the county seat. In 1837, a book that contained a description of all towns in the state, had the following to say about Gilead:
"Gilead has two stores and a dozen families. The court house is of brick, two stories, 30 feet square, and finished omtside."

A post-office was established in Gilead and a report made to the government in 1831 shows that the business done by the Gilead office was greater than the combined business of the other two offices in the county, at Hamburg and Belleview.

During the first two weeks of January, 1847, the court house at Gilead was destroyed by fire, but all of the county records seem to have been saved, probably because several of the county officers had their offices in another building.

A small house located on the village square was rented from Daniel T. Simpson as a meeting place for the County Commissioners.

On January 18, the Commissioners were considering the rebuilding of the court house, but on February 23, they decided that an election should be held to see if Gilead should remain the county seat or if some other town in the county should be chosen.

At this meeting it was decided that Hamburg should be the temporary county seat.
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