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Finding Illinois Ancestors

Researched and written by Cindy Leonard, Staunton, IL

The following story is about one of my earliest attempts to solve a research problem in Macoupin County. It was a learning experience for me and originally appeared in the April, 1985 issue of our society’s newsletter.

In the July issue of our newsletter was an article about the first jail in Macoupin County. The story about a man named NASH and a man named LOCKERMAN was related in that article. I have since received permission from a descendant of Andrew J. NASH to print some of the story.

It all started when a woman contacted me about her ancestor. All she knew was that he had committed suicide between the years of 1850 and 1854 in Macoupin County. A search of the 1879 history of Macoupin County turned up the barest story of the first jail entry. But there were no exact dates given! It was confusing because according to the story, you get the impression NASH couldn’t have killed himself during the years mentioned. According to the article, Sheriff BURKE served from 1838 to 1848, “when a change of law made him ineligible; providing that a person could not hold office for consecutive terms”.

First I checked for a probate record on NASH. There were none listed. Then, I took one of my “long shots” and looked for a probate record on LOCKERMAN. I found a listing for Alexander LOCKERMAN, who died July 1851. So, I drug the box down from the ceiling and read through the file. I found a doctor’s bill and hoped for a cause of death. I found instead a bill for a coffin and lining thereof. DEAD END!

Next, I asked in the Circuit Clerk’s office for a court transcript. I was told all the records for that span of years had been stolen. (Hard to believe since no one bothered to look). I asked if they thought the state archives might have a copy. They doubted that duplicate records were kept back then. DEAD END!

Next, I searched the land records and found that Mr. NASH had sold late a 1850. Now, what about the sheriff? Was he still in office?

I went home that day with mixed emotions about my competence as a researcher. I decided to return to the county history and read the section on sheriffs of Macoupin County (page 51). There I found B. T. BURKE elected in 1838 and filled the office by re-election until the year 1851. This was great! Now I could narrow the death date down to two years!

But I still wanted proof. (So did my client). Time for another “long shot”. I composed two letters - one to the State Historical Society Library requesting an obituary on Alexander LOCKERMAN. I knew they didn’t have the Carlinville papers for years prior to 1856, but I told them I thought the murder of LOCKERMAN could have made the Springfield paper. I told them I wasn’t sure if this was the man NASH had murdered.

Second, I wrote to the State Archives requesting copies of court transcripts if they had them. I wrote to my client telling her I believed NASH died after 4 July 1851, but no later than 1851 because of the sheriff’s term. WRONG! Keep reading.

It seemed an eternity before I got any answers to my letters, but it was worth every minute! By this time I was as curious as my client and I felt like the answers to this puzzle had to be somewhere! My client asked in one letterif I thought some of the mob got into the jail and hanged NASH making it look like a suicide.

The first information I got back was a listing of newspaper articles from the index of the Springfield paper concerning LOCKERMAN’S murder in 1851. However, the other listings and their date really shocked me. The listing read as follows:

1) July 18, 1851 - LOCKERMAN killed. 2)May 9, 1854 - Lynching-suicide (NASH hung himself in his jail cell when a mob formed to take him from his cell and hang him). 3) June 28, 1854 - Description of attempted lynching, etc.

WOW! But what about Sheriff BURKE? How could he still be in office? I went back to the 1879 history book. I read the biographical sketch of sheriff BURKE and discovered that he served two years in the State Legislature between his terms as sheriff, and so by 1854, he was again Sheriff of Macoupin County! Finally, all my “DEAD ENDS” were starting to open up. When I received a letter from the State Archives, I was quite surprised! Here is the listing from their index cards (noted by them: Although there is a variance in the middle initials, these three references probably relate to the same person):

1) NASH, Andrew J. - Montgomery County - Reward offered for apprehension of (July 7, 1851).

2) NASH, Andrew I. - Montgomery County - the Governor of Illinois requisitioned the Governor of Arkansas to arrest and surrender the above (NASH) to be returned to Montgomery County to answer charges (June 6, 1853). 3) NASH, Andrew A. - Governor issued a Writ of Commutation for the above (NASH) after he had been convicted of murder and sentenced to be hung; sentence commuted to life imprisonment (June 22, 1854).

GREAT! But if all the rioting happened in Macoupin County, WHY were all the papers issued from Montgomery County? The cost of a complete copy of this file was to be $10.00. I wrote my client so she could order copies if she wanted to. I sent for copies of the newspaper stories.

The newspaper stories gave details concerning the mob and suicide of Andrew J. NASH. The details concerning NASH’S suicide were quite explicit and I won’t repeat them here. What I was really looking for were the circumstances leading up to the murder. ALAS! The paper of June 28, 1854 had the following quote: “Yesterday, our readers all know, was the day on which A. J. NASH was to have been executed for the murder of Alex LOCKERMAN; with the circumstance of this murder and his subsequent arrest and conviction, the public are already familiar.” (Not me! Not my client!) We weren’t there! I copied the articles and sent the originals to my client.

She sent me copies of the court transcripts she got from the State Archives. Finally, the pieces al fit together! It was the 4th of July and NASH traveled to Zanesville to celebrate. “As grog shops were open, they imbibed quite freely, and a horse race was proposed. LOCKERMAN rode one of the horses and fel off. NASH picked him up as an act of friendship, but LOCKERMAN, being of quarrelsome disposition, picked a quarrel with NASH and a fight ensued. LOCKERMAN was stabbed to death with a knife by NASH. NASH escaped to Texas, but was eventually caught and tried at Carlinville and condemned to be hung.” - History of Montgomery County, Vol. 2, 1918, page 984 - Zanesville Township.

Okay, but if he killed LOCKERMAN in Montgomery County, how did he wind up in Macoupin County? Well, the court transcripts showed a request for a change of venue, as NASH felt he couldn’t get a fair trial in Montgomery County.

So now you know how, when and why NASH killed a man and them took his own life. The file from the court contained much information. There were letters attesting to NASH being an upstanding citizen and good family man and neighbor, who only rarely imbibed and as a result was of a quarrelsome nature when he drank too much. He seemed to be trying to help the man he killed rather than being quarrelsome. It would seem his case should have been self-defense. He ran for fear of his life and after all that, he took his own life rather than risk being killed by the mob formed outside the jail.

The moral of this story: Don’t give up on your research! Take those “long shots” and don’t assume all “DEAD ENDS” are really the end of your search. Keep trying!


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