Location and Physical Characteristics
Moultrie County, situated a little southeast of the center or Illinois, was formed out of the northeastern portion of Shelby County and' the southeast corner of Macon County, and was named in honor of William Moultrie, a brave and gallant soldier of the Revolution. It is bounded on the north by Macon and Piatt counties, on the east by Douglas and Coles, on the south by Shelby County, and on the west by Shelby and Macon counties. Its greatest length from the north to the south is about 23 1/2 miles, and its greatest width from east to west is 18 miles. The area is 218,525 acres, or nearly 342 square miles.
Geologically, the surface of this county, to the layman, has an uninteresting appearance. However, scattered through the boulder drift, especially in the more northern tier of townships, are occasionally found huge and lesser fragments of rocks whose parent beds lie hundreds of miles to the north of Lake Superior, tangible reminders of the great glaciers from the northeast which plowed over the land and planed down the rocks, pulverizing and mixing the debris to form the productive soil that gives sustenance to the present dweller. The formations in this county consist of the Quarternary and limited Coal Measure outcrops. This includes the soil, the loose material, and more recent formations along the streams. Below Sullivan the soil on the south fork of the Kaskaskia bottoms is very sandy, and along the streams are many sandbars. The characteristics of the formations have incited, at various times, efforts to find coal in Moultrie County, but these have proved, practically speaking, unsuccessful.
The prairies are either nearly flat or gently
undulating. Along the south fork of the Kaskaskia River,
sometimes called the "Okaw," near the eastern line of the
county, are bluffs seldom exceeding 40 feet in height; southwest
of Sullivan the hills rise to a height of 60 or 80 feet, but are
Moultrie County is fairly well provided with natural drainage through its rivers and creeks, the principal ones being the Okaw or Kaskaskia River (including the West Okaw River). Jonathan Creek, Whitley Creek, Marrowbone Creek, the largest tributary of the West Okaw, and Welbourn Creek. Besides this natural drainage, tile draining has been widely used in sections remote from these water-courses, the tile being manufactured from the abundant fine native clay. There are many ponds and lakes in the county, two or three of which formerly contained several hundred acres each. Since the establishment of drainage districts, about 1885, most of these have been converted into tillable land.
About two thirds of Illinois lies in the great corn belt, and Moultrie is one of the counties contained in this area. The soil of the prairie lands, which make up the greater portion of the county is composed of a black pasty loam from 3 to 10 feet deep, known as "vegetable mould." There is very little land that is not suitable for cultivation. The only type of soil in the county which is non-tillable is the yellow silt loam found on steeply sloping hillsides. Such land is usually kept in forest or pastures.
Moultrie has the characteristics of both a timbered and a prairie country. The largest quantity of timber found in the valleys and hills is along the Okaw, and on Whitley and West Okaw creeks, and their tributaries; in places the timber line once extended far into the prairie land, but much of this natural growth has receded before the axe and the plow. The original timber consisted principally of a heavy growth of the several varieties of oak, hickory, and elm, linden, wild cherry, honey locust, black walnut, sycamore, hackberry, and cottonwood, furnishing a liberal supply of material for early buildings and furniture, for fencing and fuel. Artificial groves consisting mainly of hard and soft maple, elm, and fruit trees, and the Osage orange for hedges, have been planted on the prairies and add their beauty to the landscape.
The early ruminating animals of this section of the state ranged over a wide field, and before the coming of the white settler, were numerous. There were the American elk, the American deer and the white-tailed deer; at a period not very remote, the American buffalo found pasture near the shaded banks of the rivers and creeks and on the prairies of the state, but were driven westward, along with the elk, before advancing civilization. Black bears were fairly numerous in the days of the first settlers; the gray wolf and prairie wolf and the gray fox were not infrequently found. The panther also was occasionally met with in earlier times, and still later and more common was the wildcat. There were also the weasel, the mink, the American otter, the skunk, the badger, the raccoon, and the opossum, sought for their fur. The coonskin among the early settlers was regarded as legal tender. The rabbit was and still is very plentiful.
Many varieties of land and water birds inhabit the region, though a number of the game birds such as the wild turkey, the prairie chicken, and the wild pigeon, once plentiful, have disappeared. Among the game and song birds reported as being identified in the county are the pinnated grouse, ruffed grouse, quail, woodcock, English snipe, red-breasted snipe, tall-tail snipe, American swan, trumpeter swan, snow goose, Canada goose, mallard, black duck, pintail duck, summer or wood duck, redhead duck, canvass back duck, rough-binea pelican, loon, white heron, great blue heron, sand hill crane, common dove, American raven, cannon crow, red-winged blackbird, meadowlark, golden oriole, and many varieties of warblers, thrushes, sparrows, and swallows.
The Indian Inhabitants
Unlike many Illinois counties, particularly those along the main watercourses, Moultrie has few concrete reminders of the race to whom for centuries it 'belonged. What people occupied the land in dim prehistoric times is not certainly known. Parts of the state are thickly dotted with mounds of artificial origin that have furnished a rich field for exploration by archeologists and anthropologists. But with all the careful scientific work of such institutions as the University of Illinois, the University of Chicago, Peabody Institute, the Smithsonian Institution, and others, it has not been definitely established what manner and race of people they were who built the mounds. Ethnologists have traced, in the legends of the Siouan group of Indians, who belong to the great Muskhogean family of plains-dwelling people, a record of their migration west from the Alleghany region. They dwelt at one time around the Great Lakes, and moved southward and westward, covering the Illinois country in their progress. But how long they stayed and where their chief dwelling places were, there is no record. Tribes of the Algonquin family, the eastern woods-people, pushed in behind them. By the time the white man made his first contact with the Illinois country, in the middle of the seventeenth century, it was peopled almost entirely by the Illini (in French, "Illinois") nation, a branch of the Algonquin family. This nation was composed of the tribes of the Illiniwek, or Illini, proper, and the Kaskaskias, Cahokias, Michigameas, Moingwenas, Peorlas, and Tamaroas, bound together by ties of blood and customs into a confederation for their mutual protection. The territory they claimed lay south of the Great Lakes, extending westward from the divide between the waters flowing into the Wabash and those flowing into the Illinois and the Kaskaskia, to an indefinite boundary beyond the Mississippi. To the east of the Illinois lands were those claimed by the Miami confederacy, a people closely related in language and culture to the Illinois, and on good terms with them. Since Moultrie County lies on the boundary between the two nations, it is likely that the Miamis occasionally hunted over its prairies. It is also not improbable that parties of the Shawnees and Delawares, who occupied a small territory around the mouth of the Walbash, penetrated this far north.
The Illinois were not, like the plains Indians, a roving people. They lived in large villages situated close to a stream, and planted fields with corn, pumpkins, beans, and squash on the lands round about. Their homes were long lodges made of upright poles covered with woven mats. In the roof were the smoke-holes, one for each fire, and there were as many fires as there were families in the lodge— sometimes ten or twelve. While the women cultivated the fields, the men, under the leadership of the several chiefs of the village, went out on hunting or war expeditions. Several times a year whole villages together moved to the hunting grounds and camped while the season's supply of meat—deer, elk, or buffalo—was being prepared. The kill was celebrated with feasting and dancing, the medicine men, who performed the double duty of healing the sick and providing the village with entertainment, leading the ceremonial observances.
In comparison with most of their neighbors, the Illinois were a peaceful people. Most of their fighting, so far as is told in white man's records, was to defend themselves against their traditional enemies, the Iroquois, and later the Kickapoos, Pottawatomies, and the Sacs and Foxes. Like most of the western tribes, they were friendly with the French who established missions and trading posts among them and found them a tractable, talkative people, although not too much to be trusted. The Iroquois were in league with the British, who kept them constantly incited to send out raiding parties against the Illinois and Miamis. As long as LaSalle kept his troops under Tonti, stationed at Fort St. Louis near Starved Rock, the Illinois were reasonably sure of protection; but after the abandonment of the fort in 1702, they were left open to attack on all sides. For the next half century the Illinois country was a battlefield for the hostile tribes surging back and forth across its expanse, in a war kept alive less by the enmities of the tribes themselves than by the more devastating enmities of European powers engaged in an economic struggle for the possession of the American continent. Gradually the diminishing Illinois nation was pushed southward and westward, until by the time the Americans came into possession of the land, there was only a remnant gathered in the vicinity of the French villages on the Mississippi. By the treaty of Vincennes in 1803, the Kaskaskias—-by which name the remaining Illinois had become known—ceded to the United States the land they had claimed, including on its far western border, the Moultrie region.
This cession, so far as most of the territory was concerned, was an empty gesture, for the Illinois had not occupied it for over half a century. During the early part of the eighteenth century the Kickapoos and the Pottawatomies had been pressing down from their homes in the upper Great Lakes region. They were a fiercer, more aggressive people than the Illinois, and had little difficulty in routing that nation, already decimated by its struggle with the Iroquois. The Kickapoos took possession of the country south of the Kankakee and east of the Illinois as far as the Wabash. They had large villages on the Sangamon River, and on Salt Creek in what is now Logan County, on the upper Wabash, and around the Salt Springs on the Big Vermilion. They hunted and trapped over all the country to which they claimed title, and their raiding parties went as far south as the Ohio and sometimes beyond it. They kept aloof from alliance with either the French! or British during the struggle for empire, but cherished a deep hostility toward the Americans and were highly susceptible to British gifts and promises in the War of 1812. Their depredations upon the white settlements, and the long process of negotiation for the extinguishing of title to their lands, were among the chief deterrents to the settlement of Illinois in the early years of the nineteenth century. It was not until 1819 that the Kickapoos, by the treaty of Edwardsville, finally ceded the domain which they claimed 'by descent from their ancestors and by conquest from the Illinois nation, and uninterrupted possession for more than half a century." In return, the tribe was to receive an annuity of $2,000 for fifteen years, a guarantee of peaceable possession of a designated tract in Missouri, and the protection and assistance of the United States in their journey thither. Thus, forty years after the American occupation of the Illinois country and one year after the admission of the state to the Union, central Illinois was released from the menace of Indian hostilities and its fertile expanses open to the tide of the settlement that had been the dream of the progenitors of the commonwealth since the days of George Rogers Clark. That this release was bought at the price of virtual annihilation of the race whose claim to the land was by right of original possession, is one of the shameful tragedies of history.
The French and British Periods
Long before the question of Indian title to land troubled a youthful United States government, the French had established a claim to the territory west of the Alleghenies, based on the explorations of Daumont de Saint Lusson and of Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle. Saint Lusson, at a ceremony at Sault Ste. Marie in 1671 took possession of the country in the name of France, although he penetrated only the Great Lakes region. La Salle set up the cross and the fleur-de-lis of France at the mouth of the Mississippi on April 9, 1682. Nine years before, the explorer Louis Jolliet, with his priestly companion, Father Jacques Marquette, had traversed the Illinois River on his way back to Canada from a voyage of exploration of the Mississippi. In 1675, Father Marquette returned to the village of the Illinois at the (Starved) Rock and established there the Jesuit Mission of the Immaculate Conception. Four years later, La Salle arrived at the Rock and built his famous Fort St. Louis du Rocher, which served as a base for his exploring activities and as a protection for the Illinois nation against their enemies, the Iroquois.
Other missionary ventures followed, at Peoria, at Cahokia, and at Kaskaskia. On the heels of the missionaries and explorers came the fur traders and trappers. Settlements grew up about the missions and trading posts. But La Salle's splendid dream of a vast colonial empire peopled by French settlers was never realized. A colonial government for the Illinois country was established when a French governor was sent to Fort Chartres on the Mississippi in 1722, but there were few to be governed. The French never succeeded, as the British did, in forming colonies with builders of homes and tillers of soil. They explored the wilderness, but did not subdue it. Most of the interior of Illinois was as undisturbed by the government of France as by the flight of a flock of gulls. Unless some hardy trapper, as is not improbable—pushing up the Kaskaskia, explored the country in search of furs, the Moultrie region did not feel the tread of French feet.
Nor was it more affected by the rule of the British who superseded the French. The British had cast a covetous eye upon the rich fur country of the West ever since explorers from Virginia had penetrated the mountains, and looking upon the fair region, had claimed it in the name of England at almost the same time that St. Lusson made his claim. French and British interests in America, against a background of European political conflict, were already clashing. The resources of the vast western wilderness for the production of wealth in furs possessed equal attraction for both nations. Each sought to bind to itself the most powerful Indian tribes, who were incited to make war against each other and against the white allies of their enemies. The French built Fort Chartres in 1718 as a protection against the British and the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Piankeshaw, and Iroquois tribes whom they controlled. The chief concern of the French commandants on the Mississippi for many years was to ward off Indian attacks instigated by the British traders. The French succeeded in retaining their supremacy in the Illinois country, but in Canada they lost battle after battle, until their defeat culminated in the battle at the Plains of Abraham in 1759. The Treaty of Paris, signed February 13, 1763, gave the entire French domain in America into the hands of the king of England. It was not until 1765, however, that the British troops, held off for two years by Pontiac and the warriors of his powerful confederation of tribes, were able to enter the Illinois to claim their possession. No settlers followed the soldiers to build homes and work the lands; indeed, they were forbidden by edict to do so, lest the fur trade be disturbed. The governmental activities of the British were confined to the villages along the Mississippi.
The sway of the British was brief. In July, 1778, Colonel George Rogers Clark, coming down the Ohio and across country with a band of hardy soldiers from the backwoods of Virginia, slipped into Kaskaskia by night, seized the fortress, and dispossessed the British commandant.
From this conquest dates the American possession of the territory northwest of the River Ohio. At Clark's behest, the assembly of Virginia set up a government for the newly acquired region which was designated as the County of Illinois, and presided over by a county lieutenant acting for the governor. But the Illinois was a long way from Williamsburg and Virginia, deeply embroiled in the War of the Revolution. She had no money to provide for either adequate civil government or efficient military protection against the British and their Indian allies. In 1782 she ceded the territory to the Continental Congress, which took no action on the cession until 1784, and then did not provide a government For the handful of inhabitants who were endeavoring to hold the country against British invasion. Until the Ordinance of 1787 created the Northwest Territory, the Illinois was without an official government.
The seat of justice of the new Northwest Territory was Marietta, on the banks of the Ohio. The man chosen to be its Governor was Major-General Arthur St. Clair of Revolutionary War fame, a friend and associate of President Washington. Governor St. Clair, absorbed in the business of working out practicable details of administration for the vast territory, whose importance to the country he did not fail to recognize, did not reach the Illinois until April, 1790. One of his first official acts was the creating by proclamation, of the County of St. Clair, thus establishing for the future state of Illinois the county system of local government, first introduced to the western territory by Virginia's creation of the County of Illinois. A few months later Governor St. Clair erected the County of Knox, which extended from the Ohio River north to the Illinois, and had for its western boundary a line drawn from "the mouth of the little river above Fort Massac" on the Ohio, to the confluence of the Little Michillimackinack and the Illinois, in present-day Tazewell County.
Moultrie's County Forebears
The Moultrie region was a part of the old Knox County, and remained so until 1801, when, after the creation of Indiana Territory, which included Illinois, Governor William Henry Harrison moved the western boundary of Knox County eastward almost to the Wabash, and added the territory taken away to St. Clair.
In February, 1809, occurred the division which gave Illinois a separate territorial government. The capital was Kaskaskia, where the French, the British, and Colonel Clark had had governmental headquarters. No rearrangement of counties to affect the Moultrie country took place for three years. In 1812, Governor Ninian Edwards by proclamation erected three new counties. The northernmost was Madison which began at a line drawn from the Mississippi at the present boundary between Madison and St. Clair counties, straight across the state to the Wabash, and took in all the rest of the state "to the line of upper Canada"—seventy-four of the present Illinois counties and parts of five others. In 1815, Madison County was bisected from north to south, and the eastern portion, which included Moultrie, was named Edwards. The next year a strip across the southern end of the county was cut off; the new county thus formed retained the name of Edwards, while the northern remainder was designated as Crawford. In Crawford County, Moultrie remained until 1819, when the southern end of that county was made into a separate civil unit keeping the old name; what was left of old Crawford became Clark County.
In the meantime, Illinois had arrived at the population requirement for statehood, had submitted a constitution which was approved, and on the third of December, 1818, had been "admitted into the union on an equal footing with the original states, in all respects whatsoever. Three years after statehood, Fayette County was created from the western portion of Clark; the present east line of Moultrie County formed a part of its eastern boundary. The population was concentrated in the southern part of the state, but was pushing north along the Illinois River, along the Wabash, and into the Sangamon country. In the territorial years between 1809 and 1818, ten new counties had been carved out of the original counties of St. Clair and Randolph, below the southern boundary of Madison, and only three north of that line. In 1821, when Fayette was established, there were nine counties north of the line, and the total number had increased to twenty-six. The tendency was, as the country filled up, to develop the small governmental unit for convenience of the inhabitants who must transact business at the county seat, and to allow them a closer participation in their local government than was possible in the very large counties. As was characteristic of Illinois settlers, the pioneers into the northern country settled first on the timber lands alone- the. main streams. For many years the Grand Prairie country, in which Moultrie lies, was almost un-invaded. New counties continued to be formed on either side of the long strip of Fayette, tout until 1827, its boundaries remained practically intact. In that year the southern third of Fayette was made into two counties, the southernmost called Fayette, the northern Shelby. The northern 'boundary of Shelby cut straight across what is now Moultrie. The portion of Moultrie above the Shelby line lay in un-organized territory that was attached for official purposes to Shelby County. In 1831, Macon County was created from the lower portion of this unorganized strip; the northern part of Moultrie was then included in Macon, and thus the situation remained until Moultrie County attained independent existence by an act of legislature approved February 16, 1843.
The Early Settlers
It was not until eight years had elapsed from the time Illinois was made a state of the Union that the first white man erected his cabin within the present (boundaries of Moultrie County. Its pioneer history, therefore, does not have the long reach backward that some of the south-western counties have. The first settler is reported to have been one John Whitley, who with his wife, six sons, two or three daughters, and a son-in-law, Samuel Lindley, located at the point of timber which has ever since been known as Whitley's Point, in the fall of 1826. Whitley and his six sons were great sportsmen and kept a number of fine thoroughbred Kentucky race horses. Gambling in general seemed to 'be their chief occupation. In 1&28 the Waggoners, a family of German origin, came to Illinois from North Carolina, and established themselves on Whitley Creek. One of the sons of this family, John, later taught a school in the neighborhood, and after moving to Sullivan, took over the publication of the county's first newspaper, and served as county treasurer and as circuit clerk. In the same year, the family of Elias Kennedy settled on the west fork of the Okaw in Marrowbone Township, having emigrated from Tennessee and located first in Shelby County, whence they came to the Moultrie location. It was James Kennedy of this family, who, twenty years later, forsook the timber land so dear to the early comers in a new region, and pushed out into the fertile, but fearsome prairie.
Although by this time the idea, prevalent at the beginning of the century, that the prairies were an uncultivatable desert, was largely dispelled, still the settlers shunned them. The terrific fires that swept over them in the fall when the deep grass was tinder-dry were a strong deterrent; added to these were the lack of timber for buildings and fences, and, probably most significant of all, the almost insurmountable difficulty of breaking the tough prairie sod with the clumsy wooden plow. James Kennedy, in venturing on to the prairie, was a pioneer of pioneers.
In 1831 the Gammills, a Scotch family from Tennessee, aettled in the Whitley neighborhood, and from then on, immigration into the Moultrie region was steady, the settlers spreading out to the northward into the more remote parts of the county.
The majority of the eariy Moultrie inhabitants were of southern stock, and brought with them the habits of hard work, rough play, simple living, and easy hospitality of the communities from which they came. Although most of them were poor, their poverty did not carry the sense of degradation known to the very poor of the present age. The very fact that they owned their own homes, however crude those might be, with sufficient ground for self-sustenance, gave them an independence of spirit. Besides, one home would compare favorably with the homes of the neighbors. They had plenty to wear as protection against the weather, and there was no lack of wholesome food, though it consisted of the meat of the deer or bear, the wild duck or turkey, the quail or squirrel, and bread made from the coarse meal of corn or wheat. Wild fruits and berries were plentiful in season, and were often dried for winter use. "Tea" and "coffee" were often brewed from native herbs. Sugar was obtained from the sap of the maple tree.
The new settler brought with him the keen axe and the rifle, indispensable to life in a new country, and often little else save seed for the first year's crop, and a few household articles. His first labor was to erect a cabin, which was crudely made of logs. It was usually from fourteen to sixteen feet square, and was often built without glass, nails, hinges, or locks. Light.for the cabin would be provided by leaving out a log along one side, and stretching over the opening sheets of strong paper, well greased with coon grease or bear oil. This type of cabin, of course, prevailed only in earliest times, before the saw mill was introduced.
The furniture was in keeping with the house itself. The tables and benches were crude affairs made from puncheons with stakes driven in at the four corners for legs. The bedsteads were made by lashing side poles to forked sticks driven into the earthen floor of the cabin, and laying cross poles over these, on which were spread the feather beds, the home-spun sheets and coverlets, and the quilts pieced together from scraps of the women's dresses. The table utensils consisted often of a pack knife or butcher knife and some wooden spoons and vessels. The women made nearly all the clothing worn by the family, from cloth spun and woven from homegrown cotton, flax, and wool. Every house had its wool card, spinning wheel, and loom.
Horses were not much used at first except for riding. The common draft animal was the ox. In many instances the carts and wagons, as well as the hoes and wooden plows, were made by the settler who was his own carpenter, wheel-wright, and blacksmith.
The settlers were separated from their neighbors often by miles. There were no churches-or regular services of any kind which would get them together; invitations to a house-raising, or a logrolling, a corn-husking, or a sugar-boiling, were therefore eagerly accepted by men and women, and the distance they sometimes had to go did not seem to bother them at all. The gathering usually ended in a dance, with the fiddler playing the principal role.
CIVIC AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENT
Creation of the County
By 1842 the Moultrie region had become populous enough for the inhabitants to feel the need for a smaller and more closely knit unit of local government than the large counties of Macon and Shelby with their distant county seats. Accordingly, in the fall of that year a petition for the organization of a new county was circulated and presented to the legislature as soon as it convened. The area described in this petition embraced the present territory of Moultrie County, plus one whole tier of townships on the east side of Coles County, and had for its southwestern boundary an unbroken line instead of the series of notches that mark the present boundary. Abraham H. Kellar and John Cook were chosen to present the petition to the legislature. Their work done, they returned home in the belief that everything was arranged for a;speedy passage of the act creating the proposed new county. Only a few days had elapsed when Kellar received word from S. G. Nesfoit, representative from Macon County, of the presentation to the Assembly of a remonstrance, signed by four hundred citizens of Coles County who were opposed to the cutting off of any part of that county. The Coles County townships were accordingly.lopped off the proposed Moultrie area, and the new county was formed. Mr. Williamson, the Shelby County representative, was given the privilege of naming the new county. He named it in honor of Colonel William Moultrie of early: military fame.
In accordance with the petition as altered by the agreement, an act was passed and signed by the Governor, February 16, 1843, whereby the boundaries of the new county were defined; the temporary seat of justice was fixed at James Camfield's house, but a permanent location was not to be chosen "until further legislation relating thereto"; stipulation was made that the school funds belonging to the several townships in Moultrie County were to be collected from the school commissioners of Macon and Shelby counties; notice was given that the new county was to form a part of the eighth judicial circuit, the circuit which Abraham Lincoln rode as a young lawyer; instructions were given regarding elections for senators and representatives to the General Assembly to be continued and conducted as though no division had been effected, until otherwise provided for by law; the county commissioners' court of Moultrie County was requested to ascertain the proportion of the courthouse debt of Macon County, which the inhabitants of that part of Macon taken to form a part of Moultrie County, had agreed by their petition to pay; provision was made that this.money be raised by additional assessment. Conveyances of land already owned in the new county were recorded in the parent counties, and it was not until 1876 that these early instruments were transcribed into the Moultrie records.
Establishment of County Government
The first election of officers for the new county was held on the first Monday in April, 1843. The officers elected were John A.. Freeland, clerk of the county commissioners' court; Isaac Walker, sheriff; A. B. Lee, coroner; John A. Freelard, recorder; Hugh Allison, surveyor; David Patterson, probate justice; John Perryman, treasurer and school commissioner. The first meeting of the county commissioners' court was held at the private residence of James Camfield, about three miles southwest of Sullivan, on the tenth day of April, 1843. The members were Reuben B. Ewing, Abraham Kellar, and George Mitchell. The initial business of the court was the accepting of the oath of office of John A. Freeland, the county clerk-elect, and of William Thomason, justice of the peace. The court also appointed William Thomason assessor, and Andrew Love collector, for 1843, but afterward found that, according to law, the sheriff was ex-officio collector, hence that portion of their action was expunged from the record. John Perryman, school commissioner, presented his bond, which was approved.
Their next action was the subdivision of the county into thirteen road districts and four justices' districts which also constituted the voting precincts—Lovington, Thomason, East Nelson, and Julianna— each district having two constables and one overseer of the poor.
Selection of the County Seat
The customary procedure in the erection of a new county included in the act of creation a provision for the choosing of a seat of justice; three commissioners were usually appointed to fix upon a location, and when this was decided, a number of acres of land were to be donated by the owner for county purposes. The act establishing Moultrie, deliberately avoided such a provision. Two strong factions were operating in the district comprising the new county at the time the petition for its creation was presented. The location of the county seat was the bone of contention. In order for the eastern faction to the successful, it was necessary that the proposed strip from the western border of Coles County be included. But when the violent objections rose from Coles, it become evident that dissension among the promo tors : of the new county might result in a total defeat; accordingly the two factions agreed to forego the area from Coles County, and to-drop the location of the seat of justice. Hence the enabling act for Moultrie left that matter to the future.
The following year, 1844, the place of holding court was removed by a vote of the people from James Camfield's to East Nelson, a settlement a few miles southeast of where Sullivan now stands. The probate justice of the peace was allowed by law "to hold his office at his place of residence, until the permanent location of a county seat. in the fall of 1844 the question of permanently locating the county seat was submitted to the people. Three places were proposed, Bast Nelson, Patterson's Point near "Uncle Davy" Patterson's, and Osa's Point. It had been decided that the seat of justice should he located at the place receiving the majority of all the votes cast. As no one of the places designated received such a majority, another election was called, when the two places, East Nelson and Osa's Point, were voted upon. This time, Osa's Point was successful in winning a majority, and became the county seat. Its newly acquired dignity caused the settlement to change its name to Sullivan. On June 2, 1845, the court in accordance with an act establishing the seat of justice, passed earlier in the year, ordered that its future meetings be held in Sullivan.
Philo Hale owned eighty acres of land on the site of Sullivan; he proposed for a nominal sum to let the town have forty acres of the eighty for a townsite. His offer was accepted and he was paid $100 for the land, the amount being made up by popular subscription. The naming of the county seat was left to the county commissioners, Reuben Ewing, Abraham Kellar, and Grove Mitchell, who chose the name Sullivan, from Sullivan's Island, the small island off Charleston harbor upon which Fort Moultrie is situated.
Building of the Courthouse and Jail
Although the site of the county seat was decided upon in 1845, the building of the first courthouse was not commenced until the spring of 1847. Unlike the first courthouses in the older counties, the structure was built, not of logs, but of brick. It was a square, two-story building, measuring 38 feet on each side. Two offices occupied the space on each side of the central hall on the ground floor, and the courtroom composed the entire upper story. The new courthouse was accepted by the commissioners March 6, 1848, and on the same day they ordered the final payment on the $2,800 that the structure cost, made to Andrew Scott, the contractor.
The next year a tight fence was put around the ground, at a cost of more than $300, to keep out the pigs, cows, and horses that foraged at large through the village.
This courthouse served the growing county for two decades. It was in this building that Stephen A. Douglas was scheduled to deliver a speech on a day in the summer of 1858. Unbeknown to him, Abraham Lincoln was in Sullivan that day and accepted the Invitation of his admirers to speak to them at Freeland Grove, outside the town. Lincoln was equally unaware of Douglas' presence. Each party arranged a parade, headed by its favorite. When the two leaders met near the center of town, trouble broke out among some of the more obstreperous followers, resulting in a few battered heads before peace could be restored.
On the morning of November 25, 1864, a fire broke out in the courthouse which destroyed the building and with it a large part of the county records. Fortunately, the proceedings of the county commissioners' court and the county court were preserved. Plans for a new and more commodious courthouse were completed in the spring of 1865, and the contract let; the building, complete with a fireproof vault, was received by the court at its September term, 1866.
In the early records of almost every county, instances are found of the permission being granted for holding church services in the courthouse, for keeping school there "whenever the court is not in session." and even, in some instances for holding- seminary classes. Contrary to this custom, the county court for Moultrie, its administrative body from 1849 to 1869, ordered the sheriff, for some reason not set forth in the record, to prevent occupation of the upper rooms of the courthouse except for political meetings ind county business.
By 1904, this courthouse had become inadequate, and at a special election, held in February, the county voted to replace it with a modern structure, which is in use today.
The county jail was an important concomitant to the court-house. In some counties It, and the astray pen, were built before the erection of a permanent courthouse. Horse stealing, assault and battery, and disturbing the peace were the most common crimes; the former was particularly serious in a pioneer community in which horses must be depended upon for transportation, communication with the rest of the world, and for getting the very means of livelihood, and was punished with severity. The jails in the older counties, such as St. Clair and Randolph, were equipped with stocks and whipping posts.
The usual jail was a separate structure, built after careful specifications calling for walls of a double thickness of logs, for iron bars, strong locks, and other expedients against escape of the prisoners. There were the ordinary cells, and the "dungeon" for the worst offenders. But the early jails were a thorn in the corporate flesh of the county board. In spite of precautions prisoners broke out; the condition of the buildings became so bad that the grand jury would report the places unfit for habitation by humans, even human criminals. After ineffective repairs, a new jail would be built, or prisoners would be transported to counties with more adequate facilities.
Moultrie County departed from the pattern by providing, at first, no separate jail building. Cell rooms and a dungeon were fitted up in the basement of the brick courthouse. But they proved no more adequate than the log buildings, and received but few occupants. Prisoners were either guarded by the sheriff or someone appointed by him who was paid for his trouble, or were taken to adjoining counties for imprisonment.
It was not until 1876 that an adequate jail was constructed for Moultrie. This was a stout brick building with living quarters for the sheriff and his family on the ground floor, and on the second floor eight cells and—an innovation for that period—a recreation room for the prisoners. Later, all prisoners were required to work eight hours a day on "county highways, buildings, lands, or any county work.
Changes in Government
During the forties, it became evident that the constitution, framed in 1818 to serve a population of about fifty thousand people, was not adequate for a commonwealth with a population that had increased by more than four hundred thousand, and with consequent complexities in governmental problems. Accordingly, a convention was called in 1847 to frame a new instrument. Moultrie County, with its neighbor Shelby County, was represented in the convention by General Anthony Thornton of Shelbyville. The result of the deliberations was the Constitution of 1848.
Among the significant changes brought about by this constitution was the abolition of the county commissioners' court. In its place was set up a county court composed of one judge and two associate justices, who> in addition to minor judicial duties, were to function as the administrative body for the county. The old court, however, continued its duties until the details of organization of the new body were fixed by legislative act in 1849.
At the same time that the county court was created, the Constitution of 1848 provided for all counties an alternative form of government, township organization. Under this system the county was to be divided Into a number of civil townships, in each of which a supervisor was to be elected. All the supervisors together were to compose the county board of supervisors, which was to be the governing body of the county. This was an adaptation of the system familiar to the New Englanders, in contrast to the county-wide system represented by the county court government in favor among the southerners.
Perhaps because of the southern origin of most of the early Moultrie inhabitants, the county chose, for two decades, to remain under the county court. The first court elected under the law of 1849 was composed of James Elder, county judge, and Daniel Ellington and E. D. Cleveland, associate justices, and John Freeland, clerk. They commenced their administrative duties in Sullivan on December 3, 1849, the commissioners' court having held its last session in October.
With slightly expanded powers, the new court continued the work of the old county commissioners' court in laying out new roads and keeping up old ones, in providing for the county's unfortunates, in levying taxes, and directing the financial affairs of the county.
The population of Moultrie was increasing, swelled both by people coming in from other parts of Illinois and by emigrants front other states, northern as well as southern. The first census after the creation of the county, that of 1850, showed 3,234 persons; by 1860, the number had almost doubled to 6,385. The enlarged group was a more heterogeneous one than the early group of southern pioneers. Agitation was commenced for the more representative form of county government typified by the township system. In 1862. the proposition was submitted to a vote of the people, but was defeated by a large majority. In the next few years sentiment in favor of the change increased, so that when the second vote was taken on the question, in the November election of 1866, the measure was carried by a majority of 219 votes.
The original voting precincts coextensive with the old justices' districts had been altered from time to time in name and boundary, until there were now five precincts, Lovington, Taylor, Marrowbone, Whitley Creek, and Sullivan.(54) In order that there might be townships from which supervisors could be elected to make up the new board, the county court, at its last regular meeting, December, 1866, appointed John R. Eden, Benjamin S. Jennings, and Samuel P. Earp, commissioners to divide the county into townships. At a special meeting on January 22, 1867, the commissioners submittea their report, having set the boundaries of eight townships: Sullivan, Marrowbone, Whitley, Lovington, Taylor, West, East Okaw, and Jonathan Creek.
In the spring of that year the new supervisors were elected. Jonathan Meeker of Sullivan was chairman; the other members were Alexander Porter from Lovington Township, Benjamin Freeman from Jonathan Creek, James T. Taylor from East Okaw, William Weakley from West, John A. Freeland, Jr. from Marrowbone, Alvin Waggoner from Whitley, and George W. Winn from Taylor. (57) No sooner had the certificates of election been approved at the first meeting than the County Clerk J. B. Titus comes before the board and presents notice from State Auditor requiring the names of towns of Taylor, West, and East Okaw be changed on account of conflicting with names of other towns in the State." It was ordered, therefore, that Taylor be renamed Lowe, East Okaw be called East Nelson, and "the town of West be called and hereafter be known as Dory.
Since the adoption of the township plan no change has been made in the form of county government. The Constitution of 1870— formed after long and strenuous debates in the convention of 1869, in which Moultrie, Macon, and Piatt counties were represented first by Charles Emmerson, and after his death by Abel Harwood stripped the county court of all its administrative powers and duties, and increased substantially its judicial functions. Again an option in types of county government was provided. Counties might either retain their supervisory system, or, by election, choose to adopt the county commission form, which provided for a governing body of three commissioners to be elected from the-county at large. Since the adoption of the Constitution of 1870, seventeen Illinois counties have elected to change to the commission plan. All the others, ineluding: Moultrie and its immediate neighbors, have retained the board of supervisors 1818 and 1848, the counties were fairly autonomous bodies, bearing a relation to the young state government somewhat analogous to the relation of the original thirteen states to the Federal government in the first years of its operation. But the very complexities that have increased the number of county agencies have brought the inhabitants of the county into more direct contact with the state government, and the emphasis of control has shifted to the larger civic unit. The concentration of economic resources in large industrial concerns that began in the seventies and eighties and gradually increased during the nineteenth century, has had its reflection in a similar concentration of civic authority in the state and Federal governments as these advanced in stature and stability.
The Constitution of 1870 did away with the enactment of private laws under which counties and municipalities were granted special privileges.
When the railroads began their heavy building in Illinois, it became the custom for counties, townships, and even cities and villages to subscribe large sums to the companies building the roads that would be most advantageous to the subscribing community. Moultrie was not "behind other counties in this respect; in 1869 the county voted by an overwhelming majority to subscribe $200,000 to the Bloomington and Ohio Railroad. This practice led to certain abuses which, in the end, it became necessary to curb by state action. One of the important measures of the Constitution of 1870 was the prohibiting of any county or municipality from subscribing public moneys to railroads or any other private corporation.
During the Civil War, the individual counties undertook the task of raising troops by offering bounties to volunteers and finally to drafted men as well. The bounty was raised by floating county bond issues and a tax was levied to meet the payments. In 1861, provision was made in Moultrie County for aid to the destitute families of volunteers to be paid from county funds; in 1865, the county board authorized the striking of posters offering a bounty of $550 to every volunteer; a bond issue for $20,000 was floated, and a three percent levy made. From the bounty tax also, a fund was created for the relief of the families of all soldiers killed or permanently disabled in the war. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, these activities were undertaken as a statewide enterprise. When the United States entered the World War in 1917, the machinery for carrying on the war was operated almost entirely by the Federal government. County units were organized for the sale of Liberty Bonds, assistance in the food conservation program, and for other forms of cooperation, but the plans under which they worked emanated almost wholly from a central authority, and little mention of war activity found its way into the official records of the county.
In the matter of other governmental and quasi_governmental functions the trend toward greater control by the larger civic unit is noticeable. The matter of road building, the first and for many years the most important concern of every county board, has with the years become more and more a function of the state. Every county has its network of state roads; the county highway superintendent works under the State Department of Public Works and Buildings; the motor fuel tax law, enacted in 1929, provided for allotment to each county of state-collected funds to be used in the planning, construction, and maintenance of roads within its boundaries.
The care of the county's poor was in the beginning solely the responsibility of the county itself, subject to the laws of the state. With the economic depression of the nineteen-thirties, however, when the burden of aid became too great for individual communities to carry, state and Federal assistance was employed to relieve the smaller units. A portion, of the motor fuel tax allotment for each county was designated by law in 1932 to be used for relief purposes.'
In the field of education, the setting of teaching standards and the supervision of schools by the State Department of Public Instruction, established by the Constitution of 1870,"s and the granting of financial aid to schools meeting certain requirements, serve to obliterate county lines and county differences. Here again is connection with the Federal government through such measures as the Smith-Hughes Act under which government-paid instructors; may be employed to teach agriculture, home economics, various trades, and other vocational subjects.
The linking of the Farm Bureau and the county farm advisor with the state agricultural college and the United States Department of Agriculture is another instance of the interrelation between county, state, and national governments.
Whatever shadings have moderated the sharp lines of county government, the county remains, as in the beginning, a field of training for citizens in the exercises of their democratic rights, and to an even greater extent for the use of public office. The county officer, whose duties have broader application than those of the town or village official, but who is closer to the people he serves than it an officer in the state government, is directly the instrument of the collective will of a community in administering affairs of immediate concern. Woven through the pages of county records are the names of men who, in their capacities as county judge, county supervisor, state's attorney, superintendent of schools or other officer, were instrumental in determining the political and cultural, and to some extent, even the economic cast of their counties. Some of these same names appear on the rosters of the state senate and house of representatives and of various state offices.
The early inhabitants of Moultrie County, as might be suspected from their southern origin, were predominantly Democratic in their national politics. The first general election after the erection of the county was in 1844, when Henry Clay opposed James K. Polk for the presidency; the county supported Clay. in the next two elections, however, those of 1848 and 1852, the Whig element predominated, and swung a small majority to Zachary Taylor in the first instance, and to General Winfield Scott in the second, in the election of 1856, in which Abraham Lincoln campaigned for the first Republican candidate for the presidency, John C. Fremont, and in which Millard Fillmore ran on the American or "Know Nothing" ticket, Moultrie returned to the Democratic fold, giving James Buchanan 432 votes against 305 for Fillmore and only 154 for Fremont. Even m the historic Lincoln-Douglas struggle, four years later, the Democratic hold was not broken, Douglas receiving 707 votes to Lincoln's 618. The opposition to Lincoln was even heavier in his second campaign in 1864, when his opponent, George B. McClellan, surpassed him by 230 votes.( 80) In the years following, Moultrie County remained steadily Democratic, opposing the victorious Ulysses S. Grant in 1868, and supporting Horace Greeley in his losing battle against Grant in 1872, and continuing to champion the lost cause through the Hayes-Tilden campaign of 1876 and the Garfield-Hancock campaign of 1880. Grover Cleveland was supported through his two successful campaigns in 1884 and 1892, as well as the unsuccessful one of 1888; William Jennings Bryan was favored above William McKinley in 1896 and 1900. The first Republican majority in the history of the county was returned in 1904 for Theodore Roosevelt, and by a slender margin William Howard Taft maintained the Republican ascendancy in 1908. The campaign of 1912 saw the Republican party split by the formation of the Progressive or "Bull Moose" party under Theodore Roosevelt; the new party won heavy support from the non-Democratic element in Moultrie, but not heavy enough to prevent the majority from going to the Democratic candidate, Woodrow Wilson, who was supported also in his second campaign, in 1916. With the first election after the World War—the Harding-Cox campaign in 1920—the Republicans once carried the county, and held the majority through the Coolidge-Davis campaign in 1924 and the Hoover-Smith campaign in 1928. In the election of 1932, the Democrats regained their sway with 4,219 votes cast for Franklin D. Roosevelt against 2,353 for Herbert Hoover, and maintained it with a slightly smaller majority in the Roosevelt-Landon election in 1936. in twenty-four presidential elections since its creation, Moultrie County has aligned itself seventeen times with the Democratic Party, twice with the Whig, and five times with the Republican Party. The voting strength of the county in 1844 was 400 all told; in 1936 the total vote was 7,184.
Moultrie from its beginning has been an essentially agricultural and stock raising county. All but three and eight-tenths percent of its land is in farms. The staple crop of the first settlers was corn. It furnished meal for their bread, fodder for their cattle, cobs for fuel, filling for mattresses, and fiber for mats and brooms. In the days before the development of good roads, most of the crop was raised for home consumption, and little transported to market. But home consumption at that period did not include the fattening of hogs with corn. The swine ran in open pasture or through the streets of the villages, and fed on mast of acorns and other wild forage. It was not until the development of the meat packing business in Chicago in the early seventies created a heavy demand for meat animals, and the railroads were equipped for quick transportation, that attention was given to special feeding.
During the decade in which Moultrie County was established, a wave of enthusiasm for wheat growing swept over Illinois, and much of the early com land was given over to the cultivation of wheat. But winter wheat did not grow well in the Moultrie region, and the farmers there were inclined to cling to corn as their staple crop. Three bad wheat years in succession in the early fifties, resulting in financial failure for many wheat farmers (money loaned at twenty percent interest in 1854), dampened the ardor for wheat raising, and corn came back into its own. The substitution restored a measure of prosperity to Illinois farmers.
The wheat craze affected the farmers of Moultrie but little. They raised enough for their own use, and to supply the flour mills of the county, and later, when transportation facilities made it more feasible to ship to the large milling centers, thousands of bushels were exported from the shipping points along the railroads. But it was not the crop on which the county depended as its chief source of wealth. In 1850, while the county was yet new, 6,148 bushels of wheat were grown, and 373,630 bushels of corn; in 1870, with the heightened production demanded by the Civil War, 213,564 bushels of wheat were produced, while the corn crop was 2,896,737 bushels." After 1880, when the milling industry had drawn away from Illinois to Minneapolis which drew on the northwest for its wheat supply, wheat production in Moultrie took a sharp decline. In 1890, only 68,875 bushels were grown, and by 1900, but 16,790. Oats had supplanted it as a secondary crop, something over a million bushels being produced in each of those years. Nothing supplanted corn. A little more than three million 'bushels were grown in 1890, and nearly four million in 1900.SS The heavy corn production persisted after the turn of the century, the peak year coming in 1928 when 105,800 acres were sown to corn, out of a total of 163,885 acres of crop land. During the economic depression of the thirties, however, the corn acreage, as well as the total, declined; in 1934, the lowest year, only 62,300 acres were planted. Oats and wheat likewise diminished, and of all the crops produced in this essentially agricultural county, only tame hay and soy beans increased the acreage during this period.S9
Barley and rye and the various hay crops, such as timothy, clover, and of later years alfalfa, were grown as incidental crops. Flax, buckwheat, and tobacco are given among the county's crops in the agricultural statistics of early years, but disappeared from later lists. A profitable newcomer to the land is the soy bean. In 1919, 15 acres were sown to this crop; so successful was the experiment that farmers all over the county began soy bean cultivation, so that by 1930, 21,000 acres were devoted toit.90
Crop production, however, has not, from the beginning, been the only dependence of Moultrie County farmers. The raising of live-stock has been likewise an important industry. The Whitley family, the county's first known settlers, brought with them their Kentucky race horses, and continued in the breeding business. In 1835 William Snyder imported a thoroughbred Durham bull, and from this begin-ning, many herds of fine, blooded cattle were developed. In 1850, the livestock of the county was valued at $113,153, and in 1870 it had increased to $1,105,444.91 By 1900 it had climbed to $1,275,824. Poultry raising, too, had ibecome important; nearly $85,000 worth was produced that year. Bee culture had engaged the interest of numerous persons since early times, and honey and beeswax were produced in increasing quantities. In 1900 the output amounted to nearly 20,000 pounds.92
After the turn of the century came a definite trend toward concentration on dairy products. Good herds were no new story to Moultrie County, and the work of improving them continued, with increased facilities furnished through the resources of the University College of Agriculture and the State Department of Agriculture. In 1919 more than a million gallons of milk were produced, and ten years later, more than two and a half million. The dairy products in that year netted the producers nearly $300,000. This figure was surpassed by the value of poultry and eggs produced the same year, which amounted to $434,083. The production of honey had increased to more than 51,000 pounds. (93)
The heavy production of corn in the county and the increased demand for meat animals made hog raising an important industry. The old, half-wild variety of hog that rooted through the woods in search of mast, inhabited dooryards, and roamed the village streets, had become a creature of the past; in its place were well kept hogs of standard breeds, fed so as to produce the finest meat. In one of the best years, 1924, 31,200 hogs were raised; the depression that began in 1930 seriously affected hog raising, so that in 1935 only 15,800 animals were raised. (94)
On the early livestock farms of the county, much attention was given to the breeding of fine horses. Draft horses, as well as carriage and riding horses were raised in large numbers. When the use of horses for hauling and general driving purposes waned with the almost universal employment of motor transportation, the emphasis on thLs phase of the livestock industry declined also. The effect of the gradual mechanization of farm work is evident in the diminishing numiber of horses used on farms. As late as 1924, Moultrie farmers were using 11,320 horses and mules. By 1935 the number had fallen to 5,880. (95) in line with the application of modern methods of farming, there were in the county in 1930, 1,288 farm automobiles, 100 farm motor trucks, and 607 farm tractors. (96)
Moultrie County farmers early learned the efficacy of an organization to promote their interests and to exchange methods of improved production and marketing. In 1858 a group of farmers formed an association which sponsored the holding of a county fair. The organization was made permanent under the name of the Moultrie County Agricultural Society, and was the forerunner of the present Farm Bureau.^? In the days when railroads and warehouses set their own individual rates for transportation and storage, and discrimination and exorbitant charges were rife, granges were formed among the farmers to press effective action in their behalf. These abuses were abated through the activities of the state railroad and warehouse commission which was authorized by the Constitution of 1870 and set up by the General Assembly the next year. (98) After this the Granger movement, although it had been designed to stimulate.
In the early days of cheap land—the government price was $1.25 an acre—it was customary for each farmer to own his own home place and often to buy up as much land nearby as he could afford. At his death, or at the marriage of his sons, the land would be divided. Comparatively few farms were rented. But when the public lands had been sold, and the low government price no longer prevailed, land was harder to come toy. Vast quantities of it were in the hands of speculators who charged exorbitant prices. The result was that farmers who could not buy, rented their land. "Long John" Wentworth of Chicago protested against this situation in his paper as early as 1848, declaring that the tenant system operates against a true republican form of government. It "tends to separate classes in society; to the annihilation of independence. If we desire to continue (as a republic) let us pass the public lands into the hands of the people; let us give to those who are unable to buy without money and without price that which the fact of birth entitles them to. (99) The reform Wentworth advocated did not come to pass. The system of tenant farming was accentuated by the railroad boom with its accompanying speculation activities. Although the speculators' operations have been curbed toy law from time to time, the tenant system has persisted. In 1930, sixty-seven and seven-tenths percent o£ the farm land in Moultrie County was operated by tenants. More than one fourth of the tenants were related to the owner. (100)
A good many of the farm tenants at one time owned their places, but lost them through foreclosure of mortgage. In periods of high prices for farm products, it seemed easy and often advisable to raise money for improvements and better implements by a mortgage. A sharp drop in prices of farm commodities, unaccompanied toy a similar drop in price of necessities to be purchased, brought about financial stringency which in the end caused the foreclosure of many mortgages. Frequently the farmer stayed on the land, renting from the person or corporation holding the mortgage. More often than not, the rent was paid, in part at least, by a share of the crop. But not all of the Moultrie farmers who mortgaged their places (became tenants. Of the farms that were operated by their owners in 1930, fifty and eight-tenths percent were mortgaged, with an average mortgage debt of $59 per acre. (101)
This situation is so far from being confined to any county Dr even state limits that the President in 1936 appointed a committee on farm tenancy which made its report in February, 1937. "Half a century ago," says the report, "one of every four farmers was a tenant. Today two of every five are tenants. For the past ten years the number of new tenants every year has been about 40,000. . . Thousands of farmers commonly considered owners are as insecure as tenants, because in some areas the farmers' equity in their property is as little as one-fifth. (102)
The recommendations of the President's committee for remedying such a situation—neither so sweeping nor so simple as the one offered by Wentworth eighty years previous—involve action by both the state and national governments, "action to enable increasing numbers of farm families to enter into sound relationships with the land they till and the communities in which they live. (103)
Already the state government had come to the aid of the farmers, dispensing, through the Department of Agriculture, grants of seed and feed, and giving long-time loans to farmers who had suffered in the severe drouth of 1934.104 The Federal government, too, in the critical years of the depression, inaugurated measures designed to rebuild and enhance the security of the farmer, through resettle-ment of farmers without land or with submarginal land, ana the control of prices and crops.
In spite of the seemingly untoward conditions in farming, the trend of the past ten years has been toward the farm rather than cityward. A similar back-to-the-farm movement took place during the World War and just afterward, when heavy demand and high prices for farm commodities were an encouragement. However, an upward swing in industry counteracted this movement after a few years. In 1920, there were 1,501 farms in the county, occupying ninety-five and six-tenths percent of its total acreage; by 1925 the acres had shrunk to ninety-two and nine-tenths percent and the number of farms to 1,403. As frequently happens when the number of farms decreases at the same time that tenancy is on the increase, the size of the farms enlarged. From an average of 13S acres to a farm in 1920, Moultrie farms increased to 143 acres in 1925. The combined effect of the government farm measures and the greatly lowered opportunity for security in the industrial field after 1930 was an upswing in number of farms to 1,495 and a corresponding diminution in number of acres per farm to 139. These figures are for 1935. The total farm acreage for that year surpassed that of any other year in its history, amounting to ninety-six and three-tenths percent of the entire county. (105)
Trade and Commerce
Most of the farm commodities and livestock products of the county are shipped to outside markets. Only eight and six-tenths percent of all stuffs produced on Moultrie County farms in 1929 was used by the farmers' families. (106) The network of hard roads over the county combined with good railroad facilities make transportation easy. From Sullivan and Lovington and the other shipping points, thousands of bushels of grain and large quantities of hogs, poultry, and eggs are moved to the larger markets each year.
Except for the exporting of the wealth-producing commodities, most of the trade of the county is confined to the retail businesses of the towns.
Manufacturing and Other Industries
In most new localities of pioneer days, the earliest businesses to arise were taverns and grist mills. Moultrie County is no exception. Both industries were well established when the county was formed. John Whitley set up a mill on the creek that bears his name, early in his residence. Abraham Kellar built a mill in Lovington Township in 1832. These were the old "stump mill" variety, in which the grinding device was set in a hollowed stump and moved by a horse that walked round and round the stump. A tedious process when there was much grist to grind! In 1844 Kellar built a new mill, introducing cast iron machinery, and greatly increasing the possible quantity of output. It is said that people came from thirty or forty miles around to have their grain ground at Kellar's mill.(107) Abram Souther put up a sawmill on the banks of the Okaw, run by water power, and cut considerable lumber for the locality. For water mills it was necessary that the court issue a writ of ad quod damnum after a jury had inspected the proposed mill site and determined that the erection of a dam would not be injurious to animal or human life along the stream. Souther's writ was issued in September, 1845. (108) Several other such writs were allowed in the next few years to persons living on the Okaw and other streams of the county. (109) Colonel Allen Clore improved upon these mills by putting into operation a steam sawmill on his farm in Lovington Township about 1852.(110)
By 1860 there were five sawmills in the county, putting out about $14,500 worth of lumber. The old grist mills had been sup-planted by four flour mills of greatly increased capacity. Other industries had arisen. There were two "plough" factories, two boot and shoe makers' establishments, two carriage and wagon factories, a leather tannery, a brickyard, a saddlery and harness factory, and a sorghum plant.*" These were small concerns owned and operated by local persons. In the 26 establishments, the total capital invested amounted to $35,750, and only 58 persons were employed in the whole group of establishments.
During the next decade manufacturing increased. Thirty establishments were in operation, and the value of the flour and grist products alone exceeded the total of all manufactured commodities for 1860, reaching $88,335. A woolen mil! in Sullivan produced $11,250 worth of goods. The number of employes increased to 84; it is interesting to note that among these were three women— listed for the first time—and five children. The invested capital had climbed to $124,510, and the total value of the products to $161,127. (112)
Already by 1870, the first stirrings of the vast industrial expansion that in the next half century made Illinois one of the most important industrial states in the country, had begun to be felt. Chicago, Peoria, East St. Louis, and Rock Island were developing into lusty manufacturing towns, drawing to themselves divers kinds of businesses. For a number of years the small local manufacturing establishments through the state were relatively unaffected. The process of centralization was a gradual one. Expansion was greatly enhanced by constant new chemical discoveries and mechanical inventions to save labor. These were usually first employed in the larger plants, enabling them to manufacture their products at lower cost and offer them at cheaper prices than the smaller concerns, which were often absorbed or else passed out of existence altogether.
The effect of this concentration of industry began to be notice-able in Moultrie County by 1890. The number of establishments dropped from 55 in the previous decade to 29, and the value of products from nearly $200,000 to approximately $140,000. (113)
There was a slight upward trend in the decade ending in 1900, but in the years following manufacturing became increasingly less important as a source of the county's wealth. By 1929, only seven establishments were listed, employing 23 workers, and turning out products valued at $145,000. (114) The opening in Sullivan of branch establishments of two large concerns shortly after this, however, substantially increased the number of persons employed and the amount of goods produced for the decade following. These are the factory of the Brown Shoe Company of St. Louis, and the cheese and butter plant of the Armour Company of Chicago, which employ, between them, nearly 800 persons. An independent factory for the production of snowplows and oiling and grading machinery for roads, employing from 15 to 50 workers, as the season demands, is another industrial addition. Even with these recent developments the chief resource for the county is, as it has always been, the fertile soil of its farm lands.
Growth of Transportation
The importance of good roads to a community can hardly be over-estimated. As has already been shown, the paramount consideration of the county board of every new county was road building. In very few places were the earliest roads laid out according to plan. The first settlers came in over trails used by the Indians in going to and from their hunting grounds, and they in turn followed the paths worn by the hooves of buffalo and deer. These followed the contour of the land, clinging to high ground, and crossing the streams where the fording was easiest. But once two or three settlements were established in a district, the problem of inter-communication and of access to the world behind them arose. By the time Moultrie County was created, a rudimentary road system had already been established as part of the activities of Shelby and Macon counties. The commissioners' court of the new county took up their responsibilities promptly, and at their first meeting, in April, 1843, divided the county into thirteen road districts and appointed a supervisor for each; at the same term it was "ordered that every able bodied man (of the age the law defines) be required to labor four days on the roads in the respective districts. (115)
An important part of the road program, recognized by the state as well as .by individual counties, was the opening of roads between county-seat towns, and the maintenance of good connections with the state capital. At the June term, in 1845, the commissioners' court appointed viewers "to review a road known as the plowed furrow" in the direction of Paris in Edgar County; at the same term steps were taken to establish a road to Shelbyville. (116) In 1847 the court approved a report of certain commissioners appointed by the previous legislature to view and locate a state road to run a little more than fifteen miles in the direction of Charleston in Coles County, to connect with the turnpike between Charleston and Danville in Vermilion County. (117) In 1849 arrangements were made to review and change so much of the Springfield road near the Black Horse Tavern as is petitioned for, provided that the change and review is made at their (the petitioners') own expenses. (118)
By 1857 the increase in settlement and consequent extension of the road system had resulted in diminishing the size of the road districts and increasing their number. Supervisors were appointed that year for twenty-seven districts.
Ambitious bridge building was not indulged in in the early years. Some of the state roads and the most heavily traveled thoroughfares of the county were provided with bridges over the smaller streams where fording was not feasible, but for many years the way across the larger streams was by ferry. The court granted the license to the ferry keeper and set the rate he might charge. A typical example of such a license is that recorded in June, 1850, for Thomas Young, who paid $2.00 "to keep a ferry at or near his house on the East Fork of the Okaw" for one year. He was allowed to charge five cents for carrying a single person, and ten cents for a horse and rider; for "a wagon and pair of horses, broken," he received twenty-five cents, and for a wagon and a four-horse team, thirty-five cents.(120) Near the ferries, at crossroads, and at intervals along the roads, taverns sprang up, where travelers could get refreshment for themselves and their beasts. These were usually at the home of some settler who combined his tavern business with the regular farm work. These, like the ferries, were licensed by the court, and charged in accordance with established rates.(121)
As the county filled up and became more prosperous, bridges gradually came to replace the ferries. In 1857 the court paid John Solomon $499.99—a large sum for that time—for building a bridge across the Okaw near Old Nelson.(122) By the early years of the twentieth century, bridge building had become an important part of the road program. At the July meeting of the board of supervisors in 1903, the county clerk reported warrants issued in the amount of $12,012.50, spread among the various townships as the county's share in the expense of building bridges. Concrete bridges of pleasing design have largely taken the place of the early wooden structures.
Even the coming of the railroads did not lessen the emphasis on the upkeep of good roads, for it is still necessary to have adequate transportation to shipping points. The common use of the automobile and the increase in transportation by motor truck in recent years has brought about further concentration on road improvement. Although there are still a good many miles of unimproved and earth roads in Moultrie County, the combined state and county program has provided a system of roads whereby no place in the county is isolated for want of access to a gravelled or concrete highway. Two state highways border the county, and four others cross it. State Bond Issue Highway 121 coincides with the county line on the north, and 169 on the west; Highway 32 enters from Piatt County in Lovington Township and proceeds south and southeast to Sullivan, thence directly south into Shelby County; Route 133 enters from Douglas County at Arthur and connects with 32; Route 132 comes in from Macon County at Dalton and crosses in a southeasterly direction to Sullivan and thence due east in the direction of Coles County; Highway 16 cuts across the southeastern tip of the county through Whitley Township. In 1939 the state highway department reported a total of 665.6 miles of roads in Moultrie, including 50 miles built by Federal aid, 65 miles by state aid, 40 miles from state bond issue funds, and 510 miles of township road. (123)
Early in its history Moultrie County became involved in the railroad boom that was sweeping the state. The first significant adventure in railroad building had been the old Northern Cross begun in 1837 at Meredosia in northwestern Morgan County and designed, as a part of the ambitious internal improvement program inaugurated by the state, to run through Jacksonville, Springfield, Decatur, and on to Danville. The initial road was not completed beyond Springfield, and was eventually abandoned; years later, it was revived as a part of the Wabash system.(124) An extension of the Northern Cross, called at the time of its building the Great Western, but since incorporated with the Wabash, reached Moultrie County in 1873-74, coming in from the northeast to Lovington, and passing through Sullivan south into Shelby County. (125) With the collapse of the state-sponsored railroad scheme, private corporations entered the state with vast schemes for threading its expanse with roads of steel. These were hailed with joy, and communities vied with each other in subscribing donations to induce the companies to bring the roads to them. The enthusiasm in Moultrie County is reflected in a petition presented to the county court in 1869 for an election on the question of donating $200,000 to the Bloomington and Ohio River Railroad on condition that "said Company shall build and equip said Railway through said County of Moultrie and run its trains thereon;" the result was 1,031 votes in favor of the proposition and only 110 against.(126) As has been noted, this practice of subscription was forbidden by the new constitution adopted the next year.(127)
The greatest of the railroad companies was the Illinois Central, chartered by the General Assembly in 1851, and given by the state a grant of 2,595,000 acres of land which had been donated oy Congress from the public domain.(128) The grant was in the form of every alternate section of land—the even-numbered sections—for six miles on either side of the right of way. The result of throwing this enormous quantity of land on the market was a wave of wild speculation that swept over the entire state, engulfing many of the state's most prominent political figures. It was estimated that in 1856 more than 15,000,000 acres of Illinois land were in the hands of speculators. When the wave receded, it left some men with large fortunes and others in financial ruin.(129) Moultrie County was not without its participants in speculating schemes. Another result of the land opening was a tide of immigration into the state that filled up portions hitherto untouched or but sparsely settled. In this Moultrie shared to the extent of doubling its population in the decade of the railroad boom, 1850-1860.(130)
It was discovered that a part of the land included in the railroad grant in Moultrie was that which had already been granted by the state to the county as swamp land, the revenue from its sale to be used for purposes of drainage, road construction, or education.(131) The court in 1858 appointed John R. Eden, Jonathan Patterson, and John Meeker agents of the county to negotiate with the United States government for reimbursement for the re-granted swamp lands.(132) Six years later the transactions were completed, and Meeker reported that "he had received four thousand, nine hundred and fifty-five dollars and eighty-seven cents of fees and expenses which he is ready to pay over on the order of the court." (133)
The branch of the Illinois Central which crosses Moultrie was formerly known as the Peoria, Decatur and Evansville, a consolidation of two earlier roads, and was completed from Decatur to Mattoon in 1871. It enters the county in Dora Township at Dalton City, traverses the county in a southeasterly direction, and passes out at Coles Station, in the northeastern corner of Whitley Township. The most important station is Sullivan, where this road intersects the line of the Wabash.
The old Illinois Midland, composed of the Peoria, Atlanta and Decatur and the Paris and Decatur roads, entered the county in 1872, coming in from the west in the northern part of Dora Township, passing Lake City, connecting with the Wabash at Lovington, and crossing the eastern line of the county at Arthur in Lowe Township. This line is now a part of the Pennsylvania System.
The Chicago and Eastern Illinois, coming into Moultrie from Coles County at Arthur, where it connects with the Pennsylvania, crosses southwestward, passing through the village of Cadwell and entering Sullivan to meet the Wabash and the Illinois Central; thence it continues southwest through Kirksville Station and into Shelby County.
The only other railroad in the county is a five-mile stretch, constructed under the charter issued to the Terre Haute and Alton Railroad Company in 1851 and after several changes passing to the ownership of the Big Four (Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago, and St. Louis) now consolidated with the New York Central, which cuts across the southeastern point of the county in the lower corner of Whitley Township.
One of the prominent features of early railroad history was the large number of small independent companies chartered to build the first roads. In the variety of names by which they have been known since their construction is indicated the gradual merging into fewer and larger companies until today nearly all form parts of one of the great railway systems controlling nationwide traffic.
The taxes paid by the railroads are an important part of the county's revenue. In 1880 the assessed valuation of railroad property in Moultrie was $275,688, (134) in 1925 the amount assessed by the state tax commission was $95,794. In 1930, $103,586 was assessed against a valuation of $3,295,980. This was the peak year. During the severe depression of the early thirties, the valuation dropped until it reached $1,692,726 in 1935, against which an assessment of $47,345 was made. In the next three years the amount of tax gradually climbed to a figure of $59,052 in 1938.(135)
One important index of the economic development of a county is the record of its own financial affairs. Periods of expansion and recession of population, of economic depression and prosperity, are reflected in the fluctuations of taxation and other revenues, of the amounts spent on the construction of roads and public buildings, on education, on the care of the unfortunate, and even on salaries of public officials.
The initial business affairs of nearly all counties were on a modest scale, and expanded as population increased and a more complicated social and economic life demanded a more complex government. The tax rate set by the commissioners' court for 1843, the first year of the county's existence, was twenty-five cents on every hundred dollars' worth of property. William Thomason, the assessor, was "allowed in full for his services $30.50 to be paid by the county and the other half by the state as the law directs. (136) At the March term, 1844, "the court received of Isaac Walker, collector of Moultrie County $255.71 as part of the county tax for the year A. D. 1843. (137) When the first settlement was made with the treasurer in September, 1844, "there was found to be the following amount of funds:
|241,641 1/2 (138)|
In 1844 the tax levy was thirty cents on a hundred dollars, (139) and this rate stood for several years. But in 1855, a year following a period of general financial stringency, it dropped to eighteen cents. An expansion of county business, in line with the growth of population is indicated in the fact that Arnold Thomason, the assessor, received that year $247.50 as his fee. (140)
The treasurer's report for December, 1862, when the effects of the Civil War were beginning to be felt, showed the volume of business to amount to $2,130.09, with a balance in the treasury of $1,117.49. (141) Five years later the county general fund had a balance of only $7.77, but the fund for soldiers' bounty for which a three percent tax had been levied, contained $2,044.09. (142)
A further measure of the county's economic expansion and fluctuations is indicated in the comparison of the figures for tax valuations of real estate and personal property (exclusive of railroad property) for several representative years. In 1858, during the railroad boom, the total valuation was $1,828,831; in 1880, after the industrial impetus in the state had begun to take effect, it was $2,284,519 ;(143) in 1927, a year of comparative prosperity, the valuation was $15,410,000; in 1934, when the economic depression had seriously affected the ability of people to pay taxes, as well as to keep up improvements on their property, it dropped to $11,216,000; (144) by 1938, a gradual increase had brought the property valuation to $12,259,750, (145)
The early population figures for the county have already been noted. (146) For the first three decades after its establishment, increase was rapid. The period of heaviest growth was the decade of the Civil War; between 1860 and 1870, 4,000 persons were added to the population, and the increase was almost as great—3,314—in the next ten years. The year 1900 saw Moultrie at its peak in number of inhabitants, 15,224. From then on, in common with many nonindustrial communities, it has declined; the census of 1930 showed 13,247 persons.(147)
As was the case with nearly all counties, Moultrie's numbers were swelled by immigration from foreign countries, the first wave coming in in the early fifties, and another in the seventies. Germany, England, France, and Sweden furnished the greater part of Moultrie's foreign-born population. The heavy immigration from the eastern and southern European countries that crowded Chicago, East St. Louis, and other industrial centers with foreign workers during the "melting pot" period of the early twentieth century was less noticeable in the agricultural counties such as Moultrie. The foreign-born peoples of Moultrie have for many years been integrated with the native population to form an American whole.
SOCIAL AND CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT
The cause of education has been fostered in Illinois since the beginning. Following the clause in the Ordinance of 1787 that declared that "schools and the means of education shall be forever encouraged,(148) which in turn was based on a congressional ordinance which the plan of setting aside one section of land in every congressional township for school use was set forth, (149) the ordinance of the Illinois convention, answering the approval by Congress of its constitution, in August, 1818, provided for the reservation of the school section, and also for setting aside thirty-six sections (one entire township) in the state for the use of a seminary. Moreover, three fifths of five percent of the net proceeds from the sale of the lands lying within the state, which were sold (by Congress after the first day of January, 1819, after deducting all expenses incident to the sale, were to be appropriated by the legislature for the encouragement of learning; one sixth part of this fund was to be exclusively bestowed on a college or university. (150)
The earliest schools in the state were taught on a subscription plan, the teacher receiving a small sum per term for each child When money was scarce, as it often was, the pay was in the form of food or of farm produce which the teacher might sell. In 1825 a law was passed providing for voluntary taxation for the support of schools. (151) Some communities adopted the plan, others did not. Various changes were made in the law, working toward improvement of schools, until, in 1865, the "free-school act" was passed, whereby a general tax was provided for the maintenance of free public schools throughout the state, and the office of superintendent of puiblic instruction was created to maintain state supervision of the school system. (152) Only the elementary or "common" schools were included in these provisions. High schools did not appear in the state until the late 1860's.(153) Secondary education was provided by private academies or seminaries, established under the auspices of one or another of the churches. Frequently these were intended for the preparation of young men for the ministry, but many of them, like the Shelby Academy at Shelbyville, and the Sullivan Academy were designed only to provide at low cost, training beyond the common school for those who desired it.
So far as is known, the first school taught in what is now known as Moultrie County was opened by Samuel Anderson in the fall of 1828, near George Waggoner's cabin in Whitley Township.(154) Another early school was that conducted by Mrs. Mary Hostetler, In the year 1832, in a double log cabin on the farm of Hilera Rhodes in Lovington Township, and owned by Solomon Hostetler. It served as a residence as well as a school. In the fall of 1834, John Allen opened the term in a schoolhouse situated about half a mile west of the village of Lovington, on the farm of Colonel Allen Clore. The building was rough logs, left just as they were taken out of the woods.
The openings ^between the logs were "chinked" with a mixture of moss and mud. The roof was of short boards or "shakes," about four feet long; the chimney was constructed of mud and sticks, an improvement over a good many houses that had only a hole in the roof to answer for a chimney, above a place marked off on the floor for a fireplace. The floor was of "puncheon," that is logs split in two halves and placed side by side, with the flat side up. The benches were made by boring two holes in each end of the puncheon and driving in crude pegs for legs. The desks were made in the same manner, except that they were fastened to the logs in the sides of the house, so that the flat side of the slab could serve as a desk top. Lighting was by means of the greased-paper window common in the log dwelling of the day. This schoolhouse was the voting place for the district in the first election for county officers, following the act organizing Moultrie County. Sullivan Township had its earliest school in 1832, taught by James Patterson, a well-informed gentleman then past sixty-five years of age. (155)
The teaching methods of those days seem to the present generation as primitive as the buildings. There was extreme lack of uniformity of text-books, the children bringing to school such books as the family happened to own. For readers, they used histories, biographies of prominent men, or some religious or scientific work. Some read the testament, that being often the only book the family had on hand. However, the field of knowledge covered in the old "readin", writin', and 'rithmetic," was often much wider than is generally assumed by those accustomed to the highly organized curricula of present-day schools.
As new settlements grew up, the number of schools increased, and schoolhouses built for the purpose were erected. In some places the men of a community went together and "raised" the schoolhouse with the same enthusiasm and cooperation they displayed in putting up their own or their neighbors' homes.
The need for an institution to provide secondary education soon became apparent, and the Sullivan Academy was organized by James S. Freeland, one of a family whose members were prominent in the county for many years. Classes were held in the courthouse until Freeland completed the construction of a brick building in 1851, to house them. Articles of incorporation were issued to a board of trustees, among whom were Judge James Elder, Rueben B. Ewing, John A. Freeland, and John Ferryman. (156) The Academy ceased operation at the death of Freeland in 1856, but was reopened later under H. S. Bastian. The name was changed to Moultrie County Academy, and its charter stipulated that a majority of the board of trustees be members of the Christian Church. (157) One of the chief promoters of the institution was Bushrod W. Henry, who had been active for many years in establishing churches of the Disciples of Christ in Shelby and other neighboring counties. The names of Arnold Thomason, Jonathan Patterson, and Ezra D. Cleveland appear on the list of trustees. No profession of religion was required of the students, but the purpose of the school was plainly stated to the to teach with an especial view to the study of the Bible as a (basis of education. (158) The academy flourished for five or six years. When the public school of Sullivan became overcrowded, rooms in the academy were used to house the overflow. (159) After the academy ceased to exist, the county was without an institution for secondary education until the establishment of the first high school in 1900.
The table, on page 40, covering eighty-eight years of school history in Moultrie County, presents an interesting picture of the fluctuation in numbers of young persons attending school in proportion to the number of those of school age and to the general population of the coimty, in the number of schools and of teachers, in the value of school property, and in the annual tax expenditure for education.
It is significant that while all the figures have moved up and down with the exigencies of changing conditions, only two do not reflect the economic depression of the nineteen-thirties by a decline. These are the figures representing the number of high schools m the county, and the number of volumes in school libraries. The latter has steadily increased, sometimes against the general trend, since 1900.
Other facilities, also, not included in the table, have expanded. Schoolhouses have been repaired and remodeled to give greater comfort and efficiency, new buildings have replaced those completely outmoded. In some schools, laboratory, vocational, and physical training equipment has been installed. At the same time, the curriculum has steadily expanded to meet the current needs of each succeeding generation of pupils. These are the outward and visible signs of the inward drive toward the intelligent training of youth for the responsibilities of self-government that led the farsighted fathers of Illinois to make liberal provisions for education in the state.
Moultrie County Schools*
|Percent of persons school age attending
|No. High schools
|No. Dist. Libraries
|Value School Property
|Tax Levied, Year
|No. of illiterates
Hand in hand with the development cf education went the growth of the churches. Opportunity for religious expression was lacking in the pioneer society where families were widely scattered and travel was difficult, but the desire for it was not absent. When a preaching man came into a community—even one in which horse racing, gambling, and drinking were prevalent—he was usually well received. While the promoters of religious activities had no direct support from state or national government in a country whose policy is complete separation of church and state, they had the strong backing of powerful and long-established church groups in the East. The organization of private missionary societies in the eastern states between the years 1796 and 1826 greatly stimulated interest in church extension work. These societies were termed private simply because they were established by interested individuals instead of by authorized church boards. In the year 1826 the Congregationalists organized the American Home Missionary Society, and other denominations soon followed with similar boards or societies. The great West was a fertile mission field, and Illinois was one of the points of concentration.(160)
The establishing of churches in some of the less densely populated counties represented many hardships. Wherever navigable rivers were lacking it meant that the early missionary must travel on horseback or in a covered wagon. If neither of these was available, he had to go on foot into the uncharted forests. Even if the primitive roads or paths were marked, bad weather often made them impassable. To these hardships was added the constant danger from bands of hostile Indians, and from wild animals. The early missionary had to be a man of good physique, courage, and strong religious convictions.
The Cumberland Presbyterians were one of the first groups to start organized religious work in Moultrie County. The Reverend David Foster met a group of eight persons in the home of Captain James Fruit at Bethany on May 14, 1831, and organized the Bethany congregation. This church grew rapidly, having 257 members in 1858, and helped to form other churches in Newhope, Sullivan, and Summit. The Cumberland group has now only one church in the county, at Bethany, with 280 members.(161)
The Disciples of Christ, known also as the Christian Church, came to Moultrie County in the early thirties. Nathan Stevens, who lived on the Okaw River aibout a mile west of Lovington, invited a group of religiously inclined people to his home on November 17, 1832. Three elders, or ministers, were present, and though they represented different denominations, they organized the group into a Christian Church. Beginning with seventeen members, the group increased rapidly. One group of early worshipers of the Disciples of Christ, near Lovington, met in a log house only twenty feet square, with a stick-and-mud chimney in one end, and a log cut out in the other end for a window. Here the gospel was preached to all the people of every faith from Cunningham's Grove in the north to Jerry Provolt's at the forks of the Okaw in the south. (162) The Christian Church or Disciples of Christ now have nine active churches in Moultrie County, located at: Allenville (two), Arthur, Bethany, Dalton City, Gays, Sullivan (two), and at Lovington, with a total membership of 2,081.(163)
In 1842 this church, as well as other denominations, was upset by the invasion of the Mormons, a number of whom trickled into northern Moultrie County from their focal settlement at Nauvoo. Their zealous missionaries won members from all the existing church groups, disturbing the religious life of the community. The case of Mrs. Abram Souther, a sister-in-law of Andrew Love, later county collector, aroused considerable animosity; she was won over to the Mormon beliefs and threatened many times to leave her husoand, who remained loyal to the Christian Church. Finally Mrs. Souther did leave her husband and her young baby to go with the Mormons on their trek into the West. This fired the minds of the people and the neighborhood arose and drove the Mormons out of the county. They never came back, but Mrs. Souther was persuaded to return to her family. (164)
The Baptists began work in Shelby, Moultrie, and Piatt counties in 1845 when they formed the Shelbyville Association of the church. (165) The Reverend Joseph Ferryman organized the first Baptist Church in Moultrie County in 1868 at Dunn, with forty members, and he became the first pastor. There are now two churches of the denomination in the county, one at Sullivan and one at Arthur, with a total membership of 278. (166)
The progress of the Baptist Church in early Illinois was hindered by the activities of one Daniel Parker, a flaming preacher from Georgia. Parker opposed all missionary societies on the ground that missionaries often faked their reports to impress the boards that supported them, and that they often made slaves of the natives to whom they ministered; also on the theory that God had made two distinct races of people, the "saved" and the "unsaved." The saved, according to Parker, were predestined to salvation and preaching to them would result in a benefit, but the unsaved were predestined to the evil one and no amount of preaching to them could do any good. The controversy over this curious doctrine nearly split the church in central Illinois. Finally Parker and a group of families went to Texas where he started the same doctrinal controversy. (167)
The Shelbyville Circuit of the Methodist Church, which included Shelby, Moultrie, Coles, and parts of Fayette and Cumberland counties, was formed in 1829. This meant that the preliminary work had been done in each of these counties. (168) The Methodists made rapid progress; in 1846 they made eighteen appointments to churches and missions in the Shelbyville Circuit. In 1847 the Reverend J. H. Hopkins became the pastor of a group of Methodists in East Nelson Township, and this group built there the first Methodist church in the county. The rapid rise of the Methodist Church was largely the product of the enthusiasm of its local preachers. These men were not do missionary work, and they did it with spirit. While other denominations were worrying albout the education of their ministry, these Methodist circuit riders, unlettered, but full of zeal and the knowledge of the people with whom they worked, went vigorously to work to develop a strong church. (169) The Methodist Church now has six active churches in Moultrie county, located at Arthur, Allenville, Bethany, Hammond, Lovington, and Sullivan; the total membership is 1,759. (170)
A Presbyterian church was organized at Dalton City on May 25, 1872, by the Reverend Nathaniel Williams and the Reverend C Louden, a committee from the Presbytery of Mattoon. The Presbyterians now have three churches in the county with a total membership of 344. (171)
A Congregational church at Arthur was organized in 1888 and 's now the only church of that denomination in the county. It has 77 members. (172)
There is one Episcopal church in the county, at Sullivan, belonging to the Springfield Diocese. (173)
In 1857 a group of Irish Catholic families migrated westward and settled in Dora Township. There was no Catholic church near here, so the people traveled either to Decatur or Mattoon for Mass and the Sacraments, once or twice a year. After Father Anthony Voght of the Decatur parish had listened to the hardships this group endured in traveling that distance to church, he decided to come to them. In 1863, Father Voght met the group in the home of Edmund Brasman, three miles north of Bethany and preached to them, organizing them into a Catholic community. The next year he built them a church on land purchased from the railroad grant. (174) This church has maintained its existence since that time, and another Catholic church has been established at Dalton City; there are also missions at Lovington and Sullivan. (175)
An independent religious community has existed in Sullivan since 1871. In that year came one Samuel Harshman, a Methodist preacher who thought that the Methodist Church was becoming too liberal for the good of its members. He established his own church, which he called the Church of Jesus Christ, and which did not affiliate itself with any existing religious body. Its members do not vote, and do not appear in court because it is against their tenets to take oath. Harshman's adherents grouped their homes about the brick church, a few blocks from the courthouse, and that portion of town is still known as the "Harshman neighborhood,"
One of the first administrative acts in a new county was the appointment of overseers of the poor, one each in districts which usually corresponded with either the road districts or the election precincts. It was the duty of the overseer to "cause all poor persons who have. . . become a public charge to be farmed out at public venue or out cry ... on the first Monday in May, yearly, ... at some public place, to the person or persons who shall appear to be the lowest bidder. (176) The "farmers of the poor" received from the county the cost of the "common necessaries of life" provided for their charges, who, in return, performed "moderate labour." Children of the poor, whose parents were dead, were bound out as apprentices, boys to the age of twenty-one, and girls till they were eighteen. The sick and the insane were farmed out along with the well, but the cost of their medical care was met by the county.
This practice was in accordance with the laws of the state which had been inherited from the territory, and were based, practically without change, upon the laws set up for the Northwest Territory by Governor Arthur St. Clair and the judges who were appointed to adapt the laws of the original states to the needs of the new territory. The poor laws were drawn largely from the code of Virginia, and founded on the poor laws enacted in E3ngland in the time of Elizabeth.
The county commissioners' court of Moultrie appointed overseers in four precincts at the June term, 1843. They were Andrew Love in the precinct named for him, James H. Roney in Thomason's precinct, John Fulton in Julianna, and Milton Cox in East Nelson. (177) On the same day, the sum of $3.57 and 1/2 was allowed for the making of a coffin for Elias Benett, a poor man deceased, and the "farmer of the poor" was allowed $8.62 and 1/2 for taking care of Elias Benett in his last sickness. (178)
There are no long lists of poor persons bound out on the pages of Moultrie County records. Only here and there a brief notice appears to indicate that the overseers were performing their duties. In one case agreement is made to care for a poor woman and her child at the rate of $8.00 a month; in another a court notice is given two brothers "that they are required to take care of their sister in conformity with Chapter 80th concerning Paupers." (179) By the middle of the century, the custom of binding out the insane and feeble-minded had given way to institutionalization for persons so affected. In the record of the court's session on November 4, 1851, appears the statement "On this day a . . . resident of Moultrie County was brought before the court and examined by questions, and the court being satisfied that he was insane, and that he is also a pauper, orders" that he be conveyed to the Illinois State Hospital for the Insane. (180)
One of the last entries concerned with the farming out of paupers appears in 1857, when it was ordered that two women "be let out to the lowest bidder for their keeping."(181) The system was found to be cumbersome and unsatisfactory. It was made possible by a law enacted in 1839, (182) for counties, if they saw fit, to provide almshouses in which the poor might receive congregate care. Often these were on farms which were worked by the inmates, thus providing them with constructive work and at the same time furnishing a part of their sustenance. During the early sixties agitation for this type of care for Moultrie's indigent began. Judge Joseph Eden, coming to the bench of the county court in 1861, favored the plan and saw the opportunity for purchasing a farm with the funds obtained from the government in payment for the swamp and overflow lands that had been included in the railroad grant in 1852,(183) a two-hundred-acre tract, with suitable buildings, was secured in 1864 at a cost of $5,800, the swamp-land fund covering all but $645 of the expenses. There were five inmates when the farm was opened. Jonathan Patterson was appointed superintendent. It was considered impracticable to attempt the farming of the land by the poor themselves, and arrangements were made for it to be leased. (184) Four years later an appropriation was made "for extending the building for the comfort of the poor.(185) in 1871 an arrangement was made whereby the keeper of the farm was to lease the land himself "for a period of five years, at $500 per annum and he is to clothe, feed and shelter, also provide for medical care at his own expense, the board to pay $100 for each person so kept. (186)
From time to time since that date, improvements have been made, both in the buildings and in the care given to the inmates, particularly those with physical disabilities. The almshouse never became overcrowded. A report of the superintendent in March, 1902, showed a total of twelve persons for that year. To counteract the stigma attached to the name "almshouse" or "poor farm," the name of all such institutions was changed by law in 1935 to "county home. (187)
The binding out of children had long since been done away with. Instead, needy children were cared for in orphans' homes, established usually by some charitable organization, or were placed in private homes through a social agency recognized by the state. An entry appears on the Supervisors' Record for April, 1898, ordering that "the Children's Home Society be authorized to provide a home" for a small child, "now a county charge," $50 being allowed for services. (188)
In line with the slowly growing aocial consciousness that had brought about a gradual improvement in the physical care of the adult poor, segregation and treatment for the insane, training for the feeble-minded, and home placement for children, the state in 1903 recognized the special needs of blind persons by providing a pension of $30 per month for blind heads of families, iss Moultrie County did not immediately accede to the provisions of the statute. In December, 1903, the county board resolved "in lieu of pension provided by the statute for the blind that the supervisors of the several townships be authorized to furnish to all needy and deserving blind such sums of money or provisions as to him may be deemed necessary for their support and maintenance and that all petitions filed for aid be rejected. (190) Later, however, this practice was discontinued; after 1915 applications for blind relief were regularly accepted and warrants issued. (191)
In 1913 provision was made for small pensions to indigent mothers of families. (192) The county immediately undertook this service, and has given aid to many mothers since the first pension was recorded in the year the statute was enacted.(193)
These measures of relief, in addition to occasional medical service and groceries for those marginal families whose income is never quite sufficient to cover all the necessities, were adequate to provide minimum essentials of care for the unfortunates of the county until the severe depression of the nineteen-thirties swept away the economic stability of a great portion of the country's population. No longer was the group of persons unable to provide for themselves confined to those who were incapacitated by reason of age or physical disability. To it was added a much larger group who found themselves without employment or reserve funds, and in need of temporary relief. The county alone was totally unable to carry the suddenly augumented load, even in the early days of the depression when only emergency measures of alleviation were considered. In common with all other counties, Moultrie received allotments of funds from the state and Federal governments to supplement those available locally.
In the fall of 1933, 715 persons were receiving relief in the county, and by the next spring the number had increased to 1,588, about twelve percent of the population. Most of these were in rural areas, and in contrast to pre-depression years, almost half of those requiring aid were young persons sixteen years of age and under. The average amount provided for one family per month was $12.36, and of the total obligation, the county provided twenty-eight and three-tenths percent while the remaining seventy-one and seven-tenths percent was furnished by combined state and Federal grants. (194) Through the several succeeding years the number of needy persons receiving help varied but little, increasing during the winter months, and decreasing to some extent during the summer when farming activities offered a slight possibility of employment and increased means of self-sustenance. In June, 1938, a low month, 770 persons received relief. The total funds used for relief in 1937 amounted to $62,362.85; the county's share of this in taxes was $39,044.59, but only ninety-one percent of the amount was collected. (195) In addition to direct relief, various related programs, emanating from state and Federal agencies, have been put into operation, designed not only to supply subsistence, but to offset the social erosion that takes place when a large part of the population, through loss of economic security, is forced to live on a substandard scale. The needs of youth are served through the National Youth Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps; the aged are cared for by the old age assistance program; (196) needed work and needy workers are brought together through the programs of the five divisions of the Federal Works Agency.
A survey made of the occupational characteristics of persons on relief in Moultrie was made in February, 1935. The report revealed that of approximately 1,500 persons, 515 were employable. (197) More than eighty-five percent of these were experienced workers; among them were 33 farm proprietors and tenants, and 171 farm laborers. (198) One public service inaugurated in recent years, which does not stem from the larger units of government is the tuberculosis sanitarium board, which was established in 1937 to administer funds for the treatment of tubercular persons in the county. Moultrie does not have an independent tuberculosis sanitarium, but sends its patients to St. John's Sanitarium at Riverton, in Sangamon County. (199)
The Public Press
For more than a decade after its establishment, Moultrie County had no newspaper of its own. The people relied for local news on the papers published in Shelbyville and Decatur, and for broader contact with national and foreign affairs upon the eastern papers that came to a few homes and were passed from one to another until they were worn out. Many families subscribed for religious periodicals which reached a high point of production in the forties and fifties.
Many of the early newspapers in Illinois began life as the venture of some traveling printer who, journeying west with a minimum amount of equipment, selected a spot where he thought a paper could prosper, and set himself up in the business. If successful he remained, if not, he either sold out to some local person, or packed up his gear and sought fresh fields. Other papers were started for the avowed purpose of voicing the political views of the people and influencing them to one or the other of the political parties.
The first journalistic venture in Moultrie County was the Sullivan Express started by James D. Mondy in 1856 or '57 as an independent sheet. The next year it changed hands, and became an advocate of the Democratic Party, and in 1866 took the name of Sullivan Democrat. Through the vicissitudes of change in ownership and management and mergers with other short-lived papers, this paper persists today as the Sullivan Progress, the county's only daily, and is edited by Edward C. Brandenburger. (200)
The Moultrie County News, published in Sullivan since 1884, is a Republican weekly with a large circulation under the editorship of Arlo Chapin. (201) This paper had a number of antecedents, though the continuity of a Republican organ in the county was broken by several gaps. The earliest Republican paper, whose first number was issued July 20, 1863, reflects the era of its birth in its name, Moultrie Union Banner; it later became the Okaw Republican, and soon thereafter, in 1871, was sold and removed from the county. The next year the Sullivan Plain dealer was launched as a Republican organ, but proved a losing enterprise and discontinued publication in 1874; it was followed by the Moultrie County Chronicle which put out its first issue October 9, 1874, but died after eleven weeks. After a year in which the Republican party had no organ in the county, the Sullivan Journal began publication in December, 1875. This paper exerted considerable influence, but it too, was eventually discontinued. (202)
Lovington had two newspapers preceding the present one. The Index, first issued in 1875, and changing its name to the Lovington Free Press the next year, maintained publication till 1878; it was followed by the Lovington Enterprise, a politically independent sheet which had wide circulation in the northern part of the county during the eighties. (203) in 1890 the Lovington Reporter began publication, and as an independent weekly, has continued to the present. Its editor is Thomas L. Conn. (204)
The only other newspaper in the county is the Bethany Echo, a non-partisan weekly begun in 1887 and now edited by Elmer McIlwain. (205)
Inventory Of The County Archives of Illinois
Prepared by The Illinois Historical Records Survey Project No 70 Moultrie County 1941