Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society--1903
AN EARLY ILLINOIS NEWSPAPER.
Extracts from Its files. By J. H. Burnham.
The Illinois Herald was the earliest newspaper in Illinois Territory. It was published at Kaskaskia, either in 1814 or 1815. A very few copies of this early newspaper are in existence, but the oldest bound newspaper files extant, are those of the Western Intelligencer, which, in 1816 became the successor of the Illinois Herald.
Through the courtesy of the officers of the Mercantile Library at St. Louis, Mo., I have been permitted to peruse the columns of this precious, early newspaper, whose contents are now very interesting to students of Illinois history, and these extracts appear to be worth publishing.
This bound volume is not complete. It commences May 15, 1816, and six of its later issues are absent, so that in all, about one-half of the year is missing.
It is a very small four-page journal, with only four columns to a page. Its typographical appearance is very respectable, considering the times and the scanty fonts of type available.
It was published weekly by Daniel P. Cook, and appears to have been edited by him. Its price was $2.50 a year, if paid in advance, and $3 if paid at the end of the year. Its subscription list must have been small indeed. It was published in the English language, in a town where French was the language spoken by the majority of the inhabitants. Very few of its residents. aside from the Territorial officers and their associates, were English speaking people, while the scattered inhabitants of the newly organized counties in the territory, may well be supposed to have furnished few subscribers outside of the lawyers, merchants and county officials, and this will perhaps explain why the columns of the Intelligencer were so meagerly furnished with local and territorial news, as will appear plainly in the course of these extracts.
Advertisements and the publication of official orders and laws, all of which we may well believe was paid matter, took up most of the space, but we glean occasionally something of value.
The latest United States laws are printed on its first page, signed by James Madison, president, approved April 16, 1816. On the second page Win. H. Crawford, secretary of war, makes his annual report to Congress on affairs in the Indian department, which we can well believe was important information to a people who were most emphatically a frontier population.
The war with England had been over but little more than a year, and in July, 1815, less than a year previous, peace with Indian tribes had been finally established by a conference which took place below Alton, between Indian chiefs on one side and Governor Clark of Missouri Territory, and Governor Edwards of Illinois Territory on the other side. None knew whether this was to be a lasting peace, or a mere truce. The war with Great Britain had closed with the British in possession of the region around Rock Island, even as far south as near Quincy, on the Mississippi; and in all of the northern and western part of the territory, there was no security for settlers, and no settlements were as yet attempted excepting perhaps a few families in Pike county.
It will thus be seen that whatever pertained to the Indians must have been of deep interest to the readers of the Intelligencer.
In this first issue the editor very naively tells us that "The Eastern mail brought us news, much later than the news of the week before."
The Hon. Benjamin Stephenson was then territorial delegate in Congress. Here is an extract from one of his letters to a friend in Kaskaskia:
"I have the pleasure of informing you that I have succeeded, with the aid of my friends, in getting all of the bills relating to Illinois passed without an exception. No man could have been more fortunate than I was. The following is the list of them as reported viz,: A bill making the Wabash the line of division between Illinois and Indiana until a line due north from Vincennes will cross the Wabash for the last time.
"A bill extending the time of leasing the United States Salines from three to seven years. A bill respecting the Judiciary of Illinois.
"A bill respecting settlers and extending the right of pre-emption to those who settled on lands reserved for the use of schools. A bill to appoint a surveyor of the public lands of Illinois and Missouri. A bill to open a road from Shawneetown to Kaskaskia, for which object $8,000 are appropriated. A bill to establish a land office at Madison county court house, (which is now Edwardsville.)
"All of which bills have passed both houses and become laws. Other laws of a general nature have passed, whose beneficial influence will be experienced by the people of Illinois. I have also procured a post route from Shawneytown, by White and Edwards counties, to Vincennes.
"The foregoing bills passed in the same shape in which they were reported by the committees. I flatter myself that the result of my labors will convince my constituents that I have been zealously engaged in the promotion of their interests.
Michael Jones, register, and Shadrack Bond, receiver, of the United States land office advertise that on, "The first Monday in August they will receive proposals for leasing the lead mines belonging to the United States in the lead mines (the Pimantoui1 Grant to Renault on the Illinois river excepted.) Parties leasing are notified that they must survey and mark their lands, so as to enable other lessees to locate safely-"
As the first comers were required to do the surveying for later prospectors, as the lands were not properly described, and as the Indians were not yet known to be peaceable, we need not be surprised to find that later issues of the Intelligencer do not report that leases were made or that any development of the lead mines took place.
Congressional news takes up a little over one column of space, and there are two columns and a half of advertisments in this issue.
The executors of the late Thomas Todd advertise to sell the homestead and all of the other property on May 23rd.
Ninian Edwards, then Governor of Illinois Territory, offers "to sell or rent for a term of years, tracts of land, amounting in all to 1,468 acres and including the farm on which I lately resided, 388 acres of the farm on which I now reside; 400 acres six miles above Kaskaskia; and 1,500 acres one mile above Prairie Du Rocher. I also wish to purchase rails and I will give $3 per acre for plowing."
This shows the Governor to have been a man of large means for those days, and we do not wonder that he appears in our early history as able to dress expensively and ride in a fine carriage. Incidentally this also proves that plowing must have been a difficult part of farming, if it was worth $3 per acre in those times of low values.
But as we are aware that steel plows had not yet been invented, we must conclude that the Governor simply offered ordinary prices.
Daniel P. Cook. the publisher, afterwards congressman and statesman, for whom Cook county was named, was at this time Auditor of Public Accounts of Illinois Territory, and as such officer, gave his paper a little over a column of advertising matter, relating to the listing and taxing of lands of non-residents. We find in this first issue no local or Kaskaskia news.
In the next issue we have more laws liberally published, more congressional news, no local news, but a very important announcement from the editors, endorsing Nathaniel Pope for candidate for delegate to Congress. He was elected. Russell E. Heacock is also announced as a candidate, with a statement that his circulars will appear in a few days.
The lead mine advertisement appears, also the Auditor's advertisement, also a lengthy notice, paid for of course, of a public letting to take place at Belleville, St. Clair county, for a now county court house, This same notice appears in full on another page, but we can scarcely believe it to have been paid for twice, and one is left to wonder whether the shrewd political editor repeated the notice to curry favors with the St. Clair county officers, or whether the printer preferred to run the type in twice rather than take the trouble to fill the space with the live reading matter so woefully needed.
Two intentions to start new ferries are advertised, one on the Mississippi, and one on the Kaskaskia river, giving evidence of increasing emigration.
Peculiarly illustrative of the times, is an offer of $100 reward for the apprehension of a negro slave named David "who ran away from Glasgow, Ky., who can read and write, and has probably provided himself with a pass calling himself a free man," and it is stated that he will probably try to enter some of the northwestern 'territories."
The third issue of the paper continues the publication of laws and official advertisements and offers $50 for another runaway slave. This one appears to have been claimed by Josiah McClenahan, of Wine Shibboleth, Washington county, state not named but most likely the territory of Missouri is meant.
The citizens of Shawneetown are said to have given notice through the newspapers of Kaskaskia, Frankfort, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., that they will apply to the Legislature of Illinois, for the establishment of a bank. The committee in charge of the bank project is stated to consist of John Caldwell, John McLean and James Weir. This is one of the earliest intimations we have of the commercial progress of Shawneetown, where an elegant stone bank building was afterwards constructed by the State Bank, which structure is still in existence. It also gives us a hint that the newspapers of Frankfort, Ky., and Nashville, Tenn., must have had quite a circulation in Illinois at this period.
Incidentally it might be worth mentioning, that John McLean of this bank committee, who came to Shawneetown in 1815, afterwards became Congressman and United States Senator. On his death in 1830, the new county of McLean was named in his honor.
One of the paper's advertisements should be quoted as follows:
"D. P. Cook Counsellor and Attorney-at-Law respectfully tenders his services to the people of this territory, and assures them that business confided to him will be punctually attended to. His arrangements for editing the W. Intelligencer will not interfere with his professional business, He keeps his office in the east end of the frame occupied by Wm. Morrison, Esq., as a store, where he also keeps the auditor's office, Kaskaskia, April 20, 1816."
On Wednesday, June 5, the paper comes out as being published by Cook & Blackwell; Robert Blackwell, a practical printer, having been taken into partnership by Mr. Cook.
Real news is now given in the editorial column as follows:
"By information received from St. Louis, we learn that treaties of peace were concluded on Saturday the 1st., between the United States and 8 bands of the Sioux who reside above Prairie Du Chien, (which was then within the northern limits of Illinois Territory.) The most of these are those who have heretofore been denominated Dickinson's Indians."
This news was of almost national importance and we can easily imagine that anything which promised to open the fertile region of northern Illinois and what is now southern Wisconsin to settlement, was of the greatest possible local interest.
The Intelligencer also tells us that it was "supposed that another treaty would be concluded with the Winnebagoes who were nearest to Prairie Du Chien who have separated themselves from the balance of the tribe which live on Rock river, and do not yet seem disposed to bury the tomahauk."
Monroe county is believed to be the only county in this State whose boundaries exist today, as originally marked out by the Legislature of Illinois Territory, and it is with special pleasure we find the Intelligencer giving us this bit of local news, which we may very well call historic.
"A number of citizens met at Harrisonville on the first day of June, 1816, being the day fixed by territorial law for the county to assume its name. The meeting took place at McClure's tavern where an elegant repast was partaken of, after which toasts were drank, each accompanied with a discharge of cannon. One toast was "'The Illinois Territory,' may its fertile soil never want cultivation so long as liberty pervades the Western Hemisphere." Three cheers.
'The Mississippi,' may its majestic stream continue to waft the produce of the west, and its steam navigation increase so as to furnish a sufficient supply for the western country." Seven cheers, (and the cannon of -ourse.)
In the issue of June 19, Michael Jones, register of the land office at Kaskaskia, publishes an official advertisement of great interest to the settlers and pre-emptors, which now appears like ancient history, but which was then of the highest importance, and must have been read and studied with the greatest care. We are told in history that the subsequent prosperity of the whole west depended in a great measure on the impetus given by the government's policy towards settlers as inaugurated at this period.
The same number contains a detailed statement from the Hon. B. Stephenson, delegate in Congress, carefully written, explaining to his constituents what had been accomplished by the last session of Congress in the direction of territorial legislation. Much of this has been given in a previous extract published in this article He mentions his success in procuring speedy payment to the 700 to 800 territorial rangers, mainly from Illinois and Indiana, who had rallied to the defense of the frontier in the Indian troubles of 1812. Four companies of these were known as "Governor Edwards' Rangers," and as these were Illinoisans, it will be seen that the payment of their claims must have been an event of the deepest interest. He also procured the land for Mrs. Ann Gilliam, in compensation for her sufferings from the Indians, and states he could no doubt have procured more, (probably relief in more cases) had the proofs been properly prepared.
As Mrs. Gilham's case is now historic, we can only lament that proper proofs were not prepared for other sufferers. Mr. Stephenson's report covers nearly a whole page, and I regret that this important document cannot be reproduced here in full.
The editors apologize for not giving news on account of the length of Mr. Stephenson's article and the great number of advertisements which had been sent for insertion.
The editor meant by "news," mostly reprints from the eastern and foreign journals of events which had occurred from a month to three months previous. Some of the most important transactions in European modern history were thus given to the western world.
The Journal takes a few lines to tell us that Col. Pierre Menard is a candidate for the Legislative Court (Council) from Randolph county, and Dr. George Fisher for the House of Representatives from the same county, and gives them both a few words of commendation.
Before this date we have been favored with notices of the proposed sale of town lots at the town of Carmi, White county, and we are now told that there will be a sale at the town of Brownville. The town site is not located, but as the "plan of the town may be seen at the Saline on Big Muddy river," it is likely the site was in that vicinity. Deeds were to be executed by Conrad Will, and Susanna, his wife.
Another negro tried the hospitalities of Illinois by crossing at Smelser's Ferry, from St. Charles county, Missouri. His name is given as Rendal, and $25 reward is offered for his recovery or for placing him in jail. This poor fellow would appear to have a slim chance for escape, provided the public were readers of this Kaskaskia Journal, but as probably the public saw very few copies, he ran much less risk than we might suppose. He is described as being "knock kneed, turns his toes out; crippled in his right hand" and "stutters in talking," and has "two or three fingers growing to the inside of his hand." His "shirt and overalls of deer skin" were very likely not much of a distinction for those days, but a glance at the inside of his hands and the nerve to capture him, would easily have been worth $25.
Important Indian news is given June 25th, where we are told that Brigadier General Smith, "with about 1,000 regular troops ascended to Rook river a few weeks ago to erect a Fort; he chose a position on Rock Island, the most commanding spot in that quarter, and immediately commenced building. The Indian chiefs pressed him to desist declaring that they could not be held responsible for the conduct of their warriors, who disapprobated building a fort in their neighborhood. The general treated them very civilly but went on with his work, and no doubt by this time has a fortress of great strength completed. Three hundred of the Rifle Regiment have sailed from Belle Fountaine to join him."2
On July 9th, we are told more European news than hitherto, we have account of a steamboat explosion at Wheeling, Va.; appeals to voters, as the August election is near; but we look in vain for any further news of the 300 neighbors who have gone to fight Indians.
Bellefontaine was at that period the government Western headquarters for military rifles, about ten miles above the St. Louis of 1816.
July 24th, we are told that "the voters of the District of Maine voted on the question of separation from the State of Massachusetts, and setting up as a state and that the vote was 17,075 in favor, and 10,548 against." Also, "that the Federal candidate for governor of the state of New Hampshire was defeated by 2,344 votes." Also. "that the people of the Territory of Indiana in convention, assembled, adjourned, after determining to go into the Union as an independent state, and that on motion they decided to name the new state Indiana, by a vote of 34 to 6."
We obtain a glimpse of the troubles of the free negro by an advertisement signed Josiah Millard of St. Genevieve, Mo., just across the river from Prairie Da Rocher, who has taken up a negro supposed to have ran away from his master. "He came there in a boat, and passes himself as a free man.". His clothes were good enough to belong to a free man, as "he has with him a pair of velvet or corded pantaloons, a pair of buckskin do, a pair of linsey do, faced with deer skin, a black casimere roundabout, a striped cotton vest, buckskin hunting shirt, and white hat." Lot us fervently hope that Tom, as he called himself, was allowed the benefit of all doubts and suffered to go free, but we fear the poor fellow fellow, without funds was sold to pay charges and forced into slavery.
But this same issue contains an offer of the large reward of $300 for the apprehension of a Tennessee negro, who has a forged pass with permission to hire himself, and it is thought likely he is in Illinois or some adjacent territory.
The same advertisement offers $50 for the return of -a Kentucky negro, and we are inclined to believe that these territories offered rather more attractions to negroes than did the territories to the southward.
July 31st furnishes the same tedious advertisements, tells the same negro stories, but flashes a new light by stating that Benjamin Munn has 150 barrels of Kanhawa salt for sale, while Thomas Cox advertises at Kaskaskia, a tavern on the bank of the river, where he intends keeping the best viands the country affords, not forgetting to state that he is ,well supplied with the best liquors."
There is still no news of the volunteers, but we are given nearly a whole page of reprinted reading matter. This looks as if the editor was off on business or political trip, and had left the printer in charge. He, or whoever it may have been, gives an article on "British Arrogance,'' an "Anecdote of the United States Navy," and a long article on a "Matrimonial Lottery," with other reprinted articles. There is an article of down river news, however, as we are told of the 7th of July, "the water has entirely receded from New Orleans and that the damage will be trifling to what was expected and that never in the recollection of the most aged person, has the Mississippi been known to fall so soon."
Peter Bean, in an advertisement, shows a glimpse of old laws, by giving notice from the jail in Johnson county that "he has petitioned to take the benefit of the insolvent act, and hopes to be liberated from imprisonment."
The year 1816 is known in history as the year of the cold summer, when the corn crop failed throughout the country. It would be of great interest to be told something of the weather in the Mississippi valley, but the nearest approach is news from the east, in the issue of August 27th as follows:
"Extraordinary Weather-At Watertown, Jefferson county, New York, on June 7th, the cold was so severe as to produce ice 3/8 of an inch thick, and the thermometer was down to 30 degrees. At Hallowell, Me., June 12th an account states that snow fell three days in succession and the earth was frozen half an inch deep. Many birds were so benumbed as to be taken by hand and numbers had actually perished with the cold." Oh, for an item telling us how the corn crop was in the American bottom!
For the first time we have a notice of preaching, "to take place Tuesday, the 13th, at the court house by Rev. M. E. Walker, who will attend to baptizing children." (This was Rev. Jesse Walker, the pioneer Methodist.)
By accident, it almost seems, a matter of local interest appears in the United States laws published on August 21st, when an act for the relief of the late P. Maxwell and Hugh H. Maxwell, of Kaskaskia, was published along with other laws. Hugh Maxwell was the original of the famous Maxwell land grant of the west, which has caused so much litigation in the last half century.
A writing on the margin of this number says "Robert Blackwell, his file," and leads us to believe that we are indebted to the printer Blackwell, for the preservation of this, the oldest Illinois newspaper file known to be extant.
An address to the voters of Illinois signed "Aristides," begins to give a slight view of political writing such as would naturally be looked for in this file of early newspapers. Among other statements he says "The colonial and degraded states of this country under the government of the Ordinance, that accursed badge of despotism, which withholds from the people, the only true source of all power, a paticipation in those rights, guaranteed by the constitution of every state in the Union, seems to have the effect of chilling every spark of political disquisition, and to have sunk man beneath the dignity of his nature, a poor fallen creature from that proud station, the destiny of freemen."
"The present rapid influx of population; the growing and prosperous state of the country, justifies the belief that it will not be more than three or four years before we will burst the chains of despotism, by which we are now bound, and stand a sovereign and independent State.
"It therefore becomes necessary that the public mind should be prepared for the event. It is high time to begin to think and talk about the form of State government that so soon must take place."
Matthew Saucier publishes an affidavit showing that "while hunting with his nephew, Baptist Beaurbien, his nephew observed a box lying in the water on the Marais Sassafrax, through which passes Prairie Du Puert creek, which when examined, proved to be iron moulds for casting money, and further, that he found the cover to the box about 80 yards from the main road, and from thence to the yard gate of Mr. Foster's dwelling place it was about 40 yards and further the deponent sayeth not."
Nothing more is stated, the publishers being content to publish the advertisement, and to leave the reader to guess what became of the box of moulds and whether any counterfeiting was heard of in the neighborhood of Prairie Du Pont. A young man advertises for a situation in a dry goods store, but there is no notice or advertisement or other intimation that Kaskaskia or any other town in Illinois possessed a dry goods store in 1816,
No marriages or deaths have yet been noticed, but on August 28th we find Margaret Lord gives notice that she wishes a divorce from her husband, James Lord, who has left her bed and board.
Education begins to be noticed, as Benjamin Sturgess, gives notice "that he has opened a school at Prairie Du Rocher, where he will teach the usual branches of English Education, viz: Writing, Reading and Common Arithmetic, also English Grammer, Geography, Surveying, Astronomy, Latin and Greek languages. He thinks Prairie Du Rocher is as healthy as any place in the American Bottom," which may have been understood at the time as not a very improbable statement. He declares that "good board can be obtained at moderate terms and so forth."
October 2d, "A Foe to Religious Tyrany" publishes No. 3, of his arguments against tyranny. His trouble appears to be mainly, that the Rev. Jesse Walker, of historic fame, brings politics into his pulpit. The article is quite spicy, and seems to portend further controversy.
A list of letters-remaining in the postoffice at St. Genevieve, Mo., is published on Oct. 23d, and seems to show that over fifty letters were detained. Does this indicate that the addressees were not willing to pay postage, wich was enormously high?
"Justitia" replies at length to the "Foe to Religious Tyrany," and in a temperate manner, denies that there is among the Methodist preachers. any such combination as has been intimated for the purpose of influencing the last election.
The Intelligencer of Nov. 20, 1816, tells us that "Col. John Edgar has received from the President of the United States his commission as Brigadier General of the Militia of this territory, which appointment he has accepted."
Here is almost the only one item of Kaskaskia local news which has been discovered in this file and no doubt this was not published on that account, but because it was of Territorial interest.
The Intelligencer also mentions that a "boat crossing the river opposite St. Louis carrying eight persons was upset by a high wind, and five persons in the boat perished, among the number, Major Starks, formerly of the United States Army."
Cook & Blackwell give notice they will publish a copy of the Militia laws of the Territory, provided 120 subscribers can be procured.
On November 27th, a long editorial, the longest yet seen on Education, winds up as follows:
"And we do fondly trust that the sons of Kaskaskia, a place, which must at some day be a towering city, (instead of towering, it is now a deep hole in the bottom of the Mississippi) will no longer be compelled to spend their days from morn till eve in idleness and debauchery."
A new store in Edwardsville, and a new store in St. Louis appeal !or business, and a sale of 100 Morino sheep are advertised in this Issue.
December 4th, a whole page of post routes just authorized meets our eye, and Illinois Territory has but one of these routes from "Shawneetown by White Court house and Edwards Court house to Vincennes, Indiana."
On Monday, December 2d., the Territorial Legislature met at Kaskaskia, and this issue briefly tells us that a quorum of each house was present, and on December 3d, Col. Pierre Menard was chosen as President of the Council, and Dr. George Fisher, Speaker of the House.
The Council then elected Joseph Conray, secretary thereof, and the House of Representatives elected Daniel P. Cook, clerk thereof. Robert K. McLaughlin was elected engrossing and enrolling clerk, and Major Ezra Owen, doorkeeper.
"December 18th, the flock of 100 Merino sheep is put up at a lottery, at Goshen, Ill., tickets on sale at this office, and at several stores in St. Louis,"
Want of time has prevented further extracts, but perhaps this article is already too long. Should it be deemed of public interest, further quotations may be published in future volumes.
1 This supposed lead mine was thought to be in the neighborhood of Peoria. which was at one time called Pimantoui, by the French. The Renault Grant at or near Peoria, to one of ,our historic puzzles.
2 The Rifle Regiment referred to above, must have been one of the Territorial militia regiments of the times.
Quite possibly a record of this volunteer expedition to Rock Island may be found in our State archives, but I have not been able to learn anything more than the above statement. Not another reference to this expedition can be found in the files of the Intelliffencer. which I consider remarkable.
I recently wrote to the Secretary of War at Washington, and received a reply that it was contrary to the policy of the War Department to furnish Information from Its files. Who emu give a further account of this expedition-J. H. B.