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1912 A History of Southern Illinois


In 1817 the territorial legislature passed an act creating the county of Bond. Its boundary was as follows: "Beginning at the southwest corner of township number three north of range four west: thence east to the southwest corner of township number three north of range number one east, to the third principal meridian line; thence north to the boundary line of the territory; thence west with said boundary line so far that a south line will pass between ranges four and five west: thence south with said line to the beginning.” The territory so bounded should constitute the county of "Bond." This county as laid off above included all or parts of Bond, Montgomery, Sangamon, Logan, Tazewell, Woodford, Marshall, Putnam, Bureau, Lee, Ogle, Winnebago, and Stephenson as they are on the map today.

The county contains 388 square miles, and has a population of 17,075, a gain of 997 since 1900. The earliest settlers are said to have come to the county as early as 1807.


It is certain there were settlers in the limits of the county as it is today as early as 1811. When trouble with the Indians began in 1811, Governor Edwards advised the building of family or neighborhood forts. Governor Reynolds says that north of Bond county the country was infested with hostile Indians. Two forts were built in Bond county. One called Hill's fort was built eight miles southwest of Greenville on the farm now owned by John O'Byrne. The fort covered an acre of ground. A mile and a half south of Hill's fort was Jones' fort. It was built in the summer of 1811. The two forts were constructed of palisade walls with block houses, bastions, and cabins within. Portholes were made and the whole presented a formidable appearance. These two forts were spacious enough to accommodate all the settlers and their stock. It is said there was not a piece of iron in the form of nail or spike in either fort. The forts stood on the east side of Shoal creek about where the Vandalia line crosses that creek. The old settlers used to tell how the Indians would come from the north and hunt and fish in the vicinity of these forts.


The Cox massacre is a well attested fact in Bond county history. Probably as early as 1809 or 1810 a family by the name of Cox moved from about Alton and settled near the present village of Pocahontas across Shoal creek from the two forts. In 1811 the family was building a horse mill. On June 2nd, some Pottawatomies came to the Cox home finding only a brother and sister at home. It was reported the family had money. The Indians killed the brother in cold blood, taking his heart out and placing it on his head. This was done in the presence of the sister. She was then told to get the money. She gave them only a part of the money. She was then placed on a horse and on other stolen horses the party started north. Rebecca Cox was a sensible young woman. She tore her apron in strips and dropped the strips along the trail. When the family returned Hill's fort was alarmed and Capt. James Pruitt and some settlers started in pursuit. The Indians were overtaken north of where Springfield is now. The young woman was recaptured with a dangerous tomahawk wound in her hip. Rebecca Cox recovered, married, moved to Arkansas where her husband was massacred by Indians. Three miles north of Pocahontas stands a monument erected by the community to commemorate the death of young Cox.

In 1811 when the tension was high in Bond county for fear of outbreaks and secret murders, a band of Indians approached Hill's fort and quietly removing the mud daubing from between the logs in the chimney of the fireplace inserted a gun and shot a man sitting before the fire.


In the original survey of the lands in the Northwest territory all "salt licks, salt springs and mill sites" were marked by order of the congress. On Shoal creek which flows south through the west side of Bond county signs of salt were discovered and marked on the maps. It is not known how early the manufacture of salt began there but the record at Washington shows that Judge Wm. Biggs was a lessee. A letter from the Rev. Thomas W. Hynes of Greenville to the author dated January 19, 1804, contains the following: "I have known of the salt well or lick, as it is popularly known, ever since I came to the county now nearly sixty years ago. It is near the south side of the N. W. qr. of the N. E. qr. of Section 32, T. 6, N., R. 4 W. (the old works were three miles north of Pocahontas). The first well was so near the channel of Shoal creek that it was under water every considerable rise of the creek. This so hindered the work that the pioneers dug a well near by, on high ground and used that instead. It was curbed with wood and they used the common well buckets to draw the water. There was a row of large iron kettles (some say as many as ninety) placed so the largest one holding 100 gallons was near the well so the salt water could be emptied into it from the well. The size of the kettles decreased down the row toward the chimney. Wood fires were used. As the water was boiled it was poured from the larger to the smaller kettles and as the brine moved away from the well it became thicker and thicker until it was almost dry salt when it was removed from the kettles. The salt was then sacked and marketed much of it being carried away on pack horses. It sold for several dollars per bushel. Several of the old iron kettles are still in use in this county among the farmers.”

In addition to Judge Biggs, one Montgomery, Spencer, John Lee, James Coyle and others had charge of the works from time to time. John Coyle came to the county in 1817 and settled near the salt works. His son Jeremiah Coyle was born there April 4, 1822, and was still living in 1904. The tract of land, 80 acres, on which the salt works were situated was owned in 1904 by Mr. Hartman Gruner.

In 1816 there were said to have been not over twenty-five log cabins in the county, and these were grouped in a few neighborhoods. George Davidson is said to have built the first house in Greenville. It was a log cabin with puncheon floor, clapboard roof, with neither nails nor glass. When the county was organized the county seat was fixed at Perryville but was moved to Greencastle about 1822. The court house in Greenville was a wooden building two stories high. It was a frame building and was unfinished in 1836.

In the Missouri Intelligencer and in the Illinois Advertiser of September 27, 1817, appears the law card of John Taylor and James H. Peck. They propose to practice law in Missouri: "Mr. Taylor will attend to business in the counties of Bond, Madison, St. Clair, and Harrison in Illinois Territory."


In 1818 congress passed the Enabling act by which Illinois was to come into the union, and the convention which framed the constitution was held in Kaskaskia in August, 1818. To that convention Bond county sent two delegates, Thomas Kilpatrick and Samuel G. Morse. These men took an active part in the work of the convention. In the campaign for and against a convention in 1823 and 1824, Bond county was an open battlefield. It was so close to the home of Rev. J. M. Peck that we may be sure the sentiment of the people was largely influenced by that great champion of human freedom. When the vote was taken the vote stood, for slavery 63; for freedom 240 - four to one for freedom. The population of Bond county in 1820 was 2,931. Probably one-third of this number lived in the territory made into Montgomery county in 1821. In that case the vote in Bond in 1824 was a very full vote.

Bond county was on the line of the underground railroad. There were three crossing places of the Mississippi - one at Chester, one at Alton, and one at Quincy. Those runaways who crossed at Chester moved northward passing through Washington, Clinton, and Bond to Vandalia. They received much help in Bond county. The Rev. Robt. W. Patterson in an address before the Chicago Historical Society, in 1880, said the people of Bond county were greatly stirred over the slavery question before William Lloyd Garrison was heard of.

The prominent names in Bond county in the forties were the Waits, Blanchards, Drs. Perrine and Foster, Newhall, Russell, Donnels, Hugh McReynolds, Laughlins, Stewarts, McCords, Dixons, Davises and Douglasses. But no name is more vitally connected with Bond county than that of the Rev. John M. Peck. Mr. Peck's home was in St. Clair, but he knew no territorial limits to bound his usefulness in the New West.


The earliest record of any school beyond the subscription schools is the establishing of a school known as Amity Academy situated at Pocahontas. It was running in 1854. But was soon discontinued and its work was taken up by an academy founded at Greenville in 1855 for young ladies only. In 1857 this school was chartered as Almira College and was under the general control of the Baptists. The Hon. James P. Slade was president of the college during a portion of the time prior to 1892 when it was sold to the Free Methodists and incorporated as Greenville College. Under the new management the school has been quite prosperous. Eldon G. Burritt, A. M., is president.

The public schools of Greenville were organized by Prof. Samuel M. Inglis who had from 1865 to 1868 conducted an academy in Hillsboro. Prof. Inglis remained at the head of the schools of Greenville from 1869 to 1883 when he was elected to a professorship in the State Normal at Carbondale.

The present county superintendent of schools is H. A. Meyer. The superintendent of the city schools of Greenville is S. S. Simpson.


Bond county has 1,958 farms, an increase in ten years of 50 farms; 962 of these farms contain over 100 acres, and eight of them over 1,000 acres. Eighty-nine and nine-tenths of the area of the county is in farm lands.

According to the "Directory" of Illinois and Missouri published in 1854-5, there was not a bank in Bond county but in the Bankers' report for 1911, the county is reported as having six banks, as follows:

Bradford National Bank, Greenville.
State Bank of Hoiles & Son, Greenville.
First National Bank, Mulberry Grove.
Bond County Bank, Pocahontas.
Bank of Sorento, Sorento.
Bank of Smithboro, Smithboro.

The county's resources are chiefly agricultural, only two coal mines were in operation as reported in the 1911 report.

Extracted 10 Apr 2017 by Norma Hass from A History of Southern Illinois, published 1912, Volume 1, pages 432-435.

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