Coles County Illinois Homestead

Biographical Sketches, Coles County, Illinois

The present territory of Coles county was formerly a part of the State of Virginia, and ceded by her to the United States in 1784, and was called the Northwest Territory. In 1778, Virginia organized what is now Illinois into one county, which, some years later, received the name of St. Clair, from the then Governor of the Northwest Territory. In 1809, Illinois was organized into a separate Territory, and was composed at the time of two counties — St. Clair and Randolph. After this, Madison was set off from St. Clair, and Crawford was afterward set off from Madison. When Illinois was received into the sisterhood of States, in 1818, there were but fifteen counties, of which Crawford was one. This county was named for Hon. William H. Crawford, who was reputed an honest man, and a safe custodian of public money; for under the administration of Madison and Monroe he was Secretary of the Treasury, and also a candidate for the Presidency in the Adams and Jackson campaign of 1824. During the year 1819, Clark County was set off from Crawford. It then embraced a large extent of territory running up the valley of the Wabash, and far beyond, even to the Canada line, or British possessions. Clark County was named in honor of Gen. George Rogers Clarke, a native of Virginia, and a pioneer warrior of considerable celebrity. In 1779, more than a quarter of a century before the organization of Illinois into a separate Territory, he organized an army in Virginia, and marched it across the Alleghany Mountains to the Ohio River. A few years later, the world rung with the mighty achievement of Napoleon crossing the Alps with a great army, but to our mind, the deed no more than equaled that of Clarke in crossing the Alleghanies and traversing a wilderness with his little band of soldiers, beset and harassed by hostile savages. He had never seen a steamboat nor heard of a railway-train, but he understood war and the transportation of an army. He built rafts, and on them shipped his soldiers down the Ohio to the spot where Shawneetown now stands, and then by forced marches through swamps and marshes filled with water, often knee-deep to his men, he moved them across the country to Kaskaskia and captured that important post from the British.

Coles County was set off from Clark in 1830. It then embraced in its territory what is now Cumberland and Douglas Counties. Upon its organization, it was christened Coles, in honor of Edward Coles, the second Governor of the State, and elected to that position in 1822. Coles County, at the time of its organization, was some twenty-eight miles east and west, and about fifty miles north and south, but at that time, as already noted, it included Douglas and Cumberland Counties. At present, it is bounded on the north by Douglas County, on the west by Shelby and Moultrie Counties, on the south by Cumberland, and on the east by Clark and Edgar Counties. It embraces twenty-four sections of Township eleven north, and all of Townships 12 and 13, and eighteen sections of Township 14 north, in Ranges 7, 8, 0, 10 and 11 east, and a part of Range 14 west. Range 11 east in this county is fractional, being only three-fourths of a mile wide. In the southeast part of the county there is a “jog ” in the east line of three sec-tions wide east and west, in Range 14 west, and seven sections long north and and south, in Townships 11 and 12 north. When Coles County was set off from Clark, the latter was unwilling to give up that portion of its territory and inhabitants to a new county. The reason of this is found in the fact that it embraced the best portion of that county, and a settlement of energetic and intelligent people. In the north line of the county, there is also a “jog” of two miles north, in Ranges 11 east and 14 west. This was made to retain the village of Oakland in this county, when Douglas County was created. That village was then regarded as having great room for outgrowth and development. This county was unwilling to give up that portion of its territory, and the people of that village were unwilling to be given over to a new county organization. Coles County is situated in latitude 40 north and in longitude 11 west from Washington, and embraces about five hundred square miles. Its general surface is undulating; not so level as to be regarded flat, nor so broken as to be considered mountainous or even hilly. It forms a beautiful plateau or table-land, and is about eight hundred feet above the level of the Gulf of Mexico. It is largely prairie, and constitutes a part of what is known as the Grand Prairie. This prairie is perhaps as large in extent, as rich in soil and as magnificent, originally, in nature’s waving fields as any in the Mississippi Valley.

The following 484 biographical sketches reference many of the residents of Coles County at the turn of the 20th century. Containing biographical details they often can point the researcher to genealogical data of their birth location and parents as well as their children. Biographies are also one of the prime research materials for bringing a family history “alive” as they often provide details that go beyond just facts.

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Coles County IL,

Chapman Brothers Portrait and biographical album of Coles County, Illinois Chicago: Chapman Brothers, 1887.

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