History of Potosi, Illinois

Potosi can hardly he called a village, though it has long been a center for the citizens to collect, get their tri-weekly mail, and trade. When the post office was established,. it was, for a time, kept by citizens at their houses. Some thirteen years ago, Dr. H. W. Green, a recently-diploma physician, came here, looking for a place to practice, and soon after, started a drug store, which grew into his present large general trade in merchandise. The post office was removed to his store. Dr. Green, in addition to his extensive medical practice and his general merchandise, takes a lively interest in the religious affairs of the surrounding country. He is an ordained Elder of the Christian denomination, and preaches almost every Sunday in some locality within a few miles’ ride of his home. In his daily life and labors, he fully exemplifies the great amount of labor and usefulness an educated and earnest man can accomplish even while attending faithfully to his own secular affairs. J. E. Whitney carries on a blacksmith-shop. and A. D. Taylor a shoe-shop, at Potosi.

One of the most exciting occasions in the history of Potosi, was the speck of war over the ” butternut pole ” which was raised by the Democrats on the occasion of a political rally during the campaign of 1868. Owing to the color of the Confederate army uniform, which was brown, of a butternut shade, the butternut bad come to he accepted by the soldiers of the Union army as a symbol of “secesh” doctrines.

Some person, either out of pure “cussedness,” or for some unknown reason, put a few butternuts on the pole. This was thought, by some returned soldiers, to be a taunt, and was taken in dead earnest, as tending to spread treasonable sentiments, and they declared it should come down. The party who raised the pole, declared they would defend it even unto death. The excitement spread, and there was talk, on both sides, of “enlisting for the war” to bring down or to sustain that pole. Arms were collected and stored in convenient places. Men became as thoroughly in earnest as they ever were on the fields of Dixie. The one side declared that no butternuts should ever be permitted to wave (or shake) over the four corners at Potosi, and the other just as energetically affirming that that pole should not come down while they lived to defend it.

At this juncture, some of the Republicans thought of the company of “Tanners,” organized and officered to help carry on the Grant campaign, and went to get their assistance. As Capt. McDowell and his company of Tanners had never been sworn into the State service, he did not feel like volunteering to put down rebellion or butternuts at Potosi without an invitation from the Governor. He consulted Maj. Osman, who was in command of a Democratic Company, and the two agreed to lay the matter before the Governor and be guided by his order. They therefore sent a message to Gov. Oglesby, laying the matter before him, and asking advice or orders; Capt. McDowell, for the Republicans, and Maj. Osman, for the Democrats. agreeing that his orders should he complied with. The Governor was absent from Springfield, and it was not until a day after that he sent his reply, which was to the effect that the Republicans should go home and thus save the majesty of the law, and the Democrats should take down, and thus save, their butternuts. The order was obeyed, and the butternuts were taken down and turned over to Capt. McDowell and Maj. Osman, who expressed them to the Governor, who kept them safely in the archives of State.

Thus ended what bid fair to be at one time a serious riot.


Le Baron, William., Jr. & Co. The History of McLean County, Illinois: portraits of early settlers and prominent men. Chicago. W. Le Baron, Jr., 1879.

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