1870 County

In January, 1825, Knox County was laid off by the Legislature in a general distribution of counties on the military tract, and named Knox in honor of General Knox, of Revolutionary fame.
The first conveyance of land within its limits was the south-west quarter of Section 27, now Walnut Grove Township, and now owned by H. D. Shear. It was sold January 22, 1818, and recorded at Edwardsville, Madison County, May 9th, 1818. Price $100.
The first white settler in Knox County was Daniel Robertson, who settled in Henderson Grove in April, 1828, where he still resides. Immediately after followed Riggs Pennington, Stephen Osborn, Robert and Eaton Nance, Rev. Jacob Gum, John B., James and Zephaniah Gum, Benjamin Coy, Alexander Frakes, Robert Greenwell, Thomas Sheldon, and Nicholas Voil, with their families, and Jesse D. Gum, M. D. Coy, Andrew Osborn, Thomas McKee, Alexander Osborn, and James Reynolds, who were single men. The first birth in the county was John Gum, son of Zephaniah and Jane Gum, January, 1829. The first marriage ceremony was F. T. Hash to Miss Elizabeth Razor, and Alexander Osborn to Miss Nancy Hendricks. Their licenses was [sic] procured from Lewiston, Fulton Co., and they were united by Philip Hash, a Justice of the Peace. The first death in the County was that of a young man named Philip Nance, who died January 9, 1829, and was buried on Section 16, in Henderson Township. The lumber of an old wagon box was used in the construction of a coffin. Through the efforts of Major Thomas McKee, of Galesburg, who was present at his death and funeral, a tomb-stone was erected at the head of his grave in 1861 with the necessary inscription thereon. The first Court held in the county was in October, 1830, by Judge Strodes, at John Gum's house, 1 and 1/2 miles from Henderson. The first mill in the county was built by Barrett, on Spoon River, near Maquon, in 1834. This mill is now known as Barrett, or Spoon River Mill.
A commission was appointed by the Governor, consisting of Riggs Pennington, Philip Hash, and Charles Hansford, to organize Knox County. Their first meeting was July 7th, 1830, at the house of John B. Gum, 1 and 1/2 from the present town of Henderson. John B. Gum was appointed clerk, but, resigning in a few days, was succeeded by John G. Sanborn, who, it is said, carried the offices of the county for many years in his pockets, and the post-office in his hat. On the first day after their organization they passed the following ordinance, which shows how time has changed the value of the commodities mentioned: -

ORDERED, That the Clerk issue a license for retailing spirituous liquors for the term of one year from the date thereof to Samuel S. White in said county, on his paying into the treasury the sum of two dollars, and to the Clerk, his fee for issuing license. And that the following tavern-rates be established for the regulation of the said Samuel S. White; viz: -

Half pint wisky 12 1/2 cents
Half pint brandy 18 3/4 cents
Half pint wine 25 cents
Meal victuals 25 cents
Lodging one person one night 12 1/2 cents
Feed of corn or oats, one horse 12 1/2 cents
Feed and stabling one horse over night 25 cents

The first election was held August 7, 1830, for Justice of the Peace and Constable. The commissioners notified the Postmaster General that "Knox County is now organize and the Seat of Justice is at the house of John B. Gum, and for him to supply the same with a mail as soon as possible."
They selected the southwest 28, 11 north, 2 east, as the permanent seat of government of the count, and passed a resolution to the effect that a suitable person be selected to proceed to Springfield, Ill., and pre-empt the same. Rees Jones offered to go for $8, which was the lowest bid, and on his giving bonds for the faithful performance of the duties required of him, was given the contract. They also contracted with Parnach Owens for laying out the town to be the County Seat, which they called Henderson, but by an act of the Legislature, in 1833, it was changed to Knoxville. Mr. Owens was to lay the town off in lots of 1/4 acre each, and was to receive as his compensation for same the sum of 12 and 1/2 cents for each lot so laid off and staked, and was to take his pay in lots.
The first sale of lots was April 23rd, 1831, at public auction; 79 lots were sold, ranging from $2 to $61, and averaging $15.90 apiece. On the 7th of November, 1836, the value of property had so risen that the lot on which the jail now stands and extending south to the corner, with one-eight reserved for county purposes, was sold for $3,911. John Eads, Esq., gave $2,500 for the lot on which his store now stands. The first court house was built in the winter of 1830-31, by William Lewis, Parnach Owens and Andrew Osborn, contractors. It was two stories high, 20x28, built of hewn logs, and cost, complete, $197. The present court-house was built in 1838.
The Rev. Geo. W. Gale, D. D., of Whitesboro, Oneida Co., N. Y., conceived the plan of establishing in the Mississippi Valley literary institutions by subscriptions among his friends. His plan, in its main features, was to secure by subscription money enough to purchase in some desirable location in the Western States, government land to the amount of one township, or thirty-six square miles. Out of this land, when purchases, enough was to be reserved for the site of a village, and also of the college which was to be organized. The remainder of the land was to be divided into farms of convenient size, and appraised at an average value of $5 per acre, which would be just four times the amount paid for it. At this increased valuation, the subscribers were to be allowed to take farming lands to the amount of their subscription. The remainder was to be donated to the college. The village property was also to be divided into suitable building lots, and sold only to actual settlers. The money thus obtained was to be appropriated to an Academy and a Young Ladies Seminary, so far as needed, and the remainder to the college. In the early part of the year 1835, Mr. Gale had secured by subscription some $21,000. A meeting of the subscribers was held May 6th, 1835, at Rome, N. Y. Geo. W. Gale was appointed general agent, and Nehemiah West, Thomas Gilbert, and Timothy B. Jervis an exploring committee. The committee were nearly three months exploring parts of Indiana and Illinois. Considerable difficulty was experienced in finding thirty-six sections in a body, of the quality they desired at government rates, and they afterwards were authorized to take less. Orange township, in Knox County, was first selected by one of the committee, but afterwards changed to Galesburg Township.
At a meeting at Whitesboro, N. Y., August 19, 1835, a purchasing committee were appointed, consisting of G. W. Gale, H. H. Kellogg, and Sylvanus Ferris. Messrs. Gale, Ferris, and West left for the military tract in Illinois, Sept. 16, 1835. Mr. Gale, on arriving at Detroit, was too ill to proceed farther. The others of the committee left for Knoxville, Ill., Sept. 29, 1835. They immediately expended their funds in purchasing 10,336 and 81-100 acres of most beautiful and fertile prairie land, not dotted by any human habitation, and which cost, at government rates, $12,921.01, and two improved farms of 250 acres, and 160 acres of timber land, at a total cost of $14,821.01. In the early part of Nov., 1835, they left for their homes. A meeting of the thirty-four subscribers was held January 7th, at Whitesboro, N. Y. The action of their committee was endorsed. Prairie College, now Knox College, was founded."

Contributed by Bob Miller, from the 1870 Atlas Map of Knox County, Illinois, Andreas, Lyter & Co., Davenport, Iowa

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