Saturday, March 10, 2007



Richard E. Hart

The first settlement in Illinois by American population was made in the southern part of the State by immigrants, almost exclusively from the slave states, and extended gradually north to the middle of the State.[1]

In 1818, the future site of Springfield was at the center of a vast Central Illinois prairie whose expanse was broken only by rivers and streams and an occasional island of trees. An occasional scouting party may have passed through the area in the past, but other than that, few whites had disturbed the Native American Kickapoo’s hunting and gathering grounds. This was all about to be changed by an invasion of two main streams of population. The first stream was nomadic, young — mostly in their mid-twenties — first or second generation, upland white Southerners from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas — and a later second stream was from New York and New England.

The first stream of Southerners had little need and no desire for a settled or socially structured society. They moved easily and often, being almost generationally nomadic. They were independent, adventurous, risk taking and self-confident. These earliest Springfield settlers brought little with them other than the customs and practices of their prior Southern life, which in a few instances included the ownership or possession of African-American slaves. Consequently, from Springfield’s beginning, African-Americans - free, slave and indentured - were a part of the community’s life.

The upland Southern culture transplanted well to early Springfield and established the village’s early vision and treatment of its African-American residents. The first whites moving from Southern slave states north and west into the central Illinois frontier adapted to the “voluntary servitude system”, the Illinois equivalent of slavery. Examination of these earliest white Springfield residents is helpful in understanding the village’s early culture and mores, particularly those relating to its African-American residents.

Of especial interest are the settlements above the line of survey, for these illustrate the way in which the frontier population pushed out and squatted on land which was not yet in the market and which in some cases had not yet been cleared of the Indian title. The census schedules indicated that about seventy families were living in this region in the early summer of 1818, but the number was probably doubled before the end of the year. As usual on the extreme frontier, the settlers were to be found principally along the rivers and creeks.[2]

Illinois In 1818 Showing Population Density, Indians And Roads

Dodds, Joseph, born May 28, 1785, in Abbeville District, South Carolina. He was taken by his mother to Caldwell county, Ky., in 1797 or '8. He was there married, May 3, 1810, to Mattie Drennan. They had three children in Kentucky, and in Oct. 1817, he accompanied his father-in-law, William Drennan, to Illinois. In November they stopped on Wood river, in Madison county, two miles north of Alton, and remained there until the next March, when the men and boys connected with four families started for Sugar creek, Sangamon county, piloted by William Moore, an Indian Ranger. They reached their destination on the first of March, 1818, stopping in what is now Ball township, northwest of Sugar creek. There had not been any survey made, but the sopt selected by Mr. Dodds, and on which he built his cabin, is now section twenty-nine, town fourteen, range five west, and that of William Drennan is section thirty-two, same town and range. Mr. Dodds had been too busy with his crop to build anything better than a double rail pen for the protection of his family.[3]

William Drennan’s
Settlement Site
Joseph Dodds’
Settlement Site
Robert Pulliam’s Cabin

Map of Sections 29 and 32, Ball TownshipSite of Joseph Dodds and William Drennan’s Setlement in 1818

To protect the frontier, Congress in 1811 authorized the organization of ten companies of Rangers, a regiment commanded by Col. William Russell, Samuel Whiteside, William B. Whiteside, James B. Moore and Jacob Short commanded the four companies charged with protecting Illinois. These Rangers, residents of Illinois, furnished their own equipment and horses. They ranged between settlements, spotting danger and mounting spoiling attacks. They kept Indians off balance, hit hostilities before they struck, and pursued those who had attacked. Raised locally, Rangers realized they protected loved ones from destruction. Also, remuneration of one dollar per day was not inconsiderable.[4]

Sugar Creek is composed of two principal sections: the upper creek, from its source to its junction with Lick Creek, and the lower creek, from that point to its mouth on the Sangamon. In the place-names of nineteenth-century Sangamon County, “Sugar Creek” generally referred to the 100-square mile upper section. The timber of the lower creek formed the southern line of the prairie that included Springfield, as well as several smaller settlements with names of their own. Because of their proximity to Springfield, urban growth decisively affected these communities, and they have a history distinctively different from the more isolated community of upper Sugar Creek. … The upper reach of Sugar Creek retains many of the features of its early-nineteenth-century landscape.[5]


map of area known as Sugar Creek as it was in 1818

Arrival Of Elisha Kelley And Beginning of “Kelly Settlement”

In the early Spring of 1818, Elisha Kelley,[7] a 31 year-old bachelor, arrived in what would become Springfield. Three years earlier (1815?) Elisha had left North Carolina to settle in Illinois, and arriving in what is now Macoupin County, he built a cabin. Elisha was a hunter, and in pursuing this fondness he ranged the country for many miles-in all directions. One day he wandered into a ravine in which a small, clear stream ran northward to empty into Spring Creek. Large numbers of deer passed up and down, and Elisha thought it a hunter’s paradise.[8]

“About the year 1818, an old bachelor emigrated from Rutherford County, North Carolina to this State, remaining for a time in Macoupin county, and from there he came on to what is now Sangamon county. He was so charmed with the country in the neighborhood, he determined to make it his future home. Returning to North Carolina, he induced his father, Henry Kelly, and four brothers to join him in forming a new settlement. John Kelly, one of the brothers, built a cabin, near which is now the northwest corner of Jefferson and Second streets. In this cabin the first court of Sangamon county was held.”[9]

In the early spring of 1818 Elisha Kelly stood on the banks of Spring Creek and gazed upon the site which would later become the City of Springfield. He was so overwhelmed by its beauty that he returned to his North Carolina home and set about persuading his entire family to return with him to his “Garden of Eden”. They all came--father, mother, two sisters, four brothers and their families. Soon after, six other families joined the settlement and within a year nine cabins stood along Spring Creek.[10]

His selecting the place for a hunting ground and inducing others to come, was the beginning of Springfield. The parties caused to come were his father, Henry Kelly, and his three brothers, William, John and Elija. The younger brother, George, came a few years later. At the same time the sisters halted here on their way to Missouri, where they went because they could not keep their slaves in Illinois.[11]

The Illinois census of 1818 for the County of Madison shows at household number 630 “Elijah Kelly”, not “Elisha”, with two free white males of 21 years and upward and 3 other white inhabitants in the household, a total of 5.[12]

________ year-old Jacob Ellis,[13] probably a native of South Carolina, arrived in what would become Springfield in the early Spring of 1818. Jacob lived one-half mile west of his brother, Levi, who had arrived the previous year. Here Jacob built a horse mill, cotton gin and blacksmith shop. He was the area’s first blacksmith.[14]

Map of Edwards Trace In Sangamon County

Fort Russell (near present day Edwardsville) became the staging point for attacks. On October 18 (1812), Governor Edwards led a foray from Fort Russell, commanding nearly 400 men, but some promised mounted Kentuckian riflemen never showed up. Edwards’s unit skirted the west side of Cahokia Creek, reached Macoupin Creek, crossing near today’s Carlinville, then sliced in a northeasterly direction, crossing the Sangamon River just downstream from the juncture of the north and south forks, to the east of modern Springfield. It filed east of Elkhart Grove, crossed Salt Creek near present-day Lincoln, and came upon an abandoned Kickapoo village, which featured wigwams with designs showing whites being scalped. Not amused, soldiers reduced the village to ashes, then pushed toward Peoria.[15]

On July 20, 1818, Levi D. and Cynthia Bradford Ellis had a fourth son, Jacob W.,[16] the first white child born in Sangamon County, Illinois.[17]

Zachariah Peter, born in Amherst County, Virginia, moved with his parents when two years old to Washington County, Kentucky. He married near Danville, Kentucky to Nancy Spaulding. They had five children in Kentucky and moved to what afterwards became Sangamon County, Illinois arriving in September 1818. The found an empty cabin in what is now Ball Township, and moved in. That was the cabin built by Robert Pulliam in the fall of 1817, the first ever erected in Sangamon County. Mr. Peter lived there until the spring of 1819 when Mr. Pulliam came with his own family. Mr. Peter then vacated the cabin and built a cabin about three miles further north. Their five children, all of whom were born in Kentucky, came with them, namely: Mary T., born on September 13, 1806, Samuel, born in 1808, John N. born in 1810, Mahala D. born in 1813, and Therza or Theresa born in 1815.[18]

Letter of Greshom Flagg Describing Illinois and Madison County



12 SEPT. 1818

Dear Brother, ( According the Flagg Family records Artemas Flagg was married on Sept. 6, 1817 to Betsey Squires, daughter of Stephen & Bethia (Bishop) Squires)

Your letter of the 31st May mailed June 8, I received, the 23rd of July which informed me that you were all well at the time. May this continue to be your good fortune and may these lines reach you as they leave me in good health. As you may wish to know something of the Country in which I live, I will write a few lines respecting it. The Territory of Illinois contains nearly all that part of the United States Territory east of the Mississippi and N.W. of the Ohio & Wabash Rivers. The late law of Congress enabling the people to form a Constitution & State Government makes the boundaries on the S. & W. Ohio & Mississippi Rivers on the East by Indiana State N by 42 30' N. Lat. The conjunction of the Ohio & Mississippi Rivers is in Lat 37 N so that this Territory is 350 miles in length. The face of the Country is very level without any mountains and but few hills. It is not exceeded by levelness or richness of soil by any in the United States. The prairies are very large while the timbered land is confined almost wholly to the Intervales and low rounds. Where ever the land is high and dry enough for the fire to run in the spring and fall the timber is all destroyed. The Soil is of such an alluvial nature that the water courses cut out deep chanels from 6 to 20 feet deep generally. Where this is the case the streams do not overflow.

We have all kinds of soil from midling poor to the very best. It produces Corn & Wheat better than any other Country I have seen. It also produces hemp, flax, Mellons, Sweet potatoes, Turnips & all kinds of vegetables except Irish Potatoes as good as any other Country. Cotton is raised sufficient for domestic use, a very small piece of ground produces enough for a family.

We have plenty of apples, peaches &c in places. Grapes & of several kinds and several kinds of Wild plumbs & cherries in profusion also Dew Berries, Black berries and Strawberries. The bottom Prairies are covered with Weeds of different kinds and grass about 8 feet high. The high Prairies are also thickly covered with grass but finer & not so tall. The prairies are continually covered (in the summer season) with wild flowers of all colors which gives them a very handsome appearance. These high Prairies are smoother than any intervale & not a stone, log or anything but grass & weeds to be seen for miles except where they border the timber there is generally a thicket of plumb bushes, hazel grape vines &c&c. The Roots of the grass are very tough it generally requires 3 yoke of Oxen or six horses to plough up the prairies & the plough must be kept at a keen edge by filing often, the steel not being hardened, but this is all that is to be done except fencing to raise a crop. After one year the ground is mellow and requires but a light team to plough it. The Timber in this Country is very different from any you have seen. The most Common timber is White, Black, Spanish post, Chincopin, Pin and Burrh Oak, Walnut Black & White, Basswood, Cherry Button wood Ash, Elm Sassafras, Sumach, Elder, Honey locust, Mulberry, Crab Apple, Thorn of different kinds, Redbud, Pecon, Hackberry, Maple, Cotton Wood, Pawpaw which bears a fruit larger than an apple. The timber is not so good as I have seen, generally, the fire kills & checks the growth every year. When the fire gets into high thick grass it goes faster than a horse can Run & burns the Prairie smooth.

The situation of this Territory is good for trade having the advantage of Water carriage on all sides the Missisipi on the West, the Ohio & Wabash S.E. & the Kaskaskia and Illinois in the interior of the Territory. The Illinois which is about 400 miles in length heads near Lake Michigan. A branch of Illinois heads within 4 miles of the head of Chicago a short River which empties into Lake Michgon. In fresh(t)s boats pass this portage the waters being connected. They are made shallow for the purpose. I have seen them at St. Louis landing. I think there will be a canal cut to connect the waters of Illinois & Chicago at no distant period. From information the expense would not be great. One hundred thousand acres of Land is appropriated for this purpose. This done we have a water communication from almost any part of the Territory to the states of Indiana Ohio & Pensylvania on either side of those states. Also with New York by the way of Lake Erie & an easy Communications with Ocean by New Orleans. One steam Boat Run from ST. Louis to Louisville Kentucky the last season and another from St. Louis to NewOrleans. One of them came up to St. Louis the 1st January last and returned but the Ice generally covers the River in January & Febuary. That is, drifting ice, for the Missisipi was not shut over last winter at St. Louis tho it sometimes is. The Missouri was frozen over last winter. There are 8 or 10 steam boats on the Ohio and Missisipi Rivers and more buildings, there was two built in Cincinnati last summer & one at the Rising Sun and one at New Albany below the falls of Ohio. The Trade from St. Louis to Orleans is very considerable there are in St. Louis between 40 & 50 mercantile Stores.

We have a great plenty of Deer, Turkies, Wolves, Opossoms, Prairie hens, Eagles, Turky Buzzards, Swans, Geese, ducks, Brant, sand hill Cranes, Paokites & with many other small animals & birds. Gray squirrels are as thick here as I have ever seen stripeld (sic) ones in Vermont. There is more honey here in this Territory I suppose than in any other place in the world. I have heard the Hunters say that they have found 8 or 10 swarms in a day on the St. Gama & Illinois Rivers where there are not settlements (Truly this must be the Land of Milk & Honey) The Climate is not so hot as might be expected there is almost a continual breeze blowing from the large prairies like the breezes on large Lakes & ponds. The country is so open that it is considerable cold in Winter, the ground freezes very hard. There being generally but little snow. The past summer has been very hot more than common I am told. The Thermometer on the hottest day stood at 98. I learn from the News Papers that the Weather has been very hot in different parts of the United States.

The Stock of this Country consists principally of horses, horned Cattle & hogs. Sheep will do very well here if they can be kept from the Wolves but this cannot well be done in the newsettled parts the wolves are so very numerous. Hogs will live & get fat in the Woods and Prairies. I have seen some as fat upon Hickorynuts, Acorns, Pecons & Walnuts, as ever I did those that were fatted upon Corn. All that prevents this country being as full of Wild hogs as of Deer is the Wolves which kill the pigs when the sows are not shut up til the pigs are a few weeks old. There are places in this Territory where Cattle & horses will live all winter & be in good order without feeding, that is upon the Rivers. Most of the people cut no hay for their Cattle & horses but this is a foolish way of theirs, they either have to feed out their Corn or their Cattle get very poor. Cattle & horses do very well in this Country they get very fat by the middle of June. They do not gain much after this being so harrassed by swarms of flies which prevent their feeding any in the heat of the day. They are so bad upon horses that it is almost impossible to travel from the 15 June til the lst Sept unles a horse is covered with blankets. Where ever a fly lights upon a horse a drop of blood starts. I have seen white horses red with blood that these flies had drawn out of him. As the Country becomes settled these flies disappear.

It appears from the returns to the secretary that there is in this Territory upwards of 40,000 inhabitants. The Convention which met the first mondy(sic) in August have formed a Constitution but it is not yet published, as soon as it is I will send you a Copy. The Gov. is to be Chosen for 4 years as also the senate the members of the lower house are chosen once in two years the Legeslature to set biennally. I have delayed writing for several days to hear whether Simeon Manuel was in St. Louis but can hear nothing of him. P.P. Enos formerly of Woodstock, Vermont now lives in St. Louis and he tells me he knows no such man there.

William S. Wait son of Thomas B. Wait of Boston, Mass was in this Territory last March and bought 2500 Acres of Land & told me he should return to this Country to live.....Jason Chamberlin from Burlington lives at Cape Gerardeau a small Town on the West Bank of Missisipi about 120 miles below St.Louis. I saw his wife when I was coming up the River but he was gone to Arkansaw on business. Charles Peck who once lived with Moses Spencer now lives 18 miles from the Mouth of the Missouri at St. Charles, a small town on the North side of the Missouri, his Brother a blacksmith lives at the same place.

You mention that Stephen Hallock had gone to Darby Creek Ohio. I have also hear that Gideon Wright was there. I have been there myself. That part of the country is entirely level very Rich and in the spring covered with water. Darby Creek is a Branch of the Scioto River.

This 26 April I recd a letter from you dated 6July 1817 and post marked Hubbardton July 9th having been 9 months & 17 days on the way having been mislaid as I suppose. You have been very particular in you(r) letters which has given me much satisfaction but you still complainof you(r) inability to write I wish you would not try to excuse your self from writing on that head but write as often as you can get time for I have money enough to pay the Postage and it never goes more freely than to hear from my friends and nothing gives me more satisfaction than reading your Letters.

I have not been able to get any employment in surveying The Lands, having been principally surveyed in the winter of 1816-17. There was then upwards of 80 companies employed upwards of 4 month. They surveyed the Military Bounty Lands and most of the other Lands where the Indian title was extinguished, 3 1/2 millions of acres of bounty lands were survd between the Missisipi and Illinois Rivers. There is now considerable surveying to be done but the Surveyor General, Rector, has so many connections that are surveyors, that it is not possible for a stranger to get any contract of any importance. Gov. gives 3 dollars a mile for surveying all publick lands. Some who are not Surveyors (but favorites) make Contracts for surveying and then hire it done. I was offered 25 dollars a month last winter to go with another surveyor but did not choose to go under a man who did not know as much as I did myself.

I entered 420 acres of Land near this place and about 25 miles from St. Louis and 10 or 12 from the Conjunction of the Missisipi and Missouri Rivers and 18 or 20 from the Mouth of Illinois nearly in Lat 38 30' North. I now own only 160 acres haveing sold the remainder for $285. dollars being double what I gave for it. The quarter Section which I now own is on the trail which leads from Edwardsville to Fort Clark which is at the south end of Illinois Lake a dilation of the Illinois River 210 miles from its mouth following its meanderings. This fort was built in the time of the Late War. This with forts at Chicago and fox River which empties into green bay, Macinau, Prairie des Chien and fort Edwards on the Missisippi below the mouth of Rock River serve to regulate the Indian trade and protect the Frontiers from the savages. The United States have also garisons upon Red River, Arkansaw and Missouri Rivers.

The people of This Territory are from all parts of the United States & do the least work I believe of any people in the world. Their principal business is hunting deer, horses, hogs and Cattle and raising Corn. they have no pasture but turn every thing out to run at large and when they want to use a horse or oxen they will have to travel half a dozen miles to find them through grass and weeds higher than a man can reach when on horseback and the grass and vines are so rough that nothing but their Leather hunting shirts and trowsers will stand any Chance at all.

These kind of People as soon as the settlements become thick Clear out and go further into the new Country. The method of Raising Corn here is to plough the ground once then furrow it both ways and plant the Corn 4 feet each way and plough between it 3 or 4 times in the Summer but never hoe it at all. Wheat is generally sowed among the Corn and ploughed in sometime in August or first sept. there are no barns in this Country people stack all their Wheat and thresh it out with horses on the ground. We have not many good mills in this Country.

the price of Corn last harvest was 33 1/3 cents in the spring 50 cents,.in the summer, 75 cents. Potatoes are from 50 to 100 cents a bushel, oats 50 cents. Wheat one dollar, Beef from 3 1/2 to 5 dollars per hundred, Pork from 4 to 7 dollars a hundred. Dry goods are getting very Cheap , the country is full of them we have more merchants than any thing else. Boots and Shoes sell the highest here of any place I was ever in, iron is 75 dollardsa hundred, salt 3 dollars a bushel, butter from 12 1/2 to 50 cents a pound cheese generally brings 25 cents and very little to be had at that price, for there is none made except by Eastern people. the price of improved farms here is from 5 to 12 dollars an acre.

As soon as you Receive this I wish you to write to me. As soon as I can make it any way convenient I intend to come and see you all for I be(leve) you (MS. torn a) nd the rest of the young men (in the) vicinity (can) not leave your mothers long (enough) to come (here)

I think I shall go by the way of New Orleans and New York or Boston. It being the easiest and cheapest route to go from here to Vermont. give my love to all my friends. By your letter I learn that you are all (MS.torn) married. I expect in about 10 to 15 years when you have about a dozen Children each you will begin to think about moving to the westward. I have seen more old, than young men moveing. If you have an Idea of ever seeing the Western country you never will have a better time than the present, but if you are contented there you can live as well there as here. I send you my best wishes my respects to my Parents and remain your affectionate Brother for ever



Dodds, Joseph, married, May 3, 1810, to Mattie Drennan. They had three children in Kentucky, Mr. Dodds brought his family to their new home Nov. 3, 1818, where seven children were born.[19]

In November 1818 when the Samuel Vancil family arrived southeast of what is now Auburn, the Kickapoo Indians were numerous and friendly.[20]


Illinois Admitted as a State of the Union

Illinois was admitted as a state of the Union on December 3, 1818.


Andrew Orr Arrives in Auburn Township

Andrew Orr came to Auburn Township in 1818.[21]

[1] Description of Springfield, Zimri Enos, Publication No. 14, Transactions of the Illinois State Historical Society, 1909, Publication of the Illinois State Historical Library, p. 202. (Hereinafter “Enos”.)
[2] Illinois in 1818, p. 83.
[3] Power, pp.253- 255.
[4] Frontier Illinois, Davis, pp. 135-136.
[5] Sugar Creek, p. 247.
[6] Sugar Creek, p.38.
[7] (1787-1871)
[8] Angle, p. 5-6.
[9] 1881 History, p. 563.
[10] Veach, p. 9.
[11] Power, p. 424.
[12] Illinois Census of 1818, Illinois Historical Collections, p. 134.
[13] (pre 1791-____)
[14] Enos, p. 197 (Left 1825) and 200. Z. Enos: Snow Birds. Power, p. 287. Angle, p. 24. 1881 History, 582 (Iles) and 745 (Auburn Township: 1818-He located claim and erected cabin on N ½, Sec. 15, Township 13 N, R 6W.). Moved to Fulton County in 1823
[15] Frontier Illinois, Davis, p. 147.
[16] (7/20/1818-____).
[17] Power, p. 287.
[18] Power, p. 564.
[19] Power, p. 255. Of their eleven children---Alexander R., born July 27, 1834, was married Dec. 24, 1860, to Amelia R. Planck, and died Jan. 4, 1864, leaving a widow and one child, Eva M., in Springfield, Illinois
[20] Power, p. 735.
[21] 1881 History, p. 745.

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