Organization Of Rock Island County

Organization Of Rock Island County

In the early history of the State of Illinois, all the territory lying north and west of the Illinois River formed one county, under the name of Pike County. Prior to the organization of Rock Island County, it was attached to Jo Daviess County. By an act of the legislature, approved February 9, 1831, which after fixing the boundaries, and naming the county, provided for the election of certain county officers, whenever it should contain three hundred and fifty inhabitants; and that after such election, said County of Rock Island, should be considered as organized. Said boundaries were as follows: Beginning in the middle of the channel of the Mississippi River, on the north line of Township 15, north, and west of the Fourth Principal Meridian; thence running eastwardly on said line to the Fourth Principal Meridian; thence north to the middle of the channel of Rock River; thence up the middle of said channel to the Marais d’Osier Slough; thence along the middle of said slough to the middle of the channel of the Mississippi River; thence down along the middle of said channel to the place of beginning. On the first day of March, 1833, a further act was passed, and three commissioners were appointed to select and locate a permanent seat of justice for Rock Island County; and when selected to be called Stephenson, in commemoration of Colonel Benjamin Stephenson; also by said act the citizens of Rock Island County were authorized to elect on the first Monday of July, 1833, three county commissioners, one sheriff, three justices of the peace (to reside in separate districts), three constables, and one coroner. An election was held July 5, 1833, at the house of John Barrel, in Farnhamsburg, near the point where the south end of the present south bridge of the Rock Island Railroad is now located. At this meeting, which was duly held at the time and place appointed, sixty-five citizens were present and took part. Joseph Danforth, Joel Wells, Sr., and William H. Simms served as judges, and Joseph Conway and W. Thompson as clerks. Those honored by election to the county commissionership were: George W. Harlan, John W. Spencer and Colonel George Davenport. Benjamin F. Pike was made sheriff; Levi Wells, coroner; George W. Harlan, J. B. Patterson, and Joe Wells, Jr., justices of the peace; George V. Miller, Huntington Wells, and Edward Corbin, constables. These were the pioneer office-holders of Rock Island County. The county commissioners met at John Barrel’s and organized three days later. Joseph Conway was made clerk and Joseph Wells, Sr., treasurer and assessor. As there was neither county seat or any county building, the commissioners ordered that sessions of court and general elections be held at the house of John Barrel in Farnhamsburg. Asaph Wells and Joel Wells, Jr., were appointed supervisors of roads at the March term, 1834. At this time the settlers had to depend upon Fort Armstrong for mail facilities. The matter of going to the post office became burdensome, as it included ferriage to the island. This expense added to the postage of twenty-five cents on each letter became grievous and the settlers petitioned the postmaster-general for a post office to be established at the convenient and useful home of John Barrel. This was done in 1834 and Joseph Conway made postmaster. In June, 1834, the county was divided for convenience into two voting precincts, these being denominated the “Upper” and the ” Lower.” The boundaries of the Upper Precinct commenced at the mouth of the Marais d’Osier Slough and continued as far west as Henry McNeal’s house. The voters in this territory assembled at the home of Walter Phillips. The remainder of the county formed the Lower Precinct and the voting place was fixed at the house owned by Davenport and Farnham in Farnhamsburg. The first judges appointed in the Upper Precinct were Asaph Wells, James Haskell and Thomas L. Galpin; in the Lower, Joel Wells, Sr., William Brashar and William Carr. February 12, 1835, the legislature passed an act to establish the county seat of Rock Island County. The commissioners appointed under this law, on the 8th day of June 1835, located and established the town of Stephen-son, and the county seat of Rock Island County. The commissioners were George Davenport, John W. Spencer, and John Vanatta. By order of the county commissioners court, in November, 1835, the records and courts of the county were removed from Farnhamsburg to Stephenson.


Early Settlements of Rock Island County 


Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908

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