THE year of the deep snow was a notable date in the history of Springfield. As definitely as dates ever can, it marked the end of frontier days and the beginning of years of thriving growth as a county town.
In 1831 and the years which followed, the population of Springfield increased rapidly. The Sangamo Journal, newly founded, reflected on the attainment of a population of some 800 or 900 and predicted great things for the future. "Our short residence in Springfield," said the editor in the first number, "does not enable us to speak with certainty of the comparative improvement of the place in the last with former years. We see enough, however, to convince us, that the ad|vantages which Springfield offers to the merchant, the me|chanic, and other professions, will not be much longer over|looked. Our population is rapidly increasing. A considerable number of buildings were erected last summer—many are now being built—and a still greater number are projected for the ensuing year."
Early in 1832 came news of an undertaking which raised the hopes of the populace to peaks of optimism. The great|est bar to the progress of Springfield, and all inland towns for that matter, was the lack of adequate transportation facilities. Agriculture was the foundation upon which all eco|nomic life was based, and the prosperity of agriculture de|pended Page 36 entirely upon whether the farmer's grain and hogs could be shipped to the markets at St. Louis or Cincinnati or New Orleans at a cost low enough to leave him anything for the work of raising them. The farmer's income went up exactly as the cost of freight went down. Money in the farmer's pocket, moreover, meant prosperity for the mer|chants and lawyers and doctors and craftsmen who had goods and services to sell him. The cost of transportation affected everyone, and everyone was aware of the fact.
So far as Springfield and the Sangamo country were con|cerned, it was the first stage of transport—the trip by wagon to Beardstown or Alton—that absorbed a disproportionate share of the market price. Freight charges to Beardstown, a distance of forty-five miles, equalled the cost of shipping from Beardstown to Louisville, approximately 700 miles by water. Naturally, everyone was jubilant when Vincent Bogue, who owned a mill on the Sangamon seven or eight miles from Springfield, announced that he intended to open navigation on the river as soon as the ice broke up. Early in January, 1832, he wrote from Cincinnati to Edward Mitchell, the postmaster, asking that merchants reserve their freight for him. "I shall deliver freight from St. Louis at the landing on the Sangamo river, opposite the town of Springfield, for thirty-seven and a half cents for 100 pounds," he promised. This was less than half the overland charge.
In the weeks which followed Bogue's announcement the people of Springfield caught at news of his progress with enthusiasm. The Cincinnati Gazette announced on January 19 that "the splendid upper cabin steamer Talisman, J. M. Pollock, Master, will leave for Portland, Springfield on the Sangamo River, and all the intermediate ports and landings, say Beardstown, Naples, St. Louis, Louisville, on Thursday, Feb. 2d;" and when a copy of the paper found its way to Springfield three weeks later, a public meeting was called at once to consider what measures should be taken to aid the Page 37 enterprise. Bogue had asked that ten or twelve men with long-handled axes, and also a pilot who knew the channel, meet him at the river's mouth, so E. D. Taylor, Washing|ton Iles and Thomas M. Neale were delegated to carry out his wish; while Thomas Moffett, Gershom Jayne and D. Dickerson were charged with taking a subscription to defray expenses.
On February 22 the Talisman arrived at St. Louis. From that point on, her progress was exasperatingly slow. The axmen met her at Beardstown, but the cutting of overhang|ing timbers proved to be a harder task than was anticipated, while a disconcerting number of shoals were discovered in the river's channel. Nevertheless, on the 24th of March, she finally tied up at Portland, or Bogue's mill, on the Sanga|mon half-way between the present Alton and Illinois Central bridges. The townspeople crowded the river banks, while boys and sturdy settlers who had never seen a craft more pretentious than a scow swarmed through her cabin, dazzled by its magnificence. Hopes bounded upward. "We congratu|late our farmers, our mechanics, our merchants, and profes|sional men, for the rich harvest in prospect," the editor of the Sangamo Journal proclaimed; "and we cordially invite emigrating citizens from other States, whether they be poor or rich, if so be they are industrious and honest, to come thither and partake of the good things of Sangamo."
Enthusiasm was too great to be expended in mere words, so a ball was held to celebrate the emergence of Springfield as a river town. Prose proved to be too heavy a medium for the description of its glories, but the local rimesters rose to the occasion. Doubtless there was poetic license in the ro|mantic rumor,
Only one discordant note was evident, and that was not fully discernible until the following morning. Skipper Pol|lock, foreseeing a long and lonesome voyage, had taken care to provide himself with feminine companionship. At the ball the somewhat gaudy female he introduced was accepted for what he said she was—his wife—but doubts were raised when she exhibited too great a fondness for "Jabez's gude liquors" and became unduly demonstrative in her relations with the captain. The next morning the truth got out—the "quality" of Springfield had had as its guest a woman of easy virtue.
The revelation might have been taken as an omen. After the Talisman had lain at Bogue's mill for a week, her officers finally heeded the warning of the rapidly falling waters and pointed her nose down stream. Only by a combination of skill and good luck was she able to get away undamaged. The sponsor of the voyage was not so fortunate. He had operated mainly on credit, and when his notes came due he was unable to meet them. He solved the problem by disappearing, leav|ing his creditors to pay for the glory of opening a water highway to Springfield.
In spite of the failure of the enterprise, the people of the Sangamo country were unwilling to see an end to their hopes of cheaper transportation. It was natural that Abraham Lincoln of New Salem, announcing his candidacy for the legislature, should devote most of his address to the voters to an argument for the improvement of the Sangamon, for the address was issued two weeks before the Talisman's ar|rival, when the excitement was at its height. Three months later, however, other candidates were no less confident than Lincoln that the river could be made navigable. George For|quer urged it as an internal improvement certain of accom|plishment, Page 39 and Thomas M. Neale thought that it would take a mere $2,000 to make the Sangamon accessible for boats of sixty tons at least four months a year.
Close after the Talisman excitement came an event which deferred for a few months the realization of the hopes which the steamboat's arrival had aroused—the Black Hawk War. Early in April Governor Reynolds ordered Thomas M. Neale to muster 600 men of his brigade at Beardstown on April 22, to become a part of the force raised to defend the northwestern part of the state against Black Hawk and his braves. Three companies from Sangamon County answered the first call. The mounted volunteers went overland to the Yellow Banks (Oquawka) while the infantry was conveyed to the same place by boat. By the middle of May all were at Dixon's Ferry, within striking distance of hostilities.
From April until August the Sangamo Journal was filled with accounts of Indian battles, some real, more imaginary. Most of the Sangamon troops saw little fighting, and few casualties took place among them. Nevertheless, the lion's share of the war's glory settled on a Springfield man, James D. Henry, who exhibited real military capacity where the other commanders, of the regulars as well as the militia, ex|hibited a lamentable lack of it. Almost overnight he became a hero. A local poet celebrated his exploits in verse,
The war over, settlers crowded the roads to Illinois. "Strangers are constantly traversing our country, and ex|amining it, with a view to settlement. . . ." said the San|gamo Journal in October, 1832. "Our taverns are con|stantly filled with strangers, and our stages are running full." Where before the great majority had come from Ken|tucky and Tennessee, there were now large numbers from Ohio and New England as well. "Emigrants are coming by thousands into Illinois," said the Journal in the autumn of 1833, "and from all quarters of the Union. On Friday last fifteen large wagons from St. Lawrence County, N. York, loaded with emigrants, arrived in our village, and drove up in front of the market house, in grand style. These emigrants had been about ten weeks on the journey, and enjoyed good health during the time. They design to settle in Sangamo County—to which we bid them welcome.—A few days previous a company of emigrants from Vermont for Green County, passed through this place. Our northern counties are daily receiving inhabitants from New York, Ohio, and the Eastern States." Settlers continued to come from the south, while many Illinoisans, lured to Arkansas by exaggerated tales of fertile land, were returning.
There were those in the Sangamo country, incidentally, whom no one could outdo when it came to talk of fertile soil. Simeon Francis, the editor of the Sangamo Journal, could become almost lyrical over turnips so large that only two could be put into a half-bushel measure, and words were inadequate when he came to describe "the tender, rich, crisp, twenty pound cabbages of Sangamo!" "The greatest dif|ficulty our farmers apprehend is that they will not be able to harvest the produce of their farms!" he boasted in the summer of 1833. "This is the solemn truth. Hear it ye delvers on the worn-out lands of the east, and continue to Page 41 delve, if you have not ambition enough to make one effort to secure a comfortable independence."
Francis was not the only one to shout the glories of the Sangamo country. Travelers did their share of press|agenting. Maximilian, Prince of Wied, wrote in 1834 that in the neighborhood of Springfield the soil was so rich that it was "scarcely necessary to do more than hoe the ground" in order to obtain yields of eighty bushels of corn and fifty bushels of wheat from an acre. Others lavished praise on the scenery. One visitor wrote from Springfield to the Hart|ford Review that "the vale of Arno is not more beautiful than the valley of Sangamon, with its lovely groves and mur|muring brooks and flowry meads," and enforced the point with verse:
It is impossible to measure the effect of such chants as these on the hard-headed farmers and merchants and the ambitious young professional men who were looking for new homes in the West. The fact remains that they came to Springfield and Sangamon County in increasing numbers. A census taken in 1835 enumerated 17,573 people in the county, a gain of nearly 4,000 in four years. Springfield, with a population of perhaps 850 in 1831, counted 1,419 inhabitants in 1835. In the single year which followed an increase of 460 took place. It was typical of a new com|munity that the men should outnumber the women in the ratio of five to four.
Even the fear of virulent disease failed to deter the emi|grants. Anxiously throughout the latter part of 1832 the people of Springfield followed the ravages of the cholera, watched it approach closer and closer. In October cases were reported at Chicago and Rock Island, then at St. Louis. Page 42 Late in November the first case appeared in Springfield. A near panic followed. The physicians published an open letter on the treatment of the disease, a makeshift hospital was fitted up for travelers and the indigent, and the town braced itself for a harrowing experience. Fortunately, the epidemic failed to materialize. Weeks passed without a case being reported, and the tension slowly eased.
The next year the experience was repeated. Throughout the spring and summer the Sangamo Journal was again filled with reports of the cholera in Ohio and Kentucky, and then as close home as Alton, Quincy and Jacksonville. In Jacksonville the epidemic was particularly severe, and for weeks all activity except the mournful business of bury|ing the dead ceased. Anson G. Henry, a young physician who had just settled in Springfield, showed no little heroism when he spent a week in the neighboring town to observe the disease at first hand. Late in August it appeared in Springfield, but after causing two or three deaths, it sud|denly abated.
The final scare, and the only visitation approaching epi|demic proportions, took place in August and September, 1834, when seventeen deaths occurred in less than a month. Then, as before, the disease suddenly disappeared.
With growth, Springfield's appearance changed. Prior to 1831, the town centered about the small square at Second and Jefferson streets, where Iles' store and the first court house were located. Most of the houses were scattered along Jefferson Street. To the west, they commenced with the Town Branch timber (about Klein Street) and extended east to Fourth Street. There were only a few houses on Washington Street. Standing out from all others was the two-story frame residence of Dr. John Todd, the best house in town, which stood alone on the south side of the block between First and Second. The present square was on the fringe of settlement. Dr. Garret Elkin lived on the south|west Page 43 corner of Sixth and Adams, while diagonally across from him, on the site of the new Public Service Building, stood the two-story frame court house which the county com|missioners had built in 1825. On the west side of the square was a solitary two-room frame house. The square itself, swampy and grown over with weeds, contained only the whipping post, a gruesome monument which stood bare and awesome across from the present Marine Bank. North of Jefferson Street, east of Sixth and south of Adams, all was virgin prairie and timber except for the home and small farm of Charles R. Matheny near the intersection of Sixth and Cook streets and the small tract which Edward Mitchell cul|tivated north of the present Illinois Central freight house.
With the melting of the deep snow in the spring of 1831, changes commenced. First in both importance and influence was the new court house, located in the center of the present square. Brick, two stories in height, with a hip roof sur|mounted by a cupola, it was the most pretentious building in town. Soon after it was finished a brick market house was built at the northwest corner of the square. The completion of two good buildings was an incentive to further improve|ment. A plank fence, with stiles, was built around the court house, a public well was sunk and a pump erected, and the entire square sown with grass.
These improvements were the cause of a shift in the di|rection of the town's growth. Buildings began to appear on Fifth Street (then known as Main Street) and on Washing|ton Street north of the court house. Most of them were one story in height and built of wood, but some were brick. A row of three two-story brick stores was built on Fifth Street south from the corner of Washington in 1831, while in 1835 Hoffman's Row of six two-story bricks, extending northward from the same corner, was constructed. The north side of the square was less fortunate. There, through the decade and afterward, stood a row of small ramshackle Page 44 shops with wooden awnings over the sidewalk, known as "Chicken Row" from the fact that chickens and country produce were sold there.
In spite of the new court house and its improved surround|ings, several years elapsed before Springfield as a whole outgrew the appearance of frontier rawness. Observers com|pared it with Jacksonville and found it inferior. William Cullen Bryant, who passed through both towns in the sum|mer of 1832, wrote that "the houses are not so good (as those of Jacksonville), a considerable proportion of them being log cabins, and the whole town having an appearance of dirt and discomfort." (Jacksonville he had found "a horribly ugly village, composed of little shops and dwell|ings, stuck close together around a dirty square, in the middle of which stands the ugliest of possible brick court-houses.") Fifteen months later Patrick Shirreff, a Scotch traveler, saw it as "an irregular village of wooden houses," inferior in "buildings, arrangement, and situation" to its neighbor to the west. The rapid influx of newcomers in 1835 and 1836 resulted in the construction of many new houses and stores, but not enough to remove entirely the vestiges of its early crudeness. Even in 1837, after the legislature had designated it the future capital, an observer charitable enough to describe the public square as "a green pleasant lawn," and to call the structures which faced it "handsome edifices" was compelled to confess that many of the build|ings in the town were small and that "the humble log cabin, the abiding place of some of the first settlers," was still much in evidence.
Growth and building activity were only two of many evi|dences of the rapid development which took place in Spring|field in the years following the deep snow. Equally significant were the multiplication of businesses and the greater range of commodities for sale.
Advertisements in the first numbers of the Sangamo Page 45 Journal show that by the end of 1831 nine stores were selling dry goods and groceries in Springfield, and there were prob|ably others whose owners were as yet unconvinced of the value of advertising. There was considerable variety in the goods offered for sale. Thus Mather, Lamb and Co. announced in November, 1831 that they were opening in "Mr. Enos' New Store House on Main Street," a large stock of mer|chandise from New Orleans, Philadelphia and New York, and specified, among others, the following commodities: dry goods, groceries, hardware and cutlery, glass and china ware, iron and castings, fur and wool hats, books and sta|tionery, boots and shoes. The advertisement of McNeely and Radford shows that in addition to liquors—cognac, peach brandy, whiskey, Madeira and Malaga wine—groc|eries were stocked with molasses, brown sugar and loaf sugar, all kinds of spices, tea and coffee, candy and chocolate, raisins and even oysters. In addition, there was at least one book store—that of William Manning, Jr.—while Edward Mitchell, the postmaster, was authorized to take subscrip|tions for the Lady's Book, Atkinson's Casket and the Satur|day Evening Post.
Craftsmen were increasing in number. Two hatters and two cabinet makers were advertising in the Journal in 1831, and William Kirkman, tailor, was offering to make "Gentle|man's Clothing, and Ladies' Habits, in the most fashionable, or in a plain style, as he shall receive directions." A potter was already operating, and in 1833 John Hay set up an establishment for the manufacture of yarn. Representatives of the building trades were numerous.
With every year new merchants opened stores, new shop|keepers appeared, new lawyers and new doctors came to Springfield. By 1836, when a new census of the town was taken, there were nineteen dry goods stores, six retail groc|eries, one wholesale grocery, four hotels, four coffee houses, four drug stores, two clothing stores and two shoe stores. Page 46 Among the craftsmen represented were hatters, tailors, shoemakers, tinsmiths, painters, carpenters, blacksmiths, wagonmakers, saddlers, watchmakers and one barber. Eighteen doctors ("including steam doctors") and eleven lawyers resided in the town. The beginnings of domestic manufacture were evident in the enumeration of one foundry, one mill, four carding machines and five brick yards. An occupation now become archaic—at least in its original form—was suggested by the inclusion, among the buildings erected during the year, of "1 Bath House, Cost $5,000."
Yet the occupational field was far from adequately cov|ered. Like most other mid-western towns, Springfield grew without plan, in haphazard fashion. In its making there was nothing of the colonizing process—the system of settlement by which whole communities, supplied in advance with doctors and preachers and blacksmiths and shoemakers, were transplanted to a new locality. No matter how essen|tial to social welfare an occupation might be, the community had to wait for its benefits until some individual learned— or perhaps convinced himself—that an opportunity existed. Thus items like the following frequently appeared in the Sangamo Journal: "Springfield wants a Tallow Chandler and Soap Boiler; and it is believed would be able to give to a person who could unite the two professions, steady and profitable employment." In 1836 Richard H. Beach wrote from Springfield that buildings could not be put up for want of workmen, that the field was open for carpenters, masons, tinners and other skilled mechanics. It was almost impossible to obtain laborers and domestic servants. A good farm hand received $120 a year and his keep; a mediocre one $100. One hotel keeper told Patrick Shirreff in 1833 that he paid "two female helps" each two dollars a week, and added the perennially pertinent comment that "if it were not for a desire young girls have for fine clothes, he could not get one on any terms."
Page 47Some idea of what two dollars a week meant in real wages may be had from the commodity prices which prevailed. Butter sold for eight cents a pound, eggs for six cents a dozen. In small quantities dressed beef brought three cents a pound and pork two cents; by the carcass both were much cheaper. Due to the long distance they had to be hauled such articles as coffee and sugar were expensive, the former sell|ing at twenty cents a pound, the latter at half that price. Still, one could live at the best hotel in the town, board and room both, for $3.00 a week for short periods and $2.50 for longer periods. A "French bedstead" sold for between $8.00 and $10.00, a "cherry table, turned legs with halves," brought $7.00—prices which were reputed high. The meas|ure of all values, however, was land, and plenty of good land was still available at $1.25 an acre. Thus, with the proceeds of a year's work, a good farm hand could acquire an eighty-acre farm, and have something left with which to commence its improvement.
Land, at least that which was bought from the govern|ment, had to be paid for in money, but barter was still an ac|cepted basis of trade so far as most commodities were con|cerned. All the merchants advertised that they would take country produce in exchange for goods, and some even pre|ferred it to cash. Under the stress of necessity, and in spite of the lack of transportation facilities, an export business was be|ing developed. In 1833 one merchant alone shipped 14,000 pounds of butter from Sangamon County. In 1840 Thomas Lewis, "at the sign of the Big Boot," made known his wants for the year: "20,000 good Dry Hides; 30,000 Deer Skins; 16,000 'Coon Skins; 1,000 barrels of Flour, and any quantity of Butter, Eggs, Lard, Beeswax &c." Except in the months when ice closed the Illinois River, produce taken in by the merchants was hauled to Beardstown, where it was loaded on shipboard for the large markets. When the Illinois was closed to navigation, Alton was Springfield's port.
Page 48The farmers were getting around the transportation prob|lem in a different way. Freight charges on grain might be confiscatory, but cattle and hogs could be driven to market. It was a tedious task and a costly one, but less expensive than other methods of carriage. As a consequence, men of vision and resources turned more and more to stock raising. In 1835 George Power, near Athens, drove a herd of 800 cattle all the way to Philadelphia. Three years later it was estimated that 25,000 hogs were driven to markets out of the county in twelve months' time. Sheep were being intro|duced in large numbers, not to be sold for meat, but because both wool and tallow were easily transported and com|manded a ready sale at good prices.
While merchants and farmers were making advances in spite of transportation difficulties, facilities for the carriage of passengers and mail were undergoing great improvement. In 1831 mails from all directions reached Springfield once a week. The following year mails from most nearby cities arrived twice a week. In 1835 mail from St. Louis came daily, from Jacksonville every other day, from Beardstown twice a week. Stage routes for passengers showed a corre|sponding increase in number and speed.
At best, however, travel by stage was a slow and costly way of getting anywhere. Under ideal conditions, it required three days to go to Chicago and cost $25 in gold. Under the worst conditions, one stayed at home. In the winter of 1836, for instance, the roads became so bad that all com|munication between Springfield and Vandalia was cut off for more than two weeks. When the creeks rose in flood times, stages simply had to wait until the waters subsided, for as late as 1835 there was not a single bridge in Sangamon County, which then included Menard and most of Logan and Christian.
At the same time that these breaches in the wall of isola|tion were being made, life in Springfield was becoming more Page 49 interesting. Things happened more frequently than before. During the winter there would be a ball or two and sleigh|ing parties, and perhaps, if the snow were deep enough, wolf hunts in which horsemen ran down the prairie wolves and clubbed them to death. In the summer of 1835 a circus came to town. Farmers and townspeople both were terrorized by the giant anaconda and fascinated by the bespangled girl who stood upright on a horse's back as she rode full speed around the ring.
Although no freak of the weather was ever to sink so deeply into memory as the deep snow, natural phenomena continued to excite interest. In the fall of 1833 a "meteor shower" aroused both wonder and fear. In the small hours of a November night myriads of "shooting stars" lighted the skies. Word of the spectacle spread, and a crowd gathered on the roof of the market house where a good view could be obtained. Many thought the heavens afire, and there were timid souls, familiar with the Book of Revelations, who be|lieved—temporarily—that the end of the world had come.
Occasionally a dash of villainy spiced the local, scene. Old settlers were fond of talking about the complete honesty of men in the early days, but stray items in the Sangamo Journal indicate that human frailty was just as marked in the Springfield of a century ago as it is today. There were the two Hoosiers, for instance, who showed up in the sum|mer of 1833 with a "Portable Gas Lamp" which would furnish better light than candles at a fourth of the cost. They found a purchaser for the patent, and gave him the secret of the business in a formula for compounding a lighting fluid of whiskey, camphor, turpentine and pearlash. It cost him three dollars to find out that the mixture was no more inflammable than soft soap—and by that time the swindlers had vanished. A notice published in the summer of 1834 yields further evidence. "A meeting of the citizens of Spring|field," it read, "will be held in the Court House on this after|noon, Page 50 (Saturday) at 4 o'clock, for the purpose of devising means to suppress Gambling in this place. All persons friendly to the object are invited to attend."
Fourth of July celebrations were more elaborate than those which were held in the town's infancy. The advent of Independence Day, 1835, was marked by a "feu de joie" fired by Captain Merryman's Springfield Artillery. At eleven o'clock a procession formed at the Court House and marched to the Methodist Church, where the Rev. John G. Bergen offered prayer and Dan Stone delivered an oration "replete with just and patriotic sentiments." Afterward there was a dinner at Alden's Hotel, followed by the usual succession of toasts. The next year's observance was even more elab|orate. In addition to the Artillery there were the Sharp Shooters, while a ball at the Court House and a fireworks display were added features.
The military companies were the most spectacular among the organizations in which Springfield citizens were begin|ning to find relief from tedium. The Artillery was organized in 1835, the Sharp Shooters—E. D. Baker, captain—the following year. They were composed of young men who drilled weekly and had a general good time. An exchange of visits with the Jacksonville companies made the year 1835 a memorable one for those who participated in it. On a Mon|day morning in late July the Springfield companies, with baggage wagons, tents and full equipment, set out for the neighboring town. The next evening they camped a short distance east of their destination. On the following morning Captains Hardin and Happy, with the Jacksonville cavalry and infantry, escorted them to a camp site on the prairie between the town and college hill. "The appearance of the Springfield troops was strikingly opposing," said the Jack|sonville paper generously. "Their uniforms, the one red and blue, the other black and green, surmounted by appropriate plumes, were rich and showy; their arms bright as sunbeams, Page 51 their officers gallant, military-looking men, and music full and harmonious."
Two exciting days followed. First came a dinner at Major Miller's Hotel, with "brimming bumpers, compli|ments and comic songs." The next day Governor Duncan re|viewed the troops, and gave them a dinner on the lawn of his residence, with "the usual finale of good wine, good toasts and good feeling," and eloquent speeches by Baker and Hardin. After the dinner a sham battle was fought. The final event was a military ball "which, for numbers, music, decorations, brilliancy of dress and beauty of belles, has never been equalled, we make bold to say, in this state."
Three months later the Jacksonville companies returned the visit. On the day of their arrival they were dined at Captain Ransdell's tavern, and on the following day a barbecue, got up "in the true Kentucky style," was given in their honor. A military ball concluded the festivities.
Many Jacksonville girls had come to Springfield for the ball. When they left, the ladies of Springfield escorted them several miles on their way. The parting gave a writer in the Sangamo Journal an opportunity to display the senti|mentality which all seemed to consider appropriate whenever the activities of women were mentioned. "It was on one of the loveliest mornings in this delightful, though melancholy season, Indian summer," he wrote. "Descending from their carriages to take their affectionate leave of each other, after three days intercourse as though they were all members of the same family, they formed a ring, hand in hand, and sang several appropriate parting songs. Then the last adieus were sighed—or looked, words being unutterable. It seemed like rending the bonds which link together, in sweetest friend|ship, an affectionate sisterhood." Whereupon the writer, having exhausted the possibilities of prose, turned to rhyme, and in nine stanzas lamented the departure of the "Maids of Morgan."
Page 52Shortly after the formation of the military companies another organization for the employment of leisure time was founded. It was the Thespian Society, organized in November, 1836. The first performance, a melodrama called "The Charcoal Burner," was given on December 7. So well was it received that a second performance was given a week later, and other productions were planned to follow. Nevertheless, there was an undercurrent of criticism. The Thespians recognized it, and tried to render it innocuous by pointing out that "many of the oldest and most respectable citizens of our town and county" had attended the first per|formance, and also by stressing the fact that the proceeds would be devoted to objects of charity or public utility.
At the same time that the Thespians were deriving amuse|ment from amateur dramatics the Young Men's Lyceum was undergoing rejuvenation. It had been formed in the winter of 1833 by a group which included Simeon Francis, John T. Stuart, John Williams, Dan Stone and Thomas Moffett, but after the first year interest abated and meetings were held only occasionally. By 1836, however, it was functioning actively, its members debating such questions as "Do the signs of the present times indicate the downfall of this government?" and listening to addresses by doctors, lawyers, preachers and schoolmasters on subjects of moral and po|litical interest.
Self-improvement was the purpose of the Young Men's Lyceum. Most of the town's organizations, however, went further, and aimed at the improvement of others also. There was the Colonization Society—formed in 1833 with Charles R. Matheny as president and John G. Bergen, Edmund Roberts and John T. Stuart vice-presidents—which sought to solve the slavery question by purchasing the freedom of slaves and inducing them to settle in Liberia. There was the Springfield Temperance Society, organized in 1832, which had as its purpose the promotion of total abstinence through Page 53 voluntary association. There was the Juvenile Temperance Society, which took young people as its particular province. Finally, there were the organizations interested in the free distribution of the Bible—the Sangamon Bible Society in which the ministers of the town were the active leaders, and the Female Bible Society, headed by Mrs. Eliza Lowry.
With societies such as these coming into existence, one would expect to find a corresponding development in re|ligious organization. Such a development did, in fact, take place. A revival held in 1833 made so many converts to Methodism that the Springfield church, until then served by circuit riders, engaged a resident minister. The Presby|terian congregation also grew, but in 1835 the basic weak|ness of Protestantism asserted itself, and thirty members of the First Church seceded to form the Second Presbyterian Church. In the same year Bishop Philander Chase organized St. Paul's Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, other sects had formed congregations. A Baptist society, formed in 1830, grew until at the end of its first ten years it had its own church and a membership of more than a hundred. Josephus Hewett, a well known Christian, or Campbellite, evangelist, had held a revival in 1832 and had made enough converts to organize the Christian Church of Springfield. So far Prot|estantism was alone in the field of organized religion, al|though throughout the decade Roman Catholic services were held by visiting priests in the home of William Alvey for the benefit of the communicants who lived in the town and surrounding country.
Religion, humanitarianism, self-improvement and mere amusement might all claim attention at one time or another, but the questions in which all the people were always inter|ested were economic. The scarcity of capital, the price of public land, the cost of transportation—these affected every|one too directly to be long out of mind.
Candidates for public office reflected in their campaign Page 54 announcements the thought of the people. Until a law limit|ing the rate of interest to 12 per cent. per annum was passed in 1833, usury legislation was a subject of particular con|cern. Abraham Lincoln recommended it in 1832, while George Forquer, running for the state senate, observed pithily that he favored the passage of "a law limiting in|terest to some reasonable rate, which would require men who have but two or three hundred dollars, to go to work, in|stead of lounging about our streets and making their living by extorting off of the farmers, mechanics and laborers." Reduction in the price of public lands, distribution of the proceeds of land sales among the states, and the passage of a general preemption law were planks in many platforms. Several candidates recommended the establishment of a system of free public schools.
Transcending all other questions, however, was that of transportation. Farmers might drive their stock to market, and merchants become exporters in spite of freight costs, but the people wanted quick, cheap transportation for all. And if eastern capitalists, their vision unclouded by imper|ative need, failed to see profits in railroads and canals in central Illinois, that was a small matter: the people them|selves would build them. Communities between Beardstown and Springfield were intent upon constructing a canal con|necting the two places, and chartered a company for that purpose. In Springfield, however, a railroad to Alton was the project which aroused most enthusiasm. In March, 1835, more than a thousand citizens attended a meeting to further the enterprise, and appointed a committee to solicit funds for a survey of the route. Six months later the survey was made public, along with statistics to show that the road would be highly profitable when finished. A company was formed, and stock subscription books opened. "With rail|road facilities to carry the immense surplus products of this country to market, our farms will quadruple their value, and Page 55 our town will soon rival Lexington in population, wealth and importance," Editor Francis proclaimed.
Nevertheless, it was soon apparent that local capital was inadequate for this or any other similar undertaking, and that if anything were to be accomplished, it would have to be done, in large part at least, by the state. To bring this conviction to the notice of the legislature, an internal im|provement convention was called to meet at Vandalia early in December, 1836. Springfield was represented by sixteen delegates. The convention divided on the question of whether the state alone should make all improvements, or whether it should limit itself to encouraging private enterprise by subscribing for large blocks of stock. The final decision—a compromise—was of small importance, for the convention had already accomplished its real purpose by demonstrating to the legislators that the people of the state were in earnest about railroads and canals and river improvement.
For nearly three months the legislators tussled with the problem. A large majority favored the creation of a system of internal improvements at state expense, but trouble in plenty came when the matter narrowed down to the specific projects of which the whole was to be composed. Every town and county wanted a railroad, a canal, or an appropriation for river improvement, and threatened to oppose the entire scheme unless its wants were satisfied.
Every county, that is, except Sangamon. Although the lack of transportation facilities had for years been its great|est problem, its nine shrewd delegates—the "Long Nine"— were silent on its claims. The reason for their attitude was to be found in the fact that they were seeking an even greater prize, and that if they won it, Sangamon County's transpor|tation problem would take care of itself.
In 1820 the capital of Illinois had been removed from Kaskaskia to an uninhabited spot on the Kaskaskia River which was named Vandalia. The legislature expected that Page 56 the state, which owned the entire site, would take a large profit from the sale of town lots, but the hope proved to be futile. Population increased slowly, the town gained a reputation for unhealthiness, and frequent complaint was made of the lack of adequate accommodations for the legis|lators. As a consequence, agitation for a new seat of gov|ernment commenced long before the expiration of the twenty year period for which the location at Vandalia had been made.
The question first received the serious consideration of the legislature during the session of 1832-33, when it was enacted that at the next election for the General Assembly, that is, in the summer of 1834, a popular vote on the matter should be taken. Six places were nominated: Alton, Jack|sonville, Peoria, Vandalia, Springfield, and an undetermined, uninhabited site called the Geographical Center of the state. The place receiving the highest number of votes should, in the words of the law, "forever hereafter remain the seat of government for the state of Illinois."
The people seemed to have recognized in advance the futility of the proceeding, for only 25,000 votes were cast— nearly 8,000 less than the number cast for governor at the same time. Their apathy was justified in the result. Alton led with 8,157, Vandalia came next with 7,730, while Spring|field, with 7,075, was third. The other three received only a few hundred each. With so even a division between the three leading contenders, few were naive enough to accept the result as final.
Springfield lost no time in laying its plans for the future. The Sangamo Journal and the Illinois Republican, founded in 1835, devoted columns to proving her superior claim to the honor. Candidates for the legislature, regardless of political affiliation, pledged themselves to do all in their power to secure the prize for their constituents. As a result, the Sangamon delegation approached the crucial session con|vinced Page 57 that success was possible, and determined to attain it.
The game was played under the leadership of Abraham Lincoln, now risen to a position of influence in the House. The major stratagem was to defer positive action on the capital question until the internal improvement system should be finally adopted. For it was on the jealousy and cupidity of the counties and towns which wanted railroads of their own that Lincoln had based his plan of campaign. Sangamon County had nine votes, and those nine votes were available for a railroad here, a canal there, and grants of money to those who got neither, provided only that votes for Spring|field as the capital were pledged in return. There were times when it seemed that the legislators could not be held away from the capital question, but in the end Lincoln was suc|cessful. On February 25, 1837, the law locating the capital by popular vote was repealed. In its place it was enacted that the location would be made by majority vote of the legislature on February 28, when it was certain that the internal improvement system would be out of the way. On the first ballot Springfield received 35 votes, more than twice as many as Vandalia, its nearest competitor. Its lead in|creased on both of the next two ballots, while on the fourth it attained a majority. In two years it would be the state capital.
When the news reached Springfield there was wild re|joicing, culminating in a huge bonfire built around the whip|ping post on the east side of the square. There were doubt|less aching heads in the days that followed, for the groceries were doing a record business, but these were as nothing against the general belief that the town's fortune was made. Simeon Francis distilled into words the feeling of all when he wrote that "the owner of real estate sees his property rapidly enhancing in value; the merchant anticipates a large accession to our population, and a correspondent additional sale for his goods; the mechanic already has more contracts Page 58 offered him for building and improvement than he can ex|ecute; the farmer anticipates, in the growth of a large and important town, a market for the varied products of his farm; indeed, every class of our citizens look to the future with confidence that we trust, will not be disappointed."