WHEN Springfield was a frontier village with a few hundred inhabitants whose energies were devoted almost entirely to wringing a living from a stubborn environment, breaks in the monotony of daily life came infrequently. But as its population grew, and men whose horizons extended beyond a mere existence became residents—in a word, as it attained maturity—currents of life to which it once would have been impervious aroused it to vigorous action and reaction.
Politics, for one thing, ceased to be a succession of petty quarrels and became a matter of real significance.
The leading politicians of their respective communities were frequently the members of the legislature and the lawyers who practised in the courts at Springfield. Naturally, the one city where they met face to face became a center of their activities. There the merits and weaknesses of prospec|tive candidates could be carefully canvassed, combinations worked out, and party issues tested in the fire of debate. By 1839, moreover, party lines were pretty tightly drawn, and Whigs as well as Democrats were setting up central com|mittees to operate the party machinery. Since residence in the capital made possible ready contact with men from all parts of the state, the central committees were composed almost entirely of Springfield men. Thus in a double sense the city became a political focal point.
Page 110Prominent in each party were a few leaders whom their opponents described as members of a "clique" or "junto." Guiding spirits of the Democrats were Stephen A. Douglas (until his removal from Springfield), John Calhoun, Virgil Hickox, and Weber and Walters of the Register. Among the Whigs, Stuart, Lincoln, Baker, Logan and A. G. Henry were supposed to dominate. To each group their rivals imputed not only autocratic power but also an unlimited capacity for chicanery. Highhandedness, selfishness and cor|ruption were regularly and impartially charged by both sides.
In sober fact, opposing sets of politicians were merely trying to make political capital out of the central control which both parties were adopting. Naturally they exag|gerated. Springfield men certainly exercised greater influence than their number warranted, but they cannot be said to have dominated the politics of the state. Party organization had not yet developed to such a degree as to make absolute control by any small group possible. Because of their native ability, ready contact with other leaders, and the strong newspapers with which they worked in close harmony, their influence was sometimes decisive, but their real dominance rarely extended beyond their own congressional district.
Moreover, while the newspapers devoted columns in each issue to political matters, it was only during the presidential campaigns that the rank and file of the voters became genu|inely aroused. Then politics attained an emotional pitch of almost unbelievable intensity. Witness the log cabin and hard cider campaign of 1840—the rowdiest, noisiest presidential campaign in the history of the country.
Although the candidates—William Henry Harrison and Martin Van Buren—were not yet nominated, the campaign began in Illinois in October, 1839, when both parties held their state conventions in Springfield. From the beginning, orgies of speech-making characterized it. One of the first Page 111 took place in mid-November in the court room at Springfield. Cyrus Walker of Macomb, a Whig elector, started off in the afternoon, and Douglas for the Democrats followed. Lin|coln, another electoral candidate, spoke in the evening. The next night Douglas spoke again, and Lincoln followed. On the third evening Edmund Wiley held forth for the Demo|crats and E. D. Baker concluded for the Whigs.1
Before the campaign was over such marathons of ora|tory became so common that the newspapers printed only perfunctory accounts of them, but as one of the first, this meeting attracted considerable attention. The Register's comment is notable for the sharp shot the editor took at Lincoln. Admitting that the first speech of the young Whig lawyer was "truly ingenious," the editor accused him of an "assumed clownishness . . . which does not become him, and which does not truly belong to him. . . . Mr. L[incoln]," he continued, "will sometimes make his lan|guage correspond with this clownish manner, and he can Page 112 thus frequently raise a loud laugh among his Whig hearers; but this entire game of buffoonery convinces the mind of no man, and is utterly lost on the majority of his audience."
At short intervals other speaking tournaments were held, but it was not long before the campaign got beyond the stage of mere argument. By a blunder comparable only to the fatal "rum, romanism and rebellion" of a later day, some disgusted Democrat referred to Harrison as a log cabin and hard cider candidate. With a flash of genius the Whigs turned the derisive characterization into a rallying cry, and transformed Harrison, a pious, well-meaning mediocrity, into a hard-handed hero of the glorious days of the Revolu|tion, a veritable god of the pioneers. Serious issues were for|gotten—or ignored—as the Whigs turned the campaign into a carnival of emotion. Log cabins were erected every|where, sober business men proclaimed unlimited faith in homespun and hard cider, and throats went hoarse in shout|ing such refrains as the following:
So far as Springfield was concerned, the high point of the campaign came on the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of June, when a gigantic Whig rally, officially entitled the "Young Men's Convention," was held there. Delegates began to arrive on Tuesday, June 2nd. Some, coming from places as far distant as two hundred miles, had been eight and ten days on the road. They carried their own camp equipment, slept on the Page 113 ground at night, and cooked their own food. They came in wagons, on horseback, and in many cases in canoes mounted on wheels. On arrival they were taken to the prairie north of the residence of Elijah Iles, where a camp had been pre|pared for them and a pavilion erected for speaking. By Tuesday night 5,000 people, representing the states of Indiana, Iowa, Missouri and seventy counties in Illinois, were on the grounds.
The convention organized on the following morning, and then indulged in a parade. At the head of the procession came two hundred and fifty veterans of the Revolution and the War of 1812. Next came the out-of-state delegates, and then the delegations from Illinois. First among these was the Cook County contingent with a miniature brig, thirty feet long and completely rigged, drawn by six white horses. Fayette County had a log cabin which its delegates had dragged all the way from Vandalia. The men from Cotton Hill precinct of Sangamon County used twenty-six yoke of oxen to pull their exhibit—a log cabin shaded by a large tree in upright position, with the entire delegation, eighty in num|ber, perched on the roof. Many groups brought canoes and hard cider barrels; bands were plentiful, banners myriad.
Forming in line at the north end of Sixth Street, the dele|gates paraded to the prairie south of town, where they marched, counter-marched and cheered themselves hoarse. Having performed all the evolutions the marshals could think of, they headed north again. At one o'clock the line reached Dr. Houghan's park, north of the city, where an old style barbecue was served to 15,000 people.
There was an almost unbelievable amount of speech-making. Immediatly after the barbecue the orators com|menced, and, with a short intermission for supper, followed one another until midnight. The next day the same schedule was followed. Even the Sangamo Journal commented in some wonderment at the close attention given to the "flood of elo|quence Page 114 which was poured out by the different gentlemen called upon the stands."
The meeting came to an end on Thursday evening, June 4th. On the next morning the Chicago delegation, ready to start for home, marched to the Journal office, and there pre|sented the brig to the Whigs of Springfield. E. D. Baker ac|cepted the gift, and in turn presented the Chicagoans with a grey eagle. Baker's speech was characteristic, both of the man and the time. He described the eagle as young, "like our Republic, and as we now are, tied and manacled; and he re|quested that whilst our country continues to be misruled and misgoverned, and tied to the car of power, that this Eagle, the emblem bird of our Republic, might be likewise restrained of its liberty; but that, when they should hear the tidings in November of the election of the war-worn veteran of Tip|pecanoe to the Presidency, he then desired that the Eagle may be loosed from its fetters, and permitted to roam free as the breezes of heaven, and as the principles we advocate."
And Simeon Francis, reporting the incident, recorded in all seriousness that during most of Baker's speech the eagle appeared to droop and languish, but when the orator in a burst of eloquence described the flight of the bird upon its prospective release, it "reared its head, expanded its eyes, and gave a loud cry."
Emotional fervor characterized the campaign throughout its course. To the attempts of the Democrats to create some discussion of national issues, the Whigs replied with lauda|tion of Harrison as a soldier and farmer, and with charges that Van Buren was a fop and an aristocrat. All over the state log cabins were erected. A week before the election the Whigs of Springfield raised a cabin on a lot a short distance south of the American House. There nightly meetings were held, speakers repeated the praises of the hero of Tippecanoe, and the audience shouted out the choruses of the songs which filled columns in nearly every issue of the Journal.
Page 115Even the women took an active part, although by common consent politics were normally the exclusive concern of the male. At the first meeting in the log cabin sixty women were present. James C. Conkling, writing to his fiancée of Mary Todd's return from a visit in Missouri, said that he first saw her at the Journal office, "where some fifteen or twenty ladies were collected together to listen to the Tippecanoe Singing Club. It has lately become quite a place of resort," he added, "particularly when it is expected there will be any speeches." After the election Miss Todd herself confessed: "This fall I became quite a politician, rather an unladylike profession, yet at such a crisis, whose heart could remain untouched while the energies of all were called in question?"
On more than one occasion during the campaign the strain on emotion came close to the breaking point. Once it actually snapped. Simeon Francis and the editors of the Register had become involved in an argument concerning Douglas's con|nection with Old Hickory, a Democratic campaign newspa|per. In the course of the argument Francis overstepped what Douglas considered the bounds of endurance, whereupon Douglas set out to cane him. Francis himself described the encounter. Douglas's eyes "glared like live coals," he wrote, "his frame dilated into grand and gigantic proportions, and with a voice like seven-toned thunder he bellowed forth his ire; 'flashing and fiery, fierce and free' came his words . . . he got a stick bigger than himself—snatched by his irresistible energy from the unwilling hand of John Calhoun, he came up by a masterly flank movement—big words fell from his lips, his mighty hand raised the stick—it fell and we received the blow upon an unoffending apple, which was as we thought se|cure from the chances of war—in our left hand coat pocket."
The Register's version was somewhat different. "Mr. Francis seems to think it an honor to escape from a caning with his life," it commented, "and a friend of ours says the honor is enhanced from the fact that this is not the first de|liverance Page 116 of the same kind. Mr. Francis had applied scur|rilous language to Mr. Douglass, which could be noticed in no other way. Mr. Douglass, therefore, gave him a sound caning, which Mr. Francis took with Abolition patience, and is now praising God that he was neither killed nor scathed. Mr. Francis was caned, however, and the infamy rests upon him with becoming grace."
Eventually, amid charges of election frauds in contempla|tion and offers of bets on Harrison's success from the Whigs, the campaign came to an end. But for all their exuberance, the Whigs were forced to see the state go for Van Buren. There was comfort, however, in the fact that the national re|sult was a victory. The machine which Andrew Jackson had perfected had its weak points after all. The Springfield group, moreover, could take satisfaction in the two-thirds majority which Sangamon County gave to Harrison. But it was a satisfaction soon to be destroyed. In less than six months the President was dead, and with John Tyler of Virginia in the White House the great victory turned to dust and ashes.
With the close of the national campaign, the people settled down to four years of comparative quiet so far as politics were concerned. Surfeited with the emotionalism of the past six months, state and local issues aroused only a mild interest, although there was much amusement when Abraham Lincoln and Joseph Gillespie jumped from a window in December, 1840, in a fruitless attempt to prevent the adjournment of the special session of the legislature which was then in prog|ress. (The Register suggested that the State House be raised another story so that even Lincoln, with his long legs, would have to climb down the water spout.)
But politics were not the only subject capable of arousing the 3,000 inhabitants of the capital to high excitement. In the summer of 1841 the Fisher "murder" caused tension just as strained, and much more dangerous, than that which had re|sulted Page 117 from the Harrison campaign. Several times mob action seemed likely.
Everything started on an afternoon in early June—the 2nd, to be exact—when four men left Myers's boarding house in Springfield for a walk about the town. Their names were Archibald, William and Henry Trailor, and Archibald Fisher. The Trailors were brothers who lived in different parts of the state—Archibald at Springfield, Henry at Clary's Grove, William in Warren County. Fisher was an odd-job carpenter who had been living recently with William Trailor. The four men left the boarding house together, but that evening only the three Trailors returned for supper. Fisher's absence was the cause of some comment among the other boarders, so the three brothers spent several hours in search|ing for him, but without success.
The next morning they searched again, but at noon Henry and William started for their respective homes. Some of Myers's boarders remonstrated, but on the whole no general notice was taken of the affair. Three or four days later Henry Trailor reappeared and, with his brother and several others, spent another day in ineffectual search, only to give up again and return to his home.
Hardly had Henry Trailor left for Clary's Grove when a letter came from a postmaster in Warren County. The writer stated that William Trailor was boasting that Fisher was dead and had willed him his money, amounting in all to $1,500. He added that Trailor's story seemed strange and his conduct unnatural, and asked for the truth of the matter. The letter was made public, and immediately intense excite|ment prevailed in Springfield. Under the direction of the mayor and attorney general, an intensive search for Fisher's body was commenced. Large searching parties were formed, the timber and prairies thoroughly combed, cellars and wells of all sorts looked into, and even fresh graves opened. After twenty-four hours of fruitless effort the search was given up, Page 118 and officers were sent to arrest the Trailors and bring them to Springfield. Two days later Henry Trailor appeared, in custody.
At once the mayor and attorney general set out to draw a confession from the prisoner. For two days he steadily de|nied all knowledge of what had happened to Fisher, but on the third day, protesting his own innocence, he made a con|fession. His story was a strange one. On the day when Fisher and his brothers had started out to see the town, he said, they had wandered out to the timber to the northwest of the city. There, without his knowledge at the time, William and Archibald had murdered Fisher, and had temporarily con|cealed his body. The next day, before separating for their homes, they had told him what they had done, and had asked his help in disposing of the body. He accompanied them to the woods, and stood guard at some distance while they re|moved a dead body from a dense thicket, placed it in their wagon and started in the direction of Hickox's mill pond on Spring Creek. Half an hour later they returned, saying they had put him in a safe place, whereupon Archibald returned to Springfield and William and Henry started for their homes.
Archibald Trailor had borne such an excellent reputation in Springfield that until his brother made this disclosure he had not even been arrested. Now he was seized and put in jail, and there was no little talk of a hanging at the hands of the people. No time was lost in examining the thicket where the body was said to have been concealed. There buggy tracks leading in the direction of the mill pond were found. Hun|dreds took part in dragging the pond, and when no body was found, tore down the dam.
Before the water was completely drained, the officer who had been sent for William Trailor arrived in Springfield with his prisoner. With them was a certain Doctor Gilmore, also from Warren County, who swore that Fisher was not only Page 119 alive, but living at his home. The entire population of Spring|field was dumbfounded. But when the doctor's story was re|lated to Henry Trailor, he reaffirmed his own version of what had happened without the slightest deviation. The crowd at once concluded that Gilmore was a confederate engaged in a desperate attempt to secure the release of the prisoners, and excitement once more rose to fever heat.
The next day William and Archibald Trailor were ar|raigned before two justices of the peace on a charge of mur|der. Josiah Lamborn appeared for the prosecution; Logan, Lincoln, and Baker for the defendants. Henry Trailor was put on the stand and withstood a severe cross-examination without becoming entangled in any way. Other witnesses cor|roborated some of his statements. Doctor Gilmore was then sworn as a witness. He stated that on the morning of William Trailor's arrest Fisher appeared at his home, that he was in feeble health and could give no rational account of his recent movements, that he understood him to be subject to occasional temporary derangements, and that he would have brought him with him to Springfield had his physical condition per|mitted. The doctor's demeanor was so convincing that the justices discharged the prisoners, in spite of the fact that as the hearing ended Henry Trailor was still asserting that no power on earth would ever reveal Fisher alive.
That evening Abraham Lincoln wrote an account of the mystery to Joshua Speed in Kentucky, prefacing it with the statement that "we have had the highest state of excitement here for a week past that our community has ever witnessed; and although the public feeling is somewhat allayed, the curious affair which aroused it is very far from being even yet cleared of mystery." After relating all the circumstances of the case, Lincoln finished with a description of the con|sternation which the conclusion had caused. "When the doc|tor's story was first made public," he wrote, "it was amusing to scan and contemplate the countenances and hear the re|marks Page 120 of those who had been actively in search for the dead body: some looked quizzical, some melancholy, and some furiously angry. Porter, who had been very active, swore he always knew the man was not dead, and that he had not stirred an inch to hunt for him; Langford, who had taken the lead in cutting down Hickox's mill-dam, and who wanted to hang Hickox for objecting, looked most awfully woebe|gone: he seemed the 'wictim of hunrequited hafection,' as represented in the comic almanac we used to laugh over; and Hart, the little drayman that hauled Molly home once, said it was too damned bad, to have so much trouble and no hang|ing after all."
A few days after the discharge of the Trailor brothers, Fisher himself appeared in Springfield. On June 22 the people of the capital assembled in public meeting and passed resolu|tions regretting that their fellow-citizen, Archibald Trailor, should ever have been accused of the crime, and asserting that their respect for him had been in no way diminished by the accusation. But it was an ineffectual restitution. For two years Archibald Trailor shunned society, and then died of no apparent ailment. His brother William had already preceded him in death. Henry lived a few years longer, a broken, deranged man. None of the principals ever referred to the episode, and the mystery remains as dark and perplex|ing as it was on the night when Lincoln related the facts to Joshua Speed.
In scarcely more than a year the citizens of Springfield were again in a turmoil. This time the basic cause was politics, com|plicated by Abraham Lincoln's propensity to let a sarcastic pen outrun his better judgment.
For the state of Illinois, the years following the panic of 1837 were a financial nightmare. Due to the heavy commit|ments of the internal improvement system, her obligations were huge. On the other hand, prices were low and taxes were hard to collect. To make matters worse, by 1842 the state Page 121 banks—the State Bank at Springfield and the Bank of Illi|nois at Shawneetown—were not redeeming their paper in specie. Their notes, circulating in the state to the amount of several millions, passed at large discounts.
To protect the state from the payment of taxes in this depreciated currency, the State Auditor, acting under a law passed several years earlier, issued a proclamation ordering collectors to suspend the collection of the revenue, and under no circumstances to accept state bank paper at more than its current value. Since the bulk of the currency in circulation was state bank paper, the auditor's action, wise in itself, was in|tensely unpopular. The situation was a capital one for the Whigs, and the Springfield group—the "Junto"—lost no time in taking advantage of it.
The State Auditor was James Shields, a young Irishman who had made rapid strides in the Democratic party. Upon coming to Springfield in 1841 he had formed a partnership with James C. Conkling, who, though a Whig, had written his fiancée a description which discloses an attractive person|ality. "A young gentleman of fine talents with a considerable touch of Irish eloquence," he characterized Shields. "Pray don't let the appellation Paddy convey to you the idea that he is a great, brawny, double fisted, uncouth Irishman. Quite the reverse. A person might possibly detect the place of his nativity by his looks, but his tongue is smooth as oil. He is a warm Democrat, but as he is not a violent politician I think we can jog along very sociably." But Shields was also pos|sessed of an effervescence of spirits and an excess of gallantry which made him a fine subject for ridicule, and the fun of chaffing him was all the keener because of his lack of a good sense of humor.
At the time the collection of the revenue was suspended the Sangamo Journal was publishing, under the heading of "Lost Townships," a series of letters containing vernacular state|ments of Whig doctrines. The third of these letters, dated Page 122 August 27, dealt with Shields and his proclamation. The author was supposed to be a widow named Rebecca, who was reporting to the editor her conversation with a farmer of the Lost Townships. To save his face the farmer, a Democrat, insisted that Shields was a Whig, and to prove his assertion described him as he had seen him at a social gathering in Springfield.
"I seed him when I was down in Springfield last winter," said the farmer. "They had a sort of a gatherin' there one night among the grandees, they called a fair. All the gals about town was there, and all the handsome widows and married women, finickin' about trying to look like gals, tied as tight in the middle, and puffed out at both ends, like bundles of fodder that hadn't been stacked yet, but wanted stackin' pretty bad. . . . They wouldn't let no Democrats in, for fear they'd disgust the ladies, or scare the little gals, or dirty the floor. I looked in at the window, and there was this same fellow Shields floatin' about on the air, without heft or earthly substance, just like a lock of cat fur where cats had been fighting.
"He was paying his money to this one, and that one, and t'other one, and sufferin' great loss because it wasn't silver instead of State paper; and the sweet distress he seemed to be in—his very features, in the ecstatic agony of his soul, spoke audibly and distinctly, 'Dear girls, it is distressing, but I cannot marry you all. Too well I know how much you suffer; but do, do remember, it is not my fault that I am so hand|some and so interesting.' . . . He a Democrat! Fiddle|sticks! I tell you Aunt 'Becca, he's a Whig, and no mistake: nobody but a Whig could make such a conceity dunce of himself."
His vanity touched, Shields demanded the name of the author from the editor. He was told that Abraham Lincoln had written the piece in question. Before he could demand an apology, however, Shields was called to Quincy, and by the Page 123 time of his return, Lincoln had gone to Tremont for the fall session of the Tazewell court. Meanwhile, another "Lost Townships" letter had appeared in the Journal. This time Rebecca, having heard of Shields' anger at her previous com|munication, came forth not only with an apology but with an offer of marriage as well. "I know he's a fighting man, and would rather fight than eat," she admitted; "but isn't marryin' better than fightin', though it does sometimes run in to it?" If the Auditor should insist on combat, Rebecca gave him the privilege of choosing whether she should wear breeches or he petticoats, "for," she concluded, "I presume that change is sufficient to place us on an equality." The letter was crudely done, but it served to rub salt in wounds already smarting.
Finding Lincoln absent when he got back to Springfield, Shields took John D. Whitesides and started after him. Meanwhile E. H. Merryman and William Butler, learning their purpose, set out for Tremont, passed Shields and White|sides during the night, and succeeded in warning Lincoln before his pursuers arrived. He said that he was opposed to duelling, and would avoid it if he could without degradation, but if that were impossible, he would fight.
A few hours later Shields and Whitesides reached Tre|mont. Whitesides called on Lincoln at once, and presented a note from the Auditor demanding a full retraction of all of|fensive allusions. There followed an interchange of corre|spondence in the best manner of the code, even to meticulous references to "Captain" Lincoln, which finally ended with a challenge and its acceptance. Thereupon all except Shields started for Springfield.
Arriving there, they found the town in great excitement. To avoid arrest, Lincoln determined to leave early the fol|lowing morning. Before leaving he instructed Merryman, his second, to offer his full apology to Shields if the latter would withdraw his first communication and substitute an|other Page 124 "without menace or dictation." In case of a refusal, the weapons were to be cavalry broadswords of the largest size and the place a spot within three miles of Alton on the Mis|souri side of the river. The next morning the seconds met, but failed to compose the difficulty. Merryman, whose arrest was also threatened, then left for Jacksonville to meet Lincoln, procure broadswords and proceed to the dueling place.
The parties met as agreed. On the dueling ground friends patched up the quarrel, and the principals returned to Spring|field in reasonable harmony.
But the matter was far from ended. Whitesides published in the Register an account of the affair which Merryman re|sented, and he in turn published his version in the Journal. One thing led to another until the challenges could hardly be kept track of. On October 4, nearly two weeks after the peaceful conclusion of his own escapade, Lincoln described the uproar to his friend Speed.
Fortunately, the dueling fever finally abated without seri|ous consequences. But it was never forgotten, and lives in prairie lore in such tales as that which has Lincoln, when in|formed that as the challenged party he would have the choice of weapons, reply, "How about cow-dung at five paces?" In sober fact, however, it was to be a source of mortification to Lincoln throughout his life. He soon refused to discuss it, even with close friends, and as time went on, the mere men|tion of his "duel" aroused his acute displeasure, and was certain to bring a sharp rebuff to the rash gossiper.
While the dueling excitement was running its course the people of Springfield were becoming interested in a problem that was to distract the state for more than four years.
In 1838 the Mormons, after having been expelled from Ohio and then Missouri, took refuge in Illinois. There, at Nauvoo in Hancock County, they soon built a flourishing set|tlement. Politicians of both parties, anxious to curry favor, enabled them to obtain charters of such liberality that they be|came practically independent of higher authority. Gradually the goodwill which had originally greeted them turned to dis|trust. By participating en masse in politics they aroused ac|tive Page 126 antagonism. During the summer of 1842, throughout the contest for state offices, rumors of all sorts were in circulation. Numerous thefts and robberies were charged against them, and many believed that they planned to overthrow the gov|ernment when their strength should be great enough. The Whigs, angered by the Mormons' recent support of the Dem|ocratic party, eagerly gave circulation to such gossip. In Springfield the Sangamo Journal filled its columns with anti-Mormon tirades.
A few months later Springfield found itself, for a few days, the focus of the Mormon question. Since 1840 attempts had been made to extradite the Mormon leaders to Missouri, to stand trial there for alleged participation in an attempt to assassinate the governor of that state. Finally, in December, 1842, Governor Ford issued a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Smith, the Mormon leader. Smith retained Justin Butterfield as counsel, and Butterfield sued out a writ of habeas corpus from Judge Pope of the United States Dis|trict Court. At the hearing Butterfield coined a pun so famous that it still lives in the legal lore of Illinois.
Because of the parties involved, the case had aroused great interest. Present were Smith and his twelve Apostles, as well as many of the leading men of the state. The court room was so crowded that several ladies who were present—among them Mrs. Lincoln and one of Pope's daughters—were seated on either side of the judge. Amid a deep silence Butterfield, in long blue coat with brass buttons and buff-colored waist|coat, rose slowly to his feet. Pausing until he had surveyed the row of fashionably dressed women before him, he spoke:
"May it please the court:
"I appear before you today under circumstances most novel and peculiar. I am to address the Pope (bowing to the judge) surrounded by angels (with a very low bow), in the pres|ence of the holy Apostles, on behalf of the Prophet of the Lord!"
Page 127Pope discharged the Mormon leader, but as time went on feeling against the strange sect became ever more intense. Smith himself aggravated conditions by the idiotic act of announcing his candidacy for the Presidency of the United States in 1844. Soon afterward discord developed in the Mormon church, and an opposition group established a news|paper of its own. Smith's followers countered by demolish|ing the press. Excitement mounted. Wild rumors spread— that Smith had been crowned and anointed king of the Mormons; that he had created a select band of followers named Danites who were sworn to obey his every command, murder and treason not excepted; that the whole church was a community of murderers, thieves and outlaws; that counter|feiting was being carried on on a large scale at Nauvoo; that polygamy was being practised widely.
Violence seemed so near that the governor was asked to call out the militia. He preferred instead to make a personal investigation, and proceeded to Nauvoo. While he was there a mob murdered Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum in the jail at Carthage. Disorder continued until fall, when Ford ordered Brig. Gen. John J. Hardin, Cols. E. D. Baker and E. H. Merryman of Springfield, and Col. William Weatherford, to raise 500 volunteers and restore order in Hancock County. Among those who offered their services were the military companies of Springfield. No resistance was offered, but John Norris, of the Springfield Cadets, was shot accidentally, and died within a short time. By early October order prevailed, and the Springfield men returned to their homes.
Peace, however, had not yet come to the distracted com|munity. In the fall of 1845 disorder in Hancock County once more reached the danger point, and once again Hardin with a force of several hundred militiamen established him|self at Carthage. This time he induced the Mormons to agree to leave the county in the spring. Warm weather came, and Page 128 the exodus started. By the middle of May it was estimated that 16,000 Mormons had crossed the Mississippi. But per|haps a thousand remained in Nauvoo, and by their presence inflamed their neighbors to a final outbreak.
By autumn Nauvoo was a besieged city. Outside was a force of several hundred men, armed with muskets, rifles and small cannon; inside were the remnant of the Mormons and many non-members of the sect who had purchased the property of the departed faithful. Several skirmishes took place, but there were few casualties. Finally the Mormons were induced to yield, whereupon their enemies entered the town and expelled not only them but also the non-Mormons who had joined them in their resistance.
To protect the latter in their property rights Ford called for volunteers. For months the people of Springfield—and Illinois in general—had been indifferent to affairs in Han|cock County, believing that the wisest course was to let the inhabitants fight out their difficulties; but conditions finally became so notorious that George R. Weber, editor of the Register and major of militia, raised 120 men in and around Springfield and proceeded to Nauvoo, where the force en|camped in the shadow of the temple. Although the anti-Mormons resented their presence bitterly nothing happened, and after two weeks all except fifty men under Captain Con|nelley of Springfield were withdrawn. Winter came, and ice and snow prevented further disorder. By spring practically all the Mormons had gone. In their absence passions quickly cooled. The "Mormon War" was over.
While Springfield and Springfield men had been drawn into the Mormon troubles repeatedly, other events had frequently crowded them out of the town's attention. One such distrac|tion was the presidential campaign of 1844.
With the feverish Harrison campaign fresh in memory, both parties made heroic efforts to re-create the emotional intensity which the Whigs had achieved in 1840. In Spring|field Page 129 the chief reliance was placed on huge flagpoles instead of the log cabins of four years earlier. Late in July the Demo|crats erected a hickory pole one hundred feet in height, and unfurled a banner made by the Democratic ladies of the town. David B. Campbell made the address of the day, and the Springfield Artillery paraded and fired a salute of thirty-two guns.
At once the Whigs made plans for a party rally which would show up the Democratic gathering as a puny effort. August 3rd was the date set. Handbills were sent out over the county, and a large crowd gathered to see an ash pole, many feet longer than the hickory pole of their rivals, put into place. The task seemed to be successfully accomplished when two workmen, John Brodie and William Conant, at|tempted to move one of the derricks with which the pole had been lifted. Suddenly a guy rope snapped. For an instant the pole wavered, and then crashed to the ground. Brodie was killed instantly and Conant was seriously injured. The balance of the program was abandoned, but that evening a considerable group gathered in "impressive silence" at the home of J. A. Corneau, where E. D. Baker and John J. Hardin of Jacksonville made brief addresses.
Among the Whigs were a few hotheads who charged the Democrats with responsibility for the accident. At first no one paid any attention to their insinuations, but events of the next week or two convinced the scatter-brained that there was truth behind the charge. One by one, the workmen who had been hired to erect the Whig pole fell ill. All of them, it was found, had drunk at the public well. For several days rumors circulated that the well had been poisoned by the Democrats. Finally a farmer who lived near Rochester came forward with an explanation. A week or two earlier, he said, he had watched a small boy place a package on top of the pump. A moment later it fell in. Both he and the boy had tried to recover it, but without success. It had contained fly Page 130 salve for horses! Thus the mystery was solved, and the Dem|ocrats vindicated.
After waiting two weeks the Whigs made a second attempt to raise an ash pole, and this time there were no casualties. Truly their rivals were overshadowed, for the pole, in six sections, measured 214 ½ feet. A week later an American flag and a Clay banner, made by the Whig ladies of Spring|field, were unfurled with elaborate ceremonies. Speech-making, interspersed with songs by the Clay glee club, lasted all afternoon; and in the evening the city was illuminated with bonfires and displays of fireworks.
For the most part, however, no unusual enthusiasm marked the campaign. The personal popularity of Henry Clay was great, but the Democrats enjoyed the advantages of larger numbers, superior organization and popular issues. As a re|sult, they carried Illinois for James K. Polk by a comfortable majority. Three weeks after the election the party gathered in Springfield for a celebration. One hundred guns boomed a prelude to a torch light parade through the principal streets. At the head of the procession was a dead raccoon, suspended neck-down from a gallows, while above it crowed a live rooster. The homes of prominent Democrats were illumi|nated, and in windows all over town shown transparencies with appropriate mottoes.
One reason for the success of the Democrats was the po|sition of the party on two issues in which the people of Illinois were deeply interested—the annexation of Texas, and the northern ("54-40 or fight") boundary of Oregon.
For several years the people of Springfield had had a lively interest in conditions in Texas and Oregon. Periodi|cally, public meetings gave opportunity for the expression of opinion. In February, 1843, two large meetings, held in the State House on successive nights, passed resolutions affirming that the United States had an unquestioned right to the whole of Oregon Territory, that it should take immediate Page 131 steps to occupy it and establish a territorial government, and that consent to the surrender of any part of the territory should never be given. A year later the Texas question was dealt with no less emphatically. A call for a public meeting, sent out over the signatures of 123 citizens, posed the question in these words: "The people of Texas, our brothers by birth, the friends of liberty by education, appeal to our sympathies for protection; and ask to attach themselves to this great Republic, that they may become with us one people, united in interest and communion, as we are already by our devotion to human liberty and the rights of man . . . Shall they ask in vain?" The meeting passed resolutions in favor of im|mediate annexation.
In the beginning the tendency of the Whigs had been to oppose extreme measures in both Oregon and Texas. Thus at the Oregon meeting in 1843 Usher F. Linder of Charles|ton and E. D. Baker took "the British side of the question," to quote their opponents; and at the Texas meeting fourteen months later Baker and Lincoln opposed annexation. The campaign of 1844, however, showed the party the futility of opposition. The result was apparent at a large Oregon meet|ing held in June, 1845, at which Hardin and Baker, as well as Douglas and John Calhoun, assented to resolutions affirming the "indisputable" title of the United States as far as 54° 40′, calling for the military occupation of the disputed territory, and proclaiming that "we are ready, willing and anxious, if necessary, to maintain the American title to the whole coun|try by an appeal to arms."
Therefore it was to no apathetic community that news of war with Mexico came in mid-May, 1846. On the 25th of that month Governor Ford issued his proclamation calling for 3,000 volunteers. On the same day John J. Hardin, Brigadier General of Illinois militia, let it be known that he had en|rolled his own name—the first Illinoisan to offer himself— and called for volunteers from his brigade. Five days later Page 132 a rally was held in Springfield. The military companies pa|raded the streets, and then, with as many citizens as could crowd in, gathered in the Hall of the House. The Governor, E. H. Merryman, Lincoln and others stirred the crowd with speeches on the necessity of sustaining national honor and national rights. By nightfall seventy men had volunteered.
Throughout Illinois the war fever flamed. In a few days the three regiments which had been assigned to the state were filled, and volunteers by the thousand were being turned away. Disappointed at not receiving a command, E. D. Baker, in Washington as the Representative of the Springfield dis|trict, got authority from the President to raise a fourth regi|ment and hurried home to recruit it. On June 6, at a public meeting held in the state house, eighty men enlisted. In less than three weeks the ranks of the regiment were full.
For two weeks the Fourth Illinois, as Baker's regiment was designated, was encamped on the prairie at the southern limit of Springfield. Included were two local companies under Captains H. E. Roberts and Achilles Morris. The town was war-mad. Crowds gathered to watch the recruits stumble through the manual of arms, and ladies sewed on flags for the "brave hearts who were so nobly responding to the call of their country." When the regiment struck its tents on June 27 and started for the concentration camp at Alton, the sighs of friends and tears of parents were lost in the cheers of the entire population. War was a glorious adventure.
After two weeks at Alton, the Fourth Regiment was trans|ferred to Jefferson Barracks at St. Louis, to train there until transports should be available. The people of the river city were favorably impressed. "The regiment is handsomely uni|formed," said the Missouri Democrat, "in blue roundabouts and pantaloons, with glazed oil-cloth caps, and in the equip|ment of the United States infantry they make as handsome a display as has at any time been seen in our streets."
Late in July the men were put on transports for New Page 133 Orleans, whence they reshipped for the Rio Grande, which they reached on August 15th. With the exception of an over|land march to reinforce Taylor at Monterey, where they arrived too late to be of any use, the men of the Fourth Illi|nois remained at various camps on the San Juan and Rio Grande for nearly four months.
Before many weeks the young enthusiasts from Illinois learned that war was far from the romantic excursion they had imagined. Even before the regiment left St. Louis, Wil|liam Walters, who left the office of the Illinois State Regis|ter to volunteer, fell ill, and later died, but death did not begin to take toll in earnest until the Rio Grande was reached. There, at one time or another, nearly every man in the regi|ment was sick. Unhealthy climate, poor food and water, forced marches and an almost complete ignorance of sanitary precautions combined to prostrate the troops. By late Oc|tober, 1846, the regiment which had gaily marched out of Springfield with 770 men had been reduced to 530. Sixty had died, and more than a hundred had been confined to hospitals or sent home, too emaciated for service. Only 400 were fit for duty. Before the Fourth Regiment left Matamoras for Tampico in mid-December nearly one hundred had died, and men said that the dead march had been played so often that even the birds knew its strains.
When the regiment was ordered south the prospect of battle was welcome. After a month and a half in Tampico, transports took the men to Vera Cruz. There, in the action which finally reduced the defenses and opened the way to Mexico City, Capt. H. E. Roberts won the distinction of be|ing the first American to disembark, and the entire regiment bore itself creditably.
Meanwhile, Springfield had been thrown into excitement by the news of the Battle of Buena Vista. The first reports had reached the city late in March, but at that time the out|come of the engagement was unknown. On April 1 the Amer|ican Page 134 victory was proclaimed, and there was great rejoicing. But there was also sorrow, for the death of John J. Hardin was announced. Although a resident of Jacksonville, Hardin had been a familiar, popular figure in the capital. A few days after the news of his death was received, the citizens of Springfield met at the court house. Judge Treat was called to the chair, and Abraham Lincoln explained the purpose of the meeting and offered resolutions expressing sorrow at the death of Hardin and those who had fallen with him.
Six weeks after the Battle of Buena Vista the news of Cerro Gordo reached Springfield. This time anxiety was intense, for sons and brothers were involved. First reports were disquieting. Victory was proclaimed, but Baker was said to have lost forty-five killed and wounded in only a portion of his regiment, and Shields, commanding a brigade, was re|ported fatally wounded. For days the town was tense with fear. The mails were slow, and several weeks elapsed before the casualties were entirely reported. Then it was known that Shields would recover, and that only a few Springfield men had lost their lives. Battle was hardly more dangerous than camp life in Mexico.
With anxiety over the fate of friends and relatives was mixed pride in the performance of the Illinois troops. The citizens thrilled to an account of the battle which James H. Merryman of Springfield's Company A wrote to his father. On the evening of April 17th Shields's brigade, which included both the Third and Fourth Illinois, had got into po|sition on a height overlooking the enemy's works. "We were up at break of day," Merryman wrote;
—a bright Sunday morning. I looked around me;—the scene was grand and imposing: the east just tinged with the rays of the rising sun; lofty mountains just visible in the distance, and Orizaba ap|pearing above all. . . . The side of the hill glistened with bayonets. There lay the Illinois boys, eager for the fight, and anxiously await|ing Page 135 that day which should bring them fame and glory. . . . The order was given to move. On we went for two hundred yards, when everything that the Mexicans could bring to bear was fired, and great was the noise of six and four pounders, grape and cannister, ball and buckshot, whistling through the air. For six hundred yards we were exposed to the fire of the largest battery, called Tower Hill. Finally we got under cover of the chapparal of an opposite hill. Several were wounded, and Lieut. Cowardin killed by this fire. On we went towards the Jalapa road. . . .
We pushed on through the chapparal until coming upon a small plain. A heavy fire in our front announced to us the fact of there being a battery there. We were a good deal astonished, I assure you; and rather discouraged when we saw our brave general carried to the rear, severely wounded. But the voice of our brave and gallant Colonel, who was second in command, restored our equilibrium. He made his dispositions. His orders were obeyed,—and the extreme left of the enemy's position was carried by the 4th Illinois volunteers, with the loss of 46 men killed and wounded.
It was a glorious sight to see the enemy bamas. We captured six pieces of cannon, Santa Anna's carriage, his wooden leg, and 18,000 in specie. . . .
We pushed on in pursuit of the enemy with our brigade and two pieces of artillery. We overtook them. Four or five squadrons of lancers charged towards us, and 40 men of our regiment re|pulsed them. Three times they tried it, but it was NO GO. On they went at a gallop. Gen. Twiggs led the pursuit and 'swore terribly.' He shouted, "Huzza, my Illinois bloodhounds, pursue them, d—n 'em, after 'em boys, and be d—d to them!" We overtook them again, eight miles from the battle ground, at El Encero, Santa Anna's hacienda, fired upon them with the artillery, and gave up the pursuit.
Before the end of the Mexico City campaign the Third and Fourth Illinois were sent back to New Orleans and there dis|charged. In small parties they trickled home. By the Fourth of July all the survivors had returned, so the day was made the occasion of a citizens' tribute to them. Headed by the Springfield Brass Band, Captain Fisher's Springfield Infantry and Captain Smith's Decatur Infantry, the veterans in weatherbeaten uniforms, with Baker at their head, marched Page 136 to the grove east of town,8 where a bountiful dinner was served. Several thousand heard James Barrett read the De|claration of Independence, W. I. Ferguson's oration of the day, and Baker's response. In the evening the volunteers were the guests of honor at a piano concert which the Misses Browne gave in the Hall of Representatives. Afterward the floor was cleared and there was dancing until half-past eleven.
Ten days later many Springfield citizens, and the members of the constitutional convention then in session, traveled to Jacksonville to attend the funeral of John J. Hardin. For Springfield, these solemn rites concluded the war. Later a number of her residents enlisted in a company of Mounted Rifles, but saw no active service. No enthusiasm greeted their departure, and their return went unnoticed.
On the heels of the Mexican War, and colored by it in al|most every particular, came the political campaign of 1848.
In Springfield, interest centered in the contest for Lin|coln's seat in Congress. Although at the outbreak of the war Lincoln had joined the other politicians in making speeches about national honor, in Congress he had followed his party in denouncing the conflict as unnecessary and unjust. In particular, he had introduced a series of shrewdly worded resolutions demanding of President Polk the exact spot on which first blood was shed, thus attempting to pin the respon|sibility for the conflict on the United States. To the people of his district, this was a close approach to treason. They had gone into the war with enthusiasm, they were proud of the record of their soldiers, and they wanted no one to tell them that they had been in the wrong. All over the district resolu|tions denouncing Lincoln and his "spot" interrogatories were adopted. In derision the Democrats nicknamed him "Spotty" Lincoln.
This record alone was a heavy load for Stephen T. Logan, the Whig candidate, to carry, and by remaining in Wash|ington Page 137 instead of returning to defend himself, Lincoln did not make it any lighter. But when an active opponent who had served gallantly in the field—Maj. Thomas L. Harris of Petersburg—was added to his troubles, Logan's doom was made certain. At the August election the district, heretofore safely Whig, went emphatically for Harris. The Democrats rejoiced boisterously. When the returns indicated the result cannon boomed and bonfires blazed, bands paraded the streets of Springfield, and far into the night orators con|gratulated the party on its victory.
But war service was a two-edged sword. When the Whigs selected Taylor, with the fame of his conquests still fresh, to oppose Cass, it cut in another direction. In November came the turn of the Whigs to rejoice.
In Springfield they did it lustily, for Whig victories in presidential elections were rare occurrences. November 21st was the day selected for formal jubilation. In the afternoon a national salute was fired. At nightfall the homes and stores of the faithful were illuminated. Two hours later the lights were put out in order that the torchlight procession might appear to better advantage. At nine o'clock, when the parade disbanded at the square, bonfires, rockets, and fireworks blazed all over town. "There was much joy, much congratu|lation," the Journal observed smugly, "—much expression of high hopes of the future of the country under the new ad|ministration."
The outbreak of war with Mexico had forced the Polk administration to a compromise on the question of the Ore|gon boundary. To the people of Illinois this was pusillani|mity—but their resentment at the nation's failure to back up its claims did not deter them from taking eager advantage of the territory to which the title of the United States had been confirmed. Even before the settlement of the boundary question an epidemic of Oregon emigration had set in. Hardly an issue of a newspaper appeared without its notice Page 138 of the formation of an Oregon company. Articles on the history and geography of the Northwest were read eagerly, and letters from emigrants were frequently published.
Springfield and Sangamon County were not immune to the prevailing fever. Beginning in 1845, each spring saw the departure of expeditions. Notices like the following were typical: "Several families will leave Sangamon County this spring, for Oregon and California. Among them are some of our best citizens." For months afterward the progress of the expedition, its hardships and hopes, would be described in letters received by friends and relatives.
With the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the rate of emigration speeded up sharply. In the spring of 1849 par|ties left Springfield for the gold fields every few days, and it was estimated that the total exodus from Sangamon County was not less than 150. So far as possible, the Springfield papers kept track of the emigrants and printed the letters they wrote home, together with many columns of advice to emigrants.
From Springfield, the favorite route to both Oregon and California was overland by way of Independence, Missouri. Hardships were a matter of course, and were accepted stoi|cally, but the disasters which befell one Sangamon County organization were so horrible that its story has become the epitome of the tragedies of the overland trail.
In the early spring of 1846 a notice, signed "G. Donner and Others," appeared in the Sangamo Journal. "Who wants to go to California without costing them anything?" the first sentence read. The services of eight young men of good character who were able to drive ox-teams were solicited.
The party was quickly made up. With the families of James F. Reed and George Donner as nuclei, thirty-four persons left Springfield on April 14, 1846. Other groups joined them as they moved westward. One month after de|parture they were on the Kansas River a hundred miles west Page 139 of Independence in a company which totalled more than three hundred men, women and children. Soon afterward, however, the majority of the emigrants, whose destination was Oregon, selected a northern route, while the Reeds and Donners, with a smaller number, pushed on for California.
Traveling slowly up the valley of the Platte they reached Fort Laramie without mishap, and then crossed the Rocky Mountains to Fort Bridger in safety. Here they made a fatal mistake. By this time it was early autumn. Instead of following a longer but well established route to the north of the Great Salt Lake, they chose a much shorter but far more dangerous trail due west past the lake's southern tip. Hardships came in quick succession. Cattle and horses strayed and were stolen, lack of water caused great suffering, and— worst of all—winter was fast approaching and provisions were running short.
On the cut-off which the party had taken there were no settlements or stations. Obviously, the only thing to do was to send one or two men forward to Sutter's in California for provisions, leaving the main body of emigrants to follow as best they could. After severe hardships the emissaries reached Sutter's ranch, secured food supplies, and started back. But by this time heavy snows had fallen and the moun|tain trails were impassable. Repeated attempts to break through failed. The stark fact was that relief was impossible before spring.
Meanwhile, snow-bound, the emigrants prepared to make the best of an apparently hopeless situation. Throwing hasty shelters together, they began to parcel out the scanty supply of food. Soon it was gone. Then the cattle which remained were killed, and then the dogs. Finally only hides remained— hides and the bodies of those who were dying almost daily. When spring came, and relief arrived, the fleshless bones of those who had starved to death were found in the cabins of more than one half-demented survivor.
Page 140The miracle was that any lived through the four months of horror. Yet forty persons out of seventy-two finally reached California; and James F. Reed was able to write back to Gershom Keyes in Springfield: "The disasters of the company to which I belonged, should not deter any person from coming who wishes to try his fortune."
California—Oregon—Mexico: the words alone are indic|ative of the far-flowing currents of life which the years of the forties swept into Springfield. Before the decade closed, however, the world impinged from even more directions upon the little prairie capital.
For one thing, there was an eddy of French social philos|ophy. In Paris, Charles Fourier was propounding the "science of social unity." Man and his environment, Fourier believed, were out of harmony. And since God made man and man made the environment, the environment must be changed. To do this so that human desires—which, in Four|ier's belief, were all good—would have free play, coopera|tion was necessary. Families must pool their property in a sort of joint-stock enterprise, live in a common dwelling, and apportion necessary work in such a way as to give each individual the greatest opportunity for the use of his own talents and at the same time hold drudgery to a minimum. Happiness would be the certain reward.
Expounded in the United States by Arthur Brisbane, with the enthusiastic support of Horace Greeley, Fourier's doc|trines led to the formation of more than thirty communities, or "phalanxes," as they were called. Lick Creek in Sangamon County—now Loami—was the scene of one of these experi|ments.
Early in 1845 a group led by the Rev. Theophilus Sweet became converted to Fourierism and decided to form the Sangamon Association. A preliminary organization was adopted, stock was taken and paid for by contributions of land, labor and sometimes money, and work was commenced Page 141 on a communal dwelling. Before the Association actually started to function, however, a merger was made with a group of Ohio Fourierists who called themselves the Integral Phalanx. Taking this name, the two organizations joined forces and set out to realize the dreams of the master on the Illinois prairies.
The experiment lasted little more than a year. In the be|ginning all went well, but before many months had passed discontent was evident. Women who were accustomed to an abundance of butter and eggs and milk began to chafe at the restrictions of the community commissary. Men who worked hard discovered that there were not a few who preferred to do nothing—and succeeded in realizing their desire. Others, who had invested property, saw those who had con|tributed only labor enjoying the same comforts that they were accorded. "The shareholders kept losing," said one member, "and those who came in with nothing were getting along very well."
Early in 1846 the president, John S. Williams of Cincin|nati, resigned. Later in the year others withdrew. Finally the survivors confessed failure, and decided upon dissolu|tion. The end of the Integral Phalanx was reached in a Springfield courtroom on an April day in 1848 when the judge, on the petition of Stephen T. Logan, ordered the prop|erty to be re-conveyed to the original grantors.
In Springfield the prevailing attitude towards this at|tempt at realizing the millennium was one of skepticism. Yet the attempt itself was only an exaggerated expression of an idealism discernible in so many forms that it almost char|acterizes the period. With the majority, however, it took form most frequently in a lively sympathy with peoples who were aspiring to political rather than economic democracy. The people of Springfield were always willing to applaud the prospect of Irish liberty, and Kossuth and the aspira|tions of the Hungarians stirred them to high enthusiasm.
Page 142At the very end of the decade came an unusual opportunity to give practical expression to their sympathy with the down|trodden.
The story starts on the island of Madeira in 1838, when a Scotsman named Robert Reid Kalley, on his way to China as a Presbyterian missionary, became so ill that he had to land and await recovery in the port of Funchal. Within a few hours he seems to have determined that the Far East offered no better field for conversions than that which he found around him. At any rate he stayed; and during the next few years, with the aid of others, succeeded in establishing a militant Protestant congregation. Naturally, this result was not altogether welcome to the resident Roman Catholic hierarchy. Opposition, passive at first, became more and more determined, and at last broke out in violence. Finally, in the midst of serious rioting, pastor and flock—now numbering more than a thousand—took refuge on shipboard.
Several hundred of the exiles quickly found refuge in Trini|dad, where the planters were badly in need of laborers. But for the refugees the location proved unfortunate. Sickness was wide-spread, and many found difficulty in making a living. Their leaders determined on removal.
In the United States the plight of the Portuguese had received wide publicity. The American Protestant Society, with headquarters in New York, became actively interested in their predicament, and sent a representative to Trinidad to investigate their condition. As a result of his visit, ar|rangements were made with the American Hemp Company for the transport of the exiles to the United States and their settlement in Illinois at Island Grove, midway between Jack|sonville and Springfield. On the strength of this prospect, most of the exiles started from Trinidad to New York. And then the American Hemp Company failed to make good its engagement. As a result, in the spring of 1849 the New York churchmen found themselves with several hundred homeless Page 143 Portuguese on their hands, with more soon to arrive from Trinidad.
At this point the people of Jacksonville, with fine philan|thropy, took the initiative. A telegram was sent offering asylum and a livelihood in that city to those already in New York, and suggesting that those to come later could be cared for in Springfield. To this proposal Springfield gave hearty agreement. But before it could be acted upon cholera made its appearance in the Middle West and threw Morgan and Sangamon counties into almost hysterical apprehension. The refugees were warned to wait until the danger had passed.
By autumn, when the cholera was on the wane, the first of the Portuguese started westward. A Springfield committee, headed by Simeon Francis, made plans to receive them. However, the arrival, on November 13, 1849, of 130 per|sons, found preparations far from complete. The committee hastily procured four vacant houses, but the furnishings avail|able consisted of a few chairs, three tables, three water buckets, two bedsteads, a limited amount of bedding, and a few cups and saucers. An appeal for furniture, clothing and provisions met a generous response. For days Francis, James A. Barrett, the Rev. Albert Hale of the Second Presbyterian Church, and other kindly men and women devoted themselves to the strangers. Gradually places were found for them, and they were absorbed into the community.
At the same time that the first contingent of Portuguese reached Springfield, a similar group arrived in Jacksonville. For several years small parties made their way to both cities. By 1855 there were 350 in Springfield. In spite of the fact that nearly half the number were recent arrivals, thirty families had built homes of their own, and nearly all were prosperous and happy. On the prairies of Illinois, three thou|sand miles from home, they had finally found contentment.