Union County bicentennial kickoff planned
Everyone in Union County is invited to be a part of a special event which is scheduled for this weekend.
On Saturday, Jan. 6, a kickoff celebration is planned in commemoration of the bicentennial of the creation of Union County.
Saturday’s celebration is planned from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
The special event is being sponsored by the Union County Historical and Genealogy Society.
Several notable figures in the history of Union County are scheduled to make an appearance at Saturday’s celebration.
Illinois Territory Gov. Ninian Edwards will read the legislative act which created Union County. Edwards will be portrayed by Union County State’s Attorney Tyler R. Edmonds.
John and Julia Grammer were two key figures in the early history of the county. The Grammers also are scheduled to make an appearance – and will be portrayed by local residents Duane Hileman and Lillian Milam.
Historical exhibits are scheduled to be on display at Saturday’s event. The exhibits will include:
•Copies of the 1818 census of Union County.
•Plat maps showing the location of those owning property in Union County and the City of Jonesboro in 1818.
•The 1819 Jonesboro Township poll book.
•A list of the 1807 and 1813 squatters in Union County, and where they were living.
•Maps showing the progression of the development of the State of Illinois.
•Photographs of early Illinois statesmen.
First day of issue envelopes commemorating the special day will be available, for sale.
Marshall Pogue, a violinist, will provide entertainment.
The Anna-Jonesboro Women’s Club will be serving refreshments.
Those who plan to come to the celebration are invited to dress in apparel from the pioneer days.
Ninian Edwards, who will be portrayed by Union County State’s Attorney Tyler R. Edmonds, was born in Maryland. As a young man, Edwards went to Kentucky, where he studied law.
Edwards served in the Kentucky legislature and as the state’s chief justice.
When the Illinois Territory was formed in 1809, Edwards was appointed as territorial governor. He served in that post until 1818, when Illinois was admitted to the Union.
Edwards then was elected to the U.S. Senate, where he served from 1818 to 1824. Two years later, he was elected as governor of Illinois.
Early History of Union County
In June/July 1974, Outdoor Illinois magazine featured an article titled “A New Geography of Illinois: Union County.”
The article was written by Robert H. Mohlenbrock of Southern Illinois University. The article featured photography by John Richardson and illustrations by Fredda J. Burton.
The article recalled that in 1803, George Wolf, who was a Dunkard minister, along with Abram Hunsaker and their families, came from Fort Massac (in what is now Metropolis) across what is now Union County by way of the Cache River.
“Legend has it that these early adventurers camped one night south of the present community of Jonesboro and, finding the hunting excellent, decided to establish their permanent home,” the article remembered.
After the War of 1812, settlers began coming to the area “at a steady pace.” The area was known for its hunting, and also was close to the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.
By 1818, 1,800 people were living in what is now Union County.
The Outdoor Illinois article continued:
“Until 1818, the present area of Union County was included in Johnson County, as were Alexander and Pulaski Counties.
“On January 2, 1818, Union County was created out of Johnson County and, for over a year, the newly formed county included all of Alexander County and part of Pulaski.
“The selection of Union for the name of the new county dates back to 1816 when a combined religious service of Dunkards and Baptists took place in the southeastern corner of the county. The Union County seal depicts the two ministers in a spirit of Union.”
In his 1994 book titled “A House Divided: Union County, Illinois 1818-1865,” local historian and author Darrel Dexter wrote that on the same day Union County was created by the Illinois territorial legislature, lawmakers also appointed George Woolf, Jesse Echols and Thomas Cox as the county’s commissioners.
When Union County was created in early 1818, Illinois had not yet become a state. Illinois entered the Union in December 1818.
(Illinois, as well as the City of Jonesboro, joins Union County in commemorating bicentennials during 2018).
John, Julia Grammer
John and Julia Grammer, who played key roles in the early history of Union County, will be in attendance at Saturday’s bicentennial kick off celebration, with some help from Duane Hileman and Lillian Milam.
Outdoor Illinois highlighted John Grammer in its 1974 article. The article recalled that Grammer was one of the earliest settlers in what is now the county. He settled in the vicinity of what is now Jonesboro.
Grammer served in the first territorial legislature, representing Johnson County.
After Illinois became a state, Grammer served in the State Senate for four terms.
Author Darrel Dexter recounted how the county’s first commissioners met at the home John Grammer. Grammer and his wife would sell the land which would become the county’s seat of government. Jonesboro remains as the county seat to this day.
(Editor’s note: The Union County Historical and Genealogy Society shared some of the information and photographs which are featured in this article.)