County bicentennial kick off event held
Union County’s 200th birthday was celebrated last Saturday afternoon.
A kick off celebration to commemorate the county’s bicentennial was held at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.
An estimated 70 to 80 people gathered in the courthouse lobby on a cold and sunny January afternoon.
Those in attendance included elected officials, candidates who are running in 2018, local community members and visitors from out of town.
Many of those who came to the event were dressed in period clothing. Old-time music was performed.
Saturday afternoon’s celebration in Jonesboro was sponsored by the Union County Historical and Genealogy Society.
Jonesboro, the home of the courthouse and the county seat, also is celebrating a bicentennial in 2018.
In his 1994 book titled “A House Divided: Union County, Illinois 1818-1865,” local author and historian Darrel Dexter wrote that Jonesboro “holds a significant place in Illinois history. It was founded in 1818 and with the exception of Kaskaskia and Shawneetown, is one of the oldest towns in Illinois. It was a town before Illinois was a state.”
The act creating Union County was approved on Jan. 2, 1818. Illinois, a territory at the time, would become a state in December of 1818.
Dexter wrote in “A House Divided” that Union County “was named, probably at the suggestion of John Grammer, who represented the area in the 1818 territorial legislature.
“The name commemorates a union camp meeting held in the Dongola area about 1817 by two preachers, George Woolf, a Dunkard, and James Jones, a Baptist from Johnson County.”
On the same day that Union County was created 200 years ago this month, Dexter wrote that “the legislature appointed George Woolf, Jesse Echols and Thomas Cox commissioners to meet at the house of Sen. John Grammer on the first Monday of February and ‘view the geography of the county and establish a permanent seat of justice as near the centre of the county as may be.”
Mr. Grammer (and his wife), Mr. Woolf and Mr. Cox all were portrayed by local residents during last Saturday afternoon’s celebration. Also present was Illinois territorial Gov. Ninian Edwards.
Edwards was portrayed by Union County State’s Attorney Tyler R. Edmonds.
Mr. Grammer was portrayed by Duane Hileman. Lillian Milam portrayed his wife, Julia.
The role of Mr. Woolf was filled by Mike Estel. Darryl Parks portrayed Mr. Cox.
In his role as Gov. Edwards, Edmonds read the act which created Union County.
“Welcome, my fellow citizens,” Edmonds said. “I have just come from Kaskaskia, our capital of this great Illinois Territory.
“I am pleased to tell you that on January 2 of this year of our Lord eighteen hundred and eighteen, the Legislative Council and the House of Representatives enacted a law forming a separate county of Johnson County and this new county is to be called Union County.”
A description of the new county’s territory followed:
“All that tract of country lying within the following boundary: beginning on the range line between ranges one and two, east at the corner of townships ten and eleven south; thence south along the said range line, eighteen miles to the corner of townships thirteen and fourteen south; thence west along the township line, between townships thirteen and fourteen south, to the Mississippi River then up the Mississippi River to the mouth of Big Muddy River; thence up Big Muddy River to where the township line between townships ten and eleven south crosses the same; thence east along the said township line to the beginning. Provided however, that all that tract of country lying south of township thirteen south, to the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and west of the range line between ranges one and two east, shall until the same be formed into a separate county, be attached to and be a part of Union County.”
The legislature further enacted that the courts in Union County would be held at the house of Jacob Hunsaker Jr. until a permanent seat of justice was established and a courthouse erected.
The legislature also enacted “that for the purpose of fixing the permanent seat of justice George Wolf, Jesse Echols and Thomas Cox are appointed commissioners to meet at the house of John Grammer on the first Monday in February, and after taking an oath before some judge or justice of the peace, in this territory, to faithfully and impartially take into view the geography of the county, the convenience of the people, and the eligibility of the place as near the center of the county as may be found for the permanent seat of justice.
“Provided that the proprietor or proprietors of the land shall give to the county, at least twenty acres of land for the purpose of being laid out into lots and sold, or so much thereof as the county court may direct to be applied to defray the expenses of public buildings thereon for the use of the county.
“The county court shall allow to each of the commissioners two dollars per day for each day’s necessary attendance in fixing the place for the permanent seat of justice.
“And be it further enacted that the citizens of Union County are hereby declared to be entitled in all respects to the same rights and privileges as are allowed in general, with other counties of this territory, and in the election of a delegate to congress and members of the house of representatives when the county shall be entitled to a member or members of the house of representatives by law.”
The reading of the act creating the county concluded with a call to make Illinois the 21st state in the Union.
Historical exhibits were on display at the courthouse, including copies of the 1818 census of the county, plat maps showing the location of those owning property in the county and in Jonesboro in 1818, an 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 and photographs of early Illinois statesmen.
First day of issue envelopes commemorating the bicentennial celebration were on sale.
Members of the Anna-Jonesboro Women’s Club served refreshments.