Report recommends creation of county seal

Union County will be getting a new courthouse within the next couple of years.

Sooner than that, a new seal for the county will be created.

As of now, the county does not seem to have an official seal.

That was the finding of a report shared at last week's regular meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners.

The meeting was held Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 18, at the Union County Courthouse in Jonesboro.

A report about the Union County seal, or, at least, the lack of one, was shared by Judy Travelstead of Cobden.

Travelstead is a member of the Union County Historical & Genealogy Society.

Travelstead presented a report she had compiled about the seal. The report was drafted for the Union County Board of Commissioners and the Union County Courthouse Committee.

The search for the seal began to unfold in connection with construction of a new county courthouse in Jonesboro. The seal serves as the official symbol of the  county.

The architectural firm which is working on designing the new courthouse was wanting to incorporate the seal into a display for the new building. The county is working with HOK architects out of St. Louis on the project.

The search for a Union County seal proved to be fruitless.

"As far as any of us have been able to ascertain, Union County does not have an official county seal, or at least one that is in current use," Travelstead's report declared.

Report Presented

to County

The report compiled by Travelstead for the county follows:

Union County was one of three new Illinois counties created by an act of the Illinois Territorial Legislature on January 2, 1818, in anticipation of Illinois being considered for statehood.

Union, Franklin and Washington counties were the last counties of territorial origin.

Union County was formed from land previously part of Johnson County, and included present day Alexander County and portions of Pulaski County.

Alexander County was created March 4, 1819, making Union County the first county to be given its present boundaries by the state.

Statehood was granted to Illinois December 3, 1818.  Its constitution was completed August 26, 1818, the date found on the state's official seal.

The county commissioners of Union County authorized Charles Dunn at their September 5, 1820, session to "contract with some fit person for the making of a county seal for this county on the  most reasonable terms possible."

Richard M. Young was paid $20 by order of the county commissioners at their Monday, September 1, 1822, meeting for "Seals furnished the circuit and county commissioners court."  Young was given an additional $2 by the county commissioners at their Monday, March 3, 1823, meeting for a "former order in payment of the seals for this county."

Robert Hargrave at the June 6, 1825, county commissioners' meeting was "allowed $3.00 or its equivalent in Ill. State Paper when discharged for making. . .for County Seals."

There is no description in any of the county commissioners' minutes from 1818 through 1826 of what the commissioners wanted to be included on the seal/seals or a description of what the seal/seals looked like once they were completed.

William H. Perrin, editor of the 1883 "History of Alexander, Union and Pulaski Counties, Illinois," states in a brief biography of Winstead Davie that, "So intimately had his life become interwoven with the courts of the county, that when it came to adopt the design for the county seal, it appropriately was formed representing Davie sitting at a desk writing, showing his crooked and crippled lower limbs, and crossed and forming an arch above the desk were his two crutches."

Perrin continued, "It is now to be regretted that this design was ever changed and a new seal adopted."

Perrin explained that the new county seal, designed and adopted by the county commissioners in 1850 at the suggestion of John Dougherty, told "how the county came to be named Union."

According to Perrin, "The figures upon the seal represent two men standing up and shaking hands. One of them is dressed in the old-fashioned shadbellied coat and vest, broad brimmed hat, and long hair. The other is in the conventional ministerial suit. It represents a meeting of a Baptist preacher named Jones and George Wolf, a Dunkard preacher."

Tradition has it that Rev. James Jones had been holding a series of revival  meetings (in 1816 or 1817) in the southeast part of the county when he and Wolf met, shook hands and agreed to hold or continue the meetings, calling them a Union Meeting.

Wolf and his family were among the first to settle in the area of what is now Jonesboro.

George Wolf was one of three men appointed by the Illinois Territorial Legislature to determine the seat of justice of the new county. The area we know as Jonesboro was chosen for the county seat, and the name Union was chosen for the new county.

Again, after reading the 1848 through 1855, as well as the 1830 and 1831 minutes of the meetings of the county commissioners, I found no indication of an official change of the county seal or a description of the seal.

Neither have I been able to locate an actual county seal. It is possible, the early county seal exists, but I have not been able to locate one.

Bobby Toler, county clerk, has had the Illinois Secretary of State's office search their archives, but they have found no registration or copy of a county seal.

We know that the county offices have had various seals over the years, including a county clerk's seal that showed two men standing and shaking hands.

We have a photocopy of a seal showing Winstead Davie at his desk with his crutches to the side with the words "Recorders Seal of Union County" on the outer edge of the stamp. This may be what Perrin was referring to as the original seal.

It is also unlikely that Davie was the subject of the original seal commissioned in 1820 since he had been in the county about three years, and did not ascend to various positions in the county government until after 1820.

New Seal

As far as any of us have been able to ascertain, Union County does not have an official county seal, or at least one that is in current use.

The Union County Historical Society recommends that an official seal represent the county has a whole, and maintain the spirit of the founding and the naming of the county.

"A seal depicting two men in appropriate period clothing standing shaking hands meets the criteria. The date of the formation of the county, January 2, 1818, should be included.

Maurice Metzger, a local artist, designed for the 1968 Sesquicentennial celebration of Union County's founding a medallion showing two men shaking hands, with Kornthal Church in the background. Metzger was a member of a committee chaired by Dellis Buzbee. The medallions were sold during the 1968 celebration. The images or a prototype of the two men on the medallion might be considered for a new seal.

County Seal Needed

"We need a county seal, for a lot of reasons," Travelstead told the commissioners. "It's a great identity for the county."

The county commiss-ioners decided to move forward with the creation of a seal. The seal is expected to depict "two men in appropriate period clothing standing shaking hands."

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