In studying the history of a country three important elements are involved, namely, time, place and character. It is important to locate the events in history as to the time of occurrence, and equally important to fix the place for the event, without a fixed time and place there can be no real tangible concept.
The value of the study of character is the inspiration that it gives. Before entering upon the history of Franklin County let us consider the physical and political phases of the county as this may greatly aid us.
Let us look at the territory we call Franklin County and compare it with some other like organizations that make up the great state of Illinois.
Look at an Illinois map, and you will see Franklin County is located midway between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and is near the geographical center of Southern Illinois.
This fixes the location in the state. The county forms its boundary as follows: On the north, Jefferson; east, Hamilton and Saline; south, Williamson; west, Jackson and Perry. This fixes its relation to other adjacent counties.
The Franklin County of today is about 24 miles long east and west and 18 miles wide making nearly a rectangular figure which our minds can grasp as to its form. The reader will observe the form of the county is not a rectangle as it is not 24 miles on the north but is on the south. Originally the third principal meridian was the western boundary of the county but the legislature of 1835 made Little Muddy the boundary line of the county for 12 miles on the west.
There are 10 full congressional townships in the county, and three fractional congressional townships. Can the reader
name the figures that will locate these townships? An election was held on Nov. 7, 1871, in the county for or against township organization. The proposition for township organization carried and the County Court appointed three men to divide the county into civil townships as it is today, with the exception of Township 7 Range 2 East which they named Townmount instead of Denning as it is now called. The naming of the civil townships were as follows: Tp. 5 S., R. 4 E., was called Northern; Tp. 5 S., R. 3 E., Ewing; Tp. 5 S., R. 2 E., Barren; the part east of Little Muddy in Tp. 5 S., R. 1 E., Goode; the part between Little Muddy and Third Principal Meridian in Tp. 6 S., R. 1 W. and the part east of Little Muddy in Tp. 6 5., R. 1 E., Tyrone; Tp. 6 S., R. 2 E., Browning; Tp. 6 S., R. 3 E., Benton; Tp. 6 S., R. 4 E., Eastern; Tp. 7 S., R. 4 E., Cave; Tp. 7 S., R. 3 E., Frankfort; Tp. 7 S., R. 2 E., Denning; and Tp. 7 S., R. 1 E., Six Mile.
The streams of Franklin County with but one exception, flow in a south or southwest direction indicating the slope of the surface to the southwest. The highest point of land is in the northeast part of the county. The Ohio and Mississippi land divide is near the eastern line. The drainage systems of the county are the Big Muddy, Little Muddy, Middle Fork, Pond Creek, and Saline Creek.
The Big Muddy River rises in Jefferson County and flows southwest through the county. The major portion of the county is east of the river. In fact all the streams of the county are a part of the Big Muddy system, with the exception of the Saline Creek in Cave Township.
The Big Muddy system proper includes the Big Muddy River and its small tributaries, such as Casey's Fork, Gun Prairie Creek; Markum, Andy's Creek and other small streams.
This system drains Barren, Browning, Six Mile and a portion of Ewing, Denning and Tyrone.
The Middle Fork system, while a tributary of Big Muddy, drains as much territory as the Big Muddy.
Its tributaries are Page, Sugar Camp, Taylor, Jordan, Drummond, Cotton Wood, Aiken, Brush Prairie, and Ewing Creeks, draining Northern, Eastern, Benton, and part of Ewing, Frankfort, Denning, and Cave.
Pond Creek drains the south part of Frankfort and Denning and is a tributary to the Big Muddy. The Saline Creek rises in Cave Township and flows southeast to the Ohio river. There are 10 prairies in Franklin County, namely: Webb's, Six Mile, Townmount, Four Mile, Long, Frizzel, Rawlings, Knob, Horse, and Crawford.
A large number of the names of prairies, creeks, townships and towns took their names from the early settlers. There is about one-fourth of the surface of the county prairies. The rest of the county was originally covered with virgin timber, such as the oak family, ash, maple, hickory, sycamore, birch, elm, sassafras, wild cherry, etc.
Underlaid in Franklin County is the best vein of coal in the U. S., averaging about 8 feet in thickness. The coal varies in depth from about 300 feet in the southwest part of the county to 800 feet in the northeast. The coal industry is creating more than $50,000,000.00 of wealth annually.
The present territory of Franklin County was first occupied by the Indians. The valley of the Big Muddy and its tributaries were a paradise for the Indian hunter. The woods abound with wild animals whose flesh was good for food and whose skin or fur was suitable for clothing. The Indians had their village generally on some river or lake, as their headquarters, and would make incursion into what is now known as Franklin County to hunt. The eastern portion of the county was a camp ground for the hunters. Also on the west of Big Muddy was another camp ground. As evidence of this, numerous Indian relics, such as spikes, axes, etc., have been found on their grounds.
The Indians of Illinois belong to the great Algonquin family of Indians. The tribes of the state were joined together in a strong confederacy called the Illini which means "REAL MEN." The tribes that composed this confederacy were the Kaskaskias, Cahokias, Michigamies, Peoras, and Tamaroas, and they originally occupied the territory of the great river of the state, - Illinois River. The river took its name from the confederacy, and the name Illinois, was later applied to the political organization, later still, called the State of Illinois. The Shawnee Indians occupied the Ohio River Valley and were enemies of the Illini confederacy.
The village of the Shawnee Indians was called Shawnee and was located on the Ohio River near the City of Shawneetown. The Shawnees occupied the territory of Southern Illinois from the Ohio River to the Big Muddy River. The territory west of the Big Muddy and to the Mississippi River was occupied from about 1680 to 1830 by the Kaskaskia Indians. Their village being located near the old town of Kaskaskia,
the Shawnees and Kaskaskias had many battles and were bitter enemies.
The Shawnees seemed to be the stronger of the two tribes.
About the year 1802, the Kaskaskias had crossed over the Big Muddy River and were encroaching on the Shawnee territory. Some Shawnee Indian spies had discovered the Kaskaskias on their territory in Townmount prairie. Tradition has it, that an Indian girl was seen going over the old Frankfort hill at sunset, by the next morning a large number of warriors were at Frankfort Hill ready for battle. A great battle now seems inevitable. Preparation for battle begins. Breast works were thrown up in anticipation of the forthcoming battle. The battle was a fierce one and lasted for some time, slowly the Kaskaskias began to retreat westward toward the Big Muddy River. They crossed the river and reached Little Muddy, which was swollen and difficult to cross. And here a great many of the Kaskaskias were killed. Some, however, succeeded in crossing, but were overtaken near where Old Du Quoin is and the tribe almost annihilated. The Indian chief of the Kaskaskia was John Baptiste Du Quoin, a cross between a Frenchman and an Indian, who succeeded in escaping. The spot where the Kaskaskias were massacred was named Du Quoin after this noted Indian chief. The coming of the Illinois Central railroad, the station on the road was called Du Quoin, which is one of the leading cities in Southern Illinois.
To this day can be seen some evidence of this great Indian battle which settled the dispute to the hunting ground on the Big Muddy. This battle was fought in the Townmount praine near the cross roads at the public well about two miles from Frankfort. The white settlers were soon able to drive the Indians out of this county. The Indians occasionally came back to hunt and for a while were very troublesome, stealing the settlers' corn and stock. The last visit of the
Indians to the county was on the lower Big Muddy about 1832. The French were the first white people to occupy the Mississippi Valley. La Salle found on his trip down the Mississippi River the Illini confederation, and he was the first to give the territory of Illinois the name the "Illinois Country."
The French made a settlement at the Indian village, Kaskaskia, about 1700, and by building a system of forts in the Mississippi and Ohio Valleys, they expected to be able to defend the territory. The English had settled along the Atlantic seaboard and claimed the western territory that was occupied by the French. A clash of arms between the two nations was inevitable. At the battle of Quebec the French lost all their colonial possessions in America. Kaskaskia and the "Illinois Country" fell into the hands of the Englishmen in 1759.
The burden of the cost of the war was placed upon the English colonies. They refused to pay the tax placed upon them and the Revolutionary war resulted. Col. Geo. Roger Clark, with a small army of Virginians, known as "Long Knives," captured Kaskaskia and Cahokia from the English for Virginia.
The Virginia legislature formed this captured territory into one great county and named it the "Illinois County." This was the largest county ever created, including five states, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin. There was some enmity springing up between those states that had western possession and those that did not have any. So to pacify them, Virginia agreed to cede the County of Illinois to the general government.
The general government organized this territory into the "North West Territory'' in 1787. Gen. Arthur St. Clair, a revolutionary soldier, was appointed its first governor, and the seat of government was located at Marrietta. Gov. St. Clair came on to Marrietta and formed the first county ever organized in the "North West Territory" and named it Washington in honor of President Washington who was then president.
The governor created another new county farther down the Ohio, this was called Hamilton, in honor of Alexander Hamilton who was then Secretary of the Treasury, and made Cincinnati the county seat, this being the second county organized in the North West Territory. Gov. St. Clair visited Kaskaskia in 1790 and while at this place created a new county. This took in the territory west of the Wabash and Ohio rivers. This was called St. Clair County in honor of Gov. St. Clair,
and Cahokia was made the county seat. This was the mother of Illinois counties. The settlement of Kaskaskia objected to this, so, in 1795 St. Clair County was divided and the south part of the county was formed into a new county, called Randolph in honor of Edmond Randolph, attorney general under Washington, and Kaskaskia was made the county seat. In 1800, William Henry Harrison, of Log Cabin fame, and who became president in 1841, was a delegate in Congress. He advocated a bill creating the Indiana Territory out of the old Northwest, making Vincennes the capital, this included the territory of Illinois. The president (Thos. Jefferson) appointed Harrison governor of Indiana Territory, when it was created. In 1809 there was some dissatisfaction on the part of the Kaskaskia settlements about being attached to Indiana Territory. So the Illinois part of Indiana Territory asked Congress to form a new territory. So Congress granted their wishes and the Territory of Illinois was created, with capital at Kaskaskia. Judge Ninian Edwards of Kentucky, was appointed the first territorial governor by James Madison. Edwards was endorsed by Henry Clay who was then U. S. Senator from Kentucky. In 1812, the Territory of Illinois was made a territory of the second class which allowed a delegate in Congress from Illinois Territory, and then three new counties were organized - Madison, Johnson and Gallatin, with county seats respectively, Edwardsville, Elvira, and Shawneetown.
Madison was named in honor of President Madison; Johnson was named in honor of Richard M. Johnson, U. S. Senator from Kentucky, and who was the slayer of Tecumseh, the great Shawnee chief; Gallatin was named in honor of Albert Gallatin. The territory of Franklin, first a part of St. Clair, then a part of Randolph, and finally Gallatin County, was organized. The Big Muddy was made the boundary line.
The present Franklin County was divided between Gallatin and Randolph. Gallatin County took in the Ohio Country up to the English settlement called Albion. The discovery of Salt Licks and Saline water, attracted a great many people to this vicinity. Then Shawneetown became a port of the entry on the Ohio for the southeast portion of Southern Illinois.
A land office was opened up at Shawneetown, and this part of Illinois Territory grew very rapidly in population.
The north part of Gallatin was organized in 1815 in White County and named in honor of the manager of the Salt Works at Equality, Capt. Isaac White, who lost his life at the battle of Tippecanoe. Carmi was made the county seat. This included the eastern part of Franklin. The western part of Franklin now was a part of Jackson; named in honor of the hero of New Orleans. The county seat of Jackson County was Brownsville. As the Territory of Illinois continued to grow rapidly the question of statehood was being advocated. To foster this movement it was thought wise, to create three more counties, consequently, the territorial legislation created Union, Washington, and Franklin Counties, January 2, 1818. The new county of Franklin took its name from Benjamin Franklin who, next to Washington, did more to win independence than any other man. Franklin was the fifteenth county when Illinois became a state, April 18th, 1819, and finally, December 3rd, 1818, she took her position among the states of the union. The county is a few months older than the state. The first county seat of Franklin County was at the home of Moses Garret, about three miles east of Frankfort.
Moses Garret sold the county land on Frankfort Hill and in 1826 the county seat was located at Frankfort. The Franklin County of 1818, included what is now Williamson County. In 1839, the county was divided and Williamson County was organized by act of the Illinois legislature and Bainbridge was made the county seat. Benton was made the new county seat of Franklin County.
To summarize the political evolution of Franklin County has been by steps as follows:
Indians (National units) to French, 1700; to Clark for Virginia, 1778; by Virginia to Government, 1784; by Government to N. W. Ter., 1787; to Indiana Ter., 1800; to. Illinois Ter., 1809; to Illinois Ter. of 2nd class, 1812; to Illinois State, 1818, December 3rd.
St. Clair County, organized 1790, including territory of Franklin County; Randolph County, organized 1795, including territory of Franklin County; Gallatin County, organized 1812, including territory of Franklin County; White County, organized 1815, including territory of Franklin County; Jackson County, organized 1816, including territory of Franklin County; Franklin County, organized 1818, January 2nd.
The citizens of the state of Illinois and Franklin County owe a debt of gratitude to Daniel Pope Cook who first advocated statehood for the Territory of Illinois and whose influence brought about the organization of Franklin County as one of the political units of the state.
Mr. Cook was a son-in-law of the territorial governor Ninian Edwards, and was a nephew of Nathaniel Pope who then represented Illinois in Congress and who was the author of the Bill for Statehood for Illinois.
Cook County was named in his honor.
Mr. Cook was editor of the only newspaper in Illinois Territory, and through its columns he advocated statehood which caused the territorial legislature to present a memorial to Congress asking for statehood. When the legislature met Mr. Cook was elected clerk of the lower house which put him in touch with all the members. There were only twelve members of the legislature and they all roomed together, including the clerk, - Mr. Cook. In arranging the memorial Mr. Cook suggested that it would be wise to organize more counties, which would make a better showing for the territory for statehood. Consequently, Union, Washington and Franklin Counties were organized Jan. 2, 1818. The memorial to Congress was presented in January, 1818, by Nathaniel Pope and Jan. 2, 1818, the bill passed creating Franklin County. April 18, 1818, the enabling act was passed by Congress, creating the Territory of Illinois into a state. Congress asked that the territory must contain 40,000 people before final admission.
Then came the hunt for people in all the counties to make the 40,000 required. The population of Franklin County was