Franklin County History and Information 

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Historical Sketch of Franklin County

[Franklin County Illinois War History: 1832-1919
Edited by Harry L. Frier, 1920]

      Franklin County came into being on January 2, 1818, as one of the original fifteen counties when Illinois was admitted that year to the union. At that time it included the territory of the Franklin county of today and the territory of Williamson, just south. The present county has an area of 423 square miles, and a population of 57,293, a gain in ten years of 31,350, which is next to the highest percentage of gain of any county in the United States. The county is well watered by Little Muddy river on the West, Big Muddy and its branches through the center. It is quiet, level and is largely prairie. The land is not well adapted to farming, although modern farming methods with liberal use of limestone are producing many fine farms. The census report of 1900 give the value of the land for this county at $14.83 per acre, while the report for 1910 estimated the value of land at $34.48. The many modern farms of today will greatly increase the average, probably to $60. per acre. 

      In about the year 1804, seven brothers by the name of Jordan, William and John Browning, Joseph Estes and one Barbrey, settled in what is now Cave township, the southeast township in the county, and there built what was known as Jordan's Fort some time prior to 1806. Here Barbrey was killed and scalped in 1812. The Brownings came to be very important people in the history of the county. The McCreerys, Cantrells, Swoffords and the Joneses were early comers. After the war of 1812, other settlers came to different parts of the county and by 1818 the south and east part of the county was sparsely settled. 

      The early settlers raised just about enough grain for food and feed. It appears that the streams and woods along them were full of game and the fur trade was an important line of business. Regular trips were made to St. Louis with loads of furs, venison, and farm products. 

      Slaves were held in Franklin county by the leading families until 1824, and then were taken to Missouri and sold. In some cases they were later brought back to Franklin county and manumitted, a specific case is that of the purchase of Richmond Inge by Alexander McCreery. Inge and his wife were put on a farm in Williamson county where they lived for many years. 

      The land not being very rich, the settlement of the county was slow. The law of 1854 changed the price of land in Illinois from $1.25 per acre to 121/2 cents per acre. Thousands of acres of land was purchased from the government under the "Bit Act." When Congress granted the land for the I llinois Central Railroad, 33,078 acres of the grant fell within the limits of Franklin county. 

      When the county was created in 1818, the county seat was fixed at Frankfort. The court house and jail were not built until 1826 and prior to that date the county seat was temporarily in the home of Moses Garrett, about three miles east of Frankfort. When Williamson was cut off from Franklin in 1839, the county seat of Franklin was permanently fixed "on or near the summit of a mound or hill in the edge of the timber, and at the south end of Rowlings Prairie." This was to be the site of the future city of Benton. The court house in Benton was built in the spring of 1841. It was a small frame building and stood in the square. A second court house was built of brick in 1845, and a third, the present one, was built in 1874.

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DESTRUCTION OF PUBLIC RECORDS*

      On the night of the 18th of November, 1843, the aforesaid clerk's office, which was built by Mr. (Augustus) ADAMS, was consumed by fire and with it nearly all of the public records of the county were destroyed. Afterward the General Assembly of the State, by an act passed January 21, 1845, appointed Lemuel R. HARRISON, Walter S. AKIN, and Samuel K. CASEY, commissioners of a board of investigators, to restore the lost records of the county, at the expense of the State.

      Accordingly these commissioners met in Benton on the 19th of May, 1845, and employed S. M. HUBBARD as their secretary, and proceeded to the performance of their almost impossible duties. After the death of Mr. HUBBARD, which occurred soon thereafter, they employed William. R. BROWNING as their secretary. They restored the records so far as it was in their power, it being impossible to restore such records of courts and of written instruments as were entirely wiped out of existence by the fire. Their efforts and work was limited to the restoration of the records of titles to real estate, and of instruments remaining in the hands of individuals. A call was made for all persons having deeds of conveyances, and other written instruments which had been recorded, and which were entitled to record, to reproduce them to the said board of investigators, to be re-entered of record. In this way many instruments came into their hands, and were thus restored to record. At the September term, 1845, of the commissioners' court, William. R. BROWNING, secretary of the said board of investigators, filed the following accounts for services, to wit: Lemuel R. HARRISON, 26 days, $45.50: Walter S. AKIN, 25 days, $43.75; Samuel K. CASEY, 20 days, $35.00; S. M. HUBBARD, 14 days, $24.50; William. R. BROWNING, 10 days, $17.50. These accounts, after being verified, were allowed by the court and ordered to be certified by the clerk, to the State auditor of public accounts at Springfield for payment.

      The contract for the building of the present courthouse was awarded in 1874 to John J. ST. CLAIR, of Benton, for the sum of $23,750, which amount was afterward raised on account of certain changes in the plans and specifications to $24,000. The old courthouse was sold to the contractor for $125. He used some of the material of it in the construction of the new building, which is a substantial and quite ornamental two story brick structure, with halls and stairs, and the offices of the county court judge, county court clerk, circuit court clerk and county treasurer, with large fire-proof vaults for the public records, on the first floor, and the courtroom and jury rooms on the second; it is warmed by the use of stoves.

      The present "poor farm" consisting of 120 acres, and situated in Section 20, in Benton Township, about two miles southeast from Benton, was purchased by the county for $1,200, and a deed procured for the same from Tilman B. CANTRELL and wife, dated December 3, 1861. The buildings on said farm are common log houses, which are in a dilapidated condition. The county, however, is preparing to construct such buildings as the necessities of the case may require. At the present writing there are twenty-three paupers supported on the farm. Of these, three males and three females are insane, three women are blind and one lady Mrs. Sarah MADDOX is one hundred years old. The balance are middle aged persons and children. The average number of inmates of the poorhouse for the last six years has been about eighteen. Prior to the purchase of this farm, the dependent poor or paupers were farmed out by the year to citizens, who, for a stipulated price, became responsible for their care and support.

[* Extracted from the History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois, published by Goodspeed in 1887.]
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Tourism Bureau

Franklin County Tourism Bureau
209 W. Main
Benton, Illinois 62918
618/439-0608

Directions to Courthouse

Take Interstate 57 to Exit 71 @ Benton.  On main road off of Exit (W. Main), turn east.  Approximately 1 mile on this road will bring you to the square.  The Franklin County Courthouse is in the center of the square.

Local Government Offices

County Clerk
202 W. Main
Benton, Illinois 62918
618/438-3221
(for birth, marriage, and death records)

Circuit Clerk
202 W. Main
Benton, Illinois 62918
618/439-2011 
(for estates and wills)

Accommodations

Days Inn
711 W. Main
Benton, Illinois 62918
618/439-3183

Hard Day's Night Bed and Breakfast
113 McCann St.
Benton, Illinois 62812
618/438-2328

Ho Jo Inn
1001 Factory Outlet Dr.
West Frankfort, Illinois 62986
618/932-2171

Rend Lake Resort
11712 E. Windy Ln
Whittington, Illinois 62897
618/629-2211

Super 8
711 W. Main
Benton, Illinois 62918
618/438-8205

Museums

Beatles Mini Museum
Hard Day's Night Bed and Breakfast
113 McCann St.
Benton, Illinois 62812
618/438-2328

Frankfort Area Historical Museum
2000 E. St. Louis
West Frankfort, Illinois 62896
618/932-6159

Franklin County Garage Antique Car Museum
211 N. Main St.
Benton, Illinois 62812
618/438-2121
8-5   M-F   Sat. Apr.-Oct.

Historical Jail Museum
209 W. Main St.
Benton, Illinois 62812
618/439-0608
9-4 M-S

Ken Gray Presidential Hall of Fame
1000 Factory Outlet Dr.
West Frankfort, Illinois 62896
618/937-6100

National Coal Museum [CLOSED]
3197 State Highway 37
West Frankfort, Illinois 62896
618/937-2625

Veteran's Museum

West Frankfort, Illinois 62896

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