The April 2012 meeting of the Madison County Genealogical Society was held at the Edwardsville Public Library on Thursday, April 12, at 7:00 pm.
President, Robert Ridenour, called the meeting to order.
A large audience came to hear our speaker, Gillum Ferguson tell us about Illinois in the War of 1812.
The following is the Treasurer's report for the month of March:
Financial report for the month of March 2012, as follows:
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On April 12, 2012, Gillum Ferguson,
retired state and federal prosecutor and author of Illinois in
the War of 1812, gave a brief discussion of what the War of 1812
was, why it is important, and then focused on the State of Illinois
and Madison County, which was on the front line during the War
On June 18, 1811, two men were working in a recently cleared field in what is now in the city of Alton, Illinois. These men were farmers and they had pushed beyond what was then the furthest line of settlement. They had build a cabin there and were plowing with a horse. They were hard at work and saw five Menominee Indians approaching. They had come from the north. The two farmers were alarmed and began to move for their rifles. The lead Indian, a big powerful man, put down his rifle and came forward with his hand extended, saying "Bonjour, bonjour." Relieved, one farmer, named Price, put down his gun and moved to shake hands with the Indian, who held him fast while the other Indians charged and killed Price with their tomahawks.
The other man, even though he had received several blows from the Indians, was able to cut the plow horse loose and escape. They fired at him and wounded him further. By one reckoning, these were the first shots fired in the War of 1812.
The wounded man escaped to warn the settlements. His name was not mentioned because there are differing versions of his identity. Some say it was Price's young son, other accounts give his name as Hudgins. The one most trustworthy is a letter written by the Territorial Governor of Illinois, Ninian Edwards, who says the man's name was Ellis.
The murder of Price and the killing of a young man named Elijah Cox on June 2, 1811, near the present village of Pocahontas, Illinois, were the events that precipitated the slide toward the War of 1812 in Illinois.
Although the United States became independent in 1783, when the Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War, the independence existed largely on paper. It was not fully recognized by the powers that be, especially Great Britain, the former Colonial master. Over the next 15 years, British forces continued to occupy, illegally, in violation of the terms of the treaty, forts in Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, and for a time, Indiana. Eventually, they were withdrawn.
Over the next 15 years, Great Britain and Napoleonic France were locked in a death struggle. The United States was drawn into it in several ways. The British tried to keep up their credit with the Indian tribes by monopolizing the fur trade to the extent they could and also by arming them, supplying them with weapons that could be used for hunting or for WAR. Britain treated the United States as if it were still a wayward colony and American ships were boarded and searched. American sailors were kidnapped and ships seized within sight of the American coast.
Finally, goaded beyond endurance, the United States declared war on Britain on June 12, 1812, proving to the entire world that there were some insults that this country would not swallow and some lines behind which it could not be pushed!
This was the real importance of the War of 1812, not the fact that the country fought with only mediocre success over the next two and a half years. But the fact that it fought at all, served notice on the nations of the world that the United States was assuming its place as a nation to which international respect had to be paid.
In Illinois, the importance of the fact was even more pivotal. In 1809, the Illinois Territory was divided off of Indiana. The territory encompassed 110,000 square miles, including not only the current state of Illinois, but also the state of Wisconsin and little slices of the upper peninsula of Michigan, and a portion of Minnesota. In this entire territory, excluding Indians, the census taker of 1810 counted 12,282 people. That is a population density lower than that of present day Alaska. The population was not evenly distributed but was found along the Mississippi River from St. Louis south to the Ohio River, along the Ohio to the Wabash River, and north along the western bank of the Wabash.
Over the next two and a half years, Madison County bore the brunt of the fighting. Many prominent people of the War of 1812, and prominent pioneers and soldiers came from Madison County. Fort Russell, near present day Edwardsville, was where the Territorial Governor, Ninian Edwards, had his headquarters. Other prominent individuals included the Rector and Whiteside families. The nine Rector brothers were all over six feet tall and weighed over 200 pounds. They moved shoulder to shoulder wherever they went. The Whiteside family included William Whiteside, Revolutionary War veteran and Colonel of the militia in Madison County. His son, William Bolin Whiteside, was the first chosen Captain of the militia. William's nephew, Samuel Whiteside, started as an Ensign in the Militia, became a Captain of the Illinois Territorial Rangers, and eventually became a General in the later Blackhawk War.
This interesting presentation was well received and generated quite a few questions and comments from the large audience.