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Virginia Blair Presentation, April 28, 1974 - Page 3 of 3.

 
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During the years 1812 - 1816, the chief concern of the people of the county was the War of 1812.  As early as 1809, Nicholas Jarrot had made known, under oath, that British agents were fomenting trouble with the Indians and supplying them with ammunition.  News of the murder of families was coming from all sides of the frontier.  In April 1812, Gov. Edwards held a council at Cahokia with representatives of the Kickapoo, Pottawatmie, Ottowa, and Chippewa tribes.   He told them he was aware that the British had "bad birds flying" among them to stir them up to war, and declared flatly that alliance with the British would do them no good, because the British could not prevail against the United States, that Americans had no intention of seizing their lands, or even of buying them unless the Indians wished to sell.  The spokesman for the Indians was Gomo, Chief of the Pottawatamies.  In his reply he promised "whatever the English do may do, you may rest assured none of us will join them."  But the words of the prophet, brother of Tecumseh, then powerful among the Indian tribes, and the lavish presents of the British were a stronger influence than Gov. Edwards.

The hostilities increased.  For protection, a chain of about 20 blockhouses was erected at the edge of the settlements from the Illinois River to the Ohio - in St Clair from the Mississippi to the Kaskaskia then at such places as Ridge Prairie; Fort Chambers near Lebanon, Mascoutah, Maris (Doza Creek), Carlyle, Wood River, with the base of supplies at Fort Russell at Edwardsville.  Here Gov. Edwards made his headquarters. Practically all of the young men in the county were enlisted either in the territorial militia of which Shadrach Bond was Lt. Colonel, or in one of the four companies of rangers authorized by Congress to be organized in the territory.  Three of these companies were commanded by St. Clair men; Jacob Short, who resigned his seat in the legislature, and Samuel and Wm. B. Whiteside.  The rangers organized by Wm. B. Whiteside on March 3, 1813 had as one of its members, John Reynolds - governor of Illinois 1830-1834 - to the end of his political career called himself "The Old Ranger".  The troops ranged the frontier "to a great distance, principally the Illinois and Kaskaskia rivers and sometimes as far as the Wabash, always keeping their line of march never less than one and sometimes 3 days journey outside of the settlement.  In spite of the measures taken for defense, the settlements were thrown into terror".

But by several vigorous campaigns, and with the help of the Whitesides, the Indians were pushed back.  By the end of 1814 the war closed in Illinois.

From an inventory in the St Clair County Archives, I find the following record.  "In December 1813 the territorial legislature passed an act appointing commissioners to select places for holding court in St Clair, Madison, and Johnson Counties.  At a special session of the Court of Common Pleas, in the same month, the Commissioners, john Hays, James Lemen, Isaac Enochs, Wm. Scott, Jr., Nathan Chambers, Jacob Short and Caldwell Cairns, were notified to meet at the house of Col. Whiteside (Wm. B. Whiteside) and make their decisions, returning their findings at the Feb 14 (1814) term of court.  It was not, however until April 14, 1814 that the commission made its return.  In a lengthy report accounting for the elapsed time, the members declared that they had located the seat of government 15 miles east of Cahokia, on land belonging to George Blair."  This new town, Belleville, the county seat was surveyed and laid out by John Messenger.  The city of Belleville had its birth in this house.

You may rest assured, I have left much of the Whiteside story out of this abbreviated account of the family.  Joan Donovan will attest that she and I spent many hours digging the story out.  Mr. Nold at the Chicago Title, as usual, came up with much assistance, and Mrs. Mildred Fenn, granddaughter of Thomas Whiteside, loaned us the Whiteside History and Family Tree.  To all of these people I am indebted for their help.

  
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