Putnam County

1907 Past and Present



Men are ever interested to know who they are and how they came to be where they are and why they are what they are.

In a brief account of a very small portion of a great people a casual reference to the great whole is sufficient to introduce the particular portion whose history is to be recorded in this volume.

In the early part of the nineteenth century men along the eastern coast of our great country began looking westward for room in which to expand. Explorers had traversed the great prairies toward the setting sun; up and down the water courses that ramified like an arterial system the great valley between the Blue Ridge mountains to the east and the Rockies to the west, men had steered their frail barques seeking a country where they might pitch their tents and rear their families unrestrained by the requirements of established social customs. "Out West" in the origin of the term meant over the Alleghany mountains, and as civilization pushed westward people still spoke of "going west. Ohio was "out on the frontier" in the closing years of the eighteenth century. Michigan and Indiana were settled in advance of Ohio. Then Illinois was the Mecca of the pilgrim westward bound. The latter half of the nineteenth century to refer to the "wild and woolly west" meant beyond the father of waters, as the Mississippi river has been called.

In the morning days of the twentieth century, there is no "out west" since man has fixed his habitation from ocean to ocean subduing the boundless prairies and causing them to blossom like the rose.

In the dawn of the past century the territory between Lake Michigan on the east, the Mississippi river on the west and the Ohio river on the south to 42-1/2 north latitude on the north was rapidly settling with a rugged yeomanry ambitious to become an integral part of the great country known as the United States. In 1818 she stood at the door and knocked; was heard and admitted and her part in the nation's life has been such that every citizen in the great commonwealth of "Illinois" is proud to declare his allegiance to the great prairie state.

It would seem as we look back upon the beginnings that our forefathers hardly knew the immensity of the undertaking that they had on their hands when they began the work of constructing the political sub-divisions of a state that contained thirty-three thousand six hundred and fifty-eight square miles.

The principal settlements were through the central portion of this territory and in the first division into counties, the acreage allotted to some of them equaled oriental principalities or kingdoms. We have some now to our theme proper. We shall presume that our readers are informed on the general history of our country at large and on that portion of the state history that is of general interest. To record some of the events and to name the persons who figured in those events is the prerogative of the historian.

Each life, each family, every community has its history peculiar to itself. No two are exactly alike; but there are similarities and analogies enough in each to make it interesting to the other while differences make the more fascinating reading.

In the original formation of Putnam county, which honors General Isaac Putnam of Revolutionary fame in its name, about one-fourth of the state was embraced in its borders. The original Putnam county became such by legislative enactment on January 13, 1825, and embraced some sixteen to eighteen of the western counties including Bureau, La Salle, Will and Cook. In 1831 Putnam was again divided and reduced to the territory of the present Marshall, Stark, Putnam and Bureau counties. In 1837 Bureau county was established leaving Putnam, Marshall and Stark as Putnam county. Two years later Stark and Marshall each set up for themselves a county organization and "Little Put," shorn of all her former greatness, remained but the core of the original apple. Many of her children have grown so great that they chide their mother that she has shriveled to such proportion, not realizing that she was simply shifted off the rough exterior, retaining the real source of growth and development the heart. For nearly seventy years the boundaries of Putnam county have remained unchanged though there have been occasional agitations of the advisability of consolidation with an adjoining county, probably Marshall. The maintenance of a county government in a district containing one hundred and seventy square miles and part of that river, bottoms and bluffs, is appreciably greater than in the larger counties and yet so economically and honestly have the affairs of Putnam county been administered that the people have never complained. Practically speaking "boodle" and "graft" are unknown terms in official life in Putnam county, an evidence of the moral status of her people.

The men who first came to this sequestered spot were in the main, men of Christian character, men who believed that God is everywhere and can be honored on the frontier as well as in the city's kirk. So these men came from settlements of Ohio, Michigan and the states beyond the Blue Ridge range. Few of their descendants appreciate the courage required to face the hardships and dangers of pioneer life in the early days in Illinois.

Where now the steam engine rushes along at forty to ninety miles an hour or the automobile makes twenty to thirty miles an hour our fathers were content to make a few miles per day The evolution of the years since first the virgin soil yielded to their crude share is wonderful to contemplate. We are wont to be puffed up with our advanced civilization, considering the early settlers but little above the red man in intellect and culture, but it is they who gave us the endurance and perseverance, who made it possible for us to attain the degree of enlightenment now prevailing in the great prairie state.

Extracted from Past and Present of Marshall and Putnam Counties Illinois, authored by John Spencer Burt and W. E. Hawthorne, published in 1907, pages 69-70.

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