As the legislative and controlling power of the county resided in this Court at the time of the formation of the county and down to the year 1849, we shall devote some attention to their acts and doings. There is nor record showing the result of the vote which elected the first set of county officers, or of the location of the county seat, but the record shows who served the people as County Clerk, Sheriff, Probate Justice of the Peace, School Commissioner and County Commissioners-leaving us in the dark as to who was the first Coroner and County Surveyor. It also shows that the county seat was located at Havana, at that election, which was held in Havana, Salt Creek and Texas Precincts, on the 5th day of April, 1841.|
At the first meeting of the Court, in April, the bond of J. A. Phelps, County Clerk, was approved, and five road districts were laid out in the county. At the June term, the number of road districts were increased to nine, and the Supervisors appointed to serve therein were as follows: First District, Daniel Swing; Second, Abraham Virgin; Third, Isaac Teeter; Fourth, William McDaniel; Fifth, John H. Neteler; Sixth, Joseph Lybarger; Seventh, Nelson R. Ashurst; Eighth, William Davis, and Ninth, John R. Chaney. The location of these districts may be known from the residence of the Supervisors. It was also ordered that three days road labor be expended on the roads in the year 1841, by all persons liable to do such work.
Ira Patterson was allowed $2 for services as a Justice of the Peace in opening the poll books and making abstracts of the first election for county officers and county seat.
At this June term of court, it was also ordered that a new Justice's district be formed of the territory lying west of the range line between Nine and Ten, to be called Lynchburg District, and ordered an election for two Justices and two Constables. As a result of that election we only know that Amos Smith was elected one of the Justices, and continued in that office to the time of his death, in the year 1851.
The Court further ordered that George May should pay $5 license for a ferry across the Sangamon, and required him to give a bond of $150, conditioned that he should "keep the ferry so as to give every person a passage in reasonable time"-but the order did not state what kind of physic the ferryman should use. In those days, being hemmed in from the outside world by the Illinois and Sangamon Rivers, the ferries were great institutions, and there were plenty of them and considerable rivalry for business.
The Court also ordered that Francis Low be appointed Collector of Taxes for the year 1841, and that the rate of taxes should be 50 cents on the $100 for county purposes, and 30 cents for State purposes.
The Court ordered that the following named persons be summoned to serve as grand jurors at the first term of the Mason County Circuit Court, to be held on Friday, after the second Monday in November, 1841, viz.: James Walker, Daniel Clark, Sr., Ira Halstead, Michael Swing, Austin P. Melton, P. W. Campbell, William Dew, John G. Conover, Thomas F. Blunt, Anderson Young, Samuel D. Becket, George Marshall, G. W. Phelps, Edmund Northern, Ashley Hickey, Hoag Sherman, William Hibbs, William Atwater, Thomas Low, John Rishel, Daniel Deffenbacker, Pulaski Scovil and David Bell. Of all these men, we know but four now in the county-Scovil, Blunt, Deffenbacker and John G. Conover, the latter still an active, stout, jolly man, as he has always been. G. W. Phelps is living in Kentucky, but most of them have been summoned to a court of stern decrees-the court of death.
The Court also selected the following named persons to serve as travis jurors at the same term of Court, viz.: George Close, James Yeardley, Henry Sears, John Close, Sr., Abel W. Kemp, Jacob H. Cross, James Russell, James Ray, Laben Blunt, James Lockerman, Washington Daniel, Benjamin Sisson, Israel Carman, John Johnson, Orin E. Foster, Frederick Buck, Thomas Faulkner, David Coder, William Chainey, Samuel Patton, James Blakely, William Rodgers, Nelson Abbey, Henry C. Rowland.
The writer was acquainted with nearly all the men on both these juries, of whom there are but four of the latter known to be living, making eight out of forty-seven.
The Court finished up its business for that term with the following interesting order, or decree, which goes to show how the court stood (or perhaps, leaned), on the main question; we copy literally:
Be it remembered that permission is hereby given to Richard P. Gatton, to retail spirituous liquors, by any quantity, until the end of the September term of the Co. Com. Court of said county, for which permission the said Gatton has paid the sum of $2.50.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my name and private seal, no official seal having been provided.
Dated at Havana, June the 12th, A. D. 1841.
This was the first liquor license given in Mason County, and the demand for it was so pressing , that they could not wait for a seal to be put on the license, and the party had to take it straight, without any trimmings! Bath was a little behind on the county seat question, but ahead on the license to sell the stuff that has made such dearful havoc of the peace and morality of the town. With bad whiskey "retailed in any quantity," Bath has been the scene of several bloody murders, and of drunken rows and orgies without number!
At a July special term of court, it was ordered that the Judges and Clerks of the April election be allowed $1 each for their services, viz.: Salt Creek-John Youn, John L. Turner, Abraham Swing, Ira Halstead and John Close; Texas Precinct-Joseph Adkins, George Marshall, James May, Mark A. Smith and Howard Campbell: Havana Precinct-Isaac Parkhurst, Jesse Brown, John H. Neteler, Hoag Sherman and Eliphaz Low.
It was also ordered that the sum of $146 be paid, with 12 per cent interest, semi-annually, to Robert Faulkner, George T. Virgin and A. J. Field, County Commissioners, for money advanced for books for county offices.
It would seem that the county started in business on borrowed capital, and at a pretty high rate of interest.
It was further ordered at this term of court that the bond for $1,000, to be donated for the purpose of erecting public buildings, signed by N. J. Rockwell, Pulaski Scovil, Louis W. Ross and H. L. Ross, be sued upon in the Circuit Court of Mason County, and that the bond of L. W. & H. L. Ross, for a block of lots adjoining the public square, in Havana, for the use of the county, be put in suit for the enforcement of the conditions of the bond.
At the September term of court, it appears that A. J. Field, Amos Smith and Israel Carman, together with the County Clerk (all in the Bath interest), held a term of court, claiming to have been elected at the August election, and drew lots, Carman drawing for three years, Field, two years, and Smith, one year.
At the same time, another court was being held by the other two Commissioners (Faulkner and Virgin), at which time J. A. Phelps, County Clerk, was removed from office "for neglect of duty and for non-compliance of the County Commissioners of said county, and George W. Fielding is appointed by the Commissioners in his room until another is elected by the people!" No name appears to the record of this double-barreled Returning Board, but at the next meeting, in December, the record is signed by Faulkner, Virgin and Smith, with Fielding as Clerk. As Phelps, Field and Carman disappear from the records, and their official acts were ignored, the presumption is that these three members of the Returning Board were bull-dozed out of office by the action of some higher court!
This was the first round in the battle between Havana and Bath, in which Havana drew first blood!
At the March term, 1842, of court, an order was made to prosecute J. A. Phelps and his securities on his official bond, a Havana move to punish the Bath champion.
At the June term of court, a permit is given to Charles Howell, Julius Jones and William Pollard, to build a mill-dam six feet high, across Quiver River, on the southeast quarter of the northwest quarter of Section 22, Township 22, Range 8, the site where the McHarry mill now stands, Mr. McHarry afterward purchasing the site and building the mill.
It was also ordered that the suits on the $1,000 bond, and the bond for a block of lots, be dismissed. This was a left-handed lick made by Havana, which the Bath boys claimed to be a foul!
At the August election, in 1842, Joseph A. Phelps was again elected by the lower end of the county, to the office of County Clerk. First knock-down for Bath!
At the September term of court, it was resolved that the contract which had been let for the building of a Court House in Havana, was valid, and that $1,800 (the price to be paid), should be paid the contractors when the job was completed. Havana taffy!
It was also ordered that the suit commenced against J. A. Phelps be dismissed. A back-down for Havana!
At this time, the county seat fight waxed hot between the rival towns, and resulted in the passage of an act by the Legislature, providing for an election in February, 1843, to settle the vexed question. At this election, Bath got the first knock-down, and won the battle!
At the March term, 1843, of County Court, it was ordered that the precinct know by the name of Texas Precinct, be changed to the name of Bath Precinct, and that Bath be the place of holding elections. Also, that the north line of the precinct be extended to the north line of Section 18, Township 21, within a mile of the present city limits of Havana! "See, the conquering hero comes." Bath has secured a respectable name, as a precinct, and, by the prowess of her stalwarts, has enlarged her dominions!
In consideration of the many fights and murders that have occurred in Bath, it is a question of propriety whether the old name of "Texas" should not have been retained.
An order was also passed at this term of court, providing for a settlement, by referees, with Moses Freeman, the Havana Court House contractor, for damages, in not being allowed to complete the work. At the same term of court, Freeman accepted $250, in county orders, in full settlement.
At this term of court, Quiver Precinct was set off from Havana, containing all the territory north of Quiver River, and the place of voting fixed at the house of Isaac Parkhurst. Crane Creek was also set off from Salt Creek and the place of voting located at the Crane Creek Schoolhouse, making the number of six precincts at this date, viz.: Havana, Bath, Salt Creek, Lynchburg, Quiver and Crane Creek.
Up to this time and long afterward, the principal business of the County Court was locating roads and licensing ferries. With all that has been done in the past, is it not a little strange that we have so few good roads in the county?