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Pike, Mother of Counties, Had First ...
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Pike, Mother of Counties, Had First ...
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Pike county is the mother of thirty-two counties and six parts of counties. From January 31, 1821 (when the county was erected by legislative act) until January 28, 1823 it embraced all that vast region of Illinois north and west of the Illinois river and that river’s south branch, the Kankakee river. It was bounded on the east by the Indiana line (north of the Kankakee) and by the waters of Lake Michigan, and on the north by Wisconsin Territory.

The great county included the sites of present Quincy, Macomb, Monmouth, Peoria, Rock Island, Moline, Galena, Dixon, Rockford, Kankakee, Joliet, Galesburg and Chicago. It was erected out of Madison, Bond and Clark counties and was the eighth county established after Illinois became a state. It is the oldest county on the Military Tract, and, as of today, is the 19th county in size in the state, with an area of 756 square miles. In its original extent it embraced approximately one-third of the area of the state.

The legislature in setting up the county appointed Levi Roberts, John Shaw and Nicholas Hansen to meet at the house of Roberts on or before March 1, 1821, to fix the temporary seat of justice for the new county, the legislature specifying only that said seat of justice should be south of the county’s base line, a line 12 miles north of the county’s present north boundary and intersecting the Illinois river near Beardstown and the Mississippi river six miles north of present Quincy. Thus, by legislative enactment, was initiated a feud between Coles’ Grove and Ross’ Settlement that was to result in the bitterest county-seat war in the history of the state.

Pursuant to the above legislative enactment, John Shaw (the Black Prince) and Levi Roberts met and fixed the temporary seat of justice at Coles’ Grove, which John Shaw had founded and which was the home of both Shaw and Roberts. Hansen, partisan of Ross’s Settlement, also a contender for the temporary seat of justice, apparently was not notified of the meeting by the Coles’ Grove majority membership ,and does not appear to have been present. The County Commissioners, on Jan. 12, 1822, ordered that there be paid out of the county treasury the sum of $8 to John Shaw and $4 to Levi Roberts for “their services as commissioners in locating the county seat.”

Coles’ Grove (invariably written “Colesgrove” in the early county records) was located adjacent to the site of present Gilead, on the west side of present Calhoun county and about 20 miles south of the present line between Pike and Calhoun. It was named for Edward Coles, who succeeded Shadrach Bond as second governor of Illinois. It was laid out in the spring of 1821 but prior to that there was a white settlement there. At the beginning of 1820, Coles’ Grove was the northernmost white settlement in the Military Tract.

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Submitted: 01/26/08

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