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during that year, built a cabin and raised a crop near the south western part of the county. In 1818 John Tillson came from Boston, Mass., and built a cabin on what is now known as the Sawyer farm some three miles southwest of Hillsboro.” Even A. H. H. was too modest to mention the fact that his father came with Mr. Tillson and was associated with him in all his local activities. We may add also, that the above extract alone may confuse the reader as the cabin was not built till 1820.
Mr. Rountree states substantially, with reference to the first historic events of the county; On October 15th, 1821, the first term of court, or what we would now call Circuit Court, was held in the county. Judge Reynolds, then of the supreme bench, as judge, and Samuel D. Lockwood, then attorney general, acting as states attorney. The court was held in a house belonging to Mr. McAdams and occupied at the time, by Mr. Rountree. During the courts session, Mrs. Rountree with her children retired to the other room. The judge's bench was a bed of Mrs. Rountree, on which the judge sat; The records were kept by Mr. Rountree on a table made with punchions the flat side smoothed and the smooth side up. The pen used by Mr. Rountree was made by himself of a goose quill. The grand jury, after hearing the matters presented, retired to the woods near by, to deliberate. The petit jury also retired to the friendly shade of a tree to make up their verdicts. The legal and court proceedings, were then quite limited as we find that after Judge Rountree had served as clerk of the courts for a year and a half that his salary was only $12.00. It must be understood, that then the Circuit Court practically included all judicial proceedings as the County Court was limited to probate matters, and the county judge was known as probate judge. This condition obtained till after the Constitution of 1848 when the county business was made to devolve on a board of commissioners commonly known as judges.
We have stated that Mr. Rountree with others appeared before the Legislature and secured the authority to organize the county. The Legislature at that time appointed Melchoir Fogelman, James Street, and Joseph Wright, as commissioners to locate a county site and prepare for building a court house. They selected a site about two miles west of Hillsboro which
they named Hamilton, and an order was made of record, for the building of a court house, and even the logs were hauled onto the ground for the purpose. But Mr. Wright, one of the commissioners, did not agree with the others, on the location, and the opposition to the site, became so insistent, that at the next session of the Legislature, another set of commissioners were appointed consisting of Elijah C. Berry, Silas L. Wait, and Anthony Armstrong, and they selected the site at Hillsboro, and here the first court house was built, and, so far as we know, Mr. Rountree built the only house ever built in Hamilton, and this he occupied but a very short time, if at all.
In recording the order for the building of a court house Rountree wrote in the county records "To be built of hewn logs twenty by twenty-four feet, the logs to face one foot, on an average, and the house to be two stories high; the lower story to be eight feet, and the second story to be six feet, clear of the roof; to have two doors below, one window below, and one above; to have plank floors to be jointed and laid down rough; the roof to be shingled; the cracks to be closely chinked and daubed with mud; the doors to have good strong shutters, the windows to contain twelve lights or panes of glass, 8 by 10 inches; all to be completed by the first day of December next, in a strong manner.”
The official record of Judge Rountree was a remarkable one. I dare say that it is not equalled by any man in this state. It extended over a period of fifty-nine years during which time he often filled several positions at one time. He was county or probate judge for sixteen years, recorder or circuit clerk for nearly as long, a justice of the peace, and a notary public, and besides these official county positions, he was twice elected and served as state senator from 1848 to 1852 where his ability was demonstrated as a painstaking constructive representative. In 1847-8 he was elected the representative of Bond, Fayette, Shelby, Christian and Montgomery counties in the Constitutional Convention, which position he filled with distinction.
Nor were his abilities all taken up with public duties for we find him teaching night classes in Greek, Latin and other higher branches of learning not easily obtained through the school facilities of the day. As a justice of the peace we find
him occasionally being pressed into more clerical garments and performing the marriage ceremony for his friends, a few of the inore prominent being, David Starr and Jane Steel June 9th, 1825. Horace Mansfield and Sally Loving September 30th, 1828, Robert Hill and Jane Townsend March 7th, 1829, and David Forehand and Sally Norman February 27th, 1830.
From 1825 to 1832 our country had serious trouble with certain Indians led by one Ma-ka-tai-me-she-generally known as Black Hawk. It was known as the Black Hawk War. After some years of spasmodic raids by these irreconcilable Indians the government was forced to call for a force large enough to stop their outrages and make the country safe as homes for the settlers. Judge Rountree organized a company, was selected as its captain, and proceeded to equip his company as best he could with arms, accoutrements and horses, and marched to the headquarters at Peru, Illinois. It was expected that on arriving there that the men would be furnished provisions, and a better equipment of arms and other military necessities by the government. But it was found that such provisions had not been made by the authorities though ordered by the U. S. Government. After waiting for such equipment a reasonable time, Captain Rountree wrote Governor Reynolds on June 20th, 1832, as follows:
"His Excellency Governor Reynolds.
In obedience to order of May 20th my company repaired to headquarters for the defense of the country, with the expectation of enjoying what others are, and what the wisdom of the U. S. intended they should enjoy, the arms provided by the United States for Illinois. But these have been denied us. The men, at a distance of 200 miles from home, are without provisions and none to be had in the immediate country had they the means to buy them. This note is drafted to know of your excellency, and that immediately, what the men may depend on.
With great respect, H. Rountree.
P. S.-As regards myself I shall never complain, but the condition in which the company is placed demands speedy attention. Their crops are ruined, and they in debt for the preparation to defend their country. H. Rountree.
Aaron Rountree, in commenting on this letter said; “However this note may have seemed impudent to General Atkinson, when backed by Governor Reynolds, who was himself in full sympathy with the volunteer soldiery, most of whom were his personal friends, the arms were furnished and those in need with provisions on the day following. The company continued in the service and were engaged in the last battles of the war. They were discharged after Black Hawk's forces had been destroyed and himself made a prisoner.”
While Judge Rountree was a Democrat in politics, he was not a strong partizan. In some of his candidacies he was named on both tickets. During the Civil War the judge was always a friend to the soldiers in the front, and opposed any action of the Democrats looking toward recognizing, or organizing to help, the South. At one time a meeting was held in Hillsboro on the instigation of the Knights of The Golden Circle, Mr. Rountree was called to chair. He arose and, in answer to the call to the chair, told those assembled, that he wanted it understood that he opposed all schemes of resistence to the draft, and urged all present to abandon such intentions if they entertained them. Suffice it to say that the judge did not preside, nor did the meeting accomplish the purpose for which it was called.
While the judge was always on the side of law and right, yet he was ever ready to see the practical side of every measure. An amusing incident may be mentioned. The old court house had become wholly inadequate to the county's growing business, and yet it was feared to submit a proposition to build a new one to the people. The judge ordered the old house repaired, the Swamp funds under his control to be used for the purpose, though it was well known to the few on the inside that the word “Repair" really meant a practically new house. And the county's second court house was the result.
As the judge was well known to be a practical surveyor, and the government was in need of such a man, he was asked, and performed for the state and government at Washington a very important inter-state piece of work, which it seemed was never credited to him, and which we take pleasure in here mentioning. The writers attention was first called to that fact by Mr. I. S. Blackwelder now living in California. He said to
me, "The subject was referred to several times in our conversations and it is as clear in my mind as noon day that he stated to me positively, that he was appointed as one of the commissioners for the State of Illinois to establish the boundary line between Illinois and Wisconsin, and that in doing so, he crossed the state with his assistants, five times in making the survey, and finally ending the work at a point on the Mississippi River where a great stone was placed to mark the western end of the survey. His description of the hardships he endured and difficulties encountered in surveying through the tall underbrush and grass, in swimming rivers and wading swamps, were so graphic as to make a deep impression on my mind, and those who knew Judge Rountree's regard for truth, and his conscientious life, will not doubt that his statement was entirely true.”
In looking up the matter further, I noted that in Reynolds Pioneer History of Illinois page 331 says, Messinger was appointed, with a gentleman from Hillsboro, to survey on the part of Illinois the northern limits of the state with Lucius Lyons for the United States Government. I further found that after the death of Mr. Rountree his son wrote: “In 1830-31 he, (his father) with others were appointed by General Jackson to survey and establish the northern boundary of Illinois, which service he fully performed."
Further investigation revealed the fact that Mr. Rountree took with him Mr. Andrew Braily, an old sailor and a practical surveyor, and went to the place appointed to begin, and waited some days for the man appointed by Wisconsin to aid in the work, but as he did not show up, that he proceeded, with Mr. Braily and local help, to make the survey as related by Mr. Blackwelder. It appears that Mr. Lyons died and Mr. Messinger made the report to Congress, and briefly stated that the survey was made, without any reference to the work of Mr. Rountree. Thus perhaps unintentionally Mr. Rountree was no where given credit for a very reasonable and difficult work well performed. A work which gave to Illinois a large part of the north end of the state including Chicago with its great population, wealth and commerce. I have more fully described this great work in the history of Montgomery County published in 1918.