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No courthouse was ever built at Palmyra; the home of Gervase Hazleton appearing to have been used as a courthouse during practically the entire period when Palmyra was the seat of government. Whether at this early date the proprietors of Palmyra feared the development of possible rivals or perlaps sensed the county seat war which later developed, is not known, but after having paid Hazleton the sum of eight dollars for the use of his home during the first year, we find the County Court at the beginning of the second year entering the following order:
"ORDERED THAT THIS COURT ADJOURN TO THE HOUSE
But economy even such as this could not triumph over the unhealthful conditions against which Palmyra vainly struggled, and it was not long until a very large proportion of its inhabitants were entombed in the hillside cemetery across the creek from the unfortunate town. Its downfall was completed, when, in 1824, Edwards County was divided as the result of a county seat war.
The western part of the county, or what is now Edwards County, had been settled by the British who had become so numerous as to feel they were able to control affairs, and they demanded the removal of the county seat to the western side of the Bonpas, a change which the native Americans, who very largely composed the settlers in the eastern part of the county, did not propose to tolerate, and when through the separation of Lawrence County from Edwards, taking with it many of the voters to the northward, they were defeated in the election, they organized four companies of militia and proposed to retain by force what they could not by means of the ballot. The soldiers were encamped and drilling every day in preparation for the battle which was expected to occur when they undertook to recapture the records which had been moved
to the new capital at Albion, and return them to Palmyra. At this juncture, fortunately, the British made a proposal for a compromise by the dividing of the county into two practically equal parts, separated by the Bonpas Creek. Their proposition was accepted and soldiers disbanded without any blood having been shed.
The act which created the new county of Wabash was approved by the Legislature in December, 1824, and it fixed the capital of the new county, not at old Palmyra but at Centerville, several miles inland, to which place many of the people, houses and material were speedily removed, leaving the former capital to a rapid decay that soon completed the work of destruction; and the site of the once pretentious young metropolis has for many decades been a wheat field, smiling placidly in the summer sun, with scarce a brick or a stone to mark it as different from the surrounding territory.
But the triumph of Centerville was short lived. The thrivlittle city of Mount Carmel had already been established on the bluffs south of Grand Rapids and it soon became apparent that the town of Centerville could not be made a success, with the result that in a short time, the capital was removed to the “Bluff City," where it has remained ever since, and which has developed into one of the most attractive residence cities of the State.
Recently in a scrap book of one of the older residents of Mount Carmel was discovered the following account of a visit to the abandoned city of Palmyra. This account, which is as follows, was published in the Vincennes Gazette in 1859.
A VISIT TO OLD PALMYRA.
Messrs Editors:—Thinking it may not be uninteresting, at least to a good portion of the readers of the Gazette, I have this as the history and reflections upon of one of oldest towns settled by Americans in this State. In the year 1815 Seth Gard and Peter Keen of Hamilton County, Ohio, entered at the Vincennes land office two fractional lots, Nos. 4 and 5 in town One, south of the Base line, in range twelve west of the second meridian, and before receipt of the patent admitted as equal partners Gervies Hazleton, Levi Compton and John
Wagoner; this company then laid off a town, calling it Palmyra, and recorded the following article, somewhat strange at this day:
Inasmuch as we, the said Seth Gard, Peter Keen, Gervies Hazleton, Levi Compton and John Wagoner, as tenants in common, taking into consideration the disadvantage the county labors under for the want of a town being established on the river, have laid out a town on a part of the two fractional lots, or sections, in lots of seventy-four feet, three inches in front, and one hundred forty-eight feet, six inches back, as by the map or chart that is hereunto annexed, will appear with streets, alleys and public grounds, and that we, the said S. Guard and Co., viewing the great utility of giving liberal encouragement to mechanics and other citizens to settle in towns in the neighborhood, we agreed, and hereby agree to give to each mechanic or citizen every uneven numbered lot as designated on said map, on their building a house of hewn logs, sixteen by twenty feet, one and a half story high, with a good shingle roof and stone or brick chimney, on or before the fourth day of July, 1816. And by becoming a citizen of the town for three months and getting the certificate from Peter Keen and Gervies Hazleton to the same, the time was extended to two years from the date of the certificate, in which to put up the house, the company to furnish timber for building free of charge. Dated the 22nd day of May, 1815. It was soon made the county seat of Edwards County in the then territory of Illinois, a county that extended from Chicago almost to the mouth of the Wabash River, embracing at least one-fourth of the territory in its limits. It soon became one of the most important towns in the territory, being immediately on the river above high water mark, on a dry, sandy foundation, had its bank-market, race track and act of incorporation, and a population of near five hundred souls. In the year 1828, in company with a young friend, I visited the seat of this town to attend a baptising. After the immersion was over and the congregation dispersed, we spent the rest of the day in rambling over and examining this forsaken place, which we did, every street, house, garret, parlor, cellar and garden through and through. Many of the houses were then falling. The main streets ran west back from the river, and were crossed by others running north and south,
making every four lots a perfect square. One street was then perfectly solid on both sides, with large two-story frame houses, the rooms on the inside in good preservation, the glass in the windows, the weather boarding all torn off, if there ever had been any on.
The frames were filled in with a composition of clay and straw, presenting a weather-worn, decaying appearance; bats, swallows and other birds, with serpents and frogs were the only inhabitants of the place. Other houses were standing and good, that had been built of hewn logs, fire places, stairs and all in perfect order. Many of them would have been comfortable and convenient to live in then; others, again, were made of rough, unhewn logs, cut from the forest around, with stick and dirt chimneys, down and falling to the ground. In some places on protected spots of ground there would be found garden shrubbery and flowers. We found scattered here and there bunches of beautiful pinks, while touch-me-nots, morning glories and other flowers grew thick around some of the houses, in contrast with the silence and gloom around. Near one of the best houses was the sad remains of a summer house, or rose bower, leaning near the ground, tottering with decay, the vines yet entangled around their falling support; and the rose here blooming amid silence, unseen and uncared for (perhaps) by the one that with fair hands had trained their tender vines when young with care. In the town stood no church or even a school house, that we could see; they all seemed to be residences and business houses of one kind or another. West of the place we found the race track, then plain to be seen for its entire length. Southwest of the village, near Crawfish Creek, on a bluff, we found the place where a large portion of the inhabitants now dwell; it is the grave yard of Palmyra, the largest then, if not now, in the county. Many of the graves then had trees of considerable size growing on and over them, a few crumbling sandstones at the head and foot of some of the graves, and the little mounds of earth was all that marked the spot where so many sleep, that once lived in that forsaken town. Since that day I have traveled much in different parts of the west, yet I have never found such true desolation in reality as an entire town standing forsaken and going to decay, and that too in a new, unsettled country. This place almost depopulated in the course of two or three years by sickness,
caused, it was supposed, by its peculiar situation on the river just above the rapids, which, when the water was low, made the stream there like an immense pond, where grass and moss grew in the still water nearly across the river, which in hot weather filled the atmosphere with stench and miasmatic effluvia that struck with disease all that breathed its fatal poison for any length of time. This together with the ponds and the water the inhabitants all used from a large spring that gushed clear from the banks of the river, no doubt the drain from some far off pond, was the cause of the unhealthiness and depopulation of the town. The last house there has long since fallen and decayed; not a log, scarcely a brick or stone is left, and but little think the passengers or crews of the steamboats, as they pass its ancient landing, that on its naked bank was once a populous and thriving town.
NOTE. There is at present a village in Macoupin County, Illinois, by the name of Palmyra, on the Springfield Division of the St. Louis, Chicago and St. Paul Railway thirty-three miles southwest from Springfield, has some local manufactories, a bank and a newspaper.