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ward through the intervening country until they reached Otter Creek prairie, then in Greene, but now in Jersey county, where Dr. Hamilton purchased a section of land for a homestead, and where he afterward settled and continued as his home until his death in 1834.
Dr. Hamilton returned to Mississippi and closed up his farming operations and prepared to remove to his new location in Illinois. He took his 28 slaves to Cincinnati and manumitted them, being required to give bond that none of them should become a public charge. He brought "George” and a man and his wife, of his former slaves, with him to his new home. The man for work on the farm, and his wife for housekeeper, he being a widower, and his family consisting of himself and one son. His intention then was to educate “George” and send him to Liberia, as a missionary to his own race. This plan was frustrated, however, by reason of the death of Dr. Hamilton, November 19th, 1834, his son having died previously. In his will, dated October 20th, 1834, there is the following provision: “Believing in the very great importance of primary schools, and desiring that my friends and relations in this neighborhood should receive the benefit of them, I give and bequeath four thousand dollars for the establishment of a primary school, viz: two thousand dollars to be appropriated to the erection of a building suitable for a school, and for a place of public worship, and two thousand dollars to constitute a fund for the support of a teacher” * * * “and I desire my executors to oversee the erection of said building."
The nephew, Thomas M. Hamilton, and his brotherin-law, Gilbert Douglas, were named executors, and from this bequest, the original “Stone School House" was erected in 1835. It was the first free school in Illinois, and its fame extended far beyond the limits of the state. Many immigrants in those days came from states farther east, and settled in this neighborhood. They often reHAMILTON PRIMARY SCHOOL, 1835–FIRST FREE SCHOOL IN ILLINOIS.
marked, that before reaching the east line of the state, upon inquiry for the road to the “Stone School House,” the people all seemed to know at once where it was located, and would readily give them the correct directions.
This original school building was two stories high, built of stone. The main floor was divided by a hall, containing a stairway leading to the second floor. There were two school rooms on the first floor and the second floor was used for Sunday school, church and other pub lic gatherings. By act of the General Assembly of 1839, this school was incorporated as “The Hamilton Primary School” with a district four miles square, and the trustees were given authority to use the township and common school fund, due to said district, in support of their school, and making the “Stone School House” the center of the district. In 1873 this school building was taken down and a new and more modern one erected upon the same site. “George” resided within the limits of this district, from the time he was brought to this state by his former master until his death, and his tomb is about 300 feet from the site of the old “Stone School House.”
From the time of its organization this school was known and recognized as one of the most efficient and successful institutions of learning in the state. Here “George” attended and received a good common school
1 Powell vs. Board of Education, 97 Ill. 375.
2 The Baptist Church, of which “George" was a member, occupied said second floor of this school building, for its regular church services from the time of its erection until the completion of its church edifice, in 1872. There “George” bad the privilege of sitting under the preaching of Revs. James and Moses Lemen, John M. Peck, Elijah Dodson, John Brown, Elihu Palmer, Justus Bulkley, Benjamin B. Hamilton, and many others of the leading ministers of his denomination. The first seats were slabs, smooth side up, with two inch auger holes through them, and wooden pins driven therein, and sawed off the proper length for legs, and with no backs. At the time of the erection of this school building, there was not, within the present limits of Jersey County, a meeting-house exclusively for public worship. Religious services prior to this time had been held in private houses, or in the open air, at camp-meetings, and other such places.
education, and among his fellow students and those that succeeded him, are many who have since risen to places of distinction in professional, business and social life in this and other states; among whom a few might be named, as follows, to-wit: Honorable Stephen V. White, his sister, Mrs. Jane (White) Allen, his wife, Eliza (Chandler) White, her sisters, Mary A. (Chandler) Hamilton, Amy (Chandler) Shaw, and Virginia (Chandler) Titcomb, Judge Reuben Noble, his wife, Harriett (Douglas) Noble, Caleb and William Noble, Jacob, William P. and John W. Terry, Leverett B. and Gilbert D. Sidway, John G., Dr. Charles and Henry E. Dougherty, Judge Balfour Cowan, John W. Utt, Benjamin Wedding, Edwin Van Horne, Judge Leander Stilwell, Dr. John T. Curtis, Robert T. Brock, Milton J. Hull, Jesse K. Cadwalader, Thomas A. Case, Dr. Joseph O. Hamilton, Rev. Benjamin B. Hamilton and his son, Surgeon-General Dr. John B. Hamilton.
From the time of his removal to this state “George' resided with Dr. Silas Hamilton, as a member of his family, after Dr. Hamilton's death “George” made his home with the family of Gilbert Douglas (whose wife was a sister of Dr. Hamilton) until manhood. Thereafter “George” pursued the business of farming on his own account, and so continued, with such industry, ability, prudence and frugality, that at the time of his death his estate, after the payment of all debts, expenses of administration, and the $1,500.00 legacy for the erection of a monument to the memory of his former master, Dr. Silas Hamilton, was about seven thousand dollars. “George” was never married and left no known relatives. During his lifetime he did not seem to care to associate with the people of his own race. He left a noncupative will in which, after providing for the payment of his debts, and for a monument for his former master, he provided that the residue of his estate should be used for the education of "colored persons, or Americans of