Monroe County, Illinois

This history was extracted from the following book on:


Combined History of Randolph, Monroe and Perry Counties, Illinois

Published by J. L. McDonough & Co.

Philadelphia 1883



Pages 412-414

Harrisonville Precinct lies wholly in the American Bottom, and comprises a large area of rich and productive farming land.  This part of the bottom in early years contained a numerous population, and some of the most noted men of the earlier times of Illinois here had their home.  The old town of Harrisonville on the river was selected as the seat of jussive of the new county of Monroe on its formation, and for some years was the most important point in the county.  The improvement rights granted in this precinct show that a number of settlements were made between the years 1780 and 1790.  These settlements were along the bluff and in the bottom of the vicinity of Harrisonville.  Claim 511, survey 497, now owned by William Bamber, immediately south of Harrisonville, was confirmed to the heirs of John Ellison.  The testimony before the Board of Commissioners to examine land claims within Kaskaskia district showed that Ellison had come to this place in 1783, and grubbed a few acres of land adjoining L'Aigle (Eagle) and had died I the country in the same year. 

The site of the main portion where the town of Harrisonville was first improved by John Jones, and was affirmed by the board of commissioners in 1809 to John Payne.  The claim net north, 580, was granted in right of an improvement made by George Wear.  It was affirmed by Governor St. Clair to James Gillham in 1813 to the same person.  Claim 554, survey 421, near Moredock lake, on the northern boundary of the precinct, was first improved by Peter Zipp, and was in the ownership of his heirs for many years.  Claim 510 was confirmed to Tobias Brashears.  The fort erected in this vicinity during the Indian War from 1786 to 1795 was called Brashear's Fort.

In the year 1794 the population in the American Bottom received an important addition in the person of Shadrach Bond, a nephew of Judge Shadrach Bond.  He was born in Frederick county, Maryland, in 1773, the son of Nicholas Bond, and was twenty-one years of age when he came to Illinois.  He had received a plain English education, and his early life had been spent on a farm. Reynolds says that "he learned much useful knowledge of all the various moving principles of the human heart, and was nature's nobleman, educated in the wide world of the human family, with his conscience and sound judgment as his unerring preceptors."  For some years he resided with his uncle, and indulged much in the gayety and amusements of the country at that day.  He afterward purchased a farm on the bank of Moredock Lake, where he resided till his removal to Kaskaskia in 1814.  He was elected a member of the general assembly of Indiana territory, which met at Vincennes, and in 1812 was sent to Congress as the first delegate from the territory of Illinois.  Chiefly through his exertions, Congress in 1813 passed the first act granting the right of preemption of the public lands, a measure which was of the greatest importance in securing the development of Illinois. He was next appointed receiver of public moneys at the Kaskaskia land office, and in 1814 remove to a farm in the vicinity of Kaskaskia.  On the admission of Illinois into the Union as a State, he was chosen without opposition the first Governor, and after the expiration of his term of office was made register of the land office in Kaskaskia, in which office he remained for many years.  He died in 1830.

Two brothers of Governor Bond, Nicodemus and Joshua Bond, also made their home in the American Bottom.  The latter resided here but a few years, and the removed to St. Louis, and after ward to Vincennes.  Several of the sons of Joshua Bond acquired reputation at the bar.

The point of the bluff near the northern boundary of Harrisonville precinct, known as Salt Lake point, marks the place where the manufacture of salt was carried on in early time. This saline trade was one of the earliest established in the West. General John Edgar, of Kaskaskia, was its first proprietor, and placed it in operation about the year 1802.  Among its subsequent owners was a man named Boise, one if the early residents of the town of Harrisonville.  He employed Thomas Marrs to work the saline, and he had charge of it three years.  At this time there were twelve wells sunk.  Considerable salt was manufactured for a time which brought a good price.

Just north of the present town of Harrisonville, lived Dr. Caldwell Cairnes, who was well-known all over the county in early times, as an excellent physician.  He came to Illinois from Pennsylvania, soon after the year 1800.  He bought a fine farm under cultivation, which he called Walnut Grove.  He was fond of agriculture, and farmed, for those days, on a large scale. He attended likewise to his profession, and had a large practice among the residents of the bottom. He was elected a Justice of the Peace, and also one of the Judges of the St. Clair County Court.  (Before Monroe County was organized.)  He was sent as one of the delegates, from Monroe County, to the convention which formed the first constitution of the State of Illinois.  He was one of the active working members of that body.  He was a man of sound mind, and was hones in his transactions with the public, and upright in his deportment.  He died on his farm, leaving behind him a good reputation, and a large estate.  One of his daughters married Gen. James Sample, who was at one time one of the Supreme Judges of Illinois, Untied States Senator, and Minister to Bogota.  He died a few years since, as did also his wife, at their home near Elsah, Jersey county, Illinois.  Thomas and Edward Todd were also early settlers in the bottom, Thomas not far from Harrisonville, and Edward in Moredock precinct.

Claim 1726, on which Harrisonville is built, was formerly owned by John and Alexander Jameson. They were brothers.  John died previous to 1826.  The Levisee family lived at Harrisonville some years, and removed from there to Moredock precinct.  A man named Gallatin owned, at one time, a large tract of land below Harrisonville, including the place now owned by Thomas Holland.  Close to the mouth of the Monroe City hollow, Abraham Bivens lived about 1830.  On the "sand hill" as it is called, near the Willow ford bridge, Hugh Ralston lived in 1825.  Below the Monroe City hollow, under the bluff, lived Turner Todd, and farther down the Lewis family.  Just north of Dr. Cairnes, on Fountain creek, was the residence of Bradley Rust.  He was from one of the New England States.  For a number of years he served as a Justice of the Peace, till he was succeeded in that office by Noah B. Harlow. He moved to Waterloo, and died there.

The James family, of Welsh origin, were among the early settlers in the American Bottom.  Joseph Austin James emigrated to Illinois in 1803, accompanied by his son, Thomas James, who was born in Maryland, in the year 1782, and James A. He moved to Missouri in 1807, where he died.  Thomas James made his first trip to the Rocky mountains in 1809, and returned in 1810.  He was in the store at Harrisonville for several years following the autumn in 1815, and in 1821 embarked on a hazardous expedition to New Mexico.  He was made a general of the Illinois militia in 1825, and the same year was elected a member of the Legislature, where he served two years. He was appointed postmaster at Monroe City, then called James' Mills, in 1827; in 1832 served as major in the Black Hawk war, and died at Monroe City, in December, 1847.

Col. James A. James, son of Joseph A. James, was born in Kentucky, in 1798, and received a good education, attending the college at Beardstown, Kentucky.  He married Miss Susan O'Hara, a native of Monroe county. Col. James was a man of considerable prominence in the county.  His residence was first in Renault precinct, and subsequently at Harrisonville.  He was a farmer, by occupation; represented Monroe and St. Clair counties in the State Legislature four years.  In 1827, he was colonel of State militia.  Austin James, son of Col. James, was born in the county in 1823.  Was a farmer; served in the Sixth Illinois Regiment during the Mexican war; Justice of the Peace several years; served in the State Legislature in 1864 and in 1872, and has been postmaster at Mitchie.


The old town of Bridgewater, on the Mississippi, nearly a mile above Harrisonville, was laid out by George Forquer shortly after the year 1818. Forquer was the proprietor of a store in partnership with his brother-in-law, William F. Roberts, who was a millwright by trade.  A man named Meisner, a son-in-law of Dr Caldwell Cairnes, kept store there for a time.  The high water of the spring of 1826 covered the most of the town site and drove the few inhabitants to higher and more favored locations.  Sylvester Harlow, father of Noah B. Harlow, came here in 1826; he was a native of Maine, came to Illinois in 1818, and previous to settling at Bridgewater, had lived in the American Bottom near Kaskaskia; at this time the town of Bridgewater contained ten or twelve houses, mostly built of hewed logs, but the Harlow family were the only inhabitants.  There was some trouble about the titles to the lots which had been sold, and finally about 1828 or 1829 Sylvanus Harlow purchased the whole town site from Guy Morrison, who claimed ownership. He was the owner till some time before his death, when he conveyed the land to his daughter, Lucinda, who married William Kinney.  Harlow at one time opened a small store; in 1830 he put up a distillery, a flour mill, and a saw mill, all run by the same engine; these were in operation five or six years, till the encroachments of the river made advisable the removal of all the buildings. Soon after 1828 it became a shipping point, and Mr. Harlow dealt largely with wood, which he sold to the steamers navigating the river.  The wood business at the river landings was large and profitable in those days.  Sylvanus Harlow died at Bridgewater.  Major X. F. Trail opened a store in 1835, and after carrying it on two or three years, removed to Columbia.  The water had been cutting away the river bank for years, and by 1844 the greater part of the town site had disappeared.  It is now all in the river.


The first seat of justice of Monroe county was at the old town of Harrisonville, some distance west of the present town of that name.  The waters of the Mississippi now sweep over the site.  The first town projected here was called Carthage. The Legislature of the territory of Illinois at its session in Kaskaskia during the winter of 1816-17, authorized the name of it to be changed to Harrisonville; the act bears the date of the twenty-first of December, 1816.  The new name was given it in honor of Gen. William Henry Harrison, who had occupied the position of Governor of the northwestern territory, and who was afterward elected President of the United States.  He invested in several tracts of land in the bottom above Harrisonville, mostly in the present Moredock precinct, the ownership of which he retained till his death.

The site of the town came into the possession of John Edgar, of Kaskaskia, who sold it to the firm of McKnight & Brady; * a man named Boise was proprietor of a store at Harrisonville at and early day.  Thomas James began his mercantile career at Harrisonville in the fall of 1815 as the manager of McKnight & Brady's store. In this firm Frederick Dent, the father-in-law of Gen. Grant, owned a considerable interest, and he used to visit the place frequently.  McKnight accompanied Thomas James to New Mexico in 1821, and was killed by the Comanche Indians.  John S. Beaumont carried on a store in 1818, or 1819. He went to Shawneetown.  An advertisement in a Kaskaskia paper shows that Alexander Jameson, Thomas James, and Jesse W. Cooper, leading residents of Harrisonville and vicinity, were appointed to receive subscriptions to the capital stock of the State Bank of Illinois at Kaskaskia.  McKnight & Brady erected a brick store-house and a frame dwelling-house.  Aside from these, a few scattering buildings compose the town.  There were two ferries, between 1826 and 1830, both operated by horse power.  One was carried on by Adam Smith, who moved down from Bridgewater in 1826, and the other by William Ellis.  The latter was a resident of Herculaneum, on the opposite side of the river.  Herculaneum in those days was a thriving town.  It had four stores, and was the depot of supplies and the place of shipment of the Missouri lead mines.  Much business was also transacted at Bates Landing, just below Herculaneum where there was a large store and shot tower. The Monroe county farmers often went to Herculaneum to buy goods and sell produce and thus there was sufficient patronage for both ferries.  Herculaneum was the county seat of Jefferson county, Missouri, at the same time that Harrisonville was the seat of justice of Monroe County.  About the year 1829 C. B. Fletcher, father of Thomas Fletcher, afterward Governor of Missouri, who lived at Herculaneum, and carried on a heavy business as a merchant, put up a log building a quarter of a mile east of the site of the old town, and opened a store, of which Madison Miller had charge.  No far from the same line Matthias T. Horine started a store in the McKnight & Brady store-house.  For some years previous to this there had been no store.  The town site at this time was in the possession of Col. James A. James.  The Fletcher store was afterward moved east to the Jameson tract, on which the new town of Harrisonville is built.  Madison Miller, who married Fletcher's daughter, was still in charge.  The Horine store was carried on in the old town till 1840, and then also moved east, and established in a frame building constructed on the south side of the street, a little east of the present James store.  The Horines were the last who did business in the old town, and after 1840 it was abandoned.  In 1838 Col. James, the proprietor of the town, and a man named Vanardsdale, were the only residents.  James was the owner of the ferry.  The river each year washed away more and more of the land on which the town was built, and by 1860 the last of the buildings had disappeared in the waters of the Mississippi. 

The early courts were held in Harrisonville during the time it was the county seat.  A jail was erected for the confinement of prisoners.

New Harrisonville

The Fletcher and Horine stores, which we have stated had been established on the site of the present town of Harrisonville, were carried on together for some years.  The latter store was owned by Matthias T. and Harrison Horine.  Fletcher's store was discontinued, and after the high water of 1844 the Horines moved their store to Waterloo.  Matthias T. Horine remained till 1846, and kept some goods on hand, though he did not pretend to do much business as a merchant.  At the flood of 1844 the water stood about twelve feet deep in the streets of Harrisonville.

About the year 1846 the Horine farm, part of claim 511, survey 497, was purchased by Noah B. Harlow, who in 1852 opened a store on the south side of the street.  About the same time he laid out the town of New Harrisonville. Three years afterward he built the brick storehouse now owned by the James' store.  Thomas James started a second store on the old Horine place, where William Bamber now lives and Bamber and James went into partnership in the mercantile business.  James subsequently removed part of the goods to the Andrew Kinney farm, below Monroe city, and Bamber disposed of his interest to Harlow, who again had the only store in place.  He sold his store to Jacob and Fred.  Meyer, and they to Thomas James, Bennett James, and William Kinney.  This was the only store till Lewis Thorn started another in 1875.  William Bamber, a native of Maryland, whose father came to Prairie du Long in 1820, has been a  resident of Harrisonville since 1852.

The business interest of Harrisonville are now represented as follows:  Merchants, James & Hurst (Charles James and Lewis Hurst), and Lewis Ihorn & Co. (Lewis Ihorn, John Graziano and William Ihorn); Blacksmiths, John Merkel, Joseph Vanon and Henry Neiman; Saddler and Harness Maker, Herman Diemert; Shoemakers, Henry Josephs and Frederick Henwendieck; Physicians, Drs. Samuel Skeel and W. S. Johnson, Dr. G. P. Livingston and Dr. William James.  There are two churches, the Catholic church of ST. Francis, built 1868, and St. Paul's Lutheran church, built 1880.  The Rev. B. Quitter is pastor of the Catholic congregation.  William Iborn is the postmaster.  About 1870 only half-a-dozen families composed the population of the town, and the place has been mostly built up since 1875.  There are now about twenty-five dwelling houses.  It is an important shipping point.

* Note.- In the "Illinois Intelligencer, " published at Kaskaskia, there appears the following advertisement, in the year 1810:


"Whereas the public in general, and particularly the inhabitants of Monroe county, are concerned for the honest growth and prosperity of the county seat of said Monroe county at Harrisonville; Therefore, for the information of the public, I do certify that I have sold all my claim to the land, whereon the said county seat is situate, to Messrs. McKnight & Brady, and know of no other claim to said land than that of the above named McKnight & Brady."

                                                                                                                          John Edgar

Kaskaskia, May 12, 1819