James Lemen Family

Letter Describing The Family History And Events

Other letters and news articles are included.

Part of the Lyman Draper Collection

Submitted by Janet Flynn


Draper 1Z107

                                                                                            Collinsville  Madison Co., Illinois

                                                                                              January 18th, 1863

  My dear Brother:

                Tottering under the weight of 75 years I have seated myself for the purpose of complying with your request.  At the time your first letter came to hand such was my affliction that I was unable to reply.  I hope therefore you will not attribute my silence to any want of respect, but to my advanced age and feeble health.

                Captain Joseph Ogle, (who was my Grandfather on my mother's side) was a native of Virginia, born 1758.  He resided at Wheeling during the Revolutionary War, and held a Captain's commission (which commission is now in my possession) signed by Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, June 2nd 1777.  In 1785 he removed to Illinois and located in St. Clair County where he remained until his death in 1821.  His family was large consisting of three sons & six daughters, all of whom lived to become heads of families, but have since passed away.  We should have said in its proper place, that under the Commission from Gov. Henry, Capt. Ogle Commanded the fort at Wheeling.  His oldest son Benjamin, when but a youth was severely wounded by the Indians and carried the ball with him to his grave; but upon becoming grown he avenged himself on his foes by killing & scalping one of the same tribe by whom he had been wounded.  In this skirmish were Capt. Joseph Ogle, my father, and Benjamin Ogle with four others making in all seven whites, against nine Indians; five Indians were killed, two wounded & two escaped; while the whites sustained no loss.  Shortly after this bloody battle, Benjamin ogle made a profession of religion, and became a minister of the gospel in the Baptist denomination, & devoted the last forty years of his life to the labors of the Gospel Ministry.  He departed this life in February 1847 in the 77 year of his age.

                William Biggs was a native of Virginia and was brother-in-law of Capt. Jos. Ogle, the latter having married the sister of the former.  I cannot state the exact period of his birth, I am inclined to think, however that he was born in 1754.  He was a soldier in the distinguished army with which Gen. G.R.Clark, performed his western expedition, & aided in the capture of fts Post Vincent, Kaskaskia, & Cahokia.  After returning to Virginia & receiving an honorable discharge from service, he went to Wheeling there married, & shortly after returned to Illinois.  His first daughter (first child) being born on the Mississippi on this journey to Illinois, he gave her the name Mississippe.  He settled in St. Clair County where he remained the balance of his life.  In 1788 he was taken prisoner by the Indians & carried to the Kickapoo town on the Wabash, where he was finally liberated by means of the French traders.  He was a member of the Territorial Legislature for some six or seven years, & for many years Judge of the County Court.  Not long before his death he wrote & published an account of his capture & sufferings among the Indians; & in person presented it to Congress, upon which he received a donation of several hundred acres of land.  He had seven children, two sons & five daughters.  Whether any of them are now living, I do not know.  I cannot give you the precise period of either the birth or death of Judge Biggs.  I am pretty confident he was born in 1754 and died 1830.

                James Lemen Senior (who was my father) was born in Berkeley County, Virginia 1760.  He served two years in the Revolutionary War under General Washington.  After the close of the war he visited a brother-in-law who was residing at Wheeling, when he became acquainted with Capt. Joseph Ogle & family & married his eldest daughter.  In 1786 he followed his father-in-law Capt. Ogle to Illinois & settled in St. Clair County where he spent the remainder of his life.  He was I believe the first acting Justice of the Peace under the American laws in Illinois.  After serving for some time as Justice of the Peace, he was appointed Judge of the Court of Common Pleas, which office he held for a number of years.  At length he entered the Gospel Ministry, & devoted the balance of his days almost exclusively to preaching the gospel, and died on the 8th day of January 1823 in the 63rd year of his age.  He however lived to see his whole family of children (eight in number, six sons & two daughters) all become heads of families, & members of churches in the Baptist denomination; also to see four of his sons (Joseph, Josiah, Moses & myself all in early life inducted into the Gospel ministries, which whom he was permitted to mingle his labors for several years.  Robert (our eldest brother) Joseph, William, Moses & sister Nancy Tolin are now with those beyond Jordan, while Josiah, sister Catherine Harlan & myself still linger this side the Cold Stream.

                With regard to Joseph Lemen the Indian fighter mentioned in your letter I have no knowledge.  My brother Joseph was by no means an Indian fighter, but a pious minister of the gospel for the space of fifty years.  He however has a son by name name of Joseph who was a captain in the Mexican War, & was with Gen. Taylor in many of his hard fought battles, & is now commanding a Company in our present unhappy war against the Southern rebels.

                                                                                                Fraternally yours    

                                                                                                      James Lemen

P.S.  Upon a more mature reflection I am inclined to think that the name of Lemen, through mistake, has been substituted for Ogle, and that Joseph Ogle instead of Joseph Lemen was the noted Indian fighter referred to in your letter.  Capt. Joseph Ogle in both Virginia and Ills. was everywhere spoken of by all who knew him as "a great Indian Warrior".  He distinguished himself at the siege of Fort Henry, & in many skirmishes with the Indians in Western Virginia & in Illinois.  He was the principal guide in the early excursions against the savages, & was invariably consulted (in matters of war) by the American forts of our country.

                At length he became truly pious, & for many years exhibited a consistent Christian character and died in the possession of a firm hope of a blessed immortality.                          

                                                                                         Truly yours, J.L.


                                                                                       Collinsville Ill.   February 12th 1863

Brother Lyman C. Draper;

                Having discovered by reading of your Circular (a copy of which you had the kindness to send me) the vast amount of labor which you have expended in the procurment of material for Western history, I would fain assist you all I could, but my advanced age & daily infirmities disqualify me for such labor.

                The battle about which you seem to have been puzzled, was fought in Illinois in 1791 some five or six miles Northeast of Waterloo, the present seat of justice of Monroe County.  The Indians had stolen several horses, & fired on a certain John Dempsey, who having made his escape, carried the tidings to his friends who seized their guns, mounted their horses, took the trail of the Indians, overtook them in scattering timber, a battle ensued which terminated according to my former account.  The stolen horses were recovered.

                Capt. Joseph Ogle, Benjamin Ogle, James Lemen Sr. Nathaniel Hull, Josiah Ryan, John Porter & Daniel Roper, were the names of the seven whites.  Conflicting accounts have been given relative to the number of each of the war parties, but my information is from grandfather Ogle, Benjamin Ogle & my father, who were in the battle.

                Grandfather Ogle has no children living.  His son Benjamin spent the most of his time for the last five or six years of his life in Iowa, where he had daughters living.  This circumstance doubtless gave rise to your impression that Grandfather has a son living in Iowa, who is a minister of the gospel.  None of Grandfather Ogle's sons were preachers, but Uncle Benjamin, & he died in 1847.  (Eighteen & forty seven).  Five of his children are yet living.  Their names are as follows, according to their births: Polly, Nancy, Catharine, Prudence & Jacob.  Polly married a man by the name of Solomon Perkins, Nancy-a man by the name Daniel Chance, Catharine-a man by name of Reuben Chance, (Daniel's brother), Prudence-a man by name of John Williams.  Solomon Perkins, Daniel Chance & wives are living in Iowa-cannot say what Counties, as both have recently changed their places of residence, but still remain in Iowa.  John Williams & wife are living in Indiana-cannot say what County.  Reuben Chance & wife are in Marion County Ills.  Jacob Ogle & family are living in St. Clair County Illinois.

                Judge Biggs has a granddaughter living in St. Paul Minnesota; her husbands name is Martin Stites.  Doubtless he can give you all desirable information relative to the children of their grandfather.

                The father of Col. John Murdock was killed by the Indians in Kentucky, the particulars of time & place I cannot specify.  In 1788 or 89 the widow Murdock with her two sons John & Barnabas came to Illinois & located in St. Clair County, where she married a Michael Huff, who in 1794 was killed by the Indians near Kaskaskia.  His widow again married a man by the name of McFall, who shortly after their marriage was also killed by the Indians.  After the death of her third husband, the Mrs. McFall set out upon a visit to Kentucky to see her former friends, & was herself killed by the Indians not far from Fort Vincenes.  Thus the father & mother & two step fathers of Col. John Murdock were all killed by the Indians.  Col. Murdock and Benjamin Ogle were brothers-in-law, having married sisters.  The Colonel was a portly fine looking man, & quite popular.  He was Colonel of Militia; & for some four or five years a member of the Territorial Legislature.  His hostility to the Indians knew no bounds in consequence of they having massacred so many of his near relatives.  He was reckless & brave & constantly sought opportunities to wreak his vengeance upon them as evinced by his attack upon those encamped on a island near St. Louis, of which you made mention.  The name of the island, the particulars of the skirmish, & also the date have all escaped my memory.

                Of the military service of Layton White-I know nothing more, than that he was a soldier under Gen. George R. Clark.  He was an honest industrious man, had no family, nor married, lived to an advanced age of life & died in Madison County, Illinois some forty years since.

                With the certain dates of many facts mentioned in my letter I cannot furnish you.  I have no knowledge of any person or families the name Lemen who settled in Illinois forty or fifty years ago.

                While my father was in the Revolutionary Service, he was in several severe skirmishes, but in no very noted battles.  He was quite young when he entered the service.  Josiah Lemen, my only living brother, is residing in Du Quoin, Perry Co., Illinois 60 miles south of my residence.  Sister Catharine Harlan is living in Monroe County 40 miles west of me.

                Rev. J. M. Peck in his appendix to the "Annals of the West", has given a brief sketch of nearly all the skirmishes which took place between the whites & Indians in the early settling of Illinois, together with the names of individuals or families who were killed or taken prisoner by the Indians, which work doubtless you have among the many volumes of your library.

                                                                                                  Fraternally yours,

                                                                                                           James Lemen


Chicago Daily Tribune, Feb 15th 1870

                Rev. James Lemen, last surviving member of the Convention which framed the first Constitution of Illinois in 1818, died at the residence of his son, near Belleville, the 8th inst.

Memo.  I called on the preceding Rev. Jas. Lemen, in the summer of 1868-but his memory has all faded out, so he could give no information whatever.  He seemed kind-was a tall, spare, bony-over six feet high.    L.C.D.



                A Patriarch Fallen.  Rev. James Lemen, so well known in Illinois and the West, died at his residence in New Design, St. Clair county, Feb. 8.  Thus has been severed another link binding the present to the past.  The Lemen family has been in the past and still is a power in Southern Illinois.  A record of the Lemen family would occupy an important chapter in the history of Illinois, including physical development, morals, religion and politics.  A friend has furnished us a brief sketch of the life and labors and last days of the venerable Rev. James Lemen, one of nature's noblemen.

                Elder James Lemen was the third son of Rev. James and Catharine Lemen, who emigrated from Virginia to Illinois in 1786.  They were the parents of six sons and two daughters, all of whom attached themselves to the Baptist church, and lived to a good old age, each leaving a large family.  Four of the sons were active ordained ministers of the Gospel.

                Elder James Lemen was born in Illinois, Oct 8, 1787.  He was the second white child, born of American parents, in the State.-Enoch Moore being the first.  Elder Lemen made a profession of religion about the age of twenty and immediately commenced preaching, but he did not attach himself to the church till he had fully made up his mind what course to pursue.  He then united with the only work of the Gospel ministry.  In 1800? He in connection with Elder John Baugh, constituted was was then called the Cantine Creek, now Bethel church.  Elder Lemen remained a member of this church to the time of his death-over sixty years.  For the most of this time he was an active, efficient minister of the Gospel, traveling far and wide, organizing and building up churches, and laboring with marked success in the work of his Master, in Illinois, Missouri, and other Western States.  Elder Lemen's father was the first person baptized by immersion in Illinois.

                The subject of this sketch assisted at his own father's ordination.  He preached his father's funeral sermon.  His brother Joseph preached that of their mother.  Elder Lemen served his native State some sixteen years in the halls of Legislation, both as a Representative and a Senater.  He was also offered the election to the United States Senate, but, having come to the determination to abandon politics in order that he might devote all his time and talents to the Gospel ministry, he declined the distinguished honor of a seat in the Senate of the United States.  He was the last surviving member of the Convention that formed the old State Constitution.  For the last few years his health has been such that he has been confined almost entirely to his rooms at home.  In the twenty-sixth year of his age, Dec 8, 1813, he was married to Polly Pulliam.  They were the parents of eleven children-six of whom together with the bereaved mother and widow, are left to lament the loss of their dearest earthly friend.  On Tuesday evening February 8, about 5 o'clock, the labors, and prayers, and suffering of Elder James Lemen were ended                 W.B.P.