Previous to the admission of Illinois as a state, congress on May 6, 1812, set apart a section of her territory as bounty-land for the soldiers of the War of 1812, and it became known as the Military Tract. This tract lay between the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and extended as far north as the present boundary of Mercer county. It contained 5,360,000 acres of what is now the finest agricultural country in the United States, and from its territory the following counties have been formed: Calhoun, Pike, Adams, Brown, Schuyler, Hancock, McDonough, Fulton, Peoria, Stark, Knox, Warren, Henderson, and Mercer, with parts of Henry, Bureau, Putnam, and Marshall.
The first act passed in 1812 granted 160 acres to each soldier, and a subsequent grant extended the quantity to a half section. The land thus appropriated was divided by lot among the soldiers and the patents issued to them accordingly. Millions of acres of the finest land in Illinois were disposed of this way. The soldiers did nothing with the land, most of them selling their titles for a trifle to speculators residing in eastern states while the land remained unoccupied year after year.
After the organization of the state government in 1818, the state began to sell these lands for taxes, and for a considerable period the principal revenue of the state was derived from this source. The greater portion of these lands thus went into possession of parties who held them under these tax titles. The grantees of the soldiers, who were the original patentees, brought suit for ejectment and much of the court business of pioneer days was given over to tax titles.