Old Times In Schuyler 

Schuyler Had Militia Company 
By Howard F. Dyson, 1918

With the organization of a new militia company in Rushville, and interest shown in patriotic meetings, it is interesting at this time to review the military spirit exhibited by the early pioneers of Schuyler county, and note the enthusiasm with which they celebrated the anniversary of the nation’s Independence day in 1836. There was some class to this patriotic demonstration, as the program goes to show, and we find there the names of many of our prominent early settlers.

Of the militia organization in Schuyler county, we have no record, and a careful examination of the histories of the state throws no light on this phase of the military history of Illinois. Nevertheless, an extensive system of military organizations was maintained in the state from 1830 to 1840, with the governor as commander-in-chief, but no record was ever kept of the enrollment of troops, and we must depend upon the recollection of old settlers for the facts here presented.

As early as 1830 Schuyler county had organized a militia company and “Muster Day” was an important event in the life of the pioneer. Some of those who participated in those stirring times recall it, after the lapse of years, as the season for a general debauch, which finally led to the total abandonment of the entire local militia system in 1840.

Muster day was usually held once or twice each year in every county, and at that time all the local companies were gathered in battalion and regimental drills. Men from distant parts of the country were then brought into friendly relations, and barter and trade in everything, from pocket knives to horses, engaged the attention of the citizen soldiers. Oftentimes the men would be accompanied by their wives and children, for muster day was the gala day of the year to the pioneers.

In Rushville, the old muster ground was on the prairie, where the new Little addition has been platted, and it was here the last regimental muster was held in the fall of 1840. Col. Russell Toncray was in command of the regiment. Alex Hollingsworth was lieutenant colonel, Levi Lusk major, and William Ellis was a staff officer, but we have been unable to get his title.

Among the captains olds settlers recall the names of Captain Leonidas Horney, Capt. Michael Kirkham, Capt. William Berry, Capt. Peter C. Vance, Capt. Ebenezer Demmick, Capt. Russell Toncray, Capt. Mitch White, Capt. Archie Paris, Capt. Brant Brown, and Capt. A. L. Wells.

Luke Allphin of Camden tells us that the militia in the west part of the county was commanded by Col. Doltson of Huntsville, and that once each year several companies from that neighborhood attended regimental muster at Mt. Sterling, where Col. Thomas Brockman was in command.

First Fourth of July Celebration

The first general celebration of the Fourth of July, in Rushville, occurred in 1836, and we are fortunate to have in our possession a copy of The Rushville Journal giving an account of the celebration in detail.

On the morning of the 60th anniversary of the nation’s independence, the patriotic citizens gathered at the Cumberland Presbyterian church, where Rev. Mr. McDowell opened the meeting with prayer. The Declaration of Independence was read by Wm. A. Minshall, and orations were delivered by Hart Fellows and George W. Wells. From the church the citizens marched to a grove west of town in the following order:

Rushville rifle company, under Capt. Toncray.
Revolutionary soldiers, preceded by the flag.
Clergy, orators of the day.
The ladies.

At the grove a basket dinner was served and short toasts were given by the citizens assembled.

James G. McCreery was president of the day and A. McHatton was vice-president. Following is a list of toasts submitted with responses:

“The Heroes of the Black Hawk War”–Hart Fellows.
“The Judiciary of the United States”–W. A. Minshall.
“Davy Crockett”–J. M. McCutchen.
“The 4th of July, 1776”–J. T. Worthington.
“Our Star Spangled Banner”–Dr. J. W. Clark.
“The Young Tree of Liberty in Texas”–David Owens.
“Constitution Building”–Samuel McHatton.
“Our Constitution”–Jos. Burton.
“Patriots of the Revolution”–W. Smith.
“The State of Illinois”–G. W. Baker.
“Edward Livingston”–Dr. J. S. Dunlap.
“May all party spirit, founded upon the love of speculation, be buried in Rushville”–Alex Campbell.
“Comforts of Peace and Blessing of Liberty”–A. Maury.
“The Memory of Benjamin Franklin”–M. Kirkham.
“The Militia of the United States”–J. G. Randall.
“The First Settlers of Illinois”–John Todhunter.
“The Yankees”–David V. Dawley.
“The Brave Texans”–R. W. Renfroe.
“The Memory of Christopher Columbus”–Lewis Robertson.
“The Heroes of Texas”–Dr. R. M. Worthington.
“The Memory of Col. Ethan Allen”–Andrew Cruse.
“Texans”–George Henry.
“Knowledge in Power”–J. D. Manlove.
“The Fair Sex”–H. H. Anderson.

In 1858 an effort was made to raise an artillery company in Rushville, and an organization was effected by electing B. C. Gillam captain. The men composing this squad left no record of their service, but the brass cannon furnished them by the state was kept in Rushville for several years and, at the beginning of the Civil war, was called in by Gov. Yates and sent to Cairo. The following notice of the organization and equipment of the company is taken from The Rushville Times:

“Notice is hereby given to the Rushville Artillery Company that Messrs. Ray, Little & Co. have taken the contract for furnishing material and manufacturing uniforms for said company on much better terms that I have expected, viz.: Coats and pants of blue cloth, trimmed with yellow–the cloth to be superior to the sample furnished by M. L. Read & Co. of Beardstown. The price is $18, to be paid in cash, cooperage or any kind of produce. Should any of the company wish it, they can have the cloth furnished ready cut out, with trimmings, so as to have them made up at home.

“I wish all to be uniformed by the first day of April, 1858. Our arms will consist of one or two brass cannon, and several stands of arms, with all the accoutrements of the best pattern and latest styles. Said arms and accroutrements to be delivered to us in January, 1858.

“Our next meeting will be on Christmas, the 25th day of December, next. Let all come. If there any who wish to enlist, there is still room for a few more good men.

“For the pride and honor of our town and county, let us use every exertion to get up, and keep up, a martial spirit. We have the material and the ability to make a good company, and that is all that is necessary. B. C. Gillam, Capt.” December 11, 1857.

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Copyright © by Judi Gilker 2006