Sangamon County 
 Historical Society





Sangamon County Historical Society

Introduction--County History Vignettes

September 04, 2013 8:31 AM | Deleted user

Collecting and preserving the history of an area has been practiced since the invention of the printing press. William Bradford of Plymouth is recognized as the father of such histories in this country for his manuscript Of Plymouth Plantation, wherein he recounted the details of the founding of the Plymouth colony and the lives of the colonists in its early years.

Historians and publishers have been following Bradford’s footsteps ever since, usually inspired by some ‘bump’ in history such as an anniversary date. That may explain why John Carroll Power published his History of the Early Settlers of Sangamon County, Illinois  as “A Centennial Record” in 1876. Power’s book has become ever more valuable as time has passed and the indexed reproduction put out by the Sangamon County Genealogical Society in 1991 has made it much easier to navigate. Originally published "under the auspices of the Old Settlers’ Society", the book includes the minutes of the early meetings of that group and several other events that colored the experiences of the early settlers and defined their world, but Power's book does not pretend to be a county history; merely a history of the early settlers and a glimpse into the world in which they lived.

The first real "county history" was published in 1881. By this time the value of preserving local history had been realized by publishing companies in many places. In the spring of 1881 the Interstate Publishing Company of Chicago sent to the area a “corps of experienced historians with instructions to prepare a faithful and reliable history of the County.” The first, and wisest, thing that ‘corps of historians’ did was to secure the cooperation of the Old Settlers’ Society, and its President R. W. Diller.  The Old Settlers’ Society appointed a committee, headed up by John T. Stuart with representatives from each township to “examine and correct the history of the respective townships”. By the time of publication the company also expressed its thanks to William H. Herndon for his cooperation in examining and correcting manuscripts and to Charles H. Lanphier for his knowledge of the affairs of the county, most particularly its political matters, and for his proof reading skills.  They went on to mention others, most particularly J.C. Power, who aided and supported them without ever indicating that he felt they were invading his turf.

The title page of the volume has a doubly ambitious title:

History of Sangamon County Illinois - together with sketches of the cities, villages, and townships, educational, religious, civil, military, and political history: portraits of prominent persons, and biographies of representative citizens.

Then there is a partial line across the page and below it:

History of Illinois, embracing accounts of the historic races, aborigines, Winnebgo and Black Hawk wars, and a brief review of its civil, political and military history.

The 1000 plus pages of the volume do a credible job of covering all of the above, and sometimes, in rather fascinating ways.

From time to time, beginning this fall, the Sangamon County Historical Society is pleased to provide vignettes from that important volume for you.  We trust you will find it interesting reading! 










  • September 04, 2013 5:56 PM | Mike, Jean and Max Kienzler
    Both "History of the Early Settlers" and "History of Sangamon County"' are interesting and valuable. However, folks, it's John Carroll POWER, without the ending "s". Not "Powers".
    Link  •  Reply
    • September 05, 2013 2:50 PM | Deleted user
      Duly noted and revised. Thanks for your editorial eye Mike!
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