Jo Daviess County in Transition


History of Jo Daviess County  1904

The territory of which Jo Daviess forms a part was formerly claimed by France. Following the battle on the Plains of Abraham, near Quebec, on the 13th of September, 1759, between the French commanded by Montcalm and the English under Wolfe, and as a consequence of that battle, Jo Daviess County, which was then unnamed, passed to the control of the British Commonwealth. At the close of the Revolutionary War, by the treaty of 1783, it was ceded to the United States and, as a result of Col. George Rogers Clark's conquest of Illinois in 1778, was claimed by Virginia.

The General Assembly of Virginia on the 20th of October, 1783, passed an act authorizing the delegates of that State to convey to the United States, in Congress assembled, all the right of the State of Virginia to the territory northwest of Ohio river.

Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Hardy, Arthur Lee and James Monroe, having been appointed delegates for the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Congress of the United States, on the 1st day of March, 1784, in the name, and for and on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia, conveyed, transferred, assigned and made over unto the United States in Congress, then assembled, and for the benefit of said States--Virginia inclusive--all right, title and claim, as well of the soil and of jurisdiction which the said Commonwealth of Virginia had to the territory or tract of country situate, lying and being to the northwest of the river Ohio.

On July 13, 1787, Congress, sitting under the Articles of Confederation, passed an act for the government of the Territory of the United States Northwest of the River Ohio, which is commonly known as the Ordinance of 1787. Article 5 of said Act provided that not less than three, nor more than five States should be formed in said Territory; that the western State in said Territory should be bounded by the Mississippi River, the Ohio and the Wabash River, a direct line drawn from the Wabash and Post Vincennes, due north to the Territorial line between the United States and Canada, and by said. Territorial line to the Lake of the Woods and Mississippi River. This included the whole of Illinois, all but a small portion of Wisconsin, a part of Michigan and a part of Minnesota. It will be observed that no name was given to said Territory by said ordinance.

It was expressly provided by said ordinance that Congress should have authority to form one or two states in that part of said Territory which lies north of an east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme of Lake Michigan.

On the 3d day of February, 1809, Congress passed an act with reference to said Western Territory, which provided as follows: that from and after the first day of March next, all that part of Indiana Territory which lies west of the Wabash, River and a direct line drawn from said Wabash River and Post Vincennes due north to the territorial line between the United States and Canada, shall, for the purpose of temporary government, constitute a separate Territory and be called Illinois.

On the 18th of April, 1818, Congress passed an act enabling the people of Illinois to form a State government.

The first Constitution of Illinois was adopted August 26, 1818, and Illinois became a State on the 3d day of December, 1818.

On the 17th of February, 1827, is the first mention made, in the law, with reference to Jo Daviess County being a separate and distinct corporation. On that day a law was passed by the Legislature of Illinois, Section 1 of which provided as follows: "All that tract or country lying within the following boundaries, to-wit: Beginning on the northwest corner of the State, thence down the Mississippi River to the northern line of the Military Tract; thence east with said line to the Illinois River; thence north to the northern boundary line of this State; thence west with said boundary line to the place of beginning, shall constitute a county; and, to perpetuate the memory of Col. Joseph Hamilton Daviess, who fell in the battle of Tippecanoe gallantly charging upon the enemy at the head of his corps, the said county shall be called Jo Daviess." It is a little difficult to locate the first territorial boundaries of the county from the above description, as there does not exist any authentic map of the Military Tract-or at least any authentic map which is of record. A tracing of a map is on file in the General Land Office showing the area in Illinois between the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, in which, by act of Congress of May 6, 1812, all military lands were to be located; but said map has no certification of authenticity, save a pencil note by the Surveyor General, that the map was received at the General Land Office November 11, 1817, and there is no evidence in the Land Office that the northern boundary in said map has ever been surveyed or established. The tracing of the map above referred to extends to and includes Township 15, Ranges I to 6 West, inclusive.

Assuming this as the northern boundary of the Military Tract, the first boundary of Jo Daviess County would commence at the northwest corner of the State on the State line between Illinois and Wisconsin above the city of East Dubuque, thence down the Mississippi River to the southwest corner of what is now Rock Island County; thence east, striking the Illinois River at La Salle; thence north, striking the State line north of Rockton in the County of Winnebago.

There would be included in said territory all of what is now Rock Island County, the northern portion of Henry County, the northern portion of Bureau County, a portion of La Salle County, the greater part of Lee County, all of Whiteside County, all of Carroll County, the greater portion of Ogle County, all of Stephenson County, the greater portion of Winnebago County and all of Jo Daviess County as now formed. Through the courtesy of Thomas McNeil, druggist, of the City of Galena, I have been shown a map now in his possession, which was published in 1830, in which the boundaries of Jo Daviess County are given as embracing all that part of Illinois lying north and west of Rock River. The northern boundary of Jo Daviess County, as shown by this map, very nearly coincides with the boundary as established by act of the Legislature of Illinois, as above set forth.

Before passing to the next act of the Legislature bearing upon the territorial boundary of Illinois, it may be well to give a short Sketch of Colonel Daviess, after whom the county was named.

He was born in Bedford County, Va., March 4, 1774, but moved with his parents to Lincoln County, Ky., in 1779. He was given an excellent classical education, was admitted to the bar in 1795, and located in Danville, that State, where he entered upon a remarkably brilliant career and soon attained a high position at the bar. It is said that he had many eccentricities; that, instead of riding the circuit as other lawyers did, he would shoulder his rifle and range the woods from town to town, usually appearing in court in hunting costume. In 1799, by reason of his acting as second in a duel in which one of the principals was killed, he fled to avoid prosecution, and for some time was a fugitive from justice; but that, hearing that his principal had been arrested, he returned, appeared in court as his counsel and secured his acquittal. It is claimed that he was the first Western lawyer that ever argued a case in the United States Supreme Court; that he appeared before that tribunal in a hunting costume and gained his suit. He married a sister of Chief Justice Marshall and became United States Attorney for Kentucky, in which capacity, in 1806, he moved for an order requiring Aaron Burr to appear and answer to a charge of levying war against a nation with which the United States was at peace. Burr appeared in court with Henry Clay as his counsel and boldly courted investigation. Witnesses could not be procured to sustain the charge; and such was the magnetic influence of Burr and the rising popularity of Henry Clay, that this act almost destroyed the popularity of Daviess.

In 1811 he joined the army of Gen. William Henry Harrison as Major of Kentucky Voluntary Dragoons, and served in the campaign against the Northwestern Indians. In the Battle of Tippecanoe, seeing that an exposed angle of Gen. Harrison's lines was likely to give way before a determined assault, he led a cavalry charge against the savages at that point. The charge was completely successful, but Daviess fell shot through the breast.

Aside from being a fine scholar, an able lawyer and a gallant soldier, he was also an author, and published a work entitled: "A View of the President's Conduct concerning the Conspiracy of 1806." It is supposed that he was of Welsh descent, but of this little is known.

The Legislature of the State of Illinois, on the 16th day of January, 1836, passed an act the third section of which reads as follows: "All that tract of country within the following line and boundaries, to-wit: Beginning at a point on the Mississippi River where the northern boundary line of Township twenty-two strikes said river; running thence east along said line to the dividing line between Ranges 3, 7 and 8 of the Fourth Principal Meridian; thence north along- said boundary line to the northern boundary of This State; thence west with said line to the Mississippi River; thence down the Mississippi River to the place of beginning, shall constitute Jo Daviess County." The boundary of Jo Daviess, as thus established, would take in the whole of Carroll County, a part of Ogle County, the west half of Stephenson and the whole of Jo Daviess County, as now formed.

Afterwards several legislative enactment's were passed creating Carroll, Stephenson and Ogle Counties, which confined Jo Daviess County to its present limits, and which may be properly described as follows: Commencing at the extreme northwest boundary of the State at the northwest corner of fractional Section 17, Range 2 West; thence south along the Mississippi River to the south boundary of Section 31, Township 26 North, Range 2 East; thence east to the southeast corner of Section 33, Township 26 North, Range 5 East; thence north to the State line between Illinois and Wisconsin; thence west to the place of beginning. The general boundaries of this area may be described as follows: On the south by Carroll County, on the east by Stephenson County, on the north by Wisconsin and on the west by the Mississippi River.

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