Sangamon County/Springfield timeline, 1818-1840

The following timeline is taken from a handout distributed by Melinda Garvert for a talk she presented at the Iles House on Feb. 17, 2015. Reprinted with permission.

—  Illinois becomes the 21st state in the union due to the initiative of Daniel Pope Cook.

— July: Treaty signed with Kickapoo tribe for central Illinois lands.
— John Kelley credited with building the first cabin on land that will become Springfield. Eight other families also build within a two-mile radius. All were squatters. Federal land surveys were not complete, so land could not be purchased.

— Madison County calls one of its voting precincts “Springfield”; the area will become Sangamon County.
— Federal government changes land-purchase rules. Prior to 1820, land was sold in 160-acre parcels at $2 per acre with three years to pay. When the Panic of 1819 left many would-be land buyers unable to pay, the government allowed buyers to keep what they had paid for, but relinquish the rest. New arrangements required purchase of a minimum of 80 acres at a price of $1.25 per acre (a total of $100 for 80 acres).

— Jan. 30: Sangamon County established.
— April 10: Temporary county seat established at a stake near Kelley’s field and named Springfield. Kelley hired to build a log courthouse. Charles R. Matheny named first county official.
Elijah Iles builds only store within an 80-mile radius.

— Post office established, with address of Sangamon County Courthouse. Postmaster Stephen Stillman lives along Fancy Creek.
— Iles, Kelley, John Taylor and Daniel Pope Cook, who had improvements on land they wanted to purchase for a town, made agreements with others building cabins in the new county seat under which the four guaranteed the others lots if they didn’t bid against the four at the land auction.
— Springfield named location for a land office.

— Aug. 19: Elijah Iles named postmaster in Springfield. Kelley dies in mid-October.  Section 33 — John Taylor’s improvements — reserved as “seminary lands” (land set aside for educational purposes). Cook backs out of town plan to return to Congress. Thomas Cox, federal land recorder in Sangamon County, buys Kelley’s improvements. Pascal Enos, land receiver, buys Cook’s improvements.
— Nov. 6: First day of land auction. No competition, all land sells for required price.
— Nov. 7: Iles, Cox and Enos buy adjoining 160-acre parcels as part of a plan for a town. Taylor buys final quarter-section less than a year later, after the seminary land is relocated.
— Dec. 5: Plat filed for a village to be called Calhoun. However, the name Springfield remains in use.

— Springfield named permanent county seat; the name Springfield appears on the resurvey map.

— Post office begins to use “Springfield” as address.

— Two-story brick courthouse built on the public square.

— Nov. 10: Sangamon Journal (predecessor of State Journal-Register) established in Springfield.

— April 2: Springfield incorporated with “town” form of government, five-member board of trustees. Matheny named board president.

— Calhoun plat name officially changed to Springfield

— Discussion begins about relocation of state capital; Springfield is in the running.

— Feb. 28: General Assembly chooses Springfield as new capital.
— April 15: Abraham Lincoln moves to Springfield.
— May: Brick courthouse dismantled, land turned over to state.
— July 4: Cornerstone laid for capitol building. City of Springfield assumes $50,000 construction debt.

— Government offices start moving to Springfield. Illinois State Register moves from Vandalia to Springfield. Iles opens American House hotel.

— April 6: Springfield voters approve a city charter, with mayor/aldermanic form of government. schs logo (2)

Contributor: Melinda Garvert


This entry was posted in Business, Early residents, Illinois capital, Local government, Prominent figures, Sangamon County, Springfield, State government. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Sangamon County/Springfield timeline, 1818-1840

  1. nancy m doty says:


    • editor says:

      Ms. Doty: I didn’t find anything in a quick look in a couple of old local histories. There are 17 or 18 references to Nathan Doty in the Journal and Register between about 1860 and 1900, if that’s any help, but they mostly look pretty brief — tax listings, etc. Your best bet is to stop in the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library to see those.

      Thanks for reading.

  2. glomfeld says:

    Where in Springfield can I find Abraham Lincoln in the 1840 Census?
    The Hancock county Abram Lincoln is his 1st cousin, son of Mordecai Lincoln.
    The 1840 listing for Joshua Speed shows ONLY himself, no one else there.

    • editor says:

      Glomfeld: I can’t answer that question either. Lincoln and Speed shared quarters in some fashion from 1837 until 1841, but I also found no listing for Mr. Lincoln in the 1840 census. My guess is that he simply wasn’t enumerated. That’s puzzling, because by June 1, 1840, the official census date, Lincoln was already very active in the law firm of Stuart and Lincoln. He was not a backwoods non-entity who could simply be ignored.

      However, the Lincoln Log (, the online listing of Lincoln’s day-by-day activities, suggests Lincoln was in court in Taylorville on June 1. Maybe that’s why the census missed him.

      As you’re probably aware, Lincoln is in the censuses of 1830, when he lived near Decatur with his father and other family members, and in 1850, when the census lists him in Springfield as an attorney-at-law.

      Sorry I can’t be more help. Thanks for writing.

  3. Christina says:

    Hi from California and William Billingtons 2ndgreat grAndaughter. He was a civil engineer and his son John was the fire stoker for Lincolns law firm. Any photos of William Billington? I recently aquired a map he made of all the Masonic lodges in Illinois. He was one of the first founding members of tyranylodge333.

  4. Samantha Nagel says:

    Is there any way to find out which native american tribes inhabited, or were very near by, Sangamon County in the 1840’s?

    • editor says:

      Ms. Nagel: I haven’t researched it extensively, but what I do know is encompassed in this entry:

      Basically, few, if any, Native Americans lived permanently in Sangamon County, but several passed through regularly. The Kickapoo were the dominant tribe, but Potawatomies and Delawares seem also to have been encountered around here.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Gia says:

    Hello Ms. Nagel,
    Do you know of any schools in Sangamon during this time period? Are there any records of the Cartwright or Riggins family?
    I work as a counselor in the Cartwright Elementary School District in Phoenix. A man named Reddick Jasper Cartwright was one of the founders of the district and he was from Sangamon. I am interested to know about him because I want to know what influenced him and how he became a founder of a district which now serves approximately 18,000+ students per year.
    Thank you,

  6. Richard says:

    Peter Cartwright moved to Sangamon area and bought lots in Springfield. 1824-1826 He lived in that area for years and was a traveling Minister with the old line Methodist Church.

  7. Donna Martz says:

    How would you find out what kinds of industries that someone could be employed at in 1840 in Springfield area, if they were not listed as a farmer on that census?

    I’ve read about something referred to as the panic of 1819. What does that refer to? What causes of death would claim the lives of young seemingly healthy adults so easily in the time period of 1840 to 1860? Thanks

    • editor says:

      Ms. Martz:
      In general, for questions about ancestors in Sangamon County, talk to the librarians in the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library. They’re really good.
      Otherwise, the 1840 census asked for occupational information only in very general terms, as apparently you’ve already found out. For more detail on a specific person, you’d have to hope that they were mentioned at some point in the newspapers of the time. The Sangamo Journal (later the Illinois State Journal) is available and searchable online. It’s free for people with cards at public libraries that subscribe (which includes Lincoln Library); or there’s a small fee (I think $7 a month) if you can’t get library access. You can search through the papers by name. I’ve found it very helpful to look for obituaries if you know the death date of the person you’re researching — they often mention what the person did for a living. If the person was somehow prominent, they might also have been mentioned in a book about local history. SangamonLink lists several such histories on our Research Sources page.

      As far as causes of death, they were myriad. Diseases like smallpox and cholera were common, as was tuberculosis (AKA consumption), and they didn’t much care how old their victims were. Many people died in accidents as well. Newspaper obits again are a place to look, and (there’s a fee) sometimes has information from death certificates. The vital records office of your county may — emphasize may if you’re searching for a cause of death that far back — be able to provide a death certificate as well.

      Finally, as for the Panic of 1819, I went to Wikipedia. Here’s a link:,economy%20that%20persisted%20through%201821

      Hope this helps. Thanks for reading.


    There was an inquiry about schools in Cartwright Township by Gia: The 1874 Atlas of Sangamon County (first page of “history”) revealed a school established in 1820 but it doesn’t list the exact location or the name. There were 11 country schools over the years in Cartwright ranging from Bunker Hill School to Yankeetown School. This information came from a book published in 1996 by Helen Thompson Murray titled “Country Schools of Sangamon County.” The book describes the exact location of schools, and in some cases lists teachers name going back to 1869; but nothing further back. Most country schools closed by the late 1940s with a few lasting into the 1950s. This was mandated by the state of Illinois which eliminated its funding, thereby forcing the schools to merge with local schools districts located in cities and villages.

  9. Donna Martz says:

    Thank you! You have given me some good resources to look into.

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