In force 1st March, 1837.
AN ACT for the formation of the county of Coffee.1
Sec.[Section] 1. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That all that tract of country lying within the following boundaries to wit: beginning on the north boundary line of Peoria county at the south east corner of township twelve north, range seven east, of the fourth principal meridian, running thence west with the line dividing townships eleven and twelve north, to the range line between four and five east, thence north along said line dividing ranges four and five east to the line dividing townships fourteen and fifteen north, thence east with the said line to the line dividing ranges seven and eight east, thence south with said line to the place of beginning shall constitute a new county, to be called the county of Coffee.2
Com’rs[Commissioners] appointed to locate seat of justice.
When and where to meet
Located on private lands to be donated to the county.
Public buildings to be erected thereon.
When located to be the permanent seat of justice.
Located on land not laid out in a town; to be called Ripley.
Sec. 2. That Benjamin Mitchell of Tazewell county, Samuel Hackleton of Fulton county and Richard N. Cullom of Tazewell county, be and are hereby appointed commissioners to locate the seat of justice for said county;3 said commissioners or a majority of them shall meet at the house of Elijah McClanahan’s senior, on the first Monday in May next, or as soon thereafter as may be, and after being duly qualified before some justice of the peace faithfully to perform the duties required of them by this act, shall proceed to locate and establish the permanent seat of justice of said county, having due regard to the geographical situation, the settlements and the convenience of the present and future population of said county. If said county seat shall be located on private property the owners of the same shall donate and convey not less than forty, nor more than one hundred and sixty acres of land to the county commissioners of such county for the use and benefit of such county on which the public buildings shall be erected, and if on congress land the said commissioner shall secure the title to the same, for the use and benefit of said county, and the public buildings shall be erected thereon, and when the county seat shall be so located, it shall be and remain the permanent seat of justice for said county, and if said county seat shall be located on land not heretofore laid out in a town, the name of said seat of justice thus located shall be Ripley.
Until public buildings are erected where courts to be held.
Sec. 3. That the citizens of said county hereby created, are and shall be entitled in all respects to the same rights and privileges as are allowed in general to the citizens of other counties of this State, and until public buildings shall be erected for that purpose the courts shall be held at the house of Elijah McClanahan’s senior, or at any
<Page 2>place which may be designated by the county commissioners.
When and how county officers are elected.
Returns of elections how made
How long officers elected shall hold their offices.
Sec. 4. That the qualified voters of said county shall meet at the several places of holdidg elections on the first Monday in June next, and proceed to the election of county officers; and returns of said elections shall be made by the judges and clerks of said elections to the justices; said justices shall meet at the house of Elijah McClanahan senior, within seven days after said election, and proceed to open said returns, and in all things perform the duties required by law of the clerks of the county commissioners courts and justices of the peace in like cases; and said officers thus elected, in accordance with the provisions of this act, shall hold their offices until the next general election, and until their successors are elected and qualified.
How oaths of office to be administered.
County com’rs to appoint a clerk, and lay off justice’s districts, to order elections for additional justices and constables.
Sec. 5. That after the election of the county officers as herein provided, the persons elected county commissioners are hereby authorised to administer individually the oaths of office to each other, and all other officers of said county. Said commissioners shall, within ten days after their election, meet together as a court, appoint a clerk, and lay off the county into justice’s districts and order elections to be held for additional justices of the peace and constables, at a time to be fixed by them, which officers so elected shall hold their offices until others are elected and qualified: Provided however, that nothing in this act shall be so construed as to repeal out of office any justice of the peace or constable that was elected to said office in either of the connties from which said new county was created, and now reside within the limits of said new county.
Judge to hold court twice a year, to be fixed by the judge.
Sec. 6. The county of Coffee, in all elections except for county officers, shall be attached to the county of Putnam, and shall make her returns accordingly. Said county shall constitute a part of the sixth judicial circuit, and a circuit court shall be held for said county twice a year, at such times as may be fixed upon by the Judge of said circuit.
Compensation to com’rs for locating county seat.
Sec. 7. The commissioners appointed to locate the county seat, shall each revive the sum of three dollars per day for the time they are employed in locating the same to be paid out of the county treasury.
Clerk of Knox county to give notice of election.
How election to be conducted.
Returns to be made.
Sec. 8. It shall be the duty of the clerk of the county commissioners court of Knox county to give notice by putting up written notices at some public place in each of the election precincts for justices of the peace in the counties of Knox and Henry, that an election will be held on the second Monday in April 1837, at the usual places of holding elections in said precincts, for the said county of
<Page 3>Coffee, at which election the clerks thereof shall open two columns in their poll books, one for, and for the other against the formation of said Coffee county, and take and record the vote of each qualified voter, for or against the formation of said county: the said elections shall be conducted and returns thereof made in the same manner as is provided in ordinary cases of elections for justices of the peace.4
A majority in favor, act in full force.
Against the county, this act null and void.
Sec. 9. Should a majority of the votes given at such election be in favor of the county of Coffee, all the provisions of this act shall be and remain in full force and virtue, but should a majority of the votes given be against said county, then and thereafter this act and all the provisions contained it shall be null and void.5
Approved, March 1st, 1837.
1In December 1836 and January 1837, citizens from northwestern Illinois presented numerous petitions and remonstrances to the House of Representatives, regarding the formation of new counties. The House referred these petitions to the Committee on Petitions, In response to this petition, Stephen A. Douglas of the Committee on Petitions introduced HB 148 in the House on January 25, 1837. The House indefinitely postponed further consideration by a vote of 34 yeas to 22 nays, with Abraham Lincoln voting yea. On January 26, the House voted to reconsider the bill and referred it to a select committee that was also considering a bill for the formation of Bureau County. On February 2, the committee reported back the bill with amendments, in which the House concurred. The House refused to amend the bill by striking out the words “and the line dividing four and five east,” and inserting in lieu thereof the words, “five and six east,” by a vote of 30 yeas to 47 nays, with Lincoln voting yea. The House ordered the bill engrossed for a third reading by a vote of 55 yeas to 24 nays, with Lincoln voting nay. On February 8, the House refused to amend the first section by adding a proviso by a vote of 24 yeas to 47 nays, with Lincoln not voting. The House rejected amendment to change the county name from “Coffee” to “Keokuk” before passing the bill as previously amended. On February 25, the Senate referred the bill to a select committee. The select committee reported back the bill on February 27 with amendments, in which the Senate concurred. The Senate passed the bill as amended. On February 28, the House concurred in the Senate amendments. On March 1, the Council of Revision approved the bill, and the act became law.
Illinois House Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 139, 175, 264, 266, 286, 316, 380-81, 394, 448-49, 521-22, 726, 765, 768, 794; Illinois Senate Journal. 1836. 10th G. A., 1st sess., 378, 482-83, 518, 527, 572.
2Between statehood in 1818 and 1867, the General Assembly authorized the creation of 104 Illinois counties. During Lincoln’s four terms in the House of Representatives, the General Assembly authorized 38 counties. The General Assembly allowed voters in the affected county or counties to accept or reject the creation of the new county in only twelve of those cases. In four instances, including this one, a majority of voters rejected the creation of the new county. The Illinois Constitution of 1848 made such referenda mandatory in the creation of new counties.
Michael D. Sublett, Paper Counties: The Illinois Experience, 1825-1867 (New York: Peter Lang, 1990), 12-14, 22; Ill. Const. (1848), art. VII.
3For the 38 counties authorized by the General Assembly during Lincoln’s four terms in the House of Representatives, the General Assembly appointed commissioners to designate the county seat in 23 instances, allowed the voters of the new county to select the county seat in 11 instances, and designated the county seat directly in the remaining 4 instances.
Sublett, Paper Counties, 14-18.
4Although two-thirds of the territory of the new county would come from Putnam County, this section required only voters in Knox and Henry Counties to give their assent. At the subsequent election, voters in Knox County rejected the new county by a vote of 77 for and 186 against the formation of Coffee County. No record of the vote in Henry County has survived.
Sublett, Paper Counties, 32-36.
5Two years later, the General Assembly passed an act for the creation of Stark County, with much the same borders as Coffee County. However, the new legislation did not include the township from Henry County that was to be a part of Coffee County. Despite two later attempts to bring a larger part of Henry County into Stark County, voters in Henry County rejected both appeals.
Printed Document, 3 page(s),
Laws of the State of Illinois, Passed by the Tenth General Assembly (Vandalia, IL: William Walters, 1837), 86-88, GA Session: 10-1