In force, Feb.[February] 28, 1839.
AN ACT to establish the county of Williamson.1
Voters of Franklin to vote for or against division.
Boundaries of new county.
Sec.[Section] 1. Be it enacted by the People of the State of Illinois, represented in the General Assembly, That it shall be lawful for the legal voters of the county of Franklin to meet at the respective places of holding elections in said county, on the first Monday in August next, and vote for or against the division of said county;2 and if it shall appear, by the returns of the election aforesaid, that a majority of all the votes given of said election shall be in favor of a division, the said county of Franklin shall be divided, and the following shall be the boundaries of a new county, to wit: Beginning at the northeast corner of township eight south, range four east of the third principal meridian; thence west, with the said township line dividing township seven and eight south, to the third principal meridian; thence south, with the third principal meridian,
<Page 2>to the township line dividing ten and eleven south; thence, east, with the said township line dividing ranges four and five east; thence north, with the said range line, to the beginning: and which new county, so formed, shall be called Williamson.3
Place of meeting.
Sec. 2. The legal voters of the county of Franklin and Williamson shall meet at their respective places of holding elections, on the first Monday in September next, and proceed to elect county officers for each of said counties; which officers, when so elected, shall hold their respective offices until the next general election for such officers, and until their successors are elected and qualified: Provided, however, That this section shall not be so construed as to prevent any county commissioners, residing within the limits of the said new county, from serving out the time for which he was elected, as a commissioner of the said county of Williamson.4
Justices to meet and open returns.
Abstract to Secretary of State.
Sec. 3. The returns for the election of county officers for the county of Williamson shall be made, within seven days after the election, to William Norris, Starling Hill, and John T. Davis, three acting justices of the peace within said county; who shall meet at the Town of Bainbridge, within ten days from the day of the election, and proceed to open the returns, shall transmit abstracts of said election to the Secretary of State, and shall do and perform such duties as are now required by law of clerks of county commissioners’ courts and justices of the peace in like cases.
Meeting of county commissioners.
Sec. 4. The county commissioners elected under the provisions of this (act) for the county of Williamson, shall meet as a court on the first Monday in October next, at the county seat; and shall proceed to lay off the county into justice’s districts, road districts, appoint supervisors, and do and perform such other duties as may be required of them by law.
Duty of school commissioner.
To pay over.
Sec. 5. It shall be the duty of the school commissioner of the county of Franklin, within thirty days after the organization of the said new county, to pay over to the school commissioner of the said county of Williamson, one-half of the entire amount of the shool fund received from the State: Provided, however, That if the school commissioner of the county of Franklin shall have loaned out all or part of the said fund so received, it shall be his duty, and he is hereby required to transfer, in notes or obligations, one-half of the whole amount which is due and payable to the said commissioner, together with one-half of the amount of money on hand: And provided, further, That nothing contained in this section shall be so construed as to prevent the school commissioner of Williamson county from receiving one-half of the distributive share of the school fund received by the school commissioner, whether the same shall be in promissory notes or money.
Further duty of school commissioner.
Sec. 6. The school commissioner of the county of Franklin shall deliver, within thirty days after the organization of said county of Williamson, all the money, books, promissory
<Page 3>notes, bonds, mortgages and papers, of every description, belonging to the respective townships within said new county; and for a failure to perform any of the duties required of him by this act, the said school commissioner of Franklin county, and his securities, shall be liable to all damages that the county of Williamson or the inhabitants of any township in said county may sustain by the refusal or neglect of said commissioner.
Duty of clerk of Franklin.
Sec. 7. The clerk of the county commissioners’ court of the county of Franklin shall, as soon as may be convenient after the organization of the said county of Williamson, deliver to the clerk of the county commissioners of the said new county, a list of the taxable property within the limits of said county, and which taxes shall be collected and applied to county purposes within the said county of Williamson.
Location of co.[county] seat of Franklin co.
Commissioners to locate co. seat of Williamson.
Place of meeting.
Sec. 8. That for the purpose of locating the seat of justice of the county of Franklin, John Reed of Perry county, Noah Johnson of Jefferson county, and Milton Carpenter of Hamilton county, are hereby appointed commissioners, who, or a majority of whom, shall meet at the town of Frankfort, and, after being duly sworn, shall proceed to locate said seat of justice.5 Calvin Bridges of Union county, Thornsbury C. Anderson of Gallatin county, and Jefferson Allen of Jackson county, are hereby appointed commissioners to permanently locate the seat of justice for the county of Williamson. Said commissioners shall meet at the town of Bainbridge, and, after being duly sworn, shall proceed to locate the seat of justice for said county. The commissioners appointed by this act shall locate the seat of justice at the centre of each county, or at some point the most eligible and nearest thereto, taking into view the convenience of the place, together with the advantage to be derived to the county from such location.6
Donation for county seat.
Sec. 9. If the county seat of each county, respectively, shall be located on the lands owned by individuals, the commissioners shall required a donation of at least twenty acres of land to be made to each county, and on which the public buildings shall be erected; but if the location shall be made at a town or village, then commissioners shall require at least ten acres of land adjoining the town plat, and a number of town lots, or a donation in money, or both, of sufficient value to amount to twenty acres of land, the town lots to be appraised by the commissioners; and, after the location of the county seats above named shall be made, the county commissioners shall, as soon as convenient, proceed to the erection of public buildings.
Sec. 10. The county commissioners’ court, and the circuit court within the counties of Franklin and Williamson, shall be held at such places within each county as the county commissioners shall designate, until public buildings shall be erected.7 The commissioners appointed to locate the seats of justice, respectively, shall meet on the third Monday in August
<Page 4>next, or as soon thereafter as may be convenient, and shall each receive the sum of three (dollars) per day for each day necessarily employed by them in the location of the same; which compensation shall be made out of the county treasury of each county, respectively.
Duty of clerks.
Sec. 11. It shall be the duty of the clerks of the county commissioners’ court of the county of Franklin, at the time of giving notice to the judges of election, previous to the election to be held on the first Monday in August next, to insert in such notice, that a vote will be taken for and against the division of said county, and directing them to open columns in their poll-books to receive said votes; and the legal voters of said county shall vote for or against the division of the county.
Approved, February 28, 1839.
1On February 14, 1839 John Moore from the Committee on Counties, of which Abraham Lincoln was a member, introduced HB 288 in the House of Representatives. On February 23, the House passed the bill. On February 27, the Senate passed the bill. On February 28, the Council of Revision approved the bill, and the act became law.
Illinois House Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 399, 422, 484, 539, 554, 566; Illinois Senate Journal. 1838. 11th G. A., 1st sess., 386, 427, 441, 449.
2At a referendum on August 5, 1839, 616 voters favored the division of Franklin County, and 463 voters opposed the division.
Secretary of State, "Election Returns, Petitions, and Papers," Record Series 103.032, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL.
3Between statehood in 1818 and 1867, the Illinois General Assembly authorized the creation of 104 Illinois counties. During Lincoln’s four terms in the Illinois 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, 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.
4Voters in Franklin County had elected Cyrus Campbell as a commissioner in 1838, so he became one of the first three commissioners of Williamson County.
Milo Erwin, History of Williamson County, Illinois (Marion, IL: n.p., 1876), 239; History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois (Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887), 375, 451.
5The commissioners met in Frankfort on August 20 and 21, 1839, and located the county seat on a hill at the south end of Rawling’s Prairie on land owned by John Ewing and Walter S. Akin. The county commissioners laid out a town on the site and named it Benton. The General Assembly validated the selection in An Act Declaring the Town of Benton the Permanent Seat of Justice for the County of Franklin.
History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois, 363.
6The commissioners met on August 19-20, 1839, and located the county seat on a site they named Marion.
Erwin, History of Williamson County, Illinois, 239-40; History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin and Williamson Counties, Illinois, 451-52.
7This act failed to specify of which judicial circuit Williamson County would be a part. In January 1840, the General Assembly passed An Act to Amend "An Act Establishing the County of Williamson," Approved February 28, 1839 to make Williamson County part of the third judicial circuit and clarify other points.
Printed Document, 4 page(s), Laws of the State of Illinois, Passed by the Eleventh General Assembly (Vandalia, IL: William Walters, 1839), 110-13, GA Session: 11-1,