Ballance, Charles

Born: 1800-11-10 Madison County, Kentucky

Died: 1872-08-10 Peoria, Illinois

Charles Ballance was a lawyer, alderman, mayor, Union Army officer, and pioneer settler of Peoria County, Illinois. Ballance spent his boyhood in his native Kentucky, where he received a rudimentary education. He taught school for several years, and subsequently read law, earning admission to the Kentucky bar at either age twenty-nine or thirty. Ballance practice law in Kentucky for two years before moving to Peoria, Illinois in 1831 or 1832. He opened a law practice and continued to practice law in Peoria until his death. In March 1836, he married Julia M. Schnebly, with whom he would have nine children. Ballance garnered wealth and fame by successfully litigating a series of cases in the U.S. Supreme Court involving the title of land claimed by French inhabitants of Peoria. In 1850, he and Julia were living in Peoria with their six children and owned $50,000 in real property. Beyond the French claims cases, Ballance handled cases in various circuit courts in Illinois, the U.S. Circuit Court, District of Illinois, and the Illinois Supreme Court. He opposed Abraham Lincoln in the case of Cromwell & McNaghton v. Bailey involving the enslaved woman named Nance Legins Costley, and he worked with and against Lincoln in a number of other cases. Ballance was alderman of Peoria's First Ward in 1852, and in 1855, he served as the city's mayor. He was active in the Whig Party until its demise, and subsequently supported the Republican Party. In 1860, Ballance was living in Peoria's First Ward and owned real property valued at $150,000 and a personal estate of $45,000. A strong Unionist, Ballance supported the war against the Confederacy, and raised the Seventy-Seventh Regiment of Illinois Infantry. On September 2, 1862, he mustered into the army as colonel and commander of the Seventy-Seventh Regiment, but his advanced age kept him from active service, and he was honorably mustered out on the next day. His son-in-law, Lysander R. Webb, was killed in action in the Red River Campaign at Mansfield, Louisiana, in 1864.

Illinois Statewide Marriage Index, Peoria County, 24 March 1836, Illinois State Archives, Springfield, IL; Ernest E. East, ed., "The Journal of Charles Ballance of Peoria," Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society 30 (April 1937), 70; U.S. Census Office, Seventh Census of the United States (1850), Peoria, Peoria County, IL, 14; Portrait and Biographical Album of Peoria, Illinois (Chicago: Biographical, 1890), 217-18; Cromwell & McNaghton v. Bailey, Martha L. Benner and Cullom Davis et al., eds. The Law Practice of Abraham Lincoln: Complete Documentary Edition, 2d edition (Springfield: Illinois Historic Preservation Agency, 2009),; Carl M. Adams, "The First Slave Freed by Abraham Lincoln: A Biographical Sketch of Nance Legins (Cox-Cromwell) Costley, circa 1813-1873," For the People: A Newsletter of the Abraham Lincoln Association 1 (Autumn 1999): 1-2, 4; U.S. Census Office, Eighth Census of the United States (1860), Ward 1, Peoria, Peoria County, IL, 64; Roger D. Hunt, Colonels in Blue: Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin: A Civil War Dictionary (Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2017), 20; Gravestone, Springdale Cemetery and Mausoleum, Peoria, IL.