Buckmaster, Nathaniel

Born: 1787-05-01 Calvert County, Maryland

Died: 1855-06-04 Alton, Illinois

In 1799, Buckmaster moved from Maryland to Virginia, where he learned the brick making and stone mason trades. After 1817, he migrated to Edwardsville, Illinois, where he built many of the brick structures in the thriving town, including the local jail, courthouse, and the residence of Governor Ninian Edwards, as well as the first plank road in Madison County. A life-long Democrat, Madison County voters elected Buckmaster to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1820-22 and again in 1835. In 1821, local citizens elected Buckmaster sheriff, a position he held for 15 years. A colonel in the local militia, Buckmaster served in the Black Hawk War, first as a major of an odd battalion and later as a captain and major of a battalion of mounted volunteers. In 1836, Buckmaster moved to Alton, where he engaged in the construction trade, served on the village council and county commissioners' court, and served as the Alton postmaster. Beginning in 1841, Buckmaster purchased large interests in a series of ferries crossing the Mississippi River between North St. Louis and Alton, culminating in his acquisition of the "Upper Ferry," which he owned and operated until his death. Buckmaster, together with Isaac Greathouse, leased the superintendency of the Illinois State Penitentiary from 1842-46, contracting to provide housing, meals, guards, and repairs. Under Governor Thomas Ford, Buckmaster served as the quarter-master general of the state militia, in which capacity he accompanied the governor and Captain Richard Dunn's dragoons to Nauvoo in their failed attempt to quell the unrest surrounding the imprisonment of prominent Mormons Joseph and Hyrum Smith in 1844. A large landowner and real estate investor, Buckmaster also served as a director and president of the Alton Marine and Fire Insurance agency and director of the Alton & Shawneetown and Illinois & Pacific Railways.

Buckmaster married Harriet Bartling in 1832, with whom he had four children.

John Allen Wakefield, ed., History of the War of the United States and the Fox and Sac Nations of Indians (Chicago: Caxton Club, 1908), 31, 200-201; History of Madison County(Chicago: W.R. Brink Co., 1882), 137, 140, 148; Evarts Boutell Greene and Charles Manfred Thompson, eds., Executive Series, Volume II: The Governor's Letter Books, 1840-1853, Vol. 17 of Collections of the Illinois State Historical Library (Springfield: Trustees of the Illinois State Historical Library, 1911), 93; "Memoir of Nathaniel Buckmaster by Catherine Buckmaster Curran," Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, Springfield, Illinois; Reports to the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Illinois(Springfield. Walters & Weber, 1845), 16 (80); W. D. Armstrong, A Condensed History of Madison County(Alton: National Printing, 1925), 21; W. T. Norton, ed. Centennial History of Madison County(Chicago: Lewis, 1912), 76, 82, 144-45, 241, 266, 480, 488.