Remembering the heroes of the early 1800s

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Fayette County History

By Linda Hanabarger

Mayor Ricky Gottman recently declared Monday, June 18, as a day that Vandalia will commemorate to remember the men who served in the War of 1812.
The War of 1812 was actually a continuation of the Revolutionary War fought some 40 years earlier.
Although America won the day in 1776, the British weren’t done, and organized with the Indians in Canada to keep the fire against the Americans burning.
In Illinois, Territorial Gov. Ninian Edwards was charged with protecting the settlers throughout the territory.
To this end, he had a string of forts built and organized several companies of militia.
Members of the militia included boys, some as young as 11, who could handle a gun and ride a horse.
These militia members were paid $1 a day for their service, and when the federal government was not forthcoming in paying the wages, Gov. Edwards paid it out of his own pocket.
Edwards knew the territory was in danger and asked for federal troops and money to support them, but at the time Indiana was experiencing a greater risk and received the aid Gov. Edwards had requested.
No forts were built in Fayette County, although it has been suggested that Charles Reavis had a blockhouse at his site several miles below Vandalia on the Kaskaskia River.
It was Reavis who entered the inn at Carlyle where state commissioners were meeting to determine the site of the new capitol of Illinois, declaring “Your bluff ain’t a primin’ to my bluff,” and led the commissioners to the site that would be chosen as Illinois’ capitol for 20 years.
One of the reasons we can find no stories of forts, stockades or blockhouses in Fayette County is that there were no white settlements here early. The closest fort to us was Hill’s Fort, located about nine miles southwest of Greenville.
This fort, along with Simon Lindley’s fort to the north and the Jones Fort to the south, completed a line of safety for the early settlers, many from Madison and Monroe counties, who, leaving the relative safety of these early settlements, had penetrated the wilderness of Bond County.
During the time the forts were built, about 1808, settlement was sparse in this area, and the people "forted up" when Indian dangers were high.
In the neighborhood of Hill’s Fort in Bond County lived the Lindley, Cox, Pursley, Hopton, Pruitt and Reavis families.
Elizabeth Harbour Lindley, daughter of Simon Lindley, who built Lindley’s fort and help build Hill’s Fort, wrote that she was about 11 years old when the Indians became hostile and began to murder settlers and steal property.
They could not have held their ground and provided for their families but for the soldiers who were stationed at the forts and guarded the men while they worked in the fields.
The Indians continued to swarm around them in great numbers, and they abandoned the fort and their family went back to the vicinity of Edwardsville in September 1814.
Many of the men who served as Rangers were called up only when it was necessary to protect the settlers. This is shown by the payroll records that are kept today in the National Archives.
At all other times, they were tending their fields and providing for their families.          
These rangers, who protected the frontier were a brave bunch of men, and their wives, who shared the danger of protecting their homes and children, also deserve recognition as we remember the days and times of the War of 1812.