State’s first woman voter from Ramsey

Now that were in the middle of all the election excitement, it seems a good time to retell a story of the first election ever held in the Hurricane Precinct near VanBurensburg.

At this early day, Montgomery County and a portion of Fayette County were within the environs of what was then Bond County.

Perrysville, while located in what is known as Seminary Township, Fayette County, was, in those days, the county seat of Bond County. The seat of government was later moved to Greenville, and within a few years the log cabin village of Perrysville was abandoned.

This story, told by old settler Henry Pyatt, is taken from newspaper articles compiled in a book titled, ‘Early Family Histories of Montgomery County, Illinois, 1823 1874’ by Robert Oran Fay.

The first election that was held on the Hurricane was held at Joseph Wright’s for senator and representative to the state legislature in the year 1819. Joseph Wright and Aaron Casey acted as judges, if any other, not remembered. Josiah Whitten and John Woolen acted as clerks.

Candidates for the senate were Martin Jones and Mr. Johnson, and for representative, Col. Wheelock and Captain Crisp. Jones and Crisp were elected.

However, their election was contested on the grounds of the ballot box of the Hurricane Precinct not being according to law, and an adjournment before six oclock in the evening.

The law was that the county commissioners should furnish the different precincts in the county with boxes. Consequently, the commissioners had nothing to pay, and the people would not furnish them for nothing.

Joseph Wright went to Perrysville for a box, it being the county seat of Bond County. This was before the laying off of Montgomery County.

Mr. Wright, failing to get a ballot box, made one himself. Not having any lock and key, the lid was fastened by nails. The hammer was laid on the table and was called the ‘key.’

It was proven that the ballot box was sufficient to contain the votes without fraud, and that every vote in the precinct was cast so that they were considered legally elected to the legislature.

It was later found that Joseph Wrights ballot box was the only one in the county; all other precincts in the county had hats and tin buckets in the place of boxes.

F.M. Bolt, former editor of The Ramsey News-Journal, continued to submit articles on a monthly basis to his hometown newspaper after his retirement. In an article published in the Dec. 17, 1926, issue, he wrote about early voting practices.

When I was just a lad, father and I guess at least two of my older brothers went to Bowling Green on election day. I am not sure that the old plan of orally calling out the names of the candidates you wished to vote for had come into vogue or not.

Another feature on election days in that long-ago time, by the candidates on their friends it was planned to knock the whiskey barrel head in, take a tin cup to it, and everybody walked up before or after voting and helped himself.

In the not-so-distant past, votes werent bought with a cup of whiskey; they were bought for a dollar. F.M. Bolt alludes to this practice in his article, saying the corruption of voters by money, down to the man in the most humble walks, yielding to the subtle influence of the paltry dollar or two, and cause him to help on the attack upon the perpetuity of an honest ballot.

The first woman to vote in an Illinois election was also from Ramsey. Athilla Ann Stoddard, wife of Dr. Luke Stoddard, was 60 years old when she went to the polls and cast her first ballot on July 10, 1891, during a school election.

The other women who accompanied her that day were Jennie Pedelupe, Dora Porter, Mrs. Adrian Morrison, Carrie Willis and Sarah Soper. Their six votes meant that Ramsey got a new school building.

When interviewed by a Chicago Record-Herald reporter in 1913, Athilla told him that she had reached the conclusion that if women had the right to vote, there would be better schools and less drinking of liquor.

She said, Think of the men loafers in the town who sell their ballots; think of the persons from other countries who come over here and, merely because of their sex, can vote, and women cannot.

The 1913 interview with the Record-Herald reporter was prompted by legislation in the Illinois House allowing women to vote in presidential elections.

Twenty-two years after her first historic vote, Athilla Ann Stoddard once again made ready to go to the polls. She was still making history, because now she was the oldest woman in Illinois to cast a vote.

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