While working on decorating the tree at the Vandalia Statehouse last week we got into a conversation about names.
One of the stories we tell to visitors at the old capitol is of Supreme Justice Theophilus Washington Smith, who pulled a gun on Gov. Ninian Edwards. Edwards took it away from him, pistol-whipped him and broke his jaw.
Another of the justices, Stephen Lockwood, in a letter to his wife, Mary, wrote that Smith’s jaw "had not yet reunited."
Two of my all-time favorite Fayette County names are those of Fountain Crump and American Cronk.
American Cronk was an Ohioan by birth who came to Fayette County early in the 1830s. He married John Haley’s daughter, Elizabeth, by whom he had seven children (among them a son named American).
Elizabeth died in 1856, age 34 years. American remained a widower for five years before marrying a widow, Hester Ann Conner, who died soon thereafter. His third marriage, to Margaret Revis Dycus, was in 1862.
Cronk was a veteran of the Mexican War, serving as a private under Capt. Ferris Forman, Co. A., 3rd Illinois Regt. Containing nearly 100 recruits, Co. A mustered in at Vandalia on June 21, 1846.
Three Illinois regiments, including the 3rd and our boys in Co. A, were enlisted a few months after the declaration of war. They gathered at Alton and there, Ferris Forman was elected colonel of the 3rd Regiment.
American Cronk, as a member of the 3rd, saw action in the battles at Buena Vista, where they were victorious over Santa Anna’s army; Veracruz, Cerro Cordo; and the occupation of Mexico City. Cronk, with other members of his unit, was discharged at New Orleans on May 23, 1847.
Fountain Crump was a young lawyer practicing in Vandalia, where death overtook him on Sept. 20, 1856. According to his tombstone in the Old State Burial Ground, he was 21 years of age. He had accumulated $850 in real estate, some of which lay in Ramsey Township.
His Vandalia property included a dwelling house and among his $350 in personal property was a collection of law books. He was a cousin to the Dennys of Bond County
Crump was one of the early members of Friend’s Lodge, I.O.O.F. (Independent Order Odd Fellows) and an early office holder. The Odd Fellows, among other service to the community, purchased land in South Hill Cemetery for the burial of strangers.
Fountain Crump was a forward-looking man and owned stock in the Plank Road, which stretched east of Vandalia across the bottom. Judging by the list of people who owed him money when he died, he was well on his way to success.
Theophilus Washington Smith, Fountain Crump and American Cronk – just three interesting people whose names are part of Fayette County history.