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Picking Vandalia as the capital

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By Linda Hanabarger

Seated around the fire inside the inn at Carlyle, the commissioners, having spent several days traversing the forest after leaving Kaskaskia, were resting from the efforts of the day.
In the group were four of the five legislators elected on March 30 to act as commissioners to locate the site to serve as state capitol for 20 years.
In the group were William C. Greenup, Beal Greenup, Thomas Cox, Levi Compton and William Alexander.  
As they rested from their days’ efforts, the commissioners talked quietly among themselves.  Suddenly, a pounding at the door, accompanied by a shout, “Innkeeper within,” shattered the quiet.  
As the latchkey was lifted, Charles Reavis entered the room.
Referred to as “Reeves” in later chronicles of this particular event, he had learned of the presence of the commissioners and was determined to meet them and find out for himself what their business was in his neck of the woods.
Reavis, along with his father, Isham, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and other members of his immediate family, had moved to the Illinois lands from Warren County, Ky., after 1805.                                             
The dress of these early backwoodsmen is described for us by Christianna Tillson in a book she wrote about her first years in Illinois.
Her husband, John, spent much time in Vandalia with his business concerns.  
She wrote, “Imagine a tall, lank man, with his legs encased in a pair of linsey pantaloons, rough and dirty; over these leggins that came above the knees, made from an old bed blanket and tied up with some buckskin strings; then an old drab overcoat and a shabby hat; a saddle girth tied around the waist and a coarse woolen scarf around his neck, and all dirty.”
As Reavis shrugged off his outer garments and the conversation restarted, the discussion centering on two sites, Carlyle, laid out on the Kaskaskia River by two men from New York, and a place higher up on the river, “Pope’s Bluff.”  
Reavis interjected, “Pope’s Bluff and Carlyle ain’t a primin’ to my bluff,” situated further north where the Third Principal Meridian crossed the Kaskaskia River.
Starting out the next morning and following an old Indian trail, it took several days to reach Reavis’ cabin.
With this as a starting point, the commissioners scouted the region and found it was indeed beautiful, and met the requirements as set forth by the legislature.
The site chosen was a short distance north of Reavis’ cabin, where he lived with wife, Polly, and sons, Isham and James Alexander.
The commissioners duly returned to Kaskaskia, where they were paid for their work in August 1819.
Charles relocated the short distance north in the new village cut out of the forest and, building a log home on the corner of Fifth and Johnson streets, soon advertised he was keeping a ‘hotel.’
Charles is mentioned in the memoirs of Frederick Hollmann as helping him to mark trees in the Okaw bottoms from which to build.
As more people moved into the new capitol, Charles determined to move on, further into the unsettled regions.  
His sons both married in Bond County and a statement in the early history of their county told that Reavis later lost his mind following the death of a daughter. His personality changed and he became feared.
Moving a third and last time, the Reavis family settled in Menard County, where his sons built up farms.
His death occurred in 1834 and he is buried in an unmarked grave in the Reavis Cemetery on the farm of his son Isham.