Women and Religion in America 1600-1900

By Patricia Tomczak
Associate Librarian
Quincy UniversityThe story of American women’s religious activities from 1600-1920 parallels the transformation of American society. American women have been instrumental in evolution of the American religious experience beginning in an era that viewed women as only submissive wives through the tremendous social changes of the 19th Century.

The Colonial era (1500-1750) saw the Americas controlled by three European powers–Spain, France and England. The religions adopted by Spain, France and England were carried to their respective colonies in the New World. Thus, the Southwest region of what is now the United States, Mexico and Latin America, all which fell under Spanish control, were Catholic. The Catholic religion was also prominent in the French controlled provinces of Canada and the Mississippi River Valley region. Various Protestant denominations were the accepted religions in the English colonies that stretched along the Eastern seaboard of North America. Contrasting with this Christian mixture were the Native American religions and the African religions brought to the New World by the African slaves. Generally, these latter two categories of religions were destroyed by Christian missionaries of both Catholic and Protestant sects. However, their influence may still be felt through American regional art and folklore. For women this mixture of races and religions provided extraordinary opportunities for individual advancement but often at a high personal cost.

The Spanish and French colonies offered few educational or economic opportunities for women except through established convent life. The convent life separated women from the direct control of men while providing some social autonomy and educational opportunities. This was especially true for Native American converts who otherwise had little support from their tribe. One such convert was a Native American nun, Juana Ines de la Cruz, a renown scholar and poet who spent her life working in the convent at San Geronimo in Mexico City.

Members of various Protestant denominations settled the colonies of England. The denominations were often at violent odds with each other which only reflected the political and religious chaos of post-Reformation England. The Northern colonies, or the New England region, were settled by the Protestant denomination called the Puritans. The Puritans wanted to reform the Church of England to make it less priestly and closer to their interpretations of Biblical teachings. Contemporary Unitarian and Congregational Churches developed from Puritan beliefs. Women, in Puritan New England, were supposed to be dutiful daughters, submissive and faithful wives, wise mothers, prudent household managers and kind neighbors. Women were not expected to take an active role in the political or the religious life of society. Of course, not all women were willing to submit to these restrictions. One notable exception was Anne Hutchinson (1591-1643) who began her own ministry interpreting the Church teachings through her own spiritual views. This caused great dissent among the Church leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In 1638, she was excommunicated and forced to leave the colony, moving to Rhode Island. Compared with many other women who deviated greatly from Church teachings, Anne Hutchinson was fortunate only to be forced to leave the colony. Often women who disagreed with Church beliefs found themselves branded as heretics or witches.

The colonists who settled Virginia and the Southern Colonies belonged to mainstream Protestant groups as the Church of England. Southern women were encouraged to participate in religious activities especially through private devotions. Religion provided women with an emotional outlet and social responsibility. Women taught religious values to their families and were responsible for the spiritual well-being of their household including the extended plantation community. They were involved in converting their African-American slaves to Christianity. African-American women found that belonging to a church afforded them some personal autonomy and helped sustain a sense of community within the confines of slavery.

The middle colonies of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland provided refuge for many other religions including Jews, Quakers, and various German Pietist groups. For women, these less strict Christian sects allowed a greater portion of personal freedom and often gave them official roles in church government. For example, the Society of Friends or Quakers were known to have women leading prayer meetings and functioning as Church administrators.

Just before the Revolutionary War, a revivalist movement known as the Great Awakening, swept the English colonies. The home became the center for religious teaching, as religious beliefs became more individualized and personnel. Women were now viewed as morally superior to men. This was a major reversal of traditional Christian teachings which held that women, through Eve, were less moral then men and needed men’s guidance to achieve Salvation. In the new republic (1789) as traditional religious values became secularized, it became the woman’s responsibility to instruct her children in public moral conduct emphasizing virtue and service. Although educational opportunities for women increased in this period, society still did not permit women much social mobility or economic opportunities outside the home. A woman’s education was to be used to better serve her family.

The 19th Century dawned with a surge in reform movements. Women were at the forefront of social change. Beginning with the American and French Revolutions, which called for equality at least for white men, and continuing through the years of the Napoleonic Wars and the American Civil War. Utopian religious sects as the Shakers founded by Mother Anne Lee (1784) and the Christian Scientists founded by Mary Baker Eddy (1866) linked the perfection of humanity with the feminine aspect of the divine. For example, the idea of Nature as feminine providing life, wisdom and love through creation became a prevalent theme in the philosophy, art and literature of the period.

Catholic orders of nuns arriving in America from 1820-1900 were very effective in building social institutions as hospitals, schools, orphanages, homes for the elderly and the mentally ill. Generally, nuns formed the backbone of the nursing and teaching professions throughout the 19th Century. In fact, three such women became saints of the Catholic Church.

Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821), a Catholic convert, founded the religious community called the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph. This community, the first religious order for women founded in the United States, was dedicated to educating the poor through the establishment of parish schools. Mother Seton is credited with founding the parochial school system in the United States. For her life’s work, Mother Seton was canonized a Catholic saint in 1975.

Rose Philippine Duchesne (1769-1852) was a French missionary and educator having joined the religious order called the Society of the Sacred Heart. She was a missionary to the United States, settling in St. Charles, MO where she founded several schools and ministered to the Potawatomi tribe in Kansas. She was canonized a Catholic saint in 1988.

Frances Xavier Cabrini (1850-1917) became known as the patron saint of immigrants. She was born in Italy and when she desired to become a sister was denied entrance to two orders because she was in delicate health. In 1880, she established a new order of women religious called the Institute of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart. Mother Cabrini came to the United States in 1889 and established numerous hospitals, schools, orphanages and convents throughout the United States, Central and South America. Frances Cabrini was canonized a Catholic saint in 1946.

Protestant Christian women were no less active then their Catholic sisters. Lucretia Mott (1793-1880), a prominent Quaker, began the Female Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia in 1833. She would later become one of the major leaders of the women’s suffrage movement. In 1848, the first women’s rights convention opened at Seneca Falls, NY lead by Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906) and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902), who together founded the National Women’s Suffrage Association in 1859.

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896) a minister’s daughter and member of the Beecher family, considered the era’s most morally influential family, attained fame as the author of UNCLE TOM’S CABIN (1852). The novel detailing the horrors of slavery, became the most celebrated novel of its time and a rallying cry for abolitionists.

In New York, 1851, in the Congregational Church, Antoinette Louis Brown becomes the first woman to be ordained a minister. Missionary societies as the Ladies Missionary society of Philadelphia begun by Sarah Josepha Hale (1788-1879) in 1851, begin to train young women as physicians and teachers so that they may be sent abroad as Christian missionaries. Sarah Hale was also the editor of the GODEY’S LADIES BOOK, the most influential American women’s magazine of the mid-19th Century.

Dorothea Dix (1802-1877) and Clara Barton (1821-1912) begin the thankless job of nursing America’s wounded soldiers during the Civil War (1861-1865). Drawing on the experience of Florence Nightingale, Clara Barton, founded the American Red Cross in 1881. Dorothea Dix led the drive to build state hospitals for the mentally ill.

Temperance or the control of liquor was another concern of women in this era since many women suffered abuse due to their husbands or fathers alcoholism. In 1871 the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in Cleveland, Ohio at the Second Presbyterian Church by Annie Wittenmyer, who was also the editor of the magazine CHRISTIAN WOMAN.

Jane Addams (1860-1935), a Quaker, was America’s most renown social worker. She founded Hull House in Chicago in 1889 as a neighborhood center to provide child care, education and training to men and women from the immigrant population of Chicago. She wrote and lectured on a variety of social problems as crime, poverty, public health and child labor finally winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

These are just a few examples of the many American women who made a difference and effected real social change under the umbrella of their religious beliefs. Some women worked for change by beginning a new religion, as did Anne Hutchinson or Mary Baker Eddy. Some saw God’s hand in the struggle for freedom, as did abolitionist, Harriet Stowe or suffrage leader, Lucretia Mott. Others sought to relieve human suffering like Clara Barton and Dorthea Dix. Finally, there were those women who built lasting institutions dedicated to education and the relief of suffering as demonstrated by the work of the various orders of Catholic nuns or the social work of Jane Addams. American women have had a long and proud history of involvement with religious issues, social activism, and the struggle for freedom. This history continues today….


Sophia May Chase:
A Remarkable Woman of the 19th Century

by Mira Baz

Part 1. Introduction

At the turn of the millenium, and in the age of telecommunications and electronic mail, immortality seems more difficult to achieve, as epistles become more and more scarce. The memory of Sophia May Chase, however, and of her family, who lived in the Nineteenth Century, was certain to be preserved in letters. Reading the exchanged correspondence between wife and husband, parent and child, family members and friends, one delves into the minds of the Chase that one thinks may have been oblivious to the lasting significance of the written word vis-à-vis the immediate concerns of daily life. This, however, was not entirely true about Philander Chase, Sophia’s husband, and first Bishop of the Episcopalian diocese of Ohio and of Illinois. His detailed letters written to his wife in his missionary travels show a preoccupation with recording events and serve as journals. Sophia, on the other hand, was economical in her writing, her letters revealing little about herself. She was the support in her husband’s active labors, and whom he only mentions en passant in his Reminiscences — an autobiography. She was “his secretary, his housekeeper, his adviser, and treasurer” (Smith 197). In seeing her name, one would not think of the building of two colleges, the distresses of the constant moving in the wilderness of the frontier life, the strength behind the Bishop’s achievements. This biography is an attempt to “reconstruct” the life of Sophia May Chase.

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Bishop Philander Chase with his second wife, Sophia May Chase, in 1847. They were often thought to be cousins. (from Smith 300) Sophia May Chase, at the age of 59, in 1847. (courtesy of Kenyon College)

Very little is known about her, especially prior to her marriage to the Bishop in 1819. A letter by her daughter Mary overviews this period in her life. Sophia May was born on February 13, 1782, in the city of Amsterdam, Holland, daughter of Duncan and Susanna Ingraham. Duncan Ingraham was a shipping merchant; and “when peace was restored” to the U.S.A. at the turn of the last century, he returned and settled in Philadelphia. After a few years, he retired from business and removed his family to Poughkeepsie, on the Hudson, where he died. Sophia grew up here with her five sisters and four brothers, who “scattered to all parts of the globe after a time.” Her mother, with her son George, then moved the “now diminished family” to Kingston, N.Y. Shortly after, Sophia’s sister Maria wed Mr. Leonard Kip of New York, and Sophia went to live with her.

Continue to:

  1. Chase Family moves to Ohio
  2. Kenyon College
  3. Illinois and Jubilee College
  4. Epilogue


  1. Piatt, John James. How the Bishop Built His College in the Woods. The Western Literary Press, Cincinnati: 1906.
  2. Smith, Laura Chase. The Life of Philander Chase. The Knickerbocker Press, New York: 1903.

Contributing Library:

Cullom-Davis Library, Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois

Emma Hale Smith (1804-1879), First President of Relief Society


Emma Hale Smith
(oil painting)


The Carthage Jail
where Joseph & Hyram Smith were assassinated in 1844


Emma Hale Smith

Emma Hale Smith, wife of Joseph Smith, was the first president of one of the world’s largest and oldest women’s organizations, the Relief Society of the Mormon Church.

Emma Hale was born in Pennsylvania in 1803, fifteen years before Illinois became a state. About 1825, Joseph Smith, Jr., boarded at the home of Emma’s father Isaac Hale. Joseph propose marriage to Emma, but Isaac Hale refused to give approval. Emma and Joseph returned to Joseph’s home state of New York, where they married in 1827.

About the same time, Joseph earnestly began to pursue revelations of the Book of Mormon. Joseph’s revelations and teachings became the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Joseph became the head of the Church. In 1830, Emma was assigned the task of compiling the group’s first hymnal.

During the next decade, Joseph, Emma, and the Mormon believers moved from New York to Kirtland, Ohio, to western Missouri, and in 1839, to Nauvoo, Illinois. Several other locations became home for short periods of time. The moves were made to escape violent conflict with non-Mormon neighbors.

Those years were certainly trying times for Emma. In addition to the moves and threats of violence and Joseph’s arrests, several of Emma and Joseph’s children died in infancy or as young children. Emma is believed to have held strong influence in the business affairs of the household. She took boarders into the home to provide additional income. In 1842, she visted Governor Carlin of Illinois and attempted to persuade the governor of the illegality of prosecution of Joseph by the state of Illinois.

The Mormons built Nauvoo into one of the largest cities in Illinois. In 1842, Joseph, as head of the Mormon church, established the Relief Society to assist the sick and the poor. Emma was the first president of this society initially composed of about 20 women. Emma claimed at the time “We are going to do something extraordinary”. By 1997, the society boasted a membership of almost 4 million and continues the original mission to aid the sick, poor, and others in need.

Friction between the Mormons, their neighbors and the government of Illinois escalated. The animosity culminated in June 1844 with the assassination of Emma’s husband, Joseph Smith and his brother Hyram Smith. Following the assassinations, leadership of the church transferred to Brigham Young. Young led the Mormons out of Nauvoo and westward to Utah.

Emma did not agree with the new doctrines of the Mormon Church. She believed Joseph’s son Joseph Smith III should lead the church, and she did not support plural marriage. Emma did not join the migration to Utah. She remarried in 1847 to a non-Mormon named Lewis Bidamon. Emma raised her children in Nauvoo, joined the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Emma died in Nauvoo in 1879.


  1. Avery, Valeen Tippetts and Linda King Newell. (1996) “The Lion and the Lady: Brigham Young and Emma Smith” in Kingdom on the Mississippi Revistied: Nauvoo in Mormon History.Edited by Rodger D. Launius and John E. Hallwas , University of Illinois Press, Urbana and Chicago.
  2. Jack, Elaine L. (1997) “A Small Stone”, 167th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Contributing Library:

Macomb Public Library, Macomb, Illinois

Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915)

Amanda Berry Smith was born as a slave in Maryland in 1837, the oldest of thirteen children. When Amanda was in her early teens, her father purchased the family’s freedom. Amanda’s first husband died during the Civil War, while serving in an African American military unit.

Amanda had little formal education, but she had a gift for speaking and singing. Her talents led to her nicknames “the Singing Pilgrim” and “God’s Image Carved in Ebony.” During her early thirties, Amanda began in evangelizing in New York City, receiving inspiration at a local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. She became a charger member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1875, and was associated with the African American Women’s Clubs.

Before 1880 embarked on a twelve-year missionary trip through Europe, Asia, and Africa. She spent eight years in Liberia and West Africa, establishing churches and temperance societies.

She settled in Chicago in 1893. Amanda raised funds to open an orphan home for African American children. During this time, Harvey, Illinois, was being developed and marketed as a community with high moral, religious, and temperance character. Smith’s purchased property in Harvey in 1895. The orphan’s home opened in Harvey in 1899 and has the distinction of being Illinois’ first orphanage for African American children. Her fundraising efforts allowed the school and home to operate without government assistance. Ida B. Wells, another African American social reformer, served on the Board of Directors of the orphanage. Although Smith retired from orphanage work in 1912 due to illness, dying in Florida in 1915, the home remained open until destroyed by fire in 1918.


  1. Bartlett, David C., and Larry A. McClellan (1998) “The Final Ministry of Amanda Berry Smith. An Orphanage in Harvey, Illinois, 1895-1918” in Illinois Heritage, vol 1, no. 2, pp. 20-25.
  2. Smith, Amanda Berry. (1893) An Autobiography, The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist. Meyer & Brother, Publishers, Chicago, IL. (This work has been reprinted at least six times since the original publication.)
  3. Knupfer, Anne Meis. (1997) Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood, African American Women’s Clubs in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago. New York University Press, New York, NY.

Lena Doolin Mason (1864-?)


Lena Doolin was born in 1864 in Quincy, Illinois. She attended High School in nearby Hannibal, Missouri, and later attended Professor Knott’s School in Chicago. In 1883, she married George Mason.

About 1887, Lena entered the ministry, being affiliated with the Colored Conference of the Methodist Church. She was a powerful evangelist, travelling throughout the United States, preaching to all white and later to racially mixed congregations..

Lena was also a poet and an artist. Her two surviving poems “The Negro and Education” and “A Negro In It” demonstrate her commitment to the civil rights for African Americans.

“A Negro In It” (reproduced below ) makes several references to important roles filled by African Americans in United States near the turn of the century. Mrs. Mason specifically points out the role African American soldiers played in the battle of San Juan Hill in 1898, during the Spanish-American War, and J. B. Parker’s role in the capture of the assassin of President William McKinley in September 1901.

A Negro In It

By Mrs. Lena MasonIn the last civil war,
The white folks, they began it,
But before it could close,
The Negro had to be in it.

At the battle of San Juan hill,
The rough-riders they began it;
But before victory could be won
The Negro had to be in it.

The Negro shot the Spaniard from the tree,
And never did regret it;
The rough-riders would have been dead to-day
Had the he Negro not been in it.

To Buffalo, McKinley went,
To welcome people in it;
The prayer was prayed, the speech made,
The Negro, he was in it.

September sixth, in Music Hall,
With thousands, thousands in it,
McKinley fell, from the assassin’s ball,
And the Negro, he got in it.

He knocked the murderer to the floor,
He struck his nose, the blood did flow;
He held him fast, all nearby saw,
When for the right, the Negro in it.

J. B. Parker is his name,
He from the state of Georgia came;
He worked in Buffalo, for his bread,
And there he saw McKinley dead.

They bought his clothes for souvenirs,
And may they ever tell it,
That when the President was shot
A brave Negro was in it.

He saved him from the third ball,
That would have taken life with it;
He held the foreigner fast and tight,
The Negro sure was in it.

McKinley now in heaven rests,
Where he will ne’er regret it;
And well he knows, hat in all his joys
There was a Negro in it.

White man, stop lynching and burning
This black race, trying to thin it,
For if you go to heaven or hell
You will find some Negroes in it.

Parker knocked the assassin down,
And to beat him, he began it;
In order to save the President’s life,
Yes, the Negro truly was in it.

You may try to shut the Negro out,
The courts, they have begun it;
But when we meet at the judgment bar
God will tell you the Negro is in it.

Pay them to swear a lie in court,
Both whites and blacks will do it;
Truth will shine, to the end of time,
And you will find the Negro in it.


  1. Culp, Daniel W. (1902, reprinted 1969). Twentieth Century Negro Literature, J. L. Nichols Co., Atlanta; Mnemosyne Publishing Co., Miami.
  2. LaPrade, Candis, (1992) “Lena Doolin Mason” in Notable Black American Women. Smith, Jessie Carney, Ed. Gale Research Inc, Detroit, Michigan., Pp. 734-736.

Essay on Sisters in the Civil War – Civil War Medicine


This essay was possibly written by Fr. Landry Genosky. Believed to have been written during the Centennial Year of St. Mary’s Hospital, Quincy, Illinois, in 1966.
[Typewritten, Paper size= 8.5 x 11 inches, standard bond paper]


Contributing Library:

Brenner Library, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois

[Abraham] Lincoln and the Nuns – Civil War Medicine by Ann Tansey


This essay was written by Ann Tansey.
[Typewritten, Paper size= 8.5 x 11 inches, standard bond paper]


Contributing Library:

Brenner Library, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois

Peter Cartwright and Frances Cartwright, United Methodist Church

ap0000b2Autograph of Peter Cartwright, May 24, 1853
in”Newton On Prophecies” 1838
ap000b13Picture of Homestead of Peter and Frances Cartwright, 1872ap000b15
Peter Cartwright, UMC, Pg.2 Frances Cartwright, photo of family, church, 1876ap000b16
Peter Cartwright, UMC, p. 3, Graves of Peter and Frances Cartwright, Bethel Churchap000b17
Peter Cartwright, Directions to present Peter Cartwright UMC Church

Peter Cartwright, “the Lord’s breaking-plow”, was born September 1, 1785, in Amhurst County, Virginia, the son of a Revolutionary War veteran. His family moved to Logan County, Kentucky, where at the age of sixteen Peter was converted at a camp meeting and joined the Methodist Episcopal Church. In 1802 the unlettered young man was licensed as an exhorter by Jesse Walker, four years later he was ordained a deacon by Bishop Asbury and in 1808 Bishop McKendree ordained him an elder. He remained an active itinerant until his death on September 25, 1872. In 1812 he was appointed a presiding elder and served in that office for fifty years, longer than any other minister in the Methodist Church.

Unwilling to see his children grow up in a slave state, Cartwright obtained a transfer and became one of the original members of the Illinois Conference when it was organized in 1824. The previous year he had purchased land on Richland Creek in Sangamon County, here he lived for the remainder of his life. Cartwright was elected a representative to the state legislature in 1828, only four years after he had established residence in Illinois. In his reelection campaign in 1832 he defeated Abraham Lincoln. In 1846 he ran unsuccessfully against Lincoln for Congress.

Politics, however was a side issue with Cartwright; his main business was to preach the gospel, which he did from Galena to St. Louis and eastward as far as the prairies extended. He was a delegate to twelve General Conferences, once helping to found McKendree College, the Illinois Female Academy (now MacMurray College) and Illinois Wesleyan University. In 1856 he published his autobiography, a book full of dramatic incident and impassioned spirit. When his fellow ministers paid tribute to him in a grave jublilee celebration at Lincoln in 1870 he looked back on sixty-five years as a traveling preacher and said simply, “I would take…the same track over again, and the same religion, rather than be president of the United States.


Early Methodist preachers such as Francis Asbury and William McKinley regarded marriage as a handicap to their work, but Peter Cartwright fell in love with the right girl when he was 23. On her 19th birthday he married Frances Gaines of Barren County, Kentucky. Her place of domicile was not an ill omen; she bore Peter two sons and seven daughters. Their third daughter, Cynthia, was tragically killed by a falling tree on their journey to Illinois, but the remaining children grew to adulthood. Three of the daughters married ministers and, as Peter himself said, “all our children are in the Methodist Episcopal Church.”

Frances died on February 7, 1876. At the time of her death site had fifty-three grandchildren, sixty-two great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren. Carl Sandburg tells the dramatic story of her last day in his poem “Waiting for the Chariot.”

Can bare fact make the cloth of a shining poem?
In Sangamon County, Illinois, they remembered how
The aged widow walked a mile from home to Bethel Chapel
Where she heard the services and was called on
“To give her testimony,” rising to speak freely, ending
“The past three weeks have been the happiest of all my
life, I am waiting for the chariot.”
The pastor spoke the benediction, the members rose and moved
Into the aisles toward the door, and looking back
They saw the widow of the famous circuit rider
Sitting quiet and pale in an unviolable dignity
And they heard the pastor, “The chariot has arrived.”

material taken from the Peter Cartwright UMC celebration bulletin, 1997

ap000b18Peter’s Bible–inscription with description and first page, pg. 1 ap000b19Peter’s Bible–with article of grandson donating Bible to Peter Cartwright UMC
ap0000b4Letter written by Peter Cartwright, January 1, 1833, pg. 2 ap0000b5Bethel Methodist Church, telling about Frances Cartwright, Peter’s wife, dying in the church, see attachment
ap0000b7Personal Estate Inventory, pg. 2 ap0000b8Personal Estate Inventory, pg. 3 ap0000b9Personal Estate Inventory, pg. 4
ap000b11Letter about Peter Cartwright’s parents, Feb. 14, 1956

October 29, 1997
Patty L. Schaller

To Page 2

Contributing Library:

Ashland Public Library District, Ashland, Illinois

Peter Cartwright and Frances Cartwright, United Methodist Church

ap0000c1Bethel Church Pulpit, 1853-1953 ap0000c2Peter Cartwright, His Chair 1869, given by the Governor of Illinois
ap0000c3Chair owned by Peter Cartwright, 1785-1872. Ottoman at foot of chair is a reproduction of needlepoint work done by Frances Cartwright, wife of Peter. The original needlepoint has been framed (see below). ap0000c5Original needlepoint by Frances Cartwright
ap0000c4Peter Cartwright’s Desk ap0000c6Portraits of Peter and Frances Carthwright and pictures of their homestead. (Printed in 1916 issue of Pleasant Plains Press Newspaper)
ap0000c7Bethel Church pulpit furniture ap0000c8Shelf made by Peter Cartwright from wood on his farm
ap0000c9Cabinet from the Bethel Church ap000c10Pew from the Bethel Church (Pew on which Frances Cartwright died)
ap000c11Dress worn by Frances Cartwright ap000c12Lace Bonnet worn by Frances Cartwright (top) and Communion Service (bottom)
ap000c132 walking canes made by Peter Cartwright (letter dated 1849) one or Lucinda Capps and the other made out of barnwood from his farm. ap000c14Sette from the Bethel Church on which Frances Carwright was laid out after dying.
ap000c15Interior of the present Peter Cartwright United Methodist Church, Pleasant Plains, Illinois ap000c16Exterior of the present Peter Cartwright United Methodist Church, Pleasant Plains, Illinois
 ap000c17  ap000c18
Gravesite of Peter and Frances Cartwright, Pleasant Plains Cemetery, Illinois
Inscriptions read:
Frances, wife of Rev. Peter Cartwright
born Aug. 18, 1789 in the state of Va.
died Feb. 7, 1876
aged 86 ys. 6 mo. 20 d.
Rev. P. Cartwright
71 years an Effective Methodist Preacher
50 years of this time as Presiding Elder
was born in Amherst Co., Va. Sept. 1, 1785
Died at home in Sangamon Co., Ill. Sept. 25, 1872
Aged 87 ys. 24 ds.

Contributing Library:

Ashland Public Library District, Ashland, Illinois

Ashland Baptist Church Mirror, 1905

ap0000d1The Ashland Baptist Mirror, published semi-monthly in the interest of the Ashland Baptist Church, Charles E. Henry, Editor. Associates Wm. Goff–Young People, Mrs. J.H. Hubbs–“Chips”, Subscription price per year, 50 cents in advance. 1905

ap0000d2“Our Young People” by Wm. M. Goff, from the Ashland Baptist Mirror

ap0000d3Children of the Ashland Baptist Church

Contributing Library:

Ashland Public Library District, Ashland, Illinois

Centenary souvenir of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Poor of St. Francis, 1845-1945


This booklet provides a background to a religious order of sisters founded in 1845 by Frances Schervier in the German/French border town of Aiz-la-Chapelle. A branch of this order eventually came to America, founding hospitals and working among the poor in Cincinnati and Covington, Kentucky, Columbus, Ohio, and Quincy, Illinois.


Contributing Library:

Brenner Library, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois

History of St. Mary’s Hospital, Quincy, Illinois, 1861-1963


This is a type written chronology of the history of St. Mary’s Hospital, 1861-1963. It was probably written by Fr. Landry Genosky for the Centennial Celebration of the hospital in 1963. It also contains editorial notes and hand-written corrections in red ink. [Paper size= 8.5 x 11 inches, onion skin paper]
In the list below, years are correlated with the first page representing that year.


Contributing Library:

Brenner Library, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois


Contributing Library:

Brenner Library, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois

Speech Given at 75th Anniversary, St. Mary’s Hospital, Quincy, Illinois, 1941


This is a transcript of a speech given by Dr. O.F. Schulian on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary Celebration of St. Mary’s Hospital. The speech was given May 29, 1941 at the Lincoln-Douglas Hotel in Quincy, Illinois. [Paper size= 8.5 x 11 inches, regular bond paper]


Contributing Library:

Brenner Library, Quincy University, Quincy, Illinois


Woman in Public Life


by Melissa Calhoun, Infobahn Outfitters, Inc.”Illinois Women in Public Life” encompasses women who earned the title “philanthropist”, “benefactress”, “social activist”, and “politician”. Also included are women in the public eye because of their husbands’ business, social, or political position in Illinois society.

During Illinois’ first century of statehood, the role of women in American society underwent dramatic change. In 1818, few women were activists or politicians. As the 19th century progressed, women became more autonomous. In 1918, women were actively campaigning in the suffrage movement to gain women’s right to vote (the 19th Amendment was signed into law in 1920).


Women’s influence in political and social reforms was felt in several arenas. Abolition of slavery was supported by many Illinois women. Social programs to aid immigrants and children were another. Harriet Vittum of the Northwestern University Settlement House, Jane Addams of Chicago’s Hull House, and many others were instrumental in improving health care, child care, child labor, and education of Chicago’s immigrant population. Many of these same women were strong supporters of the women’s suffrage movement. Temperance and prohibition were other causes pursued by women.

Social and literary clubs became increasingly popular in the late 19th century. Topics were often of a literary or light social nature, but these women’s clubs also focused on important social issues of the time. The Friends of Council of Quincy discussed philosophy and history, but meetings included more controversial topics. In 1869, club discussion included “Woman’s Suffrage – Right and Policy”. These clubs and the social reforms they brought were not always popular. For example, in the 1830s, distaste for women’s involvement in public affairs resulted in gentlemen reading minutes for women during public meetings.

In addition to change effected by activism and physical effort, many Illinois women of means supported social change through gifts of land and property for public and private institutions. Many benefactresses were successful businesswomen in their own right and they conceived of and built Illinois schools, universities, libraries, orphanages, and hospitals. Georgina TrotterSarah Withers, and Sarah Raymond played significant roles in education and libraries in Bloomington. Lydia Moss Bradley‘s legacy to Peoria included Bradley Park, Peoria’s Home for Aged Women and Bradley Polytechnic Institute (now Bradley University).

The effects of Illinois’ First Ladies on Illinois society may be the most difficult to measure. At a national level, First Ladies often quietly contributed to decisions made by U.S. Presidents. The same most certainly must be true of Illinois’ first ladies.

The influence of Illinois’ women is intricately woven into the state’s history and its future. One cannot imagine life in Illinois without the instituitons and reforms produced by dedicated, hard-working Illinois women.


  1. Illinois Women: 75 Years of the Right to Vote. 1996, Chicago Sun-Times Features, Inc. in cooperation with Governor Edgar’s Commission for the celebration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment.
  2. Various articles included in this web site (see below).

Photograph of montage, courtesy of Quincy Public Library, Quincy, Illinois

Photos courtesy of the Illinois State Historical Library
Special thanks to: Kathryn Harris, Director; Bridget Lamont, Director Illinois State Library; Valerie Wilford, Director, Alliance Library System, and Shawn Edwards, Alliance Library System.

NOTE: Access a larger version of the images by following the link over the images.

 bond Achsah Bond
wife of Shadrack Bond, the first governor of Illinois, 1818-1822
Photo Not Available Sally Logan Roberts Coles
wife of Edward Coles, the second governor of Illinois, 1822-1826
(Sally and Edward married in 1833 after Edward’s term as governor)
Photo Not Available Elvira Lane Edwards
wife of Ninian Edwards, the third governor of Illinois, 1826-1830
 reynolds Catherine Reynolds
wife John Reynolds, the fourth governor of Illinois, 1830-1834
Photo Not Available Caroline Berry Ewing
wife of William Lee Davidson Ewing, the fifth governor of Illinois, 1834
Photo Not Available Elizabeth Caldwell Smith Duncan
wife of Joseph Duncan, the sixth governor of Illinois, 1834-1838
 carlin Rebecca Huitt Carlin
wife of Thomas Carlin, the seventh governor of Illinois, 1838-1842
 ford Frances Hambaugh Ford
wife of Thomas Ford, the eighth governor of Illinois, 1842-1846
 french Lucy Southwick French
wife of Augustus C. French, the ninth governor of Illinois, 1846-1853
 matteson Mary Fish Matteson
wife of Joel Aldrich Matteson, the tenth governor of Illinois, 1853-1857
Photo Not Available Emily Susan Jones Bissell
wife of William Harrison Bissell, the eleventh governor of Illinois, 1857-1860
Photo Not Available Ann Streeter Wood
wife of John Wood, the twelfth governor of Illinois, 1860-1861
 yates Catherine Geers Yates
wife of Richard Yates, the thirteenth governor of Illinois, 1861-1865
 oglesby Emma Gillette Keays Oglesby
wife of Richard James Oglesby, the fourteenth, sixteenth, and twentieth governor of Illinois, 1865-1869, 1873, 1885-1889
 palmer Malinda Ann Neely Palmer
wife of John McAuley Palmer, the fifteenth governor of Illinois, 1869-1873
Photo Not Available Helen May Judson Beveridge
wife of John Lourie Beveridge, the seventeenth governor of Illinois, 1873-1877
 cullom Julia Fisher Cullom
wife of Shelby Moore Cullom, the eighteenth governor of Illinois, 1877-1883
 hamilton Helen Williams Hamilton
wife of John Marshall Hamilton, the nineteenth governor of Illinois, 1883-1885
 fifer Gertrude Lewis Fifer
wife of Joseph Wilson Fifer, the twenty-first governor of Illinois, 1889-1893
 altgeld Emma Ford Altgeld
wife of John Peter Altgeld, the twenty-second governor of Illinois, 1893-1897
 tanner Cora Edith English Tanner
wife of John Riley Tanner, the twenty-third governor of Illiinois, 1897-1901
Photo Not Available Helen Wadsworth Yates
wife of Richard Yates, the twenty-fourth governor of Illinois, 1901-1905
 deneen Bina Day Maloney Deneen
wife of Charles Samuel Deneen, the twenty-fifth governor of Illinois, 1905-1913
Photo Not Available Elizabeth Kelly Dunne
wife of Edward Fitzsimmons Dunne, the twenty-sixth governor of Illinois, 1913-1917
Photo Not Available Florence Pullman Lowden
wife of Frank Orren Lowden, the twenty-seventh governor of Illinois, 1917-1921


Information about Illinois’ Governors can be found at:

Georgina Trotter, First Woman on the Bloomington Board of Education


Photo of Georgina Trottermc200001 Georgina Trotter, first woman on the Bloomington Board of Education, served on Withers Library Board (and raised funds for the library), was a successful businesswoman (with brother John Trotter) in the lumber, grain and coal business and had served in the Civil War as a nurse. With her friend, Sarah Raymond, she was considered a “power in the education affairs of Bloomington.”
Souvenir Program Memorial Foundationmc1000012 Georgina Trotter biographymc2000013

Contributing Library:

Stevenson – Ives Memorial Library, McLean County Historical Society, Bloomington, Illinois

Harriet E. Vittum


Generous. Energetic. Hard-working. Progressive. The adjectives used to describe Harriet Elizabeth Vittum could fill volumes. Few people have dedicated their lives so selflessly and so humbly to public service-and with so little fanfare. While others justifiably praise Jane Addams for her pioneering work at Hull House, few people remember a woman who in her lifetime was hailed as “a second Jane Addams” and who worked every bit as hard on behalf of the poor and displaced for justice and social reform.

The paragraph above, taken from The Worn Doorstep : Informal History of Northwestern University Settlement Association, 1891-1991, could not be a more fitting description of Harriet Vittum. It is because of all her accomplishments that she is deservedly placed in this grouping of Early Illinois Women.

Harriet E. Vittum was born in Canton, Illinois, on February 14, 1872. She received her education in local public schools and had an early interest in medicine. She began in her family’s home what would become the first hospital in Canton. It was known as the Altruistic Hospital, originated by the Altruistic Club, with Miss Vittum in charge. According to a newspaper account from the Cantonian of October 12, 1899, several complicated surgeries were performed in this hospital at the Vittum home by local area doctors with Miss Vittum in attendance. The account described the first two surgeries at the hospital : a skull fracture with abscesses and the removal of a tumor on a child’s neck. It was from this Altruistic Hospital that the germination for a larger institution to serve the county began to emerge and finally culminate with the dedication of Graham Hospital in October of 1909.

Earlier Miss Vittum had journeyed to Chicago in 1893 to work in the Illinois Building of the Columbian Exposition. She joined the staff of the Illinois Children’s Aid Society, where she worked for three years. In 1904 Miss Vittum went to work at the Northwestern University Settlement, where she served as a volunteer and shortly thereafter became Head Resident, a position she held for 40 years. She continued to be deeply involved in infant care and health education at the Settlement. Many people of the time were not knowledgeable about children’s health care and were also intimidated by doctors and hospitals. Many were European immigrants without fluency in English. These programs provided a means to educating parents and provided emotional support as well. Mothers’ Clubs and Fathers’ Clubs were formed. In The Worn Doorstep : Informal History of Northwestern University Settlement Association, 1891-1991 there is an account of the Settlement providing needy families with Thanksgiving Day dinners. An excerpt from a letter of one of the recipients is as follows:

I always said and will always say that Miss Vittum is just a mother to me and to many other poor families. Miss Vittum has done more for me than a mother could. Now I have three children. My home conditions are very improved today. It is all through the Settlement. The Northwestern University Settlement is the one that put me on my feet. I certainly do appreciate it from the bottom of my feet to the top of my heart.

Campaignpiv00001 Postcard View of Public Square, Canton, Illinois about the time Harriet Vittum lived there.piv00005
Political Cartoonpiv00002 Letter from Haroldpiv00006 L. Ickes to Miss Vittum

Many settlement houses of the time were allied with the Progressive Party. It is not surprising with her interest in social conditions that Miss Vittum became active in politics. She had been at the Settlement at the same time as Raymond Robins, who along with his wife, Margaret Dreier, had a great influence on the social welfare and politics of the time. Miss Vittum had been an advocate for women’s rights and suffrage. Miss Vittum worked for the Progressive Party and in 1914-six years before women won the right to vote at the federal level-she ran, unsuccessfully, for alderman of the 17th Ward (formerly the 16th) as an independent candidate. Later that year she and Mary McDowell of the University of Chicago Settlement ran unsuccessfully for the Cook County Board of Commissioners. In 1916 Miss Vittum was named chief of the women’s bureau for Republican presidential candidate Charles Evan Hughes. In 1920 she was a leader in the national women’s division of General Leonard Wood’s campaign for the Republican nomination for presidency.

She served on many boards of Chicago welfare and social service organizations. She held positions as president of the Chicago Kindergarten Institute; head of the Federal Housing Authority, Women’s Division, Chicago Association of Better Housing Commission; and president of the Roll Call of American Women. In 1937 she was honored with the Civic Trophy of the Citizens Award Committee for the “most unselfish meritorious service to Chicago in 1936.” As recent as January 1992 she was named to the Hall of Fame of Historic Illinoisians by the Lincoln Academy of Illinois

Miss Vittum continued her work with the settlement through another war time-World War II-and in 1947 announced she would be leaving Northwestern University Settlement. Although she was 75 years old, she did not use the word, “retirement,” as she felt there was always a job to do. Harold L. Ickes, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and early Progressive Party supporter, wrote Harriet a letter upon her retirement. In it, Harold L. Ickes referred to her as “one who has labored so long and so effectively to give people understanding and help and sustain them during the hard times of which our generation seems to have had more than its share.” In an interview that appeared in the Canton Daily Ledger in May of 1949 Harriet referred to her years following her position at the Settlement as ” the richest life I could have possibly had, a full rich life, with so many friends and such interesting work.”

Miss Vittum remained active until her death on December 16, 1953 in Passavant Hospital as the result of a stroke. She is buried in Greenwood Cemetary, Canton, Illinois.


Wukas, Mark. The Worn Doorstep: Informal History of Northwestern University Settlement Association, 1891-1991. Chicago : Northwestern University Settlement Association, Inc., 1991.

Lewis, Edward R. Jr. Reflections of Canton in a Pharmacist’s Show Globe : a comprehensive History of Canton, Illinois and the Important Events in Fulton County. [S.l. : s.n.], 1967.

Special Thanks:

Doris Overboe, Historian, Northwestern University Settlement Association
Ronald R. Manderschied, Executive Director, Northwestern University Settlement Association
Mark Wukas, Author
Edward R. Lewis, Jr., Author

Special thanks and note to researchers: The Northwestern University Archives is the official depository for records on the Northwestern University Settlement Association and the papers of Harriet E. Vittum. For more information, contact:
Patrick M. Quinn, University Archivist
Northwestern University Archives
110 Deering Library
1935 Sheridan Road
Evanston, Illinois 60208-2300

Contributing Library:

Parlin-Ingersoll Library, Canton, Illinois

Lydia Moss Bradley from Peoria

Click on an image to view a larger image.

Oil painting of Lydia Moss Bradley by William Hardin ’50 currently hanging in the Hartmann Center. Mrs. Bradley wears a broach with an image of her husband Tobias, a practice she reportedly observed every day after his death in 1867 until her own in 1908.bu0000016
Lydia Bradley at about age 90 in the garden of her home at 802 W. Moss Avenue. Born on a farm, Mrs. Bradley learned early to cultivate her own fruits and vegetables as well as to churn butter, render lard, and preserve meat–skills she continued to employ even as a wealthy, elderly widow.bu0000013
In 1885, after nearly doubling the value of the estate left to her by her husband, Mrs. Bradley hired local lawyer W.W. Hammond as her business manager starting a relationship which lasted until her death and even beyond for Hammond managed the affairs of Bradley Polytechnic Institute until his own death in 1920. Despite her growing investments, Mrs. Bradley maintained no office but met with Hammond each morning in her home. According to Hammond, “At these meetings all papers necessary to be signed were presented and read to her..she signed all checks after knowing what they were for..no investment was ever made without..receiving her approval.”bu0000014
In 1858, Tobias Bradley, already a successful businessman with interests in banking, railroads, steamboats, distilleries and real estate, built an imposing brick residence which stands today at 802 W. Moss. Mrs. Bradley continued to live at this house until her death on January 16, 1908.bu0000017
Lydia Moss Bradley poses for a formal portrait on the porch of her home on Moss Avenue. The image served as the model for a painting later done by William Hardin ’50 which hangs in the Founders Room of the Hartmann Center on campus. The metal plate on the door reads “T.S. Bradley” and is part of the University’s Special Collections.bu0000020
Portrait of Lydia Bradley taken in 1907, the last year of her life. Reprinted in a “Peoria Journal” article dated May 25, 1913, concerning discussion by the Peoria Park Board about erecting a monument to the woman who gave the city its first public park in 1881.bu0000022
Lydia Bradley about 1897, one of a series of photographs taken for Peoria sculptor Fritz Triebel who used them to carve a bust of Carrarra marble at a studio in Rome. The bust, one-third larger than life-size was officially presented to the school at graduation ceremonies in June 1899. At first the bust was kept veiled save for special occasions, a practice which prompted student complaints in the December 1899 issue of “The Tech.” The bust survived the 1963 fire in Bradley Hall and remains in University possession.bu0000024
Undated photo of Mrs. Bradley believed to have been taken in the 1880’s.bu0000026
One in a series of photographs of Lydia Bradley taken used by sculptor Fritz Triebel for a bust presented to the University in 1899. The same images were later used for a life-size bronze statue installed in the old ODK circle in front of Bradley Hall in the fall of 1997.bu0000028
Considered somewhat reclusive in her later years, Mrs. Bradley nonetheless enjoyed the company of close friends and her niece Lydia Baggs.bu0000029
Enlarged detail of a photograph taken of Mrs. Bradley on the porch of her home. The original image, on an 8×10 glass plate covering the entire house, was so sharp that this portion could be used for as the model for an oil portrait over fifty years later.bu0000030
Photo of Lydia Moss BradleyBu000006
Photo of LydiaBu000007
Portrait engraving of Lydia Bradley from the 1890 “Portrait and Biographical Album of Peoria County.” The hair style and dress suggest the image depicts a much younger woman, possibly from the 1860’s.Bu000008
Portrait of Mrs. Bradley from “Scientific Magazine,” July 8, 1893. Lydia had donated over 100 acres of land to the City of Peoria for a park, later named in memory of her daughter Laura. The original photograph by Smith and Loquist of Peoria was also used as the basis for an engraving in the 1890 “Portrait and Biographical Album of Peoria County.” The hairstyle and dress, however, suggest this image itself was a copy of a much earlier portrait, perhaps dating back to the 1860s.Bu000031
Lydia with group of childrenBu000032
Cropped image of Tobias BradleyBu000037
If you turned an estate worth half a million dollars into a fortune of over two million dollars you would be prosperous. If you were the director of the board of a national bank for twenty-five years you would be a leader. If you donated a city park and endowed a private college, and if you gave money and land to many community projects, you would be a great philanthropist. If you accomplished all of this as a woman, you would be astonishing, and, if you achieved all of this as a woman between the years of 1816 and 1908, you would be Lydia Moss Bradley.

Born in Vevay, Indiana July 31, 1816, Lydia Moss Bradley grew up on the family farm alongside the Ohio river. Her father, Zeally Moss, was born March 6, in Loudoun County, Virginia in 1755, and her mother, Jennett Glasscock Moss, was born in Fauquier County, Virginia in 1766. Prior to their marriage, Zeally Moss was a non-commissioned officer during the Revolutionary War. He was also previously married in 1786 to Elizabeth Barry, and fathered a daughter. Elizabeth Barry died in childbirth, but the daughter survived. (Davis 43)

Before Lydia Moss Bradley’s birth, Zeally Moss owned a plantation in Kentucky. In spite of the prevalence of slavery in the south, Zeally Moss found that he could not accept its terms and determined that slavery was not how he wished to make a living. He reportedly, “gave the place rent free to his Negroes to work out their own living, while he crossed over into free territory to make his home and rear his family.” (Wyckoff, The First Decade 121)

Her father’s distaste for slavery made an impact on Lydia Moss Bradley. In slavery, “she saw . . . only harm for both white and black, with the advantage, if any, in favor of the blacks.” (Wyckoff, The First Decade 121) It has been reported, but never confirmed, that she may have even had some part in the Underground Railroad through Peoria. What is confirmed by several accounts is that her feelings were strong enough to win out over her husband’s, who felt that there were more opportunities for them in Kentucky. Lydia Moss Bradley chose for their new home, a non-slave state, Illinois.

In addition to her strong views regarding slavery, Lydia Moss Bradley developed deep convictions on work, skill, thrift, and economy. Although her father had an impressive business sense, which Lydia would inherit, and the family became quite prosperous in land holdings, every member of the family worked on the farm. Even in her later years as one of the wealthiest citizens in the Peoria area, business managed W. W. Hammond reported:

“Mrs. Bradley never forgot how to work, and till within a short time of her death still made her own butter, raised her own eggs, salted down her own meat and tried out her own lard. She would not have considered herself a good housekeeper had she not done so. The housewife of those times was expected to stock the larder with meats and fruits, to spin the yarn, make the clothing, bedding and carpets, and to prepare food in plenty for all who chanced to be present when meal time came round. All these things Mrs. Bradley did.” (Wyckoff, The First Decade 121)

Lydia Moss Bradley believed that industriousness was required of all able-bodied members of a community. This view, coupled with her limited schooling, reportedly in a neighbor’s kitchen with no heat, few books, and hand-made quill pens, would eventually be the impetus to found a school. Lydia Moss Bradley wanted to give young people educational opportunities which she never had; she wanted to give them “the most practical assistance at the best time of their lives to make them independent, self-supporting, useful men and women.” (Wyckoff, The First Decade 124)

Hammond reported another aspect of Lydia Moss Bradley’s youth which foretold her business days to come, was a transaction involving a colt. Her father gave a young colt, which had lost its mother, to his daughter to raise. After raising enough money for a saddle and bridle, and certainly enjoying the horse as the only access to social life in those days, she sold it in exchange for 40 acres of forested land. By clearing this land and selling the timber, Lydia was developing the business sense which would serve her so well in later years.

Through the clearing of her newly acquired land, Lydia met her future husband. Tobias Bradley was running the saw mill where the lumber was processed. Lydia and Tobias were married May 11, 1837, and initially lived with her parents in Vevay.

The Bradley’s first child, Rebecca, was born January 20, 1839. That same year, Zeally Moss died leaving Lydia the family farm. The Bradleys stayed on in Vevay where their second child, Clarissa, was born October, 26, 1843, but the family’s history of loss would begin with Rebecca’s death September 2, 1845. In 1847, Lydia, along with Tobias, Clarissa, and Lydia’s mother, moved to Peoria to join her brother William Moss, who had already moved to Peoria. In Peoria the Bradleys purchased a large tract of land with the proceeds from the sale of their land holdings in Vevay. Peoria, in its early development, became an excellent place for Tobias Bradley and William Moss to prosper in business ventures.

In the early days in Peoria, Lydia was the housewife and mother, while her husband ran the business affairs. Unfortunately, the Bradleys were far more fortunate in business than as parents, and the rest of their family life was saddened by the death of all six of their children. Both Clarissa and her brother Tobias Moss, who was born April 28, 1847, died during the year the family moved to Peoria. Laura was born April 24, 1849 and lived longer than any of the other children. She died in 1864 at the age of fourteen. Mary died April 25, 1852 living less than a year, and William died August 25, 1855 at the age of two.

Despite the great tragedies suffered by the Bradleys, they reportedly remained hopeful, and were very attached to their daughter, Laura, their only child to reach adolescence. During these same difficult years, Tobias Bradley and William Moss joined forces in several business ventures. In business dealings the Bradleys were charmed and soon became quite wealthy. In early days Tobias Bradley ran another saw mill, and captained the steamboat Avalanche owned by William Moss. Tobias Bradley also joined William Moss’s distilling business, and Moss, Bradley & Co. existed as a successful Peoria business for many years. The growing city was a perfect place to be successful in business. Tobias Bradley continued to purchase land, and bought stock in new companies. Before his death, he and Lydia began their philanthropic work, which she would continue vigorously on her own.

Shortly before Tobias Bradley’s untimely death in a carriage accident, the couple began looking into ways in which they could construct a monument to their deceased children. They discussed the idea of an orphanage, but Lydia Moss Bradley later decided that such institutions were often ill-equipped to help young people acquire skills which they required to become independent. When she was unexpectedly left on her own, she determined that a place of learning was her wish as a lasting memorial to her entire family.

Tobias Bradley died without a will and without plans for his wife in the event of such an accident. The estate left her was valued at approximately $500,000. She hired a bookkeeper and took over the financial aspects of their estate.

At the time of his death, Tobias Bradley was the president of the First National Bank of Peoria. Lydia Moss Bradley inherited the stock which he owned in the bank, and became a member of the board of directors. For twenty-five of the nearly thirty-four years as a board member, she held the position of Director. Local papers reported that she was the only woman in the state to serve as director of a national bank. Although it is difficult to determine how many, if any other women in the country held similar positions, it was certainly an uncommon accomplishment for a woman in the late eighteen hundreds.

Two years after her husband’s death, Lydia Moss Bradley remarried. The reason for the marriage is unclear, but speculation exists that she hoped to gain some business or financial guidance. She was savvy enough be careful with her wealth, however, and was unwilling to place herself in a position of vulnerability. Lydia Moss Bradley had a legal prenuptial agreement drawn up declaring that in the event of a divorce each would retain their individual holdings. Lydia Moss Bradley and Edward Clark divorced in 1873.

Without a husband or children, Lydia Moss Bradley occupied herself with industriousness. She hired a business manager, W. W. Hammond, and set about her task of researching and funding a fitting memorial to her family. She chose wisely in her decision to hire Hammond; he was not only astute in business matters but was also a lawyer and was subsequently able to protect her transactions. When Hammond was hired, Mrs. Bradley’s wealth had already grown from $500,000 to about $1,000,000. Mr. Hammond maintained that he met with Mrs. Bradley nearly every day from the time he was employed until her death, and she always insisted on being informed and consenting to any and all transactions. She signed all of her own checks until her final illness left her bedridden.

Amid her other philanthropic gestures, such as Bradley Park and Peoria’s Home for Aged Women, Lydia Moss Bradley began investigating schools as models for the one she planned to endow through her will. She visited Rose Polytechnic Institute in 1877 in her effort to determine the shape of her own school. Throop Polytechnic, Armour Institute, and Lewis Institute were all assessed in order to learn how each was preparing students to meet the needs of the future. Throughout her investigations she was always interested in starting an institute for both young men and young women. She looked into polytechnic schools because she felt that practical skills were tremendously important in helping people to be successful and industrious. Her wish was to start a school which offered the sciences and literature, as well as technical training. Whether students chose a professional career or a career in industry, she felt the well rounded education would serve them either way.

During her research into polytechnic schools and institutes, Lydia Moss Bradley learned that the cost of such schools was far greater that that of liberal arts institutions. The figures were greater than the value of her estate, and so she decided to continue her business efforts in order to fully endow a school of the highest standards.

Thrift was always a virtue in Lydia Moss Bradley’s eyes, but she never skimped on the necessities of keeping what she considered an appropriately appointed home. Mrs. Hammond was quoted in the Peoria Journal Transcript as saying:

“There has been a tendency on the part of later historians to picture Mrs. Bradley as a penurious woman, who denied herself all the luxuries and many of the comforts of life in order to amass her fortune for the institute. . . . They make her a recluse and a penny pinching eccentric . . . . Such a picture is entirely untrue.” (Barger 3)

Mrs. Hammond says that Mrs. Bradley was always warm and generous. She says Lydia was one whose home was “handsomely furnished, whose clothes were of the finest materials, who set an excellent table, maintained a house full of choice flowers, had several servants and kept an excellent carriage, and bestowed costly gifts.” (Barger 3) Mr. Hammond explained that between the years of 1885 and 1897, Lydia Moss Bradley increased her net worth by one million dollars. Certainly not all of this was through thrift.

One of the ways in which she made such a substantial increase in her wealth had been her ability to improve the quality of land. She owned 680 acres of Manito Marsh. The land was drained, and Lydia Moss Bradley built farm buildings, fences, and began cultivating the land for farming, but the crops did poorly. When the crops failed to improve over time, she sent samples of the soil to Champaign for analysis. The soil was very rich, but it lacked potash. By amending the soil, Lydia Moss Bradley’s farms became successful. The farmers working her land benefited, the land became useful, neighboring farmers followed suit and improved their own crops, and the value of the land was increased dramatically. Lydia Moss Bradley purchased this marsh land for $10 per acre, and when the crops became successful, the lots sold for up to $140 per acre. (Wyckoff, The First Decade 38-39)

Hammond said of Lydia Moss Bradley:

“What she knew, she knew, and would not be cheated out of it by sophistry or persuasion. What she did not know, she never pretended to know, and was willing to have settled by those who did know.” (Wyckoff, The First Decade 126)

Her willingness to seek out experts to aid her in her decision making is one of the great keys to Lydia Moss Bradley’s success. Despite her own lack of education, like any good leader, she surrounded herself with experts in each and every field where she needed more information. In this way she made informed decisions on subjects about which she would otherwise have no knowledge.

One of the best pieces of advice Lydia Moss Bradley received came from William Rainey Harper of the University of Chicago. When he heard of Lydia Moss Bradley’s plans, he came to visit her in Peoria. He suggested that she begin the school right away instead of leaving the provisions in her will. He looked over her finances, and “he assured her she had sufficient funds, and tendered her the unlimited co-operation and advice of the University and its scope of educators.” (Hammond 318) In retrospect, Dr. Harper’s advice was far more valuable than anyone could have imagined at the time.

Following Dr. Harper’s suggestion gave Lydia Moss Bradley enormous emotional satisfaction. She was able to see the creation brought about by her efforts. All records indicate that in Bradley’s early days, Lydia Moss Bradley rarely missed special events at the Institute. She is said to have entertained students in her kitchen and garden some afternoons, and she is almost always reported to have been an honored guest on founder’s days and graduations. In many speeches and especially in the memorial addresses after her death, those who knew her felt that the Institute had a profound effect on Lydia Moss Bradley’s happiness in those last years. Students, faculty, and trustees also felt glad that they had had the opportunity to express their appreciation to their school’s founder while she lived. It isn’t difficult to speculate that without the hope and satisfaction she gained through her efforts to bring Bradley into existence, Lydia Moss Bradley would have had far less reason to live such a long and active life.

The creation of Bradley Polytechnic Institute was a cause for excitement in Peoria and especially for those involved in its development. There were, however, a few episodes from the early days of Bradley’s creation which have caused controversy. Most of the controversy comes from disagreement about the nature of the connection between the University of Chicago and Bradley Polytechnic Institute. It was reported in the Peoria Transcript from November 17, 1896:

“Some months ago President William R. Harper, of the University of Chicago, was interested in the project, and it was soon arranged that the school should be affiliated with the University of Chicago, and that he should have charge of the course of study and general plan of the institution.” (6)

Most of the confusion arises from the word “affiliated.” Those who took the work to mean that Bradley would be a branch of the University of Chicago were certainly mistaken. There was a connection, but the funding and the control of Bradley Polytechnic was to remain in the hands of Peorians. Charles Wyckoff explains:

“Bradley Institute was formed . . . with Dr. Harper as president of the faculty, a position he filled til his death in 1906. The local management was in the hands of a director . . . . It is not strange that, through the connection of Dr. Harper with the founding of the institute, some should have regarded it as a part of the University [of Chicago] Indeed, the Chicago Inter-Ocean, speaking of Lyman J. Gage, says he spent October 8 ‘In Peoria . . . on the occasion of the dedication of a branch of the Chicago University’. This . . . was at once corrected. It was shown that Dr. Harper’s position as president of the Bradley faculty was honorary and advisory only and in no way encroached on the independent status of the new institution.” (Wyckoff, Four Decades 13-14)

Illustrating the point, the Peoria Herald reported:

“An impression has gone abroad that it [Bradley Polytechnic] is a part of the Chicago University, and that the Chicago institution has aided in its establishment and that it in turn expects to derive benefit from the Peoria educational school. This . . . is entirely incorrect and the fact that such an idea has been regarded as the truth much displeases Mrs. Lydia Bradley who founded the school and has provided for its maintenance. . . . the local board is anxious that it be known all over the country that the Bradley Institute is a Peoria concern and independent of any college, university or school in Chicago or any other place.” (Peoria Herald 9)

These controversies present difficulty today because it is hard to know exactly how outspoken Lydia Moss Bradley was regarding ideas which she held dear. There is evidence, however, that those in charge of the institution’s direction were very keenly aware of Mrs. Bradley’s wishes and hoped to satisfy their benefactress through their actions. Lydia Moss Bradley also seems to have had a great respect for those entrusted with the development of Bradley and typically felt that her wishes were in safe hands. T. C. Burgess said that when he asked for her advice, Lydia Moss Bradley usually replied:

“I have placed the management of the Institute in the hands of the Trustees and Faculty. Let them use their own judgment. I have no knowledge of such matters. I have full confidence in them. Whatever they decide will please me.” (Wyckoff, The First Decade 35)

In one other somewhat controversial incident, there was again confusion as to how much control the University of Chicago would exert upon Bradley Polytechnic Institute. In this instance the confusion was regarding plans to segregate the sexes at the University of Chicago. This incidence clearly indicates that despite an enormous respect and reverence for Dr. Harper and the University of Chicago, Bradley would make decisions independent of that institution. It was reported in the Peoria Journal of October 7, 1902 that although Dr. Harper was in the process of advocating segregation of the sexes at the University of Chicago, Bradley would not follow suit. The article stated:

” [In response to]. . . . the rumor that President Harper, of the University of Chicago, intended to carry out to its logical issue in the Bradley Institute his ideas on the segregation of the sexes . . . Hon. O. J. Bailey, president of the board of directors of [Bradley] . . . said this morning: ‘There has been . . . . no discussion of this matter . . . .at any board meeting. The board was . . . a unit on the matter of co-education and the matter has received no subsequent discussion. . . . I recognize the force with which Dr. Harper has presented his views . . . as applied to a great institution like the University of Chicago. These arguments, however, do not, in my opinion, apply with the same force to such an institution as Bradley. And it may safely be asserted in view of the charter power and requirements that Bradley Institute will always remain co-educational in its original sense.'” (115)

Although the above quote is not attributed to Lydia Moss Bradley herself, there is every reason to believe that President Bailey was acting according to her wishes. He also mentions the fact that these items were written into the original charter of the school. Lydia Moss Bradley knew that to safeguard her initial plans for the Bradley Institute, she could not leave many issues open to interpretation. She purposely placed a majority of Peorians on the board and had the ratio of resident Peorians written into the charter to make certain that Bradley always served the community it was intended to. A relative of hers, Zealy Moss Holmes, was one such Peorian, not involved in education, whom she asked to sit on the board.

Although we don’t have her own words through letters or a journal, it is still possible to get a sense of how Mrs. Bradley’s mind worked. In a time when women could not vote, Lydia Moss Bradley’s power had to be acquired and utilized carefully. She was a strong, independent woman in a time when women were expected to be tractable. If she had acquired so much wealth and influence for her own glorification she might have been viewed very differently, but she established the respect of those close to her through her character and her generosity.

In the end, Peoria got Bradley Polytechnic Institute, which developed into Bradley University. Lydia Moss Bradley lived to see the initial years and first graduates of the institution which was her tribute to the memory of her deceased family. The Chicago Times Herald reported on the occasion of the dedication, Oct. 9, 1892:

“but in the few sentences she uttered were compressed the ideals she had cherished for half a century. She said she hoped the institute would be a real benefit to mankind; that it would be the means of making better men and women; that boys and girls would find in the new institution of learning an incentive to intellectual life was her ardent wish.” (14)

Works Cited

Bradley Family Bible. Special Collection Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Barger, Marilee. “Personal Anecdotes of Lydia” Peoria Journal Transcript 29 April 1934: Sec. 4, pg. 3. Included in the Peoria Historial Society’s Vertical File. Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Chicago Times Herald 9 October 1897. Newspaper clipping included in Bradley Polytechnic Scrapbook, Photocopied Edition, Vol. 1, pg. 14. Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Davis, Olive. From the Ohio to the San Joaquin: A Biography of William Moss 1798-1883. Stockton: Heritage West Books, 1991.

The First Decade: 1897-1907. Ed. Charles Truman Wyckoff. Peoria: B Press, 1908.

Genealogical Information compiled by Nanette Meals. Included in the Lydia Moss Bradley Vertical File, Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria Illinios.

Hammond, W. W. “Park Board’s Action in Favor of Bradley Memorial Recalls Peoria’s Foremost Woman.” Peoria Journal 25 May 1913: 114. Newspaper clipping included in Bradley Polytechnic Scrapbook, Photocopied Edition, Vol. 2, pg. 318. Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Peoria Herald 19 September 1897. Newspaper clipping included in Bradley Polytechnic Scrapbook, Photocopied Edition, Vol. 1, pg. 9. Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Peoria Journal 17 November 1896. Newspaper clipping included in Bradley Polytechnic Scrapbook, Photocopied Edition, Vol. 1, pg. 6. Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Photographs, Drawings, Historical Items, available in both Peoria Historical Society Collection Vertical Files, and Bradley University Library Collection Vertical Files. Special Collections Center, Bradley University Library, Peoria Illinios.

Upton, Allen A. Forgotten Angel. United States of America: n.p., 1988.

Wyckoff, Charles Truman. Four Decades ts. Unpublished History, 1937. Special Collections, Bradley University Library, Peoria, Illinios.

Yates, Louis A. R. A Proud Heritage: Bradley’s History 1897-1972. n.p. : Observer Press, 1974.

Contributing Library:

Cullom-Davis Library, Bradley University, Peoria, Illinois

Eva G. Monroe (1868-?)

Eva G. Monroe was born in Kewanee, Illinois in 1868. At the age of twelve, following her mother’s death, Eva took on the responsibilities of six younger siblings.

In 1898, she moved to the Illinois capital of Springfield. While walking in the city, she became familiar with the plight of poor black children with little clothing, food or housing. In response, she contracted to purchase a nine room house at 427 S. 12th Street. She traveled across Illinois seeking donations from fellow African Americans to pay for the home and for the care of the children. Four children and one infirm and aged mother were the first residents at Eva Monroe’s Lincoln Colored Home.

In 1915, Mrs. Monroe secured a charter for the Mary A. Lawrence Industrial School for Colored Girls and the Lincoln Industrial School for Colored Boys. She was also instrumental in organization other facilities and schools for African American children in other parts of Illinois.

In addition, she was a member of the John Brown Relief Corps of Springfield, serving in several state offices of the group’s parent organization, the Woman’s Relief Corps of the Grand Army of the Republic. Mrs. Monroe was also a member of the Methodist Church, the Women Christian Temperance Union, and the Phyllis Wheatley Home Association of Chicago.



  1. Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay. 1922. The Story of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.

African American Women’s Clubs in Illinois

The African American Women’s Clubs (also known as the Colored Women’s Clubs) were played a major role in the African American segment of the Progressive Movement in the years surrounding 1900. These clubs were located throughout the state. A few members of the clubs are listed below.

Sarah Sheppard

Mrs. Sheppard was one of Peoria’s leading down-state clubwomen. She held many offices within the clubs and was known as a welfare worker in Peoria. She was also a member of the Woman’s Aid Club and a member of the City Federation of Women’s Clubs of Peoria. The City Federation included all clubs regardless of the race, creed or color of their members.

Rev. Celia Parker Wooley

Rev. Wooley was born in Toledo in 1843 and spent her childhood in Michigan, where she graduated from the Coldwater Female Seminary. She married Dr. J. H. Wooley in 1868 and moved to Chicago in 1876. In 1894, she was ordained as a minister in the Unitarian Fellowship at Geneva, Illinois. She was active in several African American women’s organizations.

Irene Sappington Goins

Irene Sappington Goins was born in Quincy, Illinois and attended schools in Quincy and in Springfield. She and her husband Henry Sherman Goins moved to Chicago in 1895. Mrs. Goins began a millinery business in the city, and was also active in social and welfore work. She held office in the City Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Illinois Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Inter-Racial Co-Operative Committee, and the Executive Board of Women’s Trade Union League.

Ethel McCracken Cleaves

Mrs. Ethel McCracken Cleaves was born in Alton, Illinois. Her family moved to Chicago when she was young. She attended Wilberforce University, later teaching in Golconda, Carbondale, and Chicago schools. She held offices in several clubs and was active in the Phyllis Sheatley and Volunteer Workers’ Clubs.

Susan E. Cannon Allen

Susan Cannon Allen was born in Galesburg, Illinois in 1859. She was educated in Monmouth, with the intentions of teaching in foreign mission fields. She was prominent in club work and a strong advocate for temperance for women’s suffrage.

Mildred A. Weaks Williams

Mildred Weaks Williams was born in Jersey County, Illinois. She later lived in Alton and Springfield. In 1904, she established a millinery business for herself in Chicago. She was a member of several clubs and did considerable work with the Second Ward Club for the local Red Cross during World War I.



  1. Davis, Elizabeth Lindsay. 1922. The Story of the Illinois Federation of Colored Women’s Clubs.

Sarah Atwater Denman, 1808-1882

 QP000063 Sarah Atwater Denman moved to Quincy in 1842 making her home at 9th and Broadway. In November 1866, Mrs. Denman invited twelve ladies to her home to read and discuss philosophy and literature. This group came to be known as Friends in Council and is the oldest continuous literary club in America. Sarah was the guiding influence and inspiration of the club. This photograph is courtesy of Friends in Council.
 QP000068 Sarah Denman as a young woman. Sarah Atwater lived in New York City until the age of 18, when she married Mathias Denman.
 QP000064 Friends in Council Study Clubhouse. For 37 years meetings were held in this house in the Denman garden at 9th and Broadway. In 1915 the clubhouse was moved to the grounds of the Historical Society of Quincy and Adams County, 12th and State Street, Quincy. A cameo photo of Sarah is on the right. Anna B. McMahon is pictured on the left. Document is courtesy of the Friends in Council
 QP000065 Minutes of the meeting reflecting the decision to adopt a constitution and elect officers. Minutes are courtesy of Friends in Council. [Transcription of minutes]
 QP000069 Friends in Council, 1866-1916. Original 5 x 7 inch 30-page booklet was published to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the founding of the study club. Document is courtesy of Friends in Council. [Complete text]
 QP000066 A Friend of the City. Article on the death of Sarah Denman, May 18, 1882. [Transcription of article]
 QP000061 Photo of Pioneer Women plaque located at the Women’s City Club at 16th and Maine in Quincy, Illinois. In addition to Sarah Denman, the plaque commemorates Cora Benneson, Elisa Caldwell Browning, Louise Maertz, Abby Fox Rooney, and Christiana Holmes Tillson. Photo courtesy of Quincy Herald-Whig.
Pioneer Women of Quincy: Women’s study club was bold innovation
by Helen Warning

Contributing Library:

Quincy Public Library, Quincy, Illinois

Lucy Parsons (1853-1942)

Lucy Parsons was an activist during the labor movement of the late 1800s and the early 1900s.

Lucy Eldine Parsons was born in Waco, Texas in 1853. She and her husband Albert R. Parsons moved to Chicago in the 1870s. Lucy was one of the first African American women to write against the lynchings and other racial attacks in the South. She and Albert wrote and spoke for radical causes.

They are best known for their support of the labor movement of the late 1800s. Lucy was among the organizers of the attempted strike in 1886 that lead to the bombing in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on May 4, 1886 (“The Haymarket Riot”). Albert Parsons, her husband, was one of the four hanged for his alleged involvement in the bombing.

Lucy continued to be active in the radical wing of the labor movement until her death in 1942.


  1. Ashbaugh, Carolyn. (1976). Lucy Parsons, American Revolutionary. Charles H. Kerr (for the Illinois Labor History Society), Chicago.
  2. Calmer, Alan. (1937) Labor Agitator: The Story of Albert R. Parsons. International Publishers, New York.
  3. Foner, Philip S., Ed. (1969) The Autobiographies of the Haymarket Martyrs. Humanities Press, New York. (first printed in the Knights of Labor, published in Chicago).
  4. Parsons, Lucy Eldine. (1889) Life of Albert R. Parsons, with Brief history of the Labor Movement in America. Published by the author, Chicago, Illinois.

Amanda Berry Smith (1837-1915)

Amanda Berry Smith was born as a slave in Maryland in 1837, the oldest of thirteen children. When Amanda was in her early teens, her father purchased the family’s freedom. Amanda’s first husband died during the Civil War, while serving in an African American military unit.

Amanda had little formal education, but she had a gift for speaking and singing. Her talents led to her nicknames “the Singing Pilgrim” and “God’s Image Carved in Ebony.” During her early thirties, Amanda began in evangelizing in New York City, receiving inspiration at a local African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church. She became a charger member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union in 1875, and was associated with the African American Women’s Clubs.

Before 1880 embarked on a twelve-year missionary trip through Europe, Asia, and Africa. She spent eight years in Liberia and West Africa, establishing churches and temperance societies.

She settled in Chicago in 1893. Amanda raised funds to open an orphan home for African American children. During this time, Harvey, Illinois, was being developed and marketed as a community with high moral, religious, and temperance character. Smith’s purchased property in Harvey in 1895. The orphan’s home opened in Harvey in 1899 and has the distinction of being Illinois’ first orphanage for African American children. Her fundraising efforts allowed the school and home to operate without government assistance. Ida B. Wells, another African American social reformer, served on the Board of Directors of the orphanage. Although Smith retired from orphanage work in 1912 due to illness, dying in Florida in 1915, the home remained open until destroyed by fire in 1918.


  1. Bartlett, David C., and Larry A. McClellan (1998) “The Final Ministry of Amanda Berry Smith. An Orphanage in Harvey, Illinois, 1895-1918” in Illinois Heritage, vol 1, no. 2, pp. 20-25.
  2. Smith, Amanda Berry. (1893) An Autobiography, The Story of the Lord’s Dealings with Mrs. Amanda Smith, the Colored Evangelist. Meyer & Brother, Publishers, Chicago, IL. (This work has been reprinted at least six times since the original publication.)
  3. Knupfer, Anne Meis. (1997) Toward a Tenderer Humanity and a Nobler Womanhood, African American Women’s Clubs in Turn-of-the-Century Chicago. New York University Press, New York, NY.

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett (1862-1931)

Ida Bell Wells-Barnett was born in 1862 in Holly Springs, Mississippi, the daughter of a slave. The title of her autobiography is an apt description of her life’s work: “Crusade for Justice”. Educated in Holly Springs, her first profession was that of teacher.

In 1884, Ida refused to be intimidated on a train and took the railroad to court over the incident [see excerpt below from Ida’s autobiography about the incedent.] In 1889, Ida Wells became the editor of the Memphis Free Speech newspaper. She became nationally known during the 1890s for a series of articles she wrote drawing attention to lynching of African Americans in the American South. In 1892, her book A Red Record delved further into the topic of lynching, presenting detailed statistics of its occurrence. Some in Memphis were not supportive of her views and responded by burning her print shop and threatening to lynch Ida Wells.

Ida moved to Chicago in 1893. She was active in a number of organizations promoting African American civil rights. Her husband, Ferdinand Barnett was the owner of the Chicago newspaper called the Conservator. Barnett founded the Conservator in 1878 and it was probably the first African American newspaper in Illinois. Ida was among those who wrote for the paper. Unfortunately, only scattered issues have been preserved.

Both Ida and Ferdinand supported a variety of organizations promoting social and political reform. Among Ida’s efforts was a protest against the Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 for failing to erect a pavilion to honor African American contributions in American history.


Ida was instrumental in the formation of the Negro Fellowship League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the first black female suffrage group in Illinois. She died in 1931. In 1974, her former home on South Martin Luther King Jr Drive in Chicago was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

From Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells.:

“I secured a school in Shelby County, Tennessee, which paid a better salary and began studying for the examination for city schoolteacher which meant an even larger increase in salary. One day (4 May 1884) while riding back to my school I took a seat in the ladies’ coach of the train as usual. There were no jim crow cars then. But ever since the repeal of the Civil Rights Bill by the United States Supreme Court. There had been efforts all over the South to draw the color line on the railroads.

When the train started and the conductor came along to collect tickets, he took my ticket, then handed it back to me and told me that he couldn’t take my ticket there. I thought that if he didn’t want the ticket I wouldn’t bother about it so went on reading. In a little while when he finished taking tickets, he came back and told me I would have to go in the other car. I refused, saying that the forward car was a smoker, and as I was in the ladies’ car I proposed to stay. He tried to drag me out of the seat, but the moment he caught hold of my arm I fastened my teeth on the back of his hand.

I had braced my feet against the seat in front and was holding to the back, and as he had already been badly bitten he didn’t try it again by himself. He went forward and got the baggagemen and another man to help him and of course they succeeded in dragging me out. They were encouraged to do this by the attitude of the white ladies and gentlemen in the car; some of them even stood on the seats so that they could get a good view and continued applauding the conductor for his brave stand.

By this time the train had stopped at the first station. When I saw that they were determined to drag me into the smoker, which was already filled with colored people and those who were smoking, I said I would get off the train rather than go in – which I did. Strangely, I held on to my ticket all this time, and although the sleeves of my linen duster had been torn out and I had been pretty roughly handled, I had not been hurt physically.

I went back to Memphis and engaged a colored lawyer to bring suit against the railroad for me. After months of delay I found he had been bought off by the road, and as he was the only colored lawyer in town I had to get a white one. This man, Judge Greer, kept his pledge with me and the case was finally brought to trial in the circuit court. Judge Pierce, who was an ex-union soldier from Minnesota, awarded me damages of five hundred dollars. I can see to this day the headlines in the Memphis Appeal announcing DARKY DAMSEL GETS DAMAGES.

The railroad appealed the case to the state’s supreme court, which reversed the findings of the lower court, and I had to pay the costs. Before this was done, the railroad’s lawyer had tried every means in his power to get me to compromise the case, but I indignantly refused. Had I done so, I would have been a few hundred dollars to the good instead of having to pay out over two hundred dollars in court costs.

It was twelve years afterward before I knew why the case had attracted so much attention and was fought so bitterly by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad. It was the first case in which a colored plaintiff in the South had appealed to a state court since the replea of the Civil Rights Bill byt the United States Supreme Court. The gist of that decision was that Negroes were not wards of the nation but citizens of the individual states, and should therefore appeal to the state courts for justice instead of to the federal court. The success of my case would have set a precedent which others would doubtless have followed.”


  1. Wells, Ida B. (1970) Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells. Edited by Alfreda M. Duster. Negro American Biographies and Autobiographies series, edited by John Hope Franklin. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  2. Royster, Jacqueline Jones, ed. (1997) Southern Horrors and Other Writings: The Anti-Lynching Campaign of Ida B. Wells, 1892-1900 Bedford Books, Boston, MA. [This work contains a copy of Wells’ publication “A Red Record”, and other pamphlets.]
  3. Thompson, Mildred I. (1990) Ida B. Wells-Barnett: An Exploratory Study of a Black Woman, 1893-1930. Carlson Pub., Brooklyn, N.Y.
  4. Townes, Emilie M. (1993) Womanist Justice, Womanist Hope Carlson Pub., Brooklyn, N.Y.
  5. http://rs6.loc.gov/ammem/aap/idawells.html

Sarah Withers of Bloomington

MC1000015Sarah Withers

Withers Library, Bloomington


Sarah Withers, the wife of merchant Allen Withers, was an early Bloomington settler, an early friend of Abraham Lincoln, and a civic benefactor. She was also a southern sympathizer, brought up in Lexington, KY, who would write bitterly on 4 May 1861, “This day our nation is to be disgraced by the inauguration of Abe Lincoln as President. How humiliating.”Bloomington was prospering, and merchants like Allen Withers were rejoicing. He and Sarah lived comfortably in their home at the corner of East and Washington Streets, and they were thinking of buying a stately home about 10 blocks to the northwest, on Lee and Locust.They also bought land near Baton Rouge, LA, where they dreamed of going to live as plantation owners. And to develop this land, Allen Withers bought slaves.Although their slave Henry became legally free upon living in Illinois, he stayed with the Withers for the rest of his life, and regarded as one of the family. The Louisiana slaves, however, Allen felt were an economic necessity, and so he was sympathetic to the Southern position of the right to slavery.Bloomington was home to many southern families, but the times and opinions were changing. Even the Withers conservative First Presbyterian Church now had a minister with strong anti-slavery views. Sarah cannot agree with his sermons, writing “I don’t like that man, and there is no use to try.” Allen Withers simply refused to attend. On April 5, she wrote “Everybody is for fight and against the South. Have felt very sad. Went up to Mr. Perry’s. They were really unkind and insulting.

In her diary of 13 April 1861, Sarah wrote, “Very exciting news from Fort Sumpter. The War began last night. oh how horrible to think of Fratricidal War, and of this once Glorious nation being rent asunder.”

Abraham Lincoln issued his War Proclamation, asking for 75,000 troops. Allen Withers quickly changed his mind and became a Union man. He attended the city mass meeting and was appointed to a committee headed by Isaac Funk to recruit volunteers for the Army. Sarah continued to suffer. “Have been insulted twice today by persons abusing the south.” And, “I need sympathy, but find I can expect nothing of the kind in this community.”

The war was a national tragedy and a personal one. Sarah’s adored husband died very suddenly in 1864. Sarah put aside her wartime bitterness towards Bloomington and dedicated herself to a life of philanthropy. The land which was the site of the Withers’ first home was donated to the Library Association. Withers Library was dedicated in 1887 and served the city until a new Bloomington Public Library was built on Olive St. in 1977.

Sarah’s daughter Jessamine, mother of two, died young. In her will, Sarah donated her home on W. Locust St. and one of her farms to found the Jessamine Withers Home for the Elderly, which remained in operation until 1963.

Withers Park, part of the property which contained the library, is still a site for downtown concerts and is the home of the Trotter Fountain, a memorial to the family of Sarah’s close friend Georgina Trotter. Georgina and Sarah Raymond completed the final fund-raising for the Withers Library. All three women left their mark on Bloomington.


  1. Withers, Sarah R., “Diary”, 1 January 1860-20 May 1861. MCHS Library (transcription) and MCHS Archives (original)
  2. Schlenker, Alice. “The heretics”, 1985, ms. MCHS Archives
  3. Portrait of Sarah Withers and image of Withers Library. MCHS Archives, Photograph Collection
  4. 1881 library card. MCHS Archives


Contributing Library:

Stevenson – Ives Memorial Library, McLean County Historical Society, Bloomington, Illinois

Women Pioneers


By Iris Nelson, Quincy Public Library and Kim Bunner, Parlin-Ingersoll Library


While many of the women featured on this web site were pioneers in other ways, this section is dedicated to those women who settled the wild lands of Illinois.

Emigrants traveled west hungry for new land and full of hope. During the 1800’s the population of Illinois grew rapidly: 1820–55,000 ; 1830–160,000 ; 1840–480,000 ; and 1850–850,000. Most of the influx in the early 1800s were from the southern states, primarily Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas. By the 1830s settlers were coming from New England states, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

This section on women pioneers features entries by women in diverse circumstances. While these accounts are unique and often dramatic, these women all give us a reflection of their times, their strengths, and their fortitude in settling the frontier. Their stories vary from women who remember their childhood years coming across the prairie and their difficult self-sufficient lives on farms, to reflections from the perspective of a refined, educated New England woman of means but yet encountering the same bleakness of frontier existence. We also get a glimpse of women settling in a more urban environment and the struggles of woman and child traveling via a single horse and carriage from Pennsylvania to Peoria.

The story of women crossing the thresholds of the wild frontier country cannot adequately be told since written accounts are sadly rare. The accounts presented here add to the accessibility of documentation and awareness of the triumph of spirit and dedication women bore as quiet heroes of their time.


The following accounts are excerpted from the book, Ramblin’ thru Spoon River Country via The Rambler’s Notes, produced by the Publication Committee of the Spoon River Scenic Drive Associates, 1970. James K. P. White, “The Rambler,” gathered these accounts, which were published in the local newspaper, Canton Weekly Register, during the years 1904-1910.

We [Parlin-Ingersoll Library, Canton, IL, USA] have received permission to reprint excerpts from these accounts for this grant to give a feel for life during the mid to late 1800s. Portions of four women’s accounts of their early years on the prairie are included below. We attempted to juxtapose sketches or photos from the time period to further convey the time period.


  1. Map of Fulton County [Picture]
  2. Mahala Blout Mills [Text]
  3. Log Cabins [Pictures]
  4. Harriett McKinzie Turner [Text]
  5. Early Travel [Picture]
  6. Jeanette Pigsley Mitchell [Text]
  7. “Aunt Kate” (Owens) Perry [Text]

1. Map of Fulton County noting locations relevant to text


2. Mahala Blout Mills (as told in 1906)

“I was born in Franklin County, Ohio, June 12, 1828, and am about two years older than my brother, B. B. Blout, of Prairie City. My father had determined upon seeking a new home in Illinois as early as 1836, but was deterred by wild reports of Indian troubles in the state.”

“In the fall of 1837 we left the old Ohio home on the Little Darby Creek and started overland with ox teams for Fulton County, Illinois. I well remember the long and tedious journey. We brought one horse through with us, which was ridden by different members of the family alternately. We were four weeks making the journey from Ohio to Fulton County, but we finally reached our destination and settled temporarily among the Cattrons, Markleys, Weavers, Edmonsons, Athearns, Reeveses and others.”

“Yes, I went to school some in Ohio and have some recollection of my early school life on the Little Darby. My first teacher’s name was Relief Hagar. I was never punished in school in my life, but some of the oldtime teachers used the rod pretty freely. The Little Darby was a clear sparkling, pretty stream, and we children would often loiter on its banks and gather wild flowers during play hours. I recall vividly this beautiful creek or river, and looking back through the long vista of years, can see as plainly as I see you the cattle lazily grazing or resting under the branches of the great trees along its banks. The scenes of our childhood are never forgotten and always remain the dearest spots to us on earth.”

“I recall one incident of our journey from Ohio to Illinois. Somewhere in Indiana we sought shelter in the cabin of a settler, from a rainstorm, and obtained permission to stay over night. About dark some relatives and friends of our host came in and we were crowded out into the darkness and wild storm. It was a terrible night, but we were finally taken in by a neighbor and cared for; but wet, cold and hungry we traveled for several miles before finding a stopping place.”

“A man residing in Delavan, Tazewell County, owned a quarter section of ‘congress’ land, favorably located, and Father traveled there on foot with the purchase money ($200) in silver and bought it. This was the old Blout homestead, and is the southwest quarter of section three in Deerfield township….”

“I was reared on the farm amid pioneer influences and what education I have was secured in log school houses and on the subscription or pay-school plan. I began my school life in Ohio and ended it in Illinois….The attendance of pioneer children at the subscription schools was generally about three months in the year. The chief ability of some of the old time schoolmasters lay in drinking whiskey which was used at that time by almost every family. The old master or teacher, would sit on a splint bottom chair while the little urchins stood before him to answer questions, with the expectation of having the big hickory cudgel come down over their shoulders if an error was made.”

“I omitted to state that the first school I ever attended in the county, was taught by the late Hezekiah Cattron of Young Hickory township. The school house was located just south of his old homestead and we had to walk a distance of 2 1/2 miles, over a rough, dreary road, to reach it. It was a primitive pioneer school and was taught by a pioneer. It is now called the Markley district, but the present school building does not stand where the old one did. The late Nathaniel Aylesworth also taught in this old time school house. But my old teachers are all dead and few, but very few of my old schoolmates are left.”

“We children were supplied with homespun clothing through the efforts of our devoted parents-especially our mother, who, like many another pioneer woman, bore a large share in the burdens with which life here in an early day abounded.”

“We lived in a cabin built of round logs, neither sawed timber nor nails, if I remember rightly, being used in its construction. The floor was made of puncheon and the boards that covered the roof was rived by hand and held in position by weight poles. Deer, wild turkey and other game were plentiful but bread stuffs were scarce. However, we lived near Ellisville and generally had bread at every meal. Ellisville, at the time of which I speak, was quite a trade center, and we did our trading there. It had its quota of live businessmen and it was predicted that in time it would become a city. But like many of the pioneer towns of the county it has seen its best days.”

“My parents were very closely identified with the pioneer history of Deerfield township. We raised flax and sheep and both my mother and myself could spin, weave, knit and cut and make garments, and we were comfortably clad in homespun. Wolves were numerous and we were compelled to keep sheep in a pen at night, near the house, to protect them from the ravages of these animals. Father was a good shot and was fond of hunting and we often had wild meat on the table. One time he killed a deer upon Cedar Creek and having no knife with him he skinned and dressed it with a sharp-pointed nail.”

“During my early life here we depended on Spoon River for milling after they came to use water power, and we sometimes went to the old Phillip Aylesworth mill, at Babylon. Fairview at one time had an ox-tread mill managed and operated by “Bill” Suydam for grist-and Vanderbilt Van Doren for wool-carding, etc.”

“Oh, yes my father brought down many deer, turkeys, foxes, wildcats and wolves with his tryst rifle.”

“With happy hearts and the cheerful laughter of children we used to venture forth in the woods to gather wild flowers, pick blackberries, plums and other wild fruits, and I can never forget those old, old days in Fulton County. I have seen and experienced much pioneer life and know something about the toils and privations of the early settlers of the county-but do you know that the history of pioneer life generally presents only the dark side of the picture? We had our seasons of relaxation-our seasons of fun and enjoyment. We contrived to do something to break the monotony of our everyday life. We had our quilting bees, cornhuskings, houseraisings and logrollings. At night we had our parties and a general good time. The recreation afforded to the young people on the recurrence of these festive occasions was as highly enjoyed, and quite as innocent, as the amusements of the present boasted age of refinement and culture.”

“The furniture of the pioneer cabin was as primitive as its occupants. The first settlers of Fulton County were a plain, simple, hospitable people, and the latchstring was always hanging out. We were all poor and dependent and were all on an equal footing. Sometimes whole families would be sick at one time and the neighbors would go in and take care of them. The chills and fever seemed to be the worst disease with which we had to contend, and quinine and boneset tea were used in every family. It was a terrible disease and was one of the greatest obstacles to the early settlement of the county.”

“Spinning was one of the common household duties of the women and the loom was not less necessary in the cabin home than the wheel, and many women did their own weaving.”

“There were no matches in those days and we often had to borrow fire from a neighbor-and we sometimes had to fight fire too, for the prairie fires each fall were something to be dreaded. Fires would visit the great grassy plains every autumn and we had to take great precautions to prevent our crops and buildings from being destroyed. These fires would spread very rapidly and words cannot convey the faintest idea of the splendor and grandeur of one of these conflagrations at night.”

“I am one of the few, the very few, of the early settlers of the county still lingering on the shores of time, and I am old and feeble and have passed far down the western declivity of life. I often view with dim eyes the scenes around me and think of the trials and misfortunes, the hardships and adventures, of the noble men and women, the pioneers who helped to open up and develop the country from its primitive condition-the noble men and women who left good homes and kindred in the older states and settled in the wilderness, unmindful of perils, self-sacrifices and dangers. They were a grand class of people, and we should never forget them. I have only done what I could in a woman’s way, but others have done more, and we owe them a debt of gratitude which we can never repay.”

3. Log Cabins

4. Harriett McKinzie Turner (June 11, 1908)

Mrs. Harriett Turner was born in Baltimore, January 27, 1832, and came to Fulton County at the age of three.

“I have grown from childhood to womanhood to old age right here in Fulton Co., have witnessed the many changes that have taken place on every hand and have helped to change the wild lands into fertile fields. And Oh how great the transformation-a transformation brought about by the aggregated labor of many tired hands and anxious hearts, by the incessant toil of the pioneers, the early settlers of the County, the noble men and women who would make our country great. Instead of the howl of the wolf, the scream of the panther, the whoop of the red man, and the clear ring of the woodman’s ax and the hunter’s rifle, are now the lowing and bleating of domestic animals, the shrill crow of the rooster, and the engines and rumbling trains of cars. As I think of the changes that have been made and view the scenes around me, I sometimes become bewildered and can scarcely realize that not many years ago this country was a wilderness, was a primitive state, and that the vast and beautiful prairies and the great forests had not been touched by the hand of man.”

“The settlers in the early days were not only hospitable but also philanthropic and never neglected an opportunity to aid a neighbor. House raisings were the special delight and a cabin was soon built for each newcomer. The women were as willing to aid a sick or needy neighbor as the men, and all of our amusements were hospitable and kindly and generally if not always connected with some helpful act for needy or dependent neighbors.”

“Wolves were abundant in that day and were troublesome to everybody. Deer, wild turkeys, and smaller game were found, both in the timber and on the prairies. Stock of all kinds were permitted to run at large and in consequence of this, every man was compelled to fence his entire farm to protect his crops from wandering herds. The law required stock to be fenced out instead of in. People were required to work on the roads to pay their poll tax then as now.”

“My first teacher, I think, was Jacob H. Bass. Harriett Armstrong and Miss Watson were also pioneer teachers in these neighborhoods. The schoolhouses which I can first remember were all constructed of logs… In the schools in those days we were taught spelling, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Murray’s grammar was introduced in the schools about the time I reached womanhood.”

5. Early Travel


6. Jeanette Pigsley Mitchell (January 4, 1906)

Mrs. Jeanette Pigsley Mitchell was born in Jefferson County, New York near Sackett’s harbor, March 22, 1832. The family traveled to Fulton County circa 1836.

“We drove through from New York to Lake Michigan, and crossed the lake on a schooner. From Chicago we came overland to Fulton County. We were about six weeks making the trip. When we reached Fulton County we stopped with settlers who had preceded us to the land which was said to ‘flow with milk and honey,’ until our cabin was erected.”

“The first thing after a new settler arrived was to find a suitable location and to set about building a cabin. Our cabin was a rude structure with one room. Trees of uniform size were selected for the new cabin, the logs were cut the desired length, each end being ‘saddled,’ or notched, so as to bring them as near together as possible. The cracks were ‘chinked’ or ‘daubed’ to keep the wind from whistling through. This ‘daubing’ had to be renewed every fall before cold weather set in. The building was covered with clapboards held in place by weight poles. A wide fireplace was cut out of one end of the cabin and the mud-and-stick chimney was built on the outside. A doorway was also cut through one of the walls and the door was made of spliced clapboards and hung on wooden hinges. This was opened by pulling a leather latchstring. This latchstring was always ‘hanging out’ as a welcome to all. The fireplace was large and would hold enough wood to supply an ordinary stove a week. Beds, splint-bottomed chairs, a pine table, a rude cupboard, and a large and small spinning wheel and few other articles constituted the furniture of the cabin homes of the early settlers of Fulton County. On either side of the big fireplace were poles and kettles and over all a mantle on which was placed a tallow dip. The mantle was sort of ‘Catch-all’ for the family and was generally loaded. To witness the various processes of cooking in those days would alike surprise and amuse those who have grown up since cooking stoves and ranges came into use. Kettles were hung over the large fire suspended on trammels which were held by strong poles. A long handled pan was used for cooking meat. It was held on the fire by hand. This pan was also used for baking shortcake. The best thing for baking bread was the flat bottomed bake kettle, with a closely fitting lid and commonly known as a ‘dutch oven.’ With hot coals over and under it bread with bake quickly and nicely.”

“The loom was not less necessary than the wheel. Not every cabin however, in which spinning was done, had a loom. But there were always some in each settlement who, besides doing their own weaving did some for others. Nearly all the clothes worn by men and women were home made. We had no ‘boughten’ clothes in the earlier days of the county. Wheat bread did not become a common article of food for some years after we came to the county. Among the more general forms of amusements were the quilting bee, wool picking, log-rolling, house-raising, and later the apple and peach paring. There used to be plenty of apples and peaches, too, in Fulton County.”

“Father had six girls, and only one boy, and much depended on us girls in assisting to clear his land and carry on his farming. Father was a farmer, teacher and preacher, and also did the shoemaking for the family. We girls helped to improve the old homestead and did much of the outdoor work… I have seen many a pack of wolves running across the field. They killed a pet lamb once, belonging to my sister Lavina, and she took a good cry over it. After we had been here awhile we girls had one calico dress for Sunday but we wore homespun gowns for every day and we made our own clothes, too. The country was thinly settled, our circumstances were limited, we were compelled to work early and late for our sustenance.”

7. “Aunt Kate” (Owens) Perry (January 11, 1906)

Kate Perry was born in Indiana, Sept. 1, 1830, and came to Illinois with her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Coons, in 1835.

“The overland journey from Indiana to Illinois was made in company with James Watson and family. We had two wagons and teams and drove four head of cows through from the old home in Indiana. When we arrived at Havana, we crossed the Illinois River in a flatboat. One of the cows became frightened and jumped overboard into the river but swam after the boat and reached the Fulton County shore as soon as we did.”

“James Watson and family located near Smithfield and there are some of their descendants, I think, living near that place yet. Grandfather Coons settled on Spoon River bottom, in Bernadotte township. Here he erected a cabin on a wild tract of land. He sent $300 to the land office at Quincy to pay for the land, by a man named Sharp. Sharp absconded with the money but later Grandfather rode to Quincy and entered the land himself. The cabin was built of round logs and the cracks were ‘chinked’ and ‘daubed’ and we soon had a comfortable home. The building was covered with clapboards, but there was not a nail or spike in the whole structure. Even the door was made of clapboards, pegged together, and was hung on wooden hinges. Light was admitted into the room through a greased-paper window. The chimney was built up about halfway with stone but the top of it was constructed of sticks and mud. From under the big hill back of the cabin, there ran the year ’round,’ a stream of pure, sparkling, clear water-nature’s drink for man and beast. Say the saloons of today are a curse to the country! I suppose that the courts and juries are necessary, and that cases should not be decided by public prejudice and clamor, but if I had my way I would hang every saloon man in the county. The saloon where so many of our young men are started to the penitentiary or death, is a disgrace to our christianity and our boasted modern civilization. And we have them right here in Lewistown, too.”

“Grandfather and his son, Dan, cleared a field in the wilderness. There were plenty of wild hogs and game of all kinds and we did not lack for meat. There were many wild bees here in an early day and one of the prevailing customs of the pioneers was bee hunting. Grandfather traveled many miles into the wild country in search of the sweet-flavored honey of the wild bee. The bee always took a ‘bee line’ to his home and the little insect would be carefully watched as he flew, heavily laden with the richest extracts of the flowers that were purely native and unknown to the present generation.”

“We raised flax and grandmother spun, wove and made our own clothing. The flax, when separated from the tow was used for the finer fabrics, such as dresses, sheets, pillow-cases, bedspreads and men’s shirts. The tow was made into towels, bedticks, etc.”

“We had a sugar camp and made our sugar and syrup. We kept sheep and our home made winter clothing was made from the wool that came from their backs. The little wheel was the ‘flax wheel’ and the big wheel was used for spinning yarn. The cotton chain we had to buy.”

“We worked hard, had good appetites, plenty to eat, good health and were happy and contented. Grandfather and myself would often sit on a big rock that jutted out over Spoon River, and catch in a little while all the fish we could carry home. Oh, how I would like to see that rock once more.”

“Grandmother Coons did all the ‘doctoring’ for the neighborhood. She knew the names of all the herbs that grew in the woods and would gather them and dry them and make them into different kinds of medicine. She believed that an ounce of prevention was worth a pound of cure, and always administered the medicine before we got sick. And I want to say right here that we were always healthy and never had a doctor in the family except Grandmother. We lived like the Indians and they were a healthy race of people. People now enter into the mad rush to wrench a fortune from the hand of fate and do not study human nature, the proper mode of living, and eat their meals on the run. The pioneers of Fulton County did not try to accumulate wealth. They ate good wholesome food, dressed comfortably, smoked home grown tobacco and knew much of true joy and happiness.”


Publication Committee. Spoon River Scenic Drive Associates. Ramblin’ thru Spoon River Country Via The Rambler’s Notes. Canton and Morton, Illinois : Canton Daily Ledger, 1970.

Special Thanks:

Joan Johnson, Publicity Director, and other members of the Spoon River Valley Scenic Drive Associates

Contributing Library:

Parlin-Ingersoll Library, Canton, Illinois

Christiana Holmes Tillson (1798-1872)


[Photo from an oil painting owned by the Quincy and Adams County Historical Society]

Christiana Holmes Tillson in her book, A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois, left a rare and rich narrative of her family’s early years in Illinois. Her commentary has unintentionally left us with a significant historical document that reflects a microcosm of Illinois in 1822-1827. As a well- educated New England woman, born in Massachusetts on October 11, 1798, she married John Tillson in October, 1822, and immediately set out with him for her new life in the small log cabin he had built in Montgomery County located in southern Illinois.

The focus of her writing is in detailing her trip to the frontier and the first few years of her life here. She wrote her memoirs late in life (1870) to depict for her daughter the dramatic changes in society since her pioneer experiences. The manuscript she left provides a unique glimpse into her struggles as a pioneer housewife. Abundant anecdotal stories enliven the portrayal of life as she encountered it and enrich the reader with another dimension of frontier history from a woman’s viewpoint. Our author left us a priceless perspective into her 19th Century world on the frontier landscape.

Originally published in 1872 (or 1873) as Reminiscences of Early Life in Illinois, by Our Mother, it was rescued from obscurity by Milo Milton Quaife and the R. R. Donnelley & Sons Company of Chicago, who printed it in 1919 as part of the Lakeside Classics. Although the 1919 edition is rather scarce, we are fortunate that Southern Illinois University Press in Carbondale has reprinted her book, with a new introduction by Kay J. Carr.

The Tillson family (children Charles, John, Robert H. and Christiana) moved to Quincy in west-central Illinois in 1843 where the children grew to adulthood. John Tillson, Jr. (1825-1892) became a very prominent citizen of Quincy. He served in the Civil War and became Brigadier General of the Tenth lllinois Infantry. General John Tillson wrote an important early history of Quincy entitled, History of the City of Quincy, Illinois. As the son-in-law of Governor John Wood he inherited a vast knowledge of the early settlement of Quincy.

Christiana Tillson died on May 29, 1872 in New York City. Her funeral was held at the John Wood Mansion at 12th and State Street in Quincy on June 2nd at 3 p.m. She is buried in the Tillson family plot on the south ridge of Woodland Cemetery in Quincy.


  1. Tillson, Christiana Holmes. A Woman’s Story of Pioneer Illinois 1919. Ed. Milo Milton Quaife, with a new introduction by Kay J. Carr. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, c1995.
  2. Hughes, Linda Ann. Unintentional Historians.[n.p.], 1977.

Contributing Library:

Quincy Public Library, Quincy, Illinois

Mother Slough, One of Peoria’s Pioneers


Mother Slough


Advertisement for Union House


Mrs. Jacob Slough’s Vegetable and Antibilious Pills

In the Spring of 1832, a woman came to Peoria [Illinois] who deserves a niche in Peoria’s Hall of Fame. That woman was Mrs. Anna Elizabeth Slough, the wife of Jacob Slough, more familiarly known as “Mother Slough”.

With the youngest of her several children, she drove a single horse, and came by carriage from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania across the Allegheny Mountains via Cincinnati and St. Louis. She then had her horse and carriage placed on a boat and came by the Illinois River to Peoria.

She was as energetic as she was fearless. She bought a two story block house at what is now 210 South Washington where the Newman & Ullman building now stands. The building however, faced the River. She also laid a claim for Nine Hundred Acres of ground near Big Hollow. Mother Slough, the following Spring, returned to her Pennsylvania home for Jacob, her husband and the other children. In 1834, she and Jacob converted the block building into what they named the Union Hotel. For the next ten years, many a traveler, particularly the German Emigrants, found lodging under their hospitable roof. Mrs. Slough died in 1878 and is buried in Springdale Cemetery.

(Inf. from Rev. Bess History.)

Bateman’s history of Peoria County describes the Slough establishment:

It was by far the most pretentious house in town, having four rooms up stairs, exclusively sleeping rooms, and a bar-room by itself; but we are unable to learn any particulars in regard to its management. In 1834 Mr. Eads sold out to Jacob Slough–and the house was then called “Slough’s Tavern”. Mr Slough was blessed with a buxom, good-looking wife, of rare executive ability, who gave every detail of the business, out of doors as well as in, her personal supervision, and left “Jakey” as Mr. Slough was familiarly called, but little to do except to entertain guests and attend the bar.”


  1. Bateman. History of Peoria County. 1901 V.2 p.298
  2. Oakford. History of Peoria p. 596

Contributing Library:

Peoria Public Library, Peoria, Illinois

Selected Bibliography

General References

  1. Bogart, E. L. & Mathews, J. M. (1920). Centennial History of Illinois: The Modern Commonwealth, 1893-1918 (vol. V). Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission.
  2. Bogart, E. L. & Thompson, C. M. (1920) Centennial History of Illinois: The Industrial State, 1870-1893 (vol. IV). Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission.
  3. Chicago Sun-Times Features, Inc. (1996). Illinois Women: 75 Years of the Right to Vote. In cooperation with Governor Edgar’s Commission for the celebration of the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, Chicago, IL.
  4. Cole, A. C. (1919) Centennial History of Illinois: The Era of the Civil War, 1848-1870 (vol. III). Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission.
  5. Pease, T. C. (1918) Centennial History of Illinois: The Frontier State, 1818-1848 (vol. II). Springfield, IL: Illinois Centennial Commission.

Links to Related Sites

Illinois History

At Home in the Heartland Online
The Great Chicago Fire
IL Gen Web Project
Illinois in the Civil War
Genealogy – Family History in Illinois

Women’s History Sites

American Women in Uniform, Veterans Too
Declaration of Sentiments
Godey’s Lady’s Book Online Home Page
Illinois State Historical Society and Women’s History
Iowa Women’s Archive
National Women’s History Project
Nevada Women’s History Project
Turn of the Century Women’s Theatre
Uncovering Women’s History in Archival Collections
“Votes For Women” Suffrage Pictures, 1850-1920
from the Library of Congress – American Memory
Women and Social Movements in the U.S., 1830-1930
Women Come to the Front: Journalists, Photographers, and Broadcasters
Women in Politics
Women in U.S. History: An Online Research Guide
Women’s History in America
Women’s History Month

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