The Western Frontier 1809-1865

A partial chronology, always subject to addition and correction, of events and personalities that affected Western Illinois and Northeast Missouri during Abraham Lincoln’s lifespan:

Note:  What was known as the Illinois country was part of the French colony of Louisiana in 1717, was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, was secured for Virginia by George Rogers Clark in 1778 and was placed in the Northwest Territory by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.  There was military and civil exploration throughout the Illinois country in these years and there was conflict with Native Americans.

1809 — Congress organizes the Illinois Territory out of the Indiana Territory, with Kaskaskia the capital and Ninian Edwards as governor. Abraham Lincoln is born Feb. 12, 1809, in a log cabin on Nolin Creek near Hodgenville, Kentucky, a son of Thomas and Nancy Hanks Lincoln.

1811 — New Madrid (Mo.) earthquake, said to be the largest in U.S. history, damages Southern Illinois.

1812 — New Madrid tremors reoccur. After action by Congress, President Madison declares war on Great Britain.

1813 — Stephen A. Douglas was born April 23 in Brandon, Vermont, a son of Stephen Arnold and Sarah Fiske Douglass. (As an adult, Douglas dropped the second “s” of his surname.)

1814 — First newspaper, the Illinois Herald, is published at Kaskaskia. In September, Major Zachary Taylor establishes Fort Edwards in Hancock County at Spunky Point, later to be called Warsaw, overlooking the Mississippi River across from the mouth of the Des Moines River. On December 24, Treaty of Ghent ends the War of 1812.

1816 — The Thomas Lincoln family moves to Perry County, Indiana; first bank in Illinois, at Shawneetown, is chartered by the territorial legislature; Fort Armstrong is built at Rock Island.

1817 — War of 1812 veterans begin receiving 160-acre land warrants in the Illinois Military Tract, the region between the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Frank McWorter, a slave hiring his own time from his Pulaski County, Kentucky, owner, buys the freedom of his wife, Lucy.

1818 — Illinois becomes the 21st state, with Kaskaskia the capital and Shadrach Bond the first governor. The state’s population is 34,620. Nancy Hanks Lincoln dies in Indiana of “milk sickness.”

1819 — Illinois Legislature passes the Illinois Black Code, also known as the Black Laws. Frank McWorter buys his own freedom and continues commercial farming, saltpeter manufacture and other entrepreneurial activities in frontier Kentucky for the next decade.

1821 — Pike County is established; encompasses all of Illinois north of the Illinois River. Following “Missouri Compromise” of 1820, Missouri is admitted to the Union as a slave state.

1822 — John Wood, a surveyor from New York State, builds the first cabin at what will become the city of Quincy.

1824 — Illinois voters defeat a constitutional convention call to permit slavery in the state.

1825 — Adams County is formed out of Pike County, and the two counties become their present size.

1829 — Dr. David Nelson, a native of Tennessee who served as a surgeon in the War of 1812, arrives in Marion County, Mo., and founds a manual labor college at Greenfields. Nelson, an abolitionist, gave up medicine for the Presbyterian ministry, and was ordained in 1825 at Rogersville, Tennessee.

1830 — Frank and Lucy McWorter arrive in Illinois from Kentucky. Abraham Lincoln, now 21, arrives in Logan County, Illinois, with his father Thomas and stepmother Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln. The Rev. Asa Turner, a member of the “Yale (Theological Seminary) Band” pledged to missionary work in the Illinois wilderness, arrives in Quincy from Templeton, Massachusetts.

1831 — Frank McWorter settles in Hadley Township in Pike County. Abraham Lincoln leaves his parents in Coles County, hires on to take a flat boat of produce to New Orleans, then settles in New Salem.  Orville Hickman Browning, a lawyer from Kentucky, settles in Quincy and opens a law practice.

1832 — Lincoln runs for the Illinois Legislature and loses. Black Hawk War takes place with John Wood, Orville Hickman Browning and others serving.

1833 — Dr. Richard Eells of Connecticut settles in Quincy to establish a medical practice, quickly acquires abolitionist sympathies.  Stephen A. Douglas arrives in Illinois at Quincy in late autumn.  He left his mother’s and step-father’s home in upstate New York in June, traveling to Cleveland, then down the Ohio River and up the Mississippi to St. Louis where, nearly out of cash, he bought an upriver steamboat ticket to Quincy.

1834 — Lincoln is elected to the Illinois Legislature and begins the study of law; gunsmith Jonathan Browning, inventor of repeating