Interesting People and Characters
Check out the Southern Illinois Biographies Page
for hundreds of links to multi-generational biographies of mostly 19th Century residents
of Southern Illinois.
- African-Americans in Antebellum Illinois
- Union County historian Darrel Dexter takes a look "Eleven Families of Color" who had settled as free residents in Southern Illinois before the Civil War. The study focuses on the Arthur and Patience (Hawley) Allen, Joseph Allen, Johnson Allen, Beverly Breown, Thomas and Dicey Chavis, Thomas and Betsy (Gipson) Bass, Nancy (Hockens) Bryant, Josepha and Elizabeth Ivey, Cain and Elizabeth Bracken, and Moses Hunter families in Union, Johnson, White, Jackson, Alexander, Saline, Gallatin, Williamson, Franklin, Pope and Bond Counties, Illinois. First published in parts in the Saga of Southern Illinois Dexter had compiled and updated the story for the www.freeafricanamerican.com website.
- Aunt Lizzie Aiken
- Known as "Aunt Lizzie" to the soldiers, this woman nursed men and boys in the Sixth Illinois Calvary at the hospital near Shawneetown, most likely the one in the home of Henry Eddy.
- James Lusk Alcorn
- History remembers Alcorn as the highest-ranking Confederate officer from Southern Illinois.
He served as a general from Mississippi and later governor of that state following the Civil
War. He is the grandson of James Lusk, one of the first ferry operators across the Ohio. His
ferry was at Golconda near where the general first saw the light of day.
- Bob Anderson
- Bob Anderson risked life and limb during the Flood of 1937 to get his short wave radio
to Shawneetown, then cut off from all communication by the floodwaters. This is story as
published in 1941.
- Fred Behme
- It's been over a century since Hamilton County authorities hanged Fred Behme in 1896, but the
execution is still remembered. In addition to the main story, there are two sidebars about what
people remembered about it. The first is a
letter to the editor. The second is from a
woman who sang to Behme just hours before his hanging.
- Logan Belt
- During the post-Civil War period a feud between the Belt and Oldham
clans tore through Hardin County. Logan Belt led his side. This web site
has pictures, essays and two books on Belt. The first is
of Logan Belt and the second is
Who Killed Logan Belt.
- Mother Bickerdyke
- Mary Ann (Ball) Bickerdyke, remembered affectionately as "Mother Bickerdyke" is Illinois' version of Clara Barton
when it came to taking care of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. Although from Galesburg, she started her work
in Cairo and Mound City at the start of the war.
- Charlie Birger
- The Little Egypt webpage has this bit on Southern Illinois' best known
Roaring (if not War-ing) 20s gangster. Another site has an
eyewitness account of the murder of West City Mayor Joe Adams which led to Birger's
conviction and hanging. Here are five of Mitchell's famous
photographs of Birger's hanging in Benton. Recently, the museum in Benton just
received Birger's old bulletproof vest.
- Anna Bixby represents one of the frontier heroines of southeastern Illinois.
A medicine woman and religious leader she battled the inbred outlawry that
plagued her portion of Hardin County from the 1820s to the 1860s.
- William Cowper Brann
- W.C. Brann died in a shootout on the streets of Waco, Texas. A writer, not an outlaw, Brann
is remembered as the "Great Iconoclast."
- William Jennings Bryan
- William Jennings Bryan, born in Salem, ran as the Democratic nominee for president in 1896, 1900 and 1908.
- John Choisser
- This site focuses on the history of John Choisser and his descendants.
As an early salt operator at the Gallatin County saltworks,
John Crenshaw actually worked for him until Choisser left the business.
As a slaveholder, a lawsuit brought against him eventually forced the
courts to throw out the state's indentured servitude law.
- Confederate Veterans Buried in Illinois
- This is Gale Red's list of all the known Confederate veterans buried in Illinois. There's more to be found.
If you know of any, drop Gale a line.
- Rev. John Crawford
- Crawford's family settled on Grand Pierre Creek in northern Pope County early the
1800s. He later became a Presbyterian minister. His short biography also provides interesting
clues to the operations of the Sturdivant counterfeiting gang.
- John Hart Crenshaw
- John Crenshaw was a kidnapper of free blacks who sold them south into
slavery. This is a short biography about the builder of the Old Slave House.
For more information on the latest research on the house, check out
the Hickory Hill Plantation Preservation Project. Check out Crenshaw's
family tree if you think you're related to him. There are over 2,000 names
in the database.
- John Duff, a/k/a Duff the Counterfeiter
- John Duff led the hunting party met by George Rogers Clark in 1778. He is also believed
to be the same Duff, known to be a counterfeitor in the area of Cave-in-Rock in the late 1700s
and early 1800s. He is a character considered to be one of the "Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock."
- Henry Eddy
- Gen. Linder tells a cute story about serving with Henry Eddy in the Illinois General
Assembly during the 1836-7 term. Eddy is best remembered as a Shawneetown lawyer and
- John Estes
- Ron Nelson describes what happened to his ancestor John Estes in the mystery of the "Murder on the Mountain" that took place in 1841 in what is now southeastern Saline County.
- William Theodore Glass
- This native of Metropolis grew up in Pope County and entered into
business in Saline County. He wrote his autobiography in 1927.
- Judge James Hall
- Judge Hall is remembered as one of the best early American writers.
However Hall is best remembered as serving as circuit attorney and then
judge in Shawneetown. He took part in one of the raids against the
Sturdivant Gang. He also wrote one of the first accounts on the Harpes.
- Barney Hargrave
- The effort to remove the legal foundation of slavery in Illinois took
place one legal case at a time. Barney Hargrave sued his master
for assault and false imprisonment in order to gain his freedom. Hargrave
had worked as an indentured servant in the Gallatin Co. saltworks. The
Illinois Supreme Court used
Hargrave v Choisser to void the 1807 territorial indenture
law as a violation of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787.
- Big and Little Harpe
- The Harpes, either brothers or first cousins, rampaged across the frontier
as America's first serial killers in 1798 and 1799. At one point they joined
up with the river pirates at Cave-in-Rock and killed at least three or four
men while in Illinois. Overall, they are credited with around 40 murders.
- Charles "Blackie" Harris
- Remembered as the killer of gangster Carl Shelton, at one time Charles "Blackie" Harris
once found himself one of the oldest men ever to make the FBI's Top 10 Most Wanted List. The
first link is Charlie Birger biography Gary DeNeal's sketch of Harris following his death. DeNeal
originally published the article in the August 1990 issue of Springhouse along with another
of Harris by Ladonna Harrell Martin.
- Nick Holonyak
- Zeigler native Holonyak changed the world of electronics when he invented the LED display. He now lives in central Illinois and works at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.
- Lt. Gov. Adolphus Frederick Hubbard
- The antics of Illinois' second lieutenant governor, a Shawneetown resident, makes all the others seem tame by comparison.
- Illinois State Police
- The General Assembly authorized the creation of the Illinois State Police in 1921.
- Indians of Southern Illinois
- This page has links to information on the aboriginal inhabitants of the region.
- Robert Ingersoll
- The "Great Agnostic" Robert Ingersoll died 100 years ago in 1899. A national figure at the
time of his death, he grew up and practiced law in Southern Illinois prior to the Civil War.
- King Neptune
- OK, I know a pig is not a person, but this was the best place to link these stories of King Neptune, a World War II
era porker who helped raise thousands of dollars for war bonds. His tombstone is now visible at the Illinois Welcome Center off of I-57 just north of the Anna exit in Union County. Here's the first part, and here's the second part.
- Mrs. Samuel Kinkead
- The story of Mrs. Kinkead reads as a plot of western romance novel. Captured by Indians
in an attack that left her husband dead, she eventually found herself in the Illinois Country
about to be burned at the stake. Rescued by a Frenchman she fell in love and married again, but
that's not all of the story. You'll just have to read what happens next. The story does not
give an exact date, but starts before
Gen. Braddock's defeat by the Indians in January 1755, and ends by or before the 1790s.
- John L. Lewis
- Allen H. Keith writes this story about famed American labor leader John L. Lewis' early days in Bond County, Illinois.
- Abraham Lincoln
- This Abraham Lincoln Online site brings the 19th Century Emancipator into the 21st Century. Another site, Lincoln/Net, focuses on Illinois during Lincoln's lifetime.
- John A. Logan
- Logan was a U.S. Congressman from Southern Illinois at the beginning of the Civil War.
Besides keeping Egypt in the Union many historians consider him the best politician-turned-general of
the War. Earlier he had been an extreme Negrophobic and drafted some of the most racist legislation
ever passed by the General Assembly. After the War, he changed and became the leading proponent
of civil rights. Here's another site with a sketch of Logan.
The Jackson County Historical Society operates the
John A. Logan Museum
- Samuel Mason
- Capt. Samuel Mason led the pirates on the lower Ohio River, first from his home at Red Banks,
then Diamond Island, and finally by 1797, from Cave-in-Rock.
- Gen. John A McClernand
- Gen. McClernand is one of the three men from Shawneetown to served as generals during the Civil War.
- John Moredock
- James Hall writes of Indian-haters on the frontier and in particular John Moredock who could have been Illinois'
first governor had he wanted the job.
- Mary Trovillion Musgrave
- Mrs. Musgrave was the voice of The Baptist Hour on WEBQ radio for decades.
- Outlaws of Cave-in-Rock
- This page provides links to more information on the various persons regarded as among the outlaws of Cave-in-Rock.
These include the original river pirates such as Capt. Mason and Col. Plug; early serial killers such as Big and Little Harpe;
counterfeitors including Duff, Alston and the Sturdivants; as well as post-Civil War outlaw leader Logan Belt.
- Rev. Braxton Parrish
- This early preacher came to Southern Illinois when the region still represented the frontier. This story is one he gave late in his life about the early days in Franklin County.
- Rev. John Mason Peck
- This early preacher and educator founded the first institute of higher learning in Illinois and helped turn the tide against the slavery question in 1823-1824.
- Col. Plug
- Col. Plug is yet another of Southern Illinois' cast of river pirates from the end of the 19th Century.
This article originally appeared in the Western Review in January 1830.
- Mary Jane Safford
- Remembered as the "Angel of Cairo" this woman helped care for the sick in that city during the Civil War. She later became a physician and university professor.
- Sturdivant the Counterfeitor
- The Sturdivant gang of counterfeitors operated throughout Southern Illinois in the late
1810s and early 1820s. Active in St. Clair County, they also had a base at Sturdivant's Fort
near what is now Rosiclare. Frontier Judge James Hall wrote this description of the Sturdivants
- Col. Edmund Dick Taylor
- A brother-in-law of
John Hart Crenshaw of the Old Slave House
fame, Col. Taylor represents one of the great entrepreneurs of 19th Century Illinois.
In a second article, Col. E.D. Taylor,
the Mormons and the Election of 1844, Gov. Thomas Ford tells the story of Col. Taylor's
political activities with the Mormons in that pivotal election following the murder of
- Zachary Taylor
- Vance Martin and Mark Sorensen recalls President Taylor's experience in the U.S. Army in the Illinois Territory during the War of 1812 and later during the Black Hawk War.
- Rev. John Brown White
- Rev. White founded Almira College, known today as Greenville College in Greenville, Illinois.
- 'Uncle Bob' Wilson
- Robert "Uncle Bob" Wilson was the last surviving Confederate veteran in Illinois. He was also a former slave who said he had served as stud on seven different plantations including Hickory Hill.
This is the front page obituary printed in the Elgin Daily Courier-News in 1948.
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Updated March 6, 2004 by