Friday, October 17, 2014

Cornelius Taylor - Conclusion

For the past week this blog has featured a serialized story about Cornelius Taylor.  Published first in the Robinson Daily News on Oct 1, 2008 the story is written about events that would lead one to believe they transpired in Crawford County.  But remember that land  north of the mouth of the Embarrass River including what would become Petty, Bond, Russell, and the northern parts of Lawrence and Allison townships was included in the boundaries of  Crawford County between 1816 and 1821. Then in 1821 this same land and the rest of the county which was then a part of Edwards County, was united to become the county of Lawrence.

According to early Lawrence County history (page 325 of the 175th anniversary of Lawrence County Il Commemorative Edition), as early as 1816 Cornelius Taylor kept a ferry across the Embarras just above the bridge at Lawrenceville. Technically he would have been ‘living’ in Crawford County, on the north side of the Embarras River.

He was also one of the first men to be granted a liquor license in 1821 in Lawrence County after the county was formed. But had he already been running a tavern on the north side of the Embarras under the jurisdiction of Crawford County?

One of the first deeds recorded in Lawrence county was Aug 14, 1821 in which Charles Wood and his wife Sarah sold some property to a Cornelius Taylor.  

The contract for the first jail in Lawrence County was let to Cornelius Taylor and Isaac Fail.  It was 17 ft square; 2 stories high; made of hewn logs with double walls -- the space between  being filled with rocks.  It cost $625.00 and was finished in March 1822. (This is the jail where Betsey Reed was held in 1845.)  

However early in in 1822 Taylor had left Lawrenceville and was in Gallatin Co,Il.  On March 16, 1822, he executed a power of attorney authorizing his friend Isaac Fail to sell his land in Illinois.   It was the first Power of Attorney to be recorded in this county.  The document was witnessed before Thomas C Browne, an Illinois Supreme Court judge  in Gallatin Co.

On March 30, 1822, a deed was recorded  from Cornelius Taylor by his POA, Isaac Fail selling part of the Dubois property back to Charles and Sarah Wood for $800.  So far these documents support the story written for the Robinson Paper and were probably used in the research for the article.  

The article indicates that Taylor was sued for unpaid debts in Crawford County in 1820, which would have had jurisdiction over Taylor if he were residing in what later became northern Lawrence County.   After Lawrence County was formed in 1821, the judgments were directed here.

By Nov 22, 1822 the Sheriff of Lawrence Co, Henry Dubois, was directed by the Circuit Court of Crawford County in Palestine to execute on property belonging to the estate of Cornelius Taylor, late of Lawrence County.  $154.23 ¼  was owed to Wilson Lagow by a judgment signed on Sept 3, 1820 with interest on a debt at the rate of 6% per annum, plus $21.15 ½  as cost of suit.

Also a March 11, 1819 judgment for $222.78 was held against Taylor’s estate by James B. McCall as well as $13.59 as costs.  There was another outstanding judgment against the Taylor estate held by John D. Hay for $215.32; $13.55 ½ was to be added for court costs. The sheriff was to deliver the money to satisfy all these judgments within 40 days.

The Lawrence county sheriff, Henry Dubois, seized 160 acres in Sec 29,160 acres in Sec 21, and 80 acres in Sec 20--all in T4 R11 (near the present Ambraw Sportsman Club, north of Lawrenceville ) on May 11, 1822 at Taylor’s dwelling house. James B. McCall, being the highest bidder, became the purchaser for $300.

The judgments executed on the property belonging to the “estate of Cornelius Taylor, late of Lawrence county,” almost sound as if Cornelius Taylor had died.  Did he fake his death to the court when in reality he just “skipped town?” Or is this terminology just to be interpreted as “real estate belonging to Cornelius Taylor who used to live in Lawrence County?”

There were two Cornelius Taylors enumerated on the Crawford County census in 1818, along with other residents we now consider as living on property that would later become part of  Lawrence County.  In other words, the people didn’t move from Crawford to Lawrence-- the county boundaries just moved.     See  So have the researchers intertwined the two Cornelius Taylor’s lives into one great story? Would someone as notorious and with the reputation of Cornelius Taylor in this story be chosen to build the first jail in Lawrence County? It seems more likely that this Cornelius Taylor might have been  a guest of the sheriff here. So was it the other Cornelius Taylor?

And did all of these events actually happen in what was to become Lawrence County? A Cornelius Taylor was running the ferry across the Embarras River at the Shoals where Dubois had his mill and what would later become Lawrenceville as early as 1816. He also ran a tavern. Did the murder of McCall by the Indians (even though the case was tried in Palestine, which would have had jurisdiction over ‘northern Lawrence’) really occur in ‘our neck of the woods?”  A family of McCall’s settled some distance north of Lawrenceville, and the Tri-County History Of Edwards, Lawrence, and Wabash Counties published in 1883 describes McCall’s  death on page 74.  “A party of Delaware Indians from a camp on Brushy Fork, came to McCall’s cabin and demanded whisky.  He refused compliance with their demand, and they murdered him.  Kill Buck, a chief, Captain Thomas and Big Panther were suffered to go unpunished.”  This sounds like the same story. 

A Cornelius Taylor had his dwelling house (near the present Ambraw Sportsman Club, north of Lawrenceville) on May 11, 1822, but no doubt had settled there earlier.  We can link Cornelius Taylor to Lawrence County from 1816, until he leaves in March 1822.We think he is ours!  So Crawford County, we have thrown down the challenge….if you want to claim him, you need to prove it!   

But more importantly, was the Lawrence County Cornelius Taylor the same troublesome Cornelius Taylor that kept showing up in the Crawford County Court Records? And if he was, do we really WANT to claim him? Or was he a totally different person who just had the misfortune to have the same name?