Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Cornelius Taylor Part 2

For the rest of the week this blog will continue this serialized story about Cornelius Taylor.  Published first in the Robinson Daily News on Oct 1, 2008 the story may, at first, appear to be about events that 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

“Part 2: Quest for Fire-Water

In 1819, about a year before the construction of the county's first real courthouse, three Delaware Indians - William Kilbuck, Captain Thomas and Big Panther - were accused of killing a surveyor named Thomas McCall after Taylor refused to sell them alcohol.

McCall was a surveyor and "had been in the habit of sometimes trading with the Indians, and it is said, used to occasionally give them an order to Taylor for whisky," W.H. Perrin wrote in his book, "History of Crawford and Clark Counties, Illinois" (1883). Perrin explained Taylor had been forbidden to let the Indians have whisky without a written order from the proper authority.

"The Indians named in the indictment went to McCall and begged him for 'fire-water,' and finally to rid himself of their importunities wrote something on a piece of paper which he handed them, and which they supposed was the necessary order. They went to Taylor with it, who read it aloud to them. It was an order - but an order  NOT to let them have the whisky. The Indians were so incensed that, to gratify their revenge, they murdered McCall."

The three defendants were found guilty in a jury trial July 9, 1819, but the conviction was thrown out and a new trial was to begin immediately. Captain Thomas and Big Panther, however, were granted continuances.

Kilbuck, according to Judge J.C. Allen in the March 26, 1909, Hutsonville Herald, claimed to be a chief and sought to be tried separately. He was promptly tried, again found guilty and ordered to be hanged five days later.

Kilbuck escaped before the sentence could be carried out and it is unclear if he was ever found. "The Bench and Bar of Illinois - Historical and Reminiscent" (1890), hints that the defendant may have been allowed to escape. "There lingers in the county a tradition that there were boodlers even in that early day," according to the book. "Boodle," according to "Roget's Thesaurus," was slang for a bribe.

Judge Allen was somewhat kinder in his assessment. "There being no jail, perhaps the guards 'slept upon the watch,'" he wrote almost 90 years later. Perhaps not-so-coincidentally, the county commissioners ordered the construction of a jail within a week.

In a 1997 Daily News article, G. Kent Phillips pointed out no record exists of public outcry over the escape or of a search for Kilbuck. "It may be assumed that authorities were afraid that if a posse was organized and Kilbuck was found, that a public hanging would bring down Indian reprisals on the community," he wrote.

As for Kilbuck's fellow suspects, "nolle prosequi" was entered in their cases by the prosecuting attorney. An entry of nolle prosequi, Latin for "we shall no longer prosecute," is a declaration that the prosecutor or plaintiff would proceed no further with a case. None of the Indians are mentioned again in court files of the day.

Taylor, on the other hand, pops up often in early records (of Crawford County.)”

(To be continued tomorrow.)