Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Cornelius Taylor Part 3

For the rest of the week this blog will feature a serialized story about Cornelius Taylor.  Published first in the Robinson Daily News on Oct 1, 2008 the story at first, appears 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 3: Big Man, Big Troubles

"This rude state of society brought to the surface some of the roughest characters of the frontier," Perrin wrote, in the "History of Crawford and Clark Counties, Illinois" (1883).
 "For instance, at a single term of the circuit court, we find that one Cornelius Taylor was indicted for larceny, for assault and battery, for rape, etc., etc.

"He was a bad man and a detriment to the prosperity and welfare of the community," Perrin continued. "With an utter disregard for law and order, he preyed upon others, and there are those who knew him still living to bear witness to his numerous shortcomings. There were many charges against him, which were doubtless true, among which were horse-stealing, hog-stealing, and even darker crimes were hinted at in connection with him."

"If you are looking at the court records, you are not going to find much good about Cornelius, as he was continually at odds with his neighbors," Pittsburgh historian, Edgar R. Taylor Jr., said in talking about his  great-great grandfather.  "He was a very big man for his times and had his way more often than not. I believe, too, that his mother was a Native American and how her people had been treated reflected in his actions.

"Apparently, in his early years on the frontier he was well accepted, but his rough attitude soon got him 'crosswise' with his neighbors and he became the object of a bad reputation," Edgar added. "Some of what was written I feel was not true. Cornelius was a 'doer' and I suspect there was some envy felt by his neighbors."

Taylor first appears in local court records before Illinois was officially a state. He was indicted by Crawford's first grand jury for "bringing home a hog without the ears."

Presumably, a person possessing an earless hog had stolen it and had cut off its ears to remove its true owner's identifying marks. Hog theft was a serious offense in those days and the penalties could be severe. Depending on a defendant's criminal record - and his social status - he might be fined or whipped and he might even get his own ears ripped off.

Taylor beat the rap, but wasn't always so lucky. In 1819, he was ordered to pay Archibald Baird $60 plus costs after being found guilty of assault and battery on Baird. Later, he was sued by at least three area residents over unpaid debts. Two won their cases. Wilson Lagow collected $154.23 from Taylor, while John D. Hay was awarded $215. On the other hand, a charge that he did unlawfully sell alcohol to Indians was quashed because of a lack of a prosecutor.

Also that year, Taylor was accused of rape. The records of the case, stored in a red envelope, still exist in the basement of the Crawford County Courthouse. An entry of nolle prosequi was entered in the case and Taylor successfully sued the woman for his court costs.”

(To be continued tomorrow.)