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Full text of "The life of Jesse W. Fell"

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UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS STUDIES 

IN THE 

SOCIAL SCIENCES 

t 

VOL. V JUNE, 1916 No. 2 



BOARD OF EDITORS 

ERNEST L. BOGART JOHN A. FAIRLIE 

LAURENCE M. LARSON 



nr 



JUN 



PUBLISHED BY THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 

UNDER THE AUSPICES OF THE GRADUATE SCHOOL 

URBANA, ILLINOIS 



COPYRIGHT, 1916 
BY THE UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS 



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The Life of Jesse W. Fell 



FRANCES MILTON I. MOREHOUSE, A.M. 



FOREWORD 

There are few men in any generation who see their lives 
in relation to the accomplishment of that generation. Few 
realize, altho all profess to believe, that appraisal of worth 
must be according to the proportion of a man's part in the 
advance of his day ; and that all honors and distinctions fall 
away from men when they stand before the bar of years, to be 
judged in the stark light of truth as to character and service.. 
All men acknowledge this true, but the men are rare indeed 
who apply it to their own lives, and make it the basis of their 
individual schedule of values. Many men assert the immortal- 
ity of the soul, but few can conceive themselves in any scheme 
of time which transcends the limits of their own lives; or con- 
tent themselves to labor without reward, because they believe 
that in the fulness of time all souls must find full compensation. 

In writing the story of a man whose part in the life of his 
generation might in itself bring him some meed of remem- 
brance, I am nevertheless most anxious that his rare quality of 
> indifference to such rewards as men might give, of steadfastness 
1 to ideals not generally held in his day, of faith in ultimate 
things, should stand out as the true reason for his being brought 
as fully as possible before men. Here was one who steadily 
ignored or refused honor and fame, who despised no quiet and 
unrecognized labor, who was not turned aside from his steady 

Paim by the pressure of circumstance; in short, whose belief in 
the future was interpreted in all the doings of his busy life. 
j This is the sufficient reason for writing a life of Jesse W. Fell. 

FRANCES M. MOREHOUSE. 

ft 

IP 



TABLE OF CONTENTS 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. Early Years, 1808-1836 9-21 

II. Business Ventures and Home Life, 1834-1856 22-35 

III. The Journalist, 1836-1858 36-38 

IV. Founding the Normal School, 1853-1860 39-40 

V. Political Activities, 1840-1860 50-62 

VI. The Years of the Civil War 63-72 

VII. Public Service After the Civil War 73-84 

VIII. Railroads 85-91 

IX. The Religious Liberal 92-95 

X. Local Political Activities _ 96-105 

XI. The Tree Planter 106-111 

XII. Last Years 1 12-1 18 

Bibliography 119-121 

Index _ 123 



CHAPTER I 

EARLY YEARS, 1808-1836 

The Fell farm in New Garden Township, Chester County, 
Pennsylvania, lay mainly upon a high ridge, which was known 
by the Indian name of Toughkenamon, or Fire Brand Hill. It 
is a region rich in historical associations, not far from Brandy- 
wine battlefield. The house was built of stone, and in later 
years was remodeled into a handsome country residence. Here 
Jesse W. Fell was born, November 10, 1808. His parents were 
Friends, of ancient and honorable English lineage, but of lim- 
ited means and simple tastes. His father was a hatter, his 
mother a preacher of the Hicksites. Because he had much skill 
in song, his father, when he later united with the Methodists, 
became a choir leader; and he sometimes turned his resonant 
speaking voice to account in crying sales. There was a large 
family; Jesse, named for his father, was the third child. 

When he was eight years old, the family moved to another 
town in New Britain Township, and subsequently to Downing- 
ton. In the country Jesse attended, with his brothers and sis- 
ters, the neighborhood subscription schools maintained among the 
Friends of Pennsylvania ; for there were then no public schools 
in the state. These schools, within the limited scope of their 
courses of study, were usually good, and the Fell children re- 
ceived a solid foundation in the elementary subjects. The elder 
brothers were apprenticed, upon reaching the proper age, to a 
blacksmith and a wheelwright respectively. As Jesse was not 
a robust lad, the parents and other relatives thought it best to 
apprentice him to a tailor, and cast about for a skilful master 
who might teach him this trade. But the boy himself objected 
so strenuously that the plan was abandoned. He "would learn 
a better business, ' ' he declared ; and his parents, not wishing to 
coerce him, waited for some definite talent or liking to appear, 
which might guide their son in deciding upon his vocation. As 
yet the boy had no plan, save that of becoming wiser than he 
was. He wanted to go to some school that would teach him 
more than the country subscription schools offered. 

9 



10 JESSE W. FELL [274 

Joshua Hoopes conducted a boarding school for boys in 
Downington at the time, which was the best school in that part 
of Pennsylvania. It was remarkable in that, at a time when 
the classics formed the core of instruction in almost all sec- 
ondary schools, it emphasized the natural sciences. The master 
was an enthusiastic botanist, a popular lecturer on astronomy, 
and sufficiently adept at mathematics to win the admiration of his 
community. These subjects he had mastered by dint of sys- 
tematic application of his really brilliant mind to printed treat- 
ises, and by giving rein to an originality which the higher 
schools of those days did not greatly encourage. Free from 
the traditions of schools, this village schoolmaster gave to his 
boys a type of education destined to become popular afterward, 
but in other places practically unknown to his own day. He 
taught of plants and animals, of husbandry and astronomy, of 
literature and mathematics, with a wealth of practical applica- 
tion which linked books with life and study with pleasure. 

Jesse Fell wanted to attend this school but lacked funds. 
He applied for admission, however, offering to pay for his tui- 
tion by any kind of work that he could do. An arrangement 
was made by which Jesse was to work in the master's kitchen- 
garden and help about the house in return for his board and 
tuition. The work was hard, but not unpleasant. His master 
introduced him to the joy of intelligent gardening, took him 
for long tramps in the woods, and allowed him the freedom of 
his library. The books were a mine of riches to the boy, and 
Joshua Hoopes' enthusiastic love of plant life stirred to re- 
sponse a kindred feeling in the heart of his pupil. There grew 
out of this pleasant period in the life of the boy that love of 
trees which, in the man grown, was to give so richly to the 
prairies of the West. 1 

That West continually called him. The idea of going into 
the new country beyond the mountains grew in him during the 
two years of his stay at Joshua Hoopes' school. When he had 
finished the course of study, Friend Hoopes wished him to enter 
into a partnership with him in a vineyard enterprise which he 
was then planning. Jesse Fell declined, not being willing to 
relinquish his dreams of a larger career in a new country ; and 
Friend Hoopes abandoned the scheme "for want of a suitable 
partner." To further his plan of going west, Fell taught school 
for a period of about two years, from 1826 to 1828. The schools 

Richard Edwards, Jesse W. Fell, 3- 



275] EARLY TEARS 11 

he taught were near his home, at Buckingham, Colerain, 
Brown's, and Little Britain. As he understood surveying and 
other branches of higher mathematics, he was able to command 
a higher salary than the customary one of two dollars per quar- 
ter in cash. In the intervals of teaching he "kept store" for 
Issachar Price of Callaghersville, while that country merchant 
was away crying sales ; and in all his spare time he was reading 
diligently. 

The two years of teaching were a time of growth and devel- 
opment for the slim, blue-eyed Quaker boy. He tested his 
powers, enlarged his knowledge, broadened his interests. Altho 
he later considered himself "but an indifferent pedagogue," he 
was thought very efficient by those who employed him, except 
at Colerain. This was an extremely rigid Presbyterian com- 
munity, with a school in which the New Testament had been 
the sole text in reading for a long time. Mr. Fell suggested that 
his pupils bring other books that the reading might be varied, 
whereupon he was denounced from the local pulpit as a Hick- 
site who had "expelled the Bible from his school." Without 
denying the first part of this charge, which was true, Jesse Fell 
asked that the second accusation might be inquired into offi- 
cially, and when it was repeated without investigation, he closed 
the school, very hurt and very indignant. 

It was while teaching that he had his first great lesson 
in the uses of force and diplomacy. A school bully, larger than 
himself, had defied him and had been whipped. After the 
whipping he administered a lecture, so tinctured with kindness 
and well-directed flattery "what all men like if skilfully ap- 
plied," said Mr. Fell in telling afterward of this experience 
that the boy resolved to reform his ways. He became later a 
Methodist Episcopal minister of fine character and widespread 
influence. 

At this time, also, Fell began to speak in public, and 
especially to debate whenever opportunity offered. At the little 
country school-houses there were held political debates, as well 
as other neighborhood meetings; and at these debates Fell, 
when he was only seventeen years of age, made for himself a 
name as a speaker, particularly upon the tariff, that subject so 
dear to the Pennsylvanian. 2 

2 The principal source of information for Fell's early life is the un- 
finished manuscript biography begun by Richard Edwards from notes 
dictated by Mr. Fell, and already noted. It is among the Fell MSS., as 
are all papers, not otherwise placed, in the following pages. 



12 JESSE W. PELL [276 

In the fall of 1828, having saved a little money and bor- 
rowed more from his brother Joshua, Jesse Fell started for the 
West. He was twenty years of age, still slight and rather frail 
in physique, and unacquainted with the world. He was going 
to seek his fortune in an unknown country, with no definite 
trade or profession as an asset. His family, with a helpful 
confidence in his ability to do what he wished to do, bade him 
godspeed. He spent the last night before starting for the West 
with a dear friend, R. Henry Carter, with whom he talked far 
into the night, of old days and days to come. In the morning 
he set out for Pittsburg. A young man by the name of Drum- 
mond, from Washington, started with him, but soon became 
discouraged and returned to his home. 3 

This first stage of the journey was accomplished on foot, 
except for a few miles at the end, when, very footsore, Fell 
wavered in his resolve not to spend his money until he was 
started upon the farther pilgrimage. He entered Pittsburg 
upon the deck of a little canal boat. This city was then the 
clearing house of all western enterprise, the gateway to the new 
land, and a center for securing employment. Here Jesse Fell 
met a Mr. Reese, who employed him as a book agent. He was 
to take orders for Malte Brun's Geography, Rollin's Ancient 
History, Josephus' works, and one other book, the name of 
which Mr. Fell afterward forgot. Armed with this means of 
defraying expenses, he boarded a steamer for Wheeling, where 
he soon fell in with a certain Mr. Howell, the publisher of the 
Eclectic Observer. Mr. Howell conceived a fancy for the young 
Quaker, and wished to interest him in his paper. This was a 
journal of protest against slavery, capital punishment, and any 
other institution which, in the eyes of the editor, deserved cen- 
sure. Jesse Fell again decided against the half -gods; he was 
bound for the newer and greater West. 

While canvassing Wheeling, however, he found time to 
write his first contribution to a periodical. The subject was one 
upon which he had often grown eloquent in the country school 
debates of Chester County: "The Abolition of Imprisonment 
for Debt." Howell was delighted with its force and fervor. 
Here was material worth the working what an abolitionist he 

8 R. Henry Carter to E. J. Lewis, Mar. 8, 1887. Grace Hurwood to 
Fannie Fell, Mar. 16, 1913. The latter includes notes of facts related to 
Miss Hurwood by Mr. Fell. Franklin Price in the Fell Memorial (MS.), 
9-10. 



277] EARLY YEARS 13 

would make ! He offered him an assistant editorship. But Fell 
declined, and went on with his own plans. They carried him, 
with his books, over the National Road, opened at that time 
as far as Zanesville. He met interesting people on the road, 
notably the Honorable Benjamin Ruggles, United States senator 
from Ohio from 1815 to 1833. 

But the people along the National Road, being busily en- 
gaged in making homes in the wilderness, had no great thirst 
for Josephus and Rollin. Mr. Fell perceived that the business 
of selling books would give him no very speedy or considerable 
help in winning his way to the West. An illness took his small 
savings. Consequently, as the winter of 1829-30 drew near, 
he made his way back to Wheeling, where he spent the cold 
months in Mr. Howell's office, setting type, writing for the 
Eclectic Observer, and learning the tricks of a literary trade. 
At this time he asked his father for money to invest in a part 
interest in the Amulet, for which he had been agent. Very 
fortunately, as he himself said afterward, his father was not 
able to help him at that time, and the idea of this partnership 
was given up. 

When the spring returned, he set off again with his books 
under his arm, up the Ohio and toward the north, through the 
counties of Jefferson and Columbiana (where were people of 
his own religious faith, upon whose friendly interest he might 
confidently depend), and back to Pittsburg, the headquarters 
of his book house. Throughout the journey he had kept a note- 
book, which was later lost. The uncertain fortunes of a travel- 
ing agent, his illness of the year before, and the knowledge of 
the world which his experience was giving him, crystallized 
what had before been but a vague ambition into a settled deter- 
mination. He would prepare himself for a profession, which 
in those days even more generally than at the present time, led 
to honor, influence and power. He would be a lawyer. 4 

With this resolution in mind, but with his agent's para- 
phernalia still in hand, he turned his face westward again in 
the spring of 1830. He had gone as far as Steubenville when 
the event occurred which was to prove the means of accomplish- 
ing his desire. Walking along the sidewalk with an agent's 
ready eye for a possible buyer, he espied a young man busily 

4 Elwood Brown to Jesse W. Fell, Dec. 20, 1829. Jesse Fell to Jesse 
W. Fell, Jan. 16, 1830. Hannah Fell (an aunt) and Rebecca Fell (his 
mother) to Fell, Feb. 6, 1830. 



14 JESSE W. PELL [278 

chopping wood. He looked not averse to good reading, and the 
agent approached him in the interests of Josephus, Rollin, and 
Pell. But the woodchopper was as poor as Fell himself, and 
the two, finding a common interest in their common situation, 
fell to discussing ways, means, and prospects. The woodchopper 
was studying law, he said, in the office of a local firm of excel- 
lent reputation. He would like to buy books, but needed every 
cent he could make for bare living expenses. After he had been 
admitted to the bar, he was to pay for his tuition ; and then he 
would need all surplus funds for his law library. There was a 
place for one more student with Stokeley and Marsh, and he 
would introduce Fell to the firm. 5 

Fell soon made arrangements for his law course. He was 
to pay his way in part by doing office work for the firm, and 
partly by such odd jobs as he might find to do in that frontier 
community, where there was usually work for all. His two 
elder brothers helped him from time to time as their limited 
means permitted. Stokeley and Marsh soon came to value him 
very highly, while he regarded both the partners with the 
greatest affection. About a year after beginning his studies in 
their office, he made a visit to his old home, and was present at 
the wedding of his brother Joshua, on January 16, 1831. On 
the return journey his father brought him as far as Shippens- 
burg, a point some forty miles west of Harrisburg. 

For another year the law lessons in the office of Stokeley 
and Marsh went on. The young men in the office had practice 
in public speaking, for they were eligible to membership in The 
Forum, a society whose object was the improvement of its 
members "in speaking and general culture". Jesse Fell made 
his first speech before this body upon his old theme of the 
abolition of imprisonment for debt. The presiding officer, a 
Mr. Wright, who had been a congressman and was later a judge, 
praised his speech; and Fell tried again. Mr. Stokeley was a 
local leader in the ranks of the Whigs, who were at that time 
actively opposing Jackson. There were innumerable stump 

5 Fell to Jesse Fell, June 26, 1830. The story as told by Edwards 
implies that the idea of becoming a lawyer did not occur to Fell until 
the time of his interview with the woodchopper. But a letter to his 
parents, dated June 6, 1830, indicates that the idea had been with him for 
some time; while Franklin Price states (Fell Memorial, 9) that he had 
read Blackstone while still in Chester County. 



279] EARLY YEARS 15 

speeches to be made, and Mr. Stokeley gave to Jesse Fell his 
share in the work. The younger man conceived a great admi- 
ration for Henry Clay, which guided his political opinions and 
activities while Clay lived. A youth working in Trumbull's 
bookstore, and at that time a Clay enthusiast with the rest, 
became his friend. This boy was Edwin M. Stanton, afterward 
secretary of war under Lincoln. 

The autumn of 1832, when Jesse Fell was preparing for 
his bar examination, was an especially busy season. He took 
these examinations, with three other aspirants, on the first of 
October, passed them successfully, was admitted, and started 
on foot for the West about a fortnight later. 6 It was a some- 
what risky enterprise, for the payment of his debts took most 
of his money, leaving very little for the outfit and for traveling 
expenses. His family helped him as they could, but this was 
not much. Mr. Marsh, regretting to lose a youth who gave so 
great promise, had offered him a partnership if he would stay 
with him, his own partnership with Mr. Stokeley having recently 
been dissolved. Again Fell chose to answer the call of the ulti- 
mate mission. His plan was to travel through parts of Ohio 
which he had not yet visited and through Indiana and Illinois* 
He seems not to have thought of settling at once, as he suggested 
to his father at the time that he " might return by steamboat 
from St. Louis, as this may be done with little expense." He 
seems also to have left with Mr. Marsh the idea of possibly re- 
turning to enter into a partnership at a later time. 

Traveling on foot through Ohio and Indiana, Mr. Fell came 
to Eastern Illinois in November, 1832. The presidential election 
had been held the day before he entered the state. At Danville 
he met Judge McRoberts, a prominent citizen of those days, who 
told him of a village then but lately founded, named Blooming- 
ton. Its location Judge McRoberts thought good ; it was a "com- 
ing" town. In Decatur, the next considerable place which Fell 
visited, this report of Bloomington was repeated. At Jackson- 
ville, Judges Lockwood and Smith made out for him his certifi- 
cate of admission to the bar of Illinois. 7 

In Springfield Fell was to talk to John T. Stuart, to whom 
he had letters of introduction, and whose advice he wished be- 

Certificate of admission to Ohio Bar (James Ross Wells, clerk), 
dated Oct. 13, 1832. Fell to some member of his family, Sept. 23, 1832. 
Jesse or Rebecca Fell to Fell, Sept. 2, 1832. 

7 Nov. I, 1832. This certificate is also among the Fell MSS. 



16 JESSE W. PELL [280 

fore deciding upon a location. At sunset of a warm day in late 
November, he arrived in the city which was afterward to be the 
capital of Illinois. John Todd Stuart was sitting before the door 
of his house when Fell approached, carrying the stout stick and 
carpet-bag which were his worldly possessions. Many young 
men so accoutred trod the streets of the new cities of the West 
in those days, and Stuart with a characteristic friendliness spoke 
cordially to this newcomer and asked him what he might do for 
him. Fell answered that he was looking for John T. Stuart, and 
would like to be directed to his house. Upon learning that he was 
speaking to Mr. Stuart, Fell produced a letter from one of Stu- 
art's clients in Philadelphia, introducing the Pennsylvanian and 
asking the favor of advice and help for him. The two men sat 
down then and there to discuss the question of location and op- 
portunity. 8 

Mr. Stuart spoke especially, as had Fell's previous advisors, 
of the new county of McLean, lately created by the legislature, 
and its county seat of Bloomington. It was, he said, a very new 
town, and he was quite sure that there was no lawyer there as 
yet. With the quick decision which was one of his characteris- 
tics, Fell determined to go at once to Bloomington, and rose to 
depart. Stuart invited him to stay the night, but so eager was 
Fell to reach his destination, that he declined the proffered rest 
and entertainment, and trudged that night many miles on his 
way to Bloomington. At New Salem, pausing for food and rest, 
he first heard the name of Abraham Lincoln, when the townspeo- 
ple told him of the company they had sent to the Black Hawk 
War. From there he went to Pekin, and then sixteen miles 
farther to Dillon, since called Delavan, in Tazewell County. Here 
he stopped to visit at the home of William Brown, members of 
whose family he had known in Pennsylvania. He was almost 
without money, but came "carrying a knapsack and feeling as 
big as King Solomon in all his glory, ' ' and full of that buoyancy 
and faith in the future which made him both representative and 
leader in his day and place." 

William Evans built the first house in Bloomington in 1826. 
Four years later, on the twenty-fifth of December, 1830, McLean 
County was created. The first sale of town lots was on July 4, 

8 These facts were related to the writer by Judge James Ewing of 
Bloomington, Dec. 4, 1912. Mr. Stuart had himself told them to Judge 
Ewing. See also Fell to David Davis, Dec. 16, 1885. 

"Joshua Brown to E. J. Lewis, Dec., 1896. 



281] EARLY YEARS 17 

1831. At the close of 1832 the town numbered about one hun- 
dred people, while the neighboring settlement of Blooming Grove 
had fully two hundred and fifty. General Gridley, lately re- 
turned from the Black Hawk War, was the leading citizen. 
When Jesse Fell arrived, William Evans had but lately sold his 
house to James Allin, who opened a store in it, and laid out the 
town in lots. There was no resident clergyman at that time, no 
newspaper, and no lawyer. 

Fell's survey of the situation satisfied him that there existed 
a favorable opening for him, and he returned to Delavan, where 
William Brown offered him employment for the winter as a tutor 
to his children. Mr. Brown was the great man of his locality 
a man who had glass panes in the windows of his cabin, whose 
family had "come west" in a carriage, and who employed a 
teacher to instruct his children. He had brought his family from 
Pennsylvania in 1828. Later, he became known in central Illi- 
nois as "Joseph," because in a year of crop-failure he had sold 
his good crop of corn for a dollar a bushel, the normal price of 
grain in early days in Illinois. People for many miles around 
came to him for food and seed. His home was a social center. 
From it the young people started on long rides to lectures or 
parties at Pekin or at distant farmhouses and settlements. The 
eldest son, Joshua, was the leading spirit among the younger 
men. Eliza, the eldest of the sisters, was a girl of rare loveli- 
ness and ability, whose early death a few years later brought 
great sorrow to the whole neighborhood. The children of two 
other families attended Jesse Fell's classes that winter. In the 
Brown home he found congenial friends, encouragement, and 
good counsel, as well as the material help he needed. 10 

When the spring came he went back to Bloomington, and 
opened his office in a small brick building at the northeast cor- 
ner of Main and Front streets. The small legal library, which 
Mr. Marsh had agreed to send him when he was located, to be 
paid for when practice gave him means, arrived during the 
spring, after a long journey down the Ohio and up the Missis- 
sippi and the Illinois to Pekin, whence it was carted overland to 
Bloomington. Fell boarded with James Allin, who, in addition 
to his other activities, kept the only inn of that locality, at what 
came afterward to be known as "the old Stipp place." 

With the growth of population and the inevitable troubles 

10 E. M. Prince, "Hester Vernon (Brown) Fell", in Historical Ency- 
clopedia of Illinois and History of McLean County, II, 1024-27. 



18 JESSE W. FELL [282 

in adjusting titles and claims to lands, there came legal business 
in plenty to Bloomington 's first lawyer. 11 On the second of May, 
1833, he made his initial appearance in an Illinois courtroom. 
This was at the third session of the Circuit Court in McLean 
County, which sat for three days, and disposed of several cases. 
Fell was attorney in two of these cases, securing favorable judg- 
ment in both by default. At the next session, in September, he 
had a number of cases, which he managed so well that his posi- 
tion and clientele were henceforth assured. 12 

John T. Stuart continued to be his friend, furnishing him 
letters of introduction and recommending him to clients. He be- 
came known as a good judge of land, and located innumerable 
farms for his clients, making the entries at the land office in Dan- 
ville. Before long he began to acquire land for himself, and to- 
exhibit the outward and visible signs of prosperity. He bought 

"John T. Stuart told Judge James Ewing that when he attended 
court in Bloomington six months after Fell had settled there, Fell 
told him he was worth about $60,000 above all debts. The statement is 
manifestly inaccurate, as to the time of the occurrence; but it gives, 
some idea of the rapidity with which fortunes were built up in the pros- 
perous days of the early land-exchange. Fell was "worth $60,000" in 1837. 

The first professional card used by Mr. Fell gives as references the 
following lawyers : Richard Dorsey, Baltimore ; William Dorsey, Richard' 
Sturgeon and Amos Jeans, Philadelphia ; William P. Dixon, New York ; 
Willis Hall, Albany, New York; D. B. Leight and Company, Louisville; 
Hon. John C. Wright and Hon. Samuel Stokeley, Ohio; and Hon. John 
T. Stuart, Illinois. 

"The first session of Circuit Court in McLean County was held 
Sept. 22, 1831, at Mr. Allin's house, but with no docket; at the second,, 
held Sept. 27, 1832, the jury tried one appealed case, dismissed several 
on the docket, and continued one. Record i, Circuit Court, McLean 
County, 1-14. Fell to his parents, Nov. 17, 1833. 

An incident related by Fell to Miss Grace Hurwood, and repeated 
from her notes in the letter of March 16, 1913, referred to elsewhere, 
goes to show that although a Quaker, Fell was not averse to defending 
himself in traditional ways. He and another young lawyer became en- 
gaged in an altercation in which his opponent accused him of lying. "I 
told him that would have to be settled outside the courtroom, so when 
court adjourned, we promptly went out to settle it in the time-honored 
way. Neither of us gained much advantage over the other, as while he 
was the stronger, I was the quicker, and we were parted before we could 
finish. We had fought hard enough however to be willing to shake hands. 
In the morning we were indicted for fighting 'to the disturbance and 
alarm of the people'. My defense was that nobody was at all alarmed,, 
much to Lincoln's amusement, and the indictment was quashed." 



283] EARLY YEARS 19 

his first horse, McLean, on which he took those long night rides 
to Danville, Springfield, Urbana and Vandalia, that soon began 
to tell sadly upon his health. His restless energy responded to 
the insistent demands of a growing, changing, developing 
country. Some prophetic idea of its possibilities, and much boy- 
ish eagerness to realize his dreams speedily, urged him to an ac- 
tivity which was the continual wonder of all his friends. He was 
interested in everything that promised to help the country of his 
adoption, and developed early that loyalty to Bloomington and 
McLean county which characterized him in so much that he did. 

An instance of this loyalty to Bloomington occurred early 
in his career. In 1834 an effort was made to take from McLean 
County its territory west of the third principal meridian, and 
add it to Tazewell County. This would have made the western 
boundary line of McLean County scarce eight miles from Bloom- 
ington, thus changing its central location to a western one, and 
so furnishing a possible reason for removing the county seat to 
another town at some future time. Mr. Fell opposed the move- 
ment valiantly from the first. Fearing that its friends might 
push the measure through the legislature if that body were left 
unguarded, he spent most of the winter of 1834-35 in Vandalia, 
where his efforts and influence were such that the project failed 
of realization. McLean County owes to him, consequently, and 
to those who worked with him, the distinction of being the 
largest county in the state. 13 

The winter in Vandalia had results other than the preser- 
vation of the territorial integrity of McLean County. John T. 
Stuart of Springfield and Abraham Lincoln of New Salem were 
both at that time members of the legislature from Sangamon 
County. The two men roomed together, and Jesse Fell lived in 
the same house. These men were very interesting to the east- 
erner, who noted the sharp contrast between Stuart's attractive 
person and polished manners and Lincoln's big-boned, angular, 
wrinkled face and direct ways. Stuart introduced Fell to Lin- 
coln, and the two became almost at once great friends, for there 
was in them a fundamental likeness which transcended all dif- 
ferences of creed, training or destiny. The friendship of the 
trio lasted to the death of the president in 1865, and was ce- 
mented by much mutual service. In 1838, when Stuart was a 
candidate for Congress against Stephen A. Douglas, both Fell 

13 Fell to David Davis, Dec. 15, 1885. Lewis, Life, 3. Lawrence 
Weldon, "Memorial of Jesse W. Fe^l" in Pell Memorial. 



20 JESSE W. PELL [284 

and Lincoln exerted themselves to the utmost to insure his elec- 
tion. Douglas and Fell also, in spite of the vigorous opposition 
of the latter on this and other occasions, were good friends, 
serving each other in many ways with the greatest cordiality. 1 * 

Mr. Fell almost immediately, in spite of his youth and inex- 
perience, seems to have become a leading citizen. This was 
partly due, of course, to the fact that he was Bloomington 's 
first regularly trained and capable lawyer ; but it must also have 
been largely owing to innate qualities of leadership and to that 
singular charm and adaptability to which many of his generation 
have borne witness. In 1833, Benjamin Mills wrote to him ask- 
ing for support for his candidacy to represent the third con- 
gressional district in the next Congress. He interested himself 
in securing a mail route from Bloomington to Springfield, con- 
cerning which Governor Joseph Duncan wrote encouragingly in 
the spring of 1834. He was in requisition for Fourth of July 
orations, citizens' mass meetings, and debating-clubs. In 1834 
he became, by appointment, commissioner of school lands for 
McLean County. The county records of that and the succeeding 
year show many mortgages which he drew up with the school 
money, both for town lots and for farms. The last of these was 
made in October of 1835. 15 

Early in that year the state legislature chartered the State 
Bank of Illinois, of which Mr. Fell became an agent. This insti- 
tution consisted of a "parent bank" at Springfield, with 
branches scattered over the state, and had a capital of one and 
a half million dollars. During 1835 and 1836 the bank made 
seventy-seven mortgages in the city and vicinity of Bloomington, 
to most of which Fell's name is signed as witness to instrument. 
The bank passed out of existence in February, 1842, having sus- 

14 Fell to Lincoln, July 20, 1838. Lincoln to Fell, undated, about July 
25, 1838. Douglas to Fell, March 21, 1844. 

"School money in Illinois was at this time unappropriated to its 
ultimate use. Benjamin Mills to Fell, Feb. 22, 1833. (Mills was opposed 
in this election by W. L. May, another personal friend of Fell.) Joseph 
Duncan to Fell, Apr. 4, 1834. The manuscript of a Fourth of July ora- 
tion, delivered in 1833 or 1834, is interesting in that it contains, besides 
the usual congratulatory and patriotic sentiments, a strong plea for free 
public schools. Fell delivered this same oration again in Clinton many 
years later, at which time he noted the presence of two or three Revo-- 
lutionary soldiers. 



285] EARLY YEARS 21 

pended specie payment in May, 1837, with its bills at fifteen per 
cent discount. 16 

The records of these and other enterprises show that by 1840 
Fell had become a man of position and prominence in Central 
Illinois. He was known chiefly for his dealings in real estate, 
and of these it is meet to speak more fully. 

"N. H. Ridgley to Fell, Oct. 30, Nov. 2, Nov. 6, Nov. 13, 1835; May 
3, 1836. E. J. Phillips to Fell, May 10, 1836. Ridgley to Fell, Oct. 11, Oct. 
29, Nov. 18, 1836. Phillips to Fell, Nov. 26; Ridgley to Fell, Oct. 26 
and 29, 1836. See Thompson, "A Study of the Administration of Gov- 
ernor Thomas Ford," in Governors' Letter-Books, 1840-1853, xii-1, 
(///. Hist. Col. VII) ; Ford, History of Illinois, igi ff. 



CHAPTER II 

BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE, 1834-1856 

The preemption law of 1830, practically reenacted in 1834, 
provided that when two men settled on the same quarter-section 
of government land, each of them might preempt an additional 
eighty acres anywhere in the same land district. 1 These claims 
were called "floats." Many poor men were induced by capital- 
ists to lend their names for floats, later to sell the claims so ac- 
quired for enough to pay for the land they lived on. In this 
way many hard-pressed pioneers were enabled to gain a title to 
their farms, while such land-buyers as were shrewd enough and 
had the requisite ready money, secured much fine land in Illi- 
nois during the '30 's. Mr. Fell, who first visited the village of 
Chicago late in 1833, afterward remarked to friends that land 
in that locality might be secured in this way, and that it would 
be a paying investment, as a great city would eventually stand 
on the lake-front at that point. His friends laughed at him, as 
much of the land for which he prophesied immense future values 
was covered with water during most of the year. 

But one man in Bloomington, William Durley, declared that 
he believed Fell right in his estimate of Chicago's future, and 
loaned him money for real-estate operations there. He de- 
manded a high rate pf interest as compensation, or if he pre- 
ferred it when the time of settlement came, half of the land. 
"With this money Fell secured four floats in the fall of 1834, the 
land being within the limits of the present city. When the notes 
were due, Mr. Durley chose half the land as his share. Part of 
the two "eighties" which came to him, Fell laid out in town 
lots. 2 The rest of the land he sold to David Davis, Dr. John An- 

1 2ist Cong. Sess. L, Acts of the United States, Chap. 209, 2. (May 
29, 1830.) 23rd Cong. Sess. I., Acts of the United States, Chap. 54, 2-3. 
(June 19, 1834.) Treat, The National Land System, 1785-1820, 306, 386. 
Fell to his parents, Nov. 17, 1833. 

2 Lewis states {Life, 26) that they comprised "Fell's addition to Ca- 
nalport". The property lies between 26th and 3ist streets, and west of 
the tracks of the former Pittsburg, Fort Wayne and Chicago R. R. (now 
part of the Pennsylvania System). 

22 



287] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 23 

derson, James Allin, M. L. Covell and 0. Covell for eight thou- 
sand dollars, taking their notes for the amount. After the crash 
of 1837 he took back the land and surrendered the notes at the 
earnest entreaty of the purchasers. His purpose was to hold the 
land for the advance which he knew would follow when better 
times had restored confidence. But altho he held out against 
the storm longer than many, his liabilities were such finally 
that he had to sacrifice even this resource. He mortgaged the 
"eighties" for eight hundred dollars each, the mortgages being 
foreclosed by David Davis and others. 3 

While he owned land in and around Milwaukee, Fell was 
much interested in the development of that city and of the 
state of Wisconsin. Governor John Reynolds, writing to him 
from Washington in 1836, sent the pleasant news of assured fed- 
eral aid for a lighthouse in Milwaukee harbor, a survey of the 
harbor, and a "road to start from that point running west to 
the Mississippi." William L. May, having been elected to the 
National House of Representatives, attempted at Fell's earnest 
solicitation to secure a post-office at Chippewa, but failed, be- 
cause Chippewa was then still in the Indian country. Fell 
owned lands "up the river from Cassville" in Wisconsin, in 
1837, and made an inspecting tour among the Indians in "the 
pine country" in the autumn of that year. 4 

But these operations in real estate in places far distant from 
his own home, were insignificant when compared with Fell's 
part in the development of Central Illinois. Gaining a reputa- 
tion as a judge of land in connection with his business of locat- 
ing tracts for settlement and investment, and becoming thor- 
oly acquainted with the topography of the country and with 
land values, through his work of loaning school funds and State 
Bank funds, he entered early into extensive operations in Illinois 
lands for himself and others. He had great faith in land. When 
a boy, spending unhappy hours picking the stones from the 
rocky farm in Pennsylvania, he had dreamed of the prairie, and 

8 Lewis, Life, 25-27. Fell was at this time unable to borrow money 
of Eastern capitalists, while Davis had friends from whom he secured 
the funds. William L. May to Fell, Feb. 28, 1838. 

4 John Reynolds to Fell, June 28 and July 6, 1836. (Reynolds was 
financially interested in the lands dealt in by Durley and Fell.) Fell to 
Hester Vernon Brown, July 30, 1837 : "from the Plain River, Cook County, 
Wisconsin." Fell to Wm. Brown, Aug. 24, 1837. 



24 JESSE W. FELL [288 

wished that he might own farms in the land where, travelers 
said, there were no stones in the fields. He was in a position, 
during those halcyon years between his arrival in Illinois and the 
great panic of 1837, to satisfy this early ambition. He did so on 
a scale which only the low land values and the easy speculation 
of the day made possible. He was one of a generation of men of 
large faith and far vision, who believed in their states, who fore- 
saw the empire of the West that was to be, and who supported 
their faith by generous investments. There were, besides men of 
such a stripe, any number of mere adventurers, wildcat specula- 
tors, who also contributed to the false feeling of security and pros- 
perity that preceded the panic of 1837. The General Assembly, in 
1836 and 1837, entered into an ambitious series of internal im- 
provements, which while it saddled the state with a debt of more 
than fourteen million dollars, was nevertheless a strong stimu- 
lant to progress. The period was one of rapid development. 
Merely to have been upon the market, to have been bought and 
sold, to have a price, gave value and prominence to the western 
lands and to western enterprise. When in addition to this towns- 
were founded and eastern people settled upon the prairie farms, 
when mail routes and railroads were projected and built across 
the wastes that separated the frontier cities, when schools and 
churches and shops gave to western life an approximation of 
conditions "back East," the goal of the builders of the West 
seemed in sight. 6 

In this work of nation-building Jesse Fell had no small part 
in that region which he adopted for his home. He worked mainly 
in Central Illinois, with Bloomington as a center, but branched" 
out wherever opportunity offered. Clinton was among the first 
towns in which he became interested. He founded the town, 
with James Allin, in 1835, naming it for DeWitt Clinton. Mr. 
Fell had entered a goodly amount of land about the site of his 
proposed town before laying it out, and made a handsome profit 
from the sale of town lots. The town owes to him, as did all the 
places where he had a chance to plant, its early growth of trees. 

Fell did not escape paying the price for what he accom- 
plished. His restless energy led him to overwork, and in June, 

8 Mail routes were established by Congress in response to petitions 
from citizens of the localities to be served. In 1838, for instance, the 
people of McLean and Tazewell counties asked for a mail route from 
Bloomington to Lacon. It was not granted at once, but came after some- 
delay. Richard M. Young to Fell, Feb. 21, 1839. 



289] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 25 

1835, he became very seriously ill. He was in Chicago at the 
time of his seizure, on the twenty-third of the month, and started 
on the next day for Bloomington, hoping to reach his friends be- 
fore the malady developed into one requiring constant care. He 
succeeded in reaching the home of Dr. Gay lord at Oxbow Prairie 
in Putnam County, where he was taken in and cared for while he 
lay helplessly ill for three weeks. At the end of that time he 
was placed in a carriage and taken to Bloomington, not without 
further injury to his health, and was unable to attend to his us- 
ual duties until about the end of July. Early in August, how- 
ever, he made a long trip to St. Louis, stopping at the Brown 
home in Delavan on the way. He himself attributed his illness 
to exposure and overwork, explaining to his family that in the 
six months preceding it he had ridden not less than five thou- 
sand miles, going sixty, seventy, eighty, and even eighty-five 
miles a day. These journeys, he further pointed out, he had made 
in every kind of weather, hot and cold, wet and dry, swimming 
his horse through streams and afterward riding in wet clothes 
for hours, and making long rides at night. But the end for 
which he had endured these hardships was by that time gained, 
and he registered a vow never again to abuse his health and 
strength in this manner. He had made, he said, not only what 
he himself needed, but also a surplus with which to aid those 
who had long aided him. 6 

Having thus earned a rest, in the autumn of that year he 
went back to his old home for the first time since settling in the 
West, stopping on the way for a visit at the home of his brother 
Thomas in Lancaster, Ohio. In Pennsylvania he suffered a re- 
turn of his former illness, lying ill at his brother Robert's in Lit- 
tle Britain for over a month. In the spring of 1836, however, he 
was back in Bloomington, not only looking after his own inter- 
ests, but planning for his brother Kersey. He had entered land 
for his brother Joshua during the preceding year, and this was 
deeded to him in May, 1836. Kersey Fell, after a period of 
clerkship for Covell and Gridley, was made clerk of the newly 
erected DeWitt County with power to organize it. He was later 
admitted to the McLean County bar and practised for many 
years in Bloomington. Thomas left Ohio for the same place af- 
ter his brother's visit in the autumn of 1835. Rebecca Fell, a 

6 Fell to some member of his family, Aug. 3, 1835. When Kersey 
Fell arrived in Bloomington the next spring, he was told that his brother 
was "one of the richest men in town". Lewis, Life, 25. 



26 JESSE W. FELL [290 

favorite sister, was being educated at Kimberton Boarding 
School, and later became a teacher in McLean County. 7 In 1837 
all of Fell's family who were not already in the West came to 
Bloomington, where they made their home subsequently. 

Two years after his family had followed him to Illinois, Mr. 
Fell married Hester Vernon Brown, a daughter of that home 
which had first welcomed him to the West. She had been "fin- 
ished" at a boarding school in Springfield since the days when 
Fell had been tutor in the Brown home. Rev. Nathaniel Wright of 
Tremont, a Universalist clergyman, performed the marriage cere- 
mony, for both bride and bridegroom had become somewhat 
liberal as to Quaker ways and Quaker customs. 8 The wed- 
ding day was January 26, 1838. Mr. Fell's parents were not 
present, but his sister Rebecca and his brother Kersey attended, 
and his close friend David Davis was best man. Joshua Brown, 
brother of Hester, who was also a friend much valued, came to 
the wedding from his home in Edwards County, and afterwards 
helped to move the household goods into the cottage that Mr. Fell 
had built in Bloomington. This cottage, later enlarged by many 
additions, was on the land which Fell subsequently sold to David 
Davis. In the accomplishments of Jesse Fell his wife had no 
small part. She was a notable "manager," in the comprehen- 
sive sense in which that word is used in speaking of housewives. 
She was courageous, capable, and independent. In her own 
home and in the community she seconded the efforts of her hus- 
band with sympathy and ability. Outliving him by twenty 
years, she was privileged to carry out some of the plans which he 
himself had left unfinished; and in the same time she demon- 
strated the force of her own personality, which for so many years 
she had chosen to make second to his. 

After the first few years in Bloomington Fell neglected his 
law practice in favor of the more congenial work of buying and 

''McLean County Historical Society Transactions, II, 35. Fell to 
Hester V. Brown, Feb. 28, 1837. Rebecca Fell to Fell, Nov. 20, 1836. 
In this letter Fell's sister expresses the greatest love for and gratitude 
to him. It is finely written and quaintly composed, but unbends in places 
to a degree of childish carelessness and even to one faint suspicion of 
slang. Other letters, models of an art carefully taught in girls' board- 
ing schools of that day and showing both strength of character and an 
irrepressible sense of humor, are dated June 10, Sept. 25, Oct. 23, and 
Christmas, 1836. 

8 Rachel Sharpless (a great-aunt) to Hester Brown. Undated, but 
about 1836. 



291] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 27 

selling land. In 1836 he sold out both books and practice to 
David Davis, altho he continued to use the same office with 
him for some time. Davis had come from Maryland in the au- 
tumn of 1835, and settled in Pekin. The chills and fever of the 
early prairie days so sapped his strength that he had about de- 
cided to leave Illinois, when Jesse Fell, alert for a good lawyer 
to whom he might turn over his now burdensome practice, per- 
suaded him to go to Bloomington. He offered his own books, 
office and whatever financial aid might be necessary, as an in- 
ducement ; and kept through a long life his promise of friendship 
and help. With the practice and office, Fell sold him several hun- 
dred acres of land, at the prevalent price of eight dollars per acre, 
and this land became the nucleus of Davis' subsequently consid- 
erable fortune. 9 

His real estate and other business took Fell frequently to 
the eastern cities. In 1841 he made such a trip, of which inter- 
esting details are to be found in various letters. Bidding his 
wife good-bye at Pekin, whence she went to her father's home 
with her son Henry, to stay until her husband's return, he 
boarded the Glaugus for St. Louis. There he waited from 
Monday until Wednesday for a boat to Cincinnati, taking then 
the Goddess of Liberty, which he declared " a splendid boat," 
and which reached the city on Sunday evening. On Monday 
morning he took passage in the Tioga for Wheeling, thence by 
stage to Baltimore, where he arrived June 20, 1841. Two days 
later he was in Washington. 

In that city he met, in the House of Representatives, his old 
preceptor and friend, General Stokeley of Steubenville. He in- 
terested Stokeley in the manuscript of a book he had with him, 
which had been copyrighted in March ; and the two men ar- 
ranged for its publication. It was a digest of laws and forms 
relative to real estate, evidently intended to be used as a refer- 
ence or text book. No further reference is made to it after 1841, 
and it was never published. Fell wrote to his wife at the time 
that he had secured favorable attention from some of the best 

9 The Bloomington Observer and M'Lean County Advocate of April 
22, 1837, contains the professional card of "David Davis, Attorney and 
Counsellor at Law. . . Office on Front street, with J. W. Fell, Esq. . ." 
The same newspaper contains the card of Thomas Fell, vendue crier. 
Fell in the Pantograph, June 29, 1886. 



28 JESSE W. PELL [292 

lawyers in the country concerning it. "We think we shall be able 
to make some money out of it," he added. 10 

Jeremiah Brown, a member of the House, was another old 
friend whom it was a pleasure to greet. The Westerner found 
much entertainment in visiting sessions of Congress, and wrote 
his wife faithful accounts of what he saw there. Clay had intro- 
duced his bank bill, which many thought would pass, ' ' although 
some fear." Fell heard him make a strong plea for it, which, 
he wrote home, was ' ' a great effort ; " he still thought Clay a very 
great man, but had decided that noted men are in general like 
others "distance lends enchantment ..." "I yesterday vis- 
ited the President and Post Office Department and had a cou- 
ple of local postmasters dismissed. The President [Tyler] is a 
clean, good sort of man but 'ugly as sin.' ' He predicted the 
creation of a national bank, the repeal of the sub-treasury law, 
the distribution of the proceeds of the sale of public lands, 
a slight modification of the tariff events that any loyal Whig 
might easily persuade himself that he saw upon the political 
horizon. 

From Washington he returned to Baltimore, and took pass- 
age in a steamboat down Chesapeake Bay to the eastern shore of 
Maryland, where he visited Frank Brattan, an old Bloomington 
friend. Returning to Baltimore, he went the next day to Phil- 
adelphia, noting the fact that it required but five hours to go a 
hundred miles. In Philadelphia he was most impressed, to judge 
by the space given to the matter in one of his punctiliously fre- 
quent letters to his wife, by a new "bonnett" being worn by the 
Quaker girls of that city. "I have concluded," he wrote her, 
' ' when I get ready to start home to buy thee a Bonnett, if I can 
muster money enough to spare of a very pretty fashion lately 
introduced. If I get one I will get the materials to make some 
more of the same kind. ... I have almost fallen in love with 
the Quaker bells of Chestnut Street on account of their pretty 
bonnetts. Not perhaps entirely on account of their bonnetts 
either but because they are in the first place in themselves very 
pretty and secondly because their dress and deportment is so 

10 The complete title : Digest of the Statute Laws of the States and 
Territories of the United States concerning the promissory notes and 
bills of exchange the limitations of actions the conveyance of real es- 
tate and the appropriate modes of authenticating deeds, devistes, letters 
of attorney, etc. Copyright Office Records, U. S. D. C. MISC., March 
6, 1841 ; District of Illinois. Fell to his wife, June 22 and July 6, 1841. 



293] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 29 

neat and modest. Of all the city girls in the world commend 
me to the Philadelphians. " He promised his son Henry books 
and toys in the same letter. 

During his stay in Philadelphia, besides attending to the 
business which had taken him to the East, he visited a close 
friend, Joseph J. Lewis, at Westchester. The return trip was 
made by way of New York City and the Great Lakes. Fell ex- 
pected to reach his home by the first of August or thereabouts; 
there is no record of the exact date of his return. The details 
of this trip to the East have been given with some degree of ful- 
ness, not only because they serve to illustrate many of Fell's in- 
terests, but because this was the first of many similar journeys; 
for until old age forced him to limit his activities, he made one 
or two trips to the Atlantic seaboard each year. 

The real estate business, indeed, entailed far more absence 
from home than suited Fell, but it also took him much into the 
open, which was with him a strong consideration. Its financial 
returns were greater than those of law practice, and it brought 
him into constant contact with many men, and with the very 
heart and spirit of the growth of the West. But the panic of 1837 
put a stop to real estate operations, as to all other business. Fell 
lost all that he had gathered together, and was compelled to take 
benefit of the bankruptcy law of 1841. Surrendering all his lands, 
he was discharged from his indebtedness (which was later en- 
tirely repaid), and began again, as penniless as when he first 
came to Illinois in 1832. As the bankruptcy court offered much 
business for lawyers, he took up his old profession again, re- 
luctantly but with marked success. The sessions were held in 
the United States court at Springfield, and the work brought Fell 
again into his old strenuous habits. He invariably prepared his 
cases in Bloomington, that he might be with or near his family 
as much as possible ; then leaving his home at sunset, he would 
appear in court the next morning, ready after his all-night drive 
to prosecute the business of the day. 11 

"Certificate of admission to the Illinois District Court, Feb. 10, 1842. 
In an interview with Richard Edwards long afterwards, Fell explained 
his dislike of law by saying that he wished to be able to use his powers 
of persuasion where conviction urged, and not for money from clients ; 
and that he disliked to live indoors. "A few years later, having accu- 
mulated some property, he voluntarily paid all his indebtedness, although 
not legally liable." E. M. Prince, "Jesse W. Fell;" Lewis, Life, 34. 



30 JESSE W. FELL [294 

But the practice of law was as irksome to him as it had been 
before, and he planned to escape from it as soon as possible. Since 
real estate offered no means at that time, he resolved to try farm- 
ing, and for that purpose moved in 1844 to a new home, which 
was known then and for many years after as Fort Jesse. Some 
people, appalled at its distance of four miles from the town, 
called it Fell's Folly. It had been entered for Joseph J. Lewis, 
and was far from any other habitation, having but one house 
between it and Bloomington. There was a stream upon the 
place, which in rainy seasons of the year became too swollen to 
be forded. Here Fell made a cabin, and broke the virgin prairie 
in very real pioneer fashion. He rejoiced in the opportunity to 
plant trees, and put out many of the black locusts which were re- 
garded at that time as particularly well fitted to Illinois condi- 
tions, since they grew rapidly and produced a very hard and dur- 
able wood. The borer, which makes the black locust an enemy 
to all other trees and a nuisance in a community, had not then 
appeared. 12 

The life of the Fells at Fort Jesse was the life of a typical 
pioneer family. Nightly there burned in their window the 
candle which pioneer custom prescribed as a guide for travel- 
ers; and nightly, there howled around it the prairie wolves. 
Henry Clay Fell relates an incident which illustrates the condi- 
tions under which the prairie farm became a home. Mr. Fell 
and his wife had gone to Bloomington, and while they were ab- 
sent a storm had swollen the stream so that it became impass- 
able. Two children, Henry and Eliza, had been left at the farm, 
and at the coming of the storm they became much frightened. 
While they crouched in a corner, a big grey wolf thrust in his 
head at the window, where a pane of glass had been broken out. 
Henry, altho then but seven years of age, had the courage of 
pioneer children, and threw a footstool at the wolf's head, which 
frightened him away. The pet deer, which the children had 
brought into the cabin, and which attracted the wolves, was later 
given to a son of General Gridley. 18 

In 1845 Fell bought a farm of one hundred acres near Pay- 
son, Adams County, to which he moved from Fort Jesse that au- 
tumn. About forty acres of the farm were in timber ; and thirty 
acres of that under cultivation were set out to trees, Fell's inten- 
tion being to establish a nursery which should cater to the mar- 

12 Jacob Spawr in Pantograph, July i, 1881. Lewis, Life, 35. 
"Lewis, Life, 35. Interview with Henry Fell, May 31, 1913. 



295] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 31 

ket afforded by the increasing settlements in the neighborhood 
of Quincy. The nursery business did not meet his expectations, 
altho he sold enough fruit to make the venture a paying one. 
The farm, which was about a mile and a quarter northwest of 
the village, was known as Fruit Hill. As Quincy afforded him 
his nearest large market, Fell set to work to have a good road 
made to that town. He succeeded, largely through his own exer- 
tions, in securing a straight road of twelve miles which passed 
through his farm. 14 

During this period he found time to take an interest in 
various public affairs, and particularly in education. He spoke 
at teachers' institutes, 15 and was much concerned for the wel- 
fare of the local Methodist church, of which he became a member. 
When he moved to Fruit Farm there was only a private school 
at Payson, but during his residence a ' ' seminary, ' ' kept in such 
a way as more fully to serve the needs of the community, was 
opened. Farming did not prevent an active interest in state 
and national affairs, as a letter from Lincoln at this time shows. 
As an orthodox Whig, he strongly disapproved the management 
of the Mexican War, and wrote to Lincoln, then serving his state 
in Washington, to ask him to present a petition for a speedy 
peace. Lincoln promised to do so at the proper time, but added 
that there was in Washington a feeling that the war was over 
and that the treaty sent in would be endorsed. 16 

In 1849 a number of the citizens of Quincy, led by John 
Wood, afterward governor, resolved to go to California, where 
the gold fields were attracting people from all parts of the world. 
Fell was asked to join the party, and made preparations to go, 
altho it was necessary to borrow money for the expedition. He 
went to Bloomington and bade his friends good-bye, but at the 
last minute failed to raise the funds necessary for an outfit, and 
gave up the project. 

In 1851 he arranged to return to Bloomington by trading 
his Payson farm to his brother Robert for a farm of two hun- 
dred forty acres near Bloomington. Robert Fell disposed of his 
nursery stock to F. K. Phoenix, who came to Bloomington from 
Delavan, Wisconsin, at Jesse Fell's earnest solicitation. Start- 
ing with Robert Fell's stock of trees, Phoenix in time developed 

"Lewis, Life, 37. Fell to Rachel Brown, Oct. i, 1848. 
"The report of one such address, given before the Adams County 
Institute, is in the Western Whig of July 20, 1850. Lewis, Life, 36. 
"Lincoln to Fell, Mar. i, 1848. 



32 JESSE W. FELL [296 

one of the most famous of the nurseries for which Normal was 
later notable. 

Upon his return to Bloomington Fell first engaged in news- 
paper work, of which mention is made elsewhere more particu- 
larly. He soon gave that up, however, to reenter the field of real 
estate, which was again becoming a source of profit. Having lit- 
tle money of his own, he made a trip to New York and Boston 
in the autumn of 1852, for the purpose of interesting eastern 
capitalists in Illinois land. 17 In this he was very successful, and 
during the decade following he bought and sold great tracts of 
land throughout Central Illinois, founded several towns, and en- 
larged others. Pontiac, Lexington, Towanda, Clinton, LeBoy, 
El Paso and other towns were among those in which he was 
largely interested. He made additions to Bloomington and De- 
catur, and dealt in town lots in Joliet and Dwight. North Bloom- 
ington, later Normal, was first planned in 1854. 18 

With the founding of these towns came the need of means of 
communication and transportation. In road-building of the 
primitive sort which served Illinois for years, Fell did his part. 
He secured, for instance, the surveying of a wagon-road parallel 
to the railroad, from Bloomington to Towanda, altho he did 
not succeed in having it extended to Lexington. He was active in 
making a similar road from Lincoln to Minonk. Early in his life 
he had learned surveying, and this stood him in hand later in 
many ways. His ability to measure land and determine lines 
saved time and money in numberless instances. 19 

17 Fell to his wife, Sept. 26, 1852. 

^Pantograph, Sept. i, 1899, Nov. 28, 29, and Dec. i, 1902. Bloom- 
ington Intelligencer, Aug. 10, 1853. The first plats of North Bloomington 
(undated, probably 1854) were lithographed by Latimer Brothers and 
Seymour, 15 Nassau st., corner of Pine, N. Y. Mr. Fell's interests in 
Pontiac came very near ending disastrously. An addition to the original 
town was made on land bought from a youth whose father sold it as 
his guardian. Later, the Supreme Court made a decision in a similar 
case which would have invalidated the Fell title and all subsequent 
titles, had not an astute lawyer of Pontiac, R. E. Williams, been able 
to prove that the young man had accepted his guardian's arrangements 
and receipted him. The Supreme Court upheld the Fell title. 

For an account of an unsuccessful attempt at town-founding, see 
J. O. Cunningham, History of Champaign County, 672 ff. Judge Cun- 
ningham quotes Peck's Gazetteer (1837), which mentions "Byron, a town- 
site in Champaign County", on page 168. Bloomington Observer, Nov. 
17, 1838. Pantograph, Aug. 24, 1901, and Nov. 29, 1902. 

"Interview, Henry Fell, May 31, 1913. 



297] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 38 

Going farther afield, in 1855 he bought timber lands in 
Southern Illinois, and built a lumber mill at Ullin, where the 
Illinois Central railroad crosses the Cache River about twenty 
miles north of Cairo. Lyman Blakeslee was his partner in this 
mill, and his brother Kersey in another at Valley Forge, which 
was operated by Elijah Depew, an old neighbor in Bloomington. 
E. J. Lewis, who was employed by Fell for about six months at 
Ullin, records that the winter of 1855-56 was an unusually cold 
one in Southern Illinois, the thermometer often falling to eight- 
een degrees below zero. Armed with stout sticks and a compass, 
Fell and Lewis tramped over the frozen swamps, personally in- 
specting the low lands. The growth was cypress for the most 
part, and the strange "knees" (root protuberances) greatly im- 
pressed the two Pennsylvanians, to whom growths so fantastic 
were entirely new. The mill at Ullin was kept busy sawing out 
logs, for the unusual amount of ice in the rivers did great dam- 
age to the steamboats on the Mississippi and the Ohio, breaking 
wheels and injuring hulls. Putting into Cairo, they secured oak 
and other lumber for repairs from Ullin by rail. 

The brisk business of that winter led Fell to put great faith 
in the Ullin venture, and in the autumn of 1856 he moved his 
family to that place. But the normal demand for lumber in 
Southern Illinois was not sufficient to guarantee a prosperous 
business, and in the spring the family returned to North Bloom- 
ington. The mills not having fulfilled their initial promise, Fell 
again turned his attention chiefly to real estate, which had not 
been neglected during his residence at Ullin. 20 In 1856 he adver- 
tised for sale ' ' about 5000 acres of land ' ' in Livingston, McLean, 
and Vermillion counties, and about three hundred fifty town 
lots in various parts of Illinois. 21 In the autumn of that year he 
conducted at least one auction sale of lots (at Towanda) and this 
method of sale was repeated on a considerable scale in the fall of 
1857. Late in the decade his holdings became very large, while 
records in the abstract offices show that he drove a lively business 
in transferring property. 

It was during the summers of 1856 and 1857 that Fell built 
the house at Fell Park in North Bloomington, which became aft- 
erward one of the landmarks of Normal. The house still stands 
(1916), altho removed from its original site. It was a roomy 
square wooden structure, with a cupola atop, and verandas built 

20 Lewis, Life, 44. 

* l Pantagraph, July 2, 1856. Tax list, May 14, 1859. 



34 JESSE W. PELL [298 

around three sides. It stood upon a knoll which Mr. Fell had 
selected more than twenty years before as a good place for his 
final residence. 22 Here he secured about eighteen acres on the 
edge of the town, and planted the land to trees and shrubs ac- 
cording to the plans of William Saunders of Philadelphia, a land- 
scape gardener of reputation. A herd of deer was added later, 
and the park was frequently opened to the public. 23 Men 
great in the history of Illinois and the nation were entertained 
there ; it became a famous meeting-place of notable people. Love- 
joy, Bryant, Lincoln, Davis, Swett, and other leaders were fre- 
quent visitors. The Fell children entertained their friends there 
freely; it was a center of social life. The master of the house, 
himself usually absorbed in business, liked to have people about 
him enjoy themselves. In the town's first years, this was the 
only private house in Normal in which dancing was permitted. 

The years at Fell Park were so full and so pleasant that one 
likes to linger upon the story of its life. There Mr. Fell's chil- 
dren grew to maturity, busy with many tasks and very happy. 
Here his elder daughters Eliza and Clara were married, the for- 
mer to W. 0. Davis, for many years editor of the Pantagraph, 
and the latter to Lieutenant James R. Fyffe, an officer of the 
Thirty-third Illinois Volunteer regiment. Here the older chil- 
dren went to school, with their cousins and neighbors, in a small 
building used temporarily as a carpenter shop during the 
building of the house. This was a district school, but as 
it failed to meet all requirements, Mr. Fell employed Miss Mary 
Daniels, lately graduated from Mt. Holyoke, to teach his own 
children, their cousins, and the McCambridge children in his 
own home. This private school was continued until the "model 
school ' ' at the Normal School opened. 24 

The master of the house, who never grew away from the 
simple ways of living in which he had been bred, directed the in- 
dustries of the home group. He was himself a man busy with his 

22 In 1833, when riding over the prairie with a neighbor named Kim- 
ler, Mr. Fell remarked that the roll in the prairie would be an ideal 
place for a home ; whereupon Kimler had replied that probably no one 
would be fool enough to build so far from the timber. Grace Hurwood 
to Fannie Fell, Mar. 16, 1913. Captain J. H. Burnham, in his "Our 
Duty to Future Generations," an Arbor Day address delivered at the 
I. S. N. U. on April 21, 1905, relates the same incident. 

28 J. D. Caton to Fell, Aug. 9, 1866. 

24 William McCambridge, My Remembrances of Jesse W. Fell. (MS.) 



299] BUSINESS VENTURES AND HOME LIFE 35 

hands, where other men of his interests would have had manual 
labor done by others. He pruned his own trees and supervised 
personally the planting of shrubs or the erection of new build- 
ings. All this workaday enterprise was not conducive to an ap- 
pearance of immaculate grooming. His wife, and more especially 
his daughters, tried to look after him to keep him fresh and trig. 
His friends, driving to Fell Park to consult him on business or 
politics, found him perspiringly industrious on the warmest sum- 
mer days. Distinguished company, received in the parlor, waited 
while Mr. Fell was being hunted through field and orchard. ' ' The 
girls" waylaid his path with the paraphernalia of refreshment. 
Somewhere between the back porch and the front parlor, a hasty 
scrub, a brushing and a clean collar must be administered. He 
submitted to this loving supervision good-naturedly ; he loved to 
be ' ' fussed over ' ' by his daughters, and he himself was a man of 
fastidious personal habits. "It's all right, girls, it's all right," 
he would say. No amount of feminine emphasis, however, could 
persuade him that one's personal appearance was a matter of 
great moment; he was interested in bigger things. The happi- 
nests of generations to come was the enterprise of men such as 
he, and in view of that a dusty coat or work-soiled hands could 
matter little. 25 

25 Mrs. L. B. Merwin (a grand-daughter), interview, Nov. 29, 1912. 
Dr. Sweney, the family physician, related a story which shows Fell's 
indefatigable energy. A refractory horse had kicked him until he was a 
mass of bruises, and the doctor, being called to repair the damage, had 
swathed him in bandages and soaked him in liniment and left strict 
orders that he was to be kept quiet. The next day, calling to redress 
the bruises, the distressed and apologetic family had to "chase after 
father" down to the edge of the place, about a quarter of a mile, and 
bring him up for examination and admonition. John Dodge, "Concern- 
ing Jesse W. Fell," in the Fell Memorial. 



CHAPTER III 
THE JOURNALIST, 1836-1858 

In the very early days of Bloomington, General Gridley made 
a yearly trip to the East to buy stock for his general store. In 
the autumn of 1836, Jesse Fell and James Allin intrusted to him 
the important commission of purchasing the equipment of a 
printing establishment, and of finding a man to edit and print a 
newspaper for McLean County. Gridley induced two men, na- 
tives of Philadelphia, to return with him : William Hill and W. 
B. Brittain. Hill had been employed for some time upon the St. 
Louis Democrat, and was acquainted with Western ways and con- 
ditions. Brittain came directly from Philadelphia, having 
shipped the press and type by way of New Orleans. The two 
men arrived in October, but Brittain became discouraged and 
went back to Pennsylvania before the coming of the outfit. Hill 
stayed, and setting up his press in a room in the court house, 
brought out on January 14, 1837, the first number of the Bloom- 
ington Observer. About twenty numbers were printed before 
the paper suspended publication. It was well edited and well 
printed, for a frontier paper; but in the little struggling town 
it found insufficient support, despite its spirited interest in all 
that concerned the welfare of the place. 1 

Fell and Allin were sadly disappointed at the fiasco. Al- 
tho his finances were then at a low ebb, or possibly because 
of that Fell bought what he did not already own of the sus- 
pended Observer, and began to edit it himself in January, 1838. 
This venture was somewhat more successful than the first one, 
as the paper continued to appear for over a year, until condi- 
tions caused by the hard times forced Fell again to stop its pub- 
lication. The last number appeared in June, 1839, after which 
time Bloomington had no paper for several years. Fell sold the 
printing outfit, which tradition says was moved to Peoria. 2 

The recovery from the severe depression of 1837 seems to 
have been especially slow in McLean County, where land specu- 

*Pantagraph, Jan. 14, 1857. Interview with Henry Fell, May 31, 1913. 
Scott, Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 27. 

2 The Democratic Press was established there in February, 1840. Scott, 
Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 278. 

36 



301] THE JOURNALIST 37 

lation had been very brisk. Not until 1845 was there found a 
man who had the courage to undertake to publish a newspaper 
there. In that year R. B. Mitchell started the McLean County 
Register, but shortly gave it up to Charles P. Merriman, who es- 
tablished a weekly, the Western Whig. He associated R. H. 
Johnson with him late in 1849, and early in 1850 Johnson and 
I. N. Underwood became proprietors and editors. They asso- 
ciated Merriman with them again somewhat later for about six 
months. This arrangement terminated on November 19, 1851, 
at the end of the fifth volume of the Western Whig, when Mr. 
Fell and Mr. Merriman undertook the joint management and 
editorship of the paper. A new outfit of type, brought up the 
Illinois River and carted over from Pekin, was purchased and the 
name of the publication changed to the Bloomington Intelli- 
gencer. This partnership was in turn dissolved on March 17, 
1852, when Mr. Fell became sole editor and publisher. He man- 
aged the paper until the end of that volume, November 17, 1852, 
and then retired, being succeeded by Mr. Merriman as sole owner. 
Mr. Merriman was a classical scholar of some repute, and 
changed the name again to the Pantagraph, a name under which 
it has become well known and very influential throughout Central 
Illinois. 3 

Fell 's connection with the Pantagraph did not cease with the 
termination of his official editorship. His name appeared as 
late as February 9, 1853, as contributing editor of the Intelli- 
gencer. As a medium for moulding public opinion, he found it a 
useful ally, and wrote for it often. Its editors and managers 
found him a constant source of helpful suggestions, and seem to 
have consulted with him on questions of business policy. 

For many years after disposing of his partnership in the 
Intelligencer, his newspaper work was of this occasional and un- 
official nature. During the Civil War, his interest in reform cen- 
tered in the struggle then waging, but after its close he cher- 
ished the hope of establishing at Normal some kind of journal 
which might become the mouthpiece of various reform move- 
ments then more or less before the public. Interesting some of 
his friends, he purchased an outfit for publishing a paper, and 
was rapidly completing plans for its appearance when he learned 

3 Lewis, Life, 38. The issue of the Western Whig for Dec. n, 1847, 
is No. 6, Vol. II. It was published at No. 3 Brick Row, Front street. The 
inventory of the printing outfit of the Western Whig (no date, probably 
Nov., 1851), is among the Fell MSS. 



38 JESSE W. FELL [302 

that Scibird and Waters, then proprietors of the Pantagraph, 
were seeking a buyer for their paper. He had already carried 
negotiations for an editor for his proposed paper, through corre- 
spondence with Greeley and others, almost to the point of engag- 
ing a certain Dr. Weil.* But as the Pantagraph had already a 
wide circulation and a considerable influence, it was far more 
valuable to a man with a propaganda than any newly estab- 
lished sheet could be, and Mr. Fell, with James P. Taylor and his 
son-in-law William 0. Davis, made haste to secure it. This was 
in August, 1868. 

The Pantagraph was a Republican organ of moderate parti- 
zanship. Mr. Fell abandoned the idea of making Mr. Weil edi- 
tor, deciding to fill that post himself. He entered into editorial 
duties with zest, perhaps remembering his experience with the 
ultra-ethical Eclectic Observer. Mr. Davis became business 
manager. Fell was, however, a somewhat impractical chief, by 
far too idealistic for the environment of a newspaper office. 
Moreover, the confinement of office life was as irksome as ever. 
After a few months, he gave up the editorial management, which 
was taken over by his old friend Dr. E. R. Roe, in June of 1869. 5 
Mr. Fell retained his connection with the paper until late Octo- 
ber, 1870, when he sold out his entire interest to his son-in-law. 
Mr. Taylor also disposed of his share to Mr. Davis, leaving the 
latter entirely responsible. Mr. Fell thereafter confined his 
newspaper work to occasional editorials and to special articles 
upon the subjects which engaged his interest. 

T. Tilton to Fell, Nov. 24, 1868. In this letter Dr. Weil, "long . . . 
known to Mr. Bungay and Mr. Greeley," is recommended for the editor- 
ship. 

5 Dr. Roe had entered the Federal army as "a bitter Jackson Demo- 
crat," but came back "a Black Republican." He was in every way the 
man to carry on Fell's dream of a popular newspaper advocating reform. 
He was very popular, having been advanced to a colonelcy in the army 
from the ranks. Upon his return to civil life he was elected a deputy in 
the circuit clerk's office to follow Luman Burr. Luman Burr in the Daily 
Bulletin, July 6, 1913. Bloomington Democrat, Sept. 30, 1864; Panta- 
graph, Oct. i, 3, 1864; Aug. 12, 1868; Nov. i, 1870; Mar. 13, Oct. 23, 1871. 



CHAPTER IV 
FOUNDING THE NORMAL SCHOOL, 1853-1860 

The advocates of free public schools in Illinois secured a 
law authorizing but not establishing them, as early as 1825. This 
law was so amended as practically to annul it two years later, 
which means that Illinois had no public school system until 1855. 
The desire for an effective public school law took definite form 
after an impromptu conference at Bloomington of three men 
who realized the need of the state and were disposed to take 
measures to relieve it. These men were J. A. Hawley of Dixon, 
H. H. Lee of Chicago, and Daniel Wilkins of Bloomington. 
They issued a call to all friends of free schools for a meeting to 
be held at Bloomington on December 26-28, 1853. The call was 
signed by the secretary of state, who had charge of all educa- 
tional affairs in those days, by the presidents and faculties of 
two of the leading colleges of the state Shurtleff and Illinois 
"Wesleyan by the clergymen of Bloomington, and by others 
who were interested. E. W. Brewster of Elgin was made presi- 
dent of the conference, which was large and enthusiastic. Every 
man who had a solution to offer for the educational problems of 
the state was there with his resolutions, his friends, and his ar- 
guments. 1 

Several of the principles embodied in the resolutions passed 
at that meeting were afterward incorporated in the state law, 
and have been largely instrumental in shaping the educational 
policy of Illinois. They included a plan for a State Teachers' 
Institute, afterward the State Teachers' Association, which was 
carried out immediately and has been in operation ever since. 
Another called for a state superintendent of schools, who should 
devote all his time to the interests of education. Authorized 

1 State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, I, 127-138. Illi- 
nois Teacher, I, 321-328. The convention here mentioned was not the first 
of an educational nature in the state, but the first that concerned itself 
especially with the common school system. Illinois Teacher, I, 328-336. 
J. H. Burnham, "Educational Convention of 1853" in School Record of 
McLean County (McLean County Historical Society; Transactions, II), 
118-127. 

39 



40 JESSE W. FELL [304 

by a new state law, Governor Matteson appointed, on February 9, 
1854, Ninian W. Edwards as the first superintendent of schools 
in Illinois. A third resolution was in favor of a journal de- 
voted to education. This periodical, called the Illinois Teacher, 
was started after the Peoria meeting of 1854, with a curious 
scheme of editorial management by which a different man was 
made responsible for its contents each month. The result of this 
division of labor was an uncertain quality of content and finan- 
cial disaster. After a year's trial of the plan Mr. Charles E. 
Hovey of Peoria, one of a valiant group of New Englanders who 
were then the educational leaders of the state, was made editor 
and manager. He was vigorous and able, and put the publica- 
tion speedily and effectively upon its feet. 2 

Then there came up a question which was bound to cause a 
discussion, for it involved the fundamental differences of men 
whose training and ideals gave them widely diverging concep- 
tions of the needs and the consequent policies of the state. This: 
was the question of the establishment of some institution for the 
better training of teachers. All were agreed that such a school 
was a vital need ; scarcely any two were agreed as to just what 
type of school could, in this new and growing country, accom- 
plish the end sought in the best way. Jonathan B. Turner, from 
whose fertile brain came the vast and comprehensive scheme re- 
sulting finally in the founding of the great state universities of 
the Middle and Far "West, 8 was trying to awaken enthusiasm for 
a combination school to include agricultural, industrial, and nor- 
mal school departments. The friends of the already established 
denominational colleges, who feared the results of separating 
education and religion by the founding of state schools, wished 
to add normal departments to Shurtleff, McKendrie, Knox, and 
Wesleyan. A third group, armed with the record of the normal 
schools of Massachusetts, strongly advocated a separate and "un- 
trammeled" training-school exclusively for teachers. 4 

Jonathan Turner had organized the State Industrial League, 
a society working for a state industrial college, and numbered 
Mr. Fell, who was director of the McLean County division, 5 

2 State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, I, 146. Illinois. 
Teacher, I, 8-18. 

E. J. James, Origin of the Land Grant Act of 1862, 25-27 (Univer- 
sity of Illinois Studies, IV, No. i). 

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, II, 52. 

5 Organized Feb. 9, 1854. 



305] FOUNDING THE NORMAL SCHOOL 41 

among his sympathizers and helpers. Fell was eager to see the 
industrial college founded, but knowing that a normal school was 
both more popular and more immediately needed, was willing to 
wait for the realization of the more comprehensive plan. With 
Turner he bent his energies toward uniting educational forces 
for the accomplishment of some one definite object. 

The various schemes were further discussed and worked 
over at a meeting held in Peoria in December of 1854. At the 
third meeting in Springfield it became plain that the advocates 
of a separate normal school were strongly in the majority, and 
the next year in Chicago they secured the passage of a resolution 
to the effect that the Association did not wish "to discuss any 
university question, but occupy themselves with the interests of 
common schools and Normal schools." Mr. Turner, whose vis- 
ions of the future did not blind him to immediate demands and 
practical methods, yielded his own larger plan with a grace 
made possible by his great faith in its ultimate realization : and 
the Association passed a resolution which called for an appro- 
priation for "the immediate establishment of a State Normal 
School for the education of teachers." 6 

The legislature, which had already (in 1855) established a 
free school system, passed the desired law, and Governor Bissell 
signed it on February 18, 1857. The law designated the members 
of the state board of education, who were in charge of the af- 
fairs of the school, but did not state its location, which was to be 
decided by competitive bids. 

It was after the passing of this law that Fell's interest in 
the normal school became intensified by the hope of securing it 
for Bloomington. Long before this he had hoped to see an insti- 
tution of learning, the exact nature of which was not then clear 
to himself, in the town of North Bloomington. Upon his return 
from Payson he had become a member of the first incorporated 
board of trustees of the Wesleyan University, serving until 1857. 7 
Now he saw in the projected normal school an opportunity of 
realizing quickly his dream of making North Bloomington a 
school town, and so attracting to it the class of citizens he wanted 

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, II, 53*?- Illinois 
Teacher, I, 254. 

7 His greatest service to the institution lay in his influence in changing 
its location from Seminary Avenue near the present Chicago and Alton 
shops, in the outskirts of Bloomington, to the central site which it occupies. 
James Shaw in Fell Memorial, 4; John F. Eberhart, ibid. 19. 



42 JESSE W. PELL, [306 

it to have. The block for the ' ' Seminary ' ' had long been selected, 
but he abandoned it in favor of a larger tract farther removed 
from Bloomington. Other people had other ideas as to what was 
the best site. Five, besides the one favored, were offered. The 
other five, however, had less in the way of subscription attached 
than the one he advocated. This was part of the Parkinson farm 
of three hundred fifty acres, owned at that time by Dr. Joseph 
Payne and Meshac Pike, who had recently bought it. David Da- 
vis and E. W. Bakewell each added about forty acres, which 
made the tract about a quarter-section. 

Mr. Fell carried on the work of securing subscriptions, aided 
by others who reported to him regularly. The amount of the 
subscription was kept out of the newspapers, and very little 
said of the matter where rival towns might hear of it. Any- 
thing that could be used was solicited; and land, cash, notes, 
even nursery stock and freight donations, were given. Friends 
of popular education outside the state were appealed to by some, 
altho few if any responded. 8 As is often the case, many 
of the offers were saddled with embarrassing conditions. One 
set of offers stipulated that the site should be within a mile of 
Bloomington ; another, that it must be within three-fourths of 
a mile of the railroad crossing at North Bloomington; still an- 
other, within three miles of Bloomington. Mr. Fell's site satis- 
fied all these conditions. 

Meantime other towns had not been idle. Batavia offered 
a ready-made plant in the grounds and buildings of the Batavia 
Institute and fifteen thousand dollars in cash. Washington, in 
Tazewell County, offered the buildings and grounds of Washing- 
ton Academy and cash to the amount of twelve hundred dollars. 
Peoria was known to be piling up a large subscription, but no 
one in Bloomington could find out just how formidable this rival 
was. 9 

It was at this point that John F. Eberhart gave substantial 
help. He was a teacher who had been forced by ill-health to give 
up regular classroom work, and who spent much time in holding 

8 Among these was Alexander Campbell, the founder of the Church 
of the Disciples. He seems to have been favorable to the project at first, 
but later declined to help. Thirty years after, Fell attributed this to 
Campbell's statement that "Mr. Bakewell and wife had done enough." 
Bakewell had married Campbell's daughter. Campbell (Bethany, Va.) to 
Fell, 1857. 

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, II, 286-291. 



307] POUNDING THE NORMAL SCHOOL 43 

institutes throughout the state. This gave him an opportunity 
to know conditions thoroly, and his knowledge of conditions 
made him greatly interested in the projected normal school. He 
met Mr. Fell first when attending an educational meeting in 1855 
or 1856, when he was entertained at the Fell home. The two men 
became fast friends, and when Eberhart found out how keenly 
Fell wanted the normal school for his own town, he was minded 
to give all possible aid. This resolution was strengthened by his 
own dislike for Peoria, which he considered undesirable because 
it was "a river town and a whiskey town." He entered into the 
contest for Fell and Bloomington, even as Simeon W. Wright 
was entering it as a champion of Hovey and Peoria. For about 
three months he worked with Fell in McLean County, a guest at 
his home and party to all his plans. 10 

About a week before the final decision was to be made, Eber- 
hart made a trip to Peoria to see clearly just what the situation 
there might be ; and chanced, fortunately for his purpose, upon 
a friend, a teacher, who in his enthusiasm told him the amount 
of the subscription already secured. Returning at once to Bloom- 
ington, he told Fell that it would be necessary to raise the Bloom- 
ington subscription. Fell asked him if a ten thousand dollar ad- 
vance would be sufficient, and Eberhart replied that it would 
have to be more than that. Fell suggested fifteen thousand, but 
Eberhart repeated that it must be still more. Fell inquired if 
twenty thousand would do, and received the same reply. But 
when he was asked if twenty-five thousand would cap Peoria 's 
bid, Eberhart replied that such a bid would secure the normal 
school. Fell vowed that Bloomington would raise the money. 

But he wanted to see for himself just how things were at 
Peoria, since Eberhart 's sense of honor prevented him from tell- 
ing details. He knew that a powerful stimulus, combined with 
knowledge of the real situation, would be necessary if his towns- 
men were to be persuaded to raise their already generous bid. 
Eberhart had brought him the news from Peoria on Friday, May 
3, 1857. At Fell's request, he set off at once for Chicago, to in- 
terview the three members of the board resident there, in the in- 
terests of the Bloomington location. If these men were at all un- 
friendly, they were effectively won over by Eberhart during the 
week-end he spent in Chicago. 

Meantime, having seen Eberhart off, Fell harnessed Tom to 
the buggy and set off for Peoria, where he knew there was to be 

"John Eberhart, in Fell Memorial, 23. 



44 JESSE W. FELL [308 

a citizens' mass meeting that night. He covered the forty-five 
miles in time to attend the meeting, and was observed in the 
audience by Hovey. No attempt, however, was made to keep 
secret the amount of the subscription at this meeting. The jubi- 
lant committee, sure that in the short time left no competitor 
could equal their offerings, were not alarmed even at the sight 
of their rival's appearance an apparition that would have 
meant more to them had they know him better. 

It was late when the meeting adjourned, but early the next 
morning Fell was back in Bloomington, briskly presenting to the 
leading citizens the somewhat appalling dictum that an addi- 
tional twenty-five thousand dollars must be subscribed. He be- 
gan by raising his own cash subscription to two thousand dollars, 
with seventy-five hundred dollars in Jackson County lands, worth 
about five dollars an acre. Others caught his enthusiasm and 
added to their subscriptions until the individual pledges, already 
totalling fifty thousand dollars, amounted to seventy-one thou- 
sand. The county commissioners, who had before subscribed for 
the county a sum equal to the private subscriptions, now added 
to the swamp lands already promised, enough to bring the whole 
amount raised to one hundred forty-one thousand dollars. 11 

The meeting of the board was to be in Peoria on the seventh 
of May. A tour of inspection to the proposed site at ' ' the Junc- 
tion," as Normal was commonly called then, preceded the meet- 
ing. The weather had been very rainy and the bare prairie about 
Bloomington was a hopeless swamp, not liable to make a favor- 
able impression upon critical visitors. Mr. Fell went over the 
ground carefully the night before, found every mud-hole and 
every dry ridge, and mapped out a course for the carriages in- 
tended to minimize the danger of being mired in a bottomless pit 
of Illinois mud. When the board made its tour of inspection, 
Fell rode in the first carriage, and personally directed the driver 
over the uncharted, soggy ground. The drivers of the other 
carriages had orders to follow the first undeviatingly on pain of 
losing life and wages, and on no account to allow the horses to 
become mired. So conducted, the board made a safe trip and 

"The three county commissioners who risked their popularity and 
tenure of office to secure the normal school (for the pledge had to he 
made without recourse to a vote) were A. J. Merriman, Milton Smith, 
and Hiram Buck. They were reelected that fall, but were superseded by 
a board of supervisors which ratified their action in May. Superintend- 
ent of Public Instruction, Reports, II, Appendix 22, 37 iff. 



309] FOUNDING THE NORMAL SCHOOL 45 

was returned to the station without accident. The young trees 
planted along the streets of North Bloomington made a good im- 
pression upon the members, it is recorded. From the proposed 
site they went to the station, where they were to board the train 
for Peoria. Some half a dozen Bloomingtonians and a reporter 
accompanied them. 12 

At Peoria there was a similar inspection of the site offered, 
after which the board sat publicly at the court house. The Bloom- 
ington bid was accepted, with conditions attached to secure the 
somewhat precarious county subscription, which had to be guar- 
anteed by citizens. 18 Over eighty prominent Bloomingtonians 
signed this guarantee, Abraham Lincoln drew up the bond, and 
the pledges were all met. 14 

Bloomington was exultant when Fell and his friends brought 
back to them the news that they had won the new school, and 
plans for the town that would in time grow up around it were 
rampant. Ground for the building was broken promptly, the 
cornerstone being laid on the twenty-fifth of September with 
all due ceremony. Fell's address on that occasion revealed hi* 
own conception of the future of the school. He hoped in time it 
might become what, for reasons of financial expediency, it was 
then called : a university. Especially, he hoped that an agricul- 
tural school with an experiment farm would eventually become 
part of the school, and that courses in mechanical studies might 
be added as opportunity offered. 15 

The question of the principalship was a lively issue. Fell, 
who was a warm personal friend of Horace Mann, had long cher- 
ished in his heart the hope of securing his services for the need- 
ful West. When planning the "seminary" which was to have 
been located on the east side of the present Broadway in Nor- 

12 This reporter was Edward J. Lewis, later editor of the Pantograph, 
and Fell's lifelong friend. The account given, with many incidents not 
here noted, is found in his manuscript Life of Fell. Weekly Pantograph, 
May 27, 1857. Lincoln Weldon, interview, July 12, 1913. 

"Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, II, 359-364. 

WWrf, II, 373-378. 

"The new school was to be financed from the income of the college 
and seminary fund, then about ten thousand dollars per year, which was 
permanently diverted for this purpose. Many, not without good ground, 
objected to this diversion, and it was to answer their representations that 
the singularly inappropriate name of the Illinois State Normal "Univer- 
sity" was used, a name which has been retained even after the founding 
of the state university. State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Re- 
ports, I, 123; II, 276; Illinois Teacher, III, 395. 



46 JESSE W. PELL [310 

mal, he had corresponded with Mann and others relative to its 
constitution, scope and curriculum. He now asked the great edu- 
cator if he would consider the presidency of the proposed nor- 
mal school. Mr. Mann was favorably disposed, and before the 
location of the school had been actually secured, a subscription 
list signed by Bloomington citizens promised material aid in 
raising the salary of Horace Mann were he to become the head 
of the new institution. 16 

The meeting of the board at which a ' ' principal ' ' was to be 
elected was held in Bloomington. Shortly before the time of 
meeting, a prominent friend of the Peoria faction came to John 
F. Eberhart, who with Fell led the pro-Mann party, and told him 
that it was a matter of political necessity that an Illinois man 
be elected to the position. "If you elect Mann we'll kill him,'* 
said this advocate of local sovereignty ; and he further intimated 
that nothing but the appointment of a Peorian could satisfy the 
disappointed politicians of that city. When the situation be- 
came known to Horace Mann, he telegraphed to Eberhart that 
he would not be a candidate for the place if there were to be any 
fight connected with it. Since Fell was equally opposed to dis- 
sensions at this critical time and realized thoroly the need of 
united support for the principal of the struggling institution, the 
plan of securing Horace Mann was reluctantly given up by his 
friends, and the Middle West lost the strength which might have 
accrued to this school through the leadership of the greatest edu- 
cator of his day. 17 After Mann, Mr. Charles Hovey was gener- 

16 The subscription list, dated May i, 1857, was signed by Jesse W. 
Fell, K. H. Fell, W. H. Allin, C. W. Holder, Jos. Payne, John Magoun, 
F. K. Phoenix, John Dietrich, E. Thomas, McCann Davis, and amounted 
to $750. Mr. Mann had agreed to accept the presidency at $2500. John 
F. Eberhart, in Fell Memorial, 24, and interview, June 20, 1913. Mann to 
Fell, June 23, 1856. President F. Wayland of Brown University to Fell,. 
Jan. 29, 1853. Illinois Teacher, III, 107. 

17 It has been said that the liberal religious views of Mann were 
largely responsible for that disapproval which resulted in the vigorous 
opposition to his presidency, the powerful Methodist faction in the state 
considering him a dangerous leader of the young in spite of his ability. 
Certain it is that his abolitionist leanings aroused antipathy among that 
large number who sympathized with slavery or feared to have the ques- 
tion agitated. Pro-slavery advocates especially remembered a speech of 
Mr. Mann in which he had vigorously assailed Daniel Webster and the 
Compromise of 1850. These considerations, combined with the fact that 
Hovey was able to command powerful forces in support of his own can- 
didacy, were quite sufficient to defeat the large-visioned plan of Fell 



311] POUNDING THE NORMAL SCHOOL 47 

ally considered the best man for the position, although Eberhart, 
who declined the nomination, and a Mr. Phelps were also con- 
sidered. On the final vote, Hovey was elected by a bare majority. 

Once elected, Hovey set to work with great energy and abil- 
ity to make the normal school a success. The task was a hard 
one. School opened in the historic Major's Hall, perched atop 
a grocery store on Front street in Bloomington. There were 
twenty-nine pupils on the opening day, October 5, 1857, and 
more followed soon, the total enrollment for the year being one 
hundred twenty-seven. There were two assistants, and a "model 
school ' ' for observation and practice. 

The troubles of the normal school began with the panic of 
1857. Many of the men who had led in the subscriptions found 
themselves unable to pay what they had promised, and the com- 
missioners were unable to sell the swamp lands that had been 
counted upon so confidently. Even the title to these lands was 
found to be uncertain, and Fell made a trip to Washington to 
secure the complete and formal deed, in order that the lands 
might be available in case buyers appeared. 18 He returned early 
in November, with word that the official confirmation would be 
sent to Springfield. New complications arose, however, after he 
had left Washington, and the patents for the thirty thousand 
acres were not issued until January, 1858. The last payment on 
the pledge from the county lands was paid in October, 1864. 

The uncertainty of realizing money from the county grant, 
with the scarcity of money in general and the unwillingness of 
one or two of the wealthy land-owners to turn over their prom- 
ised acres at the time when they were most needed, made it im- 
possible to make the first payment to the contractors, and work 
was suspended in December of 1857. Of all the thousands sub- 
scribed, not even six or seven could be collected for immediate 
use. The ingenious expedients of Charles Hovey during the dark 
days that ensued included every possible scheme for making 
something out of nothing. The school was without money, with- 
out established credit, and without that public support which 
comes with the tradition of success. Some of its opponents began 
to suggest that a failure so apparent be abandoned. A few stanch 

18 In August, 1855, being himself unable to go, Fell had sent his son 
Henry, now grown to manhood, to Washington to look after the school 
warrants for Illinois, W. F. M. Arny being then in the patent office. He 
(Henry Fell) remained until the last of October, and was moderately 
successful in his mission. 



\ 



48 JESSE W. FELL [312 

friends upheld the hands of the determined president at this 
time, risking their own property by signing the notes it was 
necessary to make. These men were Charles and Richard Holder, 
and Jesse and Kersey Fell. Dr. George P. Rex and S. W. Moul- 
ton also helped by giving personal notes. The merchants of 
Bloomington stood loyally by the school, furnishing materials on 
credit upon the basis of the faith of the friends and guarantors 
that the next legislature would make appropriations to cover all 
debts. This was done at the next session, and work upon the 
building was resumed in the spring of 1859. The school moved 
into its new quarters in the autumn of 1860, and on October 5 
of that year the last brick was laid, with short speeches, cheers, 
and a free picnic lunch for all. 19 

It seemed to Fell and to other friends of the normal school, 
that a formal dedication of the building would call attention to 
the institution, and gain it friends and influence. It was a time 
of great anxiety and uncertainty, and there were some who hesi- 
tated to take time and expense for such an occasion during a 
period of national peril. The dedication, however, which was on 
January 30, 1861, not only gained the end for which it was 
planned, but afforded a relief from the tense anxiety of the time, 
a comforting assurance of at least one great good accomplished, 
which gave heart and encouragement to all who attended it. Mr. 
Fell worked indefatigably to make the occasion successful. In- 
vitations were sent to all the prominent men in the state, and 
great crowds attended from Bloomington and the nearby towns. 
It was one of the first normal schools built west of the Allegha- 
nies, and the first state-endowed educational institution in Illi- 
nois. Governor Yates and Ex-Governor Bebb of Ohio were there, 
and many lesser stars. The speeches were given in the great hall 
of the new building, and the feast which crowned the occasion 
was in Royce's Hall in Bloomington. Mrs. Fell and her cousin, 
Mrs. Holder, planned and managed the banquet, at which the 
mayor presided and Mr. Fell was toastmaster. 20 

Fell's interest in the school continued always, and for many 
years was actively shown. He attended the public meetings, en- 
couraged the literary societies, and while a member of the board 
of education superintended the planting of the campus, of which 

"Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports, II, 90-103. 
20 Newspaper clippings, undated, in the Scrapbook. Illinois Teacher, 
VII, 78. 



313] POUNDING THE NORMAL SCHOOL 49 

more in another chapter. 21 Through the years of its gradual 
growth and establishment he was regularly the man who secured 
the necessary appropriations at Springfield. 

21 G. B. Robinson, secretary of the Wrightonian Society, to Fell, April 
30, 1861. Mr. Fell became an honorary member of this society. 



CHAPTER V 



POLITICAL ACTIVITIES, 1840-1860 

The strong admiration which Fell had for Henry Clay led 
him to take a prominent part in local politics during the first 
three years of his residence in Bloomington. He was never of 
those who consider politics so inherently and ineradicably evil 
that honest men can have no part in them. Politics interested him 
in an absorbing way at times. He used the machinery of govern- 
ment as a means of securing good ends, and also probably with 
a keen appreciation of the fun of the game. And he was one of 
the few men who do not ask or receive material compensation for 
their participation in public affairs. 1 

Until 1840, his political activities seem to have been mainly 
along the line of securing various favors for the districts in which 
he was interested, and in urging the election of men who fa- 
vored internal improvements. In that year he was much in de- 
mand for stump speeches throughout Central Illinois, where the 
campaign lacked none of that picturesqueness which character- 
ized it in the country as a whole. On one occasion a monster pro- 
cession was organized in Bloomington, to go to Peoria, forty 
miles away. The chef-d'oeuvre of the expedition was a great 
cannon Black Betty drawn by twelve horses, and with twelve 
veterans of the War of 1812 upon it. The procession stopped at 
Mackinaw, Tremont, Washington, and other towns on the way 
for meetings. At Washington, after Fell and others had spoken, 
General Gridley was called upon for a speech, and responded 
acceptably. The possibility of entering political life appealed to 
General Gridley, and that fall he was nominated and elected to 
the lower house at Springfield. Fell advised him the next year 
to study law, and had afterward the pleasure of seeing him very 
successful in this profession. The friendship between these two 
men was cemented by mutual service and sacrifice, for part of 
the debts for which General Gridley filed a petition in bankruptcy 
in 1842 were contracted as security for Fell and others in enter- 

1 James Ewing, Memorial Address to Bloomington Bar Association, 
1887. Manuscript in Fell Papers. 

50 



315] POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 51 

prises in which both were interested. 2 Fell was able later amply 
to compensate his friend for his devotion, but he never forgot the 
service rendered at the time of the great panic. 

Besides the stump speaking, Fell reached the people by 
means of a circular letter, dated January 20, 1840, which set 
forth the evils of the Jackson regime and the necessity for re- 
form in the person and under the leadership of General Harri- 
son. This document is couched in somewhat pompous phrase- 
ology, but direct, pointed, and dignified the latter a character- 
ictic rare enough to be appreciated in the Western campaign lit- 
erature of that day. 

Fell's position on the question of repudiation is worthy of 
comment. The financial panic of 1837 was of unequaled sever- 
ity throughout the Middle West, and its effects lasted well into 
the next decade. Men who were able to weather the first months 
of the long depression went under after brave resistance, when 
the depression had continued until their hoarded resources were 
exhausted. One after another, they took benefit of the bank- 
ruptcy law passed by a special session of Congress called by Har- 
rison. Land depreciated in value until the best tracts were sold 
for a song, and then were offered vainly to buyers at any price. 3 
Not only were individuals ruined by the panic and hard times; 
it was many years before the state of Illinois recovered from the 
effects of 1837. The State Bank, as has been noted, suspended 
payment in 1837, and failed in 1842. The state's internal im- 
provement scheme did not collapse until about 1840, when the 
legislature repealed the law. The construction of the Illinois 
and Michigan Canal had stopped in 1839, and was not resumed 
for some years. Interest on the state debt was paid regularly, 
however, until 1841, when payments were suspended until July, 
1846. The state became so seriously involved that many recom- 
mended the extreme means of practical repudiation of the state 
debt. This proposal aroused the more thoughtful of the men of Ill- 
inois to a strong protest, and none opposed the suggestion more 
vigorously than Jesse Fell. He published, in 1845, an open letter 
to the Senate and House of Illinois, which was widely copied and 

2 The petition was made under the law of 1841, and bears date of Feb. 
10, 1842. The schedule of debts amounts to $52,999.42. See Fell's sketch 
of Gridley in Duis, Good Old Times in McLean County, 262-276. 

3 So late as 1848, Robert Fell was offered eighty acres near the farm 
of his brother close to Bloomington for $3 per acre. Lewis, Life, 27. 



52 JESSE W. FELL [316 

probably had a considerable influence upon the public opinion of 
the day regarding repudiation. He recommended the imposition 
of a slight tax, which he said the people would gladly pay, and 
which would recognize the moral obligation of the state. In ad- 
dition to the primary motive of common honesty, he urged that 
the passage of such a law would relieve the state of the responsi- 
bility for the Illinois and Michigan Canal, which the bondhold- 
ers would then take off its hands.* 

During these years Fell remained a loyal Whig, working in 
the party councils when occasion required, but steadily refusing 
to accept office. In 1850 the Whigs of the neighborhood of 
Quincy it will be remembered that this was while he lived at 
Payson urged him to stand for representative. " [Your views] 
on the really important question of the times the non-extension 
of slavery, will not only meet the approval of the entire Whigs 

*Copy of a Letter upon State Repudiation, Jesse W. Fell to the Sen- 
ate and House of Illinois, 1845. The following quotations will serve to 
show his position, which was that of the more conservative thinkers in the 
state generally : 

"... We stand as on the verge of a precipice, and one false step 
may precipitate us to a depth of dishonor and infamy from which we may 
never recover. ... In such a contingency [practical repudiation] our credit 
and reputation as a state will not only be gone but, it is feared, past re- 
demption ; practical repudiation will have received your sanction, and, 
in return, will consign the State to a depth of infamy from which 
she can never hope to emerge; . . . Where, let me ask, is the 
distinction, in morals or common honesty, between the man who boldly 
proclaims he will not pay a debt, which he alleges was illegally contracted, 
though based on a valuable consideration, and him who acknowledges that 
he justly owes, has the means of making restitution, but refuses to make 
the first effort to do so? ... 

"Let us inquire, in the next place, what will be the practical effect, 
what the objects to be attained by this tax, light tho' it be. If no other 
object was attainable, that of merely paying the amount of what we justly 
owe would of itself be all-sufficient, and should impel us to a prompt and 
cheerful performance of the act. But this is not all. By so doing you 
will practically extinguish, you will relieve the people of $6,000,000 of 
their public indebtedness. Our bond holders stand pledged, in the event 
of the passage through your bodies of a revenue law, imposing a light tax 
for the purpose of paying a part of the accrueing interest on our debt, to 
take the Michigan and Illinois Canal, with its attendant burdens, off our 
hands, and prosecute it to completion within a given period. Thus reliev- 
ing us of about one half of our immense State debt." 



317] POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 53 

of the county, but will I believe tend to secure a strong vote from 
the free-soilers, who probably in this county and certainly in the 
congressional district, hold the balance of power," wrote a local 
Whig leader to him at the time. 5 Fell refused the nomination. 

A little later he found in the columns of the Intelligencer a 
means of influencing public opinion which was practicable even 
when his private affairs kept him busiest. 6 He was untiring in 
his efforts for his friends, and seems in all cases to have given ad- 
vice which subsequent events justified. Again in 1854 there was 
a demand that he be a candidate for the legislature, and another 
refusal. He was wont to remark to his friends, indeed, that after 
1852 his interest in politics was buried in the grave of Henry 
Clay. That interest experienced a prompt and complete resusci- 
tation, however, upon the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. 
In common with most Friends, the Fell family had long been 
abolitionists, and when it became clear that the new Republican 
party was to be organized about the central idea of opposition to 
the extension of slavery, they united with it eagerly. 7 

The party was organized in Illinois on the 29th of May, 
1856, in Major's Hall in Bloomington, altho several prelimi- 
nary meetings had been held and the leaders were already well 

B N. Bushnell to Fell, Aug. 23, 1850. 

'For instance, Richard Yates, in a letter dated Nov. 17, 1852, explains 
his methods of winning the election of 1852, and thanks Fell for his de- 
fense of him in the Intelligencer, and for his help for several years past. 
Yates' account of the campaign is very interesting. He wrote letters, of 
which he had 150 copies made, to send to Whigs of influence, both known 
and unknown to him. After ten days he went through each county in the 
district, "had a little night meeting in each (this is what the Register 
called my still hunt) and at the end of that time I commenced speaking 
at the various county seats on a run, and in twenty days the whole Whig 
columns from center to circumference were moving in solid phalanx and 
shouting victory all along the line Calhoun was cowed his friends 
alarmed Judge Douglas and Shields and Gregg and Harris &c were 
brought to the rescue lying handbills and malignant falsehoods were 
brought in requisition, but in vain I went to bed the night of the election 
conscious of victory." 

7 Jesse Fell to his son, Jesse W. Fell, June 16, 1832. In this letter 
Fell's father tells of his mother's activity and interest in meetings held to 
express sympathy for the colored people. Mrs. Fell the elder was an ad- 
mirer of Mrs. Mott and cofiperated with her in her efforts. E. M. Prince 
states in the Fell Memorial that the senior Fell operated a station of the 
Underground Railroad. 



54 JESSE W. PELL [318 

united. 8 The convention held at that time was supposed to be 
composed of one delegate for each six thousand people, which 
gave three delegates to McLean County; but others besides dele- 
gates participated freely in its business, especially as there seems 
to have been practical unanimity concerning what was to be 
done. People came in crowds from all parts of the state, and 
there was great enthusiasm, which reached its highest pitch when 
Lincoln gave the famous ' ' Lost Speech. ' ' Local tradition places 
Fell among the many speakers whose efforts were entirely lost 
sight of in the splendor of that matchless oration ; but his charac- 
teristic activity at such times, it may be remarked in passing, 
was rather the framing of resolutions and the urging of progres- 
sive measures privately among his friends, than the making of 
speeches. 

By 1856, Illinois people had come thoroly to realize that 
the Whig party had ceased to be ; but the character and policy of 
its successor was not altogether clear. In no state, perhaps, was 
the Republican party made up of elements more diverse than 
composed it in Illinois. The third congressional district, for in- 
stance, comprised in 1856 thirteen counties. 9 The southern coun- 
ties, still largely influenced by their southern antecedents, abomi- 
nated abolitionists. The northern counties had been settled 
mainly by New England and Ohio people, who brought with them 
very decided anti-slavery views. Fifty-five delegates, represent- 
ing the thirteen counties, met in convention July 2, 1856, and 
nominated Owen Lovejoy, altho McLean and all the southern 
counties had been instructed for Leonard Swett. Lovejoy was 
known to be an abolitionist, an ex-member of the Liberty party. 
Moreover, the southern counties had long yielded the nomination 
to those of the north, and thought that a sense of fairness should 
have granted them the nomination when they urged so able a 
candidate as Leonard Swett. Because of these things, the dis- 
gruntled counties held another convention on the sixteenth of 

8 Major's Hall was the third story, now demolished, of a building still 
(1916) standing on Front street in Bloomington. Pantograph, June 4, 
1856. Joseph Medill, "Lincoln's Lost Speech," in McClure's Magazine, 
Sept., 1896. For an account of attempts at Republican organization before 
1856, see J. H. Burnham, History of Bloomington and Normal, 109-114. 

9 Kendall, Will, Grundy, La Salle, Bureau, Putnam, Kankakee, Iro- 
quois, McLean, DeWitt, Champaign, and Vermillion, of which the present 
Ford County then formed a part. 



319] POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 55 

July at Bloomington, and nominated Judge T. L. Dickey of 
Ottawa. 10 

Fell had been in the East during the first convention, at Ot- 
tawa, but he was known to be strongly in favor of Swett. He 
had gone on private business, but hoping to attend the latter part 
of the Republican convention at Philadelphia, a hope which was 
frustrated by delay in his business affairs. He returned, how- 
ever, in time to attend the great ratification meeting in the square 
in Bloomington, on the evening of the convention day. After 
the "bolters" had spoken, some one called on Love joy, who had 
appeared upon the scene. He came to the front and delivered a 
speech so powerful that he won the unfriendly crowd completely. 
It was a wonderful victory for the abolitionist, and for the prin- 
ciples of freedom and equality which he advocated. 11 

On the second evening after, another mass meeting was held 
on the square, at which Fell offered resolutions in favor of Love- 
joy. The crowd was again carried away with enthusiasm, and 
readily adopted them. Lovejoy sentiment grew from day to day. 
Judge Dickey later withdrew from the contest, and Lovejoy was 
elected by a large majority. It was during this campaign that 
there sprang up the warm friendship between Fell and Lovejoy, 
which was to last until the death of the latter in 1864. 

During the campaign that followed Mr. Fell made many 
speeches. The Republican organization in Illinois was rapidly 
completed, and the party pushed its campaign so energetically 
that it won the governorship, altho the Democrats were suc- 
cessful in the general elections. During the summer the Bloom- 
ington Democratic and Republican clubs exchanged speakers, 
Mr. Fell being invited to represent his party before the Demo- 
cratic Club. 12 He was active in the county nominating conven- 
tion in September. Throughout the summer, however, he seems 
studiously to have confined himself to local activities. 

Among the forces that were powerful in shaping public 
opinion in Illinois after 1853, were the Kansas Aid Committee 

10 Pantograph, June ir, July 2, 9, 23, 1856; April n, 1868. 

"Brush, The Political Career of Owen Lovejoy (manuscript thesis, 
University of Illinois), 12. Prince says (Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois 
and History of McLean County, 1029) that this appearance of Lovejoy 
had been planned by Mr. Fell, who thought it the best way of reconciling 
discordant elements in the party. Burnham, History of Bloomington and 
Normal, 114. 

12 Adlai Stevenson in Fell Memorial, 4Qff. 



56 JESSE W. PELL [320 

and its allies. General W. F. M. Arny, a West Virginian who 
lived in North Bloomington, was a leader in the work of helping 
Northern men in Kansas. 13 The big barn at his home was a depot 
of supplies for Kansas families sent in by sympathizers from far 
and near. The town was a recruiting station for immigrants 
bound for Kansas. The Fells, being anti-slavery people, helped 
in the work. In 1856, at the national convention of the society 
held in Buffalo, Abraham Lincoln was appointed on the National 
Kansas Aid Committee. He declined to serve, however, alleging 
other pressing duties, and recommended Fell as a substitute. 
General Arny wrote at once to Fell offering him membership, as 
representative for Illinois, and asking him to attend the meeting 
in Chicago on July 30. Fell in turn declined, recommending 
Arny himself for the post, to which in due time he was ap- 
pointed, and served with marked ability. 14 

After 1856 Fell's interest in politics did not flag. His map 
of Illinois, with the senatorial districts carefully inked in, and 
the party vote for each district for 1858 written in the margin, 
shows how closely he kept track of conditions and tendencies. He 
was close to the people, and knew their ideas and their heroes. 
He was close to the leaders, knowing their ambitions and their 
motives. He was interested in all public affairs, concerned with 
the growth of the country, solicitous for the right solution to na- 
tional problems. 15 In 1857 he was commissioned by the state 
central committee as corresponding secretary to visit different 
parts of Illinois for conferences with leaders. He knew the pulse 
of the state as no one else could. 

As has been noted, Fell met Lincoln in 1834-5, when Lincoln 
and Stuart were serving in the state legislature. At circuit court 
sessions they were more or less closely associated while Fell con- 
tinued to ride the circuit, and after he had given up law for real 
estate their friendship continued. In the campaigns of 1840 and 
1844 they were active and friendly Whig partisans. They called 
each other by their Christian names, and it was noted with 

18 Wm. M. McCambridge, "My Remembrances of Jesse W. Fell," man- 
uscript Pantograph, June 25, July 2 and 23, 1856. 

"Arny to Fell, July 22, 1856. Chicago Tribune, same date. The Pan- 
tograph of July 23, 1856, says that "A. Lincoln is a member of the na- 
tional committee." The facts were related by Fell himself in a letter to 
a newspaper, Oct. 3, 1881 ; Scrapbook. 

"Dept. of Interior to Owen Lovejoy, May 25, 1858. Lovejoy to Fell,, 
undated. 



321] POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 57 

amusement by their common acquaintances that Fell never 
called Lincoln "Abe" after the easy fashion of most Illinoisans. 
It was one of the Quaker characteristics which gave him a gentle 
dignity which all men respected, that he did not use nicknames. 
Lincoln was often at the Fell home in Bloomington, and the two 
men seem to have carried on a friendly correspondence whenever 
there was public business upon which they might cooperate. 

John F. Eberhart says that Jesse W. Fell and his brother 
Kersey were the first men to suggest Mr. Lincoln as presidential 
timber. 16 Be this as it may, there is no question that the idea of 
joint debates between Lincoln and Douglas originated with Jesse 
Fell and was repeatedly suggested until the debates became a 
reality. They were first proposed by Mr. Fell in September of 
1854 on the occasion of a speech by Senator Douglas in Bloom- 
ington. Mr. Fell's request was then based on a general desire 
of people to hear the two together. Douglas declined to debate, 
and Lincoln goodnaturedly agreed to postpone his own talk until 
1 'candlelight". 17 

There was no doubt among the Republicans of Illinois as to 
their choice for senator in 1858. They wished to make the nomi- 
nation at the state convention, a proceeding until then unheard- 
of. In the McLean County convention, held June 5, Fell offered 
resolutions ' ' that Lincoln is our first, last and only choice for the 
vacancy soon to occur in the United States Senate ; and that de- 
spite all influences at home or abroad, domestic or foreign, the 
Republicans of Illinois, as with the voice of one man, are unalter- 
ably so resolved ; to the end that we may have a big man, with a 
big mind, and a big heart, to represent our big state." 18 The 
resolutions were read amid shouts of approval, and were adopted 
with rounds of applause. Throughout the state the feeling was 
the same. At the state convention, held in Springfield on the 

16th, practically the same resolutions were adopted. 19 It was at 
- -* 

u Fell Memorial, 26. J. R. Rowell in ibid. 

"Stevenson, Something of Men I Have Known, 8. Lawrence Weldon, 
"New Lincoln Stories" in Chicago Tribune, Feb. 9 and Pantograph, Feb. 
10, 1902. Fell's own account is in Oldroyd, Lincoln Memorial Album, 468- 
472. James T. Ewing tells it in his contribution to the Fell Memorial. 

^Pantograph, June I and 7, 1858. 

"The comment in the Democratic organ, the Illinois Statesman, of 
June 3, 1858, besides furnishing a typical example of the attitude of non- 
Republicans toward Lincoln, refers to a "secret caucus" of the night be- 
fore. Probably the presentation of the resolutions was carefully planned 
by the leaders at this meeting. 



58 JESSE W. FELL [322 

the evening session of this convention that Lincoln delivered his 
"House Divided" speech. To trace the courses of speeches and 
replies that followed, as Lincoln and Douglas pushed their 
rivalry, would be to repeat a story that has already been well and 
fully told. Of especial interest here is the journey of Fell 
through the states north and east of Illinois, during the time 
when the debates were taking place in Illinois, and later. He 
visited all the New England states but Maine, and New York, 
New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Every- 
where he found Republicans who were interested in the debates, 
and who were eager to hear about the man who was succfssfully 
defying and answering Stephen A. Douglas. As he sounded the 
praises of his friend, the conviction grew in him that in a still 
larger field Lincoln might become the successful rival of the 
great Douglas. 20 

When he returned to Bloomington, Fell proposed to Lincoln 
that he should be the next Republican candidate for president. 
This was in his brother Kersey's law office. The story of that 
conversation, which Mr, Fell afterward substantially repro- 
duced, is well known. Lincoln professed to think it a very fool- 
ish idea, and declined to write the autobiography for which his 
friend asked, that he might acquaint people in the East with 
Lincoln's personal history. 21 Nevertheless Fell quietly pursued 
the realization of his ' ' big idea, ' ' which other f oresighted Repub- 
licans shared with him, through 1859. He was secretary of the 
state central committee for his party, and in that capacity he 
kept a sensitive finger on the pulse of the state. He found occa- 
sion, moreover, in perfecting the state organization, to visit most 
of the counties, where the people as a rule were eager to see 
"Abe" Lincoln a presidential candidate. There was no need, 
apparently, to urge Lincoln's name to Illinoisans. It was in 
other states that the Lincoln propaganda must be pushed. 

Lincoln himself began to think seriously of running for 
president during the summer, and especially after visiting Kan- 
sas and Ohio in the fall. On December 20, when Fell repeated 
his request, Lincoln gave him the famous autobiography. With- 
out waiting to copy the paper, Fell sent it at once to his friend, 
Joseph J. Lewis, in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Mr. Lewis' use 

20 Lewis, Life, 64; Oldroyd, Lincoln Memorial Album, 472-478. 

21 Oldroyd, Lincoln Memorial Album, 477 (Fell's own account). Ar- 
nold, Life of Lincoln, 155. Tarbell, Life of Lincoln, II, 128-130. Bloom- 
ington Eye, March 6, 1887. 



323] POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 59 

of it forms one of the most interesting chapters in the story of 
I Lincoln 's rise to the presidency. 22 

During all the years since leaving Pennsylvania, Fell had 
never suffered himself to lose touch with public affairs in his na- 
tive state. Through correspondence and through many return 
visits, even after all his family had removed to Illinois, he kept 
himself well informed of tendencies and opinions in Pennsyl- 
vania. 23 He knew that that state had already, in 1859, become a 
stronghold of the new party, with opposition to slavery extension 
and high tariff for the backbone of its platform. He knew that 
Seward, who held the unswerving allegiance of New York, was not 
popular in Pennsylvania. He knew that Lincoln, popular in the 
"West, needed the support of the East also, if he were to win 
from Seward the Republican nomination in 1860; and that the 
influence of Pennsylvania, direct and indirect, would be an im- 
portant factor in the coming national convention. Pennsylva- 
nia, if won for Lincoln, must know about him. 

"Arnold, Life of Lincoln, 14. Joseph J. Lewis to Fell, Mar. 28, 1872. 
Lewis to J. R. Osgood, same date. This autobiography, with the letter 
from Lincoln which accompanied it (dated Dec. 20, 1859, and now in the 
Oldroyd collection), was later the subject of a prolonged controversy be- 
tween Mr. Fell and his family and Mr. Oldroyd, who made a notable col- 
lection of Lincolniana. The manuscript was returned by Lewis to Fell, 
and was later loaned, with the letter, to Mr. Oldroyd. Mr. Oldroyd re- 
turned the autobiography, but has never returned the letter. Memoranda 
among the Fell Papers, and letters ; from O. H. Oldroyd to Fell, April 3, 
1882; Shelby M. Cullom to Lawrence Weldon, Aug. 30, 1887. A facsimile 
of the autobiography was published in 1872 with an introduction by Mr. 
Fell. 

28 Issachar Price to Fell, Downington, Pa., Sept. 24, 1838. In this let- 
ter, one of the most interesting in the Fell collection, Mr. Price gives a 
rather pessimistic view of political conditions in Van Buren's administra- 
tion. "Ritner cannot be elected ; he is the most prevaricating shuffling tool 
that ever set on a throne," he says ; "promise one thing today and go right 
to the contrary tomorrow ; this he has done in 20 instances to my own 
knowledge & his great drill Sargeant Thad Stevens is the most barefaced 
impudent scoundrel now unchained and running at large in the state." 
This estimate, from which doubtless Fell deduced his own more charitable 
conclusions, is followed by a prophecy of the vote in the coming election. 
Speaking of national politics, this Pennsylvania village postmaster pre- 
dicts : "Abolition will entirely swallow up antiism in fact anti-masonry 
is defunct abolitionism takes its place & the party that adopts it as a test 
is destined to growl in a glorious minority for many a year to come & this 
will be the end of the great and talented Whig party in the U States." 



60 JESSE W. FELL [324 

Joseph J. Lewis was a prominent Republican who wrote 
persuasively, and who was personally influential in Eastern 
Pennsylvania. He took care to inform himself rather minutely 
concerning the Westerner before he prepared, from the auto- 
biography and from other material which Fell furnished, an arti- 
cle which introduced Lincoln to the people of his part of the 
state. This article appeared first in the Chester County Times 
of February 11, 1860. It was widely copied throughout the 
state and beyond it, and together with the personal work and 
speeches of Lewis and others whom he interested, served to ac- 
quaint the Pennsylvanians with the career and character of Ab- 
raham Lincoln. 24 

It is interesting to note how the two men who planned Lin- 
coln's introduction to Pennsylvania selected from the material 
at hand those elements which they knew would count for most 
with the people with whom they dealt. He was ''certainly not 
of the first families," said Mr. Lewis. His ancestors were 
Friends a circumstance with which, it is safe to say, very few 
Ulinoisans were acquainted. They had gone from Berks County, 
Pennsylvania; but in Illinois no one traced the Lincoln family 
back of its Virginia antecedents. Descendants of the same stock, 
Mr. Lewis continued, still lived in Eastern Pennsylvania. He 
had been a strong Whig leader, a friend of Henry Clay, a great 
worker in the campaign of 1844, and was master of "the princi- 
ples of political economy that underlie the tariff " question. 
Pennsylvania was especially assured that: "Mr. Lincoln has 
been a consistent and earnest tariff man from the first hour of 
his entering public life. He is such from principle, and from a 
deeply rooted conviction of the wisdom of the protective policy ; 
and what ever influence he may hereafter exert upon the govern- 
ment will be in favor of that policy." 25 Lewis' account of Lin- 
coln's sacrifice of his own chances of election to the Senate in 
1854, when he asked his friends to vote for Trumbull rather than 
risk the election of Governor Matteson, a Nebraska Democrat, 
must have had its intended effect with the anti-slavery Repub- 
licans of Pennsylvania. He attributed Douglas' success after the 
debates of 1858 to an "old and grossly unequal apportionment 
of the districts." 

As the time for the national Republican convention drew 

2 *J. J. Lewis to Fell, Jan. 30, 1860. Vickers Fell to E. J. Lewis, June 
3, 1896. Daily Local News (Westchester, Pa.), Apr. 9, 1883. 
25 Blaine, Twenty Years in Congress, I, 196-207. 



325] POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 61 

near Lincoln's friends realized that, barring the chance of one 
of those tricks of fate which sometimes change the course of 
events at political meetings, his only serious rival was Seward. 
Cameron and Bates had only local support, and were not greatly 
feared. Leonard Swett, David Davis, and Jesse Fell were the 
three Illinoisans most active in their efforts for Lincoln. Fell 
had declined to be secretary of the Republican state committee 
again, that he might have more time for field work. In the 
spring of 1860 he had endeavored to secure full lists of names 
from the entire state for the documents sent out by the Repub- 
lican national committee. Nothing that could aid in preparing 
Illinois to play her part in the coming drama was omitted. 28 
Financial support was assured through a well-organized system 
of county assessments, collected in 1859 to be ready for campaign 
purposes. It was planned that a great delegation should go 
from Central Illinois to Chicago to support Lincoln. 27 

26 Fell, in Duis, Good Old Times in McLean County, 280. Circular let- 
ter of the Republican State Central Committee, June 23, 1860. This letter 
was issued by the secretary, Horace White, who succeeded Fell. Circular 
letter from Fell to chairmen of county central committees, May 8, 1860. 
Both of these latter circulars show the methodical business administra- 
tion by which Fell secured an unusual degree of unity and assured re- 
sources for the great campaign. 

"The account of the convention has been told many times. There is 
a story of the events of the meeting which because of its connection with 
Mr. Fell may be repeated here. It is unsupported by any sort of docu- 
mentary evidence but persists among the older citizens of Bloomington to 
an extent which at least warrants its repetition. It is to the effect that 
the Illinois leaders discovered that the tickets of admission issued to dele- 
gates and visitors to the convention were almost monopolized by the 
large delegations from the East which supported Seward. The Lincoln 
contingent, having gathered with great enthusiasm, was suddenly reduced 
to the depths of despair by the announcement, on the morning of May 
18, that all the tickets had been given out, and that they would therefore 
have to content themselves with standing outside the Wigwam. The West- 
ern leaders gathered quickly for a conference, because the popular enthu- 
siasm for Lincoln of the delegations from Indiana and Illinois was an as- 
set upon which they definitely counted in the session to come. Fell prom- 
ised a solution, and made good his promise by securing another set of 
tickets, similar to the first, which he had hastily printed. These were 
fairly distributed to the leaders of the various delegations, including the 
Seward men, who distributed them to their adherents. During the morn- 
ing the Seward men, feeling secure of their seats in the Wigwam because 
of the tickets they held, organized a monster parade for Seward, led by 



62 JESSE W. PELL [326 

Joseph Lewis, with other delegates from Pennsylvania, did 
valiant work for Lincoln, and nominated Lewis' old friend, John 
Hickman, for the vice-presidency. General Stokeley was a dele- 
gate from Ohio who gave substantial aid. 28 The Pennsylvania 
contingent, returning full of enthusiasm to its own state, pushed 
the campaign vigorously, Lewis keeping in close touch with Lin- 
coln through his correspondence with Fell. In order to bring to 
Pennsylvania some of the enthusiasm of the Western men, Lewis 
tried to secure Davis and Swett as campaign speakers for his 
state, but failed to convince the central committee of the advis- 
ability of this plan. Davis and Swett, of course, were well oc- 
cupied in Illinois. Owen Lovejoy, candidate for the House, con- 
ducted a lively campaign, guided in his methods by the advice 
of Fell, who had become his close friend and hearty supporter. 
Fell's own campaign notebook, filled with newspaper clippings 
and notes for comment and reply, has been preserved, and shows 
a collection of indictments of slavery, Southern commendations 
of Buchanan (with caustic comment very belligerent for a 
Quaker) and clippings about "Bully" Brooks. The summer and 
autumn were for him, as for many Illinoisans, one long effort to 
make Lincoln the head of the nation. 29 

the band which had come with them from New York. Returning to the 
hall, they found the Western men already admitted in large numbers, and 
ready to shout for Lincoln, while other crowds filled the streets for 
blocks in every direction. Henry Fell in the Fell Memorial, 12. Horace 
White considers the story improbable. Horace White to the writer, 
April 30, 1914. A good account of the convention from the standpoint of 
an Illinoisan is found in a letter by Leonard Swett to the Hon. Josiah H. 
Drummond of Portland, Maine, and dated May 27, 1860. Published in 
the Moline (III.) Mail, and later in the Pantograph of Jan. 8, 1909. 

28 J. J. Lewis to Fell, May 28, 1860. Gen. Stokeley to Fell, Dec. 21, 
1860. 

29 Concerning the campaign in Pennsylvania : Lewis to Fell, May 28, 
June 17, July 9, Sept. I, Sept. 25, Oct. I, Oct. 21, 1860; John G. Nicolay to 
Fell, July 19, 1860; Lincoln to Fell, Oct. 5, 1860. Concerning Owen Love- 
joy: Lovejoy to Fell, May 28, June 27, July 21, Sept. n, 1860. 



CHAPTER VI 
THE YEARS OF THE CIVIL WAR 

Following his election Lincoln stood the fire of a brisk siege 
of office-seekers. Joseph J. Lewis was actively corresponding 
with him and Fell during this time, not only because he hoped 
to receive some sort of reward for his services in Pennsylvania, 
but also because a man whom he had cordially disliked, and of 
whose loyalty to Lincoln during the campaign he had the strong- 
est doubts, seemed destined to receive a cabinet appointment. 
This man was Simon Cameron. Stimulated by Lewis' represen- 
tations concerning the character and ability of Cameron, Fell 
visited the president-elect and told him what Lewis had written 
him. 1 Lyman Trumbull and others also told Lincoln of Camer- 

1 Lewis to Fell, Dec. 17, 1860; Jan. 15, 1861. In view of Cameron's 
subsequent record as secretary of war it is interesting to note Lewis' un- 
qualified condemnation. "At Harrisburg I found but one sentiment prev- 
alent, and that was, of extreme satisfaction that the incarnation of the 
idea of public corruption was not to enter the cabinet. Men spoke out 
who had before been restrained by fear, and the feeling was one of great 
relief. When we were informed that the place of secretary of the treas- 
ury was offered to Cameron, and accepted by him, the information pro- 
duced grief, and mortification. I felt mortified and humbled. I hap- 
pened to enter a few nights after a room where a number of leading 
Republicans were assembled discussing the subject. 'Is this the man,' 
said one of them to me, 'that you promised us, had such an instinctive 
horror of corruption that it could not be suffered to come near him? 
What will you say when you find all the banality of Albany and Harris- 
burg combined transferred to Washington and pervading all the highest 
places in the government?' I was urged to undertake in company of 
Henry C. Casey a mission to Springfield to disabuse the mind of the 
president-elect, and relieve it from its delusion. I had but to answer that 
Mr. Lincoln had but to know that he had been imposed upon & he would 
certainly retrace his steps that it was hard for a man in his position to 
resist the pressure upon him from unexpected quarters and from men 
who possessed his confidence and that it was our duty to make the truth 
perfectly clear and apparent to his mind so that he might discover it even 
through the mist which the hopes of personal favor or the fears of per- 
sonal resentment had raised to obscure it. When the news came that Mr. 
Lincoln had become informed and had acted on that information the joy 

63 



64 JESSE W. FELL [328 

on's reputation and record. The president-elect seems to have 
given up the idea of appointing him to the portfolio of war by 
early January, but afterward again altered his plans ; and Cam- 
eron 's name appeared with the other appointments in March. 

In the case of Norman B. Judd, who made the nomination 
of Lincoln for the Illinoisans, Lincoln was more effectively coun- 
seled. No paper left by Mr. Fell illustrates better his sound po- 
litical judgment than the letter of January 2, 1861, in which he 
discusses with Lincoln the possibility of a cabinet appointment 
for Judd or Davis. After speaking of his own high regard for 
Judd, he said that in the state there was much bitterness toward 
him, particularly in the Whig element of the party. The causes 
of this included his opposition to Lincoln in his first contest for 
the senatorship, which was still remembered in a way to make 
his appointment ''a bitter pill to many of your old and tried 
friends." The Republicans of "Whig antecedents wanted to see 
David Davis in the cabinet; and of his loyalty and devotion 
there could be no question. But Fell thought it unwise, since 
Illinois had the presidency, to make any first-class appointments 
there. He begged Lincoln not to increase the feud between the 
two elements of the party (just then at its height because of the 
imminence of the slavery conflict) by appointing the leader of 
either. Indiana and Pennsylvania should be given cabinet ap- 
pointments, but by avoiding the gift of any in Illinois friction 
could be allayed. Davis had agreed with these sentiments in 
October; nor did Fell add, what was probably patent to him, 
that Davis might have changed his mind since then. He ex- 
pressed a strong hope that his friend might be given a "first- 
rate second class appointment." 

Joseph Lewis would gladly have accepted a foreign post. 
But this was not forthcoming, nor was any other federal ap- 
pointment until March, 1863, when he was appointed commis- 
sioner of internal revenue, a position for which Lincoln had been 
considering him for about a year. 2 Fell 's friends confidently ex- 
pected to see him appointed to some place of importance, but 
such an appointment was as distasteful to him then as at any 
other time in his life. The circumstances of Lincoln's elevation 
did not alter his own fixed plans, principles, and preferences, 

was great. Many felt that a step had been taken which would save the 
nation from disgrace and the Republican party in Penna from shame and 
confusion . . ." See White, Life of Lyman Trumbull, 142-152. 
2 Lewis to Fell, Mar. i and 27, 1862; Mar. 13, 1863. 



329] THE CIVIL WAR 65 

which seem to have been to bring about what he considered desir- 
able events and results, through personal influence rather than 
by personal administration. At the outbreak of the war he was 
offered a place as assistant quartermaster, with rank of captain. 
This, with probably other similar offers, he declined, and con- 
tinued for a time to carry on his regular business as usual. 3 

When the certainty of war was clear to everyone, at the fall 
of Sumter, men who felt the responsibility of leading public 
opinion bent their energies toward uniting the country in sup- 
port of the government. The friends of Lincoln in Central Illi- 
nois wished especially to hold up the hands of the president by 
assuring him of popular support. On the day after the fall of 
Fort Sumter, Mr. Fell hurriedly gathered together a group of 
the leading men of Bloomington, both Republicans and Demo- 
crats, in an upper room on "Washington street. He had resolu- 
tions ready as usual, which were voted for by everyone except 
Mr. Snow, who sympathized with secession and had the courage 
to say so in an overwhelmingly loyal community. Being united 
among themselves these local leaders next turned their attention 
to building up popular union sentiment. They had handbills 
printed and distributed announcing a mass-meeting to be held 
in Phoenix Hall that night ; and before separating, agreed upon 
a long program of speakers upon whose sentiments they could 
rely, that there might be no time for possible dissenting volun- 
teers from the audience. 4 Mr. Spencer presided that evening, 
and one prominent man after another addressed the people. A 
great flag draped across the platform gave the keynote of loy- 
alty. The people cheered it enthusiastically, and sang patriotic 
songs. The resolutions were presented by Rev. C. G. Ames, who 
called upon those "who in their hearts swore to the sentiments 
therein expressed" to hold up their right hands in voting. "A 
response like thunder came up from the densely packed audience, 

8 Fell to Richard Yates, Aug. 21, 1861. This letter has been lost, but 
is on record. 

4 Among those who attended were C. P. Merriman and Dr. David 
Brier, Republicans; Hamilton Spencer, T. P. Rogers, Allen Withers, Dr. 
E. R. Roe, and H. P. Merriman, Democrats the last two of the Demo- 
cratic Statesman; and D. J. Snow of the Times. The speakers of the 
evening meeting included James S. Ewing, Col. W. P. Boyd, Dr. T. P. 
Rogers, Dr. E. R. Roe, Rev. C. G. Ames, Harvey Hogg, and E. M. 
Prince. The resolutions are given in the Lewis Life, 68, and in the 
Pantograph, Apr. 17, 1861. Dr. Roe's account of the meeting is in the 
Pantograph for July 20, 1871. 



66 JESSE W. PELL [330 

and a thousand hands flashed in the light above the sea of heads, 
like the drawing of myriad swords." This meeting, the first of 
its kind in Illinois, was followed by many in other towns all over 
the region, and is a type of the means by which the people were 
stirred to loyal support of the administration. 

As the friend of Lincoln, Mr. Fell found himself more in de- 
mand as a political power than he had ever been. His old 
friends found him responsive as formerly; new friends, called 
to his attention by the circumstances of the times, found him 
ready and anxious to help where help was needed. Owen Love- 
joy called upon him freely for aid and advice ; Governor Yates 
and Lyman Trumbull asked and received suggestions from him. 
He united with Love joy to urge Davis' appointment to the su- 
preme bench. 5 Yates, who met determined and influential op- 
position, largely upon personal grounds, especially appreciated 
his loyal support. Opposition to the governor, at a time when 
every element in Illinois should have been united in support of 
the administration, seemed very foolish and wrong to Jesse Fell, 
and he used his pen and his personal influence to gain better co- 
operation for the governor." 

Fell's relations to Owen Lovejoy, whom he greatly admired, 

5 Owen Lovejoy to Fell, Apr. i, 1861 ; Fell to Yates, Apr. 8, June 12, 
1861 ; Lyman Trumbull to Fell, Feb. i, June 7, 1861 ; Yates to Fell, Aug. 
13, 1864. 

Among the letters of this period is one from Fell to Governor Yates, 
dated Aug. 18, 1864. It called Yates' attention to the fact that there was 
no practical farmer among those appointed to suggest an application of 
the funds accruing to Illinois under the Morrill Act, and suggested 
George W. Minier of Tazewell County, a successful farmer and a forci- 
ble writer, as a member of this committee. Letters concerning the ap- 
pointment of Davis are not now available, but Fell's article in the Panto- 
graph of Apr. ii, 1868, contains a statement of his agency. 

An undated petition to Lincoln in behalf of Jesse Bishop of Marion, 
111., who had suffered at the hands of secession sympathizers, belongs 
to this period. It is signed by Thomas I. Turner, Jesse W. Fell, Richard 
Yates, W. Bushnell, Richard Oglesby, S. M. Cullom, and others. Kersey- 
Fell seems especially to have interested himself in helping those upon 
whom the burdens of the war were heavy. A set of letters from him to 
Governor Yates, dated from Sept. 21, 1861, to Dec. 27, 1864, are filled 
with requests for passes, money, or permits to all sorts of folk who 
needed help. (Yates MSS.) 

Richard Yates to Fell, June 7, 1862. 



331] THE CIVIL WAR 67 

were especially close during the war. 7 Lovejoy at Washington 
and Fell in Illinois and other states of the Middle West found 
many ways of helping each other; and they liked to compare 
notes and opinions. Writing to his friend early in October, 1862, 
Fell said: "Can it be possible that the Almighty, (who will 
pardon my presumption) is so poor a general as to suffer this 
war to come to a close without sweeping, as with the besom of 
destruction, that damning sin that has thus culminated in civil 
war. We will trust not and will pray not ; at least till the ' old 
cuss' shall be 'placed' as Honest Old Abe expressed it 'in 
process of final' and may we justly add 'speedy extinction.' ' 
Lovejoy replied, "My trust is in God for the nation." 8 

Among the friends of Mr. Fell who by no means shared his 
own Quaker aversion to war, was the "Fighting Schoolmaster," 
Charles E. Hovey, the normal school president who led the Thir- 
ty-third Illinois out of the schoolroom into the field. Without 
having had technical training in tactics he proved an able com- 
mander. But he was never able to qualify his outspoken New 
England anti-slavery sentiments, nor did he find any common 
ground with the West Point officers with whom he was asso- 
ciated, and who were able to understand the point of view of 
Southern men. He asked and received Mr. Fell's aid in enter- 
prises for which he needed an agent in civil life, while Fell ap- 
preciated the opportunity of keeping in close touch with field 
operations through a man whom he knew to be trustworthy. 

His own participation in the war, until now delayed by the 
pressure of private business and a distaste for military life, be- 
gan in 1862. He had gone with Hovey to Washington in late 
June, 1861, to see Lincoln about the organization of the normal 
school regiment, and to observe the situation there for himself. 
With Hovey he went out with the crowds which followed the 
army to the disastrous battle of Bull Run. After the battle, 

7 Lovejoy to Fell, Dec. /, 1862; Fell to his brother Vickers Fell, Oct. 
7, 1862. 

8 Lovejoy selected Fell to prepare, after his death, such a memoir as 
might seem suitable. In April, 1864, therefore, his 'daughter wrote to 
Fell asking him to do this last service for his friend. Fell was also among 
those who raised money for the erection of a monument, and he seems 
to have secured payment to Lovejoy's heirs of money owed him. Lucy I. 
Lovejoy to Fell, Apr. 6, 1864. Circular letter from Princeton, signed by 
John H. Bryant, C. C. Mason, and F. Bascom, May jo, 1864; Bryant to 
Fell, Nov. 18, 1865. 



68 JESSE W. FELL [332 

while Hovey surveyed the field and interviewed spectators, Fell 
found congenial employment in helping about the hospitals which 
had been hastily improvised. He found there a certain Captain 
McCook lying mortally wounded. He was able to help many, 
and remained with Captain McCook and his father until the 
death of the former. Returning from Washington impressed with 
the magnitude of the coming struggle, the sense of his own obli- 
gation to bear a part in it grew as time passed. In the second 
year of the war he arranged his nursery and real estate busi- 
nesses for a long absence, and offered his services to the presi- 
dent. Knowing that his talents were not military, and that he 
had passed the age when he might have been trained into a 
fighting man, he accepted gladly the position of paymaster, to 
which the rank of major was attached. The appointment seems 
to have been a pet project of Lincoln, as his letters on the sub- 
ject attest. 9 

He accepted the appointment on the 19th of July, 1862, and 
began his duties soon afterward at Louisville, Kentucky. He 
took with him as a clerk William 0. Davis, who was betrothed 
to his daughter Eliza. 10 As a friend of the president, he was 
received among his colleagues with unusual interest, which gave 
place soon, as Rodney Smith bears witness, to deep respect and 
admiration. His habit of going about unarmed the expression 
of a fixed principle of trusting men was regarded as a fool- 
hardy concession to these ideals by his colleagues ; but there is no 
record of any attack upon him during the entire time of his serv- 
ice. He employed himself first in mastering the intricate red- 
tape of the service, after which in August he was sent to Indian- 
apolis to pay the Sixty-ninth Indiana Infantry. From there he 
went to Springfield, Illinois, which was his headquarters while 
he paid the Illinois troops then being hurried to the front. Ma- 
jor William Smith, a more experienced paymaster, took Mr. Da- 
Lincoln to the secretary of war, Dec. 23, 1861, Mar. 29, 1862. "I 
really wish Jesse W. Fell, of Illinois, to be appointed a Paymaster in the 
Regular Army, at farthest, as early as the 1st of July, 1862. I wish noth- 
ing to interfere with this ; and I have so written as much as two months 
ago, I think." Adjutant General's Office, War Department, Washington, 
File No. F-290-C.B. 1863. See also O. H. Browning to Fell, June 26, June 
30, 1862. 

"Rodney Smith to Captain E. J. Lewis, July 15, 1897. The letter is 
copied in full on pages 73-78 of Lewis' Life. Mr. Davis was later trans- 
ferred to the office of Internal Revenue at Washington, there to serve 
under Fell's old Friend J. J. Lewis. Davis to Fell, Oct. 18, 1863. 



333] THE CIVIL WAB 69 

vis into his personal employ, giving Fell Rodney Smith, an ex- 
perienced clerk, who had been in the service for some time. 
Smith remained with him during the time of his service, and at 
his request then became his successor. 

The official records of Mr. Fell's service, which lasted about 
eighteen months, show that he remained in Illinois until late in 
September, when he made a trip to Fort Donelson to pay the 
Eighty-third Illinois Infantry. After returning to Illinois, he 
went to Camp Morton in Indiana in November, then spent six 
months in Kentucky and Tennessee, going from Paducah to Cin- 
cinnati about the first of August, 1863. In the spring of that 
year he had a short leave of absence. Remaining in Ohio after 
his return to work but a short time, he returned to Kentucky, 
to Covington and Camp Wild Cat. His last payment was made 
to the Forty-eighth Pennsylvania near London, Kentucky, on 
September 18, 1863. The condition of his private affairs was 
such at that time as imperatively to demand his attention, and 
knowing that there were others who were capable of doing the 
work without loss to the service, he resigned at Christmas time. 
The resignation was accepted, and Fell hurried from Washing- 
ton to Normal, to look after an accumulation of both private and 
public business. 11 

Scarcely had he arrived at home when his friends began to 
urge him to enter politics. The first public request was a "sug- 
gestion" in the Pantagraph of December 26, 1863, that he be 
sent to the next Congress as representative for the eighth dis- 
trict. In an editorial on January 26 his name was suggested 
again, with a repetition of the arguments in the first article. He 
replied at once that the public work he had already done had en- 
tailed a sacrifice of personal interests which he felt he could ill 
afford to make, and added, "while the district can boast of a 
Leonard Swett, my consent to be placed in such a position would 
indicate a recklessness of the public weal, not to say vanity, that 
I trust I cannot be capable of. ' ' Some of his friends refused to 
consider this answer final, and made out a petition, signed by a 
long roll of names, begging him to accept the nomination. 12 Al- 

"Major William Cumback to Fell, Feb. 4, 1864. Fell to his wife, Oct. 
19, 1862, Feb. 23, 1863. Receipts, 1863. 

12 Mr. Fell, in his endorsement upon this paper, says he declined it 
"as incompatible with proper attention to my private affairs ... & for the 
further reason that I had solicited another and a better man to become 
a candidate To wit Leonard Swett." No date; about Feb. i, 1864. 



70 JESSE W. FELL [334 

exander Campbell paused in his advocacy of the "True Ameri- 
can System of Finance" long enough to urge Fell to run for 
Congress; John H. Bryant, probably feeling with Campbell that 
Fell might take the place of the sadly missed Love joy, begged 
him not to decline. But Fell was firm in his determination not 
again to enter public life. Shelby M. Cullom was nominated at 
the convention, and elected over John T. Stuart by a large ma- 
jority. It may be mentioned here that Fell was again asked to 
stand for Congress in 1866, and once more refused. 13 

Throughout the war his support of Lincoln, with that of 
many other of the president's old friends in the West, was un- 
swerving and practical. The partial emancipation message of 
March 6, 1862, drew from him a burst of loyal and affectionate 
congratulation, which reveals the whole-heartedness of his faith 
in Lincoln, at a time when even Illinois was rife with criticism. 
He took the stump again in the campaign of 1864, speaking with 
E. M. Prince at a series of meetings in country schoolhouses and 
village halls. But he declined the post of secretary of the state 
central committee. 1 * 

The news of the assassination of Lincoln came with a pecul- 
iar shock to the Illinois towns in which he had been a familiar 
figure, and in which there were scores of his personal friends. 
Fell heard of it as he returned from a business trip. Hurrying 
home, but not stopping to have old Tom unharnessed from the 
buggy, he told his wife the sad news, and then started back to 
Bloomington to verify the report and have further particulars. 
On the way he met his son Henry, took him into the buggy with 
him, and begged for details. 15 The day after, the McLean 
County people expressed their sorrow at a great public meeting 

"Alexander Campbell to Fell, Apr. 2, 1864. Bryant to Fell, May 14, 
1864. Fell in the Pantograph, Apr. n, 1868. 

"The Pantograph of May 23, 1862, has an account of a public meet- 
i ing held the night before, at which Fell spoke warmly in defense of the 
presidential policy, then much criticized. In August another great meet- 
jing of the same sort was held. Fell to Lincoln, Mar. 17, 1862. Panto- 
graph, Oct. 5 and Oct. ir, 1864. Lewis, Life, So. Telegram from Thomas 
J. Turner to Fell, July II, 1864. Lincoln to Fell, Oct. 5, 1860. 

"Henry C. Fell, "When Lincoln Visited Normal," in Normalite, June 
7, IQI3- 



335] THE CIVIL WAE 71 

held in the court house square, at which Fell presided and 
spoke. 16 

A very dramatic episode gave to the days that followed a 
lively interest, and may be related here because it illustrates 
a prominent trait of Fell's character. Rev. Charles Ellis, the 
pastor of the Free Congregational Church, was a New Englander 
of strongly abolitionist views. In his sermon of April 23, 1865, 
he essayed to speak upon the subject of the assassination and its 
causes. His audience, which numbered many personal friends 
of the dead president, was perhaps as keenly sensitive to the es- 
timate placed upon Lincoln as any audience could have been. 
Mr. Ellis began by saying that he believed that before God 
Adams, Jefferson and Washington were more to blame for the 
murder than Booth, for they had admitted slavery at the time 
when the constitution was made. He then blamed Lincoln for 
so long supporting a constitution which protected slavery, and 
said that "he had not the moral courage to step forth like a 
strong man in his might and do what his better nature told him 
was his highest duty. He sacrificed the demands of God that he 
might not offend a political party in the land," with much more 
to the same effect. 

In attributing the murder of Lincoln to his own fault in no 
uncertain terms, Mr. Ellis aroused the indignation of the Bloom- 
ington people to fever heat. Members of the congregation were 
so angered that they were scarcely restrained from creating a 
disturbance in the church. Mob violence was not unknown in 
Bloomington during the war, as the Snow brothers could tes- 
tify. 17 A meeting of the members of the church was held a few 
days later, for the purpose of demanding the immediate resigna- 
tion of the pastor. Mr. Fell, however, spoke so forcibly of the 

I6 0n the day after the assassination President Edwards called a 
meeting to be held in the assembly hall of the normal school, at which 
Pell presided and spoke, it is said, with singular eloquence of his old 
friend. 

"These two brothers, with their sister, the president of the Bloom- 
ington Ladies' Library Board, were considered to be among the finest peo- 
ple in the town, but were extremely unpopular because of their frank 
sympathy with the South. On one occasion, when recent recruiting had 
aroused patriotic feeling to fever heat, a crowd of men and boys bom- 
barded the office of the Times, and destroyed it. They were not satisfied 
until "the crude little press and all the types were scattered on the street 
"below." The Snows sued for damages, but could get no conviction. Lu- 
Burr, interview in Bloomington Bulletin, July 6, 1913. 



72 JESSE W. PELL [336 

fundamental principle upon which that church had been 
founded the principle of free speech that he dissuaded the 
congregation from a step which would have denied it. The Con- 
gregationalists adopted instead a set of resolutions which he of- 
fered, in which they refused to censure the sermon, asserting the 
right of any man to express his ideas untrammeled in their 
church; and reproved the "mob" which had caused the disturb- 
ance on the Sunday before. 18 Although thus formally vindi- 
cated, Mr. Ellis found public opinion so against him that his use- 
fulness in the community seemed at an end, and he resigned 
within a few days. 

^Pantograph, May 6, 1865. It is said that Dr. McCann Dunn paid for 
printing of the sermon, that all might know exactly what was said, since 
highly colored reports concerning Dr. Ellis' words were promptly circu- 
lated. John W. Cook says of this occurrence : "This community has 
often had occasion to feel a sense of pride in the citizenship of Mr. Fell, 
but on this occasion he illustrated a degree of fidelity to a cherished prin- 
ciple that lifted him to the serene heights of supreme manhood. His 
heart was heavy because of the national calamity and he mourned the 
loss of his honored friend, but the principle of free speech could not be 
violated without his indignant protest." A Western Pioneer (MS). 



CHAPTER VII 
PUBLIC SERVICE AFTER THE CIVIL WAR 

Altho keenly interested in national affairs, it was al- 
ways for the concerns of his community that Mr. Fell found 
deepest pleasure in planning and execution. In 1864 the people 
of the township in which he lived resolved to correct an old 
wrong that had caused great confusion and expense for many 
years. The corner marks usually set up by government survey- 
ors could not be located in Normal township, and people came 
finally to the conclusion that only the outside boundaries had 
ever been properly run. Judge Davis, C. R. Overman, and Mr. 
Fell addressed a meeting on the first of October, 1864, and Mr. 
Fell secured the adoption of a set of resolutions, which, after re- 
citing the conditions, recommended legislative action to secure a 
resurvey and an adjustment of all difficulties between those 
whose boundary lines conflicted. A petition was signed, a com- 
mittee appointed to circulate it, and Mr. Fell was commissioned 
to present it at Springfield. He did this effectively, and the 
necessary bill was passed on February 16, 1865. A case in chan- 
cery was instituted accordingly, the next September, and a de- 
cree for the resurvey secured, the commissioners' report being 
confirmed by both lower and supreme courts. 1 The decisions 
which were thus reached in the most friendly and united spirit, 
doubtless saved endless expensive law suits and hard feelings. 
Perhaps no service of Mr. Fell to his community required more 
tact, foresight, and hard work to accomplish than this achieve- 
ment of the resurvey of the township, or meant more to the peo- 
ple among whom he lived and worked. 

On the same day on which he signed the resurvey bill, Gov- 
ernor Oglesby also approved a bill changing the name of North 
Bloomington to Normal. Under that name it was incorporated 
February 25, 1867, with a charter which embodied a perpetual 

J Samuel Colvin et al vs. Kersey H. Fell et al., 40 Illinois Reports 418. 
The petition signed at the meeting is among the Fell MSS. It contains 
about twenty-five names, with subscriptions for the expense involved, of 
from twenty to twenty-five dollars. Pantograph, Oct. 6, 1864. Private 
Laws of Illinois, 1867, III, 628-631. 

73 



74 JESSE W. FELL [338 

no-saloon clause. 2 In making the deeds of sale to lots in Normal 
(and there is little land in the town which was not at some time 
owned by Mr. Fell) he had always stipulated that no intoxicat- 
ing liquors should be sold upon the premises. Others who owned 
land were in sympathy with his ideas, and it was understood 
from the first that Normal should always be, as Bloomington was 
in 1854 and 1855, a prohibition town. In 1866 the growing town 
required a charter and its people wished it to include a clause 
guaranteeing the continuance of this policy. The legislature of 
Illinois was not so ardently temperate as Normal; and interests 
which hoped to gain advantage from the change, tried to induce 
it to omit the prohibition clause from the proposed charter. Hear- 
ing of this, Mr. Fell called a citizens' meeting at the Baptist 
Church on November 22, 1866, at which the people discussed the 
situation and adopted a set of resolutions, ready to hand as us- 
ual. 3 At the suggestion of John Dodge, a close friend of Fell 
and a man thoroly in sympathy with his ideas, the people 
present signed the resolutions, and other signatures were se- 
cured before an adjourned meeting held on December 6. At this 
subsequent meeting a thoro canvass was reported, in which 
President Edwards of the Normal School had cooperated by se- 
curing the signatures of the students. Over nine hundred names 
appeared on the petition, the names it is said of every man, 
woman and child of six or over in the town. William A. Pennell 
was appointed to go with Mr. Fell to present it to the legislature, 
which granted the charter with the desired clause. 4 

Mr. Fell had been able by careful attention to his affairs 
largely to free himself of debt by this time, and so felt free to 
give some time to furthering the political prospects of his friends, 
and to take a rest which he felt that several years of unremitting 
labor had earned. Early in July of 1865 he received an invita- 
tion from General Thomas Osborn, who was in charge of the 
Twenty-fourth Army Corps at Richmond, to visit that city as 
the guest of the corps. He accepted this invitation, and while in 
the East went to New York and had an interview with Henry 
Ward Beecher. Upon his return he was busied with the test case 

2 Private Laws, 1867, III, 321-336. The seal was affixed to the char- 
ter Mar. 4, 1867. 

8 The resolutions are given, with an account of the meeting, in the 
Pantograph, Dec. 19, 1866. Fell, letter published in the Normalite, Mar. 
26, 1908. 

4 Lewis, Life, 57. 



339] PUBLIC SERVICE AFTER THE WAR 75 

for securing the resurvey, spoken of before, and with efforts to 
facilitate the discharge of certain Illinois regiments. 5 

During the years following the close of the war Mr. Fell de- 
voted much time and effort to the building up of Bloomington 
and Normal. He planted trees indefatigably, procured grants 
that improved and enlarged the normal school, and encouraged 
every enterprise which could bring desirable citizens or increased 
wealth to the sections in which he was interested. No public en- 
terprise asked his aid in vain, it is said ; certainly the list of his 
interests is a long one. During the first few years of his resi- 
dence in North Bloomington, he planned to develop the new 
town as a manufacturing place as well as a school town. In 1857 
he was much interested in the production of sorghum, for which 
people then predicted a great future. He planted it generously, 
set up a mill, with press, vats and reducing pans, and put his 
product upon the market. There was not, however, an encour- 
aging demand for it, and farmers generally declined to trouble 
themselves with the crop, which required an outlay of labor in- 
commensurate with returns. Mr. Fell after a time abandoned 
the experiment. 6 

At about the same time he secured the location of a foundry 
at North Bloomington, 7 but this enterprise, after a career of 

5 C. Macalester to Fell, Nov. 7, 1864. Thomas O. Osborn to Fell, July 
i, 1865. J. H. Bryant to Fell, Nov. 18, 1865. Lyman Trumbull to Fell, 
Dec. 27, 1866. Stephen A. Douglas to Fell, Mar. 21, 1866. Gov. Oglesby 
to Fell, Sept. 16, 1865. Fell to E. J. Lewis, July 26, 1865, quoting a letter 
from himself to Secretary Stanton. (Lewis letters, in MSS of the Mc- 
Lean County Historical Association.) These last letters referred to one 
published substantially in the Pantagrafh of July 13, 1865, from Lewis, 
in which he complained of being compelled to lie idly in camp with all 
his men, after all action had ceased. Lewis could have been relieved at 
any time, but did not like to leave camp (at Meridian, Miss.) without his 
men. 

6 In 1842 and 1843, he had been interested in some experiments look- 
ing toward the making of sugar from Indian corn. No written account 
of these experiments remains. His conclusion was that the thing was 
possible, but not commercially profitable. Interview with Henry Fell, 
May 31, 1913. 

7 One Blakesly, his partner in this enterprise, built the foundry, and 
also the huge boarding-house which was to accommodate the workmen. 
Addison Reeder, a skilled mechanic and inventor, was brought from Lay- 
town to be foreman and manager. Some cast iron fixtures, used in the 
construction of the normal school buildings, were turned out before the 
enterprise had to be given up, largely because of the impossibility of find- 



76 JESSE W. PELL [340 

many vicissitudes, was also given up, Mr. Fell deciding that Nor- 
mal was destined not to become a manufacturing town. This 
was in spite of the fact that in 1867 two coal-shafts had been 
sunk, and had found coal, in or near Bloomington. Mr. Fell was 
financially interested in that one which was located near the Chi- 
cago and Alton tracks, and which has been operated successfully 
to the present time. One business venture which was a success 
from every point of view was the large hotel in Normal which 
he built in partnership with William A. Pennell. It was a four- 
story Mansard-roofed structure, with spacious rooms and wide 
verandas, and a ballroom that made it the social center of both 
towns. Good hostelries were rare, and this one became a land- 
mark. It was burned in 1872, some time after Mr. Fell had dis- 
posed of his share in the ownership. 

No enterprise upon which the state entered after the close 
of the war was of greater importance than the establishing of 
the state university. It has been noted that from the first ef- 
forts, sidetracked for the normal school and later deferred dur- 
ing the struggle between North and South, its friends hoped to 
have eventually one many-sided institution, wherein training of 
many kinds might be had. No sooner was the war well over, 
than the project was again urged upon Illinois. In Bloomington 
interest was especially keen, for there people thought that now 
the time was come for the expansion of the normal school into a 
real university. The funds made available by the Morrill Act 
would provide for the industrial university of which Turner and 
Fell had long dreamed. 8 

ing efficient workmen; and Mr. Fell became liable for the greater part of 
the loss of the venture. The plant was used about 1877 for the manufac- 
ture of a patent furnace, by one Ruttan, a Canadian, who was the in- 
ventor of a once-popular ventilating system. Neither the furnace nor 
the stoves, which then and later were turned out of the same factory, 
found a very good market. William McCambridge in the Pantograph, 
Mar. 16, 1910. 

8 John F. Eberhart, in his contribution to the Fell Memorial, tells of 
an interesting but unsuccessful attempt to establish a great state univer- 
sity, early in the decade following the passage of the Morrill Act. There 
was to be a central school in Chicago, "with affiliated institutions through- 
out the state, especially at Normal. . . . Our plan was to get donations 
of $100,000 from each of ten different men in the state and to have in- 
corporated into the constitution of the state at the constitutional conven- 
tion in 1870, a provision for the maintenance of the university. The $i,- 
000,000 had been duly pledged. Mr. Fell, himself, pledged $100,000, and 



341] PUBLIC SERVICE AFTER THE WAR 77 

The first legislative action for the school was a bill author- 
izing its establishment, and throwing open its location to bids. 
The bill was introduced in 1865, but was defeated. A similar bill 
was introduced two years later, providing for elections in coun- 
ties or cities upon the question of raising money wherewith to 
make a bid for the location of a state university. This bill 
passed, and was approved by Governor Oglesby on January 25, 
1867. 9 In the meantime, however, other forces were at work to 
locate the school definitely at Urbana. After President Buch- 
anan had vetoed the Morrill Bill in 1859 and before Lincoln ap- 
proved it in 1862, Dr. Charles A. Hunt of Urbana conceived the 
idea of securing a state school for his own town. A "seminary" 
building was being erected then at the north end of what is now 
Illinois Field, and Dr. Hunt's plan was to use it for a larger and 
better endowed school than could be had by merely local support. 
He therefore wrote a memorial, which was signed by a large 
number of Urbana citizens, and which was presented to the leg- 
islature in January, 1861. This memorial pleaded for agricultur- 
al education on the two-fold basis of the elevation of labor and 
of public economy. The time was unpropitious for such an en- 
terprise, however, and the memorial came to no immediate 
success. 10 

No sooner was peace restored than the citizens of Urbana 
set themselves anew to secure the industrial university, as it was 
then called. Jonathan Turner, long the leader of the movement, 
hoped that when it materialized this school would be at Jackson- 
ville. Jesse Fell wanted it at Bloomington, a rounding out of 
the university which had been begun with the normal school ten 
years before. Several other communities in the state hoped to 
gain it, and made generous offers for it. But the Urbana people 
were both earliest in the field, and most resourceful in expedi- 

had found six other men in the state who pledged $100,000 each. I 
also pledged $100,000 and found two other men besides myself ..." 
John Wentworth, upon whom the two leaders had relied to push the 
project in the convention, grew cold in the cause, however, and it was 
given up. Probably Turner's plan to put the state university upon a con- 
stitutional basis appealed to Fell as a better idea. 

^Public Laws, 1867, 122. 

10 The "Urbana and Champaign Institute" was incorporated by an act 
approved Feb. 21, 1861. Private Laws, 1861, 24-26. 

Dr. Hunt entered the army as a surgeon and died at the hospital at 
Mound City in July, 1863. Joseph O. Cunningham, in the Times (Cham- 
paign, 111.) of May 21, 1910. 



78 JESSE W. PELL, [342 

ents. They introduced a bill definitely locating the institution at 
Urbana, providing the offer therein recited of the people of 
Champaign County were made good. 11 Other towns were indig- 
nant at this method, since it gave them no chance to compete. 
Bloomington felt especially aggrieved, for the success of the Ur- 
bana bill meant for them the death of a hope long cherished; 
and Jacksonville was hardly less angry, because it had supported 
Turner through the long years of his unsuccessful efforts. Not 
a little heroic sacrifice had entered into the generous donation of 
Bloomington in 1857, made when hard times were threatening 
and war seemed imminent. One of the arguments most used by 
those who had raised the money then was that in time other 
schools might be added until a real university were founded. 12 

Mr. Pell's own conception of the educational system of the 
state was a comprehensive one, involving a university compris- 
ing every necessary technical and cultural school, at the head of 
a system of common schools which included industrial training in 
their curriculum. Teachers, he said, would profit by the breadth 
gained by coming into contact with those who were in turn train- 
ing for other kinds of work ; and as education was a field as dig- 
nified as that of any other calling, it was practicable to make the 
normal school one of the colleges in the university. To supple- 
ment this theoretical justification, he set to work to raise a sub- 
scription which should rival, if not exceed, that of Urbana. 

His efforts were now even more earnest, if that were possible, 
than they had been ten years before. He wrote a memorial pre- 
senting the claims of Bloomington, which was received by the 
legislature about the first of February, 1867. He and a number 
of others went to Springfield to use what influence they might to 
assure the acceptance, or at least the consideration, of the bid. 
The decision hung fire during the greater part of February, 
while the lobbies of Champaign, McLean, Morgan and Logan 
Counties pushed their respective claims. The people of Cham- 
paign County, knowing the manner of men they had to deal with 
in Turner and Fell, had elected to the legislature, especially for 
the purpose of pleading their cause, a man who was almost if 
not quite Fell's equal in powers of persuasion. This was Clark 

^Public Laws of Illinois, 1867, 123-129. 

^Illinois Industrial University: Report of the Committee (pamphlet, 
no date); circular letter, Jan. 25, 1866; J. B. Turner, "Industrial Univer- 
sity" in Jacksonville Journal, Feb. 8, 1866; subscription lists. All in the 
Turner Manuscripts. 



343] PUBLIC SERVICE AFTER THE WAR 79 

R. Griggs. 18 He was successful in his mission; Champaign 
County won the Industrial University. An inconsequential sop 
was thrown to the defeated parties in the shape of a supplemen- 
tary bill, passed March 8, which provided that the trustees might 
locate the school in McLean, Logan or Morgan Counties if Cham- 
paign County failed to fulfill its contract, a contingency which, 
of course, never arose. 

The new institution was, at first, scarcely more of a univer- 
sity than the normal school had been. It was small, poorly en- 
dowed, limited in curriculum and service. Its friends wanted to 
see it really fulfill the purpose for which it had been created. 
The Northern Illinois Horticultural Society, meeting in Bloom- 
in gton on March 2, 1870, besides criticizing the struggling insti- 
tution roundly, passed a resolution which showed its kindlier at- 

18 Petition to the legislature, signed by Jesse W. Fell and fifteen others 
of Bloomington and vicinity. Illinois State Journal, Jan. 17, 1867. The 
subscription as given in the petition was $500,000; the Pantograph put it 
at $550,000. (Lewis, Life, 89). Mr. Fell gave $15,000 of this, the largest 
single subscription except that of Judge Davis. There was a site of 140 
acres, and many smaller cash subscriptions. Both this and the offer of 
Jacksonville exceeded that of Champaign County. 

No shadow of reproach attaches to the methods used by Clark R. 
Griggs in winning friends for the Urbana location. There were open ac- 
cusations of bribery at the time, however, which involved some members 
of the Urbana lobby. E. M. Prince, in his contribution to the Fell Me- 
morial (p. 42) tells the story of the proposal of a bribe to the Blooming- 
ton men. He went one morning, he says, to Mr. Fell's room, where Fell 
was making plans for the day for the Bloomington contingent He went 
over the names of the members of the legislature, speaking of the char- 
acteristics of each and of the kind of argument that would probably 
prove effective in each case. One man "said that Urbana had contributed 
quite a large amount of money to influence the members of the Legisla- 
ture, but said that he thought a few hundred dollars from McLean County 
would give it to them, as the members preferred McLean to Champaign. 
Mr. Fell immediately spoke up and said, 'I am willing to procure a sub- 
scription that will be conceded to be the greatest of any of the towns, 
but I will not contribute a dollar to influence any member of the Legisla- 
ture to vote for us. I will throw the whole thing up before I will have 
anything of the kind.' " See Prince's article in the Pantograph of June 
7, 1907. 

See also affidavits, Jan. 25, 1867; G. W. Minier to Turner, Feb. 10, 
1867 ; History of the Champaign "Elephant" by One of the Ring, broad- 
side, dated in pencil, Mar. 21, 1867; certificate of expenditure by Henry 
E. Danner, Apr. 2, 1867. All in the Turner Manuscripts. 



80 JESSE W. PELL [344 

titude toward it. This was that the constitutional convention 
then in session should endow it by a constitutional provision. 14 
But Fell had anticipated this action. Representing the 
State Teachers' Association, he had addressed a memorial to the 
convention on the last day of January preceding, which ex- 
pressed his ideas of possible means and measures. It did not dic- 
tate an exact scheme of support and management for the univer- 
sity, altho it suggested several. It appealed to state pride, 
urging that eight surrounding states had already established uni- 
versities. It contained also a vivid prophecy of the service now 
actually rendered the state in the study of soils, entomology, 
engineering, agriculture, chemistry, mining methods, and the 
use of waste by-products. But he adds : "To accomplish these 
grand results, however, we must have, not a university in name 
another pretentious high school but what has not yet been 
fully organized upon this continent, a University in fact ; a grand 
-and comprehensive school, equal in its scope and power of devel- 
opment to our present and future greatness, and in harmony 
with the advancing civilization of the age. Anything that falls 
short of this, at least in its scope and constitution, is alike un- 
worthy of us as a people, and of the age in which it is our privi- 
lege to live. The day of small endeavors in enterprises of this 
kind, and with people like ours, has passed away, never to 
return. WE WANT THIS OR NOTHING." 15 Then follows a very 

14 Both Turner and Gregory were at this meeting. The latter invited 
the members to visit Champaign and see for themselves what was being 
done at the university. Turner's acceptance marked the beginning of his 
personal friendship for Gregory, and his hearty cooperation with him in 
building up the institution. Carriel, Life of Jonathan Baldwin Turner, 
227-231. Joseph O. Cunningham, interview, May 10, 1914. 

"Saying that its friends were not urging any special plan for pro- 
viding it with funds, Fell mentions that fact that "some" propose to use 
for the university the five per cent of the Illinois Central ; but another 
plan, if more acceptable, would be considered by the university party. 
"In view of tlie general desire to perpetuate the present relations of the 
State with the Illinois Central Railroad, in regard to the fund referred 
to, and of a morbid sensibility in the public mind in reference thereto, 
whenever any measure affecting the same, however remotely, is proposed, 
it may be wise, should you determine to provide for such an institution, 
to abstain from making even any allusion to that fund, and in lieu 
thereof, to provide that the one-tenth part of the two mill tax, or its 
equivalent one-fifth of one mill, shall be set apart to that object, after 
the extinguishment of our present state indebtedness. ... By the impo- 



345] PUBLIC SERVICE AFTER THE WAR 81 

earnest reply to the chief argument being urged against such 
a plan that the state was too poor to afford it. The plea was 
an eloquent one, but it failed to gain its point with the consti- 
tution-makers, who declined to saddle the state with any such 
" burden". 

Besides writing this plea for the teachers of the state, Fell 
traveled much in the interests of the effort, and wrote many 
letters. A draft of the proposed constitutional provision is 
found in a set of resolutions passed by the State Teachers' 
Association. 16 

sition, in this or some other way, of a slight tax, equal to the fiftieth 
part of one per cent and by deferring the collection of even that till 
our present bonded indebtedness is fully paid off, would seem to obviate 
all reasonable objections ; and though it postponed for a few years a 
work already too long delayed, the friends of this measure hope by this 
concession, as to time, to receive not only your approval, but that of the 
people to whom your work is soon to be submitted. 

. . . "We not only have nothing of this kind within our limits, but 
we are surrounded by six states, to wit: Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, 
Missouri, Kentucky, Indiana, to say nothing of two still younger States, 
Minnesota and Kansas all of which have State Universities. True, 
Ann Arbor only has at present any just claims to this high rank; but 
may we not reasonably hope and expect, . . . that in time some, possibly 
all, of the States referred to may have their Universities in fact as well 
as in name? . . ." 

. . . "What we mean by the term 'University', in that broad and 
comprehensive sense used to designate these the highest institutions of 
learning known in the world, is, in the language of Webster, 'An assem- 
blage of colleges established at any place, with professors for instructing 
students in the sciences and other branches of learning, and where de- 
grees are conferred. It is properly,' he continues, 'a universal school, 
in which are taught all branches of learning, including the four profes- 
sions of Theology, Medicine, Law, and the Arts and Sciences.' To 
Americanize such an institution we should, perhaps, in present condi- 
tion, at least, and acting for the State, have to drop the first of the 
professions above named, and incorporate, more thoroughly than is 
usually done, what is known as the elective principle a principle largely 
adopted at Cornell and elsewhere, and which enables the student to strike 
out in any given direction he may desire, and thus fit himself for the 
active duties of life. . . ." 

18 Notes indorsed by Fell upon an envelope containing a copy of the 
Memorial. Henry Wing to Fell, Jan. 3, 1870; Pantograph, Feb. i, 1871; 
" 'State University' To the Members of the Illinois Constitutional Con- 
vention", reprint from the Pantograph and the Illinois State Journal, in 
Illinois Teacher, XVI, 65. 



82 JESSE W. FELL [346 

In connection with the constitutional convention of 1870 
one other occurrence is worthy of mention. Joseph Medill, a 
member of the convention, wishing to procure the strong influ- 
ence of Governor Palmer in favor of the proposed change, 
asked Fell to call on the governor for an expression of opinion. 
This Fell did, in a letter published in May. About a month 
later the governor answered in a long letter which was a strong 
plea for the new constitution. This reply was widely published, 
and doubtless had much to do with the subsequent vote of the 
people. 17 

Altho his efforts for the location and endowment of the 
university failed, in another direction Fell succeeded better. 
The legislature in 1865 authorized the erection of a soldiers' 
orphans' home, which was to be located by a commission. Fell, 
deeply disappointed at the failure to build up the longed-for 
university at Normal, set briskly at work to secure this smaller 
institution for his own community. There was an initial appro- 
priation of a hundred thousand dollars made by the state, to 
which he secured an addition of fifty thousand in local sub- 
scriptions, heading the list with a generous donation. Bock 
Island, Decatur, Irvington, and Springfield competed for the 
home, but the Normal subscription was the largest and the 
commissioners decided unanimously in its favor, May 5, 1867. 1 * 

Mr. Fell's connection with the Soldiers' Orphans' Home did 
not end with its location at Normal. Saying that, as homeless 
and almost friendless children, they would have mainly to depend 
upon their own exertions for a livelihood after their dismissal 
from the Home, he claimed that it was both wisdom and obliga- 
tion in the state to give to its charges not only a shelter, but a 
training that would make them self-supporting upon reaching 
maturity. In other words, he wanted the school which was con- 
ducted at the Home to be a trade-school. But vocational educa- 
tion was at that time almost unknown in the United States, and 
was looked upon with disfavor as a dangerously paternal institu- 
tion. No trades were taught at the Soldiers' Orphans' Home, 

"Palmer to Fell, June 18, 1870. 

18 A characteristic story is told of this canvass, concerning Fell and 
Davis. Seeing his friend as he approached the office, Judge Davis de- 
clared to Lawrence Weldon, who tells the story (Fell Memorial, p. 40) 
"There's Fell. I reckon he wants me to subscribe more money. I won't 
do it. I won't do it. Reckon I'll have to, though." Fell did indeed induce 
him to increase his already generous subscription. 



347] PUBLIC SERVICE AFTER THE WAR &3 

and Mr. Fell was thereat much disappointed. ' ' Don 't call it my 
school," he is said to have rejoined when a friend asked him how 
"his school" prospered. "It is not what I wanted it to be." 
Thirty years after its founding, those features which he had 
sought in vain to incorporate, were added to the Soldiers' Or- 
phans' Home school. 19 

A somewhat similar project under private management 
failed to materialize. This was the "College for Soldiers and 
their Sons" which was to occupy the buildings of Western Un- 
ion College and Military Academy at Fulton, Illinois. Mr. Fell 
held some stock in the company advocating this scheme, but seems 
never actively to have pushed it. 

Shortly after the dedication of the Soldiers' Orphans' Home, 
a competition for a state reform school was opened. Mr. Fell 
started a subscription in Bloomington, which reached a total of 
over sixty thousand dollars. 20 There was at that time, however, a 
strong opposition to the policy of concentration which he advo- 
cated. The state was still imperfectly unified, and state institu- 
tions were regarded as the perquisites of citizenship, to be dis- 
tributed as equally as possible. The interests of the institution 
were a secondary consideration. The prejudice against the pol- 
icy of concentration was so strong, in fact, as to persuade Mr. 
Fell of the wisdom of abandoning his efforts to locate the new in- 
stitution in Normal. He did this the more willingly, perhaps, be- 
cause the people of another town in which he was interested be- 
gan to hope that they might win it. This town was Pontiac, 
where Mr. Fell had owned land for many years. He found en- 
thusiastic response when he started to raise a subscription there, 
and was able to induce the township to vote bonds to the amount 
of twenty-five thousand dollars, to which the board of supervisors 
added twice as much in county bonds. He and his brother Ker- 
sey offered the site for the buildings, sixty-four acres lying close 
to the town. The total subscription of over ninety thousand 
dollars won the location of the school. 21 

19 E. M. Prince in Fell Memorial, 41. 

20 Based on the "Classification of the Normal Bids for the State 
Industrial Reform School" among the Fell MSS, and exclusive of five 
subscriptions dependent upon a particular location. Lewis says (Life, 
99) that the subscription was $35,567. 

21 Pantograph, July 8, 1869. The Fell Papers include the subscription 
list and map used in the campaign. Comments by Mr. Fell are to the 
effect that "we did not regard such an institution as a junior penitentiary, 



84 JESSE W. PELL [348 

The last state institution for which Fell and the Bloomington 
community made a strong effort, was the Eastern Illinois Insane 
Asylum. The location of this institution was before the people 
in 1877. Mr. Fell, chairman of the committee appointed to di- 
rect the efforts of the Bloomington people, made a report of the 
advantages of location there, which was printed in the Panta- 
graph of August 3, 1877. Its chief interest for us lies in its ad- 
vocacy of advantage to the state as a whole rather than to any 
one region his old argument of "concentration versus scattera- 
tion." Modern ideas of efficient and economical management 
counted for so little at the time, however, when opposed to sec- 
tional jealousy and local ambition, that the really excellent in- 
ducements offered by Normal were declined in favor of the town 
of Kankakee. Probably the same reasons accounted for the fact 
that a committee composed of Jesse Fell, Lawrence Weldon, and 
Hamilton Spencer, appointed in 1885 to investigate the chances 
of Bloomington for securing the projected home for the feeble- 
minded, did not make a campaign for the institution. 

but, as the name implies, as a reformatory institution." Fell presented 
to Pontiac the land for a city park, which was named for him in 1915. 
Pantograph, June 7, 1915, quoting from Pontiac Leader. 

In 1871 occurred one of those movements for changing the capital 
which often take place in states in which the center of population is still 
shifting and uncertain. In March of that year, Peoria made an effort 
to have the capital moved to that place. The discussion evoked many 
statements of the shortcomings of Springfield, and when it became evi- 
dent that the idea was to be thought of seriously, Bloomington people 
had a meeting in their court house "to consider the question of making 
an effort to have the capital brought here". After the explanatory 
speeches a committee, of which Mr. Fell was a member, was appointed 
to prepare an appeal to the legislature. The committee probably made 
inquiries before doing the bidding of the townspeople, for nothing further 
came of it. Lewis, Life, 101. 

No account of Mr. Fell's service to his community could be com- 
plete without mention of his unremitting efforts for the colored people 
of Normal. He secured work for them, employing many himself, and 
then showed them how to save and invest their earnings in homes, en- 
couraging them to educate themselves and their children, and constituting 
himself advisor and friend in their struggle for betterment Largely as 
a result of his interest in them, the colored people of that community 
have become as a class self-respecting and property-owning citizens. Notes 
on interview with George Brown, May 15, 1916. 



CHAPTER VIII 

RAILROADS 

Mr. Fell's active efforts in behalf of railroads for Central 
Illinois seem to have begun in 1835, when General William L. D. 
Ewing sent a number of Bloomington men a request for their co- 
operation in building the Illinois Central Railroad. This docu- 
ment was addressed to the leading men of Bloomington, "Gen. 
Covell, J. W. Fell Esq., Jno. W. S. Moon, Esq., Doct. Miller &C." 1 
It apprised them that General Ewing proposed to present at ' ' the 
called session of our General Assembly" a bill for a railroad 
from "Ottawa, or some other suitable point on the Illinois river r 
through Bloomington, Decatur, Shelbyville, Vandalia, and thence 
to the mouth (or near it) of the Ohio river on the most practica- 
ble and convenient route." He asked their opinions on the mat- 
ter, and indicated a willingness to appreciate the cooperation of 
McLean County people. Nothing came of this early project. A 
little later Fell became one of the incorporators of the Pekin, 
Bloomington, and Wabash Railroad, which was to unite the Illi- 
nois and Wabash rivers. 2 

The Illinois Central Railroad became the backbone of the 
elaborate internal improvement bill of 1837, was taken up by the 
Great Western Railway Company in 1843, and was the especial 
care of Senator Sidney Breese during 1843-1850. Senator Doug- 
las finally succeeded in endowing it by a grant of public lands, 
in September, 1850, and construction began December 23, 1851.* 
In the congressional grant, the termini of Galena and Cairo were 
stipulated, but the course of the road between these two points 
was left open. Powerful influences were endeavoring to change 
it from E wing's proposed route eastward and westward, and 
particularly to Peoria and to Springfield. Fell's candidate, Gen- 
eral Gridley, elected to the state senate in 1850, worked untir- 
ingly to maintain the original route through Bloomington, and 
finally succeeded in securing a clause in the act of incorporation 
with this provision. This was in February, 1851. The railroad 

J Oct. 20, 1835. 

^Private Laws of Illinois, 1836, 8-12. E. M. Prince in Fell Memorial, 43. 
3 Brownson, History of the Illinois Central Railroad, 18-48. 

85 



86 JESSE W. FELL [350 

was to pass through Clinton and Decatur, towns in which Mr. 
Fell was much interested, as well as through Bloomington. In 
the spring of 1852 the road was started northward from Bloom- 
ington to meet the line already begun from LaSalle southward. 
Regular traffic on the completed road began May 23, 1853.* 

On the day when ground was broken near David Davis' 
home for the Illinois Central Railroad, 5 engineers were locating 
an extension of the Chicago and Alton (then called the Alton 
and Sangamon) from Springfield to Bloomington. "Work pro- 
gressed so rapidly that trains were running on this road just 
five months from the date of location. Passengers from St. 
Louis could change at Bloomington to the Illinois Central and 
again at LaSalle to the Rock Island route, and so to Chicago. 
At Bloomington there was no direct connection for many years 
between the Chicago and Mississippi, of which the Alton and 
Sangamon was a branch, and the Illinois Central. The transfer 
was by cabs and omnibuses. 

In 1853 Fell secured the right of way for the Chicago and 
Mississippi from Bloomington to Joliet, and work began 
promptly. Fell, who had lands along this route from which he 
hoped to reap a profit, also secured from 0. H. Lee, who had 
charge of the building of the extension, a contract for himself 
and his brother Thomas, to furnish ties and cord-wood. The 
sale of lands in and around Pontiac, Lexington, Towanda, Nor- 
mal, and Joliet, of course netted him handsome returns for the 
investment of time and money for the Chicago and Alton. In- 
deed, the dove-tailing of enterprises, the working-together-for- 
good of all the forces that made for prosperity, was an accom- 
plishment for which he had a peculiar talent. 6 

In the meantime, ten and a quarter acres of ground had 
been conveyed to the Chicago and Mississippi for the depots 
and shops which have since helped to make Bloomington in a 
small way an industrial center. Many citizens wanted the sta- 
tion-house of the new road built close to that of the Illinois Cen- 
tral, with the point of intersection near the present site of the 
"Wesleyan University. But Fell, with an eye to the founding of 
a suburban town at the intersection of the two roads, at a point 
farther west where he and others had secured land, stood for 
its location at a considerable distance. The Bloomington station 

*Bloomington Intelligencer, May 25, 1853. 

B May 15, 1852. 

O. H. Lee to Fell, July 4, 1853. Pantograph, Apr. 18, 1908. 



351] RAILROADS 87 

was located about a mile from the Illinois Central station, and 
the intersection formed a center for the new town of North 
Bloomington. 7 On August 4, 1854, the Pantagraph announced 
that trains were running from Alton to Joliet, the full length of 
the Chicago and Mississippi. 8 

Central Illinois needed in addition an east-and-west road. 
In 1853 Fell and others organized a company to realize a pro- 
jected "Wabash and Warsaw" railroad. 9 On the third of May 
he addressed a meeting at Carthage favoring a proposed road 
from LaFayette, Indiana, through Bloomington, Pekin, and other 
Illinois towns to Warsaw. Bloomington citizens subscribed fifty 
thousand dollars to the stock by the middle of June, and the 
county court ordered a vote on a county subscription of a hun- 
dred thousand. The fifty thousand dollars, however, were rejected 
later on technical grounds, and the order of the court was revoked 
accordingly. The enthusiasm that had been so general died out 
suddenly at this rebuff, and was reawakened later with some dif- 
ficulty. 

Mr. Fell had much opposition during this period from those 
who would not be served by a road of the proposed route. A 
Pekin paper questioned his motives in advocating a road through 
towns in which he had holdings. The Bloomington Times also 
attacked him vigorously, but was answered by Mr. Fell himself 
in the Intelligencer. 10 He had by this time become the local di- 
rector of the proposed road. In September he urged the sub- 
scription of the fifty thousand dollars at a meeting at the court 
house, and the subscription of a like amount to another proposed 
road, the Quincy and Bloomington. He then entered into an ac- 

7 John H. Burnham, Our Duty to Future Generations. An address 
delivered Apr. 21, 1905, at the I. S. N. U. 

8 The tracks of the Chicago and Rock Island were used from Joliet 
to Chicago until March 18, 1858, when the road transferred to its own 
tracks. Lewis, Life, 42. 

9 The Intelligencer of Mar. 23, 1853, gives the names of the corpo- 
rators of "The Bloomington and Wabash Valley R. R. Company*' as 
follows : David Davis, Isaac Funk, James Miller, A. Gridley, E. H. 
Didlake, R. O. Warriner, John W. Ewing, W. H. Temple, Wm. T. Major, 
John Moore, John E. McClun, Jesse W. Fell, J. H. Robinson, A. Withers, 
Wm. T. Flagg, W. H. Holmes. The issue of April 27 has an account 
of the meeting at which .Mr. Fell was sent "to the western part of the 
route" to interest people in the venture. See also issues of May 18, 
July 20, Aug. 10, Aug. 24, 1853; Pantagraph, Apr. 26 and June 28, 1853. 

10 'Intelligencer, Aug. 3, Aug. 24, Sept. 12, 1853. 



88 JESSE W. FELL [352 

tive personal campaign to secure the money. The city voted it 
almost unanimously on October 15. Large subscriptions had 
been made in Tazewell County, Keokuk, and LaFayette, so that 
the total amount by December 14 was over a million dollars. 11 

Despite all these efforts the road was not built. In March, 
1854, it was announced that steps had been taken to let the con- 
tract of construction ; but construction did not follow. 12 In the 
winter and spring of 1855-56 more meetings were held in the 
towns along the proposed route, and Mr. Fell with others again 
circulated the ready subscription-list. But people were tiring of 
the subject, and there was little success. A new company was in- 
corporated in 1855, for the building of the Bloomington, Kanka- 
kee, and Indiana State Line Railroad, with Mr. Fell as a lead- 
ing stockholder and worker. 13 It also failed to secure popular 
support. Then in 1857, when the panic had added to the usual 
chariness in giving to public enterprises, a futile attempt was 
made. At the November election, a proposal that the county 
should subscribe a hundred thousand dollars was defeated by a 
vote of 1570 to 1166. 

The east-and-west road was not again actively advocated 
until 1866, when a number of Danville people began to push the 
project. There were several groups, each urging a different 
route, as usual ; but those who proposed a road from Danville to 
Bloomington through Urbana and LeRoy were most active. An- 
other projected road passed directly from Bloomington to La- 
Fayette, through Cheney's Grove. The Tonica and Petersburg 
line of the Chicago and Alton, already partly constructed, might 
be deflected, urged Mr. Fell and others, to Bloomington. Fell 
spoke in favor of this scheme at a meeting on December 29, 1866, 
using a map a favorite device to show his meaning. 14 The 
resolutions he offered at the close of his speech were adopted. 
They endorsed the idea of the road and appointed a committee to 
sound the community concerning the hundred thousand dollar 
subscription. It proved to be very difficult to secure pledges, 
partly because many people believed that the road would come in 
any case, and the spending of so much money was therefore use- 

Intelligencer, Dec. 14, 1853. 

^Pantograph, Mar. 15, 1854. 

^Private Laws of Illinois, 1853, 342-346. At about the same time 
Mr. Fell and others incorporated the Bloomington Gas Light and Coke- 
Company. Ibid., 1855, 650. 

^Pantograph, Dec. 29 and 31, 1866. 



353] RAILROADS 89 

less. An accusation was made against Fell and Gridley, touching 
their disinterestedness in the matter, to which Fell replied by 
publishing a letter from T. B. Blackstone, the president of the 
Chicago and Alton ; and the canvass went on. President Black- 
stone convinced Mr. Fell that the new road would be built 
through Washington were the money not subscribed at Blooming- 
ton. 18 In April, Fell succeeded in securing a joint appropriation 
of seventy-five thousand dollars from the township and the city. 
In June the township voted a hundred thousand dollars each to 
the "LaFayette, Bloomington and Mississippi" and to the "Dan- 
ville, Urbana and Pekin" roads. 

Then followed busy days in Bloomington, for there were 
three railroads being built. The one from Jacksonville was com- 
pleted for traffic on August 14, 1867. 16 The Danville road from 
Bloomington to Pekin was completed in 1869, and to Covington 
on September 2, 1870, giving railroad communication between 
Indianapolis and Peoria. The other east-and-west road, of which 
General Gridley was president and Fell an active director, was 
less fortunate. Financial support was hard to find, but work 
began in spite of this in October, 1869. The contractors, Howard 
and Weston, had promised to finish the road to the Indiana line 
by January 1, 1871 ; but the company failed early in 1870. A 
new contract was let, but it was only partly fulfilled. The Wa- 
bash company finally finished the road, which established regular 
service on July 13, 1872. So at last, after efforts extending over 
twenty years, east-and-west communication by rail was realized. 
It was not in a form so direct as Mr. Fell and his colleagues had 
hoped to have it, but it has proved practicable and helpful. 

It has been noted that the Chicago and Alton Railroad estab- 
lished shops at Bloomington soon after entering the town. These 
shops were largely destroyed by fire on November 1, 1867. Al- 
most at once, it was proposed to rebuild them in Chicago, or some 
other city where labor might more easily be had. The loss to 
Bloomington would have been very great, and Mr. Fell with 
some friends set himself to find the means of making their reten- 
tion sure. Judge David Davis, General Gridley and Mr. Fell in- 
duced E. E. Williams, then local attorney for the road, to go 
with them to Chicago for an interview with President Black- 
stone. The latter assured the trio that, altho feeling for re- 

15 Blackstone to Fell, Dec. 13 and 28, 1866, Jan. i, 1867. 
"This road was leased to the Chicago and Alton for 99 years in 
June, 1868. 



90 JESSE W. FELL [354 

moval was strong in the company, he himself favored the reten- 
tion of the shops where they had been, if only additional land 
for needed extension could be secured. This reasonable request 
surprised the Bloomington men, who had expected to be asked 
for a bonus in money. Returning to Bloomington, the matter 
was presented to the people at a mass-meeting on November 26. 
General Gridley and Mr. Fell spoke; the latter had, as usual, 
resolutions to be adopted and a definite plan for raising the 
money. Many in the audience signed the guarantee that night, 
and within a few days the number of guarantors reached 740. 
After much negotiation, the citizens agreed to give about thirty 
acres of land, some of which had to be gotten by condemnation 
proceedings. The railroad company advanced the money to pay 
for it, at the usual rate of ten per cent. The new shops were 
larger and better than the old, and correspondingly more valu- 
able to Bloomington. 17 

One other enterprise of a similar nature remains to be re- 
corded. In 1867 a number of people began to discuss the build- 
ing of a street railway from Bloomington to Normal. A member 
of the board of education who lived in southern Illinois objected 
that the noise of cars would disturb the scholastic quiet of the 
community, but people in general thought it a good idea. 18 A 
company was incorporated, to which was given a franchise to 
build the railway through Bloomington, Normal, and the cam- 
pus. It was operated at first by a dummy engine, later by horse 
and mule power. The cars ran every forty minutes until nine 
o'clock at night. 

The purpose of presenting the somewhat detailed accounts 
of enterprises in which Jesse Fell was interested, which have 
filled the pages of this chapter and the preceding one, has been 
to show by what means the leaders of the era of settlement in the 
Middle West managed to achieve results which appear marvelous 
in whatever light they may be seen. Fell was but one of a host 

"To raise the money required, the Bloomington constituency framed 
a bill authorizing an issue of bonds. It passed the General Assembly, 
but was vetoed by Governor Palmer on grounds of unconstitutionality. 
A committee from Bloomington visited Palmer, and after explaining the 
situation to him, received his promise not further to oppose the bill. 
They worked to secure a repassage, succeeding only after much lobbying 
in the senate. The bonds were paid duly, with no question of their 
validity. 

18 P. G. Roots to Messrs. Hatch and Fell, May 23, 1867. 



355] RAILROADS 91 

of workers who changed the wilderness into a land of settled in- 
stitutions within the measure of a generation. Few men, per- 
haps, united so many qualities of leadership as he possessed ; but 
the difference between him and other men in this respect was 
one of degree rather than of kind. It was a period rich in social 
service, altho "social service" had not then become so much 
of a conscious slogan as it has been since. It was a period when 
people were closer to the government than they are now, when 
living was simpler, when the machinery of civilization was 
formed by popular effort, in a more direct way than has been 
the case in later years ; when men of limited means and many in- 
terests laid the foundation for economic and political achieve- 
ment carefully and solidly, knowing what structure they reared 
and conscious that what they wrought would shape in great 
measure the future of their commonwealth. It is as a type of 
such men that Jesse Fell has real significance for the people of 
the Middle West. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE RELIGIOUS LIBERAL 

The Unitarian movement in New England had its parallel 
among the Quakers in the Hicksite schism, begun in 1827 by 
Elias Hicks, a brilliant and influential Friend. He denied the 
deity of Christ and the special inspiration of the Scriptures, 
tenets held by the orthodox Friends. Rebecca Fell, Jesse W. 
Fell's mother, was a warm friend and admirer of Elias Hicks, 
and followed him into the sect which he established. The father, 
however, while he left the orthodox meeting at the same time, did 
not become a Hicksite, but united with the Methodists, whose 
creed agreed more nearly with his own personal belief. 1 The 
father became an exhorter in his new church home, the mother a 
preacher among the Hicksites. The harmony of the family was 
in no wise disturbed, for both parents were tolerant and not dis- 
posed to exaggerate differences. Some of the children followed 
the father, some the mother in their religious faith. Jesse, 
whose special privilege it was to accompany his mother to meet- 
ing on First Days and Fourth Days, came closely to sympathize 
with her in her religious ideas ; and his activity as a leader of lib- 
eral religious thought in his community in after years, may 
largely be attributed to the influence of his mother's teaching 
and example. She was a woman of vigorous mentality, altho 
of but rudimentary education, as were most of the women of her 
time. With her husband, she centered the training of her chil- 
dren about the necessity of uncompromising honesty, universal 
freedom, and fidelity to conviction. 2 

After removing to Bloomington in 1837, the Fell family con- 
tinued to hold meetings after the fashion of Friends, altho 

*At this time, the simplicity of dress and manners of the Methodists 
was very like that of the Friends, and such a transition was easily made, 
entailing little change of accepted doctrine or custom. 

2 Jesse Fell to Fell, Sept. 2, 1832. This letter shows the intensely 
religious nature of Jesse W. Fell's father. It describes a camp-meeting 
in which he had taken part with great pleasure and profit, and expresses 
the tenderest wishes for his son's spiritual welfare. Another letter of 
Fell's father, dated Jan. 6, 1835, shows similar characteristics. 

92 



357] THE RELIGIOUS LIBERAL 93 

there were few of their faith in the town. The meetings were 
held on Sunday afternoons at the house, and the attendance was 
such as often to crowd the rooms. John Magoun, beloved by 
everyone who knew him and an especial friend of the Fells, came 
to these Quaker gatherings. The elder Mrs. Fell's voice was 
often heard in admonition, and her husband's, altho he was 
totally blind, in song. In his youth Jesse Fell the elder had been, 
a famous singer in his community, and in his old age his voice 
was still sweet. 

Under such influence, it was inevitable that Mr. Fell's relig- 
ious faith should be both simple and strong. Wherever he was, 
at appropriate times and places he joined people of many denom- 
inations and shades of belief in their worship ; and in all his life 
there appears no word of intolerance for the beliefs of others. 
His temporary connection with the Methodist Episcopal church 
at Payson has been mentioned on another page. Upon his return 
to Bloomington he did not uite with any church, altho he 
attended the "West Charge" Methodist church, then under the 
care of James Shaw. 3 

It is significant of the character of the people of Blooming- 
ton that there were in the town a great many of differing views 
but tolerant dispositions, who during the early years were drawn 
together for purposes of worship. Westerners were usually af- 
filiated, when they had religious affiliations at all, with the more 
radically evangelical denominations. In Bloomington there had 
been a Congregational church of abolitionist leanings for many 
years, and Baptist and Methodist churches which, altho they 
contained many families from the South, were for the most part 
opposed to the extension of slavery. In 1855 the more radical 
element in the Presbyterian church had separated itself from the 
mother church, and formed the Second Presbyterian church. 
Thus clearly, during the decade, the political and sectional prej- 
udices held by people generally affected their church affiliations. 4 

On the evening of the tenth of July, 1859, a group of people 
who were interested in forming a religious organization to which 
Christians of differing creeds might belong, met in the office of 
Kersey Fell. There were about twenty in attendance. Eliel 
Barber was chairman, Jesse Fell secretary. The result of the 

3 James Shaw in Fell Memorial, 4. 

4 Dr. John W. Cook, A Western Pioneer. Address at the semi- 
centennial of the founding of the Unitarian Church in Bloomington, Oct. 
3, 19x19. (Manuscript in possession of the author.) 



94 JESSE W. FELL [358 

conference was that the secretary was directed to write to Rev. 
Charles G. Ames, of Boston, asking him to come to Bloomington 
to look the field over. He came, preached a series of eight ser- 
mons, and visited the people who were interested in the possibil- 
ity of forming a new church. He made his home with the Fells 
while in Bloomington, and became a very dear friend of that 
household. 6 

A church, known at first as the Free Congregational Society, 
was organized on the seventh and eighth of August. Many 
shades of Protestant belief were included. There were Universal- 
ists, Friends, Campbellites, Baptists, Episcopalians, Congrega- 
tionalists and Spiritualists among the members. 6 The resident 
clergymen of Bloomington were invited to preach for them until 
the new pastor, Mr. Ames, could take up his work. 

Phoenix Hall was used for the services of the new church for 
almost ten years. Here the pastors, for the most part New Eng- 
land men, nurtured anti-slavery sentiments and fostered devo- 
tion to the federal union. Rev. Ichabod Codding, the fourth pas- 
tor, was a fearless abolitionist, and spoke boldly his progressive 
views. During his pastorate, which like those of most Western pas- 
tors was a short one, the society dedicated its house of worship, 
on March 15, 1868. Other ministers succeeded Mr. Codding 
free and fearless speakers and thinkers for the most part, reform- 
ers rather than pastors, intellectual guides whose brief stay in 
the community served to waken thought and to deepen religious 
faith. Two of them, Rev. C. C. Burleigh and Rev. J. F. Thomp- 
son, a New Englander and an Englishman, became strong friends 
of Mr. Fell. Mr. Burleigh, a friend of the poet Whittier, was a 
quiet man of great spiritual force, but a man who gained no de- 

5 Ames to Fell, July 15, 1859. Ames to E. M. Prince, Sept. 23, 1899. 
Vickers Fell to Fell, Mar. 4, 1862. J. J. Lewis to Fell, Mar. 2, 1862. It 
was Mr. Ames, a radical New England abolitionist, who preached the 
famous sermon known as "the funeral sermon of John Brown". It was 
delivered on Sunday, Dec. 4, 1859, was printed in the local press, and 
afterward in a pamphlet which had wide distribution. His personal esti- 
mate of Mr. Fell is given in the letter to Mr. Prince just cited. C. G. 
Ames, in the Christian Register, Mar. 18, 1909. 

At a meeting held at the close of the regular service on the seventh 
of August, attended by about fifty people, Fell presented a set of resolu- 
tions looking toward the organization of the church. He and Kersey 
Fell, Mr. Phoenix, Mr. Stillwell, and others talked, after which the 
resolutions were adopted. Thirty-two people entered the society the next 
night, twenty more on August 14. Dr. J. W. Cook, A Western Pioneer^ 



359] THE RELIGIOUS LIBERAL 95 

gree of popularity in the hustling Western town in which his lot 
was for a short time cast. 7 Mr. Thompson, who followed him, 
was on the other hand most acceptable to Bloomington, and later 
became immensely popular in Los Angeles. In speaking of the 
friendships which came to Fell through his church relations, it 
is meet here to mention Robert Collyer, with whom he often con- 
sulted and who became a valued personal friend. 8 

During the years after its founding the church gradually 
lost its composite congregational character, and became more 
homogeneous in belief. Unitarian doctrines came to be the pre- 
vailing opinion of the congregation. The name was therefore 
changed on December 9, 1885, to that of the "Unitarian Church 
of Bloomington." Mr. Fell remained an active member and con- 
stant attendant of this organization as long as he lived. 

7 "Give him," wrote Robert Collyer to Fell in 1873, in introducing an 
English clergyman who was viewing the sights of America, "if you can, 
a chance to meet Charles Burleigh. He may not otherwise see one of 
the Old Ironsides." Rev. Burleigh had preached in Pennsylvania many 
years before upon the subject of slavery, and the Fells had known of 
him then. "... last third-day evening we all (a few excepted) re- 
paired to the Meeting-house where we heard a very interesting and 
eloquent speech delivered by Charles Burleigh on the subject of immediate 
emancipation. He is employed by the anti-slavery society of Philadel- 
phia to deliver lectures on that subject; he is the most profound reasoner 
I ever heard. And if dignity of manners, eloquence, and sound reason 
can do anything to promote the cause, he is well adapted to the office." 
Rebecca Fell to Fell, Christmas, 1836. 

'Robert Collyer to Fell, July 3, Sept. 18, Nov. 8, 1866; June 7, 1870; 
Sept. 15, 1873. A spirited letter upon "Broad-Gauge Theology", contain- 
ing a clear defense of his liberal beliefs, appeared in the Pantograph of 
February 15, 1868. 



CHAPTER X 

LATER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 

The congressional campaign of 1868 was one of especial in- 
terest to Mr. Fell. In March, an editorial in the Pantagraph 
had again proposed his name as a candidate for Congress, a pro- 
posal which received the usual short shrift from him. 1 The pub- 
lic request was repeated, and again declined. The Republicans 
of McLean then asked General Giles A. Smith to be their candi- 
date, and he accepted. Fell, however, thought this a false and 
foolish move, inasmuch as Shelby M. Cullom, the member then 
sitting, was a tried and proved man. There followed a lively 
controversy between the Cullom-Fell party and the Smith ad- 
herents, waged both in the newspapers and in all public and pri- 
vate places where Republicans gathered for council. The county 
committee called a mass-meeting for the purpose of selecting and 
instructing delegates to the district convention. It met on the 
eleventh of April, but was so tumultuous a gathering that little 
business could be transacted. General Smith seems to have had 
control of the party machinery, but the machine was so power- 
fully opposed by Fell and his colleague Gridley, that none of the 
routine business decided upon could be forced through. A dele- 
gate county convention was therefore called, to meet on the 
twenty-seventh ; and the war between Smith and Fell continued. 
The friends of Smith published a vigorous attack entitled "The 
Other Side, ' ' to which Fell replied as vigorously. 2 When it met, 
the second county convention proved more tractable than the 
first had been, and nominated Smith as McLean's candidate. 
Fell continued his exertions throughout the district, however, 
and on the fourth of May the friends of Cullom were gratified by 
a vote of five counties to two in his favor, at the district conven- 
tion. He was elected by a large majority in November. 

The story of this congressional struggle in McLean County 
illustrates a condition of division which was fairly typical of the 

1 Lewis, Life, 92. 

^Pantograph, Apr. 9, 10, n for the notice of the mass convention; 
Apr. II, article by Fell answering attack in "The Other Side"; other 
interesting matter in issues of Mar. 25-30, 1868. 

96 



361] LATER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 97 

situation of the Republican party in Illinois after the war. The 
unity which only a great common purpose can give, had passed 
away with the coming of peace. Discontent with the extreme 
congressional reconstruction policy, altho not then so decided 
as later, had begun to appear; Johnson's foolish blunders had 
complicated the situation. Locally, many men aspired to the 
honors which the Republicans had to distribute. The struggle 
for the nomination to the governorship, for instance, was unus- 
ually sharp. Robert G. Ingersoll, who had expected to be a candi- 
date for attorney general, upon the report of the withdrawal of 
Palmer decided to try for this higher office. 8 In the convention, 
however, Palmer took the nomination away from him and also 
from Jesse K. Dubois and S. W. Moulton. Governor Palmer's 
advocacy of states' rights divided the Republican ranks to some 
extent, and finally resulted in his leaving the party in 1872, with 
some adherents. 

In 1870 a bitter quarrel arose between Mr. Cullom and Mr. 
Fell, which resulted in Cullom 's defeat in his race for reelection. 
The cause of this difference was Cullom 's appointment of John 
F. Scibird as Bloomington 's postmaster. It will be remembered 
that the firm of Scibird and Waters sold the Pantagraph to Davis 
and Fell in August, 1868. Scarcely was the sale made, when 
Scibird and Waters began to plan the publication of a rival Re- 
publican paper, which appeared, under the name of The Leader, 
the next December. Fell and Davis regarded this as a breach of 
faith in their rivals, inasmuch as they had purchased the Panta- 
graph with the understanding that they were buying the Repub- 
lican paper of Bloomington; and the two newspapers soon 
worked up a rivalry as spirited as usually develops under such 
circumstances. Added to this circumstance were other consid- 
erations which gave Fell a much stronger reason for resenting 
Cullom 's appointment. 

8 Ingersoll to Fell, Mar. 25, 1868. Another letter, dated four days 
later, establishes Fell's position as favoring first Moulton, then Corwin, 
and last Ingersoll himself. "In the meantime," says the irrepressible 
Peorian, "dear friend, stick to your tree planting. There is nothing like 
agriculture and horticulture. Stay in the beautiful fields. Hear the 
birds sing praises to Corwin and Moulton. I would rather the birds 
would do it than to have you. I know that you will enjoy yourself a 
great deal more working in the garden than meddling about the governor 
question." There is more of the same tenor, and finally this postscript: 
"Now is the time to plant trees. All should be planted before the 6th 
of May." 



98 JESSE W. FELL [362 

General Gridley had asked in return for the assistance he 
had given Fell in supporting Cullom in 1868, Fell's influence in 
favor of the retention of Gridley 's brother-in-law, Dr. Cromwell, 
as postmaster. Dr. Cromwell was a good postmaster, but his ap- 
pointment by Andrew Johnson was with difficulty confirmed by 
the senate, as were many other appointments by that unpopular 
president. Mr. Fell, seeing no good reason for opposing his re- 
appointment, urged it upon Cullom, and received what Fell un- 
derstood to be his promise that he would retain him. But for 
some reason Cullom changed his mind, and after Grant's elec- 
tion Scibird was given the appointment. Added to this was the 
fact that Fell had urged Cullom 's renomination in 1868 with the 
understanding that he was not to run again. These considera- 
tions put Fell in the position of a man who must either vindicate 
his own honor or impeach that of others, and he took a course 
calculated to clear himself of suspicion. 

Cullom repeatedly acknowledged at the time that he owed 
his nomination in 1868 to the efforts of Fell and Gridley. The 
equally vigorous opposition which the Pantagraph and its guiding 
spirit evinced two years later, made his prospects hopeless in Mc- 
Lean County, and doubtful throughout the district. McLean de- 
clared for General John McNulta, but the district, after a bitter 
struggle lasting through the summer, nominated Colonel Jona- 
than Merriam of Tazewell. Mr. Merriam was a man of fine char- 
acter but comparatively unknown, and was defeated in Novem- 
ber by the Democratic candidate, James C. Robinson. The fact 
that the division among the Republicans had resulted in Repub- 
lican defeat did not tend promptly to heal the wounds among the 
factions. Nevertheless Fell and Cullom found that mutual ex- 
planations removed the cause of their personal differences, and 
they became again the best of friends. 4 

Although his informal and unadvised ways of doing things 
were distinctively Western and might have been expected to win 
a degree of approval in that section of the country, the four years 
of Grant 's first administration seem to have aroused as much crit- 
icism in his own state as in any other. There was in Illinois a 
strong Southern element which, altho it had not made the 
state disloyal during the great struggle, still felt much sympathy 
for the subdued states, subjected to the indignities of military 

4 Mr. Fell's own account of the controversy to that date is in the 
Pantagraph of July 22, 1870. Shelby M. Cullom to the writer, Mar. I&. 
1912. 



363] LATER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 99 

and carpet-bag rule. Sumner, toward whom Grant had behaved 
with what most people considered inexcusable injustice, was no- 
where more beloved than in the Middle West, where he had long 
been a popular hero. And the best men everywhere were dis- 
satisfied with the position of the party leaders upon the civil 
service question. 

Carl Schurz was the guiding spirit of the Liberal Republi- 
can movement of 1872, and its strongest adherents were in those 
states where his influence, and that of his friends, was strong. 
His election to the senate in 1869 was the first sign of the tri- 
umph of a new set of ideas in the Republican party. Tariff- 
reform Republicans joined hands with the reconstruction-reform 
men, but as tariff-reform men were comparatively few in most 
of the states where the insurgents hoped to gain a following, this 
issue was kept in the background. The passage of the Ku-Klux 
bill in 1871 was so actively opposed by Schurz and Trumbull as 
to cause these two leaders to draw together and to gather around 
them the more liberal elements in the party ; and this group was 
further unified by the New York Custom House affair. Never- 
theless, as late as in December of 1871 neither Trumbull nor 
Schurz had openly planned to oppose Grant's reelection. 5 

Early in January the movement, which as yet had appeared 
only as a division in Congress, began to take on a more popular 
aspect. In Missouri and in Southern Illinois, where the South- 
ern element was strong, there was a great deal of fighting among 
the people in support of Schurz, Trumbull, and Sumner. The 
Missouri Liberal Republicans held a convention in January, and 
issued a call for a national mass convention in May. Preconven- 
tion speculation as to the presidential candidate of this seceding 
Republican gathering centered at that time about two men, Ly- 
man Trumbull and Charles Francis Adams. The people of the 
southern third of Illinois, as well as many throughout the state 
who remembered Trumbull 's service, were very hopeful concern- 
ing his chances. Governor Palmer and the influential Jesse K. 
Dubois were his leading supporters. Adams was probably better 
known in the nation than Trumbull, and had proved his ability in 

8 Horace White, Life of Lyinan Truinbull, 269-271, quoting an inter- 
view published in the Louisville Courier-Journal, Dec. 3, 1871, and New 
York Times, Dec. 6. A letter from Trumbull to W. C. Flagg, among the 
Flagg MSS, dated Jan. 10, 1872, however, shows that at that date Trum- 
bull was contemplating open opposition to Grant in the Republican party. 
Flagg was, according to his own statement. TrumbulPs only confidant at 
this time. 



100 JESSE W. PELL [364 

the difficult position of minister to England during the Civil 
War. 

Just when Trumbull 's prospects were brightest, Judge David 
Davis decided that he would be a candidate for the nomination. 
Leonard Swett, the famous criminal lawyer, long an associate 
and close personal friend of Judge Davis, became his manager, 
and enlisted the services of Fell in arousing the people of Mc- 
Lean County and Central Illinois to the support of a citizen of 
their own community for the nomination. Fell, from the first an 
advocate of a milder reconstruction policy and for that reason 
thoroly in sympathy with the Liberals, had been a Trumbull 
adherent until Davis made his decision, when he changed to sup- 
port an old and dear friend. 6 By the first of April, then, he was 
being consulted as to the plans for the Davis campaign at Cincin- 
nati. Swett, ingenious and indefatigable, estimated the 
strength of the Trumbull faction, and proposed that to counter- 
act it a train load of Davis supporters should go to Cincinnati, 
that they might influence the nomination there as the Illinois 
delegations had in 1860. McLean, Tazewell, Livingston, Logan, 
DeWitt, Champaign, Ford, Iroquois and Vermillion counties were 
strongly in favor of Davis, and from these counties Swett drew 
the delegations upon which he mainly depended. 7 Peoria 
County, and especially the German population (the strength of 

6 Fell to Lyman Trumbull, Mar. 4, Apr. u, 1872. (Trumbull MSS, 
Library of Congress.) Trumbull to Fell, Mar. 9, 1872. Mr. Fell's sym- 
pathy for the once oppressed black man did not blind him to the shame 
of the existing oppression of white men in the South. A letter to James 
G. Elaine, written Mar. 3, 1885, but possibly never sent, shows plainly 
his ideas upon the subject, and contains some very entertaining com- 
ments. After referring to the failure of Republican reconstruction, he 
says: "Unfortunately the Democracy of this country neither learns nor 
forgets much, and without outside aid, I have slender hopes in that direc- 
tion." He thinks reform must come through some liberal leader. "As 
possibly you may know, I was quite intimately acquainted with Abm. 
Lincoln, & in a feeble way did something in 1858, 9 and 60 in bringing 
him before the people as a presidential candidate. In the enclosed I have 
ventured to say what were some of his views touching the matter in 
hand reconstruction. Had he lived doubtless they would have been 
modified. . . . Whilst you are not where many of us would have you, 
are you not in a position where you can be almost as influential? Your 
2nd vol., in which you will discuss this very question, is yet to be pub- 
lished. Why not give this matter your patient, very best thought?" 

7 Swett to Fell, Apr. i, 1872. 



365] LATER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 101 

the Republican party there), would accept any man who might 
be nominated, in the opinion of Robert Ingersoll. 8 

Early in April a number of disaffected Republicans met at 
the home of Horace White in Chicago, and agreed to issue a call 
for the Cincinnati meeting, signed by as many influential men 
as might be induced to join the movement. As this followed the 
one already issued by Missouri (and was copied from the one is- 
sued in New York), it was called a "Response." It appeared 
first in the Chicago Times, April 17, 1872. Thirty-eight men, in- 
cluding Gustav Kcerner and Horace White, Dubois, Miner, 
Jayne, and Fell, signed the call as first published, and within a 
few days a longer list appeared, comprising the names of hun- 
dreds of Illinois Republicans. 9 Palmer, at first inclined to favor 
the Regulars, decided in March to espouse the new cause, and de- 
clined the Regular Republican nomination for the governorship, 
which was accepted by Oglesby. 10 

Trumbull kept Fell informed of the trend of affairs in Wash- 
ington, while Fell wrote him of the local situation. 11 Trumbull 

8 The letter from Robert Ingersoll to Mr. Fell, dated Peoria, Apr. 6, 
1872, expresses with remarkable frankness that would-be statesman's 
resentment of his rejection by the people of Illinois. "You must not 
expect me to make a speech at Cincinnati," he says. "I am done. I can 
conceive of no circumstances under which I would make a political 
speech. If ever in this world a man was thoroughly sick of political 
speaking, I am that man. Understand me, I am an admirer and a friend 
of Judge Davis. I want to see him president of the United States and 
I believe he will be. And what little I do will be done for him. I am 
going to take no active part for anybody. For some reason, the leaders 
in politics are not my friends, and never have been. My only ambition 
is to get a living and to take good care of my family. The American 
people have lost the power to confer honor. . . . Leonard Swett wrote 
me upon the subject of going to Cincinnati. I wrote him that I was 
sick of politics. By the way, if his letter had been about one-tenth as 
long, it would have been infinitely better. His letter is good ; but too 
much of it. All his points could have been made in one column. A 
letter never should be so long as to require an index." 

White to Fell, Apr. 10, 1872. Fell to Trumbull, Apr. 8. Chicago 
Times, Apr. 17, and Pantograph, Apr. 19, 20. 

10 Carlinvillc Democrat, Apr. 17. Pantograph, Apr. 18. On the 23d 
of April, Palmer delivered a very influential anti-Grant speech at Spring- 
field, which served greatly to strengthen the forces of the Liberals. 

"Fell to Trumbull, Apr. 8, n, 1872. (Trumbull MSS, Library of 
Congress.) Trumbull to Fell, Apr. 11, 16, 1872. Trumbull's letter of 
April n spoke of the Cooper Union meeting, at which Trumbull and 



102 JESSE W. FELL [366 

would give no formal consent to the use of his name before the 
convention until late in April, apparently with an unselfish de- 
sire not to hamper the success of the reform wave by introduc- 
ing personal factions. Indeed, he tried to impose on other lead- 
ers an entirely impracticable policy of entire silence with regard 
to candidates until the meeting at Cincinnati. 

Meantime the Davis group was vigorously pushing its candi- 
date in the only region in which he could command much sup- 
port ; for, being a jurist and not a political leader, and being but 
little known throughout the country, his strongest claim to rec- 
ognition lay in his having been the personal friend and appointee 
of Lincoln, a claim that amounted to little except in Illinois. 
Since men with even less fame have succeeded in winning nomina- 
tions from the lottery of convention chance, Swett and Fell had 
lively hopes that with a good delegation of local supporters they 
might carry the day in Cincinnati. The Democrats, strong in 
Illinois, were rallying to his support. Among these was Adlai 
Stevenson, a man of considerable influence and a neighbor of 
Judge Davis, who with his adherents formed part of the Davis 
party at the convention. Swett was a skilful manager, and by 
convention time had gained half the Illinois forces for Davis. 
The Labor Reform party had already nominated him for presi- 
dent in February. 12 

Returning from a tree-planting expedition to his Iowa lands 
just before the convention, Fell preceded by a few days the dele- 
gation which started from Bloomington at five o'clock on April 
29. Judge Davis' generosity in providing facilities for the at- 
tendance of his supporters made the following a large one ; con- 
temporary accounts say it was also a very noisy and confident 
one. About 550 men from Bloomington and vicinity went to 
Cincinnati; the entire Illinois contingent numbered over a 
thousand. 13 

The Davis party, ensconcing itself early at headquarters and 
marshalling its forces in well-organized companies which gave a 
strong impression of confidence and success, seemed to lead all 
others before the convention opened. 14 There was an under- 

Schurz both spoke to an immense audience, and said that the movement 
had attained such proportions that no one faction could then control it 

"Stanwood, History of the Presidency, 336. 

13 PantagraJ>h, Apr. 10, 13, 17, 19, 27, 30, and later issues. 

""It is obvious that the Davis crowd is the calmest, the most confi- 
dent, and the best organized and disciplined. They pitched their tents 



367] LATER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 103 

standing in which it is natural to suspect the old combination 
of Lewis and Fell that Davis should have first place, and Gov- 
ernor Curtin of Pennsylvania second; an arrangement which 
Curtin's own ambition to head the ticket brought to naught. 
Adams, by far the most able and best prepared of all possible 
candidates, was unpopular in the West because of the very quali- 
ties which made his strength his distinguished ancestry, his 
long and successful diplomatic service, his thoro education 
and statesmanlike qualities. His opponents reviled him as an 
"aristocrat;" to which his friends answered by inquiring with 
asperity if it were in the Constitution that the president had to 
come from Illinois? 

The "hordes" from that state had but a fictitious strength, 
for they were divided into three factions, supporting Palmer, 
Trumbull and Davis respectively. On the twenty-ninth of April 
there was waged an all-day fight among the Illinois leaders, who 
could arrive at no kind of agreement. Swett and Fell found 
themselves pitted against White and Bryant, the capable Trum- 
bull managers. On the thirtieth Tuesday the leaders decided 
to divide the Illinois vote among the three candidates. They 
called a meeting at three o'clock in Greenwood Hall. Dr. Jayne 
of Springfield, a Trumbull supporter, issued the call. Fell pre- 
sided, and the secretary was a Palmer man. About a thousand 

the earliest, and have worked up in detail all the strong points of their 
candidate and all the weak points of his rivals. 

"It is claimed that Davis is the only man in the crowd who is per- 
sonally popular. Adams is aristocratic, Brown belongs to the 'hurrah' 
school, but has few warm friends ; Trumbull is cold as a fish ; Cox is 
phlegmatic and Greeley is pudgy and eccentric. 'But Davis,' says Jesse 
Fell, 'is a man who is beloved by those who know him. I have known 
him personally and intimately for thirty years, as I knew Lincoln, and 
he is just such an honest, faithful, straightforward, incorruptible man; 
and he possesses the same personal magnetism. He would give us the 
same enthusiastic campaign and the same overwhelming victory. All 
of those who were old Abe's associates before 1860 are now asking 
Davis' nomination. He now lives in Central Illinois, and has made two 
million dollars in fair dealing, and he hasn't an enemy in all that region, 
nor in the world. The last two times he was elected Judge without a 
single dissenting vote from either party. ['] This is the way his friends 
talk; and Fell is one of the sincerest of men, and his moderation gives 
weight to his words. Davis seems ahead at this hour. Curtin is to get 
the second place, in consideration of giving Pennsylvania's vote to Davis 
for the first." Chicago Post of Apr. 28, quoted in Pantograph. 



104 JESSE W. PELL [368 

Illinoisans attended the meeting, and came to an agreement con- 
cerning the division of the votes. 18 There was a street procession 
for Davis after the meeting, and great enthusiasm. In the even- 
ing an adjourned meeting was addressed by Judge Wentworth 
and John Hickman, the latter from Pennsylvania. 

In spite of all these well-laid plans Davis was foredoomed 
to failure, the leaders in the party being uncertain both of his 
ability to attract the popular vote and of his interest in the par- 
ticular reforms they Advocated. 16 Starting with a vote of ninety- 
two and a half, he lost steadily, retaining only six in the final 
ballot. His supporters were scarcely less disappointed than was 
Sehurz at the failure to nominate Adams or Trumbull, both men 
far more likely to carry the Liberal banner to victory. The 
"Gratz Brown trick" by which Greeley won the nomination in 
spite of his eccentricities, his extreme views, and the lack of con- 
fidence of his colleagues, seemed to stun the party leaders every- 
where. 

Governor Palmer was among the first to recover from the 
shock and to shape a definite program. Assuming that despite 
personal disappointment the Davis supporters would rally to the 
ticket, he wrote to Fell asking for a survey of the field in his 
county and estimates of Liberal strength, and asking his support 
for Greeley. 17 Palmer was personally much attached to Greeley, 
who had befriended him in the Tribune the winter before, and 
was therefore the more willing to urge the disgruntled into self- 
forgetting efforts for the cause. A state convention was to be ar- 
ranged for, and strong efforts would be necessary to popularize 
the erratic editor of the Tribune, against whom the Middle "West 
still remembered his harsh criticisms of Lincoln. With Adlai 
Stevenson, leader of the Democrats, Fell arranged a mass-meet- 
ing to ratify the nomination. This was held on May 12. Fell 

"Twenty-one were to go to Davis, eleven to Trumbull, and ten ta 
Palmer. Cincinnati Commercial, May i ; Chicago Times, May I ; Panto- 
graph, May 2. 

16 Horace White attributes the failure of Davis to "the editorial fra- 
ternity, who, at a dinner at Murat Halstead's house, resolved that they 
would not support him if nominated, and caused that fact to be made 
known." Lyman Trumbull, 380-381. A letter from one of the McLean 
County delegates to the Pantograph of May 3 says that "It is believed, 
and is doubtless true, that Belmont's visit here resulted in buying every 
Cincinnati paper as well as those of Louisville, to oppose Davis at all' 
hazards." This letter is dated 1 130 p. m., Thursday. 

"Palmer to Fell, May 8, 1872. 



369] LATER POLITICAL ACTIVITIES 105 

presented the ratification resolutions with a speech, which was 
followed by speeches by Adlai Stevenson, General Gridley, Major 
Sterlein (speaking for the Germans), Dr. Rogers, and others. 
A letter from Governor Palmer was read. By the end of the 
meeting, it is fair to assume that the leaders themselves were al- 
most persuaded that they wanted Horace Greeley to be 
president. 18 

Horace White of the Chicago Tribune, stanch Trumbull man 
that he was, entered heartily into the Greeley campaign through 
loyalty to a cause which he did not feel justified in abandoning be- 
cause of poor leadership. He wrote to Fell in late May to tell 
him that it had been agreed at the state convention (which Fell 
did not attend) that the Illinois member of the national executive 
committee was to be Jesse Fell. This appointment was declined, 
Mr. Fell doubtless feeling that he could not effectively serve a 
man of whose fitness for the presidency he was not sure. 19 

Nevertheless his personal relations with Greeley during the 
summer and autumn of 1872 continued to be friendly, and while 
in New York late in November, he was granted one of the last 
interviews which that sadly disappointed and broken man could 
have given to any of his friends. 20 Fell himself gradually with- 
drew from active participation in politics after the Cincinnati 
meeting, feeling that the day of his service in that field was past. 

l8 Pantagraph, May 7, 1872, for Fell's declaration in favor of Greeley ; 
May 9, call for a ratification meeting ; May 13, account of the meeting. 

"White to Fell, May 28, 1872. 

20 Greeley to Fell, Nov. 23, 1872. The note, in Greeley's altogether 
inimitable scrawl, is very characteristic : 

Dear Sir : 

Call at the Tribune office at 4 P. M. (Sunday,) second floor 
on the south side. Knock and it shall be opened. 

Yours, 

Horace Greeley. 
Mr. Fell, of Illinois, Astor House, city. 



CHAPTER XI 
THE TREE-PLANTER 

It was J. A. Sewall who, when the etherialized earthiness of 
Elizabeth Stuart Phelps ' Gates Ajar had set every-one to discuss- 
ing his idea of heaven, replied to a young woman who had asked 
him if he thought there were trees in heaven: "I really don't 
know, but if Jesse Fell gets there and finds none, he will hunt 
around and find some somewhere and plant them." 1 

The remark shows the extent to which Mr. Fell and tree- 
planting were associated in the minds of those who knew him. It 
was his great passion, perhaps more than anything else his life- 
work, to set trees in the bare prairie and watch them make of 
it a garden. From his first months in the new land, when the 
bleakness of its prairie struck his eyes with especial force, used as 
they were to the rolling wooded stretches of Pennsylvania and 
Ohio, he looked forward to the planting of trees. That there 
were no trees except along the streams was, to him, the one dis- 
advantage of the prairie. 2 Therefore he planted trees in the 
towns in which he owned land. He lined the streets of Lexing- 
ton, Clinton, Pontiac, and other places with rows of maples and 
elms. Wherever he held a block of lots, there clumps or rows of 
trees marked the land that Fell owned. 

But at no other place did Mr. Fell plant trees with quite the 
loving enthusiasm which he gave to that work in Bloomington 
and Normal. In the summer of 1856, when visiting in West 
Philadelphia and Germantown, he was especially impressed with 
the beauty of the streets there. Germantown was shaded by 
stately old trees, but West Philadelphia was a new town, al- 
ready beautified by careful and extensive planting. Vowing that 
he would make his own town in Illinois as lovely as West Phil- 

1 J. A. Sewall to Fannie Fell, March 15, 1909. 

2 Fell to his parents, Nov. 17, 1833. The settlements were built in the 
edges of the groves, he says, in some places extending two miles into 
the plain. "As the settlements move out into the prairie, people will turn 
their attention to the cultivation of the forest trees. This in some neigh- 
borhoods has already been done." A. W. Kellogg in Pontiac Sentinel, 
Aug. 29, 1889. 

106 



371] THE TREE-PLANTER 107 

adelphia, Fell planned a comprehensive planting campaign, 
which he began to put into effect the next year. 3 

His first move was to secure a special act from the legisla- 
ture to permit the fencing of young trees planted hi open 
streets, for their temporary protection. 4 His desire was to plant 
double rows along all the streets, with something like the spa- 
cious prodigality of Hadley, Massachusetts. But North Bloom- 
ington streets were not surveyed upon so generous a scale, and 
so only a few streets could have double rows. Even so, twelve 
thousand trees were set out in Normal before a single house was 
erected. 5 The stimulus and example so given, together with the 
ease of acquisition afforded by the nurseries, made planting a 
fashion. People vied with each other in making their private 
grounds beautiful. They quoted Mr. Fell's version of an old 
couplet 

"He who plants a tree (and cares for it) 
Does something for posterity," 

and acted upon its suggestion. Bloomington had already be- 
come known as the ' ' Evergreen City, ' ' and Normal came to share 
in the name. But evergreens do not attain a permanent growth 
in prairie soil, and of late years the greater part of the conifers 
so enthusiastically planted by that generation, have given way 
to the more adaptable maples and elms. 6 

Many of the trees planted were from Mr. Fell's own nurser- 
ies. Unsold lots were utilized as branch nurseries, and the noble 
Fell Park, with its groves, lawns, drives and gardens, set an ex- 
ample of beauty and gave Normal a place of recreation. Mr. 
Fell personally supervised all planting, and it is due to his great 
and loving care that of the trees suited to Illinois conditions, 
scarcely one has died in the half century since their planting. 
The original twelve thousand trees were increased to thirty-five 
thousand before many years. It is to be noted that long before 
the transplanting of large trees became a common feat, Fell in- 
vented a variety of huge cart which could be used for this pur- 

8 Lewis, who tells this anecdote of Mr. Fell (Life, 54), was with him 
during the drive through West Philadelphia when this resolution took 
form. 

4 Laws of Illinois, 1857, I, 509. Approved Feb. 13, 1857. 

^Pantograph, May 27, 1857; July 26, 1865. Raymond Buchan in 
Pantograph, Mar. 16, 1898. 

Henry Shaw, "Evergreens," in Pantograph, July 19, 1854. 



108 JESSE W. FELL [372 

pose, and full-grown trees were transplanted in Normal to beau- 
tify the homes of those who wanted results quickly. 7 

From the first, Mr. Fell assumed the responsibility of look- 
ing after the grounds of the Normal School. He wanted to have 
planted upon its campus every tree that would flourish in Central 
Illinois, that the studies of botany and forestry might be pur- 
sued there to advantage. He insisted, at a time when expert ad- 
vice upon aesthetic matters was not highly valued, that the 
grounds should be planned by a professional landscape gar- 
dener, and secured the services of William Saunders of Phila- 
delphia, who had planned his own grounds at Fell Park, for this 
purpose. 8 

The rather elaborate plans of Saunders were not carried out 
by the board of education during the first hard years, when the 
school was struggling for life. Year after year passed indeed, 
and the campus remained almost as bare as in the beginning. 
Finally, to secure the realization of his hopes and plans, Mr. 
Fell became a member of the board of education in 1866, contin- 
uing until 1872. He secured, with the cooperation of interested 
friends, the passage of a law which went into effect February 28, 
1867, relative to the planting of the campus. 9 This act included 
an appropriation of three thousand dollars, and with the pros- 
pect of this cash assistance he set to work. The entire campus 
was subsoiled and plowed during the spring and summer of 
1867. Before his official work had begun, Mr. Fell had planted 
some trees upon the grounds; in 1868 he set out 1740, and 107 
more the next year. Saunders' plan was followed as closely 
as circumstances permitted. In 1870, patches of oats and pota- 
toes yielded a small income for use in defraying the expense of 
this planting. Even with this help, the appropriation was in- 
sufficient, and the work had to be completed at Fell's own ex- 
pense. Having finished as nearly as was then possible the work 
which he regarded as peculiarly his own, he resigned from the 
board. 

7 Lewis, Life, 55. Raymond Buchan, of Osman, Illinois, set out most 
of the trees under Fell's direction. "He was the best man I ever knew," 
said Buchan of him. Pantograph, May 27, 1857. John Dodge, "Concern- 
ing Jesse W. Fell," in Fell Memorial. 

8 Saunders to Fell, Oct. 15 and 29, 1858. Saunders advised that a 
nursery be started upon the grounds, a plan which was carried out in a 
small way. The planting plans (for which Saunders charged $65) are 
among the Fell papers. 

9 Public Laws of Illinois, 1867, 21. 



373] THE TREE-PLANTER 109 

In 1885 he became interested in the efforts of Dr. Stennett 
of the Northwestern Railroad to induce railroad companies to 
plant trees for ties. The more scientific control of the supply of 
wood for railroads had been, years before, a hobby of his own. 10 
Mr. M. G. Kerr of St. Louis, also interested in the project, asked 
him to write for the forthcoming report of the bureau of forestry, 
which Kerr hoped to make of commercial value. So far as known, 
this article was never written, probably on account of the condi- 
tion of Mr. Fell's health. 11 

His interest in trees led to his friendship with Henry Shaw 
of St. Louis. For Jesse Fell alone, it was said, would this rigid 
Presbyterian Puritan open his famous garden on the Sabbath. 
Then the two men would walk around together, admiring new 
or particularly fine specimens, and discussing varieties and cul- 
ture. Sometimes Mr. Fell took his son Henry with him on these 
week-end trips to St. Louis. 12 

Mr. Fell's last extensive venture in real estate was so essen- 
tially a tree-planting enterprise that it may best be related here. 
In 1869 a number of Bloomington men became interested in Iowa 
lands. As the representative of this group of men, Mr. Fell went 
to Iowa that summer, and selected a tract of about forty sections 
more than twenty-five thousand acres in Lyon County in the 
northwestern corner of the state. Even in its unimproved state 
this section of the country was exceedingly attractive. ' ' In thir- 
ty-two of the thirty-seven states comprising our union, ' ' said Mr. 
Fell in describing it, "I have never beheld so large a body of 
surpassingly beautiful prairie as is here to be found. There is 
absolutely no waste land, and scarce a quarter-section not af- 
fording an admirable building-site." 

The plan of the proprietors was to survey a town in the cen- 
ter of their holdings, and to start the work of improvement on 
each farm by breaking a few acres of land, and by planting trees 
and willow hedge. 13 The town was named Larchwood, and the 

10 O. H. Lee to Fell, July 4, 1853. 

"M. G. Kerr to Fell, Sept. 22, 1885. The letter is accompanied by 
*'A Circular addressed to presidents of Railways, with the request that 
you may express to me your views and experience on the uphill road 
of interesting Railroad men in matters of Forest Culture," a set of 
"Inquiries addressed to Railway Managers," and a circular from the 
Department of Agriculture. 

12 Henry Fell, interview, May 31, 1913. 

"Lewis, Life, 104. The original company included, besides Mr. Fell, 
Charles W. Holder, John Magoun, R. E. Williams, A. Burr, E. H. Rood, 



110 JESSE W. FELL [374 

settlement came to be known as the Larchwood Colony. For 
many years Mr. Fell devoted much time each spring and fall ta 
personal supervision of the improvements there. As in Normal and 
other places in Illinois, he did not trust the work to employees, 
but superintended the setting of the trees himself, sometimes 
helping with the actual labor. The improvements accomplished 
were unusual. In May, 1873, Fell set out a hundred thousand 
trees and cuttings, distributed through eight sections of land. At 
that time a hundred fifty thousand trees had already been set 
out, and a tract of forty acres in the center of a number of sec- 
tions insured a "start" of ten acres of broken ground to every 
immigrant who bought a quarter-section. Larchwood farms at 
that time were selling at from four to six dollars the acre. 14 

The history of Larchwood serves to illustrate one of Jesse 
Fell's notable characteristics. General Gridley, who knew him 
well, was wont to say of him that he was never mistaken in his 
estimate of the ultimate value of a piece of land, but that his 
eager nature greatly discounted the length of time which would 
elapse before that value was realized. Imaginative and enthusi- 
astic, full of faith in the development of the West, he calculated 
upon an increase in value far more rapid than the actual rate 
of settlement justified. What he thought would be an accom- 
plished fact in ten years, the slow moving forces of development 
realized, perhaps, after thirty or forty. Larchwood, with its un- 
usual advantages, did not grow as its promoters hoped it would,, 
and about 1880 the Illinois owners decided to sell what was left 
of the tract. 15 An Englishman, Richard Sykes, who dealt exten- 

Richard Edwards, Milner Brown, and Daniel Brown. The willow hedge 
was planted because it would grow quickly, and later furnish fuel. Fell, 
To Hon. George D. Perkins, Commissioner of Immigration for the State 
of Iowa, June 27, 1880. (A printed letter.) 

14 An account of a settler appeared in the Pantograph, Apr. 12, 1872. 
One by a settler in a neighboring vicinity, ibid., Apr. 25, 1872. 

18 At that time, there were about fifty miles of willow hedge outlining 
the farms, and many of the trees were from twenty to thirty feet high. 
White willow, box elder, white maple, white ash, cottonwood, basswood, 
black walnut, honey locust, chestnut, European and American larch, white 
and Scotch pines, osage orange, arbor vitae, Norway and native spruces, 
were among the trees and shrubs then growing. The catalpa speciosa, 
Mr. Fell's favorite protege, was a feature of the village planting. See 
Dr. John A. Warder, American Journal of Forestry for Oct., 1882. (Also 
reprinted as a circular.) 

Captain Henry Augustine, long a prominent nurseryman of Normal,. 



375] THE TREE-PLANTER 111 

sively in American lands, purchased the Larchwood farms, and 
came to America with his brother and a party of friends in April, 
1882, to see the estate that he had acquired. 16 He had previously 
brought out a pamphlet concerning Larchwood, and after in- 
specting the farms took up the work of further development with 
enthusiasm. He sent George E. Brown, an experienced forester 
from Scotland, to take charge of the groves, and sent saplings 
for planting. Delighted to find a successor so in sympathy with 
his ideas, Fell long kept up friendly relations with Mr. Sykes 
and various Larchwood residents. 17 

has told of his first meeting with Mr. Fell and of his championing of 
the Speciosa. A shy, awkward German boy, seeking his fortune in the 
new country, Mr. Fell called him in from the road one day, and had a 
long talk with him in his office. Finding that he loved trees, Mr. Fell 
explained to him the difference between the worthless and harmful varie- 
ties of the catalpa, and the useful Speciosa. He showed him the slight 
difference in the seed which is the only distinguishing mark in appear- 
ance. Mr. Augustine in later years himself became an extensive grower 
and dealer in the Speciosa. Henry Augustine, interviews. Fell in the 
Pantograph, Dec. 30, 1882. 

"The sale took place in 1881. Sykes to Fell, Nov. 26, 1881 ; March 
10, 19, 1882; March 10, 1884; Aug. 4, 1886. Close Brothers to Fell, Jan. 
26, 1882. Newspaper clipping of Jan. 19, 1881, in Scrap Book. 

1T As late as 1886, Fell was still corresponding concerning titles to 
Larchwood property. Sykes to Fell, Aug. 4, 1886. 



CHAPTER XII 
THE LAST YEAES 

His unsuccessful efforts for David Davis were, as has been 
said, Fell 's last important active participation in politics. After 
that, altho still interested in the issues of the day, he did 
no campaigning, save for some local projects in which he was in- 
terested. He continued to correspond with men who were in the 
field, and occasionally, upon request, expressed his opinions in 
the press. 1 Logan, engaged in 1874 with the formulation and 
passage of the Resumption Act, wrote to him upon finance; 
Wentworth and Murray discussed the election of 1876 with him.* 
As the faithful friend of Judge Davis, he seems to have arranged 
for his election to the Senate in 1877. He induced Palmer, the 
incumbent at that time, to withdraw from the race, and to throw 
the weight of his influence to the side of Davis. Logan was de- 
feated, and Cullom became governor of Illinois. 3 Any injustice 
still called forth a spirited defense of the person wronged, as in 
the case of S. "W. Moulton, who was accused by political enemies 
of having had secession sympathies ; and in the campaign against 
severe corporal punishment at the Soldiers' Orphans' Home, 
waged in 1877. 4 With his brother Kersey, he induced William. 

J Note, for example, the undated newspaper clipping, quoting a letter 
of Fell's dated Sept. 20, 1880, at Larchwood, giving reasons for support- 
ing Garfield. 

2 Logan to Fell, Feb. 16, 1874; Jan. 11, 1875. Wentworth to Fell, 
July 3, 1876. Bronson Murray to Fell, Dec. 18, 1876. 

3 Fell to Palmer, Jan. 15, 1877. Endorsement by Fell. Later, Fell 
was active in a movement for erecting a bust to Judge Davis. H. C. 
Whitney to Fell, Jan. 23, 1887. 

*Moulton to Fell, Jan. 9, 1884. Davis to Fell, Feb. 4, 1882; Jan. 22, 
1885. Oglesby to Fell, Mar. 17, 1884; Sept. 18, 1886. J. B. Foraker to 
Fell, Jan. 26, 1887. This last letter is in reference to an abortive attempt 
to secure the nomination of Robert T. Lincoln for president in 1888. 
Pantograph, Jan. 4, 1884, Fell, "Oglesby and Logan," in Chicago Tribune, 
Jan. 13, 1879. Bloomington Leader, July 23, 1877. 

112 



377] THE LAST YEARS 113 

A. Allin and David Davis to give Franklin Park to the city of 
Bloomington. 5 

Business was not by any means given up. Altho he had 
always made money easily, he had lost as well, and had given 
much away. He was no hoarder; money in itself was nothing 
to him. 6 Withdrawing from the larger enterprises of his prime, 
in his old age Mr. Fell bent his energies toward securing 
property which might be depended upon to yield an income to 
his family after his death. Some land he owned in the out- 
skirts of Normal was planted to strawberries and larger fruit, 
and from this he derived an incalculable amount of pleasure and 
a satisfactory return in money. Fell Park was sold to a syndi- 
cate, which after his death divided it up into city lots. Its great 
beauty became but a memory to the people of Normal, altho 
some of the fine trees still shade that part of the town. 7 

He kept in close touch with friends, among whom Jonathan 
Turner, Richard Edwards, Lawrence Weldon, John H. Bryant, 
and Charles G. Ames were perhaps nearest to him. 8 His grand- 
children, who lived very close to his home, were a source of 
great pleasure to him, and he took the keenest interest in their 
education. "When not in school, these children were usually at 
their grandfather's, "keeping store" in the playhouse he had 
built years before for his own children, or listening to him as 
he sang to them or told them stories, working as he did so 
among his trees and shrubs. They took long drives with him 
into the country, and planned with him wonderful things to do 
in the future ; for when he was an old man, Jesse Fell retained 
that fresh and buoyant forward-looking which had made him 
strong to accomplish in his youth, and passed it on to those who 
had their lives still before them. And with these family ties he 
kept up, later than any secular activity, his church work and 
church attendance. A new movement to which he gave some 

5 Franklin Price in Pantograph, May 10, 1900, and Normal Advocate, 
Apr. 21, 1894. 

He told Eberhart once that he liked to make it, and enjoyed spending 
it for the benefit of other people, many of whom didn't know how to 
take care of themselves. The remark shows his somewhat paternal 
attitude toward society, and explains many of his projects. 

7 Pantagraph, Mar. 18, 25, 1888. Thomas Slade in Bloomington Leader, 
Mar. 2, 1877. Bloomington Eye, Mar. 25, 1888. 

"Turner to Fell, Jan. i, 1879. Bryant to Fell, Feb. 25, 1885. Ames to 
Fell, Mar. 20, 1883. 



114 JESSE W. PELL [378 

time and attention and his unqualified assent, was that of woman 
suffrage, then in the days of its greatest struggle for a hearing. 
When Susan B. Anthony debated with President Hewitt of the 
normal school, it was he who introduced the pioneer suffrage 
advocate, and in his home she was entertained. 9 

Some time was spent in travel. In 1872 he made his first 
trip to the Pacific coast. 10 In 1873 he paid a visit to his old home 
in Pennsylvania, and treasured until his death the memory of 
drinking water again at the spring in the milk-house, sitting by 
the fire-side, and having tea with the hospitable people who had 
bought his father's old farm. He spent the night with R. Henry 
Carter, as he had the last night before starting for the West 
in 1828. In later years he took, with various members of his 
family, trips through the farther West, which seemed to him a 
wonderful new world. He was planning a winter in California 
when overtaken by his last illness. 11 

In ripening years a keen sense of humor, which during his 
more strenuous days was either subordinated to more important 
things, or forgotten by others in the memory of accomplishment, 
found frequent expression. It crept into conversation, bright- 
ened letters, even led to gentle Quaker jokes. These he could 
take as well as give, as two newspaper notices, quoted by Mr. 
Lewis, prove. 12 The first appeared on January 28, 1874, and 
read "J. W. Fell mourns the loss of an umbrella, left in the 
court room yesterday. He would be pleased if the finder would 
leave it at the Pantagraph office." The sequel came the next 
day: "J. W. Fell desires to return thanks for the generous 
supply of umbrellas left for him at the Pantagraph office yester- 
day in answer to his advertisement of one lost. Altho most of 
these offerings are better adapted to dry weather than wet, Mr. 
Fell is not disposed to look a gift horse in the mouth, but accepts 
the varied assortment with the feeling that it is pleasant to be 
remembered in the hour of one's distress." 

Fell to Sarah E. Raymond (Mrs. S. R. Fitzwilliam), Nov. 22, 1886. 
"Leonard Swett to Thomas A. Scott, Sept. 6, 1872. 
"Newspaper clipping in the Scrap Book, Sept. 8, 1884. Bloomington 
Leader, Feb. 18, 1887. 
12 Lewis, Life, 104. 



379] THE LAST YEARS 115 

It was a few years later that a young girl invited him to 
a dance. The reply was as follows: 13 
Miss Florence Richardson: 

The fair invites ! and so, you bet, 

Your invitation I'll accept 

But I must tell you in advance 

My Quaker foot it will not dance. 

A thousand times I have lamented 

That Fox and Penn were so demented 

As to proscribe what all can see 

With half an eye, is poetry; 

If not in words, in what is better, 

In motion, life, spirit, letter. 

Yes, if I could, I'd skip and prance 

In all the ecstacy of dance; 

For I am young, and supple too, 

I'm not quite three-score ten and two. 

But what's the use? My education's 

So neglected I'd scare the nation! 

So goodbye dance, it's not for me, 

As you and all can plainly see. 

But, what of that? I shall propose 

To play a game of dominoes; 

And if perchance you're so inclined 

Will play a game of mind with mind, 

Holding to each other's view 

The things of life, both old and new ; 

The ups and downs, the weals and woes 

That follow man, where'er he goes. 
Meet at the hotel? Very well, 

There you'll find Yours, 

J. W. Fell. 

These instances will suffice to show the quality of the humor 
in which he met the days of declining strength. His last years 
were happy as they were busy. "I was glad to know," wrote 
John H. Bryant to him in 1885, "that you had got beyond all 
fears of the future, that terrible burden that weighs down with 
gloom, misery, and wretched forebodings so many of our race, 
and especially innocent children who are reared under orthodox 
instruction." 14 

In the winter of 1885-86 he suffered a severe illness, begin- 
ning with an attack of pneumonia in December, from which his 

"Jan. 24, 1880. Newspaper clipping in Scrap Book, and manuscript. 

Normal, Jan., 1880. 
"Bryant to Fell, Feb. 25, 1885. 



116 JESSE W. FELL [380 

convalescence was very slow. At times his family despaired 
of his recovery. He did rally, however, and grew stronger dur- 
ing the summer, so that people hoped he might be spared for 
several years. But when cold weather came again, there was a 
relapse. He became really ill in January, but refused to stay 
closely at home. In February he spent two days in Chicago, 
attending to business for the Normal School which urgently 
demanded attention. He returned to his home in a very serious 
condition, made worse perhaps by worry over school affairs, 
then at a most critical juncture. The family physician, in con- 
sultation with others, pronounced it a case of anaemia of the 
brain. For a week he lay in a comatose sleep. Rousing himself 
finally, he spoke to members of the family, repeated Pope's 
''Universal Prayer", a favorite poem, and the "Now I Lay me" 
which he had said since boyhood. His death occurred on Feb- 
ruary 25, 1887." 

The usual marks of respect and regret at the death of a 
prominent and beloved citizen were paid him. Telegrams, let- 
ters, and flowers were sent from far and near. Newspapers 
printed eulogies and reviewed his life and work. Town councils, 
the Bloomington Bar Association, churches, schools, passed reso- 
lutions of respect. 16 The funeral, on the twenty-eighth of Feb- 
ruary, was held in the large assembly hall of the Normal 
School; no church could have held the crowds that attended. 
The public schools were closed. Business in Normal was sus- 
pended. 17 Special cars were run from Bloomington to Normal, 
to accommodate the people who wished to pay the last honors 
to Jesse Fell. The aisles, corridors, and stairs, and the steps of 
the building were filled with silent mourners who could not find 
room in the hall. Rev. Richard Edwards, his old friend and 
neighbor, preached the funeral sermon. Mr. Fell had selected 
him for this duty, pledging him to the briefest possible account 
of his accomplishment, a pledge which Dr. Edwards kept at the 
cost of some criticism from those who did not understand the 
circumstances. 

^Chicago Tribune, Feb. 26, 1887. Pantograph, Mar. 7, 15, 19, 1887. 
Richard Edwards to Fell, Feb. 4, 1887. 

16 A lodge of Knights of Pythias, shortly after organized in Bloom- 
ington, was named for him, altho he himself was never a member 
of any such organization. 

"Bloomington Leader, Feb. 26, 1887. California (Missouri) Demo- 
crat, Mar. 3, 1887, quoting from St. Louis Republican of Feb. 26, 1887. 



381] THE LAST YEARS 117 

The service over, the procession formed for the long drive 
to the cemetery at Bloomington. No tribute could have been 
more eloquent than the appearance of the funeral procession. 
The country roads were as bad as Illinois country roads can be 
in spring, but carriages, carts and heavy farm wagons had come 
in from all the surrounding country. Shabby and smart vehicles 
alternated in the line that followed the hearse; and the proces- 
sion was so long that when the last mourners were leaving the 
Normal School, the first ones had reached the court house in 
Bloomington. The Bloomington school children joined those of 
Normal at this point. 18 

There was sincere mourning, for in death men pay eager 
tribute to qualities which are accepted without appreciation, or 
quite ignored, in life. Mr. Fell had not been unappreciated in 
life. He had won from men the only thing he asked of them, 
a trust and goodwill answering to that he bore them. It is doubt- 
ful if those among whom he lived had any adequate idea of the 
part he had played in public affairs for many years, and few of 
them understood the magnitude of the work of development 
which he, and others like him, accomplished for the Middle West. 
But those personal qualities which distinguished him among 
men, all men saw and honored. "It is a good thing," said Judge 
James Ewing of him, in voicing this appreciation, "to have 
known one man whose life was without spot or blemish ; against 
whose honor no man ever spoke; who had no skeleton in his 
closet; whose life was open as the day and whose death comes 
to a whole community as a personal sorrow." And John W. 
Cook, who knew him well, said of him at the memorial service 
held in his own church on the sixth of March : 19 

"In that picture gallery of the soul that we call memory, 
there will always be a gracious presence. The personality is 
vivid ; the outlines are sharply defined ; the face is full of earnest 
purpose ; every line is suggestive of tireless energy and the rad- 
iance of hope. A simple, honest, unostentatious man; yet 
wherever he has gone good deeds have marked his footsteps. As 
if by magic, stately trees have sprung from the path over which 

18 The telephone was then just coming into use, and the one connect- 
ing the court house with the Normal School was used on this occasion 
by Henry Augustine, who had charge of arrangements, and who related 
the details given to the writer. 

19 James S. Ewing in the Fell Memorial. Pantograph, Mar. /, 1887; 
Mar. 27, 1890; June 20, 1892. 



118 JESSE W. FELL [382 

he has walked. In their gracious shade generations yet unborn 
shall mention his name with gratitude. Institutions whose only 
aim is helpfulness to man record his generosity and public 
spirit." 



BIBLIOGRAPHY. 

I. MANUSCRIPTS. 

The Fell Manuscripts. A collection of letters, memoranda, drafts, 
and other documents, in the possession of the Misses Alice and Fannie 
Fell, of Normal, Illinois. Unless otherwise indicated, all references to 
manuscripts are to parts of this collection. Transcripts in the Historical 
Survey, University of Illinois. 

The Lewis Life of Jesse W. Fell. A manuscript biography by Ed- 
ward J. Lewis, a friend of Mr. Fell, written about 1900. It was prepared 
from facts gained by long personal acquaintance with Mr. Fell, from 
access to sources in the Fell Manuscripts, and from notes by Richard 
Edwards. In the possession of the Misses Fell. Referred to as the 
Lewis Life. 

Notes by Richard Edwards, in the possession of his daughter, Miss 
Ellen S. Edwards, of Bloomington, Illinois. These are contemporary 
notes of interviews with Mr. Fell regarding events extending down to 
about 1840. 

The Fell Memorial. A collection of* sketches and appreciations of 
Mr. Fell by various personal friends. In the possession of the Misses 
Fell. The page references to the Memorial in this thesis refer to the 
abridged transcript in the Illinois Historical Survey, University of 
Illinois. 

Flagg Manuscripts. Transcripts in the Illinois Historical Survey, 
University of Illinois. 

Photostatic reproductions of letters from Fell to Trumbull, from the 
Trumbull Papers in the Library of Congress, Washington. The repro- 
ductions are in the Illinois Historical Survey. 

Transcripts from Records of the War Department and Copyright 
Office, Washington, in the possession of the author. 

Brush, Elizabeth P. The Political Career of Owen Lovejoy. Manu- 
script thesis, University of Illinois, 1912. 

II. PERIODICALS. 

Files of the Bloomington Observer and McLean County Advocate, 
the Western Whig, the Intelligencer, the Pantagraph, in the McLean 
County Historical Society Collection, Court House, Bloomington. 

The Illinois Teacher. 

McClure's Magazine. 

Clippings from newspapers. A collection of these in a book, in the 
possession of Miss Alice Fell, of Normal, is referred to as the Scrap 
Book. 

119 



120 JESSE W. PELL [384 

III. DOCUMENTS. 

United States Congress, Statutes at Large. 

Illinois, Session Laws. 

Illinois State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Reports. 

IV. MISCELLANEOUS. 

Arnold, Isaac N. The Life of Abraham Lincoln, Chicago, 1891. 

Elaine, James G. Twenty Years of Congress. Norwich, Conn. 
1884-6. 

Browne, Robert H. Abraham Lincoln and the Men of His Time. 
2 vols. Chicago, 1907. 

Brownson, Howard G. A History of the Illinois Central Railroad 
to 1870. Urbana, 1915. University of Illinois Studies in the Social Sci- 
ences, IV. 

Cunningham, Joseph C. (editor). History of Champaign County, 
with Newton Bateman and Paul Selby's Historical Encyclopedia of Illi- 
nois. Chicago, 1905. 

Duis, E. Good Old Times in McLean County. Bloomington, 1874. 

Ford, Thomas. History of Illinois. Chicago, 1854. 

Herndon, William H., and J. W. Weik. Lincoln, the true story of a 
great life. 3 vols. Chicago, New York, and San Francisco, 1889. 

Hill, Frederick Trevor. Lincoln the Lawyer. New York, 1006. 

History of McLean County, Illinois. Chicago, 1879. 

James, Edmund Janes. Origin of the Land Grant Act of 1862. 
University of Illinois Studies, IV, No. 7. 

Lamon, Ward H. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. Boston, 1872. 

Lapsley, Arthur B. (editor). The Writings of Abraham Lincoln. 
New York, 1005. 

McLean County Historical Transactions. Bloomington, 1809. 

Moses, John. Illinois, Historical and Statistical. 2 vols. Chicago, 
1892. 

Newton, Joseph Fort. Lincoln and Herndon. Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 
1910. 

Nicolay, John G., and Hay, John. Abraham Lincoln: a History. 10 
vols. New York, 1890. 

Oldroyd, Osborn H. Lincoln Memorial Album. Springfield, 1882. 

Peck, John Mason. Gazeteer of Illinois. Jacksonville, Illinois, 1834. 

Portrait and Biographical Album of McLean County. Chicago, 1887. 

Prince, Ezra M., and John H. Burnham. History of McLean County, 
in Newton Bateman and Paul Selby's Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois. 
Chicago, 1008. 2 vols. 

Scott, Franklin W. Newspapers and Periodicals of Illinois, 1814- 
1879. Springfield, 1910. Illinois Historical Collections, VI. 

Stevenson, Adlai E. Something of Men I Have Known. Chicago, 
1909. 

Tarbell, Ida M. The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln. New York, 
1896. 



385] BIBLIOGRAPHY 121 

Tarbell, Ida M. The Life of Abraham Lincoln. 2 vols. New York, 
1900. 

Thompson, Charles M. A Study of the Administration of Governor 
Thomas Ford. Springfield, 1911. Illinois Historical Collections, VII. 

Weldon, Lawrence. "Reminiscences of Lincoln as a Lawyer," in 
Abraham Lincoln, Tribute from his Associates. Pp. 237-255. New York, 
ca, 1889. 

Whitney, Henry C. Lincoln, the President. 2 vols. New York, 
1908. 



INDEX 



Abolition movement, 54, 55, 93. 

Adams, Charles Francis, 99. 

Allin, James, 17, 22, 24, 36. 

Allin, William A., 113. 

Alton and Sangamon R. R., 86. 

Ames, Rev. Charles G., 65, 94, 113. 

Amulet, 13. 

Anderson, Dr. John, 22. 

Anthony, Susan B., 114. 

Arny, W. F. M., 47, 56. 

Barber, Eliel, 93. 

Batavia Institute, 42. 

Beecher, Henry Ward, 74. 

Bishop, Jesse, 66. 

Bissell, Gov., 41. 

Black Betty, 50. 

Blackstone, T. B., ,89. 

Blakeslee, Lyman, 33. 

Bloomington, 16, 19, 32, 106. 

Bloomington, Kankakee and Indiana State Line R. R., 88. 

Bloomington and Wabash Valley R. R., 87. 

Boyd, Col. W. P., 65. 

Brattan, Frank, 28. 

Breese, Sidney, 85. 

Brewster, E. W., 39. 

Briar, Dr. David, 65. 

Brown, Daniel, no. 

Brown, Eliza, 17. 

Brown, Ellwood, 13. 

Brown, Hester Vernon, 26. 

Brown, Jeremiah, 28. 

Brown, Joshua, 16, 26. 

Brown, George E., in. 

Brown, Milner, no. 

Brown, Rachel, 31. 

Brown, William, 16. 

Brown's, u. 

Bryant, John H., 34, 70, 103, 113, 115. 

Buck, Hiram, 44. 

Buckingham, n. 

Burleigh, Rec. C. C, 94, 

123 



124 JESSE W. PELL [388 

Burr, A., 109. 
Byron, Illinois, 32. 

Cabinet appointments, 1860-61, 63. 
Cameron, Simon, 63. 
Campbell, Alexander, 42, 70. 
Carter, R. Henry, 12, 114. 
Caton, J. D., 34. 
Charter of Normal, 73. 
Chippewa, Wisconsin, 23. 
Clay, Henry, 15, 28. 
Clinton, Illinois, 20, 24, 32, 106. 
Colerain, Pennsylvania, n. 
College and Seminary Fund, 45. 
Cook, John W., 117. 
Covell, M. L., 22, 85. 
Covell, O., 22. 
Cullom, Shelby M., 70, 96. 
Cunningham, J. O., 32. 

Daniels, Mary, 34. 

Danner, Henry E., 79. 

Danville, Urbana and Pekin R. R., 89. 

Davis, David : buys Chicago land of Fell, 22 ; serves as best man at 
Fell's wedding, 26; takes Fell's law practice, 27; a guest at Fell 
Park, 34 ; a Lincoln supporter in 1860, 61 ; considered for a cabinet 
position, 64 ;_ urged by Fell for supreme bench, 66 ; urges resurvey 
of Normal Township, 73; interested in retention of Chicago and 
Alton shops, 89; decides to try for presidential nomination, 1872, 
100; elected to Senate, 1877, 112; gives part of Franklin Park to 
Bloomington, 113. 

Davis, W. O., 34, 38, 68. 

Decatur, Illinois, 32. 

Delavan, Illinois, 16. 

Depew, Elijah, 33. 

Dickey, T. L., 55. 

Digest of State Laws, etc., 28. 

Dodge, John, 35, 74. 

Douglas, Stephen A., 19, 20, 85. 

Downington, Pennsylvania, 9. 

Dwight, Illinois, 32. 

Dubois, Jesse K., 97, 99, 101. 

Duncan, Gov. Joseph, 20. 

Dunn, Dr. McCann, 72. 

Durley, William, 22. 

r 

Eastern Illinois Insane Asylum, 84, 



389] INDEX 125 

Eberhart, John F., 42, 46, 76. 
Eclectic Observer, 12, 38. 
Edwards, Ninian W., 40. 
Edwards, Richard, II, 29, 74, no, 113, 116. 
Ellis, Rev. Charles, 71. 
El Paso, Illinois, 32. 
Evans, William, 16. 
"Evergreen City", 107. 
Ewing, James, 16, 18, 65, 117. 
Ewing, William L. D., 85. 

Fell, Clara, 34. 
Fell, Eliza, 30, 34, 68. 
Fell, Hannah, 13. 
Fell, Henry C, 27, 30, 47, 70, 109. 
Fell, Jesse, ST., g, 53, 92. 
Fell, Kersey, 24, 26, 33, 48, 83, 93, 112. 
Fell, Rebecca, 13, 24, 26, 92. 
Fell, Robert, 24, 31, 51. 
Fell, Thomas, 24, 27. 
Fell Park, 33, 107, 113. 
"Floats," 22. 

Grant, U. S., 98. 
"Gratz Brown Trick," 104. 

Great Western R. R. Company, 85. 

Greeley, Horace, 38, 104, 105. 

Gregory, John Milton, 80. 

Gridley, Gen. Asahel : Bloomington's leading citizen, 1832, 17; goes to 
the East for goods, 36; begins his political career, 50; attitude toward 
Illinois Central, 85; accused of self-interest, 89; works with Fell 
against Smith, 96; wishes to retain Dr. Cromwell, 98; endorses 
Horace Greeley, 1872, 105. 

Griggs, Clark R., 79. 

Harrison Campaign, 1840, 50. 

Halstead, Murat, 104. 

Hawley, J. A., 39. 

Hewett, C. E., 114. 

Hickman, John, 62, 104. 

Hicksites, 92. 

Hill, William, 36. 

Hogg, Harvey, 65. 

Holder, Charles and Richard, 48, 109. 

Hoopes, Joshua, 10. 

Hovey, Charles, 40, 46, 47, 67. 

Hunt, Dr. Charles A., 77. 

Hurwood, Grace, 12, 18, 34, 



126 JESSE W. PELL [390 

Illinois and Michigan Canal, 51. 

Illinois Central R. R., 85. 

Illinois Soldiers' Orphans' Home, 82, 112. 

Illinois State Normal University, 45, 108, 116. 

Illinois State Reform School, 83. 

Illinois State Teachers' Association, 80. 

Illinois Teacher, 40. 

Illinois Wesleyan University, 41. 

Industrial University, 78. 

Ingersoll, Robert G., 97. 

Johnson, R. H., 37. 
Joliet, Illinois, 32. 
Judd, Norman B., 64. 

Kansas Aid Committee, 55. 
Kansas-Nebraska Act, 53. 
Kimberton Boarding School, 24. 

LaFayette, Bloomington and Mississippi R. R., 89. 

Larchwood, 109. 

Leader, 97. 

Lee, H. H., 39. 

Lee, O. H., 86. 

LeRoy, Illinois, 32. 

Lewis, E. J., 16, 33. 

Lewis, Joseph J., 29, 58, 60, 63, 64. 

Lexington, Illinois, 32, 106. 

Liberal Republican Movement, 09. 

Lincoln, Abraham : in the Black Hawk War, 1832, 16 ; meets Fell, 19 ; 
with Fell works for Stuart, 1838, 20; Fell writes him about Mexican 
War, 31 ; a guest at Fell Park, 34; draws up bond for I. S. N. U., 
45; the Lost Speech, 54; appointed on Kansas Aid Committee, 56; 
nominated for Senate, 1858. 57 ; autobiography, 58 ; introduced to 
Pennsylvania, 60 ; Cameron, 63 ; Judd, 64 ; appoints Fell paymaster, 
68; assassination of, 70. 

Lincoln-Douglas debates, suggested by Fell, 57. 

Lincoln, Illinois, 32. 

Little Britain, Pa., 11. 

Livingston County, 33. 

Lockwood, Judge, 15. 

Logan, John A., 112. 

Lovejoy, Owen, 34, 54, 62, 65, 66. 

McCambridge, William, 34. 

McCook, Captain, 68. 

McLean County, 16, 18, 20, 24, 33, 70, 78, 96, 100. 



391] INDEX 127 

McLean County Register, 37. 
McNulta, Gen. John, 98. 
McRoberts, Judge, 15. 
Magoun, John, 93, 109. 
Major's Hall, 47, 53. 
Mann, Horace, 45. 
May, W. L., 20, 23. 
Merriam, Col. Jonathan, 98. 
Merriman, A. J., 44. 
Merriman, Charles P., 37, 65. 
Merriman, H. P., 65. 
Mexican War, protest, 31. 
Mills, Benjamin, 20. 
Milwaukee, 23. 
Minier, George W., 66. 
Minonk, Illinois, 32. 
Mitchell, R. B., 37. 
Moon, John W. S., 85. 
Morrill Bill, 77. 
Moulton, S. W., 97, 112. 

New Salem, Illinois, 16. 

Normal, Illinois, 32, 74, 106. 

North Bloomington, Illinois, 32, 41, 45, 86. 

Northern Illinois Horticultural Society, 79. 

Oglesby, Gov., 73, 77, 101. 
Oldroyd controversy, 59. 
"Other Side, The," 96. 
Osborn, Gen. Thomas, 74. 
Overman, C. R., 73. 

Palmer, Gov., 82, 90, 97, 99, 101, 104, 112. 

Panic of 1837, 47. 

Pantograph, 37. 

Paymaster's service, 68. 

Payne, Dr. Joseph, 42. 

Payson Farm, 30. 

Pekin, Bloomington and Wabash R. R., 85. 

Pennell, William A., 74, 76. 

Pennsylvania campaign, 1860, 62. 

Phillips, E. J., 20. 

Pike, Meshac, 42. 

Phoenix, F. K., 31. 

Pontiac, 32, 83, 106. 

Preemption laws, 22. 

Price, Franklin, 14. 



128 JESSE W. PELL [392 

Price, Issacher, u, 59. 
Prince, E. M., 17, 29, 65, 70. 
Public school law, 39. 

Quincy road, 31. 

Real estate operations, 32, 86, 109. 

Reeder, Addison, 75. 

Republican party in Illinois, 53, 61. 

Repudiation in Illinois, 51. 

Resurvey of Normal Township, 73. 

Rex, Dr. George P., 48. 

Reynolds, Gov. John, 23. 

Richardson, Miss Florence, 115. 

Ridgley, N. H., 20. 

Robinson, James C, 98. 

Roe, E. R., 38, 65. 

Rogers, T. P., 65. 

Rood, E. H., 109. 

Ruggles, Benjamin, 13. 

Saunders, William, 34, 108. 

Schurz, Carl, 99. 

Scibird and Waters, 38, 97. 

Sewall, J. A., 106. 

Seward, unpopular in Pennsylvania, 59. 

Sharpless, Rachel, 26. 

Shaw, Henry, 109. 

Shaw, James, 93. 

Smith, Gen. Giles A., 96. 

Smith, Milton, 44. 

Smith, Rodney, 68. 

Snow Brothers, 71. 

Snow, D. J., 65. 

Sorghum, 75. 

Spawr, Jacob, 30. 

Spencer, Hamilton, 65, 84. 

Stanton, Edwin M., 15. 

State Bank of Illinois, 20, 51. 

State Industrial League, 40. 

Sterlein, Mayor, 105. 

Steubenville, 13. 

Stevenson, Adlai E., 102, 104. 

Stokeley and Marsh, 14, 17. 

Stokeley, Gen. Samuel, 27, 62. 

Stuart, John T., 15, 18, 70. 

Sumner, Charles, 99, 



393] INDEX 129 

Swamp lands, McLean County, 47. 
Sweet, Leonard, 34, 54, 61, 69, 100, 102. 
Sykes, Richard, no. 

Taylor, James P., 38. 

Tazewell County, 19, 24, 88. 

Thompson, Rev. J. F., 94. 

Towanda, 32. 

Trumbull, Lyman, 66, 99. 

Turner, Jonathan B., 40, 77, 80, 113. 

Tyler, President, 28. 

Ullin, Illinois, 33. 
Underwood, I. N., 37. 
University of Illinois, 45, 77. 

Vandalia, 19. 
Vermilion County, 33. 

Wabash and Warsaw R. R., 87. 

Washington Academy, 42. 

Weldon, Lawrence, 19, 84, 113. 

Wentworth, Judge John, 104, 112. 

Western Whig, 37. 

White, Horace, 62, 101, 103, 105. 

Whittier, John G., 94. 

Wilkins, Daniel, 39. 

Williams, R. E., 32, 89, 109. 

Withers, Allen, 65. 

Wood, Gov. John, 31. 

Wright, Rev. Nathaniel, 26. 

Wright, Simeon W., 43. 

Yates, Gov. Richard, Sr., 48, 53, 66. 

Young, Richard M., 24.