Springfield History - Letter from Elijah Iles to Daniel Pope Cook

A document of great importance to researchers of the formation of the City of Springfield has recently been discovered. That document is a letter from Elijah Iles (one of the earliest settlers and an active promoter of the town of Springfield) to Daniel Pope Cook, a U.S. Representative from Illinois during the period 1819 to 1827. The letter was written on October 21, 1823.

The original letter is housed in the Sangamon Valley Collection at the Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois.

This letter

Some background information on the letter helps in understanding the contents and context of the letter.

Elijah Iles arrived in Illinois in 1821 when the settlement that would become Springfield was just a spot designated as the seat of government for the newly formed Sangamon County.

John Taylor was the first county sheriff and later was appointed receiver of the United States Land Office at Springfield.

John Kelly was the first settler to build a cabin in Springfield . He also built a court house for the county. There is a marker at Second and Jefferson commemorating the location of that building with the inscription - "On This Corner Was Built in 1821 The First Sangamon County Court House. A Log House One Story High and Twenty Feet Long Costing $72.50. This Tablet Erected By Springfield Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution April 2, 1921."

Pascal Enos was the Land Office receiver and had Cooks purchase held in his name.

Cook, Taylor, Iles and Kelly formed a partnership to invest in land at the site of the future Springfield. Enos had been invited to join them. just as the group was ready to purchase the land, John Kelly died. The plan called for each man to purchase one of four adjoining quarter sections being offered at public auction. The auction was scheduled for 16 days after the letter from Iles to Cook hence the request for secrecy to prevent speculators from driving up the price of the land.

In the letter Iles asks Cook to spread the word that the town would not be built on these sections of land because of the fact that one of the quarters was designated as 'seminary land' (refered to as the 'Location' in the letter). Seminary land was set aside to be sold to finance higher education in the state. Iles indicates he had already asked Governor Edward Coles to designate another section as seminary land in place of the one in which they were interested.

Below is a transcription of the letter.

                                                             Edwardsville, Ill
                                                             October 21, 1823

       D. P. Cook, Esq.

       Dear Sir

                 I called at your house and found you not at home. I should
       have been very proud to have saw you before you went on to Washington,
       but as I shall be at St. Louis until the 30th inst it will be out of
       my power.

                 Mr. John Kelly, the man who owned the adjoining qtr. to
       Springfield is dead, arrangements will be made to purchase his
       improvement, one of the administrators asked me if I would give 200$
       for the Improvement. I think by that, it can be had for 150 or 200$. John
       Taylors farm is located, therefore there will be but 3 qtrs to purchase. I
       want you if you see any speculators speaking of going on to purchase, to
       hold out an idea the Town will be moved in consequence of the Location.

                 We have petitioned the Governor to remove the location made near
       the town, what affect this will have I do not know. Your improvement goes
       now in the name of 'Enos'. We shall be glad to hear from you, any arrangements,
       advice etx you make leave with your Family. I will call as I return from
       St. Louis you may possible not be gone before I return.

                                                             Yours Respectfully
                                                                    Elijah Iles

       Secrcy should be observed.

Thomas Cox who arrived in Springfield in the fall of 1822 became the last partner and investor in the project by purchasing the section originally marked for John Kelly.

Daniel Cook's name does not appear on any of the federal land deeds for the four quarter sections on which Springfield was built.

Material presented on this page was obtained in part from information provided by The Lincoln Library in Springfield, Illinois.