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By John Carroll Power

These biographies were submitted by a researcher and evidently abstracted from the 1876 History of Sangamon County, IL. Errors could occur, so one should always verify the correctness by obtaining copies of vitals and performing all necessary research to document what is contained herein.

PETER, ZACHARIAH, was born in Amherst county, Virginia. His parents moved, when he was two years old, to Washington county, Ky. He was married near Danville, Ky., to Nancy Spaulding. They had five children in Kentucky, and moved to what afterwards became Sangamon county, Ill., arriving Sept., 1818; and finding an empty cabin in what is now Ball township, Mr. Peter moved his family into it. That was the cabin built by Robert Pulliam. in the fall of 1817, the first ever erected in Sangamon connty. Mr. Peter lived there until the spring of 1819, when Mr. Pulliam came with his own family. Mr. Peter then vacated it and built a cabin about three miles further north, on what is now--1876--known as the Megredy homestead. They had one child in Sangamon county. Of their six children--

MARY T., born Sept. 13, 1806, in Danville, Ky., married in Sangamon county, Sept. 10, 1826, to Robert Withrow. See his name.

SAMUEL, born in 1808 in Kentucky, married in Sangamon county to Margaret Pulliam. They had five children, and she died, in Iowa, leaving her children there.

JOHN N., born in 1810 in Kentucky, married in Sangamon county to Emily Waldrup. They had seven children. The living members of the family reside near Butler, Montgomery county, Illinois.

MAHALA D., born in 1813 in Kentucky, married in Sangamon county to George Moffatt. They had five children, and Mr. Moffatt died. She, with some of her children, live in Glasgow, Iowa.

THERZA or (THERESA), born in 1815 in Kentucky, married in Sangamon county to Brinsley Ball. They had eight children, and Mr. Ball went to California and died there. Mrs. Ball and some of their children live near Galena, JoDaviess county, Illinois.

JAMES M., born in 1819 in Sangamon county, and married Milly A. Peter. They have four children, and live near Mattoon, Moultrie county, Illinois.

Mrs. Nancy Peter died, and Zachariah Peter married Mrs. Margaret Kelly, widow of John Kelly. See his name. They had one child-- PETER CARTWRIGHT, born in Sangamon county. He was a soldier from Sangamon county in the war with Mexico, in 1846 and '7. He went to Washington Territory, where he was married; went from there to California, and was killed by Indians, leaving a widow and one child in California.

Mrs. Margaret Peter died, and Zachariah Peter married Mrs. Elizabeth Thomas, whose maiden name was Keyes. She died, and he married Eliza Gordan.

Zachariah Peter died Aug. 5, 1864, in Springfield, and was buried in Hutchinson cemetery. His widow went to California.

Mr. Peter was one of the three commissioners appointed to organize Sangamon county, and locate the temporary county seat. It was he and William Drennan who wrote their initials on the stake driven in the ground, and marked it Z., P. & D. That was the way the county seat was located, April 10, 1821, and called Springfield. --

At a Special Term of the County Commissioners' Court for the County of Sangamon, begun and held at the house of John Kelly, on Spring creek, on the third day of April, 1821: Present, Zachariah Peter, Rivers Cormack, and William Drennan, commissioners. Ordered by the Court that Charles R. Matheney be appointed Clerk of the County Commissioners Court for the county of Sangamon; who thereupon took the oath prescribed by law, also the oath of office, and entered into bond, as the law directs, with James Latham his security. Ordered that court adjourn.


The Commissioners met again in Special Session, April 10, 1821, at the same place. Present: Z. Peter and Wm. Drennan. John Spillers was allowed ten dollars for conveying election returns to Vandalia. James Sims was appointed County Treasurer. John Lindsay, Stephen Stillman, and John Robinson, were appointed to the office of Justice of the Peace. The following report was made with reference to the location of the county seat:

WHEREAS, the Act of the General Assembly, entitled An Act, establishing the county of Sangamo, required of the County Commissioners when elected and qualified into office, to fix a temporary seat of justice for said county: Therefore, we, the undersigned, County Commissioners for said county, do certify that we, after full examination of the situation of the population of said county, have fixed and designated a certain point in the prairie near John Kelley's field, on the waters of Spring creek, at a stake marked Z. & D., as the temporary seat of justice for said county; and do further agree that the said county seat be called and known by the name of Springfield.

Given under our hands this 10th day of April, 1821.


There is no explanation of letters used in marking the stake, but it is probable that the only two commissioners present agreed to use one initial from each of their names.

The point chosen was near what is now the northwest corner of Second and Jefferson streets. The first court house in the county was built on the same spot.

We find the county of Sangamo organized, and the county seat temporarily located and named. It may be interesting to note some of the incidents that influenced the selection of that particular spot. Towns and cities are born, live, and die, subject to the contingencies of birth, life, and death, analagous to that of human beings. About the year 1818, an old bachelor by the name of Elisha Kelly emigrated from North Carolina to this State, stopping first in Macoupin county. Mr. Kelly was exceedingly fond of the chase, and in prospecting for good hunting grounds, wandered in between two ravines, a couple of miles apart, running in a northwesterly direction, and emptying into Spring creek, a tributary of the Sangamon river. The deer with which this country abounded before the advent of civilization, made their homes in the timber along the larger water courses. In the morning they would leave the heavy timber, follow up the ravines, along which the trees became smaller, and finally ran out on the open prairie, They would pass the day amid the tall and luxuriant grass, roaming about and grazing at pleasure, and as nightfall approached, return down the ravines, to the places they had left in the morning, each to seek its lair for repose. The deer in passing down these ravines, gave Mr. Kelly an opportunity for the full gratification of his ambition for game. It seemed to him so much like a hunter's paradise, that he returned to his old home and induced his father, Henry Kelly, and his four brothers, John, older than himself, and Elijah, William and George, younger, to emigrate with him, those who had families bringing them. He induced other families among his acquaintances to emigrate also. More families continued to move into the country, and generally settled at long distances from each other, but the principal settlement clustered around the Kellys. When the commissioners came to locate the county seat, it was discovered that the Kelley settlement was the only place in all the county, large as it was, where enough families could be found in the vicinity of each other to board and lodge the members of the court and those who would be likely to attend its sessions.

The records do not show that anything more than locating the county seat was done that day, but in another part of the book we find a copy of a contract that was evidently entered into after adjournment, and before they separated. There is no evidence of any advertising for proposals to build a court house, but here is the contract:

Article of agreement entered into the 10th day of April, 1821, between John Kelly, of the county of Sangamo, and the undersigned, county commissioners of said county. The said Kelly agrees with said commissioners to build, for the use of the said county, a court house of the following description, to-wit: The logs to be twenty feet long, the house one story high, plank floor, a good cabin roof, a door and window cut out, the work to be completed by the first day of May, next, for which the said commissioners promise, on the part of the county, to pay the said Kelly forty-two dollars and fifty cents. Witness our hands the day and date above.


As the temple of justice approached completion the commissioners found that it would be a very nice summer building, but they evidently had some doubts about it for winter.

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