At the session of the Legislature, 1839, an act was passed relocating the county seat; and Alexander Turnbull, of Warren County, W. W. Conway, Rock Island, and Harmon Brown, Knox County, were appointed Commissioners to locate and name the new county town.
The earnest competitors now for the county capital were Geneseo and Morristown. The former apparently had every advantage, and this fact, probably, made the people of that place over-confident. At any rate, when the Commissioners to locate met and opened the bids there was practically no contest at all. Morristown carried off the prize easily. Her bid was overwhelming, compared with Geneseo's. Geneseo, it is said, offered the county a fair and liberal portion of the town, while Morristown, or Charles Oakley and Joshua Harper, offered an entire quarter-section for town lots and $1,000 in cash. This settled the matter at once, and Morristown became the seat of justice for Henry County.
Geneseo was seriously disappointed; it was a blow under the belt. For some years her people contended they had really made the most liberal offer, while her enemies said the big end of her liberality was only manifested after the question had been settled. Then another wheel within this wheel was a statement made current that one of the Commissioners to locate, Turnbull, had been a candidate for the Legislature and Geneseo had voted against him, and, therefore, he was " fernenst" her.
Among the provisions for the new county seat, Morristown, was one that a public house should be built out of the fund; and that within a certain time (one year) each of the colonists should erect a house upon his land. A good sized building was e reeled out of the general fund, and three or four dwelling houses were erected by different parties. The town plat was one mile square. In the center was a public square, 440 feet each way. Lots, 45 feet front and 135 to 240 deep.
Thus, under promising prospects, was started the new town. It was thought the county-seat question had been about permanently settled, and a permanent population was expected to flow into the place. Mr. Crocker had entered Crocker's Grove (sometimes called Brown's), as well as a large tract adjoining. He had intended making an extensive farm and ex pected wide range for years for his cattle. He regretted that Morristown had been located so near him, as it would cramp his grazing range.
The above named public house and three or four dwellings constituted the point of greatness and growth at which the embryo city of the plains seemed to halt in its strides to greatness. Murmurs at the place began to be heard; the good people complained that the selection was bad, very incon venient and not in the center of the county. In short, the most " knowinsomest " old settlers soon saw the the question of a new county seat would have to be all fought over again. The terms of the Circuit Court were held in Geneseo after the burning of Richmond, until the fall of 1841. The first Circuit Court held in Morristown was in May, 1842, and the last in May, 1844.
The public house in Morristown was duly conveyed to the county and a contract for improving it was made with David Gove and Nathaniel Walters, for which work an order was issued to them for the sum of $70. June 28, 1841, a contract was made with Thomas W. Carey and George Brandenburg for the erection of a "commodious courthouse, 18 by 24 feet, one and a half stories high," and also for building a jail. Brandenburg and Carey rented the public house for a term of two years, to pay $100 rent, and to " furnish suitable court-room for the use of all courts in the county." The court-house was built, and this was the building that, being transported finally to Cambridge on wagons, gave the county seat the reputation of being on wheels.
As said, the dissatisfaction with Morristown continued to grow. The people were determined to relocate the county seat, and they were determined no longer to trust "commissioners to locate." They had many reasons for mistrusting commissioners. Sinister influences too often were the weightier considerations, and for such good reasons the people, . when they determined to found a new county town, at the same time determined to fix that location themselves.
The people of Morristown themselves soon were free to admit that their place was not suitably located. Joshua Harper, one of the proprietors of the place, was a candidate for the Legislature in 1842, and he distinctly pledged the people that, if elcted, and a majority of the people so petitioned, he would vote to send the county seat to any point they wished, " even into the Winnebago swamps." Hewas elected, and was fathful to his promise.
History of Henry County
Submitted by the Webmaster
©Wini Caudell and Contributors
All Rights Reserved