MACON COUNTY IN 1830
A LOOK INTO THE PAST
Originally published in the Decatur Republican, on 2 December 1869
We know not how others may be, but to us there is an indescribable charm in old documents - old papers, old books, old people furnish us with many a rare piece of information, and to pore over the records of years gone by is a more enticing pastime to us than anything we know of. The early history of the locality in which was may chance reside, the incidents of the pioneer life in neighborhoods which we now know as the busy haunts of men, the stories of danger and privation which we gather from the lips of "the oldest inhabitant," all possess a charm that cannot be adequately described.
Last Monday, Capt. J.T. Bishop, our accomodating deputy circuit clerk, placed in our hands three old looking documents, which proved to be the documents for the Macon county census for the years 1830, 1835 and 1840, respectively. It will be remembered that the county was organized in 1829, and that the census of the year following was the first official enumeration of the inhabitants of the county. The oldest of these documents bears the following heading:"I, Daniel McCall, Commissioner for taking the Census, or enumeration of the inhabitants of the County of Macon, do hereby certify, that the schedule hereto annexed, contains an accurate statement of the whole number of persons resident in the said County of Macon, together with the kind of Manufactories, Mills, Machines, and Distilleries therein, so far as I have been able to ascertain the same. Witness my hand, this 23rd day of Nov., 1830, D. McCall, Com."
From this schedule it appears that the whole number of inhabitants of the county was 1161, of which 215 were subject to militia duty. The schedule shows that there were 22 people over sixty and not exceeding seventy years of age: three between the ages of 70 and 80, and only one over the age of 80 years. There was "one cotton spinning machine, three horse mills, one water mill and two distilleries" in the county in 1830.
The second of the three documents is the statement of Benjamin R. Austin, Commisioner for taking the census of the county, and bears the date, Dec. 2d, 1835. This schedule shows the population of the county to be 302, of which 505 were subject to militia duty. There was at that time one negro living in the county. The manufactories were "one wool factory, two distilleries, three water mills, and five horse mills." It will be observed from this statement that the population of the county considerably more than doubled in five years.
The next five years, which include the period so disastrous to the business of the whole country, and which affected emigration as sensibly as it did anything else, do not appear to have added very materially to the population of Macon county, as appears from the third and last of the documents in our possession, which is the schedule of S.G. Nesbitt, commissioner, etc., and which is dated November 28, 1840. From this statement we learn that the total number of inhabitants was 3233, of whom 624 were subject to militia duty. But if the years immediately preceding the census of 1840 were not prosperous ones in a material sense they appear to have been healthy ones, inasmuch as we find reported in the statement 58 persons between the ages of 60 and 70, eight between 70 and 80, one between 80 and 90, and one over the age of 90 years. The solitary individual of color who was in the county five years previously does not appear to have attracted to his new home any of his race, but held his own remarkably well, and comes to the surface in the schedule before us as the sole representative of the future Fifteenth Ammendment controvery who resided in Macon county in the year of grace, 1840 -- Of manufactories there were "11 grist mills, of which two are propelled by water; 1 by steam, 1 by oxen, and 7 by horses; 6 saw mills, 1 by steam and 5 by water power; 1 carding machine - by steam power, 4 distilleries."
Of the commissioners whose names appear above, only one is now living - Mr. Nesbitt, of the Springfield Journal, from whom we have gathered many items of information concerning the early history of the county. We hope to be able, at some future time, to lay before our readers other matters of interest connected with the first settlement of Macon county.
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