The Sangamo Frontier: History and Archaeology in the Shadow of Lincoln

By Robert Mazrim | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWELVE
The Origins of a State Capital
The Iles Store Site

Soon after the temporary county seat was established, a twenty-fiveyear-old store clerk named Elijah Iles arrived at the Kelly settlement. Iles was originally from Kentucky and had previously settled in Franklin, Missouri where he also worked as a buyer for land speculators. It was there that he had heard of the “richness” of the Sangamo Country. This detail, from one of his several published recollections, is an interesting one, as settlement in the region generally followed a westward course, and the seductive tales of the Sangamo Country apparently led at least some recent settlers of Missouri to backtrack into Illinois.

Iles first visited the Springfield area in the spring of 1821. He returned to Missouri, settled his business affairs, and then moved to the Sangamo Country. He boarded with the Kelly family temporarily while he contracted for the construction of a log storehouse to be built near the planned site of the courthouse.1 This was to be the first commercial structure in the new community of Springfield. Iles traveled to St. Louis to purchase a stock of goods and opened his store that summer. John Kelly completed the new courthouse about the same time.2

Elijah Iles published three accounts of his first years at Springfield, and each described his store slightly differently. Each account mentions an initial visit to the site of Springfield, followed by a return to Kentucky to settle his affairs. Upon his arrival to the site of Springfield, Iles may have made arrangements with another individual for the construction of

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