Source: Reminiscences of Bureau County (IL)
By N. Matson
Originally published 1872
Republican Book & Job Office, Princeton, IL
Transcribed by: Denise McLoughlin
Tampico Area Historical Society
Settlement of Green River
For many years after settlements had been made in the eastern and central portions of the county, the land on Green river remained vacant, unoccupied, without a house or a cultivated field, and was visited only by hunters and trappers. Originally the country was known as Winnebago swamps, but it took the name of Green river about the time the settlement commenced. In October, 1836, Henry Thomas entered land at the narrows (now New Bedford), and for a number of years it was the only entered tract in that section of the country. In the spring of 1837, Cyrus Watson, the first settler on Green river, built a cabin on Thomas' land, believing it to be vacant. About this time a state road was laid from Princeton to Prophetstown, on Rock river, crossing Green river at this point, when Henry Thomas built a ferry boat, and for a number of years it was known as Thomas' ferry.
Among the first settlers on Green river, were Francis and William Adams, Samuel D. Brady, Milton Cain, Daniel Davis, Lewis Burroughs, Dwight Bingham, Norman and Justus Hall, Peter McDonald, Mr. Heath, George W. Spratt, T. and N. Hill, Joseph Caswell, J. N. Kise and Jacob Sells. The Yorktown settlement commenced in the year 1846, and among the first that settled there were W. and S. Dow, R. H. and S. W. Seldon, and the large family of McKinzies.
The Indian Boundary line passed immediately north of New Bedford, and north of which the land was not in market until 1844. The people who settled here were poor, without money to enter their lands, and for years it was held by claims or pre-emption right. There was an organized society formed on Green river, known as the "Settler's League," with a constitution and by-laws, and the object of which was to prevent speculators and others from entering their lands. From this settler's league, originated the phrase "State of Green river."
George W. Spratt was the first justice of the peace elected on Green river, and the first suit before him was attended by almost every person in the settlement. Simon Kinney and Judge Ballou were at that time the only attorneys in the county, and they were employed in this case as opposing counsel. There was living in the settlement a half-breed, by the name of Green, with his two French sons-in-law, Battis and Shane, all of whom were hunters and trappers. Green was a party to this suit, and on account of color objections were made to his family testifying at the trial. The question of color was argued by the counsel, and decided by the court, but the jury did not like the decision, and consequently reversed it.
Spratt's cabin contained only one room, and the jury, for deliberation, were taken into a cave, dug out of a sand knoll, and used for a root house. Although the question of color was settled by the justice, the jury regarded it their duty to decided the constitutionality of the black laws of Illinois. And here in this dark and loathsome root house, lighted only by a single candle, the first Green river jury decided that a man with a drop of negro or Indian blood in his veins, could not be believed under oath.