Precinct histories – 1881
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The county’s earliest form of local government, precincts defined the boundaries of polling districts for local and state elections and the area assigned to Justices of the Peace and Constables elected in each precinct. Some civil legal functions were performed by the Justice of the Peace, e.g., he could perform a marriage and hear legal disputes between two parties. While all marriages were to be recorded at the county level, the J.P. was only required to keep a docket of minor civil disputes, not a full record of the proceedings. Very few dockets survive to this day.
In 1884, the county’s 16 precincts became civil townships; two were renamed: Illinoistown became East St. Louis, and Ridge Prairie became O’Fallon. (note 1)
Information in these precinct histories came from people and government records circa 1881, published in St. Clair County History (note 2). Since memories are not perfect, researchers are urged to verify the people, relationships, places, and events mentioned within using civil, governmental, private, and religious documents written closer in time to the actual fact stated. Many of these original record groups are identified and located in St. Clair County Research and Resources: A Genealogist’s Guide available from the Society.
Precinct histories and map
Athens | Caseyville | Centerville | Belleville | Cahokia | East St. Louis | Fayetteville | French Village | Lebanon | Mascoutah | O’Fallon | Prairie du Pont | Richland | Shiloh | Summerfield | St. Clair
- Alonzo St. Clair Wilderman, and Augusta A. Wilderman, editors, History of St. Clair County, vol. II (Chicago: Munsell Publishing Co., 1907), pages 706, 707; online at https://books.google.com/books?id=CJYUAAAAYAAJ : 8 April 2018.
- St. Clair County History (Philadelphia: Brink, McDonough, and Company, 1881); online at https://archive.org/details/cu31924028805948): 8 April 2018.
- The first land entries mentioned in these precinct histories generally were purchased from the federal government as Public Domain Land after 1814. The Illinois State Archives’ index to these purchases also describes how to read the surveyed township and range descriptions.St. Clair County settlers before 1814 were required to prove ownership, a lengthy process that concluded in 1814. These lands were obtained through ancient grants, militia rights, as bounty land, or preemption for example. Further discussion is available at the Bureau of Land Management, General Land Office Records website.
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