Posts By Kent Williamson

Chicago To Worcester: The Underrated Road Trip

In this time of uncertainty, the only certainty is that you’re safer not using public transportation. Southern Illinois residents love to take the drive up to Chicago for a weekend getaway, but what if we want to extend the vacation? We believe that Boston is the best place to go for those looking for a fun road trip. We’ll provide you with basic details about where to go and the most interesting landmarks along the way. You’ve already been to Chicago, so we won’t tell you what to do there!

If you’ve never been to Niagara Falls, we recommend spending part of your first day there. The Canadian side of the park is much more scenic, but you might have trouble getting in while COVID is resurging. From there, we recommend one of two routes. The first involves driving up along the Great Lakes, taking pit stops as necessary. The second involves going down to the Finger Lakes, where you’ll find many camping and hiking opportunities. Check out the Finger Lakes Trail, which goes all the way around the lakes.

If you chose to go the Great Lakes Route, find a Fajita Grill for a lunch option we don’t have in Illinois. From there, you will head along I-90 toward Albany. Should you wish to stop there, you might try finding a show at the Egg. Yeah. There’s a landmark called the Egg. If you chose to go the Finger Lakes route, we suggest a detour through NYC. Walk around Manhattan. Take a trip along the High Line, an elevated park. Central Park is another fun option if you’ve never been there. 

From here, you have another option. If you chose the northern route, then you might take a long detour up into New Hampshire for some strenuous hiking or sightseeing in the White Mountains. You’ll find some of the most glorious views East of the Mississippi. If you chose the southern route, you’ll probably want to start driving straight toward Boston.

About an hour away from Boston is the fun, historic town of Worcester. This is a great pitstop if you’re just looking to stretch your legs. Another option is to spend the night here if you would otherwise find yourself in Boston late at night. Trust us: you don’t want to experience Boston traffic before it’s absolutely necessary! When you arrive, check out the Mechanics Hall, the American Antiquarian Society building, or take a drive up Skyline to the Massachusetts Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

Once in Boston, we have one big piece of advice: take it all in. This city is one that preserves its history extraordinarily well. You can feel the colonial vibe just walking down the streets

We recommend hitting a brewery to take the edge off your drive, or go whale watching depending on the season. Once you’re feeling settled into your hotel, check out the Waterfront or the Freedom Trail. Catch a game at Fenway Park. Boston Common is the most beautiful park in the city, and you shouldn’t leave until you’ve taken a stroll there. Last but not least, find the Bodega! It’s hidden well.

The Best State Parks To Visit In 2022: Part I

New coronavirus variants are bursting into our society without warning (because we’re not paying enough attention). They’re damaging our ability to enjoy the holiday. They’re threatening our immunity. They’re leading to more death. More loss. Suffice it to say, we could all use a little bit more enjoyment in our lives. We’re still going outside more often as a result — and so it might be time for some alternative locations. Here are a few of the best state parks for spring!

Giant City State Park is one of our favorites for several reasons. First, some of us are tired of walking. So how about exploring on horseback? That’s one activity that Giant City offers visitors inside the scenic Shawnee National Forest. You’ll see beautiful — and unique — rock formations while you venture out into the forest. We recommend the Giant City Nature Trail. Oh! And don’t forget your camera! The park is open sunup to sundown, but you can stay overnight in the lodge if you’d prefer.

We recommend Ferne Clyffe State Park if you want to camp for a night or two. There are plenty of primitive sites available, or paid sites with the appropriate facilities. There are two really popular trails to check out: Hawk’s Cave and Big Rocky Hollow. The former isn’t actually a cave at all. It’s a bluff under which you’ll walk. The latter trail provides great views alongside a waterfall and popular swimming hole. Bring your bathing suit or dunk your feet!

Another fun option is the Dixon Springs State Park — especially because it hasn’t yet garnered a similar reputation to more popular parks. In other words, you might not get bogged down by a big crowd. Birdwatchers will love this locale and can ask someone in the visitors center for guides and checklists. We recommend hiking the Ghost Dance Canyon, a moderately difficult trek through a beautiful canyon.

The History Of Jersey County, Illinois

The Illinois county of Jersey is located within the southern half of our fine state and holds a smallish population of around 23,000 according to the 2010 census. It was a popular point of colonization in the early days of the New World due to its location near the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, which meet near a single point to the southwest. It was also a home to several Native American tribes, including the Illiniwek, Kickapoo, Menomini, and Potawatomi. 

The first Europeans to set foot in what would eventually become Jersey County — according to the records, if they can ever be trusted one hundred percent — were Father Marquette and Louis Jolliet. They arrived in the year 1673.

The county itself was not conceived for nearly 200 years. It was founded on February 28, 1839, with part of its lands assimilated from the neighboring Greene County. Jersey County has about 377 square miles of lands. Nearly 8 square miles of that land is under water. Not surprisingly, its founders named it for the American state of New Jersey. Several farms were built within the county’s boundaries. Soon enough, a local court was established in Jerseyville. 

Today, Jersey County is home to a thriving tourism-based economy alongside agribusiness. 

Before European settlers began to inhabit the area, Native Americans lived with one another in a shared respect for the natural world. This was in stark contrast to the Europeans who arrived there in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Europeans were interested in one thing: new resources. To them, the land was something to be exploited for profit. Conflict was inevitable. 

The Native Americans were startled by these newcomers, but the tribes were composed of generous people who shared what they had with the settlers. This was likely due to the relative lack of preparation of the settlers. Trade was quickly established between the various peoples. Unfortunately, the royal push for additional conquest and prize became too great — and the Europeans continued to push inland. 

This push came at great cost to the indigeonous peoples. They were rapidly pushed from their homes. Many Native Americans opted to leave peacefully through arrangements brokered by local colonial governments. Sometimes, these deals involved cash or trade. Other times, treaties (which were almost all eventually broken) helped establish entire tribes elsewhere on reservations. Disease took care of the rest. 

Because the push westward never stopped — and actually grew in proportion to the California gold rush — these tribes were exposed to western greed time and time again. Almost all Native Americans from Jersey County were living elsewhere by the time it was founded. Skirmishes and bloody war eventually broke out as settlers continued to demand more and more, and the Native Americans were forced to respond in kind.

Ultimately, the settlers won through contemporary technology and superior numbers after the Native American numbers had been whittled down by deadly diseases.

The Strangest Attractions You Didn’t Know Existed In Southernmost Illinois

When most people visit this fascinating state, they head straight for Chicago. Why not? Big cities offer endless varieties for personal or communal fun. Those with a penchant for exploration will always find something new. But those of us who are familiar with country living know that finding something to do outside of a city is more rewarding. There’s something more satisfying about an exciting find where there isn’t supposed to be one. Here are the strangest attractions we recommend in southernmost Illinois!

Ever been to Wadsworth? No. Of course not. But it’s there that you will find the largest 24-carat gold-plated freestanding object on the continent. Onan’s Gold Pyramid House is 17,000 square feet. Visitors will also find an impressive 50-foot statue of King Tut among other things. 

You’re a little late for the perfect Halloween road trip, but it might have involved Ashmore’s Witch Grave in St. Omer Cemetery. This site includes an odd grave with an equally odd history. The woman supposedly buried there was executed by burning because she did not die when the local government tried to hang her. The grave itself is unique. 

In Gays, you’ll find what might be considered the state’s strangest outhouse — in part because it stands two stories high. There was once an accompanying general store that has since been torn down, but the outhouse remains. The second story was once home to an apartment no longer in use. Yay, family fun.

Windsor’s Goat Tower Farm is a popular attraction for locals and tourists alike. Anyone who has never actually owned a goat farm simply loves these foul, temperamental yet adorable animals. Visitors will find many great photo opportunities as the goats will often be found climbing the tower via its rounded outdoor stairway.

Head to the small town of Arcola to find the Moomaw America’s One & Only Hippie Memorial (as if hippies are a dying breed in this age of environmentalism). The roadside exhibit is more of a history of everything weird in American culture.

The History Of Bankruptcy Law In Illinois

Few bankruptcy laws were drafted before 1898. Those that came after were mostly federal codes, which means that all states had to abide by them. Eventually, states would write their own rules — but most are similar to the rules that were already on the books. If you’re looking to claim bankruptcy and aren’t quite sure where you stand legally, then you need to consult with a bankruptcy lawyer first.

Prior to 1898, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800 was written into law — only to be replaced and repealed several times over the next century. The 1800 law was codified after a significant period of financial decline in the United States. Its framers believed in English laws on bankruptcy, and so the law was modeled after theirs. Everyday citizens didn’t really have access to bankruptcy. You had to be a merchant, banker, or broker in order to make a deal with a creditor.

In the year 1898, the Nelson Act was put into law. This is where most of the modern bankruptcy reforms we still rely on today actually come from. It was pro-business, and provided bankruptcy options to companies that couldn’t make good on their debt. Like the laws that came before, it would be amended by future laws, like the Bankruptcy Act of 1938 and the Bankruptcy Act of 1978.

You might not know what to do if you are going bankrupt, or it might seem like there are no sensible next steps — but that’s not the case. There’s plenty you can do to get your life back on track. It’s worth keeping in mind that once you apply for and claim bankruptcy, you won’t be able to do it again for a number of years. Although you should see it as a “final step” legally speaking, your next steps all involve making several amendments in everyday life.

Financial consultants are fairly important for anyone both before and after a bankruptcy. Figuring out how to make more money and spending less money are the two obvious routes to take, but money managing techniques are real — and they’re important. For example, having cash on hand gives you a tangible thing that you gain and lose. It’s harder to give up. When you use credit or debit cards instead, then money becomes an immaterial thing. Swiping is much easier psychologically, which means you should avoid holding onto credit cards. Cut them up! Or put them in a safety deposit box for when they’re really needed, i.e. emergencies.

Many bankrupt families will also benefit from the realization that there is always a way to spend less. Have you ever heard that saying that Americans spend like they’re temporarily inconvenienced millionaires? Mention Goodwill and many people will scoff, as if that’s beneath them. Meanwhile they’ll still head to McDonalds every other day on the very wrong assumption that it’s cheaper than the produce section at the grocery store. Planning meals and avoiding the store on an empty stomach become more important strategies for saving money.

Slavery After Illinois Became A State

Illinois drafts its first state constitution in 1818. Decades earlier, the Northwestern Ordinance had already outlawed slavery — but the Illinois constitution gave the new state the option of overturning those old laws. Generally, slavery was tolerated once the state joined the union, but new slaves could not be “thereafter introduced.” Notably, to effectively ban slavery forever, the constitution would need a clause banning the introduction of a pro-slavery amendment. It didn’t go that far.

It was for this reason that a proposal was later introduced that would have made slavery legal in Illinois again. Voters rejected it in 1824.

It’s worth keeping in mind that even though voters were against slavery, they didn’t use their own state’s laws to disrespect another state’s laws. When slaves from Missouri crossed the border and entered Illinois, they received little aid from state authorities. In fact, Illinois law said that indentured slaves who escaped and were recaptured would then be subject to a longer sentence. 

Illinois law also prohibited Africans from serving on juries when the accused was white. 

But the state also made strides toward fully outlawing slavery as well. The Illinois Supreme Court made a series of judgments — usually relying on jurisprudence, which means respecting previously made decisions — to slowly free slaves who were still living in Illinois.

For example, Cornelius v. Cohen resulted in an 1825 Illinois Supreme Court decision that said that both parties must contractually agree to the servitude in order that it remain valid. A later decision, Boon v. Juliet, said that any children of registered slaves would be freed upon entry into Illinois. 

An 1845 Illinois Supreme Court decision ended slavery once and for all. Jarrot v. Jarrot resulted in a ruling that said descendants of former slaves born after the Northwest Ordinance were all free by law. That meant that those who were born into servitude were free retrospectively.

What Did The Northwest Ordinance Mean For Southernmost Illinois?

We recently discussed how slavery was outlawed in the northwestern territories following the American Revolution — although slavery was still implemented in several ways via loopholes in the ordinance. But the document wasn’t just about slavery. It helped govern land ownership, the admission of new states over time, education in American territories that were not yet states, how to establish government, what rights territorial citizens held, and relations with Native Americans who still resided in the area.

One of the freedoms provided in this document was land ownership. Land owners had every right to buy or sell land at will. Once purchased, land was owned in perpetuity, i.e. forever. Technically, no one else could claim it as their own or take it away.

One of our friends, an anonymous history buff and academic scholar who works part-time for Nagel Rice LLP, said, that the Northwest Ordinance was of particular historical importance because of the rights it provided: “If you believe in the American Bill of Rights, then you might consider that it started with this ordinance. There were ‘natural rights’ provisions that provided for religious tolerance and other legal rights. It all started there.”

The document said because “Religion, morality, and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.”

Even habeas corpus was written into the ordinance, which basically meant that residents inside the northwestern territory had the right to due process. They could not be unlawfully detained, nor could they be subject to cruel or unusual punishment when found guilty of a crime. In addition, they held the right to a jury trial when allegations or charges were made.

Although the Northwestern Ordinance had a lot to say on a variety of subjects including slavery, the main purpose was to determine how new states would be established over time. The document placed a limitation on how many states could be established given the amount of land and population. Because of the huge area, the ordinance said that at least three states should eventually be established so long as the population of the area had reached 60,000 people — but that no more than five states should be established, and that the population in each state would still need to reach 60,000 people before admission into the union. 

Eventually, five states gained admission. First was Ohio in 1803. At this point the territory was renamed the Indiana Territory. Not long thereafter, the states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin gained entry into the union. But a sixth state — Minnesota — eventually stole a piece of the remaining land.

The northwestern ordinance created a public domain, which means it could not be bought or sold by the federal government. It belonged to the people who lived there.

Slavery In Illinois After The American Revolution

We recently discussed slavery in Illinois Country up to and after the French and Indian War in 1763, after which England controlled the territory. And as you already know, England would only control Illinois for little more than a decade because the American Revolution was right around the corner. And what happened to slavery after the American Revolution?

The United States formerly took control of Illinois and all nearby territories after the American Revolution. Interestingly, this was one of the first areas that outlawed slavery. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 created the Northwest Territory. It was enormous. It’s boundaries ran from the upper Mississippi River in the west to the Great Lakes in the north, to the Ohio River in the south. 

Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance said, “There shall be neither slavery nor involuntary servitude in the said territory, otherwise than in the punishment of crimes whereof the party shall have been duly convicted: Provided, always, That any person escaping into the same, from whom labor or service is lawfully claimed in any one of the original States, such fugitive may be lawfully reclaimed and conveyed to the person claiming his or her labor or service as aforesaid.”

In other words, slavery was outlawed — but there were plenty of loopholes that allowed the ownership of African slaves, both in the northwest after the Northwest Ordinance, and in the south after the Civil War. Perhaps worthy of noting is that we’re not entirely sure who wrote this article of the ordinance, although at least one person claimed credit.

For decades, there would be renewed efforts to reimplement slavery in the northwestern territories, including in Illinois. These were doomed to fail, but an “Indentured Servant” law allowed some limited forms of slavery when transporting a slave from one state or territory to another. 

Also worth noting is that southern states were on board with eliminating slavery in the northwest because it means that northwestern territories would have more difficulty competing economically.

The History Of Slavery In Illinois: Part III

In part two of our series on the history of slavery in Illinois, we continued our discussion on slavery during the colonial period. During this time, Illinois was called Illinois Country, and included parts of Missouri and Wisconsin, all of which were under the control of New France. We talked about the many punishments that slaves — and their masters — were subject to when various infractions were committed. We also discussed the limitations of slaves as “property.”

Today we’ll finish up our discussion on Code Noir, the set of laws that governed slavery in Illinois in the early 1700s. 

Slave masters had sole discretion over whether or not to free slaves, but there were other factors at work. For example, we previously mentioned that a slave owner who impregnated a slave must marry the slave. This would result in the freeing of both the slave and the slave’s children. A slave’s master must be at least 20 years of age before they could legally free the slave — but only with parental permission. A 25-year-old master can do so even without parental permission.

Slaves were legally allowed many of the rights to which freedmen were entitled — but only when their masters transferred those rights. For example, slave owners could delegate a slave to serve as executor of their will upon the owner’s death. They could also ask slaves to tutor their children. In either of these circumstances, the slaves who were granted these rights would also be freed at the time of their master’s death.

The law also guaranteed that any slaves or freed slaves living in New France were subjects of France no matter where they were born. So long as they were free, they had the same rights as any other citizen — by law, if not in practice.

An anonymous history buff who also works for the Douglas Lipsky law firm said, “Freed slaves still lived a hard life. Not everyone accepted that they were free. Racism pervaded society during this time period. The laws were far more strict regarding freed slaves. The reality was that they could be placed right back into slavery or even into indentured servitude by random change or by breaking a random law. It was tough.”

The last thing you should know about all fines and fees associated with broken rules and laws in Code Noir is that the majority of this revenue went straight to the French royal administration. However, about a third of that revenue would be pumped back into the local economy — it went to the hospital in that jurisdiction.

These laws were in effect until Great Britain assimilated the territory after the French and Indian War in 1763. You might even feel that Code Noir was completely unnecessary — because in 1763, only about 900 slaves lived there. When the French escaped from the region, they took 300 of those slaves along with them.

The History Of Slavery In Illinois: Part II

In part one of our series on the history of slavery in Illinois, we discussed where this occurred and the implications of a set of laws called Code Noir. “Illinois Country” consisted of parts of Missouri and Wisconsin, which were all part of a larger territory called “New France” — obviously under French control. Code Noir determined what masters could do with slaves and what slaves could not do to their masters. We’ll start there.

Punishments were severe. They were considered a deterrent for certain types of behavior. We previously mentioned that a slave who struck his or her master would be killed as a matter of course.

Slaves who ran from their masters — but were caught — would be subject to having their ears cut off as punishment. Also, they would be branded to make recapture easier if the slave ran a second time. The second attempt would result in a month of hamstring mutilation and a rebranding. If the slave ran a third time, they would be killed.

If former slaves who were freed went on to harbor fugitive slaves, then the fugitive’s owner was allowed to beat the former slave who committed the infraction. Also, the former slave would be fined 300 pounds of sugar for each day the slave spent in their presence (which essentially put the former slave into slavery once again, in most cases). Anyone else who harbored a fugitive slave was subject to a lesser fine.

Masters were fined if a slave was wrongly put to death. In this way, slaves were not considered “property” in the same way they were in English colonies and American states after the American Revolution.

Still, they were property. If the master died, then the slaves he owned would be “equally split” among the master’s beneficiaries. Only when there was unpaid debt could the slaves be sold.