Stephen Harriman Long: Exploring the West

Stephen Harriman Long was an explorer, engineer, and inventor. Born in Hopkinton, New Hampshire, in 1784, Long attended Dartmouth College and went on to become a professor of mathematics at the U.S. Military Academy. He served as an officer and civil engineer in the Corps of Topographical Engineers for the U.S. Army and participated in a number of expeditions between 1816 and 1824 before working with railroads, bridge construction, and river navigation improvements.

Long was selected to lead an exhibition to survey potential sites for Army forts west of the Mississippi River in 1817. Based on his recommendations from the journey, the U.S.… Read More

Thomas Mather: Business and Politics in Early Illinois

Thomas Mather was an early Illinois settler, businessman, and politician who served as a member of both branches of the Illinois legislature.  His father, William Mather, fought in the Revolutionary War, and Thomas was also a direct descendant of New England minister Cotton Mather. Thomas Mather was born in Simsbury, Connecticut in 1795. He became a successful merchant in New York City, and in the spring of 1818, Mather migrated to Kaskaskia, Illinois.

As he settled into life in Illinois, Mather quickly become involved in both business and politics. He was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1820 and served four terms, including a term as Speaker of the House from 1824-1826.… Read More

Morris Birkbeck: An Advocate for Illinois Settlement

Morris Birkbeck was an early settler in southern Illinois at the beginning of the 19th century. He was also a successful author and strong advocate for pioneer settlement in Illinois. Birkbeck was one of the founders of the English Settlement in Edwards County, Illinois, and he later served briefly as the Secretary of State of Illinois in 1824.

Birkbeck was born in Settle, England, on January 23, 1764 to influential Quaker Morris Birkbeck and Hannah Bradford. By the age of thirty he was farming 1500 aces in Surrey, and he was the first person to raise merino sheep in England.… Read More